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Editorial: Questions abound on ERS – landfill faceoff

Editorial by Matt Marquardt –

As the Energy Recovery Specialists / landfill faceoff looms this evening, questions abound.

It seems this game is getting nastier everyday, the train has run off the tracks; the mighty “A” team has taken a body blow and is now stumbling around the ring haplessly flailing, groping for traction as their dream of moving a garbage dump into city limits flickers away ever so slightly.  This project could easily pass; it could easily fail, too.  They know it is teetering on the brink of the abyss, and their desperation smells as bad as 250 tons of trash.

Since the “A” team is so eager to take questions from the Globe and provide answers, maybe they will take these questions as well:

Question #1: Speaking of moving a garbage dump into city limits, it is slated to move into the fourth ward.  Why hasn’t Janet Solberg, who represents ward 4, weighed in on this project?  Why hasn’t she attended ERS meetings, met with her constituents?  Janet, could you stop tinkering with your inbox and represent?

Question #2: Why is City Councilman Travis Hickey, today, contacting people with influence in neighboring small towns and asking questions about tonight’s landfill meeting?  Travis, what is your motivation?

Question #3: Where does North Iowa Corridor Director Brent Willett’s responsibility to this project end?  Is his job simply to recruit businesses to come to North Iowa, or is he also supposed to hand-hold them through the approval process, or perhaps, interfere with the approval process?  Should he show up at all the meetings and hearings and speak there, lobby for approval at every step, and even make nasty comments in the local newspaper when things don’t go his way?  Mr. Willett, how many jobs have you brought to North Iowa?

Question #4: City Administrator Brent Trout made it clear he intends to attend tonight’s landfill board meeting and “speak on behalf of the City Council.”  When did our City Council direct you, Mr. Trout, to attend this meeting and become a lobbyist for a project that the city council has not approved?  Mr. Trout, are you becoming political?  If they feel strongly enough about the project, why don’t they attend the meeting themselves (Janet, where are you?)  Mr. Trout, were you given direction behind closed doors to attend this meeting?  It took a city council vote to give you permission to drive to the twin cities and tour arenas.  Is this project different in some way?  You mentioned the city council “voted to move forward with this project.”  Well, they made the same vote one time on the gentlemen’s club idea, and that idea was squashed quickly.  Do you know ahead of time that this project would be approved by our city council?  Where in your job description does it list “lobbyist?”

Mr. Trout was nice enough to provide some answers to the above questions.  His answers are appreciated: “The council did not direct me to attend the meeting and speak on this issue. I made that decision on my own because this is an important economic development project in our City and the City Council has made a decision to support the project so it then becomes part of my job. Part of my job is to encourage economic development in this community and this is an important project towards accomplishing economic development. If I did not attend the meeting and speak for the project that would probably be looked at by my council and others as not having done my job. You may consider it a political issue but the fact is the political side of it ended for me when the council made their decision on the support of the terms of the development agreement. At this point I am simply advocating for a position that has already been decided by my City Council. The only way it could be political for me would be if this decision had not already been made and approved by the City Council. The Mayor or City Council members could go and speak for themselves and some may take that opportunity. Because the decision has been made by City Council I can accomplish this role for them. If a council member was not in agreement with the majority decision then I would expect them to do their own talking on the matter at the meeting. The City Council has already decided on this issue so they have already determined the City’s position and I will simply be restating that position to landfill board.”

Question #5: Where is Mayor Eric Bookmeyer’s leadership on this project?  Outside of a letter he wrote months ago in support of the project, that only “A” team members saw, he hasn’t said much in public about it.  Mayor, why don’t you show up at tonight’s meeting and rally the board to vote this thing through?  Do you have the political skills to pull it off?  Do you have other plans this evening? You seem to have sent everyone else to do the dirty work here, and none of them have done a very good job (right, Scott?)  Is moving a landfill into city limits part of the “sustainability” plan that you advocate?  Can you explain how this lowers our carbon footprint?

Stay tuned for a full report on tonight’s landfill meeting.


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