Sheriff Clarke’s resignation doesn’t mean struggle is over!

Many of us have looked for removal of Sheriff David Clarke from office, not only for his outlandish views on matters like gun violence (arm yourself citizens, he once urged), immigration abuses (round ‘em up and ship them back) and policing (I’ll clean up city neighborhoods better than Milwaukee police), but also because of his failed administration of the Sheriff’s Department.

Rally protesting Sheriff Clarke

A recent demonstration urging resignation of former Sheriff Clarke

How indeed could he be expected to oversee this important County department while traipsing all over the country as the darling of the NRA, Donald Trump and every anti-immigrant group in the nation?  The six deaths at the County Jail since 2016 and the fact that 70 mile an hour traffic is constant on our 55-mph freeways both point to failed management.  And yes, “the buck stops at the top” – with Sheriff Clarke.  (It’s important not to taint the hard-working and dedicated deputies for the failures at the top.)

We’re glad David Clarke is gone, perhaps to greener more lucrative pastures for him.  He’ll be the show cow of rightwing groups that want to find a token black law enforcement officer to strengthen their creds.  They’ll pay him handsomely.  Oh well!

Now, will the sheriff’s department become better run?  Will inmates of our overcrowded County Jail find themselves in safer, more suitable surroundings?  Will our many immigrants feel more at ease in their homes?

Right now, the fate of the Sheriff’s Department rests in the hands of Gov. Scott Walker, who by law gets to appoint an interim sheriff who will hold office until the Spring 2018 elections.

This is a critical appointment.

Walker, who had turned a deaf ear to any complaints about Sheriff Clarke, is likely to appoint someone who sympathizes with the departed cowboy.  According to Milwaukee Neighborhood News, Walker had not responded before to groups like the Coalition for a People’s Sheriff, a group of organizations convened to defeat Clarke because of his “incompetent,” “unethical” and “inhumane” actions.

It’s doubtful Walker will be open to involving community groups in making his decision, unless it’s the Milwaukee Association of Commerce or Republican Party.  All signs point to a political appointment.

It’s true as well that the person he appoints will have an advantage when it comes to the spring election; officeholders, even when they were appointed, usually get elected.

Nonetheless, Milwaukee County residents must continue to make noise to urge community involvement in the appointment process.  It sometimes works.  Christine Neumann-Ortiz, of Voces de la Frontera, points out that mounting pressure — including two statewide boycotts and demonstrations that attracted tens of thousands as well as the threat of lawsuits and possible criminal charges related to the jail deaths — contributed to Clarke’s departure.

If Walker ignores such citizen pressure, there’s always the election.  Sadly, the spring municipal elections are hardly noticed by too many citizens.  Voter turnout is historically low.

The time is now – seven months ahead of those elections – to organize in a real grassroots endeavor to assure that Milwaukee County elects an effective, fair-minded and humane County Sheriff who will quickly erase of the shame on a department that had been tainted by the 15-year-tenure of David Clarke.   Ken Germanson, Sept. 2, 2017.

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Confessions of a soda jerk; or life’s embarrassing moments

Being a soda jerk could be educational.  Well, at least it was for me, a rather naïve teenager who spent three school nights a week and every Saturday and Sunday working at the neighborhood pharmacy, Whipp Drugs.  (For those familiar with the Milwaukee area, it was located at N. 72nd Street and W. North Ave. in the same building now occupied by the Chinese Pagoda.  The exterior looks much like it did in my teen years.) 

imagesI started in 1944, the summer I turned fifteen, when the mysteries of women and sex were still a fearful wonder, partly due to my mother who raised us under the strictest rules a Catholic child of the era could face.  She had lost her own mother at age eleven and by her high school years she had been shunted off by her father and stepmother to a convent to instill her with every rule in the Pope’s religion.  Thus, for example, under penalty of sin, you were not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the Sunday when you were to receive communion . . . and then, you couldn’t eat anything after receiving the host until you drank a glass of water.  God was watching and would penalize. 

Also, Waldemar Whipp, who owned the drugstore and lived above it with his wife, believed in the same strict rules of the Church. 

