Author Archives: Owen

Around the Bend by Judy Steffes

Teen finishes Eagle Scout project for West Bend Community Memorial Library

Connor Markohn of West Bend is with local Scout Troop 762. The troop holds its meetings at the West Bend Moose Lodge.

Markohn came dressed for the video shoot about his Eagle Scout project in a tan, button-down scout shirt covered with a collage of merit badges that show off his many accomplishments.

Earlier this month Markohn finished an Eagle Scout project for the West Bend Community Memorial Library.

“I found out about some projects when the Community Memorial Library held its open house,” he said.

At 13 years old Markohn is tall, wiry and direct. His mother, Jen Martin, has mentioned autism but throughout the interview Markohn comes across as super intelligent, mature, outgoing, and a tell-it-like-it-is kinda kid with a lot of facts and knowledge thrown in.

“Building 40 shelves for library books really seemed like more of a worthy project,” he said.

With that stepping off point Markohn is on a roll talking about the construction process, which for an Eagle Scout project for a young teen is pretty in depth.

“I had to compile designs, collect materials and create funding,” he said. “I decided to use particle board and then solicited donations from Zuern and Home Depot. For the materials I had to pay for I used donations received from The Soul Source, a community wellness center.”

Librarian Hannah Kane said the pair sifted through a number of project options and then settled on tackling an insert for the wire racks in the Teen Zone section of the library.

The project was a team effort with friends and family chipping in time and talents. “The project took a full month to complete,” he said.

To finish off the shelves Markohn’s subtle sense of humor is evident by the dedication sticker tagged on each level.

“I dedicated it to all the librarians who suffered from having to move all the books and CDs for all the years,” he said.

Martin said she is proud of her son’s drive and accomplishments. “He just is an awesome example of what all kids can do when they are encouraged to be themselves and focus on their abilities instead of their disabilities,” she said.

“He has put in more than 225 hours of service in the community (this does not include his Eagle Project hours), and his Troop has done so many wonderful projects for local schools, parks and community organizations.”

Aside from scouts Markohn is an accomplished musician. He sang the National Anthem at the 2018 America’s Dairyland Tour in West Bend, played the part of Shrek Junior in a production by Musical Masquers and he is the only student from Badger Middle School going to State Honors Choir in October.

“Scouting can really help me with lifelong skills like leadership skills, organizational skills and time management skills,” he said.

Markohn is also a part-time student at Pathways Charter School. He has been active in scouts since March 2016.

Heavy hearts at the Pike Lake office of the DNR as word spreads about the death of Forester Julie Peltier.

“She was extremely popular and had been at Pike Lake for years,” said DNR warden Bill Mitchell. “Every year she helped at the spring Fish and Game hearing and she was a hunter safety instructor.”

Washington County Conservation Congress chairman Brett Weir worked at the spring hearings with Peltier. “What I liked about her is when she spoke people listened,” he said. “She was very good at explaining things, she helped me with forestry questions and she had a personality where she was always approachable.”

Weir said he was shocked by the news. “What a loss; that is a big loss,” he said.

Peltier had been with the DNR since February 1997, according to a post on her LinkedIn account.

Peltier received a Bachelor of Science degree in Forest Resources from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and she worked as a Forestry Tech for nine years at the Black Hills National Forest, located in southwestern South Dakota and northeastern Wyoming,

Friends said Peltier had not been to work for a couple days. Police were called after she failed to appear at an event and she was found deceased at her home on Tuesday afternoon.  Friends said the death is not considered suspicious.  Friends are asking to keep Peltier’s family in your thoughts and prayers.

Hartford tennis coach receives recognition

Hartford Union High School (HUHS) is proud to announce Andy Andress, head girls tennis coach, has been named 2017-18 National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) Girls Tennis Coach of the Year for Wisconsin. “I am blessed to have a supportive group of coaches to work with, supportive administration and leadership that values all the learning experiences student athletes get from sports and an understanding family that allows me to do what I do,” he said.

Every year the NFHS recognizes a coach from each state for significant achievement in their sport.  State level recipients are considered for NFHS Sectional Recognition. National Coaches of the Year are then chosen from the sectional winners in which Andress will be considered.

Paradise Springs Fitness moving and building for lease

Tony Chemer, owner of Paradise Springs Fitness, is moving his club to the Kettle Moraine YMCA and putting his space at 1414 E. Paradise Drive in West Bend up for lease.

“The main reason is my real full-time job, which is sales for Alloy Personal Training Solutions, it’s real hard to run the different facilities (Paradise Springs and a program at the Y) and travel several times a month for Alloy.”

Conversations with the Kettle Moraine YMCA

“I’ve been talking with the Y over the past few months to find out how to still service the people with training but do it in an easier way. The Y said they would love to accommodate the training at the branch on W. Washington Street.”

“We’ve always collaborated well with the Kettle Moraine YMCA. Even during the Y’s recent flooding issue we had everybody come over here. We opened up the doors and basically we were YMCA south for about a month.”

