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Erik Daily 

Matt Boshcka is opening David Reay's Modern Diner and Tavern at the corner of Second Ave. and Main Street in Onalaska.

Self defense and rape prevention class in West Salem stresses escape as top priority

WEST SALEM — Master Matthew Reardon cuts an imposing figure.

Broad shouldered and muscular at 6-foot-1 and 260 pounds, the martial arts professional is twice as heavy as of 5-foot-4 Kyla Delaney, and yet the petite 20-year-old showed no hesitation as she lunged at a masked and padded Reardon, striking, kneeing and shouting with abandon.

“It hurts,” Reardon said, catching his breath. “Even with the pads.”

Delaney and six other women, most of them college age, had plenty of opportunities to unleash their strength on the instructor of 30 years, who led the group through a four-hour self-defense and rape prevention course Saturday afternoon.


Matthew Reardon teaches how to get away from an attacker during a women's self defense and rape prevention seminar.

A&C Martial Arts owner Angela Davidson partnered with Delaney on choke holds, hits and simple but effective maneuvers to block and escape an attacker.

“You have two seconds to explode,” Reardon said of fighting back. “Do whatever you can to get your attacker to flinch, then run.”

While some self-defense classes take the approach of attacking back, Reardon stresses the opposite approach

“Our whole point of today is not to create fighters out of you,” Reardon told the class. “Just get away. Get away — fight another day.”

Davidson and Reardon have created similar incarnations of the course for several years but added in the rape prevention element in light of the increased awareness of sexual assault both on and off campus in recent years. One in four college students and one in five high school students will be the victim of sexual assault, and a rape occurs on average in the U.S. every 2.4 minutes.

“Today’s society is scary,” Reardon said. “With all the stuff in the news about all the sexual assaults, we wanted to get in front of that so they know how to protect themselves.”

Along with learning and practicing movements to either block, stall or stun an assailant, called reactive techniques, Reardon covered proactive skills, the first defense against an attack. Students are taught to follow the SAFETY method: secure your home and car, avoid unsafe situations and strangers, flee, engage your attacker (physically), think (plan ahead and be aware), and you are responsible for your own safety.

Reardon also stresses trusting your gut, causing a scene if you are fearful for your safety and remaining vigilant of one’s surroundings — texting and listening to music on headphones provide perfect distractions for an attacker.

“Lock your car, don’t walk in alleys — this is stuff you can keep in mind for everybody,” said Delaney, who has taken a previous class with Reardon and helped demonstrate holds and grabs. “You can always learn more, practice more. We (train) in some of those positions we might find ourselves in (during an assault). I feel like if I were to get into a situation like that I would be more physically and mentally prepared for the situation.”

In order to make the course as effective as possible, students were paired off to mimic attacking and defending each other in common assault positions, including being pushed onto their backs or grabbed from behind. In most situations, victims find themselves both smaller and weaker than the attacker, further disadvantaged by the element of surprise. It is possible to hurt them, Reardon said, but you won’t be able to stop them.

Students are taught to use the anything at their disposal with the least amount of movement and exertion to create a window to flee. A rear choke hold can push someone into unconsciousness in around six seconds. If the attacker has you pinned on your back, scissoring your arms around the neck, pulling on a shirt collar and pushing away with your thighs can be an effective method for shifting power.

“When you’re standing you have a 360-degree environment to move around in,” Reardon said. “When you’re on your back its only 180 degrees. You have less strength, and you have to work with that.”

Reardon has had former students contact him, sharing potentially dangerous situations in which his techniques protected them, from simply trusting their instincts to screaming to attract attention. However, he stresses one course is not enough and refreshers are essential. Should your mind go blank, run.

“You are not trying to win a fit,” Reardon emphasized. “You are trying to escape.”

Wisconsin Gubernatorial Race
Governor's race: Democrats try to differentiate themselves through priorities

The Democrats vying to challenge Gov. Scott Walker share many similar priorities, but there are also notable differences emerging as they try to find a lane that will power them to the nomination.

At a Madison forum last month where candidates were asked to name their top three budget priorities, Mayor Paul Soglin was the only candidate who mentioned affordable housing, which he listed as his top priority.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers and former Democratic Party chairman Matt Flynn were the only ones who mentioned cutting taxes among their top three issues.

