Category Archives: Politics – Wisconsin

Security Guard Fired for Saying N-Word

Another victim of zero-tolerance.

Outrage was growing among members of Madison’s black community Thursday, a day after a black West High School security guard was fired for what he said was explicitly telling a student not to call him the N-word after the student repeatedly called him the slur.

Marlon Anderson’s Facebook post in which he describes his termination from the Madison School District after working there for 11 years generated hundreds of comments supporting the former school worker. Many derided the district’s zero-tolerance policy toward use of the slur by staff in any context.

Sorry. Context and nuance are no longer tolerated.

Menomonee Falls School Board Pretends to Listen to Public

Heh.

MENOMONEE FALLS, Wis. (CBS 58) — 31 public school districts use Native American mascots, including the Menomonee Falls Indians.

The school board got an earful Wednesday night from people on both sides of the debate.

Many times at meetings like this, one side of the debate shows up in force. But on Wednesday, public comments were split almost right down the middle.

Parents, alumni and students turned out to have their voices heard Wednesday.

“It would be a ridiculous and useless amount of money to change an F with a couple of feathers sticking out of it.”

As Mark Belling exclusively uncovered, this is part of a faux process by the superintendent and school board to change the mascot. They want to do it. They are going to do it. And the meeting last night was just for show.

West Bend Alderman Rich Kasten Announces Run for Mayor

Good stuff.

Kasten issued a statement to washingtoncountyinsider.com on Wednesday afternoon.
Residents of West Bend,
After careful consideration and discussion with my family, I am very proud to announce I will run for Mayor of West Bend.
Being able to serve the residents in West Bend as Mayor is something I have long aspired to and while I appreciate Mayor Sadownikow’s leadership and achievements, I truly believe this is the right time.
I have served as an Alderman the past six years and during that time, we have made great strides in repairing our fiscal challenges. As Mayor, I pledge to continue improving the financial position of the city, providing excellent public safety and improving infrastructure.
I look forward to sharing more details with voters as my campaign progresses. In the meantime, please share in my excitement and enthusiasm as positive things are ahead for West Bend. I look forward to meeting and talking with you over the coming months!
The current Mayor, Kraig Sadownikow, has not announced whether or not he is running for reelection. I have appreciated Sadownikow’s leadership at the city. Kasten has been a big part of that over the past several years. He would be a suitable successor if Sadownikow decides to return to the private sector full time.

Thiesfeldt Wants Better Return on Investment

Yes

Madison – Yesterday, as required by law, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) released the certified state general aid that goes out to all school districts. Wisconsin districts in 2019-20 will be receiving $4.7 billion of equalization aid from taxpayers through the state’s funding formula, a 1.8% increase. This follows on the heels of a similar increase for 2018-19. Since 2013, equalization aid has consistently surpassed the Consumer Price Index, showing the Legislature’s dedication to providing healthy inflationary increases to educate Wisconsin’s children.

However, the results aren’t matching up with the investment. Annual test scores released last month showed that 60% of Wisconsin students are not able to read or perform math at grade level. Just as alarming, Wisconsin continues to have one of the worst achievement gaps in the nation. State Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac,) Chair of the Assembly Education Committee, released the following statement regarding yesterday’s funding announcement:

“With the enactment of the 2019-21 budget, state education funding, through DPI management, provides for an average of nearly 2/3 of the dollars to operate K-12 public schools. In fact, over 35% of general purpose revenue for the entire state goes to K-12 education. The results of this investment are not meeting expectations and have not done so in many years,” said Rep. Thiesfeldt. “Instead of just continuing to pour money into schools, it is past time for the DPI, the Legislature, and the Governor to recognize that when the pathway is flawed, increased spending does not lead to better results. Our focus needs to turn to stronger teacher training in the use of proven instructional methods, traditional roles for our schools, and engaged parenting.”

Leading the West Bend way

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

In the wake of the failed referendum for the West Bend School District, the mayor of West Bend, Kraig Sadownikow, organized a private task force of local leaders to evaluate the maintenance and capital projects at the district’s high school and Jackson elementary facilities and share independent findings.

