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Dems pick Milwaukee for 2020 convention over Miami, Houston


Milwaukee will host the 2020 Democratic National Convention, party leaders announced Monday, highlighting the battleground state of Wisconsin that helped elect President Donald Trump and now will launch an opponent who could oust him.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez chose Milwaukee over Houston and Miami after deliberations lingered longer than party leaders or officials from the three finalist cities had expected.

“This choice is a statement of our values,” Perez said in a statement. “The Democratic Party is the party of working people, and Milwaukee is a city of working people.”

The convention is scheduled for July 13-16, 2020.

It will be the first time in more than a century that Democrats will nominate their presidential candidate in a Midwestern city other than Chicago. Instead, the political spotlight will shine for a week on a metro area of about 1.6 million people.

Once dubbed as “The Machine Shop of the World,” the working-class city also is known for its love affair with beer and as the birthplace of Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

Republicans are set to gather in Charlotte, the largest city in battleground North Carolina, on Aug. 24-27, 2020.

Democrats see plenty of symbolism in Milwaukee after a bitter 2016 election defined by Hillary Clinton being nearly swept in what her campaign aides had confidently called a “Blue Wall” across the upper Midwest and Great Lakes region. That band of states twice sided with President Barack Obama, but Clinton carried only Minnesota, ceding Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania—a combined 64 of the necessary 270 electoral votes—as white working-class voters flocked to Trump.

The president won Wisconsin and its 10 electoral votes by about 23,000 votes out of almost 3 million cast, the first time since 1984 that Republicans claimed the state in a presidential election. Afterward, Clinton took withering criticism for not once visiting Wisconsin as a general election candidate.

Since then, Wisconsin voters have re-elected Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin and ousted Republican Gov. Scott Walker in favor of Democrat Tony Evers and the state’s first black lieutenant governor, Mandela Barnes.

“There is no better place to showcase the Democratic Party’s vision for the future than in Wisconsin,” Baldwin said in a statement.

Wisconsin Democrats pointed to those midterm election results as they lobbied Perez and DNC officials, and presidential candidates already are paying attention. Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota came to Wisconsin in one of her first trips as a declared candidate.

In a political twist, Milwaukee officials have credited Walker for supporting the convention bid. Democratic Party proceedings will play out in the new 17,500-seat arena that Walker helped build for the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks by securing public financing from state lawmakers. Walker later lobbied GOP-leaning business leaders and donors to support Milwaukee’s effort to land the DNC.

“When it comes to a big convention like this, it’s not red, it’s not blue, it’s green,” Walker told The Associated Press. “It’s the money that will come into the state.”

While Democrats expressed enthusiasm, Walker said hosting the convention could result in previously complacent Wisconsin Republicans paying more attention and getting motivated to vote for Trump.

“I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who leans Democrat who wasn’t already motivated in the city or the state against the president,” Walker said.

Wisconsin’s Republi-can U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson concurred with Walker, saying having the convention in his state will help motivate GOP voters by revealing Democratic “socialist tendencies.”

Democratic officials in Washington said picking a host city is as much about logistics as anything else, even as they acknowledge political optics.

On logistics, Milwaukee might have pulled somewhat of an upset, given its small footprint compared to Houston and Miami, cities long accustomed to hosting major events. Houston hosted the Super Bowl as recently as February 2017.

Milwaukee organizers pitched their city—the Democratic stronghold of Wisconsin—as resurgent. Known for some of the country’s biggest brewers, including Pabst, Schlitz, Miller and Blatz, the metro area has a redeveloped downtown, a hotel capacity exceeding 17,000 rooms and a new downtown streetcar line that opened in November.

Still, the city had to prove it has the overall capacity for tens of thousands of delegates, party activists, donors and media.

DNC officials have said the question wasn’t about hotel rooms but about whether Milwaukee has requisite venues for other convention staples, from daily sit-down breakfast meetings for 57 state and territorial delegations to evening events put on by state parties, corporations, lobbyists and donors. Even as Milwaukee officials insisted they have the venues, some deep-pocketed Democrats in nearby Chicago—a 90-minute drive—stepped in to note their proximity.

