GRNS Newsletter: what's it (worth) to you?

As you complete a flight segment on any major US airline, the crew thank you for choosing that company. The usual pitch is something like "we know you have many choices...." It's not just true for airlines: it's also true for whatever money you can spare to support progressive causes and organizations. At Grassroots North Shore, we are well aware that the number of organizations proffering a digital tin cup is large and growing. So we are delighted and honored when the recipients of our weekly newsletter and attendees at our educational programs and our volunteers during each election season donate to us.

But the truth is, we simply cannot do what we do, with you and for you, without a bit of money. I won't bore you with a complete financial report but I can tell you we're a very lean organization. With a steering committee of 15 dedicated volunteers and an advisory committee of another eight to ten people, we reach over 2500 people each week with our newsletter. We organize speakers and educational programs 10-12 times throughout the year. We recruit volunteers for the whole range of campaign activities for primary elections AND general elections. And did I mention we have no paid staff

We do it out of a passion for progressive causes and a love of our communities, our state and our country. Here's the bottom line: if everyone who is reading this email buys a $25 or $50 ticket to come laugh with Will Durst (Thursday, September 21, from 7-9pm (Bayshore Lutheran Church, 1200 E Hampton, Whitefish Bay), we will reach our fundraising goal for the year. We will also feed you your just desserts!

OR, if you cannot attend, just  what you can and forward your ticket to Eilene Stevens who will give it to someone who could otherwise not afford to come.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

When dreams become nightmares

Once again today's news is utterly depressing. Unless Congress acts — and pretty quickly, DACA is dead. That's 800,000 people whose lives will be totally upended a few months from now: they will lose their work permits and they will become subject to deportation. But that's just the tip of the total damage. Their parents and some of their siblings — already subject to deportation — are likely to become major targets of Immigration Control and Enforcement. When immigrants apply to DACA, they fill out information that the government will now be able to use to locate them and their relatives. Many people were concerned about the level of disclosure the program required when it began five years ago precisely because the information could some day be used to round them up. That day may be fast approaching.

According to an article just published online at the New York Times, "Immigration officials said that they do not intend to actively target the young immigrants as priorities for deportation, though without the program’s protection, the immigrants are considered subject to removal from the United States and would no longer be able to work legally." But ICE has already shown its willingness to apprehend anyone and everyone the agency can find. I don't hold out much hope that these young people who have all the makings of fine citizens will be spared.

The first call to action here near Milwaukee is for a rally tonight targeted at Paul Ryan: Wisconsin March for DACA, 6:00 pm at Monument Square in Racine. For more information, you can call 262-721-5575. If you can't go to Racine tonight to participate in that rally, check out the site Here to Stay. It allows you to search for events in the area and will no doubt have many entries within the next 24-48 hours. And visit the Defend DACA toolkit page of Voces de la Frontera to keep up to date on activities posted there.

No doubt my inbox and yours will quickly fill with other calls for action, including requests to contact your senators and representatives in Congress.

Reminders to Participate in Upcoming Events with Grassroots North Shore

We're holding our annual picnic at Cahill Park in Whitefish Bay on Sunday, September 17, from 4:30-7pm. (Just FYI, the Packers game against the Atlanta Falcons is scheduled for 7:30 pm, so you won't miss a single kick or snap!). It's a fun potluck supper with some featured speakers: Josh Kaul, candidate for Attorney General, and Earnell Lucas, candidate for Milwaukee County Sheriff. Get all the details and RSVP.

Our one and only annual fundraiser, the event that keeps this all-volunteer organization afloat, will take place on Thursday, September 21, at 7 pm. Doors at Bay Shore Lutheran Church will open at 6 pm. Will Durst, a nationally renowned political satirist, will entertain us so that we "Laugh 'Til It Dursts."

I cannot stress enough how important supporting this organization is. Although we have no paid staff, we organize and present as many as 12 informative programs every year and we work in the run-up to every election to elect progressive candidates at every level of government, from the local races to the national ones. In 2017 so far, we've held 10 programs with speakers on such vital issues as saving public education, protecting our wells and waterways, supporting Tony Evers, fighting for Senator Baldwin, supporting the movement for fair electoral maps and nonpartisan redistricting. We set up phone banks, we recruit volunteers to knock on doors and drop campaign literature, and we work practically around the clock to staff get-out-the-vote operations. To do all of that, we rely on donations to pay for our office space, the material supplies we need, and the databases and communications tools that enable us to keep you informed about everything happening in our region. You can share the fun with us for as little as $25 for an advance ticket ($30 at the door) but I hope those of you who can afford a little more will be generous. Get all the details, RSVP, and make your donation on our website. (And even if you cannot come, your donation will prompt the system to send you a ticket. If you forward that ticket on to Eilene Stevens, she will make sure to donate it to someone who otherwise would not be able to enjoy the event with us.)

