Archive | April, 2011

Chippewa Valley Area ACLU Events in May – Much To Do for Civil Liberties Up North!

28 Apr

The Chippewa Valley is a buzz with events this month! Our civil libertarian friends to the north are invited to check out some of these upcoming opportunities to discuss current issues related to equality and justice,  get some good food and enjoy a north woods style chautauqua.   

Sunday May 1, 2011 – Discussion: The Role of Progressive Spiritual Voices in Wisconsin’s Legislative Debates
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Eau Claire, 421 S. Farwell St., 10:00 a.m.
When politicians propose legislation with moral and ethical implications, voices of faith in hearings are often limited and do not reflect the diversity of religious groups in Wisconsin. But we know that a commitment to justice isn’t the exclusive realm of one political party or one faith group. We will look at some recent legislative proposals and discuss why they would be of interest to citizens who are committed to justice, equity and freedom. We will identify ways spiritually progressive citizens can identify themselves as a voice of faith and be advocates for liberty in their communities. For more information on the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Eau Claire, visit their website at

Wednesday May 4, 2011 – First Amendment Free Food Festival
UW-Eau Claire Campus Mall
Sponsored by the UWEC’s student chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists, this unique event encourages students to sign away their First Amendment rights in exchange for a free lunch. But there’s no such thing as a free lunch! How long can you give up your freedom of speech in exchange for delicious goodies? It will be a (food) fight to the finish in this celebration of the protection of free speech and a free press. Co-sponsored by the Chippewa Valley Chapter of the ACLU of Wisconsin. RSVP today on Facebook.

Saturday May 21, 2011 – Festival: Fighting Bobfest North
Northern Wisconsin State Fairgrounds, 331 Jefferson Ave., Chippewa Falls, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., free, donations welcome

Fighting Bobfest is having a northern event on May 21, rain or shine. Join the ACLU of Wisconsin’s Chippewa Valley Civil Liberties Chapter’s table and other speakers for the day’s event. Find out more about Fighting Bobfest North on their website.

You can find out more about upcoming events connected to the ACLU of Wisconsin by visiting the events page on our website.

ACLU of WI Milwaukee Open House a Hit on Gallery Night

27 Apr

As a part of Gallery Night in the Third Ward in Milwaukee, the ACLU of Wisconsin hosted an open house that connected our members and local art fans in our brand new space on Friday, April 15 2011.  Several hundred visitors enjoyed the excellent donations of local food and drinks, donated to the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation and learned more about our work.

ACLU of WI Board President Patti Keating Kahn

Community artists were featured both by the True Skool mural in our office and in an exhibit of our newly created bilingual voter education panels which will be used as part of our voter education outreach programming this year. Special thanks to mural artists Andrew Parchman for his ceiling work and Jasmine Barmore and Zen Castillo for their work on our youth center wall which will no doubt inspire our youth rights program participants and staff in the years to come.

Mural artist Zen Castillo
Mural artist Jasmine Barmore

We had great food and drink sponsors:  Triskeles, Transfer Pizzeria/ViaDowner, Aladdin’s Taste of the East, Trocadero, and Walker’s Pint.   We also had some fantastic homemade salsa from our very own Milwaukee Chapter Representative, Charlie Fox. In fact, we heard from a number of people that we had “the best food and drink spread in the whole Gallery Night circuit,” and that the ACLU was the “place to be” on Gallery Night. Thanks so much to our donors who helped make the party a success.

And special thanks to Emily Plagman who has been our special events diva for both the Bill of Rights Celebration and the open house. She’s moving to take a new full-time gig and we will all miss her being a part of the ACLU of Wisconsin team this year. Congrats and good luck Emily!

Emily Plagman with Bill Franson

To see more photos from the event, visit our photo album on Facebook.

Recounts Shed Light on Elections Process

20 Apr

In light of this afternoon’s request by the Kloppenburg campaign for a recount in the Supreme Court election, the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin affirms the right of candidates to pursue recounts as state law allows. The ACLU traditionally does not call for or participate in recounts. However we believe that recounts can shed welcome light on the electoral process and give Wisconsin voters confidence in the results of elections and municipal procedures.

“Wisconsin should be proud of how we conduct elections,” said ACLU of Wisconsin Executive Director Christopher Ahmuty. “Our state election officials have emphasized transparency and consistency in election procedures. They have the experience in conducting recounts in close elections on the local level and we expect they will ensure that any recount is conducted properly.”

Unfortunately irregularities in reporting occurred in Waukesha County and led to inquiries by the Government Accountability Board. After an investigation, the GAB reported that they were satisfied that the final vote totals matched the vote totals reported by the municipalities. The GAB looked at vote totals from the county since 2006 and is planning to release a more comprehensive report on what happened in Waukesha County.