As excited as I was about being a soda jerk (and particularly with Mr. Whipp’s astounding suggestion that I could eat as much ice cream and drink as many Cokes as I wanted), I quickly learned that I was also a clerk, stocker and floor cleaner.  Usually I was the only employee in the store with Mr. Whipp; occasionally, he’d leave me alone while he went up to eat dinner with his wife.  (I even filled simple prescriptions!) 

My lack of understanding about sex was tested early on when a man aged about thirty asked for a strange item I had never heard of before.  My ignorance was testing his patience and he asked for the pharmacist; he was disappointed when I said he was not available (he was eating dinner).  Finally, he leaned over the counter and said, “You know, rubbers.”  Finally, thanks to boy talk at school, I knew that “rubbers” had something to do with sex, though I wasn’t sure what.  I knew it wasn’t something the Lord would approve.  Nor would Mr. Whipp who refused to stock them due to his Catholic beliefs. 

I told him we didn’t stock such things.  “You’re sure,” he thundered.  “I never heard of a drugstore not selling rubbers.”  He stormed out of the store. 

One dinner time, I was again alone in the store, jabbering at the soda fountain with a buddy who was enjoying a lime phosphate.ii  In walked an older lady, tiny and shy-acting.  She looked furtively around the store and I greeted her at the counter where we had the cash register. 

“I need a box of sanitary napkins,” she said. 

I pictured paper table napkins; I swear I’d seen a package of such dinnertime use labelled “200 Sanitary Napkins.” 

“Oh ma’am, we haven’t had those since Pearl Harbor,” I replied.  (Paper goods of all sorts were largely off the shelves by the early years of World War II.) 

The woman couldn’t have been more shocked.  “No, they can’t be.  I’ve bought them here before.” 

“You couldn’t have.  We can’t even get them from our supplier.” 

In the corner of my eye, I could see my friend (who was more knowledgeable in the mysteries of life) snickering. 

The woman leaned over the counter and in a very soft, almost whispery tone said, “Kotex.” 

“Oh Kotex,” I said out loud, causing her no end of embarrassment I’m certain.  My buddy bursted into outright guffaws. 

I knew Kotex, of course.  Mom had boxes of the stuff; also, one of my chores at the store had been to put the Kotex and Modess boxes into special brown paper bags made specifically for the purpose off hiding these female items from the public eye.  (I always wondered how they could find paper for such a purpose, when goods like toilet paper and facial tissues were always in short supply during the war.) 

Whipp Drugs – even though the strict Catholic Waldemar Whipp might not have wanted it that way – helped educate a simple boy into the ways of life.  – Ken Germanson.  Aug. 26, 2017. 

50 years later: Any progress on ending racism in Milwaukee?

Is Milwaukee less racist than it was 50 years ago when the disturbances in the summer of 1967 ended up with three deaths, many injuries, looted storefronts and put the city in a weeklong curfew?

As one who has lived in Milwaukee for nearly all his 88 years and has seen change occur, you’d hope I could say it has. Unfortunately, the answer is neither a yes or a no.

In a few ways, of course, racism is less apparent. Our neighborhoods, including those all-white enclaves of the 1960s that flushed up nasty demonstrators to taunt the open housing marchers, are now racially mixed, though some to a far lesser extent than others. Every previously white neighborhood has at least a smattering of families of color. In every area the presence of African-American, Hispanic, Middle Eastern and Asian peoples is common.

Some of the north side neighborhoods, however, have become nearly 100% African-American with the appearance of a white citizen almost as rare as albino animals in a deer herd.

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Racism took a graphic form in months leading up to August 1967 riots in Milwaukee.

The Milwaukee metropolitan area is still perhaps the most segregated in the United States. Nearly all of our suburbs are solidly white, the exceptions being Shorewood, Glendale and to a lesser extent Wauwatosa and Whitefish Bay.

