The right to be rude!

March 24th, 2023

In Massachusetts, a case has come down supporting a person’s right to be rude in seeking redress from government:

Keep in mind this is Massachusetts, but we had something similar in Minnesota, after Robin Hensel was hauled out of a Little Falls City Council meeting, and she took it up to the Minnesota Supreme Court:

This Minnesota opinion so concerned Red Wing’s former police chief Pohlman that he initiated Ordinance 115, designed to give police additional power to remove people from City Council meetings, even after consulting with the County Attorney (hmmmm, why?) who said it was not necessary, not needed. What was Pohlman trying to do? Why? What was he afraid of?

Red Wing’s Ordinance #115 – Why?

Here’s the letter I’d written then:

Ordinance #115 – disruptions at Council meetings?

Monday night, the Council took up Ordinance #115, triggered by the recent Minnesota Supreme Court’s Hensel decision. That decision held that the law defining conduct that “disturbs an assembly or meeting, not unlawful in its character” as disorderly conduct was unconstitutional, “a serious overbreadth problem.” Here, the City has decided to consider an ordinance of its own with language that puts the City on the wrong side of the law. Why would the City want to do this?

The discussion was good – I’m grateful members raised Constitutional issues, the 1st Amendment, and its broad definitions. One said “We’d instructed staff after we got information,” the City Attorney had been instructed to draft the ordinance. “We were asked to address this.” By whom? It’s not gone through committee process. The packet’s item 9B was a memo from Roger Pohlman, Chief of Police, requesting a Motion to introduce the Ordinance.  Councilor Hove noted that there haven’t been disruptions for years, since back when the Council met upstairs! Others, including the City Attorney, noted that in addition to city policy, there is applicable law. Only part of the disorderly conduct statute (Minn. Stat. 609.72) was held unconstitutional, and parts remain, including “engages in offensive, obscene, abusive, boisterous, or noisy conduct or in offensive, obscene, or abusive language tending reasonably to arouse alarm, anger, or resentment in others.”

Why use Council time on this non-issue, particularly where the City has policies in place regarding disruption? What was most concerning were Chief Pohlman’s reasons for requesting this ordinance.  First, he noted that police use of force practices limit what level of force may be used, and “if individual becomes passive, resistant” this ordinance was back up to use force to remove someone. He raised this issue of level of force twice. The other claimed justification was liability issues if someone claims injury when removed, that it’s “difficult to use policy to support our case.” This is an issue?

As Alan Muller was quoted in your article, “people disrupt meetings — people behave aggressively — when they feel that behaving politely and with restraint isn’t working.” Council President Biese cut off Muller’s statement just as he was finishing!  In my own experience, I’ve been shushed by Biese for objecting when my Ash Mining clients had no opportunity to speak before the Council approved that scheme. I’ve also been ordered removed from a St. Croix Falls/Taylors Falls joint Council meeting by then Mayor Lundgren for merely asking a question, raising a financial corruption issue, in a public comment period.  Lundgren was later charged and plead guilty to Theft and Misconduct in Office. Sometimes being heard requires standing up.

A primary outcome of the Red Wing Citizens Assembly was recognition that the City Council needs to be welcoming, transparent, that the Council must listen to citizens, and welcome public engagement. Ordinance #115 is a visible step in the opposite direction

Carol A. Overland

UPDATE: A bit of an aside — a decision from Massachusetts, the public has a “right to be rude,” specifically when demanding public comment and transparency!

The most recent Red Wing City Council meeting was yet another interesting meeting.


I was “there” (virtually) for Agenda Item 10B, Consider a Motion to Submit a Letter of Support to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in Support of Xcel Energy’s Public EV Charging Proposal.

But 10A was an interesting one, and a narrow step of the Three Rivers Community Action Housing Project was approved. On the video, it starts at 1:15.

10.A. Consider Motion to Approve Resolution No. 7851 Approving a Land Donation and a
Good-Faith Commitment to Tax Increment Financing for a Three Rivers Community
Action Housing Project on Technology Drive, Contingent on Receiving State Funding
The purpose of this item is for City Council to consider a land donation and a good-faith
commitment to tax increment financing for a housing project in partnership with Three
Rivers Community Action that would meet the needs of modest-income residents in our
community. The purpose of the housing project is to provide housing for families in a
place that offers green space and is walkable to amenities like healthcare, groceries, and
transportation. The project also provides 12 supportive housing units with on-site

It passed on a 4-3 vote, and some of the comments were odd, like “don’t put it near a day care” inferring that there were safety concerns. Huh?

