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Supreme Court finds restraining order against protester warranted

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 10:01pm

The state Supreme Court ruled a restraining order against former University of Wisconsin System student Jeff Decker was warranted.

Decker, who was a student at UW-Stevens Point, has protested for years about the UW System’s policy on segregated fees. A circuit court judge granted a restraining order against him, a decision that an appeals court overturned.

But on July 16, the Supreme Court ruled Decker’s behavior warranted a restraining order, as the court asserted institutions as well as people are protected from harassment — a point Decker disagreed with.

The court, however, sent the case back to the circuit court so that it can “refine the injunction and clarify its terms.”

Decker had argued the injunction against him was too broad, as it “prohibits … contact with all 40,000 university employees and, arguably, all 181,000 university students,” the court wrote, noting the UW System had agreed the injunction was “overbroad.”

Decker was charged with harassment following several cases of meeting disruptions and threats toward university employees and the chancellor, as well as a refusal to comply with disciplinary suspension, according to the ruling.

“Showing up at an open meeting is not harassment,” Decker said in an interview with The Badger Herald. ”Filming a meeting is not disrupting it.”

The ruling states when a restraining order was filed against Decker in October 2011, Decker avoided the UW-Oskhosh police chief and tried to purchase a handgun.

In court, Decker presented receipts that showed he had been shopping for a handgun for weeks, saying it was “bad timing” that allowed for the usage of this information against him.

Due to concerns about potential violent behavior from Decker, the circuit court granted a harassment injunction and barred him from entering university property.

A state appeals court reversed the injunction, determining that Decker had legitimate reasons for his behavior. The court found protesting university student fees was an act protected by Decker’s right to “publicly demonstrate, protest and persuade others” under the Constitution.

The UW System petitioned for a review of the case, which the Supreme Court granted last January.

Decker argued that an institution cannot be harassed, using the dictionary definition of harassment as “subjected to mental agitation, worry, grief, anxiety, distress or fear,” according to case filings.

The high court held the UW System had a right to an injunction, as it needs to protect the student body.

“University officials have a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of students,” the case stated. “It cannot be disputed that threats to student safety are on the rise. No institution, including a university should be forced to rely on the criminal justice system when a more immediate remedy is available. A harassment injunction may not prevent a tragedy such as the atrocious shooting at Virginia Tech or Sandy Hook, but it is nevertheless an important and effective tool for university officials to maintain order and ensure student health and safety.”

Decker’s persistent aggressive behavior toward the university also lacked legitimate purpose, the Supreme Court ruled. The court found his actions were to “demonstrate an intent to harass,” which is not protected under his right to protest.

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Categories: Local Media

How to vote in Wisconsin

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 9:58pm

Although not a presidential or U.S. Senate race, the fall 2014 elections decide whether Gov. Scott Walker will stay in office for a second term.

The fall partisan primaries are on Aug. 12, and candidates who move on from there will face off in the Nov. 4 general election. That will include legislative races, U.S. House re-elections and the governor’s race.

For the spring non-partisan elections, which include the mayor’s race, the primary is Feb. 17, and the general election is April 7.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m, and all voters need to be registered to vote.

The state’s voter ID law, which two state judges and a federal judge struck down, will likely not be in place for the fall 2014 elections, Republican lawmakers have acknowledged.

Reid Magney, spokesperson for the state’s Government Accountability Board, said out-of-state college students often decide to vote in Wisconsin, as they might feel more connected to the state’s issues.

Many students want to have a vote, especially if they’re at a public university, he said.

“[A public] university is effectively controlled … by the state Legislature and affected by the policies of the state government,” Magney said.  “It wouldn’t be surprising that students would want to vote in an election [outside of their home state].”

According to the GAB, to qualify to vote in Wisconsin, students must:

1. Be a U.S. citizen.

2. Be at least 18-years-old on or before Election Day.

3. Reside in the Wisconsin election ward where they wish to vote for at least 28 days prior to the election, and have no present intent to move. If a student were to leave a residence for a temporary period of time with the intent to return, then they still fulfill the 28 consecutive day requirement.

4. Provide proof of residency in the state. Examples of acceptable proof of residencies include a university housing bill with the student’s name and address, a rent bill with the student’s name and address, a paycheck, a printed copy of a current bursar’s statement and any document from a public university or technical college containing the student’s name and current address. A more extensive list can be found online at Proof of residency can be shown through a paper document or through a computer, phone or tablet.

