Archive for the ‘Gov. Walkers Budget Repair Bill’ Category

Greed is the Enemy

Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?  On the surface, there doesn’t seem a lot to be happy about in Wisconsin right now.  So what have those crafty corporatists been up to during the last few days? (photos at end of post) The republican majority called an Extraordinary Session in order to pass a reprehensible budget with as little interference as possible. This budget is so one sided, it may as well be a Teahadist fantasy come to life. The budget puts in motion a plan to award $2.3 billion in tax breaks for corporations over the next decade, strips $834 million from already cash-strapped public schools, expands the school voucher program that does nothing more than lay the groundwork for Education, Inc, cuts $250 million from the  UW System, and $71 million will evaporate from the Wisconsin technical college system. All of these cuts are necessary, says Governor Walker, because the state is broke. But it isn’t so broke that he’s willing to spend up to $2 Billion as a giveback to the Road Builders. To add insult to injury, the GOP snuck into the budget yet another special gift to private industry; James Rowan of The Political Environment Blogreports that:

…as the Joint Committee on Finance wound down towards the three-day Memorial Day weekend, it voted to add to Scott Walker’s proposed budget a fresh giveaway to the road-builders: a requirement that all 72 Wisconsin Counties hire private contractors for any job over $100,000.  And the measure bars counties and other municipalities from performing such work for another unit of government – – so a village can’t contract with a County to get an intersection rebuilt, for example, if the cost exceeds $100,000. All this work is to be privatized – – even though the Wisconsin Department of Transportation has said and documented that private contracting for road-building costs the public more money. These items are in the Omnibus Transportation Motion, sections 18-20, which was sprung as motion #352 before Joint Finance Friday around noon, and was sponsored by the co-chairs, Republicans Robin Vos and Alberta Darling.

There is no question that republicans are endeavoring to make the rich wealthier while ensuring that workers get less of an education and remain subservient to monied interests. Make no mistake; this is not a class war, this is a full-on putsch orchestrated by groups and individuals such as ALEC, The Koch Brothers, Americans For Prosperity, corporate-backed think tanks, large banks and others to destroy democratic institutions in order to facilitate the creation of a permanent majority.

On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court, in record time,  conveniently overturned Judge Marayann Sumi’s decision that voided the GOP’s attempt to remove collective bargaining rights for thousands of public employees.  It is now clear that the open meetings law is pointless and the conservative majority on Wisconsin’s high court is more interested in pandering to right wing idealogues than exercising the rule of law. Justice David Prosser, the conservative incumbent who nearly lost to little known challenger JoAnn Kloppenberg, should be especially ashamed. It wasn’t long ago that he desperately tried to characterize himself as independent. Everyone knew it was a sham, and his actions just serve to prove it. On her conservative colleagues, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson had this to say: “The majority justices make their own findings of fact, mischaracterize the parties’ arguments, misinterpret statutes, minimize (if not eliminate) Wisconsin constitutional guarantees, and misstate case law, appearing to silently overrule case law dating back to at least 1891”.  How convenient that Assembly GOP Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald threatened to put the collective bargaining measure back into the budget if the Supreme Court didn’t act on the original measure by Tuesday.  In Fitzwalkerstan, the Judicial Branch now serves the Legislative branch as evidenced by an e-mail obtained by WKOW- TV that suggests republican lawmakers knew the court would act ahead of the budget sessions.

Republicans Gone Wild – Encouraged shill candidates to run as democrats in order to force primaries. 

The Republican party fielded Republican candidates to run as Democrats in all six of the recall primaries, with the purpose of giving their incumbents an extra four weeks to campaign before facing general elections. The state’s recall law would require general elections July 12 unless there is more than one candidate in either party, in which case the election would be a primary, with the final general election held Aug. 9.  By engaging is such shenanigans, the self-described party of “ecomonic responsibility”  will fleece taxpayers to the tune of more than $465,000 by running fraudulent candidates and forcing primaries. This figure comes from election clerks in the recall districts. So much for concern about the mostly manufactured budget crisis.

Here’s a list of the fake democrats who should be ashamed of themselves:

Senate District 2 Incumbent: Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Allouez). Challengers: Democrat Nancy Nusbaum of De Pere, fake Democrat Otto Junkermann of Green Bay.

Senate District 8 Incumbent: Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills). Challengers: Rep. Sandy Pasch (D-River Hills), fake Democrat Gladys Huber of Mequon.

Senate District 10 Incumbent: Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls). Challengers: Democrat Shelly Moore of River Falls, fake Democrat Isaac Weix of Menomonie.

Senate District 14 Incumbent: Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon). Challengers: Rep. Fred Clark (D-Baraboo), fake Democrat Rol Church of Wautoma.

Senate District 18 Incumbent: Sen. Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac). Challengers: Democrat Jessica King of Oshkosh, fake Democrat John D. Buckstaff of Oshkosh.

Senate District 32 Incumbent: Sen. Dan Kapanke (R-La Crosse). Challengers: Rep. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse), fake Democrat James D. Smith of La Crosse.

