WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Political leaders blaming each other about United Sportsmen
MADISON - The governor's office and state lawmakers are blaming each other, after it was learned that the approval of a sportsmen's grant could have cost the state 28-million dollars a year in federal funds.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said the Legislature's finance panel put the funds in jeopardy, by budgeting a half-million-dollars in state-and-federal money which the politically-connected United Sportsmen were later awarded to promote hunting-and-fishing. Governor Scott Walker preserved the federal funds, by making a partial budget veto in which state covered the entire grant. Last week, Walker eliminated the grant, after questions were raised about the United Sportsmen's tax status. Now, the Journal Sentinel said the grant approval by GOP lawmakers came despite two warnings from the U-S Fish-and-Wildlife Service. That agency told the DNR that millions in federal funds could be cut off, because the state would no longer have full control of them. State Senate Finance Committee member Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Berlin) said he never knew about the DNR's warnings until the Journal Sentinel brought them up -- and he's speechless the administration didn't say anything. Walker's office says the governor indeed worked with key lawmakers on the matter, and Olsen should have asked questions earlier. Democrats have accused Republicans of trying to do favors for political friends. Milwaukee state Assembly Democrat Jon Richards called on the Justice Department to investigate to see if there was quote, "wrongdoing that goes beyond cronyism."
The safety-versus-freedom issue came up again yesterday, when a state Senate committee held a public hearing on legalizing the sale of raw milk in Wisconsin. Both sides spent hours making their cases for and against legislation proposed by Senate Republican Glenn Grothman of West Bend, and a similar Assembly bill offered by Trempealeau Democrat Chris Danou. Danou says there's already a black market for raw milk -- nobody can stop people from buying and drinking it -- and it would be better if the product were regulated. Previous arguments about the safety of raw milk came up. Supporters cited health benefits and freedom of choice. The dairy industry was among the opponents of the measure, saying there's risk of bacteria that could cause illnesses. In the past, opponents have said that just one outbreak would bring Wisconsin's world-famous dairy industry to its knees. Former Governor Jim Doyle cited that reasoning when he vetoed the last effort to legalize raw milk sales in 2010. Mark Kastel of northern Wisconsin's Cornucopia Institute doesn't buy the claim. He says people are smart enough to know the difference between potential illnesses caused by raw milk, as opposed to pasteurized dairy products. Another public hearing on the bills is set for Monday at UW-La Crosse.
A high school assembly in Watertown will kick off a national campaign to get more Americans to drink water. First Lady Michelle Obama and actress Eva Longoria will be among those appearing at Watertown High this afternoon -- where 15-hundred students will help the Partnership for a Healthier America kick off a campaign called "Drink Up." Partnership president Lawrence Soler will also be on hand, along with water industry representatives and Watertown Mayor John David. Michelle Obama is involved through her anti-obesity program "Let's Move." Sam Kass of that group said the city's name was a major reason that Watertown was chosen to kick off the initiative. The First Lady cites federal figures showing that 40-percent of Americans drink less than half the recommended amount of water each day -- and there are days when a fourth of U-S children don't drink any water at all. Soler says about two dozen brands of water have joined the initiative, and will have a "Drink Up" logo on their products. That includes Pepsi manufacturer Wis-Pak of Watertown, which also bottles Aquafina and a host of flavored waters. The program will also be promoted on the late night T-V variety shows, along with morning news programs and special Internet sites.
A lighting manufacturer plans to move from northern Illinois to Kenosha County, bringing 400 jobs to the Badger State. Media reports say Kenall Manufacturing is leaving Gurnee, Illinois and will build a larger factory and headquarters' facility west of Kenosha near Interstate-94. Kenall makes specialty lighting equipment for places like schools, prisons, and hospitals. Company vice president Randy Hernandez says the firm has added about 100 employees during the past three years. Kenosha County is providing a million-dollars in an economic incentive grant. Incentives from the state and other public bodies have not been finalized. Still, Governor Scott Walker feels confident enough about the move that he's scheduled to announce it today at a news conference in Kenosha. Kenall plans to spend up to $30 million dollars on the project. Ground-breaking could come as early as December, with completion in one-and-a-half to two years. This is the second time in two weeks that Kenosha County has lured a company from Illinois. Last week, it was announced that Hanna Cylinders would move from Libertyville, Illinois to Pleasant Prairie by the end of the year, bringing 100 jobs. Kenosha County's incentive fund paid a quarter-million dollars to help the firm.