Repurposing the building on Paradise

“I spoke with a realtor about the best use for the property because we have gyms all over town and I don’t have a whole lot of people in here except for training times. They thought the location on Paradise Drive was better for a medical facility or some sort of business professional that would fit in better with the spa. Philosophy Day Spa will remain at the location on Paradise Drive. “I will still be the owner of the property and I want it to have the highest value and I think that will happen if we move the fitness facility.”

Membership transfers

“We want to make this change over to the YMCA in October. We wanted to make the transition and make everybody feel comfortable before the new year. This gives us time to get all the schedules organized and the Y is seeing if the trainers want to work with them.”

Member reaction

“Some are shocked and others already do joint training at the Y. One client today was excited and said now they can use all the Y amenities along with the training while another said they liked Paradise Springs because there weren’t a lot of kids.”

Membership transfers

“We’re starting over fresh. The membership will end here and if the members and staff choose to go to the Y they will be offered a special deal but it’s up to them whether they choose to do that.”

History of Paradise Springs Fitness – Purchase story that ran Dec. 17, 2009

Tony and Jenny Chemer are the new owners of Paradise East Springs, 1414 E. Paradise Drive.

“I got the whole ball of wax,” said Chemer, who bought the building and the business from Janine Peters.

Chemer has run the fitness business at Pleasant Valley Fitness the last 12 years.

“At first I was just looking for potentially a new place to lease my business and then when I learned more about the spa business, it just made a lot of sense to take over everything,” he said.

Chemer is renaming the location Paradise Valley Spa and Fitness. All memberships from Pleasant Valley Fitness will carry over as will current memberships at Paradise East Springs. Chemer hopes to be open before the end of the year.

As far as Pleasant Valley is concerned, John and Jacci Gambucci will start a new fitness facility, Pleasant Valley Tennis and Fitness, which will all be under their ownership. The Gambuccis will take over the fitness space on Jan. 1, 2010, with the hope of opening in mid-January.

New sign for Stein Gardens & Gifts

Change is afoot at Stein Gardens & Gifts in West Bend. The store on W. Washington Street is changing its logo and its name to Stein’s Garden & Home.

The rebranding of 16 stores across Wisconsin started two years ago.

Everything was in line for a new look including the landscape to how merchandise would be laid out inside the store. Watch for the new signage to go up in the coming weeks.

Did you ever wonder how Stein’s got its start?

In 2010 Amy Rabideau Silvers with the Journal Sentinel wrote Jack Stein’s obituary. A portion of that story is below.

Published on: 4/26/2010 – Jack Stein learned a lot working for his parents’ florist business, following service during World War II and a couple years of college.

“He learned that he didn’t want to do that kind of work,” said his wife, Joan Stein. “But he also learned other things.”

Instead of taking care of one customer at a time, Stein wanted to take care of lots of customers. The result was Stein Gardens & Gifts, the second-largest independently owned garden center business in the country. “He was a merchandiser,” she said. “He wanted to sell merchandise.”

When Stein founded his business in the 1950s, he also realized that the market for gardening supplies was changing. Department stores were getting out of the business. The postwar housing boom was on. “Everybody was buying houses,” his wife said. “And that’s when he stepped into the gardening supply business.”

Stein’s now has annual sales of nearly $90 million at 16 stores. The company employs about 1,000 people in Wisconsin and about 200 more during the busy spring season.

New Charter School opening at Riveredge Nature Center in Newburg

In partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and the Northern Ozaukee School District, Riveredge Nature Center is establishing a nature-based public charter elementary school. It will serve up to 99 students K-5th, after a 3-year phase-in period that starts with the 2019-2020 school year. Riveredge Nature Center will accept students from any school district, subject to space availability and following the Open Enrollment process into the Northern Ozaukee School District

Riveredge Nature Center is located in Ozaukee County, less than 2 miles from the Village of Newburg. Currently elementary students from Newburg are bussed to Decorah School in West Bend, at a distance of less than 8 miles. Northern Ozaukee School Districts also operates a virtual (on-line) charter school that serves public education students under Open Enrollment.

Recount on Tuesday, Sept. 18 for Big Cedar Lake PRD

A recount was held Tuesday night, Sept. 18, as a follow up to a pair of requests regarding the final tally from the election August 29. Nicole Gonring submitted a petition along with Troy Zagel, both were candidates in the race for two seats for PRD commissioner.

The original vote from the Aug. 29 election showed Roger Walsh with 197 toes, David Claussen at 166, Nicole Gonring at 163 and Troy Zagel collected 161 votes. The tally from Tuesday’s recount was as follows: Walsh 200, Claussen 166, Gonring 163 and Zagel 161.

UPS box removed from Centrum building in downtown West Bend

There’s some confusion that’s causing a mix of panic and frustration as the UPS box has been removed from the lobby of the Centrum building, 120 N. Main Street, in downtown West Bend.

Businesses within the Centrum building say the UPS box had found its home for years on the lower level next to the soda machine; that UPS box was removed about a week ago.

