Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Paul Soglin: Not a politician

I’ve got one advantage Obama didn’t have. He has a significant group that wants to obstruct everything. I’ve got a legislative body that is very realistic and can balance the competing values in terms of wanting to deliver immediate services along with the need for long-term stability.

Paul Soglin in the Cap Times on the difficulties he’s faced as mayor. 

It’s interesting to see Soglin take such a hard line against Dave Cieslewicz in this interview. I can’t tell if Soglin thinks Cieslewicz screwed up only on Overture and the last budget, or if Madison’s skyrocketing poverty rate is Dave’s doing.  The interview ends with Soglin sighing about Madison’s resources to combat poverty. Fitting, I think. 

One curious aspect of Soglin’s political persona is how he’s more of a self-described public servant than a politician. During the Cieslewicz administration, we’d be having a conversation about ‘political message’ similar to the discussion surrounding President Obama’s handling of the debt ceiling negotiations or health care debate. Did Mayor Dave drop the ball on Overture? What about Edgewater?

But Soglin is a rare elected official who knows his legacy in Madison was sealed the moment he won the District 8 council seat in the 1960s. The comments about Overture, the GOP-esque budget-slashing rhetoric, the anti-Mifflin tirade are all things you would never expect from a polished politician like Dave Cieslewicz.

But Soglin doesn’t really seem to give a shit about what people think of his Overture comments.

It was a very well-thought-out comment. I’m very concerned about Overture. We’ve had four specific financial crises. We’ve had CTM bailed out once and the Rep go under. The performing arts in this community are facing some very serious challenges. The (council and the Overture committee) have gone forward, and what have we got? They were going to save money by privatizing, and they go out and the lowest of five bids is $100,000 a year higher than the city was charging them!

I still don’t know which mayor I prefer. I miss Dave’s earnest coolness, not the kind you’d expect from a corrupt politician but the personality fitting for a mayor of a Midwestern city. But Soglin’s brashness conflicts well with the City Council and livens debate in the city. 

Maybe the different temperaments explain why Soglin could never win a Congressional seat but Cieslewicz stands a great chance of taking Tammy Baldwin’s seat in 2012—if he decides to run, of course. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Stories I read while realizing I didn’t pack shoes for my weekend in Washington

I’m going to spend three days in our nation’s capital and all I have are the dress shoes I wear to work. I even packed socks. Guess this means I need to buy a cheap pair of sandals. 

Today’s pretty slow so far. Where’s the campus blogosphere? Spending all of their time at the Terrace? 

State Journal: Soglin worried too much city funds going to Village on Park mall. Does this mean he’s planning to send some of those funds somewhere else on the South Side to keep his anti-poverty campaign message alive?

Well-written obituary for Maureen Grant, the UW librarian killed in Wednesday’s bus accident. 

Journal Sentinel: Ron Johnson gets snippy about a big payout from his plastics company. 

"I have no idea what could be suspicious or cynical about this," Johnson said before cutting short the interview. "This was fully disclosed in terms of what I reported."

My favorite comment on a State Journal story about the perma-balloon at the Capitol:

I’d like to take my pretty pink Glock and use that balloon for target practice! Seriously, what a stupid story!
Well, with concealed carry heading through, that might be possible. 

Crazy Times story about LulzSec.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Reporter arrests would never happen in Madison…outside the Capitol

Two reporters were arrested at a Washington, D.C. public hearing for recording the proceedings. producer Jim Epstein wrote a disturbing description of the incident on the YouTube page. 

As I tried to leave, I was told by the same blond female officer to “stay put.” I told her I was leaving and attempted to exit the building. I was then surrounded by officers, and told to remain still or I would be arrested.

I didn’t move, but I tried to get the attention of a group of cab drivers who were standing nearby. At this point I was arrested.

I spent the remainder of the day in a cell in the basement of the building. I was released at about 4PM.

In many of these cases, the arrested reporters have been working for mainly ideological outfits. Vermont-based freelancer Sam Mayfield, notable for her arrest at the Capitol this month, should not have been arrested. But she’s been pretty vocal since the arrest and, based on her Twitter feed, she’s pretty unabashedly anti-Walker. Epstein and Pete Tucker, who runs an independent local website and once worked for Pacifica Radio, both work for political or activist publications. 

This, of course, doesn’t legitimize their arrests or the curtailment of free-speech that the arrests represent. But so far these arrests are only used as rallying cries in certain communities. Mayfield’s incident was only more fuel for the anti-Walker fire, while this week’s arrests in Washington bring back memories of a similar event last month at the Jefferson Memorial. In both cases, United States Park Police officers made the arrests.

But until a cop arrests Jessica Arp or Bob Woodward for taking their iPhones out at an open meeting, public attention will never rally behind reporters. It’s a shame since these incidents should spark a serious discussion about free speech and the 1st Amendment’s current state. But frankly, people don’t care. 

Luckily, I’ve never had to worry about anything like this happening at a public meeting in Madison. People on even the smallest committees are encouraging enough to the press (and tolerant of sometimes excruciatingly naïve student reporters) that a similar arrest at a Madison city meeting is unthinkable.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing about a meeting at the Capitol. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Welcome to MadWonk

Hi everybody. Welcome to MadWonk.

For two years I’ve sat on the sidelines of political debate in Madison, forming my own internal opinions but never vocalizing them. I’ve grown skeptical of most politicians, enthusiastic about Wisconsin and critical of the role of mass media in American society.

This fall I’ll be back in Madison for another year at The Badger Herald, but with a new twist. I’m writing opinion.

As Multimedia Editor, I’ll be coordinating our blog content, making changes to our website and social media presence and sitting on the Editorial Board. But I’m most excited about the opportunity to finally maintain a blog. 

I was going to hold off on starting this until the fall, but I’m too anxious to start writing again. Currently I’m sequestered in Philadelphia for an internship, but check here at least a couple of times a week for my take on politics in Madison and beyond the city.

Soon, this blog will be moving over to, and I’ll make you all aware when that happens. But for now, I hope this blog fits into a cozy niche in the Madison and UW blogosphere: critical of our leaders, skeptical of all news and, most importantly, not the thoughts of a campus, city or state politician.

Look for the occasional thought on music, a viral video or a movie, too. 

Ryan Rainey