For more than three decades Newsmakers has been taking La Crosse-area listeners beyond the headlines with extended interviews
and in-depth conversations that advance the top stories of the day.
Listen every Thursday afternoon starting at 5pm for Newsmakers on WHLA 90.3 FM. It's also repeated on Saturdays at 5am on WLSU 88.9FM.
Newsmakers' producer is John Davis. WPR reporter Maureen McCollum hosts the series.
Contributors to Newsmakers include WPR reporter Steve Roisum and
producer Mary Meehan-Strub (director of UW-Extension for La Crosse County).
We invite your feedback, comments and questions. You can email members of the Newsmakers production team above. You can also send
general comments to our Executive Producer and WPR southwestern Wisconsin Regional Manager John Gaddo.
The online archives for Newsmakers are available for streaming anytime using most online media players.
Programs may also be downloaded to your PC or other device.
The Wisconsin legislature is considering an expansion of the state's private school voucher program. Vouchers give families money from the state to send students from the public school system in Wisconsin to a private school. Right now, the program is in Milwaukee and Racine, but Governor Scott Walker has proposed expanding private school choice to nine other school districts. The La Crosse area would not be impacted by the governor's proposal, but there has been a lot of opposition to the idea from this part of the state.
The race is on for more than 40,000 Wisconsin residents to complete the GED testing program by the end of the year, or begin the process over. The high school equivalency exam will be updated for the first time in more than a decade, starting in 2014. The changes could impact many students in the Western Technical College district. Chad Dull, WTC's dean of instructional support services talks about what the changes mean.
The state of Wisconsin is behind most other Midwestern states when it comes to creating energy from wind. Iowa and Minnesota are by far the leaders in the upper Midwest, and Wisconsin is a state that has some of the fewest wind farm projects in the planning stages. We debate the pros and cons of Wisconsin's current wind power siting laws, and look at the prospects for future wind energy projects.
Newsmakers Web Extra
We have the entire discussion on Wisconsin wind energy policy between Green Bay area Republican state Senator Frank Lasee and Chris Kunkle, the energy and telecommunications project manager at the Madison law firm of Cullen, Weston, Pines & Bach.
How did an organic food producer and a regional health system come together to work on a wind energy generation project? Cashton Greens wind farm has been working for about a year in the Monroe County village of Cashton. Learn more about the wind farm from representatives of Organic Valley and Gundersen Health System which partner on the project.
The Passive House, a home constructed with high energy efficiency that can save as much as 90 percent on home energy costs, hasn't really taken off in this country. They are more popular in Europe. But the Center for Building Innovations at Western Technical College is planning to start construction this summer on the first of three Passive Homes in the city of La Crosse.
Senior citizens in the La Crosse area are invited to a Town Hall Meeting about proposed changes to Social Security and Medicare. We compare competing federal budget proposals that would affect Social Security and Medicare. The director of La Crosse County's Aging Unit also talks about the impact of potential cuts to the Meals on Wheels program.
A recent report by Wisconsin's Legislative Fiscal Bureau shows the University of Wisconsin System is carrying a $648 million surplus that's being saved to help fund programs at campuses around the state. Since the report was released, system leaders have told lawmakers that the surplus is expected to grow more by the end of June. Lawmakers have suggested the large surplus could cost the UW System a proposed $181 million state budget increase and should mean a tuition freeze for students. UW-La Crosse Chancellor Joe Gow talks about the issue and what the surplus means for UW-L. He recently sent this email to staff and students about how the reserves are used at UW-L.
With the weather starting to turn from winter to spring, Wisconsin Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary Ben Brancel talks about a challenging start to the spring planting season, and how the state is planning to cope with a second season of drought. He also touches on the proposed state budget and how that will impact on agriculture and a recent trade mission to China.
As Trane Company celebrates its founding 100 years ago in the city of La Crosse this week, we examine the heating and cooling manufacture's history and future in La Crosse. Trane's workforce in La Crosse has declined substantially in the last 30 years, but there is hope that with some help from the city of La Crosse, jobs at Trane could possibly grow again.
There are some positive signs that the home construction industry is improving. The home construction industry was hit hard by the home mortgage troubles that contributed heavily to the worldwide recession of recent years. We talk with Wisconsin Builders Association Executive Vice President Jerry Deschane and Jon Olson, the owner of Jon Olson Construction of La Crosse about the future for new home construction.
