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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, February 24, 2006

The "moron" answers back

I recently wrote a response to a comment I received on an early posting. After reading my comment, I enjoyed it enough that I thought it deserved the light of day. So, here it is, with the original comment in italics.

Only a moron would say Walmart "gets it". They have single handedly wiped out more small businesses in this country than anyone can imagine.

That statement right there proves that Wal-Mart "gets it." Wal-Mart is a publicly traded corporation with a responsibility to its shareholders. By increasing its market share through outperforming its competition, Wal-Mart has demonstrated its business superiority.

They are a monopoly that the government does nothing about, hence our trade deficeit.If we slapped China with an equal trade deal, Walmart would be out of business, probably along with Target and Shopko.

Where do I even start with this one? I'll ask a followup question: How is Wal-Mart a monopoly? It doesn't hold an 80-100% market share in the sale of any product. Further, your comment demonstrates a total lack of economic understanding. I'm no David Ricardo, but I do understand international trade enough to state that the labor dominance exhibited by China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other Eastern nations is based on labor supply quantity, cost of living, relative savings rates and education. Wal-Mart is only utilizing what was already developing.

As far as Walmart eliminating inefficiencies, you can call quality service and quality in general a Walmart inefficiency, and yes they eliminated those. That is why I shop at Recheks.

I shop at Recheks too...it's closer to my house. But, when I have the time, or I'm making a large shopping trip, I go to Wal-Mart: It's cheaper, and I don't need excellent service or ANY service for that matter to buy a box of Grape Nuts. When I want better meat or produce, I'll go to Recheks, The Pig, or make the trek to Leroy Meats. If those places end up going under because they couldn't compete with Wal-Mart's low prices, that will be a shame. But, on a marketwide scale, enough consumers want what Wal-Mart has to offer, so in the end they will probably win out, and the victory will be driven by the consumer, not the company.

Wait until you see Walbank. Yes a walmart banking system! Oh and dont forget the new walmart gas stations too! They soon will be popping up on every corner also wiping out other businesses.

If I can get free checking and a savings account that pays 4.25% I'll welcome it.

And NO I dont take advantage of everyday low prices, I refuse to shop at walmart.

Good for you. Follow your convictions. But understand: as I told Azor, you do benefit from the "everyday low prices" even if you don't shop there.

They are the BIGGEST example of corporate corruption and that is the basic origin of the labor unions, ironic dont you think?

You're getting a little loose with the allegations, don't you think? "Corporate corruption?" C'mon, where's the evidence that they are corrupt, and if they are, that they're the biggest example of it?

The king of the hill's an easy target.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


I really don't agree with the position taken by the Troika as they will now be know, but I can't deny the success of their campaign for Beaver Dam School Board.

Unless something drastic happens, Jorgensen, Kirst and Berkvam will take seats on the board of education. There are worse candidates, yes, but from what I've seen, heard and read so far, these three don't have the answer. The school funding problem does not rest with the cost of administration. The problem lies a bit closer to the students. Four little letters: "Gimme' a W...gimme' an E...gimme' an A...gimme' a C"

Regardless, I received this poem by email recently, and I have a rule: You take the time to write poetry, I'll take the time to post it.

There once was a man named Busler
Who has been accused of being one sneaky critter.
Says he, "We've taken a cut, a freeze, and done many other noble deeds."
One more listening session will be sure to please.
District employees all gagged!
Taxpayers cried, "We've been sandbagged!"
Where was the schoolboard everyone whispered?
Could it be they'd been listening to Scotty the financial wizard?
Along came Mark, Cathy, and Marge,
Proven last night they're the community's choice at large.
Could they be willing to take on Orlenko, Scotty, and Busler--the controlling masterminds?
We'll see as the story unwinds.
Many hope the truth will finally be found.
The numbers and 'facts' they've been feeding us are unsound!
We're afraid Mr. Embattled superintendent,
That what lies in your future may be very unpleasant.


Jack Hankes' most convincing victory in Tuesday's primary should send a strong message to organized labor and any one else who fails to understand that the world has moved into a new era:

We are beyond decreasing inefficiencies in the delivery of services. We are eliminating those inefficiencies.

Read that point once more.

Eliminating inefficiencies

Does that mean job cuts? Perhaps.

