WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Harley-Davidson throwing itself a birthday bash to remember
Harley-Davidson’s 110th birthday is being celebrated with gusto in Milwaukee. At the Harley Museum yesterday, Bill Davidson led a countdown to the official time when the legendary motorcycle maker was born in 1903. A roll call was recited of nations that have observed Harley’s anniversary – and fireworks boomed when the clock hit zero. At Milwaukee’s Summerfest grounds, Harley Owners’ Groups held a private event before the site was opened to the public late in the afternoon. Dave Grohl from Nirvana made a surprise appearance, performing with the dirt rock band Chevy Metal. Lynard Skynard of “Sweet Home Alabama” fame performed, and Toby Keith was the featured star last night. Meanwhile, Harley dealers were getting strong sales as visitors showed up at a number of local shops. The dealerships are putting on their own entertainment – and parties and events will continue all weekend in downtown Milwaukee and the Summerfest grounds along Lake Michigan. Over 100-thousand people are expected for the Harley bash.
The Wisconsin Public Service utility will pay 80-thousand dollars to settle a lawsuit over air quality violations at its Weston Power Plant near Wausau. The state D-N-R said the utility committed a series of permit violations in 2008-and-’09, when the Weston-Four plant had excessive emission levels at various times. Air management supervisor Jeff Johnson said the plant has not had any violations since the lawsuit was brought. Johnson said the matter took a while to work through the court system, because of repeated violations five years ago. He said there were different violations over different periods of time. Marathon County Circuit Judge Jill Falstad approved the settlement earlier this week.
Same-sex couples in Wisconsin who get married elsewhere can file joint federal income tax returns, and pay less than they would as individuals. The I-R-S said yesterday that gay married couples will have the same federal tax status as heterosexual couples –even if they live in states like Wisconsin that don’t recognize same-sex marriage. State officials were quick to point out that same-sex couples would still have to file their Wisconsin returns as individuals. The I-R-S ruling comes after the U-S Supreme Court struck down the Defense-of-Marriage Act in late June. U-S House Democrat Mark Pocan of Madison, who’s in a same-sex marriage, says the federal ruling is a huge benefit to similar couples in the Badger State. Pocan said he would ask state officials in the coming days to allow gay couples to file joint state tax returns. Julaine Appling of Wisconsin Family Action said a state tax change would violate Wisconsin’s constitutional ban on gay marriages and civil unions. Appling’s group pushed for the passage of the anti-gay marriage amendment.
A man arrested on the first possible felony charge in a crackdown on the State Capitol’s Solidarity Singers was freed on a signature bond yesterday. Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne told a judge said he needed more time to consider what type of charge should be filed against 22-year-old Damon Terrell. A final decision is expected by September 12th, when Terrell is scheduled to return to court. In the meantime, he was ordered to stay away from the Capitol and its grounds. The Walker administration recommended charges of felony battery and resisting arrest against Terrell, who fell to the ground after officers confronted him during Monday’s protest sing-along at the Capitol. Officer James Brooks said he hurt his right finger while arresting Terrell – and he was bruised in several places. Terrell’s attorney said his client merely tripped, and did not intentionally hit anyone while going down. The case involves the first possible felony resulting from over 300 arrests since late July, when the state began enforcing its policy requiring permits for larger gatherings at the Capitol.
A new lawsuit alleges that Madison police officer Stephen Heimsness used unnecessary-and-excessive force when he shot an unarmed musician to death last November. Relatives of 30-year-old Paul Heenan filed suit yesterday, claiming that Heimsness could have used less drastic options to break up a scuffle between Heenan and a neighbor. Previous news accounts said Heenan was so drunk that night, he thought his neighbor’s house was his own – and he got into a scuffle with the neighbor soon afterward. Police said Heimsness was trying to break up the dispute when Heenan was reaching for the officer’s gun – and that’s when Heimsness shot and killed Heenan. The family disputes the official police account. They said Heenan was too drunk to be aggressive, and he could have been subdued with only a little effort. They said Heimsness could have used pepper spray, a baton, or a Taser stun gun on Heenan – but the officer used his most lethal option. Jim Palmer of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association said multiple agencies have cleared Heimsness of wrongdoing – and the officer will let the fact speak for themselves in defending his lawsuit. Outgoing Madison Police Chief Noble Wray and the city are also defendants. They did not immediately comment.
Sixteen Wisconsin National Guard members could be home as early as next month, as they start wrapping up a mission to train security forces in Afghanistan. The Guard’s 104th Security Force Advise-and-Assist Team has been in the Middle East since January. They’ve been helping Afghan troops prepare for what happens after the U-S withdraws from there. The unit has also worked with local residents on a number of projects in Afghanistan. The troops helped open two new schools and created a water well. They also delivered school supplies to remote villages near Afghanistan’s borders with Iran and Turkmenistan.
The Solidarity Singers moved their daily anti-Walker sing-along outside the State Capitol yesterday. The group normally moves from the Rotunda on Fridays, and when other groups get permits for Capitol events. Almost a dozen Republicans staged a pro-Walker rally in the Capitol, singing patriotic songs among other things. Organizer Deb Stein told W-K-O-W T-V in Madison that the event was designed to quote, “take back the Capitol” from the regular protestors. She said the noon-time Solidarity sing-alongs disrupt those who work in the statehouse, and those opposed to Walker should express their views at the ballot box come November of next year. Stein said her group plans four other Capitol rallies. The Solidarity Singers have refused to get the required state permits for Capitol gatherings, saying they should not have to get government approval to protest the government.
State D-N-R Secretary Cathy Stepp has given her final approval to a controversial grant to encourage more Wisconsinites to go hunting-and-fishing. Stepp had the final say on the matter, after the Sporting Heritage Committee voted 4-to-1 earlier in the day to give the two-year, half-million-dollar grant to the United Sportsmen of Wisconsin Foundation. The panel heard a lot of testimony about the grant, almost all of it in opposition to the award. Critics said the group has no experience in training sportsmen, and its members had political ties to majority Republicans at the State Capitol. The G-O-P inserted the grant in the new state budget but did not allow several conservation groups to apply for the money. Others said they would have been interested in seeking the grant had they knew it was available. Stepp said the budget measure gave the D-N-R no choice in approving the grant. But she promised quote, “ample opportunity for public scrutiny” as the funding and promotional work are carried out. The United Sportsmen were given 200-thousand for this year, 300-thousand for next year, and 450-thousand in each future two-year budget. The group promises to match 150-thousand dollars for every future grant.