Monthly Archives: July 2013

Spotlight on Janesville Police Department: David Moore

JPD Chief Dave Moore always looks for opportunities to be more transparent in the way that the Janesville Police Department functions, and in how he leads it.  In this spirit, we covered a lot of ground in our conversation, including getting the Chief’s take on:

1. How does JPD makes sure that officers follow rules and laws, same as the rest of us, and how can a member of public file a complaint and be ensured a fair hearing.

2. Has the new concealed carry law made Janesville residents and police officers safer?

3. Chief Moore’s greatest challenge since becoming Janesville Chief of Police.

4. The backstory on the department’s decision to provide a list to local bars and taverns requiring that alcohol be not served to those residents who repeatedly abuse local police and fire services.

Be in the know.  Discover Janesville.

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Discover Janesville in Janesville Messenger: Janis Ringhand

Here’s the latest Discover Janesville column published in today’s Janesville Messenger (and Stateline News) centering on the Discover Janesville interview with State Representative Janis Ringhand.

Speaking with State Representative Janis Ringhand, it’s easy to see that she is passionate about her job.  Discussing the recently passed state budget, which the Governor signed with only minor changes, this former Mayor of Evansville, and the current State Representative of the 45th District, is not shy about sharing her frustration calling this budget “not friendly to the middle class” and “abominable” on women’s rights.   Illustrating her concern about the negative impact of the budget on the middle class families, Representative Ringhand pointed out that while those making over $300,000 will see decrease of about $1,500 on their tax bill, those who make about $45,000 will get about $45 dollars in tax breaks.

Representative Ringhand is also very critical of the Governor Walker’s decision to refuse federal assistance for Medicare, which she says will result in taking a lot of people off of BadgerCare, leave the Emergency Room as their only access to healthcare, and take away millions of dollars that would have been used as reimbursement payments to hospitals for those patients who are uninsured.

Vouchers are another area of concern, which Representative Ringhand says will take money out of public schools and give to private schools, effectively setting up a two-school system.  Still, with the Democrats being in the minority both in the State Assembly and in the State Senate, Janis and her fellow Democratic legislators were not able to give any direction over the budget.  What they did instead was not offer any budget amendments at all.  Asked for the reason for this unusual approach, Janis said that while there were over 200 amendments drafted, once Assembly Speaker Robin Voss stated unequivocally that the budget would be passed with no amendments, the Democratic Caucus had decided on a new plan of action.

What the Democrats realized, was that the main beneficiaries of these amendments would be the vulnerable Republicans who could vote for these doomed amendments simply to show their constituents that they care on a particular issue.  By pulling all of their amendments, Janis said, Democrats decided to not give Republicans “any ammunition to give their people cover”.

As a woman, citizen and legislator, Janis Ringhand feels it was a particularly brutal session when it came to the anti-women bills.  “We had many women in our caucus stand up and tell heart-wrenching stories of what happened to them in the past, about loss of a child, or a birth that had to be aborted prematurely, or a lady who was raped at the age of 8.  They were totally ignored.  Not one Republican voted against putting these bills into action, which takes the right from women to control their own healthcare.  It’s abominable.”  Janis herself stood up and let her age be known.  “I was around in the 1960s and when a state senator claimed that in the 60s it was like coming of age to have an abortion, I really resented that. It wasn’t like joining a sorority.  Now we are stuck with these horrible standards.”

Asked whether there was anything good in this budget that helps our state move forward, Janis pointed to the additional money allocated for job training and technical schools as well as few other “small things”.

Asked about the value of the protests to the political process in Wisconsin, Janis said that people have a right to express their concerns, but that no matter how the opinion is voiced, “we seem to be ignored”, she said.  Whether the protests have impact, time will tell, but Janis admitted that it is really disappointing.

Now that the Governor has signed the budget, there is little that can be done, and yet, while the next election may seem a long ways away from now, Representative Ringhand is confident that once the people see that they will have higher taxes, Republican legislators will be reminded by their constituents that they are not working in the best interests of the people.

Spotlight on Politics: Andy Jorgensen

State Representative Andy Jorgensen, is a natural born leader.  He has a vision for the future, cares about the people, and he knows how to speak to inspire others.  We welcome Andy back to Discover Janesville to talk about the state of Wisconsin, learn some interesting back stories about the passage of the state budget, learn whether he is running for Governor against Scott Walker  and more.  Be in the know.  Discover Janesville.

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Banned from Facebook. The back story.

