Proponents of the recall of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (r) have collected over 500,000 signatures toward their goal of 720,000 to initiate a recall election.
Yesterday afternoon we spoke by phone with Robin Transo, a volunteer working on the recall effort from Boscobel, Grant County, Wisconsin, in the southwestern part of the state:
…Show Me Progress: So, have you been working with a lot of volunteers?
Robin Transo: Yeah, we have, uh, we actually formed a coalition of, uh, Democrats and, uh, union workers and state workers and, uh, concerned citizens. So this coalition, uh, Grant County is a, uh, one of the largest counties in the state. We have quite a number of people, but, but a lot of farm lands and so, uh, we have to work the county from the southern part of the county, has to work one way because that’s where the university is, and a lot of the industry in our county. And then the northern part of the county, that’s where our vocational school is and a lot of farm, lot of farm people, a lot of poverty in the northern part of the county. Our county seat’s in, also in the northern part of the county. And it’s kind of a tough county because it’s, it’s sort of fifty-fifty. Uh, it’s really a, quite a Republican county in a lot of ways. But, um, they, all these volunteers get together and, and we’ve gotten our numbers. We’re, what we’re really trying to do now is achieve our seven hundred thousand, uh, signature mark out in all of these counties. And between Grant, Lafayette, and Iowa County we have nineteen hundred signatures to go to reach our seven hundred thousand signature goal.
Show Me Progress: What has been the reaction, um, in your community to this, to this, uh, to your [crosstalk]…
Robin Transo: Pretty split. Pretty split. You know, if, if you’re getting into the poorest part of the county, which is down by the Wisconsin River, uh, where there’s a lot of poverty along the river, you know, a lot of river people, um, just are poorer people. If you’re in those parts of the county then you get an incredible amount of support. If you’re in the part of the county where the county seat is, it’s, it’s pretty divided. Um, you know, you get some pretty angry people coming up to your recall areas and, and yet, you, you get, um, you also get people who are like, thank God, I didn’t know where to sign, you, you know, how, where, where do I sign? So, it depends on how these people have been impacted, you know, and I think, uh, this fallacy about, that our, our taxes are gonna go down is, they’re seeing now that that isn’t true. You know, this is tax time right now, where everybody’s getting their notifications on, on how their property taxes have been affected. Well, everybody I’ve talked to, their property taxes have gone up. And the reason for that, of course, is because our schools were slashed so deeply that you have to make it up some way, you know. And we still, the snow still falls, we still have to plow our roads, yet the counties have been cut. So, the only thing they can do is increase property taxes at the local level. And people are angry about that. I mean, I, I think under, had we stuck with the old tax formula, uh, their property taxes were due to go up by about fifty dollars. Well, our property taxes went up close to four hundred dollars in our township. And, and my husband went through the roof when he saw how that’s gonna change. But, our school di
strict was slashed by two hundred thousand dollars and we can’t afford to, to lose good teachers.
I should tell you all about how this is affecting our schools. And I, having been a teacher for twenty-one years, uh, I know that when you become a teacher that first five years of teaching you really need, in order to get you through, uh, to the point where you’re actually a good teacher and you don’t leave frustrated as a teacher, you need mentors. And those mentors are your older teachers. The people who’ve been there fifteen, twenty years are, are the best mentors. They know everything inside and out. They know how to discipline children the right way, they know how to teach, and they, they take your hand, so to speak, and, and they walk you through, uh, and teach you how to be a good teacher, you know. Our, our university systems, uh, teach you only so much, but experience takes you the rest of the way. Well, with all of these, these cuts in the state we lost so many good, experienced teachers. And now the schools are full brand new teachers that have to find their own way in their school system.
A lot of our special needs children, uh, special ed teachers have, have lost their jobs. So where do they put these special needs children? They put them in the classroom with, uh, inexperienced teachers that, and now the school systems can’t afford aides, so you have this inexperienced teacher with larger class sizes, uh, teaching a lot of special needs children and, and at the same time you have Governor walker who says, well, if these teachers don’t toe the line, and if their, if their, uh, children can’t prove that they can pass the test, then we’re gonna fire these, these teachers that, that can’t make it. You know, and they’re, they’re, it’s like totally pushed education into a corner.
