JEFFERSON — Calling him “a colleague, mentor and friend,” Jefferson Mayor Dale Oppermann paid homage this week to former burgermeister Bill Brandel, who died Saturday after a long battle with cancer.
“Bill was a valued public servant, who taught me how to deal with the public and address their needs,” Oppermann said. “He taught me a lot of life lessons and he lived a life of service to others.”
Oppermann said Brandel and his wife of more than 50 years, Carol, enjoyed traveling to places around the country that had historical significance, in part, because Brandel was a former history teacher at Jefferson High School.
“Anybody who went through Jefferson High School had a class with Bill at one time or another,” Oppermann said, adding Brandel’s tenure as a teacher at the institution of learning spanned several decades, beginning in the 1970s.
“Bill was a teacher and public servant who epitomized the can-do spirit,” his obituary said, adding Brandel took great pride in teaching world geography, international relations, U.S. and world history, economics, sociology and leadership for 35 years at Jefferson High School, retiring in 2006.
Brandel had graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 1970, with a bachelor’s degree, with honors, in broad field social studies and English education. He eventually received his master’s degree in 1992.
Brandel also taught economics to adult students at Madison Area Technical College in Fort Atkinson and Watertown.
Brandel was a classic movie buff and his family said he was a born singer, story teller and go-getter, having come into the world on Nov. 18, 1948, the son of Judge Jacob William and Ione Brandel. He grew up in Jefferson.
“Bill loved Jefferson and devoted most of his life to the city,” his obit read, adding that, among many other organizations, he was a founding member and director of Gemuetlichkeit Days Inc. in 1971. He joined the Jefferson Kiwanis Club and was club president for three terms, later secretary. He was president of Greenwood Cemetery’s leadership for 37 years.
Brandel was first elected to the Jefferson Common Council in 1984. Two years later, he ran and was elected mayor of the city, a position he held for four terms. He was a member of numerous committees, commissions and boards during his time with the city. He left city government as an alderman this month.
He was the recipient of the Jefferson Citizen of the Year Award in 1994, the Outstanding Citizen Award by the Jefferson County Reserve Officers Association in 1998 and the WPPI Community Service Award in 2019. Many other accolades filled out his resume.
Discussing Brandel further as an educator and civic leader, Oppermann said the elder statesman of Jefferson made a profound impression on thousands of people over the years.
“All along, we were partners in government,” Oppermann said. “Bill inspired many of us on the common council and he always brought great perspective to whatever we were talking about. Bill was a very dear friend and confidant whom I will miss.”
WASHINGTON (AP) — In a major expansion of gun rights after a series of mass shootings, the Supreme Court said Thursday that Americans have a right to carry firearms in public for self-defense, a ruling likely to lead to more people legally armed. The decision came out as Congress and states debate gun-control legislation.
About one-quarter of the U.S. population lives in states expected to be affected by the ruling, which struck down a New York gun law. The high court’s first major gun decision in more than a decade split the court 6-3, with the court’s conservatives in the majority and liberals in dissent.
Across the street from the court, lawmakers at the Capitol sped toward passage of gun legislation prompted by recent massacres in Texas,New York and California. Senators cleared the way for the measure, modest in scope but still the most far-reaching in decades.
Also Thursday, underscoring the nation’s deep divisions over the issue, the sister of a 9-year-old girl killed in the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, pleaded with state lawmakers to pass gun legislation. The Republican-controlled legislature has stripped away gun restrictions over the past decade.
President Joe Biden said in a statement he was “deeply disappointed” by the Supreme Court ruling. It “contradicts both common sense and the Constitution, and should deeply trouble us all,” he said.
He urged states to pass new laws. “I call on Americans across the country to make their voices heard on gun safety. Lives are on the line,” he said.
The decision struck down a New York law requiring people to demonstrate a particular need for carrying a gun in order to get a license to carry a gun in a concealed way in public. The justices said that requirement violates the Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms.”
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority that the Constitution protects “an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.” That right is not a “second-class right,” Thomas wrote. “We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need.”
California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island all have laws similar to New York’s. Those laws are expected to be quickly challenged.
Gov. Kathy Hochul, D-N.Y., said the ruling came at a particularly painful time, with New York mourning the deaths of 10 people in a shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo. “This decision isn’t just reckless. It’s reprehensible. It’s not what New Yorkers want,” she said.
Gun control groups called the decision a significant setback. Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice and an expert on the Second Amendment, wrote on Twitter that the decision could be the “biggest expansion of gun rights” by the Supreme Court in U.S. history.
Republican lawmakers were among those cheering the decision. Tom King, president of the plaintiff New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, said he was relieved.
“The lawful and legal gun owner of New York State is no longer going to be persecuted by laws that have nothing to do with the safety of the people and will do nothing to make the people safer,” he said. “And maybe now we’ll start going after criminals and perpetrators of these heinous acts.”
The court’s decision is somewhat out of step with public opinion. About half of the voters in the 2020 presidential election said gun laws in the U.S. should be made more strict, according to AP VoteCast, an expansive survey of the electorate. An additional one-third said laws should be kept as they are, while only about 1 in 10 said gun laws should be less strict.
About 8 in 10 Democratic voters said gun laws should be made more strict, VoteCast showed. Among Republican voters, roughly half said laws should be kept as they are, while the remaining half closely divided between more and less strict.
In a dissent joined by his liberal colleagues, Justice Stephen Breyer focused on the toll from gun violence.
Since the beginning of this year, “there have already been 277 reported mass shootings — an average of more than one per day,” Breyer wrote. He accused his colleagues in the majority of acting “without considering the potentially deadly consequences” of their decision. He said the ruling would “severely” burden states’ efforts to pass laws “that limit, in various ways, who may purchase, carry, or use firearms of different kinds.”
