Monday, September 13, 2010

Goliath (Walgreen's), meet David (Ald. Ted Ruffalo)

Politicians are expected to do things to make themselves look good to constitutents, particularly when citizens are fired up over something.

A good example is the lawsuit Milwaukee County filed against the Milwaukee Braves when the team's new owners announced it was being moved to Atlanta.  A hometown legal victory allowed the fans to blow off some steam but the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled baseball is exempt from antitrust laws and the rest is history.  But, hey, we got another year of baseball in Milwaukee and the locals at least scored a moral victory.

Fast forward 45 years to Kenosha where Walgreen's, the drug chain giant, abruptly closed its downtown store which had been at its present location for nearly a half-century.  A corporate p.r. moron had the audacity to suggest that the brand new Walgreen's store at 75th Street and Sheridan Road could serve the needs of downtown shoppers. 

The new store, of course, is 1.6 miles south of the one that was closed last week and by no means even remotely conveniently to those who live and work in the downtown area.  But that's not the point.

Rookie Ald. Ted Ruffalo, a young ex-Marine whose district includes downtown Kenosha, is floating a proposal to pull city approval of licenses and permits that allowed constructing and occupancy of the new Walgreen's. 

Ruffalo's proposal documents how Walgreen's officials during the licensing process for the new store led the city to believe that the downtown store would be kept open.

Of course the David vs. Goliath images Ruffalo's campaign conjures up are likely to endear him to a lot of voters, once the testoserone levels stabilize Ruffalo's idea actually is worth a shot.

Ruffalo suggests, probably correctly, that the city gave its approval for the new store on the condition and with the understanding that the old one -- which by no means suffered from a lack of patronage -- would be kept open and so by Walgreen's breaking its promise the city should be able to revisit the propriety of the new store.

He has a point.  Whether it would survive a legal challenge down the road is anyone's guess -- Walgreen's may be a corporate Goliath but it isn't major league baseball -- but in this case it appears city fathers were misled and, at a minimum, the remedy might be taking the approval process back to square one.

Of course there are those who will point out, with some merit, that the city shouldn't pit one neighborhood against another but that's not Ruffalo's idea.  Standing up for honesty and fair dealing is.

Yes, our David could be considered a brash young man not savvy to the all of the ways of city hall but, on the flip side, if the growing number of empty storefronts across the city -- even in prosperious neighborhoods -- is any indication, the ways of city hall haven't been very effective.

You go, Ted! Semper fi.




Thursday, September 9, 2010

Scott Walker a RINO?

Good question.

For several weeks it seemed that Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker was steamrolling his way to the Republican nomination for Governor. 

With momentum behind him, however, it seems odd that Walker would take public digs into opponent Mark Neumann.

Walker's current campaign ad compares Neumann with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, an insulting buzz phrase for right-wing Republicans.

But the accuracy of that ad and the inferences flowing from it have come into question: http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2010/sep/09/scott-walker/scott-walker-says-mark-neumann-nancy-pelosi/ and Neumann came out with a positive response, noting Walker's own support for federal transportation funding.

All of this calls to mind Ronald Reagan's Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican."

In light of this transgression and the tenor of Walker's campaign, the question is begged:  Is Scott Walker a RINO? 

For the record, I am undecided, but this swipe against Neumann could well backfire.