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Gran Prix's second year in Janesville a big success despite afternoon storm, organizers say

JANESVILLE

For a brief moment Tuesday, downtown Janesville looked more apt to host the swim leg of a triathlon rather than frenetic bike races.

A midday deluge forced Town Square Gran Prix organizers to delay races for about an hour.

The rainfall pelted the pavement and brought downtown to a temporary standstill. At that point, Drown Square Gran Prix might have been a more fitting title.

But the storm was a distant memory by late afternoon. The rain gave way to warm sunshine just as many were leaving work, and downtown filled with hordes of people around the racecourse.

Janesville’s second year hosting a leg of the 11-day Tour of America’s Dairyland was an undisputed success, organizers said Tuesday evening.

In fact, the success was record-setting. Race co-chair John Westphal said the $25,000 worth of primes—cash rewards for winning given laps—was a single-day record for USA Cycling.

The announcer calling the race told the crowd that riders around the world had texted him to ask if the money was for real. Then the riders asked: Where is Janesville?

The Town Square Gran Prix has put Janesville on the map, Westphal said.

He credited the generosity of local donors and positive momentum downtown for sparking more interest.

Westphal’s co-chair, Paul Murphy, said the race had more sponsors this year than its inaugural running in 2018. That boosted fundraising for primes—rhymes with teams—and raised awareness of the event.

Angela Major 

Cyclists turn the corner and start to ride down Court Street on Tuesday, June 25, 2019, in Janesville.

“Year one, people were a little apprehensive. ‘A bike race? I don’t understand it,’” Murphy said. “But once they saw and were introduced to it, they realized the excitement that it entails. That’s the thing that sold it.”

One of the most visible changes between the first and second years was the course. Last summer, the course mostly followed a rectangular layout aside from one corner.

This year, because of the Milwaukee Street bridge reconstruction, the course took on a “dog bone” shape that featured two straightaways on Court Street—one in each direction—connecting loops on each side of the river. Early feedback from riders was favorable; many enjoyed the variety of climbs, descents and tight turns, Murphy said.

If the race returns next year, and all signs point to that being the case, Murphy was unsure what the course would look like. He has a tentative date blocked off for June 23, another Tuesday.

Janesville Town Square Gran Prix 2019

The course attracted clusters of crowds on both sides of the river. The finish line was on South Parker Drive in front of The Gazette building, 1 S. Parker Drive. Others gathered near the intersection of Court and Main streets, and some headed west to Jackson Street where most of the food trucks were stationed.

Spreading out different features of the course encouraged visitors to move around and see the city from multiple angles, Murphy said.

Janesville police Sgt. Aaron Dammen said even with the bigger crowds, the race operated smoothly. He was not aware of any tickets issued for unruly behavior.

Murphy said organizers have already begun making lists of things they can improve. Audio in the far reaches of the course would be ideal, while other upgrades would be small, mostly internal tweaks.

When will those preparations begin?

“Probably tomorrow,” Murphy said. “We’ll enjoy today (Tuesday), but we’ll evaluate ourselves and see what we need to improve on.”


New Gazette owner Adams Publishing adds Beloit Daily News to portfolio

BELOIT

Adams Publishing Group announced Tuesday it has acquired Greater Beloit Publishing, adding to a growing group of newspapers in southcentral Wisconsin and setting the table for those papers to work together, a company executive said.

Greater Beloit Publishing comprises the Beloit Daily News, Weekend Daily News and My Stateline Shopper, all formerly owned by Hagadone Newspapers, which has owned the Daily News since 1969, that newspaper reported.

The announcement comes three weeks after Adams announced the acquisition of The Gazette.

The company planned to complete purchases of Rock County’s two daily newspapers Tuesday, said Jeff Patterson, president of Adams Publishing Group Central Division.

The new “regional group” of newspapers in southern Wisconsin will plan ways to share resources and improve their news and advertising, Patterson said.

Minneapolis-based Adams Publishing also operates daily newspapers in Fort Atkinson and Watertown and weeklies in Sun Prairie, Waterloo, Cottage Grove, Cambridge, Lake Mills, Milton, Waunakee, DeForest and Lodi.

“There are some tremendous opportunities, moving forward, with a strengthened group like this,” which could mean better content for readers, Patterson said.

“We are very excited to have the Beloit newspapers join the Adams group of newspapers,” Mark Adams, CEO of Adams Publishing Group, said in a statement.

“The Beloit Daily News’ longtime associates have served the Beloit community well, and we look forward to continuing that tradition. Beloit is exactly the type of community we look for as we continue to expand our company, and this market fits well with other publishing properties we own in the great state of Wisconsin.”

The Daily News will be printed in The Gazette’s 12-year-old printing plant, so some employees of the Daily News’ printing operation will be laid off, Patterson said. He didn’t know how many, but he said they could be hired in Janesville if openings exist.

Patterson said leadership teams from the Adams papers in this area will meet today to begin discussions about how they can improve their products and service to customers with a company that has more resources than the formerly independent companies had.

