madison moving day madness magnifies mucked-up mid-town milieu

Students ignoring request to move their truck so that a city bus can get through.

Students who think they are above having to move their truck even though they are blocking the route of a city bus.  A ten minute delay resulted.

During the month of August, and particularly August 14-16, U-Haul and other trucking rental companies unleash thousands of trucks on the streets of Madison, Wisconsin–driven by people without licenses to be truck drivers.  Yes, it’s Madison Moving Day.

Does chaos result?  Yes and no.

In many ways its an annual rite of passage, and it has become somewhat of an exact science.  August 14 is often referred to as “Hippie Christmas” because of the wonderful opportunity for dumpster divers and curb pickers to find used treasure. The streets of downtown Madison used to be virtual canyons of used items. I knew one group of people who would rent a cargo van, divide up the streets between them, and comb their respective territories for treasure,  dressed in grungy clothes and work gloves. Nowadays the city will pick up junk before the pickers get to it, and the canyons of used items aren’t as high as they used to be.

But beyond the stuff left behind for others, there’s also the hauling of the rest of the stuff and that’s where the trucks come in. Naturally,  the trucks take up more room than cars. And herein lies the problem.  Or at least part of the problem.

In the photo above, students are pictured blocking State Street so that they can unload their stuff into an apartment.  While State Street is technically a pedestrian mall, it is also a bus route, and in this picture, the students ignored repeated requests to move their truck out of the way of a city bus running its route.

While this is an example of the exaggerated sense of entitlement that many UW students have, it is also indicative of poor planning at the City of Madison level that threatens to drive down the quality of life across the city.  While downtown developers are starting to toast Madison, Wisconsin as the next Austin, Texas, many of us who live near downtown fear that we are actually poised to become the next Los Angeles, California in miniature.  More about this in a subsequent post.

 

new internet discovery: noosa, “walk on by”

Noosa

Noosa

A new internet discovery has given me a new favorite song. At some point while on YouTube, I stumbled across this video showing time-lapse scenes of life in Madison.  The time-lapse filming is incredible in and of itself but what blew me away was the song that accompanied it.  The closing credits of the video told me that the song was by Noosa and the title of the song was “Walk On By (Sound Remedy Remix).”  The video is below:

This video always makes me proud of living in Madison, even if the non-campus areas of Madison are given scant attention. The complex rhythm of the vocals backed by the synth arpeggios evoke Enya in the late 80’s, except with a beat that can be danced to. This complexity set against the time-lapse imagery makes me imagine the lifeblood of Madison flowing through the corridors of the city, and captures the vibrance that drew me here more than a decade ago. It captures the livelihood of the city now that the warm months are here

As always happens for me, once I hear a song I love, I want to hear more from the artist. I discovered that this song, which I downloaded for free from Sound Remedy’s Facebook page, was actually a re-mix of the original song.

The video for the original song is below and it is powerful in its own right. The beat is minimized and more appropriate to the subject of the song, which seems to be about a relationship breaking up. Both the song and the video capture the sadness of the subject, but in a beautiful way, with metaphors that capture in a remarkable way the cascade of feelings associated with the decline of a relationship.

The free download from Sound Remedy’s Facebook page probably generates business for this remix artist, who seems to be quite good. That free download and seeing the original video on YouTube made me want to learn more about Noosa. I probably would not have heard of Noosa were it not for the fact that it was used as the soundtrack for a Madison timelapse video. Ultimately, I bought and downloaded Noosa’s “Wonderland” from eMusic.

That’s the way it’s supposed to work. Placing an artist’s work online in a reasonably liberal way draws attention to the artist and then more sales of their music can result. In this case, Noosa released this debut album on her own label, which more and more artists are doing so that they can control how their music is being marketed. I think many artists choose this option because some record companies are so stringent about making sure that their music isn’t pirated that they end up cutting themselves off from potential customers–to the detriment of both potential customers and the artists.

Unfortunately, many Internet service providers are advocating for a two-tiered internet in which websites and companies unable to pay a high premium for accessibility would be relegated to the “slow lane” of the Internet. Given the slowness and inconsistency of Internet service in the U.S. compared to other countries, such sites would be effectively blocked. One possible side effect of this is that record companies might once again be able to exert tight control over what music listeners might hear, as they did when radio was the primary way we learned about music.  This would be a sad development if this did happen.

lyft and uber: 20% tech, 80% talk, and 100% invasive species

English: Looking south from Madison Avenue at ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How would you feel if a new company set up shop in your town and immediately proceeded to start breaking the city’s laws? And when threatened with enforcement of such laws declared that your laws were outdated and needed to be changed?  Now imagine a company whose very business plan involved deliberately breaking such laws in city after city.

