Livinig in the shadows: Immigrants, advocates and experts share expereinces amid federal policies’ impact


Immigrants, advocates and experts speak about immigration trends
and the effects federal policies have had on local residents

Brad Allen
Capstone: Public Affairs
Dec. 18, 2018


Emma Ramirez* goes to work every day with one thought looming in her mind.

What if she and her husband are deported?

This fear has grown more intense for many undocumented immigrants since U.S. President Donald Trump took office in January 2017. His administration has curtailed funding for the 2012 Deferred Acton for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order. It has sought to build a wall along the southern border, floated the idea of revoking birthright citizenship and proposed a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census report, among other actions.

All of these moves have stirred fears within immigrant communities across the country. Communities in Walworth County, Wisconsin, are among those inhabited by immigrants grappling with intensified fears of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) roundups and deportation orders.

“Before [former U.S. Attorney General] Jeff Sessions and [Trump senior policy adviser] Stephen Miller had an impact, you saw immigration attitudes that were much more positive,” said UW-Whitewater professor emeritus Jim Winship. “Once we get through this bump, I hope we’ll get back to being America.”

Winship taught social work courses at UW-Whitewater for about 30 years, and he has worked extensively on analyzing cultural patterns and issues. He lived in Latin American three times, served as an elections observer and was a Fulbright scholar.

He also co-chaired an organization that helps with community demographic integration, alongside immigration lawyer Jorge Islas and Whitewater Middle School English Language Learners (ELL) teacher Rosalinda Martinez.

Regardless of immigration patterns, U.S. demographics will change anyways, Winship added.

An estimated 10.7 million unauthorized immigrations live in the U.S., compared to an estimated 57.5 million total Hispanic population, according to a 2017 U.S. Census Bureau report. Separate census reports estimate the U.S. Hispanic population will increase to about 106 million by 2050.

An October 2018 report by Pew Research Center showed that about 55 percent of Latino people who responded to a poll said they feel more concerned for their livelihood and under the Trump Administration than any other previously. Many respondents expressed serious concerns that a close relative or friend could be deported. That same poll showed 67 percent of respondents feel the Trump Administration’s policies have been harmful to all Hispanic immigrants, regardless of legal status.

“There are so many people here who are citizens that the impact will continue to be great,” Winship said.

The impact federal immigration policies and negative rhetoric can have is seen in various areas of local communities. In the Whitewater Unified School District, parents’ fears of deportation can affect their child’s educational development.

Mary Kilar, principal of Whitewater’s Washington Elementary School, said she has seen several children from immigrant families lose focus in school after ICE conducts a sweep in town. Their parents have often held their children home from school during those events, preferring to keep the family together rather than risk driving anywhere amidst the threat of deportation.

Some children have had outbursts.

Others just stare off into space, their minds wandering to anywhere other than school.

The Trump Administration’s demands for Congress to find a replacement to DACA, which protects people who were brought into the U.S. illegally as young children, led to the executive order fizzling out and cutting off the age for applicants.

Current DACA recipients must reapply for their status every two years, and no one under age 16 can apply anymore.

UW-Whitewater sophomore Nayeli Govantes Alcantar is a DACA recipient, also known as a DREAMer, after the DREAM act in conjunction with DACA.

Because she does not have legal citizenship status, Nayeli cannot qualify for student financial aid nor most scholarships.

Instead, she relies on her own funds earning through working and also on fundraisers held by the student organization UW-Whitewater DREAM Scholars and Colleagues (DSC). The organization hosts an annual tamale bake sale fundraiser every December since it was first established on-campus in 2012.

This year, the student members of DSC sold about 3,012 tamales to earn several thousand dollars in funds, which will be divided up between the five DREAMer students who are slated to be attending UW-Whitewater for the Spring 2019 semester. Those funds go towards tuition and housing costs.

Emma and Eduardo Ramirez* are undocumented immigrants, and they live in the shadows to ensure the well-being of their two sons, who were born in the U.S. They own a mobile home at Twin Oaks Park outside of Whitewater. She works at the Whitewater Greenhouse. He works for John’s Disposal.

Close friends and community members have been welcoming to their family. They brought food to the Ramirez home when they felt unsafe after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents conducted a sweep operation in 2014. The parents of the sons’ close friends have also promised to care for the boys if anything ever happened to their parents.

