Bickering only hurts Valley City
Given the most recent development in Valley City, N.D. - the resignation of embattled City Administrator Jon Cameron - the city should be able to turn the page and move on. Right?...
Given the most recent development in Valley City, N.D. - the resignation of embattled City Administrator Jon Cameron - the city should be able to turn the page and move on. Right?
Don't count on it.
Cameron and his supporters won the attempt to eliminate his job a week ago. Within hours, he announced his resignation, effective early next month, saying his continued presence in municipal government would make it difficult for the city to achieve a clean break from bitter squabbles over his job and the job of the former police chief. Ironically, Cameron emerges from the city's troubles with a dual win: He and his supporters won the hotly contested campaign to eliminate the administrator's position, and he leaves the divided city for another job that will be closer to his family.
He won't be doing so publicly, but we suspect he's smiling and generally satisfied with the outcome.
Meanwhile, the losers in the Oct. 4 balloting don't seem to understand they lost -- again. There was a previous attempt to eliminate the administrator, and that, too, failed. One of the leaders of the two-time losers said after votes were counted that the loss was "a huge success" because of heavy voter turnout. That's a curious assessment. The big turnout turned in favor of the administrator. The people who wanted to eliminate Cameron's job came up short. Say again how that translates into "a huge success"? How do two defeats in three years come close to even a tiny success?
Small cities have enough problems without the divisiveness that has plagued Valley City for several years. Cameron's perception of the mess is accurate. When disputes over policy and a job description became ugly personal attacks and character assassination, the city was hurt. When disagreements were poisoned by backbiting and coffee shop gossip, anger and bitterness overwhelmed reason and civility. The damage won't be easily repaired. Valley City has been engaged in that style of turmoil since voters unceremoniously threw out the mayor who led the city through the trauma of the 2009 flood. The situation has deteriorated since then so that today the city's dysfunction seems endemic.
Too bad. Valley City is one of the most attractive small cities in the state. It boasts an excellent university, a lively business district, one of the prettiest natural settings anywhere, and, of course, one of the best pizza makers in North Dakota. Yet the people who say they love their city can't seem to come together -- can't seem to find common ground. No matter who won or lost on Oct. 4, that's a formula for failure.