The frightening thing is that such companies exist and a couple of them are trying to barge their way into Madison’s markets. Their names are Lyft and Uber and they intend to enter in Madison’s taxicab market–but on their own terms, rather than the terms established by officials elected by the citizens of Madison.

Their first tactic was to deny that they were, in fact, taxicab businesses at all, but something different.  They used techspeak such as “peer-to-peer,” “next generation” and “community-building.” Yet they also posted ads looking to hire drivers. Doesn’t sound very “peer-to-peer” to me.

Upon failing to convince people locally that they were anything but a taxi service,  they turned around and claimed that the city’s regulations were hopelessly 20th century and needed to be updated or eliminated.

The question is why they deserve such special consideration.  Is Uber finally providing the jetpacks we were promised would arrive in the 21st century?  Does Lyft’s name indicate that their drivers are piloting hovercraft able to leap over a traffic jam in a single bound? No, it turns out that what makes them different is that they have a phone app.

A phone app? That is sooooo 2009.  Furthermore, Madison-based Green Cab beat them to the punch by providing mobile-based services before Lyft and Uber came knocking.  Union Cab sends text messages to passengers three minutes prior to arrival and, like Green Cab, offers online ordering and fare estimation.  Unfortunately, that didn’t stop a couple of Madison newspaper pundits from taking the San Fransisco-based companies hook, line, and sinker and declaring that a “trendy” Madison deserved a “trendy” service like these San Francisco companies.  Funny–I didn’t think that the former Madison mayor and the Wisconsin State Journal columnist were fashionistas.

One person unswayed by the hype was Madison’s current mayor Paul Soglin. He eloquently defended the city’s current regulations in his blog. He and other city officials insisted that they would enforce Madison’s laws regarding taxicab registration. Lyft and Uber insisted that they would continue to operate, Madison’s laws be damned.
Finally, the city of Madison made good on its word by conducting a sting operation.  Undercover cops used the apps to order one ride each from Lyft and Uber. At the end of each ride,  the drivers each charged the undercover cops somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 for the ride (oddly enough, it was as much or more than other taxi services in Madison). The cops in turn handed the drivers citations for over $1,000 each for operating cabs without licenses. Lyft immediately pledged to compensate the affected employees for the fines. I guess fines for breaking the law are considered a business expense.
You would think that this way of of doing business would make government officials wary of giving these companies any special consideration.  Certainly Mayor Soglin has made it clear that Lyft and Uber need to get in line like the other cab companies have done and go through the appropriate permitting process.  In some ways, I think even that is generous–if a company enters a city with the intention of breaking its laws, it would seem to me that city officials should give the companies a one-way bus ticket back to where the sun doesn’t shine.  (Or San Francisco.)
Incredibly, some people think that such behavior merits not the boot, but red-carpet treatment from the city. Not surprisingly, one such person is an Assembly Republican who suggested cutting state aid to Madison for standing up to these bullies. But even more surprising are such claims from Madisonians who claim to love the city.

Madison Ald. Scott Resnick is actually introducing legislation to give these companies the right to do business in town largely on their own terms.  One critical plum being offered Lyft and Uber is a waiver of the requirement that cab companies serve all areas of the city 24/7 rather than picking and choosing the plum times and the wealthiest customers.

The city has good reasons for requiring 24/7 operation. The buses don’t run 24/7 and don’t cover all parts of the city.  What about third-shift employees or others who must get to or from work in the middle of the night? Outside of the bicycle (which the vast majority of Madisonians won’t use in cold winters or heavy downpours) the taxicab is the only way to go. Taxicab companies lose money on third shifts, and so the city decided that in order to ensure have an even playing field, it would require cab companies to run 24/7.  This hasn’t served as a barrier to entry for new cab companies–indeed, Green Cab just opened up for business within the past decade.

I refer to Lyft and Uber as “invasive species,” because, by their very definition, they are not native to an area but end up disrupting an ecosystem and dominating it, to the detriment of other species living in the area. If Lyft and Uber are allowed to cherry-pick the best times and locations of the day, the companies who take on the losses for 24/7 operation will find it harder to maintain those operations.  If these cab companies close down due to losing money, no one will be left to provide 24/7 service to all areas of the city.  Result: net loss for Madison’s citizens, as they lose the ability to get from point A to point B whenever they need to.

