Tuesday, November 7, is critical day in Wisconsin's history because it is Election Day once more. Maybe I'm just getting older and realizing more clearly how governmental policies affect all of our lives. Or maybe the divisive political scene is hitting a new low in Wisconsin's once proud legacy of progressivism.  But I can't think of a recent  "local" election that will have a greater impact on Wisconsin's future.
      For the past two presidential elections, Wisconsin has been considered a swing state with very narrow victories eked out by the Democratic presidential candidates. Both political parties must consider Wisconsin up for grabs and crucial to the 2008 election. Why else would millions of dollars be spent filling our airways with very negative campaign commercials?
      Regardless of the negative commercials and how they may want you to ignore the whole mess next Tuesday, it is so important for you to vote because the candidates who are elected and the referenda that are passed or defeated will have a big impact on your daily life. This election is about you and you can make a difference this upcoming Tuesday.
      One of the biggest things that concerns me is the advisory referendum on enacting a death penalty in the state of      Wisconsin. Now we know that Wisconsin has the highest disproportionate rates for the confinement of African Americans in the United States. While people of color represent approximately 13% of Wisconsin's population, a majority of the people in Wisconsin's prisons are people of color. Guess who would be disproportionately represented on death row in Wisconsin if this advisory referendum starts the death penalty train rolling down the tracks? I would bet everything I have that it would be   people of color and African Americans in particular.
      Why? Well, the whole issue of disproportionate minority confinement is very complex and involves a multitude of factors and individuals making decisions. But one of the most influential factors is legal representation. The legal profession is  very market oriented. The better you are at representing your clients, the more you are able to charge in legal fees. And so the best legal talent --  exceptions are duly noted -- goes to the highest bidder. Since African Americans are disproportionately represented in the ranks of the poor in this state, African Americans, as a whole, will disproportionately      not be able to afford the best legal representation. The very poor will not be able to afford legal representation at all.
      So even though the death penalty advisory referendum states that DNA evidence would have to be conclusive for the death penalty to be imposed, there is nothing to bind the final legislation to that threshold. And regardless, of whether DNA evidence was required or not, the disproportionality will fall squarely on people of color. VOTE NO on the death penalty  "advisory" referendum.
      I also urge people to vote no on the "same-sex marriage" referendum. In my view, the state should grant civil unions between consenting adults,  especially when children are concerned. These civil unions should be granted to same-sex or opposite-sex couples to establish the legal responsibilities between the adults and the children who are a part of the household, whether they are biological or adopted. The children of couples regardless of whether they are same sex or opposite sex need to be protected and ensured that all caregivers in their household will be there for them and have the authority to act on their behalf. Faith communities, by the very nature of the constitutional separation of church and state,  should continue to marry people of their own choosing. If they marry only opposite sex couples, so be it. And these marriages should have the same binding effect as the civil unions do. That is my view of things, right or wrong.
      However, even if you oppose "same sex marriages," you should still be against this amendment. The amendment reads as follows:
      "Shall section 13 of article XIII of the constitution be created to provide that only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state and that a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state."
      It's the part about  "legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage" that should give any reasonable person pause to vote for this amendment. This phrase is so vague  that any high priced lawyer or politician could construe it to mean all kinds of things that impact all of us. Remember when we passed a state referendum to allow bingo and a state lottery? Well, what was thought to be passed and what legally was passed were two separate things. Legalized gambling was not far behind. The law of unintended consequences is in play here. VOTE NO on the marriage amendment.
      Finally, the Madison Metropolitan School District has a $23.5 million dollar referendum on the ballot. It has three parts that would allow the district to build another school on the far west side of the district's boundaries; allow for the building of additional facilities at Leopold Elementary School in a matter that would exceed the state-imposed revenue caps; and to refinance some existing district debt that would allow the district to save interest expenses and exceed the revenue cap.
      My inclination is to vote yes for this referendum. I understand perfectly why the district needs to build a far west side school. This die was cast years ago when the district annexed this area to ensure that the school's property tax base would retain its value as the Madison area underwent demographic changes. It just concerns me that in the future when the talk of school closings come up, it will shift the analysis of how to redistrict and close schools farther west. This could hurt the Isthmus and east side in the long run. But it is something the school district has to do and has little choice in the matter.
      In terms of Leopold Elementary School, these additions should have been done a long time ago to relieve the chronic overcrowding at Leopold. Its enrollment is only going to go up.
      And the refinancing of the school's debt will save this community money and allow the district to spend more on our students, our future. My parents sacrificed so that I could get an excellent education. Don't we owe to our future leaders and workforce to do the same? VOTE YES on the school referendum!
November 1, 2006

The Literary Divide: Desperation, Demagoguery, and Duplicity down the home stretch for Campaign 2006,
by Dr. Paul Barrows

* India House grocery/convenience store: Indian crossroads,
By Jonathan Gramling

Madison-Obihiro sister cities: Formalizing a milestone,
by Heidi M. Pascual

Decision 2006: Candidates' answers to Hues' questionnaire,
-- Governor

-- U.S. Congress
-- Attorney General
by Jonathan Gramling

Simple Things: Thinking back on kindergarten (Part 2),
by Lang Kenneth Haynes

Shwaw Vang: Reflecting on service (Part 2 ),
by Jonathan gramling

Votar no es lo mas sensato y lo mas justo...
por Alfonso Zepeda-Capistran

Voices: Sacrifice,
by Dr. Jean Daniels

* 7th Annual diversity Awards: Meeting Wisconsin's future needs today ,
by Jonathan Gramling

Campus-Community Connection
-Blackness and Halloween:
They don't mix in Madison
by Keme Hawkins

October Honors,
by Jonathan Gramling

Beloit's The Black Star Project hosts "Death to the 'N' Word,
by Jonathan Gramling

Sandy Magana: The impact of culture on care giving,
by Laura Salinger

* Discovering the old and new of
South Korea,
by Jackie Thomas

* Deepavali: The festival of lights,
by Ramya Kapadia
VOL. I NO. 16                                  November 1, 2006
The Audacity of Hope
Senator Barack Obama speaks in Milwaukee
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
A lot on the line on Tuesday