An Election Day Primer for Wisconsin Voters*

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Category: Civil Rights, Election Law, Milwaukee, Public
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Voting_United_StatesTomorrow is Election Day. It’s important to vote, so make sure you know where and when you can cast your ballot. New for Wisconsin voters this year is a photo identification requirement. I break down the voting process below to demystify and clarify it.

The main thing, though, is to vote. Even if you don’t like your choices for president, there are down-ballot races, including a state-wide U.S. Senate race between Russ Feingold and Ron Johnson and any number of races for federal or state representatives and other local officials, for which your vote matters. Read more »

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Calling 911 in the Wake of Police Violence

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Category: Civil Rights, Criminal Law & Process, Human Rights, Media & Journalism, Milwaukee, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Poverty & Law, Public, Race & Law
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black_lives_matter_sign_-_minneapolis_protest_22632545857Amanda Seligman is a Visiting Fellow in Law and Public Policy at Marquette University Law School.

How does racially-tinged police violence toward civilians affect city residents’ willingness to summon aid in an emergency? A study in the October 2016 American Sociological Review asks what happened to the number of 911 calls after the public revelation that off-duty white Milwaukee police officers beat Frank Jude in 2004. In “Police Violence and Citizen Crime Reporting in the Black Community,” Matthew Desmond, Andrew V. Papachristos, and David S. Kirk find that in the year after the initial publicity around the beating, Milwaukee residents placed 22,000 fewer 911 calls than might have been expected, resulting in a total of 110,000 calls. Although white neighborhoods saw a spike in 911 calls and then a long but shallow dip, the loss of calls was especially pronounced in black neighborhoods. The authors found no such loss of calls reporting traffic accidents.

Desmond et al.’s 911 study received extensive mass media coverage. Juleyka Lantigua-Williams wrote about the study in The Atlantic, and the New York Times’sThe Upshot” column reported the findings. The study was the subject of two articles in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, one reporting on the findings and one offering responses from District Attorney John Chisholm and Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn. Two of the authors, Desmond and Papachristos, also published an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times commenting on the significance of their research. A small host of other reports suggest broad interest in the study’s implications in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement and widespread coverage of police shootings of African American civilians.

Sociologist Desmond is one of our most thoughtful observers of the cultural significance of the 911 emergency call system. In Evicted, his 2015 ethnographic study of housing and poverty in Milwaukee, Desmond observed how victims of domestic violence put themselves at risk for losing their homes if they call the police too often. Read more »

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Conference Offers Light — and Some Heat — on Gamut of Crucial Water Issues

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Category: Environmental Law, Marquette Law School Poll, Milwaukee, Public, Speakers at Marquette, Water Law
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To the general public, water is “an issue that’s obscure under normal circumstances,” Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll and professor of law and public policy, said at the end of the major conference on water issues this week (Sept. 7, 2016) at the Law School.

Franklin was commenting on the relatively mixed level of concern about water issues found in responses to several questions in the Law School Poll’s results from late August. For many people, you turn on the faucet, drinkable water comes out, and you’re likely to pretty much take this for granted.

But then, Franklin said, there are disasters that demand great attention and drive perceptions.

The Law School’s conference, “Public Policy and American Drinking Water,” drew a capacity audience to the Appellate Courtroom of Eckstein Hall. Both among the speakers and members of the audience, the room was filled with experts and leading activists on water issues – as well as interested members of the public, Marquette undergraduate and graduate students, and a dozen high school students.

And as Franklin suggested, the conference offered some controversial content of great public interest – namely, discussion of issues around lead in drinking water in Flint, Mich., Milwaukee, and elsewhere – and quite a bit of lower-key discussion around important water issues that don’t attract so much attention (the state of groundwater supplies, pricing and valuation of water, and the role of private ventures in water delivery systems). Read more »

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Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization in Law School Poll, But Results for Other Drugs Harder to Interpret

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Category: Criminal Law & Process, Marquette Law School Poll, Milwaukee, Public, Wisconsin Criminal Law & Process
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In the Marquette Law School Poll conducted earlier this month, fifty-nine percent of registered Wisconsin voters agreed that marijuana “should be fully legalized and regulated like alcohol.” Only thirty-nine percent disagreed.

