Supreme Court Denies Van Hollen petition on Voter ID

In considering Wisconsin State Attorney General JB Van Hollen’s November 7, 2012 petition to bypass the Court of Appeals and consolidate the two Voter ID cases (League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Network, Inc, et al. v. Scott Walker, et al.,and Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP, et al. v. Scott Walker, et al.), the state’s high court denied the petition on both counts.

In the decision published this afternoon, the Court again refused to take up Voter ID, pending the Court of Appeals hearing, and also refused to consolidate the two cases.

This represents the second refusal of the State Supreme Court to take up Voter ID ahead of the Court of Appeals. On September 27, 2012, the Court denied another similar Van Hollen request, citing the motion as being “premature.”

Van Hollen has made enactment of Voter ID a centerpiece of his term as Attorney General, in spite of the staggeringly low occurrence of voter fraud in previous elections.

Why is Paul Ryan still considered a “serious” person…when he suffers from DCFS?

After a brief hiatus, Badger Democracy is back. We’ll get to Paul Ryan and deficit hawks in a moment, but first, some announcements.

Thanks to all followers of Badger Democracy for your comments and participation in 2012. 2013 will be a critical policy year in Wisconsin, so continue to stay informed and engaged in the democratic process. To that end, Badger Democracy will focus on media coverage of political events in Wisconsin, and look to fill the void, offering media criticism when and where appropriate.

Next, Congratulations and welcome back to Sly! There will again be a little balance on political talk radio in the state. Sly is taking over afternoon drive time with a three state on-air reach (Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa), and worldwide on the web. Starting February 4th, Sly will be heard from 3 – 6:30pm, Monday – Friday on 93.7 WEKZ-FM. Updates and archived segments will be available on the revamped “Sly’s Office.” Watch out Rahm and Pat Quinn, Sly can now be heard in Illinois…

Now, for Mr. Ryan. Congressman Ryan rejoined the ranks of “serious people” on Sunday, joining Greg Neumann on Capitol City Sunday. The Congressman from the 1st District of Wisconsin continued his litany of deficit reduction being of greatest importance to the fiscal health of the nation. Unfortunately for Mr. Ryan, he is suffering from DCFS – Deficit Crisis Fear Syndrome.

The President got his tax increase.  That pays for about five percent of the deficit, (and) spending is the ultimate part of the problem here that we have to deal with.  The President has been trying to hide, or stay away from a conversation about spending.  We gotta deal with spending.

I want to do this in a responsible way, but I do not want to let an opportunity slip by to get a control on spending, which we so desperately need if we’re going to prevent a debt crisis.

Classic DCFS (Deficit Crisis Fear Syndrome). If using serious language is the new standard for being taken seriously, our nation is in serious trouble. The media in Wisconsin needs to read the memo from real economists, and see through the talking points. The deficit is not our biggest problem. Chronic, long term unemployment is our biggest problem. What the new breed of conservatives refuse to acknowledge is that by creating real, family-supporting jobs and an increase in revenue, our deficit problem will be solved.

Brad DeLong illustrates the point rather nicely today.

…policies to reduce the deficit in the short run–before 2016, say–are highly, highly likely to actually increase the long-run burden of the national debt. Even making the unlikely assumption that deficit reduction in the near future would reduce rather than increase the long-run burden of the debt, the fact is that the debt-to-GDP (Gross Domestic Product) ratio is now stable until at least 2020. A lower debt-to-GDP ratio would be a good thing in the long run, but there is absolutely no urgency. And there is enormous urgency in getting the economy moving again. (emphasis added)

“Moving again…”- as in investment to create those illusive, family-supporting jobs that pay more than $15/hour. The truth about the deficit is, that with the current growth of the economy (as slow as it is) and recent revenue measures, the debt-to-GDP ratio is already beginning to stabilize. Paul Krugman posted the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities graph last Thursday:

Image

 

The vertical line represents the projected debt as a percentage of GDP. Each colored line projection represents a different scenario affecting the deficit. Krugman breaks down the analysis:

The blue line at the top represents the projected path of that ratio as of early 2011 — that is, before recent agreements on spending cuts and tax increases. This projection showed a rising path for debt as far as the eye could see.

