Wausau Mayor Jim Tipple released a statement Monday afternoon; probably after receiving a phone call or two about the Marathon County Central Labor Council’s decision to keep Republican legislators out of the annual Labor Day parade. I suppose he will now be getting a few more:
“The City is a co-sponsor of the Labor Day parade event, because we provided the payment for the insurance premium for the event, and we agreed to erect a stage and provide city services at no cost to the Marathon County Central Labor Council.
“The banning of a political party from participation at any event co-sponsored by the City is against public policy and not in the best interest of all the citizens of the City of Wausau. And therefore, we encourage the event organizer to invite all interested parties, or reimburse the city for other costs.”
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From the standpoint of the city, this position makes a lot of sense and it may even be the only correct answer. And while the mayor might be accused of taking sides by some, he really isn’t. In fact, it’s about the last thing he would want to do.
Municipal offices like mayor, city council member and county board supervisor in Wisconsin are all nonpartisan. Some make few bones about where they land, but Mayor Tipple is about as nonpartisan as they come. I never even met him until the night he was elected in 2004 and I’ve been hanging around politics in this town since the early 1980s. Nevertheless, I found Jim Tipple easy to get along with and we worked together well. By 2008, I was working on his re-election campaign and I still can’t tell you which way he leans on a partisan basis.
We had a beer together Saturday and I don’t recall if the Labor Day topic even came up, but I think Tipple may be the best possible person to arbitrate a disagreement like the parade snit. That’s because beyond not being partisan, Tipple is not even very political. Neither fish nor fowl, he does a far better than average job of avoiding controversies and he’s not ego-driven. I would say that his philosophy is pretty much encapsulated by that famous Rodney King quote: “Please, can we all just get along here?”
So the fact that he made a statement on this matter pretty much says one thing: he had no choice.
And now that the mayor has provided a gracious way out of a potentially deteriorating situation for all parties involved, I would suggest that the Labor Day parade organizers take it. The alternative is to press on and pay significant charges to close off the activities to people who may well end up not attending anyway, in view of the events leading up to now. It just seems a little silly to cut the baby in half.
But for those who still have hard feelings, here’s a link to the “Duffy Get Your Own Damn Parade” page on Facebook, which was brought to my attention this evening and magically grew from eight to 97 members while I was writing this:
Failing that, there are several voluminous and growing collections of online comments on various local media sites, where people are flailing away at each other with reckless abandon to predictably little avail. We’ll just have to see how this thing goes between now and Monday.
Wausau Daily Herald editorial, 8-30-2011:
Labor Day Parade opened to GOP participation, 8-31-2011: