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Onalaska commission confirms suspension of fire chief in wake of drunken-driving arrest

The Onalaska Police and Fire Commission voted Monday in favor of an agreement that gives Fire Chief William D. Hayes a five-day unpaid suspension.

Contributed photo 


The agreement between Hayes and the city acknowledges Hayes’ conduct toward police who stopped him during an April 7 drunken-driving arrest. The drunk-driving and speeding charges are pending.

Hayes was pulled over for speeding and a preliminary breath test showed he had a blood-alcohol content of 0.13 percent, according to the incident report.

It is Hayes’ first OWI offense, according to the incident report, and police issued three separate citations: operating while intoxicated (driving under the influence), operating with a prohibited alcohol concentration (driving under the influence) and exceeding speed zones, according to the incident report.

“This is an agreement that the city and the chief agreed to and we feel that this is, frankly… a last-chance type situation,” said Mark Dahlke, president of the Police and Fire Commission, “(He) needs to toe the line and if he doesn’t, then there are real consequences for that.”

According to the incident report, Hayes told officers: “You just ruined my career.”

“What I don’t understand is that I’m the fire chief and you’re going to do me this way,” Hayes said while performing the field sobriety test, which he failed, according to the incident report.

“I would just like to commend the officer also for doing his job and acting professionally in a difficult situation,” Dahlke said.

“The officer was doing what he is required to do by the city of Onalaska,” said Jim Binash, a member of the commission, “I don’t believe there’s any collusion with this incidence.”

Binash also said while he knows Hayes regrets his actions, Hayes is held to a higher standard because he’s the Onalaska fire chief.

“The main thing is making sure that we’re looking out for the safety of the people and the citizens of the city of Onalaska,” Dahlke said, as well as “making sure we maintain the integrity of the department (and) that Chief Hayes is treated in a fair manner.”

Hayes declined interviews with reporters.

The city had no comment in regards to Onalaska Assistant Chief of Police Jeffery Cavender’s retirement April 15.

The agreement with the city focuses on the traffic stop, stating “Chief Hayes made certain comments regarding his position and title with the city of Onalaska, and also referenced socializing with the assistant police chief,” Cavender, who subsequently was placed on administrative leave and retired two days later.

In addition to the five-day unpaid suspension, the agreement states that any future rule or policy violation could result in termination by the Police and Fire Commission, and that “this traffic stop incident shall be an aggravating factor … for which termination would be appropriate.”

The city agrees to review the so-called “last-chance agreement” in nine months, and Hayes waives any right to file a grievance in the case, according to the document.

Hayes returned to work April 19 — the day after he signed the agreement.

He will appear in traffic court Thursday, May 2.

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Leading pediatrician slams Donald Trump claim that doctors are 'executing' babies

A state bill relating to abortion is getting national attention after President Donald Trump used incendiary rhetoric Saturday — which a leading Wisconsin pediatrician called false and irresponsible — to blast Gov. Tony Evers for vowing to veto the measure.

Republican legislators say the bill is needed to require doctors to give proper medical care to babies born alive after an abortion attempt.

Such cases appear to be extremely rare. State-level data on how many fetuses survive abortion attempts is not tracked by the state Department of Health Services.

The most recent instance that supporters of the bill can confirm happened in Wisconsin in 1982.

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, said Monday that data from the National Center of Health Statistics show a fetus survived an abortion in at least 143 cases nationally, and as many as 588, between 2003 and 2014. During that period there were 9.3 million abortions, of which roughly 1.3 percent occurred after 21 weeks gestation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Critics say state law now prevents the types of very late-term abortions to which the bill would apply. A federal law also provides legal protections to all babies born alive, including after an abortion attempt.

Trump’s comments Saturday — in which he repeated a claim that doctors are “executing” babies — were “unacceptable,” said Dipesh Navsaria, a Madison pediatrician and vice president of the Wisconsin chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“No one is executing babies, period,” Navsaria said. “That’s not happening.”