However, it mainly means continuing to provide the services you provide, but at the absolute lowest price. This might come as a shock to some readers (if you're a dues paying member of WEAC, please sit down): Wal-Mart "gets it" and in many ways is a model of eliminating inefficiencies (and yes, I'm fully prepared for the wave of comments about overworking employees, failing to provide health insurance, and whatever other flame-tongued blather is regularly thrust on Wal-Mart...but I'll bet you take advantage of the everyday low prices).

In today's world the ability to eliminate inefficiencies is the difference between success and failure.

The private sector is neck deep in this exercise: just take a drive to Mayville and remind yourself of this as you peruse the vacant manufacturing facilities.

Now the public sector is getting in the game. In Beaver Dam, leadership is ahead of the curve, and the effort is being driven by Mayor Hankes. If you want to see a stark contradiction, compare the direction the city is moving in to Dodge County. Right now the County Board is stunningly split on whether to give the next highway commissioner a 10 year guaranteed contract. Talk about failing to eliminate inefficiencies, the Dodge County Board is trying to create them.

Much like Scott Walker in Milwaukee County, Mayor Hankes is driven by a clear vision and refuses to be derailed enroute by labor union management or by Aldermen who can't, or worse won't, accept reality.

Despite an organized effort by the Dodge County Labor Council to stack the calls to WBEV's Community Comment and post comments on this blog in an effort to bash Mayor Hankes while promoting union candidate Jim Yaroch, the voters made their voices heard last night.

Now Hankes should move forward with the confidence of knowing he has a mandate from the voters: stay on course, push for change, and don't back down.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Where in the world is Carmen...no wait...Rob Radig

This reposnse from mayoral candidate Rob Radig to questions about his whereabouts last Wednesday night and Friday noon hour:

Thats! a very good question and thank you for asking. First of all I am not at all ncomfortable speaking in public, but I think its fair to say I am not quite as articulate a public speaker as my 2 opponents (if that make sense). As for the forums: The Chamber was aware from the first day I was invited that I had an appointment that evening and I was not available. And as for the Radio forum I was planning on attending the whole time and I was stuck out of town with work all day friday. Unfortunatly I still have a job to do and cant just up and leave my office when I want or only work every 3 days. I had arranged my schedule to be available on Friday but that changed late on Thursday night. I take my campaign very seriously and will continue to through Tuesday's Primary; if not, I never wouold have filed papers for the position. In addition if I didnt want to be in the public eye I certainly would not be sitting in my current position. I have not at any point "not tried to win", I am running my campaign the best I am able with the time available. I would have love to take time off of work to do this but reality then sets in. Bottom line, I still am and always have been a candidate for Mayor and will push forward until after the election at which point the voters will have spoken.
Thank you again.

'Nuff said.

Not sure where this fits in, but...

I received this email this morning and am not completely sure about the application of its message. It seems to be speaking about Jim Yaroch, but I for one have not heard any claims of nepotism with respect to him.

None the less, it's an interesting email, so I decided it's worth puting out there:


Evidently the word nepotism is being bandied about (to discuss in a casual or frivolous manner) regarding the mayoral race...however it should be noted that the more correct term in this case would be "name recognition"...after all the position of Mayor is not a hired, or appointed position, rather it is an elected position. One would have to have an extremely large family - who are all eligible voters - in order for an elected position to fall into the category of nepotism, wouldn't it?

nepotism - favoritism shown to relatives or close friends by those in power (as by giving them jobs)

name recognition - the extent to which a person's name is familiar with the general public, esp. a celebrity, politician, author, company, etc.

By the way....evidently great care was taken in the fire department hiring process to ensure that nepotism did not occur. An interview panel was instituted (none of who were connected to any of the local ranking fire dept. officials) and all applicants were identified during the process by number, rather than name. All involved attested to the fact that the hiring process was indeed fair and impartial.

Another definition to consider.....

slander - A false and malicious statement or report about someone

Don't forget, slander does not include ALL false statements or reports about someone. Azor, in an earlier comment, was right. Satire is protected from slander charges, as are many comments about public figures: how do you think Saturday Night Live and tabloids get away with what they say/write?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Radig's mayoral views

Rob Radig was not at last Wednesday's candidates forum, nor on Community Comment Friday with Hankes and Yaroch, so unless you heard his Community Comment during the week or have sat down with him one-on-one, you know little about where he standson the issues.

