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Man arrested after throwing concrete block through Starbucks’ window

Mon, 12/15/2014 - 12:36pm

A 40-year-old man was arrested late Sunday after he allegedly threw a three-pound chuck of concrete through a window of the Starbucks on State Street, Sunday night.

According to a police report, the man, Martin Donaghy, was creating a disturbance inside the Starbucks coffee shop at 661 State Street and was asked to leave.

As he exited the store he began yelling and making vulgar comments, the report said.

He then picked up a chunk of concrete and threw it through the store’s front window, barely missing customers in the store, the report said.

Two witnesses noticed the man heading toward a nearby parking structure and notified police, the report said.

Officers arrested Donaghy after a brief chase, the report said.

After he was in police custody Donaghy told officers “Joan of Arc made me do it,” the report said.

Heads up to anyone planning to study at Starbucks tomorrow http://t.co/8VuwszvBmn via @dailycardinal pic.twitter.com/VZfwsbQXf1

— Jack Casey (@JVCasey) December 15, 2014

Donaghy has been charged with 2nd degree recklessly endangering safety, damaging property, resisting/obstructing and disorderly conduct, the report said.

Categories: Local Media

Hundreds of students fill college library to protest racial injustice in ‘die-in’ demonstration

Sun, 12/14/2014 - 9:35pm

“America is an old slaver running from his guilt,” Miona Short recited her poem in front of Abraham Lincoln’s Bascom hill statue and hundreds of students as they prepared to march into College Library to protest racial inequality.

More than 800 students and supporters came out to mark the beginning of finals week with a 30-minute moment of silence at a “die-in” demonstration. The protest began at the top of Bascom and marched through traffic down Park Street to circle back through East Campus Mall and down to Helen C. White Library.

Joey Reuteman/The Badger Herald

“America, we could give a fuck about your guilt,” Short continued her poem.

Short, a University of Wisconsin sophomore in the First Wave scholarship organization said she worked in collaboration with others to help Deshawn McKinney, who spearheaded the demonstration, get the word out about the event.

The protest came in light of recent instances of police brutality in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York.

Chants  of “black lives matter,” “no justice, no peace” and “hands up, don’t shoot” echoed through the streets as protesters carried signs saying “how much is a black life worth without a jersey,” “we don’t live in a post-racial society” and “stop racist police violence.”

Joey Reuteman/The Badger Herald

Eric Smith, a junior at the protest, said he wanted to represent one of the faces that experiences issues in black peoples’ lives nationally, on a campus that is predominantly white.

“It’s necessary for me to come out here and show my face,” Smith said. “I hope when people see us they’ll stop and think, oh I have bio with that guy, and they’ll realize maybe this is an issue they should think about too.”

As the crowd made its way through the streets, some passersby joined in.

Joey Reuteman/The Badger Herald

Brian Beal, a junior at UW, said he was on his way to the gym when he decided to join the protest.

“All of a sudden I see a large group of people walking across East Campus Mall,” Beal said. “I couldn’t see them through the fog, but I heard this roar so I leaned in and they were saying ‘hands up, don’t shoot,’ I just decided to join in.”

As students approached Helen C. White, they chanted “finals on your mind? black lives on mine” before entering the library. They filled all three floors, laying in silence.

Joey Reuteman/The Badger Herald

Some students left the library in frustration as protesters arrived, “my life matters too” and “some of us are trying to study” were muttered in the spaces filled with silent protest.

Director of College Library Carrie Kruse said library administrators appreciated being made aware of the protest by university administration and UWPD prior to the event.

“We decided we wouldn’t do anything to interfere,” Kruse said. “From what I hear there wasn’t a noticeable anti-protest, that’s where things might have gotten out of hand.”

Joey Reuteman/The Badger Herald

After the protest, students gathered at the Multicultural Student Center for discussion.

Lead organizer McKinney said he was proud that protesters on a predominantly white campus had the power to fill the streets for an issue of black lives. He and other organizers looked to the future to keep the activist momentum going.

“Soon as we get back, we’re gonna hit the ground running,” McKinney said.

UW students hold vigil outside basketball game for victims of police brutalityAs students and Badger fans filed out of the Kohl center Wednesday night after the Badger basketball game against Duke, …badgerherald.com

Hundreds gather in Madison protesting Ferguson grand jury decisionMore than 250 protesters gathered at the Dane County Jail on Tuesday following the Ferguson grand jury decision, raising awareness …badgerherald.com

Photos: Madison rally responds to Ferguson grand jury decisionbadgerherald.com

Categories: Local Media

Proposal for the state’s most expensive transmission line in history strikes discord with environmental groups

Thu, 12/11/2014 - 9:17am

Xcel energy and the American Transmission Company have proposed a plan to build a new transmission line running from Madison to Lacrosse, which would be one of the most expensive in the history of the state and has raised concerns among some environmental advocates.

The proposal is currently being considered by the Public Service Commission, which is holding public hearings throughout the state this week. According to Nathan Conrad, spokesperson for the PSC, the commission is taking the line’s length and route into consideration.

The line would improve energy transmission throughout the Midwest, making possible alternative forms of renewable energy that are not currently available, Lucas Nelson, an energy policy associate with the Center for Rural Affairs, said.

“If someplace in Wisconsin wants to make use of wind energy but they can’t build a wind farm locally, it’s a big deal to be able to get that energy from the grid,” Nelson said.

The current system, which Nelson said is not built to connect to rural areas, does not allow for this type of expansion. This is a limiting factor on what kind of renewables can be produced in the state.

The proposed line would run between 160 and 180 miles and cost between $540 million and $580 million, depending on the accepted route, according to the American Transmission Company’s website. The project would be paid for by increased rates for ATC and Xcel’s customers, not all of who live in Wisconsin, according to Nelson.

“[Funding] would come from rate payers in the Miso region,” Nelson said. ”Miso is a regional transmission operator, so because the operation will help serve the whole region part of the cost will come from Wisconsin rate payers, but much of it will come from outside Wisconsin.”

According to the ATC, the line would provide economic savings in the long run by improving efficiency, providing greater access to the wholesale energy market and connecting to better quality renewable resources.

Nelson emphasized the need for those that would be effected the project — local land owner and shareholders — to have a stake in the project.

“The developers need to make sure that local communities have a say in the project and that they’re doing it in a way that works best for those local areas. It’s just a lot of work to make sure that any new transmission is developed in the right way,” Nelson said.

A fact sheet published by environmental advocacy group Clean Wisconsin expressed concerns about the environmental impact of the proposed route, specifically, cutting down native hardwood trees, contributing to erosion in sensitive areas on Western Wisconsin.

The organization outlined two additional routes for the line, which would circumvent these sensitive wetland and woodland areas, but also add considerable distance to the line. 

The PSC’s remaining public hearings on the proposal are taking place in Lawrence, Wisconsin Thursday, and in the Wisconsin Dells Monday. However, Conrad said there is opportunity for the public to voice their opinion beyond these hearings.

