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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Why I Walked Out on Governor Walker

1.  I could.

I did what many people felt they could not do.  Many people at the dinner could not get up and leave without potentially endangering many business and professional relationships, or at least they felt that's what they would be doing.  Others wanted to stay out of curiosity to see what the Governor will do and say. I totally respect these points of view.

Throughout the dinner I saw people express their disapproval of Governor Walker by not clapping when his name was mentioned and when his name was announced and I left, I saw that some people did not stand up to welcome the Governor.  It was a very tense evening and I hold Governor responsible for dividing the community I so deeply care for and am honored to represent.  Tonight was meant as a celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit of Janesville and everyone tried the best they could to be the Ambassadors of Optimism, to quote Mary Willmer Sheedy, but because of the extra significance that was brought on by the Governor and the protesters, you could cut the tension with a knife.

I am very fortunate to be in a position of working with people who are supportive of my values and appreciate my skills and talents to let me have the freedom to express myself.  Also, being an elected official, I have a different responsibility to the community I represent than most people.  I understand this responsibility and I take it very seriously.

2.  It was the right thing to do.

After the events of last month, staying and listening to the Governor speak, applaud his self-serving platitudes would have been worse than fake.  I knew I couldn't do that.  Walking out seemed like a difficult thing to do before I did it, but it felt good and it felt like the right thing to do.  After all, have you never walked out of a presentation by someone you did not want to listen to?

3.  To show the protesters that protesting matters.

Many many people gathered outside and stood with signs, cheering, for hours.  And not just hours, this is merely the latest of the protests which have been happening since the middle of February and I often wonder what difference all of this makes.  I felt that by walking out and joining the protesters, I could myself help these great people who care about Janesville just as much as the people at the dinner, to feel at least a little bit validated for all of their efforts.  I did not have illusions that crowds will follow me and I did not want to make a big deal, throwing a chair and storming out while the Governor was speaking.  I have a lot of respect for our local business community, and I'm not sure what making a scene would've accomplished.  But I suspected that very very few people, if any, would walk out, and that gave me an extra certainty that joining the protesters in solidarity and showing that protests matter, was the right thing to do.

4.  To continue to represent all of Janesville

In Janesville, there are no wards and every council member represents all of Janesville.  At this significant for our community moment, joining the protesters outside, to me, was about representing all of Janesville.  Let's recap: I came in to the dinner, I spoke and shook hands with a lot of great people, had a wonderful meal and expressed my strong support for the business community.  And when the Governor was coming on stage, I joined the rest of my community outside where, at some point during this protest, there were more people than there were on the inside.

5.  To stand up for what I believe in.

This is America.  We have unbelievable opportunities and no politician has been able to take those away from us.  Cherish it.  Walk out, join associations - be it Chamber of Commerce or a Union - and do what you need to do to sleep well at night.  I understand that many of the people at the dinner sincerely feel that Governor Walker is taking our state in the right direction.  I don't but that's why we have elections, recalls, more elections and we vote, vote and vote again.  Nothing is permanent, politicians come and go, and if you don't believe it, read a history book.  I know that our future is bright because of the people who were at the dinner tonight and because of the people who were outside with protest signs.  And I am proud to represent both.

Yuri Rashkin
Janesville City Councilman


  1. Judith Detert-MoriartyMarch 30, 2011 at 6:54 AM

    And, THAT is exactly why Janesville is so proud and privileged to have your voice for all the people on the City Council. You have our very sincere and heartfelt gratitude for the work you do, the music you share, and so much more.

  2. a few vehicles left

  3. U was hoping more would walkout but I'm glad someone did. Thanks for standing with us. Your a leader we can be proud of.

  4. Hooray for you, Yuri. Stand up for Janesville and the rest of Wisconsin!

    -- A born and breed Wisconsin Boy from Oshkosh/Eau Claire/Madison.

  5. Thank you so much, not only for walking out but for understanding and articulating the reasons WHY you walked out. I was outside protesting the governor but NOT Forward Janesville and I'm proud to know what I was protesting with you.

    Thank you again!
    Mary Erpenbach

  6. Thank you. After reading a local newspaper (that I no longer will be receiving at my door in the morning) I saw a subheadline that read, "Welcoming Audience greets govenor. It continued with, "Walker received a rousing welcome....was interrupted by applause several times..." I was dismayed. I am dedicated to spend my money at establshments that support the middle class. I started feeling like Forward Janesville is not a healthy organization. Do I use my free market capitalizm and make purchases at places that are not associated with the organization? What to do? Thank you for helping me to restore some of my faith in Janesville. You have earned my vote next time you are up for election. ;)

  7. Thank you thank you thank you!!!!!

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Thank you for writing this, Yuri. It shows how much thought you have put into how you represent the City of Janesville. Janesville is very lucky to have you.

  10. Thank you for your activism!

  11. I'm afraid I did no see the same reaction to the event as what is described above. The majority of attendees were applauding loudly, frequently with two standing ovations. Ask anyone who was there - it was incredibly positive.

  12. Anonymous (last), maybe you were too busy applauding to notice that there were other people not applauding. You and some of your friends may have stood to give him an ovation, but did you look around to see what others were doing? Maybe it's all about what you tune into.

  13. Incredibly postive in your own mind...wake up! You must have missed the giant crowd outside which HIGHLY outnumbered the crowd inside and always will!! Also, the reason they were applauding is most of the attendees were rich business people who are getting huge tax cuts and money from this man...I would hope they would applaud. Just imagine if he were helping fund EDUCATION and our schools...he might even get more applause!! My applause goes to councilman Yuri Rashkin who had the courage to stand up for what he believes!!

  14. You make us proud!

  15. i'm not even from wisconsin and i am so, so proud, of all of you!

  16. Thank you for walking out!! Thanks to everyone who came out to protest!!!

    About your poll over there...I'd really like to want to be more willing to pay more taxes. Considering that I currently pay more in taxes than the head of GE, I really don't think that I - or anyone else in my less than 100,000 per year income bracket - need to pay more. I think, maybe, if the top 1% actually paid taxes on all their income at the same rate I do, the remaining 99% of us wouldn't have to pay any more in taxes. Sadly, it seems retaining money for the top 1% is much, much more important to the majority of our elected officials.

  17. Thank you for exercising your right for freedom of speech! And thank you for joining us curbside to protest!

  18. Mr Rashkin,
    We met at the rally last night and I thanked you for doing what you did. As the spouse of an educator in Janesville, we need more like you to continue the good fight against those that would just assume hand our money over to the wealthy while we live in apartments and work at Wal-Mart. Thank you again! You are supported by the teachers for sure!! This was a bad time for this guy to stir this up! Not a very smart move on his part! His arrogance defines him!

  19. Thank you, Yuri, for making me proud of my hometown.

  20. I was one of the protesters in Janesville and am very proud of what you did! Thank you so much for supporting your community!

  21. Yuri, good for you for taking action and for explaining why. I don't expect to see the Governor visiting our council any time soon, even though it's just a two block walk from his office.

    Mark Clear, President
    Madison Common Council

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