Friday, June 29, 2007

Line item veto -- good idea..........not.

I just received a p.r. mailing from Congressman Paul Ryan who reports that he and Senator Russ Feingold are working together to create a presidential line item veto.

It's a bad idea.

The founding fathers wisely created three branches of government as a system of checks and balances. The executive -- in this case, the president -- can veto a bill approved by Congress which, in turn, can vote to override the veto. A "line item" veto, like the one used in Wisconsin, allows the executive to selectively cut words (and even letters) from approved legislation with the result being something that the legislature may not have intended. That's not checks and balances -- it's ururping the legislative function by, in essence, enacting a law not contemplated during the legislative process.

I know there can be some attractivess to a line item veto but, on balance, it's not a wise choice. If it was, I suspect the founding fathers would have embraced it. Thankfully they did not.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Thank you for what you do!

Sometimes a stressful, rotten day ends with an unexpectantly pleasant surprise.

It happened tonight at the TCF branch in the Sentry store at Southport Plaza.

The assistant branch manager -- a young lady named Shakoor -- asked to verify a customer's identification. Upon seeing a badge in the customer's wallet, she said, "Thank you for what you do for the community."

Wow! That's nice to hear at any time but when it's from a young person, it's inspiring.

Thank you, Ms. Shakoor.

Questions not asked in 2004?

When one thinks of the 2004 presidential election, one wonders why the voice of Ronald Reagan (or, more correctly, the spirit of Ronald Reagan) was so muffled. If not, then we might have been asked:

1. Are you better off now than you were four years ago?

2. Remember when the gallons added up faster than the dollars?

Will there be a dart?

The Sunday Kenosha News has a weekly editorial in which it hands out laurels and darts.

One can only wonder if this Sunday the Kenosha Police and Fire Commission will get its well-deserved dart for soliciting public input on the new police chief at an 8 a.m. meeting which is not liklely to be accessible or convenient to the public.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Some good in the worst of us, some evil in the best

For a myriad of reasons, I don't always agree with Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel columnist Eugene Kane.

Nonetheless, I don't always disagree with him, either. His most recent column [] is a worthwhile reminder of what Dr. Martin Luther King, jr., pointed out: "There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us." Perhaps the fact that this horrendously reckless young man had some conscience is, in a backhanded way, a little glimmer of home. Yet, as Eugene Kane point out, too little and too late.

The collective community's typical response to such senseless tragedies is to call for someone in some position of perceived authority to do something to fix the problem. If only it were that simple.

The reality is that George W. Bush can't waive a magic wand and make it all better. Nor can Governor Jim Doyle or Mayor Tom Barrett. For real change to occur, it must come person by person, family by family, house by house, block by block and so on.

A lot of made of the so-called "code of silence" that inhibits good cops from outing the illicit ones. But that same regimen rules neighborhoods often unwilling to reclaim control of the community. For even if the police could arrest virtually every drug dealer in town, their efforts would only put a crimp in the supply. The police can't knock out the demand. The power to do that rests with individuals. As Edmund Burke uttered, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

One thing we can and must work on is developing a sense of community and personal responsibility toward the community. Perhaps this young man wouldn't have fired shots from a gun willy-nilly had he sufficient ethics to realize the potential harm of his conduct toward the community. It's not a high-tech analysis.

37 years ago a young adult driving down Indiana 39 in La Porte County, Indiana in the early morning hours was about to toss an empty pop can out the car window. A voice of conscience spoke: "What if another car ran over that can, got a flat tire, went out of control and someone was hurt or killed?"

I don't think I've dumped any empty pop cans on a highway since that time.

If we want safer communities, the change must start at home.


This isn't a unilateral discourse. Feel free to add your comments. Just try to keep them clean and germane so I don't have to RAG you out! :)

It's not just Madison

Today's newspaper had a snippet about the Kenosha Police and Fire Commission inviting public comment during its process to select a new police chief.

The one and only chance: an 8 a.m. meeting on July 17th at city hall.

If they're serious about inving public participation, they need to meet at a time when more of the public would have an opportunity to attend.

The Pleasant Prairie Village Board was attacked -- and rightfully so -- a couple of years ago when their meetings started at 5:00 p.m. The reason: that time made if difficult for more citizens to attend. Now the meetings are at a more reasonable 6:30 p.m.

Maybe the city's police and fire commission needs to follow suit.

Taxation without representation?

The legislature -- or at least a significant part of it -- wants to fund the KRM rail link by a 550% increase in the car rental tax in Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee counties (from $2 to $13).

What does this have to do with rail transportation? Could this 550% tax increase be because can renters don't have the opportunity to be heard? Sounds like shady legislation that should be deep-sixed.

A sick process

The Wisconsin Senate yesterday gave the green light to a statewide health care plan that, from the looks of it, seems to extend the state's own employee insurance plans to the general public by taxing employers and employees.

Blogger Kathy Carpenter ( assails this as "socialized medicine." I'm not sure that's entirely accurate but she's right on point about the lack of wisdom in ramrodding such important legislation.

Yes, there is a health care crisis -- especially in cost containment which makes it unaffordable -- but the solutions should come as a result of nonpartisan study and consensus, not a last-minute political grandstand. The legislation under consideration leaves a lot of unanswered questions, i.e., could it actually afford some people less coverage than they already have. The state employee plan essentially forces employees into HMO's which aren't necessarily evil but may not be right for everyone.

