Guns, Guns, Guns, Guns…..

The news from Rockford on Tuesday about gun violence did not make the headlines as there was a bevy of reports about COVID, a staggering traffic jam on icy roads in Virginia, and court trials (such as Dane County’s Chandler Halderson murder case) that sets shivers down the spines of even the most jaded among us.

But guns played havoc in communities far and wide causing great angst for the law enforcement community.

Following a shooting at Auburn High School Tuesday afternoon that left two teens injured, Rockford Police Chief Carla Redd made an impassioned plea to parents of violent youth, to end gun violence in the city.

“You all know who the kids are who have the guns, who have access to guns. They’re your kids, your neighbors, and your grandkids,” Redd said.

Stop sitting on your bottoms and doing nothing about it.

Every single day in every state and in multiple communities within each state the number of gun shootings, killings, and injuries mount.

In Chicago for instance, there were more gun-related homicides in 2021 than in any other year on record, according to officials. Cook County’s 1,002 homicides, a total that includes Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, was 121 higher than the previous record from 2020 and almost twice as many as the total from 2019.

Just two days before the Monday announcement by the county medical examiner’s office, Chicago police reported that there were more homicides in Chicago, 797, in 2021 than in any year since 1996. There were 772 killed in 2020, and a much lower total of 498 in the year before, the Chicago Tribune reported.

In New York City a recorded 485 murders took place in 2021, a 4% increase from the 468 tallied in 2020. It needs noting that the surge was driven by a startling surge in gun violence across the city. Last year there had been 1,857 shooting victims in that city.

One can comb through the statistics coast-to-coast and see gun violence shot upwards—sorry for the bad pun–as gun-related deaths among kids and teenagers increased during the pandemic. The reasons for the crime rates over the past two years are being studied as to why it occurred.

But it needs stating that this medical crisis in the United States could have been averted in large part with a fact-based White House in 2020 along with the absence of continual lies aimed at the most gullible within the Republican Party. When the larger social implications of not addressing the virus in a most serious fashion during the Donald Trump administration are examined the deaths due to a host of social ills will need to be cited.

Gun violence, not surprisingly, has most demonstrated its wrath and harsh realities on the poor, Black and Hispanic youth over the past years.

When it comes to guns and protecting our youth from getting their hands on the weapons, as Rockford law enforcement talked about on Tuesday, one does have to place that daunting social problem alongside the pandemic and ask a most basic question.

If people can’t even figure out how to manage to wear a face mask correctly, how in the world do we expect them to manage gun ownership?

This blog continually speaks out for gun control measures at the same time it responds to the latest gun violence that the misinterpreted Second Amendment has unleashed on the nation. My first letter to the editor as a teenager was printed in the Waushara Argus. The reason for my letter concerned the need to bring sanity to the issue of gun ownership.

Four decades later and the problem is worse than ever.

And so it goes.

Waushara County Meeting Epitomizes COVID Problem In Nation

We read daily news reports, hear radio broadcasts, and watch television anchors all alerting us as to how COVID spreads. But we also are asked continually to play a constructive role in stemming the progress of the virus so that it can not further mutate. The fear being, of course, a mutation that could not be held in check by the current vaccines. One would think such sound medical advice would register and people would act accordingly.

Right?

This week above the fold in the weekly Waushara Argus there was a most unfortunate photo of just how far removed many in this state are from accepting both science and personal responsibility.

As the news photo caption reads “Dozens of Waushara County residents” “pack county board room“. This is unsettling due to the fact the conservative and Republican-voting county has only 38.4% of its population fully vaccinated.

In the 2020 presidential election, Waushara County voted 66% for Donald Trump. True to form for many such counties all over the nation there is also a staggering disregard for not only the vaccines which are proven to be effective, but also a lack of trying to mitigate the spread of the deadly virus with changes to behavior.

I am not sure how to explain the actions of people in my home county where I grew up. I was most disheartened to see the front page of this week’s Argus with a packed meeting. Only one person in the far back is wearing a mask.

What in the heck is wrong with people? Where does any religious aspect come into play where we need to be our brother’s keeper? What message does this send to children about taking safety measures when adults act so outside the box of personal responsibility?

When I see such optics it alerts me to other larger facets to be considered in relation to the county. There are more than medical concerns when pondering this matter. 

What new business would want to establish themselves in a county with a population that is not able to understand the necessity of being vaccinated against COVID or have any more regard for the larger community? What does it say about a region where facts and common-sense are not being used by people for their own well-being? Is that a place where any serious business operation would want to set up shop?

I fully know my home county is not alone in this regard. Chuckleheads make up too large a portion of the nation. But one wishes to see more intelligence and common sense from the place one comes from.

This was truly a sad spectacle for Waushara County.

And so it goes.

