Category Archives: Politics

More Votes for Hagedorn in Official Canvas


Conservative Brian Hagedorn added to his narrow lead over rival Lisa Nuebauer in the state Supreme Court race after the first wave of county canvasses were completed, according to a tally.

And he’s likely to get another bump once Outagamie County finishes its canvass after it already discovered a reporting error due to the technical issues it had on the night of the election.

Hagedorn emerged from Election Day with a 5,960-vote leader over Neubauer. The tally shows Hagedorn has added 111 votes in the 24 counties that either posted final results on their websites or relayed the information following a request from


Outagamie County has since posted updated unofficial nights that added 69 votes to Hagedorn’s margin. The AP numbers had Hagedorn at 19,206 and Neubauer at 15,419. The updated unofficial numbers pushed Hagedorn to 19,662 and Neubauer to 15,766.

Praise from within at Sacking of Secret Service Chief


The ouster of Secret Service Director Randolph D. ‘Tex” Alles on Monday was not unexpected, and, in fact, was welcomed by most members of the law enforcement agency, sources tell

‘The sentiment at the agency is “good riddance,”‘ they say.

‘Alles seemed more interested in making friends with agents than fixing the problems that plague the once-proud agency,’ according to agency sources. ‘He proved to be the exact opposite of what was needed to reform the agency. ‘

His idea for trimming costs was to get rid of protection for members of the Trump family.

Nothing changed within the Secret Service since the party-crashing Salahis went prancing into the White House State Dinner back in 2009, or since the Secret Service prostitution scandal in 2012 or since Omar Gonzalez was able to penetrate his way into the White House with a knife before being apprehended in 2014.

The change comes on the heels of an embarrassing episode at Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago resort club in Palm Beach, Florida, involving a Chinese national on a club guest list who was arrested with devices bearing computer malware.

Fiscal Responsibility and Transparency in the City of West Bend

Meanwhile, at the city

During the April 1 council meeting aldermen unanimously adopted a new debt management policy that recognizes the city’s concerted effort to pay down debt.

“It does not bind and cannot bind future councils to borrow money or make financial decisions,” Sadownikow said. “What it can do is put a policy in place that recognizes the work that’s been done the last eight years to reduce the city’s overall debt.”

“Our goal is not just to be in the middle but to be a minimum of 10 percent better than that,” said Sadownikow. “If we want to develop a new industrial park, we may have to go into debt for a period of time to do that but the policy requires a public two-third vote to make that happen.”

The overriding theme of the policy, according to Sadownikow, is communication with the community.

“The idea is complete transparency,” he said. “Open discussion and community involvement, education, and advanced knowledge will be taking place if we’re going to break the debt policy.”

Sadownikow said the reason they adopted the new debt management policy was because city leaders realized how hamstrung they were with $84 million in debt.

“I get people in the grocery stores and others coming up to me saying ‘you can’t cut taxes forever.’ Well, part of that is true but, just like at home if you pay off your house you suddenly have $500 or an extra $1,000 or $2,000 to spend on other stuff…  that’s what we’ve been able to do in West Bend,” he said.

Reducing the debt, according to Sadownikow, means about $3 million to $4 million in principal and interest payments that the city can now use to invest back into employees, parks, and roads.

“We wanted to gain more financial independence to make other decisions around the community,” he said.  “Zero debt is a good idea but very few of us can own a house or a car if you didn’t utilize your own common sense and fiscal management.”

It’s wonderful to see this kind of leadership and responsibility in our city government!


Anonymous Hate Group Bullies Local Businesses After School Referendum Fails

When the school referendum failed in West Bend last week, the pro-referendum folks were all over the place looking for people to blame. It has become an insidious facet of the modern political left that they can’t tolerate any disagreement with their agenda. Instead of accepting that we had a rigorous debate and a majority of the people disagreed with the referendum, they demonize opponents and consider them evil, vile people.

One of the objects of their hate has become the Washington County Insider. As many of you know, the WCI has been a robust local news outlet for Washington County that I frequently reference on this site. The owner, Judy Steffes, is a lifelong Bender and has been intrepid in covering local news in various outlets for years. After the decline in local journalism (a national trend), Steffes stepped up to try to keep local journalism alive by creating the Washington County Insider. Like many folks in the county, the WCI is a staple read for me to find out what is going on locally.

