February 9, 2012
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.
Museum After Dark: Mardi Gras
CLICK HERE for more information.
Milwaukee Art Museum (MAP)
700 N. Art Museum
Drive Milwaukee, WI 53202
Food and Froth Fest
Chill on the Hill Call for Bands
Now through February 18
If you compose
your own music, are family-friendly, and have a Bay View connection,
then submit your band info to the Bay View Neighborhood Association by
Saturday, February 18. Chill on the Hill is a local summer music concert
series held outdoors on Tuesday nights at Humboldt Park. This year's
dates are June 5 through August 28. Opening acts start at 6 p.m. with
main acts running from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Chill on the Hill was
named Best Outdoor Concert Series by the Milwaukee Magazine in 2010, and
is frequently noted by bands to be their favorite venue in which to
play. Crowds can reach up to 3,000 people on popular nights. If you
would like to play at Chill on the Hill, you must adhere to the list of
requirements found by
CLICKING HERE and submit your information to Carol Voss via email at
firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at BVNA, P.O.
Box 070184, Milwaukee, WI 53207.
Bay View Winter Blast
February 19 from Noon to 4 p.m.
Join me at this
community festival featuring musical entertainment, family activities,
and community group stands. Winter Blast also hosts Bay View' s only
chili cook-off between multiple neighborhood restaurants.
Recently released documents show that Republicans corrupted Wisconsin's redistricting process in order to save their jobs, not yours. Continue reading for more information.
As usual, please feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns or opinions you may have about our community or our state.
Republicans Focused on Saving Their Jobs, Not Yours
This week it was confirmed that Republican legislators have been more committed to saving their jobs, not yours, this session. Startling news was finally brought to light under court order detailing how Republicans worked behind closed doors to craft the new legislative district maps and even signed a secret contract vowing to hide details of their redistricting plan from the public. When all was said and done, Republicans then stuck Wisconsin's taxpayers with a $400,000 tab to cover the fees for the private attorneys they hired to help them protect their jobs.
How the Redistricting Process Works
Wisconsin currently uses a legislative redistricting process, where the maps are drawn up by the majority parties in the Legislature, are voted on by the Senate and Assembly, and are then signed by the governor. If the Legislature cannot agree on a redistricting plan, as is usually the case with split houses, the Supreme Court steps in to finalize the new legislative districts. For the past 50 years, Wisconsin's elected officials have had to work together with bipartisan cooperation or leave the task of redistricting up to the courts. This was the first time in 60 years that one political party had complete control over the redistricting process.
Courts Condemn Secret Process for Drawing Maps
After legislators, advocates and neighbors voiced concerns over the new legislative district maps drawn and hurriedly passed by Republicans earlier this year, two former legislators and 13 others filed a legal challenge. The group raised concerns that the partisan boundaries violate the federal Voting Rights Act and the equal-protection clause of the U.S. Constitution because of the way they treat minority communities, break apart neighborhoods, and shift voters from one district to another.
In September a federal three-judge panel was assembled to hear the challenge. The panel, two of whom are Republican appointees, includes J.P. Stadtmueller of the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Diane P. Wood of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and Robert M. Dow Jr. of the Northern District of Illinois.
Republicans introduced several motions
attempting to keep the process used to craft the maps secret. Not only
did the three-judge panel rule against these attempts, but they issued a
scathing opinion saying the following:
The court went on to say that the taxpayers should not have to pay for the sanctions it issued and instead ordered the Legislature's attorneys to cover the $17,000 in costs accrued from that legal challenge because they are "those ultimately responsible for the sandbagging, hide-the-ball trial tactics that continue to be employed."
Whose Jobs are More Important?
Wisconsinites remain frustrated at the lack of job growth that our state has experienced. Under Governor Walker's leadership, which began in January 2011, the number of jobs Wisconsin has created is quickly approaching zero as we have lost jobs every month since his budget went into effect. Over the past year, Governor Walker has created only about 1% of the jobs he promised.
