Naked Bike Ride Called Off

At least some good came out of this.

Local organizers of the World Naked Bike Ride have called off the annual event, adding to a growing list of Madison-area events that have been postponed or canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Before the cancellation, the clothing optional ride through Madison was set for June 20. The next one will be held on June 19 of next year.

In these challenging times, our local businesses need your support. Find out how to get food, goods, services and more from those remaining open.

“Current conditions throughout the world have made it difficult for us all to make plans for the coming months,” organizers said in a statement. “When it will again be safe and practical for people to gather in groups is a matter of uncertainty. In view of this, local organizers have decided not to hold the World Naked Bike Ride this year in Madison.”

Don’t Delay the Election

The Republicans did exactly the right thing.

Republicans stalled Gov. Tony Evers’ move to push back Tuesday’s election, quickly adjourning a special legislative session to deal with voting issues in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

During Saturday’s proceedings, the state Assembly and state Senate each gaveled in and out within seconds and recessed until Monday.

Dean Knudson weighs in:

Some have questioned why ten other states postponed their presidential primary but Wisconsin is going forward. Our election Tuesday is about more than helping choose the presidential nominees. We have over 3900 state, county, school and municipal elections on Tuesday. It is critically important in our system of representative democracy that citizens have the right to choose their representatives, especially during a crisis.

[…]

As of today requests for absentee ballots are still being processed but nearly 1.3M ballots have been sent out. A reasonable estimate of voter participation for a spring election without a close presidential primary would be 1.5M. Turnout in 2016 was an all-time record at 2.1M but that included two very tight presidential primary races. In 2012 turnout was 1.1M voters without a presidential primary in doubt. The Tuesday in-person turnout is difficult to predict but if turnout at the polling places was 20% of the total we might see over 1.6M votes cast.

This is a phenomenal response and adjustment to the pandemic. To switch our election from 80% in-person to 80% by mail in just a few weeks demonstrates the flexible and adaptable nature of Wisconsin’s voting laws. It shows how a “can do” attitude by our citizens can overcome huge challenges.

[…]

Everything is in place for our elections to go forward. Don’t let fear and panic derail our democracy. Instead let’s pull together to help ensure we minimize health risks in polling places while protecting the integrity of our elections.

The fact is that we have been dealing with the ramifications of Coronavieus for weeks now. It is not a surprise. People have been able to vote absentee in person or by mail for weeks. And if we can leave Wal Mart open, we sure as heck can have our polling places open next week – with a few precautions. Everyone who wants to vote has been able to. The turnout we are seeing falls well within normal turnout rates for this kind of election. There is no reason at all to delay our election.

Self-governance is our right and voting is how we, the people, choose our government. The election must proceed.

Vote for Jody Geenen for transparent School Board

Here’s a Letter to the Editor I received.

I believe the West Bend School Board needs a shake-up.  I believe the right person to do so is Jody Geenen.

A recent article in the West Bend Current, the high schools’ online newspaper, made me sure of this (westbendcurrent.com/2020/03/31).  All candidates running for the School Board were interviewed, but the three incumbents (Justman, Ongert and Schmidt) reminded me once again how often they are misleading with facts, less than transparent, and far from conservative.

Mr. Ongert misleads when he states that the District has “far more AP classes and CTE classes than any other district around us.”  All one has to do is combine the number of students at our two high schools, and West Bend ends up as one of the largest high schools in the whole state.  No wonder our high schools offer more AP and CTE classes– or any other classes for that matter– than schools like Germantown, Slinger or Cedarburg!  How does the number of classes make our district any better?

Ms. Justman is less than transparent when she says the board is “working proactively” on building needs such as roofing repairs.  Roofing is always included in the District budget, and there is a schedule of repairs each summer.  She also says that “attractive and high-functioning schools” will make West Bend “the chosen destination for families to live,” and she is concerned about our community thriving and higher property values.  One would think she works for the Economic Development office of the city rather than serving on the School Board.  What about improving the education of our students?

