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Editorial Roundup: Wisconsin

April 21, 2021 GMT

Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. April 19, 2021.

Editorial: Wait and see right approach on Foxconn

Monday’s announcement that Gov. Tony Evers had negotiated a new deal with Foxconn wasn’t entirely a shock. The state had long expressed dissatisfaction with the company’s follow through on the original 2017 deal, and there had been strong signals it would be significantly altered.

According to Evers, the new agreement “works for everyone.” That’s an optimistic appraisal given Foxconn’s history, and one that Wisconsin can only hope is accurate.

To recap, Foxconn struck a deal worth nearly $4 billion in tax incentives with former Gov. Scott Walker in 2017. The company promised a $10 billion flat screen panel manufacturer in Mount Pleasant, and employment of as many as 13,000 people. That didn’t happen. The project was pared back until the state said Foxconn would not qualify for the incentives.

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Body = Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. April 19, 2021.

Editorial: Wait and see right approach on Foxconn

Monday’s announcement that Gov. Tony Evers had negotiated a new deal with Foxconn wasn’t entirely a shock. The state had long expressed dissatisfaction with the company’s follow through on the original 2017 deal, and there had been strong signals it would be significantly altered.

According to Evers, the new agreement “works for everyone.” That’s an optimistic appraisal given Foxconn’s history, and one that Wisconsin can only hope is accurate.

To recap, Foxconn struck a deal worth nearly $4 billion in tax incentives with former Gov. Scott Walker in 2017. The company promised a $10 billion flat screen panel manufacturer in Mount Pleasant, and employment of as many as 13,000 people. That didn’t happen. The project was pared back until the state said Foxconn would not qualify for the incentives.

We’re going to stop short of speculating on just what has kept Foxconn, a major international manufacturer, from living up to its part of the deal. There are several possibilities. One is the rapid development of technologies at the heart of Foxconn’s business. The original downsizing of its factory cited that, shifting from one type of screen to another that’s thinner and smaller.

That’s a less convincing explanation for other issues, though. Other concepts have been announced and then shut down in short order. And, while COVID has undoubtedly had an effect, we don’t believe the company’s near-total paralysis can be blamed solely on the pandemic.

Last month the company suggested it was considering making electric vehicles in Mount Pleasant. Again, we’re not holding our breath.

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Foxconn has incentives to live up to this agreement that go beyond the taxes. It doesn’t want to be associated with the reputation created when a company fails to live up to multiple contracts. Its credibility is at stake. A second blown opportunity couldn’t help but lead other states — even countries — to rethink Foxconn as a viable partner in the future. That’s not in their best interests.

Lest people misunderstand our view of the situation, we hope this deal really does work for everyone. Such an outcome would be to the betterment of Wisconsin, the communities in which Foxconn has promised development, and the company itself.

That said, we don’t think it’s unreasonable to watch with some skepticism. The past four years have seen plenty of grand promises with precious little to show for them. There’s a point at which broken promises hold communities back. People can credibly claim the Haymarket Landing would be a much more attractive location had Foxconn not gotten involved. Until the company follows through, that’s a hard claim to refute.

We’ll wait and see what happens. We don’t really have much choice. But it’s clear that there’s a lot at stake for everyone involved. Evers’ political future may well hinge on it. Development of a significant location in Eau Claire certainly does.

It comes down to one thing: which part of Foxconn’s name is more important? Which part is more apt? Time will tell if it’s the fox, or the con.

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Kenosha News. April 16, 2021.

Editorial: Legislators must act to protect National Guard troops

Perhaps not since the civil unrest of the 1960s and early 70s has the value of the Wisconsin National Guard been more evident. Last year, the Guard found itself maintaining the peace on the streets of Kenosha and Madison. During the pandemic, Guard personnel helped augment seriously depleted ranks of poll workers, and they manned COVID 19 testing stations throughout the state.

And lest we forget that units are still being deployed to assist our Armed forces abroad in places like Afghanistan.

