Skip to content

Madison Political Bloggers From Both Ends Of Divide Celebrate Birthdays

July 14, 2021

Today marks the next chapter of life for two of Madison’s bloggers.

From the conservative end of the political spectrum David Blaska turns another year older, and from the liberal side I turn 59.

Dave and I may not share the same understanding about the way to confront the political issues of the day but we do agree on important matters such as our enjoyment and respect of history and debating with others about politics.

There is also one other area where we meet in agreement.

While politics has always been frothy and energized it does not require those we disagree with to be our enemies.   There should be—must be—civility and friendship among those who view the political world differently.   I consider Blaska a gentleman and wish him a most Happy Birthday.

Getting Up And Out For Voting Rights!

July 13, 2021

All at once, the entire Texas Statehouse Democratic Caucus is the focal point for protecting election rights in the nation. I must say, the spirit and spine they show remind all of us what we need to do in upping our game in the fight to save our democracy.

In the midst of an onslaught of legislative moves by Republicans from coast-to-coast to restrict voting following the 2020 historic voter turnout and the unprecedented use of vote-by-mail, it goes without saying it is essential strong-willed Democrats and independents wage a battle to stop the undermining of the right to cast a ballot.

Some of my Republican readers would argue that the bills under consideration, or the ones already passed, only strengthens ballot integrity and free and fair elections. The rest of us would contend that no matter what coat of paint is applied to the bills they are still voter repression efforts.

One part of the Texas proposal under consideration, that is not in any way defendable, is the removal of drive-through voting. As an example, Harris County first tested drive-thru voting in a summer 2020 primary runoff election with little controversy, but its use of 10 drive-thru polling places for the November general election created Republican outrage. Voters remained in their cars and showed a photo ID and verified their registration before casting ballots on portable voting machines. There was nothing different about the voting other than they might have been listening to the radio as they made their balloting choices.

As a person on the national news last night quipped, ‘We allow drive-through pick up for alcohol sales, but not for voting!”

Another regressive move by Republicans would prohibit local election officials from sending unsolicited applications to request a mail-in ballot. Harris County’s attempt to proactively send applications to all 2.4 million registered voters last year was blocked by the Texas Supreme Court. Under the bill mailing unrequested applications to voters in the future would also be blocked. After all, why encourage voters to exercise their rights!

As of June 21, 17 states enacted 28 new laws that restrict access to the vote. With some state legislatures still in session, more laws will certainly follow. But if the Democrats in the Texas Legislature have anything to say about it their state will not be adding constrictive laws to the statutes.

I honestly can say the willpower and steadfastness of the Texas Democrats are inspiring. For the second time this year, they have staged a walkout in an effort to block Republicans from passing new voting restrictions. You might recall they walked out of the Capitol building in May.

Now they have left the state!

That bold move reminded me of the days in February 2011 when religious leaders in Illinois and Wisconsin offered their congregations and homes as a sanctuary for Wisconsin Democratic senators who walked out of the legislature to block a vote on then-Governor Scott Walker’s proposal to roll back collective bargaining rights for public employees.

The goal of the Texas Democrats is, of course, to deny the legislative special session the quorum of members it needs to pass massive changes based on lies about the 2020 presidential election. Texas Republicans are pandering to the base that supports Donald Trump, but in so doing are eroding at the foundations of the republic.

Those Democrats who have left the state will continue to work. At least 50 of the 67 Democratic lawmakers flew to Washington, where they will meet with other legislators to push for federal voting protections. It is my hope that the gutsy move they are making will, in contrast, showcase the lack of resolve and backbone among several Democratic senators who have not been agile enough in protecting our democratic (small d) values.

Republicans can’t win elections unless they cheat by suppressing votes. (Or rig district boundaries with gerrymandering.) Democrats in Texas are calling the GOP out with a national headline-making move.

We need to now press our calls and emails to members of Congress to be as mindful of the right to ballot access as the Texas Democrats are doing.

And so it goes.

Abe Lincoln Recalled As Lack Of Herd Immunity Lessons Travels

July 12, 2021
Abe Lincoln and Gregory Humphrey, one of his fond admirers. 2017 Gettysburg.

