10.7.06

IN MEMORIAM. Frank Zeidler, the third Socialist mayor of Milwaukee, has crossed the final summit. Mayor Zeidler had something of the polymath about him.
Zeidler didn't drink, didn't smoke, didn't drive a car. He read relentlessly, loved statistics and collected fossils. He rewrote Shakespeare in contemporary language but didn't like going to shows or plays very much.
An editorial tribute from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel places his socialism in perspective.

He was never a Socialist the way modern, political sleaze-mongers would surely portray him as.

He was a "Sewer Socialist," part of a political breed that emphasized public works and mass transit and the environment, but also came to see themselves as Libertarians of a sort, concerned about government infringement on personal rights.

Sewer Socialists were not Marxists - although nowadays, when everything is a label, he would no doubt be slandered as one.

Another editorial suggests that neither "sewer Socialism" nor good-government notions envisioned public choice.

In an editorial in 1997, we remarked on the "sewer socialism" that seemingly motivated the socialists who occupied the mayor's office in Milwaukee. We defined this as a movement that had as its roots "an emphasis on direct, tangible benefits for working people, such as sewers and good government, rather than abstract and radical social theories."

Zeidler was undoubtedly a practitioner. We note that the "sewer socialism" that marked its 100th anniversary in 1997 also marked a period in which Milwaukee government was considered clean, honest and efficient.

In these times of indictments and convictions of political figures in Wisconsin, the unquestioned integrity that Zeidler brought to the task of governance is ultimately his most striking legacy.

What the news reports and the editorials and the Journal-Sentinel's slide show do not tell you is that Mayor Zeidler also attempted to set up a transit authority in 1951 to keep the Rapid Transit line running, and that his name appears, along with William K. Walthers and Albert C. Kalmbach, on the documents establishing the Model Railroad Club of Milwaukee (where the alert visitor will find a campaign poster for his brother Karl) and he played a role in establishing the National Model Railroad Association.

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