Thursday, May 26, 2011

Not A Sufferer Of Fools

The picture above, which is copyright Television Wisconsin Inc., shows Hizzoner being sworn in – again – as Mayor of the city he loves. Of all the pictures I could have selected of my long-time friend, I chose this one, because it reminds me that Paul Soglin has strong opinions and does not suffer fools gladly. Many of you will recall that as the young lady was swearing in Paul at a meeting of the City Council, she flubbed one of the lines – and Paul corrected her, after making one of his trademark faces when she blew it.

Now, Council members and the public prints seem shocked that Soglin has spoken so bluntly about the fate of the Overture Center, and there’s plenty of fake outrage going around about it. Soglin told the Capital Times he expected the Overture Center’s latest bailout plan to “crash and burn”, and that he’d be left to pick up the pieces; then the State Journal editorialized that hizzoner was being too blunt and too negative.

And you expected…..?

Speaking his mind is one thing Paul has never had a problem with, and I know from having interviewed him on-the-air scores of times that if you ask a question Paul thinks is stoopid, he’ll let you know about it right away. 20-some years ago, when my wife (before she was my wife) and I were doing “Madison’s Morning News”, we had Soglin on the show to discuss some hot topic, and Toni asked him a question he didn’t like. (Let the record show that she threw the hardballs on that show – bless her Journalistic heart – while my contributions were usually along the lines of failed or veiled humor.) Soglin sputtered and snorted and said “that question does not advance the debate on this issue one iota”, or words to that effect.

Paul doesn’t pull his punches.

So when his predecessor appointed Paul to a commission to study the continually faltering finances of the Overture Center, Paul did it like he does everything: all in, or not at all. He made a detailed study and enunciated publicly the problems nobody wanted to talk about, and uncovered other critical bits of information that nobody had thought to look for. The sort of stuff that makes the arts mavens and politicians very nervous. Plain talk.

So, if Paul says the Overture Center’s latest bailout plan is going to crash and burn, and he hopes it doesn’t take the whole city financial structure down, and that he’ll be left to pick up the pieces, he’s not hyperbolizing. He’s telling it like he sees it. Yes, it’s blunt. Yes, it’s hard to take. There’s no sugar coating.

But I’d expect no less from Paul. And we’re owed no less, particularly when it comes to the Overture Center’s future.


  1. Dead on, here. Not exactly an unknown quantity. I think it is a style thing, as the mayor is an old school debate tactician: present the worst case and instead of saying "no but," say "yes, and." Anything following is a valid compromise and not a surprise. Just my observation. He's old, not stupid.

  2. IIRC, the Madoff scam affected Overture's financial picture, too. Not positively...

  3. Had an attack of nostalgia-is-good-stalgia the other day and played the 1980 blooper tape for WSH/WTL. In the News Dept. segment, there was State Senator Mike Ellis giving his unbridled commentary. Another example of somebody who tells it like it is.

    The Town Crank

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