Citizen Action Weekend E Newsletter, July 28th – 30th
Reading Recommendation: Why Do Costa Ricans Live Longer than Americans?
As part of our staff’s continuous political education, we explored the Costa Rican healthcare system as a potential model for healthcare in Milwaukee and beyond. The article that sparked our discussion, “Costa Ricans Live Longer Than We Do. What’s the Secret?” describes Costa Rica’s transformational, low-cost strategy for creating equitable and impressive health outcomes.
Costa Rica, despite being significantly less wealthy than the U.S, has managed to achieve a life expectancy approaching 81 years (it’s 79 in the U.S.) They’ve done it using a unique, public-health focused model.
This prevention-focused approach is based on meeting people where they are (literally, going to their homes at least once a year). Costa Rica’s story shows universal healthcare is most effective when tied to a public health strategy that involves building relationships and creating trust.
In Costa Rica, teams of medical providers visit each home 1-3 times per year. These visits are free. The teams include a doctor, a nurse and a community liaison who has roots in the neighborhood.
This strategy helps people build trusting relationships with providers. Everyone has an approachable, zero-cost way to get quality information or early intervention. This keeps people out of hospitals, bringing down healthcare costs and sparing people from unneeded suffering.
The Costa Rican model demonstrates the power of a healthcare system that prioritizes prevention and public health. It shows us what happens when a country invests in the health of its people–not just in treating illnesses, but in using a door-to-door strategy to prevent them.
As we consider the future of healthcare in Milwaukee and beyond, can we look to Costa Rica’s example? How could we implement a prevention-focused approach that meets people where they are, builds trust, and creates equitable improvements in health outcomes? What would this type of model look like in your community, or in your neighborhood?
Robin Vos is wrong: Racism is the problem, not DEI
Guest Column by Citizen Action Board member Michael Rosen.
This originally appeared in the Wisconsin Examiner
Door County’s website invites visitors to “Explore Summer Adventures,” conjuring visions of fish boils, Lake Michigan summers, ice cream and Al Johnson’s goats at Wisconsin’s most famous summer vacation spot. But in this historical moment when the nation’s commitment to addressing racial inequality is under assault, my memories of Door County are much less idyllic.
In the late ‘80s my sister rented a house in Ephraim on the shores of Eagle Harbor. It would be a weekend away from Milwaukee for uncles, aunts and six cousins, her kids and mine.
That changed when my 12-year-old son, Jesse, the oldest of the cousins, came running into the house. He looked like he’d seen a ghost. He’d been to Wilson’s, Door County’s iconic ice cream parlor, and had seen a can of tobacco on the counter behind the cash register that was branded with a racial slur.
We walked back to Wilson’s. It was packed. Prominently displayed behind the counter was a tobacco can with a caricature of a grinning black woman, big hair, thick lips, oversized nose and earrings.
I approached the cash register. Firmly, but politely I asked that the tobacco can be removed, explaining that it was offensive. “No, I won’t do that,” responded the man behind the counter who quickly went back to serving other customers. I repeated my request more forcefully. Again, it was denied.
What to do? My son is Black. I, like many Jews who grew up in the shadow of World War II and the Holocaust, had been taught at an early age that silence in the face of hatred and discrimination was unacceptable. I wanted my children to grow up being proud of who they are and knowing that bigotry must be challenged and confronted.
I raised my voice so everyone in Wilson’s would hear that the owner was refusing to remove the racist tobacco can sitting on his shelf with other artifacts. The store grew silent. All eyes turned on the tobacco can, the owner and me. There was no backing down. I said, “Get rid of the damn can, now!” I could see customers were becoming increasingly uncomfortable. Sales would be lost. Again, I demanded the can be removed and it finally was.
I turned to Jesse and told him we would get no ice cream today, not from Wilson’s now or ever. We walked out of the building.
A couple of weeks ago I asked Jesse, now in his mid-40s, if he remembered what happened that day, because some of the details had faded for me (including thinking the tobacco can was a coffee can). “I remember everything clearly, as if it happened yesterday,” Jesse replied, “including the name and image on the can. Every detail including the earrings! I will never forget that day.”
