Local Elections Matter Most

Presidential election campaigns get wall-to-wall media coverage for four years, which holds our attention and leads to high turn-out (though one can argue it’s not high enough). But when local elections are held a few months later, turn-out can languish in the teens or in single digits. I believe this is upside-down.

A national election affects the overall attitude and direction of national policy, but its immediate effect on our day-to-day lives is minuscule relative to the outcome of a local election. For instance, an election for municipal judge is widely ignored. But if we have a dispute with a neighbor or an unjust citation, we stand before the municipal judge.

The city council approves zoning rules that determine what we can do with our own property. They hire police officers with the power to arrest and detain us, as well as the officials responsible for the upkeep of our roads and parks.

The members of the school board determine who will teach our children, what they will be taught, and how well we care for the buildings where our kids spend their days.

Yet with all the direct impact that local officials have on our personal lives, local elections seem to be universally ignored. We ignore these elections at our peril.

Now more than ever, we must pay close attention to local elections. Most candidates are only a phone call away. Talk to them about the issues you care about, then show up to vote on April 4.

All Republicans Are Disqualified

You can learn a lot about someone by looking at the company they keep, so it’s disturbing to see the Republican Party hanging out with the repulsive sewer-rats of humanity.

Ever since their “southern strategy” of the Nixon years, Republicans have appealed to bigots with “dog whistle” terms only racists would understand. When white nationalists flocked to the party like flies to a cow pie, Republicans doubled down. They saw only votes where they should have seen vermin.

Now the vermin have promoted a sleazy bullying con-man to the top of the Republican ticket. Party leaders express outrage when he says (in plain English) what Republicans have said in carefully coded language for generations. But the somber condemnations always end with, “He has my vote.”

I’m sorry, that is unacceptable. Any candidate running as a Republican is disqualified from holding any position of public trust.

By nominating Donald Trump for president, the Republican Party embraced hatred, bigotry and mean-spiritedness. The American people must loudly and unambiguously demonstrate to the world that this is not who we are, and we must do so by rejecting every Republican on every ballot in the nation.

The Republican Party has degenerated into a party of white hoods, brown shirts and dunce caps. Democrats may not be perfect, but their candidates are sincere good-hearted people working to improve everyone’s quality of life thru public service. Democrats are far more worthy of our votes than the creeps and clowns on the other side of the ballot.

Why Bernie’s Idealism Beats Hillary’s Pragmatism

Bernie Sanders has made many bold proposals in this campaign, only to have them dismissed as “impossible” or “unrealistic”. His primary opponent will have us believe that Americans are no longer capable of doing Big Things.

If all of our presidents had thought this way, we would have never defeated the fascists, built the Interstate Highway system, or landed on the Moon. These big and visionary projects would have been incompatible with such “pragmatic” leadership.

In an American football game, the winning team is the one that is always trying to score a touchdown. That doesn’t mean they won’t accept first downs along the way, but they will devote every play to moving the ball down the field until it is in the end zone.

A team run by Bernie Sanders’ detractors would celebrate and go home after one first down, telling us that the goal line is too far away to even try to get there. That is not a winning strategy.

If we strive for idealistic goals, that doesn’t mean we won’t accept incremental steps that get us closer to those goals. It just means that those steps must be followed by more steps until our goals are achieved.

We only get what we want if we ask for it. So during the primary season, it is important to vote for what we want, rather than what we’re willing to settle for. That is why I am supporting Bernie Sanders for President, and I urge each of you to do the same.

Scott Walker Must be Fired for Fraud

One week before he was elected governor, Scott Walker told the editorial board of the Oshkosh Northwestern that he was willing to work with unions and to listen to any ideas they had to save money. In general, Walker presented himself as a reasonable and collegial manager.

After the election, he told a billionaire donor of his plans to bust public employee unions as part of a “divide and conquer” strategy. This governor turned out to be the polar opposite of what he advertised himself to be. We all have friends, neighbors and family members who were directly hurt by Walker’s divisive and mean-spirited agenda.

For those who say that recalls should be reserved for cases of criminal behavior, I answer with one word: Fraud. Just as a worker would be fired for lying on a resume, the people of Wisconsin must fire Scott Walker for the frauds he committed to get elected.

Walker’s rich out-of-state cronies are dumping planeloads of money into our airwaves, mailboxes, and telephones to deliver their next round of lies. Voters must not be fooled by these expensive packages of deception, but I trust we are smart enough to recognize that gold-plated bullslop is still bullslop.

The people of Wisconsin made a major collective mistake in November 2010. Those who regret voting for Walker (or not voting at all) in that election can redeem themselves on June 5 by electing Tom Barrett as governor and Mahlon Mitchell as lieutenant governor.

Scott Walker’s Opposing Positions on Biomass

Scott Walker must think Wisconsinites have short memories.

Walker’s predecessor initiated a project to install a biomass boiler at the state-owned Charter Street power plant in Madison, where an aging coal boiler was due for replacement. Even though a biomass boiler is more expensive initially, it saves a great deal of money in the long run because the supply of biomass is more reliable and less expensive than natural gas, and it would be supplied by Wisconsin farmers and forests.

