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Firefighter injured in downtown apartment fire

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 3:16pm

A Madison firefighter sustained minor injuries while fighting a fire at the Capitol Centre Court Apartments early Thursday morning.

According to a statement from the Madison Fire Department, firefighters responded to a fire on the fifth floor of the Capitol Centre Court Apartments, located on West Dayton street, shortly before 4 a.m.

According to the statement, since the complex is a high rise the Officer in Charge requested the 911 Communications Center to dispatch a second alarm for additional protection and safety measures.

When crews arrived on the scene, some residents had already evacuated the building. However, the statement said firefighters had to tell some occupants that there was in fact a real fire and they had to evacuate.

According to the statement, occupants of the “fire apartment” met firefighters in the lobby of the building to inform them of the fire. Crews made their way to the fifth floor where they reportedly found moderate smoke in the hallway.

Upon entering the apartment, crews found it filled with black smoke. Crews searched for remaining occupants and extinguished the fire within five minutes, the statement said.

Only two residents of the building were evaluated by paramedics and they refused transport, the statement said.

The fire, which was contained to one apartment, caused $70,000 in damage and is currently under investigation.

Categories: Local Media

Suspect identified in theft at Whiskey Jacks

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 3:07pm

A suspect has been arrested for stealing a coat early Sunday morning at Whiskey Jacks on State Street.

With the help of “covert images” the Madison Police Department identified a man who entered the bar wearing one coat and left wearing another around 2:15 a.m. on February 21, according to an incident report. The images identified Ahmed Saeed Al Mutlaq, 21.

The stolen coat belonged to a 21-year-old student and contained her wallet. She had left the coat in a pile while with friends. According to the report, her credit card was used to make unauthorized purchases before Al Mutlaq was arrested.

Categories: Local Media

Sister, Sister: Madison leaves its mark on the world with global partnerships

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 8:06am

One day a year Madison’s Overture Center for the Arts transforms into an international cultural mecca; representatives from Madison’s eight sister cities come to town.

The annual International Fest is only part of the city’s exchange with metropolises around the globe.

Madison’s eight sister cities come from all regions of the world. Asia, Latin America and Europe each have cities that hold partnerships with Madison in cultural, social and educational exchanges.

A sister city is formed when a group or individual with experience and interest in partnerships with another location proposes the idea to City Council. A resolution is passed saying Madison is in favor of the collaboration, which comes with $1,000 in financial  support from the city. Many of the partnerships also rely on donations or various grants or other sources for funding of the partnerships.

The exchanges that occur between Madison and the various cities involve cultural, humanitarian and academic benefits to both locations.

“Obviously they need doors open for them over there, just as when they come here they need doors open for them coming this way,” Eric Lewandowski, president of the Madison-Freiburg Sister City Committee, said.

Madison’s sister city in of Mantova, Italy, displays plaques of each of its sister city partnerships.
Courtesy of Frank Alfano

Madison’s Sister Cities:

  • Ainaro, East Timor
  • Arcatao, El Salvador
  • Camagüey, Cuba
  • Freiburg, Germany
  • Mantova, Italy
  • Obihiro, Japan
  • Tepatitlán, Mexico
  • Vilnius, Lithuania
Tepatitlán, Mexico 2012

Before Madison developed its newest sister relationship with the city of Tepatitlán in Jalisco, Wisconsin had already been a sister state with the tequila-regional state of Jalisco.

Salvador Carranza, academic planner for University of Wisconsin System Administration and a member of Madison’s Tepatitlán Sister City Committee, said the connection between the states developed because of research that UW’s Nelson Institute and University of Guadalajara were independently working on: a project to find the genetic ancestor to modern corn. When the discovery was made at University of Guadalajara, researchers from Wisconsin reached out and began the partnership.

Courtesy of Salvador Carranza

Now, the cities continue to partner through the universities by building partnerships with student service learning projects and working with families in starting micro-enterprise cooperative businesses. Carranza said the students are often involved in social work, and the materials these families make are often sold in Madison.

“When the students go there, they stay for either a semester or summer, and they bring the things that the families make and sell them at festivals, we send the money back to them,” Carranza said.

Camaguey, Cuba 1994

Despite historical restrictions in interactions between the United States and Cuba, the Madison-Camagüey Sister City Association has endeavored to bring together these two communities.

The partnership began primarily as a humanitarian outreach, which developed into what is now part of Wisconsin Medical Project, a nonprofit organization with a mission to deliver medicines and medical supplies to the Eduardo Agramonte Provincial Pediatric Hospital in Camagüey, Cuba.

Courtesy of Jon Heinrich

In addition to the humanitarian outreach, Madison and Camagüey are culturally interconnected.

“We have a cultural friendship,” Jon Heinrich, representative of Madison’s Camaguey partnership,  said. “We support their chamber orchestra, have had artists from Cuba come to Madison and have shown their work at galleries.”

Heinrich said there is collaboration between the sister city organization and Edgewood College to bring more cultural exchange between the two cities.

Courtesy of Jon Heinrich

Arcatao, El Salvador 1986

Madison’s sister city in El Salvador shares a unique relationship in that many similar mining concerns that occur throughout Wisconsin are paralleled in the community of Arcatao. The sister relationship is closely involved with student outreach through Edgewood College.

The emphasis at first was on rebuilding infrastructure and community after the war, whereas today the focus is on environmental issues surrounding mining and water rights, and their interconnection with economic and social justice.

Since 2008, El Salvador has placed an “administrative freeze” on mining permits. President Salvador Sánchez Cerén has vowed not to allow mining in the country, although he faces challenges in permanently enacting it with the legislature.

Similarly, Bob Seitz, a spokesperson for Gogebic Taconite, said the company has postponed submitting its mining application until the fall of 2015 for an area in Penokee Hills.

“[Consultants] have found more sensitive areas than are on the latest state Department of Natural Resources map,” The Wisconsin State Journal reported.

The Madison Coalition Against Lethal Mining, a group working to educate communities in Wisconsin about the effects of large-scale mining, is also interested in mining issues abroad.

“Like El Salvador, Wisconsin is facing the destructive effects of corporate mining with proposed gold and iron mines and the expansion of sand mining for hydraulic fracturing,” said an MCALM pamphlet.

Freiburg, Germany 1987

Madison’s partnership with a similar university town in Germany is one of shared environmental interests with Freiburg.

Lewandowski said both cities are similarly-minded in their population, university proximity and environmental and liberal interests.

