LARSON REPORT

NEWSLETTER


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May 5, 2016

     

 

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

 

Website:

SenatorChrisLarson.com

 

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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. 





íSe fue la luz! A Night Under the Caribbean Sky at the UWM Planetarium
Date: Fridays now through May 6, 2016, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Bring your kids to hear youth drummers from Proyecto Bembe, a local nonprofit music education group, as they transform the UWM Planetarium into a Caribbean Island. The Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies invites you to enjoy indoor star gazing and live music. Tickets are $3 and are available 30 minutes before the shows start. For more information, CLICK HERE.

UWM Manfred Olson Planetarium

(MAP)
1900 E Kenwood Blvd.
Milwaukee, WI 53211
 

Milwaukee Art Museum -- Free Friday
Date: Friday, May 6, 2016 (every first Friday of the month)
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Admission to the Milwaukee Art Museum is free for individuals and families on the first Friday of every month. CLICK HERE to learn more.

Milwaukee Art Museum

(MAP)
700 N Art Museum Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

"Some Men" Presented by Theatrical Tendencies
Date:  May 6, 7, 13, and 14 at 8 p.m.
Location: St. Francis
Description: Theatrical Tendencies will be performing Terrence McNally's "Some Men" at the Soulstice Theatre. Tickets are $20 or $15 for students who present a student ID. The play follows its characters through the development of gay rights in America. CLICK HERE for more information.

Soulstice Theatre
(MAP)

3770 S. Pennsylvania Ave, Suite 2
St. Francis WI, 53235

 

 

Story Time in the Galleries
Date: Saturday, May 7, 2016 at 10:30 a.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Bring your kids to the Milwaukee Art Museum and enjoy a story about a piece of art and then make a drawing inspired by what you have seen and heard. This is event is free with museum admission. CLICK HERE to learn more, including other dates the event will be held.


Milwaukee Art Museum

(MAP)
700 N. Art Museum Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

 

South Milwaukee Little League Parade
Date: Saturday, May 7, 2016
Location: South Milwaukee
Description: Bring your kids and celebrate this community tradition for Little League Opening Day. The parade will start at noon and will be followed by festivities at Little League Park. The Parade will begin at 11th and Madison at the South Milwaukee Farmers Market and head south on 9th to the Park. CLICK HERE to learn more.
 

 

Bay View Rummage Sale
Date: Saturday, May 21, 2016, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee,
Description: Join the Bay View Neighborhood Association for the 3rd annual neighborhood rummage sale. This is a great, environmentally friendly way to get rid of things in your house that you no longer have a need for. This year there will be an online map to guide shoppers. The map will allow you to list items you have for sale. You must be a Bay View Neighborhood Association member in order to participate in the event, and must register to be listed on the online map by May 11. For more information, including how to become a member, CLICK HERE.

 

 

3rd Annual South Milwaukee Plant Swap
Date: Saturday, May 28, 2016
Location: South Milwaukee 
Description: Come to the South Milwaukee Historical Museum to network with other gardeners at this free event hosted by the South Milwaukee Historical Society. Bring divided or unwanted perennials, shrubs, vines, and more from your yard in pots marked with the type of plant and whether it grows best in sun, partial sun, or shade. Bring seeds, bulbs, or garden tools too! RSVP for this event to either Patti Bergeson at (414)-768-9549 or Vicki Maloney at (414)-530-6020. CLICK HERE for more details about this event.


South Milwaukee Historical Museum

(MAP)

717 Milwaukee Ave
South Milwaukee, WI 53172

 

Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,

 
I hope your spring is off to a great start! I was glad to see many of my Milwaukee neighbors at the 130th Bay View Tragedy commemoration. As we face new threats to fair pay, job safety and work conditions, it's important to remember those who came before us and made the ultimate sacrifice in the fight to create a more equal world.

 

Click here to learn the history of the Bay View Tragedy.

 

This week's Larson Report will provide an important update on the allegations of misconduct and abuse at our state juvenile corrections facilities.

