MATC’s Political Tin-Ear

After Election Day the MATC District Board’s request for a $133.8 million referendum will be called one of the top ‘tin ear’ events of the year.  At a time of great economic distress this was not a time to raise the issue.  While I think there is validity for some of the requests made in the master plan for expansion of the tech school, this is just not the time to ask the taxpayers to suck it up and pay more.  After reading the Wisconsin State Journal, and sensing the tone of the article, I know I am not alone in my feelings.

In order for the referendum to pass, supporters will have to push aside complaints about rising taxes to make the argument that this is a long-term investment, said Barry Burden, a UW-Madison political science professor, and that could be difficult.

The November election also features competitive races for Wisconsin governor and the U.S. Senate, which will bring people to the polls. Burden predicts about a 50 percent statewide turnout.

Local school referendums are statutorily required to be held in the spring so that they are not swayed by the political tides. But this referendum will be part of an election that, according to conventional wisdom, will favor Republicans.

“On average, the typical Republican voter is probably less supportive of increasing taxes,” Burden said. “Probably the winds at the back of Republicans will make it more difficult for this pass.”

While MATC officials argue that this expansion is needed to help put people back to work, the economic downturn could be the very thing that keeps people from voting for it.

“I’m not opposed to education, don’t get me wrong,” said Jeff Berres, a Watertown resident who spoke at a public hearing on the referendum last week. “I just believe now is not the time for this kind of spending and not the time to put the burden on taxpayers who are overburdened.”

‘Originalists’ Get Tackled By Justice Breyer In His Book “Making Democracy Work, A Judge’s View”

I have stated on this blog that the Supreme Court was the most important domestic issue facing the nation during the 2008 election.  Far more important than the economy was the long-term impact of the nominees for the high court.  We had to make sure, I wrote,  that we had a president who could make the correct call. 

One of the reasons I felt that way was summed up in a few sentences in October 2008.

To state, as the ‘originalists’ do, that the words of the Constitution do not evolve with time is a seriously flawed idea.  To pretend that the living America of ideas and events does not necessitate a Constitution that bends and adapts within the framework of guiding principles is one of the most bizarre and dangerous concepts that has ever been suggested.  Those who promote such ideas are the American equivalent of the Taliban, who use the Koran in highly misguided ways.  Pragmatic and logical voters understand that past decisions made by the courts, public needs and expectations, along with the larger values that were implied in the Constitution, are needed to be used by judges when making rulings.

As we know all too well there are some who sit on the bench who think that ruling from a ‘strict constructionist’ viewpoint is the proper way to view matter pending before the Supreme Court.   That thinking is about to get a healthy dose of further examination real soon.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has a new book coming out this week, called “Making Democracy Work, A Judge’s View.”

As NPR reporter Nina Totenberg writes (click through to hear Totenberg’s interview with Breyer), Breyer has sparred for years with Scalia through a host of mediums, namely legal opinions and in public debate. But now Breyer has upped the ante a bit, moving his “argument to the printed pages of a book written for popular consumption.”

Breyer’s targets, writes Totenberg, “is largely the notion that the framers of the Constitution meant what they said and no more — and that the provisions of the Constitution are limited to what they covered back in 1789.”

“People think . . . the only way to protect against subjective views of judges is to have something called originalism, which is as if you could reach decisions by means of an historical computer,” Breyer told Totenberg. “I don’t think any of those things are true.”

In support of his argument that the founders did want a “living Constitution,” he points to the countless Supreme Court cases that debate open matters like the 14th Amendment, First Amendment and Eighth Amendment’s ban on “cruel and unusual punishment.”

“Flogging as a punishment might have been fine in the 18th century. That doesn’t mean that it would be OK, and not cruel and unusual, today,” he says.

Senator Reid Says Senate Will Take Up “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Next Week In Military Bill

Many Americans are concerned about the lack of equality in the armed forces when it comes to gay service members not being able to serve openly and honestly.  As such many people were demanding that the Senate take up the military spending bill which also includes  langauge repealing the disastrous “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.  Today Majority Leader Harry Reid said a vote on the bill would take place next week.

Let us see how the GOP conservatives can try to screw this all up.  The world is looking and watching.  I hope due to the conservatives trying to play to the uneducated angry white males in the nation for political purposes we do not have to be laughed at by the world next week.

A military spending bill that includes the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning openly gay and lesbian soldiers will come up for Senate debate next week, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office.

