The Monona Rag

Dealing the Dish on Monona, Wisconsin

Tag: Doug Wood

Monona Blogs on Life Support

Last month, Monona Alderman Doug Wood made official what we all knew – he was done posting on his blog –

No matter what you think of Wood, he was a prolific writer. By his count, he wrote over 1,500 in about five years. It was not all political content, but instead a mixture of current events/politics with subjects that interested him. He presented a lot of great information to the public, which is always helpful.

A few years ago Monona citizens could get online and visit a multitude of Monona-centric websites, including Wood’s blog, plus sites run by school board members Peter Sobol, Jason McCutchin and Jessica Ace. Now? Not so much. Only Sobol’s is left – and he is pretty spotty with his posts, and he focuses mostly on school district related subjects.

So what happened? Are we simply out of ‘controversial’ subjects to discuss? Are people just tired of the online orgasm of arguments and counter arguments? Is the community just tired of arguing after nearly a decade of school closings and referendums?

To a degree, I suspect it’s ‘all of the above’. But also there’s a simple drag on the blog authors. Doug Wood started his blog for fun many years ago. But the fun can slowly leak out of the affair. I can sympathize. It starts to become a job. People come to expect a certain level of commitment to the affair. And then the extremists take to the comment sections, turning your job into a police action.

Personally, I have slowed down writing for many reasons. The main one has simply been family commitments. There is only so much time in the day to write. And only so much time to devote oneself to an issue. But also some of the hot button issues – especially those related to the school district – are behind us (or simmering under the surface).

So what’s the the future of Monona blogs? Are we better off without all these blogs – and their tendency to bitch and moan more than offer solutions? For us, I say no. The Rag promises to continue. I would like ideas and suggestions as to what issues you’d like covered. But we hope that other people will emerge to bring out a voice in the community. There’s nothing really devoted to the Monona community (even the Herald Independent website has gotten worse in its coverage – if that’s possible – over the years). Simple blogs by local citizens is probably the best way to highlight current and emerging issues in the city. Now, we just need those voices to step forward.

Alderman Doug Wood traded to Chicago Cubs for Alfonso Soriano

In a surprise move today the city of Monona has traded long-time alderman Doug Wood to the Chicago Cubs for outfielder Alfonso Soriano. The Cubs will also send $53.9 million to Monona to help pay off the remaining $54 million that Soriano is scheduled to be paid over the next three years.

Soriano has struggled in recent years with injuries and declining skills.

When asked how the city would use Soriano, Mayor Bob Miller indicated he would help out in the Parks and Rec department, showing kids how chew sunflower seeds and home run trots. He would also get some time in cutting grass at the park and smoothing out the baseball diamonds.

Soriano is reportedly a very good gin rummy player, and he will help organize card tournaments at the Senior Center.

As for Wood, Mayor Bob said he would be sad to lose the alderman, but he was excited to add someone like Soriano to the city’s payroll – especially at a reduced rate.

“We can always use a guy with speed and power,” Miller said. “And I hear he’s a very good baker. Can’t have enough baked goods.”

The Cubs organization said that Wood would be employed in many capacities, including posting positive stories about the Cubs on his blog, mediating clubhouse disputes, and telling funny stories during slumps, helping balance budgets, and teaching fans and staff how to polka. A senior official said that Wood could also ‘get some pinch hit opportunities’ during the coming season. Wood was, reportedly, specifically targeted by new Cubs GM Theo Epstein, who enjoys reading Doug’s blog.

“It’s a new phase of my life,” said Wood, when reached for comment. “I look forward to helping bring a championship to Chicago and the Cubs organization.”

Doug Wood new council president

This was old last week, but I thought it worthy of a quick follow up.

Doug Wood was unanimously elected as the city council president. Jeff Wiswell had previously served as president.

Wiswell did a classy thing and nominated Wood. It was a nice gesture. He could have encouraged Busse or Kugel to go for the position, but did not. Last year, Doug and Jeff drew a tie vote (3-3) for the council president position, but Wood withdrew and handed the job to Wiswell. So it’s a nice, Karmic thing.

The council president doesn’t really have lots of power, but it’s a nice feather for anyone to have (especially if he/she is interested in higher office – which Wood has said he is NOT interested in).

Will anti-Walker turnout affect Monona elections?

