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New Republican Absentee Voting Law Another Round in “Voter Games”

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
User is currently offline
on Friday, 28 March 2014
in Our View

votersGREEN BAY - If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That seems to be the Republican motto when it comes to keeping those pesky Democratic voters from voting.

A few years back, they invented the great “voter fraud” epidemic, with no real evidence that it ever existed, to justify a voter ID law in Wisconsin. Since many more poor people, especially those in the inner city who tended to vote heavily Democratic, don’t have drivers licences and such, why not run them through a few extra hoops the Republican heads reasoned. Maybe some would just give up rather than vote.

After a few scares, the courts finally put a hold on that idea. Seems there was something in the Constitution that doesn’t allow you to inhibit the people’s right to vote.

So on Thursday, Gov. Scott Walker quietly signed into law a Republican bill that limits in-person absentee voting to no later than 7 p.m. during the week and no weekend hours. The new law is a dagger to the heart of the Democratic Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) effort of recent years.

It seems those same poor people, and other hourly working people who tend to vote for Democrats, have jobs and find it hard to get to the polls on election day before the six o’clock rush. There is, of course, a law that says your employer has to give you time off to vote, but it doesn’t say they have to pay you for it and you know how that goes.

Republican supporters, for the most part, who do work tend to be more likely managers or other salaried employees who can just take off for an hour or two during the day. Or, as you know if you ever voted in Cedarburg, polling places in the suburbs tend to have about three voting machines for every voter.

So the Democrats reasoned they could raise their voters turnout if they pushed early in-person absentee voting among their people to avoid the rush. It actually came down as a strategy from the national Obama for America people and it worked well for them. It became one of the biggest pieces of the Democratic GOTV effort and had begun to show signs of success.

Of course, the Democrats know what the Republicans are up to with their new law and will challenge it in court. And the courts, in their wisdom, will probably find sooner or later that the Constitution doesn’t allow you to pass laws that inhibit the people’s right to vote. But by then, the Republicans reason, Scott Walker and the Republican majority in the Wisconsin Legislature will be re-elected and it won’t matter.

And while all these Madison political strategists continue to concentrate on the voter games, Wisconsin will continue to drift into mediocrity and drop down the latter among in states in job creation. Will anyone ask what ever happened to those 250,000 new jobs Scott Walker promised to deliver in the last election?

We think not.

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The Republicans in Washington Must Think We’re Pretty Stupid

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
User is currently offline
on Friday, 20 September 2013
in Our View

GREEN BAY – I have been listening to the “debate” coming out of our nation’s capitol all day on CNN and just can’t help but comment.

Today, the Republicans in the House voted to hold the budget of the United States hostage so that they could make a statement about ObamaCare. They would fund the budget but not the implementation of the Affordable Care Act on October 1st. They passed the bill on to the Senate, who is sure to add the money of Affordable Care back. They think the people will then blame the Senate Democrats and/or President Obama if the government shuts down.

Such games are not new. In fact, they have been going on at all levels of government for years, and they are one reason why our government is broken. Legislators have been attaching policy changes to budget bills to end run the legislative process outlined in our Constitution with increasing frequency. Just look at what Scott Walker did in Madison in 2011.

The process is supposed to work like this:

  1. You have an idea.
  2. You formulate it into a bill.
  3. You debate the bill.
  4. You pass the bill in the house.
  5. The Senate passes the bill.
  6. The President signs the bill into law.
  7. The Supreme Court gets to review the law to ensure that it is constitutional.

All of this happened with the Affordable Care Act years ago. Today we heard Republicans trying to go back to the debate phase until we were nauseous. What part of “time to move on” don’t they understand?

If a majority of the American people really doesn’t want ObamaCare, they should, through their representatives, bring forth a bill to repeal it. The simple truth is they have tried this over forty times and they do not have the votes. This means that they are really a minority. Simple.

A minority that doesn’t stop whining even after it’s a done deal. So let’s get on with it.

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Who is Mary Burke?

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 03 September 2013
in Our View

mary-burkeA few months ago Burke wasn't on the radar screen of possible Democratic candidates for governor in 2014, and now she seems to be the hand picked candidate pushed by the party establishment. But having family money and running with the country club set have not been known to buy you love in traditional Democratic circles.

