Americans Overwhelmingly Support Stiffer Immigration Enforcement

Well, well

The poll shows that President Trump has broad public support in his effort to crack down on sanctuary cities.

A survey from Harvard–Harris Poll provided exclusively to The Hill found that 80 percent of voters say local authorities should have to comply with the law by reporting to federal agents the illegal immigrants they come into contact with.

[…]

The Harvard–Harris Poll survey found strong support for an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, with 77 percent saying they support comprehensive immigration reform against only 23 percent who oppose.

[…]

A majority — 52 percent — say they support Trump’s two executive orders allowing for the construction of a southern border wall, increasing the number of immigration officers by 10,000 and finding a way to revoke federal funds for sanctuary cities.

The crackdown on sanctuary cities is the most popular feature of those actions, followed closely by the directive to increase the border patrol, which is backed by 75 percent of voters.

Despite the overwhelmingly negative media coverage before and after the election on this issue, Americans overwhelmingly support Trump on this issue. The Democrats are signing an electoral death warrant to hook their wagon to an entire population that can’t legally even vote for them.

Wisconsin Economy Facing Workforce Drag

This is a problem.

The conversation around workforce has been shifting from just building up the state’s current labor pool to now also attracting new talent to the state. Tricia Braun, chief operating officer of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., said there’s been growing demand in the economic development community to address talent attraction at a state level.

Department of Workforce Development secretary Ray Allen put it a little differently.

“Workforce is the new economic development,” he said.

Buckley Brinkman, executive director and CEO of the Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing and Productivity, said the optimistic forecast is for the state workforce to be flat over the next 15 years, while the pessimistic version shows it could be down by 40 percent. Either way, there are examples of companies turning away work because they don’t have the workforce they need, Brinkman said.

“That might be fine for an individual company, but when you start adding those companies together, you have an economy that’s not growing,” he said.

Wisconsin has consistently lost more people than it has gained for years. Part of that is retirees moving to warmer weather, but part of it is that Wisconsin is not attractive. As one of the few immigrants into Wisconsin, I have a different perspective than people who grew up here. Wisconsin has a great culture and great people, but you don’t really know that until you live here for a while. If you are looking in from the outside, it looks like a state with crappy weather, oppressive taxes, and a rust-belt economy. Unless there is a really compelling job or a family reason to move here, most people don’t. The fact that more and more jobs allow virtual offices helps Wisconsin companies fill some knowledge worker jobs, but it also means that Wisconsinites have less of a reason to stay in the state.

Wisconsin can’t do anything about the weather, so it needs to work on what it can to make it more attractive for a smart, mobile, young worker to move to Wisconsin.

West Bend Primary Results

Hmmmm… there are some interesting nuggets in the results. Here are the primary results for West Bend as conveniently posted by the Washington County Insider.

febresults

First off, turnout was extremely low. It is not unusual for West Bend to have over 80% turnout and usually outperforms the state in turnout even in these kinds of elections. All of the state results are not in yet, but it looks like West Bend will underperform this time. This is because the school board primary wasn’t really a primary since Tina Hochstaetter dropped out and the only other thing on the ballot was the DPI race. Some school referendums and more contentious school board primaries on other parts of the state drove turnout much higher – particularly in Madison.

Second, the West Bend school board results are telling. Three candidates, Schmidt, Justman, and Ongert are running as a block. They are using almost identical campaign messaging; signs for the three of them are appearing together in the same yards; and there is a large sign for the three of them together to be seen from Highway 45 as one goes south out of town. These three also received the most votes.

The question is, why? Although every school board candidate in West Bend is running as a conservative (because conservatives stand a better chance of winning in a city that is 70% conservative), these three candidates are being strongly supported by the local lefty and pro teachers union groups. Given that it is these groups that are more passionate about changing the makeup of the school board, they are more likely to have had turned out in this micro-turnout election.

The DPI results seem to support this conclusion. This is a county that voted 66% for Don Pridemore when he ran against Evers in 2013 and Pridemore’s campaign was drastically underfunded. It is a county that typically votes 70%-80% Republican. Yet in the DPI race, the conservative candidate only received 50% of the vote. This indicates a disproportionate turnout by the left side of the electorate in West Bend. Of course, there are no other races on the ballot that exactly match the geography of the school district, so rough comparisons are what we have to go on.

