WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Gov. Walker says he needs more time to decide on proposed casino
MADISON - Governor Scott Walker says he'll need another week, and maybe more, before he decides whether to let the Menominee tribe build a casino in Kenosha.
Walker was planning to announce his decision today, after meeting with tribal officials and developers from the Hard Rock chain on Wednesday. After an appearance in Milwaukee this afternoon, Walker said there was a substantial amount of data presented to him -- and he needs more time to digest it all. Menominee chairman Craig Corn said it positively speaks volumes about Walker's leadership and quote, "We're saying our prayers and putting down tobacco to the creator." The Ho-Chunk and Potawatomi tribes oppose the new casino, saying it would take business away from their gaming operations. The Menominee plans to make up those losses. Both the Potawatomi and Ho-Chunk tribes said they were disappointed that Walker's delaying the matter. Ho-Chunk chairman Jon Greendeer says it gives the Menominee false hopes.
Authorities in western Michigan are investigating the death of a southeast Wisconsin man in a pair of crashes along a slippery Interstate. Police in Saugatuck Township said 21-year-old Jared Kavinsky of Hartland hit a median barrier last night on a wet-and-slick Interstate-196. A 62-year-old Chicago stopped to help. And officials said another vehicle came along, and struck-and-killed both of them. That driver was a 26-year-old from Michigan who was hospitalized.
Madison is not Silicon Valley -- but it is a fast-growing place for high-tech jobs. The Progressive Policy Institute ranks Dane County ninth in the nation in the growth of information-technology and related jobs over the past five years. Urban studies theorist Richard Florida says college towns like Madison are rapidly becoming high-tech hot-spots. Only one other Midwest location made the Top-25 -- the county where Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan are located. The report said Madison's home county had a nearly 25-percent increase in digital jobs in the five years ending in 2010. San Francisco was Number-One, with a 52-percent increase in high-tech jobs during that period.
A new study from creditdonkey.com ranks Madison the second-best small city in the nation to start a new life. The financial education website ranked each city by population growth, income growth and single adults. The list also placed emphasis on the unemployment rate, which boasts the lowest in the rankings at four-point-nine percent. The website also mentions water access, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Dane County Farmer’s Markets as popular attractions.
Most of Wisconsin will have decent weather this weekend -- but if you want to see the fall colors, you might have to rake them from your yard. Fall colors are past their peak in about two-thirds of the Badger State. Travel Wisconsin.com says colors are at 100-percent of peak in almost 25 counties spread throughout the southern half of the state. That's about normal for many places. Some places had a short color season as the result of heavy rains that fell on-and-off during October. The far north had light snow during the past week. Rain and snow showers are in the forecast for tonight and into tomorrow in northern Wisconsin. Skies are expected to clear in central and southern areas tonight, with partly cloudy skies tomorrow. It's supposed to be partly cloudy statewide on Sunday, with highs in the 40's each day.
The boyfriend of a missing Milwaukee woman has been arrested for a second time since her disappearance on October 10th. Police said both cases were not related -- and both had nothing to do with the disappearance of 27-year-old Kelly Dwyer. 38-year-old Kris Zocco was arrested in the northwest Milwaukee suburb of Richfield last night. Officials did not immediately say what the arrest was for. Zocco was charged last week with maintaining a drug house, and possessing narcotics and marijuana with the intent to sell it. He's due in court Monday for a preliminary hearing on those charges. Milwaukee Police investigated the drug matter while they were looking into Dwyer's disappearance. Zocco was said to be the last person to see Dwyer before she vanished. A search continues for her.
An apparent child abuse victim in Sun Prairie has died. Police said a five-year-old boy had life-threatening injuries when rescuers were called to a home in Sun Prairie late Tuesday afternoon. Police announced the boy's death today. They did not reveal the cause, saying the matter is still under investigation. Officials say the leads in the case indicate that the community is not in danger.
