“What’s wrong with Marsha?” is the first question I’m asked when I say, “Hello, I’m Twink. I’m running for alder.” The incumbent, Marsha Rummel, like many neighbors, including myself, spends hours attending meetings for the benefit of our community. Her note-taking ability is admirable -- her records show how she, like many, is conversant on multiple city issues. As one of its original members, she is endorsed by Progressive Dane and enjoys countless friendships from her 30-plus years as a resident in Madison. So it’s understandable they want to know, “What’s wrong with Marsha?”

The role of alder isn’t about friendships, but a public trust representing a broad range of constituents, a trust responsible for feeling the pulse of the people and making timely decisions for the greatest long-term benefit -- even when it conflicts with long-term relationships. In my experience, the incumbent’s representation is unclear, preferential and fragmented. She is known to hold private meetings favoring small groups and developers, bypassing community processes. Her inability to create and maintain necessary partnerships prevents the richness of community planning and broadly supported outcomes.

The incumbent’s motivations are largely unknown; her goals are changeable, resulting in an unstable environment for decision-making by otherwise qualified and capable community participants. This instability saps energy, creates conflict and thwarts progress. When progress is made, it is often in spite of the incumbent’s position, not because of it.

For example, the Willy Street reconstruction project is being referred to by the city as “precedent setting” for neighborhoods of Madison. The project started as a generic street resurfacing and would likely have remained so without the commitment of residents to improve, among other important facets, the project’s “zero” water infiltration rating. From the beginning, the incumbent lacked enthusiasm for the project’s potential and gave unclear signals to neighbors about when or if she would support their work. The incumbent’s PD platform states, “We support sound practices which avoid or reduce problems of groundwater shortages, flooding, lake contamination … that improve storm water management and reduce harmful runoff.” However, there was no clear relationship between the platform and the incumbent’s shifting support of ideas to improve the road project, or her understanding of its benefits to Madison. Instead, the incumbent’s ambiguous commitments and lack of goal-oriented leadership forced others into a grueling pace to improve water infiltration, save trees, advocate for burying energy lines, improve pedestrian safety, support economic development, and appeal to the mayor for the value of the iconic district as an essential link to downtown and as an opportunity for Madison to promote its sustainability goals.

This is a critical election. District 6 has unprecedented opportunities for pushing excellence in sustainable economics, environmental policies and nourishing a sense of place for our east side corridor and the city. We need leadership with clear goals, inclusive representation and an ability to grasp the big picture. I encourage friendships. The real question in this election is, “Who will provide bold, clear leadership?” I will. http://twinkforalder.com/">Twinkforalder.com

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