What concerns me the most about Lyft and Uber’s business models is that this scofflaw mentality and insistence on special treatment regardless of the needs of the city could set a very dangerous precedent. If Lyft and Uber are allowed to operate on their own terms in Madison, what’s to stop other out-of-town companies from doing the same?  What if a “food-sharing” company came in and had people run “restaurants” out of their own homes that violated health department regulations?  What if an out-of-town construction company came in and started deliberately ignoring city laws that restrict construction activity between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.  What if someone decided to just go ahead and open a peaker coal plant next door to you without seeking permission because they thought that air quality regulations were silly. Laws exist to protect the rights and legitimate interests of citizens.

What Lyft and Uber represent is an ideology that has quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) established itself in many parts of the world.  It is an ideology that essentially says that government regulations are inherently bad, regardless of the circumstances.  And it is a means by which citizens lose more and more control over what happens in their communities, as out-of-town companies skirt accountability, act with impunity and operate with little regard for the quality of life in the communities where they set up shop.

If these companies continue to insist on “my way or the highway,” the City of Madison should do the sensible thing and show them the highway out of town.  It’s not hard to find–simply take Interstate 39 south about 80 miles to Interstate 80, turn right and follow the road about 2,000 miles west–all the way back to San Fransisco where they came from.  And once they reach the ocean they should keep on driving west.

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school daze, part too

11 Rahmat 168 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head:  Public Image Ltd., “Public Image”

An astute observe (stalker?) of this website might have noticed that a second post from 7 June just now appeared out of nowhere, perhaps making them wonder if I somehow slipped this in just now and then pretended that I wrote it for 7 June.  

Well, yes, sort of.  I really did begin writing it on 7 June, the same day I made that other post, but I posted it yesterday.  So there.  Live with it.  You should be lucky that I don’t pick random calendar dates like the local newspaper in the novel “Dhalgren.”  (If I did that, this blog’s readership would probably drop from three to two.)

I’ve actually now completed my Statistics class mid-term, and I think I did pretty well–maybe even quite well. As I was studying, my old studying tricks came back to me, and there were only one or two questions on the exam (out of roughly 35) where I found myself thinking, “Ooh, I should have tried harder to memorize that part of the notes.”

It is rather interesting going to school in 2011 after not having done so since 1989.  Email wasn’t used when I was an undergraduate–at least not those of us in the Liberal Arts and Sciences ghetto.  Microsoft Word had been invented by that point, but when I was an undergraduate, it was still WordPerfect’s bastard stepchild. Microsoft Power Point had not been invented at all. WordStar was considered to be a legitimate word-processing program.

Now I have my own campus email address. (Unfortunately I couldn’t pick the name–they auto-assigned it to avoid duplication and to avoid email addresses like .)  I can actually email my homework and download my syllabus. My instructor actually uses Power Point and we get Power Point printouts of the lectures, making it necessary only to add notes to the notes already there.

Before class started, I remember wondering what I should bring to class with me. A spiral notebook? A three ring binder? A Trapper Keeper? I agonized over whether I should bring my laptop to class and whether I could simultaneously take notes and check Facebook at the same time like any good Gen-Y’er. Turns out there was no need in this case–with all the handouts the three-ring binder ended up being what I needed.

But in a scenario that is very 2011, I was doing my homework in a coffee shop one afternoon when I realized that the built-in calculator on my Android phone didn’t have a square-root function. So I went onto Android Market, found a scientific calculator app, downloaded it to my phone and continued working on the statistic problem I’d started a few minutes before.

It’s tricky balancing school, work and life, and is definitely something I’m still getting used to…

school daze

13 Nur 168 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head:  Western Roots, “Rockers Galore”

The other posting I was going to post but never got around to was the posting about school.  School is one of the reasons I have difficulty posting to this blog on a timely basis. But I’m experimenting with writing out my posts on my Android phone, which hopefully will result in more frequent and shorter posts.

Just as most students in Madison were celebrating being out of school for the summer, I entered school for the first time in 22 years at the University of Wisconsin.  I am actually not a graduate student yet–I am taking a statistics course as a prerequisite for my graduate program that starts in the fall.  So I am considered a “special student” this summer and a graduate student this fall–that is, if I get a C or better in the class.  

