Archive for Friday, March 10, 2006

Three led push for resignation

March 10, 2006


They said it was a 5-0 vote, but it's safe to assume city commissioners weren't truly unanimous in asking for City Manager Mike Wildgen's resignation Wednesday.

What happened was this: Commissioners Sue Hack, David Schauner and Mike Rundle agreed it was time to seek Wildgen's resignation.

That was a majority.

In the interest of making the inevitable more palatable, Mayor Boog Highberger and Commissioner Mike Amyx agreed to make unanimous the vote accepting Wildgen's resignation.

Commissioners are refusing to confirm this scenario, either publicly or off the record. They say it is too soon to talk about it.

But others know and are talking privately.

And there have been some broad hints dropped publicly that commissioners weren't unanimous in wanting Wildgen to step down.

As late as December, Highberger had expressed public support for Wildgen. When Wildgen received the Kansas Association of City/County Management's Buford Watson Award for Excellence in Management, Highberger made a point to praise Wildgen during the Dec. 13 City Commission meeting.

"We think your award is right on target," Highberger said. "We realize we have a good one here."

When asked Thursday what had changed since December, Highberger said people shouldn't assume his opinion of Wildgen had changed at all.

"I stand by those comments," Highberger said.

But Highberger stopped short of going into details about the split among commissioners on retaining Wildgen. Instead, he maintained the policy to speak with "one voice" on the subject.

"We think it is important in this transition time that we work together to the greatest extent possible," Highberger said.

The actual majority that ousted Wildgen runs contrary to speculation spreading through the community and amplified on discussions on Internet message boards. The speculation has fingered the trio of commissioners elected with the help of the "Progressive Lawrence Campaign." Those candidates - Highberger, Rundle and Schauner - campaigned together on a common platform that growth was not paying for itself and that the community was not planning well enough.

But it has been clear there were concerns with Wildgen's leadership from groups that fell outside the Progressive Lawrence Campaign's constituency. Developers have expressed strong concerns about the fact city leaders are uncertain whether the sewer system can handle projected growth in the northwest area of town.

For example, while the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce didn't specifically call for a change in the city manager's position, its leaders made it clear that the sewer situation was unacceptable.

"The city at large is expected to be a purveyor of certain services, and one of those is certainly wastewater," said Lavern Squier, president and chief executive of the chamber. "It is unfortunate, to say the least, that we find ourselves in this situation. But right now, I think the key issue is that we have to look forward."

Looking forward to how the next city manager will be chosen is something several City Hall-watchers are doing these days. The hiring of the next city manager takes a simple majority vote, which means the candidates elected under the Progressive Lawrence Campaign could band together and choose the next city manager.

But whether that would produce a new city manager who could feel stable in the position is uncertain. That's because all three Progressive Lawrence commissioners will be up for re-election in April 2007.


lunacydetector 12 years ago

did the city pay for her trips to the progressive smart growth/new urbanism conventions, or did she pay her own way?

Kookamooka 12 years ago

Mine was removed because I criticized an editor. Argumentum ad hominum. I have learned my lesson.

MississippiFrog 12 years ago

You must not have had her in school. She was great in all things she took on and inspired her students. She had a mind for business and management back then and would take on the impossible people in charge.

Of course, I moved away several years ago and things may have changed . . .

lunacydetector 12 years ago

why aren't the private sessions of the city commission made public? aren't liberals supposed to be open? what's with the secrecy?

...and sue hack is a progressive who posed as business friendly. heck, she is just a retired school teacher....what does she know about business?

Godot 12 years ago

Reality_check wrote: "I think it's interesting that Hack joined with Rundle and Schauner. She's always bee A Developer's Best Friend. Highberger wanting to keep a Good Old Boy? What has happened to the guy?"

I think if you go back and study these commissioners' records, you will see that Hack has been a consistent Progressive, and Highberger has been unpredictable.

I think Hack presented herself as "business friendly," for campaign purposes. She is a liberal thinker, through and through. Hack is the stealth Progressive on the commission.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years ago

I think Hack is a moderate, not a liberal. And just because she wanted Wildgen out doesn't mean she has taken on an anti-chamber/developer stance. It's no big secret that he was never their guy, and they have been wanting to replace him for years. (And Hack was just named as director of Leadership Lawrence-- a very important part of the Chamber's political activities.)

