Selling myself (and not like that)

Hey guys, I’ll only do one of these to keep this site’s integrity up and out of the muck of internal elections.

Regardless, please check out ASM Fireside Chat for information regarding my candidacy for Vice-Chair of ASM next year.



A Quick Sell

Check out my recent post on The East Campus View!  I’ll be posting on there quite often to discuss my plans to run for ASM Chair.


Whew, What a Week!

The polls have closed, the election results are in, a political slate holds 10 ASM Student Council seats, and the Nat Renovations have failed.  In addition, some controversy has arisen surrounding me, and I continue to try to do my lame-duck style job as SSFC Chair.  As the session comes to a close, however, there is still a lot of work to do.

First, let’s talk a bit about the election.  I’m not surprised to hear about the Nat failing, considering that the No New Seg Fees brought about awareness about what the cost of the proposal would be.  I was, however, shocked to see a 60-40 split (I thought it would be very close), with an astounding 35% voter turnout.  ASM has not seen such a turnout in its 16 years of existence–and likely won’t see a turnout like that again for a very, very long time.

Also, the MPower platform/slate got 10 of its 22-ish members on to the Student Council.  I would love to examine election results in ASM sometime, but it seems largely like a waste of time; it would merely satisfy my unique curiosity.  Either way, you can’t argue with the results, and it appears that this political “party” at least has a partial grab on ASM.  I don’t really have a problem with this, even though I wasn’t included in MPower, so long as they maintain an open mind and don’t vote along party lines.  ASM can be slow already, and we don’t need uninformed block voters slowing it even further; I’m not saying that’s what will happen, but ASM is not the place to play political congressmen.

Sadly, my counterpart here at the Campus First, Adam Johnson, was not elected.  Still, I think he will continue to be involved, especially through this blog and through his continued work in Legislative Affairs.  I’ll let him comment more if he wishes, so that I don’t speculate any more!

In other news, Tyler Junger, Kurt Gosselin, Tom Templeton, and myself have all been accused of violating the ASM bylaws.  It appears that it comes from our involvement in ASM last year, specifically voting on the internal budgets at some point in time.  I’m still trying to figure out the details, and where it is all coming from, so I will keep you posted.  I’m going to try to stay transparent with what happens, but you’ll have to be patient about this.

My Platform (Or, this One’s for you Smathers)

So, anti-shout out to Jason Smathers at ASM Watch for not emailing me about my candidacy.  But, I like where he is going with it, so I am going to take the time to post my responses to his questions.  This is sort of my informal platform.

1. What prompted you to run for Student Council in the first place?

Having been involved in ASM for two years, I’ve seen the work the ASM is capable of–both the good and the bad.  My hope is that on Student Council, I can help craft a vision for the organization that will continue to provide for the students we represent.  Further, having served a year as SSFC Chair, I hope to provide guidance on segregate fee related things.

2. What do you know about Student Council? What is your impression of it?

The ASM Student Council is the core of the student government here at UW Madison, so it is crucial that it is an effective body.  Throughout the Student Council’s existence, it has fallen short of reaching its true potential–something I will comment on later.  Regardless, the first steps of the next session need to include streamlining the Student Council process.  That means in depth parliamentary procedure training, complete understanding of the organization (including the budgets),  and a full vision for where ASM should go in the course of a year.

3. What is something ASM has dropped the ball on in recent years? What is something it has succeeded at?

Let’s see…where to begin?  I won’t comment on how many times ASM has dropped the ball, but we’ll say the number is significant.  ASM seems to be wildly obsessed with debating trivialities.  True success lies in real, tangible services provided for students.  Relevancy cannot be fought for; it must be earned.  The only true way to make the campus care is to continue to provide and work on behalf of real services.  The text book swap (albeit there is room for expansion), the newly devised tenant services, the rape crisis center, the bus pass, the SAFE services, and lobbying efforts at state, city and national levels are all good examples of ASM successes.

4. Do you belong to any student organizations on campus?

I was involved in many organizations in the start of my freshman year, but since joining SSFC, I have committed most of my time to ASM.

