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How Does Mayor Soglin Face The Dawning Of A New Day In Madison?

February 18, 2019

The headline above the fold in this morning’s Wisconsin State Journal read “Historic Choices In Primary”.  That message carries burdens for Mayor Paul Soglin as he places his long and storied career before the electorate in a primary race Tuesday.

Soglin comes equipped to this race with political skills that far exceeds his challengers.  Along with his record in electoral combat he also carries a mental storehouse stocked with reams of data  about city concerns that just waits for someone to poise a question.  So there would seemingly be no concern for this candidate given that he has what many a city would desire for their leader.  After all, institutional memory is a commodity that many do not consider important until it does not exist–and then it becomes apparent why it matters.

But there is a sense from what one hears when talking about Madison’s favorite topic–politics–that the electorate is yearning to turn the page on Soglin.  Can restlessness be the ultimate winner come April at the ballot box?

Without doubt if one were to look for the most prepared challenger to step into the mayor’s office it would be Satya Rhodes-Conway, the former City Council member, and without doubt, the most cerebral of the lot.  She runs a national learning network for mayors and their staff focused on equity, sustainability, and democracy.  She would be the first openly gay mayor in city history.   Some describe her as bookish–and that resonates with those who like educated officeholders.

With lots of money and some very well-packaged television commercials Raj Shukla, Executive Director of River Alliance of Wisconsin, has made a name for himself.  But without even one stint as a city council member it is hard to imagine him taking the reins of the mayor’s office and wrestling with the myriad issues that confronts the office daily.  I believe Skukla to be bright and earnest.  He is strongly well versed in his area of expertise.  But Skukla has not demonstrated the larger skill set that a mayor needs to have on Day One.

Alderman Mo Cheeks should have had a stronger hand to play in this election.  But he seems not to have been able to get as much air in his campaign sail.   I have heard on several occasions from diverse demographics that if not for Cheeks being African-American he would not have ever been considered mayoral material.  Some call him more able to promote himself than make differences when it comes to end results.  I call him a show horse.

Readers to this blog know I was critical of Cheeks for how he waged his 2017 election to the city council.  It was one of the most expensive races in city history, spending $18,000.  We all should have been troubled with that fact.

But when it came time to apply that reasoning to the Cheeks campaign there seems an easy off-ramp for too many liberals in this city.  All of a sudden striving for more issue-oriented campaigns with less money is no longer the focus.  It would seem Cheeks is being given a pass based on being black.

I would be interested to know–based on the amount of money spent–if Cheeks’ constituents are now brimming with facts and data and policy ideas that match the level of money that was spent.  After all, I have stated over and over, that one reason for waging a campaign is to start a dialogue on issues that matter.  So even if one loses the race the months of campaigning would be worth the time as something bigger was gained.

So might Alder Cheeks now state what his large campaign treasury imparted to his constituents which now makes them better able to be part of the political process.   Or was the stockpile of money, and the way it was used, just a sign that he really wants to be mayor?

We have our answer, ladies and gentlemen.

Tuesday night Soglin will be matched up with one of the three challengers for the spring election.  I think Shukla will be the second place winner following Soglin in the primary.  Then Soglin will need to respond in a more forceful way, than he has up to this time, about why he felt a need to leave city hall for a larger office in the statehouse.  His race for governor was one of the worst decisions he has ever made in his political career.

Yes, Soglin can now say with vigor that he can roll up his sleeves and work with Governor Evers.  A kindred relationship can aid the city.  But there will need to be some bold, gut-feeling rhetoric from Soglin that will allow voters to know he is not only data-driven but excited and fully invested for another four years as mayor.

I have deep concerns that many voters are no longer listening to Soglin and will vote for the challenger in April.  Which then makes the choice we carry on Primary Day all the more important.

Why I Blog Involves Comments Worth Reading (Gospel Music And Elvis)

February 18, 2019

Social media has so many ways to convey thoughts and elicit responses.  I was reminded of that again as the Facebook version of this blog posted about the Elvis Presley show aired on NBC Sunday night.   I promoted the show and in return got some impressive comments.

From Virginia.

I want to tell you about something that happened early in my life and very early in Elvis’ career. My little sister and I went to a nearby drug store and have hit dogs at their lunch bar. Mom gave us the money and off we went. While eating this gorgeous young man came in and sat at an adjoining table near us. He had hair that was combed differently and was longer than the other guys wore, in fact, he was different but better. After a few minutes my sister bit into her hot dog and got bun because the hot dog shot out the end of the bun. We giggled but Elvis’ voice boomed out in a great laugh. We didn’t know who this man was to be but we learned he was on the also performing list at the City Center in Norfolk that week. I went to see him in concert when he was touring near the end of his life. Good show.

Then there was this comment from Grayson, Georgia.

