My nine year old daughter and I accompanied my eighty-five year old mother to the City Council meeting on Thursday, May 8th.

My nine year old daughter and I accompanied my eighty-five year old mother to the City Council meeting on Thursday, May 8th.  My daughter listened attentively as voice after voice spoke against creating an RV park in Castle Park. As we left the meeting she asked me “Mom, when the City has made a decision and we [meaning the citizens] say we disagree, have they ever changed their mind?” I had no answer for her. I would like to believe our city leadership truly is representation of the people for the people by the people as my daughter is learning in school. As an adult I know democracy can be a difficult concept to embody. It requires its citizenry to be active in seeking knowledge, active in voicing opinions and contributing to solutions and active in voting to makes its voice heard. It also requires strong leaders who conduct their business with as much transparency as possible, who are able to hear and act upon the voice of the people and leaders who truly understand the meaning of servant leadership.

At the meeting, I heard the argument about economic development, which I am all for. I would love to see this community return to having a downtown full of viable businesses as it was in my youth as well as new businesses joining our ranks. I would love to see our old neighborhoods revitalized as our newer neighborhoods grow and prosper. I would love to see our community remain strong. I don’t think this decision should be solely about the value and cost in dollars; in this case, is the potential revenue worth the cost in terms of the will of the people as they perceive their green space disappearing, the safety of their children potentially put in jeopardy, and the character of their neighborhood irrevocably changed. A very wise supervisor of mine once reminded me “perception is everything”.

I heard the argument for the desire to bring campers to Crookston and to provide housing for the seasonal workforce for American Crystal Sugar. I too am all for bringing campers to Crookston, and as the daughter of someone who retired from Crystal, I am also in favor of doing all we can as a community to keep this, and other, industries thriving. I am not sure that I am convinced that Castle Park is the only viable location for these two visions to come to fruition, in fact, I am not sure these two housing goals mesh together well on their own.

I heard the people ask the Council to provide information on the other alternative sites which were reviewed. I heard the people say they felt as if this were a done deal and that our opinions were being written off as being those of the tree-hugging minority. Most of all, I heard the people, in voices both strident and soft, begging for servant leadership.

So I invite the City Council to show my daughter the democratic process in action. I invite them to do their due diligence and provide the community with as much information as possible on the Castle Park site as well as on other sites. I invite the Council to remain free from any perception of conflict-of-interest, perception is everything. I invite the City Council to take the high road and leave the doors open to the public and refrain from any closed door decision-making. Most of all, I invite the City Council to truly engage the community in the problem solving.  To quote Harry S. Truman  “It is understanding that gives us an ability to have peace. When we understand the other fellow's viewpoint, and he understands ours, then we can sit down and work out our differences.” Understanding takes time and the courage to continue to communicate even when it is much easier not to.

I hope that in the end, I can hear my daughter’s question again and say “Yes, Ava, sometimes when the City has made a decision and the people did not agree, we came to a different solution together”.