David McCullough writes a line in his book, The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For that stands out as pure truth. “History is both now and then, today and yesterday.”

Several years ago McCullough appeared on the Charlie Rose show and spoke in his usually eloquent way about why people need to see this country’s national parks and historic sites. He spoke about the need to show young people the wonders of the past. Connecting with the touchstones of the past is exactly the very thing McCullough urged.

It has not been possible, given the pandemic, for any type of vacation which allows for historic sites to be seen up close. With too many places around the nation not understanding the medical and economic reasons to be vaccinated means we stay home and keep the money in the bank. With the logic of herd immunity not understood by too many means the bottom line for all sorts of tourist-related businesses will suffer as many folks around the nation feel as we do about personal safety.

But that does not mean fond recollections are not able to be tapped into and relived.

In 2017, for ten days, James and I made our way to the famed sites in Washington D.C. where monuments and buildings have awed millions. This morning as I poured coffee into my Gettysburg cup–a site we traveled to that year–I thought of the night we walked to the Lincoln Memorial.

To see the Lincoln Memorial in daylight is one thing, as I did on my first trip to D.C. in 1987, but to stand in the lighted wonder at night and ponder the man is quite another.  During that trip I found myself talking to many people day after day, and asking them their impressions. I sought out ones who I thought might lend the best insights.

As such I asked a black woman who was age 88 what she was feeling about the Lincoln Memorial as we both stood in the lights that summer night with humidity clinging all about. It was her first time to see it and being from Jamaica she spoke as one who knew of the power Lincoln’s words gave to those outside this nation. “It is very powerful for everyone,” she said with soft words and dark knowing eyes.

On the backside of the memorial looking out across the Potomac  I spoke to a father and then told his young teenage children about the battle of First Bull Run and how many townspeople took carriages and boxed lunches to watch the battle as many felt the war would be a short-term operation.  Hours later the beaten and badly wounded soldiers would be limping or being carried back over the river into Washington.  Some without shoes, others without guns, others without an eye or limb.   It was interesting to see the young look out and hear of the events and perhaps in their mind see history play out.   (As McCullough hoped would happen.)

I know at some point, not this year I fear, we will turn the corner on COVID, and find the ability to travel again and seek out the sites and memories from the pages of history. We will follow through, again, on the sage advice from McCullough.

Until then, we open the pages of our own personal histories and relive days of travel and discovery.

And so it goes.

Colorful Louisiana Politician Dead, Edwin Edwards Was 93

July 12, 2021

While there are plenty of politicians in the nation, few can be called perfect copy for a political reporter. Former Governor Edwin W. Edwards was such an office seeker and holder. Saint and sinner. Lawmaker and lawbreaker. As I said, perfect copy.

Consider the fact he was a Pentecostal preacher, a councilman in the Louisiana town of Crowley, a state legislator, a congressman, an associate justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court, chief librarian at the Oakdale Federal Correctional Institute (where he was also an inmate (!) and even a reality-TV star. Today he died at the age of 93.

Edwin Edwards With Johnny Cash and Charlie Pride

Edwards embodied Louisiana’s populist era in the late 20th century — championing the poor and ushering Black people and women into state government but also facing repeated accusations of corruption before finally being sent to prison for taking bribes.

He died this morning just before 7 a.m. at his home in Gonzales.

A Democrat, Edwards dominated the state’s politics for 25 years and even enjoyed a brief and spectacular turn in the national spotlight during the 1991 governor’s race when he faced off against former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke.

With his bayou charm, razor-sharp mind and quick wit, Edwards personified the state’s ‘Let the Good Times Roll’ motto, proudly proclaimed himself as the first Cajun governor in the 20th century.

His political biography does read in such a way that, doubtless, a steamy and epic-sized book will need to be written about the man. After all, he served three full terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, four terms as governor, and, starting in 2000, eight years in federal prison for racketeering, extortion, and related crimes. He staged an unsuccessful political comeback in 2014, running once again for a House seat.

Louisiana has often been the staging ground for colorful personalities. Edwards filled that bill many times.

Presidents Who Make For Grand Stories

July 12, 2021

Simply one of the best columns to be found in today’s newspapers. History placed in this context always works as a column maker. Here is a snippet.

