Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee, Oct. 6

Vos, Fitzgerald not helpful during pandemic

Mandate face masks. Close or limit numbers in bars. Limit seats in restaurants.

Republicans in other states have taken strong action when faced with rising coronavirus cases.

But in Wisconsin, Republicans who control the Legislature instead run to court to overturn an order by Gov. Tony Evers mandating face masks in public spaces.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald have offered NO plan of their own to fight the deadly virus.

If you’ve been wondering why case counts rose exponentially during a terrible September in Wisconsin — far higher than surrounding states — look no further than this:

Wisconsin has no statewide plan to fight coronavirus.

And neither does the federal government.

“I think, unfortunately, more people are going to have to die before our policymakers accept we need laws and policies that improve the health and safety of our state,” Patrick Remington, former epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s preventive medicine residency program, told the Journal Sentinel’s Molly Beck.

On Monday, Wisconsin was third in the U.S., behind only North and South Dakota, in a New York Times analysis of case counts per capita. The situation is dire in the Fox Valley and Green Bay, where hospitals are in danger of being overwhelmed and people are standing in line for hours to get a test.

Much of this was preventable.

But at a time when Wisconsin desperately needed thoughtful leadership from Fitzgerald and Vos, as well as Evers, it got petty political games. Evers issued a new order on Tuesday to limit indoor gatherings, including in bars and restaurants. It’s a good idea, but it remains to be seen how Republicans will react.

Obstructive behavior is nothing new from Fitzgerald and Vos, who rammed through a bill limiting Evers’ powers as governor during a lame-duck session right after he was elected and before he took office.

The pair successfully sued Evers earlier this year over the extension of the governor’s first public health emergency. Although the administrative branch of state government has had public health emergency powers since the 1800s, the Republican-backed state Supreme Court justices gave their friends in the Legislature veto power over Evers’ ability to act. They struck down his “safer at home” order and instructed the governor to issue statewide actions through the legislative rulemaking process.

Gov. Tony Evers wears a face mask during a briefing with reporters on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

After the court’s divided vote, the Department of Health Services submitted Evers’ plan to the legislative rules committee in May. It was rejected by committee leaders, who offered no alternatives or made any attempt to negotiate or compromise. Vos claimed there was no need to negotiate new guidelines, even though the premise of the lawsuit was to block Evers’ order and force him to work with the Legislature.

Vos and Fitzgerald have the power to convene the two houses they lead in the Legislature at any time to cancel Evers’ current emergency mask mandate or put their own rules in place. If they put the public’s welfare above their personal interests, they would work with Evers and state health officials to craft a bipartisan plan to get this pandemic in check.

But in this election year, Vos and Fitzgerald fear requiring party members to vote against the governor’s mask mandate. An August poll by Marquette University Law School found 69% of registered Wisconsin voters supported the mask requirement. Vos and Fitzgerald fear losing power if voters don’t like their rejection of Evers’ common-sense order.

So instead they hire private attorneys with our taxpayer dollars to support lawsuits against the governor while they sit on their hands.

Public health officials agree: Mask-wearing, frequent hand-washing and social distancing reduce the spread of coronavirus.

It has become clear that too many people in Wisconsin are not willing to take personal responsibility to slow the spread of this deadly disease on their own. The mask order, where enforced, helps protect our vulnerable neighbors.

William Melms, chief medical officer at Marshfield Clinic Health System, described what he saw driving through central Wisconsin recently.

“Going past the bars, I saw that the parking lots were all full,” he told the Journal Sentinel’s Mark Johnson. “There’s less and less mask-wearing and social-distancing. To a great extent, people have become complacent.”

And so the seven-day average of new cases has skyrocketed in our state — from 674 on Sept. 3 to 2,395 by Monday. Deaths are rising rapidly, too, with the virus claiming 1,381 since the pandemic began and the seven-day average of deaths hitting a record.

When we’re struck by a public health emergency, our elected representatives should be looking out for all of their constituents, regardless of party, rather than playing political power games.

Sadly, that is not the case. President Donald Trump, who was hospitalized with coronavirus last weekend, has long discouraged the wearing of masks, mocking former Vice President Joe Biden at the recent debate for frequently wearing one. Vos and Fitzgerald are following lock-step behind their leader.

Here’s what needs to happen now:

Vos and Fitzgerald should work with Evers to impose a statewide mask mandate, close bars or limit their capacity to safe social-distancing numbers, and take other responsible actions to reduce infections. Citizens who support mask-wearing should let them know who’s boss — their contact information is below.

We hope our leaders actually lead. But if they don’t, we can still take responsibility for ourselves.

We can wash our hands frequently. Wear a mask. Practice social distancing. Avoid large gatherings.

And, we can vote against anyone who chose to run away from their responsibility at a time we needed them.

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Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, Oct. 4

Biden is a better choice for America

This election is about more than the two candidates seeking the presidency. This is about the office itself. It’s about restoring a sense of higher purpose and professionalism to the White House.

