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UW ranks 10th on Trojan Sexual Health Report Card

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 8:47pm

The University of Wisconsin ranked top 10 nationwide on the annual Trojan Sexual Health Report Card, although its ranking has dropped slightly from the past couple of years.

The ranking compares 140 universities across the country based on the availability of sexual health resources on campus, outreach programs for sexual health education, HIV and STI testing and hours of operation of health services.

UW is down three places in the latest report card from its rank in 2013 and five places from its rank in 2012.

The top spot went to Oregon State University, which jumped 25 spots from its 26th place rank in 2013. The University of Texas at Austin took second place, followed by the University of Maryland, University of Arizona and Stanford University respectively.

The services on the UW campus include groups like End Violence on Campus and Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment, a student-run organization that works to prevent sexual violence. They also include Sex Out Loud, which provides information on consent, safe sex and contraception, as well as University Health Services.

Sarah Van Orman, the UHS executive director, said some of the resources from the university that likely contributed to its high ranking were its education programs and convenient access to medical services and a sexual health clinic.

“We try really hard to make all of those kinds of services really quick and available to students,” Van Orman said.

UHS tries to eliminate barriers that might normally prevent students from seeking health services, such as cost, to increase accessibility to care. All UHS services are funded through student segregated fees and do not charge students directly.

In the coming years, UHS plans to continue increasing students’ awareness of resources and education of healthy relationships, including communication within a relationship, Van Orman said.

One program focused on healthy relationships is End Violence on Campus’ Tonight program, Van Orman said. The program, which is required for all first-year students, educates students on issues like healthy dating relationships and consent.

Another wellness service, UHS Sexual Health Clinic, offers screening for sexually transmitted infections, provides contraceptives and answers questions about sexual health.

“The primary goal that UHS focuses on itself is to increase the availability of STI screenings,” Sexual Health Clinic manager Craig Roberts said.

UHS works with groups like Sex Out Loud to promote sexual health education on campus, Roberts said.

Van Orman said the ranking will help spread the word about these resources. UHS is always looking for new ways to bring information to students, she added.

“When people see something like that, we hope it brings awareness even more,” Van Orman said. “Hopefully it can also help make sure students are comfortable coming in for services too.”

The full rankings can be seen on Trojan’s website.

Categories: Local Media

Renowned author advocates combating climate change at campus lecture

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 8:45pm

On a tour for her most recent book, renowned journalist Naomi Klein laid out the complexity of environmental issues and their relationship to capitalism at a campus lecture Tuesday.

Klein, an award-winning journalist and highly-recognized author, spoke at the Memorial Union Tuesday evening for a Distinguished Lecture Series event. The author is best known for her most recently published book, “This Changes Everything” and her international bestseller, “The Shock Doctrine.”

She said her new book was not marketed as a sequel, but that she definitely sees it as such.

“Some of my friends in the environmental committee have scolded me since this came out,” Klein said. “They said ‘This is already a big enough issue. Did you have to make it about capitalism?’ It’s not like we’re talking about an economy that is working beautifully except for the small matter of rising sea levels.”

She said the capitalist system, free trade and privatization leading to smaller government are the main issues actually contributing to the larger picture of climate change.

Klein said she went to the Heartland Institute, a free market think-tank, which she said admitted to seeing the science behind climate change, but said they could not publicly support it because it would cause their entire economic system to collapse.


However, Klein noted that 97 percent of scientists say humans are contributing to climate change, so the think-tank’s reluctance was misinformed.

Along those lines, her earlier book, “The Shock Doctrine,” outlined a meeting in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Heritage Foundation that was supposed to come up with a list of free market solutions. Klein said those solutions ended up including a rolling back of labor standards, a tax on education, a tax on healthcare and a call to drill for more oil while building more refineries.

Klein advocated for collective action.

She said regulating industry for pollution and labor issues, subsidizing green energy, increasing public transportation with government funding and regulating the food industry specifically are important ways that the U.S. government should combat climate change.

“This is how Europe went to universal health care after World War II,” she said. “This is the story of the new deal in this kind of country after the market crash of 1929, the regulation of the banking sector, the launch of social security … were in response to crisis and attempts to actually get at the root cause,” she said.

Klein used Hurricane Katrina as an example of when people really needed their government and it failed them. People without money did not escape and were stranded on their rooftops awaiting rescue, she said.

On an international scale, this occurred in Greece and Spain with the spread of the Occupy movement once again, she said, as people were unwilling to pay for their government’s debt crisis.

“The ‘no’ only gets us so far,” Klein said. ”There has to be an alternative vision. We need disaster collectivism. We need our own responses to crisis that really brings us together rather than apart and reduced inequality.”

Categories: Local Media

Coca-Cola executive, UW alumnus named as winter commencement speaker

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 2:24pm

Badger alumnus and Coca-Cola executive Ben Deutsch will be the keynote speaker for this winter commencement ceremony.

Deutsch, who graduated from University of Wisconsin in 1985 with a degree in journalism, will give his speech to graduates on Sunday, Dec. 21 at the Kohl Center, according to a UW statement.

After turning away from his aspiration to become a sportscaster, Deutsch eventually assumed his current position as the vice president of corporate communications at The Coca-Cola Company, where he started as a public relations manager in 1993, according to the statement. He attributes much of what he’s become to his experience at the school of journalism and his relationship with his professors.

