- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, Aug. 23

Honor Anisa by stopping the violence

Anisa Scott’s smile was like the sun shining, a friend recalled after the 11-year-old was shot and mortally wounded Aug. 11 by a stray bullet in Madison.

Anisa was about to enter middle school in Sun Prairie. She had her whole life ahead of her.

“She was a little beacon of light,” said a parent of a classroom friend at her recent memorial.



Anisa was riding in an SUV driven by her mother’s boyfriend on Madison’s East Side during the late morning. That’s when the city’s senseless and unprecedented rash of gunplay took her innocent and precious life.

This cannot continue. Madison must not become numb to deadly gun violence, as too many big cities have.

This tragedy must mark the end - not the beginning - of daily gunfire that has shaken our city’s identity and soul.

Five weeks ago, our State Journal editorial board warned that Madison was lucky the barrage of bullets in neighborhoods across the city hadn’t claimed more random victims.

Now it has. And the three teenagers accused in Anisa’s death are really just kids themselves, barely or not quite reaching adulthood.

Police continue to respond to and investigate the recent explosion of gunfire. That includes 29 reported shootings in June and 44 in July - by far the most since police began keeping records. It includes another daytime shooting Friday on the East Side that left two men injured, one seriously.

The scary spray of bullets won’t be easy to stop, and its causes are complicated. The State Journal’s 2018 reporting project “Gun violence in Madison ‘ Cycles of trauma” explored root causes. Yet key to ensuring the public is protected here and now is Madison’s professional and diverse police department. The department has worked hard to improve how it keeps us safe, with independent reviews and now citizen oversight.

Defunding the police would be a terrible mistake.

Just as important, the Madison City Council must restore funding in the next city budget for the Focused Interruption Coalition, an impressive and successful program with peer-support specialists on call 24 hours a day. FIC helps stem deadly violence by discouraging retaliatory attacks. FIC staff meet with victims and their families in the wake of deadly violence to promote peace and reconciliation.

The trauma in young people’s lives, which can lead to reckless behavior, must continue to be addressed. So must the proliferation of guns, due in part to careless adults leaving firearms unsecured and vehicles unlocked.

Madison has strived for decades in myriad ways to improve the lives of struggling people - especially children - who don’t have the advantages many of us take for granted. Madison’s heart is in the right place. Yet spending more and more money on well-meaning efforts that haven’t worked isn’t the answer.

Madison must rethink how to help more young people see a path forward.

Anisa’s smile can help inspire us. She was a polite and spirited girl who stuck up for friends. She could have done great things and made our city better.

She still can, if we honor her memory and life by stopping the gun violence now.

“Put the guns down,” a sign at Anisa’s memorial urged. “We’ve got to do better.”

___

The Capital Times, Madison, Aug. 25

Stop playing political games and address police violence

Almost three months ago, as protesters filled the streets in Madison, Milwaukee and communities across the country following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers declared that “his death was not an anomaly. We hear the echo of the words of Eric Garner. We relive the pain of the death of Black Wisconsinites like Dontre Hamilton, Sylville Smith, Ernest Lacy and Tony Robinson. We listen to the call and repeat, answered by generations of Black voices who’ve marched before in these very same streets.”

“George Floyd’s death - and the lives taken before him - are symptomatic of the disease we’ve failed to adequately treat for four centuries. Racism has never really gone away - it has only manifested itself in different ways, from incarceration rates to health outcome disparities, the wage gap to education inequity, and in good intentions.”

Evers proposed to begin to address the disease by calling on the state Legislature to “immediately pass Assembly Bill 1012 that would reform our use of force policies by prioritizing preserving life and minimizing the use of force and send it to my desk for signature.” He also called on municipal and county government officials to join to take action at the local level.

The Legislature failed to act.

Too many officials in too many places failed to act.

Now, we have the awful news from Kenosha, where a police officer grabbed 29-year-old Jacob Blake by his T-shirt and shot him in the back. At least seven gunshots could be heard in videos of the incident, and Blake collapsed while trying to enter the vehicle in which his three young sons were seated. Blake did not die, but is paralyzed from the waist down.

