Realtors and manufacturers plan to overhaul Wisconsin’s technical school system

cheeseheads against kochhead

Dear Readers,

It looks like the Wisconsin technical school system could be next in line for some of Walker’s patented “cares too much” treatment.

A special committee is looking to remove local control of technical schools in favor of state control and more funding from the state, not property taxes. The awkwardly named Study Committee on the Review of Wisconsin Technical
College System Funding and Governance committee meets July 24, 10:00 a.m. at the Capitol in Madison.

Readers will notice a heavy representation of manufacturer types on the committee list (see below). I expect “fix the skills gap!” talk at the upcoming meeting without comparable talk of paying skilled workers a competitive wage.

Readers should also note that Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), Wisconsin Realtors Association, and the conservative Wisconsin Taxpayers’ Alliance are given the opportunity to speak at the first meeting.

I seem to remember learning that all documents shared between Eric O’Keefe and WMC (and lots of other groups) got subpoenaed by a certain John Doe prosecutor due to suspected illegal campaign coordination between those groups and Walker’s campaign 2011 – 2012. – source

And I seem to remember Eric O’Keefe whining that conservative “speech” was being taken away.

The John Doe investigations have done nothing to take away WMC’s megaphone. WMC has a special relationship with The Guv. The Guv also has somethin’ goin’ on with Wisconsin Realtors Association.

Something so special that an article on John Doe emails might disappear [as seen here] to be swiftly replaced by an article about Scott’s promise to Wisconsin Realtors Assn. –  a promise to freeze property taxes.

So expect that the goal of freezing and/or cutting property taxes (and the goal of pleasing Wisconsin Realtors Assn.) will be top priority at this meeting as well.

promise to keep property taxes flat

Please note that this special committee is just one in a slew of special committees looking to “fix” things in Wisconsin. Hamilton Consulting has a list of all of them (and they seem to be especially pleased that a couple of people from Wisconsin Economic Development Association were installed on the committee looking to overhaul TIF).

Committee Mission:
“The Special Committee is directed to review the current governance model of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) in the interest of transferring governance responsibilities of local district boards to the state WTCS Board and examine the current funding model for the WTCS with a preference toward reassigning current local property tax revenue to a broader state tax source.”

Here’s the agenda:

“STUDY COMMITTEE ON THE REVIEW OF WISCONSIN TECHNICAL
COLLEGE SYSTEM FUNDING AND GOVERNANCE
Representative John Nygren, Chair; Senator Sheila Harsdorf, Vice-Chair
Wednesday, July 24, 10:00 a.m., Room 411 South, State Capitol
Organizational matters.

Presentations by invited speakers, including the following:
o Morna Foy, President, WTCS, and Andrew Peterson, President, WTCS Board.
o Joe Murray, Wisconsin Realtors Association.
o Todd Berry, Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.
o Mike Birkley, Wisconsin Property Taxpayer’s Inc.
o Jim Morgan and Jason Culotta, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.
o Member of a technical college district board.
o Josh Dukelow, Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce. Discussion of committee assignment.”

SOURCE

Members of the committee:

Representative John Nygren (Chair)

Senator Sheila Harsdorf (Vice-Chair)

Bruce Barker – President of Chippewa Valley Technical College

Allen Buechel – serving a sixth term as Fond du Lac County Executive as of April 16, 2013 / On board of FCEDC Board of Directors

Dan Conroy – Vice President of Human Resources Nexen Group, Inc., a manufacturer of precision motion control components, power transmission and web tension control products

David Dull – President and CEO of Allis Roller as of 2009.

Stephen R. Kohler – Director of Human Resources at Pierce Manufacturing Inc. based in Appleton.

Representative Debra Kolste

Representative Cory Mason

Dr. Susan May – President of Fox Valley Technical College

Joseph Sheehan – Superintendent at Sheboygan Area School District

Senator Jennifer Shilling

David Stark – President at Stark Company Realtors

Dennis Treu –
Managing Member at Treu Solutions LLC
Trustee/Board Member/Treasurer at Western Technical College
Member Governance Council at iLEAD Charter School
Advisory Board Member at Juneau County Inventors & Entrepreneurs Club
Adjunct Professor at Viterbo University
Partner/Member at Reliable Title and Abstract Company LLC
Broker/Owner at Century 21 Gold Award Homes – source

Mr. Mark Tyler – Public Member of the Wisconsin Technical College System board and founder and president of OEM Fabricators, Inc., a contract manufacturer in Western Wisconsin

Representative Thomas Weatherston
source

Bonus footnote on Wisconsin Realtors Assn.:

I wanted to emphasize that the Wisconsin Realtors Assn. are not only getting their voice heard when it comes to technical schools, they are also getting heard at the state Supreme Court level and they also, I assume, have a direct line to the U.W. System through top level Friend of Walker, Jim Villa.

Jim “V.I.P.” Villa

Jim Villa was a lobbyist for Wisconsin Realtors Association and he was Governor Walker’s chief of staff during the time he was in the state Assembly and during part of Walker’s time as Milwaukee County Executive. source

In the midst of a highly scrutinized 2005 real estate bidding process with Milwaukee County’s Department on Aging, Villa returned to work with Scott Walker in his executive office.

