Ethanol Research Grants Coming to an End

This is a revealing story.

A UW-Madison research center that has used the university’s largest-ever federal grant to develop ethanol technology over the past decade will shift its focus to other alternative fuels after winning another major award from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center will use the five-year grant to learn more about how to sustainably produce energy from switchgrass, poplar trees, sorghum and other dedicated bioenergy crops — those that, unlike ethanol, are not also used for food, director Tim Donohue said Monday.

The center received $267 million over 10 years from the Department of Energy for its ethanol research, which Donohue said will wind down over the next six to 18 months.

[…]

Ethanol has been embraced by the energy industry over the years, Donohue said, and putting greater emphasis on research to develop other biofuels fulfills the center’s mission “to generate next-generation technologies.”

Donohue said the Department of Energy encouraged the shift, pushing researchers to focus on potential fuels that would not be grown on land that is now used for agriculture, or compete with other uses for crops such as corn — what he described as a “food-vs.-fuel” issue.

The other biofuels could also have greater potential than ethanol when it comes to replacing fossil fuels across different transportation industries, said Donohue, a professor of bacteriology.

It is a maxim of employee compensation models that people will do what they are paid to do. It is a nod to human nature that people will usually act within their own self interests. That is not a bad thing, but it is something that one must acknowledge and understand when crafting policies. It is something that our Founders understood when creating our Constitution based on competing self interests instead of appealing to people’s idealistic nature.

Many of us have long argued that a significant amount of the “science” that supports some political initiatives like global warming policies or ethanol subsidies are the result of the fact that the scientists are being paid to have those opinions. Look at this story as an example of that. For a decade, the researchers at  Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center received hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to conduct research on the use of ethanol as a fuel. Accordingly, they have spent the last decade telling us that ethanol is great and a wonderful fuel alternative.

Now they will receive a ton of money to study other biofuels. And right on cue, here is the director telling us that “other biofuels could also have a greater potential than ethanol…” Of course they could, because that is what he is being paid to study. The money would dry up pretty quickly if he said, “nah, ethanol is still the best.”

People do what they are paid to do.

Ceding the grand debate

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. I should note that while I lament the fact that we Americans have by and large ceded this debate, I do want the Congress to pass a healthcare reform bill that mitigates the damage as much as possible. I’d rather take a partial win than no win at all. Here it is:

As the U.S. Senate appears to be in the final throes of a bill to significantly change some of the worst aspects of Obamacare, it is appropriate to return to some fundamental truths that have been lost in the debate.

Health care is not a right. One of the philosophical underpinnings of Obamacare is the Marxist assertion that health care is a right, and as a right, should be protected and managed by the central government. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The greatest single definition of rights can be found in our own nation’s Declaration of Independence which states in part, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights … .” Rights are universal, unalienable, inviolable, equal and are the sole birthright of each individual. Since rights rest in the soul of each individual, every right can be exercised by every individual even if they were the last person on earth.

For example, everyone has a natural right to speak their conscience. The exercise of that right requires neither license from a government nor assistance from another person. The right to keep and bear arms is also a right. It is also a right inherent in the individual that can be exercised without any outside interference or assistance.

Health care is not a right. One certainly has the right to practice health care on oneself, as that right rests in the right to own one’s own body, but at the point that one’s health care requires the assistance of another individual, it ceases to be a right. No right can impose an obligation or duty on another individual.

One has a right to speak one’s conscience, but that does not obligate anyone to listen. One has a right to keep andbear arms, but that does not impose a duty on others to manufacture and supply one a gun. One has a right to control one’s own body, but that does not entitle one to the time, knowledge and skills of a doctor. An individual can always exercise a right, but at the point that such exercise imposes upon another person, it ceases to be a right and instead slips into the realms of commerce or coercion.

It is an important distinction because if we extend the definition of rights to include obligations on others, we are sanctioning slavery. When someone says that they are entitled to free universal health care, what they are really saying is that they want our government to use the threat of violence and imprisonment to force another person to surrender the fruits of their education, training, knowledge, time, materials and skills. The assertion that health care is a right is an inherently violent call to enslave others for the service of the collective.

