Category Archives: Politics

Smooth, Clean Election with Great Turnout

Looks like my anecdotal experience about how well the election went yesterday in West Bend was pretty universal. Here are some details::

In West Bend, voter turnout was more than anticipated, City Administrator Jay Shambeau said,

with 1,480 ballots cast by 6 p.m on Election Day. The city consolidated its polling centers from eight to six, eliminating two senior living locations. The in-person voting went well due to the assistance given at the county level, he said, including sending county employees to help as needed.

And of the 17,872 registered voters in West Bend, more than 8,100, or 45 percent, voted absentee, which Shambeau said was a record

for the city. This form of voting was a success, he said, that the city plans to build on for future elections.

“The city of West Bend clerk’s office went above and beyond to accomplish this election as safely and as efficiently as possible,” Shambeau said. “From the onset, we took an active approach to promoting absentee voting both by mail and in-person at City Hall.”

If these numbers are right, then turnout was over 50%. That’s higher than I expected for this kind of election, but it’s great. Perhaps all of the media attention about the election reminded more people to get out and vote.

Hats off to the folks at the City Clerk’s office and the City of West Bend. Well done.

 

A Day At the Polls

I spent the entire day – from 0630 to 2030 – at my local polling place. Here are a few thoughts:

  • It was a great day. It was fun to see people. Some were excited to vote. We had several first-timers vote and most people were pretty excited to vote.
  • The polling place was amazingly sanitized. Voters used a sanitized pen once and then kept it or put it in a box to be sanitized. All surfaces were sanitized after being touched. People were generally very considerate about social distancing and sanitary practices.
  • There was a wide range of attitudes toward the CDC recommendations. Some people were practically in a hazmat suit. Some folks weren’t doing anything. Some had some interesting homemade masks.
  • Turnout was pretty good. Out of about 2,100ish registered voters in our polling place, we had about 535 returned absentee ballots when we started and several that were dropped off. That’s only absentees returned as of Saturday morning, so there will be more. Then we had 234ish people vote in person. That’s a turnout of roughly 36%-40% – depending on how many absentee ballots came in during the last few days. Given that it’s a Republican-majority district and the presidential primary uncontested, that’s not bad. For some perspective, turnout in this district for recent April elections was:
    • 2019: 40.6% (heated school referendum)
    • 2018: 32.9% (kinda busy supreme court race)
    • 2017: 14.6% (yawn)
    • 2016: 55.9% (Heated GOP presidential primary)
    • 2015: 12.3% (yawn)
    • 2014: 14.11% (yawn)

Overall, it was a great experience. I encourage all of you to support self-governance by volunteering and making sure the machinery of voting is open, free, and fair for everyone.

If You Haven’t Already, Go Vote!

After all of the hullabaloo, it’s election day in Wisconsin! If you haven’t voted already and you feel comfortable going out, please take the time to stop by your local polling place and vote.

SCOTUS Upholds Election Laws

Excellent. A two-fer today.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court blocked a plan to extend absentee voting in Wisconsin’s spring primary by six days because of the coronavirus.

The Wisconsin election is being viewed as a national test case in a broader fight over voter access.

The Supreme Court’s decision came shortly after the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled 4-2 on Monday that Evers lacked the authority to move the election on his own.

It’s not about whether or not when we should have the deadlines for voting, absentee ballots, etc. It’s about who gets to decide. The People through their elected representatives and a legislative process? Or a single man in a black robe? In this case, as in the case of Evers, the People get to decide these things through our elected government. We are not subjects. We are citizens.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Thwarts Evers’ Unconstitutional Power Grab

Good.

MADISON – The Wisconsin Supreme Court reinstated Tuesday’s election Monday, five hours after Democratic Gov. Tony Evers called it off because of the widening coronavirus pandemic.

In a brief 4-2 ruling, the court undid an emergency order that Evers issued that would have closed the polls. Their decision came in response to a lawsuit filed by Republican lawmakers.

Monday’s on-again, off-again election triggered chaos across the state as election officials told clerks to continue preparing for an election because they did not know whether the polls would open.

Before the court acted, at least two local government leaders as of Monday afternoon issued their own orders to block in-person voting.

The high court’s ruling fell along ideological lines. Four conservatives — Chief Justice Patience Roggensack and Justices Rebecca Bradley, Brian Hagedorn and Annette Ziegler — were in the majority. Liberal Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and Rebecca Dallet were in dissent.

