GUEST COLUMN: Should Osseo streamline the EDA and Council?

How do you plan on getting more business in Osseo? That is the question that piqued our attention at the League of Women Voters candidate forum. It was asked two years ago as well and we are willing to bet the same question will be asked again at the next candidate forum.

We need to change the structure of government, improve processes across the board, and better use our assets to promote growth. It is our opinion that Osseo government is too cumbersome, our processes are not results focused and our assets are being squandered.

Between the Council, Mayor, Planning Commission and the Economic Development Authority (EDA) there are 17 individuals who plan and provide input in redevelopment efforts in Osseo. We believe 17 personalities and three government bodies are unnecessary and can be improved upon.

First, we suggest Osseo EDA responsibilities should be included in the mayor and council’s responsibilities. By making this change the result will be more accountability, improved transparency, simplicity and more predictable results. Both developers and taxpayers should find this a better alternative to our current structure.

Another structural change we suggest is to establish standards for all our commission and committee seats. A common argument against creating a type of interview process is that appointees are volunteers and you need volunteers otherwise you have vacant seats. Government should not be worried about filling seats. Government should be focused on producing the best results and to do that you need to seek top talent.

Our process of government needs to be improved. City Council has taken steps to improve transparency, simplicity and predictability by creating a financial management plan and a capital improvement plan. However, the EDA continues to be reactionary. We work through opportunities with no clear plan and what is worse we are not held accountable for results.

We need better care of our tax payer assets, many of which are held by the EDA. We have seen $120,000 spent on a failed city owned WiFi project. We’ve seen other expenditures that produce questionable results with little or no accountability. The city audit presented at the May 29th council meeting uncovered five accounting questions all pertaining to EDA accounts that needed clarification. Six months later we can’t say for sure that all, or some, or none of the discrepancies are cleared up.

Everyone should be asking what can be done to revitalize the business community in Osseo. In our opinion, the conversation starts by streamlining government, demanding the highest standards possible of our volunteers, and trusting our city assets with those who are accountable.

The Osseo EDA meets the first Monday of each month at 7 p.m. On Monday, Dec. 3, there will be a joint meeting of the Osseo Planning Commission and EDA to discuss the block 6 redevelopment project. Also, on the EDA agenda will be discussion on the future of the Osseo EDA. The public is always welcome to attend the meetings.

Sincerely,

Terry McNeil EDA Commissioner

Chris Mercandante EDA Commissioner

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