WUWM: Environmental Reporting

The environmental beat is massive -  from covering threats to air and water, to sharing scientific research, to uncovering the individuals and groups working to create sustainable communities.

Although I (WUWM's environmental reporter Susan Bence) have reported on a variety of stories, I continue to think 'I need to dig deeper.' So, I'm turning to you to help make that happen.

Wisconsinites, what have you been wondering about when it comes the environment? Questions about conservation? Climate change? You ask and I'll report.

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Ways to Connect

Eric Epstein

Republican Rep. Jim Steineke of Kaukauna authored the bill making it easier for landowners to fill some wetlands – not high quality systems, he says, but low-grade isolated ones.  The bill passed in the Assembly last week.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Mayor Tom Barrett gave Dr. Patricia McManus, head of the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin, the official green light Thursday, but the process was far from seamless.

Six weeks ago former commissioner Bevan Baker stepped down after evidence surfaced that the health department had botched protocols surrounding lead testing in children.

Mayor Barrett then announced his choice for interim commissioner - Paul Nannis.

Audrey Nowakowski

Update 11:50 am:

With the message "You Spoke, I Listened," Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele announced the Pay-to-Park Initiative would be removed from the 2018 budget.  Abele is now suggesting the County's rainy day contingency fund to "fully fund our Parks department for this year."

Susan Bence

Like many Milwaukeans, Deb Schampers of Bay View has driven past the wind turbine just south of the Hoan Bridge countless times. For years, she’s been wondering about it: Why is it there? Why only one? Who benefits?

Just for fun, during her daily commutes, Deb made up her own answers -- “It was possibly helping us make Milorganite for the world... It’s heating the ovens at DiMarini’s (a pizza place a half mile from the turbine.)”

s / Milwaukee Public Radio

The Common Council voted nearly unanimously Tuesday to name Dr. Patricia McManus interim health commissioner.

Just one day earlier, Mayor Tom Barrett withdrew his choice for interim health department head, Paul Nannis.

The writing was on the wall. Recently the Public Safety and Health Committee grilled and rejected Nannis.

Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton decided to act – drawing from a seldom used measure called emergency power – to nominate Dr. Patricia MaManus for the job.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Update, 5:54 pm Thursday:

According to a press release issued by Ald. Bob Baumann, Mayor Barrett today lifted the policy that required health department staff get permission before communicating directly with elected officials.  The policy was discussed at Wednesday's Steering & Rules Committee where members learned for the first time of the policy's existence.

Original Story:

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

As the Milwaukee Common Council continues to sort through what's amiss with the health department, WUWM talks with parents concerned about lead contamination in their children.

Wahkunna Smith was confused when she received a letter from the City of Milwaukee Health Department that read: “Dear Parent or Guardian, One or more of your children had a blood lead test result within the last few years…"

LaToya Dennis

Monday evening Mayor Tom Barrett held a last minute press conference on a troubling new report from the Milwaukee Health Department. It cites inferior training and lack of coordination.

What Mayor Barrett focused on was gaps in follow up:

unclepodger, fotolia

Update:

Thursday morning, the Public Safety and Health Committee rejected naming Paul Nannis as Milwaukee's interim Commissioner of Health. The vote was 3 against, 1 abstention and 1 in favor.

Mayor Tom Barrett proposed Nannis for a 120-day interim position as Milwaukee carries out a national search for former health commissioner Bevan Baker's replacement.

The health department is due to provide a status report on its lead program to the Mayor and Common Council next Monday, January 29.

Original story: 

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

As Steering & Rules Committee chair Ashanti Hamilton opened Wednesday's special meeting, he described the moment as pivotal to Milwaukee.  He called for thoughtfulness and urgency.

“The more we learn about the consequences of lead exposure, the clearer it is that the highest degree of care and caution must be given, especially to our most vulnerable communities,” Hamilton said.

Members of the public and media in the room expected to be ushered out. The word around town was the committee would move to a closed session.

Susan Bence

Update: During Tuesday's press event, Freshwater for Life Action Coalition, or FLAC, spokesperson Robert Miranda called for action.

Dr. Miha Krofel

A bill making its way through committee would end the Wisconsin DNR’s monitoring of wolves. The legislation would also prohibit law enforcement officers from taking action if a wolf is poached or harmed by things like traps.

At a heated public hearing Wednesday before the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources and Sporting Heritage, Senator Tom Tiffany (R) of Minocqua said the bill is designed to force Congress to remove wolves from the federal endangered species list.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

A military veteran in Philadelphia started JDog Junk Removal & Hauling seven years ago. Business boomed so he decided to offer franchises to fellow veterans and their families. That’s where Wisconsin native Andrew Weins enters the picture. 

“This business allows me to take care of the environment,” he says.

Weins served in both Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Susan Bence

Greenfield resident Anah Radatz has been religiously recycling for years, and has wondered what happens to her empty milk jugs and newspapers. So, she reached out to Beats Me.

s / Milwaukee Public Radio

Milwaukee native Will Radler’s life mission has been to share the beauty of flowers.

Growing up on city’s north side, he poured over his grandmother’s rose catalogs. “I think I became a garden critic when I was in my single digit years,” Radler says.

His mom was an avid flower gardener. Even before he can remember she took Radler to Boerner Botanical Gardens. “My mother has a picture of me in a buggy. Do you remember buggies?” he adds with a laugh, “Yeah, I’m that old.”

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