Vol. 6    No. 24
December 1, 2011

The Capital City Hues
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EDITORIAL STAFF

Jonathan Gramling
Publisher & Editor

Clarita G. Mendoza
Sales Manager

Contributing Writers
Rita Adair, Ike Anyanike, Paul
Barrows, Alfonso Zepeda
Capistran, Theola Carter, Fabu,
Andrew Gramling, Lang Kenneth
Haynes, Eileen Cecille Hocker,
Heidi Pascual,  & Martinez White
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                             Recall and Prisons
The effort to recall Governor Scott Walker got off to a roaring start during the past two weeks. Already
it is being reported that more than 300,000 signatures have been obtained by the recall organizers.
They have until January 17th to get 540,208 signatures to force a recall election that would be held at
some point in 2012.

It’s not a done deal yet in terms of the recall effort getting enough signatures. They have probably
“picked the low-hanging fruit” of people who marched in Madison last spring and union members. The
law of diminishing returns will kick in and the rate by which the organizers secure signatures will
decline over time. The organizers hope to obtain 700,000-800,000 signatures, which would reflect a
majority of the Wisconsinites who voted in the 2010 election.

I’m not surprised by the quick start of the recall efforts. Outside of a lot of continuing anger of public
sector employees and others who have experienced Walker’s budget slashing first hand and bore the
brunt of budget balancing initiatives, the recall effort is very well organized. Drive down any major
Madison street and chances are you will see a “Drive-Thru” recall Walker stand where the occupants
of a vehicle can sign the petitions — one is for Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch — without
getting out of their car.

As I drove down S. Park Street one cold, rainy afternoon, I saw David Newby, the former head of the
Wisconsin AFL-CIO huddled under a tent waiting for a car to stop to sign the petition. That is pretty
impressive, I think, and shows the level of determination in the labor movement to make the recall
successful.

Governor Walker is taking it seriously. One of his supporters filed a recall campaign against him early
so that Walker could begin to collect campaign funds and start running commercials, which must
have been in the can before the recall effort began. Within days, very polished commercials featuring
school teachers supporting Walker’s school funding cuts began to air. While the commercials don’t
reflect the sentiment of the majority of school teachers or what will happen in most school districts
after the Obama stimulus money runs out, they could prove to be convincing to the uninformed.
I think the recall effort will succeed in getting at least 540,208 signatures by the January 17 deadline
to force an election. But getting enough voters to vote for an as yet unnamed Democratic candidate in
a relatively short timeframe will take a Herculean effort. Stay tuned and engaged for this election may
very well set the tone for Wisconsin politics for a decade to come. In the words of Yogi Berra, “It ain’t
over till it is over.”
****

A few weeks ago, I got an e-mail from Laurel Bastien, a volunteer who runs a weekly group with
Primarily African American prisoners — there is one Hmong prisoner — to come and speak to the
group. I hadn’t been to a state correctional facility since 1983 when a group of Urban League staffers
would go up to Waupun and meet with an African American group there. I accepted the offer.

Last Wednesday, I went to Oakhill Correctional Institution. After going through an extensive security
process, Laurel and I walked down a cold, wind-swept road to a cottage at the other end that served
as a school with classrooms and a library. How I was wishing it was summer at that point in time
because of the cold and darkness.

There were about 10 prisoners in the group. We sat around round tables that one might find in a middle
school. As the prisoners came in, I felt a little nervous because I wasn’t sure what we were going to
talk about and what I had to share with them.

Soon after the conversation started, I realized that I had nothing to worry about. We had an engaging
conversation about a wide variety of topics during the almost two-hour session. Many of the members
were pretty deep thinkers with their surroundings conducive to a lot of free-thinking time.

Near the end of the session, one of the prisoners said to me, ‘Don’t forget about us. Society forgets
about us and there is no real rehabilitation going on.’ This class with very few resources was one of
the only things they had going.

It was a fascinating conversation and I plan to go back next spring perhaps when it is a little warmer.
All of us should not forget them. After they are done being punished for their crimes, they can still
make a contribution to society if we only let them.