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May I Donate a Snow Blower

by on May 27th, 2009

Last night I attended the Wausau City Council regular Common Council meeting.  I had received a ton of email and calls suggesting I go, and with the racist letter sent to all the aldermen and women, I could not wait.

Prior to the meeting I had a chance to sit down with the young man who wants to create the statue as a gift for Wausau.  I came away thinking one thing, the world looks vastly different when war happens in your hometown, and Americans do not know that yet.  He was an amazing guy, had cool glasses, and I hope that the statue deal gets done.

But the highlight of the evening was the actual debate about the approval of the statue.  It was a literal keystone kops display of direction, and misdirection, and 15 people truly missing the point.  The one person I wanted to hear from, Mr. Gissellman, is the one that did not speak, and since he helped me with just about every paper I wrote in high school, I tend to think of him highly.

Regardless, the question on the floor was simply would the city approve the statue being donated to the city.  FOR FREE.  This young man, and the people around him, wants to raise the money themselves and build this.  They have all the pieces lined up, and now they just need to get the money together to build it.  It was an amazing display of support that Dr. McCarthy gave when showing all the supporters the idea had.

Then it was time for discussion.  And holy cow and great googily moogily did the civic wheels fall right off.  First off, everyone wanted to talk.  I think it started with Kaiser, who wanted to explain his CISM NO vote to the project.  He explained that he was unsure as to how this would work going forward if the city did not have a policy to accept something like this, would the city be forced to accept everything, since accepting this one thing they had created a precedent.

I leaned over to my friend Pat Peckham and asked, “What did he say?”

But it only got worse.  City Attorney Anne Jacobsen wanted to get in on this explaining the nature of free speech as it relates to government approved signage, and in this case it appears the city could be approving the words PEACE.

I leaned over to Pat and asked, “What is she talking about?”  No one had brought up the first amendment, and I am not sure where that even came from.

Then it started to really spin, and I was a little bit like a 16-year-old girl in a taffeta prom dress in a school gym late at night while Led Zeppelin played: I was totally dizzy and overwhelmed.

We had a round of objections from Hadley, Foley and Lisa Rasmussen, all on the grounds that we did not have a policy in place for such gifts to the city.  I think these people all wanted to say no, and somehow thought this policy idea was going to be their way out.

Rosenberg got in on it around this time and pointed out that even if we had a policy like this, it would be something that he could not support, instead saying the council has the authority to approve this sort of item on a case-by-case basis.  It is strange to admit Jim is the voice of reason on anything.

The debate raged on a bit, and then Tom Miller truly stopped traffic.  The whole room was, at this point, focused on one motion that was on the floor.  To accept the gift of the statue.  Then Tom Miller offered an amendment to the motion, or actually offered a new motion, to which point Kelly Michaels, our City Clerk, had to point out a motion was on the floor, and needed to be voted on.  She asked Miller if he wanted to offer an amendment.  To which his response was a nod of the head, and a ‘Yeah, that’s it” sort of thing.

With some encouragement the amendment was fleshed out.  From what I can tell, the amendment said that the city would come up with a policy in regards to gifts like this, or gifts, prior to the placing of the statue.

More discussion took place, and finally someone called for a vote.

There were two votes.  The first was a 7 to 5 vote that was to the amended motion, which I asked about today, and am still confused by.  The amendment apparently is that prior to placing this statue, the city will have a policy in place regarding this sort of thing.

Then there was an 11 to 1 vote accepting the statue.  Lisa Rasmussen voted no.

So, I am quite confused by this.  We do not have a policy in place, that the amendment placed on the motion on the floor says we need a policy prior to accepting the statue. But, we voted to accept the statue, which we do not have a policy in place to accept.

Let us try this another way.  Foley, Kaiser, Hadley, Miller, Rasmussen, Abitz and Klingbeil voted on a motion that says we need to have a policy in place prior to accepting gifts of this nature.

Then Foley, Kaiser, Hadley, Miller, Abitiz and Klingbeil voted to accept the statue.  With only Lisa Rasmussen sticking to the original idea.

So, who is confused?

Everyone was.  Dr. McCarthy had to get up and ask for an explanation.  Which, according to the rules, is not appropriate.  There are times at a meeting for public comment, and that was not one of them, yet Mayor Tipple allowed it.

That is nearly 1,000 words, and honestly I still do not have any idea what happened, but I know what I want to ask…What kind of policy is CISM going to be able to create to handle something like this?  They have now decreed that they will come up with a policy.  So, let me ask this … if I wanted to donate a snowplow to the city, do I need to go through this process?  Do I need to go find a committee and speak at it, and then appear at a city council meeting and be put through this sort of discussion?

If I wanted to donate sandwiches to a meeting, do I need to first go through this?

What sort of policy can possibly be created that will accommodate all the possible donations that the city will see over the course of its lifetime?  I say that this will create a giant problem, and be totally unsolvable by the city.  This is micromangement madness, and it comes from an amazing group of people.

Over time, Foley, Hadley, Miller, and now Kaiser have exerted themselves as small government folks.  Kaiser less so, just because he is new.  But, the rest have been consistent in their small-is-better stance.  This is a direct turn away from that.  They have literally switched over, in favor of creating a larger government based on this policy to accept or decline donations.

This is an increase in government size and oversight.  At some point the council is empowered to have a person bring them another statue, and they have the chance to say no to it, as is their right as a council.  Is the acceptance of the Peace statue setting a legal precedent that forces the city to accept and place all donated statues? No. Any common sense would say NO.

But, now, Hadley, Foley, Kaiser, Miller, Abitz, Rasmussen and Klingbeil have made a decree that the city will create a policy through which it can and cannot declare what is and what is not acceptable donation material. Or so I think.

This evening was amazingly off the rails.

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