Friday, April 3, 2009

Clyde Allen: Integrity and servant leadership in Pleasant Prairie

A young Iowa police officer was getting flustered over the seemingly trivial and irrelevant questions being hurled his way by a defendant's attorney.

Later, Judge Larry Conmey took the officer aside and explained, "If your case was weak, he'd attack it. But because it's strong the only thing he's left with is to kick your shins."

That lesson imparted on me more than 30 years ago came to mind as I size up the race between incumbent Pleasant Prairie village trustee Clyde Allen and newcomer John Roscioli.

At first Roscioli's campaign seemed confusing. For two months he didn't articulate why he felt he'd do a better job on the village board. Even his more recent campaign mailing -- a very attractive card -- is short on everything except some brief generalities.

Contrast that with Allen who, when he ran for his first term two years ago, announced his candidacy with a pledge to end the bickering that wounded the village board in those days and presented his lengthy budget management experience in both the private and public sectors.

Allen's campaign flyer was a simple sheet, not flashy like his opponent's. On Allen's web site he lists the promises he made when he was the newcomer and assesses how well he's delivered on them. Allen's message has been consistent since day one.

As a village trustee, Allen hasn't been afraid to stand up for what he believes but has been able to disagree without being disagreeable. This carried over to his campaign where he has taken the high road and not attacked Roscioli.

The same level of integrity and character cannot be attributed to Roscioli who in the past several days has used his blog as a weapon to fire pot shots at Allen. The issues he finally discovered (it's still puzzling how they were not put on the table when he became a candidate) range from a false accusation that Allen supports gambling and alcohol at Pleasant Prairie Family Days (Allen never introduced or supported any such legislation) to attacking concerns Allen expressed about the financial impact of special assessments and his questioning whether the interest the village charges on them could be modified (not unreasonable when interest rates have fallen).

Reading Roscioli's newfound issues reminded me of Judge Conmey's lecture. If Allen had fatal flaws, Roscioli would have gone for the jugular long ago and may well have been justified in doing so. Instead he whines on about issues that may be interesting but, on balance, ignore the larger picture.

Beyond that, Roscioli stooped to numerous personal attacks and innuendos. For example, he falsely accused Allen and his supporters of saying that another village trustee was running his campaign when, in fact, that trustee, shortly after Roscioli announced his candidacy, made it a point to approach Allen and say that wasn't so.

Roscioli goes on to attack, without foundation, Allen as egocentric, smug and hypocritical. He also falsely accused Allen of not supporting Village President John P. Steinbrink, sr., in the last election when, in fact, Allen did so and had a Steinbrink sign in his front yard. (More important, who cares who Allen supported for village president? What does it matter?)

Roscioli's penchant for false accusations, innuendos and personal attacks clearly demonstrate that he lacks sufficient integrity and good character to serve in public office. His penchant for these and other trivial pursuits raise the question of, if elected, what kind of trustee he would be. This is important.

The reason this is important is because of the previous board where there were the three so-called "good old boys" verus the two newcomers who came aboard ostensibly with good intentions but they got lost in the "us vs. them" tussles that voters finally got sick of.

The reality is that factionalization of the board didn't serve the public and in saying that I do not assess whether one side or the other was more at fault. It doesn't matter because it's bad whether it's the "good old boys" or the newcomers. The voters saw through that and elected two trustees who demonstrated that they can be independent and yet work together with the rest of the board.

If Roscioli is elected, would he be a "good old boy" or part of another faction? It's an interesting question for which I have no answer. When someone is loose with the truth it's hard to know where they really stand.

Roscioli kicks Allen's shins again by accusing him of taking credit for the successes of village staff and to some extent this is true. It's also normal.

The elected village board provides guidance to the staff and administrator (manager). This is especially true in communities that have a "council-manager" form of government. It is absolutely normal and routine for elected officials to tout the accomplishments of the staff. The flip side of this is that when staff fails to do a good job the elected officials take the heat. You can't have one without the other.

In fairness, Allen praises the accomplishments of the board and staff. Further, his 34 years of day-to-day budget management experience -- most of it in government service -- does exceed that of the rest of the board. Roscioli suggests that Allen's touting his legitimate experience is an offense to fellow board members and village staff and, if true, then it's their problem. The Kenosha News wisely took note of that experience when it endorsed Allen's reelection.

None of this is to say that Allen is a perfect person or immune from any criticism of his village service. But at the end of the day the decision is which candidate to vote for. For me, Allen's pluses overwhelmingly outweigh the minuses and his superior government finance experience is something too valuable to part with at a critical time. He's earned reelection and my support. Further, by staying on the high road he has earned my respect and should get yours, regardless of who you vote for.

As for Roscioli, I am very disappointed in him. Yes, it was not likely that he would earn my vote, but he has lost something more important: my respect.

There's nothing wrong with John Roscioli exercising his right to seek the honor of public office. His interest in public service should not be questioned absent evidence that he is doing so for improper motives.

If Roscioli had beefs with Allen's performance, fine. That's his right. But as a voter I also have the right to question the capability of a candidate who enters a race without defining why he's a better choice and then waits two months to disclose his issues. Beyond capability there's character. Allen's campaign in this race, as it was two years ago, stayed on the high road. Roscioli's did not. If he was the superior candidate, there would be no need for sniping and personal attacks.

