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Golf course burial ground; college debt warning; racial disparities at birth; agriculture culture war; fewer police officers

Of note: This week we highlight our story about the latest wrinkle in the long push to build a golf course along Lake Michigan. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee archeologists exploring the site for Kohler Co. have located ancient human remains, a development that tribal leaders in Wisconsin are monitoring. “Tribes are always reluctant to talk about that one ugly aspect — of having to deal with our ancestors being dug up as somewhat of a commodity,” said Bill Quackenbush, Ho-Chunk Nation tribal historic preservation officer. Kohler Co. officials are continuing their push for the golf course, Wisconsin Watch Investigations Editor Jim Malewitz reports. But multiple lawsuits from environmentalists and local residents — and increasing erosion from high Lake Michigan water levels — could further slow development. 

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Belle Ragins and Erik Thelen, who live near the site of Kohler Co.’s proposed golf course in Sheboygan, Wis., examine a map prepared by environmental engineer Roger Miller, who chairs the town of Wilson Plan Commission. The map overlays the project with present lake levels, showing several planned features under water due to erosion and fluctuating water levels along Lake Michigan’s shoreline. Photo taken April 27, 2021. Dee J. Hall / Wisconsin Watch

Ancient human remains unearthed at proposed Kohler golf course site in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Watch — May 22, 2021 

Archeologists have unearthed human remains of Native Americans who lived up to 2,500 years ago during excavations of the Sheboygan County site along Lake Michigan where Kohler Co. wants to build an 18-hole golf course. A University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee team in 2018 and 2019 inadvertently encountered fragments of human bone and teeth from at least seven locations beneath the privately-owned wetlands and forest where Kohler Co. envisions its third championship facility in Wisconsin. The rapidly eroding Lake Michigan shoreline is also raising questions about the future of the controversial project adjacent to Kohler-Andrae State Park.

Health advocates say it’s an opportune time to be fighting the stark racial disparity in Wisconsin’s birth outcomes

USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin — May 26, 2021

Five months into Dr. Jasmine Zapata’s second pregnancy, she felt a sharp pain and brought her daughter into the world later that day. The baby girl weighed a pound and a half. She didn’t cry because her lungs weren’t working on their own. Zapata’s pregnancy had been deemed low-risk. But now she waited to see how her daughter would handle the many complications that come with being born too early. She knew, too, that she lived in a state that has long had some of the worst health outcomes for Black infants in the nation. Her daughter survived, but the experience set Zapata on a course to improve the odds for Black moms and babies in Wisconsin.

Clint Myrick is seen at his home in Milwaukee on May 10, 2021. Myrick graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2010 with a student loan debt that has since ballooned to over $150,000. Myrick said he understands why so many students take out loans without necessarily knowing how to pay them back. “They sell you on the dream. ‘Just take out the loans, and you’ll get a job where you’ll be able to pay that stuff back!’ You really believe it,” Myrick says. “They sell you on the dream. ‘Just take out the loans, and you’ll get a job where you’ll be able to pay that stuff back!’ You really believe it,” Myrick said. Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch

A Milwaukee man explains how his college debt spiraled out of control — and how to avoid a similar fate

Wisconsin Watch — May 25, 2021 

After Wisconsin Watch published a story about how many Black Wisconsin residents struggle with high student loan debt, several readers had questions about how the debt for Clint Myrick, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee alum, was able to reach $152,039. Some questioned whether Myrick took steps to save and earn money. Did he live at home? Did he work during the summer? Why didn’t he use his diploma in music education to get a teaching job? According to Myrick, the full backstory is complicated. Myrick hopes his story serves as a warning to students tempted to take on unsustainable levels of debt — and against neglecting their grades.

‘You can feel the tension’: A windfall for minority farmers divides rural America

The New York Times — May 22, 2021 

Shade Lewis had just come in from feeding his cows when he opened a letter that could change his life: The government was offering to pay off his $200,000 farm loan, part of a new debt relief program Democrats created to help farmers who have endured generations of racial discrimination. It was a windfall for a 29-year-old who scratches out a living as the only Black farmer in his corner of northeastern Missouri. But the $4 billion fund has angered conservative white farmers who say they are being unfairly excluded because of their race. And it has plunged Mr. Lewis and other farmers of color into a new culture war over race, money and power in American farming. “It’s anti-white,” said Jon Stevens, one of five Midwestern farmers who filed a lawsuit through the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a conservative legal group.

Total police officers, academy graduates in Wisconsin at 10-year low

The Badger Project — May 25, 2021 

The number of law enforcement officers in the state and the number of law enforcement academy graduates here have fallen to their lowest points in at least a decade, according to data from the Wisconsin Department of Justice. Wisconsin has about 13,600 law enforcement officers at the moment. That’s down from a decade high of nearly 16,000 in 2012. The “cop crunch” is not a new phenomenon, said Meghan Stroshine, an associate professor of social and cultural sciences at Marquette University who studies policing, but it has accelerated in recent years as law enforcement has come under greater public scrutiny.

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