Until the recent past, Americans had accepted that that the delivery of health care was a matter of commerce where free people would engage in an exchange of goods and services to obtain health care services. As a people, we had confidence in the capitalist economic principles that had led to the most efficient and productive allocation of scarce resources in all areas of commerce — including health care. It is upon these principles that America has been built and has become the most prosperous people in the history of human existence.

Yet in a pique of frustration and stupidity, we have abandoned those proven economic principles and embraced an ideology of serfdom by allowing our federal government to dictate the terms of our health care system. The debate occurring in Congress right now is simply over the details and costs of those terms. As a people, we have ceded the grand debate and are now fighting over the scraps of a squandered American legacy.

New Business and Jobs are Bad

This has to be one of the stupidest editorials I’ve read in a long time.

The sudden influx of 10,000 jobs in Janesville could only be a good thing, right?

Not necessarily.

News of Foxconn considering and then passing up Janesville as the site of a $10 billion expansion project might have left some people feeling disappointed. But we know from experience the pitfalls of allowing one company and industry to dominate the local economy.

The GM plant closing happened not even 10 years ago. Let’s not forget with its closing came the sucking sound of hundreds of people’s livelihoods disappearing. When a community relies on a big employer, its fortunes rise and fall with that employer, too. The car industry is notoriously cyclical, and Janesville endured many ups and downs through the years before the bottom finally fell out in 2008.

[…]

Sure, we’re puckering a little, here, from sour grapes, but winning 10,000 Foxconn jobs wouldn’t be a perpetual party for the economy. It would come with a hangover.

Their argument is basically that having a business open in town and create thousands of jobs is a bad thing because that company may leave one day and the jobs will go with it. In their view, unemployment is better because at least that can be perpetual.

What they ignore is the fact that GM created jobs, employment, and a good lifestyle for thousands of people for generations in Janesville. Yes, they eventually left and Janesville misses GM, but they are taking the wrong lesson from that experience. The lesson is that the city must diversify its economy to mitigate the negative effects of business closings. The lesson is NOT that they should eschew big businesses moving to town unless the business can guarantee that jobs will last for eternity.

Illinois Rooting for Foxconn in Wisconsin

Even the FIBs are rooting for it.

Southeastern Wisconsin is in the running to land a behemoth electronics manufacturing facility that could bring 10,000 jobs, a potential game-changer for the region if the deal goes through.

Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group, a major electronics manufacturer well known for making Apple’s iPhones, has announced plans to invest $10 billion to expand U.S. operations, and although it has not announced where or how that money will be spent, Wisconsin officials have let slip that their state is a top contender.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner reached out to Foxconn earlier this year to make his own pitch for the project and the state “will continue to stay in contact as Foxconn works to consider locations and opportunities in the Midwest,” according to an emailed statement Friday from governor’s spokeswoman Eleni Demertzis.

But Foxconn appears to be zeroing in on a swath of Wisconsin just north of the border, which would still likely benefit Illinois as the company builds its workforce and supply chain.

Group Buys West Bend Theater

Great! I hope they can do something with it.

The Historic West Bend Theatre Inc. announced Friday it purchased the West Bend Theatre and plans to restore the downtown facility that was built in 1929.

The nonprofit corporation acquired the property from Ascendant Holdings, which is managed by Matt Prescott.

“We are grateful to Matt Prescott for stepping up to save this beautiful and historic building so that our community may continue to create wonderful memories for years to come,” HWBT president Lisa Rowe said in a news release.

The theatre has remained closed since 2006. The board of directors now in control of the building plans to create a multi-purpose venue to offer classic and kids movie showings, plays, live music performances, comedy acts and a space for events.

The group retained architect Scott Georgeson, who holds a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and is a fellow in the American Institute of Architects. He specializes in theatre restoration and renovation.

