Christine Welcher: The 2016 election is over – where do we go from here?

The election is over. My mind is slowly coming out of its frozen, numb state. I’m beginning to do some deep soul searching as to what happened on Tuesday. While many are mourning over Trump’s election, my tears have been for the State of Wisconsin. Dems did not pick up any seats, in fact we lost some. Russ, our progressive leader, lost to a do-nothing candidate. I lost to an even worse do-nothing candidate. How could this have happened?

I declared my candidacy for Representative to Wisconsin’s 32nd Assembly District in December of 2015. We knew we needed time to build our reputation and get the word out about our campaign and our message of bi-partisan reform. From the very beginning I found myself fighting with the state party and the local, county party over resources, access to the VAN and training. I finally realized none would be coming and I honestly think that’s what saved my sanity through the next 10 months.

We formed a grassroots movement made up of fabulous letter writers, activists and volunteers willing to knock doors and make phone calls and people willing to make videos for us and design websites, flyers and banners. We held listening sessions starting in February. We attended community events and fundraisers. We knocked doors every weekend and even during the week, all while I worked 40+ hours farming and teaching at Michael Fields Agricultural Institute. During the last 2 months we upped our game. Wednesday and Friday we held signs and waved at busy intersections throughout the district as people were coming home. Thurs, Sat and Sun we knocked doors to build relationships and let our neighbors know we were going to be there, right by their side, until things improved. Whenever I got a few minutes I worked on my call list of targeted possible Trump Supporters. You see, we knew the stats and reality. Dems can’t win in these districts by only getting out the Dem vote. WI isn’t the 5th worst gerrymandered state in history because of unwillingness to vote. It’s the 5th worst because they (the GOP) did a damn fine job making sure they would never lose a seat.

Even with all of this, I lost. The silver lining is we did do better than both Hillary and Russ in our district so we know we are on to something. This year the anti-establishment craze was so strong, no one even remotely connected to it was safe. My sin was I had a “D” behind my name. Hillary Clinton has 30+ years of ties to Washington and government. While in most years that would be seen as an impressive resume, this year it was the cement shoes that sunk us all. Of course hindsight is 20/20, but some of us have been saying this from the beginning.

I know this will ruffle some feathers, but I don’t blame the people who voted for Trump. I blame the DNC and the DPW. I especially blame the DPW because we all knew how much we needed to pick up some seats in both the Assembly and Senate. There was no mention or support for Assembly or Senate races in the Monday Messages, or the weekly Chair’s Report. Nothing! At the county level, things are so disorganized and short staffed the parties just stood back and let the coordinated campaign take over. Somehow with their fancy “science” and numbers they (The Coordinated Campaign – CC) was able to convince local people, who know the breakdown of D vs R, that it’s ok to just target Dems because, “When people turn out, Dems win!” YAY!!!! Except that didn’t happen. Not only did that not happen, but somehow the GOP got the majority of new voters to come out and vote against someone, instead of for someone, for the first time in a long time.

There were not voter registration drives in my area. There were no listening sessions or town halls to try to spread a message of empowerment and togetherness. Hell, we didn’t even try to talk to people on “the other side” because it was seen as “a waste of time.” A waste of time??? A waste of time to try and pitch your side? To try and see where they are coming from and give them a better option? I was pretty much blown over when I got that response from my local CC organizer. That’s the day I stopped coming into the county office and decided I was officially 100% independent of the party and their support.

Where exactly does the blame lie? I don’t know. I’ll be honest; I don’t know how this whole party thing works. I was naive enough to think if you put yourself out there and sacrificed a year of your life Dems would support you as best as they could. Turns out you have to be in the “inner circle” or a “sure thing” in order to get support and that’s really sad. I honestly don’t know what we could have done differently. We worked our butts off and my opponent literally did nothing.

That’s been the hardest pill to swallow. The fact that an incumbent can have a reputation for not attending district meetings, not responding to citizens’ concerns, and then not even attempt to campaign and still be elected by 20+ points. The reputation of the Democratic Party is so tarnished in the rural areas that a good candidate with an amazing team can’t even have a shot at winning. Where do we go from here?

