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Jim Shaw: Mayor not fit to serve

Lots to talk about, so let’s begin.

  • Lake Park, Minn., Mayor Aaron Wittnebel should resign. He is an embarrassment to Lake Park residents. More than 200 city residents signed a petition asking him to step down, the City Council issued a unanimous vote of no confidence, while similar statements have come from the Lake Park City Clerk’s Office and Police Department staff. Still, he hangs on.

The main reason he should go is, he entered an Alford plea to the felony count of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult. That plea means that while he asserts his innocence, he admits the state has sufficient evidence for a jury to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The alleged victim was hardly a stranger. It was his sister, who has Down syndrome. Wittnebel was charged with deliberately mishandling her finances. That’s a rotten thing to do to anybody, especially a sibling with a mental disorder.

He’s also facing a misdemeanor charge of driving after revocation. City employees say he’s caused hostility in the workplace. Clearly, he’s lost his support and effectiveness. I can’t figure out why he wants to stay in office.

  • Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s racist comments are ugly and offensive. Good for the NBA for preventing him from operating the team and forcing him to sell it. Still, it’s also sleazy when someone secretly tapes the comments of a person in his own house, and makes the comments public.
  • Pretty impressive that backers of a measure to change North Dakota’s pharmacy ownership law turned in an extra 10,000 signatures to get it on the ballot. The measure would allow out-of-state companies, such as Walmart and Walgreens, to operate pharmacies in the state.

    Currently, pharmacies have to be majority owned by North Dakota licensed pharmacists. Should be a close vote, with more support in the urban areas and more opposition in the rural areas.

  • Fargo-Moorhead’s No. 1 ranking in the nation for binge alcohol use is hardly a badge of honor. Attitudes need to change. Some area residents who drink too much don’t realize they have a problem. Others realize they have a problem but do nothing about it.
  • Minnesota Sen. Al Franken should stop running campaign ads that show clips from the newscasts of Minnesota television stations in Duluth and Mankato. It’s unethical. Local television newscasts are designed to be neutral reporters of politicians.

    I spoke to the news directors at both stations. Both said the clips were used without their knowledge or permission.

    There has to be distance between newsrooms and campaigns. Viewers could erroneously conclude the stations endorse Franken. Just because it’s apparently legal doesn’t make it right. The Franken campaign can do better than this.

    That’s it for this week. I’m Jim Shaw, and I approve this message.

  • Shaw is former television reporter at WDAY, and former news director at KVRR FOX News. A master’s graduate of Northwestern University in Illinois, he has taught college-level mass communications, and has hosted radio programs on KFGO. Email