Around the Bend by Judy Steffes

Fond memories at St. Joseph’s Hospital reunion

 The 19th annual St. Joseph’s Hospital reunion was held recently at the Top of the Ridge at Cedar Community. Over 100 former and current employees attended to share stories and memories of the old community hospital on Silverbrook and Oak Street.

Barb Shier was a registered nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital for 38 years. She recalled the days of the “hometown hospital” were you “knew your coworker’s families.”

Shier remembered Jim Phillips, from Phillips Funeral Home, driving the ambulance. “Ambulance rides when we would transfer patients were always dramatic,” she said.

There was also winters when the helicopter would land.

“When the helicopters would come pick up the patients we didn’t have a helicopter pad so the maintenance men would plow the parking lot and they would make sure it stayed clear until the chopper landed,” said Shier. “We’d put on our coats and push the gurney through the parking lot and that was the beginning of a new trend.” Shier retired in May 2014.

Rex Melius was born at St. Joseph’s Hospital and was a patient twice in the 1950s. “I remember the Roy Rogers themed rooms. I also remember a certain nun who would come visit the children with her pet parakeets. They’d be on her shoulders or flying down the hall following her into our rooms. Great story…”

Molly Erickson was a clinical educator at St. Joe’s and Linda Jansen was a RN in 1982. The pair recollected some of their favorite memories working at the local hospital including sightings of ghosts.

“After the patients were in a rehab situation they would be transferred to the sub-acute area and many of the nuns stayed there,” said Erickson. “Patients or visitors would say ‘I saw a nun down the hallway in their whole garb but there were no nuns in the building anymore.”

“My husband, Al Jansen, worked in housekeeping and maintenance and he would tell me stories of various things the nuns and their communion wines,” said Jansen. “There was only one nun there when I was working.”

There was also the time in October 2000 when nurse Karen Pufahl had Washington County prisoner Thomas Ball as a patient.

“He ran out naked and ran across the street and stole a car,” said Jansen.

“Then the hospital gave us lessons on ‘you have no business tackling a patient,’” said Erickson. “And they installed safety buttons to alert authorities. We were instructed to direct people to the nearest exit.”

Ball escaped the hospital and stole a vehicle from a woman in the area of Silverbrook Drive. Ball drove to Cedarburg where he crashed the car and fled into a field. He was shot in the bare butt by authorities.

One of the most familiar faces at the hospital was Sue McCullough; she held many positions during her 44 years at St. Joe’s. She started as a staff nurse in 1971 and also worked as a physician and administration liaison.

McCullough remembered Christmas parties where staff brought potluck and performed skits.

There were charity bowling and softball games between hospital staff and police or local media.

“We were the Hospital Hot Handlers vs. the Mighty Media Men,” she said. “Myself and a couple nurses were the cheerleaders and we wore our duty shoes and nurses hats and white sweatshirts with big red crosses.”

McCullough also remembered certain things about the old, old part of the hospital.

“At the original old building the ambulance entrance was on the basement level and the emergency room was on the third floor,” she said. “They would page 777 and that meant somebody had to go down to the basement to meet the ambulance and take them up to the ER.

“As a young nurse, having to go down to that creepy basement. There were always rescue squad guys to help us.”

St. Joe’s, according to McCullough, also had a lot of firsts. “I was reading the instruction manual on how to use an external pacemaker while the doctor was inserting it,” she said. “It was our first time using but it was successful and the patient did well.”

“I know Dr. Richard Gibson had to make things because we didn’t have all the equipment,” she said. “We had to sharpen needles back then too. It was about two years after I started they got disposable needles.”

McCullough also recalled Sr. Frieda who didn’t have much faith in her. “She thought I was too young to work on her unit and she had me folding rags and sharpening needles for most of my shift even though I took care of the cardiac monitors on my floor,” she said.

During a speech to Rotary, McCullough described St. Joe’s as a hidden jewel.” It’s constantly evolving,” she said. “It’s state of the art with the biggest advances in safety and infection control.”

Evidenced by the turnout at the reunion McCullough said, “The bottom line is we liked each other. We helped each other out and rallied if anybody needed us for anything – whether in the hospital or personal.”

Sale price for Ponderosa and groundbreaking set for Pizza Ranch

Groundbreaking is Tuesday, Nov. 21 at noon for the new Pizza Ranch, 2020 W. Washington Street in West Bend.  Matt and Stacy Gehring purchased the old Ponderosa and they will begin to remodel and add to the building with the hope of being open in March/April 2018.