Bret Stephens: Gail, your last column reminded me that we share a peculiar obsession with obscure presidents: Franklin Pierce, Benjamin Harrison, his grandfather William Henry. I was a little disappointed that you had nothing to say about Chester Arthur. Was he too obscure to make the obscure list?

Gail Collins: Bret, this is why I love conversing with you. Breakfast followed by Chester Arthur.

Bret: Our readers can barely contain their excitement.

Gail: So here’s Chester’s story. There’s a Republican National Convention in 1880. Very bitter, 36 ballots. Roscoe Conkling, the New York party boss, wants to bring back Ulysses Grant for a third term but finally James Garfield gets the nod. To make peace, the Garfield folks offered the vice presidency to Levi Morton, an accomplished businessman.

Bret: Conkling sounds like a name that belongs in a dirty limerick.

Gail: But — stay with me, I’m almost done — Boss Conkling is still sulking over Grant and tells Morton to turn it down. Then the Garfield people — still looking for a New Yorker — turn to Arthur, who almost faints with joy.

The Garfield-Arthur ticket is elected, Garfield is assassinated and Arthur, who everybody thought of as a party hack, turned out to be a better president than expected.

Now tell me, whence comes the Chester Arthur interest? Was he a long-ago term paper topic?

Bret: My father turned me on to the joys of the historical footnote, literal and figurative. The biggest thing Arthur did as president was sign the Pendleton Act, which was the first step in professionalizing the Civil Service and eliminating the spoils system. Approximately 138 years later, Donald Trump tried partially to reverse the Pendleton Act through an executive order, which is only the 138th worst thing he did as president. But fortunately Joe Biden reversed Trump’s reversal, so the Arthur legacy lives on.

WI Supreme Court Rules On DNR Authority, From Hancock To Kewaunee County

July 11, 2021

I still recall the woman, in the 1990s, holding the jar of cloudy and unappealing looking water taken from her kitchen tap in Kewaunee County prior to driving to the Madison office of her state assemblyman. What she made clear in the office of Representative Lary Swoboda was the harmful impact the water might have on her children. Her desire for an answer to clean water came to mind, again, as the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled this past week about the power a state agency does have to impact state regulations.

In what can only be called a truly tremendous victory for science, the environment, and the authority of experts in state agencies to craft rules that work for all residents, the Court strongly affirmed the Department of Natural Resources has the authority to place permit restrictions on large livestock farms and high-capacity wells in order to protect the state’s water.

The plight of homeowners in Kewaunee County has long made for state headlines. Over the years county residents banded together and asked the DNR to review its approval of a large farming operation’s permit because it did not require groundwater monitoring or set limits on the number of animals. It was reported that about half the private wells in the town where the farm is located are contaminated.

The Court decision, written by Justice Jill Karofsky, for the majority found the DNR “had the explicit authority” to impose both permit conditions in order to “assure compliance” with limitations on discharged waste and groundwater protection standards.

Such concerns and complaints about groundwater were not new to me when working in Swoboda’s office. I was born in the Central Sands area of the state. The clean water of Waushara County was eyed by bottled water giant Perrier for a high-capacity pumping station on state land surrounding Mecan Springs. I add, to underscore the dread among locals about the proposal, that location was one of Wisconsin’s most renowned trout streams.

A decade ago there was much concern regarding manure runoff from a proposed nearly 5,000 cow farm that would have resided close to Coloma in the western part of the county. In addition to runoff issues, it was the estimate from the corporation that water usage at the facility was estimated to be about 52.5 million gallons per year that brought a united front of opposition.

The desire for stronger state regulations concerning Richfield Dairy brought many locals to meetings and in heated conversations with state lawmakers. It was, then, in that light a broader court contest emerged regarding the DNR’s approval of eight high-capacity well applications made by farmers in the Central Sands region between 2014 and 2015.

This past week Justice Rebecca Dallet wrote in the court’s majority opinion that the state Legislature “has granted the DNR the broad but explicit authority to consider the environmental effects of a proposed high capacity well.”

Pine Lake in Hancock, in Waushara County, 2016. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel files.