Conservatives are framing the discussion as if that dark blue line represents the current fiscal reality, because it re-enforces DCFS (Deficit Crisis Fear Syndrome)…but that is not the truth of the situation. Krugman continues:

The orange line shows the effects of those spending cuts and tax hikes (Budget Control Act 2011, American Taxpayer Relief Act 2013): As long as the economy recovers, which is an assumption built into all these projections, the debt ratio will more or less stabilize soon.

“The debt ratio will stabilize soon.” The CBPP advocates for an additional $1.4 trillion in combined revenue and spending cuts, represented by the red line. As a frame of reference, in 2010, debt-to-GDP exceeded 100% and has been on the decline – dropping to about 72% in 2012:

Based on the factual data, not Paul Ryan’s DCFS talking points, the deficit situation, even without any additional revenue or cuts, is stabilizing. It has been stabilizing since early 2011, a fact that is consistently ignored as the media continues allowing Ryan and company to get away with promoting their DCFS talking points.

The runaway debt crisis talking point is something that should be relegated to the 2012 election dustbin. The focus should really be jobs that get the economy moving again, and investment to make that a reality.

With all due respect to Greg Neumann, who is one of the best political reporters in the state, I would suggest referencing the final point from Krugman for his next interview with a conservative who attempts propagating Deficit Crisis Fear Syndrome (DCFS):

  …at this point reasonable projections do not, repeat do not, show anything resembling the runaway deficit crisis that is a staple of almost everything you hear, including supposedly objective news reporting.

Fear never solved anything. Paul Ryan and company need help getting over DCFS-Deficit Crisis Fear Syndrome, so we can get down to something REALLY serious – solving our long-term unemployment problem.

 

 

Help keep independent journalism alive!

 

 

The Teacher Evaluation plan in Chicago is a BIG problem…CPS, Rahm were told in March

A letter dated March 26, 2012 to CPS and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel from Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education (CREATE) was signed by 88 Educational Researchers from the Chicago area – and was highly critical of the districts teacher evaluation proposal. The letter outlined specific concerns based on years of research, and concluded with specific recommendations for developing teacher evaluations. The pdf file linked has complete reference and source links.

Highlights from the letter:

The new evaluation system for teachers and principals centers on misconceptions about student
growth, with potentially negative impact on the education of Chicago’s children. We believe it
is our ethical obligation to raise awareness about how the proposed changes not only lack a
sound research basis, but in some instances, have already proven to be harmful. In this letter, we describe our concerns and relevant research as we make two recommendations for moving forward:

1. Pilot and adjust the evaluation system before implementing it on a large scale.
2. Minimize the percentage that student growth counts in teacher or principal
evaluation.
We also urge consulting on the above steps with the professors and researchers among us who
bring both scholarly and practical expertise on these issues.

Concern #1: CPS is not ready to implement a teacher-evaluation system that is based on significant use of “student growth.”

If CPS insists on implementing a teacher-evaluation system that incorporates student growth in
September 2012, we can expect to see a widely flawed system that overwhelms principals and
teachers and causes students to suffer.

Concern #2: Educational research and researchers strongly caution against teacher evaluation approaches that use Value-Added Models (VAMs).

Value-added models (VAMs) of teacher effectiveness do not produce stable ratings of teachers. For example, different statistical models (all based on reasonable assumptions) can yield different effectiveness scores. Researchers have found that how a teacher is rated changes from class to class, from year to year, and even from test to test.

There is no evidence that evaluation systems that incorporate student test scores produce gains in student achievement. In order to determine if there is a relationship, researchers recommend small-scale pilot testing of such systems.

Assessments designed to evaluate student learning are not necessarily valid for measuring teacher effectiveness or student learning growth. Using them to measure the latter is akin to using a meter stick to weigh a person.

Concern #3: Students will be adversely affected by the implementation of this new teacher evaluation system.

When a teacher’s livelihood is directly impacted by his or her students’ scores on an end-of-year
examination, test scores take front and center. The nurturing relationship between teacher and
student changes for the worse.