Wrote Dan Bice, “Authorities have been looking for signs of bid-rigging or other misconduct as representatives of the privately owned Reuss Federal Plaza vied unsuccessfully in 2010 to keep the county Department of Aging in its office space. The offices had moved in 2005 to the blue tower in a $3 million deal [a deal that has been described as “a rushed five hour bid“].”

“[Andrew P.] Jensen’s firm helped spearhead the Reuss effort to win the lease for the county offices.” – source

In 2008, Villa took the job as President of the Commercial Association of Realtors-Wisconsin (CARW), where he worked with Board Chair Andrew Jensen.

In 2010, Jensen won the “Wisconsin’s Realtor of the Year” award.

There was much in the press and the blogosphere about Jensen not “cooperating with the investigation” when Jensen got detained by authorities for one night in December of 2011. No criminal charges were brought up on Jensen. By April of 2012 Jensen had received a “highly unusual” letter of exoneration from D.A. John Chisholm’s office.

Nonetheless, in 2012, the Wisconsin Democratic Party reminded reporters that Villa’s company Markesan Group lobbied on real estate deals that were connected with suspected bid rigging in Milwaukee County as is documented in this lengthy Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article.

In May of 2014 Jim Villa began a $178K job as University of Wisconsin System vice president for university relations despite “concerns” raised by two members of the Board of Regents.

Wisconsin State Supreme Court
March 8, 2013:
“The realtors group filed documents with the state in February saying it may spend $206,648 to support incumbent Justice Pat Roggensack, who is considered one of the court’s four conservatives, in her April 2 reelection bid against Ed Fallone, a Marquette Law School professor.

The realtors have not directly spent money on outside electioneering activities in a Supreme Court race until now.”

Updated: Oshkosh store wants your help tracking down a puppy dumper

Updating with more info Sat. 7/12 7AM:

There’s a comment on the store’s facebook page that the alleged puppy dumper has been turned in, however I just called the store and the man on staff says no news of that from the Oshkosh Police Department has been received. He told me that the store’s page will be updated accordingly with any news on the suspect.

The Global Conservation Group has put up a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible. – source: examiner.com

WBAY has a story on this.
An excerpt: “Thorp found the puppy in a black bag behind the Dumpster, just minutes before a garbage truck came through.

“It hurt. It was emotional. We all were,” Lamore said. “Somebody that can do that to something so innocent is so wrong.””

If you would like to donate to the care of the puppy, which is now named Hazel, visit the Oshkosh Area Humane Society’s “CUDDLES FUND”. Credit card and paypal donations accepted.

Here’s a video of Hazel that was uploaded yesterday:


———————————————-

And now for something completely different.

The Planeview Travel Plaza convenience store in Oshkosh, Wisconsin is requesting assistance in locating a man they believe dumped a puppy in a plastic bag at their site.

Here’s a link to their original facebook status update.

Here’s the text as copied and pasted and the accompanying photos are below.
“We Need your Help! This morning around 9:45 the man in the pictures dumped a 2 week old puppy in a black trash bag behind our trash dumpsters. He is driving the truck in the last picture, and when he left our property he was heading north on Hwy 41. Unfortunately we are unable to identify him or his truck. The puppy is being evaluated at the vet. If anyone has any information about the identity of this person or the company he drives for, please let us know.
Thank you and we will keep you updated on the puppy.”

You can go to their facebook page to get updates on the puppy which is getting veterinary care and may need a surgery for what looks to be a broken pelvis.

Planeview Travel Plaza
1500 Planeview Dr
Oshkosh, Wisconsin 54904
Always open
Phone (920) 426-2641
Email info@planeview.biz

Just click on the image to enlarge it.

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Updated: Oshkosh store wants your help tracking down a puppy dumper

Updating with more info Sat. 7/12 7AM:

There’s a comment on the store’s facebook page that the alleged puppy dumper has been turned in, however I just called the store and the man on staff says no news of that from the Oshkosh Police Department has been received. He told me that the store’s page will be updated accordingly with any news on the suspect.

The Global Conservation Group has put up a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible. – source: examiner.com

WBAY has a story on this.
An excerpt: “Thorp found the puppy in a black bag behind the Dumpster, just minutes before a garbage truck came through.

“It hurt. It was emotional. We all were,” Lamore said. “Somebody that can do that to something so innocent is so wrong.””

If you would like to donate to the care of the puppy, which is now named Hazel, visit the Oshkosh Area Humane Society’s “CUDDLES FUND”. Credit card and paypal donations accepted.

Here’s a video of Hazel that was uploaded yesterday:


———————————————-

And now for something completely different.

The Planeview Travel Plaza convenience store in Oshkosh, Wisconsin is requesting assistance in locating a man they believe dumped a puppy in a plastic bag at their site.

Here’s a link to their original facebook status update.

Here’s the text as copied and pasted and the accompanying photos are below.
“We Need your Help! This morning around 9:45 the man in the pictures dumped a 2 week old puppy in a black trash bag behind our trash dumpsters. He is driving the truck in the last picture, and when he left our property he was heading north on Hwy 41. Unfortunately we are unable to identify him or his truck. The puppy is being evaluated at the vet. If anyone has any information about the identity of this person or the company he drives for, please let us know.
Thank you and we will keep you updated on the puppy.”