Steve Kilian sold the property to the Gehrings for $850,000. Kilian purchased the property Oct. 24, 2011 for $920,700. Prior to that D. Putz had purchased it in 2009 for $920,689.

Deer hunting approved in two city parks in West Bend

The West Bend Common Council voted 5 – 2 Monday night with one alderman absent (Dist. 2 Steve Hutchins) approving a resolution to allow hunting in two city parks under strict rules that must still be approved by Council.

The hunting measure is designed to help manage the deer herd in the city. The resolution below details how only adult bow hunters who pass a proficiency test will be allowed to hunt during a four day time span in January 2018.

The only parks where this will be allowed as a test is Lac Lawrann Conservancy and Ridge Run Park. The deer committee still has to come back to the council with official rules on the effort.

The two aldermen voting against the resolution include Dist. 4 alderman Chris Jenkins and Dist. 8 aldermen Roger Kist.

DEER MANAGEMENT WITHIN THE CITY OF WEST BEND 2017-2018 COMMON COUNCIL

A Resolution Establishing Nuisance Hunt and Deer Management Committee within the City of West Bend

WHEREAS, the City of West Bend has determined there to be an over-population of deer within the City, and

WHEREAS, the City has determined that the over-population of deer constitutes a nuisance endangering the safety and property of the citizens of West Bend, and

WHEREAS, the City has considered a variety of mitigation tactics for the deer population.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Common Council of the City of West Bend, Washington County, Wisconsin, as follows:

  1. City shall allow a limited regulated nuisance hunt on the conditions established herein to mitigate the deer population of the City.
  2. City shall apply for 20 nuisance permits through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to be used during the period of January 10th to January 14th, 2018 in the following parks: Lac Lawrann Conservancy and Ridge Run Park.
  3. The Deer Management Committee shall be established to manage and regulate the hunt. The Committee shall consist of eight (8) members serving on a year-to-year basis appointed by the Mayor and approved by the Common Council. Members shall have expertise relating to hunting and/or the parks system and need not be a citizen of West Bend. The Mayor appoints and Council approves the following initial members of the Committee: Steve Hutchins, John Butschlick, Paul Schleif, Chris Dymale, Larry Polenski, Joanne Kline, Duane Farrand and Michael Jentsch.
  4. All hunters shall be adult citizens of the City and shall pass a proficiency test established by the Committee. Upon passage of the proficiency test, hunters shall be entered into a random lottery for hunting locations and permits.
  5. The Committee shall determine the specific hunting locations within each park. One randomly selected hunter shall be assigned to each designated location in the Committee’s discretion. The Committee may also randomly select alternate hunters to be assigned in the Committee’s discretion.
  6. Baiting shall be allowed for two weeks prior to the hunt as allowed by the rules and regulations established by the Committee.
  7. Each hunter shall be issued nuisance permits for the designated location. The hunter may bow hunt or crossbow hunt for deer from a tree stand. All shots taken shall have a downward trajectory.
  8. Each hunter shall notify the West Bend Police Department prior to entering the stand location and upon leaving the stand location.
  9. The Committee shall be responsible for determining safety regulations for the hunt, including but not limited to, closing a portion or all of a designated park to the public for the duration of the hunt.
  10. Hunters may keep one deer. All other harvested deer shall be donated to local food pantries through Wisconsin DNR’s established program.
  11. All rules established by the Committee shall be in full compliance with state and federal law, the Municipal Code of the City of West Bend, and the terms and conditions contained in this Resolution.
  12. Violation of any rule established herein or by the Committee may result in lifetime revocation of all future hunting privileges or other civil or criminal liability.
  13. This Resolution shall be reviewed by the Common Council prior to the commencement of the 2018-2019 hunting season.

Passed and Approved the 13th day of November, 2017

Cards for Veterans at West Bend Memorial Library

The American Legion Post 36 of West Bend will again sponsor the “Cards for Veterans” program at the West Bend Memorial Library. From Monday, Nov. 20 through Friday, Dec. 15, patrons visiting the library will find a display of Christmas and holiday cards. All are encouraged to select a card, write a message to a veteran, and place the sealed cards in the box provided.  There is no cost for this service. On Dec. 15, the cards will be distributed to veterans living in the West Bend area. Donations of cards would be greatly appreciated.

Six candidates in the mix to fill Assembly District 58

Six candidates have now filed information with the Wisconsin Ethics Commission to run in the upcoming Special Election to fill the vacant seat in the 58th Assembly District.