Couple Knocked Out in Dance Move

Leave it to the professionals, folks.

A couple knocked themselves unconscious practising a lift from classic 1980s film Dirty Dancing for their wedding.

Sharon Price and fiance Andy Price were trying to recreate its final dance scene in a pub garden in Weston-super-Mare in Somerset.

Mr Price said: “I was concussed. I was out. I ended up in a neck brace and had to have a CT scan.

“We were about 30ft apart and Sharon ran and I grabbed her hips and the next thing we knew we were flat out.”

Mr Price said he had a mild heart attack several years ago and so the medical experts were “just being careful” with the tests they ran.

They were discharged from hospital six hours later.

Uihlein Backing Nicholson

Eh..

Illinois businessman Richard Uihlein has now donated a total of $3.5 million toward a super PAC supporting Republican Kevin Nicholson’s potential campaign for Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate seat.

Uihlein, who is one of the nation’s biggest Republican donors, founded the Pleasant Prairie-based Uline company.

He gave $2 million earlier this year to start the super PAC “Solutions for Wisconsin.” A spokesman said Uihlein donated another $1.5 million last quarter.

So far, Uihlein is the super PAC’s only donor.

Solutions for Wisconsin is focused exclusively on supporting the potential U.S. Senate bid of Kevin Nicholson, a Marine veteran, businessman and former Democrat.

“I strongly encourage others to support this effort and avoid a repeat of 2012’s divisive Republican primary,” Uihlein said in a statement released Wednesday.

While I appreciate Uihlein being willing to seriously support an effort to defeat Senator Baldin, his choice of candidate leaves something to be desired. Could he put his money behind a real Republican instead?

90% of Sexual Assault Accusations in College Because “We were both drunk”

Well, the percentage may be a bit off, but can anyone argue that it is not a significant percentage?

A Department of Education official apologized after saying that “90%” of sexual assault accusations on college campuses “fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’” during an interview as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos prepares to meet Thursday with a range of advocacy groups to discuss the issue.

Candice Jackson, who leads the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, told the New York Times that for most sexual assault investigations, there’s “not even an accusation that these accused students overrode the will of a young woman.”

“Rather, the accusations — 90% of them — fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right,’” she said.

Jackson apologized Wednesday evening, according to the Associated Press, calling the remark “flippant.”

“All sexual harassment and sexual assault must be taken seriously,” she said in a statement.

Prevailing Wage Repeal Gains Momentum

Do it!

Full repeal of Wisconsin’s prevailing wage requirement is once more gaining momentum after its lead state Senate supporter said it must be included in the next state budget.

The demand from Assistant Senate Majority Leader Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, inserts another wrinkle into already-tense talks about how to break the state budget impasse. Lawmakers and Gov. Scott Walker already missed a July 1 deadline to enact the budget.

Twenty-four GOP lawmakers included prevailing wage repeal in a separate proposal, made public Thursday, that they say would cut costs at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

Together the developments re-ignite a prevailing wage repeal debate that, at least publicly, had grown dormant in recent weeks.

Kid Rock for Senate

Why not?

Here’s how he describes himself:

He said, “I am definitely a Republican on fiscal issues and the military, but I lean to the middle on social issues. I am no fan of abortion, but it’s not up to a man to tell a woman what to do. Kid Rock continued, “I played Barack Obama’s inauguration even though I didn’t vote for him. I didn’t agree with his policies, but there was an exciting sense of change in the air. That promise hasn’t been fulfilled – the country is more divided than ever.”

 

Appeals Court Upholds Wisconsin’s Right to Work Law

Excellent!

MADISON, Wis. – Moments ago, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld Wisconsin’s Right-to-Work law in International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139 v. Schimel, affirming the decision of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

Attorney General Brad Schimel hailed the decision.

“The decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirms what we have argued since this law was enacted in 2015, that Right-to-Work is constitutional. The Constitution does not protect a union’s right to take money from non-union members and I’m proud to have defended the rule of law in Wisconsin.”

