Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Happy Holidays to all

As I write this Christmas Eve is but a few hours away. Not only is there a raging snowstorm outside, there has been an almost equally raging discussion for the last several years over the political correctness surrounding Christmas.

Some people prefer to wish others “Merry Christmas;” others prefer the more politically correct version of “Happy Holidays.” I personally don’t have a preference. I have absolutely no trouble wishing someone “Merry Christmas” because, after all, I believe Christ is the reason for the season. But I also enjoy wishing people a “Happy New Year,” too. Because the holidays come so close together, and I may not see someone both before Christmas and again before January 1, I tend to combine my greeting for both holidays into one and simply wish people “Happy Holidays.” It’s for convenience rather than trying to be politically correct, as I am one of thousands of people who believe we have gone too far in this country with political correctness.

But rather than get into a debate of the “rightness” or “wrongness” of a holiday greeting, let me cover all my bases and just take a moment to wish each of you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year – or Happy Holidays, whichever holiday greeting you prefer. And best wishes for a joyous and wonderful 2008.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Esslinger’s at it again

What’s he up to now, you ask? Pandering and grandstanding, as is so often the case with this city councilor. He is pursuing his silly notion that city employees should not be reimbursed mileage from the city, but rather believes they should claim it on their income tax returns.

This idea first surfaced during the budget discussions, with Esslinger making the comment that he had agreed to such an arrangement with his current employer and, gosh, wouldn’t it be a nice cost-savings to do the same here? Now he’s bringing it up again. He wants to give the impression that he’s trying to save every little bit of money he can for us taxpayers. (Too bad he wasn’t as cost-conscious and saving-savvy when it came time for him to jam his $1,700+ legal bill – generated as a result of his shooting off his mouth to then city manager Richard Wollangk – down the throats of the city’s insurance company.)

There are a couple of problems with Esslinger’s proposal. Number 1: In order to claim a mileage deduction on your income taxes, you have to be able to itemize, and the simple fact of the matter is, not everyone is in a position to itemize. For many, it just doesn’t pay. Number 2: Simply because you claim a deduction, doesn’t mean you get reimbursed 100 percent for it.

Esslinger either needs to stick with things he knows something about or take the time to actually learn about all aspects of a proposal before he makes it. He’s failed on both counts in this case.

Esslinger Sidebar Bonus: The holiday season is bringing all kinds of goodies from councilman Esslinger. The other gem was earlier this week when it was reported by the Oshkosh Northwestern that the acting city attorney had concerns about decisions being made and formal action being taken as a result of council member statements. Esslinger, along with deputy mayor Burk Tower, took a somewhat nonchalant attitude about it. In Tower’s defense, he at least said that if the council has to be more careful, it will be more careful. But Esslinger was quoted in the article as saying, "I think it's much ado about nothing."

As was pointed out by the Northwestern’s executive editor Stew Rieckman during a recent taping of Eye on Oshkosh, it’s "much ado about nothing" in Esslinger’s eyes because it was Esslinger who was “guilty” of at least one of the things the council did that the acting city attorney said came close to violating Wisconsin Open Meetings laws. Rieckman then pointed out exactly what I’d been thinking when I read Esslinger’s “much ado about nothing” comment. This man is up in arms when a deal related to bathrooms at the Leach Amphitheater is worked out between then-mayor Bill Castle and a contractor on the golf course, but he’s perfectly okay with his personally trying to broker a management deal over coffee, lunch or otherwise private meeting between himself and Joe Ferlo from the Grand Opera House for the Grand to take over management of the Leach, had PMI agreed to pull out of their contract early. As I review Esslinger’s votes and comments this past year or so, it seems to me the hypocrisy is flowing from his lips these days almost as fast as the snow falls from the sky on a wintry Wisconsin day. This guy is a real piece of work.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Disappointed groans and grumbles over waterfront UN-development justified

There’s an interesting tidbit in the Oshkosh Northwestern’s online edition today about the stalled “The Waterfront” development not being unique to Oshkosh. Reporter Jeff Bollier then pointed out examples of other proposed developments elsewhere in the state that are having difficulties getting off the ground. He also said he is stopping short of “the disappointed groans and grumbles because construction still has not started.” I appreciate his patience and refusal to complain, and I think many of us are still hopeful this project will not only come to fruition, but will bear fruit and be plentiful, so to speak.

