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Andy Hughes, Mike Caucutt and Gregg "Cheech" Hall, from left, will celebrate the release of their debut album as The 3 Dads with a show Dec. 15 at the Myrick Park Center.


Education
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Chancellor Joe Gow boasts of UW-L successes at regents meeting; closed session includes considering discipline or termination of 'a chancellor'
Erik Daily, La Crosse Tribune 

UW-La Crosse Chancellor Joe Gow addresses the UW System Board of Regents during its meeting Thursday at UW-La Crosse.

Chancellor Joe Gow touted record enrollment, increased diversity and a brand-new science center Thursday as the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents visited UW-La Crosse for the first time in five years.

Addressing the board and a crowd of dozens at the Student Union, Gow traced the university’s history from its founding as a normal school to the present day. As higher education has changed, he said, so has UW-La Crosse.

Despite declining enrollment across the state and the nation, UW-La Crosse welcomed a record 10,569 students to its campus this fall — a testament to strong programming and quality staff, Gow said. This year’s freshman class is also more diverse than previous years’ — 10.5 percent are students of color.

Erik Daily, La Crosse Tribune 

UW-La Crosse Chancellor Joe Gow greets UW System President Ray Cross before the Board of Regents meeting Thursday at UW-La Crosse.

September also marked the opening of the Prairie Springs Science Center, an $82 million facility with 23 research labs, 36 instructional labs and some of the most advanced technology found in the UW System.

“We’re very grateful for the support from the regents and the state that made that happen,” said Gow, stressing the importance of the project’s second phase, which would bring new classrooms and faculty offices. The regents approved the project in August, and it now goes to state lawmakers.

“We’re hoping for the best on that,” Gow said. “It’s vitally important to the future of our university.”

Thursday’s meeting played out before an ominous backdrop, a week after it was first reported that Gow had been formally reprimanded by his boss, UW System President Ray Cross.

In a letter dated Nov. 6, Cross scolded Gow for booking porn star Nina Hartley as a guest lecturer, and for failing to tell Madison officials of his decision.

Erik Daily 

The UW System Board of Regents holds their meeting in at teh UW-La Crosse campus.

Then came the agenda for Thursday’s board meeting, which listed “consider taking a personnel action to discipline or terminate a chancellor” under business planned for a closed session.

It was not clear whether the agenda item referred to Gow or to another chancellor.

Faculty at UW-Stevens Point have recently called for the removal of Chancellor Bernie Patterson, citing mismanagement.

UW-Whitewater Chancellor Beverly Kopper has also been under scrutiny, after allegations that her husband sexually harassed a Whitewater Common Council member while she was a student there.

Regents deliberated behind closed doors for nearly three hours. They broke for the day without reopening the meeting to the public, indicating that no formal action will be taken on the matter or that such action had been postponed till Friday.

Photos: Take a look inside Prairie Springs Science Center at UW-La Crosse
Photos: Take a look inside the UW-L student union

Remains of Pearl Harbor sailors return home after 77 years

HONOLULU — More than 75 years after nearly 2,400 members of the U.S. military were killed in the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, some who died on Dec. 7, 1941, are finally being laid to rest in cemeteries across the United States.

In 2015, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency exhumed nearly 400 sets of remains from the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii after determining advances in forensic science and genealogical help from families could make identifications possible. They were all on the USS Oklahoma, which capsized during the attack, and had been buried as unknowns after the war.

Altogether, 429 sailors and Marines on the Oklahoma were killed. Only 35 were identified in the years immediately after the attack. The Oklahoma’s casualties were second only to the USS Arizona, which lost 1,177 men.

As of earlier this month, the agency has identified 186 sailors and Marines from the Oklahoma who were previously unidentified.

Slowly, the remains are being sent to be reburied in places like Traer, Iowa, and Ontanogan, Mich.

Here’s a look at some of those who have either already been reburied this year or who will be interred today:

William Bruesewitz

Renate Starck has been pondering the eulogy she’ll give at the funeral for her uncle, Navy Seaman 1st Class William Bruesewitz, on Friday.

“We always have thought of him on Dec. 7,” she said. “He’s already such a big part of that history.”

Bruesewitz, of Appleton, Wis., will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C. “It’s a real blessing to have him returning and we’ve chosen Arlington because we feel he’s a hero and belongs there,” Starck said.

About 50 family members from Wisconsin, Florida, Arkansas and Maryland will attend.

“We were too young to know him but we’re old enough that we felt his loss,” Starck said. “We know some stories. There’s this stoicness about things from that time that kept people from talking about things that hurt.”

Bruesewitz’s mother died in childbirth when he was 6 or 7, Starck said. Her father and Bruesewitz were close brothers. When Bruesewitz was 14, they built barns in Wisconsin, Starck said. They were educated in Lutheran schools.