Ms. Schmidt mentions learning but usually in the context of her own educational experiences.  Her plans for improving the District do not focus on curriculum or test scores.  She wants United Way to step in with their Inspire program (but doesn’t explain how that would improve student achievement), and she borrows a successful concept from Riveredge Nature Center.  Schmidt wants to establish a charter nature school like Riveredge in the District!  Perhaps more disturbing is her attack on former Superintendent Erik Olson.

Since being elected in 2017, the three incumbents have had plenty of time “to move our district forward,” as Ongert states in the Current piece.  Instead, test scores have fallen below neighboring districts, and the Wisconsin State Report Card scores show both East and West High Schools at the bottom of all conference schools.  The school board at great expense pursued a $74 million (including interest) referendum that was too much for this community on top of existing debt of $32 million from previous referendums.  They’ve allowed left-leaning curriculum and lesson plans to persist in the classrooms, even when a national spotlight was shined on the District.

Justman, Ongert, and Schmidt are out of touch with this community.  It’s time to vote for Jody Geenen to add a voice of reason to the School Board.  Jody will respectfully represent your tax dollars, and she’ll welcome input when working to improve student academics.  Because that’s what schools are all about:  learning, not shiny new buildings.  Cast only one vote for School Board; the right choice is Jody Geenen on April 7.

John & Carol Heger

Evers Proposes Major Overhaul of Election Rules Days Before Election

No. We have known about Coronovirus for weeks now. People have had plenty of time to vote absentee if they wanted to. And those who were planning to vote in person have a right to do so. We held elections during war, civil strife, and other disease outbreaks. We can do it again. Stop messing with our rights.

WISCONSIN — Governor Tony Evers is calling for a special session on Saturday to discuss the upcoming election.

According to the governor, he would like to see absentee ballots mailed out to every Wisconsin citizen who has not yet requested one.

Evers would like to see these ballots mailed out by May 19, and extend the receiving date to May 26.

The special session to discuss these new requests will take place on Saturday, at 4 p.m. Should these new requests go into effect, all in-person voting would be canceled. That includes drive-up voting.

Dr. Fauci Doesn’t Understand Federalism

No matter how bad he wants it or thinks it is necessary, Dr. Fauci’s wishes must not override our Constitution and system of government.

President Donald Trump on Friday was facing new pressure from the nation’s top infectious disease expert to call for a nationwide stay-at home order to keep the coronavirus from spreading and making the projected death toll even worse.

In his strongest comments yet, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has become a prominent face in the fight against the pandemic, is now saying that he “doesn’t understand” why every state isn’t under a stay-at-home order — a move Trump continues to resist, arguing those decisions should be left to the states.

“I don’t understand why that’s not happening,” Fauci told CNN at a town hall Thursday night, when asked about some states having not issued stay-at-home orders. “The tension between federally-mandated versus states rights to do what they want is something I don’t want to get into, but if you look at what’s going on in this country I just don’t understand why we’re not doing that — we really should be.”

Trump is right to resist this. Clearly Dr. Fauci has a totalitarian mindset that must be rejected.

West Bend School Board Member Misrepresents Task Force Findings

In a letter to the editor today in the Washington County Daily News, West Bend School Board Member Paul Fischer said a couple of things that need some discussion. First, he said this:

Regarding our ongoing facilities discussions, various letters to the editor claim the School Board has turned a deaf ear toward the private task force’s recommendations. This statement couldn’t be further from the truth. The School Board agrees with many of their observations and continues to evaluate their suggestions.

Some of you might remember that I was a member of the Private Task Force that spent months evaluating the district’s elementary and high school facilities. I can’t get into the minds of the board members. What I can tell you is that they seemed receptive when we presented the findings to them at a board meeting. I presented the findings for a few groups after we presented to the board and several board members attended those presentations of their own accord. The Task Force offered to come back in committee format to do deeper dives on specific findings and provide all of the backend discovery and data. To my knowledge, the board has not taken up any task force members on that offer. So while the board members may be considering the Task Force’s findings in their deliberations, they have not dug any deeper into the details of those findings. Perhaps that is why Mr. Fischer made this incorrect statement:

Claims have also been made that the task force recommendations included guidance that our facilities issues can be addressed without raising taxes. To be clear, the report NEVER made that statement.