Packages are still arriving and sitting on the ledge as well as the neighboring wooden bench even though the brown and yellow box is no longer there.

Some neighboring businesses thought a recent uptick in drop offs, which took up a sizable portion of the entryway, may have played a part in the removal of the UPS site.

In the interim, neighbors looking for a new UPS drop site can find one on W. Washington Street in West Bend. The site is in the same parking lot as the Shorewest Office, 2419 W. Washington Street.  It’s across from the AmericInn Motel and what will soon be the former location of National Exchange Bank.

Hartford School Board president resigns

It was an announcement that was short and to the point. On Monday night, Sept. 17, during the Hartford Union High School District Board meeting Board President Deborah Reinbold resigned.

“Next on the agenda is the Board President’s report and I’m really thankful all of you are here tonight because I wanted to let you know that last Friday evening I emailed all of the board members to let them know that tonight will be my last meeting,” said Reinbold.

“I have a new job I’m starting next week Monday and I just wanted to be able to start and make sure I have the time available to put into that and I’ve been on the board the last 10 years and I think it’s ready for someone else to move into this spot.”

Reinbold was first elected to the board in 2008. She was re-elected multiple times after that. She won her last term in 2016. Her current term would expire in April 2019.

“Anyone with the tenure and 10 years of community service should be exemplified,” said board member Scott Hanke.

The board will set a timetable to collect names and schedule interviews to fill the remaining term for that seat.

Updates & tidbits

 The one and only fan favorite Milwaukee Brewer Gorman Thomas will be at Tommy Schwai’s booth at the downtown West Bend Farmers’ Market on Saturday. The market runs from 7:30 a.m. – 11 a.m.

– An 84-year-old West Bend woman who had been missing since Sunday afternoon has been found safe. Imelda Algiers went missing from her home in the 1000 block of Decker Drive around 3:50 p.m. Sunday. Imelda has Alzheimer’s Disease. Police were joined in the search by Washington County Sheriff’s deputies, the West Bend Fire Department and members of the community. Police reported they found Algiers a little after 1 a.m. She was located in a wooded area in the vicinity of the Ice Age Trail just north of Park Avenue. Algiers was turned over to a family member who took her to St. Joseph’s Hospital as a precautionary measure. West Bend police expressed thanks to the community for their cooperation.

– The Columbian is hosting a Ham and Chicken Dinner on Sunday, September 23, 2018. Make your reservations today. The event is open to the public. Cost is $15 per person. Bar opens at 4 p.m. and serving is from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.

– There’s new signage in place at West Bend Sausage Plus, 1435 W. Washington Street, in West Bend. Ben Houle, 31, is the new owner of the local meat market. The sign was put up by The Sign Shop of Baraboo.

– Visit Heritage House, Cedar Community’s restored turn-of-the-century farmhouse, located at their main campus, 5595 County Road Z, West Bend, on Saturday, Oct. 6 from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. for a family fun day. Tour Heritage House and Ye Olde School, enjoy complimentary desserts and refreshments, musical entertainment, fall color rides throughout the beautiful trails, old-fashioned school games and pumpkin decorating. This event is open to the public and free to attend.

– Hartford’s H.e.l.p. Corner at Redeemer Church is slated to open mid-September.

-St. Frances Cabrini annual Rummage Sale is Thursday, Sept. 20 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday, Sept. 21 from 8 a.m. to noon in Mother Cabrini Hall in the lower level of the church. Baked goods will also be available. Rummage items can be dropped off Sept. 15 through Sept. 19.

– Rally Time Sports Bar and Grill in West Bend is looking for a part-time line cook position. Rally Time has a family-friendly team atmosphere. The position is primarily day shift and coverage as needed. Call Dan at 262-389-1142 or Cindy at 262-389-0839 or stop at the bar for an application.

Red China Balks at Sanctions Against Moscow

Remember that these are sanctions that the Democrats supported. Will they stand by Trump now?

China has told the US to withdraw sanctions on its military over purchases of Russian jets and missiles or “bear the consequences”.

The US says China has contravened US sanctions on Moscow introduced over Russian actions in Ukraine and alleged interference in US politics.

China recently bought 10 Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 missiles.

Beijing has not joined in the sanctions imposed on Moscow by the US and its Western allies since 2014.

Its forces took part in giant Russian war games held earlier this month.

Male Rapist Identifies as Woman Goes on to Rape Women in Prison

Ummmnnnn

We have reached peak absurdity in the transgender movement denying biological reality. The Daily Mail reported last week that a male rapist, pedophile, and convicted sex offender “whose previous offences had been committed when [he] was a man” began identifying as a woman. Therefore, he was sent to a women-only prison, where he went on to sexually assault four female inmates.

Randy Bryce Runs to Mommy Because His Brother Was Mean to Him

How funny. The Randy Bryce campaign felt a need to pull his mommy into the race because his brother isn’t supporting him. These are grown ass men. It undermines Randy’s “tough iron worker” persona.

