Estambul, Turquía— Miembros de un grupo izquierdista ilegalizado tomaron como…
Police Use of Deadly Force Hot Issue
In every civilization there is a set of laws that govern behavior and a set of rules that make sure we live in an ordered society. So what happens when someone whose responsibility is to govern that law makes an error and falls through the cracks of a legal system designed to punish all with equaland fair justice?
What happens when we don’t see justice or justice is delayed? Even when there’s an overwhelming amount of evidence and testimony?
In August of 2014, Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed “alleged criminal” Michael Brown. Now what actually happened is incredibly subjective to the readers’ point of view. A grand jury found Darren Wilson not culpable, so he does not have to face a trial of his peers. Again, whether or not he should have been indicted is the readers’ opinion.
Much of the Ferguson unrest lies in the fact that a white cop shot a black kid, but a point often overlooked is that police brutality and misconduct knows no race or gender.
An example in need of reexamination is the case of Kelly Thomas, beaten to death by Fullerton police officers. Video footage showed police officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli beating Kelly as he begged for mercy. Defense attorneys contest that the victim was a violent and dangerous person. They stated that the victim had defied a lawful order and fled police officers who were making an arrest. When all the facts of the case had been presented, the ruling came in favor of Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli.
Does this give “Carte Blanche for police officers to do whatever they want”? What does this mean for those in law enforcement who may have committed a crime? Should it be used as further proof that the criminal justice system needs to be changed? Should we hold people whose sworn duty is to uphold the law to higher standards?
Another example of police brutality which resulted in a death occurred at the University of South Alabama. In October 2012 ,Campus Police Officer Trevis Austin shot and killed a young man by the name of Gilbert Collar. Officer Trevis had all the standard police equipment — which included stun gun, mace, and baton — instead chose to shoot at Collar who was high on LSD. Despite all the evidence, including surveillance cameras, he was not indicted and was found to have used proper force.
This is what happens even with direct video evidence, and public pressure. What happens when a police officer is failed to have met the required standards for a criminal arrest?
Another example is Seattle Detective Shandy Cobane. In April of 2010 he stomped on a suspects leg and declared he “was going to beat the fucking Mexican piss out of him.”
While videotaped evidence was found showing Cobane guilty of at least aggravated assault and/or hate crimes he was not charged, instead he was suspended thirty days without pay, demoted and reassigned a desk job. They took action only after a public outcry occurred with release of the video.
So what does this mean as a police officer? Does this mean that, if and only if somebody gives a damn, you’ll get a slap on the wrist? Does it mean if you get caught you’ll only be shifted and moved around to make sure you don’t embarrass anyone else?
In another shocking example of police misconduct, in September 2012 Philadelphia Police Officer Jonathon Josey was filmed punching Aida Guzman after Guzman allegedly threw a beer bottle at police. Guzman’s charges were later dropped.
Officer Josey was charged with misdemeanor assault and was faced with losing his job. However, Officer Josey did not get prosecuted on charges thanks to a judge who — much to the chagrin of those seeking justice — was later found to be married to a police officer. Further, Officer Josey was rehired by the very same police force that fired him and even given full benefits and back pay.
How can we find justice in a justice system that’s entwined with the police department? Will the system always look the other way for police officers?
And in the recent case of Mike Brown and Darren Wilson, it is clear that there are several anomalies not only in what happened in that night in question, but in the way the whole investigation was handled and how the prosecution ran its case.
So what do we do with a Justice system that seems to favor police officers? How can we protect ourselves from the very people we have trusted to uphold the laws that we ourselves make to protect us?
Lately the most popular method of police accountability is the advance of the cell phone camera or personal recording device. Perhaps the question isn’t why haven’t we heard of the incidents before now, but why so there are so very many. Law enforcement seem to have forgotten that we as a people deserve to know the motivations and reasoning behind law enforcement’s actions.
We should ask ourselves, “Who Watches The Watchers?”
Who is Alderman Jose G. Perez Working For?
The Milwaukee Public Library (MPL) cond
ucted a community survey in order to get an idea of what our community thought about the two competing proposals seeking to relocate the Forest Home Library to either the Hill Building on 9th & Mitchell St., and the proposal that sought to build on property located on South Cesar E. Chavez Drive.
The MPL survey, some argue was “unscientific”, but asked several questions. The two questions most telling about the community’s preference were:
Question #5: “Which proposal increases visibility and expands access to the library?”
The results to this qustion were as follows:
The Mitchell St.: Proposal: 16.1%. The Cesar E. Chavez Proposal: 83.9%
And question #7: “Which proposal do you prefer?”
The results to this question were as follows:
The Mitchell St.: Proposal: 16.7%. The Cesar E. Chavez Proposal: 83.3%
Over 83% of respondents preferred the Cesar E. Chavez Drive proposal over the Gorman Mitchell St. Proposal.
The rest of the survey clearly revealed that overwhelmingly the Cesar E. Chavez Drive proposal was the community preferred proposal.
Ignoring their survey MPL decided to go with the Mitchell St. proposal.
So what happened? Why ask for community input and then ignore that over 2/3 of the respondents to the survey preferred?
I had a telephone interview with MPL Trustee chairman, John Gurda who made it a point to tell me that Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (HCCW) CEO, Jorge Franco and the HCCW supported the Mitchell St. proposal.
HCCW supported the Mitchell St., proposal? Really!
To ignore the overwhelming support of the community to relocate the Forest Home Library on South Cesar E. Chavez Drive could not possibly just hinge on just Jorge Franco and the HCCW support for Mitchell St. I thought to myself.
Seeking more information as to who else supported the Mitchell St. site I submitted open records request to Alderman Jose Perez office, Mayor Tom Barrett’s office and MPL.
What I received from those request were letters signed by various leaders in our community and emails from residents of our community showing support for the Cesar E. Chavez proposal. There was NO document in the items I received from City Hall or MPL that indicated support for the Mitchell St., proposal. Not even a letter from Jorge Franco or the HCCW supporting the Mitchell St. proposal.
So I thought, well, the Alderman of the district; where did he stand on the matter? There was NO document of support for the Cesar E. Chavez proposal issued by Alderman Jose G. Perez. In fact, the minutes of the meetings in which this matter was addressed and discussed did not reflect any statement of support for the Cesar E. Chavez Drive proposal by Alderman Jose G. Perez. To be fair, Perez did not state support for the Gorman Mitchell St. proposal either.
Still, many in the community stated that Perez was vocal in his support for the Cesar E. Chavez Drive proposal. He stated his support for the proposal to individuals, but when it came time to make his support official and on the record at the December 2 Library Building & Development meeting, Alderman Jose G. Perez said nothing.
A subsequent meeting on December 9 was held and Alderman Perez did not show up at that meeting to voice support for what the community wanted.
Why did Alderman Jose G. Perez turn his back on the community? Why did Alderman Perez not speak on behalf of the community who overwhelmingly supported placing the library of Cesar E. Chavez Drive?
Several attempts to have Alderman Perez speak to this met with negative responses to emails sent to his office.
It is clear that transparency is not an Alderman Jose Perez concern.
If Alderman Perez is not listening to his constituents, like he did with the streetcar and Cesar E. Chavez Library proposal, then who is Alderman Perez working for?
