Sunday, November 30, 2008

The 2008 TONY Awards

Each year, the December Media Rants column for The Scene features my choices for TONY Awards for outstanding media work in the Fox Valley. The idea for such awards was actually former Scene editor Tom Breuer's. Previous award winners can be found here, here, here, here, here, and here. And now the 2008 recipients.

The 2008 TONY Awards

Media Rants

by Tony Palmeri

Writing for the website, media critic Jeff Cohen argues independent media were the "big election winner" in 2008. For Cohen, in 2008 independent media finally defanged the swift boating, right wing operatives and their corporate media enablers: "While conservative and establishment pundits still dominate TV and radio, progressive dominance of the Internet has made it easier for media critics and bloggers to instantly rebut the kind of hoaxes and smears that so damaged Gore and Kerry."

Every year since 2002 I've given TONY Awards to local independent media practitioners who think outside the corporate box and show excellence in educating, agitating, enlightening, or entertaining Valley audiences. Doing indepenent media around here got more difficult in the last few years, due to corporate media intrusion into the formerly alternative blogosphere and an annoyingly high amount of cyber participation by Internet trolls whose main goal is to disrupt use of the Net as a space for democratic engagement. TONY Award winners are not always Internet based, but do typically represent good role models of standing tall in the face of trollism and the dominant corporate media.

And now the 2008 TONY Award recipients. Drum roll please.

The Snyder-Jarman Award For Excellence In Radio: The student crew at 90.3 WRST FM in Oshkosh. Robert L. "Doc" Snyder, legendary founder of the UW Oshkosh media program, passed away this year. Ben Jarman, long time Director of UWO's college radio station, retired this year after inspiring students for many years. The Snyder-Jarman Award is a special TONY for excellence in radio broadcasting. This year the award goes to WRST students, who in 2008 produced two events of special merit. First, a "Music and Media" conference, broadcast live, that brought together professionals and practitioners from a variety of media fields. Second, an election night radio special featuring fine interviews of and commentary from local pundits and political experts.

The "Daily Dose of Derision" Award: Jonathan Krause's "My Two Cents" Blog. Mr. Krause is News Director at WOSH radio in Oshkosh. His "My Two Cents" blog features a new entry almost day, Monday through Friday. Though I frequently disagree with Krause on political issues, I find his low tolerance for stupidity and hypocrisy quite amusing. His cheap shots are always good for a morning chuckle. Typical Krauseism: "You couldn't pay me enough to attend Country USA. First off, the music itself would leave me wanting to set myself on fire."

"Required Reading" Award: Jim Lundstrom's February cover story for the Scene, "Power to the Peoples," detailed the history of the first black-owned brewery in the nation, Peoples Brewery in Oshkosh.The piece pulls no punches and delves into the ugly racism existing in the Fox Valley circa 1970-72. Should be required reading in any local high school or college courses dealing with the civil rights movement.

Best Comedy/Satire Column: Daphne Young's monthly Scene contribution, "The Futile Fashionista." Ms. Young has a knack for making fun of the fashion industry and fashion icons in a way that strips them (pun intended) of their mysterious power over us. And the column is often hilarious, as evidenced by this gem: "An imperfect body on a sweet individual is always hot. A perfect body with a bad personality attached, like a cheap thong, may look cute at first but ends up a pain in the butt." Priceless.

Most Valuable Blog Participants: CJ McDonald (Oshkosh) and Lon Ponschok (Appleton). CJ and Lon are the opposite of Internet trolls. Each treats interactive Internet sites as real spaces for democratic engagement and education. Each has led me to a variety of links and other information that I have found extremely valuable, and I know others have too. If everyone on the Net participated like CJ and Lon, cyberspace really would be a revolutionary experiment in participatory democracy.

The "Inconvenient Truth" Award For Best New Environmental Blog: The Energy Coalition for a Sustainable Fox Valley. I learned about this site from Lon. ECOS-FV "is a coalition of non-profit organizations, businesses, governments and citizens that plans with and advocates for the Fox Valley region, for a future that is locally self-reliant and sustains the regional and global environment. To receive email news, send a message to" The blog is regularly updated, engaging, and provides links to all major environmental happenings in the Valley.

Best Electronic Archive: iTunes at UW Oshkosh. For a variety of good reasons, interested citizens cannot make it to a college campus to hear presentations. Thankfully, UW Oshkosh now houses an online audio archive of significant campus events that is already proving to be invaluable as a resource for research and civic engagement. Search the site and you can listen, for example, to all of the great talks delivered at the campus' October Earth Charter Summit. Great stuff.

What is the fate of independent media in the age of Obama? I hope the new president's populist platitudes don't lull us into thinking we need to be any less vigilant in taking on elite control of our government and media. Whether a Barack or a Bush in the White House, the task of speaking truth to power never ends.

