WisconsinWeekly: GPS monitoring flaws, coal ash pollution, low-profile Paul Ryan, cash for companies, young offenders

Losing Track: Wisconsin doubles GPS monitoring despite five years of malfunctions, unnecessary jailings; and other news affecting our state
Of note: This week we highlight a significant package of stories by Center reporter Riley Vetterkind revealing widespread flaws in Wisconsin’s GPS monitoring program for offenders. Riley’s story comes five years after the Center first uncovered the technological problems that land offenders in jail — even when they have done nothing wrong. In other news, the Associated Press reports on water contamination from coal ash, an issue the Center explored back in 2014. Writing in the New York Times, a government professor slams economic development subsidies such as the billions in taxpayer dollars promised to Foxconn as elected officials “using the public coffers for political theater.“ The Times also reports on the suddenly quiet House Majority Leader Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Finally, we offer a column in The Crime Report written by two University of Wisconsin-Whitewater researchers who warn that raising the age of criminal culpability to 20 or 21, as some states do, could lead to more crime.

Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council names ‘Opee’ winners

Gov. Scott Walker, several journalists and a courageous private-sector employee are among those honored by the 2017-18 Openness Awards, or Opees, bestowed annually by the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council. The state Legislature, meanwhile, is being singled out for negative recognition. The awards, which are being announced today in advance of national Sunshine Week, March 11-17, recognize extraordinary achievement in the arena of open government. This is the 12th consecutive year that awards have been given. “For more than a decade, the Opees have served to remind state residents that open government is a perpetual struggle, with heroes and villains,” said Bill Lueders, council president.

WisconsinWeekly: Wetlands destruction, property tax increases, bad doctors, lax gun laws, poor dental care

Investigative reporting about WI reveals hidden impacts of environmental, medical, tax and gun laws and lack of affordable dental care
Of note: This week we highlight some strong investigative reporting about Wisconsin by news outlets here and elsewhere. The Wisconsin State Journal’s Steve Verburg reported on the alarm of former Department of Natural Resources experts to a proposal to let one company destroy valuable wetlands. Jonathan Anderson, reporting for the USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin, found that large tax breaks for manufacturers are translating into big property tax increases for others in some Wisconsin communities. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s John Fauber, with help from MedPage Today, found 500 doctors disciplined for malpractice in one state moved to another state to practice — with sometimes tragic consequences. The Chicago Tribune traces a gun used to kill a Chicago police commander to a Cross Plains gun shop.

Your Right to Know: Let the sunshine in!

In my career as a journalist, I have encountered many public officials who respect government openness and transparency. There was the state records custodian who turned over dozens of her boss’s embarrassing emails after telling him that keeping them secret would violate the law. And the university staffers who pointed me to public information the school tried to keep out of the public eye. And the local elected official who told me what happened in a closed session she thought may have been illegally closed. As we approach this year’s annual celebration of Sunshine Week, March 11-17, it’s worth recalling times when people entrusted with our tax dollars have stood up for our right to know.

WisconsinWeekly: Hate groups up, rape kit testing sees results, MKE hospital accused of unneeded surgeries, WI awaits redistricting decision

Hate groups proliferate, WI rape kits reveal suspects, MKE hospital accused of unneeded surgeries, and court decisions could change political landscape in WI and beyond
Of note: This week we draw your attention to the tracking of hate by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which identified a big increase in hate groups in the past three years, and Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism stories that documented such groups operating in Wisconsin. Also: Long-delayed DNA testing of rape kits is yielding suspects, the Appleton Post-Crescent finds. A whistleblower says in a lawsuit that the Medical College of Wisconsin hired and retained a surgeon accused of performing unnecessary surgeries in part because of the revenue he generated, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report. And National Public Radio lays out the three pending lawsuits that could change Wisconsin’s and the nation’s political landscape. WisconsinWeekly is produced by Andy and Dee J. Hall, a couple who founded the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

