LARSON REPORT

WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

Click here to view this Email in your Web browser

 

November 1, 2012

     

CONTACT ME


Please feel free to contact me with any concerns or opinions you might have.

Office Phone: (608) 266-7505
Toll-free Phone: (800) 361-5487

Email:
Sen.Larson@legis.wi.gov

 

Mailing Address:

State Capitol
P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707

 

Web Site:

SenatorChrisLarson.com

 

Find Me on Facebook and Twitter:

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMMUNITY EVENTS
 

Supporting our 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. 

 


The Alchemist Eye
Date: Now through Sat., November 3
Location: Milwaukee

Description: Watch this theater production done in the style of classic Edgar Allen Poe tales. This twisted story reveals the truth behind Hopkins Manor, as well as the dark powers of the Alchemist Eye. CLICK HERE or call (414) 426-4169 for more information.

The Alchemist Theatre & Lounge (MAP)
2569 S. Kinnickinnic Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53207
 

 

Grete Marks: When Modern Was Degenerate
Date: Now through Tues., January 1

Location: Milwaukee
Description: This exhibit presents a narrative of the artist Margarete Heymann-Löbenstein-Marks (German, 1899–1990) through approximately 40 artworks. The event was developed by the Milwaukee Art Museum with the cooperation of her daughter, Dr. Frances Marks. This is the first American exhibition to explore Grete Marks’ story, an emotionally tragic tale of a forward-looking artist who was crushed by the brutal circumstances of her political time. The modern ceramics created within Grete’s Haël Werkstätten factory (Marwitz, 1923–33), with their machine precision, loose brushwork, and attention to vernacular German traditions, show the Bauhaus teaching’s thorough influence on the artist. In 1934, the German Nazi government forcibly purchased the Haël factory, and Grete’s artwork was publically derided as “degenerate.” Grete’s later ceramics made in England, arguably lacking the artistic vision of the earlier work, suggest that the magic and the promise of the bold young German artist was destroyed, like so much else, in World War II. Admission is $15 Adults for adults and $12 for students, seniors, and military members. Children 12 and under receive free admission. CLICK HERE for more information.
 

Milwaukee Art Museum (MAP)

700 N. Art Museum Drive

Milwaukee, WI 53202
 

 

Family Free Day at the Zoo

Date: Sat., November 3 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Home to more than 2,275 animals with more than 330 species represented, the Milwaukee County Zoo is one of Milwaukee’s finest attractions. All visitors will receive free admission to the Milwaukee County Zoo on this day, although the parking fee remains in effect. CLICK HERE for more information.


Milwaukee County Zoo (MAP)
10001 W. Blue Mound Road
Milwaukee, WI 53226

 

 

Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival
Date: Thurs., November 15 through Mon., December 31

Location: Milwaukee

Description: This six-week festival will spread holiday spirit with animated light displays in Cathedral Square Park, Pere Marquette Park, and Zeidler Union Square, as well as decorated streetscapes and hundreds of events. Marvel at the spectacular sights aboard the convenient Jingle Bus, a Coach USA bus that takes visitors on a 40-minute tour. For $1 per person, visitors can relish in the holiday spirit while admiring a festive panorama. The tour is narrated by Milwaukee Downtown’s Public Service Ambassadors who will acquaint riders with key attractions and landmarks. This event will kick-off at 5:45 p.m. on November 15 with a spectacular fireworks display and illumination of the lights. Free cocoa and sub sandwiches will also be provided. Featured guests including the Holy Redeemer Gospel Choir, Milwaukee Ballet, and Santa Claus. CLICK HERE for more information.



Milwaukee's 86th Annual Holiday Parade
Date: Sat., November 17 from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Location: Milwaukee

Description: Milwaukee's 86th Annual Milwaukee Holiday Parade, brought to you by Johnson Controls, will feature approximately 100 units and take about one hour. Volunteers will also be walking the route to collect non-perishable food items on behalf of Hunger Taskforce.

Park for only $3 at the Shops of Grand Avenue, and get Downtown to help welcome Santa. CLICK HERE for more information, including a map of the route.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Friend,

 

This week, my colleagues and I fought to bring greater accountability and transparency to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. Continue reading for more information.