Anyway, after the referendum failed, many folks on the Left were all over Facebook* and other social media outlets blaming the WCI for the failure. They accused WCI of only publishing negative stories, filtering comments, and refusing to publish pro-referendum letters to the editor. The truth is far from their accusations. WCI has become a valuable source of local news that has scrupulous journalistic ethics. But they needed someone to hate because they can’t accept that a majority of the voters in the district simply disagree with them. So the hate flowed on social media and spleens were vented on WCI. By the end of the week, local businesses and non-profits who advertise on WCI began receiving the email below and receiving phone calls at their businesses to the same effect:

——– Original message ——–

From: Concerned Citizens <>

Date: **************

To: ****************

Subject: Request

Attached you will find our request that you no longer support Washington County Insider as a paid advertiser. We believe that being aligned to this business is counterintuitive to the values of both our community and your company. In the letter attached you will find a compilation of quotes from local individuals who have taken issue with the practices of WCI and the owner of the website.

Please know this group has formed in an effort to simply share the sentiment of thousands of residents who will no longer support this divisive behavior. Our first step is to make advertisers aware of the negative impact of being associated with WCI. Should it be necessary, we’ll move forward to coordinate an active boycott of advertisers.

In this age of incivility, destructive social media is common place. The only way we can be a part of the solution is to be better; by building up our community, speaking with positive intention, and using our consumer power to only support like minded businesses.

Thank you!

Note the rank hypocrisy… “the only way we can be part of the solution is to be better, by building up our community, speaking with positive intention,” so “we’ll move forward to coordinate an active boycott of advertisers.” This is what has become a typical cry-bully tactic. Spew hate and divisiveness while claiming it’s for the sake of civility and a better world. They are so filled with hate that they seek to destroy people who disagree with them – or even those who publish opinions of others who disagree with them.

What does this mean? Well, it depends. The email is unsigned and comes from an anonymous email address. This could be the work of a single crank. Or it could be the work of the same handful of lefty cranks who are always agitating in the community. I seriously doubt that it represents the “sentiment of thousands of residents” that it pretends. It is difficult to believe that thousands of people could share this sentiment and yet not a single one of them is willing to sign their name to it. So when it comes to the threats made in the email, it is a paper tiger. And if a business is seriously worried about a boycott from an anonymous email crank, then I would question their business judgment.

But pulling back the lens and putting this email in the context of the larger community discussion, it is troubling. It shows that there are some in our community who can’t just disagree with their neighbors and have a discussion about it. Instead, they work to personally and professionally destroy people who disagree with them. It is a vile, hateful, destructive attitude that has, sadly, infected too many in our community.

*NOTE: as soon as I published this, the FB post linked was removed despite having 112 comments – including a supportive one from school board member Tiffany Larson.

Three V.Ps

Cool stuff.

Three vice presidents came together at Texas A&M for “An Inside Look at the American Vice Presidency” and honored the lives of Barbara and George H.W. Bush by visiting their final resting place.

Friday evening, standing Vice President Mike Pence, along with former Vice Presidents Dan Quayle and Dick Cheney participated in the ConocoPhillips White House Lecture Series. Moments before the start of the event, all three vice presidents and Second Lady Karen Pence took a moment to pay tribute to George and Barbara Bush by bringing lilacs from a plant that the Bushes had planted at the Vice Presidents’ residence.

Whoops rang through the crowd when Pence introduced himself to the Aggies in the audience. Pence thanked filmmaker Jeffrey Roth, who is currently working on a new film titled “President in Waiting.” The film explores the office of the vice president through personal interviews with vice presidents and the president who they served under. The event featured a preview of Roth’s film.

“Having seen just a small sampling of his artistry and previous work, I know this is going to be a very special, special documentary about the institution of the vice presidency and all 48 of us who have been privileged to serve in it,” Pence said.