GOP: Evers extreme

At Saturday’s rally, Trump blasted “your Democrat governor,” without naming Evers, for saying he will veto the bill.

“The baby is born. The mother meets with the doctor. They take care of the baby. They wrap the baby beautifully, and then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby,” Trump said.

Evers’ office issued a statement Monday calling Trump’s comments at Saturday’s rally “false, dangerous and deeply offensive.” Evers spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said Republicans are trying to distract voters from Evers’ budget proposals to expand health care access for mothers and babies, including by expanding Medicaid eligibility.

The bill, of which Steineke is lead Assembly sponsor, would require a health care provider present in the case where a fetus survives an abortion or abortion attempt to “exercise the same degree of professional skill, care, and diligence to preserve the life and health of the child” as would be given “to any other child born alive at the same gestational age.”

The bill makes “intentionally causing the death of a child born alive as a result of an abortion or an attempted abortion” a felony with a penalty of life imprisonment — the same penalty as first-degree intentional homicide.

Steineke thanked Trump in a Monday statement for “making it clear just how extreme of a position Gov. Evers has taken in vowing to veto this life-saving legislation.”

“Wisconsin Republicans stand ready to protect the lives of children surviving abortions while our governor instead takes the side of Planned Parenthood and turns his back on those children,” Steineke said.

Heather Weininger, a spokeswoman for Wisconsin Right to Life, an anti-abortion group that supports the bill, said the instances from 1982 included three babies that survived abortion attempts in Madison and later died.

‘A visceral reaction’

The Wisconsin State Journal reported on May 8, 1982, that two babies were born alive after abortion attempts at University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics. It was reported that they later died after having been transferred to an infant intensive-care unit at Madison General Hospital.

“We have not heard of any cases of living aborted babies in Wisconsin since 1982 but that does not mean they are not occurring. It only means that no one has reported them,” Weininger said in an email.

A state law enacted in 2015 makes it a felony for a doctor to terminate pregnancies after 20 weeks unless a “medical emergency” occurs.

Navsaria said it’s unclear what proponents of the bill are trying to address, given the 20-week ban and the fact that the age of fetal viability outside the womb is about 24 weeks. In the rare cases when late-term abortions after that occur, he said they’re virtually always due to serious health problems for the fetus or mother or both.

Navsaria said it’s possible the bill could prolong pain and suffering for babies if physicians interpret it as requiring all measures be taken to prolong the baby’s life even if it had no chance of surviving outside the womb for more than a short time.

As for Trump’s rhetoric about “executing” babies, it and the bills to which it referred are meant to evoke a “visceral reaction,” according Jenny Higgins, a professor in Gender and Women’s Studies and in Obstetrics and Gynecology at UW-Madison.

“In addition to these claims being false, about doctors executing newborns, I would just emphasize that these bills just distract us” from a broader debate about abortion, contraception and related issues, Higgins said.

Navsaria said Trump’s remarks address a situation “only happening in his imagination.”

“It’s antithetical to what physicians do,” he said.

“We have not heard of any cases of living aborted babies in Wisconsin since 1982 but that does not mean they are not occurring. It only means that no one has reported them.” Heather Weininger, a spokeswoman for Wisconsin Right to Life

Buzz's Bikes renovation moves forward, Wittenberg Park redevelopment falls through
Tribune file photo 

RMD Development requested and recieved a waiver to the city’s parking rules, which require a parking space per bedroom for residential buildings, plus additional parking for the commercial space.

The renovation of a North Side landmark took a step closer to completion Monday and plans to redevelop Wittenberg Park into housing fell through after a pair of decisions by the La Crosse Plan Commission.

The commission unanimously approved a parking waiver for RMD Development LLC, which is in the process of renovating the former Buzz’s Bike Shop at 800 Rose St. into a salon and a pair of upper floor two-bedroom apartments.

The project is just a few short months from completion, Marcus Zettler of RMD Development said after the meeting.

“I’ll be relieved when it’s done. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s worth it,” Zettler said.

