Transportation spending is a matter of priorities

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

During the deliberation about Wisconsin’s current budget, the most contentious issue was about whether or not we should increase spending on the state’s transportation infrastructure. One reason that the debate was so heated is because with Wisconsin’s segregated transportation fund, increasing spending means an unpopular increase in taxes. As we begin debating Wisconsin’s next budget, transportation spending is again a hot issue, but the lines of battle need to move.

The state of Wisconsin first segregated the transportation fund from the general fund in 1945, some 22 years before the Department of Transportation was created. Wisconsin has several taxes and fees that shovel money into the transportation fund including gas taxes, registration fees, fees on rental vehicles, airline property taxes, railroad property taxes, outdoor advertising revenue, etc. The two primary transportation funding sources are the gas tax and vehicle registration fees.

All of these funding sources have one thing in common. They are meant to serve as a proxy for usage. The underlying philosophy of transportation funding in Wisconsin is that people who use Wisconsin’s transportation infrastructure more should pay more for it. The difficulty is that as the technology of transportation has advanced and diversified, usage proxies like fuel consumption have become less valid.

Setting aside for the moment the debate over whether or not Wisconsin needs to spend more on transportation (we do not), in the current paradigm, if Wisconsin wants to spend more, then we need to raise existing taxes or find new ones. Neither of those options has been popular.

Several states have implemented toll roads to generate more revenue, but the idea has been almost universally rejected in Wisconsin. The idea of a tax on actual mileage has been floated in Wisconsin and elsewhere, but the thought of the government tracking our vehicles is distasteful.

The friction between the opposition to increased taxes grinding against the push for more transportation spending is what creates the heat for the political debate. The friction is misplaced. The heart of the debate is centered on the supposition that only the people who directly use Wisconsin’s transportation infrastructure should be the ones to pay for it. That is why the transportation fund is segregated and that is why all of the supporting taxes and fees are targeted at people who use the transportation system. The supposition is flawed.

Everyone in Wisconsin benefits from Wisconsin’s transportation infrastructure irrespective of how much they actually use it themselves. Every Wisconsinites benefits either directly or indirectly from the commerce that relies on our transportation infrastructure, the goods and services delivered to our homes and retailers, the accessibility of emergency services, and so much more. The person who does not own a car and has everything delivered to their home benefits just as much as the avid driver who is on the road several times a day.

If everyone benefits from our transportation infrastructure, why are we getting twisted around the axle of who pays for it? Shouldn’t we all pay for it? Wisconsinites have long since agreed that we all benefit from, and all should pay for, education, law enforcement, environmental protections, etc. It is time for transportation to join the club.

While some taxes and fees are designated for transportation needs and lawmakers are constitutionally prohibited from spending that revenue on other needs, the spending for transportation can come from any source. Over the years, it has been quite common for the budget to transfer tax revenue from the general fund to the transportation fund to supplement the spending. In the current budget, over $82 million was spent on transportation from the general fund.

If lawmakers want to spend more on transportation in the next budget, there is no need to raise taxes, implement toll roads, or create new taxes. All they have to do is designate more money from the general fund. The taxes and fees that feed the transportation fund create a spending floor, but lawmakers can spend as much as they want above and beyond that by using the general fund.

The rub is that the general fund, fueled by income, sales, and other taxes, is what is used to fund all of the other state’s priorities like education, environmental protection, law enforcement, and so much more. If lawmakers want to spend more on transportation from the general fund, they will need to explain why transportation needs the money more than all of the other budget needs. In other words, lawmakers will need to prioritize transportation spending along with all of the other needs of the state.

This is part of the normal budgeting process. Budgets are statements of priorities. There is always an infinite list of spending needs and wants and a limited amount of money to go around. Lawmakers are elected and paid to set those priorities and make the hard choices on behalf of their constituents.

The segregation of transportation funding all of these years has let lawmakers off the hook from the responsibility of prioritizing transportation spending. By having designated taxes for transportation, lawmakers could just spend every dollar generated by those taxes without having to explain why putting a dollar into concrete is more important than keeping a felon locked up or paying a teacher. The debate should not be about which transportation taxes need to be increased to support more spending. The debate should be about why spending more money on transportation is more important than spending that money on something else.

Wisconsin does not need to spend more on transportation infrastructure, but if lawmakers think it does, they do not need to raise taxes. They can easily use the general fund to increase spending and explain to the taxpayers why it is a priority. That is their job.

West Bend School Board Votes for Referendum

In the least surprising news of the new year, the West Bend School Board has decided to ask the taxpayers to go further into debt to build a new school in a district with mediocre performance and declining enrollment. Neat.

Jan. 15, 2019 – West Bend, WI – The West Bend School Board set the initial resolution for the April 2, 2019 referendum question at $47 million. The true cost with interest at about 4.25 percent, according to John Mehan with Robert W. Baird & Co., will bring the total to $74 million as that will include $27 million in interest.