La Crosse's 42nd Mayor Tim Kabat talks about his priorities as he begins his first four years as the city's leader.
La Crosse's Neighborhood Revitalization Commission
Neighborhood revitalization in La Crosse was a big part of the recent campaigns of mayoral candidates. The City Council recently approved a masterplan for neighborhood improvements. We talk with Chair Sara Sullivan and Vice Chair Andrew Londre of the city's Neighborhood Revitalization Commission about the work commission members have been doing in the past year to improve the city's neighborhoods.
Gundersen Lutheran Advance Directive; Partners in Excellence Autism treatment
Gundersen Lutheran Advance Directive
Having a written plan that will help medical professionals and family know what kind of end-of-life care you want has been prescribed for years in the La Crosse area. Now Gundersen Lutheran Health System is working to bring the idea around the world. Gundersen Lutheran CEO Dr. Jeff Thompson and Medical Humanities Director Dr. Bud Hammes recently spoke at a national Advanced Care Planning conference about using the La Crosse program as a model.
The Centers for Disease Control says autism affects one in 88 children in America. Autism is a development disorder often manifesting itself as problems with social behavior and communication, and each child with autism is different. There is success in treating a child with autism. Partners in Excellence in La Crosse is a place an autistic child can go to learn ways to modify their behavior. We spoke with Director Jackie Vick and parent Alex Berry about the program.
April and warmer temperatures have local gardeners preparing for this year's growing season - and it can't come soon enough, especially for those participating in the new Seed Library project underway through the La Crosse Public Library - a project focusing on growing heirloom seeds. Joining us to discuss the topic are La Crosse Public Library's Seed Library Coordinator, Kelly Becker; Cindy Mischnick, a La Crosse Public Library reference librarian; and the co-founder of Decorah, Iowa-based Seed Savers Exchange, Diane Ott Whealy. We'll also hear what participants in the library's workshops are saying about the project.
UW System President Kevin Reilly updates us on this week's Regents meeting being held at UW-La Crosse, including what the state budget potentially holds for higher education.
New ethics book
An interview with Rick Kyte, director of the D.B. Reinhart Institute for Ethics in Leadership at Viterbo University, author of the new book, An Ethical Life: A Practical Guide to Ethical Reasoning. A reception and book signing for Kyte is scheduled for April 12.
Wisconsin voters go back to the polls Tuesday, April 2, to cast their votes in a variety of state and local races, including La Crosse's mayoral race. On this edition of Newsmakers, one last word from La Crosse mayoral candidates Doug Farmer and Tim Kabat. Co-sponsors of the debate included the UW-La Crosse Student Association, Political Science/Public Administration Department and Joint Legislative Relations Committee, WKBT-TV, WIZM Radio, League of Women Voters, La Crosse Tribune and Wisconsin Public Radio.
A recording of the entire debate is available below.
A discussion on frac sand mining, a contentious issue on both sides of the Mississippi River. Some say the industry could bring jobs to the region, while others say mining could negatively impact the environment. One thing that is certain is that neither state has developed frac sand mining regulations and chosen instead to leave it a local issue.
(photo) Houston County Frac Sand Study Committee member Kelly Stanage encourages county commissioners in March 2013 to extend the frac sand mining moratorium for another year.
Regulating Frac Sand Mining - Part 1
Part one of a discussion on frac sand mining in western Wisconsin and Southeast Minnesota with guests including MN State Senator Matt Schmit, WI State Senator Kathleen Vinehout, WI Towns Association Executive Director Rick Stadelman, and MN Industrial Sand Council Representative Kirsten Pauly.
Regulating Frac Sand Mining - Part 2
Part two of a discussion on frac sand mining in western Wisconsin and Southeast Minnesota with guests including MN State Senator Matt Schmit, WI State Senator Kathleen Vinehout, WI Towns Association Executive Director Rick Stadelman, and MN Industrial Sand Council Representative Kirsten Pauly.
This week, we look at Mississippi River issues and then new Wisconsin budget proposals and tips on filing our 1040 personal income tax forms.
Rallying Around Mississippi River Issues
Governmental and private groups are working to make the Mississippi River a priority in Washington this year. Two new Mississippi River caucuses and a group of mayors have banded together, and existing commerce and environmental interest groups have high hopes that the river starts getting the federal support they say it needs.
