Saturday, February 26, 2011


Dear Governor Walker,

I have written to you before to ask you to rethink your position on collective bargaining for public employees in the State of Wisconsin. Although you didn’t respond personally to my enquiry you have made it very clear in other ways that you just plain aren’t about to rethink anything at all ever so let’s just leave that issue alone. We are going to have to agree to disagree, more’s the pity but there you have it.

I have a different question to put to you today.

You have made it abundantly clear that you are sticking to your guns on the budget repair bill because:
  1. You believe that each and every provision in the bill is necessary for you to balance your budget (as a quick aside here I have noticed that you frequently refer to the budget for the State of Wisconsin as “my “ budget…is that a slip of the tongue or do you, in fact, see it as your own personal budget to manage as you see fit? Just asking…).  Okay, let’s take that as given.
  2. You believe what you are saying. It is not politically motivated. You are not union-busting for the sake of a larger agenda AND you actually believe collective bargaining is a budget issue. You need these things now to repair a shortfall in the 2009-11 budget (coz this isn’t your 2011-13 budget right? There’s more stuff hiding in there.)
  3. You really do respect and appreciate the large workforce you have become CEO over. (I gotta say that one’s a little harder to swallow. You say you respect and appreciate these people but you don’t actually trust them- well, you don’t trust them enough to even answer the phone to them nor do you believe that they might bargain responsibly in regards to the fiscal crisis the state is facing in spite of the fact that they have already agreed to all the pay cuts. Oh well, for purposes of this enquiry we’ll have to accept even that one. Trust and respect and appreciate public employees in your employ whom you refer to as the “haves”. Got it)

What you have not been clear about is why you have chosen to do this in this manner.

Why have you pitted the population of your state against itself?

Why have you called public workers the “haves” and taxpayers the “have-nots”?

Clearly you can’t have been in government this long and actually believe that public employees don’t pay taxes. I mean, come on! You do know that public employees pay taxes right? You did know what you were doing when you said that whole “have and have-not” catch phrase in that debate. You were driving a wedge, even then, back during the campaign, you were driving a wedge and you knew it. You did, didn’t you?

What was your motivation for doing that, saying that, if not to pit neighbor against neighbor; to divide your citizens by making them suspicious and resentful of each other in order to advance your agenda through a divided and defensive population? I’d really like to know. Not the WHY of the agenda (we’ve already agreed that you’ve made that clear) but the WHY of the method…WHY do it this way?

Here’s another WHY.

Why did you exempt Police and Fire and State Patrol from the increases and the sanctions in the Budget Repair Bill on the grounds that they work for the public safety and not include Correctional Officers? That’s a real stumper in my book.

What could possibly have motivated you to exclude and insult an entire group of dedicated public safety officers in this way? Was it in hopes of provoking a blue flu in the prisons so you might make good your threats of bringing the National Guard into the prisons and then bringing in that private security company from Ohio you’ve been talking with? (You do know that Correctional Officers are unarmed within the walls of our prisons where they deal with the same violent criminals that the police apprehend, right?) Why don’t you see them and their very dangerous job(s) as part of our public safety services?

I guess I had heard that you wanted to privatize the Milwaukee County House of Corrections. Maybe that’s the answer. Maybe you hoped the officers would stage a work action and you would just plain have to fire them for it, shucks and darn. After that who could blame you if you brought in a private firm? Can’t keep the National Guard there forever and well, the officers, they would have asked for it right? You had warned about job actions. You’d be backed into a corner. What could you do? Who could blame you? (Oops! another quick aside here. Do you realize that hiring Out of State Private Security Firms sends money OUT OF WISCONSIN? Just checking. Just making sure we’re clear here.)

Why do you keep saying that public employees should have been ready for this because it’s what you’ve been saying right along?

No it isn’t! You hadn’t previously mentioned stripping public employees of bargaining rights. That hasn’t been part of your drum beat or your campaign promises. Public employees heard what you said. They were ready for the cuts and increases. They knew you were coming for them about the money but you never talked about the bargaining.

Why do you want this state in this social crisis? Why do you promote resentment and mistrust?

I don’t get it. I truly do not understand.

Why did you do this in this way unless this mess was EXACTLY what you did want? A state divided upon itself at the mercy of a governor with a nationally promoted agenda and men of money and commerce standing back to take full advantage of a masterful, if ruthless, political conspiracy cloaked in a budget crisis.

But let’s be fair, that’s just my take. You give me yours.

