Please feel free to contact me with any concerns or opinions you might
Office Phone: (608) 266-7505
Toll-free Phone: (800) 361-5487
P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707
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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.
October 23 and Saturday October 24, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The Grand Lighting of the pumpkins will be Friday October 23 at Humboldt
Park at 7 p.m. where games, hay rides, face painting, Magician Tom
Burgermeister performs two shows nightly. Brewcity Fire Brigade fire
spinners, a black and white film and costumed attendees all get together
CLICK HERE for more information.
Humboldt Park Pavilion
3000 S. Howell Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53207
The Greater Milwaukee Foundation Centennial Celebration Exhibition
October 24, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Description: Celebrate the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and what
they have done to help individuals, families, and the community! The
cost is $5 per person and children 12 and under are free.
For more information, CLICK HERE.
Milwaukee County Historical Society
910 N. Old World Third St.
Milwaukee, WI 53203
Brady Street Walking Food Tour
Date: Saturday, October 24 at 11:30 a.m.
Description: Explore the East Side of Milwaukee while sampling
food from neighborhoods famous for their Italian and Polish food. This
tour is approximately 1.1 miles with plenty of breaks and chances to
sit. It should take about 2-2.5 hours.
For location information, CLICK HERE.
History & Architecture
Date: Sunday, October 25, from Noon to 1:30 p.m.
Description: Explore Lake Michigan, Milwaukee River and Harbor on
this 90 minute sightseeing cruise. The ticket window opens 30 minutes
prior to the start of the cruise and boarding begins 20 minutes before.
For more information, CLICK HERE.
Milwaukee Boat Line
101 W Michigan St
Milwaukee, WI 53203
Family-friendly Halloween at Bounce Milwaukee
Date: Friday, October 30, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Description: Bounce Milwaukee will be transformed into a
Halloween wonderland for the entire family. There will be Halloween
themed crafts, laser tag, food, and drinks along with rock climbing and
a costume contest. Tickets should be purchased prior to the event.
For more information, CLICK HERE.
2801 S 5th Ct
Milwaukee, WI 53207
Thank You Thursdays at MPM
Date: Thursday, November 5 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Description: On the first Thursday of every month, Milwaukee
County residents receive free admission to the Milwaukee Public Museum.
Explore a variety of different exhibits. Children must be accompanied by
an adult with a valid photo ID and proof of residency.
800 W. Wells St.
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Milwaukee Fish Fry
Date: Fridays now through November at 5:30 p.m.
Description: Enjoy your Friday evening exploring the streets of
Milwaukee and enjoying fish fries along the way. On this tour, you will
be able to sample three half size fish fries along with dessert! This is
a bus tour, but does require minimal walking.
For location and more information, CLICK HERE.
Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,
Hope you're having a great week! If you haven't had a chance to get your
Halloween fix, you should head down to the Pumpkin Pavilion tomorrow or
Saturday night. It's always a great time with tons to do. I always enjoy
catching up with friends and neighbors there so hopefully I'll see you
there. Other community events are also listed below -- I will try to get
to as many as I can.
Also, thank you to each of you who have contacted my office in the last
couple of weeks to add your voice against the destructive bills that are
currently being jammed through the Legislature. I appreciate hearing
from you, and agree that this series of bills will shred the fabric of
Wisconsin's good government history and will do nothing to address
Wisconsin's growing problems of suppressed wages, stagnant growth, and
For those of you looking for a further
explanation of these bills that are dragging Wisconsin toward
corruption, this week's newsletter will focus on a few of them.
We also have some very good news for
those that oppose the undemocratic takeover of our public schools. Turns
out, in their haste, the architects of this faulty program failed at
their own game.
As always, it is great to see many of you in the community at farmer's
markets, races, and events. Please remember that I welcome your ideas
and always appreciate hearing from you about your priorities and
See you in the neighborhood,
State Senator, District 7
a time when our state has the fastest shrinking middle class in the
nation, where the recovery hasn't reached our neighbors who need it
most, and where our education has been severely under-funded at
every level, the priority of leaders should be on tackling these
problems head-on. Instead, the news we keep hearing is about
increased illegal activity, disturbing coordination in political
campaigns, and campaign donors getting undue influence in writing
bills and getting access to taxpayer cash.
