Green Bay council approves agreement with Oneida Nation
By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay city council approved a 10-year cooperative governance agreement with the Oneida Nation at its meeting Tuesday, March 2 – ending a nearly five-year lapse.
Alders Barbara Dorff, Bill Galvin, Brian Johnson, Craig Stevens, Mark Steuer, Randy Scannell, Veronica Corpus-Dax, Kathy Lefebvre and Lynn Gerlach voted in favor of the agreement.
Alders Chris Wery, Jesse Brunette and John VanderLeest were opposed.
The Oneida Nation Business Committee unanimously approved the agreement at a special meeting earlier in the day.
Adoption from city council, however, didn’t come as easy.
After an attempt to refer back to the finance committee for further discussion failed with a tie-breaking vote by Mayor Eric Genrich, council spent nearly three hours in closed session hashing out details.
That discussion continued when council returned to open session just shy of 10 p.m.
Alder Jesse Brunette, who represents the district where city and tribal boundaries overlap, voiced concern with what he characterized as a “rush job.”
“I have a pulse in my district and I know how people think out here,” Brunette said. “I’m against it, not because I don’t believe in a cooperative governance agreement. The opposite. I want a cooperative governance agreement, but I think it needs to be right and this was a rush job and I’m not comfortable with it.”
Genrich dismissed accusations of the agreement being rushed, noting the agreement with Oneida Nation has been in the works for quite some time.
“It’s also important for the public to recognize that 11 of our 12 alders saw, really the meat of this agreement a year ago,” he said. “So, to characterize this as rushing the agreement through is not at all accurate. The people who serve on this body have had, really, a great deal of time to take a look at this agreement and offer input.”
Brunette said he proposed several amendments in closed session, which he noted were all voted down.
He repurposed eight of them in an omnibus amendment in open session – which included an opt-out option for both parties at the five year mark, a provision that prohibited the tribe to appear as a plaintiff in any litigation where the city was the defendant, language that took into account inflation, and others.
The amendment failed 7-5.
Dorff said the agreement is just the beginning.
“Any of these things (that Alder Brunette proposed) still can be worked out as we build our relationship with the Oneidas,” she said. “The first step we are taking is this cooperative governance agreement. The conversation doesn’t end then. The relationships don’t stop then. Things can still happen. Everything doesn’t have to be in there from the beginning.”
A little more than 10 percent of reservation land overlaps city boundaries.
When the council opted out of a previous agreement in April 2016, the city – required to do so by state law – continued to provide services and street repairs to those properties at no charge to the tribe.
The newly adopted agreement outlines the services the city will continue to provide, and reinstates an annual reimbursement fee the tribe will pay for those services.
The flat rate payment starts at $322,192 for 2021, increases to $525,000 in 2022, followed by gradual increases over the remaining years eventually reaching $625,000 by 2031.
As part of the agreement, acknowledging the tribe’s right to move properties into federal trust and off the city tax rolls, the city agrees not to challenge moves to do so.
It also includes a one-time payment of $150,000 from the tribe to the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary.
The full agreement can be found by CLICKING HERE.