Madison Toys with Full Time Council

Mark this day. I’m in full agreement with Dave Zweifel.

The task force charged with recommending changes in how Madison government is structured is toying with an idea that would reduce the number of alders from 20 to 10 and make them full-time with an annual salary of up to $70,000.

It’s a lousy idea.

All we need do is look a block away and observe what’s been going on in the state Capitol to understand how it would change city government for the worse.

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When it was composed of part-timers — people who made their livings running family farms, small businesses, practicing law and even teaching — the Wisconsin Legislature was famous for its enlightened legislation and groundbreaking ideas. They’d pass a budget and deal with pressing issues that required new or changed laws, and then go home to work and live with their constituents. Most of them were people who were willing to make sacrifices because they had ideas and wanted to make a difference.

But, worse, they faced extreme pressure to keep their jobs at election time. When a part-timer was defeated, he or she still had a job. A full-timer, though, needs to keep that job or trot off to the unemployment office. That, in turn, has led to the poisoning of our elections with burgeoning campaign dollars, misleading attack ads and underhanded tactics.