America needs a leader who can lead again — someone with a vision for our nation that unites and moves us forward.

President Donald Trump has spent too much time dividing people during the last four years. His chaotic approach to governing has weakened his administration’s ability to get things done. His White House staff and Cabinet have suffered unprecedented and distracting turnover. He has insulted and waged trade wars with our allies, which has hurt Wisconsin farmers and manufacturers who rely heavily on exports. His impulsive tweets are often crude and contradictory.

America needs more stability, civility and respect for democratic institutions.

Democratic challenger Joe Biden isn’t flashy or charismatic. But he is solid and experienced. He served eight years as vice president and more than three decades in the U.S. Senate. He will assemble a strong team of advisers and respect their expertise. Biden will approach the job of being the most powerful person on the planet with the seriousness it deserves.

The Wisconsin State Journal editorial board endorses Biden in the Nov. 3 vote.

That won’t surprise anyone who has been reading our editorial page for the last four years. The State Journal, which has endorsed both Republicans and Democrats for the presidency over the last quarter century, has faulted Trump for his reckless behavior, denial of basic facts, soaring debt and dismissive approach to climate change.

Yet we understand that roughly half of Wisconsin will disagree with our recommendation. Trump narrowly won Wisconsin in 2016, and polling suggests he’s not far behind Biden in the Badger State now. We don’t fault or judge those who support Trump. Democracy is best when everyone gets their say on our nation’s priorities. And when this campaign is finally over, America must try to pull together, no matter who wins. That’s the most important outcome of all.

Neither of these candidates is the best his party has to offer. This race, unfortunately, will force many Americans to choose the candidate they dislike the least. Many will vote for Biden because they are fed up with Trump and his turmoil. Many will vote for Trump because they fear the Democratic agenda, with the far left demanding the defunding of police and sweeping government regulations.

But a vote for Biden is not a vote for everything his political party stands for. Nor is it an embrace of socialism, the destruction of the suburbs or a desire to “close down the whole country,” as Trump contends.

Biden has developed friendships with Republican senators over decades, which should help him build consensus. He ranks 47th out of 250 senators over the last 25 years for working across the partisan divide in Congress, according to the Lugar Center, a good-government think tank started by former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind. That’s a pretty good score, and refreshing amid the hyper-partisan gridlock that dominates Washington.

We urge everyone to vote early, if you can, by requesting an absentee ballot by mail. Go to myvote.wi.gov. Voting before Election Day helps reduce congestion and potential transmission of the novel coronavirus at the polls. You can drop off your ballot at the post office or a government-sanctioned site.

Voting in person Nov. 3 should be safe, too, if everyone stays 6 feet apart and wears a mask indoors.

Please engage in the Democratic process and make your choice.

We strongly recommend casting your ballot for Biden.

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Journal Times, Racine, Oct. 4

Now is when downtown businesses need support

Last month, the City of Racine announcement marked another blow to Downtown businesses: the cancellation of the 2020 holiday parade.

In normal years, people bundle up and crowd into Downtown to watch as dancers and floats go down the street. That is capped off with the Downtown holiday tree lighting and the start of the holiday season.

While there, people often stop into a coffee shop for hot chocolate or other adult beverage and check out the shops for a little early Christmas shopping.

It’s a fun festivity and it’s also great for Downtown businesses. This year because of COVID, businesses have been hit hard — especially small businesses that often don’t have a ton of cash on hand to weather the storm.

The loss of the Downtown Racine parade is just the latest hit for those businesses.

In normal years, people bundle up and crowd into Downtown to watch as dancers and floats go down the street. That is capped off with the Downtown holiday tree lighting and the start of the holiday season.

While there, people often stop into a coffee shop for hot chocolate or other adult beverage and check out the shops for a little early Christmas shopping.

It’s a fun festivity and it’s also great for Downtown businesses. This year because of COVID, businesses have been hit hard — especially small businesses that often don’t have a ton of cash on hand to weather the storm.

The loss of the Downtown Racine parade is just the latest hit for those businesses.

For months, they had to keep their doors closed and were not permitted to do business, except for curbside pickup. Ultimately it was deemed that was unsustainable if we want to keep any small businesses open.

In addition, the cancellation of the holiday parade comes after other earlier cancellations including Party on the Pavement, Fourth Fest and the Saint Patrick’s Day parade just to name a few. On top of that, even though bars are able to be open they are not able to get the crowds they normally do for big days like Halloween, which normally filled bars with dressed up patrons.

While we cannot control COVID and we cannot control government decisions relating to it, we can still help small businesses.

Due to coronavirus, there have been some good things to come from it and one is door side pickup! If you are busy — and we all are — you can make arrangements to quickly do a pickup.

At the end of the day, if we want stores to stick around, we need to support them. That goes for Downtown Racine, West Racine, Douglas Avenue, Uptown as well as Downtown Union Grove, Waterford, Rochester, Burlington, you name it.

If you want something to stick around, support it now if you are able.