It is possible to run an issue-oriented campaign and stay on the high road. I know. In 1990 I was a candidate for circuit judge. There were five other candidates in the primary: Mary K. Wagner, Paul Wokwicz, Bev Jamois, Sally Yule and Robert D. Zapf. All of us stuck to the issues and conducted our campaigns with pride and integrity. It could -- and should -- happen again.


Village People said...

I've said this for many years, sometimes people run for office because they want to serve. Why does one have to have a "beef" or give reasons why they are better? That just creates the issues that you now rail against. Is that what is always expected, that one has to "prove" them selves better?

Anonymous said...

First, I'd say Roscioli has been about 3 things from the outset. Family, community, and responsibility. His family has been an amazing asset to the Kenosha area, and I think he's trying to carry that flag in his own way. His Uncle Joe played that card briefly in the 80s, but I believe only one term of alderman. The other two are symbiotic and with 2 young children, he'll tell you they are the reason he worries about the future of Pleasant Prairie.

RAG said...

I know John's family well and love them dearly. Joey was an outstanding alderman whose service benefitted the community and who ran a positive campaign, unlike John's.

Joey took a lot of heat from people who didn't like him just because of his family. It was unfair and he deflected it like a gentleman, leading by example and staying on the high road.

I deleted the balance of the anonymous comment because it sought to perpetuate several inaccuracies which are of insignificant in the larger picture. I will comment on one.

I did witness trustee Monica Yuhas approach Clyde Allen on her own and assure him that she had nothing to do with the Roscioli campaign. There was no exchange either before or after this.

If, of course, she wants to support Roscioli, it's her right to do so and whether she does or doesn't is her business and her business alone. As such it's irrelevant and any discussion here about it is closed.

RAG said...

To Village People:

Yes, the desire to serve is a legitimate reason for a candidacy but, as a voter, when a candidate asks for my vote over that of an incumbent, I expect to, at a minimum, hear why that person is a candidate and why that candidate believes he or she is a better choice. I also expect as a sign of the candidate's qualifications that he or she has defined who they are and what their positions are on critical issues. To develop that a few weeks before the election does not speak well of their qualifications (I made a similar assessment when Lydia Spottswood announced her candidacy for Congress) or their respect for the voters by depriving us of a full and fair chance to consider their qualifications and positions on the issues.

One can be a candidate and raise an issue oriented campaign from day one without going into the gutter. I did it and so have others. I also knew exactly what my issues were and clearly defined and discussed them right off the rail.

Yes, in a competitive race one does have to prove himself or herself better.

Imagine if someone came into Abbott and said, "I'd like Mike Renner's job." The HR folks would legitimately ask, "Why?" If all that person said is, "I have the desire to do Mike's job" they'd be perfectly justified in showing that job seeker the door. After all, why should they risk their investment in Mike Renner and the value of his experience over someone who just showed up on the scene and asked for his job without making a case for it.

On the flip side, if that candidate came in and said, "I can Mike's job better" and proceeded to enumate exactly how and why, then at least they should be given a listen. But if they came in without a clear definition of how and why, then they deserve no further consideration. If they don't know this and can't communicate it up front, it speaks volumes about their lack of qualifications.

And with this discussion on this point is concluded.

Anonymous said...

On the alcohol and gambling at Pleasant Prairie Family Days Roscioli distorts the facts.

The Recreation Commission voted 4-2 against a resolution ostensibly recommending against allowing alcohol or gambling activities at Family Days. There was intense discussion but suffice to say that two pricipal schools of thought were (1) concerns over the wording of the resolution and (2) a committee was being formed to study Family Days as a whole.

The recommendation came to the village board a few days later. Allen explained that gambling was a non-issue as it's illegal anyway and asked for better language to stress that this was a family event and alcohol would not be permitted. His comments:

"Part of what was said at Rec Commission, and I’m not going to speak for anyone else, but a lot of the theme was the negativity that went along with this resolution. The words out there gambling and alcohol, something more friendly like activities would only be those that all family members could partake in would eliminate any such negativity. Not that I’m–one, I guess gambling was never discussed. The casino was. Gambling is illegal to start with. Hence, I don’t know why you need a resolution to say gambling because it’s illegal and that was part of the negativity that came out of it. Nowhere in the papers there would be no gambling there, well, gambling was never considered, so something of a more friendly nature on the resolution would have been better. Again, I don’t know why you’ve got to mention gambling because it’s illegal. What’s next, you mention something that there will be no illegal drugs there either? I’d like it friendly, and I would like to see something pared down that only events that all family members can participate in instead of eliminates all opportunity for alcohol and eliminates the opportunity for games of chance or whatever was suggested out there, and that’s why I’m not in favor of gambling and the alcohol thing got blown completely out of control. It was discussed and talked. I won’t support this because it sounds so negative."

Concern over surplusage and the wording of the resolution isn't the same as backing alcohol and gambling at Family Days and Allen's own comment show that he opposes that.

RAG said...

As the record speaks for itself, the case here is closed on alcohol and gambling at Family Days. No evidence supports any claim that Allen voted in favor of either.