ELY - A fast-paced and seemingly routine council meeting on Tuesday evening changed course when Councilor Gordon Sheddy addressed the council regarding recent comments Mayor Ross Peterson made in his …
ELY - A fast-paced and seemingly routine council meeting on Tuesday evening changed course when Councilor Gordon Sheddy addressed the council regarding recent comments Mayor Ross Peterson made in his “From the Mayor” newspaper column.
The comments made by Peterson referred to an anti-wolf hunt protest in Whiteside Park scheduled for deer opener. “If these people have to display their ignorance, I wish they would do it in some other town,” wrote Peterson in his column.
“I personally have a problem with that on a couple levels,” said Sheddy. “First, your article implies we all agree. It also bothers me for you to discourage visitors to Ely after all the efforts our chamber does to promote tourism.”
The coalition against wolf hunting has a strong presence on the Internet. “They have more than 12,000 people that like their ideas,” said Sheddy, “and we are prominent on their Facebook page and it is not flattering.” Sheddy also referenced an email in which Peterson discouraged Scott Block from establishing a business in Ely, contrary to Ely Economic Development Authority attempts to develop new business.
Councilor Warren Nikkola said he is also bothered by the Mayor’s comments, citing other articles mixing government with personal views. “I am not comfortable and I am losing confidence in what is going to be said where,” said Nikkola.
Councilor Heidi Omerza suggested that future articles be clarified. “I would prefer if you are going to do an article in the paper you write it under Ross Peterson or write about all the good things that are happening in Ely,” said Omerza.
Kerry Davis, President of the tourism bureau at the Ely Chamber of Commerce, represented a contingent of chamber employees and members present at the meeting. “One of the factors that helps bring a diversity of people into town is because we do not mix our personal views with our mission,” said Davis. He suggested Peterson be more careful about how his articles and emails affect business and individuals coming to town. “Nobody had a good year and this will not help our business community.”
Councilor Paul Kess interpreted the article differently. “When I read the last paragraph that says I think, I believe and I wish, I take that to be Peterson’s comments and not of the Mayor,” said Kess. “I know the Mayor as a man with strong opinions and not afraid to voice his opinion.”
In other business, Mary Groeninger provided an update on behalf of the Ely Tree Board. She said Gary Johnson from the University of Minnesota will be providing results of a tree inventory in Ely, which is part of a grant provided by the U of M. The results will be incorporated into a master tree plan.
Groeninger attributes the success of tree planting on Conan Street to the coordinated effort provided by the city of Ely, Vermilion Community College volunteers and the neighborhood residents. “The current wisdom is to plant a diversity of trees that mature at different rates,” said Groeninger.
New gravel beds are in place next to the new community garden behind Sibley Apartments. The garden project was also funded by Gary Johnson. “We have trees ordered for planting next spring when we will install a watering system,” said Groeninger.
Groeninger is excited about the gravel beds. She said, “The trees come bare root and after they are planted and watered they develop the healthiest root systems.”
In other action:
•Mayor Peterson congratulated the Ely Memorial High School football team for playing tough and making our community look good.
• Omerza reported the next Television Advisory Board meeting will be on Thursday, Dec. 5 at 4 p.m. in the boardroom, followed by Employee Relations at 5 PM.
• The council agreed to join the League of Minnesota Cities Community Conversations: Phase II program to get more citizen involvement in city government.
• Harold Langowski provided an update on the city hall improvements evaluation.
• Librarian Rachel Heinrich reported the Library Journal, a publication of the American Library Association, has named Ely’s library as one of five “star” libraries in the State of Minnesota.
• The council postponed making a decision on rental of office space to Northern Lakes Arts Association.
• The council approved Resolution #2013-037 appointing a City agent for the League of Minnesota Cities Property/Casualty Program.
• The council approved all 2014 soft drink and tobacco license renewal applications pending the receipt of all required documentation for the term of 1/1/2014 to 12/31/2014.