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Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

And what happened at the meeting?

Community Development, Wauwatosa, County Grounds

It was hot in Meeting Room #1 Tuesday night. Hot and crowded. Of course, whenever The Butterflies or The County Grounds are on the agenda, you can count on a full house. Why the meeting wasn't scheduled in the larger council chambers is a mystery, but then so many things are at these events.

The mayor's request for council endorsement of the butterfly habitat restoration plan was discussed but not acted upon. For one thing, it was a  Community Development Committee meeting, and I am thinking that the committee can recommend the full council endorse but no more. In any event, there was a great deal of confusion about exactly what an endorsement at this time might mean.

One thing was clear enough: nearly everyone in the room wanted to save the butterflies--mayor, council, and citizens. But there's way too much business going on in silos. The plan being discussed had only gotten into the council member's hands a few hours earlier, if that, and it hadn't filtered down to the public at all.

But democracy still is alive and well in city government. In the end, the right course of action (no action) was followed, and the calendar for future meetings and hearings was sketched out. The real work for change happens in the spaces between the meetings, of course, since the meetings themselves are often about one-way information. Lots of lecturing, not much in the way of answering questions or seeking consensus.

One important need is to publicize these plans and to compare them with the land use plans approved five or six years ago,  the frequently cited but seldom seen Kubala-Washatko plan. The city--or someone--needs to make that plan available electronically.

Maybe it was the heat. But I kept seeing Parker Posey in the role of Mayor Didier. Just the right combination of attractive/tender and kinda scary controlling. Community Development the Mocumentary: Attorney Kesner and Adminstrator Archambo fused into one character, because no film ever has two balding white guys unless they're comic relief--Bruce Willis has the right kind of masculine energy.  Alder Nikcevich, Reba McEntire; McBride, Peter Coyote; Steinmetz, Ken Olin. The parks guy with the plan, Willam Macy. Butterfly Lady Barb Agnew, Salma Hayek. You can cast the rest.

The mayor addressed those assembled at great length explaining why the endorsement request was being introduced this way, and still nobody got it. One citizen was so aggressive and hostile that you could hear people's jaws and hearts tightening in opposition, including mine, and I sort of agree with him. The chair got a little testy but redeemed himself later by inviting Aggressive-Hostile Guy (AHG) to finish speaking after he'd cut him off. The mayor was sending hand signals to the chair to rein in AHG, which suggestion was wisely ignored. Sometimes, you just have to endure stuff.

I'm not sure how the next scene will go. I'm hoping it'll be set in a larger room with lots of actual maps. And I'm hoping for a Frank Capra happy ending in which the mayor finally stops being misunderstood, the right people all come to the table at the same time, a great conservancy zone line is drawn in the sand and in binding legal documents, and we all get to dance at the butterfly ball.

Go to Wauwatosa.net to find out about future meetings under Hot Topics and read more, including dates, here.

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