Scott Robert Shaw

Scott Robert Shaw

Scott Robert Shaw is the Program Director for both 1410 WIZM and 580 WKTY.   He's currently the morning news anchor on 1410 WIZM, Z93 and 95-7 The Rock.  He joined Mid-West Family Broadcasting as a reporter/anchor in 1989 and served as News Director from 1990-2015.   He's been the winner of several Wisconsin Broadcaster's Association awards for Best Editorial in Wisconsin.  He enjoys traveling, bicycling and cooking.

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The states of Wisconsin and Illinois may be neighbors, but not always friendly neighbors. Soon after taking office, Governor Walker ratcheted up the rhetoric when he posted a sign along the border declaring Wisconsin to be open for business. It was a not so subtle jab at our neighbors to the south and what the Governor sees as their poor business climate. But it appears Illinois may be getting the last laugh. If the deal with Foxconn goes through, certainly many Wisconsinites will get jobs there. But so will those from Illinois. The plant is likely to be built in Southeast Wisconsin, just a few miles from the Illinois border. It could be just a ten minute drive for Illinois residents to drive to their new job in Wisconsin. Certainly people in Illinois stand to benefit. And they can do so without assuming any of the risk. Wisconsin taxpayers meanwhile could be on the hook for state subsidies to Foxconn worth $3 billion. A playful editorial in the Chicago Sun Times actually begs Wisconsin to do the deal with Foxconn, calling it “the neighborly thing to do.” They point out that up to half of those 10,000 jobs could go to people living in Illinois, and call the potential deal the best thing that ever happened to Illinois. If this Foxconn deal goes through, Wisconsin may just prove that it is open for business...for the people of Illinois.

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It is potentially the biggest deal in the state of Wisconsin's history. Lawmakers are trying to formalize a $3 billion incentive package to lure Foxconn, and its promise of 10,000 jobs, to Wisconsin. There is much to consider. But the state agency in charge of that task doesn't exactly have a great track record protecting the interests of Wisconsin taxpayers. The Wisconsin Economic Development Council has for years awarded state money to companies which don't qualify, or lie on their applications. They have failed to keep track of loans, and failed to ensure the companies actually create the jobs they promised. Now, WEDC is tasked with ensuring the Asian company has the financial strength to build that $10 billion plant in Wisconsin, and run it profitably. Those are key questions. But members of the Wisconsin legislature are due to cast a vote today on Foxconn, and a number of those key questions remain unanswered. This won't be the final vote, but we deserve to have those casting a vote have all the available information about Foxconn in front of them. Given that non-partisan auditors, as recently as this spring, recommended WEDC make more improvements in how it tracks job creation by companies that receive state money, there is a question whether WEDC is actually up to the job and can do it completely. WEDC is charged with monitoring these deals, but it seems someone better be monitoring WEDC as well.

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Wednesday - August 16, 2017 8:59 am

Politicians changing the rules to benefit themselves

There are a number of quirky rules in our political system. Like the system of selecting judges. Under an arcane rule known as the “blue slip” members of the United States Senate are given the powerful ability to halt judicial nominations. The rule allows U.S. Senators an effective veto over the nomination of federal judges from their home state. That is why the Wisconsin seat on the 7th District Circuit Court of Appeals has remained vacant for the past seven years. It is the oldest judicial vacancy of any court in the country. President Obama tried repeatedly to fill that seat, only to have his nominations blocked by Wisconsin U.S. Senator Ron Johnson. Johnson was well within the rules to use the blue slip to block Obama's nomination, but now the shoe is on the other foot. Republicans are in control, and President Trump has named his own pick to fill the judicial vacancy. But because politicians like the rules when they benefit them, they are also considering doing away with the blue slip rule. The same rule that allowed Johnson to block Obama's nomination could prevent Democrats from exercising the veto of Trump's pick. Johnson argues that circumstances have changed. But it seems the only thing that has changed is who can use the rule to their benefit.

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President Trump is right when he says that the opioid epidemic is a national emergency. But declaring it such does nothing to make the problem go away. Trump has called opioid addiction a national emergency, and has convened a commission on combating drug addiction and the opioid crisis. Beyond that, little has been done at the federal level. Trump has talked about getting tougher on drug users through an increase in drug prosecutions, and longer sentences for users. That sound much like the failed war on drugs this country tried for many years. But our prisons are overcrowded with those charged with drug crimes. And Presidents dating back to Richard Nixon, have tried, but failed, to win a war on drugs. Trump also mentioned beefing up border security to prevent illegal drugs from entering our country. But most addicted to opioids got hooked not from some illegal immigrant, but by their doctors, who for years have been over-prescribing powerful pain pills. When their expensive prescriptions run out, they often turn to the streets to land cheaper, and more powerful drugs. We don't need to re-ignite the war on drugs. We need more federal money for more treatment options, and more alternatives to opioids. Just declaring it a national emergency and forming a commission are not nearly enough.

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Monday - August 14, 2017 10:31 am

New, better parking system to take effect

Will it finally work this time? Fingers crossed. The city of La Crosse is about to flip the switch on a new pay-to-park system in its municipal ramps. Again. Three years after first adopting the ticket and gate system in the downtown ramps, what we hope is a much better system will replace it, perhaps starting this week. The first ramp could adopt the new system this week, and the remaining ramps by Labor Day. once that happens, the gates will be removed. The system which is being replaced cost taxpayers a half-million dollars, plus the cost of replacing all those broken gates. People were literally trapped inside the ramps by malfunctioning gates, some had the gates come down on them as they tried to leave. It was an expensive and abysmal failure. And the costs keep going up. Since we first started charging to park we have created the new position of Parking Utility Coordinator, and bought a fleet of vehicles for use by parking staff. We have spent a lot, but somehow, so far have yet to even break even. This is supposed to bring in money, not cost taxpayers. Perhaps this time the city will finally get it right. Because it really shouldn't be that complicated.

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Our lawmakers in Madison keep telling us its no big deal that the state has yet to adopt a new budget. But it is getting more and more significant by the day. The next two year state budget was due to be approved by the end of June. We are now well into August, and not only is the state no closer to adopting a new spending document, the committee responsible for putting it together hasn't even met since the middle of June. Instead, lawmakers only point fingers and shrug their shoulders over the lack of a deal. But local governments and school districts all across the state need to learn how much state aid they can get before they can finalize their budget process. Road work across the state is being further delayed because of the lack of a new state transportation budget. These are real ramifications, and the problem gets worse each day lawmakers continue to drag their feet. With still no breakthrough on the big sticking point, mainly how to pay for road work, and no meetings currently scheduled, it appears the state is still some distance from wrapping up its budget work. At this rate, it may very well be September before the budget is finished. Now, Wisconsin is just one of two states yet to adopt a new budget. Even Illinois got their financing figured out. The fact is, the only job requirement of our elected officials in Madison is to approve a new budget. Perhaps we should start withholding their paychecks as an incentive to get back to work and get that job done.

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Tuesday - August 8, 2017 9:01 am

La Crosse's first roundabout working just fine

Well it seems that was much ado about nothing. Critics of roundabouts lobbied loudly against La Crosse's first roundabout, at 7th and Cass. The roundabout has since been built, and traffic there seems to be flowing smoothly. The potential for accidents has been reduced, but also the flow of traffic continues at an uninterrupted pace. In fact, for pedestrians, just one block away it is easier to cross the street without taking your life into your hands. At 7th and King, crossing the street yields a much shorter wait for traffic to clear. That is because without a light, there is no line of cars gunning it when the light turns green. Drivers through the roundabout spend less time sitting in traffic because they don't actually come to a stop. As a driver I would always rather keep moving, even if it means going in a bit of a circle. Still, many in our community remain opposed on principle to roundabouts. But it seems likely more will be coming. Wisconsin's DOT has boasted of the state becoming a leader in roundabouts as a way to make our roads safer. With a reconstruction of South Avenue a few years away, planners are looking at putting in a series of roundabouts on that stretch. Those specific plans are still up in the air, but there is no reason to reject roundabouts on principle. They are cheaper to construct and maintain, and help reduce accidents. Those who don't like roundabouts should give them a try. It really isn't difficult at all.

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Politicians have an uncommon ability to claim victory in the bleakest of circumstances. Those who are very good at it often rise to powerful positions, like Speaker of the House. Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan is trying to paint a pretty picture about the work being done, or more accurately, not being done, in Washington. During a stop in his home state, Ryan was chastised by constituents for not being able to repeal or replace Obamacare. But rather than shoulder the blame for not being able to generate agreement among House members, Ryan blamed the Senate, pointing to its slim Republican majority. If there were more Republicans, it would be easier to get their bills passed. No doubt it would be easier to get things done if only one party had a say, although I’m not even convinced of that with this bunch. Despite the failure to pass any meaningful legislation during this session of Congress, Ryan remains upbeat on tax reform. He predicts Congress will take up major tax reform legislation in September with passage predicted by the end of the year. The goal is to reduce the number of tax rates, and to simplify tax forms. Worthwhile goals, but we have seen little from this Congress so far that makes us optimistic something as complicated as our tax codes will be easy, or even attainable.

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La Crosse likes to boast that it is a bicycle-friendly city. But the reality is, it can be difficult to navigate the city on two wheels. Drivers of cars aren't always polite to those on bikes. And trying to cross some streets can be a long wait. That is why it is good to see that the city of La Crosse is finally willing to do more than put up signs declaring itself bicycle friendly. The city is finally ready to adopt a bicycle and pedestrian master plan that was approved five years ago. The plan, if implemented, would make significant steps to provide a path for bicyclists. There would be better signage and clearly designated routes for cyclists, including seven miles of bike boulevards. And some intersections, like at West Avenue and King Street, would be modified to make them more bicycle friendly. No final decisions have been made by the city, but just coming up with plans makes it more likely the federal government will cover much of the construction costs. We should work to make it easier to navigate the city by bike. Doing so increases the likelihood more people will travel by bike, and helps get more cars off the road. That makes the calls for a new north-south corridor, a source of much contention between the city and state, ring more hollow. It may be nice that La Crosse is a bicycle friendly community, but we need more than a blue ribbon for that to actually be true.

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Not long ago, judicial elections were rather sleepy affairs in Wisconsin. There was no big money in these races, no special interests opening their checkbooks to try to influence the outcome of the election. But not any more. Races for the Supreme Court have become a race to raise money. More money than ever before is being spent trying to elect Wisconsin Supreme Court justices, and even smaller races like the court of appeals and even circuit court judges. Contribution limits to judicial candidates have been increased, and campaign coordination between candidates and special interests is now legal. The money is flowing like water. With all these donors, we have seen an increased likelihood that some who give money will someday appear before one of the judges to whom they have donated. But amazingly, Wisconsin has no rules that force a judge to recuse him or herself when hearing a case involving a donor. Each judge is allowed to decide for themselves whether to recuse them from a case involving a donor. The Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected a call to adopt recusal standards, a plea from dozens of retired judges who lament the big money in judicial contests. It wouldn't even allow for a public hearing on the issue. It shouldn't be this way. Our judges are expected to be fair, and above the influence of big money. That is no longer the case. After the April election, the Supreme Court should reconsider the issue of recusal. If we are going to allow judicial candidates to accept all this new money, we should at least demand that they not hear cases involving those who helped them get elected.

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