Head Cases

Head Cases

7/19/16

So, I’m out front, mowing what passes for lawn in my yard, and what jumps out of the maple tree, and into my mind? Why, What’s My Line? of course! Back and forth I go, and one by one the names all come to me. Host, John Charles Daly

Panelists: Henry Morgan, Bennett Cerf, Arlene Francis, Dorothy Killgallen. Ms. Killgallen’s name came last – took about three rows.

Now, Wikipedia tells me Henry Morgan was a ‘semi-regular’, and lists Soupy Sales as a regular. Huh? I may have to go mow some more, because I don’t remember him at all.

I have a steel trap mind – rusty in places though.

Now let’s see, what was I going to write about before I went off on that tangent?

Oh, yes . . . big heads!Balloon-Brain

As in, sometimes getting elected gives a person a big head.

No, not anybody from OUR town. Jordanites are ALL modest, and fully aware of their limitiations.

Not so Lake Elmo.

The headline in the Sunday Pioneer Press Local Section caught my eye. ‘Council to member: Don’t talk . . . again’

It seems the Lake Elmo City Council is trying to punish Council Member Justin Bloyer for saying in a public meeting that an $11 million mistake had been made in the city’s budget projections. It seems the Council thinks staff should not be questioned in public about things like budget projections.  It seems some members of the Lake Elmo City Council have a pretty high opinion of themselves.

Three Lake Elmo Councilors (Anne Smith, Jill Lundgren and Julie Fliflet) believe that by challenging the Lake Elmo Finance Director’s projections, Councilor Bloyer is engaging in harassment. Nevertheless, the Lake Elmo City Council moved to hire an outside consultant to review the projections. City administrator Kristina Handt said there “was not an error” by Bendel’s projections, but that other experts might “come to a different conclusion.”

That’s an understatement if I ever heard one. For one thing, no two finance people will ever come to the same conclusions about projections. And for another thing, Lake Elmo is the town that’s wracked by disagreement over whether the town should seek development, or stay as it is.

Now I’ve been dealing with government staffs for a while, and I can tell you no staff will ever support keeping a town or county as it is. These people all measure their worth by the number of dollars they spend, and the number of people they supervise.

Then there’s the business of telling a Council Member what he can or can’t say to staff during a council meeting.

Seriously? Did Councilor Bloyer call someone a name? Did he use a sexual or racial epithet? Did he threaten physical harm? Nope, nope and nope.

Did he hurt the Finance Manager’s feelings? Well, tough. She’s probably making eighty grand, or more – all pulled from taxpayers’ pockets. If she can’t stand public scrutiny, she shouldn’t be working in the public sector.

Council Member Smith said that publicly talking about any errors made by employees is wrong.

“You are supposed to praise staff publicly and criticize them privately,” Smith said. “I live by that.”

Well, she lives by horse pucky.

Everything a council does should be subject to intense public scrutiny. There should be NO surprises. Praising people in public, then back-stabbing them in private is not how a city should be run. Personally, I don’t want to know if a member of City Staff has hiccups, or showed up late for last Tuesday’s staff meeting. But if a staffer is unable to fulfill the requirements of his or her job, it’s a matter of public concern because public (tax) dollars are being spent for work not done, or not done right.

Mayor Mike Pearson, who opposed the gag order, said complaints by Bendel have been examined by two legal teams. “That means two administrators and two city attorneys. They all said not to do this.”

Well, duh!

It doesn’t take Perry Mason to realize the Council can’t infringe on a Council Member’s freedom of speech. They don’t have to like what he says, but they can’t tell him to be quiet because he might bruise someone’s ego.

Oh, and did you get the full import of what Pearson said? Lake Elmo is having trouble keeping City Administrators – probably because the city is pursuing the no growth option.

The one part of the Lake Elmo Council’s action I agree with is the bit where they told Bloyer he couldn’t talk to staff without another Councilor present. I have long encouraged people who are dealing with City Hall (hired or elected) to always have a witness present. Believe me, you don’t want to go alone into City Hall with a complaint about your water bill, or your garbage bill. Even the most trustworthy and concerned staff member can make a mistake. An extra set of ears can help resolve the situation. Plus, the extra set of ears tends to put everybody on their good behavior.

If I were a male chauvinist pig, I’d point out that the City Administrator, Finance Manager, and the three Councilors voting for the gag order are all women. But I’m not, so I won’t. Maybe ‘feel-good, bleeding heart liberals’ would be a more politically correct descriptor.

The link to the Pioneer Press article is here: http://www.twincities.com/2016/07/18/lake-elmo-council-tells-member-to-stop-talking-again/

The Quote:
“Rank does not confer privilege or give power. It imposes responsibility.”
             Peter Drucker

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