Category Archives: Politics – Wisconsin

West Bend asks if it’s time for a tax increase to pay for streets

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

The West Bend Common Council has reached a crossroads and is turning to the public for advice. After almost a decade without a tax increase, the city’s streets are in good condition, but they could be better. Are the taxpayers willing to stomach a tax increase to pay for better streets? That is the subject of four advisory referendums on the April 3 ballot.

Maintaining the city’s streets is a core function of city government. Quality streets are critical to the city’s economy and quality of life. Measuring the quality of streets is also inherently subjective. West Bend has about 134 miles of streets, but nobody drives on all of them. Any citizen’s perception of the quality of the city’s streets is limited to their experiences on the subset of streets they use. If the street I live on is crumbling, then I am more likely to think that the city’s streets are poor.

Many Wisconsin municipalities use the PASER rating system to try to measure the overall quality of the streets. The PASER rating ranges from 1 to 10, with a 10 being a new street. The city evaluates all of the streets every two years. The PASER rating is based on a subjective visual observation of the streets, but it gives us some benchmark against which to gauge the quality of the city’s streets.

West Bend’s average PASER rating was 5.89 in 2011 when the city began increasing spending on street maintenance by about 4 percent every year. In 2017, that rating rose to 6.04. That is considered “good” on the PASER scale and comparable with cities of a similar size. Keep in mind, however, that there is a lot of subjectivity inherent to the PASER rating, so changes of a few decimal points are not necessarily relevant. Also, no study has shown any correlation between a city’s PASER rating and citizen satisfaction — largely because of the perception issue mentioned earlier.

The equation for getting better streets is pretty simple at the local level: spend more, faster. While the city will likely be able to save some money on projects thanks to the repeal of the prevailing wage laws, those savings will have a marginal impact on overall spending at a municipal scale. The question then becomes, do the citizens of West Bend want better streets? If so, how do they want to pay for it? Those are the questions the four referendum questions seek to answer.

Referendum questions 1 and 2 ask if the taxpayers want to increase property taxes by $640,000 or $1.2 million, respectively, to be used for streets. Question 3 asks if the citizens would like to implement a $20 wheel tax to be used exclusively for road designated borrowing.Question 4 asks if the city’s citizens would support an agreement with Washington County to distribute up to 25 percent of the proceeds of the county sales tax to municipalities to pay for roads.

On these four questions, I will be voting, “no,” “heck, no,” “are you kidding me?” and “nope,” respectively.

The first three questions are straightforward. If you want to spend more on the city’s streets, they are asking the amount and method of payment. I do not support raising any taxes to spend more on the streets. Frankly, the city has been doing a good job in maintaining the city’s streets and slowly improving them over time within the confines of the funds available. It has been an impressive display of leadership and good stewardship of the taxpayers’ money for which the city’s leadership and staff deserve commendation. I have confidence in their continued leadership in this regard.

The fourth question is interesting in that a vote on an advisory referendum regarding something the County Board might consider is almost completely meaningless. In fact, the County Board and county administrator have already shot down the idea. In theory, if the county has a sales tax that is collected from all of the citizens in the county, it is not unreasonable for the county to remit some of those proceeds back to the municipalities.

The sales tax in Washington County was originally passed as a temporary tax to fund a few major capital projects. I still cling with childlike belief to the hope that a conservative County Board will one day honor their predecessors’ word to the taxpayers and end the sales tax. The addition of more municipal fingers into the sales tax pie makes the possibility of ending the county sales tax even less likely.

West Bend has been a case study is solid conservative city management for several years. They have kept taxes flat while meeting the city’s priorities and maintaining or improving services. These referendum questions are a sincere query of the citizens to ask if the time has come to raise taxes to improve the city’s streets faster. No, that time has not yet come, but the city’s leaders earned the right to ask. Keep up the good work, West Bend.

Why Are We Protecting Shipwrecks?

I’m going to ask a politically incorrect question, but why are we protecting shipwrecks? What’s the public interest?

