The White House is trying to regain the upper hand after being knocked on the defensive over its response to deadly attacks in Benghazi, Libya, the seizure of journalists’ phone records in a Justice Department leak investigation, and the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups for special scrutiny.
Now, President Barack Obama’s closest advisers want to find a way to return attention to his top priorities, such as creating more jobs and reforming immigration laws, while continuing to show they are trying to get to the bottom of the controversies.
Here’s a perspecive from Paula Becker regarding some of the muckraking taking place in West Bend lately.
This is a slightly edited version of the original, because I had wanted to run this as a guest column in the paper but it was rejected on the basis that it was not original in content, they don’t run rebuttals, nor did they consider it well written. My husband mentioned that I should have added some misspellings and typos, and then perhaps they’d have been more comfortable with it. Anyway, no harm, nor foul. I’ll continue to be “that lady”…
I am not a highfalutin attorney, nor am I the CEO of a large company and past editor of the paper. I am merely a local real estate agent by trade, and more importantly, a woman raising a family in the city that we, and most of our friends, proudly call home - West Bend. I tend to write letters to the editor once in a while and fear I am now known as “that lady”. That’s a cross I’ll bear I guess, because I have some serious issues with some of the accusations that have been published in the paper recently, specifically in columns written by both John Torinus and Waring Fincke.
For the purposes of getting my facts straight, unlike the regular columnists, I actually reached out to both the Mayor, Kraig Sadownikow, and to my friend, Adam Williquette, a person of whom I am proud to associate myself with both socially and professionally. Adam’s ethics were called into question last week. The attempt to connect the dots in some nefarious fashion, between Adam’s successful commercial real estate business, and his seat on the city council, fell flat. Most reasonable people would conclude that a local commercial real estate broker would, by virtue of the trade, have an intimate knowledge of his community. They could then make the jump that said broker may want to step up and help in areas where they feel the city needs improvement. And the assertion that because he isn’t a property owner himself; this should be a disqualifier for an alderman, is offensive to every apartment dweller in our city in my opinion. As if apartment dwellers aren’t an integral part of the community. And I found the column by JT attempting to assess Kraig’s first two years in office utterly reprehensible. We can certainly all have our own opinions, but this column was filled with so many things I found to simply be untrue. And it was written, in my opinion, in such a way that was meant to turn public sentiment against Kraig and the current staff at City Hall. I don’t think that’s doing West Bend any favors. I will address some of these items in bullet point fashion in no particular order.
- JT’s column - The implication that the Mayor is “embattled and distressed”.
This is FALSE. Passionate, proud and principled? Yes. Not a gray hair on his head that I can see. Now I feel comfortable enough to say that his hairline might not be what it once was. He does live with a beautiful, strong-willed yet supportive wife, while raising four spirited, busy young girls. This is bound to wear on a guy. In sitting down with Kraig last week, I can emphatically declare that he is as excited and proud of West Bend as I have ever seen him. So, embattled? No. But, frustrated with the ankle biting? Fair assumption.
- JT – Uses inflammatory language to diminish and demoralize; transparent as it is. For example, he says the Mayor wrote an “extraordinary statement”, “never seen in five decades”; called it an “outburst”, references “tea party” Aldermen (I personally like that association, but this is fodder for the left), referring to his “allies”, and calling Kraig’s administration a “crew” and “team” are also condescending and childlike in this context.
- JT – Says not much has happened in terms of major projects in two years. What?! Has he been living under a rock in TIF district number 3? Besides the Kreilkamp warehouse, and the relocation of Delta Defense to West Bend (the only two things he mentioned), West Bend can boast many great and exciting accomplishments. These deserve a whole column of their own. But I’d be remiss not to mention that not only did Delta Defense add 25 new jobs to our city, with plans for more, but they put a property on the tax role that wasn’t on it before, and with the quick sale of the building, avoided another empty property to languish on the market.
- Other accomplishments: West Bend is home to Wisconsin’s first certified designated “shovel ready site”; a 72 acre parcel on the city’s south side that is primed and ready for major development. This is an example of the pro-active work of this administration and kudos goes to Economic Development Director, TJ Justice for making this happen. And on that note, I feel the need to set something straight. The current administration has no new knowledge today, that they didn’t have prior to the day TJ was hired for his position. They hired him based on his track record and impressive work in both Ohio and Indiana. And to his credit, he has worked tirelessly to help in any area that Kraig feels could use his valuable experience and input.
