Good news, beer and some humor

Phil Anderson

“So keep fightin’ for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don’t you forget to have fun doin’ it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce.” Molly Ivins, journalist and satirist.

Once in a while there is good news. After four awful years it is good to have have something positive to report. Once in while our fractured politics produces some progress. Once in awhile we need a little humor. We need to have some fun mixed with our activism. Here are a few more positive stores that provide some hope and a few laughs.

For those of you from Wisconsin, there is a primary election coming up Feb. 16. I know this doesn’t sound like “good news” given the turmoil and burnout from the last election. But there is a positive side to this one. Plus all elections are important and voters need to pay attention to even minor elections.

The primary is for non-partisan candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction. The two winners will advance to the April 6 general election. The good news is that voters have a field of candidates. This is a positive change from the all too frequent limited selection and “lesser-of-evils” options presented to voters. Seven candidates are on the ballot. Five of them have extensive teaching and school administration experience.

This will require Wisconsin voters to do their homework. There are important issues about school funding and support for private school voucher programs. Campaign financing is also an issue. Campaigns are expensive and one candidate, Deborah Kerr, is receiving $5,000 donations. This raises the question about what big money donors expect in return from her.

Fortunately there is a good one-stop place to help you evaluate candidates and make your choice.

The Wisconsin Public Education Network (WPEN) has a web page listing all the candidates, links to their campaign website, responses to a candidate questionnaire, and a link to information from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign on each candidate’s financial support. There is also a video sponsored by WPEN and the League of Women Voters where you can see the candidates talk about their vision for Wisconsin Schools. Just Google “Wisconsin Superintendent Election HQ 2021.”

The candidates are:

• Jill Underly, superintendent of Pecatonica School District with 22 years of teaching experience. She strongly opposes school vouchers and is endorsed by Wisconsin Education Association Council (the largest teachers union).
• Deborah Kerr, former school superintendent in Brown Deer and 40 years of teaching and administrative experience. She has raised the most money.
• Sheila Briggs, an assistant state superintendent at DPI with 30 years teaching experience. She is the 2nd highest recipient of campaign money.
• Troy Gunderson, 35 years as a teacher, principal, and district administrator. Currently adjunct professor at Viterbo University in LaCrosse.
• Shandowlyon Hendricks-Williams, 25 years of experience in public, priv-ate, charter and higher education and former Assistant Director with DPI. She supports school vouchers.
• Joe Fenrick, a Fond du Lac high school science teacher and lecturer at UW Oshkosh Fond du Lac campus.
• Steve Krull, principal of Milwaukee’s Garland Elementary School and former teacher and Air Force instructor.

On the issue of affordable housing, progress is being made in Duluth. One Roof Community Housing recently received $1,000,000 federal grant to help build low-income housing. Plans are to build a 52-unit apartment complex, with 26 units specified for homeless youth, and 10 units prioritized for members of the Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe. In addition they are currently building a 42 unit building with designated “affordable” units that is scheduled to be completed this fall.

These projects will not solve all the housing problems. They won’t end homelessness. But it is progress in the right direct. It shows that solutions are possible when people come together to make it happen.
In Wisconsin there is good news on the pandemic. The seven-day average for new infections is down and has been slowly declining since November. The number of tests given is up and the number of people testing positive is declining. More than 500,000 people have received the first vaccination shot and more than 100,000 have had both. But there is still a long way to go. At the current rate of vaccinations it will take months to get everyone vaccinated.

Despite progress it is not time to stop talking protective measures. People are still dying. As of Feb. 4, 5,992 people in Wisconsin have died from COVID.

There are still too many people refusing to abide by the recommended safety precautions. It is especially as-tounding that Republican legislators are encouraging this bad behavior. This week they voted to override all the medical advice and end Governor Evers’ stateside mask mandate. This is simply irresponsible. Their childish “I-don’t-wanna-you-can’t-make-me” behavior is killing people.

On the national scene it is refreshing to have adult leadership again. In Minoqua, a Wisconsin creative small business owner is celebrating in traditional Wisconsin style – with BEER.

Kirk Bangstad, owner of Minocqua Brewing Company, is rejoicing in the Biden/Harris victory, and having some fun doing it, with new craft beers.

Bangstad’s first creation was Biden Beer, a kõlsch he described as “inoffensive and not bitter.”

The first batch sold out in three days, a sign he said of “how much progressives needed to celebrate.” Biden Beer was, “Guaranteed not to overstay its welcome in your fridge.”

Then came Inauguration Day Beer – “A peaceful transition of flavor.” And now he has Kamala Beer.
“, la” beer is a “strong vice-presidential stout.” The name comes from how Kamala explained how to pronounce her name – “comma la.” The picture on the can shows an all business Kamala Harris walking with the shadow of 6-year-old Ruby Bridges from the 1964 Normal Rockwell picture of Ruby being escorted to school by federal marshals.

This image was created by California artist Bria Goeller. Ms. Goeller says she created the image to inspire young women. It certainly is an inspiring image for women. It is also a powerful statement of how all our success is built on the struggles of those who came before us.

So let’s take Molly Ivins advice – crack open a cool one, have some fun, and celebrate.

But let’s also remember democracy requires continuous participation by citizens. Like “women’s work,” it is never done.