Recall A Time When (Politics Aside) We Looked At Who Might Be A Future Leader?

Former State Representative Dick Matty tossed a verbal barb from the podium my way at a Door County Lincoln Day Dinner many years ago as I sat in the crowd listening to the various speakers from around Wisconsin.  I was the guest of a soon-to-be GOP county elected officeholder.  I attended so to listen as politicians used their rhetorical skills to jazz up a crowd.   Granted, at the time I was also the Door County Democratic Chairman but to be nailed with a zinger from the podium has never been forgotten.  I was not the spy as was suspected but rather a politico who liked the game enough to be interested in seeing it from both team’s benches.  I really wish we had more of that spirit in our politics today.

And so tonight I am rather sad–in an odd way–about Missouri Republican Governor Eric Greitens.  I am not in any way condoning his wife-cheating or breaking of the marriage vows.  Or his lack of taking responsibility for his actions.

Rather I am one of those who saw his political talents, intelligence, and drive and said to myself some years ago—‘watch this guy’.

Now I do not have to tell my readers his views on issues, and mine, are as divided as the the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is from the South Rim.  But I had –or so I thought–a sense of the guy as being decent and honorable.  I bought the story that he presented.  And those types of people with those types of stories from both sides of the aisle are needed in this nation.

But as we now know in the end he is nothing more than another brick removed from the foundation of what should be a reserve of future national political leadership.  Regardless of where one stands on the issues, we need to have a deep bench of what makes our nation strong and good, waiting to take the next step upwards in electoral politics.

I get the fact this sounds strange coming from a liberal blogger, with Greitens being a Republican.  But does this story about his life and his political ending not beg the question about what exactly has our country become?

In the end, perhaps I am still that young man at heart who sat in a large convention room in Sturgeon Bay and listened to see which speaker could move an audience.  Who could make voters feel conviction.  Who could ask for support and know it could be counted on when it mattered.

Who had something that–politics aside–made one a potential leader.

That is what matters.  And what we need most in this land.

WDOR Radio In Sturgeon Bay Celebrates Anniversary Of Starting Broadcasts

Today marks the day in 1951 when the WDOR AM transmitter in Sturgeon Bay was first flipped on for broadcast.

I was a part of that radio team in the 1980’s under the air-name of Trevor James.  I have posted a photo below of myself at that time in life pictured at Linda Sealey’s desk. She handled ad traffic and always had a smile and was ready to laugh.  She kept the station humming!

Eddy Allen Sr. always loved to talk about WGN–where he had once worked–and I was only too happy to hear his stories about that famed station.  Ed was the only person I ever heard on radio who could broadcast a parade.  Think about that for a moment.   

If was a Christmas parade in early December from Kewaunee County and  with the use of descriptive words he allowed for the theater of the mind–the real role of radio–to come alive.  He knew the power of radio and used the foundations of it to entertain and inform listeners. 

I made Eddy Allen Jr. shake his head too often as I knew nothing about sports.  Today I still know enough to say one hits a run in baseball as opposed to making a run. (He made sure I at least knew that!)

While at WDOR I was able to cover the Mondale/Ferraro presidential rally for the station in 1984 and later the President Reagan outdoor speech about tax reform in Oshkosh. I loved when the station taped letters to Santa and there was a feel of Christmas at the station.  I so enjoyed the old classic pop machine at the station where a lid had to be lifted to get a bottle.  And with fondness I recall a special older listener who would often bring me a sweet on Sunday mornings on her way to church as she liked my selections of gospel music.

All that was only possible because Eddy Sr. had some faith and hired me. That meant a lot to me as a young man looking for his first real job. Never have I forgot that action. Everything that followed in my life was due to those years at WDOR and the things I learned.

So the best to all those at WDOR who still send out the signals for local radio in Door County.


Warren Bluhm Reminds Us Keta Steebs Still Brings Smiles

I was genuinely pleased to read that Keta Steebs was written about in a column in the Green Bay Press Gazette.   Keta was one of my fondest memories from the time I spent in Door County while working at WDOR.   There was plenty to love about Keta from her laugher, keen insight into politics, and our shared values as liberal Democrats.  Sitting with her during county board meetings as we reported for our various news operations allowed for me to gain insight into not only issues impacting the county but also some of the background on colorful personalities.   She seemingly knew everything about the county and those who resided there.

So it was a real delight to read the words of Warren Bluhn about one very special lady.  And she was a lady.

I think of Keta Steebs every week – the template for this space on our Opinion page is still called “Keta’s Potluck,” and I still feel like an undeserving interloper for inserting my own words here.

Keta – and I feel bad knowing that now I have to explain for people who are new to the Advocate – was our longtime reporter and columnist whose words of wit and wisdom were chronicled here for 40 years or so.

