“The People Have Spoken.” Now What?

Ever since Wisconsin voted to enshrine discrimination against gay families in its constitution, conservatives usually respond to the subject with the  same mantra, ‘€œthe people have spoken.’€ So it seems odd that many of those very same conservatives have conveniently forgotten that line of reasoning concerning the many progressive referendums that passed all over the state on Tuesday.

City of Milwaukee voters overwhelmingly approved a requirement that employers provide paid sick days to all workers. The paid sick day referendum was passed with a whopping 68 percent of the vote. Can someone on the right say mandate? Instead, we can expect to hear only complaints and insults from the right about voters in the state’€™s largest city. Many of them will likely support the protracted legal battle that is being promised by the business elites in Milwaukee. Even though such a massive majority of the people have spoken, conservatives appear content in ignoring their voices and burning tax dollars on needless lawsuits.

Health care reform has long been a top issue in our state and across the nation. In 2006, many communities across the state passed referendums calling on the state legislature to act on the issue. At that time, I contended that the call for health care reform very well could have been a major issue in flipping control in the state senate. Once again, on November 4, many people voted on similar referendums all across the state again.

Some 22 counties and cities across the state approved advisory referenda calling for real health care reform. Specifically they called on lawmakers to guarantee affordable health care, that’€™s comparable to their own coverage, by the end of 2009. The average margin of victory was 74 percent, with the highest being an amazing 88 percent! Despite the commentary by some, meaningful health care reform is far from a dead issue and at least 411,000 people all across the state are demanding action on real health care reform.

Although it was much closer, a majority of Milwaukee County voters also endorsed the idea of a small rise in the sales tax to help pay for parks, transit, EMS services and other critical services while also delivering much needed property tax relief. As much as he would like to, Scott Walker can’€™t simply ignore or explain away this outcome. Quality of life and common sense solutions are very important to the people of Milwaukee County.

In all of these issues the people have spoken, and in almost every case, they have done so with a very strong progressive voice. The only question left to ask is how will public officials now respond to these clear calls for reform? An increasingly engaged public will wait for only a short time as they observe the responsiveness of their elected officials. The time for stalling is over, the people have spoken and now is the time for action and accountability.

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