Palmeri's Newsmakers of the Year
by Tony Palmeri
December 26, 2002
The Oshkosh Northwestern today reported that 4 individuals have been named as finalists for the paper's "newsmaker of the year" award competition. They are Oshkosh Community Foundation Executive Director Eileen Connolly-Keesler, developer Ben Ganther, newly elected Winnebago County District Attorney Bill Lennon, and former Oshkosh North teacher Laurie Mosher.
With all due respect to the 4 finalists, one has to wonder what city the Northwestern editorial board was living in during the last year. Surely Bill Lennon, who overcame charges of being a lighweight and an opportunist in a tough Republican primary and general election campaign for district attorney, deserves to be on the list. But the others? If the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce were in charge of selecting the finalists (which in the current Gannett era of the paper may in fact be the case), then Connolly-Keesler and Ganther make sense as finalists.
|After carping about Mosher's criminality in headline stories and editorials during months of sickening saturation coverage of the most sensationalistic sort, the paper now has the audacity to consider the disgraced former teacher as a newsmaker of the year? The editorial board in its exploitation of the Mosher case actually found a way to blend the cheap titillation of a Howard Stern with the prosecutorial lust of a Kenneth Starr. Quite an achievement.|
And convicted sexual predator Laurie Mosher? After carping about Mosher's criminality in headline stories and editorials during months of sickening saturation coverage of the most sensationalistic sort, the paper now has the audacity to consider the disgraced former teacher as a newsmaker of the year? The editorial board in its exploitation of the Mosher case actually found a way to blend the cheap titillation of a Howard Stern with the prosecutorial lust of a Kenneth Starr. Quite an achievement.
Here are my suggestions for Oshkosh newsmakers of the year:
*Mercy Medical Workers: In September workers at Mercy Medical Center in Oshkosh announced an intention to organize with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 73A. Taking on Affinity Health Systems, one of the more hostile anti-union corporate health care predators, is no easy task. Yet three nurses leading the union drive, Karen Prade (RN, UFCW International Union), Sue Wagner (RN, UFCW Local 73A Chief Steward for Bethel Homes in Oshkosh), and Cecilia Prickett (LPN, UFCW Local 73A Chief Steward for Fond du Lac Lutheran Homes) vow to continue the fight.
*Ann Gollner/E.J. Jelinski: Bill Lennon would not have won the race for Winnebago County District Attorney were it not for Gollner and Jelinski. Menasha police officer Gollner, risking her reputation and career, made allegations of corruption within the office of DA Joe Paulus that are still being investigated by the FBI and state Office of Lawyer Regulation. For her efforts, she has faced blistering attacks from the Oshkosh Northwestern Editorial Board, mudslinging from Paulus, and at least one investigation of the procedures she followed in amassing evidence against Paulus. Gollner may or may not eventually be vindicated for her actions, but playing such a key role in the toppling of one of the most powerful DAs in the history of Winnebago County certainly makes her a newsmaker of the year.
Mr. Jelinski, a 29-year-old former assistant district attorney fired by Paulus after publicly charging him with corruption, finished a distant third behind Lennon and Paulus in the September DA primary. Voters were uncomfortable with Jelinski's secret tape recordings of Paulus and were never convinced that he was motivated only by a noble desire to root out corruption in the office. Still, Jelinski like Gollner succeeded not only in having Paulus removed, but in forcing the county to look with more scrutiny at prosecutorial plea agreements. Jelinski has said that if Paulus "is not indicted by some point next year, Ill eat my hat." If Paulus is not indicted, Jelinski will not only eat some crow with the hat but will also find it extremely difficult to find work as a prosecutor anywhere. More about the scandal can be found in the DA Turmoil Archive.
*Karen Bowen, Mike Stratz, Dennis Kavanaugh, Teresa Thiel, Susan Werblow: In March, the Oshkosh Area School District Board of Education voted 5-2 (the 5 being Bowen, Stratz, Kavanaugh, Thiel, and Werblow) to retire the Oshkosh West High School Indian logo. The vote was a gutsy one for a number of reasons. First, school board members all over the state and nation have been successfully recalled after casting such votes. Second, the majority of community members would have supported keeping the Indian logo. Third, the board would have faced no negative consequences for keeping the Indian logo, but mostly grief for voting to change it. Doing the right thing even at the risk of being voted out of office is the definition of political leadership, and for demonstrating such leadership these 5 board members deserve newsmaker of the year status.
