Category Archives: The Blog

Week In Review

I’ll be on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Week In Review this morning at 8:00 AM to discuss the issues of the week with One Wisconsin Now’s Analiese Eicher. Below are the topics we plan to cover, but feel free to call in and throw us a curve ball.

  • US House Speaker Paul Ryan won’t seek re-election
  • Walker signed bills on welfare coverage
  • President Trump on Syria
  • Mike Pompeo’s confirmation hearing
  • Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress
  • FBI Raid on President Trump’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen

Week In Review Today

I’ll be on WPR’s Week in Review at 0800 to debate the issues of the week with Louis Fortis. Tune in!

Week in Review 12/23/16

I’ll be n Wisconsin Public Radio’s Week in Review this morning at 0800 with Joy Cardin. Lon Newman, a former chairman of the Portage County Democratic Party, will hold down the conversation from the liberal perspective. On the docket is Walker’s hints at welfare reform, UW’s course about “The Problem with Whiteness,” splitting up the DNR, and the latest on the presidential transition.

Tune in!

 

Week In Review Tomorrow

I’ll be discussing the issues of the week with Christine Bremer-Muggli tomorrow morning on Joy Cardin’s Week in Review show. It airs at 0800 on your local Wisconsin Public Radio station or online at WPR.org.

It looks like it was a slow week, so if you have any suggestions for topics, feel free to send them my way.

Week in Review

I’ll be on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Week in Review tomorrow with host Joy Cardin. I will be discussing the issues with Eugene Kane.

Let’s see… on the docket we have court rulings about Right to Work and Voter ID, Paul Ryan, Donald Trump, and a lot more. We’ll even talk about the Democratic debate that I’m forcing myself to watch this evening (I use the word “watch” loosely).

Tune in at 0800!

Election Coverage Tonight

I’ll be on Wisconsin Public Radio for a short time after the polls close tonight providing some reaction. It’ll probably be at about 8:30 or so.

Tune in!

Missed It By That Much

I missed an anniversary. On February 7th, 2006, my first column ran in the West Bend Daily News. That’s 10 years of columns – 500+ for a total of over 350,000 words. The blog predated the column by about three years. I had been blogging for a while and gaining some notoriety. At that point, blogs were still a relatively new medium and newspapers were trying to figure out how to keep relevant in the internet age. Conley management made the decision to reach out and include some prominent local bloggers, like James Wigderson and me, on their opinion pages.

The article introducing me to the pages of the Daily News said:

The Daily News Opinion page just got a little more locally opinionated on Tuesdays.

A new column by Internet blogger Owen B. Robinson of West Bend is beginning today.

For Robinson, opinion writing is an extension of his nature.

“I care about issues. I have a philosophy and approach to the world that I would like to see spread.

“Why do people write opinion columns? Because they’re opinionated and they think they’re right about everything.”

Not much has changed. And to prove that not much has changed, below is my first column. It was advocating for ending the county sales tax, which continues to live on. And Herb Tennies is retiring this year.

In 1998, Washington County was in a bit of a pickle.  Several large capital improvement projects, like an expansion of the University of Wisconsin Washington County, the courthouse addition, and new Highway Department facilities, were looming and there wasn’t going to be enough tax revenue to pay for them.  In the face of a crisis, the County Board did what governments always do – they raised taxes.

In this case, the new tax came in the form of a half penny county sales tax.  They also designated part of the sales tax to be used for debt service, but that didn’t kick in until three years ago.  Since 1999, the sales tax has removed over $49,400,000 from the pockets of people who choose to spend money in Washington County.  Since the new sales tax was primarily for one time expenses, the County Board put in a provision that says that the County Board can vote to stop collecting the tax in 2006 – this year.  If no vote is taken to stop the tax, then the tax will continue indefinitely.

In September of last year, the County Board passed an advisory resolution to continue the tax by a vote of 21-6.  The advisory resolution was necessary to gauge the board’s intentions on the tax so that county officials could properly budget.  Obviously, the board’s intention is to continue the tax.

A week from today, on February 14th, the County Board will vote on how to allocate this soon-to-be-perpetual tax.  The current plan is to spend 40%-50% of the revenue on debt relief and property tax relief, and the remainder on new capital spending.  The ratio will shift in later years and more of the revenue will be spent on property tax relief.

Given that the original reason for the tax has long since passed, why does the board want to continue it, you ask?  I’m glad you asked.

