Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

The curtain is closing on 2006 and a new year is nearly here. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who visited or participated in this site during the past year. I also want to express sincere gratitude to everyone who has played a role in the "Eye on Oshkosh" program during 2006: from Tony and our terrific crew on down to all the guests we've welcomed to the set and the viewers, as well. The show is a success because of the efforts and participation of all. As 2006 draws to a close and we reflect on all that has happened during the last year within our community, our state and our world - whether good or bad - may we draw understanding and wisdom from that which we have experienced. And may we each find joy, peace and comfort in the year ahead. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Wisconsin AG says domestic partner benefits safe despite ban

In one of her last official acts before the end of the year and before her time in office ends, outgoing Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager said that the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage – approved by 59 percent of voters last month – does not prohibit public or private employers from providing domestic partner benefits to their employees and their partners. More on the six-page opinion released Wednesday can be found here. Newly-elected AG J.B. Van Hollen takes office Wednesday. Though Van Hollen supported the ban, it is widely believed he will not redo Lautenschlager's opinion, sought by the City of Madison, which affords domestic partner benefits to its employees.

Unused gift card money: To whom should it go?

The Wisconsin State Legislature heads back into session next month. When it does one of the first bills it will consider is whether unused gift card monies should go into the state treasury rather than the merchant’s pocket. The bill is being introduced by Rep. Fred Kessler (D-Milwaukee) and according to this article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he's proposing that after a one year expiration date 80 percent of unused gift card values would go into state coffers while retailers would be allowed to keep the remaining 20 percent to handle card processing, etc.

In making his announcement, Kessler cited recent Consumer Reports figures that claim 19 percent of all gift cards go unused because they are either lost or stolen, and that those unused cards amount to millions of dollars a year. Kessler says with those monies Wisconsin would more easily be able to pay for roads, schools and health care programs.

Here is another article which speaks to the windfalls many retailers are receiving as a result of unused cards. More information can also be found here, here and here.

I certainly don’t know all the particulars surrounding this issue nor do I profess to have all the answers. It’s an interesting dilemma because gift cards really are money “spent” at a retail establishment and then given to someone in the way of a kind of pseudo credit card with an established limit (though consumers can, and historically do, spend more than the face amount of those cards they do redeem). Retailers do not get to book the dollar value of the card until it is either redeemed or a certain period of time has passed without the card being used. Recipients have the option of redeeming the cards anytime they want within the authorized period (some have no expiration date) and if they choose not to or they lose the card, that is unfortunate for them. Should the retailer get to benefit from the recipient’s misfortune or failure to act? Should the state? Or should some other third party?

At first blush it seems to me Kessler’s proposal is an easy and relatively painless way to help fund state coffers, even help balance our budget. It also seems like a lazy way. Shouldn’t Madison lawmakers get their own financial house in order using the same kind of belt-tightening methods they expect cities, villages and towns to use rather than dipping into the back pocket of someone else?

I, for one, will be anxious to hear more on this as the debate on both sides of the fence in Madison unfolds.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

2006 Foot-in-Mouth Awards announced

After receiving a variety of submissions from readers for the lamest quotes from or about the world of technology during the past year, Wired News has released its 2006 Foot-in-Mouth Awards. Should it come as any surprise that President George Bush tops the list? When asked by a reporter if he'd ever Googled anyone, he responded with "One of the things I've learned on the Google is to pull up maps. It's very interesting to see — I've forgotten the name of the program — but you get the satellite, and you can — like, I kinda like to look at the ranch. It reminds me of where I wanna be sometimes." Clearly, "Dubya" has a tremendous grasp on the world of technology and its many capabilities.

R.I.P. President Gerald Ford

Amidst the happiness and joy of the holiday season comes the sad news of the passing of former President Gerald Ford. The oldest living president at the time of his death, Ford was 93, and is said to have died peacefully, though the exact cause is not yet known. In a statement issued last night, President George W. Bush summed up perhaps many people's thoughts about Ford in saying this: "The American people will always admire Gerald Ford's devotion to duty, his personal character and the honorable conduct of his administration. We mourn the loss of such a leader, and our 38th president will always have a special place in our Nation's memory." Rest in peace, President Gerald Ford.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

State's web site of delinquent taxpayers surpasses expectations for tax collections

Earlier this year we told you about the state’s web site for delinquent taxpayers who owe the State of Wisconsin money. Today it’s being reported that between Jan. 3, 2006 – when the site was launched – and the end of November, some $15.7 million in delinquent taxes has been collected. There remain millions more in unpaid taxes from hundreds of people, but this is a nice start and certainly better than not having received the $15.7 at all.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

Here's wishing each of you a very Merry Christmas and a blessed and safe holiday season. In the midst of gift-giving and holiday get-togethers with family and friends, may we take time to remember the reason for the season.

Making the case for a new Communication Arts Center at UW-Fox Valley

During the week of Dec. 25 we will be airing a show with the CEO and dean of UW-Fox Valley, Jim Perry.

The campus is currently seeking $13.9 million for a new Communication Arts Center. The campus is seeking $5.3 million each from Winnebago and Outagamie counties, with the remainder coming from grants and private donations, including a capital campaign being undertaken by its Foundation.

The Outagamie County Board has already approved its portion of the money so whether this project gets done or not now lies in the hands of the Winnebago County Board, which is scheduled to vote on the matter on Jan. 16.