“The public comment period itself will be open until Jan. 6, where any member of the public that’s interested can leave a comment for the Public Commission that will be part of the record, and the record is what the commissioners base their decision on,” Conrad said.

Comments can be made at psc.wi.gov, under the Public Comments tab, on the Badger Coulee 345 kV Transmission Project case.

Categories: Local Media

Soglin worried State Street is losing traditional feel

Thu, 12/11/2014 - 6:16am

The increased number of restaurants and bars on State Street has Mayor Paul Soglin concerned it could turn into a street of “megasaloons,” with the new establishments crowding out small retail shops.

The original intent of State Street was not to compete with shopping centers, but to create a space for local businesses to sell original merchandise, Soglin said at a news conference Tuesday.

“We want to keep it a street where thousands and thousands of people every week  can walk and enjoy their principally locally-owned businesses, where you don’t get the feel that you’re in an outdoor mall,” Soglin said.

Nearly 30 percent of the 350 downtown businesses downtown are retail, 40 percent food and drink and the remaining are service businesses such as salons, spas and fitness centers, Mary Carbine, executive director of Madison’s Central Business Improvement District, said.

Historically, the percentage of food and drink has not changed much since 1998, Carbine said. However, Cabine also said the balance of service businesses has increased relative to retail, due to the increasing number of downtown residents looking for such services.

“Like all downtowns, State Street is dynamic and changing,” Carbine said. “The business mix responds to customers, users and uses, how people shop and what they’re looking for.”

Soglin said he thinks the construction of complexes such as The Hub and Ovation 309 will add to the demand for dry good stores on State Street and Capitol Square.

A recent city analysis by the city and the Wisconsin State Journal of the current occupants of State Street has shown a major increase in square footage of liquor sales, Soglin said.

State Street’s success over the years has driven up the property costs in the area; this makes it challenging for local businesses to pay the high rents when competing against liquor sellers, Soglin said.

In order to maintain the “flavor” of State Street and stop the shrinkage of retail, Soglin said he hopes to start a city-wide conversation about the curtailment of places that sell food, alcohol and coffee.

Instead of the addition of new restaurants and bars to State Street, Soglin said he hopes to see the retention and implementation of more local independent bookstores, art galleries and retail stores.

Soglin said he believes retail stores downtown are too few and far between.

“It’s like missing teeth in a smile,” Soglin said of the absence of retail stores around the Capitol Square.

Soglin said he wants to bring together city committees to discuss the possibility of future actions and talk with downtown area council members before finalizing a proposal. He said he hopes additions of locally-owned retailers can be made to State Street, similar to changes made on Johnson, Monroe and Willy Streets.

Categories: Local Media

Madison exploring options for installing more public restrooms downtown

Thu, 12/11/2014 - 6:15am

Budgeted with $300,000, Madison’s Public Restroom Committee is exploring ways to install more public restrooms downtown to aid both the homeless population and shoppers.

Talk of needing more public restrooms downtown has been increasing for at least two years, Susan Schmitz, president of Downtown Madison Inc. and a member on the Ad Hoc Public Restroom Committee, said.

Schmitz said because of changes in downtown, the city needs more bathrooms than it currently has. These changes include more entertainment venues, restaurants that stay open later and more people that are downtown later at night.

Schmitz said the installation of more public restrooms would serve many types of downtown visitors, such as people going home late at bar times, shoppers, visitors to the farmers market and the homeless.

Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, a member of the committee, said the need for the restrooms is largely in the evening, after the businesses downtown have closed.

“This project has a special emphasis on trying to serve the homeless population,” Verveer said.

Verveer said this project has been on the table for around a year, when homeless activists brought their concerns to the city council.

These activists expressed that the homeless have no way to legally relieve themselves late in the evening and early in the morning, Verveer said.

“There are many businesses downtown that have public restrooms during the day. The issue is that they are locked up at night,” Verveer said. “The committee wants to offer bathroom options during the evening and early morning without imposing on private businesses.”

The county has installed several Porta Potties, three of them adjacent to city parking ramps, in response to this issue. However, the committee is looking to install a more permanent public restroom, Verveer said.

Verveer said the committee has $300,000 for the project in the current budget, and the money was reauthorized for the 2015 city budget.

“Right now we are just gathering information from other communities’ successes and making sure whatever we decide to have will help the most people,” Schmitz said.

Schmitz said communities like Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver, Canada, in particular have had success with this type of project. These communities have segregated units on the sides of streets that look nice and are easy to keep clean, she said.

Since the project is still in the early stages, Schmitz said the committee has no information regarding specific price tags or locations.

Verveer said the project was not controversial at the Common Council meeting when it was first introduced, but he could see issues arriving when it comes time to decide the type and location of the restrooms.

“Sidewalks are already crowded with sidewalk cafes and street amenities, so finding a location is easier said than done,” Verveer said.

Categories: Local Media

The semester that was in Madison news

Thu, 12/11/2014 - 5:43am

Madison Police Department reacts to Ferguson:

In the wake of the death of Michael Brown, unarmed and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, Madison Police Chief Mike Koval made his policing philosophies clear and addressed issues of transparency.

As Ferguson police met protesters with SWAT gear and riot shields, Koval said he prefers a more approachable style of policing in Madison.

“When you’re in a community like our own, vibrant with thinkers and thousands of young students that, I hope, are learning to challenge authority, we can’t be a traditional call and response sort of operation,” Koval said. “You can’t start engaging someone by trying to talk through a kevlar helmet with a glass visor. It sends the wrong message.”

Similarly, the lack of video evidence in Brown’s death led to a national call for the implementation of body cameras on police. Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, has been a leading proponent of the cameras. President Barack Obama also made the technology a priority, setting aside $75 million in federal funding for 50,000 cameras for police departments across the nation.

Resnick said this is an encouraging step toward further transparency in policing by securing funding for the cameras.

“Our president has made a call to action for state government and local municipalities to implement body camera programs,” Resnick said. “I don’t think there’s any excuse at this point not to move forward.”

An ad-hoc committee is being created in 2015 to examine the feasibility of implementing the cameras in Madison. If the committee makes a recommendation for the cameras, the city will launch a pilot program the following year, Koval said.

However, Koval said he does not think the cameras will be a “one-size-fits-all cure.”

“This is not a simple fix, and the deeper fix has to be rooted in how we police our people, not how we capture those transactions,” Koval said.

Police, city officials weigh benefits of body cameras Following President Barack Obama’s executive order calling for police departments nationwide to implement body cameras, city officials are again pushing …badgerherald.com

Madison hoping to cross the digital divide and close the achievement gap:

Hoping to close the “digital divide,” Madison is looking into ways to provide high-speed internet to low-income neighborhoods and for students of families who cannot afford it.

Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, proposed a $100,000 amendment to the 2015 city budget that will fund a feasibility study to examine the different ways city-wide internet could be realized.

“If you think about students in the Madison School District, there are still students who don’t have access within their homes,” Resnick said. “When they try and compete in the classroom it becomes a huge disadvantage. The answer of ‘you can go to the library’ is no longer a satisfactory solution.”

