Shep Harris Tells Crowd How Much He Wants To Listen… and Then Leaves

October 5, 2013 at 2:06 pm Leave a comment

By Jason Bradley

Last night I decided to pop over to the Truths & Myths of Light Rail event over at the Cinema Grill in New Hope. It was designed to give some balance to the other “public forums” given by Hennepin County and the Met Council. In those meetings, they talk, you listen, and the questions are limited and open dissent is not tolerated. Contrast that with this event. The panel was made up of Northern Radio Alliance host Mitch Berg, Annette Meeks (CEO and Founder of Freedom Foundation of Minnesota), Brad Aho (Eden Prairie City Council), Rep. Michael Beard (SD55), and Steve Ellenwood from Deputy Chair of SD53 (Woodbury). These folks each spoke for about 3-5 minutes, and then did nothing BUT field audience questions.

That, to me, wasn’t the most interesting part of the night. Prior to the light rail panel, candidates for upcoming elections (Golden Valley , St. Louis Park, and Hopkins School District) were invited to come speak to the crowd. Almost every candidate for the Golden Valley elections came to speak and meet people. Andy Snope and first amendment opponent, Steve Schmidgall were noticeably absent. (I’m not trying to be facetious here. We’ve written before about how the only speech Councilman Schmidgall is looking to protect is his.

Anyways… Current Golden Valley Mayor, Shep Harris, was also in attendance, and wanted to speak to the crowd. He’s not up for re-election, but came out to tell everyone how important their voice is to the political process. That’s to be commended, given his hardline stance on being pro-light rail through Theodore Wirth Park. (His view is not in line with the majority of Golden Valley.) Where it got strange, however, is after he spoke. He stood in the back near the door, and smirked at the candidates that spoke whom he didn’t agree with. Then when the candidates were done, he left.

Wait… you go on about how important the voice of the people is, and you leave when it’s their time to speak? What is that? I understand if you have somewhere to be, and other things to do, after all, you’re the mayor of a metro city. Don’t speak to a group of people, however, about how important their voice is, and then leave. This is why there are so many politician jokes. You show people their voice is important through your actions, not your words.

Here’s the problem: public input is always one of the last pieces to be collected. They don’t want our input while they’re still figuring out the details. We just finished analyzing the Comprehensive Plan for Hutchinson, MN, and there was a process map in it that looks a little like this: Government input–>Government work–>Government input–>Government work–>Government input–>Government work–>Public input–>Pass PlanàImplement. Do you see the problem here? It’s completely backwards! It should be Public input–>Government work–>Government input–>Public input–>Government work–>Vote

That’s the epidemic we face. Public input is no more than a patronization of the people they are supposed to serve. Yeah, come talk to us after we’ve already agreed to all of the main points, and if we give you any say, it will be on a controlled number of options that we can live with. That’s the problem with government, and that’s the problem with Mayor Shep Harris asking to hear your opinion, and then leaving.

Entry filed under: City Government, Golden Valley, Mayor. Tags: , , , , , .

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