News this morning from the Minot Daily News is that the City of Minot’s head planner has left, calling city government a “dysfunctional nightmare.”
In a letter to Mayor Chuck Barney, Carter Thompson said decisions are being made that do not follow the current code and could pose liability for the city.”The code is supposed to be administered equitably and not show favoritism for one citizen or project over another,” she wrote. “The code needs to be enforced and administered in an equitable fashion, by someone that is qualified to do so, or why have a code.”
Those are serious allegations, and they’re not being fired in a vacuum. Thompson cites ordinance exemptions given to Roosevelt Park Zoo and Little Caesar’s Pizza as two examples of the city showing favoritism. Another high-profile allegation along these lines has to do with the expansion of First Western Bank along Broadway in Minot.
A group of citizens sued the city for failing to follow its own ordinances, among them a requirement mandating a certain number of parking spaces per square foot.
Thomspon’s abrupt resignation comes after the city fired attorney Colleen Auer in 2014, something which has also resulted in legal action.
And did I mention that the city has been overseeing the construction of parking ramps downtown which have been severely delayed and – you guessed it – are also now embroiled in legal disputes?
What in the world is going on?
The problem is public apathy. Only a small slice of Minot’s population seems interested in how the city is governed.
The City of Minot has a 14-member city council, and just four of them faced competitive elections to win those offices.
Think about that for a moment. Just four members of the city’s governing body – which makes spending decisions with millions upon millions of our tax dollars and passes ordinances that we must follow under penalty of law – won their seats on that council through a competitive election where their ideas and plans were challenged by an opponent.
The other 10 are there simply because they put their names on the ballot.
That’s a problem.
In 2014 current Mayor Chuck Barney won election to his first term with just 1,327 votes.
Write-in candidates got 1,033 votes.
In all, less than 2,500 citizens of Minot, which the U.S. Census says has a population nearly 48,000, even bothered to vote in the mayoral race.
That’s a problem too.
And now we city leaders accused of favoritism and lax ethics.
Should we be surprised when those leaders aren’t exactly going about their business under the scrutiny of an engaged public?
There needs to be accountability for Minot’s leaders, and it needs to begin with the citizens of Minot demanding it.
Until they do, until Minot’s voters engage, nothing is going to change.