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Let's Focus on Ensuring Fair Elections

I can't stress this enough: Democrats need to win back some power in the state if we want to have any chance to change our state's direction. As we head into the 2018 electoral cycle, Wisconsin stands at a crucial turning point. As you know, the Republicans currently control both houses of the legislature and the governor's office. In 2011 they deliberately rigged the electoral maps to ensure that they remained firmly in power for at least a decade. If as a result of the 2018 election the legislature remains in GOP hands and Walker wins re-election, Republicans will once again be able rig our electoral maps in their favor after 2020 census. Only if Democrats win the race for governor OR can capture the state senate or the state assembly, will those maps have to reflect the input of both parties. Even if the Supreme Court affirms the lower court ruling that our current maps are unconstitutional, the maps drawn after the 2020 census could still be rigged in a partisan way. That's because the decision in current case can deal only with the results of the last process. It cannot mandate a different process to ensure a different result the next time around.

Because the current maps are so rigged to keep Republicans in power in the Assembly, our best chance to unrig the maps going forward is to elect a Democratic Governor. In an effort to ensure that the many candidates who are likely to be vying for the Democratic nomination have ample opportunities to lay out their priorities and to hear from progressive voters, Grassroots North Shore will provide as many forums for candidates as we possibly can. We are starting that process with State Senator Kathleen Vinehout tomorrow evening — Wednesday, September 30 — from 6:30 - 8 pm at the Bay Shore Lutheran Church (1200 E Hampton Rd, Whitefish Bay). Senator Vinehout has not yet officially declared her candidacy but she formed an exploratory committee last month and shows every sign of intending to declare soon. Please make time to hear what she has to say, and more importantly, to let her know what issues you think are crucial to winning next year. RSVP to let us know that you'll be there.

The movement to require states to draw fair election maps is going national, partly as a result of the Wisconsin case in which the trial court ruled the current maps unconstitutional. That case — Gill v. Whitford — is scheduled to be argued at the US Supreme Court on Tuesday, October 3. Between now and then, there are several educational events in our area that can help you understand what's at stake and will give you action items you can take to help move Wisconsin forward. One way to take action is to lobby our current legislature. On Tuesday, September 12, the legislature resumes its work. So we are asking people to call legislators and the chairs of the committees where legislation is pending to ask for their support for Senate Bill 13 and Assembly Bill 44. If passed into law, these bills would require that the Legislative Reference Bureau draw electoral maps in a nonpartisan way. You can find the information about who to call and what you might want to say on our website.

Also on September 12, Grassroots North Shore is co-sponsoring a town hall on Fair Elections at the Washington Park Library, 2121 N. Sherman Blvd. Shauntay Nelson from Wisconsin Voices and former state senators Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) and Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) will be speaking. The doors open at 5:45; the program runs from 6-7pm. If you don't know much about the issues surrounding redistricting and how partisan maps sabotage our democracy, this event will fill you in.

On Sunday, October 1, Grassroots North Shore, together with the Fair Elections Project and a coalition of other organizations in Wisconsin, is hosting a send-off rally for the plaintiffs in Gill v. Whitford. Most of the 12 plaintiffs will be heading to Washington to attend the Supreme Court argument on Tuesday, October 3, and many of them will speak at this kick-off event. Widely seen as a momentous case, the decision has the potential to remake the legislative landscape not only in Wisconsin but across the nation. More information on times and location will be coming soon. So mark your calendars now. (I promise you won't miss any Packer action: they play on Thursday night that week!)

There are two other important events on the Grassroots North Shore horizon: on Sunday, September 17 from 4:30 - 7pm we are holding our annual potluck picnic. It's always fun to mingle with the greatest group of North Shore progressives while consuming pulled pork or pulled chicken sandwiches and sharing the wonderful homemade side dishes, salads and desserts you all bring to the affair. (If your last name begins with A-N, please bring a side dish or salad large enough to share – but no more than 8 servings please. If your last name begins with O-Z, please bring a plated dessert to share.) We'll be hearing from Josh Kaul, Democratic candidate for Attorney General, and Earnell Lucas, Democratic candidate for Milwaukee County Sheriff. Just RSVP so we are sure to have enough food, plates, utensils, and soft drinks for everyone. (BYOB if you want something stronger to drink!)

