County School Districts Merging

Here’s a good example of two local unit of governments deciding to merge in order to save costs and better serve the community.

After lengthy consideration and much input, the Friess Lake and Richfield Joint 1 school districts have agreed to consolidate into one district for the 2018-19 school year.

Both districts’ boards of education approved identical resolutions during their own recent regular meetings so the legal process can proceed. Friess Lake’s board approved the resolution last week, while the Richfield board approved the proposal Monday.

Richfield Joint 1 School District Administrator Tara Villalobos said both boards feel that the community’s students will be better served if the districts join.

On a side note, the the mergers of the administrations will necessarily mean that some folks will be looking for work. The superintendent of the smaller district, Friess Lake, is John Engstrom, who is actually a resident of the West Bend School District. Local folks may remember him because he was a vocal member of the local lefty establishment and ally of the teachers union fighting conservatives on the school board a few years ago. He even filed several ethics complaints against the School Board – including at least one in cahoots with then union president, Jason Penterman.

At the time, Engstrom had some comments that would apply to the current board:

“he said the board member had a duty to keep an open mind and refrain from making a decision until all the facts were in, according to board policy.”

[…]

“A school board member is not a city councilman; they’re not a pothole-fixer, they’re not a person who was elected by a group of constituents and their job is to take care of the people who elected them,” Engstrom said. “That’s hard for the general public and a new school board member to grasp.”

[…]

“I’m just kind of concerned that the new normal for the West Bend School Board is ‘We’re each going to go off and do our own thing’ and ‘Ideology trumps policy,’ ” he said.”

I would note that Engstrom and Penterman have been silent about the current board’s corrupt behavior – in fact, Penterman has been aggressively defending their allegedly illegal and undemocratic actions of late because they are ramming through initiatives he supports.

Given that Engstrom is a liberal superintendent who will likely be looking for a job and the majority of the West Bend School Board seems to be intent on pleasing the teachers union and local lefties, will we see Engstrom joining the West Bend School District?

Obamacare Here to Stay

Thanks for nothing, GOP.

Washington (CNN)The Senate has dealt a devastating setback to Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, defeating a GOP “skinny repeal” bill early Friday morning.

Sens. John McCain, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins joined with Democrats to oppose the measure, a major blow to President Donald Trump and the Republican congressional agenda.
McCain, who had voted for a motion to proceed to the bill Tuesday after returning to Washington following surgery for a brain tumor, held out all day, including in a news conference where he criticized the partisan process that led to the after-midnight vote.

Rep. Moore Opposes Jobs in Home State

How petty.

Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) said Wednesday that she “respectfully declined” an invitation from President Trump to appear with him at a news conference announcing the move of an electronics manufacturer to her state.

“My constituents have no interest in me entertaining the president’s desire to be used as a backdrop in this photo op,” Moore told the Associated Press.

I’ll bet that some of her constituents are interested in a massive job-creating development within commuting distance of her district.

Appeals Court Strikes Down D.C. Concealed Carry Law

Excellent!

A federal appeals court struck down a District of Columbia law Tuesday that required a “good reason” to carry a concealed firearm, ruling that it essentially bans the Second Amendment right for most D.C. residents.

The decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit conflicts with rulings from other appeals courts on concealed-carry rights, potentially ripening the issue for a Supreme Court that for years has stayed on the sidelines of gun control laws.

The D.C. Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, ruled the Second Amendment’s right of responsible citizens to carry firearms for personal self-defense beyond the home is not subject to bans on carrying in urban areas like the District or carrying absent a special need for self-defense.

“In fact, the Amendment’s core at a minimum shields the typically situated citizen’s ability to carry common arms generally,” the majority wrote. “The District’s good-reason law is necessarily a total ban on exercises of that constitutional right for most D.C. residents.”

Man Dies After Falling Onto Knife

What the what?!?! There must be more to this story.

July 26, 2017 – Ozaukee Co., WI – A 35-year-old Washington County man has died from injuries suffered in an accident Tuesday afternoon at Waubedonia Park.
According to the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Office Johnathan Barrett accidentally fell onto an 11-inch knife.

Foxconn Coming to Wisconsin

It is difficult to overstate how big this is for Wisconsin.

Taiwanese manufacturing company Foxconn will build its first U.S. factory in Wisconsin, where it expects to employ between 3,000 and 13,000 people, officials announced on Wednesday.

The $10 billion facility would initially employ 3,000 people and could expand over time to create as many as 13,000 jobs, according to a senior White House official. The jobs will pay an average salary of $53,875, plus benefits, according to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

The project is the “single largest economic development project in the history of the state of Wisconsin,” said Gov. Scott Walker, who made the announcement on Wednesday at the White House with Foxconn founder and CEO Terry Gou.

