By The Associated Press

Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. September 12, 2022.

Editorial: Conference offers region opportunities

Wisconsin’s Hmong population has had a clear effect on the region over the past several decades. Look just a little past the brats, cheese and Packers jerseys, and you’ll spot dozens of ways the Hmong residents have brought depth to the communities in our area. That makes this week’s HERE Conference a welcome landmark.

Billed as the first Hmong Economic Advancement Research and Equality (HERE) conference, the event was organized by Hmong American Leadership & Economic Development (HALED), an Eau Claire-based group whose goals include collective advocacy, resource access and developing leaders from the Hmong and Asian American communities.

The event kicks off tomorrow. The most visible part will probably be the Little Mekong Night Market. It’s planned for 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday in Haymarket Plaza. The conference website describes it as “an outdoor market in the style of the Little Mekong Night Markets held in St. Paul,” featuring food and other vendors. It’s part of the conference, but open to anyone.

This is intended to be a national conference. Wisconsin and Minnesota have the highest concentrations of people with Hmong ancestry compared to their overall populations.

The Hmong population in the United States dates, in large part, to the fallout from the Vietnam War. Hmongs were notable allies to American troops during the war, and many fled their homelands after the war’s end. Today, there are an estimated 323,156 Americans with Hmong ancestry. While the raw numbers may not be on the scale of other groups, the clarity of the contribution that led to many Hmong citizens arriving in this country is striking.

There’s also a need to be cautious about suggesting the nation’s Hmong population is monolithic. That’s easy to do, but the conference literature has an important indicator that such an approach is flawed.

A glance at the conference website shows the word is often styled as HMong. The main logo, information about the conference and other details all use that spelling. We noticed that back in May, when the event was announced.

Mai Xiong explained the difference to us: “The spelling ‘HMong’ is used rather than ‘Hmong’ throughout conference literature as an inclusive acknowledgement of the two main dialects — Green, or Moob Leeg, and White, or Hmoob Dawb — spoken by HMong communities.”

In short, words matter and the exact words used vary, even within the broader Hmong population. It’s well worth noting that Xiong noted these are the “main dialects.” There are others, though we’re certainly not well versed enough in the differences to be able to explain them here.

While these details may explain a bit about the conference and its importance in the next couple days, they stop short of explaining why we think all this is worth bringing up in an editorial. After all, most people in the area won’t be at the conference, or even at the events surrounding it that are open to the general public.

We see two notable aspects here. The first is local. This week, particularly the night market, is an opportunity for people who may not know much about the local Hmong population to engage with it. Not knowing one’s neighbors doesn’t mean they aren’t neighbors. This is a chance for people to break out of their familiar circles for a few hours and meet people who are every bit as much a part of the Chippewa Valley as anyone else.

The other is that this isn’t the kind of event most people immediately think of when considering the region. National conferences take place somewhere else. They’re in California or New York. Even if they notice this part of the country, they’re in the Twin Cities or Milwaukee.

Well, not this time. This time the conference is here. It’s a chance for the region to make a good impression and, perhaps, create an opportunity to build on. No, Eau Claire isn’t going to land a major party’s convention. But being on the map for mid-sized events seems possible.

We wish organizers luck. We hope they have a good conference. And we hope to see people out at the night market on Thursday. This is an opportunity not to be missed.


Kenosha News. September 11, 2022.

Editorial: Rush to EVs has its dangers

Wisconsin is sitting in the on-ramp in the rush for electric vehicles (EV) as the push away from internal combustion engines to reduce greenhouse gas emissions heats up.

That has resulted in a concerted effort and a state plan to increase the number of charging stations for EVs, particularly along designated alternative fuel corridors, including the Interstate system and key highways in the state such as Highways 51, 53 and 151.

“This is really a great opportunity for Wisconsin to be ready (for EVs),” Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson said this summer, “We can benefit on the environmental side and the economic side. It can be a win all the way around.”

Wisconsin’s draft plan to build out the state’s electric vehicle charging network is being built with the hopes of gaining federal approval from the Federal Highway Administration that would garner $78.7 million in federal funding to support creation of the network.

Currently, Wisconsin has only 550 charging stations across the state and many are concentrated in the Milwaukee and Madison areas. And, currently, the state has less than 10,000 EVs, including cars and trucks on the road – less than 0.1% of all vehicles.

But that is expected to change rapidly according to DOT projections which anticipate 334,000 EVs on the road by the end of the decade. That number could be buoyed by President Joe Biden’s signing of the Inflation Reduction Act which includes a $7,500 incentive off many new electric or plug-in hybrid cars or trucks without restricting the number of credits that a carmaker can receive.

But, before we head pell-mell down this road to “greening” the nation’s transportation fleet, we have to ask the question, “What about car and truck safety?” Isn’t this push toward electric vehicles also an opportunity to make our roads safer as well?

In a recent article in Slate magazine, David Zipper, a visiting fellow at Harvard Kenney School’s Tubman Center for State and Local Government, argues that “if the U.S. auto industry maintains its current habits, the incipient transition to electric cars could further the worsen the deadly carnage on America’s roads.”

Zipper wrote, “The United States is already a global outlier in traffic deaths. Unlike virtually all other develop countries where such fatalities declined during the past decade, the U.S. has seen an increase of over 30%. Today an American is more than twice as likely as a citizen of France or Canada to die in a crash.”

He cites several reasons for that – including that Americans drive a lot and take fewer transit trips, install fewer automatic traffic cameras and build more high-speed urban arterials.

But Zipper says there is another critical contributor to the U.S. surge in road fatalities: “the national penchant for tall, heavy pickup trucks and SUVs. The weight of these behemoths endangers other road users in a crash, and their height leads them to strike a person’s torso instead of their legs (it can also make it difficult to see those standing in front of the vehicle).

As evidence of that, Zipper notes that U.S. deaths among those on foot or a bicycle rose more than 40% during the last decade.

And that’s where the rub with EVs comes in.

Zipper wrote, “Electrified versions of SUVs and trucks can be even more dangerous. Large vehicles require massive batteries, which add tonnage. The Ford F-150, for instance, weighs around 6,500 pounds, about a third more than its gas-powered model. The Hummer EV is even more gigantic, tipping the scales at over 9,000 pounds, with a battery alone that is heavier than an entire Honda Civic. This additional weight creates force during a crash, increasing the danger to pedestrians, cyclists, and occupants of smaller cars.”

Zipper contends carmakers are celebrating the ability of electric cars to go from zero-to-60 speeds in a few seconds as a selling point, where, instead they should be redesigning their vehicles to make them safer by doing things – like restructuring the Ford F-150 which will no longer need a gasoline engine in front and giving the front end a slope to improve driver vision and making it more likely that a pedestrian or cyclist would roll off the hood.

He says one “promising model” for change comes from the District of Columbia which enacted a “creative vehicle registration fee schedule” that charges owners of vehicles weighing more than 6,000 pounds $500, seven times more than a light sedans.

Another option, Zipper says, is to add “pedestrian car worthiness” to federal car crash ratings to estimate crash risk borne by those outside the vehicle – as is done in Europe, Australia in Japan.

“So far, however, neither Congress nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has signaled a desire to ensure that car electrification leads to vehicles that are safer as well as greener. There need not be a tradeoff between efforts to halt climate change and reduce the surging number of road deaths.”

We concur with much of what Zipper is saying. We’re glad that Wisconsin is preparing for the coming surge in EVs, but road safety and car/truck safety improvements should not take a back seat to the greening of Wisconsin’s transportation system.

The rise of EVs poses the potential to do both.