What should worry you is that despite the fact that, by Evers’ own admission, it was very clear that Evers was usurping power, the two liberal justices used their power to try to ignore the constitution and the law in favor of influencing a political outcome. That is why we need to make sure that Dan Kelly remains on the court to protect the people from judicial rule.

Comrade Evers Unilaterally Delays Election

This is ridiculous.

Gov. Tony Evers on Monday postponed Tuesday’s statewide election until June 9 after Republicans who control the Legislature declined to take any action to eliminate in-person voting amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Just minutes after Evers issued the order, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, issued a joint statement indicating they will challenge the directive in Wisconsin State Supreme Court, while also calling on municipal clerks to plan to proceed with the Tuesday election.

The governor’s 11th-hour decision via executive order will also allow local officeholders to remain in their posts until successors have been elected.

So does Evers have the authority to do this or not? As of last Friday, he said it was the legislature’s prerogative. That’s why Evers called the special session. Now it’s his call? If so, then why didn’t he do this last week? Or the week before? Or back on March 12th when his emergency powers started?

Evers’ feckless behavior and disregard for our civil rights is unconscionable.

Republicans Call for Religious Freedom During Pandemic

And Evers said “no.”

Assembly Republicans are calling on Gov. Tony Evers to allow in-person services for Easter and Passover amid the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

“It is more important than ever that we allow Wisconsinites to observe their individual faiths,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and the other members of the Assembly GOP caucus wrote in a Friday letter to Evers. “To that end, we ask that you work with Wisconsin churches and temples to allow them to hold Easter or Passover services, even if it’s outside.”

Evers declined the request.

“As a state and as a nation, we are heading into the worst of this public health crisis,” Evers spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said. “The governor understands that for many Wisconsinites their faith is a source of comfort, especially in these difficult times, but in order to protect the health and safety of all Wisconsinites he will not be rolling back the provisions of the Safer at Home order.”

Jenna Ellis has some interesting thoughts on this at The Federalist.

Church is essential, and the free exercise of religion is specifically enumerated in our First Amendment because the founders understood how essential spiritual activity and religious liberty are to people and society. For a state government to take any action that specifically distinguishes churches as “non-essential” is contrary to the First Amendment’s purpose. It’s a dangerous precedent that government could consider itself the arbiter of private essential services.

Government’s action to prohibit mass gatherings, including church gatherings, is constitutionally sound for the temporary timeframe that the Wuhan coronavirus provides a compelling state interest rationale for stay-at-home orders. The virus is highly contagious, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations are the best-known ways to stop its spread. Because the virus does not distinguish between mass concert gatherings and mass church gatherings, the government can properly issue a neutral order that does not intentionally target religious groups.

 

 

Police Interrupt Church Service on Palm Sunday

This is tyranny. Hat tip to Matt Batzel.

The church was live streaming their service. The people involved in the service were there, but the pews were empty. After getting a call from someone, the West Bend Police actually interrupted the service.

Our freedom of religion and our freedom of assembly are being oppressed. This is unconscionable and the West Bend Police Department should be ashamed of themselves.

Don’t Delay the Election

The Republicans did exactly the right thing.

Republicans stalled Gov. Tony Evers’ move to push back Tuesday’s election, quickly adjourning a special legislative session to deal with voting issues in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

During Saturday’s proceedings, the state Assembly and state Senate each gaveled in and out within seconds and recessed until Monday.

Dean Knudson weighs in:

Some have questioned why ten other states postponed their presidential primary but Wisconsin is going forward. Our election Tuesday is about more than helping choose the presidential nominees. We have over 3900 state, county, school and municipal elections on Tuesday. It is critically important in our system of representative democracy that citizens have the right to choose their representatives, especially during a crisis.

[…]

As of today requests for absentee ballots are still being processed but nearly 1.3M ballots have been sent out. A reasonable estimate of voter participation for a spring election without a close presidential primary would be 1.5M. Turnout in 2016 was an all-time record at 2.1M but that included two very tight presidential primary races. In 2012 turnout was 1.1M voters without a presidential primary in doubt. The Tuesday in-person turnout is difficult to predict but if turnout at the polling places was 20% of the total we might see over 1.6M votes cast.