TWO RIVERS, Wis. – Dozens of people made a vocal call to Governor Scott Walker to help protect Lake Michigan shipwrecks.
Supporters people rallied in Two Rivers Sunday afternoon.

They’re hoping Walker will name a national marine sanctuary on nearby parts of the lake.

The governor recently pulled back the sanctuary nomination.

Demonstrators say it would bring exposure, tourism, and economic development to the area.

There are a few shipwrecks that are historically significant, but most of them are just human garbage that we left on the bottom of a lake or ocean. They make for interesting diving, but that’s about it.

From what the protesters are saying, the interest seems purely economic. That’s fine, but can we see some financial projections then? What’s the cost of preservation vs. the projected economic benefit? At least we can then make some decisions based on something tangible.

Explaining the Upcoming Road Referendum in West Bend

There is a referendum coming up on the April ballot asking the citizens of West Bend what they want to do about their roads. Alderman Rich Kasten took the time to explain it the other night and the Washington County Insider was there to record it for us. Here you go:


Walker Releases School Safety Plan

As I mentioned before, the urge to throw taxpayer dollars at things is a bipartisan disease.

Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday called on lawmakers to take up a $100 million package aimed at providing more security in school buildings across Wisconsin.

But the plan doesn’t call for imposing stricter controls on gun ownership as Democrats have called for, or for arming teachers as some Republicans have said could be a solution to gun violence in the classroom.


Walker’s plan would create an Office of School Safety within the state Department of Justice; it proposes $100 million in grants to schools, on a one-time basis, to help pay for security improvements, training opportunities and police officers.

It’s unclear how the grants would be distributed, but if the $100 million were divided equally among the 2,261 public schools and 818 private schools in Wisconsin, each school would get $32,478.

Creating another government bureaucracy that will arbitrarily hand out handfuls of taxpayer cash is not a solution. It’s an election year gimmick.

Wisconsin Dems Offer Ideas for School Safety

And, of course, the answer is to spend more money on schools.

A Democratic proposal to exempt school safety measures from state-imposed limits on property taxes would cost property owners $85 million, according to a Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo released Wednesday.

I’ll give the Wisconsin Democrats some credit. Their school safety proposals are not outlandish. They focus on better mental health services and better safety protocols in schools. That’s all good. Their proposals are focusing in the right area, at least.

Where they go off the rails is the way politicians of both sides usually go off the rails… they just want to throw a metric crap ton of taxpayer money at these initiatives. No… the money is there already. It is a matter of prioritization. We spend a lot of money on our schools and it is not unreasonable to expect our local school boards to make safety at least a high a priority as Ceramics and Sculpture (just to pick on one).

Another Candidate Jumps into 59th Assembly Race

It’s getting crowded. Here’s the press release.

Today, Rachel Mixon made it official! She will be a candidate for District #59 of the Wisconsin State Assembly. The 59th includes Northern Washington, Eastern Fond du Lac, Western Sheboygan and Southern Calumet Counties.

She is looking to fill the very large shoes of retiring Representative, Jesse Kremer. Mixon, who is currently serving as an Alderperson on the Hartford’s Common Council representing District 3 since 2012, was asked to run by her peers. She will run as a Republican. A demonstrated and dedicated conservative, Mixon considers it a great honor to even be considered and encouraged by her peers to serve the people of the 59th.

Mixon comes from a long line of family members who have faithfully answered the call to give back to their local communities. After much consideration and soul searching, as well as receiving input from friends, neighbors and the Divine, the decision was made.

Since graduating from Cornerstone University (MI) in 1997, where she obtained her teaching degree, Rachel has been a professional educator at Brookfield Academy for 21 years and has been promoted to Department Chair. In her professional career, Mixon made her mark by demanding excellence from herself, her students, and those around her. In her six years on the Council of the largest population center in the district, Mixon has gotten to know how local government works. She was instrumental in planning the current police building without having to raise taxes. Mixon hopes to take her council experience to Madison.

