Wednesday, November 29, 2006

New Florida Speaker of the House takes office with 100 ideas (and then some)

Now here's what can be accomplished when people pool their ideas for one common cause - in this case, the betterment of life for Florida state residents. It also goes to show what can happen when lawmakers on any level care enough to ask the people they serve their opinions - something we don't see happening very often.

Is some type of national healthcare in our future

We all know healthcare in this country is a mess. We also know that there is a fight between those who say we need some type of national healthcare and those who say it would create more problems than we have now. But in this interview with a reporter from Rep. Dennis Kucinich discusses the state of healthcare in America and shares information about a bill he and Rep. John Conyers are trying to get passed which would provide universal coverage. He also explains why he believes progress toward such a national plan is inevitable.

Winnebago County board redistricting plan clears first hurdle

In the next step toward reducing its size, the Winnebago County Judiciary and Public Safety Committee has approved a map that redistricts the county with 36 county board supervisors instead of 38. The plan, approved by 4-1 - with member Bill Wingren voted against it - now moves to the full county board for its consideration.

According to the Oshkosh Northwestern, Wingren voted against the plan because he is unsupportive of the board's efforts to "minimally downsize before citizens could request a countywide referendum" to reduce the board size by half. Two weeks ago that citizen group - Citizens United to Transform the Winnebago County Board Committee - filed a lawsuit after the county clerk's office, under recommendation from the county's corporation counsel, refused to accept petitions containing thousands of signatures to place such a referendum on the spring 2007 ballot. The county board knew the petition drive was underway and in September, essentially cut the group off at the pass by voting to reduce itself - something many believe was symbolic only - a mere attempt to stop the citizens from having a voice in their own government. Others, however, believe the supervisors had the best interests of county residents at heart and that citizens are better represented by more supervisors rather than fewer.

Under the proposed map, the following supervisors would challenge each other in the April 2008 election: Steven Arne and Chuck Farrey in the towns of Vinland and Oshkosh; Connie Drexler and Robert Warnke in the city of Oshkosh; Donna Lohry and Claud Thompson in the city of Oshkosh; Jerry Finch and County Board Vice Chairman John Schaidler in the town of Menasha; William Pollnow and Tom Widener in the city of Neenah; and Paul Eisen and Joe Hotynski in the city of Menasha.

Despite the fact that I believe the board size should probably be reduced even further than two members, this redistricted map, if approved by the full board, will prove to bring about some interesting results at election time. After all, some of the supervisors pitted against each other have served for many terms with few to no challengers during their county board careers. I feel certain that with a smaller county board in the works, even if only by two, we will see some spirited debate and people actually having to work at keeping their jobs during election time rather than skating through unchallenged and, therefore, virtually unscathed. It may be even more interesting to see how the supervisors facing automatic challenges in 2008 vote on this plan.

Two seats will be vacated on Oshkosh Common Council

Of the four seats up for re-election on the Oshkosh Common Council next spring, two will be vacated by the councilors presently occupying them. At last evening's Common Council meeting, Mayor William Castle announced that, inasmuch as he believes in term limits, he would not be seeking re-election to his post. Two weeks earlier, councilor Shirley Brabender Mattox made a similar announcement, basically citing the same reason.

Two other seats - currently occupied by Bryan Bain and Meredith Scheuermann - will be up for grabs as well, but both councilors will more than likely seek re-election. Still, with Castle and Mattox "retiring," two new people on the council are all but guaranteed.

This Friday, interested parties can begin circulating their nomination papers. Let's hope we get some decent candidates who truly have the best interests of the city at heart and not candidates merely interested in beefing up their resume or seeking a position so they can say "no" at every turn just for the sake of saying "no."

Meanwhile, even though they have a few more months of service in front of them, I want to be one of the first to publicly thank Shirley and Bill for their years of service. I have not always agreed with their votes. In fact, many was the time I did not. But still, they have worked tirelessly for this community; did what they, at least, believed was best for Oshkosh; and in the process often were shown little to no thanks from some people in the community who don't know how to be critical of one's job performance without being nasty. That is unfortunate, but I think I speak for many when I say to both Shirley and Bill - "Thank you!"

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Perk awaits convicted legislators

We've read recently how Wisconsin state lawmakers get to cash out their unused sick days. Well, this one is even better: According to a story in today's online version of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, six ex-lawmakers convicted of corruption are eligible for up to $294,500 in free health care because of a perk state employees enjoy. This, despite the thousands upon thousands of lawbiding Wisconsin residents who are underinsured or, worse yet, have no heathcare coverage at all. Something about this picture "just ain't right."

NBC and MSNBC now referring to conflict in Iraq as a "civil war"

MSNBC and NBC News are now defining the conflict in Iraq as a "civil war."

On the Today Show, Matt Lauer said: "For months now the White House has rejected claims that the situation in Iraq has deteriorated into a civil war. And, for the most part, news organizations like NBC have hesitated to characterize it as such. But after careful consideration, NBC News has decided a change in terminology is warranted -- that the situation in Iraq with armed militarized factions fighting for their own political agendas -- can now be characterized as a civil war."

Here's what the Los Angles Times - which has been referring to the war as a "civil war" for some time already - has to say about it. Even United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan says it's almost to that point. But, despite the White House's continued denial that the situation is a civil war, it has conceded that Iraq has moved into a dangerous new phase of warfare requiring changes in military strategy.

Nine out of 10 emails now spam

If you're like most people, at one time or another you've received "spam" in your email Inbox. Maybe you've even noticed an increased ration of it lately. In story today from CNN we learn why. Unfortunately, it looks like it may not stop anytime soon.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Sen. Obama: Iraq withdrawal should begin in 2007

Sen. Barack Obama - a freshman Democrat from Illinois who is considered to be a possible candidate in the 2008 presidential election - called earlier today for U.S. troops to start leaving Iraq as early as 2007. In doing so, he argued that the threat of an American pullout is the best leverage Washington has remaining in the conflict. You can read more about these and other remarks he made in his speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in this story from CNN.