This is a phenomenal response and adjustment to the pandemic. To switch our election from 80% in-person to 80% by mail in just a few weeks demonstrates the flexible and adaptable nature of Wisconsin’s voting laws. It shows how a “can do” attitude by our citizens can overcome huge challenges.

[…]

Everything is in place for our elections to go forward. Don’t let fear and panic derail our democracy. Instead let’s pull together to help ensure we minimize health risks in polling places while protecting the integrity of our elections.

The fact is that we have been dealing with the ramifications of Coronavieus for weeks now. It is not a surprise. People have been able to vote absentee in person or by mail for weeks. And if we can leave Wal Mart open, we sure as heck can have our polling places open next week – with a few precautions. Everyone who wants to vote has been able to. The turnout we are seeing falls well within normal turnout rates for this kind of election. There is no reason at all to delay our election.

Self-governance is our right and voting is how we, the people, choose our government. The election must proceed.

Vote for Jody Geenen for transparent School Board

Here’s a Letter to the Editor I received.

I believe the West Bend School Board needs a shake-up.  I believe the right person to do so is Jody Geenen.

A recent article in the West Bend Current, the high schools’ online newspaper, made me sure of this (westbendcurrent.com/2020/03/31).  All candidates running for the School Board were interviewed, but the three incumbents (Justman, Ongert and Schmidt) reminded me once again how often they are misleading with facts, less than transparent, and far from conservative.

Mr. Ongert misleads when he states that the District has “far more AP classes and CTE classes than any other district around us.”  All one has to do is combine the number of students at our two high schools, and West Bend ends up as one of the largest high schools in the whole state.  No wonder our high schools offer more AP and CTE classes– or any other classes for that matter– than schools like Germantown, Slinger or Cedarburg!  How does the number of classes make our district any better?

Ms. Justman is less than transparent when she says the board is “working proactively” on building needs such as roofing repairs.  Roofing is always included in the District budget, and there is a schedule of repairs each summer.  She also says that “attractive and high-functioning schools” will make West Bend “the chosen destination for families to live,” and she is concerned about our community thriving and higher property values.  One would think she works for the Economic Development office of the city rather than serving on the School Board.  What about improving the education of our students?

Ms. Schmidt mentions learning but usually in the context of her own educational experiences.  Her plans for improving the District do not focus on curriculum or test scores.  She wants United Way to step in with their Inspire program (but doesn’t explain how that would improve student achievement), and she borrows a successful concept from Riveredge Nature Center.  Schmidt wants to establish a charter nature school like Riveredge in the District!  Perhaps more disturbing is her attack on former Superintendent Erik Olson.

Since being elected in 2017, the three incumbents have had plenty of time “to move our district forward,” as Ongert states in the Current piece.  Instead, test scores have fallen below neighboring districts, and the Wisconsin State Report Card scores show both East and West High Schools at the bottom of all conference schools.  The school board at great expense pursued a $74 million (including interest) referendum that was too much for this community on top of existing debt of $32 million from previous referendums.  They’ve allowed left-leaning curriculum and lesson plans to persist in the classrooms, even when a national spotlight was shined on the District.

Justman, Ongert, and Schmidt are out of touch with this community.  It’s time to vote for Jody Geenen to add a voice of reason to the School Board.  Jody will respectfully represent your tax dollars, and she’ll welcome input when working to improve student academics.  Because that’s what schools are all about:  learning, not shiny new buildings.  Cast only one vote for School Board; the right choice is Jody Geenen on April 7.

John & Carol Heger

Evers Proposes Major Overhaul of Election Rules Days Before Election

No. We have known about Coronovirus for weeks now. People have had plenty of time to vote absentee if they wanted to. And those who were planning to vote in person have a right to do so. We held elections during war, civil strife, and other disease outbreaks. We can do it again. Stop messing with our rights.

WISCONSIN — Governor Tony Evers is calling for a special session on Saturday to discuss the upcoming election.

According to the governor, he would like to see absentee ballots mailed out to every Wisconsin citizen who has not yet requested one.

Evers would like to see these ballots mailed out by May 19, and extend the receiving date to May 26.

The special session to discuss these new requests will take place on Saturday, at 4 p.m. Should these new requests go into effect, all in-person voting would be canceled. That includes drive-up voting.

Dr. Fauci Doesn’t Understand Federalism

No matter how bad he wants it or thinks it is necessary, Dr. Fauci’s wishes must not override our Constitution and system of government.