“We all watched the horrific video of Jacob Blake being shot in the back several times by Kenosha police,” said attorney Ben Crump, who has been retained by Blake’s family. “Even worse, his three sons witnessed their father collapse after being riddled with bullets. Their irresponsible, reckless, and inhumane actions nearly cost the life of a man who was simply trying to do the right thing by intervening in a domestic incident. It’s a miracle he’s still alive.”

Crump said, “We will seek justice for Jacob Blake and for his family as we demand answers from the Kenosha Police Department. How many more of these tragic ‘while Black’ tragedies will it take until the racial profiling and undervaluing of Black lives by the police finally stops?”

The answer to that question must be: no more.

There are immediate steps that can and should be taken.

Rep. Mark Pocan, a native of Kenosha who now represents Madison and south-central Wisconsin in Congress, responded with appropriate urgency when he said, “Police violence against Black people reflects a broken policing system - and justice must be served. The officers ‘involved’ must be arrested.”

Accountability at the local level is required. But it cannot stop there. The state and federal government need to recognize the crisis in policing that extends from a reality that Sherrilyn Ifill, the president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, described when she said, “Our lives have so little value that (officers) are using fatal gunshots as a shortcut to talking, negotiation, disabling vehicles.”

The legislation that Evers urged lawmakers to enact months ago spoke to this issue, by prioritizing preserving life and minimizing the use of force by police. It was only a beginning, a small step toward the justice that is needed. Yet, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, refused to take it up.

That refusal was unconscionable then.

Now, with the latest evidence of what Evers properly recognizes as a long history of Black people being “shot or injured or mercilessly killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state or in our country,” the Republican refusal to act is jarring.

Yet, Vos continues to play games. His call for a task force to examine issues that have already been examined represents an obscene dereliction of duty.

State Rep. David Bowen, D-Milwaukee, speaks for the great mass of Wisconsinites when he says, “The goal is to pass bills, and we need our Republican colleagues to get on board and come to the table.”

This pattern of Republican recalcitrance has to be broken. That’s why it is good that Democratic state Senate candidate Ed Vocke, who is running in northern Wisconsin’s 12th District, has proposed “a summit to get to work right now” because “we have too much work to do to sit around and wait until Nov. 3 for things to change.” He asked three dynamic young political leaders - Francesca Hong, the Democratic nominee for the 76th District Assembly seat, Kristina Shelton, the Democrat running for the 90th District Assembly seat, and Nada Elmikashfi, who campaigned this year for the 26th District state Senate seat - to work with him on it. All responded affirmatively. The proposal has since been signed by Samba Baldeh, the Democratic nominee for the 48th Assembly District, Melissa Sargent, the Democratic candidate for the 16th Senate District, and Kelda Roys, the Democratic candidate for the 26th Senate District.

Their proposal points to the need for inside and outside action, and for political and protest strategies that recognize the urgency of a moment when we cannot allow any more months pass without responding to the disease we’ve ALL failed to adequately treat for four centuries.

___

The Journal Times of Racine, Aug. 24

Keep the Postal Service funded while looking for efficiency

The United States Postal Service is a foundational American institution. That is not hyperbole, as it’s literally in the Constitution: Article I, Section 8, Clause 7 of the United States Constitution empowers Congress “To establish Post Offices and Post Roads.”

Because the USPS is a service provided by the government, it is completely legitimate to look at ways the service could be provided more efficiently, to find the middle ground between best service and cost to the taxpayer.

Clearly, in 2020, we are less dependent on the Postal Service than we were in 1990, or even 2000, when it comes to getting messages to people we know. Email and text-messaging, both of which can be done on a device you carry in your pocket, have cut deeply into our need for stamps and envelopes.

Magazine publishing has taken a big hit as people increasingly get news and information from the internet, so your letter carrier isn’t putting nearly as many copies of Time or Sports Illustrated in mailboxes as she used to.

But that doesn’t mean we no longer need the Postal Service. In some parts of the United States, the need has hardly diminished.

The Postal Service is responsible for delivering about 90% of all Veterans Administration mail-order prescriptions, CNN reported last week. States that are more rural than urban, such as Alaska and Montana - and other parts of the country where cellphone service and internet are harder to come by - are heavily dependent on the mail.

It’s never wrong to expect a government body to operate as efficiently as possible, to insist that it identify and reduce waste.

But the Postal Service should be properly funded now. Because the service it provides will be needed all across the nation, this week and this month.

In other words, well before November.

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