Sen. Kathleen Vinehout was the only one who mentioned funding for the Department of Natural Resources while Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin president Mahlon Mitchell was the only one who cited transportation and infrastructure. (Later, in response to questions about their top three priorities from the Wisconsin State Journal, Rep. Dana Wachs mentioned transportation and Evers mentioned protecting natural resources.)

Wachs, former Rep. Kelda Roys and Milwaukee businessman Andy Gronik emphasized various strategies for job creation, while former Wisconsin Democracy Campaign executive director Mike McCabe highlighted bringing broadband Internet to the entire state.

All of the candidates mentioned education, health care or both among their top three priorities.

Even Gov. Scott Walker, through a spokeswoman, said education and health care would be his top two priorities in the 2019-21 budget, followed by cutting taxes, which has been a top concern in all four of his previous budgets.

The emphasis on education and health care is not surprising given publicly available polls have suggested those topics are the top two issues for voters.

A January survey by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling asked 747 likely Democratic voters to name the most important issue for the next governor and listed five issues. The top response was health care (29 percent), followed by education (23 percent), environmental issues (17 percent), jobs and the economy (14 percent), transportation and road funding (9 percent) and something else (9 percent). The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

Education and health care also registered as the top two budget priorities in a Marquette Law School Poll in June of 800 registered voters, not just Democrats, with a margin of error of +/-4.5 percentage points. Asked to pick from a list of issues in the state budget, 37 percent said K-12 education was most important, 25 percent said health coverage, 23 percent said road construction and maintenance, 5 percent said state aid to local government, 4 percent said prisons and criminal justice and 3 percent said the University of Wisconsin System.

“Walker has himself moved to shore up his standing on these issues with new K-12 spending in the budget and new health care initiatives this year,” said Marquette poll director Charles Franklin. “So it seems both parties can read the polls.”

Marina Dmitrijevic, executive director of the liberal Wisconsin Working Families Party, which has partnered with the Sen. Bernie Sanders-affiliated Our Wisconsin Revolution to host a series of candidate forums and identify top issues for Democratic voters, said preliminary results of a non-scientific online survey have found health care and environmental protection are the top two issues among more 500 respondents.

Dmitrijevic said with so many candidates lining up to run, voters are having a difficult time sifting and winnowing through the group to figure out which candidate they will ultimately support.

“What you’re seeing right now is every one of these candidates is trying to find their niche,” she said. “And each one of them has something to offer. They all speak to a different group.”

Priorities show positioning

Mike Wagner, a UW-Madison journalism professor who studies political messaging, said the priorities identified by the candidates reveal how they are trying to position themselves among the various Democratic voting constituencies. With so many candidates, the winner could have a low percentage of the overall vote by solidifying support among a handful of active groups.

Evers, by citing middle class tax cuts, shows he is already looking ahead to courting general election voters, Wagner said. Others, such as Vinehout mentioning the DNR and Mitchell talking about roads and infrastructure, are appealing to specific subsets of primary voters — environmentalists and union workers.

Soglin, in emphasizing housing, is focusing on his experience as a mayor and the economic success of Madison, Wagner said.

“That’s a real challenge since the governor has spent so many years pitting Madison against the rest of the state,” Wagner said.

Soglin said in an interview housing is his top priority because without it families in the state can’t be successful.

Soglin said the state needs to establish its own low-income housing tax credit program available to all cities. Most developers rely on federal credits administered through the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. He also wants to re-establish a Department of Development that would advise smaller communities on where to build affordable housing as part of his housing first focus.

Evers is calling for targeting tax cuts at the middle class, specifically in the form of tax credits to help families with childcare costs. Flynn would eliminate a tax credit to manufacturers and farmers to reduce taxes on middle- and low-income people, including property taxes.

McCabe is proposing “debt-free education” by lowering college tuition so that students can cover costs by working while in school, increasing state funding for higher education and paying for it with higher taxes on the wealthy and taxes on legalized marijuana. The extra revenue would also support a priority that others didn’t list in the top three — boosting broadband Internet funding by as much as $200 million a year, a concern in almost every county in the state.

Vinehout, who drafted her own alternative budget to Walker’s proposal, wants to offer free tuition at technical colleges and two-year University of Wisconsin System campuses and pay for it by repealing the manufacturing portion of a tax credit that mostly eliminates tax liability for manufacturers and farmers.

