Keep Fighting Until the Bell Rings

Mark Belling makes some great points on why Walker shouldn’t be shy about signing the bills headed to his desk. Fortunately, it looks like Walker is on the same page.

The only actual opposition to a duly elected Legislature legislating and a still-the-governor governing comes from Democrats and the media who go batty every time a Republican actually does something. This crowd prefers its Republicans to be acquiescent. They like Republicans who don’t make waves. What they don’t like are Republicans who have power and they especially hate Republicans who actually use power. The actual great mass of Republican voters — which is right around half the population of Wisconsin — desperately wants Republicans who will fight.

[…]

Republican voters get this. They know the media is in the bag for the Democrats and will try to stop Republicans from ever exercising power. Look at the number they tried on Brett Kavanaugh. Or the nonstop obsession with everything Trump says or does. Or the biased, negative coverage of Walker’s Foxconn deal. What actual Republicans, as opposed to sellouts like Sykes and wimps like McCallum, want is for their side to fight back against this crowd.

There is one barometer that is 100 percent accurate when it comes to Republican politicians. If the media is going batty over what they are doing and the lefties are protesting, heckling and baying at the moon, the Republicans are doing something right.

West Bend School Board Settles on Referendum Amount

To be clear, this isn’t the final decision to go to referendum. This is just to set the amount that they would ask for IF they go to referendum. But I think we all know that they are going to referendum…

Kirkegaard recommended three amounts for the referendum: $50 million — the full amount discussed in the past, which doesn’t take into consideration the remaining amount in the funds, $48 million — with a specification that the sum total will not exceed $50 million, or $47 million.

The ballot question has to be in its final form by Jan. 22, so the board needed to agree on an amount. One member said enrollment projections are not there to support requesting $50 million so the board should ask for as little money as possible. Another member asked if it was possible to simplify the design in order to lower the cost and if any remaining funds would be restricted.

Fund 46 is restricted because the money cannot be spent until at least five years after it was deposited. If the entire fund is spent, that time restarts and the board will be more restricted in the future, so they did not want to spend the remaining amount. However, they countered this with the desire to spend as little as possible and ensure the community knew they were not being frivolous with tax dollars.

They settled on $47 million to send the message that they are only asking for what they need. This number will be included in the articles that bond counsel will prepare for the next meeting.

Yes… asking for $47 million instead of $50 million really shows fiscal responsibility /sarcasm. Interest on debt like that will run the total obligation to taxpayers up to about $80 million based on current rates. Follow the link to see the video if you want to see the discussion.

Public input on the next state budget

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News yesterday. I don’t have any illusions about Evers actually listening to my view, but he asked for public input…

Gov.-elect Tony Evers and Lt. Gov.-elect Mandela Barnes have announced they will hold four public listening sessions before Christmas to get the public’s input on the upcoming state budget. The four sessions will be today in Green Bay, Wednesday in Wausau, Dec. 18 in La Crosse and Dec. 19 in Milwaukee.

Since all four sessions begin during working hours and, like most tax-paying Wisconsinites, I work for a living, I will not be able to attend and give the incoming administration my thoughts in person. This column will have to suffice.

As the Legislature and governor begin the process of crafting the next state budget, they must do so with the understanding that Wisconsin is not immune from the economic winds blowing across the nation. While the underlying economic metrics remain strong, several leading indicators, including the wild movements in the stock market, foretell a looming recession within the next year or two.

Since Wisconsin uses a biennial budget, it is likely the next recession will come during the budget our elected officials are about to write. They must write that budget understanding recessions always lead to a decrease in state tax revenue while making higher demands on state services like welfare and Badger-Care. To that end, the overriding objective of the next state budget should be to reduce spending, reduce taxes and continue to pump money into the state’s rainy day fund, because rainy days are in the forecast.

From a revenue standpoint, the state of Wisconsin is in great shape. Thanks to the series of tax cuts that Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican legislators have delivered over the past few years, tax revenue is flowing into state coffers at historic levels. There is no shortage of money for politicians to spend.

While the Republicans have done a tremendous job in the previous few budgets, they have failed to reduce spending. Despite claims to the contrary, every single state budget for the last generation or more has spent more than the previous budget. Granted, the Republicans did not increase spending as much as the Democrats wanted to, but they increased spending nonetheless.

The vast majority of state spending is spent on a handful of budget priorities. One cannot seriously reduce spending without looking to the big budget items. The first area Evers and the Legislature should look is at education spending.

In the previous state budget, the state massively increased state spending on K-12 education. The data continues to show that once fundamental needs are met, spending more money on schools does not improve educational outcomes for the kids. Smarter spending does. The state should reduce overall spending on K-12 education while helping local districts develop more focused curricula through the Department of Public Instruction. The goal should be to use data-driven initiatives to improve actual outcomes. The goal should not be to see who can spend the most money.

Furthermore, the most recent state testing data shows that Wisconsin choice schools are outperforming government schools, and they do so for a lesser cost. The next state budget should further expand school choice to push money and kids to schools that provide better outcomes for those kids.