And on Thursday, September 21, the nationally renowned comedian and Milwaukee native Will Durst will make sure we Laugh 'Til It Dursts. This event is our one and only fundraiser for the year. As you know, Grassroots North Shore is an all-volunteer organization. But even though we have no paid staff, we do have some modest expenses. Rent and utilities for our office and the online tools we use to keep in touch with you are chief among them. So please be generous. Donations begin at the low, low price of $25 (in advance, at the door the price goes up to $30). Beyond that, you could become:

  • a Friend of Grassroots North Shore for $50.00
  • a Patron of Grassroots North Shore for $100.00
  • a Sponsor of Grassroots North Shore for $250.00
  • a Grassroots North Shore Host for $500.00
  • or best yet, an Angel for $1,000.00

It may surprise you to know that we can accept your money even if you can't join us for a belly laugh or two. But we hope you can be there for a great evening of some much-needed fun.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Eclipses Galore

Yesterday was the day of the eclipse. The moon eclipsed the sun. The man who currently occupies the presidency eclipsed the Speaker of the House. And the top generals apparently eclipsed Steve Bannon and the man who currently occupies the presidency! What a day.

This morning I noted that our local press apparently can't stay up late enough to cover the news in Wisconsin. The Journal Sentinel had not word one about Paul Ryan's fake town hall last night. (It's a fake event, in my view, when the audience is hand-picked by no-one-know-who and the questions are screened in advance, again by some anonymous folks, presumably at CNN.) The national press, however, went to town on it.

Politico notes that Ryan faces heat back home: "In this small southeast Wisconsin town on Lake Michigan [Racine], the speaker received the same kind of treatment as other congressional Republican facing unhappy crowds at town halls. In some ways his powerful position in Washington makes it worse because he controls the 240-strong House Republican majority." I'm not so sure about the "controls" part — and that's the crux of his problem.

The Washington Post focuses on Ryan's challenger Randy Bryce: "CNN’s town hall forum with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, at some risk of being overshadowed by the president’s speech on Afghanistan, has turned into a marketing opportunity for progressives. Randy Bryce, Ryan’s likely Democratic opponent in 2018, has purchased time for two 30-second spots that will run during the broadcast in the Republican’s district." The Post story includes video of both ads. Well worth a watch.

And a Dominican nun challenged Ryan on his approach to health care. Charlie Pierce at Esquire sharpens his already deadly pen. Here's the first paragraph:

While the president* was fastening on his Serious World Leader face Monday night, Speaker Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny-starver from the state of Wisconsin, was facing a carefully tailored audience at a CNN "town hall" in Racine. Because Ryan is the biggest fake to hit Congress since the King of the Cranks, Ignatius Donnelly, there was the usual nonsense and prevarication.... But my favorite moment came when Ryan was confronted by a Dominican nun who challenged him to square his zombie-eyed granny-starving with his Catholicism. What followed was pure Ryan, which is to say dishonest, cowardly, patronizing, and totally unmoored from either self-awareness or actual reality. Gaze in awe.

If you didn't watch and want to, you can see the whole thing on YouTube.


Back here in Wisconsin, the race for the Democratic nomination for governor is heating up. The Wisconsin State Journal has a page devoted to helping us keep track of who is in, who is thinking, and who is out. The list of "ins" is getting longer: Dana Wachs (Representative, Eau Claire) has entered the race as have Tony Evers (State Superintendent of Public Instruction), Mike McCabe (founder of Blue Jean Nation), and Andy Gronik (Democratic Businessman), plus the Don Quixote of candidates, Bob Harlow (software engineer). In the still-exploring category, we have former state Rep. Brett Hulsey, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, and State Senator Kathleen Vinehout.

The Democratic Party of Milwaukee County is already gearing up to sponsor at least one candidate forum, possibly early next year. But you don't have to wait to hear what Senator Vinehout is thinking. She'll be speaking and answering questions at an event Grassroots North Shore is hosting on Wednesday, August 30, at Bay Shore Lutheran Church (1200 E Hampton Rd, Whitefish Bay) at 6:30 pm. Doors open at 6 pm. Please RSVP.

Finally, mark your calendars and save the dates for the Grassroots North Shore annual picnic on Sunday, September 17 from 4:30-7pm ( see more information and RSVP) and our annual fundraiser "Laugh 'Til It Dursts" with nationally renowned political comedian Will Durst on Thursday, September 21 from 7-9pm ( see more information, buy tickets and RSVP).


Read more
Add your reaction Share

America's Lost Weekend

I want to say a few things about the events of the past week but before taking up those issues, it's important to attend to colossal failures closer to home. As of this writing, the WI biennial budget is still not complete! So I encourage everyone to attend a Conversation with Senator Kathleen Vinehout on Sunday, August 30, at the Bay Shore Lutheran Church (1200 E Hampton Rd, Whitefish Bay) from 6:30 pm - 8 pm. Senator Vinehout will be discussing the budget and other vital issues with ample time for questions and answers.

