Top Ten News Fall 2014

Same-sex couples were allowed to marry in Wisconsin in June after a court struck down the state's longstanding ban on gay marriage.

Image By: Thomas Yonash

The following are the Top Ten news stories we covered over the summer and in Fall 2014.

1. Same-sex marriage ban overturned

A federal court struck down Wisconsin’s long-standing ban on same-sex marriage in September, reaffirming a June decision in a lower court that allowed the first same-sex couples to marry in Wisconsin.

Reagan-appointed Judge Richard Posner wrote the biting decision.

“Because homosexuality is not a voluntary condition and homosexuals are among the most stigmatized, misunderstood, and discriminated-against minorities in the history of the world, the disparagement of their sexual orientation, implicit in the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples, is a source of continuing pain to the homosexual community,” Posner wrote.

State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case. The High Court also declined appeals from Utah, Oklahoma, Indiana and Virginia, allowing same-sex marriages to continue in those states as well.

Gov. Scott Walker ceded the legal battle in October and ordered the state to recognize past and present same-sex marriage.

-Andrew Hahn

2. Gov. Scott Walker defeats Mary Burke in gubernatorial election

In what some thought might be the closest gubernatorial election in Wisconsin’s history, Gov. Scott Walker beat Democrat Mary Burke, securing his third victory in four years.

The former Trek Bicycle executive and Madison school board member was almost unheard of in the early days of her campaign. In Marquette University Law School Polls, the two candidates were consistently even until Walker pulled away by a few points within days of the election.

Endorsements from President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama fell short of motivating Democrats to get to the polls.

Walker’s victory speech emphasized a sharp dichotomy between Washington and Wisconsin politics. According to UW-Madison political science professor David Canon, Walker has now solidified his position in Wisconsin politics and has also established himself among the GOP national base.

“I think [a large margin of victory] raises his stock in the presidential sweepstakes,” Canon said. “[But] there is still a long way to go before he is one of the top contenders on the Republican side.”

-Eoin Cottrell

3. Michael Brown, Eric Garner killed by police officers

White police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in August, gaining national attention and sparking debates over institutional racial disparities and police officers’ use of force.

In November, a grand jury decided not to indict Wilson, so the case would not be brought to trial.

The decision spurred nationwide protests and demonstrations, some of which turned violent.

In Madison, students held a silent vigil outside a Badger basketball game to bring UW-Madison together over concerns of human rights.

Students and community members also responded with a march ending at a police station, where protesters held “Black Lives Matter” banners and spoke against police brutality.

Issues from the Ferguson case were echoed in New York, where another grand jury decided not to bring charges against a white police officer who killed Eric Garner, a black man, after putting him in a chokehold.

-Bri Maas

4. U.S. Supreme Court freezes voter ID law in Wisconsin

The U.S. Supreme Court acted in October to halt Wisconsin’s voter ID law, weeks before the Nov. 4 elections.

The law could have prevented students without proper identification, such as a passport, driver’s license or social security card, from voting in the elections, including the gubernatorial race between incumbent Gov. Scott Walker and challenger Mary Burke.

UW-Madison took measures to provide students with proper identification by printing student IDs acceptable for voting. These were made available 52 days before the elections.

Opinions differed on what the ultimate effect of the new law would have been.

While Government Accountability Board Director Kevin Kennedy said he did not anticipate it would have an effect on voter turnout, American Civil Liberties Union member Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement the order against the law removed hindrances to the voting process.

-Dana Kampa

5. ASM funds campus Food Pantry

The Associated Students of Madison approved an allotment of funds in its 2015-’16 internal budget to create a food pantry on campus.

The initiative, introduced by ASM Chair Genevieve Carter and Vice Chair Derek Field, will aim to provide a consistent food source for food-insecure students on campus.

Student Council finalized a segregated fee allotment Dec. 3 of $3,000 in operating expenses, as well as $19,115.20 total salary allotment for the pantry’s two proposed employees.

The planning and organizing stages for the pantry are slated to begin July 2015, with an anticipated opening next August, according to Carter. 

“It is a big undertaking especially because we really want to make sure that something like this is effective and is serving students who need it as well as we possibly can,” Carter said.