That being said, however, I think he may not understand why the disappointed groans and grumbles are being expressed. From my own perspective, and that of at least a dozen or more others I’ve spoken to in recent weeks, the disappointment comes from more than just the fact that the developers haven’t yet broken ground. It comes mainly from the Common Council being told by Tim Rikkers of Akcess Acquisition Group that his group had tenants for the office building who were ready to sign on the dotted line as soon as the council voted “yes” on the project. That was done, and yet, these “eager” tenants have managed to continue being elusive. We were also told plenty of research and feasibility studies, of sorts, had been done on this project. If research proved this was a worthy project, why the continual delays with finding tenants? Or perhaps more to the point, if there were tenants ready to sign pending council approval, why did they suddenly get cold feet once that approval was given?

I see Jeff Bollier will have more in Sunday’s edition – in both online and print versions. Amongst the “little extra content” he promises to give us for future discussions, I hope Jeff’s piece will detail whether developers with stalled projects in the other communities he referenced actually told the city leaders they had tenants ready to go as ours were. It may make a difference between grumbling and disappointment, or the lack thereof.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

More delays in riverfront office building

On Nov. 6 – nearly one month ago – we were told of the delays and apparent difficulties Akcess Acquisition Group and its partners were having in getting tenants to sign on the dotted line for space in the multimillion dollar office building to be constructed along the Fox River. I expressed my disappointment at the time, mainly because the developers had told the Common Council several weeks, possibly even months earlier, that they had tenants waiting to sign, just as soon as the Council gave its formal blessing to the project.

In hindsight, that may have been lip-service on the part of the developer or just plain old wishful thinking, because had the council not given its formal approval that night, then city attorney Warren Kraft had told councilors the city could be sued for breach of contract. So the “approval” given that night was really more ceremonial than anything else because the deal had already been formally – and legally – approved earlier in the game.

Fast-forward to Dec. 4 where the earlier projected groundbreaking date of October is about two months behind, there aren’t enough tenants to proceed and the developers are now saying they will start the hotel portion of the project without having the office complex component set to go. This, despite saying all along that they wanted the groundbreaking of the two projects to be within one week of each other.

According to the Talk to Tony blog this morning councilor Tony Palmeri intends to ask that the issue be placed on the upcoming council meeting's agenda under Council Member Statements, “so that we can have an open discussion of possible backup plans.” With things going as they are, this may be a good time to have such a discussion.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Governor Doyle Urges Lawmakers to Pass Autism, Smokefree Legislation Before the End of the Year

Governor Jim Doyle today called on lawmakers to act next week on legislation to provide autism treatment and make all public places smokefree. Both houses of the legislature will be in session next week before adjourning for the end of the year.

“Before the end of the year, lawmakers should act to make autism treatment affordable for families and make all public places smokefree,” Governor Doyle said. “Families dealing with autism are faced with an impossible choice between doing nothing and risking their financial future. Wisconsin should not become the ashtray of the Midwest. Our neighboring states are becoming smokefree and Legislators need to act now to make public places smokefree. The legislature should not delay another day on these important issues.”

Governor Doyle has long championed efforts requiring insurance companies to cover the cost of treatments essential for children with autism. Autism treatment services are already covered in 18 states. Today, Governor Doyle called on the legislature to act on this issue and reduce the burden on thousands of hard-working families across the state.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects thousands of Wisconsin children at a rate of more than 1 in 200 children. Until recently, autism was considered a life-long disability with poor prognosis. Now, with early and appropriate treatment children can see dramatic improvements. Insurance companies are not required to cover the costs of these treatments and families across the state must pay thousands of out-of-pocket dollars creating a tremendous financial burden.

For nearly a year, Governor Doyle has called for comprehensive smokefree legislation that would ban smoking in all public places. Secondhand smoke is responsible for tens of thousands of death each year and is a proven cause of lung cancer, heart disease, and illness in infants and children. Next year, half of all the states in the country will have enacted smokefree legislation including Minnesota, Illinois, and Ohio. Governor Doyle urged the legislature to enact smokefree legislation that bans smoking in all public buildings, workplaces, restaurants, and taverns.

In his budget, Governor Doyle increased the cost of cigarettes and invested $30 million in smoking cessation and prevention efforts. Studies show that the cigarette tax increase will prevent some 65,800 Wisconsin kids alive today from smoking; spur 33,000 Wisconsin smokers to quit for good; save nearly 30,000 Wisconsin residents from smoking-caused deaths; produce more than $1.4 billion in long-term health care savings; and raise about $227 million a year in new state revenue.

Governor Doyle called on the legislature to act before the end of the year to prioritize the health of children, the financial well-being of families, and the improvement of public health.

For more information on which states have already taken action visit: