Tuesday Trends sample: Edgewater Hotel rising, mining mixed and Dept. of Revenue falling
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Edgewater Hotel: The long-running battle over the Madison waterfront hotel shifts suddenly and dramatically in favor of developers, who now hope to break ground on the controversial $98 million project this fall. The Edgewater project, first proposed in 2008, was approved by city officials and survived a court challenge from opponents in the neighboring Mansion Hill area, but was thought to be killed off after the city council dramatically reduced public funding for the project. Instead, Hammes Co. President Robert Dunn announces this week that private investment -- led by philanthropists W. Jerome Frautschi and Pleasant Rowland -- has made up that funding gap. Dunn says he hopes to break ground on the renovation in October and complete it by mid-2014. The head of Madison's tourism bureau hails the announcement, while Mayor Paul Soglin says he'll wait to review the details. Opponents say they're disappointed, but don't see a path to stop the project.
Mining issue: One of the biggest flops of the 2011-2012 legislative session bubbles back to the surface after the state Senate changes hands. A bill that would have established new standards for iron mining -- in hopes of luring mining company Gogebic Taconite to Wisconsin's far northern border -- fell apart at the last minute this spring, and Senate Democrats have floated an alternative proposal as one of several issues that could gain bipartisan support should lawmakers return to Madison this year. But now a letter has surfaced from the state's top business group, asking that "no substantive action" be taken on the legislation until after the November elections. In a letter to the Wisconsin Mining Association, Jim Buchen -- a top official with Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce -- writes that pursuing legislation that does not work for Gogebic Taconite would be a waste of time and would only make things more difficult "if we find we have the votes" later on. Democrats slam the letter, and Sen. Tim Cullen -- who returns to the Senate Democratic caucus after a spat over committee assignments -- says his new Senate committee on mining will be the only forum available for all stakeholders in mining legislation to have their voices heard this year.
Department of Revenue: The state agency discloses yet another leak of confidential information, the third such incident since 2007. The department last week asks appraiser and real estate organizations to destroy and replace a 2011 real estate sales report because it contained personal, confidential information for some sellers. DOR officials said the report that was posted online contained a second, embedded file, which included the confidential information -- and that anyone who downloaded the information between April 5 and early last week had access to it. The report contained 110,795 tax identification numbers, though the department said the actual number of people affected will be less. DOR officials add that no other tax files were affected, and the agency's computer system remains secure. The department also mistakenly released confidential information in 2007 and 2008, but said there were no cases of identify fraud from those instances. That's not good enough for some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle: one GOP lawmaker vows to create an official inquiry into the matter, while Democratic leaders in the state Assembly ask for an audit of DOR's handling of confidential taxpayer information.