Illinois Budget Hits Wisconsin

Heh.

A set of tax hikes recently approved in the Illinois state budget will reduce Wisconsin’s general fund by $51 million in the next state budget, according to a memo released Tuesday by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

The Illinois budget, enacted last week after a two-year stalemate by a legislative override of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto, includes a 32 percent tax increase that will bring in an additional $5 billion for the state. Because of an income tax reciprocity agreement between the two states, that means Wisconsin’s budget will take a hit.

The agreement has been in place between the two states since 1973. It allows people who live in one state and work in the other to pay income taxes only in the state in which they live. Because Wisconsin has more residents working in Illinois than Illinois does in Wisconsin, Wisconsin makes a payment to Illinois each year. In addition, Wisconsin residents who earn income in Illinois other than personal service income pay taxes on that income in Illinois, then claim a credit in Wisconsin.

Those two factors together will result in a $51 million reduction to Wisconsin’s general fund in 2017-19, according to the memo.

While unpleasant, some perspective is necessary. This $51 million represents about 0.07% of the state budget. It’s a rounding error, sadly. That’s how much our state government spends.

Washington County Board Decides to Not Decrease Pay

I know… I’m shocked too.

The new proposal would have eliminated the per diem allotment and instead offered a $550 per month salary. When the proposal reached the Executive Committee, Supervisor Mark McCune made a motion to reduce it to $500 per month, and also applied the reduction to the county board chairman’s salary.

“My concerns with this ordinance is if and individual spends a lot of time on different committees, and you are asked by the county chair and leadership to serve on those committees, that you be rewarded for the extra time you put in,” Supervisor Michael Miller said. “It is like having a company and you have an employee working 60 hours aweek and an employee working 40 hours a week. You would want to compensate the employee for working the 60 hours.

Supervisor Marilyn Merten agreed when she referenced supervisors who are members of multiple committees and allocate additional hours to studying the issues and attend the meetings.

“When you are putting in additional time, you

should be recognized for that and compensated for it,” she said. “I have no problem with the compensation reduction and showing a good faith effort that we too are reducing things, but I think the per diem is something to make a fairness out of what committee assignments people have.”

The opponents framed the issue as a fiscal one.

“We just created a committee in the consent agenda that’s geared toward moving off of county tax levy, the History Center, AIS (Agricultural Industrial Society), the EDWC (Economic Development Washington County) and the Visitors Bureau,” Supervisor Christopher Bossert said. “Last month we voted to implement park stickers. All of that is for fiscal reasons so we should be looking at our own pay, our own practices and sharing in that pain.”

Supervisor Timothy Michalak agreed.

“As an individual who has been on salary for years, you put in the time and you just get the work done,” he said.

It’s not a ton of money, but it sure is symbolic.

Trump Jr.’s Email

This seems to be an issue.

The email chain showed how Don Jr laid out the welcome mat when he was contacted with an offer of information about Hillary, despite the fact the note mentioned Russian government support for his father.

‘This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,’ according to one of the emails, which were first obtained by the New York Times, but not published in full by the newspaper.

The email claimed that the information ‘would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.’

Trump Jr’s response: ‘I love it.’

I’m going to admit to having tuned out most of the RUSSIA!!!!! nonsense because so many of the stories were unsubstantiated and later debunked. It has become just noise. But this is a bit different. No, it doesn’t implicate the president, but yes, it does reveal a woeful lack of judgement by his son. It also looks like Jr. was baited into this, which is still no excuse for being so eager to accept opposition research from a foreign power.

Gronik Jumps In

Well, this should be fun.

Milwaukee businessman Andy Gronik has formally launched his campaign for guv, declaring on a new website that it’s “time for a different kind of leadership in Madison.”

Gronik also used the website to take a shot at Gov. Scott Walker, saying the days of the incumbent blaming “the people of Wisconsin for the fact that his policies can’t grow our state are coming to an end.” He also wrote Walker will undoubtedly have unlimited resources, “but I am not intimidated.”

