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Published February 12 2014

Forum editorial: Fabricated outrage in Moorhead

You have to admire certain members of the Moorhead City Council. When it comes to being champions of hypocrisy-tinged irony, there are none better.

The latest example of the council’s kiddy-like behavior is the “outrage” expressed by a couple of council members over a Facebook post by a new member. The 4th Ward’s Chuck Hendrickson, who is an unapologetic Democrat, characterized the Republican Party as a cult aiming to “brainwash ignorant people with misinformation.”

While Hendrickson’s choice of words might be fairly characterized as intemperate, his political beliefs are clear and sincere, and shared by many of his political stripe. He was upfront about that during his campaign. Good for him. Yet, his colleagues on the council reacted to his honesty with outrage because, they said, such political talk could be divisive on the council.

What? Divisiveness on the Moorhead City Council? Unheard of, right? Yeah, right …

Has there ever been a more fractious, more political elected body in the F-M metro than the Moorhead council? For all their phony happy talk about comity in local government, veteran council members have not been reluctant to get political or personal during council debates; even taking their tiffs outside of formal meetings. The notion the council is a nonpolitical forum for sweetness and light does not square with the record. The over-the-top reaction to Hendrickson’s post comports well with the council’s recent history.

Outraged critics need to be serious and more honest. In the recent city election, candidates and incumbents made no secret of their political persuasions. It’s just short of a lie to contend politics is checked at the council chamber door. For example, the dustup over a public vote to move the city election date to the date of general elections was political, with Democrats like then-council member Mark Altenburg wanting the change, and Republicans on the council opposing it. And why? Because voter turnout is higher in general elections, which usually means more Democrats go to the polls. Public policy decisions do not get more political than that.

The more mature response to Hendrickson’s post came from new council member Mari Dailey of the 1st Ward, a Democrat. “Amen,” she said.

She got it right.

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