Not a fan of Twitter, it was through the Pioneer report: “Council votes down proposed roundabouts on Highway 197” where I read the tweets from Mayor Rita Albrecht regarding that vote. The diatribe she posted was all negative and lacked the dignity her office might have shown by accepting the outcome of the vote graciously. In this case, her negativity did breed a bad decision.
I have been present at the last several City Council meetings to learn more regarding the MnDOT proposal for the six proposed roundabouts on Paul Bunyan Drive Northwest. My concern was that this 10-year-plus construction plan had the potential to be devastating for the businesses along that corridor and certainly because the fledgling ESOP, Lueken’s Village Foods North, would be impacted. The business owners in that district and Chamber of Commerce were firmly against the roundabouts proposal, so that should have been the primary consideration in the council vote.
Councilman Johnson pointed out that half of the city’s tax base comes from business owners, but that they hadn’t “bought in to the idea” -- probably because they were looking at their long-term futures of lost customers, loss of property and the possible loss of their livelihood. Thankfully a majority of the council recognized that and had the courage to vote accordingly. I don’t recall Mayor Albrecht factoring the well-being of those businesses in to her vote and the derogatory quote by Councilman Meehlhause only showed his utter disregard for them as well.
Their narrow-minded focus and confidence that the plan for roundabouts would succeed left them without alternative ways to beautify that corridor and yet be minimally disruptive. Truth is, most plans will be too little, too late, and the city has only itself to blame for neglecting to make this a priority years ago. It’s reprehensible that millions of dollars of our tax money, that might have been spent on that, were instead used to finance the city-owned mega-size city liquor store -- further contributing to the already high rate of alcoholism and alcoholic-related accidents in our area. Is this an example of being “forward thinking?” That happened under the leadership of our self-proclaimed “visionary,” Mayor Albrecht, even as support was denied for the proposed Wellness Center or to build a YMCA to promote health and well-being. A true visionary would seek to find ways to enhance the overall quality of life in a community. That was the missed opportunity.