How to vote:

Register to vote either by mail or in person. Those who intend to register may fill out a form online to register, but that must then be mailed or presented in person. You need to provide a Wisconsin driver’s license or ID number — or if you do not have one, the last four digits of your social security number.

If this is your first time voting, you need to register to vote in Wisconsin. If you have voted in the past but your name or address has changed, you need to re-register. That means those who are looking to vote in November in their new Madison address will need to re-register.

More information is available on, where you can check if you are already registered.

If you are registering in person prior to the election, go to the Madison City Clerk’s office or to a special registration deputy, some of whom may be in the Associated Students of Madison office. You will also find some special registration deputies on the sidewalk this fall. You will need proof of residence to register.

If you are registering by mail, send your completed copy of the voter registration form along with proof of residence to the Madison City Clerk’s office. The application needs to be postmarked 20 days before the election.

If registering within 20 days before an election, you will need to register at the clerk’s office.

You cannot register to vote on the Saturday, Sunday or Monday before Election Day, but you can register in person on Election Day.

To find your polling place location, enter information about your residency on There is early voting available, although it is no longer available during the weekends, and hours have been limited during the week.

The post How to vote in Wisconsin appeared first on The Badger Herald.

Categories: Local Media

Democratic attorney general candidates to face off Aug. 12

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 9:58pm

As the Aug. 12 primary for Wisconsin attorney general approaches, the three Democrats vying for the party’s nomination tout their backgrounds as why each should be elected.

The three Democrats largely agree on various issues, but each has a different background they are hoping will allow them to advance to the general election.

The Democratic candidates are state Rep. Jon Richards, D-Milwaukee, Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ and Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne. The winner of the Aug. 12 primary will face Brad Schimel, a Republican who is the Waukesha County district attorney, in November.

Richards, the only candidate who is not a district attorney, has experience as a veteran lawmaker and a family practice lawyer, which he said gives him an advantage in the race.

“[I’ve had] a great deal of experience working through a variety of aspects that the attorney general would have to deal with,” Richards said of his background as a legislator.

Happ, meanwhile, said she decided to run because she “care[s] about Wisconsin … the community, the children but mainly the future.”

She noted she is a Democrat who has been re-elected in a Republican county and has been able to work with those in a different party — which she sees as a strength in a general election.

“I have the ability to put partisanship aside to enforce the law and do what is best for the community,” Happ said.

However, Ozanne emphasizes his experience in leading large institutions, stressing Wisconsin needs a strong leader in the office.

Ozanne is the former deputy secretary of the Department of Corrections and now leads the district attorney’s office in Dane County.

“The people of Wisconsin want an Attorney General who is an experienced front-line prosecutor with a deep commitment to working on behalf of all the people of Wisconsin in order to enforce the law, protect and uphold the constitution, and protect our shared values,” Ozanne said in a statement. “That is who I am and that is what I will bring to the Attorney General’s office.”

The winner of the primary will face Brad Schimel, the Waukesha County district attorney. He was elected to that role in 2006 after being assistant district attorney in the county since 1990.

In announcing his candidacy last year, Schimel touted the endorsements of various district attorneys across the state. He also has the endorsement of current Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, a Republican who announced he would not run for a third term.

“I’m overwhelmed by the number of law enforcement leaders stepping forward to endorse my pending campaign for attorney general,” Schimel said. “The Department of Justice plays a critical role in partnering with local law enforcement to enhance public safety across the state, and I’m honored by the trust and support law enforcement is placing in me.”

At press time, the Government Accountability Board only listed Richards’ fundraising numbers in the first half of the year. From January 1 to the end of June, Richards raised $190,214.94 and had almost $170,000 cash on hand.

Happ, meanwhile, had roughly $121,000 cash on hand after raising roughly $172,000 from January to the end of June, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

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Categories: Local Media

It’s Electric! New UW sustainability project explores electric car use

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 9:57pm

University of Wisconsin students will have access to small electric cars for rent this fall, as UW researchers prepare to launch a project focusing on sustainable transportation.

UW was one of four schools nationwide that sponsors electric car companies Innova UEV and Internet2 selected for the project, Suman Banerjee, associate professor in the UW Computer Science Department and project’s director, said.

The goal of the project, which is part of a larger study on sustainable transportation will be to evaluate various aspects of electric car usage on a campus-wide scale, Banerjee said, such as driving patterns and fuel consumption trends.