Sincerely,

Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7

 

 

 

Increasing Accountability, Transparency in WEDC

In a public hearing on October 17, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, of which I am a member, brought to light some major concerns with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). This past week my colleagues and I submitted a letter to Reed Hall, the interim Secretary and CEO of WEDC, that shares the concerns expressed by the committee and seeks immediate corrective action by WEDC. Continue reading for more information about WEDC and what was discussed in the letter submitted to them.

 

Click here or on the media player below to view the public hearing conducted by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee on October 17.

 

 

Click here to view a copy of the audit on Wisconsin's Economic Development Programs.


Wisconsin is no stranger to change and innovation. For example, when the Board of Regents restructured University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics from a full state program to an authority, UW had very detailed implementation plans. Unfortunately, the public-private entity, WEDC, was hastily created in January 2011 by Governor Walker to replace the Wisconsin Department of Commerce. We repeatedly recommended that WEDC, like UW, have a business and transition plan, but in their rush to dissolve a public agency, no such plan was recommended. While Democratic legislators offered extensive suggestions to improve accountability and transparency within WEDC, most of these protections and safeguards were rejected by Governor Walker and his fellow Republicans.


WEDC is currently tasked with administering many of the state’s economic development programs, including grants, loans, bonding authorization, and tax incentives. Although it has been given great authority over our tax dollars, it lacks the necessary accountability and transparency measures that should accompany such obligation.

As an elected official, I share the responsibility for ensuring taxpayer dollars are properly safeguarded and wisely invested. Below is a list of just some of the problems that occurred within WEDC recently as a result of defective policies and lax procedures employed by the public-private entity:

  • June – During the bidding process for a statewide computer system, the Wisconsin Department of Administration found out that WEDC pre-empted the process by making a “soft offer” for tax credits to a business. Upon discovery, the Department of Administration had to suspend the bidding process and WEDC had to rescind the tax credit offer as it violated what should be a fair and competitive process.

  • July – The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that WEDC was projected to spend $14 million more than it was allotted, creating a deficit in the agency.

  • August – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development criticized WEDC for not following federal laws and state policies when it gave out $9.6 million in grants. The situation intensified as WEDC’s board and the public were not told about the condemning letter causing one of the board members to threaten resignation.

  • September – After the Governor appointed his political aide Ryan Murray, a Republican political operative with no private sector or economic development experience, as Deputy Secretary and COO, WEDC’s CEO and Secretary Paul Jadin announced his resignation.

  • October – The media reported, following a Joint Legislative Audit Committee hearing, that WEDC had lost track of $69.3 million in loans, at least $9 million of which were overdue. Because of the hasty transformation from the Department of Commerce to WEDC, no one was assigned to track this huge loan portfolio.

Currently, WEDC is being audited by the Legislative Audit Bureau and an external auditor retained by WEDC, Schenk. It was in preparing documents for the external auditor that the $69.3 million in non-tracked loans was discovered. At a recent WEDC board meeting, the COO said he expected these two audits would uncover additional problems at the agency.

The Joint Legislative Audit Committee intends to craft legislation addressing some of these problems and also fully expects a number of legislative initiatives will be introduced after the audits. But Wisconsin taxpayers cannot afford to wait until the next legislative session begins to address the many shortfalls that have become apparent within WEDC. In the meantime, those that signed onto the letter to WEDC requested that the following actions be taken immediately:

  • Prioritize economic development experience in addition to private sector background in the search for a new CEO. The problems with the bid process, HUD CDBG programs, the loan portfolio, and the revolving loan funds all stem from an unfamiliarity with public program requirements. Local economic development agencies should also be consulted during this search since they are on the ground implementing WEDC programs.

  • Set specific benchmarks for participants of economic development programs. This includes tracking the wage rate and number of jobs created or retained by businesses, local governments, or other organizations receiving WEDC grants, loans, or tax incentives. Make this information easily available on the Web site.

  • Track to what degree each job creation or retention program or tax policy is creating jobs in the most economically distressed areas of the state to monitor to what degree family-supporting jobs are being created in the areas most in need.

