- Associated Press - Monday, August 3, 2020

Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, July 29

Ismael Ozanne stands strong against intimidation

If the protesters chanting slogans and yelling profanity at Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne late into the night outside his home don’t like the job he’s doing, they have much better options than disturbing the peace.

Ozanne is up for election this fall. If his critics were serious about opposing him, they could have found a candidate to run against him. Instead, he is unopposed, and they haven’t organized a write-in campaign.

Ozanne has offered to meet with the protesters - during work hours, away from his home - to discuss his charging decisions and racial inequities in the judicial system. Ozanne is Wisconsin’s first Black district attorney, and he grew up in a civil rights family. So he brings a lot of credibility and insight to the challenge.

But instead of working with him to try to improve the courts, or working to elect someone else they think would do a better job, the rowdy protesters who have twice targeted his family home in July have resorted to harassment and intimidation.

Not only is that wrong and unacceptable, it also hurts their cause with the public.

Elected officials already get plenty of grief for making difficult decisions that rarely please everyone. They shouldn’t have to put up with threatening behavior as they’re putting their kids to bed. Other public officials have been subjected to similar treatment.

“One of my daughters turned to me and asked why you chose to come to our house to make her feel unsafe, when you claim that you want everyone to feel safe,” Ozanne wrote in an open letter to the protesters.

Free speech must be protected. But that’s no excuse for blasting music and hollering insults at Ozanne and his family until 1 a.m. Some in the crowd Saturday night even called Ozanne and his family racists, a ridiculous charge.

The protesters are demanding Ozanne drop charges against two Black men. One is accused of looting a jewelry store on State Street and using his vehicle to help pull down a statue on the Capitol Square. The other is charged with making threats at a Downtown bar.

Ozanne agrees that government must do more to reduce incarceration, the root causes of crime and shootings. But he also became district attorney to keep people safe, hold criminals accountable and protect crime victims.

“Your protest was about trying to intimidate me and my family so I would drop the charges against people who have been arrested for crimes committed under the cover of what have largely been peaceful protests in the city and county I grew up in and have lived in,” Ozanne wrote. “Your protest was about you trying to intimidate me into not doing my job unless I do it the way you think I should do it. You are not going to be successful.”

He’s right, and Dane County should support his strong stand.


The Capital Times, Madison, July 21

Robin Vos is cheating unemployed Wisconsinites out of the benefits they deserve

Wisconsin has been too slow in responding to the surge in applications for unemployment benefits. There’s plenty of blame to go around for this. But at least Wisconsin’s Democratic legislators want to address the challenges that have arisen since COVID-19 devastated the economy.

The same cannot be said for the Republicans who control the state Assembly and Senate. Rather than step up and act in a meaningful way, Republicans are attacking people who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic and the mass unemployment that has expended from it.

The contrast could not be more stark - or more concerning.

A legislative package introduced by Democrats would expedite the process of getting Unemployment Insurance to Wisconsinites by removing hurdles - many of which were established during the tenure of defeated former Gov. Scott Walker.

“This pandemic is revealing that the challenges within the Wisconsin unemployment system are the direct result of the Walker administration’s efforts to make collecting unemployment benefits harder,” said Senate Minority Leader Janet Bewley, D-Mason. “In Madison or Milwaukee, or closer to my home in Ashland or Rice Lake, people are suffering because the Republicans who control the Legislature aren’t doing anything.”

Here’s an explanation of the measures Democrats propose to remove what Bewley correctly described as “unnecessary and punitive barriers” to aiding Wisconsinites who are out of work:

- LRB 6244: Wisconsin is one of only two states that prevent people with disabilities who are able to work from receiving unemployment benefits. This bill would allow social security disability (SSDI) recipients to receive concurrent unemployment insurance benefits.

- LRB 6246: Under current law, individuals cannot receive extended UI benefits when participating in extended occupational training. This bill would reinstate the ability of those participating in extended occupational training to receive extended UI benefits.

- LRB 6249: Currently, claimants are ineligible for UI during weeks where they hit a wage threshold. This bill would temporarily suspend the $500 wage threshold for recipients of unemployment insurance benefits.

