Rock Democrats issue State of Rock County

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Friday, January 27, 2012
— A core group of the local Democratic Party faithful gathered late Thursday afternoon in a chilly mist to issue a report on what was called the declining state of Rock County under Gov. Scott Walker.

The event, billed as "The State of Rock County," was organized by United Auto Workers Local 95 as a response to Walker's State of the State speech Wednesday.

Speakers representing the employed, unemployed and underemployed, told a crowd of about 40 outside the Rock County Job Center that Walker's first year in office had resulted in attacks on women and children, threats to education and a declining jobs base.

A local Republican Party official said the event amounted to an attempt to obstruct job growth.

Milton Alderwoman Anissa Welch, a Rock County juvenile probation officer, said Walker's attack on collective bargaining and public employees amounted to an attack on women and children in Rock County.

"In Rock County, 70 percent of local government workers are women," she said. "We are not going to stand for it.

"Gov. Walker, we are handing you a pink slip and an eviction notice from that mansion in Maple Bluff," she said. "And to all of you here today, I'll see you at the polls."

Saying he was "permanently laid off" as a forklift operator five days before Christmas last month, Luis Castillo Jr. wondered out loud what Walker had in store for him.

"Gov. Walker says he's creating jobs," Castillo said. "I've been looking, and I keep looking. My wife is working three jobs to keep us afloat, but where, Gov. Walker, is my job?"

Even those public employees who have jobs have seen their professions and their working conditions deteriorate, said Melissa Rohrbeck of Janesville, a teacher in Beloit. She said she's unsure about the educational opportunities for her 2-year-old daughter.

"It is difficult to think that I may send her to school as a 5-year-old in a classroom with no cap on the class size or with decreased support," she said. "It scares me to death to think that my child will be a product of public education in Walker's Wisconsin."

A Janesville Parker High School teacher for nearly 40 years said "ill-conceived" budget cuts by Walker have hit his school hard in ways the general public may not see.

"For example, we have one of the best choral departments in the state that was built under the direction of Jan Knutson and Brian Knutson," Trygve Danielson said. "Brian, who holds a doctorate, is no longer there due to budget cuts.

"The teaching staff in that department has, in effect, been cut in half," he said. "That has a direct negative impact on students and their education."

Jason Mielke, chairman of the Republican Party of Rock County, was critical of the event.

"The gathering in a parking lot outside the job center is symbolic of their campaign to deny Wisconsin employment opportunities by obstructing the Republican pro jobs agenda," Mielke said.

Marcia Knutson of Janesville attended the event. She's working part-time cleaning while she attends Upper Iowa University.

"I want to work in the criminal justice field," she said. "I'm working on a degree and working part-time after losing a good job with benefits in November 2009. I'm at the job center every week, but there are no jobs unless you have a degree and two years experience. I hear Gov. Walker say he's creating jobs for us, but I don't see them."

Attending the event but not speaking were Janesville City Councilman Sam Liebert and Deb Kolste, former Janesville School Board member. Kolste is a Democratic candidate in the 44th Assembly District. Liebert announced he is considering entering the 44th Assembly District race as a Democrat.

Listening to the speeches was longtime Democratic activist Ten Kinneman of Janesville. He said he's not personally hurt by Walker's budget, but he feels compelled to support those who have been.

"I'm here out of a sense of concern," Kinneman said. "I feel strongly that we all need to stand with the people who have been harmed by this far right-wing governor."

Last updated: 7:14 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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