My two part series regarding the Forest Home Library addresses issues such as community involvement, bureaucratic indifference to community involvement, an alderman who throws the community under the bus and a Hispanic group with a history of going against the Hispanic community.
But I think the biggest issue that my series touches on is the fact that the Forest Home Library, had it been relocated to South Cesar E. Chavez Drive, would have been the corner stone to a Latino downtown in Milwaukee that Wisconsin Latinos could be proud of.
Indeed, the Cesar E. Chavez Library could have been the anchor to a thriving Latino downtown in Milwaukee.
Cesar E. Chavez Drive, with combination of successful retail stores, various attractions, restaurants and of course an inviting atmosphere, could have become a welcomed addition for Milwaukee.
A Latino downtown not only would help carry Milwaukee’s economy, but also significantly would contribute to the city’s identity. Imagine that! Milwaukee, with a national reputation of being the most segregated city in the country establishing a Latino downtown.
The library could have been a major factor for this to happen.
But as my series regarding the Forest Home Library will show, doing the right thing to uplift Milwaukee is not as important as playing politricks for some individuals in this city.
And this is important to point out, politricks that is. Because it becomes increasingly important as Milwaukee struggles to be economically competitive, and where national trends suggest that cities will play key roles in the global economy, creating mini downtowns in the community would contribute towards the city’s economic competitiveness.
When politricks is part of an Alderman’s agenda, it is the community that suffers. When politricks is part of a bureaucrats agenda, it is the community that suffers. When the community suffers, the city suffers.
A neighborhood downtown becomes a key element in attracting and retaining talented and creative community members to the neighborhood. This is an important part of a growing and prosperous Latino community.
South Cesar E. Chavez Drive has history, established neighborhoods, a unique music scene and cultural attributes, how could this area not be selected for the new library?
A Latino downtown becomes the historic heart of the community and the community’s social identity is linked to that historic center.
John Gurda, president of the Milwaukee Public Library Trustees understands this. The historic aspects of neighborhoods must be preserved. But sometimes historic aspects of the past must take a back seat to allowing new history to be built.
The Latino footprint in Milwaukee must be cemented, the relocation of the Forest Home Library could have help to make that happen.
Some will argue that the site on Mitchell street will achieve the same, I argue all one has to do is survey the community again and one will see that the community sees Cesar E. Chavez Drive as the Latino nerve center.
Preservation and rehabilitation are two tools that help recapture and celebrate the past. Vision and courage is what builds and drives us towards the future.
The city’s historic buildings will allow the city to tell its unique story, but building new structures tell the story of where the city is going.
A great opportunity to showcase the future of Milwaukee to the world was lost.
The placement of the Forest Home Library could have put Milwaukee on the map illustrating an economic model that builds neighborhoods which captures the attention and imagination of residents and visitors.
It’s unfortunate politricks got in the way of that.
Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, candidate for mayor of Chicago for the past year has provided the public positions regarding his policies to positively impact how Chicago can provide an opportunity for individuals to meet as equals without regard for race or class. Clearly, he demonstrates with his words ideas for the most effective way to engage in fair housing, safe and vibrant neighborhoods, market affairs, transportation needs and concerns and long term plans for urban development and employment.
Economic justice, good public schools, urban infrastructure up-grades and making sure that Chicago places its citizens at the center of public policy are the ingredients that ensure stability in Chicago. “Chuy” gets it.
The growing influence of globalization on urban systems and the role large cities play in the world economy are among the factors now impacting the quality of living.
The growing power of multi-national corporations, private sector chambers of commerce and free market quasi-government institutions do have a tendency to subordinate cities and states to the needs of big business. The need to devise an ethical approach that takes into account the needs of the individual, small businesses and neighborhoods, to ensure fair and equitable treatment between communities, the environment and the economy are matters Chuy clearly can handle.
Chicago is a city that exemplifies human diversity. The people of Chicago vary in wealth and status, but all share an association within the city boundary. However, despite the common geography, there are still sharp social divisions that divide the people of Chicago. High levels of poverty and violence are difficult challenges, but Chuy is willing to take on these issues directly. He is indeed committed to creating a socially cohesive and inclusive city.
The task at hand will not be easy; devastated neighborhoods serve as a reminder of the immense task to change the culture of poverty. Nonetheless, an enlightened, democratic approach to policy reform can achieve social and economic sustainability and move Chicago forward as a model for other cities struggling with the same issues.
Simply being in favor of economic growth is not enough. The manner in which Chicago’s economy grows is what matters. The laying out of a plan to the public demonstrates that Chuy has a tangible, well thought out idea on what to do about the environment, economic justice and social issues—all part of the plan to making city life a pleasant and shared experience.
Giving Chicago a human face can achieve initiatives that encourage inhabitants to be stakeholders and owners of their community willing to work together with all citizens in order to achieve collective prosperity and peace in the streets.
The goal for Chuy first is to set the tone once elected mayor, which would open opportunities to implement policies that will awaken the creative capacities of all men, women, and young people who live in Chicago. The second is to allow this city to proceed into the new millennium as an example of a democratic city in which the ideals of economic liberation, equal opportunity, self-determination, and harmony can be achieved for all its communities.
Chuy has the right ideas. If Chicago can put him at the helm to lead the way.
Wisconsin Senator Johnson Exhibits Follower Mentality Instead of Leadership Qualities The “open letter” from Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton and 46 other Republican senators to the leadership of Iran has created a political firestorm for the GOP. It has been harshly denounced by Democratic loyalists as “stunning” and “appalling”.
To get themselves out of hot water the GOP went to their patent practice of blaming President Obama for their letter. That seemed pretty silly, which led Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to try blaming a snowstorm in D.C. last week for Republicans failing to think their plan through.
Well, that one got people laughing.
But then in comes Wisconsin’s Senator Ron Johnson who last week said that the open letter he signed with 46 other GOP Senators and who tells his colleagues that the letter should not have been directed to Iran’s ruling regime. What Senator Johnson said was:
“I suppose the only regret is who it’s addressed to”.
“Who it’s addressed to”? Really!
The chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee defense for signing the letter is that he wasn’t happy it was sent to the wrong people.
Honestly. This is just something that comedy program writers would have never dreamed up.
47 Republican United States Senators signed and authorized their names to be used in a letter intended to influence another nation’s leadership to forgo nuclear talks with the president of the United States of America, and Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson’s only regret is that it was sent to the wrong people?
So admittedly, Senator Johnson was more of a follower in this whole Iran letter fiasco.
Now that Johnson admits he did not like who the letter was sent to, why didn’t the Senator from Wisconsin show some leadership and say something before?
And now that Johnson is saying something about who the letter was sent to, why isn’t he offering any clue as to where the letter should have been sent?
Wisconsin’s Senator Johnson signs a letter that interferes with the work of the chief executive of the government of the United States by circumventing U.S. protocols and all he can offer is they messed up by sending the letter to the wrong people.
In corporate America, how long do you think Johnson’s seat on any corporate board of directors in America would last for meddling in the affairs of the corporations CEO?
