Security Guard Fired for Saying N-Word

Another victim of zero-tolerance.

Outrage was growing among members of Madison’s black community Thursday, a day after a black West High School security guard was fired for what he said was explicitly telling a student not to call him the N-word after the student repeatedly called him the slur.

Marlon Anderson’s Facebook post in which he describes his termination from the Madison School District after working there for 11 years generated hundreds of comments supporting the former school worker. Many derided the district’s zero-tolerance policy toward use of the slur by staff in any context.

Sorry. Context and nuance are no longer tolerated.

Brexit Deal?

Maybe.

After weeks of negotiations that seemed to be going nowhere, another deal was struck on Thursday.

The EU’s top negotiator declared the backstop has been abolished. But not everyone is happy with the replacement.

The new deal means Northern Ireland will stick to some EU rules, while technically still being in the UK customs area. Crucially, some checks will still take place between Britain and Northern Ireland.

Four years after it comes into effect, Northern Ireland’s politicians will have a say on whether to keep the deal going.

The EU is expected to agree to the new deal, if Ireland is happy.

Mr Johnson has until Saturday 19 October to get his deal across the line in the UK Parliament – or else he is legally required to request an extension to Brexit.

MPs in London will decide whether to sit on Saturday to debate the deal in the first Saturday session since 1982 – and that was at the start of the Falklands War.

Menomonee Falls School Board Pretends to Listen to Public

Heh.

MENOMONEE FALLS, Wis. (CBS 58) — 31 public school districts use Native American mascots, including the Menomonee Falls Indians.

The school board got an earful Wednesday night from people on both sides of the debate.

Many times at meetings like this, one side of the debate shows up in force. But on Wednesday, public comments were split almost right down the middle.

Parents, alumni and students turned out to have their voices heard Wednesday.

“It would be a ridiculous and useless amount of money to change an F with a couple of feathers sticking out of it.”

As Mark Belling exclusively uncovered, this is part of a faux process by the superintendent and school board to change the mascot. They want to do it. They are going to do it. And the meeting last night was just for show.

West Bend Alderman Rich Kasten Announces Run for Mayor

Good stuff.

Kasten issued a statement to washingtoncountyinsider.com on Wednesday afternoon.
Residents of West Bend,
After careful consideration and discussion with my family, I am very proud to announce I will run for Mayor of West Bend.
Being able to serve the residents in West Bend as Mayor is something I have long aspired to and while I appreciate Mayor Sadownikow’s leadership and achievements, I truly believe this is the right time.
I have served as an Alderman the past six years and during that time, we have made great strides in repairing our fiscal challenges. As Mayor, I pledge to continue improving the financial position of the city, providing excellent public safety and improving infrastructure.
I look forward to sharing more details with voters as my campaign progresses. In the meantime, please share in my excitement and enthusiasm as positive things are ahead for West Bend. I look forward to meeting and talking with you over the coming months!
The current Mayor, Kraig Sadownikow, has not announced whether or not he is running for reelection. I have appreciated Sadownikow’s leadership at the city. Kasten has been a big part of that over the past several years. He would be a suitable successor if Sadownikow decides to return to the private sector full time.

Kids Tackle and Disarm Student

Good for them.

Students at a California high school tackled a gunman and managed to take his weapon from him after he brandished it at the school, police said.

La Habra High School went on lockdown Tuesday morning after a student yielded a .22 caliber gun in the school, according to a statement from La Habra police.

However, two freshmen in the class ran up to him, wrestled him and got the weapon out of his hands, Sgt Jose Rocha told ABC News on Wednesday.

“It was the students who tackled him,” Rocha said.

Chicago Teachers Strike

For the kids, right?

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago parents and community groups are scrambling to prepare for a massive teachers’ strike set to begin Thursday, prompting the city to preemptively cancel classes in the nation’s third-largest school district.

The Chicago Teachers Union confirmed Wednesday night that its 25,000 members would not return to their classrooms Thursday after months of negotiation between the union and Chicago Public Schools failed to resolve disputes over pay and benefits, class size and teacher preparation time.

The strike is Chicago’s first major walkout by teachers since 2012 and city officials announced early Wednesday that all classes had been canceled for Thursday in hopes of giving more planning time to the parents of more than 300,000 students.

WILL Sues Election Commission for Violating State Law

This seems pretty cut and dry.

Background: To maintain accurate voter registration data, Wisconsin participates with 28 other states in the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC). ERIC flags “movers” – individuals who report an official government transaction from an address different than their voter registration address – to state election agencies.