This is not true. The written task force presentation laid out a financial model for how to accomplish the facilities goals without increasing spending or taxes. Furthermore, it was verbally communicated during the school board presentation. It was also verbally presented several times at other presentations that board members attended. I happen to know that because I was the one presenting. Finally, I actually wrote it in the column I did at the time about the findings. I wrote:

Third, once the district has a valid long-range facilities plan and an adequate funding to execute that plan, the School Board must do the work to execute without increasing spending or raising taxes. The Task Force found that there is sufficient money in the current budget to pay for extensive upgrades to the district’s facilities without increasing spending or raising taxes.

I said virtually the same thing in a second column:

The best part is that by taking advantage of the operational efficiencies of a streamlined district infrastructure and making a few other easily identified operational efficiencies, the task force found that the district could do upgrade at the high school, modernize the entire elementary school footprint, and increase the ongoing maintenance budget to adequate levels without spending or taxing a dollar more than they already are.

As a member of the Task Force who participated in the discovery, discussion, and development of the presentations; and as someone who actually presented the findings multiple times; I can say with absolute certainty that the Task Force did find that the West Bend School District could address its facilities needs without raising taxes or spending. Perhaps Fischer wants to dance around how the written report is phrased, but this finding was presented to the Board and communicated multiple times in multiple formats. Again, perhaps if the School Board had taken up the opportunity to dig deeper into the discovery documentation, this fact would have been more clear. But then again, I thought it was already clear. Clearly it is just something that they don’t want to confront.

The complaints from some in the community that the West Bend School Board ignored the Task Force’s findings are well founded. While the board members might be taking the findings into consideration in their heads, they have given no outward indication that that’s the case.

Democrats Delay National Convention

This is unfortunate, but understandable.

Democrats announced Thursday that they were postponing their presidential nominating convention until August, an unprecedented move that shows how the coronavirus is reshaping the battle for the White House.

The party had hoped that a mid-July convention would give them more time to rally behind a nominee and unify against President Donald Trump. But concerns that large crowds will spread the virus prompted Democrats, including prospective nominee Joe Biden, to press for alternatives.

“In our current climate of uncertainty, we believe the smartest approach is to take additional time to monitor how this situation unfolds so we can best position our party for a safe and successful convention,” said Democratic convention CEO Joe Solmonese.

Milwaukee will still host the convention, which is now scheduled for the week of Aug. 17. Republicans are sticking with their plan to meet in Charlotte, North Carolina, a week later to renominate Trump.

Air Force Academy Relaxes Social Distancing After Suicides

There are consequences to these decisions. Humans are social mammals. Most people don’t do well in isolation. That is why so many lefties consider solitary confinement to be a form of torture.

Coronavirus social distancing measures on the Colorado Springs Air Force Academy campus will be relaxed following the back-to-back deaths of two cadets in suspected suicides, officials said.

While all underclassmen are learning online, the senior class has remained on campus. The students were spread throughout dormitories and each was given their own room as part of quarantine measures.

One cadet tested positive for COVID-19 last week, the academy said.

Since those measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 were put into place weeks ago, two cadets have died within days of each other. The first death was reported Thursday and another on Saturday. USAFA said the deaths were not related to COVID-19 and investigators did not suspect foul play.

“These are deaths from despair,” Katrina Knight, the mother of a class of 2020 cadet, told FOX21 Colorado Springs. “Our hearts are grieving as a community because a couple of class members have already suffered the impacts to the furthest extent that they could.”

The senior class was kept on campus because “our Air and Space Forces have deemed us essential to their missions,” USAFA superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria said in an email sent Monday to students and later obtained by local news outlets.

Now, seniors will be allowed to venture off campus for food and hold on-campus events, according to the email. Silveria said that he met with the senior class and spoke with top Pentagon officials before changing the policy.

“We are working several morale events like golf or an outdoor movie that allow them to connect and keep them healthy,” the email said. “We continue to provide round the clock access to mental health services and support through this tragic loss.”

Wave of Americans Hit the Unemployment Line

I am more and more convinced in my opinion that not only is this government-enforced recession a massive infringement on our rights, it is a massive overreaction. That is not to say that Coronavirus isn’t a serious issue that needs to be managed, but our collective response to it has been madness.

