Olson apologizes for 'hate democracy' commentCity Councilman Mel Olson apologized Monday for earlier saying that people who want a city manager “hate democracy.”
By: Seth Tupper, The Daily Republic
City Councilman Mel Olson apologized Monday for earlier saying that people who want a city manager “hate democracy.”
Olson first made the statement publicly in an interview with The Daily Republic that was published Thursday. That evening, a Daily Republic media panelist at a public debate asked Olson if he “really meant” the remark, and Olson stood by it.
Then, Monday morning, Olson visited The Daily Republic’s newsroom and expressed his regret. He said he had already apologized to Mike Vehle, his opponent in Thursday evening’s debate.
“I shouldn’t have said they ‘hate democracy,’ ” Olson told The Daily Republic.
He added that he still disapproves of the apparent motives behind the city-manager proposal, even though his word choice was poor.
“I should have said they’ve ‘lost faith in democracy,’ ” he said. “But I don’t know if that’s any less offensive.”
Some city-manager proponents have said that although Mitchell currently has a mayor who is willing to work full time for part-time pay, that might not always be the case. Olson views that as a lack of confidence in the democratic process.
“Their argument seems to be that everything is fine, but it won’t be next year,” he said.
Mitchell voters will decide in today’s election whether to add a city manager to their city government. The polling place is Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary, which is open to voters from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Under the city-manager proposal, the city would still have a mayor and an eight-member council, but the mayor’s day-to-day management duties would be handed off to the city manager.
The proposal arose from Focus 2020, a volunteer, long-range city planning group that began developing recommendations for various aspects of city affairs in 2009. Vehle, a state senator from Mitchell, was on the Focus 2020 subcommittee that recommended hiring a full-time chief executive to run city government.
At Thursday’s debate, Vehle took issue with Olson’s “hate democracy” comment.
“I was surprised you would go and say all those 1,700 people that went out and collected signatures hate democracy,” Vehle said to Olson at the debate, as the two men sat next to each other. “I think those are sound bites that are trying to irritate people.”