The Wisconsin Election Commission first reviews the information on “movers” for accuracy and reliability. State law then provides specific direction to WEC on how to handle “movers” flagged by ERIC.

  • WEC is to send a notice to the mover at the address of their voter registration.
  • A voter has 30 days to affirm whether they still live at the address.
    • If the voter affirms they live at the address – by returning the postcard or completing a brief form online – nothing happens.
  • If the voter takes no action for 30 days, WEC is to change the voter’s registration status from eligible to ineligible.

But on June 11, 2019 the Wisconsin Election Commission decided, contrary to state law, that changes in eligibility for a voter flagged as a “mover” by ERIC will not occur for 12 to 24 months.

The timing by the Election Commission conveniently pushes out any correcting of the voter roll until after the next presidential election. Coincidence?

Thiesfeldt Wants Better Return on Investment

Yes

Madison – Yesterday, as required by law, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) released the certified state general aid that goes out to all school districts. Wisconsin districts in 2019-20 will be receiving $4.7 billion of equalization aid from taxpayers through the state’s funding formula, a 1.8% increase. This follows on the heels of a similar increase for 2018-19. Since 2013, equalization aid has consistently surpassed the Consumer Price Index, showing the Legislature’s dedication to providing healthy inflationary increases to educate Wisconsin’s children.

However, the results aren’t matching up with the investment. Annual test scores released last month showed that 60% of Wisconsin students are not able to read or perform math at grade level. Just as alarming, Wisconsin continues to have one of the worst achievement gaps in the nation. State Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac,) Chair of the Assembly Education Committee, released the following statement regarding yesterday’s funding announcement:

“With the enactment of the 2019-21 budget, state education funding, through DPI management, provides for an average of nearly 2/3 of the dollars to operate K-12 public schools. In fact, over 35% of general purpose revenue for the entire state goes to K-12 education. The results of this investment are not meeting expectations and have not done so in many years,” said Rep. Thiesfeldt. “Instead of just continuing to pour money into schools, it is past time for the DPI, the Legislature, and the Governor to recognize that when the pathway is flawed, increased spending does not lead to better results. Our focus needs to turn to stronger teacher training in the use of proven instructional methods, traditional roles for our schools, and engaged parenting.”

Leading the West Bend way

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News yesterday.

In the wake of the failed referendum for the West Bend School District, the mayor of West Bend, Kraig Sadownikow, organized a private task force of local leaders to evaluate the maintenance and capital projects at the district’s high school and Jackson elementary facilities and share independent findings.

The task force was generously provided funding by Kevin Steiner of West Bend Mutual Insurance and Tim Schmidt of Delta Defense to retain Zimmerman Architectural Studios to provide technical facilities expertise.

The task force presented its findings to the West Bend School Board Monday night. Those findings show a different way forward for the West Bend School District and a model for other school districts to follow.

I am a member of the task force. While the findings are those of the task force, the opinions expressed in this column are my own. I will admit that I was dubious about participating in such an endeavor. The process was enlightening and enriching. I encourage the reader to go read the complete findings in the minutes of Monday night’s meeting available on the school district’s website and elsewhere.

To summarize the task force’s findings, the West Bend School District could accomplish everything it wanted to do in the referendum and much, much more without spending a dollar more than they already are. To do that, however, it will take some smart decisions and hard work. The district has some real facilities needs. While spending money is necessary to meet those needs, spending more money is not.

First, there are some realities facing the district. Enrollment is declining and is projected to continue declining for the next decade or more. The most recent enrollment tally taken last month shows that enrollment is declining even faster than the projections made last year. This isn’t a problem with the district. It is a demographic trend that is happening throughout the state. Proactive management in an age of declining enrollment and revenues is even more crucial than in an age of plenty.

Second, the district has done a poor job of in terms of general maintenance and capital facilities management. This is a systemic problem that stretches back many years. For example, the current capital maintenance budget of about $1.5 million is woefully inadequate for a district with about 1.5 million square feet of buildings. In the elementary schools alone, there is about $22.5 million of capital expenses looming over the next decade that are mostly unfunded. Whether intentional or not, the district has been managing facilities by letting them decay prematurely due to inadequate maintenance, and then passing referendums to replace them.

Also, the school district built a 25-year capital plan several years ago. The plan was built on projections of increasing enrollment for decades to come. The reality is that enrollment is declining and will continue to decline, but the 25-year plan was never updated to reflect the new realities. A long-range capital facilities plan that is continually refreshed with current data and scrutinized in public is critical.

