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Sunday, Jan. 20, 2008

Are We A Little Touchy?

Accountability irks school choice advocates

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City of Milwaukee property taxpayers are paying additional taxes—often an increase of several hundred dollars a year—to support these choice schools that lack public accountability. Hey George, we understand that you live in Shorewood and this does not affect your property taxes, but why shouldn’t Milwaukee property taxpayers have some accountability for their tax dollars?

This Is Leadership?: He had a chance to transform the way workers in this region commute to jobs—and influence businesses that are considering locating in southeastern Wisconsin. But state Rep. Robin Vos (R-Racine) took a pass on supporting the stalled Kenosha-Racine- Milwaukee (KRM) commuter rail line when his support was critical to the project’s success. Now, Vos wants a public referendum on the project and possible funding mechanisms.

But we’ve got to ask: Why did the voters elect someone who can’t make a decision when he’s given the perfect opportunity to do so? If Vos didn’t like how KRM would be funded, why didn’t he propose a new source and convince his colleagues to go along with his ideas? While real leaders take into account their constituents’ concerns, they don’t drag their heels when they have a chance to influence such an important public policy.

Protecting Rogue Cops: Even though the state Assembly had a chance to do the right thing and finally end the practice of paying Milwaukee police officers after they’ve been fired, instead, Republicans on the Assembly’s Committee on Corrections and Courts decided to protect them. On a party-line vote, Republicans approved a measure that the Milwaukee Police Association approves—to only end the pay of those officers who have been charged with felonies. A stronger version of the bill passed the state Senate on a 30-3 vote, and Milwaukee-area representatives are clearly in favor of it.

If You Film It, They Will Show It: The state’s tax breaks for film, TV and entertainment productions kicked in at the beginning of the year, and now Marcus Theatres has offered to show Wisconsinbased films on some of its screens—and there are more than 600 to choose from. Scott Robbe of Film Wisconsin, the state’s film office, cheered the announcement. “By offering filmmakers a guaranteed commercial theatrical run for their work, coupled with our incentives and our untapped potential as a film location, we anticipate a significant influx of creative projects coming to the state,” Robbe said in a statement.

Campaign Reform, With a Catch: Last year’s race for the state Supreme Court shattered all financial records. But that doesn’t mean that voters want a repeat of sleazy attack ads funded by supporters of a judicial candidate. According to a new poll released by the Justice at Stake Campaign, 65% of likely Wisconsin voters who were polled support public financing of judicial campaigns, and only 26% oppose it. The idea had bipartisan support among those surveyed.

While public financing of campaigns sounds like a good idea, and would encourage individuals who are not super-wealthy to run for office, there’s a big loophole—special interests could still run their issue ads, just as they have in the past. And tons of these ads blanket the airwaves before an election. Just one year ago, the conservative business group Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce spent $2.2 million to support Annette Ziegler’s campaign for the state’s highest court, and the Club for Growth spent an additional $400,000. Ziegler won, but she’s been a controversial pick—one who is under ethical disciplinary procedures from the court she now serves.

Poll Workers Needed: Neil Albrecht, assistant director of the city of Milwaukee’s Election Commission, said that a variety of additional poll workers are needed for the Feb. 19 primary election. He’s predicting that turnout will be heavy, especially on the East Side. If you’re a city resident, contact his office at 286-3491.

Stop the War: The fifth Iraq Moratorium, a grassroots effort to end the war, will be held on Friday, Jan. 18. In Milwaukee, a vigil will be held at Water Street and Wisconsin Avenue, from 5 to 6 p.m. The event is sponsored by Peace Action Wisconsin and Coalition for a Just Peace. For more information about other peace events throughout the state, go to www.iraqmoratorium.org.

Remembering MLK: The eighth-annual Dr. Martin Luther King Social Justice Program will be held on Monday, Jan. 21, at noon, at Bucketworks, 1340 N. Sixth Street. Participants will march to the King statue north of Walnut Street on MLK Drive. The Peace Action Martin Luther King Justice Award will be given to former Secretary of State Vel Phillips, Dr. William Finlayson, Rev. Joe and Joyce Ellwanger, Reuben Harpole and Lucille Berrien. For more information, go to www.peaceactionwi.org.

America’s Black Holocaust Museum and the Historic King Drive Business Improvement District (BID) will also hold special events on Jan. 21. There will be a free bus tour (10 a.m.) and forum on the BID’s next catalytic project. To register, contact Marjorie at 265-5809 or marjorie@ kingdrivebid.com. If you wear your “Living the Dream” T-shirt, you can tour the museum for $2. (Contact Marjorie to purchase a shirt if you don’t have one.) And the film Boycott will be screened at 12:30 p.m. at the museum, located at 2233 N. Fourth Street.

Bridging Two Worlds: Local poet Jeff Poniewaz is seeking more students for his off-campus UW-Milwaukee course titled “Literature of Ecological Vision.” This introductory survey explores some of the key examples of writing about nature and the environment that also qualify as great literature and includes Thoreau, Whitman, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson and others, plus a special section on the eco output of Beat writers. It will meet Tuesdays from 6 to 8:40 p.m., beginning Jan. 22 at Shorewood High School on Oakland and Capitol. For more information, call 229-6209.