President Donald Trump on Friday was facing new pressure from the nation’s top infectious disease expert to call for a nationwide stay-at home order to keep the coronavirus from spreading and making the projected death toll even worse.

In his strongest comments yet, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has become a prominent face in the fight against the pandemic, is now saying that he “doesn’t understand” why every state isn’t under a stay-at-home order — a move Trump continues to resist, arguing those decisions should be left to the states.

“I don’t understand why that’s not happening,” Fauci told CNN at a town hall Thursday night, when asked about some states having not issued stay-at-home orders. “The tension between federally-mandated versus states rights to do what they want is something I don’t want to get into, but if you look at what’s going on in this country I just don’t understand why we’re not doing that — we really should be.”

Trump is right to resist this. Clearly Dr. Fauci has a totalitarian mindset that must be rejected.

West Bend School Board Member Misrepresents Task Force Findings

In a letter to the editor today in the Washington County Daily News, West Bend School Board Member Paul Fischer said a couple of things that need some discussion. First, he said this:

Regarding our ongoing facilities discussions, various letters to the editor claim the School Board has turned a deaf ear toward the private task force’s recommendations. This statement couldn’t be further from the truth. The School Board agrees with many of their observations and continues to evaluate their suggestions.

Some of you might remember that I was a member of the Private Task Force that spent months evaluating the district’s elementary and high school facilities. I can’t get into the minds of the board members. What I can tell you is that they seemed receptive when we presented the findings to them at a board meeting. I presented the findings for a few groups after we presented to the board and several board members attended those presentations of their own accord. The Task Force offered to come back in committee format to do deeper dives on specific findings and provide all of the backend discovery and data. To my knowledge, the board has not taken up any task force members on that offer. So while the board members may be considering the Task Force’s findings in their deliberations, they have not dug any deeper into the details of those findings. Perhaps that is why Mr. Fischer made this incorrect statement:

Claims have also been made that the task force recommendations included guidance that our facilities issues can be addressed without raising taxes. To be clear, the report NEVER made that statement.

This is not true. The written task force presentation laid out a financial model for how to accomplish the facilities goals without increasing spending or taxes. Furthermore, it was verbally communicated during the school board presentation. It was also verbally presented several times at other presentations that board members attended. I happen to know that because I was the one presenting. Finally, I actually wrote it in the column I did at the time about the findings. I wrote:

Third, once the district has a valid long-range facilities plan and an adequate funding to execute that plan, the School Board must do the work to execute without increasing spending or raising taxes. The Task Force found that there is sufficient money in the current budget to pay for extensive upgrades to the district’s facilities without increasing spending or raising taxes.

I said virtually the same thing in a second column:

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.

As a member of the Task Force who participated in the discovery, discussion, and development of the presentations; and as someone who actually presented the findings multiple times; I can say with absolute certainty that the Task Force did find that the West Bend School District could address its facilities needs without raising taxes or spending. Perhaps Fischer wants to dance around how the written report is phrased, but this finding was presented to the Board and communicated multiple times in multiple formats. Again, perhaps if the School Board had taken up the opportunity to dig deeper into the discovery documentation, this fact would have been more clear. But then again, I thought it was already clear. Clearly it is just something that they don’t want to confront.

The complaints from some in the community that the West Bend School Board ignored the Task Force’s findings are well founded. While the board members might be taking the findings into consideration in their heads, they have given no outward indication that that’s the case.

Democrats Delay National Convention

This is unfortunate, but understandable.

Democrats announced Thursday that they were postponing their presidential nominating convention until August, an unprecedented move that shows how the coronavirus is reshaping the battle for the White House.

The party had hoped that a mid-July convention would give them more time to rally behind a nominee and unify against President Donald Trump. But concerns that large crowds will spread the virus prompted Democrats, including prospective nominee Joe Biden, to press for alternatives.

“In our current climate of uncertainty, we believe the smartest approach is to take additional time to monitor how this situation unfolds so we can best position our party for a safe and successful convention,” said Democratic convention CEO Joe Solmonese.

Milwaukee will still host the convention, which is now scheduled for the week of Aug. 17. Republicans are sticking with their plan to meet in Charlotte, North Carolina, a week later to renominate Trump.

Air Force Academy Relaxes Social Distancing After Suicides

There are consequences to these decisions. Humans are social mammals. Most people don’t do well in isolation. That is why so many lefties consider solitary confinement to be a form of torture.

