Tag Archives: private

Diego Rivera painting sells privately for $15.7 million

A Diego Rivera painting has sold privately for $15.7 million, setting a world record price for any Latin American work of art, Phillips auction house said this month.

The price for “Dance in Tehuantepec” nearly doubles the figure paid at auction last month for a painting by Frida Kahlo, Rivera’s wife. Her “Two Nudes in the Forest (The Land Itself)” set a new auction record for Latin American art

The private sale was facilitated by Phillips.

The buyer, Argentinian collector Eduardo Costantini, told The Associated Press that he has waited 20 years to acquire “Dance in Tehuantepec,” which he unsuccessfully tried to purchase in 1995 when it came up at auction at Sotheby’s.

It has been out of public view since then.

“I always wondered who had bought the painting and where it was,”Costantini, founder and president of the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires, said in a phone interview from Buenos Aires.

“Dance in Tehuantepec,” created in 1928, depicts a group of dancers performing the folk dance “zandunga” under a banana tree. It is one of the largest canvases the acclaimed Mexican muralist painted during his lifetime. It measures 79 inches by 64 1/2 inches.

Costantini said he plans to exhibit the painting at his museum next March. Prior to that it will be shown at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the fall and at the ARCO Madrid next February.

The painting is the most important Rivera work in private hands outside of Mexico, said August Uribe, deputy chairman of the Americas at Phillips.

It first appeared in 1930 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and was included in a major Diego Rivera retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York a year later.

Uribe said the painting shows Rivera’s efforts “to establish a national identity by breaking from European modernism and embracing Mexicanism.”

Under new leader, MIAD continues transforming Milwaukee

The Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design was a pioneer in transforming the Third Ward from an area of urban decline into one of the city’s trendiest, most vibrant neighborhoods.

Now MIAD, which opened in 1974, is a leading force in transforming Milwaukee from a Rust Belt city into an artsy hipster oasis, a city of galleries, smart shops and foodie destinations that Jeff Morin said feels like parts of Manhattan, only without the urban canyons that swallow you up.

Morin, who became MIAD president in June, doesn’t like to hear Milwaukee referred to as “the new Portland.” He said Portland is the Milwaukee of the West Coast.

Morin has spent 30 years in higher education, most of it in the University of Wisconsin system. Most recently, he was dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. 

In addition to teaching, he’s an award-winning artist, writer, exhibiting artist, curator and lecturer. Some of his works hang on the wall of his office, including a rendering of Matthew Shepard against a coyote fence, pierced with arrows. Shepard is the gay University of Wyoming student who was beaten, tortured and left to die near Laramie, Wyoming, in 1998. His death became a rallying point for a new generation of gay activists.

Does the picture indicate that MIAD is a gay-friendly school? “You’ll have to ask my husband,” Morin quipped.

When WiG caught up with Morin in October, he was in the throes of a honeymoon regarding his new hometown and employer. He was spilling over with ambitious ideas for MIAD’s role in a city he considers at the vanguard of the nation’s emerging arts economy.

Majors include interior architectural design, industrial design, fine arts, communication design (graphic arts), illustration and new studio practice. Students in all areas of design have capstone projects. They develop them during their junior and senior years. Capstones include everything from art installation to models of building interiors to designs of tools.

Morin says students leave well prepared to work in design, where jobs have increased by 43 percent over the past decade. 

The institute, which has a student population of 630 and offers only undergraduate degrees, is constantly creating new programs to reflect the design needs of the real world. As Morin described it, MIAD has a strong academic program but focuses equally on real-world training that will result in post-graduation jobs.

Although 40 percent of MIAD students come from out of state, roughly 80 percent of them remain in Milwaukee, where they play an integral role in helping to develop the city’s arts economy. MIAD grads are heavily represented in fine arts awards and gallery shows. They also work for Milwaukee Tool, Kohl’s, Harley-Davidson, interior design firms, publishers and advertising/marketing firms. Thirty-three percent are entrepreneurs who start small businesses in the area.

MIAD’s placement rate within one year of graduation is 83 percent.

Wear comfortable shoes

If you plan to walk through the sprawling three-floor former factory that MIAD occupies, bring comfortable shoes. Cement covers each floor, which is about the length of a football field. It’s perfect for artists, because you can’t mess it up by spilling paint or dropping something heavy, Morin pointed out.

