April 4, 2013
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Supporting our neighbors and being involved in our community is of the utmost importance. Some community events that might be of interest to you and your family are listed below.
Storytime Smiles at
the St. Francis Library
Location: St. Francis
Start your child on the road to reading. The St. Francis Library is
offering free storytimes for children this spring. Families can register
now, in the Children's Room or over the phone by calling (414) 481-7323.
Your child will enjoy a combination of stories, fingerplays, flannel
board stories, puppets, art projects, and more. Each storytime matches
your child's developmental level, attention span, and interests, to
promote a love of literature. They are also a great time to meet new and
old friends, and a special time for all who join in. Pajamarama (for
ages 2-6) is scheduled for Monday nights from 6 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. Or
join Preschool Storytime (for ages 3-6) on Tuesdays at 10:15 a.m. to 11
A Veterans Print
new exhibit is coming to the Milwaukee County Historical Society.
Featuring the stories of Milwaukee County Latino veterans and the
artwork of local printmakers, the Veterans Print Project sets itself
apart by bringing veterans and artists together, with artists creating
original works based on the veteran's individual story.
CLICK HERE or call (414) 273-8288.
Baseball--Innovations That Changed the Game
the Iron Hills Art Exhibit
Description: A recent proposal to mine iron in the Penokee Range of Northern Wisconsin has stimulated discussion and brought attention to this beautiful area. This exhibit is a collaboration of 20 artists from the region who explore the past, present, and possible futures for the Penokee Hills. Their goal is to encourage citizens to learn more about this area and to envision a sustainable future for it. See the art, meet some of the artists, and learn more about the future of the Penokee Hills. There will be an opening program for the exhibit on Monday, April 8 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., which will include a short program and refreshments. The exhibit will be open to the public until Saturday, June 29. CLICK HERE or call (414) 964-8505 for more information about this event.
Urban Ecology Center at Riverside Park (MAP)
1500 East Park Place Milwaukee, WI 53211
Annual Spring Hearings
Date: Mon., April 8 at 7 p.m.
Location: Wisconsin Counties Statewide
Description: Every spring, each person in Wisconsin has the opportunity to help direct how the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages our natural resources. The DNR holds a hearing with survey questions and resolutions that are voted on by all who attend. The hearing happens at the same time in each county across our state and is scheduled to convene on April 8, 2013, at 7 p.m. Meeting results, along with written comments on the evening's questions and recommendations by the DNR, are used to advise the state Natural Resources Board. Votes are non-binding and are presented to the Natural Resources Board as advisories. If you are interested in outdoor recreation, conservation, or our heritage of being citizen stewards of our natural resources, I encourage you to attend and provide your input to this important process. CLICK HERE to view the agenda and questions for the upcoming 2013 spring conservation hearing.
Art in Bloom: A Tribute to Art and Flowers
Date: Thurs., April 11 through Sun., April 14
Description: Immerse yourself in fragrant beauty, with numerous opportunities to enhance your floral and gardening know-how. Attend lectures and master classes with renowned floral designers Ron Morgan and Neil Whittaker. Join Jill Bedford, Melinda Myers, and Jim Walczak in presentations designed to provide you with a variety of ideas for use at home this season. CLICK HERE for more information.
Milwaukee Art Museum (MAP)
700 N. Art Museum Drive Milwaukee, WI 53202
35th Latin American
Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, UWM Union Programming,
Union Theatre, and the Department of Film present the 35th annual Latin
American Film Series. Thirteen movies will be screened for free over the
course of this event.
CLICK HERE or call (414) 229-4070 for more information, including a list of participating films.
Date: Sat., April 13 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Used Book Sale
This week we examine a number of pressing community issues, including the proposed lay-offs at Caterpillar, decreasing accountability and transparency measures for contracts via the budget, the South Milwaukee School Board opposing voucher expansion, and much more. Continue reading for updates on this and other important local issues.
Caterpillar Announces Lay-Off Plans
This past Thursday, Caterpillar Inc.
announced it plans to lay-off up to 300 employees at its factories in
South Milwaukee and Milwaukee. As those of us in the Milwaukee area
know, Caterpillar, formerly Bucyrus, is one of the largest employers in
Budget Decreases Accountability, Transparency in Contracts
Many of us are aware of the troubling budget provisions related to expanding vouchers, exempting rent-to-own companies from our consumer protection laws, and rejecting federal dollars to provide health care coverage to more Wisconsinites. However, there are also a number of provisions placed in the 2013-2015 Biennial Budget that quietly decrease accountability and transparency in our state and have received little to no attention despite their substantive and far-reaching impacts. Continue reading for more information about these concerning provisions.
