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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

Monday, January 30, 2006

Request for emails

I'm searching for email addresses for candidates for Beaver Dam Common Council, Mayor and School Board.

If you know one of the candidates or their email, please either pass it along or ask that person to email me at daminsider@yahoo.com

Thanks for the help.

Deputy's actions defended

Dodge County Sheriff Todd Nehls left a thorough comment in response to the previous post. I believe his response deserves more attention:

Deputy Kevin Homan is an outstanding Deputy Sheriff who treated this investigation just like any other Deputy Sheriff would have regardless of who was involved. The attempt to tarnish his image and question his judgment is unacceptable. Yes, there is a mandatory arrest law that is not adhered to at times due to cases when the victim contacts law enforcement well after the incident has occurred and the “honeymoon” period has already started. It is at this time that law enforcement officers throughout the county use discretion in making an arrest. It is my understanding that both victim and perpetrator sat around the table and discussed the events with Deputy Homan.
Even with a mandatory arrest requirement, the perpetrator most likely will bail out within hours of the arrest. There is also a 72 hour notice that forbids contact between victim and perpetrators and we know that many times these restrictions are waived by the victim so the perpetrator can return home. So it is a mandatory arrest, not a mandatory incarceration. I stand strong behind each of my employees; I stand strong behind our record as it pertains to domestic abuse, our arrests and the number of convictions.
One must also understand that many victims of domestic abuse have a change of heart and refuse to cooperate with the investigation and prosecution.
Mr. Nichols attempt to tarnish the image of a family dedicated to community service and service to their country is appalling. As an elected official I expect to be held accountable and hind nothing. For Nichols to take a shot at my father is another story. Maybe he should write a follow up that reflects on my fathers dedicated service, the recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, the Purple Heart, Wisconsin’s Law Enforcement Officer of the Year and many others.
Was this column politically motivated? Yes it was. It was soon after the incident that an employee aggressively sought the report even though he had no involvement or any responsibility regarding its investigation. Some people will never be comfortable or want to realize that the citizens of Dodge County elected me by a tremendous margin over several others. Those same people find it hard to accept the huge successes the department has enjoyed under my leadership. It is those same anti-Nehls folks that have resigned themselves to smear the family name “anonymously”. They fail to realize that their friends talk and have tried to change their thoughts and behavior with limited success.
I have and always will take full responsibility for the actions of every employee of the Dodge County Sheriff’s Department. There was not nor ever will be favorable treatment of anybody (including this case), regardless of relation to any employee of this department.
As the Sheriff, I pride myself and am proud of the entire department when it comes to the level of integrity, professionalism and level of service we provide. That has been and continues to be my promise to every citizen in Dodge County as well as those who visit our great county.

Sheriff Nehls

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Irresponsible Journalism

When he read Saturday's posting entitled "Did Nehls get preferential treatment?" Dodge County District Attorney Steve Bauer answered the question:

Resoundingly "No!" Not by my office. Mike Nichols of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had all the facts. I spoke with him and my assistant spoke with him. He had no story, no evidence of any favorable treatment, absolutely nothing. Yet, he used smear tactics, half-truths, and innuendos to make a story, smearing Ed Nehls (with a gratuitous swipe), Todd Nehls, Assistant District Attorney Mary Brejcha, myself, and most importantly, the victim of the domestic violence incident. I was going to e-mail him to communicate this to him, but then I read his latest column where he makes fun of the complaints others have made against him for the same type of smear tactics. He has no shame, and I won't waste my time on him.

I want to tell you what happened in this case. When it first came in, the secretary flagged the case, pursuant to my request to always identify any possible conflicts of interest. I tolerate no favoritism in this office. I think I have already proved that. The question in a conflict of interest determination is whether or not the prosecutor handling the case
Reasonably believes that his or her prosecution may be materially limited by the lawyer's responsibilities to a third party or by the lawyer's own interests. This case was assigned, pursuant to written policy, to ADA Brejcha. I did not believe that she had any conflict. Carefully, I checked my analysis with Gib Thompson, an experienced career prosecutor; he also did not see any conflict of interest.

First, ADA Brejcha is not from Dodge County, does not live in Dodge County, has just started working in Dodge County in April, and probably could not identify Todd Nehls without his badge as she has no regular contact with him. She certainly doesn't know Tim Nehls. No one, other than the victim herself, which is her constitutional right, spoke to ADA Brejcha about any possible dispositions of this case--not Tim Nehls, not Todd Nehls, and not myself. ADA Brejcha called this one, as she does hundreds of other cases, on her own. The case clearly fell within the exercise of reasonable discretion of a prosecutor. As Nichols himself pointed out, other defendants received the same disposition. Tim Nehls will be under conditions of bond for one year, will need to obtain anger management counseling, and pay costs. If he fails to do this, or involves himself with any further incidents, he will be returned to court and sentenced on the battery charge to which he pleaded guilty.

The type of journalism Mike Nichols practices is destructive. First, he harms the victim of this crime. How likely do you think it will be for her to report continued abuse should it happen, after having her private affairs published in the newspaper? Often, domestic abusers continue their abuse, which requires much harsher intervention of the criminal law. As prosecutors, we always need to empower the victims of these crimes by listening to them, and intervening appropriately. Nichols destroys this trust.

