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Marches and protests for the Black Lives Matter movement have sparked conversations about race in America from our personal lives to the workplace.

Here in Milwaukee, the Marcus Performing Arts Center is working to further advance racial equity in the performing arts on and off the stage. President and CEO Kendra Whitlock Ingram is the first female and person of color to lead the organization. She says that work needs to center around a theme of accountability.

PROMESAARTSTUDIO / FOTOLIA

In this week’s Capitol Notes conversation, we look ahead to the political stories that will likely top the headlines in 2021. 

WisEye

Updated Tuesday 7:31 a.m. CST

Republicans who control the Wisconsin Legislature introduced a sweeping COVID-19 bill on Monday, the first day of the session, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said lawmakers will fast track it and pass it later in the week.

2020 was a year that was especially hard on artists — shows were cancelled, collaboration disrupted. And for many, the year was marked by loss, pain, and isolation. Milwaukee native Matthew Gutierrez is a creative writer and author of "Notes I Took Along The Way," a bilingual book of poems.

Ralph Pabst / Latino WI Films,LLC

For four years, Milwaukee journalist Georgia Pabst and media producer Ralph Pabst worked to document the Latino community’s impact in Wisconsin. Narrated by voices in the Latino community, the documentary film, Latino Wisconsin, looks at five different regions of impact — from farm workers to future entrepreneurs.

What comes through in the film is that while overcoming poverty, education barriers and immigration and civil rights challenges, the Latino community in Wisconsin has and will continue to contribute to the economic livelihood and growth of the state.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Updated 5:09 p.m. CST

Chuck Quirmbach / WUWM

In 2020 the medical field saw more than deaths and illnesses related to COVID-19, there was also a lot of discussion about racial disparities, senior citizens, skepticism and scientific breakthroughs.

One new development was the drive-through COVID-19 testing site, whether run by government health care workers, the National Guard, or the private sector — such as at the new mobile clinic temporarily outside Barack Obama School in Milwaukee.   

Screengrab from speech video

On November 10, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers offered this chilling forecast from the University of Washington in a statewide speech: "The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates 5,000 Wisconsinites could be lost to COVID-19 by January 1st, if no further actions are taken to get this virus under control.”

At the time, Wisconsin had seen 2,395 deaths. That number officially doubled by Wednesday of this week, when the state reported 35 deaths for a new total of 4,818.

So, barring a huge death toll Thursday, 5,000 won't be reached by January 1.

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As WUWM Education Reporter Emily Files visited virtual classrooms this month, she found that online school requires teachers to be intentional about how they deliver instruction, but also about how they connect with students.

Ashley Duley, an eighth grade English teacher at West Milwaukee Intermediate School, says she’ll carry those lessons with her, when life and school get back to normal.

Chuck Quirmbach / WUWM

Federal CARES Act money provided to state, local and tribal governments impacted by COVID-19 was set to expire on Dec. 31, 2020. But Congress passing the $900 billion stimulus package earlier this month, means local municipalities have until the end of 2021 to use up their CARES funds. That’s according to Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley.

During a COVID-19 media briefing Tuesday, Crowley said the extension didn’t come with any additional funding and that could put the county in a tough spot next year.

Al Drago/Getty Images

President Donald Trump's campaign asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to take its failed lawsuit challenging election results in swing state Wisconsin.

Trump lost the state to Democrat Joe Biden by about 21,000 votes. The president's campaign filed a lawsuit with the state Supreme Court seeking to disqualify more than 221,000 ballots in Dane and Milwaukee counties, the state's two most heavily Democratic counties.

Emily Files / WUWM

There were a number of major news developments this year that intersected with just about every area of life — including education. The biggest education story of 2020 has been how COVID-19 changed schooling so dramatically.

On March 13, Gov. Tony Evers closed K-12 schools as coronavirus cases began to surface in Wisconsin. School leaders scrambled to provide meals and education options for students at home.

Teran Powell / WUWM

Much of the news of 2020 was dominated by two major stories: the coronavirus pandemic and nationwide protests against police brutality that were accompanied by calls for immediate police reform.

Here’s how some of those stories unfolded in Wisconsin.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Updated Wednesday at 7:41 p.m. CST

Earlier this week, an employee of Aurora Medical Center - Grafton intentionally removed 57 vials of the COVID-19 Moderna vaccine from refrigeration, resulting in more than 500 doses needing to be discarded. This is according to a press release sent out by Advocate Aurora Health Wednesday.

NRCGOV / FLICKR

A federal agency announced it has started to review an application to keep Wisconsin's only nuclear power plant open until about 2050. That's roughly two decades longer than currently authorized. 

The owner, Florida-based Next Era, says the two generators at the Point Beach Nuclear Plant along Lake Michigan, north of Manitowoc, are reliable sources of emissions-free energy. Milwaukee-based WE Energies used to own the large plant, and still buys power from it.

Ann-Elise Henzl

Gov. Tony Evers says COVID-19 vaccinations of residents and staff are now underway at some Wisconsin long-term care facilities, including nursing homes. Eligible sites are paired with two large pharmacy chains, which will provide storage and handling of the Moderna brand vaccine, as well as scheduling, administering the drug and reporting its use. 