Pence said he is often asked which vice president among his 47 predecessors he most identifies with. He said that while both Dan Quayle and Dick Cheney — who Pence has known and worked with personally — have been extraordinary men, George H.W. Bush is ultimately the man with whom he most identifies.

“The more I thought about the question the more I thought that before any of the three of us ever served in this role, this library’s namesake had already set the goal standard of modern vice presidents,” Pence said. “And to be honest with you, I can probably most identify with Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush because he served as a sound counselor and a loyal adviser to an outsider, who came to Washington, D.C., to shake things up.”

Google Hate Bullies Attack Conservative on AI Ethics Oversight Board

Apparently, only liberal totalitarian ethics are appropriate for Google’s AI efforts. That’s a scary thought.

An independent group set up to oversee Google’s artificial intelligence efforts, has been shut down less than a fortnight after it was launched.

The Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC) was due to look at the ethics around AI, machine learning and facial recognition.

One member resigned and there were calls for another to be removed.


There had been an outcry over the appointment of Kay Coles James, who is president of conservative thinktank The Heritage Foundation. Thousands of Google employees signed a petition calling for her removal, over what they described as “anti-trans, anti-LGBTQ and anti-immigrant” comments.

Warren Would Get Rid of Filibuster… for Democrats

Win at all costs, eh?

“I’m not running for president just to talk about making real structural change, I’m serious about getting it done. And part of getting it done means waking up to the reality of the United States Senate,” Warren said. “So let me be as clear as I can about this: When Democrats next have power, we should be bold. We are done with two sets of rules, one for the Republicans and one for the Democrats. And that means when the Democrats have the White House again, if Mitch McConnell tries to do what he did to President Obama and put small-minded partisanship ahead of solving the massive problems in this country, then we should get rid of the filibuster.”

Maybe the Republicans should beat her to the punch and eliminate it now. The Democrats have shown us time and time again that they will not honor old rules if they get in their way.

Democrats Focus on Legislatures

In other words… watch for a lot more mud to be thrown by national groups in down ballot races.

Democratic opposition research giant American Bridge is launching a new effort to help the party flip state legislatures, seeking to arm down-ballot Democrats with a significant trove of ammunition as they seek to expand their bench this election cycle.

The new initiative includes a three-person research team, expanded candidate tracking and rapid response at the state level, as well as partnerships with other Democratic groups focused on state legislatures. It was created, in partwith the aim to help Democrats swing critical state legislatures ahead of the next cycle of redistricting following the 2020 census.

The effort comes after the 2010 election — and the redistricting cycle that proceeded after — when Republicans outflanked Democrats in their attention to downballot races. The party sees 2020 as a critical opportunity to settle the score and build on gains made in last year’s midterms.

Legislature Starts Digging Into Evers Sham Budget

They should still repeal minimum markup, but not as a budget item. They should do it for the sake of consumers and economic freedom.

MADISON – State Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson conceded Wednesday that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ plan to eliminate a required markup on gasoline may not save as much money as his boss has claimed.

Thompson made the acknowledgment as Republicans who control the Legislature’s budget committee ripped apart Evers’ budget and made clear they would not go along with plans he campaigned on.

“Today is a reset for the budget as proposed,” Rep. John Nygren, co-chairman of the Joint Finance Committee, said at the committee’s first budget meeting.

The Marinette Republican called the plan “irresponsible” because of its $1.3 billion in tax increases before the panel heard testimony from Evers’ allies who oversee the departments of public instruction, transportation and health services.

West Bend School Referendum Fails

Excellent! Nice work, neighbors.

It is good to see that even though all of the “right” people in town supported this referendum, the people still saw through the malarkey. Now we look to the School Board for actual leadership within the means of the district’s taxpayers. The fact that they are bragging about not having a Plan B speaks to their poor management of the district to date. Let’s hope that now that there isn’t a bailout on the horizon, they get serious about their jobs.

On another note, here are the results of the West Bend School Board.

What is interesting about this is that there is a significant undervote. Remember that voters were voting for two board members. Even though over 14 thousand people voted on the referendum question, the highest vote count for school board was less than 7 thousand. It’s impossible to know exactly how many people voted because people could have just voted for one candidate. But it’s likely that most people voted for two candidates as instructed, which means there was a very large undervote in this race.

