My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Last night’s vote pretty well proves the thesis. Here’s a part:
It was a good run, but it is over now. After a decade of good governance, local conservatives got lazy. They stopped recruiting and supporting new conservatives to run for local office. The big spenders and lefties returned to power as local conservatives twiddled their thumbs and harrumphed at each other.
Over the past several elections, big spenders and lefties ran for, and won, seats on the Common Council. They are in firm control. The new mayor, Chris Jenkins, trumpets his conservatism in public, but has proven too weak to provide firm conservative leadership in the face of opposition.
Last year the Common Council passed a property tax increase even though the city had the money to pay for the entire budget without raising taxes. They passed a tax increase because they wanted to see if the public would scream too loud. Aldermen John Butschlick, Mark Allen, Steve Hoogester, Justice Madl, and Roger Kist voted to increase taxes. Aldermen Andrew Chevalier, Chris Jenkins, and Rich Kasten voted against a tax increase. Since then, all three of the aldermen who voted against the tax increase have left the council and Jenkins was elected mayor.
This year, the council is proposing a 5% tax levy increase that will be used to increase spending and pad employee compensation.
A council dominated by former public employees seems resentful that a year should pass without increasing taxes. It is easier to keep increasing taxes a little every year and finding a place to spend it instead of only asking for a tax increase when they need it.
Alderwoman Meghann Kennedy has been the lone voice for fiscal conservatism on the council as the rest seem intent on passing annual tax increases irrespective of the need or the property owners’ ability to pay. 2020 has been a tough year for many, but that fact seems lost in the halls of city government.
As I write this column, the public hearing for the budget is in the future. As you read this, the hearing is in the past. Irrespective of how the hearing went or how the council votes, the only way to truly return West Bend to conservative fiscal management is to elect the principled conservatives who will lead future councils. The liberals will always fill a leadership vacuum. If conservatives in West Bend want to see conservative leadership, they will need to get off their duffs and put some effort into it. The same is true all over Wisconsin.
Leadership starts locally.