Compiled by MCJ Staff
No doubt citizens of Wisconsin contributed to ‘the protestor’ being recognized as influential change-makers, as protests, marches, demonstrations and rallies were held throughout the state.
From January to December, Wisconsin citizens stood up and spoke out, making this year one for the records.
• The New Year began as it ended with newly elected Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker at the center of controversy that drew national attention.
As he took the oath of office in the state Capital Rotunda, 350 Milwaukeeans—representing the labor and faith communities—gathered to hold the new governor to his promise to create good jobs in Milwaukee as well as express their anger toward his decision to turn down the $80 million earmarked for high-speed rail.
The rally’s organizers said they gathered as part of an ongoing effort to hold Walker accountable to his campaign promise to create 250,000 jobs despite his rejection of the rail money.
• Milwaukee Common Council President Willie Hines and State Sen. Alberta Darling promised to do all in their power to rid the city of the ongoing problem of vacant school buildings in Milwaukee.
During a press conference in front of the empty 38th Street School, Hines and Darling said they would change existing legislation or even write new legislation that would force to sell or lease its vacant school buildings to high-performing charter schools.
“For several years, the City of Milwaukee has experienced an ironic discount between the overabundance of empty school facilities and the lack of outstanding educational options for students and families,” said Hines.
“These facilities must be available for high-performing schools, and the City of Milwaukee is in a position to ensure they are put to use in the best manner possible.”
The current system allows the MPS Board of Directors to prevent any sale of a facility to an “educational competitor,” even though the land on which the school sits is technically owned by the City of Milwaukee.
In November of 2010, the Council adopted, as part of its state-lobbying “legislative package,” the official position that these policies must be changed in order to improve education in Milwaukee.
• Labor and community groups gathered recently in the state capital to express concern over a special session Senate Bill1/Assembly Bill 1 Tort Reform.
This was the first initiative of the emergency economic session and contains numerous changes to Wisconsin’s civil justice system, which will negatively impact workers and their families.
“Unfortunately, the special session on job creation is being used as a cloak for corporate interests to achieve a long-desired goal to any meaningful access to the courts for workers who are injured or killed on the job, as well as consumers and other victims who have been harmed,” said Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin state AFL-CIO.
• Following the circulation of controversial “Voter ID” legislation last week, State Rep. Tamara Grigsby of Milwaukee commented on the continued neglect toward struggling families and job creation by Wisconsin Republicans.
“This is not what the people of Wisconsin asked of us,” Grigsby said.” How many jobs are created through voter disenfranchisement? We are supposed to be putting people to work, not keeping them from the polls.”
• State Sen. Lena Taylor was appointed chair of the Policy, Finance and Personnel (PFP) Committee of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District. The appointment was made by Commission Chair Wallace White and followed Taylor’s appointment to the MMSD Commission in 2010 by Mayor Tom Barrett.
• Speaking of Barrett, the mayor announced a summit to examine the issue of premature birth and infant deaths. The announcement came after the release of a study analyzing the quality of women’s healthcare, screening and treating pregnant women for infections and chronic medical conditions, as well as helping women and their families quit smoking.
“Although we have already taken action in addressing parts of this complex problem, it is evident that much more needs to be done,” the mayor said.
On May 11, the Health Department hosted its second annual infant mortality summit, which focused on prematurity, the leading cause of infant death. The summit targeted city doctors and healthcare systems to work with at-risk women.
• Former Milwaukee Mayor Marvin Pratt was named the interim Milwaukee County Executive until an election was held in April to replace former County Executive now Governor Scott Walker.
The announcement was made by interim County Executive Lee Holloway, who expressed confidence in Pratt that he will “do an excellent job.”
Holloway said he didn’t take his decision lightly and that Pratt was picked because of his ability to work with both Democrats and Republicans. Holloway continued as County Executive until the Milwaukee County Board confirmed Pratt.
• With several feet of snow and high wind gusts reaching upward of 55 miles per hour, the blizzard of 2011 virtually shut down the city of Milwaukee and other Southeastern Wisconsin cities.
Gov. Walker called a state of emergency for 29 counties, which opened up resources from the National Guard including use of their armories as shelters.
It was the storm that shut down the city. All non-essential city government offices closed due to the blizzard. All flights at Mitchell International Airport were cancelled as well. Also closed were the Milwaukee County Transit System, all Milwaukee Public Schools, MATC and UW-Milwaukee, among other schools and institutions.