“We’d like to use the information we gather to educate the community about the advantages and potential energy savings that are available from using these kinds of vehicles,” Banerjee said.

The project will also monitor trends in the usage of electric vehicle charging stations throughout the campus and city, he said.

Banerjee said the team is not planning to charge participants for renting the cars, but the rentals will be limited in some form. For instance, car rentals will not be open to the public and will be restricted primarily within the university, he said.

“The goal is this project will help us perform our research while people at the university get some benefit and usage out of the cars,” he said.

The logistics of the rental program are still being figured out, Banerjee said. The research team is working alongside the UW Office of Sustainability, UW Office of Transportation and DoIT Technology Services to determine how to launch the rental program itself, he said.

Giri Venkataramanan, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and co-director of the project, said they hope people will be able to reserve the cars using their smartphones, either through a unique app or an extension of the already existing UW app.

“There has been ongoing work at the university to see how people can use mobile applications in order to save energy in their homes,” Venkataramanan said.

He said the team had been scouting other opportunities to find categories where university uses a lot of energy, and transportation was one among them.

Venkataramanan said the idea for the project originated as part of an existing sustainable energy project coordinated between several departments in the university, including the UW School of Human Ecology and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

“Myself and Suman [Banerjee] sat together and brainstormed, and together we wrote the proposal and ended up getting the vehicles for us to do some experimentation on how they will be used on campus,” Venkataramanan said.

Banerjee said the research team is currently working with university services to determine the legal requirements for renting the cars. Obtaining a rental will surely include having the proper insurance and license, he said.

Venkataramanan said the cars will arrive on campus in August, and the program is scheduled to launch by September. At the moment, the team is still unsure about the specifications of who exactly will be eligible to rent the cars, he said.

“We don’t know for sure how the community is going to react to this project,” he said. “There’s a lot of unknowns, and that’s what makes it really exciting.”

The post It’s Electric! New UW sustainability project explores electric car use appeared first on The Badger Herald.

Categories: Local Media

Taking the state by storm, extreme weather hits south central Wisconsin

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 9:52pm

Summer in central Wisconsin brought the touching down of 17 tornadoes and millions of dollars in damages this year.

Brant, Crawford and Iowa counties were hit especially hard, according to Wisconsin Emergency Management spokesperson Tod Pritchard.

Although tornadoes have been recorded every month except December in Wisconsin, June typically sees the most tornadoes, with an average of seven to eight, followed closely by July with an average of five or six, said National Weather Service meteorologist Sarah Marquardt. However, there is significant variation every year, she said.

Marquardt said 2010 ranked second for tornadoes in Wisconsin in a year, with 46 tornadoes recorded. In 2011, the state saw 38 and in 2012 there were only four.

In regards to damages, state agencies such as Wisconsin Emergency Management and Gov. Scott Walker’s administration seek to help those affected and minimize damages.

Although oftentimes tornadoes and severe weather events are covered by insurance, damages this year are already in the millions of dollars, Pritchard said.

In lieu of the costs accumulated, the U.S. Small Business Administration on July 15 approved Walker’s request for low-interest federal disaster loans to those affected by tornadoes.

“Cleanup continues from the devastating June storms and tornadoes that hit Grant County and other areas in southwest Wisconsin,” Walker said in a statement. “Low-interest loans from the SBA will provide critical assistance to some homeowners and businesses trying to recover from the damage.”

One of the strategies Wisconsin Emergency Management implements to mitigate the effect of storms is working alongside the federal, county and local governments to buy land in areas that traditionally flood, Pritchard said. Then, he said, they replace homes and businesses located in these areas with green space or parks.

Another way Wisconsin Emergency Management is working to help those that severe weather affected is through using federal money to build shelters for those who have nowhere else to go, Pritchard said.

“We’re taking federal money and turning it in to storm shelters for communities, especially near mobile home parks or places where there’s not a whole lot of places for folks to shelter from a tornado,” Pritchard said. “We’re building a lot of shelters across the state.”

Wisconsin Emergency Management has also worked to train first responders to be ready for various emergencies and disasters. When an emergency happens, Wisconsin Emergency Management is in charge of coordinating between all the different local and county governments.

One of the simplest ways that Wisconsin Emergency Management provides aid is through sandbags positioned across the state. If an emergency were to arise, they would be capable of delivering them to almost any part of the state, Pritchard said.