  • Remodel the existing Web site used to track Wisconsin’s economic programs. The Web site needs to be interactive, easy-to-find, and made prominent on the home page. It should include frequent updates and be easy for any Wisconsinite to understand by creating a format that makes sense. This will allow taxpayers to see how their dollars are being spent and if the investments being made are wise.

  • Be immediately forthcoming with a full accounting of past due loans and any other findings on the loan program.

  • Share the results of the internal Schenk audit with the board and public as soon it is completed.

  • Provide updates to WEDC board members in a timely manner on issues such as the HUD CDBG program, the overlooked $69.3 million in loans, the Revolving Loan Funds, etc.

The problems that have plagued WEDC since its inception—instability, lack of oversight and accountability, and putting partisanship before economic development—go against the reason we created WEDC in the first place. I hope that the letter submitted to WEDC will encourage them to work hard to regain the public's trust and strive to improve the agency on behalf of Wisconsin's taxpayers.


 

 

Another Tragedy in Our Community

As you may know, on Sunday, October 21 a gunman entered Azana Salon & Spa in Brookfield and opened fire killing three people and wounding four others before turning the gun on himself. According to police and news reports, the gunman likely committed this heinous crime to retaliate against his wife, a salon employee, who had recently filed a restraining order out of fear for her safety. It has also been reported that the assailant's wife and others that were killed lost their lives trying to protect neighbors in the salon from the gunman.

 

My thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends, and neighbors of these brave women. This senseless tragedy has left our community, which is still reeling from the recent Sikh Temple of Wisconsin shooting, heartbroken.

Domestic violence and abuse can happen to anyone, yet the problem is often overlooked, excused, or even denied. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in four women and one in 13 men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.

 

I hope that the Legislature and domestic violence advocates can do more to bring awareness to this prevalent issue in hopes of preventing such unnecessary acts of violence, like what occurred in Brookfield, from happening in the future.

 

 

 

Honoring Our Nation's Veterans

Join in honoring the brave men and women that fought for our country to preserve our nation's freedom this Veterans Day, November 11. Veterans Day, or Armistice Day, falls on the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice ending World War I. This federal holiday seek to honor the service of all U.S. military veterans.
 

The state of Wisconsin has also declared the 7-day period that ends on November 11 as “Veterans Recognition Week” and the week of November 11 through November 17 as “Hire a Veteran Week.” With these, Wisconsin demonstrates that it recognizes the contribution veterans have made to our society and that we should continue to support them the same way that they have protected us. While the Veterans Day National Ceremony is held on November 11 at Arlington National Cemetery, there are also several community events taking place nearby during the Veterans Day weekend where you can honor our neighbors who served. You can find information for these events listed below:

 

City of Oak Creek Veterans Day Celebration
Saturday, November 10 from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Remember those that served by stopping by the Oak Creek Veterans Memorial, located at the intersection 6th and Rawson, on Saturday, November 10 from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.
 

Veterans Day Parade in Milwaukee
Saturday, November 10 at 11 a.m.
The 49th Annual Milwaukee Veterans Day Parade & Day of Honor will take place on Saturday, November 10 at 11 a.m. The parade route and cross streets will close at approximately 10:45 a.m. The parade lasts between and hour and an hour and a half. The parade route will begin at 4th and Kilbourn and end at the War Memorial in Veterans Park.

 

Remembering Veterans Day in St. Francis
Saturday, November 10 at 1:30 p.m.

Join seniors at the Howard Village Retirement Community in honoring the armed forces and our community's veterans with a Veterans Day Ceremony on Saturday, November 10. The community is welcome. Please RSVP by calling (414) 489-1400.


Howard Village Retirement Community
2500 E. Howard Avenue
St. Francis, WI 53235

 

Milwaukee Veterans Day Memorial Program

Sunday, November 11 at 10:30 a.m.

Milwaukee's annual Veterans Day memorial program will start at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, November 11 in MacArthur Square. This event is hosted by Milwaukee Police Post 415 and Milwaukee Fire Fighters Post 426 of the American Legion. Wayne Jensen, commander of Wisconsin's American Legion, will speak. The program will also include a rifle salute and the playing of "Taps."

South Milwaukee Honors Community Veterans

Sunday, November 11 at 10:45 a.m.

