The Promise Revisited

Last July, I wrote a post for the Marquette Law School Faculty Blog that was premised on The Promise. The one Scott Walker made when he ran for governor four years ago. Walker pledged that at least 250,000 jobs would be created in Wisconsin during his first term in office. The thrust of the blog post was to look at whether that promise could come back to haunt the Governor in a reelection campaign. You can find my earlier thoughts here.

We won’t know for sure what role The Promise will have played in this year’s race until Election Day, but there are early indications that it may not be the all-powerful political weapon Democrats had hoped for.

That’s not to say job creation isn’t a potential problem for the governor. Wisconsin, according to the most reliable jobs numbers, has lagged behind the national average during Walker’s tenure. The latest tally of “jobs added” shows Wisconsin ranks 37th in private-sector jobs created. With roughly a year left in office, the governor is only 42 percent of the way to his promise of 250,000.

Continue ReadingThe Promise Revisited

Pot, Politics, and the New Center

The headlines about the newest Marquette Law School Poll are focusing on the 2014 race for governor and that’s certainly no surprise. Let’s be honest. For the news media (I’m still a member), the horserace is catnip. We can’t resist. But there’s another question in the Poll that may generate—forgive me—some buzz of its own. “Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal, or not?” Of the 400 people who responded, 50 per cent said yes, marijuana should be legal. Forty-five per cent said it should not. (See question 33 of the poll results here.)

Surprising? Perhaps. But why is it significant? To be sure, marijuana will not be a major issue in next year’s elections in Wisconsin. We’re not about to become the next Colorado or Washington, where in statewide referenda voters made recreational pot use legal. We’re also not about to join the list of 20 states that permit marijuana for medical use, although two Democratic state lawmakers, Jon Erpenbach and Chris Taylor, are proposing we do just that. Erpenbach and Taylor say the public is ahead of the politicians on this one, and the Marquette Law School Poll suggests they may be right. Furthermore, a recent Gallup Poll found even stronger support for legalizing marijuana. For the first time ever, a clear majority of Americans, 58 percent, favored legalization.

Continue ReadingPot, Politics, and the New Center

Murder and Milwaukee

Sunday on my statewide television show UpFront, I asked Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn a simple question. Given the recent rash of shootings and homicides in Milwaukee, what would he say to out-state residents who might be wondering whether the city is safe?

“As long as they’re not coming here to engage in crime,” the Chief responded, “they’re safe.” Flynn said Milwaukee has one of the safest big-city downtowns in the country, but it also has a well-armed criminal community. According to the chief, 85 percent of Milwaukee’s victims and 95 percent of its offenders in gun-related cases have significant criminal records.

To address the spike in violent crime, Flynn and Mayor Tom Barrett asked the state to kick-in $500,000 for additional police overtime. But their suggestion didn’t get a warm reception from Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. In an interview with WisconsinEye’s Steve Walters, Vos criticized how city officials were running the department, and said the strategy to combat violence in Milwaukee isn’t working.

Nearly two dozen shootings in a week. Seven gun-related murders in seven days. The recent events have led to a fierce public debate. Was Milwaukee well on its way to becoming Detroit? Had police strategies to combat violent crime failed? Or was Milwaukee no different from many other big cities which have experienced similar spikes in crime?

Continue ReadingMurder and Milwaukee