Sunday, September 30, 2007

Rieckman column takes the words right out of my mouth

As I read this morning’s Oshkosh Northwestern article on the finances involved in Ben Ganther’s 100 block deal being protected by secrecy which started in our city attorney’s office, I began formulating my thoughts for this piece. Then I read Stew Rieckman’s column and realized my exact thoughts had already been published in the same edition of the paper.

Kudos to Rieckman; there’s not much more I could add to his words. I have said for years that while I like Warren Kraft as a person and he has been a wonderful friend to members of my family, I lacked confidence in him as our city attorney. I have also said what many others have and that is that he has a track record for erring on the side of caution and openness when something might benefit city hall in some weird or obscure way – such as his advising our common council members that they must notice their council member statements on the meeting agenda, no matter how innocuous or even seemingly trivial to some they may be – but opts for secrecy and closed government when it would otherwise benefit the public – such as we’ve seen in most all matters of importance and where our tax dollars are involved. Rieckman listed most of the things from Kraft’s office that we’ve been shocked and awed by in recent years, but there are a couple other items that have cost the city money and/or embarrassment that I believe also came from his office or at least passed by it.

Wasn’t it there where advice or approval was given about the wording of the smoking ban referendum question which ultimately landed us in a yearlong court battle because of its ambiguity? Wasn’t it advice from Kraft’s office that several members of the community said departed from the advice or guidance they received from other attorneys around the state regarding a troop withdrawal referendum being proposed for ballot placement? I suspect there are other things that I’ve either overlooked or don’t even know about, but it seems the lesson in all of this is that one never really knows for sure how much faith or trust to put in this “one attorney’s opinion” – especially when it’s so often contrary to everyone else’s.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Delay on state budget continues into October

As most of us know, the state budget – promised to us and due this past summer – is now 12 weeks late. Earlier this month, there were more “promising words” when we were told that despite differences, lawmakers would likely have something by the end of September. Now we learn that is not meant to be either.

With today being the last working day of the month, it is also the deadline state public school leaders had established in order to prevent a property tax increase. According to this report from WISC-TV.com state education officials have said they must start calculating funding at 426 school districts so they can inform the districts how much state aid they are receiving by mid-October. Districts then set their tax levies, on which property taxes are figured, no later than early November, WISC-TV reported. It’s not just school districts being inconvenienced by the delays. Cities, villages and townships across the state need to know where they stand also in order to finalize their budgets.

In addition to months of negotiating on the specifics of the budget, lawmakers are said to have spent four days working with Gov. Doyle and his staff at the governor’s mansion, but to no avail. While the status of the budget debates is unclear, one thing is clear: Lawmakers seem to have no appreciation for the difficult position they put local governments – and the state’s people as a whole – in with their constant arguing over budget matters. Equally disturbing is that we don’t even know where they’re at in their discussions because the meetings are held in private. And why is that, anyway. If they’re doing the people’s business they should be doing it in public.

The Oshkosh Northwestern was right when earlier this year it opined in favor of a “No Budget, No Pay” approach to solving the budget stalemate between Republicans and Democrats. Hold up their money and I bet we’d see some results lickety-split. In the meantime, according to Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause Wisconsin, Wisconsin is the only state in the country that has not passed a spending plan for 2007 and the year is more than three-quarters over. Way to go, Madison; you’re a real credit to your job as public servants.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Second form of government referendum proposal to come before Oshkosh Common Council

Last week we read in the Oshkosh Northwestern that Oshkosh Common councilors Dennis McHugh and Paul Esslinger are proposing an advisory referendum that could help guide next year’s Common Council as to the form of government Oshkosh voters want. We also heard some very limited discussion about their proposal at last night’s Common Council meeting – with a council vote on the matter scheduled for Oct. 9.

In essence, as originally proposed the proposal would place four options on a ballot as a referendum question.

