Residents and council members addressed Wyoming’s recent metropolitan media coverage at the March 7 Wyoming City Council meeting, the first meeting after a City Pages article highlighted some remarks from Councilwoman Linda Nanko-Yeager that some readers found insensitive.
During the meeting’s open forum segment, Kevin Teel, a resident of Wyoming and member of the parks board, said he was at work in St. Paul during the first week of March and was surprised to see a City Pages article about his hometown.
The article reported that at the council’s Feb. 22 work session meeting, Councilman Joe Zerwas mentioned that he would be traveling the month of March, including a visit to Mexico. Councilman Don Waller reportedly joked that Zerwas should bring his birth certificate and passport and a ladder a foot higher than the wall. Nanko-Yeager then reportedly suggested that Zerwas could tunnel underneath the wall and “piggyback on Mexicans.” Earlier in the meeting, the article reported, she had also made a comment about her travels and looking for historical markers and a statue of a “stupid Indian.”
The Times did not have a reporter covering this meeting. During the open forum, Teel mentioned that he had ordered a copy of the audio from the meeting but had yet to receive it.
In the instructions for residents regarding the open forum, Mayor Lisa Iverson said that anyone wishing to speak should conduct themselves in a professional manner. When Teel stood up to speak, he said that he found it funny that Iverson would give those instructions and asked “the council if they consider to be conducting themselves in a professional way.”
Iverson did not reply to Teel and said instead that they would close the open forum portion of the meeting and move on to consent agenda.
During the council reports section of the meeting, Iverson said that in her day job, the business was going through training for sensitivity and proper use of social media. She wanted to pursue a similar training with the council.
City Administrator Robb Linwood said a sensitivity training was already scheduled for March 21 through the League of Minnesota Cities. He said the training would cover building a respectful culture, including body language and storytelling. The council plans to attend the training along with members of the city’s various boards. Linwood said he would also look into scheduling a social media training.
Following the meeting, Waller offered an explanation to The Times for the comments, saying that it was a session of joking about current issues and the comment about the “stupid Indian” had been in reference to a large statue of Hiawatha in Ironwood, Michigan. The landmark is known as the “world’s largest Indian” according to tourist website roadsideamerica.com. Nanko-Yeager did not speak about the comments.
The council also discussed policy for technology and the website. The League of Minnesota Cities counseled on the wording of both these policies.
The council also voted to allow the Park Board to meet twice monthly as needed through June as it prepares to submit its 2018 budget in June.
“It would be helpful to meet an extra time,” Linwood said of the board. “They do have quite a lot to do.”
Teel also spoke up as a member of the board saying that there would be “a lot of grant work coming in the fall – grant work does require a lot of work.” He suggested that the council extend the permission to meet twice monthly through the fall, but Nanko-Yeager said the council would reconsider that later in the year.