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Drug deaths; police donate to accused Kenosha killer; pandemic reflections; racism in schools; absentee Milwaukee landlords

Of note: This week we highlight a story by Edgar Mendez of Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service about Milwaukee’s lack of action on drug overdose deaths, which last year reached a record high. The City-County Heroin, Opioid and Cocaine Task Force hasn’t met since Feb. 14, 2020 as task force members struggle to establish a quorum, Mendez reports. Milwaukee County recorded 544 drug overdose deaths last year, including more than 400 involving fentanyl.

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Feb. 14, 2020, was the last time members of the City-County Heroin, Opioid and Cocaine Task Force met. The failure of the task force to meet comes at a time when Milwaukee County faces an ongoing crisis related to the rise of fentanyl and a surge in drug overdose deaths. Screenshot from City-County Heroin, Opioid and Cocaine Task Force meeting

Amid surge in drug overdose deaths, City-County Heroin, Opioid and Cocaine Task Force fails to meet

Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service — April 14, 2021

Despite a record-breaking year in drug overdose deaths in Milwaukee County in 2020, the City-County Heroin, Opioid and Cocaine Task Force managed to meet only once last year and hasn’t met at all in 2021. The failure of the task force to meet comes at a time when Milwaukee County faces an ongoing crisis related to the rise of fentanyl and a surge in drug overdose deaths. In 2020, the county recorded a record high 544 drug overdose deaths.

US police and public officials donated to Kyle Rittenhouse, data breach reveals

The Guardian — April 16, 2021

A data breach at a Christian crowdfunding website has revealed that serving police officers and public officials have donated money to fundraisers for accused vigilante murderers, far-right activists, and fellow officers accused of shooting black Americans. The beneficiaries of donations from public officials include Kyle Rittenhouse, who stands accused of murdering two leftwing protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last August. Several Wisconsin police officers also donated to a fundraiser for Rusten Sheskey, the Kenosha police officer whose shooting of a black man, Jacob Blake, led to the protests that drew Rittenhouse to the city.

Sylvester Norwood, 78, left, has been renting this unit, right, for several years on North Buffum Street. A California company bought it last year. The company is snapping up dozens of Milwaukee properties and renovating those that are vacant. But is only doing routine maintenance in the properties that are occupied. Angela Peterson / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Out-of-state corporate landlords are gobbling up Milwaukee homes to rent out, and it’s changing the fabric of some neighborhoods

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — April 15, 2021

Meet the new breed of landlord invading Milwaukee: A couple of former Silicon Valley executives who were crewmates on the Harvard rowing team; a fast-growing Ohio company that owns more than 13,000 rental homes in 14 states; a native of Peru who has run real estate companies in Houston and Palm Beach, Florida; and a southern California woman who was looking for a place to park her cash windfall. This diverse group illustrates a phenomenon that could have major ramifications on the housing market in Milwaukee and other urban centers. Out-of-state companies and investors attracted by cheap properties and healthy profits are gobbling up scores of single-family homes and duplexes, as well as some apartment buildings, in Milwaukee. They rent them out, sometimes with little interest in — or knowledge of — the neighbors around them.

‘Severe, pervasive and persistent’: State says Burlington schools failed to address ‘racially hostile environment’ 

The Journal Times — April 13, 2021 

The Burlington Area School District has allowed a “racially hostile environment” to exist in its schools, state officials have found after verifying 19 incidents of misconduct, including several times students used the “N word” between 2016 and 2020.  The state Department of Public Instruction has given school administrators 30 days to produce a plan for updating district policies and for preventing racial harassment that the state has called “severe, pervasive and persistent.” The state finding stems from a race discrimination complaint filed by Darnisha Garbade, an African-American mother of former Burlington students who also is founder of the group Burlington Coalition for Dismantling Racism.

Mariah Clark is seen on the front steps of her Madison, Wis., home on July 17, 2020. Will Cioci / Wisconsin Watch

‘Season of rebirth’: A Madison ER nurse ponders life after the pandemic

WPR/Wisconsin Watch — April 13, 2021

Following a March overnight shift in the emergency department at UW Health in Madison, nurse Mariah Clark walked outside and heard birds chirping for the first time in months. “It made me inexplicably happy,” Clark said. After a year of reflecting on the traumas she witnessed while treating COVID-19 patients and losing her own loved ones to the deadly disease, the spring song prompted introspection about a life after the pandemic.

This is the latest installment of our Outbreak Wisconsin collaboration. Read and listen to the full series here.

The byline "Wisconsin Watch" represents members of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism's editorial and public engagement and marketing staff.