The recent editorial from Bob Olson leaves reason for some serious concern. As it is the principal job of our government leaders to serve their constituents, recent observations from a number of people watching the city council in action raises doubt as to the real reason some of the councilmen are holding these positions.
There definitely are some who appear to be ill-suited to serve the community as a whole. Many of us perceive there to be substantial conflicts of interest. We perceive a city councilman (Bob Olson) whose own businesses no longer exist, yet purports to know how the general health of the business community should be managed according to his own personal paradigms which seem to be based on advertising and media hype. The inappropriate protocol exhibited by Mr. Olson in council meetings is disturbing. The council is not an extension of the Bob Olson Show.
We perceive another councilman (Gary Scheeler) who stands to substantially profit by the increase in value of his own business and property by seeing to it that a neighboring piece of property was quickly purchased by the city and then promoting it toward more urban sprawl like that of the city of St. Cloud where he came from.
We perceive there to be a "good old boys club" that grandstands to the cameras. They smirk, pass notes and rolling-eye glances back and forth during others' presentations, and snicker about the hollow, yet caustic accusations they toss at those who would challenge their
Brainerd is no longer a little town up in the woods. Serious, long-term planning work needs to be done-now. The decisions made by the city council will affect the community for far longer than the lifetime of the council members. We need to be thinking about what this "God's Country" will look like to our great grandchildren. We cannot afford to have major decisions made by those who refuse to see beyond the hype and have no sensitivity to the concept of "sense of place."
There are very serious threats approaching the community that must be addressed by leaders who invest in serious research (not one or two hour "meetings") and act according to the findings whether or not they personally like them. Our country's economy continues to drag, and it is no time to be risking the business health of-not only Brainerd's independent businesses -- but almost, even more importantly, its neighbors with helter-skelter, unplanned, and unsmart growth. Smaller communities like Motley, Little Falls, Crosby, Aitkin, and Pine River will all take major hits, along with much of the small-business community of Brainerd and Baxter, if rampant, unplanned development (particularly a "super-store") is allowed to simply squat down anywhere and suck the life out of the successful businesses who built this region in the first place. Is it not an interesting situation that you can no longer purchase a pair of socks in Staples?
We also hear these councilmen constantly comparing Brainerd to Baxter. Why is this? Do they have some misdirected jealousy for their sister city which is struggling to hold up under the weight of explosive development? Do they somehow perceive Baxter's sprawling boxes as a healthy direction for a city to evolve into? Do they really think bigger is better? Can't they see that right within Brainerd's downtown itself lies far more substantial potential for building a city with character and vitality?
Also, the tired, old concept of "broadening the tax base" can be quite misleading. While you broaden the tax base you also broaden the cost factors of infrastructure and management which raises everyone's taxes in the long run. Does anyone think average taxes in St. Cloud are less than the average taxes in Brainerd? Ask Baxter residents how they feel about their taxes.
Yes, it's clearly time for some changes. So if your idea of building a healthy community is abusing the powers entrusted to you, or pushing growth simply for the sake of growing big (the basic premise of the cancer cell), then I suggest you leave your post to someone who has a clearer vision for a long-term, healthy and sustainable future. We can't afford hasty and poorly thought through decisions.
There is a grass roots effort of many, many people who will be supporting Deb Olander and Frank Asplund in their bids to continue working for their community by making hard decisions with many hours of research-for the children of our grandchildren.
If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to write me at:
(Borkenhagen is a resident of Baxter.)
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