Mike Wilson is 0 for 2 in Port Authority appointments. Citizens should feel short changed -- regardless of their personal opinions on the two nominees’ qualifications -- because there was no public discussion about what either might have brought to the board or what the Port Authority needs in a commissioner.

Remember, the Port Authority leads economic and industrial development as well as redevelopment with the sole purpose of enhancing the local tax base while creating jobs. Commissioners serve three-year appointments, and their mission includes contributing to economic vitality and overall quality of life here. This isn’t a policy-making board.

Wilson, who became mayor in January, was previously the Port Authority president. He nominated Janie Farrar, a former Red Wing School Board member and a recent Humphrey School of Public Affairs policy fellow. Her appointment failed after Council member Kim Beise made the motion July 26, but that died for lack of a second.

Two weeks later, Wilson nominated Kent Laugen, who once served on the Minneapolis Long-range Capital Improvement Committee and is a retired local attorney. That appointment failed after Beise made the motion Aug. 9, but that, too, died for lack of a second.

Neither person was given the dignity and respect of a vote.

The Goodhue County Board, in contrast, has a longstanding practice of someone stating, “I’ll second that for discussion purposes.” The board chair then keeps debate strictly on the merits of an appointment or action. Discussion. Transparency. Stated reasons, then votes on the record.

Some citizens might think they “know” the council’s reason, since Farrar and Laugen signed on with the Recall City Hall effort. Others might suspect a “loyalty litmus test” is at work: If you don’t agree with the City Council majority, then don’t bother trying to serve your community.

Wilson -- who hasn’t taken disappointment graciously -- is obligated to try to fill the Port Authority vacancy again. Other appointments more political in nature await Wilson and the council: the Human Rights Commission has four openings and the Advisory Team on Government Policies and Practices appears on the brink of being down half a dozen members based on growing absences and empty seats at the table. 

Just a few years ago the city was begging for people to serve. Now whispers are rising that the council’s actions (via apparent inaction) might deter qualified, competent, diverse-thinking citizens from stepping forward. The mayor and the council need to be upfront with each other and the community. The long-term consequences are real. Who will seek to serve? Would you?

 

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