Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Kristie Schilling Makes Ambitious Push In Write-In Campaign For Mayor Of Monona

The candidate sees a need — and potential — for economic development projects in the suburban city

If you live in the city of Monona, you may have noticed a postcard in your mailbox this week asking you to vote for a candidate named Kristie Schilling. But when you go to vote on Tuesday, April 2, you won't see her name on the ballot.

That's because Schilling, who is running for mayor of Monona, is doing so as a write-in candidate. Schilling is currently the CEO of the Monona East Side Business Alliance, and believes that new vision is needed for the city in the years ahead.

As a curious voter myself, I sent a series of questions to Schilling hoping that she'd respond so that I could place her answers here, for other Monona voters to read and consider her candidacy. Her responses to my questions are below:


According to the Herald Independent, you entered the race as a write-in candidate with only 10 days to go before election day. What drove you to make the decision to run? Why do you think change is needed in Monona?

Yes, this just might be the shortest political campaign in history!

I have been serving this city for the past four and a half years as CEO of the Monona East Side Business Alliance. I love this city, it is my home and my kids will graduate from the Monona Grove School District — so I’m here for the long haul.

In short, the system is not setup for someone like me to run for mayor. I’m a single mom, I own my home, I have a demanding job, and I do not come from a family of means. The role of mayor pays only $200/month and that’s the reason retirees or the independently wealthy run for positions like this. I’m neither of those things. I have to be able to provide for my family but I want to serve my community.

I made this decision so late because I realized that I would have to pledge to resign from my current job at MESBA and find a new job in order to launch this campaign. That is both terrifying and exciting. But I’m hoping that by stepping into the ring, I will inspire others to serve their communities and it will allow me to take my work in Monona to the next level.

When I drive around the Madison and surrounding suburbs, there are cranes going up everywhere. Currently, Monona has one at Yahara Commons, but, we are so well positioned geographically that I believe we should be seeing more developments to help us grow our tax base.

We’re a very small community — 3.3 square miles with a robust business community — approximately 450 businesses in that small footprint. They are a major part of our tax base. We have numerous infill development opportunities available. The majority of transportation infrastructure lies in our backyard — we’re minutes from the Interstate, Highway 51, and Dane County Regional Airport. The busiest Beltline Highway interchange is in Monona at Stoughton Road and the Beltline with 184,000 cars passing through every day.

We need to be more vocal in letting people know that Monona is open for business and that opportunities do indeed exist here.

You've served as CEO of the Monona East Side Business Alliance (MESBA) for over four years now. What accomplishments are you most proud of during your tenure, and how will your leadership within that organization translate to how you might run the city?

When I was hired, I was hired as the Executive Director of the Monona Chamber of Commerce. It was in a fiscal crisis and we’d had over 100 members drop that year.

I started by gathering feedback from current members, dropped members, stakeholders, and anyone that had an opinion to express to figure out what the major problems were. You can’t fix the problem unless you know, specifically, what the problem is right? I joke that I still have the scars on my back from those early conversations.

I allowed people to unload their frustrations on me and it was the start of gaining their trust and forging relationships with people I’d never met before. After a couple of months, I realized that the brand was so badly damaged that the best approach would be to wipe the slate clean and rebrand with a new name. I approached our Mayor at the time and told him my idea and he thought it was brilliant.

After receiving his blessing, I developed a plan for the rebrand and six months after I started, the Monona East Side Business Alliance (MESBA) was born on February 26, 2015. It’s one thing to have big ideas, but it’s another thing to successfully implement those ideas.

We had no money and were working off a $4,000 line of credit so I built the website myself, designed the logo and tagline, established a solid social media presence, and wrote the media releases. I also published the first “Guide to the Monona Area,” an annual magazine promoting our community locally and regionally. I did all of the photography, design, copywriting, and editing myself. It was a one woman shop at that time but it’s the thing I’m most proud of — building an economic engine for the east side with Monona serving as the hub. Three years later, we were 20 members short of tripling the size of the organization.

It’s been interesting seeing the conversations as of late about how businessmen do not necessarily make good leaders in government. That may or may not be true, I think it depends upon the individual. The organizational structure of a nonprofit is very similar to that of a city. With a city, you have the mayor and that equates to the board president or chair. Then you have the hired leader in a city administrator or an executive director. Then you have the staff and all of the committees that branch off underneath the staff.