I would not read too much into this election. The April turnout is typically 25%-40% and a heated DPI race will drive higher turnout. That’s 2.5 to 4 times more voters than this election and 7 of 10 Benders are conservative. The makeup of the electorate in April will look very different. I am thankful that we appear to have six decent, earnest, honorable people from which to choose.

Top Two Advance in DPI Race

Good.

State Superintendent Tony Evers will face off against Lowell Holtz in a general re-election bid for his post, according to the Associated Press.

Eliminated in today’s primary was John Humphries, former Dodgeville administrator who also worked at DPI.

Evers gathered 69 percent of the vote, while Holtz has 23 percent and Humphries has 7 percent, according to unofficial election results from AP.

With turnout so low in the state, the reliable union voters were likely over-represented a tad. This presents a good, clear choice for the April election.

Shutdown Looming

Oh how different the tone is compared to when the Senate Republicans might threaten a government shutdown. Now it’s all about the need for Trump and Senate Republicans need to cave to the minority party.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Add a potential government shutdown to President Donald Trump’s growing roster of headaches.

Beneath the capital’s radar looms a vexing problem — a catchall spending package that’s likely to top $1 trillion and could get embroiled in the politics of building Trump’s wall at the U.S.-Mexico border and a budget-busting Pentagon request.

While a shutdown deadline has a few weeks to go, the huge measure looms as an unpleasant reality check for Trump and Republicans controlling Congress.

Despite the big power shift in Washington, the path to success — and averting a shuttering of the government — goes directly through Senate Democrats, whose votes are required to pass the measure. And any measure that satisfies Democrats and their new leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, is sure to alienate tea party Republicans. Trump’s determination to build his wall on the U.S.-Mexico border faces a fight with Democrats, too.

Of course, the big farce is that a government shutdown doesn’t really shut down. Most spending is automatic and/or mandatory and just keeps trucking along irrespective of whether or not Congress acts. I vote to shut it down for a month and then permanently kill any program that a majority of Americans didn’t miss.

US to Widen Net for Illegal Aliens

Good.

The Trump administration has issued tough guidelines to widen the net for deporting illegal immigrants from the US, and speed up their removal.

Undocumented immigrants arrested for traffic violations or shop-lifting will be targeted along with those convicted of more serious crimes.

All 11 million or so undocumented foreigners in the US could be affected.

I don’t think we need to commit a ton of resources to find and deport illegal aliens, but when law enforcement runs across them in the normal course of business, they should be deported. They do not have a legal right to be in America.

Freeing Fees

My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here you go:

In this most recent era of heated factional discord, there is one issue about which virtually everyone can agree. College is too expensive and is driving too many students into debt for degrees that are decreasing in value in the economy.

For decades, the price of college has increased far faster than inflation, personal income or any other economic metric.

The very simple reason that college costs so much is because many colleges spend way too much. Fueled by easy money from the taxpayers and a culture that puts an almost mythical value on a college education, many colleges — particularly public ones — spend an inordinate amount of money on things that have little to do with educating young adults.

Gov. Scott Walker has made controlling the cost of college a major initiative in his proposed budget. One small proposal in Walker’s budget is creating a fierce backlash. Both the proposal and backlash brilliantly illustrate the scope of overspending in the University of Wisconsin System.

In an effort to give students the choice to lower the cost of attending the University of Wisconsin, Walker has proposed to allow students to opt out of paying about 15 percent of their student fees called allocable segregated fees. These fees are mandatory for all students and go to pay for organizations and services as designated by student-led committees at each campus. Walker’s proposal does not touch the other 85 percent of student fees, called non-allocable fees, which go to pay for things like the student unions and campus healthcare services.

The list of organizations receiving allocable student fees is long and varies from campus to campus.

Most of the recipient organizations are not controversial and are just student special interest clubs, student service organizations, or student government.

For example, the Greater University Tutorial Service, Student Leadership Program, Wisconsin Black Student Union, Student Judiciary, Oshkosh Gaming Society, Chess Club, Student Radio and student bus passes are all funded in part with allocable fees.

Some organizations are quite controversial. For example, at UW-Madison, a group called Sex Out Loud, which offers programs like “Advanced Pleasure 369” and “Kink 401” received more than $100,000 this year.

Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) received more than $87,000 in student fees. MEChA is a radical activist anti-American organization that promotes separatism and non-assimilation of what they call “Our Chicano Nation.” They openly state that, “we are a nationalist movement of Indigenous Gente that lay claim to the land that is ours by birthright. As a nationalist movement we seek to free our people from the exploitation of an oppressive society that occupies our land.”