Meanwhile, leading Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) is also calling for a troop pullout from Iraq, saying that a U.S. pullout is needed to head off "impending disaster" in the nearly 4-year-old war. He claims there will be no victory or defeat for the U.S. in Iraq. You can read more about his thoughts by going here.

Efforts beginning to close budget shortfall by repealing state sales tax exemptions for many

With local communities under tight budget constraints, especially those imposed by the state’s property tax levy limit, and the state itself now facing a $1.6 billion budget shortfall, state lawmakers are hard-pressed to find money to do many of the things government should be doing – providing those essential services we hear so much about. Well, according to this piece in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, some lawmakers are hoping to make up budget shortfalls by repealing the state sales tax exemption for many industries. While it may seem to some to be a good idea on the surface, the idea is already facing staunch opposition by organizations with big financial guns and plenty of lobbying pressure.

Is replacing syndicated columnists with community columnists a good thing

In yesterday’s Oshkosh Northwestern we read how the paper, in large part due to its successful online community of bloggers, is looking to replace its longtime syndicated columnists with local commentators or so-called “community columnists.” There is an upside to this and, as with many things, a downside as well. Miles Maguire takes a close look at what the pros and cons are in this piece from his Miles2Go blog.

Lautenschlager speaks out against book petition in Fond du Lac

Peg Lautenschlager has taken off her Attorney General’s hat and put on that of a parent, as she speaks out about a petition movement in Fond du Lac to have Maya Angelou’s book entitled “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” removed from the sophomore advanced English curriculum at Fond du Lac High School. Lautenschlager lives in the Fond du Lac area and her children either have attended or are attending Fond du Lac High.

She also expressed concern over the Fond du Lac school district holding an open meeting on the matter but not notifying the public of that meeting. You can read more about this ongoing book debate in this article but aside from the controversy itself I wonder two things: will Lautenschlager file a complaint or begin an investigation of the Open Meetings law violation; and, if so, will it take eight months to investigate and render an opinion as it did with the Five Rivers/Oshkosh Common Council closed meeting complaint or will it be given greater priority, especially since she leaves office in less than two months and the incoming AG does not give the impression of having the same concern for Open Meetings violations that Lautenschlager does?

Study shows TV web sites had best election coverage

In the race for best media coverage, the winners were television Web sites, according to a report by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, which followed 32 different outlets. The Web sites of both network and cable television delivered results quickly, allowing users to dig as deeply as they wanted into exit poll information and interactive maps with reports on hundreds of races. You can read more about the story in this New York Times article.

Meanwhile, the battle for audience supremacy in the online news category continues to be a fiercely competitive three-horse race, with ABC, CBS and Fox all jockeying for position. More on this in in this piece from Media Week.

Blogger wins court-approved journalist status

Many bloggers describe themselves as journalists even if they do not work in the field of journalism per se or get paid for their work (such as in the case of interns). But last week Charles LeBlanc, a rooming house resident who lives on social assistance in Fredericton, New Brunswick, received a court decision establishing his journalistic credentials. The confirmation came last Friday when a judge dismissed charges against LeBlanc of obstructing a police officer. You can read the complete story in this New York Times article. You can find LeBlanc’s blog here.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

What would Kennedy think? And Happy Thanksgiving!

On this, the 43rd anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, it is interesting to reflect not only on his life and times, but the things he tried to accomplish during his presidency. Among his many undertakings were championing equal rights and new civil rights legislation and laying out plans for a massive assault on persisting pockets of privation and poverty. If Kennedy was alive today, I wonder what this visionary would say about the vote taken two weeks ago in seven states denying an entire segment of society equal rights under the law; I wonder how he would feel about the war we’re currently engaged in and, more importantly, the way in which we became engaged in it; and I wonder what Kennedy would think about the manner in which so many in our society today are forced to live because of serious economic woes. In many respects, despite all the progress we’ve made as a nation, it seems like in so many of the areas that should matter the most, we have remained stagnant or even digressed.

And yet, as we get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, we have much to be thankful for, both individually and as a country: Among those, living in a society where we can express ourselves without fear of imprisonment or death; and where we have the right to stand up to our government leaders when we think they’re doing it wrong.

I hope each person will take a few moments tomorrow to reflect on his or her own individual life and say a few words of thanks for everything they have in their life. Things in life are never perfect and sometimes they can seem just downright depressing and unfair. But there’s always a situation and someone much worse off than us. So, be thankful for what you do have; say a prayer to fix that which is wrong; and don’t sweat the small stuff. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Seventeen-year-olds in today's justice system

Wisconsin Council on Children & Families invite the public to join them for an open forum next Thursday to learn what it means for our state's 17-year-olds to be charged and tried as adults, and be given adult consequences. What does it mean for our public safety and our youth's future? According to a media release, various community leaders will be taking part in the discussion about Wisconsin's 17-year-olds who are in the justice system.

When: Thursday, Nov. 30, 2006 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Where: Oshkosh North High School

For more information about this forum please contact Wendy Henderson at 608-284-0580 or email her at:

Committee to take up issue of new supervisory district maps for Winnebago County

For all those following or interested in size of the Winnebago County Board: The Winnebago County Judiciary and Public Safety Committee will be meeting on Tuesday, November 28, 2006 at 9 a.m. to take up the new supervisory district maps, which would take effect in 2008.

As many of you know, in September, the county board voted to reduce its size by two, thus taking action before citizens could, by petition, put a referendum on the April 2007 ballot to reduce the size of the board by half - from 38 to 19. The next step in the process is to redraw district boundaries.

The link for the committee agenda is : The meeting will be held at the Winnebago County Sheriff's Office, 4311 Jackson St., in the first floor Community Room. This meeting is open to the public.

Meanwhile, as you may be aware, last week the full county board voted 24-12 to support a resolution sponsored by supervisor Donna Lohry to repeal the relatively new law which allows citizens or a county board itself to reduce, once every 10 years, the size of the county board. Tony Palmeri has blogged about why he believes the law is bad policy and should be repealed. This issue will also be the subject of a future episode of "Eye on Oshkosh."

Monday, November 20, 2006

O.J. Simpson interview not being aired by Green Bay TV station

As most have probably heard by now, O.J. Simpson has written a book entitled “If I Did It,” in which he discusses in hypothetical terms how he would have killed his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ron Goldman, who were slain in June 1994. Though acquitted by a jury in a criminal trial, Simpson is still believed by many to be guilty of the double-murders. He was also found responsible for the deaths in a civil trial which followed the criminal trial. As a result of that wrongful death suit, Simpson owes a $33 million judgment to the victims’ families, of which he has reportedly paid nothing to date. The news of his book has been a major source of controversy during the past week and has many saying the book should not be purchased and the TV special in which he discusses the book and its contents should not be watched.

Today comes news that Green Bay station WLUK-TV Channel 11, a Fox affiliate, has made a decision to not air the two-part interview. I suspect this, too, will be the subject of controversy and discussion. According to this report from Associated Press, the station made its decision after much consideration and hearing from viewers here in northeast Wisconsin. Do you feel this decision is right? Or should we each be allowed to make up our own minds as to whether to watch the interview? Feel free to sound off and/or vote in our online poll.

According to another published report, Simpson's book deal was such a closely guarded secret that even his lawyer, Yale Galanter, was surprised by the news. Galanter admits he's "pissed" O.J. kept him in the dark about it and says, "I definitely would not have approved this." Galanter says the whole thing is something of a bait-and-switch. You can read more about this in this online article and the Nov. 27 issue of Newsweek Magazine.

MID-AFTERNOON UPDATE: Fox has now canceled its interview with O.J. Simpson and will not publish his book, calling it an "ill-considered project." You can read the latest details in this report.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Reaction, outrage and backlash begin following marriage amendment's passage in Wisconsin

Only days after Wisconsin voters approved an amendment to the state constitution banning same sex marriages and civil unions, Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, began drafting a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would not only ban discrimination, but open the way for state-sanctioned civil unions. The ban would honor the amendment approved by voters on Nov. 7, but according to Erpenbach, would rectify potential problems with the way part of the amendment was worded. He also said it would help ensure that no one is discriminated against under the recently-passed amendment.

Among his comments about the ban, Erpenbach said he does not understand how the state can expect same-sex couples to continue paying taxes and being lawful citizens when they are denied protections and benefits afforded to married couples. He also said supporters of the gay marriage amendment always claimed that they did not intend to discriminate against gay couples, just protect the institution of marriage. “If that's not their intention to discriminate, let's make sure it's in the constitution," Erpenbach said.

You can read more about Erpenbach’s proposed amendment in this article from The Capitol Times.

In a separate news story, some gay and lesbian faculty and staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are saying they may quit their jobs because of the state's passage of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions. The fall-out and/or economic impact on the state of Wisconsin from the amendment’s passage certainly has yet to be seen, but clearly, according to this article from Associated Press, some people are serious about moving to and paying taxes to a friendlier state.

Wisconsin Green Party elects new Co-chair at Fall Gathering/Membership Meeting

(Oshkosh, WI) At the Fall Gathering/Membership meeting held this past weekend, members elected Ron Hardy to the position of Co-chair of the Wisconsin Green Party. He will serve a two-year term, joining Ruth Weill, who is beginning the second year of her term. The Wisconsin Green Party strives for gender balance in all positions of leadership.

"I am honored to have been elected to this position of leadership,” said Hardy. "No other party offers a stronger vision for reinvesting in our state's long-term health and welfare. Our elected leaders from Madison to Racine and across the North have proven that Greens can make a difference in their local communities and across the state.”

Ron Hardy is a librarian at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. He was formerly the co-chair of the Lake Winnebago Green Party, a member of the WGP Coordinating Council representing the 6th CD, and a regional volunteer for the Eisman, Vogeler, and Bussiere campaigns for office. He is an advisor for Rainbow Alliance for HOPE (Helping Others Perceive Equality), and advised the UW-Oshkosh Students for a Fair Wisconsin. Ron and his family live in Oshkosh where they are active in both the campus and the community.

Hardy was actively involved in protesting the implementation of Diebold TSx touch screen voting machines in Winnebago County, and worked with the 2005 Troops Home Now initiative in Oshkosh. He is currently campaigning with others against draconian reductions to the size of the Winnebago County Board.

“I’m glad that Ron has been elected Co-chair, said Ruth Weill. “I’ve worked with Ron on many party projects, and he is very capable. He has a wealth of experience, and will be an asset to the party.”

Ruth Weill, Co-chair, Wisconsin Green Party, 414-350-2107
Ron Hardy, Co-chair, Wisconsin Green Party, 920-230-3741, cell 920-292-8129,

[Editor's Note: Congratulations, Ron. You will be an excellent co-chair.]

Thursday, November 16, 2006

C-SPAN style coverage of Wisconsin legislature moves one step closer to becoming reality

WisconsinEye -- having received the necessary approvals from the State Building Commission, State Capitol and Executive Residence Board, both legislative bodies, and the Department of Administration -- was given their authorization to proceed today and may now begin installing the infrastructure necessary to provide coverage of legislative proceedings at the State Capitol.

A copy of WisconsinEye's press release, dated Nov. 16, 2006 and additional information about WisconsinEye is available at

[Editorial note: This is excellent news for those of us who expect and appreciate more openness in our government - Cheryl]

Monday, November 13, 2006

County continues to show arrogance in county board size issue

The first slap in the face of citizens and to “government of the people, by the people and for the people” came in September when the Winnebago County Board voted to cut itself by a mere two members – an intentional move knowing a citizen action group was circulating petitions to seek a vote by the public to cut the board size by half.

The second slap came when the legislative committee of the county board voted 6-5 to send to the full county board a resolution asking that the state legislature repeal the law allowing citizen groups to reduce the size of county boards through direct-legislation referendums. No vote by the full 38-member board has yet been taken on the resolution, at least as of this writing, though it may be considered by the board this month.

