Category Archives: Politics – Wisconsin

Madison School District Sued for Violating Open Records Law

The taxpayers are going to be on the hook for this obvious violation of the law.

Today, the Wisconsin Transparency Project, on behalf of an anonymous Madison resident using the pseudonym John Doe, sued the Madison Metropolitan School District in Dane County Circuit Court. The suit alleges that the District is unlawfully insisting that Doe identify themselves before it will turn over records.

Doe has filed a number of open record requests over the last four months with the District using the online public records database and portal muckrock.com. MuckRock allows its users to send anonymous requests through its website and use the website to receive, track, and share the records provided. Doe’s requests ran the gamut from routine weekly board updates to grant applications and annual School Improvement Plans. The district refused every request because of Doe’s unwillingness to be identified.

State law is perfectly clear that requesters may remain anonymous: “no request . . . may be refused because the person making the request is unwilling to be identified or to state the purpose of the request.” Wis. Stat. § 19.35(1)(i). The District claims Doe must identify themselves so it can decide whether releasing the records would pose a “safety concern,” but the law does not allow that excuse.

Government bodies are becoming increasingly opaque and refusing to comply with the law. Unfortunately, Wisconsin’s District Attorneys are failing to enforce the law. It would only take a few bureaucrats or elected officials being prosecuted and those records would be flying out the door.

Taxes Up. Ranking Falls.

Progress?

Wisconsin’s state and local tax ranking has fallen over the prior year but remains a little higher than the year before that, the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau show.

Taxes took up 10.3% of Wisconsinites’ income in 2017, a slight increase from 10.2% in 2016. Despite that uptick, the state took a modest step forward compared to its peers around the country, with Wisconsin’s ranking dropping to 19th highest in 2017 from 16th highest in 2016.

The public should be cautious, however, about reading too much into the 2017 data alone since not much has changed since 2015. That year, the state’s taxes took up 10.4% of personal income and ranked 22nd highest.

 

Evers Unleashes Another Profanity-Laced Tirade Against Republicans

Making friends everywhere he goes

While talking to staffers in the ag-department last Thursday Evers was quoted as saying the firing of Brad Pfaff was “amoral and stupid,” adding “We can’t let the bastards keep us from doing our good work.”

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald accused Evers of being “shockingly disrespectful” to Republicans.

An Evers spokesperson says the governor isn’t going to apologize.

Wisconsin Democrats Support Lax Drunk Driving Law

Heh

MADISON, WIS. (AP) — The state Assembly has refused to concur with a bill that would stiffen penalties for repeat drunken drivers.

The bill would increase the minimum time in prison for a 5th or 6th offense from six months to 18 months. Prison officials estimate the change would generate $13.6 million in additional operating costs annually.

The Senate passed the bill last week. Republican leaders in the Assembly tried to place the bill on their agenda Tuesday during a floor session. But they couldn’t muster enough votes to overcome Democrats’ objection.

Democratic Rep. Mark Spreitzer told Republicans that his colleagues objected to the bill because it doesn’t include funding for treatment. He says without that piece people would just spend 18 months behind bars, come out and drive drunk again.

“Holiday” Tree

How stupid

“It’s a holiday season for a whole bunch of people in the state of Wisconsin, even those that aren’t part of the Christian faith. I think it’s a more inclusive thing,” said Evers. “I know a lot of people love to have that debate, and I think it’s a good debate to have.”

[…]

Our Charles Benson asked Evers if his family called the tree in their home a “Christmas Tree” growing up, and Evers acknowledged that this was true but reiterated that the tree was in their home, not on the grounds of City Hall in Plymouth, Wisconsin.

There is only one holiday that uses a large, decorated, evergreen tree as part of its celebration… Christmas. It is a Christmas Tree even though other holidays are also happening in the same time period. Calling it a Holiday Tree is not inclusive. It is wrong and stupid.

Tax Raisers Take Over West Bend Council

Well, that was quick. After almost a decade of conservative governance and a mayor who kept spending and taxes in line, the tax increasers have been unshackled.

