Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee, Dec. 22

Wisconsin GOP doesn't care about Trump's actions

Since losing the election to Joe Biden, President Donald Trump has stoked an anti-democratic bonfire aimed at crippling the president-elect and clinging to power, fueled by wild conspiracy theories and nonsense.

But in the face of this credible threat to democracy, Wisconsin Republicans have quivered, hidden, or worse, thrown gasoline on Trump’s blaze of prevarication.

Enough is enough.

Members of any political party who refuse to accept the will of the voters are unfit to hold office.

One of the collaborators is Sen. Ron Johnson.

The Oshkosh Republican knows Biden won; he belatedly acknowledged it. Then he went on to undermine the election during a farcical hearing last week on “election security.”

“There was fraud in this election,” Johnson said. “I don’t have any doubt about that.” The senator droned on about “irregularities,” “fraudulent votes and ballot stuffing.”

All without a shred of evidence.

Johnson was hardly alone. Other Wisconsin Republicans lit matches, too.

During a hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that Johnson chairs, the senator claimed there was “heightened suspicion” about the integrity of the election.

This much was true. There was heightened suspicion — fueled by Trump sycophants like him who were unwilling to accept the results of the election and saw political advantage in pandering to Trump supporters.

This is not the first time Johnson has thrown gasoline on a Trump dumpster fire. During the campaign, Johnson boasted for weeks that his investigation of Hunter Biden would demonstrate Joe Biden’s “unfitness for office.” But his report six weeks before the election showed no wrongdoing at all by the elder Biden and rehashed unproven allegations.

What has become increasingly clear is that Johnson is an incompetent partisan who cares very little about facts or how much damage he does to the country.

In the past, Johnson has promised he would only serve two terms.

Keep your promise, senator.

U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany, who represents the 7th Congressional District in northern Wisconsin, eagerly signed onto a quixotic legal effort by the State of Texas to overturn the election in Wisconsin and three other states.

Let that sink in for a moment.

A Wisconsin congressman signed onto an effort by another state — Texas, no less — to overturn an election in his home state that was certified, where there was no evidence of fraud.

What could be more undemocratic than that?

Will Tiffany now join other renegades in his party and try to mount a last-minute challenge to the formal count of electoral votes by Congress on Jan. 6?

Tiffany, just elected in May, has disgraced his office in record time.

Three conservatives on the state Supreme Court were so willing to hear the spurious claims of the Trump campaign — and possibly throw out tens of thousands of legitimate votes cast in two Democratic-leaning counties — that they were sharply critical of another conservative who had the common sense and courage to join the court’s three liberals and stand up to Trump.

Justice Brian Hagedorn took incoming fire from Republicans generally, including a Twitter salvo from the president.

In an interview with the Journal Sentinel, Hagedorn noted that he’s a judicial conservative but his decisions won’t always please his own side.

It’s a shame that other “conservatives” on the court — Chief Justice Patience Roggensack, Justice Rebecca Bradley and Justice Annette Ziegler — can’t see it that way.

Roggensack is the first of the three up for reelection — in 2023.

As electors met in Madison to cast their ballots for Joe Biden on Dec. 14, the GOP refused to accept the results, and an alternate slate of Republicans cast ballots for President Trump.

Days later, the Republican Party of Wisconsin was still falsely claiming there had been “numerous violations of both the letter and the spirit of Wisconsin law.”

Have they no sense of decency?

President Donald Trump called Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s case to overturn the election results in four battleground states “the big one.”

Here’s what we know for sure: Donald Trump is intent on holding power at any cost to the republic. He will fail, but his lies and machinations, aimed at destroying trust in our elections, could do fundamental damage to the country.

Last week, the disgraced former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, suggested that Trump declare martial law and have the military “rerun” the election. During a meeting at the White House Friday, Trump asked Flynn about the idea, according to The New York Times.

Martial law. It’s beyond shocking that a sitting president would even consider such a thing, but Trump apparently did.

We had hoped Wisconsin Republicans would take a stand against this treacherous man, but that hope was misplaced.

Like their political ancestor in the 1950s, the infamous Sen. Joseph McCarthy, some of them fabricate charges and provide no evidence. The rest say little or nothing at all.

As was said then: Have they no sense of decency?

Here are the inconvenient facts that Wisconsin Republicans ignore:

Joe Biden won the election by 7 million votes nationwide and more than 20,000 in Wisconsin. He won 306 electoral votes and 10 in our state.

He did it fair and square. There is no evidence — none — of the kind of voter fraud that would have changed the result.

Even Johnson admitted this during his sham hearing. And that’s no surprise. Despite squealing about “fraud” this and “fraud” that for years, there has never been evidence to show that the vanishing small amount of fraud affects our elections.

Dozens of judges like Hagedorn have now seen the president’s bilious efforts for what they are.

In a Pennsylvania case, federal appeals judge Stephanos Bibas wrote, “Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so.” Bibas was nominated by Trump.

The best of American politics has always been animated by optimism — with a heavy dose of pragmatism. Think of Ronald Reagan.

These Republicans offer neither.

We call on candidates of high character and ethics — people who love our country and our state — to stand against the foolishness of Johnson, Tiffany and the rest. And to run against them when the time comes in both the primary and general elections.

Politicians so willing to burn down basic American principles for political gain have no right to the privilege of public office.


Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, Dec. 20

Bucks star is Milwaukee's best ambassador

The pandemic has hit Wisconsin’s largest city especially hard.

Milwaukee lost the Democratic National Convention to COVID-19, including some 50,000 visitors, $200 million in business and the national spotlight.

