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Uppity Wisconsin

Progressive News from Wisconsin


Gill v. Whitford Oral Arguments at Supreme Court today

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 00:52:00 +0000

Oral arguments are being heard today at the U.S. Supreme Court in the Gill v. Whitford case. I hear you asking yourself "why do I care?". Gerrymandering is the practice of drawing political boundaries with the intention of influencing the outcome of elections. This happens all the time, and has eventually over the years become accepted legally. However, as with many things in Wisconsin, the last few years have seen this practice being carried to an extreme. The Supreme Court has in the past indicated that they might be willing to hear an argument against gerrymandering of districts if there was a way to attach a practical measure of how the method of drawing the districts causes an influence on the outcome of elections. Gill v. Whitford is intended to be that case. I will not go into the math involved (though it's not that complicated) and simply say that a measure has been made of how unfair legislative districts are, and Wisconsin is by this measure an extreme case.  In general it means that the winners of elections across the state do not reflect the opinion of the electorate, but is influenced by how the districts have been drawn. In general terms this amounts to arranging the districts in such a way that a small number of districts are made safe for the opposing party, while making a larger number of districts safe for the party in power, which has drawn the maps. Lower courts have ruled that the legislative districting in Wisconsin is unfair, and the state has been required to re-draw the maps in a fair manner. All of this has been held up as the case has gone to appeal with the federal Supreme Court. The fairness of elections in Wisconsin is at stake, and indeed this could influence the fairness of elections across the country. It is an extremely important case.  This video will help to explain what has been going on, and the timeline of the case up until today. AFJ SCOTUS Spotlight: Gill v. Whitford class="media-youtube-player" width="640" height="390" title="AFJ SCOTUS Spotlight: Gill v. Whitford" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>Video of AFJ SCOTUS Spotlight: Gill v. Whitford gerrymanderingfair mapsfair elections [View the story "Foxconn or Fox-Con?" on Storify]FoxconnScott WalkerStorify [...]

Problems left for the next budget writers

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 00:05:00 +0000

By Senator Kathleen Vinehout “Policy is who pays, who doesn’t pay and where the money gets spent,” said the President of the NAACP in a recent speech. Policy making was center stage at the State Capitol when the long delayed $76 billion two-year state budget was rushed to passage just days after a majority of lawmakers voted to give a Taiwan billionaire $3 billion in state subsidies. Budgets are about choices. Budget writers this year chose to leave major problems for the next budget writers. Education is the most important job state government does. For years, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreed the state’s school funding formula was broken. This budget, there were enough funds to change the formula. Efforts to do so were voted down. Instead, more state dollars were spent on vouchers for unaccountable private schools. Under this budget, private schools will receive $8,396 a year in state taxpayer money for a high school student. Public schools would receive $6,671 for the same student. These estimates are detailed in a memo from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau. The total cost of an average public-school student is a little over $11,000. Most of the difference comes from local property taxes. Remember, these numbers are averages. Many of our local districts receive much less than the state average of $6,671. Particularly hurt by the formula are small rural schools. There is a fundamental disconnect between what drives school revenue – the number of students - and what drives expenses – the cost structure. For example, if three students leave a class of 20, the district revenue is cut by 15%. But the cost of teaching a class of 17 is almost the same as teaching a class of 20. Other problems exist. The formula assumes all children cost the same to educate. But children who are in poverty or are English Language Learners, for example, cost more to educate. Costs also vary with the size of districts. The solution by majority lawmakers was to add money outside the broken formula instead of fixing the formula. This increases the inequity between school districts and makes fixing the problem later more difficult. Fixing transportation was also left for the writers of the next budget. Instead of adding sustainable funding sources, budget writers cut 253 positions from the Department of Transportation (DOT). A few years ago, the former DOT Secretary added positions arguing engineering costs decrease when work is done by in-house engineers rather than by consulting firms. A recent audit by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau confirmed that conclusion. The transportation budget was “balanced” in part by lowering inflation estimates. Which made me wonder since DOT in the past has underestimated inflation when anticipating costs. Potholes and locals turning asphalt roads back to gravel are the result of past state budget decisions that are not fixed in this budget. In the past six years, local road aid has been underfunded. After steady increases to keep up with inflation – even during the recession – the 2011 budget cut over 9% out of county road aid. All but one of the following years saw no increase at all. This budget includes an increase, but nothing near what is needed to make up for past cuts and inflation. An even worse pattern exists in the general funding of local government. It’s budget time for local communities. But counties and cities do not have the money to keep up with expenses. Recently, a county board chair shared that department budget requests far exceeded a miniscule increase in expected revenue. Over the past sixteen years, there has been a 20% decrease in state dollars given to locals in what we call “shared revenue.” In the same time period Wisconsin has seen a 56% increase in the state budget. I’d say the state has not done a good job of sharing. No wonder county and city services are being cut back. The budget has passed, but the problems in local communities have not been addressed. Roads aren’t getting repai[...]