“This university means so much to me,” Deutsch said in the statement. ”It has everything to do with whatever kind of success I’ve had, personally and professionally. What I learned at the J-school — the impact my professors had, the help they gave in building a network and getting my first job — stays with me today.”

Students who finished a degree in the summer and fall of 2014 are included in the winter commencement ceremony. Graduates with bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral and professional degree candidates in any school or college at UW can attend.

“Having a degree from UW means a lot to employers around the globe; it has a tremendous reputation,” Deutsch said. “When a UW graduate comes across our radar, people pay attention.”

Categories: Local Media

Willy Street Co-op celebrates 40th anniversary, outlines future expansion plans

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 8:14am

The Willy Street Co-op is celebrating its 40th anniversary this month, highlighting its history as a noteworthy Madison destination and its plans to expand.

The co-op opened its doors in 1974 with six volunteer staff members, and has since expanded to include 310 paid staff members and a second location in Middleton, which opened in 2010.

Ald. Marsha Rummel, District 6, said the co-op is a great example of the changes in the Williamson Street neighborhood since the 1970s.

“They’ve grown with our neighborhood and represent the progressive values of our neighborhood,” she said.

When the co-op first opened, Williamson Street was home to a working class population, Rummel said.

As the area became more popular, home prices have risen, resulting in more middle and upper-income residents in the area, she said.

“They kind of represent in many ways the highest aspirations of neighborhood,” she said.

The 60’s and 70’s were a time where people realized they could make a difference, so why not do it with food? #FoorForChange #40forWilly

— Willy Street Co-op (@willystreetcoop) October 23, 2014

The co-op model allows customers to become owners by paying a one-time charge of $58 for individuals and $93 for families, Smith said.

Owners elect a board of directors, which oversees the general operation of the store along with the general manager, he said.

One of the co-op’s early obstacles was the lack of this board. Originally, all owners had to vote on every decision, even purchasing a cash register, he said. The new structure allows for a more streamlined functioning of the organization, he said.

Smith said co-ops around the country are rapidly expanding, adding second, third and fourth stores. Other co-op organizations, such as credit unions, are growing in the Madison area as well, he said.

“It’s a good time to be a co-op right now,” he said.

The co-op is also looking to expand to a third location in the Madison area, according to Willy Street Co-op spokesperson Brendon Smith.

“We have been talking with groups with Allied Drive about a grocery store over there, but no particular site has been selected yet,” Smith said.

West side Walgreens to close, leaving residents stranded in “food desert”For those living in the west side Allied Dunn’s Marsh Neighborhood, the loss of a local Walgreens means losing a …

The co-op is also exploring ways to provide residents of that neighborhood with food options, he said. 

Smith said he isn’t worried the co-op will lose much business to the city’s public market, which may be located just blocks away at the intersection of East Washington Avenue and First Street. The added competition will be good for shoppers, he said.

Smith said the store is a major part of the neighborhood community.

“I think we’re one of the anchors of the neighborhood,” Smith said. ”When we opened it was definitely a different time and the neighborhood had some challenges at the time, so now we are a source of good jobs and we are a community resource.”

Categories: Local Media

Video: UW Homecoming weekend sights and sounds

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 8:17pm

Last weekend, University of Wisconsin students and alumni packed State Street and Camp Randall to showcase their pride for the institution.

Homecoming weekend gave a boost to the shops and restaurants that line State Street, where students and alumni alike participated in the yearly parade Friday night. On Saturday, they headed to Camp Randall for the football game, where the Badgers beat Maryland by 45.

Alumni paint the town badger red for HomecomingIt was an “U-ra-ra Wisconsin” weekend as University of Wisconsin alumni made their way back to Madison this weekend for the …

Below is a raw video edit of both of the events:

Categories: Local Media

UW Hospital designated as potential Ebola care facility

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 1:11pm

The University of Wisconsin Hospital was designated as a patient care facility if an Ebola case were to be diagnosed in Wisconsin.

Ebola has not been confirmed in the state, but as a method of preparedness, the Wisconsin Department of Health services named the University of Wisconsin Hospital and American Family Children’s Hospital as a health system that will be available to admit patients should a diagnosis occur, according to a state Department of Health Services statement.

The statement notes that the risk of an Ebola case in Wisconsin is still low. The only way Ebola is contracted is through direct contact with bodily fluids of an infected patient.

Dr. Jonathan Jaffery, chief population health officer at UW Health, said in a statement that even though the likelihood is low, staff at the hospital have undergone training over the past few weeks and policies are prepared.

He said he is confident they are fit to maintain a safe environment for all their patients in the event of a confirmed case.

“While we hope to never have to implement these policies, we continue to train and prepare on a daily basis,” he said.

Categories: Local Media

Early voting on track to set records in Madison

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 8:14am

With the fall elections more than a week away, the Madison City Clerk’s office is seeing near record-breaking early voting several days before early voting ends.

As of noon Monday, the city had issued 10,153 absentee ballots, according to a city statement. That number had risen to 10,691 only hours later, according to city clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl.

Of the 10,691 absentee ballots the city has issued so far, 4,316 were to early voters casting their ballots in person at the clerk’s office, rather than mailing the ballots in, Witzel-Behl said.

