“Trust is a two-way street. If your government does not trust you, how can you trust your government?”
- Bruce Montague,
a Canadian government critic
The biggest issue facing the Willmar City Council today has become a simple one-word statement: Trust.
This is unfortunate, for most of the council members and Mayor Marv Calvin are good public servants. Unfortunately, they must deal with the consequences of behavior patterns of other members who are undermining the stability of the social order of the council as well as the city.
A prime example of this behavior pattern occurred Wednesday during the Labor Relations committee meeting. All of the council members were in attendance to discuss the city administrator position and upcoming search process.
At the beginning of the meeting, council member Steve Ahmann, chairman of the Labor Relations Committee, opened the public comment period. When city resident Steve Gardner rose to speak, an unidentified person with an open microphone can be heard at the 1:15-minute mark of the meeting making an insult.
“Oh great … Listen to this idiot,” said the unidentified council member.
This was a shameful statement by any public official, period.
However, such contempt, scorn, ridicule and disrespect by some council members for members of the public in Willmar as well as other council members has become the norm in recent years, not the exception.
What makes it even more contemptible and ironic is that some council members have criticized Willmar residents for calling council members names and have spoken of their displeasure at this perceived lack of respect and how it hurts Willmar.
It is unfortunate that committee chairman Ahmann, who was presiding, did not call out the unidentified person for being out of order for making such an insult. Maybe he did not hear the insult or maybe he ignored it.
However, it is not surprising that Ahmann could not control the meeting as he has had a hard time controlling himself recently. He was involved in a heated argument following a recent City Council meeting with another council member after allegedly calling that council member a profane name following the meeting.
Council members in recent months have even been reminded several times that under council rules, they are required to focus their comments on the question at hand and avoid making comments of a personal nature or personal attack toward any other member.
Apparently, not every council member is hearing this advice.
During the past five years, some residents of Willmar have begun questioning their trust of certain council members. This lack of trust is becoming a reality for more and more residents.
This fact is manifested in the recent announcement by a group of Ward 2 residents that they will present a certificate of intent at tonight’s City Council meeting to recall Willmar City Council member Ron Christianson. This Recall Ron effort for malfeasance and nonfeasance was announced at the May 4 council meeting.
Wayne Nelson, chair of the Recall Ron Committee, said the committee will officially present their recall intent tonight, begin the process of collecting appropriate signatures immediately Tuesday and seek to recall Christianson from his Ward 2 council seat.
This recall effort will play out per the process set forth within the Willmar City Charter. The outcome remains to be determined by residents of Willmar’s Ward 2.
However, the facts remain that the behavior patterns of some council members are raising concerns throughout the city. The reality is that such behavior patterns are now hindering the Willmar City Council and its members, their decision-making ability and this city’s welfare.