“You don’t really realize the power of nature until you’re standing in the middle of a historic house or a warehouse or a tree has fallen in to someone’s roof,” Pritchard said. “It may not rise to a national story that makes headlines, but certainly for that family, for that neighborhood, it’s a major crisis in their life that they have to deal with.”

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Categories: Local Media

30 percent of those moved off BadgerCare enrolled in Obamacare

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 9:52pm

The federal marketplace for health care plans saw a low turnout among people moved off the state’s Medicaid program, according to new figures from the state Department of Health Services.

Only 18,801 people, roughly 30 percent of those moved off BadgerCare, enrolled in the federal health exchange, despite the DHS predicting a 90 percent turnout.

State officials emphasized that the figure does not completely reflect what happened to the 62,776 people who had to leave BadgerCare earlier this year after the state made changes to the program’s eligibility criteria.

Last year, Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature reduced BadgerCare eligibility for most adults to 100 percent of the federal poverty line, so those making more than that needed to find private health insurance earlier this year.

Moving those adults off BadgerCare allowed the state to cover 96,509 previously uninsured childless adults whose incomes were below the poverty level, according to DHS.

At a July 16 news conference, Deputy Insurance Commissioner Dan Schwartzer said 165,000 people across Wisconsin enrolled in private health plans during the health care law’s open enrollment period. He said that suggests Wisconsin is on track to meet Walker’s goal of cutting the number of uninsured adults by 225,000, or 50 percent.

“Clearly, with 165,000 total lives enrolling in the exchange and outside the exchange … we’re well on our way to reaching the governor’s goals,” Schwartzer said.

The DHS numbers show more than 38,000 of the 62,776 taken off BadgerCare did not enroll in the federal health care marketplace.

However, DHS Secretary Kitty Rhoades said in a statement getting coverage through the marketplace “isn’t the only option” for those moving from BadgerCare.

“This data match provided only the information about whether or not a transitioning member selected a plan through the Federal Marketplace and is therefore not a complete picture of the health care coverage choices made by the transitioning BadgerCare Plus members,” Rhoades said.

Other options for getting private coverage include getting covered through work or through a spouse or enrolling in a plan that was not offered in the federal marketplace, she said.

Still, supporters of a Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act — which Walker and Republican lawmakers refused last year — said accepting those federal funds would cover more people.

“We’re making a little progress, but we could have made much greater progress at lower cost to state taxpayers by taking the federal funding to expand Badgercare up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level,” Jon Peacock, the research director for Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, said. “I’m not saying that the Walker plan was a step backwards, it was forward a little, but we could have gone further and spent less state money. ”

Kevin Kane, lead organizer for Citizen Action of Wisconsin, said those who did not enroll in the marketplace by the March 31 deadline will not be able to enroll until the next enrollment period in November.

Those who sign up in the next enrollment period would not see their plans kick in until January 2015, Kane added.

“The good news is yes, some people did get coverage, “ Kane said, “Unfortunately, there are tens of thousands of people who are being denied coverage, and now we know for sure that there are people being kicked off of BadgerCare that used to have it that now literally have nothing.”

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Categories: Local Media

Go Big Read selection speaks to women’s education rights

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 9:51pm

Come the chancellor’s convocation, every first-year student at the University of Wisconsin will be handed a book about a girl that stood up for education in her home country and was shot in the head by the Taliban at the age of 15.

Malala Yousafzai, now a 17-year-old Pakistani education activist will be UW’s 2014 “Go Big Read” author with her memoir, “I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. ”

“Go Big Read,” is a campus reading program that selects a book each year for the entire campus to read and helps coordinate discussions and other events related to the book.

Freshmen will receive a free copy of the book at the chancellor’s convocation for incoming students. Other students who will need the book in a class can get a free copy, as well.

Patrick McBride, associate dean of the School of Medicine and Public Health and member of the “Go Big Read” selection committee, said each year, the chancellor selects an overarching theme for the program, and after getting nominations, selects the “Go Big Read” book.

McBride said this year’s theme was “service.”

“We tried to find books that would inspire students and reach across the entire breadth of the student body to resonate with all the different students and departments,” McBride said. “What we’re asking is that the whole campus read the book — and even beyond that, the whole city.”

“I Am Malala” is the true story of a father and a daughter in Pakistan who promoted the education of young girls while living under the rule of the Taliban, a group that opposed women’s education, McBride said.

