Biederman decides on break from city council

·6 min read

Jun. 22—Russell City Councilman Ryan Biederman said that he has been fascinated with government from a young age.

"I have been interested in government and politics since about second grade," the Raceland Middle School teacher said. "I had a very patriotic teacher (Miss Muncy), and her patriotism rubbed off on me. It was on my bucket list to run for office, and I can check that off."

The idea to run for city council, the Russell native said, would be a great way to take care of the people who had taken care of him for so long.

Biederman said he has felt privileged and honored to be able to serve the people of his hometown, and has a definitive idea of what it takes to discharge that service.

"To be a good council member you have to be a person of good character," Biederman said. "You have to believe in something bigger than yourself. This world, this state, and country is bigger than just us — it's more than just Ryan Biederman. It is so much more than that, and I think once you know your place there, where you're willing to serve other people, that is what it is all about."

Biederman said he has always done his best to serve and represent the trust that has been placed in him by Russell residents and to put the needs of the residents of Russell before his own. The best way to do this, he said, was to study each matter carefully that comes before the council with due diligence.

Biederman said you can't cast a valid vote for the residents of Russell without a clear understanding of what is being voted upon, and you can't gain a clear understanding without a process of gathering information from credible resources.

"And above all else there has to be a transparency with the public and involvement with the community."

But lately he has been disillusioned with how things are handled on the council and has decided to finish out his term and not run for reelection.

"I think we can all agree that the city looks better than it has in decades," Biederman said. "But me personally, as a councilman, I don't agree with how that process has taken place. There are a lot of different ways you can do things and get things done. The way that it has been done is not my preference.

"I think we can always work toward being more transparent every day," he said. "We can always work on that whether we are at our worst or at our best. As far as the local economy is concerned, I would like to see more diversity and make sure that we are bringing businesses in that contribute to the occupational tax."

Occupational business licenses and fees are commonly referred to as taxes which can be levied by government to promote general revenue. Typically these are a percentage of income paid by employees working within a city.

Biederman said that historically, when Russell first implemented the occupational tax years ago was when Russell began to have a budget that was "in the black," he said, and started to prosper financially.

In recent years the number of employees who paid the tax in Russell has decreased dramatically, in turn dramatically decreasing the city budget.

Biederman said businesses locating in the city with a larger number of employees would be of greater benefit overall to the city.

"Along with the smaller businesses located along Ferry Street, we need to search out as far as the government is able to do businesses with jobs that contribute to the occupational tax," he said.

A case in point that highlights Biederman's growing concerns is the vote at the last council meeting on June 14. The vote was on proposals for economic development of the property that was the old Russell High School.

Biederman said there were a few things concerning the way that was approached and resolved that he disagreed with.

The first was that there was not enough time allowed (about two weeks) for a business to consider all the factors involved to present a well developed proposal.

"They were all good proposals, but I believe the process went too quickly and didn't gather enough potential proposals," he said. "And had I been present, I would have voted no."

Biederman said that didn't mean he would cast the no vote against any proposal specifically or for any specific proposal, but simply would have voted against deciding the fate of the property so quickly without satisfying due diligence.

Biederman was on vacation during the meeting in question, but was under the impression that he would be able to participate in the meeting via Zoom, technology that was used during the pandemic.

However, at the last minute he said he was informed this was not the case and was unable to cast any vote either for or against. and his request to participate in the executive session via telephone was also ignored, even though he was willing and prepared to participate.

"It was an important vote," Biederman said. "And I wanted to be part of that because that is what my community elected me to do."

Expecting to be able to participate, then being excluded at the last minute, is something Biederman said he found "very discouraging."

The current results, Biederman said, are undeniable; but the process by which those results have been achieved could be seen as limiting the scope of possibilities for the city.

Biederman said that is the responsibility of city government to open up potential for all avenues of growth, and allow outside investors to submit proposals that might ultimately benefit the city to an even greater degree. and the city government needs to get the community involved and let every member be part of the process of making decisions that directly affect them now and in the future.

"Nobody is a king," Biederman said. "During my campaign I used the word teamwork, and we need to work on being a team."

Unfortunately, he said, he has come to the realization that is no longer a possibility. The current process as it stands is yielding results, Biederman said, but it is ultimately a process with which he disagrees on a most basic level. Nor does he believe it will change in the foreseeable future, and any voice to the contrary will simply be silenced and driven out along the rails that helped build the city.

The next Russell council meeting is set for Thursday at 6 p.m.

"I will be there," said Biederman, who added that he'd love to see citizens come to meetings more often.