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Kallenbach will miss personal connection of radio
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EAU CLAIRE — Dean Kallenbach will never forget his first gig in radio.

Kallenbach was attending UW Center-Barron County and was hired in August 1975 to work as a part-time soundboard operator during Milwaukee Brewers games at WJMC radio in Rice Lake.

“It was like stealing money,” he said. “Getting paid to listen to Brewer games, which was something I was going to be doing anyway.”

Forty-six years later, Kallenbach’s love of radio hasn’t diminished.

“It’s the feel of the medium,” he said. “When you are broadcasting on the radio, you should think of yourself sitting across the table from an individual.”

“When you are listening to the radio, whether in the car or doing chores, you are usually by yourself,” Kallenbach said. “I like that personal connection.”

Kallenbach, whose 46-year broadcast journalism career included serving as a newscaster and western regional manager at Wisconsin Public Radio for the last 35 years, retired on Friday.

One man who will miss Kallenbach is Al Ross, who spent several years working in commercial radio in Wisconsin and Florida “before Dean called me in 2008.” Ross has now worked with Kallenbach at WPR’s Eau Claire office for the past 13 years.

“It’s been a pleasure to work with Dean. He’s the best example of a person doing what his calling was,” Ross said.

“He’s a good radio guy. He loves the medium. He lives the medium,” Ross said.

“And he’s been a wonderful mentor for young people getting into the business.”

Kallenbach, 63, grew up on a dairy farm near Hillsdale and graduated from Barron High School in 1975. It was his part-time experience at the Rice Lake radio station that made him seriously consider radio as a career, particularly broadcast journalism.

“The idea of doing radio news was attractive to me,” he said.

After two years at UWC-Barron County, Kallenbach majored in radio and television broadcasting and minored in journalism at UW-Platteville. He worked part-time as a “weekend news guy” at a radio station in Dubuque, Iowa, while attending UW-Platteville.

After graduating in December 1979, Kallenbach’s first full-time job was as the sports director at an Antigo radio station. He remembers paying high school students $10 to do 20-second reports on their schools’ games.

In January 1981, Kallenbach became news director at a Rice Lake radio station.

“My first day on the job was when the Iranian hostages got released and Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as president,” he said. “So we had a lot to talk about.”

In February 1984, Kallenbach got an offer to be assignment editor at a Wausau television station.

“But after two years, I was wondering about my career at that stage of the game,” he said. “It wasn’t long before I realized I belong in radio.”

As a television station assignment editor, Kallenbach was drawn to public radio.

“I always stole a lot of my news story ideas from public radio,” he said.

After seeing an ad for a job opening with Wisconsin Public Radio, Kallenbach got a job at WHWC in Menomonie hosting local morning newscasts. He also did news for WPR’s WHSA radio station in Superior.

“I was pretty much doing news for the northwestern part of the state,” he said.

Kallenbach started in Menomonie when Wisconsin Public Radio began installing regional radio stations around the state. He became western regional manager in June 1990 when WPR moved the Menomonie station to its current Eau Claire facility on Clairemont Avenue.

“The West Side” show was created in 2002. Kallenbach was the show’s executive producer and became the host a few years ago. The show focuses on western Wisconsin issues.

“My on-air time wasn’t extensive,” he said. “I worked mostly behind the scenes, supporting programs.”

Kallenbach describes his attraction to public radio.

“We’ve seen information radio become opinion radio. Public radio provides a niche. It provides in-depth information, civil conversation and fairness that is critical,” he said.

“It is our job to get those political sides out there for people to digest, and then let them make their own decisions,” Kallenbach said.

For the past 20 years, Kallenbach has invited candidates for every western Wisconsin state legislative race to come on the air for a conversation with their opponents.

“That sort of engagement is hard to come by. And only one candidate has refused to come on in the past 20 years,” he said.

“Candidates know they are going to get a fair shake and talk about what they want to talk about,” Kallenbach said.

“I’m proud of that,” he said. “And political candidates for the same office rarely appear jointly anymore. It’s an important thing to do.”

Kallenbach believes public radio has a strong future.

“I really feel good about the people who are managing and producing public radio,” he said. “They are still getting the people the information they need to make democracy work.”

Public radio’s listening audience is holding steady, Kallenbach said.