Yousafzai has continued her humanitarian work promoting women’s education after writing the book. She has been named among TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world and was even nominated for a Nobel Prize, McBride said.

The story inspires any reader to recognize that any individual has the ability to make a difference if they have courage and conviction, he said.

“If we just do what we believe in, we can really change the world,” McBride said. “I think that’s the true message of inspiration here.”

UW and the Go Big Read program will be working during the school year to sponsor and coordinate several discussions and events related to the book and its message, said Sheila Stoeckel, who co-leads the “Go Big Read” project.

Although Yousafzai, the author of the book, is currently busy with her own education in England, Shiza Shahid, the CEO and co-founder of the Malala Fund, will come to campus to speak about the book and its impact in the fall, Stoeckel said.

Stoeckel said there will be numerous discussions in the dorms about “I Am Malala” that the “Go Big Read” program will host.

Also, a UW student organization known as “She’s The First” is planning to hold a symposium for the book and Yousafzai, and the UW Lubar Institute for the Study of Abrahamic Religions will also be planning an event, Stoeckel said.

The “Go Big Read” news page has more information related to the book and its selection, and will be posting regular updates about upcoming events and discussions, she said.

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Categories: Local Media

UW to launch MOOCs expansion next spring

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 9:48pm

In an expansion of the university’s “massive open online courses,” the University of Wisconsin will launch six environmentally themed MOOCs next spring.

After offering four MOOCs last school year, University of Wisconsin enters the second phase of the online course program with six different listed classes, according to Lika Balenovich, a spokesperson for UW’s Educational Innovation Department that oversees the MOOCs. 

The second phase will begin on January 25.

Mark Johnson, the department’s director, said the MOOCs are aimed at a wide variety of people looking to learn and are not limited to current UW students.

Johnson said officials are hoping to reach more currently enrolled UW students during the second phase of the MOOC program, adding that the new MOOCs will be shorter in duration than the pilot courses, and will only run for four weeks each.

Jeffrey Russell, dean of the UW Division of Continuing Studies, was responsible for handling the day-to-day aspects of the first phase of MOOCs.

The six new MOOCs will have an environmental theme, Russell said. The new courses are currently listed as “Understanding Aldo Leopold’s Legacy;” “Changing Weather and Climate in the Great Lakes Region;” “Energy and the Earth;” “Forests and Humans;” “Virtual Shakespeare;” and “Climate Change and Public Health” by the Educational Innovation Department.

The Shakespeare course will “incorporate environmental readings” of four plays, according to a UW statement.

UW’s pilot program of four MOOCs last school year began after discussions with  with outgoing UW Provost Paul De Luca to see whether UW could join the growing number of universities offering MOOCs, according to Balenovich.

“We were new to the space, and wanted to learn more about how MOOCs worked and what the potential benefits were,” Balenovich said.

That first round of  MOOCs, dubbed “Phase I,” ended in May, Balenovich said. The four MOOCs saw 135,600 people register from all 50 states and approximately 140 countries, according to a UW statement. 

The “Video Games and Learning” MOOC had roughly 40,000 people register, Balenovich said, noting that “Phase I went well and attracted a large number of participants.”

However, only 5 percent of students “went all the way through and finished their respective courses,” Johnson said.

While the “Markets with Friction” business course attracted many current UW students, the “Video Games and Learning” And “Globalizing Higher Education” courses attracted a global audience of career professionals, Johnson said. The “Human Evolution” course had appeal from the general public, he added.

The students who finish the course may be willing to pay a small, $20 to $25 fee in order to take a test or receive a certificate once they complete the MOOC, he said.

Johnson said the MOOCs will not attempt to replace existing courses, but rather become complements to them. Their main purposes will be learning for the sake of interest and to develop professional skills and knowledge, he said.

“The value of the courses will be spreading the brand of UW around the world, and exposing the research and faculty here to a much wider audience,” Johnson said.

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Categories: Local Media

Wisconsin governor’s race underway

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 8:45pm

In what has already developed into a heated race, voters will decide in November whether Gov. Scott Walker wins his third gubernatorial election in five years.

Walker — the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall election — is seeking a second term but faces likely Democratic nominee Mary Burke, the former Trek Bicycle executive and state commerce secretary.

The biggest issues in the election will be the economy and the state budget, said University of Wisconsin political science professor Barry Burden.

“At the top of the list is jobs and close behind is the budget,” Burden said. “Those two issues are probably going to dominate all the others. … The record of the two people, their office, their private lives, etc. will likely come into play, as well. But in the end, I think the campaign and voters are going to come back to jobs and the budget.”

