Conservative Leadership Coalition
Begins to Make Its Voice Heard
WAUWATOSA . . . The Wisconsin Conservative Leadership Coalition (WCLC) has launched a web site and a newsletter, The Wisconsin Conservative Digest, to promote its anti-tax and anti-government views. Its current priorities appear to be promotion of the so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights and the right to carry concealed weapons (a measure whose veto by Gov. Jim Doyle was sustained by just one vote).
The WCLC was formed in 2002 by leaders of Tosans for Responsible Government in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa. According to its literature, Tosans lobbied against taxes, light rail, and the "misuse of government employees for nefarious political purposes" an allegation not fully explained in their literature.
JJ Blonien, a commentator whom Milwaukee Journal Sentinel media critic Mike Drew called "the loose-cannon-in-residence" on right-wing talk show host Mark Belling's WISN-TV program, serves as editor of Conservative Digest. Blonien earned Drew's criticism for extremist remarks, such as saying about staff members of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, a group that works to secure the separation of church and state: "[S]omebody should shoot them all."
Blonien is also listed as the Executive Director of a new group, United Wisconsin for a Taxpayer Bill of Rights, with a web site at: www.witabor.org.
Robert L. Dohnal is chairman of WCLC and publisher of the Conservative Digest. Dohnal's contributions to the Digest include an essay on the importance of defending personal freedoms which compares motorcycle helmet laws to those which led to Nazi extermination of the Jews and American slavery. Another essay argues that America's most "privileged classes" are not the Rockefellers or Donald Trumps but "the government and education employee cabal." Ignoring demographic trends, mandatory sentencing laws and a host of other variables, Dohnal also argues in "More Guns, Less Crime" that expanded ownership of handguns and the increase in states allowing concealed weapons are the main reasons behind falling crime rates over the past decade.
Among the WCLC's "Editorial Advisors" are a Who's Who' of Wisconsin's right wing. Stanley L. Zurawski ran an unsuccessful campaign to retain the Christian cross on the Wauwatosa city emblem. Virginia Marschman of Brookfield is an anti-abortion crusader and former leader of Wisconsin's Christian Coalition.
Linda Cross is the anti-union Hortonville teacher and Waupaca County GOP leader who ran several unsuccessful campaigns for Superintendent of the Department of Public Instruction. Cross promoted tax-funded vouchers for pri-vate religious schools during her campaigns and told The Capital Times' John Nichols that her belief in local control of education included the right of parents to ban school library books, the right of schools to teach Biblical "creationism" over evolution science, and even the right of schools to segregate Hispanic students. "I think we'd have to look at that on a case by case basis," she said of segregation in 1997.
Finally, State Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend), another WCLC advisor and a co-sponsor of TABOR in the State Assembly, consistently receives among the lowest marks on the legislative scorecards of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, which monitors labor issues, of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, which monitors reproductive rights, and of the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, which monitors environmental concerns.
--- The Wisconsin Conservative Digest, www.widigest.com, www.witabor.org, The Capital Times, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, www.wisaflcio.org, www.ppawi.org, www.conservationvoters.org
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Aims to Cap State Revenues
MADISON . . . Anti-tax organizations and business interests, upset with the defeat of tax freeze legislation last fall, are promoting the adoption of a constitutional amendment which would permanently cap state and local revenues.
According to Rep. Frank Lasee (R-Bellevue), its chief sponsor, the so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) would limit state, local and school district spending to the previous year's allocation adjusted only for inflation and population growth. This cap in spending would be mandated by the state and any increases above it would require approval by public referendum. The measure is supported by tax freeze groups as well as Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.
Lasee and other legislative proponents originally modeled the bill after a TABOR passed in the state of Colorado in the 1990s. They claimed that Colorado's amendment had cut spending, stimulated business and boosted the economy.
