At first blush, it might seem that Zac Ploppert is an odd fit for the Geneva Historic Preservation Commission.
First Ward Alderman Mike Bruno, who served on the commission for more than a decade, certainly thought so. Bruno offered staunch opposition Monday to Mayor Kevin Burns’ recommended appointment of Ploppert to the seven-person advisory commission, citing strong sentiments that Ploppert expressed during his unsuccessful campaign, in which he emphasized property owners’ rights over preserving Geneva’s historic character when those priorities clash.
There is the obvious back-story of Bruno and Ploppert having waged a sometimes testy city council campaign against one another earlier this year, but even giving Bruno the benefit of the doubt that his concerns about Ploppert’s qualifications were not personal, we fail to see why Bruno and 4th Ward Alderman Dorothy Flanagan cast dissenting votes for his appointment to the Historic Preservation Commission.
A diversity of viewpoints on a committee is generally for the best; it provides checks and balances so essential to effective government.
In no way do we diminish the value of Geneva’s historic charm, especially in and around downtown. That is a central part of the city’s allure.
But as we have seen in recent debates, such as a high-profile dust-up about the Pure Oil building, knee-jerk determinations to preserve historic buildings at all costs are not always practical.
There are many property owners around town who have grown tired of the many restrictions in Geneva’s historic district – perhaps that is why the race between Bruno and Ploppert was decided by about 50 votes – and it would be a disservice not to have those views represented on the commission.
It also is worth noting that, as an advisory board, the Geneva Historic Preservation Commission does not establish policy. Even if Ploppert wanted to take a wrecking ball to every last Italianate house downtown, he lacks the power to do much harm.
Hopefully Ploppert – a Class of 2008 Geneva High School graduate – surprises his critics and takes an open-minded approach to the issues that come before the commission.
Regardless of whether you agree with his viewpoints, it is refreshing to see a young person take an interest in public service.
We need more 20- and 30-somethings to take that initiative and add fresh perspectives to our communities, even if they’re not always in lock-step with the establishment.