-Emily Gerber

6. UWPD joins national effort against sexual assault 

The University of Wisconsin Police Department joined the White House this semester in a movement to inform the public about the truth of sexual assault on college campuses.

President Barack Obama’s “It’s On Us” campaign aims to reject the tolerance of sexual assault and change the shameful stigma it evokes.

“We still don’t condemn sexual assault as loudly as we should,” Obama said in a speech at the Sept. 19 launch. “The message that sends can have a chilling effect.”

UWPD joined the cause with its own “Tell Us” campaign, reaching out to victims with details about the process of reporting an assault.

Semester-long efforts aimed to create environments intolerant of sexual assault and supportive of its victims.

“Though crime in the city of Madison pales in comparison to others like Chicago, Milwaukee, or Boston, we certainly have our fair share of incidents,” a UWPD press release said.

-Laura Grulke

7. Madison and Dane County enforcement agencies crack down on drugs

The Dane County Narcotics Task Force has taken strides in cutting heroin out of the county, working alongside the Madison Police Department, which has taken steps to prohibit synthetic marijuana in Madison.

Lt. Jason Freedman of the Dane County Narcotics Task Force said cracking down on heroin dealers has become a priority due to the 50 percent increase in heroin-related deaths since 2012. The Drug Enforcement Agency has worked with the task force to track dealers.

Freedman said the task force has successfully tracked dealers making $10,000 to $50,000 worth of profits from heroin and plan to continue fighting the heroin epidemic.

Madison police have also worked alongside city officials to pass an ordinance that would prohibit synthetic cannabinoids, or leaves resembling marijuana soaked in an acetone-based chemical.

“People are going to be making financial decisions and say [the charges] are probably not worth that small financial gain,” MPD Capt. Brian Ackeret said about Madison dealers.

-Patricia Johnson

8. City budget impacts future city entertainment, council structure

An approved $5,000 for Revelry funding in Madison’s 2015 Operating Budget is expected to help the event gain more popularity, according to Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, while the future of alder salaries will be an ongoing debate.

“I think that as more and more students support [Revelry], this is a stand-alone event that has some real merit to it,” Madison Police Department Chief Michael Koval said in a November Board of Estimates meeting.

While no date for Revelry has been set, Wisconsin Union President Sarah Bergman expects city monetary support to make the event “more sustainable.”

Although a $4,400 per year raise for council members was approved at a November Common Council meeting, propositions to make alder positions a full-time job are more contentious, according to Ald. Chris Schmidt, District 11.

“I think we need much more engagement and much more involvement in the process,” Schmidt said.

-Irene Burski

9. UW-Madison ushers in new provost

As the new school year began this fall, Sarah Mangelsdorf took her new position as provost at UW-Madison.

With the University of Illinois, University of Michigan and Northwestern University checked off her list of previous employment, Mangelsdorf became the provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs.

Mangelsdorf replaced Paul DeLuca Jr., who ended his term after five years of work on campus.

Mangelsdorf’s roles include managing university curriculum, enrollment, diversity initiatives and staff programs.

“She is viewed as a collaborative trust-builder, who is loved and respected by students, faculty and staff,” Chancellor Rebecca Blank said in an April 10 release. She added Mangelsdorf is also recognized for her work on “key” initiatives, including diversity and faculty retention.

-Ellie Herman

10. Tiki Shack faces struggles during rebranding phase

Underage patrons and management legal troubles have plagued Tiki Shack, the Caribbean-themed restaurant on State Street, since the current owner decided to transfer ownership to two managers earlier this year.

Joseph Vale, the current owner, announced plans to transfer management of the bar, located at 128 State St., to Caleb Percevecz and Daniel Mijal, who would convert the establishment into a restaurant with island-themed cuisine.

However, in October, Percevecz was arrested after punching an 18-year-old man and chipping his tooth. Percevecz has pending charges of disorderly conduct and substantial battery.

Later in November, the bar came under fire again after a fight broke out between two underage patrons. Members of the Alcohol License Review Committee were “troubled” by the fact that the 15-year-old and 19-year-old were in the bar, let alone that a fight broke out.

Percevecz and Mijal are awaiting feedback from a proposal for a new liquor license from ALRC.

-Sam Cusick

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