Editorial Roundup: Wisconsin

Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. January 23, 2023.

Editorial: Initiative exposes state’s laggardly approach to veterans

The plan to use a wing at Grace Lutheran Church for veterans housing is an interesting one. It’s well outside the typical project for Habitat for Humanity. But this fits well enough with the organization’s overarching goal of ensuring everyone has safe housing.

This also raises questions, though. We’re not sure Habitat really wants to wade into the issue of demographic-specific housing in a significant way. This looks more like an opportunistic solution, taking advantage of a rare combination of factors. And a one-off project is what this really should be.

When people think of Habitat for Humanity, they think of the program to build single-family housing in a way that requires the families involved to put in sweat equity. They think of the work Jimmy Carter has famously done with the organization during his long post-office life. That image is pretty hard to criticize in most ways. But when an organization ventures into housing that is aimed at specific demographic groups, the public’s sense of the effort can change.

What this work underscores is the very real need for more housing for at-risk veterans in this region. While Habitat might be the wrong group to address it at a large scale, the same cannot be said for the state.

Last November, a group of local veterans and former state Sen. David Zien urged the Legislature to approve a second Wisconsin Veterans Home in northwestern Wisconsin. The home in Chippewa Falls no longer keeps up with demand, especially when there is only one such facility in this region. The waiting list statewide tallied more than 400 people at the time.

Zien pointed to the sale of land in Chippewa Falls from a property that was earmarked, should any portion of it be sold, for corrections, social services or veterans affairs. He and the veterans said the money from that sale should go to a second veterans home, calling it a “golden opportunity.”

The fact Habitat for Humanity is stepping into a gap that rightfully should be occupied by Wisconsin’s fulfillment of its obligations should be deeply embarrassing to the state. Nonprofit groups have their place, but they’re not government. They have never been intended to supplant the government’s role. Yet, that’s precisely what seems to be happening here.

It’s not a case of debating whether the project proposed by Habitat is worthy. There can be little doubt of that. The issue is that it is simply unacceptable for Wisconsin to have a waiting list for housing veterans that stretches several hundred names, to have the funding available to address a portion of that need, and to sit on its hands long enough that a group like Habitat feels the need to act.

Such inaction makes little sense. Problems rarely are solved with waiting, and the idea that the work will somehow be easier or less of a financial burden in the future is a fantasy.

We’ve already seen how well that approach works right here in Eau Claire with the funding for UW-Eau Claire’s new science building. Legislators approved half of the funding several years ago, but have thus far failed to follow through with the promised second half. The result? A much bigger price tag than if the state’s elected officials had made a single allocation.

We won’t know the fate of Habitat’s proposal for a while. It was discussed Monday, but the vote on a city grant for the project isn’t on the schedule for almost a month. It’s tentatively set for Valentine’s Day, a few weeks before the March deadline for the city to tell the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development how it plans to spend the money.

There’s a certain irony to that date. The imagery of a vote in favor of those who have well earned the support of their nation on a date linked to public affection is difficult to ignore. Yet the state has thus far failed to show veterans that same devotion, instead substituting a waiting list for action.

It’s time for the state to show its veterans some love and move forward with a second veterans home in northwestern Wisconsin. The site, money and opportunity already exist. All that remains is action.


Kenosha News. January 25, 2023.

Editorial: Spindell’s crowing is despicable

Appalling, disturbing, shameful.

Those are the words that jumped to mind when we read about Republican election commissioner Robert Spindell crowing about what he said were successful efforts by the GOP to tamp down minority turnout in Milwaukee in the 2022 mid-term elections.

Spindell, who served as a fake Republican elector for former President Donald Trump in the hotly contested 2020 presidential election, sits on the Wisconsin Elections Commission, which is charged with overseeing the fair conduct of state elections.

He said he was merely touting efforts by the GOP to counter liberal messaging in the Democratic stronghold of Milwaukee and that he does not support suppressing voter turnout.

His words belie that.

In an email newsletter Spindell said that Republicans “can be especially proud” of lowered turnout in Milwaukee during the 2022 election “with the major reduction happening in the overwhelmingly Black and Hispanic areas.”

According to the Associated Press, Spindell’s email detailed a number of those strategies targeting those communities. Among them, “Negative Black Radio Commercials.”

If that’s not supporting voter suppression and trying to discourage Black and Latino Americans from voting in the state’s largest city, we don’t know what is.

Instead of tamping down minority participation in elections, we would suggest Spindell – and other Republicans – take note of a recent column by Rachel Ferguson, director of the Free Enterprise Center at Concordia University in Chicago.