Second, Nichols undermines the public's confidence in the criminal justice system, for his pleasure alone. If I or some other government official is actually doing something wrong, then we certainly should be held accountable by the press. But to take a cheap shot at the criminal justice system for the sake of writing some drivel to meet a column deadline is inexcusable, and weakens our society.

Third, cheap shot journalism feeds the bureaucrats' credo to never do anything that will call attention to you, including making any changes. The easiest way to survive in a bureaucracy is to keep your head below the radar screen and do nothing to make political enemies. I, and I assume Todd Nehls, ran for public office to accomplish something positive for the people of Dodge County, which requires us to make changes in an attempt to keep government serving the citizens, not just the employees of the government. When somebody challenges the status quo of a bureaucracy, entrenched interests complain, and you make political enemies. These political enemies use every tactic they think of to undermine you, including providing false information to journalists. The responsibility of the journalist then comes in, to separate the wheat from the chaff. Nichols did not fulfill his responsibilities. His column undermines people who want change to benefit the citizens by supporting the falsehoods of the complainers.

So the bottom line is that my office showed Tim Nehls no favoritism. All conflict of interest procedures were in place and implemented. The case was prosecuted on its merits, and the merits alone--as all cases should and must. I will continue to represent the interest of needed change and clean government, and I will never back down to yellow journalism and journalists.

Thank you for this forum.

Steven Bauer
District Attorney
Dodge County

Political opponents of the Nehls family have privately questioned whether the handling of the case by law enforcement was appropriate.

Accepting Bauer's explanation of his department's handling of the case leaves only the Sheriff Department in question.

I'm no lawyer, but I understand Wisconsin is a mandatory arrest state in cases of violent domestic abuse. If Nichols' details are accurate (and based on Bauer's comments there's no guarantee that they are), Deputy Homan declined to arrest Tim, instead opting to write a report and suggest counseling. It was only later that Tim was arrested, after the DA's office filed charges.

So, if that's accurate, and I can't be sure that it is, then it appears Nehls' critics still have a beef.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Did Nehls get preferential treatment?

Early last month Dodge County Sheriff Todd Nehls' brother Tim was arrested for allegedly beating his wife. Until today, the only forum in which this was covered was right here Inside the Beaver's Dam.

Today, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Mike Nichols published more of the details of the incident.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Another snow job

Last summer, Beaver Dam school district officials were caught red handed trying to pull the wool over the eyes of residents. You might remember the referendum information the district distributed. It included a table displaying the cost of the referendum to the average homeowner with figures like $49 the first year, $51 the second year, $54 dollars the third year, and so on. 99 out of 100 people who looked at that table that showed five years of additional taxes believe they would be paying about an addition $250. IN FACT, the annual figures were cumulative, meaning in year one you would pay $49, then in year two you would pay $49 + $51, or $100 dollars, and so on. So, the real cost would have been over $750. Classic attempt at deception by the schools.

They're doing it again.

Dating back to last year, Superintendent Busler, School Board members and others have been repeating the mantra: "We've cut $1.3 million from the district budget over the past three years. Now, there's nowhere else to cut without impacting students."

The first half of that statement is simply not true. They second half is up for debate.

According to the district budget (pdf file) (page 26 of the pdf file, or page 19 of the printed budget):

Total expenditures:
2002-2003 $33,905,366.30
2003-2004 $35,131,533.43
2004-2005 $35,856,625.41 (unaudited)
2005-2006 $37,493,460.00 (budgeted)

In whose world is this considered a CUT? This is a classic snow job by politicians using "fuzzy math."

I'm sure their explanation is the following: "If we didn't cut back on staff hours or numbers the total expenditure figure would have been $1.3 million higher than it actually was, ergo we cut $1.3 million from the budget."

When they say they cut spending, the ACTUALLY reduced the spending increase. A cut in spending would mean total spending would go DOWN, not UP.

It seems we have to analyze everything the school district and board doles out - nothing can be taken at face value...Now there's a great example for our kids!

Stressful time in the district

As the Beaver Dam School District copes with its budget shortfall, finger pointing has reached a new high. An recent exchange in the editorial pages of the Daily Citizen between fabricated district residents alleging name calling, uber-Superintendent supporter Eric Becker and embattled Superintendent Brian Busler is evidence of that. Below is an email from a confirmed district resident who wishes to remain anonymous to the readers.

Dear Mr. Eric Becker

I'm writing this letter to set the story straight. I'm a friend of one of the uneducated housewives that works for the school district.

You may feel that the person that you brought to Beaver Dam Unified School District when you were on the school board or the person you would defend in a slander lawsuit (Dr. Busler) didn't say the things he said; the staff at the school district knows better.

The Administrator's at the school district tell the unions that there is no money yet the Administrator's get a pay raise at the cost of every uneducated housewife losing two hours of their pay and benefits (which did not impact students). All Principals have lost two hours for their office staff. At Middle School that means that there is eight hours less for secretarial time to help students per week. The Administrator's making those cuts neglected to include their secretaries.

In closing, if you think that Brian Busler is such a great person. Please hire him at your law office because in the near future the voter will have their say again when they vote the incumbents out.



From the Daily Citizen (1/04/06):

Two incumbents and five others have filed papers to run to become members of the Beaver Dam Unified School District board of education.