A 48-member task force was created today to study the future needs of Milwaukee's top entertainment and cultural facilities -- and how to pay for them. The Metro Milwaukee Association of Commerce has been talking for some time about forming the group. It stems from concerns that the 25-year-old Bradley Center needs to be replaced. The National Basketball Association has been leaning on the Milwaukee Bucks and owner Herb Kohl to build something more modern that can generate more revenue. That has generated opposition from some outlying leaders who don't want their residents paying another sales tax like they did with Miller Park. Some Racine County Board members have said people should be helping their community's poor people, instead of subsidizing millionaire athletes 20 miles to the north. Kohl and arena supporters have tried to soften that kind of criticism, by pointing out that the arena also has concerts, college basketball, hockey, and host of other regional events. The commerce group also tried to soften the hot-button sports taxing issue by having the task force study other key institutions, and suggest funding for their future needs. That includes attractions like the Milwaukee County Zoo and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Association director Tim Sheehy calls it a "quiet crisis" for those institutions. He said they all get public funding which has been dropping.
Getting from Point-"A" to Point-"B" has become a real challenge for some people who booked flights through Met-Jet of De Pere. The failed company is closing tomorrow. It sold tickets to specific destinations, and it contracted with Sun Country Airlines to provide the planes and their crews. Met-Jet is trying to get stranded passengers home. CEO Michael Heisman says it's being done on a case-by-case basis. Those who made arrangements knowing that Met-Jet would go out of business -- and who did not make alternative plans -- might be stuck. In the meantime, Heisman says it's a slow process to make advance refunds for travel that Met-Jet will not be providing. Heisman says the company has received hundreds of claims from people who did not qualify for the refunds.
A man wanted in several parts of southern Wisconsin is under arrest in Marquette County. Officers had been looking for 21-year-old William Rennhack of Jefferson until he was picked up last night in Montello. Investigators believe he stole a vehicle in Oconomowoc and led officers on a short chase in Waukesha County. Dodge County officers found the vehicle abandoned near Ashippun. Also, arrest warrants had been issued, charging Rennhack with theft and bail jumping in Waukesha County.
A La Crosse company has agreed to pay $100,000 to settle allegations that it poached wild ginseng. The Wiebke Fur-and-Trading Company, with stores in La Crosse and Eitzen, Minnesota, pleaded guilty two months ago to breaking anti-poaching laws. At a plea hearing yesterday, the company's Thomas Wiebke confirmed that it repeatedly bought wild ginseng harvested in Wisconsin without a license. Wisconsin is among the nation's top ginseng growers and exporters. The root is highly-prized in China and the Far East, where people rely on it to reduce stress and fatigue. Wiebke agreed not to buy or sell ginseng in any state until August of 2015. Half of the penalty will go to the courts as a fine. The rest will go to the Wisconsin DNR.
Funeral services will be held tomorrow in suburban Milwaukee for a lawyer who helped draft Wisconsin's ground-breaking marital property law in 1984. Keith Christiansen was a partner at Milwaukee's Foley-and-Lardner for over 30 years. The 69-year-old Christiansen died last Sunday at his home. He helped Wisconsin become one of the first states to convert from a "common law" state to a community property state for assets obtained during a marriage. He also wrote a three-volume book about the law. When a couple divorces, the law assumes that most property and debts obtained during a marriage are owned equally by both spouses. Exceptions include gifts and inheritances -- and debts accumulated immorally, and-or without the knowledge of one of the spouses.
A Wisconsin U.S. House Democrat says you don't need a faulty Internet site to sign up for Obamacare. Milwaukee's Gwen Moore says people should seek out other ways to buy the insurance they're required to have by January first -- like using the toll-free phone number, or getting an application by mail. Yesterday, developers of the troubled Healthcare.gov website traded accusations with the federal government during a lengthy hearing on the site's technical problems. Some Democrats have joined Republicans in calling for a delay of the insurance purchasing requirement, due to the Web site's ongoing access problems. Moore, however, is moving full-speed ahead on Obama-care, calling it an unprecedented opportunity to get quality health care at affordable rates. She held a series of meetings last week in Milwaukee to show people how to sign up. Moore does say the Web site's hang-ups are unacceptable, and she's confident they'll be fixed soon. Janesville House Republican Paul Ryan says the federal government continues to have no answers for anyone about the Web site. Ryan said earlier this week that Health-and-Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius should resign -- and he still calls the problems a "fiasco." Ryan said the Obama White House has spent over three years and a half-billion-dollars on the new health reform and quote, "Look at what we have."