The building’s galleries are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

The massive raw space lends itself easily to being temporarily divided into classrooms, galleries, supply spaces — whatever is needed at the moment. The huge floor-to-ceiling windows not only provide great views of the city, river and lake, but also infuse an abundance of the kind of natural light so prized by artists. No nearby buildings get in the way.

The light and water are two of Morin’s favorite things about the city and MIAD.

Since graduating from Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, Morin has lived in Philadelphia and New York City, where he worked in advertising, before deciding to check out the Midwest, a region of the country wholly unfamiliar to him at the time but, as it turned out, very agreeable to him.

The first member of his family to attend college, Morin ended up at UW-Madison, where he earned master of art degrees in both studio art and fine art. He also holds a certificate in fundraising management from the Lilly School of Philanthropy at Indiana University-Purdue University. 

For the first couple of weeks at MIAD, he lived in the student resident across the street from the main building, which features two-bedroom, two-bath units. “I loved it,” he said. “(The apartments) are gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous.”

Now he’s settled on the city’s east side, from where he enjoys a brief commute on North Lincoln Memorial Drive along the lakefront and through “some of the most beautiful components of the city.”

Public vs. private

After working in public higher education, Morin is basking in the relative freedom of a private college.

“We’ve had some of the same tough financial discussions here that we had in the UW system,” Morin said. But, “we’re less legislatively encumbered. The conversation is taking place at the table here and then we don’t have to have a conversation in Madison or anywhere else, as long as we meet the rigors of our creditors. We can be nimble. We can think outside the box … and the staff has the level of ingenuity to make things happen here. 

The thing that keeps MIAD fresh is that we’re left to solve all our own problems.”

MIAD recently won a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to expand its internships, which are at the heart of its programs, particularly in industrial design. Sometimes partnering with engineering students at Marquette University, MIAD students work on design challenges presented by real companies, including such heavy weights as GE, General Motors and Harley-Davidson. The results of some of those challenges are scattered throughout the building — everything from airplane toilets to football helmets to motorcycle designs. The right design can make the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful product, even when the basic engineering is the same, Morin said. Think of Steve Jobs and the iPhone.

The institute highly recommends internships before graduation. “With design challenges (students) get “great experience, a great design portfolio and a great knowledge of the area they’re entering,” Morin said.

In addition to MIAD’s partnerships with Marquette University and dozens of well known national and local corporations, from Delta Airlines to Kohler, US Bank to Manpower, the school is developing relationships with Milwaukee Public Schools for design academies for pre-college students. The goal is to give them experience working in the field before they commit to it academically.

Ultimate goal

Morin grew up in northernmost Maine’s Arroostook County, considered one of the poorest counties east of the Mississippi, he said. The county is vast in area but sparsely populated. His description made it sound as if everyone is so isolated that each family needs a different ZIP code.

At an early age of his rural childhood, Morin figured out he wanted to be a teacher and an artist — even though “there’s nothing in our family’s history that points in that direction,” he said.

But it might never have happened without a teacher who recognized his talent and mentored him through high school. When it came time to look for colleges, she drove him about 15 hours in her pickup truck to look over the Rhode Island School of Design.

But Morin wound up at Temple University Tyler School of Art because it was his mentor’s ideal art school.

“If it wasn’t for her, I know that I would have had a totally different life,” Morin said. Now Morin’s ultimate goal is to make the kind of difference in his students’ lives that his greatest mentor made in his. He’s been teaching since 1986 and he hears back from students on a regular basis, he said. That’s encouraging.

“But I wouldn’t have the arrogance to assume I could provide that level of influence,” he added. “I don’t think I could be as generous as she was.”

He’s still trying, however. And, luckily for MIAD, he’s brought that experience and that goal with him.

ALEC dictates Wisconsin’s public school policy

On the heels of a passed state budget that leaves our K-12 public schools without ample and consistent funding, I recently headed back to where the school privatization push began — the American Legislative Exchange Council, better known as ALEC.

ALEC and its members have become more powerful than citizens’ voices at the state Capitol. Despite urgent pleas from Wisconsin school superintendents, principals, teachers, parents and students for consistent and adequate K-12 public education funding, Republican legislators chose to dump more money into an unaccountable private voucher school system.

Since Republicans took over state government in 2011, they have cut $1.2 billion from public K–12 education. Under the latest budget, 55 percent of school districts will get less general student aid than they did during the last budget cycle. The state will spend $1,014 less per student than it did in 2008.