For anyone in doubt about why a new Communications Arts Center is necessary, they need look no further than this special section of the campus web site which outlines the project in detail and provides periodic updates. The site also includes a PowerPoint presentation which was presented to the Winnebago County Board on Dec. 19.

There are a number of things wrong with the current facility, which dates back to 1962. Some of these issues are an accident – and lawsuit – waiting to happen, campus officials maintain.

There are major areas of concern and safety about the present 1962 facility:

• Access to the control room, wardrobe storage area, and various areas of the current multipurpose room (seat risers, stage, sinks, restroom facilities, and box office) do not meet federal guidelines for disability access (ADA) standards;
• The storage, electric and technical controls are outdated and inadequate – for example, the lighting and sound systems are over 40 years old, with some equipment being inoperable and replacement parts no longer available;
• There is asbestos in the floor tile and PCBs are present in the electrical systems;
• Plumbing in the facility is in need of repair and does not meet ADA code;
• Most areas in the facility do not meet fire sprinkler code;
• Current HVAC does not provide proper ventilation;
• Electrical power sources are overloaded, increasing the risk of shocks;
• Emergency lighting is inadequate;
• The existing facility is too small for many of the programmatic needs;

You can see actual photos of the conditions as they exist today at the campus by scrolling through toward the last portion of this document. Or you can call Jim Perry to request a personal tour. His number is 920.832.2610.

Tax-deductible donations are also gratefully accepted and can be made for this project to the UW-Fox Valley Foundation. More information can be obtained here.

The Oshkosh Northwestern does not doubt that serious problems exist with the current facility, but it believes this is not the right time. I would ask when the right time might be? After all, it is doubtful that county budgets are ever going to get any better unless Madison gets its own financial house in order and starts returning more of our money to us. Additionally, the longer we let this go the more it will cost and the greater the risk of someone being seriously injured or killed. The school also runs the risk of being hit with a lawsuit for being in non-compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

So again, the question must be asked: If not now, then when?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Economic development group says '06 a banner year

According to an article in the Oshkosh Northwestern, the Oshkosh Area Economic Development Corp., the commercial development group connected to the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce, says 2006 was a banner year for them.

It assisted businesses like Miles Kimball and J.J. Keller secure a quarter of a million dollars in tax credits for expansion projects and helped Cranky Pat's Pizza and Stella & Finn open their doors in downtown Oshkosh through more than $86,000 in loans and grants.

This is surely good news, especially for the employees of those larger companies that have been around for a long time. OAEDC is to be congratulated for its efforts. But I would again raise the same issues and concerns about downtown businesses as I did earlier this week in this article. Why aren't OAEDC and the downtown Business Improvement District doing more to promote the businesses downtown - both new and old? I understand the businesses have to be responsible for much of their own advertising and self-promotion, but it seems reasonable to expect that these two groups should be playing some role, and taking an interest, in helping these businesses - and downtown as a whole - sustain themselves. Other communities have solid, well-organized efforts to draw people downtown, by creating and/or organizing events centered around downtown. We hear of precious few efforts like that in Oshkosh.

For example, OAEDC brags about Stella & Finn. No disrespect intended toward the business, but how many of us have heard of or actually knows what Stella & Finn is or does? How many of us have been to Cranky Pat's? When I think about pizza I, for one, rarely even remember it's there. Again, part of keeping in front of prospective customers is the business's responsibility, but if you've got an economic or commercial development organization and a business improvement district group, as we do, shouldn't they be taking on part of this role? It seems like if they did more, everyone would win, including downtown as a whole.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Hundreds of new jobs added to Oshkosh manufacturing base in '06

This morning’s Oshkosh Northwestern has encouraging news about our local manufacturing economy. An article says Chamco – the city’s industrial development arm – not only helped to retain 312 manufacturing and industrial-related jobs in 2006, but also added 350 more. That is wonderful news for our community and its tax base – and hats off to Doug Pearson and the rest of the Chamco staff for their accomplishments. But what about downtown?

The Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce has a division charged with helping develop the downtown. We rarely hear about their efforts. More importantly and more frustrating is trying to figure out what the Chamber does to promote the downtown, especially those businesses from whom they are collecting annual dues Sure, they put out a magazine, but that magazine only goes to Chamber members, I believe. The general public rarely, if ever, sees it.

I have recently seen a number of what seems like newer stores downtown, and others – like The Roxy Supper Club – have recently expanded and/or remodeled (in the case of The Roxy, it was to accommodate smokers). Why do we not hear about so many of the things going on downtown? Is this entirely the fault of the Chamber? Or does the Business Improvement District have to shoulder some of the responsibility? And if these groups are spreading the word and promoting downtown businesses, they apparently need to do a better job of it because I’ll bet if you surveyed people in Oshkosh, most would have no clue what’s going on downtown or what businesses are there.

While we’re on the subject of downtown, since many activities down there take place on weekends and at night, why aren’t a lot of the downtown businesses restructuring their hours to accommodate the hours of those events? It might draw more people into their stores. Other communities have a thriving downtown in the evening hours, but if you drive or walk downtown Oshkosh, you’ll find most businesses closed. They’re just thoughts.

Congratulations again, Chamco! Other organizations could learn vital economic development lessons from you, I think.

Winnebago County Board continues to show disdain, disregard for electorate

Last month we told you how the new districting plan,, as a result of the Winnebago County Board voting in September to cut itself by two members, had been approved by the Winnebago County Judiciary and Public Safety Committee on a 4-1 vote. That action was taken in spite of a citizen group’s pending lawsuit against the county for refusing to accept more than 6,000 signatures to place a referendum on the spring ballot asking voters to cut the county board size in half.

