Friday, May 28, 2004

City keeps sticking it to "the little guy"

Well, the powers that be in local government and city administration have once again stuck it to the little guy, folks. Patrons at the Oshkosh Zoo in Menominee Park will now have to pay double the cost they have paid the past couple of years. Those 18 and older will now pay $2 per visit; 4 through 17 will pay $1 and those 3 years of age and under will be admitted free of charge.

Now, the zoo MAY be worth $1 or $2 a visit; I don't know. But what is amazing and maddening to me is that the cost of the zoo in a public park can continue to climb, while the majority of city council members (sans Esslinger and Poeschl) absolutely refuse to suggest that the Grand Opera House start charging a little more for ticket prices. Would it really kill anyone attending a performance at The Grand to pay $1 more per ticket? Certainly not. Why do the members of this city council think that the blue-collar working class folk in this community can keep taking it in the shorts while the white collar folk and cultural junkies are not required to pitch in with an extra buck per ticket?

And now the city's director of community development, Jackson Kinney, is coming forward with a plan for Riverside Park. It wasn't enough that the city paid over $1 million to buy a piece of contaminated land to make it part of Riverside Park. They then accepted a "free" band shell from the Leach family foundation. A generous donation BUT it has come with a price tag, because not only will we have the band shell, but now Kinney is bringing forward some $4 million or $5 million worth of plans for improvements to the park. And don't forget, the land still has contamination on it that must be dealt with. I guarantee that this plan - though only in the discussion stages right now - will get approved and I bet the vote will be 5-2, with Esslinger and Poeschl being the two NAY votes.

Mr. Kinney needs to look at what other communities are doing. They have plans completely put together for desired projects, then figure out how to pay for it - and donors just naturally follow because they can see what the plans are and there is a pretty precise idea of how the project is going to look. What THIS city historically seems to do is slap some half-assed plans together, then hope and pray that donors are found. And the plans usually evolve from there. That is exactly what Kinney is doing here. He mentions multiple times in a recent memo about the project that he "hopes" to get money from here and he hopes to get money from there. In the meantime, while he's a-wishin' and a-hopin', these five city council members are going to spend us middle-class folk right into the damn poor house - and I'm a-hopin' I can make enough to pay for everything these people are thrusting upon us. To add insult to injury, these councilors then have the unmitigated gall to say "Call us and let us know how you feel about things we're doing," "Let us know if you disagree with the job we're doing," blah, blah, blah. Why bother dialing the phone to call these folks when they clearly don't give a damn about how the citizens in this community feel about most things? They have their minds made up and they are going to do what they want, no matter the cost.

It is time to start letting these elected officials know that we are fed up and we're not going to take it anymore - but let them know at the ballot box, where it will get the most attention. We need to start electing people into office who are going to listen to the public and do the public's bidding. Remember, friends, the city council members work for us. In what other job can you week after week, month after month, defy your boss' directives and wishes, and instead, do whatever the hell you want? None, and it should be absolutely no different here. If they don't want to listen to us, let's send them packing - post-haste!!

- Cheryl Hentz

Friday, May 07, 2004

Covert capers play into downtown development

Folks, the disrespect for the citizens and taxpayers in this community has once again reached mammoth proportions. As a past story in this Community section of our web site discusses at length, the city council is - as of this writing, anyway - considering spending a total of some $4 million to $5 million on redevelopment and infrastructure at Riverside Park. And all because the Elmer Leach Foundation presented the city with a "gift" of $1 million for a band shell - a gift that had strings, instead of ribbon, attached to it.

Now to add insult to injury, some of the puppeteers in our community - folks like Eileen Connelly-Keesler, Rob Klemen, John Ingala, Phil Martini of C.R. Meyer and the like - have been meeting individually with city council members, trying to drum up and secure their support for this project. Even Chancellor Rick Wells from UW-Oshkosh was in on the meetings that were held this past week.

Why are these types of covert meetings inappropriate? For one simple reason. This city is being asked to spend four to five times the amount of the so-called gift from the Leach Foundation. It is money that all the citizens in this community will have to pay for and it is money we clearly do not have. But the bottom line is, when you're asking people to contribute - even if by way of their tax dollars - you certainly should not meet behind closed doors with city council members to try pushing your project through. I think we all understand that far too often this is the way things are done: puppeteers pulling strings behind the scenes and those strings end up costing all of us money. And is so often the case, several of the puppeteers don't even live in the city, so they personally will not have to fork over one thin dime for the projects they railroad through.

This proposed and, I predict, "soon to be approved" project, is using public money and these puppeteers should have shown the citizens in this community the respect to come forward and have a public meeting about their plans and explain how they envision both the private sector and the public sector being involved. But instead they cited ridiculous excuses as to why they did not hold such a meeting. Excuses like "It costs a lot of money to rent a facility to hold a public meeting." Can you even imagine such asinine words coming out of these people's mouths? So it costs a few hundred dollars or so to rent a room. What is that when you're asking for a commitment of millions? If these people want public buy-in, don't exclude the public. Fact is, they will never get public buy-in because the better majority of people in this community are fed up with these big-spenders on the city council, especially when we can't get basic services handled properly and keep having fees put in place for things like certain garbage items being collected and lawn refuse being dropped off at the city garage.

Some of the puppeteers didn't even have the respect and common courtesy to stick around and meet with councilman Brian Poeschl. His meeting with the group followed that of Paul Esslinger and Burk Tower. And yet after those two meetings, Eileen Connelly-Keesler and some of the others took off. Shame on you people. Mr. Poeschl is a city councilman and deserves the same respect you afford everyone else on the council. He took time out of his day to attend your dog and pony show, yet you evidently view him as being so insignificant that you left. What a rude, arrogant display of snobbery. But this is what happens when you know you've got the necessary votes to do your project.

As for the project itself, they don't even have all the details worked out yet. But instead of proper planning, we will have more reactionary management of a very expensive project - one which we're going to enter with only half the details known, at best, and then we'll just hope everything falls into place. These council members wouldn't run their businesses or their homes that way and they should not run our city that way. Even councilman B. Tower agreed with fellow councilman Esslinger that if this park project was put to a referendum vote it would fail miserably. So he understands full well that the majority of citizens in Oshkosh do not want this. Yet, I would be willing to bet that come next Tuesday, he will vote right along with the others - Bill Castle, Mark Harris, Frank Tower and Shirley Brabender Mattox - to approve this project. And when the votes are taken Tuesday night, folks, it's important that you remember who voted in favor of this kind of exorbitant spending; who caved in to political pressure from some of the elitists in our community; and who chose to, once again, NOT do the will of the people.

It's time for a change in local government!
- Cheryl Hentz