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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

Friday, December 23, 2005

Beaver Dam needs you!

There's an open seat on the Beaver Dam School Board after Kathy Pals announced last week she's decided not to run this spring.

As was explained in a post this fall, we need fiscal conservatives who support educational funding reform to step forward to fill this seat, and to challenge incumbents Jim Szopinski and Paul Uttech. (It should be noted, Szopinski was not elected, but appointed, after Joe Militello Jr stepped down earlier this year).

Uttech showed signs following November's failed referendum he may be starting to "get it." According to this article in the Daily Citizen:
Board member Paul Uttech said that he wasn't sure citizens disagreed that the district had budget issues. They were just saying the referendum wasn't the way to solve it.

"I'm encouraged by the turnout," Uttech said. "Obviously people are paying attention to what is going on with the district. I don't think they are telling us that educating the students isn't important. What they were saying is this isn't how we will solve the problem."

That's right Paul, educating students is important, but controlling out-of-control spending is just at critical.
We all want our kids educated, but not at any price. Nothing can come at any price.

Here's a tip on controlling spending: When 82 percent of district costs are labor related, it's time to decrease the cost of labor. I know the teacher's union is the second most powerful bargaining unit in the nation, but it's time to begin peeling it's fingers off the necks of our school's budgets.

Unchecked Leftist Teachers Need Restraint

I was surfing the web tonight, looking for information about the Rainier Timber Company for a possible investment opportunity, when I came across this website. It's called a "webquest," and it's something teachers incorporate into their classrooms. It's basically a teaching tool in which students use information on the web to solve a set of problems.

This webquest has been created by Francesca Moen and Melanie Tait, teachers at Meadowdale Elementary School in Edmonds, Washington. It is a publicly funded school. Ms. Moen teaches 3rd grade, and Ms. Tate teaches 2nd grade.

Here's the content of the webquest their students work on:

OH NO! The Poopy-Head Timber Company is threatening to cut down all the trees in the rain forest to make toothpicks. The Poopy-Head Timber Company has been a rival of Gill Bates, a well known and very rich corporate guru, for many years. The Poopy-Head Timber Company angered Mr. Bates when they cut down all the trees on Mt. Rainier to make toilet paper. Ever since then, Mr. Bates has been looking for a way to put The Poopy-Head Timber Company out of business. To do this, Mr. Bates needs to get information about rain forest critters and their habitats. He will use what he learns to teach The Poopy-Head Timber Company about their importance so that they will stop their evil projects. You have been hired by Mr. Bates to join his Rain Forest Explorers to gather information to help him.

Gill Bates wants you to find out why different types of animals are important to the rain forest. In order to do this, you and your group of explorers will be creating a booklet to tell about the importance of rain forest animals and their habitats. Your published booklet will then be presented to The Poopy-Head Timber Company CEOs to convince them to stop all timber cutting. The CEO of The Poopy-Head Timber Company and its board has agreed to attend a meeting to listen to each group present its publication and arguments about why the animals of the rain forest are important. So, grab your hiking boots and let's hit the jungle!

(After a series of steps that have the students select one "critter" from the rain forest and research facts about this animal, the teachers writes this):

Step 10: Now is the time to look at and think abouteverything you have learned about your critter.
1. First, you will write a paragraph explaining what the rain forest would be like without your animal. Think about how the rain forest might change if your animal disappeared.
2. How would the disappearance of your animal effect other animals or the habitat of the rain forest? Could it change the way other animals live or eat? Is it possible that some of the plants would be effected?
3. Is your animal threatened or endangered? That means, is it possible that your animal could become extinct (be gone forever)?
4. Now use all this information that you just learned to write a paragraph about why your animal is important to the tropical rain forest. Don't forget to give good reasons and examples.
Step 11: Whew! That was a lot of work. You're almost finished. Pick up the special packet from the publishing center to write the final draft of your chapter. Remember, look at the evaluation page to make sure you included everything that Mr. Bates needs. Once you feel you have done your best with your writing and pictures, get together with the other explorers in your group to put your booklet together. Make sure all the pages are in the right order. (Don't staple it together yet
because you still need to a make a cover page.)
Step 12: As a group of Rain Forest Explorers, design a cover. Discuss and agree what you want the cover to look like. Here is what is required on the cover:
1. An appropriate title
2. The names of all your group members
3. A relevant picture (Remember, every member of the group should have a chance to help). Once you are done, go to the publication center and assemble and publish your whole booklet. You should be proud of all your hard work and now you are ready to present your booklet to The Poopy-Head Timber Company and its board members.