“Even in the geography, Madison has got its lakes and Freiburg has got its Black Forest Hills that make them both picturesque areas,” Lewandowski said.

Courtesy of Charles James

He said there are exchanges between UW’s German department and Freiburgs Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg, a partnership the German university carries out with University of Michigan and University of Minnesota as well.

Freiburg, as one of Germany’s hubs for renewable energy and environmental research, Lewandowski said, draws academics from Wisconsin and vice versa, so the partnership has made sense between Madison and Germany’s only sizable city with a mayor from a “green” party.

Courtesy of Charles James

Obihiro, Japan 2006

Both at 43 degrees north in latitude, Madison and Obihiro, Japan established a partnership that focuses on both cities’ similarities in agriculture and environmentalism.

“Probably the most long-lasting project we’ve been doing even before we became a sister city was the exchange in the study of community mental health,” Jo Oyama-Miller, Board President for Madison-Obihiro Sister Cities, Inc., said.

Exchanges between the cities began with academic goals with mental health research with the Madison Model of Community Based Mental Health Care.

Oyama-Miller said the program has been one of the most active sister cities, delegating student exchanges every year between University of Wisconsin and Obihiro University of Agricultural and Veterinary Medicines.

“With Madison, Obihiro shares its agriculture and that it is designated as one of Japan’s top environmental cities,” Oyama-Miller said. 

Categories: Local Media

Dane County officials look toward prison reforms; Young, Gifted and Black rallies

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 6:00am

After a heavily-protested proposal for a new Dane County Jail was struck down four months ago, an alternative option addressing problems of mental health, racial disparity and overcrowding is on the table.

With signs reading “Black Lives Matter” and “Build People Not Jail,” the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition protested the public hearing to renovate the Dane County Jail on Tuesday at the Alliant Energy Center.

The resolution, proposed last week by Dane County’s Public Protection and Judiciary Committee and the Health and Human Services Committee, introduced solutions to the building’s longtime health, safety and overcrowding issues.

Such solutions would include fixing locks and increasing the number of beds for mentally ill inmates, who currently reside in solitary confinement due to overcapacity, Sharon Corrigan, the Dane County supervisor who sponsored the proposal, said. The resolution will be more comprehensive than just changes to the building, she said.

It will also address long-term policy issues to reduce incarceration, Dane County supervisor Leland Pan said.

“You can’t just be talking about space needs,” Pan said. ”Policies themselves are where many of the problems are originating.”

Paul Rusk, chair of Dane County’s Public Protection and Judiciary board, was one of several officials involved in drafting this new resolution.

The resolution will focus on improving conditions within the jails, reducing the current racial disparities and providing better treatment options for people with chronic mental health problems, Rusk said.

“We don’t spend near enough money on adult mental health in Dane County,” Rusk said.

Bonnie Loughran, executive director of Dane County’s chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is concerned for mentally ill patients who end up in solitary confinement. Inmates who seem to be a harm to themselves or others are usually brought to solitary confinement, which is rarely beneficial, Loughran said.

The Sheriff’s office is currently working to train officers to identify when an inmate is suffering some sort of psychiatric crisis or are mentally ill, Loughran said.

“People who are mentally ill behave differently than people committing crimes. The people who go to these scenes need to know the difference,” Loughran said. “We are in desperate need of another place for people to go to be safe if they can’t go home.”

The resolution proposes funds to create work groups of criminal justice officials and community members, specifically people of color, who the criminal justice system affects most, Pan said. The work groups would analyze and recommend policy changes in the areas of mental health inmates, length of stay in jail and alternatives to incarceration, he said.

http://badgerherald.com/news/2014/09/02/dane-county-jail-proposal/#.VO1irbPF-aQ

The work groups would collaborate with a corrections design company that Dane County hired a few years ago to investigate jail space needs, Corrigan said.

But these initiatives were not enough for protesters gathered outside the meeting.

The Young, Gifted and Black Coalition said in a statement while some proponents of the resolution were strong, they did not want a new jail or increased jail spending. The coalition also demanded in the statement the release of 350 black inmates incarcerated due to crimes of poverty, an immediate end to solitary confinement and investment in black-led solutions.

The coalition is asking for the release of 350 black inmates to solve Dane County’s overcapacity issues, rally organizer Brandi Grayson said.

African Americans make up about 50 percent of the Dane County inmates, but only about 6 percent of the Dane County total population, Grayson said. If it weren’t for structural racism, the African American jail population would be 50 inmates, yet currently there are 400, she said.

“The only way to address the racial disparities is to release 350 black people or incarcerate 6,000 white people,” another organizer, M Adams, said.

The money saved from releasing the 350 prisoners could be used to fund the building needs the resolution called for, Grayson and Adams said.

Various speakers from Young, Gifted and Black Coalition encouraged their fellow protesters to speak up in the meeting and register in opposition to the resolution.

“It’s all or nothing,” said one vocal protester, Alix Shabazz, “We’re not going to stop until they give in.”

Categories: Local Media

UW grad launches own line of hand bags

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 6:00am

University of Wisconsin graduate Maggie Welsh, who recently launched her own handbag line in Madison, always kept in mind the adage that her dreams lay on the other side of her fears.

“Those thoughts of failure are always going to enter your mind, but I know this is what I want to do and I just keep going,” Welsh said. “I don’t see myself actually failing because I’m a problem solver and will rework it if I have to.”

Welsh, who graduated from UW in 2012 with a degree in textile design, pursued her dream of designing handbags right out of college when she moved to New York, enrolled in the Fashion Institute Technology and soon after joined the industry designing bags for Nicole Miller, Lucky Brand, Jessica Simpson and Franco Sarto, she said.

Having returned to Madison with her husband to take advantage of the affordable cost of living and growing start-up climate, she embarked upon launching her own line of handbags under the brand name “Maggie Modena.”

She said her bags are meant to be loud and liberating. She said this stylistic approach helps bring out one’s true self, something she struggled with herself as a child.

“I was the kid that didn’t talk and was crying all the time,” Welsh said. “That was the way I expressed myself, and that’s essentially what I mean by loud is liberating. I actually enjoy the company of others and I’ve had to bring that out of myself by my outward appearance. By wearing something a little bit louder you can feel a bit more like yourself.”

One of the challenges of maintaining her line is production, something most people forget about, Welsh said. She said she commits herself to having her handbags made and materials sourced locally. According to her website, she sources all materials from the United States, which are cut in Madison and sewn in Milwaukee.

