Frustrated with Ald. Thuy Pham-Remmele, four alders walked out of Tuesday night's Common Council meeting, breaking quorum and bringing the meeting to an abrupt end.
Alds. Tim Bruer, Joe Clausius, Steve King and Paul Skidmore left the meeting to protest Pham-Remmele's style of asking drawn out questions of staff members and public speakers. With three other alders -- Michael Schumacher, Shiva Bidar-Sielaff and Julia Kerr -- absent from the meeting, that left only 13 alders present, which, by city ordinance was not enough for the meeting to continue. Mayor Dave Cieslewicz was also absent, on a trip to Sweden, but his presence does not count towards the needed quorum of 14.
Clausius says the move was intended to make a point to Pham-Remmele. "Her conduct was out of line. She was trying to do committee work at a city council meeting," he says. "If she wants to ask questions start coming to the committee meetings."
"I just felt it would be a waste of time to sit there another hour an hour an a half. Don't come to a council meeting unprepared and do your committee work at the meeting. I always try to come prepared," says Clausius, who rarely speaks at council meetings. "I serve with a passion on the city council for the people of this district."
King echoed those sentiments, saying, "I come to meetings prepared, I read stuff, if there's something relatively important, I attend [extra] meetings. I don't waste my colleagues' time on the floor by asking questions of staff. I wasn't wasting any more of my time on a colleague who doesn't do their homework." He wouldn't say whose idea it was to walk out at the meeting, but says it wasn't planned ahead of time.
Pham-Remmele could not be reached for comment Wednesday. But other council members were upset by the move. Says Ald. Mike Verveer: "I thought the stunt was unprofessional and unbecoming of us as an institution, and I hope it never happens again."
Verveer says there were rumors on the floor about an hour before that a walk out might happen and some items were moved up on the agenda so they would be dealt with. A council veteran, Verveer says he's only seen a walk-out maneuver happen once before -- when he served on the student government at UW-Madison in the early '90s.
Verveer admits that Pham-Remmele's style can be tiresome. "All of us have at times thought the discussions drag on a little too long because of questions asked by Thuy, but that's her prerogative, she was elected," he says. "Thuy's style seems to be it's more effective to ask these questions in public."
Clausius doubts the maneuver will have any affect on Pham-Remmele's conduct but says he won't repeat it. "I have too much respect for the institution," he says. "The stuff left on the agenda was mundane stuff I don't plan on doing that again."
King says he would walk out again, as long as there were no "burning" issues the council needed to deal with. "If it looked like we were going to get hung up on inconsequential things again, yeah I would do it."