5. If you had one thing to pass through SC or work on in an ASM committee, what would it be?

I have a lot of ambitious proposals, but my number one task is the campus services fund.  The campus services fund is essentially a mechanism for funding ASM driven services, such as the Rape Crisis Center, the ASM Bus Pass, or Tenant Services.  My hope is that the fund will provide an outlet for core campus services, such as tutoring, leadership development, tenant support, sexual assault awareness and prevention, campus safety, and many, many others.

I handed it off to SSFC Secretary Matt Manes’ subcommittee this year, but there work is not going to complete in time for the end of the session.  I am not planning on being SSFC Chair again, so my free time will be dedicated to working on this essential campus provision.

6. What can SC do about tuition and fees at UW?

I am really glad you asked that.  Of course, SSFC has most control over segregated fees, which SC should definitely continue to check.  They should continue to allocate them responsibly.  SC, on the other hand, should be working towards reinvestment in higher education at the state and national level.  This includes, but is not limited to, lobbying for state funding and for increased financial aid at the national and state levels.

7. If you could be appointed to any ASM committee, which would it be and why?

I would be appointed to SSFC, at least for the first part of the year.  SSFC has a high turnover rate, so having a former Chair stick around to help with leadership transition would be extremely beneficial.  In fact, if I lose the election, I will still be looking for an appointment to the SSFC.  Other than that, the ASM book swap program has lots of room for expansion, so I would consider helping with that via Academic Affairs.

8. How familiar are you with Robert’s Rules of Order?

SSFC runs the strictest Parli Pro in ASM, and I had to run the meetings.  Short answer: very.

9. Are there any causes you feel ASM should be championing?

The causes ASM should be championing come in a three prong set: 1) Services, 2) Advocacy, and 3) Membership and representation.  Services for campus, as I have detailed elsewhere, are where ASM seems to have the most opportunity.  Advocacy includes lobbying administrative, local, state and federal officials for reinvestment in higher education and accessibility.  And membership includes allowing students to have a say in the allocation of their fees and in the shared governance of the campus.

10. What are your other commitments for the next academic year?

I have no other reserved commitments, except for school of course.

Big Ten Legislative Caucus

Alright guys, as much fun as it is to watch Brandon and I squabble like old married folk (which is truly a choice experience)  this post will not be about our disagreements on issues. 

 This post is an outline of what I want to accomplish next year on Council.  This is clearly not everything I want to do, but I decided to write about what I am most passionate about and about what I have done the most to realize.  Of course, I plan on continuing my work on campus safety (Lights on Langdon), transportation (Yahara Station/High Speed Rail, Regional Transit Authority),  transparancy (I’m still blogging…), and positive internal reform, however my one primary goal upon which I push myself is something else entirely and is related to my work as Legislative Affairs Chair.

Among other issues, the primary focus of my next term on Council will focus on the creation of an institutionalized Big Ten legislative platform.  This platform will result with an increased presence of students at the national level where students have typically had a difficult time asserting themselves.  Organizations such as the United States Student Association certainly exist, however the Big Ten represents the largest consortium of research institutions in the country with a total enrollment of over 460,000 students.  The unique nature of the Big Ten schools and their extensive research and graduate networks creates different needs than can be addressed at the level of larger national student groups.

            The Big Ten schools need each other; this much is clear.  With eleven universities spread over a relatively small area of the country, we can realistically meet at least several times a year to discuss common goals, strategies, and events to move our own students forward.  A common legislative platform would allow us to create a machine allowing students to have a louder and more assertive voice when addressing their legislators.

            This Big Ten Legislative Caucus would meet before the academic year begins, near the end of August and a collective course of action would be planned here. We would set goals and deadlines for meeting with our own legislators and coordinate simultaneous rallies across all our campuses to create a loud media event to further our collective goals.  This rally, occurring in October or November would place public pressure on legislators in addition to the private pressure that we have been applying consistently.  Another simultaneous rally would follow in the Spring semester, and the year would culminate with another Big Ten Legislative Caucus to either make the final push for the desired change (as when Big Ten students traveled to Washington this year to press for Student Loan Reform) or to simply recap the year and look forward.

            The first steps to making this a reality have been made.  Other Big Ten schools such as Penn State are very open to the idea of a common legislative platform and our preliminary talks have centered on creating this within the existing framework of the Association of Big Ten Students, which Wisconsin has not historically attended and which I intend to change.  I am also in the process of drafting official proposals to send to SGA leaders across the Big Ten and garner enough support to actually make this a reality in 2010-2011.

