Friday, July 25, 2008

Schools eye four-day week to cut fuel costs

Facing a crippling increase in fuel costs, some rural U.S. schools are mulling a unique solution. Read how they're considering a four-day week in this story from Reuters news service.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

City to consider allowing electric vehicles

According to this article in the Oshkosh Northwestern the Oshkosh Common Council will tonight consider whether to allow neighborhood electric vehicles, or NEVs, on city streets with speed designations of 35 miles per hour or less - which covers most streets that I can think of. Kudos to councilor Dennis McHugh for bringing this forward. In an age when gas prices continue to hover around $4 a gallon and communities are looking to become more "green," this concept seems to make good economic - and environmental - sense.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Has the waterfront project run aground

The Supple Group has issued a press release to the Oshkosh Common Council that reads as follows:

“The Supple Group will be removing itself from the downtown Oshkosh Fox River Development. The Supple Group was originally solicited by Akcess Acquisition Group to operate both the future hotel and restaurant as part of the overall development project. The Supples have worked closely with Akcess researching complementary hotel and restaurant brands for the waterfront. Although the Supples were successful in attracting a number of viable hotel brands and developed a restaurant concept for the site, the group has amicably decided to part ways on the project. Both Akcess and the Supple Group continue to be positive about the future of the entire waterfront development and continue to be passionate towards growth in Oshkosh. Jay Supple stated, ‘As Oshkosh business owners and residents, our family will always be committed to the City of Oshkosh. Our corporate headquarters are here, and this is where we live and raise our children. We are proud of everything we have built in this city and will continue to support and be active in developing Oshkosh.’”

With the continued problems associated with the proposed Akcess project, Supple’s pull-out is not necessarily a surprise, but the timing is a little curious. It was, after all, only last week (July 15) that the Oshkosh Plan Commission approved several changes to the site plan for the waterfront development. Those changes will be cosidered tomorrow night by the Common Council. At the plan commission meeting Jay Supple told the commissioners he saw the entire project as a chance to kick-start extensive riverfront redevelopment in the city. And just one week earlier the Oshkosh Common Council amended the city’s development agreement with Akcess and gave the developers six months to get their project off the ground. And at the end of June, Supple, to his credit, said “This has been in the public so long that if we really don't get this thing off the ground within the next couple months, I'll be honest with you … we need to move on too and let somebody else move in.”

The Oshkosh Northwestern has this story online this evening.

No one can fault Supple for pulling out. Perhaps they saw the handwriting on the wall and figured "Why wait for another couple months to pass by?" Perhaps something else transpired. Who knows? Nor can anyone fault Tim Rikkers and the Akcess Acquisition Group: They expressed interest in our riverfront and were willing to put themselves out there – which is more than can be said for the formerly proposed Five Rivers project. One thing I think many people felt was that we were being strung along as to interested tenants for the office complex. Perhaps the developers still could and should pursue a project on some level - they say they will - but maybe they should just do the hotel and restaurant/bar project; not an office complex. Maybe someone else will come up with something if Ackess fails in their efforts. Perhaps we need something else altogether, apart from a hotel and restaurant/bar. Maybe a true combined-use down there, complete with a family entertainment complex of sorts, is the best bet. And depending on what happens next, perhaps we'll soon be at a point where our new city manager, Mark Rohloff, can be involved with the riverfront development project from the beginning.

Bottom line: We can wonder “What happened?” and “What if…?,” but a more appropriate, certainly more pressing question at this juncture is “What now?”

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Governor Doyle Statement on MillerCoors Plans

MADISON – Governor Jim Doyle today issued the following statement on the MillerCoors announcement that it would locate its headquarters in Chicago and invest in the Milwaukee Brewery so that Milwaukee will always be the home of Miller beers:

“A strong, thriving MillerCoors is important to Wisconsin just as it is to Colorado. I am disappointed that MillerCoors believed that the joint venture headquarters, for corporate governance reasons, would have to be at a neutral site and that neither Milwaukee nor Golden would be considered.

“MillerCoors has been open in their discussions with me throughout this process, and I am pleased they are making a significant expansion to the Milwaukee Brewery. Their investment in Milwaukee will greatly increase production and add significantly more brewery jobs.

“We will continue to work with the new MillerCoors to make sure that Milwaukee will always be the home of Miller beer.”

