Do you want some cheese with that “whine”?

After blasting both state and national Republicans (and politicians in general) last week, I must now fire back at the state Democrats.

The Republicans recently released their plans for redistricting the state from the 2010 census, and immediately and without surprise, the Democrats cried foul and wanted the proposal thrown out. While their argument is certainly sound, from statements that it is a ploy to secure districts (it is) or that it is purely to benefit themselves (mostly true, Ron Kind becomes pretty solidly safe as well). I agree with the Democrats; the process is wrong and the results make Wisconsin look poor.


But are we honestly supposed to believe that the Democrats wouldn’t have done the same thing had they secure control over all branches? Had Barrett carried a Democratic wave in 2010, wouldn’t we be looking at a map where Paul Ryan would absorb more of Milwaukee and less suburbs? Sean Duffy, in an already contentious district, would surely have seen changes.

Most importantly, let’s not pretend that only the Republicans would’ve done this. It’s easy to do so, but it is wrong.

When  folks say that this is unprecedented and the process hasn’t happened like this before, it’s true; but only because for the past fifty years Wisconsin has had a split legislature/governor during this process. I think that concerns like those of Kelda Helen Roys (D-Madison) being moved out of her current district should NOT  have a bearing into the process. Should we protect the incumbents naturally? I don’t think so and I wouldn’t think so regardless of who it was.


I think it is especially telling that in the complete Democrat controlled state capital until November of 2010 did NOT bring forward reform measures. Rep. Brett Hulsey (D-Madison) has been a prolific tweeter on the matter but wouldn’t a skeptical public think that its odd that the multitude of Democrats purportedly supporting this did not present this before the new legislature and Governor took office? I know Hulsey wasn’t there before but a lot of others were and could have done it.  Legislators look into the future and they clearly did not expect everything to be overturned in November, yet it happened, and now the Democrats are scrambling to recover.

My prediction? Governor Walker will be open to a more open process than the brothers Fitzgerald. The recalls against the GOP is pretty solidly in place and there is not much to gain or lose for those legislators but the Governor has another three years left (sorry Madison, he won’t be recalled. The numbers aren’t there) and will need Democrats for some of it at the very least. This is a very good place to begin some healing and still end up with a plan favorable to the majority party but with some willingness to work together as it will be needed at some point.

And remember: we are a purple state. Neither party rules very long here so learning the lesson of bipartisanship is something that will be learnt, one way or another.


New Badger Partnership: TV Time

Shameless self promotion here.  Check out this clip on Channel 3 Nightly News from last night talking about the impact of the budget on students.

Walker’s Budget Cuts $250 Million From UW System.

New Badger Partnership: Governor to Release Budget as Support for NBP Grows

Well, this is it.  Today at 4 pm CT, Governor Walker is expected to release his 2011-13 Biennium Budget, which could include many of the provisions that Chancellor Martin has advocated for in the New Badger Partnership.  This according to WisPolitics:

The UW System is looking at a cut of about $250 million with UW-Madison taking the biggest hit of the campuses. To help offset that reduced aid, Madison would be spun off from the rest of the system into an independent authority, according to sources.

This is nothing new.  I projected a $250 million cut to the UW System last week.

Support for the NBP is growing, too.

Badger Herald ed board:

As University of Wisconsin Chancellor Biddy Martin watched this state’s government face deeper and deeper financial woes with the approach of the 2011-2013 budget, she could have sat back and asked the Legislature to consider the university’s own difficult financial situation.

She could have asked for less cuts, for provisions that would keep tuition low and financial aid flowing. She could have asked for the now-modest framework laid out in the original New Badger Partnership last fall.

But as budget details began to emerge and the state’s cost-cutting measures spurred a crisis of national importance, something became clear: Now is the time to ask for everything UW needs, and to package that request in a way the state cannot ignore.

The result, tentatively laid out in draft documents, letters and conversations, is a proposal that would give UW public authority status and significantly greater freedom from state oversight. The details currently backed by Martin would separate the university from the UW System, allocate most state funding in a single block grant and allow an independent governing board to set university policy and tuition rates.

Badger Herald LTE on Biddy, “the true champion of transparency”:

On the opposite end of the spectrum has been Martin. She has spent hours on Twitter responding directly to the concerns raised by students who are trying to understand the implications of this new direction. When a memo between Martin and Walker showed the chancellor supporting Madison spinning off from the entire system, she was quick to provide details to the student body about her position. In a recent e-mail, Martin provided her presentation to the Board of Regents. In the e-mail, she made it clear the question of whether or not Madison should separate from the entire system “is not the question that has guided our work.” Instead Martin made it clear that she and the university are doing the best they can to “create innovative possibilities” to “deal with the extreme challenges” that face all of us — students, faculty and staff.

Several Research Professors in a Daily Cardinal LTE:

Even in difficult budgetary times, the state can continue to invest in its flagship university by providing the types of flexibilities sought by Chancellor Martin. We seek your enthusiasm and support for the major impact this initiative will embody, and encourage the Governor, the Legislature and UW System to help us realize the goals of the New Badger Partnership, for the benefit of our students and Wisconsin.

