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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Biggest Wisconsin Failures of 2011

Walker worst for Wisconsin

The extent to which Gov. Scott Walker has managed to drag Wisconsin backward in little more than 100 days in office has been, if nothing else, simply astonishing.

Since his inauguration in January, Walker has worked tirelessly to enact changes holding Wisconsin back, stifling the state's potential to be a center of industry and turning his back on its proud history of labor rights. His actions in the past months have thrust Wisconsin into the national spotlight for all the wrong reasons, making Walker easily the person who has harmed the state most in the past year.

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He turned down a federally funded high-speed rail project that would have modernized Wisconsin's infrastructure and created jobs at barely any cost to the state.

He cut corporate taxes, pulling the state deeper into debt, which he chose to repay by attacking working families.

He has sought to turn the clock on workers' rights back a few decades by stripping collective bargaining rights from Wisconsin state employees in a move that brought thousands of protesters to the Capitol. He has admitted these changes do nothing to help balance the state's budget, making it clear his only intention was to decimate workers' rights and start a trend of union busting across the country.

He has shown a childlike stubbornness, unwilling to compromise even as unions and state employees made concessions he wanted and as the state drew national attention as the front lines in a Republican attack on working Americans.

He decimated funding for the university system, a driving force behind the state's economy, in a move that made drastic changes to UW-Madison necessary.

And he supported legislation that would disenfranchise students, racial minorities and the poor.

It has been a busy five months for Walker. That is why his party could face backlash from recall efforts against state senators and, there is an outside chance, even the governor himself.

There's now a certain irony to the simplicity Walker campaigned on.

He had a ""brown bag"" plan to fix Wisconsin's budget and put the state back on the road to a prospering economy, based on basic tenets like, ""People create jobs, not government"" and ""Don't spend more than you have."" Who couldn't agree with that? Living within your means, letting people make jobs for Wisconsin workers, that's great, right?

Well, it turns out that simplicity—that every-man approach so many Wisconsin voters found attractive back in November—meant an administration that has bent over backward to serve the interests of the wealthy and corporations while

walking over the poor and working class.

To achieve these goals, he has relied on his muscle men in the state Legislature, the Fitzgerald brothers, who have bent Wisconsin law to accomplish the governor's most controversial goals. By doing so, he has not only undermined Wisconsin's history as a leader in progressive policymaking, but also threatened the civility and decency of the state's democracy.

And, to say the least, he has given Wisconsin voters ample reasons to throw him out whenever they get the chance.

Clerk can't count

There's a lot of time and money spent creating secure and efficient computerized voting mechanisms to ensure the legitimacy of elections. But as Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus proved in the April Wisconsin Supreme Court elections, no amount of time and money can eliminate human error.

Nickolaus made the list after she misreported her county's Supreme Court election results by nearly 14,000 votes. The saddest thing is that the error could have been prevented, according to Nickolaus, if she remembered to hit save on her computer.

People are allowed to make mistakes, even public officials. And while the non-partisan Government Accountability Board concluded that her miscount was in fact just a mistake, it still leaves a stain on the election.

The real issue with Nickolaus is that this was not her first mistake, or even her second. As more stories continue to surface on Nickolaus, they show a less than stellar career as Waukesha County clerk.

There are numerous election mishaps under Nickolaus' watch. In 2004, there were reports of voters receiving the wrong ballots and the votes still being counted. In 2005, she sent out pre-filled ballots to newspapers. And there were more miscounted votes in her county in both 2006 and 2007. Surely if Nickolaus made this many mistakes in the private sector, she would have been fired by now.

Perhaps the most questionable fact of Nickolaus' clerkship is that she works on her home computer which wasn't cleared for security. This is sloppy work by someone who worked as a computer analyst for many years.

Like everyone else, Kathy Nickolaus is prone to mistakes. But when the mistakes affect an integral part of the democratic process, they are less forgivable.

Fitzgerald's fail at capitol

The family Fitzgerald deserves some form of recognition for all their hard work thus far. We were thinking an award for ""Worst Father-Son Trio"" would suffice.

It's been nothing but political stunts from the oldest son, state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and his kid brother, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon.

