Afternoon State News Briefs: Sen. Johnson confirms re-election bid in 2016Wisconsin News
-- U.S. Senate Republican Ron Johnson of Oshkosh confirmed on a Milwaukee radio station today that he’ll run for a second term in 2016
MILWAUKEE - U.S. Senate Republican Ron Johnson of Oshkosh confirmed on a Milwaukee radio station today that he’ll run for a second term in 2016.
Johnson told WTMJ he wants to stay around to help provide the votes needed to cut federal spending. When Johnson was first elected in 2010, he was determined to repeal the Obama health care reform law and reform spending on entitlements like Medicare. Johnson said it might take a time period beyond Obama’s second term to quote, “get someone who’s going to seriously look at long term solutions to these problems – and I think my vote may be needed then.” A Johnson aide confirmed to a Washington reporter that he’s starting to raise money for a second term. The Capitol news outlet “The Hill” said Johnson met with GOP strategists in the nation’s capital last weekend on his plans. State Democrats jumped on that report. State party chairman Mike Tate said Johnson is quote, “counting on Washington money to support his desire to stay in office.” Tate said Johnson’s supporters live in Washington, with no connection to the Wisconsinites he represents.
With a sign on a desk that read “Mining for Jobs,” Governor Scott Walker signed the bill this afternoon that seeks to make it easier to open a new iron ore mine in far northern Wisconsin. The Republican Walker signed the measure at a plant in Rhinelander which makes mining equipment. He has another ceremony planned for late afternoon in Milwaukee. Walker stressed that the new law would protect environmental safeguards, while providing “certainty” to the process of getting a mining permit. The law sets a time limit for the DNR to act on a mining application. It adjusts environmental standards in a way Republicans say would not hurt natural resources. But critics say the proposed Gogebic Taconite mine would contaminate water and wild rice at the Bad River Indian reservation downstream. This afternoon, Bad River tribal chairman Mike Wiggins Jr. told the AP his group would start a fund drive by the end of the week to challenge the new mining law in court. Republicans have said the measure could result in a new mine operating as early as three years. But Senate Democrat Tim Cullen of Janesville said it would be more like 7-to-10 years considering legal actions, pre-application approvals, and a federal review of a new mine.
State and local authorities are investigating the death of a 93-year-old woman outside an assisted-living facility in Verona where she lived. An autopsy was scheduled for today on the victim, whose name was not immediately released. Verona Police said the woman is believed to have walked outside of the Four Winds Lodge early Friday morning. The woman’s body was found close to the facility’s door. Officers said it was not clear whether she fell, and could not get up. State health services’ officials are also looking into the matter.
A Milwaukee man was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison today, for lying to investigators who were looking into a fire that destroyed the city’s iconic Pizza Man restaurant. Feras Rahman owned a café in the same building as the restaurant. Rahman was found innocent of starting the fire. But a jury still convicted him of making a false statement to authorities, when he said a business computer was located in his restaurant instead of his home where it was later found. Federal Judge Rudolph Randa said there was a lot of circumstantial evidence which may have linked Rahman to the fire – and the judge said he could not ignore it in his sentencing. Besides the prison time, Rahman was given three years of supervised release. He says he’ll appeal – and he’ll remain free until the appeal is settled.
School students in Nekoosa were sent home early today, so staff members and authorities could search the buildings-and-grounds. An official confirmed that a threat was made, dealing with a possible weapon in school. So the school district decided to lock down the facilities, and take precautions. Nekoosa Police continue to investigate. And as of early afternoon, no weapon had been found.
