Pacing Of Wisconsin Legislature Is Concerning

Wisconsin citizens can be excused if they have felt a sense of whiplash the past few days while reading and pondering the work of their state legislature.  While each person can have a varying sense of what needs to be prioritized by our elected officials there can be no disagreement over the fact legislators, by the pacing of their actions, send strong messages about what interests they are protecting and for whom they are really working.

Drunk driving in the Badger State makes for far too many horrific headlines.   Every session there are pleas from the public for tougher and more meaningful laws.  While over time stricter laws have passed there is one measure that seems unable to muster its way to a touchdown.  Wisconsin remains the only state that does not penalize a first-time drunken-driving offense as a criminal charge.

The Wisconsin State Journal editorialized on the need for smarter and tougher drunk driving laws this weekend. 

Unfortunately, top Republican leaders in both houses — Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester — are resisting another sensible bill, AB 18, that would make a first offense for OWI a misdemeanor crime. The proposal, championed by Rep. Jim Ott, R-Mequon, and Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, would bring Wisconsin in line with the rest of the nation, and give hundreds of thousands of drivers more reason not to risk getting behind the wheel after drinking lots of alcohol.

The Wisconsin Tavern League continually makes sure that Wisconsin is the only state where a first-time drunken driving  offense is not a real crime.  Just slap the wrist of the first-time offender who drinks and drives, and all is supposed to be fine.

It is not all fine.  The headlines over the many years prove what is happening on our roadways.  As noted in the editorial more than 20,000 people are convicted for drunken driving each year in Wisconsin. Nearly 3,000 people are injured in alcohol-related crashes, and close to 200 people lose their lives.

Meanwhile those who drink water and wonder what chemicals and toxins come out of their tap continues to grow. 

Wisconsin wastewater plants were built to keep pollutants out of the environment, but state regulators have come to realize the facilities may be spreading hazardous industrial chemicals (PFAS) in ways that increase health risks.

Lobbyists for manufacturing concerns including the paper industry have urged lawmakers to go slowly and carefully examine PFAS regulations before acting.

A water quality task force announced by Vos in January has held public hearings and plans to schedule one on PFAS, said chairman Rep. Todd Novak, R-Dodgeville. Novak said he hopes the panel will roll out proposed legislation on at least some water pollution problems this fall or winter. He said he couldn’t predict how PFAS would be addressed because it hasn’t been discussed.

The fact we still have far too lenient rules regarding how political campaigns receive money means that the well-funded business community can work legislators far more adroitly than the average person filling a glass of water at the sink.

We are very aware that when the statehouse feels a need to put on thruster rockets and make speed with legislative initiatives they can do so–as last December proved.   The Republican majority called an extraordinary session.  It was most concerning as it was timed after an election which changed leadership in the governor’s office, and prior to the time the victor could sign or veto bills from that session.  The whole effort was designed to undermine what the citizens had stated with their ballots only weeks prior.

At that time elected officials proved that speed mattered.  But when drinking water concerns are raised, or the decades-long fight to curtail first-time drunk drivers is pressed for action we can plainly see citizens just wind up waiting.

What ties all these issues together is a severe lack of enough independent-minded legislators in Madison to get the people’s work done.  Too few who asked for the responsibility of leadership care to look at the facts and propose or support bills dealing with what voters are most concerned about.  Instead, some legislators allow themselves to be brow-beaten and threatened with political opposition at election time, or told they will be denied campaign cash.  Like wilting flowers in the afternoon sun timid elected officials seek the safe route, but not the high road when it comes to working on the pressing needs of our state.  

Some will say that is ‘just politics’.  But that flies in the face of the facts.  Every other state has a hard line when it comes to first time OWI’s.  Nineteen states have set PFAS limits or guidelines for PFAS in water.   Those results show that more partisanship than policy making takes place under the dome in Madison.  And the average citizen loses out as a result.

Drink While You Shop? What Is Wrong With People?

 

As a kid there were countless times mom had it up to her neck with kids, squabbles, and messes.  She needed to escape to the stores in Stevens Point or Wisconsin Rapids to browse and find that something special to lift her spirits.  Shopping was her substitute  to just selling the older kids outright to a traveling gypsy.

But now it seems shopping is no longer the get-a-way that it was for my parent’s generation.  Now to make the effort to walk the aisles and look at the merchandise requires a glass of wine or beer.   In Madison there is an effort to make that swilling possible.

East Side Ald. Marsha Rummel, who represents the area where CocoVaa is located and is sponsoring the zoning code change, said Edari’s business has a liquor license “but under traditional employment zoning and the zoning code in general the café can’t serve alcohol, and light manufacturing can’t serve alcohol.”

Soap Opera co-owner Stacey Scannell said being able to sip a glass or wine or two would complement the experience of shopping at the store, which has a courtyard and allows customers to make their own perfumes. The store had already been approved for a liquor license that would have allowed it to sell bottled wine, but due to zoning restrictions, not serve it on site, she said.

I simply have no way to rationalize such an idea.  If a business plan is so lousy that the only way to increase sales, and keep the lights on, is to liquor up the customers might mean there are issues with management itself.  Instead of working to allow for drinks to be served it might be smarter to take a business course and plot a new strategy for what people wish to purchase. 

