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Editorial: Removing oversight of MUC is bad idea

The Willmar Charter Commission is recommending a number of changes to the City Charter.

Among those proposed changes is a proposal to remove the Municipal Utilities Commission from direct oversight by the City Council.

This change is not in the best interests of the city residents and has not been sufficiently justified. Thus, it is not a good idea and should be rejected.

There are a number of valid reasons for rejecting this MUC autonomy proposal.

- The Charter Commission has not sufficiently explained the need for removing City Council oversight of MUC. The reasons put forth by Bob Bonawitz, Charter Commission chairperson, were allowing MUC to operate "without interference" and to avoid the potential for second-guessing or micromanaging of MUC management.

Those are not credible reasons for removing a public utility owned by the citizens of Willmar from City Council oversight. Public management is not always efficient, timely or easy -- but it is the basis of America's democracy.

- While some Charter Commission members believe removing MUC truly is a good idea, it was not supported by all. There was serious debate over this issue within the Charter Commission, and the various votes on the issue were split votes.

- The Charter Commission's recommendation of removing oversight from the MUC, but not Rice Memorial Hospital makes no sense. There is no explanation or reason as to why the Charter Commission made this decision for MUC, but not Rice. Both MUC and Rice are city-owned and should be managed equally by the city.

- The primary proponents of removing MUC from city oversight are Bonawitz, former MUC chairperson, and Mike Nitchals, former MUC general manager. While they are well intentioned and have MUC experience, they also may have a MUC bias. They have not sufficiently justified removing MUC from city oversight. Just saying MUC management requested removal of oversight is not a good reason.

Council member Steve Ahmann and other City Council members are concerned about removing this public entity from public accountability.

We agree.

Removing MUC from City Council oversight is just a bad idea that simply does not make sense for the citizens, who are ultimately the owners of this public utility.