Jesse’s memory was accurate, confirmed by a quick internet search which revealed yet another Wisconsin connection. The B. Leidersdorf Company of Milwaukee began producing the tobacco with the racist name in 1878. Its founder and owner, Bernhardt Leidersdorf, was a Milwaukee Republican alderman (1880-1881) and public debt commissioner (1905-1906). Evidently racist marketing didn’t hurt his reputation or political ambitions.
The brand was later purchased by the Virginia-based American Tobacco Company. But the lithographed can containing the tobacco continued to be produced by Leidersdorf into the 1960s. While the name was changed to “Bigger Hair” in the early 1940s in response to the emerging civil rights movement, the racist image remained with the addition of the words “Fiji Woman” to the left of the picture.
Leidersdorf’s tobacco and can and the confrontation at Wilson’s are reminders of racism’s deep roots in Wisconsin despite Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ absurd declaration that getting rid of diversity, equity and inclusion is “the single most important issue we are facing.” Perhaps Vos has forgotten that the nation’s top law enforcement officials have declared that the “biggest domestic terror threat comes from white supremacists,” or about the racially motivated massacres in Charleston, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, El Paso and Uvalde and the murders of George Floyd, Briana Taylor and countless others.
A report from the UWM Center for Economic Development concludes, “No metropolitan area ranks as consistently poorly, across the board, on indicators of Black community well-being as Milwaukee does.” It is why Milwaukee earned its reputation as the “Selma of the North” in the 1960s.
Just three years ago Black Lives Matter marches in Milwaukee and across the state, including the Door County community of Sister Bay, gave communities a breath of fresh air by confronting systemic racism in criminal justice, income, employment, housing, and medical care in Wisconsin. Vos’ culture war attacks on the University of Wisconsin system and minority student access indicate how far we have to go.
While the Wisconsin Department of Tourism invites us to explore the state and Door County welcomes us, neither will be possible for all the state’s citizens until Wisconsin addresses its systems of racial disparity and accepts its Black citizens as equals. It is incumbent upon all of us to confront racial bigotry whenever and wherever it manifests itself.
Green Bay Clean Energy Open House was a big success!
The City of Green Bay’s Clean Energy open house saw a great turnout on Tuesday! Around 50 people came to learn more about the recommendations in the comprehensive energy plan, and there was a lot of positive feedback from residents. The next step is for the plan to be finalized and brought forward to the City Council, hopefully by the end of this year.
Read more about the recommendations.
Attend TruStage Workers Union March and Rally for a Fair Contract this Saturday, July 29th
9:00 AM – Meet at intersection of Dayton Street and State Street
9:30 AM – March around the Capitol
10:00 AM – Rally at Capitol Square
Donate to TruStage workers union strike fund for union members who would suffer financial duress by participating in a future strike. No employee should fear financial ruin for standing up for themselves and their coworkers in support of a fair and equitable contract!
Citizen Action in the News
Citizen Action’s Robert Kraig was on the Earl Ingram Radio Show to discuss the influence of dark money and the threat to democracy. Robert appears Wednesdays at 9 AM on Earl’s Show, which is broadcast on the rapidly growing Civic Media radio network.
Listen to this week’s interview here.
Listen to the “Hot Union Summer” Battleground Wisconsin Podcast
The hot union summer continued this week with the historic and game changing Teamsters victory over UPS (and their Wall Street backers). The breakthrough is part of an upsurge in labor activism across the nation. What does it mean and where will it lead? We dig in with a great Wisconsin example, an in-depth interview with Will Roberts from the TruStage workers union to discuss their intense battle for a fair contract. They have a major rally and march this Saturday, July 29th starting at 9 AM in Madison.
During this hot week, we ask what’s up with the climate justice agenda in Wisconsin? Following a state budget that saw the removal of Governor Evers’ top climate items by Legislative Republicans and a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story this week detailing how a year after its creation, the state’s Office of Environmental Justice remains largely dormant. What’s next in the fight to head off a climate cataclysm and create family supporting jobs? The Federal Reserve Bank increases rates again this week and shortly following the largest increase in voucher funding a conservative Christian foundation buys the Cardinal Stritch University campus where a new voucher school seems likely.
Listen to the show!