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Thursday, April 17, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 44.0° F  Overcast
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Beilke: So Mayor Dave is pro-business. Who isn't?

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In his State of the City address at the Madison Rotary Club last week, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz pledged that in 2009 Madison "will strive to be both progressive and pro-business." He said it as though there is some inherent conflict between the two ideas, and as if this is something new.

I attended UW-Madison back when there were actually still a few Marxists around, but I have yet to meet anyone who is not "pro-business." Everyone understands that businesses employ people and that jobs are important.

The term "anti-business" is what corporate lobbyists, Republican elected officials and editorial writers at the Wisconsin State Journal throw around whenever Big Business is afraid it might not get something it wants. Were Mayor Dave and his speech writers copping this language because they think that is what Rotarians want to hear? If so, I'm pretty sure they're wrong.

For several years now, standard bearers like Forbes, Money and Expansion Management magazine have put Madison at the top of their lists of the nation's best cities for finding jobs and starting or expanding businesses. Madison has certain natural advantages that make it a great place to do business: the presence of the state government and the flagship university, a highly educated workforce, and great public schools.

Most importantly, it has enlightened local leadership. Let's not lose that.

Credit where credit is due

A five-paragraph article in Sunday's Wisconsin State Journal announcing that the newspaper's reporters won 11 Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism awards contained four typographical errors. There was an "of" that should have been an "or," and three instances in which semi-colons were placed inside of quotation marks when they should have been outside of them.

We are, none of us, perfect. My previous post had a typo that is particularly irksome because it was pointed out to me by my wife. A free Isthmus T-shirt goes to the first commenter to identify the error. (TDP writers and their spouses are not eligible to enter.)

But at least my blunder was not in an article celebrating my own journalistic excellence.

Let us now praise crazy tea baggers

Too much has already been written about Madison's April 15 tea party considering that the excellent photo spreads on The Daily Page (here and here) already tell the story better than any number of words can.

But alas I will add my voice to the din and call on fellow progressives to try harder to find fealty with the beleaguered tea baggers.

When I was the communications director for the Garvey/Lawton campaign in 1998, I thought Tommy Thompson and his campaign staff were my enemies. Campaign work is stressful, grueling and generally thankless. Thompson had a 78 percent approval rating and his campaign was outspending ours 10 to 1. It was easy to transfer the pain of the campaign trail onto Thompson and his staff, who regularly dismissed our campaign and criticized my efforts.

Every so often I would encounter Thompson staffers like Bob Wood, Kevin Keane and Darren Schmitz at private meetings for negotiations over debate parameters or whatever. After a while I realized they were nice guys who were basically doing the same thing I was, for more or less the same reasons. We commiserated about impenetrable reporters, impossible candidate expectations, and hostile feedback from a general public distrustful of people who did what we did for a living. In other words, no one understood what I was going through like they did, and vice versa.

Similarly, of all people, Democratic and progressive activists who disagree with the tea baggers on the issues should be able to understand their frustration and appreciate their willingness to leave the house, hold up a sign, and make their voices heard.

Okay, so the event was sponsored by big-money corporate AstroTurf groups. Sure, it was pumped up by Fox News and right-wing talk radio. And yes, our side turns out more people, without spending all that money, and is still ignored by the media. And finally, let me be clear, the tea baggers' cause is ludicrous: We Americans pay the lowest taxes in the free world. They are the lowest they have been since the Great Depression and they will remain so even when Obama's tax increases kick in a couple years from now.

Nonetheless, I admire the 3,000-5,000 people who filled the Capitol lawn a couple weeks ago to bellow about the onrush of socialism and hear Vicki McKenna bloviate about the impending apocalypse. I wish there were thousands more just like them.

One more thing about Tommy

I have used this space to draw attention to the hypocrisy of GOP governors and others who complain about government intervention in the economy even as they rake in federal stimulus dollars and bailout money. It exposes their anti-government rhetoric's self-contradiction, but leaves open the question of what their real purpose is.

Bill Kraus, Governor Lee Dreyfus's former campaign manager, asked Tommy Thompson about this quandary earlier this month. Thompson was taping a show that will air on the Big Ten Network, "Wisconsin Reflections" with host John Roach.

According to Kraus, at some point during the show Thompson asked the same question I have been asking: "If you don't want to do something, why would you run for public office?"

Why, indeed.

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