Incumbents Paul Uttech and James Szopinski as well as Jim Skelly, Russell Fortune, Mark Kirst, Katharine Ann Berkvam and Marge Jorgenson will be vying for three spots on the school board. Kathryn Pals will not seek re-election.

The board is in need of members who understand the implications of the upward spiraling cost of health care, the unreasonably low retirement age for district employees, and the high costs of pension funding and payout. This era is an economic crossroad for all levels of government. A change is needed...Whether the right candidates have stepped forwards remains to be seen.

The solutions to our education crisis in American are many. Proper allocation of already ample funding is an integral part, as is teacher accountability...something that is missing with union protection.

These steps need to be taken before further reform can occur.

Our schools needs to prepare students for the 21st century's global economy: more training in advanced math, engineering, physics and chemistry. The addition of Chinese to foreign language departments: This should occur at the expense of funding for French and German. Spanish should remain. Students should be taught how to read and write technical journals and manuals. They should be educated in the language of forms and documents, with a de-emphasis on classical literature. Social Studies should focus more on economics, less on psychology and sociology. History should be taught with a focus on the lessons of the past and the implecations those lessons have today. Time should not be spent memorizing dates, names and other minutiae.

We, as a nation, need to stay ahead of the global economic curve. Right now, we are behind that curve, and an exhausting fight to get TO the curve lies ahead. However, that fight HAS to be fought, and then we must push forward. Otherwise, we will spend, eat, and entertain ourselves right into the Second World.

The consequence of complacency is grave. It's how empires are felled.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A Change of Heart

Wednesday night the Beaver Dam Common Council will meet in special session to vote on a deal with the firefighter's union, under which union members will switch to a Health Savings Account form of insurance, saving the city thousands of dollars a year. All city unions (including the largest group: AFSCME) except two (cops and dispatchers) had already made the switch weeks (and in some cases, months) ago.

It's at the VERY least coincidental that in the past two weeks this blog has witnessed a back-and-forth between Mayor Hankes and the union. Had this continued, it's possible the mayor would have gone into greater detail about the union's compensation and benefits, something I don't believe union leadership would like to see happen.

As a side note: the Wednesday night Common Council meeting was pushed back to 8:30 PM, I believe in an effort to allow Aldermen to attend the annual Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet. Some Aldermen privately were miffed by the meeting's original timing. One would hope that Aldermen won't cast their vote Wednesday night after a few cocktails...although some will tell you it wouldn't be the first time.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Shopping Centers not the answer

In response to a reader's letter last week about Beaver Dam's growth, Mayor Jack Hankes had this to say:

I have a couple of thoughts about city growth, and the person who posted the comments is a lot better aligned with my thinking than (s)he knows. Just yesterday I sat in a meeting and expressed some of the same concerns. I asked a couple of developers sitting in my office a month ago "How many stores are enough?" They couldn't answer.

It is interesting to me how many people think another store will solve city budget issues. Truth be told, a 1% raise for city employees would cost about $54,000, while a new store such as Home Depot will pay something like $32,000 in city taxes. Since many city workers think a 3% raise is the right number, we'd have to add maybe 5-6 Home Depots (or 83 quarter-million dollar homes) annually just to stay even. Rising insurance costs would require another two or three stores annually. Public costs have turned this nation into a tail-waggin' the-dog math exercise.

In the meeting I talked about the $7 retail jobs and how that isn't where our bread is buttered. A family needs probably two $15 jobs just to stay even, especially if they have children. A couple of months ago I read about a retiring Police Chief from the area who felt he was "forced" to retire at age 50 because too many people before him "stayed too long." If I'm a 72-year old checkout clerk making $7 an hour at Walmart so I can help fund a 50-yr old's pension and insurance, I'd be spitting nails.

At any rate, to the person who posted those thoughts, thank you. We're singing from the same hymnal. Mayor Jack

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Is growth a problem? One reader says, "Possibly, yes!"

Thoughts from a reader:

For the last two years I have watched helplessly as the city slowly robs more and more township land for big box retailers and architecurally retarded strip malls. In the wake of such reckless developments comes subdivisions, which spring up like parasites on the backs of landowners who, for years, had been able to turn into their driveways without having to wait for a sting of traffic that could rival a Chicago rush hour. I hear the argument that we are increasing our tax base with these annexations, but if that's true then why is our city at such dire extremes with their budget? I'm also being asked to swallow the news that we're introducing yet another large retailer because menards plans to build out by Sprawlmart. But wait a minute, how's that going to work? I can remember a couple of years ago when the city agreed to have two small auto stores come to town. From that wise decision the city gained themselves another empty building. Which is next to the empty mall, the empty pick-n-save, the empty Green Giant building, the empty Chrysler building, I'm sure you get where I'm going with this.

We are also being asked to swallow the bitter pill of tax increases because our budget is not keeping pace with inflation. But here's an unanswered question I'd like some help on, if we are increasing our tax base with all this development, which is the argument I keep hearing from our city leaders and town board (or wait a minute, did I say town board? I meant the exclusive "it's not who you are but you you know" club)...then where is all this additional revenue going? And another one of the defenses used in regard to the development is the increased job opportunities. Oh really. I'd like to see any one of our esteemed city leaders or town board members support a family while working at Home Depot or WalMart. The sorry fact of it is this...those of us who have lived here all our lives, have graduated from the Beaver Dam Unified School System, have faithfully paid taxes and spent our money at local business HAVE TO WORK SOMEWHERE BESIDES BEAVER DAM just to make ends meet.