Although she admits she was more artful than most growing up. It wasn’t until mid-college she realized combining creativity with her career was obtainable, she said. After becoming dissatisfied with her study of anthropology, all while selling hand bags on the side, she embarked on some soul searching and soon switched her major to textile design.

After choosing this path, she felt relief at finally being able to turn her hobby into something more and took advantage of the UW program’s focus on artistry and experimentation with textiles, Welsh said.

In her career and personal life, Welsh said she enjoys taking inspiration from music, musicians and nature. Now that she’s back in Wisconsin, she said it is easy for her to draw from her environment and apply it to her work.

“My first collection mostly surrounded around a friend’s farm at sunrise,” she said. “I was picking him up one day and it was just the most beautiful sunrise with dark white and crazy looking tree silhouettes.”

Regarding the future, Welsh said for her next collection she looks forward to collaborating with some male artist friends from Austin, Texas, who she said can contribute to adding a masculine perspective to her designs.

“I need to keep with it, being loud but still wearable for someone who is not afraid of wearing something intense,” she said.

Categories: Local Media

Hub Madison II receives feedback at Urban Design Commission meeting

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 6:00am

A proposal for Hub Madison II went through hearings in front of both a neighborhood session and Urban Design Commission meeting this week.

After Monday’s presentation to community members, Hub II representatives left expecting “full support from the city” going into the committee meeting Wednesday night.

Representatives look towards a second ‘Hub;’ expect full city supportAs the Hub nears its opening date this summer, dozens of community members gathered in the Fluno Center Monday evening …badgerherald.com

The proposal was brought to the commission in order to receive feedback, but final decisions have not been made.

Brian Munson, principal urban designer and representative for CoreCampus, and Jeff Zelisko, principal architect at Antunovich Architects, presented floor plans to the commission.

After taking suggestions from the commission into consideration, Munson hopes to officially submit the proposal by March 4.

“It’s kind of a complex cakewalk, and what we have really worked hard to do is build to respond to that,” Munson said. “We are happy to bring Wisconsin into it because it’s kind of a complex conversation.”

Hub Madison II will be located on the corner of University Avenue and West Gorham Street, occupying more than 42,000 square feet, Zelisko said.

Approximately 9,000 square feet of the ground level will potentially be reserved for retail spaces, depending on the wishes of the residents, Zelisko said.

The commission advised Zelisko and Munson to determine how much space was needed for retail as soon as possible, in order to have the floor plans official.

“There should be room for [the building] to have a homey feel,” Melissa Huggins, Urban Design Commission member, said.

Hub Madison II will include three townhouse units, an exercise room inside the building along with a pool, hot tubs and a volleyball court on the roof, Zelisko said.

A parking lot big enough for 163 parking spots is planned for underneath the building, as well as bicycle parking and potentially a B-cycle station, Munson said. There is also a bus stop right outside the main entrance.

“We are trying to design a project that will appeal to a lot of different parts of the market,” Munson said. “We are releasing initiatives to appeal to and reach out to young professionals as well as students, and find ways to offer housing.”

Hub Madison II is meant to have a completely different feel from Hub, Zelisko said. It will have a more modern feel, and will be open to all types of residents, he said.

With rentable housing at a record low, Hub Madison II will offer more options for housing downtown, Munson said.

“Having more supply will help both the market rate as student housing options across the board, in terms of just the ability for people to have more options in terms of housing,” Munson said.

Dawn O’Kroley, Urban Design Commission member, brought up concern over how market rate and the student rate would differ.

The market rate rooms would be more expensive, but would include a bigger, fully furnished room, while a student rate room would be smaller and less expensive, Munson said.

Having more residents living so close to State Street, which is the core of retail shopping downtown, will support those shops and other businesses by generating more street life, Munson said.

“We are looking forward to going through the process and expect there will be a lot of discussion along the way in refinements, and we heard some good comments [at the meeting],” Munson said. “We are going to sharpen our pencils and come back with a better project.”

Categories: Local Media

County proposal looks to make driver’s licenses more accessible

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 6:00am

In response to the 2013 citywide Race to Equity report that sought to take on Madison’s racial disparity issues, officials have outlined concrete steps to remediate overcrowding, mental health care and racial disparity in a recent proposal.

County Executive Joe Parisi proposed a plan last week that includes measures to make driver’s licenses more accessible and to reduce fines for minor drug possessions.

In Madison, racial disparity is a widespread issue across many sectors. The citywide unemployment rate among African Americans is 25.2 percent compared to 4.8 percent for whites. The percentage of Caucasians that live in poverty is 8.7, compared to 54 percent for African Americans – the national average for African Americans is 28 percent.

http://badgerherald.com/news/2014/12/08/leaders-seek-solutions-to-poverty-racial-disparities-in-madison-and-dane-county/#.VOv2TfnF_mc

Erica Nelson, project director for Madison’s Race To Equity, said county and city officials have responded well since the report’s release, and Parisi’s proposal follows that pattern.

The plan primarily aims to help less affluent Dane County residents more easily acquire and keep a driver’s license. Parisi said not having a driver’s license contributes to poverty. Many jobs require a driver’s license, such as those in construction, Parisi said.

Parisi said while driver’s education used to be taught in schools, that practice has become less common. Today, driver’s ed costs more than $400 and often requires ownership of a car, which can be restrictive for low-income families.

Parisi’s plan looks to start a pilot program with the Madison School District to provide driver’s ed to students. He will also be calling on the state to reinstate driver’s ed in all schools.

Impoverished residents in Madison who do obtain a license often have it revoked due to unpaid traffic fines or minor drug possessions, Parisi said. The plan will provide $20,000 to eliminate wait lists for driver’s license recovery programs.

http://badgerherald.com/news/2013/11/11/dane-county-addressing-racial-disparities-new-report/#.VOv2sPnF_md

Parisi’s plan also aims to reduce the cost of minor drug possession charges within the county. Currently fines range from $500 to $1000 depending on where the citation is given.

Parisi said while this may be an easy price to pay for many wealthy families, the cost is unattainable for those who live in poverty. He said specifically for younger people from impoverished families that are unable to pay, the fine often results in a downward spiral into the criminal justice system.

“The punishment should equal the offense,” Parisi said. “It all comes down to a person’s income determining their path in life based on a mistake.”

