Thursday, January 16, 2014

Petty Politics Are The New Normal

It's become an all too familiar cliche, whether it's on the national, state or local level. Petty politics is the preferred game to break the monotony of governance.

Alliances form (usually along party or preference lines) and if one side is in complete control  - look out!

Power intoxicates, even on the local level.

No one has personified this on the local level in SE Wisconsin than Mount Pleasant Village President, Mark Gleason.

Gleason has broken open meeting laws, withheld agendas from certain Village Board members and made a practice of refusing to allow the public to speak or ask questions during Village Board meetings even though ordinances in Mount Pleasant specifically say they can.

Gleason has stacked the village staff with only the people he (and his wife - according to some) want. Gleason installed former Racine Police Chief, Kurt Whalen, as Village Administrator with virtually no competition or discussion - he already had the votes from his cronies. Surprise!

In his brief tenure as President, Gleason has exercised complete control while owing the village thousands in outstanding property taxes. In any other time, this would be a major issue - not now. Politicians commit a variety of offenses and no one thinks anything of it.

Attempts were made by local press to ask the rotund President about his lapse in taxes. Too bad! Gleason does not reply to press inquiries. Period.

Gleason does have some friction on the board in the form of three trustee members - Jerry Garski,  Gary Feest and Don Schulz -who do challenge him, usually to no avail. Gleason's disdain for them and their questions is evident even on audio tapes of Village Board meetings.

He has hope, however. All three are up for reelection this spring and Gleason is running two new candidates for trustee so he won't have to listen to or answer any questions at all. Waiting in the wings is Anna Marie Clausen and former cop, Rick McCluskey.

At the heart of the public comments controversy is an ordinance that says the public may ask questions about agenda items once the board discussion on the item has concluded. It reads:
"After the village board’s discussion of any agenda item, any speaker recognized by the chair may address the village board. Speakers addressing the village board shall state their name and address before addressing the village board. A speaker addressing the village board shall try to limit their remarks to three minutes. It shall be the prerogative of the chair to allow additional time if circumstances warrant."
Gleason says if people want to discuss agenda items they should attend committee meetings which are more detailed - except those meetings take place during business hours when most people (and some trustees) are at work.

It also doesn't address the specific ordinance which says the public may address the board...if the speaker is recognized by the chair...and Gleason is refusing to recognize them.

Is this the best democracy your taxes (but not his) can buy?

Mount Pleasant Village Board of trustees meets on the 2nd and 4th Monday of each month at the Mount Pleasant Village Hall. Check it out.