Conservatives Wish To Politicize Mequon-Thiensville School District With Needless School Board Recall

If you have not been following the news from the Mequon-Thiensville School District you have missed one of the more troubling events facing those who are elected to serve on a school board. Four members of the board are facing recall elections in November. 

And all the for sake of undermining faith in our local institutions.

Wendy Francour, Erik Hollander, Akram Khan, and Chris Schultz are now facing an attempt to hijack a local school board by a group of people in the community who are just as willing to spread misinformation as they would cheese on a pizza. What has occurred over the recent weeks with this recall is another example of the lowest common denominator seeking to undermine facts and logic.

Why this matter finds concern on this Madison blog is that this recall effort epitomizes the larger threat to our democracy that has played out around the nation. Not only does the usual quackery emerge about mask mandates, vaccine shots, and a disdain for dealing with racism through the curriculum but more importantly the willful sowing of seeds to undermine our institutions. In this case, a duly elected school board is falsely branded, and the skills of the board members derided, so the faith in the electorate is undermined.

The post here is about the Mequon-Thiensville School District but the fact is this modus operandi is taking place around the nation. Hence, the larger threat to democracy.

Without actual problems so to reasonably force a recall the angry ones have stirred the larger community into believing that something untoward and outlandish has taken place by the board. It has not, of course.

But if enough false charges can be lodged from the continually resentment-filled (echoes of 2016 presidential election) then chaos can ensure, a recall can emerge, and who knows that can happen! That is the game plan of these conservatives.

So from that perspective, this recall is one that has eyes on it from all over. After all, a partisan-inspired hijacking of this type should never be allowed.

The attempt by those to take over the board by the use of politically based rhetoric runs counter to the data-driven requirements that board members need to operate under so to make sure a school is as effective in education as possible.

It should be noted that the Mequon-Thiensville School District now scores an 89.5% out of 100% rating. That is not some ranking that the board created for its own purposes, but rather the result of data collected and analyzed from the Wisconsin Department of Education.

The Mequon-Thiensville School District Significantly Exceeds Expectations on the 2018-19 School Report Cards issued in November 2019 by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

It might seem easy to think this school board matter is happening ‘over there’ and does not need to register across the state. But the fact is this tactic used by those who harbor resentments against different aspects of our larger pluralistic society are using every means they can to upend our working institutions.

All eyes need to be on this recall effort, and work to see that it fails.

And so it goes.

Lawsuits To Force Wisconsin Schools To Abide By CDC COVID Guidelines

When it comes to pursuing a much-needed goal, be it statewide or nationally, I firmly believe in using every arrow in the quiver to achieve success. When it comes to stopping the spread of COVID-19 I double down on that strategy.

Today I was alerted to another avenue to safeguard Wisconsin’s schoolchildren and stem the spread of the virus that has impacted the lives of too many families and undermined our economy with closed businesses and scores of unemployed workers.

The Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC has decided they can best secure the health of state students and the larger communities in a legal move that is not just gutsy. But justified in every sense of the word. The PAC will sue every school board in Wisconsin that doesn’t follow CDC guidelines to protect the spread of Covid in schools.

This is no timid, let’s start small and see how it goes strategy.

On Wednesday, the first lawsuit was filed in Wisconsin’s Eastern District against the Waukesha School District alleging children who’ve been wearing masks have contracted COVID-19 because their classmates are going to school unmasked while having symptoms. The Waukesha School Board voted May 12 to end many of their COVID-19 mitigation policies including universal masking.

The PAC stated that this was the first case to be filed as “we met the plaintiffs in Waukesha first”.

Taking the case straight into the lion’s den is of value. The Waukesha School District is nothing but shameless with all sorts of COVID-related policies. Their disdain for the free lunch program for students is one that caught my ire this summer.

Kirk Bangstad, founder of the Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC stated his reasoning for this series of lawsuits.

“Our goal all along was to bring a class action lawsuit against all school districts in Wisconsin that weren’t protecting kids, teachers, and communities, but we had to start somewhere…”

The surge in the Delta variant, the lackadaisical nature of too many people not being vaccinated, especially in rural counties, and the absurd politicization of the virus by right-wing media demands that someone stand up for the children. You know, the ones who rely on adults to make sound decisions.