Here are some comments from Rob that I requested Thursday after not hearing him at the forum:

With regards to labor contracts, I know these most recent rounds of negotiations were entered into with the city taking a very aggressive stance. Which is as it should be. This should have allowed for more room for negotiations although it takes two sides to negotiate. I dont think at this time its fair to place blame on either side more than the other for where we stand today. The simple fact is we need to get these contracts settled and get on with the job of running this city and providing services for our citizens. I think we all knew these were not going to be easy to come to agreements on, but we truly have to look at the future, more specifically future budgets and determine how they will be affected by what we do today. I think we have to be fair to the employees of the city and at the same time be fair to the taxpayers as to not spend their tax dollars unwisely.

As to the issue of the Labor attorney. Are we spending a lot on these negotiations...Yes...and I was one who voted to change labor attorneys but I don't think there was 1 council member thinking we would be running up well over a $100,000 bill. This is not entirely such a bad thing if we had more to show for it but the truth is we do not.

Another hot point is the Building Inspector Contract. First of all I have to admit I was one of the 14 who voted unanimously to approve this contract. Did we act too fast, possibly, but I don't think so. This was presented and sent back for revisions before voting so we had time to look at whatever we should have. The truth is we just didn't see it coming and I don't think anything done differently would have changed that. It didn't turn out as planned and we can't change that now but we can change it from happening again, which has already been put in motion.

My position on privatization of current services provided by city personnel - I feel that it is not our first step in trying to cut costs but I do believe it is something that we should eventually look at and evaluate. As stated by the current Mayor and several Alderpersons including myself, the first step to this is identifying our costs of providing services. We cannot even begin to consider requesting bids on anything until we know what it costs us to do it ourselves. In addition, I think we have to be very careful that we are not overspending to get a particular project done cheaper. By that I mean what are the employees doing that would have normally have done that job? Would we now be paying the same wages we would have paid and adding the cost of this privatized project? How would this save money? So I feel we should look at the possibilities of privatization but I think we need to proceed very carefully and look at every cost and savings, what the effect will be and how it will affect the immediate and future budgets.

Now at the same time I feel the immediate exception to this is protective services. I see no way we could ever gain by privatizing any services in that area. Don't get me wrong, I would be more than willing to look at any ideas and explore the possibilities. Is it possible with other departments? Maybe...But at the same time I am not in favor of privatization if it were done for the sole purpose of eliminating positions.

Money is going to be tight, this is no secret. We have to be fiscally responsible and yet make sure our citizens are getting the services they are paying for. Where do we start cutting costs? That is the million dollar question. I think we have to look at the efficiency with which our departments are operating and begin looking at options for reductions within individual departments whether this means the operations or worse case; personnel. I am not in favor of personnel reductions but it may be inevitable considering the large percentage of the budget tied to labor. Streamlining and combining departments or positions has been suggested and I think it's a viable option to look at. There are a lot of possibilities in this area, some good and some not so good, but we would not be doing the citizens who elected us justice if we don't look at every idea and measure its merit. As I stated before, This is your money we are spending and we have a resposibility to do so wisely, with the city's best interest in mind.

Planning for our future is also very high on my list. I see the days of annexing everything, just for the sake of the tax base, gone. I think it is important we select annexations in a very careful and deliberate manner. We have to look at city services and how they will be affected by these additions and how it will impact the budget. We are growing theirshers no stopping that now. From the possibilities of growth in our beautiful downtown to the tremendous economic growth happening all around this city. From new subdivisions to expanding business developments, we are on the edge of becoming a destination city, not just a pass through community. I will work hard to promote strong growth in a well managed way.

Thank you for your interest.
Robert Radig Sr

Taking a cue from comments posted on this blog, and ones I have heard around town, I have asked Radig why he did not attend Wednesday's forum or Friday's mayoral Community Comment on WBEV. I'll post any response I receive.

Bauer responds to the Nichols column

In response to the recent column by Mike Nichols, Dodge County DA Steve Bauer had this to say:

Now I need to commend Mike Nichols for writing a fair column. Criticism of the ultimate disposition of the Tim Nehls case by the District Attorney’s Office, as is criticism of the action of any public official, is certainly the right and duty of a journalist. I accept that criticism. What I reject is any implication that the ADA who handled the case, who didn’t know Todd Nehls, much less Tim Nehls, showed any favoritism.

Yesterday, after Nichols raised the issue of the 1993 charge in a voice mail, I reviewed the criminal history that showed that there was an arrest in 1993 and at the disposition line is stated “Deferred prosecution-First offender program”. (Dodge County did not have a first offender program in 1993.) I asked the ADA who handled the case about it. She correctly informed me that there was no record that Nehls was ever charged with a crime in that case. In fact, there was no record in our office of anything about that case.