“Waukesha County’s reporting system appears to have been flawed,” said Ahmuty. “That system has lead voters across the state to mistrust the accuracy of the results. The reporting controversy in Waukesha County clearly illustrates the importance of having transparent and accountable election procedures. The ACLU of Wisconsin looks forward to the GAB’s final report and we hope municipalities across the state will review their reporting rules to prevent reoccurrences of the events that marred the reporting in Waukesha.”

The Government Accountability Board said today that they are prepared to move forward with the recount. The recount procedures manual is available online. While critics of the call for a recount say that the race wasn’t close enough to merit a recount and that the action would be frivolous, the recount is within the legal guidelines (a margin within one half of one percent) and is the right of candidates to request one.

For an explanation of how a recount works, Attorney Rebecca Mason gives Wisconsin Bar blog readers a quick rundown of the state statutes. Mason outlines what happens in a recount, why a recount is the first needed step before court action, the difference between the Election Day preliminary results and the day-after’s canvass in each county and how it is up to the campaigns during the recount to collect evidence of voting irregularities for court action.

ACLU of WI Bill of Rights Celebration – A Time to Recognize Civil Libertarians Who Made a Difference

14 Apr

On March 19th, 2011 we held our annual Bill of Rights Celebration at the Pfister Hotel. A packed house of over 300 people enjoyed the witty words of Aasif Mandvi from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Aasif Mandvi addresses ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation fundraiser

We also honored the following civil libertarians for their accomplishments in the past year: Barbara Munson: The Eunice Z. Edgar Lifetime Achievement Award – Munson was recognized for her many years of work to encourage schools to eliminate race-based mascots. As chair of the “Indian” Mascot and Logo Taskforce for the Wisconsin Indian Education Association since its inception in 1997, Munson and the Taskforce actively worked to support the 31 Wisconsin school districts that have retired race-based mascots and were instrumental in the passage of Act 250 in 2010.

Barbara Munson with Aasif Mandvi

Tenants of the South Milwaukee Lake Bluff Apartments: William Gorham Rice Civil Libertarians of the Year Award – Residents of Lake Bluff filed a federal complaint of housing discrimination in 2003 when it was clear that their city government intended to raze the integrated, accessible, affordable housing complex. The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation, Legal Action of Wisconsin and the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee assisted the families in court where a federal jury found that tearing down the apartments would have a discriminatory effect on persons of color and persons with disabilities. Riverside University High School Teachers, Bonnie Brusky, Paul Moga and Tom Wild: Jack and Lucy Rosenberg Youth Civil Libertarians of the Year Award – Riverside University High School in Milwaukee has core values in teaching which include social responsibility and justice. These teachers’ leadership has paved the way for students to participate in powerful social awareness programs about racial justice, homelessness and the importance of civic participation. Participants in Riverside’s ACLU Student Alliance have gone on to become young community leaders in Milwaukee.

Bonnie Brusky and family with her state Senator, Chris Larson

For more photos of the event, please visit our photo album on Facebook. Special thanks to event sponsors: Jackie Boynton, William Lynch and Barbara Manger, and the law firm of Hawks Quindel

Get on the Bus vs. Hit the Highway: Why Walker’s Transportation Policy Impacts Workers, Clean Air and Segregated Cities

5 Apr

On Monday April 4, three organizations supporting racial and environmental justice – the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin, and Midwest Environmental Advocates – filed comments opposing the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s efforts to again expand highway access – to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars – at the same time the state is trying to cut transit spending.

Fact: cutting inner-city transportation keeps people from jobs. Milwaukee and state leaders must make the connection that people depend on public transportation to get to work. Read more in today’s Huffington Post.

“WisDOT, and the state of Wisconsin, get federal money, so they must follow Title VI of the Civil Rights Act,” noted ACLU-WI Senior Staff Attorney Karyn Rotker. “And that federal law means they can’t run their transportation program in ways that have the effect of discriminating against people of color, regardless of whether they are intentionally discriminating. And the state’s transportation funding and policy decisions are clearly having a discriminatory effect.”

Fact: Milwaukee is the most racially segregated city in the nation. Recent census figures show the continued racial gap and this article breaks down why this impacts public debate on transit equity.

“In our region, people of color – especially African-Americans and Latinos – are much more likely to depend on transit than non-minorities. Allowing highway projects to move forward while transit moves backwards reduces their opportunities and segregates them even more from jobs, medical care, and other needs,” added Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin President/CEO, Dr. Patricia McManus.

“WisDOT needs to go back to the drawing board,” said Dennis Grzezinski, Midwest Environmental Advocates’ senior counsel. “They need to come up with a multi-modal plan that integrates transit as well as highways, to ensure that all residents of our region receive a fair share of the benefits of state transportation system investments.”

Read the full comments from the environmental justice organizations on the ACLU of Wisconsin website (PDF).

Learn more about how transportation dollars are affecting the state budget in this Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article. Other groups in Madison are talking about how budget policy will harm public transportation.