While providing job opportunities to those who live in poverty is important, making sure people can get to their jobs is also a big part of the puzzle, Nelson said.

Nelson said the biggest factor in fighting racial disparity in Madison is employment and economic well-being.

“These are all steps in the right direction and I’m hopeful,” said Nelson.

The plan promotes transitional job programs. Parisi said these programs will help those in poverty find temporary work while they train for more skilled jobs.

Parisi said the greatest challenge in enacting the proposal will be keeping momentum throughout the process. He said a change in the statistics will determine success.

Parisi said he expects legislation surrounding some of the driver’s license programs to be introduced within a couple of weeks. Parisi said he hopes other counties will follow suit and that the issue will be addressed at all levels of state government.

Categories: Local Media

Madison incidents parallel with statewide uptick in anti-Semitic vandalism

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 6:00am

Madison is experiencing an increase in vandalism targeted toward the Jewish community, reflecting an uptick in these types of crimes statewide.

In 2014, there were 30 reported cases of anti-Semitic vandalism, threats and general discrimination throughout Wisconsin, according to an audit Milwaukee Jewish Federation released.

The weekend of Feb. 14, Madison Police Department received multiple calls reporting acts of vandalism and graffiti. 

“We had calls about damages to property trickle in all throughout the day on Saturday,” MPD Chief of Police Michael Koval said.

There were over 25 incidents of vandalism reported over those two days, MPD spokesperson Joel DeSpain said. Included in the graffiti was images of a swastika, genitalia and derogatory phrases, he said.

“At this point in the investigations, there has not been a definitive link to indicate that the various victims were intentionally targeted on the basis of their race or religion,” according to a MPD press release. “A key element that is needed in order to invoke the ‘hate crimes’ penalty enhancer under Wisconsin state law.”

The hate crime penalty enhancer is applied when the victim is selected based on race, religion, color, disability, sexual orientation, national origin or ancestry, according to the City of Madison Department of Civil Rights. Furthermore, facts of the crime must reflect that it was the perpetrator’s intent to target the victim based on such descriptors, according to the department.

With multiple cases of anti-Semitic vandalism already reported in 2015, the Jewish community feels targeted, Elana Kahn-Oren, spokesperson for Milwaukee Jewish Federation, said.

The reports described numerous amounts of property damages including graffiti on garage doors, smashed mailboxes and spray painted houses and vehicles, many of which included racist and anti-Semitic language.

“Any time there is vandalism, that has a swastika or a reference against Jewish people, it’s scary and it’s disturbing,” Dina Weinbach, executive director of Jewish Federation of Madison, said. “People will react based on those feelings.”

All of the vandalism occurred on Madison’s west side, North of Mineral Point Road, DeSpain said. The affected area has been described as upper middle class.

There have been similar acts of violence like this in the area in the past, but they are not frequent, Koval said. Occasionally the police department will receive calls describing gang-created graffiti vandalism.

“Every 5 to 10 years we get this kind of racist or anti-Semitic outburst in the city of Madison,” Mayor Paul Soglin said.

The federation is focused on protecting freedom of speech and political expression while restricting offensive language, Kahn-Oren said. However, sometimes it is less of a matter of free speech and more about hatred of a community, she said.

The targets of the recent vandalism in Madison seem to be of a random nature, Koval said. However, MPD is not jumping to any conclusions because the investigation for these incidents is still underway.

The total price of all the damages seems to be in the tens of thousands of dollars, Koval said. The property damage is significant, but the MPD is most concerned with knowing some people could be so vile and hateful, he said.

“It’s critical that the response be firm and clear, otherwise this kind of hatred could escalate and grow, leading to even more acts of violence against persons,”  Soglin said. ”It is also important to educate the perpetrators in hopes that their lives can be changed so that they are not driven by hatred.”

MPD is taking these acts of violence and hatred seriously, DeSpain said. They have a zero tolerance for anti-Semitic and racist acts, and believe people need to stand together to stop these acts, he said.

An important part of preventing offensive vandalism and actions is speaking out and condemning it, Weinbach said.

“All acts of anti-Semitism and hatred need to be confronted and strongly condemned, Weinbach said in a statement. “What affects [the Jewish community] affects others, and we all need to stand together.”

Categories: Local Media

Right-to-work bill passes in state Senate

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 6:00am

A right-to-work bill passed through the Wisconsin State Senate with a 17-15 majority and no amendments Wednesday as union-backing protesters gathered inside the Capitol building.

The vote comes after a rushed Senate Labor Committee hearing Tuesday and upcoming State Assembly debates to come next week. If the bill passes, Wisconsin will join 24 other right-to-work states and would abolish laws making union dues mandatory, which critics say would dissolve private sector unions.

Republican lawmakers unexpectedly announced on Friday they would take up the legislation in an extraordinary session to pass the bill as quickly as possible

Majority Leader Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Wednesday at the Senate debate it is time for Wisconsin to modernize its economy to keep up with competing states in the Midwest. He said passing right-to-work legislation is a step toward this goal and toward individual freedom.

“This leaves it up to the individual to decide if they want to join their union or not,” Fitzgerald said.

Two gallery members interrupted Fitzgerald’s testimony to loudly express their opposition to right-to-work and as a result, Capitol Police escorted them out of the parlor. Senate President Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, warned gallery members another interruption would lead to the expulsion of the entire gallery.

The Senate voted across party lines to reject a series of 10 amendments Democratic legislators put forward.

Amendments Democrats put forth included provisions to delay the bill’s implementation, changes to the penalties in the bill for those who require union dues and more funds to support impoverished public schools, which Democrats argued was to make up for what they viewed as the economically destructive nature of the bill. Democrats cited studies showing right-to-work states have higher poverty rates.

“There are lots of factors that affect poverty, but I would say the wages paid to workers is a primary one,” Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, said.

Legislators debated as approximately 2,000 union members and union backers continued to rally inside and outside the Capitol building. American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations President Phil Neuenfeldt expressed his opposition to the bill to the crowd outside the Capitol.

“Democracy failed us yesterday,” Neuenfeldt said to protesters.

The National Football League has come out against Wisconsin’s right-to-work effort and Major League Baseball released a statement in opposition during the senate debate. Both leagues have players unions and would be affected if the bill becomes law.

When the session adjourned, union-backing gallery members loudly chanted “Shame! Shame!”

Fitzgerald said in a statement following the session he was proud the Senate had passed the bill.