The other large state education expense is the UW System. Here again, the state should reduce state spending to force the needed reforms that UW officials refuse to take. Enrollment is in steep decline across the UW System except for their flagship university, the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Yet the campuses are still overbuilt and there are too many of them for too few students. The state budget should reduce UW spending, continue the tuition freeze, and encourage the UW regents to consolidate and streamline the system’s structure.

The next state budget should also move the Wisconsin Retirement System from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan. Even though the WRS system is one of the few solvent state pension funds, a few years of bad decisions could change that and force the state into a miserable state like Illinois. Wisconsin should get ahead of the curve and give government employees a retirement plan more in line with what the vast majority of taxpayers have. Not only would this have the benefit of erecting a backstop against budgetary ruin, but it would encourage a healthy turnover of government employees who are not wedded to their pension.

The next state budget should also cut transportation spending and enact reforms to get more “road for our buck.” Some of the reforms in the bills passed by the Legislature last week take positive steps in this direction. Other Midwestern states manage to spend far less than Wisconsin per mile of road and have higher quality ratings. Now that the megaprojects in southeast Wisconsin are nearing completion, Wisconsin needs to rein in spending.

I could go on for another dozen columns. The state budget has no shortage of unnecessary or wasteful spending. If Evers and the Legislature do not reduce spending before the tax revenues fall during the next recession, the citizens of Wisconsin will be left footing the bill for their neglect when they can least afford it.

Man Charged with Joining DEA to Protect Cartel

Wow.

A former Evanston police detective has been accused in a sweeping federal indictment of joining the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration so he could protect a vicious Puerto Rico-based drug organization responsible for numerous killings and other violence.

Fernando Gomez, 41, was arrested Tuesday morning at the DEA’s Chicago field office, authorities said.

[…]

Gomez was charged in a superseding indictment unsealed in New York with racketeering conspiracy for his alleged decadelong affiliation with the Organizacion de Narcotraficantes Unidos, a conglomeration of drug traffickers based in Puerto Rico responsible for importing vast shipments of cocaine into New York and elsewhere.

[…]

Gomez began working for the gang when he was a detective for Evanston police, according to the charges. He obtained firearms from drug dealers and provided them to gang leader Jose Martinez-Diaz, also known as “Tony Zinc,” in Puerto Rico, according to the indictment.

“Gomez then joined the DEA so that he could help members of the narcotics conspiracy, including Martinez-Diaz, evade prosecution by law enforcement,” the indictment alleged.

Tone Deaf Macron

Sheesh.

It was the most important TV appearance of Emmanuel Macron’s presidency: the 40-year-old former banker had to prove to an angry nation that he was not an arrogant “president of the rich” and that he understood ordinary French people’s struggle to make ends meet.

Yet Macron’s choice to deliver his prerecorded speech on social inequality from one of the most opulent and golden rooms in the luxurious, 365-room Élysée Palace was not lost on gilets jaunes protesters who have been occupying protest barricades on rural roundabouts.

Indeed, the Élysée Palace, the French presidential residence and workplace that is twice the size of the US White House and costs €104m a year to run, has been the object of fury during the protests. The demonstrations, which began as a citizens’ revolt against a proposed fuel tax on 17 November have quickly morphed into wider anti-government demonstrations against inequality.

[…]

Macron chose to announce his measures aimed at calming the gilets jaunes protests by speaking from the traditional presidential office known as the salon doré, with its gold decorations.

He sat behind the large antique desk that has been used by all presidents since Charles de Gaulle and is the most valuable piece of furniture in the gilded palace. At the edge of the frame was a golden cockerel, the symbol of France, between golden lamps, and three carefully placed antique books. Behind him, just to the right of a pair of ornate gold leaf doors, were the French and European flags.

Trump to Pull Back EPA Overreach

Great!

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration is moving forward with a significant rollback of an Obama-era clean water regulation that has become a rallying cry for farmers and property-rights activists opposed to federal overreach.

The new proposal, unveiled Tuesday morning by acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and other administration officials, wouldease Washington’s oversight of small bodies of water, undoing a regulation President Donald Trump has called “a massive power grab.”

The new rule would replace an Obama administration regulation, known as the “Waters of the United States” rule that expanded federal protections to smaller rivers and streams.

Tinkle Contest

From the venerated Nancy Pelosi.

She called the meeting “wild” and said, “it goes to show you: you get into a tinkle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you.”

What does a skunk have to do with anything?

Public input on the next state budget

My column for the Washington County Daily News is in print and online. Go get a copy! Here’s a taste:

Gov.-elect Tony Evers and Lt. Gov.-elect Mandela Barnes have announced they will hold four public listening sessions before Christmas to get the public’s input on the upcoming state budget. The four sessions will be today in Green Bay, Wednesday in Wausau, Dec. 18 in La Crosse and Dec. 19 in Milwaukee.

Since all four sessions begin during working hours and, like most tax-paying Wisconsinites, I work for a living, I will not be able to attend and give the incoming administration my thoughts in person. This column will have to suffice.