The task force was generously provided funding by Kevin Steiner of West Bend Mutual Insurance and Tim Schmidt of Delta Defense to retain Zimmerman Architectural Studios to provide technical facilities expertise.

The task force presented its findings to the West Bend School Board Monday night. Those findings show a different way forward for the West Bend School District and a model for other school districts to follow.

I am a member of the task force. While the findings are those of the task force, the opinions expressed in this column are my own. I will admit that I was dubious about participating in such an endeavor. The process was enlightening and enriching. I encourage the reader to go read the complete findings in the minutes of Monday night’s meeting available on the school district’s website and elsewhere.

To summarize the task force’s findings, the West Bend School District could accomplish everything it wanted to do in the referendum and much, much more without spending a dollar more than they already are. To do that, however, it will take some smart decisions and hard work. The district has some real facilities needs. While spending money is necessary to meet those needs, spending more money is not.

First, there are some realities facing the district. Enrollment is declining and is projected to continue declining for the next decade or more. The most recent enrollment tally taken last month shows that enrollment is declining even faster than the projections made last year. This isn’t a problem with the district. It is a demographic trend that is happening throughout the state. Proactive management in an age of declining enrollment and revenues is even more crucial than in an age of plenty.

Second, the district has done a poor job of in terms of general maintenance and capital facilities management. This is a systemic problem that stretches back many years. For example, the current capital maintenance budget of about $1.5 million is woefully inadequate for a district with about 1.5 million square feet of buildings. In the elementary schools alone, there is about $22.5 million of capital expenses looming over the next decade that are mostly unfunded. Whether intentional or not, the district has been managing facilities by letting them decay prematurely due to inadequate maintenance, and then passing referendums to replace them.

Also, the school district built a 25-year capital plan several years ago. The plan was built on projections of increasing enrollment for decades to come. The reality is that enrollment is declining and will continue to decline, but the 25-year plan was never updated to reflect the new realities. A long-range capital facilities plan that is continually refreshed with current data and scrutinized in public is critical.

Before embarking on an ambitious plan to build and renovate buildings, the School Board must rectify these budgetary and planning deficiencies to demonstrate that the West Bend School District will break the cycle of neglect and replace. The district cannot make new investments in facilities before solving the problem of maintaining what they have.

The failed referendum sought to make some significant renovations to the high school and replace Jackson Elementary. For the high school, the task force validated that there are some true needs that require work.

There are also a couple of areas where the building could be upgraded to drive a lot of value for a reasonable cost.

The failed referendum also sought to replace Jackson Elementary. This is where the task force’s findings took a turn that I did not expect. The Jackson Elementary building has significant problems, but just replacing it was always folly. It is an expensive endeavor that pours a fortune into one problem while leaving all of the other problems wanting.

The task force found that the district could build a state-of-the-art new elementary school campus on the south side of West Bend. Into the new building, the district could consolidate Jackson Elementary, Decorah Elementary, Fair Park Elementary, the district offices, the maintenance shed, and Rolfs Education Center into the single building. By combining six district buildings into a single campus, the district could provide a 21st-century learning environment to far more kids while saving millions of dollars per year in operational costs.

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.

More work is needed and much more public discussion must take place, but there is a legitimate path to make significant upgrades to the West Bend School District’s facilities, break the cycle of neglect and replace, and do so without increasing spending or taxes.

The West Bend School District can lead the way. Other school districts in Wisconsin should follow.

Madison’s Taxpayers Prop up Golf Course

This is why Washington County shouldn’t own a golf course. It is self-sustaining at the moment, but taxpayers are on the hook if that changes.

The Madison City Council on Tuesday authorized loaning the city’s public golf courses up to $1.5 million to provide a short-term fix to ongoing financial problems.

Under the resolution, which was approved on a unanimous voice vote, the city can give the city’s public golf courses a cash advance in the event of a shortfall at the end of 2019 and future years.

This year, the golf courses are expecting a cash shortage of around $500,000.

Leading the West Bend way

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. As you might expect, it about the work of the West Bend School District Private Task Force. Go pick up a copy, and see the news story about the same topic. Here’s a thrust of the column:

To summarize the task force’s findings, the West Bend School District could accomplish everything it wanted to do in the referendum and much, much more without spending a dollar more than they already are. To do that, however, it will take some smart decisions and hard work. The district has some real facilities needs. While spending money is necessary to meet those needs, spending more money is not.

