For reasons clear only to himself, Jim Doyle waited until the waning hours of his governorship to put his mark on state government. Now he’s hastily knitting together his version of a strong executive: one that dominates state finance (the last budget is all his whether he claims it or not), one that seeks to change the governance of Milwaukee schools for the first time since statehood and one that resists sharing power over the Department of Natural Resources.
In Doyle’s quest for a strong executive, I’m squarely with him; better late than never. Remember, the bed that the current governor makes will be the bed that the next governor will have to lie in.
Like it or not, Wisconsin is in decline. We’d like to believe the bucolic picture of Wisconsin we grew up with, one where agriculture dominates the economy, where our schools are the envy of the nation and where people are clamoring to live. That picture no longer exists.
There are huge changes in Wisconsin’s future if we hope to pass on to our children a quality of live anywhere close to the one we enjoyed. Wisconsin needs clear, fresh economic policies. It needs smart regulation that understands the value of good jobs. It needs to reinvent the state’s schools in order to provide future businesses with the human capital needed to survive in dynamic, worldwide economy.
These are big, sweeping things. And like it or not, to have any chance of achieving them, we need a tough, muscular executive. We need John Wayne, not Gig Young. The orientation of state government must be toward the East Wing of the Capitol, the one housing the governor’s desk.
However, shoring up the foundation of the executive branch is only part of the equation for success. From there the burden falls to the electorate. We must change our pattern in finding Doyle’s successor. We cannot afford to select someone who is tantamount to political comfort food. It is time we are willing to put ideology in second place behind executive skill. We need a rough, tough executive. We need a CEO, one who can set the direction for the state and follow through. We need someone who is willing to tell us things we really do not want to hear.
This coming year could be a watershed for Wisconsin and the first step will be to ensure that the next governor enters office with a complete set of tools.
-September 25, 2009