You can go to their facebook page to get updates on the puppy which is getting veterinary care and may need a surgery for what looks to be a broken pelvis.

Planeview Travel Plaza
1500 Planeview Dr
Oshkosh, Wisconsin 54904
Always open
Phone (920) 426-2641
Email info@planeview.biz

Just click on the image to enlarge it.

10498121_10152547088483622_6093601764130733602_o

10275293_10152547088378622_7280958620541031423_o

10506586_10152547088068622_2802145018773660631_o

Scott Walker’s odds just got downgraded by Stu Rothenberg

Political prognosticator and syndicated columnist Stu Rothenberg just downgraded Walker’s chancing of winning in November to “Lean Republican”. Before he had him “favored” to win it.

It’s because “over the past couple of weeks, the campaign fight has been over whether Walker is the subject of a federal investigation into allegations of illegal campaign coordination. The public discussion has given Democrats headlines and local news clips to use in ads against the governor and has put more uncertainty into the race”. –source

As Lincoln might have said if he were alive and blogging today, you can work your mojo on some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not work your mojo on all of the people all of the time (especially if all of the people are figuring out you are a crook).

Wisconsin’s April 1st Election Results

The internet at cheddar place is intermittently working, so this is what I can muster using a phone. I’ll keep updating this as time permits today.

FYI – Channel 3000 seems to be compiling a great deal of election data.

MADISON:

Firefighter Michael Flores won his bid for school board against Strong with a tad over 62% of the vote.

Flores, a union man, had lost in a previous school board race to Mary Burke who outspent him by at least 10 to 1.

More info on the Flores win is at Cap Times.

DANE COUNTY

Advisory referendums went as expected:
‘Dane County residents voted in favor of both an advisory referendum to legalize marijuana use at the state level and an advisory referendum to amend the Wisconsin Constitution to require nonpartisan methods for redistricting legislative and congressional districts in the state.’

District 5 Dane County supervisor and socialist Leland Pan won his seat again.

More info at Badger Herald

And a tweet from @MadPolitics –
With all wards reporting, Patrick Downing has cruised to victory over Jerry O’Brien in the race for Dist. 30: 67%-33%.

MILWAUKEE-AREA

Fbk update from Capper:
Congratulations to Laura Gramling Perez and Diane Narlock for their wins.
Also, big kudos to the Move to Amend folks for their sweeping victories throughout the land.
Congratulations also to Eyon Biddle. You have my support going into the general election. Lastly, congratulations to John Pokrandt. Even though you lost, you ran the best campaign and you showed what true class looks like.

BUFFALO AND TREMPEALEAU COUNTIES

The following news is of huge importance due to the local frac sand mining fights.

Facebook update from Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters:
Woot! So happy to report wins in 6 of the 7 races where Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters endorsed in Trempealeau and Buffalo Counties! Congratulations to the pro-conservation County Board members – Tim Zeglin, Lou Anne Roby, Nettie Rosenow, George Brandt, Jeanne Nutter, and John Schulz!

IRON COUNTY
Results of the April 1st local elections in Iron County, WI from Woodsperson

Stella Report’s take on the situation: KOCH MONEY DIDN’T WORK:
Note that Krall is an iron mine supporter who was erroneously labeled a ‘radical environmentalist’ by a very sloppy recent Koch mailing.:
“Three of the seven persons targeted by Americans for Prosperity because they were challenging pro-mining incumbents were elected to the Iron County Board Tuesday. It is hard to say what effect, if any, the Koch-backed group had on the outcomes of the races, but they certainly did not achieve their goals in these three races. Vic Ouimette, Karl Krall and Brian Matson all succeeded in unseating incumbents, despite attacks from the heavily bankrolled right wing group.” – more at Stella Report

ASHLAND COUNTY

This is great news:
‘Ojibwe tribal elder and former Northland College professor Joe M. Rose elected an Ashland County Supervisor.’-Political Environment

ST. CROIX COUNTY and HUDSON

Sweeping wins for Dems:

Incumbents ousted from county board; McCormick tops Tjornehoj for Hudson Council seat


Election data

WAUSAU

David B K reports that all 3 tea party Republicans that ran for school board lost.

ANTIGO

My tweet last nt.:
Congratulations Antigo, Wisconsin. All 4 tea party school board candidates lost. (this news via @paellacook) #wiunion

OSHKOSH

Oshkosh school referendum wins overwhelming support
Plan to spend $3.95M per year gets 60 percent of vote

KENOSHA

Knotsies and Koch money were active in Kenosha’s school board election. It had an impact.

From Kenosha News (reported at approx. 11PM):
Dan Wade and Gary Kunich continue to lead the Kenosha Unified School Board race, now with 63 of 96 polls reporting.
The totals were 4,378 votes for Wade, 4,073 for Kunich, 3,560 for Mike Falkofske and 3,280 for Jo Ann Taube.

