Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wisconsin and its brains

By Bill Kraus

There were two important presentations made two floors and 11 hours apart on Wednesday, January 22, in the State Capitol.

The more prominent one was the governor’s State of the State message which he delivered in the Assembly Chambers. It was mostly about money. Due to too pessimistic projections the taxpayers sent in about a billion dollars more to the state than the state said it needed.

The governor decided that this overage should be returned to those who were overcharged. Doing this precisely is probably impossible, but rough approximations get close enough.

The governor, unsurprisingly, took a lot of credit for this happy accident even though he and we were beneficiaries of events more than of actions taken locally.

There was a lot of show and tell sprinkled through this presentation which has become traditional. There was also a lot of talk about jobs and job growth that was occasionally specific.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The perils of power

By Bill Kraus

The first warning to everyone and anyone who is introduced to positions of power is “Handle with care.”

The last is “It isn’t you; it’s the position.”

To take the last first I cite the comment of my great and good friend Bob Froehlke whose career in public service culminated as Secretary of the Army. The day he left the job, there was a full dress parade with troops and military bands and a reception for hundreds of guests and subordinates hosted by the Secretary of Defense. He rode home from that event in his chauffeur driven limo.

The next morning when he was leaving for less lofty duties in the Midwest, a sergeant in a jeep showed up to take him to the airport.

“Oh,” he said to himself. “It wasn’t about me after all.”

It never is.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Some questions for the New Year

By Bill Kraus

Is anyone thinking about realigning the property tax so every property owner pays for the costs that attach to property, and other taxes pay for social services and education which do not?

What everyone knows is that an essential ingredient of a democratic form of government is an informed electorate. Most communications about what the government does and how it spends its money are deliberately hidden or so overwhelming they are indecipherable. Open Book Wisconsin is due to be posted in 2014. The so-far-unanswered question is whether communication experts have been involved so that it tells the voters what they need to know and presents that information in ways that make it easy to understand. Pictures would be nice. Will Open Book do this? Will anyone open the Open Book?

And speaking of an informed electorate. Has anyone noticed that journalists (a profession trained to ask questions) are an endangered species?