Tag Archives: leadership

A first lady who followed her own path more than precedent

When Michelle Obama considered the daunting prospect of becoming first lady, she avoided turning to books by her predecessors for guidance.

Instead, she turned inward.

“I didn’t want to be influenced by how they defined the role,” Mrs. Obama once said. She instinctively knew she had to define the job “very uniquely and specifically to me and who I was.”

That meant doing it her way: shaping the role around her family, specifically her two young daughters, and not letting her new responsibilities consume her.

Throughout her eight years, Mrs. Obama has been a powerful, if somewhat enigmatic, force in her husband’s White House. She chose her moments in the often unforgiving spotlight with great care and resisted pressure to become more engaged in the mudslinging of partisan politics.

At times, she’s been more traditional than some expected — or wanted from this first lady. At other times, she’s been eager to update stuffy conventions associated with the office.

As she navigated her way through, the woman who grew up on the South Side of Chicago discovered a talent for television and a comfort with Hollywood A-listers, haute couture and social media. And she used all of those elements to promote her causes — childhood obesity, support for military families, girls’ education — with at least some success.

When she leaves the White House next month just a few days after celebrating her 53rd birthday, Mrs. Obama will do so not just as a political figure, but as a luminary with international influence.

Friends say she charted that path largely on her own.

“What she did was she sort of listened to herself and allowed her own inner voice and strength and direction to lead her in the way that felt most authentic to her,” Oprah Winfrey told The Associated Press. “And I think watching somebody makes you want to do that for yourself.”

Let’s Move

Mrs. Obama grappled with the childhood obesity issue before becoming first lady; a doctor had warned her about her daughters’ weight.

At the White House, she decided to share her experience with the country and started by planting the first vegetable garden there in more than 60 years. That led the following year, in 2010, to the launch of her anti-childhood-obesity initiative, “Let’s Move.”

The first lady appealed to elected officials, food makers, sellers, restaurant chains and others to try to make healthy food more accessible. She lobbied lawmakers to add more fruit, vegetables and whole grains, and limit fat, sugar and sodium in the federal school lunch program.

That led to the first update to the program in decades, and for Mrs. Obama the process was akin to a crash course in Washington sausage-making. Mrs. Obama’s effort was not universally welcomed. Republicans in Congress wanted to reverse the rules. Others said Mrs. Obama was acting like the “food police.” Even the kids she wanted to help added to the backlash. Some students posted photos of lunches they found unappealing on Twitter with the hashtag (hash)ThanksMichelleObama, or simply tossed the food into the trash.

Mrs. Obama had won. But she would never again try to work closely with Congress on an issue. She chose instead to use her platform to press industry to change its ways.

It’s too early to know how Mrs. Obama’s efforts may affect childhood obesity rates long term, but advocates believe she helped change the national dialogue around healthy eating. And although incoming Republican President Donald Trump, a proud patron of McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken, has yet to comment on school meal regulations, advocates worry about the fate of Mrs. Obama’s effort under a White House and Congress that will be controlled by the GOP.

Reflecting on her childhood obesity work, Mrs. Obama said some people initially wondered why she would bother with such a “softball issue” but “now, all those challenges and criticisms are off the table.” She told talk-show host Rachael Ray that “at least we’ve become very aware as a society that this is one of our most important health issues.”

Mrs. Obama’s push to put the country on a health kick extended to exercise — and she made herself exhibit A.

To promote “Let’s Move,” the first lady often donned athletic wear and ran around with kids at sports clinics, some on the South Lawn. She twirled a hula hoop around her waist 142 times and kick-boxed in a video of the gym workout that helped tone the upper arms she showed off regularly, as in her official White House photo.

She did pushups with Ellen DeGeneres, raced in a potato sack against late-night TV’s Jimmy Fallon in the East Room and shimmied with a turnip in a brief video popular on social media — all to show that exercise can be fun.

“I’m pretty much willing to make a complete fool of myself to get our kids moving,” she once said.

Instead of going the fool’s route, Mrs. Obama turned herself into a fitness guru and a figure significantly more popular than her husband.

A role not imagined

First lady was never a position Mrs. Obama imagined for herself, given her modest upbringing, her distaste for politics and having never seen her skin color on a U.S. president and first lady.

Her early aversion to politics developed while watching her father navigate Chicago politics for his job with the city water department, and was reinforced by her husband’s pursuit of a political career. Both Obamas have said his political ambition had strained their marriage and family.

