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In St. Paul Park, council won't abide lollygagging

  • Article by: JIM ANDERSON
  • Star Tribune
  • February 8, 2013 - 10:22 PM

There is speed-reading, speed-dating and speed-dialing. We have quick fixes, a quick buck and quick 'n' dirty solutions, fast food, fast lanes and fast breaks.

And, in what is an oxymoron for many cities, St. Paul Park has fast City Council meetings.

How fast? You can't get a pizza or sub delivered this fast.

A breakdown by the numbers: The St. Paul Park City Council met 23 times in 2012. Of those meetings, 11 were done in less than 20 minutes, five in under 10 minutes. Only one meeting went over an hour (by nine minutes, for late-year business in December), and the average session lasted 25 minutes. The council spent slightly less than 10 hours in regular monthly meetings over the whole year.

That roll continues for the first three meetings this year: the opening meeting Jan. 7 lasted six minutes, then the City Council came perilously close to the hour mark two weeks later at 53 minutes, and then last week's meeting settled back in at eight minutes long.

The numbers don't count City Council workshops, where a lot of the heavy lifting of running a city happens. They are based on a review of meeting recordings archived by the South Washington County Telecommunications Commission.

St. Paul Park is a good-sized Mississippi River town of 5,300 people, so it's not like there's nothing to talk about, and neither Mayor Keith Franke nor his fellow council members are neglectful layabouts. Things just move briskly and efficiently.

After a solemn pause for the Pledge of Allegiance, agenda items start falling in rapid-fire succession.

Approval of minutes. Boom.

Staff reports. Boom.

Old business, new business, pay the bills. Boom, boom, boom.

And to all, a good night.

Franke, who knows something about efficient service as owner of the Park Cafe and Franke's Bar, credits the personality and diligence of the council, and a strong city staff, for keeping things running relatively free of bumps and pitfalls.

"I think we all kind of know where each other stands, do you know what I mean?" he said. "And it's kudos to our staff -- our City Administrator Kevin Walsh, everybody -- we are pretty well-informed on what we're going to be discussing."

Franke is entering his second year of the first elective office he has held. Like other mayors, he frets mostly over economic development, but said the city is fortunate not to have major contentious issues. "I would like to think the citizens feel we're doing OK," he said. "We don't realize too much backlash."

Jim Anderson • 651-925-5039 Twitter: @StribJAnderson

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