“A Plea For More Civil Dialogue.”
That was the ominous headline last week in the Washington County Daily News but it really could have been in any southeast Wisconsin newspaper. Two-bit local political hacks whining away that the public – THE PUBLIC! – wasn’t being nice enough to them. “Woe is us,” they wailed. “The lack of civility is unhealthy,” moaned City Administrator Joe Melvin. The chief whiner, Joe Carlson, the president of West Bend’s apparently too-picked-on school board, complained that too many citizens were too angry. It all gives West Bend a bad name etc. Such baby talk isn’t limited to West Bend. You hear it in New Berlin from the mayor, Jack Chiovatero. Wauwatosa’s mayor, Jill Didier, even bored a recent lunch companion with her complaint that I was trying to ruin her life. In Menomonee Falls, the cabal led by former Village President Joe Greco is perpetually angry that mere taxpayers have the audacity to speak out.
I have some advice for Carlson and his ilk. Resign. This is America, not Joe Stalin’s Russia or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran. Speaking out, often loudly, isn’t an indecent abuse of decorum but the prerogative of an active citizenry. The louder the better, by the way. What the crybabies are upset about is they prefer to govern conservative communities in a moderate-to-liberal squishy way. When the public revolts, the leaders cry foul. A telling quote from West Bend Mayor Kristine Deiss: “The hardest thing has been fighting communication ... perception over reality.”
In West Bend, it was Mayor Deiss who tried to reappoint Library Board members who infuriated the public by insisting on keeping gay smut in the children’s department. It’s the same community where aldermen are determined to stick a low-income housing slum the residents don’t want. This isn’t a problem of perception. The reality is the community’s leaders are doing things the public doesn’t like. In New Berlin, outraged citizens want Chiovatero’s scalp for trying to put a slum in the heart of the community. In Menomonee Falls, taxpayers went ballistic when library employees tried to censor kids’ art work at the parochial school art fair. Back in West Bend, Carlson’s school board keeps proposing school tax referendums the public doesn’t want.
In each case, the citizenry is speaking out. Good. Carlson a few months ago berated a fellow school board member for daring to air differences in public. Horrors! Hey, Carlson, differences of opinion in government are supposed to be in the open. West Bend belongs to the residents of West Bend not Carlson and not Deiss. They are the employees but think of themselves as the bosses (or dictators). The taxpayer/owners have a right to see public business dealt with in the open.
Yeah, sure, they’ll respond. But can’t we be, you know, more “civil?” While some people always go too far, the problem in most communities is too much civility, not too little. Most folks let the power structure tax and spend, preside over mediocre school systems, lard public payrolls with unneeded workers, dole out unconscionable benefits and act like their the leaders of Liberalville. The few communities where people object are the ones whose residents are care the most.
America was founded loudly and angrily. Every positive development in this country – civil rights, the end to slavery, tax relief – has been a result of the populace raising hell. It’s what makes America great. The reason suburbanites are yelling now is that they fundamentally oppose the leftist drift of their hometowns. Their vocalism is a very good thing, whether the thin-skinned small town politicos like it or not.