Teachers Behaving Badly

Government unions consider themselves the rightful rulers of us all, and they’re shocked when those who pay the bills question what’s going on.

So there’s nothing surprising about the campaign emails of Shelly Moore, a Democrat hoping to unseat Republican State Senator Sheila Harsdorf in a recall election on August 9th. What’s noteworthy is that Moore, a teacher in the Ellsworth School District, sent and received these emails using school facilities, allegedly on paid, school-district time.  The very existence of these emails demonstrates contempt for taxpayers.

Having obtained the emails through an open-records request to the school district, the Republican Party of Wisconsin (RPW) last Wednesday filed a formal complaint asking the Government Accountability Board to investigate.

According to the RPW:

The email exchanges, which were sent between February and April of this year, reveal a frenzied effort on the part of Moore to organize the recall of her opponent, Senator Sheila Harsdorf.  Moore  discusses political activity and union-organized political vents over email on several occasions, many of the exchanges occurring during official school hours.  Moore also exchanges emails regarding her potential candidacy for the state senate.

The emails read like a family album of people who have rid themselves of nagging scruples by redefining virtue as whatever they  want to do. The inevitable result is public sector employees like Moore who reject any responsibility to the private citizens who sustain them.

In one email, Moore acknowledges that her use of taxpayer funded resources for campaign activities is wrong, but says she doesn’t care.

We are not supposed to use school email, but since all of our rights are being taken away, I don’t frankly care.”

The Ellsworth School District appears to have taken liberties with the open records law by running a magic marker through the names and email addresses of dozens of people exchanging emails with Moore about her campaign for State Senate. One can only
guess how many other public employees joined Moore in knowingly abusing public property for political gain.

Perhaps another open records request is order.

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Living history

It is  a rare thing to know you are seeinghistory as it’s made. It’s even rarer to be one of those making history, and rarer still to be making history deliberately for reasons other than self-interest.

But all three of those distinctions apply to Republican state lawmakers (sorry, no Democrats; not even one,) who laid their careers on the line—many of them before those careers were two months old—in order to put the State of Wisconsin on an honest fiscal footing and to re-establish the primacy of the  private sector.

Long-time Capitol reporter Steve Walters captures the remarkable GOP freshman class of 2011 in an intriguing profile.

Walters notes, it truly is a new day: Nearly half the members of the Republican Assembly majority have been in office for slightly less than six full months, and these first-term lawmakers aren’t intimidated by the prospect that their careers could already be one-fourth over: They came to do a specific job and if it means they’re gone in January 2013, so be it.

Walter reports: 

There’s a saying in the Capitol: First-term lawmakers are most vulnerable. If they aren’t beaten when they seek a second term, the odds are they will be in office a long time.  

That’s why past first-term lawmakers who have been protested, forced to take difficult votes that angered special-interest groups and who get “you’re a one-termer” taunts, have often nervously searched for face-saving compromises and tiptoed away from their campaign promises.  That wasn’t true for these first-term Assembly Republicans. They adopted a different response: “Bring it on.”  

“I signed up for exactly this,” Republican Rep. Michelle Litjens, of Oshkosh, said in a WisconsinEye interview last week. “I wanted to fundamentally change government in the state of Wisconsin.”  “We all expected we were coming into something really, really rough,” added GOP Rep. Roger Rivard, of Rice Lake, whose district had been represented by a Democrat for 26 years.

 It’s hard to imagine the legislature making these sweeping reforms without these bold and principled new leaders.

Supremely unseemly

Not knowing what happened any better than anybody else who wasn’t there, we’ll be cautious in commenting about last weekend’s story of a physical altercation between two justices of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

We fervently hope for an honest investigation. But it’s not unreasonable to ask whether the public can expect one, given Wisconsin’s current political atmosphere.  Change of venue may be impractical here but the judicial system provides for it in circumstances far less toxic and hate-filled than those surrounding this bizarre episode.

It would also be naïve to overlook who stands to gain from allegations that David Prosser put his hands around Anne Walsh Bradley’s neck during a dispute in Bradley’s office.  Some sources say Bradley was the aggressor. We hope the investigation sorts that
out.  But isn’t it interesting that anonymous sources floated this story days after the Leftist-government union alliance suffered what would normally be considered final defeat in the battle over Wisconsin’s collective bargaining law?

If anything has been demonstrated by the infantile politics on display since last November’s elections, it’s that keeping conflict unresolved is what sustains the Left. Elections don’t count. The actions of lawfully constituted governing bodies don’t matter. The norms of civil procedure are to be systematically breached except when they confer advantage on the Left. No slander is too vile. No dispute is ever settled unless the Left considers itself to be ahead.  If an opponent can’t be defeated in an election he may be destroyed by other means; any means available. This is not new. This is the Left as it’s always been, now revealing its true nature in reaction to serial defeat.

The unanswered question is whether the Supreme Court fracas might be just one more example.

