Jim Doyle Ruminates On Need For Redistricting Reform

Saturday afternoon I had a great political discussion on my front lawn with a friend who is a lobbyist in Wisconsin.   We talked about the latest Marquette Law School poll and how it strongly favored the statewide races for Hillary Clinton and Russ Feingold.  But when we got to the point of breaking down the path for Democrats to retake the state senate we both agreed there was really only one solid pickup for the minority party come November.

Such is the state of politics where Democrats cast more votes in the last legislative elections but Republicans control with an iron fist the majority in the statehouse.  The reason for that is the method used to draw district lines in a purely partisan fashion after each census.

To be fair Democrats also used the partisan tools available to them for drawing lines when they had the majority.  But the degree of brazenness for drawing boundaries has increased under the current Republican majority.

With that in mind it was most interesting to watch former Governor Jim Doyle discuss with Greg Nuemann on Capital City Sunday the need for our state to update the way political boundaries are drawn.

Doyle admitted it was an “opportunity lost” when in 2006 a Democratic majority in each house of the legislature did not act on redistricting reform.  He had put forth a plan which he tried to sell across the state but was met with more yawns than strong support.

After having seen the degree to which the redistricting system is now broken Doyle seems to have found a stronger voice on the subject.   And he is most correct when saying “a great reform for American democracy would be to move to some kind of non-partisan commission to do the redistricting.”

Since 1981 Iowa’s congressional and state legislative maps have been drawn by nonpartisan legislative staffers without considering voter registration numbers or the location of incumbents. Their main considerations are keeping districts compact and uniform in population.

What were the results of the efforts of the nonpartisan staffers during the last redistricting cycle in Iowa?

The Iowa House approved the new maps on a 90-7 vote, and the Senate weighed in with a vote in favor, 48-1.  Republican Gov. Terry Branstad enthusiastically supported the maps.  He acknowledged that the new maps allow for  a healthy competitiveness between the two parties.

The problem is that too many partisan heads in the Wisconsin Legislature are not able to think beyond their narrow interests, and consider the greater good when it comes to redistricting.  That certainly was the case when there was not even the ability to have a public hearing in our statehouse about the method employed by Iowa!

Political parties have for too long used the boundaries of districts to inoculate elected officials from the need to truly compete about ideas at election time.  One of the more outstanding figures offered  over the past year about immigration reform is that 70% of Republican congressional districts around the nation have less than 10% Hispanic/Latino voters.  In some cases that can be explained, but in many others it is due to crafty manipulation of district maps.  That type of political chicanery from both sides of the aisle creates far more problems when it comes to solving issues than perhaps anything else other than the heavy amounts of campaign money that is allowed to be raised.

I wish Doyle had been successful in 2006.  I also wish that Democratic candidates were using the issue of redistricting as a campaign issue this fall so to educate the voters in an attempt to move this matter further along.

I have long argued that the three biggest needs for political reform in the country are 1) controlling the amount of money spent on campaigns, 2) allow non-partisan commissions to draw political boundaries, and 3) allow for merit selection of state supreme court justices.

Until these matters can be resolved there will be structural flaws with not only elections but policy-making.

Wisconsin Democrats Angry With DNC—Sample Letter One Can Send When Asked For Contribution

There is plenty of reasons to have disparaging words for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) following the hollow and limp-wristed efforts that were employed for the recall election of Scott Walker.

But what can be done to those who did not stand with Wisconsin Democrats when we needed them?

This week a friend sent me his reply that was mailed back in a DNC envelope, an envelope which had accompanied a request for a campaign contribution.

You have got to be kidding me! You hang out democrats in Wisconsin to dry while we’re fighting to recall the most anti-worker anti-labor governor in the country and now you ask for a contribution!? 

The Republicans and their fat cats at least recognized the importance of the fight outspending our side 8 to 1, and the day after the election were pointing to it as a great victory. I’m not a highly paid political consultant, but I could foretell that result. Instead of going down with a fight the national Dems including OBAMA and BIDEN were MIA. 

Meanwhile, our former “Democratic” Governor, Diamond Jim Doyle said no big deal if Walker gets recalled. BEFORE THE ELECTION!!! Apparently maneuvering for the Ambassadorship to the Vatican. 

The deputy director of OFA says no big deal if the recall succeeds. BEFORE THE ELECTION! 

No money from the DNC! 

Debbie Wasserman Schultz shows up a few days before the election to talk to a few volunteers in Racine. 


She said: “I think, honestly, there aren’t going to be any repercussions,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said in a broad-ranging interview on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers.” 

Way to fire up the troops BEFORE THE ELECTION Debbie!!! Were you a psychology major??? I CAN TELL YOU THERE ARE REPERCUSSIONS IN WISCONSIN FOR THE NEXT 2 ½ YEARS!!! 

