LARSON REPORT

WEEKLY NEWSLETTER



 

 

October 17, 2013

     

 

















 

 

 

 

 

 

 


CONTACT ME


Please feel free to contact me with any concerns or opinions you might have.

Office Phone: (608) 266-7505
Toll-free Phone: (800) 361-5487

Email:
Sen.Larson@legis.wi.gov

 

Mailing Address:

State Capitol
P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707

 

Web Site:

SenatorChrisLarson.com

 

Find Me on Facebook and Twitter:

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMMUNITY EVENTS
 

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. 
 

 

Pumpkin Pavilion

Date: Fri., October 18 and Sat., October 19 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Location: Bay View

Description: Stop by the Humboldt Park Pavilion this weekend to see over 800 spooky jack-o-lanterns lit up. The grand lighting of the pumpkins will take place on Friday, October 18 at 7 p.m. where there will be games, hay rides, face painting, magic shows, fire spinners, live music, a black and white film, and costumed attendees. CLICK HERE for more information.

 

Humboldt Park Pavilion (MAP)

3000 S. Howell Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53207

 

 

Shrek: The Musical
Date: Now through Sun., November 17
Location: Milwaukee

Description: "Once upon a time, there was a little ogre named Shrek..." And thus begins the fairy tale of an unlikely hero who finds himself on a life-changing journey alongside a wisecracking Donkey, a feisty princess who resists her rescue, and a cast of banished fairy tale misfits. This musical brings a story of adventure, friendship, and ogre love that is bringing ugly back. This musical is best for children ages 6 and up. CLICK HERE for more information.

First Stage Children's Theater (MAP)
929 N. Water Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

 

2nd National Hmong Human Rights Conference

Date: Fri., October 18 and Sat., October 19

Location: Milwaukee

Description: The Hmong Human Rights committee of the Hmong Student Association at the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee invites you to attend its 2nd National Hmong Human Rights Conference. This conference aims to address contemporary social issues in the Hmong community. CLICK HERE or call (414) 229-1122 for more information including a list of confirmed presenters.

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (MAP)
2200 E. Kenwood Blvd.
Milwaukee, WI 53201

 

 

21st Annual Dia de los Muertos Exhibition

Date: Fri., October 18 through Sat., November 16

Location: Milwaukee

Description: This October marks 21 years of the Walker's Point Center of the Arts celebrating Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a rich Mexican tradition. Curated by local art historian Juan Lopez, this traditional celebration will include a touch of contemporary flavor with ofrendas (altars/offerings) created by local artists of various backgrounds in addition to sculpture and 2-D work related to the holiday. Dia de los Muertos recognizes death as a celebration of life. It reminds one to reflect on what they value through the commemoration of loved ones and their lives, while at the same time generating enthusiasm for the friends and family around us. As the celebration progresses, this dynamic gathering of people transforms itself into a festivity of life. Informational tours and culturally relevant crafts for kids are available during the course of this exhibition. The opening reception will be held on Friday, October 18 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. CLICK HERE for more information.

Walker's Point Center for the Arts (MAP)
839 S. 5th Street
Milwaukee, WI 53204

 

 

500 Clown Frankenstein
Date: Sat., October 26 at 7:30 p.m.

Location: South Milwaukee

Description: 500 Clown uses action-based performance, improvisation, and circus arts to enact long-form dramatic stories that involve both physical and emotional risk. Frankenstein features three performers who are charged with a task: "make monster." Bound in elaborate Edwardian costumes, the trio embarks on a journey to construct Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory while they struggle and battle through acrobatic feats. A tale of doctor and monster is told from scraps of the classic novel and Hollywood versions, inviting audience involvement throughout. CLICK HERE for more information or to purchase tickets.
 

South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center (MAP)

901 15th Avenue

South Milwaukee, WI 53172

 

Dear Friend,

 

A recent Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo confirmed that Governor Walker's budget will increase property taxes on Wisconsinites. Therefore, many of my colleagues and I voted to provide some relief from this projected increase to Wisconsin's middle-class families. Continue reading for more information about this and other important issues such as discriminatory legislation, the sale of MPS buildings, and a survey to get your perspective on K-12 education.


Sincerely,

Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7

 

 

Working to Lessen the Governor's Property Tax Increase

Trying to fill a hole that Governor Walker and legislative Republicans dug in the most recent budget, Wisconsin's Republicans are now rushing through legislation to lessen the property tax increase they created over the next two years. Of course Senate Democrats support reducing the Republican-created property tax increase on Wisconsin's middle-class families. This is why many of my colleagues and I voted in favor of the property tax relief bill. However, we do find some details surrounding this legislation troubling.

