LWV Article for The Bottom Line June 2019

 Forward! Wisconsin FIRSTTO RATIFY - 19th Amendment

By Jo Bailey, Member - League of Women Voters of Ashland and Bayfield Counties

Did any of you voters (or even non-voters) know that The Nineteenth Amendment (XIX) to the US Constitution prohibits the states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex?  It was ratified on August 18, 1920 and certified by the US Secretary of State on August 26, 1920.

 Passage of the 19th Amendment is a legendary and multifaceted story.  The final struggle in passage began in 1916 amid the movement's divided strategies of state vs. federal suffrage efforts and moderate vs. more militant tactics. By 1916, several states had already granted women the right to vote, beginning with Wyoming in 1889.  Women in states that had passed presidential suffrage would work to pass federal suffrage.

 U.S. entry into WWI produced assurance that women would work to keep up the economy running during the war.  President Wilson was persuaded and pledged his support to the 19thAmendment granting the right for women to vote.  The House of Representatives measure passed 304-89. Two weeks later it passed the Senate and the amendment was sent to the states for ratification.

 As we approach the 100thanniversary of women’s right to vote, one of our goals is to shed light on Wisconsin’s role in that story.   On June 10, 1919, the Wisconsin legislature cast an historic vote to ratify the 19thAmendment and became the first state to deliver a correct certificate of ratification to the State Department at Washington, D.C. (Illinois actually ratified earlier, however an error in paperwork ensured Wisconsin’s place in history.)

 Did you know that our Local League of Women Voters of Ashland and Bayfield Counties (LWV/ABC) has been active for over 60 years?  I had the privilege to interview Lu Eckels (age 90) who helped to birth our local League in 1956.  She indicated that four to five women, including herself, met to create this chapter of the League.  (Lu was a Political Science major in college and felt “Government is the basis of everything.”  She lives with her daughter and son-in-law in Bayfield and often attends League activities. She was my mentor when I joined in 2002 and was asked to be President!)  Lu has worked on voting issues for years and was chosen as Grand Dam for the Applefest Parade in 2015.  Our League (LWV/ABC) is proud to have her as a member and to recognize her years of accomplishments.

In the spirit of Wisconsin leading by example, as reflected in the state’s motto, we invite all Wisconsinites to join in the rallying cry, Forward! Wisconsin -  FIRST TO RATIFY - 19th Amendmentin remembrance of the day Wisconsin promptly acted to grant national suffrage to women.

 The League of Women Voters of Ashland and Bayfield Counties is a nonpartisan political organization encouraging informed and active participation in government. It influences public policy through education and advocacy. Get in touch with the local League at http://www.lwvabcwi.org/or info@lwvabcwi.org.

Natural Resources Advocacy

In our previous newsletter we reported on the LWVWI position in support of the protection of water quality and quantity, and specifically the following verbiage: “Work to eliminate all emergency discharges or spills of untreated sewage, orwaste orpolluting materialsinto the environment that threaten public health and the environment by potentially contaminating sources of clean water for humans, wildlife habitat and fisheries.”

 With this position in mind,the LWV/ABC is pleased to be co-sponsoring a public forum April 15thon Ashland’s sewage overflow problem.

 Remember last summer when news of the Ashland City sewage overflow hit the area papers and radio stations?  Remember the beach closure issued for Kreher Park Beach and the caution for Maslowski Park? Remember the big rain and subsequent flooding that was intimately linked to these events?

The spring thaw right is around the corner, and with the large amount of snow we received this winter we can once again expect some flooding. Ashland is not alone in experiencing sewage overflows; many cities around the shores of Lake Superior must discharge sewage into the Lake when their waste water treatment systems are overloaded – usually due to the infiltration of excessive rain. An increase in the frequency and intensity of rain storms is predicted for our area given a changing climate. Thus, it seems likely that we will be facing sewage overflows in the future. It is incumbent on all of us to fully understand the problem and try to correct it.