Early voting begins in Wisconsin with new hoursAs absentee voting becomes more standardized in Wisconsin, lines of early voters have been growing at city clerks’ offices. Wisconsin …

During the November 2010 election cycle, a total of 12,121 absentee ballots were issued by the clerk’s office, 5,550 of which were cast by early in-person absentee voters.

Witzel-Behl said she anticipates surpassing the 2010 election cycle numbers before absentee voting ends Friday.

“We certainly are on pace to break that in the middle of the week,” she said.

Friday was the busiest day for the clerk’s office during the current election cycle, when 830 in-person absentee ballots were cast. In contrast, the November 2010 election cycle piqued the Friday before the election, when 683 ballots were cast.

“We have a lot more people coming in each day to vote absentee than we have in the past,” Witzel-Behl said.

Since the last major election in 2012, changes to early in-person absentee voting passed by the Legislature have taken effect, according to Reid Magney, spokesperson for the Government Accountability Board.

In 2011, the Legislature cut early voting to two weeks before the election, with the Friday before the election being the last day to vote early. Voting early on weekends was eliminated in 2014.

Walker signs new absentee voting restrictions into lawGov. Scott Walker signed a controversial early voting bill Thursday, that will limit the times during which in-person absentee voting can be …

Despite the changes, the period for absentee voting included extending the timeframe for by-mail voting, he said.

Magney said it’s too early to say what effect these changes will have on voter turnout.

“It’s going to take until after the election when all of the numbers are in to see whether or not it had an impact,” he said.

During the 2010 elections, 270 people voted on the weekend before the election, Witzel-Behl said. A week before that, only 65 people cast their ballots early, she said.

Statewide, a total of 146,196 absentee ballots had been cast as of Friday, according to a GAB statement. Of those ballots, 90,452 of those were cast in person in clerks’ offices.

In-person absentee voting ends this Friday at 7 p.m.

Categories: Local Media

Edgewater Hotel reopens with larger rooms, community space

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 7:13am

After two years of construction, overnight guests began staying at the Edgewater Hotel in September after facing a long road of controversial changes.

The $100 million, privately-funded renovation of the historic hotel, which originally opened in 1948, features extended stay suites and larger rooms.

The hotel, which has hosted celebrities like Elvis Presley and Elton John, underwent an expansion in the 1970s to accommodate more hotel guests while adding a restaurant, among other features, according to its website.

The number of rooms in the hotel increased from 107 to 202, and the new rooms are much larger, Rod Hise, spokesperson for the Edgewater Hotel, said.

The new Edgewater Hotel began hosting events the last weekend of August, Hise said. Since then, other elements of the hotel have slowly been opened, he said.

Hise emphasized the benefits of the newly remodeled hotel as a community gathering place.

“The Edgewater will be an incredible asset to the community, not just because of its wonderful facilities, but because it was built to become a place that all of Madison can gather,” Hise said.

The Edgewater Hotel features a public plaza that overlooks Lake Mendota. The plaza will host many public events, and in the winter, it will be home to an ice rink, providing a unique and outstanding opportunity for the community to gather, he said.

Increasing access to the lake and providing public space that could serve the community was one of the main goals of the new building.

“The public plaza and the Edgewater’s place in the community as an asset really go hand in hand,” Hise said.

Along with the plaza, the hotel is home to a number of restaurants and bars, he said.

The original plan for the hotel faced opposition a few years ago from the community regarding its funding and location with its proximity to the Capitol.

The developer originally asked for $16 million in tax incremental funding, a method cities use to help fund developments, but the Edgewater plan went forward without the funding, Ald. Ledell Zellers, District 2, said.

She said community members also voiced concerns that the hotel would block views of the Capitol. The original plan would have seen the hotel built in the middle of the intersection, potentially blocking the view of the Capitol from the lake, Zellers said.

The final design of the Edgewater preserved that view of the Capitol.

“The project improved a lot along the way,” Zellers said. ”This was something that evolved to be much, much better than the original idea. It has turned out to be an attractive building, I think. In general, people are pretty happy with it.”

Now that the hotel is open, Hise said he is excited for what the hotel will bring to the community and its visitors.

“There is not another facility like this in Madison,” he said. “We look forward not just serving the people of Madison, but also the folks who visit from out of town, with a new experience.”

Correction: A previous version of this was published with incorrect figures regarding room numbers  as well as incorrect date of reopening. Changes have since been made.

Categories: Local Media

Malala Fund co-founder talks about “I Am Malala”

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 7:02am

Almost a month after Malala Yousafzai became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, the CEO and co-founder of her non-profit was the keynote speaker at a Go Big Read event on campus Monday.

Shiza Shahid, the 25-year-old CEO and co-founder of the Malala Fund, talked about this year’s Go Big Read selection I Am Malala in a lecture in Union South. The book chronicles Yousafzai’s fight for education equality for women in Pakistan and her rise to global recognition as a symbol of peaceful protest.

Shahid attended Stanford University after leaving Pakistan. She met Yousafzai as a sophomore while advocating for women’s right to attend school, UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank said.

“I come from humble origins and being here today doing the work that I do makes me believe that every person that has the opportunity to pursue their dreams must do so,” Shahid said.

Shahid said Yousafzai came from Pakistan, which has the second highest number of children out of school and is a place where terrorism and suicide attacks were becoming commonplace.

Shahid was active in volunteering. At 14, she volunteered in women’s prisons. At 16, she volunteered at an earthquake relief camp.

“Malala said, ‘I wanted to understand what was happening to help my country and my society,’” Shahid said.