In the 1960s — and continuing through the 1980s — many of my black friends would be fearful of crossing Milwaukee’s Mason-Dixon line (the Menomonee River valley) to enter the South Side. Now that has changed with African-Americans freely coming south. On the other hand, many whites are afraid to enter many of our North Side wards, while many of our suburban friends are even afraid to come downtown.

In 1967, Milwaukee a child’s school was determined largely by his or her neighborhood, resulting in many all-white and all-black schools and others with severe imbalances in the races. Now, even with school-busing, little has changed, thanks to the flight of many whites to the suburbs (less than 30% of residents in the city of Milwaukee are Caucasian today) and the creation of voucher and charter schools in which parents have chosen to send their kids to schools that best match their own racial identity. (Of the 76,856 students in MPS schools in 2016, some 88% were students of color and 80% of all students were economically disadvantaged, according to district statistics.)

And there’s no evidence that children are generally better educated in voucher or charter schools than in the highly unbalanced MPS schools.

We repeatedly hear evidence that there’s little progress in making Milwaukee less racist. It’s been well-reported that Milwaukee’s incarceration rate for black males is the highest in the nation with more than half in their 30s and 40s having served time. Zip Code 53206 on the near North Side has been shown to have the highest rate of homicides of any zip code in the U.S.

Nationally, the income gap between whites and blacks remains largely what it was in 1967, according to a national survey conducted by the University of Colorado, Boulder. In 2015 — the most recent year for which data are available — black households in the middle income levels earned an average of 55 percent as much as white households at those same percentiles. This is exactly the same figure as in 1967. With the loss of so many manufacturing jobs in the Milwaukee area, it’s likely the gap may even be greater.

Also, note that Milwaukee has had a number of police shootings, with the one in Sherman Park in August 2016 setting off disturbances reminiscent to those in 1967, though with few deaths and injuries.

Despite that, in many ways Milwaukee is working to becoming less racist. Though the mayor and county executive are both white, minorities are well-represented on the Common Council and County Board; both executives are sympathetic toward programs to end racism (some would argue they may be too timid, however). There are numerous public and private efforts aimed at reducing the disparities in the community, as well as public-private strategies. The church community, most major businesses and the media tend to be supportive.

There is a spirit of hope in the air, but regrettably, there’s a lot of inertia and apathy to overcome. There’s some downright opposition, mainly from suburban and out-state sources. The state government shows little inclination to help the city; in fact it is working to undercut many of the efforts through its starvation of funds.

Meanwhile, within the community there must be continued and even greater involvement in ending the racism that still rests within too many of us. — Ken Germanson, August 1, 2017

 

We Can Make Wisconsin Progressive, Again … IF

Rather than being content to sit back and cry in their beer over the 2016 election losses, some 200 or more activists gathered in Stevens Point on a cool summer weekend to see if they could fashion a way to restore Wisconsin to its former place as a beacon of progressivism.

For the most part, these folks were supporters of Bernie Sanders in the primaries and their enthusiasm and hard grassroots activities helped to propel the Vermont Senator to easily win the Wisconsin primary over Hillary Clinton.  Now they gathered to see if there was a way to re-ignite that enthusiasm and to devise strategies that would lead to saving the state from the ravaging disaster that it has become under the regressive leadership of Gov. Scott Walker and an unfairly elected and backward-thinking GOP Legislature.

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Students rallying in a march to support science in April 2017

The gathering was the founding convention of Our Wisconsin Revolution, one of the statewide groups being formed in some 13 states under a loose national umbrella organization, Our Revolution.  The national group is seeking to spread the concept that through organizing on progressive issues, sponsoring worthy candidates for offices at all levels and working at the grassroots our governments at all levels can be restored to serve the best interests of all Americans.

*****

Those who showed up came on their own dime, paying for their own gas and overnight lodging and they were serious about getting things done – not merely getting together in a feel-good session of speechifying and in lamenting over how others screwed-up the 2016 election.  To be sure, there were occasional references to the failure of Candidate Clinton to pay attention to Wisconsin voters and the general failure of the Democratic Party; yet, most were happy to lay that aside as ancient history and concentrate on deciding “what do we do now?”