New York (CNN Business)Millions more Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, as businesses continue to lay off and furlough workers amid the coronavirus outbreak.

6.6 million workers filed for their first week of unemployment benefits in the week ending March 28 — a new historic high. Economists polled by Refinitiv had expected 3.5 million claims.
A week earlier, 3.3 million Americans filed for their first week of benefits, which was the largest number ever at the time.

Judge Leaves April Election Alone

Good decision. The decision to monkey with the election is for the legislative and executive branches. This wasn’t a judge’s call to make and I’m glad that he exhibited the judicial modesty required by the situation.

U.S. District Judge William Conley told attorneys for the Democratic National Committee and a host of liberal-leaning groups that they haven’t shown how the pandemic has truly hampered people’s voting rights. He said infections look ready to spike in Wisconsin but Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Republican legislative leaders don’t feel the crisis is severe enough to stop the election.

“I’m not sure it’s my place to to assume the steps taken by the state or not taken by the state is an impingement on an individual’s right to vote. That’s what I’m struggling with,” Conley said.

Tuesday’s election includes the state’s presidential primary, a state Supreme Court race and hundreds of local races.

It will be interesting to see what turnout is. I expect it will be in line with normal April elections, but not as high as Dems were hoping with a contested presidential primary. However, given that the primary is all but settled, the Dems’ hopes for a massive Dem turnout were already dashed.

Go vote!

Volunteer to be a Poll Worker

If you are a healthy, younger person, please, please, PLEASE consider volunteering to be a poll worker. Just call your local municipal or county clerk to volunteer. I volunteered in my municipality and am on the schedule to work next Tuesday. The clerk was friendly, helpful, and all of the training is online. EASY!

Our right to self-governance relies on making sure people can vote. If you are in a low-risk group, please step up to protect some of our older neighbors who usually work the polls.

Corona-Dashboard

Speaker Vos pointed out on Twitter how New York is providing data on a city level and chided Governor Evers for not having that level of detail. I happened upon this dashboard for a county in Texas. Notice the detail… how many are sick; how many are recovered; where the cases are; the source of the infection; gender breakdown; closings; etc. – all of which can be filtered by zip code. Meanwhile, here in Wisconsin, we has so little data.

Wisconsin has the data. Why are they not sharing it? This kind of dashboard is a layup for private industry.

Nobody’s Hiring

The economic wreckage of our government’s overreaction to coronavirus will be felt for years.

In addition to widespread layoffs, hiring has collapsed, which will also drag down the overall job numbers. A Moody’s survey of companies that typically finds 40% of firms hiring has fallen to a record low of just 6% of businesses adding jobs, Zandi said.

“Not only are we seeing big layoffs but obviously no one’s hiring at this point,” he said.

NFL Expands Playoffs

Nooooooooooo… I disapprove of the continued “everybody’s a winner” culture. Of course this is about the money. More games = more revenue. This seems like a backdoor way to just lengthen the season.

The NFL’s anticipated playoff expansion officially passed.

League owners voted to approve expanding the postseason to 14 teams beginning in the 2020 season, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per a source.

The decision came during a conference call Tuesday, which took place in lieu of the NFL’s Annual League Meeting, which was canceled earlier this month as part of the league’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Changing the playoff format required approval from three-quarters of the 32 NFL owners.

In the new format, AFC and NFC Wild Card games will feature the 2 seed hosting the 7 seed, the 3 seed hosting the 6 seed and the 4 seed hosting the 5 seed.

The April election is on and more important than ever

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News yesterday. Note that I had an error in the deadline for getting an absentee ballot. I corrected it below.

Coronavirus might still be raging across the state, but our right to self-governance continues on. For now, the April election will be held on schedule. The deadline has passed to request an absentee ballot to vote by mail. The deadline is April 2nd. If you already have one, be sure to fill it out and exercise your franchise. Most municipalities are still allowing in-person absentee voting until April 3, although there may be some additional precautionary measures. Be sure to call your local clerk. I voted a couple of weeks ago at City Hall in West Bend and it was a perfectly quick and delightful (and sanitary) experience.

Finally, the polls will be open on April 7. Some of the normal polling places have been moved and the process will work a bit differently, but they will be open. We must not abrogate our right to vote in the face of adversity.

There are several important races on the ballot. Here is a quick rundown of who I voted for and why:

Wisconsin Supreme Court: This is, by far, the most important election on the ballot. The Supreme Court is always important, but as we have seen our governor exercise extraordinary arbitrary power to micromanage all of our lives, the importance of the other branches of government stands out. Incumbent Justice Daniel Kelly is being challenged by a liberal activist judge Jill Karofsky, who has repeatedly told audiences how she would use the court to advance the liberal agenda. Daniel Kelly has proven himself to be a conservative jurist who will uphold the Constitution and the law – even if he personally disagrees with it. Kelly is an ethical judge with a humble temperament that is too rare nowadays in the judicial branch. To protect our rule of law and our rights, I voted for Daniel Kelly.

Court of Appeals District 2: This is the second most important election on the ballot. Very few cases are actually decided by the Supreme Court. Most important legal issues are settle in one of Wisconsin’s Courts of Appeals. Incumbent Appeals Court Judge Lisa Neubauer lost an election for the Supreme Court last year. In that election, she showed her true colors with a scorched-earth campaign in which she passionately advocated for liberal activism on the court. This election is a chance to remove her from the Court of Appeals and replace her with someone who respects the role of a humble jurist.

Fortunately, Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Paul Bugenhagen Jr. is a great conservative judge with just the right temperament for the court. Bugenhagen got my vote.

Washington County executive: For the first time, Washington County citizens will elect a county executive after the County Board voted to change the county’s government structure. Josh Schoemann is the current county administrator. Adam Gitter is the Economic Development manager for the city of West Bend. Both men are conservative. Both men are veterans. Both men are career bureaucrats seeking their first elected office. Both are promising to hold the line on taxes and spending.

On the issues, Schoemann and Gitter differ on two primary issues. First, Schoemann supports park fees and Gitter does not. Second, Gitter considers the county sales tax to be a “slush fund” and wants to reform or repeal it. Schoemann thinks the sales tax is necessary to fund the county. I’m somewhat indifferent on park fees, but want to see the sales tax repealed. Mainly for that reason, I cast my vote for Adam Gitter.

Mayor of West Bend: Much like for county executive, the citizens of West Bend have two great choices for their next mayor. Chris Jenkins and Rich Kasten are both currently aldermen for West Bend. They are both conservative, fiscally and socially conservative, hard workers, and love the city. They both want to fix the roads, control spending and taxes, and attract businesses.

The difference really comes down to experience and background. I voted for Kasten because he is a bit older and more experienced. Also, Kasten works in the private sector while Jenkins works for another municipality. In light of the fact that the next mayor’s term will be spent trying to heal the city after a government-forced recession, I prefer a mayor whose experience is rooted in the private sector.

West Bend School Board. My column from a few weeks ago went into detail on the need for a new voice on the West Bend School Board. There is only one person on the ballot worth voting for. The citizens of the West Bend School District need Jody Geenen on the board.

In an era of unprecedented government intervention, it is more important than ever to choose our elected leaders. Vote by mail. Vote absentee in person. Go to the polls on April 7 to vote. Just vote.

Looking at The Current Washington County Administrator Contract

Here is a guest post from former Washington County Sheriff, Dale Schmidt. Here is a copy County Administrator Current Contract

As the candidates for Washington County Executive, Mr. Gitter and Mr. Schoemann, campaign using information they want you to know, voters should always seek out their own information about the candidates.  As Schoemann has been employed by county government since 2014 it may be worth reviewing the positions he has held and his current employment contract.

When he was first hired, the position was known as County Manager.   That position was part of the County pay chart at that time and probably had the same benefits as other full time employees.

By June of 2014 though, the County Board changed the position to County Administrator, still on the pay plan.  Starting in June of 2015 the Executive Committee held closed session meetings under the heading “County Administrator Contract” every month, (for 7 months) which culminated in the Board approving an employment contract for Schoemann at its December 8th meeting.

