Wisconsin workers again battle Walker’s anti-labor steamroller

MADISONTrashing his earlier promises to provide a fair hearing, the Republican leader of Wisconsin’s state Senate labor committee rammed through a bill Tuesday that would make union shops illegal in the state. The bill passed in the GOP-controlled labor committee along partisan lines and moves on to the full Senate where the GOP has the votes for approval.The national AFL-CIO Executive Council, meeting in Atlanta, condemned the right wing steamroller in Madison, vowing to support Wisconsin workers wholeheartedly.”So-called right to work laws do nothing to create jobs or close the wage gap,” former Labor Secretary Robert Reich declared at a labor-organized town hall in Atlanta as the Wisconsin workers massed in protest 800 miles away at the Capitol in Madison.At 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, the GOP-run state Senate had finally allowed some minutes of public discussion on the latest GOP attack on labor. The angry members of the public in the Senate chamber had been waiting for their chance to speak since 8 a.m. and they didn’t get that chance until the early evening.With Democratic Sen. Chris Larson of Milwaukee objecting to the obvious rush job, Republican Sen. Steve Nass of Whitewater gaveled the hearings to a close at 6:20 p.m., just over an hour after the public began testifying. So much for his earlier promises to the media that there would be fair and open hearings.His explanation was that the police and later that a newspaper blog had warned him of impending disruption that would allegedly come from the peaceful thousands gathering to protest outside in  the Capitol and from the patient but angry hundreds who were inside waiting to testify.When a few dozen workers who were inside erupted in profanities after being denied the right to speak, Nass went on radio immediately to use their outrage to justify the cutting off of democratic discussion.Such is the blitzkrieg citizens in the once democratic state of Wisconsin face as the Gov. Scott Walker legislative majority pushes past the citizen comments and stakes out unions as the Judas goat to herd the state’s economy to slaughter.It was a playbook taken right out of what happened in Wisconsin when the GOP killed collective bargaining rights for public employees a few years ago and out of states like Michigan where a GOP governor promised he wasn’t out to kill union shops but then turned around to do just that.  The real purpose Tuesday seemed to be to stir disruption so that any possible violence could be blamed on workers.Workers were not alone Tuesday in objecting to the right-to-work-for-less steamroller. Interestingly, during the limited testimony that was allowed, some of the most powerful objections came from business interests.Bill Kennedy, president of Rock County Companies, flew in from Florida to testify how right-to-work-for less would freeze him and all contractors into a state of uncertainty about hiring as well passing the costs of training onto the taxpayer. Continue Reading

Flyway Film Festival lures Twin Citians across the river October 23-26

How is the Flyway Film Festival, happening this week in the Wisconsin river towns of Pepin, Stockholm, and Maiden Rock, different from other film festivals? A well-known producer visiting the Flyway once told me, off the record: “Nobody’s trying to suck up to anybody here. People say what they really think about the films and nobody acts pretentious, the way they do at most festivals.” (You can see why this person did not want to be quoted by name.)The Flyway was recently voted one of the world’s “Twenty-Five Coolest Film Festivals” by MovieMaker Magazine, so let’s hope that the unpretentious atmosphere holds. Last year, more than 2,000 people from 19 states and Canada attended. That’s up from the 408 locals who came in 2008, the year the Flyway was born.The majority of attendees are Twin Citians who make the 90-minute drive for the films, for the outstanding local food, and for the astonishing scenery along the river bluffs, which will make you think you’ve left the Midwest for the Mediterranean. Continue Reading

Wisconsin weekend

Midwesterners know that there is a stern rivalry between Minnesota and Wisconsin. I’ve never understood it. I like Wisconsin, I like Wisconsinites, and I really like The Packers. While my favorite place in the world is NE Minneapolis along the Mississippi, my second favorite place (a close second, in fact) is Door County, Wisconsin. Funny that I remember both locations for the food. Continue Reading

Spring to summer: Frack sand mining meets fracking

The spring campaign season against frac sand mining has started to take off. It’s not that we’ve been sitting quietly all winter biding our time. As many town boards and county supervisors can tell you, opposition to frac sand mining in the Driftless region of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa has been churning away for months, but something happened when the ice finally melted and the first Spring Beauties bloomed in the woods. In Minnesota, Representative Matt Schmitt from Redwing introduced legislation to limit sand mining near trout streams. On April 29th, 35 Catholic Workers and friends were arrested in Winona protesting at two frac sand operations. On May 15th, IATP, Wisconsin Farmers Union and the Wisconsin Towns Association released a report raising concerns about the economic impact of frac sand mining in West Central Wisconsin. And coming up on June 1 in Black River Falls, a regional conference called Standing Against the Sand Storm will bring together community leaders and activists from across region to address the growing threat from industrial sand mining and find ways that we can work together. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Sneak Preview of frac sand mining documentary

