An excellent example of government at its best occurred right here in Pequot Lakes last Saturday afternoon. Sadly, only a very few local citizens attended. There were nearly more elected officials than citizens.
Our local state representative, John Ward, scheduled and conducted a town meeting at city hall, open just for the occasion. The event was hosted by Mayor Nancy Adams, who personally assured that doors were open and the meeting room comfortably set up.
Right alongside Democrat John Ward was Republican state Sen. Carrie Ruud, and they were joined by neighboring representative Joe Radinovich.
So, although it may have been initiated as Rep. Ward’s meeting, it was truly bipartisan by intention, design and manner in which it was conducted. We could use a bit more of that.
The town meeting was attended and fully reported, at editor level, no less, by our local newspaper.
If attendance was disheartening to the participating elected officials, they certainly didn’t show it. John was his usual jovial self, and all were at their friendly, open and personal best.
It was a perfect opportunity for area residents to voice concerns, ask questions, share information and express opinions right where it counts — directly to our local decision-makers.
For the hard-working legislators, Saturday afternoon was their third or fourth constituent event of the day, one of their two weekend days away from St. Paul. I hope their other community sessions were better attended and more productive.
Former U.S. Congressman Jim Oberstar lost his long tenure in 2010 for a number of reasons. One of them was the built-up criticism and resentment that he didn’t hold enough town meetings to keep in touch with his constituents of the 8th District.
It may be noted that at Saturday’s event, although it was billed as a state legislative event, our present Congressman Rick Nolan’s local representative, Al Doty, was in attendance. And he fully participated, taking notes and asking and answering questions right along with the state and local officials.
The whole legislative representation of Senate District 10 was there, with staff, on Saturday. As mentioned, Congressman Nolan’s representative was there. The mayor was there. The local county commissioner was there.
Where was the public? Where were those who complain that our government is not responsive, not accessible? Where were all those who want and expect more out of our government, but don’t want to pay for it?
Even we fully opinionated old “duffers” learn something beyond updating by just listening at such events. As a lifelong supporter of a highly graduated income tax as a principal source of government revenue, I was intrigued by Republican Vic’s suggestion that the lowest income groups be charged a minimal annual tax to ensure that they all have a dollar investment in government outcome.
The legislators were prepared to listen to concerns of the community. They carried pad and pen and took notes. They reported on status and likelihood of action, or inaction, on various pending and contemplated legislation.
As example, they learned and reacted as they heard criticisms and new reports on continued delays in Highway 371 construction.
Whenever such a town meeting happens again, as undoubtedly it will, make it a priority to attend, offer your thoughts and opinions, and listen to others. You’ll be glad you did.