Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

Just ask


If I have one pet peeve, it’s the number of bloggers and others that won’t simply just ask a question before running to their keyboards. It’s too hard for them to send an e-mail or make a phone call to ask someone a question.

Today’s example, Zach Wisniewski at Blogging Blue took a swipe at Senator Ron Johnson for not having a constituent service page on his website yet.

Who’s the only United States Senator without any semblance of a web page for his constituents to visit and learn more about what he’s doing in Washington, D.C.?

The answer: newly-elected U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, who pledged to make “customer service” a top priority as Wisconsin’s junior U.S. Senator.

The all-knowing Wisniewski couldn’t be bothered to actually ask Johnson’s staff or anyone else why this might be so.

So, Kevin Binversie, a blogger who actually worked on the Johnson campaign, has worked in Washington D.C., and actually knows something of how government works, tried to be helpful,

Kevin Binversie
January 15, 2011 at 12:24 pm · Reply
Hi, since I’m actually able to talk to people about this, it’s not Johnson or his office’s fault.

The Senate IT folks are taking forever to get around to him because of the large freshman class of Senators (I was told they did Senators in alphabetic order by states, so “Wisconsin” got hosed.) and it’s a bureaucratic hang-up in the Senate Administrative offices.

Add in the 3-Day weekend now going on in DC and it won’t get done until sometime next week.

A pretty reasonable explanation in the grand scheme of things. However, since that doesn’t fit nicely with the “bash-all” mentality over at Blogging Blue, Binversie’s rather reasonable explanation was tossed aside in favor of the narrative Wisniewski and the liberal commenters were pushing. (Thanks to Fred, who also makes a great point.)

Now Wisniewski is hardly the only one who is guilty of this, and it isn’t just the liberals.

The other day I was mentioned in a Waukesha Freeman column by WISN’s Mark Belling, and not favorably.

The tyranny of unelected bureaucrats in local government is usually found in school districts where parttime and distracted school board members cede all authority to the appointed superintendent (Brown Deer’s shameful lack of supervision of its superintendent is a perfect example). But government by bureaucrat certainly exists in state government (precisely why Scott Walker is reforming the Department of Commerce and de-fanging the DNR). But this abandonment of responsibility by elected officials and deference to administrators also occurs in some Wisconsin cities. Waukesha is a prime example.

Waukesha voters last year elected a new mayor, much to the chagrin of the highly paid full-time city administrator and her obedient servants on Waukesha’s city council. The mayor, Jeff Scrima, perhaps naively, thought being elected mayor meant running city administration. The appointed administrator, Lori Luther, had other ideas. Luther and leaders of the city council held a closed-door meeting to change Luther’s job description so that she no longer reported to the mayor but instead to the city council. The action, and what we’ve learned about it since, is an act by a bureaucrat and aldermen to essentially void the results of the mayor’s race. Even worse, the “watchdogs” supposed to be exposing this kind of corruption seem to be intent on covering it up (yes, I’m referring to the Waukesha Freeman and my fellow columnists Pete Kennedy and James Wigderson, who seem to have some sort of infatuation with Luther or phobia about Scrima).

In an editor’s note that appeared in the newspaper, Luther was quoted as saying she has “always reported directly to the council and the mayor.” Luther is either lying or violating her own contract. An open records request has produced Luther’s original employment contract which states clearly that she is to report directly to the mayor (not surprising because if supervising the bureaucrats isn’t the mayor’s job, what is?). This document is fully available to the newspaper and its Luther apologists. Luther evidently believes her sycophants won’t rat her out on her dishonesty.

All of this may be boring to non-residents of Waukesha but one suspects similar deference to bureaucrats goes on in a lot of other cities around the state. The point here is that Luther, elected by no one, is essentially running Waukesha against the wishes of Scrima, the guy who actually was chosen by voters. There’s one solution to this: The residents of Waukesha should demand that Scrima be given the right to do what he wants to do: fire Luther.

Understandably, Belling and I exchanged e-mails after this appeared as I won’t stand for being accused of intentionally covering something up. That’s just a ridiculous charge. Had Belling just asked me ahead of time to explain what I have written, he would have learned the following:

1. I have written extensively on the subject of the city administrator position, including on the circumstances of her hiring, the conditions of her employment as understood at the time of her hiring, and the conditions of her predecessor’s employment.

2. Far from covering up anything, I wrote at length about the relative independence of the city administrator position and how little input the Waukesha mayor has. If either Belling or the mayor had bothered to read my columns on the subject, they might have learned about this before Scrima even took office. Belling might even have learned the mayor never, never, never, never had the power to fire the city administrator without at least a majority vote of the Common Council. To fire the previous city administrator it would have taken two-thirds of the council.

3. I never cover anything up.

He could have learned these things beforehand, but that would have required actually asking first.

(I’m still waiting on Belling to forward to me what I asked of him. If the city administrator’s contract was poorly worded to imply something other than what I wrote above, then the city attorney should be recalled. It was clear to the Common Council, Scrima’s predecessor and the media covering the council at the time that it would take an act of the Common Council to fire Lori Luther. If the contract says anything else, the city attorney was grossly negligent in his duties.)

One more example? Okay, one that does not affect me at all. Have you been following the story of how Aaron Rodgers supposedly snubbed a cancer patient seeking an autograph? Turns out, that story wasn’t true, either.

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