America's best places to live, 2008

Chances are, you love the corner of the nation your family calls home. And that’s exactly as it should be. But let’s face it: Certain towns have more of the things that make a place great for raising a family and building a rich life—like plentiful jobs, excellent schools, scenic beauty and houses that won’t suck away your last dime. For some of the best places in America to live, check out this report from CNN And while most of us love Oshkosh - or we wouldn't stay here – it, like so many things in life, can always improve. And who knows, maybe our city leaders can find some things here that might bring our own neck of the woods a little closer to what we see represented in the report.

Ten swaps that when combined will save you $5,000 a year

When it comes to cutting costs, consumers always look at the big stuff. Postponing that vacation. Keeping your car a few more years. Nixing the addition on the house. Yes, those things will save you some money, no doubt. But it's often the little things that can make an even bigger difference. Check out this article courtesy of The Wall Street Journal Online and Yahoo Finance for tips that, when used, can consistently save you money every week, every year.

Friday, July 11, 2008

OWN Statements on Ziegler Participation in Menasha Corp. Case

Milwaukee - Scot Ross, Executive Director of One Wisconsin Now, issued the following statements regarding the state Supreme Court's decision in the Menasha Corp. case and Justice Ziegler's written opinion.

"Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce's $2 million investment in Annette Ziegler has turned around a quick $265 million return for business - an extraordinary deal given today's economy. One Wisconsin Now called on Annette Ziegler to recuse herself from this case because of this clear conflict of interest. Her deciding vote and decision in this case will mean more cuts to services or higher taxes for the people of Wisconsin and all to give more tax cuts for businesses."

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One Wisconsin Now is a statewide communications network specializing in effective earned media and online organizing to advance progressive leadership and values.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wisconsin Leaders Say McCain's Economic, Health Care Record a Disaster for Women

Milwaukee - Sen. John McCain's record in the U.S. Senate has been a "disaster for women," according to leaders from across Wisconsin, who say his opposition to fair pay, reproductive freedom and access to affordable health care, and his support for unfair trade deals and tax breaks for the wealthy and Big Oil will leave women even further behind economically.

McCain's abysmal record on equal pay for women includes his skipping the April vote on the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which would have restored workers' ability to pursue pay discrimination claims in the courts. McCain said women simply need "education and training" instead of equal pay protection and even told a 14-year-old girl that he didn't think protections for equal pay would do "anything to help the rights of women."

"John McCain's policies have inflicted a double whammy on working women in Wisconsin - job loss and pay inequity," said Sara Rogers, Executive Vice President of Wisconsin AFL-CIO. "His support for unfair trade deals has cost women jobs and his continuing opposition to pay equity costs women the ability to get the pay they deserve."

McCain has consistently voted against reproductive freedom when it comes to women's health care, including family planning, sex education and access to abortion services for women in the military. McCain has a zero-percent rating from Planned Parenthood for his voting record.

"John McCain opposes letting women and families make the most personal private decisions about their health care," said Lisa Boyce, Executive Director for PPAWI. "He has opposed funding birth control for low-income women and wants to return us to the day of illegal, back alley abortions."

McCain voted against getting low-income women breast and cervical cancer screening and his ideas on health care would raise taxes on millions of middle-class families and keep uninsured many low-income families and those with pre-existing conditions. An analysis by the non-partisan Center for American Progress says McCain's plan would hike health care costs for families by $1,100 in 2013 and by $2,800 within 10 years.

"Sen. McCain's plan for health care would keep millions of families from getting access to health care," said Candice Owley, President of the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Care Professionals. "With costs skyrocketing, the last thing we need is a scheme that hikes our costs and keeps low-income families and people with pre-existing conditions from having care."

McCain's poor record on access to affordable health care for all also mirrors Bush policies, such as McCain's opposition to expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP). Because of this vote and similar votes, the Children's Defense Fund has ranked McCain as the worst Senator for children's issues.

"We know John McCain wants to continue the disastrous policies of George W. Bush, including the economic policies which are failing women across Wisconsin," said Carmen Marg-Patton, Political and Program Director for NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin. "For women this means limited access to health care, a loss of reproductive freedoms, fewer protections against workplace discrimination, more job loss and even higher gas prices."

While Wisconsin families find it even harder to make ends meet because of a failing economy and record gas prices, McCain is calling for another $4 billion in tax cuts for Big Oil and the wealthy. Meanwhile, McCain opposes common-sense means to solve the housing crisis at a time when women are one-third more likely to have subprime mortgages, despite their credit scores being higher on average.

