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Get back to the people's business

When voters headed to the polls last month, they cast a ballot in favor of a candidate to represent their interests. Voters didn't expect to get their way all the time; they voted in favor of major concerns.

When voters headed to the polls last month, they cast a ballot in favor of a candidate to represent their interests. Voters didn't expect to get their way all the time; they voted in favor of major concerns.

It's doubtful they would have voted the same way if they had realized the candidates they voted for were about to bring city government to a screeching halt because one councilor wouldn't receive one committee appointment the individual wanted of the 45 to be made.

Yet that is precisely what happened Tuesday night when nine councilors had the task to affirm appointments made by Council President Bob Finsland in concurrence with Council Vice President Tom Bridge.

Five councilors - Bridge, Denise McDonald, Finsland, Mike Herrick and Esther Dalbec - voted in favor of the appointments, however, the vote fell short of the six necessary to affirm 45 appointments.

That's a problem.

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In July, Wisconsin is undergoing a smoking ban. The council created an ordinance that allows drinking and restaurant establishments to create outdoor spaces where people could dine, drink and smoke without violating state law. However, the council has no members for the License and Fees Committee to approve or deny expanded premises that would allow business owners to serve smoking and nonsmoking customers alike.

Maybe you have a hefty sewage bill wrongly charged. The Finance Committee has no members to weigh your concerns or forgive the debt.

Maybe you're just hoping for a parking spot to accommodate a disability - sorry, the Public Works Committee hasn't been appointed.

Suspension-busting potholes and ankle-breaking sidewalks - you're on your own again because the panel that directs your tax dollars to solve such problems hasn't been created.

Yes, one councilor's disappointment over an appointment denied - one in which Finsland called to clarify but received no response until the assignments had been made - gummed up a normally fluid system.

Councilor Chuck Hendry was unable to attend the meeting and was excused Tuesday night.

Councilor Greg Mertzig, who didn't get the standing appointment to the Human Resources Committee he thought his due for time served, predictably voted against the appointments. There's no surprise there.

As a notable hero who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mertzig, an Army Reservist, has federal responsibilities that often pull him from council duties. It was a concern for Finsland - and one we share. The appointee needs to be there because human resources deals with countless grievances and hopelessly complex personnel issues made more so by labor contracts. Finsland thought consistency would best serve taxpayers; we agree.

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The votes that were inexplicable came from councilors Dan Olson, Warren Bender and Mick MacKenzie - all three abstained from voting.

One can't help but wonder what they stood to gain.

Very typically council members abstain from voting when they have a personal interest in the outcome. Former City Councilor Carol Reasbeck abstained from voting when her sons sought a liquor license. Bridge stood apart without a voice when a zoning issue promised a financial gain for a firm he partnered in years ago. Olson backed away from a proposal he introduced when he later learned it presented a bona-fide conflict of interest for the then-newly-elected councilor.

We can forgive a bone-fide error for someone just learning the job.

What we can't forgive is grinding local government to a halt over alliances and allegiances that seem to be forming into a divisive council - as evidenced by Mayor Dave Ross taking the unprecedented step of breaking a tie to establish council leadership two weeks earlier.

The work of the people is what a Democracy is about, even when we don't agree on the details.

The last thing Superior needs is a divided council that accomplishes nothing.

In the words of Dalbec: "Suck it up."

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After all, the 10th District councilor who deals with countless complaints concerning public works issues in the city's sometimes forgotten North End didn't get that appointment when she wanted it last year.

You didn't hear about it until now because city business went on in spite of the disappointment.

It's time for the council "suck it up" too. When the council meets in special session Tuesday, remember we elected you to take care of business, so get the job done this time.

None of us who pay the bills cares about petty alliances when bigger issues are at hand. After all, one appointment of 45 - one councilor's disappointment - shouldn't turn city government on its ear.

No one voted for that.

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