1) Stronger County Parties
In my experience, county party boards last for a few years, get burnt out and then everyone quits. There are so few volunteers or members the same handful of people gets stuck doing everything. When they do quit there’s no records or continuity so the whole county has to start over. This is the same for candidates who try to run. No notes on where to leave signs, who’s willing to organize, make calls, knock doors, etc. Even though I declared in December of last year, it really wasn’t until July/August that we finally got things semi-figured out and organized. That’s a lot of wasted time.

The state party needs to re-allocate their budget. All counties should be able to apply for grants and assistance to keep an office open all year, every year. Parties and party members should get involved in the community on off years by volunteering, helping with community fundraisers or holiday meals, you name it. The more active the party is with their community the more support and resources they get from the state. We need our neighbors to see we value them every day, not just 2 months every 4 years.

2) More resources for training and outreach
We need a new message. We need big ideas and we need the courage to stand behind them. This is going to take a whole new approach to messaging, outreach, and basic community building. We need our neighbors to know we are just like them. We, too, want a brighter future for our kids, roads that don’t send our cars to the shop for alignment problems, better paying jobs.

We need monthly workshops on communicating with other viewpoints, on messaging and organizing. We need committees for aspiring writers who can channel their pain and anger into letters to the editor or opinion pieces. We need small subgroups to keep people involved, engage and active. I don’t know about other areas but we go from 200 members in an election year to 80 members a year later. This has to stop. We have to keep our members and continue to grow our county parties, especially with younger blood! (Sorry, not sorry!)

3) Whole New Approach to Elections
We cannot continue to pander to people for their vote. We need to start building relationships, lasting relationships. Not just to get through the presidential elections. We also need to change our focus from top of the ticket to bottom of the ticket! We need the majority of resources going to local and state races. The presidential candidates can raise their own money and can pay for their own volunteers. We are going to keep ours!

We live in this state. We don’t get to move back to some other area once the election is lost. Start investing in Wisconsin! Start emphasizing the importance of local candidates, assembly candidates, senate candidates. These are the people who are responsible for the majority of legislation that affects our daily lives. Once we turn the focus to local elections and make people understand how important they are, we don’t have to worry about low voter turnout in mid-term years. Every year is important!

This might be a good place to start, but the important thing is we start. If the state party won’t listen, we do it ourselves. What happened on Tuesday can never happen again! Democrats either need to become the Party of We, the People, or we need to replace them with a party who will. I have to say at this point I’m fine with both options. I’m done talking and thinking and “let’s see-ing.” I want change and I want it now.

Christine Welcher
East Troy, WI

Duane Dubey: THE “ROBBER BARONS” HAVE RETURNED

What follows is a guest blog by longtime Blogging Blue commenter Duane Dubey.

THE “ROBBER BARONS” HAVE RETURNED

Early in the 19th Century there were two levels of society in America. One, composed of businessmen, was known as “Robber Barons” and the other was known as the “working class.” There was little or nothing then of what today we call the “middle class.” The “Robber Barons” influenced and corrupted politicians with their great wealth and had total control of the working class. Work conditions were unsafe, with long hours, no overtime, use of child labor, no insurance for accidents or exposure to toxic materials, extremely low or unfair wages, and other abysmal conditions of employment. The “Robber Barons” of that day accumulated their great wealth by what could be called in today’s language as “trickle up economics” by paying workers unfairly for their efforts and depriving them of recourse to justice by corrupting members of Congress.

Alas, the “Robber Barons” of yesteryear have returned to the current scene . Even such as the clergy in the person of Pope Francis has called attention to this modern day exploitation of labor by the rich and powerful businessman of today. In effect, they satisfy their greed by not paying a “living wage” to workers. It could also be called, as the Pope said, a “tyranny” by “unfettered Capitalism.”