"Instead of rewarding Big Oil with another $4 billion, John McCain needs to support measures that bring relief to badly-suffering homeowners," said Carolyn Castore, Political Director of ACORN Wisconsin. "He finds plenty of money to bail out corporations, but there's nothing to help women losing their homes."

McCain is scheduled to be in Hudson, Wisconsin tomorrow for a town hall on women and the economy. More about McCain's record in the U.S. Senate can be found on One Wisconsin's Now's website at:

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One Wisconsin Now is a statewide communications network specializing in effective earned media and online organizing to advance progressive leadership and values.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

$40 Million Health Care Campaign Launched in Wisconsin and Nationwide

Today, here at the Wisconsin State Capitol and in 52 other cities across the country, including 37 state capitals, a new national campaign is bringing together millions of Americans to demand quality, affordable health care for all. Health Care for America Now (HCAN) is being launched by over 100 national and local groups that represent labor, community organizations, doctors, nurses, women, small businesses, faith-based organizations, people of color, netroots activists, and think tanks. Health Care for America Now is organizing to assure that the first order of business of the next President and Congress is to pass legislation in 2009 that guarantees quality, affordable health care for all.

Health Care for America Now is an unprecedented coalition. In Wisconsin the steering committee currently includes AFSCME, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Planned Parenthood, SEIU, Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), and the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO.

Additional members of the Wisconsin coalition include ACORN, AFT-Wisconsin, Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups, Disability Rights Wisconsin, Grassroots Citizens of Wisconsin, Grassroots North Shore, One Wisconsin Now, UFCW, Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans, Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health, Wisconsin Council of Children and Families, Wisconsin Council of Churches, Wisconsin Farmers Union, Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, and the faith-based organization WISDOM.

The coalition is organized on the proposition that in 2009, we will either have a guarantee of quality, affordable health care we all can count on or we will continue to be at the mercy of the private health insurance industry that is charging us more, giving us less and putting company profits before our health. Here in Wisconsin and in communities all across the country, we’re asking one question, “Which side are you on?” Are you on the side of quality, affordable health care? Or are you on the side of being left alone to fend for yourself in a complicated, bureaucratic insurance market?

Starting today, the campaign is spending an initial $1.5 million on national television, print, and online advertising and is sending out an email blast to more than 5 million people. Over the next five months, Health Care for America Now plans to spend $25 million in paid media and have 100 organizers in 45 states.

Health Care for America Now offers a bold new vision for health care reform: Americans can keep the private insurance they have, join a new private insurance plan, or choose a public health insurance plan. The campaign also calls for a government role in setting and enforcing rules on the insurance industry which consistently charges whatever it wants, sets high deductibles, denies coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and drops coverage when people get sick.

Health Care for America Now national steering committee includes ACORN, AFSCME, Americans United for Change, Campaign for America's Future, Center for American Progress Action Fund, Center for Community Change, MoveOn, National Education Association, National Women's Law Center, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, SEIU, United Food and Commercial Workers, and USAction.

Health Care for America Now started with a financial commitment of at least $500,000 from each of the 13 national steering committee members and a $10 million grant from NY-based Atlantic Philanthropies.

Health Care for America Now (“HCAN”), a section 501(c)(4) issue advocacy organization, is a broad coalition of nonprofit and political organizations that are working to promote quality, affordable health care for all Americans. HCAN and each of its members conducts and funds only activities appropriate to its tax and election law status.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Governor Doyle Announces Adult Smoking in Wisconsin Hits All-Time Low

MADISON – Governor Jim Doyle (has announced) that adult smoking in Wisconsin has reached a record low. The new adult smoking prevalence rate in Wisconsin of 19.6 percent marks the first time the number has ever been below 20 percent.

“We’re very encouraged by this news,” Governor Doyle said. “This number clearly demonstrates that Wisconsin’s tobacco prevention and control efforts are making a difference in the lives of smokers across the state.”

The new figures come from the 2007 Wisconsin Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey, a telephone survey of state residents age 18 and older. The survey measures smoking prevalence by education, age, ethnicity, gender and income. The new adult prevalence rate of 19.6 percent is down from 24 percent in 2000. Currently, the national adult smoking rate is 20 percent.