Two months ago, I didn’t think JoAnne Kloppenburg had a chance in the Supreme Court race. But that race has become the focus of anti-Walker sentiment, opening up a door for her that no one could have imagined.

The anti-Walker vote will come out in force, but beyond the bigger races, such as for Supreme Court, it’s unsure how it will affect smaller communities, such as Monona.

Monona, has historically voted Democratic – at least in national and state wide races. Locally, it’s been a mixed bag. Local officials often downplayed political leanings, including outgoing mayor Robb Kahl.

If we assume that anti-Walker voters will come out in force in Monona, how will it affect our city council and mayoral races?

At face value, the beneficiaries of such votes would probably be the self-proclaimed blue democrats. In this case, Doug Wood and Chad Speight. Bob Miller would also fall in this camp. While Miller doesn’t stake the ground like Wood and Speight, his endorsements are of a similar vibe. These three could, theoretically, ride the anti-Walker coattails for extra votes. That’s the theory.

But is it correct?

To be honest, my first gut feeling is that, yes, this will happen. But as I consider the question, I’m not sure how much. In the end, I suspect it will have a small positive vote for the three candidates.

But I don’t think it will be a huge difference. The reason is that local politics is still – well, local. It is just as much about personalities and who you know as much as political ideology. I was talking with a hard-core liberal friend the other day who planned to vote for one of the none ‘blue’ council members. Why? She knew and trusted the man. That was it. In Monona, this goes a long way with people.

Also, the thing the voters in Monona are going to come out for the mayoral race – not to vote against Walker. In some ways, I think the get-out-to-vote for the mayoral race will be a bigger factor than the anti-Walker vote. If Bob Miller can score a big victory over Jeff Wiswell, Chad Speight might ride his coattails to a win (I don’t include Doug Wood, because I would fully expect Wood to win reelection no matter what the circumstances).

So, is the anti-Walker vote a non-issue for Monona? Not at all. We have to remember that the last few council races have landed four and five candidates within 100 votes each. If Chad Speight can defeat Veserat or Busse by 50 votes or less, he may need to send Scott Walker a thank you card. The same can be said for Bob Miller.

It will be fascinating to see the results tonight. All this is pure speculation. Fun, but in the end, just speculation.

Please let us know what you think about the subject.

Campaign literature in Monona

This year, I have generally avoided talking about the campaign literature sent out or dropped at my door step. The reason is that most of the ads have been non-controversial. But I thought I’d make a few comments, including some regarding our only real ‘attack’ ad of the year.

Bob Miller’s ‘newspaper’ was interesting. I give him credit for trying something different, but I thought it was a bit too much. Who wants to read four pages of self-promotion of any politician?

Kudos to Doug Wood for the simplest literature. He listed 3-4 groups he’s a member of, listed 7-8 goals, and then just put down the names of people who are endorsing him. Nice and straight forward.

I give Wiswell credit for best campaign literature comeback. His initial letter he sent a while back was long and rambling. The one he sent this past weekend was much more focused. Still a bit wordy, but much improved.

Busse and Veserat were pretty simple on their literature. Nothing earth shattering, but nothing that is likely to win any awards.

That leaves us with Chad Speight. Speight had sent a postcard mailer last month, listing people endorsing him. It was simple, but didn’t give much information (something I feel he needs to do since he’s the challenger in this election). I got a second piece of literature this weekend. This one had more information, which was good. Speight gave some specifics on how he’d be different, such as buying more fuel-efficient vehicles. But Speight also did what no one else had done this election, and that was to call out another candidate in his literature.

In this case, Speight targeted Alderman Mike Veserat. To be honest, I don’t have a problem with a candidate pointing out another candidate’s voting record to illustrate a difference. But I thought the two points Speight made were rather lame – and in one case – mildly unfair.

The first item was to criticize Veserat for not calling a meeting of the Transit Commission for ‘many months’. However, this committee is what you’d call a ‘contract committee’. They get the contract for the service (which is the Monona Transit) set up. At that point, there’s not a lot to do. You meet periodically to see how things are going, and make adjustments as necessary. But to meet every month is probably overkill.

