Saturday, September 18, 2004

Council drops insurance requirement

Earlier this week, the Oshkosh Common Council voted 5-2 to drop the city's requirement that groups holding events where liquor is being sold on city-owned property carry liability insurance. The city attorney advised against their dropping it, but the FAB 5 voted to do so anyway. What the hell are these people thinking???

The insurance requirement was put in place years ago for a reason. Why leave the city on the hook for defending itself out of taxpayer coffers when we could have been indemnified through some type of insurance coverage? Isn't that the whole purpose of insurance?

What's even more deplorable about this is that our so-called mayor Mark Harris not only sponsored this legislation, but then voted on it, when many believe he should have abstained. After all, one of the biggest beneficiaries of this change is Waterfest, run by Mike Dempsey. Mike Dempsey is the president of Associated Bank, which just happens to be Mr. Harris' employer. What a coincidence, and just before the amphitheater gets built, too!! My, my, what a surprise!

Mr. Harris can say all he wants about how the trust department he works for is run by someone else, blah, blah, blah. But the bottom line is it is all Associated Bank, period. And Mark Harris' vote on this issue gives a huge appearance of impropriety. Maybe he just couldn't see his conflict of interest through all the second-hand smoke in his eyes.

This might be something for the District Attorney or Attorney General to look into. But at a minimum, it's one more thing to closely scrutinize and query Mr. Harris about should he run for any other political office in the future.

An equally important point to consider is what are we paying a city attorney for if this part-time council does not want to listen to his advice? During the change of government discussion these people kept saying that the full-time staff members know best because they work full-time on these kinds of issues and with certain people. That logic would certainly apply here, yet the FAB 5 again does a "180." Absolutely incredible!!! The FAB 5 apparently know better than our city attorney, or so they apparently think.

What predicated this legislation in the first place? And why do the majority of the Common Council members rarely ask any questions about legislation such as this - in particular like the one we just asked?

Furthermore, the "logic" used by some of the FAB 5 was even more convaluded - with B. Tower saying he would support dropping the insurance requirement because the city is liable anyway, no matter what, and Shirley Mattox saying she would support dropping the requirement because the state Supreme Court said we would not be liable. Which is it FAB 5-ers??? You don't seem to agree in your "logic," but somehow you reached the same end result. It's baffling!!

And I would caution anyone against saying whether the city is or isn't automatically liable. It cannot be determined if someone is liable until an incident occurs and a decision is made - usually through the legal system - on liability. Could the city be sued no matter what? Yes. But that does not automatically make the city liable. A number of factors have to be considered before liability can be determined. Maybe people shouldn't use words that they don't completely understand. And if they're going to use them, I would encourage them to use such words appropriately.

This decision is one more reason to run these five council members out of office, one by one, when their time is up. We cannot afford to keep them in office.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

To "B" or not to "B"

B. (Burk) Tower, freshman to the Oshkosh Common Council, has not scored a lot of points with us or others in the community. And it's not just been since he was elected this last April. He lost credibility with us when, among other things, he refused to give his position on the smoking ban debate while campaigning for a council position. Instead he wanted to sit on the fence, and did! Some of the other biggies, since actually being elected, were refusing to give the people a voice in whether or not we should vote for our own mayor and how strong that mayor should be; and voting to spend more than $1 million of our hard-earned tax dollars for the Riverside Park redevelopment project (i.e., bandshell project), especially when he asked good questions, but got no real answers. Yet, he voted to move the project forward. This is not operating in the best interest of the public, no matter how you look at it.

And by the way, not only was the project poorly thought out at the time it was railroaded through the council at breakneck speed, but we are still learning how, because of poor and little to no planning, they left “this, that and the other” out of the project (like a ticket booth, for example, that was just recently brought to the planning department's attention and which will now cost us approx. $32,000).

So this bandshell “gift” from the Leach Foundation is going to end up costing a lot more than they told us originally. Hell, the lowest of the bids for the first phase of the project alone came in at somewhere between $400,000 and $500,000 more than the council had approved or planned on spending. But that discussion is for another time - like one of our upcoming shows. Here's where B. Tower has struck another nerve.

We have heard from an extremely reliable source that B. Tower privately told him at a recent meeting that, while he understands things have to be done in public, more could get accomplished if the council could just do a lot of its business behind closed doors, away from the public and media. Now, we're paraphrasing here, of course, and those are not B. Tower's exact words, but the gist of them is quite accurate, says our source. If this is true, then THAT, ladies and gentlemen, should be frightening to us all.

Forget about state laws regarding open meetings, B. Tower. Just feel free to take our checkbook and spend us into the poorhouse in private where we can't see what you're doing and who's getting preferential treatment, etc. YIKES!!

These laws were put in place for a reason, with the basic concept being that you are doing the people's business with the people's money and, therefore, the people should have the right to see and hear what you're doing and participate in the discussion, should they so choose.

While B. Tower seems to understand the spirit and necessity of the law, it is alarming and disturbing, nonetheless, and should be a wake-up call to each and every voter in Oshkosh, that we have a councilman who actually could feel that way; someone who apparently would, if given his druthers and left to his own devices, prefer to sneak around behind our backs instead of having an open forum. It is shocking and he should step forward to explain his comments right now. That will not likely happen, but if this "public servant" opts to run for re-election in 2006, he must be held accountable not only for his voting record in his first term, but also for comments like this that he is alleged to have made. Same goes for any other council member or elected official anywhere who feels this way. These people were elected to perform a public service, not a public disservice.

Elected officials like this need to be watched, and believe me, watching we are!!!

Every election important, some for more reasons than others

On Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2004 voters in Winnebago County will be going to the polls to vote in the fall primary election.

Many people have a tendency to blow off primaries because they think they are unimportant. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Primary elections are designed to narrow a race down to a couple of candidates for the general election in November. That is what will be happening in the race for the 53rd Assembly District as Democrats Steve Dedow and LuAnn Bird face off against each other, while Republicans Carol Owens and Richard Spanbauer do the same. Whatever the results in these two races, it's going to be interesting to watch, especially if you watched the candidates forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters in which all four of these candidates took part.

If you did not see it and are in doubt as to when it replays, check out for replay times.

But another race that is equally important and that is being voted on in the Sept. 14 election is the contest for Winnebago County Register of Deeds. There are four contestants running - all Republicans. That means that whoever wins the primary wins the election. You will not have a chance to vote in this race if you plan to wait until November. All four of the Register of Deeds candidates, incidentally, also took part in the same League of Women Voters candidate's forum, though it lacked the "luster" of that for the 53rd Assembly District.

The only problem with this particular primary election is that you cannot cross party lines. You cannot vote for a Democrat in one race and a Republican in another or a Green or Independent in another. It's one party and one party only for this particular election. November's election, of course, will be different in that you will be able to vote for any candidate of your choosing, no matter which party they are affiliated with.

Some people are put off by the "can't cross party lines" concept and simply refuse to vote in those elections as a result. Please do not be one of them. Again, every election is important - otherwise they would not be held. But it's especially important because for some, their lives will turn on this very important election. In one way or another, they will either be "in" or they will be"out" based upon the ballots cast on Sept. 14 - either "in" office or "in" the general election come November.

So please go to your polls and vote. It only takes a few minutes and it gives you the right to complain or applaud a little more loudly about those elected to serve us - because you will at least have taken part in the process to help make a difference.