I have lived in New Brighton for over 20 years now, and the oleaginous note from City Manager Dean Lotter that appeared in a taxpayer funded newsletter sent to all city residents over the summer was, well, stunning in its bad faith. Titled "The Efficiency of Civility," it was singularly lacking in civility and was a naked attack on a former member of the City Council, a turbulent priest. It's frankly jaw-dropping in its malice:
There is a place where civility has been improved and it’s due to you, the voters of New Brighton. Now having time to get familiar with new Councilmembers Emily Dunsworth and Graeme Allen and working with returning members of the Council, Mary Burg, Paul Jacobsen and Mayor Val Johnson, I am reminded and rejuvenated by how well opposing views can lead to better decisions when those differing views are handled professionally.Set aside the propriety of using a taxpayer funded publication to bash one's political opponents, even though that's a crucial issue as well. The real issue is that Lotter's assertions are baked wind. As a practical matter, there aren't differing views these days in the New Brighton City Council, because anyone who might object to how Lotter runs things is effectively silenced. City Manager Lotter likes it that way:
Mayor Johnson and the rest of the current City Council have breathed a new air into the Council and staff relationship. Mayor Johnson and the City Council still ask probing questions and hold staff accountable, but they do so professionally. As a result, staff feels comfortable offering creative solutions to service or budget issues that oftentimes improve things and save money. This restored sense of civility means the City is not having meeting after meeting on the same topics repeatedly for the sake of a narrow political agenda.The "narrow political agenda" Lotter references is trying to ensure that the city council doesn't just rubber stamp what the city manager wants. Whether Lotter wants to accept it or not, the former council members most responsible for challenging how New Brighton does business -- Gina Bauman, Sharon Doffing, and David Phillips, along with former mayor Dave Jacobsen -- had a constituency among the citizens of this community. All these individuals spoke for me and many of my neighbors. Did these individuals, especially Bauman, cause Lotter heartburn? I'm certain they did. Too bad.
The point of the referendum on the ballot is to ensure that those of us who prefer to have watchdogs on the council have a chance to consider their credentials. The current council members were elected to four-year terms and Mayor Johnson was elected to a two-year term. They were not elected for five years and three years. By eliminating the 2019 election, these individuals have extended their terms and denied the voters a chance to exert scrutiny and, potentially, oversight over the work of Lotter and the city staff.
A yes vote ensures that Lotter and his tame overseers receive the necessary scrutiny that voters by definition exercise. Voting no on the referendum rewards malfeasance and lets the current crew get by with having an extra year in office that they bestowed upon themselves. Under no circumstances should an election be taken away from voters.