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Anonymity Among Friends Prevents Formation of Madison Opposition

My Madison neighbor Ashley Kenneth Allen posts on Facebook an anonymous letter he received relating to his public statements on conflicts of interest between the Lake Area Improvement Corporation and the Madison City Commission. The unsigned text reads as follows:

Hi Ashley,

Congratulations on all the nice writing and discovery work you are doing to keep us informed. Hope we can support you in a run for office someday. Know you will do a good job.

As you explore the "conflict of interest" regarding the LAIC maybe you should check out who their local attorney has been. Might find that interesting too. Best wishes. Keep up the good work [anonymous letter to Ashley Kenneth Allen, postmarked 2012.01.30, Sioux Falls, SD].

It shouldn't be a surprise that current city commissioner Dick Ericsson, who incorporated the LAIC in the 1990s and happily runs interference for its failures, probably also does some legal work for the organization.

The disappointing surprise is that the neighbor who writes this letter feels the need to remain anonymous. Many Madison residents (current and ex-pat) believe the Madison City Commission and LAIC run on principles of closed doors and crony capitalism. Many of us believe that changing Madison's stagnant business as usual requires wresting control away from the usual elites and engage everyone in fair and sensible policymaking and economic development. Folks in that camp know that Ashley Allen is a friend to that cause.

Yet folks in that camp don't trust Ashley Allen enough to share their name with him. What are you afraid of, people? Why can you not compliment an ally, discuss with that ally useful information, and then say, "By the way, here's my name and number; if you need help, call me"?

If we're going to convince new people to run for office and give Madison the shake-up it badly needs, we have to assure those people that they are not alone. Anonymous letters aren't just exaggerated games-playing ("oooh, I feel so sneaky outwitting Dick Ericsson! He'll never be able to throw me in Madison's gulag for saying this oh-so-naughty thing!"). Anonymous letters only perpetuate the isolation and suspicion that prevent the creation of an effective political movement.


  1. matthew siedschlaw 2012.02.01

    If I still lived in Madison I would also be afraid to respond publicly to most of the stuff on your blog or in public. The machine that controls that town scares a lot of people into just keeping their mouth shut.

    Matthew M. Siedschlaw

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.02.01

    But what are they going to do to us, Matt? And why wouldn't the letter writer trust Ashley?

  3. Michael Black 2012.02.01

    I think you are looking for things that do not exist. Maybe Ashley's friend just wants to encourage him. The best gifts are anonymous.

  4. Bill Fleming 2012.02.01


  5. Jana 2012.02.01

    Isn't that the term for adding to a previous statement that makes you pause and think some more?

  6. Jana 2012.02.01

    Plus + Pause = Plaus

    But can Bill use it in a sentence...I bet he can!

  7. John Hess 2012.02.01

    I try to keep my mouth shut but have so little success. The thing is, this anonymous note should not be seen as a charge against Dick and is unfair to post from any story angle. It being raised this way makes it so unlikely he could or would respond. A direct question to him privately (the man has email) or at a city commission meeting would be appropriate. As a community we should expect to know commissioners current relationship to the LAIC and they have the responsibility to, and should be eager to disclose whatever level of conflict that may exist, if there are any. There will always be some. Now do I think the LAIC should have a new direction and the City Commission have more influence over what they do? Yes! I for one would appreciate a fresh voice and hope Ashley takes up the challenge. I'll deliver the yard signs! Without much encouragement pay for a few.

  8. Ashley Kenneth Allen 2012.02.01

    I respect that people can send anonymous letters and I appreciate the people that have taken time to communicate with me through various methods on this topic of economic development. I understand that some would like to protect their name because of who they work for, where they do business, where they attend church, etc.

    However, this is the least of my worries right now. After the events that happened last night, it is good to see that we have a community that can come together in times of need and support one another. Politics can wait a few days.

    I am very proud of all of those working so hard to protect and serve our community. Thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in Madison, especially those directly effected in the tragedy last night.

  9. Supersweet 2012.02.01

    If there was anyone in Madison without an enemy, it was Norm.

Comments are closed.