WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Sudden cold snap affects homeless in Fox Valley
A brief cold snap has Wisconsin homeless shelters bracing for more business.
The demand for emergency housing remains relatively high, and the Emergency Shelter in Appleton is trying to get other shelters in the Fox Valley to work together. Jerome Martin says there are a half-dozen homeless shelters from Oshkosh to Green Bay -- and they can keep people off the streets if they combine their efforts. The Fox Valley Warming Shelter has been busy this year, with more 10,000 overnight stays for the year ending September first. That's about a-third more than the previous year. Overnight temperatures dipped into the teens this week for the first time this fall. It was 12 degrees in Hayward at seven o'clock this morning -- and it was 15 as far south as Sparta. Those kind of temps won't stay around, though. Forecasters say a new front will keep tonight's lows in the mid-to-upper-30's statewide, with a new chance of rain and-or light snow in the north into tomorrow. Highs are expected to be in the 40's each day through the weekend, with a slight cool-down on Veterans' Day on Monday.
Recent rains and snow did not do much to ease drought conditions in the southwest half of Wisconsin. The U.S. Drought Monitor said today that almost 54-percent of the state's land area remains abnormally dry or worse. A severe drought conditions in about the same territory as last week -- two patches in the west central part of the state, covering six-percent of the total land area. The drought line continues to run from about Danbury in the northwest, to mid-Racine and Kenosha counties in the southeast. Everything to the northeast of that is drought-free -- including Milwaukee, Green Bay, Wausau, and Superior. There's not much precipitation in the forecast -- a chance of sprinkles this afternoon, and a chance of light rain or snow from tomorrow night into Saturday.
Wisconsin fourth-and-eighth graders have shown little progress in their math scores over the last six years. That's for those taking the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Figures released today show Wisconsin had the sixth-highest math scores in both grades, with a state-by-state rank of 13th for fourth graders and 16th for eighth graders. Math scores have changed little for Wisconsin fourth graders since 2005, and for eighth-graders since 2007. But going back to 1992, average math scores have risen five-percent for eighth-graders and seven-percent for fourth graders. Meanwhile, Wisconsin reading scores have been about the same since the 1990's for both grades -- and they've been closer to the national averages. The national Educational Progress test is given every two years. In 2013, about 377-thousand fourth graders around the country took the exam, along with 342,000 eighth grade students. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Hawaii, Tennessee, and Washington D.C. made the biggest improvements. Duncan said they've shown a quote, "laser-like focus" on supporting teachers -- and determining which ones are doing well and which are not.
A search continues for a 15-year-old girl missing since Tuesday in Waukesha County. Kathryn Stalbaum of the town of Genesee missed her school bus, and she texted a friend that she would ride her bicycle to Kettle Moraine High. Yesterday, the teal bicycle was found. Sheriff's officials would not say where. They said they've found no immediate signs of foul play, but they have no idea what might have happened to Stalbaum -- or where she might be. School officials alerted the girl's parents after she failed to show up on Tuesday morning. The parents were searching for their daughter when they saw a sheriff's deputy on patrol, and reported her missing. Investigators say they've combed through cell-phones and social media accounts to look for clues, but they won't say if they found anything worthwhile. On Sunday night, Great Mission Church of Wales is holding prayer vigil to show support for Stalbaum and her family.
The FBI and Wausau Police are checking out some disturbing new details about the disappearance of a woman nine years ago who has since turned up in Mexico. 25-year-old Connie McCallister told police on Wednesday she went to a party in the Milwaukee or Chicago areas in 2004 with her ex-boyfriend Freddie Ruiz. She believed she was drugged and kidnapped because the next thing she knew, she was in Mexico. Wausau Police said McCallister never mentioned anything about an abduction when they first talked in September. At that time, McCallister said she had three children with a subsequent man whom she married -- and she wanted to return to the U.S. with the kids. Wausau Police said they'd provide the new information to the FBI, and keep trying to bring her home as she wishes. If she returns to Wausau, officials say they'll question her about why she left with Ruiz. At the time, she told her mother they were fine -- and they wouldn't say where they were.
A woman whose body was found in northwest Wisconsin 20 years ago has finally been identified. A hunter found the remains of Pearline Walton in November of 1993 near Dresser in Polk County. She was last seen in Minneapolis in the summer of '93. Walton was 22 back then. Recently, Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension began a statewide project to identify dozens of human remains. Walton was the first, after her family provided DNA that matched the woman. The bureau's assistant superintendent, Drew Evans, said there was a belief that Walton was murdered -- but he could not comment on the specifics of the investigation. Evans said the identification has brought some closure to Walton's family in Minneapolis. Polk County Sheriff Pete Johnson said the identifying of Walton is a very important step as it continues to investigate.
