Friday, February 28, 2014

Whitney dining hall “all you can eat” not “all you can take,” by Samantha Loomis

Whitney dining area is constantly losing dishes and utensils as well as vast amount of foods from the dining area.

In a campus wide email Larry J. Ringgenberg says, “Since the start of spring semester 2014, approximately 315 bowls and 960 glasses have disappeared from Whitney Center.”

According to general manager Nori Yamashita, Whitney bowls can cost from 3 to 4 dollars apiece. These dishes can cost more than the china used in Whitney.

315 bowls stolen at $3 a piece puts Whitney at a loss of $945. That is only for this portion of the spring semester so far.

Yamashita follows up, “It is a theft, but depending on whom you talk to many students feel comfortable enough in the dining room and think it is okay to walk off with certain things. Anything that we lose or we have to replace eventually.”

In the dorms there is an amnesty program for returning “borrowed” dishes. This enables students with dishes taken from Whitney or other dining centers on campus to return the materials before moving out at the end of the year without suffering any consequences. Boxes are set up in residence hall lobbies.

The Ringgenberg email also alludes to students “filling jugs of milk, plastic bags with cereal, and removing containers of ice cream from the dining room.”

Yamashita brings this point up as well, “People take stuff out and that increases our food costs. There are just people who don't understand and think it’s their ‘right’.”

The Basic 19 meal plan on campus is $1225.00 and the Basic 14 is $1205.00. With 15 weeks per semester, and a student using all his/her meals every week, a meal would cost about $4.35 and $4.22, respectively.

This per meal amount pays for the labor and the cost of the food. The workers in Whitney get “paid by date for the food, about $7.35 per day,” according to Yamashita, “so each meal can’t be any more than $2.00.”

Yamashita emphasizes, “It is very difficult. When people take stuff out that really starts to skew some of the costs. It’s an all you can eat, in the dining room.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

What Did Mark Twain Really Think of LaCrosse?

Today's LaCrosse Tribune contains an historical tribute to the city, from Mark Twain himself:

"Here is a town of twelve or thirteen thousand population, with electric-lighted streets, and with blocks of buildings which are stately enough, and also architecturally fine enough, to command respect in any city."

However, one should always remember that a compliment from Twain is often a set-up for a punchline.

"[Lacrosse] is a choice town, and we made satisfactory use of the hour allowed us, in roaming it over, though the weather was rainier than necessary."

But he really liked Trempeleau mountain.

Twain visited the upper Mississippi in Spring of 1882, in order to add chapters of "Life on the Mississippi."

Coulee Region Humane Society Encourages Individuals to Choose Adoption, by Madison Norris

The Coulee Region Humane Society’s prominent challenge is finding individuals to adopt pets in need of homes.

There are currently (last week of Feb.) 56 animals up for adoption at the CRHS of Onalaska. The available pets include cats, dogs, rabbits, rats and birds. The animals’ ages range from just a few months old to several years old.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, 6-8 million animals enter shelters each year. Only 50 percent of these animals get adopted. The remaining 50 percent face euthanization.

The CRHS wants people to consider adoption as a first choice for choosing an animal companion. For an individual with an adopted pet, promoting adoption to others is encouraged.

Valentine, a yellow Labrador, is a three-year-old female in need of a forever home. CRHS says she is playful, highly active and housetrained. CRHS says that Valentine can be “selective about which dogs she gets along with,” so it is recommended individuals introduce Valentine to existing pets prior to adoption.
Those interested in adopting Valentine or any of the other available pets can visit, or contact the shelter at 608-781-4014.

What Is Inclement Weather Policy? by Megan Sukovich

UWL students wonder with curiosity if the university chancellor will grant any more “snow days” during the remainder of the spring semester.  Classes began today at double-digits below zero, not factoring in wind-chill.

On Thursday February 20, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse cancelled classes starting promptly at noon due to a forecasted hazardous winter storm.

Today, one week later, according to the National Weather Service, "WIND CHILL ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL NOON CST TODAY."