Yet for private schools, the scenario is very different. The state eliminated caps on the number of voucher schools that can operate in the state, which will divert an additional $600–$800 million from public schools over the next decade. The state also authorized private schools for special-needs students without requiring specialized instruction, teacher training or up-to-date legal protections.

At ALEC’s recent conference, state legislators were urged to push farther for universal vouchers. ALEC called for eliminating income or eligibility limits, as well as for funding parity for unaccountable, independent charter schools.

The most far-reaching model bill that the ALEC Education Taskforce proposed calls for creating education savings accounts. One such bill was recently adopted in Nevada.

Under the bill, public money is deposited into individual student accounts that parents can spend on any educational system they choose. According to the lead sponsor of Nevada’s ESA law, it will impact 94 percent of public school students and open the floodgates to private schools.

The new generation of ALEC’s school privatization policies reduces state oversight and accountability measures, contains no income cap and provides the same level of state and local funding per pupil that public schools receive.

ALEC is targeting suburban, middle-income families to sell its education agenda by attacking public education for allegedly failing not just low-income students, but middle-income as well. State legislators have been drafted as the foot soldiers to promulgate this message.  

ALEC and many Republican legislators in Wisconsin have no vision for public education, because they do not want it to exist. But there is a way to stop ALEC’s destructive policies. With 78 percent of Wisconsinites opposed to public education cuts, it starts with you.

ALEC had a piece of advice we should listen to — “Elections matter.” 

Chris Taylor represents the 76th Assembly District, which encompasses Madison. She’s the former policy and political director of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and led the organization to landmark victories for women’s health.


Plan for Milwaukee-area private rail company released

For five years, a group of individuals has been quietly gathering input from Milwaukee-area residents and civic leaders to develop plans for a private passenger rail that would link key areas across Milwaukee and Waukesha counties. 

On Jan. 21, the Milwaukee Passenger Rail Company published its plans for the B-Line, which will link such destinations as the Summerfest Grounds, Marquette University, UWM, Miller Park, Wisconsin State Fair Park and Mayfair Mall.

“We think it’s about time for Milwaukee to have a system like this,” MPRC president Michael Garven toldWiG by phone. He went on to say that conservatives have nixed rail plans in the past because they’ve depended on public funding to operate, but his company’s private, for-profit plan would negate such objections.

“After the initial funding, we would operate as a private company,” Garven said. “That’s very important to us and to conservatives.”

Garven said he did not want his announcement to have any effect on the Milwaukee streetcar proposal and the timing of his release is purely coincidental. Neither he nor his company has a position on the project, he added. 

According to an MPRC press release, the project initially would require public funding to improve 58 miles of existing rail tracks in coordination with the Union Pacific and Canadian Pacific Rail companies and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Using existing rail infrastructure would save $500 million in startup costs, the press release added.

In the master plan for B-Line, which can be found at milwaukeebline.com and on Facebook under the name Milwaukee Bline, its organizers say the project would generate $1.3 billion in new economic development activity, creating more than 10,000 jobs in a 10-year period.

The plan includes use of the former Talgo facility at Century City and a site at the Milwaukee Port Authority. Passenger rail cars would be built at Avalon Rail Company in West Allis.

The B-Line would use fuel-efficient diesel-electric locomotive motors, according to the plan. Ticket prices would range between $2.85 and $8.85, depending on the distance traveled.

“This is an urban transit system for the economic-minded that will benefit Milwaukee and Waukesha County for many years to come,” said MPRC technical advisor Dave Henry in a press statement.

Company CEO Brian Kliesmet said in the statement, “MPRC planners were careful to reach all constituencies. The B-Line is an innovation that crosses all boundaries and jurisdictions and is a model for economic success.”

Garven said he planned to meet with state and local officials in the coming weeks to obtain their approval of the plan, which would require some of its start-up funding from cities reached by the train. He said prior meetings with business leaders and elected officials have been largely positive.

O’Donnell Park sale leaves public out in the cold

Public parks are rarely sold to for-profit corporations. But Milwaukee County may soon sell the postcard-perfect Lakefront promontory O’Donnell Park to Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. On Dec. 18, county supervisors will vote to approve or reject the proposed sale.

This is a bad financial deal for taxpayers. It removes from the parks’ budget an annual $1.3-million-dollar income stream. It denies the public all future rights to a priceless park with some of downtown Milwaukee’s best views. 

