In 2011, FOX 11 expanded its commitment to bringing you more in depth reporting by starting a new unit called FOX 11 On Special Assignment. FOX 11 On Special Assignment is a dedicated team that takes the extra time to get the answers you deserve on the issues that matter.
This year, FOX 11 On Special Assignment focused a lot of its attention on the major political issues in Wisconsin, like the historic recall elections and the impact of the changes in collective bargaining.
But reporters Robert Hornacek and Mark Leland also spent time shining a light on other issues.
2011 in Wisconsin began with a new governor being sworn in with big promises.
"I campaigned on creating an environment where the private sector can create 250,000 jobs over the next four years," Gov. Scott Walker said on March 1, 2011.
FOX 11 On Special Assignment tracked Walker's pledge throughout the year. While he started off well, things didn't stay that way for long.
"Less than one year in, the state is not on pace. According to the state Department of Workforce Development, from the time Walker took office in January through September, the state has only added 29,300. At that pace, the state will have just 156,000 new jobs by the end of Walker's term. That's 94,000 jobs short of Walker's campaign promise."
FOX 11 On Special Assignment took a closer look at the major changes in collective bargaining and how it was impacting area school budgets.
"The new state law requires public employees to put 5.8% of their salary towards retirement and pay at least 12-percent of the cost of health insurance. In Pulaski, the district saved $1.8 million dollars by passing along some of the costs to employees.
"Fiscally, we have less money. Every school district has less money. But we also spend less money for health insurance. We spend less money for Wisconsin Retirement System," Pulaski superintendent Mel Lightner told FOX 11 On Special Assignment.
The unprecedented protests in Madison eventually sparked unprecedented recall elections. FOX 11 On Special Assignment exposed a state law that allowed candidates to raise unlimited money during the recall.
FOX 11 On Special Assignment dug through financial records to highlight the money behind the recalls ads.
The changes at the state level led to a wave of retirements. In some cases, those retired government workers were rehired while collecting their pension. Mark Leland brought attention to the practice known as "double dipping."
"The Department of Employee Trust Funds in Madison reports that since 2005 through August of this year 6,829 retired employees collecting a state pension, were rehired allowing them to also collect a paycheck. 1,100 of them were rehired in just the first eight months of this year."
While tens of thousands of people were looking for jobs, FOX 11 On Special Assignment brought you a pair of reports on county and state prisoners doing jobs on the outside.
FOX 11 On Special Assignment also brought you the story behind the rising Somali population in Green Bay.
"Once the refugees are in the U.S. they are free to move wherever they choose. That's referred to as "secondary migration." In the last year, Green Bay has become a popular place, with hundreds of Somali refugees moving in.
Including people like Firdosa Hussein.
"The reason why people are coming to Green Bay is the reason why everybody else is living in Green Bay. The environment is great. Educational system is absolutely wonderful. It's much safer," Hussein said.
FOX 11 On Special Assignment uncovered a state program that spends millions of dollars on aesthetic improvements to road projects, including a unique and costly roundabout design.
For 11 seasons, Blaise Winter played defensive end in the NFL. Three of those years were with the green and gold. Now, the man who overcame numerous health issues is being honored for his work.
A 68-year-old man is dead after a multi-vehicle crash in Neenah.
A Fond du Lac standoff involving shots fired at some area police officers is over.
A Grand Chute firefighter has died in a car crash.
Oral arguments will be held in March in a college baseball coach's lawsuit against his former employer.
Elementary school students in Wisconsin would have at least half an hour of daily physical education under a bill backed by Republican Rep. Chad Weininger, of Green Bay.