Saturday, April 10, 2010

The City Council, Post-Election

We promised a look at the new city council earlier in the week ... so here you go:

Like the school board, the city council underwent a sharp shift on Tuesday. Dennis McHugh was a reliably populist conservative and Harold Bucholtz, alas, was not around long enough to pigeon-hole into any kind of ideological operating style. Taking their places will be two people -- Steve Cummings and Steven Herman -- who look very similar to the only incumbent to win re-election, Burk Tower. Or as the NW says:
It would be easy to portray the re-election of Burk Tower and the election of Steve Herman and Steve Cummings as a victory for the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce. All three ran as pro-development candidates and the two newcomers enjoyed the backing of the chamber and business interests.

But the messages of the winners, in an election that had no real hot button issues, were not all that different from those of the also-rans. All of the candidates focused on planning, economic development and continuing to improve communication between City Hall and the community.
That seems fair enough, to an extent; but here's where the NW starts to veer off the target:
The fact that the election focused on such big-picture issues shows that the city has been successful in beginning to address issues that were a long-standing source of voter angst: crumbling infrastructure and poor customer service.

That allowed the winners of Tuesday's election to run campaigns that were underscored by a theme of returning the council to its proper role of setting direction for city staff and staying out of the minutia of day to day decision making and policy implementation.
That's actually the opposite take-away I got from Tuesday's election. I'd say that after a year of being constantly side-tracked by a pair of council members, voters wanted a council that was more interested in making the trains run on time than worrying about philosophical questions like Is killing deer murder? and Who skipped over Journey on the jukebox? To put it politely, Tower, Cummings and Herman were the three least eccentric candidates on the ballot.

Paradoxically, those boring candidates now make next year's election much more interesting on account of the council's three most eccentric candidates being up for re-election. If this year is the start of a trend, then Oshkosh is looking for competent technocrats who get the job done without much fuss. If a set of clam, low-key and level-headed candidates emerge to challenge next year's incumbents they could change the temperament of the council for some time to come.

Next year also becomes interesting for purely arithmetical reasons. Paul Eslinger can not win another term as Mayor. Period. If a ham sandwich runs against him, it will win. But there is always a chance he can rally enough support on the South Side to continue to serve on the council. That would presumably create a situation where 4 incumbents are vying for 3 at-large seats while the Mayoral chair is open. Who knows: maybe Esslinger and another council member will duke it out for the Mayor's Sash? There are many permutations that could take place next spring, all of which are contingent on a countless string of variables (will voters vote for both Palmeri and Poeschl, or just one or the other? etc.) and many of them result in yet another shift in the council's composition.


Dread-filled Stewie said...

It seems like "eccentric" candidates do NOT lose the loyalty of their voting base easily. Perhaps it's because it's a personality cult situation and they are voting for a TYPE not a platform, and "job performance" is less an issue with those voters who will likely believe The System is against their guy, (and with good reason because one fine day he will own their asses).

In fact if you now have Chamber of Commerce types gaining ground that is just going to fuel the passions of the 'resistance" for whom the Chamber is like the Illuminati. My thought being it could easily be a situation of increased polarization and widening of the trenches between posses who divide the numbers of the voting public into solid and un-wavering little cliques.

What I think will be extremely painful to watch will be the Northwestern's attempts to guide the ship of Public Opinion o'er the rocky shoals. The other day, in an effort to check up on a few events I haven't paid attention to (i.e doing a bit of homework in case I'm able to attend the Live Chat on Tues) i ran into an editorial that made no sense what-so-ever. And yeah, not exactly the first, but so joyously written as if fresh from the Hookah that just I had to stop and marvel.

Apparently this Fitzhenry fellow was miffed about Hintz's beard? Really no clue. And no content? it was the most surreal bit of brainlessness passing off as some kind of insight onto SOMETHING that I have seen in awhile. I stopped doing ANY homework at the onw at that point and just gave up.

This is bad news for me because you simply can NOT Snark if you haven't any material. But if your reaction to a newspaper is LOLWhut??? just too many times, you're not gonna be able to force yourself to go back and subject yourself to it again and again.
The irony is that these are the same people who guffawed (yes, they guffawed, and it wasn't a pretty thing) at bloggers for having "no credibility", no new information and no redeeming value. Yet, they have deteriorated to the idiosyncratic writing styles of the least bloggers as they've tried to "diversify". They have better grammar to offer, but not any pretense to a higher level of thought than the rank and file of their forum commenters.
You can't just "decide" to replace people because you WANT to and it suits your purposes.

Reading some of these "reflection' or analysis pieces is like seeing Dick Cheney put on a Wonderbra cuz he wants to make the kind of cash he's heard Pamela Anderson makes. Just cuz he's got enough loose flesh he can jam into those cups doesn't make it the same for the people lookin at 'em.

Final Thought-
reading the ONW election season editorials will be at least as painful as watching the "eccentric" candidates themselves. 'n Stewie's not always man enough for that task.

Anonymous said...

"If a ham sandwich runs against him, it will win."

Let's hope you're right. Based on the word on the street, I bet you're right.

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