Tuesday State News Briefs: Charter schools get federal grantsWisconsin News
-- Two dozen Wisconsin charter schools have been awarded more than $16 million in federal grants.
Two dozen Wisconsin charter schools have been awarded more than $16 million in federal grants.
The money comes from a five-year, $86 million grant first handed out in 2009. The state had 232 charter school operating last year, with 20 more planning to open this school term. Charter schools are public schools, usually authorized by local districts. But, they are free from certain state and local regulations if they manage to give proven results by their students.
Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to make another campaign stop in Wisconsin this weekend, two days before the Democratic National Convention gets its start. A spokesperson for the Obama campaign says Biden will make a Green Bay appearance Sunday. No additional details about the time or locations were available. The national convention starts the following Tuesday in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Wisconsin voters who plan to register at the polls in November can show a bank statement or a utility bill from their smart-phones or computer screens in order to prove where they live. That’s what the six retired judges who make up the Government Accountability Board ruled today. The judges said they were not “dinosaurs” when they overruled by a recommendation by their staff to delay a decision on the matter until after November. Judge Thomas Cane said he no longer gets paper copies of bills at home, and he said quote, “We’ve got to bring ourselves up to date.” The Board said it makes no difference whether voters show computer copies or bills or paper copies. But they said voters must bring their own computer screens and smart-phones to the polling place – and poll workers will not supply their own machines. The Board’s staff did not suggest whether to approve to reject the change – only that it wait. Local clerks who appeared at today’s meeting said they either supported the computerized evidence or were neutral. They were just concerned that it not be sprung on them at the last minute.
The Milwaukee County medical examiner’s office has ruled that Wade Michael Page died by his own handgun. The report was released today, after law enforcement ordered that it be withheld while investigating the Oak Creek temple shootings from 23 days ago. The FBI is leading the probe – and it has still not said what caused Page to kill six people and wound four others in his Aug. 5 shooting spree at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. It’s been speculated that Page’s white supremist background was the reason behind the killings. The medical examiner’s report quoted Page’s sister as saying he had a history of alcohol problems – his demeanor had changed over the past year – and he became much more intense. His sister said Page lost his wit and sense of humor and he quote, “perceived everything very literally.” Early reports indicated that Oak Creek officer Sam Lenda ended the rampage by shooting the 40-year-old Page in the stomach. But investigators later said Page shot a final bullet to his head right after Lenda shot him. Today’s report indicated that Page was well armed at the time of the slayings. He had six nine-millimeter casings around Page’s body – and he had three magazine clips, a box of rounds, and a grip extension in his cargo pants.
Two brothers were due in Brown County Circuit Court this afternoon for a hit-and-run traffic crash that killed a pedestrian on July eighth in Green Bay. Both were arrested last evening in nearby Howard. A 17-year-old boy is suspected of driving the vehicle that struck-and-killed 52-year-old Daryl Wayka of Green Bay on the city’s east side. The boy’s 21-year-old brother was arrested for allegedly hiding the teen from the police, and trying to get him out of the U-S. Police said the teen was hiding in a closet when officers went to make the arrests. And his brother allegedly tried to repair the vehicle used in the crash, in an attempt to hide the evidence. Police said on July 20th that they recovered the hit-and-run vehicle – but no arrests were made at that time. Officials said yesterday they were trying to get the 17-year-old to surrender voluntarily, but he wouldn’t. Officers were checking possible residences for the driver just before they located him. Police said they were seeking a charge of fatal hit-and-run against the teen, and harboring a felon against his brother.
A 45 year old stabbing victim says he was knocked unconscious, then woke up to find a knife sticking out of his stomach. North Hudson police responded to a 911 call Sunday night. The man was treated for his wound at a nearby hospital, then released. His name isn’t being released out of concern for his safety. North Hudson police haven’t named a suspect and they are advising people in the area near the 600 block of North End Road North to make sure their doors are locked to protect themselves against invaders.