As reported by Jeff Simpson, ‘Dan Wade is Kristy “Knot My Wisconsin” Lacroix’s father’. Lacroix is the anti-union teacher featured in pro-Walker ads of 2011. Later Lacroix signed on to lawsuits supportive of Wisconsin Act 10.
Wade and Kunich campaigned together calling themselves ‘reform-minded candidates’.

Ballotpedia info on Kenosha school board candidates.

RACINE

The incumbents kept their seats on the school board.

Roberta Retrum shared this:

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VILAS

Gun nut and dominionist Kim Simac won a county supervisor seat in Vilas County.

Readers may remember Simac from her failed bid to win Holperin’s state senate seat in a 2011 recall election. Vilas Co. results.

WAUKESHA

Kathy Nickolaus lost her bid for county board. She got 1/2 the votes her opponent did.

CITIZENS UNITED

A press release: 13 Wisconsin cities vote YES to overturning Citizens United

And a tweet: “@UnitedWisconsin With 98% reporting, 69.3% of #Waukesha voters voting yes in opposition to Citizens United. #CitizensUnitedWiVote”

Third day of mass arrests in WI’s capitol – my notes from the road

I am in Michigan for a wedding now and this weekend and I’m writing this post on my phone. Apologies for the rough formatting.. 

I’ve been checking facebook and twitter the whole drive up for updates on today’s activities at the capitol building.  I’ll share with you what I’ve located on the net.

From WPR “DOA issued a statement saying it had issued 17 tickets on site for gathering without a permit. The DOA 14 people “will receive” citations “from video.” In the past, police have mailed tickets to protesters whose identity they already know.”

WPR’s story includes comments from Brian Standing and Bart Munger.

There was much speculation online and on site today regarding a wedding that was scheduled to be at the capitol today. Would it be disturbed by protest? Did it even happen?
WPR offers us this information:
“The DOA also produced a copy of a permit application for a wedding that was scheduled to be held either inside the rotunda or outside if the weather was nice. DOA says the wedding party chose to get married outside today even though it was occasionally drizzling at the noon hour. It’s unknown at this time whether the wedding party made its decision because of the protesters.”

From Arthur at SSWIDTMS: “Police started warning random groups of onlookers that if they didn’t immediately disperse they to would be arrested. Many of those warned were tourists visiting from out of town.” VIDEO

Teamster Nation caught the fact that a child was arrested.

Franciscan Friar Phil Gerbac announcing happily “arrest me” in the rotunda’s center. (very brief video).

Minister Carter Dary suffered a heart ailment while protesting (that’s a video link). I got word that he is in the hospital but is in good spirits and has further testing scheduled tomorrow.

Letter to DOA’s Mike Huebsch from Sen. Risser and Rep. Taylor.

Ryan Wherley says in his post that by cracking down on singers “Scott Walker and Mike Huebsch made a HUGE mistake.”

He notes an important shift present in 2013 that I’ve been thinking about too:

“It felt like the Uprising of February 2011 all over again, with one major difference. Two years ago, we were a disparate group of individuals marching for a similar cause, but unknown to each other. But now, we’re friends and family. Everywhere I looked were people who’ve stood alongside each other on the front lines in the fight against a tyrannical leadership for the past 29 months. If people were afraid, they didn’t show it, because they knew their brothers and sisters surrounding them had their backs.”

We said “brothers and sisters” in 2011 without fully experiencing what we were talking about. Now we are “there” more fully.

Greg Gordon spoke about this week’s mass arrests tonight at 7:30PM Central on a Detroit radio program called The Tony Show. Hopefully a podcast of his interview will emerge shortly.

Footnote:
That’s all the typing I want to do on a smartphone tonight (Relieved I was wise enough to get a model with a keyboard). I am not scared of what’s happening in the rotunda. I would be more frightened for us all if we were pretending everything was just fine after 2 years of watching Walker’s kleptocracy unfold. That would be madness.

Occupy the GOP: Art for Gov May 8

Endorsements for candidates in posts here do not represent the opinions of all regular contributers, blue cheddar, or the blog’s many guest writers.

As I wrote earlier, of the four Democratic candidates vying to face Walker in the June 5 Wisconsin Recall election, my pick is Kathleen Vinehout, who has said this on more than one occasion: “If you don’t like big money in politics, vote for the candidate with the least money. If you don’t like politics as usual, vote for the unusual candidate.”

So I’m following her advice, and on May 8 I’m voting for Arthur Kohl-Riggs, who is running as a Lincoln/La Follette progressive Republican. I love the idea of a progressive running as a Republican. This is taking the fight right to Walker himself, to his territory, his own party. This is taking the offensive position. It is nothing less than an occupation of the Republican party.

The Republican party began right here in Wisconsin, in the city of Ripon in 1854, as an abolitionist force opposed to the expansion of slavery into the western territories. The first Republican president was none other than Abraham Lincoln himself, to whom Art bears more than a passing resemblance. Obviously the party has strayed far—very far—from its noble beginnings.

Arthur is serious in his determination to defeat Walker. By running against him as a Republican, he’s showing himself to be a clever, resourceful young man capable of thinking outside the box. And he is young—23 years young. In our struggle against the corporate takeover of our state, most of us thought we had no choice but to rely on the often disappointing Democratic party, but very often Democratic candidates are beholden to the same corporate forces we are fighting against and are only slightly less repugnant than their GOP counterparts.