- West Bend can also be extremely proud that its leadership team of Kraig, TJ, Amanda Knack, the city’s Economic Development Specialist, Steve Volkert, Asst. City Administrator, and Carrie Winklbauer, Finance Administrator, has been able to maintain the Aa2 bond rating from Moody’s. This is a big deal. In the last two years, 23 Wisconsin communities have had their rating downgraded resulting in higher borrowing costs to the city, passed on to the taxpayer in higher taxes in some cases, and diminished bond values. This accomplishment can be directly attributed to Moody’s Investor Service taking note of the goals that have been met by the city thus far, as well as the vision set forth by Kraig and his finance team, and the confidence in the plans he has to promote future growth in development and staff efficiency. Kraig’s new manta is Solicitation, Organization, and Implementation. This is the kind of common sense thinking that investors appreciate. And I am sure you’ll hear more about in the upcoming election.
- JT’s statement that 1/3 of the City Hall Staff has been let go, or left because of mayoral-council pressure is very misleading, if not blatantly false. ONE position has been eliminated; the City Planner and effectively been replaced with TWO positions that focus more on Economic Development and Growth. The staff that left City Hall left on their own volition, with a pretty darn good retirement package from what I understand. I’d venture to opine that with any change in management, there were those employees who were all too comfortable with the way things used to be, and wanted no part in making the adjustment needed to adopt to Kraig’s requirement that each and every department be run efficiently, and be held accountable in a way they never had to be before. I thank them for their service and wish them well in their retirement.
- Public input at meetings, creation of a Revolving Loan Fund to assist new businesses, taking a hard look at the budget in a way that has never been done before, creating more opportunities and incentives for employees to be promoted within the city; not only in their department but in other departments, running our city like it’s done in the private sector, task forces that are full of community volunteers. These are just a few of the long list of accomplishments that this administration can brag about. I could go on and on.
But lastly I must address the issue of ethics. Both columnists eluded to the ethics and lack thereof, in their opinion, of not only our Mayor, but also of a couple of Aldermen, specifically, Adam Williquette, Ed Duquaine, and even make reference to the Mayor’s wife. God forbid she has a Real Estate Brokerage and uses an office in a building that THEY own, in which to work. Oh the humanity! And I was also confused by the reference to Adam’s commercial listings with Anderson Commercial Group as being somehow tied to the city. Adam is by no means a “relative newcomer” to local real estate; he’s 27 and been in the business since 2005, with a majority of his dealings in Washington County where he was raised. It was in 2012 that he was elected to represent District 7; hardly raises any red flags. And who in their right mind thinks that someone would take on the role of Mayor of a city of 30,000+ with all of the hard work and dedication that goes with that job, with the sole intent to line their pockets and those of their “allies”? Not in my world, nor in the world the kind of people I associate with live in. These men and women are purely civic minded, passionate and determined citizens who want what’s best for the city. At least that’s the way I see it and until I am proven wrong, I’ll continue to support them.
I must believe that the majority of the paper’s readers are able to see these charges for what they are; pure political gamesmanship. A page straight out of Saul Alinsky’s playbook, “Question loudly and with abandon, your adversary’s morals and ethics”.
Why, you ask? I have no idea, other than maybe to set the groundwork for a run at not only the Mayor’s office next year, but also to rid our council of those pesky “Tea Party types”. I urge you to call your Mayor, and to call your Aldermen. Question if they abstain when they must, from any vote on an issue that if implemented, would benefit them and/or their business personally and financially. I can assure you, they follow the rules. They’re pretty black and white. And by the way, this situation which would cause them to have to recuse themselves from a vote, doesn’t happen as often as the aforementioned columnists would lead you to believe. Call them, email them, text them. They are our elected representatives and are readily available to discuss issues. Ask questions. Get involved. They have nothing to hide.
As a Realtor with a vested interest in our community, and as a mom, wife and taxpayer, I couldn’t be more proud of the direction Kraig and his staff are taking our city in, and if that means that I like them because they think like a Common Sense Citizen might think, so be it.
Wow. Taken in light of Obama’s IRS targeting conservatives, it appears that this administration is using the power of government to attack enemies and stifle the press.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative’s top executive called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather the news.