Recently, I submitted notice to the Third Congressional District in the form of a Resolution titled, “It is Right and Just” which is taken from an old Latin prayer, “Dignum et justum est” calling upon God for justice. It is as follows:

WHEREAS, Pope Francis has declared that a “tyranny” of labor exists caused by ‘’”unfettered capitalism;” and

WHEREAS, such “tyranny” has caused an unjust income disparity between labor and capital;

WHEREAS, income disparity has resulted in economic hardship of the middle class; and

WHEREAS, “unfettered capitalism” has unjustly retained all the gains of productivity and growth at the expense of labor and their families who constitute the middle class; now therefore be it

RESOLVED, It is right and just that labor as a partner with capital in a joint business venture share in its financial success.”

Guest Blog: give the gift of life

April is known by several titles; Organ Donor month, Donate the Gift of Life month, and several other variations, all of which call attention to the same theme; that is, most if not all can contribute, as our last act, to the continuation of life for others through organ donation.

We are told on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services site, organdonor.gov. that “1 organ donor can save up to 8 lives” as well as enabling a more full life for others with the donation of eye and tissue donation. The simple act of opting for organ donation on our driver’s license or making our wishes known to our next of kin will also accomplish the act to “…love your neighbor as yourself.”

This week I heard indirectly, one could say, from my youngest daughter, Rose, who was an innocent victim as a passenger in an auto accident eleven years ago. It was a message from a lady in West Virginia who is the transplant recipient of Rose’s heart . And so, life goes on in others both by organ donation and our good example.

Sincerely,

Duane Dubey

Guest Blog: Stephanie Findley responds to critics

What follows is a guest blog from Stephanie Findley, candidate for First Vice Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, in response to criticisms that have been leveled against her.

I have been a loyal Democrat since I came out of the womb in 1973. The first campaign I’ve ever worked on was for President Jimmy Carter’s re­election in 1980. I developed my first campaign literature on my own and went door to door in my neighborhood to get out the vote for President Carter. This election was very important to me because I couldn’t believe that people would vote for Ronald Reagan. When President Carter lost his re­election bid, I was devastated. I couldn’t understand for the life of me why Americans didn’t see through Ronald Reagan’s facade. The reason why it hurt so much is because I am the granddaughter of a sharecropper who had 9 children and 6 of his children left the south and migrated to the Midwest to work for GM, Chrysler and Ford. My father, aunts and uncles were members of the United Auto Workers Union which boosted my family into the middle class.

I knew Reagan was going to be America’s demise because he supported the super rich and he didn’t make any bones about it. Here I am 35 years later, I still drive an American car because my parents, aunts and uncles have now retired and I have
second generation family members who are currently employed in the three auto industry plants. I still have pensions and salaries to pay which is why I choose to drive an American car. Does this not make me a loyal Democrat?

Since 1980, I have worked tirelessly to help Democrats win up and down the ticket in Wisconsin. I have spent countless hours campaigning for my party that I have been a loyal member of. It is disheartening to see some people downplay my loyalty to
a party that I have worked hard to deliver votes to win local and statewide elections because I choose to support families. People say that I’m pro voucher, pro charter, but they often forget that I AM PRO PUBLIC SCHOOLS. I am a graduate of Milwaukee Public Schools. I graduated from James Madison High School to be exact. I ran for Milwaukee Public School Board in 2007 and had the backing of MTEA. I support teachers. I heart teachers. It is one of the toughest jobs on the planet and I feel they are underpaid, underappreciated, and under attack not just in Wisconsin, but in America as a whole. It is sad for a segment of the population, to continue degrade our teachers, to make others feel better about themselves.

I also live in Urban Milwaukee. The voucher program has existed in Milwaukee since 1990. Way before I arrived on the political scene, there were voucher schools. Urban Milwaukee delivers votes to the Democratic Party every election cycle. Are you telling me that the Latino and Black residents do not matter when it comes to delivering votes to help Democrats win elections up and down the ticket? If you come to Milwaukee, there are huge voting blocs that support voucher schools and, who am I to tell families where to send their children to school? I ran for State Assembly in 2010 but made it clear that I wouldn’t be supportive of any expansion of the voucher program. It has become clear to me that the Republicans have hijacked our tax dollars by expanding vouchers outside of Milwaukee. Republicans are pushing vouchers down the throats of families who can afford their children’s tuition. To expand the voucher program into areas where residents haven’t been given a chance to vote or voice their opinion on the voucher expansion is shameful. Furthermore, to lift the income limits to allow families who are above the poverty guidelines proves that vouchers were never meant for poor people. It has been in the plans for a long time to allow elite residents of our state to send their children to private institutions off the backs of Wisconsin tax payers.

