KANSASVILLE — President Donald Trump’s proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum could have a major impact on Wisconsin business, and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said the state “will probably be harmed more than everybody on a per-business, per-capita basis.”
“I’m highly concerned with President Trump’s tariffs,” Johnson said. “In order to protect maybe 150,000 jobs, we’re putting at risk millions of jobs that utilize steel and aluminum.”
On Friday, Johnson spoke to the Union Grove Area Chamber of Commerce at Michael’s On The Lake restaurant, 3101 Eagle Road, Kansasville, and answered questions on tariffs, North Korea and school and election security.
Despite criticism for the decision, Trump signed orders to impose the tariffs on steel and aluminum on Thursday.
Although the tariffs exempt Mexico and Canada, Johnson said he disagrees with Trump and said the policy could subject the United States to “potential retaliation by our trading partners.”
“It could spark a trade war; nobody knows where that ends,” Johnson said. “We use a lot of steel, a lot of aluminum. When your goods increase, your price has to increase, otherwise you become less competitive on the global market.”
The action by the Trump administration, Johnson said, could put the stability of the country at risk and could have enormous collateral damage.
Johnson said his concerns about Trump’s view on trade go back to the 2016 presidential campaign.
“I never agreed with candidate Trump, basically, on his trade stance,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he thought when Trump came into office, he would negotiate for better deals on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — both of which have not been done.
The decision to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Johnson said, was a mistake.
“Let’s make sure we’re involved in 40 percent of the world market and trading partners,” Johnson said. “The other TPP part in that trade deal is we’re on the outside looking in, which leaves a big opening for China.”
For those worried about competing with China, Johnson said pulling out of TPP was “the worst thing you can do.”
Late Thursday night it was announced that President Trump would meet with Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, making him the first U.S. president to do so.
Although the move has surprised many, Johnson said he believes Trump’s unpredictability could cause something positive to come out of the meeting.
“For the most part, our allies have to depend on us and we have to be very solid and steady, and very predictable,” Johnson said. “But when it comes to working with a guy like Kim Jong Un, or potentially the Russians, or potentially the Syrians, there is a lot of value to a little unpredictability.”
Johnson said the United States “can’t let the pressure off; I don’t think President Trump will” on getting North Korea to denuclearize.
“I have no problem with President Trump talking to Kim Jong Un,” Johnson said. “I’d rather try to build a relationship because I think that helps defuse and helps prevent a horrific miscalculation.”
Besides continuing to sanction North Korea, Johnson said China has to participate in the discussion.
“They are North Korea’s lifeline, so make sure China doesn’t provide coal, (does not) provide food,” Johnson said. “We just got to keep ramping up the pressure.”
“We use a lot of steel, a lot of aluminum. When your goods increase, your price has to increase, otherwise you become less competitive on the global market.” Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, on tariffs
OAK CREEK — Independent testing has confirmed the presence of coal dust found Monday in a neighborhood north of the We Energies power plants in Oak Creek, the Clean Power Coalition of Southeast Wisconsin announced.
In a news release issued late Thursday afternoon, the coalition said independent testing confirmed coal dust from samples taken Monday by the Environmental Accountability Group and tested by Aspen Consulting. The black coal dust was found covering homes, cars and a playground in neighborhoods north of the Oak Creek and Elm Road power plants.
Coal dust contains toxic metals including lead, mercury and arsenic, the release states. The health effects of inhalable particulate matter include aggravation of asthma, respiratory symptoms, an increase in hospital emissions and increased mortality from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and from lung cancer. “There is no safe level of coal dust exposure.”
“This isn’t the first time this has happened,” stated Greg Millard, a concerned local resident. “This is the first time they got caught. Coal dust blowing from the piles at these plants has been a problem for decades, and We Energies knows it. We want something done about it.”
Coal dust causes problems south of the plant, stated Bill Pringle, president of Environmental Accountability Group.
“I used to live in Caledonia just south of the plant,” Pringle stated. “Myself, my wife and my children became very ill, and after only eight years we had to move. We Energies did testing twice and said there wasn’t a problem, but when we hired someone to do independent testing, we found coal and fly ash in our house. I started EAG because it was clear that We Energies can’t be trusted with protecting our health.”
In January, the Clean Power Coalition said, it asked We Energies for additional air-quality monitoring equipment to be put on the north side of the plant, in the vicinity of this neighborhood. We Energies denied this request, saying that it was not necessary.
However, on Friday, in response to the coalition’s findings and news release, We Energies spokesman Barry McNulty said the utility is now considering monitoring the air north of the power plants.
He issued the following statement: “We take both our environmental and community responsibilities very seriously. We do not believe, based on prior advice from an independent health expert, that an occurrence of this nature poses health risks to the community.
“This event was a rare occurrence. However, we are re-evaluating our operating procedures and will be making modifications to ensure this never happens again. If the test results confirm the presence of coal dust from our independent labs, we will work with our neighbors, the residents who’ve been impacted.
“We are considering installing an air monitor north of the site and will discuss with the city (of Oak Creek) and the (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources),” the utility stated.
Like Pringle, on Friday Caledonia resident Maureen Michna said she thinks coal dust has harmed her family over the years. Michna lives about one mile south of the power plant in the 7600 block of Michna Road and has three brothers who live on the same road about one-quarter mile away from the plant.
“They get the most coal dust,” Maureen said. “We’re in the fallout area.”
Health problems among her relatives, Michna said, have included respiratory problems, nose polyps in her father and asthma. “And no one smokes,” she added. “None of my brothers and sisters.”
Dana LaFontsee of the Clean Power Coalition stated, “This power plant is co-owned by We Energies, Madison Gas & Electric and WPPI. We’re calling on the customers of these utilities to demand action.
“You might not live in Oak Creek, but the dirty energy you use still impacts the people that do. These utilities must move away from toxic coal and transition to renewable energy.”
“This event was a rare occurrence. However, we are re-evaluating our operating procedures and will be making modifications to ensure this never happens again.” Barry McNulty, We Energies spokesman
RACINE — One of three Racine men charged in a fatal 2016 beating was sentenced on Friday to 35 years in prison for his role in the incident.
In October, 34-year-old Mecquon J. Jones pleaded no contest to amended charges of first-degree reckless homicide and misdemeanor theft.
Jones and Bobby L. Mitton, 30, were charged in April 2016 with being a party to the crime of first-degree intentional homicide and misdemeanor theft in connection with Thomas J. Borglin’s death.
Derryle L. Allen, 29, was also charged for his role in the fatal beating with two counts of harboring or aiding a felon and one count of misdemeanor theft.
On Friday, Racine Circuit Court Judge Mark Nielsen sentenced Jones to 55 years, split between 35 years of incarceration and 20 years of extended supervision for the first count and nine months in the Racine County Jail for the theft charge. The sentence for count two will be served concurrently.
“This is as grave an offense as comes before the court,” Nielsen said.
Racine Police began investigating Borglin’s death on April 11, 2016, after his body was found in his home in the 1500 block of Grove Avenue.
Allen reportedly told investigators the beating occurred after Borglin and Mitton began arguing about whether Borglin was a real contractor. Borglin didn’t want to fight, Allen reportedly said, but Mitton kept “pushing it over and over.” Allen said he saw Mitton pick Borglin up and body-slam him to the ground before punching him, the complaints state.
That’s when Jones began stomping on Borglin’s upper torso, according to the criminal complaints. Jones allegedly admitted to punching and kicking Borglin, but told police he couldn’t remember the number of times because he was too drunk.
Following the beating, two TVs — a 50-inch and 32-inch — were reportedly stolen, along with a knife, keys, Borglin’s wallet and cellphone.
The Racine County Medical Examiner’s Office determined Borglin died from blunt-force trauma to his neck and chest.
During the sentencing, members of both the Borglin and Jones family addressed the court.
“We miss Tom and we don’t have him here anymore, and how they left him was pretty cruel and brutal,” Cesar Angeles, Borglin’s former brother-in-law, said with tears in his eyes. “We just ask that the court give him the maximum sentence.”
