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Trump calls for bipartisanship, building border wall

Americans have been through divided government in the past, but Tuesday marked the first time President Donald Trump delivered a State of the Union address in the current era of divided government, with Democrats controlling one chamber of Congress.

“The agenda I will lay out this evening is not a Republican agenda or a Democrat agenda,” Trump said Tuesday night. “It is the agenda of the American people.”

Trump delivered his third speech to a joint session of Congress with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Vice President Mike Pence sitting behind him in the House of Representatives chamber.

Trump said elected officials “must step boldly and bravely into the next chapter of this great American adventure, and we must create a new standard of living for the 21st century.”

“Together, we can break decades of political stalemate,” he said. “We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future. The decision is ours to make.”

Trump said his administration “has moved with urgency and historic speed to confront problems neglected by leaders of both parties over many decades.”

Immigration, ‘the wall’

One of those issues, he said, is immigration.

After the federal government experienced the longest partial shutdown in history, Congress recently passed legislation that provided enough funding for the government to open. But another spending bill must be pass within the next two weeks to avoid another shutdown.

The major issues that Democrats and Republicans could not agree on are border security — specifically on funding for a border wall between the United States and Mexico.

“We have a moral duty to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens,” Trump said. “No issue better illustrates the divide between America’s working class and America’s political class than illegal immigration. Wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards.”

Trump called on elected officials to pass legislation that offers humanitarian assistance, increases law enforcement along the border, closes loopholes and provide funding for a wall.

“I want people to come to our country in the largest numbers ever, but they have to come in legally,” Trump said. “Tolerance for illegal immigration is not compassionate; it is actually very cruel.”

On the issue of the border wall, Trump said elected officials voted in favor for a wall in the past, “but the proper wall never got built.”

“I will get it built,” Trump said. He added that it will not be a concrete wall but will be built in areas along the southern border where officials deem it necessary. “Simply put, walls work, and walls save lives,” he said.

Health care, HIV/AIDS

Healthcare has been a topic that both parties agree requires legislation, but what that legislation should address is different to each party.

One healthcare topic on which Trump hopes to get some bipartisan support on concerns prescription drugs.

“It is unacceptable that Americans pay vastly more than people in other countries for the exact same drugs, often made in the exact same place,” Trump said. “This is wrong, unfair, and together we can stop it.”

Trump said he plans to include funding in his upcoming budget to find a cure for HIV/AIDS and said he wanted to reach that goal within 10 years.

“We have made incredible strides,” Trump said. “Together we defeat AIDS in America and beyond.”

Trump said he plans to put $500 million in the next budget to fund research for childhood cancer.

Trump also called for Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the “late-term abortion of children.”

Democratic response

For its response to Trump, the Democratic Party chose former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.

Abrams, who lost a heated race for governor in November, called for people to come together to solve problems regardless of their political ideology.

“Our power and strength in Americans lives in our hard work and our belief in more. ... While success is not guaranteed, we live in a nation where opportunity is possible,” Abrams said.

“But we do not succeed alone. In these United States, when times are tough we can persevere, because our friends and neighbors will come for us.”

Abrams blamed the government shutdown on Trump, saying it was “a stunt engineered by the president of the United States.”

Abrams called on elected officials to take on gun safety and student loans.

She also said middle class families in Georgia strive for economic security.

“But instead, families’ hopes are being crushed by Republican leadership that ignores real life or just doesn’t understand it,” Abrams said. “Under the current administration, far too many Americans are falling behind, living paycheck to paycheck.”

Abrams said bipartisanship “could craft a 21st century immigration plan.”

“But this administration chooses to cage children and tear families apart,” Abrams said. “Compassionate treatment at the border is not the same as open borders. ... Americans understand this, and Democrats stand ready to effectively secure our ports and our borders.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

“Together, we can break decades of political stalemate.” President Donald Trump

Racine Police
Nine months later: Police morale study results and cost still not released

RACINE — Nine months after Racine Mayor Cory Mason ordered a review of the Police Department’s “cultural climate,” it still remains a mystery what has been found and how much the city has spent on the study.

Racine Alderman Sandy Weidner said the public deserves to know what the study found and how much it cost the city. On Tuesday, she requested the city’s Finance and Personnel Committee to discuss the matter.

The committee’s next meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 730 Washington Ave., Room 307.

“This should be public,” Weidner said.

The Journal Times has an outstanding open records request pertaining to the study results and the cost of the study. On Tuesday, an inquiry about the status of the study and costs was forwarded by the Office of the Mayor to the City Attorney’s Office and no answer was provided.

Survey: Racine police morale 'absolutely horrible'

RACINE — Poor morale and lack of leadership came up as two of the biggest issues facing the Racine Police Department, according to a survey completed earlier this year that was recently released to The Journal Times.