Before embarking on an ambitious plan to build and renovate buildings, the School Board must rectify these budgetary and planning deficiencies to demonstrate that the West Bend School District will break the cycle of neglect and replace. The district cannot make new investments in facilities before solving the problem of maintaining what they have.

The failed referendum sought to make some significant renovations to the high school and replace Jackson Elementary. For the high school, the task force validated that there are some true needs that require work.

There are also a couple of areas where the building could be upgraded to drive a lot of value for a reasonable cost.

The failed referendum also sought to replace Jackson Elementary. This is where the task force’s findings took a turn that I did not expect. The Jackson Elementary building has significant problems, but just replacing it was always folly. It is an expensive endeavor that pours a fortune into one problem while leaving all of the other problems wanting.

The task force found that the district could build a state-of-the-art new elementary school campus on the south side of West Bend. Into the new building, the district could consolidate Jackson Elementary, Decorah Elementary, Fair Park Elementary, the district offices, the maintenance shed, and Rolfs Education Center into the single building. By combining six district buildings into a single campus, the district could provide a 21st-century learning environment to far more kids while saving millions of dollars per year in operational costs.

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.

More work is needed and much more public discussion must take place, but there is a legitimate path to make significant upgrades to the West Bend School District’s facilities, break the cycle of neglect and replace, and do so without increasing spending or taxes.

The West Bend School District can lead the way. Other school districts in Wisconsin should follow.

Madison’s Taxpayers Prop up Golf Course

This is why Washington County shouldn’t own a golf course. It is self-sustaining at the moment, but taxpayers are on the hook if that changes.

The Madison City Council on Tuesday authorized loaning the city’s public golf courses up to $1.5 million to provide a short-term fix to ongoing financial problems.

Under the resolution, which was approved on a unanimous voice vote, the city can give the city’s public golf courses a cash advance in the event of a shortfall at the end of 2019 and future years.

This year, the golf courses are expecting a cash shortage of around $500,000.

House Votes in Support of Hong Kong

In a bipartisan voice vote. It’s nice to see that our politicians have more moral courage than our basketball stars.

The bill was supported by Republicans and Democrats and was passed by a “voice vote” in the House of Representatives, meaning a recorded vote was not needed.

“If America does not speak out for human rights in China because of commercial interest, then we lose all moral authority to speak out for human rights anyplace in the world,” said house speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Ben Ray Lujan, a Democrat, said: “The house just sent a strong message to the people of Hong Kong: we stand with you in the fight for democracy and justice.”

Racism in Football

And we thought we were having a “national dialogue.”

European football’s governing body Uefa has opened disciplinary proceedings against Bulgaria, charging them with the racist behaviour, including Nazi salutes and monkey chants, of their fans.

The disruption of both teams’ national anthems by opposing fans will also be investigated.

Leading the West Bend way

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. As you might expect, it about the work of the West Bend School District Private Task Force. Go pick up a copy, and see the news story about the same topic. Here’s a thrust of the column:

To summarize the task force’s findings, the West Bend School District could accomplish everything it wanted to do in the referendum and much, much more without spending a dollar more than they already are. To do that, however, it will take some smart decisions and hard work. The district has some real facilities needs. While spending money is necessary to meet those needs, spending more money is not.

[…]

More work is needed and much more public discussion must take place, but there is a legitimate path to make significant upgrades to the West Bend School District’s facilities, break the cycle of neglect and replace, and do so without increasing spending or taxes.

West Bend School District Private Task Force Presents to School Board

The Washington County Insider has video of the presentation, comments from some attendees, and has posted the presentation. You can download the entire presentation here or check it out at the Washington County Insider.

In summary, after a metric crap ton of work, the Task Force found:

  1. The 25 year facilities plan is out of date and based on bad inputs. It needs to be redrafted and continually updated.
  2. Overall maintenance for the district is chronically underfunded by a factor of 2X-3X, leading to structured decay of facilities.
  3. These two things need to be fixed before venturing into a building/renovating initiative so that we break the cycle.
  4. There are legitimate facilities needs that need to be addressed.

Then, we offered some findings for the High School and Elementary Schools that spurred the referendum. For the High School, the Task Force identified some legitimate needs and the opportunity to do a couple of wants for a total of $21.3 million.

