Opinion Archives for 2018-12

Sheriff-elect shows class and confidence

Door County may have just elected one of the most self-confident and self-assured sheriffs in Wisconsin history.

Tammy Sternard won a race as a Democratic for Door County Sheriff. She has kept in place her opponent, Chief Deputy Pat McCarty, who ran against her for sheriff as a Republican. That keeps McCarty in the number two position in the department and in a perfect place to mount a campaign for sheriff in the future.

Far too many in politics today view their opponent as an enemy. Apparently, Tammy Sternard has enough self-confidence to rise above traditional politics.

By keeping Chief Deputy McCarty in his position Sternard shows class and confidence. She sends a strong message that she is above the expected partisan politics of retribution that is far too pervasive today.

Sternard replaces another sheriff who demonstrated the same non-partisanship that should be part of the office. Steve Delarwelle served Door County as an effective, quiet and confident leader. Delarwelle never sought publicity. He was a professional law enforcement officer and never a typical politician. And he was smart enough to win a competitive race for sheriff.

These two people, both of whom Door County should be proud, are examples of why being a sheriff should not be a partisan office. Administering a law enforcement agency has nothing to do with being Republican or Democrat. Today, it has more to do with how to reduce recidivism, be smart rather than tough on crime and how to work in a community to prevent rather than punish criminal activity.

Tammy Sternard has a four-year example from Steve Delarwelle that she appears smart enough to follow. She’s off to very good start.

Now, lets get politics out of the courthouse and make positions like sheriff and county clerical positions like clerk, treasurer and register of deeds appointed rather than elected non-partisan positions.

And while that may take some time to accomplish, be confident Door County should be proud of retiring sheriff Delarwelle and his replacement, Tammy Sternard. May retirement bless you, Steve. And Tammy, may you and all with whom you serve be safe and protected.

That’s my opinion. I’d like to hear yours.

When most people make a $360,000 mistake there are consequences.

When most people make a $360,000 mistake there are consequences.
Not, apparently, if you’re the mayor of Sturgeon Bay or a former city administrator or county economic development director.

The Sturgeon Bay city council voted Tuesday to pay developer Robert Papke $360,000 to settle litigation over a failed hotel on the west-side waterfront.
Papke claims he was misled by officials who encouraged him to develop the hotel project but withheld information about the title to the property.

The city settled and taxpayers are footing the bill. Papke has said that those promoting the waterfront development “threw roses at my feet” to get him to invest the more than $500,000 in expenses related to the hotel. Those would include Mayor Thad Birmingham, former city administrator Steve McNeill, and former Door County Economic Director Bill Chaudoir. All three were involved in pushing the project and misleading Papke.

McNeill and Chaudoir have retired and Birmingham’s term as mayor expires in April.

The $360,000 payment to Papke could have patched a lot of potholes. There are better uses for taxpayer dollars than lawsuits and litigation. And if anyone in the private sector made the mistakes that have resulted in this settlement there would be consequences. Not, though, in city government, not even an apology from the people who got Sturgeon Bay into this mess in the first place.

Two are retired and one should be held accountable if he seeks another term as mayor of Sturgeon Bay.

That’s my opinion. I’d like to hear yours.

Letter to the Editor: Kitchens blames his victims

Offering yet another poisoned plateful of rhetorical misdirection and adding victim shaming to their list, Joel Kitchens’ full collusion in undermining the democratic principles of our state government claims in his December 13, E-Update that anyone criticizing GOP lame duck legislation isn’t rational or objective, and has reacted hysterically.  Joel blames the news media for honestly reporting that his straight party line GOP actions were factually treasonous to democracy.  Horrified over news reporting disparaging Republicans, Joel pathetically accused the media of insulting all Wisconsinites.

 

Using psychologically abusive language, further blaming his constituent victims, Joel describes reliable political critics as closed minded illiterates.  Joel refers his readers to Representative Dale Kooyenga, whom Joel claims as measurably smarter than the rest of us by virtue of Dale’s Joint Finance membership and holding CPA credentials, both irrelevant to proof of superior intelligence or justification of unconstitutional legislation. 

 

Claiming the lame duck bills are “pretty technical stuff,” and were a “challenge,” to the GOP majority to “educate the public on,” this GOP chose NOT to allow adequate explanations within the timeframe.  Conversely, they’re openly admitting that they are incapable of informing the public and they just don’t care to try.  And that supposedly defines voters as the functionally illiterate populace?   Blame and belittle the voters.

