Common Council heated over Spring Splash

Nathan Kober


The Whitewater common council learned on Tuesday Feb 7 that local businesses have pulled their support for the annual Spring Splash party, after negative feedback from last year’s event.

Spring Splash is a party for college students finishing their spring semester that includes specials at local bars, house parties and other social gatherings. The event was never officially authorized by the University of Wisconsin Whitewater or the city of Whitewater.

At the 2016 Spring Splash there were reports of public intoxication, large scale littering and property damage. Police Chief Otterbacher said her department was overwhelmed by the number of people and was unable to control the large crowds that had gathered. In one instance Otterbacher said that bottles were thrown at officers who tried to break up a party.

“How nobody died last year is a gift,” Otterbacher said.

The council reported that Wisconsin Red, which has coordinated the event since 2013, will not be sponsoring it this year.

City Manager Cameron Clapper reported that he met with Wisconsin Red owner Steve Farina along with other city officials to address their concerns. After the meeting Clapper said they decided it would be best for Wisconsin Red not to sponsor the event this year.

Members of the local community that sponsored the event last year had also withdrawn their support. Clapper reported that Kurt Patrick or Pumpers & Mitchell, a tavern in downtown Whitewater, had sponsored events in 2016 but would not do so this year.

Council member Stephanie Goettl said she was disappointed that the city had not made plans to safely host the event this year.

“I was under the impression that after last year, this year would have a better controlled event because we would be better prepared for it,” Goettl said.

In a post on Facebook, Wisconsin Red expressed similar disappointments, saying they had hoped to plan a safe event with the city.

“Instead, we were essentially forced to step back from our involvement this year, or be subject to a myriad of unwanted consequences,” the post reads.

However, council member James Allen said that Wisconsin Red needed to be held accountable for the problems with the 2016 Spring Splash.

“This is an organization that, through manipulation of social media, created a mob scene, but called it a party in Whitewater,” Allen said.

Goettl, who joined the council as a student from UW Whitewater, accused the council of being derogatory toward students.

“This has to be one of the most blatantly anti-student discussions we have ever had,” Goettl said.

Council member James Langnes, a student at UW Whitewater, said he was also concerned that Wisconsin Red leaving the event would make it more difficult to control.

“I think Wisconsin Red was our only control point in this ordeal,” Langnes said.

However, while other members of the council said they would like to be able to safely hold an event like Spring Splash in the future, they felt there was no way to hold the event this year while guaranteeing public safety.

Other issues addressed by the common council included the selling of K-9 officer Boomer to his handler who left the department for another city.

Boomer, who has served at the department for less than 3 years, was purchased using crowdfunded money due to state mandated caps on municipal revenues.

Otterbacher said that it would be risky for the city to keep Boomer, because he might not be able to work with a new handler.

Boomer’s handler, officer Joe Matteson, resigned unexpectedly for personal reasons. Otterbacher said the department needed to support him in his decision.

“He gave 15 fantastic years to this community and to this department,” Otterbacher said.

There was no guarantee that Boomer would be effective with another one of our officers,” Otterbacher said. “If we transferred him, it was going to be a risk”

The council unanimously voted to sell Boomer, but members addressed the need to create a policy to handle similar cases in the future.

The council also addressed the need to place speed bumps or a stop sign at a local intersection where multiple accidents have occurred.

City Manager Clapper also formally introduced the new Public Relations and Communications Manager Kristin Mickelson. Mickelson graduated with a Journalism degree from UW Whitewater in 2008.

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Steve Jobs to graduates: “stay hungry”

Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer Inc., told Stanford graduates to follow their ambitions in his commencement address on Sunday June 12.

Jobs told students that sometimes they would have to do what they love and trust their instincts to find success. Jobs said the things that change your life will not always be clear at the time.

“You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future,” Jobs said.

Jobs gave his advice by telling three stories of moments and chapters that shaped his life in unexpected ways.

Jobs himself did not graduate college. He attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon for two years, but at that point Jobs felt he was not getting anything out of college, and he felt guilty spending his parents’ life savings on tuition.

After dropping Jobs said his future looked uncertain. However, he still attended various lectures for three months, and in this time he said he was free to follow his curiosity instead of a planned schedule.

“It was pretty scary at the time,” Jobs said, “but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made.”

Another chapter in his life Jobs reminisced about was after being fired from his company.

Jobs started Apple Computers with Steve Wozniak, working out of his parents’ garage. The company started with the two of them selling computer parts in a bag to people, who would then have to assemble it themselves.

The company found success with its Macintosh computer, a high end but sophisticated personal computer.

However, after the company went public Jobs ended up losing ownership.

In 1985 Jobs was forced out of the company by John Sculley, who Jobs had hired to help run the company. Jobs said the two of them had diverging views of where the company was headed, and Sculley ended up pushing him out.

“How can you get fired from a company you started?” Jobs said.

Without his company Jobs said he felt lost, but not having that responsibility also allowed him to chase other passions.

“I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me,” Jobs said.

Jobs found success with the animation company Pixar, which pioneered computer animation in the film industry. Jobs was credited as executive producer in Pixar’s breakout film Toy Story, the first feature-length computer-animated film.