Any corporate board and all the investors of that corporation would have tossed Johnson out onto Wall Street by his ears had he done something like what he did as a Senator of the United States.
It’s just shameful and disheartening that our Senator would participate in an action they amounts to nonsense at best, disruptive and intrusive at worst.
Johnson’s participation in the Cotton letter fiasco is evidence of shallow leadership seeking direction and guidance from whomever.
Johnson instead of showing leadership and command by demonstrating his own leadership impulse and independent critical thinking, allowed himself to be led by someone who has exposed the 47 Republicans as elementary political hacks.
Johnson, instead of devoting his time improving his efforts towards how to best serve Wisconsin, seems to be spending his time playing Politricks with a young first term Senator from Arkansas.
Johnson failed himself, America and Wisconsin for being a willing follower in Senator Cotton’s political game of gotcha. That’s to bad. His actions did not serve in the best interest of the nation or Wisconsin. It also clearly did not help Johnson either. Instead of being seen as a leader, he’s now clearly labeled as nothing more than a political hack follower.
And this is the most unfortunate part of this whole issue. Senator Johnson seems to not realize that his position holds the destiny and future of our children.
If Johnson thinks that sitting as a Senator of the United States means he’s there to play politricks and to be a hack in order to advance his extreme ideas and political networks into power, he then has demonstrated that he clearly does not care for our children and the future of our nation.
Former Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan, now the archbishop of New York, compared Islamic State (ISIS) to the IRA – saying militants terrorizing the Middle East are a distortion of “genuine” Islam, just as the Irish Republican Army was a “perversion” of Catholicism.
In an interview on CNN, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said, “Remember 30, 35, 40 years ago with the IRA in Ireland? The IRA claimed to be Catholic. And they were baptized; they had a Catholic identity. What they were doing was a perversion of everything the church stood for.”
“And to their immense credit, the bishops of Ireland, every time the IRA blew up a car or a house or a barracks to the British Army, the Irish bishops would say they are not Catholic,” continued Dolan.
When ISIS beheaded 21 of Egypt’s Coptic Christians last month, they claimed to be doing God’s work. They quoted religious sounding terminology like “fighting until the war lays down its burdens,” not ceasing until the Promised Messiah returns to “break the cross” and “kill the swine.”
The Koran likens the murder of an innocent life to the murder of humanity.
The Koran also declares that there is “no compulsion in matters of religion”. It declares that religious war, like the one that ISIS is claiming, is totally forbidden and condemned by Islamic leaders all over the world.
Cardinal Dolan’s views are in line with President Barack Obama who said, “we must never accept the premise that they (ISIS) put forward because it is a lie. Nor should we grant these terrorists the religious legitimacy that they seek. They are not religious leaders — they’re terrorists.”
ISIS is like the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), who represents themselves as Christians; the only difference between the KKK and ISIS is that Islamic State terrorists now choose to broadcast their actions to the world via the internet, while the KKK still operates underground in the United States.
Like ISIS, the KKK seeks to justify their brutal crimes by saying they were for an honorable cause. This is complete folly. Terrorism of any hue is never justifiable.
The KKK of 2015 are no different to the KKK terrorists of 1875. That is why it so important to guard against attempts by some to rewrite what has happened here in the United States, and using ISIS as the example of what all Muslims represent.
Archbishop Dolan is correct: ISIS is not representative of Islam, much like the KKK or the IRA is not representative of Christians.
ISIS is totally devoid of religious truth.
What does exist for ISIS is oil, money, and land – the true aims and the true gains of ISIS’ aggressive territorial warfare. Islam is what they use to justify to themselves the slaughter of non-believers, or anyone who they think has slighted their beliefs.
The Koran, whose message ISIS butchers at every turn, even instructs Muslims to protect the religious freedoms of others when they are persecuted and threatened. What this shows is that the God of Islam is the God of all people, however much ISIS may hate it.
ISIS is extremely selfish or just mad? There’s a good chance it’s both. One thing is absolutely clear, there is nothing ‘Islamic’ about ISIS. The analogy is accurate. These are not real Muslims.
A Left-Right alliance is emerging in the United States on one issue after another that could form unstoppable majorities for many overdue changes.
Recently, a shower of e-mails and other protests descended on Congress from voters that led to a near a majority, composed of Democrats and Republicans, defying their own leadership to say “no” to NSA dragnet snooping on Americans.
Then Americans told members of Congress to avoid becoming embroiled in another Middle-East war, this time in Syria. Congress backed down.
Americans of all political identities are tiring of costly imperial wars.
Other libertarian, conservative, liberal and progressive citizens want to change the so-called Patriot Act’s infringement upon the freedoms and liberties of Americans.
Regular media reporting on abuses under the Patriot Act, such as invasion of privacy, are increasingly seen as affecting all Americans – and not just certain minorities such as Muslim-Americans.
Left-right coalitions oppose rampant corporate welfare or crony capitalism, handing out subsidies, giveaways of taxpayer assets and bailouts of Wall Street and other tax escapes by Big Business.
Granted there is a prolonged anti-public interest gridlock and paralysis of what can be called Washington’s corporate government (composed of corporate Republican and corporate Democrats). But left-right convergences could foreshadow political realignments pressing on incumbent politicians to advance long-overdue redirections opposed by corporate lobbyists.
These convergences do not have to change election results; they work on elected representatives between elections.
This was true with the passage of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform in 2002.
Higher minimum wage
More cities and states are raising their minimum wage without waiting for Washington. Even Republicans Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty came out for a higher federal minimum wage. They notice the polls coming in at between 70 and 80 percent in support of increasing the minimum wage.
Left – right alliances are passing juvenile justice reform of outrageously long jail sentences for minor possession of street drugs and start seriously confronting the costly, counter-productive practices of the prison-industrial complex.
Former House Republican Speaker, Newt Gingrich, and right-wing lobbyist Grover Norquist and other right-wingers started a “Right on Crime” initiative to save society tax dollars by stopping the filling of jails with non-violent offenders. The US has the highest percentage of its population in jail of any nation in the world.
Abraham Lincoln said: “Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed.”
Though they will continue to disagree on many issues, the left and right do agree on the need for many important changes. When they focus on acting together, they are unstoppable.
I mean, I kind of got the feeling Walker was in over his head when he visited England and ended up looking like a confused boy Scott when he would not explain his position on EVOLUTION. But since then, Scooter has been taking a shellacking from conservative newspapers all around the country for being a chump.
The conservative media did not jump on Walker that hard when he declined to answer if he believed in evolution. But after standing beside Rudy Giuliani as the former New York mayor said President Barack Obama wasn’t a patriot and did not love America, Scott Walker got all mealy-mouthed and, instead of saying he believed the President loved America, he stood there unwilling to concede that the president of the United States of America in fact loves America.
But that’s not all. Walker raised the stakes and blurted out that he wasn’t so sure whether or not Barack Obama was a Christian because, as Walker puts it, he’s “never asked him” that.
By the now, the nation has to be saying to itself, What in tarnation is Wisconsin thinking?
Scott Walker’s embrace of radical conservativism, in order to avoid politically alienating his base of the radical conservative Hoi polloi, is more than just a sign of his utter lack of leadership. It’s a sad commentary about us in Wisconsin who elected this sneaky politician as governor three times in the last four years.