  • A full-time mayor with seven alderpersons elected from districts

  • A full-time mayor with seven alderpersons elected at-large

  • A full-time mayor that votes with the council and four council members elected from districts and two at-large

  • The current form with a full-time city manager, directly elected part-time mayor and six councilors elected at-large


There was some suggestion at last night’s meeting that the order be changed to list the current form of government first. I totally agree that that is an appropriate suggestion. There has been some talk in the community, however, that there are too many options for a referendum question; I tend to agree. It’s one thing I suppose in an informal, unscientific survey like several of us have done to list multiple options, but people with more experience than I in drafting actual referenda questions have suggested to me that for official ballot purposes, more than two options is too many.

Given that, and since this would be an advisory referendum only, and specific details could be worked out before any official action would be taken, perhaps a better approach would be to offer just two options, those being something like as follows:

  • The current form of government with a full-time city manager, directly elected part-time mayor who serves as a council person and with six other councilors, all elected at large; or

  • A full-time elected mayor with executive powers who does not serve as a member of the common council, but who would vote to break ties, when necessary, and who could veto council actions and with seven council members elected either at large, by district, or some combination thereof.


By offering just two distinct options it makes the people’s intent more clear as to the form of government they want, but doesn’t put too many options out there which may only serve to confuse voters.

Should, however, the council decide to stick with what is currently being proposed, I would recommend tweaking it to prohibit a full-time elected mayor from being a voting member of the council, or a council member at all for that matter. Most cities which have a mayor/council have the two separated and it seems to be a very effective way to operate. But under no circumstances am I in favor of a full-time elected mayor having multiple kicks at the cat, as is currently proposed.

Whatever is done with regard to the proposal, I think having an advisory referendum should be more palatable to those who are opposed to a government form change. After all, it doesn’t set anything in stone and it would give next year’s council plenty of time to craft or develop a more precise form of government that the people would like, as well as give citizens ample opportunity for discussion and input. And by putting it on the spring ballot the need for a special election is done away with. Finally, as I’ve already said before, it would put the form of government issue to rest, at least for now, so we don’t have it hanging over our heads as we try selecting a new city manager.

One word of concern, however: Since a change of government can be petitioned for every two years, once this issue is settled this time – if the current form of government is chosen to remain in place - I would hope we would not see this issue keep coming up every two years, because that threat could also cut into our ability to get the best qualified candidates for the city manager position.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hey Wisconsin businesses, Kentucky wants you

Like a vulture, an economic development organization in Kentucky is trying to swoop down and take full advantage of the specter of still higher taxation in Wisconsin, according to State Sen. Ted Kanavas. In this guest column for Wisconsin Technology Network, the Brookfield Republican warns that attempts to lure business out of the state will be more effective if Democrats succeed in enacting expensive healthcare proposals, such as Healthy Wisconsin. While it is true that any form of public health care may be expensive, it is my opinion that that is not an excuse for doing nothing to resolve our nation's health care crisis. In fact, with 44.8 million Americans uninsured, and millions more underinsured, I would think everyone - whether in business or just as private citizens - would want to help solve the problem, especially since these high numbers of un- and underinsured people cost all of us money too. So perhaps instead of one state trying to woo business from another that is trying to do something positive about health care issues, they all should either help pave their own way or work with others for a common solution.

Appleton logs on to Wi-Fi, other cities' Wi-Fi dreams fading fast

In an effort to keep pace with the 21st century and beyond, this article in the Post-Crescent tells us that a wireless corridor being planned along Appleton's College Avenue eventually will expand to make the city a Wi-Fi hot spot. Meanwhile, according to this article, ambitious plans for big Wi-Fi networks to provide free or low-cost wireless Internet access are being abandoned or at least scaled back by some U.S. cities, such as Chicago and San Francisco, as the economics of the deals turn out to be more challenging than expected.

Friday, September 21, 2007

With the Questioning blog disappearance, "The Chief" blog tries something new

Jb said...
Independent Thoughts has observed that the popular local discussion board Questioning Everything, Always has closed shop. This is a pity because QEA often had very lengthy discussions on local matters involving a variety of people. So to fill the void, I've decided to attempt on a trial basis to offer the same service here at the Chief.