The race for House Speaker Paul Ryan’s seat turned personal this week when the Democratic candidate’s mother denounced an attack ad against her son — featuring his own brother.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a PAC closely aligned with Ryan, announced earlier this week it was launching a $1.5 million television ad campaign against Randy Bryce, the Democrat running for the seat Ryan has held for 10 terms. (Ryan is retiring at the end of the year.) One of those ads features Bryce’s brother, James, a Milwaukee police officer, attacking the candidate for not supporting law enforcement and endorsing his bother’s Republican opponent, Bryan Steil.

On Wednesday morning, the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal published excerpts from a letter from Nancy Bryce, Randy and James’s mother, that was given to them by the Bryce campaign. Yahoo News has obtained a copy of the letter.

“I’m used to my sons getting into disagreements with each other — every mom is. And I understand that my boys see the world differently when it comes to politics,” Nancy Bryce wrote. “There is now a group of people from Washington who consider it a good idea to pit my boys against each other for their own political gain. But they didn’t consider a mother’s pain at seeing her children used as tools in a political fight, splashed with millions of dollars of ads across the airwaves.”

On Jay Weber’s show this morning, James Bryce called in and said that he spoke to his mother. James Bryce said that the Randy Bryce campaign likely wrote the letter and took advantage of his mom. I don’t know how old she is, but as I said… Randy and James are both grown ass men.

Woman Escapes in Waukesha

“Cathay Paciic”

Wanna get away?

An airline has had to send a new plane back to the paint shop after the company’s name was spelled incorrectly on it.

Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific painted its name as “Cathay Paciic” on the side of the jet.

Eagle-eyed travellers spotted the mistake at Hong Kong International Airport and contacted the airline.

“Oops this special livery won’t last long! She’s going back to the shop!” the company joked on Twitter.

Korean Leaders Meet

We can hope.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has agreed to shut one of the country’s main missile testing and launch sites, says the South’s President Moon Jae-in.

After meeting in Pyongyang, the two leaders “agreed on a way to achieve denuclearisation,” said Mr Moon.

The agreement was described by Mr Kim as a “leap forward” towards military peace on the peninsula.

Mr Kim also said he hoped to “visit Seoul in the near future” – he would be the first North Korean leader to do so.

Betty White is OK

Whew.

how unfortunate for an award show celebrating TV to fail to produce any moment of perceptible value outside of letting us know that Betty White is doing OK. And there’s no more potent catalyst for the need to know that Betty White is alive and well than watching three hours of comedy’s new regime produce that Emmy Awards telecast.

Hartford School District Plans Another Tax Decrease

What a refreshing story.

A small crowd turned out for the meeting, but they approved the school district’s proposed 2018-19 budget that calls for a small decrease in the taxes district property owners will pay per thousand. The budget, which still needs the Board of Education’s final approval after they receive more financial information from the state calls for a drop from about $5.99 per thousand in 2017-18 to about $5.98 per thousand for the 2018-19 budget year.

According to information provided by the school district, the owner of a $200,000 home paid $1,198 in taxes to the district for 2017-18 and will pay slightly less for 2018-19 of about $1,196 — a decrease of about $2.

“The district total levy for the 2018-19 school year will be $9,997,988 compared with the levy of $9,788,739 for 2017-18,” said District Director of Business Services John Stellmacher. “But we are anticipating a larger drop after a significant increase in fair market values and new construction in the city of Hartford over the past year.”

Stellmacher said the balanced budget being proposed includes a 0 percent base wage increase for teaching staff but nearly $283,000 in merit pay increases for teaching staff. These increases were approved in March.

He said the district continues to use the Act 10 Tools effectively.

“Our average health insurance renewal the past 7 years has been under 2 percent. We have a rate guarantee for an under 2 percent maximum increase for 2019-20,” Stellmacher said. “The district has been able to accomplish this through purchasing power in the Waukesha County Area Schools Health Cooperative and through competitive bidding. We also have a highly engaged staff and robust wellness program that emphasizes healthy lifestyles and consumerism. Our teaching staff has a base employee contribution rate of 21 percent toward their health insurance as we’ve worked to model benefits closer to the private sector.”

Stellmacher said stability in health insurance rates has allowed the district to invest in merit pay, small elementary class sizes, facility maintenance, and high quality professional development.

Meanwhile, in West Bend, we are looking at another levy that increases the property tax levy to the maximum allowed by law, a $900k pay increase for teachers, no merit pay, and starving facility maintenance in a run-up to a massive referendum.

More money has not, and will not, improve education for our children

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

With school back in full swing, the MacIver Institute’s Ola Lisowski completed a comprehensive review of the state of education in Wisconsin. The data gives some insight into how well our education system is serving our kids and raises some questions. One is left wondering, however, why Wisconsin’s politicians insist that throwing more money into education is the only answer.

Overall, ACT achievement scores have remained flat. In 2017, the average ACT score for graduating students was 20.5. That was the exact same as in 2016. Prior to 2016, the average ACT score remained flat at 22.0 or 22.1, but there was a change in participation requirements in 2016.