As the Legislature and governor begin the process of crafting the next state budget, they must do so with the understanding that Wisconsin is not immune from the economic winds blowing across the nation. While the underlying economic metrics remain strong, several leading indicators, including the wild movements in the stock market, foretell a looming recession within the next year or two.

Since Wisconsin uses a biennial budget, it is likely the next recession will come during the budget our elected officials are about to write. They must write that budget understanding recessions always lead to a decrease in state tax revenue while making higher demands on state services like welfare and Badger-Care. To that end, the overriding objective of the next state budget should be to reduce spending, reduce taxes and continue to pump money into the state’s rainy day fund, because rainy days are in the forecast.

From a revenue standpoint, the state of Wisconsin is in great shape. Thanks to the series of tax cuts that Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican legislators have delivered over the past few years, tax revenue is flowing into state coffers at historic levels. There is no shortage of money for politicians to spend.

While the Republicans have done a tremendous job in the previous few budgets, they have failed to reduce spending. Despite claims to the contrary, every single state budget for the last generation or more has spent more than the previous budget. Granted, the Republicans did not increase spending as much as the Democrats wanted to, but they increased spending nonetheless.

The vast majority of state spending is spent on a handful of budget priorities. One cannot seriously reduce spending without looking to the big budget items. The first area Evers and the Legislature should look is at education spending.

Illinois’ Horrible Fiscal Shape

This is happening just across the border. Just remember… when politicians make bad decisions, they don’t pay the bills. You do.

Sometimes the clearest warning about Illinois’ fiscal crisis can be communicated using numbers, sometimes with a well-chosen phrase. Here we present both, as reminders during the period before a new Democratic governor takes office with a Democratic mega-majority, that the state’s messes will only worsen. Until lawmakers take decisive action.

First, the awful numbers: For several years we’ve cited the figure of $130 billion to represent Illinois’ estimated unfunded pension liability. Never mind that number, it was $133 billion as of June 2018 — and it’s getting worse — according to a new state report. The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability estimates the shortfall in commitments to future retirees will deepen to nearly $137 billion in the current July-to-June year, and to $139 billion in fiscal 2020.

Now a choice word or several: Fitch Ratings in a new report says Illinois has exhibited a “lack of coherent fiscal policymaking over many years” and is guilty of “irresolute fiscal decision-making.” Over the years, lawmakers skimped on payments into the retirement kitty, or avoided making payments altogether, rather than being disciplined about putting enough money into the funds to pay for all the benefits they had promised.

Today, Fitch says, Illinois’ net pension liability plus other long-term debt represent 29 percent of the state’s personal income, the highest of any state (our emphasis) and well above the 50-state median of 6 percent. Oh yes, the annual operating budget — an astonishing one-fourth of which goes to pensions — is also a wreck: Fitch reminds us that about $2 billion of the $38 billion budget revenue is either unlikely to be realized or one-time in nature. Irresolute, indeed.

Commuter Rail Coming to Southeast Wisconsin?

Here’s an interesting idea.

A New York capital raising firm is helping a Wisconsin company attempt to raise more than $1.4 billion to support a private commuter rail project in metro Milwaukee along with related real estate development.

The project by Transit Innovations LLC would use existing freight lines to create the commuter system, called E-Way. The company says it would build 21 new stations and use two existing ones along 55 miles of track across Milwaukee and Waukesha counties.

[…]

Most of the capital, around 70 percent, would actually be used for real estate developments near the stations. Transit Innovations says developments would include market-rate housing, multifamily, retail, office, training facilities, mixed-use and manufacturing. The group estimates 7,000 units of new multi-family housing would be constructed.

Transit Innovations, which was created in 2017 and is registered to a Brookfield address, is working with New York based Castle Placement LLC to raise the funds. An investor presentation estimates $571 million will come from real estate investors, $300 million from rail investors, $35 million from partners and local private equity and $550 million from a construction loan.

I don’t know if it’s viable, but at least if it fails, it’s not my tax dollars being thrown down the tracks.

Evers Forms Criminal Justice Panel

Goodness. “Making of a Murder” was a factual train wreck and Butler was run out of office for his soft on crime attitude. I see that when Evers says “prioritizing people,” he means crooks and violent criminals – not the people they victimize.

In a statement Monday announcing the panel, Evers and Lt. Gov.-elect Mandela Barnes also emphasized the state’s racial incarceration disparity and said it’s time “to start prioritizing people, not prisons.”

The new panel includes Dean Strang, who gained international fame for his defense of Steven Avery in the Netflix series “Making a Murderer,” and former state Supreme Court justices Louis Butler and Janine Geske.

Other notable names include:

  • Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney;
  • Kelli Thompson, who heads the state Public Defender’s Office;
  • Matt Frank, former state Department of Natural Resources Secretary and former Assistant State Attorney General;
  • Milwaukee County Chief Deputy Sheriff Denita Ball;
  • Rick Raemisch, former state Department of Corrections Secretary and former Dane County Sheriff, who now leads the Colorado Department of Corrections;
  • Walter Dickey, University of Wisconsin Law School professor and former state Department of Corrections Secretary;
  • Angela Lang, director of the Milwaukee-based Black Leaders Organizing for Communities;
  • Jim Palmer, who heads the state’s police union.