[…]

More work is needed and much more public discussion must take place, but there is a legitimate path to make significant upgrades to the West Bend School District’s facilities, break the cycle of neglect and replace, and do so without increasing spending or taxes.

West Bend School District Private Task Force Presents to School Board

The Washington County Insider has video of the presentation, comments from some attendees, and has posted the presentation. You can download the entire presentation here or check it out at the Washington County Insider.

In summary, after a metric crap ton of work, the Task Force found:

  1. The 25 year facilities plan is out of date and based on bad inputs. It needs to be redrafted and continually updated.
  2. Overall maintenance for the district is chronically underfunded by a factor of 2X-3X, leading to structured decay of facilities.
  3. These two things need to be fixed before venturing into a building/renovating initiative so that we break the cycle.
  4. There are legitimate facilities needs that need to be addressed.

Then, we offered some findings for the High School and Elementary Schools that spurred the referendum. For the High School, the Task Force identified some legitimate needs and the opportunity to do a couple of wants for a total of $21.3 million.

The Elementary Schools is where the boldest idea came into play. The Task Force evaluated several options, but the one that makes the most sense is to:

  • Build an awesome new Elementary School and Campus somewhere on the south side of West Bend and make a small addition to Green Tree Elementary.
  • Into the new Southside campus, consolidate Decorah Elementary, Fair Park Elementary, Jackson Elementary, the District Office, the maintenance shed, and Rolf Education Center. Sell all of those other properties and put them back on the tax rolls. It would mean closing and selling seven buildings/land (including the empty land that was purchased for a new Jackson Elementary) and replacing them with a single facility.
  • Total cost for this is about $28.6 million.

So far we’re spending $49.9 million. Outrageous! OWEN… WHAT THE HECK!?!? ARE YOU SUPPORTING MORE SPENDING AND A MASSIVE NEW REFERENDUM!?!?!?

Kinda, but here’s the key… through the consolidation of the elementary schools and other facilities and making some choices about outsourcing or economizing some support services like custodial, IT, grounds keeping, food service, etc., the district can free up enough of their operating budget to cover the mortgage payment for the new buildings AND put more money into maintenance so that the district’s facilities will be properly maintained moving forward.

A referendum would be required to borrow the money to execute on a plan like this, but it would not constitute incremental spending and would NOT require a tax increase. The district would be able to make major upgrades to the physical infrastructure while living within its means.

Solving problems without spending more money? That’s a conservative path forward. All you have to do is go into it with the mindset that it can be done… because it can.

I don’t usually spend much time in the comments, but if you have serious questions about the Task Force’s findings, the thought process behind them, or the homework supporting them, I will endeavor to answer them in the comments of this post. For a while…

WBSDPTF To Present to the West Bend School Board at 5:30

Don’t forget.

5:30 PM at the District Offices located at 735 S. Main St. West Bend.

I hear that the Washington County Insider will be live streaming the meeting on Facebook. I think the district posts a recording, but doesn’t stream live. Later this evening, I will post the presentation and offer some further commentary. I am hopeful that it is the beginning of a new conversation about our school district’s physical infrastructure.

Come by or tune in!

WBSDPTF To Present to School Board Tomorrow at 1730

After months of work, the West Bend School District Private Task Force is going to present our findings to the West Bend School Board tomorrow afternoon at 5:30. For some background, the Task Force was formed after the failed school referendum in April to take a hard look at the facilities issues cited in the referendum and offer some independent findings.

I was a bit dubious going into the work, but found it enlightening and enriching. We did a lot of work. We toured buildings, interviewed staff, dug through reports, spoke with many local contractors, got architectural designs and quotes, looked at neighboring districts, debated, argued, and finally reached some consensus.

The Task Force will be sharing some bold findings, but I hope it is the beginning of a different conversation about the direction of our school district.

Please attend the meeting or catch the live stream. For those who would like to see me put on pants and come out of my basement, I will be presenting a portion too.

5:30 PM at the District Offices located at 735 S. Main St. West Bend.

Come on by. You should be home before the Packer game.