This is further proof that these people will stop at nothing to hold on to power while making  a mockery of the electoral process.

Tuesday’s Mass Rally on the Capitol Square. 

Once again thousands of citizens massed in Madison to protest the corporate republican-backed horrendous budget and the war on working families. As expected, the calls for fairness and pleas for compassion went unheeded. Just before the rally started at 5pm, the Wisconsin Supreme Court announced that it had reversed Dane County Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi’s decision that voided the original measure.  Instead of feeling defeated, protestors and activists were outraged and looked toward the upcoming recall elections as the next battle.

Marty Biel, Executive Director of AFSCME referred to the capitol as a “marble whorehouse” and announced to republican legislators that “we’re going to be spending  our summer in your neighborhoods”.

Marty Biel, Executive Director of AFSCME Council 24.

Video of Reverend Willie Briscoe’s speech

Introduced by Mahlon Mitchell, Phil Nuenfeldt, Wisconsin State AFL-CIO President speaks.

Ellen Carlson speaks about budget impacts on education

Kim Hoffman, middle school teacher and 17 year veteran of the Wisconsin Army National Guard

Francisca Miras, member of Youth Empowered in the Struggle of Voces de la Frontera.

Mahlon Mitchell, President of Firefighters Union and Jackie Pokorney, SEIU member

We’re not going anywhere. We will fight, we will recall, we will keep the Wisconsin Idea alive until we successfully return a measure of sanity to the legislature, and ultimately, the governor’s mansion. The immoral actions of the republican majority will not be forgotten. What they’ve created is a new generation of activists, and ultimately a new national progressive movement. On Thursday, thousands of labor activists rallied at the NJ State Capitol to protest my home state’s bid to severely restrict collective bargaining rights. Just more evidence that this is a nationwide effort to destroy unions and advance a radical right wing agenda. Say goodbye to women’s reproductive rights, strong public schools, and critical social safety nets.  Unless we organize and fight.

Photos from the Wisconsin rally on Tuesday.

Firefighters and supporters at the July 14th Wisconsin Capitol Rally

Phil Nuenfeldt, Wisconsin State AFL-CIO president.

Mary Bell, President of the Wisconsin Education Association Council

Ellen Carlson and Son, speaking about education

Middle School Teacher and Wisconsin Army National Guard Veteran

Mahlon Mitchell, President of the Firefighters Union.

Rev. Willie Briscoe

Francisca Miras, Voces de la Fronterra

Marty Biel, Executive Director of AFSCME Council 24

Mahlon Mitchell, Firefighters union president.

And finally…the inspiration for the article title:

Come back to the capitol..Tuesday..

UPDATE: June 13, 2pm. A measure to remove collective bargaining rights will be added to the budget if the state supreme court does not rule on the previous measure, voided by circuit court judge Maryann Sumi. The original measure was nullified because the GOP majority violated the open meetings law and failed to provide sufficient notice to the public before voting to take away 50 years of collective bargaining rights. More info at the Isthmus. 

Folks, this is it.  All of our countless days in the cold and heat protesting Governor Walker’s egregious budget, corporate giveaways, and the assault on Wisconsin families has led us to this moment.  This week, the Wisconsin Legislature will convene an “Extraordinary Session” in order to pass the budget. Read on below, but understand that this is a suspension of the regular rules, the purpose of which is to pass the budget with as little “interference” from the public as possible.  Only the GOP and Governor Walker know exactly what new horrors they will force upon the people of Wisconsin.  Now more than ever it is paramount that if you are within driving distance of the Wisconsin State Capitol on Tuesday, get here. Be heard. Try and make a difference. And be careful. There is much chatter about outside agitators manufacturing some sort of riot. Vigilance is important. See you there.

Re-post from  Badger Democracy.

A call to action to the citizens of Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Legislature will be convening in an “Extraordinary Session” at 11am on Tuesday morning. A legislative Fiscal Bureau Guide to “Special and Extraordinary Sessions”  explains these sessions have existed under Legislative Rule since 1977. In this case the Session was called by a majority of the Committees on Organization in both houses – perfectly legal under Legislative Rules. Under this “Extraordinary Session,” the Legislature is free to suspend most rules regarding bill notification, debate, and may consider the entire budget, as the purpose of the Session dictates. The Legislature may also expand the Extraordinary Session to whatever other business it chooses upon completion of the budget. This due to the fact that the Legislature “makes its own rules” (so to speak) under this type of session. As long as the Republicans have the votes, they can remain in Extraordinary Session, free to pass whatever they choose. The entire State Budget being taken up in Extraordinary Session is unprecedented. This type of session has only occurred 6 times since created in 1977 (see link above, page 15). Obviously, Republicans are going to attempt pushing as much through this session as possible before the recalls. This leads to two very important issues – and these are specific calls to action for anyone reading and sharing this blog.

