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Inside the Beaver's Dam

The Dam Insider is keeping an eye out for you, tracking the elected leaders of Beaver Dam, Dodge County, Wisconsin and beyond. Email your thoughts or tips. Emails may be published unless otherwise requested. Requests will be honored.

Location: Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, United States

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Favre to blame?

Yes, the season's a lost cause at 2-9, but that doesn't mean we should stop assessing individual performances. Again and again this fall, we've heaped blame for the Packers' woes on injuries, the former GM, injuries, a defensive secondary with a penchant for laundry, coaching and injuries. And while we all realize that future Hall-of-Famer Brett Favre is, at times, like a man stranded on an island, playing with tomorrow's used car dealership owners and yesterday's NFL Europe retreads, that excuse can't be used carte blanche, least of all by him.

The Wisconsin State Journal's Jason Wilde this week took special note not only of Favre's interception that led to Sunday's loss at Philadelphia, but of Favre's attitude about the mistake afterward.

...what was really troubling was the way Favre didn't simply admit that the throw
was stupid and, in sharp contrast, criticized second-year fullback Vonta Leach for the pass he dropped on the Packers' second offensive play of the second half.
Favre tried to soft-pedal his comments about Leach, who was temporarily playing in place of veteran William Henderson (mild concussion), but they still sounded pretty bad.
"It's funny how getting that opportunity," Favre said of Leach, "some people rise to the occasions and some people don't."
It is funny. It's also too bad that a three-time NFL MVP made not one, but
two foolish mistakes and had more to say about a dropped pass just after
halftime than he did about his own gaffes.

Following the previous week's game in which wunderkind Samkon Gado yet again fumbled to contribute to the loss, Gado exhibited great reproach. Not for the secondary, the injuries, the former GM or coaching...Instead it was reproach for himself.

Favre's a great quarterback: Always has been, hopefully always will. He'll be enshrined in Canton, and rightly so. He's won many games with his gunslinger, against all odds approach. But he's lost his share too. We Packers fans tend to say, "ah, I guess you have to take the good with the bad." Maybe. But that doesn't mean Favre can shirk responsibility for the "bad."

Brett, stand up and take your lumps. You deserve them.

And beat those Bears.

Economic Humor

10. Economists are armed and dangerous: Watch out for our invisible hand

9. You can talk about money without having to make any

8. You get to say, "trickle down" with a straight face

7. Mick Jagger and Arnold Schwarzenegger both studied economics and look how they turned out

6. When you are in the unemployment line, at least you will know why you are there

5. If you rearrange the letters in "economics", you get "comic nose"

4. Although ethics teaches that virtue is its own reward, in economics we get taught that reward is its own virtue

3. When you get drunk, you can tell everyone that you are just researching the law of diminishing marginal utility

2. When you call 1-900-LUV-ECON and get Kandi Keynes or Tina Smith you will have something to talk about

1. Economists can supply it on demand

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Contact your legislator

Will Wisconsin mandate that all gasoline sold in the state contain 10% ethanol? Debate starts up in the Assembly next month.

Staff at Representative Jeff Fitzgerald's office say the matter is still being discussed and he hasn't reached a conclusion. You can share your opinion with the Assemblyman by emailing or calling his office at (608)266-2540. Tell him to "vote no on AB 15"

Many Republicans are in danger of earning RINO status with this vote.

Baseball Hall of Fame

Every year I enjoy going through the candidates on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot and giving my thoughts on who should get in. Here's the 2005-2006 version (not all eligible players listed):

Albert Belle - Not until he changes his name back to Joey. Actually, his numbers are tremendous, there's just not enough of them. Almost had 400 homers in just 10 seasons - he was among the first of the modern day slugger (er, juicer).

Bert Blylevin - I would have said yes because Don Sutton and Gaylord Perry are in, but looking at their numbers, they were better than Blyleven, and IMO, they barely deserved getting in, so Bert's out.

Will Clark - the '89 homer alone almost gets him in, but he did too little in too few seasons. Did you realize in 5 games of the '89 NLCS vs the Cubs he was 13-20 with 24 total bases and 8 RBI?

Dave Conception - Damn similar to Bill Mazeroski without the World Series heroics. Neither should be in.