A Madison man who faces 62 state sex charges has pleaded guilty in a separate federal case. 28-year-old Brian Stowe is scheduled to be sentenced in January, after he admitted taking sexually-explicit photos of a 17-year-old girl after she fell asleep. Federal Judge Barbara Crabb convicted him of child sexual exploitation. In state court, Stowe faces 62 felony charges for allegedly drugging women, and then molesting them and shooting nude videos after they passed out. The charges could be whittled down in a plea deal that reportedly has been made. He's due to appear in Dane County Circuit Court in that case on November 13th.
Democratic state senator Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is touring the state, testing the waters for a possible leap into the governor’s race. Vinehout announced a six-week travel plan to speak with Wisconsinites, saying she will make a decision by early next year. If she decides to run, Vinehout would have to give up her senate seat. Vinehout is visiting Polk County Democrats this weekend.
If you've got unwanted, expired or unused prescription drugs, now is the time to gather them up and drop them off at collection sites throughout the state this weekend. In April of this year, Wisconsin residents dropped off nearly 23 tons (45,581.3 lbs) of prescription drugs at 180 collection sites statewide. Taking the medications to these locations ensures that pharmaceutical waste is properly disposed of, and kept out of the waterways. In addition to proper disposal, it's also important to monitor prescriptions at home to prevent misuse. Attorney General Van Hollen continues working to prevent abuse of meds before it leads to Heroin abuse, which is a serious problem in our state. The national "Take-Back" service is free and anonymous. Visit the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) website to find a drop-off location near you. (www.DEA.gov).
Some Wisconsin U.S. House members are getting a lot more of their campaign cash from special interest groups than their colleagues from around the country. The Gannett News Service says La Crosse Democrat Ron Kind and Fond du Lac Republican Tom Petri each had more than 70-percent of their donations come from special interests in the first nine months of this year. That's well above the national average of 41-percent. Milwaukee Democrat Gwen Moore got 68-percent of her donations from outside interests. Other percentage are 58 for Madison Democrat Mark Pocan, 51-percent for Wausau area Republican Sean Duffy, and 46-percent for Sherwood Republican Reid Ribble. House Budget chairman Paul Ryan of Janesville only got 21-percent of his donations from special interests -- but he raised the most money from those groups with just over $600,000. Moore represents a city with one of the nation's highest poverty rates, and she says there are not folks back home that can afford campaign checks for her. Other Wisconsin House members did not comment.
A state appeals judge has agreed to let eight media groups intervene in a case that involves the release of records from the John Doe probe of former Milwaukee County Walker aides. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen tried to get Appellate Judge Patricia Curley to prevent the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the AP, and the other groups from submitting arguments in a case that will decide whether Kelly Rindfleisch's e-mails and other records should be made public. Those records were obtained as part of a John Doe investigation in which six former aides to now-Governor Scott Walker were convicted of either embezzlement or illegal tax-funded political campaigning when Walker was the Milwaukee County executive. The John Doe was officially closed earlier this year, so the media groups say there's no reason Rindfleisch's documents should still be sealed. That question is still pending. Today's ruling only dealt with the media's request to be involved in the case. Rindfleisch was sentenced to six months in jail and three years of probation. She's trying to get her conviction thrown out.
Wisconsin ski resorts are almost ready to open, but many are missing one important element -- employees. For several years, a number of Wisconsin ski operators have looked to South America to find the reliable part-timers they cannot find in the Badger State. Randy Axelson of Cascade Mountain near Portage says the seasonal nature of the work makes it hard to find local help. His resort will employ about 40 college students from South America for jobs that run into March. Axelson said surprising numbers of South Americans work at least two years or more. People in Brazil are often shocked by how cold it is -- but parts of Peru and Argentina are just as cold as it is here. Axelson says the South Americans are driven by getting U.S. work experience which will help get them work when they leave college. Little Switzerland at Slinger was having a job fair today for about 100 posts that include cafeteria and ski-lift employees. Co-owner Mike Schmitz said the jobs pay up to 12-dollars an hour -- and for many, a benefit of free skiing is just as important.
