Monthly Archives: July 2015

Time to deal with race – here’s help

If you stand a block of wood on its end, you can tip it just a little, let go, and it will return to its upright position.  If you tip it far enough, however, it will fall over when you let go. That angle–the one beyond which it can no longer continue to do what it did before (stand on end) and will do something else instead (lie flat)–is called the “tipping point.”

In the past year or so, we may have passed a cultural tipping point when it comes to progressive white folks’ awareness of widespread and intolerable racial injustice in our communities. Even a year ago, if you used the term “white privilege” in a group of well-meaning white folks, there was a good chance that at least several wouldn’t even realize you were talking about a problem. Now, there’s a good chance several will. Even a year ago, if conversation among those same well-meaning white folks had turned to a police shooting, there was a good chance that everyone in the conversation would have assumed the police were telling the truth about what happened. Now, there is a good chance some–maybe even most–will be aware of the possibility an innocent life was taken for no good reason.

When we might have reached a tipping point for toppling something as evil and intolerable as racial injustice, it’s time to push.

Groundwork is a community organization of white people in Dane County working to achieve racial justice and equity.  Their three main goals are:
1) Engaging white people to work for racial justice;
2) Working in collaboration with organizations led by people of color; and
3) Deepening our members’ own education and leadership development

Groundwork offers workshops for community groups who are interested in more inclusive, racial justice-centered practices within their group, and is offering a six-session workshop for individuals this fall.

Groundwork’s excellent website offers information on where to find out about current local racial-justice issues; and constructive information on how allies can help, among other things.


Get on the phone to save nonpartisan ethics & elections in Wisconsin

Walker’s making noises again about abolishing the Government Accountability Board. We need to make sure this idea dies as quick a death as the proposals to alter the UW’s mission, eliminate the LAB, and wipe out the open records law.

More information at this link.

Get Dane County’s votes counted accurately–for sure. Demonstration Monday 6PM, downtown library

This is a ‘demonstration’ in the sense of the word that organizers will be demonstrating how citizens can use the digital images preserved by Dane County’s voting machines to verify (or prove wrong) electronically tabulated election results. ‘Demonstration’ in the sense of the word meaning protest will need to come later if our county elections officials continue to refuse to check the accuracy of the voting-machine output before they declare our election results final. This has got to get fixed before November 2016!

Madison Public Library, 201 West Mifflin Street downtown, 6 PM, Monday, July 20, third floor community room; sponsored by the Wisconsin Election Integrity Action Team.

Bonus: It’s confirmed! We will be joined by Dr. Douglas W. Jones, University of Iowa Computer Science professor, nationally recognized expert on elections technology; former member of the Federal Election Commission’s Technical Guidelines Development Committee; and co-author of Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count?, one of the best and most comprehensive books available on the history and problems of electronic elections technology  and the possible solutions.
BrokenBallotsCover copy

Community-building potluck – Wednesday evening

Supporting community is at the heart and soul of progressive values. Even if you don’t live in McFarland, come on Wednesday evening to see how it’s done! Active McFarland is hosting a community potluck honoring civic engagement. Local groups are invited to bring a one-page flyer describing their purpose and activities—along with a dish to pass—and will be given an open microphone for announcements and information sharing. What a delightful way to support each other and build alliances!LewisParkWednesday, July 15, 6-8:30 PM. Lewis Park Shelter, 5012 Highland Drive, McFarland. Bring a dish to share with appropriate serving utensils and your own place setting and beverages. No glass allowed in the park.

Stoughton needs our help! Your help.

Stoughton Forward needs donations quickly. Here is why: the citizens’ group has been leading the fight against corporate welfare in Stoughton for about two years. Outrageously, that city’s officials have been working on plans to take $5 million  from Stoughton’s homeowners in redirected property tax bills (TIF) and give it to a developer of a new WalMart SuperCenter. This, of course, will damage local businesses along with increasing the homeowners’ property tax bills for the next 30 years or so.  This week, the city is finalizing agreements to instead give the $5 million directly to WalMart if the developer goes bankrupt.


However, state law does not permit TIF funds to be transferred to another party without conducting a legal change process to amend the approved TIF plans. So Stoughton Forward sees an opportunity.