Last night, on a vote of 22-14, the full Winnebago County Board approved that map, which will force run-off races in six supervisory districts between 12 current incumbent members and create vacancies in four districts.

County Executive Mark Harris tried to convince the board to wait until the lawsuit was settled, which really would have made the most sense, especially since a hearing on the matter is scheduled for just two weeks away, on Jan. 3. But the board ignored that advice. As far as I am concerned the board has acted irresponsibly in this matter from the moment it heard Citizens United to Transform the Winnebago County Board (C.U.T.) was circulating petitions to put the matter on a ballot. I said then and still believe it has been an end run around their efforts from the beginning, just to spite the group. The board’s haste and refusal to listen to common sense continues to make it look that way.

Under the newly-approved 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.

I have thought all along that the county would lose this lawsuit and given the disregard and disdain the county board has shown for the wishes of thousands in the electorate, I now hope it does. It would serve the board right and, hopefully, teach board supervisors a lesson about trying to disregard the wishes and rights of the people they were elected to serve.

Monday, December 18, 2006

PAC money in last month's campaign questioned

Voters have been fed up for some time with political campaign ads. Locally, the race for the 54th Assembly District between last month's winner Gordon Hintz and his opponent Julie Pung Leschke took on a life of its own, with negative spin and special interest and Political Action Committee money that contributed to a campaign that some estimates said had already cost about $250,000. In light of the many complaints following last month's elections, we reported last week that bipartisan agreement seemed to have been reached on significant ethics and elections reform.

On Friday a complaint was filed with the State Elections Board, in which lawyers for two unions and a retired United Auto Workers union official from Racine accused the Milwaukee-based Alliance for Choices in Education and two political arms of the national group All Children Matter of trying to "launder" campaign cash to get around state elections laws. Ironically, All Children Matter was also one of the groups that invested heavily in Pung Leschke's campaign. It should be noted, however, that no one is suggesting her campaign was directly involved in any wrongdoing. You can read more about the complaint by going here.

On a separate, reflective note, like so many others, Pung Leschke was unhappy with the negative tone of the campaign and it ultimately caused the resignation of her campaign treasurer. But it should also be noted that while Pung Leschke complained publicly about her opponent's alleged lies and negativity, she never came out and asked those putting out ads in support of her bid for office to stop with their own negative campaigning. It may have been inaction and inconsistency on her part that cost her some votes at the polls.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Time Magazine names its Person of the Year: It's You!

We are but a mere couple of weeks away from ringing in 2007, and as is always the case at this time of year, Time Magazine has announced its Person of the Year. It's usually an individual who has done something amazing or truly profound during the course of the preceding 12 months. But this year, believe it or not, it's YOU! That's right - it's you; it's me; it's anyone who has helped shape the Internet and blogging world into what it is and, ultimately, what it will become. In announcing its selection, Time said, its selection of YOU was made "for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game." Read the entire story here.

Friday, December 15, 2006

UW-Fox Valley will atttempt to make it case for new communication arts center to county board

When the Winnebago County Board convenes next Tuesday night, one of the items it will hear about and get more information on is the request for approval of $5.3 million to construct a new Communication Arts Center on the campus of UW-Fox Valley. That is approximately one-fourth of the total $13.9 million cost. The other three-quarters would be paid for by the state, Outagamie County and the UW-Fox Foundation. This project has been discussed for years and now campus officials say it is time to do something or it may never get done. If put off, the costs are projected to rise about $1 million per year.

You can read more about this issue by going here. UW-Fox Valley Dean Jim Perry will also be our guest on an upcoming edition of Eye on Oshkosh.

Though the county board will discuss the issue at Tuesday's meeting, it is not scheduled to vote on it until its January meeting.

Are Americans on media overload?

In the Census Bureau's 2007 Statistical Abstract of the United States, one statistic finds that Americans spent more of their lives than ever this year — about eight-and-a-half hours a day — watching television, using computers, listening to the radio, going to the movies or reading. It's alarming and one might wonder if this kind of trend is contributing to a general "dumbing down" of American youth and young adults. Don't get me wrong; today's young people are very savvy when it comes to certain things. But when it comes to basic knowledge about world events and political issues in their own backyard, far too many lack some of the most basic knowledge.

You can read more about who we Americans are and what we do in today's online version of the New York Times.The statistics are amazing.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

New North has economic strength

To those who would believe we are languishing economically in the northeast Wisconsin area, a report presented to participants in a recent economic summit suggests otherwise.

According to this article in the Post-Crescent, a researcher who presented his findings at this week's summit says that, as a metropolitan area, the 18-county region of New North Inc. is above average among 361 areas nationwide ranked by economic strength.

Among some of the recommendations made during the conference was one of collaboration between communities, rather than competition.

The New North consortium includes businesses, economic development corporations, chambers of commerce, as well as, workforce development, civic, non-profit and education leaders.

Bipartisan agreement reached on major ethics reform

[we have received the following news release and are pleased to publish it here...]

MADISON - Governor Jim Doyle today joined with Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch (R-West Salem), Senate Majority Leader Judy Robson (D-Beloit), Assembly Minority Leader Jim Kreuser (D-Kenosha), Assembly Majority Leader Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon), Representative Mark Pocan (D-Madison), and Representative Mark Gundrum (R-New Berlin) to announce an agreement to pass major, bipartisan ethics reform early in 2007.

