- Associated Press - Monday, May 8, 2017

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 2

Charges warranted in jail death case

Given the details revealed in the inquest into the death of Terrill Thomas, charges appear to be warranted against several jail employees, as the inquest jury recommended Monday. The allegations of negligence and abuse were shocking, as was the apparent carelessness that marked the oversight and follow-up to Thomas’ death.

We hope Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm issues those charges - the inquest jury’s finding is only advisory - which would allow the courts to determine justice in this case. And although Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. was not a target of the inquest, authorities need to consider whether he should bear any consequences for what happened in the jail that he runs. At the very least, instead of ducking responsibility, Clarke owes the public an explanation for how this happened on his watch.

Thomas, a 38-year-old with bipolar disorder, died of dehydration in April 2016 after he was deprived of water and a mattress for seven straight days. One expert witness called the practice unconscionable and inhumane. If it happened as described during the inquest, it was all of that and more. Thomas was one of four people who died at the jail last year.

Former deputy inspector Kevin Nyklewicz testified that a number of front-line officers and their supervisors botched the oversight of Thomas. Not only did jail staff deprive Thomas of water and a mattress, they failed to get him medical help or voice concern to their superiors about Thomas’ condition, according to testimony.

“Could it have been avoided? Absolutely, in my opinion. Should it have been avoided? Yes,” Nyklewicz said.

On Monday, the jury was told that water was ordered shut off to two more inmates in the weeks after Thomas died, a practice one prosecutor called “torture.” Those two inmates were punished for covering their cell windows, jail logs show.

Just what kind of jail is Clarke running? And where does the buck stop? It has to stop with Clarke.

Thomas was in the jail after allegedly confessing to shooting a man in the chest and later firing two shots in the Potawatomi casino. He deserved to be in jail, but he did not deserve what happened to him there.

Chisholm said Monday that the jail can make a number of easy fixes to avoid more deaths. Keeping people safe is “not a high standard” to meet, he said.

He’s right, and those fixes need to be made now.

What may be more difficult is holding to account those responsible - all of those responsible - for Thomas’ death. That’s the challenge Chisholm and the justice system face now.


Wisconsin State Journal, May 3

Dairy flap shows risk of trade wars

Most of Wisconsin’s dairy farmers will be OK, at least for now, without Canadian buyers for their specialty milk.

State leaders happily announced this week that 56 of 58 Wisconsin farms being dropped by Grassland Dairy Products because of falling sales in Canada had found new buyers for their ultra-filtered milk, a high-protein ingredient used in cheese and yogurt.

That’s good news. Yet the risk of further and larger trade disputes remains high with President Donald Trump in the White House. Wisconsin’s congressional delegation, especially House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, should seek to temper the president’s aggressive, nationalist instincts.

During a recent visit to Kenosha, Trump criticized Canada for “some very unfair things” happening to dairy farmers in Wisconsin. Canada recently tweaked its dairy pricing policy, making it harder for American farmers to sell there. Trump called this “a disgrace.”

But it’s hard to fault Canada for looking after its own when Trump is touting an “America first” policy and calling the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico “a disaster.” America enjoys a $400 million trade surplus with Canada on dairy products, and the U.S. government spends billions of dollars on its own domestic farm subsidies.

In an apparent response to Wisconsin’s dairy flap, Trump slapped a tariff on Canadian lumber. But greater restrictions on trade won’t increase prosperity or jobs for either nation. The main effect will be to increase prices for milk and lumber for consumers on both sides of the border.

Trump and others who favor protectionist trade policies should learn from the Canadian tit for tat. It shows the risk of an all-out trade war, which would dwarf the negative effects being felt now.

What Wisconsin’s dairy farmers really need is greater access to global markets, not less. A glut of milk in the Midwest needs to go somewhere, and lots of people overseas want more protein in their diets. Unfortunately, Trump is withdrawing the United States from a sweeping trade deal with Pacific Rim nations that would have created more buyers.

In the short term, state leaders could roll back tax incentives for expanding milk operations to help stabilize demand. But ultimately, the answer lies in Washington, which should embrace greater trade with more fairness. That’s what the Trans-Pacific Partnership sought to do.

Since NAFTA was adopted in 1994, some industries have been hurt by imports. But overwhelmingly the results have been positive for Wisconsin. Our state’s exports to Canada and Mexico have increased nearly 300 percent, and more than one of every five Wisconsin jobs now depends on foreign trade.

Trump shouldn’t reverse that trend with reckless spats involving even our closest allies.


Green Bay Press-Gazette, May 6

Adopt financial literacy standards

Senate Bill 212 is so simple that it’s one page.

It directs each school board in the state to “adopt academic standards for financial literacy and incorporate instruction in financial literacy into the curriculum in grades kindergarten to 12.”

That’s it. It sounds simple - incorporating financial literacy into each public school’s curriculum - and makes so much sense.

Our high school students should graduate as financially-literate young adults.

When we talk about financial literacy, we talk about having knowledge how to budget, manage, invest and borrow money.

This type of literacy leads to a more stable community with more people in homes, said Teresa Schoffelman of Associated Bank in Green Bay.

Think about it, if you’re able to establish a savings account, budget your money, and know the importance of your credit history, you’ll know what you can realistically afford when you go for your first home or car loan.

The best place to start this literacy is in school.

The problem is, it’s not required, so not everyone is getting that education. If financial literacy is not required, it becomes one of those boring courses you don’t bother with.

Student loans, vehicle loans, home loans, leases for housing … they all require a basic financial literacy so you don’t get taken advantage of after high school.

Twenty states have adopted financial education requirements, as of 2016. Sixty-four percent of the school districts required it in Wisconsin. For example, the Green Bay School District requires a one-semester class in order to graduate.

For those who don’t have a requirement, we urge the Legislature to require one.

We understand that this would be an unfunded mandate. However, the bill gives school districts wide latitude in developing courses. And there are financial institutions in almost every community willing to help out.

The Press-Gazette Editorial Board met with three bankers and two members of the Wisconsin Bankers Association. They heartily endorse this bill and they’re will to be the resource that school districts can use as they write curriculum or instruct students.

“They can tap us; we’re a resource,” said Daniel J. Peterson, president and CEO of Stephenson National Bank & Trust in Marinette.

Many school districts already have teachers who can teach, or already are, teaching this subject matter.

Requiring students take financial literacy courses forces those school districts that don’t to offer their students skills they’ll start using before even graduating..

The Senate bill and its Assembly companion have the rare kind of bipartisan support you don’t see too often these days.

This type of knowledge is something students will use after school gets out, and for the rest of their lives.

We call on the Legislature to support this bill. It’s a good investment in our future adults.

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