The entire Minden City Council met for their monthly meeting for the first time since back in March. The Council was finally able to move forward with pieces of city business that have been left unattended in the recent months, some of which included electing a Mayor Pro Tem, board appointments, the hiring of a new Minden firefighter, and more. Also discussed during the meeting was the City’s sales tax collections and substantial increase in recent months, a proposal from Citizens for Justice for a citizen’s review board for local law enforcement, as well as Councilman Terika Williams-Walker of Dist. B addressing a social media post made by Councilman Pam Bloxom of Dist. E.
With it being interim Dist. A Councilman Wayne Edwards’ first City Council Meeting since his appointment, during the beginning of the meeting, Mayor Terry Gardner said, “I’d like to take this time to welcome Mr.Wayne Edwards to fill the seat of Dist. A. Mr. Edwards brings several years of City Council experience, so we look forward to working with him. Congratulations.”
The meeting got off to an odd start with the first agenda item, the approval of the minutes of which there was a total of fourteen for all of the meetings that have transpired in recent months.
When the items were presented by Mayor Gardner, no motion was made by any of the Councilman to start a vote on approving the minutes, which led to them all failing due to a lack of a motion one by one.
There were some disagreements regarding the meetings and their respective minutes presented at the most recent City Council Workshop, some of which haven’t been resolved, so it seems as though the Councilman saw fit to address the matter at a later date.
Afterwards Councilman Keith Beard of Dist. D motioned to elect interim Dist. A Councilman Wayne Edwards as Mayor Pro Tem. After a second from Councilman Vincen Bradford of Dist. C, the decision was met with unanimous approval.
When the item of the selection of an Official Journal came up, Councilman Bradford stated, “I move that we table this item, because we got some late information today, and I think we need to talk about it some more.” The Council seemed to be in agreement, and it was unanimously approved to table the item until they had further discussion.
The Council voted unanimously to increase the monthly fee associated with citizens and businesses who pay for security lighting from the City. Councilman Walker explained, “This is about the security lighting, to make sure everyone is paying the same fee across the board, because we had people paying different rates, and so now across the board everyone will be paying a $12 fee.” They also stated that, as of now, this increased fee for citizens with security lighting will start in October.
When it came to the item of authorizing signatory power to one of the Councilmen, Bradford motioned that it should be Councilman Walker who is authorized. Acting City Clerk Michael Fluhr pointed out a potential issue with this arrangement, asking, “So the Mayor Pro Tem has no signature power?” After Mayor Gardner affirmed the question, Fluhr said that it, “Makes no sense.”
The motion moved forward with three votes in favor, those being Councilmen Bradford, Edwards, and Walker, and two opposed, those being Councilmen Beard and Bloxom.
Over the course of the meeting the Council had a number of people appointed to various boards and commissions in the City as well as hiring a new Fireman, that being Tommy John Hughes, Jr. who was approved unanimously.
There is also Rick Buckner, Minden Water Production Superintendent, who was re-appointed to serve another three years on the Board of Commissioners for the Sparta Groundwater Conservation District. The Minden Main Street/Downtown Development Commission is getting two new sitting members with the appointments of Shawn Hatcher and Tiffany Washington-Johnson.
When it came to the item of adopting Mayor Terry Gardner as Director on the Board of Directors of Louisiana Energy and Power Authority and Gary Moreland as Alternate Director, the initial motion failed with three against, those being Councilmen Bradford, Edwards, and Walker, and two in favor, those being Councilmen Beard and Bloxom.
Instead, Councilman Walker proposed a substitute motion which simply flipped Gardner to the role of Alternate Director and Gary Moreland to Director. This motion passed with three in favor, those being Councilmen, Bradford, Edwards, and Walker, and two against, those being Councilmen Beard and Bloxom.
Another agenda item was for notice to be given that at its meeting to be held on Tuesday Sept. 8 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, the mayor and Council plan to consider adopting a resolution ordering and calling an election to be held within the Downtown Development District of the City of Minden to authorize the renewal/continuation of an ad valorem tax therein.
When it came time to review the past months Financial Report, acting City Clerk Michael Fluhr noted that while revenue for the past months had fallen, expenses had also fallen, evening out to an extent.
However, with some good news in relation to the City’s finances, Fluhr revealed that sales tax collections in past months has seen some drastic increases.
“In the month of July they collected for the month of June $561,000 dollars. A year ago they collected $460,000, an increase of $100,000 or roughly 22%. The month of May, $532,000 collected, a year ago, 488,000. So that’s the third consecutive month where we see increases not expected,” said Fluhr.
Which, I’m glad that I can say this, after 9 months, they have actually collected $4.625 million which is $12,000 over our budgeted amount, so if the trend continues, and we have in the budget $6.15 million, the city is in good shape in reference to the sales tax.
