When talking about the needed attributes for the next Mayor of Chaska, we hear a lot of talk about “vision”. In my seven years here in Chaska, I’ve heard every candidate for Mayor or City Council talk about their vision of Chaska. And they all pretty much sound alike. Everyone is interested — more or less — in advancing the same things.
Most people generally agree on what they want this city to be, and what they want this city to pursue — a more vibrant downtown, take care of traffic issues, responsibly manage the development of the Bio-Science Zone and the Heights of Chaska, continue the strong Park & Rec system, etc..
I suspect that if you had given Gary Van Eyll and Jay Rohe each a magic wand back in 2008 that would allow them to make the city of Chaska look how they would want it to look in 20 years, the results wouldn’t have been radically different. The difference between Van Eyll and Rohe was — to me, anyway — more about how to get there as opposed to what the destination was.
However, since we don’t run government by magic wand, we need to move past defining the vision and see who the right person is to make sure that we achieve the vision.
Who’s going to be the right candidate to guide the creation of the downtown master plan and then marshal the resources to execute it successfully?
Who’s going to be the right candidate to have city government operate more transparently, with more accountability, and actually embrace and encourage citizen input?
Who’s going to be the right candidate to make financial decisions with a long-term perspective?
Who’s going to be the right candidate to advocate for Chaska on a regional and state level to make sure that projects critical to our community are addressed?
Those are the questions that need to be answered. It’s more about action than vision in my mind.
Jay Rohe and Mark Windschitl, the ball is in your court. Show us you are more than vision — but that you can bring the needed action to Chaska.
The Chaska City Council voted 3-1 last night to approve a special election to replace resigned Mayor Gary Van Eyll.
Councilors Greg Boe, Gino Businaro, and Rick Ford voted in favor of the election while Chris Schulz voted against the election.
Thanks to the three councilors who did the right thing, and to everyone who made their voices heard in favor of the election.
Please e-mail all the councilors regarding your opinion in favor of the special election. Regardless of who you think should be the next mayor of Chaska, this is about allowing the all residents of Chaska — not four individuals — make the decision about the only city-wide elected office.
Show your support for a special election to fill the mayoral position by joining Chaska Citizens for a Special Election on Facebook.
The Chaska Herald has called for a special election. We must show our support for this option to ensure that Council does the right thing for the residents of this community.
Chaska Mayor Gary Van Eyll announced , his resignation effective August 31 at Monday’s City Council work session. Van Eyll, who was approaching the midpoint of his fourth term as Mayor, will be taking a position with the U.S. Census Bureau that requires him to give up public office.
The City Council will formally act on Van Eyll’s resignation at their next meeting on August 31. They have two options for filling the seat:
- The Council can appoint someone to the position. Per Minnesota law, any position that has less than two years remaining on its term can be filled by appointment.
- The Council can choose to call a special election. This would likely be held in the October/Novemebr timeframe.
Considerable speculation has already begun regarding what the Council will do and who the new mayor will be. Greg Boe’s blog seems to hint at an appointment (although he does point out that the Council has options), as Boe encourages people to advocate on the blog for who they think the right selection is.
Some names bandied about are Ward 3 Councilor Chris Schulz, who will serve as Acting Mayor in Van Eyll’s absence. Jay Rohe, who lost to Van Eyll in the 2008 election, will receive support from a segment of the population. It’s also unclear if Councilors Boe, Rick Ford, or Gino Businaro have interest in the job.
If one of the City Councilors is selected or elected to the position, then the Council has the same set of options for filling that vacancy.
I think a special election is the way to go. I realize this has two significant downsides: the expense of holding the election and leaving the council with only four voting members for a couple of months. However, what is easy and cheap isn’t always what is right.
The mayor position is the only city-wide elected office. All residents should have a say on who the mayor is. Promoting a city council member who has only been voted on by one-fourth of the city (or worse, someone who isn’t even holding an elected office at the moment) violates that principle.
