There's no shortage of candidates who'd love to fill the state Assembly seat vacated when Joe Parisi won election as Dane County executive on April 5. There's just one problem: There isn't an election. Gov. Scott Walker hasn't said when, or if, he'll call one.
The growing list of candidates to fill the remainder of Parisi's term, through the end of 2012, includes: Fred Arnold, Patrick Miles, Bethany Ordaz, Vicky Selkowe, Chris Taylor, Dave de Felice and Andy Heidt.
Walker doesn't have to call an election, which would leave the seat open until the next regular election.
Some potential candidates in the extremely liberal district are suspicious. "He's a spiteful and vindictive human being, and he knows it's a Democratic district," says Heidt. "What's his hurry? Under the statute he doesn't have to call one."
Heidt wrote a letter to Walker on May 3, demanding the governor call an election. He got a form response thanking him for writing but not answering his question.
Reid Magney, a spokesman for the state Government Accountability Board, believes the governor will call an election. Magney says the GAB has been talking to the governor's office about the matter. The issue, Magney says, is timing. Once the governor calls an election, it must be held within 62 to 77 days.
And Selkowe, a legislative staffer for Democrat state Rep. Cory Mason, says Walker "certainly isn't going to call one before the budget bill is done," giving the Democrats another vote. She suspects Walker is waiting until after what she calls the "voter-suppression bill" is passed so he can "test it out in a special election."
Walker has already called one special election, to fill the seats of three Republican Assemblymen - Mark Gottlieb, Scott Gunderson and Mike Huebsch - who resigned their seats Jan. 3 to join his administration. The governor ordered the election on Feb. 23, 51 days after they the seats became open; the special elections took place May 3.
Parisi resigned on April 14, four days before taking office as county executive. If Walker calls an election on the same timeline, he would call the election June 3.
Gov. Walker's attempt to stop defending Wisconsin's domestic partnership registry - which gives gay and lesbian couples some, but not all, rights afforded married heterosexual couples - will not end defense of the law.
"It's very disappointing that the governor won't stand up for basic rights like hospital visitation rights for gay and lesbian couples," says Katie Belanger, executive director of Fair Wisconsin. "But this does not change the merits of the case."
Fair Wisconsin's own lawyers will continue the fight.
Passed in 2009, the law was quickly challenged by Wisconsin Family Action. State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen refused to defend the state in the lawsuit, forcing former Gov. Jim Doyle to hire a private attorney to do so. Now Walker is balking at defending the law.
The case is being argued in Dane County circuit court; a decision is expected this summer.
Fresh ideas for Union Corners
When the Congress for the New Urbanism holds its annual conference in Madison June 1-4, it hopes to leave its mark on one of the city's biggest eyesores: Union Corners.
The blighted 11.5-acre parcel on East Washington Avenue at Milwaukee Street is the largest undeveloped piece of land in the central city. A number of plans have been developed for it, hoping to spur redevelopment of the area, but none have been realized. Last fall, the city bought the property for $3.3 million.
Organizers for the New Urbanism confab are hosting a contest to come up with ideas for the site. The winning entry won't necessarily get constructed. But Bill Fruhling, an urban planner with the city, says it will give the community "something to chew on."
The group, says Fruhling, is "trying to have something creative. But a big focus is to have something [doable] that works on the scale of what's there and ties into the existing fabric of the neighborhoods."
The Congress opened the competition up to anyone, including students, hoping to spur a variety of ideas. Fruhling suspects there will be bits and pieces of different plans that could be implemented.
"We want to see something great happen there," he says. "It's a great opportunity."
B-cycle hits the streets
Trek will launch its public bike-sharing program, B-cycle, Sunday with four bike kiosks. Thirty-two more kiosks, housing a total of 350 bikes, are planned by next month.
The initial locations are all downtown, close to the Capitol Square: Wisconsin Avenue and East Mifflin Street, South Hamilton and West Main streets, North Park and Spring streets, and West Wilson Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard, says Trek spokesman Eric Bjorling.
Three different passes - daily, weekly and annual - are available to rent the bikes with a credit or debit card at the kiosks. The rates are still being discussed.
A complete list of locations is available here (PDF).