Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Stopping Dane’s District 5 yawn

Which is a better summation of the Dane County Board race:
The battle of who cares less or the battle of who knows less?

Answer: Meh.

That seems to be the general response of the University of
Wisconsin student body. Of course, that?s fairly normal. Whenever some
political entity responds to a vacant seat on Madison City Council, Dane County
Board of Supervisors or even ? perhaps especially ? the Associated Students of
Madison, the campus community usually responds with a giant shrug.


Yet, this race is even worse. Not only is the general
student body out of the picture, but the political entities usually providing
the main thrust seem to have no interest in it.

Once Dane County Supervisor Ashok Kumar decided two years
was enough, and David Lapidus bowed out of contention, the interest dropped
right out of the race. This resulted in the College Democrats, a group graced
with the stellar candidacy of Eli Judge for the District 8 alder race, with a
tough situation ? looking among their membership for someone willing to take on
the challenge.

Conor O?Hagan, ASM freshman representative and a College
Democrats member, gladly decided to throw himself into the ring. While some
members of the College Dems have participated in helping his campaign, the
organization firmly denies any official ties. And while this distance is
certainly to keep College Democrats in good standing, it is also a preventive
measure ? if Mr. O?Hagan turns out to be stellar candidate, they will certainly
swing their force behind him, but if he?s a dud, they?ll be justified in
distancing themselves from him.

Then we come to Wyndham Manning. While Mr. Manning readily
admits that he started his campaign as a half-joke based on pointing out local
government inefficiencies, his spur-of-the-moment serious tone earned him the
endorsement of Progressive Dane. Did they question him? Perhaps. However,
considering the fact that the only edge Mr. Manning has over Mr. O?Hagan is
that he mentions the words ?progressive? and ?radical? every once in a while,
PD couldn?t have thought that hard about the endorsement.

Both organizations are playing the role of disengaged mother
who watches her child from a distant bench as he plays on the swings. ?Oh,
what?s that?? Mom murmurs disconnectedly, ?You want to run for office? That?s
fine, honey, just stay where I can see you.? It?s a rather depressing chain of
events that those organizations would usually work to counteract ? the student
body must get involved and know the issues for anything resembling democratic
progress to take place. However, the organizations must care in order to act.
Since they don?t, they won?t act. The student body doesn?t care, they also
won?t turn up at the polls and candidates are confronted with a tough decision:
Do you join the apathy conga line or break the trend?

So how do you get students to care about county board? Erase
the past and start again.

First off, stop pinning all things bright and terrible in
the 5th district on Ashok Kumar. Whether you think Mr. Kumar deserves a statue
for making sure those jailed don?t have to pay $30 per phone call or think he
should be whipped in a public square for missing a Dane County Board meeting,
he is pulling up the grass roots and moving to more fertile soil. While we
could take the time to debate the legacy of the infamous Mr. Kumar, don?t waste
your time.

Let me sum it up so we can move on: He passed perhaps 1 1/2
decent pieces of legislation, made a spectacle of himself and left. The fact
that ?Ashok, where you at?? is a less common phrase then, ?Who?? is reason
enough to know that the undergraduate student body couldn?t care less. Using
his record as a rallying cry in either direction is maybe more polarizing than
the man himself. Send him a box of chocolates or a ?Dear John? letter and move

Secondly, the candidates need to strip themselves of this
notion that they?re ?representing? District 5 ? they, along with a few
concerned graduate students and undergraduate anomalies, are District 5. If
they intend to galvanize the student body, it?s not enough to be a public
servant; they have to be policy architects. While one might argue there are
student issues at the city level ? safety, tenant rights and the war against
modern day prohibition, just to name a few ? Dane County has no easy access
issues. Sure, one could argue the algae bloom in Lake Mendota kept many from
enjoying Terrace events, but then again, how many wrote their supervisor and
how many just squirmed in their seat and scrunched their face?

Instead of playing to their needs, the next district
supervisor has to create them. Mr. Kumar obviously appealed to student?s desire
for progressive change by campaigning on an agenda of environmental protection,
criminal justice reform and kicking Wal-Mart out of Dane County. (Well, one out
of five is something.) Right now, the candidates have mentioned the
environment, but there aren?t any concrete policies on the table other than Mr.
O?Hagan?s Vilas Zoo remodeling project ? I?m sure you?ve got Koko?s vote.

Believe me, I empathize with the candidates when I hear them
reference the lack of representation here. But you?ve got to have a definitive
idea of where to go. Tourism, lake cleanup, and clean and efficient regional
transit are good starts, but you need to be prepared to deliver it.

I know, easier said than done.

Jason Smathers ([email protected]) is a senior
majoring in journalism and history.

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