Yesterday before the Landmarks Commission meeting I asked commission member Bob Hartman if I might have a moment of his time. I had to hoped to ensure that my previous remarks at a public meeting were not misconstrued. Too late for that I discovered. I did not deserve a moment of his time he said with barely constrained anger.
Let me back up a bit. A few weeks ago I spoke at a public hearing concerning the south side historic preservation ordinance. Since it was often stated that the proposed ordinance would be modelled after the downtown Design Review Commission ordinance, I thought it would be worthwhile to share my experiences with the DR commission at the hearing. I had hoped to thread a needle, so to speak, in that I had intended to express my disagreement with the coercive aspects of the Design Review Commission, namely that I was compelled to obtain their permission, while not offering any criticism of Bob Hartman or his work. I had hired BH in part because I was offered an incentive to do so by the Downtown Racine Corporation. I thought then and I think now that BH's work was just fine and I had hoped that I would have been able to make that clear. However, my ten minute or so prepared statement had to be pared down to three minutes, so I was concerned that I was not as clear as I had hoped to be. Hence my request for a moment of BH's time.
So when Bob did consent to my request, he expressed his anger over my supposed accusation that I was compelled to hire BH. I was taken aback by this accusation, knowing full well that I did not hold that view then, now or ever. When given a chance to speak, I indicated as much and offered an apology if that was indeed what I had said.
My quasi-apology did not result in a more amiable conversation as BH apparently had other concerns on his mind. BH strongly suggested that I would have been unaffected by the proposed ordinance. He challenged my assertion that I would have been better off without having been subjected to the cost and effort associated with the Downtown Review Commission. And finally he said that I was confrontational, despite Mayor Dickert's admonition that speakers be respectful etc... I asked him to elaborate on the charge that I was confrontational but all he could muster was an exasperated response suggesting that it was quite obvious that I had been confrontational. "How so?" I implored at which point he said I should sit down (as we were approaching the meeting. At this point I admittedly had no more patience for his behavior and I told he has no right to tell me to sit down. And that was that.
So I share this with readers because I want to address BH's charges today as he offered me no opportunity to do so yesterday.
As to whether the proposed ordinance affects me personally, I must say that it is none of his business why I take an interest in the proposed ordinance. I of course have every right to attend public hearings. I find it curious that BH apparently thinks that only those with a direct stake in legislation should be concerned about said legislation. Of course citizens should be involved with issues that may not concern themselves directly. Slavery was an issue that didn't affect large numbers of Americans. Genocide in Germany had little affect on most Americans. Now my point is not to equate my political activism with fights against slavery or genocide - rather, it is to point out the obvious need for people to be concerned with the plight of others. So BH, I wanted to help people who would be inconvenienced and financially harmed by your ordinance proposal.
So am I worse off for having been forced to appear before and acquiesce to the demands of the Downtown Review Commission? Yes I believe so. Now BH's work was just fine but I am quite certain that collaboration between my wife and our contractor would have accomplished the same result, saving us time and a few thousand dollars. BH quite obviously disagreed with my assessment.
And finally, was I confrontational with BH at the public hearing? Frankly I don't even know what specifically he was referring to and he refused to tell me, making a response rather difficult.
So there it is folks. At least one member of a commission that would have had significant power over south side homeowners demonstrated that he was hypersensitive to criticism, real or perceived. Furthermore, he was completely dismissive of my points of view, namely my interest in the ordinance and my perception that I would have been better off without the Downtown Review Commission.
In a nutshell, he knew better than me on everything and he was rather belligerent. Is this somebody that should have power over your important decisions concerning your home?
And lastly, Bon Hartman is welcome to chime in here. I hope he will.