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'A great way to experience our downtown area': Chippewa Valley Tours expands to downtown Chippewa Falls

A business is expanding to Chippewa Falls to help preserve and celebrate an overlooked aspect of the city’s culture.

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held for Chippewa Valley Tours at the Chippewa Falls Chamber of Commerce building downtown Monday night to celebrate the expansion of the organization to Chippewa Falls. Over 50 attendees, including area business leaders and Chippewa Valley Tours staff, attended the event to announce the company is open for business.

Chippewa Valley Tours began in 2018, giving food and history tours throughout downtown Eau Claire. Now Three Foodies LLC (operating as Chippewa Valley Tours) is expanding its business to Chippewa Falls. Its current tour plan is to start at Brewer Bros. and Chippewa River Distillery, then go to Lucy’s Delicatessen, Max’s Bistro and Bar and Wissota Chophouse before ending with desert at longstanding ice cream shop, Olson’s Ice Cream.

Co-founder of Chippewa Valley Tours Michelle Lien said she is thankful the Chippewa Valley has supported the company up to this point and is excited to see how the tour is received in Chippewa Falls.

“I really appreciate the community in the Chippewa Valley and we’re very excited to expand here,” Lien said. “We’re all foodies, which is someone who has an extreme interest in food. So, that’s really where all of this started. But we couldn’t do this all on our own, we need partners in this business, so we are really thankful for the Chippewa Falls businesses as well.”

Representing the Chippewa Falls City Council member Paul Nadreau said this is a unique idea to bring to the community and it will be a great way to see downtown in a new light.

“This is a great way to experience our downtown area,” Nadreau said. “There is no better way than to smell it, see it and taste it. I think this sounds like a great idea we look forward to this being a successful venture.”

The idea to found Chippewa Valley Tours was forged in 2015 when sisters Amanda Olson and Michelle Lien went on a European vacation. Their trip included a food tour highlighting historical and culturally significant culinary hot spots in London, Paris and East France, leaving the duo with the idea to bring a similar experience to the Chippewa Valley. From there, the sisters approached their friend Nick White about investing in the idea and Chippewa Valley Tours was established quickly thereafter.

White said the business’ success won’t only benefit the company itself, as giving back to the community is a top priority as well. In under two years the two has already hired a Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) intern to help with multiple aspects of the business, established a scholarship at CVTC for an outstanding individual in the school’s culinary management program and donates all of the tips received on the tours to the Feed My People Food Bank.

“We’re really excited to be part of the Chippewa Falls area with our business,” White said. “We also want to thank our family and friends for all of their support as we grow our business. We believe in this community and want to see our business grow, but that also comes with giving back to our community and making it a better place.”

Now that Chippewa Valley Tours has expanded into multiple cities, the three co-founders are already working on plans to expand the business even further. White said the business wants to expand to more locations, offer different varieties of touring experiences, offer food excursions, have private chefs among other things.

Teri Ouimette, director of Chippewa Falls Main Street, said the idea is going to be a hit in Chippewa Falls.

“We are so excited about this,” Ouimette said. “The feedback is already awesome. We’re really excited about another layer of what Chippewa Falls really is being celebrated.”

For more information the experiences offered by Chippewa Valley Tours you can visit their website

Impeach or investigate? Democrats see no reason to choose (copy) (copy)

WASHINGTON — Whatever happens next, don’t call it impeachment.

House Democrats have been careful not to rush to impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump in the aftermath of Robert Mueller’s report, despite calls to do so by high-profile lawmakers and 2020 presidential contenders. But as Congress resumed Monday, the Democratic oversight and investigations agenda is starting to look a lot like the groundwork that would be needed to launch an impeachment inquiry. At some point, it’s a political difference rather than a practical one.

“I don’t think there’s a magical moment at which proceedings become ‘really’ impeachment proceedings,” said Cornell Law School professor Josh Chafetz.

The Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear testimony from Attorney General William Barr on Thursday, despite resistance from the administration. The Oversight Committee has reached an agreement with the White House for testimony this week on security clearances. The Intelligence Committee is probing Trump’s financial dealings. And the Ways & Means Committee is pursuing Trump’s tax returns.

“The House has such broad oversight powers that it really doesn’t matter whether they’re geared toward impeachment, toward legislating, toward overseeing the functioning of the executive branch, etc.,” Chafetz said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has insisted the door is neither open, nor closed, to impeachment. Instead, she said, Congress is taking a step-by-step approach in exerting its role as a check on the executive branch. It will lead wherever it leads, and the public can decide.

Pelosi on Monday said Barr will be “obstructing Congress” if he chooses not to appear before the House Judiciary Committee. Barr is resisting the committee’s push to have staffers conduct a round of questioning.

Pelosi said the attorney general or any other witnesses can’t “tell the committee how to conduct its interviews.”

While Republicans and others in Washington are ready to move on from the report from special counsel Robert Mueller, Democrats in Congress are still fighting to see it. The Judiciary Committee chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., subpoenaed for a full and un-redacted copy of the 400-page report, and its underlying materials. He also wants Mueller to testify before the panel by May 21.

Pelosi suggests that Congress will have more to say on impeachment after lawmakers — and the American public — digests the findings of the two-year probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction by Trump.