On the same day that Republican Paul Ryan is being nominated for vice president, Democrats are touring his home state to say that he’s “wrong for the middle class.” The Democratic National Committee arranged a bus tour that stopped in Wausau this morning. That was after it visited Eau Claire and La Crosse yesterday, along with Ryan’s home town of Janesville. During the early stops, Wisconsin Senate Democrats Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse and Jon Erpenbach of Middleton said the GOP was about to take away quote, “Medicare as we know it.” They pointed to figures from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which said that Ryan’s proposed vouchers for buying private health insurance would cost seniors $6,400 more per year than traditional Medicare would cost once the new system is scheduled to kick in at 2022. Schilling said older people find the higher costs quote, “frightening.” Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak called the Ryan Medicare plan a “radical change.” Rybak compared it to earlier plans to use private investments to reform Social Security. But Ryan – who will be formally nominated as Mitt Romney’s running mate this afternoon – said something has to be done to keep Medicare funds from running dry.
The county that includes Green Bay is thinking about using county employees to run a public housing program that a non-profit contractor has run for the last four decades. Brown County’s Housing Authority is moving to drop the firm of Integrated Community Solutions. It operates a federally-funded voucher program that helps about 3,200 low-income families get housing they can afford. County housing administrator Robyn Hallet says officials want to see if it makes more sense to operate the program themselves, and save a million-dollars in administrative fees it now pays each to ICS. But the firm’s board chairman, Randy Gast, tells the Green Bay Press-Gazette that the change could kill his agency – and it could halt other services the group provides for low-income families. The group’s contract with Brown County is scheduled to run out at the end of the year. A year ago, the city of Green Bay made a similar move to run its public housing program itself, instead of paying a contractor.
A 40-year-old man was killed, and two women were wounded in a shooting incident at a home on Milwaukee’s north side. It happened around 10:30 last night – and police were still looking for suspects at last word. Investigators have not said what the motive was. The name of the murder victim was not immediately released. The women, ages 23 and 25, were hospitalized. And police said they’re expected to survive.
You won’t have to stay up late to see how Wisconsin’s Republican convention delegates cast their votes for president and vice president. Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan will both be nominated late this afternoon, with speeches and the traditional roll call votes. And it will all be televised by C-Span. Former Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Steve King will deliver the nominating speech for Janesville Congressman Ryan as the vice-presidential nominee. King and Ryan have been friends for years – and King has chaired all of Ryan’s U.S. House races since he was first elected in 1998. King says he’ll have three-and-a-half minutes to nominate Ryan and quote, “I’m going to try to personalize it.” The Republicans are breaking from tradition by nominating Romney and Ryan on the convention’s first full afternoon in Tampa. That formality is normally played out on the second-to-last night. Romney strategists said the vote would be timed so that Romney is officially nominated when the major networks start their evening newscasts. The nominees’ home states are normally the ones to put them over the top. Also, party leaders said they wanted to prevent Ron Paul supporters from gumming up the proceedings during the prime-time TV coverage. And they’re trying to work around the effects from tropical storm Issac. The nominating votes for both Romney and Ryan are scheduled to be over by six p.m. when the evening session is due to begin. Ann Romney is tonight’s featured speaker.
The parent agency of the National Weather Service is giving $300,000 to the University of Michigan, to study the effects of the invasive Asian carp on the Great Lakes. U.S. Senate Democrat Debbie Stabenow of Michigan has announced the grant, which comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Wisconsin and Michigan are among the states which fear that the bloated Asian carp could damage the states’ multi-billion-dollar fishing industry on Lake Michigan. The carp are known to grow immensely while gobbling up the food that native fish rely upon. Government agencies have spent over $100-million on the effort to keep the Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. They’ve been traveling up the Mississippi River – and they’ve been using water links to get close to Lake Michigan in the Chicago area.
A Manitowoc man killed in a mountain bike race was identified today as 38-year-old Robert Schuette. Authorities said he died from a heart attack while competing in a 12-mile off-road bicycle race on Sunday at the Brown County Reforestation Camp north of Green Bay at Suamico. Officials said he was pedaling up a steep hill when he stopped catching his breath. A nurse immediately arranged to get Schuette to a hospital, where he died. The race was put on by the Wisconsin Off-Road Series, and it attracted over 600 mountain bikers.