So far, the city has received interest from four vendors: a local company, a company from Nevada and two from T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular. All of these proposed a 4G wireless network as a solution, rather than fiber optic cables, Resnick said.

Mayor Paul Soglin has been a supporter of the initiative as well. Soglin said closing the digital divide is the first step toward minimizing the achievement gap caused by financial and educational disparities.

“We have to take some risk and if we’re serious about doing something about the divide in this community, if we’re serious about what’s going on in low-income households. This is one mechanism which is relatively cheap given the way we’re spending money to get some really significant outcomes, not just in terms of education, but also in terms of job opportunity,” Soglin said.

City works to solve achievement gap, close the ‘digital divide’Madison is looking to close the “digital divide” by providing high-speed internet to low-income residents and students of those families …badgerherald.com

Koval says yes to weed:

Citing ineffective enforcement strategies and a possibility for tax revenue, Madison Police Chief Mike Koval said he supports the legalization of marijuana.

While he said he is not encouraging the use of any substance like tobacco, alcohol or marijuana, Koval said he has other priorities to worry about in Madison.

“I look at the myriad of instances that confront the police, not the least of which is weapons offenses, crimes against persons and heroin,” Koval said. “In relative scale, casual possession of marijuana does not rise to the top of our things to do.”

Koval said he favors legalization because he assumed it would be heavily regulated and taxed and the revenue would be used to fund therapeutic interventions or alternatives to incarceration.

Koval said the ultimate benefits of marijuana legalization for Wisconsin would be fewer arrests and fewer instances of racial disparities in incarceration. Racial disparity in drug-related offenses in Madison, however, is something Koval said needs to be addressed sooner than later.

“The rate of arrests … for possession of marijuana, as is the case of most possessory drug crimes, is significantly higher for African-American males than it is for the rest of the demographics of our city,” Koval said.

According to an analysis by MPD, about 60 percent of people arrested for drug crimes last year were white. The overwhelming majority of the remaining portion of people arrested were black. In comparison, Madison’s population is 75 percent white and only 7 percent black.

However, Koval made it clear that marijuana is currently illegal and MPD will not stop doing their job anytime soon. Madison’s issue of racial disparities in drug arrests, he said, is just representative of larger problem that stretches nationwide and needs to be addressed.

Madison police chief supports marijuana legalizationCiting a history of inefficient enforcement and racial disparities, Madison Police Chief Mike Koval said he supports the idea of …badgerherald.com

Categories: Local Media

The semester that was in campus news

Thu, 12/11/2014 - 5:27am

Students hold silent vigil for victims of police brutality

More than 100 University of Wisconsin students gathered outside the Kohl Center after the Duke-Badger Basketball game to hold a silent vigil for victims of police brutality this semester.

Some students were holding signs with phrases such as “Black Lives Matter” and “We all bleed red. But whose blood is on our streets?” while others held candles or just stood alone.

The student who put the vigil together, Eric Dwayne Newble Jr, said he thought that students at UW needed support and a community to mourn with.

The issues in Ferguson are also issues seen in Madison, which people do not think about, Newble said.

Those mourning in Madison over these events have no real outlet or community to turn to, which was the main goal of the vigil, Newble said.

According to the 2014 Race to Equity Report, Madison is one of the worst places in the country for African-Americans to live.

After finding out about how big and important the basketball game was, Newble decided to hold the vigil outside the Kohl Center. His goal was to bring the students fighting against police brutality together students supporting the Badgers.  As spectators began to leave the Kohl Center, some called out against the vigil, however the students remained silent.

One of the student participants, Cara Whelan, said she greatly appreciated the meaning of the vigil.

“It means that people matter,” Whelan said. ”It doesn’t matter whatever race you are, whatever class you are, whatever sexual orientation, people matter.”

UW students hold vigil outside basketball game for victims of police brutalityAs students and Badger fans filed out of the Kohl center Wednesday night after the Badger basketball game against Duke, …badgerherald.com

Record setting football game and Morgridge donation

As Melvin Gordon broke records with a 408 yard rush and four touchdowns, “$100 million dollars” flashed on the jumbotron at Camp Randall stadium to celebrate a record-breaking donation to University of Wisconsin from the Morgridge family.

It was during the game that John and Tashia Morgridge announced their $100 million donation to the school. John was previously the CEO of Cisco and both him and Tashia graduated from UW in 1955. Their donation will be used mainly for faculty recruitment, UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank said.

“The wonderful thing about this is it is all dedicated to faculty support and faculty chairs, so it is good to give the university the ability to attract and retain faculty,” Blank said. “The reputation of your faculty is what defines the reputation of your university.”

The Morgridges have donated millions to the university over the past years.  Those donations have resulted in projects such as the Morgridge Institute for Discovery, renovations to the School of Education, preservation of the name of the School of Business and the renovation of the Red Gym, according to a UW statement.

The Morgridges have signed the “Giving Pledge,” where philanthropists vow to give away 50 percent of their wealth throughout their lifetime, a UW statement said.

The gift is not about [the Morgridges], it is about others, Blank said.

“I particularly appreciate John and Tashia’s long-time friendship and generosity with the university. They have really made a difference for this campus,” Blank said.

Record-setting game along with historic donation makes for an exciting weekend for UWAfter a record-breaking weekend, Chancellor Rebecca Blank expressed excitement over both Melvin Gordon’s performance Saturday and the announcement of a $100 …badgerherald.com

 Sexual Assault

An increase in the number of sexual assaults reported on campus is seen as a positive progression, potentially encouraging victims to come forward and seek professional help according university administration.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Annual Security and Fire Safety Report for the academic year 2014-15 reported 34 sex offenses in 2013, a number consistent with the reported number in 2012 and slightly lower than the 37 reported offenses in 2011.

Only about 2-13 percent of sexual assaults are reported on campus, Carmen Hotvedt, assistant director for violence prevention, said.

UW-Madison is trying to address the problem of sexual assault because of the recent allegations against a UW-Milwaukee frat for slipping “date-rape” drugs into drinks at a party they hosted.

The UW System Task Force on Sexual Violence and Harassment was created in efforts to increase preventative education on sexual assaults, Tonya Schmidt, a member of the task force and the director of Title IX and the Clery Compliance, said.

“I believe the education provided in the Tonight! tutorial helps students identify sexual assaults and instructs students on reporting incidents … the numbers reported will only increase, which is good because it means survivors are getting the help they need and perpetrators are being held accountable,” Schmidt said.

Sexual assaults have been an election topic among running candidates seeking to propose answers to the problem.

Attorney General-elect Brad Schimel plans to advocate for the Good Samaritan Law, a law which allows for a victim or peer to report incidents to police without fearing consequences if they were drinking underage or consuming marijuana, for example.

“That’s our hope … that even if a victim is not ready to come forward, they can discreetly get their hands on a kit and when they’ve cleared their heads they have that preserved,” Schimel said. “The Good Samaritan Law will ease that reluctance.”