The LWV/ABC, together with the City of Ashland, the Ashland County Extension, the Ashland County Land & Water Conservation Department, and the Chequamegon Citizen Climate Lobby will bring several speakers to delve more deeply into the overflow issue. Valerie Damstra (MaryGriggsBurke Centerfor Freshwater Innovation) will describe the extent and ecological effects of overflows around the Lake Superior Basin; Eric DeVenecia (Wis. Dept. of Natural Resources; DNR) will explain the state regulations and the DNR’s role in enforcement;  City of Ashland staff will detail the causes of the recent overflows and explain how the waste water treatment system works; and MaryJo Gingras (Ashland Co. Land & Water Conservation Dept.) will offer suggestions of actions individuals can take to minimize their impact on the waste water treatment system.

 A question and answer period will follow the presentations. Do you know the difference between waste water and storm water? How does what you put down your drain affect the Ashland wastewater treatment system? What can I do as a private individual to help solve the problem? Find out the answers to these questions and get your questions answered!

This event will be held at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center on April 15th, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. It is free and open to the public. Learn about the causes of Ashland’s sewage overflow and what you can do to help. 

 Planning is underway for a second forum, scheduled for May 20. The focus will be on planning to meet future demands on Ashland’s waste water treatment system and protecting Lake Superior from dangerous sewage overflows. Watch for upcoming details.

End Child Poverty Campaign: Poverty Reduction Goal

Our Shared Goal: The faith community believes that the people of Wisconsin need to set a goal of cutting childhood poverty in half in the next ten years. To guarantee greater equity, we also need to cut racial disparities in childhood poverty in half. These goals need to be accompanied by a commitment to evidence-based evaluation of progress.

In 2014 the Wisconsin Council of Churches, WISDOM, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families (now Kids Forward) launched a dialogue on poverty with faith-based leaders and congregants across Wisconsin. Our dialogues reached several provisional conclusions:

  1. Deepening poverty and economic inequality is a moral crisis that calls us to action. We must confront our pretension of having a level playing field while 500,000 Wisconsin adults and 250,000 Wisconsin children live in poverty.

  2. High and rising rates of poverty are primarily a result of broader economic and social structures, not individual moral failings. Most poor children live in working families.

  3. There is a collective moral obligation not only to assist individuals, but to change the social and economic conditions which cause poverty and racial inequities.

  4. It is unconscionable that children are the poorest segment of our society, and that severe inequities based on race and ethnicity continue. The long term negative impacts of childhood poverty and racial inequities create intergenerational cycles that threaten us all.

  5. Effective solutions are more likely to be adopted and succeed if we focus on finding common ground across the ideological divide, adopt evidence-based solutions from across the political spectrum, and hold ourselves collectively accountable to measurable outcomes rather than particular policies.

Our Shared Moral Obligation

We have all seen how a sense of moral responsibility and compassion can drive individual and group charitable efforts to alleviate the physical, psychological, and spiritual suffering which flow from poverty and racial disparities. These are praiseworthy acts that should be commended, at the same time we have the responsibility not only to treat the symptoms, but to transform the broader social and economic context that traps so many in poverty, beginning when they are children.

We also believe that it is essential that this work be done in relationship and partnership between those experiencing racial disparities and poverty and those living with abundance. People who endure poverty and racial inequities have unique understanding of the challenges they pose and have a critical vantage point for seeing and implementing solutions. Working in partnership is not only the right thing to do, it is the only way we will be successful.

A Fresh Approach: Accountability to Outcomes not Policies

There is a growing consensus across the political spectrum that government has an important role to play if we are to take effective action to dramatically reduce poverty. Both progressives and conservatives accept that To add your endorsement to the goal of cutting childhood poverty in half, go to: endchildpovertywi.org government is essential to creating a social and economic context where poverty is far less prevalent. Despite this seeming agreement, ideological divisions over policy create a standoff that blocks effective action.

The big idea that emerged from our discussions is that we should flip the script by holding ourselves and our elected leaders mutually accountable to outcomes, rather than support for any particular set of policies. Tracking progress towards our goals can become the organizing principle for our poverty and racial equity work going forward. This will put us in a position to invest more in policies that are working, abandon those that are not, and initiate new evidence-based policies in real time. This outcome-based approach makes it possible to include the private sector (corporations, charities, faith-based institutions, and foundations) as well as governments at all levels (federal, state and local) in the plan as contributing to measurable parts of the outcome. This approach can also make it possible for other policies not usually associated with anti-poverty efforts, like state and local economic development and tax policies, to be part of the plan with measurable contributions to the outcomes.