Coronavirus social distancing measures on the Colorado Springs Air Force Academy campus will be relaxed following the back-to-back deaths of two cadets in suspected suicides, officials said.

While all underclassmen are learning online, the senior class has remained on campus. The students were spread throughout dormitories and each was given their own room as part of quarantine measures.

One cadet tested positive for COVID-19 last week, the academy said.

Since those measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 were put into place weeks ago, two cadets have died within days of each other. The first death was reported Thursday and another on Saturday. USAFA said the deaths were not related to COVID-19 and investigators did not suspect foul play.

“These are deaths from despair,” Katrina Knight, the mother of a class of 2020 cadet, told FOX21 Colorado Springs. “Our hearts are grieving as a community because a couple of class members have already suffered the impacts to the furthest extent that they could.”

The senior class was kept on campus because “our Air and Space Forces have deemed us essential to their missions,” USAFA superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria said in an email sent Monday to students and later obtained by local news outlets.

Now, seniors will be allowed to venture off campus for food and hold on-campus events, according to the email. Silveria said that he met with the senior class and spoke with top Pentagon officials before changing the policy.

“We are working several morale events like golf or an outdoor movie that allow them to connect and keep them healthy,” the email said. “We continue to provide round the clock access to mental health services and support through this tragic loss.”

Wave of Americans Hit the Unemployment Line

I am more and more convinced in my opinion that not only is this government-enforced recession a massive infringement on our rights, it is a massive overreaction. That is not to say that Coronavirus isn’t a serious issue that needs to be managed, but our collective response to it has been madness.

New York (CNN Business)Millions more Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, as businesses continue to lay off and furlough workers amid the coronavirus outbreak.

6.6 million workers filed for their first week of unemployment benefits in the week ending March 28 — a new historic high. Economists polled by Refinitiv had expected 3.5 million claims.
A week earlier, 3.3 million Americans filed for their first week of benefits, which was the largest number ever at the time.

Judge Leaves April Election Alone

Good decision. The decision to monkey with the election is for the legislative and executive branches. This wasn’t a judge’s call to make and I’m glad that he exhibited the judicial modesty required by the situation.

U.S. District Judge William Conley told attorneys for the Democratic National Committee and a host of liberal-leaning groups that they haven’t shown how the pandemic has truly hampered people’s voting rights. He said infections look ready to spike in Wisconsin but Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Republican legislative leaders don’t feel the crisis is severe enough to stop the election.

“I’m not sure it’s my place to to assume the steps taken by the state or not taken by the state is an impingement on an individual’s right to vote. That’s what I’m struggling with,” Conley said.

Tuesday’s election includes the state’s presidential primary, a state Supreme Court race and hundreds of local races.

It will be interesting to see what turnout is. I expect it will be in line with normal April elections, but not as high as Dems were hoping with a contested presidential primary. However, given that the primary is all but settled, the Dems’ hopes for a massive Dem turnout were already dashed.

Go vote!

Volunteer to be a Poll Worker

If you are a healthy, younger person, please, please, PLEASE consider volunteering to be a poll worker. Just call your local municipal or county clerk to volunteer. I volunteered in my municipality and am on the schedule to work next Tuesday. The clerk was friendly, helpful, and all of the training is online. EASY!

Our right to self-governance relies on making sure people can vote. If you are in a low-risk group, please step up to protect some of our older neighbors who usually work the polls.

Corona-Dashboard

Speaker Vos pointed out on Twitter how New York is providing data on a city level and chided Governor Evers for not having that level of detail. I happened upon this dashboard for a county in Texas. Notice the detail… how many are sick; how many are recovered; where the cases are; the source of the infection; gender breakdown; closings; etc. – all of which can be filtered by zip code. Meanwhile, here in Wisconsin, we has so little data.

Wisconsin has the data. Why are they not sharing it? This kind of dashboard is a layup for private industry.

Nobody’s Hiring

The economic wreckage of our government’s overreaction to coronavirus will be felt for years.

In addition to widespread layoffs, hiring has collapsed, which will also drag down the overall job numbers. A Moody’s survey of companies that typically finds 40% of firms hiring has fallen to a record low of just 6% of businesses adding jobs, Zandi said.

“Not only are we seeing big layoffs but obviously no one’s hiring at this point,” he said.