Polls show Obama building lead over Romney; Dane Co. unions hope to extend bargaining rights; more briefsWisconsin News
Two independent polls released Wednesday show that President Obama has extended his lead over Republican Mitt Romney in Wisconsin. Government employees in Dane County might become the first to take advantage of last week’s court ruling that struck down the nearly full ban on public union bargaining.
Two independent polls released Wednesday show that President Obama has extended his lead over Republican Mitt Romney in Wisconsin.
The Marquette Law School has the Democrat Obama up by 14 points in Wisconsin. The other poll from Quinnipiac University, CBS News and the New York Times gives Obama a six-point edge.
While the two had vastly different results, both polls showed that Romney’s popularity has slipped after he got a bounce from his choice of Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan for vice president.
The Marquette poll had Obama leading 54% to 40% after leading by just by three points a month ago. Quinnipiac had Obama up 51% to 45%, a margin that’s four points wider than in August.
Marquette pollster Charles Franklin said a larger percentage of Democrats and a smaller percentage of Republicans answered his survey this month, and had the proportion been the same as in past months, Obama’s lead would be eight points.
The Obama campaign said it believes the race is close with the president having a narrow lead.
The Marquette poll shows that Obama’s job approval rating has grown. Fifty-four percent of the 700-plus registered voters surveyed approved of the president’s performance, and 39% disapproved.
In the Quinnipiac poll, 51% of the nearly 1,500 voters surveyed had a favorable approval rating of Obama, and 46% disapproved.
Dane Co. unions hope to extend bargaining rights
Government employees in Dane County might become the first to take advantage of last week’s court ruling that struck down the nearly full ban on public union bargaining.
The Wisconsin State Journal said county unions and their bosses are scrambling to extend fully-negotiated contracts for their workers through 2015. The County Board is scheduled to act on those extensions tonight.
Before the bargaining limits took effect a year ago, Dane County and its unions agreed to contracts through 2014. County Board Chairman Scott McDonnell said local unions and governments can negotiate new deals as long as last Friday’s court ruling remains in place.
Cullen Werwie of Gov. Scott Walker’s office said it’s unfortunate the county is not using the tools the new union law provides for local governments to save money for taxpayers.
But Josh Wescott, a spokesman for County Executive Joe Parisi, said the county uses “the right tool for the job,” and “those tools are communication, collaboration and cooperation.”
Critics expressed concern that the county might have to lay off workers if money gets tight, but McDonnell said the county’s reserves are growing.
State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is appealing last week’s court decision to strike down the bargaining limits for local governments and public schools. He has asked that the law go back in effect while the appeal is being reviewed.
Van Hollen told a law enforcement conference in Ashwaubenon that he expects a decision on a temporary stay within two weeks.
Funnel clouds seen in northern Wisconsin
Funnel clouds were spotted in Wisconsin’s Northwoods as a cold front blew strong winds and thunderstorms across the region.
Funnel clouds were reported early Wednesday evening at Tomahawk, Rhinelander and Wabeno, but there were no reports of any tornado touchdowns.
Small hail fell in areas throughout the northern half of Wisconsin, and strong winds hit virtually the entire state Wednesday and last night. Weston, just east of Wausau, had strongest gusts at 51 mph. Some trees fell at Tomahawk and at Stetsonville in Taylor County.
The Wisconsin Public Service Corporation was still restoring electric service this morning in areas like Tomahawk where the most intense storms hit. Fewer than 100 customers were still out as of 7:30 a.m.
More scattered showers are expected in northern Wisconsin today with relatively cool highs in the 50’s and 60’s. Forecasters say rain is possible through Saturday in much of the state, and the mercury will struggle to get past 60 on most days.
Hearings set on plant to bring in more elk
Wisconsinites will have their say next month to a plan to bring more elk to the state.
