Letter to the editor by Terry O’Neill, former alderperson and Lake Geneva city activist.
The loss of freedom, like poverty, can come from a single catastrophic event or an accumulation of smaller events. Our society honors those who fight the catastrophic events such as wars, fires and disasters, but often frowns on those who fight against the smaller events that lead to the same result. Those who fight the small battles are often as unpopular as the parents who tell their child that the child can’t have an ice cream cone because the parent knows they need the money to pay the rent versus the popular parent who says “yes” and creates a homeless disaster that later will be blamed on someone else. The current Lake Geneva administration is preoccupied with pushing their view about how the city should be run and shoving it right in the face of Lake Geneva’s residents. Residents are overwhelming opposed to the re-route of Big Foot Park’s scenic road, as well as the likely massive development on annexed Hummel property. Lake Geneva administrators intend to get their way and are now eliminating anything or anyone that stands in their way. That includes rewriting ordinances and silencing any opposition. First the city council moves to get rid of the $1,050,000 project spending ordinance that requires referendum approval by the voters, because their proposed projects exceed that amount and they know that no citizen vote would approve such needless projects. In order to get around us the citizens of Lake Geneva and the referendum ordinance, Lake Geneva leaders are attempting either to repeal the ordinance or increase its limit so high, that the calling into account by referendum process will become effectively useless.
This current administration wants to squash the vocal opposition that is gaining momentum against its projects. The heart of that opposition is from those concerned about the these new project’s impact on Geneva Lake, the park, wetlands and private property located adjacent to them. BigFoot Park and the Hummel property form a peninsula of land on the outskirts of Lake Geneva that was annexed from, and is surrounded by the Town of Linn. The adverse impact of the projects will be greatest on the lake and the Town of Linn residents. Since the majority of truly concerned citizens are outside the city limits (living near that land tract), Lake Geneva’s leaders hope to totally silence their voices by banning non-residents from speaking at city meetings. Understand that if they can succeed in silencing non-residents then restrictions on vocal residents will be next. They have contemplated shortening the 5 minute time to 3 minutes for public commentary and also to put a total time limit for comments, restrict how frequently a resident can speak, and limiting who, how many and how often even a resident may speak at a city council meeting. Restricting resident comments has happened before in Lake Geneva, and it occurred at a time like today when open public comments at the FLR committee were to silence the public’s outcry against the city’s outlandish conduct. The same motive and same actions were used back then and are being planned now. When a city silences one group they suppress all citizens. We are one nation, one people and as residents and non-residents we have the right to address governmental bodies with our grievances when their actions or proposed actions impose or will impose any effect on our lives. We, as free citizens, also have an obligation to speak up, defend and stand with those whose rights are being infringed. Please oppose any attempt to silence our neighbors. They are not the enemy. The enemy is within our city and they are the ones that are trying to silence our neighbors and force their metaphorical BigFoot down our throats.