“I’m not a politician. I’m a business leader with the progressive values necessary to beat Governor Scott Walker and make living in Wisconsin better for all of our residents — that’s why I’m running for governor,” Gronik wrote.

Gronik did not immediately respond to an email from WisPolitics.com seeking comment after he announced his campaign in an interview with The Associated Press.

It looks like he’s jumping in a bit early to try to ice out other contenders like Vinehout and Evers. He has said that he won’s self-finance his campaign, so he needs to lock up donors.

Recalling Barrett

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

It is easy for most people in Wisconsin to look upon the troubles in Milwaukee from a distance, lament the immense waste of money and opportunity, pity the victims of crime, cluck our tongues in disapproval and hope their troubles remain confined by the city’s borders. Yet while Wisconsin’s direction is increasingly divergent from Milwaukee’s trajectory with the blossoming of other communities, Milwaukee remains Wisconsin’s largest city. Its gravity still tugs the rest of the state.

Milwaukee’s problems are not new. Like many other Rust Belt cities, the shifting economy coupled with dreadful local leadership has drained the city of much of its vitality. Since 2004, Milwaukee has been led my Mayor Tom Barrett, and under Barrett’s leadership, Milwaukee has suffered.

It is gloomy to recount the statistics, but recount them we must. Between 2004, when Barrett was sworn in, and 2014, the last year for which the FBI has tabulated statistics, the overall violent crime rate in Milwaukee has increased almost 90 percent. The aggravated assault rate is up 263 percent. Robberies are up; burglaries are up; motor vehicle thefts are up.

While Milwaukee has benefitted from a resurgence in downtown development, the majority of the city is languishing under an economic malaise that rivals that of Detroit. This is especially true for Milwaukee’s black citizens. In 2015, the most recent year for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics has data, the unemployment rate for black Milwaukeeans was 17.3 percent compared to 4.3 percent for white Milwaukeeans. The income gap is one of the largest in the nation with the median household income for black families being $25,600 compared to $62,600 for white families. Milwaukee is considered one of the worst cities in America for black people for good reason.

While Barrett has been referred to as a “caretaker” mayor due to his lack of robust leadership, his caretaking certainly seems inadequate given Milwaukee’s decline. And yet, the people of Milwaukee have elected and reelected Barrett four times. In the most recent election in 2016, he was reelected with 70 percent of the vote. Despite the fact that Barrett has been desperately trying to get out of the city by running for governor three times, Milwaukeeans seem satisfied with his governance. One can forgive those of us who live outside of Milwaukee for having difficulty mustering compassion for Milwaukee’s wellbeing when Milwaukee’s voters appear to have so little regard for it.

However there is a growing, diverse, and energetic group of Milwaukeeans who have had enough. A group calling themselves “Save Our City. Milwaukeeans Can’t Wait” — a descriptive if unwieldly moniker — has announced plans to launch a recall effort against Barrett. The group is headed by Allen Jansen, a resident of the city’s south side who has supported the mayoral campaigns of Joe Davis and Bob Donovan. The group’s treasurer is Darryl Farmer, a member of the Black Panthers Party and controversial resident of the city’s north side.

Although newly announced, the group is already garnering wide support from a varied range of Milwaukeeans who are dissatisfied with Barrett for everything from lead pipes to crime. The groups lists four reasons for their effort to recall Barrett.

First, they allege that Barrett’s misplaced priorities of using tax dollars for the construction of a downtown trolley instead of focusing on health, public safety, education, etc. constitutes malfeasance in public office.

Second, they allege official misconduct on the part of Barrett in that he pursued an agenda that personally benefitted his campaign donors.

Third, they allege dereliction of duty because Barrett failed to fulfill his obligation to sufficiently protect Milwaukeeans from crime.

Fourth, they allege that Barrett endangered public health by not acting to replace Milwaukee’s lead lateral pipes.

