Take Back Muscatine

When Diana Broderson decided last year to run for mayor of Muscatine, she thought that her many years in the community and working in family programs at the YMCA would bring a unique perspective to the city, one mainly focused on reducing poverty and on creating a family-focused community. As it turned out, the majority of voters agreed. Mayor Broderson won by eight points over the incumbent mayor, garnering more votes than anyone else on the ballot in the City.

But as they say, no good deed goes unpunished.

While the special charter form of government had reduced the powers of the mayor considerably, assigning most matters to the city administrator and council members, the mayor still does have the power to make appointments to commissions and to the city fire and police chief, with council approval, as well as preside over meetings, and to veto.

And since assuming office, Mayor Broderson has attempted to use those limited powers to make the city more inclusive. She proposed to have an invocation delivered at the start of the city council meetings, to be delivered by a member of the faith or secular community. It was her way to invite the public into the council chambers every week, rotating among different faith communities and secular voices so both the council could better know the diversity of the city, as well as so community leaders could participate in government. This proposal did not pass.

She then nominated a few people to serve on city commissions. It was her desire to bring new voices to the table, get better diversity among commission members. In no way could any of her commission appointments change the power dynamic on these commissions as he or she would be one vote among 4-5 others. However, the new commissioner would bring a different perspective and enrich the conversation.

Regardless of the Mayor’s intention, the city council has killed most of the mayor’s appointments saying they people were unqualified or that their association with striking workers somehow was not good. They accused her of appointing only Democrats or union members (not true). One council member suggested that a woman the mayor recommended for Power and Water would be better suited to Library Board or the Art Center. They accused the Mayor of being partisan in a “non partisan arena” and that she will earn respect if she “stop playing politics”. They made their recommendations for whom they thought were better suited, a CFO for instance.

In the six months since elected office, Mayor Broderson has only been able to get two council appointments approved by council.

I decided to do my own analysis of the composition of the commissions to see if indeed they are imbalanced. I make no promise my findings are completely accurate, but even if they are only ballpark, what I found is very imbalanced
Below is a list of the commissioners’ names. I looked up their party identification, union status, and gender. I asked people in the community about the racial demographic to get a sense of that, important especially given that Muscatine has a large and growing Latino population (around 12%).
These are my rudimentary initial findings:
• 86 Commissioners total
• 28 are women (with 6 of those serving on multiple commissions); 58 are men
• As far as I could tell, none are Latino or African American (if this is wrong, my apologies, please correct the record)
• 40 are Republicans, 19 are Democrats, 19 are independents, and 4, I could not find data.
• Age was more difficult to establish, though it is safe to say that few are younger than 35 years of age

It is clear that the Mayor’s intention to diversify the commissions would be long overdue. It would also appear that despite the council’s accusation that the mayor is acting in a partisan manner, the overwhelming representation of Republicans on commissions (in a city that is pretty evenly split among Democrats, Republicans and Independents) demonstrates that this accusation is more appropriately made at the past council and mayor.

Ultimately, the council would not stand for any attempt to democratize the city, so at their last meeting they voted to ask the city attorney to draft language that would strip the mayor of her remaining powers to make appointments.
They council is going to consider the code changes at this Thursday’s meeting (see press release below). The community group, Take Muscatine Back, is organizing an information picket before the meeting to call attention to the proposed code changes.

If you are available, please show your support for the Mayor.

For Immediate Release Contact: Linda Reichert

Take Muscatine Back to hold informational picket before city council meeting

June 20, 2016, Muscatine, IA – Take Back Muscatine, local citizens group, will hold an informational picket at 6PM before the June 23rd, 2016 Muscatine City Council meeting to demonstrate their concerns over proposed code changes that would strip the Mayor of appointment powers for city commissions as well as the fire and police chief (see current city code 1-11-2).

Informational Picket
June 23 at 6PM
Muscatine City Hall 215 Sycamore St.