 

Also, as our communities look  to improve the safety and security of our neighborhoods, I introduced several pieces of legislation to work towards this goal. A summary of these proposals is included in this edition of the newsletter.

 

Keep watching your inbox, as the Larson Report will be covering important issues and provide updates on topics such as education, long-term care, and more in the coming weeks.

 

Also, remember to connect with me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter for real-time updates on important state and community news!

 

Sincerely,



Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7

 

 

Youth Safety in Jeopardy at State Correctional Facilities

As a father, elected official, and active community member, I, like many of you, place immense value on providing a safe, secure environment for our children to grow up in. When it comes to juvenile justice, it is of the utmost importance that we -- as a society and state -- do everything we can to divert youth offenders from a life of criminal behavior.

Part of ensuring our youth get back on the right track is making sure our detention facilities have youth-appropriate accountability measures, but also focus on ensuring youth offenders are afforded every opportunity to turn their lives around.

Allegations of Abuse Leads to Federal Investigation 
Over the past couple of months, serious and disturbing information regarding abuse at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls have come to light. Wisconsin children have allegedly suffered physical and sexual abuse at a facility run by Governor Walker's Department of Corrections. One teen had his toes amputated after having his foot slammed in a door.

Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake are the only state correctional facilities for youth in Wisconsin, as Ethan Allen School in Waukesha County and Southern Oaks Girls School in Racine County were closed in June 2011 as part of Governor Walker's 2011-13 state budget.

While this appalling situation has come to light publicly in recent months, concerns over mistreatment is thought to have been known by the Walker administration since 2012 when Racine County Circuit Court Judge Richard Kreul sent a letter to the governor as well as the superintendent of Lincoln Hills School. In the letter, Judge Kreul expressed serious concerns over a failed investigation of a sexual assault that occurred at the facility. Governor Walker admitted in February 2016 he didn't read the letter and claimed it had been forwarded to the state Department of Corrections.

In 2014, the state Department of Corrections (DOC) put several individuals on leave over concerns that abuse was occurring at the school. The Lincoln County sheriff was alerted, who subsequently handed the situation over to the Department of Justice, which conducted a year-long investigation.

Fast-forward to December 2015, when it was reported that dozens of federal agents raided Lincoln Hills and that two administrators -- the facility's superintendent and the head of the juvenile corrections division -- had been forced to leave their jobs. It was at that time that the public also learned that the state Department of Justice opened a secret John Doe investigation two months prior to the raid to look into the use of force against juveniles at the center.  Later on that same month the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had joined the investigation.

Amid the federal probe, DOC Secretary Ed Wall resigned. Shortly after his resignation, a political soap opera ensued, involving a dispute between Wall and Attorney General Schimel, alleged veiled threats by former Attorney General Van Hollen, and an invitation to shred public records.

Click here to read a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article regarding the invitation to shred records.

Click here to read a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article about the alleged veiled threats and dispute between Wall and Schimel.

Democrats Call for Answers, Action
From the beginning, Walker and legislative Republicans have sat silently on their hands regarding the mistreatment, abuse, and possible civil rights violations of our youth at Lincoln Hills despite Democrats and the community demanding answers.

Given that a significant number of the youth at Lincoln Hills are from the Milwaukee area, many of my colleagues and I called for an immediate halt on sending any more Milwaukee County youth to the facility. Unfortunately, Milwaukee County youth are being sent to the center at around the same rates as before these allegations came to light.

In addition, over 40 Democratic legislators called for an audit of the Department of Corrections. The practices and policies that lead to the abuses must be exposed and fixed. Given the appalling, dangerous treatment of our youth at Lincoln Hills, there is an urgent need for a nonpartisan audit to examine systemic problems facing DOC, such as staff shortages and forced overtime.

Click here to read the letter.

Republicans stood in the way of revealing these problems by choosing not to approve an audit before the legislative session concluded.

Additionally, because the Republican-controlled Legislature recently made changes to our John Doe laws, these investigations are now allowed to expire after six months. Last month, the Walker administration chose not to investigate the issue any further, and the John Doe case was closed.

The federal investigation, which is looking at abuse as well as the potential of civil rights violations, is ongoing.

