Somewhere Myron and Nick are saying, "Madville Times picked us? Now we're hosed for sure!"
Madison votes tomorrow for two city commission seats. Karen Lembcke wants to keep her seat; Myron Downs would like his old seat back; Nick Abraham and Mike McGowan would like their shot at public service. Whom should we* pick?
If you go strictly by my evaluation of the candidates' performances at our one and only public forum, Downs and Abraham will get your vote. And I'll stick with those numbers as my endorsement.
Of the four candidates, I know Myron Downs best, so I'm biased up, down, left, and right. Myron worked with my dad long time ago. Myron was my boss at Prairie Village. I disagree with him politically on numerous issues, but I know what we disagree on, and I can trust him to be straight with me and anyone else. Myron isn't beholden to anyone. Myron will call a spade a spade, and if he sees the city or the LAIC or anyone else doing something he doesn't approve of or understand, he will speak up, ask questions, or even stop the show until he's satisfied things are being done right.
Nick Abraham presented himself with reasonable confidence and knowledgeability at the forum. He scored well based largely on strong answers to two questions, where he said things in terms of recruiting new businesses and promoting affordable housing that demonstrated he might be willing to bring some genuine progressive thinking to the board. But some of his other answers reflected a lack of vision and a willingness to curry favor with the powers that be. I'm willing to give youth (youth? he's 30, an adult taxpayer just like the rest of us!) a chance, but I want to hear less deference and even more independence.
Karen Lembcke is the voice of the status quo, and even her own words contradict her claims that the status quo is fine. She tells us we can hardly improve on "great," but then tells us our kids wreck things downtown. While other candidates talk about the need to bring more businesses downtown, Lembcke talks about putting up flowers. She says the LAIC is doing a wonderful job, even though our unemployment rate is 2.4 times higher than the rate in neighboring Brookings. (Our LAIC director lives in Brookings; maybe he could take notes at home and bring some ideas back to the office here.) She also too clearly embraces the philosophy of doing business "behind closed doors." Evidently the powers that be prefer to ignore the growing dissatisfaction with how economic development is done (or not done) in Lake County. Lembcke has served on the LAIC committee: perhaps voting her out will get their attention.
Mike McGowan was pals with my dad at Madison High School, along with Lee Yager and Dick Wiedenman. In some folks' book, that counts as a negative. In mine, it's a positive. Mike is an outsider, the kind of guy I naturally gravitate toward. But his answers at the forum weren't good enough. I know life is more than a speech contest, but standing up in front of an audience and explaining your views is a reasonable test of your ability to speak up at a city commission meeting, to evaluate and when necessary challenge the positions of fellow commissioners and the wealthy and powerful interests who will come before you asking the city for favors. Mike's focus on cutting commissioner pay is a drop in the bucket that doesn't tweak the powers that be: the rich folks who aren't on the commission will just chuckle and know the commissioners may be that much more submissive. I don't hear people complaining much about how much commissioners are getting paid; I hear much more complaint about the lack of transparency and accountability in how the city lets the LAIC spend money for the supposedly general welfare.
I could be inclined to flip my scorecard and pick McGowan over Lembcke, just because he is an outsider. But Downs and Abraham can bring enough of that outsider view, plus a little broader grasp of the issues.
Voters, tomorrow, April 14, you get to make your pick. I look forward to hearing and discussing your choices.
*We: alas, I use the pronoun somewhat metaphorically. I live outside city limits, so I don't get to vote. But Madison is still home: among other things, I've gotten most of my education and spent most of my money here. Even if I can't participate, I can't help but identify with the Madison electorate. Besides, Herman Township elections are never this interesting.
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