Shades of 2001? Village election time in Brookfield is always a spectator sport, but it looks like voters will get a real show this time around, now that a fracture within the PEP Party has gone public.
On Sunday, Michael Towner and Yvonne Prause parted ways with the party that launched their local political careers. Officially, the reason for doing so was a difference over direction.
To be sure, Towner has butted heads with his fellow PEP trustees, really since just prior to the 2009 election, when he first floated the idea of putting a property tax referendum question on the ballot in the face of an economic crisis that forced the village to cut staff, freeze wages and trim services.
When Brookfield Zoo put on a full-court press to block the village from enacting an amusement tax that would have cost the zoo hundreds of thousands and convinced the village to back off from charging the zoo for water at residential rates, Towner was a hawk.
And during the more recent back and forth over changing village parking rules, Towner wanted residents to suck it up and park on one side of the street only. His fellow trustees didn’t agree.
But it also feels like there’s a large element of disappointment to this move, and Towner admitted he felt “sad” before hitting the send button on his computer Sunday morning, when he emailed the letter of resignation to PEP.
Towner’s been angling for a shot at the village presidency for a while, probably since 2009 when he rode to victory for the second time alongside President Michael Garvey. That he didn’t get the nod from the party had to hurt.
In addition to being a party loyalist since 1999, Towner was, especially prior to his election in 2005, one of the party’s most reliable attack dogs, happily going after the party’s opponents and unafraid to get a black eye or two in the process.
That the same loyalty wasn’t shown in return must have been a source of bitter disappointment for a man who wears his emotions on his sleeve.
With Towner going after the president’s spot as an independent, he may have the effect of splitting the PEP vote and paving the way for a third or, heck, even fourth – now that there’s no incumbent and turmoil within PEP – candidate for president.
The last time PEP was this vulnerable was in 2001, when the party was still reeling from the death of Tom Sequens, which led to a musical chairs act on the village board. Is PEP setting up the chairs again?
Brookfield will find out Wednesday night when the party announces its slate. As Bette Davis would say, “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”