Her sons are involved in youth groups through St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Whitewater. The ministry serves as a sort of community gathering hub for local residents of various backgrounds and citizenship statuses.

Hector Villarreal, the deacon at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, said a large portion of the Hispanic community in Whitewater is Catholic.

Among the first tasks many immigrants have done when moving to the local area is finding a place of worship. St. Patrick’s Catholic Church provides referrals for how to locate immigration services and resources for low-income families. The church also offers bilingual religious services, with a special Spanish language mass held at 11:30 a.m. on Sundays.

Some immigrants have only spoken Spanish upon arrival to Whitewater, so having bilingual services has helped them feel more at home, Villarreal said. Many immigrants came to the area because they knew somebody who was already living in Walworth County.

Villarreal arrived to the U.S. in 1971 with his immediate family. He met his wife, Bianca, in 1989, and they settled into Palmyra, Wisconsin in 1990. They worked at Kincaid Farms there, which employs a number of Hispanic immigrants, both undocumented and of legal citizenship status.

He was ordained as a deacon at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in 2009, and since then he’s noticed an upward trend of immigrant populations.

He counted at most 20 Hispanic immigrants attending the Spanish masses at the church in 1990. Now, in 2018, he has noticed as many as 200 Hispanic people attending those same church services every week.

Part of his role as deacon involves visiting sick people in hospitals and inmates at jails to offer word from the gospel.

“They feel like their lives matter to somebody,” Villarreal said, adding that belonging to a ministry provides guidance to people on how to live a productive life.

The church has helped to integrate the Hispanic immigrants into the community at large. Particularly among younger Hispanic individuals, the language barrier between English and Spanish speakers has become less of an issue, and the high school students of varying backgrounds are more open to one another than when Villarreal first came to the U.S.

Villarreal said Hispanic immigrants brought new life to the church. They came with their own traditions and foods, and many residents have learned Spanish and gotten to know the immigrants.

“It’s very important to keep traditions,” Villarreal said.

One such tradition is speaking Spanish at home, as many Hispanic immigrant families do. His children spoke Spanish at home growing up, but while being educated mostly in English at public schools, he has worried about his children losing touch with their Spanish language roots, a concern he shares with other immigrants.

“I think it’s only natural,” Villarreal said. “It’s going to happen sooner or later. It’s sort of sad, like giving up your culture. Kids get assimilated into the dominant culture and lose traditions.”

UW-Whitewater senior Brenda Echeverria has felt the effects of cultural shifts firsthand.

“Me, personally, I feel uncomfortable talking in Spanish when I’m not at home,” Echeverria said. “Even in my own Spanish class, I feel weird, because it’s personal to me. I know it’s not the same for all Hispanic kids, but I tend to lean more toward the American side than the Hispanic side.”

She and her older sister grew up speaking Spanish at home. Their parents immigrated from Mexico decades ago, and English has always been their second language. Their family has lived in Delavan since Echeverria was born 22 years ago. She went to public school and translated take-home forms for her parents to sign in grade school.

Many of her friends had similar experiences, and they all gravitated towards speaking English more often growing up.

“I just never got used to talking with friends,” Echeverria said. “I just kind of fell into this sort of, ‘Spanish is for home, English is just normal with everyone else.’ To just switch and communicate Spanish with some people is not the norm.”

She said most Mexican-American students she knows had leaned more towards either traditional Mexican or American cultures.

“With Mexicans, you’re at different percentages … it has a lot to do with your interests,” Echeverria said. “Like Mexican music or the Mexican culture, and I don’t feel as tied to it, so that’s why I don’t feel as Mexican.”

Every Hispanic person’s cultural experience is a little bit different, she noted.

For undocumented immigrants such as Emma and her husband, remaining in the U.S. has always been their ideal option, despite the many challenges they face here.

Emma said she does not trust bringing her children to Mexico. She and her husband separately fled violence and gang activity there in 1999 and 1996, respectively.

They both know people who were removed from the U.S. and sent to Mexico, where they disappeared under mysterious circumstances.

One man willingly returned to Mexico with his son after being placed into removal proceedings by ICE. Upon returning to Mexico, his son was kidnapped and held for ransom by drug cartel members, and a deal securing his freedom.

