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City Council Squabble Sets Tongues Wagging

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City Council Squabble Sets Tongues Wagging

Reykjavík City Hall

Photo: Páll Kjartansson.

Tensions and political in-fighting flared on Friday after an episode that Vísir reports has left some city councillors criticizing as “possibly the most misguided and embarrassing disturbance” that they’d seen in the course of their political careers, and others dismissing as “just nonsense.” The incident in question? Left Green councilwoman Líf Magneudóttir stuck her tongue out at Independence Party councilwoman Marta Guðjónsdóttir during a meeting of the Reykjavík City Planning Board.

Líf stuck her tongue out at her fellow councilwoman because she felt that Marta had been staring at her aggressively during the meeting. Líf stated on Facebook that the gesture was intended to relieve the tension of an increasingly discomfiting meeting.

“What are you to do when someone is staring at you for a long time with great condescension and disapproval in a high-pressure and inhibiting situation after you’ve stated your case objectively and fairly but receive an unobjective reaction in return? Yep, you try to make a joke of it all and lighten the mood and extricate yourself from all the competitiveness by just sticking out your tongue at those concerned, waggling your brows and smiling.”

She later apologized to Marta during a break in the session, but Marta felt that the apology was disingenuous and only offered because Líf knew she intended to put the incident on record. Marta later demanded that Líf make her a formal and public apology. She said that rudeness and tactlessness has been tolerated in City Hall for too long and that the way in which councillors treat one another has an effect on how important city issues get resolved. "The atmosphere has become quite toxic [...]," she said, saying that by putting the incident on record, she wanted to "draw attention to this issue so that people [Líf and her fellow council members in the majority] start to think about why they were elected and start working on the projects that we should be working on."

Following the incident, Líf was invited to appear with Marta on live television to discuss the state of relations between council members from different parties. She chose not to appear, but sent a statement to the station, which read:

“I saw at the meeting that Marta Guðjónsdóttir misunderstood me and took my antics badly. I discussed the matter with her in as friendly a manner possible and thought that with that, [the matter] was closed. Marta, however, would rather score political points by making this a newsworthy issue. That’s her choice.”

“In my opinion,” the statement continued, “this is a minor issue, and it ended with a sincere apology on my part that Marta chose not to accept. I find it sad that we’re letting this overshadow bigger and more important issues that the city council is working on [...]” She also pointed out that closed city council meetings often become heated, with council members using profanity, speaking down to their colleagues, and employing “threatening and oppressive behaviour.” As such, Líf said, she thinks that her colleagues in the Independence and Centre parties should “answer why [they] chose to behave in such an unobjective manner as we’ve been witness to, in, for instance, the media.”

Líf continued that members of the opposition parties should “look closer to home if they want to improve the relationship and workplace morale in City Hall; Marta Guðjónsdóttir’s reaction in this situation doesn’t honestly show much of a will to work objectively in the best interest of city residents. I myself have nothing in mind but to do my job with the same cordiality and conscientiousness as I’ve done up until now.”

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