As the process unfolded I considered Blane Roberts, who is very close to me philosophically. Personal responsibility matters in creating the course of our lives. Reliance on government intervention and support is not a solution that is reliable over the long term. The events of 2008 and the impact of the 2010 mid-term elections are stark evidence of that. I like Blane, but the forum on February 19 convinced me that he has another role to play.
So that leaves Joe and Brian.
At the start of the campaign Joe acknowledged his failings that nearly led to his ouster as alderman in 2007. Over the past 4 years he made an effort to show he is in tune with the ward. He instituted a form of Participatory Budgeting, which resulted in aldermanic menu money being spent on initiatives other than infrastructure, such as street paving. He has gotten involved in a green initiative, the Ward 49 Green Corps, leading to a local farmer's market. His initial mailers, touting his achievements, were masterful and all by themselves could win the election. I told Brian that if Joe had not put out the FUD mailers he would have mopped the floor with Brian. Those FUD mailers may have changed the dynamic. Whether it is enough to topple Joe is another matter.
Brian, as challenger, has suggested that there are other sources than aldermanic menu money to fund some of the Participatory Budget initiatives of 2010. He has also offered up a modification of the Participatory Budgeting process, which would keep the focus on local infrastructure, while still providing money for discretionary projects. During the initial meetings this year Joe acknowledged that there may be a need to change the process and allocate more money to infrastructure needs up front. Given that and this analysis of Participatory Budgeting (Joe's process is a vastly slimmed down version), Brian's proposal is not unreasonable.
Brian supports a proposal to establish a TIF, and I have said all I want to aside from the fact that the documents shared on February 19 by Brian's campaign straightforwardly acknowledge that more study is needed. The TIF is not a sure thing, and I think a year from now will tell us if the proposed TIF will be more than a gleam in anyone's eye.
Brian has also directly responded to the FUD mailers.
Brian is an established member of the community whose passion has been housing issues. If elected he will be part of a revamped City Council that, hopefully, will be less beholden to the 'politics as usual' methods of the past.
So, at the end of the day I have to decide who to vote for and it will be Brian. Brian will be a newbie on the council, but he will be a newbie with ideas, even if I don't agree with all of them, and without Joe's excess baggage.
Joe has demonstrated that his commitment to a new way of doing business is shallow, to the extent it exists at all. He created a task force that was supposed to provide input to his decision about whether to support the TIF, but then acted without that input. His FUD mailers were not a masterstroke of campaign strategy. I have yet to hear from anyone who thought otherwise. Demonizing your opponent, or your opponent's supporters, may have worked in the past, but it's a new day. His dismissal of the forum sponsored by New Directions for Change was petty in its focus. He couldn't just say he was busy or otherwise engaged. No, he had to claim that the sponsors were Brian White supporters (individually they may be but Brian asserts the organization has not made an endorsement), and on top of that the moderator was an opponent from eight years ago. So of course it could not be a fair forum. One could conclude that, aside from his objection to the group, Joe has yet to put the campaign of 2003 behind him. Does Ward 49 really need such a petty individual? Is this the behavior of a leader?
Joe's most recent actions reminded me of why I could not vote for him in 2007. At the end of the day I am faced with an alderman who has served for 20 years. Aside from demonizing his opponent and his opponent's supporters, he prefers to rest on his laurels. As incumbent he has no incentive to offer up new ideas, or offer improvements on his opponent's proposals. And, by his own admission, he is willing to spend whatever it takes to win re-election:
I will spend whatever is necessary to win re-election.
Politicians do whatever is necessary to win elections. Public servants focus on what serves their constituents. Joe is not a public servant in my estimation. I think it is appropriate to give Brian an opportunity to demonstrate that he can be one. That's who I will vote for.