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!

Public Citizen #1: Lois Weber

Wauwatosa, politics, Lois Weber

Like me, you probably keep hearing people say things they assume everyone believes to be true but you are pretty sure. . . aren't.

One that's gnawing at me is "it's easier than ever to participate in the democratic process."

Thanks to e-mail, it's easier than ever to fire off an indignant or supportive missive to elected officials. No longer restricted to letters to the editor in newspapers fewer and fewer people read, we can weigh in on blogs, websites, Tosa Town Square, facebook. We can add our names with a single keystroke  to e-mail petitions.

But who's hearing us? One way to tell is by responses to calls and letters. If my experience is an indication, few are listening.

In Wauwatosa, however, one person stands out from all the rest: Lois Weber.

Last week I contacted the school board members and Superintendent Ertl to express my support for taking a commonsense approach to important public addresses in the schools. The district's e-mail form asks whether you want a reply or not. I checked the "no" box, even though I believe that elected officials or their staff should reply to all inquiries.

The next day, Mrs. Weber called to thank me.

I should have expected that. In the nearly 20 years I've lived in Wauwatosa, Lois Weber has been the one constant. As a school board  member since, I think, 1976, she has called or written me nearly every time I've asked a question or spoken at a meeting. She's also noted my children's accomplishments, especially those in the Wauwatosa Children's Theater, one of her beloved projects.

I don't always agree with her positions. But she is an unfailing model of someone whose public service is all about making a better world for children in our community, not about personal agendas. And an unfailing model of how we would like our elected officials to interact with us.

Now a list of people who have and haven't responded to my recent citizenly efforts:

F--No reply for specific issues:

Congressman James Sensenbrenner, State Senator Jim Sullivan, the Obama administration, Senator Herb Kohl

A--Replies to specific inquiries:

Senator Feingold; Alders McBride, Dennik, Jay, Berdan; State Senator Vukmir; County Supervisors Schmitt and DeBruin

C--Mixed bag:

Before the mayoral election, neither candidate responded to my queries and invitation to a blog interview. Since the election, both Mayor Didier and Alder Stepaniak have been responsive.

I won't try to interpret this random data. Perhaps elected officials are inundated with information and are not able to process it. Maybe we need to find new ways to communicate with each other when neither conventional communication nor public yelling is doing the job.

Meanwhile, thank you, Mrs. Weber, for your public service, your caring,  and your inspiration.

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