Of course, none of these allegations are new. Milwaukeeans knew of these failures before they reelected Barrett last year by an overwhelming margin. Yet perhaps the fact that such a coalition of Milwaukeeans has coalesced for change is a ray of hope for a city desperately in need of competent leadership.

Barrett has responded to the recall effort by saying that he welcomes a conversation about Milwaukee’s future. Well, then. Let us have that conversation.

Bill Would Allow Schools To Provide Firearm Education

Good.

Wisconsin high school students would learn how to handle a range of guns — from handguns to rifles — as an elective class under a state Assembly bill introduced last week. 

Rep. Ken Skowronski (R-Franklin) is the lead sponsor of the bill, which would allow schools to offer on-site gun education classes. Its purpose is to promote gun safety and to boost participation in trap shooting, he said.

The bill would not change a current law that prohibits live ammunition and its use on school property.

The bill would not require schools to offer a class. If they did, students would not have to take it. However, the bill would require school superintendents to develop curricula.

Foxconn Considers Wisconsin

This would be a monumentally positive economic development for Wisconsin should it come to pass.

If Foxconn Technology Corp. builds a multibillion-dollar “smart factory” in southeastern Wisconsin, it could mean the equivalent of creating an industrial complex not seen since the heydays of A.O. Smith and Allis-Chalmers.

At their peak in the last century, each of the legendary Milwaukee-area industrial behemoths employed 10,000 workers or more.

Neither of their campuses exist any longer. And neither do the sort of rank-and-file lunch pail jobs that those titans once championed.

Foxconn is expected to require troops of high-end systems engineers who can operate robots, artificial intelligence and state-of-the-art automation systems.

If a Foxconn deal moves ahead, the region would need to move with Manhattan Project-like urgency to mount a come-from-behind retraining and recruitment campaign for automation-savvy workers, according to a consensus of workforce experts. Southeastern Wisconsin already labors under such an acute shortage of digital-age workers that incumbent manufacturers often cannot find qualified candidates.

True, Wisconsin doesn’t have the workers to fill these jobs. They would have to move to Wisconsin or a good number of Wisconsinites would have to retrain. Either way, it would be a boon for the state and undoubtedly launch thousands of other satellite and support businesses. One would hope that with Trump, Priebus, Ryan, and Walker all pushing for it, Wisconsin stands a pretty decent shot.

Baldwin Might Vote for Socialized Healthcare

Ummm

EDGERTON — Count Sen. Tammy Baldwin as a “maybe” on supporting a single-payer health insurance proposal.

“Ultimately, I’ll look at the bill when it comes in, but I anticipate I will (support it),” the Wisconsin Democrat told reporters Thursday. “It’s been a long position of mine, and frankly, it’s really time that we address this partisan nonsense that’s been going on.”

…isn’t Senator Baldwin the member of a governmental body in which she can write and submit bills herself? Why does she have to “look at the bill when it comes in”? Can’t she write her own?

Around the Bend by Judy Steffes

Kiwanis Early Risers Duck Derby winners announced

The winners of the West Bend Early Risers Duck Derby held on July 4 at Regner Park are as follows:

Business Race:
1st Grafton Transit
2nd Technology Techs
3rd Schmidt Funeral Home

Best Dressed:
1st Phillip Funeral Home
2nd Big Brothers Big Sisters
3rd Froedtert Health hometown Pharmacy

Family Race:
1st Robin Konstanz
2nd Mike Kiezer
3rd Paul Gerbard

Best Dressed:
1st Katelyn Taylor
2nd Gail Burkel
3rd Janet Jeziorski

Town of Trenton accident claims life of young Kewaskum man

On Wednesday, July 5 at 5 a.m. the Washington County Sheriff’s Office was notified of a single-vehicle accident at the intersection of Indian Lore Road and E. Newark Drive in the Town of Trenton. The caller reported a single vehicle struck a tree and there was an unresponsive person on the ground adjacent to the vehicle. Boltonville Fire Department and Kewaskum Rescue were dispatched to the scene along with deputies from the Sheriff’s Office. When the first sheriff’s deputy arrived, he located the vehicle up against a tree about 45 feet south of the paved portion of the roadway. He also located the unresponsive subject on the ground and determined the subject was deceased.