But don’t take my word for it. Check out the coverage in conservative newspapers around the country that have been publishing Walker’s brand of cowardly antics:
Scott Walker’s spineless silence
Washington Post Editorial Board, February 20th, 2015
“His (Mayor Giuliani) remarks presented an early test of character for Mr. Walker, and Mr. Walker failed spectacularly. At the dinner, the governor said nothing. Even the next morning, having had a night to ponder, Mr. Walker chose not to lift himself out of the Giuliani sewer.”
“ Any reader of this page knows that we find plenty to criticize in Mr. Obama’s foreign policy. But the questions about his patriotism that emerge from a venomous stew of racism, xenophobia and echo-chamber cable television chatter are ludicrous and say a great deal more about the critics than about the object of their criticism.”
Scott Walker’s cowardice should disqualify him
Washington Post Op-Ed, February 20th, 2015
“What Scott Walker did ought to disqualify him as a serious presidential contender”
“Certainly don’t look to Walker, who, in trying to establish himself as the man to lead the country after the 2016 election, is avoiding anything that might resemble leadership.”
Alderman Jose Perez Screws Education and Taxpayers Voting For Streetcar
What did Perez get in return, who knows, but whatever he got in return could never in our lifetime be as valuable as the quality of education our children deserve and the need for tax relief property owners of Milwaukee seek.
In voting for the streetcar, Alderman Perez voted to take money away from Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) and keep the burden on property owners paying taxes into the taxing entities the Tax Incremental Districts (TIDs) are supposed to give them relief from.
Wait a minute you say. A recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (MJS) Politifact article was released and found that that allegation made by mayoral candidate Alderman Joe Davis Sr. was “mostly false.” The conclusion of that article was that no money was being taken from MPS.
So just because MJS said it was “mostly false” the game is over? Wrong!
The MJS article was in a word, sophistry.
The argument that the streetcar was taking money directly away from MPS was a trumped up argument crafted by the supporters of the streetcar.
Money is not being taken from MPS, but it is being deferred from MPS and tax relief for tax payers by being shifted to pay for this streetcar boondoggle.
What the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (MJS) Politifact article failed to do was to question whether or not Incremental Tax Districts (TIDs) would compromise funding for education and tax relief to Milwaukee property owners by shifting TID money away from paying into the taxing entities thus deferring payments to the taxing entities.
In fact, had the MJS Politifact writer done his homework, he would have found that the mayor and the aldermen supporting the streetcar have shifted the funds from “donor” TIDs to pay for the streetcar and deferred the money these donor TIDs are donating to the building of the streetcar from paying into the taxing entities that provide services to the residents of Milwaukee.
If Alderman Perez would have done his job, Perez would’ve found out that MPS funding is not jeopardized by TIDs newly created, like the streetcar TID #82, MPS funds and tax relief are deferred when TIDs become “donor” TIDs, such as TID #56 and TID #49, TIDs that were not terminated after they paid off all their debts. TID #56 and TID #49 were amended by the Common Council to be a “donor” TIDs to the newly created streetcar TID #82.
After being amended to be a “donor” TIDs to the streetcar project, TID #56 and TID 49 funds are now tied up supporting the streetcar for up to 10 years, instead of paying into MPS and other taxing entities, hence giving Milwaukee property owners some tax relief because these TIDS are now able to pay for services Milwaukee property taxpayers are footing the bill for.
So you see, “donor” TID funds to support the streetcar are funds that would be going to MPS and tax relief. But now they’re going to fund the streetcar. It was done in a sneaky, but yet legal way. In fact, this practice has been going on for years.
So instead of standing up for our children’s education and property owners paying taxes, Alderman Jose Perez voted to give his boss, the mayor, what he wanted, a multi-million dollar boondoggle choo-choo train that does not benefit the south side and defers money away from MPS and property tax relief.
Smart play Alderman Perez. Problem is, it was a smart play to help his political career, but a bad play for the taxpayers and our children’s education.
Streetcar Supporters Sneaky MPS Funding Argument
The argument that streetcar funding will take money from MPS is inaccurate. Funds taken directly from MPS budget is sophistry crafted by streetcar advocates.
Funds will not be directly taken from MPS and MATC, funds will be deferred instead by having TID #56 become a “donor” TID in support of the streetcar project TID #82. This will be done because TID #56 was amended to become a “donor” TID and not terminated, its funds will be tied up paying streetcar bills because of this. This prevents the former TID #56 area’s increased taxes to be treated as ordinary property taxes to pay for the city services and education our community relies upon.
The City is correct when it says, “under state law, revenues generated from a TIF district (meaning TID #82) cannot be spent outside the district”. In other words, TID funds cannot be used for schools, police, fire or other general city operations. But what the City is not being totally up front with is the fact that if a TID, in this case TID #56, is terminated the property tax revenues would go to schools, police, fire or other general city operations.
TID #56 should have been terminated after it paid off its debt obligations and cost reimbursements. Doing so would have allowed its revenue stream to go pay for city services including MPS and MATC. But instead the city amended TID #56 to be a “donor” TID to pay for the Streetcar in support of TID #82. The aldermen know TID #56 money can be taken away from the education of our children for up to ten years.
The impact of this donor TID, as well as others like it, give cause to postpone this streetcar vote in order to investigate the impact on funding education. Millions of dollars are being tied up to pay for project(s) that impact our ability to pay for city services and education. A project like the streetcar that has not benefited communities struggling because of poverty, only increase poverty in those neighborhoods.
These are basic facts about the recently approved downtown streetcar
The Mayor’s Men
proposal, so why did Alderpersons Coggs, Hamilton, Perez, Stamper and Wade vote for this streetcar when it has absolutely no benefit to the people they are supposed to represent?
These elected officials are either self-serving or inept for voting for projects like Mayor Barrett’s downtown streetcar that benefit the elite only. Either way, the Milwaukee community and public education continues to lose.
This city historically has publicly financed many projects including, but not limited to, Miller Parkway Stadium, Midwest Express Center and Marquette Interchange too name a few. None of these city financed projects reduced unemployment or poverty in Milwaukee. None of these projects resulted in an increase of job creating businesses. None of these projects helped reduce incarceration rates or crime resulting from economic development initiatives. So why do alderpersons keep claiming that this streetcar, like the other projects, is “good for the city”?
It is very clear that this streetcar, along with the other city financed projects, is only good for a tiny few and the people willing to be elite servants not public servants.
Tax Revenues Should Pay for MPS, Not for Streetcars
A January 5, 2015 memo from the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) and a revised LRB memo dated January 7, 2015, point out that Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) share of the $124 million streetcar cost will be $40 million. That $40 million will instead go to two Tax Incremental Districts (TIDs).
The way TIDs work is through incremental property taxes, or increases in property taxes. As the property taxes increase in the streetcar area those funds will not go to MPS it will go to the TID to make payments on the financing for the streetcar. So in essence the streetcar, through the TID, is taking the increased property taxes away from MPS.
Basically it’s the government telling all the financial institutions paying out to fund the streetcar that they’ll get paid because the city has set up a tax revenue source designed to collect money based on tax collections of revenue that will be collected in the future. Revenue specifically created to collect to pay for future streetcar cost and debt created by the streetcar project.