Andre Dawson - His knees should be in the hall. He gets into my jheri curl HOF with Mell Hall and Jesse Barfield...but he comes up just THIS short of Cooperstown

Gary DiSarcina - that's just funny

Steve Garvey - One of many firstbasemen whose fans think they have a strong case, but historically, he doesn't match up.

Dwight Gooden - THE best pitcher in the National League for three seasons...THE biggest career bust after that. Drugs drugs are the anti-milk.

Goose Gossage - 9 time all star, 8 times in the top five in saves, thrice led the league, five times in the top five in Cy Young balloting. He's very good, and I hope he stays on the ballot for another year. I don't have a problem if he gets in. He was one of the best of the innovative closer crowd of the late-70's (with Sutter, Fingers and others).

Orel Hershiser - '88 was among the best ever. The rest of his career was nice, like him.

Tommy John - Did you know that he won the Hutch Award. Never heard of it? Me neither.

Donny Baseball - Sorry, not getting in on my ballot. Just 6 quality seasons.

Willie McGee - What's that smell? You not getting in.

Jack Morris - Most wins in the decade of the '80s. Most over quoted stat: Jack Morris had the most wins in the decade of the '80s. . .No soup for you.

Dale Murphy - Great for 8 seasons, and that's about 4 short of a Hall of Fame career

Dave Parker - Contrary to popular belief, he was pretty pedestrian in the postseason, and who can forget the magical season he had in 1990 with Milwaukee? Actually, if he or Dawson got in one day it wouldn't kill me, but I wouldn't vote for him.

Jim Rice - Another 'tweener. Like the hated Mike Greenwell, I'd eat his card too. In a heavy Ivan Drago accent: "If he gets in, he gets in."

Lee Smith - Put him in. He's the Hank Aaron of closers.

Bruce Sutter - There ought to be a wing in the Jheri Curl HOF for beards. 5 times he led the league in saves. Did you remember that he won the cy young in '79? I didn't. He was the first modern day pitcher to throw the splitter, and Rob Neyer and Bill James list him as having the best one of all time. In a couple more seasons, the doors should open to him

Alan Trammel - Any chance of getting in was put to rest by his 186-300 career record as a manager. Just kidding. Anyway, he's a tourist at Cooperstown like you and me.

John Wetteland - I thought for a moment that his career numbers might be similar to Mariano Rivera's. That moment is over. But, he does look better in a baseball cap (albeit a dirty one) than Mo.

Final tally - Lee Smith gets my only vote

Monday, November 28, 2005

Will downtown Beaver Dam turn around?

Here's one thing we can all agree on: Downtown Beaver Dam, like Main Street in many other small cities, is becoming economically irrelevant. But, can the problem be fixed and how? Those are the questions we will debate.

Members of the City Council have started looking at those questions. The effort has led to a substantial increase in the rent paid by Weyco Group for use of the Lakeside shoe warehouse. But, that's just a nifty spillover.

The real goal: to make downtown attractive to commercial developers.

Not too long ago I asked a prominent Beaver Dam realtor his thoughts on downtown revitalization. He told me the area hasn't collapsed enough (meaning real estate prices haven't fallen enough) to make it attractive to buyers. But, he added, "area developers and realtors are keeping an eye on prices [for those buildings] and when they fall, we'll be there."

You see, even though Walmart and its cadre' of remora-like developments skews Beaver Dam's commercial district northward, there's still the economic potential for Front Street to pull out of its depression without "corporate welfare" in the form of TIF districts and other tax subsidies.

In the coming months, the Finance Committee will (hopefully) assess the city's operational structure to trim spending. At the same time, those same aldermen will discuss pumping millions of dollars into a problem that might fix itself.

CRG, not CWD in Dodge County?

It's probably refreshing to see a three letter acronym beginning with "C" in the headlines this time of year and not find a story about the deer herd and the testing of brains. Here in Dodge County hunting is covered more often by the media than politics, and perhaps rightly so. But, look for the letters CRG to start showing up, if The Daily Citizen and other media outlets do their job.

CRG stands for Citizens for Responsible Government (no, this isn't another Bob Moreau-led anti-Walmart group). This is a conservative, Milwaukee area-based government watchdog that has made its presence felt in southeast Wisconsin politics. Now, the group is aiming for Madison's top target and plans to include Dodge and the state's other 71 counties in its efforts:

According to this article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
Chris Kliesmet, the CRG Network's Milwaukee-based executive administrator, says the group aims to have "boots on the ground" in all 72 counties and raise a war chest of $1 million from a membership base of 10,000 people.
Here in Dodge County, CRG is sure to find plenty of support for removing Jim "my tax freeze is better than your tax freeze" Doyle from office.

