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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Issue of the Week: Driver's Certificates

Plus Heroes and Jerks of the Week

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It seems like a logical vote for any lawmaker: mandate that all drivers pass a written and road test before they’re allowed to drive on their own. Which legislator, interested in public safety, would vote otherwise?

But when certain drivers are illegal immigrants, logic becomes scrambled. That’s why some senators removed a provision in the state budget that would allow illegal immigrants to obtain a driver’s certificate. Currently, the REAL ID law bars people who cannot prove their legal residency from earning a driver’s license. But the law, championed by Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, does allow states to opt out if they have another sane, safe option—such as driver’s certificates. The certificates could not be used for identification or for any purpose other than driving.

The result of REAL ID is not fewer illegal immigrants on the road. Instead, REAL ID has created more untested drivers who have not proved that they know the rules of the road and therefore put public safety at risk.

Christine Neumann-Ortiz of Voces de la Frontera made an impassioned plea for lawmakers to consider the public’s safety before caving in to the fears and bigotry of some of their constituents. Even Milwaukee law enforcement leaders like Police Chief Edward Flynn support driver’s certificates, since it would add more people to the statewide Department of Motor Vehicles database and therefore aid identification of people in accidents and during traffic stops.

We ask lawmakers to support driver’s certificates and require all drivers to know how to drive properly and safely. It may not be a popular vote in some legislators’ districts, but it’s the right thing to do.


Heroes of the Week:Advocates of the Summer Food Service Program for Milwaukee Public Schools

Free meals are now available to eligible children at multiple locations in the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) during the summer months. Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Summer Food Service Program “fills a void created when school meals are not available,” MPS Superintendent William G. Andrekopoulos said in a press release. “Helping parents meet the nutritional needs of their children is the strength of this program.” Eligible children under age 18 can enjoy free breakfast and lunch at any of the participating school locations. A complete list of participating MPS schools is available online at www.milwaukee.k12.wi.us via a press statement in the “News Releases” section. For more information on locations and meal times, parents can call 211. If using a cell phone, call (866) 211-3380.


Jerk of the Week: Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner

Sensenbrenner’s message: Do nothing about climate change. Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner returned last month from a congressional trip to China to assess Chinese efforts to reduce CO2 emissions and the potential for cooperation to limit global warming. According to the Center for American Progress (CAP), his message upon leaving China was essentially, “The United States should do nothing on climate change because China will do nothing.” Sensenbrenner is trying to undermine and derail the current legislation pending in Congress, the American Clean Energy and Security Act.

Sensenbrenner bases much of his remarks about China’s unwillingness to work toward curbing greenhouse gases on a meeting with an internationally renowned Chinese economist, Pan Jiahua. After professor Pan read Sensenbrenner’s interpretation of his remarks, he described Sensenbrenner’s statements to CAP as both “improper and unethical” and designed to “frighten the American public and halt U.S. progress on solving the problem of global warming.” In fact, professor Pan strongly supports the U.S. climate change legislation and also described in detail China’s efforts “to reduce energy consumption per unit of GDP in 2010 by 20% below 2005 levels.”

Sensenbrenner is becoming a one-man international disaster.


Event of the Week: Work Toward a New North Shore Bookstore

Fans of the shuttered Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop in Shorewood will be happy to hear that a new North Shore bookstore/cafe is in the works. According to Keith Schmitz, the proposed venture, dubbed Open Book, will be a co-op, like REI and Outpost Natural Foods, and would aim to fill the void in the community left by the closing of Schwartz’s Oakland Avenue store. “If you were bummed out by Schwartz’s closing, you can get excited about this,” Schmitz said.

Those spearheading the effort are looking for a 4,000-square-foot space for a bookstore, cafe and general meeting space, tentatively to open in the fall. Schmitz said former Schwartz employees would likely work at Open Book, and selections would cater to the area’s readers—current affairs, history, quality fiction, some “gently used” books and kids’ books.

Organizers will hold a meeting on July 1 at the Hubbard Park River Room, 3565 N. Morris Blvd., Shorewood, to discuss support and strategies. For more information, go to www.openbookcoop.com.

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