Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Council meeting a trip to Wonderland

by John Halverson

January 31, 2013

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.

“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.

“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

— Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Things just got curiouser and curiouser at the city council meeting Monday night. It was like I’d fallen down the rabbit hole.

A long-time critic of city hall stood before the council to congratulate them.

Words I’d used in a column to argue one side of an issue were used to argue the opposite side.

A council member who argued one way two weeks ago not only argued the other way but went one step further in the opposite direction.

And Sturg Taggart took part of his turn speaking before the council to question me on why I’d grown a beard (draw a goatee on the photo that accompanies this column to make it a more accurate likeness).

I expected the Mad Hatter to step to the podium next.

But it was all good. Refreshing.

It showed the council and those before it as decidedly human.

But unlike earlier times when the human traits of anger and manipulation came to the fore, this humanity was full of laughter, a willingness to listen and an ability to change positions.

It showed the council had come a long way from a few years ago when it was fractured by politics and posturing. Those days made for good copy, but they were poison for the city.

The longtime city hall critic, Spyro “Speedo” Condos, was the one congratulating the council on its decision to allow downtown dining in Lake Geneva. There was no tone of “I told you so” or “I could have done it better.” He was gracious.

Alderman Bill Mott was the one who quoted from a column I wrote last week which questioned why the Lions Club should have reserved parking spot to conduct its Harley raffle. But he used my words to make the opposite point.

And Alderwoman Sarah Hill was the one who appeared to change her position. Two weeks earlier she’d asked: “Is any parking stall up for sale or just the more popular ones?” Not only did she support the Lions’ request she argued that the Lions shouldn’t have to pay for the stalls. That put Mott and other allies of the Lions in the position of arguing for the Lions reimbursing the city — another odd juxtaposition in what was a curiouser and curiouser night.

As for Sturg Taggart, well, he was just being Sturg and we all love him for it.

Of course, none of that is as simple as it sounds.

I’m sure Speedo would speak up if there was an issue he didn’t agree with. As a former mayor and councilman and longtime resident he’s earned the right.

As for the debate over the Harley raffle, it probably turned out as it should have.

The argument I was making in my column and the point Sarah Hill made previously was that we should fashion a policy that’s fair to everyone instead of a catch-as-you-can non-policy which is what we have now.

Neither Hill nor I are or were against any of those organizations. That should have been obvious. We just wanted consistency which is part of good public policy.

But, apparently, those arguments are a bit too fussy — at least for the moment.

Support for a great organization over bureaucratic fine points won the day and that’s not a bad priority for a city to have.

For now, let’s savor a kinder, gentler city government. It doesn’t mean we can’t disagree. We should at times. As they say, democracy can be messy.

But it can be done with civility and compromise and listening.

We’ve tried it the other way.

Yes, it felt like I’d fallen down the rabbit hole Monday night, but there are worse places to be and we’ve been there.

Halverson is editor and general manager of the Regional News.