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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Vote April 2

Shepherd Express Endorsements

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Ed Fallone for State Supreme Court

We urge Shepherd readers to end the dysfunction on the state Supreme Court by casting a vote for Edward Fallone on April 2. Adding Fallone to the state’s highest court would begin to address the many problems that are dividing the seven-member court.

Fallone’s opponent, Justice Pat Roggensack, has been a leader of the four-member Republican-friendly majority on the court. This rogue group—made up of Roggensack, Michael Gableman, David Prosser and Annette Ziegler—has held tight through thick and thin and they have cast votes that have seriously damaged the court’s reputation.

These justices sided with Gableman after the Wisconsin Judicial Commission recommended that Gableman be disciplined for violating ethics rules when he ran a race-baiting campaign ad that he knew contained gross misrepresentations of his opponent’s record. They failed to act on another Wisconsin Judicial Commission ethics complaint stemming from Prosser’s June 2011 physical altercation with Justice Ann Walsh Bradley. These four justices rushed through a decision on Act 10, Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial collective bargaining bill, simply because Republican legislative leaders wanted it done by a certain date for political reasons, ignoring separation of powers. (Even worse, the rushed decision provides no real guidance for those who want to understand how and when the state’s open meetings law should be followed.) They voted to support Roggensack’s effort to make their discussions about the administration of the courts private, denying the citizens of Wisconsin the ability to observe the justices’ decision-making process. And perhaps most importantly, these four justices approved rules written by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) and the Wisconsin Realtors Association that allow judges and justices to decide cases of major campaign contributors as well as accept contributions from parties that have cases pending before the court.

No wonder why Wisconsinites have little faith in our state Supreme Court, which until recently had been viewed as one of the best state supreme courts in the country.

On the campaign trail, Roggensack has been trying to downplay the court’s dysfunction, but the evidence cannot be denied. Roggensack has looked the other way from, or had a hand in, some of the worst ethical problems on the Supreme Court—including Prosser’s physical altercation with Bradley. Her credibility has been deeply damaged and Wisconsin voters are right to question her ability to serve on the state’s highest court as a fair jurist.

Electing Ed Fallone to the bench would be the best way that Wisconsin voters can clean up the court. Fallone is a legal scholar and professor who is a stickler about adhering to the constitution and settled law. He has strong ethics and a keen sense of right and wrong. He’s promised to overturn what he calls the “Roggensack rule,” which allows judges and justices to rule on campaign donors’ cases. We believe him when he says that he would be an independent voice on the court, someone who could bridge the divisions among the justices.

Yes, Fallone is the underdog and incumbent Roggensack, thanks to the heavy support from deep-pocketed, out-of-state, right-wing special interests and Republicans, has a huge fundraising lead. But Roggensack’s disappointing history on the court should spur voters to get to the polls on April 2 to vote for Fallone. Ed Fallone would help to restore the integrity of the state Supreme Court.

 

 

Tony Evers for State Superintendent of Public Instruction

 

This is a very easy vote to cast on Tuesday, April 2. Incumbent Tony Evers has earned another term as the state Superintendent of Public Instruction. In an era of divisiveness and hyper-partisanship, Evers has been a calm yet strong advocate for Wisconsin’s students.

That hasn’t been easy in the Walker era. Evers has developed a sane funding formula that would more effectively pay for public schools around the state and he’s worked hard to raise performance standards and accountability in our schools. But instead of being able to focus these long-term issues, in the past two years Evers has had to fight for the preservation of our public schools. Not only did Walker and the Republican-led Legislature cut $1.6 billion from the state’s public schools in their previous budget, but conservative lawmakers have opened the door to sending more taxpayer dollars to private schools in Milwaukee and around the state. Evers isn’t totally opposed to high-performing charter and voucher schools, but he is rightly concerned about transparency and accountability in these programs and he questions Walker’s proposal to increase the amount of vouchers at the same time state funding for K-12 public schools is flat. Traditional public schools educate the vast majority of Wisconsin’s children, yet conservative lawmakers’ attention seems to be focused on the experimental programs that educate a small minority of students. Furthermore, the evaluations of these nontraditional schools show that, at best, they do as well as the public schools and many do much worse. Keeping Evers in office would provide a smart counterpoint to those efforts and ensure that state taxpayer dollars for education are used most efficiently.

In contrast, Evers’ opponent, state Rep. Don Pridemore (R-Erin), would merely be a rubber stamp for his fellow Republicans’ worst impulses to privatize the state’s public schools. He has never taught in a classroom, nor has he served on a school board. What’s more, Pridemore advocates local control for schools, yet his version of “local control” shuts local taxpayers and voters out of any conversation so that lobbyists and Madison lawmakers can dictate educational policy without interference.

Tony Evers is by far the best candidate for state superintendent. We ask the Shepherd Express readers to please support Tony Evers on April 2. 

 

 

Janet Protasiewicz for Circuit Court Judge Branch 45

 

We are supporting Janet Protasiewicz for Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Branch 45. She has many years of broad experience in Milwaukee County’s courts and we believe she will be a fair and very capable judge for Milwaukee County.

