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Monday, July 28, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 62.0° F  A Few Clouds
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Ald. Thuy Pham-Remmele may quit council over mayor's slight
West-side alder calls Cieslewicz's action 'arrogance to my constituents'

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Ald. Thuy Pham-Remmele doesn't know what she did wrong. But last month, when Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz made his committee appointments, he pulled Pham-Remmele off her prized assignment, the Community Development Block Grant Commission.

"I am quite annoyed," Pham-Remmele says. So annoyed, in fact, that she's contemplating resigning from the council.

Pham-Remmele thinks the mayor's action was insulting, not just to her, but her constituents. "I don't think what he did was an oversight," she says. "I think as a leader of the city he has to be more thoughtful. What he did to me is not worth mentioning. But it reflects an arrogance to my constituents."

Freshman Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff was put on the CDBG commission, which makes recommendations on CDBG programs. Pham-Remmele was put on the Commission for People with Disabilities, but in an email to the mayor, asked to be removed. She was reappointed to the Vending Oversight Committee, now her only appointment.

First elected in April 2007, Pham-Remmele championed public safety issues, arranging a huge public meeting and pushing for extra funding for police officers.

Cieslewicz declined to comment to Isthmus about why he took Pham-Remmele off the CDBG committee. But before the appointments were finalized, he defended his picks as "well within the mayor's prerogative."

Pham-Remmele says the mayor has not spoken to her about why she was not reappointed. "We usually don't talk," she says. "He sort of ignores me."

The issue is not fading away. At this Tuesday's council meeting, Council President Tim Bruer will sponsor a motion to ask the mayor to reconsider his council appointments. Several council members say they expect it to be seconded, but not pass.

"The mayor is none too happy with this reconsideration and he's been calling alders," says Ald. Mike Verveer. But, even if the measure passes, the council cannot force the mayor to make different appointments, Verveer says.

Two years ago, Ald. Paul Skidmore was in a similar position when the mayor kicked him off the Board of Parks Commissioners, because Skidmore - a landscape architect - wouldn't support the mayor's plans for James Madison Park.

"I was pretty mad that I was taken off," he says. "And the mayor made no bones about it. He said he wanted someone on the commission who will vote the way I want them to."

Skidmore, who was put back on the parks board last month, defends the mayor's choices. "He had the right to take me off. He had the right to put somebody else on. He put me back on because politics are politics and he knows I know about parks and I don't carry a grudge," Skidmore says. "Thuy is taking this very personally."

There are more than 80 city boards, commissions and committees. The Board of Estimates (which makes spending recommendations) and the Plan Commission are generally considered the most powerful and prestigious. There's no limit to how many committees an alder can serve on; it depends on their time and interest. Ald. Michael Schumacher serves on 12.

Should Pham-Remmele quit, there would be a special election to replace her.

Pham-Remmele is apparently still making up her mind.

"I don't owe the mayor anything," she says. "And I don't belong to any political group or body. If I want to give more of my time, more of my commitment, more of my energy - it's my choice. If I think that this is not what I thought it was, I don't think anybody can blame me. It's that clear."

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