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Monday, November 15, 2021
Long Lake, Washburn County •  Reader photo by Joe Hoy
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Menomonie Schools to Close Next Week Due to COVID Spread

  • A recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the Menomonie Area School District that has left too few teachers and staff to instruct students has prompted the closure of the district next week.
  • “It has been a difficult few weeks in the school district,” district Superintendent Joe Zydowsky wrote in a message to district parents and staff announcing the closure. “A sharp increase in COVID-19 transmission throughout the community has led to many teachers and support staff members having to isolate, quarantine, or stay home to provide care for children unable to attend school or local daycare centers.”
  • Currently, 85 students have recently tested positive for the virus, and 307, or 9.53% of total district students, are isolated from class, according to district figures. Two staff members have the virus at this time, and another 14 are thought to have been exposed to it. Since August, children have accounted for the highest number of Wisconsinites testing positive for COVID-19, according to state Department of Health Services data.

Top Republicans Continue Efforts to Undermine Public Confidence in Elections

  • Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) on Sunday told WKOW-TV that prosecutors should "probably" charge five of six members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) with felonies, while presumptive GOP gubernatorial nominee and former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch on Monday sued the WEC.
  • Republicans have sought to undermine the WEC—which they created under Kleefisch and former Gov. Scott Walker in 2016—and the general public's faith in the electoral system in the wake of former President Donald Trump's defeat in 2020 in an effort to pass new voting restrictions.
  • The WEC, which has repeatedly refuted accusations it violated state law, has been targeted recently by Republican officials for issuing guidance last year that made it easier for people to vote at the height of the pandemic. A nonpartisan audit found no widespread fraud or issues with election administration but said the WEC should have worked with the Legislature before issuing its guidance.
  • The remarks by Vos and lawsuit from Kleefisch are just another example of Republicans' assault on elections. Last week, US Sen. Ron Johnson told Republicans who control the Legislature they should take control of federal elections, a proposition of which Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) told WISN he was skeptical.
Reported by Jonathon Sadowski
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Area 178, a 9-mile trails network on the eastern edge of Chippewa Falls, west of Lake Wissota, is a scenic natural area used by hikers, runners, and bicyclists. The area is one of many beautiful recreational areas across Wisconsin. (Photo by Julian Emerson)

The Name of the Chippewa Valley's Best-Kept Secret Natural Area Sounds Like a UFO Landing Site

  • Area 178. It sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, or maybe an alien conspiracy theory. 
  • As it turns out, Area 178 is a real place in the Chippewa Valley. It's a little-known natural area between Chippewa Falls and Lake Wissota with stunning views and 9 miles of beautiful hiking trails.
  • UpNorthNews Reporter Julian Emerson recently visited for the first time after having lived in the area for four decades. He wrote a column about his visit and why he can't wait to return.

Rep. David Bowen Announces Run for Lieutenant Governor

  • State Rep. David Bowen (D-Milwaukee) on Monday announced he will run for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor next year.
  • In his campaign announcement, Bowen vowed to give young voters, people of color, and vulnerable populations "something to vote for, not just something to vote against." He is running on a platform of reducing economic inequality, protecting people's right to vote, and ensuring "clean and safe communities" and "healthy wildlife."
  • Bowen, first elected to the Legislature in 2014, is the third Democrat to join the race to replace current Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who is leaving the position to run for Republican Sen. Ron Johnson's US Senate seat. The two other Democratic candidates are also state lawmakers: first-term Rep. Sara Rodriguez (D-Brookfield) and Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee), who has been in the Legislature since 2003. Whoever wins the nomination will be paired with Gov. Tony Evers on ballots next year.
  • Republicans running for lieutenant governor include: state Sen. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point), former Johnson spokesman Ben Voelkel, and Lancaster Mayor David Varnam.
—Reported by Jonathon Sadowski

Task Force on Racial Disparities Drafts Final Recommendations

  • The Assembly Speaker's Task Force on Racial Disparities, formed last year after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, on Monday released 17 recommendations on ways to improve educational and economic outcomes for Wisconsinites of color.
  • The recommendations include: increasing diversity among Wisconsin educators, improving childcare access for people of color, and creating a tax credit to incentivize builders to construct workforce housing. The recommendations will be subject to minor changes based on a Monday morning meeting; the finalized draft is expected to be released later this week.
  • "For me, as a Black man in Wisconsin ... we have a lot of talks, and to take that talk and put it into action and bring about change, that's the important piece," said Rep. Kalan Haywood (D-Milwaukee), who co-chaired the subcommittee focused on education and economic development. Rep. Robert Wittke (R-Racine), the other co-chair, celebrated the release of the recommendations but said "there is [more] work to be done."
  • It remains to be seen how many recommendations will eventually be enacted into law. The task force's other subcommittee issued 18 police reform recommendations, but the Republican-led Legislature only passed four that ultimately changed very little. According to an email obtained earlier this year by UpNorthNews through an open records request, Republican leaders initially planned to use the task force to provide the illusion of being open to reform while potentially making Democrats look bad if they rejected incremental proposals.
Reported by Jonathon Sadowski

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(Sorry, view of Lake Wissota not included.)
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