I think it's time to look seriously into the Smart Growth plans our city and townships are legally mandated to have on file. It's time to start raising our voices where they can be heard, not just at Walker's or Crystal Creek but at city council meetings, town board meetings, letters to the editor, phone calls to the mayor. Make sure both Neil and Jack know that the days of unrestrained development at the cost of our small town heritage are coming to an end. We are not Madison, nor do we want to be. We are a conservative, agricultural community, we start our day with the Farm Show at 5:00am and drive home with Uncle Bill on the Barn Show at 5:00pm. And sometimes we're lucky enough to be able to pull into our driveway without having to wait.

As a resident who doesn't live near the north side developments, and one who's been known to spend a little too much time in the hardware store aisles, I can't say the addition of Home Depot, the Supercenter, and soon, Menards is personally offensive. However, I do believe that tax base growth based on the retail sector is like building a raft out of paper mache. It's not about whether the raft will flaot, it's about when the raft will sink.

Taxpayers doing what they seem to do best

What do taxpayers seem to do best? Well, pay taxes of course. And the actions, or inactions of three of our city's unions are adding to the burden. The firefighters, cops and dispatchers in Beaver Dam still haven't agreed to a change in health insurance (to the cheaper health savings account). Months ago, employees at the water department agreed, and last month the AFSCME workers (most city employees, including the DPW) did the same, saving the city thousands of dollars a month. The switch to the HSA is imperative for the city to maintain a balanced budget in 2006 and beyond, and every day that the three remaining unions refuse to agree to the new system the taxpayers are forced to spend additional money.

So, why haven't the remaining unions (firefighters, cops and dispatchers) made the switch? This is a question union members haven't been willing to answer. It may strike fear in union leadership to publicly disclose the terms of their contract. Any private sector employees have a pension plan that begins paying out when you reach your mid-50's?...and is your pension plan almost totally paid for by your employer? How about health insurance? What percentage of your company's plan do you have to pay for each month? Does your company even offer a plan? When you retire, do you get paid for the value of the sick leave you didn't use? Hmm, imagine retiring from your job and getting 10's if not 100's of thousands of dollars paid to you because you actually showed up to work when you were supposed to. Do you even get paid sick leave? Perhaps a week a year, at most. Some public employees have leave time (including vacation, personal days, etc.) that adds up to multiple months per year. MONTHS PER YEAR.

Don't be fooled when you hear pulic employees griping about low pay and work conditions (the private sector comparisons provided by the mayor shouldn't allow them to complain about pay any more). The value of the benefits these men and women enjoy is something only dreamed of on the outside (the private sector). Unless, of course, you spent the past 40 years working for GM. But you see the impact guaranteed benefits are having on that company.

In the past, cities, counties and school districts could simply tax more to pay for upward spiraling costs, but now that there are some (much needed) limits in place, public employees are starting to get a taste of life on the outside.

And watch as the unions squirm.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

DPW Director

A victory for Beaver Dam taxpayers last night as 11 of the 13 Aldermen present voted not to hire Tom Stebbins as Department of Public Works Director.

Stebbins' proposed $70,000 annual salary, plus the $30,000 or more in benefit costs were simply too much to justify considering his lack of public works experience and education.

It's certainly possible Stebbins would have brought leadership to the department, however it would have been a considerable risk to offer that type of compensation. Stebbins would have become the city's highest paid single-department director (Don Quarford is paid more, but heads both the water and the wastewater utilities).

The interview process for this position has been questioned privately, and last night some aldermen hinted publicly the have concerns. The mayor was correct to stall the hiring process long enough to allow some aldermen to call it into question.

Mayor's Response

The following is Beaver Dam Mayor Jack Hankes' response to an email from Beaver Dam Firefighter Doug Sackett

You’ve challenged me to respond to Mr. Sackett’s letter. No challenge is necessary.

Mr. Sackett is roughly correct with respect to timing of negotiations. Our first sessions were in the fall of 2004, primarily because we took several months to replace the law firm that had previously negotiated on behalf of the city. The Council made the decision to pursue that change in the summer of 2004, and as I recall it was September before the Council voted to retain Dewitt, Ross & Stevens SC.

Immediately the city, through its attorney Mr. Fulton, approached all five bargaining units (BU) to ask whether they would consider jointly negotiating health insurance as a coalition. All five initially said no.

In January of 2005 the firefighters union raised the possibility of jointly negotiating health insurance. We said "What a great idea!" It took three months to get a letter of agreement from the BU’s and four months to get them to sit down together. With respect to the city dragging its feet in negotiations, we’re hardly breaking new ground. The State of Wisconsin is routinely running at least a year late in its settlements, and sometimes two years. Ask the prison guards.

With respect to not having a contract. Well, I have to be honest; I don't understand the anxiety over not having a contract. I've always been employed and gotten raises because I earned them, not because someone negotiated them for me.