Thankfully, Bangstad is one of the good guys who appreciates science, facts, and reason. CP will be following the legal progress of these cases, knowing they are of importance to our society.

And so it goes.

Wisconsin’s Fall Farm Markets Make For Smiles

The annual road trip to Arena in Iowa County never fails to make me happy. Waiting for just the right day with perfect fall temperatures and knowing all the squash and apples and other items will be stocked puts me in a perfect mood.

Wisconsin is perhaps at its best when one can drive into the country where mile after mile of leaves is starting to turn color. That color palette is matched with the piles of brightly colored pumpkins and corn shocks near the roadsides for sale.

On Saturday we took to the back roads and made our way to the place that has been a fall destination for about two decades. It never grows old to see a youngster trying to lift or drag a pumpkin that is far too big for their arms. Dad comes along to lift up just the perfect one selected by the kid.

Then there is the need to bite into one of the freshly baked apple cinnamon donuts, and this weekend with the tailgate of the pickup pulled down kids were doing just that as we arrived in the parking lot. Before we left it was essential to follow suit!

Carts were piled high with all sorts of gourds and squash waiting for the cashier to recall the various prices for the items, all the while joshing with the customers about that afternoon’s collegiate football games.

For all the rancor that was to be found wherever one turned the rest of the week, only smiles and gentle banter among complete strangers took place at that large farmer’s market. I mentioned to a young boy pushing his baby sister around in what looked to me to be a cumbersome carriage that next year she will be walking about on her own. He smiled and said, “it ain’t so bad once you get this thing moving”. Just perfectly said without missing a beat.

There is a slower pace to the country that, even in small doses, does make for an impact. James and I came home and removed all the items from the convertible and were amazed once on the picnic table that it all somehow had fit.

Lots of hard work from our farming sector of the state often does not get the full recognition from those who live in urban environs. Even if for only a few hours it would do everyone good to drive out into the country and stop along the way to talk and shop with the ones who make our kitchens so full of flavor and diversity.

Wisconsin Guns, Chicago Crimes

Gun violence in Chicago is often the topic of headlines around the nation. Too often Monday morning newscasts will report on the number of shootings and homicides from the weekend. Even more tragic to learn are the reports which deal with children in the city who are struck by bullets and killed. We do not know the kids personally, but such news rips at us deeply.

Chicago, often based on such news, gets a negative backhand from many who hear of the gun violence tallies. But the Windy City is, of course, not alone in dealing with the gun culture that has totally gotten out of hand. In Philadelphia, as an example, officials are fearing this could be the deadliest year in the city’s history.

But while learning of what is happening in Chicago neighborhoods there must also be an awareness of how Wisconsin plays a role in that gun violence. Recently data was examined which connects the dots of a Glock stolen from a smashed glass case in Superior, Wisconsin, to its recovery during a street stop in Chicago. 

The movement of guns from Wisconsin to Chicago, and the tragic outcomes caused by such weapons, has triggered a likely journalism prize-worthy series in the Chicago Tribune. It truly deserves attention from Wisconsin residents as we are clearly part of the problem.

It was a few hours past midnight on New Year’s Day 2016, a time when the working-class northern Wisconsin town of Superior keeps the bars open especially late.

Police were tied up with two bar fights, one of them a 30-person brawl at a local saloon called the Ugly Stick.

With no cops in sight, the burglar was ready to make his move on Superior Shooters Supply, a gun shop frequented by hunters and hobbyists.

It was just 12 days later, authorities believewhen one of those (stolen) pistols was fired from a car in the southbound lanes of the Chicago Skyway around 97th Street, killing a 25-year-old road manager for a rap group who was driving his new BMW coupe.

The ease with which anyone with a disturbed mind or cruel intentions can make entrance to gun stores and steal deadly armaments is very concerning. In the above robbery, the store owner in Superior noted that the handguns were “stolen from one of her glass display cases”.

The consequences of such brazen thefts are noted in the data.

