Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

EDITORIAL: Lost votes in Tower

Will the City Council act to prevent another election snafu in November?

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Voting is a constitutional right. Which is why potentially losing that right due to careless error on the part of election officials, as happened in Tower on Aug. 14, is so unconscionable. We’ve already reported on the circumstances of what happened, so we won’t repeat the story here.

Sadly, this was just another example of official conduct in the city that fails to meet the usual standards of due diligence and attention to detail. And this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen violations of election rules in Tower elections in recent years.

The question is, what does the Tower City Council intend to do about it? And, by that, we mean not only to address the harm done to city residents who may have lost their right to vote in the primary, but to ensure that some other election error does not threaten the rights of Tower voters in the general election on Nov. 6.

Ultimately, it is the city council that is responsible for last week’s voting snafu, when election officials handed out ballots for the wrong precinct to as many as 25 city residents, or about one-in-five voters. The city council is charged with the ultimate oversight of city operations, so it is up to the council to ensure that this does not happen again.

Unfortunately, time and again, we’ve witnessed a city council that is astonishingly lackadaisical in undertaking its oversight role. In recent months, we’ve seen and reported on multiple violations of the state’s Open Meeting Law. We’ve reported on blown state deadlines for the Rose RV park EAW, a process that normally takes several weeks which took over two years to complete. Just last month, we saw the city council approve an airport project for which engineering and administrative fees constituted more than 50 percent of the construction cost, without asking a single question about how the engineering and oversight for relocating a wind sock and the installation of a new gate and 50 feet of airport fence could cost $30,000.

We’ve seen questionable decisions on a number of issues where it appears that councilors failed to take steps to adequately inform themselves of the consequences of their actions.

It’s been suggested by some that city officials are operating efficiently because council meetings usually take less than an hour, and sometimes much less. We’re all for efficiency, but we prefer transparency. And when we see a city council that routinely runs through an entire agenda in thirty minutes without asking a single question, even on major spending items, that’s not efficiency— it’s evidence that the actual discussion on important city matters is taking place outside of public meetings. Either that, or members of the council quit doing their jobs a long time ago.

We know that most members of the council are counting the days until their terms expire. It’s telling that not one of the three members, including the mayor, who would be up for re-election in November, chose to run again. But before they check out completely from their roles as city leaders, they should do one last thing— find out how this latest election mess occurred, document it, and hold the appropriate people accountable. At least then they can leave office knowing they made a constructive contribution to Tower’s future.

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Oh Boy!

They must have been taking lessons from the Board in Greenwood Township this year.

Thursday, August 30
Scott Atwater

No doubt that Greenwood set the bar pretty low, but that's not a recent occurrence.

Tuesday, September 4