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Can Trailblazer partnership be saved?

Frank Madden, a labor attorney and mediator, has been tapped by Trailblazer Transit to try to bring the joint powers board back into unity.
At issue, of course, is Wright County Area Transit’s (WCAT) well-publicized intention to pull out of the partnership with the original Trailblazer partners, McLeod and Sibley counties.
Meeting after meeting, there has been sparring about what is wrong at Trailblazer, and what needs to be done to fix it.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we still maintain those issues will never be resolved until board members can come to a consensus that those issues exist.
Last Wednesday, Feb. 15, Madden hosted a mediation workshop with Trailblazer’s McLeod and Sibley representatives. Madden hosted a similar workshop for their WCAT counterparts the previous week.
It is to be hoped that between some new representation on the joint powers board, and some changes in policy and procedure, the two sides can come together for the good of the transit system.
At the McLeod-Sibley workshop, both Madden and Sibley County Commissioner Jim Swanson outlined some great ideas on how to get Trailblazer to move forward.
First and foremost, it is hoped that the board adopts a code of conduct for its members. Board members need to learn to have civil discourse about issues. It’s been a mystery to us why these same officials, who can work so well with others in other venues, cannot seem to do so at a Trailblazer board meeting.
The board also needs to clarify its policies and define a clear, impartial process for evaluating its administrative staff.
And Swanson’s proposal to dedicate two-thirds of Trailblazer board meetings to strategic planning and develop a five-year service plan is an admirable one. We hope the joint powers board follows up on that suggestion, with vigor.
One proposal we heard that did not bode well was a request from WCAT to assume a majority membership on the board. That would give unfair weight to one segment of the transit system.
We propose, instead, that the board should be equally represented by three members from McLeod County, three from Sibley County and three from WCAT.
To paraphrase McLeod County Commissioner Rich Pohlmeier, the board is the guardian of the whole pie, not just a particular slice. A rider is a rider, whether they reside in rural Gibbon or downtown Buffalo. They deserve equal service, regardless of whether they live in sparsely populated southwestern Sibley County or a more urban area of Wright County.
Like Madden and the Minnesota Department of Transportation, we believe the partnership is worth saving, that the three entities are stronger than any one or two alone.
The partnership already is saving McLeod and Sibley counties a considerable of “local share” contributions of taxpayer dollars.
 And it is to be hoped, with the adoption of an equitable five-year service plan, Trailblazer Transit can be a winning system for all three entities.