Newly sworn-in Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers called for a rejection of “the tired politics of the past” in his inauguration speech Monday, urging lawmakers to find bipartisan solutions to the biggest issues facing the state.
Evers, the state superintendent of schools since 2009, took over for Scott Walker and faces a Republican-controlled Legislature that will oppose many of his biggest priorities. Republican legislative leaders, also speaking on inauguration day, echoed Evers’ call for bipartisanship but said they wouldn’t back down in the face of a new Democratic governor.
“We must turn the page on the tired politics of the past, we must lead by example,” Evers said during his inauguration address in the rotunda of the state Capitol. “It’s time to remake and repair our state and reclaim our better history. The people of Wisconsin demanded a change this November, and that change is coming.”
Evers called for transcending divisiveness.
“May we have courage in our conscience,” Evers said. “And may we be willing to do what’s best for the next generation rather than the next election.”
Evers’ ascendance as governor marks a new era in Wisconsin politics, ending eight years of Republican dominance. It also marks the first time since 1986 that all constitutional officers are Democrats.
Evers called for a return to the values of kindness, respect and civility, and he urged Republicans and Democrats to set aside party allegiances to work for a greater good. While some have said divided government is a recipe for gridlock, Evers called for compromise.
Evers emphasized his campaign priorities, including fully funding public schools “at every level” from pre-kindergarten through college, making health care more affordable and accessible, and improving the conditions of Wisconsin’s roads.
“We cannot fix these problems unless people come before politics,” Evers said. “We’ve become paralyzed by polarity and we’ve become content with division. We’ve been indifferent to resentment and governing by retribution.”
Later in the afternoon, Evers took his first action as governor, signing an executive order requiring state agencies to develop and implement policies preventing discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
The move was praised by Fair Wisconsin director Megin McDonell, who said it “modernizes our state’s internal policies to make sure Wisconsin government employees are judged solely on their job performance, not who they are or who they love.”
The Evers administration will also create a model anti-discrimination policy.
Evers is also calling for the state to put standard terms in contracts saying that the recipient can only hire on the basis of merit and they can’t discriminate.
Another order Evers signed calls for state agency leaders to “recognize the valuable contributions of state employees, promote positive morale and foster a collaborative work environment.”
Evers’ ascent marked the first time since 2006, when Democrat Jim Doyle was governor, that the entire Legislature is controlled by the opposite party of the governor. In 2007 and 2008, Doyle was governor and Democrats had control of the Senate, but Republicans had the Assembly. In 2009 and 2010 Democrats controlled everything, and since 2011 Republicans had it all.
Walker and Doyle were joined by three other former Wisconsin governors at the inauguration: Tommy Thompson, Scott McCallum and Martin Schreiber. Among the others who attended were both of Wisconsin’s U.S. senators, Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin; members of Congress; Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett; and numerous past office holders.
Evers took the oath of office from Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Pat Roggensack.
In addition to Evers, all other constitutional officers elected in November were also sworn into office. Those were Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, Attorney General Josh Kaul, Treasurer Sarah Godlewski and Secretary of State Doug La Follette. La Follette is the only incumbent.
Barnes, the first African-American lieutenant governor in Wisconsin history, said “the gravity of this moment is not lost on me as we strive for equity.”
Newly elected members of the Legislature also took office. In the Assembly, 63 Republicans and 36 Democrats were seated. Of them, eight Republicans and seven Democrats are new, including 19-year-old Kalan Haywood, the youngest member of the Legislature.
In the Senate, 11 Republicans and six Democrats took office. Of them, three Republicans and one Democrat are new. Republicans hold a 19-14 majority.
The Milton School District has decided to close the pool at Milton High School on March 1 because the HVAC system that serves the pool is on the verge of failure.
At a special school board meeting Monday night, Superintendent Tim Schigur said the system is beginning to break down. The district’s maintenance team has been making manual adjustments to keep it functional, but the system could shut down any day, he said.