During this time Jobs also met his wife Laurene Powell and started a family.

Apple, on the other hand, had difficulty finding success without Jobs. In 1997 the company let go of then CEO Gil Amelio, and Jobs stepped in as interim CEO.

After coming back to Apple, Jobs restructured the company’s product line and helped it branch out into new and unknown markets. The company has found new success with its IPod, a portable music playing device.

Jobs said that often his moments of failure and uncertainty ended up shaping his life for the better.

Jobs recently had a cancer diagnoses that he said helped put his life in perspective. Doctors told him he had months to live, before further testing showed the cancer was treatable.

Fear of death, jobs said, is a good reminder to make the most of life. Jobs told the graduates to not let the fear of failure get in the way of them taking risks.

“Stay hungry, stay foolish.” Jobs said.

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Back 40 Town Hall

Emotions ran high at a public forum to discuss a controversial mining proposal on the Menominee River in Stephenson MI.

Hundreds of people poured into the sweltering gymnasium at Stephenson High School where the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality gave them a chance to voice their support or opposition to the project.

Most of those speaking against the mine focused on the environmental dangers, while those in support brought up the need for economic benefits.

As more than 100 people signed up to speak, the time for each person was limited to 3 minutes.

Members of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin in attendance also spoke about their sacred cultural landmarks on the proposed mining site. Joan Delabreau, Menominee Tribal Legislature, voiced this concern early in the meeting.

“This is our ancestral land and with that there are a number of cultural resources, like mounds, garden beds and dance rings,” Delabreau said.

On the economic side there were conflicting voices. Some focused on the prospect for jobs while others worried about unintended negative effects. One economic downside mentioned was the loss of property value caused by the mine.

Ted Sauve, a member of the Marinette County Board of Supervisors, said the economic impacts of the mine were a major reason the board voted unanimously against the mine.

“Menominee River properties values were anticipated to be lowered,” Sauve said, “and Marinette County was very, very happy to pass a resolution in opposition to the mine.”

The environmental and economic concerns were also intertwined. The area relies on tourism for much of its revenue, and locals worried the mine could damage the wildlife people come to see.

The proximity of the mine to the river, only a few hundred feet, was the principle concern for those opposed. Kathleen Heideman, president of Save the Wild U.P., was one of many environmental activists who brought this up.

“With a sulfide mine, there are a lot of dangers because it can get into water ways and accidents could be catastrophic,” Heideman said.

If the mine goes through as proposed more than 20 million tons of waste, including cyanide and metallic acid will be placed on site within a mile of the river.

The Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin and the other environmental groups plan on actively opposing the mine regardless of the permit outcome.

Al Gedicks, emeritus professor of environmental sociology at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and executive secretary of the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council, said that social opposition to the mine will make the project not be profitable.

“When you have a failure of a social license to operate the economics of the project go downhill,” Gedicks said.

Public comments on the mine are open until Nov. 3, and the Michigan DEQ has to make a decision on the mining permit by Dec 1.

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The Seventh Generation

In the woods along the Menominee River, Guy Reiter lead a gathering to honor and protect his ancestral homeland.

For the Wisconsin Menominee Indian Tribe, the effort to stop a mine from being built on the river bank where their nation began is part of a struggle to preserve their culture that has lasted for centuries.

“We’ve lived here longer than anyone else,” Reiter said, “for 10,000 years”

The riverbank that holds the ancestral burial grounds of Menominee tribespeople was part of a cessation treaty in 1836 that reduced their nation’s land by millions of acres. After 7 treaties with the United States Government starting in the 1800’s, the Menominee tribe’s land was reduced from 10 million acres to just 235,000 today.

The sovereignty of the Menominee nation was terminated in 1954, and their tribe was no longer recognized by the United States Government.

This intimate experience of cultural loss gives the Menominee an urgent perspective on environmental destruction.

“We are of the land” Reiter said, “It’s not something that’s external to ourselves”

Indigenous people have been part of a growing movement to protect the world’s natural resources from dangerous extraction policies. In North Dakota, tribes from as far as the Amazon, including the Menominee, traveled to show their support for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe as they struggled to protect their sacred land from a pipeline construction project.

For Reiter and other tribal leaders, this growing solidarity is a hopeful sign.

“It’s a beautiful thing” Reiter said, “To see people coming together like this.”

On December 22, 1973 the Menominee won a long fought battle to restore their national sovereignty. While their right to preserve their original homeland along the river is constantly threatened, the tribe believes they will succeed in their ongoing struggle.

As a father Reiter said he is afraid for the future of his children and his people.

On the burial grounds of their ancestors, the Menominee elders spoke of a seventh generation of indigenous people. This generation was prophesied to live in a time when all of creation would be threatened with destruction.

The Menominee people believe they are living in this time.

The job of their generation is to prepare. The elders said people will be looking for answers, and the seventh generation must be ready to teach them a better way life.

“I think sometimes people need to remember this is the only world we have” Reiter said, “you know it’s such a beautiful place here.” 

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