A construction worker who fell from an Interstate bridge project near La Crosse was identified yesterday as 19-year-old Logan Goodell of Wheeler in western Wisconsin. Officials have not provided an update on his condition. Goodell had surgery the day of Wednesday's incident, which occurred on the Dresbach bridge on I-90 over the Mississippi River at the Wisconsin-Minnesota border. WXOW-TV in La Crosse quoted a Winona County sheriff's report which said that Goodell was removing framework that was set up to pour concrete, when he stepped backward, and fell 42-feet into a coffer-dam below. The report said the employee -- who works for Ames Construction -- was wearing a harness, but it was not being used properly. Winona County deputies are investigating, along with Ames Construction and the U.S. Occupational Safety-and-Health Administration. The Dresbach bridge is replacing an outdated structure. The new one is due to open in 2016.
Governor Scott Walker has not said whether he'll sign a bill making it harder to order Wisconsin schools to drop their Indian team names and mascots. The Republican Walker was asked about the subject yesterday. He said it was quote, "not on my radar." The state Senate gave final legislative approval to the Republican measure on Tuesday, after the state Assembly okayed the same bill last month. It would water down a complaint process approved by Democrats in 2009 that resulted in three school districts being ordered to drop their Indian monikers. Some others dropped their names voluntarily, to avoid going through the complaint process.
A Seattle-based train maker has filed a claim with the Wisconsin Claims Board saying the state owes nearly $66-million in damage. Talgo America says it reached an agreement with the state in 2009 to create a high-speed rail line connecting Milwaukee and Madison, along with two high-speed trains. However, the company says Governor Scott Walker’s administration abandoned the idea. If the claim is rejected by the Legislature and Governor Walker, Talgo America says it will likely take the issue to court.
Lawmakers say they need more time to consider a new funding request from the state's job creation agency. The Joint Finance Committee postponed a meeting this week to consider $44-million in new funding for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation through mid-2015. The panel was also supposed to consider approving a new foundation. It would let the WEDC can receive private tax-deductible donations to boost economic development. Assembly finance chairman John Nygren (R-Marinette) said he's been meeting with corporation officials to learn more about how the foundation would operate. He said there needs to be strong state government oversight of the foundation, and the agency itself. Earlier this year, the finance panel decided to hold onto $63-million earmarked for the WEDC, and to dole it out once the agency took better control of its finances. Now, the agency is asking for $44-million of that. The other $18-million-plus would come from a department surplus.
The head of the state elections agency said it was a real challenge to train 1,850 municipal clerks about the voter ID law. Kevin Kennedy testified yesterday at a trial in Milwaukee, in which the ACLU and minority groups are challenging the constitutionality of the photo ID mandate. Under the plaintiffs' questioning, Kennedy said it was never easy to pass on all the details of the law to a group that represents about one-sixth of all clerks in the country. Unlike most states, Wisconsin lets municipalities run elections instead of the much fewer counties. With over 30-thousand poll workers statewide, Kennedy said it was human nature to have glitches -- like not having some voters sign poll books, or signing on the wrong lines. Kennedy's agency is a defendant in the lawsuit, because it enforces what the Republican governor and Legislature passed in 2011. The trial is going into its fifth day in federal court in Milwaukee. It's expected to continue for another week. Part of the law -- but not all of it -- was struck down in 2012 by two state judges. Plaintiffs contend the photo ID requirement discourages the poor and minorities from voting, because of their difficulty to get ID's. Kennedy said he proposed letting those without ID's vote by signing sworn statements affirming the identities, with criminal penalties for lying. He said quote, "The Legislature chose not to adopt that."
A Wisconsin Senate Democrat promises quote, "all out hell" if the Republican majority tries to approve a pair of anti-abortion bills in Tuesday's session. Sen. Jon Erpenbach of Middleton made the remark to an AP reporter after the Senate Health Committee endorsed both bills this morning. On a 3-2 party line vote, with Republicans voting yes, the panel recommended proposals to ban abortions based solely on an unborn child's gender -- and banning abortion from the health coverage of public employee groups. That second bill would also exempt religious organizations from having their insurance pay to provide contraceptives. However, an employee could get contraceptives insured if they're used for reasons other than pregnancy. Erpenbach said bosses have no business granting or denying contraceptives for their female employees. After the hearing, Erpenbach called it government intrusion that's "shocking." Julaine Appling of the Wisconsin Family Action group said Erpenbach was being disingenuous -- she said the decision on covering contraceptives would be left to insurers, not employers. The Assembly endorsed the employer contraceptive measure in its final approval of the bill recently. Erpenbach wants a public hearing on the provision, but Appling called it a "stall tactic." The Senate will be asked to give final legislative approval of both bills Tuesday. Governor Scott Walker has said he would sign them if they get to his desk.
Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne has entered the race for state attorney general. Ozanne, a Madison native who graduated from West High School and UW Law School, was appointed by Democratic Governor Jim Doyle as Dane County district attorney in August 2010. He served in political apponitments within state Department of Corrections between 2008 and 2010, and prior to that was assistant district attorney in Dane County, beginning in 1998. He joins fellow Democrat, Milwaukee state Representative Jon Richards, and Republian Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel, as the only declared candidates to succeed two-term incumbent J.B. Van Hollen, a Republican who is not seeking reelection.
Madison attorney James Peterson has been nominated for a federal judgeship that's been vacant for four years, due to political bickering. President Obama named Peterson yesterday to replace the late John Shabaz in a federal district court that serves the western half of Wisconsin. Peterson is a shareholder in the law firm of Godfrey-and-Kahn. He was one of three candidates recommended by the state's two U.S. senators and a bi-partisan nominating commission. U.S. Senate Democrat Tammy Baldwin of Madison said Peterson would make an excellent judge. The post has been vacant since 2009, as Obama tried four times to get the Senate to confirm former State Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler. Each nomination got tied up in a Senate committee, where Democrats hailed Butler's qualifications while Republicans questioned them -- especially after he lost a Supreme Court election in 2008. Butler later became a law instructor at UW-Madison. Judge Shabaz died last year.
Wisconsin's Tammy Baldwin says she'll never forget yesterday. Baldwin -- the first open lesbian in the U.S. Senate -- helped pass a resolution to ban job discrimination against Homosexual, bisexual, and transgender workers. The Democrat Baldwin co-sponsored the measure, which passed 62-34. Wisconsin's other senator, Republican Ron Johnson of Oshkosh, voted no. Baldwin said her colleagues sent a powerful message that quote, "folks like myself" want to be judged by their work performance, and not their sexual orientation. She noted that Wisconsin was the first in the nation to pass a state law to that effect in 1982. Twenty states and Washington D.C. have passed similar bans since then. Johnson said gays were occasionally harassed at the company in Oshkosh he used to own -- and he made it clear the harassers were the only ones susceptible to losing their jobs. However, Johnson said the proposed nationwide discrimination ban was flawed. He said it would create vague burdens on employers, and provide too narrow of a religious exemption. Johnson said the measure would spur lawsuits and keep people from being hired. The Republican-controlled House is not expected to consider the measure, although Madison U.S. House Democrat Mark Pocan wishes it would. Pocan, who is openly hokmosexual, says the bill's principles are so fundamental that most Americans already believe it's the law.
A two-day hearing began in Washington D.C. yesterday on a claim by two Wisconsin sisters that a drug against cervical cancer shut down their ovaries. 20-year-old Madelyne Meylor and her 19-year-old sister Olivia, both from Mount Horeb, said their problems resulted from taking Gardasil. That's a vaccine against HPV. They've filed a damage claim with the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. The Wisconsin State Journal says it's the first time such a damage claim has been taken to the national program -- which serves as a court to consider claims that vaccines cause human harm. The maker of Gardasil, Merck-and-Company, say the evidence does not support the theory that the drug shuts down ovaries. Two government agencies have both said the drug is safe -- the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control.
The Trevor-Wilmot School in Kenosha County is closed today, after a stomach virus sickened almost 75 youngsters. Officials say the school has been dealing with ailments by both students and staff members. Around 70 kindergarten-through-eighth graders either stayed home or were sent home yesterday. Health officials say they do not believe the illnesses were caused by some type of food. A cleaning company is scrubbing the building from top-to-bottom today, and it's expected to re-open on Monday.
A Rhinelander High School English teacher is due in court today for allegedly stealing electronic items from the school, and growing marijuana at his home. 35-year-old Joshua Juergens was arrested Wednesday at his home near Rhinelander. Oneida County Sheriff Grady Hartman said a search warrant was executed at Juergens' home, where they found undisclosed items that were suspected to be stolen -- plus a growing operation with numerous marijuana plants. No charges have been filed in that case yet. Juergens did appear in Oneida County Circuit Court yesterday on a separate disorderly conduct charge. A$500 was set in that matter. Rhinelander assistant school superintendent Dave Wall said he had no reason to believe that other people were involved -- and that staff members and students were never put in jeopardy from the incidents. Officials said Juergens joined the Rhinelander faculty in August.
If you fall asleep at the wheel, you're guilty of inattentive driving. That's what a state appeals court said today, when it refused to throw out an inattentive driving ticket against Giovanina Ray of Rubicon. Authorities said her car veered across the center line, went off the left shoulder, and drove 100 yards into a marsh before stopping. Ray was not close to hitting any other vehicles, and she escaped injury. Ray claimed that Wisconsin's inattentive driving law required an external factor in not paying attention to the road -- and falling asleep does not qualify. The appeals court disagreed. Judge JoAnn Kloppenburg said inattentive driving is any activity that diverts from safe driving, and snoozing is an activity. She took her case to a Dodge County court and lost. The appeals court did not rule her case to be frivolous. Ray was 16 at the time of the mishap. According to court records, she was returning home around 10 at night after a long day of school and activities at Oconomowoc High.