Foxconn is best known for manufacturing Apple iPhones. The Wisconsin facility will produce liquid-crystal display, or LCD panels.

Yes, there are going to be some growing pains and I’m sure that the Democrats will be sure to pee all over Wisconsin’s economic flame, but this is a historic economic boon for Wisconsin. Here are a few projections from the WEDC summary:

In addition to the 13,000 jobs directly created by Foxconn, the project is expected to create at least 22,000 indirect and induced jobs throughout the state.

Foxconn is to make $4.26 billion in supplier purchases annually, about one-third of which will be sourced within Wisconsin.

The project is expected to have at least a $7 billion annual economic impact on the state.

The project will generate an estimated $181 million in state and local tax revenues annually, including $60 million in local property taxes.

Deer in West Bend

There has been a push in West Bend in recent years to allow some sort of hunting in the city parks. The reason for this is that there are a LOT of deer. But the data has been hard to come by. Most of the commentary has been anecdotal by residents saying that they see a lot more deer. Earlier this week, the West Bend Common Council wisely tabled a proposal to allow some hunting and wanted to study the issue and come up with a more thoughtful plan.

Part of the reason was that the Mayor and Council were waiting for some data about deer/car collision trends in the city. That data is in. Mayor Kraig Sadownikow shared it:

In ’09 & ’10 we averaged 13.5 collisions per year

2011-2016 we AVERAGED 41 per year with a high mark in 2013 of 69.

WOW! Sadownikow offers this comment:

“I don’t think it is a coincidence the vehicle/deer collision numbers grew exponentially at the same time complaints from residents grew to the point they are today.  We simply have more deer causing more damage to more vehicles and property today than we did 10 years ago.  I don’t believe it is a matter of if we should do something, rather a matter of what to do.  The Council, staff and I are committed to researching and then putting forth a reasonable, effective, safe program to help get this growing problem under control while maintaining a healthy wildlife population in West Bend.”

Board Member Mike Chevalier weighed in:

I second Kraig’s comments.  My original request was for the counts that were 10, 15, and 20 years ago.  The police department only had information going back to 2009.  They are working with DOT to see if they have more information going back farther per my request.

All I can say is when I moved into my house over 16-years ago it was a wow factor to see 1 deer in one year.  Today, the wow factor occurs when we do not see 1 deer in 1 day.

I’m looking forward to a deliberative process to find the best solution to this growing safety issue.

 

Nicholson Announces for Senate

No thanks.

Businessman and former Marine Kevin Nicholson announced today he will run for the U.S. Senate, the first Republican candidate to officially launch a bid to challenge Dem Tammy Baldwin.

three-minute announcement video Nicholson released this morning called him a “conservative warrior with the guts to fight Washington” and a conservative outsider. It highlighted his combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the Bronze Star he was awarded.

Nicholson also acknowledged in the video he was once a Democrat, which has become a point of contention in the possible GOP primary. But he said since those “younger days,” he’s had three kids, fought in two wars and been in businesses around the world.

[…]

Nicholson has faced questions over his political past, including including serving as national president of the College Democrats and his 2008 vote in the Dem presidential primary while stationed in North Carolina.

I understand that people’s political philosophies evolve as they mature, but I’m not ready to put him in the U.S. Senate as his first foray into conservative politics.

West Bend School Board Proceedings

The Washington County Insider has a couple of stories (story one and story two) up about the West Bend School Board meeting last night in which they rammed through appointments for the new high school principals. She has a lot of video so you can see for yourself what transpired. I found this part very interesting:

Decorah Elementary School Principal Nan Lustig also addressed the board during the meeting.

-“I have some questions about what this is.  I didn’t realize the positions were already filled.”

-Lustig talks about transparency. “None of us knew that any of these meetings were going to take place. You asked for input from a wider audience and open meetings that were videotaped but I couldn’t find those things.”

-Lustig talked about her memories of a two-principal system and said she the system works and she had not issue with that. Her questions were about the hiring practice. “I was confused at less than 24 hours for such a huge meeting. I’m wondering why we didn’t gather more input from a wider audience. We got a lot of questions and concerns about ethical hiring practices.”

-“We went from a practice where we openly posted positions, we checked references, we asked the same list of questions to all references, we completed the documentation and we sent that to HR where we forwarded the contract.”

-“Did we post it internally? … Did we ask who else was interested?”