Rachel Mixon will always make herself accessible to those in the District and plans to visit as many Village and Town meetings as possible before the primary so that she can meet those whom she would be serving, and more importantly, learn of their concerns and needs.

In addition to focusing on Education and Education Reform issue solutions, as a Representative, Mixon will work with the districts’ farming communities! Rachel has lived in the district for over 14 years with her supportive family which includes her husband, Dave and son, Luke, 17.  She will work tirelessly to ease the farm family’s transition from one generation to the next. “Farm families should not be burdened by excessive taxes when transferring farm ownership. The family farm has been and will always be the backbone of this country. I have great respect for farmers who are willing to sacrifice their time, talents, and long hours working the soil in order to feed their families as opposed to those of us who have chosen a much easier and lucrative career.”

The primary election is AUGUST 14, 2018!

West Bend Columnist Takes Shot at Local Business

There’s a lot of hate in this man.

The NRA is not the only outfit promoting the absolute, god-given right to own and use firearms wherever and whenever we want. We have our own local Delta Defense proudly flying the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag joining that chorus.

For those who missed the Delta Defense signs all over West Bend as it sponsors events and charities to purchase some aura of respectability, the company provides the base for a number of connected entities promoting armed concealed carry and self defense, trading on fear and based on the idea that we need to be ready at a moment’s notice to use deadly force against those who might do us harm.

Tim Schmidt and his wife, Tonnie, who was elected to the West Bend school board last year, founded Delta Defense in 2003. They first opened in Jackson. Then, they purchased the former Museum of Wisconsin Art building across from the West Bend Library, bailing out the museum’s construction loan with a grant from local economic development funds. Next, they got more help from the city to build their new headquarters on the hill behind Boston Store. West Bend Mayor Kraig Sadownikow, a proud “Three Percenter,” Second Amendment absolutist and staunch supporter helped engineer city support.

I’ll go on record in saying that Delta Defense has been a fantastic addition to West Bend and is a marvelous corporate citizen. They have expanded, provided jobs, and as Finke so disdainfully admits, has been a tireless contributor to dozens of local charities and community organizations. Delta Defense is the kind of company that people say they want a company to be.

I would also add that Finke is one of the local driving forces behind organizing the anti-gun protest that the students will be having next week. The same protest that the local school district decided to facilitate.

Sloppy management practices in UW System invite abuse

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. I tried my best to make a very boring topic more interesting. You be the judge as to whether or not I succeeded. Here you go:

Last year the University of WisconsinOshkosh Foundation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after several suspicious and inappropriate transactions were discovered between the foundation, the university and its chancellor. The fallout from that mess is still being litigated in court. In response, the state’s Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) conducted a study of the relationships between UW institutions and 90 affiliated organizations. The results are disturbing.

First, let us recall what happened at UWO because it serves as an example of how bad things can get. The UW-O Foundation was purportedly dedicated to helping the university. Like many university foundations, it served as a booster club to raise money to help the university pay for things that were not covered in the budget.

Over several years, it was discovered UW-Oshkosh was funneling university money through the foundation for projects like a biodigester and a hotel. Meanwhile, the foundation bought the university’s chancellor’s house for about $120,000 more than the appraised value right before he retired to Florida. Even though millions of taxpayer dollars were involved, much of this happened with almost no oversight and little paperwork.

In response to these revelations, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee asked the LAB to evaluate the relationships between all UW institutions and their affiliated organizations. The scope of the evaluation included almost all UW universities and colleges and 90 affiliated organizations from fiscal year 2007-2008 through fiscal year 2016-2017.

What the study found is a mess of poor accounting, weak oversight, sloppy management and comingling of public and private finances.

The LAB couldn’t track all the finances because not every affiliated organization had a unique identification number in its accounting system, thus rendering a full accounting impractical. But what the LAB could count showed that $257.9 million flowed from UW institutions to the affiliated organizations over the period of the study. Remember that the money is usually supposed to flow the other direction.

