Thursday, February 25, 2016

WisGOP Assembly members can't handle the truth on their record

Seems like Wisconsin Republicans are having a bad time handling the truth these days. You may have heard about this story out of Western Wisconsin this week, where GOP Rep. Kathy Bernier was part of a group of state GOP politicians that were called out on her party’s failures in economic and educational performance, and stormed out of a listening session, calling the following statement from and Eau Claire School Board member “vile political speech.”.
“Fundamentally, Minnesota is beating us,” said Wendy Sue Johnson, citing a Jan. 20 article written by state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma), who also attended the meeting.

“Our (school) funding formula is broken,” Johnson added.
God, that’s just terrible to say! Especially when it’s true. But I’m sure Rep. Bernier composed herself and answered the concerns of the school board member by giving the lowdown on what she and he colleagues in the Legislature plan to do to shrink that gap in outcomes between the two states.
Bernier then got up to leave the “Breakfast with Our Legislators” session involving the Chippewa Falls, Altoona and Eau Claire School Districts at the Avalon Hotel and Conference Center in Chippewa Falls.

“It is not helpful to compare Minnesota and Wisconsin,” Bernier said, remarking that this is what she experiences with Altoona, Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls each time she attends the districts’ breakfast.
Truth hurts Kathy, and no matter what stats you try to cherry-pick to claim we somehow teach things better than Minnesota is belied by Wisconsin’s massive lagging in job growth, wages, and population growth between the two states. And as State Rep. Gordon Hintz accurately pointed out, Rep. Bernier’s words about “vile political speech” and claims that things are fine with public schools ring hollow when she is in fact one that has helped to cause the problem.

But let’s give ol’ Kathy a break, because she probably is just agitated because she only won her 2014 election in Assembly District 68 by just over 1,200 votes in a pro-GOP year, and that northern and western Wisconsin is the part of the state where Scott Walker has lost the most support since that election. And she now officially has a challenger for the seat in Altoona's Howard White, so maybe Bernier sees the handwriting on the wall, and didn’t feel like talking much on Monday as a result. She’ll deal with the reality soon enough, I suppose :P

Another example of Republicans not being able to deal with current events happened in yesterday’s meeting of the Assembly Committee on Children and Families when committee chair Jessie Rodriguez (R- Scott Jensen and School Voucher Lobby) shut down any discussion of the abuse scandals at the Lincoln Hills School in Irma, claiming it wasn’t a topic on the day’s agenda. This angered the Democrats on the committee, who wanted to know why the scandal wasn’t being brought up.
At the outset of the hearing, Chairwoman Jessie Rodriguez announced that she was going to prohibit any discussion of the abuse allegations that occurred at the Lincoln Hills School. The Chairwoman’s gag order was made even though committee members had come prepared to discuss a 2014 child abuse and neglect report that did not reflect the numerous allegations of physical and sexual abuse that have since been substantiated by a Lincoln County Circuit Judge and are the subject of a recent F.B.I. investigation.

Democratic committee members voiced concerns that reports of child abuse at Lincoln Hills have gone uninvestigated by local child welfare officials, but those questions were not allowed during Wednesday’s

hearing. This, despite the fact that not a single 90-Day Summary Report for Child Deaths, Serious Injuries, or Egregious Abuse or Neglect Incidents was generated by Lincoln County in 2014 or 2015, when many of the abuses are alleged to have occurred, including broken bones, excessive force incidents, sexual assault by staff members, and attempted suicides by youth inmates.

“It is clear that the scandal at Lincoln Hills is an embarrassment for the Walker Administration, but that does not excuse the Assembly Committee on Children & Families from doing its job, asking the tough questions, and providing basic oversight of the safety and well-being of minors under state care and supervision,” said Rep. LaTonya Johnson.
Naturally, Rodriguez grumbled about “political games” from Democrats, which is what Republicans do when they get confronted by their policy failures and have no legitimate excuse for dodging the issue. It also tells you that there’s a lot more to come up on the Lincoln Hills story, which includes the Walker Administration not releasing to the public details of a letter from a Racine County judge that detailed abuse and the lack of responsiveness in early 2012 (coincidentally, a few months before Gov Walker’s recall election).

Hmm, and why didn’t the committee have any reports about these abuses in that summary of incidents they were going over in yesterday's meeting? Maybe it was because those incidents were being covered up without charges, as Patrick Marley revealed in a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article that came out the same day Rodriguez shut down the discussion about Lincoln Hills.
Despite what a former state employee called a strong case, officials in 2013 abandoned pursuing charges against a juvenile inmate accused of sexually assaulting his roommate at a secure Northwoods facility now at the center of an investigation into sexual assault, prisoner abuse, child neglect and other crimes.

"It blew me away that no one was charged," said James Townsend, the former supervisor at Lincoln Hills School for Boys who investigated the March 2013 incident.

Townsend was fired a month after he conducted his investigation, in part because he refused to modify a report on his investigation at the request of supervisors.

Townsend, who is African-American, is fighting his termination, which he contends was based on racial discrimination and retaliation for how he responded to practices at Lincoln Hills. Department of Corrections officials deny he was fired for those reasons.
So was Rep. Rodriguez playing dumb when she claimed there were no incidents at Lincoln Hills to talk about, or was there some interference from the Walker Administration that kept her and the rest of the committee from knowing about this sooner? Inquiring minds should want to know. Perhaps the words of Rep. Johnson and the other Dems on the Committee on Children and Families (Lisa Subeck and Jill Billings) indicate that state Dems won’t repeat their bad habit of letting the GOP off the hook when one of these scandals emerge, allowing the issue to be dropped and removed from the public’s and media’s attention. Instead, maybe they will keep pounding on the pattern of abuse and cover-up that gets uglier with each new revelation about goings-on at Lincoln Hills.

Is it really any surprise that Gov Walker and the WisGOP Legislature have very negative approval ratings throughout the state (as evidenced in the most recent Marquette Law School Poll)? A lot of independents and others in the state have seen what corporatist Republican rule and incompetence has meant in Wisconsin, and they are done with the failed policies that have become the rule in Fitzwalkerstan. And even if their elected representatives don't want to hear it or do anything about it, it doesn't change the facts of those failures.



    1. Good work, CJ. Key quote from the former Racine Co judge "They swept it under the rug."

      And what does Robbin' Vos call it? "Gamesmanship" and an "isolated incident." Funny, Id say "inexcusable", but I guess that's just me

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  2. Even MORE damning.
    Have fun in the sun!