Another man they know simply vanished and was never heard from again. They fear he was killed.

Emma met Eduardo at her brother’s New Year’s Eve party in 1997. They had both come to the U.S. with the intention of working for a few years and returning to Mexico. The births of their two children changed everything. They married in Whitewater and raised a family locally.

Emma said she believes there is no longer a viable way for her and her husband to obtain legal U.S. citizenship.

Emma works at Whitewater Greenhouse, where she says the employer is not immigrant-friendly. Many undocumented immigrants work there under challenging conditions. Hispanic workers are often sent home on extremely hot summer days, rather than given a short break on the job. Other works simply fill their place and collect their pay. The holiday season is the busiest time of the year, requiring Emma and others to work from 4 a.m. to 5 p.m. on some days. Employee turnover is high.

Emma pays Medicare taxes and files reports annually. She uses an I-10 number instead of a Social Security number in order to earn her children federal tax credit.

“We are not bad people,” she says in Spanish, glancing between a reporter and a translator who assisted with the interview. “We are not taking the jobs of any white person. If we come here, it is because of necessity.”

Immigrants to the U.S. overall come from a wide range of ethnic or national backgrounds and varying economic statuses.

Many immigrants come from poorer countries to flee violence and poverty.

But many other migrants come to the U.S. as highly educated workers for universities or corporate businesses.

“For a small town, direct migration does not cause firms to leave,” said Jeff Heinrich, a UW-Whitewater professor and chairman of the Economics Department in the College of Business and Economics. “Immigration represent additional consumers. We need to be careful of what we’re talking about, because when a lot of people think of immigrants, they think in terms of poor immigrants, from the South of the Americas. But that’s a very narrow view. They may represent the largest numbers of unskilled migrants, but migrants also include people from other parts of the world and of very different skills sets.”

There are doctors and business leaders among those migrants.

UW-Whitewater’s Economics Department alone employs seven foreign-born individuals out of a total staff of 14 people.

Heinrich said U.S. immigration rhetoric has shifted towards trying to find reasons to deny Visas or work status, which has proven difficult for the university in its hiring processes.

And poorer migrants are willing to perform tasks and work jobs that other people in the U.S. might not be willing to do, such as agriculture or landscaping.

“We know there are employers in the U.S. who are willing to employ undocumented workers as a cost-saving measure, and that may have negative impacts on competing workers … but experience shows us that when you cut off the migrant work force, that doesn’t translate to a one-to-one replacement of those jobs to American workers,” Heinrich said.

Harsher immigration policies in some cases could provoke businesses to move overseas.

Immigrants also bring unique skills and traditions, along with new perspectives that can help enrich the overall community. They pay sales taxes and other federal dues, as is required of all U.S. residents. Particularly in educational settings, having a more diverse staff reduces the likelihood of group think and results in the team producing more original ideas.

Jorge Islas, an immigration lawyer and a representative of the immigration advocacy group, Voces De La Fonterra, works on court cases as a translator. He has translated case for many immigrants facing removal proceedings.

Islas, whose brother owns the La Preferida Mexican grocery store in downtown Whitewater, said federal U.S. immigration laws are supposed to deport criminals, but instead he has seen many hard-working immigrants of good moral standing sent away.

He recalls in particular a case in which a man faced removal proceedings because a female coworkers alleged he sexually assaulted her. The court proceedings found him not guilty of the charge, but he was removed and sent to Mexico, anyways, because he was an undocumented immigrant.

In many cases he has worked on, Islas said clients were detained by ICE agents after being discovered as not having permanent legal status when local police conducted a routine traffic stop.

One such incident affected a Whitewater resident earlier this year.

Enrique Enrqiquez* lives at Twin Oaks Park outside of Whitewater with his wife and three children. His two brothers lives in Delavan, where they work together.

The threat of ICE raids looms over his family every day, but he said he feels comfortable overall and is grateful to be with his family here in the U.S.

“We are all here together, so what more could we ask for?” He said.

Enriquez came to the U.S. in 1993 looking for work with his two brothers. He wanted a big truck and a large savings account of money. He never intended to stay long, but like Emma, having children changed the whole picture.

