Any functioning democracy needs to have a loyal opposition -- someone or some party that articulates a point of view in contrast to the folks who have the reins of power at the moment.
Now, you can take that concept too far and so there needs to be an emphasis on "loyal." Clearly the tea party members of the U.S. House Republican caucus have no interest in governing; they're not loyal to the country. But in a properly functioning system, there is a counter force to those in power.
Unfortunately, that's just not the case right now in Madison. Mayor Paul Soglin has no one who is watching and critiquing his policies or his governing style; nobody is articulating an alternative idea of how to do the job and an alternative vision for the city.
The Common Council routinely votes against him, most recently this Tuesday when they refused to reconsider their approval of the Longfellow School redevelopment over his objections. But no one on the council has stepped forward as a consistent and vocal critic of the mayor. The same goes for the media, most of which is very deferential to Soglin.
That's why I've been increasingly critical of the mayor. I think that his style of leadership and his policies are lacking, and that he has acted contrary to most of his most important campaign promises. He promised a new war on poverty and reduction in capital debt. Yet, after three budgets now, there has been no meaningful campaign against poverty and the five-years debt burden is the same as the one he found when he took office.
I have no intention of running for mayor again. I think it's time for a new generation of leadership for our city. But if they're serious about taking up that leadership, then that new generation needs to not just quietly vote against the mayor's policies or grumble about his style behind the scenes. They need to start articulating a clear, consistent alternative vision for our community. Otherwise, Soglin will not only be reelected, he will deserve to be.
I'm more than happy to step back (I'm even looking forward to it) if somebody else would just step up.
Have a good weekend.