Tag Archives: citizens

Vowing to jettison Obamacare, Republicans face immediate resistance and risks

The 115th Congress started work Tuesday with Republican majorities in both the House and Senate in agreement on their top priority — to repeal and replace the 2010 health law, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

“The Obamacare experience has proven it’s a failure,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters at an opening day news conference.

But that may be where the agreement among Republicans ends.

Nearly seven years after its passage, Republicans still have no consensus on how to repeal and replace the measure.

“It is risky business,” said Thomas Miller, a conservative economist and former Capitol Hill aide now at the American Enterprise Institute.

Republicans, he said at a recent AEI forum, are “very good at fire, aim, ready.” But with more than 20 million Americans getting coverage under the law, GOP lawmakers will have to tread carefully, Miller warned. “The hard one is when you’re trying to defuse what’s already been out there, cutting the wires on the bombs sequentially” so as to avoid a messy and destructive explosion.

Republicans are reportedly discussing a range of options for disassembling Obamacare, but analysts who have been involved in the intricacies of health policy for decades warn no replacement strategy will be easy.

The most immediate problem for the GOP is that even with majorities in both chambers of Congress, they do not have the 60 votes needed to overcome Democrats’ objections in the Senate. (There are 52 Republicans in the Senate now.) That means they won’t be able to pass a full repeal of the law on their own and it is unlikely eight Democrats would join to overturn President Barack Obama’s signature legislation.

Even if they did have the votes standing by, they don’t have anything teed up to replace the health law.

“It’s not that Republicans don’t have replace bills. They have a couple dozen,” said Douglas Badger, who oversaw health policy in the White House for President George W. Bush and worked for the Senate GOP leadership prior to that. “The problem is they don’t have consensus,” he said at the AEI forum.

Still, doing nothing, or even waiting, is not an option given that these lawmakers have been vowing to repeal the law almost since the day it passed in 2010.

“You have to pass something,” said Miller, “and whatever you pass you call repeal.”

The leading option under consideration is “repeal and delay.” The idea is to use the budget process to overturn the tax-and-spending parts of the law, but delaying the effective date to buy time for Republicans to agree on a replacement bill.

But there are problems with that strategy. One is political — Democrats are already crying foul.

“It’s not acceptable to repeal the law, throw our health care system into chaos and then leave the hard work for another day,” incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Tuesday.

Added Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., “it’s not repeal and delay, it’s repeal and retreat.”

The plan also has raised concerns in the health industry. The goal of delaying the repeal date is to let people who have obtained insurance under the health law keep it while a replacement is formulated. But that is by no means guaranteed.

Insurance analysts have said that any more uncertainty in an already fragile marketplace could easily prompt insurers to leave the individual market, which would put at risk coverage for not just the roughly 10 million people who are purchasing plans there under the health law, but also the roughly 10 million people who previously had individual policies. (Another 10 million people have gained coverage under the health law through an expanded Medicaid program for those with low incomes.)

Without specific help for insurers from Congress, which would likely include insurance payments Republicans have called bailouts, “the market will begin to crumble” quickly, said Robert Reischauer, former president of the Urban Institute.

House Majority Leader McCarthy told reporters Tuesday that “no decisions have been made yet” on how Republicans might want to help stabilize the insurance market while they seek a replacement plan.

The individual insurance market could also be rattled if the incoming Trump administration decides not to appeal a lawsuit brought by congressional Republicans who argued that the Obama administration was illegally using money to pay insurers to subsidize health costs for some low-income customers buying individual plans on the health law’s marketplaces. If the new administration bows out of the suit and those subsidies, insurers would not get reimbursed for the expenses, and some analysts predict it could force companies to leave the market.

On the other hand, attempting to repeal and replace the law in a single bill also could pose problems.

Repealing and replacing together “looks less like repealing than fixing,” said Badger. “That could cause some angst” among the GOP base that wants Obamacare to be fully eliminated.

And Democrats point out that Republicans are equally guilty of overpromising the benefits of overhauling the health care system, albeit in a very different way.