I also want to urge you to add two upcoming events to your calendar:

  • On Sunday, September 17, Grassroots North Shore will be holding our annual picnic. Earnell Lucas, candidate for Milwaukee County Sheriff, and Josh Kaul, candidate for Attorney General, will be joining us. Don't miss this opportunity to meet them. Stay tuned for further information.
  • And on Thursday, September 21, Will Durst, nationally-renowned political comedian, will bring us some much-needed laughter. So let's "Laugh 'Til It Dursts" together. RSVP now and we'll send you everything you need to know about where and how much the tickets will be in the next week or so.

On a more sober note, I continue to be appalled by and ashamed of the events that took place in Charlottesville last weekend. It's hard to believe that so many people in our country feel so comfortable with white supremacist and white nationalist ideas. But for POTUS to fail to disavow these toxins in our body politic until days after the events, and then only grudgingly, is deeply unnerving. The coming weekend promises more of the same in at least nine locations around the country, according to an article in New York Magazine. A "White Lives Matter" rally planned for September 11 at Texas A & M has been canceled out of safety concerns [Slate, August 15, 2017]. While I am not certain that canceling such events is the best response, the university's position is certainly understandable.

There's a lot more to this eruption of bigotry and hatred than I can encompass or even understand right now, but I find it heartening that so many communities are calling for the removal of many symbols of the Confederacy, especially statues of Robert E. Lee. As he often does, Josh Marshall has a deeply informed take on what those symbols mean, how and when they were erected, and why statues of people like Lee should not remain visible testaments of our nation's values.

I encourage you to read the entire piece, but here are a few key paragraphs:

Debates over public memory and the valorization of history are frequently complicated and politically vexed. But on the margins, in extreme cases, they are often pretty straightforward. For any subject of controversy, the first question we should ask is: What is the person known for? How did they earn a place in our collective public remembrance? 

As Thomas Jefferson’s involvement in slavery has become increasingly difficult to dismiss as simply a product of his times and as his use of one of his own slaves as his lifelong concubine has become more surely confirmed as fact, Jefferson’s place in the national pantheon has come in for increasing criticism. In his case, we have a mixed ledger. He is the author of the Declaration of Independence, the prime driver of the Northwest Ordinance, a significant anti-slavery document, Secretary of State, President. He was also a lifelong slaveholder with all that entailed. With Jefferson you have numerous acts which are high points in our national story joined with an integral involvement with our greatest national shame. This will be a long public discussion. 

What is Robert E. Lee known for? .... Lee is known for one thing: being the key military leader in a violent rebellion against the United States and leading that rebellion to protect slavery. That’s it. Absent his decision to participate in the rebellion he’d be all but unknown to history. He outlived the war by only five years. There’s simply no positive side of the ledger to make it a tough call. The only logic to honoring Lee is to honor treason and treason in the worst possible cause.

Marshall goes on to retell the fate of Lee's plantation. The Lincoln administration turned it into Arlington National Cemetery: "The federal government confiscated it and dedicated it as a final resting place for those who died defending the United States." And he notes that the statues of Lee were erected decades after the Civil War. In fact he argues that

[T]hese statues date not from the Civil War Era but from the decades of the establishment of Jim Crow, to celebrate the South’s success establishing an apartheid system on the ruins of the Antebellum slave South. A statue of Lee in uniform, mounted on a horse in a southern town square has only ever had one meaning: white supremacy. These statues didn’t come to be associated with racism and Jim Crow only after the Civil War had receded into memory. They were created, from the start, to mark and celebrate the foundations of Jim Crow, uncontested white rule.

Even the National Review is now calling for monuments to the Confederacy to be removed from prominent public display: Mothball the Confederate Monuments. These are hopeful developments.

But meanwhile, POTUS continues to embarrass himself and us as he turns his petty ire on the four CEOs who have resigned from his advisory board. And in a much more ominous turn, his Justice Department threatens everyone's civil liberties by demanding that a tech company turn over more than 1.3 million IP addresses to identify visitors to a website set up to coordinate protests on Inauguration Day [Washington Post, August 15, 2017]. It's hard not to despair.



Read more
Add your reaction Share

Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink?

Even though national news is in a quiet period while POTUS* golfs and tweets, the need for organized political action and resistance goes on. This Sunday, August 13, Grassroots North Shore is sponsoring a presentation by the League of Conservation Voters and they need our help. The program, "Save Our Wells and Waterways," will take place at the North Shore Presbyterian Church (4048 N. Bartlett Ave, Shorewood) at 4pm. In addition to presentation by MattDannenberg, Field Director, and George Olufosoye, Southeast Organizer, we will be organizing a lobbying campaign with phone banks all fall to pressure the Wisconsin legislature to act to save one of our most precious (and irreplaceable) resources.

