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Tom grew up in Milwaukee, bartended in Wauwatosa in the '70s and moved here in 1984.

Commentary, observations and musings about the outdoors, life in general and maybe Tosa politics and personalities will be the order of the day. He savors a lively debate as much as terrific cooking.

Doing the People's Business

Politics-Tosa, Public Policy

Tuesday evening I went over to City hall to catch the special Common Council meeting and discussion of Tosa's aldermanic selection process.  It's been in the news in case you haven't noticed.

Anyway, I'll leave the detailed coverage of this meeting to my diligent acquaintances over at the mainstream media.  You can count upon them to get the motions, amendments and other facts straight.  I'm going to restrict my commentary to that of making a handful of personal observations. 

These would be my personal opinions.

At the present time the Mayor selects the members of a committee to review potential applicants and the committee makes a recommendation to the Council who then votes on the appointment.  This is a process that has remained essentially unchanged for decades. That's the way it is.

Recently some elected officials have taken issue with Tosa's appointment process pointing out that it could be improved-upon with regard to transparency and avoidance of what in my view would be overt politics. 

This is a valid point considering the current appointment process significantly predates the modern practice of broadcasting Council and committee meetings.

I don't have a problem with the Mayor appointing a committee to perform the vetting.  After all, she is the Mayor and that is her prerogative.

Where some people have parted company is on the transparency of the process and avoidance of anything seemingly untoward.

To be clear, I'm not alleging anything about this Mayor, the Mayor before her or any other Mayor.  The simple fact of the matter is this - appearance is everything.  And even the notion of a possible impropriety - a mere shadow or faintest of whiffs - doesn't look good.  We like our politics transparent and forthright.  

To be exceedingly clear, if you've lived in Tosa as long as I have you know that some of the people that clamor the loudest about ethics in government have got some pretty strange suggestions for making sure that we all toe the straight and narrow path of righteousness. 

Anyway, I happen to agree with that notion.  You see, part of this process is a relic of the past - I am referring to the scrutiny of the applicant part of the process.  The mannequins can stay.

With regard to the issue of Aldermanic appointments the Council entertained several resolutions (or shall I say motions) to consider the following:

1.  Allowance for time (one week) between a committee recommendation and full Council deliberation.

2.  Recording, editing and broadcasting (or otherwise making available to the public) a video/DVD of the interviews.

3.  A revisiting of the questions asked of potential candidates.

4.  The effective date(s) of all of the foregoing

Some Council members were of the opinion that this process has been around for so long that it isn't broken and therefore it should continue happily on it's merry way.  Others opined that potential candidates would be dissuaded by the prospect of having their interview taped, much less made public.  One suggested that this was the business of the council and not the editorial pages.  There was honest and meaningful debate of serious stuff like privacy and the public interest.  There were honest and heartfelt comments along with perhaps some sore feelings.  There were some very big words.  One Council member struggled mightily to keep it all straight.   

Here's what I think.

Generally-speaking, most of the problems we face in our current economic condition stem from an institutional lack of transparency.  By extension, I conclude that this is not restricted to the business world but has manifested itself in government at all levels.  I am of the opinion that more transparency is a step in the right direction to solving some of our woes.

Furthermore, anyone who wants to apply for the position of Alderman had better respect the notion that they are in the public eye.  This includes having their comments and views recorded.  Yeah, I know it sounds profoundly erudite (my big words) to talk about guarding the delicate sensibilities of an applicant.  Mind you, this is the non-elected applicant for public office.  So, suck it up and grow a thick skin.  I remember a fella who didn't show for a debate for fear of being taped.  Cowards lose elections. 

Finally, if a newspaper, radio or television station or blogger wants to cover or editorialize on this issue it is not just the Council's business; it is the people's business.  Daytime angry radio and the wingnuts and moonbats of the blogosphere drool about the personal lives of individuals in the public all day long and don't give a second thought to using something in the public domain to ridicule people, ruin lives and advance their agenda or candidate.  So spare me any clich├ęs about the citizen who fails to perform well in an interview.

You can't have it both ways.

In the end most of the Council got it right.

Passing both motions one, two and three.  Motion four making the first two motions effective with the very next appointment to fill the late Ald. Treis' District Eight seat with item number three to be resolved in time for the next position to be determined.  It goes to a vote before the full Council as old business next week.

I hope I got the motions right.  They were flying so furiously I almost had to duck.

If you haven't chimed-in you might want to go to here and drop your Alder an email.  Or talk about it among yourselves. 

One last thing.  If anyone can tell me what the heck a termaquant is I would be appreciative.

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