An apocryphal bit of advice that famed Packers coach Vince Lombardi gave to one of his players went something like this: “When you go into the end zone, act like you’ve been there before.” Based upon the reactions that I have been reading in the blogosphere following the recent mayoral and city council elections, this is a suggestion some on the victorious side might want to heed.
Yes, Mayor Birmingham won reelection, as did the incumbent aldermen – the mayor by 52 votes and the alderman by substantially more, although one was running unopposed. If I were to believe the spin in the post-mortem of this election, proffered by some of the mayor’s most vociferous supporters, his reelection is not only validation of everything he’s done in his previous two terms, but a mandate to continue doing things the way they’ve always been done, as if the totals indicated a landslide of epic proportions.
A bit of gloating in the aftermath of victory is to be expected. I suspect that if the results in the mayoralty were reversed, some of Ms. Brooks’ supporters could be justifiably accused of piling on, too. But calls for those in the 49.15 percent to shut up, move, or simply dry up and blow away like so much post-election detritus seem especially out of line. This was a hard fought election about issues and ideas, folks, not about who wore it best. Almost half of the people who cast votes in the election voted for change. They were not happy with what the council has been doing or the way in which business was being conducted. That is a sizable number of citizens that the mayor and the returning councilmen will ignore at their own peril, if, as some of their supporters would have it, it’s safe again to marginalize dissenters and ignore their dissent.
The new reality of politics in Sturgeon Bay is this: There is no going back to the good old days when the city council was a rubber stamp for decisions and deals that were often cut sipping coffee around a table in The Inn at Cedar Crossing. This council and this mayor will be under intense scrutiny from a committed and (as this election proved) significant minority that will ask hard questions and expect honest answers. The 50.53 percent of Sturgeon Bay voters that returned Thad Birmingham to office don’t have a monopoly on love of this city or ownership of its future. They merely possess stewardship for the next three years. Until then, those of us in “the vocal minority” will be watching, waiting, and working to bring the issues we care about to the table.
Sturgeon Bay, Wis.