Neumann the Outsider

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Mark Neumann is not Lee Dreyfus, but if Neumann is going to be elected governor of Wisconsin this year, it’s going to be by capitalizing on much of the appeal that Dreyfus had in 1978 as a Republican who was glad to say that he was not versed in the ways of Madison’s state capitol.

Neumann invoked his standing as a businessman who is not a professional politician often in an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” session at Marquette University Law School last week.

Neumann is regarded widely as the underdog in the race for the Republican nomination for governor, with Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker the favorite. The winner is expected to face Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the only major candidate for the Democratic nomination, in the November final election.

In answering questions from the audience and from Gousha, the Law School’s distinguished fellow in law and public policy, Neumann did not take much issue with Walker on policy. Both strongly oppose the high-speed rail project proposed for Chicago to Milwaukee to Madison, both have strongly criticized the new national health insurance law, and both advocate holding down taxes and cutting state regulatory requirements on businesses. Continue reading “Neumann the Outsider”

The Zilber Forum: A Great Legacy

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The Zilber Forum will be the heart of Eckstein Hall, the impressive building that will become the home of Marquette University Law School this summer. I can think of four ways that it is appropriate to consider the Forum as a great part of the legacy of the Milwaukee real estate developer and philanthropist who was a 1941 graduate of the Law School and who died at 92 on Friday.

1) It is the result of an act of generosity. Especially in the last several years, Zilber was enormously generous to the city he called home all his life. Continue reading “The Zilber Forum: A Great Legacy”

Wanna Run a Large High School?

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lockersAnother serving of educational food for thought:

1)      Nobody seems to know where the current tumult around low performing schools is heading, but wherever it is, it looks like people will get there quickly. There is as much as $45 million in federal aid on the table to do something about schools in Wisconsin that are getting the weakest results. The state Department of Public Instruction put five schools in the most severe bracket, another seven in a second-from-the-bottom tier, and more than two dozen in a third group. All are in the Milwaukee Public Schools system. The federal Department of Education requires that the schools in at least the two lowest groups make major changes – start all over or get rid of much of the staff or similar steps. Now, as part of the process, MPS administrators have issued a request for proposals for professional firms to provide “transformation reform frameworks” for eight large high school buildings. School Board President Michael Bonds said Thursday that the Board had not approved the idea of getting bids for overhauling the schools and he does not know what will result. The eight schools are Vincent, Custer, Madison, Bradley Tech, Pulaski, Washington, Bay View, and South Division. You have a plan for what to do with those schools? Get moving. You’ve got until 2 p.m. April 12 to submit it to the MPS purchasing office.

2)      I really should set the record straight: Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett spoke out on the need for changes in the health insurance choices for MPS employees before I did.  Continue reading “Wanna Run a Large High School?”

Scott Walker: Break Up MPS

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The Milwaukee Public Schools system should be replaced with ten to twelve smaller school districts, Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker said Thursday in an “On the Issues” session at Marquette Law School.

Asked by host Mike Gousha, the Law School’s Distinguished Fellow in Law and Public Policy, what he would do about problems facing MPS, Walker said, “I’d legally eliminate it and start all over. . . . Wipe it out, start over again, legally redefine the school district.”

Walker, Milwaukee County Executive since 2002, said his two children attend schools in Wauwatosa and a district of that size or smaller is better managed, can better focus on students, and can benefit from more of a sense of community supporting it. The existing MPS structure is too big, and it is too difficult to make effective improvements, he said.  Continue reading “Scott Walker: Break Up MPS”

Gonna Wait ‘Til the Midnight Hour

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Three slices of this week’s education pie being served around here:

Slice one: It’s one thing if Milwaukee School Board members want to go all night talking about the matters in front of them – it might not be a very good way to do business, but it only affects Board members, some MPS administrators, and a handful of others. It’s another thing when they have public hearings that go deep into the night. On Tuesday night, a Board committee considered fifteen requests to open new charter schools, renew contracts with existing charter schools, or close existing charter schools. The 6:30 p.m. meeting didn’t end until around 1 a.m. The committee was still taking up new requests after 11:30 p.m. There were people from out of town who waited for more than five hours while entirely different business was considered. Hundreds of people were present, including parents and students, and many endured lengthy waits before the item they cared about was brought up. This is a chronic problem. It’s rude. It discourages public participation. And it could be changed so easily – how about spreading discussions across several evenings? How about issuing a schedule with set times (7p.m. for this item, 7:30 for that item, etc.), and making an effort to stick to it?  If you’re not going to take up something for hours, it would be far more respectful of people to allow them to spend their time better.

Slice two: This hasn’t been the most satisfying time for people who are eager to change the status quo in education in Wisconsin. Continue reading “Gonna Wait ‘Til the Midnight Hour”

Filip Expresses Concern About the Return of Sentencing Disparities

Posted on Categories Federal Criminal Law & Process, Federal Sentencing, Speakers at Marquette1 Comment on Filip Expresses Concern About the Return of Sentencing Disparities

jailed womanFormer U.S. Deputy Attorney General Mark R. Filip warned at Tuesday’s Hallows Lecture that disparities in sentencing by federal judges are returning since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled five years ago that sentencing guidelines are only advisory.

Filip, who also is a former federal judge and now practices with a Chicago law firm, said that United States v. Booker in 2005 reduced the import of sentencing guidelines that dated to the late 1980s, “returning us to an era of indeterminate sentencing.” While he said that commentary on Booker from both judges and defense lawyers has been generally favorable, data on sentencing patterns since the decision show that in different parts of the country, significantly different sentences are being given for comparable convictions.  Continue reading “Filip Expresses Concern About the Return of Sentencing Disparities”

Barrett’s Valley, Walker’s Corridor

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What’s the difference between Tom Barrett and Scott Walker?