Republican candidates include (in order of filing) Steve Stanek, Tiffany Koehler, Spencer Zimmerman, and this week Washington County Board Chairman and Village of Slinger Trustee Rick Gundrum threw his hat in the mix.

Two other candidates include Dennis Degenhardt who is running as a Democrat and Christopher Lewis Cook who is with the Independent, Socialist Party.

All candidates must collect between 200 – 400 signatures. Nomination papers are due no later than 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017 in the offices of the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

Gov. Walker set a primary for Dec. 19, 2017. The Special Election will be held Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018. The 58th Assembly District includes the communities of Slinger, Jackson, Town of Polk, parts of Richfield, Town of Trenton and West Bend. The seat in the 58th became vacant following the unexpected death of Rep. Bob Gannon. His term expires January 7, 2019.

It’s beginning to look at lot like Christmas in Downtown West Bend

The West Bend Christmas Parade is Sunday, Nov. 26 and early Thursday morning volunteers from the DIVA group, Downtown West Bend Association and the city of West Bend spent a couple hours decorating the downtown Main Street for the holiday.

Brilliant red bows and green wreaths were strung across the roadway and white lights and red ribbons were hung on the lampposts. A big thanks to Brian Culligan at West Bend Tap and Tavern and Hankerson’s Country Oven Bakery for the hot coffee and fuel after the morning effort. Many hands made for quick work. Now mark your calendar for Sunday, Nov. 26 and the annual West Bend Christmas Parade. This year’s theme is Christmas Memories.

Testing the lights at Enchantment in the Park

There were nine volunteers hoofing around Regner Park on Wednesday night, bracing against the wind and taking notes as Mike Phillips led a turning-on-the-lights tour of Enchantment in the Park. “Now this key, the longest key in the bunch, opens this door,” he said.

Phillips was wearing a headlamp – something he recommended for the job. “Flip the switches with the blue tape,” Phillips said. “This will obviously be much faster because you can make these rounds in the car.”

The group walked in the dark from one segment of the display to the next. Through the warming house and down into the bowels of the Strachota stage. It smelled musty and old and looked like a bomb shelter. It was awesome!

Enchantment in the Park at Regner Park in West Bend kicks off Friday, Nov. 24. The annual light show collects money and food donations for food pantries across Washington County and Menomonee Falls. Be sure to make note – the popular Disney night is Thursday, Dec. 7. Husar’s Diamond Dash is Sunday, Dec. 3.

Update & tidbits             

– The celebrity bell ringer for the Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign is Tinker the miniature horse. He and owners Carol and Jim Tackes will at the Washington County Fair Park today, Nov. 18, from noon – 2 p.m. The miniature horse is one of the more popular attractions for the Salvation Army. Donations will be collected through Christmas Eve. The goal this year is $3.8 million and all money raised stays local.

– Moonlighting in Barton will be ringing in the holidays with a Black Friday Meat Raffle on Nov. 24. There will be a raffle every 15 minutes between 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. Lake States Vending will be donating all the meat and proceeds will go to the Gingerbread House, a local organization in its 18th year of providing Christmas gifts to families across Washington County. Stop in and check out the Black Friday Meat Raffle at Moonlighting, 326 Commerce Street in Barton.

-Help is available to families in Washington County that need assistance with winter heating bills. Contact Kay Lucas with the Washington County Human Services Department which oversees the Energy Assistance Program. The number is 262-335-4677.

-Contractors in fluorescent yellow jackets and hardhats can be seen pouring cement and working on scaffolding as the $3.2 million expansion is underway at Good Shepherd Lutheran, 777 S. Indiana Avenue in West Bend. The expansion will include four additional school classrooms and renovated bathrooms. There’s also going to be a new welcome center and gathering space.

– The 3rd Annual West Bend Santa Ramp-up kicks off at 10 a.m. at Dublin’s on Sunday, Nov. 26. Get your red on and join the ride. Other stops include King Pin Bowl & Ale House (11 a.m.), Moonlighting (12 p.m.), West Bend Tap and Tavern (1 p.m.), and The Norbert (2 p.m.). Santa or Christmas attire recommended. Safe biking practices! Come out and kick off the holiday season at one or all the stops!

– There will be a traditional tree lighting Tuesday, Dec. 5 at Berndt Park in Hartford and the much loved Annual Hartford Historical Home Tours are set for Saturday, Dec. 9.

Buy your ticket today from the West Bend Sunrise Rotary and have a chance at a $5,000 grand prize. Drawing is Nov. 25 at 7 p.m. at Enchantment in the Park. Tickets available at Jeff’s Spirits on Main, Pleasant Valley Tennis & Fitness and any Sunrise Rotary member.

