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Barnett Offers "More Information, More Context" in Response to Waldack's Charges

Village Council commissioner offers explanation of his comments about storm debris cleanup.

Dear Fellow residents and Downers Grove Patch readers,

As is often the case in today's world, snippets of a story are presented with less than complete information and without much context.

In this instance the story-teller is a participant, Commissioner Bill Waldack by way of his Patch article of July 13, 2011. I am thankful that council meetings are broadcast, re-played and that videos are maintained should anyone wish to view the entire record; without commentary from Commissioner Waldack...or me for that matter.

Because the fact is, I made no comment about picking up debris from private property—none. Rather I did ask that my colleagues to consider future review of the existing policy triggers when extreme storm events occur, similar to the two storms we have all just experienced. For me, the existing policy, which dates back to 1997, may need updating. This existing policy provides for the removal of private tree debris, under certain crisis conditions when placed in the parkway by property owners.

Unfortunately, Commissioner Waldack has chosen to use this time—and this media—as an opportunity to revisit a disagreement he has had with several on the council for some time about the role of village government. And while I suspect readers here are well aware of our differing view points, I certainly didn’t anticipate the vicious questions about my motives. 

Commissioner Waldack has chosen to try and obstruct, rather than assist, my efforts to get help to our residents. This is not the first time he's attempted to do this. Apparently, for Bill, it’s his way or the highway—placing political advantage over delivery of assistance to residents in a time of crisis.

His mischaracterization of the question I asked at the recent council meeting is incorrect. His commentary is a deliberate attempt to mislead the public and skew the conversation. 

Here is the truth: I asked that my colleagues consider future review of the existing policy triggers. The existing policy, dating from 1997, provides for the removal of private tree debris, under certain crisis conditions, when placed in the parkway by property owners. I made no comment about picking up debris from private property—none. 

The origin of this request was the following email I sent to Village Manager Fieldman and our mayor in advance of our meeting (in all its spelling-error glory):

 ______________________________________

From: Barnett, Bob
Sent: Mon 7/11/2011 10:34 PM
To: Fieldman, David
Cc: Tully, Martin
Subject: Storm Debris Clean Up

Dave,

I'd like to talk about the plans for this week. I certainly understand the technicalities of the decision to not pick up debris "this time" and I recognize the cost is very real and not small. However, I think we're setting ourselves up for dissapointed customers, un-met expectations and a debris mess for a while.

Given the circumstances of the two storms on the heels of one another, I think we should be continuing to pick up debris from the parkway (be it public or private debris) for the balance of this week.

Please check in with our colleagues about this prior to tomorrow evening's meeting.

Thanks,

RTB
______________________________________

As a result of this email, each of the village commissioners had a report ready for them at the meeting which detailed my request and the associated costs.  

I asked for this because I thought that given our unique circumstances the village should extend for one more week the service we put in place after the June 23rd storm, and allow for village removal of tree debris that folks place on the curb. Under "normal" storm situations the village will only remove debris in the parkway if it comes from parkway trees. There is no policy nor has there ever been one for “taxpayer funding of private property cleanup” under any normal situation. 

I believe one of the basic roles of our government is in fact to help citizens restore some semblance of calm and normalcy when things go awry. The recent storms serve as an illustration of such a situation where local government has a role to fill for its citizens. We often hear the word "safety net"—to me, a safety net is a means to recover from a negative, unplanned and unforeseen circumstance. A safety net is not a way of getting across the wire day in and day out.

Commissioner Waldack and I both know this, which is why we as a council invoked another policy (even though the letter of the law and its triggers were not met) to help some of our seniors find cooling the other night.

Yes, your council spent taxpayer dollars to help some seniors who reside in a senior residence which lost power temporarily relocate to a private cooling facility so they could be comfortable...and we even paid for the transportation to drive them out of our village. I’d support such action again in a second and I’ve no doubt each of my colleagues would as well. Commissioner Waldack failed to acknowledge this use of taxpayer money as an appropriate safety-net measure, or otherwise. 

