Open Up, Listen, Compromise
February 28, 2011 3:27 PM
For two weeks, peaceful protests went on both outside and inside the Capitol. Today, the Walker administration has essentially limited those voices to outside the building. A few hundred protesters remain inside, but access to the interior of the building has been severely limited.
The city doesn't see any public safety reason for those restrictions. The administration should allow more people inside the building. Aesthetics just aren't a good enough reason to restrict access to our elected officials. Sure, it was a little messy (though extremely well organized and civil), but so is democracy.
The Governor seems to be seeking to control access to the seat of our government in order to lessen pressure on the building and its inhabitants. But it won't work. If the goal is to get the Capitol back to near normal, here's what might work.
The Governor should meet personally with union reps and some representative group of the protesters, and it should be about more than just logistics. He should hear people out and answer questions about his budget proposals. People are being noisy because they're not being heard in direct conversation. My experience is that the more you listen the softer the voices become.
Then the Governor and Senate Republicans should sit down with the opposition and compromise. The Governor has already won what he said was the intention of his budget repair bill: balance the current year budget. The state employee unions have moved more than halfway in accepting his proposals for contributions to health insurance and retirement. Changes to collective bargaining are far reaching policy matters that don't do anything to balance the budget.
If Governor Walker would just do two things - listen and compromise - that would bring life at the Capitol back to something approaching normal. Until then, restricting access to the halls of power will only make for even noisier protests from outside of them.