In previous weeks, temperatures stooped as low as 50 degrees below zero with wind-chill. Despite the dangerous weather conditions and numerous k-12 closings, Chancellor Joe Gow advised students to “to use good judgment” as classes remained in session.

 “I don’t understand why we didn’t have class off then," states sophomore UWL student, Danielle Smeed. "It seems really inconsistent.” Many students are expressing this same frustration towards the chancellor due to confusion with the Inclement Weather policy. 

Gow sent out the official cancellation announcement as of 10:21 pm the previous night to student and staff, noting to “please take care during this dangerous storm.” The university did continue to provide the essential services, such as dining and police, to student and staff on the day of the storm.

The supposed storm arrived first with heavy rain, eventually crossing over to an icy snow at around 5:00 pm that Thursday evening.

“It was really bizarre. I was expecting a total white out, and then it rained. It was kind of a disappointment,” says Smeed.

According to the UW System’s Inclement Weather policy, when conditions make travel dangerous or other events cause serious safety concerns, the chancellor has the authority to cancel classes, close a campus to the public, or completely close a campus to the public and employees.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Garbage Cans Obstructing Parking Spaces, by Danielle Cook

The presence of the city of La Crosse’s new 95-gallon garbage receptacles from Harter’s Quick Clean Up is causing problems for local residents around the UW-La Crosse campus. Alternate side parking is in effect for the entire city until April 1, resulting in restricted parking options near homes and close to the university.

The incipient garbage collecting system uses large, green plastic garbage containers with wheels, placed on the side of the road. However, the cans are no longer picked up manually. A truck passes by and uses an arm apparatus to lift the can over the truck and dump the waste inside. La Crosse began implementing the automated system on February 3.

The new system seems to be working smoothly, besides the issues residents are facing with where to place the receptacles. Cars are taking up spaces intended to put garbage out, and vice versa. Students and residents alike are frustrated with lack of space on the streets, since there has to be enough spacing for the garbage trucks to pull up alongside the cans and lift them, and further space between the cans to be lifted separately.  The cans must have two to three feet of clearance on either side.

Anne Galbraith, an associate professor of Biology at UW-La Crosse, lives near campus and has experienced problems with the new garbage system.

Because we acquired these [receptacles] in the winter, and residents were not prepared to have a spot cleared of snow for setting them out, most garbage pick-up days will find these trash bins in the streets taking up coveted parking spots,” explained Galbraith. “Hopefully things will be better next winter when residents have had a chance to figure out better places to put them.”

Residents with questions about the new system can visit or contact Refuse and Recycling at 608-789-7508.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Alternate Side Parking, Again, by Danielle Cook

Students at UW-La Crosse must now comply with alternate side parking rules. Prior to this year, an ordinance existed that permitted parking on both sides of the road around the UW-La Crosse campus. For students without a parking permit at UW-L, it can be frustrating to have to move their vehicles each day in order to follow alternate side parking guidelines.

“Alternate side parking is good for the city,” explained Kaley Bernhardt, a senior at UW-L. “It makes sense for plowing, but it’s kind of a pain to have to move a car every single day, especially if it’s cold outside and you’re parked far away from your house.”

A parking ticket for a vehicle on the wrong side of the street starts at $10 for the first ten days of holding the ticket. After the ten days, the fine increases to $20, then $30 if the ticket is still not paid.

“It’s kind of stupid that you have to park on alternate sides when it doesn’t snow,” noted Alex Reina, a freshman at UW-L. “They should send out an email when you’re supposed to move your car. That would be a lot more convenient than having to move it every day.”

Emails were sent out when the UW-L campus exemption was in effect, as well as web announcements and tweets; however, cars were still being left where plows needed to get through. Thus, the exemption ended.

Alternate side parking in La Crosse affects the entire city from November 1 to April 1 annually. Between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m., cars must be parked on the even side of the road on even days of the month, and the odd side on odd days. If only one side of the road is consistently open for parking, vehicles can be parked there overnight. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Weather Closes Grandad Park

One more example of the severity of this Winter: Grandad Park was closed over the weekend as a safety precaution.