Wow! What an experience! First, you learned about the rain forest layers and some of the animals that live there. But most important, you learned some of the reasons why those animals are important to the rain forest habitat. You even had the opportunity to help convince The Poopy-Head Timber Company to stop their destruction of the rain forest. You did a GREAT job!

So, there you have it. The 7 and 8 year olds of Edmonds Washington have been exposed to radical environmentalism in the classroom; A controversial view that only a small segment of the general population agrees with.

Here's my test of the leftist public school system of America. If we begin emailing the administration of this school, what are the chances that we will get these teachers to stop using this webquest? I say we give it a try.

Here's what I'm asking you to do. Create an email to Dr. Nick Brossoit, the District Superintendent for Edmonds School District #15: brossoitn@edmonds.wednet.edu
Then, cut and paste the following message, or create one of your own:

Dr. Brossoit,
I'm disappointed to learn that 2nd and 3rd grade students at Meadowdale Elementary School are being exposed in the classroom to the biased, environmentally-extreme viewpoints espoused by Ms. Francesca Moen and Melanie Tait, through their use of the webquest "Rain Forest Explorers," found at this link: http://ttt.pugetsoundcenter.org/projects/2003/ttt03036/teacher.htm

Those of us with a more balanced view of the economy vis-a-vis the environment would appreciate you and the administration of Meadowdale Elementary School prohibiting Ms. Moen and Tait from using this webquest, and require them to introduced politically balanced curriculum into the classroom.

Thank you,

After you send the message, wait and see if you get a reply. If you do, please post it in the comments section. Also, if you wrote your own email, leave that in the comments section too. I'm interested to see what creative messages we've sent to Dr. Brossoit. (Please be respectful, there's no reason to believe that he won't be responsive to our request. Well, yes there is, but we should still be respectful.)

Good luck, and Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

NYC transit union out of control

NYC transit workers went on strike this morning in an ongoing battle over pension benefits.

...The very conditions of their job also grind them down and generate resentment, said Marian Swerdlow, a sociologist and the author of "Underground Woman," a memoir of her four years as a subway conductor.

"The working conditions are more physically onerous, the treatment by managers more disrespectful, and the abuse from the public more hurtful, than any other group of public workers in the city experiences," Dr. Swerdlow said.

Good Lord, I hope no one is buying that load. Considering the near total lack of education and experience needed to perform transit jobs, there's nothing that warrants the city providing them with inflated salaries and lush benefits.

Ask yourself: Assume you work in the private sector, there is no social security, and you have no company supplied pension, at what age would you plan to retire knowing you have to completely fund your own retirement? Understand, the average American is expected to live until he or she is about 80 (compared to the their mid-60's just following WWII).

Your answer might be different than if you were counting on a pension or social security to help out.

But consider: Where do those pension and social security payments come from? And Why would the age at which you plan to retire change if you had to count on only yourself to pay for it? Shouldn't we treat public dollars with as much "respect" as we do our own? Certainly. But labor unions do not, and few others do, including bureaucrats. It's referred to as "The Tragedy of the Commons."

Back to reality (sort of): The NYC transit authority (management) wants to raise the retirement age for new transit workers to 62, from 55! Conversely, liberal legislators in Albany and union leadership actually want to see that age DECLINE...to 50! If this doesn't demonstrate a complete detachment from reality what does?