Bob Fest in La Crosse

Mon, 18 Sep 2017 23:42:06 +0000

As you are probably aware, Fighting Bob Fest was on the road this year, with events in Madison, Milwaukee, and La Crosse. I attended the La Crosse event, partly representing Uppity Wisconsin, Wis.Community, and the Citizen Action Western Wisconsin Organizing Co-op. 

As always, the speeches were great, and with a little more local flavor in a lot of cases this time around. Jim Hightower was, unfortunately, not able to make it due to a family crisis. 

There will be more pictures and news over the next few days as I look through the pictures. In the meantime I will leave you with a brief video of Nina Turner, head of Our Revolution, who gave a rousing and personal speech at Fighting Bob Fest. 

Nina Turner at Fighting Bob Fest La Crosse 2017

class="media-youtube-player" width="640" height="390" title="Nina Turner at Fighting Bob Fest La Crosse 2017" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>Video of Nina Turner at Fighting Bob Fest La Crosse 2017

User Purging and other changes

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 22:54:47 +0000

I've been doing some clean-up on Uppity Wisconsin.  This is largely in preparation for moving all of the Uppity Wisconsin blogs from here to their new home at . Over the years (10 of them, hard to believe) we've accumulated quite a few people as users on the site who have never contributed content - many of them created accounts and then never logged in.  I've deleted all of those user accounts today, so if you have never posted to the site or even asked about posting to the site, your account has been deleted. I hope to get the site moved some time before Oct. 1.  Things will work largely as they always have, or at least that is the concept.

Rep. Subeck - $3 Billion Foxconn Boondoggle: Bad Deal Gone Worse

Thu, 14 Sep 2017 16:15:41 +0000

DATE: September 14, 2017
CONTACT: Zach Madden, 608-266-7521(office) 920-627-5773 (cell)
$3 Billion Foxconn Boondoggle: Bad Deal Gone Worse
MADISON – Representative Lisa Subeck (D-Madison) released the following statement regarding today’s upcoming Assembly vote on Senate changes to Special Session Assembly Bill 1, on Foxconn.
“The Senate action on the Foxconn giveaway only makes a bad deal even worse. If handing over $3 billion in corporate welfare and waiving laws that protect our air, land, and water wasn’t enough, now Republicans want to give Foxconn unprecedented power over our legal system and the court appeals process.
It is hard to believe Republicans could make this bad deal even worse, but somehow they have managed to do so.
The Foxconn Boondoggle diverts $3 billion we could invest in our neighborhood schools, higher education, vital infrastructure, or health care for our most vulnerable residents. Governor Walker and Republicans are selling out Wisconsin’s future, our environment, and now our justice system to one big foreign corporation.”