In very basic uncomplicated terms it’s sort of like you telling the bank you’ll pay back your loan based on the fact that you have a steady job that pays well and your pay will increase in the coming years, so the bank approves the loan. Only difference is, your job security isn’t guaranteed whereas taxes will always be collected.
So instead of directing future money you earn to pay for things around the house that you need or future school supplies your kids need for college, your future job revenue is going towards paying off that loan. In the meantime, you’re stuck looking for cash because you don’t have any to pay for buying the school supplies your kids need.
And that’s what the streetcar is doing. $40 million in future revenue being created by collecting taxes by the streetcar isn’t going towards funding MPS, its going towards paying off the costs the city incurred funding this $124 million choo-choo train. And this is where the concern for this project becomes an issue about MPS losing funds.
MPS losses about $40 million in future tax revenues it could have collected to make up for future budget cuts due to expansion of School Choice, cuts in funding public education, etc.
However, the politicians and the supporters of the streetcar will say that’s being unfair and that this is not completely true. They argue that without the streetcar project there would be no tax revenue to collect for MPS in the first place.
Now, don’t you see the hole in that logic? How stupid can you be to create a tax revenue base that will not support the one vital institution that helps our city and state compete? How can you look taxpayers in the face and seriously say that the money being made here will not be going towards ensuring the education of our children, but will be going towards paying the debt and maintaining the choo-choo train? This is the fundamental argument we face here. What is more important? What are our priorities?
Is the mayor and his followers saying that funding education to strengthen the future of Milwaukee is not more important than paying for a streetcar that basically will be utilized by party people who visit the various bars downtown and east side clubs and restaurants?
Unless I have this all figured wrong, which I’m sure I do in the eyes of the mayor, the politicians, the developers and a host of business and community people in support of the streetcar, can someone please explain how is it that our city will benefit from funding the streetcar, more than Milwaukee will benefit from funding our system of public education?
There is no explanation. There can’t be a logical explanation to siphon future funds from MPS. For MPS to lose $40 million dollars in future revenue created by any tax supported project is a travesty.
The mayor says he’s betting on the future of Milwaukee. Well, he’s betting money that should be placed on a sure bet, and that is education, not the streetcar.
Editor’s Note: In Tuesday, February 3, 2015 the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) released a formal letter of apology and retraction of the memos it released in January of this year. This action by the LRB is considered by many insiders at City Hall to be extraordinary, irregular and very rare. The LRB states the reason for retracting the memos were because the memos were not throughly vetted. Basically, the memos did not have correct information. The memos were retracted days before the streetcar vote.
Support HCCW? They Got Mark “Bigot” Belling off the Hook
This past weekend the Highspanic Chamber of Commerce (HCCW) held its 25th Annual Awards Banquet at the Potawatomi Hotel and Casino. The love-us-fest show cased Governor Scott Walker’s award and a host of pompous débutant Highspanic wanna-bees.
The sweet smell of cheap perfume marinated the over flowing audience in an ambiance of pretentious hellos amidst the dull glow of imitation Jewelry. But the evening of self-appreciation and fake greetings did not go by without a hitch.
Indeed, the night’s event carried on into the following day after Jorge (or is it George) Franco, the President and CEO of HCCW announced his partnership with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, to create “Visión”, another attempt by the Hispanic group to establish a Latino publication focused on the Highspanic community and Latte Latino owned businesses—not to mention covering the presidential aspirations of Governor Scott Walker.
However, while everyone sat star struck at the news, Franco’s announcement was not at all received well by Victor Huyke, publisher of the Conquistador, a Latino owned business and member of the HCCW. By the way, in 1999 the HCCW award Huyke HCCW Business of the Year (so much for that honor).
Anyway, the local blog, Hispanic News Network USA reports that Huyke was so pissed off about the news he went right to his Facebook page and posted some rather choice words against the HCCW. Huyke commented, “My staff and I were in shock as he (Franco) said this. When he finished speaking, we loudly left the event. Letting everyone around us know our discontent.” MUY QUE MALO! NO MUERDES.
The Hispanic News Network USA blog also reports that after Huyke gave his rant, a chorus of his supporters chimed in including: Jessica McBribe a journalist who posted: “I would think the “Hispanic Chamber of Commerce” would support Hispanic-owned businesses, not help non-Hispanic businesses compete against them. That’s pretty shocking, really.”
Julio Maldonado of the César E. Chávez Drive BID also quipped and posted: “I actually said the same thing to my wife while at the banquet, wow another Aquí! Then again, this move from Franco, is not surprising to me. The only business that is gained from the HCCW is that from the board themselves!…maybe it’s time to revive Hispanic Entrepreneurs of Wisconsin! He did ask me this last summer “why don’t we merge”? I laughed, as I read right through that…. He wanted our membership numbers and to say they “actually” help out small businesses! What a joke!”
Such disdain for this Hispanic leader of a Hispanic organization.
Hmmm…Why are Huyke and his supporters attacking Hispanics? Now that I think about it, Victor Huyke and some of his supports would say that about me in my writings. Oh! I get it. Only Huyke and his supporters can attack other Hispanics.
Well, that being said, HCCW did not react much to what Huyke had to say, which has always been the play of the HCCW whenever they acted in their own best interest.
Like when HCCW sold out our community to Clear Channel Inc. after WISN 1130 radio ultra conservative blow hard Mark “Bigot” Belling slurred our community on air calling our people a bunch of WETBACKS.
After weeks of demonstrations and talks to have the racist Belling removed from the air, we were just a hair away from making it happen when all of a sudden Perfecto (or is that Imperfecto) Rivera, then chairman of the board of the HCCW announced he was getting a radio program at WISN. Shortly thereafter, the HCCW announced that Clear Channel Inc. was going to be a major sponsor of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce National convention that year in Milwaukee.
Yep! HCCW pulled of a classic betrayal and in return Mark “Bigot” Belling was let off the hook and returned on the air continuing his bashing of Hispanics and immigrants and anything that looks brown or speaks English funny.
Voces de la Frontera also got a lesson from HCCW as well. During the big marches Voces de la Frontera would parade with former HCCW CEO Maria Monreal Cameron. They had her speak to the crowd of people marching in support of immigrant rights. When Voces de la Frontera sought HCCW support against Palermo’s pizza, HCCW backhanded Voces de la Frontera and publicly sided with Palermo’s (By the way, I didn’t support Voces de la Frontera’s Palermo’s campaign).
And this is really the point of what happened to the Conquistador publisher. HCCWs pattern of betrayals.
However, Huyke’s tirade about the HCCW betraying the Hispanic community and Hispanic owned businesses is all gobbledygook. Let’s be real, he kissed their ass expecting goodies and when they didn’t deliver the goodies they’re the bad guys again?
The hypocrisy of Victor Huyke and others like him who go and support HCCW, then turn on HCCW for not supporting the Latino community after HCCW doesn’t deliver them the goodies Huyke wanted is a clear example of why the HCCW is still able to continue to betray our community by ignoring Latino owned businesses. Huyke and his followers/supporters should have been boycotting HCCW after HCCW sold out our community to Clear Channel and Mark “Bigot” Belling all this time. Not looking to HCCW over the years for a hand out.