Certainly, a strike of this nature is disruptive. However, the transit authority's management and NYC's elected leaders have to stand firm and demonstrate that public labor unions do not have carte blanche access to the taxpayer's dollars. This is the time to hire scabs, break the union, and inject some common sense into the public sector.

Uh oh Russ

The latest zogby polls show
1.) Russ Feingold is not considered a candidate among national pundits
2.) Republicans want Giuliani to run
3.) Democrats want Hillary ro run
4.) Republicans are leading the race

Monday, December 19, 2005

Farmers versus Free Market

Who's going to win? Farmers or free market fiscal conservatives? The recent vote in the state assembly supporting an ethanol mandate in Wisconsin leaves conservatives wondering if their leaders have up and left Madison for good.

Like with the repeal of the annual gasoline tax, a grassroots effort is building to stop passage of the ethanol mandate bill.

Staff at Senator Scott Fitzgerald's office say he is still undecided. Of course, Dodge County and the rest of his district includes a large number of corn farmers, but it also contains an even larger number of non-farming conservatives who wish to see the free market protected.

Scott's brother, Representative Jeff Fitzgerald disappointed when he elected to vote for AB-15 last week. Now, conservatives in the area are calling for Senator Fitzgerald to buck family lines and vote "nay."

"Dictator" Hankes

Some Beaver Dam Aldermen have privately said Jack Hankes is abusing his mayoral power by blocking the hiring of Tom Stebbins for Director of Public Works. While within the letter of the law, Hankes is eliminating representative democracy and replacing it with a dictatorship, contrarians say.

In an earlier post I printed a letter the Mayor sent to the Common Council that explained his reasoning in evoking section 2.4 of the city's municipal code. There's a growing movement by disgruntled Aldermen to amend section 2.4 in the coming weeks, and it could be voted on as early as the Council's first meeting in January. If successful, the Common Council would then have its say on whether Stebbins should become the next Public Works Director.

However, the Mayor's move will, at least, delay Stebbins' hiring.

The move also drives a wedge into an apparent divide in city leadership, and interestingly, members from both sides sit on the recently appointed Executive Committee. That group has been charged with the duty of reducing city spending by as much as $400,000 and part of the discussion will undoubtedly center on the Public Works Director.

Hankes will face at least three challengers this spring as he vies for reelection, and while seemingly the strong favorite, how this latest move plays out could have an impact on the outcome.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Ethanol mandate moves to the Senate

The anti-free market assembly has sent AB-15 on to the Senate where its fate is unknown. The ethanol mandate bill won't be delt with until after the new year. In the meantime, it's imperative you contact your state senator and let him or her know that you want a "No" vote on the ethanol mandate bill.

The folks at Wigderson Library and Pub blog are keeping track of where the Senators stand on the issue (for now). For the record, Dodge County's Scott Fitzgerald is undecided on the issue. (Rep Jeff Fitzgerald voted for the bill.)

Political tension rising in Beaver Dam

During the past 96 hours, a schism has developed within the elected leadership of Beaver Dam. Mayor Jack Hankes has issued this memo to members of the Common Council.

(emphasis included in mayor's memo)

Date: December 17, 2005
Subj: Director of Public Works
To: Common Council

It was brought to my attention Wednesday that there is a procedural misstep with the intended advance of the DPW appointment to the Common Council for Monday night, December 19th. Section 2.4 of the Municipal Code requires that the appointment come from me, and that I seek Council ratification thereof. There are some additional requirements found in the language of that section which we may all find instructive.
It is my humble opinion that a modest delay in this appointment is warranted given that the Council is about to begin its $400,000 cost reduction task. It is not my intention to needlessly delay an appointment, but I’d like to be well along in our discussions regarding city organization before we commit to an appointment of this nature. I’m enclosing some additional background thought on this which may be helpful.
I understand this may surprise the Council as it surprised me, but I do not think this needs to derail our collective intent to run more efficiently and less expensively, and I will gladly advance an appointment for your consideration when we approach a workable plan for achieving our task.