With respect to troubles with the insurance conversion. We told everyone involved that the insurance company and bank needed administrative time to make the HSA conversion. Much of the work was done over the Christmas holidays by insurance company and bank employees because some of these decisions weren’t made until mid-December.

At home, my wife and I covered a $270 medicine tab just after the first of the year, which was no biggie. I guess I can understand Mr. Sackett's disgust, though. After all, those without health insurance (46 million Americans) don't have to endure such inconvenience.

Two unions (IBEW and AFSCME) moved to the HSA plan at about the same time as management. The remaining three could have already switched but haven't. Maybe Mr. Sackett can explain to readers why his union isn't in yet?

With respect to concern about aspiring to a higher ranking job. I'm not sure why a management job would have any appeal to Mr. Sackett. They get a lot of criticism.

With respect to Mr. Sackett’s argument for private sector comparable wages. If city wages are that bad, why would Mr. Sackett continue working for the city? I wonder what Mr. Sackett’s other job pays? If it pays more than his city job, why wouldn’t he just quit and work the other one full time? If it pays less, why would he grumble about what the city pays him?

I’m an ardent supporter of private sector wage comparables, for reasons I’ll explain anytime. Just as an aside, I’ll insert here the salient results of an early-2005 Dodge County wage study, done by an area HR firm. Fifty-one employers in Dodge County submitted data:
Pay ComparisonsCityAverage*% Difference
Accountant, General$21.93$16.28+35%
Clerk III/Accts Payable Clerk$17.44$12.70+37%
Admin Asst$17.61$13.53+30%
CAD Drafter$22.26$16.34+36%
Controller (Finance)$35.47$33.39+6%
Lab Tech$21.34$12.65+69%
Payroll Clerk$17.44$14.51+20%
General Utility$21.26$11.55+84%
Maintenance Mechanic$19.19$16.87+14%
Semi-Skilled Laborer$18.16$11.67+56%
Unskilled Laborer$17.44$9.26+88%

* Averages include city rates. For the most part AFSCME rates were used; researcher established comparisons.

Readers can draw their own conclusions.

With respect to $200,000 in union-proposed savings. I'd have to say I missed that report. Do you really think anyone believes I'd stall in taking $200K out of our operations - with my record? You must be kidding. Show me the report and the math to back it up, and I assure you it'll receive my prompt and undivided attention.

Finally, with respect to bashing the blogger. I chose to run for office and state my case publicly. I knew some of what I would say would be unpopular with employees, and that I'd take some public abuse because of it. That goes with being mayor, especially one who chooses to be a change agent. A blogger, on the other hand, can focus on whatever (s)he sees as issues. I'm thankful (s)he put this forum out here.

Mayor Jack Hankes

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Alderman Speaks Out

The Dam Insider has secured a copy of an email 1st Ward Beaver Dam Alderman Warren Beske recently distributed to members of the media and some employees at City Hall:

Its time that someone speaks up..I went to work Thur. morning and some employees asked "what the heck is city hall doing"I asked "why"? They started tell me what they heard on the radio.First,,They mentioned -either a 50% cut in pay or cut in Alderpersons.WELL,I told them that I wouldn't have any problem with it "if it was all across the board,ALL ELECTED OFFICALS"yes including the Mayors seat,& Court Judge.Then cutting the Mayors Sec. to 4 day work week---WHO will Keep things going ( that fifth day)WHEN YOUR ALWAYS OUT OF THE OFFICE TO BREAKFAST MEETINGS,,LUNCHES,,AND OPEN HOUSES.City Hall Needs her 5 days a week. Then ,I heard after our Park Director left ,The committee Slammed the Dept. by proposaling to---Giving Edgewater Park to the County after ALL THE PARK DEPT HAS DONE TO THE PARK.Sell the Bayside Park,Property at Family
center,Forestry property" something former Mayor Olson worked hard to get",,Then M. Born stated -Give all the park Acts. to the YMCA---Are we being FUNNY?Why Not just put a FOR SALE SIGN on the Park Dept Door.BUT LET ,the city has two new parks given by SUD DIVISIONS,on east side of town between CTY E & Prospect,plus a new one on S center rds new Sub Div.,SO WHY is the city taking these parks instead of MONEY,,if we are giving our parks away.Or are the Developers going to maintain those Parks? Plus---Being in a Chairmans position I alway felt that person SHOULD KEEP AN " OPEN MIND" while siiting on that comm.,To listen to all sides from that Comm. Thats what I learned Being a Union Steward,And a SCOUT LEADER,to keep an open mind. THEN WHY Does the Finance chair ONLY HAVE A ONE TRACK MIND." the most important comm".When he StatedThat all the proposals are good,BUT that the city still NEEDS TO LOOK AT REDUCING ITS WORK FORCE".Its seems to me that Personal REDUCTIONS is all he ever thinks off.I was also told Al handed out fluers on how to do better business to the Senior center. The Senior Center is NOT A BIG TIME BUSINESS,So WHAT IS HE DOING. Well ,Back to you Mayor.SO FAR I have heard NO TYPE of DEDUCTIONS on your behalf " NONE".Well,You proved you can Do the TALK,BUT YOU CAN'T DO THE WALK. 50% Cut in pay,Go to a PART TIME MAYOR,Put the DEPT. HEADS back in CHARGE .That also means NO BENIFITS( " big cost savings" ).Like it was years ago ,,According to some OLD TIMERS.The city ran" GREAT BACK THEN" they said.Savings of $ 25,000 PLUS THOSE BENIFITS. A VERY BIG SAVING don't you think..People I have mentioned that to gave me a good respond..So then instead of putting a FOR SALE SIGN on the Park Door,How about THE MAYORS OFFICE DOOR to a" PART TMER."? Well thanks for you time Have a great day

Alderperson WARD 1
Warren Beske
PS These are THINGS THE CITIZENS OF BD SHOULD HEAR...O Why did you Also take out at end of Council meeting "any other business to come forth".So the Alderpersons can not state anything -but whats an meeting ajenda and have no unwanted info over the air(TV)?