O’Donnell Park is often dismissed as just a “parking garage.” At the east end of Wisconsin Avenue, Mark Di Suvero’s sunbeam sculpture boldly greets you. From there, you see the Milwaukee Art Museum’s soaring Calatrava-designed pavilion. Perhaps you’ve attended an event at the Miller Room or Coast restaurant, or you’ve taken young friends or family to the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum. If this deal closes, all O’Donnell Park facilities will become Northwestern Mutual property, to use as the corporation wishes.  

So will the two garden plazas that extend from Mason to Michigan streets. Both are popular settings for weddings. (If you want to get married there, book soon, because a private buyer will have no obligation to rent out the gardens or pavilion venues.) O’Donnell Park may evolve into a private playground, a 9-acre extension of NML’s campus. 

In its proposed contract, NML guarantees only two things. A specified number of parking spaces will be made available to the public at certain times at market rates. People will also be able to walk through the site to get to the Milwaukee Art Museum. But those options end in 2033, when the “useful life” of O’Donnell’s parking structure will expire, according to the contract (or even sooner, if NM Ldecides).

A legal analysis by attorney William Lynch confirms that, despite vague reassurances by NML reps, the public will be left out in the cold with this sale. NML probably won’t raze the park immediately, but its officials acknowledge they will ultimately redevelop the site as they choose. The contract says nothing about keeping this prime Lakefront acreage a public park. The public will lose any future possibility to re-imagine O’Donnell.

The proposed selling price is jaw-dropping. Taxpayers and other donors invested $36 million to build O’Donnell in 1992. Based on the recent sale of the nearby Irgens’ site, O’Donnell’s land alone is worth about $40 million. Conservatively, the land and facilities are now worth perhaps $76 million. But Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele has agreed to sell the park complex to NM, one of the richest companies in America, for $12.7 million. As a career real estate investor, I would never sell on those terms. But it’s a buyer’s dream.

NML is a terrific Milwaukee employer but does not deserve this kind of taxpayer subsidy. The City of Milwaukee already granted the corporation $73 million in tax credits to rebuild its headquarters. 

Urge your county supervisors to vote “no” on this pending sale (it’s easy to contact them online). Yes, it’s the season of giving, but we need not give away an irreplaceable community asset. Only a lease or conservancy arrangement will preserve this inherited gem for future generations.

Pat Small, a longtime landlord, believes in vigorously protecting public assets, such as parks, for the common good.

Gay bathhouses nationwide face uncertain future

Gay bathhouses that once remained in the shadows to stay in business are now seeking attention to keep their doors open.

Some are doing aggressive online advertising and community outreach. Others tout their upscale amenities like plush towels and marble baths. A bathhouse in Ohio has even added hotel rooms and a nightclub.

Gone are the days when bathhouses drew crowds just by offering a discreet place for gays to meet, share saunas and, often, have sex.

“The acceptance of gays has changed the whole world. It’s taken away the need to sneak into back-alley places,” said Dennis Holding, 75, who owns a Miami-based bathhouse.

In the heyday of bathhouses in the late 1970s, there were nearly 200 gay bathhouses in cities across the United States, but by 1990, the total had dropped to approximately 90, according to Damron, the publisher of an annual gay travel guide. In the last decade, bathhouses, including ones in San Diego, Syracuse, Seattle and San Antonio, have shut down and the total nationwide is less than 70. Most patrons are older.

Hollywood Spa – one of the largest bathhouses in Los Angeles, a city regarded as the country’s bathhouse capital – closed in April. Owner Peter D. Sykes said fewer customers and rising rent put an end to four decades in business.

“Bathhouses were like dirty bookstores and parks: a venue to meet people,” said Sykes, who still owns the smaller North Hollywood Spa. “Today, you can go to the supermarket.”

Bathhouses date to the Roman Empire. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, American bathhouses were built in many cities to maintain public hygiene among poor and immigrant communities. Chicago and Manhattan each had about 20 public bathhouses.

But the need for public places to wash up declined and by the 1950s and ’60s, bathhouses largely had become rendezvous spots for gays, prompting occasional raids because sodomy was still criminalized.

Privately run, gay-owned bathhouses proliferated in the 1970s, offering a haven for gay and bisexual men to meet. Clubs like New York City’s Continental bathhouse and Los Angeles’ 8709 Club saw a steady stream of patrons.