During the allotted time for public comments, Rodrico Bell went forward representing Citizens for Justice and voiced some of their proposals for additions to Minden’s local law enforcement, including a citizen’s review board and offering diversity training for officers.
“As you know we’ve had a couple of marches in the city, with the Citizens for Justice, and I stand as a member today to say one of the things that came out of the marches is that we’re looking for a citizen’s review board for our police department, and also, possibly, for diversity training. As we’ve seen across the country what can happen when you don’t have diversity training with different ethnic backgrounds, different races, and just different class of people, so that’s one of things that we’ve wanted to see addressed by Chief Cropper and his department, or by the council, so that we can keep our police department and our citizens on the same page,” said Bell.
“We all know that we need the police department to police, but we need them to police their job and do it correctly, as anybody else. We all have jobs and you have to do it correctly. I commend our law enforcement on some of the things they do. I just stand to voice the concerns from what I heard from some of the people that marched with us and that is what we would like to see addressed as we move forward.”
After hearing his comment, Gardner stated that Bell should call his office and set up an appointment with himself and Cropper to discuss what he addressed in his comment.
During the time for the Council’s comments, Councilman Walker addressed a facebook post made by Councilman Bloxom a few weeks prior.
“There’s a lot of racial tension, and expressing the concerns of my constituents, again with social media, it has not been addressed, and there was a comment that Mrs. Bloxom made, and the citizens, some citizens are waiting for you to address it,” said Walker.
“If you’re not sure about the one I’m referring to it was the one where you said that basically, African Americans only make up 15% of the total population.”
Responding, Bloxom said, “It’s true. It wasn’t to say, it was a fact of, it was just a fact.”
“So, you chose that time. You don’t think your timing for making that comment was inappropriate?” asked Walker.
“Terika what I was trying to say was that the media was making a big deal out of Mr. Floyd’s death from the 15%. No one was asking the other 85% if we felt badly. I think 85% of this country did not condone the way Mr. Floyd died either, but nobody was making a point of that. That was all I meant to say,” responded Bloxom.
“So again, you don’t think your timing was inappropriate?”asked Walker.
“No, it was a fact. It was true,” responded Bloxom.
“I just think that your timing of you making that comment was inappropriate and you dropped the ball when you didn’t address it,” referring to Gardner, to which he responded,
“If we had a social media policy in place I could say something, but we don’t have a social media policy in palace, and six months ago I brought one to the table, to get a social media policy in palace for all employees and all elected officials and the council chose not to address, so she can post what she wants to on social media like everyone else.”
“I think as a Council member, if you’re going to sit here and represent all of the city of Minden, where African-Americans are 53% your comment was inappropriate, and you should have apologized. That’s my opinion. And I think you should have made a comment addressing it as well,” said Walker.
Adding to her comment, “As everyone knows we’re still dealing with the issue of the sign that’s at the recreation complex, and yes I’m bringing it up again… and it just echoed to the community how she really feels. I mean it’s already a slap in the face of the African-American community for her husband’s name to be there, but then the comment, a mere 15%, on top of it. Yeah, it didn’t help the situation. So we need to address the removal of that sign.”
Once the sign was brought up, Gardner responded, “This isn’t the palace to talk about it because it’s not on the agenda, so when we have a workshop, we’ll talk about it.”
“So will we talk about it at the next workshop?” asked Walker.
“Probably not. It’s probably dead,” responded Gardner.
“No. you said at a workshop,” said Walker.
“We can talk about it, but we can talk and talk and talk and talk,” said Gardner.
“And it’s dead why?” asked Walker.
“Because it’s been vetoed,” responded Gardner.
Mayor Gardner used his comment to express thanks for the many well wishes he and his wife had received while ill with COVID-19, while also giving recognition to some of our local teams and Community College.
“I would like to thank everybody for the prayers that they had for me and my wife when we had COVID-19. The cards, the texts, the phonecalls, the facebook posts, and the food, and the churches across the city that reached out to us during this time,” said Gardner.
“Our young people that have been doing travel ball this summer, I’ve noticed on Facebook many of them have won their tournaments, and would like to congratulate the division wins that we’ve had and the way that they’ve gone about representing our city.”
“I would like to congratulate Northwest Louisiana Technical College, they rank number six out of 800 technical community colleges in America. I think that that is very impressive. Our community college right here in Minden Louisiana is a shining diamond for us.”
The Minden City Council meeting takes place on the first Monday of every month starting at 5:30 p.m. While normally the meeting is open to the public, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is strongly recommended that citizens remain home and view the meeting live at the city’s Youtube Channel, City of Minden – Feels Like Home.