Former elected Shorewood official lobbies against public access to Village finances


Trustees Langenkamp and Johnson, Village Manager Madere and former incumbent Rodney Dow misunderstand why public opposes the use of Village money without authority from trustees

 

By GEOFF DAVIDIAN

Editor of MilwaukeePress.Net
 

SHOREWOOD, Wis. (January 2, 2004) -- Most politicians who choose to step out of the limelight move on and let the succeeding governing body work out problems on their own.

 

Someone very much like Rodney Dow

Former Shorewood President Rodney Dow

But not hautocrats like former Shorewood Village President Rodney Dow. Speaking repeatedly at the November 17, 2003 pre-budget Village Board meeting, Mr. Dow prefaced his opinion each time with a reminder that he served two terms as Village president. Mr. Dow apparently is suggesting that the fact that he chose not to run for re-election last April makes him wiser than anyone else who also didn’t run.

And that may be so in a benevolent hautocracy, where rulers are valued and respected on the basis of blatant and disdainful pride.

 

Unfortunately for Mr. Dow, his tedious reminders appear to be little more than silly and sophomoric blatherings meant to perpetuate the arrogant, implausible and illegal perspective of some Village trustees who apparently feel that the Village is better off when the public’s business is left to secret, non-public schemes among themselves. This attitude is evident in the current crisis of confidence that came with revelations in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that half a million tax dollars made it to the Village library without a vote by the trustees.

 

This, at first look, is at least incompetence and misconduct by whoever transferred the money. It is also negligence on the part of the Trustees who did not demand an explanation.

 

Rather than allow for an open inspection of the records, Dow and those who share his hautocratic mindset attacked those who suggested there should be an accounting of the library finances.

 

Instead of understanding that openness is a requisite for integrity and confidence in a democracy, the hautocrats attacked the Journal Sentinel reporter’s credibility.

 

Rather than open the records, the hautocrats complained that the newspaper reports made the Village look bad.

 

Instead of making the records public, the Village is being sued for violating the public records act. How does that make the Village look?

 

More troubling yet was Mr. Dow’s convoluted and sarcastic letter in the Dec. 18, 2003 Shorewood Herald, in which he called the Village employee or official who revealed the illegal fund transfer a “mole,” and the revelation a “leak.”

 

A simple search of the Journal Sentinel’s archives reveals that Mr. Dow is not an objective Village resident but a partisan shill, throwing what influence he apparently thinks he has behind a group of trustees who are covering up for what may be illegal acts.

 

I really don’t know much about Mr. Dow except what I saw when I covered the Shorewood Village Board as a newspaper reporter a few times during his tenure. I recall, for example, one evening a few years ago when members of the Village Board were speaking among themselves in soft voices at a public meeting in the Village courtroom. Along with Mr. Dow during that political configuration were current Trustees Vida Langenkamp and Guy Johnson. I recall that meeting because I was unable to hear the discussion so I walked within ear shot of the trustees so I could take notes. As I stood near the conversing officials, Village Manager Edward Madere approached me and suggested that it was inappropriate for a member of the public to be where I was standing. I pointed out to him that the meeting was public and by law the business was to be conducted openly. Mr. Madere acknowledged that and chose to not press the issue, but it struck me that his first inclination was to impede the public and press from monitoring the Village business.

Now, we have Mr. Dow joining Ms. Langenkamp, Mr. Johnson and Trustee Ellen Eckman opposing the public inquiry into what the Journal Sentinel calls the “$535,000 ‘advance’ that the village manager approved from the village's reserve fund to cover cost overruns and pledges that have not yet been paid.”

Now, some trustees suggest the Village Board simply ratify the illegal transfer by approving it after the fact. Why would this be necessary if the transfer were legal in the first place?

 

Langenkamp, Johnson, Madere and Dow apparently misunderstand why there is opposition to the use of this public money without authority. It is not about the library, or literacy, or the value of books or whether we have the fourth best library in the state or whether taxes should be higher or lower. It is that we do not want to be governed by a benign hautocracy.