Monday, November 5, 2007

Pleasant Prairie: The unanimous vote mirage

Former Pleasant Prairie village board member Alex Tiahybok hasn't lost his knack for trying to zing the village board.

Tonight he harped on an old theme: the five-member board has too many unanimous votes (something like 98% between May and the beginning of October).

At first blush it sounds like a plausible beef -- even the Kenosha News said as much when it raised the same sword a few months ago. But it's a flawed argument.

First, the village has a manager form of government.

That means the municipality hires an experienced administrator to run things subject to the guidance and direction of the board.

That's the theory but in practice a good manager usually "runs" the governing board.

The reason for this is that if the manager is doing a good job the board (or council) has much less to do.

Further, in a manager form of municipal government, city councils in particular and many village boards tend to be smaller.

The bottom line is that if the municipality is well-run, then there's less for the governing body to argue about.

That said, there's another dynamic at work in Pleasant Prairie. I witnessed it last night and several times in the past.

In many cases while the final board vote is unanimous, that doesn't mean that there was lock-step agreement right off the rail but that after concerns were expressed an attempt was made to reach a consensus. That means a proposal may be amended or sent back for more work.

Such a thing happened tonight when a proposed condominum development hit a snag when board newcomers Monica Yuhas and Clyde Allen dug in and said they weren't inclined to budge from a standard requirement that no more than 20% of the condo units could be rented out despite the developer's pleas to allow more flexibility.

After considerable debate the proposal was tabled for two weeks to provide time for the kinks to be ironed out.

This isn't glitzy stuff but nonetheless important, especially when the inference is made that there's no real discussion or debate.


Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, that's right. With a set up like Pleasant Prairie, there is no reason to even have a village board when somebody like Village Administrator Pollocoff "educates" the board on how to vote.

Why even have a village board if you have such a talented administrator?

It is easy to agree, and let somebody else do the work, and then vote in the affirmative like some great negotiator.

By contrast, it takes real work to disagree and fight for what you believe in.

It is no attribute to say, I disagreed but "on several occasions I would have been on the short end of a 4-1 vote" as stated by Trustee Allen. Why is a dissenting vote so distasteful to these people?

This is the contrast between the strong-willed and lockstep voters like "no new idea" Kumorkiewicz, and "I don't even understand all this budget stuff, but will vote to approve since every else will, and by the way what a great job everybody who gets a paycheck from the village does" Serpe.

The hard lifting is when one disagrees.

Trustee Yuhas did it and was mocked to an extent. Last night, she asked if RecPlex signs were bilingual in Spanish (and a rude comment from an un-named board members was "no comprende" -- that was disgusting and that person should apologize at the next meeting). Maybe Pollocoff will tell you to do so, and you know who you are.

You said it yourself "in practice a good manager usually 'runs' the governing board".

Sadly, I couldn't agree more in the case of the Village of Pleasant Prairie, and why even have meetings and votes??

RAG said...

Having been present, the discussion about signs at the Rec-Plex was what I would consider to be banter and I would read nothing else into that.