“We still need to make people aware of who we are and what we do,” he said.

Mike Crane, director of Wisconsin Public Radio, said Kallenbach helped establish the regional model that the network continues to rely on.

“Dean is a wonderful advocate for the power of local radio. He truly believes in community service and his entire approach to work and life exemplifies that commitment,” Crane said.

Kallenbach is a member of the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association board of directors, where his experience has been a benefit to broadcasters throughout the state, said Michelle Vetterkind, president and chief executive officer of the WBA.

“I’ve been fortunate to know Dean for many years, “ she said. “He has always been the rock solid broadcaster that you can count on. He’s simply an all-around terrific guy who’s been a tremendous asset to our industry.”

Kallenbach lives in the town of Union with his wife, Sandy. The couple has three grown daughters.

He started keeping bees a few years ago and raising chickens a year ago. In retirement, Kallenbach plans to grow those activities, maybe do some volunteering, and help his wife with her business, Myra’s Mercantile.

Split vote grants liquor license for new Hy-Vee

EAU CLAIRE — Grocery store chain Hy-Vee narrowly received the city’s approval for a specific type of liquor license that is in short supply in Eau Claire.

In a 6-4 vote Tuesday, the City Council granted a combination Class B alcohol license to Hy-Vee, allowing it to serve mixed drinks as well as beer and wine at a restaurant within the store being built at 2424 E. Clairemont Ave.

The close decision came after council members debated whether Hy-Vee should get a license usually intended for taverns and restaurants when the city has only four available.

“This is a legitimate and real offer for an appropriate request of what they envision for this business,” Councilman David Klinkhammer said, supporting Hy-Vee’s application.

He cited the store’s multi-million-dollar investment to turn raze and replace a defunct Kmart with a new 93,000-square-feet grocery store that will employ 500 people, including 100 full-time positions.

Other council members voted against Hy-Vee’s request for reasons including keeping licenses available for new restaurants and bars being planned in parts of Eau Claire undergoing redevelopment.

Councilwoman Kate Beaton said she wouldn’t want to be in a position where those businesses can’t open because the city has no liquor licenses left to issue.

Earlier in Tuesday’s meeting, assistant city attorney Jenessa Stromberger said the city is aware of four other businesses being planned in Eau Claire that would also seek the Class B liquor license.

“We know that there is downtown development coming,” she said.

In addition to downtown, Stromberger also mentioned that the Menomonie Street area where the Sonnentag Complex event center is being planned will likely also attract businesses desiring a liquor license.

Councilwoman Emily Berge spoke in favor of Hy-Vee’s license request as it is a viable business that already has a large building well under construction compared to something being proposed.

“Hy-Vee is in front of us right now,” she said.

And as Eau Claire’s population grows, another reserve Class B license is created for every 500 people newly living in Eau Claire.

“By the time any other development occurs we would probably have four still available,” Klinkhammer said.

Tyler Power, Iowa-based Hy-Vee’s director of government relations, spoke to the council Tuesday by teleconference about plans for the store.

The store will include a Wahlburgers franchise restaurant, a pub and other dine-in options that have menus including cocktails.

“This is a growing segment of our business, a growing portion of what we’re doing,” Power said of dine-in offerings at Hy-Vee stores.

Had the council not granted the license to Hy-Vee on Tuesday, Stromberger said the city would’ve worked with the company to issue a retail alcohol sales license for its liquor department and then a separate beer and wine license for its in-store restaurants.

However, Power said that would’ve required alterations to the building plans to meet regulations tied to those licenses. The grocery store has been under construction since fall 2020 and is scheduled to open this autumn.

The alcohol license the store did get does have a limit on retail sales as it is normally intended for bars and restaurants. Current city policy for the combination Class B licenses only allows customers to buy up to four liters of alcohol at a time — a 12-pack of beer or five bottles of wine — for consumption off-premises, according to Stromberger.

Scooter regulations OK’d

Preparing for the arrival of companies that want to rent electric scooters in Eau Claire, the council approved an ordinance Tuesday that regulates those businesses and vehicles.

“We know that this is going to happen, by having an ordinance in place makes it safer,” Councilman Andrew Werthmann said.

