Open Forum for week of Sept. 19

OP_wilke 0919
EDITOR’S NOTE: Letters will be accepted for the Open Forum for publication in the next available issue after receipt. Letters may be sent to Forest Lake Times, 880 SW 15th St., Forest Lake, or by e-mail to [email protected] Letters should not exceed 250 words and must be signed with the writer’s name, address and telephone number. Deadline is noon Monday. The newspaper reserves the right to edit letters and assure that rules of libel and good taste are not violated.


Regarding Vacancy

As a small-business owner in Forest Lake, I am quite concerned about the leadership of the city. Our representative form of government works well if those elected actually represent the voters.

First with the bypassing of the referendum for the City Hall project and now with the City Council member appointment, the mayor and those voting with him are ignoring this concept.

For the mayor to announce twice that he intends to appoint Jim Dufour to fill Jeff Klein’s seat until the special election, while at the same time soliciting applications and scheduling interviews for the seat, is evidence of a lack of honesty and leadership.

The mayor and Susan Young also failed to support the motion to hold the special election this November. They said it would cost too much to let the people choose the council member now rather than a year from now. This pales in light of the increased budget, massive spending for pet projects, and lack of effort to implement cost control.

I call on Mayor Johnson to appoint a person who brings a balance of both political sides and to hold the special election as soon as possible so the residents can choose their representative.

John Guider
Forest Lake


Two Questions

Two questions have arisen in the wake of the recent resignation of Jeff Klein from the Forest Lake City Council.

1. When should the election be held for the vacated seat?

2. Who should be appointed to fill the position until the election can be held?

1. The regular election will be held more than a year from now so I urge the council to schedule a special election for this November, i.e. in two months. In reading about the proposed construction of a new municipal campus – at a cost of some $23 million! – it seems to me the council sidestepped the electoral process when it denied voters the chance to approve the plan.

How can it be that we don’t get any say in how such large sums are spent and the resulting huge tax increases?  Could it be they had an inkling enough of us likely thought it to be too much money for a city our size to expend?

And now it seems like déjà vu with a “temporary appointment” good for some 14 months.

2. Jim Dufour seems like a poor choice for the temporary appointment since he is the one person we already know the electorate doesn’t like for the job; he was defeated in the election just held on Nov. 6.

I would like to see Mayor Chris Johnson and the council select someone who has not already been rejected by the voters, and hold a special election in November to let the voters choose a replacement democratically.

Lee Bakewell
Forest Lake


Protect Your Money

The real question the people of Forest Lake need to ask themselves is, “Can someone else spend your money, for you, better than you can yourself?”

The most basic problems in our country today stem from people being too lazy to protect their most basic rights. The new city government, using legal manipulation, is circumventing your god-given right to vote on issues that directly affect your personal wealth.

If you think that the government can spend your money better than yourself, then by all means sit back and do nothing.

Tim MacKenzie
Forest Lake


Majority Speaks

It’s simply appalling the current mayor and his regime are in the process of sneaking a $21 million taxpayer expense behind the backs of the people they are supposed to represent. This small group of connivers have decided to re-write their own rules to “public interest.”

A public referendum was never offered as these arrogant spenders knew its own citizens would not support such wasteful spending.

Now it’s happening all over again. In trying to keep the 3-2 majority on the City Council, the mayor wants to appoint Jim Dufour. This former council members was voted out for a reason: We don’t want him.

Stand up for your rights, people, and demand a special election to fill the open seat on the City Council. It’s time “We the People” get what the majority wants and not just what Mayor Johnson and his regime wants.

Jeff Carpenter
Forest Lake


Ease Off, Drivers

A close relative was almost killed or seriously injured as he walked in the crosswalk from a fitness center by the lake. He jumped back as a speeding car passed right in front of him. If he had taken one more step he would have been knocked down and run over.

He got in his car and followed the approximately 30-year-old driver to the Walmart parking lot, where she apologized profusely and he told her, “You need to slow down!”

In the past year or two I’ve seen countless speeding cars on Forest Lake streets, and invariably, the driver was a young person. Young drivers, and all of us, need to be reminded that when we get into our cars, we don’t own the road.

Forest Lake, it seems, is becoming a dangerous place to drive – or walk.

L.C. Carlson
Forest Lake

  • Lots of letters in support of the council/mayor holding an election vs a mayoral selection of our absent council seat vacated by Jeff Klein. Hold an election, sooner than later!

  • I’m curious as to this attitude which exists, the one where we want to let the citizens take over management of the community. Is there something in the water running between Wyoming and Forest Lake? Eric Langness, I think you’d agree, as a Republican in the spirit of Ronald Reagan, that yes, we don’t want to meddle in the Peoples’ freedoms, but, then again, we do have to safeguard them from stupidity. Do we not?