I’d be very comfortable in the role of mayor because I know exactly what makes an excellent board chair — effective communication, supporting your staff when they’ve made a decision, backing up the staff if a situation arises, assisting staff so that their endeavors are successful, and bringing teams together. Of course, there are many other facets like budgeting, being the face of a city, taking some heat at times...but most of all, the role of a mayor is to stay out of the staff’s way so they can do the jobs they’ve been professionally trained to do. I think that’s where a lot of mayors go wrong — they get too involved in the staff’s work and micromanaging projects and tensions arise.

Another accomplishment I’m proud of is the Momentum Urban Arts project that is coming up on August 24, 2019. I’m working with a local street art business, Momentum Art Tech, to bring 60-70 street artists to do a live painting event all day on August 24. Street artists will be painting murals on the walls of businesses up and down Monona Drive. This event has incredible potential for the City of Monona! There’s a similar thing called Wynwood Walls in Florida and people travel from all over the country to see it. Search #MononaMurals if you want to learn more. I’m currently applying for arts and tourism grants to get the project off the ground. It will be the first year for the event.

What aspects of Monona are you proud of, and what are you hoping to change as mayor? What policy initiatives or plans do you see for the city's future?

Our retail community is proving to be amazing and I’m incredibly proud that they are rising to the challenge of competing with online shopping. They are facing challenges like never before but they have established themselves as destination retailers. Stores like Rutabaga Paddlesports, Reptile Rapture, The Cozy Home, Booth 121, Habitat Restore, Monona Shoe Repair, Rosy Cheeks Dancewear, Fraboni’s, Ken’s Meats & Deli, Karner Blue Candle & Supply, to name a few.

I’m also amazed at the residents’ willingness to volunteer to help our community with the Monona Farmers Market, Monona Community Festival, the Monona Memorial Day Parade, the Monona Fall Festival & Chili Cookoff. Monona residents have city pride that I’ve never seen anywhere else. We really rally together when needed especially when we know thousands of people will get a chance to experience our awesome little city.

One of the ways I often describe the people and vibe of Monona is through a story of the weekend I moved to Monona. I was driving down Nichols Road and it was the weekend of the City Wide Garage Sales. My kids and I were looking for some specific furniture pieces as well as a bike for my son. We saw some chairs sitting on the north side of Nichols Road. One of the pieces we were looking for was a desk chair and one looked ideal. I stopped and checked them out and saw a kitchen island with a “Free” sign on it. It was exactly the piece I needed for my kitchen! But, it was heavy, solid wood.

I managed to get it to the back of my car and was taking a few deep breaths psyching myself up to hoist it into the back of my Subaru wagon. Just as I was about to start the impossible lift, a woman ran out of her home on the south side of Nichols and yelled, “Wait! I can help you!” I was so happy to see her! We formulated our plan and were just bending down to begin the lift, when a man’s voice rang out, “Step aside ladies. I’ve got this.” And the man who was giving away the chairs and the kitchen island had been observing us and came out to help. Have you ever heard of such things?! I had not. And that was the day I fell in love with Monona.

Another great example of how people in Monona look out for each other is in my immediate neighborhood. My neighbors and I all pitch in to watch each others' kids and as a single mom, it’s incredibly helpful.

Currently, there is no vision for Monona. I see so much potential for this city given its excellent geographic position. We’re situated in a high profile area right off the Beltline Highway, and we’re directly across the street from Madison. We have two major developments flanking either side of the city — the Ho-Chunk Gaming Madison convention and cultural center, and the Alliant Energy Campus redevelopment. There are cranes up all over Madison and its suburbs but there’s only one in Monona.

We have some incredible redevelopment opportunities like the South Towne area. I’d really like to see some revisioning happen for that area. Shopko is closing on May 5 and I’ve been coming up with ideas for a new tenant. It’s highly unlikely that it would be a retailer given the current state of brick and mortar retail, so a family entertainment option may be a great option. I’m looking into an indoor soccer complex, roller skating rink, Dave & Buster’s type of place, or a teen center with cultural activities and employment preparation. But I’ll be collecting ideas from community members at my Community Conversations meet and greet on March 30 at Rosie’s Coffee Bar & Bakery from 11-2pm.

Another opportunity is to get Monona on the map in the tourism sector. Currently, $20 billion comes into Wisconsin each year from visitors. $6 billion of that is spent in Dane County. Monona has yet to tap into that market.

We have enormous potential with Lake Monona and Rutabaga Paddlesports, our bike trail, the Monona Lake Loop, our 30 eateries on Monona Drive, our parks and natural areas. I’m well experienced in tourism — I’ve setup a convention and visitors bureau in Fitchburg and I’ve created tourism maps for numerous chambers of commerce in Wisconsin with my first business.