The second item is to say that Veserat ‘proposed cutting the budget’ for Parks and Rec services. The item (I assume) Speight is referring to was the increasing of a Parks and Rec staff person from part-time to full-time. I emailed Veserat on this matter, and he replied that he did not proposed cutting the Parks and Rec budget – but, in fact, proposed that this year’s Park and Rec budget remain the same as last year’s. With regard to the position, he was concerned that it would not be sustainable in the long term – meaning we’d just have to cut it next year. Therefore, he put forward the amendment to keep the position as a part timer, to give him time to make sure the position was something we could afford going forward. When he was convinced this was a sustainable position, he withdrew the amendment.

So, did Veserat propose to ‘cut Parks and Rec services’? He put forth an amendment to budget to keep a part time person at that level, instead of becoming full time. But the item was never voted on, since he withdrew it.

Technically, you can argue everyone is right, and everyone is wrong. But I find it awkward that Speight is doing the same thing he bemoaned happened to him in the last election (when he said some people, including Veserat, distorted his viewpoints on putting more sidewalks in Monona). I don’t have a problem with any of our elected officials taking more time to make sure we are spending our money wisely.

I also don’t like these kinds of attacks late in the election cycle. It doesn’t give the opponent sufficient time to respond to such accusations.

Personally, I wish Speight had stuck to the things he believes in. I think his literature did well up until this ‘attack’ part. He has taken a moment in time, and put his own spin on it, to make someone else look bad. If alderman Veserat had pressed on with this amendment, I could see this as a more clear cut issue. But that Veserat never was cutting the position in the first place, and the fact that he dropped the amendment, makes it murky.

I will say that if this is all we have to complain about with ‘negative’ or ‘attack’ ads, we are doing pretty good in Monona. Considering the BS that is flying (on both sides) of the supreme court race, things aren’t bad in Monona.

Finally, I may have missed something – emails, phone calls, mailers. I’m just going by what I received. If you feel anything is missing, please add it to our comments.

City Council Debate Review

Better late than never. Sorry it’s taken so long to watch the debate. But here you go. Time for Doug Wood, Jim Busse, Mike Veserat and Chad Speight to get it on.

Quite frankly, this was pretty dull affair. There were no incendiary remarks. No great speeches. In fact, the four candidates agreed on most things. They often were saying things like, “I have to agree with the others.”

The candidates all were pretty similar on the following items:

  • We need to watch our budget carefully.
  • Monona will get hit financially by the budget cuts, but we are in pretty good shape.
  • No one wants to cut services in Monona. There might be some fee increases to cover some items.
  • The city has some infrastructure work to do – update some buildings, make them more efficient, etc. Nothing earth shattering.
  • We have a good relationship with the unions. Collective bargaining has worked well in Monona, and no one anticipates anything to change with that regard.
  • We all like pizza.

General observations

  • Doug Wood seemed a little distracted. He jumped around and didn’t seem as focused as I’ve seen him in the past. Still, like always, he knows the job is 95% budget and has a great understanding of the city’s workings.
  • I think Jim Busse was the most consistent. He put out his message (fiscal sanity) and kept focused on it throughout.
  • Mike Veserat was probably the most entertaining. He, along with Doug Wood, had some nice zingers. Both he and Wood have a nice self-deprecating side to them that is amusing. Like Busse, Veserat staked out the ‘don’t waste our money, don’t make mistakes’ ground and held to it.
  • Chad Speight had the toughest job in this debate. He’s challenging three incumbents who come from a council that, most of them admit, work pretty well together. This means Speight had to distance himself on a few issues to try and stand out. He played the left, green, anti-Walker cards.

Points of contention

  • RTA. One of the few divisions amongst the candidates was on the Regional Transit Authority (RTA). Chad Speight and Doug Wood were very strong in favor of some sort of expanded mass transportation in Monona. Busse was very concerned about an outside agency running Monona’s transit needs, but feels we can do more. Mike Veserat (as well as the others) noted there’s a survey being done now to help determine our needs. Veserat was the most vocal anti-RTA person – staking that ground in his opening statement.
  • Debt. Veserat mentioned that the city’s debt concerned him, and we should be wary of other big projects at this time – saying ‘We should let our checkbook catch up’ – or something to that effect. Wood felt it wasn’t that bad, citing our good bond rating. Busse, like Veserat, pointed out the need to watch what we spend.