Tom Wilder, a Recall City Hall principal and funder had this to say, some of which I’m highlighting, because he has some bizarre notions of what a City Council should AVOID DISCUSSING (!), that the City should “encourage and discuss true economic development that provides the most benefits for the majority of the current city population.” It looks to me like there’s a class basis to Wilder’s notion of who is and who is not represented.

Do recall, Tom Wilder is one who publicly stated that he doesn’t trust the City Council, and a week later went to that same Council, hat in hand, with request that the City give him, for a nominal filing fee, an easement contiguous to his parcel! More astounding, he got the land!

Anyway, here’s what he had to say, from 2:55:09 to 3:00:19 on the video:

Tom Wilder Kinda sounds like we’re looking for a bigger hammer to bang a square peg into a very small round hole. Thank you for allowing me some time. As we’ve often heard, elections have consequences, and this time is no different. Last November, and the special election for Ward 2 prior to that, the citizens through their vote, spoke loud and clear to change the leadership and more importantly, the direction of city, police, policy decision making. The newly elected four arrived with mandates to stop reckless spending and to refocus the City Council on the basic functions of efficiency in city government. The voters have done their part, and now it’s time to enact the necessary changes. Let’s take a moment to state the four basic duties of a City Council.

  • Number 1: Maintain a strong and well supported police and fire department to keep us safe.
  • Number 2: Guide, support, maintain and fund solid infrastructures, streets, sewers, and clean drinking water.
  • Number 3: Be ever vigilant in keeping taxes of all types low on the citizens as well as the businesses that help this community thrive economically.
  • Lastly, the City Council should provide an open forum, like tonight, to encourage and discuss true economic development that provides the most benefits for the majority of the current city population.

Likewise, it follows that there’s a plethora of subject matter every City Council should avoid in discussing. The following list is not exhaustive, but would include such topics as all federal and state level political issues of any type; real estate purchases for development; energy policy for the City, as a whole or its citizens; the idea that Red Wing should mimic other states such as California for our policy direction. Lastly, resolutions, declarations of intent, and other statements of health care, emergency and hazard that end up dividing us as a community rather than uniting us.

With that stated background, I’m here to recommend not approving the proposed Three Rivers Section 8 housing project. There may be a need, but this is not the spot. Let me be clear. I do not oppose the need for some lower income affordable housing in Red Wing. In fact, I support Bob here with Habitat, the recently announced Habitat for Humanity’s project on the St. John’s site, a project that will be literally be in my neighborhood and my back yard. It will not only fill a need, but provide an ongoing tax base to Red Wing, coupled with pride of ownership, sealed with sweat equity of new families in our community. As a side note, the Habitat idea was proposed to the City Council three years ago by our neighborhood group, was quickly squelched by the old council as not providing enough density for the “snapshot in time” 2040 plan. However, that’s a discussion for another day.

Ben Franklin, long considered one of the wisest thinkers of the founding fathers of our country had a method he used to evaluate any big decision that was to be made, still taught in business schools to this day, something like this: Evaluate the main bullet points of the transaction with a simple yes or no chart. Look at the results, decide based on the facts, not emotions. Let’s employ his method on the Three Rivers proposal before you tonight.

  • Does the current zoning match the proposed use? No. Will the developer be paying the project building permit fee of $27,000? No.
  • Will there be an ongoing tax benefit to the City coffers over the next 26 years? That’s the TIF period. No.
  • Will the $60,000 special assessment which is on that property be paid to the City? I guess it will be, I had it as a NO, but I guess that’s a yes.
  • Will the developer be paying the City, I had $260,000, but I’m close, for the cost of the land? No.
  • Does this project meet the stated town employers quoted need for ____  class for more housing? No.
  • Are there other businesses that could answer yes to all of the above that should be actively recruited moving forward? Yes, I believe with a refocus of Port Authority resources that could quite easily become a reality.

In conclusion, let’s take the Motion off the table, and clearly recognize the obvious decision is easy and clear to make. Most of the citizens that just voted for change do not support such a project, nor is there any need for the community to encourage such a project. You all have an obligation to honor the voters, and simply vote no, move on, find a different spot, and continue to refocus the direction of policy making in Red Wing to the core duties of a responsible and efficient City Council. 