Recommendations:
1. Pilot and adjust the evaluation system before implementing it on a large scale. Any annual evaluation system should be piloted and adjusted as necessary based on field feedback before being put in place citywide. In other words, Chicago should pilot models and then use measures of student learning to evaluate the model. Delaware spent years piloting and fine-tuning their system before putting it in place formally statewide. Conversely, Tennessee’s teacher-evaluation system made headlines when its hurried implementation led to unintended negative consequences. 

2. Minimize the percentage that student growth counts in teacher or principal
evaluation. Until student-growth measures are found to be valid and reliable sources of information on teacher or principal performance, they should not play a major role in summative ratings. Teacher-practice instruments, such as the Charlotte Danielson Framework, focus on what a teacher does and how practice can be strengthened. Students benefit when objective feedback is part of their teachers’ experience. Similar principal frameworks serve the same purpose.

The conclusion of the letter is not only a warning, but predicted the current strike issues and potential problems resulting from test-based teacher evaluations:

We, Chicago-area university professors and researchers who specialize in educational research, conclude that hurried implementation of teacher evaluation using student growth will result in inaccurate assessments of our teachers, a demoralized profession, and decreased learning among and harm to the children in our care.

It is wasteful of increasingly limited resources to implement systemwide a program that has not yet been field-tested. Our students are more than the sum of their test scores, and an overemphasis on test scores will not result in increased learning, increased well-being, and greater success. According to a nine-year study by the National Research Council, the past decade’s emphasis on testing has yielded little learning progress, especially considering the cost to our taxpayers.

Badger Democracy contacted Professor Kevin Kumashiro at the University of Illinois-Chicago this afternoon. CREATE never received a response or comment from CPS officials, Board Members, or the Mayor’s Office – since March 2012.

Clearly, this is not about what is best for children, or teachers. These scholars have no vested interest beyond school success. They were ignored. That speaks volumes about responsible governance.

Help keep independent journalism alive!


			

Rahm Emanuel, TIFs, Exelon, CPS and greed…it’s kids and community that suffers

The Chicago Teacher’s Union strike is in its second full day, and there is little sign the two sides are any closer to an agreement. Rahm Emanuel made more public appearances in the last 48 hours than he has in his entire first year in office. Emanuel was always seen with children the past two days, talking about how CPS and his office just wants “what is best” for the children.

Both sides claim they want what’s best for the kids. Emanuel elevated the rhetoric by calling the strike a “choice” of the union, saying it is unnecessary. What is going unreported by Chicago media is that the mayor is correct – this is a strike of choice. The choice, however, was not one made by CTU, teachers, or parents. It was made at the highest levels of corporate power that now dominate the city of Chicago. Teachers, students, taxpayers, and parents are just pawns.

The CPS School Board is appointed by the mayor, not elected by taxpayers and parents. In 2011, newly elected mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed seven people – only one with a public education background (Dr. Mahalia Hines). The board President (David Vitale) is in high finance, former President of the Chicago Board of Trade. The Vice President (Jesse Ruiz) is a corporate attorney who is an Exelon Board Member (this is important). There is another corporate attorney (Andrea Zopp), also an Exelon Board Member (again, important). The balance of the board is an economist/political scientist (Henry Bienen), real estate developer/multi-millionaire Penny Pritzker, and journalist/communications consultant Rodrigo Sierra.

The corporate dominant politics of Chicago have made it TIF (Tax Increment Financing project) central. Under Illinois state law, TIFs may only be used to prevent or remediate urban blight; or foster industrial development.  In Chicago, TIFs have become an addiction for developers and politicians looking to line their pocketbooks and garner influence. In the past decade, TIF districts have nearly doubled, from 87 in 2000 to 162 in 2010.

In Illinois, a TIF district is authorized for a period of up to twenty‐three years, with the possibility of renewal for an additional twelve. At the time of designation of a TIF district, the current Equalized Assessed Value (EAV) of all property is measured by the Cook County Assessor’s Office and
established as a baseline, which is often referred to as the “frozen” EAV.

During a TIF district’s duration, no tax revenue created from increases in property values are allocated to overlapping taxing  bodies such as Cook County, Chicago Public Schools, or the Chicago Park District. These jurisdictions are able to continue to collect taxes on the base level of EAV within TIF districts during its 23‐ year lifespan. Briefly stated – TIFs take money out of the CPS revenue stream; including loss of inflationary property value.