Wisconsin farm fields got drier over the last week, despite scattered showers. The National Ag Statistics Service says 26-percent of Wisconsin farm fields are very short of moisture – up from 23-percent the week before. Another 38-percent of farmers say they’re short on moisture – and only 36-percent of fields have adequate moisture. Although it’s been raining more lately, drought conditions are very slow to improve. The U.S. Drought Monitor says just under half the land area of the Badger State remains abnormally dry or worse – but fewer parts of far southern Wisconsin are in an “extreme” drought. Meanwhile, the corn and soybean crops are a bit worse than a week ago. Thirty-seven percent of the state’s corn is poor-to-very-poor, with 63-percent being fair to excellent. Twenty-three percent of soybeans are poor-to-very-poor. Meanwhile, the latest crop of hay is said to be better than the last one. Forty-six percent of the fourth hay crop has been harvested.
Get those air conditioners cranked up again, as Wisconsin braces for its hottest weather in about a month. The National Weather Service says almost all of the Badger State will have highs in the 90’s tomorrow and Thursday, before it cools off into the upper-80’s by Friday and Saturday. Places along Lake Superior will get a slight break, but not much of one. The hottest day is expected to be Thursday, when the mercury is expected to reach the mid-to-upper-90’s in almost all of the state – and at least some record-highs are possible. Forecasters say the entire Upper Midwest will feel the late summer heat spell at least into the Labor Day weekend. Today, the Weather Service says an upper level disturbance will brings clouds and a slight chance of rain into Wisconsin from west-to-east. The heat wave will begin once the system leaves by early tomorrow. Wisconsin has enjoyed relatively mild temperatures throughout most of August, after record-or-near-record heat inflected the Badger State in late June and July.
Mercury Marine has started a $20-million expansion of its headquarters in Fond du Lac. Product development areas are being expanded, along with the manufacturing floor. The construction plans were made after Mercury Marine decided three years ago to move its operations from Stillwater Oklahoma to Fond du Lac. The company had talked about leaving Wisconsin before it received state tax breaks, revenue from a Fond du Lac County sales tax, and concessions from its union workers. Mercury now has over 2,500 employees in Fond du Lac, and more than five-thousand overall. Spokesman Steve Fleming says the new expansion will help Mercury stay competitive in the outboard engine industry. Wisconsin companies will get about 90-percent of the construction work.
Wisconsinites could feel the effects of tropical storm Isaac this week, in the form of higher gas prices. The Oil Price Information Service said wholesale prices jumped by a national average of almost eight-cents a gallon yesterday. And the Triple-“A” in neighboring Minnesota says prices could jump by 20-cents after the storm reaches Louisiana tomorrow and becomes Hurricane Issac. As of early this morning, Wisconsin motorists have not felt the pinch just yet. The state’s Triple-“A” said the average price was almost $3.86-a-gallon for unleaded regular. That’s the same as yesterday. It’s down almost two-and-a-half cents from a week ago, but it’s 34-cents higher than a month ago. Refineries have been closing down in the Gulf in anticipation of Isaac – but it’s a relatively minor storm, so experts expect the Gulf refineries to re-open quickly. The Oil Price Information Service projects a smaller price hike than other analysts – about five-cents a gallon by the Labor Day weekend to a national average of $3.80.
It’s been 26 months since Wisconsin has banned smoking in public indoor places like bars, hotels, and offices. And researchers say everybody’s getting exposed to a lot less second-hand smoke – even at home, where smoking is legally still allowed. A study by the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health shows that only 32-percent of people are exposed to second-hand smoke outside the home. That’s down from 55-percent before the ban took effect. Also, the study showed that 80-percent of Wisconsin residents have no-smoking policies in their homes. That’s down from 74-percent two years before. Dona Wininsky of the American Lung Association of Wisconsin said half of state residents allowed smoking in their homes just 10 years ago – and the big decrease is a huge benefit to children and other non-smokers. Alison Miller of the American Cancer Society says the numbers show that the benefits of the smoke-free law don’t end when workers leave their jobs for the day. The study’s researchers collected data from a statewide health survey from 2008-through-2010. The results were published in the Wisconsin Medical Journal.