The latest Marquette University Law School poll, scheduled for release July 23, was unavailable at press time.

But Marquette’s May 15-18 poll found Burke and Walker tied at 46 percent among registered voters, although Walker had a 48 percent to 45 percent lead among likely voters. The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Marquette professor Charles Franklin, the poll director, had called those results a “significant tightening of the race,” as the March poll found Walker leading Burke 48 percent to 41 percent.

Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin, said recent years have seen increased polarization in the state — and this election season will be no different.

“You can even get together with a group of friends sometimes, but if the conversation turns to politics, people just get really angry with each other, and that’s something new in Wisconsin,” Heck said. “I think a lot of people, certainly me, are uncomfortable with it.”

The race, Heck added, will be a “very bitter election [and] the second most expensive election in Wisconsin history.” The most expensive race in the state’s history was the 2012 recall election that Walker prevailed in, partly because state campaign finance law loosens normal limits for incumbents facing a recall, he said.

The latest campaign finance numbers showed Walker outraised Burke in the first half of 2014 by about double. Walker raised $8.3 million in the first half of the year, while Burke raised $3.6 million, according to numbers the campaigns shared prior to filings with the state elections agency.

Already, both campaigns are battling on the air, with each side releasing ads mostly focused on job creation and economic issues. A recent Walker ad hit Burke on a $12.5 million loan she oversaw as commerce secretary that has so far led to no jobs, while Burke released an ad later in the day declaring Wisconsinites “deserve a governor who puts you first.”

Walker then slammed Burke for Trek Bicycle “sending jobs overseas that could have been done in Wisconsin.”

Burke’s brother, the current Trek president, said in a statement the ad made “false claims for political gains” and said he was in charge of any manufacturing changes. Burke, meanwhile, went up with her own ad two days later calling Walker’s ad an “outrageous attack on a great Wisconsin company.”

“It’ll be a bloody, nasty, expensive, polarizing election,” Heck said. “Unfortunately, that’s becoming the norm  in Wisconsin.”

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Categories: Local Media

New high rises at the forefront of Madison’s summer renovations

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 8:40pm

Summer means construction season, and in downtown Madison, that means new housing and retail space that could lead to a different feel near campus.

Among the most significant additions to the State Street area is the development of the Hub, a new apartment and retail complex that Scott Stager, senior vice president of Property Management at Core Campus, said he hopes it will be the center of student life and community activity.

“State Street is really the center of activity for shopping, dining and nightlife near campus. I can’t think of a better location for a building to be located, right in the epicenter of it all,” Stager said. “With the 960 students we will have as residents, we are sure State Street businesses will really see a positive impact.”

Stager said the building will include 313 housing units with more than 960 bed spaces. The building will also feature an amenity package that Stager said has “never been seen before in Madison.” This will include things like a rooftop sun deck with a resort style pool, a 20-foot LED outdoor television, a fitness center and study rooms. Stager said he hopes these amenities will help “promote both academic achievement and a healthy social life” for students living there.

Mary Carbine, Madison’s executive director of the Business Improvement District, said she thinks the Hub will add a lot to the area, bringing people to the businesses in the Hub and to the existing local shops on State Street.

Stager said the Hub is going to be student friendly and will lease to anyone that meets their rental requirements. The primary targets for tenants, Stager said, are UW-Madison students and young, just-graduated professionals.

Stager said the building began construction in 2013 and will open in August of 2015.

Not everybody is fully supporting developments like the Hub. Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said the displacement of smaller stores due to projects like the Hub is concerning for both city staff and nearby residents.

“It is still somewhat bittersweet, perhaps sobering, that despite all the excitement over this new project, there will still be displacement of existing businesses.” Verveer said.

The previous tenants worked with Core Campus to smooth out the relocation process, Verveer said.

Another concern has been the affordability of the housing units considering the features and amenities being offered, which Core Campus said they addressed with different lower rent and leasing options for residents.

Carbine said a few other housing developments are under construction downtown, including Ovation 309, the Domain and the renovation of 100 State. Ovation 309 will be a mix of apartment, office and retail space, and will also include new administration office for the Madison Fire Department. The building will complete a noticeable transformation of that area, she said.

Most of the downtown construction projects are housing and retail based, which Carbine credits to a changing housing market over the last 15 years.