And here's the thing about political action: It's like live music — it only happens when YOU are there. So RSVP and lend a hand.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

The Dog Days Are Upon Us

For many people, August means summer vacation. And I'm no exception. But events don't stop — or even slow down — while we're away or just tuning out. Some of us have to stay "woke" and active. So, here's what's happening that needs the attention of everyone who is NOT on vacation.

Those of you visiting Wisconsin's beautiful state parks or other recreational areas, and those of us who just want to make sure they are still wonderful for future generations, need to turn some attention to what is happening to our state's waterways and wells. To make that easy for you, Grassroots North Shore is hosting a presentation by Matt Dannenberg (Field Director) and George Olufosoye (Southeast Organizer) of the WI League of Conservation Voters, on Sunday, August 13, from 4-5:30 at the North Shore Presbyterian Church (4048 N Bartlett Ave, Shorewood). And because awareness is good but action is better, we're following up with a series of phone banks to reach voters all across the state.

The days for phone banks have been set (subject to sufficient interest) and you can sign up for one or more dates when you RSVP for the program.

Phone banks begin at 5pm and end at 7:30pm. 

August: 15, 16, 17 (Tuesday through Thursday); 
August 22, 23, 24 (Tuesday through Thursday); 
August 29-30 (Tues, Wed); 
September: 5, 7 (Tuesday and Thursday); 
September 12, 13, 14 (Tuesday through Thursday); 
September 18, 19 (Monday and Tuesday); 
September 25, 26, 27, 28 (Mon through Thurs).

Additional dates will be scheduled in October.

On other environmental fronts, there's the Foxconn (or perhaps the Foxconn con?) deal. With the legislature in special session to grant all kinds of concessions for this deal, we need to become informed and where useful we need to call legislators to let them know that the citizens of Wisconsin will not allow the company to degrade the environment. Here's what's happening:

Environmental organizations are raising objections over a legislative package exempting Foxconn Technology Group from regulations if the company agrees to build a $10 billion electronics plant in Wisconsin.... The measures proposed by the Walker administration exempt the company from state wetlands regulations and an extensive environmental analysis that some other large projects are subject to. [JSOnline, August 1, 2017]

And aside from the environmental concerns, there's the cost to taxpayers to consider. David Haynes's editorial in the Journal Sentinel lays out many of the concerns while acknowledging the potential rewards. Here's a bit of his piece. But you really should read the whole thing.

Foxconn’s investments could be catalytic, launching a brand new industry in southeastern Wisconsin — indeed, an industry that doesn’t exist anywhere in the United States at the moment. Despite the huge tax breaks involved and whatever additional local tax abatements might be needed for infrastructure improvements, the investment might pay off if Foxconn does what it says it will do.
  • Will Foxconn do what it says it will do? The company has a track record of broken promises. In 2013, Foxconn promised to open a new high-tech factory in Harrisburg, Pa., employing 500 people. It never happened....
  • Will the state meticulously track Foxconn’s activity? Will it demand ironclad claw-back provisions to protect taxpayers? Will it retain outside help to ensure that those provisions are ironclad? The state has no experience with an incentive package of this size and may need outside help to write careful terms for the final agreement. Legislation would be required to enact the incentives.
  • Are Foxconn’s job promises real? Foxconn has heavily automated its factories elsewhere, replacing 60,000 workers with robots in the last year alone. It even produces its own industrial robots — known as “Foxbots.” With factory automation improving the bottom line for companies, the long-term viability of these jobs is a legitimate concern for taxpayers footing the bill.
[JSOnline, July 28, 2017]

I know you know what to do: call | write | email. You can find the contact information for your legislators here: Wisconsin State Legislature. But you really should put your representatives on speed dial. It's that kind of year.


Read more
Add your reaction Share

Deals, both better and worse

So, is "The Better Deal" a big deal or not? The agenda itself strikes me as a worthy articulation of key initiatives Democrats have been discussing for years. I'm just not sure as a slogan it stands up well to such oldies and goodies as the "New Deal," "New Frontier," or "Great Society." Of course its actual rival is "Make America Great Again!"