The records obtained by the Justice Department listed outgoing calls for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, for general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and for the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP. It was not clear if the records also included incoming calls or the duration of the calls.
In all, the government seized the records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown, but more than a hundred journalists work in the offices where phone records were targeted, on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.
My column for the Daily News is online. It’s called, “Legislative whirlwind.” It was a busy week last week and tough to pick a topic, so I tried to run through a few. Here it is:
There were some incredible national news stories breaking last week that rightfully garnered a lot of attention. The Benghazi hearings revealed that the White House and State Department were heavily involved in covering up what really happened in the killing of four Americans weeks before a national election.
The IRS admitted to targeting conservative nonprofit groups for extra attention before the last election. And scary crime stories, like the imprisonment of three kidnapped women in Cleveland, kept the nation on edge.
But with all of that news, some very interesting things took place in Wisconsin, too. We are nearing the point in the calendar when the Legislature must pass a budget and the Joint Finance Committee got to work crafting the draft budget that will be put in front of the full Legislature. This brought forth a number of interesting developments. Let us look at the highlights:
■ In a rare show of legislative muscle, the JFC voted to hold up $63 million in funding for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. The WEDC was created as a public- private partnership by Gov. Scott Walker when he assumed office to replace the Department of Commerce. It was an effort to overcome the legendary lethargy that infected the old Department of Commerce to speed economic development. Unfortunately, while the reports from Wisconsin businesses is that the WEDC is much more responsive that its predecessor, it has also been plagued with mismanagement and a gross failure to keep a good account of public funds.
To that end, the JFC has told the WEDC to get its act together before the Legislature will release the funds. This is a proper and right action by the legislature to wield their power of the purse to reign in executive agencies that are underperforming or mismanaged. Frankly, I would like to see more of such oversight at both the state and national levels of government.
■ The JFC also voted to end residency rules in Wisconsin with the exception that a local government can require an emergency services employee to live within 15 miles of the municipal boundary. While there are dozens of local governments in Wisconsin that have residency requirements, this action was squarely aimed at Milwaukee and has Mayor Tom Barrett frothing in anger over it.
Residency rules draw some interesting political lines. On the one hand, there is a solid rationale for a municipality to require employees — especially those in policy making positions — to live within the boundaries of the municipality. It forces them to live with the decisions they make just like their neighbors.
On the other hand, it is somewhat counterproductive to limit an employee pool to within an arbitrary boundary. It does not provide the widest pool of potential employees from which to pick the best talent. In the end, it comes down to a matter of liberty. It should not be the role of government to restrict people’s economic opportunities based on where they live.
■ West Bend’s own Rep. Pat Strachota surprised some by slipping in a pre-emptive strike against a soda and sugar bans like Mayor Bloomberg proposed in New York. Strachota’s measure would forbid any Wisconsin government from enacting a soda ban or similar measure that restricts the freedom of consumers to choose the size and content of their food. Lest you think that such a thing would never happen in the land of beer, cheese and brats, such ideas are already being floated in the cities of Madison and La Crosse. Once again, this measure comes down on the side of liberty. The government should not be in the role of telling people how much of a legal product they can buy with their own hard-earned money.
■ As a backdrop to all of the legislative action, we also learned from the most recent report from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau that the state of Wisconsin is expected to take in $500 million more than it had expected through 2015. First, let us rejoice that the days of Gov.
Jim Doyle’s deficits are behind us and thanks to Walker and the legislative Republicans’ fiscal management, Wisconsin is one of the few states in the nation actually running a budget surplus.
Second, such a pile of cash will be a test for Republicans as they head into the 2014 elections. Many of them are already talking about taking the surplus and spending it on various budget items. What they should be talking about is how to return the surplus to the Wisconsin taxpayers who still carry one of the highest tax burdens in the nation. The majority of Wisconsinites weathered the political storms of the last couple of years and returned the Republicans and governor to govern after one of the most conservative budgets in Wisconsin history was passed in 2011. Now is not the time for Republicans to forget the wishes of those who put them in charge.
Wow. When moderate Collins is going this harsh, you know you’ve stepped in it.
Lawmakers said President Barack Obama personally should apologize for targeting tea party organizations and they challenged the tax agency’s blaming of low-level workers.
