Printed Wisconsin Blue Books Serve Useful Purpose


Since the late 1970’s I  have held to a tradition every fall, in odd-numbered years, of contacting one of my elected officials and requesting a Wisconsin Blue Book.  As corny as it may sound I anticipated finding out what the cover design would look like, and what the topic of the  feature article would be.  Once I left home I made sure two copies of the book were sent so that my Dad who served 40 years as Hancock Town Supervisor would have his own book to use.

Over the years I have looked back at photos in the books of those who brightened the statehouse such as Gervase Hephner, and remarked how their faces changed over the years. (And their ties!) It is important to me to look back and recollect better days when it seemed that friendships and collegiality mattered as much as partisanship under the dome.

I glance through the books to see how Assembly and Senate districts have changed following each census.  When sending letters to friends I often look for the right zip code by thumbing near the end of the book for pages that hold the correct five numbers.  I have used the book for fast facts on population numbers in a county, or who is the current Circuit Court Judge in Waushara County.

There are countless reasons to have a Blue Book, and as I sit at my desk where all posts are typed for CP the 2009-10 version of the book looks back at me from a shelf.  Senator Risser is currently processing my request for the latest version, but this year I will only need one copy as my Dad passed way this year.

So why am I writing about Wisconsin Blue Books?

It came to my attention that Republican Rep. Tyler August wants to push a bill that would eliminate the printed version of the Blue Book, citing the $300,000 biannual price tag as too expensive in this time of fiscal woes.

I suspect there are many who will reject this idea, and for good reason.

I am one of those who feel that openness and transparency is very important when it comes to government.  Anything that allows the citizenry to better understand and appreciate the workings of government should be encouraged.  The Blue Book, with 985 pages in the 2009 volume, does exactly that.   To remove a valuable resource of this type does not best serve the public.

While the Blue Book would continue to be an online resource, the hard copy edition is used by many who have no computer, or those like me who still find books a most usable way to access information.    While I am computer savvy, I also very much like to hold a book in my hand and read it when and where I want.  I know many feel as I do.

There are countless ways to save money in government, but to shortchange the public for a mere $300,000 every other year over the printed version of the Blue Book is a most nutty way to budget.

Might I suggest reform of the per-diem process for elected officials.  Now we are talking about some serious money-saving!

2 thoughts on “Printed Wisconsin Blue Books Serve Useful Purpose

  1. I am all for books, having worked as a librarian. Personally, I would not spend half as much time at the computer to browse the Blue Book as I would a print version. Other people are the opposite of me that way, however, in this digital age.
    How about a nominal user fee for people or institutions that want the book to help finance them a bit? Just an idea.

  2. Thanks for your comment. We agree about books, and I am always glad to find another who feels as I do about the printed word. As to the user fee I suspect some problems with that idea.

    At a time when any suggestion that a tax or user-fee be implented is met by a harsh rebuke from the GOP, as the corporate jet issue and the latest jobs bills advocated by the President shows, I see no way to think this user fee would be warmly greeted.

    At the end of the day the cost for printing Blue Books is $300,000 and that is not something that should prevent this from being made free to the public every other year.

    Thanks again for your comment.

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