Decreasing Contracting Safeguards That Protect Taxpayer Dollars
An area that will see decreased oversight is state procurement of goods and services. Under the changes proposed in the budget, the partisan Department of Administration (DOA) will have the ability to waive safeguards and protections previously covering contracting for goods and services. In fact, DOA will not only be allowed to contract with a company or organization that was previously disbarred from bidding on contracts for failing to fulfill past contract obligations with the state, but it will also be able to reject the lowest bid in favor of another one arbitrarily.
Adopting such a policy can have several negative consequences for our state. First, it leaves our tax dollars vulnerable to previously-identified bad actors. Additionally, it could result in Wisconsin accepting a higher cost contract to the detriment of our wallet, in-turn diverting funds from other things, such as our neighborhood schools, to cover the costs. Finally, it could lead to the appearance of political payback as DOA could opt to reject the lowest bid in favor of a political supporter of the governor. Clearly, this policy of secrecy should not be selected over our current policies that promote openness by shinning the light of accountability and transparency on Wisconsin's contracts.
Limit the Use of Cost-Benefit Analysis
Under current good government laws, a cost-benefit analysis must be performed on sealed bids that exceed $25,000. Cost-benefit analyses are crucial for our government to determine that they are getting the best value when making an investment. If the language in the budget remains as it currently stands, such safeguards would only be applied on sealed bids that exceed $50,000. Additionally, the following services would now be exempt from cost-benefit analyses as stated in the 2013-2015 Biennial Budget:
These lengthy exemptions and the higher
cost-benefit threshold will have a substantial cost to Wisconsin's
taxpayers at it will make it easier for state funds to be given out with
decreased accountability and transparency measures.
No-Bid Sale of State Owned Properties
Once again, we see a return of failed provisions from the last budget that seek to allow the back room sale of our state's properties. According to the proposed budget, DOA would be allowed to sell state property without a competitive bid. Vague language and ambiguity of this budget provision leave our state open to allowing the sale or lease of public, taxpayer supported buildings through a no-bid process by DOA.
Moving forward with such a process could mean that state taxpayers see their investments devalued and money wasted. Instead, we should keep the current checks and balances in place to ensure that we are getting the biggest bang for our buck when it comes to the sale and lease of state-owned buildings.
Opposition to Voucher Expansion Continues to Grow
Just last week, I attended a South Milwaukee School Board meeting to discuss the governor's proposed budget and the impact it would have on the students in the community. While many cost-savings plans had been crafted and implemented by the schools, the Board was devastated to learn that the continued defunding of public education cannot be absorbed resulting in their worst-case scenario and significant decreases in educational opportunities.
According to the budget, Wisconsin's voucher program will receive an additional $94 million increase to their budget, which equals up to $1,400 more for each participating student. On the other hand, K-12 students attending a local public school will see a $0 spending increase per pupil. As a result, the South Milwaukee School District is anticipating a $430,000 budget shortfall. This is in addition to the $10 million that has been cut from their budget over the past 10 years.
Unfortunately, most schools in this position, including those in South Milwaukee, have already made deep cuts and are left with very few options. In fact, the only things left to cut are vital programs, such as art and music which may be eliminated, and valued staff. This means fewer Wisconsin jobs, larger class sizes, and limited educational opportunities all of which are a loss to Wisconsin's families.
This terrible news also comes at a time when teachers already have taken on more responsibilities and hours in an effort to compensate for record education cuts in the last budget that totaled roughly $1.6 billion. Teachers attending this meeting shared how they have given up their prep period, taken on more students, and are often coming in earlier, staying later, and sacrificing weekends to try to protect the educational opportunities of our children when our budget priorities fail to do so.