“I just don’t buy that this was a couple of rogue IRS employees,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. “After all, groups with ‘progressive’ in their names were not targeted similarly.”
If it were just a small number of employees, she said, “then you would think that the high-level IRS supervisors would have rushed to make this public, fired the employees involved, apologized to the American people and informed Congress. None of that happened in a timely way.”
And, of course, she’s absolutely right.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senior Internal Revenue Service officials knew agents were targeting tea party groups as early as 2011, according to a draft of an inspector general’s report obtained by The Associated Press that seemingly contradicts public statements by the IRS commissioner.
The IRS apologized Friday for what it acknowledged was “inappropriate” targeting of conservative political groups during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status. The agency blamed low-level employees, saying no high-level officials were aware.
But on June 29, 2011, Lois G. Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt organizations, learned at a meeting that groups were being targeted, according to the watchdog’s report. At the meeting, she was told that groups with “Tea Party,” ‘‘Patriot” or “9/12 Project” in their names were being flagged for additional and often burdensome scrutiny, the report says.
WASHINGTON (AP)—The government has sold another piece of its stake in General Motors Co.
The Treasury Department said Friday in its April report to Congress that so far this year it has sold 58.4 million shares of GM stock and earned net proceeds of $1.6 billion.
At the end of April, Treasury had recovered about $30.7 billion of the $49.5 billion bailout it gave the Detroit automaker. That means that taxpayers are still $18.8 billion in the hole.
GM stock sold in April in a range of $27.52 to $30.84 per share. For the government to break even on its investment, the remaining stock would have to sell for more than double the April high.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has gone, hat in hand, to health industry officials, asking them to make large financial donations to help with the effort to implement President Obama’s landmark health-care law, two people familiar with the outreach said.
Her unusual fundraising push comes after Congress repeatedly rejected the Obama administration’s requests for additional funds to set up the Affordable Care Act, leaving HHS to implement the president’s signature legislative accomplishment on what officials have described as a shoestring budget.
Over the past three months, Sebelius has made multiple phone calls to health industry executives, community organizations and church groups and asked that they contribute whatever they can to nonprofit groups that are working to enroll uninsured Americans and increase awareness of the law, according to an HHS official and an industry person familiar with the secretary’s activities. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk openly about private discussions.
Heh. The fact that this ever happened shows a deep disrespect for political freedom within the IRS.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Internal Revenue Service inappropriately flagged conservative political groups for additional reviews during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status, a top IRS official said Friday.
Organizations were singled out because they included the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their applications for tax-exempt status, said Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups.
In some cases, groups were asked for their list of donors, which violates IRS policy in most cases, she said.
“That was wrong. That was absolutely incorrect, it was insensitive and it was inappropriate. That’s not how we go about selecting cases for further review,” Lerner said at a conference sponsored by the American Bar Association.
“The IRS would like to apologize for that,” she added.
When it became clear last fall that the CIA’s now discredited Benghazi talking points were flawed, the White House said repeatedly the documents were put together almost entirely by the intelligence community, but White House documents reviewed by Congress suggest a different story.
ABC News has obtained 12 different versions of the talking points that show they were extensively edited as they evolved from the drafts first written entirely by the CIA to the final version distributed to Congress and to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice before she appeared on five talk shows the Sunday after that attack.
White House emails reviewed by ABC News suggest the edits were made with extensive input from the State Department. The edits included requests from the State Department that references to the Al Qaeda-affiliated group Ansar al-Sharia be deleted as well references to CIA warnings about terrorist threats in Benghazi in the months preceding the attack.
Yes, it’s a bit dry, but this is a pretty big deal. With the nation’s bond rating being lowered, there have been a rash of municipal bond ratings being lowered too. For West Bend to retain its rating is a great thing.
West Bend earned for another year a high bond rating from Moody’s Investors Service, New York, which is used to determine interest rates the city can obtain when it sells municipal bonds.
West Bend’s bond rating remains Aa2, said Phil Cossen, executive vice president at Ehlers Inc., Brookfield, the city’s financial advisor, this week.
The city team that presented its case for this year’s rating call with Moody’s included the mayor, Justice, Assistant City Administrator Steve Volkert, Finance Administrator Carrie Winklbauer, Deputy Finance Administrator Mary Kudek and Ehler’s associates.
I’ll be on WPR’s Week In Review tomorrow morning from 8 to 9. I’ll be discussing the news of the week with Darryl Mayfield.