Federal wildlife officials want to designate two types of butterflies as endangered or threatened species, because their populations are rapidly declining. The Poweshiek skipperling used to thrive in eight states and Canada -- but now, it's found only in native prairies in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Manitoba Canada. The U.S. Fish-and-Wildlife Service wants approval to designate 63 properties where the Poweshiek butterfly would be protected. They range from 23 acres to almost three-thousand acres in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, and the Dakotas. Also, the agency wants to protect the Dakota skipper butterfly, found in the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Canada. Their numbers have dropped to the point in which they occupy only half the sites where they used to live. The Fish-and-Wildlife Service plans to release its proposal in today's Federal Register. Five public meetings have been scheduled in the subject, including one in Wisconsin. That's set for the evening of November 14th, starting at 4:30 p.m. at the public library at Berlin in Green Lake County.
A former bookkeeper has been convicted of embezzling over a half-million dollars from her parents' business in northern Wisconsin. 46-year-old Lisa Saykally struck a plea deal this week in Oneida County Circuit Court. She pleaded no contest to six felony embezzlement charges, and one count of preparing fraudulent income tax returns. Nine similar charges were dropped, but they'll be considered when she's sentenced on January 9th. The money was stolen from Aqualand Manufacturing of Woodruff, which makes custom lake equipment including piers, docks, boat-lifts, and boat tracking systems -- plus other items like stairs and picnic grills. The defendant's parents own the business. Online court records list Seakally's current address as Bottineau North Dakota.
A Democrat who got the largest percentage of votes in 14 years against Congressman Paul Ryan says he'll try again next fall to defeat the House budget chairman. Rob Zerban, a businessman and former Kenosha County Board member, says he'll run for a second straight time for Wisconsin's First District House seat in 2014. Zerban got 43-percent of the vote last November, when Ryan won his eighth two-year term -- the largest percentage by a challenger since Ryan's first House campaign in 1998. Zerban unveiled his plans to the Associated Press, two days before he was planning to hold an "announcement rally." Zerban met with social workers and community group leaders in recent months -- and voters kept encouraging him to run again. Zerban said Ryan's recent budget proposals were hurtful because they targeted the poor. He said voters saw Ryan as a "nice guy from next door" in his early years in the House -- but his true colors got exposed as his national profile grew, including Ryan's 2012 vice presidential run. Ryan has not commented, but he's getting ready for a tough campaign by raising money. He had two-point-six million dollars on hand at the end of September. Amar Kaleka, son of the murdered Sikh Temple president in Oak Creek, is also running for the House as a Democrat.
For the first time in almost a quarter century, Wisconsin's flagship university will hold a single commencement for all of its graduates next May. UW-Madison's new chancellor, Rebecca Blank, worked with senior class leaders to move the spring's commencement to Camp Randall Stadium -- home of the football Badgers with over 80,000 seats. Former Chancellor Donna Shalala moved the commencements indoors to the UW Fieldhouse and then to the Kohl Center when it opened in 1998. But with 19,000 seats, there was not enough room to graduate everybody together. So they held four ceremonies spread through a weekend. UW spokesman John Lucas said it was hard to find top-rate speakers for all four ceremonies -- so moving it to Camp Randall should make that task easier. Senior class president Joe Meeker says it will be a powerful experience to share a single ceremony with all of next spring's expected six-thousand graduates. The change had been considered for three years. Blank said it would allow seniors to graduate on a "grander scale" while maintaining the ceremonies' personal elements.
A much-hailed program in central Wisconsin is expected to end, due to budget cuts in Portage County. It's called "Volunteers in Probation," and pairs mentors with low-to-medium-risk offenders to help those people get integrated into their communities after they leave prison. The idea is to keep those offenders from committing new crimes and going back to jail. Portage County is spending 50-thousand dollars on the effort this year -- but it's expected to be a casualty of a county budget-cutting wave that aims to slash a million dollars next year. Portage County Executive Patty Dreier says there's a new state corrections' program which essentially does the same thing -- but it involves higher-risk offenders. Dreier says a shortfall in the county budget does not leave much room for programs that are not absolutely mandatory. Advocates say the program has helped reduce the rates of people who re-offend from 40-percent, the state average, to a little less than eight-percent.
