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Indiana East University senior and Chi-Hi grad Bre Nowak is set to compete in the NAIA Women's Golf National Championship tournament for the second time later this month.


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Chippewa Falls City Council rejects street use permit fees for car shows

The city of Chippewa Falls won’t charge Chippewa Falls Main Street for street use permits for four Summer Cruise In Car Shows that the organization hosts in the city’s downtown, reversing a recommendation from a city committee.

The Board of Public Works recommended a $300 fee per event at its April 22 meeting and sent it to the City Council for final approval. The car show dates are May 18, June 15, July 20 and August 10 (Pure Water Days).

City engineer Rick Rubenzer said the cost was determined by looking at the hours spent by street department staff in setting up traffic controls and tearing down for the event.

“The ordinance says charge for city services,” Rubenzer said. “The question is, where do you draw the line when city services are involved?”

Council members asked Rubenzer about the proposed charge, as the city hasn’t billed Main Street in the past for the car shows. Councilman Paul Nadreau noted the goal is to promote tourism in the city.

“This is a community event,” said Council President Rob Kiefer.

However, the council opted to vote unanimously to remove the recommended $300 street use permit fee.

In other news, David Raihle, vice president of the Chippewa County Historical Society, gave an update on the proposed new museum at 12 Bridgewater Ave. The goal, if funding comes together, is to begin construction this fall or in spring 2020, Raihle said. The museum has raised about $2.1 million of its $3 million goal, he said.

“We feel this is an asset to the city and want to make sure the city is in support of it,” Raihle said.

Raihle asked the city to vacate an alley behind the building.

“We would be responsible for all the costs of removing all the asphalt,” Raihle said.

A former Dairy Queen on that site was torn down in April 2016 after the CCHS purchased the site.

The organization has been operating out of a building at 123 Allen St. on the city’s East Hill for the past 25 years. It has typically only been open on Tuesdays. However, that location hasn’t suited the group’s needs, and it lacks wheelchair and handicap accessibility.

The new location would be the home of the Chippewa County Genealogical Society as well.

The Council also unanimously approved a developer’s agreement with 2 Rivers Real Estate, which is planning to construct five apartment buildings, each with eight units, on a 5.85-acre parcel in the northeast corner of Chippewa Falls.

According to the developer’s agreement, at least two buildings will be constructed this year, with the rest by 2021. This area of the city is known as the Wissota Green neighborhood. The developer’s agreement calls it the “Wissota Shores III” property.


Rubenzer


ASSOCIATED PRESS 

A college degree has long been a ticket to the U.S. middle class. Yet a new survey shows that college graduates aren’t as likely as they once were to feel they belong to the middle class. 


Washington
AP
Many college grads feel grip on middle class loosening

WASHINGTON — A college degree has long been a ticket to the U.S. middle class.

It typically confers higher pay, stronger job security, greater home ownership and comparatively stable households. Those benefits have long been seen as worth the sacrifices often required, from deferred income to student debt.

Yet college graduates aren’t as likely as they once were to feel they belong to the middle class, according to a collaborative analysis of the 2018 General Social Survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and GSS staff. The survey found that 35% of graduates described themselves as working or lower class, up from just 20% who felt that way in 1983. By contrast, only 64% of college grads say they feel they belong to the middle or upper class.

The findings might seem surprising given that the nearly decade-long U.S. economic expansion is on the verge of becoming the longest on record and unemployment is an ultra-low 3.8%. Yet the financial insecurities that afflict many college graduates point to the widening gap between the richest Americans and everyone else. Dan Black, an economist at the University of Chicago, suggested that the consequences of the trend could include delayed family formation, lower levels of consumer spending and, eventually, slower economic growth.

“Concerns like this will definitely have impacts for the economy, Black said.

The survey shows that Americans — both college graduates and those without degrees — have broadly benefited as the country healed from the Great Recession, which ended in 2009. But across age groups, a college degree has become less of an assurance of upward mobility. College graduates ages 50 and over, as well as those under 35, are less likely than they were in 1993 to describe themselves as middle or upper class.

Not surprisingly, Americans without a college degree have long felt even less connected to the middle class. Last year, six in 10 of them described themselves as working or lower class, about the same as the proportion who said so in 1983. (The survey didn’t define middle class; respondents replied based on their own perceptions.)

All of which suggests that while college still offers a path upward, that route has been narrowed by student debt loads, an outpacing of home prices relative to wages and widening economic inequality.