Once in the White House, Mrs. Obama vowed to protect her then 10- and 7-year-old daughters’ right to a normal childhood. She declared being “mom in chief” to Malia and Sasha as her priority, irking women who hoped the first lady might be less constrained by stereotypes.

She showed few signs of trying to push those boundaries.

Mrs. Obama was an enthusiastic White House hostess. She rarely spoke about issues that were outside of her portfolio. She crafted her public schedule around her daughters’ activities and limited her travel so she could spend time with them.

The Obamas’ parenting style — often described by both Obamas as warm, but strict — made them role models on that front, a point of pride, particularly in the African-American community.

“We have heard no Obama children drama,” said Ingrid Saunders Jones, national chairwoman of the National Council of Negro Women.

Mrs. Obama didn’t really begin to open up about the historic nature of her service as the first black woman to become first lady until the end of the presidency was in sight. She mostly addressed the subject in interviews when she was asked to reflect about it, and discussed how important it was for children to see a black president and first lady.

Longtime friend and White House adviser Valerie Jarrett said Mrs. Obama was often reluctant to talk about such matters earlier because she wanted her legacy to be more than just her place in history.

“Her goal is not what she is, but what she does,” Jarrett said.

One last campaign

In the final weeks of the presidential race, Mrs. Obama set aside her distaste for politics to wage one last campaign, an ultimately futile attempt to help elect Democrat Hillary Clinton. She quickly became one of most passionate Democratic voices opposing Trump and calling him out for “bragging about sexually assaulting women” in comments caught on a 2005 video.

“I know it’s a campaign, but this isn’t about politics,” she said at a Clinton rally shown live on cable TV news, rare exposure for a first lady in a campaign. If Trump’s past words are “painful to us as grown women,” she asked, “what do you think this is doing to our children?”

It was yet another moment when Mrs. Obama again seemed to be following her path rather than precedent.

 

That New Hampshire speech…

Is GOP near breaking point with Donald Trump?

The GOP could be nearing a breaking point with Donald Trump.

As he skips from one gaffe to the next, Republican leaders in Washington and in the most competitive states have begun openly contemplating turning their backs on their party’s presidential nominee to prevent what they fear will be wide-scale Republican losses on Election Day.

Back in 1996, the party largely gave up on nominee Bob Dole once it became clear he had little chance of winning, so it’s not without precedent. Nevertheless, it’s a jolting prospect now, with roughly three months still left before the Nov. 8 vote and weeks before the three presidential debates.

Republicans who have devoted their professional lives to electing GOP candidates say they believe the White House already may be lost. They’re exasperated by Trump’s divisive politics and his insistence on running a general election campaign that mirrors his approach to the primaries.

“Based on his campaign record, there’s no chance he’s going to win,” said Sara Fagen, the political director for former President George W. Bush. “He’s losing groups of people he can’t get back.”

Trump’s campaign says things are moving in the right direction, a position that itself feeds the discontent among his GOP detractors. The billionaire businessman’s loyalists say enough time remains to change the dynamic against Democrat Hillary Clinton who, like Trump, is deeply unpopular with voters.

In the past seven days, Trump has questioned the advice of senior aides, threatened to stop raising money for the party, dismissed the usefulness of get-out-the-vote efforts and defended his decision not to run any television ads even as his opponents fill the airwaves with spots backing Clinton in several contested states.

“He can’t simply continue to preach to the choir and think he’s going to put together a coalition that will win the White House,” said Ryan Williams, a party strategist and former aide to 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney. “He’s essentially guaranteeing that he will lose by refusing to clean up his mistakes and stop committing future ones.”

The mistakes do keep coming.

Trump this past week stuck by a patently false claim that President Barack Obama founded the Islamic State group. The candidate made an off-handed remark about Clinton that was widely condemned by critics as an invitation to violence. He even acknowledged that losing might not be so bad.

“I’ll just keep doing the same thing I’m doing right now,” he told CNBC on Thursday. “And at the end it’s either going to work or I’m going to you know, I’m going to have a very, very nice, long vacation.”

All of it, to some Republicans, should lead the party to give up on its nominee.

More than 100 GOP officials, including at least six former members of Congress and more than 20 former staffers at the Republican National Committee, have signed a letter asking the party chairman, Reince Priebus, to stop helping Trump’s campaign.

