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Friday, May 18, 2012

Local Business Group Denies Red State Politics. Pretend Like Nothing Happened

Thursday's Janesville Gazette article titled, Politics not on the agenda: 5.0 officials" was the newspaper's attempt to smooth things over for the economic development group Rock County 5.0. The RC5 is the local business group whose co-chairperson made several eye-popping statements during the now infamous "divide and conquer" conversation with Scott Walker. Despite the Gazette failing to disclose they are a supporting sponsor of the Rock County 5.0, I thought the newspaper stepped it up a notch from the regular cover-ups and trash they masquerade as news, but I don't give them a free pass.

Unfortunately, the newspaper engineers a directional signal to suggest Diane Hendricks' voice is not the voice of the Rock County 5.0, despite being an official co-chair of the group. The Gazette also slyly draws Democratic State Sen. Tim Cullen into the political firestorm without making mention of the three area republicans, Knilans, Wynn and Loudenbeck. Wynn and Knilans in particular have boasted of delivering legislation on behalf of the RC5 and their affiliate, Forward Janesville.

The core of the story begins with a question...

JG Excerpt: Is the voice of Diane Hendricks heard in that video the voice of Rock County 5.0?

Indubitably yes! Here's why.

In the video, the event is billed as an RC5 meeting with Gov. Scott Walker. The co-chairs of the group, Hendricks and Mary Willmer greet Walker at the door and begin their conversation...

RC5 Co-Chair Hendricks: Can we talk for just two seconds before we get up there?
Gov. Walker: Yeah, yeah, that's fine.
RC5 Co-Chair Hendricks: Some issues we're just going to avoid a little bit. And by the way, this is Brad and he is part of the Rock County 5.0 and he has been filming everything.

In what context did co-chair Hendricks greet Walker at the door? As ABC Supply owner? Not quite. What gave Hendricks the authority to steer Gov. Walker away from some issues? By who's authority? It becomes very obvious that Hendricks is speaking officially as co-chair on behalf of the group.

The conversation continues...

RC5 Co-chair Hendricks: So what we're going to do and talk about right now is just concerns that Mary (Willmer) and I that we probably have, are a little controversial to bring up upstairs. OK? I don't want to - because the press is upstairs.
Gov. Walker: OK. Sure.

So it's Hendricks and Willmer that have concerns and also happen to be the groups' co-chairs. Who are they speaking for if not the Rock County 5.0 to lay down the parameters for the discussion? Did the group upstairs know that their discussion was being co-opted by mere door greeters before the meeting began and that some issues will be avoided? They have issues that are too controversial to bring upstairs?! ...but only BECAUSE the press is there? My Lord. Who is the newspaper or the group trying to fool by spinning the idea that Hendricks was not speaking on behalf of the RC5 in the video or worse yet, that the political rhetoric was never part of the group's agenda before? Give me a break!

Soon after those statements came Hendricks' supercharged statements about turning Wisconsin into a red state, doing something about unions and right-to-work and then nodding in agreement to Walker's "divide and conquer" strategy.

Two members of the Rock County Group are quoted in the article insisting that Diane Hendricks was not speaking for the group during the conversation with Walker. Not to sound redundant, but who is the voice for the group if not the co-chairs?

As mentioned before, some members of the Rock County 5.0 might have good intentions, others might be blind to political undercurrents and positions and still others may be in complete denial, but that only goes so far when there is powerful videotaped evidence to the contrary.

It's also very discouraging that one of the group's members', Joe Pregont of Prent, attempts to shift attention away from those responsible.

JG Excerpt:
Pregont said he would be insulted if people perceive Hendricks' comments to the governor as the lone voice of Rock county 5.0 and its 18 advisory members.

I hope Pregont isn't suggesting that we betray our own eyes and ears to ignore the context and conversation in the video, but instead is just as insulted and disgusted by the words of the RC5's co-chair as we are. Because it's not the people's perception that's the problem here. It's your politics that are rotten. Helping a partisan governor turn Wisconsin into a red state and divide and conquer? Sorry but that doesn't wash.

The group has an economic development agenda that claims to be built on a "culture of collaboration" and a unified constituency. That should mean at the minimum to do no harm to a constituency in all efforts to achieve the group's goals. That's the public perception. It's the group's responsibility to maintain the perception - not the public's. Blaming or scolding the public for the breakdown is obnoxious and condescending.

The group's culture of collaboration should mean something sacred to its' members and not just be a meaningless statement on an overview page, but also serve as the top characteristic expected from candidates to become a member. Secondly, why in the world would a group elect and defend co-chairs whose personal politics and ambitions run directly opposite to the group's values? That doesn't make sense assuming the group is true to it's cause. If you don't believe in or LIVE a culture of collaboration, you should have no intentions on joining that culture, let alone be elected co-chairs. It's safe to say that dividing and conquering and working to weaken or eliminate a constituency is not a friendly amendment to that resolution. No?

Lastly, members of the group made no effort to take responsibility and do the right thing, instead the group and their enabler newspaper assembled a panel of defenders and attempted to micro-manage the group's survival by pointing blame outside.

This will only deepen the wounds and make matters worse. Pretending like nothing happened won't cut it either.

Jan. 2010 - Newspaper Resolves: You Need To Change, Janesville Cleansing of Unions Almost Complete.

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