Say it Ain’t so Golden Valley
By Andrew Richter
And people complain that I’m hard on Golden Valley;
Golden Valley City Council and staff completed a strategic planning process this spring focused on the failing infrastructure of the city, but some comments that arose from the sessions has ruffled feathers. To begin the strategic planning process, council members and department directors completed a SWOT – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats – analysis. Each individual documented his or her thoughts on each category anonymously.
Sounds like a bunch of wishy-washy stuff but wait it gets good;
From the responses regarding strengths and weaknesses came a list of top priorities for the city. Priorities include targeted development and redevelopment, effective governance, infrastructure maintenance and enhancement and financial stability. Strengths identified during the analysis include amenities, good service delivery, Golden Valley’s reputation and willingness to partner with neighboring cities and staff.
Where’s Bottineau on that list?
Staff is specifically described as having great skills, training and experience, being responsive and considerate, knowledgeable about inner city workings and innovative.One anonymous comment claimed city staff as Golden Valley’s greatest strength. Weaknesses listed in the analysis include deteriorated infrastructure, debt, not sticking to codes and policies, misinterpretation of city codes and ordinances and even the council itself.
The council itself?
One individual described the council as “cowardly, ignorant and self-absorbed.” Another said a major weakness within the city is the lack of leadership and dysfunctionality of the council, mentioning Mayor Shep Harris specifically.
According to one anonymous writer, the city council is the greatest weakness and a liability for the city. That same individual said several council members hate to deal with conflict, do not understand government processes, violate open meeting laws regularly, disregard the city attorney’s advice and make changes to the rules based on resident complaints.
Like Austin Powers said; ouch baby, very ouch!
The council was also criticized for its inability to make a decision in a timely fashion, according to another writer. When the council reviewed the strategic plan at its July 14 meeting, Harris took exception to the negative comments regarding him and the council.
“I wanted to say that I am very troubled by some of the comments that were put into part of this that are directed specifically at us as a council,” he said. “I thought they were pretty inflammatory. I think, if anything, they create more of a problem than solutions.” He was concerned that candidates for city manager and city council would likely view the comments. “It’s a little unfortunate, I think,” he said.
Poor Mayor Harris, are you getting criticized? How about you play the victim?
Harris chose to support most of the strategic plan. “In no way am I endorsing or supporting those comments,” he said. “I think they were isolated and anonymous comments.”
Of course they are anonymous, that way you can’t retaliate against them!
According to Harris, the city’s issues are average compared to any of its neighbors. He preferred instead to look at a recent city survey where 92 percent of the community said they think Golden Valley is going in the right direction.
“I put more weight on that,” he said. “I’m not pointing fingers and I want to move forward.”
Yeah just focus on what you like!
Councilmember Joanie Clausen said people had a right to their opinions. “When we did this strategic planning, we were asked to do certain things,” she said. “On our second round when these comments were made, people were just being honest. People were being honest because that’s how they felt.” Clausen claimed her comments were focused solely on the infrastructure and finance portion of the plan. Although she admitted some of the comments did not sit well with her, she accepted them as part of the process. “I think people should see them, they read them,” Clausen said. “We are all accountable for what we do here.”
Now, I’ll never forgive Joanie Clausen for flip-flopping on Bottineau but she’s right on here.
Councilmember Andy Snope had minimal concern about the statements. “I think some of the comments are a little hoarse and rough, but I have no problem adjusting them and making them a part of the report,” he said. “I think it’s just part of growth.”
Neither Councilmember Larry Fonnest nor Councilmember Steve Schmidgall responded to the comments. Harris finished by pointing out there was no direction included in the document to improve the working relations between council and staff but hopes the new city manager can help with that.
Sure there is, it’s called your resignation.
City Manager Tom Burt will retire from his position Nov. 17. Following the meeting, Harris provided the Sun Post with additional comments. “The city council has learned a great deal from this proposed strategic plan,” he said. “While the city has made significant progress over the past several years in certain areas, this plan will help the city council move Golden Valley further in addressing needs in areas of development, infrastructure, governance and financial stability.”
The strategic plan was brought back in front of council for formal approval July 21, after this edition’s writing deadline. The strategic plan, including staff and council comments regarding strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, was published in full in the July 14 agenda packet available at goldenvalleymn.gov.
Golden Valley you have a chance to vote in November and you can do yourself a favor by electing a new mayor!