As I See It

As I See It (349)

Wisconsin's longest running daily commentary, a daily tradition since 1971.

Thursday - December 1, 2016 8:59 am

Many benefits to UWL

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We probably don't think about it much. Just what is the benefit of having a University of Wisconsin campus in La Crosse? A public forum in La Crosse featuring University System President Ray Cross this week examined that question. There are the obvious answers, such as the economic impact the university has on our community, as well as the jobs it provides. But the university's connection to the community runs deeper than that. Many UWL graduates choose to live and work in La Crosse after college, contributing to our local economy. And the university does more than just teach students. Many conferences and symposiums are held at UWL, as well as the annual state track meet. These things wouldn't happen if UWL weren't here. Of course no one is suggesting we don't need the university. But we do need to make sure it is well supported. That hasn't been happening lately, with state imposed tuition freezes and state budget cuts hurting the bottom line. It is time to begin reinvesting in higher education in the state. As Rep. Jill Billings points out, every dollar spent on higher ed leads to a $10 return, and that is a good investment for Wisconsin taxpayers.

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Wednesday - November 30, 2016 10:21 am

Despite claims on both sides, election was not rigged

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Can we please stop claiming the election was rigged? We heard that claim from Donald Trump throughout the campaign. He refused to say whether he would abide by the results of the election. That prompted a flurry of criticism from democrats like U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, who condemned candidate Trump from his comments. But now the shoe is on the other foot. Now some democrats are suggesting the election was rigged, that hackers somehow played a role in getting Trump elected. Baloney. But Baldwin isn't shouting from the rooftops now. With democrats forcing a recount of every presidential ballot cast in Wisconsin, she should be condemning this latest suggestion the election was rigged. But she has been silent, along with other democrats who condemned Trump. Trump isn't doing our democracy any favors either. He continues to offer his unsubstantiated claim that two million illegal aliens voted in our recent election, and that is the only reason he didn't win the popular vote. Enough already. That is disparaging to municipal clerks who work hard to ensure election integrity. The fact is Donald Trump earned enough votes in our current system of selecting presidents to win the job. Let's just accept that, and move on, and end this nonsense about rigged elections.

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Tuesday - November 29, 2016 9:40 am

Work together to improve redistricting

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Let's draw! Some Wisconsin lawmakers are suggesting changes to Wisconsin's process of redistricting, drawing new legislative boundaries every ten years. A panel of federal judges has declared the current maps, drawn by republicans, is unconstitutional. The judges have encouraged both parties to submit plans for improving the projects, and now, one Wisconsin lawmaker has come up with a plan to make the system fair. Senator Dave Hanson of Green Bay says he will introduce legislation that would take politics out of the redistricting process. Under the current system, whatever political party is in charge at the time the boundaries are to be drawn is in charge of doing so. That has led to abuse, by both parties, which gerry-mander the districts to make them more friendly to their candidates. Hanson's plan would place the duties of drawing boundaries not in the hands of one party, but in the hands of both parties. Unfortunately, Hanson's idea isn't likely to go far. Republicans control both the Assembly and the Senate, and they will control what legislation makes it to the floor for debate. But both parties have a responsibility to come up with ideas to improve the process, and simply standing in the way is not a worthwhile idea.

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Wednesday - November 23, 2016 9:06 am

Wisconsin legislative boundaries illegally drawn

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A panel of federal judges has now confirmed what we have long argued. That Wisconsin's political boundaries were drawn up to unfairly give advantage to one political party. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin ruled that the legislative districts were created in violation of both the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment because the districts were created to deprive Democratic voters of their right to be represented. The boundaries, drawn by whichever political party is in charge at the time of the census, were created to cram opposing voters into a single district, or by dividing them so they are the majority in fewer districts in a process called “Packing and cracking.” Gerrymandering these legislative districts makes it harder to throw the bums out. Because of how the maps were drawn, many races failed to even attract any opposition. That leads to less competitive races, and makes it more likely the incumbents will keep their seats, and we get more of the same from our elected representatives. That's why we need a new process for drawing legislative boundaries, putting it under the control of a non-partisan body. We deserve to be able to choose our elected representatives, rather than allowing them to choose us.

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Tuesday - November 22, 2016 11:41 am

Just fix it

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Just fix it. That is the message to Wisconsin lawmakers from one of the state's most important industries. The state's timber industry is reminding lawmakers of the importance of well maintained roads, encouraging them to summon the political will to make an investment in our infrastructure. Doing so is critical to the future of one of Wisconsin's biggest industries. Wisconsin is the nation's number one producer of paper and pulp and generates almost $25 billion per year to the Wisconsin economy. But most of that timber grows in rural areas, where roads have not been kept up. That leads to weight restrictions on local roads, which means truckers hauling big loads have to follow detours,or carry smaller loads, which means more miles logged, which ultimately means higher costs for consumers. That makes it a worthwhile investment to spend the money to properly fix our roads. For the timber industry, more delay is no longer an option. It is time to just fix it.