In a way, Art’s running as a Republican brings us around full circle, creates a simultaneously new and old, authentic and innovative space in which to carry on our fight. Voting as a Democrat in the primary means choosing among four candidates—all of them good, none of them perfect, none of them eliciting the fervor of the day-after-day winter protests of February and March 2011 nor the dogged determination of the campaign to collect recall signatures.

To my mind, right now, voting against Walker is paramount. And Arthur is giving us a chance to do just that, quite emphatically, on May 8 as well as on June 5. And given that my positive feelings about the four Democratic contenders aren’t anywhere near as strong as my negative feelings toward Walker, what I really, really want is to vote vehemently, adamantly against Walker.

Arthur has developed what he calls a living platform—living, because it will grow and take shape as he responds to the concerns of the people. The one thing that has incensed me most about Walker has been his refusal to listen to the people of Wisconsin. He and his cronies in the legislature have treated us with utter contempt. The people of Wisconsin need a governor who will listen to us and identify with us, who will bear in mind and heart the present and future well-being of the people of Wisconsin.

John Nichols writes:

Arthur Kohl-Riggs runs in the Wisconsin Republican tradition, a radical tradition that embraces labor rights, human rights and democracy. That’s what Wisconsin Republicans believed in for far longer than they have embraced the boilerplate language of contemporary conservatism—as espoused by Scott Walker.

“I am a Lincoln-La Follette Republican, a real Wisconsin Republican,” says Kohl-Riggs. “Scott Walker is the fake Republican.”

Arthur wrote a great piece for the Cap Times this week in which he says, “I love Wisconsin for what our state has historically valued and for how tirelessly we will fight against those who do not have the people’s best interests at heart.”

You can see Art’s interview with Wisconsin Eye here and his interview with Channel 3 News here.

Arthur’s campaign is fun. Think of it—fun! The tag line at the top of Art’s web page says “Art for Gov: Not currently the subject of an ongoing John Doe investigation!” A couple of the homegrown, grassroots campaign posters I’ve seen show Arthur dressed in top hat and bow tie, clearly evoking a young Abe Lincoln, literally running, with a tag line that says “Arthur Kohl-Riggs ‘Running’ For Gov.” It’s not that he’s not serious. He is in earnest. But the wise know it’s best in a sustained fight against evil to nurture a healthy sense of humor, which requires perspective and humility, guards against discouragement, and keeps enthusiasm and optimism fresh and vigorous.

I’m delighted that Arthur has stepped up to challenge Walker directly on his own political turf. At worst, he may help us to keep Republicans from “messing around” with the Democratic primary. At best, we give Walker the boot a month early.

For my part, I’m completely fed up with the corporate takeover of our state. I’ve had enough of big money in politics, and politics as usual makes me utterly ill. The thought of voting in the Democratic primary on May 8 smells a lot like politics as usual to me. Whereas every time I think about voting for Art on May 8, I smile.

Wisconsin Recall: Vinehout’s the Real Deal

Endorsements for candidates in posts here do not represent the opinions of all regular contributers, blue cheddar, or the blog’s many guest writers.

I spent most of Wednesday afternoon reading up on Kathleen Vinehout, in part because she’s the Democratic gubernatorial challenger I find most compelling, in part because a blogger I very much respect has come out solidly in her favor, and in part because that evening I would have the opportunity to ask her any questions that arose in the course of my reading.

I find Vinehout compelling because I believe she’s the candidate who has demonstrated the most support for the Wisconsin movement and has most strongly stood up to the Fitzwalkers. And she has a lot of respect and enthusiasm for what she calls the renaissance of democracy that is transforming the political landscape of the state. She has broad appeal because of her strong connections with rural and small-town Wisconsin. No one can call her a Madison or a Milwaukee Democrat.

Vinehout’s credibility is enhanced by her having been one of the Fighting Fourteen who left the state last year to slow Walker’s railroading of the Wisconsin people. If the senators hadn’t responded so quickly, the Wisconsin movement might not have been able to gain the momentum that it did. Their leaving was pivotal in galvanizing the people to stand up and make themselves heard. The senators’ bold action bolstered us, because we knew we had strong advocates in the legislature.

Vinehout, Fighting Bob Fest 2009
Vinehout spoke at the Fighting Bob Fest in Baraboo in 2009, and I remember that she was stirring and articulate and really got my progressive blood pumping. So I went to hear her speak at Wednesday night’s Drinking Liberally meeting at the Brink Lounge in Madison knowing I was going to hear a dynamic and persuasive speaker, and she did not disappoint. She exuded energy and optimism and was friendly and approachable.

She began with the story of how the fourteen senators were able to leave the state. Senate minority leader Mark Miller called the senate clerk at 11pm on Feb. 16 to verify the number of votes needed for a quorum on a budget bill. After confirming that twenty senators were needed, the clerk told Miller that on the following day a state trooper would be assigned to each one of the Democratic state senators, presumably to make sure they didn’t attempt to leave the building before the vote. Talk about heavy handed! Miller called Vinehout and the other senators first thing the next morning, thus enabling them to get away before Papa Fitzgerald’s state troopers had them hemmed in.

