This piece, which includes a section about Commissioner Jim Rasor, was composed and put in-place before the ABE/Fresard/Rasor/ furor erupted. That matter will be dealt with separately and does not affect the validity of the profiles as of 23 August 2012.
The Labor Day holiday causes a gap between CITCOM meetings, providing an opportunity to present a profile of the public's' impressions about the current city commission, which has been operating now for almost nine months. (My personal mix of praise and criticism continues weekly as usual.)
About overall performance of the group, based on multiple and ongoing conversations with residents and voters -- both individually and in groups -- I find it impossible so far to assign a residents' grade to the commission as a whole. It's too much of a mixed bag, in large part because many find it difficult to separate their feelings about individuals from their evaluation of their performance at The Table. Not that there aren't impressions: favorable, unfavorable, neutral, indifferent.
About CITCOM meetings, some Versagi Voice readers say they miss the fighting which frequently added excitement to viewing the previous commission's debates. They complain that the current sessions are dull and seem to run longer. The irritation and dislike formerly aimed at three former commissioners has transitioned to an uneasiness, bordering on suspicion, about the single political party makeup of the current group. Spontaneous conversation about CITCOM occurs much less frequently than it used to. When such conversation does arise, it doesn't last long and tends to be dismissive -- except when the too-many-bars issue arises.
My interlocutors tend to be dismissive also about the three newest commissioners. They complain that Peggy Goodwin is obsessed with neighborhoods and tunnel-visioned about her Crime Prevention-focus. But they praise her for not sounding off just to hear her own voice. They seem not to have noticed the growing grasp of issues by Kyle DuBuc and Mike Fournier and refer to them as "the teenagers." They say that Kyle talks only when he has something to say and that Mike does seem to like the sound of his own voice.
Readers had no difficulty recognizing Pat Capello, Jim Ellison, and Jim Rasor as the three unnamed "strong voices" I mentioned a week or two ago. Before I describe readers' impressions of that trio, I need to report that about David Poulton, my readers -- especially those who know Dave and interact with him in other venues -- most often express puzzlement. They cite his soft voice and his tendency to always be looking at his papers, his occasionally seeming to be speaking to those papers, his looking out into space, and conclude, "It's almost like he'd rather be somewhere else." Many comment that Dave frequently changes his stated position during a debate. Some see that as caused by inattention; others see it as the result of listening for details which emerge as others speak.
Readers have-at me most about Pat and Jim-E and Jim-R. It's sad to have to report that some readers are angry that I both praise and criticize these forceful leaders. "Make up you mind!" "Do you like her or dislike her?" You know: people are always good or always bad, always on or always off, always right or always wrong.
Pat Capello's attention to detail is considered excessive by some. They suspect she is often grandstanding, showing off how much experience she has had in the private sector. They love it when I complain that Pat is nit-picking. Her admirers rebut that her attention to detail elicits important information which otherwise might be overlooked, that she is often "the only voice of reason up there." Pat's willingness to be the sole voice about this or that issue brings forth the Thatchersque "Iron Lady" label, both as criticism and as praise.
Jim-R's admirers and detractors have remained the same for years. Socially likeable, he irritates even some of his admirers because "he can't resist being a smart-ass even in friendly conversations." About his work at The Table, the most common complaint is that he repeatedly "comes in from left field." Also obsessed with detail -- "with the lawyer's mindset making it worse" -- Rasor is labeled as the "biggest time-waster" on the commission. Instant rebuttal comes from residents who say he focuses quickly and cite such examples as the reasonable option he offered for the proposed peddler-control amendment. There is consensus that Jim-R has reduced the number of occasions when he consumes many minutes of asking leading questions to make a point.
It is about Jim-E that the most vigorous conversations occur. One group chides me for being easy on him when I point out that he has steadily improved his skills at running a meeting. Others complain that I belittle him by mentioning some "Ellison fatigue" out there. The dissenters come on strong.
About his management style: "Ellison was what you call 'too nice' only when he had to be. . . . He's behaving differently now, with a sure four votes no matter what comes up." . . . "Now he wants to operate like a 'strong mayor' form of government."
About the existence or not of Ellison fatigue, it's fun to hear residents disagree: "There's no such thing as Ellison fatigue. . . . You're making that up." . . . He'll be mayor for as long as he wants to be." . . . "Bull. There are two or three people out there who can challenge him and win." . . . "Hell, in one election, Andrzejak got more votes for commissioner than Ellison got for mayor." . . . "He wouldn't know how to run against real opposition."
(NOTE: Hundreds of conversations over the years reveal:
Most, a large majority, of those residents who follow civic affairs admire Ellison. A small minority dislikes him, and a very small subset of that minority disrespects him. Among those who do not follow civic affairs the mayor and the commissioners and the city manager and the city attorney, et al, are nothing more than names in the newspaper and on Patch.)
Thus spake the people.
Civilized Special CITCOM meeting avoids excessive emotional turmoil
To read the 40-plus highly emotional posts on the Patch story about the Arts, Beats & Eats-related parking hassle, one would expect the Special Meeting called to address anonymous rumors that Commissioner Jim Rasor has behaved unethically, perhaps to the extent of having a conflict of interest, would be highly charged.
To begin with, not very many residents attended the session. Though no one spoke in favor of Rasor, the session was quiet and civilized. Even the 5 or 6 Public Comment speakers made their attacks in subdued tones.
Mayor Jim Ellison, pointed out that because Jim-R's application to use the Fresard lot as a private parking lot has not been approved, no actionable violation had occurred. City Attorney David Gillam mused that had the situation developed as rumored, it would have been a conflict of interest.
On a motion by Commissioner Pat Capello, an independent investigation will be conducted. Hope was expressed that the investigation might also lead to clearing up any fuzziness in the city's ethics ordinance. Rasor said he welcomes the investigation, and he urges anonymous bloggers to hold their fire until the investigation is completed.
Capello wants the investigator to interview every commissioner about what they knew and when they knew it, a request with obvious implications.
COMMENT: 41 posts from 13 people. Then 17 posts from 11 people -- many of them the same as in the first 13. Some residents and readers have expressed either puzzlement or disappointment at the "low turnout." Why wasn't the special CITCOM meeting jammed with angry residents chomping to get their 5 minutes at the lectern?
Because nothing in the entire Rasor/ABE/Fresard/CITCOM brouhaha impacts their 50-foot property. "It's all inside-stuff among a bunch of politicians."
More seriously -- with commissioners lining up against commissioners in a legal arena -- let's hope that this is not the beginning of a return to the across-the-table animosity which pervaded the previous commission.
Frank Versagi is the editor of Versagi Voice.