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April 25, 2019

4/5/2019 4:44:00 PM
Let's end this

A television commercial for cold medicine keeps coming to mind as we ponder the state of Rhinelander city government.

The tagline is "Let's end this."

There's no other way to put it, city government has become a spectacle of stupidity, a grotesque circus, a laughingstock. Caught in an endless cycle of accusations and recriminations, the so-called leaders of "Dramalander" (as someone on social media recently called the Hodag city) have demeaned themselves and the offices they hold.

In Dramalander, making wild accusations without offering evidence is a recreational sport.

Last month city administrator Daniel Guild, in an official report no less, accused unnamed city alderpersons of drunkenness. He didn't say who, he didn't say when, he didn't say where. He just lit a bomb and watched it explode.

Skip ahead a few weeks and city alderperson Dawn Rog, incensed over the abrupt termination of city attorney Carrie Miljevich, accuses the mayor and others of sexism, and retaliation.

Like the drunkenness accusation, this statement was thrown out without supporting evidence. The departure of former alderperson Sherri Belliveau was mentioned, but Belliveau is on record that her resignation was due to health concerns not sexism.

(In fact, Belliveau reached out to the River News Thursday to reiterate that she was not the victim of gender-related mistreatment during her time at City Hall).

While it's true that four female employees signed a "no confidence" declaration against Guild, no one has brought forth evidence of prejudice, stereotyping or discrimination by Guild (or Frederickson) against those women or any others.

If there's evidence that proves these men are guilty of sexism, we have not seen it. However, we must note that the voting bloc that ousted Miljevich this week did a truly remarkable job in handing their rivals grenades to be thrown back in their faces.

For starters, each and every person who voted to fire Miljevich is under investigation himself over an alleged open meetings violation. We can only surmise they are all feeling very confidant about the results of that investigation (maybe because one of them happens to be a law enforcement officer). Why else would they arrange for a special meeting, on Election Day no less, and spend about the same time it takes to watch a sitcom deciding the attorney's fate?

Did someone, anyone, even consider the possibility that it might be inappropriate for any such action to take place while the mayor and half the council are under investigation?

Then there were the performances of the mayor and aldermen. We use the word "performances" for a reason, as it appeared to us there was a lot of (very poor) play-acting going on.

Following the lickety-split discussion behind closed doors, Frederickson immediately produced the requisite letter advising Miljevich her services would no longer be needed. Presto. Abracadabra.

Oddly, Frederickson had considerable difficulty finding any words at all, when asked to explain why he pushed for Miljevich's ouster. He told reporters Miljevich has done a lot of good work for the city, not something one expects to hear as an explanation for a termination. The mayor then employed the time-worn "it was time for a change" mantra. When asked to explain why a change would be necessary, if Miljevich was doing a good job, Frederickson appeared lost.

Not surprisingly, his handpicked new attorney swiftly intervened and removed him from the room before he could make any more contradictory statements that could some day turn up in a deposition transcript.

Speaking of depositions, city taxpayers better get their pocketbooks ready as, yet again, they may well end up paying the price for all of these blunders.

Meanwhile, Mr. Frederickson is celebrating his one-year anniversary this month. His career in public office started with an error in filling out candidacy forms and we are still trying to determine whether he understands the requirements of his job. Most alarming is the lack of personal accountability coming from the mayor's office. In a press release issued Friday, Frederickson chides others for "unnecessary and hurtful commentary," but offers nothing that indicates an understanding that his own behavior has contributed to the current crisis. Of course, no one at City Hall is interested in personal responsibility these days. After the district attorney's office declined to cite or prosecute her in connection with her squabble with an IT contractor in the basement of City Hall, the aforementioned alderperson Rog had an opportunity to show some leadership. Sadly, she squandered it.

Instead of offering an apology for her behavior (which was inappropriate and unbecoming an elected official, even if she was acting out of a desire to protect the city), she decided to demand that everyone else apologize.

Not to be outdone, Guild took to Facebook Thursday to continue the endless cycle of finger-pointing. He has accused alderpersons of drunkenness - without evidence - but insists everyone else is a bully and he and the mayor are merely victims.

He lectures others about compassion and humility but has modeled neither trait during his time in Rhinelander. We would advise Mr. Guild to leave the preaching to the local clergy and concern himself with his own behavior.

The bottom line is, until everyone (and we mean everyone) turns the index finger they have been pointing at others back at themselves, there is no hope for Rhinelander.

Also, didn't anyone else's grandparents remind them that "one alone can't fight"?

Meanwhile, we suspect Mr. Guild is very much enjoying the view from behind his very fancy new desk. With Miljevich out of the way, and a majority of the council acting as his personal yes-men, it appears he is now free to reshape the city in pretty much any fashion he wants and, of course, burnish his resume along the way. We can't help but picture miniature bobblehead versions of Frederickson and his four aldermanic allies on that infamous desk, nodding and bowing enthusiastically as the administrator plots his next move.

Finally, there are the bystanders, most of whom reside on social media, who seem to be reveling in all of this. They are pleased that people they despise are getting what they believe to be a comeuppance. It doesn't seem to matter to them if corrupt and/or incompetent officials are replaced with equally corrupt and/or incompetent officials and the whole house burns down, they just want to see their enemies suffer.

All of this brings us to a singular question - why would anyone (a business, a young family, a recent college grad or retiree) want to relocate to a community that is destroying itself from the inside out? The answer is no one. The natural reaction is to search until you find any other option, because any other option is better than a community that has torched itself.

Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, April 8, 2019
Article comment by: Dan Butkus

A rare day when the newspaper editorial and I completely agree. To answer your last question first...when asked why I don't move up to our place on the lake, my first reply is Rhinelander City government. Why would I want to live anywhere near Dramaland? Besides the obvious goings on lately, they can't fight their way out of a wet paper bag.

Anyone even vaguely familiar with Guild's performance in Weston sees history repeating itself. So I have to question the wisdom of hiring him in the first place. The antics of the Council and Mayor would be entertaining in a fictional novel, but it's more a real live train wreck. Horrifying to watch, but somehow you can't look away.

Rhinelander ought to regain its dignity and do what Merrill voters are doing: recall all those elected to city government, who can be recalled. A popular vote of no confidence. Otherwise, get ready for more of the circus show's clown car act..

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