Shahid said she first encountered Yousafzai through a documentary that Yousafzai and her father published.

“Three hours north of my own city Yousafzai spoke out through a documentary and said the Taliban was taking her right away from going to school,” Shahid said. ”I felt accountable. I could’ve been her. I asked myself what I could do.”

Shahid then started a secret summer camp for Yousafzai and 25 other girls like her. She prepared curriculum and recruited friends to act as volunteers to talk to these girls and hear about their plight.

After that summer she took a high-paying job involving travel through the Middle East. One year into her job in Dubai she received a text saying Yousafzai had been shot, Shahid said.

The Taliban had stopped a school bus Yousafzai was on and asked which of them was ‘Malala.’ Once she identified herself, she was shot in the head.

Shahid said Yousafzai survived and when she visited her in the hospital she asked what she could do to help. Yousafzai replied, “But I’m fine, tell them to help the other girls.”

Shahid then started the Malala Fund, which works with grassroots entrepreneurs that recognize the barriers of a community to an educational system and suggest ways to fix it.

“Advocacy was a huge part of the work we did,” Shahid said. “We urged people to commit resources to education. We also spent a lot of time making sure it was global, working with celebrities engage everyday people into the issue.”

In response to a student inquiry about how she keeps her passion alive at such a big global scale, Shiza said she was sure to never lose the human element and to stay close with the real stories and the real people.

Changing one life is enough, she said.


Categories: Local Media

Sex Out Loud appealing SSFC budget decision

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 11:38pm

Sex Out Loud is appealing an Associated Students of Madison committee’s budget decision from last week, in which the committee lowered the group’s proposed budget by $2,500.

During the discussion portion of the meeting, Student Services Finance Committee Chair Devon Maier reported that Sex Out Loud is appealing SSFC’s Oct. 16 decision to lower a line in the group’s budget.

“Realistically it’s not worth a very strong defense on our part, it’s a very minor issue, I think that the repercussions are worse than it actually is,” Maier said.

The appeal process is dealt with through the Student Judiciary branch of ASM, Maier said, where both sides present their arguments. SSFC has five days or 48 hours, depending on the date of the hearing, to respond to the appeal.

Maier said Sex Out Loud is appealing to rehear the specific line that was reduced. At the Oct. 16 meeting, the “supplies” line was debated. This budget item dealt mainly with the purchase and distribution of supplies on campus.

As previously reported, Sec. Brett Ducharme pointed out that there are less expensive suppliers of items like condoms on campus like University Health Services.

Even if SSFC loses the appeal and needs to rehear the supplies budget line, the committee’s budget decision will most likely remain the same, Maier said.

“I have confidence in the process that was followed initially,” he said.

At its meeting Monday, SSFC also passed the Working Class Student Union budget and heard SPILL’s budget proposal.

Working Class Student Union’s budget was approved with a vote of 11-0 by SSFC members and stands at $49,610.87, which was an increase from the originally proposed $49,187.12.

During open forum, WCSU spokesperson Hong Trinh asked the committee to amend the budget to change the president’s salary to $9.69 per hour, an increase from the previous $9.44 per hour. That motion passed the committee unanimously.

 Trinh advocated for continued use of advertising funds on Madison buses.

“Based on our experiences, advertising for WCSU on Madison buses along with social media is the most effective method of reaching students,” Trinh said.

Rep. James Ng made an amendment to increase the computer software budget by $210 to $1,380 in order to purchase laptops, which also passed unanimously.

SSFC heard a proposal from Supporting Peers in Laid-back Listening, or SPILL, a peer-to-peer network based entirely online. According to the site, students can submit their stories anonymously and receive feedback from fellow students.

During the 2013-2014 school year SPILL ran into software problems and as a result did not use as much of their advertising and printing budget.

SPILL proposed a total budget of $40,731.50, a $2,307.75 decrease from their budget last year.

For advertising, they requested $10,000, the same as last year.

“The most successful means of advertising is handing out promotional items such as mugs, water bottles and stress balls, for which $6,500 of the advertising budget is used,” SPILL spokesperson Pamela Gu said.

SPILL requested $600 for software and hardware up from $350 last year. This is the only budgeting category in which SPILL asked for an increase.

For office supplies they asked for $250, a $500 decrease from last year. Finally, for printing, they asked for $500, a $250 decrease from last year.

“The number of hours that their VPs work this year will be decreased to 10 from the 15 that they worked the previous year,” Gu said.

The requested amount for all salaries is $2,9147.94, a $1,534.31 decrease from last year.

Categories: Local Media

Man arrested after altercation Saturday that led to broken tooth

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 11:20pm

A Madison man was arrested Saturday afternoon after he allegedly attacked two 18-year-old Madison men following an altercation.

Police arrested 26-year-old Caleb J. Percevecz after the incident, which occurred around 1 p.m. Saturday near the intersection of South Randall Avenue and Mound Street.

According to a police report, the two 18-year-old victims were walking in the area when the suspect pushed one man to the ground and broke the other man’s tooth.

The victims then chased Percevecz and held him down until police arrived at the scene, the police report said.

Percevecz said one of the victims had called him a derogatory name, according to the police report.

The suspect, who admitted to drinking before the incident, had a blood alcohol content of .115 at the time of the incident, Madison Police spokesperson Joel DeSpain said.