The goals currently being talked about by Republicans — including making health care more affordable, covering more people, reducing government spending and giving states more flexibility — “are impossible to achieve,” within acceptable GOP budget limits, said Reischauer at the AEI event. “There are going to have to be some tradeoffs,” he said, as Democrats found when they tried to accomplish roughly those same goals.

Made available from Kaiser Health News under a creative commons agreement. KHN is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Groups urge action to protect voting rights on Election Day

Amid threats of Election Day intimidation, dozens of civil rights and voting rights groups called on state election officials to create plans to prevent voting discrimination.

In their call, the groups emphasized this the Nov. 8 election is the first presidential election in 50 years without a fully operable Voting Rights Act.

In letters to Wisconsin election officials and officials in the other 49 states, the groups cite their concern with the loss of Section 5 of the VRA. The letters state, “Since Congress has failed to pass a bill to restore the VRA, which has resulted in DOJ’s lacking authority over voting changes in places that Congress determined in 2006 should continue to have federal oversight, we are extremely concerned that there will be widespread voter discrimination in the upcoming presidential election.”

To blunt the impact of voting discrimination, these organizations are engaging in a massive litigation effort and an election protection campaign to protect voters at the polls, including in Wisconsin.

Efforts to turn back several statewide discriminatory voter laws in the courts have been effective, but voters have little protection from local election changes, the misapplication and misunderstanding of new voting restrictions by poll workers, or threats of intimidation from polling place vigilantes.

“The loss of Section 5 and the most racially bigoted presidential campaign in generations has created a perfect storm for voter intimidation and voter discrimination,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “State election officials must address these unprecedented threats head on by creating and publicizing clear plans to prevent intimidation and discrimination, and to make it unequivocally clear to the voters they serve that the elections they oversee will be safe, fair, and free from intimidation, violence, and discrimination.”

Read the letter from the rights groups

October 24, 2016

Dear Secretary of State:

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States, and the 86 undersigned organizations, we write to express our grave concern over the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). We urge you to develop a plan to ensure that no one in your state is disenfranchised in the upcoming election.

As you know, the VRA protected the voting rights of racial and ethnic minorities in several states and local jurisdictions where they had been historically discriminated against in voting. These jurisdictions were covered by Section 5 of the VRA, which required the Department of Justice (DOJ) to approve any changes to voting in specific states and localities. However, in 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court’s devastating decision in Shelby County v. Holder negated the pre-clearance requirement and the DOJ’s authority to send observers to covered jurisdictions. Following Shelby, numerous states have passed voting laws, which several federal courts agree have a disparate impact on people of color and language minorities. In the case of North Carolina, for example, the courts found that the state’s massive bundle of voting restrictions, passed within weeks of the Shelby decision, targeted African Americans “with almost surgical precision.”[1] Evidence shows that restrictive voter laws also suppress turnout of the elderly, [2] people with disabilities, [3] and students. [4]

And while some courts have taken action to block discriminatory laws in states like North Carolina and Texas, these decisions came only after years of costly litigation during which impacted citizens were blocked from voting in the 2014 elections and this year’s primaries. Meanwhile, there is no way of knowing how many potentially discriminatory voting changes are being made by cities, counties, school boards, water boards and other local jurisdictions that were previously required to be precleared. According to “Democracy Diminished,”[5] a report by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., “more than 85% of preclearance work previously done under Section 5 was at the local level.”

Since Congress has failed to pass a bill to restore the VRA, which has resulted in DOJ’s lacking authority over voting changes in places that Congress determined in 2006 should continue to have federal oversight, we are extremely concerned that there will be widespread voter discrimination in the upcoming presidential election. This is exacerbated by the fact that there will be no DOJ observers holding jurisdictions accountable. In the 2012 general election, the Department of Justice sent 780 federal observers to 51 jurisdictions in 23 states. [6] Following the Shelby decision, DOJ has said it will not deploy election observers in 2016. The potentially detrimental effect of the absence of this critical voter protection tool cannot be overstated. [7]

Given the many recent examples of post-Shelby voting discrimination, we urge you to be vigilant regarding potential voter disenfranchisement in your state this November.

