New focus for Superior DaysAs more than 200 delegates from Northwest Wisconsin prepare for their annual trip to Madison next week, they know one thing: Superior Days will be different this year. With 38 new legislators in office and following on the heels of a week-long protest that’s sent union supporters flooding into Madison, the strategy has changed.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
As more than 200 delegates from Northwest Wisconsin prepare for their annual trip to Madison next week, they know one thing: Superior Days will be different this year. With 38 new legislators in office and following on the heels of a week-long protest that’s sent union supporters flooding into Madison, the strategy has changed.
“(The legislators) don’t know us,” said Fariba Pendleton, coordinator of the event. “And also we simply don’t know them.”
This year, she told delegates, is an opportunity to build up relationships with state leaders.
“With generosity and graciousness, setting aside politics to get to know them,” she said.
As in the past 25 years, delegates will bring down a list of key issues to address with legislators. But the list acknowledges that the state is strapped for cash.
“This year there are no issues with big funding requests,” Pendleton said. Superior Days delegates will ask for continued support for K-12 and higher education, request that an expansion of Highway 2 be included in Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s future plans and urge passage of a new Wisconsin-Minnesota tax reciprocity agreement.
More important will be the questions Northland residents ask legislators: What issues they plan to address during the legislative session and how they will impact Northwest Wisconsin; what do they know about Northwest Wisconsin.
One long-time Superior Days delegate is happy with the change in tone.
“It’s all about learning to work together and solving problems,” said Pat Luostari of Cloverland, an English teacher in the Maple School District. “Let’s reason together; let’s talk.”
In particular, she said, the new format sets a wonderful example for youth delegates like Jessie Wells of Minong. The 17-year-old plans to address the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to talk about an issue that hits close to home – increasing safety at the intersection of Highways 53 and 77 in Minong. From 1998-2004 there were 30 vehicle accidents at the intersection, including five fatalities and 15 serious injuries. Wells, a Northwoods High School junior, said she knows people who have died at that intersection and, as a new driver, she is wary of it.
For Emma Dalzell of Bayfield, the trip is an opportunity to support the Bay Area Rural Transit System that connects four cities in the Chequamegon Bay area in Ashland and Bayfield counties. The 17-year-old will be asking that WisDOT continue funding for the bus.
“I know a lot of people use it,” Dalzell said.
Thursday, Pendleton sent out a message to delegates, cautioning them to stick to the script.
“While we will continue to pay close attention to the state fiscal issues and budget, next week we will be in Madison for the sole purpose of Superior Days,” she said. “We will demonstrate a noble sense of graciousness and kindness and will be flexible if we experience any last-minute changes with our meetings.”
Along with lobbying visits to Legislators, Superior Days participants will attend agency meetings . Gov. Scott Walker is scheduled to speak to the delegates Wednesday morning. Other scheduled speakers include Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and his brother Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald. For more information on Superior Days, look it up online at http://www.superiordays.com/.