WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Walker's aides sent racially charged emails, jokes
MILWAUKEE - The MIlwaukee Journal-Sentinel said it found at least two racially-charged e-mails among the thousands released yesterday involving Walker's former Milwaukee County aide Kelly Rindfleisch.
She agreed with a friend who e-mailed her about somebody whose dogs could qualify for welfare because they're quote, "mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can't speak English, and have no frigging clue who their daddies are." Rindfleisch also wrote that patients being harmed at the Milwaukee County Medical Complex would not resonate with voters because quote, "No one cares about crazy people." The paper also said former county executive Chief-of-Staff Tom Nardelli forwarded a joke he received -- in which the sender claimed to have turned into a black, Jewish, disabled, unemployed gay man and the punch line was, "Please don't tell me I'm a Democrat." During his term as governor, Walker has acted quickly to terminate current aides for racially-insensitive remarks once he learned about them. Campaign deputy finance director Taylor Palmisano and assistant deputy DOT secretary Steven Krieser were both let go last year.
Marquette University pollster Charles Franklin says he does not believe Wisconsin voters will drift away from Governor Scott Walker. That's after thousands of e-mails were released yesterday about illegal campaigning by aides in his Milwaukee County executive's office. National Democrats are raising questions about how much Walker knew about the activities for which his former county aide Kelly Rindfleisch was sentenced to six months in jail. The liberal American Bridge 21st Century group has launched a Web site to blast the governor's role. Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz has compared Walker to embattled New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, both of whom are potential White House hopefuls in 2016. But former Republican National Committee political director Rick Wiley says the Democrats will overplay their hand -- and voters will find it's much-ado-about-nothing. The new revelations from yesterday included Walker's coordination with a lieutenant governor's candidate in 2010, to raise more money from wealthy donors who maxed out their legal contributions to him. Franklin says Christie's reported ties to lane closures on the George Washington Bridge are "very real to people." He said the Walker matter was investigated for a long time, before prosecutors decided he was not directly involved.
A six-year-old boy who was struck-and-killed by a car in Milwaukee this morning was identified as Corey Stevenson Jr. Police said he was on his way to school when he left an alley and crossed in the middle of a block on a busy North Avenue. That's where he was hit by a car driven by a 58-year-old Milwaukee woman. She was not injured, and police said she was cooperating with their investigation. Corey was a kindergarten student at Clarke Street Elementary School on Milwaukee's north side. School Superintendent Greg Thornton met with the victim's family, and said Corey would be greatly missed. Thornton said the child loved school, and his classwork was on display throughout his family's house. Counselors are available today to help Milwaukee school kids and staffers cope with the tragedy.
An historic lighthouse in Ashland might become a part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. According to the Northland's News Center in Duluth, a bill has been introduced in Congress to transfer the ownership of the Ashland Harbor Breakwater Light building. The Coast Guard has been trying to find another group to take over the management of the 99-year-old structure, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. U.S. Senate Democrat Tammy Baldwin of Madison and House Republican Sean Duffy of Weston have proposed giving the lighthouse to the National Park Service, which owns the Apostles' Lakeshore. The Park Service could not accept the property without a boundary adjustment, for which congressional approval is needed. The new bill would set a new park boundary, thus allowing the transfer of the lighthouse.
A bill that could give Wisconsin lawmakers the final say on school academic standards is being delayed. The state Assembly's Education Committee was planning to vote on the measure today, just two days after it was introduced. Committee Chairman Steve Kestell scrapped the vote for this week. The Elkhart Lake Republican said there's confusion and misinformation about the measure, and there might be changes coming. Critics feared the measure would eventually wipe out the state's Common Core educational standards adopted three years ago. The governor and state superintendent would both appoint members to the panel which would recommend changes in student performance standards. The superintendent would also make recommendations -- and if they were different, lawmakers could eventually decide which ones to go with. State Superintendent Tony Evers says it's tantamount to having politicians decide what kids should know -- but GOP Governor Scott Walker does not believe such a scenario would go that far, and he supported the original legislation.
The Wisconsin State Assembly has another busy afternoon ahead. Almost 40 bills are on the calendar -- including one to eliminate local "living wage" ordinances. Dane County and the cities of Madison and Milwaukee would have to stop paying higher minimum wages to government employees and contractors, if state-and-federal money are used to pay those wages. Also, the bill would end a requirement that contracted workers have to live in the counties where they work. Assembly Republican Chris Kapenga of Delafield sponsored that measure. Other bills up in the Assembly would delay mandates to reduce phosphorus in waterways -- allow more classified research at UW schools -- and create new short-term sanctions for offenders who violate probation and parole conditions. Marinette Republican John Nygren proposed the measure as part of a series of actions designed to fight heroin abuse. He said the measure could help heroin addicts get faster treatment.
Wisconsin remains one of the top-10 states in the numbers of farms and agricultural sales, despite a big drop in rural acreage. The USDA's new Census of Agriculture shows that Wisconsin lost 8,700 farms between 2007-2012, when the Great Recession took place. The state had 70,000 farms with 14.6 million acres as of 2012, with a reduction of 620,000 acres during the five-year period.
A former president of the National Pork Producers Council will serve on the Wisconsin Agriculture board. Doug Wolf has been named to replace Richard Cates, who stepped down last December. Wolf is a hog, beef, and crop farmer from Lancaster. He previously served on the Wisconsin Pork Association's board, and he's been an agricultural industries instructor at UW-Platteville.