Governor Doyle has taken a number of steps to reduce smoking in Wisconsin, including raising the cigarette tax by $1 and dedicating new funds to cessation programs, providing free quit-smoking medications through the state’s Quit Line, and increasing youth tobacco prevention campaigns. Governor Doyle also urged the Legislature to make restaurants and taverns, along with other indoor workplaces, smokefree as part of his strategy to confront the dangers of tobacco.

Since January 1, when the cigarette tax went into effect, a record 20,000 people have called the The Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line. The Quit Line (1-800-QUIT NOW) also offers free coaching to smokers.

For a fact sheet on the new adult prevalence numbers and information on Wisconsin’s tobacco prevention and control efforts, visit

Friday, July 04, 2008

The key to being a state that doesn't just survive, but rather thrives

Wisconsin's risk-averse nature often is cited as a reason the state doesn't attract much venture capital, but when it comes to creating the new jobs of the new economy, states have no choice but to stimulate their entrepreneurial climates. At least one expert says that to thrive, Wisconsin must build an entrepreneurial culture.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Monster Founder Sets Sights on Online Obits

Fourteen years ago, Jeff Taylor helped set off a tectonic shift in recruitment advertising by founding, one of the first online companies to challenge a big profit source of newspapers. Now, just as papers are reeling from a massive drainage of ad dollars online, Taylor thinks he's found another one of their strongholds that's ripe for online competition: Obituaries.

Check out the complete story at The Associated Press via Editor & Publisher.

Save the Press: An editorial by the NY Times Timothy Egan

Timothy Egan: The Internet may kill the daily newspaper as we know it, but it's allowed some papers to increase their readership by tenfold.

Check out his editorial and reader responses on his blog at the New York Times site here.

Governor Doyle Announces Additional $1 Million to Help Families with Rising Fuel Costs

MADISON – Governor Jim Doyle announced today that the state will provide one million dollars in energy assistance funds to help Wisconsin families with limited incomes deal with disconnections and rising fuel costs.

“High energy costs are a concern for many families in Wisconsin,” Governor Doyle said. “Families should not be forced to choose between paying the grocery bill or the energy bill and these additional funds will help families who are facing these difficult choices.”

The additional funds will be released to local county and tribal energy assistance program operators to assist Wisconsin’s most vulnerable households with their energy needs. This year, Wisconsin’s Home Energy Assistance Program has already provided over $100 million in benefits and helped nearly 160,000 households.

Individuals seeking information on how and where to apply for assistance are encouraged to call 1-800-522-3014 or visit the Governor’s website at

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Double-dipping? Or over-reaction?

Recently there’s been some “talk” about school district administrators “double-dipping” by “retiring” for 30 days from one position, then accepting another position, while simultaneously collecting a salary for the new position AND retirement/pension benefits from their old position. While there don’t seem to be droves of people up in arms over this practice, some have expressed anger and/or concern about it. The question is why? What is the difference between this situation and anyone else who retires, begins drawing a pension from their employer or collecting Social Security, yet takes on a job doing something else? As long as they don’t earn more than the legally allowed limit set by either the Social Security Administration or some other entity, what difference does it really make if people have income from two sources? This just doesn’t seem to be quite the evil that some might want you to believe it is. Moreover, the one blogger who tried initiating the discussion locally left out part of the story regarding pension benefits that, if people knew, might make it seem even less of a problem to them.

The following has been provided to me by the Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds. “Regarding retirement with a Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) employer, initially to be eligible for a retirement benefit one must be terminated from all WRS covered employment and be over age 55 (age 50 for protective occupation employees) when one applies. After the ‘30-day rule of not working’ one may become re-employed by a WRS employer. Then one must decide between two choices regarding their pension payments. If one chooses to participate in the WRS again, their annuity payments would be SUSPENDED; contributions and creditable service would be added from their new job to their unused "old" total, until one again terminates covered employment. If one chooses NOT to participate in the WRS as a once-again "active" employee, their annuity payments would continue and their new employment with a WRS employer would NOT add dollars to their retirement account.”

Given this, their pension benefits are no greater than if they'd remained on their original job in the first place.

Again, all things considered, this just doesn’t strike me as being something to get all worked up about. There’s far more pressing matters in this district and beyond for people to be concerned about. We’ve been hearing about them for a while now and I suspect we may be in the future. New concerns may even pop up that are more troublesome than this so-called “double-dipping.”