“In every way he is unfit to be the president of the United States,” Pelosi said in an interview this month. “Does that make it — is that an impeachable offense? Well it depends on what we see in the report.”

Pelosi said she sets a “very high bar for impeachment because I think it’s very divisive in the country.”

In many ways, House Democrats are trying to have it both ways — pursuing the investigations that could serve as a prelude to impeachment proceedings without taking the politically fraught step of calling it impeachment.

The balancing act reflects recent polling that shows Americans are interested in getting more information, but also split. A poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research ahead of the report’s release this month showed that even with the Mueller probe complete, 53% said Congress should continue to investigate Trump’s ties with Russia, while 45% said Congress should not. A similar percentage, 53%, said Congress should take steps to impeach Trump if he is found to have obstructed justice, even if he did not have inappropriate contacts with Russia.

While high-profile Democrats, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and presidential contenders Elizabeth Warren and Beto O’Rouke, called for the House to begin impeachment proceedings, others have not.

For many House Democrats, particularly newly-elected freshmen representing districts Trump won in 2018, putting their names to a floor vote to launch an impeachment inquiry would likely become politically fraught.

Sarah Binder, a professor of political science at George Washington University, said as long as those cross currents exist within the House Democratic caucus, “it’s in Pelosi’s interest to slow down the impeachment train, but hold the administration accountable for Trump’s first two years in office.”

Mary Altaffer 


Cadott boys golf team wins third straight regional title. B1



Lawmakers debate future of loan relief

In 2007, the U.S. government made a promise to public service workers: Make 10 years of payments on their federal student loans and any remaining debt would be erased. But officials have largely failed to deliver.

And that’s left lawmakers questioning whether to end the program or try to fix it.

The Trump administration and some Republican legislators see it as a lost cause, arguing that the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is misguided and has proved too complicated for borrowers to navigate.

But a group of Democrats is pushing to salvage the program, blaming its failure on poor management by the Education Department. The group, which includes six 2020 presidential contenders, proposed a new bill this month that would simplify the rules and expand the offer to a wider swath of borrowers.

“Millions of teachers, social workers, members of the military, nurses, public defenders and countless others have been denied the support they have earned,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., one of the bill’s sponsors and a Democratic presidential candidate. “It’s time for Congress to fix this program and create a fairer and simpler process for public servants seeking loan forgiveness.”

Signed into law under President George W. Bush, the program is meant to help college graduates who pursue jobs that often pay modest salaries but serve a greater good, such as careers in teaching, the military or with nonprofit groups. But turmoil has been mounting around the program since last year, when the Education Department revealed that 99% of borrowers who applied for loan discharges had been rejected. As of December, just 338 public workers had been granted loan forgiveness out of nearly 54,000 applicants, according to recently released department data.

Most have been denied because they didn’t meet narrow eligibility requirements. Broadly, the program promises to forgive federal loans for public workers who make 120 monthly payments while working for approved employers. But there are caveats: It applies only to certain types of federal loans, for example, and only for borrowers who opted into certain repayment plans.

Thousands of borrowers have said those details were never made clear to them, and many have reported that they were misled by loan servicing companies hired by the government. A scathing 2018 report from the Government Accountability Office concluded that the Education Department had failed to issue clear information to borrowers or loan servicers.

So far, a relatively small number of borrowers have asked for loan cancellations — the window for applications began in October 2017 — but there’s evidence that many more are on the way. Education Department data show that nearly 1 million borrowers have taken the initial steps to have their loan payments counted for the program.

John DeGennaro, a 64-year-old English professor, recently applied for loan cancellation for the sixth time; his previous requests were rejected over problems with his paperwork.

“I checked off all the right boxes, I made the 120 payments and then I sent it in, and it started this circus,” said DeGennaro, of Encinitas, California. “Every time I sent something, there would be something else that wasn’t my error. It started to become absurd.”

He’s still awaiting a decision on his latest application. Meantime he’s stuck with $14,000 in federal student loans that he says he can’t pay off with his income as an adjunct at two local colleges.

Seeking a temporary fix, Congress last year approved $700 million to erase loans for borrowers who were rejected because they entered into the wrong repayment plan. But Democrats say the Education Department has failed to implement even that stopgap measure.

An April 15 letter from Senate Democrats says the department has continued to send borrowers misleading information about eligibility and has taken an “unnecessarily restrictive approach” to the rules. The letter asks that Education Department officials be ordered in the 2020 budget to notify borrowers who might be eligible for loan relief.

Other Democrats have used congressional hearings to rebuke Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over her handling of the program. At a March budget hearing, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., asked DeVos if she’s really interested in helping borrowers or if she’s out to serve “the powerful financial companies profiting off of this malfeasance and incompetence.”

DeVos in turn blames Congress for creating a program with such puzzling rules, but she also opposes the offer on principle. “We don’t think one type of a job, one type of role, should be incentivized over another,” she said at a House hearing this month.

President Donald Trump’s 2020 budget proposal asks Congress to eliminate the program, starting with borrowers who take out new loans after July 1, 2020. It argues that the benefit “is not only complicated for borrowers to navigate, but it also inefficiently targets subsidies only to those borrowers in public service jobs.”

J. Scott Applewhite 


Manuel Balce Ceneta 


Susan Walsh