If you're interested in promoting a strong agenda for the Democratic party, you might want to look into the work going on under the rubric "Summer for Progress." Unfortunately, the website doesn't provide any information about who is behind this effort but the purpose of the petition is to show support for eight bills that have been introduced in the House of Representatives:

  1. Medicare for All: H.R. 676 Medicare For All Act
  2. Free College Tuition: H.R. 1880 College for All Act of 2017
  3. Worker Rights: H.R.15 - Raise the Wage Act
  4. Women’s Rights: H.R.771 - Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act of 2017
  5. Voting Rights: H.R. 2840 - Automatic Voter Registration Act
  6. Environmental Justice: Climate Change Bill - Renewable Energy (More details soon!)
  7. Criminal Justice and Immigrant Rights: H.R. 3227 - Justice is Not For Sale Act of 2017
  8. Taxing Wall Street: H.R. 1144 - Inclusive Prosperity Act

The point of this exercise, I'm sure, is to make some news. There's zero chance any of these bills will make it to the floor for a vote during this congressional session.

Meanwhile, the Senate is going to vote in a couple of hours on the procedural motion to allow "debate" on some bill or other that rewards the rich and punishes the poor and middle classes under the guise of "reforming" the healthcare system. It has escaped no one's notice that Senator McCain is making an emergency exit from his sick bed to help strip affordable access to the very healthcare system he's now relying on to cure his glioblastoma from millions of Americans. His privileged position makes such hypocrisy impossible to overlook. Senator McCain sometimes seems to be a man of principle. Not on this occasion, it seems.

Meanwhile, the Senate is going to vote in a couple of hours on the procedural motion to allow "debate" on some bill or other that rewards the rich and punishes the poor and middle classes under the guise of "reforming" the healthcare system. It has escaped no one's notice that Senator McCain is making an emergency exit from his sick bed to help strip affordable access to the very healthcare system he's now relying on to cure his glioblastoma from millions of Americans. His privileged position makes such hypocrisy impossible to overlook. Senator McCain sometimes seems to be a man of principle. Not on this occasion, it seems.

And in Wisconsin disfunction, the budget is still not done. The key issue seems to be how to fund necessary spending on roads. "The Senate plan would rely on borrowing to fund roads and cut taxes on businesses and those earning $200,000 to $500,000 a year" (jsonline, July 23, 2017). Few would argue that our roads need repairs, but choosing bond issues over other funding methods (primarily taxes either in the form of mileage or in the form of raising the gas tax) simply "kicks the can down the road" as politicians are fond of saying. The proposal to cut taxes on the wealthiest among us is just mind-boggling.

And then there are the funds for education. Per pupil spending will go up, but looser rules for some types of voucher schools may not be such welcome news. Apparently Republicans are trying to find ways of "boosting enrollment in two of the state's four voucher programs" while at the same time "rural schools would lose almost all of the $20 million in so-called sparsity aid proposed by Walker" (jsonline., July 23, 2017). I have no idea why they think it important to manipulate the budget for such purposes. Isn't the "free market" supposed to determine the "winners and losers" here? Plus Walker wants to limit the ability of school districts to use referenda to offset the declines in state funding. As usual, they are determined to stick it to the little people who just work for a living and barely make ends meet.

Some Announcements

Our next event, on Sunday, August 13, addresses issues with conservation of our waters. The League of Conservation Voters will present "Help Save Our Wells and Waterways" at the North Shore Presbyterian Church, beginning at 4pm. As Wisconsin’s wells and waterways are put under pressure from the relaxation of state water protection standards, citizens MUST work together or face irreparable harm. So I hope you will join us. As usual, please RSVP.



Read more
Add your reaction Share

Activism Works

All those calls and emails, all that demonstrating and participating in town halls — they've paid off! Even what the New York Times is calling "Plan C" — to "repeal now and replace later" — is DOA. Three Senators — Susan Collins (ME), Shelley Moore Capito (WV) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) — "immediately declared they could not vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement — enough to doom the effort before it could get any momentum." I'll have a little more to say on this subject in a bit.

But first,

Some Announcements

Grassroots North Shore moved into our new offices last week. So we're having a "housewarming" to inaugurate our new space. We're serving ice cream and beverages, weather permitting. If it rains and we have to move the party indoors, we'll provide other treats instead.

And like any new tenant, we're decorating! So if you have piles of buttons sitting around and you'd like to give them to a good cause, we will turn those piles into decorations!

Just bring those unused buttons when you come to the open house on Sunday, July 23rd. We will have lots of ribbons for you to create your display or just leave them for us to do. Either way, we will have a wall of political memories.

join us on Sunday, July 23, from 3-5:30 at 5600 W. Brown Deer Road.