Congratulations to the TONY Award winners!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Proposed Budget Amendments

Near the end of the City Council's November 18th budget workshop, I suggested (and I think everyone agreed) that Councilors who wished to amend the budget should submit amendments in time to get on the agenda for this coming Tuesday's meeting. I sent the city manager 6 amendments, and they do indeed appear in the hard copy of the documents sent to councilors on Friday. However, I cannot find the amendments online at the city website. So here they are:

Operating Budget Amendments:

1. Eliminate Outside Legal Assistance. Motion to eliminate outside legal assistance for lead negotiation services with all City bargaining groups and to conduct negotiations using city staff up to the point of impasse, unless otherwise authorized by the City Council, and to transfer monies budgeted for negotiations to the City's general fund.

2. Revise Administrative Services Reorganization Plan. Motion to eliminate via attrition the position of Purchasing Agent, remove request for new Communication Coordinator, and restore part-time production assistant in Media Services. Direct salary savings toward tax relief.

3. Council Training Budget. Motion to transfer $4,000 for City Council "Conference and Training" to Department of Community Development to be used to hire interns to assist with sustainability initiatives.

4. Citizen Led Budget Committee. Motion to direct City Manager and Mayor to develop a proposal for a citizen led Budget Committee.

Capital Improvement Program Amendments:

1. Delay the 400 Block East Parking Lot. Motion to delay renovation of 400 Block East Parking Lot (East of N. Main St.) until 2011. Use the $972,000 allocated in the CIP for that purpose for the highest priority street, sewer, and/or city garage needs.

2. Delete Riverside Park Docking Facility. Motion to delete Riverside Park-docking facility from Capital Improvement Budget. Use $244,900 budgeted for that amount for high priority street and/or sewer project.

Deputy Mayor Bain submitted a CIP amendment: Grand Opera House Sprinkler Project. Motion to have the City fully fund the Grand Opera House sprinkler project. Rationale: The city owns the project, and I feel it is our obligation for maintenance and upkeep, and the sprinkler project certainly falls into that category. The Foundation Board should be focused on their projects to enhance the facility. Benefit - The experience that the citizens and patrons have when visiting the building.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Change SHE Can Believe In

The UK Guardian is reporting that Hillary Clinton will accept an offer from Barack Obama to become Secretary of State.

During the primaries the two clashed over Obama's assertion that he would meet personally with America's "enemies" in his first year in office. The day after the two debated the matter Clinton called Obama's position "irresponsible and frankly naive." She supported "lower level contacts" with meeting preconditions.

No one will ever be able to prove it, but it is starting to look like Hillary's withdrawal from the primaries (and subsequent avoidance of a floor fight at the Convention) hinged on promises of a significant Clintonista presence in the Cabinet. Change WE Can Believe in became Change SHE Can Believe In, as it were.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Results of Budget Survey

Earlier this year Oshkosh residents received, with their water bill, a budget survey. Two questions were asked:

1. Which city services, functions, or programs would you like to see the City continue funding as high priority items?
2. Which city services, functions, or programs would you like to see the City identify as low priority items?

From July through October, 822 citizens returned surveys. I think that's a pretty good response rate.

Below are the responses.

Questions #1: Which city services, functions, or programs would you like to see the City continue funding as high priority items?
  • High Priority #1: Streets (repairs, improvements, sidewalks). 440 responses.
  • High Priority #2: Sewer (flooding issues, storm water). 282 responses
  • High Priority #3: Streets (garbage pickup, snow removal). 253 responses
  • High Priority #4: Police and Fire Service. 210 responses
  • Other High Priorities:
  • Library (63 responses)
  • Children Programs/Schools (42 responses)
  • Water/Sewer (40 responses)
  • Riverwalk/Beautification (32 responses)
  • Stores/Industry (32 responses)
  • Parks/Maintenance of (27 responses)
  • Museum (27 responses)
  • Basic Services (25 rsponses)
  • Bike Routes/Bus Programs (20 responses)
  • Cultural Events (13 responses)
  • Senior Programs (11 responses)
  • Monthly Water Bills (6 responses)
  • Goose/Bird Issues (5 responses)
  • Water Park (4 responses)
  • No usage fees; drop-off site (3 responses)
  • Crack down on slum landlords (3 responses)
  • New Street Garage (2 responses)
  • Low Income Needs (2 responses)
  • Airport/Commercial Flights (1 response)
Question #2: Which City services, functions, or programs would you like to see the City identify as low priority items?
  • Low Priority #1: Redevelopment (TIF Programs, Purchases of Land/Buildings, Riverwalk, Main St.). 243 responses
  • Low Priority #2: Parks (Zoo, Playground Replacement, Skatepark, Flowers, Leach). 90 responses
  • Low Priority #3: Library, Museum, Grand Opera House. 37 responses.
  • Other Low Priorities:
  • Westhaven (20 responses)
  • Street Sweeper (19 responses)
  • Roundabouts (19 responses)
  • Look at Personnel (16 responses)
  • Garabage Collection/Contract Out (10 responses)
  • Sundial Project (8 responses)
  • Golf Course (8 responses)
  • Out of Town Surveys/Expertise (7 responses)
  • Do Not Fix Potholes/Worse After (6 responses)
  • Floating Dock (6 responses)
  • Replace and Reduce City Council (5 responses)
  • Media Services (5 responses)
  • Public Works-Weed Control (5 responses)
  • Overnight Parking Fines (5 responses)
  • Christmas Lights (3 responses)
  • Gas Mileage/Look into City Vehicles (3 responses)
  • Senior Center (3 responses)
  • Planning Department (3 responses)
  • Tourism (2 responses)
  • Snell Road Fire Station (2 responses)
  • Personal Use of Police Vehicles (2 responses)
  • Cemetary (1 response)
  • Animal Licensing (1 response)
  • Schools (1 response)
  • Bookmobile (1 response)
  • Filming a Movie (1 response).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Public Hearing on City Budget TONIGHT