Sincerely,

9to5, National Association of Working Women

A. PHILIP RANDOLPH INSTITUTE

AFL-CIO

African American Ministers In Action (AAMIA)

American Association of People with Disabilities

American Association of University Women (AAUW)

American Civil Liberties Union

American Constitution Society for Law and Policy

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees

American Federation of Teachers

American Jewish Committee (AJC)

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

Americans for Democratic Action (ADA)

Anti-Defamation League

Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF)

Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC

Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote)

Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law

Bend the Arc Jewish Action

Black Women’s Roundtable

Black Youth Vote!

Brennan Center for Justice

Campaign Legal Center

The Center for Popular Democracy

Center for Women Policy Studies

Democracy Initiative

Demos

Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund

Feminist Majority

Franciscan Action Network

Friends of the Earth – United States

Human Rights Campaign

Human Rights First

IAWRTUSA

Institute for Science and Human Values

Jewish Council for Public Affairs

Jobs With Justice

LatinoJustice PRLDEF

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

League of Women Voters of the United States

MALDEF

MoveOn.org

NAACP

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

NAACP-National Voter Fund

NALEO Educational Fund

National Action Network’s Washington Bureau

National Asian Pacific American Bar Association

National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum

National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO)

National Association of Social Workers

National Center for Transgender Equality

National Coalition on Black Civic Participation

National Congress of American Indians

National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA)

National Council of Churches

National Council of Jewish Women

National Education Association

National LGBTQ Task Force

National Urban League

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice

OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates

OWL-The Voice of Women 40+

People For the American Way Foundation

People’s Action

Project Vote

Public Citizen

Rock the Vote

Service Employees International Union (SEIU)

Sikh American Legal Defense & Education Fund (SALDEF)

Southern Coalition for Social Justice

Southern Poverty Law Center

U.S. Women and Cuba Collaboration

Union for Reform Judaism

United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

United Food and Commercial Workers International Union

US Human Rights Network

Vote.org

The Voter Participation Center

VoteRiders

Voting Rights Forward

The Voting Rights Institute

Voto Latino

Women’s Research & Education Institute

World Without Genocide at Mitchell Hamline School of Law

Young People For, a program of the People For the American Way Foundation

Judge: ‘Decent case’ the GOP changed election laws for partisan gain

Opponents of more than a dozen new Wisconsin election laws had made a “pretty decent case” that Republicans approved them to secure a partisan advantage, a federal judge said, but he isn’t convinced the measures actually had a dramatic effect.

U.S. District Judge James Peterson’s comments came in closing arguments of a lawsuit challenging the laws passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Gov. Scott Walker since 2011.

Peterson promised to rule by the end of July but has said that will be too late to affect the Aug. 9 primary for the field of candidates running for dozens of state and federal races will be narrowed before the Nov. 8 general election.

An attorney for two liberal groups challenging the laws, including the requirement that voters show photo identification at the polls, argued that they should be found unconstitutional and stopped from being enforced. But a state Department of Justice attorney said there was no evidence to support a wholesale undoing of the laws.

“They’re going for the home run,” Assistant Attorney General Clay Kawski said. “They just haven’t shown that.”

The laws being challenged include provisions of the voter ID requirement, particularly the process used to grant free IDs to people who don’t have the required documentation, limitations on early voting times and places and the elimination of straight-ticket voting.

The judge said he didn’t “see anything powerful in either way” about what effect the laws have had on turnout.

“I don’t see anything really compelling showing the voter ID law or any of the other changes had a powerful impact on any of the elections,” Peterson said.

He referenced comments from Republican U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, made in an interview in April, that he thought the voter ID law would help Republicans in the November election. Peterson said he didn’t think the evidence showed it would help Republicans significantly, or that it would hurt Democrats as much as was argued.

The plaintiffs argue that the laws discriminate against the poor, racial minorities and younger voters who are more inclined to vote Democratic. The state Department of Justice counters that they have not suppressed turnout and the state works hard to ensure everyone who needs a free ID to vote gets one.

