Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. April 1, 2021.

Editorial: Court’s ruling narrower than many think

This week’s ruling from the Wisconsin Supreme Court was considerably narrower than what a lot of people seem to think. There’s a critical point that people are missing: the ruling wasn’t on whether a mask mandate is legal in and of itself. That question remains open.

Justice Brian Hagedorn wrote the majority opinion in the 4-3 ruling. He quickly drew a distinction between the need for a mask mandate and the legal requirements for it, writing that the question “is not whether the Governor acted wisely; it is whether he acted lawfully.”

In other words, the mandate was not found to be an intrinsic violation of the state’s laws. The extension of it, which took place without legislative involvement, was.

Under Wisconsin law, states of emergency can endure 60 days by order of the governor. A joint resolution by the legislature can extend it. Evers contended that the shifting nature of the pandemic justified his extensions. The court found otherwise. Again, we turn to Hagedorn’s finding: “The statute contemplates that the power to end and to refuse to extend a state of emergency resides with the legislature even when the underlying occurrence creating the emergency remains a threat.”

Hagedorn wrote the dispute between those who wanted the governor to have “sufficient power to fight COVID-19” against those concerned about expanding executive powers was not, in and of itself, relevant to the court’s analysis, again sidestepping the question of the original mandate.

A majority on the court found that both plain language and historic records supported the conclusion that Evers’ extensions overstepped his limitations. They did not question Evers’ initial declaration of a state of emergency. “But when later relying on the same enabling condition,” Hagedorn wrote, “the governor is subject to the time limits explicitly prescribed by statute.”

The decision wasn’t unanimous. Justice Rebecca Bradley wrote a concurring opinion, reaching the same fundamental conclusion using different reasoning. Chief Justice Patience Roggensack joined that concurrence. And Justice Ann Walsh Bradley wrote the dissent which was joined by the court’s remaining two members. The dissenting justices argued the majority opinion “overrules over a century of precedent” on standing and obscured “the consequences of its decision.”

“Ultimately,” she wrote, in the midst of public emergencies such as a global pandemic, it hampers the ability of governors to safeguard the health and lives of the people of Wisconsin.”

It’s fair to ask at this point why we’re spending this much time and space on the kind of surface analysis that any pre-law student could probably do while sleeping.

It’s because there are people locally who are claiming the court’s ruling means the local mask ordinance is also invalid. As we stated at the beginning, the mask mandate itself wasn’t the court’s focus. It couldn’t be. That wasn’t the question raised.

The issue before the court was the legality of an extension by the governor’s fiat. In short, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled on a question of calendars. It has not ruled on mask mandates writ large.

And that means the local mandate remains intact for the time being.

People can, and obviously do, argue that local mask mandates are overreach by local authorities. Others argue they’re reasonable steps in the face of a major health crisis. But with regard to this week’s ruling, neither really has much ammunition. The court’s findings didn’t address that issue.

We have urged people to wear masks over the past several months, and we continue to do so. And we will do so regardless of whether there’s a mandate in place. The best evidence scientists and doctors have is that a mask can help protect both the wearer and those in the area.

Wisconsin’s COVID rates have risen over the past several weeks. Vaccinations continue, but we’re still only now reaching a third of the adult population having at least the first shot. Less than 20 percent of the state has had a full vaccination series, a level far below that needed to put an end to the pandemic.

We’re getting there. But this isn’t the time to let up. And we don’t want confusion over the state supreme court’s ruling to lead people to make what can be a very big mistake.


Racine Journal Times. April 2, 2021.

Editorial: Thank you, Barry

We knew it was coming, but maybe not this soon.

UW-Madison Athletic Director Barry Alvarez signaled this week that he is moving up his retirement — ending what will be a 32-year run, first as football coach and then as AD for the past 18 years.

It was a remarkable run — and one that didn’t come easily.

He built a football program and an athletic program that was based on an expectation of success; he exuded that with his strong personality and he spread it to his athletes and all across Badgerland.

Almost by sheer willpower, Alvarez, along with then AD Pat Richter, took a hapless Bucky Badger up by the back of his jersey, dusted him off and remade him into a gridiron powerhouse, a basketball tournament contender and a formidable foe on the hockey rink.

Consider that in the four seasons before Alvarez joined Wisconsin, the Badger football team went 9-36. Over its history, the program had played in a total of just six bowl games.

Success was not immediate. Barry’s Badgers went 0-8 in the Big Ten and 1-10 overall in 1990, his first year as head coach. Year two and three were a little better when Wisconsin went 5-6 in both seasons, but still didn’t have a winning season under its belt.

Then came the magical year of ’93, when the Badgers, with Racine’s Brent Moss in the backfield, went 6-1-1 in the Big Ten and 10-1-1 overall to earn a spot in the Rose Bowl against UCLA. A stunned California crowd watched as hordes of red-clad, victory-starved Badgers fans, who had traveled 2,000 miles, filled the Pasadena stadium with a sea of red and made it into a faraway home game.

Barry’s Badgers delivered and Wisconsin walked off the field with a 21-16 upset win and their first Rose Bowl crown. That win stamped the Wisconsin football program as one to be reckoned with and spurred Badger fans across the state to renewed enthusiasm and support.

In the Alvarez Era, Wisconsin has played in 26 bowl games and won six Big Ten titles. Before he came to Wisconsin, the Badgers’ most recent season with nine wins was in 1901. Since 1993, UW football has won 10 games in a season 13 times.

Alvarez did it with an old-school approach that often featured massive linemen, rugged running backs who pounded through holes and journeymen quarterbacks. It wasn’t always flashy, but it was successful.

On hearing the news of Alvarez’ impending retirement, Scott Nelson, who played safety for the Badgers in those early days, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Alvarez was “brutally honest with us that first year. Guys were expecting to start winning games and turn the tide. You all feel that.”

“Yet, he said, ‘We’ve got a lot of work to do before we can get there.’ That was an eye-opener … but I still remember this when he came in. He had four words: love, trust, commitment and belief.”

“Love what you do. Trust your teammates. Be committed to the task at hand. And believe you’re good enough, believe your teammates are going to do what they are supposed to do and believe that as a group that we can move this thing forward.”

That’s a philosophy that’s very similar to the approach of another Wisconsin legend — Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi. And it’s a philosophy that has served UW athletics and its athletes who have often gone on to pro success remarkably well over the past three decades under Alvarez.

For Badgers fans who remember the dreary days as a Big Ten doormat, it can be boiled down to three words: “Thank you, Barry.”