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Mayor calls Vision 2040 ‘a little dysfunctional’

WILLMAR — Willmar City Council member Bruce DeBlieck took exception to Mayor Frank Yanish’s comment Tuesday night that the Vision 2040 long-range community planning effort, which is just getting started, is “a little dysfunctional.’’

DeBlieck asked Yanish to explain the comment, but Yanish said he didn’t think he needed to.

The exchange took place near the end of the council’s 2½-hour meeting Tuesday night. Under the miscellaneous portion of the agenda, council member Steve Ahmann requested an update on the progress of the Vision 2040 planning effort.

Vision 2040 follows Vision 2020. The earlier project ran from 1999 to 2008 and led to a number of community improvements, according to organizers, including Willmar receiving an All-America City award in 2005.

Ahmann requested the council be kept informed and receive meeting minutes of what direction the effort is moving or have DeBlieck, the council’s Vision 2040 liaison, report to the council.

DeBlieck said the committee met last week for the first time and said there was good representation of all partners. He said Vision 2040 will be a community plan, not just a city plan, “and we’re proceeding forward with that.’’ He also said requests will be made for proposals for a presenter to lead the discussion.

Yanish asked who is chairperson.

City Administrator Charlene Stevens, who with DeBlieck represents the city, said a chairperson has not yet been elected. She said stakeholders, including Kandiyohi County, Willmar Public Schools and business leaders, are working in a consensus manner.

Yanish asked how much the city is contributing to the effort without a chairperson.

Stevens said the city has contributed $5,000 as have other stakeholders for a total of about $30,000. She said some stakeholders are considering a contribution.

Ahmann said he had requested a Vision 2040 budget before the council approved the 2013 city budget and levy, which was done in early December.

“We’ve given some money to a group. We don’t have any minutes. We don’t have any documentation of where the money is going, who’s got it, what bank account. Zero,’’ Ahmann said.

“And we don’t have a chairperson,’’ Yanish added.

“I think we should get organized. And that’s the reason for it,’’ Ahmann said. “I want this done right, and also want information brought to us and an update rather than just oral conversation.’’

DeBlieck said there will be financial accountability. He said the effort is still being organized.

“I will get you some of that financial accountability,’’ DeBlieck said.

Council member Audrey Nelsen asked how the effort will be structured.

Stevens said she could not answer that question quite yet. She thought the structure will come out of planning and community engagement.

“The whole thing sounds a little dysfunctional to me,’’ said Yanish.

“You want to explain that comment, Mr. Mayor?’’ DeBlieck asked.

“I don’t think I need to,’’ the mayor replied.

Ahmann asked if the Vision 2040 meetings are open to the public since public funds are being used and if council members could attend.

“How transparent are we going to make this and should we be informed, to sit in and just listen? Do we want to be notified of another meeting?’’ he asked.

Stevens said she thought that was why the council, during its reorganizational meeting, selected a liaison to participate on the council’s behalf. She said stakeholders and citizens at-large are expected to be involved in the visioning process and community meetings.

DeBlieck said the mayor chose not to be part of the Vision 2040 steering committee.

“Therefore, it went to a council person to be on it and I believe you are the alternate, Mr. Ahmann. I would not have a problem. There is a meeting being scheduled for next week. I’ll let you know the exact date,’’ DeBlieck said. “I see no problem with you attending that.’’

Yanish responded that there were no elected officials put on the steering committee until he made note of that.

“And all of a sudden I appeared on it. Let me make that clear,’’ the mayor said. “I did not have anything to do with putting myself on it. I want to make that clear, Mr. DeBlieck.’’

“But I also want to make clear that the previous mayor, Mr. Heitke, served on the 2020 plan,’’ DeBlieck said. “He was the elected official that was on it.’’

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150