They call the New York real estate mogul a threat to the party and to the nation. They want the RNC to take resources now helping Trump and shift them to vulnerable GOP candidates for House and Senate.

The letter follows a steady stream of recent defections from Republican elected officials and longtime strategists who vow never to support Trump. They want party leaders to acknowledge that backing his White House bid is a waste of time and money.

“They’re going to do it sooner or later. They might as well do it sooner to have more impact,” said former Minnesota Rep. Vin Weber, one of the Republicans to sign the letter to Priebus.

Senior Republicans in Washington and in some of the most contested states have discussed a scenario in which the party scales back its presidential focus in states that don’t feature top races for Senate. They could abandon a state such as Virginia, for example, and focus more on a state such as Indiana, where Democrat Evan Bayh is trying to make a Senate comeback.

That’s according to several Republican officials in Washington and states that would be affected, including Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. They spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to describe publicly those private discussions.

There is no evidence that a formal plan to break with Trump exists at either the state party or RNC level, but Priebus has informally discussed the possibility with party leaders in battleground states in recent days, three of the officials said.

Should that occur, it’s not likely to happen until after Labor Day, as the party is still relying on Trump to help raise money to fund its expansive political operation. But the amount of money needed decreases as each day passes, giving the RNC greater financial freedom to potentially change course as the election nears.

For now, Priebus is vocally supportive of Trump. The party chairman joined the nominee on Friday, part of a larger effort to ensure an experienced political hand is almost always at the candidate’s side when he travels.

Others keeping Trump company this past week include former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

After several error-free days, Trump caused a major stir when his comments about supporters of the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms were viewed by some as advocating violence against Clinton.

He came in for criticism again after saying that Obama was the “founder” of ISIS, a false claim he repeated several times on Thursday – even when given the chance to tone down his attack on the president’s foreign policies.

Then Trump started the day saying he was only being sarcastic, before telling a Pennsylvania rally, “but not that sarcastic, to be honest with you.”

It’s those kinds of moments that lead experienced Republicans to think Trump cannot be saved from himself.

“He’s almost like someone with an addiction who can’t stop,” Fagen said. “Until he gets help and admits it, he won’t be able to change.”

The dissension in the Republican ranks hasn’t affected Trump’s ability to draw supporters to his rallies. Lisa Thompson, a firefighter from St. Cloud, Florida, is among the many who continue to stand in long lines for hours to see Trump at his events.

She said those balking at his missteps were being “too sensitive” – a luxury the nation can’t afford with growing security threats. She urged Trump to stick with his playbook.

“Why be fake?” she asked.

Others aren’t so sure.

Mike Dedrel, a UPS driver and Trump supporter who’s also from St. Cloud, said he hoped in the coming months that Trump wouldn’t speak off the cuff as often and stick to pre-planned answers. If he doesn’t, Dedrel said, he’s concerned that Trump is on the way to an Election Day defeat.

“I was worried about that from Day One, when he was going against 16 other guys,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I know he’ll be a great president – if he can win.”

Brief opportunities | Letters to the future: The Paris Climate Project

Dear great-great-granddaughter,

Do you remember your grandmother Veronica? I am writing to you on the very day that your grandmother Veronica turned 7 months old — she is my first grandchild and she is your grandmother. That is how quickly time passes and people are born, grow up and pass on. When I was your age — now 20, I did not realize how brief our opportunities are to change the direction of the world we live in. The world you live in grew out of the world I live in, and I want to tell you a little bit about the major difficulties of my world and how they have affected your world.

On the day I am writing this letter, the speaker of the House of Representatives quit his job because his party — called “the Republicans,” refused absolutely to work with or compromise with the other party, now defunct, called “the Democrats.” The refusal of the Republicans to work with the Democrats was what led to the government collapse in 2025 and the breakup of what to you is the Former United States. The states that refused to acknowledge climate change or, indeed, science, became the Republic of America, and the other states became West America and East America. I lived in West America. You probably live in East America, because West America became unlivable owing to climate change in 2050. 

