06 April 2015
Alan Talaga is right to call for better benefits for Madison city council members. But this is not a matter of rewarding good "customer service" on behalf of the city, as he suggests. Council members are not the first point of contact to confused and needy citizens -- police officers fill that role.
Our elected representatives, at all levels of government, play a vital part in keeping democracy functional. In the past few decades our political system has more and more come to resemble that of early 19th-century Britain: we have a set of nominally free, democratic institutions that are virtually inaccessible to candidates without piles of money or aristocratic connections. The struggle to secure a salary for members of Parliament (one of the demands of the People's Charter) was one of the key components of Britain's democratization and the rise of a politically assertive middle class.
This issue is fundamentally about the value we place in political representation, and whether we can take a just pride in our city's approach to government.