• Tricia Babischkin

Defining Moments

As I've talked to residents, I've discovered that we all have our "Ah-Ha" moment -- that single point in time that we say, "Wait, what? That's not right." Some of our residents' moments were long ago -- long before May 4, 2020, because they saw the character of the people who were in this administration. Some residents are having their "Ah-Ha" moments this past week. We are all on our own path in understanding. But as I've had these conversations, I've learned that what speaks to each resident is different.


For some it is workplace environment. These residents are appalled that our little village has 100% turnover in 3 years. They worry about the way these employees have left and if it opens our village up to wrongful termination or hostile workplace suits. Some are less worried about the risk of suit, and are just plain stunned to find out that our small village has this much angst in our staff.


For some it is the budgeting issues. The spending that exceeds the budget or the sheer lack of budgeting in the first place. They are concerned that due diligence is not being done and that our finances don't have proper oversight on them. They may be concerned with the trend of spending our reserves or even the seemingly bottomless pit of legal bills that have nothing to do with the FOIAs.


For some it is the audit information. The increases in debt, the decrease in net position (what our village is worth), or even the risks to our AAA bond rating. This village is very proud to be one of the few municipalities to have a AAA bond rating and due to that pride, we'd like to keep it. One of the keys to that is keeping healthy reserves, but the spending over budget reduces those reserves and that risks our bond rating.


For some it is seeming dismantling of our police department. With the public termination of our former chief, we've been without a working, patrolling chief for 8 months. Additionally, the police budget was cut to not allow them to buy a new squad nor do the needed repairs (like tires) on the cars we own. With all the talk of defunding the police, it appears that this administration was ahead of the curve when they approved this most recent budget.


For some it is the resident harassment and bullying on display at every board meeting. It appears that the majority of the board would rather not have the public doing our job of watching them work -- it's no wonder when you see how they treat the public and each other. The belittling, the accusations, and the attempts to humiliate residents is at an all time high and that seems like an odd choice when asking for re-election and having nearly 100 residents attending the board meetings.


For some it's the exaggerations and changing stories from our Village President. If you get two people in a room that Phil has spoken to separately, it would be shocking if their stories match. My favorite example is that he told me and my husband more than once that he's "hardly ever at village hall" and yet told all those who watched a board meeting recently how he's "there so much, his car was caught on Google maps." We are still waiting for any of the back-up beyond a "Phil Promise" (trademark pending) of the expected revenue from the travel center. And while it wouldn't be a problem if he thinks it's going to be one number and it turns out to be something else -- it is a serious problem when he starts planning to spend (or promising to reduce your property taxes) solely based on a made-up number before a single dollar has changed hands in an open travel center.


For some it's the inconsistency of rules, codes, ordinances that appear to be applied to some but not others. Residents wonder how a driving range structure could be erected without even applying for a permit until after construction was complete. Residents have complained since Phil began serving in public office that some homes were subject to stricter code enforcement than others.


For some it is a Village President who appears to have gotten a 50% discount on his property taxes. Whether he did any deal that got him special treatment in his taxes or not, he is elected to be a steward of our tax dollars. He took his discount and hoped no one would notice. He didn't ask about it and in fact fought the increase the following year that would bring his taxes back in line.


For some it is the sheer lack of transparency and flow of information. While our board fell over themselves to declare a love for transparency they, and the administration who they oversee, have worked tirelessly to withhold information from residents. Whether it is missing or oddly prioritized information on our village's website, a refusal to speak with residents (either the leadership in village hall or trustees themselves), or even a withholding of information from simple FOIA requests that require the intervention of the Public Access Counselor to force the village to comply -- all of those actions do not speak to a desire to be transparent.


All of these moments are breeches in trust. Every one of them is based in a resident realizing that they have been told something that wasn't true or they saw someone being mistreated. The values of integrity, honor, respect, and trust are not foreign concepts to the majority of our residents. It is not lost on the people I speak to that something is wrong in the leadership of our village and residents asking questions or adding financials isn't the problem.


We have a week until Election Day. There is early voting every day except Easter Sunday between now and then. We have the chance to turn around every single one of these moments and bring a new defining moment to Lakewood. Let's give Lakewood the leadership she deserves. Vote the United4Lakewood for change, for trust, for honesty, for integrity.





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