Wrongdoing and harm to youth at these facilities should be taken seriously. It is deeply alarming that Walker and legislative Republicans are not retaining every option available to promptly get to the bottom of the problems occurring at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake before more of our children are injured.

Click here to read an editorial by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel urging state leaders to fix the problems at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake.

New Secretary Appointed, Safety of Youth Ignored by GOP
With the DOC secretary vacant after the resignation of Ed Wall, the Republican-controlled Senate -- on the last scheduled day of session -- approved the appointment of a new DOC secretary, Jon Litscher.

Disturbingly, no action was taken to address the immediate safety and civil rights concerns. Due to this, and because there have not been sufficient answers to the many questions lawmakers and families have about what's been happening at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake, I voted against the appointment of the new secretary.

Despite it being abundantly clear that we need to bring our kids closer to home and place them in a safe environment immediately, Republicans stayed silent, pretending things have changed by merely hanging up an 'under new management' sign.

Culture of Corruption
This awful and unfortunate situation sheds light on the urgency of addressing the continued mismanagement of state agencies and facilities under the Walker administration.

The criminal investigation into the mistreatment of youth at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake school, and the removal of two top juvenile corrections administrators, are a reminder of the serious consequences that years of anti-employee budgeting by Walker and legislative Republicans have on our state. Misplaced Republican budget priorities jeopardizes workplace safety and we are now seeing major problems at Wisconsin's correctional institutions.

Click here to read an editorial by the Capitol Times, which draws attention to Walker's culture of corruption.


 

Fighting for Justice

Traditional correctional programs often cause further harm and do not maximize the chance of success for our youth.

While many things about the situation at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake are deeply disturbing, one thing that is particularly alarming is that many of the youth at Lincoln Hills are actually over 200 miles away from their family.

For these reasons, Representatives Goyke and Barnes and I introduced a bill modeled after a successful approach to youth incarceration spearheaded by the state of Missouri. This approach focuses on using smaller facilities closer to home and has been shown to produce better outcomes while saving the state money. This bill would have also required the Department of Corrections to study the potential to implement this successful model in Wisconsin.

In addition to introducing legislation related to concerns with our juvenile justice system, I proposed several other legislative ideas this past session to change the culture of corrections by increasing accountability and transparency.

Collecting Strip Search Information
One such proposal was Senate Bill 756. After the  passage of Senate Bill 248, which removed the requirement that an individual be detained for more than 12 hours in order to be subject to a strip search, our neighbors expressed concerns about the disproportionate impact this apparent free-for-all could have on communities traditionally vulnerable to police intimidation and misconduct.

The continued culture of discrimination against communities of color by police departments throughout the United States has taught us that accountability and data reporting are increasingly crucial. In fact, in Milwaukee, we have seen reckless and criminal discrimination towards minority offenders result in a historic $5 million settlement from the city to individuals that were improperly searched by the Milwaukee Police Department.

Senate Bill 756 would have required demographic data on strip searches conducted on persons that are held for less than 12 hours to be tracked, including the detainee's race, age, gender, offense, as well as the reason they were released from custody. Tracking these specific pieces of demographic information, would have affirmed our commitment to having a gold standard of transparency and would have served to protect our citizens as well as our police departments. 

Investing in the Wisconsin Violent Death Reporting System
Gun violence is an alarming public health concern in our communities, therefore, policymakers continue to seek to understand the underlying factors contributing to violent crime in order to improve our ability to prevent these tragedies from occurring in the first place.

The Wisconsin Violent Death Reporting System (WVDRS) was established by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) Injury Prevention Program through a Center for Disease Control (CDC) grant in 2003. The WVDRS contributes to the multi-state National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) and seeks to broaden our understanding of violent crimes and deaths in Wisconsin.

The WVDRS links data from state and local agencies to reveal trends and patterns that exist among perpetrators and victims of violent crimes in order to improve our ability to prevent violence from occurring. DHS collaborates with the Medical College of Wisconsin to link death certificates, coroner reports, police reports, and crime laboratory information to provide public health experts and policymakers with a comprehensive understanding of the factors contributing to violent deaths in our state.

