Stevens Pointless: A message from your so-called leaders

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This might be the most-circulated of all Gary Larson cartoons on the internet (search Google Images for “larson blah blah” — it’s astounding). But maybe that’s because this so aptly summarizes so many situations, including Monday’s common council meeting.

Participating in the July 20 Stevens Point Common Council meeting as a citizen was like trying to swim from the downstream side of Hoover Dam to the upstream side. Even if you’re strong enough to go against the current down at the base, you’re not going to get past the dam shaft.

I’ve watched many Point council meetings on video, but I’d never attended one until Monday.  What I saw convinced me that, at least for now, many of our so-called local leaders are great at pinching pennies but don’t recognize good sense.

They still couldn’t figure out how to help the residents of Edgewater Manor.  They also rubber-stamped an opportunistic shafting of more than 200 homeowners in the former FEMA flood plain, who are being required to pay for seawall improvement near downtown Stevens Point.

The council’s peformance could be described in many ways. I may have a lot more to say about this, and perhaps other council issues, in the future. For now, I’ll just say that the council and the city of Stevens Point only seem to hear what they want to hear.

This was particularly true on the flood-control assessment issue. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a decision-making body get such a clear and unanimous mandate from its constituents, yet seem to care less about what any citizen said.  The homeowners stuck with the bill made their hardship clear; other citizens strongly affirmed their willingness to share the cost as a city and thought the rest of the city would be willing, too. The consensus was as solid as a concrete seawall. Continue reading

Where’s my spot in the new arena?

Dear Wisconsin politicians,

Thank you for your wonderful work in keeping our state’s priorities straight in these difficult End Times. Few understand the need for a new professional basketball arena and helping those who can’t help themselves, but your tenacity has helped fight off greedy teachers, parents and others who would divert our critical public dollars into frivolous indulgences like education.

Now that we’ve taken $250 million in state funding out of the UW System and invested that exact amount into the new Milwaukee Bucks arena, I was wondering if you would help me reserve my spot in the new arena as my reward for supporting this public-private partnership. Even though, as a faculty member in the system, I am a pig in the public pantry, I’ve seen the light.  I want you to know what I’m willing to do before I become homeless.

BBC photo of Hurricane Katrina refugees at the Superdome.

BBC photo of Hurricane Katrina refugees at the Superdome.

Look, you and I know that when it comes to disasters, Wisconsin’s woes aren’t quite the same as Katrina was for New Orleans — after all, Louisiana will recover some day.  So your strategy is a good one; why not spend what we’ve got on good, wholesome fun while we wait for the apocalypse?

As you already realize, many faculty are already jumping ship while the rest of the state is just trying to tread water in a whirlpool. You, on the other hand, have sagely provided us with a spanking new arena at the bottom of the drain, and that’s good enough for me.

Despite your tacit admission that Wisconsin will be toast in a few years, I’m sure that you guys, as responsible stewards of our public finances, have an appropriate exit strategy with the Bucks and the NBA.  I bet you have a strategic community-relations plan that includes contingencies for opening the arena to victims of catastrophes.  Stuff like floods, tornados, or an unprepared workforce that will devastate our state’s economy and hasten mass homelessness. Continue reading