Jack Hankes

Supporting Information
There has been considerable time and effort invested by some to appoint Mr. Stebbins to a Director of Public Works position. With a recent understanding that the mayor must bring department head appointments to the Council for ratification, and with my reluctance to do so at this time for Mr. Stebbins, it may be helpful if the Council understands my reasoning for the position I’ve taken in this matter. My reasons are as follows:

With budget pressures nearing chronic status it is clear we have to consider some functional / organizational change if we have any hope of providing services to our citizens in the future. The DPW vacancy must be a part of that discussion.

The first interview committee (early ’05) selected their preferred qualified candidate, a registered professional engineer with a wealth of public works experience. We were unsuccessful in landing him, however I recall that Mr. Stebbins didn’t make the cut for an interview back then. Here we are several months later and Mr. Stebbins is now the front-runner under the same job description. How would we explain that? What changed? (Answer: The interview committee membership.)

Second, we eliminated the education requirement at the behest of Alderman Capelle. In my estimation that hugely amplifies the importance of experience. The current favored candidate’s experience pales in comparison to the current Public Works Supervisor.

Third, recent committees, previous mayors, and earlier Boards didn’t document any performance issues with the present Public Works Supervisor, nor did the former DPW. How can the current supervisor meet nonexistent performance expectations? What standards was he to meet? How was he to know the Board had any concerns? There's certainly nothing in the record to suggest any committee or supervisor has ever been displeased with his performance (except that I nominally downgraded him last summer on a couple of things).

Fourth, the proposed salary is out of line. If this candidate is appointed he would instantly be the highest paid city employee, with minimal public works experience and minimal schooling beyond high school. The proposed salary of $70,000 would be higher than the registered professional engineer we retired, and the total cost for this appointment would approach $100,000. While he may be creative and he may have some ideas, the Board could implement any of those ideas at any time without this hire. The proposed salary approaches the cost of two union employees. What message does this appointment send to our bargaining units? Further, wouldn’t citizens be puzzled if our first move to reduce costs $400,000 is to add almost $100,000 to our costs?

Fifth, if the Board knows what it wants for operational improvements, why hasn’t it shared them with the current supervisor? If it doesn’t know what it wants for improvements, why rush to fill the position? By suggesting the current candidate has all of the good ideas the Board is effectively saying it has none of its own, which I find hard to believe.

Finally, it is not my purpose to needlessly forestall an appointment. My purpose is to vigorously pursue the $400K task the Council endorsed at its last meeting, and I presume the DPW will be an integral part of that discussion. When the time is right and when we have some agreement on what we want this position to be and who may best meet the requirements of the position, I won't hesitate to advance an appointment.

With Respect to Amending Section 2.4
OrdinanceSome have opined that the mayor’s office should not have appointive power, particularly those campaigning to appoint Mr. Stebbins. A contrary view may be helpful.

If a committee wishes to control appointments of persons reporting to the mayor, then it must also assume responsibility for the candidate’s performance. In the case of the Board of Public Works, there is a clear and incontrovertible record to indicate the Board has no interest in such a responsibility.

The current Board Chair and some alderpersons freely criticize the current supervisor but make no effort nor assume any responsibility for documenting and correcting those behaviors they find unsuitable. If I were looking for a public works job I’d absolutely avoid Beaver Dam under those conditions.

Second, if I am a candidate for such a position, why would I want five bosses? Why would I want to work for a committee?

If I’m a department head, who is my daily go-to supervisor?

I believe the framers of 2.4 carefully crafted its provisions, and I’d ask the Council to weigh carefully the practical aspects of any such change.
Thank you.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Journalistic logic

Journalists are supposed to be the members of society whose "BS monitors" are set to the highest level, but often they fall well short of that mark. Here's an example from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Some Assembly Republicans said the DNR went too far with its competing package, and that some property owners might be forced to tear down existing piers.