That contract was a public document made available as part of the Board’s packet of information. The contract was for two years, renewable in one year increments.  Schoemann negotiated and the Board approved wages of $126,555 in 2016, and $132,883 in 2017.  The total wages and benefits were $166,988 in 2016 and $174,223 in 2017.  (At that meeting, the Board also approved a 1% cost of living raise for all non-represented employees.  It’s unknown if 1% was then added onto Schoemann’s negotiated wages).  Schoemann also was to accrue Paid-Time-Off at the rate of a 9 year employee and the contract included performance evaluations and a retention/incentive clause.

In September of 2017, that contract was amended by the Executive Committee in a closed session meeting lasting 16 minutes.  The contract item was on the public agenda as closed session, but the proposed contract was not publicly available.  To the best of my knowledge, the contract has not been published publicly to this day.  It also was never approved by the whole County Board as the Administrator is now only required to answer to the Executive Committee.  The members who approved this contract were Supervisors Kriefall, Michalak McCune, Bulawa, Deiss, Bassill, and past Chairman Gundrum.  The contract has been released to the public through a formal record request.  It should be noted that since the County Board changed its form of government to Executive, this contract is done the day the new Executive term begins in April.

Significant bullet points of the current contract.  (Words in italics are copied from the contract):

-This is a five year contract covering years 2018 through 2022.

Administrator’s gross salary shall be set as follows: For calendar year 2018: $138,198; For calendar year 2019: $143,726; For calendar year 2020: $149,475; For calendar year 2021: $153,960; For calendar year 2022: $158,578.

Retention Incentive.  Administrator shall receive an incentive (“incentive”) accrual and payment in accordance with the following procedures and policies:  1. Accrual of Retention Incentive, Beginning in 2018 for each year Administrator is employed by County from January 1 to December 31 under this Agreement, he shall accrue a retention incentive payment, The incentive accrual amount shall be as set forth in Article IV,B.2.  2. Payment.  In January of 2018 Administrator shall receive a retention incentive payment in the amount of $10,000, On January 1 each year thereafter, Administrator shall receive a retention incentive payment in the amount accrued three (3) years prior which shall be five percent (5%) of the then gross salary budgeted and approved by the County Board.  Said payment shall be deemed income and subject to applicable withholdings in accordance with the County’s standard payroll practices, The retention incentive payment shall be made as directed by Administrator in one lump sum or in 26 installments.  (Schoemann received the $10,000 on January 1, 2018 and then on January 1, 2019 it appears he received 5% of his gross salary for 2016 which is $6327.75 and on January 1 of 2020, 5% of his salary for 2017 which is $6644.15.)

-Deferred Compensation.  Beginning January 1, 2018 and continuing for the term of this Agreement, County shall make a contribution to a deferred compensation account approved by Administrator.  The amount of the contribution for 2018 shall be $6,000’ The amount of the contribution shall increase by $3,000 per year every year thereafter during the term of this Agreement.  (Deferred Compensation is a program to invest money for retirement.  Washington County employees must use their own money to invest in this program.  This contract specifies taxpayer funds are invested for the Administrator).

Performance Bonus. Administrator shall be eligible for a performance bonus in the amount of $10,000 each year upon a satisfactory annual performance evaluation as determined by the Executive Committee.   (The Executive Committee conducted a performance evaluation on the Administrator during an October 9, 2019 closed session meeting.  The minutes reflect that Schoemann was rated a 5.  I believe the County scale is 1 to 5.)

Other income.  Beginning January 1, 2018 and every year thereafter during the term of this Agreement, per Administrator’s direction, County shall make a payment in the amount of $5,000 to a health savings account established by Administrator.   (The County puts $728 per year in individual employee HSA’s, and the employee can add their own money).

Administrator, as of January, 2018, accrues paid-time-off (“PTO”) hours consistent with fourteen (14) years of service in the PTO table for Full Time non-represented employees with administrative leave and for the duration of this agreement will earn years of service credit consistent with the PTO table.   (2018 was the Administrator’s 5th year of county employment.  Also, unused PTO can be cashed out at time of separation).

