Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Local blogger sums up Carol Owens' career in Madison

For almost as long as she’s been in office it seems Rep. Carol Owens has been a lightning rod of controversy – mostly because of the ridiculousness of much of her proposed legislation, her failure to stay awake during meetings she’s being paid to attend (it is, after all, her job as a legislator), and by her mean-spirited attitude and comments during debates and when asked questions about her record as a public servant. Then, of course, we’ve heard many complaints over the years about her failure to return phone calls, answer written communications or otherwise be responsive when people call, particularly if they’re not in her district.

The “sleepy” representative is not seeking re-election (a very good thing, in my opinion) and several have already entered the race, expressing a desire to dust the cobwebs off her legislative chair and do some real work in Madison. Since announcing her decision, Owens has been the topic of several editorials and blog postings on the World Wide Web, most which have poked fun at her irrelevant legislative proposals, and which have simultaneously reflected on what most of us see as a less than stellar career.

One of the more recent was written by Kay Springstroh for Main Street Oshkosh. It accurately portrays Owens’ “faltering” career – at least in the last several years – as a legislator and sums up her faux pas and asinine proposals better than anything I’ve seen. She also chastises the Oshkosh Northwestern for not speaking up about Owens sooner than now – earlier this week they published an editorial criticizing her recent proposed legislation to stop the DOT’s reconstruction plans for U.S. Highway 41 near State Highway 21 in Oshkosh. The Northwestern actually has challenged Owens on various occasions in the past; their most recent editorial was not the first, and I doubt will be the last. So if Kay was saying they’ve never taken her to task in the past, that’s not really accurate. But overall, kudos to Kay; as far as Owens goes, she hit the nail on the head.


Blogger Kay said...

Cheryl, thank you for your kind words regarding my post about Rep. Owens.

I recognize that the Northwestern has been constructively critical of Rep. Owens in the past. However, I also think that one of the NW's responsibilities as part of the Fourth Estate is to responsibly report on the representation (or in this case, lack of representation) that many of their readers are getting for their money. Granted, the 53rd AD votes very conservatively, but Owens had Republican primary opponents in her re-election races. It's hard for me to believe that her voters would have returned her to Madison had they known that she was sleeping, or in giving her the benefit of doubt, "resting" through sessions.
Take into consideration that the Assembly, as has been generously estimated, meets one week a month, I don't think it's too much to ask a Representative to stay awake or alert.

If there is a medical condition which prevents Rep. Owens from keeping up her head or her eyes open, it should have been disclosed . Combined with a history of seemingly willful lack of responsiveness to her constituents, I get the impression she just doesn't give a "you know what" about what anyone else thinks.

I'm starting to believe, as others have suggested, that our newspaper watchdogs have become lapdogs.

March 06, 2008 9:08 AM  
Blogger Jim Basler said...

About a year ago I contacted the office of Carol Owens about an issue I was concerned about. I only expected to get an assistant to put my name on a tally sheet of sorts. The assistant asked me to hold on just a minute. Within seconds Carol was on the phone and spent all the time needed to discuss the issue with me, the politics surrounding it, and the potential outcomes of the legislation. She sounded truly grateful to have a discussion with someone in her constituency about the matter. I was very impressed with her attention.

Maybe she does doze off during meetings. I don't know. I worked with an older lady that did the same, but...she was sharp as a tack on everything you asked her and a critical component of our company's success. Sometimes we would even turn her light off in her office when we caught her :)

March 09, 2008 5:10 PM  
Blogger Cheryl Hentz said...

Hi Jim, and thanks for sharing your personal experience with Rep. Owens with us. I'm sure there are others who have had the same kind of experience. But I also know there are plenty of others who have quite different stories to tell. I suspect the legislator's level of interest may be motivated by her passion for a particular issue - or lack thereof. While I don't know what your specific concern was, it certainly strikes many - myself included - that Mrs. Owens has busied herself with a lot of useless and/or duplicated legislation over the years.

I will also point out how she has been unresponsive to the press on a number of occasions and has exhibited rude, arrogant or otherwise condescending behavior at candidate debates and forums in recent years.

As far as her falling asleep at meetings, this is an issue that has been fairly well-documented. While falling asleep in one's job in the private sector - as I suspect the women you referred to probably was - it's not the best thing to ever have happen. Regardless, it's certainly different when you're in a position like Rep. Owens is: Where someone is making decisions that affect thousands of people throughout Wisconsin and where quite often people are testifying and/or debating issues. When she dozes off in those kinds of situations she is undoubtedly missing something. Therefore, I don't see how she can possibly make a fully-informed decision when voting on issues. Not to mention the fact that she has preached for years about decorum and respect on the legislative floor and in the state capitol, and even wanted to pass legislation regarding respect. Yet falling asleep while discussions are going on could easily be construed as her being disrespectful toward those speaking.

Again, I'm glad you had a positive Owens experience. That's not the case for all and I suspect that, all things considered, more constituents overall will have better experiences with her successor.

March 09, 2008 7:59 PM  

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