Maybe now the Wisconsin State Journal will take county government seriously again.
But really, I don't blame the newspaper for suspending coverage of the largest unit of local government until this spring, when I got it to write about releasing jail inmates on ankle bracelets. County government did not take itself very seriously.
How does one take seriously guys like Esch Vedder or Ashok Kumar? I don't blame the State Journal for wanting to downsize this board. Criminal justice funding? What a snooze.
Consider: This is a County Board that has, in the last couple of years:
- Voted on impeaching a president, an exercise restricted by the U.S. Constitution to the House of Representatives.
- Restricted the criminal background checks landlords can conduct on potential tenants.
- Prohibited landlords from checking for illegal aliens.
- Created a Food Council.
- Renamed Columbus Day as "Indigenous Peoples Day."
- Opposed torture at Abu Ghraib.
- Released jail inmates on ankle bracelets in order to raid the sheriff's budget (lifting $1.5 million in the process).
- Voted themselves a pay raise.
- What it takes seriously is prying people out of their cars to build a railroad and purchasing greenspace.
My last year on the board, in 2004, it voted to purchase 20 acres for the Pheasant Branch conservancy northeast of Middleton at a price of $155,000 per acre. This purchase was not recommended by our advisory committee. Was not in the master parks plan. Featured no Indian mounds, rare Lady's Slipper flower or endangered frog. And sat adjacent to 500 acres of Pheasant Branch land we already owned! Even two Sierra Club members voted against it. County Executive Kathleen Falk signed the purchase.
And where was The Kathleen that she could not attend Thursday's joint county board committee meeting on the 9-1-1 center? In New York attending the Urban Initiative for Reproductive Health Summit.
Do not blame the operator
You are the 9-1-1 operator. You are on the phone for a minute and a half. Three times you ask for the location. No response. Whether you hang up or the call hangs up on you is still in dispute. But you've got live emergency calls in-coming. Your first obligation is to respond to those before you call back. Maybe you are overworked and you forget to call back.
If there is a tragedy in the actions of the Dane County Public Safety Communications Center it is in giving the police a bum steer, which I duly reported in my blog of April 17:
Blaska: I am hearing that Brittany Sue Zimmermann managed to call 911 but that the call was cut off. The 911 center called back, a man answered and another man could be heard in the background. True?
Lt. Joe Balles: I can not speak to details of the on-going investigation by either confirming or denying such information. Sorry Dave... nice try though...
Turns out that on April 15 the police had just been set wise, that they had been given a bum steer; that the call back to the two men was off a different 9-1-1 call.
Follow the money
Even so, I don't want Joe Norwick to be the fall guy here and, to that extent, Kathleen Falk has been stand-up. Her apology also was well tuned. But let's understand this: the Kathleen Falk regime has never been about public safety, it has always been about buying greenspace. That is what motivates her. Even during her candidacy for state attorney general, she seemed to be running for environmental public intervener, instead.
Consider: Kathleen Falk budgeted $5,488,130 for public safety communications this year. That's actually a small decrease from the actual 2007 expenditure of $5,491,768.
Let's do a comparison with Brown County. County seat: Green Bay.
Now, why cannot the county provide statistics more recent than 2002 on the number of calls per dispatcher?
A sick 9-1-1 joke:
But because Dane County residents rely so much on 911 services, for both specific responses and a sense of security, action on the 911 Center is essential. Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk has taken the lead on this front.
"Taken the lead?" I kid you not, that was Thursday's Capital Times online editorial comment. Truly, they have no shame.
Dissing Bob Salov
No single episode demonstrates the childishness of this County Board than the treatment of a veteran supervisor.
I caught up with my old colleague Bob Salov while he was en route to the Medina Town Board. Just like always. Nobody takes his job more seriously than Bob Salov. As supervisor from the northeast quadrant of Dane County, he represents the towns of Christiana, Deerfield, Medina, and York, and the villages of Cambridge, Deerfield, Marshall and Rockdale. And he never misses their local meetings.
On top of that load, for the last 27 years Bob has been a dedicated emergency medical technician. He's the guy who comes along to scrape you off the highway and rush you to the hospital.
For 12 years, Bob has been a diligent member of the County Board. Something of a grind, actually. He takes this stuff very seriously. So he gets yanked from his committee appointment overseeing the 9-1-1 call center why?
County Board Chairman Scott McDonell said he didn't return Salov to the committee for several reasons, including a position Salov took on a budget item and a statement he made to McDonell that he didn't trust him.
"I didn't appreciate him not taking me at my word," McDonell said. - Wisconsin State Journal.
In other words, a personal snit.
Bob Salov told me this about Scott McDonell: "He is political in his appointment. He is not following his own language to pick the most qualified and experienced to serve on his committees. He said 'you burned me on a budget item and you don't trust me.'"
"I said 'no, I don't think you represent my district, being from the isthmus.'"
The irony is that Bob Salov is going to Washington D.C. soon at the request of FEMA and at their expense to share his expertise on radio frequency interoperability.
"I told Scott 'don't move me it's important I stay on 911 board.'"
Now this from the State Journal:
A 2004 "strategic plan" for the 911 center called for a stronger, more independent oversight board. The report identified the board's role as vetting the director, critiquing the budget, reviewing the center's training plan, reviewing complaints against the center and establishing department operating procedures."
By the way, Bob is a Democrat.
When seconds count
I did Vicki McKenna's radio show Tuesday afternoon about - What Else? - and am lifting her quotation: "When seconds count, the police will be there in minutes."
No slam against the police. Not trying to take the 9-1-1 call center off the hook, so to speak. But do this mental exercise: a bad guy is coming at you with a knife. You've got a cell phone to the left and a handgun to the right. You get to reach for one but not both. Your choice.
Here is the conservative mantra: It all comes back to personal responsibility. No outside agent can guarantee your safety - not even the government. You are responsible for your own life, your own financial security as well as your own personal safety. No one has a greater stake in your life than you. That is why this nation is a nation of laws and of guns.
A political colleague asked, "How long do you think it will be before concealed carry is back on the front burner?"
Actually, Brittany Sue Zimmermann did not need to conceal her carry. You can keep a gun in your own home, even in Wisconsin. But not if you live in Washington D.C., where it is illegal to keep a handgun even in your own castle. Not that that ever stops the bad guys. The U.S. Supreme Court will decide that case this summer.
Fight homelessness, end poverty, feel superior
Or maybe it's fight poverty and end homelessness. I'm so confused. I do know there is a new coalition in town, but not one that is going to help the Brittany Zimmermanns or Joel Marinos:
The Dane County Coalition to Fight Homelessness and End Poverty committed Wednesday to "speak out and take action against the dehumanizing effects of poverty."
As its first action, the coalition will hold an educational summit for the public from 5 to 8 p.m. June 5 at First United Methodist, 203 Wisconsin Ave. The history and current state of homelessness in Dane County, and strategies to end it, will be discussed.
The coalition grew out of concern by agencies serving the homeless that homeless people were being stigmatized and scapegoated in some local media, especially Blaska's Blog posted on the alternative weekly Isthmus' Daily Page.
I read it on The Capital Times blog, which encourages your local county board to impeach the president instead of attending to its knitting.