An academic study presented by Dr. Bruno Quesada, University of Illinois, in December 2011 quantified the CPS revenue applied to TIF districts from 1995-2010.  The fifteen year total reported in the study was over $2.2 Billion. The 2010 figure topped $260 Million. Huge numbers in a revenue challenged economy and district – CPS is facing a $700 Million+ deficit in the current budget. The study concludes that the TIF allocation presents a tremendous burden; allocated in a non-transparent process, on CPS. The study has been completely ignored by CPS and the mayor’s office.

A recent report from the Cook County Treasurer in August 2012 disclosed that $867 Million in TIF funds remained available, but unallocated for the current year. A public schools advocacy group petitioned Emanuel to use these funds to help plug the budget hole. Emanuel refused – at the same time he was pushing for a 90 minute longer school day without compensation to teachers under contract.

CPS Board Member Penny Pritzker (also a Hyatt Hotels Board  member) has drawn fire for a $5.2 Million TIF project to build a Hyatt Hotel in Hyde Park. The same area of the city was subjected to $3.3 million in school budget cuts, and 27 full-time positions cut.While the project development company received the TIF money, Hyatt will profit from franchise fees and profit share in the new hotel development.

The corporate influence on CPS is direct, and is placing private charter school development over real public school reform and improvement. To succeed, they must break the union. Leading the charge behind Emanuel are privatizing charter advocates on the CPS Board.

In the year 2000, Rahm Emanuel was an investment banker who played a key role in the formation of Exelon, along with David Axelrod. Recall, from above, that two current CPS Board Members have direct ties to Exelon as corporate attorneys and board members – Jesse Ruiz and Andrea Zopp.

The newly retired Chairman and CEO of Exelon is John Rowe. Rowe was a chief founder of the Renaissance Schools Fund (RSF) for the establishment of private charter schools in Chicago, along with Arne Duncan and Richard M. Daley. The top donors to the fund are privatization champions, and have direct connections with current CPS School Board Members:

Exelon Corporation and Exelon Foundation , Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Rowe Family Charitable Trust, The Searle Funds, The Chicago Community Trust, The Walton Family Foundation, Inc., Pritzker Foundation, Bain & Company (yes, that Bain).

RSF boasts of its accomplishments on its website:

RSF has been the catalyst for the charter school movement in Chicago, raising over $50 million to open 70 new schools which will serve over 40,000 students at capacity.  We established the due diligence process and infrastructure for the selection, evaluation, and authorization of quality new schools.

In 2011, Rowe used funding from Renaissance Fund to launch “New Schools for Chicago” – and serves as its Chair. The New Schools fund has revised its mission, and it would appear that the CPS Board is complicit in its plan to dismantle and render obsolete public schools, public school teachers, and the union that represents them:

We will ramp up the growth of the best national and local charter schools, invest in next-generation school models, and drive innovation and accountability so only schools that deliver results serve children.  Our programs also engage parents and communities to demand and obtain the best education for their children. (emphasis mine)

The CPS push for teacher evaluation directly linked to test scores makes sense, in the above context. The corporate model, private charter school advocacy is being led by the CPS Board – the group charged with improving public schools in Chicago, for all students, not the select few served by select private charters with a narrow educational mission.

That is why the strike matters. It is about access, fairness, accountability for EVERY student – be it Chicago or Madison, or anywhere else there are grave inequities in the educational system. The crony educational system in Chicago is rotten from the mayor’s office, to the Board of Education, to the privateers.

At this moment, it is only the teachers walking the picket line and their supporters who stand in their way.

Help keep independent journalism alive!

Judge Niess issues permanent injunction on Voter ID

In Dane County Court today, Judge Richard Niess has issued a permanent injunction against Act 23, the “Voter ID” Act, saying the requirement for voters to obtain a voter ID represents an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote. The suit was brought by the League of Women Voters in October of 2011.

Unique to the Wisconsin Constitution is the guarantee that the legislature may not create any law which impedes the inherent right to vote for Wisconsin Citizens.

More on the decision as it is made available later today.

