Sunday, July 27, 2014

In 2010 Walker "put politics over taxpayers" -- a lesson in GOP hypocrisy

Walker skipped town to campaign when constituents needed him most after floodings

The Republican Party of Wisconsin released an online ad last week that derided Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke for missing a Madison Metropolitan School Board meeting.

There was just one tiny problem with the ad: Burke didn’t miss a thing. She had been campaigning in Milwaukee as the ad pointed out, but she had also teleconferenced into the meeting, taking part in it as an active participant.

The Republican Party, being presented with this information, stood by their assertions of Burke’s misdeeds.

“Give me a break,” state Party Chairman Joe Fadness told the Wisconsin State Journal in an email conversation. “The video and accompanying press release accurately depict that Burke chose to attend a campaign event over attending the official meeting in person.”

It appears that for Republicans it doesn’t matter whether Burke took part in the event or not: in their minds she is obligated to serve her constituents in person. One might wonder how the GOP would react if their own candidate, Gov. Scott Walker, had chosen to campaign over committing himself to his constituents.

But we don’t have to wonder: Walker did a similar thing in 2010 during his campaign for governor then, and in some ways he may have done something even more deplorable: he abandoned his constituents when they needed him most.

That summer Milwaukee County had experienced devastating floods. They were so bad that Walker, then the County Executive, declared the county a disaster area, forwarding the request to then-Gov. Jim Doyle.

But that weekend Walker took off from Milwaukee County in order to campaign in Eau Claire, Wausau, Green Bay and Pulaski. His Democratic opponent in the election, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, stayed in the area and canceled his own campaign plans in order to tour areas that were hit the hardest.

In short, Barrett took responsibility for ensuring people in Walker’s jurisdiction were safe. Walker, to borrow a phrase from his own party this past week, “put politics over taxpayers.”

The Walker campaign, of course, had the perfect excuse for his 2010 absence: he was able to do the work he needed to do while campaigning.
The Milwaukee County executive said he never thought about canceling his weekend appearances because of his work on Friday. He said he stayed in contact with his chief of staff, Thomas G. Nardelli, his parks director, Sue Black, and the airport director, Barry Bateman.

On Saturday, he also issued an update on storm damage. Walker also updated reporters Monday morning with a press conference.
So let’s recap:

In 2010 Milwaukee County Executive and gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker was perfectly capable of monitoring, while campaigning across the state, what he himself had called a “disaster” situation in his home county. To Walker and his surrogates, that was perfectly acceptable.

In 2014 Democratic candidate Mary Burke used teleconferencing technology to take part in a scheduled Madison School Board meeting while on the campaign trail. Though she didn’t miss any part of the meeting, and there wasn’t any emergency situation in the district, this to the Republican Party was deplorable enough to make a campaign video about.

The hypocrisy of the Republican Party of Wisconsin is very, very telling this election year.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Court decision on marriage equality will benefit families

AG JB Van Hollen shouldn't appeal decision, should allow couples and families to pursue happiness in the state

A federal judge has found that Wisconsin’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. As a result, hundreds of gay and lesbian couples across the state have shared their vows, signed on the proper lines, and sealed their fate as married couples.

Their struggles and worries have been, at least for the time being, alleviated. These couples now qualify for countless rights and privileges, including inheritance rights, hospital visitations, and tax write-offs, that so-called “traditional” marriages have enjoyed for years.

If left to stand, thousands of families could feel legitimized through these marriages, including families with adopted children, who legally only have one technical parent. State law only allows married or single individuals to adopt; domestic partnerships, therefore, only have one legal adoptive parent, even if two parents are in the household.

If one of those parents were to be injured or otherwise impaired, unable to make decisions for their children, the other same-sex spouse (who is by every definition of the word “parent” to those children) would now have the legal right to act in that manner, the same way that straight couples would be able to do. And that is how it should be.

But apparently Attorney General JB Van Hollen thinks differently. He believes that he is legally obligated to defend the state constitutional ban, even when a federal judge has shown it to be out of line with the U.S. Constitution.

He’s free to proceed how he wants -- he is the duly elected Attorney General of the Badger State, after all. But his actions would have dire consequences, especially for families with same-sex adoptive parents.

In appealing this decision, then, Van Hollen isn’t protecting any family by any stretch of the imagination -- gay and lesbian couples who marry cause no harm whatsoever to other couples in the state. But Van Hollen’s actions would have negative consequences for many families across Wisconsin.

Rather than protecting families, the ban has served as a barrier for many who have wanted to live contentedly in the state, to pursue their own versions of happiness. Allowing Judge Barbara Crabb’s decision to stand would extend a great deal of benefits to families across Wisconsin who would otherwise be unable to have them.

Instead of continuing the unfair and unlawful ban on same-sex marriages, JB Van Hollen ought to show some compassion for these families. Love is love, and denying recognition of that love, as well as the benefits that are ordinarily afforded to couples in that kind of relationship, is unequal treatment under the law, and morally unsound.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

An open letter to Wisconsin Attorney General JB Van Hollen

Van Hollen should rescind his request for a stay in the court's decision on the state's ban of same-sex marriage

Dear Sir,

You are in a very unique position this year. You have decided not to seek re-election to the office you hold. Though bittersweet, I’m sure, it affords you an opportunity that is rare in politics today: to act without electoral consequences.

That’s why I was disappointed to hear of your plans to request a stay in the legal case against the state’s ban on marriage equality. You expect the state to lose this case, and so you understandably requested that the effects of its loss be placed on hold while you plan an appeal.

Should our ban be proven unconstitutional in federal court, however, we should let that decision stand rather than appeal, for the ban has been a stain on our state's law books for as long as its been in place.