“The heart of this issue is a simple matter of individual freedom: this legislation will ensure that Wisconsin’s workers have the sole power to determine whether they wish to belong to or support a labor organization, and ensure that they cannot be punished for that decision in their workplace,” Fitzgerald said.

An Assembly committee, which has an even stronger Republican majority than the Senate, will take up the bill before it is debated on the floor next week.

Categories: Local Media

UW entomologist studies what “bugs” us

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 6:00am

University of Wisconsin “bug guy” Patrick “P.J.” Liesch has the creepiest, crawliest email inbox on campus.

Liesch, assistant faculty associate in the Department of Entomology, has been the solo “bug guy” in the Insect Diagnostic Lab for roughly one year. His role consists mainly of handling questions from the public, but he also teaches and conducts statewide outreach.

“Most people will just snap a couple pictures of insects in their yard, email me the pictures, and then we’ll go from there,” Liesch said.

A large portion of roughly 2,100 samples he received last year were from homeowners and the general public. The runner-up spot goes to county extension offices and extension agents searching for an identification or a second opinion.

Over 90 percent of the cases are within Wisconsin, but the lab does see some nationwide and international action. As early as Wednesday morning, Liesch inspected pictures of insects from the Philippines he received via email, he said.

Just received some insect photos from the Philippines. Perfect timing, as I just noticed it's snowing outside #thinkwarmthoughts

— PJ Liesch (@WiBugGuy) February 25, 2015

“Occasionally, someone may be on vacation overseas and see something neat,” he said. “They snap a picture, then find me through a Google search and ask me to identify it for them.”

Samples supplied simply out of curiosity are pretty common. He serves peoples’ insect interests through email, phone and physical samples. Smart phone technology allows him to receive roughly 60 percent of the samples in the form of digital picture messages, he said.

Currently, he plays the role of investigator to identify insects and provide guidance on how to eliminate pest insects.

Some new labmates recently joined me in the #uwinsectlab A little shy at first but they warm up pretty quickly pic.twitter.com/HqqtM8oI8k

— PJ Liesch (@WiBugGuy) February 16, 2015

He also works with companies in areas such as pest control, lawn care and landscaping. Liesch said health care professionals even contact him in situations requiring, for example, the identification of a possible bed bug.

“I interact with a network around the state to help people get insects identified and get them pointed in the right direction if they need to manage an insect pest,” Liesch said.

Growing up in Franksville, a rural farming community in Racine County, influenced his interest in animals and biology, he said. This led to his study of biology at UW-Parkside, he said.

During his undergraduate career, he had summer internships with Chris Williamson, UW-Extension professor, entomologist and turf grass specialist.

“That internship helped steer me in the right direction, and also around that same time I had obtained my first microscope,” he said. “That opened the floodgates because I was always looking at insects under the microscope.”

In 2010, Liesch received his Master’s in entomology from UW-Madison and has worked in research in the entomology department on the Madison campus ever since.

Liesch’s enthusiasm for his work in the Insect Diagnostic Lab is apparent in his tweets (@WiBugGuy) and blog posts to the lab’s website. Those who find interest in what others deem creepy may find satisfaction for a “critter fix” on either page.

“Probably what I enjoy most is just getting to see all the different insects that come through the lab,” Leisch said. “If a neat specimen shows up, that just kind of makes my day or makes my week.”

Categories: Local Media

State funding for Rec Sports’ Campus Master Plan in limbo

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 6:00am

Despite the effects of Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget cuts, student and university officials remain confident they will secure funding for the Rec Sports overhaul, although the future of the Campus Master Plan remains in question.

Foremost among projects included in the plan is the $223 million overhaul of the South East Recreational Facility, Natatorium and Near East and West Fields. Students approved the project in a spring 2014 referendum with 86.3 percent of students in favor.

Despite the University of Wisconsin System potentially facing over $300 million cuts, Director of Rec Sports John Horn remains confident the university will hold up its commitment to provide 43 percent of funding for the project, despite concerns over operational costs not related to construction, he said.

“There is  a lot of uncertainty with everything regarding the state budget bill, but in terms of our plan moving forward, nothing has changed with our funding or our schedule and we’re moving forward as if there is going to be no impact to it, unless someone tells me different,” Horn said.

In last year’s referendum, students voted to fund the other 57 percent of the project through segregated fees, amounting to an increase of $108 per student per semester. The remaining 43 percent is university-funded through gifts, state funding, UW Athletics and Rec Sports program revenue.

Student Services Finance Committee Chair Devon Maier said the 57 percent of funding covered through segregated fees is secured and the athletic department’s contributions, around $25 million, are also locked in.

Still, some doubt exits regarding where the university might obtain money for its side of the deal. Maier said due to the current fiscal climate, contributions from the state are not expected.

Regarding donor gifts to the Rec Sports project, officials from the UW Foundation voiced concerns over the feasibility of finding donors within such a short time span.

Alisa Robertson, Chief Development Officer for the UW Foundation said the organization remains committed to finding donors ,although it will be challenging to direct them to the Rec Sports project and not scholarships, for instance.

“I am confident we will give it our best shot,” Robertson said. “The fundraising goal for the Rec Sports master plan is incredibly ambitious, both in terms of the overall campaign goal and the timeline. It’s a project that we are talking to a lot of people about.”

Although these challenges regarding donations are legitimate, Maier said this will probably  just force the chancellor to reserve a larger portion of donor funds for the project.

“I would take the chancellor’s commitment [to the project's funding] at face value,” he said.

Funding for the Campus Master Plan, which provides an outline for the next 20 years of campus development, remains up in the air. The 2005 version included plans to reconstruct Van Hise and Brogden Halls as well as the Humanities, Biotron and Engineering Research buildings, according to the plan.

SSFC will present the Master Plan to the State Building Commission at the end of March, he said.

“I think we’re going to be able to move forward,” Maier said. “If these projects get delayed, we’re going to be looking at higher expenditures on these projects simply due to inflation.”

Regarding the possible public authority model’s effect on construction, Maier said he believes it would allow campus to better adapt to student needs without state pressure.

Bill Elbey, Vice Chancellor for facilities planning and management at UW, voiced concerns about how the university would fund projects under the public authority, but reiterated more will become clear after the state building commission meets next month.

“In the draft legislation, they give the public authority the ability to borrow money,” Elbey said. “In theory the public authority would have to pay it back, so someone would have to question where the money would come from.” Whether this money would be the burden of students is still unclear, he said.