That the world was getting hotter and dryer, that weather was getting more chaotic, and that humans were getting too numerous for the ecosystem to support was evident to most Americans by the time I was 45. At first, it did seem as though all Americans were willing to do something about it, but then the oil companies … realized that their profits were at risk and they dug in their heels. They underwrote all sorts of government corruption in order to deny climate change and transfer as much carbon dioxide out of the ground and into the air as they could. The worse the weather and the climate became, the more they refused to budge and Americans, but also the citizens of other countries, kept using coal, diesel fuel and gasoline. Transportation was the hardest thing to give up, much harder than giving up the future, and so we did not give it up, and so there you are, stuck in the slender strip of East America that is overpopulated, but livable. I am sure you are a vegan, because there is no room for cattle, hogs or chickens, which Americans used to eat.

West America was once a beautiful place — not the parched desert landscape that it is now. Our mountains were green with oaks and pines, mountain lions and coyotes and deer roamed in the shadows, and there were beautiful flowers nestled in the grass. It was sometimes hot, but often cool. Where you see abandoned, flooded cities, we saw smooth beaches and easy waves.

What is the greatest loss we have bequeathed you? I think it is the debris, the junk, the rotting bits of clothing, equipment, vehicles, buildings, etc. that you see everywhere and must avoid. Where we went for walks, you always have to keep an eye out. We have left you a mess. But I know that it is dangerous for you to go for walks — the human body wasn’t built to tolerate lows of 90 degrees Fahrenheit and highs of 140. When I was alive, I thought I was trying to save you, but I didn’t try hard enough or, at least, I didn’t try to save you as hard as my opponents tried to destroy you. I don’t know why they did that. I could never figure that out.

Editor’s note: World leaders convene in Paris soon for the critical U.N. climate talks. In fact, December of 2015 may be humanity’s last chance to address the crisis of our time.

Will the nations of the world finally pass a global treaty aimed at reducing the most dangerous impacts of global warming … or will we fail at this most crucial task?

Here and on letterstothefuture.org, find letters from authors, artists, scientists and others, written to future generations of their own families, predicting the success or failure of the Paris talks and what came after. Read these letters and write one of your own. The letters will be sent to targeted delegates and citizens convening at the Paris talks. 

Seize the moment | Letters to the future: The Paris Climate Project

Dear descendants, The first thing to say is, sorry. We were the last generation to know the world before full-on climate change made it a treacherous place. That we didn’t get sooner to work slowing it down is our great shame, and you live with the unavoidable consequences.

That said, I hope that we made at least some difference. There were many milestones in the fight — Rio, Kyoto, the debacle at Copenhagen. By the time the great Paris climate conference of 2015 rolled around, many of us were inclined to cynicism.

And our cynicism was well taken. The delegates to that convention, representing governments that were still unwilling to take more than baby steps, didn’t really grasp the nettle. They looked for easy, around-the-edges fixes, ones that wouldn’t unduly alarm their patrons in the fossil fuel industry.

But so many others seized the moment that Paris offered to do the truly important thing: Organize. There were meetings and marches, disruptions and disobedience. And we came out of it more committed than ever to taking on the real power that be.

The real changes flowed in the months and years past Paris, when people made sure that their institutions pulled money from oil and coal stocks, and when they literally sat down in the way of the coal trains and the oil pipelines. People did the work governments wouldn’t — and as they weakened the fossil fuel industry, political leaders grew ever so slowly bolder.

We learned a lot that year about where power lay: less in the words of weak treaties than in the zeitgeist we could create with our passion, our spirit and our creativity. Would that we had done it sooner!

I’m fighting for you | Letters to the future: The Paris Climate Project

Dear grandchildren, I can only imagine the wonderful world you are growing up in. I think of that world — your future — almost every day. I think about how to make sure it is a place where all your hopes and dreams can come true.

A long time ago, my parents traveled across the world from Korea to the United States in search of a brighter future for me and my sisters.

Today, I am writing you from Paris, a city that I have traveled across the world to get to, in order to make sure the world does the same for you.  I’m fighting for you, for everyone in your generation across the world, to ensure that you have more than a fighting chance at that bright future. A world without the dangers of global climate change is the world that you will inherit.

What is climate change? Never heard of it? I’m so very glad if you haven’t. Let me try to explain. I warn you though, this can be kind of scary. 

When we first started building up our cities, roads and towns in what was called the Industrial Revolution, we burned all sorts of fuels — coal, oil and natural gas. While these things helped us heat our homes, drive our cars, and expand our cities, we didn’t realize that they also clouded our air, dirtied our water, and made us sick. More than that, the burning of all those fuels made our planet sick. All the other animals and plants that we share this world with were getting sick too. The planet became warmer, which created a mixed up chaos of terrible hurricanes, tornadoes, raging wildfires, drought and increased hunger, growing rates of asthma and lung disease and the extinction of animals at an unprecedented rate. 