1. To The Democratic Party – Enough of this nonsense of running “legitimate” Democratic challengers to force and lose in a primary. Your time, energy, and resources are needed to back the amazing people who have stepped forward in each of the Senate Districts we need to win. It will be paramount to retain the three Democratic seats likely up for recall as well. With the public, perception is reality – we need the “on-the-fence” voters to swing our way to win the recall elections and establish a base for the Walker recall. A play like this will create a “perception” of impropriety. We are better than that. Challenge the fake Democrats’ petitions under Wisconsin Statute with the GAB and Dane County DA, and hasten the recall elections – which need to happen sooner rather than later due to the radical action being taken in the Legislature. Don’t divide the party at such a crucial juncture in history. If you pursue this course of action, you have negated months of effort to be seen as above such self-destructive political games for short-term gain.

To All The Citizens of Wisconsin – This is a defining moment in the Progressive Movement and State history. Governor Walker, The Fitzgeralds, and GOP Legislators have committed many wrongs against the people of this state. Collective Bargaining aside; they have violated Wisconsin Law to hastily pass unjust legislation. They have given hundreds of millions of dollars in tax cuts to the wealthiest and largest corporations. They have pushed a lazy and corrupt agenda in Wisconsin that was formulated decades ago in Corporate board rooms, bent on seizing control of every resource in the state for their own profit at taxpayer expense. They have cut hundreds of millions of dollars from the great Wisconsin Public School system, and put millions into a private school experiment with zero public accountability or obligation. They have broken their promises – spending is increasing in the Walker Budget (over the last biennium), taxes are going up on the working Wisconsinite (property and income), and they are raiding segregated funds to pay for their corporate – sanctioned policies. The Budget would require the State of Wisconsin to BORROW start-up funds for a speculative business program (state risk for private gain). All this justified by the lie that Wisconsin is “broke.” If you are reading this, you know what this Budget means for Wisconsin. Therefore:

This is a call for ALL THE CITIZENS OF WISCONSIN to participate in peaceful, mass, SILENT DEMONSTRATION THIS WEEK! Stand together in Madison, Milwaukee, Green Bay, LaCrosse, Eau Claire, every city, town and village in stone silence during the protests. The message is simple – Scott Walker and the Republicans are silencing the voice of Democracy by closing the Capitol, closing the Legislature, and selling off Wisconsin to the highest bidder. When 11AM on Tuesday arrives – stop what you are doing, no matter where you are, and be silent. Be still. Be a rock. The power of this message will resonate to EVERY citizen. A violent mob will serve to damage our public perception and strengthen the GOP position – a massive wall of silence and stillness will impact every witness. Imagine the enormity of the message all across the state. Movement leaders should be called on to support this “SILENT STRIKE” in Wisconsin.

You are angry – if not, you haven’t been paying attention. There are calls for mass protests this week, the nature of which the Governor has planned for. It was “leaked” last week the story of hundreds of State Troopers being bussed in for added security. Reports of surveillance teams monitoring social media from GEF 2 (Hi!). Let me say this bluntly – Governor Walker is planning on violence. It plays directly into his hand, and strengthens it. We cannot win when we play into his plan – avert it. Stand strong, stand silent, stand united. Then sing, or chant, or hum – but remain peaceful in protest. Show the entire state by our numbers and our resolve that we will not resort to THEIR tactics to win. We win because we are right. We win because WE are Wisconsin.

11:oo AM Tuesday. Wherever you are we will stand together, strong and silent. Let your voices be heard through email, phone, letter, and civil discourse. Spread the message, share the strength of unity. Show them who we are. Support a “Silent Strike” for Wisconsin.

So what do YOU think?  Silent strike? Ramp up direct action? How do you see the outcome?  Leave a reply in comments.

Camden, NJ's present, Wisconsin's future?

 Madison, WI. Madison city officials and housing advocates are outraged by new GOP legislation stripping municipalities of decades worth of housing protections. On May 26th, Senate bill 107 was introduced with the passionate backing of the Apartment Association of South Central Wisconsin, as well as the construction and building industry, and is on the fast track to be approved by the republican majority in the legislature.

From the Capital Times:

The bill would prohibit local governments from enacting ordinances that limit a residential landlord’s ability to obtain and use personal information from tenants and prospective tenants, including income and source of income, occupation, court records, rental history, and credit information, according to an analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau.

City regulations that would be voided if the bill becomes law include:

— A city ordinance that prevents landlords from showing an apartment for future rental until at least a quarter of the lease is up. A city alder’s proposal to expand that time even further would also be dead in the water.

— A city ordinance that prohibits landlords from requiring Social Security numbers in applications; this is one way that landlords can run credit checks but also screen out undocumented immigrants.

— A city ordinance that forbids landlords from denying an application based solely on minimum income requirements or a minimum income-to-rent ratio; landlords typically like to rent to people whose incomes are around three times more than rent.

— An ordinance that prevents landlords from denying housing based on an applicant’s record for convictions older than two years.

— A law that prevents landlords from discriminating against potential tenants or refusing to rent to them because they are on public assistance.

— A city ordinance that requires landlords to give tenants at least a 24-hour notice before showing an apartment.