The DNR denies that and has estimated that 99% of all docks in Wisconsin
would be allowed to remain standing under rules it sent to the Legislature last

If 99% of all docks would be allowed to remain standing, what becomes of the remaining 1%? In Wisconsin 1% of all docks he a heck of a lot of docks. From this report, it seems "Assembly Republicans" are right to claim "some property owners might be forces to tear down existing piers."
How can the JS reporter be so obtuse as to miss, or worse ignore, the clear impact of the DNR statement?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

There's still time to make a difference on Ethanol

Call you State Representative right now and tell him or her to vote "no" on AB-15.

If you're not sure who your representative is, follow this link and enter your address.

A vote on this issue could come as early as Thursday afternoon or evening. It's very important to make contact TODAY!

Scott Fitzgerald remembers Proxmire

Dodge County's State Senator says he first met former US Senator William Proxmire when he was a teenager working at the Watertown Daily Times. Fitzgerald remembers him as a nice, plain-spoken man who just enjoyed getting out and meeting the people he represented.

Proxmire once said, "I have spent my career trying to get Congressmen to spend people's money as if it were their own. But I have failed."

Fitzgerald says "all who serve the taxpayers today in Washington, in Madison and in cities and towns throughout Wisconsin would do well to remember these words and commit themselves to carrying on Sen. Proxmire's legacy by being responsible stewards of the taxpayers' money. "

Well said.

Ethanol amendments to be considered

Rep. Stephen Nass (R-Whitewater) will introduce a series of amendments to AB-15 (the ethanol mandate bill) that could make the bill more palatable for fiscal conservatives.

Nass has sent letters to every member of the Assembly explaining each amendment. Here are transcripts of each: (my comments are in italics)

(This amendment would protect counties that reach ozone non-attainment once ethanol is mandated. There has been plenty of debate over ethanol's impact on ozone levels and vehicle emissions and that has led to groups like the Sierra Club (pdf) coming out against the mandate. Also, and more importantly, higher NOx levels would cost industry money and jobs, as they would be limited in the amount of emissions they could create.)

Dear Colleagues:
I am introducing Assembly Amendments, individually listing each county, to AB 15, exempting each named county from the mandated use of ethanol gasoline. This series of 72 amendments is important because of the potential increases on a statewide basis of ozone pollution, particularly nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. NOx emission standards are being put into effect on a statewide basis as a part of Wisconsin's ozone pollution control strategy. The NOx standards are already projected to cost Wisconsin businesses in excess of $1 billion for compliance. This estimate was computed without taking into account an ethanol mandate and the projected increase in air pollution. The potential exists that the ethanol mandate could worsen the burden for employers in each county in meeting the NOx emission standards. It is possible that individual businesses would reduce employment levels, delay facility expansions or consider moving operations to more favorable location.

(This amendment would essentially give legislators a chance to see the impacts of an ethanol mandate for 3 years before the legislation would lose effect in 2010. An amendment like this would certainly make the bill more agreeable to fiscal conservatives, and could allow ethanol to gain a foothold in the marketplace as a superior alternative to gasoline)

Dear Colleagues:
I am introducing Assembly Amendment (LRBa1335/1) to AB 15, providing a sunset of the ethanol mandate for September 30, 2010. This amendment would provide a sunset after three years of the ethanol mandate. If the arguments advanced by the proponents of ethanol prove to be factual, then a future legislature will certainly extend the mandate beyond September 30, 2010. However, if the arguments advanced by opponents of mandated ethanol prove to be factual, then the mandate expires and the problems are resolved.

(This amendment also adds to the bill's appeal. It would essentially give consumers a choice at the pump. The current high octane gasoline would become the ethanol blend fuel, and if the pro-ethanol lobby's claims about ethanol bringing down the price of gas 7 to 8 cents is true, the high octane gas should have a price comparable to regular unleaded.)

