After the huge wave of protests throughout February and March, the focus of activists in Wisconsin moved to the impending recall elections this summer. The winter actions erupted as a result of an anti-union bill which threatened to remove essentially all collective bargaining rights for public employees as well as hamstring unions by requiring the almost impossible tasks of annual recertification and individual opt-in dues collecting. In response, besides assembling in numbers reaching nearly one-hundred thousand, Wisconsin citizens amassed signatures on petitions to facilitate the recall of numerous state senators who had voted for Governor Walker’s duplicitous legislation.
In the past two months, though a presence of protesters has remained – with their t-shirts, buttons, signs, banners, vuvzelas – around the vicinity of the capitol building, it appeared the united front of thousands had waned. Groups still came to meet for solidarity sing-a-longs and to attend governmental committee hearings on the many new regressive, pro-corporate, anti-human bills being forwarded by the Wisconsin legislature. But with the recall elections on the horizon and with the recent small victory of the Dane County circuit court dismissing the anti-collecting bargaining law (as it had been passed so hastily as to not adhere to common legislative requirements), it appeared that Wisconsinites might be done with the fight, resting on their own laurels and those of the Democrats they hoped to elect via the recall.
Of course, the corporate media, who operate under the same anti-human system that fosters plutocracy and redistribution of wealth from the many to the few, would like nothing better than to make it appear that all is “back to normal” in the cheese state. So, perhaps few people outside of Wisconsin and even outside of Madison realize that we were serious when we said that this was not a protest but a movement. There is much yet to be accomplished.
As of 7pm on Saturday, June 4th, a diverse group of citizens, representing unionists, non-union workers, students, teachers, immigrants, farmers, families and people with no formal affiliation (save for being a part of the empathetic class who truly seeks liberty and justice for all) laid down their tents and founded “Walkerville” around the perimeter of the Wisconsin capitol building. With a nod to the Hooverville tent cities of the Great Depression, these activists are demonstrating that we are not only opposed to the aforementioned anti-union bill, but that we are opposed to the entire regressive budget of this state, which wholly removes the rights and social safeties for the most vulnerable members of our society and shifts all of the state’s bounty to the wealthiest and most anti-social corporate oligarchs. The police state enacted by the Walker administration has severely hampered the lawful and peaceful assembly of citizens in our own statehouse, so Walkerville exists to re-establish the constant presence and occupation by the people of the state, whose voice is being muted within the capitol.
Most importantly, Walkerville demonstrates that we in Wisconsin are not going to let up. Just as we are being attacked on all fronts as citizens, we will be fighting back on all fronts. Though the Democrats in our state legislature have stepped up to the plate and helped to support the will of the people, it is unlikely that they would have done so had their feet not been held to the fire. If we had not gathered in the capitol clearly proclaiming our will, our presence, and our solidarity, it is not clear the state Democrats would have had the impetus to help us fight. Thus we know that simply electing new officials will never be enough to ensure justice for the people from the government.
States like New York and California serve as prime examples of how the Democratic agenda is just as corporate as the Republican. Governor Andrew Cuomo, the son of a man once considered one of the strongest liberals in NY State history, is promoting many of the same brutal and unnecessary cuts to education and poverty programs. The underserved of California are faring no better under Jerry Brown. If we citizens fail to realize that we must pressure ALL politicians of all politician affiliations, and we must be prepared to fight indefinitely against the bipartisan corporate takeover of our local, state, and federal our government, we are sure to lose.
Walkerville signifies the fortitude of the Wisconsin people, and the recognition that our struggles as citizens are not soon to end. Our actions may take new forms or may morph as they are reassessed for utility, but they are far from over.
For those of us in Wisconsin who cannot camp out day and night around the capitol but still want to volunteer with the movement, there are numerous opportunities to be present for more protests and actions against the state budget, which will be negatively affecting all of us. (See Defend Wisconsin for full details.) For those in other states who will likely see similar developments, please know that we are still fighting, as you will surely have to fight too. The more we acknowledge that this struggle against the ruling class will be ongoing, that it affects us all, and that we may not ever be able to “return to normal,” the more likely we may have a fighting chance for our future.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) appeared Friday on Fox News, and explained to Neil Cavuto that a judge’s ruling Thursday that struck down his controversial anti-public employee union law, based on a procedure involved in passing it, would not be a major issue — that the state is appealing the decision, and in any case they could simply re-pass the same law without the procedural defect.
“Governor, what do you do now?” asked Cavuto.