"This agreement is not only a major breakthrough on significant ethics and elections reform, it's a very hopeful sign that Republicans and Democrats can work together," Governor Doyle said. "This reform is strong, far reaching, and most importantly, bipartisan. It is a great step forward for Wisconsin, and I look forward to signing it into law."

"The public has demanded that Republicans and Democrats work together and we have done that with a fair, bi-partisan solution to restore integrity to our political process," Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch said.

"These reforms are a good first step toward reaffirming the public's trust in the integrity of this great institution," Senate Majority Leader Judy Robson said.

"This legislation creates a strong, independent body that will aggressively address ethical issues, and help restore the public's confidence in their government," Representative Mark Gundrum said.

"This reform measure provides the elements we need to ensure clean government in Wisconsin, as well as strengthens some aspects of previous proposals," Representative Mark Pocan said. "This is clearly a victory for good government in our state."

"The autonomy and strength of the new board is a welcome change," Assembly Majority Leader Jeff Fitzgerald said. "Clear guidelines and independent rulings will certainly lead to stability in the process where the goal is to prevent violations in the first place."

"The people of Wisconsin have made their voice heard on this issue - they want change, they want reform. Today we are standing together and saying in unison that we hear them and we are ready to act. I'm proud of the work we've done and the bill we've created. I hope this is only the first of many cooperative, bipartisan efforts that we'll be announcing over the next two years." Representative Jim Kreuser said.

Under this agreement:

Ø The State Elections Board and the State Ethics Board will be merged to create an independent non-partisan Government Accountability Board, free from political appointees. Instead of the members being selected by politicians and political parties, a panel of Court of Appeals judges will select a pool of retired judges. The Governor will make appointments from that list and be confirmed by the Legislature.

Ø The Board will be given the necessary resources to conduct any investigations it authorizes. The board will not need approval from the Legislature or the Governor to proceed with any investigation it authorizes.

Ø The Board will have the authority to investigate criminal and civil matters. The board will be able to prosecute a civil matter itself while criminal matters it investigates can be referred to a District Attorney for prosecution.

Ø The Board will be empowered to review existing Ethics and Election Board rulings and opinions in order to provide clear, consistent guidelines. The Board's mandate will be to ensure the effectiveness and independence of our ethics rules and election practices.

Ø The Board will oversee both a Division of Ethics and Integrity and a Division of Elections, with campaign finance matters now being handled by the Division of Ethics and Integrity. The staff of the Division of Elections will now be able to focus exclusively on managing, monitoring and administering elections, while campaign finance and ethics matters will be handled together. Right now, campaign finance issues are handled by the State Elections Board while ethics matters are handled by the Ethics Board.

Ø Governor Doyle will call a Special Session for January for the Legislature to act on the bill. The Legislature will hold hearings on the bill and will vote in January.

UPDATE POSTED ON 12/16/06: Following several corruptions scandals in recent years, top state leaders are saying they will support a plan merge the state Ethics and Elections boards into a new body with greater power to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by politicians. The complete story can be found here.

Blogging set to peak next year, analysts say

Everywhere you go on the Internet these days, somebody seems to be blogging - whether they've got their own blog or they're participating in someone else's. Last month, in fact, blog tracking firm Technorati reported that 100,000 new blogs were being created every day, and 1.3 million blog posts were written. It has been a phenomenon and continues to change the way mainstream media approaches and reports on news. But the numbers are expected to peak in 2007. You can read about the prediction here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Army Reserve center to close, Oshkosh's loss is Neenah's gain

In an effort to reduce maintenance and operational expenses - which the government hopes will save taxpayers money in the longrun - the Army Reserve center in Oshkosh will be closed, along with other existing locations in Neenah, Menasha and Appleton. In their place, one larger facility will be built and everything centrally located in Neenah.

I don't know exactly how long the Army Reserve center has been in Oshkosh, but it's been part of our history for as long as I can remember. Before retiring, my father was in the unit "stationed" there and as a young child I can remember periodically going there for family events or to see he and his fellow reservists depart for their annual two-week summer training camp. While it is sad to see another part of my own personal history come to a close and to have Oshkosh suffer yet one more loss to our neighbors to the north, the desire and need to cut costs and save money where you can is certainly understandable in these tough economic times.

Construction will reportedly get underway in spring with occupancy in the new facility currently slated for October 2008. The existing properties will be sold, except for the current Neenah location, which is being leased. It's not clear yet what might go into the Oshkosh location, but according to this morning's online Appleton Post Crescent, the City of Menasha has its sight set on the facility there to house some of its operations. Let's hope a good use will be found for the center here. One thing we don't need is another empty building sitting around.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Governor Doyle Announces Launch of Pandemic Flu Website

[we have received the following press release and are pleased to publish it here...]

Governor Jim Doyle today announced the launch of a new web site to help provide information and resources to people across the state about pandemic flu. The site was designed to help individuals, families, businesses, schools, and communities prepare for and make plans to deal with a possible pandemic.

"Wisconsin is recognized as a national leader in preparing for an influenza pandemic," Governor Doyle said. "We are doing everything possible to be prepared and to keep our residents as safe and healthy as possible during a pandemic. This web site is just one more step to help our communities, businesses, schools, organizations, and government agencies to connect."

