Life In Shawano – Editorial Opinion

Open Response to Ms. Positively Shawano

Lorna Marquardt, Mayor

By Linda Gray

Preface

It was thirty years ago that I came to Wisconsin, went to college and received my Bachelor Degree at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. In 2005, I began working at Spirit of the Northwoods, the largest department store in downtown Shawano. I enjoy my work as manager, working with the public and the many local artists that the store helps to promote.

As manager of Spirit of the Northwoods, I have watched silently as Mayor Lorna Marquardt and her minions deliberately wittle away at the economic base of Shawano while stimulating an atmosphere of suspicion and hate. I had hoped that she would eventually see the harm that she is doing to the community. She hasn’t. I admit that I have the weakness of trying to believe in people and give them chance after chance. But all the underhanded activities she is involved in haunts my sense of justice. So, I regret that I have said very little in opposition to all the illegal and degrading actions that she has committed against SIST and its Indian president—a native of India who so believed in the prosperity and liberty in the United States that years ago he became a Naturalized Citizen.

A very educated and visionary man, he and others worked together to establish SIST and bring to fruition an International Boarding School for gifted students that focuses in science and math. To help solve the financial demands that such an institution would create, the Board Members decided to establish businesses that would benefit the community and contribute to the financial upkeep of the School.

But from the onset of Mayor Lorna Marquardt’s reign, she and her minions have been against everything that SIST has tried to accomplish. She and her followers have threatened those who do business with SIST or treat SIST fairly, have told Lenders not to loan to SIST, and have told Vendors not to sell to SIST.

I have found the politics of Mayor Lorna Marquardt disturbing. Her methods used against those she does not like are an affront to my sense of justice, and I believe, to the Constitution of the United States as well. So, I have decided to speak out.

My ancestors fought and stood by this country, including my dad (retired Fireman in the US Air Force and a Vietnam Veteran) and my brother, a soldier in the US Army, went to Kuwait. My dad passed away in August 2010 and I will always cherish his memory. And one of the greatest things that he taught me: never be afraid to stand for what you believe in even when others don’t share that belief. I intend to do so through writing editorials and parody. My only regret is that it has taken me a long time to take that stand.

Any written mistakes are my own. Neither, Spirit of the Northwoods nor anyone else, is responsible for what I have written.

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It is heart-warming to have read your column about the senior citizen “Swim Group” on January 29, 2011, in The Shawano Leader. Your description brings to mind family/friendship outings that help one to reminisce about meaningful occasions in a person’s life. And as you stated: “The group is not related by blood, but there is a very strong bond. They watch out for one another, assist each other…[and] they come from all walks of life and many different places.” They share stories—the hardships and the triumphs.  Every community needs a cohesive bond of good will to be successful. It is appreciated that you have remembered Shawano’s Senior Citizens and what they can exemplify to a community. This type of bond is a gift to all communities when it is valued.

However, it would also be a meaningful gift to the Shawano Community, if, you shared the same values, if, you worked for the good of the community, instead of creating a dead-beat business policy that attacks community businesses because of your personal prejudices.

Your poor entrepreneurial skills are now affecting the Shawano community. Since your inauguration as Mayor you and your devotees have hurt the community by: interfering with “recreational opportunities,” “job opportunities,” and “downtown vitality.” These are all-important factors in establishing the well-being of a thriving community where people of all ages can enjoy the striking scenery and outdoor activities in Shawano and the surrounding communities.

But you have forgotten a fundamental rule: when you lead a campaign of deceit against a business the entire community is hurt. SIST is one major case although SIST is not the only case from what other community persons have told me.

For example, many Native Americans have been mistreated in the area. It was related to me by one who worked at the Trading Post (formally on South Main Street) that there was a downtown radio promotion where you, the Mayor, would enter a store and promote shopping. You walked right by and never so much as peeked your head in to say hi. When they had their awning set on fire, manure smeared into the facade of their store, and endured vulgarity slung from passing cars you did nothing. You could have spoke out on their behalf, but obviously to you the Trading Post didn’t exist. Although you do recognize the Casinos, as you warm up a lot of slot machine seats.

In the same vein, you have never been to any SIST business and you have never shared an enthusiasm for what SIST is trying to accomplish for the community. When you became Mayor of Shawano, SIST showed their willingness to work with you to help promote a financially successful community by bringing in new business.