Back in February, when Gov. Scott Walker chose Stephen Fitzgerald—father to the pair of Wisconsin legislators—to lead the state patrol, we watched with a wary eye.

Unfortunately, Papa Fitzgerald proved to be but the tip of the nepotism iceberg, with other Walker cronies landing government jobs since.

We're well aware of the darker side of government. So it's not surprising to see political allies land public jobs after a successful election. But when it comes to the family Fitzgerald, nepotism is the least of our concerns.

During the March rallies at the Capitol, you'd be hard-pressed to go a day without hearing from the brothers Fitzgerald. But it was their inexcusable, if not illegal, actions that were real cause for alarm.

When the Senate Democrats ran to the border to block Walker's budget repair bill, the elder Fitzgerald began plotting ways to force a return. In what might be the pettiest display of politics in Wisconsin history, Fitzgerald punished Capitol staffers, blocked access to copiers and even tried to stick his dad's state patrol on the absent Democrats.

Later, after the governor separated the collective bargaining provision from the rest of his bill, the brothers Fitzgerald held a committee meeting to pass it along to the house. What they failed to do, however, was follow state open meetings laws by posting a public notice 24 hours in advance.

If nothing else, the brothers Fitzgerald have been a source of entertainment. But we expect more than amusement from two of our most powerful legislators. Until Wisconsin sees real results, we can safely say the Fitzgeralds failed.

Beemsterboer bad, AFTER all

It wouldn't be a list of screw-ups without an ASM member or two. While Student Council is always an easy target for its lackluster Diversity Committee initiatives and tumultuous relationships between student orgs and the Student Services Finance Committee, this time we are proud to say we aren't wagging a Colbert finger at ASM as a whole.

Who we are raising our brows at is ASM Finance Committee Chair Matt Beemsterboer—one of the top dogs leading the little-known and quite pointless ASM shadow organization, the Associated Free Thinkers Ensuring Responsibility.

Comprised of ASM brothers, AFTER's unstated mission is to advocate student issues across campus. But because the group is said to have met only once this year, keeping members in the loop and fulfilling its fluffy group objective has turned into a colossal flop.

AFTER came under scrutiny when Beemsterboer jumped out of the shadows and purchased full-page ads encouraging students to vote against an upcoming United Council referendum on the group's behalf.

Claiming the ads were to be paid for by private funds, Beemsterboer's jumbled words and contradictory statements put his moves in a shady light. Because it violates ASM bylaws to use segregated fees for political purposes and because Beemsterboer undeniably knows this, his alleged intention to use AFTER funding for electoral purposes speaks louder than his words. And since the location of AFTER's $4,056 in funding was already under questioning, fellow ASM students justifiably filed a suit against AFTER in order to clear the air.

While Beemsterboer was able to weasel out of Student Judiciary charges, we don't buy his meager and less than hardy excuses. In our eyes, Beemsterboer's intentions were to exploit student funding to cover the costs of his own political initiatives.

And as a student wearing leadership shoes as large as his, he should know better. Lucky for him, they make clown shoes for feet that big.

Maniaci way off base

What did we ever see in you, Bridget Maniaci? Two years ago, when the District 2 race faced off Maniaci against then-incumbent Brenda Konkel, you represented a chance for sound representation in the downtown district that encompasses much of the Langdon Street area. Konkel's divisive and contrarian nature had grown tiresome, and her seat was due for some new blood. But over her term, Maniaci has not proven to be any more effective. In fact, she has proven to be just as hard to work with as Konkel, but without the immense expertise in city affairs of her predecessor.

This past year has seen Maniaci engage in a series of ventures, some of which were good ideas that were poorly executed while others were simply met with instant derision. Having already used up much of her political capital on the Edgewater Hotel project, Maniaci attempted to move back the standard lease signing date for renters, ultimately settling for a compromise that changes little. Meanwhile, her attempts to push health care for alders and to cut districts from the Common Council were taken about as seriously as opponents take the UW softball team.

Despite this, Maniaci did manage to get re-elected to her seat this April. Now that she has two more years to work with, hopefully she can approach the job with a more effective game plan, because whatever her strategy was this year, it wasn't paying dividends for anybody. If she both wants to actually make an impact on Madison and keep her seat two years from now, it would certainly behoove her to make some changes.


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