WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Governor tries to distance himself from investigation.
MADISON - Governor Scott Walker's campaign tried to distance itself today from the controversy over reported settlement talks to end the John Doe probe into the state's recall elections.
A statement from his campaign said that neither the Republican Walker nor his campaign committee are parties to the federal lawsuit filed by another John Doe target, the Wisconsin Club for Growth. Therefore, the Walker camp said it has no legal standing to reach a settlement in that suit. The statement did not mention the Doe investigation itself -- in which Walker's 2012 recall campaign was among several Republican candidacies being investigated for alleged illegal campaign coordination with outside groups. The Club for Growth filed suit in federal court to end the probe, saying its free speech rights were violated because the conservative group had to remain quiet while Walker runs his current re-election campaign against Democrat Mary Burke. Federal Judge Rudolph Randa twice struck down the Doe probe this month, for the reasons the club stated. Prosecutors have appealed. There's also a separate challenge to the John Doe probe pending in the state court system. Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal first reported that Walker was in settlement talks with special prosecutor Francis Schmitz to end the Doe probe -- thus wiping a thorny issue off the books in his close race with Burke. The Club for Growth feared that a settlement would prohibit any contact between the group and the Walker camp. It alleged that such limits would violate Randa's original order.
Governor Scott Walker says it's "hogwash" that state Republicans are more concerned about discouraging voting than about stopping gun violence in Milwaukee. Walker's Democratic opponent Mary Burke made the allegation on Tuesday, when she commented on last week's shooting of a ten-year-old girl at a Milwaukee school playground. After speaking at a factory yesterday, the Republican Walker defended his record on crime. He said Milwaukee's police union continues to support him, because the state has helped give officers the resources they need. Walker pointed to a 2011 law that repealed early releases of prisoners -- plus an expansion of Milwaukee's Shot-Spotter system that detects live gunfire within a certain distance. The governor also said he's not surprised that his race against Burke is so close at this point. A new Marquette University Law School shows both candidates tied at 46-percent -- with only six-percent undecided. Walker says the undecideds will determine whether he gets four more years.
If you follow the news media this weekend, you'll probably get to learn more from the candidates for Wisconsin attorney general. The state's Professional Police Association is holding a debate with all four candidates. The union was planning to close the forum to the media, because it's part of the group's process for endorsing a candidate. But after the AP raised questions, the union decided to open the debate to the media, so voters can get a better idea about the four candidates in advance of the mid-August primary. Three of the four hopefuls are Democrats -- district attorneys Ismael Ozanne and Susan Happ, and state Representative Jon Richards. DA Brad Schimel is the only Republican candidate for the attorney general's post, which is being vacated by Republican J.B. Van Hollen.
Police said a man whose body was found near Lake Wausau died from head and neck injuries, plus hypothermia -- and it appears to be an accident. He was identified today as Ezequias Mendez-Perez, who's now listed as 29 years old. Early reports said the victim was 33, but Wausau Police have since found his birth certificate which showed him to be four years younger. Officials said Mendez-Perez was very intoxicated when he walking near a tavern on Sunday night -- and his live-in girlfriend said he often used a steep trail to get to-and-from the establishment. He was reported missing on Memorial Day, and the girlfriend found his body the next day along the lake's rocky shoreline.
A quarter-million-dollar bond has been set for a Fox Valley man charged in the death of his fiancee's three-year-old daughter. Ryan Jorgenson of Menasha is charged in Winnebago County with first-degree reckless homicide. According to prosecutors, the 26-year-old Jorgenson called authorities May 14th and said the girl fell down some stairs and suffered a seizure. Paramedics said the child's injuries were too severe to believe that claim, so they called police. The girl died at Milwaukee Children's Hospital on May 21st. Prosecutors said Jorgenson had a pattern of physical and verbal abuse which eventually killed the youngster -- and their investigation is continuing. Jorgenson waived the state's time limits for a preliminary hearing. He's due back in court June 12th.
Twenty-six people have been murdered in Milwaukee this year, down from 30 at the same time a year ago. The latest victim was killed about 10:30 last night. Police said a 27-year-old man was found shot-to-death in a car parked in a north side Milwaukee neighborhood. No suspects were in custody at last word. Meanwhile, police today identified another Milwaukee homicide victim as 53-year-old Dale Smith. He was shot late Monday morning outside an apartment on the city's northwest side. An investigation continues into that slaying as well.