However, evidence indicates that the revenue cap caused big budget deficits in Colorado leading to major cuts in public services, including education and health care. The state's bond rating declined, requiring taxpayers to cover higher state interest payments. Strapped for funds, cities and counties were forced to impose local sales taxes, creating a patchwork of different rates which businesses then had to reckon with. Rather than creating new business growth and opportunities, Colorado has shed more than 80,000 jobs since 2000.
Rep. Lasee visited Colorado in January, apparently witnessed this negative fallout, and planned to re-design the legislation. A revised amendment is expected to be introduced soon, with floor votes in the Assembly and Senate as early as this Spring.
Opponents of the TABOR concept include local officials and school districts worried about revenue shortfalls and public and social service administrators. The Wisconsin Alliance of Cities, the Wisconsin Counties Association and the UW System Board of Regents have expressed concern.
Even some GOP lawmakers are skeptical of the amendment. "There's this assumption out there that there is wanton waste and abuse and fraud in local government," Rep. Gregg Underheim (R-Oshkosh) told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "That simply isn't true."
The campaign to pass TABOR is partly a reaction to Gov. Jim Doyle's veto last fall of tax freeze legislation. A constitutional amendment is not subject to gubernatorial veto. It must pass both houses of the legislature in two consecutive sessions and then be approved in a statewide referendum. Proponents of TABOR seem confident a tax-weary public will support the measure.
In his State of the State address, Gov. Doyle said of the TABOR proposals: "They will devastate our schools, bring economic development projects all over the state to a halt and destroy Wisconsin's tradition of local control."
--- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, www.witabor.org, Wisconsin State Journal
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Abuses Bring New Calls for Accountability
at Voucher Schools
MILWAUKEE . . . Renewed reports of financial and administrative improprieties at two of Milwaukee's private voucher schools have led to new calls for greater control over the taxpayer-funded schools.
In February, Milwaukee Circuit Court Judge Maxine White ordered the closing of the Mandella School of Science and Math after a series of revelations indicated the school was in a state of chaos. Said Judge White: "We have all failed these children."
Mandella administrators had improperly cashed $330,000 in voucher payments from the state last fall for children who never attended the school. The school's principal used $65,000 in state funds to purchase two Mercedes-Benz cars at the same time that Mandella teachers say they stopped receiving paychecks. The school's landlord sought to evict it for non-payment of rent. Meanwhile, students attending Mandella said that little or no learning took place at the school. They spent their days playing games or being idle, often unsupervised.
The Mandella closing follows that of another problem school in the voucher system, Alex's Academics of Excellence. Alex's, which received almost $3 million in state funds, was repeatedly evicted for non-payment of rent. The school's founder and administrator had convictions for tax fraud and rape. Staff members said that drugs were used on school premises, and teachers com-plained about the lack of textbooks.
Critics have attacked the voucher concept for draining resources from public schools and for lack of accountability. Voucher schools are not required to hire certified teachers or to disclose academic performance data or attendance and drop-out rates. They are not required to provide bilingual education or services to special education students. They are also exempt from state laws prohibiting discrimination based on pregnancy, marital status or sexual orientation.
Several bills in the state legislature would give the Department of Public Instruction more control over the schools. The areas for greater oversight include stricter financial accountability and background checks on school personnel. The Superintendent of Public Instruction would also have the authority to close problem schools. A proposal by Governor Jim Doyle would require voucher schools to administer the same standardized tests required of all Milwaukee Public Schools and to comply with the state's open records and meetings laws.
About 13,300 children are enrolled in the 106 schools which participate in the Milwaukee voucher program. A legislative proposal to remove the cap on voucher school attendance was vetoed last fall by Gov. Doyle.
According to the editors at Rethinking Schools: "Vouchers have been a bedrock of the conservative agenda to privatize our schools and transform education into yet another individual consumer item. This conservative agenda is at odds with this country's long-standing belief that public education is a cornerstone of our vision of a more democratic America, where public institutions are responsible to, and controlled by, the public."
--- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, www.rethinkingschools.org
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Lawsuit Induces New Berlin School Board
to Revise Facilities Policy
NEW BERLIN . . . Under pressure from a federal lawsuit charging violations of free speech and equal protection of the law, the New Berlin School Board has revised a facilities policy which banned candidate forums and other political programs on school property. The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin filed the lawsuit on behalf of several New Berlin citizens, including former school board members.
For years, candidates and groups have held edu-cational forums and debates in New Berlin schools after school hours. But last June, the school board decided to prohibit any programs involving candidates or political platforms. Only political activities were barred; community groups were able to sponsor other types of events.
Chris Ahmuty of the ACLU of Wisconsin said: "It is unfair to discriminate against citizens who want to convey their political beliefs, while allowing other groups, including religious groups, to use the schools to express their views."
School Board President Jennifer Eitel, endorsed by Citizens for Responsible Government, promoted the policy, citing the often "nasty" tenor of political races in New Berlin and the possibility of "extremist" groups using schools to influence children. "But in a democratic marketplace of ideas," noted ACLU of Wisconsin Legal Director Larry Dupuis, "the answer to offensive speech is more speech, not suppression of speech."
Some critics said the policy was a not-so-veiled attempt to curb the influence of Home and School groups whose forums have sometimes served to air criticisms of school board policy. The current board has faced strong criticism from former board members and citizens who accuse them of financial mismanagement and misplaced priorities. Three former board members, Linda Richter, Joan Pray and William F. Moore, are plaintiffs in the ACLU suit.
--- New Berlin Citizen, www.aclu-wi.org, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Federal Judge Says Ten Commandments Marker
in La Crosse Must Go
LA CROSSE . . . In February, Federal Judge Barbara Crabb ordered the City of La Crosse to remove a Ten Commandments monument from Cameron Park. It was the second such ruling against the city in a case filed in 2001 by 22 plaintiffs, including La Crosse residents and the Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation.
In 2002, in a move to sidestep the pivotal church-state issue, La Crosse sold the small piece of land the monument occupies to the Fraternal Order of Eagles, the group which donated the marker to the city.
Last year, Judge Crabb ruled that the monument's location on public land violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment because its purpose was to promote a set of religious tenets. She also ruled the sale of the property was unconstitutional because the city "sold a very small parcel of land in the middle of a park to a pre-determined buyer for the purpose of preserving one religious message in the park."
The Order of Eagles, represented by Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice, contended Crabb's ruling violated its due process rights because the group had not been given a hearing. After hearing their arguments, Crabb issued the February ruling reiterating her earlier decision. She said the city's willingness "to carve up a public park to ensure that the symbol does not have to be moved ... exacerbates the violation."
Judge Crabb wrote:
"[I]t is respect for religion, not hostility toward it, that is the animating principle behind the establishment clause. The First Amendment guarantees persons of all faiths that the government will treat them with equal concern and respect. Individuals must feel free to choose their own paths in their search for ultimate meaning. By prohibiting the government from favoring those who believe over those who do not, the establishment clause helps protect the rights of Christians, Jews, Buddhists, agnostics, Muslims and atheists."
--- www.ffrf.org, Wisconsin State Journal
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Wal-Mart Labor Practices Under Attack
as "Supercenters" Face Challenges in Wisconsin
As Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. accelerates its plans to build more supercenters throughout Wisconsin, the world's largest retailer has faced unexpected opposition in the city of Stoughton and in the Milwaukee suburb of Franklin. While those battles played out, a flurry of new allegations and lawsuits surfaced accusing Wal-Mart of labor violations, discrimination, racketeering, union-busting, and profiting from workers even after their deaths.
In February, the city of Franklin adopted a six month moratorium on development of 30 acres of land (at W. Loomis Rd. and Hwy. 100) on which Wal-Mart planned to erect a 184,000 sq. foot grocery and discount store. It would be the first Wal-Mart supercenter within Milwaukee county. Hundreds of residents had packed a public hearing to express their opposition, citing traffic congestion, environmental damage, substandard wages, the negative impact on local businesses, and crime. Wal-Mart, which planned to break ground for the Franklin store this summer, is considering legal action against the city.