So my dear grandchildren, we faced a choice: We could keep doing what we had been doing, or we could make the choice to take a stand for our future — your future and the planet’s future — by creating the framework to begin to move away from this scary legacy. 

The wind turbines and solar panels that power your world, electric cars, high-speed trains and solar airplanes weren’t so commonplace in my time. They required a revolution in how we think about energy, about our relationship to the world, about our faith in our own capacity to innovate and change.

What took us so long?

Sigh.

It’s a long story, but like many of the children’s books you grew up with, it was a story of greed, short-sightedness and wizards with too much gold. But against these challenges, sometimes with great bravery, people — young and old from every nation—stood up and demanded that we take the steps to curb this terrible scourge.

I hope you will know this to be true. I hope you will remember that many years ago, your grandma and many others across the world stood up and demanded that we make the world a better place. I hope you know that it was a difficult path, just like my parents so many years ago. And I hope you know we did it thinking of you and the future you now inherit.

Editor’s note: World leaders convene in Paris soon for the critical U.N. climate talks. In fact, December of 2015 may be humanity’s last chance to address the crisis of our time.

Will the nations of the world finally pass a global treaty aimed at reducing the most dangerous impacts of global warming … or will we fail at this most crucial task?

Here and on letterstothefuture.org, find letters from authors, artists, scientists and others, written to future generations of their own families, predicting the success or failure of the Paris talks and what came after. Read these letters and write one of your own. The letters will be sent to targeted delegates and citizens convening at the Paris talks.

The home office | Letters to the future: The Paris Climate Project

Good day, my beautiful bounty. It probably feels redundant to someone rockin’ in 2070, a year that’s gotta be wavy in ways I can’t imagine, but. …

Your great, great-grandpappy is old school.

And when my old-school ass thinks about how the backdrop to your existence changed when the Paris climate talks failed, it harkens to the late-20th century rap duo Eric B. & Rakim. Music is forever. Probably, it sounds crazy that the musical idiom best known in your time as the foundation of the worldwide cough syrup industry could ever have imparted anything enlightening. You can look it up though—before the Telecommunications Act of ’96 such transformations happened not infrequently.

But that’s another letter. MC Rakim had this scrap of lyric from “Teach the Children” — a pro-environment slapper that hit the atmosphere closer to Valdez newspaper headline days than when the Web gave us pictures of death smoke plumes taking rise above Iraq. For you, these are abstract epochs. Alaska still had permafrost, the formerly frozen soil that kept methane safely underground. The domino that fell, permafrost. And I could tell you that humans skied Earth’s mountains. Yes, I know: Snow. An antique reference, no question.

That Rakim verse. It went:

Teach the children, save the nation

I see the destruction, the situation

They’re corrupt, and their time’s up soon

But they’ll blow it up and prepare life on the moon

My bounty, it’s easy to Monday morning quarterback from my 2015 vantage point. But I did not do an adequate job of teaching the children about what our corporate overlords had in store for them. Didn’t do it with Exxon or Volkswagen. Didn’t do it when Rakim initially sold me on the premise. And to be honest I haven’t done a bunch of it this year, as sinkholes form and trees fall in parts of the Arctic that Mother Earth could only ever imagined frozen solid.

Make no mistake, I want these words to function as much as a Godspeed note as one of confession. Good luck with your new methane-dictated normal, and the sonic pollution and spiritual upset of those executive flights to colonized Mars. Or, as the president calls that planet, the Home Office. Conditions should have never come to this though. And we’ll always have Paris, to remind us of what might have been.

Editor’s note: World leaders convene in Paris soon for the critical U.N. climate talks. In fact, December of 2015 may be humanity’s last chance to address the crisis of our time.

Will the nations of the world finally pass a global treaty aimed at reducing the most dangerous impacts of global warming … or will we fail at this most crucial task?

Here and on letterstothefuture.org, find letters from authors, artists, scientists and others, written to future generations of their own families, predicting the success or failure of the Paris talks and what came after. Read these letters and write one of your own. The letters will be sent to targeted delegates and citizens convening at the Paris talks.


