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Forestry Fee For Madison Mighty Important Issue

October 20, 2014

I am a constant advocate for trees in the City of Madison along with the needs of the forestry program.   As such I am mighty concerned about the vote to be taken Tuesday night when the city council will again visit the matter of a special fee for the urban forest program.

In what I consider a most short-sighted action the council at their last meeting voted 11-8 against the fee. I am trusting that this vote was not in some way to shield citizens from a fee that is one the city is most in need of requiring from those who live here. 

What makes this all the more interesting is that Mayor Soglin in his operating budget uses $527,000 from the fee for 2015.   As has been pointed out by the press it is likely the council did not have enough time to ponder the implications of their vote given the fact Soglin released his budget that same day as the council meeting.  But even then that does not in any way reduce the need for a way to finance the huge burden this city faces with forestry needs, namely at this time with the emerald ash borer playing havoc with most neighborhoods.

There is also the fact a group of alders studied and worked on the idea of a fee and various avenues to have it implemented. From the start I have supported any of the ways the city wanted to assess the fee be it from how many trees one has on the terrace to the number of feet of street front a property owner has, to any other approach they wish to take.   What I have problems with is how the council treated the outcome from the committee who studied the fee matter in an up-front and realistic way.    The rejection by the city council two weeks ago was not the way to show leadership on a most pressing city need. 

The bottom line for every person in this city who understands the beauty that trees give to our neighborhoods, and the ‘air-conditioning’ they provide for many older homes is that they seek the support from their alderperson for this fee.

I am heartened that there does seem to be recognition by many alders that this matter needs to be revisited and supported.   The average citizen needs to be engaged and support this fee by making contact with their alder and pressing the issue.

Now let us get it done!

Political Polarization Is Worse Than Ever

October 20, 2014

No one can be shocked over this finding.

“No question: Politics has become more bitterly partisan and mean spirited as I have seen in 30 years of writing a political newsletter,” says Charlie Cook, who founded the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

Voters are just as divided, too: A Pew study this year found the percentage of Americans saying they are consistently conservative or liberal has doubled since 1994 (from 10 percent to 21 percent), while the center has shrunk (from 49 percent to 39 percent). Maybe more tellingly, 27 percent of Democrats and 36 percent of Republicans see the political opposition as a “threat to the nation’s well-being.”

Those numbers also are reflected in Washington’s political makeup: According to National Journal’s Ron Brownstein, author of “The Second Civil War: How Extreme Partisanship Has Paralyzed Washington and Polarized America,” Democrats now hold almost all of the Senate seats (43 out of 52) in the 26 states that voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. And Republicans hold nearly all of the Senate seats (34 out of 44) in the 22 states that voted against the president both times.

“Essentially, we have a durable standoff between a diverse, younger, urbanized, more secular Democratic coalition, and a predominately white, older, non-urban and more religious Republican coalition,” Brownstein says.

And here’s the rub: That divide likely isn’t going away, no matter what happens on Election Day. Outside an exception here or there – say in places like Colorado, Iowa or Kansas – Republicans are expected to increase their dominance in the red states, while Democrats are expected to hold on in the blue ones.

“I don’t see any of this reversing anytime soon,” Brownstein adds.

Early Voting Starts in Wisconsin With A Memory Of Teddy White

October 20, 2014

I like to cast my ballot on Election Day as that is how my family always did it in our small town of Hancock, Wisconsin.   I much enjoy the way Teddy White always wrote with such passion about the simple democratic action of voting in elections in his Making of the President series of books.   In his first volume on the 1960 presidential election he starts off with a line I long ago memorized.

“It was invisible, as always.”

Such is the way with secret ballots that in the end transfer power.  It is a grand thing to reflect on even when it is so often taken for granted.

But times have changed and as a result early voting is becoming ever more popular.  Municipal clerks across Wisconsin will accept ballots beginning today.  And in case there is still any confusion let me repeat again on this blog that voters will not need to show identification to vote.

Early voting hours generally run from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. weekdays, however local clerks can set their own hours within those perimeters. Early voting ends Oct. 31.

All the candidates are working to get early voters to the polls with Mary Burke in Appleton today for an early voting rally while the Republicans are holding their own early vote rally in Green Bay.   With exceptional fall weather and a most competitive race for governor there will be tons of energy in the air regardless of which party a voter is aligned with this year.

As I was looking at data from across the nation the idea of early voting is catching on with ballots being cast in 34 states.  President Obama will cast his ballot in Illinois today.  Meanwhile in Iowa more than 185,000 ballots had been cast and in North Carolina more than 1.5 million people have already voted.

But for James and myself we like to walk each election–at about the same time in the afternoon–and cast our ballot in our neighborhood polling place.   In the fall there is the rustle of fallen leaves and usually a chill in the air along with a sense of drama about all that is unfolding.    And it always makes me think of Teddy White.

15 Days Until The Exciting 2014 Mid-Term Elections

October 19, 2014

Every election season is dramatic and exciting to follow, but what is happening this fall with the mid-terms is nothing short of a simply amazing and perfectly suspenseful political event.

There is no way to express my level of enthusiasm during the 2008 presidential election when this nation made history with a truly intelligent man being elected to the White House.   But as I write today I am really intrigued and mindful how dynamic the unfolding events are this cycle which has created conditions where anything could happen.