Dear Colleagues:
I am introducing Assembly Amendment (LRBa1334/1) to AB 15, that would change the mandated use of ethanol from 87 octane gasoline to 91 octane gasoline. This amendment would provide a mandated market presence for ethanol in the form of 91 octane gasoline, but still allow consumers to utilize no ethanol 87 and 89 octane gasoline. Based on current pump prices, it is common that 87 octane gasoline sell for about 10 cents less than 91 octane gasoline. Ethanol proponents have argued that requiring 10% ethanol could lower prices by 7-8 cents per gallon. If this is true, this amendment would lead to 91 octane gasoline selling for nearly the same price as 87 octane gasoline. A potential win-win for all parties on this issue.

(This amendment would delay the implementation of the ethanol mandate until 12 months after the completion of a state funded study on the issue. The study would look at the impact of ethanol on air quality, energy consumption in the manufacturing process, and on vehicle fuel efficiency)

Dear Colleagues:
I am introducing the following Assembly Substitute Amendment (LRBs0412/1) to AB 15, to require an official state study of ethanol. The ASA would prohibit the Department of Commerce from prescribing a mandated use of ethanol in automotive gasoline until 12 months after the study and its findings have been submitted to the Legislature.

(Nass's final amendment would delay the start of the mandate until 2012, allowing more time for study of the issue. The Dam Insider believes this amendment is the best alternative to failing to vote down the bill.)

Dear Colleagues:
I am introducing Assembly Amendment (LRBa1333/1) to AB 15, that would change the effective date of the ethanol mandate from October 1, 2007 to October 1, 2012. The later effective date in more in compliance with the federal law target for increased of renewable energy. It would allow the mandate to be passed and provide additional time for study and review of the mandate before it takes effect for consumers. Attached below is a copy of the amendment.

Ethanol Debate

Republicans who support this anti-free market bill are doing so in an effort to boost the state's economy (they believe the ethanol mandate will create job through increased demand for the corn-based fuel and the possibility of investment capital coming into the state to help develop more ethanol production facilities), diminish the nation's dependence on foreign oil, stabilize gas prices in Wisconsin (if less of the gas is made from petroleum, then off shore natural disasters will have less of an impact on the price of gas), and *this point is key* force a market alternative where one will not naturally develop (The thinking goes like this: Since the vast majority of gas stations are owned by petroleum companies, they will never voluntarily incorporate ethanol into their fuel since that will reduce their profit margin).

The counter to the last argument is this: If ethanol is a superior alternative, then petroleum companies that own the vast majority of fueling stations will be drawn into producing ethanol. Further, if ethanol is vastly superior, then there will be an incentive for ethanol production companies, such as United Wisconsin Grain Producers, to help individual entrepreneurs open competitive fueling stations throughout the state. These would, in time, out sell non-ethanol stations and either gain market share, or force petroleum-owned stations to offer the corn-based fuel.


Ethanol bill on today's agenda

AB15, the bill that would mandate all gasoline sold in Wisconsin to be between 9.2% and 10%ethanol is up for debate on the Assembly floor today!
This bill runs counter to conservative, free-market principals, eliminating the possibility of consumer choice as the gas pumps...
The bill likely has enough support to pass the Assembly...
Representative Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) will introduce a number of amendments that could make the bill more palatable...

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Prepare to pay more for Bucky

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The University of Wisconsin-Madison announced today that it will require companies that produce officially-licensed university apparel to purchase 25% of their goods from factories that allow their workers to unionize.


The University of Wisconsin-Madison announced today that it will require companies that produce officially licensed university apparel to inflate their costs of production and, in an effort to compete on price, offer substandard products.

Merry Holidays

The raging debate among politically polarized pundits over "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Holidays" is enough to make me scream "Bah Humbug!"

The voices of the Wisconsin right-wing like radio hosts Charlie Sykes and Mark Belling, and Gubernatorial candidates Mark Green and Scott Walker make you think America's lawyers are perched on your front stoop with a cup pressed up against the door listening for an inadvertent "Merry Christmas," before they start knocking with a lawsuit.