The Elementary Schools is where the boldest idea came into play. The Task Force evaluated several options, but the one that makes the most sense is to:

  • Build an awesome new Elementary School and Campus somewhere on the south side of West Bend and make a small addition to Green Tree Elementary.
  • Into the new Southside campus, consolidate Decorah Elementary, Fair Park Elementary, Jackson Elementary, the District Office, the maintenance shed, and Rolf Education Center. Sell all of those other properties and put them back on the tax rolls. It would mean closing and selling seven buildings/land (including the empty land that was purchased for a new Jackson Elementary) and replacing them with a single facility.
  • Total cost for this is about $28.6 million.

So far we’re spending $49.9 million. Outrageous! OWEN… WHAT THE HECK!?!? ARE YOU SUPPORTING MORE SPENDING AND A MASSIVE NEW REFERENDUM!?!?!?

Kinda, but here’s the key… through the consolidation of the elementary schools and other facilities and making some choices about outsourcing or economizing some support services like custodial, IT, grounds keeping, food service, etc., the district can free up enough of their operating budget to cover the mortgage payment for the new buildings AND put more money into maintenance so that the district’s facilities will be properly maintained moving forward.

A referendum would be required to borrow the money to execute on a plan like this, but it would not constitute incremental spending and would NOT require a tax increase. The district would be able to make major upgrades to the physical infrastructure while living within its means.

Solving problems without spending more money? That’s a conservative path forward. All you have to do is go into it with the mindset that it can be done… because it can.

I don’t usually spend much time in the comments, but if you have serious questions about the Task Force’s findings, the thought process behind them, or the homework supporting them, I will endeavor to answer them in the comments of this post. For a while…

WBSDPTF To Present to the West Bend School Board at 5:30

Don’t forget.

5:30 PM at the District Offices located at 735 S. Main St. West Bend.

I hear that the Washington County Insider will be live streaming the meeting on Facebook. I think the district posts a recording, but doesn’t stream live. Later this evening, I will post the presentation and offer some further commentary. I am hopeful that it is the beginning of a new conversation about our school district’s physical infrastructure.

Come by or tune in!

UW Regents Moving Ahead with Free Speech Rules

I’m skeptical.

The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents has approved the scope of proposed new rules aimed at punishing students who disrupt free speech on campus. But just after the vote was taken, a spokeswoman for Gov. Tony Evers said he continues to oppose the rules.

The governor’s opinion matters because any rule change proposed by the UW System cannot go into effect without his support.

The Friday vote was largely procedural in nature. It allows the UW System to work on what is called a “scope statement” that sets punishments for students caught repeatedly disrupting the free speech or freedom of expression of campus speakers or fellow students. Under the proposed language, a student disrupting free speech on two occasions would have to be suspended. If there was another disruption from the student, they would face mandatory expulsion.

The board and UW System have been working on the policy since 2017. The regent’s policy on “Commitment to Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression” was introduced shortly after state Republican lawmakers introduced legislation with similar provisions. Before the matter was put to a vote, Regents President Drew Petersen announced support for moving the process forward.

The issue is important. Too many college campuses have become outright hostile to speech that deviates from modern liberal orthodoxy. Anyone who offers contrary opinions are shouted down and denied access. But regulating free speech with set punishments is a tricky business. At the heart of any regulation is, “who decides?” Who decides what constitutes a disruption vs. expressing a different opinion? Some cases are obvious – shouting down a speaker, for example – but what about a noticeable harrumph? What about being quiet but holding up a sign? Does it depend on what the sign says? Do the lefty administrators who are allowing conservatives to be shouted off campus now get to decide these things? Would this new policy just be used as a bludgeon against certain kinds of speakers? We have a cultural drift to intolerance and this rule might just weaponize one side.

I don’t envy the Regents. This is a tricky business. These issues are pregnant with nuances and context. It is very difficult to write a rule that encompasses the grey areas.

Xi Threatens Violence

Chilling words coming from a tyrant.

China’s President Xi Jinping has issued a stern warning against dissent as protests continue in Hong Kong, saying any attempt to divide China will end in “crushed bodies and shattered bones”.

His comments came during a state visit to Nepal on Sunday, China’s state broadcaster CCTV said.

WBSDPTF To Present to School Board Tomorrow at 1730

After months of work, the West Bend School District Private Task Force is going to present our findings to the West Bend School Board tomorrow afternoon at 5:30. For some background, the Task Force was formed after the failed school referendum in April to take a hard look at the facilities issues cited in the referendum and offer some independent findings.

I was a bit dubious going into the work, but found it enlightening and enriching. We did a lot of work. We toured buildings, interviewed staff, dug through reports, spoke with many local contractors, got architectural designs and quotes, looked at neighboring districts, debated, argued, and finally reached some consensus.