Here's how it'll work:

I'll maintain a link just below The Chief's header that will lead readers to a discussion area pertaining to a pertinent local issue. Readers and potential commentators won't have to scroll down or anything -- the link will be located just the right of the main blog thread and will always be the first item displayed on the "sidebar." The topic will change as circumstances dictate, meaning according to news events or the rhythm of the conversation.

Suggestions for improvement will always welcome. Please use the comment section of this post to make any recommendations. The most pressing issue right now is a name. What should this little forum be called? I'd like to think that the collective brain power of the Oshkosh online community can come up with something better than OshKonversation.

At the moment I have very few plans to "edit" the conversation thread on a regular basis. I may skim over the dialog from time to time, but this will be on no fixed interval. So everyone's on their own. It's just not something I enjoy doing. Plus, I'm kind of interested in seeing what a "Lord of the Flies" internet atmosphere looks like. All of this will change if the discussion becomes abusive. I do not mind filthy language, so long as it is not directed at specific individuals (fellow commentators or otherwise). Racist and/or bigoted language will not be tolerated. Again, I do not plan on monitoring the discussion religiously so I will hope users will maintain a sense of decorum and etiquette.

This will be an experiment. We'll see how it works.

You can find out more here.

Rep. Hintz to hold Office Hours

OSHKOSH– Representative Gordon Hintz will be holding office hours at the Oshkosh Senior Center to listen to concerns facing Oshkosh residents including the 2007-2009 State Budget. The event is open to the public and questions on all topics related to state government are encouraged and welcome.

Anyone with questions or comments is encouraged to contact the office of Representative Hintz toll-free at 888-534-0054 or via e-mail at rep.hintz@legis.state.wi.us.


Who: Representative Gordon Hintz
What: Office Hours
When: Friday, September 28 9:00am-12:00pm
Where: Oshkosh Area Senior Center
200 North Campbell Road

Upcoming Events, Including Take Back the Night & the JFK Dinner

Hello Members and Friends of the Winnebago County Democratic Party!

Here are some ways to get involved:

Monday, Sept 24th - Sicko Showing
6:00PM - Harmony Café - 124 N Oneida St - Appleton
Working Families Win and Wisconsin Citizen Action Present a viewing of
the motion picture; "Sicko" at the Harmony café - discussion to follow
Info: Adam Warpinski - 920.739.5729 adam@wfwin.org

Tues, Sept 25th - Healthy WI Forum Featuring WI State Senator Erpanbach
7:00AM - Appleton Public Library Lower Level - 225 N Oneida St -
Appleton
Info: Adam Warpinski - 920.739.5729 adam@wfwin.org

Wed, Sept 26th - Take Back the Night Rally and March Against Domestic
Violence
5:00PM Rally, 6:00PM March - Polk Library, UW Oshkosh, 800 Algoma Blvd

Friday, Sept 28th - Fox Valley Unity Breakfast
7:00AM - BJ Clancey's 3341 S Oneida St - Appleton
Info: Jef Hall - 920.203.6883 - jef@jef4wi.com

Sat, Sept 29th - Waupaca / Waushara Barn Dance
Live Music, Food, Candidates, Bonfire and Fun
4:00PM - 8:30PM - Grampa Bob's Farm, - 6561 St Hwy 22 - Wild Rose
Info: Delayne - 715.258.8749

Wed, Oct 10th - Winnebago County Dems Monthly Meeting
7:00PM - Delta Restaurant - 515 N Sawyer, Oshkosh
Info: Jef Hall - 920.203.6883 - jef@jef4wi.com

Sun, Oct 21st - 6th CD Democratic Party JFK Dinner in Memorium of Woody
and Dale Weber
5:00PM Social Hour, 6:00PM Dinner - Ramada Inn - 1 N Main St, Fond du
Lac
Tickets: $30 or a table for 10 for $275
Info and tickets: Jef Hall - 920.203.6883 - jef@jef4wi.com

As always, contact me with any questions!


