Dennis Egan’s stepping down is in the best interests of his family, his career and his community. While we wish he’d had the wisdom and foresight not to become executive director of the new Minnesota Industrial Sand over until Council, he did, and the resulting debate over holding both posts escalated to the point of a near lynching.
Hyperbole much? Mayor Egan's actions caused concerned citizens to reach for the Red Wing City Council, not nooses. Bluestem has to believe that the editors know very little about the act of lynching to reach for this phrase. Mayor Egan wasn't dragged into the night; rather, he was able to present his case before the Red Wing City Council--and had kept the job he's now relinguishing while the city looked into matters.
Three city council members asked Egan to resign at a Feb. 11 meeting, but Egan refused to pick between the two positions that night. Jay Squires, the city attorney, issued a written opinion that said a legal conflict of interest did not currently exist. . . .
The Red Wing City Council approved two measures earlier this month that would take a closer examination of Egan's involvement in that process. Monday's agenda includes a request for $7,000 to hire an independent investigator to examine the facts. The city is also in the process of requesting a legal opinion from the Minnesota Attorney General. Both issues are expected to be halted in the wake of Egan's announcement.
Not exactly the fate of James Cameron in Marion, Indiana.
Egan was also able to tell his side of the story to the press; witness Red Wing mayor defends sand mine lobbying job by Minnesota Public Radio's Elizabeth Baier.
The paper believes that important questions still linger in the air--and since they won't be the ones that the professional investigator would ask, perhaps we should dispatch those questions, one by one.
Update February 25: This must have been a great idea for post, because Jay Furst of the Post Bulletin provides his answers in his Furst Draft today. He'll probably get invited on Almanac for the brilliant idea. Before Furst got to it, Phoenix Woman frontpaged the story at Firedoglake, which likely has more readers than Bluestem and the Post Bulletin combined, with Dear Red Wing Republican Eagle: RE: Dennis Egan and Lynching…
Here's the first of the Red Wing Republican Eagles editorial board's "searching questions":
• Are we in danger of letting one issue overshadow every other matter?
Which issue would that be? The frac sand issue? Or the perception of ethical problems that led the Winona Daily News, a pro-mining paper, to ask "What was he thinking?" And who can forget the headline on Jon Tevlin's column in which he described what three out of four ethicists contacted thought about Dennis Egan's arrangement: New frac-sand job for Red Wing mayor is legal but dumb.
It's a good thing that Tom Petters didn't live in Red Wing, or we'd have to put up with the editorial board sobbing into its flat screens about how that one issue of the fraud overshadows all the good he did.
• Would Egan have taken such a beating if he’d accepted a job with an anti-fracking council?
This question illustrates the limitations of the rhetorical tactic of asking a hypothetical question. He took the job he did, and he took it after telling Red Wing voters
The issue is frac sand mining, not fracking, and there's no "anti-fracking council" in Minnesota. As the editorial board well knows, there's a local grassroots organization in Goodhue County called "Save Our Bluffs."
This organization has raised enough money to register with the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board and hire a lobbyist, John Kaul Jr. He's not the mayor of anything.
• Did anyone so aghast over the longtime professional lobbyist leading the sand council look at any of his existing clients before electing him?
Perhaps they did--here--and found nothing amiss. It's public information. Does the editorial baord have any of Egan's other clients in mind as candidates for a conflict of interest with being mayor?
Moreover, Egan accepting a job with the Minnesota Industrial Sand Council didn't happen in a vacuum--but was only the latest sweet gig handed to a local official by corporate mining interests. The Strib's Tony Kennedy has been covering this aspect of the sand mining industry, and it's not as if subscriptions, news stands and the Internet don't reach Goodhue County.
• What does it say about our community that respected individuals feared speaking up for a man who invited citizen input, fought for a cleaner Mississippi River, promoted business and served on a mayoral association’s national executive council?
It's hard to tell here if the editorial board is channeling the rhetorical style of Joe McCarthy (with that secret list of muzzled Egan supporters) or Richard Nixon (evoking the '"silent majority"). There's certainly no chance to argue with this star chamber of the suppressed.
Rather, we can only turn to sources: take the first letters page of the Red Wing Republican Eagle published after the city council meeting wherein Egan kept his job. Both letters about the fold support Egan. But perhaps the editors are speaking of their own fear: in the editorial that same issue, they questioned the descrition of the city administrator's added vacation time in City, call it a bonus, rather than defending or chiding Egan.
As far as Egan's "open" style goes, there's Letter: Our voices silenced at frac forum, published after the election. Rob Meyer writes:
Another opportunity for information and dialogue lost. That's what the headline should say in the Republican Eagle about Thursday evening’s 2020 Quarterly Community Forum held at the Sheldon Theatre. Topic of discussion was the “Frac Sand Industry: A Public Informational Meeting.”
Unfortunately what the public received from the panel of “experts” was a lot of propaganda that was long on language and short on solid answers leaving little time for audience participation. . . .
Dave Christianson, from Minnesota Department of Transportation, acted as the industry’s best sales rep as he jovially mentioned how much money his high school buddy is making off of sand mining. Heather Arends of the Department of Natural Resources offered the piteous explanation that frac sand mining “is inevitable” because “we need it.”
Didn’t someone once say the same thing about asbestos?
Neither mentioned the quality of life impacts of 200-400 trucks a day driving by homes six days a week, 16 hours a day. Neither talked about the decline of home and land values . . .
Worse, we didn’t get to ask because the mayor cut us off. . . .
That letter might be a harbinger of the sense of betrayal the citizens of Red Wing felt toward a man who had campaigned for re-election as envisioning the mayor's role in city government as promoting "an expanded opportunity to protect our natural resources (Mississippi River/Bluffs…)" in the October candidate Q & A profile that appeared in the Republican Eagle.
Who Would Be Mayor?
Then they ask:
• What type of person, then, do we want in public office? Do we want people who have no outside interests, no involvement, who will rubber-stamp professional bureaucrats’ agendas?
This is a false choice: either shut up and be happy with a mayor who works for corporate interests, or accept a mouseburger who enslaved to bureaucrats' agenda. This is nonsense--and the description of the November forum, where Egan privileged the voices of industry-friendly bureaucrats over the people who had elected him, makes the logical fallacy all the more annoying.
Finally, there's this:
Which then begs this question: Why would any sensible person want to be mayor? Or serve on a city council, county board, town board or school board? Why, indeed.
Let's begin with "begs this question." Oy. To "beg the question" does not mean "this question needs to be asked." Rather:
To beg the question does not mean "to raise the question." (e.g. "It begs the question, why is he so dumb?") This is a common error of usage made by those who mistake the word "question" in the phrase to refer to a literal question. Sadly, the error has grown more and more common with time, such that even journalists, advertisers, and major mass media entities have fallen prey to "BTQ Abuse."
That misconception aside, perhaps the paper should consider another question: why would any sensible person, having just gotten re-elected on promises (among others) to protect natural resource, possibly imagine that everyone would think it was a-okay to take a job as the executive director of the Minnesota Industrial Sand Council?
The council is fighting to keep a status quo that has overwhelmed local government and mobilized citizens across the city, county and region. What sensible elected official would do as Egan did without anticipating a backlash?
As the Red Wing Republican Eagle, the Rochester Post Bulletin, and now Minnesota Public Radio and the Star Tribune report, Egan in stepping down as mayor of Red Wing, effective April 1.
Photo: Pretty Red Wing, home to life's most searching questions, but no near lynchings, at least not by Bluestem's definition of the word.
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