When growing up one of my family’s friends was Big Chief Weatherington of The Statesmen Quartet (he knew Elvis from the gospel start) So I got to attend a concert with them as Elvis’ guests. Amazing memory. Mrs. W was still living last I heard, she would be around 100 now. Their daughter actually has one of the real ELVIS diamond necklaces which she was always afraid to show. I wanted a handkerchief but we were in vip seats… you know you’re young when vip seats were a bummer! Still crazy to think of the whole thing. Hard to say how much Elvis vinyl I’ve got…a lot

The last comment struck several notes for me as quartet music is often being played in our Madison home.  My Grandma picked cotton in Texas while many of her children grew up in Ozone, Arkansas.  Gospel music seemed to have migrated with the family when they came to Wisconsin in the 1940’s.  From my earliest years I recall southern gospel songs being a fixture for my mom.  Overt the past decades The Gaither Homecoming Friends videos have paid homage, at times, to the sound of the ‘Chief’.  Those videos and CD’s are played with regularity here on the isthmus.

I am always amazed at the reach of this blog and the folks who connect with it.   And then comment.  Thanks!

Recalling When Today Was About George Washington And Abe Lincoln

February 18, 2019

As a boy the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington were important days. Now there is the generic term Presidents’ Day. The catch all name does not have gravitas. To combat that, just a bit, I wish to call attention to a few books which I recommend regarding each of these men I came to admire over my lifetime.

When it comes to Washington the volume, which is on the bookshelves over my head, The Return of George Washington by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Edward Larson, is my first recommendation. I bought it two years ago at Mount Vernon, but what makes the book unique is that it deals with the time period after Washington stepped down as head and of the Continental Army. He had retired. Those years were not written about in detail before this volume.

As Washington watched how the Articles of Confederation were weak and not working he, along with Alexander Hamilton and other forward thinkers, knew what had to be done. While some worked under the flawed pretext that the Articles could be revamped, others like Washington knew the states needed to be brought into a union with law and order asserting itself from the top.  Wayward states were creating havoc, such as not paying off the war debt.  Washington in large part saved the United States by coming out of retirement to lead the Constitutional Convention and serve as our first president. We think of this today as events that ‘just happened’. That is a wrong way to view our history. Each step was perilous and the outcomes never inevitable.

On my bookshelves for decades has been Pulitzer Prize–winning author David Herbert Donald’s book Lincoln. It is a brilliant work which showcases the role that strong leadership plays in our national story, along with the need to keep principles front and center. It pounds these issues home with a robust narrative. When President Clinton was asked in one of his last interviews prior to leaving the White House which book he would recommend George Bush read, it was the classic by Donald.

The life and times of Abe Lincoln has been a constant source of confirmation that bold and decisive leadership, an abundant source of humor, and a natural curiosity are the essential ingredients to being a successful President. Time and again, in books both thin and those that stretch into volumes, it is clear that Abe Lincoln was a man of his times, and as noted at his death, now a man that belongs to the ages.

I also wish to mention the classic Lincoln by William Herndon, Abe’s law partner. My copy, though not an original, still is an old copy that I much treasure and it sits near me as I type this post. As I think about Lincoln, and how he grew up in truly poor conditions, and had few reading materials in his youth, I am sure he would be amazed at the many volumes, some more scholarly than others, that have been penned about his life and the impact he had on the nation. He loved to read, and as such I think the best way to honor Lincoln on his birthday is to consider books that might better illuminate his life.

So pick up a book and pour a cup of coffee and step back into history. Without knowing our past there is no way to understand current events, or plan where the nation should head.

Madison Needs To Elect Intelligent People In Spring Primary–Regardless of Race

February 16, 2019

I have been rather taken aback by the allowance of a narrative gaining traction in Madison that we are a racially divided city.  Listening to some of the candidates running for mayor, or those who have hopes for the school board, would have us think we are just shy of having drinking fountains being labeled by race in this place we call home.   We are told that to show true leadership concerning issues of race requires minority candidates prevailing at the ballot box.

This blog has not been shy to cast light on those who pedal racism, or use bigotry to run races, or shape public policy.  This blog has also been very supportive to the high calling of those who seek office and work with gusto to make a difference through the electoral process.   I champion those who use their civics education to make a positive difference.  I am also one of those who support paying our elected officials a wage worthy of their work.

But at the end of all the high hopes, placing of lawn signs. and door knocks there must be a most vital ingredient added to the mix.  We must demand intelligence from those we place on the board, or in the offices of power.   While it is obvious that the school board should, and must, reflect the student body, it is also obvious that to suggest only racial minorities can meet the needs of all the students is far short of reasonableness.

Rather than looking to the skin tones as we cast a ballot, it seems a better fit for a city that prides itself as the home of UW-Madison, to vote for the brightest and most intellectual candidates.  To even need to write such words, or post them, makes me wonder if this is 2019.

Given what Madison is now supposed to feel about itself, given the running narrative from some aspiring candidates, means that mocking faces surely were cast after reading this portion of an Isthmus article.

