1. What is the number one challenge facing Wisconsin today and why?
Without a question the continued breakdown of the family. Kids desperately need and desire both biological parents (or loving adoptive parents) in their lives, every single day. According to Health Compass Milwaukee, for the time period between 2016 to 2020, 23% of Wisconsin kids lived in single-parent households. For Milwaukee County alone, that number jumps to 40.8%. And for the City of Milwaukee alone, the number jumps even higher to 49.2%. Not surprisingly, there is an almost direct correlation between the per capita income levels of the 19 Milwaukee County municipalities and the percentage of single-parent homes. The percentage of kids growing up in a single-parent household in River Hills? 1.5%.
Why does it matter? It impacts nearly every facet of a kid’s life. As admitted by Health Compass Milwaukee, “Adults and children in single-parent households are at a higher risk for adverse health effects, such as emotional and behavioral problems, compared to their peers. Children in such households are more likely to develop depression, smoke, and abuse alcohol and other substances. Consequently, these children experience increased risk of morbidity and mortality of all causes. Similarly, single parents suffer from lower perceived health and higher risk of mortality.”
No amount of government funding or intervention can replace the monumentally positive influence of loving parents. To be clear, there are many loving single parent households that do yeoman’s work to successfully raise kids. But the statistics above make it clear that too often the burden is simply too heavy. Until we recognize this as a state and enact policies that encourage two-parent households, the vicious cycle of education failure, poverty, and unfulfilled potential will continue.
2. Best Wisconsin vacation destination?
Hands down, Manitowish Waters and the surrounding Vilas and Oneida Counties. My wife and I have vacationed in Manitowish with our kids and extended family for a decade and a half. Growing up, we vacationed in Central Wisconsin which is also uniquely beautiful. But nothing compares to the stunning beauty of the Northwoods. There are crystal clear lakes as far as the eye can see, amazing wildlife, and stunning natural beauty. Some of our favorite spots are the waterfalls along Hwy 51 north of Manitowish, the mountain biking trails throughout Vilas, the cranberry bogs and the quirky festivals in Minocqua, Boulder Junction, and Eagle River. Nothing can compete with a boat ride on a warm summer night, drink in hand, as the loons call or seeing the face of a kid as a bald eagle flies overhead on an early morning ride. Head North!
3. What is the last book you read?
2034: A Novel of the Next World War by Admiral James Stavridis. While it’s a work of fiction, it provides a startling account of how the next world war could start – in the South Pacific with China and spreading globally to involve Iran and Russia. China’s posturing in the South Pacific, including their naval movements around the Spratly Islands, should serve as a warning to the U.S. In addition, while all eyes are on Russia, many now fear an Iranian attack on Saudi Arabia. The U.S. position as the hegemonic superpower is being challenged on three major fronts. Congress needs to ensure the military has adequate resources to match these rising challenges. If we don’t? Well, read the book…