The Monona Rag

Dealing the Dish on Monona, Wisconsin

Tag: Herald-Independent

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.

Where have you gone, Gerhardt Fregien, R.Ph.

I miss Gerhardt Fregien. He haunts my dreams.

Who is Gerhardt Fregien, you ask?

Gerhardt was the most awesome part of the Herald-Independent’s website. The H-I ran an advertisement in the left column of their page for the Medicine Shoppe on Monona Drive for about 350 years. And on that ad was a picture of Gerhardt Fregien, R.Ph.

I could count on visiting the Herald-Independentent website and find Gerhardt’s mug on every page. I often wondered how he had managed to monopolize that ad space for so long. I was thinking it was never going to change – that perhaps Gerhardt had struck some lifetime ad deal with the newspaper – but then it happened – I visited the Herald-Independent website a while back, and lo and behold – no Gerhardt Fregien, R.Ph., no Medicine Shoppe. Instead we get a college basketball bracket ad.

I realize that the tournament will end in a couple of weeks, and Gerhardt Fregien, R.Ph. may return, but I miss his reassuring presence on the H-I website. On a page littered with ads (14 at last count), Gerhardt ruled the page.

Until then, we can only dream of Gerhardt Fregien, R.Ph.


Sobol’s undies in a bundle

Sunny went postal on the school board a couple of weeks ago, calling them a ‘bunch of monkeys’ in her column. The reference came up when she criticized the board for not having a member in negotiations with the teachers union.

That got Peter Sobol’s undies in a bundle on his blog and in the Herald Independent. He called her ‘irresponsible’ and ‘lazy’.

Sonny backed off a week later.

It’s all rather amusing.

People kind of shrug at Sunny’s articles and treat her like the crazy aunt. She says what she wants, when she wants, to whomever she wants. It’s sort of her charm. And she often gets to the point way more efficiently than the rest of us. Getting into a pissing match with her is probably unwise.

I will say that Sobol has a point about the situation – I don’t think having a board member in negotiations is necessary. If they can bring something to the table, then sure, but if none of these people have ever been involved with contract negotiations, it’s probably a waste of their time (and the negotiators, who have to answer his/her questions).

But what Sunny’s article illustrates is that the board should work hard to let people know what exactly is going on, who is involved, etc. Sunny’s previous articles had forced some of them to actually talk publicly about the negotiations. Too often people don’t have a clue what’s going on. For every single person who’s ‘informed’ on these subjects, another 10 are ignorant monkeys-like newspaper columnists and bloggers (we completely made up the 10-1 ratio and use it strictly because we don’t have a clue and 10-1 ratio sounds pretty awesome.)

The board – and the district as a whole –  should make a concentrated effort at expanding their communications efforts. Not just a few blogs, but email newsletters, online updates, plus regular notices sent home to parents during the school year.

Hey, they can email us updates! We’ll be happy to post things.

Monona happenings

In all of our angst it’s time to remind the world of what’s important – put a little perspective on life.

As many no doubt have heard, Monona Library Director Demita Gerber had a brain aneurysm and will be on medical leave for a while. Demita has a done a great job maintaining and improving the library in difficult financial times. It’s a great resource for this community – one we should all value. Our best to Demita.

Next in the ‘putting things in perspective’ posts, we recommend you read Monona Alderman Doug Wood’s blog post regarding his daughter, Jessica, who died many years ago at age three. It’s a moving, poignant piece. Just go read it.

Finally – just so we don’t get too maudlin, go read Sunny Schubert’s column in the Herald Independent. Her take on the school district’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy with regard to racism is classic Sunny. Well done. banned from school literature

School Board President Sue Fox told the Cottage Grove PTO and the district buildings that literature was not allowed in any future fliers sent home with kids or on their website.

The Herald Independent also asked where was Superintendent Craig Gerlach during this mess and Fox basically said he was behind the lawyers skirts. She did say it was probably a ‘good idea’ to send home some message in her newsletter disassociating the district from the group. We do agree with the author that Gerlach showed surprisingly weak leadership skills during this episode. He should have come out right away and said that this group did not represent the district, that the CG PTO could not include their information on any of their materials, that the PTO couldn’t pass out literature for them, and that he would make sure it wouldn’t happen again. He could have also said what he couldn’t do – shut them down, prosecute them, etc. But a simple statement washing the district of them, and a promise that it wouldn’t happen in the future, was all he needed to do.

People still roll their eyes in disbelief at the fact that no one on the Cottage Grove PTO claims to know who is behind this group. Yet they manage to get their email put on all their literature. Sure.

Way to go, Adam

We like to make fun of the Herald-Independent – our local newspaper. From the goofy articles by Sonny, to their willingness to print all sorts of letters, it can be fairly amusing (hence the ‘comedy herald’ reference).

Still, the Monona Rag would like to give a shout out to Adam Mella, the paper’s Managing Editor. Adam  goes to all the city council meetings, all the board meetings, and hangs until the bitter end, even after everyone’s gone home. He’s got his Twitter account active, he shouts out local blogs and events.

Adam’s willingness to dive so deeply into the city and school district’s inner workings is great. His articles tend to be more on the ‘this is what happened’ vein, which is okay. It helps people out. We only wish he had more time to do in depth reporting on issues affecting the city and district.

No matter, his hard work is a service to the city and district.

Keep track of Adam’s work at