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Monday
Aug012011

Knock Out Blow to Proposed Cell Tower

City Council Meeting of August 1, 2011


Almost one year ago today, I posted an announcement that Meyer Material was looking to install a cell tower near homes in the 3rd Ward. During our monthly ward meeting I asked for feedback on this issue and the response was clear: no one wants a cell tower in their backyard. I collected support and defeated the proposal.

This year, 7th Ward Alderman Dan Wilson faced a similar problem with a proposed tower on city property adjacent to a residential community. Lending a helping hand to Dan Wilson, there was support to defeat the proposal 5-3. A few days later, 1st Ward Alderman Pat Haugeberg (having first voted to defeat the proposal) had a change of heart and asked that the tower be reconsidered. After hearing the debate upon reconsideration, Haugeberg changed her vote. With a deadlocked City Council, Mayor Marty Moylan broke the tie in favor of the tower.

Pro-Tower (5)
Haugeberg
Robinson
Sayad
Cherewicz
**MOYLAN**

Anti-Tower (4)
Bogusz
Brookman
Walsten
Wilson

The cell tower passed first reading. Whew...how's that for background?

Tonight, the proposal came back for second reading (final vote) and the chamber was packed with the same familiar faces, except for one, Mayor Moylan. Away on a personal matter, the pro-tower team didn't have their tie breaking vote. For that reason, Alderman Dick Sayad decided to employ some Roberts Rules gamesmanship to ensure the vote would not result in a tie vote. In other words, if everyone voted as they did on first reading there wouldn't be a consensus to approve the tower because the Mayor wasn't there to break the tie. Sayad switched to the anti-tower team so that he could be counted amongst the prevailing side of the decision. A member of the prevailing side of any decision can ask to reconsider a measure (like Alderman Haugeberg did a week earlier...), and in this case, they could reconsider once the Mayor was back and ready to vote with them. So, what does that look like?

Pro-Tower (3)
Haugeberg
Robinson
Cherewicz

Anti-Tower (5)
Bogusz
Brookman
Walsten
Wilson
Sayad

After Sayad cast his vote and his intentions were clear (to bring the topic for reconsideration following the Mayor's return), Aldermen Walsten, Brookman, and I took a quick sidebar and realized that the rules could be used in our favor. Alderman Brookman motioned for a leave of the body; without objection from an alderman, any alderman can change their vote. With no objection, Brookman changed his vote:

Pro-Tower (4)
Haugeberg
Robinson
Cherewicz
Brookman

Anti-Tower (4)
Bogusz
Walsten
Wilson
Sayad

...and just like that the vote was tied. I quickly asked for a point of order; with the council deadlocked the ordinance didn't have the votes to pass (majority +1) and there was not a group of people on the prevailing side. In other words, there was no one who could later ask to bring this topic back for future consideration. The parliamentarian was stumped so I asked for a 15 minute recess so he could consult his reference materials. My gut was right. With no one on the prevailing side and a 4-4 vote, the ordinance failed and could not be brought back for future consideration. The tower was killed thanks to some quick thinking, teamwork, and Roberts Rules know-how.

Sure, T-Mobile could very well try again but any future proposal would have to be dramatically different (they can't just submit the same proposal again), neighbors would have to be notified, and the process would need to start over.

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