GREEN BAY - According to her friends in Madison, Mary Burke is so not a politician.

At least, that is the assessment of the former Commerce secretary and Trek Bicycle executive by a former colleague in Madison. But does it explain why a few months ago Burke wasn't on the radar screen of possible Democratic candidates for governor in 2014, and now she seems to be the hand picked candidate pushed by the party establishment.

One obvious advantage is that she could bring a boat load of her own money to the campaign. Should Burke decide to run, she has a fund raising edge over other Democrats because she is a multimillionaire. According to recent articles in the Madison newspapers, Burke paid on average $103,000 in state taxes alone each of the past five years. She could, at least partially, self-finance her campaign.

According to the same reports, Burke has said she is considering entering the race but hasn't yet formed a campaign. She spent the past couple of months meeting with key Democrats and business leaders around the state to assess a possible run.

But Burke's only experience in elected office has been as a Madison School Board member since 2012. She has held several leadership roles during her career, mostly in the private and nonprofit sectors, that party insiders hope could provide insight into what kind of governor she might be.

At Trek, the Waterloo-based company founded by her father in 1976, Burke oversaw the opening of offices in seven European countries and later developed its forecasting and strategic planning department. She also tutored poor minority children at the fledgling Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, which led to her joining the organization's board. In 2002, she became board president. She left Trek in 2004 to commit to raising $6.25 million for the club's Allied Drive expansion.

Her business and philanthropic work caught the attention of then Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, who in January 2005 appointed her Commerce secretary, a position she held for two-and-a-half years. She has also held other leadership roles on local boards, most notably in 2003 becoming the first female president of Maple Bluff Country Club, where she honed a single-digit golf handicap.

But having family money and running with the country club set have not been known to buy you love in traditional Democratic circles. Should she run for governor, Burke would be vying to become the first woman to hold the state's highest office, and the first female gubernatorial nominee for a major party ticket in Wisconsin. Another woman, State Senator Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, is also considering a run and more closely fits the traditional Democratic profile.

In addition, Statewide candidates typically come with more political experience than Burke. However, the recent election to the U.S. Senate of businessman Ron Johnson shows that doesn't have to be the end of the story, said Charles Franklin, a Marquette University Law School public policy professor. But Johnson is a Republican, and most Democrats have been quick to point out that business experience does not easily convert to the public sector.

Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, one of several Democrats who met with Burke to discuss her candidacy, said her success in different sectors make her an appealing candidate. He said many politicians, including himself, are waiting until Burke announces her plans before considering a possible run.

"What makes her exciting as a non-politician is she seems interested in the job and serving the state", Mason said. But is that enough for most Democrats to get over her patrician background, regardless of how much money she can bring to the election?

Republicans as usual, are preparing to paint Burke as an out-of-touch Madison liberal representing the policies of the Doyle administration.

As someone who has blatantly supported the failed policies of the past and whose candidacy was completely formed behind closed doors, it's clear that Mary Burke would have a hard time connecting with Main Street, Wisconsin, state Republican Party executive director Joe Fadness said when contacted by the Madison press.

Personal History

Burke was born in Madison in 1959, but grew up in Wauwatosa and Hartland near Milwaukee. She was the second oldest of five, and has three sisters and a brother, John, who now runs Trek.

She majored in finance at Georgetown University and received her MBA from Harvard Business School in 1985. Just before graduation, she asked her father for a job at Intrepid, his Brookfield-based holding company, but there wasn't an opening, so he turned her down.

Six months later, after working as a consultant in New York, she was hired at Intrepid as vice president of finance. But she soon missed the big city and returned to start Manhattan Intelligence, a service for consumers about businesses. It struggled to raise enough capital, and by 1990, she sold her stake and took a job leading Trek's European operations.

In one year, Burke opened offices in four countries, which meant setting up legal entities, hiring staff, leasing office space and establishing office protocol, said John Burke, who was her boss.

Steve Lindenau, who ran Trek's German operations at the time, said when he learned the company founder's daughter would be his boss, he wondered if it was a case of nepotism. It wasn't long before he considered Burke one of the smartest people he knew.

Lindenau was used to making decisions from the gut based on his experience growing up around bike shops. Burke insisted on a different approach based on analyzing data and assembling all available information.