They have until Friday, July 17, 2015 to file a court suit asking a judge to require the city to follow state laws. If the judge forces the city to follow the state law, it may bring an end to this fiasco in Stoughton.

Stoughton Forward has raised nearly $3,300 of the $5,000 needed to file the court suit. They are asking for contributions quickly to make up the rest.

If you make a check out to Stoughton Forward and sent it to Buzz Davis, Treasurer, 1021 Riverview Dr., Stoughton, WI 53589, the hundreds of citizens who have spent two years fighting back will thank you!!!

Protest budget provisions that give pipeline companies power over local governments.

The 350 Madison Climate Action Team is organizing a demonstration against the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee shenanigans related to the dangerous  Enbridge Pipeline. The action will demand that destructive provisions be removed from the Budget Bill, on  Wednesday, July 8, 11 AM, at the King Street corner of Capital Square in Madison.


Under pressure from Enbridge lobbyists, the committee adopted a budget provision stripping localities and counties of their right to require cleanup insurance from pipeline companies. The committee also amended state law to allow pipeline companies to exert eminent domain to take control of land they want.

Dane Co. Exec. Joe Parisi disputed Enbridge’s assertion that federal law governs: “It’s not a federal issue for the local people that have to deal with spills. [Enbridge is] making enough money off of this pipeline that they should be able to meet the conditions that are necessary for local folks to be protected.”

“The budget committee sided with a 40-billion-dollar special interest over the concerns of Wisconsin citizens,” said Carl Whiting with the Wisconsin Safe Energy (WiSE) Alliance. “This back-door removal of common-sense protections doesn’t just jeopardize our water, our air, and our safety. It undermines our democracy.”


Beyond ‘liberal’ & ‘conservative’ to a more nuanced understanding of political personality

Most of us have noticed civic problems become harder to solve when we frame political debate as simplistically two-sided. Yet most of us frequently talk and act as if people are on one of only two sides, with us or against us.

False dichotomies can distort our perception of our fellow citizens’ beliefs and can even short-circuit our own thinking as we conform our own beliefs to one side of complex public issues.


Perhaps the most relentlessly over-used forced dichotomy is ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative.’  Political pundits cannot seem to string two sentences together without slapping one of those two labels on whatever or whomever they are talking about, while caricaturing some other option as the ‘opposite.’

In 2001, a group of British journalists developed a more nuanced model of political personalities to replace the one-dimensional liberal/conservative continuum. The Political Compass sorts political thought into two dimensions: a political scale going from Authoritarian to Pluralistic, and an economic scale going from Collective to Individualistic.

Take their self-test to see where you stand, and give some thought to where your friends and neighbors might stand. The more we learn to see political beliefs–our own and others–in more realistic, nuanced terms instead of caricatures, the better we will understand each other and communicate effectively about the important choices facing us as a self-governing people.

Celebrate the 4th by preserving democracy — Open records action needed now!

From the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin:  The Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee approved an anonymous amendment to the state budget that will gut the state’s Open Records laws and make it easier for state and local government officials–including legislators–to hide information from citizens. Apparently those who proposed the motion and those who voted for it want “independence” from responsibility, because the provision would be retroactive to July 1 if it is passed next week with the state budget.  Read about it and find links to the 24-page motion and how committee members voted here.
Contact your State Senator and Assembly Representative this weekend and tell them to reject this attack on transparency. If this measure is passed, Wisconsin – and Wisconsin alone – will be on the wrong side of open government. No other state has such lax open records laws, according to the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau. You might refer to this League statement delivered by Caryl Terrell at a press conference on Monday.

To get your legislators’ emails and phone numbers, go to the Wisconsin Legislature website and enter your address in the box next to the little map of Wisconsin on the right-hand side.

The heartbeat of the earth; the heaven in the waters

The Lake Monona Water Walk 2015, July 10-13, is a weekend of inspired water related events to extend our gratitude to the Waters of Life and raise public awareness for the need to steward our watershed well, as we recognize that we are in the midst of a very real global water crisis.


Friday, July 10 concert at Monona Grove High School, 7 PM with Grammy Award-winning Bill Miller

Other spiritual and educational events on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday at Frost Woods Park in Monona; details here.