State, campus officials turn their attention to preventing sexual assaultsWhen it comes to sexual assault on college campuses, increased numbers of incident reports can be a good sign; it …badgerherald.com

Categories: Local Media

The semester that was in state news

Thu, 12/11/2014 - 5:25am

U.S. Supreme Court Blocks Voter ID Law

Just before the elections this fall, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked implementation of Wisconsin’s long-contested voter ID law, reversing the appeals court decision.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin filed a lawsuit against voter ID, just one step in an ongoing legal battle debating the merits of the law.

Justices cited concerns about implementing voter ID so close to a general election date, noting some municipal clerks’ offices had already sent out absentee ballots with no instructions for presenting a valid, government-issued photo ID. The court did not come to any conclusions about the constitutionality of this law or others similar to it. 

Ambiguity as to the constitutionality of voter ID sets the stage for future debate on the issue, and experts agree the legal struggle will likely continue.

Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause Wisconsin, said he believes voter ID will continue to be a source of legal struggles after the elections. He said he does not believe this is the last the state and the nation have heard of voter ID by any means.

Voter ID has been a topic of debate throughout the nation, with groups struggling to pass similar laws in a variety of states. Supporters say requiring a photo ID to vote will prevent fraud, while opponents maintain such requirements are unnecessary poll taxes designed to disenfranchise minorities and the poor.

Opponents of voter ID laws have accused the laws as having partisan roots, because the citizens who are less likely to have a valid photo ID, people of low socioeconomic status, tend to vote as Democrats.

Kansas, Texas, Indiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia and Virginia all have strict laws requiring a government-issued photo ID, and many other states have less strict laws requiring additional identification.

U.S. Supreme Court blocks implementation of Wisconsin voter ID lawThe U.S. Supreme Court has blocked implementation of Wisconsin’s voter ID law, reversing an appeals court decision that had reinstated …badgerherald.com

U.S. Supreme Court rings in marriage equality

After years of legal battles across the nation, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case of several states’ same-sex marriage bans in October, effectively legalizing marriage for all couples in Wisconsin.

For many, the Supreme Court’s refusal to the  cases ushered in a new age of equality for people looking to marry in Wisconsin. All cases in the Fourth, Seventh and Tenth circuits were also dismissed, legalizing same-sex marriage in Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, in addition to Wisconsin.

A total of 35 states now legally recognize same-sex marriage.

The Supreme Court did not rule marriage bans themselves unconstitutional, but by not hearing the cases put before it, indicated that the power currently remains with circuit courts. This means marriage bans will not yet be outlawed nation-wide.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry in Wisconsin, said in a statement “The Court’s delay in affirming the freedom to marry nationwide prolongs the patchwork of state-to-state discrimination.”

Despite the possibility of a ban returning to Wisconsin, proponents of same-sex marriage remain optimistic. The ACLU is confident this is a turning point in the same-sex marriage debate.

“We think the Supreme Court’s action sends an unmistakable signal that the Court is comfortable with the lower court decision in favor of marriage,” Associate Director of the ACLU Molly Collins said. “And we think that lower courts will get that signal loud and clear.”

Only 15 states still have bans on same-sex marriage, pushing states where gay marriage is legally recognized into the majority for the first time in history.

Same-sex marriages back on in Wisconsin following U.S. Supreme Court orderSame-sex marriages are back on in Wisconsin after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up appeals from five states …badgerherald.com

Madison, Milwaukee a symbol for gay rights nationally

Madison was among 38 cities in the country to earn a perfect score on the Washington-based Human Right’s Campaign’s annual Municipal Equality Index, which reviewed municipal policies relating to LGBT inclusiveness.

Madison’s inclusive employment policies, a human rights division of the city government that deals with LGBT issues, and legal recognition of civil unions and domestic partnerships, along with newly established marriage equality helped to earn it a perfect score.

The annual Municipal Equality Index also ranked Milwaukee highly, awarding Wisconsin’s largest city a 91 out of 100; putting the state’s two most populated regions well above the national average.

At the same time, gay rights advocates say there are still areas in which Madison could improve, especially with regard to the treatment of students and transgender individuals.

Steve Starkey, executive director of OutReach Community Center in Madison, said transgender people are homeless and experience unemployment at a much higher rate than the general population, including the gay and lesbian community, and this trend can also be found in the city of Madison. 

According to a study by the Movement Advancement Project, transgender people in the United States experience unemployment at twice the rate of the population as a whole.

Tim Michael, manager of Gay Straight Alliance Outreach for Wisconsin, said policies protecting students have come far, and in most schools sexual orientation and gender identity are protected classes. However, these policies don’t always pan out for students in classrooms and hallways.

“We know that sometimes policies are in print but ignored, and although a policy may say one thing, people’s real, lived experiences say something very different,” Michael said. “We know that there are lots of students who experience harassment on a day-to-day basis.”

Got Equality? Madison was ranked one of the top cities in country for LGBT rightsMadison is a national symbol of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender inclusivity, according to a recent report by the Human …badgerherald.com

Walker victorious over Burke in gubernatorial election

Gov. Scott Walker will return to the governor’s mansion for a second term, fending off a challenge from Democratic opponent Mary Burke, possibly catapulting him to a White House run in 2016.

Walker — who became the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall election in 2012 — had 53.3 percent of the vote while Burke had 45.5 percent with 91 percent of precincts reporting.

Walker was first elected governor in 2010, but was on the ballot again in 2012, facing a recall challenge that stemmed from a collect bargaining law that brought tens of thousands of protesters to the state Capitol.

Burke was a relatively political newcomer, serving on the Madison School Board since 2012. She was previously an executive at Trek Bicycle and served as the state’s commerce secretary under former Gov. Jim Doyle.

Walker’s victory also keeps him in the conversation for a possible 2016 presidential bid, Mike Wagner, a University of Wisconsin journalism professor said.

“If you’re the kind of person that thinks Gov. Walker might run for president, you have a lot of evidence to support that,” Wagner said.

In the race for attorney general, Republican Brad Schimel won with 52.6 percent of the vote, while Democrat Susan Happ had 44.3 percent of the vote with 91 percent of precincts reporting. Happ is the Jefferson County district attorney, while Schimel is the Waukesha County district attorney.

The current attorney general, J.B. Van Hollen, decided against running for a third term.

The governor’s race drew 54.23 percent of the state’s voters, or about 2.4 million voters, according the Government Accountability Board. This number makes turnout for the 2014 governor’s race the highest in a gubernatorial election since 1962, percentage-wise.

Scott Walker wins re-election as Wisconsin governorGov. Scott Walker will return to the governor’s mansion for a second term, fending off a challenge from Democratic challenger …badgerherald.com

Got Equality? Madison was ranked one of the top cities in country for LGBT rightsMadison is a national symbol of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender inclusivity, according to a recent report by the Human …badgerherald.com

Categories: Local Media

Dane County veterans’ court offers treatment, second chances

Thu, 12/11/2014 - 5:23am

Veterans who battle issues like addiction and criminal behavior have a new support system, as a new veterans’ court program is underway in Dane County.