The snake like activities of HCCW will continue at the expense of our community’s dignity. Latinos should continue to boycott HCCW events for selling out our people and ignoring Latino businesses.
My suggestion for what should be done now you ask? I think what needs to happen at HCCW is simple. HCCW has to move away from being controlled by individuals who think it’s their private company. Second, restructuring of the board of directors of HCCW has to happen. The board should reflect Latino community business population, not white corporate America. Get those two things done, all else should fall in place.
Streetcar Proponents Point to Koch Boogie Man
Murphy writes that Chris Kliesmet and his Citizens for Responsible Government Network, which is organizing the petition drive, is linked to Republican operative Craig Peterson and David Fladeboe, state director of the Koch brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity.
Murphy further writes that Fladeboe told him that “his group is quite involved in the effort: ‘We have been educating the public on why the streetcar is wrong for Milwaukee since the mayor started on this project. Now we are working on pushing the referendum to allow the people of Milwaukee to decide the fate of the streetcar.’”
Who are the Koch brothers you ask?
Billionaires David and Charles Koch have been buying our democracy in the form of giant checks to the House, Senate, and even the Presidency.
The Koch brothers, worth $80 billion dollars, are the second wealthiest family in America. Working with other billionaires like Sheldon Adelson, the Kochs spend an UNLIMITED sum of money to create an America shaped by their fanatical right-wing libertarian views.
Forbes Magazine has reported that the Koch brothers’ fortune often increases by $12 billion dollars annually, while the fortune of Sheldon Adelson increases $11 billion. That’s right! In one year! In other words, they are self-serving right-wing multi-billionaires who possess the capability of spending more money on the political process than everyone else combined.
Now do you understand why Bruce Murphy and the proponents of the streetcar invoke the name Koch and scream boogie man? Because Koch brothers are the boogie man.
However, for me, it’s not about the boogie man and his money, but rather Milwaukee’s position as the most segregated city in the country in terms of race and poverty — more than Atlanta, Chicago or Los Angeles, are the issues of importance.
In Milwaukee Blacks are located mostly in the north-central area of the city and Hispanics stay in the southern inner city near Humboldt Park. How does this happen? What drives poverty in Milwaukee to the current levels? Why are the races so segregated?
Interesting how supporters of the streetcar can pinpoint how the boogie man is involving his money in the political networks of the streetcar, but they have failed to identify the players in our city who have helped to create and nurture the conditions of poverty and apartheid that has tainted the image of Milwaukee over the last 40 years.
The Koch oligarch dynasty may be flashing their cash in Milwaukee to defeat the streetcar and change the political dynamics of the city. They only are able to do so because the plantation masters of the city have allowed the Koch brothers to come in because segregation and poverty conditions in Milwaukee are alive and well.
White progressive/liberal leaders are perplexed by the encroachment of political right wing operatives into the black community.
This encroachment should not be a surprise to left wing whites since statistics and other studies show that in the last forty years blacks in Milwaukee have steadily fallen behind in employment, education, economics and the increase in segregation of the black community in Milwaukee continues to lead the nation with no real effort to end it by the white progressive/liberal powers who vote for and control the mayor.
Alderman Joe Davis Sr., in this same article states “…since it is in the downtown area, will be of no benefit to African Americans, and that Barrett only cares about white millennials, not black millennials”.
This statement should be an indicator to white lefties who sympathize with blacks that they are losing black trust and that things are not going to stay the same in this city as progressive/liberal whites continue supporting these kinds of major investments that do nothing to advance black interest.
A Plan to Save Esperanza Unida
Many people have asked me in recent days what was my plan to save Esperanza Unida when I first took the position as executive director in 2006. Now that the City of Milwaukee is foreclosing on one of the agency’s buildings, because of property tax delinquency, some of you asked if I had a plan.
Yes, I had a plan. My plan had the support of Aldermen, the mayor of the City of Milwaukee and various CEOs of international businesses like Bucyrus International, and presidents of area community colleges. My plan had the support of Don Sykes of the Workforce Development Investment Board, in addition, over 30 community based organizations who were partnered with MATC endorsed my plan. My plan even had the support of the president of the country of Turkey and his Secretary of International Trade. My plan had the support of business CEOs of various countries.
My plan was just a Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) vote away from having Esperanza Unida become a major international business partner that would be bringing international contracts to our community, and having people in our community trained to get jobs created by those contracts.
Had Christine Neumann-Ortiz, former State Representative Pedro Colon, who was also an MATC board member and labor attorney and MATC board member Peter Earle voted and spoke to support Esperanza Unida’s plan, this agency in 2007 would have created a sister city economic/manufacturing trade partnership between Istanbul, Turkey, the City of Milwaukee, Bucyrus International and the Milwaukee Area Technical College.
All we needed was for MATC Board of Directors to vote for this plan. A plan that was endorsed by Dr. Darnell Cole, the president of MATC and his staff, Tim Sullivan, the CEO of Bucyrus International, the mayor’s of Manisa and Istanbul, Turkey, the mayor of Milwaukee, Alderman Joe Davis Sr. the Chairman of the Sister City committee of Milwaukee and the CEO of the Milwaukee Investment Board and Alderman Jim Witkowiak, who accompanied me on a trip to Istanbul, Turkey representing Mayor Barrett.
But Christine Neumann-Ortiz, former State Representative Pedro Colon and labor attorney, Peter Earle joined forces to block my plan.
In March 2007, the MATC board voted 5 to 4 against my plan. Former State Representative Pedro Colon, and Peter Earle, voted against this plan to save Esperanza Unida. Even after they were briefed about what we were trying to achieve for the community.
Why did these people turn against a plan to help our community? Ask them.
Open Letter to Milwaukee Aldermen
I am asking that you consider an important safety issue regarding streetcar rails.
My question is: Could the Milwaukee streetcar pose hidden hazards to motorcyclists?
Indeed, did you know that wet or oily rails (streetcar rails) add to motorcycle riding danger. The article link I’m providing you below gives an outstanding overview of the dangers motorcycle riders face when riding in roads that have rails.
Streetcar tracks present a danger when motorcycles run on the roadway in the direction of traffic, and even more so when they cross the roadway in a curve or at an angle. A cycle wheel can easily get caught in the space between rail and road, throwing the motorcyclist down or sideways into a motor vehicle.
If tracks run in the direction of traffic, or cross on a curve or at an angle, they can present a danger to motorcyclist.
The City of Milwaukee, unlike other cities with streetcar, is unique in this respect.
Home to Harley- Davidson, where annually and in key anniversary years, Milwaukee host ten of thousands of motorcycles coming into the downtown area, rails present an added danger to motorcycle riders visiting our city.
The public is on the hook annually when our city is visited every year by these tens of thousands of riders.
Are taxpayers on the hook for additional insurance costs? Will motorcyclist avoid our city in order to avoid dangerous rails?
As vice-president of the Latin American Motorcycle Association, I have serious concern about these rails for my riders and for the tens of thousands of riders that visit Milwaukee every year.
I ask that you please consider these issues.
