See where it stands

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 10, 1999

From staff reports

In any group of individuals, there will be disagreements.

Wednesday, November 10, 1999

Email newsletter signup

In any group of individuals, there will be disagreements. So it is no surprise that the views of Freeborn County commissioners differ from time to time. Even though the goal is the same – serving residents – they each have different ideas on how to best do so.

There is also a time for compromise and consensus. But, it seems when it comes to the courthouse renovation, some commissioners simply aren’t willing to acquiesce.

Commissioner Dan Belshan is aiming to sidestep the board’s earlier 3-2 decision to show the public just one plan for courthouse renovation.

The county commissioner had a fair chance to convince other board members to let the public review three plans, but he lost in a close vote. Keith Porter sided with Belshan; Porter supports only plans that demolish both the 1888 and 1954 buildings.

But now, in a memo Belshan states: &uot;in my opinion, at least three proposals should have been presented for discussion at public hearings. I am totally opposed to the plan being advanced. Because there is a lack of choices given to the people in the current plan, the public may want a referendum.&uot;

As Belshan indicated, the public could legally reject the proposal and sign a petition for a reverse referendum. However, a county commissioner should not be the one handing them the pen.

The problem with this is Commissioner Belshan has not demonstrated how the public as a whole can make a better decision than the elected board as a whole.

First, it seems unlikely that a true public consensus can be reached on which plan, when a small group of commissioners is still unable to agree. If 5 percent of county residents sign a petition for a reverse referendum, what about the other 95 percent?

Second, while the upcoming public meetings are a good chance to explain one plan to residents and gain feedback, it is unlikely that those comparatively few citizens able to attend will gain the same depth of understanding of numerous plans as have commissioners. The board has educated itself regarding courthouse options, something the pending public meetings simply cannot provide in a few hours’ time, with a small representation of county residents present.

Finally, does this mean elected commissioners are incapable of deciding the big issues on our behalf, as they are elected to do? Should every big issue be considered by everyone? How?

We understand Commissioner Belshan’s desire to have as much public input as possible on an important, expensive county decision. But, the board voted to do so with one plan.

It is time for the county to move forward by gaining public response to that single plan, and see where it stands.

If this plan fails, there are plenty more.