As it's still Summer and as we're in that down-time between the State Government passing the budget and the local government's reactions to that, not much is happening. I have found a few items of interest:
Soglin deviates from reality
Paul Soglin replied a week-and-a-half ago to a post on Ald. Michael Schumacher's blog about alder appointments to city committees. This has been part of a larger discussion that has sprung from a few controversial non-appointments in the wake of the Spring Elections. Not surprisingly, Ald. Schumacher believes:
"Let's keep a mayor's mitts off of appointing alders to committees and make such appointments truly a legislative affair."
On May 29th, I weighed in on this issue as well, saying:
"It's true, the Mayor gets to make the appointments and can make them for whatever reasons he wants. But I've always thought that was too much power (especially in the case of making aldermanic appointments) and that, perhaps, at least that power should be given to the Common Council to appoint their own -- much like how the Dane County Board does it. This would be one of those many ways in which the City should work more like the County."
So I definitely agree with Ald. Schumacher that the Common Council leadership should handle its own appointments. Soglin disagrees, claiming (emphasis mine):
"Such a shift would change the balance of power between the mayor and the common council and has other implications.
Madison, like most Wisconsin cities has a weak mayor, strong council form of government. Mayors cannot appoint new department and division heads upon election and form a cabinet government.
The mayor has limited ability to modify or change expenditures once the budget is adopted. In Wisconsin the procedure for making budget amendments is very cumbersome and difficult. The mayor is as bound to the process as the common council. In fact in some cases city department heads have more authority to change expenditures than the mayor. So much for executive prerogative."
Mr. "Yes I can - I'm the Mayor" is arguing that the power dynamics between the Mayor and the Common Council are hard-wired by how city government is organized. That's ridiculous. The power dynamics may depend in part to the organization but are affected by so many different factors.
For instance, power dynamics are more affected by political capital and the Mayor, more by virtue of his/her celebrity and how it's used than anything else, has significant capital built in. Also, the Mayor can have instant access to department and division heads and is usually the first person to know things as they happen. And the Mayor is always welcome in any newspaper editor's office or talk-radio studio or TV news program - so they can shape the message as events unfold. And, if they Mayor goes back to the voters for re-election and does well, that affects the dynamic even more.
So based on all that, you could make the case that Paul Soglin versions 1.0 and 2.0 enjoyed a strong mayor/weak council dynamic (Did we even care back then how the Common Council elections went?), that Sue Bauman's administration suffered greatly from a weak mayor/strong council dynamic, and that while Mayor Dave started in 2003 with a mayor/council power parity, the council turnover (only 4 of the 20 alders were on the Common Council in 2003 when he was first sworn in as Mayor) and his landslide victory in 2007 currently haves him in a much stronger position than the Common Council.
And one more thing, I wonder if Portland, Oregon realizes how much we've looked to them over the years. From land use to transportation to housing policy to, according to Soglin's post, governmental organization, I can now recall several times where somebody's floated an idea that we do things like Portland. Almost always, the negative reaction has been strong.
Bad Actor of the Week
The State Journal reports that two Dane County supervisors have refused a recent request to join the rest of Dane County elected officials and Dane County government employees by taking a slight pay cut to help the county cover a budget shortfall as they, with everybody else, contend with the effects of the Bush economic disaster.
Choosing to not take part in the shared sacrifice, Supervisor Kurt Schlicht, obviously still upset that Dane County voters clearly preferred in April that County Executive Falk stay on the job and solve this issue, fired off this snotty salvo:
"I would much rather give my money to Bernie Madoff than Kathleen Falk,"
Well, I'm sure the voters in District 28 are thrilled to hear that Kurt Schlicht is more interested in taking cheap shots in the press than coming up with solutions for real problems. Imagine what it would have been like during World War II if, while the rest of the America was growing Victory Gardens and doing recycling drives, someone stated that he would rather have his vegetables and tin go to the Axis rather than FDR because he was a bitter Thomas Dewey supporter?
Of course, we had a different type of political leadership back then.
Rick Berg: Euroweenie
Kidding! Kidding! But seriously folks, I very much enjoyed Berg's piece last week on Madison's sister-city Freiburg, Germany and its green initiatives. It's a pleasant surprise to see that the right-wing is starting to signal the failure of Bush Neo-conservativism by starting to consider the ideals of "Old Europe". As a City of Madison Plan Commissioner and member of its Long Range Transportation Plan Commission, I believe we should be looking towards the leadership of cities like Freiburg and Copenhagen and Strasbourg for ideas as to how to make Madison a greener city.
And as an unrepentant lefty, I also think "Old Europe" had the right ideas regarding Universal Health Care and the Iraq War, to name two. But I'll forgive Rick Berg if he doesn't get there yet.
What impressed me the most about Berg's work was that he was able to secure a gig representing Madison at Freiberg's Sister City Fair and then secure another gig writing about his experience. And what did he do to earn this? Rip on Dave Cieslewicz!
So, if that's what it takes, Mayor Dave better invest in some asbestos boxers because I'm inclined to fire up the flamethrower and not stop until my passport's stamped. By the way, do we have any sister cities in France?
Spin City Deep Thought of the Day
What a difference a change of administrations makes. There are people out there (including Lou Dobbs and Fox News) who are not convinced by the mountains of evidence that our President was born in the United States. But they easily took the previous one at his word when he said he fulfilled his obligations with the Alabama National Guard and that there were WMD's in Iraq.