Scooter rental companies have not yet come to Eau Claire, but the city has heard interest from a couple businesses setting their sights on the city including an entrepreneur who spoke at Monday night’s council meeting.

The new ordinance creates rules for companies the rent scooters, limits where scooters can be parked, strongly recommends users wear helmets and made other safety-oriented policies.

A last-minute amendment to the ordinance set a lower 10 mph speed limit for motorized scooters on Eau Claire’s paved recreational trails — less than the 15 mph they can travel on city streets.

“There’s just more users of the trail that could be in a vulnerable spot if people are traveling at high speeds on a scooter,” Councilman Jeremy Gragert said.

Though the council voted unanimously in favor of the ordinance on Tuesday, Werthmann said it could be amended in the future if Eau Claire sees problems other cities have reported, such as scooters abandoned by riders along curbs in front of businesses.

Yard waste fees hearing set

The City Council scheduled a public discussion for April 26 on proposed fees for Eau Claire’s site for disposing yard waste on Jeffers Road.

On the following day the council will vote on those fees, which are higher than what a private company charged when operating the site during the past five years.

Under Boxx Sanitation’s management, customers were charged 50 cents per bag of grass clippings, leaves or small brush they disposed of. The city’s proposed fee schedule would have a $2 per bag fee.

Emptying a pickup truck bed full of yard waste cost $5 to $10 previously, but the city is proposing $15 to $20.

Boxx and other potential private operators were not interested in running the site when the city sought proposals from them in February. That is prompting the city to bring operation of its site back in-house.

“We were not anticipating being in the brush and disposal business this year,” interim City Manager David Solberg said.

If the fees are approved later this month, the site is tentatively scheduled to open April 28.

Other business

Also during its Tuesday afternoon meeting:

• Three sustainability initiatives were all unanimously approved by the City Council. The council voted to join the Wisconsin Local Government Climate Coalition — a group of cities and counties that will advocate on climate change and clean energy issues. Eau Claire will work with company SC Johnson in a pilot program to explore curbside recycling services adding plastic bags to the materials they’ll accept. The city will also host a challenge from mid-May to mid-September for teams of Eau Claire residents competing against each other to lower their carbon footprints.

• The council unanimously approved rezoning land along First Street, Menomonie Street, Gateway Drive and the North Crossing to approve new housing developments planned in those areas.

• Restaurants will be permitted to expand their outdoor seating areas into a parking stall in front of their buildings with what the city calls “parklet cafes.” An ordinance approved by the council in a 10-0 vote created permits restaurants could apply for that would allow the extra seating from April 1 through Oct. 31.

US recommends 'pause' for J&J shots in blow to vaccine drive

WASHINGTON — The U.S. on Tuesday recommended a “pause” in using the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of rare but potentially dangerous blood clots, setting off a chain reaction worldwide and dealing a setback to the global vaccine campaign.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration announced that they were investigating unusual clots that occurred six to 13 days after vaccination. The acting FDA commissioner said she expected the pause to last a matter of days.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Eau Claire City-County Health Department both announced on Tuesday they would follow suit. As of Tuesday, 4,600 Eau Claire County residents had received the J&J vaccine, with about 3,500 of those doses administered by the Health Department.

The department plans to contact people who received the J&J shot at one of their clinics to watch for signs of side effects, the Health Department said.

People in Wisconsin who had an appointment for the J&J vaccine should cancel their appointment and look for an appointment for the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine instead, the Health Department said. It is asking local organizations who are administering the J&J vaccine to pause appointments and keep the vaccine in storage for the time being.

The FDA’s decision triggered swift action in Europe and elsewhere as the drugmaker and regulators moved to halt the use of the J&J vaccine, at least for now. Hundreds of thousands of doses of the vaccine were due to arrive in European countries this week. The European Union has been plagued by supply shortages, logistical problems and concerns over unusual blood clots in a small number of people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Any slowdown in the dissemination of the shots could have broad implications for the global vaccination effort. The J&J vaccine held immense promise because its single-dose regimen and relatively simple storage requirements would make it easier to use, especially in less affluent countries.

The clots occurred in veins that drain blood from the brain and occurred together with low platelets, the fragments in blood that normally form clots. All six cases were in women between the ages of 18 and 48. One person died, and all of the cases remain under investigation.