– The annual VFW Essay contest is underway. The Patriot’s Pen Contest is for all 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students.  The theme is “America’s Gift to My Generation.” The Grand Prize is $5,000.  The Voice of Democracy Contest is for all high school students.  The theme is “American History: Our Hope for the Future.” The Grand Prize is a $30,000 scholarship.

Democratic Candidate for Governor Brags About Sexual Conquests

What a champ.

Ohio voters are in shock after a top judge boasted of having been “sexually intimate” with “approximately 50 very attractive females”.

State Supreme Court Judge Bill O’Neill, who is a Democratic candidate for state governor, made the claim on Facebook on Friday afternoon.

In a follow-up interview he defended his post and a senator who was pictured apparently groping a sleeping woman.

Ohio Democrats condemned Judge O’Neill’s comments.

His post began: “Now that the dogs of war are calling for the head of Senator Al Franken I believe it is time to speak up on behalf of all heterosexual males.”

Judge O’Neill noted that as a candidate for governor, his admission would “save my opponents some research time”.

I would note that for a judge, he fails to make the distinction between his consensual (according to him) relationships and Franken’s forcible sexual assault.

Bill Proposed to Protect Kids with Guns at School

This seems utterly reasonable, and in a sane world, unnecessary.

MADISON (WKOW) — Some high school students would no longer have to fear being expelled for having a gun at school, under a limited exemption being considered by state lawmakers.

Under current law, if a student leaves an unloaded gun in their locked car, in the the school parking lot, they would face a mandatory expulsion hearing if anyone reports it to the administration.

But the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) asked Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc) to craft legislation that would exempt schools from starting that expulsion process, if law enforcement investigates the incident and doesn’t press charges..

WASB President Steve McCloskey told the Assembly Committee on Education Thursday it is not uncommon for students in rural Wisconsin to hunt before and after school.

And since many of those students live a far distance away from school, McCloskey said it is reasonable for them to keep an unloaded rifle in their locked vehicle.

North Korean Defector Found Riddled With Parasites

They may have to resort to nukes just because their soldiers aren’t healthy enough for a sustained effort.

The massive infection is most likely linked to the low levels of hygiene found in the hermit kingdom. The worms were most likely contracted by eating vegetables fertilized with human feces, the doctors believe. There are many ways to safely use manure to fertilize fields, however, it appears that North Korea doesn’t use these practices.

International sanctions, droughts, and disastrous internal management mean food shortages are a big problem in North Korea. Up to 70 percent of the population live on food aid and eat a dangerously unvaried diet. Micronutrient deficiencies, particularly in iron, zinc, vitamin A, and iodine, are therefore common. Inside the soldier’s gut, they also found corn, a staple grain of the North Korean diet.

In the DPRK, young men must serve compulsory military service for 10 years and women for seven. A further 4-5 percent of North Korea’s 24 million people serve on active military duty, and another 30 percent are assigned to a reserve or paramilitary unit, according to the US Office of Secretary of Defense. This means the soldier’s body is representative of many North Koreans and potentially insightful for researchers hoping to learn about the wider health of the country.

“I don’t know what is happening in North Korea, but I found many parasites when examining other defectors,” added Professor Seo Min. “In one case, we found 30 types of roundworms in a female defector. The parasite infection problem seems to be serious even if it does not represent the entire North Korean population.”

Indigenous Tribe Forced to Convert

What a fascinating, and tragic, story that seems like it should have been written in the 16th century.

The Sumatran rainforests of Indonesia are home to the Orang Rimba – the people of the jungle. Their faith and nomadic way of life are not recognised by the state and, as their forests are destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations, many are being forced to convert to Islam to survive.

In a wooden hut on stilts, a group of children dressed in white sit on the floor. They sing “I will protect Islam till I die” and shout “There is no god but Allah”, in unison.

Three months ago, the 58 families that make up the Celitai tribe of Orang Rimba converted to Islam.

[…]

The Islamic Defenders Front – a vigilante group whose leader is facing charges of inciting religious violence – helped facilitate the conversion.

Ustad Reyhan, from the Islamic missionary group Hidayatullah, has stayed to make sure the new faith is practised.

“For now we are focusing on the children. It’s easier to convert them – their mind isn’t filled with other things. With the older ones it’s harder,” he says.

[…]

But village leader Muhammad Yusuf – Yuguk, to use his Orang Rimba name – was thinking about surviving in this life when he converted.

