Sent to all City Council Members plus the Mayor and after receiving the Certified letter.
November 3, 2006
Dear Councilman Welch:
I need your help regarding some outrageous actions taken by a City official that I simply cannot believe reflects the intentions and policy of the City of Ankeny.
My name is Dave Sanderson, I live at 222 N.E. 16th Street, and over the past months I have been working on creating one of the coolest residential holiday displays in Central Iowa to share with my neighbors and our community. What I am doing is not entirely unique, as dozens of other people around Iowa and hundreds throughout the United States have been bitten by the Christmas bug and work to share something special with the kids, young and old, are using similar technology. But it is pretty cool, and for me, it is also a ministry.
My hope is that it will generate a reasonable level of extra traffic in my neighborhood and positive attention for Ankeny. Ideally, about as much as the wonderful displays in the S.E. part of town. But on the outside chance that it could generate more, and in trying to be as buttoned-up, proactive, and the best citizen possible, I made what you would never have guessed was a mistake – I went to our local expert on traffic, Police Chief Gary Mikulec, for advice.
Now you might think that when someone who is about as close to a model citizen as you can get – I’m a Boy Scout Council VP; college adjunct faculty member; long-term corporate CEO (ad agency) who hasn’t had so much as a parking ticket in years; someone who respects, supports, and clearly intends to work towards the public safety goals of the City by virtue of asking for the meeting in the first place -- that person might be viewed as a cooperative partner, right? Think again. Because I was genuinely taken aback by the combative and hostile tone in which that meeting began. I was under the impression that it ended on a more positive note. But I was clearly mistaken.
Zoom forward two months. My wife and I have now been served a CERTIFIED letter from the law firm representing the City of Ankeny threatening legal action under a somewhat vague ordinance that I have, and have never had, any intention of breaking!
Again, the only reason the Chief even knows I am planning to do a display at all is specifically because I am, or was, 100 percent on his side. Which makes this hostile, adversarial approach towards dealing with one of the most cooperative of citizens the most outrageous, indefensible thing I can imagine any city has ever done! Or had done on its behalf. And I cannot even begin to describe the level of personal offense I take to it. To be clear, I am absolutely INCENSED!
And I do not believe this action should stand, as it simply would not hold up to the light of public scrutiny.
So I come to you for help and clarification. Is this really the City of Ankeny’s policy and position towards citizens like myself? Is the City really prepared for the level of public outrage and ridicule that comes with this kind of incredulous behavior? Is it truly the intent, is it really standard practice, of the City to react to people who have done nothing wrong other than demonstrating total agreement with the City’s goals and concerns by responding, “Well, if that’s the case, we’d better sic the lawyers on him”?
What an unbelievable waste of resource and unconscionable thing to do!
All I want is to at least be treated fairly and to work cooperatively with the City IF, on the outside chance, there actually turns out to be actual traffic problems. But it is clear that the City, as represented by Chief Mikulec, has no intention of treating me fairly. The code cited is vague enough it could apply to any increase in traffic, and would allow the Chief to act without a fair opportunity for me to cooperate or otherwise mitigate the problem, should he so choose. And it appears clear by his actions that is his intent. Has the City sent similar certified letters threatening legal action to all the fine folks trying to add Christmas joy in S.E. Ankeny? I think we know the answer. Which makes it equally clear that, before my display has even been put together, I will be targeted and held to a different standard.
The real shame of this, Councilman, is that when I met with Chief Mikulec I really liked the guy. And nobody admires and respects our fine police force and appreciates their willingness to put themselves at risk for the safety of the rest of us more than me. So having to protect myself against the Chief of those whose job it is to protect my rights comes not only with a great deal of outrage, but a sense of sadness as well. Nonetheless, I simply cannot let this stand, and am asking for your intervention on my behalf. The last thing I want is to have to turn to the power of public opinion to protect my rights.
Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Councilman Craig Block
Councilman Dave Kissinger
Councilman Gary Lorenz
Councilman Tom Strait
Mayor Van Oort