Additionally, in municipal positions, incumbency is major advantage come re-election time. If the council appoints someone, they are giving that person a significant leg up in the 2010 mayor’s race.
The potential candidates listed above (and others not mentioned) should have the opportunity to make their case to the citizens of Chaska, not just the four members of the City Council.
How can we build a better city government in Chaska? It’s about adherence to certain principles, and living them — not just talking about them.
Openness: We need a more robust accounting of potential conflicts of interest. We know the Mayor is building a business with the former City Administrator selling products to Chaska businesses. We know that same former City Administrator is consulting with Chaska real estate developers. We know that a former Mayor works for one of the primary developers in Chaska. We know that a current City Council member is an investor in a major proposed real estate development.
There is nothing wrong or nefarious about these things. But they should be made public, so that the actions of our elected officials can be judged appropriately. The Mayor and Councilmember in question should recuse themselves where appropriate. And, the presence of the former officials as part of the development process should be publicized, so that we can ensure that comfortable relationships don’t result in a lack of scrutiny.
Transparency: It should be easier for citizens to get information about what their city government is doing on their behalf. Posting of agendas and minutes for the city council and commissions on the city website, should be automatic.
Inclusiveness: Good ideas about the city of Chaska don’t only come from people who have lived here a long time. We hear a lot of words encouraging people to become involved, until it actually becomes time for them to become involved. Then, it seems, we get the same old names being recycled around. 55.6% of Chaska’s residents have moved here in the last decade. Like it or not, “new Chaska” is bigger than “old Chaska”. So let’s get over it, and invite everyone to have a seat at the table.
What are your thoughts? Please leave your comments!
Some thoughts on the parts of the City Council meeting that I watched last night:
- Last night’s City Council meeting only provided more proof as to how the Council went wrong when it decided Mike Huang wasn’t worthy of sitting on the Planning Commission (after losing to Rick Ford in the Ward 4 election in November). Huang’s presentation on behalf of his neighbors on Manuela Drive was coherent, intelligent, and in a spirit of cooperation, not confrontation. Maybe he hasn’t lived here for 30 years, but Huang is a smart guy who brings the right spirit to his interactions with city government.
- I found it curious that the Mayor essentially sat out the discussion of the 212 Medical Center. I suppose he was letting Chris Schulz test-drive the gavel, but given the level of interest from the public and the prominence of the project, the Mayor should have been in the big chair, not at the back of the room. Leadership is putting yourself front and center at key times, Mr. Mayor.
[EDIT: I have found out that the Mayor recused himself from the discussion because the company he is forming with Dave Pokorney is working on a business agreement with the Medical Center. I retract my criticism of the Mayor for not participating in the discussion. It was entirely appropriate for him not to participate.]
- City Staff, the Planning Commission, the developer, and local residents deserve a lot of credit for working together to make the plans for the 212 Medical Center a lot better than what was originally proposed. The city needs to pressure MnDOT on the 41/Hundertmark Intersection AND the Second Street Stoplight. They are both vital!
- At what point will the folks at City Hall stop making excuses for the shoddy condition of the city’s web site? The real problem is that no one sees it as a priority to do these basic sorts of things to communicate what Chaska is doing on behalf of its citizens. There’s always the excuse that there’s going to be some project to redesign the website — a project that has now been on the table for about three years. I think it would be great if the city’s website were redesigned, but it doesn’t mean you stop posting on the current site until the new site is ready. Chanhassen has the agendas and minutes for the City Council and commissions going back to 1997 on their website. Eden Prairie has 50 years of such history available online, and their City Manager has a blog on the city website that is updated at least weekly. Both cities have managed to maintain the availability of such documents through web page redesign efforts. Why is Chaska incapable of doing so?
A mid-level brouhaha is developing over at City Hall, as the Rivalry between Jay Rohe and Gary Van Eyll seems to be escalating over Rohe’s expected appointment to the Southwest Transit Commission.
Rohe was believed to be the only candidate applying for the position, and completed the necessary paperwork and interview with the City Council on January 5. However, a decision was made not to fill the commission role that evening.