Vinehout affirmed her support for public education and public school teachers, her determination to see collective bargaining reinstated for public employees, and her belief in the critical importance of affordable health care for all. When asked why we should support her candidacy, she cited the breadth of her experience as a public health nurse, college professor, and organic dairy farmer as well as her six years as a state senator.

She emphasized that “we must be the change we want to see in the world,” that “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” and that it’s up to us to fix this horrible mess we’re in. She said that if you don’t like politics as usual, vote for the unusual candidate. And if you don’t like money in politics, vote for the candidate with the least money.

Questions have been raised about Vinehout’s bona fides in relation to safeguarding women’s reproductive freedom, and my reading suggested that perhaps those questions will be the ones that will dog her most during this short, intense primary season.

One woman asked Vinehout Wednesday night why she is against abortion. Vinehout confirmed, though, that she believes abortion should be “safe, legal and rare” and that her legislative record confirms that belief. When asked later what she meant by “rare,” she said that providing good health care for all women, access to birth control, and good sex education would have the effect of making abortion rare. I asked about her amendment to a 2008 bill (that didn’t pass) that would have permitted a pharmacist, on the basis of conscience, to refuse to fill a prescription for contraceptives “if the pharmacist ensures that the patient will have access to the contraceptive elsewhere.” I asked why a pharmacist’s conscience should trump my ability to procure my contraceptives without costing extra money (for transportation), delay, and inconvenience.

She responded that the Wisconsin constitution has a stronger conscience clause than the U.S. Constitution has, and she wanted to ensure that the bill did not violate the state constitution, which as a senator she is sworn to uphold. She also said that a year later a bill was passed that requires pharmacies to dispense contraceptives without delay, while allowing an individual pharmacist to decline to dispense contraceptives for reasons of conscience provided that another pharmacist at that location can fill the prescription immediately.

Video – Senator Vinehout clarifies her position on access to contraception in Wisconsin:

A few minutes after she was done with the question-and-answer portion of her presentation, Vinehout came over to our table to talk to me and another woman. I asked her then, “but what about that amendment?” Even though it ultimately didn’t become law, the wording still concerned me. She conceded that the amendment was problematic and that in fact she had borrowed the language from Illinois legislation that had been supported by Planned Parenthood of Illinois. (I haven’t verified this.) She added that she was involved in writing the legislation that did pass the following year and that she prefers its language. So the 2008 amendment was probably not her finest legislative moment, but I was satisfied that it didn’t indicate a desire to restrict women’s reproductive freedom or a lack of support for women’s right to control their own reproductive choices.

So I was—and am—satisfied with Vinehout’s answers to my questions. I believe that as governor she will be a strong advocate for women’s reproductive health and freedom and, most important, will be responsive to the will of the people. I arrived Wednesday night leaning in Vinehout’s favor, and I left feeling real enthusiasm for her candidacy. She’s not riding in on a white horse to save us, which is a good thing. She’d be the first to assert that it’s we the people who will save our state. But I think she can help us do that, and I believe she’s the real deal.

“UPRISING” by John Nichols – a Review, Sort of

While I have often used the word “joy” to describe how it felt to be part of the big rallies in Madison last year, there were frustrations. For me, one of the biggest frustrations was the inaccuracy in the reporting of events. I only spent one night in the capitol, but I spent a lot of days there. After a day of protesting, I would go home and watch the news and wonder how they could get so much wrong. I’m not talking about subjective things, I mean basic facts like someone’s name or job title.

I remember being downtown at a rally in the middle of the week. The teachers had returned to work after a few days of calling in sick, but there were still about ten thousand people at the noon rally. One of the major television networks had finally decided to send a crew in to do a story after days of protests and job actions. I watched their news broadcast that evening. The reporter described the controversy as a fight between Scott Walker and the teachers unions over pension and health care costs (no mention of other public employees or of collective bargaining rights), then stated that “ten thousand teachers” had attended a protest rally that day, even though the teachers were back on the job and the protesters that day were everybody but teachers.

John Nichols of The Nation magazine and the Capital Times became the only reporter we could trust to tell us what was going on. He got it right every time, and he gets it right again in his new book, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street.

In his foreword, he ridicules Fox News for their use of “Fair and Balanced” and describes that sentiment as a fantasy. He then admits that he, John Nichols, is not an unbiased observer, he is a Wisconsinite. So, while fair and balanced Fox News showed images of the rare tundra palm trees, the “biased” John Nichols nailed every detail while educating us about Fighting Bob La Follette, Gaylord Nelson, and dairy cooperatives. In his new book, Nichols continues the lessons and connects the Wisconsin uprising with the leaders of the American Revolution, the framers of the Constitution, and the Occupy movement.

My receipt from the University Book Store confirms that I purchased a copy of “Uprising” at 12:18 pm Sunday.

It’s 8:51 pm as I write this. In those eight and a half hours I did some grocery shopping, picked up my daughter from her driving school lesson, cooked dinner, and watched some golf on television.

