WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Sen. Grothman wants to revive his proposal for banning affirmative action
State Senator Glenn Grothman says he'll revive his proposal to ban affirmative action in Wisconsin, after the U-S Supreme Court allowed public colleges in Michigan to do the same. The West Bend Republican told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he'll propose a constitutional amendment. But he might not be around to shepherd it through. Lawmakers are not scheduled to return to session until January, and Grothman is running for Congress this fall. His measure comes after the Supreme Court yesterday upheld Michigan's 2006 constitutional amendment banning race as a factor in college admissions. Grothman said people don't realize the extent of race and gender preferences in society -- and he cited government contracts for women-and-minority-owned businesses as examples. He calls such preferences "divisive." G-O-P legislative leaders did not comment yesterday on the Supreme Court decision. Neither did Governor Scott Walker and U-W officials. U-W Madison has said that race is one of many factors reviewed in deciding who gets admitted. Democrat Mary Burke, who's running against Walker this fall, says she would not drop the U-W's policies. She pointed to a recent Annie E. Casey Foundation report, showing that Wisconsin is among the nation's worst in providing opportunities to minority children -- especially blacks.
Scott Walker's office denies that the governor essentially removed David Deininger from the state Government Accountability Board because of the panel's support of the John Doe probe into the recall elections. A recent court filing unveiled that the Board voted unanimously last June to approve the state's current investigation. It's looking into alleged illegal coordination between outside groups and G-O-P recall election candidates -- including Walker in 2012. Last fall, the governor pulled back Deininger's re-nomination to the accountability board. Deininger, who had chaired the board, won't comment on a possible political link. He tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he doesn't know why his appointment was pulled. Deininger noted that two other board members -- Tim Vocke and Gerald Nichol -- also backed the John Doe probe, and their re-appointments are still pending in the Senate. Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick told the paper that Deininger simply did not have the Senate's support. She said the idea that the John Doe was a factor is quote, "a bogus political argument" that holds no merit.
The second-largest campus in the U-W System will lose its chancellor earlier than expected. Outgoing Milwaukee chancellor Mike Lowell will leave on May 31st, instead of August first as originally planned. Lowell is moving his office across town, as he becomes the first lay president in the history of the Jesuit Marquette University. Yesterday, the U-W named Milwaukee associate business school dean Mark Mone as the school's interim chancellor. He has played a major role in drafting the U-W-M strategic plan. System President Ray Cross says the plan is far enough along for Mone to complete it while he fills in as the school's top leader. Lovell said he was hoping to wrap up several projects at the Milwaukee campus, including the strategic plan. But he says he has lots of vacation to use up -- and he's not sure when he'll start at Marquette. Lovell was Milwaukee's interim chancellor for eight months before he won the job permanently, and kept it for three-and-a-half years. The 54-year-old Mone says he's not sure if he'll take the same path.
One of Wisconsin's hottest tickets this spring is for something you can see for free. The former Johnson Wax research tower -- designed by Frank Lloyd Wright -- will open two of its 14 floors to public tours starting on May second at the S-C Johnson household products' complex in Racine. Most of the available spaces have already been reserved for May and into June. The research facility was used from 1950-through-'82. Glass tubes circle around the tower, showing off its original purpose and achieving Wright's goal of having people work in a pleasant-looking environment. Johnson's Greg Anderegg said the building that drove people to be innovative. Glade air freshener, Pledge furniture polish, and the Off insect repellent were all created there during its first eight years. The glass tubes provided warmth, plus light that was so bright that many workers had to wear sunglasses. Johnson kept the building closed to tours until a renovation in recent years. Tours of Johnson's administrative building and research tower will be conducted from 9-to-2:30 on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. More information is available online at SCJohnson-Dot-Com-slash-visit.
The spirit of yesterday's Earth Day will carry on in Rhinelander, in the form of federal money for sewage improvements. The U-S-D-A chose Rhinelander as one of 49 national Earth Day funding recipients. The hub of Wisconsin's Northwoods will get three-point-seven million dollars in grants and low-interest loans to improve its sewage and storm-water systems. U-S-D-A Rural Development Director Stan Gruszynski (groo-zin'-skee) gave Mayor Dick Johns an award that recognizes Rhinelander's effort to improve water quality. Gruszynski said the area is the headwaters of the Wisconsin River -- and it's important to keep the water clean for today's health-and-safety needs, and for future generations. The funding includes a grant of one-point-six million dollars, and loans for two-point-one million. They'll be used for new sewer-and-water lines in downtown Rhinelander, starting in 2016.
Milwaukee's downtown Public Market is re-opening today, after authorities feared an explosion from an underground fire around the lunch hour yesterday. Police and fire officials concluded that no blast had occurred, even though road-building crews were sure they heard an explosive sound. They also saw a flame below the ground as they were installing pilings as part of a rebuilding of the nearby Interstate-794. We Energies checked out the possibility of a natural gas problem, and found nothing awry in its facilities. A regional hazmat team is conducting additional tests to see what might have caused the loud sound. Fire officials could not explain a cause of the underground fire. Acting deputy chief Ray Goth said a piling may have started the fire -- and the flames eventually burned themselves out.
State Assembly Democrat Brett Hulsey promises to ruffle some feathers as he runs for governor. Yesterday, the Madison lawmaker challenged Democratic front-runner Mary Burke to debates in each of Wisconsin's 72 counties. He said he expected Burke to decline -- at which time he would have a volunteer in a chicken suit follow Burke around, wearing a T-shirt that says "Too Chicken to be Governor." Hulsey announced Monday he would challenge Burke in a mid-August primary. Burke's campaign has said it remains focused on defeating Republican Scott Walker in November.
It's too cold to have April showers in parts of far northern Wisconsin. It was 18 degrees at six this morning in Land O'Lakes, which hugs the state's border with Upper Michigan. Rhinelander had 20 degrees. Everywhere in Wisconsin was in the 20's-and-30's. Forecasters say a high pressure system will move east today, and another low-pressure system move in tonight. It will bring showers-and-thunderstorms into most of Wisconsin, and they're expected to hang around until Friday morning. Parts of the far north could get light snow showers mixed with their rain. It will be awhile before most of the state sees 60-degrees again. And it might be next week before the north sees 50.