State News: Fish Fry, Gender Parity and Presidential Primaries

Milwaukee, Racine Ranked 2nd, 3rd Worst Cities in America for Blacks

Black Americans living in Milwaukee and Racine are making half of the median income of their white counterparts and are nearly 12 times more likely to be imprisoned than white residents. Based on those outcomes, Milwaukee and Racine have been ranked second and third, respectively, as the worst cities for black people to live in by 24/7 Wall St., a Delaware-based financial company.

24/7 Wall St. looked at eight measures to assess race-based gaps in socioeconomic outcomes in each of the country’s metropolitan areas.

“Disparities in socioeconomic measures exist to some degree nationwide,” the report states. “However, in certain cities, gaps in outcomes along racial lines are chasmic.”

They also looked at household income, high school and bachelor’s degree attainment, unemployment rates and homeownership. Waterloo-Cedar Falls, Iowa, topped the list, and Minneapolis-St. Paul came in fourth.

Today, the typical black household in Milwaukee earns $27,834 a year, compared to the white median household income of $65,568. In Racine, the median income for black residents is $26,888 compared to the typical white household income of $63,507.

Life for African-Americans in Milwaukee and Racine has gotten worse over the last year, according to the report. In 2017, Milwaukee ranked third and Racine ranked fourth.


Democrats to Achieve Gender Parity in Assembly

Women will still be a minority in the Wisconsin Legislature next year, but not among Assembly Democrats. As national conversations swirl about growing gender, racial and ethnic diversity in government, Wisconsin Assembly Democrats will welcome a new caucus in 2019 that’s 50 percent female.

“It’s an exciting time for women and I think we’re finally representing that in our numbers,” said Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Dianne Hesselbein, D-Middleton. “We’re finally at parity, at long last.”

After January’s inauguration, Democrats will hold 36 seats in the 99-member state Assembly. Eighteen of those seats will be held by women.

Though the minority party’s bills will likely face an uphill climb in the GOP-controlled chamber, Hesselbein said she looks forward to her caucus working on proposals to raise the minimum wage and increase the availability of paid family medical leave in the workplace.

“I think we’re going to see a lot more progressive policies pushed forward, especially when it comes to families,” she said.

Despite legislative minorities, Democrats will have a member of their party in the governor’s office for the first time in eight years. Hesselbein said more female lawmakers could help circumvent potential partisan gridlock.

“I think women have a great way of working together,” she said, referencing the role of female lawmakers in the compromise that ended a federal government shutdown in 2013.  

“I’m hoping that the same thing can happen in the state of Wisconsin,” she said.

In the state Senate, female lawmakers will make up 43 percent of the Democratic caucus and 11 percent of the GOP caucus.

The inauguration of the new Legislature is slated for Jan. 7, 2019.


Making Fish Fry Dinners Less Expensive

Researchers in Green Bay hope to reduce the cost of Wisconsin’s traditional Friday night fish fry by working with The Farmory – a local nonprofit based in downtown Green Bay – to set up breeding tanks for the popular yellow perch, which is becoming hard to find in the wild.

Ken Webb, a research associate at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, is taking on the difficult task of setting up the tanks for The Farmory. He said yellow perch are hard to raise in captivity. Many fish farms raise perch in outdoor ponds, but Webb said most larvae die within 30 days whether from predation or disease.

Instead of outdoor ponds, these yellow perch will be bred and raised indoors in tanks that look like hot tubs.

“Once this facility is closed in and sealed, we will have a bio-secure fish stock,” Webb said. “When fish come out of here I will be able to certify it, that for the the past 10 generations, or however long it’s been, there has been no disease in this building.”

The idea is to sell small fingerlings – or juvenile fish – to fish farmers who will then raise them to eating size. The Farmory hopes to be selling their nonprofit-grown fish by early next year.  

Webb was also proud to report that the perch grown at The Farmory will actually be yellow perch, versus what he referred to as an imported knock-off.

“It will mean that when you go to a perch fry you will probably actually get yellow perch. Because right now if you ‘value shop’ your fish fry, you are more than likely not getting yellow perch,” he said.

The Farmory hopes to raise $125,000 by the end of the year for the project. And to begin selling yellow perch fingerlings in early 2019.


Clerks Concerned About Moving Presidential Primary Date

Several Wisconsin county clerks are urging Wisconsin lawmakers not to schedule the state’s presidential primary a month earlier than planned.

The April 2020 contest is set to be held along with the nonpartisan spring election, which would include an election for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. But Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislative leaders have talked about moving the presidential vote to March.

Democrats have claimed the GOP is worried the expected high turnout for the presidential primary could hurt Republican chances of keeping a state Supreme Court seat now held by Daniel Kelly, a Walker appointee.

Some county clerks have also raised concerns about separating the contests. Clerks in Rock, Dane and Brown counties have commented that holding a separate March vote would likely also mean increased costs.


Walker Appoints Schimel to Waukesha County Bench

Gov. Scott Walker has appointed state Attorney General Brad Schimel to the Waukesha County Circuit Court. The announcement came Nov. 20, one day after Schimel, a Republican, conceded the state attorney general election to Democrat Josh Kaul. The appointment will ensure Schimel has a taxpayer-funded job after Kaul takes over as the head of the state Department of Justice in January.

Schimel, 53, will replace Waukesha County Judge Patrick Haughney. Haughney resigned from the office, effective earlier this month. Schimel will have to run for re-election to the seat in 2019.

Democrats were quick to push back on the appointment.

“Wisconsinites overwhelmingly want their courts to be independent, but Scott Walker has nonetheless appointed a highly partisan Republican to the job,” said Martha Laning, state Democratic Party chair. “Even though Wisconsin voters rejected divisive and partisan politicians like Brad Schimel just two weeks ago, Republicans have chosen to ignore the will of voters and put politics before people.”

In August, 45 assistant attorneys general signed a letter saying Schimel had made the office too political during his tenure.


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