More than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been given in the U.S., the vast majority with no or mild side effects.

The FDA said the cases under investigation appear similar to the clots that European authorities say are possibly linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not yet cleared in the U.S. European regulators have stressed that the AstraZeneca risk appears to be lower than the possibility of developing clots from birth control pills.

Federally run mass vaccination sites will pause the use of the J&J shot, and states and other providers are expected to follow. But authorities stressed they have found no signals of clot problems with the most widely used COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. — from Moderna and Pfizer.

“I’d like to stress these events appear to be extremely rare. However COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority,” acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said at a news conference.

Speaking at a White House news conference, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top expert on infectious disease, said the pause would allow the FDA and the CDC to investigate the clotting cases “to try and understand some of the mechanisms” and “to make physicians more aware of this.”

A CDC committee will meet today to discuss the cases, and the FDA has also launched an investigation into the cause of the clots and low platelet counts.

FDA officials emphasized that Tuesday’s action was not a mandate. Doctors and patients could still use J&J’s vaccine if they decide its benefits outweigh its risks for individual cases, said Dr. Peter Marks.

The agencies recommend that people who were given the J&J vaccine should contact their doctor is they experience severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks.

J&J said in a statement that it was aware of the reports of blood clots, but that no link to its vaccine had been established. The company also said it would delay the rollout of its vaccine in Europe as a precaution.

U.S. health authorities cautioned doctors against using a typical clot treatment, the blood-thinner heparin. “In this setting, administration of heparin may be dangerous and alternative treatments need to be given,” the FDA and CDC said.

European authorities investigating the AstraZeneca cases have concluded clots appear to be similar to a very rare abnormal immune response that sometimes strikes people treated with heparin, leading to a temporary clotting disorder.

While it’s not clear yet if the reports among J&J recipients are related, doctors would treat these kinds of unusual clots like they treat people who have the heparin reaction — with different kinds of blood thinners and sometimes an antibody infusion, said Dr. Geoffrey Barnes, a clot expert at the University of Michigan.

Even without J&J’s vaccine, White House officials said they remain on track to have enough supplies to vaccinate most American adults by the summer.

“We believe there’s enough vaccine in the system — Moderna and Pfizer — for all Americans who want to get vaccinated by May 31 to do so,” said Jeff Zients, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator.

Asked if the government was overreacting to six cases out of more than 6 million vaccinations, the CDC’s Dr. Anne Schuchat said recommendations will come quickly.

Because these unusual clots require special treatment, “it was of the utmost importance to us to get the word out,” she said. “That said, the pandemic is quite severe and cases are increasing in lots of places and vaccination’s critical.”

States and cities swiftly moved to implement the pause. New York state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said people with Tuesday appointments for J&J vaccines at state-run mass vaccination clinics will instead get the Pfizer vaccine.

The city of Dallas had planned to begin an in-home vaccination program using the J&J vaccine for homebound or elderly people. The city said it will pause the program until more guidance is released.

The J&J vaccine received emergency use authorization from the FDA in late February with great fanfare. Yet the shot only makes up a small fraction of the doses administered in the U.S. J&J has been plagued by production delays and manufacturing errors at the Baltimore plant of a contractor.

Last week, the drugmaker took over the facility to scale up production in hopes of meeting its commitment to the U.S. government of providing about 100 million doses by the end of May.

Only about 9 million of the company’s doses have been delivered to states and are awaiting administration, according to CDC data.

The European Medicines Agency stressed that the benefits of receiving the vaccine outweigh the risks for most people. But several countries have imposed limits on who can receive the vaccine. Britain recommended that people under 30 be offered alternatives.

But the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines are made with the same technology. Leading COVID-19 vaccines train the body to recognize the spike protein that coats the outer surface of the coronavirus. But the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines use a cold virus, called an adenovirus, to carry the spike gene into the body. J&J uses a human adenovirus to create its vaccine while AstraZeneca uses a chimpanzee version.

U.S. stock markets initially dropped on the J&J news, but some indices were up slightly by late morning. Johnson & Johnson shares were down nearly 3 percent, an unusually big drop for the drug giant, with more shares changing hands in the first two hours than on an average day.