And I should send money to the DNC? I’d rather compost it. At least something might grow from it.

Wisconsin Legislature Should Allow In-State Tutition Rates For Undocumented Immigrants

Once again the topic of  college tuition has come up in regards to undocumented immigrants.  State lawmakers are looking at removing a provision approved two years ago under Governor Doyle that allowed some immigrants, mainly those who grew up in Wisconsin, to enter college by paying in-state tuition rates.  This past week the University of Wisconsin System stated it would abide by the changed law if the legislature passed it.

The problem all the way around, from the legislature’s willingness to upend a worthwhile educational effort to the UW System’s calm demeanor at swallowing a dreadful change, is that it is all very shortsighted.

Why should a bright and capable young person, who has successfully completed high school, and possesses the ability to attend a state university be denied in-state tuition rates simply because they came to Wisconsin from another country with their parents, having no ability as a child to make life decisions? Why should anyone wish to force these capable young and keen minds into a permanent economic underclass that will be their fate unless they find the education to meet the requirements of the ever-changing economy?

Are we short-changing society a cancer researcher, novelist, civic leader, or teacher by keeping a young person out of college?  We will never know if these young minds are not allowed to reach their full potential.  This Republican policy change for the UW System is not wise and it is not moral.

This is just not the way we should be treating each other, regardless of where we were born.  Some higher purpose should drive policy decisions than the color of our skin, or the sound of our last name. 

It is not logical to deny young minds that are college ready the opportunity to meet the challenges of the early part of the 21st century by denying them access to the UW system.  Often money is the factor that denies certain demographics learning opportunities.  While some may look at the in-state and out-state rates and say it is still possible for these immigrants to attend misses the mark about fairness and decency.  This matter is not only about economic fairness, but about the way we treat each other as members of society.

For those that are always eager to botton-line every issue let me clear that up too as a non-starter.

The UW System reports that only a few dozen out of more than 100,000 students have requested in-state tuition through this program.  This program is not the huge wasteful spending spree that will make or break the state budget.  Still there will be those who complain about the fiscal impact of this program.

To those people I ask them to consider the positive impact of education.

To create a class of educated immigrants with the potential to be future business people, doctors, designers, and everything in between that will only add to the tax base through self-sufficiency should be applauded by everyone.

There is no good reason to be mean to those who want nothing more than paying the same college tuition rates as others who also grew up in Wisconsin.

To deny an education for an undocumented immigrant is not a political statement. It is a moral failing.

There Should Be Protests At Scott Walker’s Inauguration In Madison

Madison is known for loudly stating what needs to be said.  No one can ever accuse those who live in the Capital City about being timid when it comes to democracy. 

That is a good thing.

As such I am wondering if the passionate believers in a variety of issues and causes will remain silent on January 3rd, the day Republican Scott Walker takes the oath of office as Wisconsin’s next governor.  Or instead will they give voice to their concerns about the future of our state?  Might there be many others from around Wisconsin who also feel kinship over the issues and join in to alert the new power brokers in Madison that all is not well?

I suggest there is more than enough reason for concerned citizens to make their voices heard in light of what has transpired over the last weeks with the removal of federal funds for high-speed rail, and the collapse of contracts for state employees.

Over the past weeks Scott Walker has made unprecedented requests of Governor Doyle regarding a variety of issues.   Walker asked that work cease on the bio-fuels project at the University of Wisconsin Madison campus.  He wanted a stop to the implementation of the federal health care law.  He also was the force that stopped high-speed rail, and his fingerprints are all over the dreadful end of the contracts for state workers.

All this and Scott Walker has not even taken his oath of office, or had the benefit of a complete strangle-hold by the GOP in the legislature. 

A sharp and pointed protest would serve to send a message that the elections are indeed over, and the time for governing has arrived.  And the people are watching.  We will not be silent as corporate interests get everything they desire.

Unless there is a groundswell of statewide push-back over the substance and tone of what we have already witnessed from Walker and his allies, then there is only one conclusion that can await the state.  That would be a wholesale reversal of the beliefs and policies that has made Wisconsin progressive and forward-leaning.

That would be a dreadful place for the state to wind up.

How to start to fight back?

The place to start is on January 3rd when Scott Walker is sworn into office.

Some may think it best to wait and not ruffle feathers on what is seen as a festive day as power is transferred in Madison.  To them I suggest we look to see how Walker acted during the transition.  He did not sit by and wait for power to come to him.  Walker boldly struck out and made his ideas take shape. 

That needs to be the lesson for the opposition when it comes to Walker and Company.

No one should think that things will be better if those who oppose Walker just play nice.  State workers should not believe that giving Walker some breathing room will somehow provide them a better deal.  Confronting Walker right out of the starting gate will show backbone and help energize the opposition to the Walker agenda.

Madison has never been shy before about claiming the high ground and standing firm.  With Scott Walker in the statehouse this is no time to retreat.



