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updated: 9/16/2013 10:35 AM

Second Wauconda grassroots group forms on Facebook

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  • Wauconda Mayor Frank Bart

      Wauconda Mayor Frank Bart

 
 

Wauconda's political divide has stretched into cyberspace.

Just a few months after some of Mayor Frank Bart's critics launched a popular Facebook group about the goings-on at village hall, a second Facebook group has popped up -- this time, created by a Bart supporter.

Its name, "Wauconda For Wauconda," is nearly identical to the name of the first page, "Of Wauconda For Wauconda."

That's no accident, said its creator, Robert Heroux.

"I wanted the name to represent what I see as the flip side of their (Facebook) presence," Heroux said in an email to the Daily Herald. "The other side, but not one-sided."

Heroux's Facebook group surfaced about three weeks ago. It can be found at facebook.com/groups/505458619535432. As of last week the group had more than 130 members.

Maria Weisbruch, a local business owner who was one of the earliest "Of Wauconda" members, said the existence of two Facebook groups on opposite sides of the local political spectrum further polarizes people.

But she also thinks giving each side its own virtual space to talk about issues likely prevents ugly arguments.

"It may be a good way to keep the really extreme arguments off each other's pages," Weisbruch said.

The animosity between the two sides goes back to the April municipal election, which saw Bart narrowly beat incumbent Mark Knigge. The occasionally heated campaign left some Knigge supporters -- including his wife and adult daughter -- feeling stung.

The "Of Wauconda" group, which went live in June, has about 600 members. You can find it at facebook.com/groups/OfWaucondaForWauconda.

Some people, including village Trustee Linda Starkey and Public Works Director Brad Fink, are members of both groups.

Starkey hasn't left comments at either site. But she reads the comments others make, viewing the groups as a high-tech way to "keep an ear to the ground" in the town of 13,000 residents.

"(It's) a new outlet for people to express their opinions," she said. "It's another source of information."

The members of Heroux's group talk about many of the same topics people discuss on the other page: plans to bring Lake Michigan water to the village; community events; personnel changes at the police department; even articles in the Daily Herald.

A line at the top of Heroux's page calls the effort "a true unbiased group of Wauconda residents." That distinction was important to Heroux, who didn't like how some "Of Wauconda" members responded to comments that were contrary to their political opinions.

"I think that both sides should be able to speak up without the fear of being harassed by anyone," said Heroux, a longtime Wauconda resident and retired engineer.

Weisbruch apologetically acknowledged some "Of Wauconda" members went too far when responding to comments from people with opposing views. She said she's urged people to stay respectful.

"It's supposed to be about discussing issues, not discussing people's personalities," she said.

Not that things haven't occasionally gotten nasty on the new site.

Last week, Wauconda resident Lisa Dixon crafted a post on the "Wauconda For Wauconda" page in which she said the comments there are "just as negative toward opposing opinions as the other group."

"If you've come here looking for a page where adults can have an adult conversation without becoming negative, keep looking because this page isn't it," wrote Dixon, a member of both groups.

An argument ensued in the follow-up comments. One member suggested Dixon leave if she didn't like the group.

Heroux admits people in his Facebook group occasionally "are not as positive as I would like." But overall, he said he's pleased with the effort so far.

"I think we have gone above and beyond the other page," Heroux said.

Facebook groups specifically designed for local-level political debate or small-scale, grass-roots activism are rare in the suburbs.

In the Cary area, a group called "District 26 Parents With a Voice!!!!" consists of people who share concerns about local schools. A few years ago, Libertyville residents who wanted a Trader Joe's grocery store in town formed a Facebook group to plead their case.

When the "Of Wauconda For Wauconda" page launched, Bart called it an extension of the April campaign. He criticized its founders as "opposition supporters."

The mayor had kinder things to say about Heroux's new Facebook group, although he admitted he hadn't seen it.

"(I) am told it is not as extreme (as) the other one," Bart told the Daily Herald in an email. "It is important for everyone to see the full breadth of opinions."

Heroux agrees.

"Everyone is entitled to their opinion, whether (it's) right or wrong in someone else's view," he said.

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