Jim Aiken posted his letter the Council in the comments on the previous post. Here’s the thoughts I sent to the Council earlier today.
Thank you for holding last night’s worksession. It was very informative. As you asked to keep the discussion towards the informational rather than stating positions, I did not offer you my opinion during the meeting. Instead, I offer it to you now.
As you may be aware, I started a Facebook group for people who support a special election. In less than a week, we have about 30 supporters. I would like to make very clear to you that even though some of the people in the group have expressed a clear preference for who they would like to be the next Mayor, I AM NOT endorsing or supporting any candidate. This effort on my part is in no way designed to influence the fortunes of any particular person interested in being Chaska’s next Mayor. I truly believe that a special election is the best option regardless of who the candidates are.
I understand the concerns of those who prefer the appointment option. I think many of them are legitimate, and reasonable people can disagree on what the best path forward is. However, I still feel that a special election is best for the city. Here’s why:
The people deserve to select the Mayor, as it is the only position that is voted on city-wide. The Mayor is a unique position as the only city-wide elected official. They essentially are the face and voice of Chaska, and can play a critical role in rallying the city to a set of shared objectives. Taking the decision about the Mayor position out of the hands of 24,000 and putting it in the hands of four individuals (even ones as qualified as yourselves) is not in the best interests of the city. There may well be a smaller turnout in a special election. However, I still think that even a low turnout election is more representative than allowing four individuals to decide the next Mayor. In a special election, everyone will have the choice to vote or not. With appointment, the people get to voice their opinion but have no real power. I understand that there is a concern about whether certain candidates would have an advantage under an election scenario. However, there will be nearly four months before a potential mid-January special election (assuming the ordinances can be passed concurrently), which does offer a fair opportunity to build a city-wide campaign.
Having a elected Mayor allows the city to move forward with enhanced credibility. There is still a significant amount of time left in the term and important work to be done. Even though development activity over the next year is probably going to be at its lowest point in years, there is still much to do. We all know the critical issues that still lie ahead, so I won’t repeat them here. Having an elected Mayor is only going to lend the city’s efforts on these issues additional credibility. I think it’s worth waiting until early next year to have five elected officials in our city government, as opposed to a scenario where you could have as many as two members of the Council in their current positions on the basis of appointment. That is not a positive development, especially in a city where some people feel that decision-making is already too cloistered among a small group of people. I don’t know if there’s an “old boys club” or not, but I do know that if there’s a substantial number of people who believe that is true, then you’ve got a problem anyway because perception becomes reality. One need only look at the various issues in national politics where things that are not true can’t be debunked because they’ve taken on a life of their own. Today, people believe what they want to believe. Don’t feed the beast by making an appointment that is inevitably going to be viewed through a political lens no matter who is selected.
The next Mayor needs to show they can engage, inspire, and involve the community. When residents are engaged and involved, good things happen for the city. In just the last couple of years, engaged residents have impacted several key projects, from Veterans Park to the new emergency room, just to name a few. Involved residents have raised important issues and proposed changes that make those projects better. Yes, there’s been conflict along the way in each of those projects, but the end result has been better. And that’s what is truly important. Let’s give those people who want to be Mayor the chance to show that they have the ability to inspire and engage and involve the residents of Chaska. Let’s make them prove to ALL of us that they are the ones best capable to take this city forward, and let’s give the people the chance to decide.
Thanks for your consideration and your continued hard work for the citizens of Chaska.