Protasiewicz has worked as a prosecutor in the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office for more than 20 years, where she has dealt with some of the toughest issues facing county residents. But even though she has prosecuted people accused of terrible crimes, it’s evident when speaking to Protasiewicz that she still sees the humanity in people. We believe that anyone appearing in her court would get a fair hearing and be treated with respect.

Her opponent, Rebecca Bradley, doesn’t appear to be as impartial. Bradley was appointed to the bench in December 2012 by Gov. Scott Walker and the ultra-conservative Club for Growth has spent an eye-popping $167,000 on TV ads in support of her campaign in the final weeks before the election. Bradley, a private practice attorney with very little courtroom experience, has a long history with the Federalist Society, a far right-wing legal group. On the campaign trail, Bradley has been highlighting her “experience” on the bench, but those few months pale in comparison to Protasiewicz’s decades in the DA’s office.

We believe that Janet Protasiewicz would be an excellent judge and a welcome addition to Milwaukee County’s court system. Please vote for Protasiewicz on Tuesday, April 2.

Khalif Rainey and Ravae Sinclair Are Both Qualified for the County Board

On April 2, a special election will be held for District 2 (the North Side of Milwaukee) of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, which had been represented by Nikiya Harris, who is now serving in the state Senate. This race has two highly qualified candidates, which is why the Shepherd is endorsing both of them, Khalif Rainey and Ravae Sinclair.

Khalif Rainey is a staffer in Congresswoman Gwen Moore’s Milwaukee office, where he provides constituent services in the areas of housing, veterans, the environment, taxes, energy and youth. Ravae Sinclair is an assistant state public defender, a former staffer for U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold and a certified massage therapist and birth doula. Both Rainey and Sinclair have shown a thorough knowledge of the issues facing Milwaukee County and could get right down to work on Day 1.

We hope that North Side voters get to the polls on April 2 to support these highly qualified candidates, and we encourage the candidate who is not elected county supervisor on Election Day to continue to be involved in the community.

Elect Tony Staskunas to the Milwaukee County Board

The Shepherd is endorsing Tony Staskunas for the special election to be held in District 17 of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, which encompasses parts of West Allis, Greenfield, Greendale and Franklin. This open seat had been filled by Joe Sanfelippo, who was elected to the state Assembly in November 2012.

Staskunas served this area of the county in the state Assembly for 16 years, where he voted as a moderate Democrat who crossed party lines on many issues. That sort of moderation would be welcome on the county board, where very critical, long-range decisions will be made in the coming year. We don’t always agree with Staskunas, but we believe that he will serve this suburban district with integrity and dedication. 

Support Tatiana Joseph for South Side MPS Board Seat

In the election for District 6 of the Milwaukee Public Schools Board of Directors, we support Tatiana Joseph. This South Side seat has long been held by Peter Blewett, who decided not to run for re-election. Joseph is a native of Costa Rica who recently earned her doctorate in urban education at UW-Milwaukee. Joseph is a strong supporter of public schools and will work to ensure that all Milwaukee students receive a high-quality education, regardless of which school they attend. We like Joseph’s call for more transparency and accountability in the city’s voucher schools.

Vote for Claire Zautke for West Side MPS Board Seat

In District 7, which consists of the city’s West Side and Southwest Side, we support Claire Zautke, who has a long history of working for Democratic elected officials and candidates. Zautke has a thorough understanding of the challenges facing MPS as well as its many successes. Zautke also wants to hold voucher schools accountable for their performance, which ultimately will help all of Milwaukee’s students and taxpayers. Claire Zautke will be a welcome addition to the MPS board of directors.

Vote Yes on Election Day Registration Referendum

On April 2, city of Milwaukee voters will vote on one simple advisory referendum question: “Should the state of Wisconsin continue to permit citizens to register to vote at the polls on Election Day?”

The answer should be a resounding “Yes.”

It’s unfortunate that Milwaukeeans should have to weigh in on their most cherished constitutional right, the right to vote, simply because it’s under attack for political, partisan reasons.

Through the decades, Wisconsin has gradually but meaningfully removed obstacles from voting procedures so that more citizens’ voices can be heard. One great reform was the establishment of Election Day voter registration in 1976. It’s convenient for new voters and those who have moved since they last voted. It’s so popular that about one in five of all city voters registered at the polls during the November 2012 election. And it’s one of the reasons why Wisconsin has one of the highest rates of voter participation in the country.

Unfortunately, Election Day registration is under attack by legislative Republicans. Their opposition to it is purely partisan, since they are trying to discourage infrequent, young and new voters—typical Democratic voters in high-turnout elections—from casting ballots.

In addition to suppressing the vote, the Republicans’ attempt to restrict voting rights is expensive, too. According to an analysis by the state Government Accountability Board, ending Election Day registration would cost the state an anticipated $14.5 million in the first two years because the state would have to comply with federal regulations and offer voter registration at the Division of Motor Vehicles and at agencies that provide public assistance programs and services for people with disabilities. And the change would create more work for elections staff at the polls, since more provisional ballots would be cast on Election Day.

We don’t believe that city voters should have to affirm a right that they have earned and enjoyed for decades. But since it’s on the ballot in the city of Milwaukee—and only in the city—we urge Shepherd readers to send legislators a strong and clear message: Yes, the state of Wisconsin should continue to permit citizens to register to vote at the polls on Election Day.