Attorney Bruce Van Spiva argued that if the judge finds any parts of the laws are discriminatory, he must rule the entire laws unconstitutional and block enforcement. He said the evidence showed Republicans were motivated to pass the laws to suppress Democratic turnout and there was no need to make the changes.

He cited testimony of Todd Allbaugh, who was chief of staff to then state-Sen. Dale Schultz, a Republican. Allbaugh testified that Republican senators said in a closed-door meeting discussing the voter ID law that it was needed to improve the GOP’s chances of winning elections by reducing turnout in urban areas and college campuses.

But the judge raised questions about whether Allbaugh’s testimony could be trusted, given that he left the Republican Party partly out of disgust over passage of the voter ID law.

“It’s score settling. I’m not doubting his real sincerity but his perspective is hostile to his former party,” Peterson said. “He feels betrayed.”

Some of the law changes being challenged include: reducing early voting from 30 days before an election to 12 days; limiting the hours it can take place and restricting early voting to one location per municipality; eliminating straight ticket voting; doing away with requiring special election deputies be assigned at high schools; and prohibiting local governments from requiring landlords to distribute voter-registration forms to new tenants.

The lawsuit was brought by the liberal group One Wisconsin Institute Inc., social justice group Citizen Action of Wisconsin Education Fund and 10 voters.

ACLU concern for Milwaukee PD covering name tags

The ACLU of Wisconsin expressed concern that once again the Milwaukee Police are covering up their name tags for no good reason, contrary to department policy and hindering any efforts at increased transparency in the process.

This kind of behavior will do nothing but draw even clearer lines of division between the MPD and the community it purports to serve.

As evidenced by the police show of force on April 3 at UW-Milwaukee, individual police officers and the major incident response team  too often cover up their name tags while deployed in public.  This is a flagrant violation of an MPD policy that is already weak and rarely enforced.

When Milwaukeeans are peacefully exercising their rights to free speech and assembly, the MPD should do everything in its power to refrain from intimidating members of the public from expressing themselves.

By covering up their nametags, the officers communicated an implicit threat that they may engage in practices for which they do not want to be held accountable.

The ACLU of Wisconsin urges the MPD to better train and supervise its officers, including those assigned to demonstrations protected by the First Amendment, to maintain transparency and avoid sending harmful messages to the public.

Chris Ahmuty is the executive director of the ACLU of Wisconsin.

Senate committee backs bill limiting local photo IDs

Wisconsin’s Senate elections committee backed a bill on Feb. 3 that would hinder efforts in Milwaukee to provide local photo IDs.

The Republican bill would prohibit towns and counties from issuing IDs or spending money on them. It also would prohibit using ID cards issued by cities or villages to vote or obtain public benefits. The measure passed 3-2 along party lines, clearing the way for a full Senate vote.

The bill’s sponsors say it is meant to prevent fraud and confusion. Critics call it anti-immigrant and say it’s aimed at a recent Milwaukee city and county plan to issue local IDs to those who have difficulty obtaining other government-issued IDs. The IDs would assist with everyday tasks, like opening a bank account or obtaining a prescription.

“It was a victory hard-fought,” state Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, said earlier in the day at a news conference opposing the legislation. “It was a small victory for us as we continue to fight for drivers cards for undocumented immigrants here at the state level. This was going to be a first step to finally realizing that.”

State Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, said he thinks it’s a great bill because it would ensure that the state is in control of programs administered by state agencies.

The bill would create exceptions allowing towns and counties to issue IDs to their employees or contractors and for use of transit systems, services and facilities owned by the town or county.

“This is not about punishing immigrants and putting people into the shadows,” said bill sponsor Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine. “Immigration is a federal issue, it’s not a state issue and it’s not a local issue.”

Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, pointed to previous testimony from immigrants and said Republicans were ignoring the many benefits of local IDs in their zeal to make it more difficult for people to register to vote.

“It was heart-wrenching testimony we heard about how important this ID has proven for folks who testified about its importance,” Miller said.