The Task Force will be sharing some bold findings, but I hope it is the beginning of a different conversation about the direction of our school district.

Please attend the meeting or catch the live stream. For those who would like to see me put on pants and come out of my basement, I will be presenting a portion too.

5:30 PM at the District Offices located at 735 S. Main St. West Bend.

Come on by. You should be home before the Packer game.

America to Trade Communists for Hong Kong Freedom Fighters

I’d be down for this

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The American state department has come up with an ingenious plan to solve China’s democratic protest problems and make our nation great again in one fell swoop.

Through some great negotiating on the part of Donald Trump, we’ve struck a deal to trade all of our country’s Communists for Hong Kong’s democratic protesters.

After the deal was made, the military began rounding up the Communists—who didn’t complain, as they’re all for an authoritarian state—and putting them in cargo planes. They were then flown across the Pacific Ocean and dropped off in Hong Kong before the democratic protesters in China were loaded up into the now-empty planes and flown back to America.

“This is the best deal, maybe ever,” said Trump. “We’ll get rid of some wackos on the left, my buddy Xi will be happy with his new commie followers, and we’ll gain some great new citizens who will be really appreciative to me and never complain about anything. Greatest deal in the history of deals.”

(yes, I know it’s a parody)

City of West Bend Deciding Budget & Levy

Since we’re in the budget season all over, this story in the Washington County Daily News slipped past me earlier this week. It’s an interesting debate:

The city’s Finance Committee met Monday, and heard a presentation on the preliminary budget for 2020. City Administrator Jay Shambeau presented a balanced budget, totaling $24.25 million in revenues and operating budget expenses. Of that total, preliminary budget documents showed $15.88 million would come from taxes.

“No fund balance is applied to make this budget balanced,” Shambeau told the Finance Committee, explaining all expenses were covered by revenues without needing to dip into reserves. Shambeau’s presentation projected a $7.85 tax rate for 2020, which is the amount a property owner pays in city taxes per $1,000 property value. That would have been a 6-cent increase from the current $7.79 rate.

However, the Finance Committee meeting ended with Shambeau directed to rework the budget numbers to use a flat tax rate, held at $7.79, by using about $160,000 in carry-over funds.

Mayor Kraig Sadownikow said during the budget discussion that last year, there was about $500,000 left over in the budget – money that was budgeted for various expenses, but ended up not being needed for those items. He said his rough math showed that the 6-cent increase would produce about $160,000 in additional tax revenue.

Sadownikow asked if it was reasonable to expect that this year’s budget would have at least $160,000 in leftover money to carry over to next year, which Shambeau said would be likely, as the current budget as a whole was tracking similarly to last year’s budget.

“We did a good job of running the county, we have some dollars left over. Let’s not raise taxes when we already have the money,” Sadownikow said.

Sadownikow clarified that he was not asking for any expenditures or budgets to be cut. He only felt that the tax rate should be held steady when the city has leftover funds to cover some expenses, rather than bringing in additional taxes, given that the city also has healthy reserves.

“We’re basically taxing people to put money in a savings account. We encouraged that for a long time because it (the fund balance) was painfully low,” Sadownikow said.

He said that seven or eight years ago, the city’s fund balance was around $2 million. Now, budget documents show the reserve funds are at almost $8.8 million.

Here’s the deal… The city budget has a 2.99% spending increase in it. The vast majority of that increase is coming from Public Safety – fire and police. That’s because the new contracts are kicking in that includes a pay increase. The pay increase was negotiated because they deserve it, but also because the city is no longer paying the healthcare for retirees for new employees. The city traded predictable, budgeted pay increases to get the taxpayers out of a massive, long-term unfunded liability. It’s good policy.

Anyway, the increased spending along with less state aid than the city expected is pressing a property tax levy increase of 1.68%. As the budget was proposed, the city would simply raise the levy to meet expenses and be done with it.

The mayor, on the other hand, pushed back and advised that the city use some of its unspent money from last year’s budget to lessen the tax increase. For years, the city has been run well and put surpluses into a reserve fund. The reserve fund is used to keep the city’s bond rating up, but as a practical matter is there for emergencies and unexpected expenses. The mayor is saying that the reserve fund is sufficient now, so we can just push some of the surplus money into the next budget instead of taxing the citizens more.

I agree with the mayor on this one. The money is sitting there in the city’s coffers and the city has sufficient reserves. Instead of raising taxes, the city should take advantage of its good fiscal management to minimize the tax increase. There will still need to be a tax increase of about 1%, but that’s better than 1.68%.