Yesterday, I got logged out of Facebook and when I tried to log back in, I was informed that some content posted on a political satire page, which I launched but haven’t touched in a year, violated Facebook “Community Standards” and therefore I am being banned for 24 hours.  This means I can log on to Facebook (though not on my phone), check and send messages, but I cannot post anything.  Shortly after, I received an email from a person with whom I ran that political satire site.  He was banned from Facebook for even longer than I was.  Much longer.  This makes little sense unless you take the bigger picture in consideration:

There are these two women in Wisconsin.  One’s name is Stephanie and the other one, we’ll refer to as “X”.  They, with help from others, run some of the most popular political news Facebook pages on the left side of the political spectrum in Wisconsin.  All in all, over 100,000 people reportedly follow these Facebook pages, where readers can find the latest political news about Wisconsin, and political humor (not all of it in good taste).  Since the beginning of the Wisconsin Uprising in February 2011, the co-admins of these websites have been engaged in a silent warfare with the right-wing “Knots” as they are sometimes called, a group formed originally to support Governor Scott Walker during the period leading to and including the failed attempt to recall him from office.  Knots, in turn accuse the left-wing Facebook site publishers of trying to do the same thing to them, which is to wipe them out of existence.  The fact that both sides call the opposition “trolls” only serves to muddy the waters and to rally supporters.

This picture, posted on an inactive political satire page, well over a year ago, has reportedly triggered my 24 hour Facebook ban.

What is it that these Knots do to take down progressive pages?  They find ways to attach themselves to various protest sites – become fans, leave comments, share posts, become friends with the page administrators, if it all possible, and then report some or all of the content produced and shared, to Facebook claiming that this content violates Facebook’s “community standards”.  Facebook asks some qualifying questions and then issues a decision, but what has become evident, is that Knots gained an upper hand by figuring out how to navigate Facebook standards in order to effectively shut down progressive news pages, affecting how tens of thousands of people receive information and communicate with each other.

All of this may seem somewhere between “someone else’s drama” and “geek warfare”, but I find the situation deeply disturbing.

As a way to bring spotlight to this, I recently contacted Stephanie and “X” and asked both women  to appear on Discover Janesville, in order to perhaps attract some “main stream media” attention to this situation.  Here’s the link to the podcast Spotlight on Internet Activism: Persecuted by Facebook

The fact that this interview attracted attention of Knots, is not surprising.  If I learned anything in my time serving on Janesville City Council, it is that the one group most likely to read the news story, is the group discussed in the story.  And that’s what happened here.  Knots even wrote about it here: The Girls That Cried Wolf? on the blog Knot My Wisconsin.  Hi Knots, thanks for reading and listening!

Doing an interview and showing support for these women – private citizens attacked for questioning the job done by publicly elected officials and political appointees – appears to have placed me on the Knots’ radar.  Naturally, according to the Knots’ own website, it’s the attacks by these women against the right-wing radio hosts, as well as having multiple Facebook accounts, (more on that later), that has really enraged the Knots.  All of this is just another indication of how wrong things have gone in Wisconsin politics in the last few years.  As payback for showing support for these women (or as some would “Solidarity”), the Knots decided to single me out for an attack, and found a way to get me banned from Facebook, (though for now it is only for 24 hours) for a content I may have posted on a political satire page over a year ago.  Hey, it could’ve been worse.

If you have never been banned from Facebook, it is a weird situation because you can be there looking at posts, but you are not allowed to make any posts yourself or update any page you may be running.  You can’t even “like” anything. Your friends don’t notice that you’re gone unless they expect you to make posts and you suddenly don’t.  You become a ghost of sorts.  This happens to people all the time and frequently for good reason, but it’s also clear that the system is in a strong need of recalibration as it is being exploited for political gain.

About the multiple accounts.  Since this is an ongoing conflict, it is not unusual for people engaged in these battles to have more than one account, sometimes called “zombi” because it is what you use to get the information out and to share information with others, while your primary account remains in the Facebook “jail”.  In my case, I chose not to go that route.  Besides being a clear violation of Facebook rules, I see this as an opportunity to make a point and to hopefully attract some badly needed attention to this unfortunate situation.  I also attempt to look at the bigger issue here, and what I see is that our elected leaders need to get involved in investigating this situation further though for different reasons than what you might think.