WisconsinWeekly: Farmers and suicide; crime victims fight for compensation; MN welcomes immigrants; MKE ‘plagued’ by reckless driving

Dairy farmers in New England offered suicide help, WI gun victim struggles for compensation; MN touts immigrants; ‘red light roulette’ endangers MKE drivers
Of note: This week we offer stories from Wisconsin and beyond that resonate in our state. New England Public Radio reported that one dairy co-op is so worried about farmers in this era of low milk prices that it distributed a suicide hotline number with the milk checks. The Trace finds that crime victims such as Milwaukee shooting victim Claudiare Motley — featured in a Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism report about the high cost of gun violence — routinely have a hard time accessing state compensation funds. The Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service reports on the spike in deadly crashes caused by drivers running red lights. And MinnPost highlights a state report that reveals that Minnesota needs immigrants to keep its economy healthy — a message that runs counter to political debate heard in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

WisconsinWeekly: Dangers of concussions; Foxconn deal gives $200,000 per job subsidy

Hits to the head, and hits to taxpayers
Of note: This week we highlight one of our own stories, which examines  the mounting evidence of the danger of brain injuries in contact sports, including football, and Wisconsin’s central role in this national controversy. Luke Schaetzel, reporting for the Center, found many University of Wisconsin-Madison football players push aside fears about concussions in order to play. In related news, the Washington Post reports that the NFL saw an increase this season in reported concussions; the wife of former NFL player Rob Kelly writes poignantly in The New York Times about her husband’s mental and physical deterioration; and former Green Bay Packer Sam Shields says he is ready to get back in the game, despite suffering five concussions. Our final story has nothing to do with head injuries but it is a bit of a head scratcher. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Jason Stein found the $2.85 billion state subsidy to Foxconn amounts to $200,000 per job — eight times higher than other similar job-creation deals — and nearly four times higher than the minimum average salary of $53,000 that Foxconn promises to pay.

WisconsinWeekly: Ron Johnson’s ‘secret society’; gerrymandering debate; injuries, bankruptcy among WI farmers

Explosive allegation withdrawn; experts evaluate alternatives to partisan redistricting; farm families face physical and financial perils
Of Note: This week we highlight national stories with Wisconsin angles, including PolitiFact Wisconsin’s exploration of how U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson alleged and then withdrew the explosive claim that there was a “secret society” in the FBI. Two stories discuss the effects of partisan gerrymandering and how difficult it could be to make the voting districts more fair as the U.S. Supreme Court mulls whether to throw out Republicans’ redrawing of Wisconsin’s map. Two more stories explore some problems unique to farmers. The New York Times features a Wisconsin family in its report on the thousands of injuries and roughly 100 deaths among children and teenagers working on farms each year. And Wisconsin Public Radio found that our state is home to the highest number of farm bankruptcies in the United States.

Your Right to Know: Citizens have a right to electronic records

Computers have made examining government records easier than ever. The smallest townships across Wisconsin post the meeting agendas and minutes online. And websites for government agencies at all levels contain an enormous amount of other information. Electronic records are also available on request. Say you want to see a skate-park-feasibility study you’ve heard about.

WisconsinWeekly: DNR OKs manure rules; WI farmers debate ‘organic’ label; VA pushes back against vets; Menominee seek to block MI mine

What to do about manure, organic labeling, vets’ class-action suit and a sulfide mine
Of Note: This week we’re highlighting news affecting Wisconsin farmers, Veterans Administration patients and members of the Menominee Tribe. State farmers may face new rules for handling manure in parts of Wisconsin where the geography makes groundwater susceptible to pollution. The U.S. Department of Agriculture wants to withdraw a rule that would require certified organic meat and poultry producers to abide by stricter animal welfare standards. The VA is pushing back against a class-action lawsuit over emotional distress claimed by patients who risked exposure to HIV because of improper sterilization by a dentist at the Tomah Medical Center. And the Menominee Tribe is suing the federal government, trying to block approval of a mine across the border in Michigan that it fears will pollute the Menominee River.