Viewpoint: Charter movement reflects engaged citizensEmbracing more citizen involvement in city government may not be the end of the world and in fact, may be an enlightening and rewarding experience for all.
By: Leon Moe, Cottage Grove, South Washington County Bulletin
For the record, Mayor Myron Bailey, the charter commission would be a bipartisan grassroots effort which is not affiliated with any political party, Tea Party or otherwise. As a veteran, I prefer to make my allegiance to the Constitution greater than any political party.
In your recent viewpoint (“Charter city effort highly partisan, meant to divide,” Jan. 25), you stated you did not feel there was a “need” for a city charter. The very fact that by Minnesota law, at least 10 percent of the eligible voting citizens of Cottage Grove, who voted in the last general election, also signed a petition to establish a city charter commission would surely indicate there may be a “need.” Those of us who were out knocking on doors were humbled by the support for the petition to establish a city charter commission.
You refer to the charter movement as “political” to divide our tightly knit community. Are you aware that one of the biggest reasons a charter petition originated was your decision to rescind a council vote to approve general obligation bonding for the city hall/public safety project and thereby denying at least 1,400 citizens a vote? As an elected representative of the citizens of Cottage Grove, was your reason for rescinding that council vote made public? If not, why not?
Are you also aware of the misery involved in obtaining information on public documents from City Hall? We feel that the “data practices” shield gets a little worn out and only creates more questions and/or doubts. In the City Council agenda notes for example, the citizens are shown the number of checks written and the total amount. We have not been shown what city accounts were used when checks were issued for the city hall project. Are these not public documents as well? You are the mayor, the elected representative of the citizens of Cottage Grove, why is there such an effort to avoid a transparent city government?
The recent volume of objections by the citizens in the C-1 pavement project brought forward the fact that the city was paying a .5 percent interest rate and charging those residents 7 percent interest for 15 years. We are convinced that had it not been for those citizen-written objections, this project would have slid through with little or no discussion.
The National Civics League states: “Although a city charter by itself cannot ensure good government, a well-designed charter can provide a structure that reduces opportunities for corruption and mismanagement while reinforcing efficient and responsible practices. The model charter has long served as a guide for charter commissions, recommending particular arrangements and discussing the merits and potential problems of a range of options for configuring municipal government.”
Mayor, you may be surprised to learn that embracing more citizen involvement in city government may not be the end of the world and in fact, may be an enlightening and rewarding experience for all. The charter will not take the place of the City Council and in fact can enhance the role of the council and provide an opportunity for the council to work in partnership with the citizens of our city.
Moe is an organizer of the group
Cottage Grove Citizens Voice