Times Editorial - Ah, yes, we need to communicate better

Mike Christopherson
Crookston Times

    If you’ve ever interviewed for a job, you know that the vast majority of the time, when you’re finished answering the last question posed of you by the person or group of people interviewing you, it’s not yet time to breathe a sigh of relief.

    Why? Because the tables are about to be turned on you. “Do you have any questions you’d like to ask of us?” they say.

    And you’d better have at least one ready to fire off, otherwise, supposedly, it’s a bad look if you simply say, “Nope, I’m good.”

    After the four finalists for City of Crookston administrator last Thursday in the city hall council chambers were asked the same scripted list of questions by Interim City Administrator Angel Weasner, each was asked if they had any questions of the city council and Mayor Dale Stainbrook.

    Wisely, all four had questions to pose, but most, predictably, were largely predictable and routine. One might even call them “softball” in nature. The interviewees wanted to know things like what council members and the mayor like best about Crookston, or what the council and mayor truly wanted to see in their new city administrator. One of the finalists did ask a solid one, something about what the council members and mayor would change about Crookston if they could.

    But Amy Finch, who was subsequently offered the job after the four interviews wrapped up, cut right to the chase: What could be done to strengthen the relationship between the council and mayor and the Crookston Housing and Economic Development Authority, she wondered.

    In rapid-fire fashion, the mayor and several council members responded, and a theme was immediately obvious: More communication, they said. Better communication, they said. Finch indicated she could be helpful in improving the situation, saying she’s “comfortable in uncomfortable situations.”

    Anyone who keeps up on current events in Crookston knows that the council and mayor saying things would be better if everyone would just communicate more is nothing new. They’ve been saying the same thing for several years, which just goes to show that it’s apparently much easier to say everyone should communicate more and communicate better than it is to actually communicate more and communicate better.

    Maybe the focus should be on “better,” because maybe it’s bad communication and negative communication and communication with less-than-collaborative intentions that is the problem.

    Maybe it’s communicating with someone or some people behind someone else’s back or another group of people’s backs that’s the problem. Maybe it’s communication that violates open meeting laws that is the problem. Maybe it’s communication that takes place among certain people who linger around after a meeting is adjourned that is the problem.

    Maybe there’s no shortage of communication at all, it’s just that, too often, it’s not the kind of communication that makes people want to work toward shared goals that make Crookston a better place.

    During the administrator finalists interviews, when asked by various finalists, several council members and the mayor echoed each other in saying that, when it comes to the overall climate and culture of the council, things have gotten better of late. If they truly believe that, then good for them. Any improvement is good, and kudos to whomever is putting in the effort to make things better.

    But more communication? Better communication? Between the council and mayor themselves and between the council and mayor and CHEDA and between CHEDA and the mayor and the council?

    Actions speak louder than words.