Dane County Circuit Court Judge David Flanagan said the court is in its second month of operation, and has accepted four veterans so far, with about 30 more who recently applied.

Flanagan said the court acts similar to other treatment courts, such as drug abuse and addiction courts, by keeping veterans in the court system while they receive treatment at the Veterans Administration Hospital.

“What you’re doing is you’re encouraging them to do something they ought to do anyway,” he said. “If they’re willing to do that, these treatment courts seem to do pretty well.”

The first veterans’ court in Wisconsin was the Rock County Veterans’ Treatment Court that started four years ago, which also treated Dane County veterans before the new court opened.

Ed Zapala, veteran justice outreach coordinator for the Veterans Administration in Madison, said having a treatment court near the VA Hospital has its advantages for Dane County’s veterans.

“For some of the veterans, transportation is an issue, especially since DUI-type charges are pretty common, so they might not be able to drive as easily as you and I,” Zapala said.

The veterans’ court participants are issued a mentor, a fellow veteran who agrees to offer guidance throughout the treatment process, Flanagan said.

Besides those offering their time as mentors, Zapala said the treatment court program also seems to have a lot of encouragement from the public.

“I do think there’s quite a bit of support for it,” Zapala said. “People in general want to help veterans and there are a number of services available for them so that’s part of why these veteran treatment courts are such a common program throughout the country.”

The collaboration between the court and the hospital is what makes this program different from other drug or alcohol treatment programs, he said.

While in those programs resources can be hard to come by, the VA already has all of the necessary treatment in place, according to Flanagan.

“If somebody’s having problems with the law [such as] disorderly conduct, drinking too much, getting in trouble, if the underlying problem is … something that may have either [been] caused by or exacerbated by military service, the VA’s there to provide treatment, and they’re pretty good at it,” Flanagan said.

Flanagan, who founded the court, said it is the newest of 11 similar courts in Wisconsin. He said the first veterans’ court began in Buffalo, New York, in 2008, after a judge noticed a trend of veterans in similar cases over time.

Now, Flanagan said there are around 250 veterans’ courts nationwide, and the program has proven to be a successful way to provide treatment to veterans. The court is part of the Dane County Courthouse on 215 S. Hamilton St., Flanagan said.

A little bit of positive reinforcement can go a long way for troubled veterans, he said.

“For people who are used to getting hollered at in court, to have somebody say, ‘You’re doing something right’ is a new experience,” he said. “It seems to have some pretty good effects.”

Categories: Local Media

Wolf quota exceeded for third-straight year

Thu, 12/11/2014 - 5:20am

Wolf hunters in Wisconsin exceeded the kill limit for the third-straight year, prompting protesters to gather at the Capitol Monday, accusing the state government of mismanaging the wolf hunt.

The wolf-hunting season was officially called off Friday, after beginning Oct. 15. The Department of Natural Resources-issued 2014 quota was 150 wolves, and this year’s final total was 154.

In spring 2012, Act 169, which enacted the wolf hunt, was signed into law. Before this, the wolves had been listed as an endangered species in the state. As a way to regulate the new hunting season, the DNR issued a yearly quota for wolf hunters, which has been exceeded every year since.

Professor Timothy Van Deelan, an expert in conservation and management of large mammals in the Great Lakes region at the University of Wisconsin said he believes the reason they go over is due to uncertainty.

“They don’t want to close the quota too early and get criticized by someone in a unit where there might still be one or two individuals under the quota,” Van Deelan said.

In Wisconsin, the state is divided into six wolf-hunting zones. Hunters and trappers are required to notify the DNR within 24 hours of harvesting a wolf. Based on the tallies they receive, the DNR then decides to close the season. The closure takes full effect 24 hours after it’s announced.

“When you have trappers and hunters in the field, you can’t just put the brakes on instantly,” Van Deelan said. “I think this year we went over by four individual wolves, which is trivial in a population this size.”

Patrick Durkin, an outdoor writer, editor and columnist for outdoorhub.com agreed that regulating the wolf hunt in Wisconsin is not an exact science.

“Hunting is not a perfectly conditioned thing,” Durkin said. “To expect that kind of precision, where we’re right down to the number every time, I think that’s an unrealistic expectation.”

Durkin said the large size of the state and the mobility of hunters are two major obstacles when trying to calculate and regulate the quota. He said traps are often left in the woods, even after the season has been closed.

In addition, Durkin said it is important to consider the history of the wolf population in Wisconsin. In 1975, the gray wolf was listed as a state endangered species, which is no longer the case.

“It was down to a handful of wolves,” Durkin said. “They bounced back from a real low number and rebuilt their own population.”

The DNR website states that in 2011, there were about 800 gray wolves living in Wisconsin. The animal has been delisted as an endangered population at the state and federal level.

“Given the history of this animal and how well it’s come back in a relatively short time period, I can’t think this is as fragile of a population as some folks are trying to make it out to be,” Durkin said.

Neither Durkin nor Van Deelen thought that exceeding the kill limit for wolves was a major threat to the well-being of the population.

The Associated Press reported the DNR plans to create a draft for a new plan regarding wolf hunting that will be released in January. The new options will be finalized in March, according to the DNR.

Categories: Local Media

UW System chancellors disagree about merit of proposed engineering programs for northwestern universities

Thu, 12/11/2014 - 5:18am

Three northwestern University of Wisconsin schools proposed a joint engineering program at the most recent Board of Regents meeting, receiving opposition from some UW System chancellors.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank and UW-Platteville Chancellor Dennis Shields both expressed concern that the programs were not the best move for the system, as they would be expensive and potentially draw students away from Madison, Platteville or Milwaukee’s programs. Chancellors from the three northwestern schools argued that engineering programs were necessary for development in those parts of the state.

“I often ask [business owners] what keeps them from expanding their businesses, and I get the exact same answer from every single person, no matter the size of company, ‘we don’t have confidence we can find the right people’,” UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt said, referring to what he considers a lack of engineers in region.

UW-Stout Chancellor Bob Meyer said several need analyses, both by Stout and by the UW system indicated there were hundreds of unfilled engineering positions in the northwestern quarter of the state.

Schmidt said engineering programming at regional universities was the single biggest request he has received from employers, and RiverFalls and Stout’s areas have found similar results. He described the lack of significant public engineering programming north of Madison as a limitation for students and businesses alike.

“What we’re hearing is that engineers who are educated in Madison are looking for jobs nationally,” Blake Fry, spokesperson for UW-River Falls said. He said engineers educated in northwestern and north central Wisconsin are more likely to stay in that part of the state.

Shields said he is concerned the cooperative system would not be able to sustain itself. He said students who pursue engineering degrees at UW system schools are not coming from that part of the state, but are generally concentrated in the southern half of the state.

Schmidt said the basis for these programs already exist, and the small changes and updates needed would be funded by private gifts and grants alone. He said the schools are seeking no additional funds because they are already teaching the curriculum.

“The real issue is we’re doing a disservice to our students, we’re delivering the curriculum, so they’re qualified, but we can’t offer the credentials,” Schmidt said. “We are seeking permission from the Board of Regents to offer the credential, and to seek engineering accreditation.”