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Parts of Walker’s budget proposal allude to presidential bid, experts say

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 6:00am

Gov. Scott Walker’s possible presidential bid remains unofficial, but experts say parts of his proposed 2015-17 biennial budget could serve as fuel for the road to the White House.

Walker’s proposal calls for some heavily-debated cuts in funding to the University of Wisconsin System and other state departments over the next two years. Although controversial in Wisconsin, his proposal has received national recognition from Republican politicians and voters.

Explained: What happens next with Walker’s proposed budget?Gov. Scott Walker’s state budget proposal — announced late January — is set to go into review by the Joint …badgerherald.com

Walker’s political intentions are still undeclared. However, he has begun to raise a campaign budget for a presidential run, Michael Wagner, a UW professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication said.

“His cuts in the proposed budget tend to play well with Republican primary voters,” Wagner said.

Wagner pointed to Walker’s steepest cuts – most of which are in commonly liberal-supported areas like education and environmental policy.

Walker proposed a $300 million cut to the UW System’s state funding and an additional two year tuition freeze, as well as granting the system more autonomy through a transition to a public authority model.

In addition to proposed changes to higher education, the governor aims to end the enrollment cap on the statewide school voucher program, an income-based, K-12 private school grant program that he originally introduced in his last biennial budget.

The Department of Natural Resources will take on several major changes under the proposed budget as well. The governor requested a moratorium on land purchases under the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship grant program, the elimination of 66 agency positions and the removal of authority from the Natural Resources Board.

DNR would tighten belt under Walker’s budget proposalGov. Scott Walker’s biennial budget proposal would include cuts to the Department of Natural Resources and structural changes that has …badgerherald.com

But Dietram Scheufele, a UW professor in the Life Sciences Communication Department, said Walker “isn’t fooling anyone.”

“It’s clear he has national intentions, and he hasn’t been very secretive about them,” Scheufele said. “With the budget proposal he’s saying, ‘I can do these things in a liberal state, I’m ready for the national stage.’”

Scheufele believes the budget proposal will be a key piece of legislation for his political resumé.

“It’s not unheard of to create significant legislature to promote you to the presidency,” Scheufele said.

Walker’s budget proposal also frames him as a fiscally conservative candidate, who opposes big government spending – an idea that appeals to the ideological conservative, Scheufele said.

“He would be running for a narrow slice of the electorate, the highly partisan of the partisaned,” Scheufele said. “These are the people who feel strongly about conservative causes.”

To do well in a presidential race, Scheufele said a candidate must do well in Iowa and New Hampshire. With Walker’s message highly tailored to Republican voters, he is already at the top for potential Republican candidates in the Iowa polls, he said.

And Scheufele believes Walker knows how to run a successful campaign. With his two elected terms and successful survival of a recall, the governor has periodically risen to national conversation.

“He’s a good campaigner, which is obvious through his runs for governor,” Scheufele said, “He’s also an instinctual politician, which will make him a formidable opponent.”

However, Wagner remains adamant that although he has received a lot of news coverage it is too soon for these polls to mean anything significant.

“Anything that anybody does right now will be politicized,” Wagner said, “It is too early to say he is a front runner.”

Scheufele would agree that although he would make a good candidate, he couldn’t see him running for another eight years.

What Scheufele could see is Walker running as a vice-presidential candidate who would appeal to the extreme conservatives.

“If I could look in a crystal ball I could see a Jeb Bush and Scott Walker ticket very soon,” Scheufele said, “But only if Hillary Clinton decides to run.”

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Budget cuts “could change nature” of how UW Colleges operate

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 6:00am

As University of Wisconsin-Madison administrators scramble to decide where to cut back in light of multimillion-dollar state funding reductions expected over the next two years, the system’s two-year campuses are up against even more difficult conditions.

The system’s two-year transfer college program is made up of 13 separate liberal arts campuses spread around the state. The primary intent of the colleges is to prepare students for transfer to one of the system’s four-year institutions, but also offer some associate degrees. Chancellor Cathy Sandeen heads the UW-Colleges along with UW-Extension.

“With the tuition freeze and the level of cuts to our state allocation will really change the nature of how we operate,” Sandeen said.

UW-Rock County Dean Carmen Wilson said her campus faces a set of challenges unique to the colleges. The colleges rely more heavily on tuition and state funding than the four-year campuses, Wilson said.

Wilson said another challenge for the colleges is that their student bodies are made up almost entirely of in-state undergraduates, whose tuitions are subject to the freeze expected to be in place until 2017. This means the campuses cannot increase out-of-state and graduate school tuition like UW-Madison or UW-Milwaukee, Wilson said.

“Those are tools that the colleges don’t have,” Wilson said.

UW-Barron County Dean Dean Yohnk said the fact that UW is made up of 13 different campuses makes it difficult to plan for cuts. Spreading decreased funding over all of the campuses is an added challenge, Yohnk said.

Yohnk said the cuts would hit the two-year schools harder because their budgets are already significantly smaller than those of the four-year campuses. Yohnk said the small budgets made it harder to plan for cuts.

“We have very little flexibility,” Yohnk said. “There’s just no wiggle room.”

Yohnk said his school only has 10.5 tenured faculty, so eliminating one member would essentially be the equivalent to eliminating an entire department. This was just an example of the many ways the UW-Barron County is having difficulties deciding where the cuts will come from.

Sandeen said campuses are worried the budget cuts will mean fewer class offerings for students. This could, in turn, slow down the time to transfer and time to degree, which would put financial strain on students and families, Sandeen said.

Currently, the campus’ main sources of revenue are tuition and state funding, Sandeen said. The colleges are about 40 percent state dependent and 60 percent tuition dependent, and expect to face a 20 percent decrease in state funding if Gov. Scott Walker’s budget is passed, she said.

Wilson said around 70 percent of the students on UW-Rock County’s campus are first generation college students and currently the campus offers services to support those students. With the cuts, she said those services could be jeopardized.

“We provide a different kind of support for those students,” Wilson said. “That developmental process takes time.”

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Madison City Council plays the Game of Thrones

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 7:00am

In a stark coincidence, on the night of the farewell episode of Parks and Recreation, Madison’s own City Council President Chris Schmidt sat atop an iron throne.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Schmidt sat in his council chair adorned with a cardboard cut-out of the famous Game of Thrones’ Iron Throne.

Schmidt said the cut-out was a present for his birthday.