State Budget Proposals and Tips on Filing Our Income Taxes
From new budget proposals to filing our personal 1040s, taxes continue to be a major topic on our minds these days. Joining us with insights into Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's recently proposed state budget, as well as a few tips on filing personal income taxes, is Rick Chandler, Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.
La Crosse residents who want to improve neighborhoods and the economy through the arts had a chance to attend a presentation this week on the concept of "Creative Placemaking". We talk with presenter Ann Markusen (photo left) of the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Learn more about "creative placemaking" in this Presentation to the National Council on the Arts.
We talk with Dr. Jane Fernandes (photo left). The Iowa native was born deaf but learned how to speak as a child, and learned American Sign Language in her 20s. As a provost and vice chancellor at the University of North Carolina-Asheville she is an advocate for the deaf and works against white privilege. She was in La Crosse this week to talk with the UW-La Crosse community.
The economic challenges of business and the hope for more jobs are on the minds of political leaders at both the national and state levels, but there's little agreement on just how 'good' or how 'bad' things really are -- and even less agreement on how to improve things. Vicki Markussen, executive director of the 7 Rivers Alliance, and UW-La Crosse associate economics professor TJ Brooks, share their perspectives on the local business climate and what the future holds.
Preserving unique tracts of land for future generations is a long-held belief by a growing number of area residents, helped along by the efforts of area land trusts. In turn, these land trusts are now being helped along by one area resident who has embarked on a project she calls River Sojourn. We talk with southeast Minnesota scientist-turned-artist Sara Lubinski about her commitment to create greater awareness of the need to conserve the landscapes unique to the Upper Mississippi River valley.
This week we examine the funding for Mental Health Services, and then we look at Wisconsin's Extreme Weather.
Proposed Wisconsin funding for Mental Health Services
We have local reaction to Governor Scott Walker's recent announcement that he has plans to increase state funding for mental health programs as part of his proposed state budget. Guests include La Crosse County Human Services Director Jason Witt, and Lacie Anthony, Director of Mental Health Services at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse. Listen to the WPR News story on the governor's proposal.
A recent national report from the Natural Resources Defense Council says Wisconsin was among the top ten states in the country in 2012 for extreme weather. We talk about local weather patterns with Warning Coordination Meteorologist Todd Shea and Forecaster Jeff Boyne from the National Weather Service office in La Crosse.
In this hour, we talk about funding regional transportation needs, and natural gas-fueled transportation.
Funding Regional Transportation
This could be an important year for future transportation funding in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Transportation Finance and Policy Commission has come up with a report on how the state should fund road maintenance and construction and public transportation over the next decade. The state legislature could make decisions about future transportation funding this year. We talk with western Wisconsin's 94th district state representative Rep. Steve Doyle who is also on the Assembly Transportation committee. He's joined by La Crosse County Highway Department Highway Commissioner Ron Chamberlain who adds some perspective about county road maintenance and funding issues.
This week, we discuss Health Services in Wisconsin's Jails. Then we'll look at how La Crosse's Warming centers provide help.
Health Services in Wisconsin's Jails
We discuss recent reports by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism which show mental health services in most Wisconsin jails are inadequate. We also talk about what's happening with mental health care in the La Crosse County jail. Read the WCIJ Report on mental health care issues and gaps in suicide prevention.
La Crosse's Warming Center
In just its second full winter, the La Crosse Warming Center in the First Baptist Church basement on West Avenue is helping shelter people from the cold.
Having been inundated by two straight summers of flooding five years ago, the village of Gays Mills has been making accommodations for the future. WPR's Steve Roisum visited with business owners and talks with Julia Henley, the recovery and development director about changes that have moved part of the village uphill and out of the flood plain.
A discussion with John Mather (left), the 2006 winner of the Nobel Laureate in Physics for his work with NASA's COBE satellite, which measured the spectrum of radiation from the Big Bang. He visited UW-La Crosse this past semester. Learn more in this NASA article and interview.
In this half-hour, we talk with members of the city of La Crosse Arts Board about the new synergy the opening of the Weber Center will have on an arts district in downtown La Crosse. Guests include Michelle Peterslie, a citizen-member of the board and Donald Smith, Chair of the Arts board and president of the Pump House Regional Arts Center. (left: supporters Don and Roxanne Weber)
A roundtable discussion about the growth of women-run businesses. And, we talk about the growth of women in farming; Annie's Project is a series of workshops that help women learn the ins and outs of running a farm.
