Article by Terry O’Neill, former Lake Geneva Alderperson
On the day democracy becomes a façade in the City of Lake Geneva, there should be a protest, but it will pass with little notice. That day will be on April 2, 2019, where during Wisconsin’s Spring Election voters in the City of Lake Geneva will have no choice in whom they get as Alderpersons to represent them. This lack of choice did not occur overnight but has been in the making by a latent force within the city for many years. During those years, various segments of the city have fought for control of the city and the city council. Those who won, with the help from that latent group, slowly eliminated some of the opposition.
At first, there was a division within the city between residents and local businesses in which the downtown businesses tended to dominate. Then, with prosperity and an influx of new residents, the balance tipped heavily in favor of new business, realtors and developers and those favoring the expansion and growth of the city. With little opposition, the city’s expansion and growth continued and added a whole new section to the city along/and east of Edwards Blvd. In 2008 the housing market crashed which abruptly ended the city’s rapid expansion and growth. That also ended the domination of the city government by those interested in expansion and development. Their leaving city offices created some voids in the city government. Those voids were soon filled with a divided council.
One group favoring the public and environmental issues and the other focused on gaining control over, and the expansion of, city government. Although the actions of those favoring the expansion of the city and city government had caused the multimillion-dollar lawsuits from Mirbeau-Hummel and Geneva Ridge, they successfully avoided prosecution by destroying their computer hard drives (and any evidence they may have contained). The net result was that those supporting the expansion of government enabled the lawsuit against them to be settled by voting for, and giving the land designation to Geneva Ridge (the developer of the Mirbeau-Hummel property), that they had wanted and by voting for the settlement in which Geneva Ridge received an additional five million dollars from the city’s insurance company.
Meanwhile, the mayor by filing a complaint effectively initiated a lawsuit against the four aldermen that favored the public and environmental issues, who each got stuck with having to pay $12,000 for their legal bills (each) because the city officials delayed notifying the city’s insurance company. Then the latent group (as it had previously done against a mayor) organized a recall on Dec. 22 and succeeded in eliminating one of the opposition aldermen. Because of these tactics, the lawsuits, litigations, recalls and financial costs of these actions caused a feeling of apprehension and financial concern to be transmitted to all future candidates who might not be in agreement with the current city government.
Since 2012, the number of candidates that are not in agreement with those in control of the city’s government have continued to decrease to the current point where there are no candidates running against any sitting alderperson. So, with an understood, but unspoken support from within city government, all current Alderpersons are running unopposed and will therefore win. The day and time that democracy will officially end in the City of Lake Geneva will be on April 2, 2019 at 7:00 a.m. when the polls open and your right to vote for the candidate of your choice to represent you, will not exist, because like a dictatorship, there will be one and only one candidate eligible for each and every alderperson office in the entire City of Lake Geneva.
Then at 7:00 pm when the polls close, the façade of Democracy in the City of Lake Geneva will be complete.
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