City of West Bend Deciding Budget & Levy

Since we’re in the budget season all over, this story in the Washington County Daily News slipped past me earlier this week. It’s an interesting debate:

The city’s Finance Committee met Monday, and heard a presentation on the preliminary budget for 2020. City Administrator Jay Shambeau presented a balanced budget, totaling $24.25 million in revenues and operating budget expenses. Of that total, preliminary budget documents showed $15.88 million would come from taxes.

“No fund balance is applied to make this budget balanced,” Shambeau told the Finance Committee, explaining all expenses were covered by revenues without needing to dip into reserves. Shambeau’s presentation projected a $7.85 tax rate for 2020, which is the amount a property owner pays in city taxes per $1,000 property value. That would have been a 6-cent increase from the current $7.79 rate.

However, the Finance Committee meeting ended with Shambeau directed to rework the budget numbers to use a flat tax rate, held at $7.79, by using about $160,000 in carry-over funds.

Mayor Kraig Sadownikow said during the budget discussion that last year, there was about $500,000 left over in the budget – money that was budgeted for various expenses, but ended up not being needed for those items. He said his rough math showed that the 6-cent increase would produce about $160,000 in additional tax revenue.

Sadownikow asked if it was reasonable to expect that this year’s budget would have at least $160,000 in leftover money to carry over to next year, which Shambeau said would be likely, as the current budget as a whole was tracking similarly to last year’s budget.

“We did a good job of running the county, we have some dollars left over. Let’s not raise taxes when we already have the money,” Sadownikow said.

Sadownikow clarified that he was not asking for any expenditures or budgets to be cut. He only felt that the tax rate should be held steady when the city has leftover funds to cover some expenses, rather than bringing in additional taxes, given that the city also has healthy reserves.

“We’re basically taxing people to put money in a savings account. We encouraged that for a long time because it (the fund balance) was painfully low,” Sadownikow said.

He said that seven or eight years ago, the city’s fund balance was around $2 million. Now, budget documents show the reserve funds are at almost $8.8 million.

Here’s the deal… The city budget has a 2.99% spending increase in it. The vast majority of that increase is coming from Public Safety – fire and police. That’s because the new contracts are kicking in that includes a pay increase. The pay increase was negotiated because they deserve it, but also because the city is no longer paying the healthcare for retirees for new employees. The city traded predictable, budgeted pay increases to get the taxpayers out of a massive, long-term unfunded liability. It’s good policy.

Anyway, the increased spending along with less state aid than the city expected is pressing a property tax levy increase of 1.68%. As the budget was proposed, the city would simply raise the levy to meet expenses and be done with it.

The mayor, on the other hand, pushed back and advised that the city use some of its unspent money from last year’s budget to lessen the tax increase. For years, the city has been run well and put surpluses into a reserve fund. The reserve fund is used to keep the city’s bond rating up, but as a practical matter is there for emergencies and unexpected expenses. The mayor is saying that the reserve fund is sufficient now, so we can just push some of the surplus money into the next budget instead of taxing the citizens more.

I agree with the mayor on this one. The money is sitting there in the city’s coffers and the city has sufficient reserves. Instead of raising taxes, the city should take advantage of its good fiscal management to minimize the tax increase. There will still need to be a tax increase of about 1%, but that’s better than 1.68%.

Wisconsin’s Gun Laws Are Sufficient

So says Representative Janel Brandjten… and she’s right.

Wisconsin has clear and significant measures to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals, abusers, and mentally unfit people. I have high confidence that if the laws we currently have are properly enforced, the safety, security, and freedom of all Wisconsinites will be protected. Attorney General Kaul and Governor Evers have a responsibility to explain the current laws and stop misleading their constituents; Wisconsin deserves better.

 

Washington County Board Votes to Fleece Taxpayers

This stinks. Per the story earlier today from the Washington County Insider, the Washington County Board voted on the salary for the newly created County Executive position. The original proposal had the pay starting at $140,000 with annual increases taking it up to $148,569 in four years. For some perspective, here are some salaries for other County Executives:

Dane County – $134,218
Milwaukee County – $129,000
Waukesha County – $108,826
Fond du Lac County – $108,100
Winnebago County – $115,800
Brown County – $98,046
The Governor of Wisconsin – $146,786

Well, they had the vote and the Washington County Insider was all over it. After several failed votes to lower the pay, they ended up passing a resolution with a compensation of $140,000 for all four years. So the pay is still outrageously high compared to other county executives, but there isn’t a structured pay increase.

