Our View: Keep kids away from Wabasha County Board
The city of Farmington hasn't enjoyed its week in the spotlight after a disgruntled high school hockey goalie scored into his own net, made an obscene gesture toward his coach, and then skated off the ice — in front of his team's home fans and on Parents Night to boot.
One of the goalie's friends shot video of the incident and posted it online, where it went viral in a matter of hours. Television crews descended on the town, and debates are raging online, with some saying the goalie is a hero for standing up for himself, while others say he's the new poster-boy for teenage petulance, selfishness and wretched sportsmanship. He has been suspended from school for 10 days, and it's safe to say he'll never again be between the pipes for Farmington.
The kid made a terrible decision, but perhaps we should be wondering why more teenagers don't make similar spectacles of themselves. After all, some public officials apparently have no qualms about doing so. We'd contend that, in terms of truly bad behavior, that 11-second video from Farmington's hockey arena has nothing on the four minutes of footage you'll find at PostBulletin.com , and included with this editorial, from the Feb. 12 meeting of the Wabasha County Board.
This board's yearslong state of dysfunction is well-documented, but the footage from this particular meeting could air as the debut of a reality TV show called "Boards Behaving Badly." A routine discussion of salt purchasing for winter road maintenance turned into a verbal donnybrook involving Commissioner Don Springer, Commissioner Deb Roschen and Board Chairman Rich Hall.
We won't attempt to decide which of these officials is most to blame because that would be letting someone off too easy. All three should be embarrassed by what took place. Hall and Springer wear their dislike for Roschen on their sleeves, and she gives back as good as she gets.
To a disinterested spectator, their exchanges might almost be seen as amusing — but we doubt many residents of Wabasha County are laughing. These are their elected representatives, the people they chose to determine how millions of taxpayer dollars will be spent. At the very least, the voting public should be able to expect their elected leaders to be civil to each other when the gavel has fallen and the video cameras are recording.
Disagreement is perfectly acceptable — even productive at times — but it must be tempered with decorum, with an awareness that personal grudges shouldn't be aired publicly. And when emotions do flare, someone need to rise above their fighting instincts and say, "Not here, not now."
What if kids had been in the audience that evening? Anyone who has attended a meeting of the Rochester City Council has seen the back chairs filled with Boy Scouts and other teens who are fulfilling course requirements in government or civics. Would we want them to witness a tirade from the city council president, or one board member throwing needless verbal jabs at another, trying to provoke a response?
We can't expect teenagers to follow the principles of common courtesy, decency and self-control if we allow our elected leaders to behave like feuding middle-schoolers. It's time for the Wabasha County Board to grow up.