Whether the organizations being funded by allocable fees are controversial or not, Walker’s principle is a simple one. Students should be able to choose whether or not to fund these organizations.

Opponents to the proposal argue that the diverse range of organizations funded by mandatory allocable fees enrich the experience of all students and provide some vital student services (tutoring and bus service). Proponents argue that students should not be forced to pay for organizations with which they disagree and/or in which they do not participate.

Both sides are correct. While these organizations provide some services and marginally add to a diverse college experience, students should not be forced to fund them. If students value these organizations and services, Walker’s proposal leaves open the option for students to pay the allocable fees. Even if a student chooses not to pay the fee, they can still pay for organizations and services on an individual basis. Walker’s proposal neither mandates nor forbids students from paying for these organizations. All it does is give them a choice that they do not currently have.

For the average Wisconsin resident, it costs about $25,655 per year to attend UW-Madison. Walker’s proposal would allow students the option to reduce that cost by a scant $178.

If we cannot abide even this exceptionally modest attempt at reducing the cost of college, then we are not even remotely serious about making college more affordable and accessible for all.

Primary Election Tomorrow

There’s a primary election tomorrow in Wisconsin. It’s mostly school boards and such. The only statewide race is for the State Superintendent of the Department of Public Instruction. There are three candidate on the ballot. The top two will move on to the general election. Here are the candidates:

Tony Evers (inc.) is an anti-choice teachers union toadie seeking a third term. He has attempted to stymie or stall virtually every educational reform coming out of the legislature while educational outcomes in Wisconsin have remained stagnant or declined. He has not earned reelection.

John Humphries is a liberal trying to run as a conservative. He opposed Act 10, signed the recall petition for Governor Walker, voted against Walker, voted for Hillary Clinton, and has generally been a lefty his whole life. He claims that his education reform plan has garnered conservative support, so now he likes conservatives… or something like that. Whether he is still a liberal or he has seen the light and converted to conservatism is immaterial given his shady and misleading campaign tactics. He should not be trusted with the job.

Lowell Holtz is a former superintendent in Beloit (urban) and Whitnall (rural). He is a conservative who supports Act 10, school choice, and supports many of the reform efforts being championed in the legislature. Holtz is the clear choice for conservatives.


There is technically a primary for the West Bend School Board too. There are three seats on the ballot and seven candidates. The top six will move on to the general election. But one of the candidates has withdrawn even though her name remains on the ballot. Make sure you get out and vote for the three candidates of your choice. I will be attempting to interview and evaluate the candidates before the general election.

Finding the Money

John Torinus does a bit of math for us and demonstrates how the legislature can free up a LOT of money.

For the Republican legislators looking for $300 million in the 2017-2019 state budget for road building, there’s a ready solution.

Gov. Walker, who repeatedly gets elected by holding the line on taxes, steadfastly refuses to raise gasoline taxes, and many GOP legislators agree. They are wary of toll roads and probably don’t want to raise car license fees either.

New bonding is already pegged in the budget at $500 million, which would lift state debt to more than $42 billion. It now sits at $7195 per Wisconsin citizen. Fiscal conservatives don’t want to see that number go higher.

So where to find the $300 million, or $150 million per year?

Savings of that much or more are staring them right in the face. The state spends $1.5 billion per year to provide a fat, under-managed health plan for 65,000 state employees. That comes to $23,000 per head.

That bloated number is about $10,000 per employee higher than what best practice private companies and school districts are paying for very full benefit plans. Those payers, all self-insured, deliver generous care – actually better care – for $12,000 to $14,000 per employee.

You can do the math. If ETF were as well managed as the sharpest payers, it could save $650 million per year ($10,000 times 65,000 employees). That is far more than needed for roads.

Just step back and think about that number for a moment… $23,000 per employee for health insurance… even companies who do not self-insure don’t spend that much. There is soooooooo much fat in government.

Workers Fired for Skipping Work

They have every right to protest to make a point, but they do not have a right to do so free of consequences.

LEXINGTON COUNTY, South Carolina — Twenty-one people were fired from a South Carolina company after taking part in the Day Without Immigrants protest.

The movement closed restaurants and shops across the country to show the contributions immigrants have on the American workforce.

Juvenito Quintana and 20 others all missed work on February 16. The next day, they got a letter from Encore Boat Builders LLC in Lexington.

