July 12, 2012
neighbors and being involved in our community is of the utmost
importance. Some community events that might be of interest to you and
your family are listed below.
Description: Milwaukee’s popular French festival, and one of the nation’s largest French-themed celebrations, returns to the downtown area. The free, 4-day bash attracts over 250,000 visitors who can enjoy live music, an international marketplace, chef and wine demos, French and Cajun cuisine, a 5k run, and a signature 43-foot Eiffel Tower replica offering hourly light shows. The event is known for the impromptu street performers, roaming minstrels, and a variety of interactive and musical entertainment. CLICK HERE or call (414) 271-1416 for more information.
Cathedral Square Park (MAP)
520 E. Wells Street Milwaukee, WI 53202
South Shore Frolic
Date: Fri., July 13 through Sun., July 15
Location: Bay View
Stop by the 63rd annual South Shore Frolic. This 3-day festival will
feature a Friday fish fry, music all three days, a car show, an arts and
crafts show, free games for the kids on Saturday and Sunday, a Saturday
rib dinner, lots of other food choices, and fireworks every night.
CLICK HERE for more information.
South Shore Park (MAP)
Milwaukee, WI 53207
Location: Oak Creek
The annual Taste of Egypt festival features a variety of authentic
Egyptian foods and entertainment including games, free cooking
demonstrations, and cultural music throughout the weekend. You can also
participate in the all new "Stomp Out Hunger" run/walk.
CLICK HERE or call (414) 764-5944 for additional information.
Attend Milwaukee's longest-running lakefront ethnic festival. This event
boasts Italian cuisine, a parade, a cinema tent, gondola rides,
concerts, traditional dancers, and Sunday mass followed by a procession
and fireworks. Festa is open from 5 p.m. to Midnight on Thursday, 11
a.m. to Midnight on Friday, and 11:30 a.m. to Midnight on Saturday and
Sunday. Admission is $10 in advance or $13 at the gate.
CLICK HERE or call
Craft Beer Festival
Description: Join in celebrating Milwaukee's brewing heritage this summer. This Milwaukee beer festival will exclusively showcase the craft brews and breweries that continue to make Milwaukee famous. Samples of over 50 Milwaukee craft beers, including many special brews not regularly offered by the breweries, will be available. CLICK HERE for a list of participating breweries and more information.
Cathedral Square Park (MAP)
520 E. Wells Street Milwaukee, WI 53202
Croatian Fest 2012
Date: Sat., July 21 through Sun., July 22
Description: Join neighbors at this annual cultural event located at Croatian Park. This festival features food from the grill, live entertainment, a raffle, and vendors with items for sale. Stop by between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Saturday or between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. on Sunday. CLICK HERE for more information.
Croatian Park (MAP)
9100 S. 76th Street
Franklin, WI 53132
Location: South Milwaukee
Description: Attend South Milwaukee's annual week-long community festival that features fun events for the entire family. Neighbors can enjoy great food, outdoor activities, concerts and even a parade. Featured events during Heritage Days includes an ice cream social at St. Luke's, a spaghetti dinner at the firehouse, an evening on the avenue, and dinners with the local Lions Club. CLICK HERE for more information about these events.
Run for the Parks
Date: Tues., July 24 at 6:30 p.m.
Location: Bay View
Lace up your shoes and support your local parks by running in the 3rd
annual Run for the Parks. Registration can be done in advance online for
$25 or in person at the Humboldt Park Pavilion on the day of the run for
$35. Event participants are also invited to enjoy the weekly "Chill on
the Hill" concert in an exclusive VIP area with free refreshments
following the race.
CLICK HERE for more information or to register for the event.
3000 S. Howell Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53207
Date: Thurs., July 26 through Sun., July 29
Description: GermanFest features an extensive variety of traditional music, authentic food, a cultural village, children's activities, wiener dog races, and much more. The festival even boasts nightly fireworks. GermanFest will be open for visitors from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Thursday, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday, Noon to 11 p.m. on Saturday, and Noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $10 in advance or $13 at the door for adults, $7 for seniors over 60 and students with a valid ID, and free for children 12 and under. CLICK HERE or call (414) 273-3378 for additional GermanFest information.