“All those dreams went down the drain,” Enriquez says with a wide grin, shaking his head as he looks to a translator who assisted in an interview with a reporter.

The 2006 Dodge Caravan parked outside his Twin Oaks mobile home serves as a testament to his altered life plans.

Enriquez has been pulled over by City of Whitewater police officers multiple times. Some for speeding, once for a broken headlight. Each time he was asked to provide a driver’s license and proof of vehicle insurance. As an undocumented citizen, he has neither.

Enriquez said the local police officers in town are just doing their job. He feels comfortable living in the area.

In February 2018, Enriquez was followed home by a police officer who noticed the broken headlight and scanned his plates, noticing traffic violations on his record. He was arrested and was sentenced in May to six days in jail, serving three before early release.

He no longer drives since that incident.

This puts a new strain on the family, with his 17-year-old daughter doing most of the driving now after obtaining a driver’s license. His brothers drive him to work every day, where the three men run a landscaping business based in Delavan, Wisconsin.

Delavan has the state’s highest percentage of Hispanic resident proportionate to its overall population, according to a 2017 U.S. Census Bureau report. Approximately 30.3 percent of Delavan’s 8,356 total residents are Hispanic or Latino. The estimated percent of foreign-born persons is listed at 16 percent in the report.

“We are here to work,” Enriquez says, waving a hand as he articulates his words to a translator, stopping at several points to ponder his message. He nods once, then cocks his head, explaining he’s thinking of his family. “We are not here to hurt anybody. If one makes bad choices, sooner or later you pay for those. We are here to bring our families, to get our families ahead. We want our children to get an education and be better than we are. This is my only purpose right now.”

Enriquez’s wife, Maria*, works at Jessica’s Family Restaurant. The owners employ several undocumented immigrants. When ICE agents came through town in 2014, the owners sheltered their workers in a back room and locked the door to keep them hidden.

Enriquez said the local police officers in town are just doing their job. He feels comfortable living in the area.

Overall, the Whitewater community has been welcoming to immigrant families, multiple sources said in various interviews.

Emma Ramirez* sits back in her chair, second from the wall in her family’s mobile home kitchen in Twin Oaks Park in Walworth County, Wisconsin. Her shoulders arch, then fall, as she releases a deep sigh, a fresh breath of relief after sharing her story with a reporter.

“Yes,” she says, nodding with a smile, she and her children feel accepted here.

Column: Reflecting on my college journalism career

Brad Allen
Student Journalist


I remember becoming interested in journalism at the age of 17, in March 2013. I was sitting in a photography class, zoning out during the lecture on aperture sizes while paging through a National Geographic magazine.

The photos told stories: Earthquakes in Haiti. Famine in the Middle East. The famous “Afghan Girl.” Government corruption in China. The dangers facing American safari tourists in Tanzania. All pleasant stuff.

I read the articles next to each photo to learn more, and I thought about the men and women who went out, collected the information and wrote those stories that had deep meaning about the world around us. I had a then-unfamiliar gut feeling, the kind that boils in your belly and slowly washes up your throat when you suddenly realize your world is being flipped upside-down.

I realized I wanted to be a journalist.

Later that day, I kept up with my usual routine. I suffered through Geometry class, endured an English lesson on Hamlet and drove across Janesville to my internship as a paper pusher at the armed forces recruitment center. I told the sergeant I had changed my mind about joining the U.S. Army right out of high school. He was disappointed about not meeting his recruitment quota, but glad to hear I’d found my ideal path.

My parents were relieved to hear I wasn’t trying to pursue a career as a combat photographer anymore.

I worked on Craig High School’s Criterion newspaper for the next year, learning more about journalism by being a part of the student group that designed monthly editions.

I spent the last few months of my senior year in high school scrambling to apply to various colleges in Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota. Two accepted me: Northern Illinois University, despite my not-so-stellar ACT score, and UW-Whitewater, on the condition that I write an appeal as to why I belong there and how I could prove my poor K-12 grade point average would not carry over into their lecture halls.

I went with the emotional appeal, and it worked.

My mom and dad met here. They played Euchre and Sheepshead with a group of friends in Clem Hall and danced on tables at a bar one time.

That was partly why I came here. To carry on that family legacy.