The third slap came today, when the Citizens United to Transform the Winnebago County Board, better known as CUT, presented more than 5,500 signatures on petitions to put a referendum on a future ballot, seeking to reduce the board’s size from 38 to 19 supervisors, but they were rejected by County Clerk Sue Ertmer through a written directive to her staff. According to the Oshkosh Northwestern, Ertmer’s letter said her decision was based on advice she received from legal counsel and the State Elections Board. She said the board has already taken action, therefore, she would not accept the petition.

But according to the same story, CUT had continued their petition drive despite the symbolic two-member board reduction and attempted to file the petitions after seeking advice from a State Legislative Council attorney. A letter from Don Dyke, Senior Staff Attorney at the Wisconsin Legislative Council said that "If a County Board has adopted a resolution to reduce the number of County Board Supervisors, but has yet to enact the revised supervisory district plan to implement the reduction, it appears the board may not enact the plan following the filing of a petition to reduce the County Board Size."

It was that opinion upon which CUT relied when it continued to gather signatures on their petitions. But this afternoon “government of the people, by the people and for the people” it ran into another roadblock when not only were the petitions rejected, but the Corporation Counsel for Winnebago County, John Bodnar, refused to meet with anyone from the group. County executive Mark Harris met with them but is unable to overrule Ertmer’s decision because, like him, she is an elected official in Winnebago County. Ertmer also met with representatives of the group, but only to reiterate her position.

Either the county and State Elections Board are right or the opinion CUT received from the State Legislative Counsel is right but, clearly, both cannot be. And the law itself notwithstanding, the activities of this county board when it comes to the issue of board size reduction reek of arrogance and stonewalling the very public to whom the government belongs. It makes one wonder what this county and its elected officials are so afraid of. I doubt this is the end of the issue. Quite the contrary: it would seem it’s just heating up; as well it should be.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Oshkosh city attorney still refuses to admit he was wrong, despite state AG's ruling to the contrary

According to a piece posted earlier tonight on the Oshkosh News site, City Attorney Warren Kraft has said that the Attorney General's Office opinion that the Oshkosh Common Council violated the state’s Open Meeting law concerning the Five Rivers project is based on a view of what the AG's office wants the Open Meeting law to be, rather than based on what the law currently provides. The story goes on to say that “In a Nov. 10, 2006 memorandum to City Manager Richard Wollangk that is included in the city manager's weekly newsletter, Kraft writes that his recommendation would not change since the current law permits the type of notice used for the Feb. 14 closed meeting and permits the twin subjects discussed in that session.” Clearly that is NOT the case according to the Attorney General’s office. So do we take Mr. Kraft’s memo to mean that as long as he is our city attorney business will continue as usual at City Hall and that Kraft himself has learned nothing from this most recent complaint filed against the city?

I like Warren Kraft as a person and believe him to be a fine and upstanding man. But, like many in this community, I have begun to question his competence as a city attorney and think perhaps there needs to be some kind of action taken by the city manager. After all, there have been a number of recommendations he has made and/or work that he and his office have done in the last few years which have either been called into question or just been flat out wrong. I would hate to think that this kind of inferior work product is acceptable to city manager Richard Wollangk. How many times do you have to be told - or in some cases, proven - you’re wrong before you admit you made a mistake? Apparently in Warren Kraft’s case it’s at least one more time, and even then, I wonder if he would admit he screwed up.

Kraft’s attitude and response to the Attorney General’s office determination about the illegal closed session meeting is one that exudes arrogance and should not be tolerated by anyone, least of all our city manager. His attitude is disturbing on two levels: First, he was told by the AG’s office that the meeting did not comply with the Open Meetings law because some of the subject matter discussed did not fall within the scope of what can be discussed in closed session; yet Kraft insists it can be and continues to maintain that everything about that meeting was fine. The second disturbing thing is Kraft’s insistence on picking and choosing which things from the AG’s office he’s going to have the city follow and which ones he isn’t; or better yet, which laws he is going to have the city follow and which ones he isn’t. It has seemed for some time now that he follows the AG’s guidelines when it suits the city or one of its administration; but if it doesn't, he falls back on his stock phrase of “It’s only an opinion.” He cannot have it both ways and I would hope that more city councilors than just Paul Esslinger (who, as has been stated several times in the past, did not attend the meeting) will realize that we cannot pick and choose which laws we’re going to follow and which laws we’re not.

When the decision of the AG’s office was released the other day I wrote that I hoped the “Common Council, city manager, city attorney and other department heads at City Hall will use this determination (and the past one concerning the no-bid contract for the bathrooms at the Leach Amphitheater) to actually learn something and approach it, not with arrogance or smugness, but with a willingness to do better in the future and act more judiciously where taxpayers and their dollars are concerned, even if that means erring on the side of caution.” It seems like that is not to be in the case of Mr. Kraft. Indeed, in typical lawyer fashion, the wording of Mr. Kraft's memo to the city manager seems to suggest that he has gone out of his way to find any legal loophole that will justify the law having been broken by the Common Council's actions on Feb. 14.

Let’s hope those who attended this illegal meeting (including former councilor Frank Tower) have a little more common-sense and humility about them and start to use the moral compass and brains the good Lord gave them when they make decisions in the future which affect our community. If not, they can rest assured people like me and Tony Palmeri, and other media like the Oshkosh Northwestern, will be right there to hold their feet to the fire and file another complaint. And even though no one will be prosecuted this time, I would hope that if too much of a pattern of illegal activity develops, the AG’s office would feel compelled to do something. Absent that, perhaps the law should be changed so it can't so easily be broken without penalty or prosecution, and the AG's office should give Warren Kraft a refresher course in the law, just as he regularly gives such refreshers to council members and city board participants. It seems that would be appropriate given his response to the AG's opinion this past week and all the city attorney's office "missteps" of the last couple of years.

But, no matter what, one thing remains crystal clear: until changes are made somewhere, we, the people, continue to lose and those in government can continue to find loopholes with which to break the law.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veteran's Day message

[we have received the following message from Gov. Doyle's office and are not only pleased to publish it but echo the governor's thoughts about veterans and this day of honor for them...]

Governor Doyle Column:

Honoring Wisconsin's Veterans

This weekend, we celebrate Veterans Day and honor America's veterans who have served with duty, loyalty, and selfless courage.