Until 2016, students only took the ACT if they were intending to go to college or just wanted to take the test. Starting in 2016, Wisconsin began requiring all enrolled students to take the ACT and taxpayers pay for the exams. Although students can still opt-out, the new rules pushed the participation rate for taking the ACT from the 63.5 percent in 2015 to 92.1 percent in 2016 and 2017. The fact that a much larger number of kids are taking the ACT — including many who do not have any intention of attending college — necessarily lowers the average.

Compared to the other 16 states that require all students to take the ACT, Wisconsin’s average is third best. Only Colorado and Minnesota do better.

Another metric for which longitudinal data is available is Advanced Placement course participation and results. Average scores for AP tests have been trending slightly down since 2010. In 2011, 68 percent of students scored a 3 or better on AP exams and 65.9 percent scored that well last year. But the good news is that more and more kids are taking AP exams. Last year, 57 percent more AP exams were taken as compared to the 2010-2011 school year. Much like with the ACT, broader participation usually pushes the average down, so it is good to see so little decline with the surge in participation.

Graduation rates have increased slightly since 2011 from 87 percent to 88.6 percent in 2017. That beats the national average of 84 percent. The real news in the much better graduation rates for some minority groups. The Hispanic and Latino graduation rate jumped from 72 percent in 2011 to 79.9 percent in 2016. The graduation rate for Native American kids grew from 71.7 percent in 2011 to 77.8 percent in 2016. Asian and black graduation rates increased by 0.5 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively. More kids are graduating and that is good news.

Unfortunately, we must temper the good news about the graduation rate with the data about remedial education. For many years, colleges have offered remedial education classes for incoming students.

They are classes for kids who are accepted and enrolled into the college, but need to shore up their core math or English skills.

Wisconsin began requiring in 2016 that UW System schools track which students need remedial education and the high schools that graduated those kids. The results are not good. Roughly 20 percent of all incoming students in the UW System require some form of remedial classes. These students graduated from 184 high schools. That means that almost 36 percent of Wisconsin high schools are sending kids to college who are not proficient in math or English. Not only is that indictment of those high schools, but it is a tremendous added expense to those kids who have to pay for remedial education they should have already received.

There is a lot more data on school performance. I invite you to read the overview at the MacIver Institute or dig through the Department of Public Instruction data yourself. A couple of insights bubble to the top after wading through the data. First, Wisconsin’s schools are fairly decent, for the most part, but there is a lot of room for improvement. Second, the performance has remained fairly consistent for the years despite taxpayers spending more and more every year.

This makes the politicians’ response all too disappointing. Tony Evers, the Democratic candidate for governor, has one answer to every question about education: Spend more money. This is despite the fact that spending more has no measurable impact on educational outcomes. Gov. Scott Walker has had a strong record of actual education reform, but has fallen into the same spending paradigm. This election, he is hanging his hat on the fact that Wisconsin increased spending on education and is spending more than ever.

The reason that politicians conflate more government spending with improving educational outcomes is as lazy as it is stupid. It is an easy way for them to demonstrate that they are “doing something.” In fact, they are doing nothing but wasting more money. The outcomes matter — not the spending.

Senate Hearing to Proceed

Excellent.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is pressing forward with a hearing scheduled for Monday after a woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault called for the FBI to investigate her claims before she testifies.

Grassley, on Monday evening, said there was “no reason” to delay the hearing. Republicans have invited both Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, his accuser, to testify publicly.

“Dr. Ford’s testimony would reflect her personal knowledge and memory of events. Nothing the FBI or any other investigator does would have any bearing on what Dr. Ford tells the committee, so there is no reason for any further delay,” Grassley said.
He added that Ford’s claim that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both in high school are “serious allegations and Dr. Ford deserves to be heard. …The invitation for Monday still stands.”
Ford has her chance to testify if she chooses to do so. If she takes a pass on the chance, then so be it. I hope, however, that this is not setting a precedent that anybody who accuses a nominee of something will get time at a Senate hearing. All of the loons will come out if we allow that.

Kavanaugh Accuser Won’t Testify

Um, no.

The woman who’s accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assaultwhen both of them were in high school will not testify before the FBI investigates the matter, one of her lawyers, Lisa Banks, said Tuesday night.

In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, reported first on CNN and obtained by ABC News, lawyers for professor Christine Blasey Ford, said “a full investigation by law enforcement officials will ensure that the crucial facts and witnesses in this matter are assessed in a non-partisan manner, and that the Committee is fully informed before conducting any hearing or making any decisions.”

Grassley had invited both Ford and Kavanaugh to testify before the committee on Monday.

“There’s no reason to have a public hearing Monday. This is being rushed through. It’s too important. It’s not a game. This is a serious situation,” Banks said on CNN.