But the final deciding factor was the opportunity to work at the award-winning Royal Purple student newspaper. Former Janesville Gazette editor Scott Angus coached me through picking a good journalism school, and he recommend UW-Whitewater.

I once asked Scott Angus about getting a job at the Gazette when I was just 10 years old. I’d been reading Anna Marie Lux columns since I was six, and I’d helped a friend with a paper route once. I was told to go get a degree and then come back.

I guess I took that advice fairly literally, because I managed to earn a part-time job designing pages at the Gazette during my sophomore year of college.

The skills and professionalism I picked up through my weekends gig in Janesville thrust me further forward, and I brought those skills back to UW-Whitewater every week with fresh enthusiasm on how to improve my quality of writing every day.

It even gave me the confidence to pursue a highly challenging internship in Washington, D.C. the summer before my final semester ahead of graduation this December.

As I look back on my years of study at UW-Whitewater, I realize the experience was some of both expectation and reality. Some things did work out as hoped: Involvement, friends, girlfriend. Some things didn’t: Saving all kinds of money and packing my bags to move out to the West Coast to work in the luxurious Monterey, California. Truthfully, that’s not me. My roots are here in the Midwest.

I learned so much in just four strenuous years. AP Style, the inverted pyramid, concise sentences, impartiality in reporting, proper interview conduct. You name it. And I’m so immensely glad and grateful for every person who helped me along the way so that I could get to where I am now. I’m proud to say I will be seeking a professional journalism job right out of college.

I’m most certainly a far-cry away from the shy, airheaded 17-year-old who slacked off in classes and blew off photography assignments regularly. My colleagues could testify to my time management skills being superior to that of even when I first started at both the Gazette and Royal Purple.

The world is no longer black and white in my eyes. It’s not simply carrying on others’ legacy or trying to prove my worth by volunteering to go overseas and fight “bad guys.” Instead, I’m happy to be planning to work and live here, where I aim to tell the richly meaningful stories of our fellow citizens in the communities around us and help keep our populace informed. It’s truly an honor to be a part of this local network of journalists.

If I were to go back to that day in my photography class when I happened upon an old edition of National Geographic with the “Afghan Girl” pictured on the cover, I would do nothing differently. I would accept my change of hearty time and dive head first into the field of journalism all over again.

Story #3: UW-Whitewater students eagerly awaited elections results


Before a collection of absentee ballots were accounted for and Democratic candidate Tony Evers rode a so-called “Blue Wave” to victory in the Wisconsin 2018 gubernatorial election, students at the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater kept their eyes glues to their phones and TV screens to watch the results unfold.

Some students gathered in Timothy J. Hyland Hall in room 1302 to participate in a watch party hosted by the UW-Whitewater College Democrats. When the winning vote was called at 8:03 p.m. for U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, a Democratic incumbent, several students rose from their seats and cheered as the room erupted with thunderous applause.

Other students were just leaving the polls in the University Center’s Hamilton Room, which closed at 8 p.m.

“It’s a huge issue getting students out to vote,” said junior Megan Martin, chairwoman of the UW-Whitewater College Democrats. “A lot of students I’ve talked to early-voted or absentee voted. There was a huge turnout in early voting this year.”

Senior Isabel Guerrero voted in her second-ever election experience. She said there was no irregular draw to the polls, other than to exercise her right.

The waiting line wasn’t too bad for Isabel, whose voting ward had the shorter of two lines.

“Towards the end, I know they get busy, just ’cause there’s fewer workers,” Guerrero said.

But for sophomore Jack Bolog, the line to enter the polls was much longer.

He encountered “unfortunate odds” of being in the line for Wards 1-9 and persons with last names beginning with letters A through L.

But, he said, “I think that’s outside of their [the poll workers] control.”

“I think it’d be cool to see an independent party win,” Bolog said of his hopes for election results. “I voted for Maggie Turnbull [for governor] because she’s big into upholding the environment and being a good person, and I also like those ideas.”

Bolog said he decided to vote around 7 p.m., just one hour before the polls closed, because a friend teased him into going.

“I didn’t want to be a terrible American, I didn’t want to be an adequate American,” Bolog said. “I’ll settle on being a subpar American.”

Bolog was voter No. 1,077. Guerrero was No. 1,074.