She was inducted into the Milwaukee Press Club’s Media Hall of Fame in 2012 and passed away April 26, 2013, not long after writing her final column. So she’s been gone three years now, long enough for people to realize we conceded long ago that she’s irreplaceable.

But I especially thought of Keta the other day when a meme reappeared on Facebook that struck my fancy enough that I used the new feature that lets you “Love” a post, not just “Like” it. It showed Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and bore the caption, “No matters who wins, they will not fix your life. Better plan on doing it yourself.”

It sounded like something Keta might say, although she might be more inclined to say it about Trump or Cruz than the standard bearers of her beloved Democratic Party. It would be interesting to see what Hepzibah would say about the Donald and Ted.

Hepzibah, readers will recall, was Keta’s alter ego who was constantly taken in by the nice young men the Republican Party put up for office. Keta would nod politely and didn’t try to convince Hepzibah that they only appeared to be nice on the surface.

Predictions For Wisconsin Spring Election: Dry Ephraim, Sanders, Bradley, Berninger

It has been many a year since the April election in Wisconsin has had so many consequential races.  From the presidential primaries that will determine who has added momentum and more delegates as the campaigns move east, to the future course of the state’s high court, or how the Dane County coliseum project unfolds, and last but not least how one community might retain its long and proud history all will come to a head at the ballot box.

Oh, and let us not forget that 54 school districts will have referendums seeking funding during these stressful times in our state.

Attempting to determine who or what has the advantage this year in the Badger State is challenging due to such vocal races and competitive candidates.  With a heated Milwaukee County Executive race (Larson handily defeats Abele), or where followers of Bernie Sanders are determined to be heard, while Donald Trump supporters are making every effort not to be outdone it comes as no surprise that voter turn out will be high.  A 40% turnout is expected–some 1.75 million of the state’s 4.4 million voters-are expected to cast a ballot.   If that occurs it will be the highest turnout for a presidential primary since 1980.  In this chaotic, ginned-up-angry electorate what that turn-out means for the end results are hard to predict.

I predict Ted Cruz wins the GOP primary–but not with the 10% spread over Trump that last week’s Marquette Law School Poll reported.  Though Trump had the worst week of his race smack dab in the middle of the Wisconsin primary, and many in the party find him unacceptable, I feel a tightening of the top contenders will put Cruz ahead when the ballots are counted at only 5%.    Playing to the polite mid-western values still seems like the best way forward from a personal perspective but John Kasich will not do what  many of us privately hoped for–that is pull a win out by being likable and competent.  Rather he will languish in third place on Election Night.

Bernie Sanders will win Wisconsin–but not in any blow out fashion.  The spread will be no more than 5% over Hillary Clinton.

The hardest nail to bite for me with these predictions is going with my gut when calling Rebecca Bradley the likely candidate to win the Supreme Court race.  The facts would seem to show JoAnne Kloppenburg the winner.  Governor Walker has appointed Bradley to various jobs, his approval numbers are in the basement while Bradley is best known for writing hate-filled rants against gays, AIDS victims, and women.    Yet my gut tells me when the totals for Sanders and Clinton are added together Tuesday night they will not match with the total for Kloppenburg.  Too many enthusiastic voters for their favorite presidential candidate will not understand the gravity of selecting a justice for the court.

There are several county board races in Dane County but District One most intrigues me.    While there is no doubt incumbent Mary Kolar will prevail, and rightly so, I am curious as to how many will actually cast a ballot for her opponent, Rob Franklin.  I find him one of the least qualified local candidates this cycle and would truly be amazed if he received more than a smattering of votes.  I admire all who step up and add their voice as candidates but being earnest is not the same as being qualified.

After having lived for 4 years in Door County while working in broadcasting I can say with first-hand knowledge there are many special places to escape as one travels north of Sturgeon Bay.  From fish boils to romantic sunsets there is no better place in the summer or early fall than the peninsula.   Ephraim is one of the great spots that brings back memories.  This year, again, the idea of allowing alcohol sales in this dry community is making another go at the polls.  I think it will be defeated.    And for good reason.   There is a rich tradition in this village founded in 1853 that has not ever allowed alcohol sales.    I suspect the greed that some desire by removing the ban will be dealt a defeat.   I predict 60%-40%.

In Deerfield, Wisconsin there is a contest for town board pitting the race for two town supervisor seats between incumbent Nick Brattlie, Ken Frejlich, and Brian Berninger.  For clarity I need to note Berninger was a good friend during my days at the statehouse.  I can attest to his sincerity, civic-mindedness, and resolve when committed to a cause.    And there is no doubt one of his reasons for seeking office is due to the continuing concerns over quarry blasting in the town that has caused damage to homes, a historic Norwegian church and a cemetery.  Berninger, who owns a home about a quarter-mile north of the quarry, has no doubt brought the consensus of opinion to his candidacy and will be a victor Election Night.

