CRG Threatens Suit Against "Over-Representation" of Blacks in Milwaukee County
Business Groups Oppose Minimum Wage Increase, "Fair Wage" Initiative
Christian ‘Family' Groups Target Gay Marriage
Spirited Protest Challenges Bradley Foundation Agenda
Wisconsin Hate Crimes Update
National News Briefs
EDITOR: Jamakaya, Executive Director, Wisconsin Center for Pluralism
CRG Threatens Suit Against "Over-Representation"
of Blacks in Milwaukee County
MILWAUKEE . . . Citizens for Responsible Government, the group which successfully recalled former Milwaukee County Executive Thomas Ament and seven county supervisors, has threatened a lawsuit to challenge what it claims is the "over-representation" of African Americans in the county's re-districting map.
The re-districting, necessitated by the reduction of supervisory districts from 25 to 19, includes six districts in which the majority of the population is black. Another district is primarily Latino.
"This is not really about race," CRG spokesman Chris Kliesmet told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
CRG contends that since African Americans make up just 20% of the county's voting age population, they are entitled to only four seats. However, election experts say that proportional representation is not based on the voting age segment of any community but on its overall population. By that measure blacks in Milwaukee county stand at 25% of the population, a figure that is growing. In addition, say experts, proving racial gerrymandering requires a heavy burden of proof.
From the look of a slick new web site and its creation of the CRG Network, CRG appears to be re-positioning itself to assist with more recall campaigns and the tax freeze movement statewide.
The CRG Network web site showcases photos of 12 state legislators it dubs the "Dirty Dozen" for their votes against the GOP's tax freeze proposal in August. It says: "The CRG Network has established a statewide umbrella group that is registering supporters of the tax freeze, identifying people wishing to organize in your area, supplying advice and support to local organizations, and soliciting financial and material support for the freeze."
The site recently announced the formation of a CRG chapter in Walworth County and the establishment of a recall committee to oust 7th District State Sen. Jeff Plale beginning in January of 2004, along with links to those groups. To groups working for the freeze, the Network is offering shared web space, post box and phone service; member database and financial tracking software; products and identifying marks (logos, bumper stickers, etc.); and organizational consulting.
There are already nearly a dozen groups in Wisconsin whose primary purpose is to cut taxes. Along with CRG Network, another new player is Citizens for a Sound Economy, a Washington, DC-based group founded by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX). A Wisconsin chapter of CSE has just hired Cameron Sholty, a Republican activist, as its executive director. Sholty was active in the Milwaukee county recall campaigns in 2002, and led Reform Now Milwaukee, financed by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.
--- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, www.crgnetwork.com, CSE press release
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Business Groups Oppose Minimum Wage Increase,
"Fair Wage" Initiative
MADISON . . . Two of the state's largest business groups, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and the Wisconsin Restaurant Association have vowed to block any increase in the minimum wage and an attempt by community activists to establish a "fair wage" policy for the city of Madison.
The current minimum wage set by the federal government is $5.15 per hour ($2.33 for employees who receive tips, like those in the restaurant industry) – a rate that has been static since 1997. At $5.15 per hour, a full-time worker grosses $10,712 a year, poverty level wages if they are supporting a spouse or children. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted in a recent editorial that "if the minimum wage of $1.60 an hour in 1968 had been adjusted for inflation, it would be approaching $8.50 an hour today."
The debate has flared anew since September when Gov. Jim Doyle included an increase in the minimum wage as part of his "Grow Wisconsin" economic plan and the Madison Fair Wage Campaign launched an effort to get the city to adopt a minimum wage of $7.75 for all workers ($3.88 for tipped employees) within the city of Madison.
Doyle is setting up a Wage Council to study his proposal. The Fair Wage Campaign is collecting signatures on petitions to present to the Madison City Council. If the group obtains 15 votes, the measure will be adopted. If not, the plan will appear as a referendum on the Feb. 17, 2004 ballot. These efforts were buoyed by a study, Raising the Floor: Who Would Benefit from a Minimum Wage Increase in Wisconsin?, issued by the Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS) at the University of Wisconsin. The report recommends raising the minimum wage to $6.80 per hour.
