August 13, 2015
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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.
Friday Fish Fry in the Parks
For four days every August, Milwaukee's lakefront comes brilliantly
alive with the sounds and sights of Ireland during Milwaukee Irish Fest.
The family-friendly festival was named "the mother of all Irish
festivals" by writer Larry Kirwan and is the largest celebration of its
kind anywhere in the world. On 16 stages at Henry W. Maier Festival
Park, they showcase an array of traditional and contemporary Celtic
entertainers. From fiddlers and harpists, pipers and folk singers, to
full throttle Celtic rock, there's music for everyone to enjoy. Along
with an amazing music lineup, the festival features Irish food and
drinks, theater presentations, dancers, sporting events, unique Celtic
crafts and gifts and so much more. The Cultural Village is a fun,
interactive space for kids and adults. Meet authors, learn to speak
Irish, explore Celtic exhibits or listen to traditional music. Milwaukee
Irish Fest is so much more than just a music festival!
CLICK HERE for
Henry W. Maier Festival Park
South Milwaukee Human Concerns
St. Mary & St.
Antonious Coptic Orthodox Church
1521 W Drexel Ave
Celebrate the Grape arbor's 100+ years by drinking wine, beer, tea and
coffee, and sample food from participating restaurants and vendors in
the area. All proceeds will go to refurbishing the 1912 Grape arbor and
developing the surrounding green space.
CLICK HERE for more information.
St. Francis of Assisi Convent
Location: South Milwaukee
Description: Start off
the afternoon by browsing the fresh produce and end with several options
for dinner. Throughout the day enjoy local artisans and free live music.
CLICK HERE for more information.
Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,
I hope your summer is going well and that you were able to enjoy an Original Cream Puff at the Wisconsin State Fair! If not, there is still time to visit all of the unique attractions the State Fair has to offer as it will be going on through Sunday, August 16.
In Madison, at the Capitol, another new attempt to reduce accountability in state government has been unveiled. Additionally, the damaging effects of the recently enacted state budget continue to come to light. Recently, school principals from various neighborhoods sent a letter to the governor and legislators detailing concerns they have with where our state is heading.
Also discussed in this edition of the Larson Report are two landmark laws that recently celebrated their 50th anniversary: the Voting Rights Act and the Medicaid program. Read on for more about these important topics.
|More Attempts to Reduce Accountability and Transparency|
may remember in the last Larson Report I discussed a dangerous new threat to Wisconsin's
democracy after the governor came out in favor of dismantling our state
ethics board, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board.
Polarizing and politicizing state agencies seems to be a trend among
Legislative Republicans as well as the governor. Recently, two GOP
legislators circulated a bill calling for the removal of legislative
oversight from our state's failed jobs agency, the Wisconsin Economic
Development Corporation (WEDC).
Many shocking details have been uncovered about the mishandling of our public resources by WEDC. Here are just a few examples:
Alarmingly, over 60% of the loans
given by WEDC went to Walker and/or GOP donors. Earlier this summer, it
came to light that there are hints of a pay-to-play aspect with a Walker
campaign donor, who received $500,000 in tax subsidies. Walker -- who
was Chairman of the Board of Directors of WEDC at the time the loan was
approved -- said he didn't know about the loan to his donor. However, it
was revealed that Walker was notified, and there is documentation and
evidence disproving his lie.
Simply put, the governor's policies and his creation of WEDC has failed Wisconsin. After losing 100,000 promised jobs in his first term as governor, Wisconsin is in economic trouble. According to the latest economic data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Wisconsin continues to trail the nation when it comes to job creation. Under this data:
Additionally, Wisconsin's middle class
is shrinking faster than any other state. What's more, Wisconsin ranks
dead last in terms of new business start-ups. Small businesses are the
backbone of our local economy. Supporting them is imperative in ensuring
Wisconsinites are prosperous and have access to the American Dream. If
we are not investing in our small businesses, we are not investing in
prosperity for our neighbors. Unfortunately, ensuring our local
businesses can thrive has not been a priority for this administration.
Instead of helping out our neighbors who want to grow or start a
business, the failed jobs agency threw money at a campaign donor who had
plans to use the money to pay-off leases for luxury vehicles. At the
same time our tax dollars are being pickpocketed by an agency supposedly
meant to create jobs to instead support special interests, Legislative
Republicans stripped millions from the actual largest economic driver in
our state: the UW System.
Why would anyone think the Legislature
should have less oversight at this agency? Just as with their attempt to
destroy our open records law and their attacks on the Government
Accountability Board, this is just another attempt by the Republicans to
draw a veil of secrecy over state government.
|Countryside Schools in Trouble|
Just over a week ago, 35 school
principals from southern Wisconsin shared their professional experiences
and observations with the governor and the Legislature and expressed
their opposition to the direction they have taken public education.
You can read the letter they sent, here.
Public school principals from around the state directly experience the impacts of the decisions we make in the Capitol and in the state budget and see the negative effects those decisions have on our children. Since the beginning of the budget cycle in January of 2015, there has been a steady, strong, and consistent message coming from school superintendents, principals, teachers, parents, and students that Wisconsin needs to start reinvesting in our children, their education, and our schools. The letter from these 35 principals firmly rejects the disinvestment in our traditional schools and the misplaced priority of privatization that has been pursued over the last several budgets. Instead, they respectfully ask lawmakers in Madison to listen to -- and partner with -- them when making decisions that impact the schools and children they are responsible for.
To quote the letter: "The reduced power of local school boards as it relates to curriculum, policy, funding, testing, calendar, and other issues concerns us. The people in local communities have far less voice today than they did only a few decades ago. Governor Walker, you speak of the need to reduce 'Big Government,' and we see that you are doing so as it relates to eliminating positions in government, but the 'power of the people, by the people, for the people' is less in people's hands than it once was. Our school board members are locally elected officials. These same people work, live, and die in our communities. Citizens trust these locally elected officials to set policy and support education in our communities. These respected school board members have far less control over local decisions than they did in the past...
