Monthly Archives: October 2015

Learn & discuss: State mandated school testing – Stoughton, Sat. Nov 7

The Stoughton Action Coalition is bringing together a panel of experts and citizens to discuss state-mandated school testing. How are the tests used? What’s the effects on the kids? What commercial and political influences shape these policies? And more…

StoughtonTestingPanelists include Edgewood College School of Education Dean Timothy Skelar, Wisconsin State Representative Gary Hebl, and Stoughton School District Director of Curriculum and Instruction Judy Singletary.

Join the discussion on Saturday, November 7, from 11:30-1 PM (food provided) at the Covenant Lutheran Church, 1525 N. Van Buren, in Stoughton.

Family Farms or Industrial Agribusiness? Learn more…Monroe, Tues, Nov.3

“This is a free event that is open to everyone in the community who cares about the future of family farming and about preserving the beauty of Green County,” explains Jen Riemer, a local farmer and co-founder of Green County Defending our Farmland. “There are a lot of local residents who are concerned about the growing number of large-scale confinement farms in Wisconsin, and they’re starting to wonder how the trend will affect us here in Green County. We decided to put together an educational event that would take place in a relaxed atmosphere where community members could also socialize with their neighbors.
The event will take place at 6:30 at Turner Hall, 1217 17th Ave, Monroe on Tuesday, November 3rd. The evening will include several well-known speakers, appetizers, a cash bar and music by The Jimmys and Tracy Bristow.

Featured speakers will include John Ikerd, author and professor emeritus of Agricultural Economics at the University of Missouri and Lynn Utesch, Kewaunee County beef producer and co-founder of Kewaunee C.A.R.E.S. (Citizens Advocating Responsible Environmental Stewardship).

Jacob Marty, one of the organizers of the event, is a 23-year-old farmer working with his father on their 410 acres near Monticello. ”My family has been farming this land for 6 generations. I want to farm in a way that improves the soil for the generation that comes after me.”

Let your first thought about holiday shopping be: “Buy Local!”

It’s about more than helping our neighbors keep their businesses profitable. Shopping at locally owned businesses helps to:
  • Strengthen community relationships and ties. We just get to know each other better, and small businesses donate more than twice as much per sales dollar to local non-profits, events, and teams compared to big businesses.


  • Keep local money circulating in the local economy. Each dollar spent at a locally-owned independent businesses returns 3 times more money to the local economy than one spent at a chain, and 100% more than buying from an online mega-retailer. The multiplier effect created by spending locally generates lasting impact on the prosperity of local organizations and residents.
  • Improve local control and democracy. The owner of a local businesses  is more likely to be helpful and involved in community decisions than the local manager of a big-box store.
  • Weaken the power of big corporations over our politics.
  • Help the community keep a distinct local character. Don’t you hate that feeling when you travel to a distant city eager for for something new and different, enter a mall or a shopping district, and don’t see a single retail outlet or restaurant that you cannot see back home?
  • Create a healthier environment by supporting businesses that use less land and less fuel to get the goods to  you;
  • Keep local taxes low. Small neighborhood-located retail businesses generate a net annual return to municipalities of $326 per 1,000 square feet of store space, while the infrastructure and maintenance costs generated by big box retail outweigh tax revenues, costing taxpayers $468 per 1,000 square feet of floor space each year.
  • Create local jobs and opportunities. Not only do independent businesses employ more people directly per dollar of revenue, they also are the customers of local printers, accountants, wholesalers, farms, attorneys, etc., expanding opportunities for local entrepreneurs.

For more information, check out Dane Buy Local.

Check out Progressive Dane – General Membership meeting Wednesday

Local progressives who want to work on electoral politics but who don’t affiliate with an established political party might want to check out Progressive Dane, if they haven’t already. PD has, since 1992, been “working to achieve positive policy change by electing accountable progressive officials and mobilizing citizen action”  in Dane County with a major focus on local issues. They work to improve our local government by making it open, easier to understand, and accessible for all citizens of Dane County.


Progressive Dane is in the process of selecting members for its coordinating council and updating its platform, so the next two general membership meetings should provide a good opportunity for newbies to get a feel for the group. October’s general membership meeting is on Wednesday, October 28 at 6:30 PM at the Madison Senior Center on 330 West Mifflin Street, and the next is November 18, same time and place.

Check them out!

Saturday PM: Robert Reich to speak at Madison’s downtown library

On Saturday evening, Oct. 24, Robert Reich will discuss his latest book, Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few in the third-floor community rooms at Madison’s downtown public library, 201 W Mifflin Street.

The book has been described as “a myth-shattering breakdown of how the economic system that helped make America so strong is now failing us, and what it will take to fix it.” ReichBook

Reich makes clear how “centrally problematic our veneration of the “free market” is, and how it has masked the power of moneyed interests to tilt the market to their benefit,” and that “the critical choices ahead are not about the size of government but about who government is for: that we must choose not between a free market and big government but between a market organized for broadly based prosperity and one designed to deliver the most gains to the top.”

“Ever the pragmatist, ever the optimist, Reich sees hope for reversing our slide toward inequality and diminished opportunity when we shore up the countervailing power of everyone else.”

