The Ottumwa Courier

Ottumwa

December 19, 2012

'Political bias’ argued at City Council meeting

OTTUMWA — Accusations of political bias consumed the last City Council meeting of the year.

The Southern Iowa Labor Council requested the permanent reservation of the Jimmy Jones Shelter for its annual Labor Day event to allow for enough time in advance for planning purposes.

Councilman Mitch Niner questioned why this was never brought before the Parks Advisory Board. He also said this is not the first time the board has been purposely avoided.

Niner said there was a specific reason the item did not first go to the Parks Board.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, councilman,” said Mayor Frank Flanders. “There was no desire to avoid anyone. It just needed to be done. You need to know what you’re talking about.”

Parks Director Gene Rathje said no one ever told him to put the item on a Parks Board agenda.

“I think we’re all avoiding the issue, and that’s why it wasn’t it brought to park advisory? Because there may have been a little political interaction last year,” said Councilman Bob Meyers. “What’s wrong with postponing this until January and bringing it to a work session?”

Steve Siegel, president of the SILC, said Labor Day was founded by unions and it has always been a union event.

“Nobody avoided the park board on purpose as you’re alleging, Bob,” Siegel said.

Joe Rush, president of the UFCW Local 230, said if a politician shows up at the event and “decides to do something, it’s their legal right to do that. We can’t tell him not to. It’s a public park.”

At the Sept. 2 event, Siegel told the crowd that he would not allow state Sen. Mark Chelgren, R-Ottumwa, to speak at the event.

Jan. 2 is the first day people can reserve shelters for 2013. During this year’s Labor Day event at the Jimmy Jones Shelter, a three-hour period featured nine Democratic political speakers.

Following Tuesday’s meeting, Niner said the City Council is a non-partisan group and he feels Flanders threw the councilmen in the middle of a political issue.

“Mark Chelgren and Blake Smith wanted to speak [at this year’s Labor Day event], but they refused to let them, and that’s fine. That’s their prerogative,” Niner said. “But by doing that, Chelgren has said he’ll be first in line to get the shelter on Jan. 2. It’s a political move.”

That’s correct, Chelgren told the Courier following the meeting.

“It’s supposed to be a non-partisan celebration for Ottumwa, and the unions decided to reserve Labor Day for them,” Chelgren said. “That’s why they’re trying to change the rules so nobody else can have an event. They believe they own Labor Day.

“They wanted to make sure nobody else had those opportunities and they gave special privilege to their political allies. ... Obviously they were caught in their own deception and lies.”

Flanders said the reason it didn’t go to the Parks Board came down to timing.

“It was a timing issue,” Flanders said. “There was no purposeful avoidance of the park board.”

City Clerk Amanda Valent said Flanders requested the item be put on the agenda late Thursday afternoon.

The council voted 3-2 to approve a language revision and a one-year reservation of the shelter, with Meyers and Niner as the dissenting votes.

Both Niner and Meyers said they would have voted to approve a reservation of the shelter a year in advance for the event had it been brought to the Parks Board first.

Following the meeting, Flanders reiterated that the issue was not politically motivated and that in hindsight, he would have moved faster to get the paperwork through so it would have made it to the Dec. 11 Parks Board meeting.

Text Only
Ottumwa
  • 0418 OTT Tree City U.S.A. logo Ottumwa awarded as Tree City U.S.A. again OTTUMWA — Having big, beautiful trees throughout a community can help spruce up a city and make it more attractive to visitors. Ottumwa has shown a dedication to making the community more green and inviting, and the efforts have been recognized by th

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0418 OTT OEDC director -T Guiding our growth

    OTTUMWA — An organization designed to help Ottumwa grow has found a new employee in Indiana. The Ottumwa Economic Development Corporation (OEDC) board has chosen Sharon Stroh as the group's new executive director. “We are confident she will hit the g

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0417 OTT Camp Wapello fence photo -T -M -L Good fence irritates good neighbor DRAKESVILLE — For 82 years, Camp Wapello’s iconic entryway has welcomed people to peacefully coexist with nature. Now there’s a 400-foot barbed wire fence down the middle of the road. In February, Davis County Supervisors approved vacating of portion

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • City Council approves sale of properties OTTUMWA — On Tuesday the Ottumwa City Council met for the last regularly scheduled meeting of April. Included in the agenda for the evening were several dispositions of city owned property. Structures and land located at 519 W. Fourth St., 723 E. Mar

    April 15, 2014

  • Where to play OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa Community School District wants to discuss moving to another athletic conference. Superintendent Davis Eidahl revealed that the district has been contacted by a smaller sports league, which has extended an invitation to join the

    April 15, 2014

  • 0415 Right side up monster truck pic Nice driver --- mean machine OTTUMWA --- Drivers sat at one end of their vehicles during the "pit party," meeting fans and signing autographs before the motorsport and monster truck exhibition at Bridge View Center this weekend. Monster truck driver Orville Hill let kids --- and

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0415 OTT Composting ethical pic Recycling in a garden OTTUMWA --- Parents will tell you: They hate to see kids waste food. A gardner named Scott Koepke feels the same way. “First, let’s get our food to people who are going to eat it,” he said. “It hurts me to see kids in the schools throw away an entire

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0412 OTT Pothole color photo -T -M [Duplicate] A bumper crop of potholes OTTUMWA — The nice weather has been putting the bad roads on display. Officials say good: It gives us a chance to fix them. “Every city is going through the same thing,” said Larry Seals, Ottumwa Public Works director. “It has been an unusual winter

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Home in a tent OTTUMWA -- As people live without shelter, they become desperate finding a place to sleep. The situation impacts more than just the community's homeless. "There is nowhere to put people who are homeless," said Mary Margaret Butler. "Nowhere." Ottumwa

    April 11, 2014

  • 0412 OTT Martha Speaks color photo -T -M Ottumwa children visited by cartoon star OTTUMWA — Iowa Public Television is celebrating its 45-year anniversary this year by helping communities like Ottumwa educate young children before they get into a school setting. One of the programs they are using to help reach out to children is by

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

Obituaries
Record
Facebook
AP National