Whoever said all politics is local was very wise indeed. What makes me think back on this bit of wisdom? I spent the better part of 2 hours this evening, meeting with some very passionate people discussing the direction of the city I live in. Yes, dear readers, it is City Council election time. Off year elections are always tough - people are not motivated to get out for City Council elections as they are for Presidential elections. However, this time may be different.
I live in a small, semi-rural town. It is the type of town people move to in order to raise their families and escape the pressures of their work day. It is a quiet town on one of Minnesota's 10,000 lakes. Recreation is a vital part of life in our town. Our town, however, is located in one of the top 5 fastest growing counties in the entire United States. That growth has been effecting our community if good ways and bad ways. As a result the mayor and the current city council have had to address how to handle the growth. One of the things that the current mayor and city council have been managing (if that is the word you want to use) has been housing growth. Housing growth is a natural by-product of population growth. Their idea of managing housing growth is to rezone areas from single family homes to high density housing and from environmental set aside lands to high density housing. Now this flies in stark contrast to what the citizens of the city want. According to a survey that was conducted by consultant that the city council itself hired, 53% of the residents of this town want to keep the small town/rural feel of the community. I have a hard time seeing how high density housing fits into that mold.
While I am just one vote and what is important to me may not be the most important issue to my next door neighbor, the common theme I took away from this meeting was that the city leaders were unresponsive to the citizenry. The phrases that I kept hearing was that the people had "no voice" in city government and that there was no sense of "accountabilty" within City Hall. Those two phrases, in a nutshell, reverberated in my mind. While the voters say they want their state and federal governments to be more accountable, they demand it from their city governments. A city government that is unresponsive and unaccountable is going to face an uprising at the polls. Will it happen this time? I can't say for certain, but it will eventually happen. However, if it takes too long to happen, the city may be doomed.....