The announcement Monday said the panel aims to “bring together people from all sides of the criminal justice system” to work on possible criminal justice changes.

Evers Holds Public Listening Sessions for Budget

Notice anything about these?

  • December 11, 4:30PM-6:00PM: Green Bay, University of Wisconsin Green Bay, Phoenix Room. 2420 Nicolet Dr, Green Bay, WI 54311. Register for Green Bay session at this Green Bay link.
  • December 12, 12:00PM-1:30PM: Wausau, Wausau Labor Temple. 318 South Third Avenue, Wausau, WI 54401. Register for the Wausau session at this Wausau link.
  • December 18, 12:00PM-1:30PM: La Crosse, American Legion Post 52. 711 6th St South, La Crosse, WI 54601. Register for the La Crosse session at this La Crosse link.
  • December 19, 4:30PM-6:00PM: Milwaukee, United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County Volunteer Center. 200 West Pleasant Street, Milwaukee, WI 53212. Register for the Milwaukee session at this Milwaukee link.

Yep. They are all during business hours on weekdays when most Wisconsin taxpayers are working. Furthermore, these were just announced and start this week. That’s not enough time for most working Wisconsinites to even ask off if they want to attend one of these sessions.

The result is inevitable because it is planned: the vast majority of people who show up for these sessions will be leftist activists calling for more spending. Then, after the sessions are done, Evers will use the fact that all he heard were calls for more spending as justification to propose more spending.

Protests Continue in France

Of course, now the anarchists have joined in with the legitimate protesters.

PARIS (AP) — Paris tourist sites reopened, workers cleaned up broken glass and shop owners tried to put the city on its feet again Sunday, a day after running battles between “yellow vest” protesters and police that left at least 71 injured in the French capital and caused widespread damage in cities around France.

The man at the focus of protesters’ anger, President Emmanuel Macron, broke his silence to tweet his appreciation for the police overnight. However, pressure mounted on him to propose new solutions to calm the anger dividing France.

Macron will address the nation “at the very beginning of the week,” government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said Sunday, without specifying a day.

The economy minister lamented the damage to the economy.

“This is a catastrophe for commerce, it’s a catastrophe for our economy,” Bruno Le Maire said Sunday while visiting merchants around the Saint Lazare train station, among areas hit by vandalism as the pre-Christmas shopping season got underway.

[…]

The movement began as a protest against a rise in duties on diesel, which is widely used by French motorists and has long been less heavily taxed than other types of fuel.

Diesel prices have risen by about 23% over the past 12 months – and Mr Macron’s decision to impose a tax increase of 6.5 cents on diesel and 2.9 cents on petrol from 1 January enraged protesters.

Mr Macron had blamed world oil prices for three-quarters of the price rise, but said higher taxes on fossil fuels were needed to fund renewable energy investments.

Um, I don’t know what world Macron lives in, but world oil prices are low.

Ocasio-Cortez Hints at Abuse of Power

On the one hand, this is astonishing. On the other hand, it isn’t.

Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez threatened to use the powers of her elected office to retaliate against Donald Trump Jr. on Friday after the president’s son posted a meme trolling her on his personal Instagram account.

“I have noticed that Junior here has a habit of posting nonsense about me whenever the Mueller investigation heats up,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “Please, keep it coming Jr – it’s definitely a “very, very large brain” idea to troll a member of a body that will have subpoena power in a month.”

It is astonishing because you have a soon-to-be government official threatening to use her official power to subpoena someone who trolled her on Instagram. Put aside for a moment that it was Trump Jr. who trolled her. It was just a person expressing a contrary opinion on Instagram and her immediate impulse is to bring down the official weight of the federal government on him.

It is not that astonishing because this is what socialists like Ocasio-Cortez do – every time they get into power. They use the police power of government as a weapon to attack dissenters and non-believers. We’ve seen it in other nations. We’ve seen it in Wisconsin with the John Doe investigations of Walker. We’ve seen it in Obama’s IRS. There is no doubt in my mind that Ocasio-Cortez would abuse her power to go after her dissenters. The only thing she lacks is the intelligence to keep quiet about it.

Around the Bend by Judy Steffes

Pete Rettler and 25 Runs of Gratitude receives call from The Ellen Show

On the eve of Pete Rettler’s 25 Runs of Gratitude a conversation was held between Rettler and a staffer at The Ellen Show. That’s The Ellen Degeneres Show …. if you’re not familiar.

The hot topic of conversation is Rettler’s runs and how he is going to spend the next 25 days running 2.5 miles, trying to raise $25,000 for charities connected to the United Way of Washington County.

It’s his way of celebrating 25 years of good health, running every single day, and supporting the wonderful non-profit organizations in the community.

As far as the phone call from The Ellen Show. Rettler said his phone blew up while he was out on a run Tuesday afternoon. The call was coming from Burbank, California which is home to Walt Disney and Warner Bros. studio. He thought it was a spam call until he listened to the message.