In one relatively small example, UWMadison received$3.5 million in 2015 for media rights related to certain athletic programs and then immediately sent that entire amount to the UW Foundation. UWMadison said an unspecified portion of the $3.5 million was intended for coaches who had assigned their share of the funds to the UW Foundation, but did not provide any detail or accounting. UW-Madison is apparently so awash with money that a mere $3.5 million does not warrant scrutiny by university officials.

The LAB evaluation also found that there is very little separation between affiliated organizations and the universities they support. The various foundations and affiliated organizations are private organizations while the UW institutions are public entities subject to public scrutiny and oversight. They are supposed to be separate.

The LAB report showed that UW employees worked as the executive directors of most foundations for the four-year universities. Even though nine of the foundations reimbursed the taxpayers for some or all of the salary and benefits for the 50 employees who also worked for the foundations, it is impossible to determine if all expenses were reimbursed because those employees did not track the amount of time they spent working for the foundations. Meanwhile, four of the affiliated organizations that were not primary fundraising foundations had UW employees as voting members of the boards of directors.

Until December, the UW Board of Regents did not have a written policy governing the relationships between UW institutions and their primary fundraising foundations. The regents finally established that policy, but still do not have a policy to govern the relationships with all of the other affiliated organizations.

The citizens, taxpayers, students and staff who support the UW System deserve better than this. The lack of oversight, shady accounting, comingled governing structures and incomplete record keeping is intolerable in a system where hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are at stake. Such poor management practices allow abuses like what happened at UW-Oshkosh.

The UW Board of Regents has been slow and incomplete in their response to this growing problem. The Wisconsin Legislature may need to step in and demand action on behalf of their constituents.

Massive School Tax Increase Hits Taxpayers

This is what criminal mismanagement looks like.

The New Berlin woman was expecting a bump. After all, her school district — West Allis-West Milwaukee — had been mired in financial problems and had just secured $15.8 million in new loans from the state.

But a $530 increase? Up 18.4%? Just for her school taxes?

“People are livid,” said Neuroth, whose school district taxes have risen nearly 30% over the last decade, though her assessed value has fallen.


The 2018 tax increase is the latest fallout from West Allis-West Milwaukee’s financial meltdown in which it blew through $17.5 million in reserves over a decade to post a $2.1 million deficit in 2016.

Voters, many angry over what they saw as fiscal mismanagement, rejected the district’s bid for $12.5 million in extra operating revenue last year. After that, the district turned to the state, which approved $15.8 million in loans for energy efficiency and capital projects.

RELATED: Wisconsin schools raised $217M above tax caps for green projects

That was supposed to raise taxes this year by about $16 for every $100,000 of home value, or about $50 for a house like Deb Neuroth’s that is assessed at $318,700. But tax rates surged instead because of a confluence of factors, including, paradoxically, the district’s efforts to slash spending and live within its means.

The combination of declining enrollment and reduced spending caused it to lose almost $6 million in state aid, which it then had to recoup from local taxpayers.

West Allis residents also took a hit. Their taxes rose about 12%. But New Berlin residents’ surged 18.4% because of an equalization formula that spreads the burden among communities based on property values.

Dallet Fails to Recuse Herself Despite Campaign Promises


Milwaukee County Judge Rebecca Dallet has presided over at least one case involving attorneys from her husband’s law firm despite a self-imposed rule not to do so that she has touted during her campaign for Supreme Court.

Dallet this week also recused herself from three recent cases on her docket involving attorneys from the Husch Blackwell law firm after being asked about them by the Wisconsin State Journal. In the last seven years, Dallet has been assigned to six cases involving attorneys from the firm that were resolved with little or no action, or were transferred to Dallet after a decision in the case had been entered by another judge.

Wisconsin’s Code of Judicial Conduct does not preclude Dallet from presiding over cases involving her husband’s law firm, but Dallet has repeatedly said on the campaign trail she made a point not to do so to ensure the public’s trust in the court.