[…]

Cobbling together the outstanding debt of $34,431,000 plus the proposed referendum and interest of $74 million the total, if approved in April 2019 would bring, the West Bend School District debt on referendums to $108,431,000.

That’s roughly $1,400 in debt for every man, woman, and child in the school district. Nuts.

Meanwhile, they are killing the district’s charter school.

Jan. 15, 2019 – West Bend, WI – Parents and students lined up at Monday night’s West Bend School Board meeting to express their displeasure about the district’s plan to possibly eliminate Pathways Charter School.

According to  documentation posted on the School District site a recommendation will be made for Pathways to be eliminated.

We wouldn’t want innovation or anything crazy like that in the stolid, old, 20th-century education model being offered by the West Bend School District.

 

Teen Calls Cops on Dad for Taking Away Her Phone

This dad is my favorite.

A 16-year-old girl called the police on her father after he took her phone away as punishment for having it password protected, Ohio officials say.

Bodycam footage shows the moment officers responded to the 911 call made by the teen, who told dispatchers: ‘My father took my property, which is an $800 phone that doesn’t belong to him. He didn’t buy it.’

Lt James Wilson of the South Euclid Police Department said officers recognized the situation as a teaching opportunity, telling WKYC: ‘Certainly if we were busy, it would be pushed to the back burner, but we still have an obligation to respond.’

The father, Anthony Robertson, and his daughter were both sitting outside the home when officers arrived on Saturday afternoon.

The teen, whose name has not been released because she is a minor, can be heard saying: ‘I want my phone.’

Robertson then explains: ‘I took her phone because she’s a juvenile, and I don’t want her to have it.

‘I can’t inspect it, because the phone is locked, so I took it away.’

Transportation spending is a matter of priorities

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. I point out that the lines of battle over transportation funding/spending are in the wrong place. We don’t have to raise taxes to spend more on transportation. If people think we need to spend more (I don’t), then they just need to prioritize it over other needs like education, prisons, etc. It about priorities and one of the biggest priorities should be to NOT raise taxes. Here’s a part:

If lawmakers want to spend more on transportation in the next budget, there is no need to raise taxes, implement toll roads, or create new taxes. All they have to do is designate more money from the general fund. The taxes and fees that feed the transportation fund create a spending floor, but lawmakers can spend as much as they want above and beyond that by using the general fund.

The rub is that the general fund, fueled by income, sales, and other taxes, is what is used to fund all of the other state’s priorities like education, environmentalprotection, law enforcement, and so much more. If lawmakers want to spend more on transportation from the general fund, they will need to explain why transportation needs the money more than all of the other budget needs. In other words, lawmakers will need to prioritize transportation spending along with all of the other needs of the state.

This is part of the normal budgeting process. Budgets are statements of priorities. There is always an infinite list of spending needs and wants and a limited amount of money to go around. Lawmakers are elected and paid to set those priorities and make the hard choices on behalf of their constituents.

The segregation of transportation funding all of these years has let lawmakers off the hook from the responsibility of prioritizing transportation spending. By having designated taxes for transportation, lawmakers could just spend every dollar generated by those taxes without having to explain why putting a dollar into concrete is more important than keeping a felon locked up or paying a teacher. The debate should not be about which transportation taxes need to be increased to support more spending. The debate should be about why spending more money on transportation is more important than spending that money on something else.

 

 

He Saw Her at the Bus Stop

My goodness. While a stranger attack and abduction like this is rare, it still scares the daylights out of a parent. I wish Wisconsin had the death penalty.

BARRON — A Wisconsin man accused of abducting 13-year-old Jayme Closs and holding her captive for three months made up his mind to take her when he spotted the teenager getting on a school bus, authorities said Monday.

Jake Thomas Patterson, 21, told detectives that “he knew that was the girl he was going to take,” and he made two aborted trips to her family’s home before finally carrying out an attack in which he fatally shot Jayme’s mother in front of her, according to a criminal complaint filed hours before Patterson’s first court appearance.

Prosecutors charged him Monday with kidnapping Jayme and killing her parents Oct. 15 near Barron, about 90 miles northeast of Minneapolis. He was also charged with armed robbery.

 

Homelessness Swells in Liberal Cities

Correlation or causation?

Alexander Casey, a policy advisor on Zillow’s Economic Research team, explained to Yahoo Finance that “15% of the U.S. population lives in areas where a staggering 47% of the homeless population lives. And these are areas where rents are 29% higher on average than the rest of the U.S. And most of these communities are already past this 32% tipping point.”

Zillow researchers clustered different communities together based on “how they’re experiencing rising poverty rates, existing homelessness, homelessness rates, and declining affordability.” The places where people are most at risk of homelessness, according to the study, included New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Boston, “which all have crossed the 32 percent affordability threshold.”

The three U.S. cities with the most homeless people in 2018 were New York (78,676), Los Angeles (49,955), and Seattle (12,112), according to the most recent HUD data. A 2016 Wall Street Journal report highlighted that while overall homelessness in America was declining, the homeless population in these cities and others had risen rapidly since 2010.