Wisconsin leaders in conservation to be honored

Gathering Waters: Wisconsin’s Alliance for Land Trusts, will honor conservation leaders from around the state with 2015 Land Conservation Leadership Awards on September 24 at the Land Conservation Leadership Awards Celebration.

The winners include…

Land Trust of the Year. Green Lake Conservancy has provided lake and watershed protection for the past 20 years, working with landowners to preserve their lakefront properties. To date, 17 properties and more than 700 acres of watershed lands have been protected. These properties offer trails, boardwalks and even a “water trail” to the public.

Additionally, GLC has forged a partnership with other organizations to form the “Green Team” — offering up monthly outings to community members, including field trips, canoe/kayak floats, maple sugar making, winter moonlight walks, bicycle tours and other family-oriented activities.

Conservationist of the Year. Dan Burke, executive director of Door County Land Trust, has been helping DCLT become a highly respected Door County institution for nearly 20 years. Under his leadership, DCLT has preserved more than 7,000 acres of land in the ecologically diverse county and has grown the organization’s membership to more than 2,200.

Burke has also played a key role in building strong working relationships among many organizations to leverage collective skills and recourses, to provide residents accessibility to natural areas for enjoyment and recreation, to preserve pristine lands and to strengthen land conservation in northern Wisconsin.

Harold “Bud” Jordahl Lifetime Achievement Award. Harold Friestad, from the Village of Williams Bay, was essential to winning a decades-long battle to purchase and protect a very special 231-acre parcel on Geneva Lake and turn it into the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy. Twenty-five years later, he continues to manage the preserve as its chairman.

Through his leadership, Kishwauketoe remains the largest intact wetland on Geneva Lake, moderating flood flow, improving water quality, recharging ground water, and housing a variety of plants and animals — all while providing recreational, educational, and scientific opportunities.

Policymaker of the Year. Republican State Reps. Amy Loudenbeck of Clinton, Joel Kitchens of Sturgeon Bay and Todd Novak of Dodgeville stepped up as champions for the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program during the 2015 state budget process — vocally supporting stewardship within their caucus and actively participating in a working group that negotiated the compromise approved by the Joint Committee on Finance to restore the Stewardship Program to $33 million per year.

Rod Nilsestuen Award for Working Lands Preservation. Don Hawkins of Mineral Point spent 32 years as a teacher of agriculture at Mineral Point High School before retiring to become “a shining example of community engagement.” His teaching led to better land management techniques over the years and his leadership in retirement has resulted in 430-acres of exhausted farmland becoming a spectacular place for all to enjoy, while local schools have gained over 20-acres of oak savanna and tall-grass prairie to utilize and to learn from.

For registration information, visit www.gatheringwaters.org/register.

Gathering Waters’ mission is “to help land trusts, landowners and communities protect the places that make Wisconsin special.”

Laning to run for Wisconsin Democratic Party chair

Martha Laning over the weekend announced her candidacy for chairperson of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

Laning is a community leader, businesswoman and former candidate for Wisconsin’s 9th Senate District.

“I’m running for Democratic Party chair because our progressive principles of quality public education, economic prosperity, a clean, sustainable environment and equality for all citizens is under attack by the Republican Legislature,” Laning said in a news release. “I want to offer my services to my party to build a stronger democratic party that serves the best interests of all Wisconsinites.”

Laning made her announcement at the annual Democratic Party County Chairs Association meeting, where, according to the news statement, she stressed a need to support and invest in local party leadership.

“We need build a strong grassroots team across the state — a team where all voices are important and are heard. Our party is great because of all of you — you’re the boots on the ground, the heart of our party and when we empower and strengthen you, we strengthen our progressive message, our legislators, and our candidates,” she stated.

Laning thanked Democratic activists across the state for encouragement and support as she considered entering the race.

She also thanked Mary Lang Sollinger, the former chair candidate from Madison who announced on the weekend that she would be suspending her campaign and supporting Laning.

“I’m humbled by the outpouring of support from grassroots leaders of our party from all around Wisconsin,” Laning stated. “Together we’re going to overcome the challenges of recent years and elect Democratic candidates up and down the ballot in 2016 and beyond.”

The news release said Martha Laning is a business professional and community leader. She has experience in budgeting and finance for large companies, such as Target Inc. Laning also has a record of success in leadership, including spearheading the effort to fundraise and build a $4.6 million community center in Sheboygan.

Laning and her husband Wayne live in Sheboygan and have three children.

