Cardinal Dolan likes new pope's humility; city leaders plan for climate change; Kewaunee preps for life after nuke plant; more state news
The new Catholic pope is putting his humility on display, and former Milwaukee Archbishop Tim Dolan says he's seen it firsthand.
Tim Dolan said the new Pope Francis rejected a ride in a special sedan yesterday and joined the cardinals who elected him on a bus to their Vatican hotel. Later, when the new pontiff spoke with them, he refused to stand on a riser and instead stood on the same ground as the cardinals.
"He met with us on our own level," said Dolan.
Francis is the papal name chosen by Buenos Aires Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who received the necessary two-thirds support from 115 voting cardinals. He told them he would meet with retired Pope Benedict, but not for a few days.
The new pope is the first to come from the Jesuit order. That creates special ties with the Jesuit-based Marquette University in Milwaukee.
Marquette president Scott Pilarz called the choice of Bergoglio "energizing." Pilarz said the Jesuits are the only religious order to take a vow of obedience to the pope to go anywhere they're needed.
Marquette's leader also found special significance in the name the new pontiff chose for himself: Francis. Pilarz said Francis Xavier was a close friend of Jesuit founder Ignatius Loyola. Others suggested the name was meant to honor Francis of Assisi, who like Bergoglio is known for his work with the poor.
The first thing the new pontiff did was to ask Catholics to pray for him, and that's what Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki did when he held a Mass at a seminary soon after the new pontiff was named. Listecki was surprised that it took only two days for the 115 voting cardinals to choose the new Pope Francis. He thought it would take four or five days.
Fr. Tom Lawler, head of the Wisconsin Province of the Society of Jesus, called it an "exciting and humbling time" for Catholics, and especially for the Jesuit order. Others said it signals a fresh start in a church that's struggling with scandals.
The Milwaukee Archdiocese will hold a formal Mass to celebrate the new papacy on Sunday at Milwaukee's Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.
Redistricting lawsuit plaintiffs claim hard-drives altered
MADISON -- Redistricting lawsuit plaintiffs say they've been stymied in finding new evidence that state Legislative Republicans illegally withheld documents in their 2011 remapping.
The Republicans recently turned over nine hard drives to Democratic and Hispanic groups that sued the state so they could try to find documents which a federal court told the GOP to provide, but in a new court filing, the plaintiffs said one hard drive was unreadable and another looked like its metal housing was removed.
The plaintiffs lost most of their redistricting suit a year ago as the court found that all but two of the newly drawn Assembly and Senate districts were constitutional. Afterward, the plaintiffs said they identified 55 documents which should have been turned over to them by the Republicans, but never were. The judges later ordered the state to give them their redistricting computers, so they could look for fraud in the re-mapping process.
In the new court filing, forensic examiner Mark Lanterman said documents were deleted last June, July and November, and some programs had wiping software so deleted files could not be recovered.
A legislative attorney said any allegations of misconduct are unproven and the Legislature had the right to delete items after a certain amount of time. But the plaintiffs insist lawmakers were ordered to keep all documents from the case.
Petitions urge reconsideration of school software contract
STEVENS POINT -- Two state lawmakers handed petitions to several officials Wednesday, urging them to reconsider having a Minnesota firm create a statewide database of school students.
About 4,000 people signed the petitions online. They want Skyward of Stevens Point to provide the student database instead of Minnesota's Infinite Campus, which was awarded a $15 million contract to do the work last month.
Senate Democrat Julie Lassa and Assembly Democrat Katrina Shankland, both of Stevens Point, presented the petitions to Gov. Scott Walker, Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch and state school Superintendent Tony Evers.
About half of Wisconsin school districts already use Skyward for their student databases. The lawmakers said it would cost schools thousands of dollars to convert to a new Infinite Campus system.
Skyward appealed the contract award, saying there were factors that were not considered. If Skyward gets the contract, it promises to add over 200 jobs. If not, the firm says it would have to leave Wisconsin.
Lawmakers voted last year to have a single vendor provide the school database. Lassa and Shankland have proposed a bill to reverse that and let two software firms handle the project.
Community leaders plan for climate change
Leaders in a dozen Wisconsin communities say they want to be ready the next time the effects of climate change show up.
Wisconsin Public Radio says places from Dane County to Superior have created task forces to try to become better prepared for dealing with heat waves, flooding and droughts among other things.