Why? All three candidates ran supporting the referendum, which failed by a large margin. Without an anti-referendum choice of candidates, I’m sure that many people didn’t bother to cast a vote or wrote in (there’s an unusually large number of write-ins too). I’m one of those. I didn’t vote in this race because it didn’t matter.

I hope that the two candidates who were elected are humble enough to recognize that they would have lost had there been an anti-referendum candidate on the ballot. And shame on the conservatives in the district for the fact that there wasn’t an actual fiscal conservative on the ballot.


Hagedorn Wins Supreme Court Race

Huzzah, huzzah. It is great to see the voters of Wisconsin push back on anti-religious bigotry and elect a great, constructionist jurist to the highest court.

Conservative Brian Hagedorn, who was Walker’s chief legal counsel for five years, led liberal-backed Lisa Neubauer by 5,911 votes out of 1.2 million cast, based on unofficial results. That is a difference of about 0.49 percentage point, close enough for Neubauer to request a recount but she would have to pay for it.

Hagedorn declared victory early Wednesday morning.

“The people of Wisconsin have spoken, and our margin of victory is insurmountable,” he said in a statement.

Minutes after he declared victory, the Neubauer campaign sent out a fundraising plea saying “with the vote total neck and neck, it looks like we’re heading into a potential recount.” Her campaign adviser Scott Spector said Wednesday morning that Hagedorn’s declaration of victory did not change their position that a recount was likely.

Go Vote!

This is your friendly reminder to get out and vote today if you haven’t done so already. On my ballot, here are the deets:


It is incredibly important to elect Brian Hagedorn to the bench. If you would like some reading as to why, go here.


Vote NO. If you like, you can go back and read all of the gory details, but if I were to sum it up, we should vote NO because it is way too much money to spend in a district with declining enrollment for something that will not improve educational outcomes one iota. We should not reward the poor fiscal management of the school board by giving them more money to waste.


There are three candidates for two seats. It doesn’t matter a hill of beans who you vote for. You will get the same results.

All other races are uncontested.

Go vote!

Behold, the child-king Evers

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Here’s a taste:

We are almost three months into Governor Tony Evers’ term. He has had time to find the lunch room, rearrange his office, figure out his network access, and get his bearings. It is time to take a look at how those three months have gone. Frankly, it hasn’t gone very well. Seemingly every action has been marked by incompetence, rank partisanship, childishness, or all three — and he doesn’t seem to be improving.

Immediately upon assuming office, Evers made it clear that Wisconsin was no longer “open for business” by stripping that slogan, so often associated with Scott Walker, off of all of Wisconsin’s welcome signs. While well within his power, it was a ham-handed action that immediately confirmed what all thinking people already knew: Tony Evers’ administration will be bad for business.

Recognizing that Wisconsin is now in a period of divided government that would require compromise, Republicans in the Legislature immediately set about advancing several bills that were on the rhetorical common ground. First, the legislative Republicans advanced a bill to require health insurers to accept people with pre-existing conditions should Obamacare fall. This was a position advocated by Republicans and Evers during the campaign, but Evers immediately dismissed the bill while admitting that he had not even read it.

Then the Republicans in the Legislature passed a tax cut for the middle class. Evers had advocated for such a tax cut in the waning days of the campaign and the Republicans thought he was serious. Always in favor of cutting taxes, the Republicans passed a middle-class tax cut and even gave Evers credit for it. Evers quickly vetoed the tax cut using a fig leaf of an excuse.

Just last month, the Republicans tried again to work on common ground. Both parties strongly agree that the use of the term “mental retardation” is offensive in the modern nomenclature and should be replaced with a more suitable term in the state’s statutory and regulatory language. The Republicans passed a bill to this effect, but Evers moved to take credit on the issue by issuing an executive order before the bill could hit his desk.

In all three instances, Evers was presented with an opportunity to build bridges over common ground withthe Republicans in the Legislature, but chose to burn them instead. Not only were his actions partisan and childish, they were politically tone-deaf and will have the practical effect of hampering his ability to advance his initiatives through a Republican-led Legislature that he insists on affronting at every opportunity.



