Communication. Specifically, more and better communication. Even more than stressing the need to be on the same "team," members of the Crookston City Council for a long time now have been stressing the need to improve the quantity of communication between them and the other decision-makers in the City of Crookston operation, like the mayor, city administrator and CHEDA director, as well as the quality of that communication.
Who could argue this focus on more and better communication isn’t a good thing? If it keeps the public more informed, it’s a great thing.
But it turns out, the admirable goals detailed in the first paragraph of this editorial are apparently way easier said than done.
Three weeks ago, a couple council members detailed some concerns and constructively criticized a proposal to purchase a $13,000 digital reader board that would be mounted on an exterior wall at the Crookston Fire Department's south station. The council's Ways & Means Committee voted 7-2 in favor of the board purchase, and it advanced to the council's Nov. 26 meeting for what one would think its official approval.
That didn't happen. In the wake of the digital reader board's colossal flop and the surprising about-face regarding the council's views on purchasing it, a puzzled Times reached out to City Administrator Shannon Stassen, who said that Ward 2 Council Member Steve Erickson in the days leading up to the council meeting said he'd received some negative feedback on the board purchase. So, Stassen said, he moved the resolution to consider its purchase from the consent agenda to the regular agenda. In theory, that would mean it could easily be further discussed in the open.
But that didn't happen, either. Magically, the negative feedback that spurred Erickson to contact Stassen mushroomed into the entire council, apparently, being against the purchase. It took Mayor Wayne Melbye three attempts at calling for a motion to approve the resolution before Ward 3 Council Member Clayton Briggs offered one. But then no one offered a second to the motion despite Melbye's repeated requests for one, and the whole thing died without even coming to a vote.
Was any updated background provided, in the form of a public explanation to the people and the media gathered in the council chambers? No, not a word. Did anyone attempt to explain what had transpired since the board purchase was approved by the Ways & Means Committee and then torpedoed at the Nov. 26 council meeting? No, they did not.
Hey, we don't care if you buy the digital reader board or not. It's $13,000, not a ton of cash when you consider the overall scope of the City operation. If there are better ways to spend that money at the fire department, so be it.
But would a little explanation, in public, kill anyone?
How often did we hear the words “transparent” and “transparency” in the campaign leading up to the election in Crookston last month, regarding the need for City leaders to be more open/less secretive in their dealings? People deserve to know what’s behind the decisions being made by their elected leaders, even more so when those elected leaders do a mysterious about-face on an issue.