RACINE — After 20 years on the City Council, Alderman Sandy Weidner of the 6th District is not running for her seat in the spring 2020 election.
“It was a tough decision,” Weidner said in a phone conversation on Monday. “It was a decision that was made between my family and I.”
At committee or City Council meetings, Weidner often asks tough questions, even about initiatives that she supports, and isn’t shy about voicing opposition.
“That’s what makes it so difficult for me to leave because I know that I do fill that role,” she said.
Weidner has also faced a good deal of controversy. She’s the plaintiff in a court case before the Wisconsin Court of Appeals over open records and which correspondences with the City Attorney’s office can be classified under attorney-client privilege. She’s also rubbed some council members the wrong way by laughing or commenting while other members have the floor.
She feels that it is her outspokenness and willingness to dissent has made her a pariah in city government.
“The council is for me a very toxic place,” she said.
That is partly why she turned in her noncandidacy paperwork on Thursday.
A changing council
Weidner said that when she decided in 2018 to run again for alderman, after losing a mayoral race to Mayor Cory Mason, it was because she wanted to still be a sitting alderman when her open records court case against the city is resolved.
“I believe the court case will possibly be completed by April, so I could be an alderman by the time the case is resolved,” Weidner said. “If that shouldn’t be the case it is not as important to me as it was two years ago.”
That’s because, from her perspective, she sees the City Council moving toward partisanship.
“Where everyone has to sing with the same voice,” she said. “That there’s no room for any dissent or disagreement or differing perspective that people that might have a different perspective are in some ways bullied into not speaking up or speaking out.”
Weidner said she’s submitted numerous emails to administrative staff — for example arguing the City Council should have a say in decisions regarding Wild Root grocery co-op proposal and the Azarian lawsuit — that either go unanswered or, if answered, Weidner contends did not address her concerns.
She has submitted agenda items to the Finance and Personnel Committee and Committee of the Whole that have not been scheduled on any meeting agendas for months. One item regarding the intergovernmental funds designated for job training, was scheduled but no one who could answer questions about the data provided — from the Mayor’s office, Gateway Technical College or the Racine County Economic Development Corporation — attended the meeting.
Another matter regarding a partnership between the city Redevelopment Authority and the county for environmental inspections was scheduled for a Committee of the Whole meeting but Weidner protested that she was not notified about what date the meeting would be held and was unable to attend.
“I find it ironic that we wait months, at times as in my case years, for an item to be scheduled, that we give the courtesy to the staff, administration, and the mayor to be prepared to present at a meeting but council members not in the inner circle are not provided the same courtesy,” she responded by email when the agenda was published.
The meeting was canceled and has not been rescheduled.
From Weidner’s perspective, it is part of a wider trend where the administration sets the agenda, not the City Council.
“Rather than the administration taking any direction from the council it’s the other way around,” said Weidner. “I wanted the council to be relevant and, case or no case, I don’t know that that’ll come back again.”
For now, Weidner doesn’t have an answer for what’s next. She loves her job in human resources at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and will continue in that position. And she doesn’t see herself disappearing from public life.
“I am proud of my service on the council because I kept my promise. Every time I ran, I ran on the same premise, ‘I am your voice on the City Council,’” she said. “I have championed some causes that I did not agree with but that’s what my constituents wanted. So I took my role very seriously to represent them.”
So far only one candidate has filed in the 6th Aldermanic District — Jeffrey Peterson of 1516 Westwood Circle, who ran against Weidner in 2016. Weidner says she supports his run for alderman and even signed his nomination papers.
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