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Nov 16, 201208:44 AMBlaska's Bring It!

with David Blaska

Madison Chamber lands high draft pick in Zach Brandon

Madison Chamber lands high draft pick in Zach Brandon

The selection of Zach Brandon as president of the Greater Madison Area Chamber of Commerce is great news.

Brandon can change the dynamic of a city that has for the better part of 40 years regarded capitalism as the devil’s spawn, that has punished entrepreneurs with ever-shifting demands, made them jump over newly invented hoops, and given unelected neighborhood associations effective veto power over development.

The Madison culture, at its base overtly socialist, does not understand business or how wealth is created. Entire neighborhoods spit out the word “developer” as an epithet. The political discourse is dominated by a noisy few who wail about a scruffy few substance abusers who choose homelessness as a lifestyle. Few appreciate that the public sector, especially state government, is no longer a growth industry. Madison’s future is high-tech private enterprise.

Zach Brandon is an ideal choice to lead the Madison Chamber.

Zach Brandon can change that dynamic. It says everything that Zach Brandon will share a microphone with the Divine Miss Vicki next Monday on her WIBA 1310 AM afternoon radio program. It is the highest-rated talk program in greater Madison. You go where the audience lives. That tells me that the man will be a major player both behind the scenes, as was his predecessor, and in front of the cameras.

Zach Brandon will take business’s fight to the streets of Madison.

This, then, should be high on his to-do list: Educate the people of Madison on how business improves their lives, is necessary for our well-being, how business rises and falls on how well it serves its customers. That is Task #1.

The new Madison Chamber president must carry a large portfolio. Schools, taxes, the environment, law and order, housing, regulation, transportation – all are within his purview. Everyone with ears to hear and eyes to see must have no doubt about where the chamber stands on all of those issues.

In other words, Madison should hear more from Zach Brandon than from John Matthews of the teachers union – and fear him more.

But he will also need to rally his own membership. That is Task #2. Too many of Madison’s businesspeople have Stockholm Syndrome, an identification with their captors, a willingness to take orders rather than give them.

I took heart from the comment Zach made upon his anointment, as quoted in the Wisconsin State Journal: that he will “demand a seat at the table.” Not request, but demand.

He must also make clear that an injury to one business is an injury to all. A threatened boycott of one business – think of the Siege of the Capitol – because some of its executives may have contributed to a particular political campaign should be met by a unanimous and coordinated show of support by every other business and especially from its more Lefty owners.

Task #3 is to require the chamber’s member organizations to recruit among their employees candidates for public office. Quick, name the businesspeople on the 20-member Madison Common Council. (I can’t do it either.) Or the 37-member Dane County Board (outside of a couple bar owners from suburban Madison, who are among the dwindling number of conservatives). Better candidates make for better government.


Zach is a card-carrying Democrat. He did a high-level tour of duty in Gov. Jim Doyle’s sub-cabinet as deputy in the Department of Commerce. But he is a classic liberal in the better sense – more in the mode of Tim Cullen, the state senator from Janesville, or Patrick Lucey (read Marc Eisen’s wonderful piece in the current Isthmus). In other words, he is a job creator, not a redistributor. (For all the noise about how the Republican Party has been “taken over” by the Tea Party, we need to understand how the Democrats have been taken over by the Occupy Crowd.)

I first met Zach in 2003 when he was a newly elected Madison alderman. Immediately, he impressed me as a man on the make. (That’s a good thing, Madison.)

He quickly made his mark by rallying a council that had been consumed with the Progressive Dane agenda of devising a Madison-only minimum wage, a Madison-only health insurance requirement, and by insanely mandating (as if such a thing could be subject to legislative fiat) “affordable housing.”

It was a city council that tried to jettison the Economic Development Commission. He pored through the city’s books and found waste. He fought for taxpayers, not the government-industrial complex. When he left the council in 2008, colleague Judy Compton, a real estate agent, said, “You ... ignited a realization on this body about the importance of paying attention to how money was spent and not being just a rubber stamp.”

As a member of the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission, he fought Kathleen Falk and won on behalf of a Verona business that had complied with all the laws. The state DNR and the courts ultimately ruled that Brandon and the CARPC majority were correct and Falk was wrong.

Falk was so bitter she trashed Brandon’s candidacy to replace her during the 2011 county exec’s race. If The Kathleen despises Zach Brandon, he’s got to be okay.

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Old to new | New to old
Nov 16, 2012 12:40 pm
 Posted by  David Blaska

Originally scheduled to appear on Vicki's show Monday, Zach Brandon has cancelled until after the holiday week. Golly, Thanksgiving is next week!!!

Nov 19, 2012 08:56 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

I've lived in Madison for over 30 years and have been on the Economic Development Commission during a prior administration. At no time while I've been in the community have I seen any overall community value that thinks of capitalism as the "devils spawn" as Mr. Blaska references in his posting. If anything, I've seen a community willing to balance economic development with quality of life and a positive sense of place, something that cities and communities around the country and world are recognizing as essential to effective business growth.

Nov 19, 2012 12:41 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Is this the "famous" Blaska and his well known (cough)incisive commentary and razer sharp wit ?

Blaska...the sound my bowels make after eating bad tex/mex

Dude, if it's so awful here....why doncha move somewhere else?

Nov 20, 2012 07:34 am
 Posted by  David Blaska

Love it or leave it? Really? No wonder you choose to remain anonymous. Tell you what, "Dude," I'll get out of town when you leave the state. (Bonus tip: spellcheck.)

Nov 20, 2012 11:47 am
 Posted by  uwbiz96

McKenna's show is top rated only after removing public radio from the mix. And for a true idea of how popular she is with Madison's business owners, don't just look at Brandon's postponement, but listen to the commercials that run between her rants. Not a lot of local businesses in there. Not a lot of high-tech entrepreneurs or restaurant owners lining up to get in front of her flock.

The reason why Brandon will be an effective director of the Chamber is because, unlike Dave Blaska, he doesn't deal in fear. I urge him to avoid advice like that offered above. It doesn't make any sense. Brandon probably remembers, as I do, how conservatives went after him during the county executive race, lying on WIBA that he had run his business into the ground.

Did you set the record straight back then, Mr. Blaska?

Nov 20, 2012 12:50 pm
 Posted by  David Blaska

On what radio programs DO high tech entrepreneurs advertise? I don't know what the record was with Zach's business and doubt that you do, either. I can tell you that Zach Brandon was attacked by the Left much more than from the right, The Kathleen being case in point, which is more than you have suggested. I also know that Vicki has NOT attacked Zach Brandon. If your advice differs from mine you need to explicate how. Are you opposed to business people running for public office? Educating the citizenry on the contribution business makes to a community? Advocating for effective, results-driven schools? Demanding business have a seat at the table?


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About This Blog

Raised on a farm near Sun Prairie, David Blaska is a recovering liberal who spent 18 years in daily newspapers, including 12 at The Capital Times in Madison as a reporter and editor. He served Gov. Tommy Thompson as acting press secretary in 1998 and is a veteran and survivor of 19 years in state government. He served 12 years on the Dane County Board of Supervisors. From December 2007 to November 2011 he wrote the consistently popular "Blaska's Blog" for Isthmus online's "The Daily Page" until, he says, the intolerant liberals ran him off. He blogs from Madison.

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