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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Issue of the Week: Rethinking Socialism

Plus Heroes and Jerks of the Week

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Although conservatives have been trying to smear President Barack Obama by calling him a “socialist,” they may consider that being a Socialist in Milwaukee in the first half of the 20th century meant that you were in favor of clean, efficient government and honest, devoted public servants. Local historian John Gurda says that Socialists saved Milwaukee from widespread government graft at the turn of the century. A series of Socialist mayors improved public services and institutions while they governed the city through 1960. Gurda said Milwaukee Socialists were politically savvy and connected to the working class. They formed an alliance with Progressives at the state level to create workplace reforms, including the workers’ compensation system, and developed the county’s park system to provide natural spaces for workers in a crowded city.

“Milwaukeeans trusted the Socialists, and they learned to trust them over the years,” Gurda told the Shepherd.

Gurda gave the second annual Frank P. Zeidler Memorial Lecture on March 24 on Milwaukee’s Socialist legacy. If you missed it, you’ll find Gurda’s observations at ExpressMilwaukee.com.


Hero of the Week: Verona City Council

Demonstrating the courage and conviction so lacking in Milwaukee County and city government, the Verona City Council voted unanimously Monday to enact a comprehensive smoking ban in all workplace environments, including bars and restaurants. Verona isn’t waiting for the state to enact a comprehensive smoking ban, and will go smoke-free Aug. 15. “Tobacco-related illness costs Wisconsin more than $2 billion each year in health care costs, $500 million of which comes directly out of taxpayers’ pockets through Medicaid costs,” explained Eric Schutt, Wisconsin government relations director for the American Cancer Society. “Ending workplace smoking in cities like Verona and all across the state would save everyone money and numerous lives.”


Jerk of the Week:State Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman

A year after his election to the state’s highest court, state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman still has an ethical cloud hanging over his victory against Louis Butler. Recently, the Wisconsin Judicial Commission released its statement of facts about a notorious Gableman-sponsored race-baiting campaign ad. A highlight: “the commission found probable cause to believe that Judge Gableman willfully had violated” a part of the Wisconsin Code of Judicial Conduct that bars candidates for judicial office from knowingly—or “with reckless disregard”—distorting an opponent’s record. Seems that Gableman knew the ad was false but sponsored it anyway because he thought it would be effective.