The Politics of Water Pollution in Lake Michigan

Small Group Presentation Summary:

In our presentation, we set up a mock pre-re-election rally.  While organizing the rally, our group decided to make all the students participate as different groups in our society.  To stay with the theme of water pollution, all of the designated groups needed or depended on water in some ways.  Our group made an effort to choose groups that we felt had conflicting needs.  As we chose the different groups, we thought of the different desires for water the groups would address along with easily identifiable costumes:

Factory Workers
Garbage men 
Recreational sailors 
Need for water
Unlimited use, less regulations
Less pollution, safer habitat
Unlimited use, use of fertilizers
Job security, more recycling
Less pollution
Less pollution, cleaner beaches
No limitations on boat use
Clean drinking water
aprons, goggles
fish hats
garbage bag suits
jackets and polls
sun hats
baseball hats

For the actual presentation, we left the majority of options open, allowing the groups to create the discussions.  Nadia, Juliet, and Abby posed as interns of the mayor (Joy) and attempted to quiet the class and have them take their seats.  The mayor then entered the room and delivered a speech.  The speech was actually a collaboration of two speeches by Mayor Daley that dealt with technology.  This speech was general and did not discuss water pollution, because politicians do not always address the desired issues.  It was the responsibility of the groups to make the project focus on water pollution.

The mayor left for a "phone call", giving time for the groups to discuss and create questions to put to the mayor.  We had no control over what the groups would ask and had only been able to prepare three researched answers that could be worked into general questions.  For the most part, the Mayorís answers were spontaneous.  This encouraged more class participation.  The questions were more specific then we had intended.  Some students even tried to trap Joy into being wrong.  For example, Joy specifically attempted to point fingers at other politicians, because that is often a common political technique used.  One student called her on it.  One other occasions, the mayor purposely gave circular answers that did not answer the questions.  This also created some anxiety among the class; however, we felt it served the point.

The mayor then had another "call", giving the groups time to discuss the needs they wanted the mayor to address.  We had already created a plan that addressed some of the predicted needs.  However we made an effort to not address everyone's proposals.  It was surprising to see the wide variety of responses.  Most had nothing to do with water pollution.  For example, the golfers wanted a 24-hole golfcourse in a city park.  Because of the outrageous demands, the mayor in fact addressed very few of them.

We then asked the class to vote for the mayor's reelection.  To our surprise, no one voted for the
mayor.  We had thought that about half of the class would, because the plan met some groupís needs more than others.  However, since the groups thought of so many unpredictable and unanticipated issues, the mayorís plan fell short of satisfaction.

The idea that our group was attempting to demonstrate was the idea of compromise in politics.  A politician cannot make everyone completely happy.  The job of the politician is to keep votes he has and try to earn new ones.  This is a very tricky line to balance on.  A politician can try and address some needs of a particular group, yet compromises are always needed.  Because no one voted for him, the mayor in our presentation did not seem to do a good job of balancing the needs of each and every group.  Yet, considering the issue, he did.  The reason the votes were an inaccurate portrayal of politics was for two reasons: A) the groups' proposals were somewhat ill-conceived and  B) there was no another candidate for comparison.

Politics is yet another example of something that doesn't completely solve a problem.  The problem of Lake Michigan pollution cannot easily be solved.  Because of the conflicting needs of all these people, it is impossible for a politician to come close to fixing the problem.  The politician must keep his ideas in the majority of public opinion.  Yet, the public majority is usually too conservative to ever make any large changes such as the Lake Michigan pollution problem.

By: Juliet, Abby, Joy, and Nadia

Last Updated 3/07/1999