I stand up every day for those who cannot stand up and fight for themselves. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined our state would be in the position we are in today. The discussion people should be having is “how loyal of a party member
have I been?” I have been asked to serve on numerous committees representing the party. I have spent over ten years in a leadership position as the former 4th CD Chair and Black Caucus Chair. I am currently the City of Milwaukee Board of Elections Chair appointed by Mayor Tom Barrett. I am a pro­choice female who continues to give money to Planned Parenthood because I support women’s rights to reproductive justice. I am pro LGBT who have stood in Black churches when it wasn’t popular to advocate for LGBT issues. I support fairness and equality for all. I support economic and social justice for all. I am AFSCME. I am a card carrying member of AFSCME and I remain loyal to my union. I am the most LOYAL CARD CARRYING DEMOCRAT that you will ever meet and for all of the reasons listed above, I ask for your support to become the next 1st Vice Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

Guest Blog: Is this the end of Wisconsin’s civil service?

What follows is a guest blog by Joanne Brown.

Is this the end of Wisconsin’s civil service?

Yet another surprise tucked away into the Walker budget bill could mean the end of Wisconsin’s civil service system as we know it.

The budget calls for the Office of State Employee Relations to be moved into the Department of Administration; currently, OSER is attached administratively to DOA.
Ordinarily, such a move might not cause concern, but one portion of the proposal could change everything

With the move of the functions of OSER into the Department of Administration, OSER would become the Division of Personnel Management, headed by an Administrator. The budget bill also calls specifically for the establishment of the Bureau of Merit Recruitment and Selection within the Division of Personnel Management; the Bureau would take on the functions of what is now the Division of Merit Recruitment and Selection in OSER.

So far, so good.

But the budget bill changes the selection process for the Director of the Bureau. As described by the Legislative Reference Bureau:

Under current law, the administrator of the Division of Merit Recruitment and Selection must be nominated by the Governor, and with the advice and consent of the Senate appointed for a five-year term, under the unclassified service from a register of at least five names certified to the Governor by the Director of OSER. The Director of OSER must prepare and conduct an examination for the position of administrator of the Division of Merit Recruitment and Selection according to the requirements for classified positions. The administrator of the Division of Merit Recruitment and Selection may be re-nominated by the Governor, and with the advice and consent of the Senate reappointed.

Under the bill, the director of the Bureau of Merit Recruitment and Selection under DOA would serve at the pleasure of the Secretary of DOA. The bill would delete the current process for selecting and filling the position of administrator of the Division of Merit Recruitment and Selection.

So the Secretary of the DOA could pick anyone to be head of the Bureau, without regard for that person’s ability to carry out the functions of maintaining an excellent civil service system. This changes Wisconsin law that has been in effect at least since 1978 (See Chapter 196, Laws of 1977, published February 15, 1978).

The administrator of this division in OSER has significant power over the Wisconsin’s civil service system under the statutes (generally sec. 230.05, Wis. Stats.).

