Political tools

The Landmark View - January 19, 2005

Opinion

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When it comes to grandstanding, Brookfield's politicians are second to none.

Twice in recent weeks, both sides have made efforts to show that their opponents are scheming, untrustworthy and downright un-Brookfieldian.

The first was an effort on the part of the PEP Party to formalize a public handshake agreement by both PEP and VIP not to display lawn signs during the upcoming April election. Both sides were heartily for the sign ban. Who wouldn't be? Who wants to be cast in the role of a groveling politician whose only hope for election is based on the number of lawn signs he can distribute?

The only trouble is that the whole sign ban idea is just ludicrous. How on earth can political parties demand that private residents not exercise their First Amendment rights by refraining from political speech?

We always thought the best way to engage voters in the election process was to involve them in it. Why would anyone want to limit the involvement? Lots of election signs in the village will mean one thing?"that the residents of Brookfield are passionate about the election and will head to the polls in April.

In any case, neither side trusts each other enough to abide by the sign ban. It's just another way to chastise the other side as not having the best interests of the community at heart. In our view the time to take politics out of village discussions is not during an election season?"it's in that long season in between where important things need to get done.

How about a handshake agreement to keep politics out of village board meetings? That we'd endorse.

But making political speeches during board meetings seems too difficult to pass up.

On Jan. 10, the lengthiest segment of the board's Committee of the Whole meeting concerned the village's crime stats. Only crime prevention didn't get much shrift.

Instead, everyone in the room was treated to a campaign speech by Village President Bill Russ in response to what he perceived as a politically motivated topic. His rival, Trustee Michael Garvey, introduced the topic for discussion in January, even though the village's crime stats got ink in this newspaper back in March 2004 and in another paper in July.

Was the timing suspect? It sure looked that way. But Russ could have easily avoided the discussion altogether if he wanted. He could have directed Village Manager Dave Owen to refuse to put the topic on the agenda, something he's done to Garvey in the past.

But, no, this was shooting fish in a barrel. The topic appeared on the agenda, with the legend "requested by Trustee Garvey." No other topics on the agenda betrayed who requested their appearance.

The intent was to single out the man who would question the effectiveness village's police force. Russ swooped in, claimed the floor and read from a prepared statement blasting Garvey while gratuitously praising the police force with calls for applause.

Politicians don't want to use lawn signs to accomplish political purposes, but they are more than willing to use the police department. It boggles the mind.

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