Instead of fixing the problems of our state, or cleaning up their
acts, lawmakers have decided to instead make it harder to hold them
accountable, harder for citizens to find out about acts of
corruption, and to make actions -- that are illegal in every other
state -- legal here in Wisconsin. This should disturb every citizen
in our state, regardless of background. If your voice is allowed to
be shut out and these bills move forward, you won't know what your
state is doing and it will be harder to be heard in the future.
and legislative Republicans are fast-tracking a series of bills that
will streamline corruption in our state. Taken
together, these bills will rewrite many of our current laws that
have been part of Wisconsin's nationally recognized model of good,
clean government. They will open the floodgates to more cronyism and
corruption that has already begun to take hold under the Walker
Exempt elected officials from our John Doe laws, blinding law
enforcement to effectively investigating political corruption
Allow an avalanche of special interest money to political
Dismantle and politicize the agency that oversees our state's
Limiting Investigations into Corruption
The first of these bills to reach
the Senate floor was Senate Bill 43, which largely carves out
elected officials from our state's John Doe laws. This bill will
make corrupt politicians
almost immune from being investigated and brought to justice. Some
have even declared this the "Corrupt Politician Protection Act."
For those of you who are unfamiliar
with John Doe investigations, it is a procedure conducted by a judge
to investigate whether a crime has been committed and to decide
whether sufficient credible evidence exists to warrant prosecution
of a crime. In these cases, the judge's role is both investigative and
judicial as the procedure is often used in situations where an
action of wrongdoing is apparent, but the specifics and number of
offenses are not immediately known. For 165 years, the law has been
effective in bringing politicians to
justice after they have committed crimes in public office. Most
recently, Wisconsinites are familiar with John Doe investigations
after it was used to unveil crimes that were committed by those in
the Walker Administration. The investigations resulted in jail time
for a number of top Walker aides.
While Senate Bill 43 keeps John Doe in effect for many serious
felonies, it specifically carves out crimes that are committed by
those serving in public office or their wealthy donors. This will
make it more difficult to investigate any wrongdoing or misuse of
taxpayer resources by elected officials.
In order to maintain some level of accountability, Senate Democrats
introduced a series of common sense amendments to ensure elected officials are
not able to get away with some of the worst corruptions. Crimes such
as bribery, theft, extortion, violating campaign finance laws,
buying votes on legislation, and tampering with a public record were
just some of the violations that our amendments would have secured
under our John Doe laws. All of our amendments were blindly rejected
by the Republican majority when the bill came to the Senate floor on
Tuesday, October 20.
During the debate, Senate Democrats used a procedural move to delay
the final vote on this reckless proposal. However, Republican
leadership called the Senators back to the Senate floor in the dark
of night, and passed the bill on a party-line vote early Wednesday
The Assembly passed the bill on a party-line vote later that day.
The bill will now go to the governor for his approval.
By pushing through Senate Bill 43, Legislative Republicans have
shown that they are out of touch with the true priorities of
hardworking Wisconsin families. They have the betrayed public trust
by holding themselves above the law; better than everyone else.
Legislative Republicans are so blinded by their haste to shield
themselves from the law it makes one wonder what the are rushing to
Dark Money in Our Elections
Many people today feel that "big
money" has too much influence in politics, and that our system of
equality -- the basis of our democracy -- is being jeopardized. This
perspective was cemented in the minds of of people across the United
States after the nation experienced the effects of the controversial Citizens
decision. In this case, Citizens
United v. Federal Election Commission,
it was ruled that the government lacks the ability to limit
independent political spending by corporations or other
organizations because they have the same rights as people. This
court decision has impacted the United States' political sphere in a
number of ways. It has, in general, made it possible for politics to
be a pay-to-play game, as elections and lawmaking can unfortunately
be influenced by outside spending. In his dissenting opinion to the Citizens
case, Supreme Court Justice Stevens wrote, "A democracy cannot
function effectively when its constituent members believe laws are
being bought and sold."
