In the exodus of alders from the Madison Common Council this spring (nine are retiring), there are a handful whose departure will leave a gaping hole, taking with them years of institutional memory and knowledge. Of course, there are also a couple of duds who shouldn't let the door hit them on the way out.
Here are the alders we'll miss -- and a couple we won't.
Fond farewells for:
Ken Golden. His signature phrase "It's not soup yet" has been used by so many people to describe half-finished legislation or half-baked policy that it's become almost trite. Still, there's a reason why Golden's idiom has earned a place in the city hall lexicon -- he's usually right. No other alder has the skill to boil down a six-hour council "debate" into a single phrase. And only Golden can deliver the kind of statesmanlike speeches that actually persuade his colleagues to vote with logic, not hubris.
Austin King. He's only 25. Think about it. Just 25. But during King's short tenure on the council -- he was first elected in 2003 -- he raised the city's minimum wage (which in turn spurred a statewide increase); served as the youngest council president ever; got the city to finally apologize to a rape victim, "Patty," who was falsely accused of lying to police; and proposed a radical idea to mandate paid sick leave. The sick-leave proposal ultimately failed, but it solidified King's reputation as a man with a plan. Which is more than you can say about half of the council.
Judy Olson. She's so soft-spoken that most people don't realize what a potent force she is. Olson is a staunch defender of neighborhoods, a necessary attribute since her district encompasses Willy Street and Atwood Avenue, both hotbeds for redevelopment. She's proposed creating neighborhood conservation districts and worked on updating the city's tax increment financing policy. But beyond all that, Olson has a rare quality among politicians: She's nice. Not snarky, not pandering, not egotistical. Just nice.
And good riddance to:
Isadore Knox, Jr. Isadore who? Seriously, why run for the council if you have no intention of doing anything? During his single term in office, Knox sponsored a few routine bills authorizing state contracts and the like, and he joined in with Ald. Zach Brandon's budget-cutting madness. Other than that, Knox's accomplishments amounted to zero. And given that he represents the city's needy south side, which deserves a strong advocate, that's a pretty fat zero.
Cindy Thomas. She voted against raising the minimum wage and against the citywide smoking ban. She was one of only two members of the council to vote against paying restitution to "Patty." And she was one of Zach Brandon's budget hawks, supporting amendments that would cut thousands of dollars of funding to nonprofits and child-care programs. Her record would make the Grinch proud.