"We closed the gate Friday morning due to ice accumulation on the lookout.  That situation has since been corrected," says Gar Amunson, superintendent of Parks for LaCrosse. "The gate was reopened today."

The upper portion of the road was also ice-covered, like many sidestreets in the city, after the last storm on Thursday.  The lookout, however, can be reached only on foot, no plowing and salting by vehicles.

Year-round, Grandad Park is normally one of the most popular in the city.

Campus Area Traffic More Dangerous, by Shelby Jacobson

La Crosse is an urban community with busy commutes, so traffic areas near UWL have become more dangerous.

UWL Police Chief Scott Rohde says high traffic areas in LaCrosse circle the campus. Since Main Street recently reopened in 2013, even more traffic travels through campus.  In 2012, a UWL student walking across LaCrosse Street was fatally injured  by a car.

One area of high traffic incidents includes the intersection of HWY 16 and La Crosse Street east of campus. 

The intersection of West Avenue and La Crosse Street has been labeled a high incident accident area for pedestrians. West Avenue going south to Gundersen Lutheran Hospital is also considered a high risk area.
More drivers are running red lights, says Rohde.

Awareness of campus policies and high risk accident spots is important.  For more information regarding dangerous roads look up pin maps on WI DOT, Bureau Transportation Safety. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Nobacco is Backo, by Megan Sukovich

The Nobacco resolution created by a group of students and the Wellness Center is returning to the La Crosse Student Association to be reexamined.

The original proposal was first introduced in the spring of 2013 with the goal to make the entire campus tobacco free. Student Senate then put the proposal to a referendum, a school wide vote of students. The vote had a very low turnout, but the Nobacco proposal did pass. However, the Faculty and Staff Senate voted it down.

In the fall of 2013, Jason Bertrand, the Wellness Resource Coordinator, returned to Senate with a new proposal hoping for feedback on a few changes he had made. The new proposal included having the sidewalks surrounding campus as a smoking zone. A student Senator must write the improved proposal to introduce to Senate.

One of two things could happen with the new proposal. One, Senate votes on the resolution and either passes or fails it. The other option is Senate could vote to put it to referendum during the spring elections.

Residence Hall Association Council Senator Molly Davies states, “I think that Nobacco is a grand idea, but it targets people and has a lot of flaws.”

Campus staff would be required to go off campus to smoke if the proposal does pass. With this thought in mind, Davies states, “The conflict with this is that on public land at a public university, how can we tell someone that they are not allowed to smoke. On the other hand, do other students not have the right to clean air?”

Sophomore UWL student, Amber Mehr, states, “I don’t want second hand smoke on my campus when I am just trying to go to class. We have a small enough campus that the referendum could actually work.”

Two other UW schools have successfully made their campus tobacco free within the last few years.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Self-Serve iPad Kiosk New to Murphy Library, by Samantha Loomis

 University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s Murphy Library has added a new iPad kiosk in between the reference and circulation desks. Previously, students had to go to circulation and swipe their IDs to check out an iPad. Now, the library features a self-service kiosk.

Students use the M.I.L.K machine, Murphy iPad Lending Kiosk, to check an iPad out by swiping their campus ID and grabbing an iPad. The iPad is available for check-out for four hours and can be used in or outside of the library. To return the iPad, put it in an empty slot.

Librarian Heather Jett originally had the idea to purchase an iPad kiosk. “I can’t remember where I first saw the kiosk—somewhere online. It’s an eye-catching device and having the kiosk to perform the resets for the iPads saves a significant amount of staff time as well.”

iPad check-out is a free service provided by the library and its budget. Jett adds, “We are grateful to the Provost for providing the funding for the machine.”

Jett is not the only librarian involved in the process, Kate Russell, who specializes in library systems and technology, participated in buying the kiosk and getting it up and running.