As shown by referendums that passed
overwhelmingly across Wisconsin in recent years, Wisconsinites agree
that individual citizens' rights and votes are not being respected
in the current system, and that changes need to be made to reduce
the influence of millionaires and corporate big spenders on our
politicians and political system as a whole. Despite broad public
concern regarding this issue, Legislative Republicans responded by
doing the opposite by introducing a bill that could actually
exasperate -- rather than scale
back -- the negative effects
on elections that we saw after Citizens
Under the bill introduced by Republican leadership, which is swiftly
moving through the Legislature as Assembly Bill 387, individuals and
corporate donors will be able to spend unlimited amounts of money on
ads for or against candidates without even having to tell you who
they are, up to 60 days before an election. This
bill sets up a system where unlimited money can be given
to secret special interest groups to run deceptive ads for or
against a candidate for elected office, and ignores that most of us
want to know what sources are providing us with information to make
sure it's credible. Under Assembly Bill 387, Republicans take this ability away from the public when they are trying to determine what
candidate for public office they want to elect.
Additionally, candidates and interest groups will be allowed to
coordinate and corporations will be able to give money directly to
political parties and campaign committees. This sets the stage for
politicians �- and the decisions they make �- to be sold to the
amount of money people can give directly to candidates will also be
higher under the bill. To make matters worse, large
political donors would be kept secret as they will no longer have to
disclose who they work for, which will make pay-to-play even easier
to hide. This
is very concerning to Wisconsinites as there has already been hints
of pay-to-play schemes from this administration.
Just a few months ago, Walker was under fire after the public
learned that his failed jobs agency, the Wisconsin Economic
Development Corporation, gave $500,000 in taxpayer funds to one of
his campaign donors. The money has yet to be repaid. More recently,
in fact just last month, it came out that another huge financial
supporter of the governor was working a sweetheart deal with the
Department of Natural Resources to privatize hundreds of feet of
prime lakefront property, taking
land and lake access away from the public.
The G.A.B. has served and protected
Wisconsinites since its bipartisan creation, yet Republicans
introduced Assembly Bill 388, to dismantle the nonpartisan Board and
replace with with two separate
boards to be run by partisan
appointees. This alone is a recipe for disaster and opens the door
for political corruption that could go unrestricted.
At a time when the dark cloud of corruption that looms over our
current administration continues to grow bigger and get darker,
Wisconsin ought be shedding light on this malignant culture of
corruption, rather than making it harder for it to be revealed.
The state Assembly took up Assembly Bill 387 on Wednesday, October
21, with only Republicans voting for its passage. Senate Republicans
are expected force a vote on it next Tuesday, October 27.
Transparency and Accountability
Legislative Republicans have once again put forth a proposal to
polarize and politicize the nonpartisan Government Accountability
The G.A.B. was created in response to the caucus scandal in
Wisconsin, where legislators and their staff were found guilty of
campaigning on state time and with state resources. It is composed
of six former judges who are nominated by a panel of four Wisconsin
Appeals Court judges, appointed by the governor, and confirmed by
the Senate. Both the Board and its staff must be deemed nonpartisan.
The mission of the G.A.B. is to ensure accountability and
transparency in government by enforcing ethics and lobbying laws,
and enhancing representative democracy by safeguarding the integrity
of the electoral process on behalf of the people. The G.A.B. is also
tasked with administering Wisconsin's elections through a fair and
impartial process that guarantees that the vote of each individual
counts so the will of the people prevails.
Another major concern under the bill is the change in the
availability of resources for the board to investigate potential
ethics violations. The G.A.B. is currently allowed the resources
they need to fully investigate potential wrongdoings. Assembly Bill
388 will make the new partisan ethics and elections boards jump
through hoops in order to get the resources they need by having to
ask the Legislature for adequate funding to investigate potential corruption.
Having the board ask for funding to conduct an investigation from
potentially the very people they may need to investigate is like
handing over banking industry regulations to Wall Street.
We need to have checks and balances in our state government. It
defies logic to replace a diligent and respected group of
nonpartisan judges with a partisan group who will be focused on
partisan gain rather than faithfully enforcing state law and
regulating ethical standards in public office. This partisan model
will allow for more opportunities for corruption to go undetected.
Under Assembly Bill 388,
Republicans are again signaling that they only seek to serve
themselves rather than their neighbors
by turning our nationally respected system of nonpartisan watchdogs
into partisan lapdogs.
On Wednesday, October 21, the state Assembly took up Assembly Bill
388 this destructive bill where it was passed by the Republican
majority 58-39, with two not voting. The Senate is expected to take
the bill up next Tuesday, October 27.
