Sunday, June 23, 2024
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Sunday, June 23, 2024

Milwaukee Press Club 'Excellence in Wisconsin Journalism' 2020 & 2021 Award Winners

3 Women’s Groups Silent on Tearman Spencer Harassment Allegations

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We reached out to three prominent women’s groups about the Tearman Spencer harassment accusations, and none would comment. One was extremely vocal during the John Norquist scandal. Why is #metoo MIA?

You would think that prominent women’s and community advocacy groups would have something to say about the accusations that Milwaukee City Attorney Tearman Spencer harassed multiple employees, including allegedly commenting on a female staffer’s legs.

You would be wrong. You’d also think the mainstream media would be writing stories asking them for reaction. Wrong again.

Wisconsin Right Now contacted the Wisconsin Chapter of Nine to Five (one of the more prominent outspoken groups during the John Norquist sexual harassment episode), the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault (WCASA), and Community Advocates – Milwaukee, through emails as well as follow-up phone calls. We asked for comment on the Spencer allegations. None responded. It appears that Milwaukee City Attorney Spencer’s alleged bad behaviors do not merit comment. Instead, WCASA has been spending its time tweeting negative comments about the police.

That group also retweeted an article with a caption, “Disparities of power are embedded in our culture — but the good news is we can disrupt and challenge oppressive behaviors like workplace sexual harassment.”  The article focuses on accusations against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Yet, in their own backyard, these groups are silent. It wasn’t always this way.

Over two decades ago, Milwaukee saw its mayor accused of sexual harassment and infidelity over a five-year affair with a subordinate. John Norquist served the city for 16 years before his career was derailed by his behavior. His employee – Marilyn Figueroa – subsequently filed state and federal complaints of sexual harassment and racial discrimination – saying Norquist used his position of power to coerce her into the long-standing relationship.

Leading women’s groups around the city – most notably the 9 to 5 Organization – rallied behind Figueroa. The outcry fueled by such organizations, the media, and others was huge and led to several public apologies by Norquist.  He admitted his role in the affair but stated it was consensual. Norquist eventually decided not to seek a fifth term as mayor, and left Milwaukee in 2004.

Tearman Spencer Harassment Allegations

Fast forward to 2021. Another prominent, high-powered individual – Milwaukee City Attorney Tearman Spencer – has recently been accused by six workers in his office of harassment and discrimination. Allegedly, since last April when Spencer was elected to the position, he has frequently made inappropriate remarks to several women, as well as initiating unwanted physical contact with one.  Spencer has admitted no wrongdoing,  going so far as to appear on a local radio show dismayed that he could not fire the people who are accusing him of harassment, saying they are “crying wolf.”

While the Norquist and Spencer allegations are not the same, there is a common thread between the two. Prominent elected officials using their powers to basically do as they want in the workplace.

This is where the similarity ends. In the case of Mayor Norquist, the widespread uproar it caused led to his eventual downfall. However, in regards to Attorney Spencer, there has been very little public response of the sort.

Several of the same women’s groups were contacted for this article and asked to comment about the Tearman Spencer harassment case, including the fact that Milwaukee elected officials are not subject to anti-harassment policies like other employees.

When Mayor John Norquist was made to pay for his indiscretions and basically run out of town by public sentiment and organized protests, the #METOO movement did not even exist.

Today, the #METOO movement is prominent but appears to be M.I.A. (as are the local women’s organizations that rally to support victims of hostile work environments) when it comes to City Attorney Tearman Spencer.

No public outcry.  No organized protests. No demands for helping those allegedly on the receiving end of Spencer’s remarks and physical touching.   In Norquist’s case there was anger and outrage, but in Spencer’s case there is marked indifference. The general public can only wonder: Why such different reactions?

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Vice President Kamala Harris has a fight on her hands if she wants to inherit the Democratic presidential mantle after President Joe Biden’s time is over, according to a new poll.

The Politico/Morning Consult poll shows that voters have serious doubts about Harris’ electability.

The poll found only 14% of voters said it was “very likely” Harris would win a general election for president if she became the Democratic nominee. Another 20% said it was “somewhat likely.”

The poll is especially noteworthy given Biden's age. The incumbent president is 81 years old and appears increasingly in decline.

A moment of confusion for Biden at a June 6 D-Day ceremony went viral last week, the latest in a string of similar incidents. At the same time, Biden remains competitive with former President Donald Trump, though several polls suggest Trump has a lead over the president.

Biden's incidents have led some to speculate that Democrats could or should try to replace Biden at the Democratic convention in Chicago in August. That would be a highly unusual, though not impossible, move. Removing Biden would naturally raise the question about who could replace him, but for now voters seem to lack confidence that Harris could win.

The poll also looked ahead to 2028: “If President Joe Biden were not in the running for president in 2028, which of the following Democrats, if any, would you want to be the Democratic candidate for president?”

While Harris was top of the list among Democrats, she only received 21% support. California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg both received 10% support each, while 41% said they were unsure or didn't know.

Only 42% of those polled described Harris as trustworthy, and 44% described her as honest, according to the poll.

Notably, only 36% of those surveyed said Biden should replace Harris as his VP on the ticket.

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Evers recently called for an operational and an instructional audit of MPS.

“I’m proposing today to go two steps further with two important goals: the first, to audit MPS’ programs and operations in their entirety, and the second, to audit the effectiveness of teaching and instruction of our kids in classrooms across the district,” Evers said.

The governor, however, wants to keep the audit within his administration and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said that’d be a mistake.

“I’m glad that Gov. Evers has called for an audit of the Milwaukee Public School System. Gov. Evers and DPI should work with Joint Legislative Audit Committee Co-Chairs [Eric] Wimberger and [Robert] Wittke to discuss authorizing the non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau to audit MPS, DPI and any other involved stakeholders,” LeMahieu said. “The LAB is more than capable of handling this important undertaking independently and transparently without the use of outside contractors.”

The worry is an audit controlled by the governor’s office will not fully look into MPS’s shortcomings.

The calls for audits in Milwaukee Public Schools come after the state withheld nearly $17 million last week because of incomplete and late financial reports. One of those reports was due to the Department of Public Instruction in September 2023.

Evers has asked MPS leaders to be a part of any audit process but warned that not everyone will be invited.

“I also have to say – I’m exceedingly disappointed by the politicking and jockeying I’ve seen since this situation came to light by opportunists who’re seizing this moment to serve their own selfish goals instead of worrying about what matters most: our kids,” Evers added.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos took to social media to accuse the governor of being the one who is playing politics.

“And who do you think [Evers] will suggest conducts the audits?” Vos asked. “The same failed DPI bureaucrats who allowed this to happen or his administration who wanted to dismantle the school choice system so all kids were forced into this MPS mess? We need real reforms to the current mentality where MPS has been protecting the bureaucracy and Gov. Evers has been advocating for shoveling hundreds of millions of dollars into this broken system.”

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Biden’s New Staffing Requirements Put Most Illinois Nursing Homes in Peril

An industry group says the Biden administration’s new staffing regulations for long-term care facilities are unrealistic.

The mandate requires that all nursing homes that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding provide a total of at least 3.48 hours of nursing care per resident per day. Plus, nursing homes must have a registered nurse onsite at all times.

Research by SeniorLiving.org shows 82%, or nearly 12,000 facilities in the U.S., will need to hire staff or face being shut down.

Spokesperson Corie Wagner said Illinois is home to the fifth highest number of understaffed nursing homes in the country.

“If we were to apply the new policies and new standards to nursing homes in Illinois today, 84% of facilities would need more staff, and that is really significant,” said Wagner.

The mandate will be phased in over three years, with rural communities having up to five years.

Nursing home operators strongly objected to the minimum staffing proposal in September, saying they already struggle to fill open positions.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in September announced a $75 million campaign to increase the number of nurses in nursing homes.

Nearly 1.2 million residents live in Medicare- and Medicaid-certified, long-term care facilities, but Wagner said that number is expected to increase.

“It’s called the Silver Tsunami, so more Americans are aged 65 or older than ever,” said Wagner. “It's one of the largest segments of our population but the infrastructure we have is not keeping up with our population shift.”

A resolution aimed at overturning Biden’s nursing home staffing mandate has a legitimate chance to pass the U.S. Senate.

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