About twice a generation there is an attempt to change the direction of local government and about half the time it succeeds. With the hiring of a new city administrator, “Utah” Blaine Oborn, last spring, and with the election of a new Mayor Alan Kupsik and a couple of new Alderpersons this spring, a power struggle to determine how the city is to be run is in process. The first sign that a change was taking place occurred in the city council itself, when a more open and longer discussion of the issues started to take place. These more open and lengthy discussions have resulted in more split votes on issues rather than the usual eight to nothing rubber-stamping city council approval votes were like in the past.
Being an experienced outsider, the new city administrator Blaine has quickly learned how the city was running and, like a new homeowner, he has been making some changes to improve the operation of the city and taking steps to implement them.
One of the key steps he’s involved with is to review the city’s current commissions and committees to determine what improvements can be made to them and which ones can be eliminated because they are no longer necessary or can be combined with another committee. Eliminating a committee that has outlived its needed purpose saves time for staff, city council members and committee members. Replacing a commission with a committee returns the authority, control and decision making ability from the appointed commission members back to the elected members of the city council. This move brings control of the city’s direction one step closer to residents because it makes those who make city decisions accountable to residents for those decisions.
If Lake Geneva is to have representative government then those making the decisions for the city must be the elected officials and not appointed and hired personnel. For the last ten years the two most influential persons in determining the city’s direction and operation have been Dennis Jordan and Dan Winkler neither of which were elected to office in the City of Lake Geneva. Dennis Jordan, as city administrator, instead of taking directions and guidance from the city council, effectively controlled and led the city council to do his bidding. His alternate across the street was Dan Winkler who held a controlling influence over public works, sewer, water and the street department bidding etc. Winkler, now retiring, wasn’t even a city employee. It is important that the people that are elected in a representative government are actually the people in charge of the city, and that they actually have control over the city and its direction, otherwise voting in Lake Geneva is a meaningless act and the democracy of it only a facade.