Each venue was operated like a speakeasy: a nondescript building often located in the urban fringe. In-house entertainment was common, from DJs to live performers. Bette Midler even launched her career from the stage of the Continental.

Amid the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s, bathhouses were vilified for enabling promiscuity and helping spread the disease, and many either closed voluntarily or by legal pressure. Those that remained were stigmatized, and now many younger gays see them as anachronisms.

“The younger generation’s main fear is that it’s some dark, seedy place,” said T.J. Nibbio, the executive director of the North American Bathhouse Association. NABA formed two years ago for bathhouse owners to pool best practices for marketing and operations.

To attract younger patrons, some bathhouses offer steep discounts, cutting admission by as much as 60 percent. At the three-story Midtowne Spa in downtown Los Angeles, 18- to 20-year-olds get in for $5 any time. On Tuesdays, Los Angeles’ Melrose Spa lets those 18 to 25 in for free, a deal that brought 22-year-old Brett Sparks on a recent midweek visit.

“You’re either hooking up online or you are here, or you go to bars in West Hollywood, get drunk and hook up,” said Sparks, acknowledging that although the bathhouse crowd skews older, it’s not as risky as going home with a stranger. “Here it’s a safer environment – there’s condoms and other protection.”

The CEO of Ohio-based Flex Spas, Todd Saporito, has positioned his bathhouse chain as a pillar of the gay community. Saporito uses the chain’s Cleveland-based flagship spa, whose 50,000 square feet include luxury hotel rooms and a nightclub, to run the city’s annual pride parade and this year’s Gay Games, an international LGBT athletic competition.

Flex Spas also has sponsored the White Party, an annual electronic music festival in Palm Springs, and partnered with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, part of an effort to frame the bathhouse as an opportunity for preventing risky behavior.

Flex Spas has had mixed success over the past few years. Its location in Atlanta has seen “exponential” growth, but clubs in New Orleans and Columbus, Ohio, have closed, Saporito said.

Saporito said more progressive views on homosexuality aren’t evenly spread across the country, underscoring the need for modern bathhouses in some areas. Still, he takes nothing for granted, regardless of the location.

“Bathhouses at some level will go extinct if you don’t offer something more than a towel,” Saporito said.

Judge approves official name change for Chelsea Manning

At a hearing on April 24, Leavenworth County District Judge David King granted a petition to allow WikiLeaks whistleblower Pvt. Manning to legally change her name from “Bradley Edward Manning” to “Chelsea Elizabeth Manning.”

Manning issued a public response:

Today is an exciting day. A judge in the state of Kansas has officially ordered my name to be changed from “Bradley Edward Manning” to “Chelsea Elizabeth Manning.” I’ve been working for months for this change, and waiting for years.

It’s worth noting that in both mail and in-person, I’ve often been asked, “Why are you changing your name?” The answer couldn’t be simpler: because it’s a far better, richer, and more honest reflection of who I am and always have been –a woman named Chelsea.

But there is another question I’ve been asked nearly as much, “why are you making this request of the Leavenworth district court?” This is a more complicated question, but the short answer is simple: because I have to.

Unfortunately, the trans* community faces three major obstacles to living a normal life in America: identity documentation, gender segregated institutions, and access to healthcare. And I’ve only just jumped through the first one of these hurdles.

It’s the most banal things –such as showing an ID card, going to the bathroom, and receiving trans-related healthcare –that in our current society keep us from having the means to live better, more productive, and safer lives. Unfortunately, there are many laws and procedures that often don’t consider trans* people, or even outright prevent them from doing the sort of simple day-to-day things that others take for granted.

Now, I am waiting on the military to assist me in accessing healthcare. In August, I requested that the military provide me with a treatment plan consistent with the recognized professional standards of care for trans health. They quickly evaluated me and informed me that they came up with a proposed treatment plan. However, I have not seen yet seen their treatment plan, and in over eight months, I have not received any response as to whether the plan will be approved or disapproved, or whether it follows the guidelines of qualified health professionals.

I’m optimistic that things can –and certainly will –change for the better.  There are so many people in America today that are willing and open to discuss trans-related issues. Hopefully today’s name change, while so meaningful to me personally, can also raise awareness of the fact that we trans* people exist everywhere in America today, and that we have must jump through hurdles every day just for being who we are. If I’m successful in obtaining access to trans healthcare, it will not only be something I have wanted for a long time myself, but it will also open the door for many people, both inside and outside the military, to request the right to live more open, fulfilled lives.