Supporters say the bill ends decades of regulations that have gone too far. Senate Republican Frank Lasee of De Pere says property owners are responsible for the criminal activities of their tenants so it only makes sense to let them consider tenants’ previous records. Under current law they can – for the previous two years.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin says the bill simply rolls back decades of thought into Madison’s fair housing ordinances. Soglin said the state is trying to take over things that should be handled locally and further lambasted the GOP for proclaiming that they are the party of small government and local control.

Sounds somewhat less than apocalyptic on the surface, but the reality of the matter is quite dire. Under this scenario it is more than likely that owners and operators of newer buildings in more desirable neighborhoods will be able to exclude tenants who receive public assistance, have previous criminal convictions, and also the working poor.  Meanwhile, owners of aging housing stock will have no choice but to rent to those excluded tenants in high concentrations creating new poverty pockets in the city.  Couple this with the GOP’s rabid assault on social safety nets that include reductions to the popular badgercare health insurance program for low to moderate income families, medicare, reductions in foodstamps, massive cuts to school budgets, county crisis programs, further reductions in shared revenue and drastic cuts to the federal Low Income Heating Assistance Program, and you have a recipe for disaster.  The potential crisis is exacerbated further by Governor Walker’s rollback of the Wisconsin Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and foregoing the inflationary adjustment on the Homestead Tax Credit. Both of these amount to a tax increase on low income families.

So while the Wisconsin GOP offers hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate givebacks, they are essentially adopting policy that may contribute to the creation of ghettos the likes of which Wisconsin has never before seen, while further burdening a population that already has little in the way of resources.  Next up will surely be massive increases in law enforcement and prison spending as an already desperate populace resorts to crime in order to feed and house their families.  Never mind that two years of technical school tuition is far less expensive than prison.  But providing that tuition would be considered “socialism”.

The future of Wisconsin cities under GOP rule? Coming to a neighborhood near you

What the GOP doesn’t understand is that poverty is not a choice for some people, yet they do nothing to address the underlying issues that contribute to it.  It’s really easy to make statements like “Well, why don’t you get a job?” or “Hey, you should go to school”.  The truly poor are in crisis every day and it is all consuming.  When your immediate problem involves buying groceries for your children and finding money to pay rent, school might as well exist in Antarctica.

Again, this plan to roll back decades worth of rental housing protections is nothing more than a financial thank you gift from the GOP to the Shelter Industry. In the early 2000’s I was a member of the City of Madison Housing Committee, Chairman of the CDBG Commission, and Chairman of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, where we worked on housing-related legislation. I’m appalled that in one fell swoop the Wisconsin Republican Party has unraveled years of work with the  purpose of discriminating against those using public assistance while maximizing profits for landlords.

Perhaps my commentary about GOP-created ghettos is a bit alarmist, but the possibility certainly will exist for that to happen. You won’t find low income people who use  section 8 vouchers in downtown neighborhoods; you’ll find them concentrating in aging housing stock that might otherwise go unrented.   Neighborhoods like Allied, the Former Broadway-Simpson, Darbo-Worthington, and Thompson drive by East Town Mall will all experience a high concentration of tenants who are at or below 150% of the federal poverty level.

In 1996 I moved to Madison from my home state of NJ.  I was born in the decaying former industrial city of Trenton, and raised just outside the city limits in a town that was 96% white.  Trenton’s population at the time was nearly 70% minority. Housing regulations were poor, with not many protections for renters.  Buildings were allowed to fall into decay while landlords were able to continue renting them to folks who had no other options. Whole neighborhoods were destroyed through lack of attention/oversight by city government and even until this day the city of Trenton continues to struggle with massive poverty, low property values, high crime and high unemployment.

Madison seems like another world entirely.  When first moving to this city, particular neighborhoods were described to me as “bad”.  When I drove through them I was shocked…at the well kept lawns, landscaping, and buildings in good condition. Why the contrast?  Because ordinances are in place to hold owners accountable, to prevent them from becoming slumlords, and the city encourages scattered site subsidized housing.

This is what happens when the Republican Party is so hell bent on rewarding political contributors that they don’t (or won’t) see the potential for neighborhood destruction in their own cities.  Rather than attempt to emulate the successes of Madison in their own districts-Madison leads the state in low unemployment numbers, quality of life, culture, and a host of other things- they’d rather destroy it out of spite.

If only the GOP would understand that low income folks are human beings too.

Welcome to Walkerville, Population: Awesome.

While the national media relentlessly covers Weiner-palooza, (if only the man himself had the sense to keep it covered) the Wisconsin Uprising continues.  Evoking comparison to the “Hoovervilles” of the 1920’s, an encampment dubbed “Walkerville” has sprung up on the Wisconsin Capitol square in order to keep up the pressure as legislators work through the Governor’s Budget.  If passed intact, the budget will provide millions of dollars in corporate giveaways while increasing taxes on Wisconsin’s working poor.

