One sure fire way to ignite a firestorm of controversy in this town is to propose a law that restricts the ability of musicians and performers to knock a few drinks back at their shows.
So it's fairly amazing that Ald. Michael Schumacher, along with Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, have decided to sponsor an ordinance that would do exactly that.
The main thrust of the law actually deals with forbidding bartenders and other employees from consuming alcohol while working. But since the current wording makes drinking illegal for "the licensee, agents, officers, directors, partners, members, managers of the licensee, or any employee or independent contractor of a licensed establishment, including members of the licensee's immediate family," it would open up more than just one can of worms.
Heated debate on the subject has erupted several times, unsurprisingly, and after scores of residents-many of them musicians-wrote Schumacher to complain about the ordinance, the following response was apparently received:
"I will be introducing a substitute to clarify this issue and exempt personnel/contractors such as musicians and artists. We never intended to include performers but the current language is confusing. The new version will focus on personnel that are responsible for dispensing alcohol, operations, and security. We are also providing a provision for employees to perform sample tastings as part of their job."
Which is all well and good, but according to Ald. Mike Verveer (who opposes the new law) Madison already has an ordinance that forbids bartenders from being drunk while on the clock. What would be the purpose then of introducing a nearly identical, and somewhat less transparent, law?
I'm trying to do less assuming when it comes to people's motives these days, so I won't hazard a guess as to Schumacher or Cieslewicz's reasons for backing this thing. I will say, however, that there doesn't seem to be any need for it whatsoever. At best, the ordinance provides a redundant reminder of current law. At worst, it might lead to unnecessary and downright embarrassing legal action against musicians whose only compensation often comes in the form of free PBR (it's a hard knock life), or bartenders who're simply trying to create a new cocktail.
Keep an eye on this week's ALRC meeting, wherein Schumacher will be introducing said resolution along with, he claims, new language that would exempt musicians and sample tastings.
Honestly, if you miss it, you'll probably be able to gather what happened by the decibel level of the outcry that does or does not follow.
Paul Soglin, a man with a plan?
So I'm just going to come right out and ask-for what office is Paul Soglin gearing up to run?
In the last few months, the former Madison mayor and now consultant and blogger seems to have significantly ramped up his attacks on how certain things in the city and state are managed. That wouldn't be enough on its own to raise suspicion, especially seeing as that's exactly what most bloggers do, but Soglin's critiques have grown noticeably more direct and he's made a definite point of offering detailed lists of what action he'd take to improve various situations. It sounds a little like campaigning.
Take, for instance, the recent controversy over Madison snow removal procedures. Soglin absolutely reamed Mayor Dave and the city for the way the blizzard of Dec. 9 was handled, following up with a whole series of posts outlining what he felt was done wrong and how it might be fixed.
He has also spent considerable time writing about ways to improve education, safety standards, and public transportation in the area. A platform, perhaps?
At one point, shortly before Tom Barrett officially announced his bid for the Democratic nomination for governor of Wisconsin, Soglin even facetiously entertained the notion of running himself. Well, he claimed it was all in jest, but I couldn't help but wonder if there wasn't some small amount of temperature taking going on as well.
Then again, maybe this is just how former mayors and seeming political junkies roll. Still, you can't help but wonder….
There is some serious unrest developing in regards to a move by the CDA to use eminent domain on a few south side properties in order to build a new senior housing center. Brenda Konkel recently wrote a herculean recap of a Common Council meeting wherein the landlords of the desired properties aired their grievances over how the process is being handled by the city. The main point of contention seems to be that the landlords don't feel fair compensation is really being offered, which is one of the main stipulations when the government is looking at using eminent domain. A Daily Page forum thread on the subject is worth reading as well. This particular case could prove to be a crucial test of when and how the city can use its powers, and how "fair compensation" is defined and determined. Not to mention the many issues of race and class that are bound to-and have already begun to-crop up.
Apparently all you have to do to generate lots of (angry, misdirected) comments on a blog post is question the addition of a major retail chain to a particular neighborhood. You don't even need to come out strongly against the plan. Simply asking honest questions is enough to get some folks' dander up. I'll be sure to name drop Target more often.
The earthquake in Haiti was and continues to be a tragedy of epic and horrifying scale. There's so much that remains to be done to help-including a long-term plan to get this, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, on some semblance of a path to real prosperity. Right now, however, every little bit of aid counts. Check out this list of ways in which you can lend a hand, and please do what you can.