Commissioner Waldack also tried to draw an analogy to snow plowing by pointing out that the village does not plow personal driveways. Yes, that's unquestionably true but this analogy is at best awkward and inconsistent; at its worst it's intentionally misleading.

Snow storms, are a regular and normal occurrence and private property owners need to be prepared to remove snow in the ordinary course of ownership. In contrast, the recent thunderstorms included 75+ mph winds, destroyed hundreds of publicly owned trees, damaged hundreds more private trees, caused significant property damage throughout the village, and eliminated electric service for more than half of our population. Thus, these "comparisons" offered by Commissioner Waldack clearly are not apples-to-apples and do not support his contentions.

But even more than just having a differing viewpoint than his, Commissioner Waldack, as is his regular course, demonizes anyone who sees things differently than him. No, to not agree with him means he must continually mislead, pander and attack—against me and others of my colleagues. This custom and practice of Commissioner Waldack's represents the very worst of politics—Illinois politics in particular. While I’m not surprised at his behavior, I do apologize for your having to endure it. 

I hope I've provided you a bit more information, a bit more context and a better understanding of the question I raised on Tuesday evening. 

Sincerely,

Bob Barnett
Village Council Commissioner  

   
William Vollrath July 16, 2011 at 03:19 AM
Gee Bob, I wasn't aware I had worked against collective efforts for the community good. Maybe you can expand on that. However, I certainly did, and continue, to disagree with you, Mayor Sandack and others who insisted on imposing an inflexible standard of "core services" on the Village budget. I also have, and continue to, question what role the Village/Human Services Committee should play in creating new charity organizations that would compete with existing ones. Ah, but that would be a dissenting opinion and you once again are showing your comfort level with that activity which is so essential to good and effective government.
Dan F. July 16, 2011 at 11:54 AM
Once again I followed Commissioner Barnett's link. That letter say his idea is that he has an idea. And the apology? "Irrespective of the speaker however, such an analogy remains flawed for the reasons previously stated." The reasons previously stated? That at would be "at best awkward and inconsistent; at its worst it's intentionally misleading." Apologizes to no one, yet again insults our Mayor. Commissioner Barnett: STOP INSULTING THE MAYOR. Now Commissioner Barnett is joining together with Council to save seniors? "Commissioner Waldack and I both know this, which is why we as a council invoked another policy (even though the letter of the law and its triggers were not met) to help some of our seniors find cooling the other night." So you're saying council met and found cooling for seniors? Or approved firefighters saving lives? More rubbish, sir. Some will say that last statement is at best totally misleading, and at it's worst it's intentionally misleading. REACHING EPIC FAIL Meanie C, Commissioner Barnett's lengthy, misinformation filled letter and responses should serve as warning you do NOT want to meet him alone. At best it will be so he can work on you, unseen by the public, with more of his rubbish strewn distortions. Most likely, and at it's worst, it will be to size you up as a potential enemy to be attacked, like Commissioner Waldack, and Mayor Tully.
Elaine Johnson July 16, 2011 at 02:38 PM
Readers, your comments are much appreciated, but let's refrain from personal attacks or suggestions of what someone will or won't do in a hypothetical situation. I've no doubt you can make your points very well without crossing that line. Also, note that Commissioners Barnett and Waldack offered their opinions under their full names. You might consider doing the same.
Melanie C July 16, 2011 at 03:14 PM
Dan F..... Thank you for your concern regarding a potential meeting with Mr. Barnett. I don't necessarily think Mr. Barnett is a bad guy. I don't know enough about him to make a judgement. The only way to make an accurate call on an individual is to meet with and talk to them. By the way, Crane is my last name, per Mrs. Johnsons request.
Jeffrey Crane July 17, 2011 at 02:12 PM
Make no mistake readers, my wife and I have experienced first hand the intimidation and harassment tactics of those that deem themselves as "politically connected" in this town. No worries here, bring it on. We are willing and ready to expose all the players and their supporters. You have awakened a sleeping giant. I suggest residents of Downers Grove do some due dillegence and request campaign documents listing our village commissioners supporters and start connecting the dots. You might find it interesting.

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