Tag Archives: Milwaukee County

State Rep. Brostoff hosts public hearing on Milwaukee Cty. mental health services on Sat., Feb. 6

State Rep. Jonathan Brostoff, D-Milwaukee, is holding an open public hearing from noon to 3 p.m. on Sat., Feb. 6, to discuss Milwaukee County mental health services.

The hearing is scheduled to take place in the main hall of Milwaukee’s Washington Park Senior Center, 4420 W. Vliet St.

Brostoff, who’s a member of the Wisconsin Assembly Mental Health Reform Committee, wants to hear from people who have a vested interest in improving mental health care, including family members, community leaders, professionals and advocates. He hopes the hearing will help him in crafting legislation and policies during the Legislature’s next session to improve mental health care in the county.

Brostoff is a Democrat representing Assembly District 19.

Click here to learn more about Rep. Brostoff.

Young people fuel rise in sexually transmitted diseases, with record number of chlamydia cases

A U.S. sexually transmitted diseases epidemic is increasing and the most common infection, chlamydia, has risen to record levels, government officials say.

Reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis all increased in 2014. Chlamydia cases had dipped in 2013, but last year’s total of more than 1.4 million — or 456 cases per 100,000 — was the highest number of annual cases of any condition ever reported to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The chlamydia rate was up almost 3 percent from 2013, the CDC reported.

Sexually transmitted diseases are among more than 70 diseases that are reportable to the CDC, including measles, chickenpox and tuberculosis. Flu is reported differently, by hospitalizations.

“America’s worsening STD epidemic is a clear call for better diagnosis, treatment, and prevention,” said the CDC’s Dr. Jonathan Mermin.

Gonorrhea cases totaled 350,062, up 5 percent from 2013, and the most contagious forms of syphilis jumped 15 percent to 20,000. As in previous years, the syphilis increase was mainly in gay and bisexual men.

Most gonorrhea and chlamydia infections were in 15-to 24-year-olds, an ongoing trend. Both can cause infertility in women but can be treated with antibiotics. They often have no symptoms, and while yearly screening is recommended for sexually active women younger than 25, many don’t get tested and infections go untreated, the CDC said.

Wisconsin reported 27,168 cases of STDs diagnosed in 2014, which amounts to 483 per 100,00. Chlamydia led the pack with 22,837 new cases.

Syphilis cases in Wisconsin were the highest in the past decade, while chlamydia and gonorrhea were slightly lower than last year.

Eighty-seven percent of reported syphilis cases were among men, while 70 percent of chlamydia cases were among women.

Sixty-seven percent of all STD cases were reported among women.

Milwaukee County reported the highest STD rate, with 1,250 cases per 100,000 residents, according to the Wisconsin Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Data, reported by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. The zip codes just west of Lake Michigan in the northern two-thirds of Milwaukee County were hit hardest.

Menominee, Kenosha, Dane and Racine rounded out the state’s top five counties, in that order.

Nationwide, Bible Belt cities topped the STD list.

Montgomery, with a population of 201,332, reported 1,899.29 cases per 100,000. Following Montgomery is St. Louis, which had 1,867.54 reported cases per 100,000, and, with a population of only 25,545, West Memphis, Arkansas, ranked third, with 1,717.20 reported cases per 100,000.

Rounding out the top 10 cities were: New Orleans, Killeen, Texas, Fayetteville, North Carolina, Norfolk Naval Base in Norfolk, Virginia, Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas and Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, N.C.

The military stations took the fifth, ninth and 10th spots, respectively.

After 25 years in office, Scott Walker denies he’s a career politician

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker denies he’s a career politician — even though he has held elected office since he was 25 years old and first ran for office when he was 22. As an adult, he worked in the private, for-profit sector for little more than one year.

The 47-year-old Republican presidential contender said in an interview with CNBC, released Sept.1, that he is “just a normal guy” — a standard line in his stump speech that makes critics cringe: It’s generally taken for granted that most people are normal, so bragging about it as an accomplishment raises suspicions. Walker rejects the career politician label, despite having spent vritually his entire life in politics, when you add in his campaign work for others. 

In 1990, at the age of 22, Walker ran for the state Assembly representing Milwaukee and lost. He then moved to a more conservative suburb and ran again in 1993 and won. He hasn’t lost an election since, and he’s become an icon for right-wing suburbanites.