Thank you,

Chelsea Manning

12 states still ban sodomy a decade after ruling

A dozen states still have anti-sodomy laws on the books 10 years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled they are unconstitutional.

One such state is Louisiana, where gay rights groups contend police have used anti-sodomy laws to target gay men. But state lawmakers sided with religious and conservative groups in refusing to repeal the law last week.

Of 14 states that had anti-sodomy laws, only Montana and Virginia have repealed theirs since the Supreme Court ruling, said Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group.

Warbelow says that in addition to Louisiana, anti-sodomy laws remain on the books in Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.

The Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003 that it is unconstitutional to bar consensual sex between adults, calling it a violation of the 14th Amendment.

Last year, police in East Baton Rouge Parish, La., arrested gay men for attempted crimes against nature using the anti-sodomy law in a sting operation that caused a national outcry. The district attorney wouldn’t bring charges against the arrested men, saying the law was unenforceable.

This led Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, to file the bill that would repeal Louisiana’s anti-sodomy law, saying it would make the system fairer and more efficient.

“We don’t need inefficient laws on the books,” she said.

Her fellow representatives, however, disagreed and voted 66-27 on April 15 to keep the law in place.

Gene Mills, president of the conservative Louisiana Family Forum, said he was not surprised the bill failed considering the state’s culture.

“It’s not a Louisiana value,” he said of the repeal.

Others argue Louisiana lawmakers are going against public opinion and sending out a message that gay people are unwelcome in the state.

“It just shows how out of touch Louisiana representatives are,” said Patrick Paschall, senior policy counsel for public policy and government affairs at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Terry Young Jr., a 27-year-old gay man, said he cannot understand why Louisiana lawmakers would want to keep a law that was declared unconstitutional.

“It’s a reflection of the overall homophobia,” said Young, at the state Capitol last week.

While social conservatism plays a role in keeping unusable anti-sodomy laws on the books, Warbelow said lawmakers may also feel overwhelmed with having to rewrite statutes to accommodate concerns about aggravated sodomy.

Some anti-sodomy laws, including Louisiana’s, use one statute to prohibit both consensual sodomy and aggravated sodomy. Opponents of the repeal argued that it would eliminate protections from oral and anal sexual assault.

Warbelow said lawmakers could have addressed this concern by rewriting their sexual-assault statutes. While doing so might have been a daunting task, it would have been better than keeping the anti-sodomy laws and relying on courts to uphold the Supreme Court decision, she said.

On the Web

House Bill 12 can be found at HTTP://WWW.LEGIS.LA.GOV

Boy Scouts unveil proposed “nondiscrimination” resolution

The Boy Scouts of America executive committee on April 19 unveiled a proposed a resolution that would establish a nondiscrimination policy and end the national ban on gay Scouts.

However, the resolution would lead the Scouts to keep discriminatory practices in place for gay and lesbian parents, Scout leaders and job applicants.

The resolution proposes “no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone” and is national. Earlier this year, the BSA suggested that it might adopt a policy allowing individual Scouting organizations to decide whether to ban gay Scouts.

The resolution will be voted on by about 1,400 leaders of the Boy Scouts of America during the National Council Meeting set for May 22-24. 

Responding the BSA’s announcement, Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group, said, “It is good news that BSA leadership is open to ending the ban on gay Scouts, but this resolution must go further. Parents and adults of good moral character, regardless of sexual orientation, should be able to volunteer their time to mentor the next generation of Americans. What message does this resolution send to the gay Eagle Scout who, as an adult, wants to continue a lifetime of scouting by becoming a troop leader?”

HRC said the Scouts’ proposed resolution leaves unanswered the issue of employment discrimination. The BSA’s current application for employment explicitly states that gay people need not apply: “The Boy Scouts of America will not employ atheists, agnostics, known or avowed homosexuals.”

Jennifer Tyrrell, the lesbian mom who was ousted as the leader of her son’s Scouting group and an activist for changing the policy, also responded to the proposed resolution: “One year after sending a letter ousting me as my son’s leader, the Boy Scouts are once again forcing me to look my children in the eyes and tell them that our family isn’t good enough. My heart goes out to the young adults in Scouting who would be able to continue as scouts if this is passed, but then be thrown out when they reach the age to become leaders.”

