Monday, March 6, 2017
By Tom Frazier
“Gerrymander” is defined as: “To divide (an area) into political units to give special advantage to one group.” It was named after Elbridge Gerry, Governor of Massachusetts, who in 1812 signed a law redistricting state election districts. One district in Essex County was described as looking like a salamander, thus the word “Gerrymander” was created by combining the names.
Wisconsin has one of the worst cases in the country of using gerrymandering to give “special advantage to one group” – in this case Republicans in the state legislature. But gerrymandering is a bi-partisan problem according to Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin. The two worst Democratic states are Rhode Island and Maryland, while Wisconsin and North Carolina comprise the two worst Republican states Heck reports. The big difference is that Wisconsin is the first such state to have a three-judge federal appeals panel rule that Wisconsin’s redistricting law “constitutes an unconstitutional political gerrymander.” The panel voted 2-1 to direct the state to develop a new redistricting plan and have it in place by November 1, 2017 for the 2018 elections.
Wednesday, July 6, 2016
By Cal Potter
After having served a total of approximately 24 years in the Wisconsin Assembly and State Senate, I often hear commentary that the political
atmosphere during my 1975-1998 service is in major contrast in agenda, behavior, and the reason for serving in political office to that found today. The same observation is being made by those who have served in Congress over a number of decades.
I have not been a part of the Legislature for about the last 18 years, and thus cannot provide a first hand account of internal operations today, but I am told by those who are still there after many years that things are very different. I do have vivid recollections of the makeup of the Assembly during my early years, and particularly impressions of my first year, 1975. The most vivid image I have is the number of members who were of a more mature age, and had (or still did) served in local government as town, county, or school board members, or in some other unit of local government. The presence of those with that background had them be very task oriented, and not strongly partisan agenda driven. Their local government experience gave them a real worldview that government was to serve the people, and to try to address the problems we face, in spite of our differing political philosophies. So, while there were partisan differences on what should be done, and how much spent on the effort, no one felt a need to stall government for any valid reason. The state budget, in some form, needed to be passed as there were local units of government waiting for printouts as to what school aid, shared revenue, or road aid levels were to be expected so they could in turn prepare their budgets.
Posted by Common Cause in Wisconsin at 6:02 PM
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
By Roger Utnehmer
Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson will be recorded as the second-most effective executive in state history. The reasons are apparent in a recent book by a two-time state senator and Thompson cabinet member, Tim Cullen, "Ringside Seat."
Cullen served in the state senate from 1975 to 1986 when be was appointed the highest-ranking Democrat in the cabinet of Gov. Thompson. Cullen returned to the state senate for one term after a long career in the private sector, retiring in 2015.
(Full Disclosure: I knew Tim Cullen when I worked for Republican State Sen. Clifford "Tiny" Krueger in the mid '70's and we continue a friendship today serving together on the Board of Directors of Common Cause-Wisconsin. Tim, in "Ringside Seat," calls "Tiny" the greatest senator with whom he served.)
His book is an insiders' look at the best and worst of our political system. Cullen writes a critical portrayal of Wisconsin's current governor, Scott Walker, accusing Walker of dividing a state rather than uniting it and of pursuing an unneeded and divisive attack on public employees to fuel a presidential campaign.
Posted by Common Cause in Wisconsin at 9:21 AM