 

Questionable Timing
The timing of this most recent Special Session leaves many wondering if this move is just a political gimmick. Governor Walker's Special Session announcement came during the same week that the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau released a memo showing that property taxes are expected to increase over the next two years due to Governor Walker's ill-conceived budget. Cutting funding for public schools, rejecting federal Medicaid dollars, and supporting a failed economic development agency--WEDC--over proven job creation methods has put Wisconsin in a bad financial situation. Further, cuts to state funding have forced local governments to raise property taxes to cover the difference.

 

In addition to an increase in property taxes for the average Wisconsinite, our state is also facing a structural deficit. It is likely that this spending, on top of the governor's budgeted increase in borrowing, will continue to add to that structural deficit, turning the already deep hole into a pit for state taxpayers in the future.

 

Education Budget Still in Deficit
The amount being proposed by Governor Walker is only one-eighth of the amount that Republicans cut from K-12 education in their 2011-2013 budget. That cut was one of the largest to public schools in Wisconsin's history. These cuts have left our children with fewer educational opportunities, a decrease in teachers and staff at their schools, and larger class sizes which make it difficult to receive a proper education.

 

Unfortunately, many schools are expected to fare even worse this school year under Governor Walker's recently passed second budget. While general school aid statewide increased overall by 1.1%, including in the local Oak Creek-Franklin and South Milwaukee school districts, much of the increase is being diverted to private voucher schools as a result of Republicans expanding the program statewide. According to recent estimates by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI), more than half of Wisconsin's public school districts will receive less general aid in the 2013-2014 school year than they did for the 2012-2013 school year. In fact, 229 of Wisconsin's 424 school districts, or 54%, will receive less general aid in the current school year. This includes our very own Cudahy, St. Francis, and Milwaukee school districts, which will see a decrease in state aid of $104,435; $199,455; and $1,407,778 respectively. In contrast, schools in the voucher program will see an astronomical increase of up to $1,414 per pupil.

 

This proposal by Governor Walker and legislative Republicans does not restore any of the funding cuts made to our neighborhood schools.

 

Rushed Legislation Problematic

Governor Walker called the Special Session on Thursday, October 10, which was created to take up this property tax bill, as well as other proposals. My colleagues and I were not given the bills that would be taken up until about 5 p.m. on Friday, October 11. Further, these bills did not receive a public hearing until the day they were to be taken up for a vote on the floor on Tuesday, October 15. This means that the legislation we passed today was authored, introduced, received a public hearing, was voted out of committee and passed the Senate in only a matter of days. Past experience has proven that rushing bills through the legislative process is likely to end in scandal, lawsuits, and wasted taxpayer dollars. Below are some examples of rushed bills that failed Wisconsinites:

  • Creation of the Sporting Heritage Grant--Rushing through this budget provision created scandal in Wisconsin once it was determined that the grant created was nothing more than a sweetheart deal for Republican allies. Passing this provision within minutes of its introduction nearly caused Wisconsin to lose out on $28 million in federal dollars and at least $500,000 in state dollars.

  • ID Restrictions on Voters--Because Republican legislators refused to heed the suggestions of legislative Democrats on the restrictive nature of the proposal, this bill ended up in the courts where it remains to this day.

  • Creation of WEDC--This public-private agency, which was developed by Governor Walker and implemented by Senate Republicans in the first special session, has had persistent problems since its inception in 2011. These include circumventing Wisconsin's fair and competitive bidding process and ignoring federal and state laws when giving out grants. The final straw was losing track of over $50 million in loans, including about $12 million that were overdue. Their repeated failures, such as staff using state credit cards for personal purchases, have cost taxpayers financially and made Wisconsin a running joke across the country.

Rather than rushing important proposals, we should take the necessary time to ensure that such bills do not result in missteps with taxpayer dollars. As representatives of the people, by the people, for the people, we owe them this much.


Real Property Tax Relief
Wisconsin's working, middle-class families are clearly in need of relief in Scott Walker's lagging economy and to make up for the property tax increase created in the Republican budget. Under this new property tax bill, the average homeowner is expected to save about $33 over the next 2 years. However, property taxes are still expected to increase overall thanks to Governor Walker's regressive policies. This averages out to about $1 per month next year. Many homeowners may not see any savings, meaning they will be harder hit than some of their neighbors when Governor Walker's tax increase goes into effect. Giving Wisconsin's homeowners a $33 tax cut is a start, but we must find a balance with investing in our local economy, our neighborhood schools and affordable healthcare to get Wisconsin back on track.
 

