Declaring Our Independence


 

As we celebrate Independence Day and all that makes the United States a great country and a land of opportunity, it’s also a time to think a bit about rebellion. After all, it’s a holiday that marks a moment in history when a group of forward-thinking Americans (in some ways, not in others) got together and decided it was time for a major change. Pretty inspiring if you take the time to think it over, which most of us don’t between bites of bratwurst and sips of beer.

So, just as our forefathers decided it was time to kiss the British goodbye and form a new nation, here are some things we’d like to get rid of on the local, state and national political scene. Who knows? It just might help us form a more perfect union.

State Budget Holes

Billions here and billions there; pretty soon you’re talking about real money. We’re tired of hearing about continuous budget holes. Sure, the “tough economic times” (more on that later) is a big part of the problem, but so is irresponsible budgeting and a notion that we can simply keep pushing our problems off. We’ve done that and look where it’s gotten us.

Tough Economic Times

Let’s just stop using the over-played, depressing phrase. It certainly won’t make our problems go away but it leaves the impression that we’re stuck in the doldrums. In fact, some areas are improving and other sectors are still struggling but the blanket statement shadows itself over all the positives.

Closed Caucuses Wisconsin has always been known for its fondness for open government. It is part of our heritage. However, for the last decade plus, it has become standard practice to decide nearly everything behind closed doors and without debate. It has to stop. No longer should the state budget be hammered out by a handful of lawmakers and representatives of the Governor. Debate is healthy and needed.

Obama’s Personal Life Sure it was fun for a while but we really don’t need minute-by-minute Twitter updates of the activity of President Obama’s dog. A recent Google search of “Obama dog” netted 4,423 hits on Google news. That’s just news stories and it’s a bit over the top.

Drunken Driving Lawmakers are starting to get serious in dealing with a huge problem in our state. Unfortunately, it’s a part of our culture and that must change. That will only happen with tougher penalties for repeat and first-time offenders, a use of technology to curb the problem and better programs for those that need medical help.

Late Night at the State Capitol Nothing good ever happens after 2 a.m. It’s good advice for your teenaged kids and even better for the members of our state Legislature, who seem to prefer the wee hours of the morning to deliberate budget matters and other tough issues. We don’t always know what they’re voting on and it begs the question whether some of them do either.

Never-Ending Campaigns We just endured a two-plus year presidential race. How can it be time for another contentious campaign in Wisconsin already? There’s already one declared challenger to Doyle, who had to try to repair a massive budget deficit with both eyes on 2010. If he seeks another term, does that mean we get the best ideas or solutions that will aid his re-election?

Politicizing 911 No more blame. No more campaign ads. Give new Dane County 911 director John Dejung the tools he needs to fix what’s broken in the 911 system and ensure none of us has to worry whether it will be there when we need it most. Add to that people who call 911 for non-emergencies. They should be publicly shamed.

Cheney and Rush After convincing defeats at many levels of government in the 2008 election, it’s time for Republicans interested in their party’s future, rather than its past, to find some new voices. Cheney speeches filled with fear-baiting references to the 9-11 terrorist attacks or Limbaugh saying he wants President Obama to fail and calling his Supreme Court nominee a racist are not recipes for a comeback.

Jon and Kate, Susan Boyle and Other Reality Show Misfits We love pop culture, but when stories about these characters start to rival real news for airtime and space on the front page, it’s enough to make a person want to go “Network” and scream out a window.

Colin Benedict is WISC-TV’s news director. Before that he was the station’s political reporter. He’s lived in the Madison area since 1995. E-mail him at cbenedict@wisctv.com.

Jenny Price is a Madison native who covered the state Capitol for the Associated Press and has written about Wisconsin politics for a decade. E-mail her at jenny.price@gmail.com.

Madison Magazine - July 2009
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