-“We’ve always been told as administrators when we come before the board we need a plan, a process and a financial impact of a decision. I didn’t read any of those things in the paper. I want us to be concerned and as a taxpayer I wonder what the answer to those things are.”

So an existing principal in the school district didn’t have any notice that this was going on. Looking at her comments and the comments of others, it does not appear that the school board made any effort to ask interested employees to put their name up for consideration or post anything internally. It looks like the school board had their two people chosen and slammed them into the jobs. The school board didn’t bother with interviews, applications, discussions, or anything else.

So the question is, why these two people? What makes them so much more qualified than other district employees like existing principals or other assistant principals? Why were they the only two even considered? Hmmmm…

Former school board members Rick Parks and Randy Marquardt also admonished the board for their process. Parks, a person whom I respect but did not originally support for the office, was very direct.

Those of you who only weeks ago campaigned on a platform to be transparent and inclusive have let us down.

Indeed. The hubris of this board is astounding.

 

Senate Advances Obamacare Repeal

Finally. Republicans can guarantee themselves the minority if they fail on this key promise.

Washington (CNN)Senate Republicans voted to advance to floor debate on their efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Vice President Mike Pence cast the tiebreaking vote.
In a dramatic moment, Sen. John McCain returned from Arizona to applause from fellow senators. He cast a necessary Republican vote for the motion after two GOP senators — Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski — sided with all Democrats in opposition.
As the vote began, protesters in the Senate gallery shouted “kill the bill” and “shame, shame, shame!”
The vote came as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump dared their fellow Republicans to block their seven-year campaign promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.

City of West Bend Delays Decision on Hunting in Parks

While I support a limited hunt in the parks, I applaud the Common Council’s diligence in researching the issue and allowing public input before making a decision.

West Bend officials will begin researching the logistics associated with hunting deer on the grounds of Lac Lawrann Conservancy.

Common Council members voted to approve a motion made by Alderman Steve Hutchins during Monday’s meeting to table the issue and return several weeks later, allowing staff to develop a plan to allow hunting at the conservancy and address what he claimed was a deer problem within city limits.

“I still don’t have a problem going with Lac Lawrann, I think it is a great idea,” Hutchins said. “The problem is that if you want to manage deer like that, taking it in one spot just to see if the system works, that is OK but it is not going to solve the problems in the other areas.”

Council members referenced a memo that Parks, Recreation and Forestry Director Craig Hoeppner wrote with recommendations of Parks and Recreation Commission members.

According to the memo, they suggested that no action be taken because of public safety concerns, associated program costs to West Bend, an insufficient deer population in the area to warrant action, and cited evidence they were not effective in communities that established deer management programs.

Protecting the right to Pokemon Go

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

The summer of 2016 will be remembered for many things. It was the summer when America came to grips with the fact that Donald Trump was the Republican candidate. It was the summer when terrorism swept across the world from Nice to Dhaka to the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. It was the summer of Brexit when Britain voted to leave the European Union.

It is also the summer of watching hordes of people stumble through public places staring at their smartphones as they tried to capture animated creatures in the augmented reality of Pokemon Go. While the Pokemon Go craze has come and gone, it has left some interesting legal ramifications in its wake.

During the Pokemon Go phenomenon, the leaders of Milwaukee County became frustrated that so many people were wandering through public parks playing the game. The huge influx of people enjoying the public parks damaged landscaping, left trash, and sometimes disrupted other visitors. Rather than just enforce the existing rules against such damaging and disruptive behavior, Milwaukee officials decided to go after the businesses that make games like Pokemon Go. In January, the Milwaukee County Board passed an ordinance that required the companies who created virtual and location-based augmented reality games to get a permit and post a $1 million certificate of insurance in order for people to play their games in the park.

On its face, the ordinance was ridiculous and unenforceable. The fact that the users of a game might damage flowers in a county park hardly makes the producers of that game responsible, nor should a county be able to arbitrarily restrict access to public property for people engaging in legal activities. But the Milwaukee Common Council is not known for its logical dexterity. In response to the ordinance, a company called Candy Lab Inc., which makes a different augmented reality game, sued the county.

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge J.P. Stadtmueller issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting Milwaukee County from enforcing its ordinance saying that it likely violates the First Amendment. This might be the first time in the nation’s jurisprudence that First Amendment protections have been expressly extended to augmented reality games.

In his ruling, Stadtmueller systematically dismantles Milwaukee County’s ordinance and all of its flaws. He says in part, “the Ordinance thus dooms itself in its failure to provide ‘narrowly drawn, reasonable, and definite standards’ to guide the County officials who must apply it,” and that the game in question, “contains the least minimum quantum of expression needed to constitute protectable speech.” In a final slap at Milwaukee County officials, the judge states, “the Ordinance is revealed for its strangeness and lack of sophistication.”

