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City planning consultant to weigh in on Janesville indoor sports complex proposal


One of the first images James Lima saw in his internet research of Janesville was of the former parking plaza that hovered over the Rock River.

Lima was thrilled to learn the plaza is gone and the city is making strides to improve the downtown riverfront, he said to a room of about 50 people at a public presentation Monday.

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Lima, president of James Lima Planning and Development in New York City, will spend two days in Janesville talking to residents and city officials and analyzing plans the city has for a new indoor sports complex.

Janesville is making great strides to improve downtown and the city’s riverfront, two areas that can be attractive to businesses looking to move in, Lima said.

In two weeks, he will send the city a memo with his thoughts on how an indoor sports complex might affect the city, he said.

Neighborhood and Community Services Director Jen Petruzzello said Lima’s memo will be shared with the city council and the public to inform future decisions about the proposal.

She also said the indoor sports complex steering committee decided Monday that it would recommend the council approve the proposed Janesville Mall site at the council’s Nov. 11 meeting. That would allow the city to start designing the facility.

The Janesville Foundation gave the city $10,000 to bring Lima to town and get his input. Foundation members approached the city with the idea, Petruzzello said.

Much of Lima’s presentation detailed projects his company has worked on and urban issues it has addressed, including housing, equal access to opportunities for everyone, gentrification and community building.

Some of those at the presentation were confused when Lima did not go over specifics on the sports complex proposal.

Monday was Lima’s first day in Janesville, so he still had much to learn about the project and the city, he said. The purpose of Monday’s meeting was to address and learn from the community, Lima said.

It was unclear before the meeting that his analysis had not begun.

Petruzzello said the indoor sports complex would be one of the largest projects the city has completed in recent history, so it wants the best information possible as it moves forward.

If approved, the design phase would take at least a year. The earliest an indoor sports complex could be operating is fall 2022, Petruzzello said.

The project is expected to be funded by a combination of public and private dollars, but it is not yet known how much the city will commit. A group of people are working now on securing private funding, Petruzzello said.

The recommended Janesville Mall site is estimated to cost $33 million to redevelop.

The city hopes private dollars can cover at least half the design phase costs, Petruzzello said.

A business plan outlining the completed facility’s operating budget is still under development, Petruzzelo said.

Angela Major 

The sun sets behind St. Paul’s Lutheran School students participating in cross country practice Monday, October 7, 2019, near Blackhawk Golf Course in Janesville.

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Advocate: Bullying incident at Parker shows schools not doing enough


A bullying incident that was widely shared on social media has renewed calls for the Janesville School District and other community groups to do more about bullying.

Angelia Babcock, president of the anti-bullying group Be a Rooney, said the undated videos show that bullying has not gotten better. She said the incident reinforces the need for a citywide anti-bullying ordinance.

“We need to bring all the entities to the table,” Babcock said. “The school district, the police department, the city council and the community.”

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Babcock advocated for an anti-bullying ordinance that was tabled by the Janesville City Council in September 2018. The measure would have applied to both children and adults, including parents. It included a fine that started at $50 and reached $770 if the matter went to court, according to a previous story in The Gazette.

On Monday, Babcock sent the video clips to school, police and city officials. She also sent copies to the media.

The first clip shows a female student accusing another of stealing something from her. The victim denies it. The female student hits the victim in the face twice. When the victim bends down to pick up her belongings off the floor, a second girl hits her in the side of the head.

The second video clip shows the victim kneeling on the floor with her back to the camera. The first female student strikes the victim in the face. When someone off camera tells the female student to “Stop, seriously,” the female student threatens her.

The incident appears to take place in a Parker High School bathroom.

Patrick Gasper, a school district spokesman, confirmed the incident occurred at Parker.

Federal law prohibits the district from revealing information about the victim or perpetrator.

“The school was aware of the situation and handled it according to policy,” Gasper said.

The district’s anti-bullying policy allows “action up to and including behavioral interventions, support, disciplinary action, and/or referral to law enforcement officials or social services.”

Consequences are “unique to the nature of the behavior, the developmental level of the student, and the history of problem behaviors,” the policy states.

In addition to supporting an anti-bullying ordinance, Babcock thinks schools need to do more.

Based on what she saw in the videos, Babcock thinks the victim and perpetrator need access to mental health services.

“She clearly does not know how to handle her anger and aggression,” Babcock said of the perpetrator.

This year, the school district started a new program that allows students at Wilson Elementary School and Craig High School to receive mental health services at or near the schools. Officials hope to expand those services to more schools, Gasper said.

Both high schools and all three middle schools have full-time school resource officers who respond to fights and other incidents, Gasper said.

For Babcock, that’s not enough. Social media allows bullying to extend beyond school walls, and that’s another reason she supports an ordinance.

In her email to school and city officials, Babcock said videos of the Parker incident were posted on Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook, which removed them because of their violent content. The social media sharing will make the victim’s life worse, Babcock wrote.

“You had the opportunity to do something about it, and you failed,” she wrote. “This little girl’s life is forever changed because you failed to do anything to help protect her and kids like her.”

Last year, Assistant City Attorney Tim Wellnitz recommended against adopting an anti-bullying ordinance because it “would not provide any beneficial enhancement” to the city’s existing policies and state statutes.

Gasper stressed that district officials work closely with police when bullying occurs.

He encouraged parents to talk to their children about resources at school. Student who are being bullied can talk to the principal, assistant principal, school counselor or any trusted adult.