"We ask you to partner with us to address the significant challenges our schools are facing. We do not support recent budgets and the underfunding of public education. We believe budgets need to be adjusted to meet the needs of today's learners. Since the onset of revenue limits in 1992, our school districts have been reducing and eliminating programs and resources. We are burdened by the cumulative effects of budget cuts resulting in increased class sizes, cut programs, and deferred maintenance plans. Additionally, we must keep pace with technology demands and provide necessary support services for students. Our districts are struggling to maintain our current educational and co-curricular programs, while recognizing we need to expand educational opportunities and choices for students and families to prepare students for 21st century skills in a globally competitive climate."
The recently passed budget fails to invest in our future generations. While experts, like the ones authoring the letter, understand that Wisconsin students have a right to obtain the skills they need to be successful in their higher education or career goals, the Republican budget does nothing to to equip our schools with the tools to do so. The current budget fails Wisconsin children by:
Our neighborhood schools are
already reeling from the negative impacts of the Republican budget. A
parent of three students in the School District of South Milwaukee
mentions that despite hardworking, dedicated volunteers, "Our PTOs
cannot fill the holes that this budget will leave." In Wauwatosa, a
father shared his experiences and the worries he and other parents face
as a result of the district's strained budget. He described seeing
devastated mothers at public meetings, waiting to learn if their child's
speech therapist will be cut. At the same time, another parent might be
anxiously waiting to know if their kid's AP class will still be offered.
It's a destructive game of drawing straws -- a gamble to see which kid
gets a chance at a future and which one doesn't. It's a gamble that
ultimately we all lose.
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.
Unfortunately, over the last several years we have seen relentless attempts by Republicans in Wisconsin and across the country to restrict access to the polls and undermine the Voting Rights Act.
The most frequently discussed attempt
to disenfranchise voters here in Wisconsin is 2011 Assembly Bill 7,
Wisconsin's Voter Suppression Law, which requires a photo ID be
presented in order for an individual to cast their vote. The law
disproportionately impacts students, the elderly, minority voters,
people with disabilities, and the homeless, by increasing the
requirements on what people would need to do in order to obtain a photo
ID for voting.
While Republicans in Wisconsin have
continued to enact policies that are counter to what the Voting Rights
Act sought to accomplish 50 years ago, we must continue to advocate for
expanded access to the voting booth. Forward-thinking
states in the union are doing the exact opposite of what we are doing in
Wisconsin. They are looking to increase access to voting by implementing
online voter registration and allowing for more early voting options. In
the case of Oregon, they recently passed legislation that automatically
registers everyone over the age of 18 to vote. These are the types of
good government policies we should be pursuing in Wisconsin.
|Medicaid Turns 50!|
Another landmark law turned 50
recently -- on July 30, 2015, Medicaid celebrated their 50th
anniversary. For the last five decades Medicaid has been critically
important in providing health care access and financial security for
low-income families and individuals, including children, parents,
pregnant mothers, seniors, and people with disabilities.
In Wisconsin, Medicaid helps fund our BadgerCare program and provides basic health insurance coverage for roughly 1.2 million people, including about 500,000 children.
Medicaid has been crucial to the health and well-being of children and families in Wisconsin. For example, the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University recently published a report that notes the benefits of investing in the Medicaid program, particularly as it relates to the long-term success of children in various capacities. According to the report, children with Medicaid access were less likely to have high blood pressure or be hospitalized as adults. They also show greater academic success. Children who benefited from Medicaid eligibility as a result of program expansion were less likely to drop out of high school and more likely to graduate from college. Finally, the report also states that children who had access to Medicaid achieved greater economic security and success later in life.
According to the Wisconsin Council on Children an Families, "These findings illustrate Medicaid's value not only as a key source of health coverage for children, but also an investment in their future. As we celebrate Medicaid's 50th anniversary, it's clearer than ever why we need to preserve and strengthen it for future generations of children."
I couldn't agree more with this
sentiment. Wisconsin was once a leader in the health care arena, until
recent years. We have traditionally valued the well-being and health of
our neighbors, understanding that expanding preventive, basic health
care was not only just but also the moral thing to do.
The refusal to accept federal
funding to improve our BadgerCare program has significant consequences.
Not only does our state lose out on the millions in savings, but our
neighbors who are barely over the income limits -- which were reduced by the governor
last session -- find themselves unable to afford coverage through the
Marketplace as it was not designed for their income level. One Wisconsin
neighbor, Barbara, found out her husband's Social Security payment would
be increasing by $22. This increase put them $20 over the BadgerCare
income limit. She looked into her options through the health care
Marketplace and discovered her and her husband cannot afford the
insurance offered there. For instance, for a silver plan -- that would
cover her ongoing care and medicine as BadgerCare did -- would cost
their entire monthly income of $1350 (premiums plus the increased copays
and deductible). Expanding BadgerCare would help families like Barbara's
live healthy lives without having to worry about going bankrupt.
|Share your Thoughts on State and Community Issues!|
the 2015-2017 state budget process now concluded, the Legislature will
be taking a brief break until Fall. The damaging effects of the state
budget will be long-lasting, and I will continue to update you
throughout the summer on the implications of the budget.
In the meantime, I want to hear
from you! Therefore, I created a 2015-2016 Neighborhood Survey asking
about various issues that are important to our community and our state.
Your input is greatly appreciated and will help me prepare for session
to resume in the coming months.
I look forward to hearing your views on these important issues! As always, please do not hesitate to contact me about any state or community matters important to you
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