Additionally there are two lengthy sections on Removal/Resignation/Separation and Severance.  Together, they indicate the ways Schoemann could be separated from the position and what the payout would be for each.  One specific method is Change in Form of Government.  It spells out that if the County, changes to a County Executive form of government, the Severance clause is followed.  That clause essentially states the County agrees to pay Administrator a one-time lump sum cash payment equal to six (6) months of his current annual salary, and, extend paid health insurance coverage to Administrator and existing beneficiaries for six (6) months following removal.

A few thoughts… it is a shame that this is coming out less than a week before the election, but it needs to be known. This is one of the consequences of the decimation of local journalism with the rise of the internet. There was a time when it would have been someone’s job to watch local government. When a new contract like this was signed, they would have gotten a copy and reported it if anything was newsworthy. Now we are mostly relying on local citizens and a couple of small media outlets to cover the dozen or so governments just in Washington County.

The contract itself is a pretty sweetheart deal. Guaranteed raises, performance bonuses, expenses, and a separation payout clause? Sign me up! While County Administrator is an important position, I struggle to understand why the taxpayers needed to extend such a lucrative contract to attract good talent to the position.

The most egregious part of the whole deal, however, is the process. It was secretive, non-competitive, and just as you would expect the “good ol’ boy” system to work. For example, if they were going to so dramatically increase the compensation package for the role, then why not post the job to see if we had the best candidate we could get for that money? Or, if the County Manager was threatening to leave without the contract, why not let him quit and see if the county could get an equal or better resource for the money? As it is, we took the same guy and gave him a pretty substantial contract for the same work. It flies in the face of the cries of “frugal” and “broke” we get from the County leadership.

If you look at the folks who negotiated and signed this contract, they are many of the same people who have been writing letters of recommendation for Shoemann in his bid to be an elected County Executive. One wonders if they just want to keep the bodies buried when we have an independent, elected County Executive.

The April election is on and more important than ever

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. It’s a rundown of who I voted for and why. Most readers of this blog won’t be too surprised, but go pick up a copy!

Finally, the polls will be open on April 7. Some of the normal polling places have been moved and the process will work a bit differently, but they will be open. We must not abrogate our right to vote in the face of adversity.

[…]

In an era of unprecedented government intervention, it is more important than ever to choose our elected leaders. Vote by mail. Vote absentee in person. Go to the polls on April 7 to vote. Just vote.

Letter to the Editor

There is only one new candidate running for West Bend School District Board, Jody Geenen.  The three incumbents running as a bloc promised to be conservative, but their actions say something different. The current school board is out-of-touch and far from good stewards of tax dollars.

  • The current board wants to increase taxes with new buildings and a declining student population. The current board has tabled suggestions provided by an independent, volunteer task force who have researched and offered alternatives. Last year’s school referendum they wanted a palace in Jackson with 180+ square feet per student.  We are still paying for the rebuilding of Badger and Silverbrook.
  • The current school board took credit for a low mill rate which had nothing to do with the WBSD Board.  They count on the public being confused by mill rates.
  • The current board won’t review curriculum and are “leaving it to the experts”. The current board touts that there is parent/public input, but they make it so inconvenient for parent/public input to be heard.
  • The current board wants to eliminate the traditional 100-point grading system to prevent students from failing. The lowest possible grade would be a 40% or 50% instead of a 0 for a student who doesn’t do the work.

There is more, but all in the midst of another nation-wide search for a new superintendent.

I want someone on the school board who is honest, committed, fair minded, has common sense and will listen to ALL stakeholders, who treats my tax dollars as their own, and who supports high quality education.  Actions speak louder than words.  The ONLY vote for West Bend School District School board should be Jody Geenen.

Mary Wild

West Bend

Special Interests Spend Big to Support Liberal Karofsky

There is never a shortage of money for lefty activists running for the court.

Special interest groups spent more than $3 million as of Monday morning in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race.

Groups supporting Dane County Circuit Judge Jill Karofsky have spent nearly $1.9 million. Groups backing incumbent Justice Dan Kelly have spent nearly $1.2 million. The election is next Tuesday, April 7.

Until late last week, groups backing Karofsky had a large spending advantage over groups that were supporting Kelly, but two outfits that support GOP and conservative candidates filed more than $1 million in new spending to support Kelly to close the gap.

Karofsky has backing from Democratic contributors and outside groups and Kelly has support from GOP contributors and groups.

