Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Random crazy guy thoughts

Here's a few items recently that grabbed my attention.

1. I'll lead you off with a great article re-produced in the Wisconsin State Journal from talk show host Michael Smerconish , which illustrates how far TV has fallen in discussion of issues. As Smerconish brings up, sensible and decent does not move the ratings meter, so you get people like Michelle (Batshit) Bachmann getting face time over people who have a clue. And if Minnesotans come to their senses and vote that crazy woman out, you can bet she's getting a high-paid gig at Fox as some kind of "voice of conservative women" (regardless of how bullshit a rep she is of that demographic). It really seems that being respectful, moral (not religious, moral) and adult doesn't get you rewarded much in these days, and it's a significant reason why it feels like our country's decline is continuing. We have to stop it, and get some real standards.

2. Good article in the Journal-Sentinel this week on the lack of college grads in the Milwaukee area . Of course, one big reason is that angry-man radio is the image of Milwaukee to much of the rest of the state, and no one with any game wants to live around a bunch of mediocre trash like that when they can go somewhere else that doesn't have the garbage spewing itself about. But one other reason why was illustrated this week, where the Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commissions put the brakes on Glorioso Bakery's placs for the former Brady Street Pharmacy. Did they do it because Glorioso's didn't have the money to afford the building? No. Did they do it because a bakery's out of touch with the neighborhood? No. They didn't like a couple of details on the building's facade, and wanted it changed to things like vines on the front.

With all due respect, these Historic Preservation Commissions need to get a fucking life. The default position of these boards should be to allow things in your neighborhood unless it is an eyesore or the tenants are sketchy. They should not be micromanaging a good business possibility out of existence. Do you think vacant storefronts look better than an open business that may not fit your every image? The same crap happened with the busybodied, big fish, small pond thinkers who wanted to throw their weight around in Madison to try to shoot down the Edgewater development because it wasn't with the character of the dumps that are up and down Langdon Street. Look, I think there is an oversight function where planning and looks should be considered for a proposed development, but if it isn't absurd, BE AN ADULT AND LET GO. You are not an expert or a designer, you just serve on a city commission.

3. On a sad and somewhat related topic, MPS is planning to lay off nearly 500 teachers in their district as state aid cutbacks, lower attendance, and high benefit costs take their toll. As a former teacher myself, I know how important it is to keep competent folks in the classroom, and it is sick when people who do good deeds have to be laid off due to society's lack of desire to invest in solving serious problems. But MPS is also a classic example of what goes wrong when special interests care more about themselves than the product they are supposed to deliver. The MTEA consistently seems to try to maintain the status quo of the seniority system and their good health benefits, but this effort ends up being at the detriment of quality new teachers whose new ideas are needed to keep innovation moving in the classrooms. Likewise, MPS has always been willing to hire and pay for administration that tries to justify the schools' performance to overseers and taxpayers, but often at the expense of the real goal: DELIVERING QUALITY EDUCATION. An MPS teacher told me last weekend that the protective seniority system and clueless administration makes a tough situation all the more dispiriting.

A good solution to this problem? Obviously city takeover of the district is needed, as MPS' fate and the city's is intertwined, and the fates of tens of thousands of Milwaukee students can no longer be left up to a self-interested administration and board who compromises other city and social goals to justify their own existence. Yes Milwaukee, you are different than other cities, and need to have your schools treated differently as well. My second reform would be to have the layoff procedures go through the individual schools, with principals being allowed to veto up to a certain amount of seniority-based layoffs. This can also put pressure on some of the dead wood to take a hike, as the guilt and suspicions would grow among the teaching cohorts. Both of these items would probably lead to better results in the classroom- and if you aren't taking action in schools to improve classroom results, what are you doing them for?

4. Lastly, as the Gulf Oil spill continues to flow, and Milwaukee County's Behavior Health Division is damned by state inspectors for allowing an unacceptable situation to continue, the mentality of "government is the problem" proves to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. And it is not by chance. When you denigrate a job and the people who work it, how can you attract high-quality talent for those possible, and how can you possibly be surprised that the folks put in charge of it are hacks that end up asleep at the switch for things that anyone with an ounce of competence would deal with. Then again, folks like Scott Walker, George Bush, Paul Ryan and many of these other snake oil salesmen have never had a real job outside of politics or Daddy's business, so they don't know how to hire for productivity, or have an idea what good results look like. The success of these political d-bags depends on GOVERNMENT FAILING, and they don't care about the consequences of that result, as long as they can smugly smile and say it somehow proves them right.

50 years ago, most of us had higher standards in what we wanted out of our services, and wanted this country to succeed, even if it meant that we would be wrong in the long-term. Instead, the idiot-logues just want to get elected, and more importantly GET PAID. And that's exactly why they have to be crushed and put in the swamp in the next few months.

Personally, I would much rather excel than necessarily win, and I don't know why that feels like a minority opinion, but it sure seems that way. That must be reversed, or this state and this country is as done as the Brewers' chances to contend this year.

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