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September 4, 2015

Walker appoints new chief executive for WEDC

Mark Hogan

Mark Hogan

Governor Scott Walker has announced the appointment of a new CEO for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

Walker named Mark Hogan to serve as the new head of the job creation agency. He’ll replace outgoing WEDC Secretary/CEO Reed Hall, who plans to retire near the end of the month.

Hogan spent almost four decades with M&I Bank, before he retired in 2010 from his role as the executive vice president and chief credit officer. He has served as a senior advisor to BMO Harris Bank since 2011, and has also been the chairman of the board for the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority since March of this year.

In a statement, Hogan said he is honored by the opportunity and pledged to continue working with Wisconsin business leaders to help them grow and create more jobs.

Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha), who sits on the WEDC board, said he was glad to see Hogan has experience in the private and financial sectors. However, he also voiced disappointment that the he was selected without any discussion by the board when it met last week.

Barca also called it “curious” that Walker selected a major campaign donor to fill the position. State campaign finance records show Hogan has donated over $24,000 to Walker’s campaigns since 2005, while he also donated $10,000 this year to a super PAC that has been supporting the governor’s presidential run.

Walker ties rise in anti-police rhetoric to President Obama

Gov. Scott Walker in Iowa. (Photo: Radio Iowa)

Gov. Scott Walker in Iowa. (Photo: Radio Iowa)

Governor Scott Walker is putting some of the blame on President Obama for a recent string of violent attacks on police officers.

In a column for the conservative Web site Hot Air, the GOP White House hopeful called Obama a “Divider-in-Chief,” and said we’ve seen a rise in “anti-police rhetoric” in his nearly seven years in office. In Walker’s words, “We’ve seen racial tensions worsen, and a tendency to use law enforcement as a scapegoat.”

Walker argued that shift in attitudes has “created a culture in which we all too often see demonstrations and chants where people describe police as “pigs” and call for them to be “fried like bacon.” This inflammatory and disgusting rhetoric has real consequences for the safety of officers who put their lives on the line for us and hampers their ability to serve the communities that need their help.”

Walker cited the ambush shooting of Texas Sheriff’s Deputy Darren Goforth last Friday, along with the death of Illinois police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz, who was killed by three men this week who are still on the run.

An analysis by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found gun-related deaths of police officers are actually down this year by 13-percent in the U.S., from the same time in 2014. Total police deaths are up 16 percent, possibly because traffic deaths of officers are up 36 percent. The figures come from the National Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Fund.

Busy end to summer travel season expected

File photo: WRN

File photo: WRN

The upcoming Labor Day holiday weekend will likely mark a busy end to the summer travel season.

The number of people hitting the road for the holiday is expected to be up just under two-percent this year, according to Nick Jarmusz with AAA-Wisconsin. Nationally, the auto club expects about 35 million people to take a trip of 50 miles or more during the upcoming weekend. In Wisconsin, the number is expected to be around 760,000 people.

Jarmusz said the number may have been higher, if not for the late date of the Labor Day holiday this year. If the holiday falls past the fifth of the month, Jarmusz said travel volumes typically fall a “little bit.”

Those traveling by car this weekend should enjoy some relief at the gas pump. Prices have been steadily falling in the past week, after a key refinery in Indiana reopened. Its partial closure in August caused a massive spike in gas prices across the region.

Lawmakers raise concerns about Great Lakes diversion

The Great Lakes

The Great Lakes

A request from Waukesha to take water from the Great Lakes has a broad group of lawmakers from across the region asking for a careful review of the plan.

State Representative Cory Mason is one of more than 70 officials from Great Lakes states who recently sent a letter to the Department of Natural Resources. They are asking the agency to address concerns about the plan, which include Waukesha’s request to divert up to 16 million gallons of water a day so it can provide water to other communities, releasing wastewater to the Root River, and what they argue is a lack of evidence that Waukesha has no other alternatives to meet its water needs.

Mason, a Racine Democrat, worries the plan does not meet the high standards set by the Great Lakes Compact. He notes Waukesha’s request is the first of its kind, and believes relaxing the rules too much could set a dangerous precedent when dealing with future requests. “It’s about making sure that those strong standards stay in place,” he says.

Waukesha is located in southeastern Wisconsin, just over a mile outside of the Great Lakes basin. City leaders argue they need a new source of water because of a massive drawdown of their existing supply. In a recent editorial, Mayor Shawn Reilly also voiced concerns about naturally occurring contaminants in their water supply and the damage its continued use could have on the environment. He also noted that an environmental analysis by the state Department of Natural Resources concluded that the request meets the requirements of the Compact.

Under the Compact, the governors of all Great Lakes states and Canadian officials would have to approve the diversion of water. Mason believes a full review of the plan is needed before that request is made. “It would behoove Waukesha and the Department of Natural Resources to make sure they get this right,” he argues.

Wisconsin lawmakers look to block federal funding for Planned Parenthood

File photo: WRN

File photo: WRN

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin could see its access to nearly $7.5 million in federal funding blocked, under a pair of bills receiving public hearings at the Capitol today.

Dozens of people have turned out to testify on the legislation, which includes changing the eligibility requirements for federal Title X funding in the state and capping reimbursement rates for medications. Republicans argue the measures are needed to prevent taxpayer dollars from being used to support organizations that provide abortions, while opponents of the bills claim they could reduce access to basic health care services for thousands of low-income women around the state.

State Sen. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield), a sponsor of the Title X proposal, testified that the program is intended to promote public health and provide access for low-income residents. “When they money is being used to actively terminate human life, it is in direct conflict with its intended use,” the Delafield Republican argued.

Democrats on the committee pointed out that some areas of the state may lack options that are comparable to Planned Parenthood’s clinics. Outside of the few locations in the state that provide abortions, most clinics offer reproductive health services and health care screenings. Rep. Deb Kolste (D-Janesville) said that those clinics are the only option available to many people, and she has “grave concerns that this (the bill) is going to greatly affect the ability of women to receive health care.”

Sponsors of the bill note that options, such as Wisconsin’s Well Women Program and the Department of Health Services, could help to offer those other options and that the bill keeps Planned Parenthood from being the sole recipient of Title X funds. Democrats countered that those options are far more limited though than Planned Parenthood’s offering.

The hearing was expected to run through much of the day on Wednesday.