The tactic here is transparent. Delay, delay, delay. The Democrats want to delay the vote until after the November elections in hopes that they win a majority in the Senate and can spike any Trump nominee from serving. They will keep moving the goal posts and making new demands until November 7th.

On the merits… even if her accusation was credible, which it is not, it is not a federal crime and the statute of limitations has run out. It is an unprovable accusation after 36 years and it is impossible for the accused to prove a negative. That’s why it makes for the perfect character assassination tool.

Take the vote.

California Couple Possibly Raped Hundreds of People

Wow.

A California surgeon and his girlfriend have been charged with two sexual assaults, and investigators suspect there could be “hundreds” more victims.

Grant William Robicheaux, 38, and Cerissa Laura Riley, 31, allegedly attacked two women they met at a bar and a restaurant in 2016.

Prosecutors told the BBC “thousands and thousands” of videos of potential victims were on the defendants’ phones.

Investigators are trying to identify the women in the clips.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said the pair were suspected of using their “clean-cut” looks to lure targets into a false sense of security.

Acne Positivity Is a Thing

Huh.

After years of oppressive aesthetic perfection, acne positivity is a drive for people to be more open about their skin problems, from the occasional spot to full-blown cystic acne. It joins recent moves to celebrate the many and varied appearances of our skin – from vitiligo to freckles and stretch marks – but also seeks to educate those who still believe that acne is a problem for the unwashed and unhealthy.

Many trace the movement back to the British blogger Em Ford, who in 2015 posted a YouTube video called You Look Disgusting. It showed her both in full makeup and bare-faced with her acne visible, as a succession of comments people had posted about her skin sprung up around her: “WTF is wrong with her face?”, “I can’t even look at her”, “Ewww, gross, horrible, ugly …”. In the first week alone, it amassed 10 million views. Ford, whose YouTube channel My Pale Skin now has more than one million subscribers, will shortly launch You Look Disgusting 2.0.

More money has not, and will not, improve education for our children

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online now. Go pick up a paper, but here’s a snippet:

A couple of insights bubble to the top after wading through the data. First, Wisconsin’s schools are fairly decent, for the most part, but there is a lot of room for improvement. Second, the performance has remained fairly consistent for the years despite taxpayers spending more and more every year.

This makes the politicians’ response all too disappointing. Tony Evers, the Democratic candidate for governor, has one answer to every question about education: Spend more money. This is despite the fact that spending more has no measurable impact on educational outcomes. Gov. Scott Walker has had a strong record of actual education reform, but has fallen into the same spending paradigm. This election, he is hanging his hat on the fact that Wisconsin increased spending on education and is spending more than ever.

The reason that politicians conflate more government spending with improving educational outcomes is as lazy as it is stupid. It is an easy way for them to demonstrate that they are “doing something.” In fact, they are doing nothing but wasting more money. The outcomes matter — not the spending.

Trump Orders Document Dump

Good.

President Donald Trump directed the Department of Justice to release a host of documents related to the Russia probe on Monday, including texts between two former FBI officials who talked about stopping his rise to power.

Trump also directed DOJ to declassify pages from a warrant from a secret court that allowed the feds to spy on former campaign adviser Carter Page and all of the interview reports the bureau prepared to go along with it.

The president told Justice to publish reports tied to its interview with DOJ official Bruce Ohr, whose wife Nellie worked at the firm that put together the unverified dossier of dirt on the president, in the sweeping declassification of documents associated with the special counsel investigation.

Ohr is known to have been in contact with the dossier’s author, ex-British spy Christopher Steele.

And in a further request, Trump called for the release of text messages relating to the probe that were sent or received by ex-FBI director James Comey, whom the president last year fired.

Kingdom Invests in Tesla Rival

Whoa.

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund invested over $1 billion Monday in American electric car manufacturer, Lucid Motors.

That’s bad news for Tesla, as it signals that the kingdom may be moving in a different direction, just weeks after CEO Elon Musk claimed the fund would help his own firm go private.

The Public Investment Fund (PIF), which invests on behalf of the Saudi government, said the infusion would go toward launching the Lucid Air electric sedan by 2020.

Baseless Accusation Against Kavanaugh Shouldn’t Delay Vote

This is nuts. Even the BBC reporter has some very valid questions:

There are plenty of reasonable, sensitive questions arising from the Kavanaugh/Ford story.

First and most important, is the alleged incident true? Do the therapists’ notes, which have some flaws, count as corroboration?

If the incident is true, to what extent does it have a relevant bearing on the judge’s character today, 36 years later?

If no other women come forward with similar accusations, should it be dismissed as the egregious but one-off failing of a teenager?

If it’s not true, why was it raised it now and what impact should it have on both the judge and his accuser?

All of these questions are open for debate in a sensible, thoughtful way. I for one don’t have clear answers on any of them.

In the end, this is just going to be a he said/she said about something that happened over 30 years ago. People who don’t want Kavanaugh confirmed are going to insist that the accusation is true. Reasonable people will wonder why this is only coming up now. None of it has anything to do with the character of the man in 2018 or his lengthy tenure as a lawyer and judge.