“The kiosk has been an exciting addition to the library. I am pleased with how well it has worked and how easy it is to use. Last week, our kiosk checked out more iPads than any of the other kiosks supported by Tech Logic, the company we purchased it from.”

Late fees for the iPads run for .16 per minute or $10 an hour; if the iPad is lost or damaged fines can run up to $600.

Apps installed on the iPads range from free games to interactive learners. For the full list access,

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Special Olympics’ Polar Bear Plunge A Week Away, by Madison Norris

La Crosse is hosting the Special Olympics of Wisconsin’s Polar Plunge again this year at Pettibone Beach, March 1.

The Polar Plunge is a popular fundraiser where people jump into winter water in support of Special Olympic athletes. Plungers consist of individuals or teams of friends, families, local businesses, students, etc., all with donations and pledges.

According to the city of La Crosse’s website, last year there were 1,284 plungers, and over $190,000 was raised from the participants of the La Crosse Polar Plunge.

“I love jumping in the Polar Plunge because it is for a really great cause that does neat things for disabled athletes. I know that my impact is small, but when I see the smiles and hear the success stories it makes it all worth it!” says UWL sophomore and three time plunger, Mikaela Sullivan.

Those interested can register online as an individual plunger or team. Each individual must raise a minimum of $75 in order to take the plunge on March 1. Donations can be made online. Cash and check donations can be turned in at the event check-in.

There is no registration deadline. As long as plungers raise $75 by the event check-in, individuals may participate.

For $75 raised, the participant will earn a long sleeve “freezin’ for a reason” t-shirt. There are four additional prize packages plungers can earn by raising more money. Visit the Polar Bear Plunge website for more information on the additional prizes. 

There is a “too chicken to plunge” or a 5K walk/run option for those wanting to fundraise, but not interested in jumping into the icy water.

Awards will be given out the day of the event in the following categories: top plunge fundraiser, top “too chicken to plunge” fundraiser, top 5K fundraiser, best plunge costume and most memorable group plunge.

Questions and comments can be addressed to, Kelly Gloede, the Coulee Region event contact, at or 608-789-7596.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Where the City Parking Fines Are Going, by Sam Giunta

            There is much speculation where the money from city parking tickets goes and what sort of motivation the police department has to give so many.  In excess of sixty thousand tickets were given out within a year, totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars in parking fines.
            Many think that police officers have a quota of tickets to make out per month.  A UWL student who recently received a parking ticket says, “It was the end of the month, and I think they were just trying to make their quota.”                                                                                             

             However, the motivation for giving out so many thousands of tickets is more monetary.  The city assumes a budget that includes a specific amount of fine money—this is reason for common suspicions of ticket quotas.  Money from parking tickets goes to the La Crosse general fund, parking utility and the MTU.  Considering the amount of tickets given, namely alternate side parking tickets, many in the La Crosse area are unhappy with the increasing number of dollars they pay for parking mistakes.  Another UWL student who has already paid three alternate side parking tickets says “I’m getting tired of this.” 

            In years past, suggestions have been made to give parking violators more leeway. Suggestions include a graduated fine scale and warning tickets.  These would give first time offenders less harsh penalties for their infractions while making sure there would be fewer repeat offences.  Among the weaknesses of these suggestions,  it would reduce the revenue that La Crosse could use.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Chancellor's E-mails: Clarity or Controversy? by Bryan Hall

UW-L Chancellor Joe Gow has a great reputation on campus, but his emails can occasionally create controversy. 

The most recent message of note alerted students that despite frigid weather (temperatures dropped below -20 F with wind chill), students are required to show up for class, but they should use good judgment when deciding whether to attend.

For some recipients, the email was a source of more confusion than clarification. An attendance policy in which students are required to attend class or notify the professor in case of absence is standard for a university, so why was the e-mail necessary?

“I was already anticipating a day off after hearing (about) other schools closing for low temperatures,” says UW-L Junior Nate Ziegeweid, “so getting an email addressing the weather like this didn’t clear up anything for me.”