Support for legalization in Wisconsin follows the recent decisions to legalize marijuana in Colorado and Washington in 2012, and in Oregon and Alaska in 2014. Nationally, support for legalization has grown steadily since the early 1990s and finally crossed the fifty-percent threshold in 2013. (On the local level, the Public Policy Forum published a thoughtful assessment of the costs of marijuana enforcement in Milwaukee earlier this year.)

In the Law School Poll, respondents were asked which arguments for legalization they found most convincing.

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How to Interpret Away the Home Rule Provision (in 4 Easy Steps)

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Category: Constitutional Interpretation, Constitutional Law, Judges & Judicial Process, Milwaukee, Public, Wisconsin Supreme Court
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homeruleToday the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued its opinion in the case of Black v. City of Milwaukee, 2016 WI 47, holding that a state law (Wis. Stat. 66.0502) that prohibits cities and other municipalities from imposing residency requirements on municipal employees does not contravene the Home Rule provision of the Wisconsin Constitution (Art. XI, sec. 3(1)).  The result of the ruling is that the City of Milwaukee may no longer require city employees to reside within the City limits, with the resultant loss of significant tax revenue for Milwaukee.

Reading the text of the Home Rule provision, one might reasonably question how the Wisconsin Supreme Court arrived at this conclusion.  The relevant text of Art. XI states:

Cities and villages organized pursuant to state law may determine their local affairs and government, subject only to this constitution and to such enactments of the legislature of statewide concern as with uniformity shall affect every city or every village.

However, the Justices of the Wisconsin Supreme Court have very helpfully demonstrated how the clear language of the Wisconsin Constitution can be interpreted away in four easy steps. Read more »

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Opposing Views, One Conversation at Session on Milwaukee Education

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Category: Education & Law, Milwaukee, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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Until Tuesday, Dale Kooyenga and Lauren Baker had never met. That alone is an argument for why their discussion before a capacity audience in the Appellate Courtroom of Eckstein Hall was worthwhile.

Kooyenga is a member of the state Assembly, a leader among Republicans pushing for education policies that embrace school choice, and a key figure behind a controversial new law that gives Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele powers to control what happens in some low-success Milwaukee public schools.

Baker is the executive director of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, the union that is an influential force in Milwaukee politics and MPS decision making. The union opposes almost all the plans Kooyenga supports.

Never the twain shall agree? That’s likely, given the adamancy of their positions. But never the twain shall meet? That ended at the Law School event, which was titled “The Future of Education in Milwaukee: One Conversation, Two Viewpoints.” Read more »

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Author Says Urban Progress Requires “Durable” Policy

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Category: Milwaukee, Poverty & Law, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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A few phrases provide a taste of the serious serving of thoughts about urban centers in America offered by Patrick Sharkey, a sociology professor at New York University, at an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Marquette Law School on Tuesday.

“Multi-generational cumulative exposure.” Sharkey is author of the book, Stuck in Place: Urban Neighborhoods and the End of Progress Toward Racial Equality, and is working currently on issues related to violence and low-income communities. A key to his findings is that the problems facing people who live in poor, predominantly minority areas have built up for generations and show themselves in multiple serious ways, including the educational success and future prospects of children.

“A durable urban policy agenda.” Sharkey said that one thing that has shown positive results is sustained effort to help people with housing, jobs, education, and other matters – with the emphasis on the word “sustained.” So many initiatives are launched and then dropped, he said. He said he doesn’t see durable policy coming from the federal government. The waning of such efforts after the late 1960s is one of the main reasons progress in closing racial gaps stopped, he said. But durable efforts have been undertaken on more local levels, and that gives him some cause for optimism. Read more »

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County Exec Debate Presents Big Differences in Level-Headed Ways

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Chris Abele and Chris Larson have big differences and their race for Milwaukee County executive is intensely contested.

But their one-hour debate at Eckstein Hall Thursday evening, broadcast live by WISN (Channel 12), was an even-tempered and unflashy presentation of their positions on many of the specific issues and their general approach to what the county executive should do in the next four years. In other words, it was a good way for voters in large numbers, given the television audience, to get a direct view of what the candidates say, as well as some impression of how the two handle themselves.