Houston and Miami, meanwhile, faced their own challenges.

Miami has an impressive concentration of luxury hotels, but many are in Miami Beach across bridges from downtown. That raised the prospect of delegates spending hours in traffic. The city’s arena also is not as new as Milwaukee’s.

Houston had few if any logistical barriers. But according to party officials with knowledge of the process, the city’s organizing committee struggled to come up with the necessary financing without resorting to oil and gas money. That industry is the city’s bread and butter, but has become anathema in Democratic politics because of its part in climate change. The city’s Democratic mayor also is embroiled in a labor dispute with firefighters.

Also, though Houston and Miami are Democratic anchors in their states, Texas and Florida have no Democratic governor or senator between them.

I-90/39 expansion work to pick up at highways 14 and 26 this spring


Over the last two years, construction work to expand Interstate 90/39 to eight lanes through Janesville has been—in a word—noticeable.

But starting this month, the state Department of Transportation will kick off a slew of projects that will dramatically transform a 3-mile stretch of the Interstate on the city’s north end over the next two years.

By April, motorists could see massive earth-moving in the area around the Highway 14 and Highway 26 interchanges.

The DOT says crews over the next four months will rework the Interstate’s northbound lanes to raise their height by several feet.

The work is being done to match the bridge elevations at the highways 14 and 26 interchanges, which are crammed together within a mile of each other and are slated for reconfiguration.

Highway 26 will become a “diverging diamond” interchange identical to the one recently built at the Avalon Road interchange on the city’s south end. The Highway 14 interchange will be reworked into a diamond interchange.

Both interchanges are along a stretch where the DOT needs to accommodate double the traffic lanes both on the road and on bridges spanning Kennedy Road and the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad line.

Between Highway 26 and Highway 14, the DOT plans to extend Ryan Road under the Interstate to add a link to Deerfield Drive for local traffic.

DOT spokesman Emmanuel Yartey said all the earth-moving will make it look like crews are building hills on the northbound side of the Interstate.

Similar earth-moving is slated for the southbound side of the same stretch, probably by late this year or early next year, he said.

But this spring and summer, the project will require a diversion of traffic to the south lanes from the Mount Zion Avenue overpass to just north of Kennedy Road. Yartey said crews this month will begin striping the south lanes for “bi-directional” traffic divided by concrete barriers.

The crossover will look similar to traffic patterns on sections the DOT began expanding last year between Beloit and Janesville.

The agency’s project timeline shows the bulk of earth-moving work will occur between May and June, but staging for it could begin sometime in April.

“It’s all weather dependent,” Yartey said.

Once crews build up the elevation near the north-end interchanges, they will begin lane expansions and interchange reconfigurations.

That stretch on Janesville’s north end is one of the most complex, congested segments of the 45-mile stretch of I-90/39 between the state line and Madison, which is being reworked as part of the massive $1 billion expansion project.

About 50,000 vehicles a day travel the stretch of I-90/39 between highways 14 and 26, and about 30,000 vehicles a day come on and off the interchanges at 14 and 26, according to DOT traffic counts.

The segments of highways 26 and 14 adjacent to the Interstate carry a combined traffic load of 50,000 vehicles a day, the DOT estimates.

Yartey said the DOT plans only one ramp closure at the highways 14 and 26 interchanges this spring and summer: the Highway 26 on-ramp to northbound I-90/39.

The department will have electronic signs posted on the Interstate on Janesville’s south side and along Highway 26 that will give motorists an early warning about project work, temporary single lane closures and the planned shutdown of the northbound Highway 26 ramp.

The three-year project to raise the Interstate and reconfigure the two interchanges will never require the closure of ramps at both Highway 26 and Highway 14, Yartey said.

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Obituaries and death notices for March 12, 2019

Melanie A. Bach

Raymond “Ray” Chesmore Sr.

