We all make decisions. But some of us make decisions that change the direction of the communities we live in. There are a handful of people in this neck of the woods who will make decisions in 2014 that will have a major public impact. Here's a look at several.
Bishop Robert Morlino
The bishop has a new boss in Rome. He hasn't yet changed a word of Catholic teaching, but it seems like Pope Francis is running a different church altogether. Francis is just picking sweeter songs from the big Catholic hymnal, emphasizing tolerance and charity over rigid teachings on sexual and reproductive practices. If the bishop for the Diocese of Madison gets with the program, he could unleash a lot of civic energy from previously listless liberal Catholics who for too long have found no joy and little inspiration in their church and diocese.
State Senator Kathleen Vinehout
Once she recovers from her serious car crash (and we hope that's soon) Vinehout has a big decision to make. She would be doing democracy, the Wisconsin Democratic Party and even gubernatorial frontrunner Mary Burke a favor if she would mount a vigorous -- but positive -- challenge for the nomination to take on Scott Walker in November. With a poor record on reproductive rights issues I don't see how Vinehout represents a credible challenge from Burke's left, but it doesn't matter. A primary's a good thing.
State Journal Publisher John Humenik
Like the Catholic Church, whether or not you subscribe to the State Journal, as the last daily print newspaper standing it's a very important institution in our community. Retired editor Bill Johnston pretty much stuck to the business end of the operation, but Humenik comes from the reporting side. He might get more actively involved in shaping the paper and if he goes beyond just repackaging to up the ante on investigative reporting, especially at the local level, he'll be making a big contribution.
Madison mayoral candidates
Choose any two or more from this list: UW Vice Chancellor Darrel Bazzell, Alder Shiva Bidar, Urban League President Kaleem Caire, former Alder Bridget Maniaci, Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell, Alder Scott Resnick and Mayor Paul Soglin. All of the above are actively considering or have been mentioned as potential candidates in the April 2015 election, but they have to get serious by the middle of next year. Let's hope there's a crowd. It would mean that the city's political culture is healthy and it would give us the vigorous debate about our city's future that we deserve to have.
The Madison Police and Fire Commission
PFC members Fabiola Hamdan, Craig Yapp, George Kamperschroer, Michael Lawton and Wes Sparkman will choose Madison's new police chief this year. It's likely that their choice will lead the department for about a decade. The working assumption is that they'll choose from within. That's fine because all of the internal candidates are strong. If they go outside, it'll have to be extraordinary candidate.