“It was a very heavy and difficult decision, but we feel like we have no choice, if we want to move forward,” he says quietly.

[…]

The fact that they hunt and eat wild pigs also creates social tensions, he added.

“This is a Muslim community. If they see the pig’s blood and the leftover bits, they are disturbed,” the officer explained.

What is taboo, or haram, for the Orang Rimba directly contrasts with what Muslims eat, explains Mr Manurung.

“Orang Rimba will not eat domesticated animals such as chickens, cows or sheep. They think it’s a form of betrayal. You feed the animal, and when it gets fat you eat it. The fair thing to do is to fight. Whoever wins can eat the loser.”

Mugabe Hold On

I’m shocked… SHOCKED… that Mugabe would refuse to step down.

Harare, Zimbabwe (CNN)Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has turned up to a university graduation ceremony in the capital, Harare, in his first public appearance since the military staged an apparent coup two days ago.

The veteran leader arrived at the Zimbabwe Open University in a blue-and-yellow gown, accompanied by his security detail, two days after being placed under house arrest in Wednesday’s army takeover.
The event was apparently designed to convey a business-as-usual atmosphere — the generals pulling the strings in Harare are desperate not to give the impression they are orchestrating an unconstitutional coup.
But behind the scenes, efforts to push Mugabe aside appeared to be foundering. Mugabe was reported to be resisting a plan to oust him, and the generals were said to be frustrated about his refusal to go quietly.

Gay Times Fired Editor

Well, that’s awkward.

The editor of Gay Times has been sacked for tweeting a series of antisemitic and misogynistic comments as well as using Twitter to attack gay people, homeless people and disabled children.

[…]

Rivers had taken on the role with a mandate to promote inclusivity. But the offending tweets, since deleted, showed him directing hate towards Jews, lesbians, overweight people, as well as Asian and Chinese people.

“I wonder if they cast that guy as ‘The Jew’ because of that fucking ridiculously large honker of a nose,” he tweeted in 2011. “It must be prosthetic. Must be.”

In another tweet he asked for film recommendations but excluded films about the Holocaust. Rivers also described Jews as “gross”.

His tweets directed at women included: “I’ve just seen a girl in the tightest white tank & lord help me if she’s not pregnant, she should be killed. #gross.”

Another abusive message said that “whiny” women should “change your tampon” and stay out of his way.

Rick Gundrum Announces Run for the 58th

The field is getting more crowded. From the Washington County Insider.

Nov. 15, 2017 – Washington Co., WI – Watch for a sixth candidate to jump in the mix tomorrow and announce his candidacy for the 58th Assembly District.

Rick Gundrum, who is currently the chairman of the Washington County Board, said he will have a prepared statement in a press release that will be issued by noon Thursday.

Gundrum has quite a bit of political experience; he’s been on the Washington County Board representing District 16 in Slinger since April 2006. He’s served as

County Board Chairman
Executive Committee.
Chairman – Board of Health.
Chairman – A.D.R.C.
Chairman – Eastern Wisconsin Counties Railroad Consortium.

For the past eight years Gundrum has served as a trustee on the Slinger Village Board; he was first elected in April 2009.

Mugabe Under House Arrest

Mugabe is one of the worst tyrants of our lifetimes. Given that he has held and consolidated power for the better part of four decades, I doubt that there is a “constitutionally sound” resolution. It takes revolutions to oust tyrants.

South African government ministers are in Harare for crisis talks with ousted President Robert Mugabe and military leaders who have seized control.

They are trying to reach a deal on the future of Zimbabwe and the man who has led the country for 37 years and is now under house arrest.

The Southern African Development Community (Sadc) regional bloc is to hold emergency talks shortly.

But sources suggest Mr Mugabe may be resisting pressure to resign.

They say Mr Mugabe is insisting he remains the legitimate president. Regional bodies such as Sadc and African Union (AU) will be keen to reach a constitutionally sound resolution to the crisis rather than to endorse a military takeover, say correspondents.

Senator Johnson Opposes Tax Plan

I’ve had about enough with Senator Johnson.

(CNN)Sen. Ron Johnson announced he is opposed to the tax bill Wednesday, making him the first member of the GOP to formally come out against the party’s plan, though the Wisconsin Republican said he was hopeful about being able to support a final version once changes are made.