 

Admitting that this “special,” legislation was GOP partisanship and that he “worked hard,” to “modify…the overly partisan,” portions of it, Kitchens, intuiting GOP efforts would be considered “partisan and mean-spirited,” proudly defends his “extraordinary,” effort to make the legislation “as good as possible.” In other words for us mere workforce dullards, he’s unquestionably spared no lipstick for this pig.

 

Inevitable in the GOP talking points dutifully repeated by Kitchens, and again revealed in the third paragraph is the real reason Joel expanded on his weekly emailed GOP propaganda.  He’s unsure that the “benefits,” of the legislation so highly praised as necessary for our own good and forcefully inflicted upon us, will prove adequate to polish his already dubious political resume’.   

 

Narcissist doubts and worry about how he and his GOP colleagues are “portrayed,” again is clearly all that really matters to them.  How they’ve abused their illegally gerrymandered power, functionally crippled state government for the foreseeable future and pathologically endangered their constituents’ very lives is ultimately secondary in every respect to flattering their egos, maintaining dictatorial power and control. 

 

As uninformed as Joel deems his constituents to be, he admonishes us to trust him, even while he’s attaching unattainable verbal conditions to his “pledge,” to work with the people’s governor “as much as they can.” After willfully subverting any vestigial balance of state power by irreparably dividing government, Joel unwittingly admits they’ve made compromise impossible, then either threatens or promises “that nothing will be accomplished.” 

 

Lawyering up at constituent expense to defend themselves against the very people these elected officials supposedly serve, indisputably highlights the inexcusable traits of perpetrators of domestic violence, the abusive authoritarian criminals that these petty GOP apparatchiks really are.  

Representative Kitchens is lying

By Casey Buhr

 

On November 20th there was a feature on DCDN where Joel Kitchens had indicated the thrust of the extraordinary session would be to maintain the progress they have felt has been made over the last eight years. He noted he would not do anything to deliberately take power away from the governor. It appears he was lying on multiple fronts.

 

https://doorcountydailynews.com/news/411095

 

In the Joint Committee on Finance hearing on Monday John Nygren spoke about how small communities were suffering from discrimination as they didn’t have the resources to offer the same amount of early voting hours as do larger municipalities, e.g. Madison and Milwaukee. He said he had heard from constituents that they felt they were not on equal footing because of this. Instead of working on a solution that could offer opportunities to the smaller communities to enable them to expand their available hours the Republican chose instead is to reduce it for everyone. I believe the sensible thing is to try to offer as much opportunity for as many people to vote as possible. The Republicans believe that a red herring argument is sufficient enough to try to limit the opportunity of those within the perceived “liberal bastions” from being afforded a more reasonable length of time to vote. They aren’t concerned about the fairness of it at all, they are concerned with positioning the system in a manner that benefits them in elections.

 

I don’t see how voting to support reduced early ballots supports Joel’s claims about the intent of the session or what how he intended to act in the session.

 

A prominent campaign promise from Tony Evers and Josh Kaul was to remove the state from being a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act. The Republicans in the legislature determined it should not be in the hands of the Attorney General, directed by the Governor but instead it should go through the Joint Committee on Finance which houses a 12-4 Republican majority.  Essentially the GOP has determined that the voice of the people is meaningless, that our choice, the choice of the majority of voters in this state is irrelevant. The arrogance is galling.

 

Again I don’t see how a vote supporting this type of legislation fits within the parameters of how Joel said he’d react.

 

These couple of issues addressed here just scratch at the surface too, there are many others… wresting control of the WEDC, the State senate confirming 81 appointments, et all. There was so much more done, in a such a short time in darkness. An incoming Governor Walker in 2010 made a request to the Doyle administration about lame duck interference yet doesn’t seem to be bothered by it now.

 

https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/investigations/daniel-bice/2018/12/04/gov-scott-walker-reverses-course-lame-duck-sessions-since-2010/2200571002/

 

I imagine when confronted on his actions, Joel will likely fall back on “we’re protecting the separation of powers” and he might condescend as he and others in his caucus have taken to do lately, by explaining the checks and balances in our country. Perhaps he’ll use the classic “sure there are a lot of things wrong with the bills but the good outweighed the bad.” Joel has portrayed himself as an independent thinker, one who evaluates the merit of the argument through the weight of the evidence however the actions he’s taken in supporting the legislation in the recent extraordinary session suggests that partisanship and power are higher priorities than the will of the people or transparency in the democratic process. They have subverted our will for their own benefits.