Wisconsin Newspapers Should Publish Local Government Minutes And Actions

In my mind I can still see Dad combing through the Waushara Argus, our local newspaper, to find the notices concerning local government. Having served on the Hancock Town Board for 40 years he always wanted to make sure the notices about an upcoming meeting or election were printed correctly, and the minutes of meetings along with the decisions taken to have visibility.

Why Dad flipped the pages of those papers was due to the fact he wanted to make sure the work of local government was published, and thereby publicized, so citizens could add their voice and input to the concerns of the day.  He also desired they be kept abreast of how local government functioned.  He knew informed citizens made for contented voters.

I note that memory of mine because Senate Bill 55 would allow for local units of governments to decide if they wished to continue to publish meeting minutes in newspapers. They instead could opt for placing all such material on their websites. I have not seen the fiscal note attached to the proposed legislation but one can correctly assume the ‘cost-saving’ in dollars would not compare to the loss of providing information to the local constituents.

Living in Madison, even with decades removed from my home area, I still enjoy reading the minutes from the county board.   I want to know what is taking place with the school districts and towns that dot the area where I grew up.  One of the main reasons I subscribe to the paper, the one dad read those many years ago, is to be informed on matters about local governments.  That information is made public via the very notices SB 55 now wishes to limit.

I live in a tech-savvy world.  I blog and podcast but my day always begin with printed newspapers to get current with the world and events just around the corner. In small towns and villages around this state folks who desire to get information about the places they live turn to their hometown papers. That fact, along with the continued call for openness and transparency in government from a most unsettled electorate, makes this bill a non-starter.

I readily admit my love for newspapers and my deep respect for journalists who write the copy.  Some might then think my underlying motive for this matter has to do with the health of an industry that has suffered in the digital age.  While I do have concerns about the future of newspapers I also carry with me the foundations of good local government—which means transparency–from dad.

I know people don’t routinely go browsing through official government web sites because they have nothing better to do.  But I do know folks still browse all the way through locally printed newspapers.  I also know many of the folks back in my hometown area don’t have computers but still wish to be informed about local government.  Those are the ones–and all the others just like them spread around the state–who the legislature needs to be mindful of when they deal with this matter.

Senate Bill 55 should never see the light of day.

My Doty Land Podcast Makes Front Page Of Newspaper

I woke up to see an episode of my Doty Land podcast made the front page of my home-county newspaper. I was not expecting that to happen, and found a genuine smile came faster to my face than a desire to pour the first cup of coffee.

I truly enjoyed the time in production of this episode about the 1918 pandemic in Hancock, my hometown. The warmth I feel about broadcasting is why there is a studio in our home. The fond memories of my radio days in Sturgeon Bay, and the way radio played a most important role in my formative years are still very much alive within me. Being able to turn all that enthusiasm into podcasts and have a platform (Buzzsprout) along with listening apps from Apple, Google, and others have been a truly rewarding experience.

Decades back it all started when as a boy I ‘played radio’ using my father’s pocket watch for timing and a copy of the Stevens Point Journal for my copy…..

Waushara County: Redistricting Reform On Ballot

My letter to the editor of the Waushara Argus regarding the much-needed redistricting reform was published this week. The county has a ballot measure on the fall ballot. I explain why it matters, and why it deserves broad support.

###

The most partisan project I witnessed when working at the State Capitol was the crafting of the district lines following the 1990 census.  There were large maps of the First Assembly District on the office walls and reams of voting data of villages and towns on our desks.  Like every other member of the majority party our legislative office was looking to shape political lines to benefit the existing powers under the dome.

That process was illuminating, maddening, but informative.  For the past nearly 30 years I have been a continuing advocate of reforming the ways our district lines are drawn. I am very pleased that Waushara County voters will have a ballot referendum this fall regarding this most important issue. I would like to explain why it matters and ask for your support on Election Day.

If you shake your head in derision when our state legislature balks at even the most lukewarm funding strategies for our transportation systems or fails to protect ground water chalk it up to the way district lines are designed. If you wonder why districts are deep blue, or red and why there is no real electoral competition so to debate issues and chose among candidates it is due to redistricting.  If you feel the most strident voices from both sides of the aisle dominate while the moderate and compromising middle of the electorate is not visible, that is also due to the current way redistricting occurs.  

We cannot have a functioning state government if the politicians choose their voters.

Redistricting reform may appear ‘boring’ at first glance, but it is central to much of the discord in the state today.  When we do not have political boundaries that represent the diversity of the electorate or are crafted for the sole purpose of party control, then the essential art of governing is reduced to merely partisan gain.

This should not be a partisan issue. Both parties deserve criticism for the secretive and stubborn way they handled redistricting.  Wisconsin Democrats had the majority power during the time of Governor Doyle to create a redistricting commission and chose not to proceed.  We know elected Republicans would not even hold a hearing in 2013 on a proposal to create a commission.