Tents on the square

The encampment is well organized and each day  has a particular theme. Yesterday’s focus was on Public Services and began with a march involving over a thousand nurses, police officers, teachers, steelworkers and concerned citizens led by Madison Firefighters around the capitol square.   The procession stopped at M&I Bank, which received approximately $1.7 million in federal TARP funds, and shouts of “Banks got bailed out, We got sold out!” could be heard reverberating off the glass, brick and steel of nearby buildings. Protesters flowed into the lobby at an alarming rate until they were physically removed by police. 2 protestors were arrested.

If brains was lard, Scott Walker couldn't grease a skillet.

In the evening, unions sponsored a “Mock Listening Session” in order to inform the public about services they provide. The panel featured  the US history-challenged Sarah Palin, David Koch, Governor Walker and a host of union characters like Rhonda the Road Worker and Helen the Healthcare Worker. Each of the various characters explained how their jobs are essential to maintaining infrastructure, keeping our neighborhoods safe, and providing care to the sick.  More info from the Wisconsin AFL-CIO blog here.

Mock Panel with Sarah Palin, David Koch, Gov. Walker and others.

Two Journalists Arrested At Wisconsin State Capitol. 

Meanwhile, more sinister events were unfolding inside the capitol building where two journalists were arrested. Watch the following video captured by a bystander to see how the Walker Administration views members of the press.

Burlington, Vermont based videographer Sam Mayfield and her assistant were arrested by State Police while shooting footage for a documentary about collective bargaining rights.  A police officer waved the two into the capitol when he learned they were members of the press, then completely turned on them when he realized they were capturing video of police pushing protestors.

From Bluecheddar.net

Sam Mayfield describes the incident, saying there was an entrance to the Capitol that was open. They walked in and in her own words:

“clearly (the situation had) already escalated…this was evidenced by him (the officer) running at people who were walking into the Capitol telling them to leave. He was forcefully grabbing and touching people who were literally just walking past.”

“He grabbed me. He told me to leave.” Mayfield identified herself as a journalist and he flagged her through. The officer also flagged Alex through after she explained she was working with Sam. Alex decided to stay in the area and film what was happening because, “he was being very aggressive with the protesters, physically.”

The officer pushed as many protesters as he could out the doors. He then pursued Alex, pushed her into the wall, and proceeded to handcuff and arrest her. He told her that when she tried to keep her camera from falling on the ground she was resisting arrest.

The two reporters were charged with “disorderly conduct”. Alex says she thinks she was arrested because she was filming a police officer pushing people out the door. Sam says she was told she was obstructing the officer’s ability to make an arrest. She says what actually happened is that she caught Alex’ falling camera, and started to use it. And then things changed:

“I think that when he saw she and I working together on that level,  he actually dragged Alex and dropped her to the ground …and he ran after me..I asked the cop “Why are we being arrested?” I really don’t understand at all. As soon as Alex gave me her camera he said, “You’re going to be arrested, too.” and then he grabbed my arm.

Both journalists were arrested and charged with Disorderly Conduct.

On several occasions while working on stories for themudflats.net, I’ve been inside the capitol with press credentials. Generally, the police have acted professionally except for one incident where an imported rural officer confronted me and attempted to issue an order for me to stop taking photos.  I politely refused and showed him my press pass to which he responded “I don’t care”.  He then became distracted by others and walked away from me. Based on that experience, Sam Mayfield’s arrest doesn’t surprise me.

Wisconsin Republicans Back Spoiler Candidates in Recall Elections. 

Realizing that their recalled senators are deeply in trouble, the Wisconsin Republican Party has openly supported the recruitment of spoiler candidates in order to force primaries, affording the incumbents additional time to campaign. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported the plan for Republican spoilers to run as Democrats in primaries for seats held by Republican Sens. Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac and Luther Olsen of Ripon.  They know their senate majority is at risk and are now openly playing dirty in order to continue forcing their agenda on the people of Wisconsin.

Stephan Thompson, executive director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, said in a statement Monday that Republican state senators face recalls for doing their jobs, unlike Democratic senators who he says deserted their constituents for Illinois.

Thompson said the Republican senators are busy crafting a state budget, which puts them at a disadvantage to challengers to have time to campaign.

“Because of this disadvantage, and the outrageous nature of elected officials facing recall for standing up for a balanced budget, the Republican Party of Wisconsin has advocated that protest candidates run in Democratic primaries to ensure that Republican legislators have ample time to communicate with voters throughout their districts after the state budget is approved,” he said in the statement.  Essentially, this would force democratic challengers to spend money on bogus primary challenges instead of saving it for the general election.

Sen. Mark Miller, Senate Minority Leader,  called the effort a “partisan, coordinated attack on democracy.”

“These dirty Nixonion tactics have no place in Wisconsin,” he said in a statement Monday. “And we don’t need to waste taxpayer money on phony elections to help these Republicans duck the voters and needlessly delay these elections.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel obtained letters sent by local Republican parties to “fellow conservatives” asking them to support fake Democratic candidates.

Fake Democratic candidates.  Wisconsin citizens certainly deserve better than this.  The party of so-called fiscal responsibility, who balked loudly about the expense of the recall elections in the first place, has no qualms about increasing that financial burden to taxpayers as long as they themselves are the beneficiary.

