Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Be Careful What You Ask For...

With 26 of 40 precincts reporting Paul Esslinger is leading Frank Tower by about 750 votes -- so I think we can safely put this one to bed.

This doesn't come as huge to surprise to us here at the Chief. After nine years on the city council Essingler has nothing to show for his tenure except a string of polarizing incidents that do little in terms of moving the city forward, but are a great way of getting one's name in the paper. Tower's mild-mannered approach to governance was simply no match for Esslinger, who is not afraid to to get all up in the grills of his colleagues. We find this unfortunate, but, again, not surprising.

So what does this mean? Quite a bit actually. An elected mayor of Oshkosh was initially described as little more than a figurehead with ceremonial responsibilities beyond those of any other council person. As mayor, Tower walked a fine and cautious line trying to adhere to that principle, and likely for the better. Simply by virtue of being elected Esslinger destroys that quaint notion of the position now that he has the power to appoint another vote to the council. This will be Esslinger first test as Mayor, one that won't merely set the pace for the rest of his term in office, but will likely define it.

We personally feel this is a major flaw in the way the mayor is choosen in Oshkosh. By running for mayor, Esslinger didn't stand to lose his seat on the council whereas Tower did. Furthermore, a Tower win would have resulted in a continuation of the status quo in terms of council composition, but an Esslinger win now results in a radical shift in the council's make-up. The stakes of this particular race are tremendously off kilter, as we can now plainly see.

To that end, we feel Esslinger's first act as mayor should be appointing his replacement through any manner he sees fit. We don't agree with the makeshift "instant run-off" method endorsed by the NW -- it's no less arbitrary than Esslinger chosing a cousin for the job. The people of Oshkosh were asked to choose three council members, not four. Had four council seat been on the line, as we believe there should have been, this would have radically changed the way many people in Oshkosh would have voted. Esslinger chosing the fourth place finisher of tonight's election will only result in the verneer of legitimacy.

What needs to happen is the adoption of a "sore loser" policy. If the Mayor's office is going to be treated differently from other council position -- as is clearly happening -- it should be an all or nothing affair. If you run for Mayor, you can't run for council. If you're already on the council, you have to give up your seat to run for Mayor. Esslinger potentially wins two council votes by becoming mayor -- that simply should never be an issue during an election of this nature. This is a loophole that obviously needs to be closed and should be the second thing Esslinger should accomplish in office.

We admit these are not life and death issues, but will require the leadership needed by an effective mayor who plans on accomplishing much else while in office.

Following these minor, but necessary, changes to the council, Esslinger claimed (rather inconsistantly, it should be noted) that his top priorities are, depending on when he was being asked:
  • Public Safety
  • Sewage Treatment
  • Jobs
  • Infrastucture
By all estimates, Oshkosh will likely be heading into a troubled economic period in the foreseeable future. Crime increases when that happens. Tax revenues decline. Jobs become scarce. During his time on the council Esslinger never once spearheaded a movement to enhance any of these areas. He may have voted on this motion or that ordinance, but he's never led the charge on anything. We don't expect that to change.

Esslinger has always wanted to be mayor, but he's won the job at a time that requires real leadership, leadership that he has consistenlty demonstrated he is incapable of providing. We anticipate that he will look for guidance and excuses elsewhere. In fact, we think the city of Oshkosh should get used to hearing two phrases "The survey said the people want ..." and "There's nothing that the mayor can really do about ..." Surveys are fine tools, but what happens when a 30% plurality wants one thing and another 30% wants something else? What happens when 35% want something silly and 30% want something serious? Those are the moments when leaders step up and, you know, lead. We won't expect to be surprised when we don't see any of this during Esslinger's term.

But that's just big thinking. What should Oshkosh expect to see in the next two years? Not much. A lot of talk about this and that -- but in terms of specifics, not much.

Sewage Treatment: Little does Esslinger realize, but he's walking into a mine field here. If he wants to enhance the city's treatment capacities he will have to raise taxes and/or fees. If he doesn't manage to sell this idea -- as opposed to just bagging it in the face of opposition from tax advocates -- he will then be faced with where to begin the enhancements. Choose the west side and the rest of the city will be pissed because they have all the development going on already. Choose the south side and the rest of the city will be pissed because Esslinger lives there. Choose the north side and, well, you get the picture. All the sewage lip service Esslinger gave was basically an example of him having his cake and eating it too: it's a far more complicated problem than he is aware of, one that requires some degree of skill and salesmanship to negotiate. There's no evidence to suggest Esslinger has that skill, so we feel there's no reason anything will change on this front. Unless it's funded by federal stimulus money, don't expect it to happen in Oshkosh.

