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Dysfunction on display

August 21, 2012
Messenger News

The time for playing games is over.

The time for real communication is overdue.

The level of dysfunction among the City Council, some of its own members, city officials and city workers was made abundantly clear at a press conference Friday.

Mayor Matt Bemrich announced that 54 city employees, who had been members of the United Steel Workers, apparently wanted to switch their membership to another union. However, as of Thursday, when their membership in the USW ended, the workers weren't yet members of another union. When given handbooks covering their employment as non-union members, a representative of the former union workers produced a one-line document, signed by five members of the City Council in May, which states simply: "The Fort Dodge City Council agrees to honor the current labor union's contract."

In a nutshell, here's the problem:

A reasonable person could probably conclude that any of the previously named people would have some vested interest in knowing that the city's union workers were seeking to change unions. However, when pressed, Don Wilson, Robert "Barney" Patterson and Dean Hill - who signed the document and attended the press conference- basically said it was the union representatives' responsibility to share the information, not theirs.

In addition, they said, they signed the document to show their support for the union but did so as individuals, not as City Council members.

That's incredulous. We are being asked to believe that members of the City Council signing their names to an easily read, one-line document that says "The Fort Dodge City Council agrees to honor the current labor union's contract" didn't understand or believe that they were doing so as members of the City Council.

Councilman David Flattery, at the press conference, said he had not been asked to sign the document, would not have signed and would have mentioned its existence to city officials.

It's no secret that Wilson, Patterson, Hill, Mark Taylor and sometimes Kim Alstott usually vote as a majority that doesn't include Flattery and Fritz.

When Flattery said he was offended that he wasn't made aware of the document and felt he and Fritz were being shunned, Wilson responded he had been shunned for years by the previous council.

Enough already.

Wilson is the senior member of the City Council and the mayor pro-tem. If he is still stinging from real or perceived slights from Bemrich, Fierke or previous City Councils, he needs to move beyond it. Be the bigger, better person, Mr. Wilson. If you know how it feels to be excluded from the table, then open the table to others. Show them more generosity of spirit, not less. Unite, don't help divide, the City Council.

If there is anything of value to be learned from watching the dysfunction of our national government - where each party draws a line in the sand and refuses to compromise - it's that very little of value to voters actually gets done when each side is more interesting in winning than in governing.

Stop playing games. Start communicating with every member of the City Council and all the city officials. Make this a council of function and a source of pride, not embarrassment, for Fort Dodge.



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