Unlike the first time the St. Cloud City Council voted to censure George Hontos, this time they had the courage, if you can call it that, to vote in public. Nonetheless, it still was a disappointing display of bruised egos.

The good news is that the Council didn’t hide their vote. Now we know that the “ballots indicated Masters, Goerger, Paul Brandmire and Mike Conway voted ‘yes’ to censure Hontos; Steve Laraway and Lewis voted against censuring Hontos.”

I wish I was surprised that Masters and Goerger voted to censure Councilman Hontos but I’m not. Those 2 are the biggest disappointments on the Council. By far. I’d trade both of them for a bag full of Val’s French Fries and a chocolate shake. I’d consider the Val’s package a significant upgrade.

I’m most disappointed with Councilman Conway’s and Councilman Brandmire’s votes. Voting against the First Amendment is always wrong. A vote to censure Councilman Hontos was a vote against the First Amendment. It isn’t often that I agree with the ACLU but this time, I totally agree. It’s time the Council got back to governing by first principles. This vote was a vote on worst principles.

Rules 6-8 should be abolished ASAP. If the Council doesn’t vote to abolish those rules, then I wouldn’t be surprised if a court struck them down. Silencing the people’s representatives can’t be justified. That’s what the Council did last night. This shouldn’t shame Councilman Hontos. He did the right thing in speaking out. This vote should shame Councilmen Masters, Goerger, Brandmire and Conway.

Speaking of Councilman Hontos, he sent me this statement:

It was very evident this was an orchestrated action. I found it not surprising that some Councilmembers were aided by our City Attorney. I will look forward to the reaction from the ACLU. One important clarification Council member Conway misspoke in describing the open forum process. Here are the actual details, the meeting is adjourned, there are no minutes taken of what is said, there is no camera, and the individuals who speak are not listed in the minutes. That is different than what he stated.

On the deeper issue of turning off the cameras and adjourning the meeting before the public forum, I don’t know who’s hairbrained idea that was but that’s another thing that’s got to stop immediately. If the Council actually listened to the people, then they’d keep the cameras on, extend the speaking time from 3 minutes to 5 minutes and restore the forum to being part of the meeting. Finally, if it’s to have a meaningful impact, councilmembers should be allowed to respond.

At this point, I’m disgusted with the Council. They aren’t listening to their constituents. It’s time they started.

8 Responses to “Council affirms Hontos vote”

  • Paul A Brandmire says:

    We, as adults who respect each other’s viewpoints, can always disagree with the results of connecting the dots. You say you disagree with my conclusions; I disagree with yours. Who’s right? Probably neither of us, completely. I’ve already explained why I voted the way I did numerous times, but let me summarize again: The council, as free-thinking adults, made an agreement in 2004, one item of which was once a vote is taken, you don’t attempt to undermine that vote if you lost. Every council member since 2004 has agreed to that standard of conduct and none (including Mr. Hontos who was on the council when those rules of conduct were written) has ever taken any action to change or eliminate them. He knew the rule and intentionally violated it. His time to speak up on this issue (and others) was before the vote. He did. He lost. Then he created a shitstorm by writing his LTE. This is not a 1st amendment issue: he CAN and DID express himself at the meeting. He CAN and DID write his letter and express his opinion. He CAN and DID express it AGAIN at the council meeting the other night. What this is, is a willful violation of an agreement of conduct. It was him not liking the vote and then attempting to win sympathy and create chaos among the constituency. And he succeeded. If the original TV camera issue proves to be unproductive, we re-address it in the future and potentially change it back. Meanwhile, we ALL as a council, even those who voted against censure (which is simply an expression of disapproval) ALL expressed disapproval at his violation of the rules of conduct for his own personal edification. And it is we on the council who were tasked with the responsibility to maintain certain standards, to conduct ourselves with certain decorum, and to hold each other accountable when we violate either. As for listening to our constituents, we do. We are. I also get messages of agreement. But in the end, I have the awesome responsibility of casting my vote based on my own best judgement, and despite what I’ve heard, I am still convinced it’s the correct vote.

  • Gary Gross says:

    Paul, with all due respect, it isn’t your option nor Councilman Hontos’ option to ignore the First Amendment of the Constitution. Period. On lots of things, Paul, I’ll agree with you that most issues are shades of gray. On the Bill of Rights, especially the First and Second Amendments, I find little in terms of shades of gray.

    Paul, please don’t take this as me trying to humiliate you in public. That isn’t my intent. It’s my intent, however, to state emphatically that my priorities always think of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as pretty straightforward.