When Walker became governor, he immediately killed this project, and with it he killed a new green industry in Wisconsin and the jobs that would come with it.

Why am I bringing up a story from nearly a year ago? Because last Friday, Scott Walker was singing the praises of biomass.

Gundersen Lutheran Hospital in La Crosse has a 40-year-old gas boiler that needs replacing, and they just got a $140,000 grant from the Wisconsin Bioenergy Grant Program to install a biomass boiler. For some reason, Scott Walker believed that he was the appropriate person to personally deliver the oversized check.

So the same person who killed the Charter Street upgrade in January is now posing in front of the TV cameras in La Crosse as a champion for biomass. Setting aside the discussion of whether or not biomass power plants are a good thing, one has to wonder how to explain the inconsistencies of Scott Walker’s position.

Move La Crosse Community Theatre to the Hollywood Theatre

This was submitted as a letter to the editor to the La Crosse Tribune in reference to this story.

I wanted to feel excited about the plans for a shiny new theatre building along the river, but the more I thought about it the less sense it made. I’m not completely condemning this idea, I just think there are better ways to spend that amount of money.

If the La Crosse Community Theatre needs more space, and if La Crosse wishes to pay more than lip service to being a “historic” city, then the LCT should consider buying the Hollywood Theatre and adapting it to its needs. For $6.7 million, LCT could probably buy the building, bring it up to code, and divide the space into a main theatre, black box, etc. The end result would be a historic jewel of downtown La Crosse brought back to life, with more seating than in the current proposal, plenty of parking in a nearby ramp, and millions of dollars left over to do other good things that this city badly needs done.

The Hollywood Theatre has been a fixture in La Crosse life for generations. LCT can build on its history and give a new generation of theatre-goers the chance to see a play in the same room where their grandparents first saw a movie together; and it can give actors a chance to perform on the same stage where Arlo Guthrie, Johnny Winter and Leo Kottke once played.

The Hollywood Theatre is a historic jewel that needs to be a performance space again. LCT needs a bigger home. For anybody who can’t connect those dots, I have a bridge to sell.

 

Busting Democracy

For groups of people to elect representatives to advocate their interests is a foundational principal of American democracy.

Imagine a scenario in which a president dictates how tax money is to be spent, and then announces that he is dissolving Congress and stripping citizens of their right to vote. The population would be unified in its outrage, and rightly so.

This is why Scott Walker’s proposal to strip public employees of collective bargaining rights is so disturbing. Unions are nothing more than groups of employees who elect representatives to advocate on their behalf. Republicans in Wisconsin are trying to eliminate democracy in the workplace.

The right wing claims that this must be done to balance the budget. Bovine excrement! For one thing, the governor inherited a surplus, gave money away to his rich corporate buddies, and the”hole” in the budget is exactly the size of those giveaways. In spite of this, the state employee unions are willing to make the economic sacrifices outlined in this proposal in exchange for retention of their collective bargaining rights.

Walker greeted this gesture of compromise and accommodation with the words, “nothing doing.” This proves that the “save the budget” reasoning was a lie. This is all about crushing unions – dictating working conditions and shutting down any possibility of future negotiation.

This is mean-spirited and un-American, and it must not stand. I am ashamed of our governor for proposing this, but I am proud of our fellow citizens who are resisting.

An Open Letter to the Tea Party

As a progressive, I share a lot of fundamental beliefs that you Tea Partiers promote.

You say you want your country back. I’d like my country back, too, and I think we’re talking about the same country. It was the country we knew as kids, where families made a comfortable living on one salary, where there was plenty of honest work for good wages, and where people helped out their neighbors in a time of need.

But now it takes two salaries to support a family (if you’re lucky) while the wealth we produce is hoarded by greedy Wall Street investors who think nothing of dismissing thousands of workers to gain 1% in profit margin.

I’ve been victimized by the same economic injustices that you have, so I can understand the frustrations behind your anger. What I can’t understand is why you are supporting Republicans.

Don’t you know that Republicans are the party of Big Business? They’re sponsored by the same fat cats who trashed our economy, and if elected they will continue to do the bidding of this uber-rich elite. There are no true advocates for working people in the GOP.

Check out the front groups sponsoring your Tea Party rallies. The people paying for those expensive stage sets, tour buses, sound systems and promotion are the same oil billionaires, Wall Street banksters and job exporters who’ve ripped off our country.

If elected, they will resume their orgy of casino capitalism, and they’re tricking you into endorsing it.

What Kind of People Are We?

There’s a popular bumper sticker that says a lot in three words: “Mean People Suck.” Because the world would be such a better place if it weren’t for the small minority of mean people we have to put up with.

Most of us are not mean people. I’ve been lucky enough to have travelled overseas, and there are nice people all over the world, just as there are nice people all over La Crosse and the rest of America. But the actions of our government reflect badly on us as a people.

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Pro-war Party Debates with Insults

During a recent public hearing, a leader of the La Crosse County Republican Party made references to the Green Party that fell somewhere between fighting words and slander.

This is something we can expect to see a lot of during the upcoming debate on the Bring the Troops Home referendum: with no rational arguments to support their case, they will resort to irrational ones. Expect a lot of lies, distortions, distractions, insults and personal attacks.

Read on