Republicans have had a year to try and improve Wisconsin's economic outlook and focus on job creation, but failed to make any headway in two special sessions and the regular session. However, at the same time Wisconsinites were struggling to get by, Republican legislators spared no expense to hire attorneys with $400,000 in taxpayer money to craft a secret plan to protect their jobs and create a one-party monopoly in Wisconsin for at least the next decade.
The Future of Redistricting in
This past July, I gave neighbors the opportunity to participate in a survey about Wisconsin's redistricting process. Overall, more than 400 people responded with their perspective. The survey found that:
No matter which party is in control,
we need more accountability and transparency, not less. I will continue
doing what I can to promote good government policies, by forwarding
legislation aimed at keeping government actions open and accessible to
the public. I will also continue to keep you updated on the most recent
events and any future events that indicate a threat to our tradition of
open government as they develop.
Programs Aimed at Creating Jobs, Training Workers
I signed on in support of two legislative proposals circulating this week that aim to increase jobs and the number of skilled workers across Wisconsin. Our state has been lagging behind the rest of the country and neighboring states when it comes to job creation, but I think these two proposals would serve as a positive step forward in showing the Legislature's commitment to helping get our neighbors back to work.
The Wisconsin Family Jobs
Therefore, it is crucial that we work to pass legislation to convert this successful project into a permanent program. If we are truly trying to focus on creating opportunities to get Wisconsin back to work and creating jobs when people need them most, we should make Wisconsin's transitional jobs program permanent and ensure its long-term viability for years to come.
Wisconsin Quick Start Program
Encouraging Clean, Open Government
In an effort to increase legislative transparency and ensure the
interests of Wisconsin citizens are fairly represented in state
government, I am co-sponsoring the ALEC Accountability Act. This bill
aims to decrease the influence of the American Legislative Exchange
Council (ALEC) and like organizations that draft and advocate for model
Founded in 1973, ALEC is a national association that provides model
legislation to dues-paying member legislators for introduction in their
home states. ALEC pursues an extreme agenda, favoring corporate power
and privatization over the interests of individuals. Its efforts are
largely bankrolled by conservative foundations and member
corporations--corporations that reap the benefits of ALEC's initiatives.
In essence, the ALEC Accountability Act ensures that organizations that
function similar to lobby groups are subjected to the same regulations
as actual registered lobby groups. Citizens have the right to know the
outside influences on their Legislature, and this bill would make that
possible. Under this law, organizations that pay for lawmakers'
attendance at conferences would be required to disclose the recipients
of their funds as well as their corporate and individual backers.
Additionally, the act would prevent state office accounts from paying
for membership in model legislation organizations like ALEC.
For over forty years, ALEC has long held influence in Wisconsin
politics. Former Governor Tommy Thompson was significantly involved with
ALEC, and his school choice and voucher programs are indicative of the
organization's interests and influence. In fact, ALEC officials dubbed
Wisconsin a testing ground for their ideological pursuits. However,
little can compare to the impact ALEC has had in Wisconsin over the past
year. A watershed of special interest and anti-democratic legislation
has been unleashed on the state by ALEC. The Center for Media and
Democracy identified about 20 ALEC proposals introduced in the Wisconsin
Legislature last year, including ALEC influences in the concealed carry
and voter suppression acts and legislative attacks on collective
bargaining. All this was accomplished without the widespread knowledge
of Wisconsin citizens.
The ALEC Accountability Act is a firm step in the direction of greater legislative transparency. It is vital that Wisconsin citizens know the full motivation behind the legislation that directly influences them. By applying the rules of lobbying to organizations that perform the actions of lobbyists, we can help ensure our State Legislature is an open government forum to address the concerns of everyday Wisconsinites, rather than a hotbed for extreme ideology and special interest gains.
Efforts to Stabilize Milwaukee's Housing Market
week Wisconsin formally joined a landmark $25 billion joint
federal-state agreement with the nationís five largest mortgage lenders:
Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citybank, Ally, and JP Morgan Chase, over
foreclosure abuses, fraud, and unacceptable nationwide mortgage
servicing practices. The proposed agreement will help bring relief to
Wisconsinites who were harmed by unfair mortgage practices by providing
our state with approximately $140 million.
