Celestine Jeffreys was my alderperson once upon a time. She did such a good job, and raised so many important issues that I was inspired to step into her shoes when she left city council and made a run for school board. During her tenure as alder, she never shied away from controversial matters, and was even interviewed on Fox News– not exactly friendly territory for a progressive official- when certain members of our council were posturing on immigration issues. Celestine was recently recognized as being a top African American leader in our state. She was the first black member of both our city council and our school board in Green Bay. She has also served as the diversity coordinator of our local Chamber of Commerce. I am happy she is the first to do an interview as a follow-up to my recent post about the reduction of early voting in our state’s most highly concentrated areas of university students, poor folks, and minorities.
1. You have been involved in public office life for about a decade now. In your view, how have Wisconsin politics changed since the inauguration of Governor Scott Walker in 2011?
Oh, yes, quite a bit! It seems that with the election of Governor Walker, voters and elected officials became nastier. The phrase Wisconsin nice really seemed to go out the window! I don’t know if these feelings were always there or if people simply changed because he was elected. I don’t believe any national media outlet has effectively covered how divided Wisconsinites became after Walker was elected.
2. It’s been about two years since the state legislative action to shut down components of early voting in Madison in Milwaukee. What is your view on the legislation- its motivations, its effects, how people have responded to it, etc.?
Early voting is great! In fact, we should just call it voting. As I always say, who is really available on a random Tuesday to cast a vote? This is a big, complex country, why shouldn’t we have two weeks to vote?! Now I’m off my soapbox. I don’t know how our legislature is motivated. They don’t seem to hold hearings, town hall meetings or listening sessions to find out what their constituents actually want. They always seem to be creating legislation in search of a problem. Taking into account similar actions from legislatures in other states, I would say they are motivated to keep people from the polls. Isn’t that terrible?
2. What are your thoughts on this year’s presidential election?
Yikes! This is the first year my sons can vote, so it’s special for me. I don’t think the outcome is predictable, which I suppose is exciting; the nomination could go all the way to either convention. Nevertheless, some candidates are truly frightening, and espouse noxious values. I hope they don’t win.
3. What are your hopes for our state and country over the next decade?
For our state, that we turn our heads toward the values that made Wisconsin a great place to live: fair and open government, outstanding public education, effective services, a sound infrastructure, beautiful parks and Wisconsin nice.
For our country, tend to the international issues while taking care of people. Not one Republican candidate talks about the disaster in Flint, Michigan. Instead they talk on and on about ISIS. Certainly ISIS is a problem, but isn’t lead-contaminated water a problem too?
To read more about Celestine, check out these articles from around the state:
Jeffrey’s Community Leadership Draws Raves; Green Bay Press-Gazette, 20015
Black Power: The 28 Most Influential African Americans in Wisconsin; Madison365, 2015
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