Women-Owned Businesses Are Making a Difference -I
A roundtable discussion about the growth of women-run businesses. Guests include: Anne Hlavacka, director of the UW-La Crosse Small Business Development Center; Amy Stodola, a financial advisor for Edward Jones; and Debbie Lee, a Westland Insurance agent who cofounded the networking group, Women of Worth.
Women-Owned Businesses Are Making a Difference - II
We talk about the growth of women in farming; Annie's Project is a series of workshops that help women learn the ins and outs of running a farm. We also talk to Vernon County farmer Gail Klinkner who runs her family's dairy farm in the Liberty Pole area.
We preview the 2013 Wisconsin legislative session with state Senator Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) and state Representative Jill Billings (D-La Crosse). And, more on why Ron Kind supported a compromise to avert the fiscal cliff.
Western Wisconsin Lawmakers Set Stage for 2013 - Part 1
Western Wisconsin Lawmakers Set Stage for 2013 - Part 2
Learn more about why Wisconsin Congressman Ron Kind supported a compromise to avert the fiscal cliff this week, and what more federal lawmakers need to do to avoid major budget problems in the next two months.
In this encore broadcast from June, we take a trip down memory lane through historic preservation. We talk with the president of the Preservation Alliance of La Crosse Barbara Kooiman and Mike Keil, a local developer of historic buildings.
Historic Preservation: Revisited Part I
In this encore broadcast from June, we take a trip down memory lane through historic preservation. We talk about efforts to restore the Hollywood Theater in downtown La Crosse; historic tourism with a trip to La Crosse's Hixon House; and the efforts of a group of people to preserve the McGilvray-Seven Bridges Road in northwestern La Crosse County.
Historic Preservation: Revisited Part II
We talk with the president of the Preservation Alliance of La Crosse Barbara Kooiman and Mike Keil, a local developer of historic buildings about the state of historic preservation in the La Crosse area.
We discuss community giving with local philanthropists Don Weber and Dave Skogen. Our report on community giving shifts to businesses and organizations that count on this time of year for raising funds to support the community.
Learn more about a national study of giving that was done by the Chronicle of Philanthropy: How America Gives; and read about other area organizations involved in supporting the community as chronicled in the La Crosse Tribune's 25 Days of Giving.
The city of La Crosse has a plan to cut down nearly 900 ash trees is city parks to deal with an expected invasion of the Emerald Ash Borer. And the Wisconsin Council of Churches says public discourse can be improved in the United States.
La Crosse Prepares to Remove Ash Trees
The city of La Crosse has a plan to cut down nearly 900 ash trees is city parks to deal with an expected invasion of the Emerald Ash Borer.. We get both side of the issue from why the Parks Department is proposing the plan, and a La Crosse arborist who says there's another way.
Working Toward Civility in Wisconsin
The Wisconsin Council of Churches says public discourse can be improved in the United States. Religious leaders throughout the state have proposed the "Season of Civility Initiative" as a way to get there.
The city of La Crosse and the DNR have been negotiating over 500-600 acres of land in the La Crosse River Valley Marsh from city to state ownership. We talk about the announced merger of the Hope Academy of western Wisconsin with the Family and Children's Center of western Wisconsin and southeast Minnesota.
La Crosse Marsh Heading for the DNR
The city of La Crosse and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources have been negotiating for several months on deeding about 500-600 acres of land in the La Crosse River Valley Marsh from city to state ownership. The end result would allow the DNR to own and manage part of the marshland that's used by wildlife, for recreation and for flood control. History of the marsh is available from UW-La Crosse's Murphy Library or the La Crosse Public Library..
Hope Academy, Local Children's Center Announce Merger
We talk about the announced merger of the Hope Academy of western Wisconsin with the Family and Children's Center of western Wisconsin and southeast Minnesota. The new partnership begins January 1, 2013.
La Crosse Mayor Matt Harter has announced he won't seek reelection. Then, the North Crawford school district has received a $900,000 federal grant to improve its physical education program. Newsmakers also investigates Native American artifacts that have been reported stolen or copied.
La Crosse Mayor Won't Seek Reelection / State Of Phy Ed In Schools
La Crosse Mayor Matt Harter has announced he won't seek reelection; we have the latest.