WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: No bombshells as more John Doe probe pages were released
No bomb-shells came out yesterday, when a federal court released 14 more pages of sealed documents in the Walker John Doe probe. The records included arguments from prosecutors about why they should be immune from the Wisconsin Club for Growth's federal lawsuit which sought to end the Doe probe. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago released the records yesterday, after appellate Judge Diane Wood ruled Tuesday there's no need to keep them secret. Federal Judge Rudolph Randa halted the two-year-old investigation a few weeks ago, and said he agreed with the group's argument that prosecutors violated the group's free-speech rights. Prosecutors are appealing to get the probe restored. Previously-released records included a prosecutor's theory that Governor Scott Walker helped arrange an effort to have outside groups illegally coordinate recall election campaigns for Walker and G-O-P senators in 2011-and-'12. An attorney for special prosecutor Francis Schmitz later said Walker was not a target of the John Doe -- and no has been charged as a result of the investigation.
The rough winter is long gone, but some rougher side effects will be felt for some time to come. Iron ore shippers on the Great Lakes are the latest to feel the pain. Their loads at the end of June were 17-percent less than a year ago, due mainly to the thick ice on the Great Lakes that took a longer time to melt. Glen Nekvasil of the Lake Carriers Association says a warm summer and fell would help carriers make up for at least some of their lost tonnage -- but he says it will be tough for the industry to catch up. The colder-than-normal waters on the Great Lakes produced less evaporation. That, plus heavy rains and snows, caused water levels on Lake Superior to rise by over a foot in recent weeks.
Wisconsin's water quality standards are reviewed every three years -- and the state D-N-R is starting the latest review by asking for people's opinions. The agency wants public input on the standards and policies that should get the first attention. You can submit ideas on the D-N-R's Web site through August seventh. Also, officials plan a public hearing July 30th in Madison to go over the review process -- and you can see that meeting online if you can't attend in person. The D-N-R will use the input to help establish a final list of water quality topics to be addressed. Any changes would have to be approved by the state Natural Resources Board, the governor and Legislature, and the federal E-P-A.
New foreclosure cases in southeast Wisconsin are finally down to what they were before the 2008 recession began. Just over 28-hundred-50 new cases were filed from January through June against homeowners delinquent on their mortgages in Milwaukee and six other counties. That's the lowest six-month total since 2006 -- and it's less than half the peak of foreclosure cases during the recession. Almost 63-hundred new cases were filed in a six-month period in 2009 in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington, Racine, Kenosha, and Walworth counties. The housing market had a glut of buyers about a decade ago -- many of whom apparently assumed that their investments would keep rising. But experts said too many bought homes they couldn't really afford, and the market eventually crashed -- helping contribute to the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930's. U-W Whitewater professor Russ Kashian said foreclosure rates were so high for so long, that he was concerned that homebuyers would accept them as normal -- and it was nice to see that they didn't. Kashian tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the problem could return if interest rates rise, and people take too much financial risk again by going to adjustable-rate mortgages to buy more expensive houses.
The latest financial figures in the Wisconsin governor's race sparked a debate over how much Democratic challenger Mary Burke should chip in. The former Trek Bicycle executive put up 400-thousand dollars of her own money soon after she announced her bid last fall. Yesterday, the Burke camp said she has not had to put up any more since then -- because she raised three-point-six million dollars from others during the first half of the year. Joe Zepecki of the Burke camp says she's had "tremendous support," but state G-O-P director Joe Fadness said she's either not willing or able to spend more on what he called a "losing venture." Zepecki said Burke would contribute more before the race is over. Republican incumbent Scott Walker raised more than twice as much as Burke, with eight-point-two million between January and June. Going into July, Walker had seven-point-six million dollars in his war-chest, while Burke had two-and-a-half million. Both campaigns released new figures yesterday, well before the state's deadline of July 21st.
Wisconsin's job creation agency gave state tax breaks to two companies which later sent jobs to foreign countries. W-K-O-W T-V in Madison said the Eaton Corporation of suburban Milwaukee was awarded tax credits in 2011, outsourced workers in 2013, and was then awarded another state tax break almost a year later. Plexus of Neenah was awarded millions in tax credits in 2011-and-'12, before laying off workers who were later awarded federal benefits because their jobs were shipped overseas. Mark Maley of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation said his agency works routinely with companies to ensure that jobs stay in Wisconsin. He said the loss of even one job from the state is "one too many." Maley said Eaton has met part of its long-term job creation goals for its Menomonee Falls plant, and has been given 190-thousand dollars so far. He said Eaton will not seek tax credits for its second project. Plexus has been given four-point-seven million dollars in credits for meeting its Wisconsin job expansion goals.
Harley-Davidson is recalling over 66-thousand motorcycles after warranty claims turned up a safety defect. The recall includes 2014 Touring and C-V-O Touring motorcycles with anti-lock brakes, which were built between last July first and May seventh. The Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson says the front brake line can get pinched between the frame and the fuel tank, possibly causing fluid pressure in the front brake to increase and locking up the front wheel. Harley said it knows of five crashes related to the defect. Two people suffered minor injuries in those mishaps. Harley says it will notify affected owners later this month, and they can get repairs for free.
The Marshfield Clinic's director said its decision to scrap a new school to train dentists came down to questions of cost and service. The clinic said yesterday it would not build a new 20-million dollar school to prepare dentists to practice in rural areas, which was on the drawing board since 2010. Marshfield will return a ten-million dollar grant from the state for the project, plus another ten-million allocated by the clinic's Security Health Plan. The Wisconsin Dental Association opposed the project, and so did the state's only other dental training school at Marquette. Marshfield Clinic executive director Brian Ewert said the decision came to down whether the new dental school would have been a prudent use of its resources -- and whether it would have best served its central and northern Wisconsin service territory. Marshfield and other health systems have been cutting costs amid a recent decline in patients. Ewert said the clinic had looked for six months at various options to meet dental training needs. Among other things, six dental clinics opened by the Clinic's Family Health Center have areas to train students -- and Marshfield has started a post-graduate residency program which can handle up to ten candidates. Ewert said the clinic would also be open to training fourth-year students in partnership with a dental school.
The Powerball jackpot was won in Ohio last night. One ticket sold in the Buckeye State matched all the numbers to win 124-point-nine million dollars. Nobody from Wisconsin won anything more than 200-dollars. Six tickets got that by having the Power Play multiplier of two, and matching either four regular numbers or three-plus-the-Powerball. Almost 97-hundred Wisconsin players won smaller prizes. Last night's numbers were 9, 25, 42, 55, and 57. The Powerball was 14. The jackpot was building since June 11th. It rolled over eight times before it was claimed. The top prize returns to 40-million dollars for the next drawing on Saturday night. In Mega Millions, the jackpot stands at 32-million dollars for tomorrow night.