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Published August 22 2013

Forum editorial: Voxland’s veto ‘irks’ the council

Moorhead City Councilman Mark Altenburg opines that by vetoing a city reorganization ordinance, Mayor Mark Voxland has “irked the council.” Oh no! Not that! Say it isn’t so! How dare the mayor, who has been extraordinarily stingy with vetoes during three terms as mayor, irk the council. What was he thinking?

That’s the point: He was thinking. Voxland had good reasons to scuttle a reorganization that in some eyes is a stunt to either get rid of or attenuate the power of a department manager or two. Voxland, who’s been both a councilman and mayor for a long time, understands that personality conflicts and backbiting that can motivate “reorganizations.”

Furthermore, as mayor he has a broader responsibility than ward council members, whose ward-based parochialism reliably clouds their judgment. After all, unlike the mayor who has been elected at-large three times, council members need only pander to a relatively few voters in their discrete wards to get re-elected. It’s a system that lends itself to neighborhood pothole politics rather than citywide strategic planning. The dysfunction of the council in recent years proves the point.

It is important, therefore, for the mayor to articulate a vision for the city that rises above what can be described as the occasional pettiness of council members. Voxland has been good at that part of his job, although it’s been more difficult the past few years because the council has changed.

That being said, there is financial substance to Voxland’s veto. He said merely “moving bubbles around” in a costly reorganization of city operations makes no sense. He said a true reorganization would be “employee-led.” He made reference to council members “looking at personalities, not positions.” He broached motivations: “an ax to grind, and they’re (council members) trying to get rid of somebody.” He did not reject reorganization; he would rather it be done right.

It takes six votes to override the mayor’s veto. The ordinance passed 7-1, so an override is likely. After all, hell hath no fury like a council member irked ...

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Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.