Gronik, Roys and Wachs all want to spur business growth, but with slightly different focuses. Wachs mentioned supporting minority and women-owned businesses, Roys emphasized making the state a leader in clean energy jobs, and Gronik noted that while others plan to remove funding from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., he wants to convert it into the Wisconsin Jobs Department.

Mitchell is one of several candidates calling for making Badger Care available to all residents. He also called for making Wisconsin’s roads No. 1 in the nation.

“What you’re seeing right now is every one of these candidates is trying to find their niche. And each one of them has something to offer. They all speak to a different group.” Marina Dmitrijevic, executive director
of the liberal Wisconsin Working Families Party

Supreme Court appears set to strike down union fees on free speech grounds

WASHINGTON (TNS) — Paying union dues and baking a wedding cake may not seem like classic examples of free speech — except perhaps at the Supreme Court.

This year, the high court is poised to announce its most significant expansion of the First Amendment since the Citizens United decision in 2010, which struck down laws that limited campaign spending by corporations, unions and the very wealthy.

Now the “money is speech” doctrine is back and at the heart of a case to be heard this month that threatens the financial foundation of public employee unions in 22 blue states.

Like Citizens United, the union case is being closely watched for its potential to shift political power in states and across the nation.

The legal attack on the campaign funding laws was brought by conservative activists who hoped that the free flow of money from wealthy donors would boost Republican candidates. And since 2010, the GOP has achieved big gains in Congress and in state legislatures across the nation.

Conservatives also believe the attack on mandatory union fees has the potential to weaken the public sector unions that are strong supporters of the Democratic Party.

“This is a big deal,” Illinois’ Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner said in September on the day the Supreme Court said it would hear the lawsuit that he initiated. A court victory would be “transformative for the state of Illinois, transformative for America and the relationship between our taxpayers and the people who work for our taxpayers.”

Still pending before the high court is the case of the baker from Colorado who says he has a free speech right as a Christian to refuse to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. A ruling in his favor would carve out a religious freedom exemption to the civil rights laws in the 21 states that require businesses open to the public to provide full and equal service to all, including gays and lesbians.

At issue in the union case is whether public employees can be required to pay a fee to cover the cost of collective bargaining and resolving grievances, even if they have personal objections to the union.

In 28 states, “right to work” laws prohibit contracts that require employees to join or support a union. In recent years, formerly strong union states including Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana adopted such laws.

But in 22 other states, including California, New York and Pennsylvania as well as Illinois, the law allows employees to form a union which in turn has a legal duty to represent all the employees.

In those states, school boards, transit districts, police departments and state agencies may negotiate contracts that require all workers — even those who do not join the union — to pay a so-called “fair share fee” for the benefits they would receive along with union members, such as higher pay scales.

More than 40 years ago, the Supreme Court gave this arrangement its constitutional blessing. The justices set out a middle position in the case of the case of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. They said public employees have a free speech right to opt out of paying the full dues to a union if some of the money is spent for political contributions or lobbying. However, the court said, they may be required to pay a lesser fee to support the union’s workplace activities. Otherwise, “free riders” could benefit from a better contract, but pay nothing.

The Illinois lawsuit asks the court to overturn the Abood decision and strike down forced union fees nationwide.

Soon after taking office in 2015, Rauner had tried to block union fees through an executive order, and when that failed, he filed a suit in federal court contending the payments were unconstitutional.

Illinois’ Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan intervened to defend the state’s labor law, and a judge ruled the governor had no standing since he was not paying the fees. But the suit continued after his lawyers substituted as a plaintiff Mark Janus, a child support specialist. He works for a state agency in Springfield and objects to the $45 fee he pays each month to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The union “takes political positions that he doesn’t support. They advocate for more spending and higher taxes,” said Jacob Huebert, a lawyer for the Liberty Justice Center who represents Janus.

For its part, AFSCME called the case “a political attack on the freedoms of working people by the same corporate billionaires and corporate interests that have for years rigged our economy and politics in their own favor.”

Rauner’s challenge to union fees is likely to win favor from the court’s five more conservative justices, all of them Republican appointees. Two years ago, the court was set to strike down mandatory union fees in a case brought by a California schoolteacher. But the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia left the court split 4 to 4.