Democratic Visions previews a new documentary about the social, economic and environmental impact of the open pit mining of industrial silica sand in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  The hour-long film is directed by Minneapolis videographer Jim Tittle whose mother lives near a planned sand mining operation on the outskirts of Red Wing. The film smartly limits itself to the effects of silica minining operations on rural and small town communities rather than the whole buffet of enviromental and economic woes that the frac oil and naturual gas extraction industry can cause.  A larger-scoped project would demand a mini series.Mr. Tittle’s photography is top drawer and the folks who have lived through, been harmed and benefitted from silica sand mining are compelling and advisory. “The Price of Sand” premiers on April 22nd at the Minneapolis/Saint Paul International Film Festival and encores at the Riverview Theater on May 1.The documentary has a home on the internet here.The disturbing truth about silica sand mining (frac sand mining) is that environmentally essential and agriculturally productive swaths of our country are being scraped and killed so that fossil fuels can be extracted elsewhere enabling our avoidance infected nation to cough out even more greenhouse gases into our impaired atmosphere. About Democratic Visions Minnesota’s best looking and sounding issues TV program is produced by volunteers from eden Prairie, Minnetonka and Minneapolis through DFL Senate District 48 Eden Prairie/Minnetonka. More than 150 segments of Democratic Visions are available on line at – http://www.youtube.com/user/DemocraticVisions  CableCast Times and ChannelsComcast Channel 15 Sundays at 9 p.m. and Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m.  Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Edina, Richfield and Hopkins.  Bloomington Cable Access Television (BCAT) Channel 16 on Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. & 10:00 p.m., Fridays at 9:30 p.m. , Saturdays at 7:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. Minneapolis MTN Channel 16 – Sundays at 8:30 p.m.  Thursdays 2 a.m., 8 a.m., 1 p.m.    Continue Reading

Flyway Film Festival 2012: Why to go and what to see

It was right around this time last year that I was heading down to the picturesque Flyway Film Festival in Pepin and Stockholm, Wisconsin as a juror. I’ll be heading down there this weekend, October 18-21, not as a juror this year, but as one of the programmers for the festival. Flyway—now in its fifth year—may be tucked away in the two small towns, but once you arrive, you feel at home and welcomed to their wonderful safe haven. Continue Reading

Walker wins recall election

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker beat back a recall challenge Tuesday, winning both the right to finish the last two years of his term and a voter endorsement of his strategy to curb state spending, which included eliminating union rights for most public workers.The Wisconsin recall fervor swept across the nation and Minnesota, drawing students and volunteers across state lines to campaign in Tuesday’s election.About 75 students and volunteers from Minnesota, including about 20 from the University of Minnesota, bused with the Democratic Farmer Labor Party to Eau Claire, Wis., to door-knock all day Tuesday.Minnesota College Republicans have traveled to Hudson, Wis., multiple times in groups of 20 to 25 over the past months to make calls for Walker from a phone bank.Democrats and organized labor spent millions to oust Walker but found themselves hopelessly outspent by Republicans from across the country who donated record-setting sums to Walker. Republicans hope the victory carries over into November and that their get-out-the-vote effort can help Mitt Romney become the first GOP nominee to carry the state since Ronald Reagan in 1984.With more than 90 percent of precincts reporting, Walker had nearly 54 percent of the vote, compared with 45 percent for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, according to unofficial returns tabulated by the Associated Press.Regardless of political belief, the same theme echoed among Minnesota students: What happens in Wisconsin won’t stay in Wisconsin.The rising Republican star becomes the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall attempt by defeating Barrett and the union leaders who rallied for months against his agenda.The recall was a rematch of the 2010 governor’s race. Throughout the campaign, Walker maintained his policies set the state on the right economic track. Defeat, he said, would keep other politicians from undertaking such bold moves in the future.“Tonight we tell Wisconsin, we tell our country and we tell people all across the globe that voters really do want leaders who stand up and make the tough decisions,” Walker said in his victory speech in Waukesha Tuesday night.Ryan Lyk, a University student and the state College Republicans chair, said the group views the election as a broader referendum on issues.“We’re really proud that there’s a governor nearby that’s doing some great things,” he said. “Hopefully, that mentality will bleed over to Minnesota.”Larry Jacobs, a Humphrey School of Public Affairs political science professor said a Walker victory is a green light for conservatives to pursue a similar agenda.“There’s no doubt that the Republican Party in Minnesota would like to jump on the magic carpet of Scott Walker come November,” Jacobs said.In a brief speech to volunteers before they boarded two coach buses, DFL party chair Ken Martin said, “We cannot allow Scott Walker to get away with what he did in Wisconsin. Continue Reading

Eat My Fish: Specifically, my nice clean rainbow trout

Wouldn’t it be great if there were still such a thing as a freshwater fish untainted by mercury? A fish that doesn’t carry any dire warnings for pregnant women and children? A fish that tastes as fresh as the fish you vaguely remember catching in your pristine childhood? Ladies and gentlemen, such a fish still exists, thanks to the decades-long efforts of an old hippie named Herby Radmann, in a place known as Bullfrog Farm, through an enterprise called Eat My Fish. Continue Reading