*Dr. Ann Frisch: As a tenured professor of human serices at UW Oshkosh, Dr. Frisch could be content with teaching classes and interacting with professionals in her field. Instead, Dr. Frisch lends her knowledge and passion to a variety of causes including peace, social justice for all members of Winnebago County, preventing the destruction of Canada Geese, fighting for access to open records, and many others. In 2002, Dr. Frisch was a key organizer of peace vigils in downtown Oshkosh and she exposed abuses within the county's human services department.
*Bob Poeschl and Carl Schaap: Young people in America are too often stereotyped as being apathetic, apolitical, and concerned only with consuming the latest fads. The stereotype contributes to keeping the voices of young people marginalized and ineffective. In Oshkosh, Bob Poeschl and Carl Schaap are two young men guided by social justice principles and visions of a world without violence. In 2002, each was a key organizer of weekly peace vigils held at Opera House Square park in downtown Oshkosh. Poeschl and Schaap would be the first to say that the real newsmakers of the year are the millions of people nationwide speaking out for peace while the president and the press continue a march toward war.
*New Media Makers Make News: In 2002 Oshkosh saw saw the emergence of some new media forms challenging Gannett's dominance in the region. John Lemberger's A Second Opinion debuted in July with an expressed goal "to create a healthy debate by presenting the other side of the story." On the business front, 2002 saw the debut of Sean Fitzgerald's (Publisher) and Ryan Buck's (Associate Editor) Lake Winnebago B2B, "a monthly publication providing in-depth coverage of news and issues affecting the business community in the Oshkosh and Fond du Lac region." Fitzgerald and Buck, both former staffers at the Oshkosh Northwestern, have created an engaging publication that goes beyond the mere chamber of commerce cheerleading found on the typical business page of daily newspapers. Former Oshkosh Mayor Melanie Bloechl and journalist Cheryl Hentz in 2002 debuted Eye on Oshkosh, "a local discussion show focusing on issues and events that affect people in Oshkosh and the surrounding area." I don't agree with Bloechl and Hentz on all or even most issues, but I admire their attempt to provide citizens of Oshkosh with viewpoints contrary to the "official" pronoucements coming out of city hall and the Gannett press. Finally and at the risk of shameless self-promotion, in 2002 the Valley Scene began publishing my column of media criticism called Media Rants. Others will have to judge the quality of the column, but I believe that what I had to say about Wisconsin's Magruder Media is the major reason why it exists at all.
This essay has been concerned with Oshkosh newsmakers, but I'd like to close by applauding three northeast Wisconsin newsmakers who deserve to be recognized for their accomplishments in 2002. First, Fond du Lac's Peg Lautenschlager became the first woman ever elected to the office of Wisconsin Attorney General, defeating Republican Vince Biskupic in a hotly contested race in which she was significantly outspent. Second, Barbara Lawton of Green Bay became the first woman ever elected to the office of lieutenant governor. Finally, Brown County Executive Nancy Nusbaum in 2002 took a courageous stand in vetoing the Brown County Board's "English Only" resolution, an anti-immigrant measure akin to what one would expect to see passed in Trent Lott's hometown of Pascagoula, Mississippi. In her veto message of August 20, 2002 Nusbaum said:
Today a new wave of immigrants, speaking languages we dont understand, has moved to our community and has strengthened and enriched it in much the same way our ancestors did.
As mentioned, they are learning English at a slightly faster rate than our ancestors did. They are working hard to realize the American dream.
The only difference today is that, for some reason, Brown County government has seen fit to suggest, through the English resolution, that the only way the pattern which worked for previous generations can repeat itself this time is through an edict of government.
To recent immigrants it says, We expect more of you than we expected of our own immigrant ancestors That is patently unfair as well as unrealistic.
The Brown County Board overrode Nusbaum's veto, but as she leaves office (Nusbaum has said she will not seek reelection) she can hold her head high knowing that she did not cave in to those who would use the big government stick to beat up on immigrants.
Do you have any thoughts on who should be the Oshkosh or northeast Wisconsin newsmaker for 2002? Email me your suggestions at Palmeri@uwosh.edu.
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