The last thing this state needs is another excuse to drink.  It seems that no one is able to do anything in Wisconsin if there is not a drink in hand.  Drinking in our state is considered a recreational activity.   When asked what one will be doing this weekend many will respond with ‘going out drinking’.  Now that might also mean shopping!

Where does the crazy end?

And what is so wrong with so many people they constantly need to find a means of escape?

Something Is Wrong In Wisconsin

I try to understand ideas that are contrary to my way of thinking.  I wish to at least find some underpinning as to why people desire this or that policy.  I try to place myself into the shoes of another person.   But this is one issue that continually leaves me baffled.

A more determined effort is afoot among Wisconsin grocers to seek local approval for liquor license extensions so the business can take alcohol purchased online out to customers’ vehicles.

Having lived in Wisconsin my whole life I can clearly state the last thing we need is another reason not to get up and move around.  The excess luggage which many state residents carry around–in part due to alcohol consumption while watching sports–is troubling.   So the trend to allow for liquor to be brought out to cars is a total mystery to me.

It was reported this week that Walmart (the bane of small town commerce) and Pick `n Save first started offering curbside pickup of beer, wine and other alcoholic beverages in the Milwaukee and Fox Valley areas in 2017.   Like other bad ideas, this one has smoldered and caught fire.   Now competitors want to make sure their customers can also get their alcohol faster so to get home and start swilling.

My life is not perfect.  But never once has the wheels of reality come so far off the tracks I felt a need to escape with alcohol.  The culture of drinking is not something I understand.  This past week, when talking about a loss in the family, I was heartened when others mentioned taking a long walk to ponder things and get in touch with their feelings.  What a concept!!  Deal with life like an adult.

Drinking in Russian novels is something most readers of literature have encountered.  Those long Siberian nights……   But Wisconsin residents too lazy and ‘busy’ to park a car, get out and walk into a business to get their purchase?

If this is now termed ‘progress’ for businesses and a ‘modern convenience’ for customers then there is only one thing to say.

Something is wrong in Wisconsin.

Neighborhood Association Board Member Encourages “Bar Crawl”

Two weeks ago James and I spent an evening at Olbrich Botanical Gardens.  The event was GLEAM, an annual exhibit featuring local, national, and international artists creating light-based installations.  Throughout Olbrich’s 16-acre outdoor gardens we were able to amble about in dimly lit pathways, encountering strange and surprising forms that pulsed and shimmered in the night around every corner.

It was really a most extraordinary event.  A great time.  At least for us.

The event the night we attended had a place for a small band and, of course, the ever-present staple for any Wisconsin event, alcohol sales.  We were eager to see the pathways and show in the spacious gardens.  Many, it seemed, were not aware there was even a grand set of exhibits beyond their ice cubes and cocktails.  As the evening continued some of the tanked-up ones were walking the dimly lit paths and proved to be examples of performance art.  It was embarrassing.

Last weekend we drove to the new Farm and Fleet store in Sun Prairie and was really taken aback to see that it has a full stockpile of booze of every kind for sale.  The store–though new–left me cold.  I prefer the one on Stoughton Road in Madison where they are still more interested in selling the old-fashioned candies than a bottle of gin.

Today in my email was a long discourse from a member of the local Marquette Neighborhood Association extolling the virtues of a “bar crawl” through a section of Madison.  He mentioned the places they stopped and on and on.  If one were perhaps 19 the object of such a night would be the hunt for a quickie.  But in his case the object was simply to drink.  That WAS the activity.

He ended his email with these words. “I encourage others who find it appealing to make a Saturday night of this…”

Really?  Is that what a responsible member of a local neighborhood association should be espousing?  How about taking a look at the number of drinking problems in the area before proposing to drain a few more pints!

I am age 56, and my partner is 45–and not one single time in either of our lives has a “bar crawl” ever been considered as a way to spend time.  And we both know what a good time looks like, too.  It is not at the bottom of a beer glass.

We can also say never once has ‘the activity’ for an evening been drinking.

Exactly how bored with life does one need to be, or how depressing must one’s situation need to become, for drinking to be the uplift and reliever for what is wrong?  How much money does the average person spend on alcohol in the average week?  Perhaps spending that money on a psychologist would be the real tonic that is needed.

What passes for ‘the norm’ in society alerts me daily to everything that I have no desire to be a part of.  Give me a good book, cup of coffee, James at my side–some birds and the lake.

Personal Note As The Day Of The Kavanaugh Hearing Comes To A Close

I had my first beer at my first party of that type when I was 19 years old. That is a true statement. My parents were not drinkers and we simply did not have alcohol in the house.

After having watched over 7 hours of the senate hearing today I realized that what passes for the male attitudes and behavior of youth was never something I ever was involved with. Instead, I set my own path.

My friends in broadcasting school were young and sowing seeds like I was but none of us acted with alcohol as Brett Kavanaugh did–and in his case years younger. I am sure each of those people would say they do not feel cheated or denied something because they lived life with boundaries.

