Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. January 11, 2022.
Editorial: Thompson’s lessons for state worth learning
Former Gov. Tommy Thompson’s pending retirement marks a major change for the UW System. The state can only hope his successor measures up.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos isn’t known for understatement. But when he said Thompson “faced challenges no president had experienced before,” he wasn’t exaggerating in the least.
Thompson became the system’s interim president July 1, 2020. Think for a moment about what lay in front of him when that happened. The COVID pandemic had slammed into the U.S. just a few months earlier. The economy was on shaky ground, surely a concern for any organization that relied on tax revenues for any significant portion of their budgets. Classes had been cut short and no one knew whether a fall semester would even be possible.
The system itself had been stung by a failed effort to find a successor to former president Ray Cross. Relations with the Legislature were poor at best. There were dozens of reasons to say no.
Thompson probably knew those reasons as well as anyone. He still said yes. And he took on those challenges at an age when many of Thompson’s peers were already well into retirement.
It’s not as if Thompson needed acclaim. He remains well-regarded in the state that elected him as its governor four times. He had served as U.S. Health and Human Services secretary and launched his own (unsuccessful) bid for the White House. Thompson could easily have demurred, knowing he had served Wisconsin long and well, and his decision would not have tarnished his status.
Wisconsin was fortunate he said yes. Thompson’s experience with HHS placed him magnificently to understand what the university system needed to do during a pandemic. He made sure the campuses had access to testing and that the tests were used. Masks became standard apparel. When vaccines became available, Thompson led the effort to promote them for those on campuses.
Thompson used his status as a Republican elder statesman to salve some of the bruised feelings between the universities and the Legislature. Under his watch the Regents regained authority over tuition. Tensions remain, as they probably always will. But the two sides are not at loggerheads in the same manner as they were not so long ago.
That’s not to say Thompson was a pushover for Republicans in Madison. When a committee made a play for control of the university system’s COVID policies, Thompson stood his ground. A threatened lawsuit has yet to materialize, and it seems unlikely to do so.
Those looking for an explanation as to why Thompson would take on challenges like these need look no further than the opening sentence of his letter of resignation, “I love Wisconsin.”
In that letter, Thompson said the challenges were part of why he was honored to be asked to take the position. And he did something that is a hallmark of good leaders: he spread the credit around.
“While I did not seek this responsibility,” he wrote, “it has been extremely rewarding to lead and work alongside truly remarkable people at UW System Administration and our universities. On the front lines of this undertaking, the UW System enjoys the great benefit of outstanding leadership from our chancellors, who are focused on delivering the best outcomes for their students, their communities, and this state. And our universities are taking a central role in helping drive economic development throughout Wisconsin.”
This is what love of service looks like. This is what leadership should be. It is a welcome reminder of what our state and our country can be, if we are willing to put others ahead of ourselves.
In the musical “Hamilton,” there’s a song called “One Last Time.” In it, George Washington announces he won’t seek a third term, preferring instead to “teach them how to say goodbye.” In his resignation, Thompson accomplished that, too.
Thompson’s tenure as the university system’s president was far from the longest he held a position in his extensive career. But the way he handled it, in the midst of pandemic and partisan divide unlike anything in living memory, may well be his finest hour.
Kenosha News. January 10, 2022.
Editorial: Time for bipartisan bail reform
On Nov. 21, the nation looked on in horror to see a man drive through the Waukesha parade, killing six people and injuring dozens more.
Then, not long after, it was revealed that he was out on a $1,000 cash bail after allegedly running over the mother of his child.
Time and time again this story plays out, not just with Darrell Brooks, who has been charged with the Waukesha deaths.
Time and time again, someone who is out on bail commits another crime. In many cases, even then they are able to get out again on another bond.
The Republican-authored bills would require a $10,000 minimum bond for defendants who have previously committed a felony or violent misdemeanor, bar judges from setting an unsecured bond or releasing without bail someone previously convicted of bail jumping, and require the Wisconsin Department of Justice to create a “bond transparency report” detailing crime and bond conditions.
To be clear, the bail system is an important part of our criminal justice system. A person is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. All individuals charged with a crime need the opportunity to prove their innocence – not just those who can afford it.
With that said, there needs to be a real system in place to protect the public particularly in cases involving a violent offender charged with a new crime.
Following the Waukesha tragedy, a group of Milwaukee taxpayers filed a complaint with Gov. Tony Evers against Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, triggering a process that could end with Evers removing Chisholm from office. That complaint was filed because the $1,000 bail came from an attorney in Chisholm’s office. Ultimately, Attorney General Josh Kaul said the voters should choose whether to remove Chisholm from office.