Some time ago, I called my county supervisor, Herb Tennies, and asked him the same thing.  He was very friendly and took a great deal of time to speak with me.  It’s a shame that he’s completely wrong.  He gave three basic arguments.

First, he said that approximately 25% of sales tax revenue comes from people outside of the county.  So, he argued, people from outside of the county are subsidizing Washington County, which is a good thing.

While this may be true, it is also true that 75% of the tax is still paid by the people of Washington County.  Furthermore, isn’t it a tad inappropriate to force people from outside the county to pay for our county government?  After all, the people of Washington County are the ones that use the county services, so we should pay for them if we want them.

Second, Mr. Tennies said that the sales tax is used to prevent property taxes from increasing.  He said that he will only vote to continue the sales tax if 50% of it is used for property tax relief starting in 2009.

It was silly to use one tax to offset another tax.  After all, the tax burden is the same.  It just comes from a different pocket.  It must also be noted that property taxes are tax deductible for federal taxes.  The sales tax is not.

Beyond that truth, we have too often been told that one tax will be used to reduce another tax and then seen both taxes go up.  The resolution says that 50% of the sales tax is to be used to reduce property taxes in 2009, but that’s three years away.  It only takes one vote by the board to change that.  Frankly, I will be shocked if 50% of the sales tax will be used for property tax relief in 2009.

Herb’s third reason for wanting to continue the tax was that the county needs the money.  He listed off a few projects for which they “need” the money.  It didn’t seem to occur to him that the county could “just say no” to some of the spending.  This mind set of his is far too typical in government and is why our taxes are so high.

Ifwe continue to leave this revenue stream in front of politicians, they will continue to find excuses to spend it.  This reminds us of two cardinal rules of government:

1) Any money left in control of government will be spent.

2) Any tax created will never be removed, even if the original justification for the tax is gone.

The reason that the County Board gave the taxpayers for levying a sales tax has long since expired.  This County Board should honor its promise to the taxpayers and vote to kill the sales tax.

Thanks for reading, folks.

Apple’s News App

Heh.

Apple’s forthcoming news app has been criticised over claims the company is hoodwinking bloggers into accepting its terms and conditions.

An unsolicited email from Apple inviting publishers to join the service presumes acceptance of the terms, unless they actively opt out.

It requires them to cover Apple if legal issues arise, among other things.

[…]

Other terms in the email allow Apple to place adverts next to publishers’ publicly available content without paying them.

So even though I didn’t ask them to redistribute my content, they will do so, hold me liable for any lawsuits, and not compensate me despite their being compensated for my content?

No thanks.

I agree with this guy.

And, in a blogpost entitled I Do Not Agree To Your Terms, he took issue with the requirement to opt out.

He wrote: “Let me get this straight, Apple: you send me an email outlining the terms under which you will redistribute my content, and you will just assume that I agree to your terms unless I opt out?

“You’re going to consider me bound to terms you just declared to me in an email as long as I don’t respond? That’s completely crazy. You don’t even know if I received the email!”

 

Down For a Little While

We apologize for the technical difficulties which caused the blog to be down for a while. We think we’re good now.

Week In Review – May 29th

I’ll be on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Week In Review at 0800. There’s been a lot of news this week, so it could go anywhere. Tune in!

12th Birthday

Thanks to my wife for reminding me… B&S is 12 years old today. We’re almost to the bratty teen years.

B&S In the News

Hey, I know those guys.

The latest release this week of tens of thousands of documents gathered during the first John Doe investigation demonstrated employees in then-County Executive Scott Walker’s office doing mostly routine business. And one thing that seemed routine was Walker emailing thoughts on key policy matters to his friends in conservative media.

For example, in February 2007, Walker sent unsolicited emails in rapid succession to radio hosts Charlie Sykes, Mark Belling and Jay Weber and conservative blogger Owen Robinson giving them a heads up about a Milwaukee County Board and City Council press conference about the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee rail line.

It should go without saying, but what Walker did was not illegal. It wasn’t even uncommon. People who share political beliefs and values swap stories all the time. In fact, I seem to remember something in the constitution about freedom of association, but I could be wrong.

WPR Week in Review

I’ll be on WPR’s Week In Review tomorrow morning at 0800. I haven’t received the normal prep packet, so it could be extra-entertaining.

UPDATE: I got it now, so I’m semi-prepared. Let’s go! 

Holy Taco Thong Wedgies

For whoever is getting here by searching for “holy taco thong wedgies,” sorry to disappoint.

taco

Boots & Sabers is Back

Unfortunately, morale had not improved…