MADISON — To countersue or not to countersue: That is the question Gov. Scott Walker is asking after Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said she planned on filing a lawsuit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency regarding Foxconn.
According to a Tuesday news report, Walker openly talked about the possibility of filing a countersuit against Illinois.
To be clear, Madigan has not filed a lawsuit against the EPA but she has made her disagreement with that federal agency known.
Madigan announced on Friday that her office plans to challenge an EPA ruling that gave Foxconn a green light to build its massive manufacturing campus in Mount Pleasant.
“Despite its name, the Environmental Protection Agency now operates with total disregard for the quality of our air and water, and in this case, the U.S. EPA is putting a company’s profit ahead of our natural resources and the public’s health,” Madigan said in a statement. “I will file a lawsuit to protect the environment and people from the consequences of this unsupported decision.”
According to the release, Madigan plans to issue the lawsuit in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, challenging the EPA’s decision to designate Racine County as achieving “attainment,” meaning Foxconn does not need to meet stricter standards for controlling smog and air pollution, “despite indisputable pollution monitoring data showing Racine County exceeds ozone levels beyond the 70 parts per billion (ppb) limit.”
The release goes on to say that “Racine County recorded average ozone levels of 74 ppb from 2015 through 2017. A non-attainment designation would require the plant to install the most stringent pollution control equipment.”
In response, the Walker administration has stated it believes Wisconsin should be in attainment.
Amy Hasenberg, press secretary for Walker, said the state has “cut emissions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds by 50 percent since 2002.”
“Pollutants are largely coming from Chicago, Illinois, and Gary, Indiana,” Hasenberg said. “Our state should not be penalized for issues we are not causing. We will take all necessary steps to protect our state’s interests. The State of Wisconsin will push back.”
This is not the first time Madigan has taken action regarding Foxconn. In March, she submitted comments to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources “expressing concern about Foxconn’s water use and how wastewater from the manufacturing plant will be treated.”
On Monday, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said the “threatened lawsuit is as meritless as it is ironic.”
“Illinois is the largest contributor of ozone pollution to Racine, and now it wants to sue to stop Wisconsin from growing our economy in that same part of our state,” Schimel said. “Illinois should worry about addressing its own pollution problems and inability to attract job creators, rather than needlessly attacking Wisconsin for its success.”
In regards to the Walker administration possibly filing a countersuit, Schimel’s office had no comment.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos agreed with reports that “the bulk of the air smog” comes from Chicago and Gary but admits “I am not any kind of a scientist.”
Vos said the smog is “drifting north because of the way Lake Michigan acts as a collector of all this pollution ... that’s my understanding.”
“The very basic idea that she would sue Wisconsin when we have been dealing with Illinois smog for well over two decades is preposterous,” Vos said. “If anything Gov. Walker is right that we should be saying that ‘You need to do your part to have the environmental controls in place in the southern part of Lake Michigan.’ “
On the possibility of a countersuit being filed, Vos said he supports the idea but “I wouldn’t want to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ until I understand what we would be looking at.”
“But the very idea that Illinois has been the primary polluter seems to be well documented,” Vos said. “It makes sense to me to say ‘If we’re concerned about air quality let’s start with the people who are causing the problem.’ “
“Our state should not be penalized for issues we are not causing. We will take all necessary steps to protect our state’s interests. The state of Wisconsin will push back.” Amy Hasenberg, press secretary for Gov. Walker
RACINE — SC Johnson wrapped up its Racine Wonders program on Tuesday by awarding a total of $100,000 to Racine-area schools and announcing the winners of its student essay contest.
The company kicked off the program in January, when it passed out 9,000 copies of the book “Wonder” to local students in grades 4-8.
About 1,000 essays on subjects related to the book — acts of kindness or superheroes of empathy — were submitted and judged by University of Wisconsin-Parkside students.
Amelia Flones, an eighth-grade student at St. John’s Lutheran School, 510 Kewaunee St., wrote one of the winning essays. The subject was Flones’ superhero friend.
In November, Flones and her family experienced a house fire.
“It was an eye-opening experience,” she said. “Everything was gone.”
Once Flones’ friend Maddysen Haddock realized her peer could use some help, she went to work fundraising and collected about $250 to help Flones and her family.
“She was my superhero,” Flones said.
The 10 essay winners, two from each grade level — one from a public school and one from a private school — attended the celebration event at Festival Hall on Tuesday, along with their classmates. Each winner received a $10,000 donation for his or her school and a $500 personal deposit ticket.
Racine Wonders was not only the latest of SC Johnson’s literacy programs, but also encouraged students to be kind and show empathy to their classmates. After students read “Wonder,” by R.J. Palacio, about 8,000 of them attended screenings of the movie based on the book. Students also worked through curriculum related to the book, provided by myFace, a non-profit charitable organization based in New York City that helps children and adults with craniofacial differences, like the main character in “Wonder.”
Dina Zuckerberg, director of family programs at myFace, has a craniofacial difference herself.
She was born with a cleft lip, has hearing loss in both ears and a small left eye that provides her with no vision.
“It never stopped me from doing anything I ever wanted to do in my life,” Zuckerberg told the crowd on Tuesday. “I can drive, ski, ride a bicycle.”
She added that she was teased as a child and that she remembers those moments well, in addition to the times that someone went out of their way to be kind to her.
“It’s natural and normal to notice someone who looks different, but you have the power to choose to do so respectfully,” Zuckerberg said.
It’s the difference between asking “what’s wrong with your face?” and “May I ask you a question, may I ask you about your face?” she said.