Support Call For Streetcar Referendum
Streetcar boondoggles are not that popular because they’re slow and expensive (general public cost), they make infrequent trips and make frequent stops, unconventional and inconvenient too. Not only are they slow, they cause vehicles to increase auto emissions due to the more frequent stop n go traffic they will cause downtown. Yes! More pollution in the air because traffic build up.
Streetcar debates usually use terms broadly to refer to the same technology as light rail. But the length of the corridor, and the speed it requires, usually determine whether we’re talking about rapid transit, in which case this technology is called light rail, or more local-stop service, in which case this technology is called streetcar.
In addition, Milwaukee’s streetcar plan fails to address a fundamental city issue and that is to increase public transportation in areas of the city to people living in high unemployment areas of the city, opening routes to employment. Milwaukee’s boondoggle plan fails miserably to achieve that.
The streetcar project states that “Milwaukee’s initial route is approximately 2 route miles. It has been carefully designed based on ridership projections, economic development opportunities and public input. It connects the Milwaukee Intermodal Station with downtown’s employment and commercial areas, dense housing on the lower east side and Third Ward, and entertainment and redevelopment areas on the west side (near the Milwaukee River) and the lakefront”.http://www.themilwaukeestreetcar.com/inside-track.php
That’s why this streetcar is nothing more than folly. It’s transportation for fun in the sun. Nothing to do to make the lives of hard working people without transportation easier to get to work or meet other important needs of their daily lives.
Oppose the streetcar boondoggle
A diverse coalition of Milwaukee residents, organizations and community groups is banding together to gather signatures in a petition drive to force direct legislation on The Milwaukee Streetcar.
Those who support the Streetcar will scream and yell that the opposition to the Streetcar is an orchestrated campaign organized by right wing Tea Party nut jobs and their supporters, leading a bunch of blind mice.
The reality is that those who are behind the Streetcar project are the same tired ass lame usual suspects who have held power in this city for over forty years, keeping this city as America’s most segregated city and one of America’s most poorest communities for Black people.
The time to revolt against these people has come. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Use that money to fight poverty and build business in communities decaying because of poverty.
Be part of the force to STOP the Milwaukee Streetcar; join the petition drive to require a vote by City of Miwaukee residents. Let there be a referendum.
Stop the arrogance of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and his developer friends in pushing for a BILLION dollar streetcar system Milwaukee doesn’t need or want!
You can go to this URL link to download the petition:
Listening to the arguments justifying the costs associated to the construction of the Milwaukee Streetcar project and the benefits it will bring to the residents of Milwaukee, is like watching a shell game and reliving the economic trickle down promises of former president Ronald W. Reagan.
As the debate regarding its benefits begins to grow, it’s anybody’s guess what reason will turn up next that makes this boondoggle of a project a necessary development issue: mobility, congestion relief, economic development, environmental benefits or tourism. Only the naïve would place a bet.
Not long ago, before the tens of millions of dollars in federal grants were sought for the streetcar, it was said that the city would reduce automobile congestion because more travelers will be using the streetcar instead of traveling by automobile.
That the streetcar could possibly be a way for the city too turn out tourist seeking to ride the street car gazing at our downtown sites. There are others who say that the streetcar would be an intrinsic part of our public transportation system. Frankly, the streetcar is impractical as a mode of transportation.
It’s disingenuous for proponents to describe the project as a critical piece of Milwaukee’s transit needs [with] a ripple effect that can influence developments elsewhere across the city.
If they made sense, streetcars would be thriving in every city across the country. There’s a reason these boondoggles are not that popular, they’re slow and expensive, they make infrequent trips and make frequent stops, unconventional and inconvenient too. Not only are they slow, they cause vehicles to increase auto emissions due to the more frequent stop n go traffic they will cause downtown. Yes! More pollution in the air because traffic build up.
The streetcar project states that “Milwaukee’s initial route is approximately 2 route miles. It has been carefully designed based on ridership projections, economic development opportunities and public input. It connects the Milwaukee Intermodal Station with downtown’s employment and commercial areas, dense housing on the lower east side and Third Ward, and entertainment and redevelopment areas on the west side (near the Milwaukee River) and the lakefront”.http://www.themilwaukeestreetcar.com/inside-track.php
So where does this route really benefit those in need of jobs? People living in areas of the city where unemployment reaches double and triple the percentages in our surrounding suburbs do not appear to be benefactors, especially when they will be taxed to pay for this streetcar.
Voters understand the need to fund congestion relief and mobility; taxpayers and commuters want to improve transportation. But they expect sound transportation policy. Streetcars are neither smart nor visionary. Milwaukee is committing transportation funds to a transit relic; bus service – even shuttle service – would have improved mobility and provided flexibility at a far lower cost.
Other governments worth their salt will give serious consideration to the economics and effectiveness of the streetcar project.
The people deserve to be heard on this matter. The city should have a referendum and it should be held before this boondoggle is voted upon by the common council.
Choice School/privatization supporters are prepared for what they think will be a banner few years of expansion for their cause. However, pockets of resistance around the state continue to grow as unbiased studies and reports show that privatized-Choice Schools are not producing the kind of results that would warrant expansion.
Milwaukee could have been the strongest center of resistance today against Choice School/privatization had progressive education activist leaders supported grass roots actions in the early 1990s standing against privatization of Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) led by former MPS Superintendent Howard Fuller. http://www.marquette.edu/education/centers_clinics/institute-for-the-transformation-of-learning.shtml
Indeed, had leaders of the progressive group Rethinking Schools joined with the grass roots group called United Spiritual Soldiers (USS), and former MPS School Board Director, Leon Todd, who was the strongest voice on the board standing against the Fuller privatization doctrine between 1992 and 1996, a broader more solid unified base of grass roots groups and professional advocates could be in place today, dedicated to fighting for public schools.
In 1993, USS, a group of grass roots activists from the streets of Milwaukee and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee students, organized against privatization with pro-public education notables David Noble, Leonard Minsky and Ralph Nader, of the National Coalition for Universities in the Public Interest. Their efforts were joined in by Director Todd.
USS was the grass roots group at the forefront of exposing the underbelly of the so-called “reform” movement’s campaign to introduce privatization that Superintendent Fuller was advocating.
Provide Equal Education for All of Our Children
As a student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee at the time, I was the Education Minister for USS. I knew that the political beast we were up against was not interested in improving MPS. I believed then, and still do today, that the profiteering and privatization of our public school resources is slowly taking the breath out of a system of education that can provide equal education to all of our children, and keep our national commitment to democracy alive.
USS organized teachers, staff, students, elected officials, community and union leaders and fellow activists to improve MPS. In fact, we established a strong working relationship with former Milwaukee Teacher’s Education Association (MTEA) director, Sam Carmen and staffer at MTEA, Bob Anderson. It was through these relationships that I learned of the duplicity of so-called progressive education leaders who covertly worked to discredit and undermine our grass roots mobilization.
In 1993, to draw support from the community to become partners with USS, we went to work at South Division High School, a school at the time falling apart and targeted to be closed by Superintendent Fuller.
