Politics as usual. Does anyone ever wonder why people are so turned off by politics today? Everything that turns people off about politics was evident in the guest editorial on Wednesday, Jan. 7. The distasteful editorial written in Wednesday's paper attacking Bob Olson demands a response. The tone, demeanor, comparisons and attack-dog style used in the criticism by the writer went beyond the pale. How utterly cruel and unusual to single out and denigrate one alderman who has no other reason to be in government than to serve the people and be an advocate for the city of Brainerd, all of its citizens.
Sadly, we would expect no more than that from the writer because he is a part of the establishment that people are so tired of. Is there any doubt why a career government employee would disparage a person who is trying to change the mentality of the city staff from one of "the only game in town" to that of "the ultimate in customer service." The city staff knows that they are "the only game in town" and, with little accountability to the city council, can act with impunity. Without that accountability, human nature naturally resists the tough road. What else could one expect from an insider in the government establishment when commenting on a person trying to change the regime in Brainerd to be more citizen friendly and change the "only game in town" mentality that is pervasive in Brainerd's administration today. And why wouldn't one expect a lifelong government employee to resist the "tough road?" Change means work, getting out of the box, leaving your comfort zone. It is about taking the initiative to seek a new path. The writer rails against Mr. Olson's attempt to effect change and one can only surmise that he advocates the status quo. Status quo would be the path of least resistance. It means business as usual, a non-demanding workplace producing a noncreative environment without imagination or initiative or ambition. All with the objective of maintaining their comfort zone at the expense of the citizens they "serve." Taking the "tough road" would assure the service of their customers (citizens) with the utmost respect and consideration. The writer shows a disregard for Alderman Olson's motivation to change the environment of city government to one that has a passion for, and an aggressive agenda to seek out citizen input and show respect for those opinions. Alderman Olson will not shy away from standing up for the "little guy," the average citizen, who is overwhelmed by and unacquainted with the politics of dealing with city government. In my opinion, and from personal experience, I've found that there is little accountability of the city staff by the city council. Bob Olson agrees with me on this. He spends his time trying to right the wrongs imposed on the average citizen of Brainerd by city government. He has no other reason to be involved with city government. And to equate Mr. Olson with Pilate is utterly distasteful. Perhaps the writer should also remember the parable of the Bible from Matthew 7:3-5. This parable asks the question, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brothers eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" This would seem very appropriate in this situation.
The writer also assumes that the city staff is excused in their "rare" mistakes and characterizes the rest of the alderpersons named in the article as caring and thoughtful. This is a gross misstatement of facts. Has the writer ever talked to anyone who had a bad experience with an alderman? The writer has evidently not talked to the myriad of people who have been annexed against their wishes to find out the real truth. All one has to do is listen to comments made about the city of Brainerd, read the letters to the Open Forum and/or talk to people with first hand, personal experience with city government to find out that they are not excused.
Oh, to be sure, there were memos written and meetings attended. These are failed political attempts to solve real life problems. They do nothing more than give the city staff a "feel good" mentality. Obviously this scheme of memo writing and attending meetings after the fact isn't working. Major problems in city government interaction with their citizens still occur. Simply writing memos and attending meetings are good political tools but do very little to change "the only game in town" culture. A new approach should be taken. Accountability of the city staff by the city council should be demanded! A greater focus should be placed on anticipation of and options to overcome potential obstacles in city business that affects ordinary citizens. These conflicts should be presented to the people that will ultimately be impacted by the decisions of the city. Those people would be searched out with unrelenting enthusiasm and a real value placed in their opinions. This intensive communication effort and inclusive decision-making process will prove to the impacted residents that the city is interested in their opinions and responsive to their requests. Because the impacted residents will be given "ownership" of these decisions, less dissent would manifest. This is what Bob Olson believes in and stands for.
The world is so full of negatives. And it is all those negatives that alienate citizens from the very government that was designed to serve them. If the rest of the city council or city staff is so caring and thoughtful, as they were characterized, why is it that the writer was so bent on destruction of one individual? Is it just easier to dwell on the negatives and tear people down? Couldn't the editorial have expounded on any one of the other "caring and thoughtful alderperson?" Or is there a different agenda?
I don't choose to be an attack dog for anyone. I will not denigrate or verbally assault an individual until I get rid of the log in my eye. And I will certainly never compare anyone to a repulsive individual such as Pontius Pilate. My choice is and always has been to be an advocate for the average person and for the people who have their best interests at heart. Bob Olson holds that title in the city of Brained. And thank you, Bob, for that!
(Edquist is an Oak Lawn township resident and an owner of a small business in Baxter.)
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