Students reacting to this message may also remember the controversy stemming from the cross shaped 9-11 memorial set up on campus last fall. Gow touched on the issue with a carefully worded email, cautiously addressing complaints from a few students, avoiding either side of the issue while explaining the regulations that applied to the memorial.

Gow’s message prompted a debate over the religious nature of the memorial, with students and alumni weighing in on both sides of the issue, leading some to question whether it would have been so heavily contested had he decided not to click “send” on the e-mail.

Others, however, appreciate hearing their chancellor weigh in on the issues: “It’s good to hear that he is invested in these school events,” argues UW-L Junior Patrick Otto, “it’s his decision at the end of the day, but it’s nice to see that he respects us enough to explain his stance.”

Friday, February 14, 2014

Keeping Pets Safe in Winter, by Danielle Cook

Pets face specific dangers in the winter, and their human friends and owners should take some steps to protect and care for them in chilly temperatures. Simple steps can maintain their comfort and security, without costing too much money.

Most significantly, keep pets inside when the temperature drops. Dogs and cats, even if normally allowed outside, should be brought indoors unless taken out for exercise. Frostbite and hypothermia can set in within minutes, since pets have sensitive skin that can freeze quickly. Wearing sweaters can help short-haired dogs keep comfortable while outside briefly.

Alyssa Longway, Volunteer Coordinator for the Coulee Region Humane Society explained, “Dogs should really only be taken outside to ‘use the bathroom’ for a couple of minutes when temperatures are freezing. Getting them back inside and wiping off their paws helps remove snow-melting chemicals left in salt too.”

Pets should also be given extra water, since maintaining body warmth requires increased energy. Using plastic bowls instead of metal will help ensure that pets’ tongues do not get stuck to the container in cold temperatures. Along with regular food and water monitoring, it is critical to keep antifreeze away from pets. Its sweet taste attracts animals, but it is deadly if consumed.

Although strays should be reported to local humane shelters, leaving food outside for them is another step to help other animals stay safe during the winter. Collaring and micro-chipping pets are great ideas to make sure that pets can be identified if lost in cold weather, when familiar scents pointing towards home can be hidden by snow and ice.

For more information regarding pet safety, visit,, or 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Alcohol Amnesty, with or without Law, by Shelby Jacobson

Almost all UW campuses unofficially support amnesty for underage drinking emergency situations.

UW-L Police Chief Scott Rohde explains alcohol citation is a forfeiture, not a felony like heroin or meth.

Amnesty goes all the way up through the dean and does not usually result in school discipline consequences.

UW-L campus encourages students to ask for help even if they have been drinking underage. Says  Rohde, “Anyone who is victim of sexual assault will not be cited; that’s been our practice for 15 years.”

The state legislature is still considering a bill for immunity from prosecution for people to seek help for themselves or another.

To contact campus police call: 608-789-9000 (non-emergency) or 608-789-9999 (emergency).

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Campus student organizations and outsiders vie for students’ attention, by Samantha Loomis

There are certain procedures organizations must go through to advertise on campus, not exactly to protest but rather to state an opinion or get a point across.

For example, there is sidewalk writing, hanging signs on university buildings and setting up booths near the clock tower.

University of Wisconsin-La Crosse campus has about 10,000 students with about 200 student organizations. Student groups advocate their beliefs and opinions as well as their recruitment opportunities throughout the year.

Frequently, UW-L is host to protestors from every demographic. Commonly, protestors will appear with megaphones and large posters to get student and passerby’s attention. Some will even hand-out informational brochures or attempt to lure in sidewalk travelers with booths and stands. These protestors are under Chancellor Joe Gow’s jurisdiction; he may make a final decision regarding the educational relevance of the protestors and permission to remain on campus.

There are registered bulletin boards scattered throughout campus for any group, class or organization to post a flyer to inform students of events and happenings as long as the postings do not violate any guidelines and are approved by building directors. Registration is required and awarded on a first-come, first-served basis for booths and stands outside.

