Local small business owner, Jim Laskin, is an unofficial local expert on frac sand mining in Glenwood City. Laskin owns one of the only restaurants in this small west-central Wisconsin community. Located in a town with a population of 1,251 people, The Café emotes more of an uptown vibe than you’d expect, decorated with South American blankets and serving organic, free-trade coffee.
Hundreds of thousands of protestors have descended on the Capitol in Madison, WI in the last year. Tens of thousands of volunteers have mobilized petition drives, meetings, and rallies in their own communities. Numerous reports in the media cite “dislike” of Gov. Walker or single issue reasons such as the collective bargaining roll back as driving factors fueling the recall. Although these reasons would be legally sufficient under Wisconsin’s constitutional right to recall, I have found public discontent to be much more multifaceted than these often used examples. After 8 months of collecting interviews and posting reports from people around the state, I have found the issues to be as diverse as the people themselves. Continue reading
Capitol in Madison during the Walker kick off rally, November 19, 2011.
This is the 2nd of a 3 part series of interviews from that day. Read the first part of the series HERE.
I stood silently on one of the corner streets of the Capitol scanning the diverse, demonstrative crowd. Speakers were rallying the crowd from the Capitol steps while thousands listened and cheered. Ragtag bands circled the block chanting the seemingly required rally song, “This is What Democracy Looks Like”. Homemade signs carried by children, parents, uniformed workers, and wheel chaired elders bobbed up and down in every direction, blocking my view except for short periods of time. The most noticeable difference between this rally and Farmer’s rally in March 2011, was the greatly improved food selection. Hours of wait time was no longer required as make shift vendors, offering everything from burgers to egg rolls, lined the streets around the capitol and proudly displayed their support of the protestors with signs such as this one.
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
“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.