William G. Colondro

Ernest D. Conquist

Lucia (Leighton) Gaspar

Marjorie Ann Gaulke

Harry N. Gebel

Kelly A. Jones

Robert I. Larsen

Kevin John Mullen

Bernard Jerome Paszkiet

Barbara Jean Schmidt

Joyce E. Schmidt

Col. Steven Kent Whitfield

Evan Vucci 

President Donald Trump talks with reporters outside the White House before traveling to Alabama to visit areas affected by the deadly tornadoes, Friday, March 8, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Records show Janesville cooperation with ICE arrests


Federal immigration agents used the Janesville Police Department to process arrestees during a series of arrests last September.

Emails between Janesville police and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement were included in a response by ICE to a Freedom of Information Act request from Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis.

Pocan released the documents Monday.

ICE agents reported arresting 83 Wisconsin residents last fall, including some in Rock County. The agency has never identified those arrested or said what happened to them.

The documents released Monday indicate the arrests occurred Sept. 21-24.

The documents list four arrested in Rock County, all Mexican nationals. Most information on the documents was redacted, however, including the names.

The only Janesville arrest was of a 36-year-old man. The other three were from Beloit, ages 29, 33 and 63.

Pocan complained he made numerous requests of ICE for information on those arrested, and when ICE finally sent him more than 400 pages of information last week, nearly all of it was redacted.

ICE sent a lengthy explanation for the redactions. Two of its major arguments are that some of the documents would have a chilling effect on ICE employees expressing their opinions internally and that revealing information would violate personal privacy rights, which “outweigh any minimal public interest in disclosure of the information.”

ICE spokeswoman Nicole Alberico told The Gazette in an email that “it would be inappropriate” to comment on a Freedom of Information Act request. She did not elaborate.

Janesville Police Chief Dave Moore said ICE used Janesville booking facilities to process arrestees and also used the department’s garage.

Moore said he allowed the use of the facilities as he would for any other law enforcement agency.

Janesville officers had nothing to do with the ICE operation, and no local records were kept of ICE activities, Moore said.

“They just brought people in, processed them and moved them on to another location,” Moore said. “I really didn’t have anything to do with the operation.”

All names on the emails were redacted.

An email from ICE sent Sept. 23 to Janesville police said: “We have one more day of operations. Everything has been fine. We appreciate the assistance provided. Obviously, at the end of this op, ICE will send out a press release. I know initially you (sic) chief was interested in being included. Does he still want to be included. I know there is a radical population in the Dane County area and no doubt, some of that population may bleed over to the Rock County area and specifically Janesville. I am not sure, but it is in that area. …”

Someone speaking for Moore responded that the chief did not want to be on the news release.

Moore said Monday there was no need to be included.

“It was kind of a non-event,” Moore said.

One email indicates ICE intended to “manage arrests” at the Janesville police station “until the Kenosha County Jail can arrive and assume custody of those arrested.”

A document labeled “Order to detain” for Kenosha County lists people with the same ages as those arrested in Rock County.

The document lists criminal history for arrestees that match up with those arrested in Rock County, including “driving under the influence liquor” for the 63- and 29-year-olds, battery for a 36-year-old and “NC” for a 33-year-old.

A Pocan spokesman said he did not know what “NC” means.

An email sent to Marathon County authorities about being in a press release was similar to the one sent to Janesville. It stated, in part: “I know there is a radical population in this country, in some areas more than others, that is extremely hostile towards ICE.”

Some so-called sanctuary cities limited their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement in recent years, and some churches and other organizations have sought to protect undocumented immigrants from ICE. It’s not clear if that’s what the ICE official meant by “radical population.”

Pocan on Monday threatened to sue ICE if the agency doesn’t provide more records.

Pocan’s analysis of the documents showed 39 of the 83 arrestees had no criminal history.

Pocan said ICE is deporting “members of our community with minor offenses or no criminal history.”