Take the vote.

Union Thug Cyber-Stalks Wigderson’s Kid

That’s just creepy and unstable behavior. What kind of “teacher” goes after someone’s kid just because she doesn’t like his opinions?

Just when you thought the Left couldn’t get any lower, they can. A self-described “union thug” reached out to RightWisconsin Editor James Wigderson’s minor daughter to criticize him and her school on social media.

Angela Schissler Goodwin, a Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) school teacher who also describes herself as a “MKE liberal,” tracked down Wigderson’s daughter on Facebook and sent her a unsolicited message about her father.

“We are offended by what was said about MPS. We are an MPS family and those insults are reckless generalizations,” Goodwin wrote to James Wigderson’s daughter. “I can’t imagine why he has such mean ideas about a group of people.”

The pronoun “he” makes it clear that Goodwin knew she was contacting James Wigderson’s daughter, not James Wigderson himself. Goodwin is not a Facebook friend of James Wigderson’s daughter and would have had to specifically search her out online.

James Wigderson’s contact information is also available online.

In Goodwin’s Facebook intro, she describes herself: “Wifey, mom, daughter, sister, union thug public school teacher, recovering Catholic, MKE 414 Liberal.”

West Bend Annual Meeting, Budget, and Tax Levy

This post is going to be a little long, so strap yourself in. If you live in the West Bend School District, you’ll want to read it. The rest of y’all should find a good college football game to watch.

On Monday, the voters of the West Bend School District are invited to attend the Annual Meeting of Electors. This is an annual meeting where, theoretically, the voters approve some of the big ticket items like the tax levy and budget. In reality, all of the votes are non-binding, so the School Board can still do whatever they want. Still, it is an opportunity for voters to show up and have their voices heard.

On the agenda this year is:

7. Consideration of Proposed Resolutions

a. Resolution No. 1 – Tax Levy

b. Resolution No. 2 – Disposal of District Property

c. Resolution No. 3 – Board Member Compensation

d. Resolution No. 4 – 2019-20 Annual Meeting Date

The only thing we have any information on is the proposed budget and tax levy, so the voters will be walking in blind to whatever the resolutions are about board member compensation and the disposal of district property. We’re going to take a deeper look at the budget and tax levy, but first, let’s discuss the process a little.

In years past, the West Bend School Board began its budget process in the spring. If I remember correctly (I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong), we usually got a preliminary budget in the April/May time frame. That high-level preliminary budget was posted on the district web site and the people had some time with it.

This year, the first appearance of a preliminary budget from the school district that I saw was last Tuesday morning – after the Monday night board meeting.  Perhaps it was posted Monday night. But now the Electors are being asked to vote on it a week later. One. Week. That’s all the voters get to read it and understand it. There hasn’t been any time for the media or interested parties to ask questions. There hasn’t even been another board meeting where citizens could voice their opinions on it. There is really no excuse for this kind of opaqueness from the West Bend School Board. They have had this information for months, but failed to be transparent about it. Their lack of transparency is not incompetence. It is willful.


That being said, let’s look at the budget. As we get into it, we must remember the context of this budget. The West Bend School Board just postponed action on a $85 million referendum. Budgets are where we define our priorities. There is always an unlimited list of needs/wants (the distinction between the two often being in the eye of the beholder) and a limited amount of money to pay for it. The budget is where you have to prioritize that list.

 

There are two versions of the West Bend School District’s Preliminary Budget. Here is the summary document that is being provided for the meeting on Monday. Here is a slightly more detailed version that was presented at the School Board meeting last week. Neither version is nearly as detailed as what other districts, like Slinger, provides. Again… transparency…

Let’s start with the revenue side of the budget. There are two primary sources of revenue for a Wisconsin school district – the local property tax levy and state aid. The West Bend School District is facing a demographic and societal shift that is causing a decline in enrollment for the foreseeable future. The estimates range between a 10% and 20% decline in enrollment in the next 10 years. This is a significant impact on the state aid that the district receives because it is based on enrollment. Also, enrollment affects the property tax levy limit for the district. In short, the West Bend School District is facing a sustained period of declining revenue. In the preliminary budget (focusing on the operating budget and not the special parts), we see this manifest in a projected $233,405 decrease in revenue.

That decrease in overall revenue is despite a property tax hike. The School District wants to increase the property tax levy by $928,249 – the maximum amount allowed by law. Most of this is offset by a decrease in the levy due to some debt service coming off the books, so the impact will be minimal. But taxpayers could be enjoying a rare tax decrease if not for the School Board’s desire to tax to the max.

In light of that fact, let’s take a closer look at the spending side of the budget. Overall, the preliminary budget proposes a $1.3 million spending increase. You’re reading that right. The preliminary budget has a structural $1.4 million deficit.