Non issues

  • Public safety. Chad Speight repeatedly brought up public safety as a big concern of his. He admitted we won’t be building any sidewalks, but he talked about things like ‘re-engineering’ streets. Personally, I found it odd. Monona streets are wide. Wider than a typical Madison street. They are that way because there are no sidewalks. We aren’t having problems (that I know of) of kids or pedestrians getting hit by cars. All the candidates agreed that public safety was important, but Speight discussed the issue as if it’s severely lacking. He kept this topic pretty vague, but I’d want to see more details before saying he was right.
  • Budget Bill and Scott Walker. With the recent Walker budget bill still looming large, the candidates avoided supporting or criticizing the measure. Except Chad Speight. Speight clearly does not like Walker and his policies. That is fine, but the odd part it was really a non-issue for the other candidates. No one suggested we abolish our unions’ rights, or cut services. I realize that Speight feels passionately about what is happening, but his references to the budget felt more like rally speeches opposing Walker and his policies than anything.

What does this mean?

We love to talk ‘Green’ and ‘Sustainable’, but I think any candidate who uses these terms needs to be more detailed about this subject. Chad Speight, at least, offered a simple suggestion of going paperless with meeting notes. But I want candidates who say they are going to make our city more ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’ be specific. It’s nice to say, but is it just pandering to the green crowd. And if you have big ideas, you owe it to people to detail them out to know the financial ramifications.

Best line of the day?

Doug Wood had a great chicken joke, but I’m going to go with Veserat. When someone sent in a question about Monona pizza parlors (a question that confused the council immensely), Veserat just said, “I’ll vote for pizza.”


The city council debate was, largely, without any fireworks. No one came across like an idiot. No one jumped out as a ‘winner’ or a ‘loser’. Many of the candidates have similar opinions, so the questions posed didn’t always give them a chance to shine.

Veserat made a comment that when he ran for council two years ago he was concerned about mistakes the city was making (his example were the bumpouts on Winnequah, the mess up of the warming shelter at Winnequah Park that doesn’t warm). He then said something like, “I’m proud we haven’t screwed anything up.” It was not a bad sentiment. The existing councilmen, Wood, Busse and Veserat, can argue they work well together, have kept Monona is good shape financially, and set up the community for growth. So, as noted earlier, that left Chad Speight trying to state a reason he should replace the others. I don’t know if RTA, safety, green and anti-Walker policy statements were able to do that.


Doug Wood to run for mayor? Not going to happen.

For those who held out hope that Doug Wood would run for mayor, it’s not going to happen.

Doug  said in the comments of his blog that he won’t run.

“… I am not running for Mayor. I have thought about it and have decided it’s not for me.”

That’s a pretty solid ‘no’.

He does say that he thinks Bob Miller would (will) be an excellent mayor.

Monona Community Calendar

Here’s a list of some of the great family events happening in Monona that you should make sure you put on your calendar.

Great Road Construction Celebration
All Year through 2015

Rally for a Stop Sign at (insert street)
All Year Long

School Closing / Budget Cut Bonanza

Election Hysteria

Ill-Informed Letters to Editor Bash
Usually coincides with School Closings / Budget Cuts and Election Hysteria

Belle Island Sandbag Party
May (bi-annual event)

Winnequah Park Hash and Marijuana Fest
Saturday nights, all Summer long

Monona/Cottage Grove School Board Festival of Peace and Harmony

Insane ‘How did this get on the Agenda’ City Council Issue Marathon
Date Varies

Goose Poop Frolic

Rake Your Leaves into the Streets Festival

Doug Wood Wears a Tie Day

Christmas with TIF

Mayoral Aspirations III: Doug Wood

Doug Wood

I’ll say this right up front – I don’t think Doug Wood wants to run for mayor.

Would he ever run? That’s another question. But let’s look at Alderman Wood and speculate why he might run, and how he would do.

First thing about Doug Wood that people will think of is experience. He’s been an alderman for over 20 years. He knows the ins and outs of Monona politics more than anyone except perhaps Kathy Thomas. So as we look at Doug’s positives, his knowledge of the city is extensive, and his experience is vast.

So what else does Doug Wood have going for him? Quite a few things. Let’s take a looksee.

Doug is probably what you’d call an old school Madison progressive. He’s passionate about green/sustainability issues. The liberal Dane County voter comes out for him, and his 20+ years  in office shows people support him. But Wood is not a strict ‘liberal good, conservative bad’ guy. He’s shown that above all he can work with just about anyone. He’s pragmatic and sensible. His ability to cross lots of barriers is what’s helped him stay in office so long.

