Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, June 21

UW System needs Tommy the innovator

Tommy Thompson’s new job title has the word “interim” in front of it. But we trust he’ll be much more than a stopgap administrator for the University of Wisconsin System.

The former governor and secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services likes to think big and pull people together around creative ideas.

The UW Board of Regents should encourage Thompson to be the kind of UW System president who leaves his mark on Wisconsin’s 13 universities across 26 campuses, even though his tenure is temporary. The System is facing enormous challenges and can’t afford to coast while the lengthy process of picking a permanent replacement for retiring President Ray Cross slowly reboots.

The Regents on Friday wisely tapped Thompson to be interim president for at least the next year. We can’t think of a better choice. Thompson’s selection brings much-needed stability to the job, following the controversial and failed search to replace Cross, who is retiring at the end of the month.

“I will be its biggest advocate and its toughest evaluator,” Thompson said of the UW System. “No other institution in the state can do more to improve lives, communities and Wisconsin’s economy.”

That’s the right attitude.

The coronavirus pandemic has closed campuses, forced classes online and triggered a recession, which is sure to limit state aid in the next state budget, if not sooner.

Thompson, the longest-serving governor in state history who ran the federal government’s enormous health agency under President George W. Bush, has immediate credibility with the GOP-run Legislature, which controls the state’s purse strings. Thompson also harks back to more collegial times at the state Capitol, something the straightforward Democratic Gov. Tony Evers should appreciate.

Most important, Thompson sincerely loves UW-Madison, his alma mater, and the state’s broader education system. His enthusiasm for higher education and scientific research are infectious. And his small-town roots mean he won’t forget the smaller campuses and communities when difficult choices about resources must be made.

The state has frozen in-state tuition since 2013 to hold down the cost of college for Wisconsin families. The freeze has been justified and welcome. But state leaders didn’t invest enough in state dollars during the last decade of economic growth to keep our universities strong.

Now the state may have fewer resources and students, given ongoing health risks from COVID-19, the potentially deadly respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus. That is prompting difficult discussions about how to open campuses, and whether some academic programs should be cut or consolidated.

Thompson, 78, is at higher risk from COVID-19 because of his age. That could limit his gregarious and hands-on leadership style. But we’re confident he will find ways to stay safe while still encouraging innovation and consensus.

Congratulations to the Regents for quickly tapping Thompson. The troubling and secretive search for Cross’ successor had led to a sole finalist who withdrew from consideration earlier this month. That damaged public trust.

Thompson is a reassuring and exciting choice to steer the System forward.


The Journal Times of Racine, June 21

Officers shouldn’t be removed from schools

In our schools, our children practice walking to their “safe place” and they train on what to do if an active shooter comes into their school.

They don’t do this because they want to. They do this because throughout the country there have been far too many school shootings.

Teachers and students train for school shootings, similar to how they train for tornadoes or fire drills.

When schools open up, it would be nice to imagine that school shootings will no longer exist, or tornadoes or fires.

But that is not practical, and similarly, it’s not practical to get rid of police officers in schools.

That is why it was so concerning to hear Angelina Cruz, the president of Racine Educators United, the union for teachers and educational assistants in Racine Unified, propose eliminating police in schools.

In a statement on Racine Educators United letterhead, Cruz wrote, “We call on RUSD to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline by removing police officers from school buildings and replacing them with staff equipped to address trauma and social-emotional learning — more teachers, educational assistants, counselors, social workers and school psychologists.”

But getting rid of police in schools is getting rid of assistants, counselors and social workers. That is because the officers in schools are not just in the halls looking to bust kids. They are so much more.

Not only do they keep the children safe in case of some horrific act, they also can help build community relationships. Police in schools form relationships with students. A positive relationship can result in tips to solve crimes and prevent crimes. The right conversation could stop a kid from committing suicide or turning to pills.

There are bad cops out there. That has been shown far too many times and those police officers shouldn’t be in schools or serving in any communities. But the majority are in the job for the right reasons.

Take a look at Racine Police Officer Felicia Gaines. She is a Community Oriented Policing officer assigned to Racine Unified’s middle schools, as well as to Racine Alternative Education and Turning Point Academy.

She was featured in the paper last week, holding up her fist protesting police brutality.

She said, “Black lives DO matter. I think it’s extremely important for the community you work for to know that their officers stand with them opposed to against them. We have to be the change we want to see in the world. It starts here.”

Instead of kicking police officers out of schools, she is an example of an officer who needs to be in schools, showing firsthand that police are there for everyone.

Now is the time to build trust and relationships, not further the divide.


Kenosha News, June 21

Bring on the markets, the town needs them

We’re rooting for the only game in town.

Yes, with virtually every public event canceled this summer, we’re hoping that the Kenosha HarborMarket — and even a second downtown market — open as announced on June 27.

We’re fans and supporters of markets in normal times. In this extraordinary time, with coronavirus concerns still front and center, we realize the markets are the only game in town this summer.

And the town needs them.

We continue to wonder why residents can’t bring their chairs like every Kenosha summer and listen to concerts, keeping space between families.

But that ship has sailed, apparently. Everything’s been canceled one by one, the latest being the Kenosha Pops Band’s season and the harborside Peanut Butter & Jam concerts.

So we’re left with the hope that the markets can make it work every Saturday starting later this month.

Ray Forgianni, president of the HarborMarket board, said they are planning social distancing and safety precautions.

HarborMarket is blessed with space to work with, and of course it’s a known favorite of Kenosha residents and visitors.

A Saturday at the market can lead to shopping and lunch downtown in normal times. In these times downtown needs the boost that the bustling market can provide.

Another market, proposed by Michael McTernan, plans to set up shop at Veterans Memorial Park and other nearby city-owned land. Called Kenosha Public Market, it has presented a plan for up to 60 vendors.

Can Kenosha support three markets on Saturdays? There’s the small but popular farmers’ market at Columbus Park, along with HarborMarket and now Public Market downtown.

Customers and vendors will decide that, as was pointed out at a recent council committee meeting.

We say bring them on.

In this summer of continued coronavirus concerns, “See you at the market” will be a something we can look forward to each and every Saturday.