At the same time, bureaucrats (especially high ranking officials in school districts and over-zealous lefties hopped up on Holiday Franken Nog) have mis- (or over-) interpreted the Constitutional separation of church and state. Ask the average 4th grader to sing a holiday song learned in school and it's just as likely they'll break into the 7 Days of Kwanzaa (mp3) as they will the 12 Days of Christmas.

Some might say teaching about non-Christian holidays is important for diversity. I agree, but let's keep Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and other December celebrations in perspective. According to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation in October 2004, of the 90.6% of respondents who said they would be celebrating a December holiday, only 1.6% of consumers celebrate Kwanzaa while 4.6% celebrate Hanukkah. Schools aren't the place for preaching about holidays, but they are the place for teaching about holidays.

Yes, political correctness is steadily painting Christmas culture into a corner. But, Christmas isn't about the Governor's tree in Madison or what's printed across the top of the latest circular from Fleet Farm.

Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Christ and the gift of Grace God gave to us through His Son. And that's not something I look to the government or my local merchant to remind me of.

So stop complaining about the "attack on Christmas" from the left and start living the spirit of the season through your family and friends.

All that bitterness is keeping you from enjoying the celebration anyway.

More union whining

Not quite up there with fire fighters and police officers, but close, are the prison guards. In post-9/11 America, these government employees are considered more highly than a Holstein ambling down a Delhi side street. And worse, this elevated status has strengthened the union's perceived bargaining positions. No cop or firefighter really believes the mayor or common council will actually eliminate his or her job. In the past few days, however, Wisconsin's prison guards discovered that the "hands off" treatment doesn't extend to them.

The guard's union spokesman, Marty Beil (a mountain of a man whom I wouldn't want to sit across the bargaining table from) says the elimination of 55 union jobs is
"retribution against the union for working with the Legislature to cut unit manager positions."

But, Corrections spokesman John Dipko paints a different picture,

"we have streamlined our costs and increased our efficiencies to a degree where we had to look at correctional officer vacancies. We made deep cuts in the central office in Madison, including 200 positions in the 2003-05 budget to save us $10 million a year."

The difference in perspectives is striking. The union feels victimized while the state is simply taking advantage of efficiencies.

The bottom line: There's no excuse for anyone in government to spend even one dollar beyond what's needed to keep departments operating. If the Department of Corrections believes it can safely and effectively house inmates while reducing the departmental costs structure, then its leaders should be applauded for respecting the taxpayers.

Been awile

It's been a few days since my last post. In my free time I've been reading a book about economic globalization. I'm sure in the coming weeks I'll have some thoughts based on the book.

In the meantime, while clicking around the internet, I stumbled upon an image of a guy that looks strikingly like Daily Citizen editor Aaron Holbrook, and shares the same name!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Senate passes Gay Marriage amendment

A proposed constitutional amendment that would define marriage in Wisconsin as between a man and a woman is one step closer to being voted on by residents of the state, after the measure passed the Senate moments ago on a 19 to 14 vote. The amendment is authored by Senator Scott Fitzgerald and cosponsored by his brother, representative Jeff Fitzgerald.

J Fitz to vote yes

Just hours after the Senate voted to repeal the state's automatic annual gas tax increase it's become clear that the issue will easily pass the Assembly Tuesday.

Representative Jeff Fitzgerald has announced his support for the bill.

Local Senator fails to back constituents

The State Senate voted overwhelmingly Tuesday afternoon in support of a measure to allow law abiding citizens to carry a concealed weapon, a right afforded to us by the US Constitution. 18 of the state's 19 Republican Senators supported the bill. Only 14th District Senator Luther Olsen of Ripon voted no. Readers who live in the areas of Markesan, Alto, Brandon, Kingston, Green Lake and Ripon should keep this in mind during future elections.