When Up is Down

Wed, 13 Sep 2017 21:56:22 +0000

September 13, 2017 Trying to understand last minute deals taking away local powers By Senator Kathleen Vinehout A last-minute budget amendment has folks in Western Wisconsin very worried. Locals have spent seven years negotiating with large sand mines to reach agreements that allow neighbors and mines to co-exist. In some cases, locals decided certain sensitive and tourist areas needed protection from mines. All the careful negotiations appear poised to go out the window in a strangely evolving budget deal that seems to affect quarries – or, as we often know them, gravel pits. First, in full disclosure, my farm is located next door to a quarry. My neighbor crushes rock for construction projects. The details I provide here will personally affect my family. Late Tuesday night last week, the public and minority members of the budget writing committee got their first look at a transportation deal. The deal was to break the impasse that’s stymied budget passage for four months. Buried in the amendment was language that stopped all local oversight of quarries using sand, rock and gravel for road projects. The next morning, I received several calls from local government officials who wanted to know if the budget writing committee had taken away local powers to oversee sand mines and quarries. Locals worried details were never made public until after supper, when most folks were getting their little ones off to bed, and voted on the same night, when most had gone to bed. At first, no one seemed to know the origin of the idea to remove any oversight of quarries by locals. Why take away local powers related to gravel pits? There are hundreds of gravel pits across Wisconsin. Some are idle, some are large, some are very small. But they are everywhere. The budget amendment was comprehensive and dealt with many of the issues written in previous attempts to take away local oversight of sand mines. The proposal would stop locals from requiring a quarry to get a zoning permit, including a site that has notpreviously been developed as a mining pit. Locals could not set limits on explosives or other types of blasting, on noise, the number of trucks leaving a mining pit, and the hours of mining operation. The proposed law forbids locals from setting air or water standards, or putting any type of restrictions related to monitoring air quality or water quality or quantity. I’ve heard from local elected leaders and citizens all across western Wisconsin who do not like lawmakers taking away any local powers. And they certainly did not like this. But when this proposal became public I also heard from interest groups that the plan DID NOT GO FAR ENOUGH in taking away local control. In what must be the strangest “up” is “down” memo I’ve ever seen, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) and others asked lawmakers to get rid of the quarry provisions because they did not go far enough. Remember, this amendment is taking away local powers, not rewriting state laws adding more local powers. WMC wrote, “...there is no getting around the fact that the Republican-controlled Legislature will have granted expanded environmental regulatory powers to municipalities... This Legislature has done so much to turn our state around. Now is not the time to begin turning that progress back by deciding which Wisconsin industries can be subject to significant regulatory overreach by local governments.” A local county official had a very different description of what the late-night budget motion did. “It comes within a 16 th of an inch of including sand mines to say nothing of how it takes away our local control. They will be blasting and crushing rock all night, all summer long. Why don’t they trust local officials? Who is going to take the complaints we get? Somebody went to a lot of trouble to write this amendment if all they wanted to limit were quarries.” Somebody indeed. A few hours later, I learned [...]

Fighting Bob Fest Saturday in Milwaukee and La Crosse

Wed, 13 Sep 2017 21:54:00 +0000

As pointed out before, there will be Fighting Bob Fest events in Milwaukee and La Crosse on Saturday.  Uppity Wisconsin, Wis.Community, and perhaps the Citizen Action Western Wisconsin Organizing Co-op will be there, probably all at one table.  Come say hello! Details in the calendar.