Someone charged with a crime has the constitutional right to have a sentence based on correct information regarding their criminal history. If we have nothing to show that the person was even charged with a crime, much less convicted of a crime, then we can’t assume that the person was guilty. We owe our citizens nothing less than that. Further, the information in this government database is not always 100% correct, especially as it relates to disposition, and questions are raised especially when it relates to incidents that are not even charged. We could only guess as to what that case was about.

The misdemeanor ADA who handled this case is responsible for reviewing close to 1,200 cases per year which result in over 900 charges. This amounts to about 23 cases per week. She handles the volume with the time she works (which is more than 40 hours per week). Our office with four prosecutors handles the cases of close to 6 ½ prosecutors. She does not have the resources to chase down all the background information on each of these 1200 cases. That is the way the world works in a real district attorney’s office.

Can you fairly criticize the office for giving Tim Nehls a deferred prosecution in this matter? Sure you can, as you can every disposition in every case. Dispositions are subjective determinations. There are no rules, and each case stands on the individual facts of each case and the judgment of the prosecutor and judge. But this disposition is certainly in the realm of a reasonable disposition. First, the victim desired this result. Second, the case was fully charged and made a public record. Third, Tim Nehls went in front of the court and pleaded guilty. Fourth, the Court approved the deferred prosecution agreement.

I was an economist before I went to law school. I have managed the prosecution in the Dodge County District Attorney’s office in a way to maximize community safety subject to the scarce prosecution resources given to me by the legislature. (We actually need another prosecutor but that is a different topic.) I focus more resources on felony cases and fewer resources on misdemeanor cases. Of the misdemeanors, domestic abuse cases receive priority. I believe that the recent crime statistics that show Dodge County having the lowest crime rate of counties in the area speaks for the success of this strategy.

Steve Bauer

So, this leaves past procedure to question. How could an arrest and apparent prosecution in 1993 not show up in the public court records, and how could a defendant receive a deferred prosecution and be subject to a "first offender program" if, as Bauer states, that program didn't exist at the time?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Nichols strikes again

Journal Sentinel columnist Mike Nichols wrote a follow-up Friday to an article he scribed late last month about the arrest and deferred prosecution of Sheriff Todd Nehls' brother Tim on charges that he repeatedly kicked his wife.

After Nichols' first piece, I posted a series of emails from Dodge County District Attorney Steve Bauer and Todd Nehls.

Nichols' latest submission reveals two items for discussion:

First, according to his source, the arrest of an alleged domestic abuser is mandated by state law anytime within 28 days of the alleged incident. Nehls stated in his January comments to The Beaver's Dam:

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 can't be totally sure, but it doesn't sound like Nehls is talking about following the letter of the law with respect to the mandatory arrest law.

Second, Tim Nehls was apparently granted a deferred prosecution following a 1993 domestic abuse case. If this is true, was it known by the current day prosecutor's office, and if so, why didn't that influence the ADA's decision not tpursueue a conviction?

This question needs to be addressed by Bauer.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Strike up the fan club

The Dam Insider has never been accused of being *sexy* (well, maybe once or twice), but here's an email from right-thinking female admirer:

I think I am in love.

Other than my husband, you are the only local voice of reason in an "Out of Controll" community government.

I admire you and your opinion almost as much as I admire my husband's.

Thank you for telling it like it is.

That's a lucky husband.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Primary election becomes clearer

Wednesday night's candidates forum in Beaver Dam had some interesting moments.

I couldn't help but feel sorry for Mayoral candidate John Smith who announced he was dropping out of the race. No one gave gave him even an outside shot at winning, let along getting 50 votes, but he clearly has personal issues that need to be addressed before he can move forward in life, and I only hope that he's able to.

Now to the politics: If the vast difference between Mayor Hankes and Jim Yaroch wasn't clear before, it is now.
When Hankes asked Yaroch how he would handle the union's demand for a 3% annual pay raise in the face of revenue limits, operational inflation and a responsibility to the taxpayer, Yaroch responded by saying he doesn't think it's appropriate to "drag labor - management negotiations into this public forum." He then told the Mayor "that's your job to deal with the unions at this point." He went on to say, if elected, he would have to deal with the outcome of arbitration (He actually said "when the arbiter comes through," which is union-speak for when the arbiter sides with us) and make a decision when the time arises. This is essentially a non-answer, which is exactly what union-types come up with when confronted with the mathematics of their actions.

