Morning State News Briefs: Wisconsin delegation arrives in Charlotte for DNCWisconsin News
-- The speeches begin today at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. But the rallies and parties have begun, as the 130-member Wisconsin delegation heard from several dignitaries on Labor Day.
CHARLOTTE, N. C. - The speeches begin today at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. But the rallies and parties have begun, as the 130-member Wisconsin delegation heard from several dignitaries on Labor Day.
Lee Saunders, the new national president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, had many delegates on their feet when he called them tough fighters. Saunders urged them to tell quote, “another side” of the stories of the Republicans and vice-presidential hopeful Paul Ryan from Wisconsin. Former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold told the state’s delegates to show voters than Ryan’s reputation for being tough on spending is quote, “an absolute myth.” Saunders and other speakers spoke of the strong efforts Democrats made to win the 2010 mid-term elections and the Walker recall contest this year – but they fell short in both. Still, U.S. House Democrat Keith Ellison (DFL-Minneapolis) called the Wisconsin Democrats quote, “Your fighting spirit is an inspiration to us all.” Nancy Keenan, head of the National Abortion Rights Action League, said Wisconsin is at the “epicenter” of American politics. She said the delegates were weary from the recall, but she encouraged them to quote, “dig deep” to get President Obama re-elected. The state’s group is led by party chairman Mike Tate. He says Democrats are excited about hearing Obama quote, “laying out his vision for the next four years.” Tate says his party’s biggest goals are to re-elect the president and send Tammy Baldwin to the U.S. Senate to replace Herb Kohl. Baldwin is scheduled to speak on the convention’s final night on Thursday. Former Governor Jim Doyle is among the state’s delegates.
Pundits have said that President Obama is running more against Paul Ryan than against Mitt Romney. And that theme will continue today, when the Democratic National Convention begins in Charlotte. Several Democrats told Wisconsin delegates yesterday to stop the vice-presidential hopeful from Janesville from carrying Romney over the top in November. Minnesota House Democrat Keith Ellison said it would be nice if Ryan not only lost for vice-president, but also his First District U.S. House seat for which he’s still on the ballot. Lee Saunders, who heads the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, told the Wisconsin Democrats quote, “You will be our spokespersons all over the country to tell everyone who Paul Ryan really is.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told California Democrats that Ryan wants to quote, “voucherize” Medicare. Ryan has proposed giving future seniors vouchers to buy private health coverage, instead of the government’s current pay-as-you-go package. Chris Van Hollen, the top minority Democrat on the House Budget Committee that Ryan chairs, will attack Ryan’s budget plans in a convention speech. Meanwhile, Ryan campaigned at East Carolina University on Labor Day. He said Democrats would have a lot to say this week but quote, “The president cannot run on his record – He’s run out of ideas.”
After a rough year for the union movement, thousands of organized workers still showed their pride during Milwaukee’s Labor Day parade. They marched down Wisconsin Avenue, and then enjoyed music, food, and great weather at Maier Festival Park. Public unions took a huge hit over the last year, after losing most of their negotiating privileges. They lost some political capital as well, when they failed to recall Governor Scott Walker. Meanwhile, members of private employee unions say just they’re fighting to keep their benefits. Mark Seidner of Milwaukee, who’s with the Communications Workers of America, says workers are quote, “trying to keep a middle-class lifestyle.” The November elections did not have a big presence at yesterday’s Labor Day event. Some people said they had trouble finding bumper stickers for President Obama and other Democrats. Ann Griffin of Brown Deer was selling yard signs promoting both the president and U.S. Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin. Griffin said Baldwin needs to be highlighted with Obama because many who only vote every four years don’t know who Baldwin is. The U.S. House Democrat from Madison hopes to change that on Thursday night, when she speaks on the final night of the Democratic National Convention when it moves to the Carolina Panthers’ football stadium in Charlotte.
Wisconsin transportation officials say they’ve complied with a federal order from last year to include improvements for minorities – like mass transit – in their road-building plans. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel this morning uncovered a nearly one-year-old ruling from the Federal Highway Administration. It found that the state DOT had not followed federal civil rights rules since at least 2004. Karyn Rotker of the American Civil Liberties Union said she learned last year that agencies like the DOT needed to have annual plans to comply with Title-Six of the U.S. Civil Rights Act, proving that the state’s not discriminating on the basis of race or disability. But she found that the state had not filed such a report in seven years. Her group worked with the state’s Black Health Coalition and the Midwest Environmental Associates and filed a complaint. The federal government later put Wisconsin in a “deficiency status,” and gave the state 90 days to comply. The state adopted a new civil rights plan which was approved this year, but Rotker calls it “grossly inadequate.” Last month, the three groups filed suit to halt construction of a major re-building of the Zoo Freeway Interchange west of Milwaukee. They said it discriminated against minorities by not including public transit improvements. Rotker said it’s only a coincidence that the suit was filed about the same time the federal government ended its previous investigation of the DOT.
