You’d think the head of the Dane County 911 Center was an elected position, what with all those ads I keep seeing. And you’d think Nancy Mistele was running for it.
With two Dane County executive candidates evincing two very different election strategies — one doing her best to draw attention to the failings of the 911 Center, the other doing her best to gloss over them — one has to wonder: Who to vote for? Personally, I say neither, but if you’re unlike me and can’t stand writing someone in, then go with Kathleen Falk if it’s a decision between the two.
As for me, I’ll be writing in my father, a convention I’ve established because I just can’t stand not voting, and I’ve always felt him competent enough to handle state and county level issues. And just like the 2004 presidential election, I really can’t vote for either major party candidate. This time, however, I won’t be voting Libertarian.
Firstly, Mistele is just a big liar. Oh, I know, it’s fairly conventional in politics to cherry pick information, twist the truth and quote opinion pieces like they are news stories, but let’s call a spade a spade. Mistele is lying to you. Mistele has consistently claimed that current Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk cut funding for the 911 Center. And then, as her ads say “tragedy struck.”
Well, that’s a lie. Falk did indeed request a $138,000 cut to Public Safety Communications in her 2005 budget instructions, according to WISC-TV, but the final Dane County Budget in 2005 made no cuts to the 911 Center. In fact, the final budget added three positions. Since then, the county’s budget for 911 has actually increased.
Falk’s handling of the repercussions of Brittany Zimmermann’s unfortunate death has been mixed. She has been quick to make changes to a system that has failed. But she has played politics with the blame and responsibility. Instead of an Obama-esque “The buck stops with me,” Falk has pointed her finger in every direction looking for someone else to blame.
Initially, Falk claimed she simply could not talk about the call as requested by the police. The Madison Police Department then responded that she could talk about the call in general. However, Falk has decided to keep much of its content secret. That’s fine by me, as I certainly have no business listening to the last moments of a young woman’s life. But now Falk is delaying until after the election a potentially damaging deposition about the 911 Center in a lawsuit brought against her and the county by the family of Zimmermann.
For a woman in her 12th year as county executive, and seeking a fourth term, you’d think at some point Falk would have developed a sense of responsibility and ownership. She has stonewalled and deflected on so many issues regarding the 911 Center, it has led this opinion writer to finally say, “Twelve years is enough.” If at some point Falk had said, “The 911 Center is under my purview, and I am partly responsible for its failings. I am going to fix this,” I’d feel a lot better about voting for her on Tuesday. Instead, as I always do when I feel the candidates are not up to the job, it’s time for a write-in.
I’m no fan of long-serving politicians, and Wisconsin has plenty of them. At some point, it may be time for a politician to try his or her luck in the private sector. Wisconsin voters don’t have to keep sending the same people back to do the same job, especially when such a crucial aspect of that job was so glaringly mismanaged. I’m not saying “Vote for Mistele.” In fact, don’t, as she has no track record that would lead me to believe that she would even do as good of a job as Falk. I’m saying “Don’t vote for Falk.”
There are many issues that a Dane County executive must handle. The 911 Center is only one of them. But when one issue so aptly exemplifies an elected leader’s failings, it may be that voters should take heed. If she wins, I hope that Falk’s fourth term proves my misgivings wrong. In the meantime, I’ll be writing in my dad.
Gerald Cox ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in economics.