Several other conservative justices who joined Thomas’ majority opinion also wrote separately to add their views.
Justice Samuel Alito criticized Breyer’s dissent, questioning the relevance of his discussion of mass shootings and other gun death statistics. Alito wrote that the court had decided “nothing about who may lawfully possess a firearm or the requirements that must be met to buy a gun” and nothing “about the kinds of weapons that people may possess.”
“Today, unfortunately, many Americans have good reason to fear they will be victimized if they are unable to protect themselves.” The Second Amendment, he said, “guarantees their right to do so.”
Justice Brett Kavanaugh, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, noted the limits of the decision. States can still require people to get a license to carry a gun, Kavanaugh wrote, and condition that license on “fingerprinting, a background check, a mental health records check, and training in firearms handling and in laws regarding the use of force, among other possible requirements.”
Backers of New York’s law had argued that striking it down would lead to more guns on the streets and higher rates of violent crime. Gun violence, on the rise during the coronavirus pandemic, has spiked anew. Gun purchases have also risen.
In most of the country gun owners have little difficulty legally carrying their weapons in public. But that had been harder to do in New York and the handful of states with similar laws. New York’s law, in place since 1913, says that to carry a concealed handgun in public, a person applying for a license has to show “proper cause,” a specific need to carry the weapon.
The state had issued unrestricted licenses where a person could carry a gun anywhere and restricted licenses allowing a person to carry the weapon but just for specific purposes such as hunting and target shooting or to and from their place of business.
The challenge to the New York law was brought by the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, which describes itself as the nation’s oldest firearms advocacy organization, and two men seeking an unrestricted ability to carry guns outside their homes.
The Supreme Court last issued a major gun decision in 2010. In that decision and a ruling from 2008 the justices established a nationwide right to keep a gun at home for self-defense. The question for the court this time was just about carrying a gun outside the home. Thomas, who turned 74 on Thursday, wrote in his opinion that: “Nothing in the Second Amendment’s text draws a home/public distinction with respect to the right to keep and bear arms.”
Associated Press reporters Mark Sherman, Hannah Fingerhut and Zeke Miller in Washington and Michael Hill in East Greenbush, New York, contributed to this report.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice hired to investigate President Joe Biden’s victory in the battleground state testified Thursday that he routinely deleted records, and deactivated a personal email account, even after receiving open records requests.
Michael Gableman testified in a court hearing about whether the person who hired him, Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, should face penalties after earlier being found in contempt for how he handled the records requests from American Oversight.
Dane County Circuit Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn decided against penalizing Vos for contemp, but said she would determine later whether to penalize Vos for how he handled open records requests. She set a hearing for July 28.
Bailey-Rihn said that Gableman gave often conflicting testimony, but it was clear that he had destroyed records “that were contrary to what fits into the scheme of things.”
Vos hired Gableman a year ago, under pressure from Donald Trump, to investigate the former president’s loss to Biden by just under 21,000 votes in Wisconsin. The investigation has cost taxpayers about $900,000 so far. Biden’s victory has survived two recounts, multiple lawsuits, a nonpartisan audit and a review by a conservative law firm.
Gableman has issued two interim reports, but his work has faced a barrage of bipartisan criticism. Vos put his work on hold this spring pending the outcome of lawsuits challenging his ability to subpoena elected officials and others who worked on elections.
Gableman testified Thursday that he did early work on the investigation at a Milwaukee-area library and used his personal email account. Gableman said he did not retain the notes he took during meetings he attended, including one in August in South Dakota hosted by MyPillow founder Mike Lindell. He also testified that he deleted records if there was no pending open records request and he determined it was not useful or pertinent to his work.
“Did I delete documents? Yes, I did,” he said.
Gableman testified that someone in his office deleted his personal Yahoo email account for him after he had received an open records request from American Oversight. Gableman had used that account last summer before he had an official state email address.
The judge asked Gableman if he had searched the account for responsive records before deleting it and he said, “I believe so.”
“Do I specifically recall going back, I don’t,” Gableman said. “But I would have looked at every email account available to me.”
Gableman also revealed that he had to go to the emergency room for COVID-19 after attending an election conference hosted by Lindell in August.
“I went out there because I thought there was going to be some solid evidence of Chinese interference of the (voting) machines and I was very disappointed with the lack of substance to back up those claims,” Gableman said. “And I was annoyed that I had gone out and as it turns out I had COVID. Anyway, I didn’t find anything I could use during that seminar.”
Gableman, under questioning for the judge, also said his research included getting up to speed on how elections work because “I did not have a very sophisticated or intricate understanding.”
Gableman, who smiled when taking the stand, calmly answered questions for more than 90 minutes from the judge and American Oversight attorney Christa Westerberg. He had made sarcastic remarks about Westerberg two weeks ago when he testified in another case where he was the defendant.
Gableman refused to answer questions at that hearing, and in a scathing order last week Dane County Circuit Judge Frank Remington accused Gableman of unprofessional and misogynistic conduct. The judge fined him $2,000 a day until he complied with the open records requests, and referred the case to the office that regulates attorneys in the state for possible further disciplinary action.
Gableman has appealed that ruling.
Vos and the Assembly have argued that they were not responsible for the records held by Gableman’s office. But Bailey-Rihn disagreed. She found Vos in contempt in March for not following the records law but determined Thursday that he had taken steps to purge the contempt order. The judge left open the question of whether he will face penalties under the open records law.
The case is one of three open records lawsuits brought by the liberal watchdog group American Oversight. All of them seek records related to the investigation into the 2020 election that Gableman led.