SIST had a vision for the empty buildings they purchased that had been sitting empty for years. They flew in architects to draw plans and renderings for renovating the buildings. These plans were shown to the previous mayor, Russell Schmidt, and city officials so they could pick out the design they wanted. SIST showed cooperation. But when you took office you showed opposition.

You were invited to cut the ribbon when USA International Raceway was ready for its Grand Opening—you never showed up; instead you worked with your buddies in a secret hearing to accomplish a take over through an illegal receivership. And you are proud of it.

In contrast, your February 12, 2011, editorial: “Charlie’s Country Market taking shape,” is full of praise for Charlie Harvey’s investment into a grand, new, enlarged country store that will replace the Little Red Barn on South Main Street.

We get an inviting tour. We find out that the nonprofit groups that will also utilize the building will be “close to the entrance,” why there is even going to be “sliding windows for walk-up service,” now, that’s an invention. Not only do we find out what corner the liquor/beer department will be, but there’s a revelation that the new bakery will actually offer daily fresh baked goods. Oh, the deli is going to be such a nice size and the new market is going to feature “locally grown/made products” (bet most of you didn’t know that Spirit of the Northwoods features over 30 local/regional artists in our store).

Then you proceed to describe the outside design as a particular interest of yours. Let’s see: the great columns covered with stonework, LED lighting and, by George, they’re even going to have “signage displaying the store’s name.” Wonders! Who would have thought about that?  (Now, Charlie don’t get your drawers all in a wad because of these statements. I’m not against community expansion. I’m just for fair treatment.)

However, speaking of signage, Lorna, do you remember that People’s Express Main was the first to install a scrolling message board of the highest quality in the city of Shawano? Have you ever read it? Check it out because SIST is the one who keeps the gas prices down as low as legally possible.

But I think you know that since SIST was sued, then fined $20,000, by your friend Judge Grover for doing so. But the verdict was overturned by a Federal Court, which determined that Grover did not know Wisconsin law.

You treat SIST differently.

Instead of working with SIST you choose to breed suspicion and hate—a destructive process for any community and definitively not good for any business in Shawano.

For example, you have deprived the public of making informed choices by falsifying information about SIST’s businesses, community-oriented plans, its image, and its Indian president, even referring to him as a “swamp nigger.”

As the Oracle of your secret group, you have consistently lied in order to inflame community members against SIST (like the fake hit list). Your treatment of SIST continues to be harassment in its meanest forms filled with illegal actions. You have indulged in demeaning accusations, false publicity, and closed hearings—that is why SIST has had to file over 20 lawsuits and has asked for a US Congressional Committee to investigate all that you and your hush-hush group have done in the shadows against SIST.

Now, the Parliament of India has also demanded a Senate investigation and has demanded a reply to what is happening in Shawano. They want answers.

And they are not alone. You know, Lorna, some citizens are wising-up and are starting to ask questions. After all, what community wants to go through so many lawsuits and not know why? What community wants to be singled out in the international limelight as a bigoted little town?  I wouldn’t.

So now you are afraid of exposure.

You need to build Public Support—oh, such a caring person and mush, mush, so forth and so forth. Hence, you seek a community face-lift to powder puff your hidden activities. And who comes running? Your buddies from the Evil Leader (The Shawano Leader), whose reporter Tim Ryan didn’t have any fear of publicly giving the finger in a courtroom (in Shawano) to show his hatred toward SIST.

Shawano Leader Reporter, Tim Ryan

[And as usual, nothing was done about it. However, I guarantee that if I had been in the courtroom and accidentally let loose a loud fart all proceedings would have stopped until a discourse on farting took place.] A surprise? Not really. You’ve been closeted with them for years.

Let’s take another example. In the Evil Leader’s February 12, 2011, top article, “‘This is a shock and an Outrage,’” (“Teachers react to governor’s union bill”) it would remove all negotiation power from both the state employees and the local public employees in all issues but salary. I personally don’t believe that this is a healthy move for Wisconsin. But this is the point I wish to make. The Evil Leader does not give the same coverage consideration to SIST. Ninety-nine percent of their coverage of SIST is pure hyperbole or misrepresentation by not covering the facts. It is a fact that SIST has no voice in this community.