Clearly, the guard has shown that it is much more than the force that’s called up couple of times a year when Mother Nature shows her fury with tornadoes, snowstorms and swollen streams and rivers.

We Wisconsinites owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women — our coworkers and neighbors — who serve in the Guard.

In their service, they face the potential of danger from circumstances the troops often have no control over. Yet there is a danger that can be controlled and curtailed with strong intervention of leadership in the military and civilian ranks alike — the incidents of sexual assault of troops by troops, sometimes by ranking superiors, even officers.

Unfortunately, it’s not a new problem in the Guard, or even in the Armed Forces as a whole, as too frequent reports in the media have indicated for several decades now. According to a recent joint investigative report by the Cap Times in Madison and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the number of reported sexual assaults in the Guard jumped nationwide from 173 in 2009 to 607 in 2019 — more than a threefold increase.

Not all, but the vast majority of assault victims are female soldiers. But even with all the attention given the cases, many times the victims feel helpless in their quest for justice. That’s due, frequent investigations and testimonials have pointed out, to inadequate means of recourse, chain of command procedures and — perhaps the elephant on the room — the culture of the military, which is still largely male centric.

With each case brought to public attention, cries that something be done ring out. But the needed action has lagged.

According to the Cap Times/Journal Sentinel investigation published last month, a 2019 report by the National Guard Bureau, a federal administrative agency that oversees the Guard, found that the state for years mishandled investigations of sexual assault and harassment.

The Wisconsin Guard failed to report data on sexual assaults to the Department of Defense, did not address discrimination complaints and had not reported sexual assault cases to civilian police, in violation of state and federal law, according to the report, the newspapers reported.

That report led to the resignation of Wisconsin National Guard Adjutant General Donald Dunbar. Federal investigators also recommended that the state align its military code to what is used in full-time active-duty forces, called the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the newspaper investigation reported.

Current Adjutant General Paul Knapp said in a March 25 interview with Wisconsin Public Radio that since he took command in 2020, the Guard says it has made several changes to how it handles sexual assault cases and has implemented other federal recommendations for improving its response and prevention efforts. In fact, according to the Cap Times, sexual assault reports to the Wisconsin Guard increased in 2020.

“Dealing with sexual assault in the National Guard has never taken a backseat to any of the other efforts in the last year,” Knapp told WPR. “My No. 1 priority is to create an environment where anyone in the organization regardless of status feels safe and protected coming forward.”

Also important is some context regarding the number of reports. Major Joe Trovato, deputy director of public affairs for the Wisconsin National Guard, told the Kenosha News that the Guard’s Sexual Assault Response Coordinators and unit Victim Advocates take reports from service members no matter when or where the assault occurred and no matter the context. Most of the reports they receive occur in the context of a service member’s civilian life — not between members of the Wisconsin National Guard, Trovato points out.

No matter the circumstances and no matter when or where it occurred and ensures the survivor receives support and resources,” Trovato said.

Those changes and steps taken to address the matter by the Guard are laudable. But it’s past time for the State Legislature to take up the matter. The Legislature would be charged with reforming the Wisconsin Code of Military Justice, to align it with national standards for addressing sexual assault.

Trovato told the Cap Times that the Guard has had some preliminary discussions with lawmakers to update the code but had no details on specific changes or a timeline for them. Legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle did not have answers for the Cap Times on the reason for the delay.

We think this is one area where both parties could come to agreement on the needed reforms and do so expediently. Gov. Tony Evers’ office says the governor is ready to endorse reforms once the Legislature act.

Our state — and nation — need to do all we can to encourage service in the National Guard. And especially make the forces welcoming and protective for our women service personnel. Women have time and again proven their value to our armed forces and we owe it to them that they have protections in place to be safe in their service and the means to address assault allegations that will be taken seriously and investigated promptly.

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Racine Journal Times. April 16, 2021.

