Evening State News Briefs; Air traffic control could be eliminated at state airportsWisconsin News
-- The White House was not kidding when it said that Wisconsinites might find it harder to fly, unless a deal is made to stop the automatic federal spending cuts. Today, the FAA said air traffic control service could be eliminated overnight at Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport. And the control towers might close altogether at eight regional airports in the Badger State.
MILWAUKEE - The White House was not kidding when it said that Wisconsinites might find it harder to fly, unless a deal is made to stop the automatic federal spending cuts. Today, the FAA said air traffic control service could be eliminated overnight at Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport. And the control towers might close altogether at eight regional airports in the Badger State.
The FAA is giving airport officials until next Wednesday to make their cases for staying open – and the agency will issue a final list of closures on March 18th. The actual service cuts would begin around April 7th, unless there’s a deal to scale back the so-called “sequester” cuts by then. When the control towers are empty, pilots coordinate take-offs and landings by themselves with the use of radios and visual contacts. They already do it at many airports when the towers are closed at night.
Mitchell spokesman Harold Mester said his facility does not have any scheduled passenger flights from 11 at night to five in the morning – and while the airport would stay open 24 hours, pilots generally have their own take-off and landing plans when no controllers are available. The Federal Express delivery service at Mitchell says it should not be affected very much – but they’re still preparing a contingency plan. The cutbacks could start in early April unless Washington reverses the automatic federal spending cuts which took effect a week ago. The FAA said airports had until Wednesday to say why their control towers should stay open – and services would be curtailed starting around April seventh at up to 173 towers nationwide.
A long-time Milwaukee police detective has pleaded innocent to three criminal charges connected with a tavern fight in central Wisconsin. 43-year-old Lawrence Schimke Junior, a 21-year police veteran, is free on a signature bond. He’s on administrative duties for now. Schimke is charged in Waushara County with felony strangulation, and misdemeanor battery and disorderly conduct. He was on a hunting trip with his 13-year-old son when the incident occurred late at night on November 16th at Sneaky Pete’s bar in Hancock. According to prosecutors, Schimke complained to Robin Jarosz that she was using foul language in front of his son while he was playing a video game. Her friend Lyle Zlensky then told the officer to leave the woman alone. At that point, Jarosz told investigators that Schimke tackled Zlensky, got on top of him, and choked him. And the defendant reportedly didn’t stop until his son told him to. Sheriff’s deputies quoted Schimke that he felt threatened when Zlensky came up to him, so he pushed the man down – and then he and his son left for safety reasons. Deputies said they didn’t buy the explanation. Zlensky told authorities he couldn’t eat for two days, and he called Schimke “a bully that needs to be stopped.” The officer’s lawyer says prosecutors go their facts wrong. The next court appearance in the case is March 28th.
Your weekend will be one hour shorter than normal. That’s because Daylight Savings Time begins at 2 a.m. Sunday, and we’re all supposed to move our clocks ahead one hour before going to bed on Saturday night. In recent years, fire departments have used the time change to remind people to change the batteries in their smoke detectors. Now, Wisconsin emergency officials urge you to do other things as well, so you’re ready when something bad happens. When you change your clocks, officials say you should also buy carbon monoxide detectors and make they sure they work – have working weather radios – and create a home emergency kit with flashlights, radios, first aid supplies, and enough food for three days. State officials also have other safety tips – and you’ll find them online at ReadyWisconsin.wi.gov.
Milwaukee’s mayor says the city has no money available to tear down a growing number of abandoned houses. So he’ll ask taxpayers throughout Wisconsin to help. Barrett said this afternoon that his city would ask the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee to budget two-and-a-quarter million dollars over the next two years. He said the funding would be enough to tear down 150 rotting and damaged houses – and it’s only a fraction of the 1,600 new demolition orders the city expects to make over the next three years. Mayor Barrett and other city officials have expressed concerns about the safety of neighborhoods with large numbers of abandoned homes, due to the large numbers of foreclosures since the Great Recession began. Almost 500 homes have been torn down since 2010 using city tax funds, federal stimulus money, and a half-million dollar state grant. Meanwhile, some Milwaukee aldermen are still upset that the state kept $24-million dollars from a $140-million dollar lawsuit settlement designed to help homeowners who faced illegal foreclosure practices by lending institutions. Alderman Michael Murphy said quote, “I see the devastation. I’m tired of the rhetoric.”