November 11, 2019 – West Bend, WI – The West Bend Common Council voted 5-3 Monday night to increase the mill rate to $7.85 per thousand dollars. That’s 6 cents per thousand more than 2019 and will raise taxes on residents whether their property increased in value or remained the same.

Those voting in favor of the increase were aldermen John Butschlick, Mark Allen, Steve Hoogester, Justice Madl, and Roger Kist.

Those voting against were aldermen Andrew Chevalier, Chris Jenkins, and Rich Kasten.

It’s not that they raised taxes. That might actually be necessary from time to time. But this wasn’t necessary. The city has the money sitting there in surplus that they could have used to keep taxes flat for another year. The council chose not to because a pervasive “we need to raise spending and taxes a little every year” attitude in the council now.

 John Butschlick, Mark Allen, Steve Hoogester, Justice Madl, and Roger Kist. You failed us. 

Politics before mental health

My column for the Washington County Daily News is in print and online. Here’s a taste, but be sure to pick up a copy.

While the debate over the state budget was contentious last spring, there was at least one issue on which both Republicans and Democrats agreed. Legislators on both sides of the aisle agreed that the state needs to do more to provide mental health services for people throughout the state. To that end, the state budget increased state funding for mental health services in several areas including spending $15 million for a mental health crisis center in the Chippewa Valley. Gov. Tony Evers’ partial veto of that provision, and the support of Assembly Democrats, tell us a lot about the Democratic Party of Wisconsin in 2019.

[…]

In a state budget, this one item is relatively small. It betrays, however, the priorities of Governor Evers and the Assembly Democrats. Why would they all work to redirect government spending from Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls to Madison? Why would they redirect money intended for a private health care service provider to a government facility? Simple. Politics.

Madison and Dane County were key to Evers’ narrow victory over Republican Scott Walker in 2018. With an impressive turnout of almost 70% — 12 points higher than average — Dane County gave Evers 220,052 votes to propel him into office. Without those votes, Scott Walker would still be in office and Tony Evers knows it. Looking at the statewide electoral map from last year, the entire Chippewa Valley, with the exception of Eau Claire County, voted heavily for Scott Walker.

It is no coincidence that Tony Evers did everything he could to redirect money from areas of the state that supported Walker to reward his supporters in Madison. It was just an added bonus that he could also redirect the money into a government facility instead of a private health care system. Evers cares more about his political supporters in Madison than the people of northwestern Wisconsin who need mental health services. And every Assembly Democrat agrees with Evers.

Evers Violates Open Record Law and Won’t Release Emails

GREAT story by Fox 6

The FOX6 Investigators regularly conduct open records spot checks on public employees’ emails. A recent spot check on two weeks of state lawmakers’ emails uncovered the practice of using personal email addresses to communicate about sensitive government information.

In September, the FOX6 Investigators requested just over four weeks of emails to and from Governor Tony Evers and his chief of staff, Maggie Gau. Assistant legal counsel Erin Deeley denied the request. FOX6 narrowed the request to emails from one week; Deeley sent another denial letter.

Finally, the FOX6 Investigators asked for just Governor Evers’ emails from just one day.

Denied.

 

Wisconsin Senate Exercises Advise and Consent Role

I do get a kick out of how exercised the Left is over this. They act like it is some sort of massive betrayal of process or something. Sure, it’s not common, but it happens. In fact, the last time it happened was in 1987. Who was governor then? TOMMY! And the Democratic Senate rejected an appointment. It happens. Get over it and appoint some other insider hack.

Gov. Tony Evers had a crappy birthday. He spent some of it sitting stone faced in the Wisconsin Senate chambers as lawmakers debated whether to confirm Brad Pfaff, his pick to run the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). Along party lines, GOP senators fired the birthday boy’s ag secretary.

“I’m so PO’d about what happened today,” Evers told reporters outside the Senate chambers after the 19-14 vote on Nov. 5. “This distresses me personally.”

No other governor in modern history has ventured from the East Wing to witness the Senate in action, according to state Sen. Fred Risser (D-Madison) who has served in the Legislature since 1957. It was also the first time since at least 1987 that the Senate has rejected a gubernatorial cabinet secretary.