  • Paul A Brandmire says:

    As do mine. You know me well enough to know I always side with the constitution. However, I disagree with you that this particular situation violates the 1st amendment. We can argue whether or not this particular rule violates it some other time, that’s not the immediate issue. I don’t think we disagree that the rule was in force, with his knowledge and consent, for 15 years, and that he willingly violated the rule which required him to gracefully accept losing the vote. That is the issue. Remember, I voted with him — but I accepted that he and I were in the minority and I live to fight another day. He, on the other hand, did not. After the discussion was over and the vote taken, he continued to whine (as he too-frequently does) about it in an opinion piece in the local paper. And the result of that is precisely the result the rule was in place to prevent. There was a time to argue and fight; that was before the vote was taken. But in a representative republic, your representatives vote their conscience and the minority is required to civilly respect that vote. Then work on overturning it, if necessary, based on evidence of its failure. I respect your opinion and understand your points; I really do. I just disagree with your conclusion.

  • Gary Gross says:

    Paul, there’s no question in my mind that the First Amendment is in play because the City Council is the legislative branch to the Mayor’s executive branch. Further, there’s no question that you’re part of the government. That means you’re 2-for-2 for whether the First Amendment applies.

    Were I to get elected to the Council, I’d vote against these rules & I’d write an op-ed if I lost the vote. If you wanted to censure me, I’d laugh in your faces, then wear that censure as a badge of honor.

    Finally, if I wanted to “live to fight another day,” I’d find another profession.

  • Paul A Brandmire says:

    Gary, you’ve hit on a key point: You weren’t faced with the vote. I was. I made it, and I stand by it. All SIX of us expressed our disapproval of his conduct.
    To me it was NOT about his letter; not about his vote; not about the 1st amendment; not about the validity of rule #6. To me, it was about 7 adults who had an agreement of standards of conduct and he violated that agreement as he had NUMEROUS times. We all told him repeatedly that he was out of line. He wore it as a badge of honor, seeing himself as a bit of a maverick, I think. Fine. But, as is obvious from the hoopla resulting from this, his constant disruptions to the council by failing to accept his losses are taking up way too much of our time which we should be spending on other issues, and creating an awful lot of animosity, anger, and irritation among not just the council but creating a rift with the citizens. This is EXACTLY what the standards of conduct were implemented to try to prevent. See what happens when they’re violated???
    I don’t ask for your blessing on my vote. I only ask you try to understand my thought process. I listened to yours and I understand. We walk arm in arm a long way down this path of logic. We just diverge at some point and don’t arrive at the same destination. That’s ok.
    I had one minute notice to decide how to vote. Whether or not I still think I’m right in hindsight, I believe I have sound logic and reasonable conclusion.
    We disagree. We probably will again. It’s done. Move on.

  • Gary Gross says:

    And there’s your problem. You weren’t guided by the Constitution. You were guided by your “disapproval of his conduct.” The fact that you (whether as a group or you individually) told George that he was out of line for expressing his opinion is disturbing. Just because you didn’t like what George had to say doesn’t mean he was wrong.

    Adjourning the meeting and turning off the cameras is wrong. Everyone except the Council knows this. Further, it’s disgusting that you think that creating animosity at hearings is a negative. I don’t. Whether at the City Council or in the halls of Congress, governing is a messy thing. When silencing the people, it should be damn feisty.

    The people out across this city are getting frustrated. We want our voices heard & we want them heard by everyone in the city. By shutting off the cameras, the Council has limited my ability to persuade others. Placing that type of limitation on me & my fellow citizens is totally unacceptable. The only proper position on silencing the citizenry is opposition to it.If that means I’m a villain by the Council, I’ll wear that like a badge of honor. These are God-given writes. How dare the government think that they can take them away. That’s the definition of arrogance.

  • Paul A Brandmire says:

    Get a grip, Gary. Calm down. Let’s try this one more time.
    I VOTED WITH HIM AGAINST TURNING OFF THE CAMERAS! I still think it was wrong.
    The censure was NOT about the cameras.
    It was NOT about stifling discussion.
    It was NOT about him writing an LTE.
    It was NOT about liking (or not liking) what he had to say.
    It WAS about his inability to accept he lost a vote. It was about him violating the agreement to maturely accept a loss to the majority. It was about his subverting the majority vote because he didn’t agree with it.
    At some point, he has to SHUT UP and accept he lost this one. Otherwise we fight forever.

  • Gary Gross says:

    From my perspective, it was TOTALLY about silencing the people. I’ve checked with friends who are councilmembers. None of them have these rules. St. Cloud is screwed up in the extreme.

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