On June 23rd, the Muscatine City Council will hear a proposal for the city council to strip the Mayor of her ability to appoint anyone to boards and commissions as well as remove her power to appoint the city fire and police chief, with council approval.

Since the Mayor has taken office, many of her commission appointment have been denied by the council. As well, her request that the council open its meetings with an invocation delivered by the diverse faith and secular communities in Muscatine was also voted down by the council.

We at Take Muscatine Back see the council’s actions as not in the spirit of good government, based on shared powers, checks and balances. We ask that the residents of Muscatine who wish to have a continued voice in their government, as well as checks and balances, to come to the next city council meeting on June 23rd at 7pm. We will hold an informational picket in front of City Hall starting at 6PM.

If you are unable to make it, please call your councilman and ask them what is the reason for stripping the mayor of power, when just last year, they already updated the city charter. If the mayor’s appointment powers were not an issue then, why is it an issue now? We feel that the city council’s actions have nothing to do with good governance, but only with isolating a democratically elected mayor with whom they do not agree.

Under our Manager-Council form of government, the Mayor has traditionally had limited the power to name the fire department chief and police chief, and to make appointments to boards and commissions, with council approval, and preside at council meetings or break a tie (rare in a city with an odd number of council members).

We have not seen the proposed changes, as they will be shared at Thursday’s Special Session. But, we are also concerned that the public won’t be given ample opportunity to scrutinize the proposed changes before he council moves into a closed session to possibly vote on this matter (see agenda below).

The public, so far, is being left in the dark about why these changes are needed after more than 100 years of our charter. We ask the good people of Muscatine to join us on Thursday to seek answers.

1. Call to Order/Roll Call
2. Review and Discussion of City Attorney’s Opinion on Proposed Amendments to City Code
3. City Attorney Update
4. Request to enter Closed Session per Iowa Code 21.5.1.c to discuss strategy with Counsel in matters that are presently in litigation or where litigation is imminent where its disclosure would be likely to prejudice or disadvantage the position of the governmental body in that litigation
5. Request to enter Closed Session per Iowa Code 21.5.1.c to discuss strategy with Counsel in matters that are presently in litigation or where litigation is imminent where its disclosure would be likely to prejudice or disadvantage the position of the governmental body in that litigation
7. Adjournment

City of Muscatine Council and Commissioners

City Council and Mayor
Broderson – Democrat
Fitzgerald – Democrat
Rehwaldt – Republican
Spread – Republican
Bynum – Republican
Harvey – Republican
Natvig – Republican
Saucedo – Independent

Civil Service Commission
Dan Olson – Republican
Christina Kelly – Independent
Brandy Olson – Independent, but she voted in the 2014 Republican primary. She is also staff attorney for Muscatine Power and Water – I view that as a conflict of interest for her to be both counsel and commissioner.

Planning and Zoning Commission
Larry Wolf – Republican
John Sayles – Republican
Jodi Hansen – Democrat
Rochelle Conway – Democrat
3 vacancies

Muscatine Power and Water Board:
Steven Bradford – Republican, General Counsel of HNI
Susan Eversmeyer – Republican Co-owner, river rehabilitation.
Warren Heidbreder – Republican
Tracy McGinnis – Republican, VP Retail Banking, Central State Bank
Doyle Tubandt – Republican, President Kent Corporation

Airport Advisory Commission
Bill Leddy – Independent
Jerry Page – unregistered
Scott Natvig – Republican
Stacy Lewis – Republican
Steven Bradford – Republican

Electrical Licensing Advisory Board
Cliff Lanfier – unregistered
Steve Lemke – no data
Nick Nietzel – Republican
Tim Reed – unregistered
Joseph Hagerty – Republican

Art Center Board of Trustees
Kelly Rushford – Independent
Susan Freers – Republican
Rochele Conway – Democrat
Jon Moravec – Republican
Brian Wright – Democrat
Clair Penner – Democrat
Mary Shihadeh – Democrat
Melissa Snydacker – Democrat
James Burr – Independent

