Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

Who should we care about?

Wauwatosa Common Council, transmission lines, Mitt Romney, 47%

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney's statement that he didn't need to concern himself with 47% of the population was a shocker.

Of course, what he meant was that he didn't need to bother with campaigning to them (or is that us?): he wasn't likely to win those votes anyway.

But the rawness of reducing people to a percentage, to a bottom-line-useful figure, jarred many of us.

And it reflected a sea change in the way elected officials have come to view their responsibilities. A few years ago, the most conservative local and state politicians started claiming they represented those who had elected them, period. My own state assembly person, now senator, told me as much when I asked her to consider other sides of an issue. Candidates for national offices have gone even further with that notion.

I'm not surprised to be disagreed with. I am surprised to be dismissed. It's quite true: I think we are entitled to be heard and  considered by our elected officials

As long as I can remember before that shift, a representative government meant officials, once elected, did their best to represent all their consituents. The 47% and the 53% who probably have been or will at some time will shift into the 47%.

Last night the Wauwatosa Common Council voted to endorse, to the Public Service Commission, an all-underground Walnut Road route for powerlines. I knew that my own alders would vote against it: after all, the Walnut Road residents are their constiuents,  as we Parkway folks are, and they'd all be affected, a couple in a significant way.

But I was surprised when alder Cheryl Berdan made an impassioned speech against the council taking a position, on the grounds that doing so would not guarantee the PSC would go along with it. This seems to be a choice: one neighborhood and not the other.

I don't fault Berdan for not listening. She has been deeply invested in listening and problem solving, compassionate and respectful.

Perhaps this is a personal belief and preference.

Or perhaps it's as logical an approach as any other.

Or perhaps it's what happens when you elect people who don't believe in government. They make choices not to make choices.

I don't know. But those are questions we'll be asking ourselves often in the coming months. It's worth remembering that "I don't know" is often the only factual response we can count on.

That, and the answer to the question "who should we care about?" should have an "and" in it, not an "or."

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