Green Bay and La Crosse are making similar efforts. Many include ways to protect the most vulnerable residents, including the elderly and the infirm. The Dane County group in Madison is expected to have recommendations ready by September.
County Executive Joe Parisi says the effects of climate change are obvious. He said Madison's Lake Mendota stayed frozen for four months about 150 years ago - and that's down to three months today.
David Liebl of the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts says the number of days exceeding 90 degrees will increase.
Kewaunee wins grant to help prepare for life after nuke plant
Kewaunee County is getting a $50,000 state grant to help prepare for life after its nuclear power plant leaves.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation says the funding will help local economic leaders work on a re-development strategy. Dominion Resources says it will close the Kewaunee plant May 7, and will then take about a year to decommission the facility.
Most of the 650 workers at the plant are expected to be finished by the end of this summer. The Kewaunee County Economic Development Corp. has formed a group to work on future strategies.
The plant pays over $1 million a year to local governments in lieu of property taxes. Officials say those payments will continue in full through 2014, and then drop 20% a year until the payments are eliminated in 2019.
The state lawmakers who serve the area say they're looking at ideas to make sure the property continues to provide money to Kewaunee County and the town of Carleton where the plant is located.
Wisconsin has grown by 39,000 since last census
Wisconsin has gained about 39,000 residents since the last Census in 2010.
The U.S. Census Bureau said the state had just over 5.7 million people as of last July.
Milwaukee County is attracting new people again after its population dropped by 60,000 in the three decades ending in 2000. The state's largest county gained 7,400 residents in the past two years, and it now has around 955,000.
Officials say Milwaukee County has gained about 3,300 immigrants who settled from other countries. Fr. David Bergner of Milwaukee's Catholic Charities said many immigrants find work in a relatively short time and lots of them have trade experience to offer.
About half of Wisconsin's 72 counties saw their populations drop slightly.
Ex-Marine called a hero after interrupting assault
MILWAUKEE -- A Marine veteran from Milwaukee is being called a hero after he stopped the battering of a woman in suburban West Allis early Tuesday.
Charlie Blackmore Jr. was driving home from work when he saw a man kicking somebody. So he pulled up, got out and saw the man walking away like nothing happened. Blackmore asked what was going on, and the man argued with him so the Marine pulled a 9 mm weapon and held the suspect at gunpoint until West Allis Police could come and arrest the suspect.
Officials said the man was beating his ex-girlfriend at the time. Prosecutors are considering possible charges.
Meanwhile, Blackmore, 32, says his cellphone and Facebook accounts got locked up with messages once the word got out. Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke praised Blackmore. The pro-gun sheriff hopes that someday people will see this as doing their civic duty.
Blackmore holds a concealed weapons permit.
Thorp Gouda named nation's best
THORP -- A Gouda cheese from central Wisconsin has been judged as the nation's best.
The Marieke Mature Gouda from Holland's Family Cheese in Thorp won the top award Wednesday night at the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest in Green Bay. Marieke Penterman is the cheesemaker who brought the entry. Her cheese scored 98.3 of a possible 100 in the final round of judging.
The first runner-up was a semi-hard alpine cheese from the Spring Brook Farm and the Farms for City Kids Foundation in Reading, Vermont. Wisconsin cheeses won gold medals in 47 of the 81 categories. Vermont and New York tied for second, with six golds each.
The contest attracted a record number of entries, over 1,700.
Snowshoer's death blamed on heart attack
WAUSAU -- A snowshoer found dead near Wausau has been identified as Mark Welsh, 49. A medical examiner said he died from a heart attack.
Two men found Welsh unresponsive on Tuesday night on a snowshoeing trail at Rib Mountain State Park.
He was pronounced dead a short time later at a Wausau hospital. Authorities had immediately ruled out foul play.
Parent's secret video reveals abusive sitter
WAUSAU -- Authorities in Wausau said a man had suspicions about his babysitter so he secretly videotaped her, and the evidence is now part of a child abuse case against her.
Jennifer Cronin, 19, of Rothschild is charged in Marathon County with felony reckless child abuse.
Prosecutors say the father installed a camera because he thought Cronin was not watching his children carefully enough after a two-year-old boy fell down some stairs. Officials said the parents reviewed the videotape and then called police.
A criminal complaint said Cronin repeated struck a four-month-old boy in the face and head and grabbed the baby's wrist and yanked him from a floor into the air.
Cronin's attorney says the allegations are out of character for her. She's free on a signature bond, and is due back in court April 9 for a pre-trial proceeding.