A jury in South Dakota will get to watch a televised confession made in Wisconsin. The jury will decide whether James McVay should be put to death for killing a 75-year-old woman in Sioux Falls in 2011. McVay did not want the jury to see a TV interview he gave in Madison, where he was arrested. He told viewers he admitted killing Maybelle Schein and stealing her vehicle, so he could drive to Washington and assassinate President Obama while he plays golf. Judge Peter Liebermann has ruled that the jury can see the TV interview. Earlier, the judge agreed to let jurors read the confession he gave to police in Madison when he was picked up. He didn't the jury to hear anything about that, either. McVay pleaded guilty but mentally ill to a first-degree murder charge in the stabbing death of Schein. The jury will decide in March whether he'll get South Dakota's death penalty.
Part of Wisconsin's last true wilderness will be pretty much left alone. The state Natural Resources Board has approved a plan by DNR staffers to passively manage the Van Vliet Hemlocks natural area at Presque Isle in Vilas County. The board agreed to manage the state-owned 400-acre site with as little interference as possible. The DNR had planned to allow some tree-cutting which did not fit a so-called "old growth profile." After public opposition, officials decided to passively manage the entire 400-acre site -- controlling for invasive species and maintaining trails. It has a forest stand that represents a rare remnant of the northern hardwood-hemlock forestry that once dominated northern Wisconsin.
Drought conditions in Wisconsin are about the same as they were a week ago. The U.S. Drought Monitor said today that almost 54-percent of the state's land area is abnormally dry or worse. Just over six-percent of Wisconsin remains in a severe drought in two regions. One covers parts of seven counties in the far western part of the state between Ellsworth and Fairchild. The other covers most of Monroe and Juneau counties. About the northeast half of the Badger State remains drought-free, from the Polk-Douglas County line southeast to Stevens Point to Fond du Lac to central Kenosha County. The city of Kenosha is drought-free. The same is true for Racine, Milwaukee, the Fox Valley, Green Bay, Door County, Wausau, and Superior.
Democrat Mary Burke has received a second major endorsement in her bid to defeat Governor Scott Walker in just over a year from now. Emily's List announced its support today in a fund-raising appeal to Burke's supporters. The group tries to elect Democratic women who favor abortion rights. It's an important endorsement, because of the potential campaign money it carries. Last year, Emily's List spent five-million dollars to help Tammy Baldwin get elected to the U.S. Senate. Earlier this week, the Progressives United group headed by former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold also endorsed Burke -- deciding not to wait for a primary next August to help round up the financial and other support needed to defeat the well-funded Republican Walker. Burke, a former state commerce secretary and Trek Bicycle executive, is the fourth gubernatorial candidate for next year to get the support of Emily's List. The president of that group, Stephanie Schriock, said Burke has quote, "been quietly changing the world for the better for years, by breaking barriers herself and by making opportunities for others to get ahead." Republicans portray the endorsements as special interests lining up to support a millionaire. State GOP director Joe Fadness said grassroots Democrats are still quote, "divided on her campaign to take Wisconsin backward."
A Waukesha company that makes portable emergency electric generators has recorded another huge earnings' increase in its last quarter. Generac's business has been helped dramatically by some notable U.S. incidents in which normal power was lost -- including Superstorm Sandy almost a year ago. Today, Generac Holdings reported an 84-percent jump in its third-quarter profits. Net income totaled $47-million from July-through-September, up from $25-and-a-half million at the same time in 2012. Earnings jumped from 37-cents a share to 67-cents. Commercial and industrial product sales rose 62-percent to $151-million, while total sales climbed 21-percent to $363-million. CEO Aaron Jagdfeld said the most recent growth was due to higher spending by its national customers -- as well the continued adoption of standby generators for both homes and businesses.