Alderman Dennis McBride represents Wauwatosa's 4th District. An attorney and graduate of Wauwatosa East High School, Ald. McBride strives to be an effective, thoughtful, and nonpartisan representative for his constituents and for his hometown.
When I decided to run for alderman three years ago, some friends questioned my sanity. “Why do you want to do that?” they asked. “It’s a thankless job. All you do is take grief from people.”
I was reminded of their words when I received the following voice mail message, uttered in a loud and near-threatening tone of voice, at my home at 8:11 p.m. on Wednesday, April 20, 2011: “I’m calling to express my disgust at your vote yesterday by you and your scumbag Council members, you loser pieces of s--- that voted to approve these contracts. You can call me back and we can talk about this, but otherwise you guys should go to hell and get out of
Although the caller didn’t identify himself, I obtained his telephone number from caller I.D.
The previous night, on April 19, the Wauwatosa Common Council debated whether to ratify three union contracts that the City administration had negotiated on the City’s behalf. Before the meeting, every alderperson received hundreds of e-mails and phone calls on the issue. Many citizens urged us to ratify the contracts, and an equal number urged us to reject them. At our meeting, which lasted till at least 11 p.m., hundreds of citizens shared their views. After the Common Council voted 8-7 to ratify the contracts, we received scores of additional e-mails and phone calls. This time, many thanked me for my vote, and an equal number disagreed.
I received lots of nasty messages from opponents. The nastiest was the one quoted above. The Wauwatosa Police are addressing that one. I responded to the rest on my own.
The lack of courtesy was depressing, but my spirits were lifted by other Wauwatosans, regardless of their positions on the ratification issue, who know the many hours that alderpersons dedicate to our City and the pressure we are under to deal with our looming budget crisis.
Perhaps my favorite message was from a gentleman – in the truest sense of the word – who disagreed with me. He wrote: "I saw about the last 1½ hours of debate last night, including your discussion of the [ratification] topic. While I disagree with your vote and am disappointed in the results, I am convinced that the motives of you and your associates are pure and that you feel that you were acting in the best interest of your constituents – as you have been elected to do. I respect your decision. The great thing about a democracy that works is that people can strenuously disagree with one another and still respect one another after a reasoned debate. You are right that we are becoming far too divisive."
This gentleman understands that we can’t be one-issue aldermen or voters. Our city, our state, and our country face too many important challenges for us to judge an elected official’s leadership, fidelity, and wisdom based on a single issue.
By the way, I responded to the gentleman by saying: “Thank you, sir. Given the bitter feelings on both sides of this debate, I appreciate your kind, constructive comments more than I can say. I'm glad that you and I live in the same City.” To this, he replied, “As you say, you certainly don’t do it for the $350/month. J ”
No, I don’t. I also don't do it for thanks, although I expect courtesy. I do it for my family, friends, and neighbors, because I believe that everyone should give time to make his or her community a better place.
I do it because I love