Archive for Commentary

Wis. State Journal hates partisan redistricting, except when they forget.

For the last several years, the Wisconsin State Journal editorial board has made reforming redistricting a prominent part of their editorial agenda. Anytime the State Journal can find a GOP legislative candidate who claims to support non-partisan, independent redistricting, they promptly endorse them knowing full well they’ll never have the control or influence to bring any redistricting reform proposals to the floor of the legislature; the entrenched GOP leadership will always be the backstop to prevent any consideration of redistricting reform.

The State Journal apparently doesn’t mind though if the corrupt redistricting process helps elected another Republican member as it was designed to do.  They are content that the GOP redistricting can keep a district in Republican hands.

The latest State Journal endorsement in a special election for the 42nd Assembly District highlights their view on redistricting. “The oddly drawn district — which was gerrymandered by top Republicans to protect [former Rep. Keith] Ripp in what had previously been one of the most competitive seats in the state — now favors Republicans.

The State Journal endorses Republican Jon Plumber citing his support for redistricting reform, “Given that the 42nd District is shaped to favor Republicans, it’s encouraging to hear Plumer’s unequivocal support for a nonpartisan process of drawing legislative district lines following the 2020 census.”  Again, never mind that he’s safe to have these views as Speaker Robin Vos will never let Plumber be in a position to have an impactful vote on the issue.

Conversely, the only apparent reason the Democrat shouldn’t be elected is that she is too liberal for the district.  That’s right, she shouldn’t be elected because she lives in a district that Republicans gerrymanders to prevent a Democrat from winning.  That has been the precise complaint of the State Journal about   redistricting, that competitive districts have been re-drawn to allow only Republicans a chance to win.  The State Journal writes about the Democratic candidate:  “Groves Lloyd, who retired last week as a UW-Madison academic adviser, is polished and smart. She shares Plumer’s priorities of fixing roads and adopting fair maps. But her politics lean too far left for this district.”

The State Journal largely admits that these two candidates have similar priorities, even on redistricting, but since the gerrymander district is Republican then the Republican should be elected. How convenient is that?

I recognize the Democrats’ record on redistricting when they briefly controlled the legislature prior to the last redistricting is no better. But until Wisconsin legislative republicans actually start taking votes and actions towards changing the redistricting process, why does the State Journal keep giving them the benefit of the doubt.  The next census will be quickly upon us with redistricting soon to follow.  Despite the State Journal endorsements, no progress has been made towards reform.

The State Journal would be better to based their endorsements on the rest of the record of these candidates and not fool their readers into thinking that endorsing candidate like Jon Plumber is going to somehow bring about the reform they claim to want.

On the other hand, maybe it would be best if the State Journal got out of the endorsement process entirely when they end endorsements with vague, McCarthy sounding smears like they make against the Democrat claiming she “offered a vague response, for example, when asked if she is a socialist.” (I can only hope they asked Jon Plumber if he was a Russian oligarch or had the support of any.)

Like Trump, Paul Soglin should stay off Twitter.

Madison Mayor and candidate for Wisconsin Governor Paul Soglin, had as rough a showing this weekend as anyone with his political experience has probably had at a state party convention.

The embarrassment started with the straw poll of Democratic Gubernatorial candidates conducted by Soglin, the mayor of the second largest city in the state came in dead last, earning just a single vote in the straw poll of almost 800 Democratic delegates, alternates and guests.

In a strange reaction to the straw poll results Soglin re-tweeted Capital Times state politics reporter Jessie Opoien who wrote in part that Soglin “was on-site on Friday with his campaign manager, but wasn’t out courting voters on Saturday like other #WIGov candidates,” but noted everyone at the convention could vote in the straw poll.

What Soglin didn’t seem to understand that the implication of the post in it’s full context was that he got just a single vote when he should have been able to get at least two, his own and his campaign managers.

Soglin’s intent in re-tweeting Opoien might have been to suggest that he wasn’t out trying to court votes for the straw poll. That’s often the explanation of those who do poorly in straw polls, that they’ve put their efforts into other activities that rounding up votes in meaningless straw polls. It it true that straw polls conducted at political conventions are far from any sort of fair indicator of who’s leading or going to win an election or primary. But they do usually say a lot about organization and viability.

Soglin has talked before before about the different type of campaign he is running for governor.  He’s said that “I don’t impose myself on people. I don’t go around shaking hands,” but if you aren’t going to go around and court votes at your party’s state convention, a gathering of a thousand or more activists just two and a half months before the primary, then when is the time to ask people for their vote?

A candidate with the name recognition and longevity of Soglin should be able to get a decent showing in a straw poll among political activists just by being listed on ballot. In getting that single vote (Soglin’s, his manager’s, or a random delegate if neither of the other two happened to vote) he’s moved from the top tier position he once had to the bottom tier, just as former Rep. Kelda Roys was boosted clearly into the top tier by winning the poll and garnering twice the votes of any other candidate.  That doesn’t mean she’s winning right now, but shows that she’s very viable when a fifth of the party activists at the Democratic Convention cast their votes for her.

Soglin’s reaction to the straw poll wasn’t his only time on twitter this weekend.  Earlier on Saturday in true Donald Trump fashion he went after Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Dan Bice charging he was “part of the Russian inspired effort to suppress the Soglin vote.”