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Monday - November 21, 2016 11:21 am

No surprise fewer trust the media

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For those of us in the industry, the survey is troubling. The latest Gallup Poll finds American's trust in the news media has sunk to an all time low. Only 32% say they have a great deal or a fair amount of trust in the media. That number is down eight percentage points from last year. Of course, rarely has the media been held in high regard. Journalists often rank just above used car salesmen in trustworthiness. And the so called mainstream media are the subject of frequent bashing from the likes of Rush Limbaugh and others. But we also have to consider how people are choosing to get their news, and where they choose to get it from. A quick scan of your Facebook feed each morning is hardly providing the full story. Especially when we hear that many of the pre-election posts on Facebook were fake news stories, designed not to inform, but to change opinion. Yet the number of people who get their news from mobile devices is now up to 72%, its highest level ever. Even though what they are reading may be just a hoax. Maybe then it is little wonder that Americans don't think they can trust the media, given the rapidly changing defintion of just what the media is.

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Friday - November 18, 2016 9:37 am

Bringing back earmarks hardly draining the swamp

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If the recent election results taught us anything, it is that people are fed up with business as usual in Washington. But some in the nation's capitol remain very fond of business as usual. In fact, they want to return to the days of Congressional earmarks, allowing them to stuff billions of dollars worth of pet projects into congressional spending bills. Remember the bridge to nowhere? The symbol of wasteful federal spending linked a small Alaskan town to an island. It was eventually canceled amid public outcry over the pork barrel spending. But some in Washington want to bring these earmarks back. Perhaps they have forgotten how much corruption earmarks caused. Rep. Duke Cunningham went to prison after trading congressional favors for contributions and gifts. We don't need to return to the days of earmarks, when members of Congress routinely stuffed federal funding for their pet projects, even a bridge to nowhere, into unrelated spending bills. And going back to the days of earmarks wouldn't look good as the first order of Congressional business after this drain the swamp election. As one member of Congress points out, you can't drain the swamp by feeding the alligators pork.

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Thursday - November 17, 2016 9:32 am

La Crosse County wisely abandons road spending plan

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The problems with Wisconsin's roads have been well documented. State funding has failed to keep up with the need for repairs. In La Crosse County, some $90 million in road work neds has been identified. Many Wisconsin counties have taken matters into their own hands and adopted wheel taxes to raise money for road work. La Crosse county considered going another route, pulling $1 million from county reserves to pay to fix our roads. Wisely, the La Crosse County Board of Supervisors rejected that idea. Supervisors have also put off, for now, the idea of a special sales tax on tourism related businesses which could raise millions for road work. Pilfering from reserve funds could have threatened the county's bond rating. But more importantly, funding road repair and construction is a function of state government. No matter how much La Crosse County were to spend on roads, it wouldn't be enough to address all the needs. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has hinted that his new budget for next year will include more flexibility for local municipalities to choose how to spend the state's road money. Let's see what the Governor's budget looks like, and how it will impact road needs in our area, before we start spending more money we may not have to.

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Wednesday - November 16, 2016 9:06 am

Turnout down under Voter ID. Connection?

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Voter turnout in Wisconsin for the most recent presidential election was down to its lowest levels in 20 years. This most recent election was also the first in which Wisconsin voters had to show a photo ID in order to vote. Is there a connection? A new study will take a look. Only 66% of Wisconsin's registered voters cast a ballot in the most recent election, down about 4% from 2012. And the numbers of voters dropped even further in areas where the new Voter ID law was expected to pose problems for potential voters. Parts of Milwaukee and Dane counties saw voter totals drop more sharply than other parts of the state, with significantly fewer votes by young people, and by African Americans. A UW-Madison professor is about to begin a survey to find out why those who didn't vote didn't bother to cast a ballot. They hope to be able to provide specific numbers of people who were disenfranchised by the new law. But for what purpose? Those lawmakers who fought so hard for Voter ID knew what the results would be. They knew it would be harder for certain people, primarily democratic voters, to comply with the law. So no matter how much proof can be provided that Voter ID caused fewer people to vote, nothing will be done about it, because that is exactly what they wanted to happen.

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Tuesday - November 15, 2016 9:22 am

Election outcome no reason to scrap Electoral College

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America's democracy is built on the principle of one person, one vote. Yet, when the votes were counted in the recent election, Donald Trump was awarded the office of President of the United States. That is despite the fact that Hillary Clinton captured more overall votes than Trump. Clinton earned just over 60 million votes, while Trump earned just over 59 million. But who is elected President is determined not by the popular vote, but by the Electoral College. Under that system, Trump is the winner. Now some are revisiting calls for scrapping the Electoral College, and determining the winner based on the popular vote. That would be a mistake. While it is logical to argue that whoever gets the most votes should win, period, scrapping the Electoral College wouldn't make for a better election system. If winners were based on the popular vote, many states like Wisconsin wouldn't be in play. Candidates would only have to focus on the big cities on the campaign trail. They would ignore Wisconsin, at least outside of Milwaukee and Madison. Instead, our President would be campaigning only in places like New York, California and Chicago. It may be frustrating that the winner of our presidential election didn't get the most votes, but the system we have now is still better than a return to the popular vote.

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