In the 2002 gubernatorial election, 65% of Dodge County voters cast a ballot for a conservative candidate (Republican Scott McCallum-48% and Libertarian Ed Thompson-17%) against Doyle. Given the right political climate, a full 3/4 of Dodge County voters can go conservative.

Dodge County has been home to its share of recall petitions and motivated voter bases in recent years (Town of Herman wind farm issue-failure, Betty Balian/Moose Balian issue-successful, Town of Theresa gravel quarry-successful), but none with as much potential support as an effort to remove WEAC's darling, Jim Doyle.

It would be easy for CRG to overlook Dodge County given its sprawling population and rural nature, but the rewards to be found here would make the effort worthwhile.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Mayor drops a line

Beaver Dam Mayor Jack Hankes sent an email the other day. Much of it is in response to your emails posted earlier in the week. Interesting reading:

I enjoy the blog, daminsider. I can add a few comments:

I too, think the city employees are courteous and helpful; they have always been that way to me. I know, too, that most have no use for my message of change, and they freely share that opinion with others around town, who then share it with me.

The trash-pickup idea is intriguing. For the record, Waste Management rates jumped 3% for '06 based on their contract.

Actually - quite a few aldermen and I use email / internet. We're just very careful that we don't conduct meetings that way - which is illegal.

Police pay ranges from $3074 per month (after 1 year probation) to $4024 in base pay. To that is added longevity and other benefits which normally range 35-45% of base pay (that varies by employee). This is based on the contract in place 7-1-04. All labor agreements are available for viewing in city hall, and they will eventually be posted on the website, at least on an intranet basis. This is all public information.

It's not our intent to waste $10K studying the YMCA building. As an outcome of the '06 budget process we budgeted up to $25K for a citywide facility study instead. The Senior Center and Library are quickly outgrowing their facilities, we may need a northside police/fire station inside of ten years, etc. The Police Dept. study of several years ago remains on file, and many of the needs identified therein remain valid today. We won't reinvent the wheel.

The city is negotiating with the unions. AFSCME's letter to the editor had a number of inaccuracies. Remember that it takes two parties to agree; the city could also claim the unions are dragging their feet as they haven't agreed to settle on our terms, either. Our terms are at least affordable within the levy limits (thank goodness we have those), while theirs are not. We are several hundreds of thousands of dollars apart, and I'm not willing to hamstring this city by devoting more money to people and less to streets, parks, and other infrastructure we need to keep the city in good shape, nor is the Council. The pie is only so big.

With respect to responsible budgeting, I could write for hours about that. Traditional practice was to include a compensation reserve fund to pay for eventual settlements. I liken it to putting puppy chow in the corner - the puppy will always find it. If we set aside $300,000 for wage increases as part of a budget process, guess what? We spend the whole $300,000. With levy limits that's no longer an option. The 2006 budget is about $800 less than the law allows. While we're sensitive to employee needs, our universe is bigger than that.

Actually, I submitted a budget for my office that included an [effective] $3400 pay cut. I proposed to pay more for my family's health insurance, and for my dental insurance. The personnel committee said I couldn't unilaterally do that. The council size question is a good one - it may come up again before too long as part of a reorganizational discussion, I don't know.

Keep this blog going - I think it's a great forum for such exchanges, as long as contributors work with good information. Most any city hall information can be made available in a heartbeat, so don't hesitate to ask.

Happy Thanksgiving - Mayor Jack

Monday, November 21, 2005

Digging in the email bag

Every now and again, I'll respond to the emails I receive from readers. (You can send me one too, at daminsider@yahoo.com )
(My response is in italics)

Dam Insider,
Firstly, I think that there are a lot of things that residents would like to say, on your blog, if they had a chance, along with greater awareness of your existence. Is it your intention to allow our personal thoughts, ideas, considerations? Or would you like to solicit our views for inclusion in your thoughts?
I would love to hear from readers in Dodge County and elsewhere. I've added a message board to the margin on the blog for your use; you can always comment to a blog I've written; or you can send me an email (I'll respond to every email, either in a future post, or via reply). As for greater awareness, email the link to your friends and coworkers and tell them to check it out.

