On Tuesday night, I refreshed my screen a hundred times, waiting for the local election results. More than ever before, I really cared who was elected to the Village Board. Shorewood has had a lot of development in the last five years (and by a lot I mean an eight story apartment building, a parking garage, a two city block Metro Mart complex with another parking garage and then right next to that another six story apartment block--all visible from my front porch. Oh, and the cute church on my very corner got torn down for a bank-from-a-box currently under construction). I love the walkability of our neighborhood, it's literally why I moved here, but a lot of how the most recent development was done is more than the little village could handle. I'm still learning, still catching up on board meeting videos, but my understanding is that there is wide spread discontent regarding these issues:
1) Not enough community involvement in scale, design and use decisions (i.e. That enormous building is ugly as shit).
2) Inadequate planning for traffic changes; to date there is still no village wide traffic study.
3) Inequitable facade improvement grants up to $200k from a program that was supposed to support older buildings and local business at the $10k level.
4) Over use of TIF (Tax Incremental Finding) to "get" development deals instead of letting the market dictate.
5) And of course, our taxes keep going up.
So, it's ripe for political change. The previous VB President is retiring, and two Trustee seats were up for reelection. Apparently, (and I'm only up to speed on a few Facebook group and online forum gossip mill posts), there has been a lot of discord, infighting, and trash talking between the old guard (those who created, financed, and approved the questionable developments) and the new guard (two women Trustees who surprised everyone by unseating incumbents in the last election cycles). So, that's the set up.
It made for a very exciting few weeks in this little hamlet! The Milwaukee County Executive even weighed in on our little race (with his private money) by endorsing some candidates as part of an expensive, glossy yet vague big-money political action group ad campaign. Yard signs were stolen, previous VB Presidents allegedly banned from Facebook pages, gossipy smear letters annonymously mailed to citizens...politics really brings out the best in people.
I was really hoping for change, for my three picks to win. Allison Rozek for VB President, Jessica Carpenter for Trustee and Davida Amenta for Trustee (2 trustee spots were open, and Davida was seeking reelection, Allison was a sitting Trustee running for the President spot).
At 9pm, the local news site said my gals had lost, with 100% precincts reporting. I was dumbstruck. I knew Allison was a fifty fifty chance, Jessica was safe with a second place showing, but Davida got bumped to third which meant she lost her seat. That was the worse case scenerio--if Allison had lost she would still retain her Trustee seat, but without Davida on the board her coalition for change was weakened. Davida losing was really crushing, I believed her seat was safe. But it was not to be, I was gutted.
So, I tossed and turned all night..I made mental plans for a get out the vote campaign, I was rearranging my schedule to attend every village board meeting, writing my Concerned Citizen statements, grinding my teeth...
In the morning, I checked the Facebook to read their statements. Stunning reversal! THEY DID WIN! All three of my picks WON! Turns out the local site had it wrong, Allison won by 103 votes, Jessica took the first trustee spot handily with the most votes, and Davida retained her seat with a squeaky but safe margin.
I cried. I actually cried. Now, they may all make mistakes and we may find that all the decisions the previous board made were on the up and up, but most important to me is that now we will KNOW what is going on. This new group has promised to change the way the government communicates with and involves the residents, they have promised transparency and accountability. They better deliver, because my heart can't take it!
It was an amazing morning, it felt so fantastic to get a win. There's nothing we can't do! March! Vote! Fund raise! Change is coming! The future is female! What a day!
And then I put my car in a ditch. So, thanks Universe, for the reminder.