 

If securing the legacy of the outgoing governor and protecting the checks and balances of our government were such a priority for Joel and the rest of the elected state Republicans then why wasn’t it attended to in the last 8 years?

 

If the bills that were going to be presented were such powerful tools for good then why all the secrecy surrounding them? Why would they be released at the latest possible hour on a Friday giving limited opportunity to delve into them. Why were they given only one hearing for the public on the following Monday where the main drivers of the legislation, Speaker Vos and Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald where not present to defend the bills? Why were they then brought forth on Tuesday into a session that was delayed into the middle of the night, with negotiations behind closed doors amongst Republicans only to have a revised version come out and vote essentially immediately?

 

Now the Republicans are scrambling trying to blame the media for their coverage, for hyperbole. Speaker of the Assembly Robin Vos lamented that the Republicans didn’t get a fair opportunity to tell the public about the bill and referred to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as an arm of the Democratic party.

 

 

The public didn’t rush this bill. I’m certain if adequate time were given for them to digest what the Republicans were attempting to do there would have been a louder outcry against it but that is precisely why they moved so quickly on it. The same reason they’ve moved so quickly on so much heinous legislation (as noted in the opinion piece from DCDN on Dec 5th, 2018). Even with the outcry I certain that the Republicans were going to do it anyway, regardless of what their constituents or a what a majority of voters in this state wanted.

 

Democrats received 54% of the votes for Assembly amounting to only 36 seats compared to the Republican 46%, 63 seats. Democrats won every statewide contest.

 

https://isthmus.com/news/news/dems-sweep-statewide-offices-in-midterms-but-remain-underrepresented-in-assembly/

 

The will of the people is to change the manner in which this state has been run, to change direction and set the state back on a course that aligns better with its progressive heritage. The Republicans have gerrymandered their majority and used it to curb the powers of their opponents. This isn’t about balancing it’s about grabbing and holding power.

 

https://www.thenation.com/article/the-republican-party-has-become-a-conspiracy-to-seize-power/

Wisconsin lawmakers embrace secrecy, fast-tracking

Your Right to Know/Dee J. Hall

 

This spring, I taught an investigative reporting class at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that investigated the state of Wisconsin’s democracy. We interviewed current and former lawmakers and activists on the left and right, consulted public opinion polls, talked to regular people and tapped experts who study voting, redistricting and money in politics.

 

The conclusion: Many people in Wisconsin feel state government is moving in the wrong direction, away from the citizenry and toward the interests of politicians and their financial backers.

 

One of the trends we identified as part of our Undemocratic: Secrecy and Power vs. The People series for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism was the increased fast-tracking of bills under Gov. Scott Walker. In his first two years, after Republicans took over the governor’s office and both houses of the Legislature, one out of every four bills was introduced and passed in less than two months, according to the analysis by UW-Madison graduate journalism student Teodor Teofilov.

 

Among the fast-tracked bills that session were some of the most consequential in state history. They included redistricting, which is still tied up in a court battle that could set the national benchmark for how far majority parties can go in drawing lines to ensure their own members’ election.

 

More recently, in the 2017-18 session, Teofilov’s analysis found much less fast-tracking. But one of the bills that did pass quickly awarded more than $3 billion in state taxpayer money to Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn — believed to be the biggest state subsidy of a foreign company ever in the United States.

 

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, was especially dismissive of our fast-tracking story, calling the analysis of 20 years of bill passage “politically motivated and superficial.” He insisted that the Legislature under his leadership had “approved bills in an efficient, effective and transparent manner.”

 

A few months after this criticism, Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, orchestrated one of the fastest fast-tracks ever — just over five days (including Saturday and Sunday) from bill introduction to final passage.

 

Hundreds of people jammed Capitol hearing rooms on Dec. 3 as the Republican leaders aimed to hobble the incoming Democratic administrations of Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul.

 

Efficient? Yes. Effective? Perhaps. Transparent? Hardly.