Thank you. Respectfully submitted…

The notion that Council members “have an obligation to honor the voters,” “the citizens that just voted for change,” is off — Council members represent everyone in their Ward(s), not only some voters. And that’s so inconsistent with the Recall City Hall effort to eject 6 of 7 Council members despite their having won their elections. Inconsistency, much? Wilder has also publicly stated his desire to undo many of the actions of the “prior” City Council.

Take a close look at the notion that the Council should avoid issues affecting all of us in the city:

Note the very limited view of “public safety,” a primary responsibility of a city! A pandemic is a public safety issue. The City has declared systemic racism a public health issue. Energy and environmental issues are public health and safety issues.

Wilder’s statement is a declaration of Recall City Hall objectives, and it would behoove us all to take a hard look at what’s being said, what’s being advocated for promotion and for limitation. The “newly elected four” do have a job to do, but it’s much broader than installing the Recall City Hall agenda.

Recall recent discussions and votes by the Council. Recall that in December, there was attempt to discontinue virtual meetings. Recall that recently there have been two or more attempts to decline to accept awarded grant and public funding for infrastructure projects, an act that would not only stop those specific projects, but would put future funding in jeopardy. Recall that there was a recent attempt to prohibit virtual public comment. Recall that these efforts did not pass. The theme? These efforts were not in the broader public interest. These efforts would have harmed the City’s ability to obtain funding and were fiscally irresponsible. These efforts would have discouraged public participation contrary to the Council Rules to ENCOURAGE public engagement.

It is the City Council’s job is to protect the health and safety of ALL its residents, not a “majority” of residents. It’s the Council’s job to act in the public interest, with fiduciary responsibility. Most importantly, it’s a Council member’s job to represent ALL in their Wards and the City as a whole. It’s not easy. Oh well, that’s the job.

The power of a Charter City are found in the City’s Charter (DOH!):

And a snippet:

“… for the government and good order of the City.”


And thanks to Xcel’s Chris Clark for admitting the obvious:

We are well above the 20,000 picocuries per liter EPA standard,” Clark said. In water directly below the plant, the picocurie-per-liter count was in the millions.


p.s. Xcel applied for relicensing of Monticello in January… applied for during time that the information of the 400,000 gallon leak into groundwater was publicly withheld (though available in arcane NRC reports):

In the STrib:

Xcel is cleaning up radioactive water spill at Monticello plant

Xcel and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency both said the 400,000-gallon spill posed no threat to drinking water or the nearby Mississippi River. 

By Chloe Johnson and Mike Hughlett Star Tribune March 16, 2023 — 2:00pm

Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune file The gray concrete walls of Xcel Energy’s Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant.

A broken pipe at Xcel Energy’s Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant leaked about 400,000 gallons of water containing radioactive tritium, and the utility is working to clean up the contaminated plume, state regulators said Thursday.

Both Xcel and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said there was no risk to drinking water from the spill, which was traced to a pipe connecting two buildings across just a half-inch space. The spill was first reported to state and federal regulators on Nov. 22, 2022. The source was found Dec. 19 and patched soon after, according to the MPCA.

Xcel and the state are actively managing the site to make sure an underground plume of tritium doesn’t begin to drift beyond the property, including to the nearby Mississippi River, said Kirk Koudelka, an assistant commissioner at MPCA. Water is being pumped out of wells on site both to remove the contamination and control its underground flow. Xcel is paying for sampling, pumping and temporary treatment, Koudelka said.

“Our goal is to remove the source, the contamination that is down there as much as possible,” he said.

Once the leak was discovered, Xcel began diverting the water to an in-plant water treatment system — a step that is continuing.

“We were able to contain it so that no more water was leaking,” said Christopher Clark, Xcel’s president for Minnesota. Clark estimated the remediation work would take about one year; the company does not yet have a cost estimate.

Koudelka said the MPCA was announcing the leak almost three months after it was patched because “we have now sufficient information to be able to share it out to a wider group.”

A high level of tritium in groundwater was reported to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission when first discovered, which published the “nonemergency” report in its public list of nuclear events the next day. The listing said the source of the tritium was being investigated.

Tritium is a mildly radioactive form of hydrogen that occurs occasionally in nature but more commonly from human activities such as nuclear power generation, according to the NRC’s website. Tritium is at times intentionally released from power plants under NRC rules.

