Thursday, December 07, 2006

Who wants to be an alderman?

Recently, the SJ-R has been reporting on the candidates who have announced the will seek an aldermanic seat. Reading the background information provided for each, I admit to being a bit underwhelmed in most cases. These people don’t seem any more qualified than I am and I certainly wouldn’t expect anyone to vote for me for anything (except maybe Best Blogger in the Illinois Times 2007 Best of Springfield contest that will be upon us again before you know it.)

When I was younger, I assumed that people elected to public office must be ahead of the curve in terms of intelligence. I figured that they must be highly motivated to serve the public, even those who only saw it as a means to power and prestige. Even as I grew more skeptical about their character of some of these office holders, I still thought that you had to have something pretty positive going for you to get people to vote you into office.

As I’ve become more astute in the ways of politics, I’ve come to realize that there isn’t necessarily anything special about politicians. Sure, some are really intelligent, others may drip with Clinton-like charisma, and the occasional one will provide a combination of both. But for the most part, they’re just average Joes and Janes, especially at the local level.

While being an alderman is an important job, it doesn’t seem all that desirable. It doesn’t pay well and you’ll still have to buy your clothes off the rack. It won’t get you into the Sangamo Club and it offers little in the way of graft. And as Chuck Redpath can attest, the job isn’t necessarily a springboard to higher office.

It seems an ideal job for retirees. They no longer have a full-time job to contend with and if they have kids, they’re probably out on their own. This leaves plenty of time to bone-up on the issues and field complaints from people who feel CWLP is acting out on a personal vendetta by denying them electricity. Then there’s that whole with age comes wisdom thing. Of course we wouldn’t want an entire council of retired people or there’d soon be an Old Country Buffet in every neighborhood and designated Rascal paths along every thoroughfare.

But if a candidate isn’t yet retired, does it matter what she does for a living? Is an insurance agent more likely to do a better job than a waitress? Is the business owner running to look after his own interests? Is the state worker campaigning on state time?

I know people who would be good aldermen, but none of them seem inclined to run. But I don’t know any of the people who are running, so how do I know who’s worthy?

Such quandaries call for a litmus test, a single issue on which a candidate’s response will determine their worthiness. For many, the test would involve party affiliation. For others, it might come down to smoking or non-smoking, or deal or no deal when the Sierra Club is at the negotiating table. Or it might involve something trivial such as their zodiac signs or if they wear white after Labor Day. Personally, I think that I can devine all I need to know about a person by their taste in music (Is there or has there ever been any James Blunt in your iPod?).

But I’ll put it to you. If you had one question to ask the candidates who are running in your ward (or any local election), and you had to base your vote solely on how they answer, what would that question be?


Mick Shrimpton said...

My question to them?

I would ask them; "Do you know how to use a calendar?" "If elected alderman can you muster up the drive to attend ALL the City Council meetings?"

Is that not what they are elected for? Should they not attend all the meetings unless medically they simply cannot? It blows my mind that these people go on vacation during periods when there are meetings. Anyone else think that is absurd? I could see it if that is their only job and they are there five days a week. But part time, and they still can't make it!!!!

I think you should run Dan. Lord knows with the four kids you have living at home and the other two living with their Mom in Tennessee you could use the money.

BlogFreeSpringfield said...


That's a pretty good litmus test, and one you could hold them to when they're up for reelection. It's especially worrisome when an alderman misses a critical vote that might carry with it some repercussions from their constituents.

If I do seek an aldermanic seat someday,(which is highly unlikely), I will run on my record (although I don't have one) and will not respond to baseless allegations that I have a wife and kids in Tennessee (unless you can offer proof.)

Thanks for commenting,

Will said...

Are you happy with the way things are now in Springfield? If they answer Yes, then they won't get my vote. This town needs vision, not people who are happy to keep doing things because they have always been done that way.

I also think employement should be considered. I would like to know if someone's business, or family business is benefiting from government contracts. Or, do they have a job they feel they got through a political party leader? I have no problem voting for someone with a menial job since aldermen have to reprsent a lot of people with menial jobs.

Anonymous said...

Dick Durbin told a "Shot in the Temple" joke at the dedication for the Lincoln Presidential Museum. Enough said?!?!?!

BlogFreeSpringfield said...


Are you considering a run for alderman?


Laura said...

I don't know if there is a single local issue about which I feel strongly enough to say that I would vote someone in or out of office over it. I am pro-smoking ban and pro-Sierra Club deal, but if either of those issues had gone the other way, I wouldn't be clamoring about an egregious miscarriage of justice. It's not apathy on my part, I don't think, but rather just a feeling that locally things are generally ok(sorry Will).

I'm not saying that we should be satisfed with the status quo either. While I have been generally supportive of the Davlin administration, recent events such as the handling of the Sierra Club deal and the apparent fiasco keeping the SPD online with the new computer system to be shared with the county and 911 dispatch, suggest that communication could be much improved and that the administration could be more forthcoming with information and issues. Still, there is nothing at this time that gets me up in arms about local politics.

So, my one question would probably have to be some version of Dan's 'James Blunt in your Ipod' question. Maybe 'Is there any NASCAR on your TiVO?' or 'Are there any top-siders in your closet?'

Anonymous said...

My question would be: "Do you promise to never vote "PRESENT" unless you can offer a verifiable conflict of interest?

Will said...

Dan, thanks for asking but my Alderman is Mark Mahoney and I don't have any interest in running against him.

Aakash said...

I could run for Ward 8, if no other Republican is in the contest for Irv's [now-open] seat.