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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

UWM Student Election In Doubt

Ruling party’s ally removes opposing party from ballot

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If this is how UW-Milwaukee students are learning how democracy works in the real world, we’re in trouble.

Last week’s two-day election for the Student Association featured allegations of voter intimidation, bribery, poll workers filling out ballots for voters and censorship. And that came on the heels of the candidates of the main opposition party, Achieving Student Action through Progress (ASAP), being kicked off the ballot during the middle of the night, just a day before the election.

Instead of giving up, ASAP and its supporters mounted a write-in campaign and provided student voters with a list of their candidates and their positions. But Scott Dettman, ASAP candidate for president, said that poll workers were taking away those lists from voters, even though he had been assured by the ACLU and administrators that they were perfectly legal.

When the ballots were counted, the ruling party, Students United for Change (SUFC), beat ASAP by a 55%-45% margin. SUFC is responsible for the notorious and silly Sedition Act, which would shut down or censor student newspapers for printing what the party deemed to be libelous or slanderous.

Adding more fuel to the allegations of a rigged election, one of SUFC’s former officers is now the Independent Election Commissioner who decided to boot ASAP from the ballot just one day before the election. Dettman said his party filed complaints on Sunday with the student court asking that the results of the election be nullified.

This would all seem to be student silliness, but Dettman said the student government’s conduct is important to all Milwaukeeans because it allocates about $9 million of student fees, and has the power to build bridges with the rest of the city.

“This is a major campus in the heart of the city,” Dettman said.

Comeback:
It took 45 ballots over the course of seven hours, but Lee Holloway won another term as chair of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors. In the end, Holloway received 12 votes to Supervisor James (Luigi) Schmitt’s seven. The vote seems to be a startling comeback for Holloway. Just two years ago, a majority of the supervisors wanted him removed from that position, thanks to an ethics case that involved some of his investment properties (and the obligatory hysterical coverage from right-wing radio and the Journal Sentinel).

Now, we ask, will the supervisors who supported Schmitt—Mark Borkowski, Paul Cesarz, Lynne De Bruin, Patricia Jursik, Joseph Rice and Joe Sanfelippo—continue to oppose Holloway’s ability to deliver a veto-proof majority that provides a check on Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker’s worst policy proposals? Only time will tell.

Public Museum Cutbacks:
It was on the brink of financial ruin just a few short years ago, but thanks to some forgiving banks— and Milwaukee County—the Milwaukee Public Museum is rebounding behind bold new exhibits, including the success of its current “Body Worlds” show. But the museum announced that it will likely cut back hours this summer by closing earlier on most days and totally closing on Tuesdays. Museum President Dan Finley said the cutbacks are due to reduced attendance in the summer, not tough finances. But the employees’ union isn’t happy, since some workers would be forced to work six days a week instead of five, and some employees said that they have already made concessions to keep the museum afloat.

New MPS Arts Ed Board:
It’s no secret that the Milwaukee Public Schools’ arts education programming has been gutted in the wake of budget constraints. So the MPS Board of Directors is happy to announce the formation of an Advisory Committee on Arts Education that includes representatives from the state, the local art community (Neil Hoffman, president of MIAD, and Anne Katz, executive director of Arts Wisconsin) and local foundations (Dan Bader, president of the Helen Bader Foundation, and Faithe Colas, of the Salvation Army and “Black Nouveau”). MPS Board President Peter Blewett is committed to restoring arts education in the classroom, which was not a priority in the recent MPS strategic plan developed by the administration and city leaders.

Make It Work:
The state Department of Natural Resources is looking at how best to clean up contaminated sites along the 30th Street Corridor, where former industrial sites such as the A.O. Smith/Tower Automotive factory once stood. But the Good Jobs and Livable Neighborhoods Coalition is asking the DNR to include the public in its plans. Not only does the public deserve a voice in this project, they argue, but residents should be employed in cleaning up the sites.

They Just Don’t Get It:
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has admitted that its planned expansion of I-94 from the state line to Milwaukee won’t cut down on travel times. So Citizens Allied for Sane Highways (CASH) is wondering why they’re doing it in the first place. CASH’s Gretchen Schuldt said in a press release that a less expansive rebuild would cut $200 million from the $1.9 billion price tag and have the same effect on traffic congestion.

“Why should we spend that money on bigger freeways where bigger freeways won’t help or aren’t wanted?” she wondered. Instead, she argued, spend the money on commuter rail or other types of mass transit.

So Much for the Straight Talker:
Likely Republican nominee Sen. John McCain was in town last week to discuss his economic plan. But the public wasn’t invited to the event at Bucyrus International in South Milwaukee—just a select few business leaders and the press. (Isn’t that elitist of him?) It’s no wonder that McCain didn’t want to share his plans with regular folk. His economic plan would cut corporate taxes, radically privatize the current employer-based health care system and extend President Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Cover the Uninsured Week:
If McCain is elected, it’s likely that more Americans will be uninsured or will struggle to pay for health insurance. So that possibility makes the 2008 National Cover the Uninsured Week, April 28 to May 2, even more important to all voters. In 2006, an estimated 297,000 people were uninsured in Wisconsin; the number of uninsured Milwaukeeans reached 39,000 that year.

The Milwaukee Health Care Partnership is sponsoring a variety of programs next week, including a WTMJ Channel 4-supported phone bank for those who have questions about BadgerCare Plus, a county-wide BadgerCare Plus enrollment fair and an interfaith prayer breakfast to educate those who are committed to increasing health care coverage for underserved populations.

For more information, go to www.covertheuninsured.org.

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