Yaroch also made a couple of attempts at cornering Hankes. He questioned the mayor on issues like the lump-sum payment made to Wal-mart. Now, the answer Hankes gave was spot on. The city made out on the deal, big time. If readers wish, I can delve into the economic explanation of present value lump sum payments, but suffice it to say, there's no issue here. The only concern residents could have is with the issue of corporate incentives; but that was spelled out by the memorandum of understanding signed by the city and Wal-mart months before Hankes entered office. He did the best (and probably better than) anyone could have expected him to do with what he had to work with.

Hankes zeroed in on Yaroch's fears about divulging the contents of the labor union's collective bargaining agreement(CBA). When he asked Yaroch, who also works as a union firefighter, whether he'd be okay with putting the CBA on the Internet, Yaroch said he would question the mayor's intent in doing so. The intent is obvious: If ordinary citizens learned what the unions get in the form of out-of-this-world-benefits, they would be outraged, and hopeful politicians like Yaroch would have NO chance of getting elected.

As for the School Board candidates, I was disappointed.
The triumverate of Berkvam, Jorgenson and Kirst seem to me to be WEAC wolves in sheep's clothing. They point their finger at administration and back the compensation currently being doled out to the represented district employees. I heard little from them in the way of real solutions to the funding crisis in our schools.

Jim Skelly's heart is in the right place: he seems to understand that spending in the public school system is out of control, but I'm not sold that he has a plan on how to change it. Regardless, he would probably be a better stopgap option than others.

Russell Fortune certainly has the financial expertise to be a valuable member, but I never heard anything about what he believes, so I'm not sold that the taxpayers can trust him to protect their interests in the face of the WEAC machine. Still, I'd be willing to give him three years to prove himself, especially considering the other candidates.

Jim Szopinski doesn't seem to be going anywhere, philosophically. I get the impression that he is easily swayed by the opinions of others, but I could be wrong. I don't think he will ever be a leader for change, but given the right board makeup, I think his vote on critical matters could follow strong leadership.

Paul Uttech is the one experienced board candidate here. I'm reluctant to support someone who has been a part of a board that oversaw the creation of the district's current financial situation. In the end, my decision on Uttech boils down to two things: I don't believe the board was upfront with the citizens when it presented information about the referendum, nor do I think it honestly disclosed the district's financial situation in recent years. For those incidents of deceit, I believe a change has to be made.

So, for Mayor it's clearly Hankes

For School Board, I'd back Fortune, Skelly and Szopinski and hope for a real leader for change in the next round of elections.

Dirt Pile

There has been quite an interesting discussion taking place on this blog in recent days regarding an alleged $13,000 pile of dirt and Mayor Hankes' actions relating to it.

Here's the original comment made by an anonymous reader (By the way - I have no problem with people remaining anonymous, obviously, but it would be at least helpful and even more interesting if those who leave comments adopted a regular moniker. You can do so without revealing anything about your identity) :

In regards to the $13,000.00 dirt pile "MISSTEP" made by Mayor Hankes, WHICH HE HAS NOT YET ADMITTED TO, here are the known facts by someone other than the Dam Insider.

A pile of excess salvaged topsoil, roughly 2,500 cubic yards(maybe more), with a estimated value of $8.00 per cubic yard, remained in a TIF district area after a commercial site development adjacent to Corporate Dr. in the Spring of 2005. This topsoil was the property of the City of Beaver Dam. Instead of trying to sell this material as a commodity to the highest bidder and retain the profits from the sale to offset, what soon in the Mayor's opinion, would be a need for $400,000.00 worth of budget cuts, the Mayor, directed a request for pricing be created to dispose of the topsoil. This request was sent to several area dirt contractors asking them to provide a cost for the removal of the dirt from the property. At his discretion the salvaged dirt was to be removed with the costs for the removal of the dirt (Approx. $13,000.00) to be paid to the lowest bidding party by the City of Beaver Dam.

Not only did the City of Beaver Dam give up potential revenue but also paid to have the revenue source removed by a contractor who the City paid in full. This was a win-win situation for the contractor removing the material because he was paid to haul away a valuable commodity, which I am sure he reused or sold. This dirt removal would equate to an estimated loss on behalf of the taxpayers of, in sixth grade math, $33,000.00.