Ferguson noted that Black voters supporting Democrats dropped from 90% to 86% in 2022. And the Latino vote for Democrats dropped from 69% to 60%,

She argues Republicans should be wooing Black and Brown voters by espousing policies “that do justice to the historic struggle of minority communities while favoring conservative policies.”

Ferguson cites several opportunities for the GOP to attract minority support – and votes. Among them are things like border security: “First it shouldn’t be assumed that Black and Latino voters are unconcerned with border security. Legal immigrants can be surprisingly frustrated with leniency for those who didn’t have to exhausting process they did.”

Inadequate schools and rising crime rates. Ferguson contends minority parents support school choice, despite stern Democrat opposition, and notes that while Black Americans want to be treated better by police, polls show 80% wanted the same or more police in their neighborhoods.

She argues that many Black and Latino voters belong to churches that are conservative about sexuality and gender – and the push for adolescent transgenderism and polyamory “is a bridge too far for many of these religious folk.”

Those are some of the policy issues Republicans can focus on to gain support at the polls in minority communities. That’s a far better long-term strategy for the GOP and they should reject Spindell’s misguided cheerleading for efforts to stifle voter participation in Wisconsin’s minority communities.


Wisconsin State Journal. January 22, 2023.

Editorial: Look for a judge who hasn’t made up mind

A good judge is going to disappoint you sometimes.

Remember that when you go to the polls this spring to elect a new Wisconsin Supreme Court justice.

It might seem odd or counterintuitive to support a candidate willing to go against your causes and interests at times. When you vote for a mayor, state lawmaker or governor, you want those leaders to fight for specific policies and priorities.

But judges are different. They don’t represent constituents, at least they’re not supposed to. Nor should they prejudge cases or causes. Their job is to settle complicated legal disputes by following and interpreting the law as independently as possible.

Judges are arbiters, not advocates. And state law, adopted and revised over more than a century, doesn’t neatly match anyone’s narrow political agenda. That’s why good judges will sometimes rule against their supporters’ and even their own personal views.

So tune out the attack ads and tame your political reflexes when you vote Feb. 21 in the high-court primary and April 4 in the spring election. Instead of supporting a loyal liberal or a committed conservative, look for a thoughtful judge with an open mind. Look for somebody willing to listen carefully to the evidence and then use reason to make good decisions.

The more a candidate telegraphs how they’re going to vote on controversial cases, the less likely they are to be fair and improve trust in our judicial system.

Voters will face lots of distractions in the coming weeks because the stakes for the court are especially high. The winning candidate April 4 could tip the perceived tilt of the court in one ideological direction or the other. That could make a difference in, for example, the legality of abortion, gerrymandering and more.

Already, the Republican-run Legislature is trying to manipulate the electorate by adding referendums about welfare and bail to statewide ballots. It’s an obvious ploy to pull more conservative voters to the polls for a spring election that typically draws lighter turnout.

Democrats are playing similar games. Gov. Tony Evers wanted to add an abortion referendum to ballots to engage more liberal voters, and Dane County supervisors plan to ask — again — if gerrymandering is bad, and if abortion should be legal.

A mountain of money will be poured into the high-court race, much of it by special interests whose cases may come before the court in the future, creating potential conflicts of interest and damaging trust in an independence judiciary. That’s why the State Journal editorial board has long favored appointing judges based on merit, rather than electing judges based on their ability to raise lots of money and appeal to political interests.

But voters have to make a choice this spring, and our editorial board will, too. After the field is narrowed to two finalists, we plan to invite both primary winners to meet with us before we recommend the best candidate to voters.

Political ads will try to tear down the candidates’ records, with lots of scary talk about crime. Just remember that the high court almost never deals with criminal cases, including lengths of sentences or parole. Trial and appeals courts handle most of those decisions. The state Supreme Court primarily rules on civil cases.

Four candidates are seeking to fill the high-court seat that Justice Patience Roggensack is vacating. They are Waukesha County Judge Jennifer Dorow, former state Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly, Dane County Judge Everett Mitchell and Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz.

Have any of these judges ruled in ways that ran counter to their personal beliefs? We hope so and plan to ask them.

Justice Brian Hagedorn, elected in 2019 to a 10-year term, is a good example of a jurist who seems to take his independence seriously by going into every case without prejudging the outcome for his partisan pals.

That’s why he’s often considered a swing vote who sometimes disappoints the many Republicans who voted for him.

Hagedorn, for example, dissented when his conservative colleagues struck down an extension of the governor’s restrictions on public gatherings at the start of the pandemic. Before that, he refused to speed a decision to purge as many as 200,000 people from voting rolls, a case brought by conservatives.

Our judges are the deliberative referees of civil society. They shouldn’t pick political sides. Neither should voters demand political allegiance when picking a judge.