If history is a guide, most of you don’t care, but for those paying attention the real action is in the Common (City) Council races. On Tuesday, Wisconsin heads back to the polls for the nonpartisan elections. Of the campus-area races, there are two clear choices: Brenda Konkel in the east and Bryon Eagon in the heart of campus.
Brenda Konkel has served four terms as alder of District 2 (my own district), and her record makes it clear that she should continue to serve. Brenda has been a steadfast ally of students, standing with us with important votes on sensible alcohol policy, public safety and transportation. She is an expert on housing issues and has helped maintain Madison as one of the most tenant-friendly cities in the nation. Brenda addresses basic services not just by thinking how much should we charge, but how we can deliver them more effectively. Brenda also has a better definition of “basic services” and includes the social programs and quality-of-life measures that help make Madison a great place to live.
Brenda is relentless in support of our district. There is no harder worker on the Council. She has always been incredibly responsive to constituent contacts, created e-mail lists to keep the neighborhood informed, kept up with neighborhood association meetings and facilitated many neighborhood meetings to discuss specific projects or issues. When neighbors band together to accomplish something, we have always been able to count on Brenda to be there with us. Brenda’s blog is the best available source of information on city government happenings. The entire city relies on her blog to cover issues that local news organizations no longer do.
The mayor sought out a challenger for Brenda and is the only currently elected official to endorse that challenger. Brenda has tremendous support from elected officials at all levels: other alders, nearly the entire Madison Metropolitan School Board, state Assembly representatives, the Democratic Party leader and District 2 resident Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison.
Brenda is known for her attention to detail and never serves as a rubber stamp. No other member of the Council examines the material with the depth and critical eye that Brenda brings, and countless times she has saved the city from inadvertently passing ordinances with unintended consequences or spending taxpayer money in needless or inefficient ways.
Brenda is known for her commitment to social justice and her insistence that government be done in an open and transparent manner. These values, combined with her attention to detail, mean she’s not afraid to ask tough questions. The answers are often embarrassing and uncomfortable because they reveal just how many people our best efforts fail to serve. For her trouble, Brenda is often labeled an obstructionist because it is easier to attack than to acknowledge the truth. I, for one, am proud she is standing up for those who need it most.
Brenda’s opponent, Bridget Maniaci, takes similar positions on nearly all of the same issues as Brenda does. Bridget asks us to vote for her because she will bring a different leadership style to the district. Style is something that you have to have an opportunity to demonstrate, so I am willing to take a leap of faith and trust she could deliver. However, Bridget also asks us to take a second leap of faith and trust that she is as prepared to represent us as Brenda already is. In the District 2 debate, and in looking over her website, I am reminded of the “West Wing,” when Jed Bartlett challenged his debate opponent to give “the next 10 words” of his answer. Bridget has all of the talking points right but hasn’t yet demonstrated that she’s ready to go in depth. Perhaps she can do it, but if her only advantage is an unnecessary change in leadership style, then I am not prepared to take that risk.
Bridget would do well to take a lesson from Bryon Eagon. Also a newcomer, Bryon is doing all he can to assure District 8 voters he is ready for the challenges ahead. He has been tirelessly meeting, researching and publishing plans that give him the foundation he will need to excel as an alder. Bryon does not ask us to trust him; instead he is trumpeting that he has to come up to speed and is showing us exactly what he is doing to get there. District 8 residents should know he is doing it exactly right, and no other new alder will be as prepared as he is on day one of his term.
In fact, Bryon has met with many more people than necessary so he could figure out who he needed to know and who he should bring together. These collaborative efforts — combined with the in-depth policy statements he has on his website — show he has all of the skills necessary to be a successful alder. His opponent, on the other hand, has done so little in this race that he does not merit more than a sentence to say he’s not prepared to serve.
The next term will be two of the most difficult years in the city’s history as it wrestles with nearly impossible budgets and increasing demands. We need the most qualified individuals possible to represent us. Next Tuesday, give your vote to Brenda Konkel and Bryon Eagon.
Erik Paulson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Ph.D. candidate in computer science.