Friday, March 25, 2011

On Wisconsin!

Crowd of 100k+ the Saturday AFTER the bill 'passed'.
I may be stepping on a few toes here, but I have decided to post about WI politics anyway. (It is that 60 year old crone freedom emerging!) For those of you who are friends/likers on my facebook this isn't new, but for the rest of you here is a snippet of life in WI lately. I will admit that this is both a biased and simplified synopsis of the activities, but it's my blog and my opinion!

As you may have seen or read, there has been major political upheaval here in the dairy state (and in many other states as well). Our new governor has taken upon himself, with backing from some major corporate supporters and some quasi-legal (that is being generous) activities, to rid our state of most collective bargaining (contrary to many reports, something he never mentioned while campaigning), reduce many benefits for the disadvantaged, cultural and educational parts of our society while also reducing corporate taxes and making many previously public sector services now private sector "opportunities". He has tried to drive a wedge through two segments of the middle class majority of Wisconsinites, and has succeeded in many ways. However there is also a resurgence of activism and unity that has not been seen in a long time.

Thug" is what some called the protesters
There have also been major hits to the arts and arts funding. In one of the most recent protests included a March of Art Employees and groups. One of the things that has happened is that our 12 person WI arts board has been reduced to four people and those employees have been assimilated into the Tourism department. The budget for Arts activities was reduced by 70+%. I heard a telling interview with the head of tourism that stated (paraphrased here) in two sequential sentences: "We will keep the funds for the Arts board going towards the arts" then "We are excited to have these additional resources to promote tourism into WI". These comments did not instill confidence that the art activities would remain a priority or independent.

Troopers were helping families take pictures!
I  sat for more than 16 hours in the Assembly gallery during the "debate" on the budget bill (debate is in quotes, because the Democrats inquired, argued, presented and lobbied, while the Republicans - knowing they had the majority - sat it silence, not answering or rebutting). I sat another 4 hours watching the Senate Republicans issue warrants (without the power to do so) for the apprehension of the Democratic Senators who had left the state. Without this action by the Dems, this bill would have passed before most people would have known what had hit us. While one may argue the action taken, the result was that many people - both in WI or outside of the state lines - would not have understood what is really at stake or the motive behind it without the borrowed time that the Senators gave us.

I attended a very moving rendition of "Can You hear the People Sing" from Le Mis as it was sung by a throng of people in the rotunda of the capitol, (Click Here if you want to see/hear my video of that) and "We shall overcome" had been lead by Jesse Jackson in the same setting a few days earlier.

Bipartisanship at work!
Doors closed, notes left!
I wept when Gov. Walker closed our state capitol to the public (something that has never been done before and is illegal - as was later verified by a court order). (Click Here if you want to read more of my thoughts on this). This was an act I took very personally. Days later I watched the only bipartisan act I witnessed during the whole time - I saw a Democratic Representative help a Republican Representative gain access to their jobs (representing US) through an office window. They had been unable to gain access to their offices through any capitol door! When I finally gained access to observe a Senate hearing (an activity guaranteed by law) I was escorted through the capitol halls by a legislative page and an armed state trooper after going through security (something again that has never been required before - even after 9/11).

Protesting knit-ins!
Angry and Proud.
There have been weeks of respectful and peaceful protests. Throngs of people from 8 days to 80+ years old attended and I can attest that while many were in fact bussed in - the buses came from Superior (WI), Milwaukee (WI) LaCrosse (WI) and hundreds of other small and large WI towns and were filled with citizens, not outside agitators. Estimates for three of the Saturdays were over 70,000 people. Never once did I witness anything but respect for each other and for the capitol grounds and police officers. Numerous kudos were given to the protesters from various law enforcement officers in regards to the demeanor of the crowd. 
As an aside... Fox news was just about alone in "reporting" any violence in the streets, and in the background of their video footage were palm trees waving in the wind and people in shirtsleeves.... not a sight you often see in downtown Madison while the snow falls and it is 20 degrees outside! In true Madison form, the next day there were inflatable palm trees throughout the crowd! 

This post is not trying to politically sway any of you. Maybe I can set the record straight on some of the erroneous press coverage, but beyond that, it was mostly an update on where I have been these days!

I will end this by thanking you for your attention and asking your for your continued attention to the political debate taking place in your own area. We may be in perilous and pivotal political times right now and, what ever you opinions are, I hope you are making them heard and are open to respectful and intelligent discourse and action. It will be only by listening to each other and combining our efforts for a better society that we will have such a legacy. We are supposed to be governed "by the people" and "for the people" so we must do our part in making sure we are defining "people" and the direction we want our country to take.
Now back to sewing....

No comments: