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Eau Claire City Council to vote Tuesday on park name

A potential compromise was raised Monday night in what had become a controversial debate over the naming of city land along the Chippewa River in downtown Eau Claire.

Angela Deutschlander, vice president of the local Veterans Tribute Foundation, said her group only wants to name the portion of the property where the group’s $2.2 million project is slated to go — not a nearby location tended by area gardeners.

“We are only asking to name the space we are developing in the north and east ends of the property,” she said during Monday night’s Eau Claire City Council meeting.

In recent weeks the request initiated by the group to rename the entire 16.8-acre Forest Street Special Area as the Veterans Tribute Park had stirred opposition from the gardeners and North River Fronts Neighborhood Association who felt the proposed name was not inclusive of their presence on the land.

Last month the Eau Claire County Board postponed offering its support for the name change and the city’s Waterways & Parks Commission recommended against the name change in a 7-3 vote.

Deutschlander’s comments Monday night to only adopt the Veterans Tribute Park name for the portion of the land that has a trail, several monuments, a paved plaza, permanent restroom and other features funded by the foundation — but not the Forest Street Community Gardens and an existing shelter — offers an alternative the council can consider today during its 4 p.m. meeting today.

City attorney Stephen Nick said the council could amend the naming request so it only includes the areas Deutschlander mentioned.

“You could choose to rename a portion of it or none of it (Tuesday) at your legislative discretion,” Nick said.

Deutschlander said the veterans group had only intended to change the name for the areas they were developing. City community services director Jeff Pippenger said the request submitted in March by the foundation had sought to rename the entire swath of land.

“Sounds like there’s been some miscommunication,” Councilwoman Kate Beaton said.

The debate over naming the area drew a large crowd to the boardroom in the county Courthouse for Monday night’s council meeting.

Tami Schraufnagel, a county supervisor and North River Fronts Neighborhood Association leader, wanted veterans and other groups involved in the park to come together and discuss a name that would encompass them all.

“I am in favor of all of our organizations working together to come up with some idea to celebrate veterans, celebrate citizens and have that area in our community to be a destination for all,” she said.

Michael Hanke, a veteran from Chippewa Falls, spoke about how naming a park for veterans will help returning service members heal with their families after facing war.

“We need to consider what is this park going to do,” he said.

A local group called Veterans for Unity is not taking a stance on the proposed name, instead asking that veterans, gardeners and the neighborhood involved in the park all come together to discuss the naming issue.

Comprised of Eau Claire veterans, active duty service members and military civilians, the group sent a letter Monday to groups involved in the naming debate, local government officials and area media outlets.

“To this end we are not weighing in regarding the name for the park or if a new name is needed — we are asking for an opportunity to bring all sides together toward a resolution everyone can support,” Veterans for Unity stated. “We believe working together will bring about a stronger project and a stronger Eau Claire for years to come.”

The letter was signed by former Councilman Berlye Middleton, UW-Eau Claire Professor Selika Ducksworth-Lawton, Scott Morfitt, Brandon Withers, Brian Pauley, Louis Frase and Lorin Divine.

Campus gateway to be completed mid-August

When the fall semester begins, students at UW-Eau Claire may enter campus through an archway bearing the university’s name.

The new “front door” of the campus — a red brick and steel arched gateway flanked by stone benches — is slated to be completed in mid-August, said UW-Eau Claire facilities project manager Andrew Nord.

The gateway, along with a stone fountain that will sit outside Schofield Hall, are the final touches on a larger redesign of Garfield Avenue.

Much of that redesign, including replacing some underground utilities, removing the Putnam Hall parking lot and adding an outdoor classroom and reconfiguring the campus footbridge’s south end, was largely completed by October.

The gateway, fountain and improvements to the outdoor classroom at the entrance to Putnam Park will cost $1 million, said Mike Rindo, assistant chancellor for facilities and university relations. The projects were entirely funded by a private donation from Jon and Megan Stowe through the UW-Eau Claire Foundation.

The gateway’s two red brick columns will be almost 16 feet tall, Nord said.

“We’ve been trying to do this for a couple years, to make it a gateway toward campus,” Nord said.

Construction on the archway began in the first week of June; crews are currently bricking the columns’ exteriors, Nord said.

“It’s going well so far. Hopefully the weather holds out (and) it stops raining,” Nord said.