Reid’s spokesman confirmed Monday that the chamber will take up the National Defense Authorization Act on September 20.

The measure, which includes funding for military operations, also contains the controversial provision to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy after the Pentagon concludes a review of the matter in December, and President Barack Obama, the Secretary of Defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff all give their approval.

Last week, a federal judge in California ruled that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is unconstitutional. The decision by U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips shifted the focus on the issue to Congress, where the House has passed its version of the repeal measure scheduled to come before the Senate next week.

More than 12,500 gays have been booted from the military since “don’t ask, don’t tell” went into effect.

In a statement Monday, the nation’s largest organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans applauded the decision by Reid, D-Nevada, to take up the Senate measure.

Will Chris Cox, Grandson of President Nixon, Be Nominated For Congress?


Chis Cox, was selected by just 23 percent of GOP voters, coming in third place.

I made a really stupid mistake with fast typing and stated the wrong year Richard Nixon was elected to the Oval Office.  That date has now been fixed.

I have my eyes on at least a 100 different races as the mid-term elections roll along.  One of the most interesting primary races for unusual reasons caught my attention in New York State.

First, I think New York is going to tell us a lot on Election Night.  If Republicans can pick off one or two Democrats in this blue state then there is really a category 4 hurricane a-blowing.  One of those who hopes to be seated in the class of 2011 is the grandson of the man who went to Congress in ’46, and became president in ’68.

As a Richard Nixon history buff I think about this race not so much in political terms as much as how the former president would feel as we inch our way to the opening of the polls on Tuesday morning.  I can see the glow in Nixon’s eye, and the pride as he would square his shoulders to sit and watch, in shirt and tie naturally, the returns trickle in tomorrow night.  It would mean much to Nixon to see his love of politics, and the desire to enter ‘the arena’, be passed to his grandson.

So here is the lay of the land in the First Congressional District of New York.  Like Nixon would be doing, I have my eyes open wide on this contest.

The chance to take on Mr. Bishop, 60, in a year in which Republicans feel the winds at their back drew a fairly impressive field of contenders, even if none had won elective office before: Randy Altschuler, 39, a self-made businessman; George Demos, 33, a former prosecutor who worked on the Bernard L. Madoff case at the Securities and Exchange Commission; and Christopher Cox, 31, the pedigreed son of the state Republican chairman, Edward F. Cox, and a grandson of President Richard M. Nixon.

But with each of the candidates spending heavily — Mr. Altschuler and Mr. Cox have spent a combined $3 million of their own money — the final days of the race have been consumed by mudslinging, name-calling and accusations that not one of the three is really who he purports to be.

In direct mailings and broadcast advertisements bombarding Fox News viewers and listeners of WABC radio, each man accuses the others of being carpetbaggers, frauds and bogus conservatives.

Mr. Altschuler has the Conservative Party’s endorsement. But Mr. Cox, with the backing of a sizable Tea Party organization, is also contesting the Conservative Party’s primary, hoping to eke out a victory through write-in ballots. And he and Mr. Demos accuse Mr. Altschuler of buying the Conservative designation with big contributions to the party.

Mr. Demos, for his part, notes that Mr. Altschuler was once a member of the Green Party, and that Mr. Cox, whom he calls a “country club Republican,” supported abortion-rights candidates like Charlie Crist, the governor of Florida, and Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava in upstate New York. Ms. Scozzafava dropped out of a special Congressional election last year and endorsed the Democratic candidate and the eventual winner over his Conservative rival.

The carpetbagger charge, meanwhile, seems to be a wash: Mr. Cox voted in Suffolk County for the first time in June, a few months after moving from Manhattan into a relative’s Westhampton Beach compound; Mr. Altschuler considered running for Congress in New Jersey in 2006, and voted for the first time in Suffolk in 2008; and Mr. Demos first registered to vote using his family’s summer home on Shelter Island as his address, but mainly voted as an absentee, until he rented an apartment in the district a year ago to mount his campaign.

“These are guys who are trying to draw a distinction where there are very few differences, and a number of them are just not real, including their supposed residencies,” said Lawrence Levy, an expert on suburban politics at Hofstra University and a former columnist for Newsday.

There has been little discussion about issues so far, though Mr. Altschuler is trying to break through with a positive message to voters who are worried about the moribund economy that he created 700 jobs as a business owner. Mr. Cox and Mr. Demos say that Mr. Altschuler’s outsourcing company profited by moving jobs to India.

