My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Here you go:
End of the year columns often fall into a few templates: Predictions for the New Year; Recap of the old year; Top ‘X’ lists; thoughtful reflections; etc. This one will be a bit of everything.
The year 2017 was certainly an eventful and tumultuous year. The Islamic State was finally pushed out of Iraq and lost its territory. The King of Saudi Arabia consolidated power as he slightly liberalized In the U.S., the stock market and economy boomed with unemployment dropping to record lows. President Donald Trump kept everyone scrambling with his tweets. Bitcoin boomed and busted. The year ended with the passage of the greatest tax reform in a generation.
In Wisconsin, the budget debate dragged on for months as Republicans battled over transportation spending. Meanwhile, the years of conservative reforms and coordinated effort brought the largest foreign investment in the history of the state to Wisconsin with Foxconn committing to a massive new facility in the state. The illegal John Doe investigations were finally exposed for the partisan witch hunt that they were. And the Packers’ season broke with Aaron Rodgers’ clavicle.
Locally, Rep. Bob Gannon died suddenly leaving big shoes to fill. The U.S. Open catapulted beautiful Washington County into the national spotlight. The West Bend School District was roiled in controversy with the sudden resignations of four teachers, the scandalous hiring process for two new high school principals and the untimely resignation of the Superintendent. Washington County flirted with building a reliever route to Hartford.
The year 2018 promises to be an eventful year. The tax reform that just passed has already spurred countless companies to announce that they will increase wages, give employee bonuses and increase their investments. Several businesses have also announced that they will be building new facilities or moving global facilities to the U.S. All of this economic activity, coupled with the pent up demand from the laggard Obama years, point to a boom in the economy. That also likely means that Americans will finally begin to see some upward movement of the median wage and its frequent companion, inflation.
Meanwhile, the political world will be looking to the mid-term elections in November. If historic trends hold true, theDemocrats can expect heavy successes at the polls and will probably take control of the House of Representatives — possibly the Senate, too. In anticipation of a change in control, both parties will be scrambling for political advantage with little regard for positive governance.
Wisconsin will also be caught up in the mid-term swirl. Sen. Tammy Baldwin is on the ballot and faces fierce competition. The Republican primary to choose her challenger is shaping up to be a nasty fight. Gov. Scott Walker has signaled that he will advocate an ambitious agenda as he runs for a third term. At least eight Democrats are lined up to challenge him.
Here in West Bend, the primary election to fill Gannon’s seat will be held. Even though it is considered a safe Republican seat, a low-turnout special election in a year when the liberals are hyper-energized is just the kind of atmosphere where lightning could strike. Two seats on the West Bend School Board are up for election giving the public an opportunity to weigh in on its performance. The city of West Bend will likely be asking the public in a referendum how they want to handle funding of city transportation infrastructure.
One way in which I hope and pray that 2018 is different than 2017 is that we move toward a more rational national discussion. In 2017, it was the most divisive years in my memory. Too many people retreated to their tribes, closed their minds and substituted thinking with reflex. While we are so often heated by the friction of our differences, the cool welds of our similarities bind us together. We are all Americans, Wisconsinites or Benders. Most of us are honest, hardworking and thoughtful people. We all want a thriving economy, safe neighborhoods, great schools, a clean environment and ethical elected leaders. And while we may disagree on the means, most of us are striving for the same ends.
May 2018 bring you all good health and happiness.