Barb Caffrey's Blog

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Archive for January 13th, 2012

Randolph Brandt is right: Recall Van Wanggaard. Now.

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Folks, Randolph Brandt is mad at my state Senator, Van Wanggaard (R-Racine), and he’s not afraid to say so.  In a recent op-ed published by the Racine Journal-Times, Brandt excoriates Wanggaard for many of the same reasons I have, including:

  • Being a former police union member and voting against collective bargaining.
  • Being a former police union representative, yet still voting against collective bargaining.
  • Criticizing the practice of “double-dipping” (where someone takes a pension in two places from various state entities), while benefiting from that self-same practice himself.
  • Stripped $2M of expected state tax revenue from the City of Racine, meaning the City must either raise taxes or cut services (or, as seems to be the case, both).
  • Cut over $16M aid to Racine’s public school system.
  • Voted for district 21 to be “redistricted” as Racine and Kenosha counties, which usually tend to vote for Republicans, and district 22 to be comprised of the Cities of Racine and Kenosha, which tend to vote for Democrats.

All of this is bad enough, but the fact that Wanggaard doesn’t seem to see any of it as a problem is quite distressing.  Brandt states:

Under a gerrymandered redistricting plan approved by the Republicans and scheduled to go into effect with the November elections, Sen. Wanggaard was to be rewarded with a nice, safe, new Republican-dominated district that’s designed to excise the City of Racine from its new boundaries.

With this plan, your supposed state senator, Van Wanggaard, won’t represent you at all anymore. He’ll exchange the Racine voters he’s failed to support in favor of a whole bunch of new voters in western Kenosha County instead.

Basically, he’ll desert us, the citizens of Racine, leaving us to suffer for his poor decisions.

As I’ve been saying this for months now, it’s good to know that at least one newspaperman agrees with me.  (Brandt is the former editor of the Racine Journal-Times.)  Brandt’s commentary explains what voters should do to Wanggaard (in essence, why Wanggaard should be recalled), and concludes with the following:

Don’t stand by and watch him be rewarded for this faithlessness to his Racine constituents, the Racine voters who helped elect him in the first place.

Stop him before he skips town, across that new, safe border he voted to establish for himself, just as he once negotiated the union contract that now pays his Racine city pension. Stop him, before he gets away, reneging on his civic debt to you, for you to pay yourself.

Recall Sen. Wanggaard while you still can, before he gets away with it, before he walks away, laughing at you — the citizens of Racine — well knowing he’s left you holding the bag, for his city pension, for his budget cuts, and for his hypocrisy. 

So, did you catch all that?  Brandt criticizes Wanggaard for Wanggaard’s hypocrisy — something I have railed against for months — and points out to the voters of Racine County that Wanggaard’s own actions have brought Wanggaard to this point, which is certainly the case.

You see, many people in Racine knew Van Wanggaard because Wanggaard was a long-time city policeman.  Then Wanggaard was a County Supervisor.  And finally, in a heavily Republican year, he squeaked out an election and won the state Senate seat — mostly because people felt they knew Wanggaard and that he wouldn’t vote against the best economic interests of the City of Racine.

Yet that wasn’t the case, was it?

Racine is still locked in a cycle of extremely high unemployment (we’ve been either first or second in the state, unemployment-wise, for years now), and Wanggaard hasn’t exactly done much about it except pay it some lip service.  Yet Wanggaard has had a full year in office to have tried to do something — economic development, a bit of extra state aid, something — and he hasn’t done one blessed thing.

This is why I’ve heard from so many people in Racine, City and County, who’ve said variations on the theme of, “I expected better from Van.”  Or, “What is Wanggaard’s problem?  Doesn’t he realize we’re suffering?  Doesn’t he care?”

I don’t know whether Wanggaard realizes it, cares about it, or whether we should’ve expected better from him.  But I do know this: I was very proud to sign my name to Wanggaard’s recall petition, and I was glad to gather some signatures (not as many as I’d hoped) on behalf of his recall. 

