Our local city government steadily provides a rich source of material for this blog. Yesterday was no exception. Yesterday, the City published a Facebook post about the Painted Horse Winery that promotes the farm-winery. Following is a link to the City’s Facebook page. Scroll down to see the Painted Horse post:
And as with so much that happens in our local city government, there is the strong, fetid smell of a back story. After 2 years steeped in city politics, I’ve developed a sixth sense for the ongoing shenanigans at City Hall. For readers not following the story of the Painted Horse, let me connect a few dots for you.
- First dot: The City, led by a few Council Members, who have appointed themselves the Morals Police (the Taliban would be proud), has attempted to choke off this business. Unfortunately, many of the main arguments against this enterprise—some irrelevant—are not being made in a public hearing but are rather being whispered in the shadows where the Painted Horse owners cannot defend themselves. These sorts of whisper campaigns are all too common in Milton.
- Second dot: One of the owners of a business at this property, Juliette Johnson, is running for the City Council seat against a member of Council, Laura Bentley, who has strongly opposed The Painted Horse.
- Third dot: This week is qualification week for the upcoming City Council elections. This is when Council candidates register their candidacy with the City and pay their qualification fees.
The timing of the City’s Facebook post is not a coincidence. This posting (to quote Yogi Berra) is “too coincidental to be a coincidence.” (This is true of many “coincidences” in Milton; I will post more about this in the future.) Read the comments below the City’s Facebook post. Citizens are smart; they have figured out what is going on. CYA? Definitely! Politically motivated? Of course! Are Council members worried about keeping their seats? Absolutely! Are Council members worried about having to defend their bad behavior over the past four years? Certainly! Is the City’s posting a way to persuade Ms. Johnson (one owner of the Painted Horse and a candidate for City Council) to withdraw from the race—the carrot in the City’s “carrot-and-stick” strategy? Positively. And is it appropriate for city staff, who are supposed to be “above the fray” (a favorite phrase of City Manager Krokoff) to be using the City’s communications apparatus for thinly veiled political purposes? NO. (Over the past 4 years, the City has frequently waded into the fray. The City government has increasingly adopted corporate and Washington tactics to promote/protect itself and certain politicians. A recent example was the signing of a settlement agreement with a City employee that bought his/her silence. The City Manager has done much to beef up his PR apparatus over the past 4 years.)
Ironically, the council members leading the charge against the Painted Horse are the same council members that led the charge for—that’s right FOR–the music venue, Matilda’s, approved for the northwest corner of Birmingham Crossroads. Matilda’s regularly pumps out music every Saturday night, sometimes so loud it can be heard 1+ miles away. The concern over alcohol consumption (and children) at Painted Horse is curious when Matilda’s is contrasted with the Painted Horse. Matilda’s is BYOB (no regulation of alcohol consumption), any sort of alcohol is allowed, and children are present. Contrast this with the Painted Horse, where an attendant is regulating alcohol consumption, only wine is served, and the farm is separated from the winery. There are many such differences between Matilda’s and the Painted Horse, most of which militate in favor of the Painted Horse.
I have heard the “real reasons” why Painted Horse was restricted in its uses. And these “reasons” have nothing to do with “intensity of use.” If untrue, these allegations against Painted Horse are surely slanderous/libelous. If true, these allegations need to be argued by Council Members in a public hearing where the Painted Horse owners can defend themselves. Enough with the whisper campaign . . . a campaign of personal destruction all too common in Milton.
Advocating for Good Governance,
Disclosure: I do not know the owners of the Painted Horse nor have I ever communicated with them. I have never been to the Pamelot property. I am not endorsing the farm-winery or any candidates for Milton City Council. However, I do know well 6 of the 7 current council members; most have been to my home multiple times. I know Laura Bentley especially well. Laura and I partnered together for 2 years in furtherance of good governance in Milton. I negotiated Laura’s candidacy, and organized and served on her campaign team, which always met at my home. I was her longest and strongest supporter, working tirelessly for her election to Council. (I will have much more to say about my role in the 2017 campaign as my involvement is germane to the central issue of this blog: good governance, accountability, and clean politics . . . or the lack thereof.)