“Many folks, particularly folks in their 20s and 30s, are not as interested in purchasing as they are in renting,” Carbine said. “It might offer a little more career flexibility and other things, but we’re seeing a lot stronger of a rental market now.”

On the west end of State Street, major reconstruction is in progress in the Library Mall. Chris Petykowski, project manager of State Street Developments, said the area is going to look “very different.”

Petykowski said all of the underground utilities, including water and sewage, are being completely revamped. External upgrades include new sidewalks and pavement, as well as other items such as streetlights, benches and planters. Petykowski said a big art installation will be part of the new Library Mall, as well.

“It’s a sculpture made of stainless steel and it is going to be in one of the planters and extend out over State Street,” Petykowski said. “It’s pretty large, about 30-feet tall.”

While much of the major construction should be completed by Labor Day, Petykowski said the city will still be working well through September and expects everything to be completed by late October.

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Categories: Local Media

Rideshare companies continue to operate despite city disagreements

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 8:17pm

Pink fluffy mustaches have been somewhat of sore sight for city officials as rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft seek to continue business in the Madison area.

In March, Madison police ordered these ride-sharing companies to pause their operations in the city or face a $700 fine. In April, two drivers were cited for continuing to operate. In the case of Lyft, the fine was fully paid by the Lyft company.

Lyft Ambassador Andrew Scully said there has been ongoing operations from the company and he said the services are legal because of the fact that the companies are not correctly categorized as taxi companies and so the ordinances in place do not apply.

However, there has been discussion from both the company and the city to compromise on different issues, such as the controversial subject of insurance.

Cities all over the country have been concerned about the liability of drivers who were relying on their own personal car insurance. In response, Lyft has since brought all drivers under its own insurance policy when they are operating. They are now protected under a million dollar policy from the company.

Earlier this month, City Attorney Michael May requested rideshare companies issue statements about how they will comply with city ordinances within 10 days.

The deadline passed on July 11 with no update or response from either company. However, May was not much clearer about the city’s future actions regarding the issue.

“We have begun the process in respect to enforcement, things will be happening over the next several weeks,” May said, adding he could not be more specific about what that would be.

Scully said Lyft has their own legal team and they are working directly with the city. He said the deadline was not official, it came and went without any event happening.

Scully said Lyft drivers have continued to operate throughout the summer, although it has been much slower without the usual student community in Madison.

He added there has been contention between the rideshare companies and taxi companies in the past and some Lyft drivers have chosen to drive without the large pink mustache in front of their car due to harassment. However, he said this issue has since died down and is not as aggressive as it once was.

There has not been any further driver citations since those given in April, Scully said.

“Lyft of course is operating completely legally because there are no laws that make us illegal; however the city wants to put us in as a taxi service,” Scully said. “If we were illegal there would continue to be enforcement.”

Scully said drivers instead face the public as a form of enforcement. If a driver makes a passenger uncomfortable or is not following driver guidelines, they will be reviewed that way on the app and will no longer have the ability to operate.

There continues to be concerns from the city regarding safety and equity issues. Mayor Paul Soglin has frequently spoken out about his hesitations with the rideshare apps and has shown a more moderate attitude toward the controversy.

“The city needs to encourage the formation of new innovative businesses and ensure equity in the delivery of services,” Soglin said. “For example we expect old cab companies and new app-based companies to provide service all over the city with no discrimination.”

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Longtime Mayor Paul Soglin faces new opposition for 2015 election

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 8:15pm

Madison has a decision to make next April as opposition to longtime Mayor Paul Soglin steps up for the election.

That includes Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, who has been an alder since 2011 in a district that includes much of the University of Wisconsin campus.

“It has been the support of students for the past three and a half years that have allowed me to be elected as city council member representing students for the last two terms, and now, I hope to use that same energy and vibrancy and take it to the mayor’s office,” Resnick said.

Bridget Maniaci, a former District 2 alder and UW graduate, announced earlier in July she will challenge Soglin in 2015. She spent two terms as alder in a district that includes much of the Langdon Street neighborhood.

Maniaci, a Madison native, graduated from UW in 2007 with a degree in political science and economics and completed an internship with Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, who lost to Soglin in 2011 when Soglin decided to seek his old job back. Soglin is on his seventh term as mayor in three different stints.

“It is surprising when someone who you have supported and helped mentor decides to run against you,” Soglin said in an email to The Badger Herald of Maniaci’s candidacy. “But that’s politics. We welcome Bridget to the race and look forward to a fair, respectful campaign focused on the issues.”