Excellent. Now we’ll see which Republicans truly believe in shrinking the size and scope of government and those who just want to spend more.
The Legislative Fiscal Bureau today estimated the state will take in $575 million more in general purpose revenue through mid-2015 than previously estimated.
The LFB wrote in a memo this morning that includes an additional $215 million in the current fiscal year followed by a boost of $180 million in 2013-14 and another $180 million in 2014-15.
Shortly after the new estimates were released, Assembly GOP members of the Joint Finance Committee this morning called for increasing state aid to K-12 education by $255 million more than the guv proposed and pumping more money into tax relief.
This is just nuts. I don’t agree with residency rules, but either do it or not. The middle ground is just littered with idiocy.
Wisconsin lawmakers on Wednesday, May 8, were discussing a compromise to Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal that would eliminate any requirements on municipal workers to live in the cities where they work.
Under the deal, workers likely would be allowed to live within a few miles of the city where they work but would have to pay a fee for living outside the city limits, said Rep. John Nygren, the Republican co-chair of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee. Madison and many other municipalities already take that approach.
Nygren said terms of the deal still were being discussed with senators on the budget committee.
My column for the Daily News is online. It’s called, “Food fight.” Here it is:
The politics of food have become very conflicted as of late. It is difficult to tell what principle, if any, liberals are upholding.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently attempted to ban the sale of large soft drinks within the city. It was an attempt to limit the sugar intake of New Yorkers in an effort to keep them from being fat. The measure was widely ridiculed by every conservative from Sarah Palin to Pat Sajak as part of Bloomberg’s maniacal obsession to nanny every part of people’s lives. The same measure, however, was lauded by liberals as a critical health measure to combat obesity.
The politics of first lady Michelle Obama’s school lunch initiatives followed much the same pattern of Bloomberg’s. Her advocacy for people to eat a more healthy diet and live a healthy lifestyle was widely lauded by virtually everyone on the left and the right.
But when that advocacy turned into regulations for school lunches, things changed. Those regulations essentially required fewer calories, more vegetables and less fatty foods. The kids revolted with widespread stories of a lot of the food going in the trash while kids went hungry instead. Here again, conservatives widely derided the regulations as an unrealistic and an uncomfortable restriction of choice while liberals have lauded them as a marvelous weapon in the fight against childhood obesity.
Here in Wisconsin, things are a little different. Last week an Assembly committee approved a bill that would place some restrictions on what kinds of food people could purchase using food stamps. It is a bill put forth by Rep. Dean Kaufert, R-Neenah, and would require that two-thirds of a person’s monthly food stamps be used on healthy foods including those approved by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.
Like Bloomberg and Obama, Kaufert’s effort is centered on encouraging people to eat healthy food as part of a healthy lifestyle. Yet this time the liberals in Wisconsin are up in arms over the proposal and conservative reaction has been somewhat tepid either way. Liberals are claiming that Kaufert’s bill is everything from an attack on poor folks to a hit against Wisconsin’s cheese industry.
What are we to make of these odd political contradictions? In all three cases we have a government body trying to restrict the choice of what people eat. In all three cases, the motivation behind those efforts is trying to help people by promoting the eating of healthy food in order to improve people’s health and fight obesity. In the case of Bloomberg and Obama’s efforts, liberals are full of praise while they deride Kaufert’s effort.
The only difference between Kaufert’s action and those of Bloomberg and Obama is that Kaufert is only focusing on food for which the taxpayers pick up the bill. In the other two examples, the government is seeking to limit and control the food choices of people spending their own money. This is a curious standard.
According to the logic the liberals are portraying, it is the role and duty of government to restrict citizens from spending their own money on food items they choose. But if the taxpayers are paying for the food, no restrictions should be placed on those choices at all.
One wonders if we could apply the same logic for schools. How about if people are paying for the kids’ education themselves, then they would be restricted to nongovernment schools, but if the taxpayers are paying for education then parents must be allowed to choose any school they want? That uses the same logic that the liberals want to apply to food stamps.
As a culture, we have generally espoused the ethos that the person who pays the bills gets to make the choices. It is precisely this ethos that causes conservatives to shun government stepping in and paying for things like health care. But when it comes to the politics of food, liberals appear to be standing that ethos on its head.