Rep. Genrich and I introduced a bill to provide an additional investment of $150,000 per year to the WVDRS by, with $100,000 allocated for improving infrastructure support and $50,000 allocated for increased data analysis. This bill was drafted in collaboration with medical experts specializing in emergency medicine and injury prevention.

Creating Transparency Around the Use of Body Cameras
In the wake of several high profile officer-involved shootings, states throughout our country are examining the use of body worn cameras in law enforcement encounters.

This past session, Rep. Chris Taylor and I introduced the Body Camera Transparency and Accountability Act which, if passed, would have helped ensure that law enforcement agencies that decide to use body cameras conform to certain, basic statewide standards, including when body cameras may be used, how data captured by the camera may be used, and which recordings are available for public inspection through open records requests.

Additionally, the Body Camera Transparency and Accountability Act would have:

  • Ensured transparency around law enforcement agencies by requiring that their body camera policies be publicly available and easily accessible
  • Clarified that officers wearing a body camera must activate the camera when responding to calls for service or initiating an investigative or enforcement action
  • Created a penalty for anyone who tampers with, deletes, makes unauthorized copies, accesses for unauthorized uses, body camera data, or intentionally destroys the camera
  • Created uniform standards around data retention
  • Clarified state law with regards to open records requests of body camera data

The Body Camera Transparency and Accountability Act would have also created a council within the state Department of Justice, made up of citizens, law enforcement, attorneys, the press, and victim rights advocates, tasked with examining and creating best-practice guidelines and recommendations for the implementation and use of body cameras in Wisconsin.

While the aforementioned bills were not given a public hearing this session, and did not become law, I look forward to continuing to work with my neighbors and legislative colleagues to create a safer community for us all.


 

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: April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which serves as a way to raise awareness about sexual violence and educate communities about the issues. Have there been any bipartisan initiatives to protect victims of violence?

A:
Sexual assault and domestic abuse are issues that affect every community, and should not be tolerated.

 

This session, there were several efforts to work collaboratively, across the aisle, to ensure victims of domestic and sexual violence have access to the services and support they need. 

Here are a few bills that became law recently that were part of a bipartisan effort to enhance victim protections:

  • 2015 Wisconsin Act 4 -- Act 4 grants Wisconsin courts jurisdiction over interstate stalking, harassment, and domestic abuse restraining order cases and clarifies state law to allow victims to seek restraining orders against offenders living out-of-state. This helps victims of domestic violence by deterring out-of-state offenders from harassing people via email and social media.

  • 2015 Wisconsin Act 5 -- Act 5 requires the Department of Justice to create a poster that provides information regarding a human trafficking resource center hotline. It also requires that the poster be posted online and be displayed at several predetermined locations. It is our job as a state to prevent human trafficking and to provide as much help to victims as possible. Act 5 puts us one step closer to achieving this goal and ensuring the safety of human trafficking victims.

  • 2015 Wisconsin Act 80 -- Act 80 prohibits "up-skirting" by making it a crime to invade an individual's privacy by viewing under or through their clothing.

  • 2015 Wisconsin Act 121-- It is incredibly important that crimes of sexual assault be reported, but it can be difficult for victims to report these crimes.  Act 121 increases the statute of limitations for second-degree or third-degree sexual assault from six to 10 years. Giving victims more time to report crimes is a positive step in ensuring justice for sexual assault victims.

  • 2015 Wisconsin Act 353 -- Many times when a victim leaves their abuser, having a working phone and an existing phone number is crucial to their safety. This new law allows victims to have their cell phones and numbers transferred to a new account if court-ordered.

  • 2015 Wisconsin Act 356 -- Ensuring privacy protections for victims of domestic violence is of great importance. Act 356 creates an address confidentiality program for survivors of domestic violence, stalking, and human trafficking.