Income Mobility

When people gripe about “the 1%,” do they even know who that is? Income mobility is far more important than income distribution.

Some 94 percent of Americans who reach “top 1 percent” income status will enjoy it for only a single year. Approximately 99 percent will lose their “top 1 percent” status within a decade.
Now consider the top 400 U.S. income-earners—a far more exclusive club than the top 1 percent. Between 1992 and 2013, 72 percent of the top 400 retained that title for no more than a year. Over 97 percent retained it for no more than a decade.
HumanProgress.org advisory board member Mark Perry put it well in his recent blog post on this subject:
Whenever we hear commentary about the top or bottom income quintiles, or the top or bottom X% of Americans by income (or the Top 400 taxpayers), a common assumption is that those are static, closed, private clubs with very little dynamic turnover … But economic reality is very different—people move up and down the income quintiles and percentile groups throughout their careers and lives.

Around the Bend by Judy Steffes

Wife of WBW girls basketball coach dies following collapse after game

The wife of West Bend West girls basketball coach Joe Pintens has died. West Bend Fire Chief Gerald Kudek confirmed they responded to an emergency call at the West Bend High Schools on Tuesday, Jan. 8 at 8:19 p.m. for a woman unconscious.

Kudek said the woman was taken to an area hospital. The West Bend West team had a home game against Port Washington on Tuesday night. Games for both high school teams these next two days are being changed.

Andrea A. “Andi” Pintens, 65, of West Bend, passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday, January 8, 2019.

Andi was born on April 12, 1953, in Milwaukee, the daughter of the late Albert and Carol (nee Klemens) Dirkx.  At the age of eight she moved from Milwaukee to Harrison, Wisconsin where she grew up on a dairy farm.   On May 26, 1973, she married her best friend Joseph Pintens at St. Augustine Catholic Church in Harrison.   After marriage, Andi and Joe moved to West Bend, Wisconsin where they have resided since.

Andi studied cosmetology and was a licensed beautician who worked at Creative Cut for a number of years.   She began working at Badger Middle School as an Administrative Assistant to the Principal, where she retired after 25 years of service.  She was a decorated forensics coach at Badger, leading numerous individuals and teams to championships.  An extremely creative individual, she found numerous outlets for her talents. She was active in West Bend Children’s theatre, playing various roles in the annual production. An accomplished seamstress, she enjoyed sewing and creating clothes. What began as a hobby of making “Mittens by Pintens,” ultimately became a business, which expanded into making unique skirts, sweaters and other apparel for boutiques across the country. Andi led a very active lifestyle, exercising long before it became en vogue.  She enjoyed spending time at the cabin at Washburn Lake, where she was able to relax, fish, tube with grandkids, cross country ski and snowshoe.   In fact, she still holds the record for the largest bass ever caught at Washburn Lake, which will not be broken.  Above all, Andi enjoyed spending time with her family, particularity her grandchildren.   She loved adventure, and anything her grandchildren were interested in, quickly became her interest.

Those Andi leaves behind to cherish her memory include her husband, Joe; four children, Craig (Jill) Pintens Los Angeles, CA, Jill (Aaron) Smith of Colorado Springs, CO, Megan (Miles) Conrad of San Francisco, CA, and Scott (Jamie) Pintens of Wauwatosa, WI; 10 grandchildren with two more on the way,

A Memorial Mass for Andi will be held 5 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019, at Holy Angels Catholic Church, 138 N. 8th Avenue, in West Bend.

Andi’s family will greet relatives and friends at the church on Sunday from 2 p.m. until the time of Mass. In lieu of flowers and memorials, please do something special with your family, give them a hug and tell them you love them before going to bed in Andi’s memory. The Myrhum Patten Miller & Kietzer Funeral Home has been entrusted with Andi’s arrangements.

Hartford woman went to school with suspect in Jayme Closs abduction case

The name of the man accused in the abduction Jayme Closs and alleged killing of her parents struck a chord with a woman in Hartford. Samantha Sali of Hartford lived in the small community of Gordon in 2008 and attended Northwood Elementary School in Minong.

Jake Patterson, 21, the man named by Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald as the man in custody in the Closs case.

“It was a really small; kindergarten to high school.” Sali was 13 years old at the time.

“When the story broke, I thought the last name sounded familiar but I was more so struck by the community because I have relatives in that area,” she said.

Sali’s grandfather lives in Gordon, WI. Matter of fact he’s just a few doors down from the Patterson family. According to Sali, if he had been looking out his window at the right time he would have seen Closs walk past his house on Thursday.

On Friday after the Barron County Sheriff’s Department press conference Sali went in search of her old Northwood Elementary Yearbook.

She said she remembered Erik Patterson, the older brother of Jake. “I thought he was cute,” she said. “He was tall and always wore shorts. I even found a note about the shorts thing in my keepsake journal.”

Patterson, she recalled, has an older sister Katie and a younger brother Jake. The father’s name is Pat Patterson. Although Sali moved out of the community in 2010 she kept in touch with her grandfather.