In between all that I read “Uprising”, which I can describe as page after page of “yes!” for anyone who has been a part of the struggle over the past year. This book is so accurate it’s scary. It’s almost spooky. It makes me wonder if John Nichols has devised a way to personalize the narrative for every person who participated in the uprising.

I’m one of those people, so it would be silly of me to “review” this book in the traditional sense. I’m still in the middle of all the craziness that is FitzWalkerstan. It’s still raw. I can’t even watch videos of the rallies from last February without crying. So, instead of trying to pretend that I could objectively evaluate this book for some unidentified reader who has never heard of Wisconsin or its uprising, let me list the reasons why I cannot review this book.

First, I admit I’m addicted to John Nichols. I’ve lost count of how many times over the past year I’ve nodded my head when I heard John Nichols explain why things were happening in Wisconsin. I have listened to him almost every morning on WTDY radio for the past year, and almost as often I have watched him on The Ed Show on MSNBC at night. I even subscribed to The Nation. Man, those puzzles on the back page are really hard.

I knew I’d have an even harder time trying to write a review of this book after I read page 1. Nichols begins the book with a quote from Walt Whitman, then an excerpt from a letter written by an Egyptian activist, then this:

I THOUGHT CAIRO WOULD BE WARMER —- protest sign, Madison, Wisconsin, February 2011

The exact date that sign was written and first seen on the capitol square was February 17th. It was a reference to Republican Congressman Paul Ryan’s accurate but sarcastically delivered comment that Madison was beginning to look more like Cairo. How do I know all this? Because it was my sign. I saved it, and I just pulled it out of the stack of protest signs in my garage. Here’s a picture:

P2190163

And here’s a portion of what I wrote on Daily Kos about that day at the protests:

I watched the ticker on the local news this morning and was delighted to see that my children’s school was closed. My son hitched a ride with a friend, protest signs in tow, and met up with some classmates on ground zero – the capitol rotunda.

My daughter and I quickly made some more signs and the two of us joined the pilgrimage to Madison shortly after. Perhaps you saw my sign when I held it up behind a Fox “News” anchor as he interviewed someone. It said “We’re Ba-ack!” on one side and “I Thought Cairo Would Be Warmer” on the other. I swear the cameraman grinned.

Finally, in a chapter about the “Next Media” that helped organize events and then covered them in a way that traditional media wouldn’t, Nichols says Wisconsin-based blogs recognized what many mainstream media outlets did not – specifically that the protesters were not just union members, but a diverse group of Wisconsinites who recognized the value of organized labor and collective bargaining for everyone.

Then he mentions Blue Cheddar as an example of one of those blogs.

I’m afraid to look at the notes in the back for fear he’ll have my dog listed as a source.

The man is so accurate on the names, times, quotes, and events that you just can’t argue with him when he says James Madison would be proud of the Wisconsin protesters. Of course he’d be proud. You think James Madison is going to doubt John Nichols?

You want a review? This is the other bomb. There’s your review.

I believe, Mr. Nichols. I believe in the ghost of Fighting Bob. I believe in democracy. I believe in Wisconsin. But how did you know which copy of your book I would pick off the shelf?

Wisconsin Recall: Shooting the Moon

In his desperation to stay in office, Governor Scott Walker is throwing huge sums of bad money after more bad money. In fact, the only thing he has going for him is moola, most of it from out of state. Well, that, and a “quirk in state law” that enables a politician being targeted with recall to raise unlimited funds while the signatures are being collected and counted.

Walker raised more than $1 million per week from mid-December to mid-January. According to Mike McCabe, director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, “The governor has raised more than any candidate for any state office in Wisconsin history.” And he can continue to raise unlimited funds for another couple of months while the recall signatures are being counted.

Not having any quirks in their favor, Walker’s opponents are just not going to be able to compete with him in the fundraising department. But there’s a crucial arena in which Walker can’t hope to compete with his opponents: people. One million signatures that can be translated to 1 million votes against Scott Walker. Ed Garvey, creator of the Fighting Bob Fest, crows that “that would be like a football team starting on the 30 yard line of the opponent.”

Even more important than those 1 million signers are the 30,000 Wisconsinites who worked tirelessly for two months to collect a total of 1.9 million signatures, including more than enough signatures to recall Walker, Lt. Gov. Kleefisch, and four state senators. It’s highly unlikely that those 30,000 will retreat to their living room couches for the remainder of the recall fight.

But there’s still the very real concern of how to answer the deluge of big money pouring into Walker’s campaign. Ruth Conniff at the Progressive describes Ed Garvey’s wild idea of how to address that concern:

Instead of trying to compete and raise tens of millions of dollars, whichever candidate emerges to take on Walker should try to “shoot the moon,” Garvey says. That means rejecting money from PACs, super PACs, corporations, unions, and, especially, out of state donors.

Instead of turning over the energized, grassroots recall effort to the professionals to wage a TV ad war costing millions of dollars, Garvey wants to see a recall election that looks a lot like the campaign to gather the signatures to recall the governor in the first place.

This idea … will draw a lot of skepticism, to say the least. After all, what kind of a winning strategy calls for unilateral disarmament? Letting Walker rule the airwaves might be the dumbest thing a candidate could do. Political suicide.