• The Community Journal kicked off its countdown to its 35th anniversary gala by unveiling its Academy of Legends. Readers and the community voted for individuals living and deceased who made an impact civically, culturally, in medicine, the law, health and medicine, and the faith-based community.
• Federal Judge Charles Clevert swore in acting Milwaukee County Executive Marvin Pratt, who took over from Milwaukee County Supervisor and Board Chair Lee Holloway who served as interim county executive after Walker was elected governor.
Pratt said he would not run for the county’s top office himself nor endorse anyone else in the race.
• The Green Bay Packers brought the Lombardi Trophy home to Green Bay from Dallas (Arlington actually) Texas after they defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 in the Super Bowl.
• What started out as a five-person contest for the Milwaukee County Executive seat was narrowed to two after the primary elections. State Rep. Jeff Stone and philanthropist Christ Abele were the last men standing for the April 5 general election. County Board Chair Lee Holloway, trying to become the first elected African American county exec, mustered only eight percent of the vote for the position.
The race for the 10th District County Supervisor’s seat, vacated by Elizabeth Coggs, who was elected to the state Legislature in November, was highly contested with Eyon Biddle, the executive political director for the Service Employees International Union and Atty. Tearman Spencer emerged the victors in the primary.
Also appearing on the April 5 ballot was state Supreme Court incumbent and challenger Justice David Prosser and Assist. Atty. General JoAnne Kloppenburg respectively.
• Outrage and action.
That’s what Wisconsin’s public employees, their unions, community based groups and local politicians expressed and made their clarion call for in reaction to Gov. Walker’s proposed to strip public workers of most of their collective bargaining rights.
Walker’s budget adjustment bill (also called the “budget repair bill”) will cut pay and gut benefits without negotiation. The legislation has been called a “radical assault” on workers’ rights and is described by labor officials and activists as ill conceived and dangerous; while threatening to severely undermine the state’s quality of life.
The governor’s proposal comes on the heels of already existing hardships on public employees who have already borne the brunt of unpaid furloughs, layoffs and wage freezes due to the state’s budget crisis.
• A poll, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Posner Research revealed a majority of Wisconsinites opposed Walker’s anti-social worker agenda. It also showed erosion in the governor’s state standing.
Those responding to the poll also supported protestors who gathered en masse inside and outside the capital building on behalf of working families.
Fifty-one percent disapproved of the governor’s job performance and disagreed with his agenda. In contrast, 62 percent of voters offer a favorable view of public employees (only 11 percent unfavorable) and 53 percent of voters rated labor unions favorably (31 percent unfavorable).
A panel of state lawmakers and the president of the Milwaukee Public School Board told the gathering of community residents that they must look beyond the obvious effort by the governor to take away state unions’ collective bargaining on their contracts.
Jobs, education, juvenile corrections, residency requirements, healthcare, family childcare, welfare, prescriptions, the poor and the future of public education are all negatively impacted by Walker’s proposed $59.2 billion budget that he unveiled March 1.
The 2011-2013 budget will cut state aid to municipalities, counties and schools by $1 billion and prohibit them from making up the loses by raising property taxes.
To deal with the cuts in state aid and the prohibition on raising property taxes, Walker reportedly suggested local governments trim their employees’ health and pension benefits.
• Legacy Bank, founded 12 years ago by three African American women and was closed by the state of Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, Division of Banking, was reopened as part of a branch of a Chicago-based African American owned and operated bank.
The bank reopened as the lone Milwaukee branch of Seaway Bank and Trust Co. of Chicago. Individuals with accounts at Legacy automatically became account holders of Seaway.
Founded in 1965 as Seaway National Bank of Chicago by a group of local businessmen, the bank was founded to counter discriminatory lending practices on Chicago’s predominately Black South Side. It’s mission remains to help minority professionals and entrepreneurs obtain the financial assistance they need and to be responsive to the credit needs of the community.
Legacy was closed after posting a loss of $9.2 million in 2010. In 2009, the bank lost $15.2 million. The losses were reportedly blamed on the economic downturn of 2009.
• In what can best be described as a stealth move that only came to light shortly before it happened, Gov. Walker suspended an executive order requiring minority and women apprentices on state construction projects.
Amidst the controversy, rancor and protests over his effort to end collective bargaining for state unions, Walker quietly signed Executive Order No. 18, which suspended Executive Order 108 requiring employers awarded state construction contracts to participate in Wisconsin’s apprenticeship programs.
