- Associated Press - Monday, June 25, 2018

Wisconsin State Journal, June 24

Trump can’t stop cooperation on climate change

President Donald Trump’s sorry record of ignoring and belittling the enormous challenge of climate change has slowed progress toward solutions.

America needs broad and sustained action to cut carbon emissions into the atmosphere, which trap heat and warm the planet.

Though the president has ceded leadership on the important issue to Europe, China and other nations, a bipartisan group in Congress is trying to find consensus around a plan for action.

This includes two Wisconsin congressmen - Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay, and Ron Kind, D-La Crosse - who are part of the 82-member Climate Solutions Caucus. By design, the group is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. Its goal is to “educate members on economically viable options to reduce climate risk and protect our nation’s economy, security, infrastructure, agriculture, water supply and public safety.”

That sounds encouraging.

Lots of Democrats going back to former Vice President Al Gore have highlighted scientific warnings about global warming for decades. Now a growing number of Republicans have joined the cause. That includes U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who stressed the need for action during his unsuccessful bid for president a decade ago.

More recently, Republican Jeb Bush favored an international agreement to lower emissions during his 2016 bid for president. And last year, James Baker and George Schultz - former Cabinet secretaries under President Ronald Reagan - outlined their proposal for a revenue-neutral carbon tax.

Swift and serious action is going to require support from both political parties.

The private sector also is stepping up to help find remedies that make environmental and economic sense. The Alliance for Market Solutions, for example, includes business executives whose goal is to “build the conservative case for a clean-energy future.” The group proposes a tax on carbon in exchange for less government regulation to encourage innovation.

In a front-page story last week, the State Journal marked 30 years since NASA’s top scientist warned Congress and the world that global warming had already arrived. Since then, average temperatures have climbed, and extreme weather has increased. The risk to lives and property is enormous.

One popular priority the Climate Solutions Caucus should embrace is greater investment in scientific research. America should be leading the search for clean energy breakthroughs, not waiting for other nations to discover the future.

Another way to impose a tax on carbon emissions without hurting ordinary people is to steer the revenue back to the public, perhaps in the form of a rebate or tax credit that’s based on carbon use. The less carbon burned, the bigger the check or credit. Making sure any carbon tax is “revenue neutral” - so the proceeds from any tax doesn’t turn into a slush fund for unrelated government spending - is the best way to build support.

From melting glaciers to bleaching coral reefs to more floods and wildfires, the effects of climate change are becoming more evident. Our nation must pull together to pursue climate solutions for the sake of our children and grandchildren.


Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, June 22

Pressure legislators to end partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin

It’s up to you. If you favor good government, tell the Legislature to put an end to partisan gerrymandering.

Don’t wait for the courts; take matters into your own hands.

The Supreme Court this week once again took a pass on reining in partisan gerrymandering. It punted both a Wisconsin case and a Maryland case back to lower courts for further proceedings. It’s possible the court will take up this important issue again very soon; the justices didn’t rule on the merits of the cases, both of which challenged partisan maps, one drawn by Republicans, the other by Democrats. There are other cases that might wind up before the high court, too, notably one from North Carolina.

But why wait for nine justices in Washington, D.C.?

Wisconsin voters should demand that legislators adopt nonpartisan reapportionment before the 2020 census. We favor legislation based on the process used in Iowa, where legislative and congressional maps are drawn by a nonpartisan arm of the General Assembly. It has worked effectively for Iowans since 1980.

It’s time to act.

In 2011, Republicans, who controlled the governor’s office and both houses of the Legislature, used that power to cement majorities through the redistricting process - the constitutionally required once-a-decade process to adjust electoral maps for changes in population.

The result: Even though Democrats won a majority of the votes in state Assembly races in 2012, Republicans won 60 of 99 seats.

Democracy is harmed when politicians choose their voters instead of the other way around. Gerrymandered districts make elections less competitive and contribute to polarization: When the only real race is in the primary, politicians only listen to one side.

