Voters in Wisconsin were very wise this month when they stormed to the polls in mighty referendum fury to curb the gubernatorial power to edit budget bills.
In many jurisdictions, the veto power exercised by governors is an up-or-down kind of thing, but in Wisconsin, governors could edit the budget document, change the iambic pentameter of the verse, finesse the word "transportation" to something like "education," revise the grant to historical museums to provide a champagne fountain for the governor's mansion - and all sorts of other editorial mischief. Dubbed the "Frankenstein" veto, the governors in Wisconsin seemed to have the ability to invent whatever kind of monster they wanted, without the bother of a killer veto.
Over the years, my columns have been transformed from art to mush, from clear-headed analysis to ideological madness; from core beliefs to John Kerry-like flip-flopping.
Editors can do that. If you protest the assault on your prose, they assign you to permanently write about local charter revision commissions and the Connecticut Siting Council - until you become thoroughly insane, at which point they make you an editor.
Here are a few samples of what has happened to my columns over the years.
Cohen draft: "Second-tier, mediocre cities such as Hartford want to be cool and inviting for young professionals with disposable income, but state law mandates how late the bars stay open, where and when you can buy bottles of liquor and wine; and exactly how simulated the simulated sex can be from strippers who, by the way, can't really strip or come too close to the audience. Let the good times roll."
As edited: "The new doughnut shop that opened on Asylum Street is yet another example of the vitality of New England's Rising Star."
Cohen draft: "Connecticut's 'open space' legislation steals money from middle-class taxpayers and gives tax breaks to wealthy taxpayers, all to ensure that the view from the estates of the rich country gentlemen is not disrupted by three-bedroom ranch houses built for normal people."
As edited: "The General Assembly should approve another $47 trillion for open-space land acquisition, to ensure that future generations can frolic in the forest with the squirrels and stuff."
Cohen draft: "With mandated health insurance coverages that are too expensive, with unemployment compensation benefits that are too generous, with a minimum wage rate that is not competitive, Connecticut has guaranteed it will remain an unfriendly jurisdiction in which to hire workers at the low end of the economic pecking order - and an inhospitable home for low-end workers seeking employment. Eventually, we can rename the state 'New Canaan' and throw a party for the 15,000 rich people who are left."
As edited: "Connecticut's social safety net is frayed and the General Assembly must address the concerns of those most in need."
Cohen draft: "It won't be very much longer in the legislative session before the politicians start explaining that there is 'much unfinished business' yet to conduct. I have an efficient solution. Drive down Route 11 (which must be finished by now); pick up all the death row inmates incarcerated in Connecticut (they must be ready to be executed by now); take them for their final meal at one of the cool new restaurants at the Front Street redevelopment project in Hartford (which must be finished by now); and then execute them."
As edited: "Gov. Rell and the General Assembly should avoid partisan bickering and come together as one, because there is much unfinished business yet to conduct."
Cohen draft: "When I become editor of The Courant, the front page will be devoted to sports stories and Paris Hilton updates; the local news sections will focus on restaurant reviews of school cafeterias; and the opinion pages will suggest that the General Assembly meet for two weeks per year, approve the snow plowing budget, and then go home."
As edited: "The Cohen column, which will now run once every other month, will feature analysis of local charter revision commissions and the Connecticut Siting Council."