Editorial: Clean up your trash and masks

t’s that time of year again where we are all finally getting outside to enjoy the nice weather. Unfortunately, there is one thorn in the side that seems to be everywhere — trash.

Take a walk down the sidewalk or a drive down the road and you are going to find at least one mask on the ground along with a few wrappers, maybe a coffee cup and a few other odds and ends that don’t belong there.

It’s spring and it’s normal with the snow melting that some of the garbage that has been there for the last four months is coming to light.

But we should all do better.

Not only does it look bad and make our town look bad, but it’s also bad for animals.

A United Kingdom Animal Hospital recently treated a seagull that was brought in that was injured after it became caught in a disposable mask. That is a story from across the ocean, but it’s just as likely to happen here.

With Earth Day coming up on April 22, it’s a chance to get out and help clean up.

It was Wisconsin’s Gaylord Nelson who was the driving force behind Earth Day, which started in 1970 as a day to increase public awareness of environmental problems. Nelson was Wisconsin’s governor from January 1959 to January 1963 and was later elected to the U.S. Senate, where he was able establish the national day of recognition.

To quote Nelson: “The wealth of the nation is its air, water, soil, forests, minerals, rivers, lakes, oceans, scenic beauty, wildlife habitats and biodiversity.”

But it shouldn’t be limited to one day. We all need to do our part to help all year long and that starts with all of us not littering and picking up the trash.

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Wisconsin State Journal. April 18, 2021.

Editorial: Let schools start when they want

More students are failing and disengaged because of online classes during the pandemic.

That’s what the data from more than a dozen school districts across Dane County shows, according to a recent State Journal report by Chris Rickert.

It’s not surprising, given the challenges schools have faced trying to educate students, many of them stuck at home, during the yearlong spread of COVID-19. The virus has killed 7,000 and infected more than a half-million additional people in Wisconsin.

Yet lost learning has become an epidemic all its own. So anything that helps students get back on track deserves priority.

That includes starting next school year before Sept. 1, if that’s what local school leaders believe will help struggling students catch up. Robust summer school and credit-recovery programs for failing students make sense, too.

Students across Wisconsin are now entering the fourth quarter of what in many ways has been a lost school year. Lots of students have lower grades, despite great effort by teachers to try to keep virtual classes engaging. Pretty much every Dane County school district has reported higher numbers or percentages of Fs. Only McFarland had slightly fewer Fs compared to the previous year, the State Journal’s recent report determined.

Madison is the only district in the report that still hasn’t released its data, which doesn’t instill confidence. Being open and honest about how children are doing is the best way to improve performance.

Starting next school year before Sept. 1 is worth trying to boost achievement. The state Department of Public Instruction should grant districts across Wisconsin more leeway on that. State law for two decades has required school districts to start on or after Sept. 1. The law caters to the tourism industry, which says it needs young workers through Labor Day weekend. Tourism has taken a hit during the pandemic. That shouldn’t be minimized or dismissed.

But school must take priority. And an exception to state law allows an earlier start to the school year for “extraordinary” circumstances. A pandemic with chronic learning loss certainly qualifies as that. And depending on how many school districts come back in August and experience positive results, the Sept. 1 law may need repeal.

The last half of August isn’t the vacation season it used to be. Students in fall sports often practice for weeks before classes begin. If sports can come back early in the wake of a terrible pandemic, surely academics can, too.

Starting school early won’t necessarily add days to the school year. But students will be more eager to learn and get off to a stronger start in late August, educators say. They’d gladly trade early June, when it’s much harder to keep students engaged, for late August. And an earlier start to next school year will allow more time for summer school and credit-recovery programs the following summer.

Wisconsin has given local schools districts lots of control over how they teach students during the pandemic. Some districts brought all grades back to school buildings last fall. Others, such as Madison, haven’t had some school buildings open to students for more than a year. Many districts have offered a mix of in-person and online.

If the state is going to let school districts make those decisions, surely the start of school should be a local choice, too.

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