Magical mayhem has deeper roots

One of the most important questions asked during Bellevue Council’s discussion of the mayor’s pet WizardVue project came repeatedly from council member Glenn Pritchard and remains unanswered: “How do we stop this from happening again?

Council may have put procedures in place to prevent private organizations – not to mention individual elected officials – from taking over public property and doing it at taxpayer expense, but it has not solved the larger problem at the roots of WizardVue: arrogance, ignorance, entitlement and privilege.

There may not be an answer that can solve those problems, at least in the short term. Council may have to settle for vigilance, intense vigilance. Because this is not the first time we’ve seen this behavior, and it won’t be the last.

Bellevue Council leaned over backwards to give Mayor Emily Marburger the benefit of the doubt when it came to WizardVue. They wanted to promote a fun and positive event that might attract visitors to the borough. But even as they attempted to get answers that had been requested of Marburger months ago, they were met with silence.

The part of this story that jumps out at me is council repeatedly telling Marburger that they wanted to see the plans she had developed for this year’s event. They wanted some assurance that she understood that she was not to spend tax dollars as she had the year before. She sat there, saying nothing except to blame everyone from the police department to possibly Harry Potter himself. And the whole time, she knew – she HAD to have known – that there were plans in place to use the taxpayers’ resources just days later to cover the taxpayers’ property to promote her private event. And she said nothing.

Arrogance. Ignorance. Entitlement. Privilege.

This is not the first time we have seen this duck and cover behavior from Marburger, nor the first time we have seen her fail to take responsibility for her mistakes. This can be traced back to one of her very first actions as mayor, when she gave the order for the police to start enforcing the law concerning which way you can park your car. Hundreds of tickets went out, resulting in hundreds of angry phone calls to the police department. Marburger claimed that there was some miscommunication, that the tickets were supposed to be warnings. She blamed the police chief and even the officers themselves for that. Most leaders know that when there is a problem communicating with your department, the responsibility for making sure the message is received and understood lies with the head of the department – in this case, the mayor.

Then there were the animal welfare ordinances Marburger dealt with in a similar manner. When those ordinances were thrown on council’s desks to be voted into law, they had never been reviewed by the borough solicitor and still contained language relevant only to the City of Pittsburgh, which was the source of the laws. And when one of them failed because council did not understand the significance of the law, Marburger never stood up to speak for the ordinances or the animals they represented, to answer questions or correct misunderstandings – she blamed council for not understanding.

Now it appears that Police Chief Matt Sentner will take responsibility for the nearly $10,000 in costs billed to the borough for last year’s WizardVue, despite the fact that the police chief has a boss, and that boss is the mayor who was running that magic show.

Arrogance. Ignorance. Entitlement. Privilege.

Those things don’t go away overnight, Bellevue.