Wisconsin Elections Commission Chooses New Director


The commission of three Republicans and three Democrats voted unanimously to appoint Assistant Director Meagan Wolfe as interim director and put her on a path to be permanent director. The commission is to discuss the issue further in closed session, when issues like her salary will be determined.


Republican Commissioner Dean Knudson wanted to make Wolfe the temporary director while the commission conducted a national search for a permanent director, but the commission on a 1-5 vote rejected that idea. Knudson then joined the other commissioners in voting to pursue making Wolfe the permanent director.

It just seems like a missed opportunity to not actually put the job out there and see who else might be interested. The commissioners are just taking the easy “next person up” approach, which is lazy management.

Haas Stands Down

Good, but it shouldn’t be at his discretion. I suspect that this has something to do with preserving his pension.

MADISON, Wis. – Long-time state government bureaucrat Michael Haas has decided to end his personal resistance campaign against the Republican-controlled Senate, a move that would appear to conclude a month-long constitutional crisis.

On Tuesday, the defiant “interim administrator” of the Wisconsin Elections Commission informed his bosses that he will “no longer pursue continuing as administrator and urged commissioners to appoint a new administrator at their meeting Friday,” according to a lengthy letter.


Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said he wasn’t sure what to think of Haas’ decision to stand down, and his printed diatribe explaining it. He said he’s suspicious about Haas’ motives, and he’s not buying the bureaucrat’s selfless government servant routine.

“I’m glad he’s gone, I just don’t know what the fallout from it will be yet,” Fitzgerald told MacIver News Service Tuesday.

Despite his statements to the contrary, a good deal of evidence shows that Haas was a key player in the abusive John Doe probe when he served in the elections division of the disbanded state Government Accountability Board.

Washington County Sheriff Dale Schmidt Won’t Run for Reelection

Oh no! From the Washington County Insider.

Feb. 27, 2018 – Washington Co., WI – Washington County Sheriff Dale Schmidt will not run for another term.

Schmidt is 54 years old and has been with the Washington County Sheriff’s Department for 28 years.

Schmidt started part time in 1989 and went to full time in 1991. Schmidt issued the statement below on Tuesday afternoon.


Schmidt said he has no plans just yet on what he will do after retirement.  His current term ends Jan. 4, 2019.

Schmidt has been a very good Sheriff. His steady leadership will be missed.

Defending Our Kids

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

Once again we find ourselves searching for solutions in the wake of a mass killing at a school. It is the natural human reaction to want to do something about it and we all want the killing to end. The powerful impulse to “do something” is often the genesis of bad laws, or worse, tyranny, but that must not deter us from doing whatever is legal, ethical, and constitutional to decrease the likelihood of another massacre.

Mass killings are still the statistical outlier in America. The odds of being killed in such a mass shooting is dwarfed by the likelihood of being killed by a criminal or angry family member. According to FBI data, our nation has averaged about 23 deaths per year from mass shootings since 1982. While each mass shooting is shocking and tragic, you are more than twice as likely to be killed by bees or wasps as in a mass shooting. Still, while rare, mass killings appear to be on the rise and we must take reasonable measures to prevent them when possible, and mitigate the damage when they occur.

The root causes of the rise of mass killings are complex. Our culture is steeped in violent movies and video games; devoid of moral absolutism; hostile to God and blessings of salvation; detached from the real world of human interaction; where kids grow up isolated and angry in a sea of digital and artificial surrogates for love, friendship, and emotional connections. It is a toxic brew that — especially when mixed with mental illness and lax law enforcement — fertilizes evil. But fixing the culture is hard. In the meantime, we must look to preserve the footings of individual liberty while providing for our security.

What can be done about reducing mass killings in our schools and elsewhere? Provide better mental health services? Install better security in our schools? Hire armed security officers to patrol our schools? See it and say it? Ensure that background checks for the purchase of weapons are thorough? Deal severely with people who are violent and unstable? Yes. All of the above.