A lot of changes are going on in the state and across the country. This week's newsletter will examine the efforts being done to improve the overall health and vitality of our state to build a better Wisconsin.
As usual, please feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns or opinions you may have about our community or our state.
Improving the Health of Our Economy
This past Tuesday, realizing that he lost the election and given the certainty of losing a frivolous lawsuit, former Senator Wanggaard acknowledged the will of the people by finally conceding to John Lehman. With this turn of events, one more hurdle to getting Wisconsin moving forward on job creation has been removed.
Tuesday, July 17 the Senate will meet to complete the transition of power. Also during this ceremonial session day, Senator Fred Risser will be made Senate President while Senator Tim Carpenter will be named Senate President Pro Tempore. In the meantime, I have been working with my democratic colleagues on restructuring the existing Senate committees. It is likely that committee assignments will be announced by Wednesday, July 18 at the latest. I look forward to holding public hearings and working with other legislators once the committees are announced to get Wisconsin moving forward on job creation and improving the health of our economy.
Affordable Care Act Upheld by Courts
With the Supreme Court ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act on June 28, 2012, our country is one step closer to ensuring all Americans have access to basic, affordable health care coverage. The Supreme Court's decision is expected to benefit our neighbors with low- to middle-class incomes who are not offered health care benefits through an employer, people with pre-existing medical conditions, and businesses that struggle to offer health benefits to their workers. Below is a list of just some of the changes our family, friends, and neighbors should expect to see as this legislation is implemented:
Most states are beginning to move forward with state-based reforms to better tailor the Affordable Care Act to meet their needs. Many of these changes will have to be solidified by states in November 2012. While Governor Walker has publicly stated that he does not plan to move forward in implementing the Affordable Care Act, Wisconsin's Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has verified that our state will need to follow the timeline set forth in the Affordable Care Act.
This positive and necessary step forward on health care coverage could not have come at a better time as health care costs continue to rise exponentially and families are negatively impacted by the stagnant economy. I will continue to keep you apprised of any updates on this important issue.
Replacing Failed Education Policies
Wisconsin received good news this past Friday on the education front when it was alerted that its request for waivers from certain provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act had been approved by the U.S. Department of Education. This recently approved waiver is an ambitious education reform package that will set higher expectations for students, educators, and schools with a clear focus on our graduates being college- and career-ready. It aims to do this by:
The waiver was developed by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction with the help and input of educators, parents, and elected officials. Additional feedback was also obtained by the Department when they posted a draft waiver proposal, prior to submission to the federal government, in order to receive comments from the public. Below is a list of just some of the specific provisions and goals included in the waiver:
Implementing the provisions discussed in this waiver, rather than continuing to follow the failed No Child Left Behind policies, will be a positive step forward for our children and schools. However, there is one measure that many of us could not help but notice was missing--language to increase accountability and transparency for all schools that receive taxpayer dollars, including public, charter, and voucher schools.
Governor Walker and Republican legislators played lip service to this idea many times this session when they promised to hold all schools, whether they are public schools or private schools that accept voucher funds, to the same standards. But in the end, voucher special interest lobbyists managed to change the course of Wisconsin's schools and obtain additional giveaways by convincing Republican legislators to create greater accountability and transparency measures in our public schools, while excluding voucher schools from those very same requirements.
One example of this was the passage of
Senate Bill 461. This legislation was supposed to increase our
children's reading test scores, forge more effective educators, and
enhance school accountability. However, when everything was said and
done, voucher schools were exempted from following the provisions
recommended by the School Accountability Task Force. Additionally, after
the passage of Senate Bill 461, Republican legislators said that such
accountability and transparency measures would simply be placed in the
No Child Left Behind Waiver. As we can see, this provision was once
again conveniently forgotten and will now require legislative approval
in order to be implemented. Wisconsin's children, parents, and taxpayers
cannot afford to wait any longer for our state to hold all
taxpayer-funded schools to the same standards.
