State News: Commercial Fishing, Bridge Replacements

MLB Security Chief Wins Democratic Primary for Milwaukee County Sheriff

Earnell Lucas, head of security for Major League Baseball, won a three-way Democratic primary for the job of Milwaukee County sheriff in Tuesday’s primary election. According to unofficial county results, Lucas won with almost 57 percent of the vote. Coming in second was acting Milwaukee County Sheriff Richard Schmidt with about 34 percent of the vote. Schmidt took over the job when former Sheriff David Clarke resigned in 2017. Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Ostrowski received about 9 percent of the vote.

All three candidates campaigned on turning the department around after several deaths in the jail marred Clarke’s tenure as sheriff. Lucas said he looked forward to working with community-based organizations and academics to turn the department around.

“And while there are those in our community who did not vote for Earnell Lucas or may not even support Earnell Lucas, let me say that I’m going to be your sheriff, too,” he told a crowd of more than 100 supporters at his campaign party at The Rave in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and Milwaukee Alderman Cavalier Johnson endorsed Lucas and attended his victory party.

“For a long time we’ve been stymied because Sheriff Clarke had absolutely no interest in working with the city,” Barrett said.

No Republican is on the November ballot for the position.


Shift Means Local Governments Pay More For Bridge Replacements

Wisconsin taxpayers will foot a bigger share of the bill to replace local bridges due to a new funding policy at the state Department of Transportation, county transportation officials say. While the agency says the new policy spreads money to more projects around the state, some counties are seeing their costs increase by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

After years of bridge replacement delays due to a lack of state funding, the DOT has rolled out a new program called “Replace-In-Kind.” It directs local governments applying for state bridge aid to design replacements to minimum state engineering standards based on current traffic. If the application qualifies, the state promises to pay for 80 percent of the replacement cost with local governments picking up the rest.

If counties or municipalities want to design bridges that go beyond the minimum standards, the “Replace-In-Kind” policy lets them do it but on their own dime.

In May, a joint press release from Gov. Scott Walker and DOT Secretary Dave Ross hailed the policy as an efficiency measure.

But county highway commissioners say the policy will cost them more and is forcing them to design bridges that don’t account for future traffic projections.


Dane County Total Property Value Surpasses Milwaukee County

According to a new report by the Wisconsin Policy Forum, Dane County’s property is valued at about $65 billion. That’s above pre-recession levels and marks the first time the county’s property is more valuable than property in Milwaukee County. Meanwhile, Milwaukee County property is still below pre-recession values.

Preliminary state data shows Madison’s total property value is about $28.7 billion. Milwaukee’s totals $28.3 billion.

For Milwaukee and Milwaukee County, that means less money it can collect through property taxes to fund local services. And the report finds Milwaukee County has fewer opportunities for further development because of past construction.

While the report finds Dane County has significant agricultural land that could be built up, Milwaukee County would have to increase property values by redeveloping underused property or appreciation.


Commercial Fishing Strong on Superior’s South Shore

Commercial fishing operations near the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior are reporting record numbers of whitefish and a strong recovery of lake trout from a low in the early 2000s.

During a presentation to the state’s Natural Resources Board, Craig Hoopman, of Lake Superior Whitefish, said he is seeing record numbers of young whitefish and a strong rebounding of lake trout numbers. Hoopman, who chairs the state Department of Natural Resources Lake Superior Commercial Fishing Board, said fishing has been phenomenal so far this year.

“We’re averaging between 2,500 and 3,000 pounds of whitefish per day in the traps right now and releasing thousands of sub-legal fish,” said Hoopman. “There’s just multiple year classes of fish.”

And while whitefish is the most sought-after species, Hoopman said he is also seeing strong numbers of lake trout as well after a decades-long population decline that began in 1950s.

“The lake trout recovery … it’s unbelievable. There’s around three year classes of lake trout that I’m seeing daily that are extremely large. Very nice, beautiful-looking fish, healthy, the whitefish, the lake trout, all the species that I’m seeing every day, they are feeding well, they’re just healthy-looking fish,” he said.

A year class refers to all fish born in the same year.


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