Tom Farley Jr., the brother of the late comedian Chris Farley, is emerging as perhaps the oddest candidate for local public office since Will Sandstrom.
First there was the confusion he caused in announcing on Twitter last September that he was running for lieutenant governor as a Republican. He later backtracked, saying he was merely considering the idea, a claim undercut by the words he'd used: "I'm in." (His announcement of candidacy has apparently been unTwittered.)
Farley later announced his candidacy for Madison school board; he's running for an open seat against James Howard, an economist with the Forest Products Laboratory. Commenting on the Advocating on Madison Public Schools (AMPS) blog, Farley sought to distance himself from the notion that he is a Republican merely because he announced his plans to run for office as one.
"Since returning to Madison," he wrote, "I've voted D more often than R, and have been a paid member of the Dem. Party of Dane County for over a year now long before considering a run for Lt. Gov on the GOP side (I've adjusted my meds, so everything so be OK now)."
Farley has also raised eyebrows for remarks he posted last month in response to a Wisconsin State Journal editorial about the Common Council's nine-and-a-half hour debate on the Edgewater Hotel:
Open meetings pander to people's fears and mistrust of civic leaders; they hinder enlightened and creative solutions; and they actually enable citizens to continue to harbor unsubstantiated, biased judgements about everything under the sun. Show me any functioning socialist government (if possible), and I'll show you a group of leaders still able to email their colleagues, hold a conference call or have a job-related discussion with peers while sitting around the 'popular table' in the "People's Cafeteria." Here in Madison we can't do any of that without posting a meeting notice one week prior.
Besides being nearly incomprehensible, this statement shows an alarming ignorance of Madison's traditions of open government, an impression Farley did nothing to correct in his posted reply to an Isthmus item on these comments:
As for open meetings, I believe there is a time and a place for such practice. In government, that time and place is almost 100%. I say almost, because I do see at times that it hinders progress. I sit on two Madison committees (ALRC & Arts), and we could certainly get much more accomplished if we could simply meet or have a conference call regarding something as simple as discussing a change in meeting times.
Take the Edgewater process once more; just this week the developer and alders saw a need to discuss what each side was willing to do going forward. … However, before such a meeting took place the alders had to determine how many of them could participate in the meeting to avoid any open meeting violations.
In my view, I would have liked all the alders to have the opportunity to attend such a meeting (or conference call). Yet to do so would have required a public notice one week prior, etc, etc.
Translation: Public bodies could accomplish more if they didn't have to worry about complying with the state's open meetings law (which by the way requires that notice be posted 24 hours, not a week, in advance).
Farley goes on to say that "if [my] view is as far off the reservation as people suggest it is I would be happy to listen to those contrary arguments - and gladly re-evaluate my own."
That's commendable, but perhaps it would be better for Farley to know what he's talking about to begin with.
Farley, by the way, did not return a phone call from Isthmus asking about his views on open meetings, just as he earlier ignored a call asking about his efforts to continue his campaign after initially failing to present enough demonstrably valid signatures.
The word at the time was that too many people who signed his papers listed their address as "a van down by the river." But such speculation proved to be pretty far off the reservation.