Finally, I am an optimist when it comes to our democracy. Elections thrill me.  So I will predict that this state will out-perform the 1980 voter turnout.  Put me down for 42% turn-out!

Now plan to undertake your civic responsibility by voting and then have fun watching the returns be counted!

Breaking News: Fire Departments Respond From Across Door County For Blaze On Ship Docked At Bay Shipbuilding Co. In Sturgeon Bay


Image from the Door County Advocate


Fire departments from across Door County responded to a fire on board a ship docked at Bay Shipbuilding Co. in Sturgeon Bay.  The Sturgeon Bay Fire Department was called to the shipyard just after 6 p.m. Smoke was pouring from the back of the Great Lakes cargo ship Alpena when crews arrived.  As of 8 P.M. there was considerably less smoke and it appeared the matter was being resolved.

Samantha Hernandez is on the scene and reporting for the Door County Advocate.


Waushara County Not Issuing Gay Marriage Licenses, Door County Is Issuing

This morning it is not hard to see where the enlightened county clerks reside when it comes to the map of Wisconsin.

While there is room for interpretation in regards to what Federal Judge Barbara Crabb allowed for in her ruling when stating that Wisconsin’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, there is no doubt that the moral compass of every county clerk can be judged by the actions taken, or not taken in the past day.

Clerks such as those in Dane and Milwaukee counties started processing marriage licenses on Friday shortly after the ruling was announced, and continued on Saturday.  Monday 44 more counties joined with allowing for same-sex couples to wed.

Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell has stated that he will follow the direction of the judge, and since the ruling declared the ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional that means it is no longer in effect.  Many other clerks around the state acted on Monday in the same fashion, and allowed for gay couples to wed.  Door County, as an example, had one same-sex marriage license processed.

But in places like Waushara County where the strict conservative mentality grips the populace like a heart attack there was no sign that Clerk Melanie R. Stake had read the ruling as there was no effort made for same sex-sex couples to get a license.

Perhaps the reasoning in Waushara County, and the other 25 counties that are not allowing for the licenses to be granted, is akin to the thoughts of former Iranian President Ahmadinejad who tried to spin the yarn that no gay people lived in his country.  If a county clerk is timid about the job he/she needs to do as an elected official based on the desire to play to the lowest common denominators come election day means there is a demonstration of not only a lack of courage but also lack of character.

I know change comes hard to places like Waushara County, which by the way is the place I was born and raised.  But what type of lessons are clerks such as Stake trying to teach the young people who follow the news, know of gay friends and relatives, and yet see the wheels of government actually work against freedom and expanded liberties?

Democratic Candidate Arnie Johnsrud Leaves First District Assembly Race, Likely Remains Republican After Election

A Democratic candidate for First Assembly District has withdrawn from the race and thrown his support behind the other primary candidate for the election.

I liked Arnie Johnsrud, and was hoping he might prevail in the primary contest.  Johnsrud knew how to run a race as he once had opposed now retiring State Rep. Garey Bies.

The district, though more conservative than liberal, has changed over the decades.  It is a district where a Democratic candidate who can connect personally with the voters along with the proper backing of some key people and organizations can allow for a victory.    I felt Johnsrud was that type of candidate.  Where the area was once rock-ribbed Republican it now has seen an influx of new people and ideas, and with the right candidate can be a competitive playing field.

This past week Johnsrud, however,  left the race and threw his support to the other candidate, Joe Majeski.  

So why did I like Johnsrud?

The statement he made when leaving the race sums it up.

 “We need someone in Madison who will stand up for voter’s rights, stand up for women’s rights, stand up for public education, stand up for local control over our environment, stand up for jobs with livable wages and we need to support health care for everyone.”

While there is always hope in politics I think the best candidate is no longer in the race for the First Assembly District.  Therefore the GOP can feel steady about keeping the seat in their column.

Door County’s Ephraim Inn Suffers Extensive Damage From Fire



News photo from the Door County Advocate.

Several years ago James and I enjoyed a fish boil at this inn, and loved every minute of the experience.   Having lived in Door County while employed as a broadcaster at WDOR radio I was well aware of fish boils, and how tasty there were.  James soon came to discover the same.

For more than four hours firefighters battled a fire that caused extensive damage to the wondrous Ephraim Inn, one of those magical hotels in Door County.  Thankfully there were no injuries, as the inn was closed for the season.  There clearly is significant damage from the fire and water used to fight the flames.  The fire was called in at 7:15 A.M. this morning.