Zettler and the rest of RMD Development have put in hundreds of hours’ worth of sweat equity into the building after buying it in 2017 from the city of La Crosse.

“We are bootstrapping it as much as we can, but we’ve still got hundreds of thousands of dollars invested,” Zettler said.

The interior of the building has been completely replaced, and they’ve found some hidden gems like the original Victorian tile — found under two layers of flooring on the ground floor — as well as high-quality marble and tin that they’re repurposing into the building.

RMD Development requested a waiver to the city’s parking rules, which require a parking space per bedroom for residential buildings, plus additional parking for the commercial space. It also requires a 15-foot buffer.

Economic development planner Andrea Schnick recommended the commission grant the waiver, noting that the property has historically not had parking available.

“The only reason there’s any parking on this space is because several years ago the back half of this building collapsed, which created green space,” Schnick said.

While the collapse was expensive for the city, which invested $326,000 in the property before selling it to RMD Development, it has left space for three parking spaces – one for each unit.

Zettler said they plan to put in permeated pavement to reduce stormwater runoff.

Wittenberg Park

A proposed plan to turn an underutilized North Side park into housing was scrapped Monday after the city planning department heard from developers that the location was too challenging to be feasible.

The city of La Crosse issued a request for expressions of interest for Wittenberg Park earlier this year to see if the area, which sits at the far north end of the city near George Street, was a candidate for redevelopment; however, it received an underwhelming response, said Schnick. Out of the 125 requests sent out, only one developer responded.

Ted Matkom of Gorman & Co., which worked with the city to redevelop Roosevelt Elementary School into housing, wrote Schick that with noise from the railroad and Interstate 90, plus the neighboring blighted housing stock, made the site unappealing for developers.

Because of the lack of interest, the commission denied the request to turn the park into surplus property, which is the first step toward redevelopment.

However, the city isn’t done looking for ways to address the issues surrounding the park, which is underutilized and attracts crime.

Jay Odegaard, Director of La Crosse Parks, Forestry and Recreation

La Crosse parks director Jay Odegaard said it was important the city addresses the needs of the park now that they’ve been identified.

“We really don’t want to just forget about it and let it sit up there,” Odegaard said.

Council member Andrea Richmond, who represents the area, agreed, saying the neighbors want something kids can actually use.

“I think there’s some opportunities to get some more dirt in there and maybe fill it up and have a little ballpark or maybe swing sets or something,” Richmond said. ”There’s a lot of kids in that neighborhood there.”

The commission directed the parks and planning departments to come up with a plan that could be included in a future capital improvement program budget.

Associated Press 

Toledo defensive back Ka'dar Hollman, left, helps bring down Miami tight end Christopher Herndon IV during a game last season. Hollman, who the Green Bay Packers picked in the sixth round of the NFL draft, is an example of the team's focus on a player's ability to handle adversity.

UW-La Crosse student among Evers' appointments to Board of Regents

Gov. Tony Evers has announced three appointments to the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents, including a student from UW-La Crosse.

Olivia Woodmansee, a mathematics and English double-major at UW-L, was tapped Monday for a two-year term.

She is a sophomore, according to a bio on the school’s website, and is in her first year as a student senator representing UW-L’s College of Science and Health. She grew up in New Glarus, in Green County.

Meanwhile, Evers appointed Karen Walsh of Madison and Edmund Manydeeds III of Eau Claire for respective seven-year terms.

Walsh, who spent 20 years in various roles at UW-Madison, serves as the director of a family foundation dedicated to advancing human and animal health and welfare.

Manydeeds, who has a bachelor’s degree from UW-Superior and a law degree from UW-Madison, was a regent from 2010 to 2017.

Woodmansee will take the seat of student regent Ryan Ring, while Walsh and Manydeeds will replace John Robert Behling and Regina Millner, who were appointed by Gov. Scott Walker in 2012.

These are Evers’ first appointments to the Board of Regents, an 18-member body that oversees the 13 universities and 13 branch campuses in the UW System.