“There was normal small-town talk about everybody. His name would come up with minor things but it’s really just gossip,” she said.

Sali, who is a reporter for WashingtonCountyInsider.com, did run Eric and Jake Patterson’s criminal record. “Erik has a lot of small drug charges,” she said. “There was a fourth-degree sexual assault charge and a couple driving without insurance charges and speeding.”

Sali has been in communication with her grandfather. She confirmed he has been interviewed by the FBI. Sali was last in Gordon in 2014. “I really would not have ever thought this could happen in Gordon,” she said. “It was always the place we went on vacation and we would go tubing on the river or where my grandpa taught me how to fish. Just some nice memories and I know it’s a very close-knit community. The July 4 fireworks are always packed and everyone just watches out for each other.”

“My No. 1 question is ‘how many people were involved and to what extent,’” she said.

Future of Shopko in West Bend

It appears some neighbors in West Bend received a pamphlet in the mail this week for Shopko with up to 70% off the entire store. The question arose about the future of the store, 1710 S. Main Street in West Bend. In December 2018 an article was posted at WashingtonCountyInsider.com regarding the pharmacy at Shopko transferring prescriptions to Kroger-owned grocery stores. Shopko is based in Ashwaubenon, WI. Details on the future of the retailer were recently published in the Green Bay Press Gazette. A portion of the latest article is below.

Shopko could file for bankruptcy protection from creditors as soon as next week, according to a pharmaceutical drug supplier that says the retailer owes it $67 million. Jeff Garfinkle, an attorney for San Francisco-based McKesson Corp., said during a hearing Monday in Brown County Circuit Court, that Shopko is expected to file for bankruptcy Jan. 15.

Washington Co. Board supports 9/11 memorial in Kewaskum

Gordon Haberman of Kewaskum addressed the Washington County Board on Wednesday night regarding the 9/11 memorial in Kewaskum.

His goal was to encourage supervisors to vote on a resolution to make the beam, salvaged from the twin towers in New York, recognized as the official memorial in the county and soon statewide.

Haberman spoke to the County Board for about 20 minutes alongside Andrew Johnson of Mayville. Johnson’s son David died in 2012 while fighting in Afghanistan.

Below is a summary of the board’s actions courtesy Ethan Hollenberger.

The Washington County Board unanimously passed a resolution to designate the Wisconsin 9/11 Memorial as the official memorial in Washington County to commemorate the terrorist attacks. The resolution asks the State of Wisconsin to also make the monument the official memorial of the state.

Supervisor William Symicek of Kewaskum represents the memorial and moved to approve the resolution.

The board heard a presentation from members of Kewaskum Remembers, Inc., who have been planning the memorial designed around a piece of I-beam from the north twin tower. Kewaskum Remembers was organized by Gordon Haberman, who lost his daughter Andrea in the twin tower attacks. The steel arrived in Kewaskum in 2014.

“The Wisconsin 911 Memorial will remember all who have lost their lives on 9/11 and since due to the ensuing conflicts,” said County Board Chairman Don Kriefall. “The memorial will serve to educate Washington County residents and beyond of the terrorist attacks that changed our country nearly 18 years ago. This resolution ensures Washington County will never forget those who died nor those who volunteered at ground zero or to wear a uniform in the aftermath.”

At the September 2018 memorial event, Kewaskum Remembers approached County Administrator Joshua Schoemann to secure county support. County staff and Kewaskum Remembers already have started working with State Senator Duey Stroebel (R-Cedarburg) who commented, “The Wisconsin 9/11 Memorial is an excellent opportunity to honor and remember those who lost their lives on 9/11, including Andrea Haberman.  I look forward to working with Washington County and Kewaskum Remembers on this important project.”

Kewaskum is located within two hours of over 80 percent of Wisconsin’s population making the memorial easily accessible.

Pearl of Canton in West Bend awarded liquor license

During Monday night’s West Bend Common Council meeting the Pearl of Canton, 102 S. Main Street, received a Non-Reserve Original Class B Combination Liquor License.

Pearl of Canton was awarded the license over two other applicants. Pearl of Canton is near completion on its remodel. An opening date is expected to be announced soon.

Owner BeBay Luu purchased the 2-story building in 2017 and had hoped to be open in early January however, flipping an old retail outlet into a restaurant proved to be a challenge.

Now, almost two years later, the new Vietnamese, sushi and Chinese restaurant is on the cusp of opening.

Lead contractor Ron Dibble opened the door for a quick sneak peek. Dibble said work is nearly complete in the kitchen. That project was a bit daunting considering the installation of plumbing and updating the electrical.

The new look resembles a luxurious Asian restaurant with high recessed ceilings and 6,000-square-feet of space on the first floor. The color scheme is rich burnt reds and browns. There are arched entryways and black string curtains to separate rooms. Some of the art features Buddha statues and paintings along with decorative wood dividers that set off table spaces closer to the walls.

Firefighter sworn in to City of West Bend FD

West Bend City Clerk Stephanie Justman swore in Aaron Zuehlsdorf as a West Bend firefighter this week during the Monday night Common Council meeting.