This Veterans Day is especially important. Very early tomorrow morning, we will welcome home 154 of Wisconsin's newest veterans at Volk Field and in the last week we have welcomed home nearly 1,000 Wisconsin National Guard troops from service overseas.

Through patriotic service, they have tirelessly guarded freedom and liberty around the world. Veterans Day is a time to pay homage to so many who courageously gave their lives in defense of our freedom. And while we remember those who have fallen, we honor those who continue to serve in Iraq, Afghanistan, and military outposts around the world.

Over a half-a-million Wisconsin men and women have served our nation and our state. On Veterans Day, as a state and country, we take time to honor each and every one of them.

But as Governor, I try to honor them every day. Because I know that without them, Wisconsin would not be the great place it is to work, live, and raise a family.

As the proud son of a World War II Veteran, I am humbled by the service and sacrifice of our military families, and one of the great privileges I've had as Governor is working for and with our state's veterans.

I not only appreciate and honor the service of these fine men and women, but I am committed to ensuring that the State of Wisconsin continues to honor its debt to each and every one of our veterans.

The veterans who have returned home - and those who will - have earned our respect and gratitude. They deserve the best services and benefits that we can offer.

A century ago, Theodore Roosevelt said that "a man who is good enough to shed his blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards."

And I couldn't agree more. Our veterans deserve our respect and admiration...but they also deserve the very best services and benefits that we can offer.

As our brave men and women march off to defend our freedom, it's up to us to take care of the country they leave behind. When they return home, we have a solemn obligation to keep the promises we have made to them.

I'm proud that, in Wisconsin, we've honored our veterans by providing them with the most comprehensive veterans programs and services anywhere in the country. And as long as I'm Governor, we'll continue to do just that.

On behalf of all people in Wisconsin, I want to thank those who have served or are serving our country.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

DOJ affirms Hentz/Palmeri assertions outlined in Five Rivers closed session complaint

As explained very thoroughly by my co-host and co-complainant Tony Palmeri in this piece posted earlier tonight the state Attorney General's office essentially has agreed with us that the closed session meeting held by the Oshkosh Common Council to discuss the Five Rivers project on Feb. 14, was not an appropriate meeting. I have not yet seen my own copy of the AG office's determination; I assume it will arrive tomorrow. However, Tony and I did discuss this determination earlier this evening and I share his thoughts completely.

I may have more to say on the matter once I receive and have a chance to personally review the material. But for now, while I am happy that our position has been affirmed and our actions vindicated, and though I understand why no prosecutions will follow, I also fear that the very type of "escape hatch" which has allowed this violation of the law to go unpunished may allow similar meetings to be held in the future, with no real repercussions either. What good are open meetings laws if elected or public officials can violate them and in doing so use the excuse that "we were following the city attorney's advice" and the city attorney need only say "this is my interpretation of the law?"

That being said, I would hope the Common Council, city manager, city attorney and other department heads at City Hall will use this determination (and the past one concerning the no-bid contract for the bathrooms at the Leach Amphitheater) to actually learn something and approach it, not with arrogance or smugness, but with a willingness to do better in the future and act more judiciously where taxpayers and their dollars are concerned, even if that means erring on the side of caution.

Tony and I have discussed doing a show on this determination and will probably do so sometime in the next month.

Wisconsin's "gay marriage" amendment and the problem with the vote

By now, everyone knows the so-called “gay marriage” amendment was approved by voters in yesterday’s election. I refer to it as “so-called” because anyone who actually read the referendum question and understood what it meant knew it was not really about banning gay marriage.

If it had only been about banning gay marriage, it was a completely unnecessary piece of legislation because the state Constitution already bans gay marriages. This amendment to the Constitution went much deeper than that. It bans civil unions for anyone and creates legislation that denies all unmarried couples – heterosexual or homosexual – the ability to enjoy certain benefits automatically afforded their married counterparts. In essence, it defines what a family is, according to the amendment’s supporters’ own standards.

I believe everyone has a right to their own opinion and to vote as they believe right. But as much as I believe that and as deeply as I love Wisconsin, I am ashamed of the way so many people voted; I am embarrassed to live in a state where voters would so blatantly choose to discriminate against an entire sect of people; and I am saddened by the fact that so many people do not take the time to fully understand issues they are voting on. At the same time I am frustrated by the fact that certain parties chose to distort the facts about the amendment and what it would and would not do in order to get the legislation passed. They used religion as the basis for their argument, but at the same time slanted the truth.

As I said, this amendment, as approved, allows discrimination against an entire segment of the state’s population – people, by the way, who are probably paying more in taxes than many married couples because there is no marriage tax credit available to them – to be written into the state’s Constitution. The even sadder thing about this is constitutions are supposed to be documents which, by their very nature, provide for rights, freedoms and equal protections for all, not take them away or restrict them. While some people may have just not understood the referendum question, it speaks volumes about those other voters who are so threatened by those different from themselves that they feel they must outlaw them from having equal rights and protections.

There is also the separation of church and state issue. Far too many people during this campaign insisted on citing the Bible and making other religious references. Religion should never have been a part of it and those who used their religious beliefs as a basis for their affirmative vote don’t understand one of the basic premises of the U.S. Constitution.

All that aside, I predict this legislation will eventually be overturned, but before that I suspect someone – whether a few individuals or an entire class of people – will challenge it. Such challenges have been mounted elsewhere - some successfully so - and I think it is only a matter of time before we see it in Wisconsin. In the meantime, we can only hope that someday voters are more enlightened about issues before they go to the polls.

Rumsfeld out as secretary of defense

In a move many might call "expected," Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has said he is resigning his post. Today's announcement comes two days after four military newspapers - all published by the Military Times Media Group - published an editorial saying it was time for Rumsfeld to go. It also comes just one day after mid-term elections, in which exit polls across the country indicated voters are unhappy with the way the Bush administration, which includes Rumsfeld, has handled the Iraq War. In the wake of Rumfeld's decision to leave, President Bush has said he will nominate former CIA chief Robert Gates to fill the vacated post.