Election for Washington County Executive

The voters of Washington County will be choosing their first ever County Executive next week. The County Board voted last year to change the county’s form of government from a County Administrator, in which the executive function is performed by an administrator hired by the county board, to a County Executive, in which the executive function is performed by an elected County Executive who represents a separate, co-equal branch of government.

The voters are blessed with two good choices. Josh Shoemann is the current County Administrator. Adam Gitter is the Economic Development Manager for the City of West Bend. Both men are conservative. Both men are veterans. Both men are career government bureaucrats seeking their first elected office. Both are promising to hold the line on taxes and spending.

On the issues, they differ on two primary points. First, Gitter wants to rescind fees for county parks. A couple of years ago, the county implemented a fee structure for people to enter county parks. In the past, the parks did not have an entrance fee. Gitter’s argument is that the people pay taxes for the parks and should not have to pay a fee to go in them. Shoemann, who advocated for and supports the fees, says that using fees for some things helps keep taxes down. Both are right.

This is an issue on which I can go either way. Generally speaking, I don’t mind if there is a fee for things that not everyone uses. The people who use it should bear the brunt of the costs. On the other hand, we have seen where governments will implement fees and still keep raising taxes. What’s the point of fees then? Furthermore, there is a philosophical justification for the notion that we pay taxes for our county to maintain parks and that should include free and open access. Again, I’m somewhat indifferent on the issue It is an esoteric discussion that has little bearing on my life. But this is the issue that has garnered the most energy in this campaign.

The second issue on which they disagree is on the county sales tax.Washington County implemented a sales tax many years ago on an “emergency” basis to pay for some specific capital needs like a new radio system for the Sheriff. Once those things were paid off, the county kept the sales tax and now uses it for whatever they want. I have long advocated that the county should repeal the sales tax. The reason it was implemented is no longer valid and they should repeal it. If, after it is repealed, the county wants to implement a new sales tax to fund county government, then let’s have that debate. As it is, the county sales tax is the greatest bait and switch ever foisted on the people of Washington County.

On this issue, Gitter calls the sales tax a “slush fund” and has advocated repealing or reforming it. Gitter is right. Shoemann argues that the sales tax revenue has become too integral to the county’s finances and repealing it would blow a $4 million hole in the budget. Yes, it would. That has been part of the insipid nature of the sales tax revenue in that once the County Board got it, they wouldn’t let it go. There is no reason that we could not work toward the goal repealing the sales tax over time. At least Gitter wants to try and will push in the right direction.

Primarily because of the sales tax, I voted for Adam Gitter. There is a lesser reason that irks me a little too.

Shoemann has seen a wave of support from the current insiders in the county. The current county board chair, former chair, several county board members, and a couple of local politicians have come out in support of Shoemann. This makes sense and is a credit to Shoemann. In his role as County Administrator, he has worked with these people over years and earned their trust. That’s great. But there is what we used to call a “good ol’ boys” network in Washington County. In our modern nomenclature, we call it the swamp. That’s what this is. One of the reasons I advocated for a County Executive form of government was so that the county could have an elected, independent executive branch. If the executive is that tight with the board and part of the club, then what’s the point? I’m not saying that we should have open warfare between the branches of government, but the friction created by skepticism and independence is part of the balance of powers that makes for good government.

Finally on a side note, it is unfortunate that these local races have been drowned out by the presidential primaries and coronavirus. One of the fascinating things about this race that the county’s local lefty contingent has all lined up behind Gitter. As a quirk of politics, I find myself on the same side. It is curious because Gitter is an avowed conservative who has been successful in his role at the City of West Bend with conservative leadership. In reading the lefties’ writings, it looks like it comes down to two issues. First, the liberals hate park fees. As a matter of philosophy, they oppose park fees and believe that the parks should be free to everyone. Gitter agrees with that philosophy. Second, the lefties just hate Shoemann and don’t really know Gitter. It is a testament to Shoemann’s conservatism that he is so reviled by the local lefty establishment. I hope that Gitter can earn their enmity should he be elected.

All said, the voters can’t make a bad choice for county executive, but because of a couple of issues, I voted for Adam Gitter.