Saturday, August 30, 2008

Pete and Rick

Pete Kennedy thinks Alderman Rick Tortomasi is ridiculous because he appeared to be voting like a windsock on the stadium proposal for Frame Park (ht: Spring City Chronicle). Well, okay, he looked ridiculous by being for it (minutes of an ad hoc baseball committee meeting), against it (per the word of his wife County Supervisor Jean Tortomasi at the Stroll through the Park protest), and then for it (the night of the vote). But hey, by his own admission he looked no more ridiculous than he did when he proposed the smoking ban in Waukesha.

Kennedy objects to Tortomasi's claim that he would vote the way his constituents want, regardless. It's actually a sentiment shared by a few aldermen, which should serve as a strong reminder to any political group that politics is always two-pronged. Not only do you have to convince the politicians, often you have to convince their constituencies.

And while Kennedy is right we do elect politicians to make decisions for us, there are exceptions where their constituencies have a right to expect obedience. For example, when there are those issues where the politician simply is not moved one way or the other. Another example would be when the alderman has not made a case to his constituents ahead of time to explain his vote, the leadership Kennedy asks for in his column. It doesn't do a politician any credit to get so far out in front of his constituents that they lose sight of each other. Finally, and I think most importantly, when the interests of the district are so adversely affected by the proposal the alderman is compelled to vote a certain way. (That's why I make such a fuss about a representative living among his constituents.)

While I don't hold it against Alderman Ybarra for having his mind made up before he answered the first call, I'm sure many of Alderman Hernandez's constituents are left wondering at his decision. After all, it's his district and his constituents that were the most adversely affected by the vote.

Whether or not Hernandez draws an opponent in the next election will probably rest on his accomplishments the rest of his term and his responsiveness to constituent concerns. He may also want to do his part to bring his district to accept the baseball stadium. If he does draw an opponent (I think likely) than we'll see if he was too far out of sync with his district.

As for Alderman Tortomasi, whether or not he draws an opponent largely depends whether his windsock approach to government can keep him in good stead with a majority of his constituents, provided they aren't too embarrassed by his ridiculousness.