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Excerpts from recent Wisconsin editorials

May 28, 2019

The Journal Times of Racine, May 26

Evers administration’s sexism allegations come up short on proof

We’re not sure what Gov. Tony Evers and his administration hope to gain by lobbing accusations of sexism at Republican legislative leaders, but they seem determined to do so.

On May 20, Evers issued a statement implying Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Rochester and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau weren’t meeting with his aides because of sexism, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

“Only Robin Vos and Scott Fitzgerald can say why they won’t work with the women who are leading my office,” Evers said in his statement. “I have asked Republicans to work with my staff the way they worked with the former governor’s staff. They know how to work with my staff and are choosing not to. So, this is clearly a departure from past practice. You connect the dots.”

In reply to the accusation, Vos noted his top aides are women, and Fitzgerald called claims of sexism “asinine” in part because the top Senate Republican working on the budget is a woman, Alberta Darling of River Hills.

It would seem the differences are much more about policy than gender.

On May 18, Fitzgerald said at the state Republican Party convention in Oshkosh that Evers had “no point person” for lawmakers.

In response that same day, Evers spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff issued a statement saying Vos and Fitzgerald had repeatedly been told they should meet with Evers’ chief of staff, Maggie Gau, just as they had met with Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s chief of staff, Eric Schutt, before Evers defeated Walker in the Nov. 6 election.

“That directive wasn’t confusing to them when the chief of staff was a man,” Baldauff said. “Vos and Fitzgerald are clearly uncomfortable or simply unwilling to work with a leadership team made up entirely of women.”

Or — it seems entirely possible — that Vos and Fitzgerald were willing to meet with Schutt because Walker is a fellow Republican. It seems entirely possible that Vos and Fitzgerald knew that they agreed with Walker on the fundamentals, and that sending Schutt to present Walker’s specific proposals worked when the GOP controlled the governor’s office and both houses of the Legislature.

It doesn’t seem so far-fetched that, in the first budget negotiations between a Democratic governor and a Republican-majority Legislature in 13 years, Vos and Fitzgerald would want to meet with Evers directly.

In November, Wisconsin elected a divided government. It kept the Republicans in the majority in the Legislature, but also elected a Democrat as governor. Republicans control the budget-writing process, but this year they do so in the knowledge that the Wisconsin governor has substantial veto power, and that what Walker found acceptable, Evers might not.

All of this means that the Democrat-led executive branch must work with, and be willing to negotiate with, the Republican-led legislative branch.

Accusations of sexism from Evers and his administration might score political points, but they don’t do anything to move the budget negotiations forward.

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Kenosha News, May 27

Haribo manufacturing facility gains swift approval in Pleasant Prairie

In contrast to the continuous questions and updates on Foxconn to the north, there’s Haribo to the south.

Quietly back in the news, the world’s leading manufacturer of fruit gummi and licorice products is planning to build a manufacturing facility as expected in Pleasant Prairie.

The Village Board last week approved the initial phase of the Haribo of America development that will begin construction this fall in the Prairie Highlands Corporate Park.

Jean Werbie-Harris, community development director, said construction of a warehouse is expected to be completed by next fall and the manufacturing facility finished by the fall of 2021. The new facility is expected to employ 450 workers and would produce or store as many as 132,000 pounds of the gummi candies annually.

The full rollout of the campus will include other retail and promotional operations, daycare and fitness centers, a museum and a heliport. Details for those plans were not yet included in the submission to Pleasant Prairie.

At the Plan Commission meeting earlier this month, Mike Pollocoff, a Pleasant Prairie board member on the commission, said Haribo represents an “excellent development” in the growing and business-friendly village.

“We’re looking forward to the next phase of this construction, and Pleasant Prairie’s very pleased you chose us here,” said Mike Serpe, Plan Commission chairman and Village Board member. “I guarantee you won’t regret that decision.”

Haribo, the German manufacturer known for its Goldbears gummi bears, is moving to where demand of its product is great, and its plans have been steady moving forward.

