There was always one constant part to the remarks students would hear when they came to the State Capitol for a class trip during the time I worked with Representative Lary Swoboda. No matter the age of the class Swoboda made it clear that they needed to know which part of government could assist them with a problem. If you had an issue with unemployment compensation that was a state matter, but concerns with social security was an issue for the federal part of government to deal with.
This afternoon I again thought of Swoboda making his pitch about knowing what various parts of government can do for citizens while listening to a local man explain his problems with local government.
The Madison man is a professional, smart, well-versed, and really quite nice and interesting. Knowing all that made it hard for me to fathom the rest of the story.
Several winters ago a local city snow truck driver in Madison destroyed a portion of a curb in front of his home, and after calling the streets department to fix the problem no resolution has ever been implemented.
With growing frustration at not getting any new curb stone installed and with continual soil erosion taking place he decided to call the governor’s office to complain. “For all the high property taxes I pay something should be done” was the message he left with the person who listened to his plight from the State Capitol.
It was at this point I bit my inner lip as I wanted to stay engaged with the story but quietly wondered what must have been going through the head of the person taking the call.
The man finished his story by telling me he has now decided to spend his own money to pay for cement and fix the curb. It was then I asked what seemed to me the most obvious question.
“What did your alderperson have to say about the matter?”
With a totally confounded look on his face he stated he had never thought of that, and then added he had no idea who his alder was, or how to find out. Again, I bit my lip and quietly pondered who he voted for at the last aldermanic election.
After telling him not to spend his own money to fix the problem and then how to find out who his alder is he started to make his way to his car. Turning he again thanked me for the advice on getting in touch with his alder. I told him I wanted to follow up on his concerns and asked that he let me know how things were proceeding.
I know this man is more the norm than I care to admit when it comes to understanding government.
But I also know that Swoboda had his heart in the right place when making his pitch about knowing how government works, and which part of government is best suited to assist with problems we experience.
Lary would have loved to hear this all play out today.