Monday, November 02, 2009

The Local Scene -- The Empire Strikes Back

It would appear that Mayor Larson and his crew are getting a little nervous. Rather than campaign on the merits, they've chosen to take the low road, especially concerning City Council member Gina Bauman. Bauman has provided a long list of outrages at the Enlighten New Brighton blog, and I'd strongly recommend all interested New Brighton voters to click the link and read the piece in its entirety. I would like to highlight one item in particular, however:

Bauman writes as follows:

The next rumor I need to address made my jaw drop when I first heard it tonight (10/1). Did any of you know that I purportedly, single handedly mind you, drove out the hotel from wanting to build on the Quadrant with my stalling tactics? This is certainly news to me. I didn't realize I had such power.
Bauman has one out of five votes on the City Council. Unless she's capable of Jedi mind tricks, she would have no way to personally stop any negotiations. So why would anyone say that? What if the person spreading the rumor had a financial motive? Let Bauman explain:

This ridiculous and mean-spirited rumor is being spread by none other than Bob Benke, who in the worst way needs Mayor Larson re-elected to retain his membership in the the "good old boys" network behind the scenes. And where is Benke getting this so-called information from? He knows that I no longer want the city taxpayers to pay the $10,500 per year it takes for Mayor Larson to belong to the North Metro Mayors Association. This organization is nothing more than a lobbyist group that is very self-serving to its members. Although there is no real benefit for the city of New Brighton to belong, there is a definite benefit to Mr. Benke as he receives payment as a lobbyist for that association that depends on how many cities belong to it.
If you don't know who Bob Benke is, allow me to explain. Benke was mayor of New Brighton before Mayor Larson took over 10 years ago. A check of the records indicates that, yes indeed, Benke is a registered lobbyist for the North Metro Mayors Association. In fact, Benke is the designated lobbyist for the group at the Capitol. That means he has a financial interest in New Brighton remaining a member of the lobbying group, no matter the merits of the organization or the value it provides the city. I can understand Benke's motivation -- it's certainly helpful to Benke personally that his friend and protege (Larson) maintains membership in an organization that pays Benke. Does it smell a little funny? Well, yes.

When Gina Bauman and outgoing council member Sharon Doffing were elected to the City Council, they challenged the cozy relationships and status quo at City Hall. It's easy to see why Mayor Larson would like to rid himself of this meddlesome priest Bauman. It's much more difficult to see why the citizens of New Brighton should grant him his wish, to say nothing of another term in office. Gina Bauman has done an excellent job of challenging the status quo. If she and Larson's opponent Dave Jacobsen are elected, they will be able to change the status quo. And while that might make Bob Benke a little less financially secure, it will help New Brighton move forward.

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