This is a fiscally irresponsible and outrageously arrogant decision by the County Board. They have been complaining about the county’s finances for years. They claim that they can’t give up the sales tax revenue. They need to implement fees to enter the county parks. This very day, they narrowly defeated another fee for POWTS, but only after sustained public outrage. And yet they have this kind of cash to throw at a County Executive? Ridiculous.

Go read the comments from Supervisors in the story at the Washington County Insider. In particular, I’ll call out my County Supervisor:

Supervisor Mike Bassill – “The pay is going to be higher than the other county executives in Wisconsin; including Milwaukee. We came to the conclusion that their contracts – when they get up for election theirs will be going up. We’re still going to be saving around $35,000 than what we’re currently paying the county administrator presently, with the $140,000. I wasn’t 100-percent on board but after reflecting on the Executive Committee meetings I think it’s the right scale. Correct, it will be more than what the governor makes in four years. That’s what we decided.

Bull, Mike. A County Executive role is not comparable to a County Administrator role. They have different requirements and different duties. The taxpayers are going to be overpaying for a County Executive and you voted for it. Shame on you.

And County Board Chairman:

Supervisor Don Kriefall – “Right now as I understand it the salaries range from around $108,000 to $139,000 from looking at… a lot of the county executive salaries were set. I’m thinking the most recent one was set in the early 1990s.  All those were set also a long time ago and have not been adjusted for inflation.”

Again. Bull. Even with those salaries set in the 1990s (allegedly), the other counties don’t seem to have a problem attracting good candidates. There’s no reason to overpay for the position.

Behind all of this is that the current County Administrator, Josh Schoemann, has declared that he is running for the office.  Many of the county board members like him – after all, they voted to hire him in the first place – and support him. This has all of the stench that they set the pay so high to keep Schoemann whole if he wins the job. In doing so, they might have killed his chance to win it. If another credible candidate gets in the race, they will beat Schoemann like a rented mule with this issue… and win.

Washington County Board to Vote on Pay for County Executive

Wow. Tip o’ the hat to the Washington County Insider. There is no reason on earth that the Washington County Executive should make more than Milwaukee’s CE, Waukesha’s CE, or the governor.

A draft of the resolution shows the proposed salary starting at $140,000 and then increasing annually to $142,800, $145,656 and in the fourth year $148,569.

A record check shows the prospective pay for the newly elected Washington County Executive would be more than any elected county executive in the state of Wisconsin.

Dane County –  $134,218

Milwaukee County – $129,000

Waukesha County – $108,826

Fond du Lac County – $108,100

Winnebago County – $115,800

Brown County – $98,046

The Governor of Wisconsin – $146,786

One note, when supervisors voted Sept. 11, 2019 in favor of an elected county executive, the supervisors knowingly violated the terms of the contract signed with Washington County Administrator Josh Schoemann. A clause in his contract indicates the county will have to pay Schoemann $130,000 because of a violation of the original terms of agreement.

Washington County Board to Vote on POWTS Fee

Just say no.

WEST BEND — While it may just be procedural, the Washington County Board this week will look once more at $11 special assessments for properties with private on-site wastewater treatment systems.

Private treatment systems, POWTS, are well and septic systems used by properties that are not hooked up to municipal water and sewer systems. According to county information, there are an estimated 20,313 properties in Washington County that have a POWTS.

Throughout the summer this year, the county considered implementing the $11 special assessment to help balance the budget. After several months of consideration, County Administrator Joshua Schoemann recommended the county not implement the fee, after high amounts of public feedback against the assessment.

“I will be recommending that the County Board vote no … Simply put, an $11 fee is not worth tearing apart Washington County,” Schoemann said in August.

The County Board will be looking at the matter once more on Wednesday, during its regular meeting at 6 p.m.

West Bend School District Levies 7.17% Tax Increase

I see a story in the Washington County Daily News today where the West Bend School District has returned to the cloudy language of taxes.

