City correct to retain committee structure
One of the challenges of creating a new government structure, which Minot has aptly handled over this past year, was addressing the city committee structure. Committees were an entirely different creature when there were 14 members of the council than they are with six council members and the mayor.
The previous government rightly put in place a plan for the new council to, at least temporarily, meet as a Committee of the Whole, encompassing the entire city council.
This week, the city council voted to retain the current structure, as well as the current meeting schedule.
There is an old saying that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and that applies to this situation. The previous system was broken beyond repair. There is no evidence that the current system is flawed or otherwise requires change.
This was a correct decision and the council warrants thanks for its vision.
That said, it is notable that Mayor Chuck Barney suggested creating two committees to include both members of the council and residents. It is a good sentiment, and an attractive one for Minot Daily News, to adopt committees including members from the public. MDN approves of public input on critical issues. However, MDN also strongly advocates for accountability, which a Committee of the Whole guarantees. Furthermore, neither mayor nor council have been shy about appointing task forces including members of the public to address issues. So long as the city operates at the high ethical level it does now, change can wait.
Two proponents for the status quo made solid points as to why to support the existing structure.
Council member Shaun Sipma said having the Committee of the Whole meetings for all council members has been valuable in preparing him for the council meetings. This is particularly essential with many new members of the council.
Council member Stephan Podrygula outlined seven reasons why he could not support the plan, including the reduced accountability of appointed members and the need to first address other functional issues of the council.
Both men made strong arguments – the strongest of all arguments in the civil discussion.
Minot has reason these days to be proud of its mayor and council. There is no reason, at this point, to alter operational details.
There will be another time for that. There is too much work to be done now.