Milwaukee’s downtown skyline is expected to undergo a big change, as the result of new road work announced today for the city’s Lakefront. Governor Scott Walker, Mayor Tom Barrett, and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele announced a deal that will pave the way for at least three large new buildings – a 44-story hotel and apartment complex, Northwestern Mutual Life’s proposed 30-story structure, and a 17-story office building. It’s being called the “Lakefront Gateway Project.” The deal was announced at a news conference, and lakefront development advocate Michael Cudahy said it would literally change Milwaukee. The state would pay to move ramps on-and-off of Interstate-794 near the downtown Hoan Bridge – something the state originally wanted the city to pick up for $16-million. The city would pay to extend Lincoln Memorial Drive close to Milwaukee’s lakefront from the downtown southward into Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward. There would also be new pedestrian bridges crossing Lincoln Memorial Drive at two locations. The state DOT says construction work could begin this fall in the Hoan Bridge area – and all the road work would be finished by the summer of 2016.
The two candidates for Wisconsin public school superintendent will debate each other on Wednesday. Incumbent Tony Evers and state Assembly Republican Don Pridemore of Hartford will discuss the issues at a meeting of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards in Madison. Voters will make their choice three weeks from tomorrow. The race has not attracted very much public attention – even though Republican Governor Scott Walker has proposed a large expansion of private school vouchers, and no increase in state aid for public schools. Pridemore has come out in support of the voucher expansion. Evers says the state needs more public school funding – and Republican Senate leaders say they’re working a plan to provide some type of increase.
Folks in western and northern Wisconsin are digging out from up to seven-and-a-half inches of new snow. But further south, at least five rivers were above their flood stages at mid-morning, due to heavy and steady rains during the weekend. The National Weather Service issued a flood advisory for part of Grant County until 9:30. That was after two town roads were closed, due to high waters from the Little Platte River. Only minor flooding is predicted in all of the flood warnings except the Sheboygan River – which was almost two-and-a-half feet above its flood stage. Moderate floods are predicted at Sheboygan, and the river is not expected to drop below its banks until tomorrow evening. Turtle Creek near Beloit, Spring Creek at Lodi, the Fox River in Kenosha County, and the Pecatonica River at Lafayette and Darlington were all slightly above their banks today. The Sugar River at Brodhead also has a flood warning. That one’s about a half-foot below its flood stage. It snowed as far south as La Crosse, which got four inches last night and early today. Osseo had the most, with seven-and-a-half. Medford had almost six-and-a-half inches. Wausau had around five. Forecasts call for more occasional light snow and freezing rain throughout the Badger State at least through tonight.
The quality of well water is a growing concern by opponents of a proposed mega-dairy farm south of Wisconsin Rapids. The Wysocki Companies plan to create a seven-thousand acre farm with 5,300 animals in the town of Saratoga. About 350 people attended a meeting on the project yesterday, and Wood County Extension resource agent Peter Manley said Saratoga’s water quality is better than in most places. He said the community’s water was tested last fall, and none of the 79 samples had higher-than-recommended levels of nitrogen – which he said was very unusual. But local residents who oppose the dairy remain concerned. Rick Potter told the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune that he fears his 15-foot well would dry up if the dairy goes in. Manley’s study shows that the area’s water is pure – but Potter says he fears that contaminants will get into the system. A group called “Protect Wood County” said it has provided numerous documents about the dairy’s possible impact to the DNR, which will consider the dairy’s requests for permits to operate high-capacity wells. A public hearing will take place before a decision is made.
A former Waupaca County man is not sure when he’ll be sentenced, after he admitted raping a 20-year-old woman in Iola back in 1990. 41-year-old Glendon Gouker has struck a plea deal in which he was convicted of first-degree sexual assault. He was charged in late January, about the time when authorities said he was a person-of-interest in the killings of a man and a woman in Weyauwega in 1992 – two years after the sex assault. State and local authorities are still looking into the slayings of Tanna Togstad and Tim Mumbrue. And they’ve taken several steps to ask the public what it knows about the case – including a billboard on Highway 10 in Waupaca County with photos of the two murder victims. Gouker appeared in court on Friday to settle his sexual assault case. A sentencing date was not immediately set. Gouker has lived in Oklahoma in the recent past. He was extradited to Wisconsin a month-and-a-half ago, even though he faces a homicide charge in Oklahoma in the death of a 19-year-old man.