- LRB 6254: The current definition of “suitable work” creates challenges for claimants. This bill reinstates DWD’s authority to determine by administrative rule what constitutes suitable work a claimant must accept if offered, and what labor market conditions to review based on the number of weeks that the claimant has received benefits.

- LRB 6256: Several laws enacted over the last decade have restricted DWD’s ability to increase access to unemployment insurance when appropriate. This bill expands DWD’s authority to promulgate rules that provide waivers for work search and job registration requirements.

- LRB 6257: Currently, payments on valid unemployment insurance claims are delayed for one week. This bill would permanently eliminate the requirement that claimants wait one week before receiving benefits.

- LRB 6265: Currently, claimants are required to perform four work searches per week. This bill lowers the required work searches from four to two per week and repeals the provision allowing DWD to require by rule additional work searches.

- LRB 6362: The concept of substantial fault has caused confusion for both employers and employees and when employees are entitled to benefits when they are discharged by their employers. This bill would eliminate the concept of substantial fault being a disqualifying factor.

“These bills can help improve and accelerate the process for people who need help now,” said Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh. “State government must take every decisive action possible to eliminate unnecessary hurdles that have slowed down the process for people applying for unemployment insurance.”

Unfortunately, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, does not share Hintz’s urgency.

“Democrats,” Vos claimed, “simply want to make it easier to stay on unemployment and cheat the system.”

That’s a grotesque statement from a millionaire politician who has completely lost touch with working-class Wisconsinites.

People who lose their jobs are not trying to cheat the system. But Robin Vos is still trying to cheat unemployed Wisconsinites out of the benefits they deserved - and desperately need.


The Janesville Gazette, July 31

Masks should not be a political issue

Masks should not be a political issue, and Wisconsin will look stupid and backward if Gov. Tony Evers’ mask order issued Thursday ends up being a fight in the Legislature or state Supreme Court.

Before the governor’s announcement Thursday, we were preparing to use this space to encourage him to grow a backbone and issue an order. In our minds, it only makes sense to require masking to help fight the spread of the coronavirus, which as of Thursday was being blamed for 919 Wisconsin deaths among 52,000 confirmed cases.

Evers declared a public health emergency and ordered the wearing of masks for anyone age 5 and older starting Saturday for all enclosed spaces except a person’s home. The new order also applies to outdoor bars and restaurants except when people are eating or drinking.

“This virus doesn’t care about any town, city, or county boundary, and we need a statewide approach to get Wisconsin back on track,” Evers said.

We believe he’s right. The alternative is a confusing patchwork of orders imposed by counties and municipalities.

But somehow the government issuing an order for the public health has become a white-hot political issue.

We are stunned by the results of our unscientific online poll asking if Wisconsin should have a mask mandate. More than 5,000 people responded - 4,009 opposed to a mandate and 1,118 in favor as of late Thursday afternoon. That’s about 10 times the number of responses we ever gotten on any other poll.

And the associated Facebook comments are unsettling.

Here is a sample:

“A government mandate on masks, punishable with jail or fines, is the definition of Fascism.”

“This is no worse than the FLU!!!”

“It’s an infringement on my rights. It does more harm than good.”

Government already mandates the wearing of seat belts in cars and clothes in public, and we suspect most people think those are pretty good requirements.

And masks are being required for the good of all.

CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield put it this way: “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus - particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families and their communities.”

But when The Gazette surveyed area legislators, their positions on a mask mandate broke cleanly along party lines - Democrats Don Vruwink, Deb Kolste, Mark Spreitzer and Janis Ringhand were in favor, and Republicans Amy Loudenbeck, Tyler August and Steve Nass were opposed.

After Evers issued his order Thursday, Nass issued a statement urging the Legislature to convene and end the governor’s emergency declaration.

“Governor Evers actions today are nothing more than a political stunt to create a partisan fight with the Legislature,” Nass wrote. “This is not about improving public health.”

Evers responded that Republicans saying they don’t believe in science is risky political business and risky health business.

We don’t want to see Wisconsin taking either risk.

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