The income disparities go well beyond the gap between the top 1% of earners and all other households. Disparities are widening even within many occupations, including financial advisers, lawyers and physicians. The result is that an ostensibly middle class job title may provide a pay level more associated with a lower middle class job.

The survey finds that Americans’ satisfaction with their personal finances has finally regained its pre-recession levels even though this hasn’t led to increased identification with the middle class. Both people who have graduated from college and those who haven’t are now as likely as they were before the recession to say their financial situations have improved in the past year.

But Americans are also more likely than they were before the recession to say they feel overworked. College graduates are likelier than those without degrees to say they work overtime (80% to 70%) and that they have more work to do than they can complete (40% to 30%).

Among college graduates who feel untethered from the middle class is Justin Provo of Chicago. At age 28, Provo says student debt has inhibited his path to the middle class. He borrowed a total of $58,000 to graduate in 2017 from Roosevelt University with a degree in economics and philosophy.

Now a portfolio manager for a mortgage servicing company, he says his income-based loan repayment plan isn’t enough to fully cover the interest on his loans. So his debt load keeps rising even though Provo is making his regular loan payments. Just last week, he received a real estate license in hopes of earning extra income to reduce his debts.

“I’m chipping at marble with a spoon,” Provo said. “I’m making some progress, but I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere.”

All told, student debt totals roughly $1.5 trillion — a more than five-fold increase since 2004, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. To help manage the burden, many parents and older family members have borrowed to fund their children’s educations.

Fed researchers concluded that the increase in education debt between 2005 and 2014 has prevented home ownership for roughly 400,000 young people. At the same time, many surveys show that student debt has also delayed marriages and household formation. The problem has emerged as an issue for the 2020 presidential election, with multiple Democratic candidates — most prominently Sen. Elizabeth Warren — calling for some form of student debt forgiveness.

Economists have noted that rising college debt has in effect become an entry fee for the job market. Nearly 80% of the net 2 million job gains last year went to college graduates, even though just a third of adults hold a degree. But roughly 60% of college graduates in 2017 had student loans, with the average borrower leaving college with about $30,000 in debt, according to the College Board.

“Young people are facing unprecedented challenges that are preventing them from achieving what we all consider to be the American Dream,” said Soncia Coleman, a senior director at Young Invincibles, an advocacy group for millennials. “They need the education, but the cost to get it is astronomical.”


Business
AP
Trump puts deal-making credentials to test

WASHINGTON — As he cranks up the pressure on China in pursuit of a new trade accord, President Donald Trump is putting his deal-making persona on the line and injecting new risk into his bid for another four years in the White House.

Trump has raised the already high stakes of this week’s talks between U.S. and Chinese negotiators as he seeks to seal an agreement he can brandish on the campaign trail. The push to bring the talks with China to a conclusion comes as his administration gears up for a difficult fight in Congress over its new North American trade deal. Progress or failure on the twin agenda items stands to be a key selling point for his reelection or a sobering verdict on his unpredictable stylings.

Already, the risks are mounting. Trade fears sent U.S. markets sharply downward Tuesday amid rising concerns about the China talks resuming today. On Monday, U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer said the Trump administration was prepared to raise import taxes on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods early Friday.

Trump made protecting American manufacturers and farmers central planks of his 2016 candidacy, and his pledge to reverse the tide of globalization helped him win over voters in Democratic-leaning states like Michigan and Wisconsin. Now those groups Trump vowed to help are sounding the alarm about the impact of Trump’s protectionist measures on imports from China and other trading partners.

Despite Trump’s rhetoric to the contrary, tariffs are paid by U.S. importers of foreign goods. Manufacturers dependent on foreign material, retailers and other importers have been charged more than $15 billion in the last year, according to federal data, though the impact directly felt by consumers has been relatively minimal.

Dave Salmonsen, a senior director at the American Farm Bureau Federation, said the group is hopeful that the president’s threat of increased tariffs on Friday “is just part of the negotiating process.” He said that agriculture exports to China fell by more than half last year from $21 billion in 2017. “They’ve retaliated on almost everything we send,” he said.

Throw in retaliatory tariffs from Canada, Mexico and other nations, and the trade war contributed to a projected 16 percent decrease in farm income last year, according to a recent study from the Agriculture Department. The Trump administration ended up providing up to $12 billion in aid to farmers affected by the trade skirmishes.

Some Republican senators voiced concerns about the state of trade negotiations during a private lunch Tuesday with Vice President Mike Pence.