And then of course, we have our very own Adam Johnson.

Stay tuned to the Campus First as we explore the budget bill in depth.


The Beauty of Peaceful Protest

From the Madison City Police Department:

On behalf of all the law enforcement agencies that helped keep the peace on the Capitol Square Saturday, a very sincere thank you to all of those who showed up to exercise their First Amendment rights. You conducted yourselves with great decorum and civility, and if the eyes of the nation were upon Wisconsin, then you have shown how democracy can flourish even amongst those who passionately disagree. As of 5:00 p.m., no major incidents had been reported. There have been no arrests. However, discourse and discussion was – at times – loud and heated. That was to be expected. As previously indicated, the goal of law enforcement has been to provide a safe environment for democracy to take place. That goal has been realized for yet another day.

Go us.  The true beauty of democratic protest can’t be realized unless they are peaceful.  As I’ve said many times, the first group to become violent loses; let’s not be the losers.

Updated: Rage Against the Machine to Head to Madison?

Rage Against the Machine, the popular rap rock group that gained success throughout the nineties, may come to Madison to help support the protests at the capitol.  This is, as I understand it, unconfirmed, although twitter has been exploding about it.  This according to the following tweets:

@DefendWisconsin “Concert for Rights” Mon 5PM: Tom Morello, The Nightwatchmen, Rage against the Machine, Wayne Kramer, The Street Dogs.

@thesconz rage against the machine coming to paly in support#wiunion

@dailycardinal Rage Against the Machine and Ben Harper to perform Monday at 5 p.m. (via @UCSEC#wiunion

I’m waiting for an official news source to confirm, since the Rage website hasn’t been updated in months.  Given their activist roots, their presence would not surprise me.

Updated 2/19 @ 2:10 pm: It appears that it will not be Rage Against the Machine, but it will be Tom Morello.  Morello is the lead guitarist for RATM and also has his own acoustic band, the Nightwatchmen.  I will try to keep you update.

Press release available here.

Chancellor Asks JFC to Postpone

The twitterverse broke out with news a few minutes ago of Chancellor Martin requesting that the Joint Finance Committee delay its action on the proposed SB11.  Her comment, while not terribly strong, indicates a desire for negotiation:

“Given the impact of the budget repair bill on state and university employees, I urge members of the Joint Committee on Finance, in the strongest possible terms, to delay executive action on the bill until there has been an opportunity for negotiations.

“Before curtailing collective bargaining rights that have been in place for years, I am asking legislators to step back and make a sincere effort to develop more creative solutions.”

You can watch the JFC at this link.

I’m going to an emergency meeting with the Chancellor right now; I will keep everyone updated via the Campus First and Twitter.

My Response to the College Republicans Claims

As my buddy and fellow blogger AJ points out, there were some serious factual errors in the College Republicans Letter to the Editor in today’s Badger Herald.  But shortly after, the comment section exploded with dozens of posts criticizing the bias of ASM, claiming that ASM leaders are making bank off of student money, and overall saying we overstepped our bounds with regard to the Budget Repair Bill.  Here’s my response to their comments:

I usually don’t comment on the Badger Herald because its generally not worth it, but in this case it seems necessary. To assume that you know my political agenda or affiliation, or to even think that you know who I voted for is ignorant (I voted Walker, by the way). ASM’s stance is based purely upon our defense of higher education. You elected us to stand up for this University, so regardless of who is in office–Republican, Democrat, Green, Libertarian–we will oppose anything that counters or hurts our fine institution. We strive only to represent and advocate for students on issues of importance to students, which is why we didn’t touch the issues of high school teachers or other public employees.

We have certainly given thought to the implications of the bill, and we understand why Governor Walker is proposing. The current fiscal climate in the state is undesirable, to say the least, and Governor Walker is looking for ways to address a budget deficit without raising taxes.

Keep in mind that ASM is comprised of students from across the political spectrum, but our ultimate objective is the protection of the university that we love. That said, we feel that the bill takes steps that exceed budgetary or fiscal considerations and undermine the rights of the graduate Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants, and Project Assistants. In ASM, we represent undergraduate and graduate students alike, so while just over 9000 graduate students are directly affected by this bill, our undergraduate population will also suffer. Without the benefits of collective bargaining for things such as working hours or tuition remission, we will lose the ability to attract high quality graduate students and professors. Once the attractiveness of these positions is reduced, our University suffers, both in terms of world rankings and in terms of academic experience for students.

In terms of pay for student government leaders, it seems most people have their mind made up at this point. But just for reference, I logged 46 hours last week. I make an average of $166.50 per week minus taxes. I believe that calculates to $3.62 per hour, without including taxes. Maybe I should find a new job…

-Brandon Williams, ASM Chair

Understand that this was written in a bit of passion; I’m sick of these misconceptions flying around.  Nevertheless, I think it was important for me to clarify a number of things even though a lot of the BH commentors are likely trolling for a response such as mine.