|Dear Sonny —|
I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday break. Starting next week, though, there will be an increasing volume of important stuff to do. And Grassroots North Shore is counting on you to help win the elections that will be coming our way in 2022.
There is no Events List this week. So I’m using the newsletter to cover four important topics: the criminal justice reform work being undertaken by a Grassroots North Shore Issue Team, gerrymandering, the pandemic, and the Jan. 6 Select Committee in the House of Representatives. I hope you’ll find the information helpful.
Action in the Criminal Justice Reform team is about to heat up. And I encourage you to get engaged. Paul Geenen, who is spearheading this group, is arranging for a meeting with Senator Alberta Darling to discuss a bill that has recently been drafted. Here are its main provisions:
- Establishes a statewide criminal justice data system that closes the gaps in our state’s information silos.
- Costs $3 million over two years, funding a full time data analyst, and ensuring 4-5 years of continuity.
- Data would be used to address a number of justice issues in our state, including opioid and meth usage, alternatives to incarceration, violent crime, racial disparities and bail bond practices.
- It will be housed in DOJ Criminal Justice and Data Council, with the data sharing sub-committee from DOJ, DOC and state courts providing guidance.
- Includes language that protects Personal Identifiable Information (PII) as an incentive for local agencies to be more comfortable in sharing data.
To prepare for the meeting with Senator Darling, Paul has set up a Zoom for everyone interested in lobbying on this issue. This pre-meeting will be held on January 6 at 12 CST. Please contact Paul directly for a full copy of the bill and for the link to the pre-meeting Zoom.
Gerrymandering Action: Electoral maps can have enormous influence on both national and state election outcomes. Because states must redraw their maps to account for shifts in population revealed by the US Census conducted in 2020, gerrymandering (i.e., rigging electoral district maps to favor one party) is now going on all over the country. Although there has lately been some argument about the proposition, Democrats generally fear that Republicans can and will gerrymander their way to a majority in the House of Representatives. Professor Hasan’s Election Law Blog has a thorough discussion of a column by Eric Levitz that claims the new maps are not as skewed as all that. So why does this question matter? Aside from the fact that Republican redistricting is resulting in significant impacts on minority representation at all levels of government, that is. Hasan concludes with a paragraph making a strong case for the reforms embedded in the two voting rights acts currently stalled in the US Senate by the filibuster. It’s worth taking a small amount of time to write our senators — Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson by email. When there is enough of it, public pressure — can have an effect.
Ditto at the state level. Matt Rothschild of the Wisconsin Democracy Project has the TAKE ACTION initiatives we need. He urges people to write letters to the editors of media outlets (while offering help and training), to contact your state legislators to support Senate Bill 389 and Assembly Bill 395, and to contact the chairs of the Senate and Assembly committees that should hold hearings on the bills to establish a “fair, independent, nonpartisan and transparent way to draw new voting district maps.” You can also find a succinct summary of the three court cases about electoral maps filed in 2021 on the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign’s website.
Pandemic information: As you are certainly aware, the COVID-19 pandemic is raging in Wisconsin, and will likely be exacerbated by gatherings for Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. The spread of disease has seriously disrupted some major sporting events: college bowl games cancelled, the National Hockey League “paused,” and the NFL postponing games. Broadway shows have also gone dark. Several Milwaukee events have also been cancelled. And we’re just at the beginning of the Omicron wave here. According to today’s news, “roughly 2 in 5 recent Wisconsin cases sequenced in a lab have been the fast-spreading omicron variant.” Masks are an important part of your efforts to reduce the spread and protect yourself and others, but not all masks offer adequate filtration and apparently there are lots of counterfeit masks around. To make sure you get bona fide N95 masks, consult Project N95, a site that evaluates sellers of masks so that you can order the genuine articles.
The severity of the Omicron variant is STILL not conclusively measured, but today’s New York Times has a particularly helpful analysis, complete with easily understood graphs, about who was dying from COVID in late fall. “[W]hile for much of the pandemic, older Americans and people of color were more likely to die from the virus, the demographics of those dying from Covid have shifted too, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How the arrival of the highly transmissible Omicron variant will affect these trends remains to be seen, since the current data on deaths is reliable only through late November.” The article notes that “Covid-19 now accounts for a much larger share of all deaths for [middle-aged white people] than it did before vaccines were widely available.” Wisconsin fares reasonably well compared to such hotspots as West Virgina, Kentucky and much of Florida. Still, three weeks ago, Wisconsin NPR reported that “Wisconsin hospital leaders are sounding the alarm as the state endures another COVID-19 surge. The seven-day average of new infections is over 3,500 — the highest it’s been in a year.” The current data shows 1,672 currently hospitalized (up 39 from a week ago) with 405 in a Wisconsin ICU right now.
Investigating the Insurrection: The House Select Committee on the January 6 insurrection was a major news story before the holidays and promises to be so again as it resumes work next week. Some aspects of the events leading up to and on that day have been well covered, especially the rallies on Jan. 5 and 6, but Talking Points Memo has striking new information on a third rally that was planned for 2pm on Jan. 6 in front of the Supreme Court building, right across the street from the Capitol Building. That rally was scuttled once the assault on the Capitol began to unfold. In a second essay in TPM, Josh Kovensky takes a stab at explaining why the planners might have wanted a rally there. The context, he writes, includes a lawsuit Sidney Powell filed in Texas in hopes of prompting Justice Alito, who covers emergency filings there, “to halt Biden’s certification. Had there been more of a delay, Powell suggested, Alito might have had time to intervene.”
And the Jan. 6 Select Committee “has signaled it intends to explore potential criminal wrongdoing by former President Trump, marking a significant escalation for the investigation” as reported in The Hill on Dec. 26. As an article in the Washington Post explains, “Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) said in an interview that of particular interest is why it took so long for him to call on his supporters to stand down, an area of inquiry that includes obtaining several versions of a video Trump reportedly recorded before finally releasing a message 187 minutes after he told his supporters to march on the Capitol during the rally that preceded the attack.” Criminal referrals from Congress don’t carry any special weight with the Department of Justice, but “Trump’s actions could amount to criminally obstructing Congress as it sought to certify the election results.”
Finally, just FYI, since most of you will not be able to vote in this race: there seem to be eight current candidates to become the next Mayor of Milwaukee:
State representative Dan Riemer originally declared his candidacy but recently dropped out. And today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Senator Chris Larson is seriously considering a run. The candidates’ websites will undoubtedly have links to their donation pages as well as their Facebook and Twitter accounts. The primary will be held February 15 with the election on April 5, 2022.
May 2022 bring a healthier, happier New Year.
Milwaukee County Democratic Party
Ozaukee County Democratic Party