The Monona Murals project is a perfect example of how Monona could easily grab a piece of that revenue. Our area is also very rich in Native American history — there are over 300 indian mounds in Monona and on the east side of Madison. MESBA wants to do Native History bus tours in partnership with the Ho-Chunk Nation as a way to drive guests to our hotels to build on room tax revenue. But in order to do that, MESBA needs to receive room tax dollars from the City.

I’ve also talked about changing our color palette for the city. We have a lot of buildings on Monona Drive that were built in the 60’s & 70’s. Many cities take the safe route in establishing their color palettes and go with tans, browns, grays. When you put those colors on an older building without a lot of architectural details, it does not improve the aesthetics. We are a waterfront community and adopting a color palette like Egg Harbor — bright blues, yellows, oranges — can really inject a fresh and energetic look into your city. I’ve been talking about that idea since my third interview for my current position.

Write-in candidates have a difficult time winning elections — one of the most obvious challenges is that your name doesn't appear on the ballot. What strategies have you implemented in order to get your name out there, to let people know that you're running and to write your name in?

I have a postcard being mailed out to every household in Monona on March 26-27. I have yard signs in the works. I’m hitting social media hard. My background is marketing so I’ve sent my media release to all of the news outlets around the Madison area. It’s been picked up by four outlets so far and I know a couple more are coming.

I know a lot of people in Monona and they’re helping me spread the word. People seem to be excited about embracing a new generation of leadership and vision and I’m certainly interested in continuing my work in making this community even better!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

If Wisconsin GOP Tries To Appeal 'Extraordinary Session' Ruling, They Expose Themselves As Hypocrites

The ruling is a "strict constructionist" look at the Constitution — a doctrine Republicans typically adhere to (except when it goes against what they want, apparently)

Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess ruled on Thursday that the lame-duck power grab "extraordinary" session, used by Republicans at the tail-end of 2018, violated provisions of the state Constitution when it stripped away powers of the executive branch after Democrats, including current Gov. Tony Evers, had won in the midterm elections.

The power grab was blatantly political, a maneuver that only took place because former Gov. Scott Walker had lost his re-election bid. Had he won instead, it's unlikely Republicans would have sought to remove these powers from executive leaders.

The political motivations, however, did not compel Judge Niess to render lawmakers' actions unconstitutional. Rather, the way in which the legislature convened itself did.

But before we get into that, let's talk about Constitutional theory, because it's important to understand how some people — namely conservatives — think.

The Wisconsin Constitution
(Public Domain Image)
There are two schools of thought when it comes to how a Constitution works. The "living document" idea posits that a Constitutional document evolves over time. As judicial rulings and changes to society come about, judges should interpret the document based on the belief that the Constitution itself has to change as time goes by, too. Liberal judges tend to follow this line of thinking.

This is our common law tradition of jurisprudence, and it is how the founders intended our government (and judicial branch) to work. But there's a separate, more restrictive view of how a Constitution ought to be considered in court cases, and that's the "strict constructionist" model.

This belief holds that what a Constitution says should be only how a judge should rule. Other judges' rulings, the adherence to stare decisis, or the changing attitudes and technologies of society, shouldn't matter when rendering a decision. Only the strict wording of the document matters, no ifs, ands, or buts. Typically, conservatives are the ones who espouse this view.

Why do I go into this Constitutional lesson before I discuss Thursday's ruling? Judge Niess can be considered a liberal judge. He was appointed by a Democratic governor in 2004 when a vacancy opened on the court he serves, and has won re-election to that post in liberal-leaning Dane County ever since. But the ruling he rendered on Thursday is anything but a "living document" look at the issues at hand — Niess's ruling instead takes a "strict constructionist" point of view, which could cause headaches for Republicans seeking to have it overturned.

Niess was asked to consider whether the Republican-led legislature, which convened itself in an "extraordinary session" last fall, had done so in a Constitutional way. The state Constitution lays out very plainly the ways in which a legislature can be convened beyond their regular schedule — and it does not, Niess pointed out in his ruling (PDF), include a means for the legislature to do so on its own.

The state Constitution allows for special sessions to occur when the governor calls for them. In no part of the Constitution does it state that the legislature has the right to convene a session on its own, unless it has planned for one at the beginning of the legislative session.

Walker didn't convene the session — the legislature did. Therefore, the entirety of the extraordinary session is deemed unconstitutional, because it met in an illegal manner.

