Political chats no longer fun? Poll confirms it. Walker challengers debate tonight; Cabela's to build in Green Bay, plus more briefsWisconsin News
A new Marquette Law School poll confirms that a rising number of Wisconsinites have taken to changing the subject rather than argue with friends and family about politics. Also, a day of storms left downed trees, damaged roofs and some minor flooding in its wake. Plus briefs about Congressman Paul Ryan, deteriorating streets and more.
MILWAUKEE -- For the first time, a new poll shows how divisive Wisconsinites have become over state politics. This week’s Marquette Law School poll said 29 percent of the 705 adults surveyed stopped talking to someone about politics because of disagreements over Governor Scott Walker’s policies which led to his upcoming recall election.
The question has never been asked before and poll director Charles Franklin is guessing that the 29 percent number is higher than it would be in less tumultuous times. Franklin does not see it as people withdrawing from politics. In fact, he tells the Madison Capital Times it’s a sign that people are passionate on both sides, but they’ve stopped talking to someone because the other person won’t change his-or-her mind no matter what.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel analyst Craig Gilbert says other polls show how attached people are to one side or the other. Gilbert says Walker’s 50 percent support in the Marquette polls never changes much, despite the daily good-and-bad news about the governor – things like the state’s declining unemployment rate, the John Doe probe into his former Milwaukee County aides, or the $25 million he has raised to fight the recall effort.
And everybody seems to have taken sides. When the Public Policy Polling firm asked 1,136 people what they thought about Walker’s job performance last month, only 13 said they had no opinion.
Meanwhile, the new Marquette poll bears out Franklin’s contention that more of us are tuning into politics. Some 38 percent said they’ve signed recall petitions while 50 percent have tried to persuade others into voting for-or-against someone and 20 percent have given money to a candidate.
Despite the divisiveness, 58 percent say they've talked politics to family and friends at least once a week.
Meanwhile, a debate in Milwaukee Friday night will give many folks in Wisconsin their only chance to see the four Democratic candidates for governor together.
The Journal Sentinel, WTMJ TV, and Wisconsin Public Radio and Television are sponsoring the debate.
It will run from 7-8 p.m., Friday and will originate from Madison.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, Secretary-of-State Doug La Follette, and Senate Democrat Kathleen Vinehout will all appear on the program. They’ll answer questions from a panel of journalists. Other residents will ask questions through e-mail or videotape.
It will be the last major forum involving the four candidates before they square off in a primary on Tuesday. The winner will face Republican Governor Scott Walker in his June 5th recall election.
Tonight’s debate will be aired on public radio and TV stations throughout the state and the Journal Sentinel will stream the debate on its Web site.
Street maintenance falling behind, officials say
Wisconsin communities are finding it more challenging to keep up with their street maintenance, after the state reduced its local road aids. This year’s total amount was cut by $30 million to around $403 million.
Many communities are at least trying to maintain their previous street improvement schedules by cutting corners elsewhere.
Green Bay officials cut employee benefits and did not fill 12 vacant public works jobs. In the Green Bay suburb of Bellevue, some employees took a pay freeze to keep the roads from crumbling.
Mary Forlenza of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation said it’s true that road maintenance has suffered in some places but the cuts in road aid were necessary to help the state get rid of its $3 billion budget deficit a year ago.
Clear skies follow day of damaging storms
SULLIVAN -- It appears that most of Wisconsin will get a one-day reprieve from the thunderstorms which dumped heavy rain and caused damage in many places the past couple days. Some cities throughout the Badger State had sunny skies this morning and forecasters say there’s only a slight chance of rain Friday and Friday evening. But a large new wave of thunderstorms is due in from the west overnight. The National Weather Service says there’s a better chance of rain Saturday and much of the state is likely to get thunderstorms again on Sunday.
Meanwhile, storm damage reports continue to trickle in. Thirteen quarter-horses were killed near Oshkosh early Thursday when lightning struck an electrical box on a barn. Lightning also destroyed a barn near Pittsfield in Brown County – and officials say the hit was so strong, that debris was blown across a roadway.