Guns that end up on Chicago’s streets often come from Indiana and Wisconsin. In 2019, of more than 11,000 guns confiscated by Illinois authorities, 460 were traced back to Wisconsin, which ranked third for states with the most gun traces outside of Illinois, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

We need to re-examine the issues at play that allow for hundreds of guns to leave our state and cause injury and death. Wisconsin needs to implement stricter standards for gun dealers. The reason why is most obvious. 

At the present time, ATF does recommend that all commercial dealers install an alarm system, high-definition security cameras with audio, place bars on all windows, plus sturdy doors with multiple locks at each entrance.

But that is not enough.  Advising such common-sense recommendations is far different from demanding under law the stores act responsibly.  So let us be clear as to what Wisconsin should require.

Simply put, all gun stores need to place all firearms in a safe or vault after business hours to prevent theft.  I also have long felt that these stores would be best served with burglar alarms connected directly to the local police department. These ideas would in no way impede on those who seek to buy and own guns but would make those who sell weapons more responsible members of society.  If stores do not abide we then need to hold gun store owners accountable for shoddy security practices.

Chicago records show that aside from the above Glock linked to 27 shootings in Chicago, the three other guns from that one burglary were tied to more shootings in the city, striking at least 10 people and killing one of them.

In one case a 9 mm Glock 26 was confiscated by Chicago police from a teenager six months after the break-in, and in another, a 9 mm Glock was linked to the shootings of at least eight people including the slaying of Elliott Brown and wounding of his girlfriend.

The burglary at the Wisconsin shop was another episode in what police said is an established connection between Chicago and towns along the western tip of Lake Superior. Drugs often move north from Chicago, officials said, and sometimes firearms head south.

The reasons for the epidemic of gun crimes have long been studied. At this time in the nation, there is a soaring number of gun sales, the ever-more harsh political rhetoric against gun-control measures, and a deep distrust among some towards law enforcement. The list of contributing factors also includes economic forces which ramped up during the COVID crisis, and the long-running federal drug policy which desperately calls for reform.

Stealing deadly weapons from a gun store is also a proven problem which demands a public policy solution.

And so it goes.

FCC Contacted For Native American Racism On Madison’s WMTV

A complaint to a local television station has escalated into contact with the FCC concerning the airing of the caricature of Chief Wahoo representing a Cleveland baseball team.

Readers to this blog might recall that on August 12th I posted a comment about WMTV’s sports report where racist images were aired, twice in one day.

I am outraged!  I watched the CW news at 9 and couldn’t believe when the sports anchor reported the Brewers’ score and there was the caricature of Chief Wahoo representing Cleveland on the screen!  So I watched at 10 and the same damn thing!  The team retired this graphic as the racist, demeaning symbol it is years ago.  And yet WMTV uses it twice!  

Since the viewer did not receive the courtesy of a response from WMTV about what was aired the complaint was sent to Washington.

I was watching the 9 p.m. newscast on WMTV2. On the sports report, the anchor was standing in front of a screen with Brewers spelled out and the racist Chief Wahoo mascot to represent the Cleveland Indians. The team itself retired this graphic years ago because of it’s sterotypical and minstrel show like features. I thought, “this must be a mistake, or an inexperienced intern added the wrong graphic” But on the 10 p.m. newscast, the same thing. This racist graphic should have been retired from the graphics library long ago. I filled out their comment form, called the sports department and left a voicemail demanding an apology on their next evening’s newscast. I also emailed the news and programming departs. Never heard anything back. Apparently they think they can get away with using racist representations on the public airwaves and don’t have to answer the public.

From the perspective of this blogger’s desk, it would seem the most appropriate response should have been forthcoming from WMTV. It is troubling that no feedback was given to a legitimate concern about racism against Native Americans–coming from the most liberal city in the state. If we can not do what is right here what should be expected above Highway 29?

Having worked in radio, and often commenting on the use of the public airwaves on Caffeinated Politics, I firmly hold to the accountability that license holders have to the public with these types of issues. We know that mistakes happen on the air, but when they do it is essential that an honest statement be made, and an earnest effort made to not make them again.

Pretending that the images never aired, nor offering an apology is not in alignment with the higher standards that the public has every right to expect from one granted a television license.

And so it goes.

