Project Milwaukee: State of Upheaval

2011 will go down in Wisconsin's history as one of the most volatile years for the state's politics and economy. While facing a big state budget deficit, amid the national recession, Governor Scott Walker implemented massive spending cuts and limits to public workers' collective bargaining rights shortly after his inauguration. As Democrats attempted to delay votes, and thousands of citizens protested, Republican lawmakers approved the governor's policies.

The events sparked months of heated debate over the GOP agenda, as well as recalls of state senators and efforts to unseat the governor. Walker's supporters maintain that he is positioning Wisconsin for an economic rebound and fiscal stability. His critics insist the policies are harming the middle class, public education and the social safety net.

During December 2011, Project Milwaukee: State of Upheaval explored the intersection of Wisconsin's volatile political and economic climate. WUWM News reporters and Lake Effect producers reflected on the year, examined the long-range impact of the new policies and looked into where the state may be headed.

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Project Milwaukee
2:25 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Future of Wisconsin Is Debatable

We get two very different takes on where Wisconsin was heading before 2011, and where it’s going now. Jack Norman is the Research Director at the Institute for Wisconsin's Future; George Lightbourn is President of the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. They spoke with Lake Effect's Mitch Teich as part of our Project Milwaukee: State of Upheaval series.

Project Milwaukee
2:22 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Questioning ALEC's Influence

The Center for Media and Democracy in Madison says the group ALEC has too much secretive influence on legislation. Mary Bottari is the Director of the Madison-based Center for Media and Democracy’s Real Economy Project and BanksterUSA. She has also served as a Senior Analyst in Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch division. She spoke to us from Madison as part of our Project Milwaukee: State of Upheaval series. There’s a link to the group’s ALEC Exposed report here.

Project Milwaukee
2:19 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Forward Wisconsin on Spurring Economic Growth

Mark Erhmann

How has Wisconsin’s business climate fared in 2011? Mark Erhmann is an attorney with Quarles & Brady, LLP in Madison, and the Chairman of the Board of Forward Wisconsin, a non-profit organization created in 1984 to foster economic development in Wisconsin.

Project Milwaukee
2:15 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Challenges to Civility

Reach Out effort in Madison brings together liberals and conservatives to explain their opinions.

There are plenty of adjectives you could use to describe Wisconsin’s political climate in 2011. Perhaps passionate or volatile.

The state is known for being evenly-split politically – purple - with independents often determining elections. But partisans have been zealous, even among family and friends, according to Jeri Bonavia, executive director of WAVE - the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort.

“These days, bring up the wrong topic whether it’s unions or whether it’s carrying guns in public, and suddenly the conversation becomes heated in a way that we haven’t seen in the past,” Bonavia says.

In today’s installment of Project Milwaukee: State of Upheaval, WUWM’s Marge Pitrof reports on challenges to civility.

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Project Milwaukee
2:11 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Elections Chief Discusses Full Plate

Government Accountability Board Executive Director Kevin Kennedy.

While WUWM is spending the week exploring Wisconsin’s political climate in our series, Project Milwaukee: State of Upheaval, the state elections chief came to town. Government Accountability Board Executive Director Kevin Kennedy spoke to reporters Wednesday at the Milwaukee Press Club. WUWM’s Marti Mikkelson had an opportunity to question him about this unprecedented year of recalls and new voting rules.

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Project Milwaukee
2:08 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Business Wins, But Struggles

Paul Jadin

In taking office, Scott Walker declared that the state is now open for business. But it’s a mixed bag for business - employment is stagnant at best, and though unemployment has fallen slightly of late, the number of jobs here has declined significantly. We talk with Paul Jadin, the President and CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the unit that largely replaced the state’s Department of Commerce this year.

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Project Milwaukee
2:05 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Did WI's Arts Lose Out in 2011?

This past year saw a major reorganization for the Wisconsin Arts Board – which lost its agency level status and was absorbed within the state’s Department of Tourism. George Tzugros is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Arts Board. Tzugros spoke with Bonnie North as part of our Project Milwaukee: State of Upheaval series.

Project Milwaukee
1:50 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Two State Senators on a Bipartisan Mission

As our Project Milwaukee: State of Upheaval series continues to identify winners and losers of the past year, we’ll meet the two legislators who aren’t about to let civility die in Wisconsin’s legislature. Republican Senator Dale Schultz of Richland Center and Democratic Senator Tim Cullen of Janesville formed a two-man caucus in support of bipartisanship this fall. We spoke with them in September while they were on their self-described Common Ground tour of Wisconsin.

Project Milwaukee
1:47 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Testing the Resilience of the Environment

We continue our week-long series Project Milwaukee: State of Upheaval.

This first year of the Walker Administration may be remembered as one of Wisconsin’s most tumultuous political eras.

Early on, the governor created environmental waves by putting the brakes on much-anticipated wind turbine siting rules – stifling a fledgling industry.

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Project Milwaukee
1:41 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Public Workers Bear the Brunt of Budget Woes

Public employee Sue Blaustein (left) helps circulate petitions to recall Gov. Walker.

We now continue Project Milwaukee: State of Upheaval. All week, we’re exploring the impact of Wisconsin’s divisive political climate this year, mixed with a tough economy. Tuesday, we reported on some winners of the new Republican majority’s agenda, including business interests and social conservatives.

Today, we focus on entities that lost ground, the biggest – public workers. Gov. Walker’s budget required them to pay more for their health insurance and pensions, in order to ease the state deficit. The GOP went one step further in 2011, by stripping most public unions of all rights except to bargain for limited wage increases. As WUWM’s Marti Mikkelson reports, angered public workers are now part of a massive effort to recall the governor.

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