Focused on their Own Jobs, Not Yours
Our Wisconsin neighbors are are still grappling with Wisconsin's
stagnant wages and stalled job growth. Pushing these reckless bills
is a betrayal of longstanding Wisconsin values that have
traditionally made us champions of good, clean government.
Wisconsin has been
neglected for presidential political ambitions and torn apart to
meet the partisan whims of millionaires and billionaires. Rather
than focusing on grabbing more political power and inviting
corruption and cronyism into our state, legislative Republicans
should be focused on things that actually matter to families in our
As discussed in a previous Larson Report newsletter, Senate
Democrats recently introduced our Badger Blueprint, which is a
shared vision of the values and policies needed to help strengthen
our state. The Badger Blueprint promotes innovative, balanced
pro-growth solutions that will expand access to a quality education
and lifelong learning opportunities and invest in crucial
springboard infrastructure. We offer the Blueprint to help working
families with student loan debt relief, provide more affordable
child care, and expanded access to affordable health care.
These are the real values of Wisconsinites. Help Senate
Democrats send a strong message to Republican leadership by telling
them that these misguided bills are not priorities for hardworking
Wisconsin families and that we should maintain our strong tradition
of open, good government.
Click here to sign a petition to support open government in
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.
I am concerned with the MPS Takover plan, are there any updates
pertaining to this issue?
A: There were several provisions included in the 2015-2017 state
budget that harm MPS by continuing to strip resources away from them and
allowing for private schools to take over our traditional neighborhood
The recently enacted state budget mandates the state superintendent
provide a list of public schools that have received the lowest ranking
on the school accountability report. They must also identify schools
that are currently vacant or have "underutilized" buildings. These
schools could then be sold off to profit seeking voucher schools,
without any input from parents or the elected school board.
Like the disastrous Wisconsin Economic Develop Corporation (WEDC), the
hastily devised plan to take over MPS is proving to be ill-conceived.
This is no surprise as it appears to be modeled after failed experiments
in other states. Walker, the GOP, and those bent on grabbing power,
worked behind closed doors to rush us further towards profiteering and
privatization of schools in Milwaukee.
The deadline for the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to comply
with the requirements under state budget � to release a list of schools
� was last week. What we learned in a letter sent to Milwaukee County
Executive Chris Abele and MPS Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver is
that, in their haste, those seeking power over education have forced
takeover action based on outdated information and stale metrics. For
example, the law requires DPI to provide information using the most
recent school report card information. However, legislative Republicans
actually halted the creation of 2014-2015 report cards. Therefore, the
information provided to those in charge of the MPS Takeover may no
longer reflect how those schools are currently performing.
Click here to see the letter from DPI.
In addition to using old data, the way report cards are calculated was
modified in the last state budget, therefore, the last report card
available does not account for student growth and poverty when scoring
school performance as required by the new system. These are key factors
that should be looked at before any action of taking over a neighborhood
school. It is blatantly irresponsible not to. Unfortunately, due to this
failed plan these factors are not taken into consideration because of
the old data DPI had to use.
According to DPI, this means those identified as potential takeover
schools may not be identified as such in the future. Even though the
metrics and data were faulty, Milwaukee County is still required to take
over either at least one school on the list, or a vacant building.
Striping power away from local communities and elected school boards
from making decisions about their school is bad enough, but failing to
foresee the failed implementation of this takeover is like adding salt
to the wound. The misguided architects of this power grab have failed at
their own game. Unfortunately, our children are the ones who really
continue to lose out while their education and opportunities are
endangered by these careless actions.
The MPS power grab and the historically bad funding cuts to public
education are clear indications that there is a failure to value
investing in our communities and kids. If we truly want to fix the
problems in our schools, let's start by doing what works. If those who
schemed up this takeover really care about education, and not just
politics, they will join me in pursuing legislation such as the
Community Schools Act (Senate Bill 146),
which would invest in the proven community schools model, the Student
Equal Opportunity Act (Senate Bill 216),
which would ensure schools are able to provide students with special
needs with the services and supports they need, and the Fair Funding Act
which ensures all of our kids are fairly invested in.
These actions are proven to work. They would invest in helping the kids
that need it the most. We can't afford to give up on our kids and let
them fall behind. The sooner we invest in our kids, the sooner we will
see real results.