The call was from Sommer Green, a staffer at The Ellen Show.

The pair talked about 15 minutes and then set up a Skype interview for Wednesday afternoon. Rettler conducted the interview from his office at Moraine Park Technical College.

“We talked about whether I watched The Ellen Show and then she asked if I could tell Ellen anything what that would be and I told her I was watching the George Bush funeral today and they mentioned his humor and making fun of himself and Ellen does the same thing. She tries to stay away from politics and I think that’s good because there are great people on both sides of the aisle,” said Rettler.

At one point Rettler said he thought he referred to Ellen as Roseanne … but he wasn’t quite sure.

“This definitely has ignited a spark and companies are coming forward to sponsor the run,” he said. Rettler will be culminating the 25 Runs of Gratitude with a big event New Year’s Eve Day, Dec. 31.

We are seeking sponsorships of $1,000 or less per day.  The $1,000 gift will be matched $1 for $1 as a new corporate leadership gift by West Bend Mutual Insurance and Commerce State Bank.  United Way will send an invoice for pledge made.  If you would like to be a sponsor call at 262-338-3821 or kbrandner@unitedwayofwashingtoncounty.org.

Pair of bald eagles spotted on Silver Lake

Curt Rudy and his wife got up Saturday morning and saw a unique sight out their bedroom window on Silver Lake. “We have high windows and cathedral ceilings and we saw him just sitting out their beautifully,” said Rudy.

“We look to the side and about 10-feet away there was a second one.”

The Rudys’ spotted not one but two bald eagles.

“I did some research and they hang around in pairs, for life, and the only time when they’re together is when they’re mating,” he said. “They mate anywhere from November to January.”

Rudy’s photo from his wife’s cell phone.

The Rudys’ live on the east side of the lake on Quaas Drive. “We’ve been out here 35 years,” he said. “This fall my neighbor about two doors down said he saw a bald eagle hovering over the lake.”

Rudy said the eagle was in one of their trees. Fascinated by the eagles, Rudy searched to see if anyone posted about the birds in the past or if there was a nest in the Washington County area.

“I found something that said there was a nest reported in 2016 in Washington County,” said Rudy.

Neighbors in Kewaskum have seen bald eagles. Doug Gonring phoned in a couple months ago that he spotted a bald eagle along Highway 45. Others have seen the majestic bird near Hon-E-Kor Golf Course in Kewaskum.

World War II veteran Howard Knox has died

It’s with a heavy heart we relay the news of the death of World War II veteran Howard Knox.

Knox and his trusty bugle were a familiar sight across Washington County. Knox was part of River City Irregulars. When he wasn’t playing in the band he was holding high the military signs to salute those who had been in service.

Most recently Knox addressed students during a Veterans Day Assembly at Addison Elementary.

Knox was the first Cub Scout in the state of Wisconsin and he received a bugle when he was 10 years old. “The bugle was given to me by the scout master and he used it during World War I,” he said. Knox was attending the University of Wisconsin when he joined the U.S. Navy.

Howard Knox died Wednesday morning, Dec. 5.  He was 99 years old. Knox will be buried in a private service at a cemetery in Whitewater next to his wife Pearl. A memorial service will be announced shortly.

Update on construction on Carl M. Kuss Field

It was August 7, 2018 when a ceremonial groundbreaking was held to signify the official start of the reconstruction project at Carl M. Kuss Field at Regner Park in West Bend.

The project would include a synthetic turf baseball field with a new, ADA equipped grandstand.

A grant from the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation helped spark the $2 million project. Back in May, West Bend Mayor Kraig Sadownikow said “the $500,000 grant from the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation was a game changer for the project.”

Then in October the West Bend Mutual Charitable Trust presented a $500,000 gift to help move the new field closer to fruition. Following Monday night’s, Dec. 3, Common Council meeting Sadownikow said the park will be done by June 15, 2019.

“Progress is going well. Soil borings are scheduled to be out on site before Christmas which is the first step in the process,” he said. “My understanding is fundraising is on schedule and we expect baseball by the summer of 2019.”

Sadownikow said if the current schedule holds the demolition work will be underway in March.

The WIAA spring baseball season begins March 23, 2019 with the first game slated for March 31.

The current scenario, which could possibly change, looks like the first season for WIAA spring baseball in West Bend will be played at the high school field on Decorah Road.

Franklin Bales has died

It is with a heavy heart to relay the news of the death of Franklin Bales of West Bend. Franklin and his wife Margaret were featured in an article this past October 25 highlighting their 70th wedding anniversary.

It was Sept. 25, 1948 when Franklin Bales and Margaret Weninger recited their vows to remain faithful and committed for the rest of their lives.

Franklin and Margaret Bales celebrate 70th wedding anniversary. Franklin, 91, was born on the family farm on Rusco Drive in West Bend. He and Margaret, 90, met at a dance.