It is curious that she didn't wait until after the election next year when all three PLC commissioners will be up for reelection, and she becomes mayor.

WilburM 12 years ago

Too much overthinking. Hack as Progressive? It looks as though Mike W. alienated both many "Progressive" and quite a few "developer" folks, and that many on both sides felt it was time for him to go. Plus, M. Rundle kept angling for 2 votes, as he has for years. Amyx and Highburger were willing to give the manager more latitude in administration. Remaining questions: 1) To Rundle, Hack, Schauner: what were the specifics in your willingness to act? 2) To Lawrence electorate: Can we have a decent discussion of growth, expenses, infrastructure in the next election campaign, when all Progressives (sic) and 2 of 3 anti-Wildgen votes will be up for reelection?

Jamesaust 12 years ago

"But others know and are talking privately."

Having stated this, this reporter then goes on to avoid ever citing - even anonymously - ANY quote from these private sources. Instead, an unseen hand guides us through a tour of "facts" to construct a very clear version of events worthy of Oliver Stone. Now, that version MIGHT be correct but nothing worthy of the term 'journalism' appears in this article. The word 'gossip' comes to mind.

common_cents 12 years ago

Reality_Check said:

"When in doubt, insult everyone who doesn't agree with your position by calling them names. It's a Right Wing Tradition!"

And if you disagree with a left-winger, you are labeled a racist, bigot or something of the sort.

Both sides do the same thing, they just have different script books. I say go independent and get rid of both parties.

After all, most Americans on down the middle on most things. It's just the divisive issues that tear us apart and those issues are always kept up front and center by the politicians to maintain their power base.

Steve Jacob 12 years ago

I am just trying to figure out we know the problems, and what needs to be done. Wastewater plant, check, new roads, check. Does the firing help speed this along?

P.S. New city manager...can we please repaint lines on the street? For example i'm going west on 7th and N.H. next to Boarders and I have NO IDEA where the lanes devide.

Kookamooka 12 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

badger 12 years ago

Kookamooka said:

"AND your argument doesn't hold water either. You say at the top of the article that the three commisioners that ousted Wildgen were Rundle, Schauner and HACK. Then you say the three that were responsible were Rundle, Schauner and Highberger, the progressives. This article is worthless!"

No, read closer. What is said at the top is that Rundle, Schauner and Hack were the ones believed to have initiated the push. The later paragraph talks about how that theory runs counter to "speculation spreading through the community and amplified on discussions on Internet message boards" which implicates Highberger. It's a badly written paragraph, which is probably what interfered with your reading comprehension.

pelliott 12 years ago

I have to admit this story is too much attitude for me. It seems pretty poor fodder. The reporters' points seems ill constructed and maybe better as a letter to the editor, not a news story.

The chances of some of the posters to get beyond namecalling and heckling and either apoligize for their behavoir or to contribute to a adult conversation is kind of low. I haven't much hope. I have always felt the city manager and his group of department leaders seem more honest financially than what many other communities have suffered. I have never thought Wildgen's style conducive to decent government service. I found it cold and manipulative. As time passed under his guidance more and more of the offices procedures and policy's served to exclude the public and prevent interdepartment cooperation. I know he would ruthlessly manipulate study sessions to various commissions and information to the public. This was one of the most unhealthy and destructive behavoirs i witnessed. Wildgen did have much to offer in his management skills, but the lack of delivery of information in straightforward form hurt the community and the commissions he was to serve.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years ago

Highberger is a strong believer in letting managers manage, and not having commissions/boards of directors "micro-manage." He would likely only seek the replacement of the manager if there were evidence of clear malfeasance. We haven't heard that that is the case.

Sandman 12 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Kookamooka 12 years ago

AND your argument doesn't hold water either. You say at the top of the article that the three commisioners that ousted Wildgen were Rundle, Schauner and HACK. Then you say the three that were responsible were Rundle, Schauner and Highberger, the progressives. This article is worthless!

bearded_gnome 12 years ago

"amplified on internet message boards" 'dis one?

wow kids, we're in 'da paper!

"progressive lawrence" "regressive lawrence."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.