Rochester City Council President Randy Staver makes the same announcement twice a month.
“We begin our meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance and invite you to join us,” he states to start the 7 p.m. meetings, which are typically held on the first and third Mondays of the month.
As the St. Louis Park City Council considers reversing a June 17 decision to drop the pledge from its meetings, Staver said the issue has not been a concern in Rochester.
“There’s been no talk at all — not even an inclination — that we would revisit the topic,” he said.
The Rochester City Council has included the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of nearly all of its regular meetings since 2001, when council members unanimously agreed to add it in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
“We decided it would be respectful and patriotic to do that,” said John Hunziker, who was council president at the time.
Marcia Marcoux, the Second Ward council member at the time, recalls the spur-of-the-moment decision meant staff needed to pull a flag from outside council chambers to offer the council something to address during the first meeting following the terrorist attacks.
However, she said it was not a controversial decision. The only comment she recalls came from someone citing concern that everyone might not feel comfortable standing to say the pledge.
The St. Louis Park decision stemmed from a similar concern, with the council reportedly attempting to be more inclusive to new residents and non-citizens.
Marcoux said Rochester addressed the concern by having council presidents note the council would say the pledge and others are invited to join, giving audience members an option.
“To my recollection, most people did stand,” she said.
Hunziker said he doesn’t recall any complaints about the decision, which has been considered routine for nearly 18 years.
“I don’t see that changing,” he said. “If you start something like that, it’s difficult to change.”
The council reportedly discovered that to be true in 2007, when the Jan. 17 council meeting didn’t include the pledge. While the incident was cited in a couple letters sent to the Post Bulletin, Marcoux, who was still on the council at the time, said it wasn’t enough to cause a memorable uproar.
The St. Louis Park decision, however, spurred protests during the Minneapolis suburb’s Monday council work session, where council members were discussing whether to reverse their earlier decision.
It was followed by a Tuesday morning tweet by President Trump.
“Outrage is growing in the Great State of Minnesota where our Patriots are now having to fight for the right to say the Pledge of Allegiance,” he tweeted. “I will be fighting with you!”
The St. Louis Park council hasn’t reversed course, but it plans to continue the conversation on July 22.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports St. Louis Park City Council Member Anne Mavity said roughly half of Minnesota’s cities, including Minneapolis, do not recite the Pledge of Allegiance before meetings. The St. Paul City Council includes the pledge during its meetings.
Locally, the Olmsted County Board of Commissioners and Rochester School Board join the Rochester City Council in including the pledge as part of their meetings.