Sunday night, as Democrats filled the banquet hall at Infusino's, they celebrated the results of that election -- and the work ahead. The party also honored three notable members, including:
Corinne Owens received the the annual "Phyllis Dresen Spirit of Democracy Award" presented to an individual who has had a significant impact on the community through efforts to support the democratic principles of peace and justice. Mike Shields, county party chairman, described some of the 96-year-old Owens' accomplishments -- well known to the crowd -- and cited her motto: "Live to do good for others." Owens rose from a janitor's position, when she was refused a teaching job because of her race, to become chair of the Gateway Technical College Board, president of the NAACP, and a leader in the effort to pass the Fair Housing Act
Lenny Hand received the James Arena Award, for his long and continuing contributions to the Democratic Party of Racine County. The award was presented by State Sen. John Lehman, who wondered "why Lenny didn't receive this 15 years ago." Lehman praised Hand's activities on behalf of the community, unions and the Democratic Party, and noted that he has been involved in party activities so long, George McGovern crashed his wedding.
Jane Witt was named Democrat of the Year, for her efforts for the Democratic Party during the year. The award was presented by Judy Van Koningsveld, last year's winner, who noted that she and Jane "are the type of people who will never be candidates," but who will make sure the actual candidates get their messages across. Witt recalled being asked to make election calls late on election day in November, and cracked up the crowd by describing the results of one call, at 6:40 p.m. that evening: "Lady, are you a bleepin' idiot?" "I said, 'Yes, I am,' and went out and celebrated the election," she said.
The evening's keynote speaker, Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton, put the times in context, noting the "complexity of the moment in which we live" and "the importance of these people, celebrating the thousands of hours of community building in Democratic values."
She urged those present "to guide budget creation in both capitols," using the lessons they've learned to fight "the widening income gap that defines this moment, driven by the financial industry with two many people engineering financial derivatives that became toxic."
with Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton
with Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton
Lawton said "the need for government regulation is indisputable," and she made no apologies for the tax increases coming in Gov. Doyle's budget. "A deficit situation is, by definition, bad." She said the "uncontrolled spending under George Bush" -- tax cuts for the rich and the costs of the Iraq war-- "brought the U.S. into this."
The only question, she said, using a medical metaphor, is "where to place the paddles on the heart of the economy."
At the same time, she said Racine is "uniquely positioned to offer leadership," praising our restored and attractive downtown and our "richly diverse population -- not just whites but also African-Americans and Hispanics." The city has "an embarrassment of riches in the strong field of mayoral candidates," she said.
She also decried the "inflammatory rhetoric which confuses the public," coming from Republicans Paul Ryan and Robin Vos. Referring to Ryan's "Road Map," Lawton said, "privatization is not innovation. What would have happened had we privatized Social Security, as he proposed? Health care savings accounts are not a solution."
ONE MINOR GLITCH: Ah, such a nice banquet, slightly marred at the end (after I'd left). Among the many Democratic dignitaries introduced during the evening were the four Democrats present who are running for mayor: John Dickert, Kim Plache, Q.A. Shakoor II and Robert Turner. Each was promised two minutes at the end to address the audience. But when it came to Shakoor's turn, he was denied the floor; seems he hadn't filled out an application form to formally join the party. The incident left a bad taste in some people's mouths...