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home : opinions : opinions April 29, 2016

2/25/2011 10:45:00 AM
Like the Titanic, Jim Holperin's good-sized battleship is sinking fast

Gregg Walker

Poor, poor Jimmy Hope, it must have been a tough week for him.

First, he had to flee the state like a common criminal. The comparison is not too far off the mark: It might not be a legal crime to abandon his constituents, but it sure is a political crime to abandon his sworn duty to do the job people elected him to do.

Instead, he's sitting down in Illinois, no doubt on the patio of some hotel, watching events unfold in Wisconsin as if he were a passenger on the deck of the Titanic as it sank, watching the masses flail about in the freezing water.

And, also like a passenger on the Titanic's deck, Mr. Holperin is next into the sea, though I have a feeling it's going to be hot water, not cold.

Perhaps he is not on the Titanic at all, but riding on that good-sized battleship he made so famous last year, when he said Gov. Doyle's last budget contained enough tax increases to sink one.

That statement proved to be prescient. Mr. Doyle's spending binge did send the Democratic battleship listing toward a watery grave in last November's elections, the results of which Mr. Holperin is contending with today.

Mr. Holperin apparently didn't get the memo. The people wanted change; Scott Walker and the GOP majority are delivering that change. Mr. Holperin and his Democratic colleagues, on the other hand, are still clinging to the status quo.

That resistance will likely finish off the battleship that Mr. Doyle's taxes started to bring down. If those tax increases could be considered a cannonball breaching the battleship's hull, I expect the public's wrath over Mr. Holperin's fugitive flight to be like a torpedo straight into its belly.

Indeed, Mr. Holperin is one of eight senators being targeted for recall, so far, and from what we can tell, there's a lot of popular support for it.

As there should be. It is simply outrageous for the senator to abandon his constituents by abandoning the state.

For one thing, such an action disrupts the democratic process. There's a reason the Wisconsin constitution allows the state to compel absent lawmakers to appear at the Capitol. Those who framed the constitution understood how fleeing or boycotting legislative sessions - however you portray it - could subvert the public's will and injure the integrity of public institutions.

It's called the tyranny of the minority.

And that's what we have. Police could compel the senators to appear if they were inside Wisconsin; they cannot do so beyond the jurisdiction of the state line.

Call it what you will. Fleeing to Illinois might not violate the letter of the law, but it sure does violate the spirit of our constitutional system of government.

We would urge the Democrats to come on home, as Gov. Walker implored them to do last night. Come home and get to work. Let the democratic process prevail. It's worth noting that GOP minorities absorbed a lot of legislative losses - critical ones - during the eight years of the Doyle regime, but yet were never tempted to run and hide.

The Republican minority certainly did not favor $2 billion in tax increases in the last state budget but were powerless to stop them. Nonetheless, they came as responsible adults, took their lumps, and vowed to change things in the next election.

And that is what they did. Faced with legislative defeat, the Republicans chose to stand and fight for their principles; how sad that, faced with their own defeat, Mr. Holperin and his Democratic colleagues chose to run.

Now the Democrats need to take a page from the Republicans. Take your lumps, and change things in the next election, which is only about 18 months away.

That's the only logical thing to do. Because they are sure the people are standing with them, the Democrats shouldn't be afraid to come out of hiding. If they are right, all they have to do is vote their consciences and voters will reward them in the next election.

There's another point to be made, and that is the injury the Democrats are going to inflict on a lot of people by not returning.

Mr. Walker has said all along that the alternative to his budget bill is massive layoffs of state employees, which he does not want to do. He reiterated in his Tuesday night speech that he will have to lay off as many as 6,000 state workers if the budget-repair bill isn't passed.

Democrats are forcing his hand. If a bill has not been passed by today, it becomes impossible to refinance the state's debt to help balance the budget. The governor's options are dwindling.

They dwindle and the Democrats dawdle. Of course, as the governor also said in his speech, time and again in his dealings with unions as a county executive, when faced with the choice between wage-and-benefit concessions and lay offs, the unions chose lay offs.

On the surface that doesn't make sense because it would seem to be better for everyone to absorb a handful of cuts rather than chopping off the heads of a few. It's like having to reduce your family's clothing allowance, and, rather than give each family member a few less dollars, you decide instead to let one person go naked.

That's what Mr. Holperin, the unions and the Democrats are choosing to do - they are forcing 6,000 workers to go economically naked.

Why would they do such a thing? Because this is not about protecting workers; it's about protecting the unions' political power.

Let's do the math. A number of reports show that unions lose about 35 percent of their union dues when the government no longer collects them on a mandatory basis, that is, they become voluntary, as the Walker bill would do.