And that distinction is apparently throwing a curve ball at the computer system involved in processing my financial aid/student loan application.  The UW isn’t that much bigger than the University of Illinois where I got my bachelor’s degree, but somehow it feels more intimidating. Either that or I just didn’t worry as much the first time around.  In any case I feel like a freshman at 43 and need one of those kind-hearted guides in the red Wisconsin t-shirts to guide this scared little puppy through the system.  (“It’s okay, young man.  Maybe a serving of Babcock Ice Cream will make you feel better.”)

I discovered, however, that there’s a few perks to being a student.  Even a three-credit class like mine entitles me to many perks that full-time students receive, starting with the ASM Bus Pass.  Apparently my student fees entitle me to a free bus pass each semester, which can be used anywhere on the Madison Metro system. So rather than pay $55 a month for a monthly Metro pass,  it appears that the university will provide me with one–theoretically until September 2015.

The first day of class felt quite strange.  The instructor eased us into class by having us interview and get to know the person next to us, and then introduce them to the class, which is has about twelve people.  Then he started talking about statistics.  As I sat in the class, I found myself thinking, “All rite, how does this lurning thing werk?  How much of this of this lekture am I suppozed to memurize?  How duz this all end up in my brane?”  But by the second class I felt more at ease.

Mercifully, the statistics class is geared toward social workers (meaning right-brained people like me) and is part of the Social Work department.  This is good because my brain definitely needs help in grasping these abstract concepts that are more challenging that “A train leaves Kansas City going eastbound at 75 mph and another train leaves Cleveland going westbound at 65 mph.  What is the conductor’s name?”

My classmates are an interesting mix of people–like me most are going back to school.  Several are married with children.  So I don’t feel like I’m sitting in chairs entirely too small for me in my old kindergarten class–even though most UW students weren’t yet born when I graduated from college.  Grad school means you don’t have to apologize for being older.

wwjsd?

8 Jalal 168 B.E. (Baha’i calendar)
Soundtrack in my head: Johnny Cash, “Redemption Song”

Some musings on the eve of Sarah Palin’s visit to Madison…

During a time of economic insecurity, immigrants and state workers are targeted as scapegoats while those responsible for the financial collapse remain free from prosecution. Deep-pocketed special interests can now spend unlimited amounts of money on political TV ads without revealing who’s footing the bill. 

In recent weeks, I’ve found myself wondering more and more…

What would Joe Strummer do?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3V73auvenZA&w=560&h=315]

suspended in time, between times

12 ‘Ala 167 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head:  Beat Pharmacy, “Slow Down”

This is the Baha’i month of the Baha’i Fast, where we refrain from food and water from sunrise to sunset.  It isn’t as torturous as one might think. 

Actually, I really enjoy it.  There is something very meditative and grounding about it. My body is more in touch with the rhythms of the day.  I enjoy waking up before sunrise, eating breakfast, and watching the sun rise as I do the rest of my morning preparations.  While I will often feel thirsty, I usually let go of it.  I’m hardly counting down the minutes until sunset, but when it comes, I enjoy my food and drink that much more.

However, I have had to suspend my fast.  Even before this month, I found myself dealing with daytime sleepiness, even after eight or nine hours of sleep.  I do have sleep apnea, and I am consulting my doctor about whether I need adjustments in my treatment  As such, I’m letting it go.  I’m disappointed, but that’s the way it goes.

Nevertheless, this has still been a meditative time for me.  I’ve turned inward a lot this month, and I feel like I’m preparing for a lot of changes–some that I’m initiating, and some that are hurtling my way.  I’ve been accepted to the part-time Master’s program at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Social Work, which I will be starting this fall.

This seems to be one of those times again where the world seems to be changing radically and without warning.  I would have never thought there would be such potent democracy movements in Egypt and other parts of the Middle East, or that Madison would be so united in its resistance to a sudden rightward lurch of the Wisconsin state government that 100,000 people would be filling the Capitol Square, as happened yesterday.   I see more changes coming that I am starting to prepare for, and which I will be writing about in subsequent posts…

a capitol transformed

2 Ayyam-i-ha 167 B.E.
Soundtrack in my head: Steve Earle, “The Revolution Starts Now”

It has been amazing to see this little town of Madison become the center of the nation’s attention as people have stood up against the drastic and controversial measures being pushed by Wisconsin’s new governor.  Little time goes by when I don’t hear people talking about the latest developments with the standoff over the right to collective bargaining for state employees and I often overhear people talking about it on the bus.