And I, I really seriously feel that the reason that they’re doing that is so they can privatize schools in our state. Privatize, uh, our snow plowing, privatize everything and in the state. And, and what’s gonna keep the state from, from doing the same thing that [national anti-union chain store] does to its employees? Hire, hire everybody at minimum wage and then take ’em to a back room and sit down and say, this is how you apply for Badger Care and Medicaid, ’cause we’re not gonna pay you insurance to work here. You know, it, it’s going to make the middle class poorer and the rich richer. And pretty soon no one will be able to afford to send their children on to higher education so that they can get out of the hole because the, they’ve raised tuition in our, in our colleges. You know, it’s just totally, uh, it does not make any sense. You, you want your working people to have good insurance because if you don’t keep your workforce healthy who’s going to work? You know, you want people to be able to retire eventually because you want the young, new thinking people to be able to take over with new ideas and, but how can anyone afford to retire now? How can they afford to educate their children? It’s, I’m very frightened for my, uh, well, I don’t have any grandchildren, but if I did, I would be very frightened for my grandchildren, you know. I’m frightened for the children that are coming up through the schools right now. What options are they gonna have if their parents are poor? Very few. Very few options.
Show Me Progress: As, as you, uh, as you’ve gone through this process, and you touched on this, uh, a bit, you, you get, uh, somewhat mixed reactions from people depending on their viewpoint, uh, do you, do you hear recurring themes from, uh, people with either the positive or the, the negative views of what you’re doing?
Robin Transo: Well, the reoccurring themes seem to be what people are being told, you know, that this state was in dire straits, which I do not believe we were. You know, well, we had to do something. You know, and I say, well, sure, we all want to sit down and make concessions and our unions were willing to make concessions. We put on the table everything that the governor wanted. But he did not want to communicate. He just wanted to break the backs of the unions. And whether it was to privatize things or whether it was to make it more difficult for to, uh, for Democrat voters, or to have a support system, you know, whatever, whatever his reasons, uh, you know, I don’t think people truly understand, um. They think that, they think that our state was in dire straits and we had to do something and it’s hard to explain to people who aren’t keeping up with everything that’s happening in this state. That, that’s not the bottom, that’s not the bottom line, you know. We were willing to make concessions. He was not willing to make concessions.
You know, uh, he wants to, he wanted to pass that bill through. So nobody knew what was in the bill. He wanted to rush it through. So, most of the people in the State of Wisconsin didn’t realize that in that bill, hidden in that bill were things like, um, power plants, uh, wanting, not wanting to follow environmental protection laws. You know, wanting to be able to force whatever to our waterways. You know, people didn’t know that until those fourteen senators left the state and people were able to go through that bill with a fine tooth comb and find out what was really happening. You know, why those senators left the state. Uh, I think they’re heroes, personally, I think they’re heroes because without them having left Wisconsin we may, we may never have known immediately what, you know, people wouldn’t have had an opportunity to get the word out. And it all would have been done. And, and, you know, they, they were gonna make it so recycling wasn’t gonna happen in this state. Well, you know, the fourteen senators left, they found out that, that they weren’t gonna have recycling anymore, well, people got upset. And, and the senators that stayed home had to change that because that was a very unpopular thing to have in that bill. And, you know, so there were changes after the fourteen senators left.
And, and, uh, another reoccurring theme is, is, uh, we voted this man in, what’s wrong with you people, why can’t you just be, you know, it’s too bad that, that you didn’t get your way about beating this guy, you know, let him just play it out. It’s like, well, actually, we don’t have to recall our governor. We don’t want to have to do this. But we can’t afford to let this go by another four years. Or everything that this state stand for is gonna be destroyed. Our progressive history is being, it, it, I compare it to, uh, you know, having been an art teacher and fabric artist and all of that, it’s kind of like, you know, this state and what we stand for is sort of like, um, kind of like burlap, a piece of burlap, you know. And every day another strand of burlap’s being pulled out of, burlap’s only as strong as, is only strong if it’s all together. You know, and you start pulling strands out, one person’s right after the other, the right to go into the state capitol and, and sit down as a school child in, in the legislature and take notes, you know, that’s, that’s our right. To have that taken away to say that they can’t even take a picture of their legislators in fourth grade, you know, or, or, you can’t go in with your whole family if you’re a family of four, uh, because if you do you better have a permit to walk in there. It, you know, all these, these things we’ve always taken for granted as the right of a Wisconsin citizen are slowly being taken away from us. That’s how fascism started, you know. That, that is, uh, one day you just wake up and you don’t have the right to do that anymore. It, it’s okay to bring concealed weapons into the capitol, it’s not okay to bring a camera. You know, it, it’s ridiculous. Some of this stuff that’s happening, it’s just totally ridiculous. It doesn’t even make sense in my mind. This is not Wisconsin. This is not what Wisconsin stands for. This isn’t what we grew up with. This isn’t what we’re proud of.