Fox's O'Reilly, Kansas AG under investigation over abortion records

On Monday, two abortion clinics asked the State of Kansas' highest court to investigate Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline and Fox television's Bill O'Reilly over O'Reilly's statements that he had obtained information from Kansas abortion records. Their attorneys also asked the court to seize the records of 90 patients from the two clinics. You can read more on the story here.

Meanwhile, Lisa Stone of the Huffington Post says if medical records for Kansas women and girls were accessed as O'Reilly claims, someone has broken the law. Her piece can be found here.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Gannett to change its papers' approach to reporting

According to this story in today's Washington Post Gannett Co., the nation's largest newspaper chain, "is radically changing the way its papers gather and present news by incorporating elements of reader-created 'citizen journalism,' mining online community discussions for stories and creating Internet databases of calendar listings and other non-news utilities."

We've already seen some of these changes taking place within the Oshkosh Northwestern, one of Gannett's many publications. So far, the changes seem to be registering for the better for Gannett's papers from a financial standpoint and readers seem to approve. Locally, there certainly are a fair number of active participants in the Oshkosh Northwestern's discussion boards. Kudos to Gannett for finding ways to incorporate new technology into old-fashioned reporting and publishing.

Voting machine scrutiny; new security measures on the horizon

After a series of voting problems in primaries around the country, the federal agency charged with overseeing elections is poised to approve new security measures to make voting equipment safer and more reliable. The details are outlined in this article. Unfortunately, the new measures won't be implemented in enough time to provide relief from problems that could arise in today's cross-country elections.

The Oshkosh Northwestern has a special, temporary forum set up where you can report local voting machine problems online (or share good experiences with the machines). If you are reluctant to post your experiences online, you can call them at (920) 426-6665.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Four leading military newspapers say Rumsfeld must go

Given the current state of affairs with Iraq and our nation's military, four military newspapers - all published by the Military Times Media Group, a subsidiary of Gannett Co., Inc. - are saying it is time for Donald Rumsfeld to go and the military have some new leadership. You can read the complete story here.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Tips to avoid voting problems on Election Day

We've all, no doubt, heard of the various problems associated with the touch-screen voting machines required as part of the federal Help America Vote Act. But like the machines or not, they are now a part of out electoral process. Here are some tips that can help avoid problems when you go to the polls Tuesday. Then say a prayer that the machines don't malfunction.

Meanwhile, here is a link to a very comprehensive list of election and campaign information, courtesy of the Oshkosh Public Library.

Why so few people vote in the United States

Tuesday is Election Day in the United States. Americans from sea to shining sea will go to the polls to cast ballots for their favorite candidates for a wide selection of offices and voice their opinions of a number of referenda questions. But not all Americans - in fact, not even most. According to this story from the Associated Press many other countries put us to shame when it comes to the percentage of citizens who vote. Please go to the polls Tuesday and vote. It is not only a privilege but a responsibility.

Article claims "Google" will eventually be able to keep tabs on us all

How would you feel if someone knew exactly what you were doing at any given moment? Even more frightening, how would you feel if someone could do a simple Internet search and learn what you were doing at a specific time and in a specific place on any given day - past or present?

Well, according to this article,,,1938474,00.html, technology will become so advanced and the Internet will hold so much digital data in five years from now, that it will be possible to track people and their movements in this very manner. The Patriot Act, offensive as many find it, seems mild compared to this.

Friday, November 03, 2006

County Board creating a structural deficit by pulling from reserves; budget not truly balanced

Well, the Winnebago County Board has approved a 2007 budget, but they sure didn’t do it through any creative means or by giving truly heartfelt thought and effort to making cuts in the budget. Instead, they “balanced” the budget by pulling money from the general reserve – money used for emergencies and money on which our credit rating is determined and interest rates on future borrowing are established. And it’s not the first time the board has done this.

Last year it pulled $840,000 to “balance” the budget and made no meaningful cuts. This year, board members pulled approximately $250,000 on Wednesday and about another $600,000 on Thursday to fund its 2007 operations.

County Executive Mark Harris said when he taped an episode of "Eye on Oshkosh" last night that the board has not truly balanced the budget. Instead, supervisors’ actions helped create a further structural deficit – a very dangerous situation and one that many cities, including Milwaukee, are currently experiencing.

Harris had proposed a half-percent sales tax, which he said would have both balanced the budget and provided property tax relief to county residents – which, under Wisconsin law it would have to do. It also would have returned leftover revenue to the various cities, townships and villages in Winnebago County. For the City of Oshkosh, Harris estimated that could have been as much as $800,000, which we sure could use. But the board shot down the sales tax proposal as one of its first actions when it began budget deliberations on Monday.

Among its other actions this week, the board actually reinstated three positions in the county sheriff’s department – two patrol officers and another dispatcher. That was probably a smart move because, after all, that is public safety and the sheriff’s department has taken some hits in recent years. Most of the cuts the board made were those already recommended by Harris.

One small cut Harris recommended that the board say “no way” to was the $1,200 budgeted for its coffee and doughnut fund. Though it would have been more symbolic than fiscally beneficial, that cut would have, at a minimum, shown the county board took the budget process seriously and understood the budget crisis we’re in. After all, at $100 a month, I think the county board members each could kick in a few bucks to preserve their precious coffee and doughnuts. But apparently that’s asking too much of them – at least for those 19 board members who voted to preserve the expense in the budget.

And yet, supervisor Stan Kline said "There's always give and take. We were going through literally with a scalpel." Sorry Stan, some of us just don’t see it that way. The scalpel apparently got set down so as not to get it sticky from that jelly-filled doughnut.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


[we have received the following submission and are pleased to publish it...]

The civil union and gay-marriage ban is wrong for Wisconsin

by Lisa Kaiser
of the

On Nov. 7, Wisconsin voters have a chance to make history and fight discrimination at the same time. That's when voters will face the following:

QUESTION 1: "Marriage. Shall section 13 of article XIII of the constitution be created to provide that only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state and that a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state?"

Voting "yes" means that the Wisconsin Constitution will include a ban on same-sex marriages and the legal recognition of relationships that are similar to marriage -that includes civil unions and domestic partnerships, two forms of relationships that many heterosexual people create.