Business groups quickly mobilized against any raise in the minimum wage, whether by the state or by the city of Madison. Jim Pugh of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce warned that an increase would mean the loss of jobs, higher prices and the possibility of businesses moving out of the state. A spokesman for the Restaurant Association said that 46% of its members indicated they would have to lay off employees, while the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce said a higher wage would make it more difficult to attract new jobs. (The COWS study challenges some of these contentions.)
Further complicating the debate are two bills introduced into the State Assembly in late October. One, introduced by Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend), would forbid local governments from adopting a minimum wage that exceeds the state's. Another, introduced by Rep. Christine Sinicki (D-Milw.), seeks to raise the minimum wage in Wisconsin to $7.22 per hour ($3.95 for tipped workers).
For his part, Gov. Doyle wants to raise the state minimum wage but opposes the "fair wage" initiative in Madison because it would create different wage zones in the state. Should that measure be adopted, opponents in the business community are likely to challenge it in court. A similar law in New Orleans has been struck down and another in Santa Fe is being challenged.
As further background, Madison already has a "living wage" ordinance which requires contractors doing business with the city to pay their employees an hourly wage of at least $9.57. In addition, 12 states and the District of Columbia have adopted minimum wages that are higher than the current federal rate of $5.15 per hour.
--- The Capital Times, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, www.cows.org
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Christian ‘Family' Groups Target Gay Marriage
MADISON . . . The Wisconsin legislature voted this fall to clarify the definition of marriage within state statutes by substituting the words "one man and one woman" for the current phrasing of "a husband and wife." Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed the bill, calling it "redundant" and "mean-spirited," while sponsors saw it as an attempt to "protect" traditional marriage by pre-empting any future bids to promote same-sex marriage.
The controversy accelerated this year when a Canadian court legalized same-sex marriage after ruling that denying same-sex couples the right to marry violates that country's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Netherlands and Belgium also recognize marriage between same sex couples, while other European nations extend many of the civil benefits and responsibilities of marriage to registered same-sex partners.
In 2000, Vermont approved a system of "civil unions" for gay and lesbian couples after the state supreme court ruled that same-sex couples' exclusion from the benefits of state sanctioned heterosexual marriage was discriminatory.
Since then, Christian conservatives, implacably opposed to homosexuality, have organized aggressively to head off what they perceive as an attack on marriage and the traditional family. In Wisconsin, the opposition to gay marriage has been led by the "pro-life, pro-family" Family Research Institute of Wisconsin (FRI).
This fall, FRI devoted "100% of its resources," according to Executive Director Julaine Appling, to achieving passage of the "Defense of Marriage" legislation. FRI used its web site and email newsletter to mobilize supporters of the bill statewide. It mailed thousands of informational leaflets which included instructions for the recipients on how to contact legislators in their particular districts. Appling testified in support of the measure and used her Wisconsin Family Connection radio commentary (aired on Christian stations statewide) to gain support for the bill.
Appling occasionally uses inflammatory buzzwords like "perverted lifestyle" and "homosexual agenda" and accuses gays and lesbians of seeking "special rights," a staple of the Right's divide and conquer tactics.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force recently researched conservative family organizations to determine if they are really interested in "Building Strong and Healthy Marriages" -- the stated goal of Marriage Protection Week, declared by President Bush for Oct. 12-18. The Task Force investigated the 29 sponsors of Marriage Protection Week, including the American Family Association, Focus on the Family, Family Research Council and Traditional Values Coalition (Wisconsin's FRI was not included).
The Task Force found through a content analysis of the web sites of the leading sponsors that they "focus disproportionately on homosexuality over key issues that impact marriages and families, such as divorce, poverty, domestic violence, child support, and lack of health insurance." A review of the purpose and planned activities of Marriage Protection Week showed "there is no focus at all on efforts to build strong and healthy marriages in America, or to protect them from real and documented threats like poverty and lack of access to affordable health care. Instead, the purpose of the week is to confront LGBT families who seek to ‘redefine marriage.'" (See 'Marriage Protection Week' Sponsors: Are They Really Interested in 'Building Strong and Healthy Marriages?')