“Our farm was just a mile west of Gonring’s Resort. I had broken up with a different guy and me and my girlfriends were standing there and then he (Franklin) came over and asked me to dance. Then he asked to take me home, then he asked me to another dance and from there we kept on going.”

Margaret said she “didn’t think of marriage right away. She just liked being with him.”

“I liked his laugh,” said Margaret. “We had fun.” Margaret was 18 years old when she met Franklin. She worked at Amity Leather at the time. Franklin was 19 and a half and he worked on the family farm. “I like her because she was easy going,” he said. “I could handle that.”

When Margaret turned 20 she and Franklin tied the knot. The wedding photos look straight out of ‘June Bride’ featuring an elegant Margaret and a dapper Franklin surrounded by a wedding party of eight set against a backdrop of blue skies, two meaty columns and drapes.

“The photographer didn’t come to the wedding, we had to go to the photographer,” Margaret said.

Franklin recalled a delayed honeymoon as chores on the dairy farm took precedent. “She had to can pears before we left and I had to fill the silo again,” he said.

A couple days later the pair were off gallivanting. “We drove into Canada and circled around a bit just so we could tell our friends we were in Canada,” said Margaret.

The couple moved in to Franklin’s home. “I’ve always live here,” he said. “Our bedroom is the room I was born in.”

Franklin C. Bales, 91 of West Bend passed away on Wednesday, December 5 at his home surrounded by his family. Franklin was born February 14, 1927, Valentine’s Day. This was appropriate since there was great love shown by Franklin for each of the family members in his very large extended family and he was loved by each family member as well. The greatest love was for his wife of 70 years, Margaret.

This special 70th anniversary on September 25, 2018 was honored with an event at the family farm attended by more than 40 family members. This was the dairy farm that Franklin was born on, grew up on, worked as a dairy farm and continued to live on in retirement until he passed away. The farm will be a century farm next year being in the Bales family for 100 years.

Franklin will always be known for his happy laugh, storytelling, willingness to help anyone no matter how busy farm life kept him, being a trusted advisor and always leading by example on how to live a good Christian life. But most of all Franklin was devoted to Margaret and as a team they grew more than crops and produced more than milk on their beloved family farm. They grew and produced a strong family as well. Franklin and Margaret never missed Sunday Mass until age prevented travel. Mealtime prayers, evening rosary, while holding hands and prayers throughout the day exemplified their devout faith.

Well into his 80’s Franklin volunteered at the Samaritan Health Center, St. Frances Cabrini and Meals on Wheels. Over the years extensive travel was made throughout the country. Sheepshead was a passion of his and Franklin and Margaret had several groups of friends they played with over the years. Franklin has now played his last hand but we are sure that if sheepshead is played in heaven, he is already dealing out the cards.

Visitation will be on Monday, December 10 from 2:00 p.m. until 3:45 p.m. at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church, 1025 S. Seventh Ave, West Bend with a Mass of Christian Burial at 4:00 p.m. Burial will take place Tuesday in Holy Angels Cemetery, Memorials, in lieu of flowers to the Paul Bales Memorial Scholarship at UWM Washington County or to St. Frances Cabrini Parish are appreciated.

Our family has lost a real treasure but we are all blessed to carry a bit of his spirit within us. The Schmidt Funeral Home in West Bend is serving the family.

Hartford musical raises money for LOVE>hate project               By Samantha Sali

The Hartford Union High School’s fall production of Little Shop of Horrors Musical raised $1,330 for the Sojourner Peace Center and LOVE>hate Project. “In Little Shop of Horrors, Audrey is abused by her boyfriend,” said Musical Advisor, Shelia Parker. “While the musical makes light of this situation, the students felt that they needed to take this opportunity to assist women who find themselves in abusive situations and to work to curb violence against women.”

The students in the production were able to collect $580 audience donations for the Sojourner Peace Center in Milwaukee and $750 for The LOVE>hate Project in Hartford. “The students will be meeting with Buck Blodgett, founder of The LOVE>hate Project, on December 20th to present a check to him for the donation,” said Parker.

Blodgett was extremely appreciative of the students’ decision to not only donate to the LOVE>hate Project, but raise awareness on the important topic of male against female violence. “I’m so very grateful that these talented students chose to remember Jessie and advance her mission,” Blodgett said. “Their giving will go directly into spreading Jessie’s messages far and wide through videos, social media, live radio campaigns, local projects to raise awareness and call to action, and more.”

Updates & Tidbits

Slinger High School and its production of “Wizard of Oz” has been nominated for 11 Jerry Awards.

– The Amity Rolfs Nativity has found a new home in West Bend. The display, which is a hallmark of the holiday, is in place on the front lawn of Holy Angels Parish on 138 N. Eighth Avenue.

– The Hartford-Slinger Boys Swim Team broke a relay record at their home meet on Saturday, December 1, 2018. The new meet record of 1:35:72 was for the 200 yard Free Relay with Adam Marx, Logan DeBack, Robert Klockow, and Dylan Webb.   Hat tip Samantha Sali

– Citizen Advocates Board of Directors promoted Jessica Frederick as the organization’s new Executive Director. Frederick has been a part of Citizen Advocates for 11 years, serving as a Community Organizer, then as the Program Coordinator.