Unless the way we elect people is based on a more equitable and level-playing field all the grand ideas we may hold about building a stronger society will be left in drafting folders on a shelf.  Therefore, I ask the folks of my home county, (I grew up in Hancock, 1980 graduate) to do what we have always known to be right since first studying civics in our youth.  Vote YES on the Non-Partisan referendum.   And I thank you.

Gregory Humphrey

How COVID-19 Spreads In Rural Wisconsin

This week I talked with a public school employee who had a rather stark response to my question of how long it was expected for that school to remain open once it commences classes next week.

Without hesitation, the response was right to the point.

“Two weeks”.

Today as I looked at my home county newspaper and it was once again apparent the medically prescribed safeguards requested so to stem the spread of the virus are not being practiced by many people.

The first photo that struck my attention was one with the caption which started, “Plainfield’s Tri-County students are seen waiting for the bus to arrive….  There are ten people and two masks.  And the saddest statement is the ‘adult’ in the middle of the photo seeming to be blissfully unaware.

345

“All ages swarmed around….” was the second phto that alerted me regarding an event to raise money for local concern.  Not a mask on anyone.

6789

Then I saw this reminder online today about how people can help spread the infection with friends and strangers alike over several days this weekend.

118517541_10158703659649134_5328533518415744166_n

Too many of our medical professionals work long hours and endure huge amounts of stress so to do their part to keep the public as healthy as possible. Many citizens statewide have played their part in staying closer to home, wearing a mask, and self-distancing.  Then there is a huge swath of the state that seems wedded to the idea they can act in any fashion they desire and not care one iota for the well-being of anyone—not even themselves.

This is truly a damning indictment on the caliber and fiber of too many of our fellow state residents.

Waushara County Column On Urban Milwaukee: My Post About Red-Counties And Covid-19

There is no denying that red-counties in the nation are being impacted by COVID-19.  What those conservatives places have to say, how it reflects on the White House, and how it defines our sense of America is a topic to be found at Urban Milwaukee. 

Red-County In Wisconsin Shows Frustration With Federal Response To Pandemic

It is not hard to decipher how the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic is playing in the urban centers around Wisconsin.  Going into 2020 there was already an oppositional view of Donald Trump and his policies in places like Madison, Milwaukee, and Eau Claire.  But the White House’s slow response of not recognizing the grave health risks posed by the virus, along with not putting the full force of the federal government behind the mass production of needed items for doctors and nurses, has now brought dismay to both ends of the political spectrum.

I was truly surprised at this week’s front page of my home-county newspaper, the Waushara Argus.  The county is rural and politically red, conservative, and proud of it.  But above the fold in the paper were published rather stunning words from Robert Sivick, the Waushara County Administrator.

Traditionally the Federal government takes the lead in crisis situations and State and local governments follow suit. Unfortunately, that appears to no longer be the case. At the Federal level we hear conflicting directives ranging from claims of strong
national authority to passing the buck to State and local governments.

To make the distance from the White House talking points even wider the administrator added the following.

Finally, we must accept the fact COVID-19 will be affecting our lives for some time to come. Only a vaccine and widespread inoculation will allow us a complete return to normalcy.

There is a recognition come this fall and winter a resurgence of the virus is likely, and the only way for normal participation in society to again resume is to have a breakthrough with a vaccine.  No one is believing, as Trump stated this week, that the virus will just disappear.

I am not in any way suggesting that Republican areas of the state are turning on Trump.  Political allegiances run deep, and there is no doubt that the conservative base is solid in their support of the incumbent.  But that does not mean there is no frustration with how this pandemic has been handled by the federal government.

In phone conversations and Facebook chats with family and friends in that area one theme keeps being repeated.  In advance of Governor Evers’ order to stay home many in rural Wisconsin were already ‘hunkering down’ and taking proactive steps such as making sure they had food items and essentials to make it through what they felt was coming.   They now feel they have done their part–and in some cases more than their share.

But to learn that there were shortages of medical supplies and now disruptions with the meat supply have left some wondering how Washington did not have better thought-out plans.  We could win a world war on the other side of the globe, one older man told me, but we could not manufacture enough face masks for the nation.

There are countless angles to be studied and written regarding the enormity of the pandemic.  One sliver of that crisis will be the further erosion of faith that the citizenry has in the ability of government to meet the needs of the time.  Some might argue that was by design, with Trump not wanting to use the power of the federal government.  In the rural places of this state where folks do not talk like policy wonks or follow each breaking headline, there are those who just believe that such moments like this is a time that the government must act.  And when it fails to do so something is lost about their notion of America.  

That is sad.

5.7.20 Argus