That year, a community meeting was held at the United Community Center. The meeting was called after newspaper accounts in the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Sentinel began to report on our effort to rename South Division High School to Cesar E. Chavez University High School. In addition to renaming the school, a plan to improve the school was prepared by South Division parents, community leaders and teachers. The plan outlined a way to change the curriculum towards a college preparatory school with a bilingual emphasis.
To my surprise, the plan to change South Division’s name and curriculum met resistance by progressive leaders such as Luis “Tony ” Baez and groups like Rethinking Schools. Progressive groups Rethinking Schools and Progressive Milwaukee stayed away from our campaign and covertly spread the word to others to avoid our cause.
The campaign to improve the school brought many people together. Our great friend and longtime journalist in the Milwaukee Latino community, the late Al Stergar often times covered our efforts in the local community newspaper, Latino Community News.
Leon Todd provided support and leadership on the board. Jose Martinez, a young politically conscious South Division High School student, created the Latino Student Union at South Division and began organizing students to support the name change. LaMonte Harris, Dawn Miller and a brother who simply called himself Dino were just a few of the grass roots USS leaders who led organizing efforts in the streets to expose the threat privatization presented to our public school system.
Later, we would find out that our efforts were not supported because, at that time, many progressive leaders had close ties to Superintendent Fuller, and did not want to interfere with his initiative at South Division High School, which was targeted for closing to be reopened as an Edison Project experiment, a privatized school.
Another reason progressive leaders distanced themselves from our efforts is that every person of color involved with USS was not influenced or controlled by any of the urban white progressives who have had longstanding ties with activist leaders in the Black and Latino community. Without a nod from their progressive Latino and Black progressive partners, White Progressives Turned A Blind Eye to the growing grass roots fight USS was organizing against privatization.
Nevertheless, we knew that if we continued our efforts, they would stop any attempt to place South Division High School in the control of the Edison Project. We understood that if South Division High School began to show signs of improvement and community support, we could derail Superintendent Fuller’s plan. Hence, we continued the fight without Rethinking Schools and the white progressives they influenced.
Leon Todd Stands Firm
Our biggest ally on the MPS School Board at that time was Leon Todd. Director Todd was outspoken and often stood in opposition to Superintendent Fuller’s privatization initiatives.
In fact, it was Director Todd who shared with USS a manuscript authored by Dr. Paul T. Hill entitled, “Reinventing Public Education”. This manuscript was passed on to every MPS School Board member by Superintendent Fuller.
The manuscript is a blueprint for undermining public education and the teacher’s union from within MPS and provided strategy to use politicians to help bring about establishing privatization.
Leon Todd was very keen to Superintendent Fuller’s effort and worked closely with USS. In turn, USS worked closely with him and Sam Carmen of MTEA. In fact, our efforts exposing Fuller’s plan were so successful, that Sam Carmen and Bob Anderson helped to organize a meeting with Charles Lentz, former president of Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) and other education union leaders with myself and Lenard Minsky. The meeting went very well.
Conversely, a similar meeting attended by myself and Lenard Minsky at the home of Rethinking Schools leaders Barbara Miner and Bob Peterson went terribly bad. Other Rethinking Schools representatives were in attendance as well. When we began to speak about Fuller’s efforts, the meeting was cut short by Miner and we were practically thrown out of the house. Minsky looked at me and said, “I thought we were having dinner with progressives.”http://www.rethinkingschools.org/index.shtml
Realizing where we stood with Milwaukee progressives, our work proceeded in support of Leon Todd’s effort to stop Fuller.
The price for Leon Todd’s resolve to work with the community was high. During his reelection campaign, rather than support the strongest opponent to Fuller’s privatization efforts, progressives threw Leon Todd under the bus, and he lost his campaign.
Had progressive education journalists and activists joined the fight to oust Fuller and his allies from MPS, the privatization movement in Milwaukee could have been dealt a serious set-back with Leon Todd leading the campaign to protect public education.
What are the lessons learned? The biggest lesson learned is that, no matter what the reason for not supporting and partnering against Dr. Howard Fuller and his privatization campaign in the early 1990s, those reasons were elementary to the struggle to keep our public schools strong and keeping them as the cornerstone notion to our mutual efforts to fight against segregation of the races in our democracy.
Cuba and the United States have been at odds since Fidel Castro seized power in 1959. While successive U.S. administrations have employed tough measures, including prolonged economic sanctions and the designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism, none have substantially weakened the government.
In recent years there has been some softening in U.S. policies toward Cuba since Castro formally transferred the Cuban presidency to his brother Raúl in 2008 and Barack Obama became U.S. president. The continued imprisonment of U.S. citizen Alan Gross, accused in 2009 of trying to destabilize the Cuban regime through a U.S.-sponsored program, and the detainment of Cuban nationals in U.S. prisons were significant sticking points in the establishing diplomatic ties.
In 1959, Fidel Castro and a group of revolutionaries overthrew the government of President Fulgencio Batista. As the new Cuban regime began forming trade deals with the Soviet Union, nationalizing U.S.-owned properties, and hiking taxes on American imports, the United States responded with escalating economic retaliation.
Eventually, Washington instituted a ban on nearly all exports to Cuba, which President John F. Kennedy expanded into a full economic embargo that included stringent travel restrictions.
By the early 1960s, the United States had severed diplomatic ties with Cuba and was pursuing covert operations to overthrow the Castro regime.
In 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, a botched CIA-backed attempt to topple the government, further inflamed Cuban mistrust and nationalism, leading to a secret agreement allowing the Soviet Union to build a missile base on the island. The United States discovered those plans in October of 1962, setting off a fourteen-day standoff. U.S. ships imposed a naval quarantine around the island and Kennedy demanded the destruction of the missile sites. The Cuban Missile Crisis ended with an agreement that the sites would be dismantled if the United States pledged not to invade Cuba (and a secret deal in which the United States agreed to remove nuclear missiles from Turkey).
After the Soviet Union’s collapse, Washington strengthened the embargo with the 1992 Cuba Democracy Act and 1996 Helms-Burton Act, which state that the embargo may not be lifted until Cuba holds free and fair elections and transitions to a democratic government that excludes the Castros. Since then economic embargo and diplomatic isolation have been the major prongs of U.S. policy toward Cuba.
Obama is now lifting all these barriers in the hopes of starting a new path with Cuba.
The United States and Cuba will now have formal diplomatic relations, and tough sanctions will be removed. U.S. restrictions will be loosened such as allowing U.S. citizens to send remittances to nonfamily members in Cuba and to travel there.
Cuba in turn has released Alan Gross, a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) subcontractor who was arrested in Cuba in 2009. Gross traveled to the country to deliver communications equipment and arrange Internet access for its Jewish community. Cuban authorities alleged he was attempting to destabilize the Cuban regime through a USAID-sponsored democracy-promotion program and sentenced him to fifteen years in prison.
I believe the move to begin normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba is the kind of bold, forward-thinking action that so many of us elected President Barack Obama to take.
Like his moves on immigration a few weeks ago, President Obama’s action today sets in a motion a chain of events that could bring tens of thousands families together and finally begins heeling decades-old wounds in our hemisphere.
Our President has taken the mold-breaking, progressive action that so many of us always hoped he would and for that he deserves our collective salute.