May 29, 2008

City Council Meeting Notes

A few minutes of Wednesday’s city council meeting demonstrated a democratic axiom: you get the government you deserve. I’m not saying that Little Canada’s government is especially bad. Watching the interrogation of two business owners explain how their property improvements would enhance the appearance of the city or how their improved security would minimize bar violence gave me some glimpse into the mundane tasks the council handles. On the surface, I think they do that job fairly well. The surface is all I was able to see and I’m as guilty as any citizen for being that unaware of my own communities’ activity.

Little Canada residents were underrepresented at last evening’s city council meeting. Especially underrepresented were Savage Lake residents who were spoken for by Rocky Waite and considerably less so by city council members and our city administrator, Joel Hanson. After listening to Rocky’s complaints about inaction by the city regarding the lake, Rocky was informed there would be a meeting for lake residents. This turned out to be a surprise for the city clerk, Kathy Glanzer, who would have the task of informing lake shore owners when this meeting would be held. Hanson hadn’t bothered to tell her about the meeting because, according to him, citizens would forget about the meeting if too much time passed between the meeting notice and the meeting date. Apparently, we’re all approaching senility and can’t be trusted with extended planning information. As of last night, this meeting is planned tentatively for Tuesday, June 17th, where all the “experts” in our lake will be called together to tell us what has happened to our lake.

Now, these are the same “experts” who demonstrated their expertise when they took over management of the lake from residents and lowered the lake’s level or when they designed drainage systems that dumped silt, salt, and sand into the lake.
Honestly, I think the real experts are the residents who have lived around this lake for decades. Rocky Waite, for example, has lived across the street from the lake for more than 30 years. He knew a lake that was recently dissected by 35E, but that still lived as a home for fish, frogs, turtles, and the wildlife the lake had supported for thousands of years. He’s observant enough to see that lake is slowly vanishing as it turns into a unsightly drainage ditch.

Today, the lake is slowly filling with dirt, sand, salt, and other crud because the drainage that is common to natural bodies of water has been eliminated from both sides of the lake. The lake fills with runoff and there is no way for that material to continue its trip to the sea. The drain on the west side is high enough that it will allow the lake bottom to fill almost to its current waterline before any sediment will escape to the east side. The same applies to the east side. The new drain is what determines the high level of the lake, which means that whatever solids drain into the east side will eventually fill that body of water, just like the west side. In recent years, the runoff from the streets has been increased by the design of new streets and added drains. The city rarely cleans the streets before the winter detritus is washed by spring rains into the lake.

This is the brilliant engineering that was applied to the design of Savage Lake. Genius, don’t you think?

The only way these two halves of the lake will stay capable of holding enough water to be considered anything more interesting than a shallow ditch is if the lake is regularly dredged to remove the collected sediment. That’s it. Any other plan of inaction is pointless, unscientific, and unrealistic. But I’m sure the experts will tell us something different and entertaining. Their solution is bound to require less effort from the people who caused the problems and will be intended to put off real solutions as long as possible.

The real Savage Lake experts have yet to be heard. Part of that is your fault. You’re not forcing your government to listen. The other part of the problem is that we have a government that isn’t particularly interested in our opinions. I got a face full of that as I watched Joel Hansen’s expression as Rocky tried to explain his difficulties in getting straight answers from city employees. Clearly, Mr. Hansen objects to having whatever he does during his day interrupted by commonplace citizens expecting service for their tax money.

Our expectations from government are regularly lowered by our government’s performance. Our government consistently lowers its performance to meet our shrinking expectations. Eventually, we may as well give up on this democracy experiment and pick one of the more simple forms of government; like a monarchy or a dictatorship.

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