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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  

   
Dan F. July 15, 2011 at 12:45 AM
"Because the fact is, I made no comment about picking up debris from private property—none." "Here is the truth: I asked that my colleagues consider future review of the existing policy triggers." "I think we should be continuing to pick up debris from the parkway (be it public or private debris) " Fail.
Cliff Grammich July 15, 2011 at 02:13 AM
I have neither watched nor listened to the recent council meeting, so perhaps I should hesitate to comment. Yet I am curious: how pressing is the question of storm-debris removal or any other village-government service? Is it so pressing at present as to merit the extended discussion two commissioners have now offered here? Power was finally restored today in my neighborhood, ending the third multi-day outage of this year (and, to my recollection, at least the sixth such of recent years). Nobody here is discussing storm-debris removal or any other vilage service. We are discussing a truly "core" service--maybe more "core" than anything, except water, the village provides--which ComEd is supposed to provide our village. We know there are limits to what the village can do about this. Still, I trust we will see more focused discussion and leadership from our village government on this.
Greg Hose July 15, 2011 at 02:44 AM
Commissioner Barnett takes issue with Commissioner Waldack’s statement of his position relative to debris removal. Let’s examine the statements. Commissioner Barnett states: "... the fact is, I made no comment about picking up debris from private property—none." So, let's look at what he did say. He stated above "...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." Thus, Commissioner Barnett proposed taxpayer funding for removing debris from privately owned trees provided that debris is moved to the parkway. This is, in fact, what Commissioner Waldack said in his piece. "Commissioner Barnett seems to now promote the frequent removal of the private debris at taxpayer expense." Commissioner Barnett may be offended by the tone of Commissioner Waldack's piece. Having been accused of pandering I know that the charge stings. However, the distinction Commissioner Barnett attempts to draw between his statements and Commissioner Waldack's comments thereon are simply unavailing.
Dan F. July 15, 2011 at 01:08 PM
" 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." As Commissioner Barnett suggested, re-listened. He should have to. IT WAS MAYOR TULLY WHO MADE THE SNOW PLOWING ANALOGY. "Yes, that's unquestionably true but this analogy is at best awkward and inconsistent; at its worst it's intentionally misleading." Insulting the Mayor, accusing him of being intentionally misleading in the attempt to insult Commissioner Waldack. NEARLY EPIC FAIL Comedy gold. Pass the popcorn.
Kyle Jordan July 15, 2011 at 01:29 PM
And this is exactly why Scalzetti, Maley and Hose should have been elected in the last election. Honest, moral men wanting to give back to their community. No alternative agendas or hidden goals.
William Vollrath July 15, 2011 at 02:09 PM
Mr. Barnett seems to clearly be out of touch with what he, himself, definitely communicated at the last meeting, which, does clearly run counter to his "reduced gov. services" idealogy that was so strongly pushed just a couple months ago...
Melanie C July 15, 2011 at 02:40 PM
AMEN KYLE!!!!! Mr. Barnett is on the defensive. I suppose I can't blame him since he is up for re-election. However, Mr. Barnett schooled us this past Tuesday with regard to "we can do without the sarcasm". His article is dripping with sarcasm. I don't mind it at all actually. He has a right to respond to Mr. Waldack. In my opinion, this kind of behavior shows a clear divide amongst our council members. I have witnessed on a few occasions some eye rolling while Mr. Waldack talks. This is very juvenile and unprofessional!!!! I believe that Mr. Waldack does try to be a TRUE resident advocate however, he is constantly being met with apprehension from the "block" of which he and Marilyn are not a part of. This is just my observation thus far. I am new to this political arena so I am certain I have a learning curve to conquer.
Tim Meaney July 15, 2011 at 03:22 PM
Unfortunately, Commissioner Barnett’s overlong and tedious essay brings to mind the words of another public figure who once told us that, Yes, I tried the stuff but – honest, folks – I never inhaled. Not to mention the tendentious and equally unfortunate subtext of yet another attempt to isolate Commissioner Waldack by demonizing him for his independence in calling things as he sees them.
John Schofield July 15, 2011 at 03:30 PM
Reminds me of another politician who famously proclaimed, "I am not a...."
William Vollrath July 15, 2011 at 03:48 PM
Maybe the good news is that Mr. Barnett and his fellow "core services only" proponents on Council have realized what the rest of us already knew, namely that a rigid, unyielding and insensitive highly selective definition of what services the Village should provide is not really in the best interest of our community!
Bruce Beckman July 15, 2011 at 04:11 PM
Maybe this is the correct time for the idea of a 100% volunteer organization which would focus on community needs to take place. All member's of the community who want to pick up fallen branches and debris could place their names on the village website. Other folks who have been affected by the storm would then select a name or names for pick up service. We might want to have a block party to collect funds for t shirts to be worn by said volunteers! Let's face it, thus far in 2011 these snow and rain events has cost our community about $500,000 YTD. Unless I am mistaken, there was only $100,000 in the village contingency fund leaving $400,000 to come out of reserves, yet members of the council want to dip even deeper?
William Vollrath July 15, 2011 at 05:31 PM
A volunteer manpower pool would be great, but there still needs to be selective gov. assistance when unusual citizen needs exceed private capabilities. In short, tough decisions on priorities must be made and sidewalks, pensions, expense budgets, tourism marketing, etc. should not be near the top of the list.
William Vollrath July 15, 2011 at 06:51 PM
Of course, maybe Bruce was being sarcastic. That is not allowed!
paul cappetta July 15, 2011 at 07:20 PM
AMEN KYLE.....THE BLOCK LIVES!