The suspect needed several stitches before being taken to jail, he said. The victim who was pushed to the ground had no other injuries, DeSpain said.

Percevecz has been charged with substantial battery and disorderly conduct, according to the report.

Categories: Local Media

Man arrested after allegedly pulling knife at Hawk’s

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 6:23pm

A 21-year-old Menomonie man was arrested early Sunday morning after he allegedly pulled out a knife during an incident at a State Street bar.

Ryan M. Ellwanger allegedly pulled the knife on a group of mostly women around 1 a.m. at Hawk’s Bar and Grill after trying to “fist bump” them and join them at their table, according to a police report.

One of the victim’s boyfriends asked Ellwanger to leave, causing the suspect to show the knife, the report said.

The suspect said he carries the knife for protection,  according to the police report.

Ellwanger was arrested for disorderly conduct while armed and carrying a concealed weapon.

Categories: Local Media

Ebola concerns raise questions about travel

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 9:30am

Ebola has rapidly become a source of fear and debate, bringing concern as far as University of Wisconsin, where officials are making preparations for the unlikely event that the virus would reach Madison.

Airports are already imposing health screenings on international travelers and some members of U.S. Congress are asking officials to consider heavy travel restrictions, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

Ron Machoian, UW’s International Safety and Security director, said that while International Academic Programs and UW administrators are monitoring Ebola situations abroad closely, IAP does not have any programs in the most affected countries in West Africa, so they have not had to make any changes.

“Actions taken at UW in response to the Ebola outbreak are best described as preparations that heighten the campus community’s awareness and knowledge of the circumstances and what is best done to prevent and mitigate the spread of communicable diseases of all types,” Machoian said.

Machoian said UW students are prohibited from traveling through university programs to countries in West Africa that are affected by the Ebola outbreak unless specifically given permission to do so.

Additionally, University Health Services has instituted very deliberate screening and monitoring processes for anyone returning to or visiting campus who has traveled to affected countries.

Professor Laura McLay in the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department said imposing travel restrictions is “a great and a bad way to contain the virus. It’s going to become a worldwide epidemic if people travel throughout the world, but at the same time people need to be able to travel throughout the world, which is why we need the security side of it.”

McLay, who has done research in traditional aviation security for terrorism, said she was excited about the way airports are handling Ebola containment.

“What they’re doing for Ebola is the opposite [of other types of airport security],  it’s so simple and it’s incredibly effective,” McLay said. “A lot of it is very risk-based; they’re trying to identify the passengers that need the screening first.”

McLay said the process identifies certain flights that are higher risk, and asks passengers on those flights about their travel history. Officials then take the temperature of high-risk passengers, which is usually the first symptom of Ebola, and ask additional health questions to decide if they are fit to fly. McLay noted the simplicity and efficiency of this process as compared with the high-tech procedures to screen for terrorists.

Remington said the questions of travel bans are more based in politics than they are in science. He said scientists have sufficient evidence to believe Ebola can only be transmitted by direct contact with blood or bodily fluid and “the absolute risk of transmission in a casual interaction is extremely small.”

“As you can imagine, sometimes the science is overwhelmed by fear and by the perception that it’s better to do something than nothing,” Remington said.

Remington said that given the 30 or 40 years of research on transmission patterns of Ebola in Central and Western Africa, “we should be focusing on what we can do to contain the epidemic at its source.”

To Remington, it does not make sense to restrict travel to and from countries with high incidence of Ebola. If travel is restricted from a country, less people are going to go there to provide necessary medical aid.

“This is like a burning building,” Remington said. “It’s not good enough to tell people they can’t go in or out, you have to go to the source of the fire and put it out.”

Categories: Local Media

Tiny Houses in the big picture: project addresses city’s homelessness

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 9:16am

As affordable housing in Madison continues to be a concern, a nonprofit group is trying to have a big impact with their tiny houses.

Allen Barkoff, co-president of the nonprofit organization Occupy Madison, said the tiny 99-square-foot houses offer both inexpensive and safe housing for homeless individuals.

“The tiny houses can be the first step in bettering their lives,” Barkoff said. “The people receiving the houses were literally out on the streets. This is a secure place to live and keep their possessions.”

Barkoff said while the stewards of the houses do not own them, they will still clean them and take care of them.

To qualify for a tiny house, each person must put in 32 hours of “sweat equity” while helping build the tiny houses themselves. After qualifying, the person must additionally complete up to 500 hours of volunteer work on the other houses to help pay off the mortgage. They also must live cooperatively with the other residents of the tiny house village to help the operation run smoothly, Barkoff said.

Occupy Madison’s end goal is to build nine of these tiny houses. For the first phase of the project, the organization is focused on renovating the first three of the nine houses, Barkoff said.

Barkoff said the plan is to have the improvements on the properties finished and the stewards in the houses by the next couple weeks.

Ald. Larry Palm, District 12, said Occupy Madison faced some complications when the project was initially proposed.

“At the beginning, people were concerned with how it would affect property value and what would now be coming into the neighborhood. Since then, people have come around,” Palm said.

The project all started with the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011, and homeless people were attracted to the Madison encampment the same year, Barkoff said.

The nonprofit organization Occupy Madison started as a protest against economic inequality and evolved over three years to focus on homelessness, Barkoff said.

Occupy Madison’s mission is to help provide safe housing in a sustainable way for people without homes and a place for them to work cooperatively, Barkoff said.

