Nathan J. Comp's pointless filler concerning the Johnson Street merchants ("Tough Times on East Johnson," 5/11/07) is exemplar of an otherwise unremarkable local syndrome that I came to identify about midway through my own devilish little start-up on Johnson Street.
That is, the semiannual "Hard Luck Story Concerning Struggling Small Businesses on Sad-Sack Johnson Street." Such stories serve little ostensible purpose other than to perpetuate the misunderstood conditions that they lament.
I myself finally came to suspect that the dependable negative press coverage is a sort of communal flagellation ritual in which some of the oft-featured shopkeepers are the complicit and self-interested masochists.
The simple facts: Starting a business is risky; doing so in a risk-adverse socialist enclave, all the more so. If you are considering doing something new in retail anywhere on the isthmus other than selling booze, "dining experience," or essential necessities to the postgraduate proletariat, you are going out on a limb.
In the two years that I ran a modest start-up on Johnson Street, the local alderperson (quoted by Comp) never set foot in the place, nor anywhere on the street, as far as I know.
Nor did any reporter from the local media for the purpose of positive coverage, nor (other than the most remarkable exceptions) did many local residents who actually owned property in the vicinity.
If you scrutinize the local neighborhood newsletters, you will quickly discern that, all manners of lip service notwithstanding, the ongoing priorities of these entities tend to be the guarding of the turf, upkeep of common comfort zones, self-congratulatory shibboleths, schmaltzy odes to civic high-mindedness and abstracted matters of political correctness.
Johnson Street was a great place to build a new store, but not a terribly good place to operate one, so far.
David Russeth, bigdealbooks.com, Minneapolis
I was stunned by Bill Lueders' excellent investigative article on the Georgia Thompson case ("Prosecutors Tried to 'Squeeze' Georgia Thompson," 5/18/07). I wonder what the jury members now think about their unanimous verdict that she was guilty. The scathing rebuke by the appeals court should give all of us pause about the seriousness of being judged by our mistaken peers.
I'm struck at the amusing parallel between the "less than thin" evidence supporting the conviction of Georgia Thompson (according to a federal appellate judge) and the evidence supporting the claim that the case was politically motivated to please the Republican White House by prosecuting a Democratic governor.
After all, there was no direct evidence that Ms. Thompson acted on the direction of higher-ups, and there is no direct evidence (yet) that U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic acted on the directions of his higher-ups when he prosecuted Ms. Thompson.
I do wonder that if Mr. Biskupic is such a stand-up guy, why doesn't he apologize to Georgia Thompson?
A reader wrote to recommend that people recycle their fluorescent lamps (Letters, 5/25/07). I agree. Both Dane County and the city of Madison have adopted ordinances requiring retailers of fluorescents to notify their customers that these lamps are not accepted in the Dane County landfill and for the retailers to take back used lamps for recycling.
A list of places that take fluorescents for recycling can be found at www.countyofdane.com/pwht/recycle/public_locations.aspx?type=7&display=true.
John Reindl, Recycling manager, Dane County
Letter writers Doug Hansmann and Denise Thornton extol the virtues of their vegetarianism (Letters, 5/25/07), but fail to consider their long-term impact on the environment.
No matter how politically correct one's lifestyle, if you reproduce, you will be responsible, over time and generations, for a near-infinite amount of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
In comparison, my child-free lifestyle creates essentially zero pollutants in the long run. So pardon me, I have to drive my enormous truck over to Smoky's for a sirloin.
It was great to see coverage of Ray Hsu and Marianne Erhardt's outreach work at Oakhill Correctional Institution ("Prison Breaks," 5/25/07). However, I was disappointed that there was no mention of the recent broadcast on 91.7 FM WSUM of inmates sharing their work, both spoken word and musical performance.
Andrew Hirshman of the Literally Literal worked through much red tape to bring the performances to the air. An archived file of the broadcast can be accessed online at wsum.net/audio/5617.
Y Mae Sussman, promotions director, 91.7 FM WSUM