“Well, for us, the clear thing that was — we found out of that ruling is not that the law was not valid, but that the process was used, at least according to the circuit court, was not correct,” said Walker.
“So, either next week when the Supreme Court starts to hear this case, either by the time they’re done in June, or ultimately by the end of June, when we have to have the legislature passing a state budget — one way or the other, either through the Supreme Court or the legislature, these reforms will be put into place, and we’ll ultimately be able to protect middle-class jobs and middle-class taxpayers here in the state of Wisconsin.”
Walker also explained to Cavuto: “the process was not the vote itself, it was the timing of the vote, and how far in advance notice was given. They could take this same vote again, as part of the state budget process, or in separate legislation, and still have the same outcome.”
On Thursday, Dane County (Madison) Judge Maryann Sumi — who had previously blocked Wisconsin’s controversial anti-union law from taking effect, pending litigation — officially ruled that the manner in which the bill was passed violated the state’s Open Meetings law, and that the law itself is therefore not valid.
The matter revolves around a key conference committee used to advance the bill — and to get around the state Senate Dems’ walkout from the state — and whether it violated the state’s Open-Meetings law by failing to give enough prior notice. Therefore, it is ruling on procedural grounds, rather than on the substance of the bill itself, which was not addressed. And as such, it would be possible to pass the bill again, giving full notice for all the meetings involved.
Two months ago, Sumi blocked the law on these procedural grounds, issuing a temporary restraining order on the grounds the plaintiff, the Dane County District Attorney, had a likelihood of success in his complaint.
By: Eric Kleefeld, Talking Points Memo, May 27, 2011
A Dane County, WI judge has approved a request by the state Government Accountability Board (GAB), which oversees elections in the state, to delay some state Senate recall elections and consolidate them into one day on July 12. In the course of making that decision, the judge turned back Democratic objections that some of their recalls should proceed as quickly as possible in June.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:
Signatures were filed against senators starting April 1, and under tight timelines in the statutes, the first election could have been scheduled in mid-June. But Dane County Judge John W. Markson agreed to give the accountability board more time to evaluate the petitions and schedule the elections.
He agreed the board needed more time because of the unprecedented demands on evaluating tens of thousands of signatures for each recall attempt. He also noted the board is bogged down by a statewide recount in the April 5 election for state Supreme Court.
The GAB had sought the extension primarily on the grounds that the extraordinary number of recalls was straining their capacity to review signatures. On the other hand, as WisPolitics reported on Thursday, Democratic Party attorney Jeremy Levinson had argued in a court filing that delaying any of the recalls would do damage to the Dems, and create political space for the Republicans to do mischief with the extra time:
Levinson argues delaying the matter would give the incumbents an “extra-statutory” fundraising advantage, and leave representation of those districts “an open and pending question.”
In addition, Levinson argues that delaying the recall elections may result in laws being enacted that would not be if the recalls are held in the time frame permitted by statute.
“The rush to put ‘Voter ID’ and the concealed carry of firearms before the legislature — to say nothing of the pending budget — confirm that this is an entirely concrete concern,” Levinson writes.
In addition, as Jessica Arp from the local CBS affiliate reported from Judge Markson’s court hearing, Levinson also argued that the earliest petitions, against state Sen. Dan Kapanke and state Sen. Randy Hopper, were filed so quickly as a deliberate decision on the Dems’ part, in order to have the recalls move forward quickly while the issues are still fresh in the public mind.
Ultimately, though, Markson declared that it had become difficult or impossible for the GAB to meet the statutory deadline, and that the public would be better served by having the recalls held on a single day.
The state Senate currently has a 19-14 Republican majority, with Democrats hoping to pick up three seats in recall elections and win a majority, in a backlash against Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-public employee union legislation. In order to initiate a recall, signatures of at least 25 percent of the number of voters in the previous gubernatorial election, within the targeted district, must be collected in a 60-day window.
Democrats have filed recall signatures against six Republicans: Dan Kapanke, Randy Hopper, Luther Olsen, Sheila Harsdorf, Alberta Darling and Rob Cowles. Republicans have filed recall signatures against three Democrats: Dave Hansen, Jim Holperin and Robert Wirch.
Under Wisconsin’s recall law, elected officials must have served at least one year of their term before being recalled — thus exempting the half of the Senate that was just elected in 2010. In addition, Dems have also declared their intention to recall Walker himself next year, when the one-year exemption runs out.
By: Eric Kleefeld, Talking Points Memo, April 29, 2011