In the Pulaski area, windows were blown out of a house – and a fire started in the home’s electrical wiring because the wet ground had been electrified. Pulaski Tri-County Fire Chief Randy Wichlacz said it was first time he heard of that in his 35 years of fighting fires.
The Blair-Taylor elementary and high schools in western Wisconsin expect to re-open on Monday, after thunderstorms damaged their roofs. High winds peeled back large parts of the high school roof, and heavy rains damaged the gymnasium floor. The elementary part of the building had its roof lifted, but it dropped back into place.
Western Wisconsin was the hardest hit by the severe thunderstorms that hit most parts of the Badger State Wednesday night and Thursday and Blair was the hardest hit in the region. Over 900 homes and businesses lost power but X-cel Energy said most people had their service restored by late Thursday afternoon. Homes were damaged by large hail. Access to Blair was cut off Thursday morning and by late afternoon, some roads were still closed due to fallen trees.
Meanwhile, some buildings at U-W Oshkosh were flooded after parts of eastern Wisconsin had four-and-a-half inches of rain. Lecture halls at the Halsey Science Center are still closed Friday.
Clark County had the last reported damage – three-quarter-inch hail at Rock Dam. The Public Service utility says everyone has their power back in central and northeast Wisconsin, after up to 3,000 customers were in the dark Thursday morning.
Paul Ryan constituents urge him to remain in Congress
Folks in Congressman Paul Ryan’s district apparently want to keep him all to themselves.
The House Budget chairman from Janesville started holding two days of listening sessions in his district Thursday and many preferred that Ryan stay where he is, and not accept a possible invitation from Republican Mitt Romney to become his vice presidential running mate.
At Ryan’s first meeting in Muskego, Hugh Hancock drew loud applause when he told the congressman to quote, “stay with us here instead of going up on the hill as VP.”
Ryan did not respond to Hancock but he later said he’s flattered his constituents want him to stay in Congress. He also said it’s too early to decide whether he’d take the vice presidential post. Ryan said he still needs to discuss it with his family, and he’s been too busy doing his job.
He drafted the GOP’s budget alternative which called for lower taxes, an overhaul of Medicare, and cuts in programs affecting the safety net for the poor.
Hancock said Ryan’s making a difference as the head of the House Budget Committee, and he would not be nearly as effective as vice president. About 300 people attended Ryan’s meeting in Muskego – and about the same number showed up for a similar session in Elkhorn.
Walker forms council aimed at improving criminal justice system
MADISON -- Gov. Scott Walker has formed a new council that will try to make Wisconsin’s criminal justice system better.
Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and Corrections’ Secretary Gary Hamblin will co-chair the 18-member panel, which is called the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. Walker says the panel will seek to improve the operation and outcomes of the justice system, while making that part of the government more efficient.
The council was one of the recommendations in a report issued this week by the National Center for State Courts. It said Wisconsin should continue its efforts to improve public safety, reduce the numbers of repeat offenders, and choose new options to prison but the national group said the programs need more evaluations to make sure they’re efficient. The Center for State Courts gave good marks to the community-based programs that rehabilitate offenders instead locking them away.
They mentioned the dozens of specialized courts which address the unique problems of drug offenders, veterans, and others – assessments that determine the likelihood of a person re-offending – and councils in 30 counties which explore unique community challenges.
Prison OT pay declines $2 million last quarter
Overtime pay for Wisconsin prison guards went down by over $2 million in the first three months of the year, compared to the same time in 2011.
Gov. Scott Walker said some prison workers had abused the overtime system in the past but officials couldn’t do anything about it because of previous collective bargaining contracts.
State officials said they spent $6.9 million dollars on overtime in the Corrections Department from January through March. That’s down from $9 million a year ago.
The same law that ended most public bargaining also ended the practice of letting guards work back-to-back shifts and get time-and-a-half for one of them, while filling in for somebody who’s sick.