In Stoughton, Wal-Mart also proposed a 184,000 sq. foot store on 26 acres of farm land near the intersection of Hwys. 51 and B. After protests, Wal-Mart scaled it down to 155,000 sq. feet. But that did not quell opponents, who formed the Uff-Da Wal-Mart Supercenter "Uff-Da" being a "Scandinavian expression of disdain," according to Christa Westerberg via www.fightingbob.com.
In January, the Stoughton city council passed a "big box" ordinance limiting retail stores to a maximum of 110,000 sq. feet, and it has also nixed the idea of a referendum to decide the store's fate. Wal-Mart and its supporters are increasingly using this new tactic of public referendum to bypass local government bodies and such attendant requirements as zoning changes, environmental reviews and public hearings.
Challenges to Wal-Mart expansion in Wisconsin are also taking place in Janesville, Beaver Dam, Minocqua and other towns. As citizens have become more aware of Wal-Mart's negative impact on communities, especially the shuttering of local businesses and the downturn in wages, opposition has intensified. Still, the odds of halting Wal-Mart's supercenter steamroller are daunting. Since 1997, Wal-Mart has opened 30 supercenters around the state.
Wal-Mart's Labor Record
Many localities succumb to Wal-Mart because of its aggressive marketing and its promise of jobs. But the increasing evidence of labor violations, discrimination, forced overtime, dangerous lock-ins,' and exploitation of children and immigrants might make communities think twice about looking to Wal-Mart for job creation.
LABOR VIOLATIONS: An internal audit con-ducted by Wal-Mart and obtained by the New York Times revealed thousands of labor violations in the course of just one week at 128 Wal-Mart stores nationwide. The audit of employee records in July of 2000 found 1,371 violations of child labor laws (minors working too many hours, or too late, or during school hours), 60,767 instances of workers not taking breaks, and 15,705 instances of employees working through meal times.
According to the Times, if the same rate of violations were found throughout the Wal-Mart system, it would amount to tens of thousands of child-labor violations each week at Wal-Mart's 3,500 stores and more than a million violations of state regulations on meals and breaks.
After finding 1,436 child labor violations at twenty Wal-Mart stores statewide, the Maine Department of Labor ordered Wal-Mart to pay the largest fine in state history for child labor abuses.
Wal-Mart faces 38 state and federal lawsuits filed by hourly workers, accusing the retailer of systematically forcing them to work long hours "off the clock." A judge in Alameda County has granted class action status to a lawsuit representing up to 100,000 Wal-Mart employees in California. A suit in Texas charges that Wal-Mart underpaid its workers by $150 million over four years by not paying them for work they did during their break times. Another suit by several thousand pharmacists says they are owed $200 million for off the clock work.
LOCK-INS: The New York Times recently exposed the sometimes harrowing effects of Wal-Mart's lock-in policy, in which night-time employees are locked in some stores after closing. In one case, a worker in Savannah, GA died because paramedics could not get into the store to reach him in time. Workers told the Times that sometimes no one in the store had keys and that they were warned against using the fire doors for anything other than a fire.
DISCRIMINATION: In what may be the largest class action suit in American history, Wal-Mart is accused of systematic discrimination against women across the nation by denying them promotions, training and equal pay. Although women hold more than 70% of hourly positions, they hold less than 10% of store manager positions, and Wal-Mart lags far behind its competitors in the promotion of women. (See: www.walmartclass.com.)
Nearly 750,000 women work as "associates" for Wal-Mart. On average they earn $6.10 per hour, or $12,688 per year if permitted to work full-time. This wage puts many of their families below the poverty level; half qualify for federal assistance under the food stamp program. Wal-Mart's health insurance plan excludes contraceptive coverage, a policy being challenged..
Workers in Wal-Mart stores in Alaska, Alabama and Texas have won suits charging racial discrimination by Wal-Mart managers. The Texas case involved interracial dating. The white female plaintiff was told she "would never move up with the company" dating a black man.
