Archive for Wednesday, April 4, 2001

Election has brought needed change

April 4, 2001

Will we all go into election withdrawal or have we had enough? I think we've had enough. I know I have. But, let's face it, this election was the most important event for Baldwin in quite some time. Maybe four years at least.

Regardless of the outcomes (I'm writing this ahead of Tuesday's final count), this campaign has done more to reshape Baldwin City than anything in many years. I'd almost wager in decades.

There are many reasons for that, but two lead the way communication and lost opportunties.

No matter how the vote turned out, Baldwin has been communicating more in the last two months than it has in years. As for those lost opportunities, well, they're lost. That's been the source of most of that communication and that's good. It's too bad it didn't happen sooner. We wouldn't be talking about lost opportunities if it were otherwise.

Early into the heavy campaigning, through forums, letters to the editor, stories and other means, the tide began to turn. The present city council started going out of its way to include citizen input. That's great, but it was too little, too late. At least that's what the primary showed, where incumbent Mayor Stan Krysztof fell by the wayside with just 14 percent of the vote. The people spoke early.

The other two incumbents didn't fare well in the primary, either. The third spot open on the council didn't draw an incumbent's try. That's what was at stake with this election four positions, the mayor's and three council members. That doesn't happen very often and was also why this election was so important. A chance, forgive me Phyllis Hobson, to "clean house."

And why was that so important? Because the incumbents had failed to listen, failed to communicate. That's where the lost opportunties entered the picture.

Never was that made more clear than in a letter to the editor from incumbent council member Gene Nelson. While Nelson was trying to defend himself for what happened this past summer with the offer of free land and funding offered by Baker University for recreation facilities north of town, he gave the first glimpse of how this monumental error occurred.

Krysztof presented the offer at a finance committee meeting $225,000 and acres of free land from Baker, but the city would have to build a recreational facility. As Nelson said, "no one said anything. We assumed there would be further discussion." That didn't happen. Ever. Krysztof turned the offer down because it would be "too expensive," even though a price tag was never talked about, much less established.

And why? Because the city had its own deal in the works to answer the recreation problem and its perceived need for another industrial park. Negotiations were underway to purchase 160 acres southwest of Baldwin for a recreation/industrial park. Cost was $590,000. The deal was made, without any public discussion on either the Baker offer or the city's "other" plan.

Both developments drew outrage. There was an inititial outporing of disgust after the Signal broke the story about the Baker offer being turned down. The reaction after the announcement of the recreation/industrial park "option to buy" can only be described as brutal.

It spawned uncounted letters to the editor and launched the campaigns of many to "clean house" (thanks, again, Phyllis) on the council and finally opened communication. In fact, City Administrator Larry Paine came up with the idea for a column to explain what was going on with recreation/industrial park. In the interest of equal time, Ken Hayes stepped to the plate to offer a counter point to the proposal. In the end, Krysztof pulled the plug on Paine. Communication wasn't good, he decided. Ultimately, we'd find out otherwise.

Those developments brought out a huge slate of people to run for city council and mayor. Good candidates, too. From there, we've whittled it down. Tuesday's vote was the final answer.

But, regardless of who won or lost, Baldwin has made it clear. We're going to communicate. And those on the council had better listen.

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  • As a side note, here's a Valerie Wolf update. She's found a job in Lincoln and is working for a dressage organization. That's horses for those that don't know and obviously right up her alley.

We miss her very much, but are happy to know she's found gainful employment. We have her "going away" fish here in the office and it's brought in lots of visitors. Stop by and see "Valerie."

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