Here Come the Negatives… Again

Here Come the Negatives… Again
Here Come the Efforts to Divide Us… Again
Time to Stay the Course, Addison
By Susan M. Halpern
Former Addison Councilmember (1992-1999)

Some of you may have received a long, rambling letter from Addison’s toxic ex-mayor. The letter generally follows the formula of the negatives and naysayers, about which we have written a great deal. The negatives create a faux issue, mischaracterize it, often by fabricating “facts,” claim the sky is falling, attack anyone who isn’t them, and then claim that only they can resolve the faux issue. This approach has never been in the best interests of Addison, but that has never stopped the negatives. They do whatever they perceive will serve their own interests, even – and often – at Addison’s expense.

So, we can never forget that the author of this bizarre letter is the same ex-mayor who actively sought negative publicity for Addison, including when running a campaign of lies in 2016 in the hopes of retaining his control of the council. Back then, he used taxpayer money to fund a sycophant accountant who inappropriately leveled one-sided and unsupported attacks against staff in support of that campaign. The ex-mayor then orchestrated the illegal withholding of the key Lea Dunn memo that refuted the basis for all of it.

Thankfully, Addison voters rejected negativity and elected Mayor Joe Chow and other councilmembers who have led Addison forward with respect for a true democratic process. But Addison can never forget the outrageous acts and episodes – and there were so, so many – that define the ex-mayor’s awful legacy. The fact is that this ex-mayor gave Addison a front row seat to the harm a divisive, dictatorial individual can cause when he places his own ambitions above the interests of the community.

For its part, Addison has moved on and is doing fine, even in the midst of a pandemic. Addison is addressing many long-overdue capital and infrastructure projects, including some (like the fountain at Addison Circle) that councils led by the ex-mayor refused to address in prior budgets. Public support for such projects was amply demonstrated when Addison voters passed a $70 million bond package in 2019, and responded overwhelmingly in support of addressing Addison’s aging infrastructure in the most recent citizens survey.

Addison has also remedied the ongoing employee compensation problems. The ex-mayor continually refused to do so, resulting in short-staffing in the police and fire departments and an exodus of talented management-level employees in multiple departments. But then, the ex-mayor’s contempt for the Addison police department is evident in the false accusations contained in his letter, made without disclosing that his dissatisfaction arises out of a case involving an individual described in court papers as his “significant other.” Context is everything.

Addison has responsibly grown its staff in response to the continuing increase in Addison’s population. In one case, changing market conditions created an increased demand for outside vendors, who overcommitted and became unreliable, so Addison took the tasks in house. Addison’s tax rate funds the services and amenities its residents expect and, most notably, compares favorably with comparator communities. Addison has been proactive in supporting businesses during the unprecedented circumstances of the past year, when the struggles of restaurants and other businesses have been amply documented.

The ex-mayor’s failure to present all sides of these and other issues comes as no surprise. It has always been the hallmark of his public communications. He shamelessly manipulates “facts,” misrepresenting and withholding information as suits his purposes, all while proclaiming his “transparency.” When he was mayor, he seized control of Addison’s newsletter, rebranding it as his own, and then misusing this Addison-owned resource to mischaracterize and misrepresent issues, to undermine and attack his opponents, and to otherwise mislead Addison residents. That he now writes that “no one ever complained about being uninformed” when he was in office is patently false. His monopolization of this Addison-owned resource was HIGHLY controversial and was the subject of countless complaints and multiple Council meetings and agendas. Many of us vociferously objected to the dishonest nature of his writings and his blatant misuse of this public, government-owned publication. Misleading constituents – no matter how often it is done – is not transparency. Transparency is rooted in TRUTH, not volume, and TRUTH was always in short supply with the ex-mayor.

Here’s another thing. Council term limits have not been eliminated. They have been part of Addison’s Charter since 1993. And, Addison’s Charter can only be amended by holding a Charter election such as the one held in November 2020. The Council has no authority to change the Charter on its own. Further, as part of the November 2020 Charter election, Addison voters passed a proposition eliminating self-nomination for candidates for Mayor and Council, and requiring petitions of at least 25 signatures (no more than 50). This is the practice of many other comparator cities and, because it applies with equal force to incumbents and non-incumbents, it favors neither. And finally, Addison’s Council does not “secretly” meet. Ever. Its meetings are publicly noticed as required by the Open Meetings Act.

All of which confirms that the Council never “secretly” met, including to change the Charter provision on term limits or to “make it more difficult to unseat incumbents.” These statements by the ex-mayor in his letter are utterly false and irresponsible. The fact that he made them demonstrates beyond any doubt that he continues to be untethered to TRUTH and completely untrustworthy.

But then, his letter isn’t the first time the ex-mayor has weaponized the issue of term limits. In 2017, the ex-mayor falsely claimed that current Mayor Joe Chow and Councilmember Tom Braun were ineligible because they had previously served on the council. He disseminated this claim just two days before early voting started – another misuse of Addison’s email list – leaving virtually no time to correct his misstatements before voters started casting early ballots. And, he omitted critical facts, not the least of which was that his argument about lifetime versus successive term limits had been rejected by Addison’s City Attorney, who quoted the wording of the 1993 ballot proposition (“consecutive”)  and the Charter (“successive”) in concluding:

“A plain reading of the ballot proposition indicates that the proposed limit was on “consecutive terms” not “terms.” To read it otherwise would render the words “consecutive” or “successive” as a useless appendage. Had the term limit considered by the voters intended to limit an individual to a lifetime total of three terms in office, the word “consecutive” would not have been included in the ballot language.”

The impact of these omissions was amplified by the ex-mayor’s concurrent claims that he’d left no stone unturned in an effort to resolve the question, when in TRUTH, the City Attorney had already done so. When the other members of the Council recognized the need to correct the record, most easily accomplished by releasing the attorney’s memorandum, the ex-mayor stonewalled their efforts, trying to delay them until early voting had concluded. Thankfully, the Council proceeded without him, and voted to release the attorney’s memorandum. But by then, five days of early voting had occurred, and some ballots were undoubtedly cast in reliance on the ex-mayor’s false and misleading claims. The whole episode reveals much about the ex-mayor. His latest missive is just more of the same.

Questioning minds might wonder why the ex-mayor has chosen this moment to once again spew his typical misinformation, mischaracterizations and fabrications. The timing is curious, as his letter is hitting mailboxes just days before the beginning of candidate filing for the May 2021 municipal election. So, is it a genuine call for candidates? Or perhaps a trial balloon designed to suggest or gauge reaction to a potential platform for negative candidates? Or is this just another setup, paving the way for claims by the ex-mayor that his letter spurred “requests” that he run again, a ploy designed to invent “support?”

Whatever the purpose, one thing is clear: Addison needs to have a very long memory about the toxic atmosphere and division the ex-mayor fomented at the expense of the community, as well as his willingness to say absolutely anything to support his apparent thirst for power and control. This is not an individual to whom Addison should look for lectures about leadership or how to run our town.

Addison’s citizens and subsequent councils have toiled long and hard to repair the damage caused by the ex-mayor and his cadre. Now is not the time to turn back. Now is the time to renew our commitment to positive governance and excellence, and to continue supporting Addison’s return to the Addison Way of doing things.