Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Get up, get out, get going!

In this week's column, I'd like to address the growing divide and disinterest in local government. A lot of attention has been paid to what is going on at the state government level lately because of Governor Scott Walker's budget repair bill and his proposed biennial budget, but local and county governmental bodies have remained largely unnoticed, at least from what I have seen.

As a reporter for the Sun Prairie Star, I cover the Dane County Board of Supervisors and the majority of Sun Prairie city meetings. When it comes to city meetings, attendance is pretty much non-existent. Whenever I attend Transit or Tourism Commission meetings, the only ones in attendance are board members, myself and individuals presenting to the board, if any. The Sun Prairie City Council Committee of the Whole meetings aren't any better. Occasionally a resident or two might attend, but that usually only happens when an issue pertains to them, such as when the committee discussed changing parking regulations for recreational vehicles [RVs].

I can't really speak to the actual City Council meetings, as that is something my boss covers, but the couple I attended were sparsely attended, with maybe 1-4 people there. Again, the only exception was the meeting a couple weeks ago when they approved changing the RV parking ordinance.

And Dane County Board? Pitiful. Now, I realize that the meeting is televised, but I find it disgraceful that 98 percent of the time, I am the ONLY media outlet actually in attendance at the meetings. Usually a couple Madison media outlets have a brief about the meeting in the couple days following the meeting, so I can only assume there are a couple reporters watching the meeting from home with a glass of wine.

Residents aren't any better. Unless there is a “hot button” issue or someone is being honored, residents don't bother showing up. Yes, there was an instance back in November when the county was proposing cutting funding for Human Services in the 2011 budget process when more than 100 residents showed up to oppose it, but most of the time between 0-12 people show up – a dozen out of the county's 488,000 residents.

Yet we love to complain. We complain about Walker, and the Wisconsin Legislature, about cuts to schools, libraries, state aid to municipalities, how come our taxes keep going up? What people don't realize is the connection between everything. The federal government gives aid to states for projects, the states give money in the form of shared revenue to county governments. County governments then decide how that shared revenue will be distributed among the local municipalities and the municipalities decide what is important for their city, town or village.

To me, the lack of people showing interest in their local governmental bodies says “we don't care about what happens in our town. Just make all the decisions without our input. After all, you know what is best.”

Now I'l admit, I never once attended a city meeting in my hometown of Antigo, Wis., so I can't tell you what it is like in the north end of the state. However, as part of my journalistic education at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, I had to attend Whitewater Common Council meetings for Professor Sam Martino's Reporting Public Affairs class.

In truth, the majority of people that showed up to those meetings were from our class, which had roughly 24 students, plus the teacher. However, at every single meeting I went to, I noticed between 5-15 residents in attendance, sometimes more. While even that does not sound like a lot, you have to remember that of the city's 14,000 population, roughly 10,000 are university students. So in a city of technically 4,000 people, 5-15 people is decent compared to other places.

I'm going to be completely honest here. I find the increasing trend of ignoring our own local governments to be very disappointing. With everything that goes on in our own lives, how can we think that what the government, be it local, state or federal, does not affect us and our everyday lives?

So as my title says, get up, get out and get going!

Related articles:

How Walker's biennial budget will impact Dane County:

How Walker's biennial budget will impact Wisconsin libraries:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Yes, yes, I’m aware. I haven’t had a blog posting in oh, about three months now. Frankly, with everything that has been going on, I’ve been more than a tad bit busy, so I’ll be brief. So far this year, I’ve:

• Attended the Monster Truck Nationals at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison;

• Did the Polar Plunge in Madison (which was pretty gross. Next year I’m back to jumping in Whitewater);

• Covered a bit of the craziness that went on at the Capitol the past five weeks;

• Learned one friend is moving. He has decided to be a deusche and deal with it by cutting me out of his life; and

• Learned another friend is going to be spending the next six years in prison;

Like I said, brief. Now, onto the main event!

On March 12, the UW-Whitewater Warhawk Karate Club traveled to Dubuque, Iowa (well technically Peosta, Iowa) for its annual martial arts tournament. I traveled with the team last year, but at the time decided to represent Halama’s Martial Arts. This year I have decided to cast off those shackles and consider myself dedicated to the Warhawk Karate Club.

Anyway, my weekend stared out crazy, as I worked until about 7 p.m. Friday and then picked up some chicken from Buck n’ Honey for supper before heading home to pack. I don’t know if it is because I am a woman or what, but it took forever to pack, and I actually wound up staying up until 12:45 a.m., and then waking up again at 2:30 a.m. Why, you may ask? Well, simple. Because we were leaving from Whitewater at 6 a.m. and I neede to be on the road by 4:30 a.m. in order to ensure I had enough time to get there, meet everyone and head out. Skipping ahead through the boring drive over details (I rode up in an actual former police car), we got there a little after 9 a.m. and the tournament began at 10.

I must admit, I didn’t get to watch my teammates a lot until the very end of the tournament, which was disappointing. Instead, I wound up helping out with tallying scoring in between my events. However, I did get to see some white belt sparring (good job Mike, Alex and Zach), the black belt sparring and Pete’s weapons form (the things that guy can do with a stick, lol).

Of course us Warhawks dominated, bringing home 16 trophies between 14 participants. Our own Laura Kiskunas walked away champion in the ladies forms and sparring. It was quite nervewracking in sparring as I wound up facing her in the championship match. Despite being up 4-0 at one point, I could not seem to clinche that last point and wound up losing 5-4. I think I got too caught up with “Oh my God! I’m beating Laura. Somebody call NASA because the Earth must be imploding!”

Anywho, Laura captured first in sparring and forms for the women (the division did not include red and black belts), and after sudden death in forms, I came in third.

After the competition (and after getting my butt spanked by David, along with half of the team) we hit up Buffalo Wild Wings for food before drinks at the hotel. Although not quite as many people as last year, we still had about 18 people squashed into two hotel rooms.

I could go into more detail about the goings-on at the hotel that night, because it definitely is a night that I’m going to remember, but I shan’t. The craziness stays within the group, lol.

Next blog: The growing disconnect in local government (hey, they can’t all be fun...but they are interesting.)