While the governor and attorney general want to leave the election up to voters, the attorney general should still take a lead on evaluating bail bond discretion throughout the state.
Minor nonviolent offenses don’t need to be treated like violent offenses. But there needs to be consequences for crimes committed.
The Waukesha tragedy may be what is behind the urgent push for bail reform. But it’s just the case that has gotten the most publicity. Hopefully the magnitude of that tragedy can help garner bipartisan support for change.
Wisconsin State Journal. January 6, 2022.
Editorial: 1 year later, Wisconsin must remember shameful acts by Scott Fitzgerald, Tom Tiffany
U.S. Rep. Scott Fitzgerald tried Monday to happily mark his anniversary in Congress.
“One year ago today, I was sworn in and took on the duties of this office,” the Juneau Republican tweeted with a ceremonial picture of him taking his oath at the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 3, 2021.
Fitzgerald needs to read that oath again — and take it seriously this time. Fitzgerald swore to “support and defend the Constitution” and “bear true faith and allegiance to the same,” while “faithfully discharging” his responsibilities as a servant of the people.
His commitment to those principles lasted all of three days.
On Jan. 6, 2021, and into the wee hours of the next morning, Fitzgerald shamefully tried to block Arizona’s and Pennsylvania’s votes from being counted in the final certification for president. The rookie congressman even said he would have voted to disenfranchise Wisconsin voters if given the chance — objecting to the very election that led to him being sworn in.
Voters — especially those in Wisconsin’s 5th Congressional District, which includes Jefferson, Washington and parts of Dodge and Waukesha counties — should never forget his betrayal of American democracy.
The same goes for voters in northern Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District, whose U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany, R-Minocqua, similarly sought to overturn a free and fair election. Fitzgerald and Tiffany were among more than 100 Republicans who will go down in history as traitors to democracy. Even after violent mobs stormed the U.S. Capitol to try to stop the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory on Jan. 6, 2021, Fitzgerald and Tiffany still voted against the election results based on lies and conspiracy theories. They favored the fantasies of a terribly flawed and defeated President Donald Trump over the will of the American people.
Judges — some appointed by Trump — in more than 60 court cases, multiple recounts, election audits and reviews have dismissed Trump’s bogus claims that he won. Yet the huckster reality TV star turned leader of the free world for four long years still refuses to accept his defeat — setting up another potential constitutional crisis in 2024.
Fitzgerald, Tiffany, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, and most Republican leaders in Washington seem more than happy to play along with Trump’s falsehoods, undermining trust in our system of government and fomenting division. And their complicity undoubtedly contributed to the misinformed masses who attacked the U.S Capitol one year ago today, following Trump’s orders at a rally outside the White House to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell.”
The Jan. 6 attack was nothing short of an attempted coup. The angry mobs beat police officers with blunt objects, smashed an officer between doors and left more than 100 law enforcement officials injured, eventually ransacking the chambers and offices of Congress. A woman trying to force her way into the House chamber, where members of Congress were sheltering for protection, was shot and later died. One officer died of a stroke. Within days, two officers committed suicide.
The attempt to stop our democracy by brute force even included chants to hang Mike Pence, Trump’s vice president, for fulfilling his constitutional duty. Pence certified Biden’s election, just as Biden had certified Trump’s victory in 2016 when Biden was vice president.
Though Johnson changed his mind hours after the Jan. 6 insurgency and voted with most members of Congress to certify Biden’s election, Johnson was one of Trump’s ringleaders in the plot leading up to the Capitol attack. And to this day, Johnson continues to downplay the seriousness of this historic American nightmare.
Voters across Wisconsin should remember Johnson’s failed leadership if he seeks a third term. Johnson only told the truth that Trump lost — “There’s nothing obviously skewed about the results” — when caught on hidden camera at a Republican Party event last August.
If Johnson does seek reelection this fall — even though he told voters during his last campaign that he wouldn’t run again — a principled and honest Republican should challenge him in the GOP primary, joining a bevy of Democratic candidates hoping to defeat him.
The same goes for Fitzgerald and Tiffany, who don’t deserve their positions. Republican voters who want their party to return to its conservative values of respecting tradition, limiting the reach of government and carefully spending money — rather than catering to Trump’s ego, whims and deception — need to stand up. They need to tell Trump’s apologists and enablers in Wisconsin’s congressional delegation it’s time to go. America needs honorable public servants to survive.