Friday, November 5, 2010

Full-Time Madison City Council?

Before you say “look what we got when we made our state legislature full-time”, just wait a minute. I think that was one of the most stupid moves in state history, and the 92 boneheads up there at the top of State Street (you’ll have to figure out which seven I don’t think are boneheads) are capable of far too much mischief as “full-time lawmakers.”

A letter to the Editor of the Cap Times Wednesday from Barry Gore of Madison really got me thinking. He makes a very persuasive case for going with a full-time, VERY downsized, professional city council. Right now we have 20 elected alders, paid $7,545 a year, most of whom have full-time day jobs. They don’t have offices in city hall; they don’t have city phones; the lot of them are assigned a staff of two city employees.

I lived in Los Angeles for years; they manage to scrape by with 15 alders. Gore points out St. Paul MN has many similarities to Madison, with seven alders who are paid 56 grand a year. Meetings start at 3 PM. Portland OR (which our mayor often sites as Valhalla) has a mayor, four at-large commissioners, and an elected auditor.

The point is, it’s time to get rid of these 17 nutballs (you’ll have to figure out which three I don’t think are nutballs) and their tiny neighborhood fiefdoms, draw new boundaries, and collapse the council down to 7 or 9 people. Pay them a decent salary (60 grand?), give them bennies, give them offices in city hall and expect them to be on the job from 8 to 5, and start the council meetings at 3 PM like they do in St.Paul. No more taking critical votes at 4 or 5 AM. No more endless questions about minutiae (from a certain west-side alder).

When we’re done with that, we’ll tackle that unwieldy behemoth called the “Dane County Board of Supervisors.”


  1. No reason that Madistan shouldn't be just like Milwaukee, eh?

  2. Colonel,

    When I read "Socialism" by Ludwig von Mises, I ran into the most contra-libertarian statement I'd ever seen from that darling of the Austrian School of Economics set:

    "Democracry is not less democracy because leaders come forth from the masses to devote themselves entirely to politics. Like any other profession in the society dividing labour, politics demands the entire man; dilettante politicians are of no use."

    Libertarians are fond of the tale of Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, the Roman farmer-general who gave up absolute power when the war was won against the Aequians, Sabinians and Volscians. George Washington after the Revoluationary War was compared to Cincinnatus.

    But those kinds of fellows are few and far between. Political power is seductive...and absolute power seduces absolutely. More common is the desire of someone like Lisa Murkowski in Alaska to maintain her position of power even though she was defeated in her primary.

    We have a strong tendency during election seasons to send back to the statehouse or to Congress the same gang. Even this last "historic" election returned to Congress over 80% of the members of the House.

    We will always have to keep an eye on whoever's in office. It seems to make sense that we have professional legislators...but we have to be mindful that human nature is intractable; and that someone in a position of power will most definitely not always have the public good (whatever that is) in mind.

    We'll have a continuous conga line of bums that we've thrown out of office for as long as our system of government exists.

    The Town Crank