Last November, Rick LaBerge, chief operating officers of Haribo of America, told the crowd at FaB (Food and Beverage) Wisconsin’s annual meeting:

“We’re excited to be working so closely with the people of Wisconsin as we make plans to build our first-ever U.S. factory in Pleasant Prairie,” he told the 400 attendees. “I’m so happy to be here to represent Haribo of America and to hear about the incredible initiatives FaB is leading to promote the growth of the food and beverage industry in Wisconsin.”

Katie Waller, vice president of marketing for Haribo of America, said at the meeting, “Haribo showed up so well, our support of the local community was clear, and it was a proud moment for us.”

Globally, family-owned Haribo employs nearly 7,000 associates and operates 15 production sites in 10 countries.

Pleasant Prairie stands to gain a top employer.

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The Capital Times, May 22

Ron Johnson is packing federal courts with unfit nominees

Deadly racist violence tore through Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 as neo-Nazis chanted anti-Semitic slogans and neo-Confederates celebrated the legacy of the general who led a rebellion on behalf of Southern states that sought to maintain slavery. It was a horrific moment, made all the more horrible by Donald Trump’s attempt to assign shared blame to the racists who invaded Charlottesville and to people who rejected racism.

The president went so far as to claim that “you had people that were very fine people on both sides.”

Trump’s statement shocked the nation and the world. Civil rights groups condemned the president. They were joined by responsible Republicans. “There’s no moral equivalency between racists and Americans standing up to defy hate and bigotry,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona. “The president of the United States should say so.”

Trump and his toadies still try to defend the president’s indefensible language. But McCain was right.

When the debate is about racism, there must be clarity.

Our country’s history of racial discrimination and division is too long and too painful for any of us to excuse those who fail to recognize the difference between right and wrong.

This is one of the many reasons why U.S. senators should have voted last week to reject one of Trump’s most offensive nominees.

Wendy Vitter, the president’s pick for a Louisiana federal judgeship, disqualified herself when she appeared last year before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a former state attorney general who once served as a volunteer counsel for the NAACP, asked a simple question: Did Vitter believe that the landmark 1954 case of Brown v. Board of Education — which struck down school segregation — had been correctly decided by the U.S. Supreme Court? It was not an unreasonable request. Chief Justice John Roberts spoke in detail during his confirmation hearing about “the genius of the decision.” Justice Neil Gorsuch told the committee during his confirmation hearing that Brown v. the Board of Education was “a correct application of the law of precedent.”

Yet Vitter refused to answer Blumenthal’s question. “I don’t mean to be coy,” she said, “but I think I can get into a difficult, difficult area when I start commenting on Supreme Court decisions — which are correctly decided and which I may disagree with. Again, my personal, political or religious views I would set aside — that is Supreme Court precedent. It is binding. If I were honored to be confirmed, I would be bound by it and, of course, I would uphold it.”

But what of the deeper question of whether the court had set the proper standard by rejecting the so-called “separate but equal” distinctions made by Jim Crow segregationists? Blumenthal pressed the point. Vitter again refused to answer.

The NAACP’s response was blunt: “The Brown ruling is sacrosanct. For any judicial nominee to treat Brown with anything less than universal acceptance is deplorable and must be condemned by the Senate in the strongest terms.”

Keith Boykin, a former general editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review who went on to serve as a Clinton White House aide, put things in perspective when he explained: “Brown versus Board of Education was a paramount decision in American legal history, decided on May 17th, 1954, by a unanimous Supreme Court. We’re in 2018 now. We have a Trump judicial appointee who doesn’t know whether she can say if it was correctly decided or not. The idea is preposterous, but it’s consistent with Donald Trump, who can’t say whether the people in Charlottesville were right or wrong on either side.”

Last week, Vitter’s nomination came before the full Senate.

While Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin cast one of 45 “no” votes, Sen. Ron Johnson joined the Republican majority that confirmed a nominee who could not say whether Brown v. Board of Education was properly decided.

It is well understood that Johnson is a rubber-stamp senator who does as he is told by Trump and Mitch McConnell. But if ever there was a time when he needed to show some backbone, this was it. Unfortunately, he failed.

As a senator from a state that has historically placed the cause of civil rights ahead of partisanship, Johnson shamed himself and Wisconsin.

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