Editorial: City denies open governmentWell, the city is at it again. Or has it really ever stopped? On Monday, the Two Harbors City Council had a public meeting about management at Lakeview National Golf Course. This is the course the city owns that has been sucking funds from the liquor store that are supposed to go to other projects in the city, like better alleyways or streets.
Well, the city is at it again. Or has it really ever stopped?
On Monday, the Two Harbors City Council had a public meeting about management at Lakeview National Golf Course. This is the course the city owns that has been sucking funds from the liquor store that are supposed to go to other projects in the city, like better alleyways or streets.
So it’s a big deal that the city has decided to keep on milking the dry cow that is the golf course by hiring a manager and hoping the customer base goes way up in order to break even this year. And will the turf hold up?
Don’t get us wrong, a golf course is a great asset to any community. But why in the world of city after city in the state dropping ownership of courses – because this truly is something the private sector should be doing – is Two Harbors continuing to keep going with this money pit?
And why aren’t taxpayers up in arms about it?
Well, it seems they would be if the city council and staff had any desire to make this a public debate. Instead, they have spent the winter having sudden meetings that come up too late for public posting outside of a notice on the door at city hall. It’s an easy go-around on state law for public notices. And who gets notice – by email or a phone call, we assume – of those meetings? Members of the men’s and women’s golf clubs and the curling club.
Can it be true? The city wouldn’t be that secretive, would it?
Consider that whenever discussion comes up about the golf course in regular meetings of the council. Members speak in a code that can’t be understood unless you went to the earlier unscheduled meeting or had the proper papers in front of you.
Consider that this exact scenario happened Monday at a special 4 p.m. meeting the public never heard about that eventually led to the hiring of a golf course manager to the tune of about $180,000. What’s the job description? How many people bid on the job? What was the process?
The News-Chronicle was there. And when we asked after the meeting for the basic information of what was passed by the council, like a contract or a resume from the guy they hired, we were told by city administrator Lee Klein that the information was not available and we would have to fill out an information request form in the city hall lobby. It was just minutes before that lobby would close.
City council members stood idly by with the information in hand. We went and filled out the form and finally got the information 24 hours later after some persistent requests to act. We still don’t know Pearson’s background or have a list of candidates considered for the job. Turns out, according to council members, there never really were any other candidates considered.
A public body just made a very important decision regarding city finances, at a public meeting we attended, and the city administrator tried to deny even the most basic and obviously public information that impacts the pocketbook or residents.
You’re right, Klein wasn’t elected. He serves at the behest of the city council. Voters should demand more from the city council when it comes to reining in Klein’s questionable tactics.
As we embark on Sunshine Week Sunday, a week newspapers dedicate to keeping the light on the shenanigans Klein pulled Monday, we thoroughly admonish this type of behavior and demand a public explanation from Klein as to why he continues to thwart the flow of public information in Two Harbors.
Short of that, and you know we’ll never see that explanation, we demand any city council member to explain in these pages why Klein’s actions are tolerated by the council and how we might get a more open government down on First Avenue.
And we demand, again, that the residents of Two Harbors pay close attention to what’s going on behind closed doors at city hall. If they’re hiding what happens in a public forum, imagine what else is back there.
We have a box here with information on how to contact your representatives and Klein to ask about this veil of secrecy. Let your voice be heard.
How would you know?
Here’s an example of how the city treats its residents when it comes to “special meetings.” They are often obscurely described and the only way you can find out about the meeting is by visiting the door of the city council chambers where it is posted.
Email to the News-Chronicle:
Attached is a notice regarding a Special City Council meeting which has been called for March 17. The notice is for your information and not to be published.
Thanks, Patty Nordean
City of Two Harbors
There will be a special meeting of the City Council of the City of Two Harbors at 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 17, 2011, in the Council Chambers at City Hall. The purpose of the meeting is for a discussion on housing issues.
Lee A. Klein, Administrator
The last notices posted on the City of Two Harbors web site are from 2009. The last entry is a notice about the mayor’s 2009 Block Party. Meeting schedules haven’t been posted since last fall.
Lee Klein, city administrator
834-5631 (city hall)
- Mayor Randy Bolen
- Seth McDonald
- Chris Swanson
- Dan Jones
- Steve Detlefsen
- Mary Henjum Rosati
- Jerry Norberg
Let it shine
Sunshine Week is a national initiative begun in 2002 to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information.
Participants include news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in the public’s right to know.
Sunshine Week is a non-partisan, non-profit national effort led by the American Society of News Editors. Though created by journalists, Sunshine Week is about the public’s right to know what its government is doing, and why.
Sunshine Week seeks to enlighten and empower people to play an active role in their government at all levels, and to give them access to information that makes their lives better and their communities stronger. For more, visit www.sunshineweek.org