Soglin’s campaign declined comment on Resnick’s challenge, as he had not formally announced at press time.

Maniaci, who did not seek re-election when she left office in April 2013, is currently working on her master’s of science in public policy and management at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. She said she has gained a broader perspective of the city during her time outside Madison.

Maniaci will focus many of her efforts on tenant rights and affordable housing, she said. In her time as alderwoman, she noted, she wrote legislation protecting tenant rights — although much of it has been overruled with changes in state law.

Regarding affordable housing, Maniaci said there are low vacancy rates throughout the city, at around 2 percent, while the goal is between 5 and 6 percent. As the lower vacancy rate drive up prices, she said people all over the income spectrum are paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

“The city needs to get real about developing affordable housing,” Maniaci said. “Expecting the market to develop into a desirable vacancy rate is not realistic.”

Resnick agreed the city must do more to address affordable housing, but emphasized the city must take a more comprehensive approach and also focus on homelessness.

“[We must] address both the concerns of everyday residents as well as those who are chronically homeless,” Resnick said.

Soglin said he hopes to continue the work he has done for access to affordable housing in the city.

He said rents have stabilized and in some cases decreased under his changes.

“Madison is enjoying record setting new apartment construction, especially around the campus,” Soglin said. “The result is a significant increase of the vacancy rate, which helps stabilize and even lower rents.”

Soglin has strongly opposed practices from the ride-sharing apps Uber and Lyft. He said while he supports encouraging innovations in the city, he hopes Uber and Lyft will cooperate more with him to ensure safety and equity in their services.

Resnick, who’s clashed with Soglin on the issue, said he’s been seeking regulations for Uber and Lyft “from the very beginning” so that the companies can “compete fairly against our taxi cabs.”

“I believe there’s a way to do this both safely and equitably … and have introduced legislation to do so,” Resnick said.

Maniaci, meanwhile, said she hopes to ease discussions between city leaders and companies like Uber and Lyft, the ride-sharing apps.

“There has to be a good dialogue between those making the technology and those making the laws,” Maniaci said. “I am very disappointed in the corporate behavior from those of Lyft and Uber — not just in Madison [but in] other cities, as well.”

The general election for the race will be April 7.

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Scott Resnick running against Soglin for mayor

Sat, 07/19/2014 - 7:30pm

Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, is challenging longtime Madison Mayor Paul Soglin in next year’s mayoral race.

Resnick, a University of Wisconsin graduate, joins former Ald. Bridget Maniaci, District 2, in running against Soglin, who is on his seventh term as mayor in three different stints. The general election for the race will be April 7.

Resnick’s district encompasses much of the UW campus, where he said he’s worked on issues students care about.

“It has been the support of students for the last three-and-a-half years that have allowed me to be elected as city council member, representing students for the last two terms, and now I hope to use that same energy and vibrancy and take it to the mayor’s office,” Resnick said.

Resnick, elected to his Common Council seat in 2011, graduated from UW in 2009 with a degree in political science and legal studies. He’s also the vice president of Hardin Design & Development, which creates web and mobile apps.

He said he would focus on issues such as homelessness and plans on gaining support for his vision for the city as a ”21st century hub of innovative and creative thought.”

“I look forward to having debates with them when the time comes on how our visions for the city both will be similar and contrast,” Resnick said of his opponents.

Resnick said he will not run as District 8 alder in the next election, giving someone else an opportunity as he runs for mayor.

Maniaci, who announced her run earlier this month, welcomed Resnick into the race and said she looks forward to continuing discussions on Madison’s future.

“I appreciate his participation in the conversation about Madison’s direction, and I look forward to discussing greater Madison issues,” Maniaci said. “I think clearly the conversation needs to be about the focus of the city.”

Maniaci, a Madison native and UW grad, was the District 2 alder from 2009 to 2013, representing much of the Langdon Street neighborhood. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and management from Carnegie Mellon University.

Earlier this week, Maniaci told The Badger Herald one of her top issues will be affordable housing. She said Madison residents spend too much of their income on housing because low vacancy rates drive up prices.

“The city needs to get real about developing affordable housing,” Maniaci said. “Expecting the market to develop into a desirable vacancy rate is not realistic.”

Mayor Paul Soglin’s campaign manager declined to comment until Resnick officially announces his bid.

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