Another measure we need to take is to allow schools to decide if and how they would allow teachers, parents, and staff to arm themselves.

There are some realities that we face as a nation when it comes to firearms. First, firearms are prevalent in our society and they are not going away. That is as it should be. We decided at the founding of this nation that an armed citizenry was necessary for the preservation of liberty and it is an ethic that is ingrained into the American heart. If anything, in the face of tragedy, Americans have shown that they prefer to lift restrictions on owning and carrying firearms for law-abiding folks instead of enacting further restrictions. Even if we repeal the 2nd Amendment tomorrow, 300 million guns aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Second, while we can and must take action to address the root causes of violence, we will never completely dig out those roots. They are at the very core of humanity. We are marked by a shadow of evil that cannot be completely eliminated absent the eradication of our species. As such, we must do as we have always done: hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

Allowing school employees to arm themselves provides for that last desperate line of defense in the face of unthinkable violence. When faced by a lunatic with a gun, there are very few ways to escape the situation alive. Meeting force with force is sometimes the only, and best, option.

Implementing such a policy is complex. High schools are different from elementary schools. Rural schools are different from urban schools. Big schools are different from smaller schools. That is why the decisions about how a policy allowing teachers and staff to arm themselves must be left to local school districts and private school leaders.

But this is not untraveled ground. In Texas, for example, 172 school districts already allow staff and/or school board members to carry firearms on school grounds. And according to the Giffords Law Center, nine states already allow concealed carry holders to carry on school grounds in some or all situations. Those are not the schools where mass shootings are on the rise.

Not every, or even most, school employees would want to accept the responsibility of providing an armed defense, but some would. They deserve to have that choice. They deserve to have a safer workplace. Even the best police forces are minutes away when seconds count.

At the very least, the fact that some school employees might be armed serves as a deterrent to wouldbe killers. There is a reason why mass murderers tend to target gunfree zones. They may be evil, but they aren’t stupid. The threat of an immediate armed response denies them the time to inflict maximum carnage.

We will never be able to completely eliminate the threat of violence in our schools. That is precisely why we must provide our school teachers and staff with all of the tools available to protect themselves and our children. As we have learned after almost every school shooting in the past thirty years, the violence only stops when it is met with equal force. The quicker that happens, the fewer people get shot. It is just that simple.

Liberals Sue to Fill Legislative Vacancies

Ummmnnnnn… no.

A group led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday filed a lawsuit against Gov. Scott Walker for his decision to leave two vacant legislative seats open for nearly a year.

Seats in the state’s 1st Senate District and 42nd Assembly District were vacated in late December when Walker appointed Sen. Frank Lasee, R-De Pere, and Rep. Keith Ripp, R-Lodi, to administrative positions.

Walker has argued it makes sense to leave the seats open until the regularly scheduled Nov. 6 elections, but Democrats have argued it’s not fair to leave residents of those districts without representation.

The district offices remain staffed at the Capitol.

“Governor Scott Walker’s refusal to hold special elections is an affront to representative democracy,” Holder said in a statement. “Forcing citizens to go more than a year without representation … is a plain violation of their rights and we’re hopeful the court will act quickly to order the governor to hold elections.”

Here’s what the Wisconsin Constitution says about this:

Filling vacancies. Section 14. The governor shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies as may occur in either house of the legislature.
There’s nothing in there about timelines. And given that the legislative session is virtually over, it’s hard to see what would be gained by holding a special election. In fact, one could argue that calling a snap special election deprives the constituents the time to learn about the candidates to make a good choice.

Should We Arm Teachers?

I’ll be on Wisconsin Public Radio at 0700 to discuss whether or not Wisconsin should allow teachers to arm themselves. Tune in!

Kremer Introduces Private School Carry Act

This has almost no chance of passing this year since the legislative session is pretty much over, but I support this bill.

In response to the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Florida, State Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, has introduced a bill that would allow licensed concealed carry holders to bring weapons into private schools, if the school enacts a policy allowing it.