Obituaries and death notices for Oct. 8, 2019

Larry D. Cooper

Velma Arline Hageness

Beatrice Ann Hartin

Fayette Gordon Hensley

Carole D. Jackowski

Margaret A. McDade

Kenneth D. Mellom Jr.

Virginia M. “Ginger” Skaife

Diane L. Taber

Sanford F. “Sandy” Weber Jr.

Dorothy M. Zimmerlee

Mike Roemer 

Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur reacts during the first half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

Trump defends decision to abandon Kurdish allies in Syria


President Donald Trump on Monday cast his decision to abandon Kurdish fighters in Syria as fulfilling a campaign promise to withdraw from “endless war” in the Middle East, even as Republican critics and others said he was sacrificing a U.S. ally and undermining American credibility.

Trump declared U.S. troops would step aside for an expected Turkish attack on the Kurds, who have fought alongside Americans for years, but he then threatened to destroy the Turks’ economy if they went too far.

Even Trump’s staunchest Republican congressional allies expressed outrage at the prospect of abandoning Syrian Kurds who had fought the Islamic State group with American arms and advice. It was the latest example of Trump’s approach to foreign policy that critics condemn as impulsive, that he sometimes reverses and that frequently is untethered to the advice of his national security aides.

“A catastrophic mistake,” said Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican leader. “Shot in the arm to the bad guys,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Trump said he understood criticism from fellow GOP leaders but disagreed. He said he could also name supporters, but he didn’t.

Pentagon and State Department officials held out the possibility of persuading Turkey to abandon its expected invasion. U.S. officials said they had seen no indication that Turkey had begun a military operation by late Monday.

Trump, in late afternoon remarks to reporters, appeared largely unconcerned at the prospect of Turkish forces attacking the Kurds, who include a faction he described as “natural enemies” of the Turks.

“But I have told Turkey that if they do anything outside of what we would think is humane ... they could suffer the wrath of an extremely decimated economy,” Trump said.

In recent weeks, the U.S. and Turkey had reached an apparent accommodation of Turkish concerns about the presence of Kurdish fighters, seen in Turkey as a threat. American and Turkish soldiers had been conducting joint patrols in a zone along the border. As part of that work, barriers designed to protect the Kurds were dismantled amid assurances that Turkey would not invade.

Graham said Turkey’s NATO membership should be suspended if it attacks into northeastern Turkey, potentially annihilating Kurdish fighters who acted as a U.S. proxy army in a five-year fight to eliminate the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate. Graham, who had talked Trump out of a withdrawal from Syria last December, said letting Turkey invade would be a mistake of historic proportion and would “lead to ISIS reemergence.”

This all comes at a pivotal moment of Trump’s presidency. House Democrats are marching forward with their impeachment inquiry into whether he compromised national security or abused his office by seeking negative information on former Vice President Joe Biden, a political rival, from Ukraine and other foreign countries.

As he faces the impeachment inquiry, Trump has appeared more focused on making good on his political pledges, even at the risk of sending a troubling signal to U.S. allies abroad.

“I campaigned on the fact that I was going to bring our soldiers home and bring them home as rapidly as possible,” he said.

The strong pushback on Capitol Hill prompted Trump to recast as well as restate his decision, but with renewed bombast and self-flattery.

He promised to destroy the Turkish economy “if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits.”

Sunday night the White House said the U.S. would get its troops out of the way of the Turkish forces. That announcement came after Trump spoke by phone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

One official described that White House announcement as a botched effort appeared aimed at making Trump look bold for ending a war. The official said attempts by the Pentagon and State Department to make the statement stronger in its opposition to Turkey’s military action were unsuccessful.

That official, like others interviewed, was not authorized to speak on the record and was granted anonymity to comment.

The official added that Erdogan appeared to be reconsidering his earlier resolve because he was relatively quiet Monday. But damage done to relations with the Kurds could be irreparable.

An official familiar with the Erdogan call said the Turkish president was “ranting” at Trump, saying the safe zone was not working and that Turkey couldn’t trust the U.S. military to do what was needed. And in reaction, Trump said the U.S. wanted no part of an invasion and would withdraw troops.

The announcement threw the military situation in Syria into fresh chaos and injected deeper uncertainty into U.S. relations with European allies. A French official, speaking on condition of anonymity on a sensitive topic, said France wasn’t informed ahead of time. A Foreign Ministry statement warned Turkey to avoid any action that would harm the international coalition against the Islamic State and noted the Kurds had been essential allies. It entirely omitted any mention of the United States.

U.S. involvement in Syria has been fraught with peril since it started in 2014 with the insertion of small numbers of special operations forces to recruit, train, arm and advise local fighters to combat the Islamic State. Trump entered the White House in 2017 intent on getting out of Syria, and even before the counter-IS military campaign reclaimed the last militant strongholds early this year, he declared victory and said troops would leave.

Trump defended his decision, acknowledging in tweets that “the Kurds fought with us” but adding that they “were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so.”

“I held off this fight for almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” he wrote.

In his later remarks, Trump asserted that American troops in Syria are not performing useful work. They are, he said, “not fighting.” They are “just there,” he said.

Among the first to move were about 30 U.S. troops from two outposts who would be in the immediate area of a Turkish invasion. It’s unclear whether others among the roughly 1,000 U.S. forces in northeastern Syria would be moved, but officials said there was no plan for any to leave Syria entirely.