WOODRUFF - The capitol may be far away but one of our local legislators wants to bring it closer. Assemblyman Rob Swearingen is meeting with constituents around the 34th district.
He visited Woodruff and Eagle River today.
Swearingen is five months into his freshman term. He wants to make sure people can put a face to his name.
He also wants reach those who might be skeptical of him because of his political party.
"You get that, just because I have the "R" in the back of my name that you're automatically not going to be friendly to those issues. And we encourage you to reach out. I may respond and it may not be the response you want to hear, but if you're going to ask me an honest question I'm going to give you an honest answer," says Rep. Swearingen.
Swearingen says everyone's working hard on the budget in Madison. He's hearing a lot of concerns about school funding locally.
"I just really feel that people should be engaged with their own local legislators so the legislator knows them, and knows how they feel. And I showed him my tax bill and he got a real perspective for someone who's on a fixed income and how all the costs for education impact one of his constituents," says Shirley Kufeldt, from Conover.
"We're looking for more funding for the K-12 funding program. I think there's been a lot of heightened awareness in the capital on both sides of the isle and in the Governor's office. So I'm looking for hopefully some good results to help rural schools as the budget moves forward before the Governor signs it in the first part of July," says Rep. Swearingen.
Swearingen's first budget motion was to allow Nicolet College to be eligible for state aid based on enrollment. That motion passed unanimously.
He says his weekly drive to his office in Madison is a reality check.
"There's the state capitol and you realize that your office is inside that building. It's a really surreal feeling to walk into that building each morning. Every time I press that button, whether it's green or red, I am voting on behalf of over 50,000 people in the 34th Assembly District. And that is something you don't take lightly," says Rep. Swearingen.
Swearingen will continue district dialogues on Monday. He'll be in Florence, Rhinelander and Crandon.
Florence, May 20th 9:00 AM - 10:30 AM Maxsells Restaurant Inn & Pub, 209 Central Ave, (US Highway 2)
Crandon, May 20th 12:30 PM - 2:00 PM Forest County Courthouse, Board Room
LAC DU FLAMBEAU - Ruby's pantry opened their doors Tuesday in Lac du Flambeau. This is the first time the Ruby's pantry has set up shop there. They decided to come to Lac du Flambeau because of the good turnout in Rhinelander. The food pantry asks that people give a $20 donation.
“It's not your typical food pantry,” says Gloria Cobb, Ruby's Pantry Lac du Flambeau Lead Coordinator. “This is an opportunity to give people dignity, to serve with dignity, and it's a donation base.”
“I mean look at the hustle and bustle going on we've got the community coming together not only Lac du Flambeau but the surrounding community coming together to meet a very basic need and that's to help with hunger,” says Cobb.
The pantry offered items like strawberries, cake mix, and toilet paper. More than 400 people were expected to show up.
“A participant will go through the line with a laundry basket and or box and they will be offered items,” says Cobb. “They can refuse them however we will encourage them to take the item because somebody else that they may know may have a need.”
“They get a certain amount of each item and they go through the line like an assembly line,” says Cobb.
The pantry had more than 21,000 pounds of food to give away.
Future Wisconsin Project wants to bring more workers, manufacturers to Wisconsin
RHINELANDER - The Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce group held a seminar at Nicolet College in Rhinelander Tuesday, to plan how to make Wisconsin more attractive to skilled workers and manufacturing businesses.
WMC's president believes the shortage in younger people in the industry has to do with two big misconceptions about manufacturing.
"The younger kids, as do their parents, have a perception on what manufacturing looks like and it's about 40 years out of date. If you're in an advanced manufacturing facility now, it's clean, it's high-tech, the engineers and technicians are working together," said Jim Morgan."We have a perception problem. I think we still have a definition of success that's says unless you have a four-year degree, you're not successful."
Morgan says groups like WMC work to change that perception. He believes workers with a two-year degree are just as successful in the industry.
So far, WMC held seminars at nine other technical colleges. For Rhinelander, more manufacturers could mean more economic independence.
"The Rhinelander Chamber of Commerce is looking to see how it can help and partner with local manufacturers to make the Rhinelander area a more favorable place for them to locate their businesses, as well as to attract and retain skilled workers to make those businesses successful," said Dana DeMet, Rhinelander Chamber of Commerce director.
Over the next six months, WMC will continue to look for ways to attract more workers and businesses to the state.
In December, it hopes to have 1000 representatives for a meeting in Milwaukee focusing on how manufacturing will benefit the state.
WMC also works with the University of Wisconsin system and the Wisconsin Technical Colleges.
TOMAHAWK - The Tomahawk School District will need to make big budget cuts in the next year. The district will need to cut more than $500,000. Rising transportation costs along with declining enrollments challenge many Northwoods School Districts.
“We have a lot of issues in Northern Wisconsin that many districts in the state of Wisconsin don't have,” says Cheryl Baker, Tomahawk School District Superintendent. “For instance in the Tomahawk School District there's about 425 and I'm rounding that off, square miles of terrain that has to be covered everyday two times a day to pick kids up, to bring them to school, and to take them home.”
“That cost is our cost,” says Baker.
The school district does not plan to cut any electives. Instead they are moving from an 8 to a 7 period day.
“We're moving from an 8 period day to a 7 period day purely for economic reasons,” says Baker. “In other words had we not gone to the 7 period day for next year we would have had to of cut entire classes, electives, and or start cutting down teachers full time positions.”
The school district will also need to cut its full time social worker.
MADISON - A bill that would allow Wisconsin schools to extend school days and shorten school years to save money is up for a vote in the Senate this week.
The bill would get rid of the requirement that schools teach for 180 days or lose state funding. Schools are still required to teach the same number of hours under the bill.
Another change under the law allows the state Department of Public Instruction to fund remedial courses and interim school sessions. The package is being viewed as a cost saving measure for districts that have seen state funding decrease in recent years.
Three Democrats joined the bill's Republican sponsors, and DPI and other education groups have voiced strong support for the proposal.
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