WEST BEND — Good news for property owners in the West Bend Joint School District: the budget is balanced and the mill rate — read: taxes — will not increase from last year.

The district’s mill rate will remain $7.97 per $1,000 of assessed value. Thus the owner of a home valued at $203,000, for example, will pay $1,617.91 in taxes to the district.

There are several factors behind the district’s decision not to raise taxes.

West Bend is a low spending district, and was awarded an extra $299 per student in state aid for the coming year. It does have declining enrollment…

This is the game that the school district and other taxing bodies like to play. They try to pretend that the mill rate is equivalent to tax burden. It is not. For several years, after a lot of public discussion, we finally got the West Bend School District to stop doing this. It looks like they have returned to their old ways.

Here’s the deal… the tax burden is the total money extracted from the taxpayers. If the district decides that they want to extract $40 million from the taxpayers through a property tax levy, they simply divide that amount into the aggregate property values to derive the tax rate – called the mill rate. It is a simple calculation. When it comes to discussing the tax burden, the mil rate and the property values are irrelevant. The tax levy is everything.

In this case, despite receiving an increase in state aid, the West Bend School District is increasing property taxes by 7.17%.

Last year, the school district levied $39,174,600. This year, they are going to levy $41,983,435. That is a 7.17% increase in taxes no matter how you slice it.

The school district is celebrating that they kept the mill rate flat, but that is only because property values in the district have increased thanks to the good economy. They are simply raising taxes at about the same pace as property values are increasing, thus keeping the rate flat.

Why does this matter?

It matters because, despite the proclamations of the school district, the tax burden is increasing for a school district with declining enrollment. For example, let’s say you are a senior on a fixed income living in a house that was valued at $200,000. Your property taxes for the school district were $1,594 last year. After a reassessment, your house is now valued at $218,000. Even though the school district is keeping the mill rate the same, now your property taxes for the school district will be $1,737.46 – a $143.46 increase. Your income didn’t increase. You don’t derive any value from the increased property value unless you sell your house. But you are paying more. Yes, your taxes went up despite the district maintaining a flat tax rate.

The mill rate in meaningless. It is simply a derived number. The levy is everything. The levy is how much money the taxing body is extracting from the taxpayers. And however they want to spin it, the West Bend School District will increase property taxes 7.17% in a single year.

Credit to the Finance Director, Andrew Sarnow, for making this point later in the story:

“Early estimates say they will not give us much more money; in fact, it probably will be a little less,” he said. “So where does the rest of the money come from if they say we can have a little more money per child? Property taxes — which is why our levy is going up about seven percent.”

But property values are growing by about the same amount. This year, the district is worth almost $5.3 billion, which is an increase from the $4.2 billion of value last year. This is growth in size; new residences or

businesses, with a very small increase from homes getting reassessed. If homes were reassessed for a higher value, then the taxation rate does not increase but more money is acquired through taxes. A homeowner’s taxes for everything, not just the school district, would also increase if this were true. But the seven percent increase came largely through growth and not reevaluation.

What I disagree with is the supposition that most of the property value increase is from growth. Some of that is true, but in 2018, the residents of West Bend saw an average property value increase of 12% after a city-wide assessment. The City of West Bend is not the entire school district, but it is the lion’s share of property value.  So if my property value went up 12% and my mill rate is flat, did my taxes go up? yes, they did. And did my income necessarily rise to meet the tax burden? Nope. So the tax burden continues to eat into my disposable income and standard of living.

Lawmakers Proposing Dumping More Money in K-12 Education

Follow the money

In most Wisconsin school districts, 4-year-olds can attend kindergarten. But the programs are usually for just part of the day. State legislators are now considering two bills that could expand full-day kindergarten options for children under 5.

One bill would make it easier for school districts to offer full-day 4K programs by increasing the amount of funding per-student. Right now, schools receive about half the funding for 4-year-olds that they get for 5-year-olds. The other bill would loosen the age restrictions on 4K, allowing some 3-year-olds to attend

The bills are products of the Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding, a special committee that traveled the state gathering testimony on K-12 education issues.