    Wyoming, for instance, gave over the power to make decisions, about street funding, to the People. They, the people, the voters, decided they didn’t want to fund proper street repairs and therefore, refused to bond. Months before that, what many refer to as, The Peoples’ Representative, Councilwoman Nanko-Yeager, refused, also, to provide funding for fixing the ailing infrastructure a.k.a. the badly neglected Wyoming streets. This although she specifically campaigned on this platform, fixing the streets a top priority of hers, in 2008.

    When, Eric Langness, do we shirk the fiduciary duties (of an elected official) and say, I wash my hands of this, “Let the people decide!” If the people won’t fund basic maintenance (a required necessity of a municipality) what happens then?

    As to FL, it’s a standard, ordinary process to appoint rather then call for a election where time constraints exist. I would suggest that you do, indeed, submit your name for FL city council. You may be surprised in that if you were appointed, your views and supporters would be adequately covered. A proper seat at the table. But, then again, I have no problem with a special election. There seems to be plenty of tax payer monies flowing freely, in FL.

    • Jay Lad –

      I’ve not followed the Wyoming street debate beyond the news articles and choose not to comment on it.

      I’ve said I have no intent to file for the position, as I’m fully aware that the mayor already selected his choice before seeing who will apply. I also have no plans to run next year for any of the open seats.

      With that said, the public in my view should be represented and those representatives should make most choices at the local government level. The choice of who represents them is one that should remain in the choice of the public via an election. Aside from that only few things should ever go to a public vote and major bonding would be one. Most of the time when people say let the public have a vote I tend to say that’s why we choose representatives, even when I disagree with their vote.


      • I wouldn’t want to hold public office, if I were you as well. Your hands would, effectively, be tied as in you wouldn’t be able to so freely criticize. Supposedly, any elected official is part of the problem. At least in your eyes.

        Oh well

        • Guest


          Where do you get such an impression about Eric. As someone who knows Eric as an acquaintance I would never assume that he felt that all elected officials are a part of the problem. Help me out here, because I am not seeing where this dislike for Eric comes from. I don’t claim to have read everything on this website over the years, but the conversations that the two of you have been involved in recently appear to be stemming from something else.

          • Cameron please. I have no problem with someone free lancing for themselves and speaking for themselves. However, please don’t attempt to paint yourself part of a broader group and then continually break the 13th Commandment or rip the very foundation of the, supposed, Party platform, you claim to be willing to die for. Regular Joe Six Packs and Jane Q Public are already confused enough, on what the political parties stand for. If one wishes to free lance, then do so. Honestly in packaging is all I’m asking for.

            As to the issues of Forest Lake, I’ve attended their meetings, I’ve sat through 9 hours of administrator interviews, the final summaries and the vote. I’ve witnessed the angst on the faces of those attending the city center meetings. A $400 jump in taxes, over a one years time, is obscene. Who’s here to disagree? Certainly not me

    • Guest


      In all sincerity, I’m curious as to where this attitude comes from that we elect people to do whatever they want and the citizens have no input aside of the next election. I get the impression from your comments here (and feel free to correct me if I am wrong) that you feel that the recent calls for votes in Forest Lake and the vote in Wyoming were out of line.

      As the founding fathers did, I also fear the tyranny of the majority that would be found in a direct democracy, but I think our framers were equally concerned with the tyranny of a minority.

      In Federalist #39 – James Madison stated the following:

      “If we resort for a criterion to the different principles on which different forms of government are established, we may define a republic to be, or at least may bestow that name on, a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure for a limited period, or during good behavior.”

      This idea that we elect people to dictate to us is completely backwards. If the the government derives its just powers “from the consent of the governed” (Declaration of Independence) and as Madison points out above that our representatives are to hold office during good behavior, it is completely within reason that the people should be managing (definitely not all) but some affairs of the city.

      • Well actually Cameron, if we could, as citizens, vote every two weeks on summaries put forth by city staff, okay then. We the citizens make the rules. Why then do we need elected officials? We, as citizens, vote every two weeks as to whether to pay staff, decide on weekly police levels, pumps stations, park issues, etc. Sounds like a good idea however, knowing human nature, as we do would it work? Might those with clout or money, unfairly get their way over the less educated or less well financed?

        As to streets and street maintenance, in Wyoming, I can’t fix my own street. The city prohibits my neighbors and I from doing that. They also prevent us from succeeding from the municipality. Furthermore, they haven’t adjusted our taxes downward to pay for broken sway bars, wheel alignments knocked out of line, bent rims or flat tires due to the annual potholes which line our streets 90 days out of the year. If the city council refuse to fix our streets, and the voters, voting on the same matter, also refuse to properly fund those same repairs (through assessments even), guess what? If must go through the courts, a outside party who should have no say in local affairs, but alas, more and more, are called in to decide.

        You and Eric Langness, between the both of you, how can we get around inadequate, chronic disregard for infrastructure upkeep? Citizen votes? Council votes? Cheaper taxes for those who live along minimum maintenance roads (a.k.a. Wyoming city streets) or should these matters be thrown into the courts, such as your chosen solution? I certainly don’t know everything and am, I’ll admit, thoroughly perplexed about Wyoming’s situation.

