Friday, August 22, 2008

Is Rep. Mark Pocan Afraid to take Stand Against Republican School Yard Bullies?

How wrong can the Wisconsin State Journal get it? In its opening paragraph, they frame the conflict between the UW system and the Republican State Legislature as something that has apparently been “reopened.”

In an incendiary parting shot, outgoing UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley reopened a feud with conservatives in and out of the Capitol by accusing the state's largest business lobby of undermining support for the school in the Legislature.

The Republican public education wrecking crew has never once let up in its assault on the UW. Instead of giving our parting Chancellor John Wiley credit for taking on these partisan thugs, the State Journal paints him as disgruntled.

Wiley's essay in the September 2008 issue of Madison Magazine criticized
Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce for pursuing policies he said limited the flagship public school's growth and presented the biggest roadblock to the state's economic success. "
Our politics has become poisonous swill, and the most influential voice for the business community has been taken hostage by partisan ideologues," he wrote.

It’s all true. In what could be a thriving nationally acclaimed state college “business” with expanding student body enrollments, what we get instead is a Republican legislature that keeps cutting funding and penalizing the system for a few employee problems.

So what do you do about the “school yard bullies” threatening to take away more UW funding, along with plans to break the system up?

According to Democrat Rep. Mark Pocan comments to the State Journal, you leave them alone and let them continue bad mouth the chancellor and “liberal instructors.”

Instead of defining and framing them as the opponents of public education, he would rather let them reinforce the negative stereotype of public higher education. At a time when the outgoing chancellor needs the power of our Democratic leaders to stand behind him in his moment of truth, he gets blamed for angering and challenging the bullies to defend their position.
"This will lead to (conservatives) going on to new university bashing rather than them taking it to heart," said Rep. Mark Pocan, a member of the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee who agrees with the substance of Wiley's remarks. "Sometimes we need to be as smart with who delivers the message as we are with the message itself."

I spoke with Mark about his comments with the State Journal. He reminded me that much of what he told them never made it into the article, and what did, came across a bit weak. What he did tell me : He has been one of the more outspoken defenders of the U.W. system and has done his best not to let the school yard bully get away with the unrelenting attacks on intellectualism. For proof, he provided me this link, and restored my faith to some extent. Still, despite Rep. Pocan's gut feel that John Wiley should stay out of the fight, he's now in the ring, and has provided an opportune moment to define and position the radical right wings agenda to the voting public.

Unfortunately it’s left up to Wiley to defend himself, while the weak kneed Democrats cower in the shadow of the knuckle dragging Republicans and their friendly lobbyist, WMC.

Wiley defended his commentary. "They've (WMC) become for all practical purposes a partisan political lobbying organization instead of a strategically focused business organization," he said.

Jim Pugh, a spokesman for WMC, called Wiley an "excellent" chancellor but said the business group was a "strong supporter of the University of Wisconsin." "We're somewhat mystified by his comments," Pugh said. "They're somewhat uncharacteristic for an outgoing University of Wisconsin chancellor."

And that my friend is a total lie. WMC would love to see tech schools flourish while dismantling the U.W. System. WMC has already poisoned the press coverage of the business climate in the state.

One of the biggest opponents of the U.W., Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, chairman of the Assembly Higher Education Committee, has attempted to blackmail the UW to do his bidding, or else. Think I’m exaggerating? Here’s his “bully” response to Wiley’s comments:

Mike Mikalsen, an aide to Nass, called Wiley an "arrogant elitist" and said
the essay could affect (the new Chancellor Biddy) Martin's relations
with the Legislature. "It's John Wiley stealing the thunder of Biddy Martin, who should have this honeymoon period as she tries to lay out her agenda," Mikalsen said. "What this unfortunately does is it changes the dynamics of what people are going to be talking about."

Don’t you just love the stern authoritarian father figure response from this snake?

(According to) Todd Berry, president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, "However you slice it, they've had no real increases in funding from fiscal (year) 2001 to fiscal (year) 2007 and in real terms it's been a decline," Berry said.

Thank god we have a few supporters of the tired old idea of a college educated society, like Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, who “defended Wiley's comments, saying the business lobby's calls for tax cuts hurt programs like higher education."

Some lawmakers, he said, are "hell-bent" to hurt the university. WMC's had their blinders on that the only way to improve the economy is to hand out tax cuts to businesses, which means you have to cut funding elsewhere." Gov. Jim Doyle also defended Wiley. "I have great respect for John Wiley and the job he did at the university, and I agree that extreme ideologies are not the way to move Wisconsin forward."

It’s time to take back the playground from the Republican school yard bullies, and define and clearly identify their destructive behavior as aggressively as possible.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Democurmudgeon,

    I understand your frustration with WMC and those who attack our world-class UW system.

    But keep the eye on the target.

    My comments were made in the context that the best messenger for the very accurate message about WMC is BUSINESS. Fight business with business and the Republicans have little to counter. But from my experiences, John Wiley is not the best at political messenging (remember his "Thank you" letter to John Gard for cutting $30 million MORE to the UW two budgets ago).

    If you really want to be completely forthright and honest, reference the complete story and get the context right. Or better yet, check the public record. I routinely go after WMC and their special interest agenda.

    And for the UW - well check out this release against the Republicans and Steve Nass for how they treat the UW. I was the only legislator to put out a release on this issue.

    I appreciate your frustration and agree about the message. But next time, be complete and provide more than just blowing off steam without all the facts. And let's work together to get more of the business community to take on WMC...Epic did the best hit on WMC yet bar none.

    Mark Pocan