The ice is still 1.5 feet thick, but if the warm weather holds, the sign is going to the bottom.
Someone tell the people at Adams billboards they are missing a prime location. Who knew that the frozen lakes were an advertising medium just waiting to be exploited?
Maybe you've seen the sign, clear as a bell, heading toward the Monona Terrace Convention Center on John Nolen Drive. Off to the right, out on the ice of Lake Monona in letters standing six feet high is a sign for presidential candidate Barack Obama. It says "Yes We Can."
Since this is the city of perpetual outrage, I thought I would work up a little bile myself. I don't mind the cutouts of penguins all in a row, which finally went down on Wednesday. But the Obama sign is still there. I can hear the howling mob if Blaska put up a sign saying "No We Can't."
Or "Let the Surge Succeed." Which he might just do if a certain sign isn't removed pronto.
Where is the city sign ordinance when you need it? This is an Obama-nation! I called city zoning. Turns out, Lake Monona is not in the City of Madison. Scott Kerr of city zoning tells me that the city limits actually stops at the lakeshore.
The mayor's spokesguy, George Twigg, confirmed that. "It's the county or the DNR."
So I tried Dane County zoning. "That's a good question," said Russell Bartlett. "It's probably the DNR or the sheriff. This is a first for me."
"I don't know what to tell you," said Sgt. Dave Ritter, of the Sheriff's Department's Marine And Trail Enforcement Bureau. Sgt. Ritter patrols the frozen lakes on a high-powered all-terrain vehicle fitted with a flotation device.
He said the "Yes We Can" sign has been on the ice for about six weeks -- which would date it to just before the Wisconsin primary. It is weighted down with sand bags, which have done their jobs. The sign has withstood some pretty serious winds.
"It took me awhile to figure it out. Then I thought, 'Oh, that's an Obama thing.' We haven't gotten any complaints (until now)," Sgt. Ritter told me. "This tends to be a pretty liberal area."
That's exactly what good advertising is supposed to do.
Sgt. Ritter strikes me as a levelheaded guy. "What concerns me is … what if everyone wanted to put up a billboard? 'Save the Whales' or 'Cure Cancer.'"
Exactly! The sergeant has written enough citations for littering on the lake to rattle off the statute number (287.8b(2a) off the top of his head. In winter, it's mainly ice fishermen who pull out their ice shacks but leave the garbage behind. (I'm guessing empty beer cans rather than used Earl Gray tea bags.)
So write a citation! Write a citation! "But who do I send it to?" he asked.
I did not have my wits about me (they were on loan to Ruben Mamoulian, who is now AWOL) or I would have suggested Mr. Barack Hussein Obama. Guy in a turban, about yay high. Can't miss him.
The real issue is who is going to remove it. "I don't want to be a garbage collector," Sgt. Ritter said.
The ice is still 1.5 feet thick, but if the warm weather holds, the sign is going to the bottom. So much for Obama's environmental vote.
"I may have to call the corporation counsel," the sheriff's sergeant mused.
Melanie on Line One
Melanie Conklin returned my call, thereby giving my fragile ego a small boost. Her Wisconsin State Journal column ends next week when Doug Moe moves in from The Capital Times. (I reported Susan Lampert Smith's reaction to the loss of her column in my last entry.) Talking to Melanie is like holding a flute of champagne under your nose, she is that effervescent.
She was no less bubbly when we talked Wednesday. "This is not a change I am mourning. I think this could be good. I'm excited."
Although being reassigned to the city desk with Susan, Melanie says she will have more opportunity to do longer pieces of greater import and impact. Politics, for instance.
I asked what her first crusade might be.
"I'm going after David Blaska," she said.
Take a number.
Is Eliot Spitzer the latest Governor LePetomane, as played by Mel Brooks in Blazing Saddles? Remember how the movie character canoodled behind the curtains with scantily clad women? With the letters G.O.V. stencil on the back of his dinner jacket?
The crash and burn of the crusading AG/governor is the talk of the water cooler. A male co-worker wondered where would be the brag about a score for which you had to pay? His point is that the Elephant Man might have to pay. Unless the Elephant Woman had been invited to the same cocktail party. But a bigshot governor, wealthy as Croesus, not a mutant dwarf, has to pay for nookie? Isn't Bubba returning the governor's phone calls?
A woman friend pondered the $5,000 hourly tariff and asked the $5,000 question: "How good could it have been?" I think her point is there must be a law of diminishing returns. A $265,000 Aston Martin DBS is a nice car but is it $200,000 nicer than the Caddy CTS?
So there is your economic analysis. A little Metamucil in your cream soda.
I have a call out to the Isthmus techno-weenies to embed a WAV file so visitors could press a hyperlink reading "Now Serving Client … " and hear the Beatles from the White Album: "Number 9, Number 9, Number 9 …"
What? How will we pay the royalties? We can structure that; just transfer some funds around.
They're having fun with this over in the Forum.