Bok says little things should be big things

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 22, 2002

The long oak table is covered with Polaroid pictures. They show various

streets, roads, sewers, ditches and signs from around Albert Lea and

Freeborn County. Each photo is dated.

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Each scene contains a problem, according to Roger Bok.

&uot;You have to fix the small problems when they happen so that they don’t turn

into big ones,&uot; Bok said.

Bok is running for the Fourth Ward seat on the Albert Lea City Council

against incumbent Ron Sorenson and newcomer Jeff Fjelstad.

An active observer in almost every facet of local politics, Bok attends

almost every meeting of the school board, county board and the city council.

&uot;I have been attending city council meetings for over 13 years and have only

missed 13 meetings in 13 years,&uot; Bok said proudly. His interest in politics

came, as he put it, as &uot;just for something to do.&uot;

When Bok is not out looking for and documenting city maintenance problems,

he is at political meetings. Bok is now notorious for bumping heads with the

each of the boards he keeps up with. He’s been banned from talking during

city council meetings, and is only allowed to do so before or after the

meeting. He has been banned from speaking at county meetings. The school

board is the only forum in which he hasn’t been banned from speaking, but

they have put limits on the amount of time someone can speak since he began

attending their meetings.

Bok doesn’t seem to mind these bans, or at least it doesn’t deter his

near-perfect attendance. &uot;I get a lot of Bok laws made,&uot; he said, laughing.

One of the more infamous moments in Bok’s involvement in politics happened

after he spent months complaining about a change on the city council agenda.

After noticing that a consent agenda &045; a grouping of actions that the

council feels is non-controversial and can approve in one motion &045; had been

put on the council’s agenda he complained that there had been no voting to

get it on the agenda. He started asking for proof that there had been an

action on it.

Bok explained, &uot;I kept bringing up the consent agenda up at every meeting,

week after week. Finally I took $500 out of my pocket and said ‘If anyone

can provide me with the minutes for the consent agenda I will give you this

money.’&uot; According to Bok he was then banned from speaking during council


Bok’s main issues are not the large ones like Farmland and downtown

redevelopment; instead they deal with city maintenance, the creation of jobs

and the structure of local government.

In running for council, Bok says he plans to change the way things are run.

&uot;We need to put the city back to where we have a set of rules we go by,&uot; Bok


Bok is an advocate for open forums. During his years being kicked out of

meetings and being banned from speaking, he said he thinks his freedoms have

been limited. &uot;If you come into a meeting and look at anything on the

agenda, the public should be able to ask a question and get an answer,&uot; he

said. &uot;We don’t get a lot of answers on these things, we get a lot of

excuses.&uot; Bok said he hopes that he could change this.

Bok is confident that he would make a great councilman. Indeed, his

description of a councilman’s job sounds much like what he already does with

his Polaroid camera. &uot;The council members should be out going through their

district and looking for stuff that needs to be cleaned up,&uot; he said. &uot;They

should do a little more work on what the problems are in the community and

everything else that comes up.&uot;