Walker served nine years in the Assembly, eight years as Milwaukee County executive and is now in his fifth year as governor.

After being considered a top-tier candidate earlier in the year, Walker has since fallen behind Donald Trump in polling and lost ground to other candidates with no government experience, namely retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former technology executive Carly Fiorina. Several high-profile flip-flops and gaffes, along with a nearly mute debate performance, have hurt his standing.

In a Fox News interview on Sept. 1, Walker said that he understands the attraction outsider candidates can have — because he is one.

“They want people who will take on Washington, who will shake things up, and I agree with that,” Walker said. “Heck, I’m an outsider. I was one of the guys who took on the Washington-based power structure right here in the state of Wisconsin. They tried to come after me in the recall election. They failed.”

Walker was targeted for a recall in 2012 after he unilaterally, without discussion or debate, effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers. Walker won the recall, making him the first governor in U.S. history to defeat such an effort.

In the CNBC interview, which was conducted on Aug. 21, he was asked whether he was too reliant on white voters to win nationwide. His coded racist rhetoric and policies have made Walker enormously unpopular with voters of color, but massively popular with uneducated and older white males. But Walker said that he could win in a dozen states that essentially determine an election, as he sees it.

“Wisconsin’s one of them,” he said. “I’m sitting in another one right now, New Hampshire. There’s going to be Colorado, where I was born, Iowa, where I lived, Ohio, Florida, a handful of other states.”

A recent poll, however, showed Walker losing to Hillary Clinton by double digits in Wisconsin, which normally votes Democratic in presidential elections.

Walker has shifted to a more aggressive tone in recent weeks, increasing criticism of fellow Republicans.

Trump donated $10,000 to Walker’s 2014 re-election campaign for governor, something Walker noted in the interview. Walker said Trump never asked for anything in return because he viewed Walker as different from other politicians.

“His words were, to me, ‘I like you ’cause you’re a fighter,’” Walker said.

But in late July, a Walker fundraiser referred to Trump as “DumbDumb” in an email.

“I’ve been nice to Scott Walker,” Trump said after that. “He’s a nice guy. He came up to my office like three, four months ago, presented me with a plaque because I helped him with his election.”

Trump went on: “I liked that he was fighting. I didn’t know what the hell he was doing, but he was fighting and I like a fighter.”

AP writer Scott Bauer contributed to this story.

Deal elusive in Milwaukee County transit labor dispute

Weeks after Milwaukee County union bus drivers went on a three-day strike, both sides remain far apart as contract talks are set to resume this week, according to a published report.

The early July strike disrupted the lives of tens of thousands of county residents who rely on buses. But more than three weeks after the walkout, the Milwaukee County Transit System and the union representing its drivers and mechanics appear no closer to reaching a new contract, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

On Friday, MCTS Managing Director Dan Boehm said there was a gap of $10 million in the offers and counteroffers from the two sides the last time they met.

President James Macon of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998 said at the time of the strike that the impasse was “not about money.” But in a recent interview, he said the company can afford to pay higher wages than it is offering.

At recent union rallies Macon has identified transit system plans to hire part-time drivers and impose higher health insurance costs as primary reasons for the union’s rejection of the latest offer.

Boehm said the company’s June 26 offer, rejected by union members, and last-minute concessions offered at a June 30 mediation session in an unsuccessful bid to avert a strike are still the best financial package it can offer.

The old contract ended March 31. The 750 drivers and 150 mechanics represented by the union have been working without a contract since the last extension ended June 29.

Macon would not say whether he would urge his members to walk out a second time if no agreement is reached. Referring to MCTS, he said “they don’t have to worry about it if they bring in a fair contract.”

In its contract offer, MCTS signaled its intention to begin hiring part-time drivers in an attempt to reduce high costs of overtime regularly paid to drivers. Bus operators work an average of eight hours of overtime a week, officials said.

But the union is opposed to hiring part-time drivers because it would take many overtime hours away from those drivers who want them, Macon said.

Milwaukee, Dane county leaders push ban on tax-subsidized Indiana travel

Supervisors in Milwaukee and Dane counties on April 1 called for banning non-essential, taxpayer-subsidized travel to Indiana in the wake of the state’s passage of a “license to discriminate” law.

Such travel bans already have been enacted for state governments in Connecticut, New York and Washington, as well as by the cities of Seattle, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon.