On the Web …

Martha Laning’s website is www.laningforwisconsin.com.

Tennessee governor to lead GOP Governors Association

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has been elected as the next chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

The second term governor will take the reins from New Jersey’s Chris Christie, who has been on a victory lap at the group’s annual meeting in Florida this week after Republicans did especially well in the midterm elections.

Several more high-profile candidates, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, took their names out of the running as they consider potential presidential runs.

And with only three governor’s races on the calendar in 2015, the position is less of a platform than in busier years.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez will be vice chair of the organization, the group also announced.

Haslam will have big shoes to fill. The group raised more than $100 million during Christie’s tenure, setting a record and helping the potential 2016 candidate lay the groundwork for a presidential campaign.

In a statement, Christie praised Haslam as “a strong leader among leaders.” Haslam “emerged as a true pioneer when he took office, and his commanding victory this past election shows that his reform-driven approach is working for Tennessee,” Christie said.

Haslam told reporters before the vote that he was “interested and willing to serve if elected” chairman – a position it seemed nobody had wanted to fill.

Christie said after the vote that he’d asked Haslam last week if he would consider taking the job and then recommended the pick to his fellow governors, who voted unanimously in favor.

“I’m gratified that they accepted my suggestions and I’m thrilled that Bill’s the guy,” said Christie, who added that he was ready to pass the baton. “I’ll kind of miss it, actually. I enjoyed it. But I’ve had enough.”

Haslam told reporters that, if elected, he hoped to maintain the RGA’s momentum after Republicans scored a series of unexpected wins this cycle, including the governors’ mansions in Maryland and Massachusetts.

His focus, he said, would be on raising money, finding quality candidates and making sure the RGA continues to be a place where Republicans can gather to share ideas.

Haslam is known to be far more soft-spoken and mild-mannered than his predecessor and has been described as the “anti-Christie,” a contrast he embraced.

“Obviously we’re different personalities, different leadership style. But I have a great appreciation for what he’s done,” Haslam said.

Oakland City Council votes to divest of investments in fossil fuels

The Oakland City Council on June 18 unanimously approved a measure divesting city funds from all investments in any company “whose primary business or enterprise is extraction, production, refining, burning and/or distribution of any fossil fuels.”

The council recommended that city pension funds also divest and urged the California Public Employees Retirement System, one of the nation’s largest managers of public pensions, with $288 billion in retiree assets under management, to follow suit and eliminate fossil fuel companies from their portfolios.

Oakland becomes the fifth city in California to pass a fossil fuel divestment resolution and the 25th city in the nation, joining the ranks of San Francisco, Seattle and Portland. 

“I’m thrilled that Oakland City Council took a strong stand to divest from fossil fuels companies that emit heat-trapping greenhouse gases, and to protect our communities by opposing the transport of hazardous fossil fuels by rail through the heart of Oakland,” said Dan Kalb, Oakland city councilmember, and author of the council resolutions. “Divesting from a dirty energy economy will add Oakland’s voice to a growing movement that makes it clear that the old way of fueling our economy is not sustainable for our cities and our planet.” 

The move is part of a fast-growing fossil fuel divestment movement, which has spread to more than 500 campuses, cities, faith communities, labor unions and pension funds around the nation, calling on institutions to take bold action against climate change by aligning investments with a clean and equitable energy future.

So far, 12 colleges and universities, 27 cities, two counties, 30 religious institutions, and 27 foundations in the United States and around the world have pledged to divest or have done so already. 

Ophir Bruck, an Oakland resident and organizer with Fossil Free UC — the University of California divestment campaign — said Oakland’s action could embolden the board of regents of the nation’s leading public university to act.

Bruck said, “This move positions Oakland as a climate leader and should encourage the UC Regents, who are exploring the possibility of divesting UC’s $88 billion portfolio from fossil fuels, to stand on the right side of history by divesting for our future.”

Efforts on the measure were spearheaded by 350 Bay Area, a regional group aligned with the international climate change organization 350.org, which supports fossil fuel divestment efforts worldwide via its Go Fossil Free campaign.

Oakland resident and 350 East Bay divestment activist Janet Cox said, “I was really glad to the council take a strong stand in support of the environment and the fight to halt devastating damage to the climate. Governments and NGOs are going to have to act if we’re going to survive climate change, and this resolution puts Oakland in the vanguard. Oakland will be able to lead on this critical issue.”