This ruling is a good reminder that while technologies change, constitutionally protected rights do not. In his ruling, Stadtmueller correctly cites and earlier case, Brown v. Entm’t Merchs. Ass’n, in which the Supreme Court clearly stated that, “whatever the challenges of applying the Constitution to everadvancing technology, ‘the basic principles of freedom of speech and the press, like the First Amendment’s command, do not vary’ when a new and different medium for communication appears.”

That statement is a recognition of the fact that rights are endowed upon individuals. Our right to free speech is inherently individual and deserving of protection irrespective of the medium of transmission. The men who wrote our Constitution likely never envisioned telephones, the internet, or Pokemon Go, but they did not need to in order for the protections they wrote to apply. The right is to be protected. The technology is irrelevant.

This same principle applies to other rights as well. We also have a right to keep and bear arms (which is actually a more specific declaration of our broader right to property). And while our founders never envisioned the complexity or sophistication of modern firearms, they did not need to. The right is to be protected. The technology is irrelevant.

Our Constitution is not, nor was it ever intended to be, a living document. It does not need to be. Its brilliance rests in the understanding that human rights live in the bosom of each and every person. We must protect those rights whether they are being exercised with a quill, pen, keyboard, smartphone, musket or AR-15.

Citizens as Prey

Instapundit nails it.

In the meantime, Sessions is doing exactly the wrong thing by doubling down on asset seizure. The message it sends is that the feds see the rest of us as prey, not as citizens. The attorney general should be ashamed to take that position. And, really, he should just be gone.

Record Number of Hunting Dogs Killed by Wolves

Curious.

Nearly twice as many hunting dogs were killed by wolves in Wisconsin in 2016 than any other year on record. Wolves killed 41 hounds used for hunting animals such as bears and coyotes last year. The closest year in comparison is 2014, when 23 hounds were killed.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources large carnivore specialist Dave MacFarland said state biologists aren’t sure what is causing the spike. He estimates the number of bear hunters in the woods at any given time hasn’t changed much, and though the wolf population hit a record high of 952 animals last year, he said pack growth rates don’t correlate with the sudden spike in hound deaths.

West Bend School Board Appoints Two Principals

Well, the West Bend School Board has compounded its buffoonery of last week and appointed two new principals.

In less than a week, the West Bend High Schools went from recruiting for an Executive Principal to oversee both high schools to two appointed principals. Let’s review the timeline…

On Tuesday of last week there was a closed meeting of the school board to discuss the candidates for the Executive Principal. At this meeting, the school board apparently discussed the issue of two principals (listen about 5 minutes into this video). That would, by the way, appear to be a pretty flagrant violation of Wisconsin’s Open Meeting Law. Changing the organization structure from one to two principals doesn’t come close to meeting any of the eleven possible exemptions from the Open Meetings Law. But it happened…

Late in the day on Wednesday, the School Board gave notice of a special meeting to be convened on Thursday with the vague agenda item of:

2. Executive session pursuant to Wis. Stats. 19.85(1)(c) to consider employment, promotion, compensation or performance evaluation data of any public employee over which the governmental body has jurisdiction or exercises responsibility, and take any such action, if necessary, based on its discussion, namely: review and consideration of high school administrative assignments

On Thursday evening, in a 35 minute meeting with almost no public input, no cost estimate, no comment from the Superintendent, no real attempt at any thoughtful consideration – except from Monte Schmiege – and with two board members absent, the board votes to make two principals. It was also the first public meeting in which the board even discussed this policy change.

Two business days later, on Monday, the School Board has appointed two employees to these positions. Apparently no other candidates were considered. And apparently minorities need not apply for leadership positions in the West Bend School District (at least, that is the kind of accusation to which the district is exposed to thanks to this “process”).

It is also utterly unbelievable that this process could have happened so swiftly without substantial coordination by board members behind the scenes. Appointing people to open positions and making these kinds of staffing recommendations and changes are normally the purview of the Superintendent, but the School Board is clearly dictating personnel decisions to him.

I’m sorry to say that the new principals may be great people, but their tenures are tainted out of the gate by this process.

Old Marine Injured Defending His Flag

Grrrr

A 92-year-old Marine veteran has been injured while trying to defend the U.S. flag outside his Texas home.

Howard Banks fought in World War II and was left legally blind by a flare on Iwo Jima.

