Tough decisions deserve tough questioning
The soul searching hung so heavily in the air you could almost cut it with a knife. At the meetings of both the Cloquet School Board and the Carlton County Board of Commissioners, both groups were faced with making some very tough decisions regar...
The soul searching hung so heavily in the air you could almost cut it with a knife.
At the meetings of both the Cloquet School Board and the Carlton County Board of Commissioners, both groups were faced with making some very tough decisions regarding balancing the already burgeoning tax load of local residents with the need for ways to cover encroaching revenue commitments.
Among a whole laundry list of mandates, the school district needs to come up with a way to finance its already-committed post-employment benefit expenses.
The county needs to replace an aging, and increasingly inefficient, human services building.
And while both governmental bodies ultimately chose to circumvent the process of putting those needs before the public by way of referendum votes, it was not without a great deal of agonizing over the tradeoffs.
By electing to sell bonds to help finance its post-employment benefits, the Cloquet School District committed residents to pay higher property taxes. In return, the board feels residents will be gaining a better deal for their kids by freeing up hundreds of thousands of dollars in the district's general fund.
By electing to sell bonds to help finance the debt service incurred in financing a new human services building, the county, likewise, will be adding to the taxpayer burden. Board members believe that in so doing, however, they will be facing up to the inevitable - the replacement of the aging human service building - in as expedient and cost effective means possible.
Make no mistake about it, however. Those decisions were not made lightly, nor without a great deal of agonizing on the part of many of the decision makers.
Increasingly tough times have caused decision makers to categorically reject the "rubber stamp" image and step forward to ask the really tough questions that no one wants to have to hear.
That's to be commended. It's no popularity contest to step up at zero hour and question an important initiative that has been many months - or indeed, years - in the making. But if government is to truly work the way it is intended, those we have elected to safeguard the public interest have to stand up and risk being controversial or unpopular if they feel they are representing the sentiments of the constituents who stand behind them.
And though asking tough questions and challenging the status quo doesn't always elicit immediate change, it produces healthy dialogue, and that is what helps shape the course of future decisions.