And, and we recallers are not doing it because we hate the governor. But we hate whoever is working him, you know. Someone is
working him, whether it’s big money, whether it’s lobbyists, whatever it is, somebody has an agenda and he’s following someone’s agenda. This could, no one man could be this insensitive to the poor. Or the, or the working people of this state. No one man could be this evil, you know. So, I don’t think it’s just him, you know.
Show Me Progress: So, how do you communicate, um, this kind of, um, message to people who aren’t aware of what’s going on? And, and especially as you, you communicate with them about the recall process.
Robin Transo: Well, there’s. there’s different things that I’ve tried. I try to be a creative thinker. And, uh, and I try to be kind to people. This is the way, I mean, having been a teacher and in health care, you know, you have to be sensitive that everyone has the right to believe the way they want to believe. And my first reaction to all of this was, I don’t want, uh, the children of this state to not know the truth about what happened in that first one hundred days of office.
And, and I decided to come up with a game called Scottyopoly. It’s totally bipartisan. It’s only built on the truth. And, and yet, it’s, it’s fun, not because, there’s things that happened in that first one hundred days you just can’t make up. You know, like things like prank phone calls and, and, uh, going off to Illinois with fourteen senators, and blow up palm trees, and, I mean, this stuff is like [laugh], you know, a hundred and sixty thousand people showing up and then having the Governor say, these people are from out of state because Wisconsinites support me is, is crazy, you know. And, so, we created this Scottyopoly game which the State Historical Society reviewed and deemed as a historical, uh, having historical significance. And the reason I wanted to create that game is to support my free clinic. Primarily because I knew my free clinic was gonna be impacted. That’s, that’s one thing.
So you, you create, uh, different ways to teach people the truth. And another thing is, when you run into someone who is really upset you try to diffuse ’em. You know, tell them that you respect their opinion. Tell them that you’d like to share their point of view. You don’t fight with them. Uh, you know, and, uh, you don’t want to fight with them [laugh]. But, it, you don’t want your family divided either. And your community divided and your state split in half over these issues, either, you know.
The, the one thing you have to do is find a common, a common ground and say, you know, we’re still, you’re my neighbor and no matter what you believe or what I believe I still love you as my neighbor. We’re all working together to make this state the best we can. And, and just have to respect each other, you know. And, and some people aren’t willing to, to respect your point of view. And they, they give you the middle finger and, and you have to just wave back, you know. I know that anybody that I work with, we all, we all say, listen, if anybody, uh, yells out the window, get a real job, or, or anything like that, you just wave at ’em and tell ’em [inaudible] hope you have a nice day, you know [laugh]. You don’t, you don’t argue with this people. They, they’re entitled to their opinions, just like we are. And we just need to respect each other and try to get through this.
And, uh, let’s let our state have a voice again. I mean, we need to take this, I, I’m really sad that we have to pay for a recall election. I’m really sad about that. I, but at the same time, I’m even more sad about how this is affecting the people of this state, how it’s driven people into poverty and, and how it’s all about power and influence. And, and the person, the person with the most power might have the most money. You know, I don’t believe that. I think if we all gather together, if we’re in one voice, then it’s the people of this state that have the power, not the money, you know.
Show Me Progress: So, this process, as you’ve gone through it, what have you learned?
Robin Transo: Well, I’ve learned [pause], I’ve learned that it’s really important to fight for what you believe in. And I’ve learned that apathy is the, the greatest cancer our society could possibly have. And I’ve learned that if Scott Walker has given this state anything positive, it’s awaken the people of this state so they’re not apathetic. Because when you’re asleep that’s when anyone can take over your house, you know. Our house is this state. We’re the citizens of this state. We need to stay together even after this is over. We’ve formed coalitions in every county in the state and I think it’s, it’s going to be extremely important that we always stay vigilant, that we keep our coalitions together, that we don’t just break up, uh, and go our separate ways after this is all over. But, instead, that we, we stay together as a community, as a family, as a, as a coalition so this doesn’t happen in this state again. And, and I’ve learned so much about so many wonderful people, people I never even knew existed are now in my life. And, and, it’s been a, it’s been a great journey for that reason. I’ve also learned that some of the people I never knew could be cruel can be cruel. And that’s a, that’s kind of a wakeup call. But, uh, but mostly I’ve seen positive things come from the people I live around. And, uh, I’ve seen, uh, people pull together and that’s, that’s a, it’s been a wonderful journey in that sense.