In a concurring opinion in Gill v. Whitford, the Wisconsin case, Justice Elana Kagan recalled the words of the father of the Constitution, James Madison. When fighting for adoption of the Constitution, Madison was asked what would make the House of Representatives work.

Kagan wrote:

“The House must be structured, he answered, to instill in its members ‘an habitual recollection of their dependence on the people.’ Legislators must be ‘compelled to anticipate the moment’ when their ‘exercise of (power) is to be reviewed.’ When that moment does not come - when legislators can entrench themselves in office despite the people’s will - the foundation of effective democratic governance dissolves.”

Dale Schultz, a retired Republican senator, voted for the 2011 redistricting bill but later regretted it. His epiphany came after he saw the results of the 2012 election.

“I was truly surprised when I saw the elections,” he said. “If you’re a fair-minded person, and you look at that, you say, ‘How can that happen?’ “

It shouldn’t.

Elections should be decided on the strength of ideas rather than on the cleverness of a party’s maps. The Supreme Court had a chance to drive a stake through the heart of the gerrymander beast but chose not to do so. Citizens now must take up the spear.

Here’s how:

- Demand candidates for office support nonpartisan redistricting. We support the Iowa model but there are other ways to ensure a fair process. California and Arizona, for example, use independent citizen commissions.

- Demand that current legislators get behind efforts to change the system. During the last session of the Legislature, Democrats introduced bills that would have empowered the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau to draw the maps in Wisconsin. The bills never received a hearing.

- Get involved. Schultz and Tim Cullen, a former Democratic state senator, are co-chairing the Fair Elections Project, which along with other groups including Common Cause and the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, is lobbying for change.

One day, the Supreme Court may put an end to this toxic practice. But you don’t have to wait. Demand that Wisconsin’s legislators take action now.


The Journal Times of Racine, June 25

Buy imperfect produce to reduce food waste

Nobody’s perfect.

Neither are fruits and vegetables. But consumers get pretty judgmental about their produce when they’re wheeling carts through the grocery stores, checking the color on the bananas, thumping melons, squeezing avocados to see if they’re ripe.

Heaven help the poor green pepper that doesn’t have a nice squat look that’s suitable for even-looking stuffed pepper cups. And, of course, the two-legged carrot doesn’t have a prayer of making the trip home to the refrigerator crisper.

In order to entice customers throughout the nation with dazzling displays of perfect produce - and make sales - grocery stores usually demand a lot from the appearance of their goods.

That means a lot of less-than-perfect, but perfectly edible and tasty fruits and veggies often never make it out of the fields and orchards. By some estimates, 20 percent of the produce grown in America is left in the fields.

A San Francisco-based company, Imperfect Produce, is aiming to change that. The grocery-by mail operation began serving the Chicago area last fall and is now opening up service in the Milwaukee market - but does not yet offer service in the Racine area.

Imperfect Produce boxes up those unwanted, slightly blemished or imperfect fruits and veggies and ships them home to consumers at a price they say is 30 percent to 50 percent below the cost of what you would pay in a grocery store.

According to the company’s web site, Imperfectproduce.com, a 7- to 9-pound box of mixed fruit and veggies goes for $11 to $13. A larger, 23- to 25-pound box has a price tag of $25-$27. Delivery, either weekly or bi-weekly, costs $3 to $5 per box.

The 3-year-old company, which currently markets in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle areas and is now venturing into the Midwest, says it has already saved customers an estimated $6.5 million on groceries and stopped 21 million pounds of produce from going to waste.

According to a Milwaukee newspaper report on the rollout there, Imperfect Produce was founded by Ben Simon, a University of Maryland student who started a nonprofit food recovery program after seeing how much food went to waste in college cafeterias. After graduating, he founded Imperfect Produce.

The company is teaming with the Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative and its network of farmers here in Wisconsin and also makes donations to food banks.

The fledgling firm probably won’t have a discernible impact on retail grocery stores or change the tastes of customers seeking unblemished fruits and vegetables - as we’ve become accustomed to.

But if it can put a dent in the millions of pounds of produce that goes to waste in the field each year - and save customers a few bucks at the same time - that would be, well, perfect.

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