Engaged citizens foster strong cities

More than ever, citizens are engaged in deciding what they want and need in their communities. Ideally, residents, business interests and civic advocates collaborate, usually along with government officials, to promote successful development. Such grassroots decision-making emphasizes consensus and inclusiveness. It’s democracy at the local level.

But such engagement can be messy, time-consuming and even nerve-wracking. Chuck Marohn, founder of the nonprofit Strong Towns, posits that from-the-ground-up processes are “chaotic but smart,” while top-down ones are “orderly but dumb.” In other words, efficiency isn’t everything.

Although inclusiveness promotes resilient communities, those in traditional power structures often resist new input — especially from those whose voices have been marginalized. Trying to perpetuate the status quo, bureaucracies may discourage or undermine efforts to build true consensus. 

A key statewide force in community engagement is 1000 Friends of Wisconsin. The Madison-based nonprofit was founded in 1996 by a diverse group “to become the citizens voice for sound land-use planning.” The group helped pass the state’s “Smart Growth Law” in 1999, which requires all municipalities to develop sustainable and comprehensive plans.

Groups such as the Center for Resilient Cities of Madison and Milwaukee promote grassroots transformation of neighborhoods. The Green Bay Packers designed their Titletown District after ongoing engagement with residents and local businesses.

In contrast, plans and subsidies for the new Milwaukee Bucks Arena and surrounding development of formerly public land proceeded with virtually no community input. Commitments of taxpayer millions were made without involving citizens.

Cities and developers sometimes offer “check-the-box” tactics to create the illusion of citizen input. Such tactics often come in the form of “town hall meetings,” where citizens may only pose written questions fielded by a gatekeeper. Or decision makers might solicit input for a project after it’s a fait accompli. Or residents might only get to suggest minor adjustments or choose among fixed options.

Some “public forums” are conducted merely to gain buy-in from those affected by top-down decisions. While such input may seem better than none, it can also breed cynicism if citizens feel their views are moot.

Successful community engagement evolves through a gradual process and is often guided by committed individuals who both facilitate and inspire. In Milwaukee, strong community participation informed the new Innovation and Wellness Commons at 16th and North Avenue and Johnsons Park revitalization in Lindsay Heights. It is informing new public spaces, including The Spot4MKE in downtown and the ARTery flanking Harrambee and Riverwest. 

The Greater Milwaukee Committee recently enlisted urban-planning consultant Toni Griffin to steer an “inclusive” process of visioning for Greater Downtown. Griffin’s focus has been on creating “just cities” that serve everyone, not just elites or even the middle class. 

Meaningful community engagement requires time and commitment. Democracy demands participation. Citizens cannot wait for top-down invitations to discuss and shape issues affecting the vitality of their communities. 

To All Candidates Running for President: Reject Bigotry

Since the tragic attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, the world has watched some American politicians react with hatred, bigotry and vile untruths. They have exploited the politics of nativism and fear, using the atrocities committed by a few individuals to cast blanket suspicion on whole nations and all Muslims.

America must be better than this.

We are a nation of immigrants founded on the principles of justice, equality, and democracy. Our commitment to these ideals has not always been perfect, and it is horrifying to hear politicians use past examples of national shame, such as the internment of Japanese Americans, to justify discrimination today.  Our nation and political leaders should instead set an example for people around the world with resilience and hope. Equality and religious freedom are principles enshrined in our founding documents and reflected in our laws. They are not mere concepts to be discarded in difficult times.

Calls to ban Muslims from entering the United States and prohibit the resettlement of refugees fleeing the Islamic State in Syria undermine core American principles by fomenting hate, division, and discrimination. Such hateful rhetoric has given rise to a tide of racism, hatred, and violence against law-abiding American Muslims. It is deeply distressing that hate crimes against American Muslims — and those who appear to be Muslim — are up when all kinds of hate crimes are down. This terrible fact cannot be divorced from the dangerous rhetoric that has seeped into the mainstream in recent weeks.

American Muslims are our neighbors, friends, and colleagues. They are us.