After hearing noises outside his Dallas-area home earlier this month, Banks says he went outside and found someone trying to pull his flag down from its pole. The would-be thief knocked him down before running off, and neighbors rushed to help. Banks was left with bumps, bruises and a twisted knee.

Police are investigating.

Getting Chipped

While I look at this and think, “no way!” I strongly think that it will be very popular. It is only a small step from having the same sort of ever-present authentication and access in one’s phone. Americans have shown a great willingness to give a tremendous amount of personal access in exchange for convenience.

A Wisconsin company is to become the first in the US to microchip employees.

Three Square Market is offering to implant the tiny radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip into workers’ hands for free – and says everyone will soon be doing it.

The rice grain-sized $300 (£230) chip will allow them to open doors, log in to computers and even purchase food.

And so far, 50 employees have signed up for the chance to become half-human, half-walking credit card.

Report: Wisconsin Wins Foxconn Sweepstakes

Mark Belling reported this afternoon that Foxconn has selected Wisconsin as the site of a new plant that will employ 10,000 workers. This will be YUGE for Wisconsin!

foxconn

Barrett Whines About Not Being Able to Tax More

I invite this conversation.

The City of Milwaukee is more unique than we knew.

It is the only city its size limited to using property taxes as the sole form of local taxation, a new report has found. The report also suggests the current revenue structure Milwaukee is required to operate under is ineffective and outdated.

“Milwaukee is in this unique situation because the handcuffs are so tight,” Mayor Tom Barrett said in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The report — “On The Money?” — will be released Sunday by the nonprofit Public Policy Forum.

Following an analysis of 39 similar-size cities, the forum found Wisconsin is the only state in the Midwest that limits municipalities to the property tax as the sole form of local taxation. And it’s the only state whose largest city has the same tax structure as all other municipalities.

[…]

The analysis also found that each of the cities studied in the report except Milwaukee has multiple taxes, and most have general or selective sales taxes, such as taxes on entertainment or food and liquor. Other findings include that state aid is typically a minor source of revenue for most of those cities, and cities with larger populations tend to draw more heavily on the sales tax and less on the property tax.

Essentially, Wisconsin does government funding a little differently than other states and Barrett wants his cake and to eat it too. Wisconsin does restrict local taxation somewhat, but does so in exchange for much higher state funding than other states. If fact, you’ll notice that the City of Milwaukee receives a huge sum of money from the state’s taxpayers:

mkebudget

You will also notice, that Barrett is very specific about talking about “taxation” since the City does rake in a tremendous amount of money through various fees like the Wheel Tax – er… Wheel Fee.

Barrett wants to continue to receive a tremendous amount of money from the state, but also wants to raise more local taxes to support his reckless spending. But it is really a matter of the philosophy behind how we want to fund out local governments. I have long been a critic of Wisconsin’s Shared Revenue structure. I would much prefer to scrap the entire framework, cut state taxes and spending, and let local people decide for themselves how much they want to fund their local governments. It has never made sense to filter so much tax money through the state and back to local governments. Except in the cases of some rural local governments that lack a sufficient tax base, the state shouldn’t be in the business of funding any local governments.

So I support Barrett’s effort to allow local governments to levy more and different kinds of taxes to fund themselves – as long as the rest of Wisconsin’s taxpayers can have back the $265 million per year that we send to Milwaukee. The state sends about a billion dollars a year to local governments. Let’s return that to the taxpayers and let local taxpayers decide how they want to fund their local governments.

Counties Considering Consolidating

Here’s an interesting idea.

County governments in Wisconsin are financially unsustainable and must reinvent themselves to survive, even if that means erasing borders and merging with the county next door, Washington County leaders say in a letter to four of their neighbors.

The County Board’s Executive Committee and County Administrator Joshua Schoemann have invited their counterparts in Ozaukee, Fond du Lac, Dodge and Waukesha counties to discuss everything from sharing services, consolidating departments and even redrawing maps to unite as one.

Any talks would build on existing partnerships. Washington and Ozaukee counties merged their health departments last year and already saved taxpayers $300,000. Waukesha County shares its medical examiner with Washington County.

State law allows consolidation of two or more counties and Washington County’s leaders are willing to consider going down that road in order to resolve fiscal problems caused by declining revenue and increasing expenses, Schoemann said.

It makes a lot of sense to combine many of the departments and functions to reduce costs and increase service. I’m a bit more hesitant about merging the governance. Having a massive county dilutes representation. But that may also increase visibility and accountability. There are certainly numerous examples of much larger counties in this country.

I look forward to the discussion!