It was 9:15 on Wednesday night and the Madison city council had spent more than two hours debating just five of the 17 amendments to its 2008 capital budget. Ald. Thuy Pham-Remmele plaintively asked, "Are we going to go on all night?"
Yes. The council did not adjourn until after 1 a.m., when it finally passed the $161 million capital budget. There are 55 amendments to the operating budget -- which means the council will likely pull another all-nighter on Thursday.
The Dane County Board, in contrast, spent only three hours on Monday night to pass its $460 million budget.
If the County Board can do it in one night, why does the Madison Common Council need three? And why do all of their meetings last into the wee hours of the morning?
Because the alders won't shut up.
Ald. Judy Compton is the worst offender, sharing her opinion on every amendment, no matter how trivial. But Alds. Zach Brandon and Brenda Konkel are close seconds, usually bickering with each other. It would speed things up if they would just agree to disagree.
The council's freshman alders are not much better. Alds. Julia Kerr, Satya-Rhodes Conway and even the complaining Pham-Remmele often throw their two cents in. Didn't former Ald. Warren Onken have an adage about how new alders should be seen and not heard?
There is only one way to solve a systemic problem like this: Play a drinking game. If you can make it till the city council adjourns at 1 a.m. -- without passing out first -- you win.
Here are the rules:
Take one drink if...
Ald. Judy Compton speaks.
Compton asks a question of staff merely to make a political point.
Ald. Zach Brandon speaks.
Ald. Brenda Konkel speaks.
Brandon offends Konkel or vice-versa.
Take two drinks if...
Mayor Cieslewicz makes a joke.
The joke is actually funny.
An alder says, "I don't want to repeat what my colleague just said, but..." and then repeats it.
An alder says, "I swore I wasn't going to speak on this issue, but...."
And alder says, "I'll be brief..." and then isn't.
Someone requests a roll call vote and the tally ends up being 18-2.
Brandon lectures the council on fiscal responsibility.
Chug your drink if...
Ald. Paul Skidmore speaks.
The council has to redo a vote because half the members didn't understand what they just voted on.
Every single alder (there are 20) speaks on an amendment. (You'll have to do it at least once.)
Someone makes a motion to recess the meeting to another night.