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Richard and Rhoda Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He has served in three national administrations and has written fourteen books, including The Work of Nations, which has been translated into twenty-two languages, and the best sellers Supercapitalism and Locked in the Cabinet. His articles have appeared inThe New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. He is co-creator of the award-winning 2013 film Inequality for All. He is also chair of the national governing board of Common Cause. He lives in Berkeley.



‘Trigger events’ – Could we organize a book-burning party?

In 2012, a group of Troy, Michigan citizens announced and publicized a book-burning party to follow a referendum on a new tax to save their public library. The party publicity encouraged a “No” vote on the referendum, but a few days before the referendum, they announced the whole thing had been a hoax to draw attention to the value of the library–which it did! Voter turnout was more than 300% above expected, and the referendum passed by a landslide.
At tonight’s Alliance Steering Committee meeting, we discussed “trigger events” that enliven and attract people who are not usually involved in civic or political activities. If grassroots groups are prepared, trigger events provide an opportunity to connect with and keep some newly aroused people involved.

The Troy Book-burning Party was deliberately created, but trigger events more often occur because of outrageous acts by politicians  (e.g., Act 10 and the anti-democratic way it was rushed through); civic emergencies (e.g., the Tony Robinson shooting), or a disaster (as will happen when an Enbridge pipeline spill occurs).

During the discussion tonight, we wondered whether the recent package of pro-political-corruption bills (Abolish the GAB; remove all functional limits on campaign contributions; exempt elected officials from criminal investigations) is a trigger event that we could be organizing around.

Or could we have made it one, with a book-burning-party-type publicity stunt, if the Wisconsin grassroots movement was better organized, or if we had drawn more of our friends and neighbors into grassroots groups like ours?

We didn’t come up with definitive answers, but we do know that we want to keep growing and organizing to make it more likely we can take effective action in the future.

4th GOP senator identified as possible opponent of corruption–CONTACT THEM

A fourth key senator, Jerry Petrowski, has been identified as a fourth GOP senator who might be willing to vote against the pro-corruption legislation being rammed through this week, if enough constituents contact him to override the pressure he’s getting from extremist party bosses.

Contact anyone you know who lives in the following areas and urge them to contact their senator to defeat these bills (see below), which attack our freedom to exercise our right to self-government:

2nd Senate District–Green Bay, areas north and west of Green Bay
Sen. Robert Cowles–Contact info: 920-448-5092
Legislative Aide Heather Moore –

10th Senate District – Burnett, Polk, St. Croix, or Pierce Counties, including River Falls, Hudson, and St. Croix Falls
Sen. Sheila Harsdorf -Contact info: (608) 266-7745
Legislative Aide – Jennifer Krantz —

14th Senate District –Waupaca, Waushara, Adams, Marquette, Dodge, or Columbia Counties, including Montello, Ripon, Waupaca, and Weyawega
Sen. Luther Olsen – Conact info: (608) 266-0751
Policy Advisor – Jenna Zantow – 266-0751

29th Senate District— All or parts of Sawyer, Rusk, Taylor, and Marathon Counties, including Wausau & environs, Mosinee, Hayward, Ladysmith, and Medford.
Sen. Jerry Petrowski – Contact info: (608) 266-2502
Legislative Aide – Matt Gralinski –

Please forward this information to anyone you know who lives in any of those districts and ask them quickly to email or call their senator to tell them to vote against the bills that will:
1) destroy nonpartisan elections administration and ethics accountability (Senate Bill 294);
2) remove functional limits on anonymous campaign donations (SB292); and
3) exempt politicians from certain criminal investigations (SB43).

The calls and emails don’t need to explain why the bills are bad; the senators know that or they wouldn’t be on this short list of possible opponents. What the senators need to know is that their constituents want them to preserve government accountability and limits on campaign finance.

Monday update on bills to destroy the GAB, open campaign finance floodgates

For up-to-the-minute information on the bills to abolish the GAB and lift any effective limits on campaign finance in Wisconsin–and what we can do about them–a public meeting and media event is being organized by the Assembly Democrats on Monday, October 19, 10:30 AM, in the Assembly Parlor (2nd Floor West) in the Capitol (2 E Main St). Common Cause Director Jay Heck will be speaking, with the Dane County Legislators.


The radical extremists in the State Capital have really outdone themselves with this attack on our freedom to exercise our right to self-government. It’s possible that this is finally a bridge too far–that the news media will take an effective stand; and that a few more reasonable Republicans could decide to serve their constituents rather than the wealthy out-of-state special interests.



Major elections bills need your voice NOW! (Tomorrow, tops.)

The radical Republican leadership of Wisconsin’s legislature is pressuring the more rational Republicans to pass a very hurried, destructive overhaul of Wisconsin’s elections laws. Easy instructions for contacting your legislators are below. Even a 2- or 3-sentence email could be critical, particularly if your state senator or Assembly rep is a relatively rational Republican. The bills are:


  • AB  388 and Senate Bill 294, (Abolish the GAB) which will abolish the nonpartisan government accountability board and replace it with two bipartisan (designed to deadlock) boards, one for ethics, one for elections, and
  • AB 387 and Senate Bill 292, (Overhaul campaign finance) which does a few harmless things, but will open coordination between dark-money third-party issue advocacy groups and candidates, which will basically invalidates contribution limits in state races (and flood our television, radio, and Internet with disgusting nasty attack ads)

These bills were introduced on October 9, have already had their hearing, and will be rushed through from here.