About 57,000 doses will initially be available for the long-term care facilities.  The Wisconsin Department of Health Services says the vaccination program at those sites will continue for about two months.

Teran Powell / WUWM

Across the country this year, including in Milwaukee, protests over the treatment of Black people has taken center stage. While the police killing of George Floyd was the catalyst, some in Milwaukee have had concerns for decades about policing and the value of Black lives here. Protests in Milwaukee have now surpassed 200 days. Still, questions remain about the progress that’s been made.

Chuck Quirmbach / WUWM

After a difficult year for rail travel in Wisconsin, passenger groups and government officials are hoping for a better 2021. One bright spot is that the newest COVID-19 relief bill President Donald Trump has signed includes aid that Amtrak hopes will carry them through the end of March. 

And, despite the pandemic, work continues on some rail projects not due to be completed for several years.

Who’s still riding?

Ann Althouse / Flickr

In this week’s Capitol Notes conversation, we’re going to look back at the top political stories of 2020. One of the biggest stories was the impact of the coronavirus, and how elected officials responded.

Here in Wisconsin, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and health officials declared a state of emergency at the outset, which resulted in a couple of stay-at-home orders, as well as mandates for masks and capacity limits on businesses. Several lawsuits ensued from Republican lawmakers and political groups.

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This school year, many districts decided to utilize virtual education in an effort to protect staff and students from the coronavirus. Milwaukee Public Schools is one of them.

As part of a series about how teachers are adapting to this new education format, WUWM’s Emily Files visited an MPS virtual classroom.

Becca Schimmel

The presidential recount in Wisconsin's Milwaukee County came in slightly under budget, at nearly $1.7 million, according to data released Wednesday.

George Christensen, the clerk of the state's largest county, released numbers that show it spent $1.69 million on its recount, with nearly a third of that — $550,450 — going to rent space for the effort.

Christensen said the county expected the recount would cost a little more than $2 million.

Susan Bence

For months, public health officials have been repeating coronavirus messaging: wear masks, social distance and get tested for possible exposure when possible. With Christmas and New Year's just days away, officials are more concerned than ever.

On Tuesday, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and city health department officials held a news conference in the Miller Park parking lot. It's one of the places where COVID-19 testing is being offered. They hoped the visual reinforcement would drive their message home.

Jack Hurbanis / WUWM

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Milwaukee County on Tuesday. Distribution among county behavioral health department personnel has begun.

That’s according to County Executive David Crowley. "We’ll be among some of the first to access this vaccine, and though we know that this batch won't provide enough for all eligible (behavioral health) department employees, we do expect to receive more shipments of the vaccine in the coming months until all staff who at least want to be vaccinated are able to," he said.

Southworks / stock.adobe.com

Updated Dec. 23 10:05 a.m. CST

Gov. Tony Evers announced Tuesday that his administration has partnered with a medical testing company to provide at-home COVID-19 tests for free if a requestor lacks health insurance coverage as the state set a new record high in deaths tied to the disease.

Chuck Quirmbach

State health officials said that as of midday Monday, more than 10,000 health care workers in Wisconsin had received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The Department of Health Services (DHS) expects that number to quickly rise. But vaccine supply questions are hampering estimates on when most U.S. residents will be immunized.  

Meanwhile, a state site in West Allis is about to start giving out a drug to treat some people with mild to moderate cases of COVID-19.   

Andrey Popov / stock.adobe.com

Many people are eager for their chance to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but there are those who don’t share that feeling — especially in communities of color.

Mike Hutchinson said he will be getting the vaccine when it’s widely available. He's already had COVID-19 and wants to prevent it from coming back.

"I definitely plan to get it if becomes readily available for me because I have two daughters and just because of the close contact I am with people," he said. 

NUCCIO DINUZZO / GETTY IMAGES

Talks to determine the future of Milwaukee's former police chief after a judge ruled he was improperly demoted ended Monday without a resolution.

Former Chief Alfonso Morales' attorney, Franklyn Gimbel, told The Associated Press that “we were not close to any reasonable settlement terms,” but he said the nature of any settlement, including whether the goal is to have Morales return to work, hasn't been determined yet.

Lauren Sigfusson

Updated 3:42 p.m. CST

A top official said Monday that University of Wisconsin System students will be allowed to return to campus for the spring semester and take more in-person courses, hoping that more robust COVID-19 testing will help stave off the types of outbreaks that forced the system to turn to online-only instruction a few weeks into the fall semester.

Susan Bence

For months we’ve been hearing bleak stories of businesses struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic. But one exception is a unique café in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood.

Tricklebee Café's mission is not about profit, but to create community. Customers pay what they can for made-from-scratch meals.

PROMESAARTSTUDIO / FOTOLIA

Newly elected Republican state Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu says he wants to pass a bill early next year that would allow clerks to begin counting absentee ballots before Election Day.

LeMahieu tried to get a bill to this effect passed earlier this year.  It had bipartisan support but failed because some Republican lawmakers opposed it. 

In this week’s Capitol Notes conversation, WUWM’s Marti Mikkelson asks JR Ross of wispolitics.com, if he thinks such a bill would pass this time.

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