Listening tonight to public reaction from the hearings there are the military types and hyper-male types ranting of ‘this is what guys do’ and I say no–that is not correct.

James grew up in rural Maine with a family grounded in traditions and foundations, and I grew up with similar ones in rural Wisconsin.  James certainly did not act like Kavanaugh when young, either.

So what does that make us–and the countless others who share our values?  Dull? Stodgy?  Lacking zest for life?

Hardly.

We are the type of guys where neighbors have told their young kids if anything bad happens they can always run to ‘their home’ for help.

I felt so estranged from much of my country today and this evening as I listen to feedback from the hearing.  I absolutely reject the idea that Kavanaugh tried to paint today that all guys drink to excess, love beer, and have less than enough character to say no to the things in life which will bring one down.

Today was a very long and sad day for the nation. That too few grasp that fact is even more troubling.

Wisconsin Has A Drinking Problem

Here is the not so pretty side of Wisconsin.

James’ relatives are in from Maine and we took them on a Betty Lou Cruise this evening. It was listed as a Cocktail cruise and the drinks were included with the ticket price. We took the trip, as it was the only one tonight that would be a fun outing on the lake.

There were 49 people on board.   There were four of us.  However, the 99% of the others  drank like they were never to see dry land again so should make sure they got their money’s worth with alcohol. In 90 minutes people were drinking 4-5 plastic cups of their choice of mixed drinks. Large platters of sub sandwiches were left over and one has to wonder as they stumbled off the boat which people were the designated drivers.

Our culture has some serious problems. Our guests were from the state where prohibition started…. and landed in a state where no one seems to have limits.

If Drinking Don’t Kill Me The Electorate Will

Republican right-winger Congressman Thomas Garrett, a member of the Freedom Caucus, has made a statement that for some of his religious voters must come as quite a shock.  Garrett announced he is struggling with alcoholism and will abandon his run for a second term in Congress so he can focus on recovery and his family.

Yeah, everyone throws in “family” to make them seem so Mike and Carol Brady–but a drunk is still just a drunk.

Why many are talking about Garrett is that this year was going to be most difficult for him as there was a most robust challenge underway from his Democratic challenger, journalist and author Leslie Cockburn–yeah–her!

So this announcement caps a week of turmoil in Garrett’s Washington office, marked by the resignation of his chief of staff, a news report that he was thinking about dropping his reelection bid, and a news conference Thursday in which Garrett insisted he was running.

Chaos seems to be something the GOP loves—but I suspect voters are seeking credibility more these days and that would have proved hard for Garrett to muster come November.

The 46-year-old Garrett was the subject of a Friday report in POLITICO where we found out that the congressman and his wife, Flanna, had used official staff to run errands and take care of his dog. He denied the allegations but said in a video statement, “I am a good man, but I am an alcoholic.”

You are also out of a job.

Madison’s ALRC Undermines Common Sense–Mayor Soglin Needs To Veto Taco Bell Alcohol License

This week news was happening all over the world that would have been almost impossible to invent had it not occurred.  A coup in Zimbabwe seemed to not have fazed the one being deposed and one of the faces being talked about for a U.S. presidential run in 2020 was caught red-handed in a sleazy sex-groping pose. And in Madison the sappy Alcohol and Review Committee allowed for a Taco Bell on State Street to serve beer and wine!

The vote was 5-2 and proves what many have long stated about the ALRC–they are easily played and duped.  The problem, however. is without spine the ALRC makes more than their share of public messes which impacts the rest of us.

The drinking culture is not my main complaint–though the original application from the corporation desired for hard alcohol to be sold.  At a Taco Bell!  (That does say a lot about the ills of society.)  That request was dropped and in the end the location at 534 State Street will have to make due with what everyone knows is gross ‘food’ and alcohol sales of not more than 5%.  Yeah, the ALRC bought that promise too.  As I said, easily and embarrassingly played.

I must give credit to the two no votes on this matter and call out special attention to Alderman Paul Skidmore.   He noted what everyone should know as well as the fingers on their hands.  The number of beer-soaked and gin-stained drinking establishments on State Street have stretched the resources of this city.   There is a real problem when it comes to curtailing the outcome from drinkers who lift the bottles–the very drinks the ALRC encourages them to buy.

Taxpayers have every reason to question the lack of common sense from the actions of the ALRC.   Skidmore made clear police resources are an issue of more drinking on State Street and also the health impact on those misguided youth who seem to never know when to stop.

As this matter advances and the full council is sure to make a move that falls short of reasonableness, it then falls to Mayor Soglin to veto this idea.  The council always seems to have a beef with Soglin–especially with the likes of Marsha Rummel adding her disheveled thinking to whatever topic is making headlines.  So it is possible his veto will not prevail but at least he will have the platform for a time to allow the voices of so many in this city to be aired and heard.

And if you thought there was not enough space from which to buy your wine please note that this week the ALRC approved licenses for Total Wine, which will occupy about 25,000 square feet at West Towne Mall that formerly held Sears, as well as for Brennan’s Cellars.

Can we just admit many have their priorities really messed up?  And the ALRC plays to that dysfunctional element in society who use alcohol as a crutch?