Like regular hydrogen, the odorless, colorless gas can react with oxygen to create water, known as tritiated water. It is used in some scientific work, including as a tracer in biochemical research, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has a limit for the amount of tritium that can be present in drinking water — 20,000 picocuries per liter — to protect people from radiation.

We are well above the 20,000 picocuries per liter EPA standard,” Clark said. In water directly below the plant, the picocurie-per-liter count was in the millions.

However, those high levels are quickly reduced as tritium dilutes in groundwater. “This does not present a a public health or drinking water issue,” Clark said. The company is monitoring the plume in two dozen wells.

Tritiated water can’t harm someone just by proximity, said Daniel Huff, assistant commissioner for health protection at the Minnesota Department of Health. The only way a person could be exposed to radiation is by drinking or breathing it, he said.

People are regularly exposed to small amounts radiation from medical procedures and even activities such as sunbathing or flying on a plane, Huff said. But the health effects are cumulative, making it important to limit contact when possible.

“The public’s exposure from a nuclear power plant should be zero,” Huff said.

In a statement, the city of Monticello indicated that its drinking water was not affected and that the leak happened outside the area where it draws groundwater for municipal wells.

Xcel said it would examine the pipe that caused the leak to understand how it failed.

Tritium levels from the Monticello leak are well below safety thresholds set by the NRC, and the plant is not breaking regulations, said Viktoria Mitlyng, an NRC spokeswoman. Tritium leaks, she added, “are not uncommon for nuclear plants.”

Leaks are an issue for aging plants because tritium so easily mixes into water, said Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists. So, anywhere water might escape from a nuclear plant, tritium could, too, he said.

There have been unintended tritium releases at several power plants over the years.

Xcel monitored groundwater near the Monticello plant for tritium long before the recent spill, and in 2009, it found tritium levels at 21,300 picocuries per liter in a newly dug well at Monticello, according to a report from MPR.

The company typically samples water from 18 wells, ranging from every month to every year, according to a January Xcel filing with the NRC. One well at Monticello has had elevated tritium levels since 2009.

There already was a more diluted plume of tritium before the spill, Xcel said in the NRC filing. “The plume appears to be stagnant under the turbine building.” The tritium “migrated” through the turbine building’s concrete floor, the filing said.

Despite that seepage, the highest level of tritium that Xcel has found since 2016 was less than half the federal drinking water limit, the filing said.

In 2012, Xcel released 27 gallons of tritium-tainted water from its Prairie Island nuclear plant near Red Wing after a condenser system leak. That leak reportedly contained 15,000 picocuries per liter of tritium.

In 2019, Xcel announced plans to extend the Monticello plant’s lifespan for at least ten years beyond 2030, when its current NRC license expires. Two months ago, the company filed a formal application with the NRC to extend Monticello’s licenses for another 20 years.

The tritium leak “does have some implication for their license renewal,” Lyman said. Managing an aging facility is “clearly one of the key issues.”

The Monticello plant opened in 1971, though Xcel has spent tens of millions of dollars keeping the plant up to date over the years.

The company says that extending the lives of both Monticello and Prairie Island by 20 years is critical to meeting a new state law mandating fully carbon-free electricity by 2040. Federal licenses for Prairie Island’s two reactors expire in 2033 and 2034.

And these “leaks” are nothing new. From 2011:

Radioactive Tritium leaks found at many U.S. nuclear sites; 37 plant leaks have contaminated drinking water

This, about Prairie Island nuclear generating plant, in 1992:

I must admit, I get so tired of over and over and over and over harping on the basic bottom line, that we DON’T NEED MORE TRANSMISSION. But oh well… here we go again. Just filed Reply Comments on the Biennial Transmission Report:

Once more with feeling:

2021 Biennial Transmission Report

The deadline for Comments on the Lava Ridge wind project Draft Environmental Impact Statement has been extended to April 20, 2023. This is the wind project near, or nearly surrounding, the Minidoka National Historical Site, depending on the siting allowed.

Want to make a comment? Here’s how:

Here are links, starting with the Executive Summary and in order of appearance (there’s really no easy way to do this, and be prepared, just that first one with the narrative, it’s 578 pages long, and it’s the most important for the overview):

Go to the “Friends of Minidoka” for some guidelines and suggestions for comments:

Friends of Minidoka – Lava Ridge page