The business changed (to) being less of an emotional way of making decisions and more of a pragmatic approach, said Lindenau, who now runs two bicycle companies in California. It was helpful for the bottom line, for sure.

Burke left Trek, and Europe, after agreeing her position was redundant and took six months off to snowboard in Argentina and Colorado - a decision Republicans have already criticized, citing polling done on that detail by Democrats.

After working at a bicycle industry trade organization, Burke returned to Trek in Wisconsin in 1995 to work on global sales forecasts. John Burke said his sister came in and tore the process apart using data analysis to reduce inventory levels and increase profits. It went from one of the worst things we did as a company to one of the best, he said. Mary has always been somebody who takes a look at things and thinks it can be done better.

Boys & Girls Club

Burke applied her business acumen as president of the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, but it led to friction with the club's executive director, Juan Jose Lopez.

Burke started as a tutor in 1998, but it wasn't long before the club's founding president, Peter Brey, and founding director, the Rev. David Smith, took her to a University of Wisconsin basketball game to talk up joining the board.

Burke flexed her executive skills on the board - reviewing financial statements on weekends, generating fundraising ideas and laying the groundwork for transforming the South Side neighborhood club into a citywide organization. In 2002, she was unanimously elected president by fellow board members.

She was focused, she had the ability to raise money, she loved the cause and she had the Rolodex that is such a key part of getting anything done in those particular arenas, Brey said.

Lopez came on as executive director around the same time, and a conflict emerged between them as Burke micromanaged the day-to-day operations of the club, Smith said.

Mary wasn't going to be pushed around by anybody, including her executive director, Smith said. She broke a few eggs, but she made a wonderful omelet, and the community is still eating that omelet.

Brey said Burke and Lopez had different views on how to move the organization forward, and Lopez wasn't executing the way Burke wanted. Lopez declined to comment.

To get to where it is now, there's never easy decisions, but no one can argue the path they took has led to one of the most successful organizations in the entire Boys & Girls Club family, Brey said, and Mary was the driving force.

When Lopez's successor, Marcia Hendrickson, also left abruptly, Burke held the position unpaid for about six months before hiring current executive director Michael Johnson in late 2009. The two agreed the director was in charge of day-to-day club operations and the board was in charge of governance.

Johnson credits Burke with putting in place the strongest financial controls he's seen at a nonprofit organization. A board officer must sign off on expenses over $1,000, and all mail must be opened by two club employees. An employee had embezzled money from the organization before Burke joined the board.

In the past decade, the organization has increased the number of children it serves from 300 to 3,000, expanded the bike ride fundraiser Burke started from $50,000 to $400,000 and grown its operating budget from $250,000 to $3.5 million.

Burke also started the AVID/TOPS student achievement partnership with the Madison School District, raised money for the Allied Drive expansion and established a $1.5 million operating endowment. She is the club's top donor.

Mary is real big on numbers, real big on data and real big on results, Johnson said. She's a no-nonsense person to make sure that the people around her feel valued, but there's a sense of direction and a sense of focus.

Commerce Department

As secretary of the state's Commerce Department, Burke managed 400 employees and a $221 million budget. Madison economic development director Aaron Olver - who was Burke's deputy secretary and later Commerce secretaryunder Doyle - said his first impression of Burke was she didn't come from the political establishment.

She introduced lean manufacturing principles in the department, seeking to reduce waste and improve efficiency. For example, after learning that each office in the department bought its own supplies, she created a central supply depot for everyone to use.

Dissatisfied with the lack of employee input in decision-making, Burke created employee labor management councils to help solve problems in the department.

Her M.O. is to get the right table of folks together to tackle a problem, Olver said.

Like other secretaries, much of Burke's time was spent negotiating economic development loans with private companies. That included a multimillion-dollar package to help reopen a struggling paper mill in Park Falls and build a biofuel refinery to make the company profitable.

Last fall, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., which replaced the Commerce Department in 2011, reported that it had lost track of $12.2 million in defaulted loans, including about $5 million from the Park Falls company.

Olver described Burke as so not a politician because she was never one to think about image or campaign donations or public opinion. At the time, she described herself as an independent but leaned more Democratic by the time she left the job, Olver said.

She did not come in thinking about the politics or optics of her decisions, Olver said. She came in focused on problem-solving and getting results.




