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Letter to the Editor: Attacks Against Sprager 'An Attempt to Discredit'

Waukesha Business Improvement District Board Member Chris VanderBloemen and her husband, Stephen, react to anonymous comments about BID Executive Director Meghan Sprager after her resignation.

Editor’s Note: The following letter was submitted to Patch by Waukesha Business Improvement District Board Member Chris VanderBloemen and her husband, Stephen.

As long time commercial property owners in the BID District and a past board member of the BID and officer for many years (Steve) and as a current BID board member (Christine), it is with deep sadness and disappointment that we hear of the resignation of yet another Executive Director of the Waukesha Business Improvement District.  Unfortunately, Meghan Sprager is not the first victim of these tactics.  Previous executive directors, and now Meghan, have tried unsuccessfully to deal professionally with eliminating these tactics.  These same people have continued over the years to attempt to direct the operations of the BID for their personal gain, satisfaction and benefit. 

The BID is supported by additional tax dollars assessed to the property owners (the stakeholders) for the sole purpose of building up the downtown and offering an environment to encourage new real estate development / renovation. Several of the business owners have made it their mission to take over the BID and implement their plans and use of the BID funds and organization. We agree with the concerns raised by Meagan in her letter of resignation that the Bid organization is now to the point that the property owners and residents appear to have little or NO VOICE in what goes on in the BID district. We believe that this situation is further exacerbated by recent appointments to the BID board with some of the appointments being non-property owners and non-residents. 

It is now clear that the tactics of certain downtown business owners have succeeded in their attempts to drive another qualified director out of the BID. What surprises us more is that some of these business owners were on the committee who chose Meghan. Now that her resignation has been submitted the attacks against her have . Many anonymous comments have been posted stating, among other things, that she was overpaid and under committed. These issues about Megan’s compensation and alleged work commitment have never been presented to the BID Board.  If these individuals had proof of these accusations they should have brought them to the attention of the BID Board. This never happened. It is clear to us that these postings are nothing more than an attempt to discredit Meghan and hurt her reputation.

As the Apostle of common sense, G. K. Chesterton stated:  “Truth must necessarily be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind and therefore congenial to it.”

Thank God that Meghan is a woman of honor and a true professional who refused to be bullied by them and made her decision to longer continue in this hostile work environment and to communicate her concerns to the BID stakeholders and the community. 

We wish Meghan well in her new endeavor.  She is a well-qualified individual whose talents where not appreciated by some BID directors and a few downtown business owners. 

Stephen and Christine VanderBloemen
BID Property Owners and BID board member

Cindy Nelson August 22, 2012 at 07:54 PM
This situation is very sad, we frequent all downtown events and are also very aware of the issues with some of the business owners of downtown waukesha. The bad remarks this morning are not good business ethics in the community. Waukesha does not have a good reputation, with all the great improvements and business' downtown these issues need to be dealt with
Victoria Hekkers August 22, 2012 at 08:37 PM
Thank you Cindy, I really hope the BID board sees the wisdom in your comments.
Dani Sutliff August 22, 2012 at 10:12 PM
I am, on both a professional and personal level, also deeply saddened by BID Executive Director Meghan Sprager’s resignation. I am especially saddened that Meghan’s resignation comes as the result of what she identifies as months of inexplicable conflict and an insurmountable lack of civil discourse among the current BID leadership. Meghan’s enthusiasm and optimistic approach towards the success and viability of the downtown business district was evident to many of us who worked closely with her, whether collectively or individually. She displayed both integrity and fairness in her interactions with stakeholders and business owners - especially during times of conflict and controversy – a characteristic I very much appreciated and respected. As a business owner in the downtown, I know I am not alone in feeling downtown Waukesha is losing both a valuable asset and ally with Meghan’s resignation and her commitment and dedication to the downtown business district will be deeply missed.
Ryan August 23, 2012 at 03:49 AM
If the writers of this opinion piece had proof of this BID director's accusations, then they should have openly given specific examples here. The fact these opinion writers give no specific examples means that they themselves are guilty of perpetuating negative rumors and gossip. 
Victoria Hekkers August 23, 2012 at 09:58 PM
Ryan, Ben, Bill, Roger, Mraak, Click, Red Fang, That Guy... Good things come to those who wait!!
Jim Hahn, CFRE August 24, 2012 at 03:44 AM
Not enough dialogue occurs between three very different interest groups: property owners (who pay BID tax directly); residents (who pay it indirectly through their rent); and business owners (most also paying via rent). As became clear during the public discussions about the WDBA's FNL events -- these three groups' goals are often at odds. Residents want parking and quiet, property owners want happy tenants, and businesses need crowds/noise/activity. A single property owner with both commercial and residential tenants must navigate a balance to keep both happy. IMHO, the three legs of the stool are not equal. If the business community does not succeed, the downtown regresses into a place in which no one wants to live. Unpaid rent from failed businesses and un-rentable apartments makes paying BID tax impossible for building owners. Property values decrease.
Jim Hahn, CFRE August 24, 2012 at 03:46 AM
But the businesses in downtown are diverse (thankfully), and there is not always unanimous agreement between art galleries, clothing stores, salons, and law offices about what the best activities are for attracting their clientele to downtown. Again IMHO, the best thing is for diversity in activity as well. Some issues have been discussed tediously and repeatedly by the active groups in town (BID, WDBA, WEA). Large majorities of the folks who SHOW UP and participate in meetings agree on things, only to be demonized afterward for not giving the minority what they wanted. Most of the people who are involved are stubborn, and it helps to understand that small businesspeople are a class with strong opinions who sought to "do their own thing" rather than work under the thumb of a corporate CEO's mid-level manager's "employee manual."
Jim Hahn, CFRE August 24, 2012 at 03:46 AM
I truly respect that everyone BELIEVES they have the best interests of their building, tenants, owners, AND CITY at heart. Most of these groups hold open meetings and welcome public input, but cooperation MIGHT mean that you come, you air your opinions, but then you must succumb to the will of the majority and be a good sport about it. No clandestine letters to aldermen, anonymous blog posts, threats to boycott businesses, etc. Accept your defeat and find another way to make a contribution to our shared goal of making Waukesha a better city in which to live, work, sell, eat, rent, and play. And perhaps it is too much to ask, but if you have a problem with a person/group/activity -- you speak directly to them, rather than act like a junior high school gossiping backstabber. You may still NOT get YOUR WAY, but you'll gain respect for each other as adults and increase the likelihood that the open lines of communication created can help overcome the next challenge either to your liking or to a level of compromise that you can grudgingly but maturely swallow.

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