 

WI Should Not Tolerate Discrimination

In the 2009-2010 session, the Legislature passed bipartisan legislation that would give community members the option to petition the use of of race-based mascots at local schools in their area. Of the 65 schools that had Native American related mascots in 1989, 30 schools changed their nickname prior to the 2010 law while 32 schools still have Indian mascots. Despite only four schools having been affected by this bill--three changed their names and one is challenging the change request in court--legislative Republicans have felt compelled to overturn this so-called mandate.
 

Those who support this discriminatory bill and the continuing use of race-based mascots tell us that these mascots are used out of respect for the tribes. However, the reality is that these mascots and their continued use represents an incredible level of disrespect that reflects a disturbing lack of tolerance in our state. It would not be until 1924 that Congress would pass the Indian Citizenship Act, which granted all Native Americans, on or off the reservation, citizenship and the possibility of suffrage. While the act gave Native Americans voting rights, states often passed laws that limited this right. In 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, which prohibited states from discriminatory voting practices and ensured all Native Americans had access to the polls.

 

This bill would revert our state back to the days of discrimination and hatred. The schools that still retain  race-based mascots, as well as the schools that compete against them, tend to reinforce offensive stereotypes by turning this ethnic group into a cartoon, mocking cultural dances or traditions, and shouting racial slurs or bigoted comments.

 

While most of the students and parents at these schools are not racists, the use of these mascots promotes discriminatory actions against neighbors in our community and around the state. It is a fact that no other ethnic group has as many mascots parroting their identities in our state, and there is a reason for that. It is because we recognize that this type of discrimination is not only unfair, but wrong. For this reason, I will be voting no to Senate Bill 317 and its companion Assembly Bill 297.

 

Assembly Bill 297 passed the Assembly this Tuesday despite bipartisan opposition with a vote total of 52 ayes, 41noes, and 2 paired votes. While the Senate was poised to take up the bill on Tuesday or Wednesday, it has since delayed action on the bill until November 5. My colleagues are using this delay to work with Republican senators to amend this bill. 
 

 

Ask Chris

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: How would the bill to sell off MPS properties affect other communities?

A: As you may know, legislation has been introduced that would compel the city of Milwaukee to sell underutilized school buildings owned by MPS. According to Senate Bill 318 and its companion Assembly Bill 417, MPS must submit an annual inventory of their buildings. Any buildings deemed by the Legislature to be surplus, vacant, or underutilized will then be available for sale by the city of Milwaukee. This proposal was introduced by Republican legislators--many of whom likely receive political donations from voucher school proponents--so that buildings can be sold to profit-driven schools participating in the unaccountable voucher system. This bill could ultimately evict up to 3,000 students from what MPS believes would be eight schools putting the status of these students in limbo. Those evictions could occur based on what appear to be arbitrary trigger points in the bill and would occur without local community input and any consideration of efforts to expand quality programs within MPS.

 

We got a glimpse of this plan to ultimately force the sale of MPS buildings to vouchers schools this week when St. Marcus Lutheran School tried to purchase the old Malcolm X building to expand their voucher school program. While St. Marcus was offered a number of possibilities for their expansion by MPS, they ultimately rejected these options wanting to instead forge ahead with an expansion into the old Malcolm X building. However, MPS already has plans in place to sell this desired building to a company that will turn it into 32 units of low-income housing and a multi-cultural and community services center. In making this deal, the district will also retain the ability to lease back 50% of the space for a school.

 

MPS has been successful at responsibly selling and redeveloping underutilized buildings. Over the last few years, the district has sold four buildings, leased 11 buildings to charter school operators, and used eight buildings to expand successful programs. They have also decreased the number of empty building they maintain from 27 in 2010 to only 15 to date, with five of these buildings already having plans for future use in place.

Senate Bill 318 will have a negative impact on our community for many reasons. For example, MPS often holds onto buildings that are vacant or underutilized so that they can house future charter or MPS schools. For the first time in several years, enrollment is up at MPS and this proposal could cause the district to lose out on opportunities for future expansion. Further, this may even be more costly to MPS and taxpayers in the long term as it could force the district to purchase new land and unnecessarily construct new buildings when older ones would do.


In addition, selling MPS buildings that are currently vacant or underutilized due to needed repairs may be a safety hazard. Maintaining consistent building and safety standards, especially when building space is repurposed as a school environment, needs to be prioritized and standardized. Section 2 of Wisconsin State Statute 119.46 mentions the responsibility of the school board to communicate allocating funds for maintaining school buildings. Still, Senate Bill 318 does not extend the safety standards required of the MPS district to voucher schools who could potentially purchase these MPS buildings. While it is likely that MPS would like to make repairs to these buildings and utilize them in the future, because of record budget cuts instituted by Governor Walker and Republican legislators, they do not currently have the funds to reinvest in all of their existing properties.