That next year the organization rented a warehouse to begin the building. In the spring, they purchased property at 2046 E. Johnson St., and they have been renovating ever since, Barkoff said.

Palm said the organization focused a lot of attention on how to ensure the project would meet the city’s standards. These difficulties included figuring out appropriate zoning and commercial use.

“We want the village to be a model for other places and have it be replicated in other communities,” Barkoff said.

So far, a couple and two other single people have qualified to live in the first three tiny houses, Barkoff said.

Barkoff said the project is always in need of money and volunteers to help with actual construction, working on the website and putting on fundraisers. There are work sessions at the site every weekend from noon until 5:00 p.m.

“The ultimate goal is to have a city in which everyone has a place to live,” Palm said.

Categories: Local Media

City working to provide more affordable housing

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 9:15am

While more luxury apartments for students and young professionals are rising downtown, Madison is still short on housing options for residents who cannot afford to pay high cost rents.

However, city officials said they are looking to address the issue with the creation of the new Affordable Housing Fund.

The fund is part of Mayor Paul Soglin’s 2015 Capital Budget and contains $4.25 million that will be distributed to two to four new development projects each year. These developments will be focused on creating 750 to 1,000 new units of housing for low to moderate income families over the next five years, Jim O’Keefe, director of the city’s Community Development Division, said.

O’Keefe said the city already asked for requests for proposals from area developers earlier in the year, for which they have received six proposals so far. It is a good way to begin, he said, but the change will take a long-term commitment from the city.

“We’re certainly encouraged by the first response,” O’Keefe said. “But housing projects just don’t happen overnight … it’s going to take awhile to really make a dent.”

O’Keefe said the program is a lot like something Madison has tried before, the similarly-named Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The setup was not much different, he said, but the city was giving out seven to 10-year loans for development projects that actually required 20 to 30 years to repay the city.

O’Keefe said this created a conflict between the goals of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund program and the needs of the projects it was designed to help in the first place.

“It wasn’t very useful,” O’Keefe said. “As an end result, the program just didn’t get used very much, the trust fund didn’t get used very much and it wasn’t an effective tool to support affordable housing projects.”

The developers’ proposals will be evaluated on criteria such as how close the units will be to grocery stores, parks and schools, among other things, and how affordable the rent will be for the tenants.

O’Keefe said there are about 27,000 households in Madison that are considered to be housing-cost burdened, meaning more than 30 percent of the residents’ income goes toward their rent payments. The goal for these projects is to keep rent between 30 and 40 percent of the tenants’ income, he said.

Ald. Marsha Rummel, District 6, said the Affordable Housing Fund is a good way to show area developers that the city is willing to help make these projects a reality.

“They are always looking for money,” Rummel said. “It’s hard to provide affordable housing without a subsidy, so this would send a message that the city is interested in those kinds of projects.”

The budget allocates $4.25 million for the fund in 2015 and $24.25 million total between 2015 and 2020. Voting on the capital budget will take place during the week of Nov. 10, Rummel said, when the Board of Estimates will review it and finalize it for next year.

With the low vacancy rate downtown and the continuing addition of market-rate apartments for young professionals, O’Keefe said he is glad the city is stepping in to help with affordable housing.

“We’re in a period of acute need for affordable housing, and so this is really sort of striking out in a new direction to provide some relief,” O’Keefe said.

Categories: Local Media

UW chemistry professor wins award for green research

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 8:30am

University of Wisconsin chemistry professor Shannon Stahl recently received a Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award for his research involving using oxygen in chemical reactions.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency awarded five scientists across the nation with this award.

“The most satisfying part of this award was its recognition of the potential impact of [the chemistry of oxygen] on green chemistry in the real world,” Stahl said.

Stahl’s group at UW focuses on “catalysis,” which is a way of facilitating and enhancing rates of chemical reactions. The recognized research focused mainly on controlling the chemistry of oxygen, Stahl said.

Stahl said oxygen in the air combusts while interacting with organic molecules, which can include people and other organic forms of matter, which explains why bonfires are possible this time of year.

“What we’re trying to do is essentially use oxygen as a green chemical reagent and by using catalysts, you can do so selectively to make useful products like pharmaceuticals … for example soda bottles are made using oxygen building blocks,” Stahl said.

Stahl said his goal was to figure out how to control oxygen so when it combines with other molecules, it does not just combust. Rather than just getting carbon dioxide, he wanted to get something useful.

Thatcher Root, an engineering professor at UW, was involved with the research Stahl was awarded for.

“I’m interested in running the reactions in a flow reactor, and I brought a couple of chemical engineering grad students in to join the team,” Root said.

Root said the recognition is exciting, and the larger green chemistry community is enthusiastic as well.

It is an example of the implementation of green chemistry priorities along with catalysts the team is focused on, Root said.

“As an academic researcher, we’re constantly trying to generate new knowledge that we can spread to others, share with others, and one of the fun things about this award is a practical element of what is otherwise a very fundamental research program,” Stahl said.

Generating new knowledge to share with others is the main goal, Stahl said.

In 2013 Stahl worked with other researchers to create a lab module for Organic Chemistry 344 incorporating green chemistry.

“We spend a lot of our time doing fundamental science, chemistry that will ideally end up in textbooks, stimulate the knowledge base that teaches the next generation,” Stahl said. “But there’s always this dream that something that you do can also be practical.”

