Wow. Last night the County Parks Department staff outdid even former Mayor Dave in slimy process. This is usually done when people don’t want to look bad on the issues or can’t win on the merits.
I was waiting til next week to return to blogging, but dang the county parks staff really inspired me! Here’s what happened, and why its so offensive.
The issue was a resolution where they were asking for the Human Service Department to pay for up to three camp sites for homeless persons ’til the end of the season (Oct 30) and asking the parks department to waive some policies that make it hard for homeless people to camp in the county parks. My next post will be about more of the specifics, but for now, the process was so offensive, I believe that is the story here.
Prior to the meeting, I talked with Supervisor Wegleitner who was concerned about what the parks staff was going to say about a resolution. She had met with staff, made changes to the resolution to address their concerns and attempted to work with them. She had just got done asking staff what they were going to do and they said that they weren’t in support, but not opposed either.
Ok, that’s fair.
The committee chair explained the process. First they hear from the lead sponsor who can speak as long as they like and the committee can ask questions. Then they hear from the public who have a 3 minute limit and after all the public have spoken, then they ask questions of the public. Then, they hear from staff, ask questions, discuss and vote.
Ok, that’s not too unusual. It irritates the hell out of public members not used to that dynamic who get irritated when staff and committee members discuss things that they would have liked to speak to. And its been one of the hardest parts of not being an elected official to get used to for me. But unfortunately, that too, is kinda standard operating procedure for government.
So, off to the races. Supervisor Wegleitner laid out all the issues and answered questions. Bruce Wallbaum, Linda Ketcham (Madison Urban Ministry), Connie Deer, myself and Supervisor Dorothy Krause all testified in support. No one testified against the resolution. I answered quite a few questions about what has been going on for May, June and July this year.
Ok, again, pretty typical. Public in support of a resolution an elected official has introduced, none against. Not highly controversial so only a small handful of people show up to help get out the main points about why this legislation is needed.
And then . . . things went horribly awry.
Staff gets up and says they are opposed (not what they said earlier to the lead sponsor) and spent 20 minutes or maybe more bashing the proposal. I could see the writing on the wall and left to go deal with something else. Of course, no one could respond to anything they said by that point. Two people described it to me by saying it made them want to puke. The resolution, of course, went down in flames . . . and you would think that would be the end.
(Added note: I also think they lied about the number of police calls and complaints associated with the site, working on getting that info too. I know they said there was one complaint about swearing – which isn’t a violation of campground rules as far as I know, but it might have been me during a rather heated cribbage game!)
Oh no, to add insult to injury . . . the staff then requested the committee approve a letter they had written (that the sponsor and the public didn’t get to see and they didn’t have extra copies for anyone) that is a detailed explanation of the opposition that they want to be sent to all the other committees that will be discussing this issue.
Of course, the committee bobbed their heads, followed staff lead, didn’t ask for any public input or allow it and voted on it, even tho there was no notice on the agenda that it would be discussed and the public had no access to the document.
Shitty, right. But wait! I’m not done.
PILING ON – EVEN MORE OFFENSIVE
One last kick . . . as the lead sponsor is leaving, the staff follows them out into the hallway to give them a memo from the Corp. Council (county attorney) stating that the county board can’t change park policies, only the parks commission can. So the issue on changing the park rules is dead as of this meeting.
I haven’t seen that kind of a full court press to kill a piece of legislation since the days of Mayor Dave hating Brenda. What is particularly irksome is that this was a rookie, who did everything she was supposed to do to work with staff and was playing by the rules, and they threw them all out the window and went rogue. How does a local elected official work in good faith with staff when they pull this of shit? And for the legislators, who do this part-time, it is near impossible to do the right thing when this is what you are up against. I’m sure Supervisor Wegleitner will rise above, make nice with staff, publicly say she is ok with it and move on. Cuz, if you need to work with the bureaucracy, that is what you need to do. I was always bad at that. I hate it when people don’t play fair and you can’t trust them. And I’m not willing to cover for them to get along . . . but then I make a pretty shitty politician, because I can’t take the bullshit. Wegleitner will probably just learn her lesson and get smarter next time.
However, as members of the public, we can’t do that. We were denied information and shut out of the process. That is not what I expect of my local government, we had enough of that shit with the state government in the last few years and we can stop our local governments from losing their souls. And if we don’t do it now, the way of the state legislature will be the way of our local government. Madison and Dane County can do better than that, right?
This resolution still goes to the following committees.
- Health and Human Needs
- Personnel and Finance
- Environment, Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Homeless Issues
I will try to start doing the county week ahead again so that people can figure out when the meetings might be. Meanwhile, you can also try looking here, its kinda obnoxious but you can eventually find some of the info, but finding the resolutions and materials to be discussed is much harder and probably not available on-line.
And, look at the next blog post for the issues involved. And if you’re interested in getting involved, let me know.
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