And work they did, convening in the early afternoon of Friday, continuing through a working supper and ending after nine o’clock, with the whole effort beginning again Saturday and ending about four o’clock.  First, of course, came the frustrating but necessary business of approving by-laws.  The convention almost got bogged down on nit-picking detail, but thanks to strong leadership, the effort was completed with only minimal delay and with apparent unanimous harmony.

Secondly, came the approval of a platform, a chore that found virtually every progressive goodie being added to an already long list of desires.  Hardly a liberal dream was forgotten!  Thanks again goes to the planners for setting up a tight agenda that forced the chair to call a halt to the process.  There are just so many ornaments to put on a Christmas tree before the branches sag and the tree collapses.  Not every liberal idea will get enacted, of course, but the platform does give guidance to choosing candidates and stimulating volunteers and donors. The platform was given tentative approval.

Then came the hardwork: devising strategies and action that will bring progressive governance back to Wisconsin.

The planning committee is also to be commended for what appears to be a highly workable and possibly successful structure that calls for development of committees in each of the eight Wisconsin congressional districts; the committees will be charged with organizing voter registration and education campaigns as well as encouraging progressive individuals to run for political office at all levels.  To be successful, each CD group will have to recruit activists who are willing to put in time and effort to work door-to-door campaigns, staff phone banks, run forums and do all the grunt work necessary to win elections.

Decisions will have to be made as to what candidates to support at each level; while most hope the endorsed candidates will run as Democrats, the group is open to Third Party and independent candidates.

*****

Some encouraging signs from the Stevens Point conclave came in the diversity in ages among the participants with a goodly number of gray and balding heads among the fresh faces of the young, including an articulate, poised 18-year-old who ran (unsuccessfully) for one of the seven at-large board seats.  While there was a heavy concentration of folks from Madison, all parts of the state had significant representation.  Few of the participants seemed to be doctrinaire ideologues; rather they were looking to the practical goal of winning elections with truly progressive candidates.

There were some discouraging notes, however.  Our Wisconsin Revolution will have to guard against being tagged as a bunch of elitist intellectuals, which will turn off the underpaid working people of the state, many of whom switched to Trump in 2016.  There were too few persons of color among the group, nor were there many representatives of organized labor, both of which will be needed to form an effective effort.

Nonetheless, the founding convention was largely successful in building the framework for what could be the beginning of the end of the shameful Scott Walker-GOP control of Wisconsin.  Chosen as interim co-leaders were Terrance Warthen, an African-American from the 1st Congressional District, and Sarah Lloyd, who farms in Columbia County and was candidate for 6th District Congressperson in 2016.  Both showed leadership and energy during the conference and seem well-suited to provide early leadership for Our Wisconsin Revolution.

Success for the goals of Our Wisconsin Revolution rests upon whether it can stir up interest in enough persons who will be willing to roll up their sleeves to work for progressive change in Wisconsin.  That’s the big “IF.”

If you’re so inclined, why not join in the cause?   Check it out here and then run – don’t walk – to the next OWR meeting in your area.  – Ken Germanson, June 26, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

Wisconsin Becoming Kansas II

Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker appears to be a clone of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.  Both are are leading their states in a downward slide of economic devastation, where schools find it more difficult to educate, the roads become havens of potholes and health care dries up for those with few resources.

Brownback has been leading a five-year crusade to create a state that shows that lower

Brownback

Kansas Gov. Brownback

taxes and trickle-down economics can lead to economic prosperity.  Only it hasn’t worked. The promised growth has been disappointing, with the state’s gross domestic productivity increasing only 0.2% compared with the national average of 1.6%. As the New York Times editorialized June 9:“State revenues dwindled along with job growth. Budget deficits ballooned. Education funding plummeted, and the state suffered multiple credit downgrades as Mr. Brownback played the mad doctor of supply-side economics.”

Finally, however, Kansas voters have wised up.  Recently legislators bolted from Brownback’s no-budget increase policy to call for a budget boost of $1.2 Billion, even overriding a Brownback veto.  The governor had lost much of his support for his failed policies in the last election when a dozen of his most ardent supporters were ousted from their legislative seats.

