Wow!

Looks to me like someone’s trying to force Jordan Councilman Jeff Will to quit.

Questions abound.

First: Why are members of the City Council, especially the mayor, so unwilling to accept any dissent?

Second: what makes Will such a pariah? I attend a lot of City Council meetings. I don’t see any yelling, shaking fists or slamming desks by him, or anyone else for that matter. Which leads me to wonder what specific incidents precipitated the council’s rush to vilify Will? I’ve never felt threatened by him, even when we’ve disagreed about issues. That should tell you something, considering I was the most pugnacious council member during my term.

In the two years I served with him, I never knew Will to make an uninformed decision on an agenda item. Even now, most of the time Will’s depth of preparation makes some of his colleagues look like nodding zombies.

A prepared council member consults with staff, asks hard questions and judges when the responses are inadequate. Take my word for it, staff doesn’t always tell the council the whole story.

Sometimes it’s a matter of simple oversight, easily resolved. Sometimes it’s a matter of providing selected information that supports a desired conclusion, while withholding information that doesn’t support the conclusion. This is a human trait. We all do it. A council member’s job is to get all the information to make a fully informed decision.

Another way to get information is to talk to constituents, especially those most affected by an issue. If a council member feels taxpayers have been ignored, or inadequately informed about an issue, it’s his or her duty to talk to them. This isn’t an optional part of the job description.

There are seven council members. Each gets a digital information pack at about 4:15 p.m. on Friday. That means seven council members get roughly 8.5 hours to seek information from staff, about an hour and 12 minutes per council member. Everyone on the council should be incensed by the lack of time to prepare. Are they? Or are they just rubber-stamping what staff sends them?

Will, the only council member responsible for a business payroll, is most likely to understand the needs of other businesses. When he found some businesses most affected by the Highway 169/282 interchange proposal hadn’t been actively consulted, he went and talked to them, giving them unvarnished information. That may not have pleased some people at city hall, but that’s not his problem.

Which brings us to ambush agenda items. You can’t prepare for something that’s being kept essentially secret. Given what Will says about the lack of forewarning he received, how did the other six council members manage to have enough time to study the matter of his alleged misbehavior. Not just study it superficially, but in such depth that they were willing to malign his good name? Smacks of collusion and exclusion to me. Councilman Robert Whipps’ reference to Star Chambers is apt. Sadly, his vote doesn’t reflect his voiced concern.

For Councilwoman Amanda Schuh to say Will was given adequate warning is disingenuous. He was notified of the complaint on a Saturday (when city hall is closed). On the following Monday, minutes before the regularly scheduled council meeting, he was given a letter that said in effect, “step down, or we’ll shout you down.”

I’m just guessing on this, but city employees were probably instructed before the March 18 meeting not to speak to Will.

Yes, he can have a potty mouth at times, but he’s smart enough to save those kinds of comments for private conversations. I challenge anyone to show me a transcript or film clip of a meeting during which Will has said anything threatening, sexist or obscene. Did staff or council members ever say anything in private to Will?

What’s happening now is not something new. I have a long memory.

About eight years ago, the city council conducted a town hall meeting. It was held in the common area of a private business, and the likely main topic would be of considerable interest to that business. More neutral locations were available, but dismissed. The council member chosen to conduct the town hall meeting was Tanya Velishek.

Velishek and my council colleagues allowed certain vocal attendees to shout me down, and refused to maintain civility during the meeting. They allowed those vocal attendees to shout down any persons who attempted to express views contrary to the vocal group’s views. Councilwoman (now Mayor) Velishek did nothing to maintain decorum, did nothing to permit both sides of the discussion to be presented, did nothing control the incivility she so often railed about during council meetings.

It was clear to me that my colleagues didn’t value any opinion other than their own. Two of those former colleagues still serve. One pays lip service to the value of differing views. The other masks a desire for power behind fluff and platitudes. She wouldn’t enforce decorum then, and she got Robert’s Rules of Order dumped now.

Last questions. Are the business owners Will has been working with willing to support him? Or will they chicken out and just let their interests be trampled by a council that doesn’t much care about some of the biggest taxpayers in town?

It’s just my opinion, but perhaps the council should offer Will an apology for the damage done to his good name, reverse course, and hope everybody forgets this fiasco before the next election. I can tell you, I won’t forget.

Thom Boncher is a retired marketing communications manager, former Jordan City Council member, and Jordan resident since Valentine’s Day, 2003.

South regional editor

Deena is the regional editor for Shakopee, Jordan, Prior Lake and Savage and is passionate about uncovering the truth. Deena also enjoys gardening, playing tennis and up-cycling furniture.

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