The deadline to co-sponsor the Private School Carry Act was noon Friday.

In a co-sponsorship memo, Kremer said, “We hope this program will gain popularity for expansion into all public schools statewide.”

The thinking behind the bill is that a shooter who is aware of a school with armed people in it will bypass it for another school.

One of the candidates running to replace Kremer also supports it:

Stockbridge – Former Campaign Manager and Legislative Intern for Rep. Kremer, Ty Bodden, comes out in support of Kremer’s Private School Carry Act. This bill gives private schools the option to arm their teachers with guns to protect their students. The bill is meant to be a pilot program, starting in private schools and could eventually lead to being enacted in our public schools as well. “This bill and any future bill gives power to the schools and the school boards. They know what is best for their students and can decide what is best for their classroom safety. If schools do not want their teachers having guns, they do not have to have them, but it at least gives them the option,” states Bodden. The idea of arming teacher is not a new concept. In Ohio, decisions about whether to allow guns in schools are up to school boards in the more than 600 districts across the state. Many districts voluntarily acknowledge the presence of guns on campus, but only the staff knows who has access to them. Other districts have not said anything at all about their policies. The decision is up to each individual school. Attorney General, Brad Schimel, has also come out in support of legislation like this.

Bodden also supports the recently passed Assembly Bill that creates a grant program to help schools pay for armed guards. “These are the pieces of legislation that can lead to real safety change when it comes to protecting our students and schools,” Bodden said. The bill also makes purchasing a gun for someone prohibited from possessing one a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison instead of the four years the state has now. “More of a discussion needs to be had in regards to protecting Wisconsin students and I look forward to having those discussions.”

Good and Bad Happening in the Wisconsin Legislature


The Assembly signed off on a bill that would require the state to obtain a conviction before police could keep and then sell property taken from those accused of a crime.

The bill, which the chamber approved on a voice vote vote, also would require a court to find the property seized is proportional to the crime committed. It now heads to Gov. Scott Walker’s desk after clearing the Senate on Tuesday.


A bill that would make experimental drugs available to eligible patients passed the Assembly on a voice vote.

The so-called “right to try” bill has been passed in more than 35 states. President Trump in his State of the Union speech last month also called on Congress to pass a federal version of the bill.

Those are headed to Governor Walker’s desk.


The state Assembly has passed a bill to bolster northeast Wisconsin’s reeling paper industry by giving paper-maker Kimberly-Clark a lucrative tax-incentive deal modeled on one given last year to electronics maker Foxconn.

The Assembly passed the bill Thursday night, 56-37, largely on party lines. It now heads to the state Senate.

Gov. Scott Walker announced the plan earlier this month, aimed at halting the planned closure of two Kimberly-Clark factories in Neenah and Fox Crossing. The Dallas-based corporation last month announced the closures, expected to cause the loss of 600 jobs in the region, as part of a global restructuring.

We shouldn’t use tax dollars to fight economic trends and prop up industries on the losing end of those trends. We should allow the creative destruction of the free market to work.


Wisconsin parents would get $100 for each child they have under a bill passed Thursday by the state Assembly.

The legislation also creates a sales tax holiday during the first weekend of August for purchases under $100. Both the tax credit and the tax holiday would be one-time events.

So all Wisconsin taxpayers contributed to the projected budget surplus, but they are going to give it back to a select few – even if they didn’t pay any state taxes. This is election year political handouts at the taxpayers’ expense. Governor Walker and the Republicans who voted for this should be ashamed of themselves.

Let’s hope the Senate kills these last two bills.

West Bend’s Upcoming Referendum

Despite declining enrollment, the West Bend School District is running full speed with a referendum. This email from the Director of Facilities to the CFAC members went out this morning:

From: Dave Ross <>
Date: February 23, 2018 at 9:53:33 AM CST
Subject:Update to CFAC members

Last Tuesday night, the Board of Education met for a work session to discuss the work that you have been doing and to make some decisions about what needs to be done going forward in order to keep things moving forward. Video of the meeting can be viewed at:

The meeting had three parts to it: the first was an update to the board by Bray on the work they have done to date, the second portion was dedicated to looking at the districts debt picture which was presented by Robert W. Baird and the third part was an overview of the methodology for the community survey which was presented by School Perceptions.