Too incensed by what's happening in cap bdlg, here's what's up at #Madison City Council #wiunion #GoT #GameOfThrones pic.twitter.com/6VC4eikule

— Amanda M-M Hall (@HallEsq) February 25, 2015

To Parks and Recreation fans, this real-life Madison city government scene was reminiscent of the time Pawnee’s fictional Deputy Parks Director Leslie Knope gifted the same throne to her husband Ben Wyatt, the former fictional mayor of Partridge, Minnesota.

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Senate committee approves right to work bill as 2,000 protest at Capitol

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 6:06am

The state Senate’s labor committee approved a controversial right-to-work bill Tuesday after eight hours of testimony, sending the bill to the full Senate and bringing almost 2,000 protesters to the state Capitol.

The Senate Committee on Labor and Government Reform approved the bill on a 3-1 party line vote, despite protests and testimony from union backers who gathered at the Capitol. The full Senate will take up the fast-tracked bill on Wednesday, and the Assembly is set to take on the legislation next week.

Right-to-work laws allow workers in unionized workplaces to opt out of paying union fees, which critics say would essentially dismantle private sector unions. If the bill arrives at Gov. Scott Walker’s desk, he will sign it, Walker spokesperson Laurel Patrick said last week.

Wisconsin Senate holds extraordinary session to vote on Right to WorkRepublican lawmakers announced Friday they will hold an extraordinary session to fast track legislation to make Wisconsin a right-to-work state. …badgerherald.com

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said at the public hearing that right-to-work laws — which are currently in 24 states — give workers the freedom to choose whether to pay dues to a union they might disagree with and ensure they won’t be penalized for that decision.

“This will be establishing for the first time true workplace freedom here in Wisconsin,” Fitzgerald said.

Jason Chan/The Badger Herald

Scott Manley, the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce vice president of government relations, said a right-to-work law in Wisconsin could bring higher wages and manufacturing growth.

Manley also emphasized Wisconsin’s private sector workers don’t have a choice on whether to pay dues to a union, which could lead to workers who choose not to pay those dues being fired.

“If you don’t support right to work, you stand for the proposition that workers should be fired for not wanting to pay dues to the union,” Manley said.

Economists have disagreed on the effects of right to work laws in states, with both sides of that debate testifying at Tuesday’s committee meeting.

Almost 2,000 union supporters rallied at the Capitol in the afternoon, moving into the rotunda to protest the bill yet not matching the numbers of protesters in 2011, when tens of thousands came to the Capitol to protest the Act 10 law that essentially ended collective bargaining for many public employees.

Cindy Odden of the United Steelworkers of America said people needed to be louder than they were in 2011.

“We have to talk to our fellow Wisconsinites and educate them that this is not just an attack on unions,” Odden said. “This is an attack on all Wisconsin families and we are not going to stand for it.”

The rally was planned by the Wisconisn AFL-CIO and will continue Wednesday, when the full Senate is scheduled to take up the bill. Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, said at the rally they were gathered here to “join together in solidarity.”

“Right to work in Wisconsin is not the Wisconsin way,” Neuenfeldt said. ”This bill is an attack on all Wisconsin families, it’s an attack on our paychecks, it’s an attack in our ability to put food on the table and a roof over our head and it’s an attack on our rights as workers.”

Categories: Local Media

City Council approves new hotel despite landmark concerns

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 6:04am

After months of revisions, a hotel developer received approval from Madison’s City Council Tuesday night to begin work on a new hotel in the downtown area.

For the fourth time in the past year, the North Central Group presented plans to City Council for a new Marriott AC hotel on East Washington Avenue and North Webster Street in downtown Madison. The original plans were initially rejected by City Council and sent to the city’s Plan Commission and Urban Design Commission. Tonight, City Council finally approved the proposal.

“It’s a phenomenal fit for Madison,” Andrew Inman, director of development at North Central Group, said about the new hotel.

The new hotel will feature a tenth story bar and lounge, an espresso bar on the first floor and an art gallery that will showcase work of local artists, according to building architect Josh Wilcox.

Inman said after the first meeting with the city’s commission in September 2014, developers were forced to re-design and re-think certain aspects of the proposed hotel.

Concerns had been raised in the past about the influx of traffic in the area, but Inman said the new proposal features a redesigned parking site for arriving guests.

The Plan Commission also voiced concerns in the past about the hotel being too close to the street sidewalk. Again, after redesigning, the hotel has been pushed back 15 feet from the sidewalk. Inman also said there are plans to add a public sidewalk at no cost to the city.

The hotel also sparked controversy because it is set to be built on the same block as the historic Frank Lloyd Wright Lamp House. Various community members spoke out on this issue at tonight’s City Council Meeting.

North Central Group revises plans for new downtown hotel, may seek public fundsAfter an initial rejection by a City Council commission, a local hotel developer has revised plans for a new hotel …badgerherald.com

Madison resident Rosemary Lee spoke out in favor of the hotel, citing its job creation potential and ability to raise the property tax base in the area.

“Don’t shoot us in the foot and reject this,” Lee said. “We need this hotel.”

But Madison community member Bill Gates said he formally objected to the construction of the new hotel due to its height.

The height of the proposed hotel proved to be a point of major controversy during the meeting. The hotel violates the state’s building height restrictions, but City Council has the ability to override these restrictions, which is what happened at tonight’s meeting, Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said.

The new hotel proposal passed with a 13-7 vote.

“It’s been a long journey to get to where we are today,” Wilcox said. “We’re very proud of what we’ve got.”

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Two UW professors receive Sloan Fellowships for math, computer sciences research

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 6:02am

Two professors at the University of Wisconsin have been selected for Alfred P. Sloan fellowships to support their research in mathematics and computer sciences.

Sloan fellowships are awarded to 126 young researchers in the early stages of their careers, according to a UW statement.

Melanie Matchett Wood, assistant professor of mathematics, and Thomas Ristenpart, assistant professor of computer sciences, will receive two-year $50,000 fellowships to further their research.

The candidates are chosen through nominations given by fellow scientists in the community and a scholar board who reviews the research and leadership potential of each candidate, according to a statement by the Sloan Foundation. Candidate awards fall within eight scientific fields — chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, neuroscience, ocean sciences and physics, according to the Sloan Foundation.

Wood earned her PhD from Princeton University in 2009. Her research focuses on number theory, algebraic geometry and probability and algebraic topology.