Patterson pointed to potential “synergies and efficiencies” in the operation of the regional group of newspapers, but each newspaper will continue to have its own identity and to serve its community, as it has in the past, he said.

“That’s the way we do business. We are hyper-local in serving our communities, but there’s certainly some functions that can be strengthened through the larger group now,” Patterson said. “We’ll be able to work together to better serve our advertising customers, our readers, to provide more content through news sharing throughout the group.”

The distribution of newspapers and the business offices also are areas where efficiencies might be found, Patterson said.

Adams aims to continue producing top-quality content as news consumption habits change drastically, Patterson said.

Adams does not dictate the content of its publications and leaves local news managers to decide how to cover the news, what political endorsements to make or what opinions the papers express, Patterson said.

“Our readers may find that an opinion expressed in the Fort Atkinson Daily Union is different than it was expressed in the Janesville Gazette,” he said.

Asked about possible layoffs beyond the Daily News’ printing staff and other personnel changes going forward, Patterson said he gave up making predictions about the news business long ago but said: “Changes do happen and will happen ... but at this time no layoffs are planned.

“We’re real excited to bring the talented people in this region together. We’ve been working on this project for about a year and a half, to bring these great, award-winning papers under one roof,” Patterson said.

“We believe that together we’re stronger, and just imagine the things we can do in an industry that certainly has had its challenges right now. But we’re better positioned to continue our level of producing great content and delivering that on whatever platform (newspapers and digital media) our readers would like,” Patterson said.

Mary Jo Villa of Janesville, a longtime executive for Bliss Communications, will be announced as regional president, overseeing Adams companies in southern Wisconsin, Patterson said.

Villa came to The Gazette in 1990 as human resources director. She has served in a variety of leadership roles with Bliss Communications, including in newspaper distribution, in developing the printing plant and assisting with mergers and acquisitions. She has served as The Gazette’s general manager and as chief operating officer for Bliss.

The purchase of The Gazette from Bliss Communications also included The Eagle Herald in Marinette and The Janesville Messenger, The Wisconsin/Illinois Stateline News and the Walworth County Shopper Advertiser.

Adams Publishing operates more than 30 daily newspapers and 100 weekly newspapers in 20 states. It also operates outdoor advertising, a wine distribution business, Camping World, Good Sam Club and Gander Outdoors.


Obituaries and death notices for June 26, 2019

Claudette Burger

Susan J. Diderich

John “Jack” Fogle

Thaddeus “Ted” Jackowski

Margaret B. Johnson

Shirley A. Kirchner

Mac L. Krohn

Elizabeth J. “Betty” Larsen

Anna Mae Marsh

Isaac Bruce Tessier

James “Jim” Vogel


Assembly OKs GOP budget plan, passes it to Senate

MADISON

Republicans in the state Assembly approved a state budget late Tuesday after adding provisions they believed would get the $81.5 billion spending package through the GOP-controlled Senate.

The eleventh-hour tweaks would give counties 35 more prosecutors, prevent a committee of lawmakers from imposing new vehicle fees on its own and allow Tesla to directly sell its electric vehicles to consumers. Other changes would make it harder for Gov. Tony Evers to reshape the budget using his veto powers.

But the budget the Assembly approved largely on party lines would not have the state cover two-thirds of school costs, despite pledges from Republicans to do that.

The Assembly passed the budget 60-39, with three Republicans joining all Democrats to oppose it. The Republicans voting no were Reps. Janel Brandtjen of Menomonee Falls, Rick Gundrum of Slinger and Timothy Ramthun of Campbellsport.

The Senate is set to take up the budget today.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Rochester told Democrats they were a “rubber stamp for liberalism” who were declaring “Wisconsin stinks” by voting as a bloc against the budget.

“You wonder why Gov. Evers never asked for your input? Because you’re irrelevant,” Vos told Democrats. “We went to the middle, but it’s never enough for you.”

Vos and other Republicans in recent months have said they planned to have the state cover two-thirds of the costs for schools, but the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau found the GOP budget would cover about 65% of costs for next school year.

“I feel we were able to come very close, and that’s why we were happy with the ultimate product,” Vos said.

Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz said Republicans had broken their promise.

“It should come as a surprise to no one that Wisconsin Republicans failed to adequately fund public education in their version of the state budget,” the Oshkosh Democrat said in a statement.

The GOP budget departs significantly from the one offered by Evers, but it does focus new resources on Evers’ priorities—K-12 education, health care, transportation and middle-class tax relief.

Two Senate Republicans—David Craig of Big Bend and Steve Nass of La Grange—have said they will vote against the budget because they think it includes too much spending. Republicans can’t afford to lose any more votes in the Senate because all Democrats oppose it.

To help secure the vote of Republican Sen. Chris Kapenga of Delafield, leaders included in the amendment a provision that would allow Tesla to sell its vehicles directly to consumers rather than having to go through dealers as other car companies must.

Kapenga owns Integrity Motorsports, which sells salvaged Tesla vehicles and parts for them. He said the business is a hobby and he would not gain financially from the budget amendment.

Kapenga said he had not decided whether he would vote for the budget.