Jef Hall
Chair, Winnebago County Democratic Party
2nd Vice Chair, Democratic Party of WI

224A Scott Ave
Oshkosh, WI 54901
920.203.6883

jef@jef4wi.com
www.winnebagodems.com
www.jef4wi.com

Authorized and Paid for by the Winnebago County Democratic Party

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Oshkosh leaders could learn from City of Fond du Lac

For years many of us have been saying if you want public buy-in, you need to include the public in your discussions. And for years, developers and City of Oshkosh leaders themselves have chosen, in most cases, not to include citizens in the process, unless something was required – and that wasn’t very often. Other cities have included their citizens in community development discussions for years. Now the City of Fond du Lac is taking community input one step further.

According to this article in the Fond du Lac Reporter city leaders will hold four Visioning Workshops next month to find out what residents would like to see in Fond du Lac in the next 20 years, no matter how large-scale or off the wall they may be. According to the article, Community Development Director Wayne Rollin said officials decided to give people more say in the process since new developments will affect them. "It's very important that people be involved in the Comprehensive Planning process," he said. It would be a good day for Oshkosh citizens if our city leaders felt the same way. Maybe some day they will.

Clearing up confusion over the Climate Protection Agreement

As many already are aware, at its September 11 meeting the Oshkosh Common Council approved the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement (5-2, Esslinger and McHugh dissenting). In doing so, the City of Oshkosh became the 668th city nationwide and the 15th in the state of Wisconsin to sign it. An environmental committee is expected to be named soon and one of that committee’s roles will be to look at ways in which Oshkosh can become more “green,” especially as they relate to the newly-signed agreement.

At the council meeting, there was discussion by councilors McHugh and Esslinger about this being nothing but “feel good” legislation and the city being required to do certain things contained in the agreement. Some of that mindset has also seeped into the community in a few blogs and private conversations. McHugh is right when he says the city is already doing certain things to protect the environment, but what’s wrong with trying to do more? Note, I said “try.” It’s important that people understand this agreement does not “require” the city to do anything and for a councilor to have or, worse yet, give the impression it requires the city to do something, tells me he did not read it as carefully as he should have. If you read the agreement for yourself, you can clearly see that it uses words or phrases like “urge,” “strive to meet or beat” and “by taking actions in our own operation and communities such as.” I found nothing in the document that requires any community to do anything.

Finally, as for any costs the city may incur as a result of a decision to take certain “green” action, yes it may cost a little more up front, but energy efficiencies and the like end up saving money in the long-run, not to mention help the environment for generations to come. I applaud the five council members who saw the benefit of this agreement by looking ahead to the future instead of being caught in a present day time warp.

Meanwhile, Oshkosh is receiving praise from state leaders for its insight and positive action taken on the agreement. Kudos again, council members Bain, King, Palmeri and Tower and Mayor Tower.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Courthouse security, will we be confronted with another discussion about it in the future

According to state records reviewed by the Post Crescent, there have been nearly 5,000 "security incidents" in Wisconsin courthouses between January 2005 and June 30, 2007. The 4,888 incidents include death threats, courtroom fights and at least one attempted attack on a deputy, along with minor happenings like a flooded toilet and a vandalized car. You can read more specifics about what the PC's research found by going here. It's been about four or five years since we've had any real discussions about courthouse security in Winnebago County. This latest report and the way many in our society behave make me wonder if it won't be too long before we're hearing them again. Vote in our online poll to show your thoughts about courthouse security in Winnebaco County.

How real is "reality TV", is it time to dump the term "reality TV"

No matter what channel we turn to these days, there seems to be some kind of reality TV show we can watch. Some are good; some not so good. But many are at least partially staged/scripted and they all have helped lure much of Hollywood and beyond away from writing a whole lot of creative shows for television. In one of his latest columns, Ray Richmond of the Hollywood Reporter, says it's time to dump the term "reality TV" and backs it up with these words: "At this point, it's rather like referring to packaged fruit snacks as 'produce.' My suggested replacement would be 'partially scripted TV.' The issue has moved well beyond the simple mislabeling of a genre: It's impacting innumerable livelihoods by preventing those who create material for shows from receiving union scale and benefits as writers."
You can read Richmond's entire column by going here.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Suggestions for city manager goals and objectives ignored 11 years ago; can still guide us today