Meanwhile, Ralph Ovadal of Wisconsin Christians United, the state's most vitriolic anti-gay group, was somewhat distracted by other matters during the marriage debate. On Oct. 9-10, he sponsored what he called the "First International Conference on Homo-Fascism" in the Milwaukee area. According to Wisconsin IN Step, the state's gay newspaper, the "international" event drew fewer than 20 attendees, among them Christian conservative State Sen. Tom Reynolds (R-West Allis).
Just days before, the 3rd District Court of Appeals upheld a $1,000 fine against Ovadal for harassing a lone woman who parked her car near the nude beach at Mazomanie. Ovadal has also been busy promoting a bill to prohibit nudity on state-owned property. However, he and his supporters canvassed many areas of the state this summer and fall, distributing brochures such as A Little Discrimination Can be a Good Thing and Is Someone You Know a Bugger? and "witnessing" at schools, on highway overpasses and at gay pride events.
--- Wisconsin State Journal, www.fri-wi.org,
www.ngltf.org, www.wcuweb.com, Wisconsin In Step
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Spirited Protest Challenges Bradley Foundation Agenda Commentary by Jamakaya
Director, Wisconsin Center for Pluralism
MILWAUKEE . . . A spirited group of about 100 protesters marched on the headquarters of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation at the famous "Lion House" on N. Prospect Ave. in Milwaukee October 11. The diverse group, including peace activists, civil rights workers, feminists, teachers, students, W-2 moms, religious leaders and others, rallied against the funding priorities of the wealthy, influential right-wing foundation.
Although Bradley bestows some grant money on local arts groups and charities, it gives millions of dollars each year to right-wing think tanks, organizations and ‘scholars.' These grantees then promote a vast array of reactionary causes: "pre-emptive" wars; the abolition of Social Security; corporate de-regulation and tax cuts; racist theories about intelligence; legal challenges to affirmative action and bilingual education; tax money for private school vouchers; union-busting and privatization of public services; expanded prison-building; welfare-to-work experiments; conservative judicial activism; anti-feminist campaigns; and more. (See sources at end of story.)
Given the critical issues over which Bradley exerts so much power, one might have expected the crowd to be pretty hostile. But while speakers articulated the case against Bradley and a few angry chants were raised, the protesters maintained their good humor throughout, posing for the surveillance cameras that protect the fortress-like building, and joking that former Bradley chairman Michael Joyce was present in the form of a huge spider creeping along the iron gates. ("Don't insult the spider!" one wag yelled, to much laughter.)
The turnout was respectable but somewhat disappointing since organizers had conducted a good deal of pre-publicity. The lack of any coverage by Milwaukee's mainstream media -- print or broadcast -- meant that the larger community was kept unaware of the protest. Some attendees saw the press's inattention as yet more evidence of Bradley's nefarious grip on its own hometown.
The press blackout certainly limited coverage of the protest, but those who work to educate the public about Bradley's mission face an equally vexing challenge. I asked several friends to join me at the march that day, and their response was: "I just can't get really excited about marching against the Bradley Foundation."
No progressive-thinking individual would have responded that way if the KKK and neo-Nazis reared their ugly heads in town again. (In November 2002, one thousand fired-up people gathered to face-off with the skinheads and to pray and cleanse the ground afterward.)
Clearly, the Bradley Foundation does not seem to constitute an immediate threat; its rhetoric and that of its grantees is not nearly as inflammatory as that of the Klan. But the millions it pours into right-wing causes and the tremendous influence it exerts nationwide on public policy at so many levels makes it, arguably, a greater, broader and more long-term threat than any handful of racist thugs.
We must always confront the Klan, but we must also challenge those who finance and purvey policies which promote war and social and economic inequality. The Bradley Foundation may not be a ‘sexy' target, but it is certainly a deserving one.
For additional information, please visit these sites:
www.pfaw.org (search for "Buying a Movement")
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WISCONSIN HATE CRIMES UPDATE
Amish Farmers Under Attack in Green Lake County
DALTON . . . Authorities are offering a cash reward for information leading to the apprehension of individuals responsible for a series of attacks on Amish homesteads and vehicles in southern Green Lake County. The incidents range from throwing items to spook the horses pulling Amish buggies along county roads to tossing fireworks into animal pens to using firearms to shoot into homes. Most of the incidents have taken place in the towns of Marquette, Kingston and Manchester.
