Support Your Local Alders

Yesterday’s decisive defeat of a full-time Madison City Council in an advisory referendum wasn’t surprising. Among many good arguments against it was the comparison to the state Legislature. Voters looked at their part-time citizen council and they looked down the street at the “full-time” Legislature and they decided, wisely, to keep what that have, instead of creating a mini Legislature at the City County Building.

This should end the decennial debate about reducing the council size and paying alders full-time salaries. It doesn’t make any sense now for supporters of that idea to move forward with those changes, even though they could since the vote wasn’t binding.

Madison voters decided to keep their citizen council.

But while this should kill one bad idea, let’s hope it promotes another good one. Having considered the alternative, Madisonians should have some more appreciation for the council and for the people who “volunteer” their time to serve there.

I say”volunteer” because the small compensation (a little under $14,000 a year) doesn’t nearly account for the time most alders put in or for the gravity of the decisions they make. Nobody serves on the council to get rich, few do it for the notoriety, and even fewer ever use it as a launching pad for higher office. Pretty much everybody on the council is there for the right reason: they care about their community.

That’s not to say I always agree with them. The current council is maybe the most hard-left of any in history and last night’s results suggest it will move even further left. As I’ve written before, I wish we had a local party for left-center moderates. But we don’t and elections are won by those who recruit good candidates and work hard and smart to get them elected. I would be stretching the case if we I were to try to argue that this council won’t reflect the community.

Good organization also takes money. Some money. I am a little concerned about how much money was spent this year, but it’s still a drop in the bucket compared to what would be spent on larger districts where the battle was for a full-time job.

In any event, we looked hard at the alternative to what we have and we soundly rejected it. I’m glad that we rejected something bad. But let’s also take some time to appreciate the positive aspects of what we have: neighbors who volunteer their time and talent to serve their community.

Here’s how the council stacks up after yesterday’s results.

District 1: Barbara Harrington-McKinney, (I) ran unopposed

District 2: Patrick Heck, (I) defeated a challenger

District 3: Lindsay Lemmer, (I) defeated a challenger

District 4: Mike Verveer, (I) ran unopposed

District 5: Regina Vidaver, ran unopposed for an open seat

District 6: Brian Benford, ran unopposed for an open seat

District 7: Nasra Wehelie (I), ran unopposed

District 8: Juliana Bennett, won a race for an open seat

District 9: Nikki Conklin, defeated incumbent Paul Skidmore

District 10: Yanette Figueroa Cole, won a race for an open seat

District 11: Arvina Martin (I), ran unopposed

District 12: Syed Abbas (I), defeated a challenger

District 13: Tag Evers (I), defeated a challenger who had dropped out

District 14: Sheri Carter (I), defeated a challenger

District 15: Grant Foster (I), ran unopposed

District 16: Jael Currie, won a race for an open seat

District 17: Gary Halverson, ran unopposed for an open seat

District 18: Charles Myadze, defeated incumbent Rebecca Kemble

District 19: Keith Furman (I), defeated a challenger

District 20: Christian Albouras (I), defeated a challenger

The bottom line: It looks like the 9th, 10th and 16th will all be represented by alders who are further left than those they replaced. District 18 will be represented by more of a moderate. So, the left would seem to have picked up two seats.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

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