Evers Shoots $2 Billion Hole in Budget

I am thankful that the good voters of Wisconsin had the wisdom to elect a Republican legislature to check this idiocy.

MADISON – Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ spending plan would leave the state with a nearly $2 billion gap at the start of the next budget cycle in two years, according to a report Monday by the Legislature’s nonpartisan budget office.

The gap, known as the structural deficit, would be the largest since former Gov. Jim Doyle approved his last budget a decade ago amid the fallout from the Great Recession.

Taxpayers Consider Massive New Debt Tomorrow

Wow. This is a tremendous amount of new debt to take on – especially when the likelihood of a recession in the next couple of years is substantial.

Tuesday’s spring election will have voters considering nearly $1.2 billion in property tax increases, thanks to school district referenda. Forty-eight districts across the state are asking voters to approve projects ranging from brand new schools, to operating costs, and security upgrades.

A vast majority of the money that school districts are asking for would issue debt to property owners in the districts. This debt would be paid for by increasing local property taxes. Across the state, 26 districts are asking for more than $1.1 billion total in new debt.

According to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), 85eighty five percent of the referenda up for vote will issue debt directly to the taxpayers. Of the remaining 15 percent remaining, 14 percent are non-recurring or “one-time” increases on spending caps for the districts. Recurring increases on spending caps make up the remaining 1 percent of the amount up for vote.

Of the districts asking to issue new debt, the largest spender is Sun Prairie School District, which is asking for $164 million to build a new high school. Neenah School District is asking for voters to consider $129 million in debt to construct a new middle school, renovate several other buildings, and increase school security district wide.

Seven districts are requesting a recurring increase, which has no end date, and will continue to roll over year after year. Most of the recurring costs provisions would increase staff salaries or expand after-school programs. Sun Prairie has a ballot measure requesting $5 million a year to staff the new high school. DeForest Area is requesting a recurring $2.5 million for operational costs and district programming.

A View from Inside the Process Selling the West Bend School Referendum

This guest editorial a the Washington County Insider by Dan Krier, a former member of the CFAC, gives a damning perspective of the crooked process that led up to the current referendum. Below is the start, but please be sure to click through and read the whole thing.

March 30, 2019 – West Bend, WI – As a long-time resident of the West Bend School district, and an advocate for quality education in West Bend, I need to share my experience in regard to the proposed referendum. I have read and heard so many say it’s for education so we have to vote for it.

If it were about education I could vote for it, but it isn’t.

It is about buildings, and more specifically the maintenance of and lack of planning in regard to the buildings. And, the fact that some just want a new school to provide the fancy alternative work spaces that Bray Architectural Firm is flashing before them. We had an alternative learning program in our charter school and we chose not to fund that. Yet we want to push for the alternative space, which is what the new school is really about. Is our school district in the business of buildings, or is it education. I would choose spending on education. I went to a school built in the 1800s and when I entered West Bend East HS I was ahead of most of my class. The building certainly didn’t deter from my education.

I have been very active in getting information in regard to this referendum as I was on the Citizen Facilities Advisory Committee (CFAC). I believe this referendum will do more damage to the district than good. I was at the city council meeting when superintendent Kirkegaard presented the plan. Many of the Aldermen were concerned with the level of debt this would levy on the district. They know the city was strapped for several years under massive debt. And it was only when they got the debt under control they are able to now repair the roads that so desperately need it. They and I know that this debt will strap the district just as it did the city. The approximate $105 million of debt would dwarf that of the entire city of West Bend.

Besides the debt issue, at least one alderman had issue with the presentation stressing need. He said to Kirkegaard that while you claim you are not dictating which way to vote, it certainly sounds as if you are. Yes it was definitely a sell job as I was at several of the presentations.