Walker

Wisconsin Gov. Walker

Gov. Walker’s single-minded quest for “no tax increase economics” has plunged Wisconsin into a similar abyss.  Wisconsin schools are continually being robbed of funds, while Walker argues that school districts are able to make up for the drop in aids, thanks to the “benefits” of Act 10 that freed them from dealing with teachers unions and gave districts a right to cut teacher salaries and benefits (with larger class sizes).  This anti-education policy can only lead to disaster, since Wisconsin employers are constantly pleading for more qualified workers and that won’t happen with out a good school system.

Similarly, Wisconsin’s highway program is being starved with Walker’s refusal to entertain gas tax increases or license fee boosts.  Ongoing highway projects — with their accompanying road delays and detours — are being threatened for delays or postponements while potholes wreak havoc on the front ends of our cars and trucks.  Walker’s only answer now seems to be a hare-brained scheme to charge tolls to out-of-staters or to rob funds from other state programs, most of which help the poor and needy.

Meanwhile, his conservation policies are threatening our wetlands, our clean water needs and our wildlife.  That’s hardly a wise course for a state that relies upon its lakes, rivers and the Great Lakes as lures for one of its best economic resources: tourism.

There are signs that even the most conservative of Republican legislators may balk at Walker’s “no-tax-increase” policy, with many favoring a gas tax increase, for instance.

Sadly for us Wisconsinites, the six years of Walkernomics have proven to be a disaster; the promised new businesses have failed to materialize as Wisconsin remains among those states with the poorest record of job-creation.  (Note: Walker can honestly boast of a drop in the unemployment levels, but that has been accomplished as the state stagnates in population growth and in wage levels.)

While there are encouraging signs in the Republican legislature of resisting Walker’s failed “trickle-down” policies, it’s a good bet the conservative leaders in both houses will not go far enough in turning back this trend toward turning Wisconsin into a backwater state without a good future.

The answer lies in the 2018 election when voters will speak again.  Maybe they’ll show they’re no longer going to be fooled by Walker’s backward economic thinking, just as the voters in Kansas have shown. – June 9, 2017

Celebration of Life of Ann Germanson

Family and friends will celebrate the life of Ann E. Germanson, who died April 22, 2017 after a short but difficult struggle with melanoma cancer.

2006 xmas - Copy

Ann E. Germanson – Feb. 11, 1930 – April 22, 2017

Sunday, June 11

Beulah Brinton House, 2590 S. Superior St., Milwaukee

Reception and visiting from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Reflections on the life of Ann at 4 p.m.

See notice of Ann’s death. https://advoken.wordpress.com/2017/04/24/death-notice-ann-elizabeth-germanson/

DEATH NOTICE: Ann Elizabeth Germanson

Ann Elizabeth Germanson, 87, died April 22, at her home, ending a four-month battle with melanoma cancer.  Beloved wife of Kenneth and children, Laurie Stott, David Germanson and Joanne (David) Monyelle, all of Milwaukee, and Richard (Susan) of New York City, five grandchildren, nieces, nephews and friends.  A daughter, Jill Lozier, preceded her in death.

Ann was born Feb. 11, 1930, in Mason City, Iowa, and raised in Gordon (Douglas County) WI, where she graduated from high school.  She graduated in 1951 with a degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota, where she won Phi Beta Kappa honors.  After graduation, she worked as a reporter for the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald where met her husband.  They married June 19,1954.  After her husband’s naval service, the family moved to Milwaukee in 1957.

Ann was dedicated to her children and grandchildren and instilled in them all a sense of community, an understanding of all cultures, an appreciation for the environment and support for progressive causes.  A master of the English language, she was the family Scrabble champion and an accomplished crossword puzzle solver.

Services and cremation will be private.  A Celebration of Ann’s life for family and friends will be scheduled later.  Donations to the charity of your choice will be appreciated.

(Click here to read a diary in verse, entitled ‘Watching a Loved One Die: A Diary’ by Ann’s husband.)