Friday, February 25, 2011

On Wisconsin

The Hobbled Wire and I seldom argue politics, but we are of different minds about the tactics employed by the Democratic Wisconsin Senators who have left the state rather than vote on an bill they found unacceptable.

I think it will haunt them when the next face voters. I could be wrong – and the older I get the more wrong it seems I am.

It’s sometimes embarrassing, but I have a Mr. Smith goes to Washington sensibility about elected officials. They were elected to do a job, and running away from the job is not “doing” it. Yes, they want to stop the bill, and they feel they had no choice. I’m glad I’m not them.

Personal story: There are a number of times that controversial matters came before the Planning Commission. I would have loved to run away to Maplewood or Shoreview if it would help. But it wouldn’t.

On one occasion last year we couldn’t muster a quorum. Staff called, emailed, and texted the missing members. The commissioners present waited almost one hour – while the members of the public present for a somewhat controversial public hearing stared at us growing resentment. My stomach was starting to get queasy and I actually started to sweat a little as we sat there joking amongst ourselves, hoping at any minute one of our colleagues would come through the door to make it a quorum. Thank God it’s hard to find tar and feathers in a first-ring suburb – but I suspect some were wondering if perhaps a quick trip to Home Depot was in order.

In the end we cancelled the meeting; that’s never a good thing.

Today I must report that I’m softening my position on the Wisconsin Senators bugging out to Illinois because a story I heard on the radio this morning. NPR did a piece about the Illinois legislature of 1840. Faced with an unacceptable banking bill, many of the Whigs absented themselves from the capitol, denying a quorum. A few Whigs remained behind to keep tabs on things. When it looked like the majority could muster a vote, one of the young Whig legislators who stayed behind attempted to bolt – but the door was locked. Luckily his height helped soften the blow when he exited from the second floor window. His name, Abraham Lincoln.

That doesn’t really prove the point that leaving is the right decision. But it makes me (the sappy patriot) happy to hear that Honest Abe remained behind. The fact that he bolted at the last minute raised a chuckle, and for whatever reason, I have now softened on the whole Wisconsin thing – for now.

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