Rod Goeman took the floor at Tuesday's school board candidates' forum to ask me a personal question. Given what he alleges he asked, essentially, whether I could work with the school board without blowing my stack:
Now this question wasn't quite an ambush: Rod posed this question to me a couple weeks ago online here in the comment section. Candidates, take that as a lesson in the power of maintaining a public web presence (a lesson that, aside from me, only one of the other four candidates has made even meager steps in following): if you have an open website where voters can comment and question you, you'll draw questions and get practice at answering them.
The question seems to overstate the allegation: "past few years... some public incidents...." Goeman obliquely references one incident of my speaking with heat in public, when I chewed out fellow Lake Herman Sanitary District Board member Larry Dirks for, among other things, insulting me in public, on the record, during a board meeting. I publicly apologized the next day for making such noise in the public library. The other incidents to which Rod alludes are left to the public's imagination. (I feel a comment section blast coming on....)
Now we could debate just how dangerous my temper is. I haven't thrown a punch at anyone since freshman year in high school (sorry, Tony!). I've never been charged with assault or disorderly conduct.
We could debate the relevance of such personal questions to the choice of candidates. Goeman does a reasonable job of framing his question in terms of how effectively I could do the public's work in a board setting. Unfortunately, Goeman was unable to pose similar questions to the other four candidates. We all laughed when I finished at how no one else wanted to go near the question. But every candidate has personal flaws. How hard do we want to work to dig up those flaws? And would that conversation be helpful in selecting effective policymakers?
Nonetheless, I rather enjoyed tackling a question that was so hard emcee Jon Knuths could stammer out a rewording of the question for the radio audience. And the most important thing I said in response was not about me but about community:
But Rod has seen me go from not wanting to have anything to do with him, not even wanting to be in the same room with him, to recognizing that he's a fellow community member. He lives here. I live here. This is too small a town not to talk to each other. This is too small town to have our little cliques and not work together to solve problems. This is too small a town to put our nose up in the air and just ignore people as if they don't exist, because in a community this small and this close, we all exist and we all have to work together [Cory Allen Heidelberger, Madison Central School Board candidates' forum, 2011.04.05].
The school board candidates' forum was lively enough with good policy questions about the budget and the building. Do you think Goeman's question added anything to the conversation? I'm eager to hear your assessment.
Bonus Madison History: Should I have the pleasure of serving on the board, I may indeed ask Goeman for lessons in on-board temper management. When he was a board member in 2001, he roused the temper of 27 Madison coaches who asked him to resign. The board publicly discussed and voted by a slim majority in favor of his resignation. But Goeman refused and went on to ably serve two more terms, until 2008.
Then-president of the school board (now city commissioner) Dick Ericsson said this of the Goeman resignation fracas:
We have lots of important business to do for our students in this district and we've taken enough time, and rightfully so, for some of the issues that were raised.... But unfortunately we've gotten sidetracked from the issues that we need to be about, and that's the business of education [Aisha A. Talley, "Madison Board Members Urge Goeman to Resign," Madison Daily Leader, 2001.04.24].