 

The bills — which Fitzgerald had said publicly were little more than legislative “inside baseball” — were instead sweeping efforts to shift power to the Legislature from the executive branch, limit early voting and enact major changes to road spending, agency oversight and public benefits.

 

As GOP lawmakers entered the hearing room Monday, protesters booed and shouted, “You’re changing our democracy!”

 

But Vos and Fitzgerald did not hear those chants. They declined to attend the hearing to discuss their bills. U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Black Earth, likened the process to a “third-world dictatorship.” News of Wisconsin’s lame-duck session maneuvers made national news.

 

On Wednesday, Dec. 5, after the package of bills passed, Evers called the lawmakers “power-hungry” and accused them of overriding the will of voters “while hidden away from the very people they represent.”

 

It would be difficult to craft a more fitting exclamation point to our “Undemocratic” series.

 

Your Right to Know is a monthly column distributed by the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council (wisfoic.org), a group dedicated to open government. Dee J. Hall is the council’s secretary and managing editor of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

Civil Discourse: An Occasional Attempt to Restore Civility to Our Civic Discourse

By Roger Utnehmer

 

Sore losers and lame ducks are about to try to steal a Supreme Court seat, restrict voting in Wisconsin and subvert the will of the people expressed in the elections of Governor-elect Tony Evers and Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul.

 

Republican legislative leaders are attempting to take power away from Evers and Kaul, rig the 2020 Supreme Court race to favor a conservative justice and make it more difficult for Wisconsin citizens to vote. The special legislative session starting Tuesday should be repudiated as the unconstitutional power grab that it is.

 

Legislative leaders have stated publicly that spending $7 million of taxpayer money to move a Supreme Court election to March will benefit their conservative candidate. Combined with their effort to further restrict absentee voting, Republican legislators are shamefully making it more difficult for people to vote. Democracy is better served when more people participate in the process, not less.

 

Restricting the power of a newly-elected governor as Republicans propose reeks of being sore losers. The same kind of power grab in North Carolina was ruled unconstitutional.

 

The special legislative session should be canceled. Legislators need to respect the will of the people who elected Evers and Kaul.


And at the very least they should leave legislating to regular sessions when the process is transparent and deliberative.

 

That’s my opinion. I’d like to hear yours.

GOP legislators should resign immediately

By Donald Freix

 

While Representative Joel Kitchens and state senate elect and current Representative Andre Jacque were posing for pictures over a monetary gift to a worker training project for which they have not been reported as having had anything to do with, we see precisely defined the term, “two empty suits.”

 

Failing to speak to their constituents, as their GOP legislative leadership, Robin Vos and Scott Fitzgerald crafted legislation to attack the separation of state powers and to enshrine such things as voter suppression and tax giveaways to their wealthy election campaign donors, along with depriving the new (unnamed as yet) State Superintendent of Public Instruction of constitutional authority and autonomy, “Mr Education,” Joel Kitchens and Andre Jacque smile for the camera.

 

Joel Kitchens has not yet said a word to the local press about any of this GOP legislative betrayal of the formerly great state of Wisconsin and all her citizens as of his Friday “email update,” wishing us all a great weekend. Wasting taxpayer money on informing us about local events, his job is not tourist ambassador nor gossip columnist. If not rank incompetence or deliberate obstruction to hide current GOP legislative machinations, this amounts to complete and abject failure of his sworn duty and responsibility to his constituents, and that means every voter in this district, bar none.

 

If Kitchens doesn’t release an immediate press release today, stridently condemning all of the lame duck extraordinary session legislation, even for no other reason than on the simplest terms of rushing these bill quickly through to avoid public scrutiny, he is complicit in this blatant abuse of power, and tendering his immediate resignation from the Assembly should be his only alternative choice.

 

Every unconstitutionally gerrymandered GOP state legislator should be calling out this blatant power grab for what it is, stridently and publicly refusing to support it in any respect and should be calling for a legislative vote to replace their current leadership in Madison, or resign their legislative seats. Nothing short of unmitigated and total condemnation of this lame duck process and its intentions should be tolerated by any voter in this state. Bowing to GOP fascist authoritarians is not bipartisanship, people. Don’t believe it coming from the lips of any GOP legislator not fully condemning their leadership today. They’d unequivocally be liars and certified political cowards.

 

Donald Freix

 

Fish Creek, WI

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