Last year, Governor Doyle instructed the Department of Health and Family Services to convene and lead the Avian Flu Coordination Team in the development of clear, concise, and consistent communication for the public regarding pandemic flu.

In addition to information about pandemic flu and avian (bird) flu, the site has planning checklists and links to other related web sites and resources. The site also provides details about the three types flu-seasonal, bird, and pandemic - and information about Wisconsin's efforts to prepare for a potential pandemic. was created with input by the Wisconsin Departments of Administration, Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection, Health and Family Services, Natural Resources, Public Instruction, Wisconsin Emergency Management, the State Laboratory of Hygiene, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the Wisconsin Hospital Association.

Visit to learn more.

Reuter's chief tells conference attendees to trust in the age of citizen journalism

During a speech yesterday given at the Globes Media Conference in Tel Aviv, Reuters chief executive Tom Glocer said, "The world we live in today is one in which everyone is a consumer, everyone a distributor, everyone an aggregator, everyone a producer. News organizations must realize everyone is both a potential partner and competitor. For too long the public has been a face without a voice; the Internet has changed all that." You can read Glocer's entire speech here, at his own personal blog entry, aptly entited "Trust in the Age of Citizen Journalism.

Anti-sex-offender zoning laws challenged, many changing

Some efforts by states that have tried in recent years to crack down on convicted sex offenders, even by controlling where they can and cannot live, may be unconstitutional and are coming under fire via court challenges in several states.

Currently 22 states restrict where convicted sex offenders live (Wisconsin is not one of them, though some Wisconsin communities have tried instituting their own regulations). Of those states, six - including California, Georgia and Iowa - are facing lawsuits from convicted sex offenders who claim the laws unconstitutionally penalize them after they have served their time. Those same laws, originally designed to protect the public, are also causing concern for law enforcement agencies who believe sexual predators are harder to track because they have no place to live. As a result, they say the law may be backfiring.

You can read more about this story by going here.

Holiday fraud, scams abound: Shoppers beware

Many of us already have our Christmas shopping finished. But inevitably, there are always thousands who wait until the last couple of weeks, sometimes even the last couple of days to hit the malls. They end up dealing with crowds, parking problems and, yes, even holiday deals in many places. What they also may deal with or even fall victim to is holiday crimes. This piece from explains the kinds of scams and fraudulent activities going on out there and what shoppers can do to protect themselves this holiday season and beyond.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Answers sought to questions of local candidates

Yesterday someone posted a few questions on the alternate Eye on Oshkosh web site ( for candidates for mayor and Oshkosh Common Council to answer. These are questions that have been on the lips of many Oshkosh taxpayers for a number of months now. Undoubtedly these questions will come up in interviews and/or debates. Any candidate wishing to answer them now in order to get their views known or to have a reasonable, mature public discussion is welcome to do so.

Arbitration and quid pro quo laws in the state of Wisconsin do not allow for strikes by public sector employees, but they also do not allow for something to be taken away from those employees without something of equal value being given in return. Some people believe these laws stop governmental bodies from being able to truly negotiate with the union, especially when the matter could end up in arbitration with an arbiter making the final decision. What is your opinion of these kinds of laws? Do you feel that all represented employees deserve these kinds of protections under the law or should they just be reserved for those employees working in critical, life or death type positions, such as police and fire?

Some people also believe that these laws are slanted to protect unions and punish the taxpayers ultimately. Do you agree with this kind of thinking and what, if anything, do you intend to do to level the playing field in the contract negotiation process?

In the city of Oshkosh, employees contribute approximately three to seven percent to their health insurance costs, meaning the taxpayers pay about $6 million toward their health care. Do you feel this is out of line and, if so, what do you plan to do to try to lower those health care costs, bringing them more in line with employee contributions versus employer contributions in the private sector, which is said to be more like an 80/20 split?

Budget discussions are held in public; contract negotiations are not. Some people believe they should be, especially since it is the salaries and benefits that are costing taxpayers the most money in municipal budgets. Since the public is footing the bill for these benefits, is there any way to make contract negotiations more public and, if so, what will you do to make sure that happens? Conversely, if there are laws allowing such negotiations to be kept private, what, if anything, will you do to try changing the law?

Since the biggest expense in a municipal budget is labor versus operational, if elected, what will you do to try making the city administration place more emphasis on making reductions in labor costs rather than on operational ones?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Thanks to the Paine for opening its doors to everyone

In honor of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Paine Art Center and Arboretum, the non-profit organization graciously opened its doors to the general public this past Saturday by hosting a "free day." That's right - for the entire day people, especially those who may not otherwise want or be able to afford the regular admission, were able to tour the Paine at no cost whatsoever.

The last time I was in the Paine was about four years ago for a wedding reception. Many things, of course remain the same today, but there were other things that have since been added. If you'd been through the Paine before, maybe you'd forgotten something you once saw. Or maybe you remembered something and wanted to see it again. Those attending the free day Saturday were able to do all that and more. The entire "house" was open for self-guided tours and guests were treated to lovely Christmas music played by a string quartet during the mid-afternoon hours. And, of course, being that this is the holiday season, the house was beautifully decorated for the holidays, including there being several uniquely-adorned Christmas trees throughout the mansion.

A huge thanks to the Paine administration and staff for opening their doors for all to be able to appreciate and enjoy this one-of-a-kind treasure we have here in Oshkosh!