William Kvidera

Hundreds of people filled a Catholic church in Traer, Iowa, in November for William Kvidera’s funeral.

The solemn ceremony in his hometown included full military honors, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported.

“It’s something like a dream,” his brother, John Kvidera, 91, said.

John Kvidera was 14 when he found out about the bombings at Pearl Harbor and remembers huddling around a radio to find out what was going on. The family initially received a telegram saying William, the oldest of six siblings, was missing in action.

A telegram in February 1943 notified the family of his death.

Leon Arickx

More than 76 years after he died, the remains of Navy Seaman 1st Class Leon Arickx were buried on a brilliant summer day at a small cemetery amid the cornfields of northern Iowa.

Hundreds gathered in July for Arickx’s graveside service at Sacred Heart Cemetery outside Osage, Iowa, in a sparsely populated farming region just south of Minnesota, where Arickx grew up. Among them was his niece, Janice Schonrock, who was a baby when Arickx died.

“My family talked about him all that time,” said Schonrock, 77. “I felt I knew him because everyone talked about him.”

Although they didn’t have Arickx’s remains, his family held a memorial service and placed a grave marker at Sacred Heart Cemetery in 1942. When his remains were finally returned, they were buried at a site not far away.

Schonrock said her family appreciates the work it took to identify her uncle, but she believes it’s essential to identify as many service members as possible.

“I think we need to honor these people who give their lives to our country and bring them back to their home country where they can be close to family who can honor them,” she said. “No one should be left behind.”

Durell Wade

Wade was born in 1917 in the Hardin Town community of rural Calhoun County, Miss. He enlisted in the Navy in 1936 and in 1940 re-enlisted for another two-year tour.

His burial in his home state was originally planned for a weekend, when it would be more convenient for people to attend. But because of scheduling conflicts at the North Mississippi Veterans Memorial Cemetery, his family decided the 77th anniversary of the attack would be an appropriate date, even if some people have to take time off, said his nephew, Dr. Lawrence Wade.

He was one of the sailor’s relatives who provided DNA to help identify him.

“My middle name is his name, Durell. My grandson has that name also,” said the 75-year-old retired psychiatrist from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “I’d gone through my life not really knowing anything about him, other than I carried his name and he was killed at Pearl Harbor. Once this DNA process came along and made it possible to identify his remains, it just made him much more of a real person to me.”

Wade’s siblings included four older sisters and one older brother, according to a bio prepared by his nephew. The Wade children were educated by two teachers hired by their parents to live in the home and teach them until a community school was built on donated property. Wade had written home in September 1941 that he had just taken promotion tests from Aviation Machinist Mate 2nd Class to Chief Aviation Machinist Mate.

His nephew has been planning his funeral. A gospel singer will sing the national anthem. Bagpipes will play. Pilots will conduct a flyover. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and Capt. Brian Hortsman, commanding officer of Naval Air Station Meridian, will make remarks.


Local
La Crosse Common Council questions donations policy as it reviews parks audit

La Crosse Common Council members were eager Thursday to get plans in place to address issues in the citywide financial system spotlighted in an audit report compiled by Wipfli LLC.

Mary Jo Werner

The council held a special meeting to go over the audit, hearing from city staff and auditor Mary Joe Werner of Wipfli, and sharing their concerns, including when it comes to projects partly paid for by private donations.

Werner recommended updating 38-year-old policies to be more practical and create more collaboration and consistency between departments, including the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department and the Engineering and Finance Department, in her report, which was released last month in advance of the meeting.

“The parks department has a huge responsibility. There are 45 parks, and there are a lot of folks who coming into La Crosse and who (have) been working with a code that’s outdated,” Werner said.

Several council members asked Werner to expand on the portion of her report regarding the city’s projects that include funds raised by private groups. In her report, Werner asked the city to consider setting a dollar amount in donation funds before the park improvement project moves forward.

Olson

Council member Jessica Olson said with multiple parks projects moving forward that involve private donations, including the Trane All Abilities Park and the Veterans Memorial Pool, addressing that question is urgent.

The city needs to be able to keep track of how third parties in partnership with the city are collecting and holding money, and who has access to those funds, she said.

Happel

Council member Doug Happel added that while it’s an amazing thing when private groups step up to help the community as a whole, the city does need to be wary and ensure they’re holding up their end of the bargain when they agree to pay a portion and the city agrees to another portion.

“We have a responsibility to the citizens and we have to be careful. If the fundraising doesn’t happen, you know who pays for it: the taxpayers,” Happel said.

Werner suggested a contractual agreement of some sort, which would lay out the specific contributions committed to by the nonprofit and the city.

“The more that you can add credibility to the contract between the nonprofit and the city of La Crosse, the greater the chances of success,” Werner said.