The Capitol has been occupied by peaceful protestors 24/7 for a couple of weeks now.  I know many people who have chosen to sleep over at the Capitol as part of the occupation effort.  The Capitol has always been open to the public, and people routinely cut through the Capitol to get from one side of Capitol Square to the other.  But I’ve never seen it look like this before…

Signs like these were all over the Capitol.

 

A resting place for someone sleeping in the Capitol.

 

Ian’s Pizza has two locations in downtown Madison–one just a block or two from the Capitol.  Orders of pizza for the protestors have reportedly come in from donors in all 50 states and several foreign countries, including Egypt and China.  Ian’s pizzas are for their inventive toppings, such as macaroni and cheese.

 

 

 

 

 

The budget bill would reportedly slash public transportation. 

 

One of the banners hanging from the balcony reads “Stewart and Colbert:  We came to your rally, now come to ours.”

 

Protestors staying overnight at the Capitol worked with Capitol staff to keep the building clean.

battleground wisconsin, madison’s capitol square ground zero

13 Mulk 167 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head:  Thievery Corporation, “Sound The Alarm”

Last week, I found myself constantly checking the news on my Android phone to keep up with the latest developments with the revolution in Egypt.  This week, I’ve found myself constantly checking the news on my Android phone to keep up with the latest developments here in Madison.

If you have been living under a rock haven’t been following the news recently, here is a brief synopsis of events:  Republican Scott Walker was elected governor of Wisconsin with 52% of the vote in November 2010.  Last week, he announced his plan to curtail the collective bargaining rights of state, county and municipal workers.  His proposal would have limited collective bargaining to wages, though even then, raises would not be able to exceed the Consumer Price Index.  Benefits, working conditions and other issues would be off limits for discussion. Gov. Walker put the Wisconsin National Guard on alert, though later said this was because of the possibility of walkouts at state prisons. 

This has resulted in four solid days of protests by state workers and other citizens at Capitol Square, where tens of thousands of people have flooded the Capitol Building and the Square. Schools shut down in a number of municipalities as teachers called in sick and joined the protests.  Some of them traveled from as far as Wausau and Green Bay–both about three hours from here.  Yesterday, Democrat state senators shut down the State Senate by walking out, resulting in the Senate falling one voting member short of quorum.  The standoff continues, as does the 24/7 presence of protestors in the Capitol Building and on the Square.

It’s been an interesting time to be in Madison this week.  On Monday and Tuesday, my cell phone was flooded with calls.  I thought it was because I was a day or two late on my credit card payment, but it turned out to be different organizations calling me trying to mobilize people to come to the Capitol.  I also got a number of emails and text messages from friends trying to get me to come out, too.

Yesterday, the Isthmus ran a cover story that depicted Gov. Walker as King Kong, clinging to the Capitol Dome, holding the gilded bronze statue on top of the Capitol as if she were Faye Dunaway, and the headline is entitled “Rampage!”

Buses have been routed from Capitol Square all week.  It is normally a central transfer point for buses, but the buses are now using the “Capitol Loop” which is a series of streets that circle Capitol Square from one block away rather than on the Square itself. 

One of my housemates works at a restaurant in the US Bank building right across from the Capitol.  The building is constructed entirely of glass and steel, and there is a very clear view of the Square.  She remarked that she’d never seen so many people gathered before, characterizing it as “almost scary.”  She also said that she was extremely busy due to the booming business that the protestors brought. 

National and international coverage of our fair little town has been growing.  The New York Times weighed in with an editorial on the subject. The protests were the lead story on CNN this afternoon.  Even BBC News has given significant coverage, including a photo montage of the protests.

The series of events have been a hot topic of discussion at work–starting late last week when Gov. Walker announced his radical plan. The overwhelming majority of voices I have heard have been supportive of the Democrats and protestors.  It’s not surprising given that we’re a union shop, but even people who normally are more conservative seem to feel that the governor is a bit off his rocker.  Today, I was hearing a little bit more support for the governor from a couple of quarters, and concern about the missed school days due to teachers attending the protest and the difficulty of arranging day care.

Today I overheard a rather heated debate between two co-workers over the issues. I was glad I had my music headphones on.  I no longer really like hearing political debate.  The level of political discourse in this country has been going steadily downhill over the last few decades.  Concerns become slogans and facts can be bent at will. As Mark Twain said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

I tend to fall solidly in the left side of the political aisle, with a few Green, anarchist, and libertarian streaks, and even an occasional conservative opinion here and there.  One of my best friends here in Madison is a conservative who usually votes Republican.  We totally respect each other’s opinions even if we don’t agree, and when we do debate, we listen and learn from each other.  This seems to be an increasingly rare thing. 

good reasons to root for the packers in the super bowl, eh?