The Department of Natural Resources will explain its proposals at meetings on Oct. 1 in Hayward, Oct. 2 on Phillips, Oct. 3 in Ladysmith, Oct. 4 in Black River Falls and Oct. 8 in Pewaukee. All meetings are scheduled from 7-9 p.m.
Wildlife officials have talked about importing about 275 elk from Kentucky to join a herd of about 180 elk roaming in the Clam Lake area of Ashland County and to start a new herd in Jackson County.
The initial elk came to northern Wisconsin in the mid-1990’s in an effort to reintroduce the species.
Poll: Baldwin opens lead against Thompson
Democrat Tammy Baldwin has opened up a big lead in the Wisconsin U.S. Senate race, according to the latest Marquette Law School poll released Wednesday afternoon.
Just over 600 likely voters gave Baldwin a nine-point lead at 50% to 41% after the last poll in late August had Republican Tommy Thompson in front by nine points.
Pollster Charles Franklin said Baldwin’s campaign was helped by heavy advertising over the last couple weeks while Thompson and his supporters had far fewer commercials.
This week, the former governor blamed it on a lack of campaign money after his four-way Republican primary victory Aug. 14. Thompson said he spent much of the last three weeks raising money.
The Marquette poll said Baldwin’s big gains came from independent voters, who gave Baldwin a 50% to 38% edge over Thompson.
Earlier Wednesday, a poll from Quinnipiac University, CBS News and the New York Times had Thompson and Baldwin dead even at 47% each.
Boy gets four-year prison term for Catholic school arson
A 17-year-old Oconto Falls boy will spend just over four years in prison for starting a fire that caused $2 million in damage to a Catholic grade school.
Vincent Enneper was sentenced Wednesday for the Feb. 21 blaze that heavily damaged St. Anthony School in Oconto Falls. Enneper was given a five-year term but was credited for the time he spent in jail while his case went through the courts. He must also spend 10 years under extended supervision when he’s no longer behind bars.
Enneper told investigators that he entered the building to look around, but he started fires because he got bored and one of them got out of control.
As a result of the blaze, 50 students were moved to another church last February, and the school is using a series of trailers this fall while a new facility is being planned.
In June, Enneper pleaded no contest to arson. Charges of burglary and a previous attempted arson at the school in 2006 were both dropped.
State’s poverty rate holds at 13%
Wisconsin’s poverty rate has held steady for the last two years.
The U.S. Census Bureau says about 13% of the state’s residents lived in poverty in 2011 – the same percentage as in 2010.
Almost 726,000 Wisconsinites lived below the poverty line last year, including 237,000 children.
The poverty line is considered to be about $22,000 in annual income for a family of four.
Milwaukee remains one of the nation’s 10 most impoverished big cities. Almost three of every 10 city residents lives in poverty, about the same as the year before.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he sees no joy in the fact that poverty has not gotten worse than in 2010.
“I want to see improvement. This is something we deal with on a daily basis,” said Barrett.
Ken Taylor, head of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, said it’s imperative that lawmakers not cut federal programs to help lift poorer families above the poverty line.
Joe Volk, the CEO of Milwaukee’s Community Advocates, said his group saw a “slight uptick” this year in people asking for food and utility assistance. But he said the increase was far less than in the previous three years during the Great Recession.
He said officials must not leave low-income people behind as the economic recovery moves forward.
Heroism award honors deputy
A La Crosse County sheriff’s deputy, who helped save a man from drowning in the Mississippi River last year, is receiving the Carnegie medal for heroism.
John Williams, 41, of La Crosse is one of 19 recipients.
As a member of the sheriff’s boat patrol, Williams jumped into the Mississippi last June 25 to save a man who jumped in from a rocky area in downtown La Crosse. Williams battled a current that threatened to sweep both men away, and private boaters helped the officer pull the man into a rescue craft.
At the time, Sheriff Steve Helgeson said Williams’ actions showed “incredible bravery” and were “truly amazing.” The sheriff’s department gave Williams an award in May.