The School District must have a balanced budget, so they are raiding their reserve fund to fill the gap. Superintendent Don Kirkegard acknowledges that this is not sustainable and he will be working to bend the district’s cost into the revenue number next year. I cut him some slack because he has only been on the job since July and was handed this budget. Also, he comes from another state and it takes a little time to learn the Wisconsin Way of school budgeting. This budget is the product of the interim Superintendent, staff, and most of all, the School Board.

What is driving the spending increase? Almost all of it is due to a planned compensation increase for the teaching staff. Although salary negotiations are still underway, this budget includes a 2.1% base salary increase. That is the maximum that the School Board would have to give under Act 10. That amounts to a $929,853 compensation increase. That umber is a little misleading because the budget number includes benefits, salary, and headcount fluctuations. But based on the commentary at the school board meeting last week, that number is about right. They are planning roughly a $900k salary increase.

The other increases are scattered around the budget. It is a little hard to tease them out because the district is also reallocating a lot of expenses. According to the Superintendent, they are working on reallocating expenses to the building level so that they can have better visibility to where the expenses are actually being spent. That’s a good thing, but it makes year-to-year trending data difficult.


The story of this budget is not really what it does, but what it doesn’t do. The West Bend School Board is facing declining enrollment and, consequently, declining revenue. Next year they are planning to ask the taxpayers to dig deeper into their family budgets and pay more for bigger, newer facilities. This budget is the School Board’s statement of priorities before asking the taxpayers for more money and they chose to kick the can down the road another year. They are choosing to not make any hard decisions nor demonstrate that they will be good stewards if the taxpayers give them almost the equivalent of an entire year’s budget to spend all at once.

Here are just a couple things this budget does not do:

Maintenance. Many of the facilities needs that are driving the perceived need for a referendum are due to years of poor maintenance. Jackson Elementary is old and falling apart, they tell us. The High School building needs serious renovations and repairs, we’re told. I defy anyone to look at the preliminary budget and determine what the school district spends to maintain their facilities. There isn’t a line item for it. According to the Superintendent, the large, capital projects like roof replacements and such are covered by the Capital Projects Fund and is about $2.3 million. More routing maintenance like carpet replacements, door repairs, fixture replacements, light bulbs, etc. are kind of tucked into the “other support services” or “central services” budget items. But those line items blend a lot of “catch all” expenses.

It is safe to say, however, that despite these pressing needs that are fueling a referendum discussion, the budget makes no serious effort to spend more on maintenance.

I tried to find some good benchmarks for what schools should spend on maintenance, but they are hard to come by. This data from the Building Owners and Managers Association says that for office space (roughly equivalent), people spend about $8.07 per square foot for annual operating expenses. That number includes some things like security, administration, etc. that are not really pertinent in a school setting. If we just include repairs, maintenance, cleaning, etc., it’s about $4 per square foot per year. The West Bend School District has 1,141,656 sq. feet of building space – not including grounds, sports fields, parking lots, etc. It is reasonable to expect that the district needs to spend $4 to $4.5 million per year just to keep their facilities reasonable cleaned and maintained. I don’t see anything near that much in the budget even as I add up the line items.

This points to a trend of School Districts intentionally under-funding maintenance, allowing facilities to decline into disrepair, and then pushing for a referendum to make up for their neglect. This budget looks like it will continue that trend.

Labor Costs. Without a doubt, labor costs are the largest expense in any school district budget. If the School Board is ever going to control costs and bring them in line with revenue projections, they have to control the cost of labor. There are only a few ways to do that. They can cut overall compensation – salaries and benefits. They can reduce the number of employees. Or they can force employee churn to create a younger, cheaper workforce.

At some point, the district needs to reduce the number of employees. There are fewer and fewer kids to teach. Therefore, there will need to be fewer and fewer teachers, administrators, and support staff to serve those kids. This needs to be done intelligently and carefully, but it needs to be done.

The School Board and this budget fail to take advantage of Act 10 to control the overall compensation costs for the employees. Employees still have a sweetheart deal on benefits. The School Board is assuming a maximum base salary increase. The School Board has not implemented merit pay or other performance-driven compensation models. They haven’t done much of anything. The compensation package for West Bend School District employees looks much like it could have in 1999 or 2005.

Once again, this budget just kicks the can down the road and fails to do anything about rising labor costs in the face of declining revenue.


The preliminary budget for the West Bend School District sends a very clear message to the citizens of the district. Despite virulent protestations about needing tens of millions of dollars in a referendum to pay for critical facilities, the School Board intends to just keep doing the same thing as if there isn’t any need at all. They are not making any hard choices or shifting any additional spending to address those needs. They are also not addressing the structural funding issues that are already impacting the district’s revenue. The School Board is planning to ask the taxpayers to dig deeper into their family budgets and give up their own priorities, but the School Board is refusing to dig deeper into their own budget. Instead, they are doing what far too many school boards do: tax to the max; give employees as much of an increase as possible; starve facilities; refuse to innovate; keep doing everything the same way and wondering why you keep getting the same results.

I will believe that there is a crisis in the West Bend School District when they begin acting like it. This budget sends the message that the School Board thinks everything is fine the way it is.