Once Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, appointed by President Trump, was confirmed to fill Scalia’s seat, the court said it would decide the union fees issue in the case from Illinois.

“I’m highly confident” about the outcome, Rauner said in December. “With Gorsuch at the Supreme Court, we believe we will prevail.”

Union leaders see the case as a well-funded political attack on public employees. “This is about power. They are attacking us because we fight for a better life for working people,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. They say they are reasonably confident members will continue to pay their dues, even if they are no longer required to do so.

Beyond politics, however, the legal question before the court is whether requiring public employees to pay a fee to a union to cover the cost of collective bargaining amounts to “compelled speech” that violates the First Amendment.

For most of American history, government employees did not have protected rights under the Constitution. The justices often cite Oliver Wendell Holmes’ comment in 1892 that a policeman “may have a constitutional right to talk politics, but he has no constitutional right to be policeman.”

It was not until the late 1960s when the court first held that public employees had free speech rights, but only when they were speaking as citizens on a matter of public concern. The justices ruled unanimously in 1968 for Marvin Pickering, an Illinois schoolteacher who was fired for sending a letter to the editor of a local newspaper that was critical of the school board.

But the court has insisted public employees do not have rights to speak out about problems in the workplace. In 2006, the court said the First Amendment does not generally protect government whistleblowers from being punished or demoted. In that case, Garcetti v. Ceballos, the court ruled 5-4 against a Los Angeles county lawyer who said he was demoted for having revealed a police officer may have supplied false information in a search warrant. The court’s conservatives sided with their employer. “A government entity has broader discretion to restrict speech when it acts in its role as employer,” and a public employee “must accept certain limitations on his or her freedom,” wrote Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.

Harvard law professor Charles Fried, the U.S. solicitor general under President Ronald Reagan, filed a brief in the union case questioning how the court could say the First Amendment protects public employees from paying a union fee, but not for speaking out about problems in an agency.

Meanwhile, several prominent First Amendment scholars with conservative credentials filed briefs questioning the premise that union fees involve speech.

“We think this is not compelled speech. It’s a compelled payment of money,” said UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh. He noted lawyers, doctors and other licensed professionals are required by state laws to pay fees for continuing education classes, including on topics some may oppose.

The Supreme Court upheld mandatory bar dues for lawyers in 1990, relying on the Abood decision. And in 2000, the court rejected a free speech challenge to the required student fees at state universities. Conservative students at the University of Wisconsin had sued, contending they should not be forced to subsidize left-leaning speakers and student groups.

But Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. has made clear he thinks the Abood decision must go. It conflicts with the “bedrock principle that, except perhaps in the rarest of circumstances, no person in this country may be compelled to subsidize speech by a third party that he or she does not wish to support,” he wrote.

Alito, President George W. Bush’s second appointee, played a key role in the Citizens United case. Before his arrival in 2006, the court with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor had upheld the McCain-Feingold Act and its limits on campaign money. But when Alito replaced her, he helped form the 5-4 majority that struck down a series of campaign laws on free speech grounds.

He then targeted public sector unions. In 2012, he wrote the court’s opinion in a California case called Knox v. SEIU involving refunds for employees who did not want to pay for the union’s political spending. In that ruling, he questioned the Abood decision and sympathized with employees who would “prefer to keep their own money rather than subsidizing the political agenda of a state-favored union.”

His words in turn prompted lawyers for the National Right to Work Foundation to challenge Abood directly. They sued on behalf of home care workers in Illinois, but fell just short in 2014 in the case of Harris v. Quinn. Alito wrote a long opinion casting doubt on the Abood precedent, but the 5-4 majority decided only that the home care workers were not true state employees.

The four liberal justices, all Democratic appointees, dissented, and noted that thousands of union contracts in more than 20 states rely on the principles set in Abood.

Anti-union advocates tried again in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, but fell short again because of Scalia’s death. The justices will hear Janus v. AFSCME on Feb. 26, expecting this time to finally resolve the dispute.

“This is about power. They are attacking us because we fight for a better life for working people.” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers

“This is a big deal. (A court victory would be) transformative for the state of Illinois, transformative for America and the relationship between our taxpayers and the people who work for our Gov. Bruce Rauner, R-Illinois