Republicans are expected to approve their platform at the party’s national convention in Tampa today. And that includes a constitutional amendment banning abortion, with no exceptions for rape or incest. Wisconsin’s top Republicans say they support such a ban -- and they’re saying it more diplomatically than Missouri Congressman Todd Akin did recently. Akin drew fire from his own party earlier this month, when he said that pregnancies from quote, “legitimate rape” were rare. Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said he believes in the sanctity of life. He said fetuses are quote, “human beings who have done nothing wrong” and should not have their lives taken away under any circumstances. State Assembly Republican Joel Kleefisch of Oconomowoc says that when the tragedy of rape happens, quote, “You hope and pray the second tragedy of abortion doesn’t happen.” Governor Scott Walker says he agrees, but he has never highlighted the issue. Walker says voters are not focused on abortion, and it never came up during his recall campaign this year. Republican White House hopeful Mitt Romney opposes abortion but favors exceptions for rape-and-incest. Last year, Romney’s Wisconsin running mate Paul Ryan joined Akin in co-sponsoring a House bill to limit federal funds for abortions – and it included exceptions only for “forcible rape.” Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz says Ryan’s and Akin’s views are quote, “interchangeable.” And she said Republicans were being politically expedient by calling on Akin to drop out of his U.S. Senate race this fall. Walker and Van Hollen were among those urging Akin to drop out, but he has refused to do so.
Racine County authorities say they’re talking to persons-of-interest in the weekend murder of a 54-year-old man. But at last word, they’ve made no arrests. The victim was identified yesterday as Robert Greene, who was staying with friends in the town of Yorkville when he was shot early Sunday. Greene died later at a hospital.
A man was arrested in suburban Milwaukee late yesterday, after he allegedly made bomb threats to a municipal court complex and an assisted living facility. Shorewood Police said the man called around four p-m and threatened to blow up the Shorewood municipal court and the River Park Apartments. All of the facilities were evacuated – and officers found no evidence of any bombs. Residents at River Park were allowed to return after about two-and-a-half hours. The man was arrested at the housing facility. Police said he apparently acted alone.
The American Civil Liberties Union says it will be ready to file a lawsuit if the State Capitol’s new police chief starts enforcing a policy to make protest groups get permits. David Erwin, who took over for Charles Tubbs in June, announced plans yesterday to get tougher on protestors who intimidate legislative aides and others. The Justice Department is handling civil violations instead of the Dane County DA, which says it drops most cases because it doesn’t have time to deal with them. Erwin also said it’s time to enforce a policy the Walker administration first announced last December. Groups of four-or-more people must get permits at least 72 hours in advance for all displays and activities in the Capitol. Unforeseen spontaneous protests would still be allowed. Chris Ahmuty of the ACLU says the permit requirement is unconstitutional because it violates people’s rights to free speech. Erwin says it’s time to return the Capitol to “normalcy,” as protestors still show up daily after the massive 2011 demonstrations against the law which virtually eliminated most public union bargaining. Erwin said it’s time to make protest groups like the Solidarity Singers – who still gather each day at the Capitol – to get a permit. But Erwin would not say what he’d do if they didn’t get one. Group conductor Brandon Barwick says he tries to comply with police, and they sing outside if another group is using the rotunda. Barwick says he believes the permit process is unconstitutional, but the singers would not rule out getting one depending on what their lawyer says.
A search has been called off for a Sheboygan County man who’s missing and presumed drowned in Lake Ellen near Cascade. Authorities have spent two days looking for 28-year-old James Piechocki of Plymouth. Sheboygan County sheriff’s officials said last night that no further searches are planned unless new information comes to light. Piechocki was first reported missing about one o’clock Sunday morning by another person on the boat who said the victim had not been heard from for over 10 minutes. Rescuers spent 16 hours searching for Piechocki on Sunday. Yesterday’s search included rescue dive teams from Sheboygan and Milwaukee. The state DNR also brought in side-scan sonars that combed the lake.