I fondly recall biking to this lake as a teenager, and though not knowing how to swim, loving to wade about and cool off. As an adult, it became clear that the groundwater concerns from locals were not just irrational fears, as the picture demonstrates. Over the years I heard first-hand the accounts of new homeowners needing to go deeper when digging a well. My dad’s second well, located near our garden plot, went dry when I was a young adult.

While the past two years have allowed for Hancock lakes to be very full, that does not diminish the data about the groundwater and the impact of high capacity wells in the area. The need to better regulate the permits is a necessity, given that such wells can withdraw more than 100,000 gallons of water a day from the ground.

Dad and Lary have both passed away, but I just know how pleased they would be with the Court’s rulings. Dad served 40 years as a Hancock Town Supervisor, trying to press in his low-key style the need to be mindful of natural resources. Lary, who served for 24 years in the Assembly, had wished for a more forceful ability to constrain farm runoffs into local streams.

The Supreme Court has now made it clear that Wisconsin’s waterways belong to the state’s residents.  

And so it goes.

Traitors Do Not Get Praise, Robert E. Lee Statue Had To Come Down

July 10, 2021

Today, the only option that was acceptable was applied to a Confederate statue.

The Confederate statue of General Robert E. Lee was hoisted away from its place of prominence in Charlottesville on Saturday. While its placement for a very long time was one of deepest disappointment, the passionate call for its removal grew louder in the last few years following the 2017 white supremacist rally held in Charlottesville.

The statuary of those who worked to destroy our government, split the Union, and undermine our Constitution should never have been lionized. To have allowed their images to remain standing only served to further the Lost Cause charade that was meant to blunt the racist and hateful underpinning not only of the Civil War, but also the Jim Crow South.

It needs to be noted that many of these statues were placed not in the 1860s, but rather in the first years of the 1900s. The message they were intended to give was not lost on Blacks at the time.

Nor on those today who look back and grasp the meaning of that racial behavior.

The only way to view Confederates is the same way we look at any treasonous group. Call me old-fashioned but treason bothers me deeply.  The statues can stand in museums and be placed in historical context. But they must not be allowed to be placed in any public square.

To think that Robert Lee should sit, for instance, on any courthouse square when blacks of his time had no role whatsoever in any sense of the justice system, makes as much sense as placing a bust of Hitler into libraries in the international studies department. For him to been placed in a location of honor in Charlottesville was a slap to decency nationwide.

The Civil War is unique in that the winning side did not punish the losing one. Though there was a discussion of charging Confederate leaders with treason, in the end, the Union decided that it was better to be lenient and focus on reuniting the country. It was an error in judgment that impacts us yet today.

An unexpected consequence of this can be demonstrated with the Confederate leadership living to write their own ‘glorious’ stories in an effort to rewrite history.  It should surprise no one that they attempted to make themselves seem as noble. The Lost Cause is a distortion that is so laughable, if it were not so painfully absurd. And dangerous.

But Lee and all those who worked to undermine the union were not noble.  They were traitors to the United States. The leaders and fighters in that effort to destroy the Union must not be regarded with an appraisal other than treasonous.  Their statues must be hauled down and carted away.

Today on Facebook when I posted the news from Charlottesville a friend commented with a tone-perfect summation to this matter. He stated statues such as the one removed today should be placed in an area with proper context. Then added the following.

Next to others who scored major military victories when taking up arms against the United States. Maybe the generals who attacked Pearl Harbor and the bin Laden who planned the September 11th attacks. Also large plaques with the original language from the Confederacy’s founding document, explicitly spelling out that the Confederacy fought first and foremost to preserve slavery. Draw direct lines from the states’ rights to enslave Black Americans to states’ rights to reject Brown v Board & Civil Rights Acts and Voting Rights Acts. Not a big leap to today’s disenfranchisement efforts. If Robert E Lee & company always stands next to fellow enemies of America, then the statues can stand. Maybe throw in a Derek Chauvin for good measure.

And so it goes.

Anti-Gay Policy By Autocrat Causes International Outrage

July 8, 2021

Whenever Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Mihály Orbán is mentioned on this blog it is in a negative way. The reason being there is no positive manner in which to write about an autocrat.