Johnson issued a statement saying the current proposal in both chambers is imbalanced in favor of large corporations but he left open the door to supporting the bills if they are altered.
“Unfortunately, neither the House nor Senate bill provide fair treatment, so I do not support either in their current versions,” he said. “I do, however, look forward to working with my colleagues to address the disparity so I can support the final version.”
Here’s the thing… I supported Johnson for election – twice. He originally ran on repealing Obamacare. When it came to getting that done, he and his colleagues failed. Now when it is coming to tax reform, he’s about to be a part of it failing. He’s become a Senator that’s all hat and no cattle. It doesn’t do anyone any good for Johnson to tour Wisconsin and tell us how bad Obamacare is or how much our tax code needs reform if he is unable to bring himself to actually support DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
As to his specific objection, it’s horse shit. The entire purpose of tax reform, I thought, was to spur economic growth and simplify the tax code. Both the House bill and the Senate bill (I like the House’s better) will accomplish those goals to some degree. Yes, in an ideal world, I would like the bill to cut taxes for more people and businesses and be much more simple, but it also has to be something that can get a majority of votes. Johnson is making the enemy of the good. But given the fact that Johnson is smart enough to know that getting something is better than getting nothing, I can only assume that he is just using this as an excuse because he doesn’t actually want to reform our tax system.
Less talk, Ron. More action.

Study: Ethanol Policies Drove Massive Release of Carbon

It’s almost as if the ethanol policies weren’t about the environment and were more about driving money into the pockets of special interests. Hmmmm…..

Federal ethanol subsidies aimed at slowing climate change have triggered the release to the atmosphere of about 30 million tons of carbon a year as farmers have cleared land to plant more crops for production of the renewable fuel, UW-Madison researchers said Wednesday.

The first comprehensive measurement of climate damage associated with ethanol was being presented at a conference in Texas by its lead author, graduate student Tyler Lark, and graduate research assistant Shawn Seth. The study will be submitted to a journal for peer review within weeks, said geography professor Holly Gibbs, who is also an author.

The researchers spent years examining satellite imagery and high-resolution maps showing the vegetation and soil types on land before it was cleared for new crop acreage.

[…]

The researchers determined the amounts of grasslands, prairie, wetlands and wooded parcels that were gobbled up from 2008 to 2012 during a period of high crop prices after federal policies began pushing ethanol as an environmentally-friendly fuel that could constrain burning of fossil fuels in cars.

A portion of the carbon was released when grasslands were burned, but plowing up soil exposed organic matter and began the process of decomposition began the slower release of about 75 percent of the carbon, Gibbs said. Most of that carbon would be released from soil over a period of decades, but some could take a century or more, she said.

West Bend School Superintendent On Leave

This story was in the Washington County Daily News yesterday.

After more than three months away from his job, West Bend School District Superintendent Erik Olson remains absent from his role. Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Laura Jackson continues to lead in his place.After Monday’s Board of Education meeting, President Tiffany Larson wouldn’t state the reason for the absence, but said “he is on paid administrative leave.” Olson’s last appearance at a meeting was July 24. Since then he has been on vacation, sick leave and administrative leave and continues to receive payment from the district. His administrative leave began at the beginning of October.

I haven’t commented on this because, frankly, I thought it was common knowledge. He hasn’t been at any official meetings for months and the School Board has spoken about it a couple of times. If you email his school address, someone else will respond. But based on my emails and some reaction I’m seeing on social media, this has come as a surprise.

It is frustrating people because the School Board is not telling anyone why he is out. My understanding is that it is due to personal/medical reasons, which is why state and federal regulations prohibit the School Board from commenting on the reason for his leave. If it is because of a personal/medical reason, all we can do is hope for a speedy and successful resolution for Olson and prod the School Board to consider a succession plan.

State should standardize access to police body cam videos

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Actually, it was online yesterday, but I was busy. Here you go:

Technology has always pushed the boundaries of culture and it often takes time for the law to catch up. As body cameras become more common for police, the management of that footage has largely been left to individual law enforcement agencies. The Wisconsin State Assembly has passed a good bill to govern the public’s access to law enforcement body cam footage that the state Senate and governor should quickly enact into law.

The use of body cams by law enforcement has been expanding mainly due to the public’s pressure to do so. Americans grant a lot of power in our police and extend a lot of trust that they will use that power appropriately on our behalf. But that trust is not absolute and in the wake of a series of high profile incidents where a law enforcement officer killed a citizen under questionable circumstances, many members of the general public pushed for police to wear body cams to help discern the truth in such incidents.

