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Local forum discusses future of Wisconsin’s market

By Julie Schneider
On November 1, 2011

Jobs were the focus at the AFL-CIO sponsored non-partisan open forum, held on Monday, Oct. 24 in the Ward Room of the Cartwright Center. The questions and topics discussed by a broad span of local citizens of La Crosse brought even greater issues to the table. Five representatives from the greater La Crosse area were eager to listen and answer the tough questions that were presented to them.

Senator Jennifer Shilling of the 32nd Senate District, Representative Chris Danou of the 91st Assembly District, Representative Steve Doyle of the 94th Assembly District, La Crosse County Supervisor Jill Billings, who is also running for the representative spot in the 95th Assembly District and Pastor Ellen Rasmussen of Wesley United Method Church made up the panel with Tara Johnson, the Chair of the La Crosse County Board filling in for the start of the forum for Senator Shilling. Joe Heim, a political science professor was the mediator for the event.

Topics included  student financial aid for secondary education, and the issues students are facing with debt. This encompasses their lives along with Medicaid and BadgerCare along with questions of how the major corporations are going to be held accountable and penalized for not creating jobs were all discussed.

A UW-L Junior with plans to go to law school after graduating wants to stay here, but he feels like he won't be able to because of Governor Scott Walker implementing budget cuts and hindering financial aid for college students. Representative Chris Danou feels that the understanding of what the long-term economic growth that education in general brings to a community needs to happen. He expressed that cuts, whether short-term or long-term are not the right thing. Jules Teskie graduated with a field conservation biology degree from Luther College in Decorah, IA, and came to La Crosse to start her career at the United States Fish and Wildlife Center in the Fish Center area in Onalaska. Due to budget cuts she was laid off and now works as a graphic designer. She was told that her bachelor's degree was not good enough and she had to go to graduate school in order to continue her career. She was already in debt and was constantly losing money, but pursued something that she was passionate about. She asked the panel what can be done to try and change this situation that so many young adults are being presented with. Schilling stated that there is a disconnect between the business community and the education system and that needs to change.

Danou presented the idea of universities pushing for the idea of advising the broader fields, such as student majoring in history to enroll in a technical college in order to be more marketable. Both Doyle and Shilling feel that investing in technical schools and non-traditional ways of education create graduates who are more marketable and may become more marketable than four-year university.

A major point when discussing jobs that pay only minimum wage that Pastor Rasmussen brought up was that there needs to be a change in concept from minimum wage to living wage. The panel agreed that their needs to be a cultural change we need to take back the attitude that teachers are important to our community and we need to value educators and the education system. What has been going on is so wrong we need to shift how we view wealth along with how we view people. Danou feels that we need to start having empathy people and be done with mean spirited attacks on non-wealthy people.

Another important idea presented by a community member is that he feels that there is no moral backing in working and he doesn't understand why people are working jobs that they hate. He wants to figure out why there is such a push for 40-hour jobs rather than 20-hour jobs in our society. Investing in infrastructure in order to create jobs received a solid yes response from the entire panel. Closing comments from the panel consisted of engaging in conversation and talking is what we need to continue to do.


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