Organic chemistry professors currently teach sophomores about oxidative reactions, but Stahl’s group wants to go further.

Regarding research plans for the future, Stahl is working on coming up with a way to make oxidative reactions green.

“… You learn about a lot of non-green ways of doing [oxidative reactions]. A lot of the reactions you learn about in sophomore organic chemistry generate lots of waste,” Stahl said.

The research team wants to develop reactions not found in textbooks because they haven’t been invented yet, Stahl said.

So far, Stahl and his team have come up with a way to make an existing reaction green. Now, their goal is to come up with their own green reaction.

“This is a fundamental research program that started 15 years ago and what’s been fun is we’ve been doing all the things that an academic researcher does, publish in journals, discover, investigate fundamental science … It’s fun to see this impacting education,” Stahl said.


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Alumni paint the town badger red for Homecoming

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 8:21am

It was an “U-ra-ra Wisconsin” weekend as University of Wisconsin alumni made their way back to Madison this weekend for the annual Homecoming parade along State Street and the pep rally held at Memorial Union Terrace.

With this influx of former badgers in town, shops and restaurants on State Street were busier than most days in Madison.

Alumni and families are an especially large portion of foot traffic and sales during Homecoming weekend, University Bookstore manager Angie Maniaci said.

“Homecoming brings in a lot of alumni. They only come for that one day a year, so they want to see what’s new in the store and pick out a new shirt or gift item,” Maniaci said.

Sonny Torres, bar manager at Vintage Spirits and Grill on University Avenue, agreed that there are a lot of alumni, as well as young children and families, who stop by during Homecoming weekend.

“It was busier [this year], but every homecoming is the same way. You always see a lot of old faces,” Torres said.

Although much of the excitement was due to the fact that the football team was not facing much of a challenge in their game Saturday, Maniaci said a later game and a more intense rivalry between the Badgers and the opposing team would have led to more business.

“The later the game, the more people like to come in and look around before kickoff. Since this was an 11:00 a.m. start, we didn’t see all that many people before,” Maniaci said. “There was a surge after the game but … we see a lot more customers before the game for a 2:30 p.m. than after a game for a 11:00 a.m.”

However, Homecoming weekend is not just a big source of sales for local businesses, but excitement as well and both the game and the parade also help to fuel that enthusiasm.

Some notable appearances at the parade were Chancellor Rebecca Blank, the UW Men’s Basketball Team and Grand Marshall Casey Rotter, who received the “Forward under 40 Award” this year from the Wisconsin Alumni Association and gave this year’s “RED Talk.”  Rotter is a manager for UNICEF’s Next Generation, a fundraising campaign.

Thomas Becker, a UW alumni, graduated from Wisconsin almost 45 years ago, and he still comes to Madison for homecoming almost every year.  He sees a change in the atmosphere from when he attended school here, especially in the students.

“There are a lot of differences. They get more excited, they get more into it,” Becker said.

Becker and his wife are season ticket holders and frequently come back to Madison for football games.

The pep rally started off with the University of Wisconsin marching band playing classic football season songs while cheerleaders led the crowd in dance, followed by appearances from head football coach Gary Andersen and Bucky the Badger, who predicted how many points Wisconsin would score against Maryland — 45 — and he did the pushups to prove his certainty.

Although the University Bookstore is located near the very end of the parade, which Maniaci said brings excitement, the event itself did not necessarily bring more sales to the store on Friday night.

However, compared to a normal game day, Torres said there is a much more noticeable sense of excitement in the Badger community each year during Homecoming.

Categories: Local Media

Madison Water Utility increasing rates for first time in years

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 8:17am

For the first time in four years, Madison Water Utility is in the process of requesting a rate increase with the hopes of boosting revenue and promoting water conservation.

If approved, this rate increase would create an overall 30 percent revenue increase which would be used to cover the costs of major infrastructure repair and operational costs. 

Ald. Lauren Cnare, District 3, who serves on the city’s Water Utility Board said many of the city’s buildings built in the 1960s and 1970s do not have as high quality water mains as previously-built buildings. This means that come winter time, the city faces many water main breaks, Cnare said.

Cnare said part of getting this problem fixed quickly and efficiently starts with the rising rates.

“We have lots of miles of pipe from the building boom era that are falling apart,” she said.

Along with the repair and replacement of water pipes, Cnare said the revenue raised from the rate increase would also be used to dig at least one more well for the city, implement a multimillion dollar filtering system and to continue to run the water utility.

Madison Water Utility services five different classes of customers, one of which is residential. While many of the final details of the rate increase plan have yet to be established, if approved the rate increases for residential customers would likely be less than 30 percent, Madison Water Utility spokeswoman Amy Barrilleaux said.

To help customers play a more active role in controlling their rates and promote conservation, Madison Water Utility has also launched a website that allows customers to access real-time information about their water usage.

Barrilleaux said Madison is the first city in Wisconsin to offer this type of online water tracking tool. Previously, customers received a utility bill every six months with little information about the breakdown of their day-to-day usage. The launch of this website completely changed this.

The online system gives customers an in-depth look at their water usage and enables customers to see how much water their appliances use and even allow customers to assess their own inefficiencies, Barrilleaux said.

“It’s hard for people to understand how they can conserve,” Barrilleaux said.

This website is one way in which customers can play an active role in conservation. However, there are many other simple ways in which Madison customers can limit their water usage, Barrilleaux said.