On the other side of the coin, many law enforcement officers asked to use body cams under the belief that while a body cam video might indict a cop doing something illegally, it might also exonerate a cop who is wrongly being accused of committing a crime. Now that many law enforcement agencies are using body cams, the results are predictably varied. What we are finding is that the body cam footage of controversial incidents rarely conclusively show the “truth,” and a jolting video rarely quells the controversy.

While the use of body cam footage may not be the antidote to controversy that many had hoped, body cams have become a useful tool in the routine business of law enforcement. The question remains: now that we have thousands of law enforcement officers going about their work while recording themselves and all of the people around them, who is allowed to see those recordings?

In general, the video recorded by law enforcement’s body cams are public records. That means that upon request, the law enforcement agency must give that video to anyone who asks unless there is a compelling government interest not to do so. Our common law has always set a fairly high bar for withholding public documents, so the end result is that 95 percent of requests for police body cam video are granted.

The presents a problem in balancing the public’s right to know with the individual’s right to privacy and protection under the Fourth Amendment. While policies for when law enforcement officers activate their body cams vary, most of them are recording whenever they are engaging a member of the public for any reason. This means that even when an officer is engaging a citizen who has not committed a crime, which is the vast majority of the time, that engagement may be recorded and released on the internet for everyone to see.

For example, if an officer responds to an elderly person’s fall in his or her home, that could be recorded and released. If an officer responds to a woman who was raped, that encounter could be recorded and released. If an officer helps a person who slid into a ditch, that could be recorded and released. While some of these incidents are benign, releasing the video of the encounter could be embarrassing for the citizen, or worse, used by someone to harass or further traumatize a victim of a crime.

Rep. Jesse Kremer’s (R-Kewaskum) bill seeks to set some reasonable standards for when law enforcement body cams must be released and when they should be kept confidential. Under the bill, footage would be considered an open record and available to the public if it was taken in a public place and involved a death, assault, arrest or search. If one of those actions occurred in a place where a person had a reasonable expectation of privacy, then the footage could only be released if all of the people involved agree.

Under Kremer’s bill, police body cam footage would still be available for any legal action, civil or criminal, but only footage of actual or suspected criminal behavior could be released to the public. This strikes a reasonable balance that allows the public to continue to have general oversight of police in the most serious encounters, but protects the public from malcontents using police videos for harassment, bullying, preying, or just feeding their creepy voyeurism.

This bill was passed on a bipartisan voice vote in the Assembly and now sits in the Senate awaiting action. The Senate should pick up Kremer’s torch and carry it to Gov. Walker’s desk.

Engineering Wisconsin’s Roads for Autonomous Vehicles

Foxconn is pushing Wisconsin to the forefront of technology and innovation.

Spurred by Foxconn Technology Group and its plans for a mega-factory in Racine County, state highway planners are studying the possibility of including special lanes for driverless vehicles on I-94.

Should that come to pass — and at this point it is only something being contemplated — it would put Wisconsin in the vanguard of what many believe will be a key part of transportation in the future.

Driverless cars have been developed and are being tested, but there are no highway lanes dedicated to so-called autonomous vehicles, a spokesman with the U.S. Department of Transportation said.

[…]

One possibility, Sheehy said, would be driverless lanes between the Foxconn plant and Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport as a way to move supplies and products to and from the factory.

He said the fact that Foxconn executives brought up the use of autonomous vehicles indicated the vision the company is bringing to the project.

“We’re thinking about two years down the road; they’re thinking 20 years down the road,” Sheehy said.

Wisconsin Eliminates Minimum Hunting Age

Good.

If all goes as planned for freshman legislator Rob Stafsholt, Wisconsin’s traditional gun deer hunting season will open Saturday with a twist that’s raising concern around the country.

Under legislation that Gov. Scott Walker is expected to sign into law this week, kids of any age will be allowed to hunt deer and carry their own gun when accompanied by an adult — no training required. Previously, kids had to be at least 10 years old to hunt with a mentor and the two had to share a weapon.

[…]

Stafsholt said that of 42 states with mentored hunt programs, 34 don’t set a minumum [sic] age. In addition, Wisconsin was one of only four of the 42 states to limit the mentor and youth hunter to a single gun.

This story is a little dated. Walker signed it into law today. While there is certainly a minimum age at which kids are mature enough to hunt or handle a firearm, that age is very subjective and specific to the individual child and family. Frankly, parents have a much greater vested interest in ensuring the safety of their kids, so it makes sense to put this determination in their hands. I suspect that when we look back at this in five years, we will not see any change in the safety record of Wisconsin’s hunt.

Yet Another Democrat Gets Into Race

Another one!