With protests planned for Sunday's Packer game, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says the league should pay attention to those offended by the Washington Redskins' nickname. He told a D.C. radio station yesterday that the NFL needs to listen if it's offending people -- and to make sure quote, "we're doing the right things to try to address that." The Redskins are playing the Packers in Green Bay this weekend, and the Wisconsin Indian Education Association plans to have protestors at the game. It's also holding a forum on the subject tomorrow at UW-Green Bay. Goodell says a decision to change the Redskins' name is up to team owner Dan Snyder, who has vowed never to the change it. Earlier this year, 10 members of Congress asked that the Redskins' name and Indian logo be dropped. At the time, Goodell said the 'Skins name was a unifying force that quote, "stands for strength, courage, pride, and respect." The commissioner's comments yesterday took a step back on that position. Now, Goodell says the league should at least listen to concerns like those from the Wisconsin group -- which says the Redskin has long been considered a derogatory term and a race-based stereotype.
A timber company was the main victim of the massive wildfire in northwest Wisconsin in mid-May. The Lyme Saint Croix company said it incurred over a million-dollars of damage, when most of its 52-hundred acres in Douglas County were torched in the blaze. Executive Sean Ross said the land was not insured for fire damage. The blaze blackened 7,400 acres, destroyed 17 homes, and caused dozens of people to evacuate. It was the largest forest fire in Wisconsin in 33 years. This week, the state DNR said it would bill Ray Duerr Logging of Rib Lake for the estimated 630-thousand dollars it cost to fight the wildfire. Sparks from one of the company's logging machines started the blaze. The DNR said it later learned that the machine had a fire suppression unit that was not maintained properly. Officials cited negligence in requiring the logging firm to pay for the fire-fighting costs.
_____________________Wisconsin U.S Representative Reid Ribble says he opposes a military strike on Syria. The Republican Congressman from Sherwood says while he doesn’t completely tryst a pledge from Syria to get rid of all its chemical weapons, diplomacy is a better option than a military strike. Under the agreement, Syria is to give all chemical weapons to Russia for disposal._____________________Janesville U.S. House Republican Paul Ryan has come out against President Obama's latest plan to have chemical weapons removed from Syria. Obama told Americans last night he wants to give Syria a chance to turn over its chemical weapons to Russia for eventual destruction. If that doesn't work, the president said he would order a limited military strike designed to weaken Syrian President Assad. Obama also vowed not to drag Americans into another war. Ryan -- the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee -- said today that a military strike would make things worse, and it damage America's credibility. He also said this week's events prove that the U.S. has a credibility gap on the subject. Ryan also said Obama is simply following Russia's lead without having a clear strategy of his own. U.S. Senate Republican Ron Johnson of Oshkosh is the only Wisconsin Member of Congress who has come close to endorsing the Obama strategy. Johnson calls it "practical." Amid declining congressional support, the president has asked both houses to delay votes on authorizing the use of force against Syria._____________________ A Milwaukee woman claims the devil took over the wheel of her car during a high-speed chase with authorities. 40-year-old Sonja Hall faces a felony charge of eluding police in a vehicle, along with sever other traffic violations. Hall is accused of leading Jefferson County Sheriff deputies and other law enforcement officers in a chase through Delafield on September 5. According to a criminal complaint, Hall told arresting officers the devil took over when she decided to elude police._____________________ A private meeting between the University of Wisconsin System and Marshfield Clinics is spurring rumors of a second dental school in the state. A spokesman for the UW System confirms a meeting was held on a possible partnership with UW-Stevens Point before a public meeting with lawmakers tomorrow… with nothing proposed or finalized. While a second dental school is still up in the air, Marquette University and the Wisconsin Dental Association strongly oppose another school in the state._____________________
Another federal court ruling upheld Wisconsin's Act-10 -- which stripped virtually all collective bargaining powers from most state-and-local public employee unions. Federal Judge William Conley of Madison struck down arguments made in one of several lawsuits filed against Act-10 -- this one from Madison and Dane County employees. They said the law violates their constitutional rights to assemble freely -- and it violates the equal protection clause because it slaps wage limits on union workers but not on non-union employees. Conley says the 2011 package from Governor Scott Walker still allows union workers to assemble and speak -- but it does not require their employers to listen. Also, Conley said the equal protection clause does not apply. The judge says it's legal for the government to treat union workers differently from those not in unions. A federal appeals court also upheld Act 10 in a different suit, but there's still a conflicting court decision on the books. The state is still appealing a ruling last fall from Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas, which said the law did not apply to local government and public school employees. There's a question, though, as to whether it only affects the plaintiffs in that suit -- Madison teachers and one of Milwaukee's city employee unions. The State Supreme Court agreed to take that case in June.