arents could sue for the wrongful deaths of their unborn children, under a bill proposed by two Republican lawmakers. Representative Andre Jacque of De Pere and Senator Glenn Grothman of West Bend said the measure would recognize fetuses as human beings. And families could pursue wrongful death claims if someone causes the death of an unborn child at any point after conception. Under state law, the families of dead youngsters can pursue wrongful death claims – but for not those in the early stages of pregnancy. In the last session, Jacque tried to get his Republican colleagues to approve a “personhood” amendment to the state Constitution – but it never went anywhere. That amendment would have legally recognized a person at the moment an egg is fertilized in the mother – and it would have eliminated the word “born” from the state’s guarantee that “all people are born free and independent.”
A Madison man has been sentenced to eight years in a federal prison, for selling over a million dollars of cocaine. 40-year-old Rodolfo Jaurez-Gonzalez pleaded guilty in January to a charge of distributing over 500 grams of coke – but the U.S. Justice Department said the total amount was much higher than that. One customer reportedly bought 2-to-3 kilograms every 6-to-8 weeks for at least two years – and each kilo was said to be worth $40,000 Jaurez-Gonzalez was arrested last July. Drug agents said he had almost a half-million dollars in his home, and in two safety deposit boxes – and all the money was seized.
Over 180 Wisconsin airmen will return home Monday night from a mission in Africa. Members of the Air National Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing were sent overseas in January. They worked with Guard troops from Vermont and Colorado on a counter-terrorism mission. Governor Scott Walker and top officials from the state Guard will help welcome the airmen home. Their friends and relatives will be on hand, but officials the proceeding is closed to the general public. The Madison unit sent airmen to Iraq in 2006, ’08, and ’09.
At least 115 Catholic cardinals, including three from Wisconsin, will start voting Tuesday on a new pope. The date for the conclave was set today, as the cardinals wrapped up a week of discussions about the main problems in the church – and who could be the best leader to replace the retired Pope Benedict XVI. A special Mass will begin the conclave on Tuesday morning, followed by the first balloting. In the last century, no conclave has lasted longer than five days. Former Milwaukee Archbishop Tim Dolan – a papal contender himself – is among the voters, along with chief Vatican judge and former La Crosse Bishop Raymond Burke, and Milwaukee native and basilica archpriest James Harvey. U.S. cardinals said they wanted more time to check into alleged corruption in the governance of the Holy See, exposed by leaks of papal documents last year. Dolan blogged that the corruption concerns did come up – but they did not dominate the cardinals’ closed-door discussions. Dolan said the major topics were how to teach the Catholic faith, tending to Catholic schools and hospitals, protecting families and the unborn, and recruiting more priests.
Authorities near Green Bay are still trying to determine how a 29-year-old man died in a farm accident five days ago. The victim was a Mexican national – and Hobart-Lawrence Police needed the FBI’s help to identify him. His name is Israel Quezeda, and arrangements are being made to return him to Mexico for a funeral and burial. Brown County sheriff’s deputies said pay-loader fell on Quezada early last Sunday. He died at the scene. Officials plan a re-construction of the accident scene to try and determine what happened. No one else was hurt.
The state fund that pays medical malpractice victims is getting healthy again. The Legislative Audit Bureau said this morning that the fund had $361-million dollars as of the middle of last year. Doctors pay into the fund, and it covers court settlements for victims of medical malpractice. The fund was almost $110-million dollars in debt in the middle of 2009. That was after former Governor Jim Doyle and legislative Democrats took out $200-million to help balance other parts of the state budget. The state’s medical community challenged the fund transfer, and the State Supreme Court ruled it illegal. In 2011, Republicans put back $234-million dollars into the fund. And auditors say a recovering economy has helped grow the fund’s investment earnings over the past two years. Since 1975, the malpractice fund has paid out $808-million to victims of 660 doctors’ mistakes.