The Role of Our Environment on Our Economy
Global climate change is happening. The overwhelming scientific evidence simply cannot be ignored. This past week our community joined others across the country that were struck by a massive heat wave.
According to the National Weather
Service, the Milwaukee area's triple- digit temperatures have earned this
heat wave the title of one of the four hottest periods ever recorded for southern
Wisconsin. High temperatures were present throughout the 4th of
July holiday as thermometers in Milwaukee reached 102 degrees,
shattering previous records for that day. Additionally, according to the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the period from January
through June was the warmest first half of any year on record for the
contiguous United States. During this time, the average temperature was
52.9 degrees Fahrenheit, or 4.5 degrees above average.
The extreme heat led cities across the state, including those in the Milwaukee area, to open cooling centers available to neighbors that did not have access to air conditioning. These cooling centers undoubtedly helped hundreds escape the brutal temperatures, while preventing many heat-related health issues. Unfortunately, despite the efforts of local communities and countless warnings, there were still 46 immediate heat-related deaths across the country, with deaths in Illinois, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The heat wave also sent dozens of others to the hospital with heat-related illnesses, including heat stroke. Upon further examination, this number will likely increase. In addition to the human toll, the heat may have also negatively impacted Wisconsin's wildlife as the temperature in the southern portion of Lake Michigan reached 80 degrees, which has only happened six times in the past 31 years and never this early in the year.
This recent heat wave is not the only time abnormally warm temperatures have had devastating consequences on our state. An overly warm winter this year caused many trees and vines to flower early, but frost conditions in April killed many fruit buds. Agriculture officials estimate statewide losses could be as high as 80%, especially for Wisconsin's apple, cherry, and maple syrup crops. As a result, Wisconsin has requested federal aid for disaster relief. The requests, if successful, could help Wisconsin farmers qualify for federal assistance to help them overcome this crippling financial hit.
These usual heat waves have given us a grim reminder as to the tremendous impact severe climate change can have on our state’s economy, our environment, and our neighbors. The drastic consequences of this heat wave should encourage all of us to do what we can to promote environmentally friendly initiatives and policies that aim to protect and nurture our natural resources. As Wisconsin recovers from this extreme weather, it is important that we learn from the lessons provided by nature and move forward.
To work towards this goal, I co-hosted an information session today that called for scientists and legislators to take action to reduce the risk of climate change, heat waves, and drought. I look forward to participating in more of these events in the future as we look for solutions to this looming problem.
I often have neighbors contact me looking for my perspective on various local and state issues. I very much appreciate our neighbors' questions and want to dedicate a portion of my newsletter to common questions that I hear to maintain an open dialogue. Please continue reading for this week's question.
Q: I've heard that Governor Walker is planning to completely change the Wisconsin Retirement System. Is this true?
A: Rumors have been floating around since Governor Walker was elected that he intends to do a complete overhaul of the Wisconsin Retirement System. However, it seems that if the governor had been planning to convert Wisconsin's Retirement System to a 401(k) style plan, he will hopefully switch course in light of results of a recent study.
A report released on July 2, 2012, confirmed what my colleagues and I have been saying all along--Wisconsin's pension system consistently ranks as one of the best in the country for both taxpayers and retirees. The report, authored by the Department of Employee Trust Funds and the Department of Administration, was mandated in the most recent state budget at the request of Governor Walker and Joint Finance Co-Chairs Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. Robin Vos. The departments charged with conducting the report were required to review whether it should allow employees to opt into a defined contribution plan instead of participating in the existing defined benefit plan. It was also required to look at whether employees should be allowed to opt out of paying their share toward the pension and rely only on the amount taxpayers put into it on their behalf. The report recommended against both ideas, saying doing either would weaken the overall fund costing retirees and taxpayers money.