 

 

 

Photo via Wisconsin State AFL-CIO

Hundreds of tents have been pitched on the capitol square in Wisconsin and they appear to be here for the long haul.  We Are Wisconsin, a coalition of labor groups, activists and others has organized this tent city in protest to Governor Walker’s budget, and it is quite the site to behold.  Families, young people, firefighters, police officers, teachers and the working poor- they’re all here in force, united against the Walker administration.

From the Wisconsin State AFL- CIO Blog:

At 7:00 pm on Saturday, June 4, the first tents of Walkerville were erected. Hundreds of Wisconsinites are protesting Scott Walker’s poor budget choices by forming a tent city around the Capitol.  Students, workers, and concerned citizens brought sleeping bags, pillows, tents and good spirits to kick off a continuous protest until the budget is passed.

Community members of Wisconsin are raising their voice to protect education, public services and communities in Wisconsin. 

Walkerville began with a welcome meeting. Peter RickmanUW-Madison Law Student and Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA) member, outlined the rules and regulations of the community so that citizens of Walkerville can continue to hold their elected officials accountable safely.

DSC02973

Rickman also encouraged protestors to visit local business while protesting.

“They are who we are fighting for,” explainedRickman.  “We are fighting for working families, small businesses and better communities in Wisconsin.”

The night continued with live music from local artist Owen Mays.

Helena White, a speech and language clinician at East High School in Madison came to Walkerville with her two sons.  A member of the Madison Teachers Inc. White explained that she came to Walkerville because the budget negatively impacts every member of her family.

We are here to raise our voice against this budget and tell Scott Walker that the people do not support his policies. This budget will affect my teaching environment by increasing my case load to a point where each child is not getting the best education possible.  As a union member, I stand to lose my rights and my voice on the job.  Both my sons attend public schools in Madison and their education is on the line. 

DSC02898

Sara Lam, a TAA member in the Curriculum and Instruction Department at UW-Madison expressed that Walker’s cuts will negatively affect the quality of the program. The Department, which is one of the best in its field, may lose some of its best faculty due to Walker’s policies.

Lam, who is also 30 weeks pregnant, explained that people were surprised that she still came out:

“To me it was not even a question.  This budget is going to negatively impact the health and wellness of thousands of Wisconsinites.  One night outside was not an issue.”

DSC02979

Walkerville will continue until the budget is passed.  There will be a pre-set program atnoon and 7:00 pm each day.
For pictures of Walkerville click here.

For more information on Walkerville click here and continue to check back to the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO Blog.

Bye Bye Senate Majority

Madison, WI. Showing signs of sheer desperation, three GOP senators up for recall elections on July 12 have now resorted to asking the courts to stop the election citing dubious alleged “irregularities” in the filing of recall petitions. Never mind the wholesale recall petition fraud perpetrated by the Wisconsin Republican Party; substantiated with scores of affidavits and reports of dead people signing their names, felons stealing items while circulating papers, and the involvement of a shady out of state group that helped organize the republican efforts against democrats.

From the Wisconsin State Journal:

State Sens. Dan Kapanke, R-La Crosse; Luther Olsen, R-Ripon; and Randy Hopper, R-Fond du Lac, all want judges to block the state Government Accountability Board from calling elections based on the recall petitions filed in April by groups seeking to recall the GOP senators.

Clearly, they know they are in trouble.  Two of these senators, adherents of the GOP “family values” mantra,  are essentially the crippled sheep in the Republican herd. Easy pickings if you will.  The third is simply guilty of supporting union busting. Let’s take a look.

Hopper and his mistress, Valerie Cass

Sen. Randy Hopper, R- Fon du Lac -Fortunate Son shacks up with young mistress, lives in Madison. 

Sen. Randy Hopper began his political career by winning his race in a 163 vote “landslide.” A member of the northern Wisconsin gentry, Hopper is the owner of Mountain Dog Media, a radio station and broadcasting company that owns Fon du Lac’s two major radio stations, KFIZ (1450) and WFON (107.1)  In addition, Mountain Dog owns WCLB (950) in Sheboygan and Chilton‘s WMBE (1530). It is more than likely that Mr. Hopper was the recipient of generous seed capital from his wealthy father, William Hopper, whose grandfather had founded Hopper Papers,  a company eventually sold to Koch Brothers-owned paper giant Georgia Pacific.  After selling the company and staying on a few years, Randy’s dad bought a majority stake in a small bank in Taylorville, IL and grew his interests to $150 million. The bank then merged with another banking firm in Springfield, Ill. When that combined company grew to $2 billion in assets, it merged once again with another bank, and that’s when Hopper sold out. He also owns/owned a 50% stake in a string of Illinois car dealerships.  My point is that young Randy is no self-made man.  He was born of privilege and grew up in Taylorville, IL while summering on a lake estate in Arbor Vitae, WI- the same lake that is home to Standard Oil’s lavish former retreat, Red Crown Lodge.  Sen. Hopper has little in common with the average Wisconsinite he pretends to represent.