[…]

Special Session to Restrict Civil Rights Ends with No Action Taken

Good work.

The Senate special session on gun control legislation called for by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers lasted less than a minute.

Evers called on lawmakers to convene Thursday at 2 p.m. to take up the matter. At 8 p.m. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, called the session to order with one smack from his gavel and no other lawmakers in the room. He adjourned the session a few seconds later, avoiding debate or a vote on the gun control measures Democratic lawmakers had been advocating for throughout the day.

“I think if there are bills that would make sense to Republican legislators, that we would call ourselves into regular session or extraordinary session to take those up,” Fitzgerald said. “I think the governor know the bills that he’s offered are not going to pass the Legislature … As they’ve been presented by the governor, there’s no momentum for them.”

Wisconsin Senate May Reject Tourism Secretary

Interesting.

During an appearance on Wisconsin’s Afternoon News with John Mercure Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald hinted that Tourism Secretary-designee Sara Meaney may not be confirmed by the legislature.

“There’s a storm brewing on Sara Meaney,” said Fitzgerald. “She politicized the department of tourism.”

When pressed on how she politicized the department, Fitzgerald responded.

“There’s a couple of different stories floating out there…that has her in the position of trying to manipulate the tourism board,” said Fitzgerald. “I don’t have any facts on that…there’s press reports that are coming out that [it’s] happening.”

On Wednesday, Senate Republicans rejected the confirmation of Agriculture Secretary-designee Brad Pfaff, the first vote to reject a cabinet position in Wisconsin since 1987.

The timing of all this is interesting. Normally when a governor assumes office, his or her cabinet appointees are processed pretty quickly and the Senate is confirming or rejecting based on the appointee’s resume and interviews.

In this case, the timing is different. Late last year, the state passed a law that says that if an appointee is rejected, then they cannot be reappointed for the same job. In the past, if an appointee was rejected, the governor could just keep resubmitting the appointee forever. This had the effect of circumventing the legislature’s advise and consent role by keeping an interim appointee in the job forever. Under the new law, a governor gets one shot at it. If the Senate rejects an appointee, the governor must go find another one.

After the law was passed, the incoming Governor Evers challenged the new law in court. He claimed that the law was unconstitutional because it was passed after the election in which he won. that legal challenge drug on for months and was finally rejected by the courts. The law is good.

The practical effect of this is that the Senate paused on approving cabinet appointments until the legal case was resolved. So now, instead of the Senate evaluating appointees based on their qualifications, they can evaluate the appointees based on how they have actually been doing the job for almost a year. The appointees can’t get away with making promises to appease senators. The appointees have a record to evaluate. This changes the discussion from “do we think this appointee will do a good job?” to “has the appointee done a good job?”

In the case of the Agriculture Secretary rejected yesterday and the Tourism Secretary cited in this story, the answer for a lot of people is “no.”

Underlying all of this is the fact that Governor Evers doesn’t play nice with others. He has no relationship with Republicans and has made no effort to develop one. All he does is go on foul-mouthed tirades in public about Republicans. It’s great red meat for his base, but it’s a poor way to govern. Compromises and deals are based on relationships and trust. He has neither.

Voters Want School District to Dissolve

Good for them. It’s good to see the citizens being good stewards of their resources and focusing on what’s best for the kids.

The majority of voters in the Palmyra-Eagle Area School District would like to see the district dissolve.

Of the 2,298 votes cast in the Nov. 5 advisory referendum, 1,218 (53%) voted in favor of dissolution; 1,080 voted against it, according to unofficial results released Tuesday night by the school district.

The results of the referendum will be made official on Thursday, Nov. 7, PEASD District Administrator Steven Bloom said.

The nonbinding vote comes seven months after 61% of voters rejected an $11.5 million operational referendum that district officials said was necessary to keep the district afloat.

Wisconsin Senate Rejects Pfaff Appointment

I would argue that it was a vote FOR farmers. He sucked at the job.

MADISON (WKOW) — Governor Tony Evers was outraged by Senate Republican’s decision to reject the confirmation of his pick to lead the state’s Agriculture agency.