I think that the city workers should be given a nod of recognition for their efforts, which for the most part are very good in my view. Sure, the city 'dump' could have better hours, but Saturday open is a real plus. And many times I've seen them go out of their way to help someone unload, clean up and in general be very courteous. Absolutely - Nearly every city employee I've had the pleasure to meet has been pleasant and helpful

Thirdly, I'm sure that the monolithic Waste Management Company is going to be looking at some serious rate changes soon. Pperhaps - based on increased fuel costs, or do you have other information? An idea I've wondered about is why can't the residents, with help of city hall, come up with some creative curbside offerings. One is to potentially halve the amount of stops by coming up with a plan whereby I would put my trash with my neighbors trash (or vice versa). Some time study work could surely come up with a cost savings proposal, or City Hall could test a plan to see if there could be some savings. I think all ideas deserve consideration, but I'm not sure how popular the idea of dragging your garbage a few houses down the street would be to the average homeowner. There's an idea I'd like to hear reader's opinions on.

I think that there are a lot of things that we, individually, can come up with to help the overall functions of the city. Yet, strangely enough, I find that those I talk with would rather bang out an e-mail than pick up the phone and call their Alderperson, self included. Me too! I think that's a real benefit of this blog. Many aldermen, the Mayor or Beaver Dam, a few County Supervisors (those who know how to use the Internet - and I'm sure that number isn't too large), and other elected officials read this blog from time to time, so your comments and ideas will be heard.


Dam Insider,
I'm trying to compare the wages of the police in the Dodge County area. Could you tell me what the wages are for the Beaver Dam police?
I don't have that information at my fingertips, but you could certainly call or email Beaver Dam's finance director, John Somers, and request it. It's public information.


Dam Insider,
Suspected Teen Murderer has 54 guns at homeThis is a truly amazing story that I think supporters of the concealed gun legislation proposal in Wisconsin should read.Tell me, how in the world does a 18 year old murder suspect accused of killing his parents end up living in a home where there are 54 guns? I'll tell you how; my hunch is most of them were legal guns that ended up on the black market. Yet, some folks still want to pass a law that sends even more guns out there. The Constitution affords us the right to bear arms. Like many problems in society, this isn't a supply problem, it's a demand issue. Limiting law abiding citizens access to firearms will not make America a safer nation; Limiting children's access to violence will. Parent must intervene in their children's habits of watching TV shows and movies, playing video games and listening to music that includes violent images and ideas. Children are nearly completely desensitized to violence (and sex for that matter), making either a reasonable option without considering the consequences. I believe this is the biggest social problem we face today.


Dam Insider,

Why is the City of Beaver Dam paying $10,000 to do a study on the YMCA? It's an older building than City Hall currently is in. Did the city not pay $50,000 for a study to remodel the current city hall a few years ago? What happened to that study? The issue at city hall is one of space and the solution has to be the combination of what's most effective and most efficient. If it's possible to move some city operations into the (soon-to-be former) YMCA building on Front Street, freeing up space for the Police Department to expand, and this is a cheaper and (at least nearly) equally effective option as expansion would be, then it needs to be considered. Who's to say that using an existing building for a new purpose isn't a good idea? I think $10,000 to answer that questions is reasonable. The key however, is that the Common Council must be committed to expanding to the YMCA building if the study shows it's a viable and reasonable option. If the Council doesn't believe in this concept, then the study would be a waste of $10,000.

Why isn't the city negotiating with the unions? Is it the union's fault the city didn't budget appropriately? I don't think it matter whose fault anything is. The past is the past. And in the past, the city agreed to labor contracts that simply cost too much today. Certainly the unions could have done the math to determine the revenue stream wouldn't eternally keep up with the quickly increasing labor costs.

Is it good business practice to budget for something that isn't a sure thing, in other words, have a signed contract for? I don't think you can ever budget for a sure thing. The nature of a budget is a projection. I budget my income for next year. That could go up or down, there's no guarantee. The union employees have families just like everyone one and they are trying to make ends meet. The taxpayers also have families and are trying to make ends meet. Unfortunately, many of them don't have jobs that feature nearly free retirement pensions, health care, and annually increasing salaries.

