Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Fall 2010: top 5 characters of semester

As another semester draws to a close in The Badger Herald news room, questions about the next news cycle are already plaguing our brains.

Will the Edgewater Hotel ever get built? How will the Associated Students of Madison Rules Committee handle the controversial Campus Services Fund? Is the high-speed rail project really dead?

While we can and do debate these issues to no end, even the most news-minded Herald staffer needs a break. On those occasions, we look back on the stories that made us sigh, laugh, cheer and cry, and the movers and shakers behind those issues.


As a little holiday gift to our devoted readers, I am carrying on an end of semester tradition that was started by Alex Brousseau, my predecessor as news editor, and presenting you with our five characters who shaped news this semester.

Scott Walker stops train, as well as $810 million

While many issues followed Gov.-elect Scott Walker through his campaign, perhaps none was more reported than his promise to stop the building on a high-speed rail line connecting Madison to Milwaukee, which would have been part of a large plan to connect Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison and Minneapolis.

Walker characterized the train as a “boondoggle,” saying the $810 million given to Wisconsin by the federal government would be better spent on repairing and maintaining Wisconsin’s roads and highways.

During the campaign, Walker’s promise to redirect the funds was met with a tremendous amount of support from those who either do not think the rail is a good idea to begin with, or thought the current economic climate was not the right time for the expensive train.

Once elected, Walker was presented with a challenge considerably more difficult than promising to keep the funds in Wisconsin – actually keeping the funds in Wisconsin.

With outgoing Gov. Jim Doyle’s quiet deal with the federal government to keep the money, pro-train rallys and meetings throughout the state and train company Talgo’s promise to move to Illinois if the money did not stay in Wisconsin – taking thousands of jobs with them – Walker was sure to have a difficult decision looming.

Though he fought to use the money for Wisconsin roads, and later for existing rail lines in the state, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood responded to requests from states including New York and Illinois to redirect the funds.

Out of the $810 million initially set aside for Wisconsin, the state will only end up keeping up to $2 million for use on the existing Hiawatha rail line.

Walker said while he would have liked to keep the money, he still characterized the loss of the train as a victory.

“While I would have preferred to have the $810 million re-allocated to repair our crumbling roads and bridges, I am glad that the transportation fund will not be on the hook for a minimum of $7.5 million of operating subsidies every year,” Walker said in a statement earlier this month.

Other prominent politicians reacted less happily. Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz announced he was angry at a press conference and Doyle characterized the loss as a “tragic moment for Wisconsin.” Cieslewicz had even tried to contact Walker about finding a way for the city of Madison to help with the yearly upkeep of the train line, but Walker never returned the calls.

For now, thus ends of the high-speed rail saga, but check back next semester for what is sure to be heated debate filled with anger, happiness and plenty of goofy words. I’m talking about you, boondoggle.

Ald. Bridget Maniaci, District 2

With meetings regularly running up to six hours and a 20 person council of educated opinionated people, Madison’s city council members are usually an entertaining bunch.

This semester, none was more delightful than Ald. Bridget Maniaci, District 2. In her first term as alder, Maniaci spearheaded many projects, including the controversial passage of a renovation to Madison’s Edgewater Hotel.

This budget season, though, a few of her proposals may have come with dubious motivations.

This October she suggested alders receive the option for pensions and health insurance along with their $9,000 per year salary. She also proposed Madison budget for alders and other elected officials to take trips such as Cieslewicz’s bike tour through Europe.

She cited invitations from Madison’s sister city of Obihiro, Japan as an example of a trip she could have taken.

While the amendment to give alders health care and pensions failed, the city sponsored trips for alders will be discussed this February by the city’s Ethics Board.

SSFC, CSF, GSSF, ASM and other various acronyms

Student Services Finance Committee Chair Matt Manes has never been shy about his complaints that Student Council could be more productive with their time, nor has he ever backed away from championing unpopular campaigns and initiatives on campus.

Enter Campus Services Fund, Manes’ new plan to ensure essential campus services will always be funded, even if the group providing them does not receive GSSF funding.

Current GSSF groups jumped on the announcement, worried the CSF might take money away from worthy groups.

The CSF passed through SSFC only a week after it was introduced, though many committee members as well as those present for public comment still had concerns with both the plan itself and specific details included.

GSSF groups claimed Manes was too quick to pass the fund through, citing the lack of public meetings and press the fund had gotten. As a side note, I’d like to assure you the Herald published an article about the fund before it had even been introduced, and our news reporters continued to cover every ASM meeting it was discussed at.

At Student Council earlier this month a fairly split level of public comment as well as swift nature of the plan’s movement through ASM’s process made the council decide to refer it to Rules Committee, which will begin debating next semester.

While the plan’s future is unclear, one thing is for sure: Manes and the GSSF groups are not done sorting out the specifics of the CSF. This could get messy.

‘Sexting’ DA Ken Kratz

Ah, the early stages of courtship. The Facebook wall posts, the expanded primping time and of course the suggestive text messages.

When Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz met a young lady — a domestic assault victim we was supposed to be helping file a case against her abusive ex – who caught his eye, his textual pursuit turned into sexual harassment.

His text messages took a turn from suggestive to salacious and Stephanie Van Groll did what most women would – she filed a lawsuit.

In the next few days and weeks, we at The Herald crowded around blurry printouts of the text messages in which Kratz told Van Groll he was “the prize” and called her a “tall, young, hot nymph,” with wide eyes and mouths agape.

As if one case had not been bad enough, soon other women soon came forward, claiming they had also been on the receiving end of unwanted innuendo from Kratz.

While Kratz initially maintained he hoped to repair his career and reputation, after it became clear Doyle would call for his resignation he stepped down from his position as DA and faded from the public eye.

There’s a lesson here, though, for all engaging in courtship: When you’re sending upwards of 10 creepy texts a day, it’s time to scale it back a notch. Or 12. Or just give up on this potential mate, because you’ve probably dug yourself in too deep already.

‘College Life’ star and his $86K party

While campus news was dominated this semester by Chancellor Biddy Martin’s Badger Partnership, a visit from President Barack Obama and recent reports of major hacking into UW’s computer systems, the lighter side was no less interesting.

Which brings us to character number five, UW junior Kevin Tracy.

Tracy gained notoriety two years ago with an appearance on MTV’s College Life, but was again thrust into the spotlight after a party hosted by him and his roommates was broken up by Madison Police Department, garnering a whopping $86,000 in fines between the three men.

MPD Sgt. Tony Fiore told the Herald the fine was so high because the amount of people packed into the house created a safety hazard, and when police arrived to break it up the roommates encouraged attendees, both under and over 21, to keep on partying.

Tracy later spoke at a “know your rights” event on campus, saying he was confused about why his party was worse than any other broken up by MPD.

Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4 told the Herald it was likely the case would be settled out of court, resulting in significantly lower fines for Tracy and his roommates, adding it was likely the fines were so high to make an example of the three men, something even Verveer found somewhat unfair.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *