Living Here


Special feature article by Terry O’Neill, Lake Geneva activist, former Alderperson and Geneva Shore Report reporter


It’s where children, dreamers, inventors and those of vision live. It’s a place; it’s a thought; it’s an idea and a way of life. It’s like a fourth dimension. It’s all around us, but it is invisible to everyone except those who see it; however, when someone’s imagination touches the world, it changes the world. That is what the GSR is about, a way to touch the world to enable people to better themselves and to make the world a better place to live. To achieve this end the GSR is a synthesis of facts, entertainment and truths. Without entertainment the paper would be ignored. Without facts people would not benefit and without truth they don’t last.

Factual articles can be as boring as a textbook and like a textbook; boring articles are best at gathering dust. To help assure that articles will be read, areas of interest and entertainment are added to and around the articles. To quote Mary Poppins “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”. The GSR is a synthesis of intertwined facts, entertainment and stories that contain elements of truth and entertainment within them. Sometimes blunt, sometimes subtle but they all serve a purpose to inform, entertain or enlighten. The best speakers intertwine humor and entertainment with their facts to get and hold the attention of an audience and the best comedians have an element of truth in their jokes, and that is why they are funny.

Yes, even Jesus used miracles to help sell His message. His message would have been the same without miracles, but who would have listened? A person’s area of learning is at the fringes of their current knowledge and in areas that they have an interest. Christ understood that principle and spoke in parables that related to issue and terms that the people already understood. The goal of the GSR is to expand those areas for readers and to do it in an informative and entertaining way.

Like the story of the six blind men and the elephant. Each of the blind men touched a different part of the elephant. One touched the trunk, one the ear, one the tail, one the leg, one the side and one the ivory tusk. Then they argued about what the elephant looked like, with each thinking they knew the whole picture from the part that they had touched. Well, the experience of life is like that of the blind men. Each of us has a small slice of life and feel that our little slice of life allows us to see the whole picture. It doesn’t, but that doesn’t mean that what we or others believe is wrong. An individual slice of life is an important piece of the puzzle that should be shared with others. We are all part of the one picture. A mosaic of life in which every life matters. Our abilities and outer surface is different, but under it all we are the same.

The Blind Men and the Elephant  by John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)

It was six men of Indostan To learning much inclined, Who went to see the Elephant (Though all of them were blind), That each by observation Might satisfy his mind. READ MORE

As Khalil Gibran wrote: The sphinx spoke only once and said, “A desert is a grain of sand and a grain of sand is a desert ….let all else be silent.” Which means (despite our limited view) that as we begin to understand our slice of life, we also begin to understand life itself and vice versa.


 Cartoon by Terry O'Neill Cartoon Terry O'Neill


The middle school in Williams Bay sold to Fred Gahl, a local Lake Geneva antiques dealer. Fred’s buying the property with a group of investors. He paid a hundred and twenty thousand for the 84,000 square foot structure and adjoining acreage in the downtown of Williams Bay. The price was less than that asked for any small home on adjoining properties. What’s Fred’s plan for the property? Unknown at this time although a certain group has been sent to talk to him about a small performing arts center.


The power of weak government.
Lake Geneva’s blessed curse. Whether out of curiosity or a desire to understand, the word ‘why’ is one word that makes everything have sense. Asking the question sometimes leads to undesirable repercussions because most people do not like their actions or motives questioned.

Here’s a good question that can lead to repercussions: “Why in Lake Geneva are there so few citizens in willing to run for public offices or be members of committees? Although there’s some intimidating information back there about a previous law suit against alderpersons may contribute to the low number of citizens in the City of Lake Geneva willing to run for local offices or serve on committees, intimidation or fear does not seem to be the main reason (the alderperson’s won the suit).

The main reason appears to be a combination of a change in the city’s demographics and the morphing or transforming of the city’s form of local government. Reviewing demographics, only about fifty percent of Lake Geneva residents own their own residence. Of that fifty percent that own their residence, a third are resort dwellers only in Lake Geneva during summer and another five percent, or so, are newcomers. The available pool of full time residents of the City of Lake Geneva is more limited than one might think. The city’s comprehensive plan predicts that this group of “rural resort dwellers” to be just a hair less than thirty percent of the population. The plan predicts that this group of residents is most likely to participate in civic issues. That may have been true a decade ago but what of today?

The real issue keeping qualified citizens from running is the morphing or transforming of the city’s form of city government. The City of Lake Geneva’s form of government is one wherein a strong city council prevails over a guiding (but almost never voting) mayor with a city manager to run the day-to-day operations of the city. In this form virtually all authority within the city is in the control of the city council. Or at least it was once that way. No anymore. Through being manipulated by strong mayors the council has relinquished much of its traditional authority to the mayor and appointed commissioners. City council authority has become more of a rubber stamp. For example, the police and fire departments are autonomous. The city council has no control over them except their total budget and union negotiations. The police department should be autonomous, but why is the Fire Department autonomous? The commission that oversees the police and fire departments is also autonomous. Planning commission decisions override a majority vote of the council. Only with a two-thirds ‘super majority ‘can the city council override its own planning commission.

According to Dan ‘small ball’ Draper, city attorney, the parking commission (not the city council) has control of parking stall designations. According to the city employee manual city employees cannot even discuss city issues with council members without a supervisor’s permission and they must inform a supervisor of any requests. It takes two members of the city council and a two Friday notice and delay for a city councilor to get an item on the city council agenda, but that restriction applies to no one else. About the only way to have any representative influence over what’s happening in and around the city is to join one of the activist groups that has sprung up to resist seemingly idiotic development or changes. Those forces have become quite effective and successful on issues such as, the liquor license demerit system, parking garage, road through Big Foot Park, expansion of the Geneva Inn, and the development on the old Hillmoor golf course.

Will the core of Lake Geneva citizenry return to a political structure and run for office only to arrive in a place where they have no authority but all the responsibility and accountability?


Green Arrow

Sign up for Updates