The Carnegie medal includes a financial grant from the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission. That group has given almost $35 million to around 9,600 medal recipients since 1904.
The late steel baron Andrew Carnegie started the fund after hearing about heroic rescues at a mining disaster that killed 181 people. The commission presents Carnegie awards four times a year.
One of this year’s other recipients saved a woman from being hit by a car after she crashed her own vehicle in Kansas. Another saved a friend from tidal waves on the Delaware River.
State’s milk production up; nation’s production drops
Wisconsin had another healthy increase in its milk production last month while the nation as a whole reported its first year-to-year decline of 2012.
The intense summer heat was blamed for the national drop. But in Wisconsin, new government figures show that the state made 4.9% more milk in August than in the same month of 2011. The state produced a total of 2.3 billion pounds, the second-highest in the country behind California.
Seven thousand cows were added to Wisconsin’s dairy herd that’s now close to 1.75 million. And each cow made about 75 pounds more milk than a year ago for an average of 1,820 pounds.
Meanwhile, California had the nation’s biggest decline at 5.8%. The Golden State made just under 3.3 billion pounds of milk, while its production per cow dropped by 125 pounds.
Nationally almost 16.4 billion pounds of milk were produced last month. That’s down .3% from the previous year – the first such decline in 2012, even though the year-to-year figures had been slipping since February.
DA says deputy justified in shooting suspect
A Walworth County sheriff’s deputy is back on the street after a prosecutor found that he was justified in shooting a bank robbery suspect.
District Attorney Brad Schimel of neighboring Waukesha County said Deputy Dan Nichols acted in self-defense when he shot at the suspect’s vehicle and wounded the driver.
Nichols had been on administrative duty since last month’s incident. He was putting down puncture sticks to try and flatten the suspect’s tires when the person allegedly drove at him. That’s when the officer fired his weapon.
Authorities said the suspect drove off after robbing a bank in the Walworth County town of Sugar Creek. Officers gave chase through Walworth and Waukesha counties at speeds of over 80 mph.
Over 24 state residents sickened from West Nile
More than two dozen Wisconsinites have gotten sick from the West Nile Virus in what continues to be a bad year for the mosquito-borne illness.
The state Health Services Department has confirmed two human cases plus 23 probable cases that must still be confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
Wisconsin has recorded two deaths from West Nile. Both are still being listed as probable cases for the moment. A 78-year-old Greenfield woman is reported to have died from the disease, as well as a 71-year-old woman from Waukesha County. If confirmed, they would be Wisconsin’s first human deaths from the West Nile Virus since 2008.
Milwaukee County has reported 15 of the human cases, and Waukesha County has had four. Dane County has had two. Polk, Barron, Dodge and Kenosha counties have reported one case each.
A dozen people in Wisconsin have been hospitalized from the condition. The virus was also responsible for the deaths of 26 birds in the state as of Wednesday.
Meanwhile, other states have had it far worse. Neighboring Minnesota reports 60 cases and one death. The CDC reports 134 deaths nationwide due to the West Nile Virus this year.
Couple accused of abusing six adopted children
A Lake Geneva area couple pleaded not guilty Wednesday to severely abusing their six adopted children – three of whom came from Russia.
Martin and Kathleen O’Brien, both 49, are charged in Walworth County with a total of 23 counts of felony child abuse and misdemeanor disorderly conduct.
The couple has four children of their own plus the six they adopted. The adopted children told authorities that the O’Briens made them kneel on sharp rocks, stand barefoot in snow and not read or go to school – while the biological children were treated much better.
The case drew media attention in Russia when the country tightened its adoption rules for U.S. citizens after 19 Russian children died in American homes over the last decade.
Also, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had said Walworth County had not filed a required report with the state about the case until the paper asked state officials about it.
Meanwhile, the O’Briens remain free on signature bonds. They’re due back in court Nov. 21 when a judge will consider pretrial requests.