Did anyone else (Mayor, alderman, non-represented) take a $2-3,000/year pay cut? The City Council won't even reduce it's number to help save money. Whey do we have as many aldermanic wards as the City of Madison, a city 10 times our size? Why isn't the city giving the non-represented their raises for the year? In a tight year, few business hands out raises to their employees. 2006 is projected to be a tight year for entities that rely on property taxes for much of their revenue. Why do they have to wait until the union contracts are signed. They should lead by example.

If the taxpayers of Beaver Dam think the city employees have it so great, they should come and look at the places they have to work in. If you looks at the city's spending over the past decade, you'll see that much of its ability to purchase equipments, desk furniture, and other capital has been eroded by the increasing share of spending that goes to labor expenses.

Very Confused

Thanks for the emails, keep 'em coming.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

New feature

I've received a handful of emails asking whether or not the public can comment about government in Beaver Dam, Dodge County and elsewhere. The answer: Absolutely.

I've added a message board in the left-hand margin for your use.


The Dam Insider

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Questionable priorities

State legislators should approve a bill that would require abstinence to be taught in public school health classes as the preferred behavior.

What's the issue here?

I want you to read, first hand, all the controversial terms of this bill. Here's how it's summed up by the Legislative Reference Bureau:

This bill provides that, if a school board provides instruction in human sexuality, reproduction, or family planning, it must ensure that all course materials and instruction do all of the following:

1. Present abstinence from sexual activity as the preferred choice of behavior in relationship to all sexual activity for unmarried pupils.

2. Devote more attention to abstinence from sexual activity than to any other behavior.

3. Emphasize that abstinence from sexual activity before marriage is the most effective way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

That's it.

It doesn't bar schools from teaching about condoms or other forms of birth control. It doesn't even stop schools from the controversial instruction of masturbation or abortion.

Opponents of this bill, like Milwaukee Democrat Tamara Grigsby, say, because 60% of teens today are sexually active, a message of abstinence will fall on deaf ears. "The reality is, (abstinence) is not the choice that's being made right now," says Representative Grigsby.

Children are teachable, even into their teens. They tend to accept what they are taught. If we start delivering a message of abstinence when children are young, it will make a difference. And there's nothing preventing a teen who has already had sex from making a decision to abstain in the future. Too many parents, teachers, and it appears, legislative leaders, aren't willing to share that message with our children. Instead they opt to take the path of least resistance. It's too easy for a parent to say, "ok, you're having sex, just use a condom." That's not enough!

Kids today are inundated with sexual messages on TV, in the movies, in magazines, on the radio and in their music. Kids are curious, and they want to emulate that which is presented as being "cool." But, most of use agree kids aren't ready for sex, not emotionally or morally, anyways. It's up to the adults of this world to teach against having sex at a young age.

The fact remains, the only 100% effective method of preventing unwanted pregnancy and the transmission of STD's is by abstaining from sex until married. These are the concrete effects of abstinence. However, making the choice not to have sex at a young age has another effect, one that is entirely more important to the development of a child: self-respect. And that's something sorely lacking among many in society today.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The grossest story I've ever read

This one will make you antsy. Don't click the link if you're eating.

Can you say, "no?"

Here's an example of yet another school district being run like a bureaucracy, not like a business. Voters, time to send another message.

The Mequon-Thiensville School District will go to referendum in February, asking voters permission to exceed revenue caps by $7.5M over three years.

One board member, Susanne Rattner, had the gall to wonder if the district was asking for enough money.

The problem here, once again, is the upward spiraling cost of personnel in the district:

District officials have said the shortfall is largely the result of revenue increasing about 2% a year while the state's law on qualified economic offers results in 3.8% annual increases in salaries and benefits for teachers.

Anyone associated with WEAC, or The Union, as it's becoming known, will point to the 2% figure complaining the state's revenue limits on schools don't keep up with costs. However, the issue that isn't being addressed is the 3.8% increase in compensation.

Yes, the QEO allows districts to impose a 3.8% annual increase in compensation (who among us wouldn't enjoy an imposed 3.8% raise every year?), but that law doesn't require the districts to settle that high.