The fountain is also slated to be completed mid-August, weather permitting, Nord said. It will incorporate boulders, a rock-water walking path for pedestrians and locally-sourced granite.

This summer crews will also replace cracked concrete on Garfield Avenue and the sidewalk, Nord said.

Welcome Center bids to be opened

Another major university project is expected to break ground this summer.

The $5.5 million University Welcome Center, which will be built along Roosevelt Avenue, will house the campus admissions office, Alumni Association and UW-Eau Claire Foundation.

General contractor bids for the project will be opened this month, Rindo said.

“If we have a successful bid opening, we anticipate construction to start in late summer, with completion in summer of 2020,” Rindo said.

The two-story, 16,267-square-foot welcome center will be built on the site of a welcome kiosk on Roosevelt Avenue and three previously razed homes, according to the university. The project is entirely funded by donations.

Rindo doesn’t expect the project to have a significant impact on traffic flow in the campus neighborhood.

“It’s going to be much more prominent than the parking kiosk,” Rindo said. “The enhancements to Garfield Avenue and the welcome center show we’ve got a great alumni base and great donors to the (UW-Eau Claire) Foundation.”

Bible shortage? Publishers say tariffs could cause it

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Religious publishers say President Donald Trump’s most recent proposed tariffs on Chinese imports could result in a Bible shortage.

That’s because millions of Bibles — some estimates put it at 150 million or more — are printed in China each year. Critics of a proposed tariff say it would make the Bible more expensive for consumers and hurt the evangelism efforts of Christian organizations that give away Bibles as part of their ministry.

HarperCollins Christian Publishing President and CEO Mark Schoenwald recently told the U.S. Trade Representative that the company believes the Trump administration “never intended to impose a ‘Bible Tax’ on consumers and religious organizations,” according to a transcript of his remarks provided by the publisher.

The two largest Bible publishers in the United States, Zondervan and Thomas Nelson, are owned by HarperCollins, and they incur close to 75% of their Bible manufacturing expenses in China, Schoenwald said. Together, they command 38% of the American Bible market, he said.

The full size of that market is difficult to gauge. A spokeswoman at HarperCollins said they believe around 20 million Bibles are sold in the U.S. each year.

The NDP group, which includes NPD BookScan and PubTrack Digital, captured 5.7 million print Bible sales in the U.S. in 2018. But that figure doesn’t capture all sales, including the large number of Bibles sold by publishers directly to congregations.

Regardless, it’s clear the Bible is the top-selling book in the U.S. By comparison, the next best seller in 2018 was Michelle Obama’s “Becoming,” which BookScan estimates sold 3.5 million copies.

The proposed 25% tariff would apply to all books, but critics say it would disproportionately affect Bibles and children’s books. Both tend to have specialized printing requirements that Chinese printers are set up to meet while many domestic printers are not.

“U.S. printers moved their Bible printing facilities abroad decades ago, leaving no substantial domestic manufacturing alternatives,” Schoenwald said.

Stan Jantz, president and CEO of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, said in a phone interview that over half of worldwide Bible production takes place in China. The tariff would hurt organizations that give away Bibles and also make it difficult for publishers to sell the Bible at a price people can afford, he said.

“Traditionally, historically books have been excluded from tariffs,” Jantz added.

Biblica, the International Bible Society, is a charitable religious organization that gives away Bibles to people in 55 countries. China represents 72% of the group’s investment in Bible publishing, according to Biblica President and CEO Geof Morin.

A Bible tariff would “dramatically affect the number of Bibles we are able to print and give away, impacting the religious freedom of individuals in countries where Bible access is limited and often nonexistent,” Morin said in testimony to the Trade Representative, according to a transcript he provided.

The critics also argue that a tariff on books would not advance the purported goals of the tariff, to stop the Chinese from acquiring American technology, trade secrets and intellectual property.

“The printing of books does not require significant technology or know-how that is at risk of theft or appropriation by China,” Tyndale House CEO Mark Taylor said in written comments on the tariffs.

For now, the publishers and other Bible distributors must simply wait to see if their pleas will be answered.

Trump and President Xi Jinping of China agreed at a recent meeting of the Group of 20 major economies to resume trade negotiations, a decision that puts all the proposed tariffs on hold. Forecasters warned, however, the two sides still face the same differences that caused talks to break down in earlier this year.