The city plans to conduct a feasibility study on a new sports complex to replace the Janesville Ice Arena, and the facility could feature more than a couple of new ice rinks.
The Janesville City Council on Monday approved the 2018-22 strategic plan, which includes completing in 2018 a feasibility study on an indoor sports complex. The study will cost up to $50,000, of which the Janesville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau will pay half, officials said.
The study is the first step toward a possible two-sheet ice arena. The Janesville Ice Arena has only one rink, but having two could boost tourism significantly, officials said.
“I’m very excited about it,” said Janesville Jets President Bill McCoshen. “We’re happy to call the Janesville Ice Arena home and have for nine years, but obviously a new facility could generate more potential for the Jets long term.
“I think all the user groups of the facility would like to see a new facility in town if possible,” he said.
A two-sheet arena would allow Janesville to host more games and tournaments during the winter months when hotel vacancy is higher, said Christine Rebout, visitors bureau executive director.
The city and bureau mutually decided that the bureau would chip in for the study. The bureau is interested in bringing economy-boosting groups to the city, and that’s what a new sports complex would do, Rebout said.
Drawing more out-of-area teams and fans to Janesville would funnel money to local restaurants, grocers, gas stations and more, McCoshen said.
“It would have a significant impact on the community,” he said. “There’s enormous potential.”
The ice arena is so heavily used, especially by the Jets and Janesville Youth Hockey, that other local hockey teams must practice elsewhere. For instance, Milton High School’s team practices and plays games in Stoughton, McCoshen said.
A new two-rink complex would allow more teams to practice in Janesville. If both rinks are full size, two games could be played simultaneously, he said.
The city will issue a request for proposals for a group to conduct the study before spring. The group will assess the need for a new ice arena and other potential indoor recreational uses, said Jennifer Petruzzello, Janesville’s neighborhood and community services director.
McCoshen said there’s been talk of including an indoor soccer arena in the complex. Petruzzello mentioned soccer as well, along with walking paths, tracks and indoor play spaces.
“There’s an unlimited number of recreational activities it could include at this point,” she said.
The Jets realize building a new complex would require “significant” private-sector funding. The project wouldn’t be entirely funded by Janesville taxpayers, McCoshen said.
This isn’t the first time Janesville has considered a new ice arena.
Around 2009, Janesville Youth Hockey members and business leaders looked into building a new facility. Their research didn’t include a feasibility study, so the plans died, McCoshen said.
The Jets weren’t involved at the time because they were new in town and wanted to make sure they could sustain themselves first. Now in their ninth season, the Jets want to be involved, he said.
“This time, we think it’s in the community’s best interest because the community that figures this out first in Rock County is going to get the biggest benefit from it,” McCoshen said at a recent Janesville City Council meeting.
“This is a broader approach than attempted seven years ago, and it will be data-driven,” he said.
Beloit officials last year looked into building an ice arena but never publicly released their findings. Reports suggested the city couldn’t sustain the cost of a new facility, McCoshen said.
The Janesville Ice Arena was built in 1974 and last renovated in 2012. Improvements included geothermal ice-making equipment, removal of the old concrete ice rink, a locker room addition, a new roof and more, Petruzzello said.
Millions of Americans are signing up for 2018 coverage through the Affordable Care Act, defying the Trump administration’s hostility to the law and a yearlong campaign by congressional Republicans to repeal it.
As a final enrollment deadline approaches Friday for consumers in 39 states, sign-ups appear likely to fall short of the 2017 total, due in part to a truncated sign-up period this year. Enrollment will continue into January in several large states, including California and New York.
But the 2018 enrollment period—the first run by the Trump administration—has nevertheless defied expectations and the predictions of the president, who repeatedly proclaimed the insurance marketplaces dead.
“The administration has done what it can to limit sign-ups,” said Sandy Praeger, a Republican who served for 12 years as Kansas insurance commissioner and was president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
“But the marketplaces are still around. … I think that demonstrates that people need good health coverage, and these markets have been able to provide it.”
As of last week, nearly 4.7 million people had signed up for a 2018 health plan through HealthCare.gov, the online federal insurance marketplace that serves consumers in 39 states.
Several million more are estimated to have signed up through marketplaces in 11 other states and the District of Columbia.
The pace of enrollment has actually been quicker this year than last, according to federal data. Enrollment by new customers is up nearly 17 percent.
At the same time, many current HealthCare.gov customers who have not signed up for a new plan for 2018 will be automatically re-enrolled.
But because the 2018 enrollment period is only six weeks, compared with three months in previous years, total sign-ups are expected to fall short of the 2017 mark, which topped 9 million on HealthCare.gov. Total 2017 sign-ups, including those on state marketplaces reached 12 million.
The marketplaces—a centerpiece of the law commonly called Obamacare—have primarily served low- and moderate-income Americans who don’t get health benefits through an employer or a government program such as Medicare or Medicaid.
They have been buffeted all year by uncertainty over their future, with insurers raising rates steeply or exiting markets altogether.
That has been particularly tough for consumers who make too much to qualify for federal insurance subsidies through the health care law.