18 Sultan 167 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head: Horace Andy, “Zion Dub”

You know you live in the most lefty-radical part of Madison when you get a Super Bowl invitation that says “Come commiserate over the fallacy of community that is NFL Sports.”  It’s worth a chuckle but I’m hardly miserable.  I’m a Packer fan and I plan on cheering them on in tomorrow’s Super Bowl XLV.

I grew up a Chicago Bears fan, but always liked the Packers, too.  I was excited when the Bears dominated the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX and was also excited when the Packers dominated the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI. (I guess I’m not a Patriots fan.) 

(Note to Super Bowl marketers–you really should have ditched Roman numerals for the standard Arabic ones somewhere around Super Bowl 30.  I can read Roman numerals of course, but for any Roman numeral above 30 I have to stare at it for awhile before I’m able to figure out which Super Bowl you’re talking about).

When I moved to Wisconsin I was initially on the fence about whether to switch my allegiance from the Bears to the Packers, but decided to do so after watching a Monday night football game between the two teams at the newly renovated Soldier Field in Chicago (the once-beautiful stadium that now looks as if an alien ship has landed on the Acropolis).  It’s funny, because soon after I moved to Madison at the end of 2002, I began to hear rumors of Brett Favre’s possible retirement and I worried about the possibility of not being able to see him play.  Eight years later, he seems to finally be retiring for good, and Packer fans have all but forgotten him due to the success of new quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

But given that Green Bay is 122 miles away from Madison and that the Green Bay Packers seem to be the official state religion of Wisconsin, it seems like I would have good reason to want to avoid the hype. But the more I know about them, the more I like them.

The first thing I noticed about Packer fans was in the way that they took the “cheesehead” moniker–originally a pejorative label given to them by people in neighboring states–and took ownership of it in a humorous way.  The foam “cheese wedges” that Packer fans put on top of their head may now be an old joke, but it was and is quite funny.  To me it is a classic example of the Wisconsinite sense of humor, which I’ve always admired.


Just as the New York Yankees have a deeply ingrained history of winning championships, so do the Packers. While they’ve only won three Super Bowls (their opponent tomorrow, the Pittsburgh Steelers, have won six), the Pack have won more NFL championships (including pre-Super Bowl championships) than any team, with twelve under their belt.

I also found it interesting that the Packers have remained in Green Bay despite the fact that it is a tiny city half the size of Madison.  They hearken back to the time when the Chicago Bears were known the Decatur Staleys, when small-town football clubs like these were common.  There are several reasons the Packers have been able to stay in Green Bay.  One is the depth of loyalty Wisconsinites have to the team–deep enough that people are willing to road trip from all over the state to attend a game.  The Packers have one of the longest waiting lists for season tickets in professional sports–the number of people on the list exceeds the number of seats in Lambeau Field.  The fact the the NFL shares TV revenue between franchises also helps–this way the big market teams (like the New York Yankees) aren’t more likely to dominate. 

But another big reason is that the Packers are the only non-profit community-owned major league sports franchise in the country.  The amount of stock in the team that someone can own is limited, and if the team were sold, all of the proceeds after expenses would have to go to a specific charity, so any financial incentive for stockholders to sell the team is erased.  Stock sales funded the building and later rehab of the Packers’ home stadium of Lambeau Field, and there are currently over 100,000 shareholders owning between 4 and 5 million shares of stock in the team. 

In an era of big money and huge profits in professional sports, this is deeply refreshing.  Of course, player salaries are no lower than other NFL teams, and tickets and team merchandise are no less exorbitant than elsehwere–as much as I’d like to wear a Packers jersey for tomorrow’s Super Bowl, I’m not willing to pay $70-80 for one.  But the fact that the team is non-profit organization owned by the fans is admirable.

It is also fitting for a Wisconsin team to be organized in this way.  Wisconsin, like Iowa and Minnesota, have very deep-rooted histories of cooperatives, which is why they were ranked third, second, and first respectively out of all U.S. states in total co-op business volume (California is ranked fourth) despite being ranked 18th, 30th, and 21st in total state population. 

So it is with enthusiasm that I will be joining fellow cheeseheads in rooting for a Packer victory. The Capitol Dome in Madison has been lit green and gold.  While some people (like the writers of the invitation I mentioned at the beginning this post) might get sick and tired of all the Packer hype, I’m perfectly fine with living it up.