A Parade Down Old World Third Street

Some folks think small town city Americana is hokey and a waste of money.  Not me.  I love a parade, and was thrilled to have the Milwaukee “holiday” parade right in front of my hotel yesterday morning.  Marching bands trying their best to stay in tune. Adults wearing funny costumes.  Local celebrities in convertibles on a cold day.  America.

I watched for a while, enjoying both the parade and the crowd watching the parade.  Parents holding hot coffee and kids wrapped up like little butterball turkeys.  Sure, it seemed a little early to have Santa Claus coming to town, as this was really a Christmas parade, but even in Milwaukee they won’t admit to it lest anyone be offended by the idea that Christmas is coming.

The bands were interspersed with the celebrity cars, mostly local radio and TV personalities, for former demonstrating why they are more appealing when unseen, and the latter just smiling.  Then came the Mayor of Milwaukee, who was quite popular having just lost the governor’s race after an unfortunate bashing with a pipe at the State Fair.

Then came the shocker.  A celebrity of sort, John Chisolm sitting up on the trunk of the convertible waving at the crowd like crazy.  From what I could tell, he didn’t sing or dance. He couldn’t play rock music or announce the weather.  I don”t know if he’s any good at telling jokes.  Still, there he was.

Chisolm was the Milwaukee County District Attorney.  Chisolm was waving at the crowd like a star.

As an elected official, he has a need to keep his face in front of the people, to make himself appear popular and available.  That’s part of the gig.  But there’s a huge difference between shaking hands, kissing babies and telling the constituents that he’s going to lock up their children protect them from crime and waving to the crowd like the guy who plays accordion in a favorite polka band.

Would the top public defender follow in a convertible of his own?  Nope.  Just the DA. 

It’s a subtle message to the people of Milwaukee, who might well be thought of as potential jurors, that the guy who brings charges against people is a celebrity, someone they would want to see waving at crowds from a distance.  There a sense of credibility, even admiration, attributed to people who sit up high in the back of a convertible in a parade.  Would such a man lie to you?  Would such a man do wrong?  How could you not admire someone who is obviously so important that he gets his own convertible in the holiday parade?

I’m not suggesting that we load up parades with a bunch of extra people riding in the back seats of convertibles who can’t sing or dance.  Who wants to sit in the cold and look at them?  But why would anyone think that John Chisolm is worthy of interest to overly-bundled children? 

Moreover, what made Chisolm think that waving at the crowd as if he could play a mean accordion was adding to the dignity, the gravitas, of his function?  If he wants to be a celebrity, riding around in parades and waving at adoring fans, that’s fine.  But then, he ought to pull the accordion out of the closet and practice. 

District Attorneys should not be celebrities, and when they confuse their function to the point that they pretend to be worthy of interest in the holiday parade, it’s time to take a serious look at whether he has the discretion to handle the job.

Other than that, the parade was great.

10 thoughts on “A Parade Down Old World Third Street

  1. Peter Duveen

    For the life of me, I can never understand why people elect prosecutors to higher office. We had Spitzer in New York, who blissfully had to step aside. Paterson was a relief in so many ways. Now we have a person of disposition similar to Spitzer, who seemed to use the Attorney General position as a stepping stone to the governorship. If people had a bit more control over the candidates among whom they could choose for executive office, I bet it wouldn’t be a prosecutor.

  2. SHG

    Ironically, after so much fear of corruption, it seemed that electing Attorney Generals to be governor was the way to cleanse the system.  It hasn’t worked out very well so far, and yet it remains the path to electoral success.

  3. Windypundit

    Somehow (Gideon, correct me if I’m wrong) I don’t imagine PD offices are filled with the kinds of people who get really psyched about building parade floats.

    I took a bunch of pictures at the Chicago Gay pride parade a few years ago, and our new county sheriff, Tom Dart, had a patrol vehicle in the parade with a couple of hot chicks play-wrestling on the hood. There’s been some on-again/off-again talk of him running for mayor when Daley steps down, and although I know nothing else about him, I’m inclined to give him my vote if that’s how he rolls. Maybe this parade thing works?

  4. Dennis Murphy

    The Milwaukee DA’s Office is a veritable beacon of light compared with any in New York, Scott. I’ve known the last DA Mike McCann for a number of years. My impression was that he was an open minded and fair guy. Met and listened to the current one, John Chisolm, at the 2009 Cardozo Brady conference, and he seems to have the same reputation. Milwaukee’s approach to discovery and Brady is levels above that of NYC DA’s [even though Joe Hynes was taking bows]. Chisolm had to be shocked at some of what he heard by local DA’s offices. Now does any of that merit a parade or applause? Not really. It’s what they should be doing.

  5. Albert Nygren

    You make a good point. Of course, as you know, at least in some places County Attorneys and District attorneys are elected and so must become known to the public. The other thing is that often DA’s and County Attorneys use that position as their first step in trying to get elected to higher elected office. Due to this being the case, Some unscrupulous people have even abused their power in hopes of getting reelected.

    Relating to this is that DA’s, County Attorneys, and Judges seldom have their decisions and holdings published where an average person like myself can read them. Consequently, when I’m in the voting booth and want to vote for people running for those offices, often, I have never even heard of these people.

    I would love it if there were some way that one or more defense attorneys could publish an easy to find blog on the internet that would inform us of the legal history of those candidates. Would it be possible for you and maybe some of your colleagues to do that?

    If you could or if someone is already doing that, would you please let me know?

  6. Lee

    I’d vote for him too. I don’t live in Chicago, but I hear that’s not really a bar to voting in elections there.

  7. Lee

    Mark Bennet does this to some extent in Houston, where apparently incumbent judges can actually be voted out of office.

  8. Pingback: Milwaukee P.O. Michael Vagnini: Short Time for a Long Finger | Simple Justice

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