The ruling by Niess, of course, goes into greater detail than a blog post can allow, but the essential argument one that Republicans, if they try to go against it, will have a hard time defending.

On the one hand, they don't want their legislation from the extraordinary session to be null and void. On the other hand, if they try to fight this ruling, they'll expose themselves as hypocritical, as going against a "strict constructionist" reading of the state Constitution.

The bottom line is this: there's no provision in the Constitution to allow for the legislature to call itself into extraordinary session. That rule serves as a check-and-balance type measure, requiring the governor to call into session the legislature in order to do so.

The legislature called itself into session, violating the Constitutional provision for how sessions can be convened. If you read the document in a strict way, that's the only way it can be interpreted.

Featured image credit: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, March 14, 2019

ADF Lawyer, In Defending Hagedorn's Bigotry, Makes Disingenuous Claim About The Constitution

The Constitution bars religious restrictions for office-holders to seek office — but restrictions for voters' considerations do not exist

The Brian Hagedorn saga continues, this time with a questionable line of defense coming from an organization he's been paid to speak for in the past.

Lawyer Timothy Chandler works for the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization that takes up causes on behalf of Christians who often have extremist and bigoted viewpoints. Chandler recently wrote an op-ed for the Capital Times in Madison, where he argued on behalf of Hagedorn and defended his past comments as nothing more than a mere promotion of his Christian beliefs.

Those who took issue with Hagedorn's comments were "guilty of applying a religious test that’s discriminatory and at odds with Article VI of the U.S. Constitution," Chandler wrote. "These words might first have been penned with quill and ink, but the message is timeless: No public office-holder should be screened, tested, or maligned for his or her personal religious convictions."

Wisconsin Supreme Court/Wikimedia
As a lawyer, Chandler should know better: his comments are playing very loose with the facts. For starters, Hagedorn's comments went beyond what most people might find acceptable. He maligned altering laws that would allow for gay individuals to have consensual relationships, for example, suggesting that undermining those laws would allow people to have sex with animals.

If you can't understand the difference between a man and a man having a consensual relationship, versus a person (male or female) having sexual relations with a different species, I'm sorry — you don't deserve to be a state Supreme Court justice. Hagedorn did just that, and hasn't suggested his views on this topic have changed. He has only defended his previous statements (once they were brought forth publicly this year) as his "religious" viewpoints that didn't deserve condemnation.

Hagedorn also attacked those making criticisms of his viewpoints as being anti-religious.

"Some of the arguments made against me are a blatant attempt not just against me but against people of faith more generally," Hagedorn has said.

It's a defense that makes sense, at least from a strategic lens: don't defend your problems, but create a straw man argument that you can successfully defend against. However, no one is attacking Hagedorn for his religious rights, and his commentary (when he originally wrote it) was under the guise of a legal view, not a faith-based one.

Chandler's defense of Hagedorn is, much like Hagedorn's own defense of his past comments, misleading. But so too is Chandler's interpretation of Article VI of the Constitution.

Chandler wrote in his op-ed that the Constitution protects candidates against being "screened, tested, or maligned for his or her personal religious convictions." Were he to actually read the Constitution (not the one he imagines was published, but the real document), he'd realize that he is wrong on this point as well.

The part of Article VI that deals with religious tests simply states that office-holders won't be barred from serving on the basis of their beliefs. It doesn't prevent voters from considering them when casting their votes.

Here's the partial text of that article: religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
In other words, if you or I have a qualm with a candidate for their beliefs, we're free to exercise our respective rights to vote based on those issues we have.

In this specific state Supreme Court election, if Hagedorn's bigoted beliefs cause voters to think he may not be an impartial judge, even if his beliefs are based on religious convictions, it's fine for us to bring them up and discuss them, and urge others not to support his candidacy based on those beliefs. It's not an attack on Hagedorn's right to hold those beliefs, but rather a recognition of our own rights to not view them as positive traits for a justice to have.

Chandler's op-ed is disingenuous, to say the least. It's not surprising — his organization presently promotes and defends the same bigoted lines of thought that Hagedorn seems to have put forward in the past. His comments in the Cap Times should be largely ignored.

Monday, March 11, 2019

There's A Big Hole In Brian Hagedorn's 'My Faith Is Being Attacked!' Line Of Defense

Hagedorn doesn't want you to "attack" his faith, but he did the same thing to Mormons in his past writings

Judge Brian Hagedorn, a conservative candidate for this spring election's state Supreme Court race, has taken a lot of heat for the many writings he's made over the past decade that display a bigoted attitude toward entire groups of people.

