Muskego Common Council Presents 'Wednesday Night Weird'

Robert and his rules and parliamentary procedures are more than anyone bargained for, and a surprising change of heart on council seems to be afoot.

A Wednesday night Common Council meeting in an off week is odd enough, but add in a 10-minute discussion on whether to allow a speaker an additional two minutes to speak publicly and visions of a Monty Python skit couldn't help but come to my mind.

Jim Lindhorst came to the microphone during the public comment portion of the meeting, and requested that his time be given to fellow resident Kurt Blomdahl to make his presentation. Current rules allow for two minutes per speaker, so Lindhorst (and eventually others) was hoping to allow Blomdahl additional time to present information, complete with a large poster board for illustrative purposes.

However, the council had to vote first to dismiss its rule of allowing two minutes per speaker, and with the city's attorney in attendance, it got more technical than it really needed to be.

The net effect of ceding your time to another to speak is the same. One person who speaks for 10 minutes versus five people is no different, and when you have a citizenry that's already feeling ignored, a decision to grant two additional minutes shouldn't have taken as long as it did Wednesday night.

Ultimately, the council voted unanimously to approve the move, which is allowable under meeting rules. Alderman Noah Fiedler was the most concerned, fearing that "things could get out of hand" if the council didn't apply the 'two-minute per speaker' waiver on a case-by-case basis.

I've gone on record in favor of a park on the lake, and as the evening went on, it was clear that the vocal majority was in opposition. They admit that it's not a scientific way to measure voter preference, and as the council began to mull over what a referendum question could state, it became clear that there could be an opening for the possibility of a citywide vote on the issue.

I would agree it could be the only way to truly gauge interest for a park.

The language of the petition was agreed not to have legal effect, and Eric Larson, city attorney, advised the council to instead rewrite a referendum question if that is the course they wish to take. While Larsen had to read an agonizing explanation of why the petition was not valid, his use of an analogy regarding a cardboard stop sign at an intersection versus a official red octagonal sign the city approves and constructs was far more effective

Ultimately the discussion was deferred, which is a victory of sorts for the opposition, and the general feeling was that no one wants a park at any cost, especially if the cost is the trust of taxpayers.

I have two concerns. Should a re-crafted referendum question be drafted and approved, aldermen are cautioning it is only advisory. That makes residents shudder, as we've advised council on the past on other issues, only to be told "That's nice, but we're doing our own thing."

I would hope that after all the angst and struggle, a solid showing for a referendum vote clearly outlines where the hearts and minds are of the community on this issue.

Which brings me to my second concern. As contentious and consuming that this issue has been, my other fear is that the referendum makes it on a ballot, and we see a rousing turnout of 30 percent. That puts us back to not really being sure what most people want. (A point was made repeatedly last night about a clear message being sent to Tracy Snead in her second place finish in the first district primary, but that turnout was only 24 percent.)

So, folks, be prepared, you may get want you wanted, but let's make complete use of our right to exercise the vote so the message really is clear to elected politicians (and to each other), no matter how the vote comes down. A minority percentage vote clarifies nothing, and ends up being a waste of time.

Simple Bacon February 24, 2012 at 12:01 AM
What's left to say? Those in favor of a park at whatever cost have said their piece, those asking for responsible, reasoned, government have said theirs. Council has made their decision and a non-binding referendum only serves to drag out the inevitable past the upcoming election. I hate to sound cynical but the Council (the majority bloc) has so botched this whole deal that I don't think it matters what your opinion of the land aquisition (keep the discussion to those facts we know - a land acquisition with as yet unplanned park) is you can't feel that this is good government. If you favor the acquisition your Council has managed to alienate a good portion of the community and probably forever soured them on having a park there. If you oppose it you've been ignored at every step of the process. Aldermen don't return calls, the Mayor plays politician so she can move this forward yet lay the decisions on the Council. Whether the idea of a park on that property is ultimately a good idea the manner in which it's been pursued is dissapointing. Proper disclosure, a public hearing, a little due dilligence would have all gone a long way. What do we get? An issue that never had to become this divisive and a real shame. So, why not as much comment? What's the point?
The Anti-Alinsky February 24, 2012 at 03:42 AM
No Bacon, the opponents to the park are what have soured the project. Don't get my postings wrong, I can't say if I am for or against a park, (leaning for it, but still not sure) but MEG came out in attack mode rather than trying to reason with the council. I think the way they went about it just hardened the council's stance. Yes, we will likely get a park, but it will be years before it will seen as anything but an embarrassment to the city.
Kammy February 24, 2012 at 04:05 PM
The city was wrong in not getting information out to the public as to the possible tax impact of the purchase way back when this proposal was first being considered. In truth, impact should be negligible because of landfill monies, grants, etc. However, this lack of information was seized by MEG who used it to stoke fear into Muskego residents that their taxes would rise because of the lake project and gain support in their opposition, which for the most part had to do with fear of reduction of Bay Breeze property values, fear of non residents using the park resulting in increased crime, unfounded fears of increased boat traffic, and a general fear of the unknown. So, MEG fueled the fire with the media and now Muskego has become divided and its image tarnished. All of this will pass and be resolved, one way or another. But, it is time for the city and MEG to start being truthful.
The Anti-Alinsky February 24, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Kammy, the city did provide that information, but they didn't speak loud enough for MEG, and probably most of the community, to hear. The Mayor had said a couple of times that there is money for most of it, and some should come from DNR grants, but the MEG seized on every opportunity to throw ambiguity into the mix.
Kammy February 24, 2012 at 05:03 PM
I agree with you. Too bad the city didn't do a saturation mailing to all residents giving correct information. The mayor did try to point out the truth but,unfortunately,her audience was a limited number and by that time, many misconceptions had been cemented in the minds of residents. The city still needs to put out these facts to correct these misconceptions.


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