Perhaps Bice was very successful and entirely responsible for keeping the Soglin supporters at the convention from casting votes in the straw poll.  I suspect though that despite Soglin’s protestations that Bice should check his grades of the speeches, the delegates and others in attendance also graded Soglin pretty low and didn’t produce even a few spontaneous voter for him.

Paul Soglin may want to be the Donald Trump candidate in terms of style in the Democratic Primary. His convention speech was variously described by reporters as “painting a grim picture of Wisconsin” and “paint[ing] a bleak picture of Wisconsin under Walker with contaminated water, deteriorating public schools, low wages and increasing geographic and racial disparities” and harkens back to many speeches of Donald Trump’s including his inaugural speech.

While it’s true Wisconsin Democrats are in full agreement with Soglin’s portrayal about how Walker has destroyed so much in their state, they are not ready to buy into a candidate who doesn’t present a positive vision as well and spends their time attacking reporters on Twitter rather than campaigning for actual votes.

Tonight when Soglin goes home he should put the phone and the Twitter feed down.

More waste from sanctimonious Soglin.

I didn’t want it to start this way, but I guess it was inevitable. The first post was always going to have to be a complaint about something, about someone, a frequent target. I’d hoped to set the tone initially with something more optimistic, but being stuck for another four years living in a city that really just Paul Soglin’s lawn that he wants us all  to get off of, I am stuck being the counter-grumbler, trying to take back the yard.

It’s been ten days since Mayor Soglin vetoed a beer license for Mad City Frites, a small Belgian fry restaurant on State Street that opened in the last year or so, and with the Common Council voting to over-ride the veto tonight my time is running out so I pound out my comments quickly.

It’s common these days for the Mayor to waste the council and the public’s time.  He’s been doing the same thing with the ordinance to regulate how long the public can rest on a city bench, another issue with virtually no Council support.  Every committee that’s taken testimony and voted on Soglin’s anti-sitting ordinance has unanimously opposed it.   In the face of this option though, his action is to forces extra meetings, extra votes, extra time to hear the outraged testimony.

A veto can be an important act, especially to make a point and take a principled stand, but in this case entirely unnecessary and it’s not even clear there’s a principle stance, but rather just a unwillingness to acknowledge things change. Soglin had his chance to make his point quite well at the meeting with his half hour lecture that didn’t dissuade the Council from approving the license on a vote or 19 to 1. And his position was well reported in the media. Earlier he made his point about the development of State Street when he threatened to veto a license for Hop Cat which passed the council and the Alcohol License Review Committee, with Soglin’s appointees, on just voice votes indicating little division. The current veto served to just increase his image as a cranky man who wants everything his own way while wasting everyone’s time along the way.

He’d be better to just move back to blogging himself. He clearly likes to write just as much as he likes to lecture, penning a three page veto message in his attempt justify his veto.

Alders expressed frustration over the original debate and Soglin’s lecturing. Some apologized and others expressed shame over the Council meeting. But despite the veto, Mad City Frites owner, Taylor Beebe, took the high road saying Soglin, just like her, loves the city and was doing what he thought was best.

Her remarks are noble and for her success a good move, but even as Soglin pleads otherwise, his veto does strike as an attack on “one innocent entrepreneurial restaurant”.  This veto differs from his proposed veto of the Hop Cat license. His argument is State Street and Capital Square are being taken over by restaurants and bars at the expense of retail. A veto of Hop Cat would have served a message that this location should be open for another type of business, for consideration as retail as part of it had previously been. But Mad City Frites already exists. The veto sends the message that he’s displeased with that existing business in that location and his hope can fairly be interpreted as hoping that business will fail so the location can be open for another use. Taylor Beebe would be right to take the Mayor’s veto as a personal attack on her business even though he conflates it with a defense of a large vision.

The Mayor’s veto message is consumed with commentary about the millions invested over the years by the city in State Street and the Capital Concourse and his argument that this “abandonment of the public trust” in granting more licenses “confirmed the potential waste” of this investment. Mayor Soglin would be hard pressed to have made a more disingenuous argument on wasting public investment. Within the last few months Mayor Soglin unilaterally had public art, Philosophers Grove, worth $200,000 torn out and pushed for the removal of a bus stop that likely cost an additional $100,00  as he flounders with how to positively address the issue of homelessness in Madison.  There’s no greater “abandonment of the public trust” when this sort of waste is perpetrated by a very angry sanctimonious man.

All of this begs the question as well of why Mayor Soglin wants to risk wasting even more city investment by following through with his current Judge Doyle Square proposal. If he feels that downtown investment is being wasted then why push so hard for Madison large investment every though TIF funding?

What market outcomes does he think bringing a large number of new workers and the guests of another hotel will do to to the marketplace?

Soglin also dismisses alders who cite market forces as the reason retail has declined downtown over the years and will surely ignore the what the market will demand when there the Exact Science employees and new hotel guests wants and need more places to get lunch downtown and more places to grab a drink at the end of the day. What other market outcomes does he think bringing a large number of new workers and the guests of another hotel will do to to the marketplace?

Tonight the Council will be right when they override Soglin’s veto and that’s the most positive outcome I can think of from this: another quick rebuke and moving on.