Or, it just might be a stroke of brilliance.

Ed Garvey
Ed Garvey at the 2011 Fighting Bob Fest

I submit that Garvey’s idea would be a really gutsy stroke of brilliance.

Contrary to what Xoff at Uppity Wisconsin suggests, the idea is not that Walker’s opponents shouldn’t raise any money at all. It’s that they should be very particular about where the money they accept comes from. And Garvey does not suggest that Walker’s opponents should be passive, as Xoff decries. Far from it! In fact, to be successful, a squeaky-clean people-powered campaign would require more hard work from candidates and volunteers alike than the usual money-driven negative-ad extravaganza.

Xoff cites the recent Florida GOP primary as evidence of the efficacy of negative television ads. But that election is a very different kettle of fish than the Wisconsin recall. That election presented a choice between candidates that voters show a distinct lack of enthusiasm for. It’s not as if any of the GOP contestants are drumming up much in the way of people power.

In other words, the Florida GOP primary is a quintessential case of politics as usual, whereas the Wisconsin recall is anything but. In Wisconsin we have more grassroots momentum than the United States has seen since the civil rights movement. It’s worth remembering that since the Wisconsin uprising started nearly a year ago, we have also seen the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement all across the country and indeed around the world. The sleeping giant has awoken. We the people are fired up.

We’re incensed about big money calling all the shots in our government. We’re fed up with cronyism and backroom pay-to-play dealing. We’re infuriated by elected “representatives” who listen only to money and never to constituents. We’re sick of having to vote for a “lesser of evils.”

This is a singular moment in which the people are as engaged as they’re ever likely to be. And that means we have the opportunity to do more than just kick Walker out. This is nothing less than our chance to directly address the corruption of big-money-driven “legalized bribery” that is our current political system.

If not now, when? If not us, who?

As Garvey argues, “The real question in the recall is not which heavily financed politician will run enough ads to win. It’s whether our democracy has finally completely collapsed. This battle in Wisconsin is, finally, a battle over who will rule—millionaires and billionaires who want to buy our state government for their own nefarious purposes, or the people of the state.”

Roll up your sleeves, Wisconsin. This is our moment to shoot the moon.

Cart Ahead of Horse in Wisconsin Recall Poll

Did you see this headline in the Washington Post last week?

Scott Walker Leads in Wisconsin Recall Poll

I bet I wasn’t the only one who felt slightly sick upon reading that. The article mentions in passing that “the Democratic race has yet to really heat up.” Ya think? The signatures are still being counted! There isn’t an actual race yet, but this poll pits the one known candidate, our illustrious guv, against who? Hypothetical candidates. An actual candidate against four hypotheticals:

  1. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a “likely” candidate
  2. Former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, the only declared Democratic candidate
  3. Former Rep. David Obey, who has said that he doesn’t “really want to run”
  4. State Sen. Tim Cullen, who in the infamous telephone conversation with Pseudo-Koch (Ian Murphy) was described by Walker as “the only reasonable one” among the Democrats in the state legislature. Not much of a recommendation if you ask me.

Only one of the four have declared that they intend to run. If they have started putting together an organization and fund-raising, they’ve only just barely begun. Whereas Scooter, because of a “quirk in the state election law” that allows donors to contribute unlimited funds to a recall target, has been able to raise $4.5 million dollars in just five weeks. And, owing to the same “quirk,” Scooter has to spend that money in a big ol’ hurry. “In the same five weeks, the governor spent $4.9 million, a large chunk of it on TV and radio ads and direct mail solicitations. The unlimited funds must be spent before the recall is official.”

So it’s not just one actual candidate against four hypotheticals. It’s one stinkin’ rich actual candidate against four hypotheticals. To his credit, Charles Franklin, the director of the poll, did admit that “the old line ‘you don’t beat somebody with nobody’ is true.” But hey, why not go ahead and poll anyway? Just for jollies. Nobody’s going to really take this thing seriously, are they?

The early-to-the-party poll involved a whopping 701 registered Wisconsin voters. Jud Lounsbury at Uppity Wisconsin rightly pointed out that the poll is “grossly misweighted.” But far worse than that is the timing. There’s nobody—nobody—actually running against the stinkin’ rich ad-happy Scooter. A better headline for the Washington Post would have been

Cart Ahead of Horse in Utterly Meaningless Wisconsin Recall Poll

I figure the only polls Scooter and his handful of uber-rich supporters are going to feel good about for the foreseeable future are the ones like this one: completely make-believe. They’re clinging to this fiction to avoid having to think about the stark reality of this number: 1,000,000. One million signatures to recall Scott Walker. That represents a total of 46 percent of the turnout in the 2010 race for governor and is very nearly the number of votes Walker got in that election.

Croquet Walker

Here’s another meaningful number: 30,000—as in that awesome “army of more than 30,000 Wisconsin born-and-bred recall volunteers” that United Wisconsin is so rightly proud of, as are we all. The army of 30,000 isn’t done yet. Whoever Walker’s challenger is will have that same highly motivated army ready to roll up their sleeves and put the “movement” into “grassroots.” I keep telling you—we’re only just getting going. Trust me on this. The really good stuff is yet to come.