Would Florida Arrest Jesus Too?

Rather than finding ways to help the homeless, a number of cities in Florida, including Fort Lauderdale have passed ordinances against feeding the homeless. And a leading scofflaw who has been cited for violating the ordinance is 90 year old World War II veteran Arnold Abbott…an advocate for the homeless who has been providing them with food for twenty years in honor of his late wife. The penalty for feeding the homeless is 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. So this certainly isn’t a little municipal ticket to be taken lightly.

But despite interference from the police, Mr. Abbott and his group, Love Thy Neighor, continue to feed the homeless and have garnered a fair amount of support for their efforts.

It seems to go against Southern Christian tenets and the GOP movement to replace government ‘hand outs’ with local private charity…and it just seems flat out mean.

So how would a long haired bearded man with brown skin fair in Fort Lauderdale if he started handing out loaves and fishes?

Economic Trend Supports Raising the Minimum Wage

The news today is that consumer spending rose in August and it was driven by increases in income and wages. Ergo: continued economic recovery could be driven my raising the minimum wage.

Consumer spending in August rose 0.5 percent from the previous month after showing no gain in July, the Commerce Department reported Monday. It was the best result since spending also expanded 0.5 percent in June.

The acceleration in spending added to signs that the economy is sustaining strength in the current July-September quarter. Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of economic activity, and the lackluster showing in July had raised concerns about whether the economy would retain the momentum it built in the spring after a harsh winter.

Economists also said the stretch of solid gains in employment this year should help boost incomes.

“With incomes starting to rise a little faster, the outlook for consumer spending on everything, including housing, is brightening,” said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Adivsors (sic).

Elect candidates in favor of a living minimum wage!

Recordings and Open Meeting Laws

There was a little article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that went pretty much unnoticed and as far as I know, uncommented on. But apparently a gentleman from a more rural area of Southeastern Wisconsin had a fixation on how we all vote here in the big city of Milwaukee.

He likes to observe vote counting and reconciliation and would prefer to videotape the proceedings if he were only allowed to do so. But apparently that is forbidden unless the Wisconsin Attorney General declares such polling activity as subject to open meeting laws. Now that is the crux of the matter…open meetings can be recorded by anyone who is interested…and government bodies subject to open meeting laws are required to facilitate citizens whose hobby might be recording open meetings.

Here is the initial exposition in the article about our civic hobbyist and the questions about the open meeting status of poll activities:

John Washburn is an election gadfly, eager to observe and videotape post-election activities at the polls.

More than 18 months ago, Washburn wrote Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, requesting a legal opinion on whether the nuts and bolts of counting and reconciling votes are subject to the state’s open meetings laws. Even if they aren’t, observers are still allowed to witness the process.

It may be a fine distinction to most, yet Washburn is still awaiting an answer.

And he’s not the only one.

In May, the state Government Accountability Board also requested an opinion from Van Hollen to determine how open meetings requirements might apply to post-election activities.

With November fast approaching, election officials are seeking clarity on the open meetings issue before voters hit the polls.

“This is one of the core processes of an election, the canvass,” Washburn said in a telephone interview. “I’d like to watch the activity and keep an eye on it. It is the way the consent of the governed is transferred so the government can justify its powers.”

Washburn, of Germantown, is well known to Milwaukee election officials. Twice, he’s been asked to leave rooms where votes were being tabulated or reconciled.

The first time was election night 2012, when Washburn and several others attempted to videotape activities at the Zablocki Library after the polls closed. Poll workers were surprised to see him taping and told him to leave.

Two days after the most recent primary, Washburn showed up at Milwaukee’s post-election reconciliation. Under a requirement passed earlier this year by the state Legislature, election observers have to produce photo identification.

“When he refused to do that, the observer rules were enforced and he was asked to leave,” said Neil Albrecht, executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission.

No I know I am being a little flip about Mr. Washburn’s activities. But it is a rather interesting conundrum. And I am not sure whether I feel that vote gathering and polling and reconciliation is an open meeting or an official work activity of public employees. And although I am all in favor of transparency in the voting process…I am not so sure there isn’t some form of intentional intimidation of poll workers involved here…particularly when out of town ‘observers’ are involved. Now I am not suggesting that Mr. Washburn is doing anything but being curious…and given his refusal to provide ID as an observer, I wonder what his stance is on voter id.

Well enough of that, let’s get to the meat of my interest in this article. Here is the pertinent snippet on why everyone wants a ruling on whether this is an open meeting type of government activity:

“If the open meetings law applies, it requires the government body to allow and facilitate recording of their meetings by anyone who cares to,” said Dreps (Mr. Washburn’s attorney, Robert Dreps), who has previously represented Washburn as well as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Open meetings requires government to allow recording of their meetings. Now why is this so interesting? Because the most obvious and conspicuous open meetings in the State of Wisconsin occur under the dome of the Capitol in the Assembly Chamber…but you CAN NOT record those proceedings in any way shape or form. The State Assembly is the biggest violator of open meetings laws in the State of Wisconsin. Maybe the Capitol Police should turn their attention to arresting the criminals on the Assembly floor instead of the citizens in the gallery who are trying to audio record, video record or simply taking notes on the proceedings in chambers. It might be a far more productive use of their time!

New report highlights widening racial disparities for children in Wisconsin

On September 10, the Wisconsin Council on Children & Families highlighted the Race for Results: Wisconsin’s Need to Reduce Racial Disparities, a policy report recently published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation that found that children of color face immense barriers to success in key categories of well-being, and that the status of African-American children in Wisconsin is the worst in the nation.

Here are three key facts regarding African-American and other children of color in Wisconsin.

  • Thirty percent of Wisconsin’s white children live in households below 200% of the poverty level, while nearly 80% of African-American children experience that level of economic insecurity. Meanwhile, about two-thirds of Wisconsin’s Latino and American Indian kids live in households below 200% of the poverty line.

  • White adults ages 25 to 29 are three times as likely to have an associate’s degree or higher than their African-American or Latino peers.
  • White children are nearly six times more likely to be proficient in 8th grade math than their black fellow students.

I’d encourage you all to click the link I provided above to read the full report; it’s well worth it.

Meanwhile in St. Louis….

…..police shot and killed Kajieme Powell, a 25 year-old African American man on Tuesday.

Police were called by a convenience store owner who suspected Powell had stolne drinks and donuts from his shop, according to a recording of the 911 call, while a woman called 911 to report Powell was acting erratically and had a knife in his pocket.

Two officers in a police SUV responded to the calls, the cell phone video shows. When the officers got out of their vehicle, Powell walked in their direction, yelling and telling them to shoot him already.

St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said Tuesday that both of the officers opened fire on Powell when he came within a three or four feet of them holding a knife “in an overhand grip.”

But the newly released cell phone footage undermines the statement, showing Powell approaching the cops, but not coming as close as was reported, with his hands at his side. The officers began shooting within 15 seconds of their arrival, hitting Powell with a barrage of bullets.

Here’s the cell phone video of the incident, but be warned it contains graphic content.

**WARNING** The video contains graphic content!

Two things struck me about the video, the first being the fact that at least two shots were fired by the officers after Kajieme Powell had already fallen to the ground. I also couldn’t help but notice that both officers immediately drew their firearms instead of attempting to subdue Powell with a non-lethal option such as a Taser, which would likely have subdued Powell short of ending his life. Obviously I don’t know if the officers in question were equipped with Tasers, but if they were it certainly seems that one officer attempting to incapacitate Kajieme Powell with a Taser while the other had his firearm trained on Powell would have been a smarter option.