While there is clearly a strong Republican tilt to the outcomes shaping up, to what degree and how far down the ballot that trend goes is just one of the great topics up for discussion among politically-minded folks.

In Wisconsin we have a race for governor that is tighter than any other in the land, and where undecided voters are lower as a percentage than in any other state. In places from just across the lake in Michigan and down to Florida there are statehouse races where I am thinking Democrats have better chances at winning than in many of the highlighted senate races.  Losing some battleground statehouse seats will alter the GOP mood a little as the evening paces itself come November 4th.

Across the nation there is a slew of senate races where incumbent Democrats can not break above the mid-to-upper 40’s in the polls and yet Republicans—as of this writing–have also not been able to make the final sale as demonstrated by the polls. Granted the last days in the race—and we are in them now—are when the breaks occur and the tide is turned with a swing to one of the candidates.  At this juncture with these types of campaigns the challenger usually gets the swing and wins.

But this campaign season has proven to be fickle with an electorate that is just beside itself not so much with anger–as I sense it–but with intense dismay over how dysfunctional our political system is in Washington and in many state capitals. Voter turnout will be the key to many of these races—perhaps more than usual as many races seem to be dramatically tight.

The saga on Election Night promises to be long and so that means preparing hearty fare for those invited to our home to watch the count across the nation.  Every two years come Election Night I step into the kitchen and work to make an evening that hopefully people recall with some fondness about politics as the years pass.

This year the buffet assembled–and the menu is still being fine tuned–will include stuffed meat manicotti with enough variety of cheeses to show that in Wisconsin we know how to use them, along with my much-loved fall special of pumpkin apple and heavy on the streusel-topped muffins. Those who have calorie limits are asked not to mention them until the last ballot has been counted—in Alaska!

Black Voters Making Concerning Headlines For Democrats

October 19, 2014

The GOTV drive does not seem to be–in spite of Democratic operatives saying otherwise–up to the speed needed for Election Day.

The confidential memo from a former pollster for President Obama contained a blunt warning for Democrats. Written this month with an eye toward Election Day, it predicted “crushing Democratic losses across the country” if the party did not do more to get black voters to the polls.

“African-American surge voters came out in force in 2008 and 2012, but they are not well positioned to do so again in 2014,” Cornell Belcher, the pollster, wrote in the memo, dated Oct. 1. “In fact, over half aren’t even sure when the midterm elections are taking place.”

Scott Walker’s Bald Spot May Be Last Piece To Puzzle

October 18, 2014

So this is what we learned this week from Scott Walker.  And it may be more telling than you think.

As Gov. Scott Walker was wrapping up his visit Monday with the State Journal editorial board, he joked with cartoonist Phil Hands that Hands draws his ears too big — but said the cartoonist’s portrayal of his bald spot was accurate.

The governor continued.

The bald spot, he said, was the result of a repair incident in the kitchen when he banged his head on an open kitchen cabinet door while making repairs requested by his wife, Tonette.

She kept telling him to go to the doctor to get the scar on his head looked at, he said. When he finally did, the doctor said his hair would never grow back in that spot, the governor explained.

Tonette still points to the bald spot as a reminder that he should always listen to his wife, he said.

I suggest we have a neurologist provide some insight since the damage to Walker’s head was bad enough to cause baldness–might the damage also be linked to the horrific decisions he has made while serving in the governor’s office?

Conservatives Must Recall Reagan’s Failure With AIDS When They Strike At Obama Over Ebola

October 18, 2014

Many people are watching the fear factor outpace the reality of the situation surrounding Ebola in the United States.  Over the past two weeks the issue has taken on a partisan spin as conservatives take a swipe at the Obama Administration.  What those fear-mongers need however is a slice of history.

It was that ‘great communicator’ President Reagan who had not only the podium but also the skills to dialogue with the nation about the great health issue of his time, AIDS.   But during his two terms in the White House Reagan failed to address the issue.  Like then the issue of a health concern today is one a president needs to weigh in on and work not only to contain as a medical matter with health professionals but also address in even tones with the nation so as not to unduly alarm them.

While President Obama is doing his part to match the science of the matter with needed policies to deal with it, the GOP partisans are attempting to make Ebola a fear factor that might gin up some votes for them come Election Day.

Conservatives might recall, before they start throwing any stones, that  Reagan would not address the issue of AIDS until May 31, 1987 (near the end of his second term), at the Third International Conference on AIDS in Washington. When Reagan spoke, 36,058 Americans had been diagnosed with AIDS and 20,849 had died. The disease had spread to 113 countries, with more than 50,000 cases. 

Reagan did not speak out sooner so as not to draw the ire of such ‘educated notables’ in his political base as Reverend Jerry Falwell who had mandated for all conservatives to believe that “AIDS is the wrath of God upon homosexuals.” Meanwhile Reagan’s communications director Pat Buchanan argued that AIDS is “nature’s revenge on gay men.”    Good Lord if anyone looks like they need a roll in the hay to loosen them up it is good-ole Pat!

So when the latest conservative rants against the leadership of Obama start being spewed chalk it up to partisan spin of the most unjust kind.  When it comes to conservatives it always winds up that politics is all that guides them.

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