Walter Mondale Memorial For “My Type Of Democrat”, First Political Rally

There was a memorial service this past weekend that did not receive as much notice, given it was held on a Sunday and a year after the death of the person being honored. The pandemic impacted so many aspects of our lives, including the timing of the service for Walter Mondale.

He died in April 2021.

The New York Times wrote a perfectly toned article about Sunday’s gathering.

There was, indeed, a quintessentially “Minnesota nice” quality to the event. Eulogists spoke of Mr. Mondale’s Norwegian stoicism, Midwestern values and dedication to helping others. The marching band from his cherished University of Minnesota played the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Lillian Hochman, a young Minnesota actress, sang “Tomorrow” from the musical “Annie,” a Mondale favorite.

You can watch the powerful remarks from Jon Meacham and the emotional tribute from President Biden here.

Mondale was my type of Democrat, my type of politician. Correct on the issues with a strong moral character and manners that would be welcome in any home in the nation. He was also the first major politician I had the chance to encounter.

On Labor Day 1984 I was attending the first major political rally of my life.  It was also the first major political rally that I would report on for WDOR news.

I was young, eager, and so excited that I could barely contain myself.  Days before the event I had gone through a background check to gain press credentials which allowed me onto the risers with the national press.  Knowing I was going to stand alongside some of the journalists I had a deep respect for was as electrifying to me as being at a rally with a presidential nominee.

I had traveled from Sturgeon Bay to Lincoln County Fairgrounds in Merrill, Wisconsin in my light blue Chevet and still recall the feeling that life could not be better.  I was doing what I had always really wanted to do, which was get close to politics and report about it.  I knew then not everyone could say they get to live what they dream, and I recall attempts to slow down to better take in every moment, every detail.

Many broadcasters were questioning whether the traditional start of the presidential fall campaign was best done in a place like Merrill.  If memory serves me right Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro started that Labor Day in New York and encountered rainy weather.  That the sky was gray and filled with sprinkles in Merrill was not lost on those who thought it an omen for the election outcome.

When the music ramped up Mondale and Ferraro took the simple outdoor platform and gave punchy dramatic stump speeches

But Mondale saw it far differently.  With rolled-up shirtsleeves, Mondale told the audience it did not matter whether it was rain, hail, sleet, or snow.  The Democrats would make it to the polls on Election Day!

I knew at once that my political infection was for real.  Never before had I felt so alive.  So in the moment.

Here is the final draft of that speech.

Once at the rally site I climbed to stand with the press and was truly pleased to be about three feet from Lynn Sherr and Brit Hume, both from ABC.  I smiled to myself when Sherr asked Hume how to pronounce “La Follette” and I then laughed out loud later that night when she mispronounced it on the national news.   Everyone has on-air slips, and it was comforting to see it play out in front of me.

To be honest being on the risers with the press could have been the culmination of the day and I would have been totally content.

Geraldine Ferraro was loved by that crowd in Merrill.  The applause was enthusiastic, and the warmth for her was genuine.  Later I went down and recorded some interviews with voters and my thrust of the news story was how they viewed the first female nominee.  Ferraro was breaking new ground and they were glad Labor Day in Merrill was where she spent some of her time.

I shall be forever grateful to Mondale for choosing Ferraro as his running mate.

I will never forget that first major rally, the sense of being young and living life. Or the strong convictions of a man who would have been a far superior choice for the nation that year in the election.

Our country lost a great man who epitomized the meaning of public service. Mondale summed it up best with one line. “Politics is not about power. It is about doing good for the people.”

And so it goes.

Seeking Trans American School Of Broadcasting Alumni Through Facebook

Radio has always been a central part of my life.  Growing up without TV meant in our Hancock home we knew the value of radio for both news and entertainment.  In my early adult years, I worked in radio (WDOR AM/FM Sturgeon Bay, WI) as an on-air announcer and also with news reporting.

Before I landed behind a microphone I spent time with some eager and bright men and women who also understood the medium of radio. I have kept in contact with some from my broadcasting school, but yearn to connect with others who have spread out over this nation.  I am hoping to locate other graduates from my broadcasting school–Trans American School of Broadcasting–located at the time in Wausau, Wisconsin.

I am currently preparing to enter into podcasting from my home on the Madison isthmus and continue to be amazed at how the functions of an entire studio board, tape decks, reels, and record players are now all incorporated into the computer program of Audicity.   For me, however, there is a fondness for the static of AM, the warmth of a radio studio on a cold winter day, and the conversation I had with an audience behind the station microphone.