Report: single moms could fill workplace shortages

We all know that many baby-boomers are getting close to retirement age. That is going to leave the workforce with severe shortages. But according to research done by the Division of Lifelong Learning and Community Engagement at UW-Oshkosh, there may be a solution for that shortage, and it could well be in the form of single working moms. Read more on the research in this story in the Advance Titan.

Articles of Impeachment introduced against Bush, Cheney, Rice

According to an article written by Babblemur, Cynthia McKinney has introduced articles of impeachment against George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Condoleeza Rice, in a final act of righteousness before leaving Congress. You can read his entire piece by going here.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Tony Palmeri seeks seat on Oshkosh Common Council

I waited to publish this until Tony officially announced it himself on his own web and blog sites, but I am proud to say that earlier this morning my friend and co-host Tony Palmeri officially announced that he has decided to seat a seat on the Oshkosh Common Council. His announcement and reason for seeking a council seat can be found on his web site blog. There is contact information in his announcement for those wishing to help with his campaign.

Tony and I are of like-mind on many issues and disagree on others. No one is ever going to agree 100 percent of the time with those elected to serve them. But I can say this about Tony: Whether you agree with his politics or not, it is rare to find a candidate as honest, respectable and forthright as Tony Palmeri. In addition to his positions on the basic issues facing this community in the next few years and beyond, Tony is an out-of-the-box thinker and a major proponent of openess in government - something we have seen a lack of in this community for a couple of years now at least. He also believes we need greater leadership coming from City Hall, the city manager's office in particular, and that is something that starts with the city manager's bosses - the Oshkosh Common Council.

During interviews with candidates for Oshkosh Common Council, Tony will step away from the "anchor"/co-host chair and I will either field those interviews on my own or add some variety to the questions by sharing the duties with a guest co-host.

One other note on newcomers seeking a spot on the Oshkosh Common Council: I am also very excited about Robert "Bob" Cornell seeking a seek on the council. Many of you may be familiar with Bob for championing the cause of condominium owners to have their garbage picked up by the city - a cause he won, by the way. I have also had the pleasure of serving with Bob on the Board of Appeals for about three years or so now and know him to always be very thoughtful in his deliberations; someone who always seeks balance, but even in those difficult situations where there is great sympathy for certain causes, Bob votes on the side of rightness. Like Tony, Bob believes in doing things the way rules and the law call for them to be done. I believe we would be well-served with either or both of these gentlemen representing us.

Oshkosh Northwestern editorial offers smart idea for Oshkosh riverfront

In recent days we have read of the executive office space crunch facing Oshkosh Truck. While it looks like the offices will remain in Oshkosh, at least for now, there is no guarantee for the future. As we know, Bemis went to the north (Neenah) for its executive offices recently. It would be an absolute shame to lose the executive offices for yet another major employer in the city. This morning's Oshkosh Northwestern offers a very good idea for putting the offices on our riverfront. It would put executive offices in a beautiful location on prime real estate, yet still allow for other concepts, like that sported by former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson and his development group.

Manitowoc County employees help taxpayers save thousands

Far too often we see public sector union members getting beaten up on blog sites. This morning's Manitowoc Herald Times carries a story about Manitowoc County employees who have saved taxpayers thousands of dollars by signing up for a new health insurance plan. Who says public sector employees, especially those in unions, are not necessarily sympathetic to the taxpayers, of whom they are included?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Inmate-Produced Documentary Takes Youth behind Walls of Wisconsin Women's Prison

[we have received the following press release and are pleased to publish it here...]

Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton and Department of Corrections (DOC) Secretary Matt Frank today co-hosted a media screening of a new documentary that brings viewers inside Wisconsin’s largest correctional facility for women. The 30-minute documentary, titled “Game Over: Women in Prison,” was produced by inmates at Taycheedah Correctional Institution (TCI) in partnership between the DOC and the Northeast Wisconsin Northeastern Wisconsin In-School Telecommunications (NEWIST/CESA #7), Educational Television Productions of Northeastern Wisconsin (ETP-NEW), and Wisconsin Public Television.

"This documentary pulses with the power and poetry of Taycheedah inmates' voices, their stories making life inside prison walls indelible in our memories. They give us vivid images that demonstrate how incarceration translates into loss of pride, respect and dignity," Lt. Governor Lawton said. "Their production will spur conversations in classrooms across the state that we trust will help Wisconsin's young women learn the wisdom and courage of taking responsibility for good decision-making."

Secretary Frank said, “As the state’s largest correctional facility for women, Taycheedah was the logical choice for a project of this type. We are pleased to have partnered in the creation of the documentary, and we hope that educators in Wisconsin find the video to be an effective tool when they work with students.”

Distributed through NEWIST/CESA #7, the documentary includes first-person accounts from several TCI inmates about the lives they led before entering the correctional system, their initial confinement at TCI and the lives they lead while incarcerated. They also candidly discuss the factors that influenced their criminal behavior, such as histories of drug addiction or sexual violence, and they talk about the impact that their crimes have had on victims, family members and their children. In addition, the program includes explanatory narratives by key prison staff, including Warden Ana Boatwright. Ten TCI inmates assisted in the making of the documentary by participating in interviews or through production work.

“Game Over: Women in Prison” premiered Dec. 1 on Wisconsin Public Television and future airings are planned. The production is geared primarily to females age 10-21. A teacher’s guide has been created for use in classroom instruction, and video diaries of the inmates’ final thoughts about involvement in the project are included in the DVD, as well.