Many minority workforce advocates claimed the apprenticeship program was the only path to employment in the construction trade for minorities and women.
• In an editorial, the Community Journal urged voters in Milwaukee to vote in a manner rejecting the agenda of Gov. Walker and Conservative lawmakers in Wisconsin. We endorsed JoAnne Kloppenburg for the state Supreme Court, Chris Abele for County Executive, Eyon Biddle for Milwaukee County Supervisor, and Mark Sain for School Board.
• Wisconsin’s Conservative Republican agenda was slowed somewhat with the April elections of Eyon Biddle for Milwaukee County Supervisor—replace Elizabeth Coggs—and Chris Abele who was elected to finish the term of Gov. Walker as county executive.
However, the race for state Supreme Court between incumbent David Prosser and challenger, state prosecutor JoAnne Kloppenburg was undecided the day after the April 5 election until ballots from Waukesha were “found” that gave the election to Prosser and touched off a debate as to whether or not Supreme Court justices should be appointed or elected.
• The state Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee took testimony in West Allis and listened to the public’s concerns about Gov. Walker’s proposed 2011-13 budget. Approximately 1,000 people attended the meeting throughout the day, with half of them arriving after 5p.m.
The committee listened to more than 200 speakers during a hearing scheduled from 10a.m. to 6p.m. The sign-in period for speakers ended at noon.
Applause and cheers rang out during the day, become louder and more passionate as speakers railed against Walker and the Republicans in the state legislature.
One speaker directed a profanity-laced recall rant at JFC Co-chair, Sen. Alberta Darling of the affluent River Hills district. Displeased with the outburst, Darling’s fellow co-chair, Rep. Robin Vos of Burlington—like Darling, a Republican—was displeased with the offensive display. He ended the testimonies and read the names of the people who attended but choose not to speak.
People became upset with Vos’ move and demanded to testify. But by then Vos and Darling had the microphones turned off and dismissed the security and committee pages.
Cries of “shame” immediately rose as Republicans left the Democratic committee members tried to quiet the crowd. Lacking microphones Democratic senators and Assemblypersons, including Sen. Lena Taylor and Reps. Jason Fields and Tamara Grigsby listened to individuals tell their stories one-by-one after the hearing ended.
• The Milwaukee NAACP asked the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors to delay finalizing the county’s new district map so citizens have a chance to get involved in the important process of redistricting.
In a letter sent to every County Board supervisor, the local NAACP branch expressed serious concerns about the current redistricting proposal, as it manages to simultaneously dilute the African American vote and harden Milwaukee’s segregation.
The organization also expressed dismay with a decision by the Milwaukee County Redistricting Committee to conduct the redistricting process “in such a rushed and opaque manner” less than one month after the county received the 2010 U.S. Census data pertaining to the county.
• Noting, “We don’t have time for this silliness,” President Barack Obama released the long form of his birth certificate, putting to rest (hopefully) the irritatingly persistent question about whether or not he is a U.S. citizen.
The signed-and-sealed Certificate of Live Birth says the president was born at Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu on August 4, 1961.
The release wasn’t the first time the president provided documents proving his legality to lead the United States of America. During the 2008 presidential campaign, he released a standard short form copy of his birth certificate, which contained fewer details.
The president said he requested copies of his original birth certificate from Hawaii officials in hopes of quieting the controversy and eliminating the distraction, which he says has overshadowed the real issue: The debate over competing deficit reduction plans by him and the House Republicans.
• In the 40 minutes it took for a team of Navy SEALS to assassinate Osama bin Laden, President Obama established himself as a decisive leader who will not hesitate to order the execution of international terrorists to protect citizens of the United States.
Bin Laden, the leader of Al-Qaeda and mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that killed thousands of Americans, was shot in his hideout in Pakistan in a firefight with U.S. soldiers, ending a 10-year man-hunt for the world’s most notorious terrorist.
“The world is safer,” President Obama said during a White House ceremony where he paid tribute to soldiers killed in the Korean War. “It is a better place because of the death of Osama bin Laden.”
In making the decision to kill bin Laden, the president is reshaping parts of his political persona and showing the world that he is a much tougher commander-in-chief than some would believe. For the past two years, Republicans have portrayed President Obama as being soft on terrorists, a president who prefers diplomacy over tough military decisions.
• Milwaukee Public School Superintendent Dr. Gregory Thornton released his proposed 2011-12 school year budget, which includes $187 million in cuts and pink slips for almost 1,000 district employees, including 468 teachers.