Voting "no" means that the constitution will not include discrimination. It means that everything will stay the same. It means that gays and lesbians will not be able to get married in Wisconsin, which is the current law. It means that civil unions and domestic partnerships will continue to be options for couples. And it means that Wisconsin would be the first state to reject a constitutional ban on civil unions and same-sex marriages at the ballot box.

Here are 10 reasons why you should vote "no" on Nov. 7.

10. If you vote "no," you'll be in good company. Opponents of the referendum come from across the political spectrum and from every county in the state. On the Republican side you have heavyweights such as former Republican Gov. Lee S. Dreyfus. Even conservative radio talker Charlie Sykes has questioned whether the ban is wise, and indicated that Republican legislators overreached by including civil unions and domestic partnerships in the broadly worded amendment.

Fair-minded politicians such as Sen. Russ Feingold, Gov. Jim Doyle, Mayor Tom Barrett, attorney general candidate Kathleen Falk and a host of others don't want the amendment to be part of our constitution.

The business community has spoken out against it, since the amendment would tarnish Wisconsin's image as a tolerant place in which to work and grow a business. Labor unions are concerned about workers potentially losing benefits at their jobs. Organizations that advocate for health care, domestic-violence victims, seniors and others also oppose the amendment.

Referendum opponents also include African-American leaders such as Vel Phillips; Congresswoman Gwen Moore; state Sen. Lena Taylor; and state Reps. Tamara Grigsby, Spencer Coggs, Jason Fields, Leon Young, Robert Turner and Barbara Toles.

9. The amendment could affect you, even if you are straight. Gay and lesbian couples are the ones most directly affected by the ban. If a majority of voters say "no" to the amendment, then these couples lose nothing. (They would gain nothing, legally, either.) But if a majority votes "yes," then gay and lesbians in the state will have their treatment as second-class citizens actually imbedded in the 158-year-old Wisconsin Constitution.

But if you're straight, you could also be affected. In fact, you would be affected more, since you would be losing rights you currently enjoy. Because the amendment would also ban the legal recognition of relationships that are similar to marriage-domestic partnerships and civil unions-straight people in solid relationships who are not married are at risk of losing some legal protections. Since the effect of this ban on civil unions is unclear, nobody is sure if health care benefits, custody issues, hospital visitation rights and other protections would be affected.

What's more, heterosexuals who vote "yes" would also have to answer tough questions about why they support discrimination. For example, how would you feel if your child were gay and therefore wouldn't be seen as equal in the eyes of the law? What if the company you work for decided to terminate domestic-partnership benefits, for fear of breaking the law or being dragged into a costly court case? What if your colleague or favorite employee decided to leave the state so that she and her partner could have a better life elsewhere?

8. Heterosexual marriages aren't threatened by gay relationships. Those who support the ban on civil unions and same-sex marriage say that they're interested in protecting the sanctity of marriage. The amendment has been dubbed the "Defense of Marriage Amendment" and the federal version, which President Bush supported and Congress shot down, was called the "Marriage Protection Amendment," implying that heterosexual marriages are threatened by gay relationships.

But how vulnerable is the institution of marriage? Not one heterosexual marriage has ended because gay people have been allowed to marry in some countries. Not one country has run out of marriage licenses, and not one clergy member or justice of the peace has refused to marry a straight couple because gay couples could marry.

Aren't marriages put under strain by other factors? Just last week, the Milwaukee Archdiocese Priest Alliance issued a statement asking that legislators look at real threats to the family-threats such as poverty, a weak job market, lack of secure pensions and health-care benefits and the commercialization of sex. These Catholic priests wrote: "The amendment may be construed to deny rights and services, including health care, not only to those in civil unions but many other citizens of Wisconsin as well, irrespective of their marital status. Indeed, our pastoral experience tells us that the prospect of gay unions is not a chief cause of marital instability and family dissolution. Marriage and family are more at risk from more immediate challenges-problems that can and should be addressed by candidates."

Think about it another way: voting "no" to not discriminate against gay and unmarried people can actually strengthen our society. As marriage-equality advocate Evan Wolfson said in a Shepherd interview last fall, "Time and time again opponents have prophesized that terrible things would happen, when in fact our nation has become better when we've widened the circle of equality."

7. Wisconsin voters are being manipulated by politicians who are only looking out for themselves. Sadly, the Republican legislators who have pushed for this amendment have done so with one eye on their own political fortunes. They hoped to increase the turnout of conservative Christians who usually vote Republican-the well-being of large portions of our state's residents be damned. Cynically, they timed the amendment so that it would be put on the ballot this November, when they hope that large numbers of conservative Christian voters will vote "yes" on the amendment and help Republicans maintain control in Madison.

But evidence is mounting that confirms what we already knew: this strategy is manipulative and dishonest and shortchanges Christian voters. As recounted in Tempting Faith, a new book about the Bush administration's use and abuse of the Christian right, these conservative Republican strategists and politicians have no respect for churchgoers. As author David Kuo writes in the book, "National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as 'ridiculous,' 'out of control, benefits, custody issues, ' and just plain 'goofy.'"

How's that for loyalty?

6. You can vote "no" and still be a good Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, pagan, agnostic or atheist. Which faith groups have declared that discrimination does not belong in the Wisconsin Constitution? Protestants, Baptists, Buddhists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Jews, Quakers, Christians, Catholics, Unitarians and others stand in unity against the ban.

5. A "no" vote reaffirms the separation of church and state. When a couple marries, they are entering into a civil contract that is recognized by the government. A couple can be married in a religious ceremony, but it isn't mandatory.

A "no" vote does not mean that every church, temple or mosque will be forced to marry same-sex couples. A "no" vote means that current law, which does not allow for same-sex marriage, will stand. It also means that some conservative Christians' definition of marriage will not become a part of our constitution.

This is a very different message than the one delivered by amendment supporters. They produced a DVD explaining their position and distributed 4,000 copies to churches throughout the state. But the DVD is full of inaccuracies and blurs the line between church and state. As the narrator explains in the DVD, "The institution of marriage is God's creation, designed for mankind's good and God's glory. Marriage and the family are not the creation of the state or even the church. Therefore, marriage or the family cannot be redefined by the government or the church."