For example, one customer switched from sprinklers to a water pail to water his plants following advice from Madison Water Utility, and he was able to save hundreds of gallons of water.

By making residents’ water usage data available, the hope is they will take advantage of the information and use it to keep their own rates low, Barrilleaux said.

“The plan is, for the first time, incentivize conservation in Madison for residential customers when it comes to water,” Barrilleaux said. “We want to reward customers who use less water.”

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UW researchers look at fruit flies to study traumatic brain injury

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 8:02am

Collaborations are underway at University of Wisconsin to probe questions about the long-term consequences of, and potential therapies for, traumatic brain injury in humans.

The answers, according to David Wassarman, a professor of cellular and molecular biology, may lie in fruit flies.

According to the study published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science by Wassarman and colleagues on the project, traumatic brain injury (TBI) is defined as mechanical damage to the brain.

The major causes of TBI are accidental falls, car accidents, sports collisions and military bomb blasts, which, if not immediately fatal, can lead to downstream problems such as memory loss and suicide. At an estimated 50,000 annual deaths from TBI, it is the largest killer of people under the age of 45, Wassarman said. Yet, he said there are no known drug treatments or therapies specifically tailored for TBI.

Although researchers have been studying fruit flies for more than 100 years, Wassarman said his lab is the first in the world that is looking at fruit flies as an animal model for TBI.

The project got its start when Barry Ganetzky, a professor at the UW Department of Genetics, approached Wassarman after observing what happened after he struck a vial full of flies with large enough force against his hand.

“He didn’t kill them, he knocked them out,” Wassarman says. “[Barry] said to me, ‘Do you think that’s a concussion? Do you think that’s what’s happening to people in car accidents or during football?’ And I’m thinking, yes.”

Wassarman said he saw the need for a device that mimics the same physical forces that underlie concussions — a rapid acceleration and deceleration upon impact — so that his graduate students could safely and quickly do reliable experiments on the flies.

His High Impact Trauma, or HIT, device includes a single spring that, when pulled back and up and then released, hits a vial full of flies that replicates what Ganetzky demonstrated by striking a vial against his hand. The flies, he said, lie at the bottom of the vial for about five minutes before they are able to fly around again.

Wassarman’s lab has already been able to identify genes that are important for controlling the outcomes of TBI based on the percentages of flies that die within 24 hours of being hit with the current device.

“Genetics is really important,” Wassarman said. “If you get hit on the head and I get hit on the head in the exact same way, we’re going to respond differently. That’s what we’ve been doing for the past two years, and we’ve been learning a lot. But this device isn’t perfect.”

This is where bioengineering comes in, Wassarman said. Wassarman approached a Biomedical Engineering Design class to see if a group of undergraduate students would be willing to take on the challenge of improving upon the device as part of their semester-long project, researcher Stephen Schwartz said.

Schwartz, along with Katherine Barlow, Brady Lundin, David Neuser and Katrina Ruedinger, have teamed up to help Wassarman tackle two of the major problems with the current device.

“There’s no way to measure exactly how far you’re pulling it back,” Schwartz said. ”Even the same student doesn’t pull it back at the same angle. Another concern was to increase the throughput of the device to speed up the research and run more tests at a time.”

Schwartz said the new and improved device will have four springs that will be latched together at the top and released at once, so that the same amount of force is delivered each time, regardless of who is using it.

Wassarman said he hopes this new device will allow his lab to screen hundreds of thousands of potential drug therapies for TBI.  Fruit flies, Wassarman said, have already been tremendous models for human diseases because they are simple animals that share the same basic behaviors of humans.

“I have no reason to believe that a neuron in a fly is any different than a neuron in the human,” Wassarman said. “We think this is going to be a useful system for understanding the fundamental things that are occurring in TBI.”

Categories: Local Media

UW Marching Band receives “significant donation” from Lions’ Raiola

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 8:52pm

The University of Wisconsin Marching Band received a donation from Detroit Lion Dominic Raiola Tuesday, a year after an incident between Raiola and members of the band at Lambeau Field.

The incident occurred when the Detroit Lions center allegedly yelled inappropriate slurs at several band members as the band was preparing to play the national anthem before the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions took the field in the October 6, 2013 division matchup. The Packers went on to win that game 22-9.

Raiola has since apologized to the band and his team for the incident, saying in a statement his actions were inappropriate.

NFL player apologizes for hateful remarks toward UW bandAfter Detroit Lions center Dominic Raiola made ”inappropriate comments” to University of Wisconsin Marching Band members during their Green Bay performance …

University of Wisconsin Marching Band Director Michael Leckrone said he didn’t feel he needed to press the issue with the Lions.

After media outlets asked recently if the donation had been received and Leckrone said it hadn’t, the issue was brought up again and Raiola committed to sending the funds, Leckrone said.

“We had sort of moved on before, but I’m happy that everybody felt it was important enough to follow through on the donation, and we’re very happy with what we were provided,” he said.

Leckrone would not disclose the exact dollar value of the donation, saying only that it was significant.

The marching band relies on an endowment and fundraising for most of its income, so the additional money will be greatly appreciated, Leckrone said.

“We’re pretty self-sufficient in that way, so any funds like this are very welcome,” he said.

Raiola was criticized for a similar incident in 2008 when he made an obscene gesture toward a heckler during a game.


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