Historic Preservation Commission
Mark LaRette – Republican
Kyleigh Johnson – Democrat
Michael Maharry – Democrat
Paul Carroll – Republican
Rochelle Conway – Democrat (service on 3 boards)

Housing Advisory and Appeals Board
Alan Rusher – unregistered
Ed Hogan – Independent
Sam Curry – Democrat
Kyle Eller – Republican
Mike Allenbaugh – Republican

Administrative Review Panel
Nancy Lueck – Republican
Brett Talkington – Independent
Tina Boldt – Republican

Library Board of Trustees
Jane Daufeldt – Republican
Jon Moravec – Republican
Krista Regennitter – Democrat
Diana Gradert – Republican
Nancy Dew – Independent
Bret Olson – Independent
Travis Sheets – Republican
Peggy Gordon – Independent
Dr. Jarod Johnson – Independent

New Construction Appeal and Advisory
Rich Jones – Staff
Jim Noble Jr – Republican
Tom Bankhead – Democrat

Plumbers board of examiners
Joseph Hagerty – Republican
Phil Fitzerald – Democrat
Tim Kelly – unregistered
Ken Rogers – staff
Rich Jones – staff

Recreation Advisory Commission
Kim Warren – Democrat
Tim Riley – no data
Dana Kraft – Democrat
Greg Harper- Republican
Janell Kassel – Independent
Al Wagner-Democrat
Bradley Bark – Independent

Transportation Advisory Commission
Tom Curry – Independent
Pat Hagens- Republican
Tricia Honeyman- No data
Therese Finney – Independent
Kathy Moore – Independent

Water, Electric & Communication Trustees
Tracy McGinnis – Republican
Susan Eversmeyer – Republican
Warren Heidbreder – Republican
Doyle Tubandt – Republican
Steve Bradford – Republican

Zoning Board of Adjustment
Larry Wolf – Republican
Rochelle Conway – Democrat
Jodi Hansen – Democrat
Seth Munier – Independent

Convention and Visitors Board
Peg Heither – Republican
Greg Jenkins – Republican
Tina Boldt – Republican
Robert Bahn – Republican
Beth Johnson – Independent
Tony Lonconsole – no data
Mary Wildermuth – Republican

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  • Co-op utilties

    Just one note: MPW is also a city telecommunications co-operative. They run the cable system with have a major end-user Internet presence – no Mediacom. I find it fascinating that the board is unanimously Republican.

  • via Twitter

    Jake Friedrichsen noted, “If any of those boards are established by Iowa code they must be gender and party balanced. See 69.16 and 69.16A.”

    • Gender balance

      While it’s true the Iowa Code requires gender balance there is no enforcement provision. It’s been ignored at other towns around the state without consequence because there is no consequence. If Mike Gronstal wants to make an issue of it in an election year or take it to court, let him.

      The Mayor went looking for a fight and she got one. What’s the problem?

  • How did this happen and how did it get so bad?

    Eight minutes worth revisiting—Mayor Diana Martin Broderson’s first appointment nominations. Two succeeded; the third got tabled. Watch from 35:25 to 43:05. If March 3 was the first discussion held in public that clearly illustrates the “power struggle,” it would help us all now to see any earlier documents or recordings that are or could be on the public record. Before any votes to curtail our mayor’s powers, we really need to understand how this dispute emerged and how it got so bad. So far, it’s mostly She Said/They Said—and “they” are mostly not talking, not on the record.

  • The Others

    The Reicherts and Kas Kelly have been trying to “Take Power” in Muscatine for years. They pushed to get Broaderson elected and have been pulling the strings behind the scenes. When a newly elected mayor and their “Braintrust” come barging in with plans of attack on administration, there is going to be repercussions.

    • "John Smith"

      I find it very insulting that you denigrate an adult woman, a leader, a professional in the non-profit sector by implying that she was somehow bullied to run. the only bullying I see is coming from the city manager.