The South Milwaukee Veterans Day Program will be held on Sunday, November 11. The local veterans groups will step-off around 10:45 a.m. at American Legion Post 27 located at 920 Monroe Avenue. The parade will march to the South Milwaukee Veterans Memorial just north of 10th and Rawson where, weather permitting, a short ceremony will be held there. If it is raining or snowing, the program will be held indoors at the Legion Post. Afterwards, a luncheon will be held back at the American Legion's Post headquarters. Call (414) 764-1827 for more information.

Cudahy High School's Annual Veterans Day Assembly

Monday, November 12 at 9 a.m.
Cudahy High School's annual Veteran's Day assembly has been described as "one of the best in Southeastern Wisconsin." It has even been recognized in the past with both newspaper and television coverage. The assembly will take place on Monday, November 12 at 9 a.m. in the school's field house located at 4950 South Lake Drive in Cudahy. Members of the community are invited to attend. A moving, dramatic reading of the Cudahy Gold Star List--the names of all the community members who gave their lives in service to our country during World War I, World War II, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam, and Iraqi Freedom--is included in the list of featured events. The reading is enhanced by photos of the men on the Gold Star List projected on a giant ten foot rear projection screen. If anyone knows of a veteran that would like to be included in this ceremony please contact Principal Christopher Haeger or Cindy Smith, his secretary, at (414) 294-2700.

Cudahy High School
4950 S. Lake Drive
Cudahy, WI 53110
 


 

Oct. 25 Declared USS Gambier Bay Day

On October 25, 2012, the governor issued a proclamation declaring October 25 USS Gambier Bay Day. The USS Gambier Bay was a Navy escort carrier used in the Pacific Front during WWII. On October 25, 1944, 137 men lost their lives when the USS Gambier Bay sank after being attacked by enemy fire.

 

A reunion honoring those that lost their lives and those that survived the attack on the USS Gambier Bay is held annually. The most recent reunion, presented by the USS Gambier Bay VC-10 Association, marked the 68th anniversary of the event and was attended by nine survivors. The survivors were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for their action in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines.

 

Click here for more information about the USS Gambier Bay and those that served aboard the vessel.

 

 

 

Ask Chris

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: The Wisconsin Department of Commerce used to maintain a public database tracking where taxpayer money was going and how effectively it was being used. Is this still being maintained by the new Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC)? I was having trouble locating such a Web site.

 

A: As you stated, the Department of Commerce did have a Web site dedicated to tracking where Wisconsin's economic development funds were going. It also posted results so that taxpayers could see if the companies, organizations, or local governments receiving these economic development funds were fulfilling the requirements set in their contracts, such as creating a specified number of jobs in the state. Providing this information to the public was a requirement of 2007 Wisconsin Act 125, which sought to bring greater accountability and transparency to government spending and investments.

 

Unfortunately, with Commerce being replaced by WEDC, this Web site has changed. Here are several problems I noticed with the Web page WEDC created to monitor Wisconsin's economic development programs.

  • It is nearly impossible to find this page on WEDC's Web site, as it is buried in their "About Me" section rather than made prominent on their home page. Click here to view the page where this information can be located.

  • It is not done in an easy-to-read format, but rather appears to be a set of PDF documents. Instead of a PDF, this information should be displayed in a more user-friendly and interactive HTML Web page.

  • The information is only updated annually. This time lag makes it nearly impossible for taxpayers or other government agencies to bring issues to WEDC's attention before they become big problems, like when the agency lost track of $69 million in loans. Instead, this page should be updated monthly or quarterly.

Another concern raised in a recent public hearing on WEDC in the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, of which I am a member, is the extent that legislation passed by Governor Walker and Republican legislators last session undermines the accountability and transparency measures laid out in 2007 Wisconsin Act 125. As a result of the passage of 2011 Wisconsin Act 7, WEDC is no longer statutorily required to track quantifiable performance measures, the amount of tax benefits allocated, and the benefit recipients. While WEDC has said they will continue to monitor and track this data, I am concerned that without specifying this in Wisconsin statutes, taxpayers will often be left in the dark on who WEDC is giving money to and whether these investments are wise.