For the record, Senator Scott Fitzgerald is a coauthor of the bill, Representative Jeff Fitzgerald is a cosponsor.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Gas tax repeal will pass

A source close to the State Senate believe today's vote on the repeal of the automatic gas tax index will pass with at least 20 votes, and possibly as many as 22, the number needed to override a potential Veto from Governor Doyle.

As of Monday night, four Republicans were thought to be voting against the bill, but the source believes up to three of them may change sides.

Meanwhile votes on the conceal carry and gay marriage will also pass.

Fitzgerald to stand up for Conservative ideals

Today the State Senate will make three votes on three issues, each with a clear conservative side. Senator Scott Fitzgerald will come down on the right side with each vote.

On the issue of Gas: Senator Fitzgerald announced Monday he will vote to repeal (PDF) the automatic indexing component of the state's gas tax.

On the issue of Gay Marriage: Senator Fitzgerald has been outspoken on the issue of defining marriage as between a man and a woman as opposed to a wife.

On the issue of Guns: Earlier this year Senator Fitzgerald told the Wisconsin Radio Network, "We're moving in the right direction. This (concealed carry) is working fine in 45 other states, and has been working fine for years."

Listen to debate on the Senate Floor (streaming audio requires media player)

Friday, December 02, 2005

Kestral Ridge needs a change in priorities

Area golfers are hoping that the new ownership group at Kestrel Ridge in Columbus signals a change in the quality of the golfing experience.

From media reports, it seems Michael Eisenga and his ownership group have their sights set on improving the dining area and clubhouse. However, it's the course that needs work.
Bare, patchy fairways. Sandy, uneven greens. Muddy, smelly water hazards. I understand this course is new on the scene, but visit The Oaks in Cottage Grove. This course has been open less than three years and has been managed well.

An investment in a golf course isn't cheap, but if one's going to be made, it should be done the right way, with the right priorities.

Good luck Michael.

You're going to need it.

For some, levy limit has worked

"Thank goodness we have [levy limits]"
- Beaver Dam Mayor Jack Hankes

I know Governor Doyle's tax freeze is an easy target for political commentators shooting from the right, and that's fair. The freeze wrongly exempts school districts and city/county borrowing, and allows municipalities to shift the taxpayer burden from tax bills to utility bills.

But, when the freeze is coupled with local politicians who have the taxpayer's best interest at heart, it works. So, perhaps the credit shouldn't go to Doyle, as much as it should to the local leaders who follow the "spirit of the law."

Mayor Hankes and a handful of Aldermen should get credit in this regard.

The group led an effort this year to pass a budget that includes a responsible tax increase just less than the law allows. But, more important, it's the way these leaders balanced the budget that counts. The city is holding its ground in the growing battle with the city's unions over compensation contracts.

The workers want what the spineless Dodge County Board gave to the county employees: a 3% annual pay raise. The city has countered with a more responsible offer: 2% in the first year, 1% in the second year, plus an insistence upon moving to the less expensive Health Savings Account system of insuring workers.

Supporters of organized labor point to the county and say, "those unions got 3% a year, and the county didn't increase its tax levy at all in 2006."

Of course, they fail to mention how the Board of Supervisors and Chairman Russ Kottke balanced next year's budget: by transferring $3.8M from the county's savings account. That's a whopping 13% of the entire $28.6M tax levy!

The Dodge County Board of Supervisors, the Beaver Dam School Board, and the Beaver Dam Common Council have been unwilling to withstand the outrageous demands of organized labor for years, and now it's catching up with them, and us as taxpayers.

Finally, the city has a group of leaders who possess the gumption to do what is right, even though it's unpopular around city hall.

To them I say: "Make sure you spend enough time with John and Jane Taxpayer, so you remember who you are serving...then pass that message along to the good ol' boy's club in Juneau."

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Gard nailed to the wall

Wednesday, WISN's Mark Belling took Assembly Speaker John Gard behind the woodshed for his failure to support a bill repealing the state's automatic gas tax increase. Listen to the audio here. (mp3 audio - Courtesy of Badgerblogger.com)