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Excerpts from recent Wisconsin editorials

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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, June 22

Gov. Scott Walker shouldn't dodge Confederate flag issue

The racially motivated murders last week at a historic church in Charleston, South Carolina, were "racist" and "evil," Gov. Scott Walker said last weekend. He asked for a moment of prayer for the "nine brothers and sisters in Christ who were taken on Wednesday."

But later, when the question turned to the Confederate flag, the governor grew timid. Whether that flag should continue to fly on the state capitol grounds in Columbia is up to the people of South Carolina, Walker said — as if he could not possibly express an opinion on the matter. "I think they're going to have a good healthy debate and should have that debate in South Carolina amongst officials at the state level," he said.

Some Republicans are fighting a losing battle over the Confederate flag, which, like the Nazi swastika, is a symbol of oppression and hatred. They should abandon the fiction that this is a state issue — and stand on the side of justice. They should realize what an insult it would be to the memory of state Sen. Clementa Pinckney — the pastor of Emanuel AME Church and one of those killed last week — if the flag still flies near the capitol while his body lies in state.

Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney was among the first Republicans to call for the state to remove the flag, calling it a "symbol of hatred" in a tweet last week. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley agreed on Monday that the flag should be removed, noting that while many consider it an emblem of the state's heritage, "for many others in South Carolina, the flag is a deeply offensive symbol of a brutally racist past."

White supremacists continue to see it as a means to advocate hate. Online photos showed the alleged gunman, Dylann Roof, displaying the flag as well the flags of South Africa during the apartheid era and white-ruled Rhodesia.

When South Carolina led the Southern states out of the union in late 1860, Abraham Lincoln recognized that act as the treason it was. What followed was the bloodiest war in the nation's history, four years of horror symbolized by the Confederate flag. By the time it was over, more than 91,000 Wisconsin men had served. More than 12,200 never came home. With his silence, Walker does their sacrifice an injustice.

After the murders last week inside the Emanuel Church, this symbol of hatred should be removed from the state capitol grounds. The Confederate flag belongs in a museum, not atop a government-owned flagpole.

Walker should summon the better angels of his nature and demand that it be taken down.


Wisconsin State Journal, June 26

Reed Hall shouldn't take fall for WEDC

The governor's economic development agency has repeatedly failed to protect public money.

But getting rid of its leader, Reed Hall, who wasn't around when the worst mistakes were made, would be rash and exacerbate high turnover in the organization.

State leaders should keep Hall at the helm of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and continue to pressure his agency for better results, with regular and independent audits of its programs and finances.

The organization also needs more insulation from partisan meddling and cronyism. Gov. Scott Walker wisely proposed removing the politicians — including himself and four lawmakers — from WEDC's board. The Legislature's budget committee agreed to take the governor off the board, but not the lawmakers. That's a mistake.

Yet the Legislature's push for more oversight is apt. State leaders have put restrictions on agency money, and the governor called off a misguided merger that would have diluted WEDC's focus. The governor also wants to scrap WEDC's direct loan program and rely on safer incentives, such as tax credits that benefit a recipient only after the business has met its promises to hire workers or buy equipment.

The Legislature plans more changes to WEDC this fall.

Created four years ago after Walker was elected governor, WEDC was a welcome change from the old state Commerce Department. WEDC's duties were narrowed to economic development. It no longer had to be distracted by odd and unrelated duties such as inspecting carnival rides, certifying plumbers and tracking underground fuel tanks.

But WEDC stumbled badly after the governor rushed it into place, trying to fulfill his lofty and ultimately broken campaign promise to create 250,000 jobs.

WEDC lost track of millions of dollars in loans to businesses. It didn't follow — or have — careful financial policies. It suffered turnover and personnel spats. Audits continue to suggest ways it must improve.

Last month, a State Journal investigation found that the governor's top cabinet secretary and a powerful lobbyist pressed for a taxpayer-funded loan in 2011 to a financially struggling Milwaukee construction company that lost the state half a million dollars, created no jobs and raised questions about where the money went.

Documents subsequently released by WEDC showed it made at least 27 awards totaling $124.4 million to companies without formal reviews by underwriters.

Democrats called for Hall to resign this week. But the former executive director of Marshfield Clinic didn't join WEDC until November 2012 — after those 27 deals were made. So he shouldn't be the fall guy for trouble he couldn't control. WEDC's procedures and safeguards have improved significantly during his tenure.

Nor should the state abandon its mission to encourage private-sector job growth. Nearly every other state provides business incentives.

WEDC's performance was poor. But its purpose — and leader — remain sound.


The Journal Times of Racine, June 24

Honey bees: More important to you than you think

Honey bees have been in serious decline for more than three decades in the United States, according to national reports.

The USDA's national Agricultural Statistics Service has been documenting the decline in the number of managed honey bee colonies used in honey production for years.

Starting in the 1940's there were approximately 5.7 million colonies in the United States, and the number of managed colonies used in honey production has declined to approximately 2.74 million colonies today, according to a White House report.

That is a serious decline throughout the country and according to the White House report it has also been affecting monarch butterflies, among other species.

Now Racine County is working on doing its part to help bees through a proposed ordinance.

The proposed ordinance follows a long court battle a Dover resident had to undergo to keep her bees.

Debi Fuller has kept thousands of bees in two hives in the backyard of her home on the 2100 block of Lakeshore Drive to help pollinate her organic garden and flowerbeds, but an ongoing dispute with a neighbor reportedly led to a complaint filed against her.

The Racine County Sheriff's Office then issued her a citation in June 2014 for zoning violations and she was told at the time that the ordinance did not allow honey bees to be kept in residential zones.

But, in the end, Racine County Circuit Court Judge Wayne Marik ultimately granted dismissal of her citation.

"What the court found was that there was nothing in the ordinances that said I could not have bees," she said.

It's unfortunate Fuller had to go through this legal battle for the county to start to recognize the importance of bees. But at least now the county is on the right track.

The public commonly confuses honey bees with wasps and yellow jackets, which sting much more often, and there are a lot of false fears and misperceptions.

This ordinance can help educate the community about the difference between wasps and honey bees, while protecting the latter.

Julie Anderson, the county's director of public works and development services, said the regulations under discussion would apply only to unincorporated areas in Racine County, which include the towns of Raymond, Norway, Waterford, Dover, Burlington and Yorkville. Villages and cities in Racine County, if they were interested, would have to adopt separate ordinances.

Anderson said the county is taking its time drafting the rules and not rushing something through the County Board. At the same time, Peter Poli, president of the Beekeepers Association, said he is looking for reasonable setback requirements but not much other regulation.

We encourage the county to continue moving forward with this important ordinance and work closely with beekeepers to not make burdensome regulations.

Racine County should be part of the national solution to help keep our county and nation blooming and beautiful and protect the vitality of our nation's crops.

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