Zuehlsdorf’s father, Ron, pinned Aaron’s badge. Zuehlsdorf grew up in Oconomowoc. He attended Waukesha Technical College for firefighter and paramedic training and earned a Fire/Medic Associates Degree. Zuehlsdorf worked with the Western Lakes Fire Department as an intern for 2.5 years while attending school.

Rep. Pat Strachota’s daughter making headlines                      By Samantha Sali

Former Assembly Rep. Pat Strachota’s daughter is making headlines. Elizabeth Benz, was recently named one of the Milwaukee Business Journal’s 2019 “40 Under 40.” Every year, the Milwaukee Business Journal honors 40 “young business and community leaders from throughout southeastern Wisconsin” under the age 40. Benz, a Saint Frances Cabrini and Divine Savior Holy Angels alum, is currently the Vice President of Government Programs for Network Health. Her mother, Patricia Strachota, is a local politician who served on the Washington County Board of Supervisors (1986-2002) and served in the State Assembly as Assembly Majority Leader (2005-2015).

West Bend Police following up on bank robbery

It was a story you heard first on WashingtonCountyInsider.com. An armed robbery occurred around 1:20 p.m. Monday afternoon, Jan. 7, 2019 at Chase Bank, 801 W. Washington Street.

West Bend Police said the incident is still under investigation. No injuries were reported. Holy Angels Principal Mike Sternig said “There was no danger to anyone at our school. I wanted you to be aware that everyone is safe. This should not affect the usual pickup (unless you use the bank parking lot… and are not supposed to.)

Holy Angels School is located across the street from the bank at 230 N. Eighth Avenue. The last bank robbery in West Bend was Feb, 25, 2016 when Westbury Bank was robbed.

Winners from Nabob Prairie Riders Fisheree

A successful day of fishing at the 20th annual Nabob Prairie Rider Fisheree. Winners included: Walleye: Brad Handel 24 ½, Aaron Sterman 24 ¼

Bass: Aaron Nadelhoffer 18 inches and 16 ½ inches, Ryan Strzallio 15 ¾

Crappie: Addison Boolen 13, Dan Bogdan 12 ½, Austin Pelzman 12

Perch: Tony Moenburger 9, Tyler Ritger 8 ¾, Mitch Hartmann 8

Bluegill: Marvin Truss 9, Nick Brazeam 8 ¾, Austin Pelzman 8 3/8

Sunfish: Tie for first place between Dan Bogdan and Bruce Rolston who caught an 8 ½ and there was a tie for third place with 8-inch sunfish caught by Bruce Rolston, Nick Zangl 8

 

Citizen Representatives needed

The City of West Bend expanded the Board of Public Works and Finance Committee to include citizen representatives. Please consider applying today.

CHANGES TO STRUCTURE BEGINNING APRIL 2019:  in accordance with Ordinance No. 2822, the Finance Committee shall consist of four (4) alderpersons, the mayor, and not more than two (2) citizens of the City of West Bend.  The Mayor shall designate the alderpersons to serve as members of the Finance Committee, subject to approval by the Common Council.  The alderpersons designated for the Finance Committee shall not also serve on the Board of Public Works.  The mayor may, in his discretion, appoint not more than two (2) citizens of the City of West Bend to serve on the Finance Committee, subject to approval by the council.  The city clerk shall serve as secretary.

CHANGES TO STRUCTURE BEGINNING APRIL 2019:  in accordance with Ordinance No. 2822, the Board of Public Works shall be composed of four (4) alderpersons, the mayor, and not more than two (2) citizens of the City of West Bend.  The Mayor shall designate the alderpersons to serve as members of the Board of Public Works, subject to approval by the Common Council.  The alderpersons designated for the Board of Public Works shall not also serve on the Board of Public Works.  The mayor may, in his discretion, appoint not more than two (2) citizens of the City of West Bend to serve on the Board of Public Works, subject to approval by the council.  The city clerk shall serve as secretary.

Superintendent interviews slated in Hartford Union School District

Two candidates for the Hartford Union High School Superintendent position, Cassandra Schug and Conrad Farner. The new Superintendent will be named at Jan. 28 Board of Education meeting.

Disciplinary action expected during Monday West Bend School Board meeting

The following was posted by the West Bend School District and will be addressed during Executive Session of Monday’s, Jan. 14 meeting. Adjourn into Executive Session Type Action Recommended Action I move to enter into executive session pursuant to Wis. Stats. 19.85(1)(f) and (c) to consider financial, medical, social or personal histories or disciplinary data of specific persons, preliminary consideration of specific personnel problems or the investigation of charges against specific persons which, if discussed in public, would be likely to have a substantial adverse effect upon the reputation of any person referred to in such histories or data, or involved in such problems or investigations, and to consider employment, promotion, compensation or performance evaluation data of any public employee over which the governmental body has jurisdiction or exercises responsibility, and take any such action, if necessary, based on its discussion, namely:

Later in that same session there will be “Non-renewal administrator contract.”

