In a recent post on the discussion of a possible “severance” payment to the former City Administrator, local attorney David Ludescher suggested that perhaps the Administrator had earned this bonus due to his mistreatment by the citizens of Northfield. Ludescher suggested that this goodbye gift was merited by “how difficult we (the citizens of Northfield) made his job”.
I generally enjoy the philosophical depth that David brings to his opinions, however, sometimes he makes comments for which I have trouble following his logical thought process. This one really seemed mparticularly peculiar to me. After all, the Administrator himself only suggested alleged mistreatment by the Mayor, not other elected officials or any citizens. I tried to recall situations where there had perhaps been a difference of opinion between a citizen and the Administrator and how that situation had played out.
The first one that came to mind was Judy Dirks raising her concern about the Administrator allowing the “Prayer Ladies” to use government property for personal purposes. When she voiced her opinion, she was attacked by some of the Councilors. The second situation that came to mind was Alex Beeby raising his concern that although some might have found the Mayor’s behavior in the liquor store process unethical, the Administrator did not have the right to shut him out of the agenda setting process. When he outlined his interpretation of the Charter, he was attacked by some of the Councilors. The third example that came to mind was Lee Runzheimer raising an idea for citizen review of investment policies and capital investment decisions. When he offered his assistance on the matter, he was attacked by some of the Councilors.
I had some disagreements with the former City Administrator myself. I was not supportive of swapping the public library for the city hall, I thought that the liquor store process should be moved to the back burner while more important matters were addressed, and, as always, I wondered why we were spending money on yet more expensive and labor intensive pavers when our streets were filled with potholes.
Mr. Roder took particular exception to my suggestion that the liquor store process be put on hold. His face got all red and twisted with anger; there were several witnesses present. When I asked him why it shouldn’t be delayed he said, “Because it’s ready to go”. I answered, “If you and your friends were ready to jump off a cliff, would you jump?” As always with Al, the lunch ended amiably, with sincere handshakes and that big smile for which he was so well known. I didn’t get the sense that he thought that a citizen disagreeing with him was considered mistreatment.
I’m not sure where David Ludescher found a theory of government where questioning staff’s actions is considered being difficult. It certainly doesn’t fit my understanding of democracy in America.
In fact, in my admittedly limited review of specific situations, the persons who appeared to have had their jobs made difficult were the citizens. When they brought their concerns before their elected officials, which I personally believe is part of their “job”, they were attacked.
Tracy recently wrote a post asking about the important issues in the upcoming campaign. Although the liquor store, street projects, rental ordinance, missing millions, new business park, and capital investment priorities, are all topics of significance, for me, the most important thing to find in a candidate is whether they will listen to, and acknowledge having heard, citizen concerns.