Wisconsin Republicans Show What Their Priorities Are

Two short paragraphs sum up pretty much what we all know about the Republican Party.

Greedy.  Self-centered.

Republican Gov.-elect Scott Walker plans on giving any excess money raised for his inauguration to his campaign fund and the state Republican Party instead of to charity.  

Outgoing Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle donated all the extra money raised for his two inaugurations to the Boys and Girls Clubs.

Dear Santa, From Scott Walker

I have never read a news story such as the one that I found online Thursday afternoon.  If I have ever read such a request following an election, I can not recall it at this time.

Just about ten days since being elected Governor of Wisconsin, and many weeks shy of having any official power, the requests from Scott Walker were most direct.

Walker asked Governor Doyle to…..

….stop working on a number of key initiatives, including converting the Charter Street power plant on the University of Wisconsin campus to bio-fuels.

….stop a new implementation of the federal health care law

….stop negotiating contracts with state workers

Would Scott Walker like Governor Doyle to press his suits and walk the dog too?  Trim his nose hairs?

We get the fact that Walker has a lot of ideas and notions that he wants to work on.  Some of them he will even find some bi-partisan help with.

But to come into the ballgame as cocky and demanding as the news story shows the new governor to be is a political blunder.  No one likes arrogance in an elected official, and politicians in the statehouse have long memories.  It has been my experience that some humility and goodwill goes a long way in making things move in a positive direction under the dome.  It is a lesson that it seems Walker can not learn fast enough.

Earlier this year Walker got too far ahead of himself in an interview.  In early June he made a most unconstitutional comment.

“I am not even waiting until January 3rd, on November 3rd I am going to march over to the State Capitol and start taking over…”

At the time I commented, “There is much to be concerned about when the power-hungry nature of a candidate spills out so effortlessly when prodded for a throw-away answer.”

After the news today it seems I was right about Scott Walker.

There is a time to put forth ideas and work for change.  That time, however, comes when one has the power.  For Scott Walker that will come only after Inauguration Day.  He may not like it, but those are the laws of Wisconsin.

Until then Walker is just another person who can spit up-wind all he wants.  In the end Walker should expect nothing more from Governor Doyle than the polite reception and honest assistance during the transition that any decent person provides after an election.

The actions by Walker have met with tough words from others who have served as Wisconsin Governor.

The Journal Sentinel interviewed Thursday past governors or their most senior aides going back to 1977. All agreed that no incoming governor has made requests of an outgoing governor that are on par with the size of Walker’s requests.

“What’s going on now is unprecedented and in my own view is it’s inappropriate,” said former Gov. Tony Earl, a Democrat. “Mr. Walker will become governor in January. He’s not governor now.”

Can Governor Doyle Help Scott Walker With Anything Else?

Democratic Gov. Doyle says he is leaving the future of Wisconsin’s high-speed train line to his Republican successor who has vowed to kill the project.

I have lots of problems with that.

First, I strongly support the train.

Second, I am a bit old-fashioned about the role of an elected official.

I am one of those who feel that you fight for what you believe in right up to the end.  If the train was right yesterday, it is right today, and tomorrow.

That is why is seems gutless and weak for Governor Doyle not to commit every dollar he can, every person he can, and every ounce of conviction he has to this train project that many know to be right for the state.

When Scott Walker is sworn into office, and if he then thinks he can or should undermine the train project, then it will be on his shoulders for whatever happens. 

But until that time it is Governor Doyle that should lead.  Be it for a full term, or only a matter of weeks, folks voted four years ago for a Democrat to lead this state.

I would like the money I pay for Doyle’s salary to be used for the work he promised this state…..right up until the inauguration in 2011.

Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz Thinks Train Can Go Forward

I have to think Mayor Dave knows what he is talking about.  This project is good for Wisconsin and our future economy.

Governor Jim Doyle has hit the pause button on high speed rail. That’s ok as long as it’s temporary. It might be appropriate for the governor to survey the landscape after Tuesday’s elections and see what the best course of action might be going forward. But there’s no doubt that we should go forward.

I’ve listened closely to Governor-Elect Scott Walker’s statements since his election and his concerns about high speed rail seem to come down to two things. He hopes that somehow the $825 million in federal support to pay for 100% of the construction of the project can be used for roads instead. It can’t. In fact, even the new Republican Chair of the House Transportation Committee is a big supporter of high speed rail and he and the President just aren’t going to let states spend money that is intended for rail on roads. What’s going to happen instead is that states that reject the money will see it spent, and see those jobs created, in another state that does want it.

We know this funding will create thousands of jobs, but our choice now is whether they are created in Florida, Michigan or Wisconsin.

I’ve sent a letter to the Governor-Elect suggesting a meeting between state, federal and local officials. The Beatles were right. We can work it out.