And SAVE THE DATE: On Sunday, August 13, GRNS is hosting a presentation by the League of Conservation Voters: "Help Save Our Wells and Waterways." The League will fill us in on the physical and legislative status of wells and waterways, and their protection (or lack of) in Wisconsin. The event will take place at the North Shore Presbyterian Church (4048 N. Bartlett Ave, Shorewood) from 4-6:30pm. Please join us as we turn our attention to vital state issues.


It's not clear what Republicans will try next but it is clear that engaged citizens can and do make a difference. We can't promise it will always work. But we can see that voter resistance can force a change of course. So when Trump and McConnell and Ryan cook up their next nasty "tax cut masquerading as healthcare" stew, you'll know just what to do.

Josh Marshall has what I think is the best explanation of why the Republican plan to repeal the ACA has come such a cropper. First he acknowledges the vital role played by how unpopular the various versions of the legislation was and the equally vital played by "the huge and sustained nationwide activism against Trumpcare." The deeper driver at work, though, is this:

At the outset of Obamacare’s post-legislative history, Republicans were for repeal. Then repeal became ‘Repeal and Replace’, a tacit but highly significant concession that the 2009 status quo ante was not acceptable. Over time, Repeal and Replace got gussied up with claims that the replacement for Obamacare would be better than Obamacare. There was a good deal of vagueness and mendacity packaged into this messaging. But the critical thing was that in the process of evolving from ‘Repeal’ to ‘Repeal and Replace’, Republicans made a tacit concession that those who had gained coverage under Obamacare should in fact have coverage. It was just that Obamacare did it in a flawed way and Obamacare’s replacement would do it better.

The problem, at its core, was that Republicans could not concoct a solution that would maintain coverage for all those who had gained it while their majority wanted deep tax cuts and a sizable portion of their caucus did not understand — or didn't accept — the basic concession Marshall has exposed.

Meanwhile David Leonhardt's "A Project to Nourish Your Political Soul" provides a completely different perspective on what progressives can do to start changing the bitter and polarized climate.

[T]he Trump era is coarsening our discourse. Too often recently I have watched people I respect spiral from a political discussion into a nasty, personal argument. 

So I have a suggestion. By all means, Trump’s opponents should continue to fight — for health care, civil rights, the climate and truth itself. But there is also a quieter step that’s worth taking no matter your views, for the sake of nourishing your political soul. 

Pick an issue that you find complicated, and grapple with it. 

Choose one on which you’re legitimately torn or harbor secret doubts. Read up on it. Don’t rush to explain away inconvenient evidence. 

Then do something truly radical: Consider changing your mind, at least partially.

I'm going to give it a try.

Local Activism at Work

Engagement and activism work locally just as well. On July 10, 2017, concerned Shorewood residents turned out at a Village Board meeting in support of a "Resolution for Justice and Dignity." Chuck Carlson explains what happened and how citizens prevailed:

[T]he Shorewood, WI village board voted 7-0 to approve the Resolution for Justice and Dignity that was presented by the Shorewood Solidarity Network (SSN). This unanimous vote demonstrated a commitment by Shorewood and its residents to “promote the principle of universal respect for the dignity of all” regardless of “race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, immigration status, sexual orientation, sexual or gender identity, or disability.” The passage of this resolution was a positive victory for all who live, work, shop, visit or pass through Shorewood. 

While the 7-0 vote, would indicate a human rights statement resolution was an easy accomplishment, the actual process demonstrates the importance of strong organization and involvement by community members.

Read the rest of the story on our blog.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Unrigging our maps / July 11, 2017

Largely because of Wisconsin's high profile case about extremely partisan electoral maps, activists have begun talking to state legislators and key leaders about a pair of bills languishing in committees in the state Senate and the Assembly. These bills — SB13 and AB44 — aim to transform the way Wisconsin establishes electoral districts for the Assembly, state Senate, and US Congress. District lines must be redrawn every ten years, following the US Census, so that they reflect the population enumerated in the count. Currently, the legislature devises electoral maps and the process is highly partisan. If SB13 and AB44 were to become law, electoral maps would be developed by the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau.

Under the current process, the party in power can develop maps that all but guarantee that it will retain power at least until new maps are drawn after the next US Census. In November 2016, a federal court comprised of two district judges and one appellate judge ruled that the maps the Republican-controlled legislature had developed after the 2010 Census produced exactly that result. The state appealed the ruling and the case, Gill v. Whitford, is pending at the US Supreme Court where oral arguments will take place during the first week of October, 2017. If Whitford et al. (the defendants in the case) prevail, Wisconsin will presumably have to draw new maps soon, perhaps even in time for the 2018 elections.

But even if Whitford et al. win the case, the problem of partisan maps will not disappear. We will still need to ensure that Wisconsin legislates a nonpartisan process for all future rounds of redistricting.