South Milwaukee teachers, administrators, school board members, and parents are asking when the state is going to meet their district halfway. To show their displeasure with the governor's proposed cuts and shifting of funds from public schools to unaccountable voucher schools, the School Board of South Milwaukee adopted the following resolution:
Whereas, the school board, administrators, teachers, staff, parents and community members of the School District of South Milwaukee are united in our effort to provide all children with the highest quality educational opportunities possible; and
Whereas, private school voucher advocates have consistently pushed for expanding the use of taxpayer-funded vouchers to pay tuition for students in private schools in Wisconsin, targeting students with specific needs and those in particular communities; and
Whereas, the governor has proposed expanding voucher programs into many more communities and has proposed increasing state payments to voucher schools, in his proposed 2013-2015 state budget, while freezing public school spending;
Therefore, South Milwaukee School Board resolves to express its dissatisfaction with the governor's proposal and to inform parents and taxpayers of our district and the legislators who represent our district of the following facts about voucher programs:
Fact #1--Vouchers do not improve student achievement
Fact #2--Vouchers avoid or eliminate public accountability
Fact #3--Vouchers both drain resources away from public schools and increase local property taxes in any community where they are established
Therefore, be it further resolved, that the South Milwaukee Board of Education calls on Gov. Walker, Joint Finance, Sen. Chris Larson and Rep. Mark Honadel to remove all voucher expansion proposals from the state budget bill.
I remain committed to assisting our
local school districts in the education of our children and fully
support the resolution signed by the South Milwaukee School Board. I
will continue doing what I can to share this perspective, voiced not
just by this community, but many others across the state, with the
governor and fellow legislators to ensure these harmful voucher
expansion provisions are removed from the budget.
Equal Pay Day on April 9
In 1996, the National Committee on Pay
Equity created Equal Pay Day in order to bring more awareness to the
disparity in wages between men and women. With more women entering the
workforce now than ever to help support their families, it is becoming
increasingly important for the overall economic health of our
communities that women receive equal pay for equal work to their male
counterparts. This year, Equal Pay Day will be celebrated on April 9.
Placing the holiday on a Tuesday was chosen intentionally to represent
the fact that women must work one week and into Tuesday of the next week
to make the equivalent of what men made in just one week of work.
According to the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health, women earn 77 cents for every dollar that men make nationally. In Wisconsin, however, women earn even less as they take home only 75 cents for every dollar their male counterparts receive. This means that families across the state are losing out on more than $4,000 per year due to unequal pay. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that for the final quarter of 2012, nationally, women made on average 79.1 percent of what their male counterparts made.
Shocking the state, legislative
Republicans rejected Wisconsin's tradition of fairness and rolled back
equal protection laws for Wisconsin's working women by passing 2011
Wisconsin Act 219 last session. The adoption of this proposal eliminates
equal protection laws for Wisconsin's women and limits their ability to
seek justice for discrimination. This bill not only halted much needed
steps towards equal pay for women, but also erased prior advances that
have been made.
My Democratic colleagues, Senator
Hansen and Representative Sinicki, circulated legislation earlier this
session to correct the mistake Republicans made last session and
re-adopt the Equal Pay Enforcement Act. I have signed on as a co-sponsor
of this legislation and look forward to supporting this fairness bill
should it reach the Senate floor for a vote this session.
I often have neighbors contact me looking for my perspective on various local and state issues. I very much appreciate our neighbors' questions and want to dedicate a portion of my newsletter to common questions that I hear to maintain an open dialogue. Please continue reading for this week's question.
Q: Will you and Rep. Honadel be introducing any bipartisan legislation for our community this session?
A: Earlier this week, Representative Mark Honadel and I introduced
Senate Bill 121, bipartisan legislation we authored that updates
Wisconsin law regarding battery deposits. This legislation, that helps
local small businesses and the environment, was also
introduced in the previous legislative session, but did not pass before
session ended in March 2012.
Through shared innovation amongst the two parties, we can further Wisconsin's long tradition of supporting our small, local businesses, while also protecting our natural resources through responsible recycling and waste management. We look forward to continuing to work together in a bipartisan way to move this bill forward through the legislative process to bring about a positive change in our community.
Did You Know...?
You may have noticed that much of the ice and snow is beginning to melt with the late arrival of spring. But did you know that over 12,000 years ago, glaciers covered much of the state?
We even created the Ice Age National
Scenic Trail to commemorate Wisconsin's ice-covered past. This trail is
a footpath over 1,000 miles long and highlights the vast impact glaciers
have had on our great state's natural features. These glaciers even
helped form Glacial Lake Wisconsin, which is over 150 feet deep.
Public Participation Encouraged in Budget Public Hearings
With agency briefings concluded, the
next step in the budget process involves Joint Finance Committee members
traveling across the state to conduct public hearings. Information on
where these hearings will be held can be found below.
Take My Survey Online
I recently mailed out a newsletter
district wide. This newsletter not only provided an update on a variety
of important legislative issues, but it also featured a survey. The
short survey provides me with a way to learn more about you and gives
you the opportunity to share your thoughts on how to move Wisconsin
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