“News-May 17, 2011”

Beaver Dam Mulls Council Reduction


5/17/11 – City officials in Beaver Dam have begun talking about the possibility of reducing the size of the 14-member common council.  Mayor Tom Kennedy says municipalities are required to review their districts after a census is completed. Kennedy says he supports the idea of having a 12-person council because it divides easily into the six supervisory districts anticipated for the Beaver Dam area on the county board level.  Recently-elected Alderman Mick Fisher campaigned on the promise of reducing the size of the council which he says would streamline the political process, making discussions shorter and therefore meetings shorter. Fisher supports a ten member council because the city’s two standing committees – Administration and Operations – would each have five members and therefore be structured to break a tie vote. Alderwoman Dona Maly took issue with the idea of reducing the council beyond its current 14 members and says city officials get paid the same regardless of the length of a discussion. Maly says she welcomes the variety of opinions from her colleagues, some of which have helped shape her votes. Kennedy says city officials should make a decision on the council size within the next 60 days.  Alderman Glen Link told the committee that while he supports the idea of a reduction, he feels it should not be done without gaining public input with an advisory referendum. The mayor called that a waste of time and money. There has been no study on the savings that would be realized by a reduction but there was general agreement in committee last night that it would be minimal. The matter is expected to be revisited at future meetings.


Council Rejects Jewelry Permit For Illinois Business


5/17/11 – The Beaver Dam Common Council last night denied a request to renew a Secondhand Jewelry License for an Illinois company that periodically sets up shop in a local hotel.  Police Chief Ron Smith says there were no problems uncovered during a background check of the agent for THR & Associates. City attorney Mary Ann Schacht says the company has legally complied with all the statutory requirements of the permitting process.  But Alderman Robert Ballweg suggested there is no way to guarantee the traveling business would hold jewelry purchases for 21 days as required by state statute and eight other alderpersons wound up agreeing with him. Debate on the matter was cut short last night after Alderwoman Lisa Davidson called for an immediate vote.  Alderman Laine Meyer said he voted against renewing the permit only because he had questions that went unanswered and also said he hopes the company appeals and the issue is then debated more thoroughly.


Aasen Placed On Probation In February Standoff


5/17/11 – A Neosho man who sparked a short stand-off with police in February will spend one year on probation. 60-year-old Dennis Aasen had been charged with felony Intimidation of a Victim but pled to misdemeanor Domestic Disorderly Conduct. The Dodge County Sheriff’s Department says they got a call from Aasen’s wife on February 10 saying she had barricaded herself and a young child in the bathroom after he threatened both of them while holding a rifle.  Sheriff’s Deputies and the Special Weapons and Tactics Team surrounded the home and after 45-minutes Aasen came out unarmed and was taken into custody.


Walker Doesn’t Want State Defending Domestic Partner Registry


5/17/11 – Governor Scott Walker wants the state to stop defending a lawsuit which claims that Wisconsin’s domestic partner registry is unconstitutional. The Republican Walker has asked a judge for permission to withdraw former Governor Jim Doyle’s previous request to throw out the lawsuit. Walker says he agrees with the Wisconsin Family Action group, which is challenging the constitutionality of the 2009 law which gives same-sex couples about one-fifth of the legal benefits of married couples. Those couples register with counties similar to married couples – and among other things, they can visit each other in the hospital, make end-of-life decisions together, and inherit each other’s property. Republican Attorney General J-B Van Hollen refused to defend the pro-family group’s lawsuit, and he issued an opinion that the domestic partner registry is unconstitutional. Doyle then hired Madison attorney Lester Pines to defend the suit, and Walker fired him a few weeks ago. Pines says Walker has no right to defend only those laws he likes – and the governor has the obligation to defend the rights of gay-and-lesbian people, even though he may not like them. But Walker attorney Brian Hagedorn says the governor wouldn’t be keeping his promise to uphold the constitution, if he defends a law he believes is unconstitutional. It’s not known when Dane County Circuit Judge Daniel Moeser will rule on the matter. Even if Walker is allowed to withdraw, the group Fair Wisconsin says it will keep defending the family group’s lawsuit.


Gas Prices Continue Downward Trend


5/17/11 – Wisconsin gas prices have dropped a penny-and-a-half in the last week, as crude oil slid below 100-dollars a barrel. The Triple-“A” says the average statewide price is just over four-dollars a gallon this morning for unleaded regular. That’s a drop of one-point-one-cents from yesterday. And it’s almost 11-cents lower than the all-time record of 4.11-and-a-half set on May fifth. Milwaukee Gas Prices-Dot-Com reports an average of four-dollars-and-one-tenth of a cent today. That’s three-tenths below the statewide Triple-“A” figure. Gas is just over three-cents higher than a month ago in the state’s largest metro. It’s about 11-cents higher statewide.


Small Turnout for Public Hearing on School Reforms

5/17/11 – Only about 30 people attended a public hearing yesterday on a major Republican package of Wisconsin school reforms. Democrats said lots of folks were caught off-guard, because the details didn’t come out until last Friday. And those details have some big changes. One would let school boards use low test scores as a partial reason to fire or discipline teachers. The Obama White House made that a condition to get federal stimulus money last year. But Wisconsin Democrats refused to go that far when they controlled the Legislature and governor’s office – and the state never did get funded. DeForest High School English teacher Jennifer Breezee said multiple steps are needed to evaluate teachers, and a single test isn’t enough. WEAC (wee-ack) teachers’ union chief Mary Bell called it an “arbitrary” use of test scores. And Bell said other parts of the G-O-P reform package would lead to the privatization of public schools. Another change would let students get one-and-a-half credits of physical education for being in an after-school sport. Keith Bakken of the Wisconsin Health and Physical Education group was against that. He said phy-ed is an academic subject, and athletics are only part of it. The bill also lets schools choose the grades they want to use in the SAGE class-size reduction program. It would help schools that can’t afford to offer it from kindergarten-through-third grade. The state school boards’ and administrators’ associations said they generally supported the bill. Senate Education chair Luther Olsen said it was prompted by requests from those two groups.


New Tourism Slogan for Wisconsin

5/17/11 – “Picture the Fun.” That’s Wisconsin’s new tourist slogan. And actor Henry Winkler will help promote that theme in a cameo during one of three 30-second T-V ads you’ll see this summer. Winkler played the motorcycle-loving Fonzie in the 1970’s comedy “Happy Days” that was set in Milwaukee. The Fonz is immortalized with a bronze statue on the city’s downtown Riverfront. The state Tourism Department launched the “Picture the Fun” ad campaign yesterday. It will run all summer on T-V, radio, newspapers, digital ads, and social media. The state will spend just over three-million-dollars to run the ads in Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, and Michigan.