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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Issue of the Week: The Right to Recall Officials Is Yours

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In the final days of the heated campaign to recall Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican state senators, it's easy to lose sight of what's really happening in Wisconsin.

What's really happening is that on Election Day, June 5, Wisconsin will be engaging in an essential act of democracy.

The Wisconsin Constitution grants voters the right to recall our elected officials. This amendment was approved by two consecutive sessions of the state Legislature, then ratified by voters in 1926, without any conditions on the reason for the recall. As long as Wisconsinites could gather enough signatures for recall within a short period of time—60 days—then the power to recall an elected official was in their hands.

Wisconsinites don't have to prove that the official has broken any law. They merely have to convince their friends and neighbors that the official has broken the public trust and must be removed from office immediately.

As Sen. Robert ("Fighting Bob") La Follette stated in his campaign literature, "By the recall, a faithless public official may be retired without waiting for the evil to be fully consummated."

Marquette University associate professor of law Ed Fallone, who included that La Follette quote in his blog essay on the history of the Wisconsin recall, wrote, "The broad nature of the recall power reflects its role as the intended remedy for a broken democracy."

A broken democracy, in that era, was seen as one that was controlled by corporations, special interest groups and party bosses while the public was shut out of the democratic process. Recalls, along with other "good government" laws, were a check on the power of the elite so the Legislature would speak for and answer to the people of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin's legislators and the majority of voters in Wisconsin in 1926 trusted the wisdom of the public by enshrining the right to recall in the state constitution. In fact, if you follow La Follette's argument, Wisconsinites, via the recall, don't just have the right to remove corrupt officials from office between regularly scheduled elections, "without waiting for the evil to be fully consummated." We have a duty to recall corrupt officials before that corruption infects our democratic institutions and our way of life.

You have the right to recall your elected officials.

Exercise that right by voting on Tuesday, June 5.

Hero of the Week: Dryhootch's Bob Curry

As a way to offer better services to veterans, Bob Curry, a Vietnam veteran, founded Dryhootch in 2008. The mission is to "provide a social space (a coffeehouse) where veterans, their families and friends, and the general public can connect and share stories in a safe, drug/alcohol-free environment" and to offer "a peer mentor program where veterans and their families can receive one-on-one mentoring or group mentoring from other veterans and their families." Dryhootch has expanded since its inception, with chapters in Waukesha, Madison and Chicago. All locations provide resources for veterans seeking information on legal and housing assistance, support groups and healing arts programs.

On Thursday, May 24, Curry was honored at a White House ceremony for "Champions of Change"—individuals within the veterans community who have shown continued support for efforts to end homelessness, boost employment, treat problems with substance abuse, and develop treatment programs for those dealing with PTSD.

Readers interested in volunteering at the coffeehouse, helping at outreach events or becoming a peer mentor are encouraged to inquire in person at 1030 E. Brady St. For more information, visit www.dryhootch.org.