We’d also like to give nod to Doug for his sense of humor – something you don’t see a lot in politics. Doug actually posts on our blog at times (he even answered our Q&A we sent him), doesn’t mind when we make fun of him – and he’s the only local blog / site that actually links to us. Heck, he even teases the Rag on his blog. Yes, Doug, we read your blog.

Finally, I think you’ll find that Wood loves Monona. Like Kathy Thomas, who we profiled before, Doug has a passion for Monona, and I think it shows. That passion goes a long way with voters.

So, there’s lots of good things about Doug. What are the negatives?

Many conservatives will dismiss him due to his left leanings. Nothing much he can do about this – at least you know Doug’s feelings on issues. Also, many of the good things about him – his humor and temperament – might actually be a negative if he’d be mayor. Many people just don’t see him putting up with all the crap the mayor has to endure. Doug supported the school referendum five years ago, and some of people still have bitter memories of that. Next, his experience can also be a detriment – as Kathy Thomas found. Times are difficult, and when people are looking to blame someone, a 20+ year veteran councilman can often look like a good scapegoat.

Finally, does he want to run? As we stated at the start of this post, we don’t think so. You really need to want to mayor to successfully run for it. I’m not sure Wood would want it badly enough. Especially if it means campaigning against an incumbent like Mayor Kahl.

Now the final question on Doug Wood – would he run?

I think the only way Wood runs is if we get a perfect storm. First thing that would have to happen would be if Mayor Kahl doesn’t run. Second, we could see Wood run if the competition really looked like a disaster to him (or no one significant stepped up to the plate). After all, he loves Monona, and does he want to see it go into the dumps? Probably not. Especially if friends and colleagues encourage him.

No matter what Doug Wood does, I wouldn’t be shocked if he stepped down from the council after this current term. That’s just a hunch.

If Wood does run – no matter who the opponent – he has strong support from the city’s old liberal bloc, not to mention the older voters, who he knows well.

Our money is he doesn’t run, but you never know what can happen.

City Council Fashion Cage Match

Imagine our excitement when the latest Monona City Council video went up for us watch. With a wide assortment of suits, ties, sports coats and who-knows-what-else, it’s a feast for any fashion maven.

The Candidates

Let’s start it off with alderman Jim Busse. Busse didn’t do the jacket thing but he came across nicely. The blue shirt and tie looked sharp. We loved the nice vibrant blue color of the shirt. Way to go, Jim.

Next is Dennis Kugle – looking frighteningly like a non-gray bearded Jim Busse – Kugle lands on the not-so great-side of the fashion scorecard with the white/beige sport coat. He wore a perfectly respectable blue shirt and tie, but the jacket just was not a winner.

The next contestant is Mayor Kahl. With his impeccability coiffed hair (I think it would be more crunchy than greasy), the mayor did well with the old fashioned suit-and-tie get up. The shirt was a a light purple (or maybe just white – can’t tell very well) with a matching stripped tie. Thumbs up from the fashion gods.

And now the newcomer. Scott Munson is at his first meeting. How will the stylists judge his initial appearance? Well, if he was dressed straight out of Apollo 13 or the Right Stuff, he’s perfect! Even the hair is circa 1967. But then, white shirt, tie – can you go wrong? Can you go right?

Jeff Wiswell sported a gray jacket and a tie that we just couldn’t make out on the video. Anyhow, it was perfectly respectable – if somewhat old school looking. Perhaps Wiswell and Munson can make a 60’s era Dragnet-like cop show together – the craggy veteran and the enthusiastic rookie.

Mike Veserat wore a sorta pee (yes, we mean urine) colored shirt. Okay, it wasn’t that bad, and at least he brought some color to the proceeding.  And we give him credit for being the only guy to where a tie that didn’t have strips or was a solid color (maybe Wiswell’s had some design, but we can’t say for sure).

Finally, Doug Wood was resoundingly dull with a light colored, short-sleeved button shirt and stone washed khakis from 1992. We have to admit that he did look the most comfortable of the entire bunch.

So, in a cage match for fashion championship of the Monona City Council, who wins?

Are you kidding? Does anyone win with this lot! We think not. They all looked pretty much the same (except Doug Wood). Tie, shirt, jacket (mostly). At least in school board the women give the whole thing some excitement.