UPDATE: Vos and Darling convene Mining Bill hearing without amendment draft ready for committee

At this hour, the Joint Finance Committee chaired by Robin Vos and Alberta Darling are holding a hearing on the GOP leadership’s proposed amendments to the Mining Bill. To their own admission, the two lawmakers convened the hearing (being seen on wiseye) without having the drafts of their amendments ready for the committee to view.

Legislative Fiscal Bureau staff admitted that at the noon hour, they had not yet even completed typing the amendments. The Fiscal Bureau staff has also met this morning to brief Republican legislators, but had not briefed Democratic legislators at the time of this writing. Vos and Darling have currently refused to allow for a two hour adjournment as this is written.

Vos and Darling are insisting on discussing the amendments at the moment they are presented. Senator Bob Jauch has pointed out that GOP legislators have already been briefed on the amendments while Democratic legislators have not even seen the amendments.

The amendments and the subsequent bill have been negotiated all weekend, with pressure even being exerted on Milwaukee Democratic State Senators by manufacturing interests to support the Vos/Darling amendments to be presented today.

Federal Court to GOP – “Checkmate”

The Federal Court this morning called the GOP bluff in the Wisconsin Redistricting case, ruling that legislators could return to redraw highly controversial and partisan maps at the court’s request. We will know within hours if Republican Legislators will heed the court’s advice, and return to the “drawing board” to create less partisan maps.

As of this writing, GOP lawmakers have yet to contact any Democratic Leadership to consult on a potential new redistricting process. Expect the GOP and their attorneys to proceed with the trial on Thursday morning, relying on “adherence” to the Voting Rights Act as defense of the new maps.

For reference, see the February 21 Badger Democracy Blog for more detailed redistricting information.

From Rural Wisconsin – What it meant for one United Wisconsin County Coordinator to “Carry a Box”

Sheila Danielson (County co-coordinator) shared this story with the Jackson County recall celebration last Thursday night in Black River Falls. Nearly one hundred volunteers, State Senator Kathleen Vinehout, and staff from Congressman Ron Kind’s office were in attendance to thank each other for their efforts in gathering 3,000 signatures to recall Scott Walker countywide. The goal  for Jackson County was about 1,700 signatures to recall Walker based on 25% of the vote in the Gubernatorial election. The volunteer effort collected  25% of the total eligible voters signatures in the county; a representation in Rural Wisconsin that this is a statewide effort, even in truly “purple” regions of Wisconsin. I was particularly moved to hear this, and other personal stories as to how Scott Walker’s policies have negatively affected neighbors and friends.

Please share this moving tribute to those who “carried a box”, gathered signatures, and sustain this grassroots movement:

“What It Meant for me to carry a Box 

Oh my, what it meant to carry a box?  You would think the words and feelings would come easy.  Right?  Happy?  Yes.  Excited?  Yes?   Proud?  Yes!  I was elated when I heard we had 1,000,000 + Signatures.  And yes, I was making history.  But still those words didn’t cover what I was feeling? 

Aah, then I realized what I felt.  Responsibility!  People trusted me with their future. Here I am carrying a box filled with signatures representing people’s dreams, their despair over how their lives have changed because of job loss and loss of job benefits, their loss of health insurance, their loss of long-time friendships, their loss of family relationships, loss of security, loss of their homes.

And their fear.  And on top of that, Wisconsin and the world were watching me!!  No wonder the box was so heavy!! 

And then came anger because we shouldn’t have to be having a recall.  Wisconsin’s constitution, Article 1, under the Declaration or Rights  tells us that we have certain inherent rights, and among those is/are? life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.   For me, the word that stands out in Article I is liberty, which means freedom from a government or political system in which the ruler exercises absolute power; liberty means the power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, according to choice, and these liberties are being taken away from us.  

Then I realized those signatures represent much more than that.  They represent hope, happiness, security, liberty, and most importantly – power.  We are no longer powerless!!   We are taking our power back!!!  1,000,000 + Wisconsinites are no longer powerless!!  We have started the process of taking our power back. 

Now my box wasn’t so heavy anymore!!!!”

 

Solidarity – and Forward!

