- Associated Press - Monday, March 5, 2018

Wisconsin State Journal, March 4

Build new history museum to tell Wisconsin’s story

On his final night as Wisconsin governor 17 years ago, Tommy Thompson danced the polka in front of a packed Assembly chamber and proposed a $75 million “world-class history center” to be built in Downtown Madison.

His dance moves made the nightly news and appeared in the State Journal the next morning, when he resigned to become President George W. Bush’s secretary of Health and Human Services.

It was a fitting end to his energetic 14 years in office. But the museum never gained much traction once he was gone.

Fast forward to 2018, and Thompson is again touting the project, this time with another former governor, Jim Doyle. The two men, one a Republican, the other a Democrat, respectively, have agreed to lead a $50 million fundraising campaign to revive the idea and make it bigger and better.

The society is pursuing a $120 million, 100,000-square-foot museum that would more than double exhibition space topped by $80 million to $120 million private development with 200,000 to 250,000 square feet of commercial and residential space.

Even more significant, Gov. Scott Walker has agreed to deliver $70 million of additional money if the goal for private donations is reached by Sept. 30.

So get the campaign going, and pitch in if you can. This exciting project deserves broad support. It will help our state remember, celebrate and learn from its past, while creating a new attraction and encouraging private development on the Capitol Square.

As our state motto goes: Forward!

We thank the current and two past governors for their commitment to this worthy goal. We’ll be rooting for success.

The existing Wisconsin Historical Museum is cramped and dreary. And the block the museum now sits on, at the corner of State, West Mifflin and North Carroll streets, is ripe for improvement.

The area has been a trouble spot Downtown, attracting transients and requiring police attention. Remaking the corner into a vibrant attraction would complement the nearby Overture Center, Central Library and redeveloped 100 blocks of North Fairchild and State streets.

Preservationists are assessing the buildings that might have to come down to make way for the project. An analysis by the city should help inform that debate.

But the landmark Grace Episcopal Church and Hovde tower along West Washington Avenue will definitely stay where they are, according to a general plan unveiled by the Historical Society and adjacent landowners Hovde Properties and Fred Mohs.

The biggest question is whether the nine-story Churchill Building next to Grace should come down. It’s been called the city’s first “skyscraper.” But neither it nor Mohs’ three-story buildings on North Carroll have landmark status.

The proposal should take shape in the coming months. But for now, the general concept looks like a winner.

The $120 million, 100,000-square-foot museum would more than double exhibition space and provide learning, meeting and flexible spaces with modern technology. And instead of so many solid walls, the new museum would include large windows with scenic views of the Capitol building.

The total cost, including private housing and offices, could reach $240 million.

Thompson last month called the museum his longtime dream. Doyle envisions “something really special.”

Wisconsin deserves an engaging and inspiring history center to tell its story.


The Capital Times, Feb. 28

Trump’s proposal to arm teachers is dangerously stupid

President Trump knows so little about so many things that it can sometimes be dizzying to listen to his proposals.

But everyone should remain clearheaded about the president’s dangerously stupid response to the horrific gun violence at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Borrowing a page from the National Rifle Association - which is nothing more than scam set up by gun manufacturers to promote more gun sales - the president tweeted: “Armed Educators (and trusted people who work within a school) love our students and will protect them. Very smart people. Must be firearms adept & have annual training. Should get yearly bonus. Shootings will not happen again - a big & very inexpensive deterrent. Up to States.”

Incoherent as usual, Trump spewed a lot of words in order to say one thing: He thinks that pistol-packing teachers are the answer to an epidemic of gun violence. A few know-nothing Republicans, such as dippy Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, expressed openness to the idea. But sane Republicans steered clear of what was obviously an attempt by the NRA and its stooges to divert attention from the real issue: There are too many guns that are available to too many people who are too interested in harming other people.

Teachers know the Trump-NRA scam is inane.

“I don’t want a firearm in my classroom. I want more books. I want more supplies for my students,” explained Jason Knoll, an Army veteran who now teaches social studies at Verona Area High School. Knoll is running this spring for the District 32 seat on the Dane County Board and he speaks for a lot of parents and teachers in Dane County and across Wisconsin.