Pine Cone Diner In DeForest Closes With Political Lie, Owner Took Nearly Half-Million In Fed $$

While living in Madison over the past decades I have known two of my favorite restaurants to close. In both cases there was a high degree of resolve to meet and greet long-time customers and share memories. There were efforts made to go out of business with class.

When Wong’s Chinese Garden closed on Atwood Avenue Gah Yuen Wong and his wife, Lan gave out hugs and poured cups of tea as conversations flowed. Over the years I would often joke that his wife needed a pay raise, and Wong often reached into his pockets and told me he had no money.  Lan leaned on the counter and smiled as she has heard our vaudeville routine many times.

La Rocca’s on Williamson Street was a joy as entering was akin to going into someone’s home.  Over the years the owner, Vito, told us of his family who had come from Sicily and why his food was homemade. In my view, it was awesomely authentic. His last day was like a favorite family leaving the neighborhood. Smiles, hugs, and of course Caternia had tears in her eyes.

Such memories are part of the food experience as it is important for such places to end with grace.

That was not the case, however, in DeForest when the Pine Cone Restaurant closed with a sign on the door that was rude and totally a political lie.

The owner of the establishment, John McKay, just like every other restaurant owner in the state faced the same hardships during the ongoing pandemic. Like most business owners he also benefited from the at-times bi-partisan efforts to pump money into the economy and help ensure workers were kept afloat.

As such McKay and the Pine Cone got two Paycheck Protection Program loans, one in 2020 and one this year, totaling $464,040, according to PPP data. The data show the restaurant had 32 employees during the applicable loan period.

So it was the height of having no grace when McKay placed a sign on the door of the diner with a most outrageous lie.

The sign reads like a political stunt from AM-talk radio.

“Due to the decisions of your state government (Evers) and your federal government (Biden), The Pine Cone has been forced to close its doors after 40 years. Thanks for all your support” 

The truth came out when the media started to make inquiries into the matter.

McKay said Thursday the real reason he closed the truck stop restaurant at 6162 Highway 51, was because his lease was up.

It’s just strictly the lease. Our lease was up after 40 years. … Got old and got tired.”

It is disturbing when facts are so easily tossed aside so to feed the narrative that conservatives wish to foment. It is also rather unsightly, when knowing many business people across the country were thankful for the assistance from the federal and state governments, to learn that a local one took the money and was not grateful.

The Wongs and Vito’s family came to this country and for decades ran successful restaurants. When they closed the door on their places for the last time it was surely with mixed feelings.

But it was done with class.

And so it goes.

Waukesha School District Proves Why Political Purity Is Rot, Free Lunch Program Rankles Conservatives

I do resent when embarrassing headlines are created around the nation by foolish actions from those who live in Wisconsin. That is the result today due to the purely political actions of a local school board.

The Waukesha School District board decided to opt-out of a federally funded program that would give free meals to all students regardless of family income. That is not a misprint, in case you are reading that line twice.

The backstory is that the school board voted on June 9th to return to the pre-pandemic National School Lunch Program, which offers free and reduced-price lunches to students who apply and receive federal money for them. It should be noted, however, that Waukesha is the only eligible school district in our state to up-end such funding.

As a side note, each of the state’s public schools adopted the universal meal program in March 2020. Now, the very Republican enclave is striking back.

The rhetoric that flowed from the board meeting even included board members who stated the reason to stop what is termed ‘universal’ lunch programming was to prevent an “addiction” to the service.

Karin Rajnicek, a school board member, said the free program made it easy for families to “become spoiled.” Darren Clark, assistant superintendent for business services, said there could be a “slow addiction” to the service.

Left unstated at the meeting was any mention if all this “addiction” will lead to more corporate welfare for the conservative business owners in the school district. (Ring…Ring….Hello….Pot calling Kettle.)

The out-and-out meanness and coarseness of the board action are most obvious.

The COVID pandemic is running wild and it does not take very long to see how the economic impact of the virus has made money tighter for many families. There continues to be a real need for some families to have food assistance to make it through this tragic time in our state and nation.

In addition, we are aware that often kids can be very callous with remarks aimed at those who are somehow ‘different’ or apart from the whole. By not having some kids, who can pay their way with school lunches, looking down on those who need assistance is one less stressful event in our schools.