Discrimination suits based on the Americans with Disabilities Act have been filed in Missouri, Arizona, California and Arkansas.
SEXUAL HARASSMENT: In Florida, Connie Holmes was granted $2 million in damages due to verbal and physical sexual harassment while on the job at Wal-Mart. When she reported the incidents to management, they demoted her and decreased her wages and hours. In New Mexico, two women workers at a Sam's Club won $1.9 million after unrelenting sexual harassment by a co-worker. Management not only refused to discipline the man, they later promoted him to a supervisory position!
RACKETEERING: In New Jersey, a class action suit charges that Wal-Mart and its contractors violated federal racketeering laws by conspiring to deprive immigrant janitors of wages and benefits. The suit charges that many of the workers labored seven nights a week, for 56 hours or more, without collecting any overtime pay. It further charges that Wal-Mart and its contractors intentionally discriminated against the workers, many of them Mexicans, because of their national origin.
UNION-BUSTING: Wal-Mart is one of most aggressive union-busting corporations in the world. The National Labor Relations Board has filed over 45 charges accusing Wal-Mart of firing union supporters, intimidating workers and threatening to deny bonuses if workers try to unionize. Rapid response teams from corporate HQ intervene at the first inkling of union talk. Workers, who are trained to see unions as a pernicious influence, are encouraged to spy on each other and report union activity.
EXPLOITATION AFTER DEATH: Wal-Mart has agreed to pay $10.4 million to the families of 380 employees in Texas who died while unknowingly covered by life insurance purchased by Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart insured the lives of about 350,000 Texas employees from 1994 to 2000 without telling them. At the time, Texas law allowed companies to insure only executive employees. The court ruled that Wal-Mart unlawfully collected $30.7 million in insurance proceeds from the workers' deaths.
With its low wages, nearly unaffordable health insurance, forced overtime, and more, it's perhaps not surprising to learn that the annual turnover rate for Wal-Mart's non-salaried employees is 50%.
--- New York Times, www.walmart.com, www.walmartclass.com, www.ufcw.org, www.walmartwatch.com, www.now.org
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Wisconsin Hate Crimes Down in 2002;
Sparse Reporting May Hide Real Toll
According to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports for 2002, the number of hate incidents in Wisconsin dropped from 61 in 2001 to 32 in 2002. This mirrors the decrease in hate incidents nationwide, from 9,730 in 2001 to 7,462 in 2002, a decrease the FBI attributes to a "correction" following the spike in hate crimes in 2001 due to crimes against Muslims, Sikhs, and Arab and Asian Americans in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The Wisconsin total of 32 incidents is much lower than figures reported by states of similar population size.
In Wisconsin, 12 of the 32 hate incidents in 2002 were motivated by racial bias, two were motivated by religion, 13 by sexual orientation, and five by ethnicity. The incidents ranged from vandalism to intimidation to aggravated assault, and resulted in a total of 43 criminal charges.
The 2002 hate crimes in Wisconsin occurred in cities like Appleton, Janesville, Tomahawk, Green Bay, Stoughton and Racine, but also in rural Barron and Lincoln counties. Four campuses of the University of Wisconsin System (Madison, Whitewater, Superior and Parkside) reported one hate incident each.
The true number of hate crimes may never be known due to the reluctance of some victims to report them, to the lack of training which renders some law enforcement officers unable to fully identify and investigate such crimes, and to the reluctance of some prosecutors to invoke the hate crime sentencing provision when charging offenders. Of the 370 participating law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin, only 13 reported any hate incidents to the FBI in 2002.
The FBI's 2002 Hate Crime Statistics Report shows that states with roughly the same population as Wisconsin have many more agencies reporting many more incidents of hate crimes annually. In Arizona, 29 (of 88) law enforcement agencies reported a total of 238 hate incidents for 2002. In Massachusetts, 90 (of 305) agencies reported 430 incidents. In neighboring Minnesota, 71 (of 279) agencies reported 203 hate crime incidents in that state. See chart below.