Wisconsin’s Long Journey toward a Living Wage

Sat, 02 Sep 2017 16:16:04 +0000

“For an adult with a family who has to pay for food, clothing, and a place to live, and be able to pay for a car, the minimum wage is clearly not high enough,” wrote Bethany of Eleva-Strum High School. Wisconsin was one of the first states to enact a Living Wage. The law gave authority for determining a living wage to an Industrial Commission made up of a balance of employers, employees and the public. The year was 1913. Two years earlier, people attending a national conference of the National Consumers’ League in Milwaukee called for a minimum wage. Advocates made a minimum wage the top issue. Following the conference, Wisconsinites called on leaders to create a state minimum wage. The next year, UW Professor John Connors wrote the first minimum wage bill. Progressive lawmakers introduced two bills. But neither bill was signed into law. Massachusetts has the distinct honor for passing the first minimum wage law in 1912. In 1913, Wisconsin joined seven other states, including Minnesota and Oregon, to pass state minimum wage laws. But not until 1919 did workers see the result in better wages. Opponents challenged an Oregon law, similar to Wisconsin’s, in court. A tie vote in the United States Supreme Court eventually cleared the way for action. The first Wisconsin minimum wage was only for women and minors over age 17. Men were not included in state minimum wage laws until 1975 law when lawmakers first used the term “employees”. The first wage was set at twenty-two cents an hour. Advocates challenged this wage, asking the commission to make the pay “more commensurate with a proper living standard”. A few years later the minimum wage was increased to a quarter an hour. Again, action of the courts interfered with people’s ability to make a living wage. In 1923, the US Supreme Court declared all minimum wage laws unconstitutional. The action was a set-back for all living wage advocates. Wisconsin reacted by passing an “oppressive” wage law protecting women and minors from very low wages. By 1937, the Supreme Court reversed its decision clearing the way for Wisconsin’s original law to again take effect. The next year President Roosevelt signed a law setting the first federal minimum wage at twenty-five cents an hour. Wisconsin kept its own living wage. Even so, inequalities continued for women, and worse for rural women. For example, in 1956, the federal minimum was a dollar an hour. The state wage for women and minors was seventy cents in an urban area and fifty cents for women and minors who worked in a small town or rural area. The Industrial Commission regularly reconsidered a living wage. The Commission authorized studies of the cost of living and made many adjustments. The last “living wage” study was done in 1967. The study recommended Wisconsin use the federal Consumer Price Index (CPI). The state then set a policy to revise minimum wages every other year using the CPI. As near as I can tell by reading state historical documents, this approach continued through the 1970s. But by the 1980s, the minimum wage was no longer a living wage. And in the last budget, the Governor and Legislative majority repealed the very definition of “living wage” and the law allowing an employee to file a complaint if he or she felt unfairly compensated. If the minimum wage kept up with inflation since 1968 workers would now be paid $11.17 an hour. According to a recent report of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), in 2016, $7.25, the current minimum wage, buys ten percent less than when it was last raised in 2009 and one-quarter less its value in 1968. According to EPI, raising the minimum wage to $15 in 2024 would undo the erosion that began in the 1980s. Several members of Congress have introduced a bill to raise the minimum wage in eight steps to $15 by 2024. Yes, Bethany, the minimum wage is clear[...]

Fighting Bob Fest Hits the Road

Sat, 02 Sep 2017 15:31:30 +0000

There was some consternation in progressive circles this year since it appeared that there would only be a kickoff event for Fighting Bob Fest, but no actual fest.  However, the folks at Our Wisconsin Revolution have teamed up with The Progressive to take Fighting Bob Fest on the road. There will be fests in Milwaukee and in La Crosse this year. Furious planning is still underway, but the events are soon, on Sept. 16 in both cities.  Speakers this year will include: Nina Turner,  National president of Our Revolution Jim Hightower, favorite regular Fighting Bob Fest speaker of The Hightower Lowdown Terrance Warthen and Sarah Lloyd, Co-Chairs - Our Wisconsin Revolution David Bowen, WI Assembly District 10 (MKE) Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign (LAX) Admission is free, though donations are welcome.  Food will be available at both venues.  If you are interested in volunteering or your organization is interested in tabling at the event. Contact for details. We have put both days into the calend on our sister site, Wis.Community, and more details are available at the links below. Personally I am heading over to the La Crosse event and hope to bring some folks from the Citizen Action Western Wisconsin Organizing Co-op. Fighting Bob FestBlog Page Link: RSVP for Milwaukee Fighting Bob FestRSVP for La Crosse Fighting Bob Fest [...]