It is this individuals opinion that a Chief Executive(Mayor)of a municipality with a background, (as stated on his website), including a Bachelors Degree in construction management, building inspection experience, project estimating and stated experience in having the ability to work across departments would have utilized these attributes and experience along with his departmental resources within the City structure, to organize a profitable sale of assets instead of wasting profitable commodities and creating an expenditure to a private firm for the removal and disposal of this material.

The taxpayers, at the hands or direction of your current Mayor, gave up revenue and wasted taxpayer dollars to have that same revenue source removed. I believe this is a "MISSTEP" which the taxpayers deserve a full explanation for. This also creates some interest to the previous post wondering how many "MISSTEPS" are out there that have not been uncovered.

In this case a "MAYORAL MISSTEP" landed the City of Bever Dam in the MUD.

Good Luck and Remember to VOTE February 21, 2006.

Mayor Hankes has written me with this response:

Dear dirtpile blogger:
The initial topsoil pile (~ 28,000 cy) was accumulated from the stripping of the Corporate Dr. right-of-way prior to construction and paving (approximately 1998). The Board of Public Works (BPW) approved an arrangement with area contractors, including the highway department, that for every load they removed for their use they had to haul an equal amount to the stockpile at the public works garage, free of charge. Over the years that amounted to several thousand cy of topsoil hauled to the city garage for the city's use and and for use by taxpayers. That arrangement lost its appeal with construction of the Wal-Mart Super Center because that project, too, had a mountain of additional topsoil to give away.

When we learned we had to move the remaining pile (~ 10,000 cy) due to a pending land sale, we sent letters to18 area contractors to assess their interest in the form of a proposal. Two responded. The low bid to remove the pile was $13,360 to remove the soil and grade the site. Included in the proposal was that for every nine loads the contractor took, he would haul one to the garage. This proposal was presented to the BPW and approved on April 4, 2005. This resulted in about 8,466 cy to the contractor, and 935 cy to the city.
Mayor Jack

Sounds to me like the reader who made the first allegation didn't include ALL the facts. The city apparently DOES benefit from the deal. However, not being someone with any expertise in the matter, I'm still left with the question of whether a market actually exists in Beaver Dam for large piles of topsoil.
Thankfully, another reader has answered this question with a post of his own:

I am someone who has first hand knowledge of the "dirt pile," being a local excavating contractor. No one is going to give you $8.00/yd to come and haul away a pile of topsoil. The more economic development there is in an area (removal of topsoil for parking lots and buildings, the less its value, due to the greater supply (6th grade supply and demand).

The greatest cost in topsoil is in the loading and trucking, not to mention with the amount involved here and the time frame, the re-stock piling, re-loading and re-hauling when a customer is found who would most likely only want anywhere from 5-50 yds at a time.

This "commodity" was handled through a bidding process. The largest problem was the time frame in which it had to be disposed of.

The city did get a benefit from this in that for every few loads of topsoil hauled out one load had to go to the city garage site.

The true misstep could be blamed on stockpiling the topsoil in that location, but I'm sure at the time it seemed like a logical thing to do, given its "potential" value. (Hindsight wisdom is cheap; that's why it's offered for free)

So, there you have the "saga of the $13,000 pile of topsoil" that I have heard complaints about around city hall for months. Yes, I do get around city hall from time to time to chat with employees and department managers.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Can the US afford another increase in oil prices?

Crude oil prices have tripled compared to the start of the millennium. It now costs $2.40 for a gallon of gas, and many homeowners and businesses are paying 1.5 to 2 times as much for heat this winter as they did a year ago.

Despite this, the United States has not witnessed extraordinary inflation nor an economic recession. Why not?

To put it simply, Americans have secured extra spending money by refinancing mortgages and borrowing cheap (low interest rate) cash against the equity in their homes.

But, that's over now. Most of those who were going to do that have done it and many Americans have little equity left (just a big screen TV, some new windows and a 2006 Tahoe in the driveway).

So what happens the next time there's a spike in the price of oil?

Mark Thoma over at economistsview has reprinted the thoughts of Harvard Economist Martin Feldstein.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Critical Decisions

A few weeks ago I reviewed Beaver Dam mayoral challenger Jim Yaroch's campaign website. In the past few days, Mayor Jack Hankes has launched his own website.

