History lovers throughout central Minnesota celebrated the Little Falls City Council decision to keep the Musser and Weyerhauser mansions open through the end of this year.
The historic homes, collectively known as the Linden Hill Retreat and Conference Center, are part of Little Falls' rich history. The homes, together with aviator Charles Lindbergh's childhood home and the adjoining state park, are regional treasures that attract history buffs as well as families looking for outings that will provide their children with a little more inspiration than might be found at yet another amusement park.
That's the good news. The bad news is the manner in which the city council made its earlier decision to close the two mansions. The council members' initial vote to close them came after a closed session.
The council said it met in closed session to discuss personnel matters. While there are specific exceptions to Minnesota's Open Meeting Law, there is no general exception that allows any council to close a meeting to discuss personnel matters. The council met in closed session twice and perhaps as many as three times to discuss Linden Hill.
The council may very well be faced with tough decisions as it grapples with what it wants to do with the historic mansions but Little Falls citizens deserve to have those issues discussed in public.
Journalists often feel like lone voices crying in the wilderness when they protest illegally closed meetings but it's an issue that should concern every citizen. City councils make decisions that directly affect our pocketbooks and there's good reason why meetings should stay open to the public, with only rare exceptions.
The day when no one protests closed meetings will be the day when elected officials will be tempted to take the easy route and shield their decision-making from the inquisitive eyes of the public.
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