Perhaps the best-read local political blog - for its insight, outrage and humor - is "This Side of Town..." written by Brenda Konkel, who until a few weeks ago was also the most outspoken member of the Madison Common Council.
Konkel was ousted on April 4 by Bridget Maniaci after serving four terms, but continues to blog on city issues. She often breaks news and dishes gossip about council workings.
Konkel says her new status as outsider might give her more liberty. "I've always been pretty blunt with people," she says. "Maybe now I don't have to be as careful about relationships as I have in the past."
Konkel still gets plenty of scoops about what the council is doing and keeps a watchful eye on its workings. She was at Tuesday night's meeting and plans to go to many more.
"Local government is where you can really impact what happens just by showing up," Konkel says. Plus she gets a better feel for what's happening when she's there, rather than watching on TV. "You can see who is not in the room and who is whispering to each other and who the mayor is talking to."
She fears that the recent action by City Attorney Michael May to void a council resolution ("Alders clash with Madison city attorney over property tax exemption," 5/1/09) shows a weakened council. But she also sees hopeful signs.
"I was pleased to see several council members speak up [at the April 21 meeting]," she says. "I know in the past some council members have said they rely on me asking questions and giving them cover."
Does Konkel see anyone filling her role of in-house critic? "Satya [Rhodes-Conway] will continue to ask a lot of questions. I think Shiva [Bidar-Sielaff] will be the person who says, 'Wait a minute, this doesn't sound right.' Marsha [Rummel] will be the voice of the far left."
And what does she make of her successor so far? Too soon to tell. She wishes Maniaci, who was appointed to the Landmarks Commission, had more interest in saving old homes. "I'm also concerned about whether she's going to challenge the police budget in any way," Konkel says of Maniaci, who was supported by the police union. "But who knows? Maybe she'll be more independent than we think."
One thing's for sure: Brenda Konkel will be watching.