Some might argue that the lower incidence of hate crime reporting in Wisconsin is due to a more tolerant environment, a greater acceptance of different races, religions and sexual orientations. Anecdotal evidence collected by an array of community-based organizations around the state suggests that while many Wisconsinites do respect the diversity of their fellow citizens, expressions of hatred in both word and deed are still alarmingly common.
The Center for New Community in Chicago, which monitors hate groups in the Midwest, has identified 24 hate groups active in Wisconsin, from Ku Klux Klan "klaverns" (Sparta, Mercer), to neo-Nazi skinheads (Milwaukee, Oshkosh, New Franken), to right-wing militias (Waushara and Green Lake counties), to "Christian Identity" racists (Shawano, Reeseville, Beaver Dam).
Wisconsin's Pioneering Law
The low reporting of hate crime incidents in Wisconsin is ironic in that Wisconsin adopted the first comprehensive hate crime statute in the nation in 1988. When it was challenged in court on First Amendment grounds, it was ultimately upheld in 1993 by a unanimous decision of the US Supreme Court (in Wisconsin v. Todd Mitchell, a case argued by Gov. Jim Doyle, who was State Attorney General at the time). Since that legal vindication, the Wisconsin statute has become a model for hate crime laws in many other states.
Despite its popular name, the Wisconsin statute (§939.645) does not create a new category of criminal offense; suspects are not charged with a "hate crime." Instead, the statute allows for the addition of a penalty "enhancement" upon conviction of established criminal charges like assault, vandalism, homicide, etc. If prosecutors can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the offense was motivated, in whole or in part, by bias based on the actual or perceived race, religion, color, sexual orientation, disability, or national origin or ancestry of the victim, the perpetrator, upon conviction, can be given a sentence jail time or a fine above that prescribed by law for the particular offense. (The range of penalty enhancements is detailed in the statute.)
In upholding the law, the Supreme Court dismissed the claim that the statute infringed on the free speech and expression rights of the accused, a concern of many civil libertarians. The First Amendment, it noted, "does not prohibit the evidentiary use of speech to establish the elements of a crime or to prove motive or intent. Evidence of a defendant's previous declarations or statements is commonly admitted in criminal trials subject to evidentiary rules dealing with relevancy, reliability, and the like."
In addition, Chief Justice William Rehnquist acknowledged the State of Wisconsin's argument that bias-motivated crimes are "thought to inflict greater individual and societal harm" and are "more likely to provoke retaliatory crimes, inflict distinct emotional harms on their victims, and incite community unrest." He wrote, "As Blackstone said long ago, it is but reasonable that among crimes of different natures those should be most severely punished, which are the most destructive of the public safety and happiness.'"
Dane County Task Force
Madison consistently reports a significantly higher number of hate crime incidents to the FBI than does Milwaukee, a city with a much larger and more diverse population. The city of Madison reported 17 of the statewide total of 32 incidents in 2002, while Milwaukee logged none. In 2001, Madison reported 22 of 61 inci-dents, while Milwaukee logged three. In 2000, Madison reported 16 of 47 incidents, Milwaukee only one.
The higher number of reported incidents in Madison may be due to the proactive stance the Madison Police Department and the Dane County District Attorney's Office have taken toward hate crimes. Personnel from both agencies have undergone special training and participate in a county-wide Hate Crimes Task Force made up of police, prosecutors, victim advocates and concerned citizens. Together, they exchange information, further their own knowledge of hate crimes and provide public education and outreach to encourage reporting. The Dane County effort could be a model for improved reporting and prosecution of hate crimes around the state.
Milwaukee Communities to Unite Against Hate
The Wisconsin Center for Pluralism has launched its Communities United Against Hate Project to promote public education, coalition-building and advocacy around the issue of hate crimes. It is a community-based effort against hate crimes, whose pilot programs are being launched in the City of Milwaukee and in the Fox Valley region of Wisconsin in 2004-05. Its goals are to assist the populations most affected by hate-motivated crimes:
1) to jointly develop preventive and proactive stances against hate groups and crimes in their communities; and
2) to work with law enforcement authorities to seek more effective reporting, investigation and adjudication of bias-motivated offenses.