  • The administrator may delegate functions to “appointing authorities,” if he or she determines they have the capability of performing such functions, and may also withdraw delegated functions if the agency is not performing “within prescribed standards.” Sec. 230.05(2)(a).
  • The administrator may utilize the services of technical or specialized personnel, from anywhere, to assist in implementing and maintaining a sound merit recruitment and selection program. Sec. 230.05(3).
  • The administrator may issue enforceable orders on all matters relating to the administration, enforcement and effect of the provisions of this subchapter for which responsibility is specifically charged to the administrator and the rules prescribed thereunder. Sec. 230.05(4)
  • The administrator promulgates the rules governing the civil service system. Sec. 230.05(5) Wis. Stats.
  • The administrator shall use techniques and procedures designed to certify eligible applicants to any vacant permanent position within 45 days. Sec. 230.05(7)
  • The administrator may in certain cases waive competitive examination for appointments. 230.15
  • The administrator has authority over the content of examinations and applications. 230.16
  • The administrator establishes the rules under which applicants may be refused examination and eligible applicants may be refused employment. 230.17
  • The administrator designates the employment classifications in critically short supply and critical positions in corrections requiring “expeditious hiring.” 230.21
  • The administrator provides the policies and standards for recruitment, examination, probation, employment register control, certification, transfer, promotion and reemployment in the career executive program. 230.24
  • The administrator certifies names to appointing authorities for hiring from existing or new registers. 230.25
  • The administrator establishes rules for limited term employment. 230.26
  • The administrator may adjust probationary periods under certain conditions. 230.28
  • The administrator must authorize transfers. 230.29
  • The administrator administers the restrictions on political activities and running for political office. 230.40

What is the reason for the change in the method of appointment? One could assume that Scott Walker just wanted one more comfortable spot for a crony, but the powers of this position make me think that he is aiming for far more–the gradual erosion of Wisconsin’s civil service.

Guest Blog: The Issue of Gerrymandering Legislative Districts in Wisconsin

A recent post from billmoyers.com was brought to my attention. It discusses the actions being taken by the Arizona Legislature to have the power to set Congressional boundaries instead of a non-partisan committee, actions including taking the case to the Supreme Court. The post enumerates a list of reasons why having partisan politicians deciding district boundaries are not in the best of public interest.

The issue in Arizona reminds me of what is going on in Wisconsin. Much has been talked about recently regarding the absolute power over the three branches of Wisconsin government the Republicans have obtained. One item that has been brought up repeatedly is the issue of re-drawing legislative districts for voting purposes. The state of Wisconsin is divided into 99 Assembly districts of roughly equal population. The Assembly districts are grouped by threes to form each Senate district. It is necessary to re-align the district boundaries after each U.S. Census to ensure the Assembly districts remain equally populated. In some states, this process is controlled by a non-partisan group that will not involve politics. In other states, the process is controlled by the political party in power. Wisconsin is one of those states.

From Webster Dictionary: To divide (a State) into districts for the choice of representatives, in an unnatural and unfair way, with a view to give a political party an advantage over its opponent.

When people in the Badger State discuss the issue of gerrymandering, they usually talk in qualitative terms. I wanted to devise a metric so the issue can be discussed in quantitative terms. This way the degree of which gerrymandering exists can be compared and contrasted over a period of time. The metric I came up with is something that is commonly used in statistical analysis – the p-value. In simple terms, the p-value states the probability an outcome is based on random chance or an assignable cause. The lower the p-value, the less likeliness of random chance and instead a greater chance a special cause influenced the result.

After the 2012 elections PolitiFact rated Sandy Paasch’s claim that Republicans captured more seats than Democrats despite being outpolled as “Mostly True”. PolitiFact mentioned it was somewhat misleading to compare total statewide votes when some elections went uncontested. I agree with PolitiFact in this case, I feel it is intellectual honest to analyze only contest with a candidate from the two major parties. So what I did was research previous year’s Assembly elections and analyze only the ones with a Dem and G.O.P. candidate.

I’ve laid out my findings in the following tables. The first column lists the year of the fall elections. The second and third columns list the ratio of the Dem vs G.O.P. vote, leaving out third party numbers. The fourth and fifth columns list the number of contested seats won by each party. The next column lists the calculated p-value, the statistic which determines the degree of gerrymandering vs random occurrence. A p-value of “100” indicated no gerrymandering – a perfect democracy, if you will. A p-value of “0” indicated perfect gerrymandering. A p-value of less than five states gerrymandering existed beyond a reasonable doubt.

In conclusion, looking at the p-values one can conclude beyond a reasonable doubt the Republican Party of Wisconsin has rigged the system to favor themselves.

2010 Census
One doesn’t need to compute a p-value. Just eyeball the numbers and it is clear something doesn’t pass the smell test.