“We’re not in a good way at all,” said Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, chairman of the Agriculture Committee.

“There’s a lot of feeling in ag country that we’re being used as pawns in this whole business,” Roberts said, but added: “We will benefit tremendously if we get a good deal, so we’re hanging in there with the president.”

The vice president encouraged the senators to stick with Trump as he pushes China for a better deal.

Despite the political fallout back home, senators seemed intent on not breaking ranks with the White House at this crucial moment in the trade talks.

“Even though there’s some real issues in Wisconsin, there’s a great deal of support for what he’s trying to accomplish,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. “I don’t think anybody wants to undermine his negotiating position right now, and we’re all keeping our fingers crossed.”

Current and former Trump administration officials believe the U.S. still has the most leverage in the talks, saying China needs access to the U.S. market more than the reverse. And even if the talks don’t succeed for Trump, their hope is that voters are more likely to blame any pain on China, rather than the president.

Former Trump strategist Stephen Bannon wrote in The Washington Post that the president’s best political option is “not to surrender, but rather to double down on the tariffs — they have been highly effective in pressuring the Chinese without harming the U.S. economy.”

“Certain Trump advisers inside and outside the White House are playing on the president’s well-earned pride in a rising stock market and a fear he might lose the Farm Belt to try to box him into a weak deal. But it is a decidedly false narrative that any failure to reach a deal will lead to a market meltdown and economic implosion,” Bannon wrote.

And there are indications that at least some Trump supporters are all for the president’s confrontation.

“Right now, because we have a strong economy and China has some issues with its aging population and a slowing economy, we’re in a position of strength to negotiate a better deal,” said Jeff Schulmeister, 52, a resident of the Detroit suburb of Macomb Township. “I think what he’s doing is the right thing to do, and I think it’s going to benefit the country.”


MANUEL BALCE CENETA, ASSOCIATED PRESS 

President Donald Trump meets China's Vice Premier Liu He on April 4 in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. 


House panel votes Barr in contempt, escalating Trump dispute

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress, escalating the Democrats’ extraordinary legal battle with the Trump administration over access to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia report.

The vote capped a day of ever-deepening dispute between congressional Democrats and President Donald Trump, who for the first time invoked the principle of executive privilege, claiming the right to block lawmakers from the full report on Mueller’s probe of Russian interference to help Trump in the 2016 election.

Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York declared the action by Trump’s Justice Department a clear new sign of the president’s “blanket defiance” of Congress’ constitutional rights to conduct oversight.

“We did not relish doing this, but we have no choice,” Nadler said after the vote.

The White House’s blockade, he said, “is an attack on the ability of the American people to know what the executive branch is doing.” He said, “This cannot be.”

But Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said it was disappointing that members of Congress “have chosen to engage in such inappropriate political theatrics.”

Barr made “extraordinary efforts” to provide Congress and the public with information about Mueller’s work, she said.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said neither the White House nor Barr “will comply with Chairman Nadler’s unlawful and reckless demands.”

Though the White House initially hesitated on invoking privilege, Trump told his staff and political advisers in recent weeks to refuse to cooperate with Democrats, believing the party’s goal was simply to damage him politically going into his re-election campaign. The coming legal battle could stretch to 2020, and the White House is aiming to tie up congressional probes until Election Day.

Executive privilege is the president’s power to keep information from the courts, Congress and the public to protect the confidentiality of the Oval Office decision-making process.

The president’s decision was weeks in the making, the next inevitable escalation between the White House and Congress over a number of probes. The White House has rejected all efforts to probe Trump’s business dealings or tax returns as well as the West Wing’s security clearance procedure.

The committee voted along party lines, 24-16, to recommend the full House hold Barr in contempt, but only after some five hours of heated and, at times, emotional testimony.

Democrats made their case that Congress was at a historic juncture as it confronts what they consider Trump’s stonewalling of lawmakers’ ability to conduct oversight of the administration. Republicans portrayed the majority as angry and lashing out at Barr after the special counsel did not find that Trump colluded with Russia to swing the 2016 election.

Said Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas: “The president now seeks to take a wrecking ball to the Constitution of the United States.”

And Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana said the road ahead may be “messy” but Democrats must fight to “protect our democracy.” Other Democrats called the standoff a “serious” and “grave” moment.

However, the panel’s top Republican, Doug Collins of Georgia, said Democrats were manufacturing a crisis and rushing the process to “sully Bill Barr’s good name.”