Hannah Klein, 12, who was born with Treacher Collins syndrome, spoke to the group about the challenges of growing up with a facial difference. Klein has undergone more than 20 surgeries to help her deal with the condition that affects the tissue, muscles and bones in her face.
She said that myFace has connected herself and her family with people like she and her sister, who has a more mild form of the syndrome.
Klein said she wants the bullies of the world to know “that just because we look different, doesn’t mean we have different physical abilities and that we’re all the same.”
SC Johnson kicked off Tuesday’s event with performances by DJ Livia and the Monster Kids, a hip-hop dance group from Chicago that has been featured on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “America’s Got Talent” and the “Steve Harvey Show.” The group got the Racine students involved, bringing some on stage to learn the moves.
The dancers also shared a positive message about their success after previously being homeless.
Near the program’s end, Kelly Semrau, senior vice president of global corporate affairs, communications and sustainability for SC Johnson, and the person behind the creation of the Racine Wonders program, announced the names of the essay winners. The room erupted in gasps and cheers when it was announced that each of the 250 students in attendance would receive a Kindle Fire tablet computer.
Both Semrau and Jim Ladwig, director of global community affairs at SC Johnson, told the crowd how much the company cares about Racine.
“I will tell you as a company one of our mottoes is that it’s our job as SC Johnson to help make the communities that we’re in a better place because we’re there,” Ladwig said. “Everybody in attendance today can do the same thing. You can make a difference in your communities.”
RACINE COUNTY — Former state Sen. John Lehman announced Tuesday he is planning to run this fall for the open seat in the 62nd Assembly District.
State Rep. Tom Weatherston, R-Caledonia, holds the seat but announced earlier this year that he was not planning to run for re-election. Weatherston has served the district in the Assembly since first being elected in 2012.
In a news release announcing his candidacy, Lehman said: “It is important in this election year, with so much at stake, to put even gerrymandered districts like the 62nd in play. A full slate of Democratic candidates reflects the ‘all hands on deck’ nature of this crucial election cycle.
“I am calling for an end to the expensive, destructive policies of Robin Vos and Scott Walker. It is time to return some evenhandedness and sanity to Madison,” Lehman said.
Racine Unified School Board President Robert Wittke Jr. and John Leiber, former president of the Caledonia Parks and Recreation Commission, have both already announced they are running for the Republican nomination for the 62nd Assembly District.
The 62nd District includes Caledonia, Raymond, Norway, Wind Point, North Bay, some northern and western parts of the City of Racine and a small part of Mount Pleasant.
The primary election is set for Aug. 14, and the general election is Nov. 6. The filing deadline is 5 p.m. June 1.
Lehman is a former Racine alderman, Racine City Council president and teacher. He served in the state Assembly from 1996-2004 and the state Senate from 2006-10. He was elected again to the Senate in 2012 when he won the seat from Sen. Van Wanggaard in a recall election after Wanggaard’s vote for Act 10, the controversial legislation that effectively ended collective bargaining for public employees. But Lehman opted not to seek re-election and instead ran for lieutenant governor in 2014 with Democrat Mary Burke, who lost to Gov. Scott Walker.
While the district may be largely Republican, Lehman said a Democrat could win if there is a “blue wave.”
“If there is a blue wave, the minimal thing is to have a candidate,” Lehman said.
By being part of the race, he said, it will give voters a chance to hear more debate and give the Republican a chance to think through the issues more, rather than winning without a Democratic challenger.
“We citizens watching the giveaways or attempted giveaways of ‘black box’ legislation, (frack) sand cases and Foxconn have had enough,” Lehman said in the release. “In recent legislative sessions we have had too many ‘rubber-stamp Republicans’ loosening environmental protections and attacking Wisconsin consumers and taxpayers in favor of big business funders.
“I challenge the Republican nominee to public debate on these and many more important issues,” Lehman continued. “Scandal and arrogance characterize Speaker Robin Vos’ Republican leadership. The attack on our courts and international junkets must end. Advocates of local control and taxpayers deserve better. We’d all be better off if Republicans did not control the Wisconsin State Assembly.”
RACINE — Eric and Maggie Robinson still believe in their restaurant concept, Dogs & Cream, and are bringing it to the north side.
The Robinsons, who have decades of combined corporate retail food experience, plan to open a Dogs & Cream at 2721 Douglas Ave. They have bought the building that housed the former Caesar’s Frozen Custard, which closed in 2016. The 1,620-square-foot restaurant seats about 22 people and has a drive-thru.
The Robinsons first tried their Dogs & Cream idea at 10351 Washington Ave., Sturtevant, a small retail strip that fronts Marcus at the Renaissance Cinema, 10411 Washington Ave. Eric, director of operations for five Burger King restaurants on Chicago’s south side, said it was a bad location, and the eatery only lasted about 18 months.
But the Robinsons, Mount Pleasant residents, haven’t given up on their Dogs & Cream concept: a diner offering premier hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries and desserts. There will be about 17 variations of hot dogs, Robinson said, and a wide variety of ice cream desserts including shakes and sundaes.
The Robinsons plan to repaint the building’s exterior and hope to open between about mid-June and the first week of July.
Maggie and her sister, Perla Cabrera of Racine, will co-manage. Until December, Maggie was general manager at Noodles & Co., 5720 Washington Ave. Cabrera was the general manager for a Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen in Illinois for eight years and most recently worked at Georgie Porgie’s, 5502 Washington Ave.
Robinson said their goal is to make their Dogs & Cream concept successful enough to open about two more restaurants in about the first five years.