Learn As You Earn? And Other Thoughts
Well, some of the candidates for office in Jordan are finally starting to make themselves known via the Jordan Independent. I used to post a candidate questionnaire here, but I haven’t during this election cycle. Frankly, I’m tired of being Mr. Fairness. Any candidates who are reading JUG are welcome to send me emails explaining why they think they’re the best fit for the job of Mayor, City Council Member, or any other office. I will publish any such emails, unedited, provided the sender gives me specific permission to include his or her (or whatever GLBT pronoun is appropriate) name with the email.
I must say, I see some impressive credentials. But one thing I haven’t seen is involvement. Where are the letters to the editor from would-be candidates about major issues in Jordan? And yes, I’m referring to the gravel mine. Why, when I go to a Council meeting, there are a dozen people in the seats to talk about Monarch Butterfly habitats, and not one of those people is a candidate. And when the butterfly talk is over, and the butterfly friends have fluttered by, why am I the only one left in the cheap seats?
It’s almost like being at a Twins game. Oh, the other team scored – game’s over. Wake me up for the seventh inning stretch.
Council Member Will, bless his heart, mentioned in his JI response that he wants to continue the progress begun three years ago (when I was on the Council). I agree with him that there has been a change in attitude in City Hall. But I detect a subtle shift back to the bad old days when staff ran the City, and the Council just nodded at what the former City Administrator said. I wonder, will some of the young‘uns be willing, or even able to stand up to staff, given that the young’uns have never witnessed the off-screen scenes at Council meetings. And if they are relying on what they read in the JI, I can tell you they are getting filtered information. Reading the minutes of the meetings is useless as a means of understanding the undercurrents that swirl during those meetings.
Why is it so hard to find out what candidates stand for? Is being born in or near Jordan enough qualification for Jordan City Council? I like to think Jordan voters are smarter than that.
One candidate says he expects to learn on the job. It’s true, there is a learning curve, but for candidates who have been involved for more than just the past few weeks, the curve is not steep. On the other hand, candidates who have been uninvolved until the campaign will be asked to make immediate decisions – whether they’re ready or not – that will affect taxpayers for years. City Council is not a bakery, where you can go back and make a new batch of fritters tomorrow. When the Council acts, its actions are law.
Just for example, all the information regarding the city budget process is available to anyone. I wonder how many candidates (including incumbents) have actually looked at that information. Do candidates understand that once the budget is set, negotiations with unions are essentially closed? The budget is public information, the unions have access, and each union wants most of the money earmarked for salary increases. Oh, and do the young’uns realize that the City Administrator is the chief negotiator for the City?
So what? Well, the bigger the annual salary increases for staff, the bigger his salary increase. And his salary is the biggest in the city.
Another example? Well, I suspect the gravel mine business is not over yet. Will the Jordan City Council be caught unawares by whatever comes next? And where do the six candidates for Council stand on the issue? For that matter, where do the three candidates for Mayor stand on that issue?
I believe Jordan needs to be proactive to protect its water sources, and to protect its streets. Now would be a good time to start proacting. Where is everybody else on this?
I’m not philosophically opposed to having newbies on the Council. I was a newbie once. But I learned from my first campaign that it takes more than lawn signs and JI questionnaires to earn a seat. Right now, I don’t think any of the new candidates have been sufficiently involved to rate a soft chair.
And lest any of you gentle readers think this is a ringing endorsement for incumbents, it’s not.
One Last Thought
I believe the City Council should enact a policy whereby every Council Member forwards all citizen’s emails to the City Administrator for inclusion in the meeting agenda – probably as a consent agenda item.
I have heard lots of talk from Council Members about receiving ‘numerous emails’ and ‘nasty emails’. In either case, the full Council should be fully aware of those numerous and nasty emails. Open meeting law is an issue. That’s why the emails would have to be on the agenda, not just automatically forwarded to all Council Members. Personally, I’m really curious about what constitutes ‘numerous’ and ‘nasty’.
“You cannot create experience. You must undergo it.”