In the Village of Cottage Grove, we found out recently, that we have a royal family and no one is allowed in and no one can be voted out.
As I wrote yesterday the Village Board was getting ready to appoint registered (secret) lobbyist Paula Severson to fill out a one year term that was left open when Diane Wiedenbeck defeated Mike Mikalsen for Village President. Paula Severson was a sitting board member and ran for re-election. There were three spots open (with 5 candidates) and she finished a distant fourth.
When I realized that two board members(David Viken and Jeff Weigand) purposely went around newly elected president Weidenbeck and put the appointment of Severson on the agenda. Meant to not only subvert the process, but also meant to disrespect her as the duly elected president. Having looked at the agenda, I sent the following letter to the members of the Village Board.
I am writing to strongly oppose the appointment of Paula Severson to fulfill the one year term that was made available with the election of Diane Wiedenbeck as Village President. I feel that this appointment needs to be a well thought out, above board, and completely open process in appointing someone to serve the remainder of this term.
We just held an election in the Village, with a very good turn out, where the people spoke clearly that the way things have been done the last two years were not acceptable. When Jack Henrich applied to fulfill Scott Norton’s term, the fact that he had recently finished second in the election was of no consequence. It should carry no weight here either.
With a new election and new board make-up, please do not start out the new term by dividing the community again. The village and the state has had enough of such petty partisan fast tracked politics and it is time to end it.
Let’s do the right thing and make this an open process for everyone in the village to be heard.
Thank you for your time.
My letter of course fell upon deaf ears, as this move was planned, signed, sealed and delivered for quite some time. Despite the fact that two years ago, against massive public outcry, the village board appointed Mike Mikalsen to the presidency. Thus denying the village the vote and dividing the people. Even though the village let it be known at the ballot box that that kind of politics is unacceptable, they went ahead and appointed Paula within the first 45 minutes of the meeting to serve another year. It was very important to them to appoint her quickly so that she did not have to apply for the position. They did not want to cause Ms. Severson any “anguish”(they knew that there would be strong opposition within the village to her appointment, and did not want her subject to that).
It is ironic that Paula Severson, who was upset that some people met at a public building, spent two weeks in private planning her way back on the board. This is NOT what democracy or leadership look like. It amazes me how someone who so clearly subverted the democratic process was thinking that they were “serving” the public. Her votes and voice will be diminished by how deceptive she was in taking a position she did not earn. It is too bad that President Wiedenbeck, and trustees Viken, Zielke and newly elected Jennifer Pickel (who ran on a platform of independence and transparency, unfortunately displayed neither in her first vote) decided to show such contempt for the citizens and electorate of Cottage Grove. You wonder why there is such apathy in the electorate when the the results can be so easily and quickly ignored!
The Solution: What should have happened was the board to post and publicize the year opening and take applications. Thus allowing everyone in the village to not only apply for the position, but also to weigh in on the people who did apply. This assures that the person who is representing the village has faced public scrutiny and then is accountable to the people. That is what democracy looks like. What leadership would look like, is for Ms. Severson to resign and go through the process. That would be the true mark of leader, and the sign that she truly felt she was the best candidate. This would also be the only way to truly legitimize her position as village trustee.
PS: For those who think I have a vendetta against Ms. Severson, while I disagree with her politics, they would not be correct. During her time on the Village Board she has served on the Emergency Services Committee. After she was voted out, she expressed an interest in remaining on the committee. I feel that there is room for everyone to serve their community regardless of their political affiliations. I also feel that ALL voices having an open and honest discussion is what leads to a better society. In that vein, I sent the following letter to the Village Board asking for them to please keep her on the Emergency Services Committee. The village sent a message that they did not want her on the village board(and I concurred), but there is room for all who want to serve on a committee.
As someone who was very active in the last election and what is happening in my community, I would like to recommend that Paula Severson retain her spot on the EMS commission. While I continue to question her understanding of what a “public” building is, I do not question her dedication to helping out the community through her work on the EMS commission. I think she has performed a valuable service on that committee and hope that she is allowed to continue on in this capacity.
Thank you and congratulations to the recent election winners.
Cross Posted at Forward lookout.