 

 

The New Progressive Movement in Wisconsin – Where We Go From Here

A little over one week ago, volunteers from all over the state gathered in Madison and turned in over one million signatures to recall Governor Scott Walker. A little less than a year ago, that same Governor dropped the bomb known as the “Budget Repair Bill” on the people of Wisconsin, triggering a movement that can only be characterized as a true grassroots resurgence of Progressivism in Wisconsin. When mass protests and grassroots activism take place because of the actions of a power hungry governor or Party, people don’t think in terms of “isms” – they think in terms of what is right for the state and its people. For decades, prior to Scott Walker and the new Corporate “Robber Barons”, that is what Wisconsin government was all about. That is the government we, as the heart of the grassroots movement, must strive to attain once again.

At the beginning of the Progressive movement in Wisconsin a century ago, Robert LaFollette – “Fighting Bob” – was fighting the same corporate takeover of government we are facing today. The original “Robber Barons” were using state and national government to increase profit, pay lower taxes, seize resources, and consolidate their political staying power through buying legislators and elections. This caused him to abandon the Republican Party, and form a new party of the people – the Progressive Party. In 1911, LaFollette defined the “Wisconsin Idea” of government as ensuring “well-constructed legislation aimed at benefitting the greatest number of people.”  The idea that government could be clean, honest, and accountable to the people was revolutionary during that time, and he characterized the challenge in a 1912 speech, saying:

“Free men of every generation must combat the renewed efforts of organized force and greed to destroy liberty.”

For Democrats and Progressives, this was a call to action that we have since left in the past – until last year. Scott Walker was a wake-up call in Wisconsin for all of us to re-engage the political process, and “combat” the “forces” of “greed” seeking “to destroy liberty.” The first shot in that battle was the mass protests that took place from February through the summer. The right of protest has been questioned and quelled by the GOP powers throughout this process, with varying rules and laws being floated to subvert the First Amendment Right of citizens to” petition their government for redress of grievances.” This right was recognized by Martin Luther King Jr. in a speech to Montgomery Bus boycotters:

“There is never a time in our American Democracy that we must ever think we are wrong when we protest. We reserve that right. When labor all over this nation came to see that it would be trampled over by capitalistic power, there (is) nothing wrong with labor getting together and protesting for its rights.”

The protests in Wisconsin last year started a wave across the nation, of people waking up to the reality of corporate money and power stealing our Democratic birthright – just as they did one hundred years ago. Those protests were just the beginning.

The second shot to restoring liberty has been the gathering of reportedly 1.9 million signatures to recall not only Scott Walker, but the Lieutenant Governor and 4 Republican State Senators – an overwhelming amount of signatures that has shaken the political landscape in Wisconsin and the nation. Because of all your efforts, along with citizens across the state; the political debate is now focused around central issues of fairness, justice and equality in government and how people are governed. These issues are central to our grassroots movement, and being a progressive. Without needing labels, we, as Wisconsinites, know instinctively what is right, and how the government of the people should function. This inherent and instinctive knowledge must be exercised to bring about change in our political system – both parties. That is where this movement has a responsibility to take the struggle, for future generations.

It has been lost to history, as those who now control the politic rewrite our history books, that our founding fathers were keenly aware of the role of government in this experimental Democracy. Striving to create a Republic where “all men are created equal”, and all have the inherent right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” this government was to be different than the monarchies of Europe.

In a letter to Robert Morris in 1783, Benjamin Franklin wrote of economic justice and fairness:

“All the property that is necessary to a man, for the conservation and the propagation of the species, is his natural right, which none can justly deprive him of: But all property superfluous to such purposes is the Property of the Public, who, by their laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other laws dispose of it, whenever the welfare of the public shall demand such disposition. He that does not like civil society on these terms, let him live among the savages – he can have no right to the benefits of society.”

It is striking how relevant that is today – as the wealth and income gap grows to greater extremes not seen since pre-Great Depression, multinational Corporations pay less in taxes as a percentage of net profit since the 1950’s, and these same corporations have a strangle hold on our Democratic and Judicial process. That is why what is happening now in Wisconsin is as critical as any political event in the history of our state. The people are again rising up – and through grassroots action, will take back what has been lost and restore our “Wisconsin Idea” of government.

The recall elections, and subsequent elections will require all of us to choose the candidates that will represent us. The success of our movement rests on the electoral process, and the leaders we choose. With that in mind, here are what I believe are the three keys to our future success.