But ask yourself this: Why must one Christian viewpoint become the law of the land?

4. The amendment could have dangerous, unintended consequences. The amendment isn't just about banning same-sex marriages in the state. According to the second sentence of the amendment, it would ban relationships that are "similar" to marriage. This includes civil unions and domestic partnerships-relationships that many heterosexual couples participate in. A "no" vote would allow them to stay in place, without being threatened by the law.

This second sentence has troubled many and similar bans have caused problems in other states. For example, in Ohio, domestic-violence protections have become more vulnerable. That's why the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence opposes the ban. passed, the amendment could have a devastating effect on unmarried heterosexual and same-sex victims of domestic violence, including persons currently or formerly residing together, persons with a child in common, people in dating relationships and those who have caretakers and guardians who engage in abuse," the coalition argued.

In addition, seniors who are in stable, loving relationships - but aren't married to their partner - are worried that they will be negatively impacted by the ban. As the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups explained when they decided to oppose the amendment, "Many formerly married elders choose not to remarry but instead enter into legal relationships with their new partners that are substantially similar to marriage. Some have religious marriage ceremonies performed but do not complete marriage licenses. Couples consider themselves married but are not in fact married. The second sentence of the proposed amendment will lead to uncertainty and litigation over whether these relationships - and the legal documents such as deeds, Powers of Attorneys, property agreements, etc. that accompany these relationships - are valid."

3. Do they think we're stupid? Wisconsin law has already defined marriage as a relationship between a "husband" and "wife."

But amendment supporters think we don't understand those terms. They want to redefine marriage so that it's between one "man" and one "woman." Without this change, amendment backers argue, just about anyone could get married-one man and two women, one woman and two men, a couple of men and a handful of women, and so on and so on. These amendment supporters would even have you believe that marriage between a man and an animal could become legal if we don't change the constitution and redefine marriage as being between one man and one woman.

Do they really believe Wisconsin voters are that dumb?

Voting "no" means that the law will stand-legal marriages in the state will continue to be made between a husband and a wife.

2. Momentum is on the side of tolerance. Two years ago, when Republicans introduced gay-marriage amendments around the country, they passed overwhelmingly in 11 states. Back then, people weren't quite sure what "gay marriage" was all about, and amendment supporters made it sound scary, like The End Was Near.

But support for banning same-sex marriage has waned as people learn that allowing gay and lesbians to share the same rights and responsibilities as heterosexuals isn't so threatening. Recent polls in Wisconsin show that voters are fairly evenly divided between those who support and oppose banning civil unions and same-sex marriages.

But look closer at those figures and you'll realize where the momentum is - with the future generations. According to surveys, younger voters are less likely to want to discriminate against gays and lesbians. Younger people have gay friends, co-workers and relatives who are open and honest about their lives-and it's no big deal. Younger people understand that there's nothing wrong with being gay, while discriminating against gays and lesbians is not acceptable.

What would happen if the amendment passes and our constitution includes discrimination? As younger generations become leaders and shape our political landscape and communities, they'll have to undo the mistakes of today's older voters who want to discriminate against a healthy minority of our society. Voting "no" means that discrimination will not be part of Wisconsin's future.

1. Voting "no" will make history. In 1982, Wisconsin was the first state in the country to pass a law that made discrimination against gays and lesbians illegal. Our state has clearly benefited from that vote on tolerance and fairness, and other states and countries have followed our lead.

Now, Wisconsin voters have a similar challenge: to rise above petty politics and make our voices heard.

You can make history on Nov. 7 by voting to stop the ban on civil unions and same-sex marriages. No other state has made this declaration, but Wisconsin voters have the opportunity to stop discrimination. A "no" vote will make history-and make Wisconsin a better state.

Here is the link to the article:

Here is a link to "20 Effects of the Civil Unions and Marriage Ban" presented by A Fair Wisconsin:

And here's everything you need to know for this Tuesday, November 7 to vote "NO" on the amendment. Please feel free to copy & paste and send the following to your friends, family, and coworkers in Wisconsin...

What will I see on the ballot?
"Marriage. Shall section 13 of article XIII of the constitution be created to provide that only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state and that a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state?"

How do I vote if I don't want this in our constitution?
Vote "No." Learn more about what the amendment means and why you should vote "No" here:

Where do I vote?
Find your polling place:

What time are the polls open?
In most places, you can vote between 7am-8pm on Tuesday, November 7. You can also vote early -- which you should do if you're volunteering with us on Election Day. Learn how to vote early:

What do I need to bring if I voted in the last election?
As long as you haven't moved out of your voting ward, you don't need to bring a thing.

I've never voted in Wisconsin. What do I need to know?
To vote you must live in Wisconsin for at least ten days before Election Day. Show up at your polling place on November 7 with a Wisconsin drivers license (if you don't have one, you can use a Wisconsin state ID or your social security number). You must also bring proof of residence (see next question). Get more info:

What should I bring for proof of residence?
A valid Wisconsin state driver's license is best, but you can also use another state-issued identification, a residential lease, a utility bill, a bank statement, or a paycheck. For more info visit:

What if I moved since I last voted?
If you moved out of the ward that you last voted, you must register to vote in your current ward. Learn what you need to register here:

Anything else I need to know?
For questions about the civil unions and marriage ban visit:

If you have questions about voting, call the State Election Board at 608-266-8005 or visit

TV networks plan to proceed with caution on election night

After various election-night debacles and faux pas in recent years, and not wanting a repeat of the same, television networks have decided to change the way they handle their election night coverage, beginning with next Tuesday's election.

One of the changes has to do with the manner in which exit poll information is reported. According to an article in this morning's Washington Post, "a media consortium is allowing two people from each of the networks and the Associated Press entree to a windowless room in New York. All cellphones, laptops and BlackBerrys will be confiscated. The designated staffers will pore over the exit polls but will not be allowed to communicate with their offices until 5 p.m."

You can read the entire article by going here: