Weekend Roundup: Federal subsidy program helps Milwaukee residents access affordable internet

Nearly 60 percent of homes in some Milwaukee neighborhoods are enrolled in the Affordable Connectivity Program — a federal subsidy that offers $30 per month for internet service.

It’s a milestone in the effort to get high-speed internet to families who otherwise can’t afford it, Rick Barrett wrote in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

But despite the widespread use of the program, much of the funds have gone to cellphone-based service instead of wired connection at peoples’ homes — and cellphone internet service tends to be much slower.

According to the newspaper, Milwaukee County had more than 63,000 participants in the program. Statewide enrollment was around 200,000 participants — or 8 percent of households.

Barry Orton, professor emeritus of telecommunications at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the reasoning behind why people use the subsidy on cellphone plans is simple: It’s a matter of balancing household budgets.

Most people have cellphone plans, whereas not everyone has wired internet service at home.

“If you can get 30 bucks a month off something you’re going to have to pay for anyway, then of course you’re going to take it,” Orton told the Journal Sentinel. 

Wisconsin DHS: COVID-19 Weekly Recap

The seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin is 895 as of Friday. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has confirmed 12,872 total deaths from the disease. 

Sixty-one percent of Wisconsinites are fully vaccinated — 82.4 percent of people age 65 and older, 58 percent of children age 12 to 17 and 24.6 percent of children 5 to 11 years old. As of Friday, 33.9 percent have received a booster shot.

Ellsworth High School students fundraise for Ukraine in show of support for exchange student 

Denys Lohachov is an exchange student at Ellsworth High School from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city that’s been pummeled with missile strikes since Russia’s invasion of its neighboring country in late February.

So, in an effort to help those displaced by the war and the home country of their fellow classmate, Ellsworth High School students decided to raise money with a fundraising dinner featuring Ukrainian dishes, reports the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram.

“We’ve all been watching the news and feeling like we can’t do anything,” senior Ann Lundstrom told Leader-Telegram reporter Eric Lindquist. “This project allows us to feel like we can get involved, like we’re not just sitting back passively. In Ellsworth, we’re all part of the community, so when someone in our community is being hurt, we feel like we need to step up and help.”

The meal will be from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on May 7 at Ellsworth High School in western Wisconsin. Proceeds from the fundraiser will go to the Red Cross in Ukraine and World Central Kitchen, which has a mission of feeding people in war and disaster zones.

“Their desire to help is awesome,” Lohachov told Lindquist. “I really appreciate that people from a small town so far away do actually care about another country that a lot of them haven’t known a lot about before all this happened. That is very impressive, and I’m very grateful.”

K-12 lessons highlight longstanding diversity work amid rising controversy of critical race theory 

In Wisconsin, diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, initiatives have existed in classrooms for more than two decades.

According to the state Department of Public Instruction, as reported in the Wisconsin State Journal, examples date back as far as 1993.

Those efforts are now being questioned by conservatives decrying critical race theory.

But University of Wisconsin-Madison professor emeritus Gloria Ladson-Billings told the State Journal that policy and lesson-planning don’t always go hand in hand. 

“When I say I use critical race theory as a theoretical tool, I’m talking about issues of policy, I’m not talking about what I teach eighth-graders,” Ladson-Billings said.

She went on to say critical race theory ia a modern-day version of McCarthyism.

“At some point we will get past this problem,” Ladson-Billings said. “What I worry about is if we will be worse for the wear. Who gets hurt in the midst of it?”

Madison mayor wants to spend $425K on PFAS filtration system

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Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway wants to spend $425,000 to design a system to filter PFAS chemicals out of a city well.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports the mayor said the system would be the first in Wisconsin designed to filter the so-called “forever chemicals” out of drinking water.

Rhodes-Conway and Alder Nasra Wehelie said they’ve drafted a resolution authorizing city water officials to contract with AECOM for up to $375,000 in design and engineering services for the system. The resolution includes another $50,000 for staff time.

City officials say a no-bid contract is necessary in order to submit the project for state grants in October.

Milwaukee residents are on a mission to reduce, reuse and recycle

Jenna Meier has a goal.

She wants to make plastic-free shopping a reality and is trying to do her part through her store, The Glass Pantry, in Walker’s Point.

Plastic-free shopping is hard, but plastic is impacting our climate, health and wild life.

As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, Meier’s journey began when she had her son and transitioned to being a stay-at-home mom.

For her, reducing waste meant shopping at several stores each week.

“I was weighing the options of what comes in bulk, what has packaging and what was organic,” she said. “I thought it would be so cool if there was one store that had all the things I wanted.”

To try and make a one-stop plastic-free shop, she opened the Glass Pantry, 1039 E. 5th St., Milwaukee, in March 2020.

It works a lot like the bulk section of a co-op: You bring in any container, and it’s weighed before you shop. Then you fill it with what you need — from oil and shampoo to coffee beans and rice — and staff reweigh the container before you pay. Meier also partners with local businesses to “eliminate waste in the supply chains.”

Leah Holloway is one of the lead organizers for Plastic-Free MKE, a group of more than 40 nonprofits, organizations and businesses that have been working to eliminate single-use plastics in Milwaukee since 2018, according to the Journal Sentinel.

“We build a shared understanding and awareness of individual changes we can all make,” Holloway said. “Recycling is part of the answer, but it’s not the whole answer.”

This story also describes tips and provides links on reducing plastic consumption and what other locals are doing to reduce their carbon footprints.

Biden signs executive order to protect old-growth forests

Marking Earth Day this year, President Joe Biden signed an executive order safeguarding old-growth forests across the United States.

The executive order, which Biden signed on Friday during a trip to Seattle, tasks the U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Department of Agriculture to collaborate on drafting a definition of mature and old-growth forests and to assemble information about how much exists in the country.

The order also requires federal officials to develop new policies to manage and conserve these forests.

Editor’s note: The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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