Nothing may be put into Residence hall mailboxes without approval, and signs and posters being hung in the halls need Residence Life or hall director approval as well.

There is digital signage available as well. There are flat-screen monitors in several buildings on campus including Whitney dining hall, Murphy Library and Centennial hall, among others. In 2013, over 20 monitors were added besides those already existing in Centennial hall. Submission forms to post on these signs can be found at

More information about the above resources can be found at

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Selfie-Centered Culture, by Megan Sukovich

From Lady Gaga to UWL students, people are taking, tweeting, and posting selfies, but some have varying opinions on their appropriateness.

Selfie, Oxford Dictionary's International Word Of The Year, is "a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website," but the typical spellchecker doesn't include the word.

Recent research shows that the use of the word 'selfie' has increased by 17,000%. However, despite its notable occurrence, the word selfie does not always have a positive connotation. Some view selfies as a narcissistic expression. Emily Price, a sophomore UWL student, says, “You don’t take them when you think you look ugly, so it’s pretty self-centered. You think you look so great that you need to show yourself off to the world and seek everyone’s approval.”

It is also argued that selfies are revolutionizing self-image. Dove’s ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’ recently released a short film entitled Selfie promoting confidence and redefining beauty to all women around the world. Selfies are a statement to the world of self-expression and confidence. UWL junior Tony Trahan says, “I don’t mind them. I guess there is a sense of individualism to them, but there is a line.”

Many students agree that a selfie taken with multiple people is more socially acceptable because it is not just one individual. Conversely, it is expressed that a selfie with excessive editing is crossing the line. Trahan specified, “If you have to get ready for the selfie or adjust it after you take it, then that’s overboard.”

The rise of the selfie was caused by the increased popularity of social media and the addition of the front facing camera to many mobile devices. ‘Selfie’ was first found as a hashtag, or connected link, on Flickr. It was later discovered in mainstream media sources, such as Instagram and Twitter.

Monday, February 10, 2014

UWL's New Public Speaking Center Wants Clients, by Madison Norris

UW- La Crosse now has a Public Speaking Center with peer consulting for UWL students needing aid on presentations, public speaking assignments, as well as extracurricular/personal public speaking events.

Many students on campus are aware of other tutoring opportunities such as The Writing Center, but few have heard of the PSC, new in fall 2013.

Peer consultants at the PSC provide guidance on topic selection, outlines, content, delivery and visual aids. Consultants also strategize techniques for reducing speaking anxiety and improving confidence.

“I encourage anyone in need of public speaking help to make an appointment with me or any one of the other qualified peer consultants. The Public Speaking Center will be advantageous to those who need our help with their projects and presentations. Speaking in front of others can be intimidating, but it is our goal to help UWL students overcome that,” says newly hired advisor Brandon Forcier.

There is a hyperlink stating “To make an appointment, click here” on the PSC’s homepage. The homepage can be accessed by typing the center’s name on the UWL website’s search engine. The consultants recommend students visit the PSC at least a week prior to the event or assignment’s due date. It is urged that advisees make an appointment; however, walk-ins are welcome.

 The PSC is located in the back right corner of Murphy 251 in the Murphy Library Learning Center. It is open six days a week, Sunday – Friday, with varying daytime and evening hours. Students should access the PSC’s homepage for specific hours.

UWL students interested in becoming a peer advisor can fill out an application before the start of each semester. The deadline for fall 2014 applications has not been announced. As a peer consultant students can volunteer, earn academic credit, and/or earn a wage if eligible for work study.

The current seven advisors are all pursuing degrees in Communication Studies and received training after being hired.

Any further questions, comments and feedback can be addressed to Dr. Tony Docan-Morgan, Professor of Communication Studies, at or (608) 785-6722. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

To Withdraw (Today) or Not, Lara Spilmon

Here are a few deadlines, or dates, to keep in mind if considering withdrawing from a classes, especially because of money.