During next week's candidates forum (Wednesday Feb 15 at the Community Theater), challengers for mayor will almost certainly question last year's contract with the city's building inspector, which generated hundreds of thousands of dollars ($676,000 according to Hankes) for the inspector's company. On his website, Hankes has essentially "turned into the path of the torpedo, closing the distance before it could arm itself." Hankes includes a link entitled "misstep" in which he speaks about the errant contract, and states that at the time the contract was signed, "in the background a Walmart distribution center was waiting, which we did not take into account." The purpose of the contract was to limit the city's liability during years of slower growth. The private, non-unionized sector always has an agility advantage. When there's work to do, it can hire employees, and when the work is finished, it can lay them off. Cities can not do this, and for this reason among others, contracting services tends to save money. However, Hankes and the council were a bit zealous in issuing this contract. Nonetheless, Hankes' admission of culpability will serve to severely undermine any attacks made by challengers on this front.

Hankes mentions the importance of this year's mayoral election a number of times on his site. He's right.
During the past two years, the city has a witnessed a dramatic shift in elected leadership. Gone, or quickly waning, are the ranks of "good ol' boys" and "yes men." The new city leader is one who questions the status quo. The newly elected leader is a "progressive," not in the classic sense of bigger government, but in terms of willingness to usher in change; he understands that the city can not continue to spend at recent historical rates without culminating in financial ruin (all levels of government will reach critical mass in terms of taxing and spending in the next few years. The percentage of total spending that goes towards personnel will increase until school districts, cities, counties and states are left with nothing to buy these people things to work on and with).
The residents of Beaver Dam, however, have made wise choices and have elected city leaders who are different. Led by Mayor Hankes, they foresee the difficulties that lie ahead and have started to change the city's course. To derail this momentum would have devastating effects. Now is not the time to replace the mayor, nor add aldermen who do not understand and support this process.
Now is the time to replace members of the school board, an entity that has not demonstrated an understanding of the path to government reform.

In the days leading up to the election, Inside the Beaver's Dam will issue endorsements for Aldermanic candidates. In the meantime, it's clear that Mayor Hankes has earned the taxpayer's vote for reelection and current members of the school board have not.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Candidate's Background Check

When you talk about bloggers and their contribution to the public's right to know, here's an area where I think we can play a large role. Information like criminal and civil court background is available to the public, but often cumbersome to dig up. Furthermore, traditional media is reluctant to publish the information for various reasons. As a result, the wild world of weblogs becomes the place for the free exchange of information that's not otherwise being discussed.

So, without further adieu, here are the circuit court backgrounds of your Beaver Dam candidates for election this spring (minor violations such as speeding and parking tickets are ignored, unless deemed excessive)

Jack Hankes
No criminal background; Was co-defendant in the state's civil case against the Beaver Dam Area Development Corporation (case dismissed Feb 2, 2006)

John E. Smith
Convicted in 2004 of issuing a worthless check (pled guilty, paid $77)

James Yaroch
No criminal background. Was co-defendant in a 2001 forclosure suit (Property sold in Sheriff's sale)

Rob Radig Sr.
No criminal background

Alderman Ward 2
Mike Nelson
No criminal background

Mary Flaherty
No criminal background

Alderman Ward 4
Kevin Winter
Convicted in 1996 of licensee selling alcohol to a minor (paid $104.60 fine)
Had a charge of domestic abuse/infliction of physical pain dismissed in 1997

Alderman Ward 6
Stuart Calder
No criminal background

Ron Andrews
No criminal background

Alderman Ward 8
Mick McConaghy
No criminal background

Steve Sabatke
No criminal background

Alderman Ward 10
David Bednarek
No criminal background

Don Neuert
No criminal background

Alderman Ward 12
Donna Maly
No criminal background

School Board (Three seats up for election)
Paul Uttech
No criminal background

James Szopinski
No criminal background

Jim Skelly
No criminal background

Russell Fortune
No criminal background

Mark Kirst
No criminal background

Katherine Ann Berkvam
No criminal background

Marge Jorgenson
No criminal background

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

In case you missed it

I posted a message here during the week end about Sheriff Todd Nehls' run-in at the Wendling funeral with that wacko Kansas church.

Somehow, that post has disappeared. Perhaps the nutjobs got to me.

Anyway, in case you missed it, take a look at the 5 minute video of Nehls and these protesters. It's certainly worth a watch if you haven't seen it.