Rohe sent a letter to the Chaska Herald, detailing his conversations with Mayor Van Eyll. Rohe indicates that his nomination was being held up because of Van Eyll’s desire to have former Chaska mayor Bob Roepke in the position. Roepke, in addition to being a key Van Eyll backer, is also an investor in the EdCampus development that is slated to be built near a proposed SWTC station at Engler and 212.
In the comments on the Herald’s website, much more is alleged about the so-called “good old boys” network. Namely, that:
- Van Eyll now works for former City Administrator Dave Pokorney.
- Pokorney also served as a consultant for the Goodman Group on the senior housing project recently approved to be built at 41 and Hazeltine Drive.
If true, that would raise serious questions about whether the Mayor should have participated in such a vote.
Combine that with the fact that newly elected Council Member Rick Ford also has a financial stake in the EdCampus project, we have a whole lot of potential conflict of interests floating around out there.
The questions posed are good ones. The Mayor and the Council Members should come clean about their associations and be willing to recuse themselves as necessary to preserve the integrity of Chaska’s city government.
I’m not one who believes that stoking the “old Chaska” versus “new Chaska” bit does a whole lot of good. We shouldn’t be looking to divide the community, but rather bring it together around the best ideas. But one has to wonder if this alleged “good old boys” club is really interested in listening to ideas from folks who aren’t in the club. If not, it may be time for “new Chaska” to get organized (after all, over 55% of the community could be classified as “new Chaska”) and send the good ol’ boys packing.
During the recent campaign, we heard much from all of the candidates running for City Council and Mayor about the need for the city to do a better job of communicating with residents. The election was held, and Mayor Gary Van Eyll was re-elected along with Greg Boe and Rick Ford being added to the Council.
The first big issue on the plate for the city following the election was the selection of a new city administrator. The process was somewhat troubling from the start — as the city hired former City Administrator Dave Pokorney to lead the process up.
Pokorney narrowed the field down to five semi-finalists: four outsiders and interim City Administrator Matt Podhradsky. The five semi-finalists were revealed in a closed session of the City Council — with only their names and scant background given to the Chaska Herald. Additionally, they announced to the Herald that a meet-and-greet would be held that Saturday (two days after the paper’s publication) — the Saturday before Thanksgiving. No details were placed on the city’s website. Even the Herald didn’t have anything about the meet-and-greet session until late on Friday.
Does this sound like a serious attempt at the “improved communication” we were promised? Scheduling a session near a holiday with no proactive attempt by the city to communicate it to residents? It’s not serious at all. If I proposed communicating a major change at my company in such a manner, I would be laughed out of the building. It wouldn’t be considered credible.
So turnout at the Saturday meet-and-greet session turned out to be “sparse” per the Herald’s account of the event. What a shock! To make matters worse, the Council followed up the session by perhaps violating Minnesota’s Open Meetings Act in a closed meeting where they narrowed the field down to two finalists — Podhradsky and Dayton City Administrator Samantha Orduno.
The Council then componded things by holding another little-publicized special meeting Monday night to ratify the selection of Podhradsky on a 4-1 vote — with the soon-to-be-departed Jay Rohe the dissenting vote. Again, public presence and comment was lacking.
This isn’t meant to be a knock on Podhradsky, whose experience here makes him a worthy candidate. I can’t honestly say which of the five would have been the best selection. But there’s something that isn’t right about the process.
The selection of the new City Administrator is a key decision for the Council. The Administrator is responsible for the day-to-day workings of Chaska’s government. So, the Mayor and Council set up a process to pick a new Administrator that seemed uniquely intended to limit public opinion on the decision. Sure, they may allow comments at the December 1 Council meeting. But will that change anything? It certainly hasn’t in the past.
Even if the Council is making the right decision, it needs to be aware of the process it is following. Residents don’t approve of elected leaders who feel they know better and don’t need to listen to input. It’s well past time for the Mayor and Council to start following through on their commitment to communicate with residents.