After weeks of Osceola City Council members not having end-of-the-meeting verbal reports, or the sharing local news updates, during a Jan. 7 meeting, the city council voted 3-2 to bring council reports back on a regular-meeting basis.
The motion passed with Councilmen Dr. George Fotiadis, Dan Hooper and Glenn Schaff voting yes. Councilmen Chris Dorsey and Dave Walkup voted no.
“I was trying to use it to remind the public about issues that get swept under,” Fotiadis said. “Like, oh by the way, how’s the lake level? Or, has there been any progress on reservoir development?”
Where it all started
Council members haven’t been allowed to have their verbal reports since tensions escalated during a Nov. 19 meeting.
At the Nov. 19 meeting, the council had been addressing concerns of the low voter turnout in the November mayoral and city council elections.
During that time, Osceola City Administrator/Clerk Ty Wheeler said he’d gotten inquiries about whether having two at-large and three ward seats on the city council was hindering voter turnout, and would it be better to have all at-large seats for the entire city to vote on?
Since the inquiries directly related to city affairs, Wheeler said he looked up the rules in the Iowa Code and found council members can’t take it upon themselves to change at-large and ward seats. It has to be done by a petition and voted on by the public in a special or general election.
Wheeler addressed his findings in an email to council members.
During council reports Nov. 19, Schaff questioned Wheeler about who asked him to look into the issue.
Discussion on the issue became heated and tensions started to escalate between council members. Mayor Fred Diehl had to step in and tell the council members they were out of order.
Council reports haven’t been on the city council’s agenda since Nov. 19
Addressing the tension
During the Jan. 7 meeting, Diehl said he felt council reports should be used when announcing something new and educational, rather than to criticize employees.
Fotiadis said many issues can be solved at council meetings through a quick comment or a question. However, many issues can also be solved by city employees and staff, and things should go through their appropriate channels.
“I like the idea of reporter comment,” Fotiadis said. “I like the opportunity sometimes, and I may not use it all the time, I like the opportunity to put something out.”
Fotiadis added, he wants to keep topics positive and developmental.
Hooper brought up the subject of department updates and said it would be beneficial to have monthly reports from Osceola Volunteer Fire Department.
“You can’t appreciate something if you don’t know what’s going on,” Hooper said.
Dorsey said he agreed with many of the things Fotiadis said, but he wanted to make sure the council stayed productive during meetings and not councilmen saying things that are just on their mind.
“I see an asset in it. I see it’s valuable,” Dorsey said. “But, from a person who also understands some of the ramifications of things that are said through print, through verbal, it’s something we also want to be careful of … we really need to be very conscious of some of the things that we say.”
Walkup said everything discussed during council reports should stay positive, even if you don’t agree with what another person is saying.
“As a team, I think we’re positive, and we’re the team of Osceola,” Walkup said. “It (the report) reflects on what we do here and what we say here. And, also, I think we have to have respect for our employees.”