This district continues to be dishonest with the citizens. And while many support the decisions, I wonder how many wouldn’t if they knew just how dishonest this process has been and the truth behind the spending. The level of dishonesty is to the point where the lack of credible planning to address objective issues, is a detriment to the district. Even many of the School Board members either don’t know enough to realize it, or are just taking an administrators word. Some said these fixes will prevent spending on maintenance in the future. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Many of the real issues have not even been addressed when instead we are fulfilling someone’s wish list. Poor planning got us to where we are today, just as the current lack of credible planning will have the district back at the table for more money in the near future. Yes another referendum in just a few short years.

Back to CFAC. We took tours of both Jackson and the high school during the first couple meetings of the CFAC. The committee was supposedly assembled to address the objective needs. But on the 4th meeting Bray presented a list of needs to the committee including 113 items from Jackson and 76 From the HS most of which we never even discussed. Objective needs like “dated doors.” Not worn, rusted or unusable, but dated. When questioning where they came from, there was a lot of uncertainty and the Bray representative finally even admitted we were not there for what we were told. We were there because the 25-year plan said Jackson and the HS are the items to address next, and we were gathered to decide on how to sell it to you the people.

Zuckerberg Advocates for Enforcement of Digital Hierarchy

He’s no fool. In an essay for the Washington Post, Zuckerberg calls for more regulation.

In brief, Mr Zuckerberg calls for the following things:

  • Common rules that all social media sites need to adhere to, enforced by third-party bodies, to control the spread of harmful content

  • All major tech companies to release a transparency report every three months, to put it on a par with financial reporting

  • Stronger laws around the world to protect the integrity of elections, with common standards for all websites to identify political actors

  • Laws that not only apply to candidates and elections, but also other “divisive political issues”, and for laws to apply outside of official campaign periods

  • New industry-wide standards to control how political campaigns use data to target voters online

  • More countries to adopt privacy laws like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into force last year

  • A “common global framework” that means these laws are all standardised globally, rather than being substantially different from country to country

  • Clear rules about who’s responsible for protecting people’s data when they move it from one service to another

This is a game that has been played for centuries. Now that Facebook sits atop the industry, Zuckerberg is advocating to freeze the structure and increase the barriers to entry. Complex legal structures with substantial financial liability for violations makes it impossible for all but the biggest and wealthiest of companies to comply.

Evers “Re-Appoints” Appointees

Um, this is not compromise. Evers can’t “re-appoint” people whose appointments were never legally rescinded in the first place.

Gov. Tony Evers has moved to re-appoint many of the people he sought to pull off state boards and commissions last week even as the attorney for GOP lawmakers suggested the guv was violating an “unambiguous court order” in doing so.

In all, Evers announced 67 appointments Thursday, all of whom were on the list of 82 he rescinded last week after a Dane County judge nixed their appointments.

Those who didn’t make the cut included two members of the UW Board of Regents and Ellen Nowak, who tried unsuccessfully to return to the Public Service Commission Thursday morning, but was blocked from doing so.

Ahead of Evers’ move, GOP attorney Misha Tseytlin wrote a letter to the guv’s attorney warning against such action. The 3rd District Court of Appeals Wednesday issued a stay of Dane County Judge Niess’ ruling while the merits of the case are decided, and Tseytlin argued that order was “clear beyond any doubt” that the original 82 appointments be put back in place pending completion of the appeal.

Tseytlin noted Evers may believe his actions last Friday rescinded the appointments.

“But all that matters at the present time is that the Court of Appeals has clearly required that these appointments to be put back into place, meaning that the Governor would be in direct violation of the Court of Appeals’ order if he were to deny these 82 individuals their ‘potentially valid … appointments,’” he wrote, quoting from the 3rd District Court of Appeals’ stay.

Remember that one of the reason that we have appointments to these boards whose terms span election cycles is to make them somewhat resistant to political upheavals. Evers’ actions ignore that attempt at good governance.

Federal Government on Spending Binge

And we’re all paying for it… and so are our children, and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren… you get the idea.

( – The federal government spent $1,822,712,000,000 in the first five months of fiscal 2019, the most it has spent in the first five months of any fiscal year since 2009, which was the fiscal year that outgoing President George W. Bush signed a $700-billion law to bailout the banking industry and incoming President Barack Obama signed a $787-billion law to stimulate an economy then in recession.