This is a time when people nationwide have been getting heavy doses of insults, sharp personal attacks, and posturing in debates between the candidates for president. That makes for more entertaining events, “better’ television,” and more lively material for reporters and commentators to write about. But it also leaves many people (count me in) wondering: Has political dialogue come to this?

So consider this praise of the candidates, of Mike Gousha, Marquette Law School’s distinguished fellow in law and public policy who moderated the debate, and of WISN for making serious discussion between candidates the focus of a debate and for making it available to the general public. Read more »

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Address Evictions to Address Poverty, Author Tells Law School Audience

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When he was a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Matthew Desmond searched for research on the impact of evictions on low-income people. He found close to nothing written by academics, policy makers, or journalists.

No more. Almost a decade later, Desmond has written a book that is already attracting major attention nationwide and changing the conversation about evictions and related housing issues for low-income people.

The book, which was officially released on Tuesday, is set in Milwaukee and is based on Desmond’s emersion in the lives of renters and landlords in 2008 and 2009 and on his research into tens of thousands of records on evictions.

And he chose an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Marquette Law School on Tuesday as the first event on a national book tour. Read more »

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MVLC Receives Two Awards for Service to Low-Income People

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Category: Marquette Law School, Milwaukee, Poverty & Law, Public
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Through efforts such as the Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinic (MVLC), “we are chipping away at poverty by bringing greater access to justice,” says Angela Schultz, Marquette Law School’s assistant dean for public service.

The documentable record of the clinic in providing thousands of low-income people with access to legal help earned honors at two events this week.

On Tuesday, Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki presented a “Treasures of the Church” award to the clinic in recognition of the success of the Mobile Legal Clinic, which was launched in 2014 as a joint project of Marquette LMobileLegalClinic-noblueaw School, the Milwaukee Bar Association, and Milwaukee County. The recognition came as part of Archbishop’s Lenten Luncheon. The Treasures of the Church awards recognize those who have shown steadfast commitment in response to the needs of poor people.

On Thursday, the United Community Center, a large social service and education provider on the south side, recognized the MVLC as its “group volunteer of the year.” Read more »

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Common Ground: Seeking Wins for People at the Grassroots

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Category: Milwaukee, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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Suddenly, Keisha Krumm, a strong, smart, confident community organizer with a record of impact, hit a point where emotion welled up.

Speaking at an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Eckstein Hall on Wednesday, Krumm was answering a question about what motivated her to become the lead organizer for Common Ground in Milwaukee.

She said she grew up in Wichita, Kansas, and she was caption of the girls’ basketball team at her high school. They lost every game. She didn’t like it and it still galls her. But there was a bigger context in the circumstances of her life.

“In my neighborhood, we lost,” Krumm said. “When it came to opportunity for our men, we lost. We lost a lot in life.” She paused, looked down at her hands, and continued in a thicker voice.

“I’m sick of losing. And Common Ground teaches people how to win in life where it matters, to get the things done in their neighborhood that if they had a billion dollars, they would never have to worry about. So I’m committed to teaching people how to win in life.” Read more »

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Judge Maxine White: Aiming to Provide Well-Run, Fair Courts, not Oprah Episodes

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Category: Judges & Judicial Process, Milwaukee, Public, Speakers at Marquette, Wisconsin Court System
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What can you expect from the courts in Milwaukee County?

A system that does everything well, from the ultimate decisions down to the way people are received at the security points at the entrances to buildings.

A system that is well run and staffed by well-trained people in every role.

A system where people feel safe in the courthouse and people, especially crime victims, are treated with respect.

A system that handles cases of all kinds in a fair way, providing a fair forum without politics .

A system that does all it can to be sure civil cases as well as criminal cases, small claims as well as high-profile  major crimes, are handled effectively, professionally, and as promptly as possible.

Those are among the goals set out Wednesday by Judge Maxine White, who recently became chief judge of the first judicial district of Wisconsin (which is to say, Milwaukee County). She spoke at an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Marquette Law School. Read more »

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