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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Event of the Week: May 1 Rally for Immigrants' Rights

Plus Heroes and Jerks of the Week

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Thousands of Milwaukeeans will join their allies across the nation on May 1 to urge President Barack Obama to enact fair immigration reform this year, as he promised during his campaign.

The rallies are organized by the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM); Voces de la Frontera, a member of FIRM, will organize the march in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee made national news in 2006, when 70,000 people turned out to march in support of immigrants and to oppose unjust immigration reform that had been proposed in Washington. Milwaukee’s rally was just one of many across the country to draw huge crowds. The May 1, 2007, rally brought 60,000 to the streets of Milwaukee, and 30,000 marched last year. The show of support prevented harsh, punitive reform measures from becoming law.

This year, supporters want Obama to make good on his promises to treat immigrants— and all workers—fairly. Rally organizers are also calling on Obama to support the humane legalization of undocumented workers, the end of ICE raids, giving immigrants access to higher-education opportunities, allowing undocumented workers to obtain a driver’s certificate and insurance, the Employee Free Choice Act, good jobs and paid sick days. The march will begin at noon on May 1 at the offices of Voces de la Frontera, 1027 S. Fifth St. For more information, contact Voces de la Frontera at www.vdlf.org.


Heroes of the Week: Milwaukee Legislators

David Cullen, Fred Kessler, Sandy Pasch, Jon Richards, Tony Staskunas and Leon Young

The state Legislature missed a great opportunity to fix the funding flaw created by the Milwaukee school voucher program, which punishes Milwaukee taxpayers. No other property taxpayers in the state are forced to support private schools, yet Milwaukee’s must pay an additional $58 million this year for choice schools, on top of what they pay for MPS.

Gov. Jim Doyle has proposed phasing in more state aid over the course of five years and decreasing the extra tax burden paid by Milwaukee taxpayers. Right now, Milwaukee property taxpayers pay $170 in additional taxes for choice schools per $100,000 value in property taxes. Doyle’s plan would reduce that by $16 (per $100,000 of property value) this year, then $31, $46, $60 and $73 in subsequent years. So even after five years, the governor’s “fix” of this extra tax for Milwaukee property taxpayers would not even cut it in half.

But a proposal from a group of Milwaukee legislators would actually end the penalty completely in three years. For example, while taxpayers under Doyle’s plan would see a $16 decrease this year per $100,000 of property value, the Milwaukee group’s proposal would offer a $36 tax reduction this year, then $115 next year and $200 in 2011 (when the extra tax is due to reach $200 per $100,000 of property value).

The Milwaukee legislators also want the choice program to be a separate line item in the state budget—and on property tax bills—so all taxpayers and lawmakers could see how much the program costs. That means that the proposal wouldn’t take away funding for rural and suburban school districts. It’s a win-win proposition that all legislators should support during the current budget negotiations.


Jerk of the Week:U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa

When is Tasering a man to death not a violation of that man’s civil rights? When you’re in federal Judge Rudolph Randa’s courtroom, apparently. Randa, a member of the ultraconservative Federalist Society, threw out a civil rights suit filed by the family of Nickolos Cyrus, a man suffering from schizophrenia who was found in a home under construction in Waukesha in 2006. When he didn’t comply with Waukesha County sheriffs’ orders, the officers Tasered Cyrus multiple times—in the back while he was walking away, and while he was on the ground being handcuffed. Cyrus then stopped breathing and an autopsy ruled that he died from cardiorespiratory failure.

Law enforcement is working hard to learn how to work with people who are in the midst of a mental health crisis. Yet Randa’s decision seems to make Tasering a mentally ill but peaceful man OK.

This is yet another example of Randa’s harsh rulings. Remember Georgia Thompson, the civil servant who was convicted of federal corruption charges in 2006 on evidence that an appellate court ruled was “beyond thin”? Randa was the judge in that case and sentenced her without bail. The appellate court judges ordered her to be released immediately and questioned why her case was heard in the first place.