At last night’s General Membership Meeting, Progressive Dane (PD) decided that at this time, rather than endorsing James Howard or Tom Farley in the contest for the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education Seat Four both candidates would be invited to participate in a PD sponsored public forum and after this forum the membership would reconsider an endorsement. I am Co-Chair of Progressive Dane, and Chair of the PD Education Task Force. Both this decision and the manner in which it was arrived at reminded me why I am proud to be part of Progressive Dane.
Progressive Dane has established, open procedures for endorsements. With the exception of races where there are previously endorsed incumbents (there is a different process for those), all candidates who qualify for the ballot are invited to fill out a questionnaire and interview with the Elections Committee. Any Progressive Dane member may take part in the interviews. The Elections Committee may then recommend an endorsement to the General Membership. Contrary to popular myth, there hasn’t been anything even close to “loyalty oath” requirement for years (previously there was a statement of expectations designed to help build the party and to keep Progressive Dane endorsed candidates from actively opposing other Progressive Dane endorsed candidates). Both Howard and Farley choose to participate in the process.
They each met with the Elections Committee for over an hour. The members of the Elections Committee came to the interviews well prepared and with open minds. We saw good things in both candidates, very real potential to improve the education of children in Madison. We also had areas of uncertainty and concern with both candidates. In the end, the Elections Committee voted not to forward a recommendation of either candidate to the General Membership.
At the General Membership Meeting members of the Elections Committee explained our decision and spoke of our impressions of the strengths and weaknesses of and uncertainties with both candidates. Members asked many questions and various options were explored. Throughout the discussion there was a recognition of the importance of this election, a desire to be involved and to make a careful, well-informed decision. Recognizing the difficulties of the choice, a motion was made from the floor to postpone an endorsement and instead arrange for a forum where the membership could learn more. Further recognizing that the entire community would benefit from knowing more about the candidates, the motion was for a public forum, with instructions to publicize widely.
Many things about what happened make me proud. I want to highlight two. First, there is the desire to be involved, to be active, to do something to make things better. Second, there is the willingness to do the work to make sure that our actions are based on the best possible information and arrived at through open and democratic means.
Invitations have been sent to the candidates and the planning is just beginning. The very tentative date is February 21. Watch this space and elsewhere for updates.
Update: Both Candidates have accepted the invitation.
Thomas J. Mertz