Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Boss Bruer Deposed!

Tim Bruer, who has been the south-side (District 14) Alder seemingly since John Nolen drew up plans for the city, was knocked out of his city council seat by a decisive 59-41 margin in balloting yesterday.  John Stasser’s win is the end of a long era – 29 years – in Madison politics.  Stasser told the Cap Times he felt Bruer was tired, didn’t campaign aggressively (Bruer only started to actively campaign a few days ago when it appeared he was in trouble), and was done in because he’d become disconnected from his constituents.

Years ago, in my long-time stint as a local news anchor, I referred to him exclusively as “Boss Bruer”. From 1989 until 1996 I lived in his district, in Burr Oaks.  And for many, many years, Tim Bruer was a Boss in the old Chicago style: he knew his constituents, fought battles for them, stood up for the south side, wielded power – a decade ago he chaired the extremely powerful Alcohol License Review Committee – and passed out favors to those who stood with him.

Bruer was a massive presence on the south side.  When troubles at the old Sommerset Circle housing development (now known as Parker Place) came to a boil, and five kids died in a horrible fire there in March of 1990, Bruer fought for and got better living conditions for the people packed into that former hell-hole.

He railed against city hall for constantly trying to make the Park Street corridor and the south side in general a “dumping ground” for low-income housing and half-way houses, and won more battles than he lost.  He got out into the streets and marched with south-siders.  In his day-job, he made sure that people who were cold got help in heating their homes.  He was instrumental in getting a new police station built a few hundred feet from Park Street and Badger Road. 

Shortly after he was elected, he was the force behind getting the old fire station that served the south side…an old building at Park and Fish Hatchery….replaced with a brand new building (Fire Station 6 on Badger Road just west of Park Street), housing an engine company and a paramedic unit, staffed by six full-time Madison firefighters.

When I moved from Middleton (two doors down from Russ Feingold and his famous garage door) to Madison in 1989, one of the very first visitors was Boss Bruer.  He knocked on the door and introduced himself – I said “I know who you are” and he said “I know who you are, too – I hear you on the radio every morning” – welcomed me to the neighborhood, gave me his card, and said “call me any time, and I mean that”.  And I did, often, either to interview him for a news story, or as a constituent.  He returned my calls promptly- every time – and never dodged a hard question.

He could give long-winded speeches at city council meetings, but his passion was never fake.  He knew the issues, he knew the people, he knew his politics. 

If indeed Boss Bruer did get tired, who could blame him?  Three decades of running into brick wall after brick wall….and knocking most of them down….can do that to you.

Stasser says he beat Bruer on the issue of the massive renovation proposed for the huge Nob Hill apartment complex on Moorland Road.  Bruer didn’t like the plan; Stasser says the people wanted the construction jobs the project would create; and that may well have been the Boss’s undoing.

Take a rest, Boss Bruer.  You’ve more than earned it.

And thank you.


  1. See my FB post: "Sometimes liberal progressives can just be blind stupid." I was speaking to the defeat of Judge St. John but the same could be applied here regarding the defeat of Ald. Bruer. Love or hate him, he represented his district well.

  2. Twenty-nine years is a good long run in city politics. It would have been more dignified if he'd been able to end his public service on his own terms, but I don't still feel too sorry for him.

  3. Tim was "the Mayor of the Southside". Like him or not, he got things done. I, for one, believe the City will be lessened by his defeat. I also do not understand all the bashing of Tim by the Democratic Party. He deserved better.