Brad Pfaff was Evers Cabinet Secretary to lead the Department of Agriculture, Trade, Consumer Protection (DATCP) agency, a job he’s held since January.

Evers, who appeared in a rare occasion on the Senate floor during the debate, said Republicans sent a message to farmers who are dealing with a farm crisis and on-going trade war.

“This was a vote against Wisconsin farmers, period,” said Evers after the vote.

Act 10 Causing Fewer People to Become Teachers?

I love how the reporter just throws that in there:

The teaching industry has faced multiple obstacles with less applicants entering the field to fill open positions at school districts. Statewide the number of applicants completing a teacher prep institution has fallen 35% since 2010 and the nation has similar numbers, said Director of Teacher Education, Professional Development and Licensing David DeGuire, who works with the Department of Public Instruction. The University of Wisconsin System assigned a task force to examine the issue more closely, he said.

There are many reasons for the decrease, including a tight labor market, the passing of Act 10, the amount of workload pushed onto teachers and a change in how people respect and see the profession.

Try to reconcile the two phrases in bold. So if the entire nation is seeing a similar decline in people wanting to be teachers, how is Act 10 – which is only applicable in Wisconsin – a factor in that? Did the reporter read her own story?

The truth is rooted in the other causes. The booming labor market makes teaching less attractive. When unemployment is 10% or more, teaching is a great job with a very low risk of being fired. When unemployment is 4% or less, other career choices look more attractive.

Also, the push to use schools as social justice laboratories instead of centers of education is likely pushing teachers out. True educators want to do that – educate. They don’t want to be used to try to fix all of the social ills in society.

Madison Plans to Inconvenience Drivers After Taking their Money

Typical.

The plan is still in its early stages, but the Transportation Policy and Planning board met Monday, discussing what routes downtown could look like. Lynch said BRT routes could overlap current Madison Metro lines.

The plan is to connect East Towne and West Towne with dedicated lanes for the buses, limited stops and frequent service. The BRT system is part of the mayor’s larger MetroForward plan announced in September.

“Our BRT buses, one bus will be taking 80 cars off of East Washington Avenue,” Lynch said.

Lynch estimates the bus rapid transit system’s operating cost will be between $3.5 and $4.5 million annually.

The annual $7.8 million coming in from the wheel tax must go toward transportation-related costs. Lynch said $1.4 million of that will go toward the BRT system and about $2.6 million will go to Madison Metro for things including “increasing costs associated with fuel, drivers’ salaries (and) maintenance concerns.”

Madison implemented a wheel tax on the people with cars. Now they will use the money to make it harder to drive in downtown and spend more on buses. Nice.

West Bend Common Council Appoints Interim Mayor

From the Washington County Insider:

November 4, 2019 – West Bend, WI – West Bend Common Council has unanimously voted to appoint Council President Steve Hoogester as acting mayor until the April 7, 2020 election.

According to City Attorney Ian Prust, said Hoogester can still retain his seat as District 6 alderman and he does not have to run for council again just by taking this post.

Prust said, should there be a tie vote on an issue, Hoogester has to notify the council ahead of time that he will abstain as alderman to make a vote as mayor.

City administrator Jay Shambeau and Prust said a tie situation would be extremely rare as a council member would need to be absent to create a situation for a tie vote to occur.

This seems like a good way to address the issue.

Washington County Tax Rate

While appreciated, this is not the whole story.

By Melanie Boyung

Special to Conley Media

WASHINGTON COUNTY — The county tax rate is set to drop to its lowest levels since 1917.

In October, the Washington County Executive Committee gave unanimous approval to the 2020 budget proposal for Washington County. That committee’s approval moves the budget forward to the full County Board, which is expected to take it up this month.

The 2020 recommended budget has a $2.298 tax rate; the rate for 2019 was $2.393, 9.48 cents higher than the current proposal, according to county budget documents. That $2.298 tax rate is the lowest in more than a hundred years — County Administrator Josh Schoemann wrote in the budget book that it is the lowest since World War I.

