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How do we compare with Mayberry now?

A look back on changes and a shoutout for the Lake Geneva City Council

December 31, 2012 | 11:48 AM
There's only one known example of how Mayberry celebrated Christmas.

That episode in the fictional TV community was a classic example of Sheriff Andy Taylor's way of solving problems.

It involved department store owner Ben Weaver who dumped over a garbage can so he could get arrested and join the Christmas celebration being held at the jail. His punishment was to deliver presents to Andy, Barney, Aunt Bee and the other members of the Mayberry family including Jim Muggins, who Weaver had jailed for moon shining.

Sadly, that way of doing things was made-up charm — not real world practicality.

A few months ago, I wrote a column about how the city was struggling with trying to keep the Mayberry small town spirit while dealing with the legalities of the real world.

Now that the Christmas season has passed and Mayberrys across the country are entering a new year, it seems like the right time to reflect.

There was a Mayberry Gazette in the TV series, and for one episode Opie printed a paper called the Mayberry Sun which he had to shut down because he printed some unsavory gossip like writing that Aunt Bee thought Mrs. Foster's chicken a la king "tasted like wallpaper paste."

I'll try to resist unsavory rumor and stick to my own opinions.

First, of course, is the parking situation. Last week, we packaged parking and other street-related issues, put a bow on it, and called it the story of the year in Lake Geneva.

Clearly, it was the story that caused the most chatter — most of it bad.

I, too, have been occasionally frustrated by the parking system, though most of the problems have been my fault.

That was the case with many people who simply didn't read the instructions (which were hard to read when the sun reflected on the screen.)

In actuality, the parking system isn't any more difficult to navigate than an ATM — and somehow we've all figured those out because we get money if we do. As Mayor Jim Connors said at one point, people have to take responsibility, too.

Still, no one can honestly say the system has been seamless.

Without going over every point that's been raised it's fair to say that if the city had to do it all over again it would have learned from its experience. I'm expecting things will be better and kinks will be worked out by next summer.

However, one thing has yet to be resolved completely — how do handle local resident stickers. Senior stickers were done away with; restrictions on resident stickers were reined in. There's nothing special for downtown workers.

As a senior, a local and someone who works downtown, I'm full of selfish reasons for my position.

Losing the senior sticker isn't a big deal. Mayor Connors added more slots for handicapped parkers, so that should help. As of now, I don't need one.

You'd like to think that locals should be treated better than tourists, but I guess there are just so many spaces and it's the tourists who keep the city's retail community humming.

However, I think some consideration needs to be given to people who work downtown. Some of them probably spend almost an hour's worth of earnings plugging the meter each day. I agree that employees shouldn't be allowed favorable parking on Main Street — let's keep those for paying customers. But perhaps there can be a special permit that would allow them to park for an extended time in the parking lots. Maybe the city can charge a reasonable fee. Maybe some businesses would be willing to pay for the stickers.

I'll admit I'm sick of dropping in to city hall once a week or more to pay my $12, though it does give me a chance to say hi to the women at the front desk, who surely take a lot more abuse than they deserve.

As I write this it's Christmas Eve Day. I'm intentionally parking without paying in the hopes that they'll be charitable on such an important holiday. (And they were! No Christmas Eve ticket this year.)

I'll let the city council decide if my motives are selfish or if a "worker bee" parking sticker is worthy of special consideration.

The swimming dogs issue did seem to be a lot of barking about a small issue — but then I don't own a dog and don't want to invite the wrath of city councilwoman Sarah Hill who adamantly defended the rights of our canine friends.

In any case, dogs are now allowed to swim without a leash if they and their human bodyguards behave themselves. Problem solved.

Another problem that seemed to be solved efficiently, if not a bit belatedly, was the question of whether payments for beach entry were done in the most auditor-friendly way.

While the system of counting wrist bands seemed pretty efficient in a Mayberry way and while no one was claiming any malfeasance, there was the question as to whether it was "proper" from a bookkeeping perspective.

My suggestion was to leave it up to the auditor. Indeed, the auditor suggested that the cash registers be used more fully. Another problem solved. At least it's solved until it's implemented. I'm suspecting there will be some knots in this rope.

The debate over the American Legion hot dog stand is not yet resolved. Should it be run by vets? Guess that's up to the Legion. Is there something fishy about the lease? That's undetermined, at least from where I sit. We've determined it isn't worth a Watergate-like investigation, though it would be nice if the city came down on one side or the other.

Frankly, I think it's as much to do with personal feuds than anything idealistic. We'll just have to see if there's more debate this summer. Right now, it's too cold to buy a hot dog from an outdoor stand no matter who's in charge.

By and large, I think the city council has done a good job.

It's easy to pick, but to quote Teddy Roosevelt, "The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds Ö"

We're not there. They are.

This council is a breath of fresh air compared to the raucous days of a few years ago.

There probably could be a dissenting voice — a "contrarian" — like former alderman Terry O'Neill to challenge everyone, but he and others aren't shy about doing that from the outside, either.

Watch any city council meeting and you'll see it's well run, professional and is a forum for a variety of opinions.

I hope the city leaders appreciate that my occasional challenges are meant for what they are — occasional challenges. It's a newspaper's responsibility as the Fourth Estate to nip at the heels of authority just to make sure they cover all their bases.

We'll be doing as much or more of that in 2013, but we hope to say positive things as well.

Just as is the case with the newspaper, no person or organization is perfect. But if both the city and the newspaper do a pretty good job, learn from our mistakes and strive to do better we'll all have a worthwhile 2013.

Lake Geneva is worth all the effort we can put forth, and its leaders feel the same way.

As for Andy Taylor and the Mayberrians, I could find no reference to a New Year's party being held in that mythical town.

Clearly, that perfectly wholesome community would have a tough time justifying savoring a glass of champagne when the clock rang in a new year. Imbibing alcohol, except for Jim Muggins, was pretty much off limits.

So I guess Mayberry wasn't perfect either.

Halverson is editor and general manager of the Lake Geneva Regional News.


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