Like other proposals that have come before it, this one seeks to unfairly penalize Milwaukee so that political allies can benefit. This is not the Wisconsin Way. Due to the potential consequences this bill could have on our community, I will oppose it should it advance to the Senate floor for a vote.

 

While this bill was originally on the fast-track, it has currently stalled due to growing bipartisan concerns. Legislators on both sides of the aisle, as well as neighbors in our community and beyond fear that this bill sets a dangerous precedent by interfering with the control of local government that could spread well beyond the borders of the city of Milwaukee. I will be sure to keep you updated on the status of this bill as it makes it way through the legislative process.

 

Click here to view a copy of Senate Bill 318.
 

 

Did You Know...?

Did you know that on this very day (October 17) in 1931, gangster Al Capone was sentenced to 11 years in prison for tax evasion and fined $80,000, signaling the downfall of one of the most notorious criminals of the 1920s and 1930s.

Wisconsin was often home to Al Capone, John Dillinger, and other notorious gangsters when they were on the run, as the state's wooded areas and rural landscape often helped them to remain in seclusion. Wisconsin's history as a popular hangout for those on the lam is also why Michael Mann decided to film scenes from his gangster movie, Public Enemies, in Wisconsin.

Our state has fully embraced its past, even creating a Wisconsin Gangster Tour, which offers visitors the chance to experience the lore and legend first-hand with a travel guide and itinerary created by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism.

 

Click here for more information about the Wisconsin Gangster Tour.


 

Survey on K-12 Education Available

A quality education is a shared Wisconsin value that many of us highly treasure. Our next generation of workers are in Wisconsin schools right now, and their success or failure will likely dictate whether Wisconsin will succeed or fail in the years to come.

 

As a result, the statewide expansion of the private voucher program and the reduction of state aid to the majority of our local public schools for the 2013-2014 school year have become increasingly hot topics. Therefore, I would like to hear your thoughts on K-12 education in Wisconsin. I have created an online survey to learn more about you and your perspective. Please take the time to fill it out. I look forward to hearing back from you on the important issue of K-12 education in Wisconsin.

 

Click here to take the K-12 Education Survey now.
 

 

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month was founded in 1985, and has since proven to be a productive way to spread information, support, and resources to those affected by the disease. According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the second most common cancer found in women. In fact, approximately 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer are estimated to be reported in 2013 alone. Breast cancer is also the second leading cause of death among women in the United States with an estimated 39,620 deaths happening this year.
 

Although there is no sure-fire way to prevent breast cancer 100%, as many risk factors--such as age or family history--cannot be altered, listed below are steps recommended by the American Cancer Society that can help women decrease their risk by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which includes:

  • Getting regular, physical activity

  • Staying within a healthy weight

  • Including vegetables, fruits, poultry, fish, and low fat dairy products in your diet

  • Limiting alcohol intake

The median age for breast cancer diagnosis is 61. However, there have been cases reported in people who are just in their 20s, so do not wait to take these preventive actions.
 

Exercising and changing diets can only go so far, so be sure to talk to your doctor about breast cancer screenings. The most common screening is a mammogram. A mammogram is just an x-ray of the breast that can detect abnormalities. It is suggested that women age 40 and older should have a screening mammogram every year. If you are not yet in your 40s, it is suggested that women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam as part of their periodic health exam.

 

Click here if you would like more information about breast cancer courtesy of the American Cancer Society.

 

 

Important Notice Regarding the Larson Report

A handful of neighbors have reported problems viewing the photos or links in the Larson Report. If you are having problems, please check the settings in your browser and email accounts. Make sure that your settings are set to "Ask before displaying external content" rather than "Always display external content (such as images) sent by trusted senders." This will allow you to determine that I am a trusted sender, rather than having your email account or browser guess.

 

If you still have problems viewing photos or links in the Larson Report, please check it out online at www.senatorchrislarson.com. I post the Larson Report to my Web site every Thursday before sending it out to Larson Report subscribers.

 

 

Take the 2013-2014 Neighborhood Survey

I created a survey for the 2013-2014 Legislative Session asking about various issues that are important to our community and our state. The input of neighbors is greatly appreciated. My staff and I will be working hard to deliver as many surveys door to door as possible before winter arrives. In addition, I have also made this survey available online.

Click here to download and print a copy of this survey, which you can return to my office via mail, email, or fax upon completion.

Click here to save a stamp and take the survey online.

I look forward to hearing your views on these important issues!

 

 

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