The Wisconsin Retirement System has several key features that have enabled it to fare better than the 401(k) options in other states. First, it is a defined benefit plan, which helps to protect employees from losing all their hard-earned retirement funds if there is a collapse in the financial markets. Additionally, something unique to Wisconsin's Retirement System is that if the fund does well, payments to retirees can go up, but when investments suffer losses, payments to retirees can decline. This protection helps to keep the Wisconsin Retirement System self-funded.
This report on the Wisconsin Retirement System supports other recent studies about retirement systems in states across the country. The Pew Center on the States, for example, released a study last month finding that only Wisconsin out of the 50 states has enough money set aside to meet its existing obligations to pay the pensions that are owed to public employees. Other states will likely be forced to ask for more money from taxpayers or increase their state deficit. Wisconsin got these high marks for its pension funding for fiscal year 2010 before Walker and Republican lawmakers required public employees to contribute more for their pension and work longer hours and more years to qualify.
Did You Know...?
Many of us are aware that Wisconsin is known as the "Dairy State." Our state's license plate even says "America's Dairyland" on it. But did you know that in 1987, Wisconsin also adopted milk as the state beverage to further codify that Wisconsin is the leading milk-producing state and this calcium-rich beverage plays a vital role in our state's economy?
Poll Workers Needed in Milwaukee
The City of Milwaukee Election commission is seeking the help of hardworking neighbors with a dedication to democracy who are interested in serving as chief inspectors and poll workers. Bilingual workers are especially in demand. Having more trained and experience workers at the polls will help ensure that our elections run smoothly.
Olympics Games Coming Soon
Every two years, the world comes together to for the Olympic Games where nation's compete to determine which athletes are the best of the best. The Games also aim to promote its three core values of friendship, excellence, and respect between nations. London, England is set to host the next Olympic Games which will boast 205 nations from all over the world taking part in 300 different athletic events. This highly-anticipated event will open on July 27 and run for two weeks.
This year, the Olympics have also adopted a new goal of hosting the world’s first truly sustainable Olympic Games. Working in partnership with BioRegional and the World Wildlife Fund, London has developed "Towards a One Planet 2012" a sustainable Games guided by the principle that the world should live within its means. All of the planning and building in preparation for the Games has taken place with this idea in mind. The venues, transportation, food, and waste disposal services have all been designed to maximize sustainability. With over 4 billion people watching and over 200 countries participating, the Olympic Games offer a tremendous opportunity to spread awareness and serve as a mechanism change.
Our country has sent athletes to every celebration of the modern Olympic Games, except the 1980 Summer Olympics, which it boycotted. Thomas Burke was the first athlete to represent the United States at the Olympics. He took first place in both the 100 meters and the 400 meters of the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. The United States has a historically strong showing at the Summer Olympics, having won more gold and overall medals than any other country in the Summer Games. Several athletes with Wisconsin ties are set to represent us in the 2012 Summer Games, so be sure to cheer on pay close attention to these individuals:
Despite the many physical, spiritual, and cultural differences of the participating nations, the Olympics bring all of us together through our shared appreciation of competition and sportsmanship. Further the excitement of the Olympic Games are seemingly able to capture the attention of the entire world. Hopefully, this year's London Games will be no different.
Summer Activities in Our Community
Our community offers a wide variety of summer activities for families, children, and adults alike. Below are just a few activities that you can take part in this summer.
Milwaukee County Free Days
Click here for more information.
Update on IDs for Voters
March 2012, 2011 Wisconsin Act 23 was ruled unconstitutional and two
separate Circuit Court judges ordered government officials to halt
requiring voters to present a valid photo ID when casting their vote. It
was stated in the ruling that 2011 Wisconsin Act 23 carried a severe
risk of disenfranchising voters and was suspended based on the vital
public interest at stake in allowing full participation in elections.
Neighborhood Survey Available
I created a survey asking about various issues that are
important to our community and our state. The input of neighbors is
I look forward to hearing your views on these important issues!
|To Unsubscribe from the weekly Larson Report Newsletter, please reply to this email with the word "Unsubscribe."|