While the tax rate is comparable to a hundred years ago, that does not mean tax bills will be the same. The tax rate is the amount paid by a property owner per $1,000 of property value, and property valuation has risen a great deal in the past century. Owners of a $225,000 home would therefore owe $517.10

Do you know what else the taxpayers of Washington County didn’t have to pay? A county sales tax. So while the county has been able to decrease the tax rate on the back of increasing property values, they have been able to keep spending more by extracting more tax revenue from the same taxpayers through the sales tax.

Picking an Interim Mayor in West Bend

From the Washington County Insider:

October 31, 2019 – West Bend, WI – On Monday, Nov. 4 the West Bend Common Council will hold a special meeting at 5 p.m. The hot topic will be, Discussion on the Vacancy Created by the Resignation of the City of West Bend Mayor  2. Filling the Office of Mayor

On Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, at the West Bend Common Council meeting Mayor Kraig Sadownikow announced he was resigninghis seat effective immediately. Sadownikow stepped down citing a conflict between his business and his position with the City.

The state has a legal process on filling the vacant mayoral seat, which comes up for election April 7, 2020.

City administrator Jay Shambeau said filling the seat will “not be an easy answer to come to.”

There are several options on the table; the council can appoint the council president or an alderman or a citizen from the City.

Wouldn’t it be fun if they appointed Sadownikow as the interim mayor?

Adam Gitter To Run for Washington County Executive

We have a race

Washington County, WI (October 31, 2019):

On Tuesday, April 7, 2020 the citizens of Washington County, WI will have an option on the ballot for the new position of County Executive. Adam Gitter has stepped forward with the intention of being the first County Executive elected in Washington County, WI. While exploring this opportunity Gitter has found a groundswell of support in the county leading up to his announcement to run for the County Executive position.

“Community and collaboration are what this campaign is rooted in.” Stated Gitter, “Being raised in Washington County has given me a strong sense of home. Partnering that with values I gained through my service in the Army has led me to pursue a career serving my community. Washington County is an excellent place to live and raise a family. We are in a position to empower municipalities by utilizing the sales tax the county collects on behalf of all municipalities and sharing this for more localized control of the dollars. This, among other key issues, is why I am running for the Washington County Executive position.”

Adam Gitter graduated from Kewaskum High School before earning an Associate’s Degree from local UW-Washington County, now going by the name of UWM-Washington County. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and a Master’s of Public Administration from UW-Oshkosh. Gitter served in the U.S. Army with one tour in Afghanistan during 2008 and 2009. He currently serves as the Economic Development Manager for the City of West Bend.

“In addition to the sales tax, it is important that a fee to enter county parks be removed.” Stated Gitter, “A lot of feedback has come from around the county on this topic and ultimately a barrier for entry to parks is not what the public wants.”

Adam Gitter lives with his wife Lindsay, son Duncan and six month old puppy, Bender, in the City of West Bend. He is actively dedicated to serving the local community through involvement in many boards and commissions. Board membership on the county level includes Economic Development Washington County and Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Next Week is Winter Awareness Week in Wisconsin

Goodness… why does out government treat us like children?

MADISON, Wis. — The winter of 2018-19 was one for the record books in Wisconsin, with the state experiencing heavy snowfalls and dangerously cold temperatures brought on by the polar vortex. To help prepare everyone for what to expect in the months ahead, Gov. Tony Evers has declared Nov. 4-8, 2019 Winter Awareness Week in Wisconsin.

“The extreme cold felt across Wisconsin earlier this year is a reminder of just how dangerous winter can be,” said Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general and homeland security advisor. “Take time during Winter Awareness Week to make sure your emergency kits are fully supplied, have your furnace serviced and get your vehicle checked out to make sure its ready for winter road conditions.”

“The time to get ready for winter weather is before temperatures drop and snow is on the ground,” said Dr. Darrell Williams, Wisconsin Emergency Management administrator. “Getting prepared now could help save your life or the life of a neighbor during a winter storm.”

Winter is something that happens every year and has happened every year in the history of humankind. We don’t need a bunch of bureaucrats in state government to remind us that we have winter.