Police have faced a special challenge investigating the crimes. Because the Amish do not use telephones or cars, there has often been a time gap in the reporting of the incidents. The Green Lake County Sheriff's Department is concerned that the number of such hate-related incidents against the Amish has been increasing.
Mike Anderson, who lives in the area, told the Wisconsin State Journal the crimes may stem from perceived conflicts between the "English" and the Amish communities. Anderson said some residents complain that the Amish receive preferential treatment: "People get half the story and go off half-cocked. They don't understand the Amish."
Three Charged in Incident at UW
MADISON . . . Three men were charged with disorderly conduct as a hate crime for terrorizing residents at UW-Madison's Eagle Heights housing complex in October. Two were charged with possessing concealed weapons, and one who has previous arson and battery convictions was charged as a habitual criminal. The men, dressed in paramilitary clothing with swastika patches, were reportedly searching for an acquaintance who had just left a party they were holding. At Eagle Heights, they kicked on doors and shouted death threats at the residents, most of whom are foreign students.
Hate Letter Sullies Progress in the Fox Valley
APPLETON . . . A longtime resident of Appleton who is of Mexican descent and who works to help migrant workers in the area has received an anonymous hate letter in the mail. The letter, turned over to police, included ethnic slurs and threats. In a letter to the editor of the Post Crescent, Roger Bertschausen of Toward Community: Unity in Diversity, a group fostering tolerance in the Fox Valley, noted the considerable progress being made in bringing diverse communities together – including a recent "Food of All Nations" event in Menasha and an Appleton Rotary Club commitment to raise funds for a Multicultural Center. Still, he concluded, "the clouds of hatred continue to obscure the sunshine-drenched optimism we see in our community."
White Supremacist Sentenced
MILWAUKEE . . . In August, Michael Kenneth Faust was sentenced to 63 months in prison on federal firearms charges after he was arrested for teaching young neo-Nazis to shoot on his grandmother's Racine County property in 2002. Faust, who is reportedly Jewish, must also undergo mental health treatment. The former member of the National Socialist Movement previously served eight years for shooting a teen in 1990. That same year, Faust ran unsuccessfully for the Caledonia Town Board as a white supremacist.
UW-Parkside Rallies Against Racism
KENOSHA . . . On Oct. 22, 200 members of the UW-Parkside community -- students, staff and faculty -- rallied for racial tolerance and unity after the discovery of racist graffiti in a prominent glass skywalk on campus. The graffiti was apparently in response to a nearby ad for a screening of the film "Ghosts of Mississippi," about the murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers. The movie was sponsored by the Black Student Union.
Latino Assaulted in Waukesha
WAUKESHA . . . Mark A. Davis II, 27, and his girlfriend, Kasey Bieri, 22, have pleaded not guilty to substantial battery as a hate crime for the beating of a Latino man outside a bar in Waukesha in October. The attack was reportedly accompanied by ethnic and racial slurs. Police officers at a nearby traffic stop witnessed part of the assault and arrested the assailants. Two others still face charges.
Bieri, of Watertown, was charged with disorderly conduct and fined for an incident in Madison in late June. The complaint said that she spit at a white woman walking along State Street with a black man, calling the woman a "race traitor." Police noted that Bieri wore a shirt with a swastika in front as well as black boots with white laces. According to Madison Police Detective Alix Olson, among neo-Nazis the foot gear indicates a "fresh cut," a rookie who has just joined the organization and has to prove him/herself.
Cops Honored for Hate Crime Work
MANITOWOC . . . Detective Sgt. Brian Swetlik and Det. Tony Dick of the Manitowoc Police Department, along with FBI Special Agent George Strong, have been honored by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice for solving the 1998 arson attack on the home of a Hmong family. The crime was later connected to a drive-by shooting of a Hmong family in Two Rivers. Seven people were convicted on various charges and are serving sentences of between 3 to 20 years in prison. Meanwhile, the UW-Madison Police Department has won the International Association of Chiefs of Police Civil Rights Award for work on post-9/11 hate crimes and those based on sexual orientation.