About 15 Wisconsin school districts closed today, in advance of what forecasters call the most severe snow-and-ice storm of the season. All 15 districts are in the western half of the state. Superior is the largest. The forecast there calls for up to 18-inches of snow through tomorrow. Dozens of other school districts plan to send students home at least a couple hours early this afternoon -- including Eau Claire, Marshfield, and Chippewa Falls. In southern Wisconsin, where a little snow but a lot of ice is expected, many school systems had two-hour delays this morning as the wintry mix began. About 840 We Energies' electric customers were without power in Waukesha County at mid-morning. Because of that outage, the Prairie View Elementary School in Mukwonago was closed today.
Marquette University said yesterday it's eliminating 25 staff positions in order to cut costs, and keep tuition affordable at the Milwaukee Jesuit school. Interim president Robert Wild refused to identify the departments affected. Wild said the laid-off staffers would get extended pay-and-benefits, plus transition help. In a campus e-mail, Wild said the job cuts will create a net loss of 105 positions because some a number of people will leave through attrition -- and some personnel will not be replaced, leaving a total of about 2,700 employees. About 98-percent of Marquette students get financial aid to reduce a total average cost burden of around $47,000 for next year. That includes tuition, fees, room-and-board. The university said the tuition hike -- three-and-three-quarter percent -- is the lowest at Marquette in three years.
The largest stockholder in the Wausau Paper Corporation is putting more pressure on the company's management. The Starboard Value hedge fund of Manhattan said this week that other stockholders are losing patience with the management and performance of the 115-year-old company. Lion-Eye Capital Management recently went public with its concerns, as did Altai Capital Management. Starboard's initial pressure came a little before Wausau Paper sold its Wisconsin mills last year. The hedge fund controls two seats on Wausau's eight-member board. It's trying to gain a majority on the board, with three new members to be sought at the firm's annual stockholders' meeting.
A second Wisconsin National Guard soldier has been suspended from a funeral honors unit, for an Internet photo showing happy and smiling soldiers around a flag-draped casket. The Guard said today that Sergeant Luis Jimenez went on social media to defend the posting of the controversial picture. So he's been relieved of his duties with the unit that helps conduct funeral services around the state for fallen troops. Jimenez remains in the Guard full-time in Madison, but with other duties. Yesterday, the Guard said Specialist Terry Harrison was suspended for posting the controversial photo on Instagram. Jimenez was Harrison's task leader. Members of other units were reported to be in the photo, which the Guard said was taken at a training site in Arkansas. The casket was empty at the time. The Wisconsin Guard condemned the photo, and is investigating the matter.
If a Milwaukee alderman has his way, restaurants in the city would get letter grades for cleanliness -- and they'd have to be posted on their front doors. Common Council president Michael Murphy says he's working on an ordinance to have Milwaukee's health department come up with a grading system on hygiene. He said there are many food-borne chemicals which have made people sick and quote, "It's incumbent upon government to help businesses do a better job." Murphy said that to be fair, the grades should reflect a restaurant's behaviors over a period of time. Otherwise, he says the details are still up for discussion. New York and Los Angeles have set up similar grading systems -- as have the states of Ohio and North Carolina.
West Allis Police have received an out-pouring of condolences, for the death of a detective just minutes after she gave birth to twins. 39-year-old Stacie Napoli died unexpectedly on Monday. Media reports said doctors performed a cesarean section, and she developed a blood clot in her lungs. Napoli was a 17-year veteran of the West Allis police force. She also served in Iraq for a year-and-a-half as an Army officer in 2001. A friend started a fund to help her family -- including the new twins. Just over $32,000 was raised as of mid-morning, with a goal of 50-thousand. The West Allis Police Department is taking the donations.
Thousands of people continue to make a pilgrimage to Bayfield County, to see the majestic ice formations on the Lake Superior sea-caves. Weekends at the site have been hectic, ever since the beauty of the frozen caves made the news. It's been five years since people have been able to walk on the ice to the sea-caves, located two miles east of Meyers Beach between Cornucopia and Bayfield. Chris Smith, the chief ranger of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, said last weekend was the busiest yet. An estimated 11,000 people went to the site -- and even on Monday, almost two-thousand showed up. Recently, we were told that the park officials have called on other agencies to help maintain order -- including the U-S Coast Guard and Border Patrol. There's now an "Incident Command Center" at Meyers Beach. Last month, it was reported that folks parked as much as seven miles away along Highway 13 to get to the area -- and that was before the long walk on the ice.
A woman accused of kidnapping her half-sister's baby near Beloit served in the Army Reserve for about a year, before she was involuntarily discharged. 31-year-old Kristen Smith was in a military police unit in Fond du Lac from December of 2011 until she was removed almost a year later. The Army's Human Resources Command told the AP that an involuntary release so early into an eight-year commitment period had to turn up major problems of some type -- but they could not reveal what they were. Army spokesman Ray Gall said it was not due to a crime or a court martial, but he could not elaborate under the Army's policy. Smith is due in federal court in Madison tomorrow, after a grand jury indicted her yesterday on a kidnapping charge that carries a possible life prison term. Authorities said she took five-day-old Kayden Powell from his mother near Beloit on February sixth, and left him behind an Iowa gas station close to where officers stopped her for questioning a few hours after the reported kidnapping.