In the past week, the state Senate unanimously approved a bill that would bar protests within 500 feet of a funeral, certainly an acceptable law, if signed as anticipated.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Changes a'coming

"A little revolution, now and then, is a healthy thing. Don't you think?"
- Marko Ramius (Sean Connery, The Hunt For Red October)

There's a healthy taxpayer revolt taking place in Beaver Dam, and it continues to build momentum. The neat thing is that this movement will, before it's over, eliminte most, if not all, of the members of local government who spend freely, who support the status quo, who defend and create inefficiencies, and who fail to see the devastating impact of their ways.
This revolt may have started with the election of Jack Hankes for Mayor in 2004, it continud with the election to the Common Council in 2005 of fiscal conservatives like Mark Born, Jon Litscher and Robert Ballweg, and last fall with the resounding defeat of the school funding referendum, and in the coming weeks, I expect it will impact the public sector once again, with the defeat of the incumbent members of the Beaver Dam school board.

Here's a well-written letter from a reader, with a strong, but encouraging message for the taxpayers of the district, and Superintendent Brian Busler:

(Editor's note: bold added for emphasis)

Taxpayers in the Beaver Dam Unified School District might be reminded of the proverbial tree falling in the woods ... Because no one heard it fall, our elected School Board members are quite certain it did not, indeed, fall! Beaver Dam taxpayers must feel slighted to continue hearing stories of so-called "Listening Sessions," even after the electorate thoroughly rejected a mischevious referendum - a referendum aimed at easing the Board's responsibility to maintain prudent fiscal policies by promoting more "tax-and-spend" practices. Now, it appears "scare tactics" - talk of eliminating entire schools, or individual class offerings - are
emerging as the new strategy.

Our District Administrator, Mr. Busler, has a golden opportunity to demonstrate the leadership for which he was hired: First, Mr. Busler, the taxpayers are demanding elimination of the high District overhead they are financing - by eliminating at least two full-time administration positions and reducing the human resources position to half-time. A competent support staff can readily accomplish the functions these positions address.
Second, Mr. Busler, the voters will give you some new Board support this spring when they eliminate the incumbents and usher in no-nonsense representatives. At that point, our elected officials will give you the tools to negotiate a fair contract with our teacher's union - "fair" to those employees, and "fair" to the overburdened taxpayers who have underwritten a lucrative health package for far too long. It has been disapponting to see the smoke-and-mirrors approach to District budgeting, wherein enrichment programs largely supported by community volunteers have been eliminated in the name of saving minor, meager amounts of money - while further distancing our students from our community. However, it will be the will of the electorate to replace the "wink-and-nod" representatives on the School Board who have supported these deceptions. It seems ironic that, as a means of finding budget reductions, any School Board would turn its back on community volunteer programs rather than embracing, cultivating and promoting them.

It has also been disappointing to witness the mass exodus of District employees and administrators to the affluence of the surrounding "suburbia," while leaving the balance of the tax-paying base to methodically sell off their property and move into apartment complexes. Your leadership, Mr. Busler, is sorely needed right now ... or the tax base from which our District draws its financing while begin to erode.

Our State Legislature took the lead several years ago to restrain the escalating tax structure in Wisconsin by handing our local representatives some much-needed tools - spending cap and qualified economic offer instruments. They are aimed at muting that large sucking sound we hear from Madison as the state's largest labor union wallows up to the taxpayer's trough and religiously drains our ability to maintain prudent spending policies. Just follow the money - from our local employers' hands to the taxpayers' pockets, from those pockets to the District coffers, from those coffers to the District employees, and from the District employees' pockets to the wheelers and dealers in the statewide union. But don't stop there - the accountability of those same tax dollars might scare you poor ... it is then used to finance the elections and re-elections of liberal legislators who will, in turn, demand MORE spending (i.e. more union revenue) in this spiraling fiasco.

Our local referendum, not unlike those proposed in other districts, tempts the voters with the ever-sensitive "For Our Children" theme. Taxpayers are finally reading the fine print, which reads "For Our Union." Competent leadership, bouyed by the School Board and anchored by the District Administrator, can and will deliver excellent educational opportunities "for our children" while maintaining a reasonable, affordable tax rate - and treating District employees fairly.
Mr. Busler, the voters this spring will hand you new School Board representatives who will attempt to turn these disturbing trends. You are not alone, as Beaver Dam taxpayers are also seeing union-supported candidates vie for municipal posts while local government works to reduce high operational costs. But the voters are speaking, and screaming loudly from the ballot box. Please make good use of the tools, and the direction, the electorate provides.

- Rancor Tanker

Your thoughts are encouraged, both in agreement and against. They can be sent to daminsider@yahoo.com or you can post your comments by clicking the "comments" link below.