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Blue Collar Blogger

Dad, husband, baseball coach, writer, community activist and crappy guitar player...I tend to stand a little to the left on most issues. I don't get my news from Fox "News" - and neither should you.

There is Something Rotten in the Village of Greendale

greendale+celebrations+committee, village+days+parade, rob+zerban, freedom+of+political+speech

It was late June when I first came across the name, Rob Zerban. Because of my incredible frustration with my current representative in congress, Paul Ryan, I was searchng the internet for anyone who would be interested in running against Ryan in 2012. To my surprise, I quickly learned that current Democratic Kenosha County Supervisor, Rob Zerban was well on his way for campaigning against Paul Ryan.

I sit on the Board of Directors of the Progressive 28th Political Action Committee, which was formed out of the attempt to recall Republican Senator Mary Lazich. The board is made of residents who reside within the district, and the majority of us live in the village of Greendale. Rob Zerban was invited to come speak to our group, and after sharing a beer, my wife's famous taco dip and some tantalizing political conversation, we agreed to endorse Mr. Zerban for congress in 2012. It was also decided we would look into getting some local name recognition for Mr. Zerban.

I contacted Carolann Matzek, who sits on the Greendale Celebrations Committee about having a fundraising booth during the Village Days celebration with the proceeds being split between a Political Action Committee and political candidate who was running for congress in 2012 - and was told that was not possible because all proceeds generated from the Village Days Celebration are to benefit groups directly connected with the school system. I agreed that was a great policy.

Ms. Matzek then suggested the possibility of getting our candidate in the Village Days parade. She stated that it would most likely be okay, but that she would have to check with the rest of the committee. I told Ms. Matzek that I would check with our candidate to see if he would be interested.

There are two very important facts that must be noted at this point in my story:

  1. I never told Ms. Matzek who my candidate was or what party he was affiliated with.
  2. I made it very clear that he was currently not serviing the residents of Greendale, but that he was campaigning for Wisconsin's First Congressional District in 2012, which Greendale belongs to.

More than a week and a half went by and Ms. Matzek had not returned my phone call after receiving input from the committee. I contacted the Village Hall and was a given the phone number of Donna Ouellette of the Celebrations Committee to pursue my intentions. After a couple of attempts to contact Ms. Ouellette she did return my phone call and I explained to her that our candidate was interested in being in the parade with a group of volunteers, but once again, I did not share his name or party affilation. Ms. Ouellette stated that she would check with the rest of the Celebrations Committee to see if it was possible to have our candidate participate in the parade, and to what degree. This conversation took place on either July 8th or 9th, I believe.

A week passed by and I had still not heard from Ms. Ouellette, so I called and left a message asking if there was any news on my request. Within 24 hours Ms. Ouellette returned my phone call and stated that she had just come from a meeting with the committee in which my situation was directly addressed and that, "Yes, your candidate will be allowed entry into the parade, but no literature can be handed out, but volunteers may walk with signs." She then said I needed to find out if we intended to walk or drive during the parade. I told her I would contact my candidate to verify his exact intentions.

Rob Zerban was definately interested in drving in the parade. In fact he amassed a large number of volunteers and had them clear their calendars for all of August 14th. He was ecstatic, as were we (the members of the Progressive 28th). We were in! Mr. Zerban could start working on getting some name recognition within the district and meet with possible future constituents.

Within a day or two I called Ms. Ouellette to inform her that yes, we were indeed interested in driving in the parade. I told her my candidate was asking for the parade route itinerary and guidelines. She stated that she had none of those and that I would have to contact fellow Celebrations Committee member, Terry Patzke to obtain those materials, in addition to an application to be in the parade, which was due July 22nd. (This was the first time in all of my communications with the committee that the word, "application" was brought up) I sent Ms. Ouellette an email requesting these materials and she quicly forwared my request to Mr. Patzke. This was July 15th.

By the early morning of July 19th I had still not received the requested materials, including the application from Terry Patzke, and with a quickly approaching deadline of three days I emailed Mr. Patzke directly, asking for those materials, especially the application. I even offered to pick them up myself from his home. I also left a voice mail on his home phone in which I believe was the first time I mentioned Rob Zerban's name and party affiliation to anyone on the committee. ( I mentioned this info because I thought maybe that the committee thought we were not very serious, or did not actually have a candidate, and wanted to assure them of our serious intentions).

On the morning of July 20th I checked my email and was very happy to see that Mr. Patzke had sent me the application for the parade, but no rules or regulations. Good enough for now since time was dwindling down! The application however, looked very amateurish and strung-together, but it would suffice. The email from Mr. Patzke was sent on the 19th, but before my voice mail, unknown to me at the time.

Around lunch time on July 20th Mr. Patzke called to inform me that now Mr. Zerban would not be allowed in the parade. He gave no explanation until I asked on what grounds was he being denied. He stated that regulations say only current servants of the public that represent Greendale may be in the parade. He said this included teachers, firefighters, and current politicians, but not candidates. He also stated that politicians would not be allowed to hand out campaign literature, because campaigning was not allowed during the parade.

Here is where Mr. Patzke's explanation to deny Rob Zerban entry gets very muddled: He first stated that it has been a long-standing rule that politicians do not hand out campaign literature during the parade. When I remined him that then Gubernatorial candidate, Scott Walker handed out his "brown bag" campaign literature during the 2010 parade, he said that was in 2009 when he was running for County Executive. I assured him that Walker's "brown bag" campaign was in 2010 for his gubernatorial campaign. Mr. Patzke then backtracked and stated that "Yes, but he was allowed to do so because he was currently serving the public."

When I brought to Mr. Patzke's attention that Mr. Walker was still in violation of the rule against handing out campaign literature he said that current servants could hand out what they wanted, but that candidates could not be in the parade or have volunteers walk the route to hand out campaign literature.

I then brought up the fact that he just contradicted himself and that gubernatorial candidate Mark Neumann had a large volunteer group located near the post office, directly on the parade route, handing out campaign literature. Mr. Patzke simply stated once more that our application was being denied.

"But I haven't even filed the actual application yet," I told Mr. Patzke. "The decision is final," he said. I told him that there was obvious hypocrisy here and that I would continue to look into the matter. "Fine," was Mr. Patzke's response. I then asked Mr. Patzke for a written version of the bylaws of rules for the parade. He stated there were no "written rules".

On July 21st I emailed members of the Greendale Celebrations Committee informing them that I felt our candidate and I were discriminated against because of our political leanings. I also requested the 2011 rules/guidelines for the parade, as well as the rules and guidelines and parade line-ups for 2009 and 2010. Nine days have passed, and no one from the Celebrations Committee has contacted me or provide me with the materials I requested.

On July 27th Graeme Zielinski, the Communications Director for the Democratic Party of WI contacted me to let me know that he was aware of Rob Zerban's situation and that "The Democratic party of Wisconsin feels that the Greendale Celebrations Committee is possibly using false qualifications in their selection process for entry into the parade, and that they are very concerned that rules are being changed based on an applicant's affiliation with a political party."

I cannot speak for Mr. Zerban, since to my knowledge he has not commented on the matter, but since he has been denied access into the Village Days parade plans are in the works for a meet and greet on Saturday, Sept. 10th. Volunteers are currently trying to secure a location at a park in the Greendale/Franklin area. Let's hope another fiasco does not incur.

Maybe we should reserve a picnic area under the guise of  "family gathering" so that local right-wing ideologues do not interfere with our constitutional right to express political speech.

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