In March of this year, recall volunteers accidentally knocked on his door and encountered Hopper’s estranged wife who was more than happy to announce that “Randy doesn’t live here anymore.  He’s living in Madison with his 26 year old mistress Valerie Cass”. She then wrote a letter to Milwaukee radio station WTMJ confirming her statement. Imagine the shock! According to Mrs. Hopper,  Randy began having an affair with the then 25 year old Cass who at the time was employed as an aide to  Senator Ted Kanavas (R-Brookfield). After Senator Kanavas decided against another run,  Ms. Cass became employed by the aptly named political consulting firm “Persuasion Partners, Inc.”  Incidentally, Persuasion Partners counts as one of its clients the Koch brothers-funded front Americans For Prosperity. Yet another Koch connection to a Wisconsin legislator. To make matters worse, it appears that Sen. Hopper may have used his political connections to secure a sweetheart deal of a job for his mistress in the Walker Administration, circumventing the civil service process.  Regardless of your political persuasion, is this the type of man that would be inclined to represent you? Or would he be more comfortable championing the cause of corporations?

Sen. Dan Kapanke

Sen. Dan Kapanke, R-La Crosse – Ethically Challenged and Paid no Taxes. 

In August of 2010, Wisconsin State Senator Dan Kapanke admitted to “unintentionally” violating the state ethics code by using his lobbyist funded charity as a personal slush fund to pay for improvements to the LaCrosse Logger’s Baseball Park. He and his wife own the LaCrosse Loggers, a summer collegiate baseball team.. The payments from the LaCrosse Logger’s Foundation to the City of LaCrosse totaled about $32,000 against a  $225,000 loan.

In 2009, Government Accountability Board representative Jonathan Becker said  Sen. Kapanke should not have used campaign funds for two “Economic Forums”. This was after the Democratic Party of Wisconsin filed a lawsuit asserting that his staff improperly coordinated the forums. The board declined to take action against Kapanke, but fined his aid who worked at the second campaign-sponsored event.  Kapanke took responsibility for the actions of his aid and agreed that he shouldn’t have used campaign funds for those activities. The party twice requested records about the event and each time was told they did not exist.  During testimony as part of the Democratic party suit, a top Kapanke aide admitted that she routinely used personal email for state work. The state’s Technology Services Bureau recovered information from a backup that confirmed that Kapanke had been sending work related emails to a yahoo email address. Rose Smyrski, Kapanke’s chief of staff and capitol employee since 2000,  incredulously stated that she never received open records training and that she didn’t check her personal email in response to the Democratic Party open records request.

Once again, Kapanke maintained that this was an “honest mistake”.  He seems to make lots of “honest mistakes” involving campaign-related financial issues and obscuring information. In Sept, 2009 the taxpayers of Wisconsin paid $38,000 to settle his legal fees as a result of the suit. It should be noted that taxes to average Wisconsin citizens increased under his watch while he himself paid nothing in 2008. Full information about Kapanke ethics issues and the source article is here.

Sen. Luther Olsen, R- Ripon

Sen. Luther Olsen, R- Ripon. 

Sen. Luther Olsen has long been considered one of the more moderate republicans in the legislature. In the early stages of the Wisconsin Uprising, Sen Olsen was one of the very few republicans who expressed reservations about removing the collective bargaining rights of unions. “The concept is pretty radical,” he said.  “It affects a lot of good working people.” Olsen said he could support the changes on pensions and health care but had reservations about taking away other bargaining rights.  That spark of independence died when he voted lock-step with the Walker machine ultimately setting himself up for recall.

GOP Recall Organizers Call for Chief Election Referee to Resign

Finally, in another blatant act of desperation, the Wisconsin Republican Party recall organizers are calling for Kevin Kennedy, the Executive Director of the Government Accountability Board, to resign. The GAB is tasked with overseeing elections in Wisconsin and has been given the monumental task of certifying 9 simultaneous recall elections. This is unprecedented. Wisconsin republicans are crying foul because all recall elections against the GOP have been certified, while serious questions remain about the validity of the signatures collected by out of state firms against the democrats. In at least several cases it appears that signatures were forged from information contained within phone books. Most notably, the signature of the long deceased father of Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan appeared on one set of papers turned in by republican operatives.

The recall elections were scheduled for July 12th.

Dane County Judge MaryAnn Sumi

In what is seen as a win for public labor Unions, Governor Scott Walker’s controversial Anti-Collective Bargaining law was struck down. 

Thursday Morning, Dane County Judge MaryAnn Sumi issued a permanent injunction against the bill, effectively killing it until the Supreme Court is able to act. Sumi’s 33 page decision said there was “clear and convincing evidence” that Republicans who control the Legislature violated the state’s open meetings laws. This referred to GOP actions at March 9th committee meeting where the measure was passed without providing proper notice to the public.  Also at that time, the Capitol building was locked down tightly keeping many members of the public away.

“This case is the exemplar of values protected by the Open Meetings Law: transparency in government, the right of citizens to participate in their government, and respect for the rule of law,” Sumi wrote. “It is not the court’s business to determine whether 2011 Wisconsin Act 10 is good public policy or bad public policy; that is the business of the Legislature. It is this court’s responsibility, however, to apply the rule of law to the facts before it.”

