#City Council Reform: Don’t Let Perfect Interfere with Good

Let’s cut right to the chase. I think the petition to reduce the number of alderman on the Minot City Council is a great idea. Over the course of my adult lifetime, I have lived in Fargo-Moorhead, Grand Forks and Bismarck, in addition to being a long-time resident of Minot. Fargo, Grand Forks and Bismarck all have smaller city councils/commissions than Minot. How could anyone look us in the eye and tell us with a straight face that Minot government is getting better results from its local government than Fargo, Grand Forks or Bismarck? That would not even pass the laugh test. If someone makes that bald allegation, challenge them to cite specific instances. In lieu of a cognitive answer, you more than likely will hear crickets.

One of the things I like about the petitioners is that they are primarily young persons who obviously have love and zeal for Minot. My one liner to people like that is that they have a future. All I have is a past. When my generation is long gone, these are the people who will be living with the consequences of today’s decisions. I, for one, couldn’t be more pleased that they are stepping up to the plate.

Another thing I like about the petition is that by reducing the number of city alderman, there will be increased accountability of its members. With fewer members, it will be hard to hide in the bushes. One weak link on a football team is less dangerous than one weak link on a basketball team with fewer players. If there is dead weight on a smaller city council, there will be nowhere to hide. Out of fourteen aldermen now, just the law of averages makes it likely that there are some members we can live well without.

Is it a problem that there won’t be wards and aldermen would be elected at large? It hasn’t seemed to be a problem in the other comparable North Dakota cities presently having aldermen elected at large. In the olden days when I was one of four State Senators from Minot, it was not uncommon for me to be contacted by citizens of Minot who lived in one of the other three legislative districts simply because they knew me better than their own Senator. I suspect the other three Minot Senators had the same experience. Are we not one community with common goals? Is there some big racial divide between the Norwegians and the Germans?  Give me a break.

Someone will predictably bring up imperfections of the idea of reducing the city council membership. That is the oldest political  ploy in the book. Good luck finding anything perfect on God’s green earth. Why not be satisfied with improving the process? Why let the perfect interfere with the good? I’m voting yes.

Jim Maxson

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