Source: Madison Newspapers

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Are Conservatives Hiding the Truth about the Costs of ObamaCare?

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 13 August 2013
in Our View

critical-illGREEN BAY - Maybe, if you don’t look at it, it will go away? That seems to be the conservative stand on the Affordable Health Care Act, commonly known as ObamaCare.

In Washington, the right wing in the House has voted 40 times to kill ObamaCare, while the pressing problems of the nation like job creation and immigration go unanswered.

Governor Scott Walker, darling of the national conservative right wing and Tea Party, decided to shun millions of tax dollars the federal government wanted to give back to Wisconsin to help set up health insurance exchanges.

Right here in Brown County, a Republican “non-partisan” Supervisor named Brad Hopp tried to get a resolution passed preventing the county, and its employees, from assisting Brown County residents in accessing health care made available through the Affordable Care Act.

Now the Walker Administration has still not released the insurance rates for the companies who will be on the new health marketplace. We know who the companies are that will join this marketplace and ensure greater security and control for consumers, but not what the plans will cost!

Some sort of price control on health care costs is fundamental to Affordable Care.

For years, one of the main problems with the American way of providing health care has been it’s ever raising cost. That’s why people needed insurance to pay for health care in the first place. It is why many employers cut full time jobs or moved them overseas rather than pay the costs here to insure employees. That’s one of the major reasons they called it the Affordable Care Act in the first place.

According to our former Congressman, Dr. Steve Kagen of Appleton, one of the authors of the Affordable Care Act, the way to control these costs is the open market place. You go to two or three stores and notice that one store is offering the product at the lowest price. You go back to that store to buy it. The other stores have to lower their price to complete. All you have to know is who has the thing you want and the price.

The Big Health Care Industry and their insurance provider partners have been in the business of hiding the true price of specific health care services for years. Have you ever tried to get an itemized bill after a stay in the hospital? Once we know the price, the free market will drive the costs down.

Wisconsinites need the facts on prices. We deserve to know how much the new insurance rates are. If the news is good and we have lower rates like Maryland and New York, we need to know. If Walker is going to try and spin the numbers like Ohio or Indiana then we need transparency! In either case the truth demands to be told.


Our progressive friends at Citizen Action of Wisconsin have started a Petition to force Walker to release the new Health Insurance Rates he’s hiding. If you wish to sign the petition, click HERE.

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Zimmerman Trial Reflects White Prejudice in Legal System

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 16 July 2013
in Our View

black-hoodyGREEN BAY – The American Legal System boasts that it gives the accused the right to a trial before his or her peers. Unfortunately for justice, it sometimes does not guarantee the same right for the victim.

Such was graphically the case in the trial of George Zimmerman last week in Florida for the murder of Trayvon Martin.

In case you were vacationing on Mars for the last few years, George Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch volunteer and want-a-be cop in the pretty much all white community of Sanford, Florida who saw Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old black youth from out of town, walking down his block. Zimmerman decided to follow him, armed with a gun, and ended up shooting the unarmed Martin dead.

A simple story and one you should think about if you go around packing a gun.

But the story gets complicated from there. The Sanford Police decide to take their local guy’s story at face value and let him go, no fault charged. The Martin family and the national media get involved, demanding at least a decent investigation and trial, in the name of justice for the dead youth. The political right and left charge to their respective sides and the American Legal System lumbers into action.

Now, sixteen months later, the verdict is in and the pretty much all white jury of Sanford residents decide to take their local guy’s story at face value and let him go. Are we surprised?

If Trayvon Martin did the shooting and was the defendant, he could have at least asked for a change of venue by saying he could not get a fair trial in the white community. The police and the jury would apply their community standards in judging the credibility of his story and find him guilty before he even opened his mouth. Unfortunately, he was the victim and could not speak.

In America, black youth, especially young black men face the same problem every day. Often guilty of no more than “walking while black” they are profiled by police as “suspicious”, picked up, and processed into a legal system that is stacked against them. Anyone who says there is no racial prejudice involved is not in touch with reality.

Most probably, there will be no justice for Trayvon Martin. He was found guilty by a jury of Zimmerman’s peers. But maybe, just maybe, we can use this sad incident to start a real discussion about race in America and our legal system. Maybe, some time in this century, all of us can come to see a black kid as just another kid.

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