The protest is over passage of the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed late last week. The measure would allow discrimination based on religious beliefs in a state that lacks civil rights protections for LGBT people.

In response, Milwaukee County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic on April 1 called for a non-essential travel ban prohibiting the use of tax-subsidized travel to Indiana. Indiana is the first such measure to pass this year, but similar bills are pending in other states.

“We have to stand up to this epidemic,” Dimitrijevic said. “We’re not going to use taxpayer dollars to subsidize bigotry. … And we need to have an honest talk about action and inaction.”

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, an ardent supporter of equality, made a $5,000 donation to the ACLU of Indiana to support their legal efforts on behalf of LGBT Hoosiers. 

“I did it for the same reason I supported the ACLU here — and still support their efforts to fight voter ID,” Abele said.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett penned an editorial for the Milwaukee Journa Sentinel condemning Indiana’s law.

In Dane County, supervisors gathered in Madison to call for a ban.

Dane County Supervisors Kyle Richmond, Chuck Erickson and Andrew Schauer — who are gay — announced an ordinance amendment to ban county travel to Indiana and expenditures in Indiana.

Richmond, who represents District 4, said, “I was born and raised in Indiana and I am embarrassed. Legalizing bigotry in the name of religion is divisive and cowardly. As our Wisconsin Badger Final Four basketball team arrives in Indianapolis, Dane County expects a very different sort of ‘Hoosier Hospitality.'”

Erickson, in a statement, said, “Dane County does not condone discrimination and has been a leader in the fight for LGBT equality for over a decade. Dane County’s financial resources will not be used to support the bigotry and prejudice which were regrettably passed into law by the Indiana Legislature.”

The Dane County amendment, which needs board approval, is worded to be in effect until the Indiana law is repeal. 

Schauer said Dane County must stay on the right side of history “by pulling its economic support” from the discriminatory environment in Indiana.

Meanwhile, Dimitrijevic said she hoped Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele would issue an executive order. Or, as an alternative, she said she would introduce a resolution for the county board’s consideration later this month.

“Our taxpayer dollars should not be used to support bigotry,” she said.

Dimitrijevic also extended a Wisconsin welcome to businesses that have objected to the Indiana legislation.

She said, “We are the most diverse community in Wisconsin, and I’m sure Indiana companies would benefit from locating in an atmosphere of tolerance.”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has indicated his support, in principle, for RFRA legislation.

Dimitrijevic said, “We need to be standing against this early on and say we are not going to allow this” in Wisconsin.

Editor’s note: This story will be updated.

State ethics watchdog defends investigation of Walker, conservative groups

Wisconsin’s elections and ethics agency refuted in a court filing this week claims that it had improperly participated in a campaign finance investigation into Gov. Scott Walker and conservative groups that supported him. 

The Government Accountability Board’s filing comes after the Wisconsin Club for Growth, one of the groups targeted in the probe, alleged in a complaint unsealed earlier in December that top GAB officials launched the investigation without first getting approval from the agency’s six-member board. The GAB then continued with the investigation, even after the board voted to end its involvement in July, the group’s complaint alleges.

In the GAB’s response, filed this week in Waukesha County Circuit Court, the agency said its board voted to authorize the probe after staff participation in it became “substantial.”

The GAB wrote that many of the Club for Growth’s allegations are based on inaccurate interpretations of the board’s authority. It also called the group’s claim that the probe continued after the board voted to stop it “groundless and frivolous and preposterous,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Madison State Journal reported.

Wisconsin Club for Growth is one of several organizations challenging the investigation into whether Walker illegally coordinated fundraising with conservative groups in 2011 and 2012. The probe began in secret, but details have filtered out through court documents.

The group sued the GAB in May, arguing the board overstretched its authority “by pursuing and funding a far-reaching criminal investigation into virtually every conservative-leaning group in Wisconsin.” Judge Lee Dreyfus Jr. unsealed much of the Club for Growth’s complaint on Dec. 19 at the group’s request.

The GAB denied in the Monday filing that it had “exceeded its statutory authority.”

A separate lawsuit pending before the Wisconsin Supreme Court will determine whether the investigation moves forward or not.

Thousands of Gov. Walker-related emails released

Thousands of emails prosecutors collected during the first secret investigation into Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s former aides and associates when he was a county executive were released on Oct. 21.