The first date to withdraw from school with a 100% tuition adjustment is today, February 7. If you aren’t sure if the choice to withdraw is the right one, then you can head in to the Office of Student Life, room 146, in Graff. It offers counseling to help aid you in this decision. Then keep February 21 in the back of your mind. You won’t be able to get a full refund , but you will be able to get a 50% tuition adjustment.

Even if you decide to withdraw at a later time you’ll still be able to, you just won’t get your money back. The last day to drop a class or withdraw with a “W” on your transcripts is March 28. Between March 31 and April 18 you can still withdraw but keep in mind that you’ll either receive a “WP” or a “WF” on your transcripts unless you do a medical withdrawal. A “WP” indicates Withdrawal Pass while “WF” indicates withdrawal fail. The last of the withdrawal dates are between April 18 and May 9, but only Medical Withdrawals are considered at that point in time.

A medical withdrawal will require some sort of note from either a doctor or someone in the counseling center. You’ll also need to get signatures from one of the deans, the cashier’s office, the campus police (upon turning in a parking permit), textbook rental (if you have any books checked out), etc.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Replace Propane with Wisconsin Wood Products

Wisconsin’s 250,000 rural propane users could find relief from price spikes by switching to biomass, from the state’s forest and agricultural products.

 “Wisconsin is one of the county’s leading biomass producing states,” according to RENEW Wisconsin. A renewable energy advocate group.  Biomass can be pellets or cord wood.  Areas without natural gas are now paying $4.01 for propane, almost double the $2.29 price a year ago.  The Energy Information Administration predicts high prices will continue from world demand; prices are even higher than in the U.S.

 “The more Wisconsin citizens take advantage of our own renewable resources for our energy needs, the better we protect ourselves against similar situations in the future while creating jobs and business opportunities here at home,” says Tyler Huebner, executive director.

RENEW Wisconsin says Wisconsin has 7 pellet mills and 23 wood brokers.  In addition, new technologies and standards for wood and pellet stoves make them cleaner burning.

Huebner says propane users should be included in the Focus on Energy program. It provides a resource for saving energy costs: from advice on insulating and buying efficient appliances for homeowners, to incentives for switching to renewable energy. He also suggests state grants for feasibility studies for using biomass in businesses, municipalities and schools as well.

The Heating for the Midwest Conference will be held in Green Bay on April 29; register at

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Proposed License Restrictions for Older Drivers, Mikaela Kornowski

 A bill is being considered in Wisconsin to require drivers age 75 and older to renew drivers licenses every 4 years. Currently, all drivers are required to renew licenses every 8 years.

Drivers would have to pass an eyesight exam. An older driver would have the option of submitting a medical form proving satisfactory eyesight for every other renewal.

19 states have more frequent renewal periods for older drivers and thirteen states require vision or road tests once drivers reach a certain age. Wisconsin law does not require either.

The bill is sponsored by State Senators Fred Risser and John Lehman.  Risser states, “Statistics show that per-mile-traveled crash rates start to increase at age 75 and those crashes are more likely to be fatal. With this bill, the DMV could help determine if someone’s driving skills are poor before a crash occurs.”

In 2011, there were 46 drivers between the ages of 75 and 84 involved in fatal car accidents in Wisconsin.

In 2013, La Crosse had a total of 4 fatal car crashes. There were a total of 9 car crashes with  fatalities in 2012 and 17 fatalities in 2011.

A traffic fatality is reported when death occurs within 30 days of the accident as a result of injuries received in the accident. Weekly fatality reports can be found on the WisDOT website and the reports are arranged by county and by month.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

