The Bright Side
Article by Terry O’Neill, former Lake Geneva Former Alderperson and Activist:
Can an individual alderperson really make a difference on the city council? Virtually all city council votes are unanimous with only an occasional dissenting vote. Less than once every other year there is a tie vote where the mayor votes to break the tie, but those votes can only be for non-financial spending because all votes authorizing spending require a 2/3 approval vote. Almost as rare is when there a divided, or split vote, on an important issue such as the comprehensive plan and a single alderperson’s vote can determine the outcome of the council’s vote.
So can an individual alderperson, by themselves, really make much of a difference on the city council? The answer is mostly “no”, but with a little but a very important bit “yes,” but it really depends on both the individual alderperson as well as the other city council members.
A good alderperson has to have some general knowledge of the issues and has to have studied the particular issues involved. One needs to be able to articulate her or his concerns and listen to the concerns and issues brought up by the other alderpersons and the public. However, no matter how good an individual alderperson may be, their single vote will have little impact unless the other alderpersons have an open mind and will listen and then base their decision on the issues rather than on a biased or predetermined point of view. Although aldermen should be open minded, few actually are, because most people do not have an open mind on many subjects and are not willing to change their views on those subjects regardless of the evidence that is presented.
So unless there are at least 2 other alderpersons with whom one shares similar views on the issue, an individual alderperson’s vote will not change or effect the outcome of the vote. However, an alderperson with better insight that presents different thoughts that others also consider valid, can sometimes change the votes of the other alderman, and in a similar manor an alderperson with overwhelming public support for their view on an issue can sometimes change the votes of the other aldermen, but those are rare exceptions.
In summary, although an individual alderperson as a single voter on the city council has no authority in the city, and the City Council as a group has all the authority within the City of Lake Geneva, it is only on rare occasions that a single vote from an alderman can be the deciding vote that forever alters the future of the City of Lake Geneva such as the annexation of the Hummel property, or changing the zoning on the Hummel property to settle a law suit.