At the same time that federal spending was hitting this ten-year high, federal tax revenues in the first five months of the fiscal year were hitting a four-year low of $1,278,482,000,000.

According to the Monthly Treasury Statement for February, the Treasury spent $1,822,712,000,000 in the five months from October 2018 through February 2019, the first five months of the federal fiscal year.

Vote “No” on West Bend School Referendum

Here is a repost of my column from a couple of weeks ago. Sometimes (perhaps usually) saying “no” is the smartest thing you can do. This is TOO much money for something we DON’T need that won’t do a thing to IMPROVE education. Let’s focus out money and efforts on the kids – not monuments to the egos of adults.

On April 2, the citizens of the West Bend School District are being asked to borrow $47 million, with an estimated payback of $74 million, to build a new Jackson Elementary School and to renovate portions of the high school building. Adhering to the old wisdom that we should not spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need, I will be voting “no” on the referendum. I encourage you to do the same.

Let us start with the money. $74 million is a lot of money. That should go without saying, but in the swirling debates around government spending, that fact tends to get lost. By any measure, $74 million is a LOT of money. To put that in context, there are roughly 40,000 adults in the West Bend School District. $74 million is $1,850 for every single adult in the district. That is not a trivial amount of money for most of us. That is what the school district is asking every voter to spend.

Not only is it a lot of money, it is money that we do not have — as evidenced by the fact that the district needs to borrow the money. The district is also still paying off two previous referendums. If this referendum passes, the citizens of the West Bend School District will be on the hook to pay back a whopping $106 million. Now we are up to $2,650 for every adult just to pay off the district’s debt.

And while it might be easy to brush off such debt in our current booming economy and rising housing prices, we must remember that the district intends to take out a 19-year loan for this spending. The Great Recession was only 12 years ago and there will be recessions in the future. Yet when jobs are scarce and property values are crashing again, the tax burden to pay this debt will remain. Paying off the government’s debt will come before paying for your family’s needs.

What makes the prospect of spending and borrowing this much money so incredibly irresponsible is that it will be for something that we don’t need. Sure, we might want it. Fancy new buildings are fun and cool. But we don’t need it. The Jackson Elementary building is perfectly serviceable and safe. The building has been used to safely educate kids for decades and it can continue to do so for decades if properly maintained.

The high school building could use some renovations. Consolidating the libraries is a good idea. Some of the infrastructure is due for replacing. Some classrooms could use a fresh coat of paint. But almost all of the proposed renovations are wants, not needs. The couple of needs are things that could, and should, be done as part of the normal maintenance cycle of managing a building. They should be budgeted and completed with the normal operating budget. The fact that the school district has failed to properly budget for the routine maintenance cycle of the infrastructure they own is a mark of incompetence that should not be covered with swaths of borrowed cash.

Furthermore, we can’t lose sight of the fact that enrollment is declining and is projected to do so for at least the next decade. According to the district’s own projections completed less than a year ago, total district enrollment will decline by anywhere from 15 percent (baseline method) to 23.5 percent (kindergarten trend) in 10 short years — nine years before the proposed loan is paid off. That’s over a thousand fewer kids in the district in a decade.

Specifically for Jackson Elementary, a building that once held 536 kids 10 years ago is projected to have as few as 307 kids in it 10 years from now. Is it wise for the taxpayers to borrow and spend tens of millions ofdollars to build a brandnew, colossal 82,000-squarefoot school for 43 percent fewer kids?

Finally, what continues to get lost in the debate over referendums is the purpose of a school system — to educate kids. The school district officials and other advocates for the referendum don’t even pretend that spending all of this money on pristine, new facilities will actually improve education. They rightly don’t make that claim because it is demonstrably true that the building in which education happens has nothing to do with the quality of education taking place in that building. Some of the best education in the world occurs in some of the oldest buildings. Education is an activity — not a place. All of our efforts and money should be directed to providing a great education for our kids — not building monuments to the egos of adults.

The West Bend School District has needs. With dramatically declining enrollment and mediocre educational outcomes, new and refurbished buildings are not one of them. Let us put the money we have into improving the quality of education instead of borrowing money we don’t have to pay for things we don’t need.