If the 9-11 terrorists thought they could take down America, they were wrong. That's what Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele said yesterday at a ceremony which observed the 12th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. A solemn crowd attended the program at Milwaukee's War Memorial Center. Wreaths were placed in the memorial's reflecting pool to honor the rescuers who died 12 years ago while trying to save civilians after terrorist planes took down New York's World Trade Center, damaged the Pentagon, and crashed in a rural Pennsylvania field. Over three-thousand Americans were killed. Abele urged people to remember what was at stake on 9-11 -- America's shared values of freedom. If there was a question of whether the country could endure as a free nation, it was emphatically answered in the 12 years that followed. Abele said a nation conceived in liberty can endure, as long as people remember how special freedom is -- and if they don't forget quote, "the lessons of the past, like 9-11."
It seems like yesterday to many of us -- but to a growing number of Wisconsinites, 9-11 is ancient history. Shorewood High School student Micaela Gayner was just two years old when terrorist planes toppled the World Trade Center in New York and damaged the Pentagon near Washington. She tells WTMJ Radio in Milwaukee that she asked her teacher in third grade what the significance was -- and the teacher didn't know, either, so Micaela had to ask her parents. Today is the 12th anniversary of 9-11, which means that even 30-year-olds can easily remember TV images of the rubble at Ground Zero, and fears that Wisconsin gas prices would jump sky-high that night. That only happened at a few stations -- and those owners were fined by the state for gouging people on perhaps the darkest day they could remember. Shorewood student Mary Grace Wagner said one of her earliest memories of world events was when Osama bin Laden was killed -- and that was after President Obama took office. Shorewood freshman history teacher, John Jacobson, says he and his colleagues now treat September 11th like history. That means growing numbers of kids are learning about it from school history books -- where recent generations learned about Pearl Harbor and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
A Milwaukee woman has been charged with stabbing her lover to death, soon after the two got into an argument at a tavern. 43-year-old Leanna Millen was scheduled to appear in court today on a count of first-degree intentional homicide. Her niece and a friend told police they received text messages from Millen, in which she admitted killing 27-year-old Fitzroy Willie early last Saturday while he was pedaling toward her on a bicycle along a south side Milwaukee street. Prosecutors said that Willie tried to sexually assault the victim at the time.
The widow of a slain Fond du Lac police officer cannot collect damages from the shooter's insurance company. A state appeals court in Waukesha ruled today that 30-year-old James Cruckson shot-and-killed officer Craig Birkholz on purpose -- and not by accident, as the officer's widow Ashley had claimed. Cruckson had an insurance policy which covered accidental deaths and damages, but a circuit judge ruled that the policy does not pay damages Cruckson caused intentionally. Cruckson sprayed bullets as police officers were arriving at his girlfriend's home. They were called after being told that Cruckson molested his girlfriend and refused to return her six-year-old daughter. Ashley Birkholz said it was still dark on the morning it happened. She also said Cruckson had no reason to hurt the arriving officers. The Second District Court of Appeals agreed with the original judge's ruling, and said Cruckson's actions were intentional. Birkholz was killed. Fond du Lac officer Ryan Williams and his police dog Grendel were both injured. Cruckson later killed himself during a police standoff.