Happel also suggested setting up a city ordinance to require council approval when money is moved from a fund for one project to another.

“I don’t want the council to micromanage, but at some point the council needs to have — and again, I don’t know what the magic amount is — but if there’s some dollar amount moving from here to there should probably require council approval,” Happel said.

Also, if projects should finish under budget, that money should be returned to the general fund, he added.

“We do that in our regular budget anyway,” Happel said.

Gaul

Overall, council president Martin Gaul said, the audit revealed no cause for concern.

“The opposite is true. The fact is what we have to consider taking care of going forward is our system,” he said.

The system is outdated, he said, and while council members should be able to track projects from start to finish as its moving, putting it together from the outside looking in or tracking projects back to the start is a problem.

“That’s what we really need to do is look forward and be able to transition to a point of transparency, where everybody can actually see what’s going on and understand it fully,” Gaul said.

That goes for the council members, city staff and the general public. The city has already begun to take steps to follow Werner’s recommendations.

“This audit should bring some semblance of comfort to the public. We are moving forward with these projects,” Gaul said.

He further stressed that the deficiencies in the process were city-wide.

“With the parks department, it was easier for them to stand out from the crowd because of the projects and the involvement they have with the public, but in fact the system is in place for all the departments and we need to take care going forward to make sure we do it in such a way that it works for everyone,” Gaul said.

Interim parks director Jay Odegaard said he’s looking to use the audit report as a stepping stone to catch department policies and procedures up to changes in the department’s function, which has expanded over the years.

“Obviously anytime the phrase ‘audit’ gets thrown around, there are some negative connotations with it, but we really are looking at how we can make things better,” Odegaard said.

To that end, the department created a reporting document to share with the council, which will detail the timeline, costs and scope of various parks projects and be updated on a regular basis.

Wipfli Audit Report
By the numbers: Top 10 property taxpayers in La Crosse County in 2017
By the numbers: Top 10 property taxpayers in La Crosse County in 2017

Erik Daily, La Crosse Tribune 

UW-La Crosse gymnastics coach Kasey Crawford talks during practice. Crawford, a former UW-L gymnast, is entering her third season as UW-L's coach.


Govt-and-politics
Tony Evers vows to fight lame-duck bill, seek common ground
Erik Daily, La Crosse Tribune 

Gov.-elect Tony Evers addresses the UW System Board of Regents before its meeting Thursday at UW-La Crosse.

Gov.-elect Tony Evers on Thursday continued to rail against lame-duck Republicans for voting to weaken his powers, but added that he still hopes to work with them upon taking office in January.

“As I’ve said many times before, the entire package is a hot mess. The people of Wisconsin did not vote for these changes. The people of Wisconsin voted for the opportunity to elect a governor, and they elected me,” said Evers, who spoke with reporters after leaving a meeting of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents at UW-La Crosse.

“We have some big issues in the state of Wisconsin — whether it’s transportation, whether it’s funding for education, whether it’s making sure we have accessible and affordable health care,” he said. “We have to make sure we reach agreement and common ground on these issues, and I’ll continue to do that.”

In the wee hours on Wednesday, after hotly contested meetings behind closed doors, Republican lawmakers voted to strip the governorship of many of the powers Gov. Scott Walker’s administration has enjoyed over the past eight years.

The legislation would likely prevent Evers from fulfilling several of his campaign promises, including pulling Wisconsin from a multistate legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act and dissolving the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, Walker’s controversial jobs agency.

It would also shrink the window for early voting in Madison and Milwaukee — this after record early voting totals helped Democrats win every statewide race in the November election.

Evers has requested a meeting with Walker, in hopes of persuading the current governor to veto the bill. On Thursday, Evers said no such meeting had been set.

“My staff is trying to work though that, to make that happen,” he said.

If signed by Walker, the bill figures to ignite a legal firestorm with Evers and Democrats fighting the legislation in court.

A law similar to the early voting measure was struck down by a federal judge in 2016.

While lamenting the possibility of a drawn-out legal battle to begin his term, Evers indicated that he does not expect this latest power struggle to cause irreparable damage between the two parties.

“It’s part of my DNA to look for common ground — regardless of what happens with this,” he said. “When I ran for this, my goal was to make sure I work for the people of Wisconsin to solve our problems.”

While some Republicans have framed the bill as a long-needed check on a governorship that has grown too powerful, Robin Vos, the speaker of the Assembly, suggested his motivations were largely partisan.

Without the legislation, he said, “we are going to have a very liberal governor who is going to enact policies that are in direct contrast to what many of us believe in.”

Evers underscored the perceived partisan nature of the lame-duck Legislature on Thursday, though it was not the common ground he had in mind.

“I’d bet my last dollar that if Gov. Walker had won, we would not be having this conversation,” he said.


Evers


Mary Jo Werner