“This is what we were looking for” said Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, a Democrat who sued to block the law after Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) filed a complaint saying that Republicans had not given proper notice in convening a conference committee of lawmakers from both houses to approve Gov. Walker’s budget-repair bill.

In a press release, Mary Bell, President of the Wisconsin Education Association said  “Wisconsin public school employees applaud the ruling today that strikes down this backward legislation. The motives behind the collective bargaining bill were clearly political. Governor Scott Walker has already admitted the bill was never intended to be about ‘budget repair’ but instead a way to bust public employee unions.”

“Scott Walker and the Republicans broke the law that night,” explained Stephanie Bloomingdale, Wisconsin State AFL‐CIO. “This is a democracy, not a dictatorship, and Judge Sumi’s decision today makes it final that the union busting bill was passed illegally and will not stand.”

Reaction to the budget repair bill that seeks to eliminate all collective bargaining rights from public unions- except police and firefighters- has included over 100 days of mass protests at the Wisconsin State Capitol and around the state. At times, over 150 thousand people have massed outside and inside the building in opposition to this measure.

Unions Make Us Strong

The most recent mass protest was May 14th.

It is expected that the Supreme Court will hear arguments on June 6th to decide whether it will take up the case. GOP leaders have always had the option of noticing a hearing properly, and voting on the legislation again.  Many democrats, activists and union supporters believe that the lock-step political will that existed at the time of the measure’s original passing no longer exists.  This is why Republicans continue to spend thousands of dollars litigating the law, rather than calling for a re-vote.

Republican leaders and the Governor’s office have yet to comment on this decision.

District 48 Assembly Candidate Andy Heidt

Full Press Release from the Andy Heidt Campaign:

Andy Heidt, candidate for State Assembly in the 48th District, today called on members of the Joint Committee on Finance to reject Gov. Walker’s proposal to use the biennial budget to decimate Wisconsin’s medical assistance programs, including the immensely popular and successful BadgerCare Plus program.

“Real progressives understand that the only permanent fix for our country’s broken health care system is universal, single-payer insurance,” Heidt said. “While we work to overcome the political obstacles, many Wisconsin residents can rely on a pretty good stopgap system that includes BadgerCare and other Medicaid-funded programs.  It’s crucial that we protect those programs during this fragile economic recovery.”

Heidt noted that Walker’s proposed budget would slash state Medicaid spending by half a billion dollars over the next biennium, at a time when families are just beginning to get back on their feet in the aftermath of the “great” recession. “There’s probably no clearer testament to the warped priorities of the Walker administration than a budget containing massive handouts to tax-dodging corporations while telling sick parents and people with disabilities that they’re out of luck. Their health, in Walker’s twisted view, is less important than a bunch of new highways,” Heidt said.

Heidt also pointed out that because Medicaid spending draws millions of federal dollars into the state, these massive cuts in health care spending will also hurt Wisconsin’s economy. “Federal Medicaid dollars that come into Wisconsin spread around the state economy, stimulating spending in a bunch of related industries and creating and preserving thousands of jobs,” said Heidt. “If jobs were really the top priority rather than just a buzzword, we would be shoring up our health care system, not taking a sledgehammer to it.  Health care coverage, BadgerCare Medicaid Coverage is economic development.”

Heidt also objected to provisions in the budget repair bill currently hung up in the courts that would shift control over Medicaid policy from the legislature to the administrative branch, giving Health Services Secretary Dennis Smith, a key Walker ally, the power to rewrite state Medicaid laws with little legislative oversight and minimal opportunity for public input. Changes they are likely to seek include increased premiums and copays, more restrictions on services covered, tougher eligibility requirements, and more red tape for joining and staying in programs like BadgerCare. This sweeping power grab—unprecedented in Wisconsin history and, according to the very lawyer who wrote the actual language in the bill, probably a violation of the State Constitution—could affect as many as 1.2 million state residents currently enrolled in the state’s Medicaid programs, including over three-quarters of a million in BadgerCare. “And they won’t even be able to hold their legislators accountable for these changes because all the decisions will be made behind closed doors by unelected bureaucrats. Why do legislators want to abrogate their constitutional duty in regards to the separation of powers?  What are they afraid of?” Heidt said. 

In addition, Heidt blasted the proposed privatization of income maintenance program administration, which would affect Medicaid and a host of other supports for low-income households. “Privatizing these kinds of programs has been a catastrophe everywhere it’s been tried. Are we that desperate to follow the ‘small government’ mantra to its extremes that we don’t even care how much it will harm the most vulnerable members of our communities?” said Heidt, who has spent 13 years helping people navigate the often complex web of assistance programs in his capacity as ombudsman in the Dane County Department of Human Services .

“The budget proposals related to Medicaid being discussed today in Joint Finance are a disaster in every respect—economically, legally, and morally. We need more voices in the Legislature prepared to speak out forcefully against these sorts of greed-fuelled, anti-people assaults.”