I fully expect that Wanggaard not only will be forced to a recall election, but he will be replaced by a Democrat once the recall election is called (probably former state Senator John Lehman, though no one has officially announced his/her candidacy as of yet), staged, and counted.

As he’s sown, so will he reap — and in this case, Wanggaard has reaped the whirlwind.  As Senator Wanggaard deserves all of what is about to befall him, I cannot feel sorry for him.

Oh, yes.  One more thing:  May I be the first, Senator, to wish you well in your impending retirement from public life?


Note:  From unofficial sources, it looks like state Senators Galloway and Moulton also will be recalled, while there’s still a chance to recall Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.  All signatures must be gathered by Saturday at 11:59 PM, so all I can say to those trying to recall Fitz is, “Good luck, God/dess bless, and may the wind be at your back.”

And, of course, Governor Scott Walker and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch will be recalled — easily — as I fully expect upwards of 850,000 apiece to recall (when 540,000 was the number required by law, that being 1/4 of the total vote of the last gubernatorial election) to be turned in on January 17, 2012 — four days from now.  I’ll keep you posted.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 13, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Forgotten First Lady: Ellen Axson Wilson

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Recently, I’ve grown interested in learning more about some of our First Ladies — that is, Presidential spouses — and have been reading with great interest a biography by Frances Wright Saunders, ELLEN AXSON WILSON: FIRST LADY BETWEEN TWO WORLDS .   This is a woman I’d never previously thought anything about, other than maybe a brief reference as “the first Mrs. Wilson” as she died in 1914, but Ellen Axson Wilson (1860-1914) was an extraordinary woman in her own right, being an artist of some renown, as the picture of her painting Side Porch, Griswold House (1910) reproduced here shows.

But art wasn’t the only thing the first Mrs. Wilson was great at; she was extremely bright and helped her husband, Woodrow Wilson, with the research for many of his books as she read and spoke German, French, and Italian whereas he only was able to read the languages (and that laboriously by his own account).   But she was a well-educated, articulate, artistic woman in her own right, someone who insisted that her three daughters be educated to the limits of their ability and that they be prepared to live the best lives they could whether they married or didn’t (as indeed, eldest daughter Margaret remained single).  Ellen Wilson helped her husband yet lived her own life, too.  And saw no contradiction in doing so, as indeed, there should be none . . . but who’d expect this from a woman born in 1860?  (Which just goes to prove the “value” of stereotypes . . . but I digress.)

One thing that struck me from Saunders’ biography that I wish more First Ladies would emulate was Mrs. Wilson’s absolute indifference to being fashionable.  Mrs. Wilson dressed well, yes.  But she did not wish to be a fashion plate, saying that she had better things to do with her time and money than that — and she put her money where her mouth was, using her time for her art and to learn, grow, and change productively.

Ellen Axson Wilson was someone who lifted up everyone around her, seemingly effortlessly, because she wanted what was best for them.  She put several of her cousins through college as she believed very strongly in higher education; she took in her younger brother, Edward, and made sure he, too, was well-educated and had a good start in life.  And she was the type of woman who judged people by their minds, not by how much money they had or their status in life — in fact, people who were stereotypical “social butterflies” bored her silly, and she wasn’t afraid to say so.

The more I’ve read about Mrs. Ellen Wilson, the more impressed I’ve been by her — truly, she embodied the adage that “behind every great man is a great woman,” and considering her abilities and skills, it’s really a shame that her story isn’t better known — especially the fact that even nearing the end of her life (she died young at age 54 from kidney disease), she insisted that poor blacks who were living in abject poverty in Washington, DC’s alleyways be helped.  And because she was such a powerful personality, even as she got closer and closer to death, the Congress actually passed “alley” legislation because it’s what she wanted.

Please see this link at the American Presidents blog for more about Mrs. Ellen Wilson; the content is great even if the spelling isn’t always up to par, and it will give you an idea of just how special the first Mrs. Wilson really was.   Which just goes to show that lives matter — what we do, what we learn, and who we interact with matters — whether others realize it, or not.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 13, 2012 at 8:43 pm