So laying off 6,000 workers - about 10 percent of the state workforce - would cost the union 10 percent of its union dues, which they use to fund their massive political war chests, but they would keep the mandatory offerings of the other 90 percent.

Losing 10 percent rather than 35 percent of their revenues is a lot better for the union coffers, if not for the human beings involved.

And that's what Mr. Holperin sits in Illinois supporting, as he works for the special interests as a member of the unions' bargaining team rather than for the people as a member of the Legislature.

We were long ago appalled by Mr. Holperin's disrespect for democracy when he began deleting public records using a loophole we call the Holperin Hole.

This time Jimmy Hope has hopped down the ultimate Holperin Hole, and, abracadabra, disappeared completely from the state.

But don't worry, Jimmy Hope. You are not forgotten. Your constituents are worried about you. They keep calling - and recalling - your name.

Your battleship may be sunk, Mr. Holperin, but swim on home anyway. Your constituents are waiting for you.

Related Stories:
• Hey you, buddy, display the union label ... or swim with the fishes
• The mythology and folly of the fully funded pension plan
• Oconto County resident sues Holperin over flight to Illinois

Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Article comment by: Diane Lehrkamp

The public employees should reflect on how lucky they are to have such good jobs when many of the people paying their salary and benefit packages have much less themselves. Instead of walking out on your job and carrying angry posters in Madison, why not go to work, do a good job and thank the taxpayers of Wisconsin for your lavish standard of living? Collective Bargaining is extortion.

Posted: Monday, March 14, 2011
Article comment by: Rob Krieghoff

To the gentleman who commented tha Jim Holperin has done more for the Northwoods, please share with me exactly what Jim has done for the Northwoods! Not what he has done to impact his union buddies all over the state...not what he has done for his party...what has he done for those of us living in the Northwoods?!?

Two years ago, when Jim and his democrat comrades had complete control of the state and federal governments, was Jim able to tap into the millions of dollars dedicated to high speed internet? I guess not! With Jim Doyle (who touted his support for the Northwoods for years), Russ Fiengold, Steve Kagen, and Jim Holperin in control, not one phone call, not one letter or e-mail, not one bit of support for those funds appeared. While the Northwoods continues to struggle and find our own answers to high speed internet, the money went to Milwaukee and Madison to upgrade their systems.

While his runaway to Illinois is reason enough for me to recall him, the reality he has done nothing to help the majority of his constituents in the Northwoods!


Posted: Saturday, March 12, 2011
Article comment by: Kurt Krueger

I find it amusing when liberals are in the minority, it's mandatory that the majority has to compromise with them. How does it feel when the shoe is on the other foot? There is no compromise on this issue and if you need any further proof, look at what is happening across the state as unions rush to settle contracts to avoid the very thing these bought & paid for union sellouts (that exist in all levels of our elected government) were being given in this bill to control costs. God help the taxpayers in those communities when the second part of the budget balancing effort involves the state aid reductions.

Collective bargaining is not a right...period. Trashing the Capitol by all these "nice" protestors who are compassionate & caring people "who are concerned about the kids" and shutting down government by hiding in another state is not democracy.

It's about time people start caring about the taxpayers and the financial mess this state is in rather then protecting the union bosses who feel we should just "tax the rich" to perpetuate the gravy train no one in the private sector could dream of having. The problem with socialists (and public union thugs) is that eventually you run out of other people's money. Well, welcome to that day. Thanks you to the political leaders (who demonstrated leadership and did not run) of this great state that finally said enough!

Hey Jim, how did that little vacation to the Motel 6 in Rockford work out for you? Cannot wait for the recall election...you were elected to represent our area and you ran to Illinios.

Posted: Friday, March 11, 2011
Article comment by: Greg Linder

What most Americans want from elected officials is a measure of restored civility and true bi-partisan cooperation, so meaningful and reasonable actions can be accomplished. Clearly, it's not happening in our wildly dysfunctional state government.

But the media, too, has a role in establishing a tone of civility and objectivity, in restoring a political climate in which cooperation is encouraged.

What bothers me most about Gregg Walker's piece on Jim Holperin (and other pieces that Walker and Richard Moore have written) is the inflammatory, contemptuous, venom-spewing tone that prevails. Any piece that begins with "Poor, poor Jimmy Hope" is by definition disrespectful and irresponsible. Walker's piece is not an "editorial" or an "opinion piece." It is blind, unreasoning bile in the form of print.