Friday, January 13, 2006

Letter from a local union member

I've pledged from the beginning of the project to allow others to have a voice on the blog, and with the publishing of this email, I'm doing just that. As a rule, if you send me and email and wish it to remain private, please indicate that and I will respect the request. Otherwise, I'll consider it a public message that will likely wind up being posted.

Here's a recent email from Doug Sackett, member of the Beaver Dam local firefighter's union. As background, his is one of a handful of local municipal unions yet to settle on a contract.


Just read the majority of your web site for the first time. You do have some interesting points, and you do seem to have pretty good knowledge about city affairs, but you don't seem to have all the facts on some things that I have intimate knowledge of. You are quick to bash city labor unions, but you never compare them to other people doing the same job, be it union or non-union(masons, heavy equipment operators, sewer and water installers, etc). City unions are required by law to file for bargaining 6 months in advance of a contract running out, which was done by my union, I can't speak for the other city unions. Check with my union leaders, but I believe our first bargaining session was not held until late October or early November, just before our contract ran out at the end of the year. We have now been without a contract for more than a year. The union also proposed an insurance committee to look at ways to save money on city insurance premiums. A committee was formed and around 200,000 dollars was found by union people, but because of the mayors stalling tactics, the city has not been able to take advantage of the cost savings. You would think that responsible city leadership would have found this before some committee did. I might remind you at this point that most city employees are city tax payers also. Management has been the only group that have been able to take advantage of this insurance change. From what I heard the other day, the city and or bank have done such a poor job setting that up that when some management people went to have prescriptions filled the other day, they were not able to have them filled unless they paid for them themselves. What an incentive to try harder and achieve a higher rank in your respective job, huh. My point is, make sure you have ALL the facts before you mouth off on your web site. It's the old story, walk a mile in someone else's shoes! I would also like to say at this point, that this is my opinion, and I in no way am speaking for other city employees or my union. I will also have the balls to put my name to it, unlike you.
Doug Sackett

I appreciate you taking the time to write, and adding your name to the letter. I'm sorry, but I'm not in a position right now to speak out publicly with my name attached. I will however allow others, like yourself, to voice their opinion, and I will incorporate them into the website so all sides can be heard.

Some of your points are well taken...I challenge Mayor Hankes to speak to the $200,000 savings you mentioned, as well as the city's inefficient/ineffective transition to the HSA.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Miles apart

The Dam Insider has learned that the City of Beaver Dam and its labor unions are more than $500,000 apart in negotiations. The sides are moving towards arbitration in what has become the most expensive negotiation the city has experienced (legal fees have now topped $100,000). However, in this era of property tax limits, municipal labor unions are going to have to learn that the money pot suddenly has a bottom. That lesson is going to be expensive in the shortrun, but will more than pay for itself in the years that follow.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Privatize recreation department?

An idea to contract with the YMCA some or all of Beaver Dam's recreation programs (an idea first mentioned on this blog months ago) was suggested during last night's executive committee meeting. Alderman Mark Born recommended the committee look further into the possibility. Currently the city offers programs like swimming and golf lessons, along with myriad others. It's possible that the YMCA could offer these programs at a fraction of the cost.

In the weeks to come, the committee may consider consolidating the Department of Public Works, Engineering, and Parks and Recreation, consolidating Beaver Dam's dispatch services with Dodge County's, and privatizing some city services.

These ideas will undoubtedly generate animosity among some city employees, and could even spark an outcry from a few residents, but that shouldn't deter our elected leaders from honestly exploring every alternative in how our tax dollars are spent.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Weber says it's time to step down

I recently emailed 6th ward Alderman Emmet Weber to find out why he declined to run for another term on the Beaver Dam Common Council, but will run for another term on the Dodge County Board of Supervisors. His reply:

I've been fortunate to have served with dedicated citizens on the City Council for 12 years. However, the amount of time required for this commitment along with serving on the Dodge County Board is quite extencive [sic]. I feel that there are many others in the city who can and should become involved this way in our city. Evidence of their willingness is clear as shown by having two others now running for 6th Ward alderperson 2005-2007.

Emmet has been, and continues to be, a great example of civic responsibility.

Sheriff's brother arrested

The brother of Dodge County Sheriff Todd Nehls was arrested in mid-December following an 9-1-1 call as a result of a domestic incident. Timothy Nehls will be charged in Dodge County Circuit Court with Domestic Battery and Domestic Disorderly Conduct. He will make his initial court appearance at 8:30 Monday morning (1/09).