The letter said they were being terminated for no-show/ no-call-in. Their last day listed was February 16, the day of the protest.

Quintana says some employees got calls from management the day before telling them not to miss or else they’d lose their job. That’s why he said a lot didn’t call in, for fear.

Most of the employees had been working there for years and have small children. Quintana is a permanent resident and feels like the termination was unfair.

It looks like the employer acted in good faith and even warned the employees. On a side note, we should have a Day Without Pasty White Guys and watch every IT department in the nation grind to a halt.

Obamacare Repeal Stalling

!&#*&#)

There has been a 30-point drop in the probability that the individual mandate will be repealed by April 30. The current estimate is a 35 percent chance. As I noted a month ago, the 65 percent figure was about equal to Chris Webber’s free-throw percentage in the NBA. The new estimate is a little lower than the worst free-throw percentage in NBA history, that of Andre Drummond.

Of course, to advocates of the ACA, even a 1-in-3 chance may be “too high,” which is why continued efforts to be “up in grills” are planned for the coming congressional recess.

Nevertheless, the shift in the forecast is a large one, reflecting the challenges of agreeing on an alternative to the ACA and moving it through the labyrinthine legislative process while simultaneously having to spend substantial time confirming Trump’s Cabinet nominees. As Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) put it: “There seems to be a coalescing around principles; I don’t think it’s gotten deep in the weeds about what it will actually include yet.”

Republicans have been running on the repeal of Obamacare for six years. They have had ample time to have a road map ready to get this done. If they fail to keep their promise, I guarantee that Trump will have a Democratic Senate in 2019 – and probably a Democratic House too.

Get.

It.

Done.

DPI Candidate Accuses Opponent

Eh.

John Humphries charged fellow state schools superintendent challenger Lowell Holtz promised him a six-figure job at DPI if he dropped out of the primary and Holtz beat incumbent Tony Evers in the April general election.

But Holtz on Wednesday said the offer was a “rough draft” of ideas and that the deal wasn’t aimed at getting one of them to drop out of the race. Rather, he said, the job offer was part of a possible deal to ensure the primary loser backed the other challenger in the general election against Evers.

The document, which Humphries’ campaign provided to WisPolitics.com, called for one of them to get a three-year contract with annual pay of $150,000, full benefits and a driver.

Holtz brought the document to a Dec. 22 breakfast meeting at a Milton family restaurant.

Here’s the thing that bugs me about this… if this really did occur, Humphries sat on it for almost two months for the express reason of dropping it into the news cycle the week before the election. I got the long, detailed accusation in my email from Humphries’ campaign manager a few days ago like everyone else. That was after I saw both of these candidates at the CSCWC meeting a couple of weeks ago and Humphries didn’t mention a thing about this. If this was so outrageous, then why would Humphries sit on it for so long? Obviously it was to time it to enact maximum political damage, but that just belies a lack of sincerity.

Humphries has struck me as a slimy character and this move just enhances my gut feeling about him.

Around the Bend by Judy Steffes

Century Farmhouse Soap to close

Century Farmhouse Soapnbegan at the West Bend Farmers’ Market during the summer of 2001 and the LLC was formed in December 2001.

“West Bend is my home and some of my very first customers still come through our doors to buy soap,” said Ann Marie Craig, owner and founding member of Century Farmhouse.

It was Craig’s work with Country Living Magazine in 2006 that launched her from a “very small” home-kitchen operation to a storefront.

“We were living in my inky dinky little house with 3,000 bars of soap and I had to move it out,” she said. “Someone had to leave and it wasn’t going to be me.”

Finding space took quite a while. Initially located in Barton from 2010 – 2013, Craig was on the verge of closing when the former Hemauer building / paint store opened on Main Street in downtown West Bend.

The adventure in the triangle building included an appearance on John McGivern’s Around the Corner, signature events with West Bend’s DIVA group, and soap-making classes that featured bundles of wonderful lavender.

“Some of the soaps I’ve done for Country Living have had everything from sawdust to ice cream in it,” said Craig. “That was called ‘A Day in the Country.’”

The creations at Country Living have no boundaries and included other items from Mother Nature including melted snow, Hudson River water and even chicken feathers.

The overall decision to close the store “has been extremely difficult” according to Craig but the timing is right both personally and professionally.

Moving forward the focus of the Century Farmhouse brand will broaden toward education rather than soap production and retail.