Greg Watson, Jones’ stepbrother, also spoke during the sentencing. He started by stating how sorry he and the rest of Jones’ family were for what Jones has done, and then discussed his and his family’s history with Jones.
“Mecquon has been a menace for the majority of his life,” Watson said. “And our family has said at some point we are going to have to say ‘I’m sorry’ to some family or we would be burying him. And unfortunately, we’re saying ‘We’re so sorry’ to the other family for what they have to go through.”
Following the court proceeding, the Borglin and Jones families were observed in the Law Enforcement Center lobby talking to one another.
“It’s not your fault,” said one member of Borglin’s family as Jones’ family members offered their condolences.
Assistant District Attorney Dirk Jensen argued for a “significant period of incarceration” for Jones, citing Jones’ character and the gravity of the offense.
“I don’t mean to belabor the gravity,” Jensen said. “Anybody in society knows how serious beating somebody and stomping somebody to death is.”
Jensen asked the court for a 55-year sentence for the first-degree reckless homicide charge, split between 35 years of incarceration and 20 years of extended supervision.
During the defense’s sentencing recommendations, attorney Erin Preston questioned what happened the night of Borglin’s death.
“I think nobody knows exactly what happened that night,” Preston said. “I don’t think the truth of what actually happened will ever be known.”
Preston asked Nielsen to consider a sentence of 10 to 12 years incarceration and an “appropriate” amount of extended supervision for the reckless homicide charge. No recommendation was made on the theft charge.
Ultimately, Nielsen’s sentence aligned with the state’s recommendation. “Now, I take no joy in all this, but you are going to prison for a long time,” Nielsen said.
“Mecquon has been a menace for the majority of his life. And our family has said at some point we are going to have to say ‘I’m sorry’ to some family or we would be burying him. And unfortunately, we’re saying ‘We’re so sorry’ to the other family for what they have to go through.” Greg Watson, defendant’s stepbrother
KANSASVILLE — After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, school safety — and how to improve it — has been on the minds of school administrators and public officials across the nation.
On Friday, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., spoke to the Union Grove Area Chamber of Commerce at Michael’s On The Lake restaurant, 3101 Eagle Road, Kansasville, and was asked by Union Grove High School District Administrator Al Mollerskov about how to curb school violence and what his stance was on guns in schools.
“I think you’re going to be much better off figuring that out, how to do that than me or the federal government,” Johnson said. “I don’t think the solution is more gun control.”
Johnson said the federal government should not “mandate” how schools should keep their students safe, and the incident in Parkland was a failure of government at all levels.
Mollerskov followed up with a question about providing more grants to schools or raising the revenue limit to allow districts to collect more money to hire security personnel.
“I think Wisconsinites would be far better off managing those affairs,” Johnson said. “Quit looking at the federal government to solve your problem. … Why do we keep sending money to the federal government and then begging for it back in the form of grants?”
After Friday’s event, Mollerskov said he was not impressed by the answer.
“I really felt like he evaded the question,” Mollerskov said. “Sort of a Pontius Pilate-type answer: that it’s up to you guys in the school to solve the issue.”
Mollerskov said he understands that schools need to decide what’s best for their school security, but not all schools have that option.
For the past two years, Union Grove High School has had an armed resource officer, a retired deputy whom the school contracts through Shield Protective Services, a private security and consulting business formed in 2015 by Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling.
“I feel that provides a level of safety that many schools don’t have,” Mollerskov said. “I don’t believe we should be arming teachers.”
Mollerskov said more local officials are taking a closer look at security in schools.
“I think the safety of our kids is paramount,” Mollerskov said, adding he didn’t like the idea that the district did not have anyone in the building to protect students and staff in case someone comes in with a weapon. “We’ve solved that issue for two years now, and I think that should be something that’s universal for all students.”
“Quit looking at the federal government to solve your problem … Why do we keep sending money to the federal government and then begging for it back in the form of grants?” U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.