Schigur and Stephen Schantz, director of buildings and grounds, concluded the pool was near the end of its life Wednesday after a couple of weeks of discussion, Schigur said.
The district will try to keep the pool open until March 1, but if the system completely breaks down before then, the pool will close immediately, Schigur said.
In a June report, engineers from consulting firm Ramaker and Associates recommended the HVAC system be replaced.
The system is located on a mezzanine level above the pool equipment room and is accessible only by a ladder and a small entrance, Schantz said. Additionally, much of the system cannot be accessed without removing surrounding walls, which would make any work on it expensive and laborious, he said.
Ramaker and Associates estimated it would cost a little more than $1 million to extend the pool’s life by another five to 10 years. A new pool is estimated to cost $7.8 million.
A new pool was included in a $59.9 million draft referendum question, which the board is expected to approve next week for placement on the spring ballot.
If the referendum passes, the district will get a new pool, but it will take a few years for it to be built, Schigur said.
In that case, repairs to the existing pool could be made to keep it operational until a new pool is built. The $1.2 million needed to repair the pool space is already part of the referendum because that space will be repurposed for another use.
Board member Brian Kvapil recommended the board not make any decisions until after the referendum vote in April, but for the pool to be operational in the fall, Daryl Matzke of Ramaker said the district needs to start considering new designs as soon as possible.
The district would need to finalize a plan in March, start taking bids from contractors in April and award a bid in May.
Board members asked district staff to come back to the board with an updated cost estimate for the minimum amount of work needed to keep the pool open.
Schigur said he did not think the cost would go down significantly because building costs are increasing rapidly.
Kvapil also requested options and costs for alternative plans, such as sharing a pool with a nearby community. The high school pool is the only pool in Milton.
People watching the meeting Monday overwhelmingly disapproved of sharing a pool with another community. Many in attendance are involved in Milton swim programs.
Schigur said the district is looking into alternatives but had little time between the meeting and the HVAC system failing to do so.
If voters reject the referendum, the school board will have to decide whether to repair the pool and if so, how to fund the work.
The district can borrow up to $1 million without going to referendum, Schigur said.
Marjorie A. Connell
Beth Anne Englund
Clarence M. Haas
Robert W. Jones
William “Bill” McKinney
Dorothy May Sarow
A Walworth County judge Monday set a $1 million cash bond for a town of Delavan man who reportedly called police and told them he stabbed his wife, who records show had filed for divorce.
Judge Phillip Koss ordered the bond for Robert J. Scott, 56, of 4003 S. Channel Drive, after police arrested Scott on Sunday morning at his home.
Scott is accused of stabbing his wife, Rochelle R. Scott, 58. Court records show Rochelle filed for divorce less than three weeks ago.
Police have said they arrived at the town of Delavan home at about 10:36 a.m. Sunday and found Robert standing in the driveway. Rochelle was inside the house, dead from stab wounds.
District Attorney Zeke Wiedenfeld said Robert, who appeared Monday by video from the Walworth County Jail, “repeatedly” stabbed someone.
“Your honor this is a serious, violent offense,” Wiedenfeld said.
The district attorney said Robert, who faces life in prison, reported the stabbing at the urging of a family member.
A risk assessment filed with the court Monday listed first-degree intentional homicide as the charge in the case, although Robert has not yet been charged by the district attorney’s office.
The assessment says Robert is retired and has a history of drug abuse. It says he has no pattern of convictions involving violence.
Rochelle had filed for divorce Dec. 20.
As a condition of his bond, Robert is not allowed to contact his wife’s family.
Town of Delavan Police Chief Raymond Clark told The Gazette on Sunday police recovered a knife that they believe is the murder weapon.
Two neighbors, a husband and wife, said they were shocked by the news. They said Robert was friendly, called him a “jokester” and said he let their kids swim in his pool.
Robert is next due in court at 1:15 p.m. Thursday.