"Good" Student Debt? Depends on Degree, by Hannah Moseson

                A recent study shows that receiving a higher education in Wisconsin pays off for some students significantly less than it does for others.  A high-paying job can justify the significant debt incurred from student loans, but a low-paying job paired with loans can make college a questionable investment. 
                Recent tuition increases have made college much less affordable.  Student loan debt now exceeds 65% of average annual earnings.  In the last ten years, the share of total educational costs paid by UW students went from 38 percent to 71 percent.  Tuition has risen as state tax support for the UW system has decreased from 32 percent of system budgets to less than 20 percent since 2002. 
                Wisconsin college graduates face a weak job market and high student loan debt.  In response, the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance recently investigated which students will benefit from college and what degrees will lead them to successful employment.  Their findings suggest that colleges are admitting students who are not well prepared to succeed academically, and that some students are choosing degrees that lead to low-paying jobs.
Low admission standards allow academically unprepared students to struggle through college with low chances of success.  In 2011-12, 16 percent of new freshmen at four year UW campuses had graduated in the bottom half of their high school classes.  This percentage was over 30 percent at Milwaukee, Parkside, Stout, and Superior.  A low high school class rank does not guarantee that a student will be unable to succeed in college, but in general, such students often gain more from alternative options.
At University of Wisconsin—La Crosse, about 86 percent of new freshmen return for a second year.  Wisconsin universities Madison and Eau Claire also have high retention rates.  The other ten UW campuses average about an 80 percent retention rate of freshmen returning for a second year.  While this is higher than the national average, the 20 percent of students who drop out receive little or no return on their initial college investment. 
                The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance also suggests that students who are well positioned to succeed in college are not necessarily well positioned to succeed in the job market.  Some degrees lead to significantly higher paying and in-demand jobs, where other degrees land graduates in low paying jobs after struggling through a weak job market. 
                Students graduating with degrees in engineering, computer science, math, health, and business have a higher chance of finding a well-paying job.  In 2011, 34 percent of UW graduates had a degree in one of these areas.  30 percent of 2011 UW graduates got degrees in recreation, liberal arts, humanities, arts, psychology, sociology, or education.  These areas have above average unemployment rates and below average pay rates.  The average starting salary in 2010 for graduates with an engineering degree was $55,000, whereas the starting salary for graduates who majored in humanities, arts, social sciences, and education averaged to less than $35,000.

                About 76 percent of UW—La Crosse students graduate in six years or less.  84 percent of UW—Madison and 73 percent of Eau Claire students graduate within six years.   A combined 66 percent of students from the other UW system schools graduate in six years or less, and less than half of the students at Milwaukee, Parkside, and Superior graduate within six years of enrollment.  For these students, depending on their chosen degree, college could still be a sound investment.  For the students who do not graduate or  incur upwards of six years’ worth of student loans, college may not be worth the debt.  

Monday, February 3, 2014

Health Care Delay May Affect Students, by Ellen Barrett

Planned Parenthood’s presence in BadgerCare as well as the Affordable Care Act continues to be a topic of conflict. Students lacking health insurance or relying on care from Options Clinic in La Crosse may be affected by changes recently made to BadgerCare in Wisconsin.
On December 4th the Wisconsin State Assembly approved Governor Scott Walker’s proposal to delay implementing changes to BadgerCare, including a provision to cut about 70,000 individuals off from existing coverage. The proposal passed also means 80,000 uninsured Wisconsinites must wait until April 1st to access new health insurance benefits initially promised by January 1st. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin believe that Governor Walker’s move to delay BadgerCare will only contribute to the likelihood of insurance gaps for those in need of affordable health care in Wisconsin.
In a press release, Tanya Atkinson, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin states, “We call on Governor Walker and legislative leadership to reverse their decision and accept federal funds available for Wisconsin. This would allow more people to have health insurance and ultimately cost the state less money,” Atkinson adds, “It’s time to take the politics out of the debate around health care access and make sure all Wisconsin families can obtain affordable coverage.”
PPAW believes Governor Walker has drastically reduced individual’s access to affordable healthcare by cutting funding to health care providers and denying federal resources to enhance health care coverage. Specifically, Governor Walker’s refusal to implement the Affordable Care Act, commonly termed ObamaCare, has raised healthcare premiums in the Wisconsin marketplace.

PPAW plan to continue serving over 70,000 patients annually across the state as a non-profit, health care facility regardless of insurance status.