History teaches us that the best legislation to come out of Madison resulted from careful, nonpartisan study. This plan is neither.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

KRM: A not-so-bad idea gone sour

Ah, the price of rectifying past mistakes.

There's a big booty to be paid to construct a Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee rail link which would not have been necessary had the Chicago and North Western (now Union Pacific) kept the line double tracked north of Kenosha. It didn't and now the public is being tapped to pay the freight.
(The litany of past mistakes is legion. What of the late Congressman Les Aspin's great idea of running Amtrak on the North Western tracks instead of the Milwaukee Road line? What ever happened to the Amtrak station that Kenosha was promised by the owners of Dairyland Greyhound Park?)

Now I'm an old train fan but there are some realities here. The state is already subsidizing Amrak's Hiawatha service from Chicago to Milwaukee. Now they want rental car customers to be fleeced $13 to pay for KRM.

Why? Because they have no voice in the process?

That stinks.

If KRM is such a good idea, it should be properly funded from proper sources, not fleecing mostly visitors who would in all likelihood never be able to use KRM anyway.

Chrysler: Half full or half empty?

The back slapping and champagne sipping over Chrysler's decision to retool the Kenosha engine plant glossed over one bittersweet reality: nearly half of the present Chrysler jobs will vanish.

True, half a loaf is better than none. But in our celebration let's not forget those who will be hurt both personally and as a community losing more decent jobs.


There are many good things to say about the Target Corporation: clean stores, decent prices and they share their wealth.

But those accolades must be scruitinized in light of Target's plans for a new store in Pleasant Prairie near Famous Dave's.

Target has a perfectly good store at Highways 31 and 50. They do good business there. Target wants a larger store. That's not necessarily bad.

The problem is that there's been no light shed on what will become of the present Target store. Will it become an empty eyesore? Will the Southport Plaza shopping center devalue as a result of Target's exodus?

These are good questions that should be answered sooner rather than later.

Monday, June 25, 2007

What they have there insurrection.

Milwaukee is rapidly disintegrating into Nero's Rome -- a city burning while the politicos fiddle. A city, once one of the nation's safest urban areas, that's gone beyond having a "crime problem."

While politicians jockey for position and the police chief seeks the best public relations edge that she can under the circumstances, young children are struck by stray gang bullets and an innocent motorist is dragged from his car, kicked in the head and beaten by savage young thugs.

That's not a crime problem. It's an insurrection.

There's no quick fix for this -- there never was. The factions will continue to argue about what to do and little will actually be done. The truth is that the underlying causes of this despicable violence can't be addressed unless and until the cancer is contained and brought under control. The reality is that at this stage the police can't do it alone. Change, if it is to happen at all, must happen family by family, house by house, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood.

Of course, we probably could have predicted this a few years ago when the new police chief decided to defrock a district commander who exhorted his troops to "turn the heat up" on the "thugs" in that neighborhood. In fairness, the chief had some reason to be concerned as the commander's advice was prompted by a grudge as opposed to the general goal of public safety. Instead of demoting him -- dirty work that she delegated to a subordinate -- the message from the chief should of been, "Captain, here in Milwaukee we turn up the heat on thugs 24/7 because that's our job."

It was an opportunity regrettably lost.

You aren't voting for Bush, are you?

I kid you not.

In the fall of 2004 I was hiking to a waterfall in Banff National Park's Johnston Canyon when a local couple engaged this American in conversation.

"You're not voting for Bush, are you?", the Canadian gentleman asked.

"We don't like him much up here."

I asked this man -- whose blunt inquiry actually startled me for a moment -- what he knew about John Kerry.

He conceded that he knew little except that "he's not Bush."

I proceeded to point out that while Bush has his issues, the Democratic challenger was no prize, either -- duplicid, arrogant, inconsistent and a man with little to show for his two decades on Capitol Hill -- concluding that "for many Americans, the devil we know may be better than the one we don't."

I continued, "It's really an insult that, if Bush is so bad, then why did the Democratic Party fail in its duty to Americans to offer the best and the brightest, not the bottom of the barrel?"

As we fast forward to 2008, it's almost like Yogi Berra's famous "deja vu all over again" lament. Again, why are the Democrats turning their back on the American people by once again failing to put forth the best and the brightest?"

Joe Torcaso: Another Character Lost

The late Charles Kuralt said that when America runs out of characters, it will have lost its character.

Joe Torcaso was one of those characters.

Joe operated a shoe repair shop in downtown Kenosha for many years. He moved a bit west a few years ago and died last week at the age of 79.

Joe Torcaso was no ordinary cobbler.

He was one of those World War II era guys who graduated from high school but held a Ph.D. from the school of life. A person who was an example to follow. A guy who didn't know -- or care to worry about -- being politically correct.

Joe was the guy who had a knack for calling political races whose favor was curried variously by local politicians to Congressman Paul Ryan and even President Bush (who made a point to stop and see Joe during the 2004 campaign).

He had a great heart, a keen intellect and a love of good humor. When I left Kenosha in 1982 to take an appointment "up north" he cautioned me that people "up there" don't have the "same sense of humor that we do."

I saw less of Joe when he moved his shop out of downtown but he continued to dole out his wisdom in between heel and sole replacements.

Regrettably the Kenosha News carried only paid obituary notices and the local radio station, WLIP, which gave up serious news reporting years ago, said nothing.

One by one, we are losing these human gems and, as a result, our collective character.