Melanie C July 15, 2011 at 09:15 PM
Seriously, if anyone knows someone who might need some help cleaning up after the storm, I am willing to swing by and offer my assistance. I will be the first one to place my name on the list! A town where the residents truly care about each other would be the envy of all!!! We could be the example of how to treat people. Bill, I think this is a great idea. It will show us who the talking heads are and who the genuine people are. This would also be a way for individuals to become recognized for their selfless and thoughtful acts as opposed to the "who do you know" individuals. Of course, this is all just my humble opinion:).
Bruce Beckman July 15, 2011 at 09:47 PM
Melanie: My comment was partly "tongue in cheek" but your thoughts are right on. I happen to live in a great neighborhood where neighbors help each other. Where we party a couple of times a year and talk about the "state of Middaugh Street". During the last two storm events, we pulled and dragged debri and helped bundle the material. It would be a sad day when the true value of living in our town is lost through isolation between neighbors and we succumbed to the feeling of being always alone. Your neighborliness is why we've lived here since 1974.
Bob Barnett July 15, 2011 at 09:51 PM
I apologize for citing Commissioner Waldack as the source of the snow plowing argument. For those that want to listen, it was indeed Mayor Tully (at approx. 1:25). Irrespective of the speaker however, such an analogy remains flawed for the reasons previously stated. While I made an error in the source of the above quote I see no justification for the questioning of my purpose on Tuesday – a purpose taken up and concurred with by all on the dais – unless you believe that the whole Council is “flip-flopping” in “campaign mode.” (continued...)
Bob Barnett July 15, 2011 at 09:53 PM
(continued ...) Further, those that would like more clarity on the use of the term “private” in this context should listen, in particular to Commissioner Waldack’ use of the term (at approximately 1:20) or his the use of the quote “keep the village away from my private property trees”… the existing policy I asked to review was obviously not the target of Commissioner Waldack’s comments. Come on by our Council meetings on Tuesdays or stop by our Coffee with the Council on Saturday – I’m happy to discuss this or any other Village subject with each of you. Enjoy your weekend. Bob
Bob Barnett July 15, 2011 at 09:53 PM
(continued...) The question was whether we as a Council should consider reviewing the existing policy in order to consider lowering the threshold required to deliver unique service above and beyond the normal scope of Village Operations in time of duress for the Village as a whole? Asking such a question in light of recent activities is a pretty straightforward question. Evidence from far beyond 801 Burlington (NWS, ComEd, etc.) would support the view that they indeed were unique storms. Thus that they demonstrate an appropriate application of Village resources to help our residents recover. It ought not be difficult to make the distinction between an unpredictable natural disaster and the daily delivery of basic municipal services. Picking up seniors without power in 90 degree heat after a storm and transporting them to Red Cross cooling shelters cannot possibly be confused with providing subsidized day in and day out transportation, can it? No more so than can the idea that in asking us to consider reviewing our policy on storm debris collection I was advocating an expansion of government into private property maintenance. (continued ...)
Bob Barnett July 15, 2011 at 09:59 PM
Melanie, part of the reason for some to be tongue in cheek here is because this conflict between Bill and I goes back a bit. He and others in this comment string did their best to stop exactly the type of collective effort you rightly suggest is important and that I was hoping to build a network around: (http://downersgrove.patch.com/articles/barnett-explains-his-plan-for-revitalizing-human-service-commission). That effort continues. I'm not going to re-hash that whole issue here but within that struggle lies much of the root of the current flare ... as for "who you know", I don't know you - stop by at Coffee with the Council and introduce yourself. Bob Barnett
Melanie C July 15, 2011 at 11:15 PM
Mr. Barnett......I have come to the coffee with the council shortly after Mother's day with my husband, mother and daughter. We sat down and asked some questions of the council members and staff that were there. However, they would not answer our questions and blatantly told us so. Hopefully, you will forgive me if I am not interested in experiencing the "coffee with the council" anytime soon. Bruce, thank you for the compliment. I live on Saratoga Avenue and would consider this block the most unfriendly, to my knowledge. Again, my opinion! We have lived on this block for over EIGHT years and unless you are willing to bow down to the king and queen and their court you will be targeted. This has been a very difficult year for our family. I would not wish this on anyone!!!! The stuff that has been done to our family is unimaginable. We have fought back at times and this just makes things worse. Personally, I hate coming home and I am certain that the thought of this just tickles my neighbors. In the beginning, we were very accommodating to all the neighbors. We purchased all their kids goods for school functions, etc. We sent college age kids to school with furniture. We sent flowers when loved ones passed away. We even employed one neighbor for a year when he lost his job. What did we get in return???? Bullying, vindictive and antagonistic behavior!!!! All we wanted was to be left alone. We even told the police this when they came out a few times.
Bob Barnett July 15, 2011 at 11:45 PM
Melanie, I can certainly understand your reluctance to try again if you were mistreated if you'll acknowledge I wasn't there and we've never met or spoken. I am genuinely interested in meeting and talking with any resident on any subject matter and would welcome the opportunity to meet you in person. Coffee with the Council starts at 9 tomorrow ... I'd be happy to buy you a cup before or after. Caribou, Lemon Tree, Starbucks - if you're intersted in talking live, just let me know. Bob
Melanie C July 16, 2011 at 12:49 AM
Yes Mr. Barnett, I will gladly acknowledge that you were not at the coffee with the council that I went to. As for meeting you tomorrow after the coffee with the council, I will let you know by 9 this evening. I need to see if I can clear my schedule for tomorrow.
Melanie C July 16, 2011 at 02:19 AM
Mr. Barnett, I apologize for the delay in getting back to you. I have sent you an email to the address on your election web site
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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