Communities United Against Hate - Milwaukee will begin with a series of programs at the Milwaukee Public Library's Centennial Hall on Tuesday evenings, April 20 (Hate Crimes 101 Overview), May 4 (Hate Crimes Speak-Out) and May 11 ("Not in Our Town" Strategy Session). The events are free and open to all. To volunteer, call (414) 272-9984, or email [email protected].
--- New York Times, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, www.newcomm.org, www.fbi.gov, Wisconsin Statutes
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Other News Developments
Interfaith Conference Admits Islamic Society
MILWAUKEE . . . Late last year the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, an association of 11 Christian and Jewish faith groups that works together on community issues, voted unanimously to admit the city's Islamic Society into full membership.
Executive Director Marcus White told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "It's important for non-Muslim leaders to convey a message that Islam is a religion that we should respect and that we all need to know more about."
The Milwaukee-area Muslim community has grown in recent years, and is estimated at 15,000.
Unions Post Gains in the Badger State
WASHINGTON, DC . . . The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a 4% increase in union membership in the state of Wisconsin in 2003, bucking recent declines on the state and national levels. The modest gain occurred in the health care and service sectors. Approximately 414,000 workers in Wisconsin are card-carrying union members, 15.8% of the work force. Wisconsin ranks as the 12th most unionized state in the country.
Tribes Purchase Crandon Mine Site
CRANDON . . . The Mole Lake Band of the Sokaogon Chippewa and the Forest County Potawatomi Tribes have purchased the land and mining rights to the long-disputed Crandon mine site in Forest County in northern Wisconsin. The application to mine has been withdrawn.
A succession of mining companies sought to extract zinc and copper from a large area near the headwaters of the Wolf River. Environmental studies warned of groundwater contamination from toxic wastes, reduction of water levels in nearby lakes and streams and destruction of adjacent wetlands. Proponents of the mine touted the jobs the mine would create.
"This purchase protects the Wolf River, the wetlands and the groundwater of Northern Wisconsin," Gus Frank, the Forest County Potawatomi chairman said. "We all depend on the water and resources of the Northwoods for recreation, to bring tourists to our state and, for the Tribes, to sustain our traditions. We're proud to be a part of protecting this area for future generations."
The Potawatomi paid for their half of the deal in cash, but the Mole Lake Chippewa paid with an $8 million loan. The Wolf River Protection Fund has been established to help the Mole Lake Tribe meet their obligation. To learn how your tax-deductible contribution can help, visit www.wolfriverprotectionfund.org, or make your check out to: Wolf River Protection Fund and mail to: Sokaogon Chippewa Community, 3051 Sand Lake Road, Crandon, WI 54520.
New Clergy Group to Counter Christian Right
WASHINGTON, DC . . . The Clergy Leadership Network, a new non-profit coalition of moderate and liberal religious leaders of all faiths across the country, plans to counter the vocal influence of the Christian Right.
A statement on the group's web site says: "As clergy pastors, priests, rabbis, imams, and other religious leaders, both men and women deeply concerned about the well being of our country, we are committed to sweeping changes changes in our nation's political leadership and changes in failing public policies. We are also committed to affirming the need to model and to practice the recovery of civility in political discourse."
"The Christian Right has been very articulate, but they have been exclusive and very judgmental of anyone who doesn't agree with them," the Rev. Albert M. Pennybacker, chairman of Clergy Leadership Network, told the New York Times. "People may want to label us the Christian Left. But what we really are about is mainstream issues and truth, and if that makes us left then that shines even more light on the need for a shift in our society."
The group plans its first National Clergy Gathering May 16-18 in Cleveland, Ohio. For more information, call (202) 554-2121, or visit: www.clnnlc.org.
--- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Bureau of Labor Statistics, HONOR Digest,
www.clnnlc.org, New York Times
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