Here is a very brief synopsis of each part:

Matt Wolfert from Bray Architects reviewed the drawings with the board including the renovation option for Jackson. The board asked a lot of questions but seemed quite pleased with the progress that has been made to date.

Brian Brewer from R.W. Baird reviewed the debt picture of the district. The district does have some existing debt but has structured that debt wisely. In addition, the district has been putting money into the Jackson Trust. The long and short of things is that the district could do as much as an approximately $40 million referendum and not raise property taxes because of the structure of the existing debt and the Jackson Trust.

Finally, Bill Foster of School Perceptions presented on how his company would go about performing a community survey. He also advised the board to listen to the results of what the survey told them. Failing to do so often leads to an erosion of trust in the board from the community.

This was a really short overview so I would encourage you, (especially if you’ve got a spare 2 or 3 hours) to watch the video.

The last thing I wanted to do is share a little more information. During our committee meetings many of you asked for articles and/or research on the effects that a facility has on education. I thought that this article:

provided a fairly good overview but more importantly gives many references/sources for further investigation.

As always, if you have any questions, please let me know and I’ll do my best to get you an answer.

Have a great weekend.

Dave Ross

Director of Facilities and Operations



Based on the email, it looks like they are going to try to pull the “let’s spend $40 million (plus millions more in interest), but we won’t increase taxes.” Of course, that commits more of the operating budget to debt service, thus reducing funds for teachers, supplies, etc. It also completely misses the opportunity to decrease taxes as those older debts are paid off.

Such a move of spinning off debt for decades in order to keep the yearly expenses lower also increases the likelihood of tax increases in the future. It tightens the part of the budget that can be used for actual operations, and remember that enrollment in the district is expected to decline. As enrollment declines, so will funding. But the debt service must be paid. The end result is that there will be less and less money for the actual operating funds that can be used for paying staff and supporting the daily operations of the district.

Putting another $40 million on the district credit card in an era of declining enrollment is reckless fiscal management of the district. It will be interesting to hear from the school board members and school board candidates as this discussion evolves.

Schmiege Responds

Monte Schmiege, the only incumbent running for the West Bend School Board, took issue with a recent column by John Torinus in the Washington County Daily News. Schmiege responded with this today:

Yes, I do have an agenda: I focus on student success

The Daily News recently ran an editorial by John Torinus on the recent primary, including selection of candidates for the school board election April 3. My claim to fame, according to Torinus, is having an agenda “beyond management oversight of the district,” in contrast to the board members he favors. I think all board members have an intense interest in what is best for the students, myself included, and all candidates come to the board with agendas.

Torinus does not clarify what management oversight means or what kind of agendas or judgments form the basis for such oversight. He says I am a “declared conservative.” I’ll take that. He says I am a “stickler for strict adherence to regulations, policies and procedures.” I’ll take that. Isn’t that what management oversight should be, as opposed to personal agendas that ignore regulations, policies and procedures?

Torinus calls me out for a policy proposal that suggested people addressing the board do so from their personal perspectives. It did not prevent group representation. Jason Penterman, of the WBEA, objected to the proposal with reasons, and Torinus joined in. Subsequently, Torinus wouldn’t take as satisfactory my statement that the Policy Committee would review the proposal.

Torinus typically has good, reasoned arguments in his writings. I can agree with him much of the time. In the matter of the West Bend School Board election, he and I seem to have some differences of opinion.

My agenda is stability, sustainability and student success. The district has gone through a great deal of turmoil. We need to establish stability. Capital and compensation plans must be financially sustainable. Most of all, we need to focus on student success, which is a function of many decisions, big and small. Add one more goal, safety.