Election Dem % Rep % D seats won R seats won p Favoring
2014 44.5 55.5 14 34 2 R
2012 45.3 54.7 16 56 0 R

2000 Census
Democrats have raised the red flag the last couple of years regarding the issue of gerrymandering, but in actuality it has been occurring for over ten years.

Election Dem % Rep % D seats won R seats won p Favoring
2010 45.1 54.9 24 44 8 R
2008 49.2 50.8 28 40 15 R
2006 49.0 51.0 23 37 15 R
2004 47.5 52.5 17 39 1 R
2002 47.4 52.6 18 30 13 R

1990 Census
The G.O.P. gained the upper hand with the 1996 elections and is still holding it 18 years later.

Election Dem % Rep % D seats won R seats won p Favoring
2000 48.1 51.9 23 35 16 R
1998 49.9 50.1 26 28 70 R
1996 45.9 54.1 28 41 32 R
1994 49.7 50.3 29 24 39 D
1992 51.1 48.9 31 29 84 D

1980 Census
In the issue of fairness, it’s not just the one political party that has done this. The Democrats also did this to a certain extent in the 70’s and 80’s.

Election Dem % Rep % D seats won R seats won p Favoring
1990 55.2 44.8 42 19 3 D
1988 52.0 48.0 37 34 90 D
1986 53.8 46.2 49 29 9 D
1984 49.2 50.8 39 45 27 R
1982 53.7 46.3 47 39 78 D

1970 Census
The Democrats controlled state politics in the 70’s. Govs. Lucy and Schreiber were Dems. They had the Assembly gerrymandered almost to he same extent as the Republicans have it today. Notice how many of the races were contested? The 1972 election saw 94 of 99 seats contested.

Election Dem % Rep % D seats won R seats won p Favoring
1980 52.2 47.8 42 26 9 D
1978 50.6 49.4 44 33 21 D
1976 57.8 42.2 58 25 2 D
1974 50.3 49.7 41 35 40 D
1972 54.0 46.0 59 35 7 D

All politics is cyclical. Will the Democrats ever again have the upper hand? Of course – but it may take 15 or 25 years for it to happen.

Sen. Kathleen Vinehout: “You have got to be kidding!” Advocate Respond to Privatizing Family Care and IRIS

Here’s Democratic State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout’s latest newsletter discussing the changes to Family Care and IRIS proposed by Gov. Scott Walker’s biennial state budget.

“You have got to be kidding!”
Advocate Respond to Privatizing Family Care and IRIS

“You have got to be kidding!” a Chippewa Valley advocate responded when I told her about a plan to potentially turn Family Care over to a for-profit insurance company.

Family Care and its fee-for-service sister, IRIS, provide thousands of Medicaid-eligible frail elderly and disabled people the help they need to remain in their homes. Services could include help getting places; keeping a job; managing money; preparing meals; keeping healthy; bathing and dressing.

People who benefit from Family Care or IRIS might easily end up in an expensive institution. Personal care and other workers help them stay in their own home – and many times – stay gainfully employed.

If the current version of the governor’s budget becomes law, it will mean big changes to care for frail elderly and disabled people of modest means. For the rest of us, it could mean many more of our neighbors and family members end up in expensive institutions. Worse yet, folks could be stranded at home without the services they need to independently live and work.

Buried in the mammoth state budget is the elimination of IRIS as we know it. IRIS serves more than 11,000 people statewide. The philosophy of the program is in its name: Include, Respect, I Self-direct. People hire their own workers who perform many tasks including meal preparation, bathing, and getting people to work.

As Jason Endres of Eau Claire told me, “Without these services, the way IRIS provides, it would prevent us from being part of our community.”

Also eliminated are local centers to assist elderly and disabled people find services. Known as Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs), these publically run centers would close and their citizen oversight boards disband. They could be reopened by a private company but with no requirement to be conveniently located or to tell people about all the services for which they may qualify. For example, the woman I wrote about in last week’s column who is served by SeniorCare, said without the help of local ADRC staff she would not have known about SeniorCare.