While Wisconsin has made progress to ensure the rights and safety of abuse victims, we still have a long way to go. Sexual assault and domestic abuse continue to happen and affect our entire communities. We need to acknowledge that these crimes do occur, and continue to create legislation to ensure the safety and protection of the citizens of Wisconsin. It is our job to make victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse feel safe, and to prevent these crimes from happening. I will continue to support ways to achieve this goal while serving in the Senate.


 

Celebrating Bicycling in Wisconsin 
Since 1956, May has been recognized as National Bike Month and is celebrated across the nation. Sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists, National Bike Month shows the benefits of biking and encourages more people to give biking a try.

Also, May 16 to May 20 is National Bike to Work Week. Get involved in celebrating the many reasons we ride! Bike to work week is a great way to get active and get exercise without having to find extra time to work out. More than half of the U.S. population lives within five miles of their workplace, making biking a feasible and fun way to get to work. Active employees are more alert, take fewer sick days, and are more productive. Not only is biking beneficial to your heath, but it is also great for much more, such as reducing your carbon footprint, reducing traffic congestion, and saving you money.

Whether you bike to get to school or work, to preserve your health, to help protect the environment, or to explore your community, National Bike Month is a great time to get out and enjoy Wisconsin.

Additionally, the number of bicyclists in the U.S. is growing rapidly from coast-to-coast. Wisconsin currently ranks 14th in the number of employees who commute to work.

Because biking is a huge part of Wisconsin's culture, I introduced legislation (Senate Bill 600) on behalf of 4th and 5th grade classes in Milwaukee.

Students from Cooper Elementary School contacted my office advocating for a bill to make bicycling the official state exercise. The class came up with this idea as a part of a project on how bills become law.

After the bill was introduced, the students contacted the Senate committee chair and requested a public hearing be held. Because of their grassroots advocacy and dedication, the bill received a public hearing where the students were able to come and testify on the bill's importance.

Unfortunately, despite amazing testimony and advocacy from the children, the chair of the Republican-led committee decided not to schedule a committee vote on this bill. As a result, it did not become law this session.

I am extremely proud of the students at Cooper Elementary School for their hard work on this bill and have no doubts that they will continue being strong advocates for our community!

Click here to see a Fox6 News story about the bill.

 

Mother's Day

Since 1914, Americans have taken the second Sunday in May to celebrate our mothers and mother figures, annually appreciating all that we owe them for their commitment to raising us and preparing us for the future.

There are tons of things to do in the area to celebrate Mother's Day -- ranging from running to taking art lessons -- to thank mothers for all that they do.

Here are just a few ideas:

  • "Run Like a Mother" 5K
    One way to start off Mother's Day is the "Run Like a Mother" 5K at Hoyt Park. The 5K for women will start at 9.a. and children under 11 are able to participate in a 1 mile race starting at 8:30 a.m. The rest of the family can enjoy food and drinks and other fun activities. CLICK HERE for more information.
  • Floral Alchemy Bouquet Pop-Up Shop
    Stop by Colectivo in Shorewood between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. to enjoy some coffee, tea, or pastries while perusing Floral Alchemy's bouquet pop-up shop or walking around town. To learn more, CLICK HERE.
  • Brunch at Oak Creek Community Center
    Stop by the Kiwanis Club of Oak Creek for brunch at the Oak Creek Community Center from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tickets must be purchased in advance. The event will also include a raffle with free prize drawings for mothers. CLICK HERE to learn more.
  • Spring Floral Show at the Domes
    Visit the Mitchell Park Conservatory (the Domes) from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the Garden Impressions Spring Floral Show and a wide assortment of jewelry for sale. CLICK HERE for more information.
  • Free Admission at the Zoo For Moms
    The Milwaukee County Zoo will grant all mothers free admission on May 8th. CLICK HERE to learn more.
  • 2nd Annual Mother's Day Plant Sale
    Friends of Oak Creek Library are hosting their second annual Mother's Day plant sale. The event begins Friday, May 6 through Sunday, May 8, and will include a variety of flowers, plants, hanging baskets, and edibles. All proceeds will benefit the Oak Creek Library. If you're looking for good gift ideas for Mom, plan on attending! For more information, CLICK HERE.
     

 

 

 

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