“This frank, unadorned, cautionary tale of life in prison by inmates in Taycheedah provides from-the-inside, seldom-seen stories,” said Eileen Littig, an Executive Producer with NEWIST/CESA #7. “This project succeeded because of the strong working partnership and cooperation that we established with Taycheedah Correctional Institution. Special thanks go to the inmates who were eager to ‘tell it like it is.’”

Additional details on the documentary can found at the NEWIST/CESA #7 Web site,, or by calling 1-800-633-7445.

Iraq Study Group says strategy needs to be changed now

The Iraq Study Group's report given to President Bush earlier today says the United States needs to change its strategy to tackle the "grave and deteriorating" situation in Iraq. The report went on to say that a failure to halt the crisis could bring severe consequences to Iraq, the broader region and the United States.

Among the group's 79 recommendations:
  • There must be a "diplomatic offensive" which includes an end to the U.S. troop combat role by 2008;

  • The U.S. troop mission should evolve to role of supporting Iraqi Army;

  • The Iraqi government needs to show progress or risk cuts in U.S. aid; and

  • President Bush and Congress must cooperate or "policy is doomed to failure"

  • More information about the report can be found here.

    Meanwhile, another 10 U.S. troops were killed in Iraq today, bringing the death toll of U.S. military personnel for this month alone to 27.

    BREAKING NEWS: State Will Not Sell Property at Winnebago Mental Health Institute near Oshkosh

    [we have received the following press release from Gov. Doyle's office...]

    Governor Doyle announced today that the state will not sell approximately 117 acres of property at Winnebago Mental Health Institute near Oshkosh and he is directing the Department of Natural Resources to work with area communities, Native American tribes, and local residents to determine how best to manage the property. The property, which includes several Native American archeological sites, is one of the last undeveloped shoreline areas on Lake Winnebago and is currently used by the local community for recreation.

    "I believe it is in the best interest of Wisconsin to protect this property," Governor Doyle said. "It is one of the last pieces of undeveloped land on all of Lake Winnebago and has great cultural significance and recreational value as well. While our economy continues to grow and we continue to make our state more efficient, we must always preserve the incredible natural heritage we have in Wisconsin."

    The Department of Health and Family Services portion of this land was included in the 2006 Surplus Land Inventory. Governor Doyle made the decision to transfer the land following a thorough review by the Department of Administration.

    The State of Wisconsin Building Commission's policies and procedures manual directs that surplus property be offered to other state agencies, other units of government, and for private sale in that order. 2005 Wisconsin Act 25 provides that the Department of Administration may act to sell surplus property to generate revenue for the state's general fund.

    The next meeting of the Building Commission is December 20, 2006 and the Department of Administration will prepare an agenda item to transfer the entire 117 acres to the Department of Natural Resources.

    Tuesday, December 05, 2006

    Two out of three companies not paying state income taxes

    We hear how the state is in dire financial straits. We also hear the complaints from taxpayers all over the state about the taxes we pay. And yet, according to state tax records unveiled yesterday, two of every three companies that filed Wisconsin tax returns in 2003 paid no state corporate income tax. The companies included such state corporations as Johnson Controls, Kohl's, Harley-Davidson, and such well-known national giants as Kraft Foods and PepsiCo, according to data from the Institute for Wisconsin's Future.

    It is unconscionable that corporations will continue to find ways to skirt around paying their fair share. It is equally unconscionable that a business lobbyist organization like Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce says it will oppose any additional disclosure of business tax information. You can read more specific tax information and statistics here , as well as find out why WMC is taking the position it is taking.

    For the record, companies like Briggs & Stratton and our own Oshkosh Truck were among the companies the institute says did pay corporate income taxes.

    Oshkosh Kennel Club receives award

    [We have received the following press release and are pleased to present it. We also congratulate the Oshkosh Kennel Club on receiving this award and thank its members for all the fine work they do.]

    AMERICAN KENNEL CLUB HONORS OSHKOSH KENNEL CLUB WITH A COMMUNITY ACHIEVEMENT AWARD - Club Wins $1,000 for Responsible Dog Ownership Day Efforts - New York, NY – The American Kennel Club® announced today that Oshkosh Kennel Club (OKC) of Oshkosh, Wis. has been named a recipient of the AKC® Community Achievement Awards for its dedication to promoting responsible dog ownership. Oshkosh Kennel Club received one of three awards this quarter – Lake Cumberland Kennel Club of Somerset, Ky. and the Greater Panama City Dog Fancier’s Association of Panama City, Fla. also received acknowledgement.

    The AKC Community Achievement Awards support and recognize outstanding public education and legislation efforts of AKC-affiliated clubs, AKC-recognized federations and their members. The AKC selects award recipients who promote purebred dogs and responsible dog ownership within their communities or who have successfully introduced, monitored and responded to legislative issues affecting dog ownership. This year, AKC dedicated the fourth quarter Community Achievement Awards to clubs who went above and beyond in their efforts to promote AKC Responsible Dog Ownership Day, an annual event created by the AKC to encourage all dog and pet-related organizations to publicly promote responsible dog ownership and help current dog owners enhance their relationships with their pets.

    “OKC set three goals when planning this AKC RDO Day event,” wrote Chris Krebs, part of the Oshkosh RDO Day Steering Committee, who nominated the club for the Community Achievement Award. “We aimed to attract as many local dog owners as possible, provide information to dog owners on health care, safety, training and fun activities, and promote organizations dedicated to dogs such as the OKC and AKC.”