First and foremost, we must do everything in our power to ensure citizens eligible to vote are registered and have the proper ID to exercise their Constitutional Right on Election Day. We must hold our elected officials and the Government Accountability Board “accountable” to facilitating this process, and hold “get out the vote” drives and educational programs to talk to our fellow citizens about the importance of voting. Until this “Mississippi-style” voter ID law is repealed, we have a lot of work to do – but the resources are there, and this is the keystone of Democracy – the vote.

Secondly, we must assure that votes are counted fairly, legally, and accurately. The current scanning and electronic voting machines have been suspect in recent elections, and many do not leave a paper trail to check against during an audit (as in Waukesha County during the State Supreme Court race). There is a movement that we must support in our local elections, and push statewide – and that is for hand counted, paper ballots. In most scenarios, this method actually saves the taxpayers money, is more accurate, and can easily be audited in case of a recount or error. It is also the only way to ensure that election fraud is not taking place systemically – as local and state officials have no way of controlling or auditing programs set by the manufacturer. A manufacturer that has close ties to Conservative Republican interests.

Finally, we must elect the candidates that will represent us, the people of Wisconsin – not corporate special interests or high-powered financial contributors looking to turn state resources into profit. With that in mind, here is the beginnings of a “People’s Platform” – while it is not perfect, it is a starting point which we can build on for the future: 

  1. The people have a right to organize unions for the purpose of negotiating for pay and benefits, and for the redress of grievances against an employer. We base this right on the United Nations establishment of the International Labor Organization in 1919 as part of the Treaty of Versailles, and which the US adopted in 1934. This treaty recognizes the right to organize as a “basic human right in a civilized society.” In his State of the Union Address just prior to the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln said, “It must be understood, Labor is prior to and independent to capital. Capital is only the fruit of Labor, and could NEVER have existed if Labor had not first existed. LABOR IS THE SUPERIOR OF CAPITAL, and deserves much the higher consideration.”
  2. Ensure the solvency and public accountability of Social Security and state pensions, so that citizens may retire after dedicating their lives to supporting our society.
  3. Commit to a not-for-profit, single payer health care system recognizing that to achieve “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” one must have full access to quality health care, regardless of socio-economic status.
  4. Commit to the highest quality available Public Education system supported by and accountable to the community for the good of our Democracy, and the welfare and success of future generations.
  5. Public Works/Public Housing – Commit to creating programs that will not only work with existing trade and technical colleges to train new workers, but create an infrastructure recovery plan that will put these people to work, for the benefit of the community and state at large – thus creating a new influx of middle class, not diminishing it.
  6. Lobby for and support a continued progressive tax structure to assure those who are able to pay do, in support of our better society (see Franklin, above); and those who are the working poor continue to have access to the earned income credit for their relief.
  7. Any corporation desiring to tap the human, environmental, or financial resources of the state for their private profit must have accountability to the taxpayers, be subject to public audit and disclosure, and share those profits with the people of the state – without whom they would not have achieved said profits.
  8. Clear and concise regulation of financial institutions, with full legislative fiscal accountability.
  9. Increased and enforced protection of civil liberties and environmental regulations under state and federal law.
  10. An end to all offensive wars not formally declared or authorized by Congress and an end to US Imperialism around the world, focusing on diplomatic relationships and building security at home. Any entry into war should be in defense of an imminent threat to the United States and its citizens.
  11. Citizens United must be repealed or a Constitutional amendment approved to take unlimited corporate money out of politics, corporations are not people, and money is not speech.
  12. Trade policies must be repealed and rewritten to PROTECT the American worker and middle class – not decimate it and give incentives to multinational corporations to move overseas for cheap labor, only to line their own pockets.

These issues are at the forefront of this movement, and it is time for all of us to carry the message forward. For too long, as Democrats and Progressives we have run away from these ideas – they are now critical to the future of Wisconsin and the nation.

A clean, honest government that works for the betterment of a majority of the people – not the 1%. These are the ideas and initiatives that must move us forward…or we are doomed to repeat the mistake of being disengaged, and allowing the Scott Walkers and Fitzgerald brothers of the world to give away this wonderful, progressive state we love. This grassroots movement is our hope for the future, and we will not fail if we stand together.