About a-thousand people attended a candlelight vigil last night for a 14-year-old Port Washington boy who’s missing and presumed drowned in Lake Michigan. Tyler Buczek was swimming with friends on Sunday when he went under. Meanwhile, divers have suspended their search for the youngster – who was supposed to begin high school today. Authorities said they were searching places on Lake Michigan where sonar units had detected several objects. But officials said they were hampered by low visibility due to rough waters. At last night’s vigil, Mary Ann Voigt said Buczek had big dreams. He worked at her dockside deli this summer – and she told WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee that he wanted to quarterback the high school football team, and he won every science competition he took part in. Voigt said quote, “That’s just the kind of kid he was.”
A four-day conference will be held in Milwaukee next week for burn survivors, and the people who care for them. The Phoenix Society’s World Burn Congress opens a week from tomorrow, and runs through September 15th at Milwaukee’s Frontier Airlines Center. Burn survivors, their families, caregivers, fire-fighters, and burn care experts will talk about their experiences, support, and efforts to speed up treatments. Burn survivors will also learn more about skin care and cosmetics. Among the speakers will be J.R. Martinez. He was burned in Iraq when his vehicle hit a land-mine. He’s also a past winner of “Dancing With the Stars.”
Parts of northeast and southwest Wisconsin were pounded with rain on Labor Day. De Soto in Crawford County had one-point-eight inches of rain yesterday afternoon. Last evening, Marinette got just over two-and-a-quarter inches. And Washington Island in Door County had just over an inch. It stayed warm as well, as temperatures reached the low-90’s again in the southwest. But a major cooling trend is due this week. Another large band of rain and thunderstorms will go through the Badger State tonight and tomorrow. And then it’s supposed to cool off big-time. Highs on Thursday are not supposed to get out of the 70’s statewide. And we may be lucky to see 70 on Friday and Saturday, when a stronger cold front crosses Wisconsin.
A former Milwaukee County veterans’ service commissioner has a final pre-trial hearing today on charges that he embezzled $42,000. 62-year-old Kevin Kavanaugh has a one-day trial scheduled for October eighth on five felony charges, including embezzlement and fraud. He’s one of five former Scott Walker aides charged earlier this year in a John Doe investigation connected with Walker’s days as the Milwaukee County executive. Kavanaugh is accused of taking thousands from an annual program at the County Zoo which honors Wisconsin veterans. Walker’s former deputy chief-of-staff Tim Russell is charged with embezzling 21-thousand from the same program. He’s scheduled to go on trial December third on three felony theft counts.
A second former inmate at a state women’s prison in Milwaukee has filed a federal lawsuit. A 25-year-old woman said her civil rights were violated when Christopher Jackson sexually assaulted her in 2008. She said it happened in areas of the prison that did not have security cameras at the time. The 47-year-old Jackson in serving 20 years in prison for molesting the plaintiff and another inmate, a 45-year-old woman, in cases that ran through 2010. The second woman also filed a civil rights suit in 2010. That lawsuit had been on hold, pending a resolution of the criminal charges against Jackson. The new lawsuit was filed last week. The inmate named Jackson and four women who were his bosses at various times at the Milwaukee prison. Both lawsuits accuse officials of inadequate training, discipline, and supervision on the part of the prison guards. State officials have not commented.
A final pre-trial hearing will be held this afternoon for a 76-year-old woman charged with killing her baby daughter in Sheboygan 55 years ago. Ruby Klokow has pleaded innocent to a count of second-degree murder in the slaying of her seven-month-old daughter Jeaneen. Klokow was never charged until after her son James went to the police in 2008 to report numerous stories of child abuse in the family. He reportedly told officers that his mother often kicked him in the legs with steel-toed boots – and he still has knee problems because of it. James Klokow also told police that Ruby broke his nose and one of his arms as a youngster. Officers said they then approached the woman, and she confessed to causing the baby’s death. She’s scheduled to go on trial starting next Monday in Sheboygan County Circuit Court.
The Green Bay Packers don’t open their football season for another five days – but two sets of fans currently traveling by horseback and bicycle to get to Lambeau Field. Bob and Maren Retzlaff of Tomah are making their 11th annual journey to the season opener in a green-and-gold carriage pulled by an Appaloosa horse named Stardust. And Rick and Robin Martinek left the Metrodome in Minneapolis on Labor Day for a 277-mile bicycle trip to Sunday’s Packer game against San Francisco. They’re riding country roads for a one-of-a-kind trip which they said was on their bucket list. The Martineks are getting friends to ride with them on various legs of the journey. And they’re raising money for a charity called Moms-and-Neighbors, which helps needy mothers. Meanwhile, the Retzlaffs have their 10-year-old dog Mortimer on their carriage trip from Tomah. Bob Retzlaff said it started when he wasn’t sure how long an older horse had to live – so he rode the horse to Lambeau. The carriage came a year later with the slogan “Lambeau or Bust.” Retzlaff said most drivers are really nice, but about five-percent yell at them to get their horse off the road. He says they’re probably Bears’ fans.