- Associated Press - Monday, March 14, 2016

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 8

What does Rebecca Bradley think now about gays?

Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley has apologized for her college writings 24 years ago in which she called gays “queers,” said she had no sympathy for AIDS patients and said homosexual sex “kills.” In a statement, she said those comments were not “reflective of my worldview” and have “nothing to do with who I am as a person or a jurist.”

Gov. Scott Walker said Monday it was clear her views had changed since she wrote those comments for the Marquette University student newspaper. And Journal Sentinel columnist Christian Schneider wrote on this page Tuesday that “I care more about what Rebecca Bradley thinks now.”

Fine. What does she think now?

Given the bile and hatred that filled her commentary 24 years ago, she owes voters today an explanation of how her views have changed. What does she believe today about AIDS patients? How does she characterize gays? Does she still believe that homosexual sex kills? What are her views on gay rights and gay marriage, which essentially has been sanctioned by the highest court in the land? Did she support the 2006 state constitutional amendment that banned gay marriage?

What exactly is Bradley’s “worldview” these days?

Bradley has not sufficiently spelled it out. The Journal Sentinel reported that she declined an interview request on the issue and has declined to say whether she agreed with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year finding a constitutional right for gays to marry.

Bradley also has declined to say how she voted on the constitutional amendment, which later was thrown out by federal court rulings.

There are a few signs her views have changed: She said that she has presided over adoptions by gay couples, attended a 2013 fundraiser of two gay-rights groups and donated to a camp for children with HIV/AIDS. She said she has become far more “empathetic” over the years thanks to her own life experiences. Her campaign said she that while she has never performed a gay marriage, she would if asked.

Bradley’s column, as well as two Marquette Tribune letters to the editor she penned in 1992, were unearthed by the progressive group One Wisconsin Now, which distributed them Monday after a Capitol news conference. That group and the liberal People for the American Way called for her to resign from office.

Bradley’s campaign manager called the idea absurd, and the manager is right. Many people in public life have written or said things in the past of which they are ashamed. In most cases, if they repudiate those ideas, as Bradley says she has, the past should not be allowed to dictate the future.

But voters will be going to the polls in about four weeks to decide whether she or JoAnne Kloppenburg will win a seat on the state Supreme Court. They deserve to know the answers to those questions.

In her statement, Bradley said her writings “have nothing to do with the issues facing the voters of this state.” She’s wrong. Of course they do. Her beliefs 24 years ago were part of the person she was then, and that person is still part of her DNA.

That’s not to say her views are the same now as they were in college. Most people think different in their maturity than they do as immature young adults. Worldviews do change. But sometimes they don’t.

We don’t expect Bradley has become a champion for gay rights. But we do think the voting public deserves to know how her views have evolved and exactly what she believes now.


Wisconsin State Journal, March 13

Sunshine laws help answer big questions

Is Wisconsin tough on doctors who make big mistakes, costing people their lives?


Is soil at the former Royster-Clark plant on Madison’s East Side still contaminated?


Was a Waupun prison guard suspended for making a lynching joke about President Barack Obama?


Was a UW-Madison football player really acting in self-defense - as the athletic department contended - during a fight last fall at his off-campus residence?

No. (He actually threw the first punch.)

State Journal reporters were able to answer these questions and many more during the last year, thanks to Wisconsin’s open records law. Access to government documents and meetings are key to keeping institutions accountable and the public well informed.

This week the Wisconsin State Journal, news organizations across the country and other First Amendment advocates will celebrate government transparency laws at the local, state and federal levels. Sunshine Week is an annual effort to highlight the importance of open government protections to a strong democracy and society.

It’s not just journalists who exercise their freedom to scour government data. Ordinary citizens file far more open records requests than reporters do. The public also attends countless government meetings, which can only be closed for very specific reasons that must be publicly disclosed.

Sheila Plotkin of McFarland is a great example of a Wisconsin citizen looking for answers. She uses Wisconsin’s open records law to collect and tally on her website - we-the-irrelevant.org - citizen feedback sent to state lawmakers about controversial legislation.

Her painstaking work last year showed lawmakers disregarded overwhelming opposition to the dismantling of the Government Accountability Board. Plotkin won an award from the Freedom of Information Council for her efforts.

State lawmakers tried to exempt themselves from Wisconsin’s strong transparency requirements last year, springing the changes on the eve of the July 4 holiday weekend. The shameful attempt to hide the public’s business only failed because of swift, diverse and loud objections.

Citizens must stay on guard to defend their right to know. The State Journal most definitely will on behalf of our readers.


The Janesville Gazette, March 14

Time to expose WIAA to open light of day

This is Sunshine Week, the annual celebration of transparent government. This week, the state Senate also plans to finish the current legislative session.

Before halting work, the Senate could take a solid step toward casting more sunlight by approving Assembly Bill 873. It would prohibit a school district from being a member of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association unless the WIAA elects to be governed by the state’s public records and open meetings laws.

In a bipartisan vote, the Assembly approved this bill, sponsored by Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette. That’s worth noting given that Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, is being recognized as “No Friend to Openness” by the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council for his role in last July’s attempt to limit open records.

The Senate’s last scheduled floor period in the 2015-16 session is Tuesday. The Wisconsin Newspaper Association and member papers, including The Gazette, are making final-hour pushes for AB873.

Unfortunately, Nygren doesn’t think the Senate will vote on his bill.

Let’s hope he’s wrong.

Nygren introduced the bill after a WIAA email urged schools to encourage sportsmanship by discouraging negative chants such as “You can’t do that,” ”air ball” and “scoreboard.” That drew nationwide ridicule. Critics suggested it was political correctness run amok.

The WIAA claims it’s a voluntary, private nonprofit and should be exempt from the meetings law. It has hired lobbyists to fight this legislation.

Membership might be optional, but public schools fielding interscholastic teams have no good option but to join the WIAA. And because the WIAA dictates rules for athletes and coaches in public schools and makes important decisions such as which conferences schools will play in, it shouldn’t operate in relative secrecy.

The WIAA also argues it gets little revenue from schools. That might be true, and as the State Journal reported, the WIAA did suspend its membership fee. But that’s due to return. Besides, the WIAA gets more than 90 percent of its revenues from ticket sales for tournament games, most of which are played at public school facilities taxpayers build and maintain.

“When decisions are made with taxpayer money, the public deserves to have a say, or at least a look into the decision room,” Nygren argues.

Amen to that.

The WIAA claims it has nothing to hide, but it has blocked the public from talks on conference realignments. And the public might blanch knowing that six of the WIAA’s top officials earn six-figure salaries, according to a USA Today report. In fact, Executive Director Dave Anderson pulls more in salary and benefits than state schools Superintendent Tony Evers or even Gov. Scott Walker.

Can you say fat cats?

It’s time to make the WIAA accountable to those who funnel the money to the organization through tax dollars and ticket purchases. The WIAA’s decisions should be made in public with ample opportunities for coaches and administrators, parents and residents in general to comment.

Storm clouds and repeated attacks on the public’s right to know how government operates have punctuated the past 12 months. The Senate could cast a beam of brightness by passing AB873.

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