With his blessing and strong support, Hungary passed a bill that banned the distribution of material in schools deemed to promote homosexuality or gender change. Orbán has long played this type of card as an advocate of traditional Catholic values. Anything that smacks of liberal democracy gets tarred by him as a dangerous undermining of values. One could only wish he would be so concerned with the free press, independent judiciary, and process of open government.

He claimed that the law was aimed at giving parents the exclusive right to decide about their children’s sexual education. And we all know the success that parents worldwide have with sex education within their homes! One of the running themes on this blog has been the need to allow young people to recognize that their sexuality is fine to embrace, and with adults taking that perspective, youth suicide among that demographic can be reduced.

This law has created a major issue among the European Union leaders. Rightfully, they are defending gay rights and piling pressure upon Budapest to step back. Part of their anger comes from Orbán equating homosexuality and sex changes to being akin to pornography. The absurdity speaks for itself.

This is not even close to the first time that Orbán has spit on democratic values. But the level of blowback is increasing concerning his homophobic moves.

Members of the European Parliament are calling for this law, which is to go into effect this week, to be withdrawn and for EU leaders to sanction Budapest.

Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld told the European Parliament: “we can already congratulate Mr Orbán for winning the European championship for the most homophobic law on the continent.”

Flexing political will from the EU is making headlines.

The European parliament has denounced a Hungarian law that bans gay people from appearing in educational materials or on primetime TV as “a clear breach” of its principles of equality.

In a resolution voted in Strasbourg on Thursday by a resounding majority, MEPs condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the Hungarian law as “a clear breach of the EU’s values, principles and law”, while urging the European Commission to launch a fast-track legal case against Viktor Orbán’s government.

Gay people worldwide, and their advocates, need to be engaged in this fight as many of us know full-well the attitudes and dangers felt and experienced in our lives. Progress for rights and changed laws has been a slow and all-uphill trek. While much of the world have enlightened views, or making strides in that direction, we must not forget those who still reside in backward and hostile places.

Such as in Orbán’s Hungary.

And so it goes.

Action Alert: Moral Imperative To Help Afghans Who Helped U.S. Military

July 7, 2021

I implore my readers to call your member of Congress to help expedite visas for those who aided us in the Afghan war before they or their families are murdered by the Taliban. We must keep our word. (202) 224-3121 is the Capitol switchboard, an operator will connect you to your representative’s offices.

There is no wiggle room on this issue. No two ways to look at the matter. Rather, there is the right way, the moral path, the only one our nation can undertake. And we must take that path. Now.

As the Taliban take their final military steps to control the whole of Afghanistan there are now thousands of people, who were mighty helpful to the American efforts, who now face certain death. The retribution from the Taliban is not a question of if, but only when.

That is why the House, in late June, voted overwhelmingly (366 to 46) to speed up the process that would allow these brave people to immigrate to the United States. There are over 18,000 Afghans who worked for the United States as interpreters, drivers, engineers, security guards, and embassy clerks.

Over the past months as we faced a pandemic we have heard of essential workers in this nation. Well, my readers, these men and women in Afghanistan were ALSO essential workers.

But they are now stuck in a bureaucratic mess that should not be allowed to continue. They did the proper paperwork and applied for the Special Immigrant Visas. Such visas are for people who face threats because of work they have completed for our government.

With each day that passes without a resolution of this matter, the lives of these people become more dire. So to put it into more stark, but accurate terms, every minute counts. And you can help make for a positive outcome.

While I am very aware that we can recount the ways and means of how American foreign policy over the decades has betrayed those who have supported this nation, this is not the time for such academic posturing. The barn is on fire, and the need to extinguish the flames is paramount. The back-biting and sniping can wait until the smoke at least clears.

Therefore, I implore my readers to call your member of Congress to help expedite visas for those who aided us in the Afghan war before they or their families are murdered by the Taliban. We must keep our word. 202) 224-3121 is the Capitol switchboard, an operator will connect you to your representative’s offices.