From a distance this may seem to be nothing more than a social media tiff gone too far, easy to ignore because it’s “just Facebook”, but this would be wrong.  What is happening with Facebook bans does matter, and not only because people have a right to express themselves.  For better or for worse, Facebook is a private company, and from the financial point of view, it is only their stockholders who suffer from the damage caused by a group of political activists exploiting Facebook “community standards” in order to gain advantage over their political enemies.  Facebook management who has to be aware of this situation, may consider it to be nothing more then cost of doing business where from their point of view the benefits of deleting most questionable content and banning users indiscriminately, is better than risking turning off the advertisers who are the ones paying the tab for the whole enterprise.  Welcome to Capitalism 101, right?

However, what our political leaders need to remember is that Facebook and other social media outlets are the Grassroots and this is how the information is relayed these days.  If these grassroots are damaged or disappear, at some point in a not-too-distant future, when our leaders will need the support of the people, they may not have an important opportunity to communicate, engage and motivate their supporters if pages such as “I will get more “Likes” than Scott Walker” and others, are gone.

As anyone can tell from their names, these pages are not run by paid political staffers.  These pages are run by volunteers passionate about keeping people informed.  Losing these pages, would be a real win for the Knots and a loss for Wisconsin, social media and democracy.  It is therefore that I call for our Legislators at all levels to examine this situation as a matter of public policy, and to hopefully approach it as a serious matter in need of public debate.  Should Facebook executives be called on to explain their approach to maintaining these so-called “community standards”, which all-too-frequently result in a crack down on political dissent and free speech?  Perhaps they should be.

I look forward to continuing this important conversation further this Friday, when I will guest host WORT 89.9 FM public affairs hour from noon until 1 pm.  I hope you will tune in and call in if you got a story or a possible solution, you want to share.

UPDATE:  I contacted Facebook requesting to have someone representing Facebook to appear with me on  WORT 89.9 on Friday, and received an email back from Facebook PR department stating that “Unfortunately at this time, we are unable to participate”.

 

Owner of Sweetlife Bakery: Baking is Easy. Running Business is Hard.

Lori Anna Hollingsworth always wanted to run her own bakery.  Baking since she was 13, she learned to bake from scratch not from her mother but from a mentor named Jeannie.  By the time she was 18, Lori Anna knew she wanted someday to open her bakery, and she already knew what she wanted to call it.  Then, on April 1st, 2012, Lori Anna took a chance on her dream and opened the doors of her shop.  Ever since, it’s been growing by leaps and bounds and Lori Anna and her shop are known all over town for their cakes, cupcakes, and the name: Sweetlife Bakery.

What is her secret?  It’s love (of course), but it is also using real ingredients and no shortening.  The bakery itself is clearly a labor of love.  A grey space with nothing in it, it is a humming bakery, serving Mocha Moments coffee, with walls painted the owner’s favorite color: pink.  As Lori Anna says, “this whole place has been a miracle.  I got no bucket of money anywhere” and she credits her success to support of the community, which has embraced this nurse turned baker.

Another reason for the success has clearly been having a great location at 459 Randall Avenue, between Craig High School and one of the most famous local restaurants: “Italian House”.  The location has been a familiar one to Lori Anna since she grew up in the neighborhood, and rode her bicycle to the nearby gas station and the Dairy Queen.

A nurse with a college degree, Lori Anna plunged herself head first into running a rapidly expanding business, forcing herself to learn a lot of lessons over the past year.  Still, the main lesson was that “it’s easy to bake but it’s really hard to run a business” and she considers getting an accountant and QuickBooks software to be some of the best decisions she’s made.

Harboring ambitious expansion plans Lori Anna just hired her 6th employee explaining her aggressive hiring this way: “I am just going to keep hiring people until I have to work 75 or 80 hours a week instead of 100 or 120.” Bursting at the seams, Sweetlife is already outgrowing the original location, which can only sit 12 people inside, with the owner hoping for now to expand the outdoor sitting area.

One thing that Sweetlife customers may not know is that Lori Anna takes requests.  Using these as an opportunity to try out a new product, Lori Anna constantly tries out new recipes to see what her other customer may like.

It’s hard to tell what the future will bring for this busy local bakery, but it appears that the savory items are next on the menu.  Already making delicious pinwheels with fresh basil, tomato, caramelized onion and bacon, Lori Anna hopes to get into pasta soon.  In the meantime, her custom cakes are gaining in popularity, as the shows such as “Cake Boss” introduced all of us to the possibilities of what can happen when an artist meets a baker.  Lori Anna is excited about getting into the custom cake business, and has recently made a cake in the shape of a diaper bag, per customer request.

Her loyal customer base stretches as far as Madison, Rockton, Williams Bay and Rockford with many loyal customers who live in Janesville but go out of town for work or to visit friends. On their way out, they stop to pick up treats and the word about this delicious Janesville gem continues to spread.