He said the students at these schools, especially UW-Eau Claire, are more than qualified to take on challenging engineering courses. He mentioned Rhodes Scholar Tayo Sanders, who is graduating with a material science degree from UW-Eau Claire.

Meyer said he does not believe creating programs at the three regional universities will detract students from southern schools with existing programs, a concern expressed by Chancellors Blank and Schmidt. He said it may actually have the opposite effect.

“When Stout started the computer engineering program, we heard the same thing, that it would decrease enrollment for Madison and Platteville,” Meyer said. “If you look at enrollment in those two schools, it’s actually gone up.”

Schmidt said the number of students interested in engineering is not finite. He said with the outreach efforts which are part of the proposed plan, he believes there will be plenty of students interested in engineering to boost enrollment for all the system’s programs.

Categories: Local Media

High density of alcohol venues correlates with college student binge drinking

Wed, 12/10/2014 - 10:23pm

Known nationwide as a party school, University of Wisconsin is addressing the high-risk drinking among students of all ages.

Binge drinking and its consequences are a problem at just about every university in the country, Sarah Van Orman, executive director of University Health Services, said. However, there is data to suggest the problem at Madison is significant and “probably worse” than at other institutions, she said.

“Our students come to campus drinking more and by the time we resurvey them at about six weeks [through AlcoholEdu], they’re much more likely to have become problematic drinkers than students at other universities,” Van Orman said. 

For UW students, 75.72 percent admitted to drinking before enrolling in college, in comparison to 65.95 percent of students from other large public universities that admitted to drinking before starting college, the 2013 AlcoholEdu summary reported.

Additionally, 41.81 percent of UW students become high-risk drinkers after starting college compared to 27.18 percent of students attending other large public universities, the 2013 AlcoholEdu summary reported.

There have been studies in the past that have found a direct relationship between the density of alcohol establishments and binge drinking, Richard Brown, professor in the Department of Family Medicine, said.

One of these studies, the 2013 Prevention Status Report, reported greater alcohol density directly correlates with excessive drinking.

“It really helps to decrease the concentration of alcohol establishments,” Brown said. “There are lots of things we could do if we really wanted to get serious to address the alcohol issues on campus.”

Most of the establishments where students can drink are located on the east side of Madison, with close to 70 in a one-fourth mile radius of each other on campus, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported.

The Alcohol Density Licensing Ordinance was issued in 2010 to prohibit new bars opening downtown in order to decrease the amount of alcohol-related crimes on campus, the Chronicle reported.

When the ordinance was unsuccessful in lowering crime rates, restrictions were lifted allowing new establishments to open, such as movie theaters and arcades, the Chronicle reported.

A higher density of alcohol establishments has shown a correlation with an increase in violence, alcohol poisoning and lower work productivity, the 2014 Madison and Dane County Health Impact Assessment reported.

“The only way [a study] would have effect is if policy makers took it to heart and actually changed policy so that we wouldn’t have the density of drinking establishments that we have,” Brown said.

Less common but more severe consequences of high-risk drinking include overnight detox and higher numbers of sexual assault, Van Orman said.

Throughout the 2013-2014 academic year, the Madison Police Department and University of Wisconsin Police Department transported 170 students to detox or the emergency room due to excessive drinking, according to the UW Alcohol Information for Campus website.

“We know that at UW-Madison somewhere between 150 to 200 students every year have to be taken to detox,” Van Orman said. “When a student is transported to detox that means their alcohol level is high enough that they’re at risk of dying.”

The vast majority of sexual assaults at UW are associated with alcohol, Van Orman said. Alcohol creates an environment where it’s more difficult for both bystanders and victims to recognize the situation.

A major concern for UW is the number of students that report being “problematic drinkers,” meaning students who drink more than eight drinks for women and 10 drinks for men.

Students tend to accept that alcohol abuse is just a part of the college experience which makes it a challenging problem to address, Van Orman said.

Brown said there are research-based solutions that will help discourage high-risk drinking. The most potent thing the university could do would be to increase alcohol taxes, he said.

“It wouldn’t be popular on campus but there are many studies that show when [campuses] substantially increase alcohol taxes and make alcohol more expensive, many young people will drink less and reduce alcohol related deaths among young people,” Brown said. 

The UW Population Health Institute issue brief reported that a 10 percent increase in the price of beer lowers the demand for beer by 4.6 percent.

Because of the extent of this problem, punishments are harsh for underage students caught drinking excessively. 

Legally, a student caught drinking underage will be charged $263.50 and possession of a fake ID is $515.50, according to the UW Alcohol Information for Campus website.

After a student is legally cited, they may be in violation of the UW System Administrative Code.  In this case, the student will be referred to the dean of students office and may receive punishment ranging from disciplinary probation to expulsion, depending on the extent of the citation, according to the UW Alcohol Information for Campus webpage.

Students will also be required to take an alcohol education course, costing $125 and mandated by the dean of students offices, according to the UW Alcohol Information for Campus webpage.

 

Categories: Local Media

Don’t leave too quickly: Safety tips to prepare your apartment for your winter absence

Tue, 12/09/2014 - 7:42pm

As burglaries increase around the holidays, the University of Wisconsin Police Department is reminding students of basic safety steps before they leave their apartments or homes for winter break.

“We do typically see a slight uptick in the number of theft cases or burglary cases, and not necessarily just on campus, but we’re talking off campus as well,” University of Wisconsin Police Department spokesperson Marc Lovicott.

Many of these crimes are crimes of opportunity, he said, with burglars breaking into empty homes around the holidays — tipped off by observations like several newspapers on the porch.

A list UWPD released Tuesday includes several suggestions for students, including:

  • Ensuring you have locked your door before leaving
  • Keeping valuables out of sight
  • Letting trusted friends know you will be out of town so they can watch over your house or apartment

The full list can be found on UWPD’s website.

Other helpful tips to keep in mind when leaving for an extended period of time include:

  • Reducing heat in your home or apartment to save money on your heating bill
  • Defrost refrigerators that will be unused over break, and remove any perishable food items from the refrigerator
  • Unplugging unused electronics will also help reduce electricity costs
  • Suspending mail service and newspaper delivery until returning to campus: “If [criminals] see 5, 6, 7, 8 newspapers piled up on a porch, it’s a pretty good indication that those folks aren’t home and haven’t been home for a while,” Lovicott said.
  • Paying all bills before leaving to make sure the lights will come back on when returning to campus
  • Putting lights on a timer to give the appearance someone is home

Keeping safety in mind lessens the chances of becoming a victim of a burglary, Lovicott said.

Categories: Local Media

GreenHouse Learning Community shares harvest with campus dining hall

Tue, 12/09/2014 - 7:31pm

The GreenHouse Learning Community at the University of Wisconsin has completed its fall harvest consisting of more than 200 plants and gave all of the harvested herbs to a dining facility within University Housing.

The harvest of 200 plants consisted of three pounds of parsley and one-and-a-half pounds of cilantro, according to GreenHouse community manager Tom Bryan.