    The event, which had double the attendance of the previous year, included a Meet the Breeds Parade, microchip clinic, Kidz Korner with face painting and tattoos, speakers and interactive games for the public. The local 4-H Junior Dog Handlers competed in a Fun Match to encourage people to get their children involved in dog events and more than 20 vendors and rescue groups were on hand to deliver information on various aspects of dog ownership. The club arranged for local newspapers and television and radio stations to sponsor and promote the event.

    “The time and effort that Oshkosh Kennel Club put into their AKC RDO Day event is evident in the turnout and media coverage they received,” said Noreen Baxter, AKC’s VP of Communications. “The American Kennel Club commends them for setting and achieving such clear goals while planning and executing their event. We hope other clubs will be inspired and join our RDO Day efforts in 2007.”

    Nominations for the AKC Community Achievement Awards are accepted year-round. Up to three honorees are named each quarter. They receive a certificate of appreciation and a $1,000 check payable to the club or federation’s public education and canine legislation efforts.

    To nominate a club, visit AKC dog clubs and other pet-related organizations can find out more about AKC RDO Day 2007 at

    The American Kennel Club, founded in 1884, is a not-for-profit organization which maintains the largest registry of purebred dogs in the world and oversees the sport of purebred dogs in the United States. The AKC is dedicated to upholding the integrity of its registry, promoting the sport of purebred dogs and breeding for type and function. Along with its nearly 5,000 licensed and member clubs and its affiliated organizations, the AKC advocates for the purebred dog as a family companion, advances canine health and well-being, works to protect the rights of all dog owners and promotes responsible dog ownership. More than 18,000 competitions for AKC-registered purebred dogs are held under AKC rules and regulations each year including conformation, agility, obedience, rally, tracking, herding, lure coursing, coonhound events, hunt tests, field and earthdog trials. Affiliate AKC organizations include the AKC Canine Health Foundation, AKC Companion Animal Recovery and the AKC Museum of the Dog.

    For more information, visit AKC, American Kennel Club, the American Kennel Club seal and design, and all associated marks and logos are trademarks, registered trademarks and service marks of The American Kennel Club, Inc.

    Newspapers and blogging: how to keep up

    America has a passion for blogging and America's newspapers are rushing to fill the public's desire for still more blogs. Blogs and community bulletin boards also allow newspapers to compete in the world of cyber-journalism, while at the same time provide immediacy for breaking news that once upon a time was had only by radio and television - until blogs and the like, that is. But that same passion for blogging newspapers have is fueling an industry-wide debate about everything from staffing to sourcing, standards to liability. There's an inevitable clash of values between a newspaper, which has a journalistic reputation and brand to protect, and a swiftly changing medium that has grown in power and prestige precisely because it has flouted many of journalism's traditional rules. Read how some newspapers are addressing the many concerns here.

    Monday, December 04, 2006

    Gannett to focus on "hyper-local," online

    With the Internet and ever-growing circle of bloggers and community journalists nipping at its heels, Gannett is redirecting newsrooms at its chain of 90 some newspapers to focus on the Web first, paper second. Papers are slashing national and foreign coverage and beefing up "hyper-local," street-by-street news. They are creating reader-searchable databases on traffic flows and school class sizes. In short, Gannett is trying everything it can think of to compete in the cyberworld and create sites that will attract more readers. You can read more about Gannett's efforts here.

    Outstanding AIDS awareness event Tuesday

    As part of AIDS Awareness Month, the Oshkosh Campus Greens have organized an outstanding evening of films and discussions this Tuesday, December 5 in Reeve Union Theater starting at 6:00pm. All events free.

    6:00-7:00 pm Reeve Union Theater (room 307)
    Colin Crowley, a local documentary film maker, will be discussing his recent trip to Kenya to produce a documentary for the American Foundation for Children with AIDS (AFCA). The fifteen minute documentary includes: interviews with doctors, HIV/AIDS counselors and patients with the disease. Colin will be discussing the nature of the problem as well as some possible solutions, and how the AFCA is helping to be a part of the solution.

    7:10-8:10 pm Reeve Union Theater (room 307)
    The Age of AIDS is an epic PBS/Frontline documentary that deals with the discovery, science, treatment and politics of a disease that has infected over 70,000,000 people worldwide. We will be screening the first hour of the documentary which illustrates the first cases of the disease seen in 1981 in the US male homosexual population. Within that same year it was seen in Europe, Africa and Haiti in nearly all races, and in heterosexual men and women. The film discusses the science leading up to the description of the AIDS virus in 1984 and looks back to the first transmission of the disease from Chimpanzees to humans in West Central Africa sometime in the 1930’s. Our screening of the Age of AIDS also deals with the politics of the early years, and its implications for healthcare, science and prevention of the disease.

    The entire documentary is four hours, it is thorough, current (first aired May 2006) and amazingly powerful. Because we believe that this is an important topic for everyone to learn about, the Campus Greens will be donating our DVD to Polk Library after the screening for those who wish to see more of the documentary.

    "… It's unlikely you'll find a more complete, compelling or authoritative version of the story anywhere. …" Joanne Weintraub Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
    To learn more and preview the documentary in its entirety go to:

    This event is part of the Oshkosh Campus Greens' movie and speakers series, which brings to the campus and community engaging and informative programs on challenging and controversial topics. Look for the Spring Semester calendar soon!!