When did men and women with college degrees, professional experience and (I assume) common sense start thinking they could settle contracts 2% or more above revenue levels and not expect to run into trouble? At what point was the wool entirely pulled over the teachers' eyes so as to make them ignorant to the fact that their unwillingness to settle for reasonable pay increases is the sole reason schools have to make cuts in programs, staff and other capital investments?

Voters, continue going to the polls saying "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" (mp3)

Pour me another

I just love stories like this one. I do. Really.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Why not the Y?

**Editor's note: In an earlier edition of this post, the word "Mayville" was mistakenly used in place of "Horicon." The YMCA does not run Mayville's TAG Center, it manages the Horicon Aquatic Center. Still, the point of the post remains unchanged. The Dam Insider apologizes for any confusion generated**

If the YMCA of Dodge County is able to run the Horicon Aquatic Center for $55,000 (36% less than it costs the city to do the exact same thing), then Beaver Dam officials should consider this alternative too.

Beaver Dam doesn't have a swimming pool like Horicon, but the city does offer recreational activities like swim lessons and swim access at Crystal Beach. So, why not start talks with YMCA leaders about similar management in Beaver Dam? These talks shouldn't just be limited to the management of swimming:
Government has reached a point where is needs to eliminate the duplication of services among jurisdictions (like merging dispatch centers or contracting township fire, police and other services). Anytime government can scale back or eliminate departments because a market alternative exists, it needs to be explored.

The Beaver Dam Parks and Recreation Department has budgeted over $630,000 to do all that it does in 2006. That's too large of a number not to begin formal discussion with Rob Johnson and the YMCA to find out if they can do the same (or more) for less.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The great Gas Price Gouging debate

You can't have it both ways.

Environmentalists, mainly Democrats (generalizing here), have long been clamoring for the use of renewable, alternative energy sources, in lieu of oil and gasoline. Now, as oil and gas prices have become so volatile, spiking in the days after Hurricane Katrina, these same Democrats, along with way too many Republicans, are investigating the oil companies' profits, accusing them of artificially inflating prices.

First, the key impact of $3.00 gasoline was the greatest decline in American gas demand in decades. The consumer reaction was predictable and would have only been greater had prices continued to climb. Environmentalists listen up: A higher gas price is your ticket to potentially more Earth-friendly fuels.

Second, the increased prices in the days following Katrina actually helped U.S. consumers. Had prices remained at their pre-Katrina price levels (about $2.30), the fear-induced gas hoarding would have dried up much of the nation's short term gas supply. The higher prices prevented this from occurring, allowing those who needed the gas most the ability to get it, as long as they were willing to pay the premium.

This, my friends, is the free market at work, and it's a wonderful mechanism as long as it remains "free."
Government intervention, like anti-price gouging legislation and Capitol Hill investigations into oil company profits serve two purposes: Pacify those who do not understand market economics, and get congressmen reelected.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

You're invited to contribute

Some of you are undoubtedly new to the world of weblogs, or "blogs."

Certainly, finding out what I have to say is the reason you've read this page up 'till now, but the blog only gets better if your voice is heard.

At the bottom of this post and others, there's a "comment" link. I encourage you to make your voice heard...You can do so while remaining anonymous, or if you'd rather, you can leave your name. Either way, DON'T BE SILENT!

School Funding Referendum Fails

A resounding victory for the taxpayer today as 3 out of every 4 voters in the Beaver Dam Unified School District turned down a referendum that would have allowed the district to tax millions of dollars a year above and beyond limits imposed by the state.

Superintendent Brian Busler says the district will use money from its reserve fund to cover the budget shortfall in the coming year. After that, he says cuts will have to be made.

There may be short term pain felt in some areas by students and parents. In the long run however, victories like today's will drive reform in the spending habits of school districts, and the negotiation habits of the teachers' union.

Media coverage for the Dam Insider

I'm proud to say that after only 7 weeks of blogging on Beaver Dam area politics, Inside the Beaver's Dam has drawn the attention of a local media outlet. WBEV Radio (1430 AM) is running a news story today featuring comments from Mayor Jack Hankes talking about this weblog.

The Mayor has apparently shared this site with the city's Alderpersons. The Dam Insider can only hope that members of the Beaver Dam School Board, and Dodge County Board of Supervisors will also take note.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Drunk on Ethanol

Farmers in the area might support AB 15 (The Ethanol Mandate Bill), but many motorists have concerns. Why force drivers to pump E10, a blend of gasoline and 10% ethanol, when supporters of the corn-based alternative fuel say it's superior to plain ol' gas? Shouldn't consumers be left to vote with their dollar?