Family Care is a managed care program serving over 40,000 elderly, physically disabled, and developmentally disabled folks. A large number of developmentally disabled people use Family Care in the Chippewa Valley because of the closure of Northern Center. Services such as residential homes, mental health services and job coaches help folks stay in the community. Local providers work with non-profit Managed Care Organizations that oversee service delivery.

Services are tailored to the needs of the individual as determined by an independently completed functional assessment. This way services are based on the needs of the individual and not on what the provider has available.

Changes in the budget would eliminate most of the Managed Care Organizations. Their job could be taken over by a very large for-profit insurance company. Budget language gives the state Department of Health (DHS) authority to hire the insurance company in a no-bid contract and removes any legislative oversight of the contract between DHS and the insurance company.

This new insurance company could become the gatekeeper for all medical, rehabilitative, personal living and employment services for over 50,000 people (DHS enrollment numbers from 2014).

In essence, every service needed by the disabled or frail elderly person of modest means would need approval by potentially one for-profit insurance company.

“This takes the personal choice right out of it,” an Eau Claire woman told me.

It also makes it more likely people will not receive the care they need. Insurance companies are very good at denying care and shifting the cost of care to patients and families.

Jason said to me, “One for-profit, national insurance company in a no-bid contract? It makes me very sad. It’s no longer about local choices. It’s about big business making decisions about very personal things.”

Advocates are working hard to save these important programs. People can learn more at www.saveiris.org. Jason reminded me to thank Amber and Nancy for this awesome website. Check it out. You’ll see Amber, Jason and read many more amazing stories.

Guest Blog: An Open Letter to Sen. Steven Nass

What follows is a guest blog written by Joanne Brown.

An Open Letter to Sen. Steven Nass

Dear Sen. Nass:

I attended the hearing of the Senate Committee on Labor and Government Reform, from its beginning until about 4:45 p.m. I witnessed your conduct of the hearing, heard your comments to those testifying and to your colleagues, and read about the abrupt end of the hearing.

You did a disservice to all who testified and those unable to testify with this show hearing. What happened to all the prepared testimony that was offered? I saw clerks bringing copies to you and to other committee members, and I heard you tell Sen. Larsen that the debate would occur during executive session.

Yet you called a vote immediately upon gaveling the hearing to an early end, so you clearly had no opportunity or, dare I say, inclination to pay attention to the data that was offered.

No executive session, no debate. A total disregard for the hours of work people put in to prepare for the hearing.

If you have such contempt for information brought to you by the residents of the state of Wisconsin, why do you serve in the State Legislature? You certainly are not serving your constituents when you do not listen to them.

Guest Blog: You Want My Vote?

Last night, President Obama held a town hall meeting with Hispanic voters during which he chastised the Democrats for not going to the polls. I guess he didn’t get the memo, but I found a copy.

Dear Mr. President, Democratic Representatives, State and National:
Your constituents are going on strike. Almost as far back as President Johnson, on the national and state levels, you have failed to come up with a single new, bold idea. Rather, you have told us repeatedly why we shouldn’t vote for the Republicans. And, you’re right.
All Republican policies support corporations/the wealthy because that’s where their campaign financing comes from. But, guess what? We already knew that.
And, you knew that because that’s where much of your financial support comes from. All the money in the world, however, isn’t going to help you if we don’t vote.
You need new ideas. You need a new way of messaging. Stop using the Republican message to argue against them. All you’re doing is reinforcing what they are saying. Use your own words. Be consistent. Peat and repeat! And, for the love, listen to the people that elected you. We’re tired of watching you getting kicked around like a poor puppy. Stand up for us. Stand up for yourselves.
Sincerely,
Democratic Voters Everywhere

A perfect example of what this memo is talking about happened beginning in January 2015. Most of us knew that the 5% education bill and the right-to-mooch bill would be up as soon as the new session started. We are talking about two issues that are the heart and soul of this country, getting an affordable, quality public school education and giving all workers a voice in their workplace. We assumed that you were working hard to block their passage. Unfortunately, we didn’t hear you. Every one of you should have constantly been in the press talking about these issues long before the bills were introduced, motivating the public to action. There should have been thousands and thousands of people gathering on the steps of the Capital. There should have been as many Republicans calling their legislator to voice their opposition. While there’s still some hope for the education bill, sadly right-to-mooch is a reality.
It’s up to you. If you want us to vote, then give us something to vote FOR.

