At its April 22nd meeting, the new Wildwood City council was sworn in. There were three outgoing council members. Both members who opted out of running for re-election, Ward 2 Councilman Don Bartoni, and Ward 7 Councilman Greg Stine both made heart-felt farewell statements. Ward 3 Councilwoman Tammy Shea, who lost re-election, opted out of her last meeting.
Bartoni thanked his wife and the whole council. He thanked Councilman Ray Manton for mentoring him and his friendship. "I called Ray every Monday. We talked about the agenda for about ten minutes and then sports for a half-an hour." Bartoni also spoke about his hope for a more civil council and expressed confidence in his successor, Councilwoman Lauren Edens.
Stine, who has said previously that he had a tremendous respect for Alexander Hamilton. He made these comments when WWM asked him why he was willing to make a motion for his own censure in order for a citizen complaint to be heard against him. The censure was briefly debated and subsequently dismissed by the council.
Mr. Stine, who was known as a Council Member found of reaching across the divide, which caused discomfort for this Councilman on one occasion, invoked the words of one of his "life-long" heros Senator John McCain during his farewell remarks. You are a class act, Mr Stine, and you will be missed. See you on the other side.
His statement is reproduced below in its entirety.
"Mr. Mayor and fellow Council Members:
Over the past several months, as I have been preparing to leave office, I have considered my time of service on the City Council, how I have affected others throughout the city, as well as how I’ve been affected, in return. Now, at the end of this exercise of reflection, I have gathered a few thoughts that I would like to share with you before I go.
"I know that some here have closed their ears – and their hearts – to me. For those individuals, there is no need to listen to my full comments; please just consider this: Today, the leaders of Wildwood must commit to turning the page, to recalibrate, to focus on bringing common cause and unity back into the governance of our community. For, nothing less than our ability to self-govern – the basis for which the City of Wildwood was founded nearly thirty years ago – is at stake.
"If you are still with me, here is the challenge:
We are [sixteen] opinionated, vociferous individuals. We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our [city] we will get through these challenging times.
"These eloquent words are not my own, but those of one of my lifelong heroes, Senator John McCain. [I have changed a few words to fit the context of the city]. You’ve heard me quote him before. I don’t presume to hold a candle to his epic lifetime of service, but so much of what he said to us towards the end of his life that relates to the endemic tribal entrenchment that Congress suffers from today applies so well to our City’s current environment.
"In fact, I would hazard to say that the sentiment of Senator McCain about tribalism is even more relevant to the leaders of Wildwood. I am one-hundred percent positive that each member of the City Council, as well as the mayor, and every volunteer-servant on our committees and commissions stand by each of the following ideals for Wildwood:
Great appreciation should be bestowed upon the Founders of Wildwood for their foresight and courage of to stand up to the St. Louis County Council to ensure that the residents in the area, not the County Council, have the ultimate say about what kind of community should exist;
The Master Plan is the best articulation of the community standards that reflect the intent of the residents, both in 1992 and in 2019;
Green space should be planned for, cherished and maintained throughout the city;
A fully-connected trail system, the likes of which is unparalleled across the state of Missouri is to be pursued and maintained;
No bureaucracy; small government is sufficient;
The City government must be jealous of the residents’ trust and operate in a fair and transparent manner at all times;
Wildwood is a city for the people, not developers, big box retailers or other monied interests;
Wildwood must continue the effort for full internet connectivity for all residents.
"The list goes on.
"The leaders of the City should always keep such a list before them so they can remember why they – and each of their colleagues - are serving.
"There will always be differing schools of thought for we conduct the business of the city, but there must never be divergence on is the business of Wildwood.
"We cannot fall into the trap of factions – Founders vs. Mayors, for example – at the expense of our core values. I believe we have veered off course for more than just a couple of years. Personalities and intrigue have become the order of the day, instead of dealing with issues of substance.
"Yes, there have been slights and injustices. I bet every member of the current council has been disappointed, angered or hurt at one point. But focusing on those things are not only mentally destructive, but they are allowing external threats to fester and grow unchecked.
"One such external threat is the so-called “Better Together” merger plan being pushed by the leaders of St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis which would eliminate self-determination of the residents of Wildwood. Let me remind you, not even one of the individuals serving on the County Council resides in Wildwood. Even worse, the proponents of the plan are seeking to put the measure to a vote of the entire state; this means that the good people in towns like tiny Notch, Missouri may determine more about the future state of Wildwood than the folks that live here.
"We cannot let this happen.
"I implore you, please, for the sake of your constituents, make this THE faction of all city leaders.
"I will close with another quote from John McCain (again, liberties taken to better apply to the context of Wildwood):
"Our deliberations today – not just our debates, but the exercise of all our responsibilities – authorizing government policies, appropriating the funds to implement them, exercising our advice and consent role – are often lively and interesting. They can be sincere and principled. But they are more partisan, more tribal more of the time than any other time I remember. Our deliberations can still be important and useful, but I think we'd all agree they haven't been overburdened by greatness lately. And right now, they aren't producing much for the [residents of Wildwood].
"[All] sides have let this happen. Let's leave the history of who shot first to the historians. I suspect they'll find we all conspired in our decline – either by deliberate actions or neglect. We've all played some role in it. Certainly I have. Sometimes, I've let my passion rule my reason. Sometimes, I made it harder to find common ground because of something harsh I said to a colleague. Sometimes, I wanted to win more for the sake of winning than to achieve a contested policy.
"I hope we can again rely on humility, on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other to learn how to trust each other again and by so doing better serve the people who elected us. …
"Let's trust each other. Let's return to regular order. We've been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle. …
"Merely preventing your political opponents from doing what they want isn't the most inspiring work. There's greater satisfaction in respecting our differences, but not letting them prevent agreements that don't require abandonment of core principles, agreements made in good faith that help improve lives and protect the American people.
"As I leave my seat at the dais, I am at once hopeful, yet fearful for the city. Let’s pull together - council members both “old” and “new”, mayor, volunteers, Founders, residents – and stand and protect what we have built so that future generations can enjoy it, too.
"It has been a great honor to serve this unique, wonderful city with all of you over these past five years. I wish you great wisdom, perseverance and best of fortune. Thank you for listening."
Paid for by Steve Taylor