In Saint Paul, a transparency change

By Mike Kaszuba

Due to concerns raised by women’s advocates, the St. Paul City Council is no longer requiring people who testify at public hearings to verbally give their home address.

City Council President Amy Brendmoen said she made the decision after she and other City Council members were approached by “a group of advocates for women and women’s safety.”  The women’s advocates complained that having women give “their full name and street address on the camera was a barrier to their participation in public hearings”, Brendmoen said in an e-mail to Public Record Media (PRM), a St. Paul non-profit.

Although people testifying at public hearings will still have to list their street address on a sign-in sheet, they will only have to give their full name and the neighborhood they live in when they speak, the City Council president stated.

“The change is only about stating the street address,” Brendmoen told PRM.  “We are not requiring community members give their house number on camera in order to testify any longer.”

Brendmoen said she made the decision to change the policy as City Council president, and said she did so after conferring with the city’s attorney.

“We will see how it goes,” she noted.

Not everyone was pleased with the change.  “The idea that you ‘might’ be harassed doesn’t seem like enough of a justification,” Jane McClure, a freelance writer who has long covered city politics and neighborhoods in St. Paul, told PRM.  “In this era of metoo# [the women’s movement to combat sexual harassment], when we are urging women to speak out and use their names, this is a real step backwards.

“Don’t throw out transparency and accountability and good process,” McClure added.