[The following are goals and objectives provided to the Oshkosh Common Council by Jim Simmons and Citizens of Representative Democracy shortly after Richard Wollangk was hired as city manager in 1996. According to Simmons, the goals and objectives were essentially dismissed by the council. A couple of things immediately come to mind: First, as I've said before, I believe that all past council members bear some of the responsibility for a lack of accountability and lack of direction coming from the office of our city manager. Had some or all of these goals been put into place back then, it's likely we would not be in the situation we are today. It also might be interesting to know what reasoning the council at that time - which included (alphabetically) Melanie Bloechl, Bill Castle, Jon Dell'Antonia, Stan Kline, Larry Spanbauer and John Stenz, and later, appointee to fill Bloechl's council seat who filled Wollangk's, John Rupenthal - had for dismissing what, even today, seem like pretty good ideas. Knowing what their thought process was or wasn't at the time might prevent the same mistakes from being made again. The second point is, as we look to the future - either with a full-time elected mayor with executive powers or another city manager - we might be wise to take these goals and tweak them, and add or subtract to them based on our current situation - so that we can start off on the right foot. I want to thank Jim Simmons for sharing this information with me...]

Goals & Objectives

Richard A. Wollangk, City Manager

1) Develop a long range (3-5 year) capital improvement program for the city.

* Conduct town meetings, focus groups, opinion surveys, radio talk show call-ins and a web page with e-mail for public input in order to prioritize city goals.
* Inventory and analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the existing municipal infrastructure (streets, bridges, lighting, sidewalks, utilities, etc.).
* Provide the Council with a cost-benefit analysis for all the potential projects and alternative improvements indicated by the prioritization process.
* Submit preliminary plan for group workshops, public scrutiny and discussion in Council in 5 months and the final plan for Council approval within 8 months.

2) Work on a plan to enhance the customer relations skills of all city employees.

* Survey city residents on services and results desired, and on satisfaction with existing municipal services.
* Survey front-line city employees on barriers to, and ideas for matching the best practice in municipal service.
* Survey top-level officials in comparable medium-sized cities for an evaluation of our current practices and potential innovations.
* Within 6 months, report the results of these three steps to the Common Council.
* Develop a citizen service plan with clearly established standards in one year.
* Provide choice in service delivery, make service information easily accessible,
create pleasant surroundings for citizens and institutional redress for poor service.

3) Develop a team approach that involves all city departments in working together toward common goals in planning all projects.

* Enlist consultants to evaluate the potential for team building in city departments.
* Create an interdepartmental Council to identify areas for quality improvement.
* Establish joint meetings with members of the City Council, department heads and local interest group leaders to establish management objectives.
* Track and report on program achievements.

4) Work on the residential, commercial and industrial growth and development of the city.

* Publish a yearly Accountability Report with explicit measures of the city's well- being that shall include:
- industries gained and lost to the city with comparable data on jobs, salaries and benefits.
- new commercial developments as well as commerce lost through relocation, business failure or catastrophe.
- housing starts, residential developments, educational opportunities and zoning changes
- environmental indicators of city air, water and land quality with special attention to growth induced natural resource loss and degradation.
- crime and fire statistics for the city with comparative data for other municipalities.
* Establish public-private partnerships whenever possible in efforts to achieve municipal goals.
* Create small-business incubators in order to assist firm start-ups.

5) Have each department justify the cost of each program during the budgetary process.

* Establish a cabinet-level Enterprise Board to oversee all new initiatives with representation from the city's major stakeholders (ie. business, consumers, labor, neighborhood associations, public employees, etc.).
* Evaluate deregulation, ordinance reduction, contracting-out and other methods of cost reduction in every spending proposal.
* Provide expenditure data and best practice information from comparable cities and medium-sized private corporations.
* Institute biennial budgets and appropriations with broad outcome-oriented priorities for allocating funds.
* Provide cost-benefit analysis with each proposal as well as for the leading policy alternatives.

6) Establish a comprehensive plan for the city's management information department.

* Institutionalize information provision, accountability and responsiveness by implementing many of the previously mentioned measures.