Additionally, this settlement does not do the following:
Of the money Wisconsin is expected to receive in the settlement, $31 million will be available for discretionary spending. The City of Milwaukee could benefit greatly if they are considered in the distribution of these fund, given that Milwaukee and its residents have been disproportionately affected by the foreclosure crisis in relation to the rest of the state.
Since 2008, 20,000 Milwaukee residents were notified that foreclosure action had been started on their homes. As a result of these housing foreclosures, costs have been shifted to Milwaukee taxpayers. Allocating a significant amount of this foreclosure settlement to the City of Milwaukee would be instrumental to its residents by helping to stabilize our ailing housing market.
I have signed on to a letter that will be sent to Wisconsin's Attorney General, J.B. Van Hollen, urging him to give Milwaukee adequate consideration when determining how much to distribute to each community from the anticipated foreclosure settlement.
While this agreement and the associated funds will be a positive step forward in helping our housing market recover, more needs to be done to prevent similar events from happening in the future. Next week we will discuss what actions can be taken to further protect Wisconsinites and their desire to live the American dream, which includes homeownership.
Study Committee Requests Submitted
This past Friday was the deadline for legislators to turn-in study committee requests to Legislative Council and Joint Legislative Council co-chairs. Study Committees typically meet once the regular Legislative Session has concluded, which is scheduled to take place on March 15, 2012, for the current session. These committees are intended to be bipartisan and comprised of legislators and local elected officials, advocates, Legislative Council staff, and members of the public. Study Committees are given the task of examining issues that are important to our state and recommending legislation that would otherwise have a difficult time getting through during highly polarized legislative sessions.
I have submitted requests for Legislative Council and the Joint Legislative Council co-chairs to create two Study Committees--one to examine ways to improve our ineffective drunk driving laws and the other to study Wisconsin's laws regulating recall elections.
It is my hope that Legislative Council and Joint Legislative Council Co-Chairs Sen. Mary Lazich and Rep. Joan Ballweg, will give ample consideration to these requests and uphold the integrity and bipartisanship we have come to expect with Legislative Study Committees.
February is Black History Month
Take a moment this month to remember
the struggle and achievements of African Americans in our state and nationís
history as we celebrate Black History Month.
Black History Month grew out of Negro History Week, founded by Carter G. Woodson in 1926 as a way to honor the achievements and struggles of African Americans in United States history. Woodson choose a week in February in honor of the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, two men that played a crucial role in African American history. In 1976, President Gerald R. Ford expanded the celebration to the whole month of February, and Black History Month began. Since then each American president has recognized this month as Black History Month. The theme of this yearís Black History Month is "Black Women in America: Culture and History."
There are several events around our
community and in the State Capital to help you celebrate. Information on these events
are listed below.
1st Floor Rotunda
Click here for more information.
Sixth Annual African American Film
Student Union Building (MAP)
Celebrating Valentine's Day
Tuesday, February 14 is Valentineís
Day so remember to show your loved ones how much they mean to you.
Valentine Day celebrations are happening all over our community. Beyond
roses, cards, and chocolate, celebrate this holiday by attending one of
these events with family and loved ones.
Click here for more information.
Click here fore additional information.
Click here for more information.
See You in the Neighborhood
I created a survey that I
am distributing to neighbors asking about various issues that are
important to them, our community and our state. I have been
distributing the survey door-to-door throughout our community and will
continue doing so throughout the current legislative session. To return the survey, simply
fold it, tape it, and affix a stamp.
I look forward to hearing your views on these important issues. Hope to see you in the neighborhood soon!
Know Your Voting Rights
Scott Walker and Republican legislators recently enacted some of the most restrictive ID requirements for voters in the country. While they have been working to silence Wisconsin's voters, I have been working hard to keep Wisconsin's voters informed of their rights. I have created a simple handout answering some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding Wisconsin's new voter restrictions.
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