Ristenpart’s research revolves around computer security, such as cloud computing security and customer privacy, and he said he is currently looking for opportunities to secure customers from external threats online.

Much of his research involves large companies such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon and begins with looking at new threats to customers, Ristenpart said.

“My research wouldn’t be possible without the support here at UW,” he said. “It’s a great place for research.”

Categories: Local Media

Man hit on head with beer bottle on State Street

Tue, 02/24/2015 - 2:35pm

A man was hit over the head with a beer bottle by an unknown assailant early Sunday morning and required multiple staples to treat the wound, police said Tuesday.

The attack happened at 1:50 a.m. on the 100 block of State Street. The victim, a 27-year-old man, was in Madison for the weekend visiting from Cuba City, Wisconsin, according to a Madison Police Department incident report.

According to the report, the victim’s wound required several staples at the hospital to close. The victim told police he believes he lost consciousness after being attacked.

The victim told police he was standing outside when the incident happened and that he wasn’t certain why he was attacked.

Categories: Local Media

New wheel design for manual wheelchairs eases physical strain for users

Tue, 02/24/2015 - 6:32am

After fracturing his leg and learning how difficult it was to maneuver a traditional wheelchair, Rimas Buinevicius formed a partnership with Rowheels to reinvent the design of the wheel.

With injuries mounting for manual wheelchair users, the Fitchburg-based company is looking to ease the ailments.

Traditional manual wheelchairs require users to push the wheels forward to move forward. This method has a repetitive motion that causes shoulder and rotator cuff injuries with continued use, Buinevicius, chief executive of Rowheels, said. With Rowheel’s Rev1 wheels, wheelchair users pull the wheels back to move forward, causing less strain in the shoulders and upper body, he said.

The product could be compared to a manual rowboat in its way of pulling backwards to move forwards, Buinevicius said.

“The reason there (are) rowboats is because it is something you can do for an extended period of time,” Buinevicius said. “You never really see push boats, and that is because it is a difficult thing to try and push your way through water.”

The Rev1 wheels are designed to fit various wheelchair designs, so users do not need to get a new wheelchair if they have already been fitted for one, he said.

Rowheels began with developing the product and engineering work in 2012 and won the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest that year. Since then, they have developed prototypes and have attended trade shows and local and regional events to model the product. Buinevicius said they developed Rev1 to be lightweight, accessible and for daily use and mobility.

“The growth of the company is the primary objective, we think the product is something that has been long overdue, it seems to be getting a lot of buzz from the community,”he said. “People are very interested in it.”

Rowheels has worked with the Madison chapter of Spinal Cord Injury and Issues to test the product. Rowheels was at the chapter’s annual picnic to model Rev1 and around 10 members tested the wheels, Monica Kamal, founder and peer mentor coordinator of Madison Spinal Cord Injury and Issues said.

Kamal said she believes wheelchair users would be interested in Rev1 wheels. Kamal was a manual wheelchair user for more than a decade, but ended up getting shoulder problems. Today, she uses a power assist chair.

“Had I had a Rowheels chair from the beginning, where I would be able to use my bigger muscles pushing backwards, I might have been a manual wheelchair user for more than a decade,” Kamal said.

Rev1 wheels cost $5,400, but Buinevicius said much of the cost is covered by insurance. Insurance helps cover the wheels because it is covering the risk of rotator cuff and ailments associated with repetitive stretching associated with pushing a wheelchair, he said.

Kamal said she supports Rowheel’s product, but said companies need to do more to design products to help wheelchair users move around as well as an able-bodied person.

“We need more products that help our lives be easier,” Kamal said. “We need companies doing stuff like (Rowheels). Our lives are difficult enough.”

Rev1 went on the market earlier in February.

Categories: Local Media

Decline in federal transportation aid affects Wisconsin roads

Tue, 02/24/2015 - 6:26am

A decline in federal aid for transportation continues Wisconsin’s difficulty in funding road projects and may lead to an increase in gas taxes and transportation usage fees.

Federal aid for transportation in Wisconsin has declined by 10 percent over the last five years. The decline may cause a shortage in funds available for transportation infrastructure development, such as building highways and roads. According to the Associated Press, federal aid for Wisconsin highways has dropped from a high of $833 million to $750.6 million in 2013, which is an approximate 3.6 percent decline.

Jon Peacock, director of the Wisconsin Budget Project, said Wisconsin is anticipating nearly $19 billion in federal revenue over the next two years, which is about 30 percent of the total state budget. Of this, 10 percent is dedicated to transportation costs. If federal aid to Wisconsin decreases, the amount allotted for transportation costs will become even smaller, Peacock said.

Peacock said the decline might be a result of the national fuel tax, which has not been raised in the last 20 years. The fuel tax is one of the main contributors to federal revenue and its stagnant position could be responsible for low federal revenue and thus, a low amount of aid given to the state of Wisconsin. Raising the fuel tax is an option currently being debated, he said.

“I think that there’s certainly discussion amongst legislators about the need to increase the gas tax or other transportation usage fees, but there are so many legislators who have pledged not to raise taxes that it’s unclear what they’re going to decide to do,” Peacock said.

Rep. John Spiro, R-Marshfield, said there are certain roads in Wisconsin that need more development to improve their productivity, some of which are being assisted by federal aid.

Spiro said the reduction in aid for transportation costs has not had a significant impact on transport infrastructure development. He said no projects have been halted since it would be more expensive to restart them later.

“You’re going to pay the lowest price for it [the transport infrastructure project] now than you’re ever going to pay for it, and pushing it back by so many years is going to cost you that much more,” Spiro said. “So I think it would be better to take care of it now.”

In order to support increasing transportation costs, Gov. Scott Walker has considered borrowing, Peacock said. This is concerning because of the effects it might have on Wisconsin’s finances, he said.

Spiro said he is against borrowing because it adds on to the increasing costs of providing aid to transportation.

Spiro said he plans on implementing a survey that will ask the public its opinion on how to deal with the growing transportation costs. He suggested fuel indexing as another solution for making transportation infrastructure development more affordable.

“What happens if they decide they’re not going to fund that and they continue to take the dollars down?” Spiro asked. “We’re going to have to figure out better ways to make sure that there is infrastructure that’s positive and make sure that we’re doing what our communities need.”

Peacock said the state budget needs to scale down on unnecessary projects. This will help increase the total funds available to transportation infrastructure development and to other sectors such as education without having to implement an increase in taxes, he said.

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