The evidence at the scene indicated the driver was southbound on Indian Lore Road and failed to negotiate the 90 degree curve where Indian Lore Road turns into Newark Drive; driving off the south shoulder of Newark Drive and striking the tree head-on ejecting the driver of the vehicle, who was the sole occupant.

The operator was 19-year-old village of Kewaskum resident, Ruben Padilla-Castaneda. This is Washington County’s third traffic fatality of the year.

City of Hartford responds to complaints over illegally placed signs

The City of Hartford has begun taking a more direct approach to the growing problem of illegally placed signs within City owned properties or city right-of-way.  Starting last week, city staff started pulling or moving signs which were illegally placed within the right-of-way or on city parkland.  Signs for help wanted, rummage sales, retails sails, services rendered or realtor open houses were removed in an attempt to clean up what had once again become a problem throughout the city.

“This is not the first time we have had to do this, nor is this law unique to Hartford.  Every community has some sort of laws regarding keeping the city right of way free from any distractions, visual blockages, or possible liabilities,” City Administrator Steve Volkert said.  “Every so often, the amount of signs starts to build up as a few place them illegally, then a few more and it just keeps growing.”

The normal procedure whenever an illegal sign is placed in these areas if for the city to take the soft approach of removing the sign and contact the owner to ask them to remove all signs or move them as to not be illegal.  Then after a week, if all illegally placed signs are not removed, the City will fine the owners and remove the signs themselves.  “We truly don’t have time to be patrolling every street for illegally placed signs,” Volkert said, “so we nicely ask that the owners move them.”

Most recently, more and more signs were popping up so the city instructed staff to pull any signs they saw during their normal travels throughout the city.  Many of those signs were either moved in from the curb or removed and taken to the city garage for keeping.

Placing signs of this nature is not illegal as long as they are placed on private property with the property owners consent.  The easiest way to determine where the City right-of-way ends and private property starts is by using the sidewalk or 10 feet in from the back of the curb.  If the sign is placed inside the sidewalk, it’s usually good.

“We want our city to look clean and uncluttered, and would prefer not to have our staff confiscating these signs,” said Volkert.  “If you are going to put up rummage sale or business signs, make sure they are not placed within the city right-of-way.”

The City ordinance does not allow signs close to the curb for safety reasons.  1) Signs can blow off and cause traffic issues and liabilities to cars, 2) signs can block the clear vision of turning vehicles when placed on corners, 3) signs can distract drivers taking their eyes off the road to read.  This law is similar to all other communities throughout the state.

City Hall was receiving several complaints from businesses and residents alike on all the signs illegally placed.  The city plans on continuing to pull signs through the summer whenever they come across any of them to hopefully curtail this issue and help improve the clutter which they were causing.

Asphalt pavement repairs, overlays work to start on Monday in West Bend

West Bend’s sewer utility staff televised the storm sewers located under the Vine Street employee parking lot this week. The city had been hoping to crack-fill, seal-coat and restripe the Vine Street lot at the conclusion of the Mad Max improvements. Mad Max is complete with their work but it appears as though the asphalt, one storm sewer line and one manhole will need to be fully reconstructed. Staff is determining the best long-term fix for this parking lot and the city is reluctant to invest limited funds into failing infrastructure. Cost estimates are being prepared by the engineering department before moving forward. The Department of Public works staff will restripe the parking stalls on the existing asphalt later in 2017.

Centenarian principal passes away but leaves legacy of faith

On July 29, 2017, Sr. Marlena Janis, SSND, the first principal of St. Francis Cabrini School, passed away on June 29, 2017. Cabrini alum Kristin Bayer, writes, “This past summer, I had the opportunity to meet S. Marlena, and visit with her a few times. I found her to be a dynamic, funny, interesting woman, filled with kindness, good stories, and a deep love of God. She shared some memories of her time at Cabrini, and her long career as a School Sister of Notre Dame.

