BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A long-time city resident asked the Fort Madison City Council Tuesday night to consider adopting a rule on attendance for those elected to the city council.
Mike Killoren spoke during the public input section of the council’s regular meeting and pointed out an attendance issue with Third Ward Councilman Travis Seidel, although not by name.
Seidel’s attendance at council meetings has been suspect, making 58% of the meetings for the 12-months that ended July 30. Seidel was in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting.
Killoren said Seidel had made 57% of the meetings over the past two full years.
“An examination of the city council attendance records for the past two full years paints a disturbing picture of poor attendance by one of our council members. He missed 21 of the 49 meetings for a 57% attendance record. The average attendance by all other council members combined during that same period was nearly 90%,” Killoren said.
“In other words, that representative was absent for more than four times the average of all other councilmen… and 7 times as often as the best attendance recorded for two other council members.”
Councilman Kevin Rink added that the people needed to get better information about what’s going on.
“I think we need to keep in mind health and family issues. I’ve had a couple of health issues having both hips replaced. But I think what’s going on here is a bit stronger than that. And since it is a bit stronger, I think we can a little bit more lenient when something like this is going on.”
Councilman Brian Wright said the issue should be settled at the polls.
“It comes down to the elections, and if you feel the representative is not representing then you go to the polls and handle it there,” Wright said.
Seidel, who is disabled, said personal matters and the council meeting time change has made it difficult for him to attend all the meetings.
“I definitely think the meetings are crucial,” Seidel said after the meeting. “It’s important to attend, but I also think as a representative, a councilman, making those two meetings, although important, isn’t where the job stops. I’m not looking for sympathy but life happens. My dedication to the city doesn’t end at those meetings whether or not I can make it at 5:30 or 7 p.m.”
Seidel said he’s never entertained the idea of resigning due to the personal issues that hinder his ability to attend the meetings. Partly because he wants to fulfill his obligations and partly because there never seems to be anyone else in line to do the job.
“No. I’ve always planned on serving the time I was elected for. I was going to stick with that to fulfill what they elected me to do,” he said. “Do I feel guilty that I’m not there more, yes, and I do my best to be there and I don’t want to say I’m too busy to do it because I’m not. But there is no time I’m not involved and getting information.
“I’m a terms guy. I thought after eight years that would probably be enough. After four years I was wondering if I was being effective enough for the Third Ward and what made me run again was that others told me I was doing a good enough job and they liked my opinion on things affecting the city,” he said. “The second time I ran there was no one in line to run against me and there’s just too much going on to keep it vacant.”
Killoren suggested the council look at Iowa code for relief from council members who don’t show up.
“Serving as a council member should be viewed as a noble honor with a behavior focused on credible representation,” he said. “And the city may want to consider implementing provisions of appropriate chapters of the Iowa Code for other options to remove anyone unable or unwilling to honor their oath.”
After the meeting Killoren said he wasn’t running for office, nor was he trying to get anyone off the council.
“I’m just trying to start a public debate on this. Give me a number that’s too many absences. We should be talking about it.”
Seidel said his reasons for missing are legitimate and he’s open to speaking to anyone about what’s best for the city.
“I don’t miss because I’m in the Bahamas,” he said. “Let alone I don’t have the best health and I have some family members with health issues, but I don’t want to whine about that. Not being in attendance doesn’t mean you don’t care. Anytime I miss it’s not a no-show. I spoke with the city manager directly when I couldn’t reach the mayor. I told him that there’s a good chance I might be out a couple of months.
“I’ve always said at anytime if you want to come up to me at election time and tell me I’m not doing good enough please go to the polls or run. We need community involvement.”
In other action, the city council
• approved an ordinance amending city code to remove permit fees for oversize loads from Title 9, Chapter 11, and allowing for the permit fee to be set by resolution and specifying who shall lay out the route and times for oversize loads to move through the city
• passed a resolution to file a grant application for the Iowa DOTs Federal Recreational Trails program for PORT Trail Phase 3. Larry Driscoll said the PORT committee has about $275,000 for the project and this grant, if approved, would help offset a TAP (Transportation Alternative Program) grant that has been held up at the federal level. He said other grants are also in the works to make up what would amount to the other half of the project costs.
• approved a bid from Floyd’s E-Z way of Burlington for $78 per unit to haul during the city’s fall clean up program.