This harvest is the second the GreenHouse Learning Community has given to Carson’s housing dining hall. Last year they gave the dining hall about two pounds of parsley and one pound of cilantro, he said.

According to the group’s Facebook page, the cilantro will be used to make cilantro-lime rice and the parsley will be incorporated into a falafel recipe.

The group has a garden plot in the Eagle Heights Community Garden, which is where the harvest came from, according to their website.

Harvesting during the fall semester is tricky because they do not have any artificial lights, but in the spring they have a lot more production, Bryan added. The group is also looking into growing micro-greens, which are similar to sprouts, to be used for some of the salad bars in the dining facilities, he said.

Bryan said he hopes to eventually partner with other organizations across campus to use more of the group’s produce in other ways.

“I would love to foster a bigger relationship with housing, dining and maybe union dining in the future and would love to see more student-centered greenhouses on campus,” he said.

The GreenHouse Learning Community, housed in Leopold Residence Hall, focuses on living sustainably, according to Rebecca Peine, the residence life coordinator for Leopold, Cole and Sullivan Residence Halls.

“The focus of the community is about how to provide hands-on experience, and the goal is to use head, hands and heart to live in sustainable ways,” she said.

Leopold Hall, which opened in 2013, features rooftop solar panels and electricity and water meters to monitor usage across the building.

Leopold hall opens doorsThe university’s newest dorm is likely the only one in the country where freshmen will have the chance to monitor …badgerherald.com

The top two floors of Leopold Hall make up the GreenHouse Learning Community. In addition to the plot at the Eagle Heights Community Garden, the GreenHouse Learning Community utilizes a 1,000 square foot rooftop greenhouse located in Leopold Hall.

Categories: Local Media

Testing and Evaluation Services gearing up for finals week

Tue, 12/09/2014 - 3:08pm

During the crunch of finals week, while students are busy studying and taking their final exams, the Office of Testing and Evaluation Services at University of Wisconsin is busy grading the influx of exams and evaluations from classes across campus.

This department works to grade exams and get results quickly for professors in time for final grades, according to Sheree Rayford, a front desk coordinator for the testing and evaluation office.

Throughout the school year, Testing and Evaluation Services grades thousands of exams, she said.

To help meet the campus’ demand during exam periods, Rayford said they have additional workers during finals week.

On a typical day, there will be one to two exam processors per day, with quiet periods of time where there are no processors, she said. During finals week, there are at least two exam processors working all day, she said.

Professors can drop off exams from their class and wait for them to be graded, but they are not obligated to wait, she said.

“[Professors] also have the opportunity to just drop off the exams and then they can pick them up whenever it is convenient for them, but they would still get the results almost immediately,” Rayford said.

According to atmospheric and oceanic sciences professor Greg Tripoli, the exams take a couple hours to grade during midterm season.

During finals week, the turnaround time is faster with the extra staff, Rayford said. Professors can expect their exams graded and completed within five to 10 minutes.

After the exams are graded, the results are emailed to the professor or TA, who are then able to use this data to complete their grades at Learn@UW, Rayford said.

“We take the [grades] right off the spreadsheet they give us. We enter them in at Learn@UW and inform the class what they have,” Tripoli said.

Recently, T&E introduced a standardized course evaluation professors are able to give to students for course and instructor evaluations, which may help with discrepancies in the results, Rayford said.

“We have noticed some students have [accidentally] given courses a poor grading or a poor evaluation just because the grading scale changes from evaluation to evaluation,” Rayford said.

The issue arises when students are grading from strongly disagree to strongly agree scale in one course, while in another, they are grading from strongly agree to strongly disagree.

Rayford said the hope is that standardized course evaluations will eliminate this problem. A couple departments have started using these standardized course evaluations, but it is not a requirement, she said.

“It is just another option they are able to use,” Rayford said.

Categories: Local Media

Radiolab host talks discomfort, finding one’s voice at Distinguished Lecture Series event

Tue, 12/09/2014 - 11:51am

Hundreds of people filled Shannon Hall at the University of Wisconsin’s Memorial Union Monday to hear a lecture from award-winning Radiolab host Jad Abumrad.

The host and creator of the radio program, which is broadcast on more than 400 radio stations nationwide, spoke about creativity, storytelling and discomfort in his lecture as a part of the Distinguished Lecture Series.

Bryson visits UW as part of the Distinguished Lecture SeriesBest-selling author Bill Bryson kept audience members laughing while discussing his books at the Memorial Union Tuesday as part of …badgerherald.com

Abumrad talked about dealing with feelings of discomfort, which one of his co-founders called “gut churn,” both as a child and in his adult life, as well as the creation and structure of the program itself.

He described the structure of a Radiolab story as a moment of synthesis and understanding followed by a gap, another moment of synthesis, another gap, and so on.

“Basically what we’ve done is created a story structure that mirrors the process of getting lost and then being found,” he said.

As an Arab child growing up in Tennessee during the Gulf War, Abumrad said he experienced discomfort on many levels but found spending time in his room and composing imaginary film scores to be comforting.

“It felt like a kind of freedom, really, to be able to sit there in my room by myself and still somehow access the dramas that were happening outside in the world,” he said.

Part of the reason people go into radio is because they can be with people while being by themselves, an experience much like what he saw in his childhood, he said.

When starting Radiolab in 2002, Abumrad said the feelings of discomfort of launching a new program without a template were strong enough he decided to record the noise from his stomach to show his discomfort.

“No one talks about that crappy, queasy space that you’ve got to swim through when you’re trying to make something new and you don’t quite know what you’re doing, but there’s no template and you’re afraid,” he said.

While talking about discomfort, Abumrad also joked about the football team’s performance against Ohio State Saturday in Indianapolis.

Big Ten meltdown: Badgers sacked by Buckeyes in conference championship gameINDIANAPOLIS — Right from the start of the game, the Ohio State Buckeyes were the better team Saturday in Indianapolis. …badgerherald.com

He also described the discomfort and importance of finding one’s voice, both in terms of sound and as a means of expression.

“Trying to find your voice will always and forever be uncomfortable. I’m convinced there’s no easy way out,” he said.

The next speaker in the Distinguished Lecture Series will be Bill T. Jones on February 12, 2015 at 7:30 p.m.

Categories: Local Media

Suspect sought after early morning robbery on Langdon

Mon, 12/08/2014 - 8:42pm

Madison police are searching for a suspect after an armed robbery occurred early Saturday morning on Langdon Street at West Lakelawn Place just east of the University of Wisconsin campus.

According to police spokesperson Joel DeSpain, the male victim, a 20-year-old Madison man, was standing on Langdon Street when a car drove up and the suspect exited the vehicle.

The suspect had a handgun and demanded the victim’s wallet, DeSpain said.

After hitting the victim in the face, the suspect jumped into the getaway vehicle with the victim’s wallet, including his Wiscard, keys and cell phone, he said.

The car then travelled west on Langdon Street toward the Memorial Union, he said.