‘March For Our Lives’ Draws National Attention To Gun Violence And The Spineless Politicians Owned By The NRA

The message from millions of Americans who marched coast-to-coast had one message today about the politicians bought by the NRA who fail to pass gun control legislation.

“Vote them out! Vote them out!”

That was the message of those who rallied and chanted throughout the afternoon in city after city.  Those voices were referring to members of Congress who have resisted calls to enact sweeping gun control legislation.

The message was harsh for the Republicans who can not get away from the teat of the NRA.    Over-and-over today demonstrators questioned Republican efforts to address their concerns about gun violence and mass shootings.  The quick headline attempts by the GOP aimed at funding for safety and training programs for teachers was seen for what it is.  Plain and simple such fluff is superficial.  Everyone knows that such tepid efforts are simply to make the GOP look good, but at the end of the day there is no meat to their aims.

What everyone can agree on–and did today nationwide–is that people need to vote out Republicans and cast ballots for candidates who are not paid to lick the boots of the NRA.

In Madison nearly 3,000 gathered and the line that stands out as powerful and perfectly stated came from 15-year-old marcher Gia Hailu. “My peers are dying because of poor gun ownership laws.”

In Green Bay Ellie Roth, an organizer for that march said, “We’re all about common sense gun reform, we want stricter background checks, to raise the age to own a gun, we also want to make sure that people don’t have access to military grade assault weapons.”

The Wausau march was where 15-year-old Emily Sanders joined with others concerned about the gun violence in the nation. She doesn’t remember a time in her life where there weren’t school shootings in the news.  “I remember going to school for the next week and feeling sick to my stomach that the same thing was going to happen at my school.  How did this happen again? We just saw Las Vegas back in the fall and we shouldn’t be seeing it now, applied to a school.”

Wausau City Council Proves Political Process Does Work, Veto Override Requiring Bartenders Be Sober

A friend on Facebook recently wrote that he had stopped following politics.  He had become disillusioned with too much rhetoric, and not enough spine when it came to those who are elected following through on the wishes of the average voter.  Tonight he would have been proud of the result of a vote in Wausau, Wisconsin that proved the political process can work as it was designed, and that the needs of the community can rise above those of the special interests.

The Wausau City Council met Tuesday night and overrode Mayor Tipple’s veto of an ordinance requiring bartenders to be sober while working.  The vote was 9-2.  I cannot express how proud I am of the courage these council members demonstrated by making sure common sense and sound policy succeeded in the face of loud voices from those who are anchored to the Tavern League.

The ordinance that seemed so controversial to some was really quite simple and straightforward.  The measure requires tavern employees to maintain blood-alcohol levels of 0.04 percent.  By so doing it helps ensure that those pouring the drinks will be more conscious of how much alcohol patrons are consuming, and when it might be time to stop pouring yet another glass.    It is hoped that in this small way there can be some trimming of the numbers of drunk drivers both when it comes to our roadways, but also at this time of year on the snowmobile trails as well.

There is another reason I am most pleased about the veto having been overridden.  There was an attempt by Tipple to pretend the process was somehow murky or not open enough when the city committee and council did the work leading up to the 8-2 vote that passed the ordinance.  That was just plain wrong.  In fact that claim was patently false.

The process was open and fair.  All business was conducted with all the notices posted and invites offered for the public to weigh in on the matter.   Therefore it was imperative for the sake of the honor of those who serve on the council, and for the process itself that this override succeed.

Wausau can be proud of itself, and the rest of Wisconsin can be proud of Wausau for a job well done.

Can Wausau City Council Override Mayoral Veto Over Bartender Drinking Ordinance?


Lets hope so.  For two reasons.

First is the issue of the ordinance.  The measure simply requires tavern employees to maintain blood-alcohol levels of 0.04 percent.  The point is that if bartenders are not in control of their own thinking how can they assess the drunkenness of those who enter a tavern and want still more alcohol.  If we are to get serious about the problem of drinking and driving the least we can do is require that bartenders be sober.  One would think this to a no-brainer, but in Wisconsin this type of ordinance has created quite a tussle in Wausau.

The second reason we should hope the city council can override the mayor’s veto of this measure has to do with good government and the process by which the council conducted their business.  Whose fault is it when the Public Health and Safety Committee voted unanimously to recommend the ordinance last month not one single tavern worker was present.

The vote for the ordinance in the full council was 8-2 and conducted with all the notices posted and invites offered for the public to weigh in on the matter.  After the council had voted Mayor Jim Tipple vetoed the measure as he thought bartenders needed another kick at the can as they lost.

If that is the way Tipple thinks politics get played then he needs to be reminded of how democracy operates.  The process was open, fair, and above board.  But Tipple and his buddies in the Tavern League lost and now in light of the veto need to be reminded of that fact.