The studies

The summary of a March 2018 survey of police officers showed that officers had reported inconsistent supervision and “absolutely horrible” morale. The survey, conducted by Chicago’s Stanard & Associates, cost a police union around $6,000, according to a Wisconsin Professional Police Association spokesman.

After those findings were made public, Mason then ordered another review of the department’s overall culture after racist and sexist remarks allegedly said by officers were revealed in the initial survey.

That study was conducted by Milwaukee-based diversity-focused MWH Law Group.

MWH Law Group did not reply to a request for comment Tuesday.

“This should be a public document and should be discussed by the council. He (Mason) can’t just ignore requests from aldermen like this,” Weidner said. “The mayor has to share what was found in that study.”

On June 19, while the Mason-ordered study was ongoing, Police Chief Art Howell asked for the City Council’s permission to spend up to $100,000 on a more intensive study by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

The council approved the spending by an 11-2 vote, despite Mason declining to answer questions regarding study No. 2 during discussion of Howell’s request.

Weidner said she has recently reached out to the mayor’s office on three different occasions, requesting study results and the total amount of money the city has spent, but hasn’t heard back.

The Journal Times filed a records request in June requesting a copy of the contract with MWH and for invoices received from the firm. Those documents were never received.

On Aug. 17, The Journal Times filed another records request for the results of the review and, once again, the invoices from MWH Law Group. The Journal Times has still not received the study or any MWH invoices pertaining to it.

A legal concern

Weidner expressed concern that the council didn’t have any say in which law firm was hired for the study Mason ordered and that there wasn’t a bidding process for the study’s contract.

The City Attorney’s Office doesn’t need to consult the council before assigning the contract, per local ordinance, nor is bidding necessary as it would be for a road repair contract, said Shannon Powell, a spokesman for the mayor.


Parking meters prompt long discussion; council to wait for study results

RACINE — After a two-hour discussion about parking meters Tuesday evening, the City Council decided to wait for the completion of a parking studying before taking any action.

The City Council, meeting as a Committee of the Whole, met to discuss a proposal by 5th District Alderman Steve Smetana to remove all parking meters within the city. Smetana first submitted the proposal in November 2017, stating that he thought the move would make the city more welcoming.

The last time the issue was on a council agenda was in July.

Before the committee discussion, seven people, mostly Downtown residents and property or business owners, spoke during a public hearing on the matter.

The feedback was fairly evenly split between people who wanted meters to prevent residents and employees from monopolizing spaces intended for customers, and people who thought that removing the meters would draw more people Downtown.

Smetana clarified that removing the meters would not remove parking restrictions and said he recommended finding another system to limit parking times.

City Administrator Jim Palenick gave a brief overview on parking meters.

Most, 964 of the 1,656 meters in the city, are located along Downtown streets.

Palenick reported the meters bring in a modest profit — $53,659 in 2017, $41,030 in 2018 — but said that is not their purpose.

“The meters are a device to allocate supply (of parking spaces),” said Palenick. “If there’s a better way to do those things, we’d like to do that.”

‘Disappointing and embarrassing’

The first motion the council voted on was to temporarily bag parking meters for six months on Sixth Street and Main Street and implement a three-hour parking limit in place of meters.

Some aldermen said they wanted to wait until the parking study is complete before taking action.

Alderman Sandy Weidner said she was concerned about kicking the can.

“Over the last 19 years, a dozen times or more this issue has raised its head, and it’s never really gone anywhere,” she said. “The council has a bad habit of wanting to do nothing.”

That motion to bag the meters for six months failed 7-4, with aldermen Smetana, Weidner, Carrie Glenn and Henry Perez voting in favor.

The second motion, to remove parking meters at the Racine Public library, went through a series of amendments about whether to include Lake Avenue meters and whether to remove or bag meters.

As one hour got closer to two, 8th District Alderman Q.A. Shakoor II voiced his frustration.

“We’re shooting like a shotgun,” he said. “This is disappointing and embarrassing.”

Parking study planned

The city’s 2019 Capital Improvement budget includes $150,000 for a Downtown traffic and parking study.

Downtown Racine Corp. Executive Director Kelly Kruse also refers to it as a parking and “traffic calming” study.

“In light of the upcoming traffic calming and parking studies already planned for Downtown in 2019, the Downtown Racine Corporation encourages the Common Council to wait for those results before making a decision about the parking meters,” Kruse said earlier Tuesday.

Kruse told the Journal Times last month that the plan is to have finalized recommendations from the traffic study by the end of September so that findings and cost estimates could be incorporated into the 2020 city budget.