That same meeting the district will also be looking for an update on filling the Director of Finance position. Meeting gets underway at 5:30 p.m.

Updates & Tidbits

– Meet outstanding teachers and staff during the Sunday, Jan. 27 St. Frances Cabrini Open House and Pancake Breakfast. Come join us 8:30 a.m. – noon.

– 19th annual Bridal Fair at Washington County Fair Park is Jan. 27. Over 70 vendors with everything from dresses to cakes, wedding venues to entertainment. Tickets $5 Pre-Sale $6 Day-Of

-Cedar Community Annual Chili Social and Used Book Sale is Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019 from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. at Cedar Ridge Campus, 113 Cedar Ridge Drive, West Bend. Enjoy items for sale by ceramics, crafters and Nimble Thimbles. Cedar Ridge Resale will be open with a 50-percent off sale on all items and furniture. Visit the train room. Tours of Cedar Community’s independent living apartments will also be available by appointment. Enjoy our famous chili, hot ham and cheese croissant, fruit, fresh baked cookie, coffee or hot apple cider – all for only $8.50! Quarts of chili to go for $7.75.

– Holy Angels Students of the Month for December include Rachel Nagel, Kate Wiedmeyer, and Tadd Jamieson.

-St Lawrence and Resurrection K.C.’s are sponsoring a 14th annual card party Sunday, Jan. 27 at 1 p.m. at the Resurrection Parish Hall in Allenton. Entry fee is $5 includes play and lunch.

Find local news for free 7 days a week at WashingtonCountyInsider.com

Wisconsin No Longer “Open for Business”

Mark Belling broke this story, but it is a jarring signal that one of Evers’ first acts as governor was to strip the state welcome signs of the “open for business” message.

WFRV – On the borders of Wisconsin, the “Open for Business” signs that use to hang on the Wisconsin Welcomes You signs were removed, and one State Senator is now asking for them back.

State Senator Dan Feyen, of Fond du Lac sent a letter to Department of Administration Secretary Joel Brennan asking that the signs be sent to Feyen’s office where he says “would be happy to find places to display the signs in my office and district office to let our business community know that we are still “Open for Business.”

Feyen said he heard reports that the signs were removed on Monday.

“I ran for office to be a champion for economic development and workforce development and I will continue to be a leader advancing policy that is good for business in Wisconsin. If our small businesses succeed, we all succeed.”

Milwaukee Bus Driver Saves Toddler

Hats off to a Ms. Ivic.

(CNN)A Milwaukee bus driver went above the call of duty when she stopped to save an unlikely would-be passenger: a baby.

Irena Ivic was driving on a freeway overpass when she spotted a barefoot baby, Milwaukee County Transit System spokesman Matt Sliker said. The baby, wearing a red onesie and a diaper, was quickly walking to an intersection.
[…]
“Oh my God. Oh my God. I am shaking,” Ivic said in the video as she sat down in the driver’s seat with the baby.
A passenger on the bus took off her winter coat and draped it around the baby girl, who was cold to the touch. The temperatures were freezing that day, on December 22, according to the transit system.
Ivic sat talking to the coat-swaddled baby, stroking her hair. The little one soon fell asleep in her arms, as seen in the video.
The 19-month-old had been cold and scared but was otherwise unharmed, police said.
The child went missing after officials believe the child’s mother had a mental health crisis, the transit system release said. “Authorities eventually reunited the baby with its father,” Sliker said.

Sexual Abuse Allegations Riddle Democrat Presidential Contenders’ Campaigns

Shame.

Senator Bernie Sanders has apologised to female staff members on his 2016 US presidential campaign who allege they were harassed by a male aide.

“To women in our campaign who were harassed or mistreated, I apologise,” the Vermont independent wrote in a statement on Twitter on Thursday.

His apology comes as he contemplates another White House bid under the Democratic banner in 2020.

Several aides have complained of a “predatory culture” in his campaign.

[…]

Claims of sexual harassment have recently dogged the campaign of Democratic Senator Kamala Harris, who may also enter the White House race.

Senator Harris has said she was “unaware” that a top aide paid a settlement of $400,000 (£314,000) in May 2017 to a woman who sued for sexual harassment.

The California senator’s biography, which debuted last week, contains praise for the aide, who resigned after the payout was revealed.

Yellow Vests Disable 60% of France’s Speed Cameras

Yes, this is vandalism and should be punished, but c’mon… aren’t you kind of rooting for them? Speed cameras are just a revenue-generating abuse by government.

Members of the “yellow vests” protest movement have vandalised almost 60% of France’s entire speed camera network, the interior minister has said.

Christophe Castaner said the wilful damage was a threat to road safety and put lives in danger.

The protest movement began over fuel tax increases, and saw motorists block roads and motorway toll booths.

Some protesters feel speed cameras are solely a revenue-generating measure which takes money from the poor.

Assembly Republicans Extend Olive Branch

Good for them. There is room for compromise and cooperation on a lot of things.