The rank move by the board on June 9th can be chalked up to yet another form of political purity. Conservative politics is fine and dandy until it starts to damage those who are most vulnerable in our society. I place young students, who through no fault of their own, grow up in homes with limited means as being among the vulnerable.

It is then most appropriate that the rest of us find a way to best educate and uplift our youth. That was being done through the free meals program.

Conservative Republicans in Waukesha have proven in both word and deed that being kind, supportive, and humane is not a condition that all our state school boards have in equal measure. The universal way of allowing kids, who have fewer means, to have a school lunch with no guilt or bad feelings is the best route to proceed with this school year.

The only “spoiling” that occurs is with too many state residents putting up with the utter disdain conservatives continue to have for the rest of the state. Allowing them to think their behavior–as demonstrated with this issue–is in any way acceptable–only adds to the problem.

And so it goes.

Give Me ‘Your Huddled Masses’, Afghan Refugees Deserve An American Welcome

America has a chance to shine. Wisconsin has a reason to feel an uplifting mood for providing a helping hand.

Yes, the international news from Afghanistan over the past 10 days has been trying, and at times dismaying to watch and read. There are clearly questions to be answered about the process that played out in the drawdown of U.S. military forces and government employees from the war-ravaged nation. There will be enough political rhetoric over the coming weeks and months to keep talk radio chirping 24/7.

But all that pales right now when it comes to the most vulnerable who have had to flee their country out of fear of deadly retaliation from the Taliban, who have secured power in Afghanistan. Men and women who have aided our nation during the past 20 years, assisted news organizations, and participated in various governmental operations now are threatened by the medieval madness of the Taliban.

The only option for the many thousands who have given of themselves, along with their families, is to leave via a flight from the Kabul airport.

And the only moral and ethical option for the United States is to open our arms, hearts, and minds to these new arrivals.

The most dreadful in our land, however, and that would start with the talk show hosts on Fox News, have already resorted to creating a narrative for the mouth-breathers who saddle up each evening to watch hour-upon-hour of bile.

“If history is any guide, and it’s always a guide, we will see many refugees from Afghanistan resettle in our country, and over the next decade, that number may swell to the millions,” Carlson said. “So first we invade, and then we are invaded.”

I find that white nationalism and xenophobic babble to be nauseating and most un-American. Carlson spits on the foundations of this nation when he makes such racist and absurd statements.

The nation understands the war in Afghanistan was a long, brutal, bitter, and costly affair that involved four different presidents from each major political party. We understand that there is a reckoning that must be met to those we very much used and gained from as we undertook the mission there. The men and women we gained assistance from must be treated fairly.

I often write of our nation’s role in the world. I see it as an expansive one and do not agree with trimming our sails. While it was absolutely time to remove our presence in Afghanistan as modernity is not anywhere in the near-term a feasible goal, the international role we play as a superpower must never be tossed aside for those who would fail to grasp our national exceptionalism.

That power is again displayed with our concern for and acceptance of these Afghans.

I often write of values, even virtue, when it comes to those we elect. I grew up in a time when stories abounded of people returning from places far around the globe where two photos might exist in homes. A picture of the then Pope, and another of President John Kennedy. That tone might sound hokey and out-of-date for some readers, but those types of foundations about freedom and better days are how I still view the world.

In line with that thinking are the ways we honor and pay our debt on the world stage to those who stood alongside us and did their part for the mission at hand. Our moral center as a nation is as much in need of recognition as is the one that resides with each person.

It is then from that perspective that I am truly heartened that Afghan refugees have started to arrive at Wisconsin’s Fort McCoy for temporary housing. Being loyal is not only how we should act one to another, but also how nations must operate, too.

Over the past few days, the American brand name has been tarnished with leaders and commentators around the globe taking a kick at our process playing out in Afghanistan. Some of it is surely earned.

But we can now showcase the thing about our nation that has always loomed large. Folks from every land wishes to come to our shores and breathe the air of freedom. The people now who aspire to call this place home are most deserving of being accepted. They have earned it.

To the Afghan refugees, I say Welcome to America. Welcome to Wisconsin. Welcome to your new home.

And so it goes.