Spending still topped the billion dollar mark, with $1.17 billion budgeted for the district next year. The cuts stemmed from reductions at both the federal and state level. MPS will lose $92.1 million in federal funds due to the expiration of President Obama’s stimulus program; another $81 million will be lost from proposed cuts to education funding and tax levy restrictions in Gov. Walker’s 2011-13 biennial budget.
Among the programs that lost state funding are math teacher coaches, school nursing, the Children at Risk program, Advanced Placement courses and P5 funding, which supports small classrooms in the early grade levels.
• Rep. Leon Young delayed the passage of Senate Bill 15, which would repeal requirements for Wisconsin law enforcement agencies to record the race of the driver in all traffic stops, which began in January of this year.
In a press statement, Young said he was appalled that some of his legislative colleagues felt collecting data regarding the race of drivers in traffic stops was unnecessary.
“Racial profiling is a great concern of many minority individuals here in Wisconsin and without data regarding the race of drivers in traffic stops, there is no way of knowing if a problem exists and to what extent.
“The need to gather hard-core, empirical evidence that would either substantiate or refute the practice of racial profiling in our state is crucial to ensuring the public’s trust in its law enforcement. Repealing this law is another major stop backwards for all the residents of Wisconsin.”
• A Republican-controlled Assembly committee passed its version of concealed carry last week (after a May 12 public hearing held in Wausau) and the Senate is ready with its own version (Both versions of the bill did pass and the governor signed it into law). The Republicans and the governor said the law would make Wisconsinites safer, especially since the criminals won’t know who’s packing.
• Milwaukeeans marched to protest massive cuts in public education. They marched in recognition of the more than 80,000 Milwaukee Public School students who will lose math and reading programs, small-class sizes, nurses, arts programming, librarians and classroom teachers in September. The losses were the result of Gov. Walker’s $1.6 billion cut to Wisconsin public schools.
• Funeral services were held at Greater Galilee Baptist Church for Black business pioneer Clara Mattox, who passed away at age 81.
A well-known political and civic leader, Mattox was the co-founder of Wisconsin’s first Black owned nursing home, Convalescent Nursing Home.
She later changed the name of the nursing home to Steven Bryant when she built a state of the art facility on the corner of Sixth and Walnut Streets. Mattox started the nursing home with friends Jesse Hudson and Lula Brown, brother Eugene Epps and her father, John Holt.
She was the first Black Wisconsinite to receive a license as a nursing home administrator. Steven Bryant, named after her two grandchildren, housed over 180 patients who were provided exceptional care with a cultural emphasis.
• The Legislative Joint Finance Committee made alterations to Gov. Walker’s 2011-13 biennial budget. Though the Republican-dominated committee kept and even expanded some of Walker’s proposals, they did reverse some of the cuts.
The completed document didn’t come easy. Thousands of citizens attended four public hearings around the state, including protestors who disrupted a committee meeting where a group of protestors (including several prominent community leaders) took turns reading the state and federal constitutions while being dragged from the meeting room by state police.
• The concealed carry bill passed the Assembly by a 68-27 vote. It’s passage made Wisconsin the 49th state in the country to allow citizens to carry concealed weapons.
While all Republicans and 11 Democrats in the Assembly supported the bill, not one Milwaukee Democrat was in favor of the measure.
Many of the Republicans say the bill restores the right of law-abiding citizens to carry handguns for their protection. Yet Democrats and others who are against the measure cite safety concerns, particularly in a climate with high unemployment and unrest.
There is also concern for permitting concealed weapons in parks, parades and summer festivals where alcohol is served and situations can easily escalate out of control.
• The Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP recently called for an audit of all city, county and state government to stop the continued racial and economic disparities in the city.
The civil rights organization made its demand during a news conference at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee highlighting a new NAACP report on the devastating impact of segregation, job loss and the cycle of poverty and incarceration on African Americans in Milwaukee.
“The statistical data in this report confirms what many Milwaukeeans have concluded from anecdotal incidents and media reports,” says Barbara Becker, first vice president of the Milwaukee Branch and a member of the NAACP’s steering committee.
“The circumstances for Black families in Milwaukee are dire, with obstacles stacked in layers both for males and for females trying to raise children,” Becker said.
“This is a wake-up call requiring new ways of thinking to begin to turn this around. We cannot afford to put this out of our minds and shrug our shoulders.”