Sheriff Nehls was apparently out of the County the night of the incident at Tim's Fox Lake home, but Todd was notified of the incident by a deputy out of courtesy.

State law mandates that an arrest must be made following a domestic 9-1-1 call. In fact, changes were made to that law this week as State Senator Scott Fitzgerald pointed out:


January 5, 2006
Contact - Senator Scott Fitzgerald, (608) 266-5660

New Law Includes Stronger Arrest Requirements In Domestic Abuse Cases
Assembly Bill 436 would provide victims of domestic violence with greater protections

[Madison, Wisc....] Arrest requirements in incidents of domestic abuse would be strengthened under a new Wisconsin law that protects victims from arrest when defending themselves.
"This new law will help victims of domestic abuse protect themselves against further attacks," said State Senator Scott Fitzgerald, a supporter of the new law. "A victim of abuse should not have to fear arrest just for defending themselves."

The intent of Wisconsin's current domestic abuse law is to ensure that the "primary aggressor" in a domestic violence incident is taken into custody to protect the victim of abuse and ensure their safety. Because of the way the law is written, however, victims of domestic abuse who defend themselves against their attacker are sometimes also arrested if they injure their attacker in self-defense.

Assembly Bill 436, which was signed into law today by the governor, clarifies our domestic abuse laws by requiring law enforcement officers to identify and arrest only the "predominant aggressor" in a case of domestic abuse. This distinction will help law enforcement determine who was the most serious aggressor in an incident and avoid arresting a victim who has simply defended themselves from an attack.

Fitzgerald said the new law could help encourage victims to report incidents of abuse against them.
"Arresting a domestic abuse victim may discourage them from reporting incidents of abuse against them or from cooperating with law enforcement." Fitzgerald said. "AB 436 clarifies our laws, making it easier for law enforcement to do their jobs and giving abuse victims greater protection and a greater sense of security."

Passage of AB 436 was supported by the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Is the label "lefty teacher" accurate? Seems so.

Teachers, interested to know where your monthly union dues are going? A Wall Street Journal editorial recently pointed out that the National Education Association (the national umbrella of most state's teacher's unions, like WEAC) gave $65M last year to groups like "Jesse Jackson's Rainbow PUSH Coalition, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Amnesty International, AIDS Walk Washington and dozens of other such advocacy groups." Read on, it's fascinating.

Also check out the Free Thinking Teacher's analysis of a report about the future of the Racine Unified School District. Themes in the report apply to many districts, include ones in this area

Mayoral candidate has a website

Jim Yaroch, one of three men challenging Jack Hankes for Mayor this spring in Beaver Dam, has launched a campaign website.

Two years ago, Hankes launched his own website just hours before the primary election, helping him generate enough support to reach the April election and defeat Tom Olson.

Of course, having a website alone won't do the trick. It's the site's content that matters.

The initial postings on Yaroch's site establish him as an anti-Hankes candidate. He tackles five issues. Hankes' opinion on each has been well established:

Use of an Executive Committee to find ways to cut spending
Yaroch states that appointing such a committee is a "waste of time." He correctly points out that in the past year this is the second attempt by mayoral committee to reduce costs. The first attempt last spring made no impact.

Yaroch also states "Committees like [the Board of Public Works and the Police and Fire Commission] spend their whole existence reviewing the operations of their respective departments looking for ways to improve service and efficiency." This isn't true. There are regular instances in which agenda items are approved by these committees and the members fail to discuss the impact those items will have on the bottom line. Further, each committee was asked to approve two budgets last fall: a 100% spending level budget, and a 95% version. In the VAST majority of cases, the committees reduced spending by cutting capital expenditures (an endemic problem in Beaver Dam the last ten years), shifting costs, using borrowed funds or other "accounting tricks," and avoiding the real cost issue at hand: labor.

The new contract with the city's building inspector
Yaroch accurately points out that the new contract with Guy Burlingame's office cost the city about two-thirds of a million dollars in lost revenue. Late in 2004, Mayor Hankes negotiated with Burlingame terms of the deal, and the Common Council approved it. (Here, once again, is evidence that Aldermen not always aware of the cost of an action.) It was not known at that time whether the WalMart Distribution Center would be built inside city limits (litigation was still pending) but city leaders, especially the mayor, should have considered the messages they were getting from legal council indicating the likelihood of the city getting the $55M development was very high. The terms of the new deal didn't just change how the inspector was paid (all permit fees would go to the inspector, not to the city), the fee structure was also changed, significantly increasing the amount of fees paid by a commercial development like the distribution center.
This one's on the Mayor and the Common Council: they should have protected the city's interests better, knowing the situation that lay ahead. Yes, privatizing the department reduces much of the city's risk in terms of poor development years, or employee overhead, but the distribution center was staring everyone in the face, and they should have considered it.