BREAKING NEWS: Troop pullout from Iraq to begin by year's end

According to this breaking news report from ABC News, President Bush is expected to announce in a speech tonight his plans to pull some 5,700 troops out of Iraq by year's end. This news, while certainly good, is a long time in coming and will hopefully be the start of even more troops coming home in the not too distant future.

Governor Doyle Touts Wisconsin Manufacturers Helping Construct China’s Future

SHANGHAI, CHINA – During his trade mission to China, Governor Doyle today touted Wisconsin’s manufacturing sector as the right source for China’s construction equipment needs. The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), headquartered in Wisconsin, will hold an international trade conference that will showcase Wisconsin construction equipment manufacturers in Guangzhou, China, December 4-7, 2007.

“Wisconsin manufacturers are producing the equipment needed to help build China’s future,” Governor Doyle said. “Trade with China has grown rapidly over the past few years and there is great potential to strengthen that friendship, attract investment, and create jobs in Wisconsin.”

Headquartered in West Allis, Wisconsin, AEM is an international trade and business resource for companies that manufacture equipment, products and services used worldwide in the construction, agricultural, mining, forestry, and utility fields. Wisconsin is home to 55 of AEM’s 767 members, including some of the largest Wisconsin companies such as Manitowoc Company, Case, Briggs & Stratton, and Oshkosh Truck.

Several Wisconsin-based AEM members joined the Governor to encourage companies to participate in CONEXPO Asia 2007 to highlight Wisconsin’s strong manufacturing sector.

HUSCO International is headquartered in Waukesha and employs more than 650 people in Wisconsin. HUSCO, which also has a facility in Shanghai, manufactures hydraulic and electrohydraulic controls for off-highway and automotive applications.

Oshkosh Truck Corporation is a world leading manufacturer of specialty vehicles and bodies. Yesterday, Governor Doyle signed a $5 million trade agreement between Oshkosh Truck and the People’s Republic of China to provide six Striker firefighting trucks to the Beijing Airport. Oshkosh Truck is headquartered in Oshkosh.

Case IH is headquartered in Racine and also has a facility in Shanghai. Case is a worldwide leader in the farm equipment industry, producing a full range of tractors, combines, specialty harvesters and forage products, tillage products, seeders and sprayers.

Manitowoc Company is comprised of three segments- cranes, foodservice equipment and marine. The Manitowoc Crane Group is headquartered in Manitowoc, and also has offices in Shanghai.

CONEXPO Asia is the construction industry’s resource for exhibits, live equipment demonstrations and knowledge sharing in the Asia-Pacific region. CONEXPO Asia attracts qualified buyers and world-class exhibitors from around the globe.

Other Wisconsin Companies that will be showcased at CONEXPO Asia include:

Metso Minerals Industries, a manufacturer of equipment for quarrying and aggregates production, mining and minerals processing, construction and civil engineering, and recycling and waste management with its crushing and screening divisions based out of Waukesha;

Titex Plus USA, a subsidiary of Sandvik, is a drilling, tapping and milling brand based in Waukesha and have operations in Shanghai & Beijing;

Diesel Progress, a publication for the engine-powered equipment and component markets and is headquartered in Waukesha;

Telsmith, Inc., an Astec Industries Company, makes crushing equipment for the aggregate industry and is headquartered in Mequon.

China is now Wisconsin’s fastest-growing export market and the third-largest export market overall, up from fourth-largest in 2005. In 2006, the state’s exports to China totaled $870 million, representing a 29 percent increase over 2005.

A complete list of Wisconsin AEM member companies is below.