I'm reviewing these points — while apologizing for the length of this piece — because it is important to press our legislators to support the pending bills. People who have spoken directly to Republican representatives report two standard responses, neither of which addresses the key issues. First, Republicans deflect the conversation by saying that they are awaiting the Supreme Court's ruling. Second, many argue that because partisan voters are not evenly distributed across the state but are instead "clustered" in like-minded communities, even a nonpartisan process for drawing district lines will not change the distribution of power much, if at all. They are in effect arguing that Republicans will retain most or all of their electoral advantage because of where people of various political persuasions have chosen to live.

The first response has no merit because Gill v. Whitford only addresses the outcomes of elections. It will not alter the process by which the state redraws its electoral districts every ten years. Even if Whitford et al. prevail, the party in power can continue to skew the maps just as they like. Nothing short of additional (and expensive) litigation can stop that practice. Only the passage of new laws governing the process of redistricting will ensure that our electoral maps are constructed in a fair and nonpartisan way.

The second response takes a bit more investigation. It's based on a theory called "The Big Sort" developed by Bill Bishop in 2004 and published by the same name in 2008. According to Bishop's analysis, Democrats are densely clustered in mostly urban areas while Republicans dominate in all the less densely populated areas of the country. And the trend of spatial segregation by political leaning seems to have accelerated between 1992 and 2016. (See an analysis by Richard Florida from October 2016.)

Few if any serious analyses claim that the GOP domination of state legislatures and congressional seats is due solely to self-sorting. Instead they argue that electoral maps deliberately skewed to favor the party in power (which, by the way, both parties do whenever they have enough power — see Maryland, Illinois, and Rhode Island to name just a few of the most egregious Democratic gerrymanders) don't have as much impact as some (including me) suppose. A significant imbalance arising from ideological self-sorting would remain and would continue to produce lopsided results in many areas of the country, they argue.

The idea is apparently that Democrats have packed themselves into cities, which has made it impossible for congressional and state legislative districts to be anything but Republican-leaning overall, because non-urban areas are now left to Republican dominance. [Neil Buchanan, "Is Gerrymandering a Mirage?" in Newsweek, June 25, 2017]

Recently, a number of articles examining the relationship between self-sorting, gerrymandering, and political outcomes have concluded that even though there is strong evidence of clustering, uncompetitive electoral districts are not an inevitable result. Professor Sam Wang, at the Princeton Election Consortium, writes:

It is a commonly believed that the predominant force in partisan asymmetry is population clustering: groups that tilt Democratic are clustered into cities, generating a natural packing effect. A clustering effect certainly exists. However, as of 2012-2014, this effect has become secondary to gerrymandering in a handful of states. 

Population clustering and partisan actions are not mutually exclusive. In fact, partisan gerrymandering relies on the fact that voters are not distributed perfectly uniformly. Using this fact, redistricters lasso voters into districts to suit political ends. For this reason, it is easy to mix up the two processes. [Wang, The effect of gerrymandering in four states exceeds that of population clustering in all 50 states, December 8, 2015]

A more recent analysis of the 2016 elections by the AP showed

four times as many states with Republican-skewed state House or Assembly districts than Democratic ones. Among the two dozen most populated states that determine the vast majority of Congress, there were nearly three times as many with Republican-tilted U.S. House districts. 

Traditional battlegrounds such as Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and Virginia were among those with significant Republican advantages in their U.S. or state House races. All had districts drawn by Republicans after the last Census in 2010.... 

[T]he data suggest that even if Democrats had turned out in larger numbers, their chances of substantial legislative gains were limited by gerrymandering.... 

A separate statistical analysis conducted for AP by the Princeton University Gerrymandering Project found that the extreme Republican advantages in some states were no fluke. The Republican edge in Michigan’s state House districts had only a 1-in-16,000 probability of occurring by chance; in Wisconsin’s Assembly districts, there was a mere 1-in-60,000 likelihood of it happening randomly, the analysis found [emphasis added].

The situation is certainly bleak: extremely partisan maps exacerbate the radical polarization we've been experiencing and make a return to more civil political discourse and a willingness to compromise much less likely. For me, that means we must do everything we can to address the way electoral districts are drawn.

A series of actions are currently under way to bring attention to this foundational issue and to pressure the legislature to hold hearings on SB13 and AB44. A large number of issue-oriented as well as politically-active organizations are participating in a coordinated effort to push this issue as hard as possible. At the Fair Elections Forum we are hosting on Sunday, July 16, at the North Shore Presbyterian Church (see details here), you can pick up an action packet that will guide your personal effort to make a difference. I hope you'll come.


Read more
Add your reaction Share