You don’t need to explain to your legislators why these bills are bad; they know. They all know that the purpose of the bills is to increase the power of those partisans who want less government accountability and more money in politics.

Democratic legislators are likely to oppose these bills, but if your legislator is a Republican, he or she needs to know that you understand the effect of these bills, and that the electorate will remember how they voted the next time they’re up for re-election.

Find your state senator at this website, and your state assembly representative at this website. Write a short email with a clear subject line, something like “Vote against election bills,” “Preserve Nonpartisan Govt Accountability” or “No more money in politics”. Remind the legislator that the electorate is disgusted with money in politics and rabid partisanship. Remind them that their constituents, not their party leaders, who will or won’t return them to office, and they don’t want to be saddled with votes FOR money in politics and AGAINST nonpartisan accountability the next time they run for election.

A short letter to the editor encouraging the paper to come out strongly against abolishing nonpartisan government accountability, and allowing even more money in politics will also be helpful, no matter where  you live.

Messaging/framing suggestions:

  1. Focus on values. Logical arguments often fall on deaf ears because human brains accept or dismiss factual arguments based on preconceptions. Articulate your values, which cannot be argued.
  2. When writing to Republicans, use their words to appeal to our shared values. For example: These bills attack our freedom to exercise our sacred right to self-government. The campaign finance law gives advantage to wealthy elites over the common man, because people with more money have more freedom of speech than the common man.

Urgent action needed to save nonpartisan elections administration – NOW

The Republican leadership of Wisconsin’s legislature has introduced two bills that will have disastrous effects on the integrity of Wisconsin’s campaigns and elections:

  • Assembly Bill 338 (also filed as Senate Bill 294), which will destroy nonpartisan election administration and government-accountability oversight in Wisconsin,  by destroying the GAB and replacing it with a partisan board designed to deadlock on any decision of consequence. The bill is designed to ensure that Wisconsin’s 2016 campaigns and elections take place without any functional regulation–it’ll be Wild West, with the advantage to the least ethical and most well-funded candidates.
  • Assembly Bill 387 (also filed as Senate Bill 292), which will make contribution limits meaningless by permitting campaign coordination between candidates and dark-money-funded outside special interest groups. This had been illegal for decades in Wisconsin (and still is everywhere else) until the partisan State Supreme Court in July said such coordination was permissible. The LWV reports that court decision is likely to be successfully appealed, so we need to keep the statutory prohibition in place.

Common Cause’s website has more detailed information. What you can do:

1.  Ask constituents to contact the key senators. Three senators who are the key hope for beating these proposals back like the open-records legislation was beaten back:

  • Robert Cowles (Senate District 2-the southern half of Green Bay, and areas beyond the city to the west and north, including Kaukauna and Pulaski);
  •  Luther Olson (Senate District 14—covering all or part of Waupaca, Waushara, Adams, Marquette, Dodge, and Columbia Counties, including Montello, Ripon, Waupaca, and Weyawega); and
  • Sheila Harsdorf (Senate District 10, covering all or parts of Burnett, Polk, St. Croix, and Pierce Counties, including River Falls, Hudson, and St. Croix Falls)

If you know anyone who lives in those districts, forward this link to them and ask them to contact their state senator on Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday to urge him or her to stand up and do what is right for Wisconsin. They need to hear from their own constituents, and better yet from people they know.

Letters and phone calls don’t need to explain why SB292 and SB294 are bad; insiders say these three senators already know how bad the bills are for Wisconsin. However, they are being threatened by senator leadership with primary challenges if they do not back the bills. Therefore, constituents need only to appeal to their personal integrity (e.g., You didn’t run, and we didn’t elect you, to do harm to Wisconsin, so vote your conscience) and give them a dose of realism (e.g., the people of Wisconsin are FED UP with hyper-partisanship, so your seat is at risk regardless of how you vote on these bills. Therefore, you can vote to preserve nonpartisan elections administration and create a record you can defend to the voters when you run for re-election.)

2. Contact your local newspapers on Sunday or Monday (email or leave a phone message) to demand that they oppose this legislation as vigorously as they opposed changes to the open-records laws. It was unified media opposition that turned the tide on the legislation that would have killed our open-records law, and we need the same response now. The prize–protecting our right to hold government and public officials accountable–is the same.

3. Contact your own state senator and state legislator to encourage them to oppose these bills.  Again, you don’t need to explain how bad these bills are; they know that. You need to let them know of their constituents’ outrage and opposition. Even though these bills are Republican-sponsored bills, some Democrats who are in thrall to dark money may be soft on their opposition, and some may dream of the day when they can be as partisan as the current Republicans, so they may also need to be reminded how voters feel about money in politics and a nonpartisan Government Accountability Board.