Notably, Hagedorn's attacks have centered on the LGBTQ* community. In one example of his hateful writings, the candidate said that a ruling by the Supreme Court in 2005, which deemed laws restricting people from engaging in "homosexual acts" as unconstitutional, would lead to other laws banning bestiality being deemed acceptable as well.

(It should go without saying that comparisons to bestiality and homosexuality are not just nonsensical, but offensive as well.)

Other comments like these abound, and put doubts in voters' minds that Hagedorn can be an impartial member of the state's highest court if he's allowed to serve there. Hagedorn, for his own part, has had an interesting strategy for countering these and other contentions against his questionable background: he's tried to say these are attacks on his faith. And he's trying to connect so-called "attacks" against himself toward a broader attack on Christians in general.

"Some of the arguments made against me are a blatant attempt not just against me but against people of faith more generally," Hagedorn has said during this campaign.

I know plenty of Christians, being raised one myself, and in my experience most have not condemned homosexuality to being equivalent to bestiality. The Christians in my social circle have, in fact, embraced their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, choosing love instead of hate in attempts to emulate the message of Christ from the Bible.

Hagedorn's use of his set of beliefs as a shield to criticisms demonstrates that he still doesn't get it: this isn't about his faith, but rather whether Hagedorn will allow his beliefs to direct his views on the law when he hears cases before him on the Supreme Court (if he gets elected). So far, he's done nothing to convince anyone his viewpoints could be neutral.

There's another problem Hagedorn faces: his comments from the past don't just include attacks against the gay community, but also against other faiths themselves.

As WisPolitics reported on last week, Hagedorn has also made callous comments toward those who are part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. "Here’s the bottom line: Mormon theology is blatant heresy," Hagedorn wrote, adding, "Mormons are polytheists who believe we can become gods and who believe that both Jesus and Satan are sons of God the Father."

Hagedorn here was clearly making attacks against people for holding a different faith than his own. He's free to hold those views, but it puts a huge hole in his line of defense this election season — he has a history of attacking others for their beliefs, but now wants the media and others who criticize his past statements to stop talking about his religious views.

Again, no one is suggesting a Christian cannot serve on the state's highest court — certainly members of the state Supreme Court already include Christians, and that's perfectly fine. What's at issue is whether Hagedorn's radical interpretation of Christian theology, and the blatant ways in which those beliefs have been used by him to attack others on a legal basis in the past, render him incapable of being an impartial member of the bench should he be selected to serve.

It should be clear to most that Hagedorn's bias, and the insincere way he has attempted to defend his bigotry so far, disqualify him from the role.

Featured image credit: Royalbroil/Wikimedia

Friday, March 1, 2019

Nuestro Mundo Students Speak Out Against Hate — And In Support Of Black Lives Matter

The students ended their school week on Friday afternoon by coming to the sidewalks, holding up signs in support of Black Lives Matter on a chilly winter day.

Students at Nuestro Mundo Community School, a MMSD dual language (Spanish and English) charter school, came to the sidewalks on a chilly Friday afternoon to shout out their support for peace.

The school, which is Madison-based but located in the heart of Monona, aims to "develop literacy in both languages, preparing students for success in an increasingly global economy, and to promote acceptance and understanding of cultural differences and strengths," according to Nuestro Mundo's website.

Click the images to expand:

Holding signs up that read, "Don't Judge People's Color," "We Don't See Hate, We See Love," and more, the students explained to me that they were out on Friday afternoon, around 3 p.m. and at the end of their school day, in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Although Black History Month was officially celebrated in February, students came out on March 1 to mark the end of the month-long celebration.

"The reason why we're here today is because we're celebrating Black Lives Matter for Black History Month" one student told me.

Students also held signs asking passersby to honk their horns if they supported their cause. About 10 vehicles did pass by while I was with the kids this afternoon, and I can tell you that there was a lot of honking going on in this normally quiet neighborhood!

Kudos for these children for doing their part to promote diversity, and to stand united against hate. We can all learn from their lesson, and realize it's not enough to be non-racist any longer — instead, we need to be anti-racist, and do something about the injustices we see in the world.

Yes, it's nice to share a Facebook post about how you hate bigotry that's being spewed out by some politician or leader or business mogul. But what are you going to actually do about it? Get out there and make yourself SEEN, not just HEARD, and take real action against bigotry by demanding it from lawmakers or businesses in person, not just on social media.

The kids at Nuestro Mundo get it — and it'd be wonderful if we adults could start emulating them for a change.