Here's one op-ed that agrees.

Here's another from the normally left-leaning Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The Dam Insider has queried State Representative Jeff Fitzgerald and Senator Scott Fitzgerald for their opinions on the matter. I'll share with you any response I receive.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Vote "No"

Tuesday residents in the Beaver Dam Unified School District will vote on whether to allow the district to tax nearly $8M above revenue limits during the next 5 years, and about $2.5M every year thereafter.

Certainly, if the referendum fails cuts will be made in the district. Teachers and support staff will be fired. Class sizes may increase in some areas. Certain electives may be eliminated. It will be a shame if this has to happen, but it would be a necessary evil.

For years, the teacher's union has negotiated very lucrative contracts for its members. As the cost of health insurance has risen through, teachers have not been paying "their share." The cost of the teacher's premium paid by taxes has skyrocketed. Further, a large portion of teachers are "baby boomers." As a result, many have recently retired (as young as 55 while receiving full pension benefits). Districts everywhere are fighting upward spiraling pension and retired employee's health insurance costs. You see, through the years, teacher's salaries have not increased at an alarming rate, but the cost, and future cost, of their benefits have. Now it's time to start paying the piper.

Districts are entering the era of the perfect storm: Large numbers of teachers reaching retirement age; high cost benefits for all teachers, both working and retired; and district budgets that are now more than four-fifths personnel costs (try affording new computers, books and other facilities when 82% of your budget goes up by nearly 5% a year, while your revenues increase by only 2%). Some districts have had a significant increase in the number of retirees in the past few years, with more to come in the near future. Many of these districts find that more than 10% of their annual budget is paid out to personnel who don't work anymore! Imagine one dollar out of every ten you make going in the garbage. (GM and Delpi can
probably relate to this scenario).

The time has come for districts to GET SERIOUS at negotiation time. It's time that the teacher's union stops lying about it's support for education (the facilitation of children learning) and is exposed for what it really does: Line the pockets of liberal politicians willing to pass laws or provide state funds that, in the end, result in more dues being paid to the unions, thus feeding the beast.

The unions are choking off the ability for this nation to educate its youth. Uninterested, unmotivated and overpaid staff spend much too little time supporting the intellectual, physical, emotional, ethical and spiritual growth of our children. Many teachers today are undesirable to have in the classroom, but district officials either lack the authority or interest to remove them, and in the worst case scenarios, lack both.

We as citizens who care about education and believe it is the best way to maintain a strong nation of ethical, productive and responsible adults must be proactive in making changes to the system. Run for school board, question your school's leaders (often and vocally), don't just complain about rising taxes, but educate yourself on possible solutions.

Vote "No" Tuesday in Beaver Dam, but don't let it end there. That's just the first step!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Underpaid Teacher

Are teachers professionals? This is such an interesting economic question. If at one point teachers weren’t professionals, State licensing standards have certainly made them so. By and large, teachers can’t practice without higher education and certification. Comparing teacher compensation to that of other professionals is difficult. First, most teachers are government employees providing a service that the law requires people to use. Second, teachers are, for the most part, unionized, something most professionals cannot claim. These two factors alone eliminate many of the free market forces that would naturally establish teacher salaries. Beyond these factors, a large portion of teacher compensation comes in the form of non-wage. The health insurance and pensions provided to teachers and many other government employees are far superior to private sector employees, and teachers receive a hefty number of days off of work. These benefits cannot be overlooked when comparing educators to other professions, and when the dollar value of these benefits is added up one would be hard pressed to make the argument that teachers are underpaid.

Excerpt from an article by Greene and Winters:
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average public elementary school teacher in the United States earns about $30.75 an hour. The average hourly pay of other public-service employees - such as firefighters ($17.91) or police officers ($22.64) - pales in comparison.

Indeed, teachers' hourly rate exceeds even those in professions that require far more training and expertise. Compare the schoolteacher's $30.75 to the average biologist's $28.07 an hour - or the mechanical engineer's $29.76 or the chemist's $30.68.

Whose hourly pay is competitive with that of teachers? Computer scientists ($32.86), dentists ($35.51) and even nuclear engineers ($36.16).