Pandemic Not Over, Vaccines And Common Sense Required (By Republicans Too)

July 6, 2021

As I post today news stories abound about the slow pace of vaccinations in our nation while at the same time there are increased cases of COVID, mainly resulting from a truly concerning and fast-spreading variant. While baseball games, fairs, and cookouts are bringing people ample reasons to smile there are some harsh facts awaiting the nation if medical advice and common sense are tossed aside in the coming weeks.

The reason for the dismay, as too many Americans continue to express ‘vaccine hesitancy’, is that the virus causing the pandemic has the capability of mutating. In the first months of the worldwide health crisis, the changes were small, but as researchers have discovered in the last months of 2020, instead of one of two mutations, there were 10 or 20. With the ability to spread faster and gain steam with perhaps not kneeling to the antibodies there is real concern among medical professionals and scientists.

Today the Delta variant is front and center as to why there must be a higher degree of awareness and compliance with measures to combat its spread. The reasons are quite obvious from following the news stories in the papers. First, tests confirm that Delta replicates more easily than earlier variants. That strongly suggests, as professionals have alerted us, that a smaller initial dose is needed for an infection to take hold. It also means that the amount of virus lurking in people’s airways is probably higher.

The way such data is determined is with swabs taken from people which shows the amount of virus is higher than for other variants. That then leads to the awareness that those infected people are exhaling more virus than those infected by an older variant. This is then the reason that social interactions between an infected and uninfected person poses a greater risk of transmission.

The cavalier attitude of too many in the nation about the virus and the lack of understanding as to why getting the vaccine shots are essential to our national well-being–both physically and economically–is dispiriting. There is a deep split in the nation between those who are vaccinated and those who are unvaccinated.

I was waiting for an oil change recently at MINI of Madison. While reading a book in the waiting area I sensed someone, who was also waiting upon the maintenance department, was staring at me. I looked up and glanced a couple of times. I finally asked, “Do we know each other?”

“No. I was just wondering why you are wearing a mask.”

Spotting a chucklehead is so much easier when they open their mouth.

I explained that while my husband and I were both vaccinated (fully so on June 5th) we continued to wear a mask in business settings and places where larger groups of people gathered. I expressed my concern about the variants, and the need to also help protect others I might encounter who are not vaccinated. While I was very certain I was not infected I did not want to be asymptomatic and spread it to someone not vaccinated.

I never got to the point of asking him when he was vaccinated as he asked, “You think the government should be able to tell a person to take a shot?”

And there he was in a self-defining light.

I responded by using facts, logic, and reason as to why one should get the vaccine shots. I was never snarky with the man to his face, as I try to use such encounters to get at least a few facts across, as we can pretty much determine where such people get their ‘news’ the rest of the time.

I soon returned to my book. But the national story was right there in front of me. The glaring division between Democrats and Republicans. How medicine and logic make for a stark and might I say–ugly–dividing line in the nation is a question that simply baffles me.

What I tried to impart to the man in our conversation is that being a responsible person and getting the vaccine slows the spread of the virus. It will not stop it. The current vaccines do not stop all infections by any version of the virus. Nor do they stop infected people from passing the virus on, though they do make it significantly more difficult.

The data continues to be amassed about this virus, and it is highly troubling. Southern states, which are heavily Republican have the sad distinction of being among the lowest vaccinated in the US. Last night on the news it was reported that Arkansas, Missouri, and Texas have reported some of the highest increases in cases in the past several weeks. And let us not forget that Covid-19 deaths in the US are still about 200 per day.

We are a rich country with the means to distribute the vaccines and get the shot into the arms of residents in even the most remote sections. What we lack, however, is common sense in a sizable segment of the nation who truly never question themselves about coming to terms with things of which they do not know.

And so the virus is spreading in certain parts of the country where they live.

And so it goes.

Madison Needs To Reclaim Reindahl Park

July 5, 2021

When it comes to governing there needs to be a balance between the heart and the mind. While it is essential that there be a strong commitment to decency and compassion in public policy it must not come at the total expense of common sense. Yet, as of late, the City of Madison has erred to the point of absurdity when dealing with the homeless campers at Reindahl Park on the far Eastside.

If one has not driven by and considered the issues first hand, I would encourage my readers to do so. The 91-acre park, at 1818 Portage Road has become the site of an out-of-control situation. The clutter is astonishing. The drug activity is reported to be high in the park. The safety factor for locals who might want to use the park–as a park–speaks for itself.