At tonight's Common Council meeting citizens will have the opportunity to comment on the 2009 City Budget. The Council has held two workshops dealing with the operating budget. The videos of those sessions can be found here and here. On November 18th (Tuesday) the Council will have a workshop on the Capital Improvement Program portion of the budget.

The Council will vote on the budget at the November 25th meeting. Citizens will be able to address it at that meeting too.

If you have comments on the budget but cannot make the meetings, please email or call members of the Council.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Hyperbole? Not!

This week in my upper-level "Foundations of Speech Communication" course we've been talking about "figures of speech" or extraordinary uses of language. One common trope is rhetorical exaggeration, also known as hyperbole. Today I read this statement over at Jim Kunstler's blog, and I thought it was a good example of hyperbole:

"The current occupant of the White House . . . has sedulously prepared for his successor the biggest shit sandwich the world has ever seen, and there is naturally some concern that Mr. Obama might choke on it."

Upon further reflection I thought nah, that's not hyperbole.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Palmeri, Still on Friday WPR "Week in Review"

I'll be the liberal guy opposite Tom Still, President of the Wisconsin Technology Council, on Friday morning's Wisconsin Public Radio "Week in Review" with Joy Cardin from 8-9 a.m. You can join the conversation by using the toll-free call-in number 1-800-642-1234. You can also e-mail comments/questions to

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Dear Mr. President-Elect: Please Invite Maceo To The Inauguration

One great thing about the election of Barack Obama is that you KNOW the quality of the music at the inaugural ball is going to be better. Senator McCain might have invited--at best--Daddy Yankee (who endorsed Mac), but more likely would have subjected us to Hank Williams Jr., Lee Greenwood, and other self-proclaimed musical patriots.

Barack was endorsed by lots of "A-List" musicians, many of whom will no doubt be asked to perform. They include: Shakira, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Chuck Berry, Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, Wyclef Jean, Arrested Development, Jay Z, John Legend, Macy Gray, Will, and others.

Lately (I'm not sure why) I've been listening to some old 1970s funk/soul, especially the solo work of Maceo Parker. Funk fans will remember Maceo as James Brown's legendary saxophonist. He's been touring much of the world continuously for quite a few years, with adoring fans in every corner of the globe. Sometimes he jams with his son, rapper Corey Parker (see the third video below).

Since Obama enjoys quoting sixties activists (it remains to be seen if what they stood for guides the Obama Administration policy agenda), it would be appropriate to have as an inaugural performer someone whose music represents and sounds like the "yes we can" spirit of those times.

Monday, November 03, 2008

It's Official: Circuit City to Close 155 Stores

As I noted at last Tuesday's Common Council meeting, Circuit City plans to close 20 percent of their stores. Today the company made the news official and put out a list of stores that will close. Only one Wisconsin location (in Milwaukee) is scheduled to close. The Grand Chute location will remain open, but Gannett's coverage (Associated Press) includes this ominous statement:

Circuit City also said it will further reduce new store openings and plans to work with landlords to renegotiate leases, lower rent or terminate agreements.

The company's official statement said:

"due in part to its deteriorating liquidity position and the weak macroeconomic environment, the company has decided to take certain restructuring actions immediately, including closing 155 domestic segment stores, reducing future store openings and aggressively renegotiating certain leases. The company also is considering all available options and alternatives to restructure its business."

Even more concerning is this quote from a Standard & Poors Equity Research analyst:

"We think there is a fair chance (Circuit City) will be forced to file for Chapter 11" bankruptcy protection.

I wonder if Shopko is having second thoughts about opening a new Oshkosh store, TIF assistance or not.