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Mayor Calvin cuts open forum short at Willmar City Council meeting

WILLMAR — There were 13 individuals signed up to speak Monday night during the open forum portion of the Willmar City Council meeting. Only one had the opportunity to speak before Mayor Marv Calvin shut it down.

Errol Bluhm was the first on the list to speak. He said he was unaware he only had three minutes to speak, although it has been council policy for several years to allow each speaker three minutes during the open forum. A timer is used during the meeting.

Bluhm said he was speaking as an advocate of free speech and as a devil's advocate in regards to the issue concerning Councilor Ron Christianson.

"What would be the consequences of ousting Ron?" Bluhm asked. "Do you want to form another Nazi Brown shirt brigade or contingent of thought police to get us to conform to one form of thinking?"

Before Bluhm was finished, his three minutes expired. Calvin thanked Bluhm for his comments, but Bluhm continued to speak. Calvin had to pound the gavel before Bluhm sat down.

Calvin then decided not to move forward with the forum.

"It is the mayor's right not to do that," Calvin said.

At the end of the meeting, during the mayor's comment section, Calvin expanded on why he moved on from the open forum. He admitted he didn't keep his composure, but was not apologizing for his actions.

"When I gavel the meeting and order is not kept, folks I lost it," Calvin said. "These council chambers have to be respected. I don't care what side of the issue you are on."

Following the council meeting Calvin told the Tribune it is the mayor's responsibility to run an orderly meeting.

"I felt it was off to a bad start. As the snowball rolls downhill it usually gets worse. I didn't let the snowball roll," Calvin said.

A city council does not have to have an open forum, said City Attorney Robert Scott, adding it is the mayor's job to run an orderly meeting.