As Becky Pringle, a vice president of the National Education Association who is a middle school science teacher with 31 years of classroom experience, told NPR: “Everything that the president has said about arming teachers has been shocking to all of us.”

“Our teachers do not want to be armed,” explained Pringle. “I cannot even imagine having - on top of all the responsibilities I have teaching my students the wonders of science, making sure that they are valued and respected for the unique human beings they are, and now I’m being asked to carry a gun and make life-and-death decisions. That is absolutely not what we are trained to do and not what we want to do for our students.”

That’s the bottom line. The NRA is trying to prevent real responses to the murders of teenagers in Parkland, and so many other teenagers and younger children across the country. Dupes like Trump are helping the gun lobby to spin a dark fantasy, as are political pawns like Schimel. For the sake of our children, for the future of public education, we all have a moral duty to tell Trump and Schimel and all the rest of the NRA’s “useful idiots” that they are adding nothing of value to the debate about gun violence.


The Journal Times of Racine, March 4

Congress, not Trump, must ban bump stocks

In the wake of yet another school mass shooting at a school - this one in Parkland, Florida., that left 14 students and three staff members dead - President Donald Trump floated several proposals to address gun violence.

They included arming teachers and giving them bonuses for carrying concealed weapons, raising the age for purchasing assault rifles to 21, and stricter background checks and banning bump stocks.

His proposals have received a tepid response from Congress. Last week, the president doubled down; in a bizarre televised meeting with lawmakers from both parties, he called for comprehensive gun control legislation, including expanded background checks to weapons purchased at gun shows, a higher buying age, secure schools and, at one point, suggested the skipping of due process by taking guns from mentally ill people first and sorting it out later.

That drew a rebuke from U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, who said: “We’re not ditching any constitutional protections simply because the last person the president talked to today doesn’t like them.”

Trump criticized Republican senators, saying that they were “petrified” of the National Rifle Association but that he was not.

Republican lawmakers were stunned and flustered, according to news reports. One called the Wednesday session “surreal.”

But Trump has thought out loud in public before, only to walk his ideas back or fail to push them when it came to passing legislation - as he did with the bipartisan “Dreamers” proposal.

Trump also reaffirmed his plan to ban bump stocks, without any action by Congress. That is perhaps the biggest “nothing burger” in his gun control lineup.

The president last month issued a directive to the Justice Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to come up with a rule “banning all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns.”

“Although I desire swift and decisive action, I remain committed to the rule of law and to the procedures the law prescribes,” Trump said in his memo to the attorney general. “I would ask that you keep me regularly apprised of your progress.”

Let’s see if we can help you out with that Mr. President: the answer you will get from the ATF is no.

Yes, bump stocks accelerate the rate of fire of a semi-automatic weapon by using the recoil to “bump” the rifle forward into the shooter’s immobile finger. That was demonstrated viciously and effectively in the Oct. 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas outside the Mandalay Bay resort, when Stephen Paddock rained death upon innocent concert-goers from his perch in a hotel tower, killing 58 people and wounding another 500.

Yes, they should be banned.

But the ATF has already ruled that the bump stock has “no automatically functioning mechanical parts and performs no automated functions when installed” and that, under federal law, it lacks the authority to regulate them. It ruled on them twice, in 2010 and 2012 during President Barack Obama’s administration.

President Obama was no stranger to using executive orders to stretch the limits of his powers. We would think that, if it had been at all possible, he would have directed ATF to ban bump stocks.

Unless President Trump has a magic pen, we doubt that simply changing administrations will change the law. If the president succeeds in getting ATF to issue a bump stock ban, it will almost assuredly end up in prolonged legal battles. The first bit of evidence in such a dispute will be ATF’s previous rulings.

Banning bump stocks is the job of the legislative branch. Congress should take that up immediately as a clean bill - perhaps instead of only sending out thoughts and prayers for the next gun massacre victims. Trump should use the power of his bully pulpit to make that happen and not wait for the “comprehensive” gun control legislation he supported last week, which may or may not happen.

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