Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, July 5

Vel Phillips statue a powerful idea for Capitol grounds. But return Heg and ‘Forward,’ too

Hans Christian Heg was an enormous figure in early Wisconsin history, protecting fugitive slaves and sacrificing his life for emancipation during the Civil War.

State leaders should quickly restore and return his statue to the Capitol grounds in Madison, where it had stood for nearly a century before vandals tore it down last month.

“Forward,” the bronze woman extending her arm in the air, has inspired generations to strive for better days and improve. Originally sculpted more than a century ago and replaced with a replica in the 1990s, “Forward” has become a powerful symbol of women’s rights.

State leaders must bring back “Miss Forward,” too.

But don’t stop there.

We love the idea, proposed by Michael Johnson, president of the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, to erect a statue of Vel Phillips, the trailblazing African American leader from Milwaukee who marked many firsts for Wisconsin and the nation.

Community leaders are offering additional ideas for who or what to honor. If you have a suggestion, send it to the State Journal. We’ll share your views with our readers and state leaders.

The noble statues of Heg and “Forward” were toppled June 23 following weeks of protest over the horrific police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man in Minneapolis. The officers are charged with murder or aiding and abetting murder. The nation is striving to improve policing.

But rioters in Madison don’t get to decide what goes where on the state Capitol grounds. Wisconsin should use the unfortunate and disturbing destruction of Capitol statues as an opportunity to renew their importance. A community discussion over how to proceed makes sense. And more recognition and celebration of diverse contributions to our state is needed.

So far, Phillips is the most deserving proposal for a monument on the scale of Heg’s and “Forward.”

Phillips was the first Black woman to graduate from the UW Law School, the first woman elected to the Milwaukee City Council, and the first African American judge in Wisconsin. She became Wisconsin secretary of state in 1978 — the first woman and first minority elected to the office as well as the first Black person elected to a statewide office in Wisconsin. Phillips died in 2018.

“The young people of Wisconsin and generations thereafter need to see that representation matters,” Johnson says in his proposal to state leaders. “They need to see heroes and leaders that reflect the ecosystem of our communities at large.”

He’s right.

The State Capitol Executive Residence Board, a bipartisan committee responsible for the maintenance and decoration of the Capitol grounds, restricts new plaques or monuments from the Capitol without the removal of an existing one.

But that policy can, and should, change.

So far, Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, a member of the board, said she supports returning the “Forward” and Heg statues and would be open to considering the Phillips proposal.

That’s good to hear.

It’s time to honor another giant in Wisconsin who helped improve our state in inspiring ways. Phillips fits that bill. Others may, too.


The Journal Times of Racine, July 1

Find a compromise on police radio encryption

The axiom “no news is good news” was brought to mind this spring when city police scanners went silent.

Normally that would be the case; the lack of chatter on the newsroom police scanner usually meant there was nothing going on. No mayhem, no shootings or episodes of violence that would cause a reporter to pick up the phone and call the Police Department to find out what was going on in the city and how police were responding — and then, depending on what the situation was, relaying it to readers online or in the print edition.

But that was not the case, the silence of the scanners signaled the Racine Police Department’s switch off the airwaves to encrypted digital channels that immediately put reporters and the public in the dark on even the most garden variety police communications.

Handheld scanners and smartphones with scanner apps no longer relayed police dispatch communications essentially plunging reporters and many hobbyists who have tracked police calls for years into the dark. Only fire dispatch calls continued over the air.

Racine Public Information Officer Sgt. Chad Melby said the switch was made in part to block wanted parties from listening in and getting a head start on police officers and in part to upgrade to digital communications which are more reliable.

The city has budgeted more than $1.5 million over the past three years to make the conversion and Sgt. Melby noted that other police agencies in the area — the City of Kenosha, the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department, Milwaukee and Burlington police — have made the switch to digital radios with encrypted communications.

We have no quarrel with the notion that it’s a good idea to stop lawbreakers in the act of committing a crime from listening in on police activity. And it’s a good idea to allow police to communicate in private on investigations and tactical situations; that was done in the past using separate channels.

But, particularly in these times when police enforcement activities are under increased scrutiny, we have great quarrel with a situation where the news media and the public are blocked from hearing routine communications when they hear the blare of police sirens in their neighborhoods.

People want to know what’s going on in their neighborhoods — and police calls are right at the top of that list. They want to know if they are in danger, they want to know if they should avoid going somewhere and they want to know if their home is threatened. That’s good information and the public should have a right to be clued in — in a timely fashion.

Sgt. Melby said: “I know for the media, it’s a headache because you have to hear through a citizen or you have to get ahold of me, which is not always the easiest of things. But, as far as transparency and things go, everything is recorded and available via record requests. It doesn’t help you with a scene that’s active but if there’s questions as to how something happened everything is still recorded as usual and available.”

Headache is an understatement. For a reporter to ask a question about an event, they first have to have a clue that something was going on — a clue they often got first from a police scanner. Breaking news has been turned into broken news.

It didn’t have to be that way. There could have been some middle ground, and something short of going to total encryption in the interest of transparency of police department activity and providing citizens with information.

In Fort Collins, Colorado., the Daily Coloradoan entered into written agreements several years ago with city and university police to get partial access to some of the agencies’ radio traffic when they went to encryption.

Over the past three years, there has been legislation proposed in the Colorado Legislature to require any government agency to develop encryption policies to allow more public access. But those bills have failed.

The most recent version, a watered-down proposal, would have granted “reasonable restrictions” but allowed access to the news media. It also called for allowing unencrypted access to the public through alternate means, such as a delayed online transmission. That version died in committee on a 6-5 vote in March.

If the Racine Police Department wants to foster good communication and relationships with the public — and we believe it does — it should look at finding some compromise measures to give themselves the secrecy they need in certain communications necessary to do their job and also to keep citizens in the loop and not just leave them totally in the dark.


Kenosha News, July 5

Kenosha Series at Simmons Field a highlight this summer

On the day minor league baseball called off its season, Kenosha got a second team.

Welcome, K-Town Bobbers.

Our popular Kingfish are head of the class, but their opponent in this season like no other — shortened by coronavirus concerns — is a refreshing addition to the Kenosha summer.

These two teams will play a 26-game Kenosha Series at Simmons Field starting July 15.

The Kingfish — and the Northwoods League —should get great credit for finding a way to let players play and fans attend games. While other sports are still figuring out details, the first pitch is coming soon in Kenosha.

In the weeks planning this, it was clear that Kingfish general manager Doug Gole was working hard to make something happen.

“We really want to play, and I know a lot of people in the community want us to play, and we want to do it right,” he said in June. “We want to do everything in our power to make sure that’s what the plan is.”

How they’ll do it is hold games on Wednesdays and Sundays with reduced seating, and implement social distancing and other safety precautions.

Included in the safety guidelines announced last week, masks will be required in common areas of Simmons Field, and the stadium will be cashless.

The plan was established using CDC and Kenosha County Health Department guidelines and best practices, the team said.

There always are new souvenirs every year for Kingfish fans, and you can start with one of the fashionable Kingfish masks. They’re a hit in Kenosha.

Simmons Field turns 100 this year, and years from now its anniversary year will be remembered for hosting a Kenosha Series with safety precautions in place.

Play ball, Kingfish and K-Town Bobbers.