#27: Minot, ND 6/6/16

Chronicling the Minot city council was like a chef finally tasting his pièce de résistance. I take full credit for this meeting, which would not be online if I hadn’t talked to one of Minot’s city council members. (Okay, fine, I take partial credit.)

Needless to say, I was amped! It’s the first videotaped council meeting in the history of Minot (rhymes with “Why not!”). Everyone’s gon’ get cray for the camera!

“Ugh,” the kindly old citizen at the podium sighed. “No one can tell me that downtown doesn’t deserve or need traffic lights,” he warily–almost sleepily–said about Minot’s de-stoplighting plan.

“Pedestrian count is way down? Hmm. They took it in February 5, 6, and 7. Do you know what the weather was like on February 5? 23.9 degrees below zero.” Another heavy sigh. “All I can say is, Lance, shame on you. You should be spanked.”

The Minot city council, in all its low-res glory.

In the no-camera days, Lance may very well have been spanked on the spot. Instead, the city manager had the opposite of a spanking to give: “I’d like to recognize two folks,” he announced, unfolding a fellow Minoter’s letter. “The alley behind my house had been damaged. I had nothing but a big muddy mess,” he read. But “there were two very nice men in the alley this morning. They were nice, pleasant, and hardworking. My alley is beautiful!”

He glanced up. “So what I’d like to do…if you guys would go up there, the president of city council is going to give you a city coin.”

The two heroic employees ascended to the dais amid rapturous applause to receive their lucre.

After the good vibes subsided, the city manager smirked across the room. “The coin rule is: next time you see [council] President Jantzer anyplace, if he doesn’t have HIS coin on him, he owes you an adult beverage of your choice.” The council guffawed.

He added: “I haven’t given him one, so I KNOW he doesn’t have one!” Everyone whooped, but the city manager had one more roast up his sleeve.

“Mr. President, I wanted to show you–because he’s not here–the mayor is going to be in the dunking booth this Friday. So for all of you that wants to partake in this…”

President Mark Jantzer demurred. “It’s very…unexpected news. But we appreciate it!” The other aldermen snickered, no doubt calculating the training regimen needed to sink Hizzoner.

Woohoo! That’s 56 more people who might show up to dunk the mayor!

Finally, the council called on a sprightly young staffer named Jason to present the flashy new recycling plan. “We’ve got less than 10 years of capacity,” at the Minot landfill, Jason apocalyptically warned. “What we’re proposing is curbside recycling, picked up and emptied by collection vehicles–with mechanical arms to lift the carts, empty the contents in the collection vehicle, and return them to the ground,” he said, describing that newfangled contraption called “a garbage truck.” For any aldermen still confused, he played a video of one doing its duty.

The council, apparently impressed with this 20th-century technology, voted in favor of the recycling plan.

Final thoughts: beautiful. My best work yet. To the city of Minot, may you continue to videotape your council meetings till the landfill runneth over.

Interview #4: Minot, ND Alderman Miranda Schuler

Minot may be small, but its city council is a force to be reckoned with. I talked to Miranda Schuler, insurance agent by day and one of Minot’s 14 aldermen.

She told me about her idea to shrink the council, and how City Council Chronicles is actually making a difference in Minot!

Q: You’ve got a plan to take the Minot city council from 14 members to eight. Who are you itching to get rid of?

A: Really…I think myself would be one of those people I would like to get rid of.

Q: Whoa! You’d draw yourself off of the council?!

A: I ran two years ago because I didn’t want to be one of those people who complains about something and doesn’t offer solutions. I have two young kids and I’m purchasing the business that I’m in, so I’m going to step back for a while.

Q: What are the other aldermen like?

A: One of the council members is pretty knowledgeable when it comes to construction. I would never pretend to know a lot of that stuff. We have an attorney on the council. Or, if has to do with something insurance related, a lot of people look to me.

Q: Mmhmm.

A: There are a couple that are better speakers. I am not a public speaker. It took me two years to be able to speak at council without feeling like I’m gonna start crying!

Q: At long city council meetings, how do you stay focused?

A: I’m kind of a geek. I’ve made my husband come to some meetings and he has a hard time staying awake. It takes a certain type of person who finds this stuff interesting. And you must be, too!

Q: I mean, when I’m watching at home, it’s slightly more…comfortable. You have to sit there in front of people.

A: You’re constantly on call. Last night I was getting Facebook messages at 11:45. They were quite upset. And they wanted to talk about it at midnight.

Miranda Schuler
Minot, ND Alderman Miranda Schuler

A: Interesting thing: when I originally started talking with you, I said, “Is there any way we can get some of these meetings published?” I could Facebook Live it, but it’s going to look goofy if I’m sitting at a council desk with my phone.

Q: Probably.

A: [We] actually recorded our meeting on Monday. It’s going on our website.

Q: Wait…the first EVER video-recorded council meeting was this Monday?

A: It’s already online. It’s a result of my talk with you via e-mail. So good job!

Q: Whoa! Good teamwork!

A: You can’t see me because I’m out of the shot.

Q: Oh, well, that barely seems worth it. I was going to ask you to describe the council chambers, but I guess I can watch the video now.

A: I would describe it as an early 1990s council chambers.

Q: Gotcha. Lots of pictures of the Backstreet Boys on the walls.

A: Yeah. Backstreet Boys are there. (Just kidding!)

Q: Who would win in a foosball tournament: the Minot city council or the Williston city council?

A: I’m pretty sure we would because I grew up with a foosball table in my house. I would come in handy.

Q: You think you’d carry the Minot city council?

A: Yeah. It really needs to be stated whether you could spin them. Because I’m not a spinner.