 

There were clearly a number of accountability and transparency concerns regarding Wisconsin's economic development programs. I look forward to hearing further updates from WEDC on the measures they are taking to remedy these concerns. I also look forward to crafting joint legislation with the other members of the Audit Committee to address oversights made by the Legislature when replacing Commerce with this public-private entity, including ensuring the public have adequate access to online, up-to-date information about our economic development programs.

 

 

Did You Know...?

Still have not registered for the upcoming election on Tuesday, November 6? Do not worry just yet. Did you know that Wisconsin allows voters to register at the polls on Election Day? Remember that everyone needs to be registered in order to vote in Wisconsin.

 

Click here to check if you are registered to vote at your current address.

 

Currently, nine states and the District of Columbia have some form of same day voter registration. Providing this option to voters has been crucial to increasing voter turnout. A study done by George Mason University examining voter turnout, ranked Wisconsin among the top five states with the highest voter turnout.

 

 

 

Remember to Vote Tuesday, November 6

Wisconsin's November elections are fast-approaching. Remember the polls are open on Tuesday, November 6 from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. You will not need to present a valid photo ID since that requirement has been ruled unconstitutional by the Courts. This ruling is subject to appeal, but is not expected to change before the upcoming general election, if at all.

It is important that we continue our proud tradition of high voter turnout in elections by participating in the electoral process on November 6.

 

 

 

Voting Procedures Detailed Here

Many Wisconsinites are still getting used to the plethora of changes made to our voting laws during the most recent legislative session. In fact, voting procedures is one of the things I get asked about most frequently. Therefore, I am providing you with detailed information so that you can ensure your vote is counted on Election Day.

 

Residency & Registration

All voters must register prior to casting their vote. Fortunately, in-person voters can do this as late as Election Day since Wisconsin allows for same-day registration. To register at your polling place on the day of the election, you must provide proof that you meet residency requirements. Voters in Wisconsin must live at their voting address at least 28 consecutive days before an election. An individual who moves within this state later than 28 days before an election must vote at his or her previous ward or election district.

 

Click here for more information about voter registration.

 

Proof of Residence

Acceptable forms of proof of residence must include:

  • A current and complete name, including both the given and family name.

  • A current and complete residential address, including a numbered street address, if any, and the name of a municipality.

The following constitute acceptable proof of residence if the document contains the information specified above:

  • A current and valid Wisconsin driver’s license or identification card

  • Any other official identification card or license issued by a Wisconsin governmental body or unit

  • Any identification card issued by an employer in the normal course of business and bearing a photo of the card holder (not including a business card)

  • A real estate tax bill or receipt for the current year or the year preceding the date of the election

  • A residential lease which is effective for a period that includes election day

  • A university, college, or technical college fee card or identification card with a photo

  • A gas, electric, or telephone service statement (utility bill) for the period commencing not earlier than 90 days before Election Day

  • Bank statement

  • Paycheck

  • A check or other document issued by a unit of government

Click here for more information about proof of residency for the purpose of registering to vote.

 

Voting Absentee

Absentee applications must be made no earlier than the opening of business on the third Monday preceding the election and no later than 5 p.m. or the close of business, whichever is later, on the Friday preceding the election. You should contact your local municipal clerk to request an absentee ballot. In addition, they should explain where to return your ballot once it is filled out. You can also vote absentee in-person. In-person absentee voting now falls between the opening of business on the third Monday before Election Day and 5 p.m. or the close of business, whichever is later, on the Friday before Election Day, a two week time frame.

 

Click here to find the contact information for your municipal clerk.

 

Students

Students can use a university, college, or technical college identification card with a photograph of the cardholder as proof of residence if the university, college, or technical college provides a certified and current list of students who reside in housing sponsored by the university, college, or technical college, who are U.S. citizens, showing the current address of the students. If the university does not provide such a list to polling locations, then the student must present a fee payment receipt along with their identification card.

 

Click here if you would like more information about voting procedures for students.
 

I have also created a PDF guide to provide information about election and voting procedures in Wisconsin. This is a great resource to email or print to pass on to family, friends, and neighbors who may want more information about changes to Wisconsin's voting laws.

 

Click here to view my PDF voting guide.

 

 

 

To Unsubscribe from the weekly Larson Report Newsletter, please reply to this email with the word "Unsubscribe."