The city council will attempt a veto override on Tuesday where a two-thirds vote is required to be successful.   Caffeinated Politics and sane folks all over the state are watching and hoping for the override.

Wausau Mayor Jim Tipple Shines Shoes Of Wisconsin Tavern League, Vetoed Sober Server Ordinance Less Than 24 Hours After Council Passage

It was not totally unexpected given the power and reach of the well-funded Wisconsin Tavern League that their members would call and complain over the action this week by the Wausau City Council which passed an ordinance ordering bartenders to be sober when working.  What I did not envision, however, was the limp-wristed reaction to Wausau Mayor Jim Tipple who caved faster than a house of cards in the afternoon wind.

Less than 24 hours after the ordinance was passed by a council vote of 8-2 vote the major had vetoed it.

In typical fashion the mayor weighed in with a political comment that lacked foundation.  Tipple suggested there was not opportunity for enough community dialogue on the matter.  In other words the debate went the wrong way, the council members who listened to the testimony and dealt with the facts and substance of the ordinance were wrong, and Tipple was going to save the day for the Tavern League.

Which is exactly what he did.

The posting of the meetings about this matter were all done in accordance with the law, and the same opportunity was made for all to be at the meetings and make their voices heard.  Whose fault is it when the Public Health and Safety Committee voted unanimously to recommend the ordinance last month and not one single tavern worker was present.  Perhaps folks need to pull themselves off the bar stool and engage with the rest of society.  The process was open and fair and the only thing  Mayor Tipple and the Tavern League can complain about is the end result.

It should be noted that Police Chief Jeff Hardel told the council this week that when officers respond to taverns where there are fights and other such behavior the bartender is intoxicated about half of the time.   For any elected official in Wausau to pretend they have never heard of such problems, as Tipple claims, is ridiculous.   Maybe there needs to be more one-on-one conversations between law enforcement and the mayor’s office so to allow for a better understanding of what the police deal with in the real world.

The end of this story is the same that plays out over and over when it comes to the powerful forces of the Tavern League that makes sure no serious legislation ever emerges and survives, which is exactly what happened with this ordinance over the  no higher than 0.04 percent blood-alcohol content level required for servers.  The Tavern League has always been front and center in stopping needed legislation.

We saw that play out in Wausau where a democratic process allowed for a 8-2 vote in favor of a sober server ordinance only then to be vetoed when some angry bar owners and employees made contact with the city.  If that is all it takes to shake the stride of a politician the voters must seriously ask exactly what their mayor is made of, since it clearly is not one of spine.

Meanwhile the average citizen who wants safer roads with fewer drunk drivers do not have a powerful set of lobbyists and are left to hope that elected officials might do the right thing when it comes to alcohol related policy matters.  In Wausau it seems pretty clear which elected ones work for the people, and those who do not.

Doug Fieger, “My Sharona”, Singer Dies, Memories Of Wausau Come To Mind

The news of the passing of Doug Fieger who sang the classic ‘My Sharona’ brought back a flood of memories this morning.   That may seem odd at first glance.  After all, the 57-year-old lead voice of the rock group The Knack was not a favorite of mine.  I do not own one album of music by The Knack.  And yet his voice, and the song, “My Sharona” will always be a part of my youthful transition to adulthood.

I was at broadcasting school in Wausau in 1981, and truth be told did not have a lot of ‘living’ under my belt up to that point.   Having grown up in rural Wisconsin and sheltered from lots of what others my age took for granted, meant the time in Wausau was a giant step into the world.  But I did not take it alone.  A fellow classmate, George from the city of Fargo, North Dakota (I considered him far more worldly and connected) had  his own car.  We rode around town with the windows down, and needless to say the radio would be on quite loud.  It was then I first heard the beat to a song that was contagious and just fun.  “My Sharona” was infectious and filled with boundless energy.  Hearing the song as we traveled down the highway to a video game arcade or across town to a movie never left me anything but happy to be young and finally doing my ‘own thing’.    I had never just hung out with a friend like that before.  My hometown was filled with memories of childhood, but I was eager to start the next chapter of life.  George was the friend who never knew at the time how much those care-free days and times meant to me. 

Now some 29 years later George remains a wonderful friend and still laughs with me about there being no stop lights in my small hometown of Hancock.   We still smile over the memories of the days when we lived at “Mr. Bobs’, and he introduced me to video games.  Time moves on, but some things remain the same.  When the first beats of “My Sharona” start I always think back to spring days when life was just starting to move in the direction I had so long wanted it to head.

Not every singer or song makes such an impact. 

Thanks, Doug.

And George.