Getting Smart

Wising up on Twitter, open records, road maps and runs for office

Here’s a big scoop for you: I haven’t ruled out running for governor … or U.S. senator … or auditioning for the next season of Project Runway, for that matter. The constant cat-and-mouse game between reporters and politicians about the question of will they or won’t they run for a certain office has gotten beyond stale. Exhibit A on this topic is Tommy Thompson. We’re periodically subjected to a number of stories in which the former governor declares he hasn’t ruled out running for “governor, U.S. Senator or mayor of Elroy.” I’d rather take the time to figure out how to conjure a cocktail dress from a potato sack and up my chances of someday meeting Tim Gunn than engage in the ego feeding frenzy and Brett Favre-esque rollercoaster of speculation.

Time to Log On

About two-thirds of the nation’s governors are using Twitter; Jim Doyle is not one of them. The three major candidates vying for his job—Republicans Mark Neumann and Scott Walker and Democrat Tom Barrett—are using the social networking tool. But when it comes to campaign websites, Barrett got off to a molasses-slow start after announcing his gubernatorial bid in mid-November with an online presence that was rudimentary at best. After statewide media took note, version 2.0 of his website went live this winter. President Obama, the Milwaukee mayor’s highest-profile backer, proved the web is not an afterthought to a successful campaign. So why was Barrett so slow to catch up?

On the Map

Don’t have a state road map in your glove box? If state Rep. Brett Davis gets his way, you might want to grab one next time you make a pit stop at one of Wisconsin’s roadside visitor centers. Davis, a Republican from Oregon, wants the Department of Transportation to stop printing the maps, which are passed out for free at a rate of 72,000 per month. If his bill passes, it would save the state $250,000. This might be a good spot to mention that Davis is running for higher office—lieutenant governor—and this small proposal got him some pretty big press despite representing a minuscule fraction of the nearly $7 billion state transportation budget. Looks like I just fell for it, too.

Start Getting Real

For Gen-Xers like me, Sean Duffy is the lumberjack fish-out-of-water from The Real World: Boston, but he’s getting some heady national attention these days as a GOP district attorney trying to upset veteran Democratic Congressman David Obey. The Wall Street Journal highlights Duffy as one of the new “young guns” in the Republican party and Time Magazine featured him in a piece titled “Republican Surprises: Ten More Scott Browns,” referring to the Massachusetts U.S. Senator who won Ted Kennedy’s old seat. Attention is great, but money is better. Duffy will need lots of it—not just adulation from his party—to unseat Obey.

Keeping Count

Wisconsin Rapids Democrat Marlin Schneider champions limiting online access to state court records. His reason? The state representative claimed he received hundreds of complaints from innocent people whose lives were harmed by a website called Consolidated Court Automation Programs, or CCAP. But after the Associated Press requested copies of the contacts Schneider had received, he was forced to admit he was exaggerating (there were just fifty-nine dating back to 2006). Thank you Rep. Schneider, for ably demonstrating why we need strong open records laws.

Neighbors in Need

More people are going hungry, and once financially stable families are now making decisions like whether to pay rent or buy groceries. A recent report from Second Harvest Foodbank showed the number of people in southwestern Wisconsin needing emergency food relief jumped more than eighty percent between 2006 and 2009. More than half of the households studied had at least one adult working and seventy-five percent of those served by Second Harvest have at least a high school education. It’s a good reminder that even though there are some signs of economic recovery, local food pantries, and the clients they serve, need our help. For every $1 donated, Second Harvest can provide seven meals.

Got capital ideas or comments for Jenny? E-mail her at jenny.price@gmail.com.

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