THE MEASURE OF THE MAN
Years ago, Tom Hartz came to Lake Geneva to build a restaurant. That place is called Simple, but it is anything but simple in application or design. It’s modern as all get out and now it’s accompanied by the bakery he bought next door. There is no question that this restaurant, and this bakery, sit at the very tip-top of the restaurant pyramid in the Lake Geneva area. The products are fresh, different, tasty and as gently priced as the market will bear.
Tom Hartz is not only an architect of some stature in and around the state of Wisconsin, he’s also an outstanding restauranteur who’s now got a Simple restaurant in the Milwaukee area. Tom got involved in local politics by serving on several committees and commissions and eventually being elected to alderman. Tom also attempted to purchase the Geneva Theater on Broad Street, a few years back when he was just coming off of his term on the city council. The Geneva Shore Report, and many others opposed his purchase because it involved his receiving almost a million dollars from the city to subsidize the redevelopment of that theater. Many, including the GSR, objected to a person serving so close to the decision-making heart of the city being allowed to participate in such a well-funded city project. The theater was eventually sold to a theater developer who was not connected to the city in any way. Possibly, the most controversial and disheartening decision Tom ever made as a city council member was when he openly opposed the Hummel development until casting the final vote that allowed it. Tom was the swing vote, and many in the community felt vitally deceived by his up to the last second opposition. That decision, and what followed from it, resulted in the city being sued for over three million dollars in settlement and legal fees. Now Mr. Hartz, who is a decent man and a talented architect, is running for the position of Mayor of Lake Geneva.
It is hard to oppose a good man, even when that good man has made some poor decisions. Who out here in the real world has not made some bad decisions? What is Tom Hartz made of? What are his real intentions? When interviewed, Mr. Hartz indicated that the latest development mess at Hillmoor, needs to be viewed with a look to the future; “it is important to look ahead and understand what will be good for the city in the long term, not just in the next few years.”
That’s it. Is this another Hummel for Mr. Hartz or is that statement merely a political façade for saying nothing when asked a difficult question, most likely the most difficult question any of the mayoral candidates will be asked prior to the election in April? There is little question where his opposition in the mayoral race is placing their bets on Hillmoor results. Alan Kupsik, the city’s current mayor, is kind of thinking about the Hillmoor situation and not really coming out yet on where he is on the issue of the development or the kind of development that might be allowed there. Charlene Klein, the third candidate running, is totally opposed to the commercial development of the Hillmoor property unless it includes some sort of recreational/performing arts ideas being turned into a reality that serves the public instead of a private developer.
When Julius Caesar was killed, Mark Anthony spoke about the man. He told the throngs waiting to hear his words that he had come to them to bury Caesar and not to praise him. By doing this often-repeated denial throughout the body of his speech, Mark Anthony did nothing but praise the freshly departed Caesar. Tom Hartz is very much among the living in Lake Geneva, so there is no burying involved, but is praise the right response based upon the man’s complex leadership in many different areas of the community? Tom Hartz is an honorable man. The voters are going to decide this issue in April, but the voters might consider beginning to figure out now how they think about this man.