The "battleship" metaphor is pure invention, and could not be less appropriate for a mild-mannered senator who has long had the state's best interests at heart. Holperin and the other Senate Democrats are engaging in an act of conscience, an exercise of civil disobedience, in an attempt to save a fanatical state government from itself, and to forestall measures that would harm not only public sector employees, but seniors, the disabled, children, veterans and other most vulnerable citizens.

If Walker disagrees, he is of course free to say so. But to write from an attitude of such derisive hostility only serves to exacerbate the polarization of politicians and citizens alike. We need to awaken and realize that these matters are not "us versus them" scenarios. They are fundamentally issues that pit "us against us" in a divide and conquer scenario motivated by greed and extremism.

Compassion and compromise are impossible in such an environment, and every media tirade like Gregg's only succeeds in stoking the conflagration that threatens to consume us all.

May cooler heads prevail, both in politics and in the media.

Posted: Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Article comment by: Raymond Rivard

In response to Mr. Tom Brown's comment posted on this story: Mr. Gregg Walker not only has a high school diploma, but a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Also, neither Gregg Walker nor his father are the owners of the Mexican restaurant, El Mez, being built in Minocqua. The lot and the building that sits on that site have been owned since 1978 by former Green Bay Packer Bob Long and Don Walker, president of Lakeland Printing.

Posted: Thursday, March 3, 2011
Article comment by: Mike Doud

After 2+ weeks it looks like Walker and his friend Koch are the ones that are sinking...The polls across the nation and the state in in favor of Sen. Holperin. You cannot disrespect the workers of the state and expect to stay on top. The Governor will be the one recalled along with several of his lackey senators. The republican senators do not have an original thought between them.

Posted: Monday, February 28, 2011
Article comment by: Michael Joyce

Jim Holperin's departure from our state to
avoid a vote in the Senate is unacceptable.
Let me know how I can sign the petition to
recall him.

Mike Joyce
717 Birch Street
Antigo, Wis.

Posted: Monday, February 28, 2011
Article comment by: Tom Brown


Would you kindly explain what makes you a political expert? Other than receiving the keys to the kingdom from your old man, you have no qualifications what so ever. You are being awfully hard on these teachers considering you only have a high school education... but I guess that works for people named "Walker" who have money...

The Lakeland Times (and now the Rhinelander Daily News) is a classic example of what happens when money controls the media. Mr. Holperin has done more for the Northwoods than you or your father has ever done... but hey, maybe your new Mexican restaurant will change that - If Holperin opened it you would accuse him of supporting illegal immigrants.

Posted: Sunday, February 27, 2011
Article comment by: Lisa MaKarrall

You actually support a Governor who thought about sending trouble makers into crowds made up of babies, children, disabled, the elderly and your neighbors?
You heard in Scott Koch Walker's own words who he works for, the billionaire Koch brothers. He certainly doesn't work for the people of Wisconsin.
And then you turn around and call Jim Holperin cowardly for working for us and not billionaires? Whose side are you on?
When are you going to report on the rest of Scott Koch Walker's budget? What are you afraid of? Let people know how many will be kicked off Badgercare, Medicaid, Foodshare and many other programs helping people get by. Seniors, this includes you!! Tell them about the $900 million in cuts to schools?
REPORT...this is not just about unions, teacher bashing or your vendetta against Jim Holperin.

Posted: Saturday, February 26, 2011
Article comment by: William Patterson

In the end, I think Senator Holperin is going to be seen as being on the right side of this issue.

If the Senators had come back, we probably would have had a quick (and possibly unconstituional) vote in the Senate, just like in the Assembly on Friday where members that had to be heard under rules where not and a quick vote was taken that didn't even let Democrats vote. So, is this the "debate" that Gov. Walker offered as a carrot to the Democrate Senators?

What this delay has done is given the public time to see some of the other items that the Gov. has in his budget like a 900 million dollar cut to schools, a decrease in shared revenue,
allowing the cutting of 65,000 people off Medicare or at least changing what servies they receive with no citizen or legislative input, and the possiblity of selling off all of the State heating plants without bids.

You may think this is all good government, but the good people of the Lakeland area are about have their ox gored by the Walker administration and what are you going to do? Cheer Scott Walker on?

You seem to pride yourselves on your investigative reporting. How about looking into what influence the Koch brothers have or what the real potential deficit number are. I have read stories saying the big deficit numbers are from state agency requests and not actual spending, so they are greatly inflated.

The people who read the Lakeland times are about to be screwed over if they haven't been already and you at least owe them the real reason it is happening.

Posted: Saturday, February 26, 2011
Article comment by: Dan Olvey

Great editorial! We have the same problem with our Dem house members fleeing the State and abdicating their sworn duties.

Best regards to you, Kim, and family,


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