The law offers aid to Americans making between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty line, or between $12,060 and $48,240 a year.
Many insurers also concentrated the rate hikes in certain plans. Because of the complex way the law calculates subsidies, that means many consumers will pay less for coverage in 2018.
But consumer advocates and others have struggled to get the word out about enrolling in coverage through the marketplaces as the Trump administration has slashed funding for advertising and outreach, and the president and his administration have derided the marketplaces.
On the eve of the 2018 open enrollment period, which began Nov. 1, Trump declared, “Obamacare is finished. It’s dead. It’s gone.”
And all year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showcased stories of consumers who say they have been hurt by the current law.
It is still unclear whether the department, which runs the marketplace, will allow consumers who have not completed their applications by the midnight deadline Friday to finish enrollment, as the last administration did.
On Wednesday, Democratic lawmakers urged administration officials to offer a grace period to consumers who have not completed their applications before the midnight deadline.
The Trump administration’s posture was a marked departure from the Obama administration, which labored to get people to sign up for coverage.
It also contrasts with how the Trump administration has treated enrollment in Medicare, which officials have publicly touted.
In the face of the current administration’s hostility, consumer groups, health clinics, insurance companies and others have been scrambling to fill in as the Trump administration stepped back.
This week, President Barack Obama urged Americans on Facebook and Twitter to sign up for coverage and rallied advocates on a nationwide conference call.
“Sadly, we’ve had Republicans in Washington doing their best to try to sabotage the progress that’s been made and to discourage, in many cases, people from signing up,” Obama said. “The good news is … the record numbers of people who’ve signed up so far this year prove how important health insurance is to so many people.”
Officials in several states that run their own marketplaces have also been aggressively advertising and reaching out to consumers.
Rep. Paul Ryan’s office is dismissing as speculation two news reports that say the speaker of the House is likely to leave Congress by the end of 2018 and might leave much sooner.
Gov. Scott Walker and President Donald Trump were among those expressing support for Ryan after the website Politico on Thursday published a lengthy article saying Ryan is likely to leave Congress after the midterm elections in 2018.
Both Politico and the Huffington Post published reports suggesting Ryan might even leave his job as speaker of the House after the GOP passes a rewrite of the U.S. tax code. That action is expected next week.
Asked by a reporter Thursday if he’s quitting anytime soon, Ryan chuckled and said, “I’m not. No.”
A Ryan spokeswoman called the reports “pure speculation.”
The Politico article states, in part: “In recent interviews with three dozen people who know the speaker—fellow lawmakers, congressional and administration aides, conservative intellectuals and Republican lobbyists—not a single person believed Ryan will stay in Congress past 2018.”
None of those sources are quoted by name as saying that.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Donald Trump called Ryan and said he’d be unhappy if Ryan left Congress.
“The speaker assured the president that those were not accurate reports and that they look forward to working together for a long time to come,” Sanders said.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., an obvious candidate for the top GOP job if Ryan leaves, dismissed the rumors as well. “The speaker is not retiring,” McCarthy told reporters. “He enjoys his job. He loves it.”
Gov. Scott Walker tweeted, several hours after the stories were published: “Just checked with my friend @PRyan. He’s not going anywhere.”
Ryan’s chief political fundraiser, Spencer Zwick, said: “He is running for re-election. We will keep the House majority, and he will continue to be the speaker of the House. He is fully committed to continuing to lead this important agenda.”
Even so, several GOP operatives said privately that there have long been whispers that the 19-year House veteran wouldn’t keep the post for a long time and a departure wouldn’t be surprising. They spoke on condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.
The Politico article points out that Ryan has an agenda—including entitlement program reforms—that he dearly wants to accomplish, but if he appears to be a lame duck, that would weaken his position in the House.
Ryan also could be weakened in his attempt at re-election next November if constituents thought he was unlikely to serve out the two-year term.
Politico says Ryan is tired of trying to manage Republican infighting and is also keen to spend more time with his family, especially his teenage children before they leave the nest.
Ryan, 47, has served as 1st District representative since 1999 and has won re-election easily. This year, two Democrats have announced they will challenge him next year. They are Cathy Myers of Janesville and Randy Bryce of Caledonia, who has garnered national attention and recently published a poll suggesting Ryan is vulnerable.
Ryan also faces opposition from a member of his own party, Paul Nehlen of the town of Delavan, who attacks Ryan from the right.
Ryan pushed a repeal of President Barack Obama’s health care law through the House in May after encountering resistance from both ends of the GOP’s political spectrum, only to see the effort run aground in the GOP-led Senate.
Though Congress seems on the verge of passing the tax bill—the GOP’s first major legislative accomplishment this year—he faces negotiations with Democrats over spending and immigration likely to produce compromises that conservatives—including Nehlen—will angrily oppose.
Nehlen recently traveled to Alabama to campaign for Roy Moore’s Senate campaign. Moore lost in Tuesday’s election to a Democrat, sending out political shock waves.
Ryan took the job of speaker reluctantly after former Speaker John Boehner of Ohio stepped aside abruptly in 2015.
Ryan initially said he was uninterested in being speaker, calling it a job for empty-nesters.
