THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE
Monday night in Lake Geneva was not just another city council meeting night.
That city council, with few exceptions, meets every Monday night to discuss and perform the actions necessary to keep Lake Geneva on an even kilter and running along fine. Along with the many other elected and appointed officials and workers who manage around it, the city council has done a pretty good and effective job of doing just that. The meeting room in the municipal building has also been a place where the local citizenry, voters, residents and even visitors could come and voice their wants, needs, desires, and concerns openly and with as much civilly controlled vehemence as they could muster.
The freedom of being able to do that, to talk about what is on anyone’s or everyone’s mind, no matter how cantankerous or raucous the point attempting to be made might be, has been a hallmark of the kind of open expression America is known throughout the world for. That openness took a substantial step backward at the last Monday night meeting.
It was the last meeting where the ‘old guard’ would still be in charge before the newly elected officials replaced them with the results of the democratic process that took place two weeks ago. The city has a new mayor coming in, as well as several new city councilors. With their last vote, the current crop of representative democratic leaders in the City of Lake Geneva narrowly decided to basically end what has been called the Meeting of the Whole.
This once a month meeting has been a trademark and standard democratically expressive form of having the general public appear at will and openly talk directly to the entire council on any subject it wanted to. The vote was narrow but initially decisive. The vote to end the Meeting of the Whole is a giant step backward for democracy in Lake Geneva. Without public input, except for what is allowed on agenda items (agenda items have to be presented and approved by the council members themselves) the elected representatives effectively silenced the public.
The city council of Lake Geneva sent a message: you get to decide on our existence in our leadership role once every two years, and we don’t have to listen to you about anything following your decision in those elections.
That such a decision would be made, in light of the polarizing and emotionally charged national political scene of today is not so surprising, given the current conduct and course of national leadership, but it is punitive, punishing and harmful to all the people living around Geneva Lake. Wisconsin statutes allow the city council the power to curb the public’s freedom, under the current democratic process established and allowed in this day and age. That the city council of Lake Geneva would choose, at its final decision before stepping down from office, is indicative of a local shift in government from open democracy to something less than that.
Mayor Alan Kupsik, the man who lost the primary election to continue to be mayor, was able to cast the tie-breaking vote on Monday night. The mayor wanted to continue on in office. He took the opportunity to let all Lake Geneva voters know just how unhappy and downright peevish he still feels about losing that election. Tom Hartz, and the new councilors coming aboard will have one more opportunity to overcome this action on the Committee of the Whole. They must cast one more vote before the matter is either as dead as it should be or whether another step toward communicative totalitarianism will be allowed to be enforced.
Other important city business was voted on by the council at Monday night’s meeting. None of it has much of any relevance or importance, however, compared to this vote taken against the freedoms of the American public.