Assembly Republicans in a letter to Gov. Tony Evers Thursday said they would work with him on a host of issues, including income tax reductions and funding two-thirds of K-12 public education, as the Democrat prepares to assemble his first budget.

[…]

Vos acknowledged the heightened chance of a recession affecting the U.S. economy in coming years, arguing the possibility should prompt lawmakers to reduce the size of government and grow the state’s rainy-day fund.

Assembly Republicans wrote they would be willing to compromise on several issues they said Evers mentioned on the campaign trail, such as enhancing internet access, evaluating ways to save money on state-owned buildings, reducing debt payments in the transportation budget, ensuring clean drinking water and preventing homelessness.

[…]

Vos in an interview Thursday with a conservative talk show on 1130 WISN said he and Republicans would not approve more controversial Democratic proposals such as a $15 minimum wage, driver’s licenses for immigrants living in the country illegally, legalizing marijuana, rolling back school voucher programs or expanding abortion rights.

Woman Kills Attacker

I’m glad that she was able to defend herself.

The 25-year-old victim was standing at a bus stop in the Fernwood neighborhood about 5:44 a.m. when she was confronted by the would-be robber, police said.

“The victim was standing at the corner when the offender approached the victim, displayed a weapon and announced a robbery,” Chicago police officials said in a statement. “The victim, a concealed carry license holder, brandished a weapon and fired one shot at the offender, striking him in the neck.”

The incident was captured on surveillance video from a drug store in the area and showed the victim, whose name has not been released, getting pushed to the ground at the bus stop before pulling a gun and firing it.

The suspected attempted robber, wearing white, ran from the scene while the victim ran in the opposite direction, the video shows.

Police said the suspected robber collapsed about a block from the bus stop, where officers found him. He was taken to Christ Hospital in Chicago, where he was pronounced dead.

City Leaders Express Regret for Funding Brainstorming Project

I remember casting an askance eye at this when it happened. I don’t remember if I wrote about it. Essentially, they paid $10,000 to have a bunch of college kids brainstorm ideas for our downtown. Of course, they don’t have any grounding in business, finance, etc. It was just a bunch of young adults sitting around saying, “wouldn’t it be cool if there was…” fill in the blank. I’m far more interested in the ideas from people who live and work in our downtown and would directly benefit/lose from the decisions made. Skin in the game and whatnot…

WEST BEND — Members of the Downtown West Bend Business Improvement District expressed some buyer’s remorse when they reviewed some of the ideas the high school and college students generated as part of The Commons group.

“I would just like to echo the thought that I think we overpaid in hindsight for this opportunity and that we should be more careful next time that we consider this sort of brainstorming activity,” Alderman Michael Christian said, who is also a member of the business improvement district.

Officials paid almost $10,000 for the opportunity to host students to develop ideas for improving the downtown. The idea was borne from a meeting during the first months of 2018 when board president Mike Husar requested Economic Development Manager Adam Gitter obtain a record of the vacant spaces, along with the businesses that occupied the buildings in the downtown.

That idea morphed into a more comprehensive project to generate general ideas for improving the downtown.

Hazy sunshine in local government

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

Wisconsin long ago recognized that transparency in government is critical for good government. As former Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel says in the most recent edition of the Wisconsin Public Records Law Compliance Guide, “citizens cannot hold their elected officials accountable in a representative government unless government is performed in the open.” In recognition of that imperative, Wisconsin has one of the best open records laws in the nation.

Wisconsin’s public records statutes are comprehensive and firm. In general, they require that, with rare and specific exceptions, government officials must provide access to any existing government records upon request. Officials do not have to create new records, but they do have to provide them if they exist. The law is great, but as with any law, its utility must be measured by its execution and enforcement.

While looking into different issues, I have had cause to file open records requests with three local governments in recent months. The inconsistent responses reveal how challenging it still is for a Wisconsinite to hold his government accountable when government officials choose to be difficult.

While slightly different, all three of my open records requests asked for “any electronic communication … including emails, official email accounts or personal accounts, SMS, SnapChats, Facebook messages, Google Hangout Chats, iMessages, or any other format in which official business was discussed” to or from specific elected and unelected government officials for a range of dates.

I made my request of the city of West Bend on Dec. 19. I received an immediate acknowledgement of the request. After a couple of days of emails and a phone call clarifying my request, the city allowed me to download a PDF with 1,796 pages of emails to and from every Common Council member and other city officials. With some delay due to the Christmas holidays, I received the file on Dec. 28.

My request to Washington County was made on October 5. Again, I received an immediate response acknowledging my request. It went dark for a little while, but after I sent a reminder on Oct. 12, I was able to speak with the county attorney to clarify my request. He indicated that due to some of the sensitive nature of some of the documents, he would have to redact some information and advised me on the appeals process. Shortly after that conversation, I received an email with the requested emails with a few appropriate redactions on Oct. 15.

In both cases, the city and the county responded quickly, conscientiously, comprehensively, and without expense. The West Bend School District was a different story.