A former clown will spend six years in prison for shooting at his ex-wife, and at Waukesha police officers who responded. 77-year-old Richard Petarius had pleaded guilty to five felony charges including reckless endangerment and false imprisonment. His most serious original charge of attempted homicide was dropped in a plea deal. Petarius was a Tripoli Shrine clown in 2008. Authorities said he shot at his wife Phyllis in her condominium in October of last year. An officer was interviewing the victim when Petarius emerged and pointed a gun. The defendant and two officers briefly exchanged gunfire. No one was hurt. Phyllis Petarius had a broken arm and minor arm injuries after her ex-husband pushed her onto a concrete garage floor. He was under a restraining order to stay away from his ex-wife at the time. That triggered a lot of publicity for the incident, since it came two days after Radcliffe Haughton killed his wife, two other women, and himself at a Brookfield spa after he violated a similar restraining order.
_______________________________________________The DNR has drawn up forest management plans for five state-owned properties throughout Wisconsin -- and officials want to find out what the public thinks about them. Until the master plans are finished, sites would continue to be certified as sustainably-managed as timber is removed. The five properties include state wildlife areas at Waunakee in Dane County, Moose Lake in Iron County, Albany in Green County, and Spring Creek in Price County. The other site is Kohler-Andrae State Park in Sheboygan County. The DNR will take public comments through November 19th. More information is available at the DNR's Web site, accessible at Wisconsin.gov.
Wisconsin has a real gem in the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife-and-Fish Refuge. Federal officials say the refuge generates $161-million in economic benefits for 19 counties in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa. That includes an array of spending by visitors, tax revenues, and income from jobs. Officials say the refuge generates almost $4,600 in revenues for every dollar spent on the facility. The 240-thousand-acre refuge runs about 260 miles on-and-near the Mississippi River between Wabasha, Minnesota and Rock Island, Illinois. It follows roughly the lower half of Wisconsin's western border.
The Oshkosh Corporation has received another contract to build almost 250 trucks for the U.S. Army. The Pentagon chose Oshkosh over two other bidders for work that's expected to be completed by the end of next year. Oshkosh kept humming during the Great Recession, thanks mainly to its production of military vehicles for the wars in Iraq-and-Afghanistan. With those conflicts winding down, Oshkosh expected a major drop in its net sales in its next fiscal year. The firm hopes to win a major contract to make a newly-redesigned type of basic military vehicle -- but that won't be awarded until 2015.
Governor Scott Walker was scheduled to sign a bill today to give Wisconsin businesses a new avenue to tap into investment funds. The Republican Walker had a bill-signing ceremony planned at the University Research Park in Madison, to approve the concept of crowd-funding. It changes securities' rules, so investors can make donations to start-up companies on popular crowd-funding Web sites like Kick-starter. The investors cannot get direct returns. They often get things like free T-shirts or products that a funded company sells. Both houses of the Legislature unanimously passed the measure a few weeks ago. Supporters called it an easy way for small businesses to reach a large number of potential investors, possibly without having to seek more conventional financing which could still be hard-to-get in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Companies could raise up to a million-dollars on sites like Kick-starter -- or two-million if they're willing to be audited and let investors see the results. Wisconsin will be among the first states giving formal approval to the crowd-funding concept.
Rockwell Automation said it overcame a sluggish market to produce record sales and earnings for its fiscal year. The Milwaukee-based maker of automation systems and software reports earnings of $5.71-per share for the fiscal year ending September 30th. That's 42-cents more than the previous year. Rockwell had a three-percent sales increase, to one-point-seven billion dollars in spite of sluggish markets in China and India. Rockwell also reported a 10-percent increase in its net income for its most recent quarter. It made $215-million from July through September, up from 195-million in the same quarter of 2012. CEO Keith Nosbusch says Rockwell Automation also expects solid growth in its new fiscal year -- including a 40-cent increase in its shares to $6.35.
A fund has been started to help parents of children who are being treated for cancer at the Marshfield Clinic. Werner Krause of Door County joined Clinic officials in announcing the Krause Family Pediatric Cancer Angel Fund. It will start with his family's $25,000 donation. They'll also add $25,000 to maintain the fund, and match up to 25-thousand more dollars in other gifts. Werner is the father of Dave and Becky Krause of Hewitt, near Marshfield. Their five-year-old son Will was diagnosed with leukemia in March of last year, while they were on vacation last year. It's now in remission. Werner Krause says he knows about the stresses facing families of childhood cancer patients -- how many have to choose between rent and treatments -- and how many will never admit it. He says the fund will help families through gas-and-grocery cards, and paying household bills.