When asked why she became a nun, S. Marlena laughed and said, “It was like going into the family business.” Her family was Catholic. Her church was Catholic. Her school was Catholic. Her neighborhood was Catholic.

Her first teaching job was in Chicago, at St. Alphonsus. Her next placement was as the principal of a brand new Chicago school, St. Helena of the Cross. After nine years, she was sent to West Bend to open another new school, Saint Frances Cabrini.

The school was the first building constructed on our campus. There was no church building, no convent, and no rectory. Although the School Sisters typically lived in a convent on the grounds of the school they served, with no convent that wasn’t possible here at first, so Cabrini’s School Sisters shared the Holy Angels convent, and drove back and forth. S. Marlena smiled as she remembered, “I spent my whole life coming and going. But I enjoyed every minute of it.”

Her students had a great deal of respect for S. Marlena. She was sometimes referred to as the Little General, and indeed, she didn’t put up with much. One student reportedly said he was in the office so much that he spent more time with S. Marlena than he did with his own mother. But more than that, her students loved her, and when they reminisce, they do it with a smile.

Turning 100 seemed to amaze Sister Marlena, and led her to some self-reflection. During one of our visits, she shook her head in bemusement and said, “Just think of it. Every one of my hairs is 100 years old.” On another visit, she said that although she’d enjoyed good health most of her life, once she turned 100, she started to feel “icky.” As time passed, that feeling grew “ickier.” But she saw the blessing in it, saying that finally she had learned to accept whatever God had in store for her. “Poor God,” she said. “He had to wait 100 years for that.”

Updates & tidbits from the road

Amazing Ride for Alzheimer’s is on the road: This year’s Amazing Ride for Alzheimer’s bicycle tour is on the road to the Netherlands. Please log onto imthebikewriter.blogspot.com for updates. Cheers!

-Stopped at a fish market in Volendam. With encouragement from some readers to tell more about some of the foods of the Netherlands, I was set to take the herring challenge; however, eels won out instead.

The fully intact eels were about 15 inches long and had angry faces. The filleted eels looked a bit more manageable … and they had been smoked.

The experience was a bit slimy.  It did  slide easily off the toothpick and there was a definite smokey taste. The consistency was what you would imagine; eels are more chewy and less flaky, with a very recognizable fish flavor.

Let me just be clear, “eels” has a definite aftertaste that’s challenging to get rid of. My dinner was followed by a series of “eels burps.”  Simply not pleasant, but a good reminder of what was for supper.

– The storms that swept through the campsite just south of Amsterdam last night were so fierce they knocked the waterproofing right off my tent. It was actually a series of storms with brilliant lightning followed by violent cracks of thunder and pummeling rain. Sleeping outdoors made you feel part of it as it did when it rained inside the tent, too. Good thing my maps and post cards pulled in a lot of the water.

– Making my way north of Amsterdam and a whole new atmosphere; it’s not as densely populated, there is a lot more agricultural base and more tourism – think, Wisconsin Dells.

– I am never alone on the bike trails. However, my skills are minimal compared to the Dutch. They bike with purpose and enthusiasm – they can also bike with no hands and text at the same time.

– A true cultural treat is the stroopwafel which is made from two thin layers of baked dough with a caramel-like syrup filling in the middle. No way was there any thought given to eating a whole one. They were the size of a healthy pancake the likes of Breakfast on the Farm.

– Let’s just be clear, if I sat on a broom I’d crush it; there would be no sailing about. But no matter, according to the executive director of the Museum de Heksenwaag, also known as the Witches Museum, in Oudewater.

According to the museum docent and executive director, Jeanette Blake, people from across Europe and beyond flocked to Oudewater to be weighed and given a certificate declaring they were not a witch. It wasn’t the scale in Oudewater that was specifically spot on ….it was a matter of the person manning the scale being honest.

I agreed to be weighed and tested. Blake had to admit, “there was really no way to win.”