Stevens Pointless: A message from your so-called leaders

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This might be the most-circulated of all Gary Larson cartoons on the internet (search Google Images for “larson blah blah” — it’s astounding). But maybe that’s because this so aptly summarizes so many situations, including Monday’s common council meeting.

Participating in the July 20 Stevens Point Common Council meeting as a citizen was like trying to swim from the downstream side of Hoover Dam to the upstream side. Even if you’re strong enough to go against the current down at the base, you’re not going to get past the dam shaft.

I’ve watched many Point council meetings on video, but I’d never attended one until Monday.  What I saw convinced me that, at least for now, many of our so-called local leaders are great at pinching pennies but don’t recognize good sense.

They still couldn’t figure out how to help the residents of Edgewater Manor.  They also rubber-stamped an opportunistic shafting of more than 200 homeowners in the former FEMA flood plain, who are being required to pay for seawall improvement near downtown Stevens Point.

The council’s peformance could be described in many ways. I may have a lot more to say about this, and perhaps other council issues, in the future. For now, I’ll just say that the council and the city of Stevens Point only seem to hear what they want to hear.

This was particularly true on the flood-control assessment issue. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a decision-making body get such a clear and unanimous mandate from its constituents, yet seem to care less about what any citizen said.  The homeowners stuck with the bill made their hardship clear; other citizens strongly affirmed their willingness to share the cost as a city and thought the rest of the city would be willing, too. The consensus was as solid as a concrete seawall.

More than three dozen citizens showed up to support the idea that the seawall brings shared benefits and should be paid for by all (I and others, most of whom waited in the hallway outside the council chambers, were able to talk to virtually all of them while awaiting our opportunity to address the issue).  A number of supporters had to leave as the meeting dragged on, but there was no question of how visitors to the meeting felt.

Still, it seemed obvious that the council had made up its mind in advance, and there was never serious discussion of alternatives.

Others may disagree, but here’s the video of the meeting. All viewers can judge for themselves whether our so-called leaders were holding a “public forum” solely for show. The flood-zone open forum begins at the 3-hour, 4-minute mark of a nearly five-hour meeting.

My personal stance is clear in the video, but for further disclosure, see this previous post.

Citizen consensus made not one whit of difference. The council voted 8-3 to place the entire cost for a project that benefits the whole city onto just a few folks, setting a dangerous precedent and further burdening a long-beleaguered group.

For the record, the three who voted against the motion were Garrett Ryan, Heidi Oberstadt and Tony Patton.  For that, they have my thanks and respect.

Maybe too many of the council members (seven recently elected) are still getting their feet wet.  The mayor of Stevens Point himself made sort of a backhanded whack of an excuse for the council’s inability to move on the Edgewater Manor issue earlier Monday, calling them an “inexperienced” bunch.

These folks aren’t beyond hope, but they really blew it this week.  If our city is being led right now, it’s by the nose.

Oh, and by the way, the council and city have a message for all of us citizens.

Go jump in the lake.

 

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