“I will make tiny batches of soap but the plan is to broaden into more do-it-yourself projects,” said Craig. “If I needed something or wanted something I had to make it because that’s how I grew up so I’m just hoping to capitalize on some of those fun things.”

Although the shop venue will close, Craig will continue to work within the Century Farmhouse brand as a speaker and teacher.

“This was an exceedingly hard decision,” Craig said. “The very hardest thing about this change is saying goodbye to people who have become not just customers but friends, and I want to be certain to thank everyone who has played a role in our successes over the years.”

Working in downtown West Bend, according to Craig, has been extremely rewarding. “The environment in downtown West Bend is fabulous,” she said. “Everybody works together and the DIVA group is an amazing group; it’s a fluid group and we really work hard to make the downtown a total shopping experience for everyone.”

Soaps from Century Farmhouse will still be available online for the next few months and on a few Saturdays at the West Bend Farmers’ Market this summer; those dates have yet to be determined.

Store hours through Saturday, Feb. 25: Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays 10 a.m.  – 6 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.  Website: centuryfarmhouse.com

Online orders can be picked up at other local downtown shops – notification of where will come with the confirmation of your order. Soap club cards and gift certificates will continue to be honored as long as soap is available.

Please direct questions to the comment section of the website or directly to Ann Marie Craig.

email: annmarie@centuryfarmhouse.com  Thank you, West Bend.  Ann Marie Craig

Four walls are up at Starbucks on 18th Avenue in WB

Contractors are taking advantage of the warm weather as they make significant progress on the third Starbucks in West Bend. Four walls are now up at the shop under construction on 18th Avenue, just south of Highway 33. The new Starbucks is expected to open in spring. The other two coffee shops are located on Paradise and Main and inside the new Meijer on S. Main Street.

MC Sports in West Bend is closing

MC Sports in West Bend is closing. Staff received word this week. The store on Paradise Drive has been open since November 1999. The corporate store in Michigan sent out a press release citing a number of issues including bankruptcy, which was filed Feb. 14, 2017.

The store is beginning liquidation sales. There is currently 10% off merchandise. According to a company statement it was “unable to reach an agreement on a viable out of court proposal” to restructure its balance sheet and operating performance.

Court filings show MC Sports has millions in trade debt and millions owed to companies like Under Armour and Nike with thousands owed to Adidas Group, Columbia Sportswear and Wilson Team Sports, and others. A company statement said MC Sports operates 68 stores in seven states.

Schaarschmidt Chiropractic has moved

 

Some changes on 18th Avenue in West Bend as Schaarschmidt Chiropractic has moved out of its building, 235 N. 18th Ave.  Kurt and Janine Schaarschmidt sold the property last April. They said at the time they would continue to operate their clinic out of the location.

 

That’s changed now as the Schaarschmidts are out.  A note on the door said, “We will be merging our practice with McCormack Chiropractic of West Bend effective Wed. Feb. 1. Dr. Schaarschmidt will be seeing all of his patients at the McCormack office on Shepherds Drive in West Bend. Julie and Janine are going along with Dr. Schaarschmidt, so you can expect the same friendly service you experienced at the Schaarschmidt Castle.  Sincerely, Dr. Kurt Schaarschmidt, D.C.”

 

The professional building on 18th Avenue is now for lease. In April 2016 the Schaarschmidt Chiropractic building was sold to Daniel Hess from Glendale for $625,000. The 2015 assessment on the property was $760,500.

 

“This used to be an apple orchard owned by the Barth sisters,” said Kurt Schaarschmidt. “We opened Dec. 20, 1991 and Larry Bunkelman from Bunkelman Builders was our builder.” Schaarschmidt said he was going for an English Tudor look. “Originally it was a house plan out of Arizona and we adapted it to a clinic,” said Janine Schaarschmidt.

 

Milwaukee Archbishop says Catholics can eat meat on St. Patrick’s Day

 

Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki is giving Catholics a pass this Lent as St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday. Here is Listecki’s note allowing meat on Friday, March 17: The disciplinary practice of abstaining from meat on the Fridays in Lent is an important dimension of the penitential nature of the season. This year, the Feast of St. Patrick, March 17, 2017, falls on a Friday in Lent. Given the many celebrations that occur on this day and especially as we in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee will be ordaining our two new auxiliary bishops, in accord with the norm of law, I herewith grant to all Catholics of the Archdiocese as well as all present here that day, a dispensation from abstinence from meat and meat products. I encourage all who make use of this dispensation to engage in another sacrificial or charitable act that day.

