By Mike Orlock, Sturgeon Bay
Mayor Birmingham: I must confess that I don’t really know you. I know who you are, of course, but I have no idea what you are like. Are you a good guy, a great family man, a helpful neighbor? If so, I have never seen that side of you in the months (make that years) that I have been coming to city council meetings, as the issue of the waterfront redevelopment has degenerated into an all out feud, with enough rancor and acrimony on both sides to fill the old granary on the west side several times over.
I like to imagine that, away from council meetings, you are sometimes besieged with second thoughts. If only you had bent a little when the west side hotel plans blew up on you like a chemistry experiment gone wrong, when you and Mr. Papke tried to push through a zoning variance to allow his building to be even larger. If you had sought to be inclusive and sensitive to the concerns voiced by many of your constituents, instead of being inflexible, intransigent, and sometimes insulting to the people you were elected to represent, maybe we wouldn’t be in the position we are, dug in like ticks, lawyered up, and ready for war.
I get that you had a plan, that the Men’s Majority on this council had a plan, maybe even a vision of what you think the west side waterfront should be. But obviously those plans were not communicated effectively, or—possibly—not the vision that a sizable faction in this city shared. Had you been more a politician and less an autocrat, had you done what some political leaders can effortlessly do, invite people of different backgrounds and opinions to buy into the process and find consensus, you probably would have gotten a big chunk of what you wanted, modified somewhat, but a lot better than what we have now on the waterfront—a demilitarized zone of scarred earth and diseased landscape.
You helped make this contest a zero sum game, much to the detriment of the city of Sturgeon Bay. You helped divide this city into three camps: those who are with you, those who are against you, and I suspect a considerable group that would like both those other groups to jump in the lake. Because of that lack of leadership skill, because of the actions and statements that you have made to help rip this community apart, I will wear a tee shirt to council meetings that reads “I’ve ‘Thad’ Enough.” Frankly, we deserve better than you are capable of giving. We deserve new ideas and new direction to make Sturgeon Bay whole again.