Wisconsin’s Future: It’s about working together

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Mar 20, 2012 No Comments ›› Admin

March 21, 2012

Recently I spoke to a group of seniors who held a conference about Wisconsin’s future. “It’s not about partisan politics,” they told me.“It’s about clean government, common sense and working together.”

This seems like a simple request. And one echoed by people of all political persuasions.

We need to change our tone in government and politics. Turnover a new leaf and start over again. We need to stop calling each other names and start listening again.

We must respect each other while we debate our differences.Our differences represent our different life experiences and political inclinations. But from our differences comes the wisdom to solve the complex problems we face.

Our state continues to struggle with a sputtering economic recovery. Many of our schools and local governments are under-funded. Outdated and complex formulas for funding schools and local governments create winners and losers. When some communities do well, similar communities struggle because of the vagaries of the formulas.

Health costs are rising. Our neighborhoods and families are graying. More gray hair means more health concerns and, with limited public dollars, we grapple with doing more with less.

State audits show many problems with the management of state government. Problems with contract oversight, excessive overtime, management inefficiencies, fraud and abuse all contribute to the belief we can do a better job of running the ship of state.

The answers to the problems we face are within the wisdom of the people around us. From the workers in state government, shop keepers, educators,farmers, health care managers, insurance agents, business owners and factory managers; we are an enterprising, hard working population. We have the where-with-all to solve the complex problems of our time.

But we must stop calling each other names. We must listen to all sides and encourage people to talk to each other, not at each other.

Many times in my career I have asked members of different groups to come together. I said to them, “Check your ego and your hat at the door. Don’t represent your group. Don’t fight the wars of the past. But join me,share your wisdom and experiences and let’s focus on solutions.”

From this approach, for example, came my five-point plan on health insurance reform. We came up with innovative ideas that were later adopted at the federal level. At the time, the ideas made Wisconsin a leader.

Wisconsin can once again lead. We can solve our problems with common sense, by working together and through clean government.

We must also acknowledge that we are deeply divided, that we have differing visions of how we should govern ourselves and what our future should look like. And it becomes the responsibility of all of us as voters to discuss and then choose the vision that we as a community will pursue.

To keep the peace, however, whoever wins must respect Wisconsin’s tradition of open government, full participation and following the rules. Secrecy and speed in lawmaking are the tools of those who want to exercise power without restraint. Democracy is slow and deliberative for a reason. People need the opportunity to know what is happening in Madison in enough time to respond if they so choose. Legislation is like fish. We need to open up the package and set it on the table in the sun. Then we can see if it smells.

We need to keep reminding ourselves that despite all of our arguments and debates, and who wins, we still have to live with each other and with the results. We need the best efforts of everyone to make our communities great places to live, work and raise our children. Let us move forward together with civility and mutual respect.

Voters for Vinehout

P.O. Box 1274
Eau Claire, WI 54702