 

Popular Senior Conference in Washington County is canceled

Word is spreading across the community that the popular Senior Conference at the Washington County Fair Park has been canceled. The conference is an annual event that started 20 years ago. It featured vendors and guest speakers and was a one-stop-shop of information for senior citizens in the community.

Tammy Anderson with the Washington County Aging and Disability Resource Center said the cut is due to the county’s new priority-based budgeting, which basically means any program that’s not mandated by the state or federal government would be at risk of getting cut.

“This cost the Aging and Disability Resource Center about $23,000 a year,” said Anderson, who was made aware of the cut about six months ago when she first started. “This is an expensive program to run and no it did not end because Linda Olson retired.”

Thousands of senior citizens have enjoyed the conference over the years, they even adapted when it moved from Cedar Community to the Washington County Fair Park. So far only a couple of regular vendors have called the county asking about the event. Local senior citizens are upset. Many say, “government always taking away something from the senior; what a shame.”

Hartford runs a senior fair in the spring and fall.  An effort to “wrangle” other groups to take over the conference has not come to fruition.

Former Washington Co. Attorney Kim Nass to be hired in Dodge County

Former Washington County Attorney Kim Nass is expected to be approved next week, Wednesday, Feb. 22 as the new lead attorney for Dodge County. Nass would begin her duties Monday, Feb. 27. Nass interviewed for the post along with two other candidates.  Supervisors in Dodge County were reportedly impressed with her broad range of experience as a corporation counsel.

Polls open 7 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21 for the primary election

There are only a couple of items on the ballot for the Feb. 21 primary election. Polls open at 7 a.m. on Tuesday. Races include State School Superintendent. In West Bend there are seven candidates running for 3 seats on the West Bend School Board.  Six of the top vote getters will advance to the April 4 election. In reality there are six candidates running for three seats. Tina Hochstetter announced she is not running but her name will still be on the ballot. In the West Bend School Board race the ballot order is: Nancy Justman, Richard Cammack, Joel Ongert, Tina Hochstaetter, Ryan Gieryn, Tonnie Schmidt, Bob Miller.

Updates & tidbits

A new salon “The Hair Affair” has opened at 2131 W. Washington Street in West Bend.

– The Elbe family from Golden “E” Dairy on Orchard Valley Road and Shalom in the Town of Farmington will host the 2017 Washington County Breakfast on the Farm on June 10.

– The gloves come off Feb. 25 at Washington County Fair Park as Tiny Love, Justin Dredd and Damon Knight climb into the ring for Mayhem for Mason. Money will be raised for Mason Holbrook and family.

– West Bend Youth Football registration is Saturday, Feb. 25 at 8 a.m. at Silverbrook School.

– Paul Eve as Johnny Cash Alive is coming to the West Bend Moose Lodge on Feb. 25.  Eve has portrayed Johnny Cash since he was 9 years old; he captures the essence of the Man in Black.

– There will be casino games and prizes at the annual Vegas Night at Fillmore Fire Department on Feb. 25 starting at 7 p.m.  Information or tickets call Judy 262-692-9434 or Dale at 689-4799.

– The deadline is coming up March 3 to take part in the 2017 Washington Co. Tree Program.

Rallying 103 birthday cards for 103rd birthday

It is an overcast Thursday morning and Lucille Christianson is wheeling herself through the hallway on the third floor of the Samaritan Home.

Her soft pink slippers push along the flat carpet. It’s a slow process although Lucille is in no hurry.

It’s easy to spot Lucille; her name is in big, bold letters on the back of her wheelchair. I shout her name and she looks up. A nurse caretaker hands me a small microphone that’s attached to her headphones. It makes for much easier communication.

“I understand you’re going to be 103 years old,” I yell into the microphone.

Lucille nods as if it’s no big deal. Just another day. We return to her room and chat. The microphone squeals as I shout and try to maneuver the small black box to reduce the feedback.

Lucille is soft spoken and admittedly a bit confused. She said she grew up on a farm in the area; the family had cows which meant she had chores ….  the rest is a little foggy.

Born in 1914 when Woodrow Wilson was president of the United States, Lucille recalls very little. A gold frame with the number 50 sits on the windowsill. There’s a photo of Lucille and her husband Phil. The date reads October 20, 1931.

A family member has sent a photo of Lucille and Phil in their prime. The couple sit on the bumper of a car in a happy embrace.