We have reviewed a number of poverty reduction plans that span the political spectrum, including: 1) American Enterprise Institute/ Brookings – Consensus Plan to Reduce Poverty and Restore the American Dream; 2) Community Advocates – Pathways to Ending Poverty; 3) Paul Ryan’s A Better Way: Our Vision for a Confident America; 4) the UK Child Poverty Reduction target, and others. From these plans a number of common themes emerge, and based on those themes, we propose that four main strategies are adopted in Wisconsin:

  1. Set child poverty reduction goals, equity goals, and timelines. 

  2. Develop accountability mechanisms: A robust and independent tracking and evaluation capacity, trusted by all sides, which will make clear assessments of what is working, and what needs to change. (e.g. the creation of a Legislative Child Poverty Bureau)

  3. Implement multi-sector, evidence based strategiesat the scale capable of achieving the poverty reduction goal, including:

    1. Employment and Income: help people get well-paying jobs;

    2. High quality education: Increase public investment in underfunded stages of education, particularly in the early years;

    3. Strengthening families: deepening relationships and building social capital.

  4. Measure progressand adjust strategies as necessary.

The first major step of our public campaign will be a faith-led effort to inspire policymakers, elected officials, and other opinion leaders and stakeholders to publicly commit to a concrete ten year goal of cutting childhood poverty and racial disparities in half. We need to hold all components of Wisconsin society collectively responsible to achieving these goals. It is the moral, just, and economically sound action to take.

Signed,

Robert Kraig, Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin Education Fund 

Rev. Scott A. Anderson, Executive Director, Wisconsin Council of Churches 

Ken Taylor, Executive Director, Kids Forward 

David Liners, State Director, WISDOM

Children and Poverty...What can be done?

Bottom line February 2019

 By Linda Jorgenson, Board Member - League of Women Voters of Ashland & Bayfield Counties

Too many children face economic barriers to achieving their full potential. In Ashland and Bayfield Counties over 20 percent of children live in poverty.  The Wisconsin End Child Poverty Campaign wants to do something about this.

On Thursday, March 7, the League of Women Voters of Ashland & Bayfield Counties (LWV/ABC) has invited John Wagner to share the experience of Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire County with organizing around this Campaign. It will be held at the Northern Great Lakes Visitors Center from 6:30 to 8:30 PM. 

Wagner is a retired Chief Engineer from Cray Research in Eau Claire and Chairperson of the WISDOM JONAH End Child Poverty campaign in his area. He has a PhD and PostDoc in Chemistry and a personal interest in human brain development. Describing why he has become passionate about ending child poverty Wagner states:

I strongly believe that youth represent the next generation of leaders. I have had ten years of experience teaching young adults who live in poverty (volunteer at Trinity Equine Therapy in Eau Claire, active in Gun Violence committee at First Presbyterian Church in Eau Claire, member of the Kid’s First Action Group in Eau Claire, United States Soccer Federation referee, referee instructor, and assessor, and NISOA (NCAA) college referee), and keenly appreciate the difficulties they live with. This, combined with my multiple interests in modern science that informs us about how poverty affects human development, has led to my strong interest in child poverty and the impacts poverty has on adult outcomes.

This is born out in the many studies in the past twenty years which amply demonstrate that children who live in poverty are at greater risk of education challenges, health problems, lower future earnings, and shortened life expectancy.  Since many Ashland and Bayfield County governments, businesses, health care agencies, churches, and civic organizations are already working hard on these problems, the LWV/ABC would like to see our counties unite with other communities around the state to press for state level action.  They endorse the goal of the End Child Poverty Campaign to have the Wisconsin Legislature set a target to reduce child poverty and racial disparity by one-half in 10 years and develop the policies to make that happen.  Since evidence based best practice policies show this can be done, it’s just a matter of the will power to get down to work.

The forum is free and open to everyone.

The League of Women Voters of Ashland & Bayfield Counties is a nonpartisan political organization whose main objective is to promote political responsibility through the informed and active participation of all citizenship government at all levels, especially locally.  It influences public policy through education and advocacy. Get involved with the local League at http://www.lwvabcwi.org/or info@lwvabcwi.org.