UPDATE #2: March 6, a Dane County Judge placed a temporary restraining order on the Voter ID bill, calling it the “single most restrictive voter eligibility law” in the United States. Local elections all over the state on April 3, 2012 operated under the previous law. A second judge placed a permanent injunction on the law. A trial on whether to grant a permanent injunction is scheduled for April 16. This issue is expected to reach the WI Supreme Court.
Now that photo ID’s are required for voting in Wisconsin, Jennifer “Rita” Platt and John Wolfe drove 45 minutes from Osceola to the nearest Dept. of Motor Vehicles office in Hudson, only to be turned away. Governor Walker and state Republicans recently passed the “Voter Photo ID Law”, or Act 23, which has many Wisconsinites scrambling. Rita and John brought social security cards, current pay stubs, and driver’s licenses from Iowa, but it wasn’t enough. They need to pay for certified birth certificates, and wait for them to arrive in the mail, in order to secure a free Wisconsin ID card issued for voting. To complicate matters further for the couple, the computers at the DMV were down and unable to process their request.
On November 19, 2011, I traveled to Madison, WI to attend the rally to begin the recall of Gov. Walker. The weather was a warm, near 50 degrees for mid-November. The crowd was lively with the regular songs, rousing speeches, local music, and the wave of protestors circling the Capitol. I randomly approachedstrangers in the crowd of approximately 40,000to interview. I wanted to know why they came and what was important to them. This is the first in a three part series of short interviews from that day. There was a request from one of the people – that there would be no retribution for their beliefs. As Wisconsinites, I think we can handle that.
“Megan”, a social worker in Child Protective Services, first told her story in May when the debate of Gov. Walker’s Budget Repair Bill was still underway. Now that the bill has passed, Megan has agreed to offer an inside view of the recent changes to her workplace. She also provides intimate details about how the BRB has affected her personal life and the lives of the families that she serves.
Below is a recent email sent by Chris, a grassroots organizer, teacher, and founder of We Teach, We learn. He and his wife, Lisa, have been active in what has been 2011 Wisconsin protests in our state. For many, this involvement has been all encompassing and altering the way people view themselves. Chris described his life and turned this email into a blog and posted it on his blog site. It not only summarizes the blow-by-blow battle for WI, but captures the roller coaster of emotions that many Wisconsinites have felt for the last 6 months.
Duana Bremer has been the Director of Social Services for Polk, Burnett, and St. Croix counties for the last 7 years. She left a more lucrative career in sales and marketing, in order to serve the neediest people in our communities. She tells us that her job will become more challenging with the cuts coming at the state level. She worries that it will be more difficult for the most vulnerable people to find the help they need or that the poorest children will not have their nutritional needs met with the 10% cuts to the school food programs . Duana looks at her job the way that our elected leaders should, she wants to serve and “learn from” the people she helps. The best way she can serve them now is by speaking for them, as Wisconsin finds itself at a crossroads.
Larry and Mania Moore [no relation to Shelly Moore] are both retired teachers and residents of Wisconsin’s Senate District 10. The Moores live in Mania’s childhood home on the edge of a sleepy pond in New Richmond. With a level of foreboding, they’ve been witnessing the political events of our state unfold. It is eerily reminiscent for this couple, they’ve seen this once before. Not only will the changes enacted by Gov. Walker and Sen. Harsdorf affect the profession that they’ve dedicated most of their lives toward, but also undo the very union that they helped create.
Farmer John Shafer is a rare breed. Along with his wife, Jenny, and young daughter, they live on a 4th generation, small farm in Spring Valley. John spoke with us while he completed his morning chores. He fed a calf a bottle, cleaned and operated various pieces of machinery, and let the cows out into the pasture. He had stories about many of the dozen or so half-wild cats peeking out from behind walls and bales of hay. We followed John as he explained that his property has been passed down from generation to generation, beginning with his great-grandfather who bought the land in 1915. In a few short years, the Shafer’s land will be deemed a “Century Farm”. This recognition both inspires and taunts John. He not only is struggling to hold onto his farm in the face of corporate interests, but he also wonders how his children will be able to continue this fading way of life.
I recorded this interview, with permission, at 2:00 pm on Election Day for our Democratic primary for the recall election in WI Senate District 10, July 12. This primary resulted in Shelly Moore (D)defeating fake (pseudo Democrat) candidate Isaac Weix, who is a Republican. Weix was injected into the Senate race in order to delay the general election on Aug. 9 (the Republican Party stated that their incumbents needed more time to campaign). Moore will now advance to face Sheila Harsdorf (R) who has held the Senate seat for over a decade.
A 67-yr-old life-long Democrat in District 10 received a confusing robocall and an inconsistent absentee ballot request form from the group Wisconsin Right to Life. Continue reading
“Jake” is a correctional officer (aka “Blue Shirt”) in a Wisconsin state prison. He has worked for the Department of Corrections for over 15 years. Jake tells me that due to the policies of Gov. Walker, the stability and safety of his work environment are being threatened. Now that Jake’s union has lost all of its bargaining rights – workers have little avenue left to improve the situation for themselves and the inmates that they manage.
Tami Weber has lived in Wisconsin’s Senate District 10 her entire life. Now in her forties, she grew up in the late Senator Gaylord Nelson’s village – Clear Lake. Tami now lives in a modest apartment in River Falls. She told me that due to impending budgetary cuts in Gov. Walker’s Budget Repair Bill, supported by Senator Harsdorf, she may soon find herself living in a nursing home. You see, Tami is quadriplegic. And the changes coming at the state level are eroding the structure upon which Tami’s life is based.
“Megan” is one of the more than 280,000 public workers in WI. She’s a social worker in the division of Child Protective Services. She investigates allegations of neglect and also the physical, sexual, and emotional abuse of children. If needed, she refers families for services. Megan is a witness in the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our society – poverty stricken children. Part of the reason that Megan is good at her job is because she knows what it’s like to be on the other side.
UPDATE: November 2011 – Frank was terminated from BadgerCare and is now without health insurance.
Original Post: May 11, 2011
“Frank” is a 60-yr-old Wisconsin man. He’s a single, self-employed contractor who works on homes after they have been foreclosed. He has several grown children and small grandchildren, some whom were running around or jumping on his lap during our interview. Frank is a classic Midwesterner of his generation in many ways. For instance, his most passionate points of the day referred to his love for The Green Bay Packers. He would’ve been content to stay on the football topic for much longer. He’s also typical in his willingness to help others while uncomfortable complaining about his own situation. For this reason, he wished to remain anonymous. Frank told me that he is about to lose his state-funded BadgerCare insurance for low income Wisconsinites. Approximately 63,000 residents around the state share his predicament.