But Vos said he was confident Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau would be able to round up the votes to pass the budget in his house today.

“I have to trust Sen. Fitzgerald to work his own process,” Vos told reporters. “He is a very capable leader.”

Another provision added Tuesday would give counties 35 more assistant district attorneys than Republicans originally allocated for them. Coupled with additional prosecutors already included in the budget, counties would get a total of 65 more prosecutors.

Under the GOP plan, Milwaukee County would not get any additional prosecutors, but all the counties surrounding it would get at least one more prosecutor each.

Assistant district attorneys around the state would receive an additional $3.5 million in pay raises over the next two years as part of the amendment, as well.

GOP lawmakers also used the amendment to earmark $3 million for the Wisconsin Rapids-based Incourage Community Foundation in the district of GOP Sen. Patrick Testin of Stevens Point.

Another part of the amendment would make it easier for the Wisconsin Center District to expand the downtown Milwaukee convention center by providing more state backing for its loans.

It would also allow the state Department of Health Services to more easily spend money to enforce its work requirements for recipients of Wisconsin’s food stamp program known as FoodShare. Evers proposed eliminating the work requirements.

Lawmakers no longer would require the department to seek permission from the Legislature’s budget committee before it could spend $20.5 million allocated for the enforcement. The department also would not be required to submit a report on how many able-bodied adults are enrolled in the state’s job training program for FoodShare recipients.

This is in contrast to how the department must interact with the Joint Finance Committee when making changes to health care programs. Republicans in December passed laws that would require permission from the committee before such changes could occur.

The Republican budget would commission a $2.5 million study to review new ways to pay for roads based on how many miles drivers travel. That could include setting up tolls or installing devices in people’s cars to record how much they drive.

Under that provision as originally written, the Joint Finance Committee would vote by 2023 on whether to establish new mileage-based fees—and the fees could go into effect without the approval of the rest of the Legislature. The amendment tweaked that provision so the entire Legislature would have to approve any new fees.

Originally, Republicans planned to eliminate a tax break motor fuel suppliers get to account for fuel that evaporates while they fill tanks. With the amendment, they scaled back the tax break but did not eliminate it.

The change will mean roads will get about $18 million less over two years compared with the Republicans’ original plan.

Under both the original GOP plan and Evers’ plan, property taxes on the median-valued home would go up $56 for 2019 and $48 for 2020, according to a memo by the fiscal bureau.

In their amendment, Republicans put about $6 million more toward property tax relief so their increases would be just under those in Evers’ budget.

With the amendment, property taxes on the median home would go up $55 for 2019 and $45 for 2020.

Guarding against Evers’ vetoes

Many of the other changes in the amendment were aimed at making the budget tougher for Evers to get creative with his veto powers. Wisconsin governors have the ability to strike out words and numbers throughout budgets.

In their amendment, Republicans changed phrasing throughout the budget to drop the terms “shall not” and “may not” and replace them with “cannot.” If they used phrases like “shall not,” Evers could veto the word “not” and put into law the opposite of what lawmakers intended.

GOP leaders acknowledged there were limits to what they could do to prevent vetoes from Evers because Wisconsin governors have such wide latitude over budgets.

The Republican spending plan is about half as long as a typical budget, but it still stretches more than 500 pages. That leaves Evers with many opportunities to recraft the budget with vetoes.

Middle-class tax cut

The GOP budget, when paired with other legislation Republicans are working on, would reduce income taxes on average by $75 per person in 2019 and by $136 in 2020. Evers wanted a deeper income tax cut—$216 per person on average—but also wanted to raise taxes on manufacturers and capital gains.

The Republican budget would increase the annual registration fee by $10 for cars (from $75 to $85) and $25 for many light trucks (from $75 to $100). It would also boost the title fee when buying a vehicle by $95, from $69.50 to $164.50.

Evers wanted to raise the gas tax by about a dime a gallon over two years, from 32.9 cents to 42.5 cents. He also recommended raising heavy truck fees by 27%.

The GOP budget would put $588 million in new state funding toward health care programs over the next two years. The Republicans rejected Evers’ plan to take an additional $1 billion in federal funds through the Affordable Care Act to further expand health care programs and free up $324 million in state money.

It would provide a $500 million increase in state funding for K-12 schools. That’s about a third of what Evers wanted.

The GOP plan would provide UW schools with an additional $57.7 million, about half of what Evers sought. On top of that, the GOP budget would provide $1 billion to construct new campus buildings and maintain existing ones. That’s close to what Evers wanted for those projects.

The budget would continue a freeze on in-state tuition that has been in place since 2013. Evers also supports the freeze.

As the Assembly debated the budget, scores of public school teachers and education advocates completed a 60-mile march from the Jefferson County village of Palmyra to the state Capitol to call for more funding for public schools.

“We need to get the Legislature responsive to the needs of our most precious citizens, which is our kids,” said Ellen Lindgren of the Wisconsin Public Education Network. “We’ve got districts that are folding, and we need to have this support to keep our schools vibrant and alive.”


Jeff Patterson