It has been most disconcerting over the weeks to watch this behavior play out as the campers have expanded in numbers and their area of ‘homesteading’ within the park. The number of homeless campers at Reindahl has grown to more than 40 people, including several essentially living out of their vehicles. But equally unsettling is the lack of ability from our city officials and staff to adhere to the existing laws and procedures for the safety and maintenance of our city parks.

While I understand that during the 2020 pandemic year there were issues that played out and parks, at times, were used in a fashion not aligned with the norm. But no one can point to the same issues now allowing for the misuse of Reindahl Park.

We should all be concerned with homelessness, and the core reasons for many of them to be caught up in a distressing economic situation. Drug and alcohol abuse, along with mental health issues are serious matters that require both a public policy solution, but also a willingness and desire on the part of the homeless person to find a resolution.

But having said that does not then allow for anyone who is homeless to take over a city park. The consequences are not what the residents who live in the area should have to encounter. Madison Alderperson Gary Halverson, 17th District, who represents the site made that most clear.

“Parents will not allow their children to go to the park as it is not a safe and welcoming place,” he said. “I have many reports of harassment and erratic behavior directed toward women and families trying to use the park. The Reindahl Community Garden is the second largest in the city and is heavily used by economically challenged families who supplement their food needs with their garden plots. The gardeners have experienced intimidation as well as inappropriate behavior.”

No one is being harsh or out-of-bounds by asking that the city simply follow existing laws and keep the parks aligned with the needs of the ones who pay the taxes. The same folks are also willing to pay the taxes to make for shelters and programming to assist those who are homeless.

And so it goes.

Dad, Taxi Drivers, And The Fourth of July

July 3, 2021

At this time I wish to recall a most uplifting series of conversations with taxi drivers while spending a 10-day vacation in Washington DC. Throughout my life, I saw dad (Royce Humphrey) always strike up a conversation with those he met whether it was at a mall, restaurant, or service station. Like him, I too have much the same attitude when it comes to talking with others as it provides insight into the world around me and seems like a polite way to proceed through life.

So, while in our nation’s Capital I did my own small survey of the roughly dozen taxicab drivers who took us to places around the city.  I always started by asking how their day or night was going and then proceeded to ask how long they had been living in the D.C. area.  From there I asked where they grew up.

I was heartened that each of the men driving cabs was chatty and open about their life and experiences in this nation.   From Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Morocco, Sudan, and Sierra Leone each had strong feelings and all, but one, had language skills that made it easy to convey them.  The vast majority were of the Islamic faith and, were as proud to talk about it as anyone would be about their religion.  One soft-spoken man from Ethiopia seemed so humble and sincere about his life and outlook that upon leaving the cab I turned and offered the Islamic greeting of “peace be upon you”.

All the men had come to this country to make a better way in life.  Most had been here for about 15 years, a couple arrived only about 7 years ago.  Some had traveled with family and others came alone.  A man who came from India to get an education started his own restaurant.  An Ethiopian driver was surprised we knew of some foods from his native land such as Injera and Doro Wat.   We told him that in Madison we live close to a restaurant that makes these foods.  He smiled and told us that in his land Dor Wat is reserved for special days as it takes lots of ingredients and time to make.

Each of the drivers had made a bold choice of leaving the place of their birth to seek a better life.  It required in each case learning a new language, culture, currency, and adapting to the weather.  It meant at times, as with the driver from India, leaving every member of his family behind and seeking something different.  It is a phenomenal undertaking to make such a journey.

And they work hard.  They are not slackers.  Most lived in Maryland where rental properties were more affordable.   One driver spoke of the rent increases over the past decade where his two-bedroom apartment now costs over $2,000 per month.   Other drivers told of their small children.  In one case a driver wanted his son to learn his native language at home while also speaking English at school.   My husband, James, as a professor of languages, heartily agreed and offered some tips on how to make that process work.

I saw America at its best during the rides past the city sites I so love while conversing with truly inspiring and uplifting reasons why this nation is special.

As dad well knew a person can learn a lot when you take the time to talk to others.

%d bloggers like this: