Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Signing the lease of democracy

On my way back from voting Tuesday, I ran into a phalanx of people carrying Minton signs.

“Are you voting today?” one asked, smiling genially and positioning his sign for maximum legibility.

“Sorry,” I said, “just voted for Konkel.”


His face fell. “Oh,” he said. He regrouped: “Good for you. Good for you!”

We walked away in opposite directions. I felt bad for the Mintonites; they seemed like nice people. If I’d run into them earlier, Minton probably would have gotten my vote.

So it’s a good thing I didn’t run into them earlier. Nice people or not, I’d feel like a fool if I had voted for Minton just because I’m a softy. Democracy runs on whatever precepts the voters want it to run on, but I can think of better ones than pity. Besides, my new favorite piece of election chalking (edging out old classic “Vote Jarrell — he’s not corrupt”) is “Your landlord wants you to vote for Minton.”

I don’t think I’m opposed to everything the people at my management company stand for, although I don’t know their views so it’s hard to be sure. I doubt they’re fascists, pedophiles, Satanists or “Will and Grace” fans.

They’re probably perfectly nice people at heart, practically Mintonian. Fond of democracy, babies and sunshine.

Granted, we have some ideological differences. I think rent ought to vary based on the contents of my bank account, but they hold obstinately to the amount stated in the lease. Our positions are flipped when it comes to the electric bill; this scene keeps occurring in my living room:

Prospective tenant: “So, you said heat was included?” Landlord-style guy: “Uh, yeah. We pay for your heat, don’t we, girls?” Current tenant: “No. The lease says you do, but you don’t.”

LSG: “Heh. Well, if you call the office, they’ll take care of that.” Current tenant: “We’ve called four times.”

LSG: “Heh. We’ll get that all straightened out. Uh, isn’t this a nice living room?”

Prospective tenant: “Hmm.”

My roommates and I also questioned the strategy of distracting us from our electric bill and leaky sink by giving us a shiny new toilet. Now, a new toilet is always a treat, and it’s a lovely surprise when the mystery box that appeared in the middle of your living room turns out to contain a new toilet that you don’t even need (I hope you all get to experience it someday), so I don’t wish to sound ungrateful. It’s just that, in their shoes, I would have fixed the existing problems before replacing things that weren’t broken or even particularly old.

So it’s not that my landlords and I are at war or anything. Just, you know, they already have the upper hand. They can add and remove toilets whenever they want, according to their mighty will. If having Minton on City Council would have tipped the balance of power further into their favor, then Minton was the guy to strenuously not vote for. And to decisively split infinitives for. Not to mention ending sentences prepositions with.

It’s been said again and again and again, but Madison abounds in crappy housing and shady landlords. My sister and brother-in-law’s apartment doesn’t have a single right angle anywhere. This wouldn’t be a problem if it were a matter of principle — some sort of rebellion against the bourgeois architectural tenets of the patriarchy. (To quote Ani Difranco, “Who says I like right angles? / These are not my laws /These are not my rules.”) However, it’s clear that the house was imagined as the standard conglomeration of rectangles, and as such, it falls short. Their living room has a Wonderland quality, their furniture gangly and precarious, like a chicken on stilts.

There’s also the matter of their shower, a hasty addition to the house — so hasty, in fact, that it’s not on the foundation, nor is the drain the lowest point. The water goes away by seeping between the tiles into the basement.

Then there are all the people with vermin or floods, with security deposits eaten away by completely fictional repairs, with landlords who may have been mirages when the lease was signed, seeing as how they haven’t been spotted or heard from since, even when the oven exploded.

Of course, there are good landlords too. Ours last year were flawless; rent from Joan and Ed Alschuler if you get the chance.

But as a general rule, the landlord-tenant dynamic is already too heavily skewed in the former’s favor. Any measures that can be taken to sway it back are good measures. Granted, the election’s over, so I don’t know what the next measures are. But at least we didn’t elect Minton.

Speaking of the election: Doesn’t it make you happy that we now have a mayor whose name is so fun to say? Cieslewicz! Cieslewicz! Cieslewicz! I could keep this up for hours.

Cieslewicz! Gesundheit.

Jackie May ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in English.

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