Soglin was the only candidate Isthmus interviewed who unequivocally rejected the contention that Madison is “a racist city.”

“This is not a racist city. There is racism in this city,” he says. “There is the legacy of institutional racism within our state.”

When asked if it’s simply time for Madison to have a mayor who isn’t a white man, Soglin lets out a heavy sigh.

“[Voters] are going to have to ask themselves whether that is more important than keeping us going in the direction that’s been so successful.”

Let there be no mistake that we have an obligation as a city to make sure we have more minority owned businesses.   To have graduation rates that are sharply different between the races at our high schools is just not acceptable.   To not expect all parents to carry the load of their responsibilities is not something we as a society can allow.   All of these issues are city concerns.

But to pretend that no intellectual grounding can take the place of heartfelt commitment derived by the life experiences of people of color makes a sham of the very foundations of education.   If that then has become the bottom line for officeholders in Madison there is only one thing left to be done.

When the ballot qualifications are written it needs to be stated that candidates must be people of color.

Again, to even need to write such words, or post them, makes me wonder if this is 2019.  Or the Madison I once knew.

National Emergency Is A National Joke

February 16, 2019

In a Madison restaurant on Friday evening waiters and patrons alike were laughing out loud about the ‘national emergency’.   “Be careful going home in this emergency” was a laugh line as many departed.  This morning the work of political cartoonists make it clear the nation is rolling on the floor in mirth.  What is not funny, of course, is the racism that is at the heart of Donald Trump and his supporters.

Mass Shooting: Is NRA Made Up Of Men With Short Penises?

February 15, 2019

It is a day of the week.  So it must also be a day for a mass shooting.  That is now the sad reality of America where the NRA has been allowed to shape our headlines.

Today a mass shooting in Aurora, Illinois killed five people and wounded five police officers, along with multiple civilians in an industrial area. (How many conservatives will preach about their love of the police and deny the truth about gun violence?)  Mass shootings happen with such regularity that it will not the be the lead story on the national news.  That alone tells us far more about our nation than we want to admit.

When the details come forth about the shooter, his background, along with the easy means he had of getting guns and ammunition there will again be a series of calls for gun control and laws to limit access to violent weapons.  That will be the reaction from logical and reasoned Americans.

The problem, however, at the very core of ever getting serious gun legislation passed is the delusional and dangerous National Rifle Association.  They continue to buy congressional Republicans, strike out at legitimate and thoughtful measures to limits guns, and undermine the efforts at needed data collection to more clearly demonstrate the destructive role these weapons have on our nation.

Forcing the NRA leaders to head to Aurora to have their noses rubbed in the blood and body parts might be one way to bring these immoral ones to any degree of common sense.  But that would still beg the question as to why they ever went down such a dark path in being the backers of the gun manufacturers?

Which comes down to the penis.  Sorry folks, but it needs to be said.

These men who bark loudest for guns scream out silently for help. At some level they may not even be ware of their psychological need.  Many firmly believe there is no doubt the larger the gun the NRA types tote on their hip or shoulder, underscores the shorter gun they were born with.  They seek compensation.  It would be most revealing if some government funding could be provided to allow for insight into the NRA’s linkage with sexual pathology and gun worship.  The fetishistic mentality that the NRA has with guns needs to be better understood so that we, as a nation, can better deal with the base reason they hold their weapons so tight.

The NRA can have any phallic symbols they wish to have and hold.  But when those penis substitutes inflict mass murder and deadly outcomes every week in the nation then we need to investigate why that is the case.

Inspector Pekkala Always Exciting, Sam Eastland Master At His Craft

February 15, 2019

Berlin Red is the seventh in the Inspector Pekkala series.

With book after book Sam Eastland has plotted with deft precision the life and times of a young man during the final years of Czar Nicholas II’s control of Russia.  Then with artful pacing and punch, following a harrowing journey through the hell of Siberia, Eastland places Pekkala almost seamlessly into the smoke-filled and darkened inner office of Joseph Stalin.  The books sizzle with fear and rumble from the tanks of war.  Pekkala works to solve the needs of a dictator without selling out his own soul and traditions.

When it comes to writers who strive to connect readers with deeper emotions and hidden truths than the name of Eastland is placed near the top.  I have thoroughly loved these books.

Do not think these books are your typical World War II war stories. as they are not.  I am not a fan of that type of work, finding war maneuvers and battlefield drama simply not for me.  Rather these books are taut with mystery and character development and laced with the power of fear that Stalin produced in every aspect of society.  There is a silent brutality that flows off each page and registers with readers of history.

One has to think that this book is the last in the series–but with any luck that will be proven wrong.  But what can be said with accuracy is this book has punch.  I grabbed one paragraph from page 189 to make my point.

Winter is not over for many in the nation as I write this post, and there are many reasons to hunker down and wait for spring.  In that span of time reach for what will keep you up at night while the pages turn effortlessly.

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