Saul Newton: The cost of doing business with Boss Vos

What follows is a guest blog by Saul Newton. This was originally posted on JSOnline.com but has been reposted here at the request of the author.

If Democratic politicians told Assembly Speaker Robin Vos that because of his political affiliation his business would not qualify for tax credits or any other state aid, Vos would be outraged. However when Boss Vos publicly shakes down a business owner, it is just the cost of doing business in Wisconsin.

After four separate election cycles in four years centering mainly on economic development and job growth, Wisconsin voters have heard a lot of lofty rhetoric about making Wisconsin “Open for Business” and continuing the Wisconsin “comeback.” With discussion of a new arena in downtown Milwaukee, the state has a unique and prominent role to play in the proposal. However, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has made clear that his only criteria for any state aid to any business is their political support.

Following the sale of the Milwaukee Bucks to Wes Edens and Marc Lasry, the National Basketball Association included as a condition of sale that a new arena be constructed to house the team. If a new arena was not constructed the league could buy back the team, potentially resulting in Milwaukee losing the Bucks as our professional basketball franchise.

In the subsequent months ideas have circulated and rumors spread about the specifics of constructing a new arena. The discussion about a new arena involves business, community, political, and financial leaders. Some details, such as the likely location of the new arena , have been released to the public. However, with an expected price tag of upwards of $500 million, the financing of the new arena remains very much an open question.

A substantial amount has already been secured from team ownership, private investors, and former team owner Herb Kohl. However, there will almost certainly be a need for some sort of state funding as part of a larger financing deal . Enter GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.

Appearing on the Sunday morning talk show UpFront with Mike Gousha, Vos said , “As I said this week, having one of the Bucks new owners go and greet Barack Obama on the tarmac in the middle of the Mary Burke campaign probably wasn’t the wisest decision.”

Vos has indeed made numerous similar statements that he will with hold state aid for the arena because of Marc Lasry’s support for Democratic political candidates. To be clear, Lasry has never made any contribution to any Wisconsin Democrat. He is not a partisan politician. However he has donated to national candidates, and that is enough of an insult to Speaker Vos to hold a massive development project hostage.
Vos is threatening to hold up any public financing for a new arena as a way to send a message to Wisconsin’s business community. Vos’s message is, “Pay up.”

Vos and his minions have seized complete control of state government by distorting the views and votes of Democrats, labeling them as “anti-business. Less than 24 hours after the polls closed, Vos was giving interviews in which he publicly shook down investors and developers using tactics that would make William Tweed blanch .

It should be pointed out that Vos has no issue with businesses being politically involved, as long as they are involved for Republicans.

Vos has never spoken out about Jon Hammes, the major real estate developer leading the redevelopment of the Park East freeway in Milwaukee, and his donations to Republican candidates and conservative causes. Vos has been silent on the millions of dollars in campaign contributions to Republicans from recipients of state aid from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. Vos was too happy to lead the charge in favor of a proposed iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin after the company donated $700,000 to Republican candidates.

The only difference for Vos is those parties donated to the right side.

Vos’s actions are petty, they are juvenile, and they are disgraceful. Not only does this seriously damage Wisconsin’s image for other businesses potentially considering Wisconsin as a state to expand their business, but also it is transparent pay to play politics. Our business leaders deserve a better partner in state government than someone who imposes a political litmus test on all state aid to business.

The debate over plans to build a new arena in Milwaukee is understandable. The implications of the eventual plan are far reaching, and will impact the city of Milwaukee and the region for decades. There are many legitimate issues on all sides, and finding a way forward will require compromise, collaboration, and respect. There is no room for political extortion. There is no room for Vos’s petty games.

Boss Vos crossed the line. Every Milwaukee elected official, community leader, and business leader should denounce him, and his attempts to undermine Milwaukee for his own political ends.