Progressive Dane, the leftist party that has battled to put social issues on Madison's City Council agenda, lost one of its top leaders with the resignation this week of co-chairwoman Lisa Subeck.
In her e-mail to the party's steering committee, Subeck, who shared top leadership of the party with Ald. Brenda Konkel, 2nd District, blasted the party for a lack of direction and, at times, pettiness.
"Too often, we try to claim holier than thou status but then do things that are every bit as petty or silly or wrong as what we are supposedly fighting," Subeck wrote to the committee Monday.
Austin King, a Progressive Dane member who was most recently Madison City Council president, said he doubted Subeck's resignation would mean a big change for Progressive Dane. "We have co-chairs resign all the time," King said. "Organizations change leaders."He added that he hadn't heard about the resignation. "I guess I haven't been paying attention to the minutiae of local politics -- and it's fair to describe this as minutiae."
Subeck, who ran unsuccessfully for the 1st District City Council seat in 2005 and has been on the PD Steering Committee since then, said Thursday that her vision doesn't mesh with that of Progressive Dane any more.
"And any time anybody is working with a local organization, particularly one as active and politically charged as PD, there is a sort of burnout factor," she said.
Konkel on Thursday said she thinks Subeck wanted to leave the administrative burdens of leadership and work on issues she cares about.
"We elect a new co-chair every six months," Konkel said. "It rotates. There are 10 people on the committee -- we are a few volunteers, and a lot of us get stretched pretty thin."
\ Past successes
Several years ago, PD was enjoying a string of successes, with the City Council passing landmark laws to make developers include lower-cost housing in projects, boost the local minimum wage and ban smoking in most workplaces. In April 2005, PD held eight of the council's 20 seats and had its sights set on capturing a majority of council, but instead lost a seat. Then the party lost its high-profile push to require businesses to provide paid sick leave to employees.
And earlier this month, the party lost another council seat, leaving it with six. A much-watched battle between Ald. Larry Palm and PD challenger Vicky Selkowe in the 15th District on the East Side resulted in a win for Palm. And a battle to replace King with another PD-endorsed candidate, Lauren Woods, ended in a victory for Eli Judge in the student-dominated 8th District.
On top of that, after the election, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz -- who recently dropped his membership in the party -- removed Konkel from the powerful Plan Commission.
Now Subeck has bailed, and the party will elect a new co-chair next month.
"My decision is ... in part out of frustration with Progressive Dane and the direction (or lack of direction) in which the party is going," Subeck, 35, wrote. "We spend more and more time talking and less and less time following through."
Subeck wrote that she is not totally attached to the third-party concept, either. "It seems that far too often, our drive to beat the other guys gets in the way (of) our actually moving forward and accomplishing something," she said. "In total contradiction, at other times we choose not to do what's right because we are afraid of losing or afraid of negative publicity. On the whole, we don't play well with others."
She refused to give examples of the situations described in her e-mail.
"PD is a member-driven organization," Subeck said. "It's hard to be a leader of a member-driven organization because, as a leader, my views didn't always mesh with members' views. My personal vision is a little different."
Subeck, who works in transitional housing for the YWCA, said she will now get more involved in supporting the presidential campaign of Democrat John Edwards.