Our political leaders not only set the tone for our nation. They also are the primary messengers to the rest of the world.  When they call for compassion, dignity, and equality, the world listens. When they call for exclusion and defend bigotry, the world also listens. In a time of global uncertainty, American leaders must do the right thing by projecting the America we have always aspired to be.

We challenge every candidate for the presidency of the United States to stand up against bigotry and division, to oppose the exclusion of individuals from the United States on the basis of religion or nationality, and to affirm a commitment to equality for Americans of all races and of all faiths.

The future of America — and the world — is in your hands. Do the right thing. The whole world is watching.

The process at the Capitol is not transparent, but the motives are

Who are the Wisconsin citizens who asked for more big money in our elections? Who called for a law giving politicians immunity to the John Doe investigations that can still target other people? Who wants partisan political appointees running our elections, and why would anyone want to do away with open government? I have not heard a public outcry for these proposals, yet they seem to be what is occupying our state legislature.

The leadership of the majority party is pushing major overhauls in how our state government operates at a dizzying pace and with minimal transparency. What is transparent, however, is that these proposals are written to serve the political interests of the lawmakers pushing them, not of the people they are supposed to serve. 

This is not governing. Rather, it is a shameful abuse of power. Former Assembly Representative Fred Clark likened this destructive pattern to “vandals in a museum with baseball bats.” The checks and balances designed to limit corruption in our state government reflect more than a century of thoughtful policy development. They protect us from government overreach. Now they are under attack.

If you wonder why this is happening, you need look no further than our voting maps. With single-party control in the State Capitol in 2011, the maps were drawn in secret and fast-tracked into law. The resulting districts are among the most gerrymandered in the nation.

Lawmakers elected to a “safe seat” do not have to pay attention to constituents who disagree with them. They do, however, have to follow the dictates of their caucus leadership. If they don’t tow the party line, they are likely to be targeted in the next Primary election.

Even in these difficult times, citizens hold considerable power to help shape policy, blunt the influence of money in politics and hold the bullies accountable. Here are a few tips on how to do it.

Talk to your representatives. Give them credit when they do the right thing. If they don’t, tell them you expect them to serve the people, not waste tax dollars concocting self-serving laws. Just this year public outcry stopped an effort to change the University of Wisconsin mission with a simple deletion of a phrase in the 1,500-page state budget bill. Public dissent also thwarted a sneaky budget amendment on a holiday weekend which would have decimated Wisconsin’s open records laws.

When you contact your legislators, insist on a response whether they agree with you or not. If you don’t get one, keep that in mind when they run for re-election.

Vote in every election. In gerrymandered districts, the real contest takes place in the Primary Election, because the outcome of the general election is almost assured. So be sure to vote in the Primary. In Wisconsin any eligible citizen may vote in a Primary, and you are free to choose which party’s ballot you will use.

Seek information from unbiased sources and be skeptical of anything you hear in a 30-second spot. Pay attention to who sponsors an ad. Why are they willing to pay millions of dollars to support or defeat a candidate? Is the outcome of the election important to their core mission, or do they have a financial stake? The League of Women Voters and certain other nonpartisan groups are trustworthy sources.

New laws make it easier for special interests to influence our elections and harder for private citizens to register and vote. That is all the more reason to seek reliable information and vote in every election.

Andrea Kaminski is executive director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for informed and active participation in government. Membership is open to women and men of all ages. With 17 local Leagues in Wisconsin and 800 affiliates across the county, the League is one of the nation’s most trusted grassroots organizations. Find the League on Facebook.   

Coalition backing local ID card in Milwaukee

A coalition of progressive community organizations and public officials on Oct. 5 are announcing their support for legislation creating a local identification card to be available to all people in the city of Milwaukee.

The program would be established through a city-county partnership.

Milwaukee IDs will benefit many undocumented and under-documented people, including immigrants, formerly incarcerated people, the elderly, transgender people, foster youth, homeless people and low income people.

With a Milwaukee ID, community members would be able to access city resources, open bank accounts, cash checks, obtain prescription medicine from the pharmacy, identify themselves to law enforcement and, according to a news release, “more fully participate in the life of the city.”