Lucille’s family is working on a goodwill project as they try to rally 103 birthday cards to help her celebrate her 103rd birthday on Feb. 18.

There are already piles of cards on a nearby coffee table. We sift through a few and I read the notes aloud. One person asks Lucille who the president was when she was born. Another handmade card features a cake with 103 candles on top.

Lucille puts her hands to her face and starts to cry. “I don’t even know these people and they took the time to send me a birthday card,” she said.

It’s hard to tell, but she said it makes her happy. I try to distract Lucille and ask her what kind of cake she’ll have. “Plain vanilla,” she said. Mostly, she’d like her family to visit but she said “she understands.”

If you would like to help make Lucille’s day special you can send her a birthday card too. Cards can be mailed to Lucille Christianson, Samaritan Health Center  531 E. Washington St., West Bend, WI  53095

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Charging for Charging

This seems utterly reasonable.

Tired of clients plugging their devices for hours, cafe owner Galina Pokorny now charges €1 ($1.06; £0.85) for those who take too long charging.

“Tourists – always electricity, electricity, electricity. Sorry but who is going to pay me for it?” she said.

A recharge during a 15-minute coffee is still fine. More than that will add to the bill.

The fee applies also to laptops and tablets and it is multiplied by the number of devices being recharged.

Hartford Reliever Route Mostly Dead For Now

Good!

Cheers and a sense of relief could be seen in the faces of the opponents of the Hartford reliever route after they realized progress for a proposed road in Washington County had stalled before their very eyes.

Members of the County Board of Supervisors, by a vote of 13-11, decided against including the proposed reliever route in the 2050 regional transportation plan. Had the measure passed, the proposed path would have replaced another route directed toward the city of Hartford via Arthur Road.

Leaker

This is a problem.

WASHINGTON — Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.

American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.

The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation.

Frankly, I’m far less concerned with the fact than people from an incoming administration may have been running their mouths with Russians than I am about the fact that “four current and former American officials” are leaking intelligence to the media for purely political purposes. Is it too much to ask that our intelligence agencies to be able to keep a secret?

Tennessee Bill Protects Motorists from Accidentally Hitting Protesters

I’d like to see this in Wisconsin.

A bill has been proposed in the Tennessee State Legislature that says people who happen to hit a protester blocking traffic will be immune from civil suits brought against them by said protester.

Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) introduced the bill that protects motorists from civil lawsuits should they accidentally hit someone protesting in the middle of a street or highway. However, the bill does say that the protester may still file a civil suit against the driver should the accident be deemed intentional.

I’d also like to see a bill protecting motorists who hit protesters if they feel they are in danger. For example, when a group of protesters surround a car and are threatening, shouldn’t the driver just be able to floor it and get out of there without worrying about getting sued later?

It’s About the Spending

My column for the Daily News is online. Here you go:

Gov. Scott Walker has taken the first step in Wisconsin’s biennial budget process by introducing his executive budget. Walker calls it a “reform dividend” budget that is able to boost spending thanks to the reforms enacted in earlier budgets. There is a lot to like about Walker’s budget, but it suffers from a fundamental flaw: it spends way too much.

The governor’s executive budget is the first step in what will be a lengthy legislative process before Wisconsin gets to a final budget. The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee will begin working through the governor’s budget to add and remove their own priorities. The budget that comes out of the JFC will then be debated and passed by both houses of the legislature; the versions that pass each legislative house will be reconciled and sent to the governor; the governor will issue vetoes; the legislature will consider overriding vetoes; and then we will have a final budget. There is a long way to go.

Despite the fact that the governor and both houses of the Legislature hail from the same political party, there are some sharp differences of opinion regarding Wisconsin’s budget priorities. There have already been fierce intraparty clashes over transportation funding, debt load, potential tax increases, and other issues. The final budget will look substantially different than the governor’s budget proposal, but Walker has begun the conversation by making his priorities clear.

Signaling that Walker intends to run for reelection next year, his budget includes a lot of tax cuts and spending increases targeted at various interest groups. Most of the nearly $600 million in tax cuts comes from changes to the income tax and eliminating a portion of the state property tax, but the budget also includes several smaller targeted tax cuts.

The governor’s budget increases spending in a number of areas including an additional $649 million for K-12 schools and $105.2 million more for the University of Wisconsin System. There are also spending increases for tech schools, welfare, work force development, prisons, historical society, health services, transportation, the building commission, shared revenue and more.