This has nothing to do with better education and everything to do with finding a way to shovel more money into the K-12 education industry in an era of declining enrollment. Have fewer kids?!?! Budgets declining!?!? Expand the age range of the students!

Eclectic Group to Pick New Police Chief

This will not end well. They will undoubtedly choose the perfect politically correct chief who checks all of the appropriate demographic boxes, but will probably stink at actual policing. I hope I’m wrong.

The five people slated to pick Madison’s next police chief include a former UW-Madison basketball player targeted two years ago in an alleged racist attack, the author of a city-commissioned report on community perceptions of police body cameras, and a longtime union leader.

And in an overwhelmingly white city where the intersection of race and policing has become a flashpoint among a vocal set of police critics, four of the five are people of color.

We Need More Open Government

From Bill Lueders.

While Baldauff disputed some of the report’s claims, she stated that the Evers team follows state public

records law and Department of Justice guidance, “not executive orders issued by prior administrations.”

Yet the orders issued by Walker, who was by no means perfect when it came to open government, are important precisely because they go beyond what the law requires and the attorney general advises. A governor “committed to openness and transparency” should not be ending initiatives that improve compliance.

Rather, Evers should be going further to promote government transparency. For starters, he could check out the “Legislative Wish List” that appears on the council’s website. Yes, these are things that involve legislative action, but the governor could work to make them happen.

One smart change would be to require public bodies who go into closed session to make a recording that can be checked by a judge if suspicions arise that the discussion went beyond what the law allows. And Wisconsin should definitely end the ability of legislators, alone among state and local officials, to destroy records at will.

In fact, making a conspicuous commitment to expanding open government is one of the simplest and surest ways for politicians to score points with the people they represent. Gov. Evers, the ball’s in your court.

This administration has taken a big step back in terms of transparency. It would be great to see them reverse that trend.

As for Lueders’ proposal about recording closed sessions… absolutely. In particular, local boards go into closed sessions all the time. The law is very restrictive about when that is allowed, but once they go into closed session, they can talk about whatever they want. And some boards are militant about also making sure that board members don’t reveal what was discussed in closed session. There is no way for the public to ensure that the government bodies aren’t conducting the public’s business in secret. Recording the sessions would allow for the appropriate authorities to investigate if a complaint is levied.

Business Journal Advances Evers’ False Narrative

Goodness, my eyes hurt from the eye rolling.

Call him no-drama Tony.

As a former school administrator and cancer survivor, Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers brings a non-politician’s approach to his contentious dealings with Republicans who control both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature. Evers discussed his philosophy Monday in Milwaukee during WTMJ radio’s “WTMJ 2020” broadcast from the Northern Lights Theater at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino.

This is exactly the image that Evers wants to portray, but despite the Milwaukee Business Journal’s willingness to parrot Evers’ narrative, his actions belie that fiction. Evers is proving to be one of the most divisive, partisan politicians we have ever seen.

From the beginning, he has been unwilling to even meet with Republican lawmakers on a regular basis. He dismissed Republican ideas without even reading them. He utterly dismissed people’s legitimate concerns with his gun control initiatives as “bullshit.” That’s hardly the language of a “no-drama” cooperation. Then there was the time that Evers’ spokesperson made the demonstrably false accusation that Republican leaders were sexist. Or the time Evers illegally ramrodded appointments into place – a move that was later reversed by the Supreme Court. Remember that time right after he was elected when Republicans went out of their way to reach across the aisle with some bipartisan bills and Evers blew them off?  Or the time Evers intentionally usurped an issue with broad bipartisan agreement so that he could poke Republicans in the eye? Then there was the time that he tried to break the law by concealing a really nice and generous note from his predecessor because Evers didn’t want to allow Governor Walker to be shown in a good light. Last week Evers was using his power to set the date for a special election in a way to screw Republicans as much as he could at the expense of taxpayers and voters. Right up until yesterday when Evers threw more shade on Republicans for opposing his desire to give taxpayer bennies to illegal aliens. Instead of actually discussing or even acknowledging legitimate concerns, Evers simply dismissed Republican opposition as divisive.

In almost every instance, Evers has chosen the narrow, partisan path lined with divisive, dismissive rhetoric. If he is trying to reduce drama and contentiousness, he sucks at it.