Nothing interesting ever happens at my local county board’s meetings. That is, unless you count citizens scolding the board for an hour and a half and asking the entire body to resign. Or the chairman being labeled a communist. Or the proceedings being likened to a performance of the local circus.
Pinch-hitting for a vacationing colleague last week, I had the eye-opening experience of covering a Sauk County Board meeting. I would say that I’ve never seen anything like it, except that I went to kindergarten.
It appeared several members of this largely silver-haired assembly had forgotten schoolhouse lessons learned decades ago. Don’t talk out of turn. Play by the rules. You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.
I’ve covered all types of board meetings. Most could cure insomnia. But I’ll say one thing about my county board — actually, I’m about to say several — it isn’t boring. I typically cover the Baraboo Common Council, where I have yet to hear one alderman tell another to “be a man” and push a controversial resolution through against his will and against the principles of good government, as Supervisor Wally Czuprynko demanded of the board chairman last week. I thought being a man meant being able to graciously accept the outcome when things don’t go your way. I guess Wally and I attended different kindergartens.
Nor have I heard the mayor called a commie, or watched the council debate its agenda for an hour.
Not yet have I heard the proceedings compared to the daily shows at Circus World, as citizen Denny Smith did before ordering the “bozos” in the room to get back to work.
Like I said, this county board is never dull. Every couple weeks it takes up some national issue it has no authority over, or conducts business in violation of the Open Meetings Law or makes a clandestine attempt to oust a chairman who was duly elected just four months ago. Sometimes it does all three at once.
The flurry of motions and amendments and appeals made the other night , not to mention the board’s puzzling disregard for its attorney’s advice, might’ve been amusing if it weren’t so troubling. We pay the clowns at Circus World to bumble and fumble for our enjoyment. We pay our county supervisors to run the local government. Just be grateful supervisors are paid by the meeting, not by the hour: Last week’s marathon of misplaced energy lasted nearly four.
Common sense and decency were in short supply, but hypocrisy abounded. Former Supervisor Ruth Dawson attended the executive committee’s meeting before the full board meeting and loudly cackled in mockery of another citizen’s testimony. An hour later, she stood before the board and chastised anyone who didn’t listen respectfully to dissenting points of view. Do as I say, not as I do.
During that same committee meeting, our aforementioned friend Wally accused the chairman of resorting to “backroom dealings” to block a referendum on gun rights. This is the same Wally who a week earlier engineered an email campaign to oust the chairman, contacting not the entire board, but enough supervisors that the digital discussion constituted an illegal meeting. Backroom dealings, indeed.
This county board doesn’t need me to tell it to shape up. Citizens from every aspect of the political spectrum did so in no uncertain terms. Bad government makes for strange bedfellows. You couldn’t get some of those people to agree on the color of the sky, but they agree on this: This county’s leaders are out of control.
Men and women who take on the thankless job of local government service deserve praise, but only if they hold office to promote the common good. If they run for office because they want to play king of the mountain on the playground, as my colleague Pat Nash suggested, it would be better if they stayed home.
Supervisor Scott Van Asten chided colleagues to “put our big boy pants on” and handle the county’s business. That’s a start. They also need to use their inside voices. And play nice, take turns, share and share alike. Otherwise we may have to send them back to kindergarten.