Under a new change which took effect in January, the guards only get regular pay for both shifts. Union leaders said overtime had gone up dramatically in Walker’s first year in office, due to higher turnover and jobs going unfilled.
As of last month, there were 209 vacancies for state prison guards – up from 118 two years ago.
Woman faces trial for falsifying nomination papers
MILWAUKEE -- A former Oshkosh woman was ordered yesterday to stand trial for falsifying the nomination papers of former state Assembly Democrat Pedro Colon of Milwaukee.
Yadira Colon, 44, no relation to the former assemblyman, is scheduled to enter pleas May 21st in Milwaukee County to two felony election fraud charges and two counts of falsifying nomination papers. Authorities said she forged 10 of Pedro Colon’s nominating signatures for the 2008 election – and the lawmaker certified four of those signatures. The Justice Department investigated that and decided not to charge Pedro Colon, saying there was no evidence of intentional wrong-doing. He’s now a Milwaukee County circuit judge.
Prosecutors said Yadira Colon also registered to vote in Milwaukee, even though she actually lived in Oshkosh. She voted absentee in Milwaukee in the 2008 fall primaries. Her charges were first filed in late 2009.
Court records say she now lives in Penbroke Bines, Fla.
Services set for decorated Orfordville soldier
JANESVILLE -- Funeral services will be held next week for a decorated soldier from southern Wisconsin who was killed in Afghanistan. Army Corporal Benjamin Neal, 21, died April 25th after his unit was hit by a roadside bomb.
His body is due back home Saturday. A public visitation will take place from 4-9 p.m., Monday at Orfordville Parkview High School. The funeral will be at 10 a.m., Tuesday at St. William Catholic Church in Janesville.
Neal graduated from Parkview in 2009, and was a leader on the school wrestling team. He was on his second mission to Afghanistan in a parachute infantry regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division based at Fort Bragg North Carolina.
Among Neal’s many awards were the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, the Army Commendation Medal, and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal.
Nursing board reprimands former diabetes educator
MADISON -- The state Board of Nursing has reprimanded a former diabetes educator from Madison who let patients reuse insulin demonstration pens and finger stick devices.
The board said yesterday that Stacey Anderson’s conduct increased the risk of blood-borne pathogens from one patient to another. As a result, Madison’s Dean Health System said last year that over 2,300 patients might been exposed to HIV or hepatitis over the five years the devices were used.
Anderson was fined $450 and was ordered to take classes on infection control and medical errors. She told the board she let patients use the insulin sticks – and she cleaned the pen with alcohol between patients, but nursing board noted that the demonstration devices were not supposed to be used on people and some had labels to that effect.
Anderson was fired from the Dean system and she’s required to disclose her reprimand to potential employers for the next two years.
A Monona man has filed suit, saying he suffered hepatitis after seeing Anderson.
Cabela’s to build in Green Bay
MADISON -- Cabela's announced Friday morning that they'll build a 100,000-square-foot store in the Titletown Development area.
The store is expected to eventually employ 175 full-time, part-time and seasonal employees, most of which will come from Green Bay and neighboring areas.
Gov. Scott Walker said in a news release that the project will happen because of Senate Bill (SB) 10.
“Wisconsin is open for business,” said Governor Scott Walker. “Making state regulations science based and predictable creates jobs. Here is a real word case in point—due to reasonable changes we made early in 2011 there are now more than 150 jobs being created in Green Bay. I will continue to establish certainty and stability in state regulations, which will lead to more private sector jobs.”
Manitowoc Company turns a profit after losing $52 million a year ago
MANITOWOC -- The Manitowoc Company reports a slight increase in its quarterly profits, after losing over $52 million a year ago.
Manitowoc said its sales of construction cranes rose by 29 percent in the last 12 months and it helped the company make a $100,000 profit from January through March.
There was no increase in earnings for stockholders, but at least they didn’t lose money.
Earnings had dropped by 40 cents a share in the first quarter of 2011.
Manitowoc also makes food service equipment and its total sales were $860 million in the first three months of the year, up 17 percent from the previous year.