Elected officials can’t ask for job while simultaneously criticize performance reviews by media
By Brandi Makuski
The past several months have brought enormous change to local government. No doubt state-level changes- recent and pending- are a part of that change, but the most immediate effect we’ve seen stems from large turnover on the Stevens Point City Council and infusion of some new blood on the school board, as well as new leadership in the Village of Plover, local police and fire departments, the mayor’s office and various school district administrators.
In almost every instance, the new blood replaces longtime public servants with years of experience. Most of the outgoing officials understood the difference between perception and reality and adjusted their public behavior and words accordingly.
That’s not to say our new leaders can’t also become more savvy; many will likely become valued assets to our community. But there are always a few on several local government bodies who carry on their habits of being woefully under-informed, regardless of having multiple years in office under their respective belts, operating with tunnel vision and without a larger goal in mind.
Too often we see a real lack of accountability from local elected officials. It is in this instance that fierce reporting, in-depth coverage and fearless questions are demanded of the local media outlets. It’s not a witch hunt: just as a lawyer is required to zealously defend his client, journalists are tasked with zealously asking the elected officials some hard questions and reporting every word of the answer.
After that, it’s up to the constituents to decide for themselves.
But those in elected office must also realize their words and actions- and lack thereof- have very real consequences in the real world, and at times cover up any change at vigorous debate within the community. Council members who haven’t done their homework, school board members who don’t read their packets and other elected officials with no sense of modern municipal history are just as dangerous to our community as natural disaster.
In some ways, the enormity of so many simultaneous leadership changes may not be realized for many years. Those changes can best be guided not by the Wisconsin League of Municipalities, not by a new mayor and not by a new school superintendent, however well-intention or education, but by the voters themselves.