– Don Muth and the University Ambassadors will host a breakfast for students on campus on Thursday, Dec. 13 at 8:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. as part of week-long events before final exams start.

-Rick Takacs at Meadowbrook Farm in West Bend has fresh balsam and Fraser fir Christmas trees for the upcoming holiday. Takacs gets his trees from the same vendor in Oconto County who once supplied the tree to the White House in Washington D.C. Tackas said he really liked the trees from the Vander Velden’s farm because they’re “tall and have super color.” Meadowbrook Farm is located at 1270 Meadowbrook Road.

– Tickets are now on sale for the amazing Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Holiday Pops Concert on Dec. 11 at the West Bend High Schools Silver Lining Arts Center.

– Santa is flying in from the North Pole on Saturday, Dec. 8 and he’s landing at the West Bend Airport. Come out and have breakfast and give Santa a warm Washington County welcome! Santa lands around 8:30 a.m.

Hidden mural uncovered at Historic West Bend Theatre

A bit of an archeological find this week in downtown West Bend as colorful murals have been uncovered in the balcony level of the Historic West Bend Theatre.

“This is the first exposure and it’s the same pattern in each of the red panels,” said conservator Brian Fick with Evergreene Architectural Arts. “It’s a five-color stencil pattern on a shield shape with two birds; it looks a bit Germanic which, in an art-deco context is a little odd but it kind of suits the area.” Fick uncovered the mural using solvents and gels. A large breathing apparatus is on the floor next to the dusty theatre seats.

“I knew there was something there because I could see a bit of shadow,” he said. Pointing to the ceiling Fick highlights some of the black lines of another pattern of work.

“This piece will be documented and I’m taking samples,” Fick said. “We take the paint from the plaster it’s painted on all the way through to the top layer. We then cut that so you see the paint layers in cross section and that can give a better, more accurate representation of what the color was.”

Fick walks up the stairs in the balcony and points to another square of art behind some scaffolding.

“The painting that’s on these urns and the backgrounds is all original,” he said. “It’s just very dirty.” The iconic theatre dates to 1929.

“There are some historic photographs where you can see in black and white some painted decorations you just can’t make it out because the photos aren’t distinct enough,” said Fick. ”

Fick speculates on the reason the murals may have been painted over. “There may have been damage in some area and the thought was ‘who would fix this?’ Or they just wanted to lighten and brighten the place and they thought the easiest thing to do would be to paint everything a lighter color.” This phase of the research project started Monday and Fick is working through Friday.  A report will be delivered to the theatre board on the mural finding in a couple of weeks.

There are red rectangles below each decorative urn. Fick said the same exact pattern will be unveiled in every block.

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Remembering Jeff Wood

Dan O’Donnell takes us down memory lane to remind us what the Democrats did when they were ousted from power in 2010.

So desperate were the outgoing governor and state legislative majority to pass what amounted to a sweetheart deal for some of their biggest political backers that they did what was until then unthinkable—they sprang Jeff Wood from jail so he could vote.

Even though he was serving a 60-day sentence and had drugs in his vehicle during two of his four drunk-driving arrests, a sympathetic judge agreed to let him out on work release for just long enough to be a forgotten man no more.

Eight years later, though, he is forgotten again; an uncomfortable reminder that the Republican-led Legislature’s supposedly unprecedented lame-duck session “power grab” isn’t unprecedented at all.

Frankly, the sanctimonious whining from Democrats is as pathetic as it is hypocritical. They are no stranger to power politics. And what the Republicans have done pales in comparison to what the Democrats tried to do.

The sooner Walker signs the bills that the legislature passed, the sooner the liberals move on to the next manufactured outrage.

Legislature has a full plate for the holidays

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News yesterday. As the sun rises on Wisconsin, I’m happy to see that the legislature is getting most of this done. Good work!

This week the Wisconsin Legislature will begin an extraordinary session as its final act before a new Legislature takes its place next year. The political backdrop of this session is that while the Republicans will retain firm control of both houses of the Legislature next year, the voters elected Democrats to every statewide office. An era of divided government is about to begin.

In anticipation of this new era, Republican leaders in the Legislature have introduced a slew of proposals designed to secure the successes of the past few years and put some protections in place to safeguard the state from overreaches from the Executive Branch. The proposals run the gamut from simply codifying rules that are already in place, absorbing recent court rulings into statute, pulling power back into the legislative branch and changing how elections work. A few of the proposals are more interesting than the rest.

Earlier this year, a United States Supreme Court ruling allowed states to collect sales taxes on internet purchases. Under law, the state is required to collect the tax, but to offset the tax increase by reducing the state income tax by an equal amount. This would keep the aggregate tax burden on Wisconsinites constant. One of the proposals would clean up the process for making this happen and accelerate the potential income tax decrease into 2019 instead of 2020. This makes it take effect in line with both years of the state’s biennial budget. The Legislature should absolutely pass this proposal.

