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Covering all the decision process

June 19, 2011
by Chuck Hunt, Register Editor
You just gotta love them.

Especially if you are in the news biz and have to fill some newspaper pages each week with something interesting – and maybe just a wee bit controversial.

I refer, of course, to the various city councils located around Faribault County.

It seems that one of them is always ‘up to something’ that makes for great stories for our Register readers to enjoy.

Now, you may think that we newspaper people relish in creating controversy and pointing out the crazy happenings that city councils seem to be always getting into.

The truth is, we don’t really.

Especially me.

In a previous life I once was a city councilman. It is true.

I somehow accidentally got myself elected to the City Council in Tyler.

By accidentally, I mean that no one was running and a couple of people thought I should be on the council.

I won on a write-in vote without campaigning.

Then, in a moment of madness, I actually filed to run again at the end of my first term. I was re-elected.

And, yes, during both terms I was the editor of the local newspaper. In an editorial and during a council meeting, I made a point of saying that if anyone thought the newspaper did not do an unbiased job of reporting the council meetings, I would make sure it did.

There never was an issue.

So, with this background in having served on a council, I do have a soft spot in my heart for the people who ‘volunteer’ to serve their community by running for local office.

That said, however, it is still the job of the local newspaper to cover the meetings, report on what the council is up to and let the people decide whether it is a good thing or not.

In Faribault County it seems that the cities almost take turns doing something that is controversial and raises the rankle of their constituents.

One local resident once asked me which city were we “picking on” this week.

I answered that we were not picking on anyone, but admitted that it does seem that each week we spotlight one group or another.

But, that is only because they take turns with their meetings.

Having been a councilman, I feel for the members when they lament that it is sometimes difficult to conduct the city’s business when there are a couple of reporters sitting at their meeting hanging on their every word.

It would be so much easier, they say, to do something like hammer out a contract for police protection in Blue Earth without the press reporting every step of the discussions.

Easier, yes. Legal, no.

For better or worse, government entities have to conduct almost all of their business in the full view of the public.

And, in my opinion, this is a good thing, no matter how painful and difficult it might be.

In this country, since it was formed, the public has a right to know what their government officials are up to.

It is the job of the press to inform the public what the governmental bodies do at their meetings.

That is why we are called the “Fourth Estate.” The first three are the bodies of government; legislative, executive and judicial.

So, we bring you the whole process of the Blue Earth City Council meeting with the Faribault County Sheriff’s Office and the Winnebago Police Department as they look at ways to save money and yet still have 24-hour a day, seven-day a week police coverage.

Mayor Rob Hammond is quick to point out at every meeting that no decision has been made, and the council is just exploring its options.

Quite true.

But unlike the old adage that states no one should see how sausage is made, we believe citizens should see how council decisions are made.

I believe that now, and I believed it back in that other life when the spotlight was on me.

That way, when the council finally does make a decision on the police issue, the public has some background about what the council was thinking when they made it.

Whether we all agree with it or not.
 
 

 

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