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Reckless driving; watered-down PFAS rules; GOP’s election lie divide; manure pollution; push to break up Milwaukee Public Schools

Of note: This week we highlight a story by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service about the role of youth driver education instruction in addressing Milwaukee’s reckless driving crisis. More young people in Milwaukee now have access to affordable driver education — whose expansion is among many recommendations of a local reckless driving task force —  following the relaunch of a program in public schools, Edgar Mendez reports. Communities nationwide are seeing higher casualties from speeding and reckless driving — particularly during the pandemic. That includes elsewhere in Wisconsin, where residents are pushing for solutions in cities including Madison and Appleton.

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A sign marking where people taking road tests should park is seen outside the Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles Milwaukee-Central service center. Since the driver education program at Milwaukee Recreation relaunched in 2016, 4,855 participants have earned their probationary license. Edgar Mendez / Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

Milwaukee eyes driver education to combat reckless driving crisis

Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service/Wisconsin Watch — February 18, 2022

Monique Meese is worried about reckless driving in Milwaukee — a deadly threat that Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson has declared a public health crisis. Yet she feels hopeful for the next generation of drivers, which includes her 17-year-old daughter, Alannah. The reason? More young people now have access to affordable driver education through the Milwaukee Recreation Driver Education program. The City-County Carjacking and Reckless Driving Task Force, which includes government officials and community members, has identified expanding access to driver education as a way to combat reckless driving. 

Fringe scheme to reverse 2020 election splits Wisconsin GOP

The New York Times — February 19, 2022 

Wisconsin Republicans were already going to great lengths to challenge the 2020 election results. They ordered a monthslong government audit of votes in the state. They made a pilgrimage to Arizona to observe the GOP review of votes there. They hired former police officers to investigate Wisconsin’s election and its results. But for Donald Trump, it wasn’t enough. Wisconsin Republicans have followed the lead of other GOP-controlled states in passing a raft of new voting restrictions, though they are certain to be vetoed by Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat. But Trump’s demands to the state party to do more to indulge his election falsehoods have frustrated leading Republicans while exposing the Devil’s bargain that many GOP lawmakers have made with him: Acceding to his ultimatums is never sufficient.

Previously from Wisconsin Watch: ‘This is a charade’: GOP senator, voting experts urge Wisconsin Republicans to halt election attacks

Manure is spread on a farm field during the Door-Kewaunee Watershed Demonstration Farms Networks Spring Field Day at Heims Hillcrest Dairy, in Casco, Wis., on May 1, 2018. A new study predicts that cow manure causes 230 cases of acute gastrointestinal illnesses in Kewaunee County per year. Tad Dukehart for Wisconsin Watch

Report: Too much manure and fertilizer is being spread in some areas at the expense of water quality

WPR — February 16, 2022

A new report from environmental groups says too much manure and fertilizer is being spread on farmland to grow crops in some Wisconsin counties, polluting nearby waters. Midwest Environmental Advocates and the Environmental Working Group began analyzing manure and fertilizer application rates in nine counties last year to understand how nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus are being spread on fields. The nutrients are important for growing crops, but excessive amounts can harm water quality. The groups examined counties with known groundwater issues or pollution stemming from nitrates and bacteria that include Kewaunee County, as well as counties in the Central Sands region and southwestern Wisconsin.

Related from Wisconsin Watch: Cow manure predicted to cause most sickness from contaminated wells in Kewaunee County

An airplane takes off near the site where Starkweather Creek exits Truax Field Air National Guard Base and flows through pipes that feed the water downstream toward Lake Monona in Madison, Wis. In 2019, the creek contained higher levels of PFOA and PFOS — two more scrutinized types of hazardous PFAS — than any other waters the Department of Natural Resources tested that year. Photo taken on Aug. 5, 2021. Isaac Wasserman / Wisconsin Watch

Natural Resources Board kills PFAS groundwater regulations, weakens drinking water standard

Wisconsin State Journal — February 24, 2022

Conservatives on Wisconsin’s natural resources board have approved weakened regulations for toxic “forever chemicals” in public water supplies but killed a rule to limit them in groundwater, which is the drinking water source for one in four residents with private wells. In the face of widespread public support, the Natural Resources Board voted 3-3 with one abstention Wednesday to reject rules to limit certain fluorinated compounds known as PFAS in groundwater. The board later voted to approve weakened PFAS standards for public drinking water, which apply to municipal systems, trailer parks, schools and other institutions.

Related from Investigate Midwest: ‘The middle of a massive contamination’: Residents of Wisconsin region struggle with aftereffects of dangerous ‘forever chemicals’

Wisconsin Assembly passes bill that would break up Milwaukee Public Schools

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — February 22, 2022

A proposal to dissolve Milwaukee Public Schools passed the state Assembly Tuesday, along with bills that could expand private schools and implement a range of policies sweeping the nation to oppose equity efforts in schools. The bills, if approved in the Senate, will likely be vetoed by Gov. Tony Evers. But they could soon be resurrected if a Republican candidate takes the governorship in November. Few lawmakers spoke Tuesday about the MPS proposal, which would end the district and create smaller districts in its place, before taking a voice vote that made it impossible to know how each lawmaker voted. 

Related from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: ‘It’s going to be chaos’: While Republicans push for change, MPS leaders decry bill to dissolve school district

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