Dear editor,

How do you feel when, after looking you straight in the eyes, a person makes a promise that they then break? And what if this happens again?

Should a person who breaks a promise to you, repeatedly, be exempt from your disappointment, just because he or she is a politician, whose job description  nowadays seems to require deception and lying? 

I have spoken face-to-face and eye-to-eye with State Rep. Pat Snyder, (R-Schofield), twice since he’s run for office.

In our first encounter, while standing in my driveway, I expressed my deep concern about the pervasiveness of poverty existing in Wausau. He agreed and promised he would develop relationships with “good companies that offer good paying jobs” and poverty would improve here.

He then described his passion to address mental health issues in the region, which I felt was a laudable calling.

Fast forward several years to the time of discovery of our water crisis with PFAS/PFOS contamination of all our city wells, at levels prompting a health advisory based on recommendations by our State Health Department. I ran into Rep. Snyder at a Tom Tiffany Town Hall. I expressed to him my concern that bottled water and filter pick up as a short-term solution was not plausible for disabled, frail, homebound and poor city residents. He said he agreed with me in asking the city to assess the water needs of all residents challenged by such limitations. He told me he would start by contacting the city’s department of public works.

What’s happened since these two promise-making encounters?

Almost half of all Wausau residents now live in poverty.

A record 180 residents sought shelter from winter last year.

Five hundred and fifty residents are waiting for subsidized housing – a number that is increasing.

Marathon County falls behind the state average for mental health providers, and access to healthcare for all ages.

The Community Corner Clubhouse, an invaluable resource for people struggling with issues related to mental health, was closed without a peep of protest from my representative.

In fact, I discovered that it was our governor who championed a successful attempt to increase funding to address mental health issues.

After three weeks, I didn’t hear back from my representative about the assessment of the water needs for challenged city residents. My follow-up email did not receive a response.

The negative ramifications of just these two broken promises extended far beyond my own personal disappointment. They significantly affected (and continue to affect) the daily lives of thousands of my fellow citizens.

Upon further research and reflection I have realized there have actually been winners of my representative’s misguided behaviors. 

Wausau’s wealthy are richer than the rest of us and by an amount surpassing the state’s.

Profits of corporations and CEO salaries have soared.

And I have seen that my representative , himself, received awards from the Chamber of Commerce and the Water Alliance, a water “advocacy” group that paradoxically fights regulations that keep our water safe.

So, fool me once, on them. Fool me twice, on me! And when politicians break a promise to you, even if it’s given eye to eye, it should come to no surprise as it quickly becomes revealed to whom they truly keep their promises.

At the expense of the livelihood of working and poor Wausonians, my representative has kept his promises to the privileged and powerful.

It’s time for someone else to finally champion the needs of over half our population that struggles to make ends meet, through sincerity of word and affirmation of practice.

I think Kristen Conway, (D-Schofield), could be the one to do this, representing the 85th Assembly District. 

She has consistently advocated for those marginalized and given lower priority in the power relations within our society. She has advocated by both word and deed through her work supporting people with disabilities and those feeling left out of the embrace of the community. She is endorsed by organizations who prioritize the needs of working people, school children and the environment.

I think Kristen Conway will fight her hardest to keep a promise.

Bruce Grau of Wausau

Editor’s note: Wausau Pilot & Review gladly publishes commentary from readers, residents and candidates for local offices. The views of readers and columnists are independent of this newspaper and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wausau Pilot & Review. To submit, email editor@wausaupilotandreview.com or mail to 500 N. Third St., Suite 208-8, Wausau, Wis. 54403.