Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, January 12, 2007

Anti-Wal-Mart "Mean-Spiritedness" Everywhere

Hartford Citizens for Responsible Government (isn't it funny how these anti-Wal-Mart group names and talking points are always the same?) got pissed over the city council annexing land and then approving constructon of a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Hartford, WI. So what did they do? Something similar to what we saw in Pullman in 2005, only worse. The HCRG tried to recall two city council members that had voted in favor of Wal-Mart . They failed, by 2-1 and 5-1 margins respectively. One Wal-Mart hater candidate even accused an incumbent of "putting your city tax dollars right into the pockets of a convicted sex offender."

In addition to the recall elections, the group also filed a site plan appeal. Total cost to the city for all the recall elections and the appeal: $28,500.

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
The battle to recall two Hartford aldermen because they supported annexing land for a Wal-Mart Supercenter is over and the tab is in - $28,500 and some bruised feelings.

"I don't see any good that came out of this other than a citizens group got some press for their issues, which I believe they could have gotten simply by speaking their piece before elected officials in public hearings," Hartford Mayor Scott Henke said regarding the challenges leveled against him, aldermen and other city officials by Hartford Citizens for Responsible Government.

But $28,500 is "a very small price to pay to keep your government accountable," said Orville Seymer, field operations director and one of the founders of Milwaukee-based Citizens for Responsible Government, the parent organization to the Hartford group.

Proponents say it will generate more than $280,000 in annual tax revenue for the rapidly growing city in western Washington County. Opponents say it will hurt downtown businesses and worsen an already difficult traffic situation.

The citizens group launched two unsuccessful recalls. In October, 3rd District Ald. Kathleen Isleb defeated challenger Randy Geoffroy by nearly a 2-to-1 margin. On Nov. 21, 1st District Ald. Jacki Lokken outpolled Jan Hatch 5-to-1.

Those two recall elections cost the city about $11,000, officials say.

In addition, the recall group appealed a Plan Commission approval of the project's site plan, saying a conditional use permit should have been required.

The appeal, which was rejected, cost the city about $16,000 in attorney's fees and staff time, city officials say.

The group filed a number of open records requests as well, costing the city about $1,000.

The group also accused City Administrator Gary Koppelberger of hiding the fact that Wal-Mart was interested in developing the property on the city's west side in 2003.

The week before Lokken's Nov. 21 recall, challenger Jan Hatch distributed fliers accusing Lokken of hiring a registered sex offender as city assessor and hiding it from voters.

That same week, Seymer filed a complaint with the state accusing Koppelberger and the city Web master of electioneering on the city's Web site by ridiculing Seymer for statements he made at a Common Council meeting.

Those actions have left a lot of hard feelings.

Lokken said her margin of victory "proves the citizens of Hartford are satisfied with their representation. I think HCRG had all their accusations wrong and that my constituents are satisfied with the job I'm doing."

"Recalls are their right," Henke said. "But I disagree with the reasons for the recall and I think the elections showed that the people did, too."

Marilyn Raschka, a leader of the Hartford citizens group, said the organization did its job.

"Common Council members are much more aware now that someone is out there monitoring their actions," she said.

"The important thing is that we created awareness of a problem in Hartford," Seymer said. "You can talk about the cost and how the candidate was defeated overwhelmingly, but the important thing is that we're shining a light on the government that has been unresponsive to the public."

HCRG had threatened to launch recalls against other elected officials, including Henke. Instead, Raschka said she and other HCRG members may choose to run against incumbents in April.

Henke said the $28,500 was unbudgeted and will have to come from city contingency funds.

The whole experience will probably change the way the city does business to some extent, he said.

"In the changing political environment, we will need to budget for this in the future. For 2008, we will probably need to budget some type of figure for potential recalls and records requests," he said.
Ah, yes, "Moonbat Insurance." Pullman will need some of that also.

"Hurt downtown businesses and worsen an already difficult traffic situation?" Wow, talk about deja vu.

"A very small price to pay to keep your government accountable?" You would think this group and PARD were working from the same playbook.

And some people think attakcing PARD is "mean-spirited?" Let's be clear about what the source of all the rancor is: it is groups like PARD and HCRG that create all the "bruised feelings" and "hard feelings" with their scorched earth and anything-to-win tactics. How is this "helping the town," when clearly a vast majority don't feel the same way. What exactly is "responsible" about these actions? I don't know why groups like PARD and HCRG can't be sued for their costly and hateful antics.

HT: Exposing the Paid Critics

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