Last year, UW-Whitewater had approximately 12,000 students enrolled who are of legal voting age and citizenship status, according to a 2017 report. Those numbers remain somewhat consistent with this year, with only a slight decrease in student enrollment reported in September.

Junior Casey Seltrecht said it was “pretty easy” for him to register and vote Tuesday. The process took him all of a half-hour.

He also decided to vote about an hour before the polls because “this really, really cute girl told me I should go vote, so I did.”

It was his first time voting.

Seltrecht said he’s usually “very informed” on elections issues, and he didn’t feel his vote was cast without sufficient thought put into candidates’ positions.

“I feel like I would want to see Tony Evers win,” he said, correctly guessing the outcome of the gubernatorial race. “I don’t hate Scott Walker, but it’d just time for somebody new.”

Junior Darius Sanders voted for the first time Tuesday. He tried voting in the 2016 presidential election in Milwaukee, but was unable to do so because he went to the wrong polling place for his address at the time.

He felt inclined to vote this time around because “being black in America, I’m afraid, and if there’s anything I can do to be less afraid, I think voting is the best way to do that. African Americans’ voices don’t always get heard.”

Sanders said he voted mostly Democratic this election, but he feels even split on party affiliation.

“I just want an actual, honest politician that has a plan that makes sense,” Sanders said. “People’s politics really come from what makes them most comfortable. The super poor always gets the brunt of the stick. … the disbarment of the middle class is a threat to the economy.”

Story #2: Jefferson County notes low outstanding debt in 2019 budget

By Brad Allen
J486 Student Reporter

Although noting an outstanding debt of approximately $15 million dollars to complete repairs and cleanup of highway projects, the Jefferson County Finance Committee lauded the proposed 2019 county budget as being in better shape than in previous years.

The proposed 2019 county budget accounts for a total of about $80 million in spending. About $20 million of that was raised from a levy of property taxes, and another $6.3 million is projected to be raised throughout 2019 in sales taxes at stores and from Amazon purchases online. State revenue services also contributed to the funding efforts.

“We’re very proud of where our budget is,” Wehmeier said. “We have challenges, and we have opportunities as we look ahead, but we want to encourage others to be a part of the process.”

As Jefferson County officials look to finish paying off the debt on the highway projects and continue to offer both social and mental health services countywide, along with decreasing amounts of state-provided revenues, the proposed 2019 budget is a little higher than past years.

“Ultimately, the goal is to look at these resources not just for 2019, but for 2020 and beyond, and to ask ourselves how we can provide those services to the county,” Jefferson County Administrator Ben Wehmeier said. “One of those concerns is how we look at those issues long term. … We try to drill into everyone to look at those issues five years down the road.”

Special projects in the works include keeping Medicare and Badger Care available to residents, as well as providing necessary resources to mental health centers.

“I like to think we’re the last line of defense for people in jeopardy,” Jones said.

Some likely challenges for the county include paying off the rest of the $15 million debt and finding solutions to health crisis as the number of fatal opioid overdoses and suicides have increased since 2017.

“We have some dollars set aside for cleanup along those highways, which is why that cost is higher than usual,” Wehmeier said.

The Jefferson County Finance Committee has contacted various mental health services for cost quotes and reduced spending by $1.2 million after accounting for necessary resources, Wehmeier said.

Wehmeier added that the county intends to continue financing social resources near or at current levels because much of the population relies on medical assistance, such as senior services.

The county’s tax levy is steadily decreasing, and the mill rates are now at about 4.07 percent, a level not seen since 2008. This is partly because the housing market has bounced back since the Great Recession, and Jefferson County has a cap on how far property taxes can rise.

A public hearing on the budget will be held Oct. 23 before the County Board of Supervisors votes Nov. 13 on final approval of the proposed 2019 budget ahead of a Nov. 15 statutory deadline.