“That’s not a record you run on when there’s record unemployment in America,” Mr. Demos said.

Mr. Altschuler insisted his company did not cost any Americans their jobs, that it merely freed up professionals who were doing clerical tasks. Still, he expressed dismay at the criticism: “These are the least free-trade Republicans I’ve ever met in my entire life.”

“People understand that I am the only job creator in this race,” he added. “The reason my opponents are so adamant against me is they have no record of job creation.”

Mr. Cox does claim to have created jobs as a lawyer and a business consultant, but has shied away from providing any numbers or details about those efforts, which is something his rivals, of course, ridicule.

“There’s nothing that would qualify him to run for Congress other than winning the birth lottery,” Mr. Demos said.

While Mr. Demos is hoping voters will see him as the only candidate capable of making the general election about Mr. Bishop’s vulnerabilities, not his own, he lacks organizational strength and is short on cash in the final days of the race.

But with Mr. Cox and Mr. Altschuler spending so heavily and mustering sizable get-out-the-vote armies, the prospect that the Republican and Conservative nominations could go to different candidates could pose a dilemma for those who want to unseat the Democratic incumbent.

“Even if one candidate gets both lines,” Mr. Levy said, “I think the blood is bad enough and the factionalism is deep enough that you cannot count on the Republican organizations to come together behind him.”



Republican Scott Jensen Using Still More Legal Tactics To Delay Justice

Here we go again on the tortured path of ‘justice’ in Wisconsin.

When Republican Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen was originally charged in 2002 with using state resources and state workers for partisan work on state time ,who would have thought that in late 2010 we would still be trying to get the guy to admit his crimes and do his time?

The latest from the never-ending Scott Jensen saga of how to slow and delay the process of justice in Wisconsin took place today.

Attorneys preparing for former Republican Assembly speaker Scott Jensen’s new trial on misconduct in office charges want access to dozens of boxes of records and transcripts from the secret John Doe investigation related to the Democratic side of the Assembly.

The John Doe proceeding in 2001 and 2002 led to charges being filed against both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, including Jensen, as part of the state caucus scandal.

During Jensen’s original trial in Dane County, records only from the Republican side of the John Doe probe were admitted, according to comments made in Waukesha County Circuit Court on Monday by prosecutors and defense attorneys.

Jensen, 50, of Brookfield, was in court Monday for a status conference on his new trial, which is being handled by Waukesha County Circuit Judge Patrick L. Snyder.

The John Doe records are the first issue of the retrial being undertaken by the court.

Jensen was charged in 2002 with misconduct in public office, accused of using state resources and state workers to campaign for Assembly Republicans in 1998 and 2000 elections. Four other legislative leaders from both parties were charged around the same time.

All but Jensen accepted plea agreements.

William “Bill” Heidt, Long-Time Wisconsin State Capitol Employee, Dies At Age 57

When a politician who has served for a long time passes away there is much news made of the event.  Countless column inches run in the newspapers about the elections that were won, and the issues that allowed the public servant to make a long career.  

But it should be noted that behind the scenes of every successful politician there is an array of staff and workers who keep the system humming, the lights on, and the mail delivered.

One of those men that made the system click every day at the Wisconsin State Capitol was William “Bill” Heidt.  He was employed as a clerk at the Sergeant at Arms Office in the State Capitol for 30 years.

“Bill” Heidt was known affectionately around the statehouse as the ‘mail man’.  In all the years at his job I am not aware of one person who did not like him, josh with him about the volume of constituent mail, or perhaps even request that he find a way to lose some of it.  A stickler for doing a job the way it should be done precluded anything but professionalism every day Heidt went to work.  Nothing would be lost on his rounds under the dome.

In 2009 William “Bill” Heidt retired from his job at the State Capitol.   Sadly this morning I learned that Heidt died this past Friday in Madison. I trust a sizable number of  state capitol insiders show up out of respect for this man at his mass. 

William “Bill” Heidt was one of the good guys that helped state government run efficiently under the dome. 

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010, at 11 a.m. at BLESSED SACRAMENT CATHOLIC CHURCH, 2115 Rowley Ave., Madison. A visitation will be held prior to the service beginning at 10 a.m. Interment will follow at Resurrection Catholic Cemetery.