Milwaukee has the 22nd best park system among 60 U-S cities in the Trust for Public Lands' third annual Park-Score Index. Wisconsin's largest city earned 56 points out of a possible 100. Minneapolis is again ranked Number-One, with 82 points. Milwaukee gets its highest marks for access. Close to 90 percent of residents are within a ten-minute walk of a public park -- and that's true in neighborhoods with all types of incomes. Milwaukee's facilities rank below average. The city scored eight points of a possible 20 in the amount of park spending per resident. It scored seven-out-of-20 for the numbers of playgrounds per 100-thousand residents. New York City was ranked second in the Park-Score Index behind Minneapolis. Boston, Portland, and San Francisco rounded out the Top-Five.
Milwaukee is ranked 32nd among 50 U.S. metro areas in the physical fitness of its residents. That's according to the seventh annual American Fitness Index put out by the American College of Sports Medicine and the Well-Point Foundation. Minneapolis-Saint Paul lost its title of America's Fittest City -- an award it held for three years. The Washington D.C. area is now No. 1, and the Twin Cities are No. 2. Milwaukee is the only Wisconsin area in the survey -- which is based on a host of data that reflects how well a community takes part in preventive health behaviors, chronic disease management, support of physical activity, and more. Milwaukee is ranked 37th among the 50 metros for community health factors. The southeast Wisconsin region is 25th in terms of personal health risks. Eighty-one percent of Milwaukee area residents reported engaging in physical activity over the last 30 days. Three-and-a-half percent ride bicycles to work each day.
A Marshfield maker of stainless steel pipes and fabricating systems is the latest to ask the federal government to stop predatory pricing by foreign importers. Felker Brothers Corporation has filed a petition with the International Trade Commission, and U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Madison) went to bat for the company at a hearing last week. Felker accuses importers from Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam of charging much less than their cost for the welded stainless steel pressure pipes -- and they've taken a quarter of the U.S. market over the past two years. This is not the first time Felker's in a battle over this. It won its case in 2009 for anti-dumping relief, in the form of a duty on the importers. Felker said it improved its sales until about 2012. The company expects a decision on its latest request late next month.
Wisconsin banks saw their quarterly profits go down by almost 12-percent from a year ago. But they continued to have fewer delinquent loans -- and the new loans they made rose by two-point-one percent. The FDIC said Wisconsin's banks had a total net income of $226-million from January through March. That was down from $256-million in the same quarter of 2013. The state bankers' association blamed the brutal winter, saying it nearly froze the housing market and related mortgage loan activity. Still, the group said 96-percent of the state's banks were profitable in the most recent period. Total loans in Wisconsin grew by almost one-and-a-half billion dollars from last year to this. Delinquent loans and leases amounted to one-point-seven-three percent of the statewide total -- down from two-and-a-third percent at the same time the previous year.
The state government will not tell Wisconsinites about attorneys who are under ethics investigations -- even if unsuspecting people get hurt during those probes. In an administrative conference this week, the State Supreme Court voted 4-3 against a proposal to let the Office of Lawyer Regulation publicize some of its probes before it files ethics complaints with the court. The head of the agency which investigates problem lawyers, Keith Sellen, said there should be a way to warn an attorney's clients or prospective clients if an attorney is engaging in serious misconduct. Justice Michael Gableman said the Supreme Court already has the power to temporarily suspend lawyers -- and it often does so. However, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson said such suspensions only apply to those who don't cooperate with the office's investigations. She said temporary suspensions for more serious conduct are rare. Justices Pat Roggensack, Annette Ziegler, and Pat Crooks voted against the disclosure requirement. They agreed with Gableman that it's not needed.
If you could dunk a basketball, you'd have to leap almost four feet beyond that to reach the total amount of snow that Winchester in Vilas County had this winter. The hamlet received 166 inches of snow during the winter -- which comes out 13-point-eight feet. Winchester is located about 30 miles southeast of Lake Superior, which partially explains why it again got the most snow in the central and northern Wisconsin territory covered by the National Weather Service office in Green Bay. Lac Vieux Desert (lack-vue-de-zair') in Vilas County got the second tallest snow total -- 147-point-four inches, or almost 12-point-three feet. Minocqua had 96 inches of snow this past winter, Marshfield 89, Green Bay 72, and Appleton 70. The Oshkosh area had the lowest snow total in the Green Bay region -- almost 43-inches.