In other action during the Jefferson County Board’s Oct. 9 meeting:

  • In a unanimous vote, the Board adopted a resolution to formally remember local World War II veteran Leon Zimdars, who died recently.
  • The Board also unanimously signed off on the sale of the Lake Mills highway satellite shop for $60,000 to county resident Chandler White.
  • Jefferson County’s Board of Supervisors also unanimously voted to deny a claim by Joanne Vonachen related to the Finance Committee.
  • With all present supervisors in favor, the Board adopted a proclamation for Oct. 7 through Oct. 13 to be National 4-H Week. The county 4-H chapter is also interviewing candidates for the role of county 4-H leader this Thursday, Oct. 11.
  • In a final piece of action Tuesday, the County Board agreed to spend more than $2 million in purchases to acquire a new utility truck for the Highway Department’s fleet of vehicles, along with additional truck beds, fuel tanks, hydraulic equipment and other controls to be accessible by utility crews using the new truck.

The Jefferson County Board of Supervisors will meet again at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 16 in the Jefferson County Courthouse.


Story #1: Common Council clashes over raising fines for vandalism

By Brad Allen
J486 Student Reporter

Whitewater Common Council members quibbled Tuesday, Oct. 4, over a proposed ordinance to raise the fines of vandalism of landmarks before tabling a vote in lieu of further discussion at a later meeting.

Council members Lynn Binnie (Wards 5 & 6) and Stephanie Vander Pas (Wards 10-12) expressed dissent to particular details concerning how acutely the various landmarks throughout the city are labeled and questioned whether the ordinance targeted UW-Whitewater students.

Binnie said he does not plan to oppose the ordinance that proposes raising the minimum fines of vandalism to local landmarks to $1,000, but he said he feels wary of “possible unintended consequences.”

Vander Pas questioned whether every landmark in the city – both public and private – is properly labeled as such and suggested it isn’t “fair to receive a specific citation if a landmark isn’t labeled.” She added that vandalism is “horrendously wrong,” but she said the proposed raise in fines warrants further review before a final vote.

Council member Jimmy Schulgit (Wards 7 & 8) disagreed with the dissent and calls for further review. He said “the legislation is fine as written” and that he has “no problem asking offenders to make a large donation to the city” if they choose to vandalize city or private property.

Binnie filed a motion to suggest an amendment to the ordinance that specifies publically owned landmarks regarding raises vandalism fines.

Resident Pat Blackmer, owner of a private landmark property, said the ordinance is necessary to preserving local landmarks.

“I think this needs to be enforced, because individuals are not respecting private property,” Blackmer said.

UW-Whitewater senior Analise Sandoval said the ordinance unfairly targets college students.

“Approving this too quickly could mean a lot of backlash if students can’t clearly read if something is a landmark,” Sandoval said.

Schulgit and council member James Allen (at-large) said people don’t look for signs when vandalizing property. Allen added that he does not want to give preferential treatment to students over community members.

Council member Chris Grady motioned to postpone the amendment until after budget time. The council voted 6-1 in favor or postponing the vote, with Schulgit being the lone “Nay” against the motion.

After the debate on the proposal to raise vandalism fines, City Manager Cameron Clapper presented the preliminary 2019 city budget proposal, which will be further discussed over the next several weeks before being voted on for approval.

The proposed 2019 city budget calls for a tax levy increase of about three percent. The three largest recipients of public funds in the budget are Public Safety at 36 percent of the pie, General Government at 15 percent and Public Works at 10 percent.

Because “state revenues diminish over time,” the city must tax residents higher in order to pay for city upkeep next year, Clapper said.

Also in the proposed 2019 budget, property taxes in Walworth County would go slightly up, while property taxes in Jefferson County would go slightly down.

Some major public works projects included in the proposed 2019 budget are drawing down the lake water in Cravath Lake, replacing street lights, construction on Milwaukee Street and construction of an amphitheater.

In other action at the Oct. 2 Common Council meeting, Clapper proclaimed Oct. 7 as Whitewater’s 28th annual Crop Hunger Walk Day.

Event organizer Patty Harmon said the local chapter of the Crop Hunger Walk organization has raised more than $186,000 since 1990, with about $13,548 being raised in 2017 alone. A total of 25 percent of money raised goes to the Whitewater Food Pantry.

The Common Council also approved an ordinance in a 7-0 vote that establishes a “No Parking” zone from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. on Church Street from Center Street to Forrest Avenue.

Before adjourning, the council members voted 7-0 to table a decision on a proposed ordinance to ban sales to and possession of electronic cigarette and vaping products to minors.

Whitewater Common Council meets again Tuesday, Oct. 9. The meeting’s agenda can be found at