n this economy, any job opening draws an onslaught of qualified applicants. That hasn’t been the case with a pretty big position that’s opening up next year: Wisconsin governor. Just five people (not counting third parties)—out of nearly six million people who live here—have indicated interest in the job. It’s easy to understand why. The state continues to face major budget shortfalls, and a recent report about “states in peril” added Wisconsin to a list that includes California (California!). Doesn’t sound very appealing, does it?
There’s another state job I expect will get a few more applicants: Alice in Dairyland. The woman who gets the job earns $40,000 a year, including paid holidays, vacation, sick leave and a state-owned vehicle for travel to promote Wisconsin’s agricultural industry. I’m willing to bet the new Alice, who is to be selected this spring, will have a lot more fun than the next governor.
Since 1949, thirteen heads of state have lived in the Governor’s Mansion. The view is spectacular from the backyard; Doyle once held a budget bill signing there before the shortfalls started piling up like snowdrifts. But some reports have suggested that if Democrat Tom Barrett wins the office in November, he might lobby to keep Milwaukee his primary residence rather than relocate to Maple Bluff. In his defense, Barrett has four children still in school whom he is probably not keen on uprooting, although the commute could become more productive if high-speed rail between the two cities becomes a reality. Governors in many other states, including Illinois, routinely live outside the capital, but how would we feel about ours living in a different area code?
Two Republicans are competing for the right to challenge Russ Feingold for his U.S. Senate seat this fall. Real estate developer Terrence Wall has the backing of the GOP establishment, but David Westlake, a Watertown businessman, caught my attention in an interview with WisPolitics.com in which he said that the United States already has universal heath care: emergency rooms. “It may sound callous to say if you need health care and don’t have insurance, find an emergency room,” Westlake said. “It works. It doesn’t work perfectly, but it works.” Something tells me he’s never had to rely on the emergency room for health care.
If you practice a double axel or enjoy a pickup hockey game at a city of Madison park this winter, thank some of your neighbors for making it possible. Parks officials have recruited upward of seventy-five volunteers to assist with snow removal and ice upkeep in an effort to save money and improve ice quality at the eight rinks located around the city. Here’s hoping the city doesn’t try something similar to handle snow plowing.
Local newspaper readers and television viewers may not realize it, but they’re getting less original reporting from northern Wisconsin. The Associated Press, which Madison media rely on to help fill out their coverage, closed its Wausau bureau late last year. The decision also meant the AP laid off veteran newsman Robert Imrie, a top-notch journalist who recently wrote powerful profiles of some victims of the shootings at Fort Hood, Texas. How many stories will go untold?
Skype is a popular video phone call service via your computer—much to the delight of grandparents everywhere. Now it’s allowing WISC–TV (whose parent company also owns Madison Magazine) to conduct otherwise-costly interviews, such as speaking with Wisconsin National Guard members overseas. The station used it to avoid an outbreak: when “Gadget Guy” segment host Steve Van Dinter was sick with H1N1, he appeared via Skype from his home rather than expose the news team to the flu.
Wisconsin has twenty-one state symbols, ranging from a state beverage (milk, of course) to a state dance (polka, of course). No surprise here, a proposal before the legislature would make us the first in the nation to adopt a state microbe. The contender is the bacterium Lactococcus lactis, used to make buttermilk and cheese. Bonus points to the Alice in Dairyland applicant who knows how to spell that one.
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