Desperate Attempts to Get Attention

One thing worth remembering about the Walkerville protesters, who never numbered more than a couple hundred, is the depraved and hateful tactics they used to try and demonstrate the “public’s” outrage. Protest organizer Dave Boetcher told a Madison newspaper their goal was to “shed light” on the state budget. Instead they shed light on their own desperate attempts to
get media attention by:

  • Breaking up a Red Cross blood in the Capitol Rotunda;
  • Frightening Special Olympians looming over them dressed as zombies, to disrupt a presentation by the governor;
  • Shrieking “Kill the bill!” over and over as the state Senate arose for a moment of silent prayer before debating the budget;
  • Shackling themselves by their necks to the railing of the Senate gallery using bicycle locks. One  participant managed to swallow his key;
  • Defacing the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce headquarters with graffiti.

These acts were so vile and over the top that even the Democratic legislators who opened ground floor windows to let deranged
pot-smoking vandals could occupy the State Capitol in March, tried desperately to distance themselves from their supporters.

Senator Tim Carpenter (D) Milwaukee said, “said the “zombie” protest was simply “off the deep end,” and that those type of stunts are for people “just trying to get on TV.” He went on to register his displeasure with the “zombie” protest saying “I don’t think it’s classy.”

Not classy doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Balancing Act

Governor Walker’s signature on Assembly Bill 40 will give Wisconsin its first genuinely balanced budget in more than a dozen years. The Left’s rhetoric suggests it would prefer bankruptcy.

In a stellar exhibition of what passes for reasoning in his political party, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin called the balanced budget a “hollow victory,” one he said was achieved “on the backs of local government, public workers, schools, the middle class, the elderly and disabled.”

We’ll stop laughing when somebody shows us how local government—or any government, public workers and schools produce the wealth that is taxed to sustain them. And the last we heard, the middle class, elderly and disabled were among those being taxed. A balanced budget might not threaten them the way it does the Mayor.

Down at the other end of State Street and widely alleged to be a victim of budget-balancing actions is the center of Wisconsin higher education. But the UW System—despite a $250 million reduction in direct taxpayer support—seems to have a brighter view of its situation.

New flexibility in budgeting and financial management, thanks to the budget bill, will help the university system cope, and individual university employees will benefit significantly from revised tax treatment of their retirement contributions.

According to a UW system statement: “UW System leaders also acknowledged other important provisions in the budget bill, such as a statutory change that will treat state and UW employees’ retirement contributions on a pre-tax basis. For an employee earning $36,000 per year, the ability to make pre-tax contributions will save an estimated $475 per year.” See UW System: Statement on legislative budget action

The benefit to employees went largely unnoticed; possibly because it was created through a budget amendment authored by Republicans and doesn’t fit the media template of the GOP stalking the countryside looking for public workers to mug. If the UW system is sincere about realizing it’s not alone in the struggle to balance the books amid a debilitated economy, better things may lie ahead. A balanced budget would be one such thing, so there’s already something worth celebrating.

Vouching for Liberal credibility

You don’t have to be crazy to understand legislative Democrats, but, as they say, it helps.  Ask the people Democrats claim as their core constituencies.

The day the Assembly took up the state budget, the Racine Journal Times reported the Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce board voted unequivocal support for budget language extending school choice vouchers to its community.

For many lower-income families, that means a crucial opportunity to seek a better education.  The education establishment’s complaint that vouchers harm public schools by taking away state aid is misleading at best, because the aid follows the student.  A school district has no legitimate claim on aid payments for students it doesn’t enroll.

That’s one objection disposed of. But what about Democrats—who claim to defend low-income people against attacks by Republicans and big business—lining up to deny low-income people educational opportunities offered by Republicans and the business community???

The same day the Racine business group weighed in, an Associated Press story out of Madison announced Assembly Democrats’ intention “to offer at least two dozen amendments to the Republican-backed state budget to undo proposed cuts to education and programs benefiting the poor.”

Umm, would this boon to education and the poor include the amendment State Rep. Robert Turner (D-Racine) said he’d propose, to eliminate Racine County school vouchers from the budget? Do Turner’s low-income constituents know?  Or did he think only the teachers’ union bosses read the newspaper?

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said his party’s first priority would be to fully fund public education.  Clearly, Barca, Turner and other Democrats are happy to target limitless spending to low-income constituencies—provided those onstituencies are denied any freedom to receive the largesse someplace other than the Democrats’ company store.

Prevailing Outrage

One of the more important things the Joint Finance Committee did in its version of the state budget bill has flown pretty much under the radar.  Little notice was taken of the provision that eliminates a requirement that construction companies pay prevailing wage on any project where tax dollars are involved.

It rated a few brief paragraphs in The Daily Reporter, a Milwaukee-based construction industry paper.

The Reporter identifies the provision targeted for repeal as “a 2009 law” that requires payment of the hourly wage most
commonly paid for similar labor in a given locality.

Prevailing wage traces its unsavory lineage to the federal Davis-Bacon Act of 1931, designed to reserve public works jobs for union members. Its other consequences include the artificial inflation of the labor costs for any public works project.

Strange, that the unions haven’t been screaming about this. Then again, maybe not so strange: If the unions bring it up, somebody
might ask them to explain it.