Ryan was already a national figure for his work on economic issues in 2012 when Mitt Romney chose him as his presidential running mate.
Politico says Ryan considered retirement after he and Romney lost to President Barack Obama.
Politico points out Ryan still enjoys the support of many House Republicans, even though Freedom Caucus Republicans often oppose him.
And Ryan enjoys an unprecedented campaign war chest and an ability to raise more.
During last year’s presidential campaign, he refused to campaign with Trump after the candidate was heard on a leaked 2005 recording describing lewd behavior with women. He has criticized several remarks Trump has made as president, including his blaming of both sides for a riot at a demonstration by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer. The two men’s relationship has run hot and cold.
Ryan’s hold on the speakership could end in 2019 whether he wants to keep the job or not.
Democrats will need to gain 24 seats in next November’s midterm elections to capture House control. Trump’s staggering unpopularity and recent Democratic victories have raised that party’s hopes of grabbing a House majority.
Ryan has given reporters an extensive preview of next year’s GOP agenda, promising action on restraining the growth of government benefit programs.
But Tuesday’s Senate election in Alabama, in which Democrat Doug Jones scored an upset, will bring the GOP’s margin of control in that chamber to 51-49, making any action on cutting the budget a long shot.
Local • 3A
Man stabbed in abdomen
A Janesville man has been arrested in a stabbing that injured another man Thursday afternoon on the city’s east side, police reported. According to a news release, police arrested Justin G. Pennycook, 22, on suspicion he stabbed Dalton J. Rademacher, 19, in the abdomen and fled, then threw the knife into a nearby creek.
State • 2A
Group takes on school funding
Leaders of a bipartisan task force tackling how to improve Wisconsin’s complex, much-derided school aid formulas said Thursday they are dedicated to ensuring their recommendations don’t “gather dust” but understand the challenges of making significant change.
Nation/World • 6B-7B
FCC votes down net neutrality
The Federal Communications Commission repealed the Obama-era “net neutrality” rules Thursday, giving internet service providers like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T a free hand to slow or block websites and apps as they see fit or charge more for faster speeds. In a straight party-line vote of 3-2, the Republican-controlled FCC junked the longtime principle that said all web traffic must be treated equally.
Sports • 1B-4B
Brewers quiet at meetings
During his two-plus years as general manager of the rebuilding Milwaukee Brewers, David Stearns has kept transaction addicts happy by making one player move after another. That gravy train of news slowed down this week at baseball’s winter meetings, where the Brewers failed to sign a free agent or make a trade over four days that were slow in personnel moves in general.
By Frank Schultz
A Rock County Board member introduced a resolution reprimanding Sheriff Robert Spoden at the board meeting Thursday night.
The resolution of censure says the sheriff violated the public trust and his office’s code of ethics for officers.
The resolution quotes from that code: “I will never act officiously or permit personal feelings, prejudices, animosities or friendships to influence my decisions.”
Spoden could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
The county board did not discuss the resolution and took no action. County board Chairman Russ Podzilni said he would refer the resolution to “the appropriate committee.”
The resolution refers to Spoden’s actions during a recent Janesville police investigation of an underage drinking party Spoden’s son attended and where another young man was seriously injured.
Spoden told an investigating officer that there was no basis for the investigation, that those involved were good kids from good families and that police should drop the matter.
Janesville police turned Spoden’s comments over to District Attorney David O’Leary, who referred the matter to the state Department of Justice.
The department found nothing criminal in Spoden’s actions, but O’Leary said Spoden had interfered with an investigation and should have known better.
The resolution says Spoden also violated another sheriff’s office policy, which says officers should not create a situation in which an officer’s private interests conflict with the officer’s impartial conduct of official duties.
Board member Rick Richard, who introduced the resolution, would answer only written questions submitted by The Gazette.
Richard said a constituent asked him to see if the county could take any action about the sheriff’s conduct, “so I asked some questions about it, and the resolution was drafted,” Richard said.
Richard said he doesn’t know if other board members will support it and is not involved in any campaign for sheriff.
“I think it’s important to keep partisan politics out of county board business,” he wrote.
Asked what the resolution could accomplish, Richard said it’s “simply an official disapproval of an official’s action” that identifies apparent violations of the sheriff’s office’s standards of conduct and code of ethics.
It’s not a request for a new investigation or a contradiction of the Department of Justice’s investigation, he said.
“The constituent (who came to him) can at least see something was done by the board after the sheriff’s actions,” Richard wrote. “To my knowledge, if a deputy would have committed these apparent ethics violations, he or she would have been formally reprimanded, suspended or worse. Since the county board is the only body which can censure an elected county official, I thought it was important it be introduced for supervisor review.”
While the board might be able to censure, it has no authority to remove a sheriff. Only the governor can do that.
Spoden defended himself when The Gazette reported on the episode last month, saying he was acting as a father and on behalf of the friends of the injured man, including Spoden’s son, who was a high school classmate and close friend of the injured man.
“I stand by my actions, and I stand by what I did. Was I emotional? You bet I was. I still am,” Spoden said.