RHINELANDER - Two months ago, retired Rhinelander Judge Robert Kinney fired off strong words while announcing his resignation from the state's Ethics Commission.
He criticized the attitude, secrecy, and inaction of the new board, which was created to oversee campaign finance, lobbying, and ethics laws in Wisconsin.
Kinney seems to share frustrations with another retired Rhinelander judge, Tim Vocke.
"[The Ethics Commission] was doomed to failure, in my opinion," Vocke said. "It was simply ignoring eight years of success and going back to the bad old days."
Vocke served during five of the eight years that the Government Accountability Board existed. Five retired judges at a time joined him on the panel.
The GAB was created in 2008, replacing the state Ethics and Elections boards, which had been around since 1973. Legislators created the GAB in response to partisan caucus scandals in the 2000s.
But in 2015, Republicans in power in Madison voted to scrap the nonpartisan GAB and go back to something with similar-sounding names to previous panels. They created the Ethics and Elections commissions. Each commission is made up of partisan appointees.
The Republican move to dissolve the GAB in 2015 came after the board investigated possible coordination between outside conservative groups and Gov. Scott Walker's 2012 campaign.
"With the Republicans, I wasn't surprised when they got angry," Vocke said. "We'd been angering them before because they were the majority party. They had the governor. We weren't doing what they wanted to do."
"I think [those Republicans are] politicians, and they're looking out for themselves," he continued. "That's not something unique to Republicans. Both parties have been doing that."
After a few months serving on the new Ethics Commission, Kinney had had enough and resigned.
"I thought Judge Kinney did the right thing," Vocke said. "I thought it was a gutsy move."
In a year-end interview, Gov. Walker indicated an interest in hearing Kinney out.
"We made the offer to meet. Hopefully, we will, sometime after the start of the year," Walker said. "I don't know exactly what his frustration is."
Among other concerns, Kinney complained that members of the commission had an "observable lack of commitment" and that the panel's rules "require too much secrecy and too little transparency."
"The public is almost completely shut out of the process," he said.
To Vocke, those frustrations sound familiar.
"This is history repeating itself," Vocke said. "This is what happened before the GAB was formulated in the first place. Nothing was getting done."
Walker is in charge of naming Kinney's replacement to the Ethics Commission. He will select a new commissioner from a list of nominees provided by Democrats.
NEILLSVILLE - A Neillsville couple is expected in court soon after police and sheriff's deputies searched their residence and reported finding methamphetamine, marijuana and a hand grenade.
The Clark County Sheriff's Office said Monday the Marathon County Bomb Squad was called to the home Friday to handle the grenade. Authorities say that after it was removed, officers searched the residence and found the illegal drugs and paraphernalia.
STEVENS POINT - Stevens Point Police are investigating an armed robbery.
Around 6 a.m. Sunday morning, police and Portage County Sheriff Deputies responded to a report of an armed robbery at the R Store in the 5400 block of HWY 10 E in Stevens Point. Police say during the initial investigation, they determined an armed suspect displayed a weapon and took money from the store.
MINOCQUA - A major 'safety net' resource used by nearly 800,000 people in Wisconsin could get cut in half. The Trump Administration wants to radically change SNAP. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program formally known as food stamps. " It's a fundamental lifeline," said St. Germain Sentury Foods owner David Weber. Last Monday Weber found out a lifeline for some of his customers was at risk.
" In its current form it's a very vital necessity for the families," said Weber. Weber's store has supported the current debit card style SNAP or food stamp program since it started in the 60s. However, the Trump administration wants to radically change SNAP to a food box delivery styled program in its 2019 budget. " The boxes people would receive, would contain mostly shelve stable food it doesn't [provide] fresh vegetables," said Weber. With the change low- income Americans receiving at least $90 a month would get half their benefits in the form of a "USDA Foods package."
" There may be a need for change for the SNAP program, but I'm not sure the proposed changes are the way to go," said Weber. The box would include shelf stable milk, ready to eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, and beans, but no fruits or vegetables. " [It's a] disservice to the community and the people who receive that benefit," said Weber. Weber said right now the current SNAP program allows people to get the food their families need when they need it. Instead of the nearly 800,000 SNAP users in Wisconsin needing to wait for a pre-arranged box delivery. " If there is going to be changes they need to be realistic changes that won't hurt people," said Weber.
LAKE TOMAHAWK - A 32-year-old woman had to be airlifted to a hospital after a snowmobile crash.
Oneida County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Tyler Young said emergency crews responded to the accident around 8:30 a.m. Sunday morning. It happened in an area off Highway 47 near Fawn Lake Rd in McNaughton.
EAGLE RIVER - A Snow Show in Eagle River reminded visitors of all that snowmobiling clubs do for Wisconsin. About 300 people stopped by the Eagle River Derby Track Sunday for the event. The Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs invited 15 vendors to help educate people about the economics and basics of snowmobiling.
"We just want everybody to be aware of all the work that goes into maintaining and upkeep of the snowmobile trails," said Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs President Dave Newman. It was the 5th annual Snow Show.
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