A motorcyclist was killed while trying to avoid a deer. 61-year-old Kenneth Fulton of Black River Falls died in the mishap, which occurred late yesterday afternoon on a rural road about a half-mile north of Black River Falls. Authorities said Fulton swerved to avoid the deer just before his bike lost control, tipped over, and slid down the roadway. Fulton died while being airlifted to a La Crosse hospital. The mishap remains under investigation.
Politicians of both parties demand a crackdown, after learning that Wisconsin is getting millions-of-dollars in federal incentives to recruit people for public benefits. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says state-and-local workers are pressured by their bosses to sign up people in jail, and those getting benefits in other states. That prompted state Senate Republican Glenn Grothman of West Bend to draft a bill to bring back asset limits to qualify for food stamps -- and reduce benefits to the lowest amount set by federal guidelines. In 2004, Wisconsin was among nine states raising income eligibility for aid. It allowed families making $46,000 a year to get food benefits. Grothman said it created quote, "a moral crisis as people believe they have a right to live off the government." U.S/ House Democrat Gwen Moore of Milwaukee said supervisors who order workers to sign up prisoners and dead people for public benefits should be fired and criminally charged. In 2011, Wisconsin got the largest federal bonus in the country, $33-million, by making it easier to enroll children in medical assistance programs. Wisconsin also got four-million for the numbers of people it recruited for food stamps the past couple years. State Senate Republican Alberta Darling of River Hills says she's working on a number of measures -- including one to make it easier to collect improper benefits from those who received them. Governor Scott Walker has not commented on the fraud reports. Darling says she's working with the Republican governor on it -- and they'll be ready to roll out something more definite this fall.
A 36-year-old man was arrested yesterday after he allegedly stabbed a man in Madison, assaulted a man in Cassville and stole his guns, and took a cattle truck owner hostage before that person escaped in Dodgeville. Authorities said 36-year-old James Kruger of Fall River also stole two vehicles, and he used one of them to lead officers from four counties on a high-speed chase before he was finally stopped. Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney said Kruger was captured near Blue Mounds, when the stolen car he was driving hit road spikes set up by deputies and overturned. Kruger managed to get out before the vehicle became engulfed in flames. Mahoney said Highway 18-151 was closed for an hour after the crash, because Kruger might have left an explosive device in the vehicle. Kruger was wanted for stabbing a 48-year-old man in Madison on Monday. He was also wanted for the Grant County assault, gun theft, and hostage incident from yesterday. Also, reports said Kruger was arrested last Wednesday for eluding an officer in Dane County. He was released on a signature bond that day. District Attorney Ismael Ozanne told WISC-TV his staff assumed that Kruger would be automatically held for violating a previous probation -- but the probation ended in August, and Ozanne said his office quote, "probably made a mistake" in not demanding a cash bond.
Two people were killed Tuesday in separate shootings in Milwaukee. A 29-year-od man was shot-to-death just before 7:30 p.m. in a north side neighborhood. About three hours later, the medical examiner's office said another person was killed almost 30 blocks north of the first incident. Details of the shootings were not immediately released.
The Mega Millions' jackpot has grown to $119-million for the next drawing on Friday night. Nobody won the top prize last night, and nobody from the Badger State won the second-prize of a quarter-million dollars. The numbers of Wisconsinites willing smaller prizes was not immediately available. Last night's numbers were 2, 12, 18, 54, and 56. The Mega Ball was one, and the Megaplier was three. The jackpot is above 100-million for the first time since May 17th, when a $190-million prize was claimed. Friday's cash option is just over $80-million dollars. Meanwhile, a big Powerball jackpot is up for grabs tonight. It's at $245-million.