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Council questions Chief Bemidji committee

To whom should the Chief Bemidji committee - which will examine the possible replacement of the Chief Bemidji statue in Library Park - report?

The Bemidji City Council discussed this question during Monday evening's regular meeting.

Councilor Jerry Downs initially removed a consent agenda that would have formalized the creation of a committee with 12 recommended members.

Specifically, Downs said he would like to see potential committee members go through a formal application process to ensure a "balance" of Leech Lake and Red Lake tribal members and Bemidji Community members.

"We need to turn a problem into an opportunity and include the two reservations," he said.

Councilor Barb Meuers agreed saying that of the 12 proposed members, three are American Indians.

Mayor Richard Lehmann said he would like the Chief Bemidji committee to remain a subcommittee and report to the Parks and Trails Commission, which reports to the council.

It was an opinion echoed by Councilor Roger Hellquist, who said the Chief Bemidji committee should be an advisory group.

Carolyn Jacobs, chair of Shared Vision and a member of the Chief Bemidji committee, told the City Council that the committee plans to apply for grants.

"We found ourselves recognizing that if we're going to be seeking grant support, we were going to need a fiscal agent," she said, noting that the city could fill that role.

Jacobs and Sandy Kaul, an artist and public art consultant who also is on the Chief Bemidji committee, said the committee is open to anyone interested in discussing the Chief Bemidji statue.

"If the public is not engaged in this project, it may not happen," Kaul said.

Councilors Greg Negard and Kevin Waldhausen both noted that the city has a group of citizens who want to do something positive for the community.

"These people want to step forward and help and do some good," Negard said. "Let's make it simple."

Downs made a motion to require a full application process through which potential committee members would be considered and screened. It failed 1-6 (Downs voted in favor).

A second motion to have the Chief Bemidji committee serve as an advisory committee to the Parks and Trails Commission passed 7-0. The motion also stated that the city would serve as the fiscal agent for the group.

Committee members

The 12 people who were recommended for the committee include:

- Mary Auger, a representative from the city's Parks and Trails Commission.

- Kathryn Beaulieu, the secretary for the Red Lake Tribal Council.

- Al Belleveau, an artist and chair of the Bemidji Sculpture Walk Committee.

- Mitch Blessing, an artist and member of the Sculpture Walk Committee.

- Wanda Hoyum, the director of the Beltrami County Historical Society.

- Carolyn Jacobs, the chair of Shared Vision.

- Sandy Kaul, an artist and public art consultant.

- Marcia Larson, the Bemidji Parks and Recreation director.

- Bernice Mitchell, a member of the Anishinabe Arts Initiative Council.

- Paul Richards, an architect with Widseth Smith Nolting.

- Mary Ringhand, administrative assistant with the Red Lake Tribal Council.

- Kevin Waldhausen, Bemidji city councilor.