“Edina is a highly desirable place to live. Virtually all Edina residents (98%) rated their overall quality of life as excellent or good, which was a higher rating than seen in other communities in Minnesota and across the nation. This rating has remained stable since Edina first surveyed in 2011.” –2019 City of Edina Quality of Life survey, “Key Findings” section.

In Jennifer Janovy’s Letter to the Editor (“5th term for Hovland nothing to celebrate,” Sept 3), she suggests that the perceived quality of life in Edina is deteriorating, and that Edina would be better if Mayor Hovland would step aside rather than running for another term. Janovy lists multiple reasons why she believes nobody challenged the incumbent Mayor.

I agree having competition for elected positions is a good thing in a democratic society. Janovy’s negativity toward Mayor Hovland and her reasons for why he is running uncontested are where we disagree.

According to Janovy, it “has to be the right time to run” for people who must balance jobs, family and health. The Mayor faces these same issues. It could be that the pandemic, civil unrest, affordable housing crisis, climate change, and stress of guiding a redeveloping community caused potential candidates to question if this election cycle was the right time to run.

I agree it can be costly to run a campaign in Edina. Most candidates do not self-fund their campaign expenses. The traditional route involves being active in the community through commissions, task forces and other volunteer endeavors. This gives the community time to observe leadership skills and ability to work with others. The result has people encouraging your run for office as well as making monetary donations to support you. Mayor Hovland has a long list of bipartisan supporters because of his demonstrated leadership and care for this community.

Janovy also suggests that Mayor Hovland has an advantage over other candidates who might have to pay for childcare or take unpaid time off work to attend meetings. As an attorney, Mayor Hovland is often paid hourly for his legal work. Each meeting or ribbon cutting is unpaid time from his work. In my four years on the City Council, I have yet to attend an event (day or night) where the Mayor was not present.

Edina may also be lacking candidates for Mayor because of the constant negativity from a small group of Edina residents. Using news and social media outlets, negativism is amplified while constructive feedback is not. Questioning decisions leaders make is a healthy part of any democracy; personal attacks are not. This has an unintended consequence of potential candidates questioning whether they want to be on the receiving end of constant negativity.

Unfortunately, these public attempts to discredit local elected officials often lead to negative perceptions of our city. Janovy writes that “the percentage of residents rating Edina’s quality of life as ‘excellent’ has dropped 40 points.” As my first paragraph quoting the 2019 Quality of Life survey suggests, this is misleading and could be damaging to Edina’s reputation. Did a potential home buyer read Jennifer’s letter? How about a CEO looking to relocate her company, or a potential future candidate for public office? Who wants to jump on a sinking ship? Words matter.

What an impact Janovy could have made had she written a letter to the editor expressing her concerns respectfully while also thanking the mayor and the seven candidates who stepped forward for the two City Council spots. I believe choosing positivity and words of empowerment will build Edina into a stronger community.

I hope all of us reach out and thank the new City Council candidates as well as Mayor Hovland, visit their websites, and learn more about them. If you find a favorite City Council candidate, send a donation. Most important, when two of them eventually get elected, continue to appreciate their work and be respectful, even when you aren’t in agreement. This is the best way to ensure excellent candidates in the future.

Mike Fischer is a member of the Edina City Council.

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