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La Crosse council to vote on whether drivers must obey flashing lights on school buses

An proposed ordinance before the La Crosse Common Council would put some teeth behind state law that prohibits motorists from maneuvering around buses with their red lights flashing.

Tragedies in Indiana and Mississippi in October in which a total of four children total were killed while crossing streets to board buses have sparked worry among local parents, especially those whose children are dropped off along Losey Boulevard.

Mike Freybler, energy and transportation manager for the La Crosse School District, is working with La Crosse Police Sgt. Tom Walsh, state Sen. Jennifer Shilling and city council member Andrea Richmond to pass an ordinance Tuesday that would make it illegal for vehicles to pass a bus when its red warning lights are flashing.

Additionally, bus operators will be required to flash their lights and stop sign when passengers are boarding or leaving the bus in a place where traffic signals are not in place and must cross the street to reach their destination.

Wisconsin law already includes these rules, but each municipality is responsible for creating a local ordinance enforcing it. Freybler says while most drivers follow that guideline, it is technically legal for a car in La Crosse to maneuver past a bus with flashing lights, and GO Riteway bus driver Bob Kremer approached Richmond about local enforcement.

“That rule, years ago, was meant for rural areas,” Freybler said. “If the city passes this ordinance, the police can ticket people (who disobey). We’re working hand in hand with the city to get this passed. We’re doing whatever we can — our job is to make busing as safe as possible.”

The district’s transportation contractor, GO Riteway, is “constantly looking at things in their routing software” to create stops where students don’t need to cross a street, Freybler said. Drop-offs on Losey Boulevard are especially difficult, with little space to pull over. The ordinance will require drivers to stop at a distance of 20 or more feet behind a bus with flashing red lights, and remain stopped until the bus resumes motion or extinguishes the flashing lights, unless the operator approaches from the opposite direction on a divided highway.

“If we could prevent any accident from happening, especially with what has happened recently, by going forward with this, it’s something we really need to do,” Richmond said.

Parents and students are encouraged to go over the busing safety rules on the school district’s website.

Salvation Army Christmas store in La Crosse still helps shoppers deck the halls
Peter Thomson, La Crosse Tribune 

Jeremiah Conca, store manager at The Salvation Army Thrift Store at 728 Copeland Ave. in La Crosse, sells all kinds of Christmas items, ranging from large Christmas trees to small ornaments, a full-size Santa suit, ugly sweaters and even a couple of unusual Christmas T-shirts, Santa riding a T-Rex and Marilyn Monroe ready for the mistletoe.

Anybody panicking that the Grinch stole the Salvation Army’s annual Christmas Boutique because it isn’t at its traditional home need not fear: It just moved seven or so blocks closer to the North Pole.

The popular boutique could not be set up at the vacant Sara Lee Bakery Outlet at 66 Copeland Ave., as it has been for several years, because the building was sold, and the corps no longer can get it rent-free, said Nick Ragner, the corps’ development director.

Unable to find another location for free or slashed rent, corps administrators opted to move things around at the Thrift Store at 728 Copeland to make room for a smaller-scale boutique, he said.

Peter Thomson, La Crosse Tribune 

Christmas themed knick-knacks line the shelves of the Winter Wonderland section at The Salvation Army's Thrift Store. The corps previously had a Christmas Boutique in the former Sara Lee Bakery Outlet, but that building was sold and is no longer available rent-free.

“A lot of people were bummed because we couldn’t have the old boutique, and we were bummed, too,” Thrift Store manager Jeremiah Conca said. “It’s a smaller area, so it’s more of a treasure hunt if you want to find something in particular.”

On the other hand, there are advantages for both customers and the corps in having the Christmas corner in the store, he said, adding, “You might come in for a wreath and leave with a wreath and a bedspread,” he said.

The store has plenty of both, as well as a variety of Santas, other decorations including baskets full of brand-new ribbon and tubes full of new ornament balls, a slew of small houses and buildings for Christmas villages, all sorts of holiday dishes, stockings to be hung on mantles with care, pots of fake poinsettias that could fool a florist, dolls and enough Christmas tchotchkes to make a hoarder happy.