“In many cases, a lack of a government-issued ID is a barrier to domestic violence victims who are attempting to escape abusers,” said Tony Gibart, public policy director of End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin. “First, court documents, such as petitions for divorce, must be notarized, and notaries usually require the presentation of a government-issued ID. Second, applications for federal immigration protections for undocumented victims of domestic violence and their children require possessing a government-issued ID. Providing the opportunity for people to easily obtain a local ID would address these problems.”

A news conference to announce the campaign was scheduled to take place at city hall at 6 p.m. on Oct. 5. Participants were to include representatives from the We Are All Milwaukee coalition for Milwaukee IDs, including Voces de la Frontera, End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin and the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center.

 

 

Obama ends long-running transfer of military gear to police

President Barack Obama ended long-running federal transfers of some combat-style gear to local law enforcement on May 18 in an attempt to ease tensions between police and minority communities, saying equipment made for the battlefield should not be a tool of American criminal justice.

Grenade launchers, bayonets, tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles, firearms and ammunition of .50-caliber or higher will no longer be provided to state and local police agencies by the federal government under Obama’s order.

“It can alienate and intimidate local residents and send the wrong message,” he said.

Obama made his announcement in Camden, New Jersey, where he praised efforts by the police department to improve their relationship with a poor community struggling with violence.

With police under increased scrutiny over highly publicized deaths of black suspects nationwide, Obama also unveiled the final report of a task force he created to help build confidence between police and minority communities. And he issued a broader appeal for Americans to address racial disparities and the needs of poor communities before they erupt into disorder.

He also reiterated his call for overhauling sentencing practices for nonviolent drug crimes.

“We can’t ask the police to be the ones to solve the problem when there are no able-bodied men in the community or kids are growing up without intact households,” he said.

In Camden, Obama visited the police Real-Time Tactical Operational Intelligence Center and watched live video displays of city neighborhoods being monitored by officers. He also stopped by a community center where he met with young people and local police officers.

Ahead of his Camden remarks, Obama stopped briefly in nearby Philadelphia to praise its police and fire officials for their quick response to last week’s deadly Amtrak wreck.

In addition to the prohibitions in his order, Obama also is placing a longer list of military equipment under tighter control, including wheeled armored vehicles like Humvees, manned aircraft, drones, specialized firearms, explosives, battering rams and riot batons, helmets and shields. Starting in October, police will have to get approval from their city council, mayor or some other local governing body to obtain such equipment, provide a persuasive explanation of why it is needed and have more training and data collection on its use.

Programs that transfer surplus military-style equipment from the Pentagon and other federal agencies have been around for decades, but Congress increased spending to help departments acquire the gear in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks.

The issue of police militarization rose to prominence last year after a white police officer in Ferguson fatally shot unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown, sparking protests. Critics questioned why police in full body armor with armored trucks responded to dispel demonstrators, and Obama seemed to sympathize when ordering a review of the programs that provide the equipment.

“There is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement and we don’t want those lines blurred,” Obama said in August.

The review, published in December, showed five federal agencies spent $18 billion on programs that provided equipment, including 92,442 small arms, 44,275 night-vision devices, 5,235 Humvees, 617 mine-resistant vehicles and 616 aircraft. At the time, the White House defended the programs as proving to be useful in many cases, such as the response to the Boston Marathon bombing. Instead of repealing the programs, Obama issued an executive order that required federal agencies that run the programs to consult with law enforcement and civil rights and civil liberties organizations to recommend changes that make sure they are accountable and transparent.

The report from the 21st Century Policing task force has a long list of recommendations to improve trust in police, including encouraging more transparency about interactions with the public. The White House said 21 police agencies nationwide, including Camden and Philadelphia, have agreed to start putting out never-before released data on citizen interactions, like use of force, stops, citations and officer-involved shootings. The administration also is launching an online toolkit to encourage the use of body cameras to record police interactions. And the Justice Department is giving $163 million in grants to incentivize police departments to adopt the report’s recommendations.

Sacramento, California, Mayor Kevin Johnson, the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, praised Obama’s actions, saying they “show how serious he is about doing this now and doing this right.”