Counterpoint: High Speed Rail: Missing the Oncoming Semi to See the Road

Adam has recently discussed his beliefs on why the high speed rail opposition is misguided and shortsighted.  What he fails to do, however, is see the costs of such ambitious long term goals.  To begin, let’s analyze the cost.  The current proposal costs roughly $180 million, although Rep. Brett Davis thinks that it will cost $17 million more than that.

Now I know what you’re thinking.  But the Federal Government gave us that money for free! I never want to hear you say ‘money for free,’ since all money comes from someone.  In this case, it’s federal tax payers, or worse, money printed by the federal reserve (but I won’t go there.)  Now Mayor Tom Barrett has a response to this: if we don’t use the money, some other state will.  But the federal government isn’t paying all of the costs, and the state will end up paying for the operations once the rail is built, a yearly estimated cost of $7.5 million.

Further, the costs don’t make the usage of the rail free, with an expected cost of about $60 round trip.  No thanks, I’ll take the Badger Bus.

So all said and done, what does this project cost?

Initial Costs: $180 million

Operation Costs per Year: $7.5 million

Cost per Round Trip: $60

Footing a bill you can’t pay: Priceless

Also, I’m concerned that ridership won’t meet what the State expects.  But Adam correctly points out that we shouldn’t consider whether we would ride it or not.

Regardless of  if you believe Madison-Milwaukee has enough intertransit demand, the grand project (the forest, if you will) has a large amount of demand!

First of all, this seems unfounded.  How do we know whether or not demand is high enough?  Second, even if the bigger picture is more rewarding, that doesn’t negate the costs in the immediate.  If you are going to justify such an ambitious program, you have to explain why it costs so much to start.  In this case, that hardly seems warranted.  Its looking right past the speeding, oncoming semi truck just to see the clear open road behind it.


High Speed Rail: Missing the forest for the trees

For those of us who have been following the drama of Wisconsin’s bid for a high speed rail system to ultimately connect the Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison-Minneapolis corridor, Rep. Davis’ (R-Oregon) bill is hardly unexpected.

This bill would effectively kill the current project of spending $180 million to connect Madison and Milwaukee with an improved infrastructure by requiring that the full legislature approve all federal dollars before they are spent.  Now, I’m a big fan of legislatures but this is money set aside for a very specific purpose and as Mayor Dave says in the linked article, if we don’t use it, another state will.

I’m in the process of arranging meetings with many of my contacts in the Assembly and Senate to speak to legislators about the necessity of haste in this matter but this bill is besides my main point.

The article about the state first accepting the money (another link here) has some very troubling comments that prompted me to write (agreeably a bit late, but the concerns are still alive) this post.

First, the argument that there isn’t enough demand between Milwaukee and Madison is completely besides the point in addition to being mistaken.  This project is Step 1 in a long term plan to connect the region! Regardless of  if you believe Madison-Milwaukee has enough intertransit demand, the grand project (the forest, if you will) has a large amount of demand!  Please, try to see the bigger picture.

Secondly, those concerned with the location of Madison’s proposed station being at the airport should be concerned.  It’s a dumb idea. Hear me, Mayor Dave, WisDOT, and Gov. Doyle?  Dumb.

A much better idea is the proposed Yahara Station (more articles Here).  This proposal would bring the station to the instersection of 1st St. and East Washington Ave.  This area is currently an island of emptiness surrounded by roads that is not used by any of the surrounding neighborhoods (in fact, they have all voted to support this proposal) and is at the end of an area that the City of Madison has designated as the area where they want to focus growth on (the East Wash corridor).

This station is only 3 miles from the capital, already is located on 18 bus routes (as opposed to a handful at the capital), and brings people closer to their endgoal (the UW, capital, Kohl Center, Monona Terrace, etc).

Next Tuesday, developer and Yahara Station proponant Barry Gore, in conjunction with ASM Legislative Affairs, will be giving a brief presentation on the Yahara Station to students on campus.  More details on that to come.

Overall, I urge students to get behind the high speed rail program.  Madison and Wisconsin in general is in a unique position to have a large boon to our economy and spur new growth along these corridors.  Don’t disregard the entire project because you personally will never use the train, get over it; this project can do many good and beneficial things for our state.