--- Stories compiled from press reports
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NATIONAL NEWS BRIEFS
Sexuality Research Targeted
NEW YORK, NY . . . Bob Herbert reported in the New York Times Nov. 3 that the Traditional Values Coalition, a Christian Right group that crusades against homosexuality, has been distributing to administration officials and members of Congress a list of 200 scientists working on federally funded research projects dealing with sexuality and HIV prevention. The list, Herbert wrote, "is being used by the coalition and its government allies in attempts to discredit the researchers and challenge or revoke their federal grants."
Dr. Judith Auerbach of the American Foundation for AIDS Research told Herbert that the National Institutes of Health has had to respond to many requests from Congressional committees about the content of research projects, putting the NIH in the position, she said, "of having to re-justify research that has already been peer-reviewed, approved and funded."
FOX News Staffer Charges Bias
NEW YORK, NY . . . Charlie Reina, who spent six years as a writer and producer for the Fox News Channel, recently lashed out against the station's mantra of "Fair and Balanced." In an Oct. 30 letter to Jim Romenesko at the Poynter Institute, a media think tank, Reina charged that FNC staff respond to a daily memo issued by management which strongly suggests how to spin the news coverage for that day.
Reina referred to FNC boss Roger Ailes, a former aide to Presidents Reagan and Bush, as "one of the most high-profile political operatives of recent times" and said "Everyone there understands that FNC is, to a large extent, ‘Roger's Revenge' -- against what he considers a liberal, pro-Democrat media establishment that has shunned him for decades."
"The Memo is the bible," Reina wrote. "If on any given day you notice that the Fox anchors seem to be driving a particular point home, you can bet the Memo is behind it." He says the memo was "born" in 2001 at the beginning of the Bush administration and adheres closely to the administration's point of view. "Virtually no one of authority in the newsroom makes a move unmeasured against management's politics," Reina wrote.
In other media news, the Federal Communications Commission was blocked from implementing new rules that many critics (including conservatives like William Safire) charged would consolidate the broadcast media into even larger companies and diminish local control and content of TV and radio stations. Responding to a groundswell of criticism, Congress passed a law to stop the consolidation, which was championed by FCC chairman Michael Powell, son of the Secretary of State.
Schiavo Case Emboldens Right
TALLAHASSEE, FL . . . Christian conservatives, rallied by Randall Terry, the once discredited leader of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, are encouraged by their ability to lobby Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the legislature to return a feeding tube into brain-damaged Terri Schiavo. A flood of emails, prayer vigils, petitions and media attention assisted their cause, which was being appealed to the courts as we went to press. Terry told the New York Times that similar tactics would be used to "stand up to judicial despots" in other states regarding other "pro-life" issues.
Pat Robertson 'Mis-Speaks' Again
VIRGINIA BEACH, VA . . . Pat Robertson once again had to apologize and clarify his intent after saying on his TV program "The 700 Club" in October that he wished "I could just get a nuclear device inside Foggy Bottom ... We've got to blow that thing up." His remarks came in response to a guest, author Joel Mowbray, who has written a book critical of the U.S. State Department. Many conservatives view Colin Powell and the State Department as undermining a more aggressive U.S. foreign policy.
"Color-Blind" Proposition 54 Rejected
LOS ANGELES . . . Lost in the hubbub of the California gubernatorial recall was the sound defeat by voters of Proposition 54, a measure devised by Ward Connerly and opponents of affirmative action to prevent the state and local governments from collecting any data on the race, ethnicity or national origin of citizens. Critics charged it would impede the tracking of birth rates, educational achievement and other important trends among different populations. AP reported the measure was defeated by 64% of California voters.
Ireland Out at YWCA
WASHINGTON, DC . . . The YWCA has dismissed Patricia Ireland as its executive director after Christian conservative groups like the Traditional Values Coalition and Focus on the Family mounted a strong campaign against her. The groups attacked Ireland's tenure as president of the National Organization for Women where she advocated gay rights and repro-ductive freedom for women, arguing that those positions were incompatible with the Y's Christian mission.
--- Compiled from press reports
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