SIST CEO Naomi Isaacson's wrists after arrest

Consider this. Close to midnight on August 24, 2008, SIST’s CEO Naomi Isaacson responded to a phone call and left for the Ponderosa Steak House that SIST owns. Little did she know that she was stepping into a nightmare where she would be forced to watch as Ponderosa’s merchandise was illegally taken out, the property damaged (a minimum of  a-half-million dollars), and she would be bullied and harassed by the police. She was arrested for loitering on her own property and was brutally mishandled by Policeman Ryan Atkinson when she had committed no offense or resisted. When Isaacson left the police station she carried with her marks of abuse: dislocated bones, bruises, welts, and strained muscles. (I will cover the details in an in-depth editorial.)

Now, here’s the thing. The Evil Leader did not tell what really happened and did not express outrage that such a thing took place in Shawano. The Evil Leader was not outraged because the property belonged to SIST. They were not outraged because the person physically abused was SIST’s CEO. The Evil Leader was silent on the real facts. The community was silent.

And you, Mayor Lorna Marquardt, knew all about it. You were in communication with the Police. You worked to destroy the Ponderosa Steak House and instigated the actions that had all the elements of a Medieval pogrom that the world witnessed re-enacted during the Nazi Regime. Pogroms are caused by a number of factors. Two of them are ignorance and propaganda.

You, the mayor of Shawano, with your minions have presented propaganda against SIST to keep the community in ignorance and to keep them silent when evil things happen to SIST to accomplish your goal.

You have willingly broken laws to accomplish your goal to attack, slander, disrupt, harass, and weaken the SIST customer base, so that you can take over SIST businesses for pennies on the dollar. You have, and are willing to sacrifice, the well-being of this community to do so. You have not been faithful to your role as Mayor of Shawano. You have not traveled beyond your prejudicial scope.

It is sad to see such a narrow-minded Medieval attitude. And it disturbs me that you will go to any excess to promote your dangerous outlook. It does not speak well for the future of Shawano when the Mayor attacks SIST businesses that want to contribute to the welfare of the community.

A person who will go to the length that you have to promote ill will cannot be trusted to keep faith with the community. This brings me to a question I would like to ask.

In your editorial piece about Shawano’s volunteer Fire Department, February 5, 2011, you state: “The 2010 expenses include salaries, training, inspections, utilities, heating and supplies totaling $321,001.” Now here is a question that bothers me: What station receives all the benefit of filling-up the fire trucks with gas? Answer: APC Convenience Store with Exxon Gas owned by Doug Knope and family. I have never ever seen the fire trucks go elsewhere. Why? How ethical is it for the Fire Chief Doug Knope to have the Fire Trucks filled up at his station? Has the city ever considered doing a yearly contract with a different station each year within a reasonable price range, so that all stations within the community have a chance to participate instead of one station having a monopoly on service? As a source of great community pride, I know other stations would be honored to give service as well.

If Doug Knope is donating all that gas then bravo (and show the figures) for he certainly owns enough businesses to do so: Culligans, Knope’s Heating & Roofing, Ferrell Gas, plus multiple-multiple properties. If he is not donating, then community members should be asking what is going on.

I do not find comfort in the way you conduct business or your duplicity in the treatment of SIST, which has paid thousands of dollars in taxes to the Shawano community and has served the community well through all of its businesses. Because of this and the belief that the Shawano community deserves to know the facts I have made this an open letter to express my concerns about what is happening.

You know, Lorna, it is a shame that you don’t have the moral fiber to put on your big girl panties and deal with it. Confess to the public and apologize to SIST and its Indian president. Present a new image and promote working together and helping one another. Let go of Hitler and be satisfied with working for a prosperous and healthy community, instead of a kingdom.

Learn from your own words about our Senior Citizens: “The group is not related by blood, but there is a very strong bond. They watch out for one another, assist each other… [and] they come from all walks of life and many different places.” Every community needs a cohesive bond of good will to be successful.

And, yes, if it will help you to take a step for change, Spirit of the Northwoods carries the popular saying, “Put on your big girl panties and deal with it,” although at the moment we are out. But I would gladly put in a rush order for you. After all as manager of Spirit of the Northwoods, I am all about serving the public in the largest department store in downtown Shawano.

The moral of this editorial is: as Confucius would say, never trust a Mayor with red hair and a long tale. My next editorial will include the first installment of The Great Banana Hall parody and the pogrom that took place in Shawano at the Ponderosa Steak House.

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