The Menomonee Valley versus the Park East corridor.

Barrett, the Milwaukee mayor who is the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor, tried out that answer Thursday at an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” session at the Law School. Chances are you’ll hear it a lot more in coming months as Barrett battles with Walker, the Milwaukee county executive who is the leading candidate for the Republican nomination.

Barrett said that the city was responsible for what to do with vacant land in the Menomonee Valley, and, in recent years, attracted companies which employ about 2,000 people to the western part of the area south of I-94 and west of downtown (presumably, that doesn’t include the Potawatomi gambling complex).

Milwaukee County is responsible for the Park East land, the former freeway zone that runs along the north edge of downtown.  Continue reading “Barrett’s Valley, Walker’s Corridor”

Down to Earth Advice from a Lofty Diplomatic Perch

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Being an American ambassador can be a pretty surreal experience, but it can lead to some real advice for people considering careers in international business law.

Rick Graber, a prominent Milwaukee lawyer and Republican leader, was ambassador to the Czech Republic for the last two and a half years of President George W. Bush’s administration. He described his experiences as ambassador and gave advice during a recent hour with about 25 students in Profossor Irene Calboli’s International Business Transactions course at the Law School.

Graber called the lifestyle of an ambassador unimaginable – a spectacular 60,000-square-foot house and eight to ten people to run the house. “You’d take your shirt off in the evening and, magically, it would be clean in the morning,” he said. “That doesn’t happen much in Shorewood.”

Graber described the two major issues that occupied him during his time in the Czech Republic. Continue reading “Down to Earth Advice from a Lofty Diplomatic Perch”

Bad Omens for Wisconsin in the Race to the Top

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The U.S. Department of Education is expected to announce by the end of this week the finalists for the Race to the Top grants that have been dominating national talk about education lately. Forty states, plus the District of Columbia, put in proposals to get some of the huge pie of $4.35 billion to be awarded for the what federal officials conclude are the most potent proposals for raising achievement in schools and cities where results until now have been poor.

Don’t expect Wisconsin to be among those tapped to move into the next stage of the first round of grants.  

At least two national bloggers who keep eyes on the process made predictions this week on who will stay in the running, and neither picked Wisconsin. Bloggers on the widely-read Education Week Web page picked Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Illinois, Tennessee, Rhode Island, Delaware, Indiana, Minnesota, and Colorado as finalists, and projected Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Tennessee, as the states that would get first round grants that could run to $100 million or more.

Thomas W. Carroll, who blogs for the City Journal Web site, picked seven states as the most likely to win shares of the Race to the Top money. They are Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, Colorado, Georgia, Delaware and Michigan.

There will be a second round of grants later this year, but Wisconsin is not likely to be in the center of contention then either, unless something happens that makes the state’s proposal appear like it’s going to change the status quo in more dramatic ways than the current proposal suggests. Continue reading “Bad Omens for Wisconsin in the Race to the Top”

A Public Service Environment

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marquette1When I was hired by the Law School in October, I joked that my basketball affections were for sale – Go, Golden Eagles – but, especially when I was writing in my own reporting voice, I didn’t expect to change my journalistic standards (there really are such things) after more than 35 years of newspapering in Milwaukee. So if you want to consider this hopeless pandering to my bosses, I can’t stop you. But I regard this as just a blog item in my voice.

The annual Law School Public Service Conference was this past Friday at the Alumni Memorial Union, with a theme of “Water and People.” It’s one of the centerpieces of the Law School’s involvement in public issues and its commitment to promoting knowledge of and involvement in those issues.

But I’ve been impressed in the four months I’ve been hanging around the building with how strong the public service environment is in the Law School and with how little of the reason for saying this is rooted in once-a-year events. Consider a partial list: Continue reading “A Public Service Environment”

Part of the Way Along the Path of Racial Equity

Posted on Categories Civil Rights, Race & Law, Speakers at MarquetteLeave a comment» on Part of the Way Along the Path of Racial Equity

US Supreme Court facadeLindsey Draper recalls that when he was a student at Marquette Law School, he would sometimes pause to look at photos of previous graduating classes. He would have a hard time spotting anyone who was African American like him.

As Draper (L ’75) looked out at about 50 people, many of them African Americans who are current law students, in Eisenberg Hall Wednesday evening, he agreed that the situation, not only in the Law School but across the American scene, has improved for black people in recent decades.

But Draper, who went on to be an assistant district attorney and a court commissioner in Milwaukee County, and three other community leaders emphasized how far things still have to go before it can be rightly said that America has become a “post-racial” society. The four took part in a panel discussion on the state of black America sponsored by the Black Law Students Association. Continue reading “Part of the Way Along the Path of Racial Equity”

Firm Positions from the Archbishop

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In an appearance at Marquette Law School Tuesday, Milwaukee’s new Archbishop, the Most Reverend Jerome Listecki, discussed, among other things, the approach he will take to those who differ from Catholic Church positions on issues such as abortion.

Listecki said he wants to show personal warmth and good humor in carrying out his duties as head of the ten-county archdiocese, and the most effective way to deal with people is in a caring, one-on-one manner.

But when it comes to advocating policies, he made it clear he will come down on what is generally labeled the conservative side of church issues, and he will not be reluctant to speak out when he feels it is necessary.   Continue reading “Firm Positions from the Archbishop”