Why did you do it this way?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Winter Exacts a Hefty Fee for Her Beauty- a Veteran’s View

(We just shoveled and plowed and salted our way out from under an epic blizzard and, although I wrote this last year, it came back to mind as I watched the drifts pile up hip-height and the plow struggle mightily to get "unstuck" from our driveway.)

Where I live winter is the greediest of seasons grabbing hold in November she often doesn’t let go her grasp till March is completely played out and an April snow fall is not unusual.

So- here I stand - in nearly two feet of drifting snow. (NEW snow- on top of the several inches of ice covered, rock solid, brittle and broken snow that  remain after a partial thaw and a couple of weeks of single digit temperatures with sub-zero wind chills <BUT, I digress>)
...Where was I?

Oh, nearly two feet of new snow (right! - focus)  in my 50-somethingth winter in the north and I can tell you that the beauty of snow is a fleeting thing and that after 77th or 108th or 254th or (well, you get the idea) time one has to get on the road at 6:00am (before the plows are even up) and drive over snow-covered, icy roads placing your safety and your life at the whim of mother nature and in the hands of other drivers the romance begins to pale a bit as well. The shine comes off that new snow feeling pretty quickly.

Where I live we don’t shut down for snow. We wonder if the plows will be out early or all night but we go to work. Schools may close for a day (if the snow started past midnight and there’s enough of it and the plows and busses couldn’t get on the road) but not for a week, never for a week. It’s just snow! (Random small factoid inserted for your edification: Did you know that car seat manufacturers don’t certify the safety and efficacy of the seat for a child wearing a winter coat? Our kids can either be safe or warm…not both.) Around here even Pizza Hut stays open (talk about essential services, right?)!

The first snow (even the first couple of snows) of any season always casts it’s seductive coat over the landscape and I look out and say…”it IS pretty” and “if I didn’t have to drive in it…”  and “well, we’ll have a white Christmas anyway”.

It is ALWAYS beautiful (while it is falling and immediately thereafter). It is ALWAYS breath-taking to see the world blanketed so thoroughly in crisp, icy white. It is ALWAYS fun to get out in it with a small-person booted and bundled and mittened and make snow angels. A few inches of the stuff (that means 6 or less around here) while temperatures hover in the balmy twenties can even can even be fun to first…when you still have somewhere to go with it and it’s only the first, or the second, or the third time that year that you have shoveled.  (With this last storm the drifting was so deep in front of our house that the front doors were hard to open and we now have 5 and 6 foot piles at the end of the driveway and along side the garage courtesy of the neighbor’s Bob-cat <yes, it took small construction equipment to dig out this time>).

There is another always to add this list of beautiful always(s). It is ALWAYS going to thaw and freeze and get dirty and get snowed over again and make parking lots un-navigable and country lanes narrow and intersections hazardous and it’s gonna be cold, cold, cold.

Then there it is going to thaw for real. Not the fake thaws that fool you into thinking it might be over and maybe that was the last of it. No-o-o-o, not those thaws. This is THE SPRING THAW (the one after that freak storm in late March or even April) that brings with it the black, gravel infused piles of compressed snow that seem like they are never going to melt. Oh, and the flooding, that’s always fun as well. Let’s not forget the beauty of the debris that got frozen into the strata of each snow storm and now melts down along roadways and walkways and in your yard (not just modern waste and litter either- in really snowy years <when the accumulation of the white stuff out-paced me and the scooper>I could watch the dog poop break the surface as the sun shone it's melty-face on the dirty white expanse and remark to myself “Oh, looks like she DID eat that tinsel back in December, huh!”). Additionally, at least where I live, we use gravel and salt together in the interest of both ecology and economy (a good idea on both counts) that results in an ever increasing (again due to the timeline of individual storms preserved in the melting strata) coating of gravel on almost all roadways and verges and carried down the driveway on car tires and in the garage and brought into the house on shoes and boots and paws. Finally there is the certain, sure feeling that it will never, ever be warm or green or clean or ice free again.

And then it is.

Almost overnight it seems that spring finally, gloriously arrives and winter (unbelievably) begins to fade and I remember why anyone would live here (coz you see, by this time I’m pretty much greeting every day with the thought “Why do I live here again? <Aside from the whole family and friends part>?).

I live here for the other seasons: the glorious Springs, the hot-hot-hot Summers, the spectacular Falls and (a little-tiny bit) for the snowy, brutal winters. I just wish winter didn’t take up so much of our year and I wish it only snowed on the grass and REALLY, does it need to get below zero?? Really?? Is that necessary?

So, I do make lemonade but I heat it up and add honey and make it into a toddy.  

***Oh, by the way, we’re expecting six to nine more inches tonight and on into the Monday morning commute. Fun, huh?