In another proposal, the state would create a standalone presidential primary and move it earlier in the year. The reasons are twofold. First, by moving the presidential primary earlier in the election cycle, it makes Wisconsin more relevant in that process. Second, by creating a standalone election for the presidential primary, it prevents non-partisan state and local elections on the April ballot from being overwhelmed by the partisan presidential primary. The Legislature should pass this change.

The actual reason for the extraordinary session is to pass an aid package to encourage Kimberly-Clark to keep their factories, and the jobs that go with them, open in Wisconsin. For all of the reasons I outlined in a column in this space in July, the Legislature should not pass this proposal.

One proposal would require that the Legislature be included in defending the laws it writes if those laws are challenged as unconstitutional. In recent years, liberals have adopted the tactic of suing the state over every law Republicans passed by claiming that the law is somehow unconstitutional, and then shopping for a friendly radical liberal judge to issue an injunction. It is the job of the state attorney general to defend the state in such actions, but the incoming attorney general, Josh Kaul, is an acolyte of Eric Holder and has made no secret about the fact that he will use his office as a weapon to advance the radical liberal agenda. This proposal would ensure that the state’s laws are adequately defended against legal challenges and should certainly be passed.

Yet another proposal would prohibit a person from serving in an appointed position if the state Senate had rejected their appointment during the confirmation process. It would seem common sense that this is already the case, but it is not. Under law, the governor can appoint a person, the senate can reject that appointment and the governor can keep the person in the job indefinitely in a provisional capacity. This proposal would make it clear that once an appointee is rejected, they may no longer stay in the job. This should be passed.

Several other proposals codify which IDs are acceptable for voting, ensures that people will be required to remain sober in order to obtain welfare, writes into law rules that prevent illegal aliens from getting a Wisconsin driver’s license, provides legislative oversight when the state seeks federal approvals or waivers, requires state agencies to periodically report their spending to the Legislature, oblige the Department of Corrections to provide the Legislature a report on who is pardoned, make it easier for overseas citizens to vote and other relatively mundane things.

While every proposal must be evaluated on its own merits, almost every one of the proposals should be passed by the Legislature and signed into law by outgoing Gov. Scott Walker. The conservative revolution in Wisconsin has come to an end. Now it is time for Republicans to protect the gains we made.

Digital Hallucinations

While it seems that the era of autonomous vehicles is very close, and it might be, we still have a lot of work to do on the technology. And then we have a lot more work to do on our culture, legal systems, etc. to adapt to it.

The passenger registers the stop sign and feels a sudden surge of panic as the car he’s sitting in speeds up. He opens his mouth to shout to the driver in the front, remembering – as he spots the train tearing towards them on the tracks ahead – that there is none. The train hits at 125mph, crushing the autonomous vehicle and instantly killing its occupant.

This scenario is fictitious, but it highlights a very real flaw in current artificial intelligence frameworks. Over the past few years, there have been mounting examples of machines that can be made to see or hear things that aren’t there. By introducing ‘noise’ that scrambles their recognition systems, these machines can be made to hallucinate. In a worst-case scenario, they could ‘hallucinate’ a scenario as dangerous as the one above, despite the stop sign being clearly visible to human eyes, the machine fails to recognise it.

Those working in AI describe such glitches as ‘adversarial examples’ or sometimes, more simply, as ‘weird events’.

Legislature Has a Busy Day

And I don’t think it’s over yet.

The Senate voted 18-15 along party lines to approve 82 of Gov. Scott Walker’s appointments, including DOA Secretary Ellen Nowak returning to the Public Service Commission as chair.

The other appointments included attorney Scott Beightol to the UW Board of Regents. He replaces Republican Bryan Steil, who won a seat in Congress last month.

and

The state Senate approved the first of three extraordinary session bills Tuesday evening after pulling a provision that Dems warned would prevent local governments from using their employees to do some road work if the project were funded with state money.

The bill also includes provisions that would make explicit in state law that new revenue from online sales will go to income tax reductions and to federalize state tax law on pass-through entities.

 

Legislature has a full plate for the holidays

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online today. In it, I offer some opinion on some of the proposals being offered in the Wisconsin legislature’s extraordinary session. Pick up a copy to read the whole thing!

This week the Wisconsin Legislature will begin an extraordinary session as its final act before a new Legislature takes its place next year. The political backdrop of this session is that while the Republicans will retain firm control of both houses of the Legislature next year, the voters elected Democrats to every statewide office. An era of divided government is about to begin.

In anticipation of this new era, Republican leaders in the Legislature have introduced a slew of proposals designed to secure the successes of the past few years and put some protections in place to safeguard the state from overreaches from the Executive Branch. The proposals run the gamut from simply codifying rules that are already in place, absorbing recent court rulings into statute, pulling power back into the legislative branch and changing how elections work. A few of the proposals are more interesting than the rest.

[…]

While every proposal must be evaluated on its own merits, almost every one of the proposals should be passed by the Legislature and signed into law by outgoing Gov. Scott Walker. The conservative revolution in Wisconsin has come to an end. Now it is time for Republicans to protect the gains we made.