At GLAAD, which has worked closely with Tyrrell and others seeking to overturn the BSA ban, VP Rich Ferraro said, “Yet again, the Boy Scouts of America has failed its members, corporate sponsors, donors and the millions of Americans who agree that the time to end discrimination in Scouting is now.

“By refusing to consider an end to its ban on gay and lesbian parents, the Boy Scouts have missed an opportunity to exercise leadership and usher the organization back to relevancy. We’re living in a culture where, until every young person and parent have the same opportunity to serve, the Boy Scouts will continue to see a decline in both membership and donations.”

Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and founder of the organization Scouts for Equality, called today’s news an important first step.

“This is a crucial step and Scouts for Equality will work to encourage members of the national council to vote to approve the resolution,” he said. “But we will continue to fight to push discrimination out of Scouting once and for all. For families like mine, the BSA’s ban on gay leaders will continue to prevent many great and loving parents from sharing the joys of Scouting with their children. But today, this is about the kids, and we are glad that the Boy Scouts of America is taking this historic step forward.”

On the Web… 

HRC has launched a petition and is asking its supporters to encourage local Scouting groups to support a policy that prohibits discrimination against both gay Scouts and gay adults who seek to work for the organization or serve as volunteers.

The petition is at www.hrc.org/BSA.

Audit finds faults with Wisconsin’s job-creation agency

Poor record keeping, a lack of basic accounting controls and high staff turnover all contributed to problems in the first year of Wisconsin’s premiere job-creation agency, according to an independent audit released this week.

The semi-private Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. was created in July 2011 by Gov. Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans to help boost the state’s job creation efforts. Walker promised during his 2010 campaign to create 250,000 new jobs, and the WEDC – with an $81 million annual budget – was the entity charged with spurring economic development.

But it has been beset with a series of high-profile missteps and departures of top officials. 

One of its board members and frequent critic, Democratic Rep. Peter Barca, told a state Senate committee that if problems have not been fixed within a year, WEDC should be dismantled.

“WEDC needs to be on a short leash,” he told the Democratic-controlled Senate committee, which is looking at organizational changes to the agency.

His testimony came about an hour before the release of an audit by Schneck SC that highlighted several reasons for WEDC’s problems, including a lack of basic internal accounting controls over tracking $56 million in loans. Borrowers have fallen behind on payments on loans that are now worth more than $12 million.

The audit found that loan activity was recorded in a separate software system to monitor collections and balances of individual loans. However, the system was not routinely compared to loan disbursements and payments, and loan agreements did not always contain approved staff or performance reviews, according to the audit.

Interim WEDC head Reed Hall told the Senate committee that steps were being taken to improve operations. He has repeatedly acknowledged that mistakes were made in the startup of the WEDC and changes were necessary.

In its response to the audit, the WEDC detailed procedural and internal changes that were being made to better track the loans and fix other problems noted, such as improper accounting journal entries.

Ironically, WEDC said it was turning to practices of the Commerce Department – which it replaced on the premise that it was an ineffective agency – for guidelines on how to update its loan policy.

The audit also said the departure of many Commerce employees at the time of the transition played a significant role in the lack of accurate financial transactions and internal controls. Financial transactions were either not recorded or were recorded improperly throughout the year and not detected by WEDC employees, the audit said.

There has also been turnover at the top of the WEDC.

The initial head of the agency, former Green Bay Mayor Paul Jadin, resigned at the end of October, as did WEDC’s chief financial officer. Hall, the former executive director of the Marshfield Clinic, has agreed to serve as interim chief executive officer until a permanent replacement is found.

Barca, who is Democratic leader in the Assembly, said high turnover in leadership of the state’s economic development efforts was one of the things that WEDC was designed to stop. He cited that, and other missteps by WEDC as evidence that it has largely failed to meet its goals and its progress needs to be closely watched.

Barca called WEDC a “very sad commentary on our goal to operate like a well-run business. Unfortunately it’s done anything but that.”

WEDC also has run into problems with federal officials who recently raised concerns that the agency spent nearly $10 million without legal authority for eight months. And this summer, the state had to suspend and then restart bidding on a state contract after the WEDC offered one bidder, Skyward of Stevens Point, tax credits if it won the contract. 

The audit by Schenck was initiated by WEDC, along with another outside review by Financial Institution Products Corp., a subsidiary of the Wisconsin Bankers Association. The findings of both reviews were to be discussed at WEDC’s board meeting on Tuesday in Eau Claire.