I made my request of the West Bend School District on Sept. 25. I received an immediate response acknowledging the request. On Oct. 3, I received a reply from the superintendent indicating that fulfilling my request would cost between $130 and $280 because the district’s policy is to print all of the emails at 10 cents per page instead of providing them in a digital format. He also advised me to submit my request directly to School Board members for their documents, which I did.

I exchanged a few more emails with the superintendent referencing recent Appeals Court rulings that digital records should be provided in their digital format and the wastefulness of printing thousands of emails when they could be easily transmitted digitally (as the city and county did). My arguments fell on deaf ears with the superintendent advising me the final judgement on Nov. 28 that my request would now cost between $150 and $300.

As for the request made directly to the School Board members, only three of them deigned to even respond to my request and one of them lied about using anything other than official email for district business. As a hint to public officials, there are at least two people involved in any communication. More on that in a later column, perhaps.

What have we learned about the ability for a Wisconsin citizen to peer into the workings of our government?

First, if a government wants to be obstinate, there is not much that a citizen can do about it. While the city of West Bend and Washington County were appropriately responsive and cooperative, the West Bend School District and board members threw up multiple roadblocks including ignoring requests and imposing an unnecessary and exorbitantfees. As a private citizen, all one can do is sue the government at great personal expense or file a complaint with the district attorney or attorney general. Historically, neither agency has ever been aggressive in enforcing open records laws. Government looks out for government.

Second, all three governments are doing a poor job of retaining and making available public records to occur outside of government-provided technology. In our modern age, it is not uncommon for public officials to communicate with citizens, vendors, lobbyists, employees, and others through multiple digital channels including SMS, social media, and various chat technologies. In fact, this is becoming commonplace with the ubiquitousness of personal devices.

If those public officials are using those technologies, they are creating a public record that should be open to public scrutiny for a reasonable amount of time. Otherwise, it is far too easy for our government officials to conduct themselves as angels in their official email while hiding their corruption in their personal devices. Every government needs to take the proactive step to implement policies regarding the preservation and retention of public records irrespective of format.

Wisconsin has great laws regarding open records, but they are only as good as government officials are willing to obey and enforce them. We still have work to do to ensure that our government is open and accountable.

Build the Wall

Or comparable physical barrier.

That is all.

Food Stamps May Run Out

The nation has 3.9% unemployment. We are in an economy with full employment. There shouldn’t be very many people using food stamps.

The White House and House Democrats, locked in a bitter political struggle over border wall funding, have started raising alarm that the food stamp program, one of the most significant forms of aid for low-income Americans, could run out of funds in coming weeks if Congress doesn’t act — an apparent attempt by both sides to increase pressure on Congress to end the shutdown.

Senior administration officials said last week they think the program has enough money for January, but not enough to cover all benefits in February, a scenario that could lead to a major cutback in benefits for millions of recipients, The Washington Post reported on Friday. The following day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office blasted out the story to reporters.

But the Trump administration may, in fact, have more leeway to use reserve funds to keep food stamps afloat if Congress and President Donald Trump don’t reach an agreement to break the impasse, which has shuttered nine of 15 federal departments, including the Department of Agriculture, for 17 days.

Hazy sunshine in local government

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. I share my uneven experiences with Open Records Requests with three local governments. Here’s a part:

What have we learned about the ability for a Wisconsin citizen to peer into the workings of our government?

First, if a government wants to be obstinate, there is not much that a citizen can do about it. While the city of West Bend and Washington County were appropriately responsive and cooperative, the West Bend School District and board members threw up multiple roadblocks including ignoring requests and imposing an unnecessary and exorbitant fees. As a private citizen, all one can do is sue the government at great personal expense or file a complaint with the district attorney or attorney general. Historically, neither agency has ever been aggressive in enforcing open records laws. Government looks out for government.

Second, all three governments are doing a poor job of retaining and making available public records to occur outside of government-provided technology. In our modern age, it is not uncommon for public officials to communicate with citizens, vendors, lobbyists, employees, and others through multiple digital channels including SMS, social media, and various chat technologies. In fact, this is becoming commonplace with the ubiquitousness of personal devices.

If those public officials are using those technologies, they are creating a public record that should be open to public scrutiny for a reasonable amount of time. Otherwise, it is far too easy for our government officials to conduct themselves as angels in their official email while hiding their corruption in their personal devices. Every government needs to take the proactive step to implement policies regarding the preservation and retention of public records irrespective of format.

Wisconsin has great laws regarding open records, but they are only as good as government officials are willing to obey and enforce them. We still have work to do to ensure that our government is open and accountable.

 

Saudi Arabia Modernizes

Sort of.

Saudi Arabian courts will notify women by text message when their husbands have been granted divorces under a law that took effect Sunday.

The initiative is aimed at concerns that Saudi men were increasingly neglecting to tell their wives they were divorced.

Lawyer Somayya Al-Hindi told Okaz/Saudi Gazette that Saudi courts in the past heard many cases of Saudi women still living with their ex-husbands without realizing they had been divorced.