        Play god, for a moment. What’s your perfect solution?

        • Guest


          I have to ask, because it always happens. Why is it that when someone brings up a Petition and Referendum system that the opposition immediately jumps to direct democracy? After bringing petitions and requesting votes at the Forest Lake City Council a perplexed Susan Young always jumps to the irrational conclusion that we are requesting a vote on every issue. We aren’t, and in fact, I believe as the framers did, that tyranny of majority would exist in a direct democracy. In the case of Forest Lake, The City spent their annual budget three times over in one fell swoop. We gathered over 1,000 signatures in two days (obviously enough people were concerned – not just a small faction) and we presented it to the council in an attempt to have a say. It was a big decision and there were enough people concerned about the issue to bring it to the public as a whole. I think the litmus test needs to be whether or not you can get enough signatures on a petition. I will provide deference to the elected representatives of the people, if they will allow the citizens to participate when the people put in enough time and effort to get enough people interested to say “wait a minute.”

          Wyoming is a different issue however and in some senses is testing the idea of collectivism vs personal responsibility. I haven’t followed the issue very closely but it would appear that the citizens have chosen, albeit to your chagrin, the route of assessments and lesser taxes versus spreading the wealth around in the form of taxing the collective and broadly applying the money as needed. I think that you need to bear in mind that as the roads have deteriorated the citizens have benefited from lower taxes. Its like the homeowner who neglects his furnace and uses the money to eat out once a week. Had he saved the money (additional taxes now) he would have been able to fix the furnace when it broke. However since he chose to use the money for something else he is hit with a much larger bill (assessment) when the furnace breaks. What you don’t hear is anyone complaining about the dinner’s out for the last 15 years, only complaints about the repair bill.

          I try never to play God. In Forest Lake, lets us vote when the decisions are big and the citizens are engaged – otherwise I am more than happy to allow the elected representatives to do their job, even if I disagree. In Wyoming I think we need to trust that people have spoken and that self governance is better than the alternative.

          • Thank you Cameron!
            “I think that you need to bear in mind that as the roads have deteriorated the citizens have benefited from lower taxes. Its like the homeowner who neglects his furnace and uses the money to eat out once a week. Had he saved the money (additional taxes now) he would have been able to fix the furnace when it broke.”

            Finally someone understands. You have it exactly right. I can write check for any assessment level, or do it the “shared” way as well. Whatever gets our streets properly renovated, I’ll gladly fund. No one wants the courts to have to make the final decision. Odd thing is, however, it’s the supposed Tea Party’s resident Republican, Councilmember Yeager, who refuses to bond, for the past due bill (repairs) in order to keep those “dinners” going and not look to the repairs.

            Oh well. Thanks for the back up Camoron.

          • Guest

            Again starting with the caveat that I haven’t followed this issue very closely.

            I don’t know that Councilwoman Yeager’s position is out of line with the Republican Party platform. While infrastructure improvements are not directly mentioned there are multiple references to controlling spending and reducing the size of government. Bonding is nothing more than adding debt and is akin to breaking out the credit card every time there is a problem. It I might continue the analogy that we have been using, it would seem reasonable to cut the dinners out (cut unnecessary expenses elsewhere) , and then limp along for a while money is saved for the repairs.

            I also think that user taxes (those who will directly benefit from a good or service should be the one who pays for it) are a very Republican/Tea Party/Conservative idea. It falls in line with the personal responsibility aspects that are at the core of those parties and ideals. Assessments while inconvenient to the residents who have to pay them are in my mind the fairest way to solve your problem. Why should someone who may never drive on a street have to pay for it?

          • Cameron, Councilwoman Nanko-Yeager could be viewed not unlike the 15-year-old Hans Brinker known, affectionately as The Little Dutch Hero. He’s the one who held his finger in the dike and held back the flood waters, giving others time to flee before it was too late. I know Eric Langness seemed to have taken offense,when I suggested he might choose moving rather then enduring high taxes. That’s what I’ve chosen to do and, from that viewpoint, I can be thankful that the Republican Party platform, at times, is agreeable to ignoring infrastructure collapse to save on tax increases.

            In Wyoming, you and I certainly know, that with basic economics the longer you kick the can down the road, the higher the eventual costs, of catching up, will be.

            I’m glad, as in my case, Nanko-Yeager will hold back the flood waters a.k.a. proper street repair projects until after my Wyoming house is sold and I’m safely enjoying the tax 2/3rds tax decrease on a home nearly identical to the one in Wyoming. This thanks to the T aconite Tax Credit outside of Brainerd.

            Oh, on a side note, in today’s Brainerd Dispatch, Baxter has a assessment rate for street improvement projects of 49%, roughly $14,670 per each assessed property. The homeowners can pay it over 10 years at $1467.00 a year. I know Wyoming is wrestling with the proper street project assessment rate.