There are fake Christmas trees that look like they have plenty of life left, Christmas dolls and even an adult-size Santa costume in the Winter Wonderland, which opened in mid-October.

The corps has a warehouse full of additional items, although donations have been running so heavy that staffers haven’t even tapped much from storage, Conca said. The shelves are restocked to the brim daily, typically with four to five shopping carts of items a day.

Although there isn’t enough room for the racks of ugly sweaters like those at the old boutique, boutique 2.0 has ugly sweaters galore spread throughout the store, Conca said. That basically makes the quest to find one more challenging, he said, noting that many people like to find one that’s only slightly ugly and make it even more horrid with gaudy balls and other decorations.

For Goodness' Sake: La Crosse area organizations seek donations this holiday season

Among the Christmas T-shirts are one with Santa riding a T-rex, which Ragner mused might be called TyrannaSantaRex, and one of a festive Marilyn Monroe in a coquettish pose.

Shoppers benefit financially from the smaller quarters in the store’s quest to move merchandise out the door, Conca said.

“The price point is dramatically cut,” he said. “Items that might have sold for $5 last year might go for 99 cents now.”

Another advantage is that the Thrift Store gives Christmas shoppers more time than the other location, which had limited hours and was closed on Mondays in addition to the regular Sunday shutdown, the store manager said.

The Thrift Store is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, according to its website.

Michael Cohen pleads guilty to lying about Russian development project

WASHINGTON (TNS) — Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, pursued a Russian real estate project on candidate Trump’s behalf well into the 2016 campaign, he said Thursday while pleading guilty to lying to Congress.

Cohen previously said the project was abandoned in January 2016, but he now admits he continued to pursue a deal and says he updated Trump and members of his family about the negotiations, according to a new court document. He also exchanged messages with Felix Sater, a onetime business associate of Trump, and Russian government officials.

Trump and Sater are not named in the document, instead referred to as Individual 1 and Individual 2.

Cohen’s involvement in the project continued until at least early summer 2016, around the time Trump formally became the Republican presidential nominee, the court document shows.

At the same time, Moscow was undertaking a covert effort to boost Trump’s campaign, hacking Democratic Party emails and spreading misinformation on social media.

Shortly after the plea deal was announced, Trump told reporters that Cohen was lying.

“He’s a weak person and what he’s trying to do is get a reduced sentence,” Trump said before leaving the White House en route to the G-20 economic summit in Argentina. He was scheduled to meet with several world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.

However, shortly after telling reporters that it was a “good time” to meet with Putin, Trump tweeted that the meeting was off, citing a naval dispute between Russia and Ukraine.

Cohen made his admissions in a surprise court appearance in New York, where he admitted he had submitted false statements to the House and Senate intelligence committees.

The guilty plea marked the first time Cohen faced charges from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III as part of his investigation into whether anyone from Trump’s team conspired with Russians to influence the presidential election. He had previously pleaded guilty to charges brought by the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan.

The plea is also a reminder that Cohen’s onetime closeness to Trump represents a significant threat to the president.

Cohen’s previous guilty plea came three months ago and involved bank fraud, tax evasion and campaign finance violations. While pleading guilty in that case, Cohen told the court that the president directed him to make hush money payments to two women who said they had an affair with Trump years ago, implicating Trump in a felony.

“Mr. Cohen has cooperated, Mr. Cohen will continue to cooperate,” Cohen’s lawyer, Guy Petrillo, said outside the courthouse Thursday.

In his comments to reporters, Trump claimed there was nothing secret about his effort to develop a building in Moscow. He said he eventually abandoned the project because he was focused on his campaign. But Trump also suggested he was reluctant to foreclose potential business deals in case he didn’t secure the Republican nomination or beat Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee.

“I was running my business while I was campaigning. There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have won, in which case I would have gone back into the business,” he said. “And why should I lose lots of opportunities?”

Trump submitted his own answers to written questions from Mueller last week. It’s unclear whether he was asked about the Russian real estate project and, if so, what his answer was.

Erik Daily 

UW-La Crosse's Emma Gamoke reaches out to get a loose ball from Gustavus Adolphus' Gabby Bowlin in the first quarter.