Walker’s budget also includes some terrific reforms and accountability measures. The budget finally eliminates prevailing wage statewide, which will save taxpayers millions of dollars on needed work. It contains reforms to welfare and work force development designed to help people break the cycle of poverty and become successful in the work force. Under this budget, Wisconsin will self-insure its employees for health coverage. This is something that many large companies already do and will save taxpayers millions of dollars.

In what is garnering the most pushback, Walker’s budget increases spending for K-12 education and the University of Wisconsin, but does so with some added accountability. K-12 schools that have not already taken advantage of the tools given them in Act 10 to make reforms may not be eligible for the increased state funding. Much of the increased spending on UW will only come after UW makes reforms like offering a 3-year degree option.

But for all of the good it contains, one cannot escape the fact that Walker’s budget still spends too much. Indeed, despite the myth of “cuts” and “austerity” perpetuated by both political parties, Wisconsin has increased spending in every budget Walker has signed. This is despite the fact that Wisconsinites’ ability to pay has still not recovered from the Great Recession.

Let us look at the numbers. Gov. Jim Doyle’s last biennial budget for 2009-11 spent $61.9 billion. The first Walker budget spent $64.1 billion. Since then, Wisconsin’s biennial budgets have increased spending every time to $68 billion to $72.6 billion and now $76.1 billion. The budget that Walker just proposed spends a full 23 percent more than Gov. Doyle’s final budget. “Austerity,” my foot.

Meanwhile, over the same time period, Wisconsinites’ income has struggled. In 2008, the year before Gov. Doyle passed his last budget, the real median household income in Wisconsin was $57,348. It took a beating in 2009 after the Great Recession and dropped to $55,227. Since then, real median household income has dropped more before finally inching up last year. It still has not recovered to the 2008 level. The real median household income since 2009 has moved to $53,269, $53,110, $52,709, $52,370, $52,683, and finally in 2015, to $55,638. As you can see, the median Wisconsin household is earning $1,710 less per year since 2008, but being asked to pay for a state budget that spends 23 percent more.

If Wisconsin’s state spending largesse cannot be justified by an increase in Wisconsinites’ ability to pay, then perhaps the increased spending is being offset by an increase in population and new taxpayers? No. Since 2010, Wisconsin’s population has only increased 1.6 percent. And according to IRS migration data, the aggregate adjusted gross income for people leaving Wisconsin is greater than those coming in. Essentially, Wisconsin is losing higher-earners and retirees to low-tax states and replacing them with lower earners.

Gov. Walker and the Republicans deserve tremendous credit for the immensely beneficial and consequential budgetary reforms they have enacted and for managing the state’s finances in a responsible manner. Long gone are the Doyle budgets of massive deficits and illegal fund raids thanks to mature management of the state’s finances.

But Wisconsin remains a tax hell precisely because it remains a spending hell. For all of the good that Walker and the Republicans have done, they have not addressed this fundamental problem and it drags down everything from economic growth to work force availability to the everyday lives of Wisconsinites just trying to keep enough of their money to build a better life for themselves.

Syrian Refugee Becomes Truly American

Yup.

A Syrian man who fled the war-torn city of Aleppo in 2014 after suffering torture and imprisonment is suing President Donald Trump and other U.S. officials over an executive order issued by Trump last month that still effectively bars the man’s wife and daughter from joining him in the U.S., where he was granted asylum.

The man filed the lawsuit anonymously, to protect the identities of his wife and daughter, who still live in hiding in Aleppo. It was filed Monday afternoon in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, located in Madison. The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge William Conley.

The lawsuit doesn’t state where the man lives, only that he’s a resident of the Western District of Wisconsin.

UW Officials Balk at Free Speech on Campus

Heh.

The proposed companion budget bill elaborates, stating among other things, that:

  • The UW Board of Regents and each college campus “shall guarantee all members of the system’s community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn.”
  • “It is not the proper role of the board or any institution or college campus to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.”
  • Members of the system’s community are free to criticize and contest views expressed on campus and “speakers who are invited to express their views, (but) they may not obstruct or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe.”
  • “The board and each institution and college campus has a responsibility not only to promote a lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation, but also to protect that freedom when others attempt to restrict it.”

Walker’s proposal is raising concern among some members of the UW-Madison campus community that it might, in fact, stifle speech.

Perhaps if UW officials actually respected and protected free speech on campus today, such requirements would not be necessary.