ABS Dewatering
Amerequip Corporation
Ashland Industries
Asphalt Reheat Systems LLC
Berco of America Inc
Best-Ex Inc
Birchwood Consulting International Ltd
Bou-Matic LLC
Briggs & Stratton Corporation/Commercial Power
Charleston/Orwig Inc
Chermack Machine Inc
CNH
Cotta Transmission Company LLC
Curtis Research Associates LLC
Cygnus Business Media Inc
Diesel Progress
Dings Company Magnetic Group
ENERPAC
Fisher Barton Inc
Gehl Company
Grammer Inc
Hatz Diesel of America Inc
HED (Hydro Electronic Devices) Inc
HUSCO International
Ken Cook Company
Kondex Corporation
Lippmann Inc
Lowe Manufacturing Company Inc
Magnum Products Inc
Manitowoc Crane Group
Marlin Technologies Inc
MAT-3 Inc
M-B Companies Inc
M-B-W Inc
Metal Forms Corporation
Metso Minerals Industries
Miller-St. Nazianz Inc
Milsco Manufacturing Company
OEM Fabricators Inc
Optima Batteries Inc
P & H Mining Equipment
Paladin
Ponsse North America Inc
RexCon LLC
Rice Lake Weighing Systems
Safway Services Inc
Shuttlelift
Superior Diesel
The Wyco Tool Company
Thomas Magnete USA LLC
Triple Crown Products
Up-N-Atom Inc
Wacker Corporation
Weasler Engineering Inc

Wisconsin AG to continue open government meeting series

I noticed in an editorial by the Oshkosh Northwestern the other day that our new attorney general, J.B. Van Hollen, plans to continue holding the office’s “Open Government” seminars round the state. For years these free, informational meetings have been held to educate elected officials and the general public at large on the state’s Open Meetings and Open Records laws – what their intent is, how they’re supposed to work and how to ensure that they’re being followed.

I commend AG Van Hollen for continuing this trend; and I think the Northwestern has put forth some good, very workable ideas to make the meetings both more effective and meaningful. But I would also encourage our attorney general to make certain he and his office not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. As we see far too often in government – at all levels – it is one thing to give the impression you stand for something; it’s quite another to actually take a stand in that direction. Again, I applaud these continued efforts – they are vital to openness in government. But the real test will be how Van Hollen’s office handles Open Meetings or Open Records complaints filed with his office.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Columnist Ellen Goodman looks at the “bigger bathroom picture”

Whether or not Larry Craig manages to save his Senate career, the circumstances of his arrest bear exploring. In her most recent editorial piece, columnist Ellen Goodman wonders if there isn't a better way to secure an airport bathroom than the institutionalized entrapment and humiliation of gay men? More importantly, she asks, are there not more serious crimes to pursue and solve in Minneapolis and what “crime” did Craig actually commit?

One editorial page writer speaks his mind about presidential candidate Fred Thompson

Last week career actor and former senator from Tennessee, Fred Thompson announced on The Tonight Show that he intends to run for president of the United States in ’08. That, of course, has drawn support from some, while heckles and criticism from others. In this piece, Jon Friedman of Marketwatch explains why he finds Thompson to be inexperienced and a media novice.

Meanwhile, according to columnist Bill Boyarsky in his most recent piece, the most maddening view of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination is found in an excellent Los Angeles Times column, Cause Célebrè, which reports candidates for sale and how Hollywood’s super-rich are buying their way into the campaign.

Wood County Board to cut union hours

With some of the recent media attention in Oshkosh on union contracts now being decided at arbitration, I thought readers might find this particular article from the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune kind of interesting.

Doyle to transfer money to “rainy day” fund

Governor Jim Doyle announced yesterday that following a full accounting of fiscal year 2006-07 tax collections and state expenditures, he will make a transfer of $50 million to the state’s rainy day fund – the first transfer of its kind in state history. When Governor Doyle took office, the balance in the state's rainy day fund was only about $1,000.

“Because of real fiscal responsibility, Wisconsin now has a growing economy and a healthy rainy day fund,” Governor Doyle said. “We are heading in the right direction, but the Legislature’s failure to pass a budget will have disastrous fiscal affects on our state. To continue down the path of fiscal responsibility, the Legislature must act now and pass a budget that ensures our state’s long term financial security. “

The current balance of the rainy day fund is $780,000. The largest deposit to the fund to date was $472,000 and occurred in fiscal year 2004-05, as a result of efforts by the Governor to sell state property, including aircraft and fleet vehicles.

The state is required by current law to achieve a balance of $65 million at the end of each fiscal year. Because of a growing economy and responsible state budgeting, Governor Doyle has achieved a surplus beyond the amount required by law.