The suspect is described as a mixed race male in his 20s with a thin build and an approximate height of 5′ 10″ to 6′. He has facial stubble, shoulder-length dreadlocks and a chin-strap beard, DeSpain said.

The incident is believed to be a random robbery, he said.

Categories: Local Media

Two mopeds destroyed in fire at apartment complex

Mon, 12/08/2014 - 11:02am

A fire outside the Grand Central apartment complex destroyed two mopeds late Sunday night.

The fire, which occurred at 11:58 p.m. Sunday, destroyed two mopeds at the apartment complex on West Johnson Street, according to Madison Fire Department spokesperson Bernadette Galvez.

When firefighters arrived, they found smoke in the lobby, she said. They went down to the underground parking area and found the building’s sprinkler had contained the fire to the two mopeds, she said.

No other damage was reported, Galvez said.

Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the fire, she said.

Categories: Local Media

Leaders seek solutions to poverty, racial disparities in Madison and Dane County

Mon, 12/08/2014 - 9:07am

Community leaders in Madison are planning solutions for continuing and correlated issues of racial disparities and poverty of young families.

University of Wisconsin Chancellor Rebecca Blank will co-chair a delegation led by United Way of Dane County to better understand poverty in the Madison area and offer solutions to diminish it, specifically among young families.

The delegation, which had its first meeting last week, will continue to meet for the next 11 months, breaking this time into three distinct phases in which to study, compare and solve problems of economic stability in Madison, according to the United Way website.

The 40 members of the delegation consist of community leaders in business, government, higher education, health services, communities of color, faith-based organizations and social service organizations, the website said.

“The role of United Way is to get everybody on the same page at the community level. They inform and educate, and a big part of what we do is bring awareness to issues and solutions. A big job of United Way is to also create a community will for change,” Renee Moe, executive vice president of resource development and marketing at United Way of Dane County, said.

Poverty, especially among single women and children, is a growing problem in the community, especially since the Great Recession of 2008-2009, Moe said.

“In the 70′s we used to see more single men [in poverty], and now we’re seeing more single families with children. From a generational perspective, this needs to be addressed,” Moe said.

Statistics on poverty show that there is a lot of work to do to improve the lives of struggling individuals and families in the community. Poverty has increased 51 percent since 2000, and women are more likely to be living in poverty than men, the website said.

In 2012 there were 58,533 people in Dane County living in poverty, amounting to about one in eight residents and nearly one in six children. In 2012 the federal poverty level was set at or below $23,550 for a family of four.

36 percent of African American women are living below the poverty line, while 49 percent of African American children are in Dane County, the website said. Seven percent of Dane County children lived with families under the extreme poverty level.

Blank noted the importance of addressing poverty in the area.

“Particularly for African Americans, Hispanics, and single mother families, poverty rates are up near 25 percent to one third, and almost half of the children in those families are poor,” Blank said. ”There is a significant part of our community that is indeed [in poverty] on a regular basis. It’s out of that concern that the United Way decided to put this delegation together.”

The delegation has convened once so far, but it is confident the solutions it recommends to the United Way will begin to address the root causes of poverty, Blank said.

“The university is involved in a number of important ways with the community, whether it is Badger Volunteers or some of our joint work with the school districts, and I think it is very important for the university, given the role it plays in this community, to be actively involved in these sorts of conversations,” Blank said.

Last week the Madison Common Council also adopted a resolution stating a “commitment to equity in policing and providing opportunities to everyone to succeed,” Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, said.

Resnick said the city is making a push for more equitable practices through programs like the 2015 affordable housing fund and a study looking to address the “digital divide,” which Resnick has been a leading proponent of.

However, Resnick said the city still has work to do. There is a massive amount of room for improvement, he said, and Madison has a long way to go before all students and residents in the city have the same opportunities.

“I believe that we’re all going to need to work together to make a dent,” Resnick said. “This is a historical problem for Madison, this is not something that occurred over night, and it will not be changed overnight. But I believe by working together we’re going to be able to address the divide in our equity gap, our employment gap and our achievement gap.”

Pamela Oliver, professor in sociology at UW, said the conversation to end racial disparities in Madison has been a long one.

“People have cared about this issue for a very long time, at least ten years, maybe longer,” Oliver said. “The Race to Equity report that came out last year sparked a bunch of discussion and there was also the Justified Anger essay and coalition, so there has been a lot of energy that has focused on the whole picture.”

Oliver said criminal justice issues are part of the educational problems and part of the economic inequality and job discrimination problems in the city.

“Arrest disparities are extremely high here,” Oliver said. “Law enforcement works when police are viewed as helping to protect the public order. Everything starts to fall apart if the police are viewed as the enemy.”

Oliver said a characteristic that might lead to the disparity in the incarceration rates might have to do with the higher focus on minor crimes due to the general safety of the city.

Categories: Local Media

Lack of funding cause for no return of Rhythm and Booms in 2015

Mon, 12/08/2014 - 8:13am

After 22 years of Madison’s biggest Fourth of July event, the firework show sponsored by Rhythm and Booms has been shut down due to inadequate funding.

Rita Keliher, president of Madison Festivals Inc., said many of the companies that they usually contact for funding chose not to support the event, and those that have supported in the past decided to drop their donations to a lower level.

Keliher said she believes the city will be negatively affected by the absence of the firework show. She said many families came to watch and many annual reunions were scheduled around the show.

“It brought people together for one day a year to celebrate our nation’s independence and to stop for a moment and think about that and have family and friends come together,” Keliher said.

Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said he was disappointed to hear the news that Madison Festivals Inc. could not secure the funding it needed. Verveer said he did not think the company needed to make a firm decision based on finances until January, so he was surprised to hear a decision a month early.

While Rhythm and Booms will not be held, Verveer said the city will still hold its own fireworks in Elver Park on the west side of Madison.

On whether there is a chance to save Rhythm and Booms, Verveer said he thinks there is still time for a few donors to step forward and make the show happen.

The show has undergone a few changes in the past, including an environmental concern that may have contributed to funding issues, Verveer said.

Three years ago the coordinator at the time, Terry Kelly, made the decision to step down from his position, Keliher said. American Family was the presenting sponsor and they called Keliher to a meeting and asked her to take control of the event.

Another change involved the location, Keliher said. The fireworks show was originally taking place at Warner Park, but Mayor Paul Soglin wanted to switch the location because of high police service costs and the large amount of people who attend.

There was also a violation issue with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Keliher said.

“Someone filed a complaint with the DNR about use of the island for the fireworks,” Keliher said. “The city had been violation for those 20 some years and DNR knew this but they never had to act on it because no one ever filed a formal complaint. Once they did the city had quite a bit of remediation to do to bring the island back its original condition.”

Because of this violation, Keliher had to find a new location for the fireworks display, and she settled on an area by John Nolen Drive.

Keliher said she believes events like Rhythm and Booms are what makes the city special.

“Anytime you lose a big event like this for the city you are losing a free activity [that] a lot of people who can’t afford to travel to go to another big Independence Day celebration are looking forward to,” Keliher said.

Categories: Local Media