Infrastructure: Ditto the above. If you're expecting the street to suddenly be paved with gold, we are sorry to disappoint you. The NW put it rather succinctly in its endorsement of Tower last week:

What can you make of a politician who said he wants more money spent on infrastructure, but votes against the city's capital improvement program? Esslinger said he wanted more dollars earmarked for streets and sewers. Fair enough. But he did not offer a single amendment to accomplish that. All he did was offer an amendment to remove floating docks from Riverside Park.

After nine years on the Common Council, Esslinger should recognize that the time to chart out a comprehensive shift in public works projects isn't a "No" vote in November. It takes leadership in January, February and March to set goals and direct staff to begin planning to accomplish them.

That about says it all.

Public Safety: Watch for it to rise, but through no fault of Esslinger's. Crime rates rise during tough economic times regardless of who is in charge, but don't be surprised if an incident or series of incidents (invasion of the tire vampires, perhaps?) inspires Esslinger to flex his mayoral muscles through some meaningless grandstanding.

Jobs: Don't plan on Esslinger cutting many ribbons in front of newly opening businesses any time soon. Jobs will come to Oshkosh, but it will largely have nothing to do with what happens at City Hall. If an enterprising journalist wanted to start a recurring column, he or she might want to keep a running count of how many jobs Esslinger creates during his tenure. We're talking about private sector jobs provided by companies that relocate or expand here in Oshkosh and that publically disclose Esslinger's role in the creation of those jobs.

Downtown Redevelopment: On hold until further notice. Expect the news today that Water City Grill is closing to be the beginning of a string of bad news for downtown. There will be hard times for Main Street on the way, but Esslinger has made clear that we've sunk enough into that part of town already, so ... you all are on your own.

Riverside: I hope everyone likes the sight of an expansive empty field where potentially profitably waterfront property could be located, because that's what we're all going to be getting for the foreseeable future. The riverfront seemed to be plagued by a lack of vision and awful proposals -- and that was when it was a priority of the council. There's no reason to believe any active effort will be made to change this.

City Government: At various times Esslinger will almost certainly recommend an increase in City Government, like he has in the past with the addition of a "Development Divison" to City Hall. These will come with little regard to expense or how they will be implemented and will be little more than Esslinger delegating authority that should be the responsibility of the mayor or other government employees.

The Office of the Mayor: Whereas Mayor Tower was careful to not to overextend the authority of the mayor's office, Esslinger will suffer from no such compunction. Expect him to try to expand the reach of the mayor without much consideration for the long term consequences. He's said so much himself:
My vision for the office would be to have a person that is elected by the citizens and has more influence. This person would also be in charge of going to Madison to lobby our state legislature to the needs of Oshkosh. This person should also have an office where citizens could contact him/her during business hours to help them with issues that confront them with city government.
That sounds like Esslinger wants to make this a full time gig. Expect him to try, but not get very far doing so.

Letters to the Editor: There will be tons, many over remarkably stupid distractions instigated by Esslinger. Likewise with editorials. This will go on and on and on until further notice.

Last, but not least, Esslinger can almost be certainly credited with the creation of a vehement opposition that will critique decisions and actions that would have otherwise gone unnoticed by Mayor of yore. That is his own damn fault. Esslinger egged on many people in Oshkosh and now those people get to sit back and snipe from the sidelines. Expect the criticism to be relentless and the demand to perform to be just as intense.

We here at the Chief expect nothing short of epic failure from Esslinger. We hope for otherwise, but have little reason to believe that's going to happen.

MORE: It's official -- the NW calls it.

6 comments:

jody said...

omg, you haven't even fully realized have you? not only everything you said just now but also...

did you look at Tony Palmeri's numbers ?

6633

66(3+3=6)

.....666

Chief, get your affairs in order, Oshkosh is fucked

CJ said...

Keep your shorts on brother.
This too shall pass.

CJ said...

jody-
6633
6+6+3+3=18
1+8=9

Numerology 9

"You are socially conscious, concerned about the betterment of the world, idealistic, visionary, tolerant, imaginative and creative, compassionate, romantic, selfless and generous. are also giving, sharing, loving, caring, noble and aristocratic.

You don't mind sacrificing time, money and energy for a better world. You usually finish what you start and you are ready to sacrifice without the need for reward. "

Anonymous said...

Here is what I think of your comments Chief!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMlsGBcouPg

jody said...

"You are socially conscious, concerned about the betterment of the world, idealistic, visionary, tolerant, imaginative and creative, compassionate, romantic, selfless and generous. are also giving, sharing, loving, caring, noble and aristocratic.

You don't mind sacrificing time, money and energy for a better world. You usually finish what you start and you are ready to sacrifice without the need for reward. "


I am ?!
that's AMAZING, I would have said I was just cynical
lol
1+0+1 = 2

2 creeped out by that wack-job potty cartoon video freakazoid to stick around THIS place...

Ruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuun!!!

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