In the budget Governor Doyle presented to the Legislature in February, he doubles the state’s statutory balance to $130 million. This funding, combined with the new rainy day fund balance, demonstrates continued progress toward improving the state's financial condition. The purpose of these reserves is to ensure the state is able to weather national economic downturns. In addition, the state’s improved financial picture, combined with the Governor's proposed changes in the yet to be adopted budget, puts Wisconsin in excellent position for an upgrade in the state's bond rating.

The final accounting of revenues and expenditures for fiscal year 2006-07, will be included in the state Annual Fiscal Report which will be issued on October 15, 2007. Figures in that report are not expected to deviate significantly from these preliminary estimates.

Under state law, actual tax collections in a fiscal year must be compared with the estimated tax collections made for that fiscal year in the biennial budget act. If actual collections exceed estimates and the required general fund ending balance is fully funded for that fiscal year, then 50 percent of the excess revenues must be transferred to the rainy day fund. Since this law was first enacted in 2001, excess revenues have not been sufficient to make a transfer to the rainy day fund.

To view Department of Administration Secretary Michael Morgan’s letter detailing the transfer, go to: http://www.wisgov.state.wi.us/docview.asp?docid=11972.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

News from the Oshkosh Book Collective

[we have received the following information from the Oshkosh Book Collective and are pleased to pass it along to our readers...]

Hello Everyone,

This will serve as notice that the next meeting of the Oshkosh Book Collective will be held on Thursday, September 13, at the 321 Market Street in Oshkosh at 7pm. This will be a facilitated meeting that should go no longer than 1 hour. All decisions are made by consensus. An agenda will be prepared ahead of time; so if you have an item that you wish to be discussed, please respond to this email with your item. Also please respond to let us know if you are attending.

Coffee, tea and bagels will be served for those needing an evening snack.

Meanwhile, one other item of interest: We have done some basic refurbishments to the collective space. We are now looking for Bookshelves, tons o' books,magazines, pamplets, and members/volunteers and their ideas to keep the space open. If you wish to donate any of these needs, please email Bob Poeschl at carpepax@riseup.net or call him at 920-312-0529.

Until then, Sieze Peace and
See you soon,

Oshkosh Book Collective

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Americans blogging habits

Eight out of 10 Americans know what a blog is and close to half have visited blogs, according to a survey from Synovate/Marketing Daily. Read more about Americans' blogging habits here.

Labor Day Parade Marchers Needed! (And Other Events)

Hello Members and Friends of the Winnebago County Democratic Party!

We need your help to show our support for local labor! Please come out!


Neenah / Menasha Labor Day Parade

Come show your support for our friends in labor!

Monday - 9/3 – (:00 AM

Germania Hall, 320 Chute St – Menasha, WI



Please see below for some upcoming events! We hope to see you!



Neenah Labor Day Celebration

Monday - 9/3 - After the Parade

Labor Hall, 157 S Green Bay Rd – Neenah, WI



Oshkosh Labor Day Celebration

Monday, 9/3 - 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM

South Park – Oshkosh, WI



John Edwards in Milwaukee

Monday, 9/10 – 6:30PM

* What: "Small Change for Big Change" grassroots fundraiser with John Edwards and you

* Where: American Serb Memorial Hall, President's Hall, 5101 W. Oklahoma Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53219

Tickets are $15 and there will be a cash bar at the event.

You can get your tickets at the door or RSVP online to reserve your spot at:

http://johnedwards.com/smallchangeforbigchange/20070910-rsvp



Winnebago County Democratic Party Monthly Meeting

Wednesday - 9/12 - 7:00 PM

Delta Family Restaurant, 515 N Sawyer St – Oshkosh, WI



As always, contact me at anytime with questions!



Not a member? Join now – www.winnebagodems.com!

-jef-

Jef Hall

Chair, Winnebago County Democratic Party

2nd Vice Chair, Democratic Party of WI



224A Scott Ave

Oshkosh, WI 54901

920.203.6883



jef@jef4wi.com

www.winnebagodems.com

www.jef4wi.com

Authorized and Paid for by the Winnebago County Democratic Party!