The public release of the documents prompted allegations from Walker and other Republicans that the timing two weeks before the election was politically motivated but freedom of information advocates and Democrats said the release of the documents was a long time coming.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele’s office made public the nearly 16,000 emails and attachments that prosecutors seized from county and personal computers during the investigation that ended in 2013. Walker was never charged but six of his aides and associates were convicted on charges ranging from theft to misconduct in office.

The documents’ release comes in the midst of Walker’s fierce re-election contest against Democrat Mary Burke. A Marquette University Law School poll released last week showed the race is tied.

Burke released a new campaign ad two hours before the emails were made public that mentions the convictions and says the state can’t afford four more years of Walker. Burke told reporters before she voted early in Madison on Oct. 21 that the timing of the ad wasn’t based on the emails’ release.

“The timing is about that people when they go to the polls need to consider his entire record over the last four years when looking at the next four years,” Burke said. “Part of that, not only a lagging economy and historic cuts to education, but certainly the scandal around his administration.”

Burke said she never discussed the release of the records with Abele. And Paul Bargren, the attorney for Milwaukee County who oversaw release of the records, said in an email that when to release the records was up to his office alone. Abele was not involved, Bargren said.

“As material was ready for release, I chose to make it available rather than hold on to it,” Bargren wrote.

Walker, in a prepared statement, noted that Abele, his wife and campaign committee had donated $63,000 to Burke. Walker said releasing the emails now so close to the election was designed to “distract voters from my opponent’s failed record.”

The emails released were collected during the first secret investigation, known as a John Doe, involving Walker. Included were more than 1,000 pages of emails sent and received by Walker from private and campaign accounts. The messages, many of which were sent during Walker’s 2010 run for governor, show county staff interacting with those on Walker’s gubernatorial campaign, discussing strategy and seeking advice on how to answer questions from reporters.

It had been previously revealed that Walker held daily calls with county workers and those on his campaign.

A judge in May turned over the 500 gigabytes of records to Abele’s office and ordered that they be released. Two previous batches of documents were released by Abele’s office in August and September and 27,000 pages of emails collected during the investigation were previously released as part of an appeal made by one of Walker’s aides convicted of misconduct in office.

A second John Doe investigation was launched in 2012 focusing on alleged illegal coordination between Walker’s recall campaign and more than two dozen conservative groups. That investigation is on hold after the judge overseeing it in January blocked subpoenas prosecutors requested.

That case is pending before the state Supreme Court.

Associated Press writer Todd Richmond contributed to this report in Madison.

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Milwaukee, Dane county boards to consider minimum-wage resolutions

The morning of June 26, the Milwaukee County Board will consider Supervisor Khalif Rainey’s resolution to place a minimum wage referendum on the November ballot.

If adopted, the resolution would place a referendum on the ballot for all Milwaukee County voters asking whether the state minimum wage should be raised to $10.10 per hour.

Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic and Supervisors Gerry Broderick and Willie Johnson Jr. have co-sponsored Rainey’s resolution, which passed the Judiciary, Safety, and General Services committee on a 5-1 vote.

Wisconsin’s minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, the same as the federal minimum.

On a 40 hour a week schedule, that means $15,080 per year, or $290 per week. That’s below the federal poverty line for a single parent with a child.

Twenty-two other states have higher minimum wage levels. Massachusetts passed legislation last week setting its state minimum wage to $11 per hour, while Connecticut and Maryland set $10.10 minimum wage levels in the past month. In the Midwest, Michigan and Minnesota have set higher minimum wage levels and Illinois is expected to follow.

Earlier this week, Raise Wisconsin activists submitted signatures to qualify similar referenda in the cities of Neenah and Menasha.

Previously, Eau Claire and Kenosha counties placed similar referenda on the November ballot.

On June 26 in Madison, the Dane County Board is expected to vote on a resolution to place the Raise Wisconsin referendum on that county’s fall ballot. More counties are expected to follow, according to a news release from Raise Wisconsin, which has two press conferences scheduled for June 25.

Milwaukee police: Dogfighting owners hard to track

The dogfighting matches described this week by Milwaukee County prosecutors allegedly took place in residential neighborhoods, not in far-flung rural communities.

If true, it raises the question of why neighbors never reported seeing or hearing anything out of the ordinary.