Milwaukee had to cancel Summerfest, its more than weeklong music festival on the lakefront.

The playoff-bound Milwaukee Brewers played to an empty Miller Park, while the top-ranked Milwaukee Bucks had to finish their stalled season in the NBA’s Florida “bubble.”

Worse than the financial hit and missed opportunities were all of the lost lives.

More than 850 people have died from COVID-19 in Milwaukee County this year, according to the state Department of Health Services. That’s six times as many deaths from the disease as in Dane County, even though Milwaukee is not even twice Dane’s size.

But the streak of bad news was finally benched last week.

On Monday, the first shipment of a vaccine to protect against COVID-19 arrived in Wisconsin, marking the beginning of the end of this terrible disease.

Then on Tuesday, Giannis Antetokounmpo announced he’s staying in Milwaukee.

If you don’t follow pro basketball, you might not appreciate the significance of the “Greek Freak” emphatically calling “Cream City” his home. But the impact will be felt far beyond the world of sports. It’s a big win for all of Wisconsin, our economy and image around the globe.

Forty-five years ago, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar famously left Milwaukee for the Los Angeles Lakers. We understood why: He wanted a better shot at more championships and fame in a major cosmopolitan city.

But Antetokounmpo, drafted by the Bucks as an undervalued player from Greece in 2013, is staying put. Rather than trading his small-market team for a stacked lineup of superstars on one of the Coasts, the best young player on the planet — a two-time NBA MVP at just 26 years old — wants to win in the Midwest. He signed a five-year contract extension last week worth $228 million.

That’s a lot of money. But Giannis — no last name required to identify this guy — will fill the Fiserv Forum night after night. And he just might make Milwaukee and Wisconsin world champions again.

That’s a good feeling to have, especially now, in the throes of a pandemic that has hit Milwaukee harder than most places. In a study of the nation’s 100 largest cities released last week, Milwaukee ranked as the 37th most financially distressed during COVID-19. Madison, by comparison, was 98th.

More important than his incredible stats, Giannis is a strong role model, humble star, good citizen and the best ambassador Milwaukee could have.

“This is my home, this is my city,” he wrote on social media platforms Tuesday: “I’m blessed to be able to be a part of the Milwaukee Bucks for the next 5 years. Let’s make these years count.”

Re-signing Antetokounmpo was never a slam dunk. Most of the sports world was sure he’d leave. Giannis could have avoided paying state income taxes at home games on his giant contract by going to Miami or Dallas. He could have gone Hollywood by signing with a West Coast team, or sought the bright lights of New York City.

Instead, he chose Milwaukee.

His commitment here is another sign of better days ahead, of more unity and pride when so often division and distrust have dominated our state and nation in recent years.

In fact, the Bucks even inspired cooperation at the state Capitol in Madison. Smart public servants — Republicans and Democrats — pulled together five years ago to ensure that the Fiserv Forum was built. That kept the Bucks in Milwaukee at a cost to state taxpayers that will easily be covered by the state income taxes the players will pay on their multimillion-dollar salaries.

The Bucks have “Milwaukee” emblazoned on their uniforms. But they are Wisconsin’s team. We’ll be watching and rooting here in Madison and from across the state.

With Giannis at center court, anything is possible.


Janesville Gazette, Janesville, Dec. 18

Hotel project shows city's commitment to housing

Believe it or not, it appears the Monterey Hotel soon will be filled with people again.

The significance of the city and developers agreeing on a plan for the iconic downtown building is difficult to overstate. While Janesville should be proud of its downtown revitalization, all those improvements have come with a question: But what about the Monterey Hotel?

Well, now we have an answer.

The seven-story building at the corner of Milwaukee and High streets will be converted into 51 apartments and first-floor commercial space with $1.7 million in pay-as-you go help from the city.

The Monterey Apartments, as they will be called, is only the most recent example of how Janesville’s housing market has been flourishing despite the pandemic.

The number of permits for new single-family housing starts jumped by more than 50% this year in Rock County. In some spots—including Janesville—homebuilding activity more than doubled compared to the last few years.

City officials recognized a lack of housing as an issue in Janesville more than two years ago and hosted a “housing summit” for representatives of government and the private sector to discuss the issue. Janesville Economic Development Director Gale Price recalled conversations with new employees of SHINE Medical Technologies and other companies who said they couldn’t find a place to live in Janesville.

“When we meet with potential companies that are looking at the area, the first thing they ask is, ‘Where is the labor coming from? Who are we going to hire? Are they here, or are they going to travel in?’” Price said.

“It diminishes the ability of companies to recruit if we don’t have housing availability,” he said.

And so Janesville for the first time started offering financial incentives for developers to build apartment buildings in Janesville.

“It will affect everything across the board if we can’t provide the housing for our workforce. That’s what’s driven our participation on the apartment projects,” Price said.

Now, two and a half years later, the city has two new apartment projects that are full, and a developer has moved up construction of an additional apartment building by a year.

The pandemic, ironically, might actually be helping the local housing market. Price said he has heard local examples of people moving from the Chicago area to Janesville and working their Chicago jobs remotely.

“I’m making my downtown Chicago salary, but I’m living in Janesville—that’s like getting another raise,” Price said.

When the pandemic is over, Janesville will be well on its way to having its housing shortage fixed and will be poised for growth.

After $9.4 million in remodeling, the Monterey Hotel turned Monterey Apartments will be ready, too. The deal with the city calls for the project to be finished by March 2022.

Redevelopment of the hotel will remove a question mark from discussions about the viability of downtown revitalization and, as some city council members hope, spur redevelopment on West Milwaukee Street.