“Lost in Wisconsin”
Finds Its Home In Addison
By Susan M. Halpern
Former Addison Councilmember (1992-1999)
You may have noticed the installation of a piece of art – titled “Lost in Wisconsin” – at the newly designed entrance to the Health Club at the corner of Beltway and Proton. It is spectacular, truly completing the redesign of that area. Kudos to the folks involved with the Addison Arbor Foundation, as well as Slade Strickland, who envisioned a redesign of this corner around this wonderful piece of art.
But it almost didn’t happen. And, in typical fashion, Todd Meier is spinning a tall tale about it. At his recent coffee gathering, Meier told those in attendance that the new council had revisited the issue of the placement of this sculpture, suggesting that they had reversed course from a prior council vote. From there, Meier made inflammatory suggestions about other things the new council might revisit, including getting rid of council videos, a suggestion that is absurd at best.
But here’s the thing. The new council didn’t revisit anything. The council voted long ago – and unanimously – to place “Lost in Wisconsin” exactly where it now sits. The truth is that it was Meier who tried to throw a wrench in things. And the way it happened provides yet another example of Meier’s tactics and the lack of transparency that has plagued Addison under his regime. So let’s talk about it.
First, the council approved this sculpture and its placement at the corner of Beltway and Proton on July 9 2013, almost three years ago. You can watch the video of Item R4 here: http://addisontx.swagit.com/play/07092013-718. The discussion involved three different pieces of art that the Addison Arbor Foundation proposed to place at various locations in Addison. Each piece and its location was discussed separately and, all were approved by unanimous vote. That included the placement of “Lost in Wisconsin” where it presently sits.
During the discussion specifically relating to “Lost in Wisconsin,” then-Parks and Recreation Director Slade Strickland described his intent to redesign the corner at Beltway and Proton around this particular sculpture. Just before the council voted on the matter, then-Councilmember Neil Resnik congratulated all involved for their work in bringing these art pieces to Town, commenting: “It fits right in with our vision.” To which Meier responded: “It absolutely does. Well said.” And then the council, including Meier, voted to put “Lost in Wisconsin” exactly where it now sits.
To my knowledge, that direction by council was never retracted by any vote of any council. So what happened? According to Addison’s Director of Communications Mary Rosenbleeth, writing on the Addison News blog: “During a work session in October, 2015, the Council debated the addition of a recognition garden as part of the pedestrian plaza. They directed staff to explore other options in Town for a recognition component for the community, but also to delay installation of the art piece.”
And here’s the problem. This matter was discussed during a work session held prior to the council’s October 13, 2015 meeting. It was NOT on the council’s agenda as an item on which action might be taken. So, the public had no notice that the council was going to consider doing anything. And such notice is required by the Open Meetings Act. All of which means that the council had no right to take any action on this matter during that work session.
You can verify the council’s agenda (https://addisontexas.net/index.php?section=agenda). But, you won’t be able to see the work session discussion because Meier holds those off camera. So, there’s no video record of what exactly happened in October 2015. Whatever it was, this much is clear: the council had no right to direct the staff to ignore the prior directive of council given at the July 9, 2013 meeting. Apparently, that didn’t stop Meier and his cadre.
Now, I recognize that the placement of artwork around Town isn’t the overriding issue of our time. But sculptures aren’t the point. Process that ensures transparency – REAL, ACTUAL TRANSPARENCY – is the point. The right to understand and question what our government is doing is the right of every citizen and resident of Addison. And it’s been ignored for too long. In large ways and in small, Meier has ignored the safeguards that protect our rights. I for one am thankful for a new council that walks the walk, and I hope that we will continue to unravel all that has been concealed because of the previously misguided “tone at the top.”
In the meantime, it is clear that the new council didn’t change or revisit the placement of “Lost in Wisconsin.” It simply voted yet again – and again unanimously – for the current placement of the sculpture, just as it had three years ago. And, despite his attacks on the new councilmembers, the record is also clear that Meier voted for “Lost in Wisconsin” to be placed exactly where it now sits, including with his enthusiastic endorsement of Neil Resnik’s comment that this “fits right in with our vision.”
This episode again raises the specter of troubling behavior on the part of this misguided mayor. If anything has been LOST, it is the rights of Addison’s residents to have a truly transparent government. That will slowly but surely change, as the new council demonstrates its commitment to REAL TRANSPARENCY. But, Meier’s conduct at the recent coffee gathering also demonstrates that Meier apparently intends to make these improvements a painful process, as he continues to mislead citizens and foment division in our Town.
But this particular episode has a happy ending, as “Lost in Wisconsin” has finally found its spectacular new Home in Addison.