The answer hints at why dogfighting remains so persistent in Milwaukee: Perpetrators go to such lengths to hide their actions that neighbors may not even know dogs are living next door. To combat the scourge, police have begun teaming up with animal-welfare groups to spot signs of dogfighting, and community groups have set up a telephone hotline where residents can report anything that seems the slightest bit suspicious.

Authorities arrested 13 Milwaukee-area residents Thursday and recovered 22 pit bulls, the culmination of an investigation that began with a tip of dogfighting in 2011. Police acknowledge that other perpetrators may still be out there.

Dogfighting operations can be highly sophisticated. Dog owners might build elaborate fighting pits in their basements, and they’ll often breed or pay top dollar for pit bull puppies genetically predisposed to be vicious toward other dogs. Owners also put their dogs through rigorous training regimens that build up their stamina through hours on a treadmill or long walks while dragging heavy weights.

But the owners are also part of a secretive, highly insular community, Milwaukee police Officer Ivan Wick said Friday. Matches are often planned hours in advance, and participants might arrange two or three meeting points beforehand so they can ensure they’re not being followed. They might keep their animals locked in the trunk, only taking them out when their vehicle is inside a closed garage.

Many matches are also held late at night or during pre-dawn hours, and basements can be soundproof.

So even if three or four matches are being staged in one night in a residential area, neighbors might not have a clue.

Even so, Wick said neighbor vigilance is one of the best ways to combat dogfighting.

“If you see a bunch of people showing up at a house, taking dogs in and coming out with injured dogs or not as many dogs, please call us,” he said. “There are many people who’d like to have the opportunity to investigate.

Some owners fight their dogs for the pride that comes with owning a “gamer,” Wick said. But often they’re more interested in making money. Some owners make $20,000 or more in matches in wagers with other owners, through carefully managed matches that comply with a sophisticated set of rules and regulations.

“Some people are in it for the money. Then there are some people who just like to see blood,” Wick said. “The problem posed by dogfighting is larger than I think most people realize.”

It’s hard for authorities to know how widespread the issue is. Officers often have to rely on neighbors to phone in tips, and police have begun seeking investigative advice from groups such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The nonprofit ASPCA provides free training to police departments across the nation. It helps officers spot signs of dogfighting and recognize otherwise-benign objects that are actually props used in training or fights. Those might include treadmills modified for small dogs, or wooden bite sticks used to pry a dog’s jaws open during a match.

“These things by themselves aren’t definitive evidence,” said Tim Rickey, the vice president of the ASPCA’s field investigations team. “But they’re things that hopefully raise their awareness level so they can begin investigating further,”

Wick said the training has been valuable for his officers, who are now more thorough in their searches. For example, even when they’re investigating something unrelated they might examine walls for signs of spattered dog blood.

Community groups are also trying to spread the word about dogfighting. Brew City Bully Club, a group highlights the positive aspects of pit bulls, announced an anonymous tip line Friday where residents can call in their concerns. The number is 414-688-0899.

Shorewood School District adopts transgender-supportive policy

The Shorewood School District has become the first in Milwaukee County to adopt a policy recognizing and protecting transgender students.

Shorewood, which lies just north of Milwaukee between the lakefront on the east and the Milwaukee River on the west, is the sixth district in the state to adopt a transgender police. U.S. News & World Report ranks Shorewood High School first in the state.

According to the new policy, complaints of discrimination and bullying against transgender students will be handled in a manner consistent with other complaints. Teachers and staff will address students by their chosen names and use pronouns that reflect their identified gender.

According to Shorewood Now, school principal Tim Kenney organized the effort to create an official transgender policy that will include all four of the district’s schools.

Under the policy, a parent is required to submit a letter to school authorities stating that their child identifies as transgender. In response, the school district will allow students to participate in gym classes and intramural sports appropriate for their gender. Students must comply with the dress codes of their self-identified gender.

The policy will allow transgender students to use locker rooms of the gender they identify with. They can use a unisex bathroom or the bathroom of their self-identified gender.

The policy’s goal is to recognize and protect transgender students by providing appropriate facilities as well as a tool for teachers a tool to enforce their protection.

“I think Shorewood prides itself on being forward and progressive,” school board member Paru Shah told Shorewood Now, adding that “every student in our schools should be in a safe learning environment.”