Significant expenses by the city's labor attorney
Within months of taking office, Hankes changed the city's labor attorney, opting to go with a more expensive firm. He's expressed confidence that the new attorney offers better services in terms of negotiating skill and that the outcome will benefit the city in the long-run. This we'll have to wait to find out. Yaroch is accurate to point out that the attorney has costs multiple times more than the past attorney did even in his most expensive year, but he fails to include the entire story: It takes two to tango.
Anytime there's an editorial, story or candidate's claim that the mayor and the labor attorney are stalling in negotiations and costing the city gobs of money, readers need to consider why negotiations are taking so long. Is the city's offer "unfair?" If you look at recent history, the city has been taken to the cleaners by labor unions (and this goes WAY beyond Beaver Dam to include nearly every municipality imaginable). It's time government gets labor costs in line with reality, and in Beaver Dam, that effort is being made right now. Hankes' top attribute the past two years has been his unwillingness to kowtow to steep union demands. As expected, this was resulted in a long, drawn out negotiation process, and it's not cheap. But, the long-term impact of a victory will more than make up for the extra expenses and will be a big step towards getting government off the fatal track it's currently riding.

Other issues discussed by Yaroch:
Reducing the council's size - he's wishy-washy here, seemingly leaning towards not supporting reduction. (Hankes is in support of reducing the council's numbers)
Combining the Fire and Police Chief - A fulltime firefighter/EMT, Yaroch strongly opposes this idea offered by Hankes in the fall.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Send him off to a home

Thoughts on tonight's Rose Bowl national championship game.

Vince Young IS a GREAT player, but, at best he's Randall Cunningham, at worst he's a strong Michael Vick. Solid company, but still not worth the number one pick as Lee Corso gushed during the postgame. Still, Vince would be idiotic not to enter the NFL right now.

Reggie Bush has the talent to become Gayle Sayers, while at worst he's Dave Meggett. The upside makes him worth the number one spot.

Now, I'll admit, I carry a strong bias against TV play by play announcer Keith Jackson: I've never cared for the man's work. However, I have to believe that nearly everyone watching Wednesday's national championship game would agree it's well beyond time for Jackson to get the heck off my TV set.
Jackson was often confused about the play on the field: was it intercepted, knocked away, fumbled, did he go out of bounds, was he down? All these incidents were questioned by Jackson. At that level it's inexcusable. Further, why does he insist on calling them "times out?" I know you can find a grammar text that will explain the proper method of turning a two word phrase into a plural entity. But give me a break, you can put "times out" in the same category as the plural "R-B-I" used by those who argue that it's an acronym for "Runs Batted In," so it shouldn't be said as "R-B-I's." Finally, Keith, the clock doesn't run on extra point tries. I know you know that, but you're obviously slipping if you are confused about this football basic.
Jackson should be damn thankful he has Dan Fouts in the booth, a selfless guy willing to pick up the slack. On multiple occasions Fouts had to do just that, and with each instance, Jackson's reputation gained a bit more tarnish.
Seven years ago, Jackson offered his swan song: the 1999 Fiesta Bowl (and national championship) between Tennessee and Florida. At the beginning of that season, Jackson announced he would retire. Then in the Fiesta Bowl the 71 year old (he's now 77) spent the game's final quarter waxing about all the years of broadcasting, and all the people and places he would miss. At one point, he got so caught up in making himself into the game's story, he failed to convey the importance of a late Tennessee fumble while leading by seven, giving Florida State one last gasp of hope. But, all viewers heard was Keith Jackson and Bob Griese kissing Jackson's you know what.
With that game complete(ly ruined), I was shocked to learn a few months later that Jackson was returning "for two or three more seasons."
Now it's 2006 and he's calling the national championship game!...poorly!

Did anyone else notice that during the postgame on field interviews, ABC's reporter called Matt Leinhart "Vince?"

We're so quick to call USC head coach Pete Carrol a genious, but when he loses a game like this, he'll get little criticism, but he deserves a whole lot more than that. Going for it on 4th and 2 at the Texas 41? Stunningly stupid. Also, the defensive confusion on the two point converstion cost USC their final timeout, and changed the USC strategy during the game's end. Carrol should have had his D better prepared on that play.

Decisions, decisions

It's going to be an interesting three months in Beaver Dam leading up to the (possible) spring primary and local election.

I'll offer some thoughts on the candidates in the weeks to come, but here's your opportunity to speak up.

Residents, what are your thoughts on the candidates?

Candidates, here's a chance for you to let others know more about you.

Either leave your comments by clicking the link at the bottom of this post, or email me your thoughts.

Beaver Dam
Jack Hankes (I)
John Smith
James Yaroch
Rob Radig Sr.

Alderman Ward 2
Mike Nelson (I)
Mary Flaherty

Alderman Ward 4 (Incumbent Mark Nehring not running)
Kevin Winter

Alderman Ward 6 (Incumbent Emmet Weber not running)
Stuart Calder
Ron Andrews

Alderman Ward 8
Mick McConaghy (I)
Steve Sabatke

Alderman Ward 10 (Incumbent Mike Wissell not running)
David Bednarek
Don Neuert

Alderman Ward 12 (Incumbent Bob Maly...Donna's husband...not running)
Donna Maly

School Board (Three seats up for election)
Paul Uttech (I)
James Szopinski (I)
Jim Skelly
Russell Fortune
Mark Kirst
Katharine Ann Berkvam
Marge Jorgenson

Been out of touch a while

Christmas, traveling to see family, and a transition to a new laptop have kept me away from the blog for the past few weeks. Thanks to those of you who have stuck with me.

In the coming days, I'll be adding insightful and potentially award-winning musings to the blog.

Stay in touch.

Dam Insider