Bye bye, birdies

Morning Update: Wednesday, March 23

In this newsletter

Happy Wednesday, Madison!

As reports of a highly contagious strain of avian flu have spread in Wisconsin, locally, the Henry Vilas Zoo is taking steps to protect its flock.

The zoo announced this week it will keep its aviary closed through April and has moved some of its animals indoors. So prepare to say goodbye to penguins, flamingos, sandhill cranes, and chickens for a little while.

At this point, no human cases have been detected, but the zoo says the move was made out of an abundance of caution due to the potentially devastating effects the flu could have on its bird population. Last week, nearly 3 million chickens at a commercial farm in Jefferson County had to be euthanized to prevent further spread.

“We have many endangered birds species on grounds and our main priority right now is to do everything we can to protect them,” Deputy Zoo Director Joseph Darcangelo said in a statement.

Personally, I hope the birds get to enjoy their break, everyone needs a little vacation now and then.

— Hayley

💉 The Alliant Energy Center will close its Covid-19 testing and vaccine clinics next month.

🚲 BCycle is expanding and bringing back its Community Pass Program.

🏫 Get to know the candidates vying for Madison's contested School Board seats.

  • Seat 3: There are two candidates on the ballot for Seat 3. Incumbent Cris Carusi opted not to run for reelection after one term.
    • Shepherd Joyner initially joined the race in opposition to a transphobic candidate announcing her own run. Though that person would later end their campaign, Joyner told the Cap Times they didn’t consider dropping out themselves. Joyner is a non-binary trans person who works in Madison schools. If elected, Joyner's top priorities include "staff retention, improved communication, and an investment in arts-integrated communication." Learn more about Joyner here.
    • Laura Simkin is an early childhood educator with a child at East High School. As she told the Cap Times, her top priorities "include addressing the achievement gap, supporting teachers so they stay in the district and early childhood education." Simkin also wants to bring back the school resource officers, which is a notable difference from her opponent. Learn more about Simkin here.
  • Seat 5: While Ali Muldrow is the only candidate formally on the ballot for Seat 5, conservative blogger David Blaska is running a write-in campaign for the seat.
    • Ali Muldrow currently serves as school board president. She's an East High School graduate and was elected to her first term on the board in April 2019. If elected for a second term, Muldrow has said one of her biggest priorities would be teacher retention. Learn more about Muldrow here.
    • David Blaska is a conservative blogger and former Dane County supervisor. In terms of his ideals, the State Journal writes "Blaska’s campaign platform is heavily steeped in conservative talking points used by candidates nationwide that include instituting law and order in schools, questioning diversity and equity initiatives in curriculum and promoting charter schools." Learn more about Blaska here.

⚖️ Tony Robinson's grandmother has filed a petition to charge Matt Kenny with homicide.

  • Sharon Irwin-Henry is using the state's John Doe law, which allows citizens to ask judges to review cases and approve charges in a case if prosecutors refuse to do so, in order to bring first- or second-degree reckless homicide against Madison police officer Matt Kenny, the State Journal reports.
  • Irwin-Henry contends Kenny lied about what happened in the stairwell of the Willy Street apartment where Robinson was killed.
  • Some context: Matthew Kenny shot and killed 19-year-old biracial Tony Robinson March 6, 2015. The night of his death, Robinson allegedly assaulted two people, leading to the 911 call that brought Kenny, who is white, to the Willy Street apartment where he would shoot Robinson.
  • The aftermath: Robinson's death sparked weeks of protest throughout the city and garnered national news attention. In May 2015, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne announced Kenny would not face charges in the case. Robinson’s mother settled a federal civil rights lawsuit with the city in February 2017 for $3.3 million. Kenny is still on the force.

🐶 The Dane County Humane Society is on a mission.

  • Volunteers from the shelter are headed to Peru, Illinois, where more than 130 cats and dogs have been flown out from an overcrowded Texas shelter. The animals will be relocated to shelters in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan where they have a better chance of being adopted.
  • DCHS is leading the transportation efforts and bringing more than 20 dogs and 36 cats from Illinois to Madison. Keep an eye on their website for future adoption listings!

🎭 What's your damage, Heather?

  • American Players Theatre's Jake Penner will direct University Theatre’s production of “Heathers: The Musical” will debut April 14 and run through the 24.
  • The musical is based on the 1989 cult-classic black comedy film starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater. Madison Magazine writes the production features a cast of college students, which makes sense considering the premise of the script surrounds the utter horror that is high school.
“More than almost any other show, ‘Heathers’ illustrates the instinct to find safety in a group of humans. In a sense, it gets at the point of every drama: How do we live cooperatively in a group while remaining true to ourselves?” — Jake Penner, artistic associate with American Players Theatre

🌳 Your lunchtime read: A savanna winter: Where the future begins in the past.

  • From Tone Madison: "This is the first of a four-part series from Sam Harrington tracing a year in the life of Dane County's oak savanna restoration projects through the seasons. [...] Restoration work has been ongoing for ten years."

🦠 Covid-19 Update

Wisconsin Vaccination Rate: 60.7%

Dane County Vaccination Rate: 78.4%


📅 Events: Wednesday, March 23