The leader of the state’s firefighter union plans to launch a gubernatorial campaign Monday, joining a crowded Democratic field that is expected to grow.

Mahlon Mitchell last ran for public office during the 2012 recall elections, when he was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor and lost to Rebecca Kleefisch. The nearly 1.2 million votes Mitchell received in that election gives him the highest vote tally in a single election of any of the candidates running for governor so far.

At 40, Mitchell is also the first major Democratic contender who is younger than Gov. Scott Walker, who recently turned 50. Mitchell, like Walker, grew up in Delavan and attended Delavan-Darien High School.

“I’m running for governor because after eight years of Scott Walker, it’s time for change,” Mitchell said in a statement to the Wisconsin State Journal.

Boy… that’s a compelling platform.

Carfentanil Bust in Canada

It’s scary what people are putting into their bodies.

It was a carbon monoxide alarm that brought the Canadian authorities to the house in Liatris Drive, a quiet residential street lined with manicured gardens. As firefighters checked over the house to ensure its inhabitants were safe, something else caught their eye: kilograms of a mysterious powder sitting in the basement.

Soon afterwards, the police arrived at the house in Pickering, near Toronto, with a search warrant. They seized 33 identical handguns – and 53kg of the unidentified white and yellow powder.

Lab tests eventually revealed 42kg of the substance to be carfentanil – a drug the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has described as “crazy dangerous” and which authorities in the US have flagged as as potential chemical weapon. The local police force had unwittingly stumbled across what is believed to be the largest volume of the opioid ever seized in North America.

Developed in the 1970s as a tranquilizer for large animals such as elephants and bears, the synthetic opioid has also been studied as a potential chemical weapon by countries including the US, China and Israel. It is thought to have been deployed with disastrous effects when Russian special forces attempted to rescue hundreds of hostages from a Moscow theatre in 2002.

But it only burst into public view last year after officials across North America began to warn that it was being cut with heroin and other illicit drugs, leaving a rash of overdoses and deaths in its wake.

Problems in Beloit

This is an interesting story by the Beloit Daily News. The Beloit School District is seeing the same thing as many other districts – terrible kids who disrupt classes – and the administration is apparently doing a poor job of handling it. Here’s on teacher’s story:

Another former BMHS teacher who also left to work in another district loves Beloit and misses its kids. This teacher said 99 percent of students are well behaved, staff is excellent and there are many great programs.

But the teacher said Beloit Memorial High School has a group of around 25 repeat offenders who frequently cause great disruption, preventing teachers from teaching and students from learning. The teacher said most districts have kids with similar issues, but Beloit has suffered from poor administrator response.

“There is a revolving door policy. You send them out, and 5-10 minutes later they are back, sometimes with a bag of chips and a smile on their face,” the teacher said.

Some students, the teacher said, try to get suspended or expelled, and the threat of action does nothing to deter their behavior.

This teacher called the town hall meeting a “joke” and “publicity stunt” because no meaningful action followed it. Although the teacher said the school board asked some good questions, there was no change in approach by administration.

The code of conduct is solid, the teacher said, but it is inconsistently applied and some administrators make deals with students.

You know one thing that’s interesting? Before Act 10, it was much more difficult for teachers to leave for another district without losing things like their seniority. Not only has Act 10 made it easier for teachers to go to another district when they feel unsafe or are dissatisfied, but the outflow of dissatisfied teachers will put pressure on the school district to get their act together. Whether or not the school board responds to that pressure is another story, but at least Act 10 has introduced some natural market forces that push our school to be better for everyone.

State Searches For Ways to Safely Incarcerate Violent Youths

Many of these “kids” are violent sociopaths. God help whoever is tasked with keeping them separated from civilized society.

The most aggressive inmates at the state’s troubled youth prison could be removed and sent elsewhere under a plan Department of Corrections officials are considering as a way to decrease the number of incidents at the facility.

The potential new program is one response from the department to reports of an increasingly chaotic environment at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls after a federal order requiring prison officials to reduce or eliminate the use of pepper spray, restraints and solitary confinement.

Suspect’s Fills Room with Toxic Gas to End Interrogation

That’s one way to throw the cops off the scent.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A police interrogation of a Kansas City man charged with drug and gun offenses ended prematurely when an investigator was driven from the room by the suspect’s excessive flatulence.

A detective reported that when asked for his address, 24-year-old Sean Sykes Jr. “leaned to one side of his chair and released a loud fart before answering.”

The Kansas City Star reports that Sykes “continued to be flatulent” and the detective was forced to quickly end the interview.