The Monona Rag

Dealing the Dish on Monona, Wisconsin

Tag: Jim Busse

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.


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.