Thursday, November 29, 2007

Winnebago County Personal Function Review & 71 Things

For anyone interested in what your county government does for you, I published the Winnebago County Personal Function Review documents on my County County Board Website:

Also, I put together a smaller overview of 71 Things Your County Does (why 71? I wanted to keep it to 4 pages). I did not include some obvious ones, such as roads.

If you want a larger read, the full 23 page program overview is here.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Update on Prisoners...

State prisons may use county jails

Steven Elbow — 11/08/2007 11:31 am

As Dane County pulls its inmates back from Winnebago and Sauk counties, the state Department of Corrections is hoping to use the newly available space to ease its own overcrowding problems.

The state is currently working with those counties, as well as Bayfield and Juneau counties, to use available beds as part of its ongoing effort to house a growing prison population.

Dane County currently pays Sauk and Winnebago counties about $1 million a year each to house a total of about 120 inmates a day. But Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney plans to bring those inmates home early next year as measures to open up beds at the Dane County Jail go into place.

The stakes on both sides are high: The state Department of Corrections is operating with 5,000 inmates more than it has space for, and counties say they need the revenue that housing state inmates can provide.

The state is still dealing with the result of its decision to bring 5,000 prisoners who were being housed in other states back to Wisconsin. The last were brought home in May 2005.

The Department of Corrections already houses about 600 inmates in 15 county lockups, paying the counties $51.46 per inmate per day. The recently passed state budget allows for 1,242 county jail beds for state prisoners.

Winnebago County Sheriff Michael Brooks said profits from the deal should bring the county about $30 a day per inmate, but he and the state have yet to reach a solid agreement.

Brooks added, however, that the growth of his own jail population is likely to cut into the profits by taking away rentable beds.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Dane County to Remove Inmates From Winnebgo County Jails

The OshNW has this story today:

County will no longer house Dane County inmates
By Jennifer K. Woldt
of The Northwestern

A canceled contract for housing out of county inmates will result in Winnebago County losing more than $1 million in annual revenue.

Winnebago County Sheriff Michael Brooks learned earlier this week that Dane County will not renew its contract with Winnebago County to house approximately 60 of their inmates at the Winnebago County Jail.

The contract called for Dane County inmates to be held at the Winnebago County facility at a rate of $51 per day, Brooks said, which brings in about $1.3 million in revenue to the county. Brooks said the removal of Dane County inmates will happen in a "phased out" manner.

At the last meeting, I discussed the possibility of this, in the context of this Dane County Press release:

Falk, Mahoney Agree: More Public Safety, Less Cost in 2008 Dane County Budget

Some of the new deputies will be used to staff the expanded use of the electronic monitoring program from the current 40 to 60 inmates to 200 inmates. “This was one of the recommendations included in the Institute for Law and Policy Planning (ILLP) audit by Alan Kalmanoff,” Falk said of the report which stressed modernizing some of the county’s policies to promote more public safety and cost efficiencies.

With the expansion in electronic monitoring and several other key proposals which hold inmates more accountable than does the Huber Center, Falk said the county will reduce its costs of shipping inmates to other counties from more than $2 million to $150,000.

This could make a big dent in the budget. And it shows that we need a comprehensive study of the jail needs.

I propose that it be conducted as a joint effort between the offices of the Sheriff and the County Executive.

We need to make sure there is more than one set of eyes looking at the numbers. It may well be that we need to expand jail space, but I want to know that we are looking at a comprehensive picture of the situation, both from a view of jail needs and the current political reality of WI budgeting.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Voting Machines Back in the Northwestern:

County may be in market for voting machines

Winnebago County could be in the market for a second set of new voting machines, depending on what happens to a bill working its way through Congress that could add new requirements for what counties need for disabled voters to cast private ballots.

The bill, currently in the U.S. House of Representatives, would require counties to have equipment that would scan ballots and read back a voter’s choices, or allow paper ballots to be marked through automatic marking equipment.

That provision would make all of the county’s voting machines obsolete, including Diebold Election Systems touch screen machines purchased in 2006, said Winnebago County Clerk Sue Ertmer.
Read it all here.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Some Goings-on In the Judiciary Committee...

Here are the full minutes, below are the parts that I am concerned with:

4. Domestic Abuse Position for District Attorney
District Attorney Christian Gossett advised that his office only has one Domestic Abuse Investigator at this time due to budget restraints. Currently, the District Attorney’s Office contracts with local police agencies to have an officer work as their Domestic Abuse Investigator. By doing this, they must follow that officer’s union contract with their respective police agency. The contract for the current Domestic Abuse position will expire at the end of June 2007.

They are currently in the process of looking at filling this position with someone from within their office, possibly using retired officers, rather than contracting the position. By doing so, they would not have to follow a union contract and they would gain five more hours a week, and a full four more weeks a year of time from the person, along a savings of about $17,000. He believes that they will have a better chance of getting the 2nd Domestic Abuse Investigator position filled in 2008.

Now, I would hope that DA Gossett would be more concerned with getting the correct person in this position than subverting Union contracts...

I support a second Domestic Violence Investigator. The fact that it was left out of the budget was the reason I voted against the budget. However, if DA Gossett is going to use this position and the needs of battered and threatened women in Winnebago County as an attack on organized labor, I would encourage you to talk to him about it. I will be.

6. Accept Grant from Wal-Mart – Sheriff’s Office
Captain Verwiel advised that they have received a grant for $1,000 from Wal-Mart. This grant money will be used to cover the cost of purchasing Canon digital photography cameras that will work with their preexisting equipment. These cameras are good forensic-type cameras, as they are the only cameras available that have a viewfinder that can be moved around to change positions, which will help greatly at autopsies and traffic accidents. The digital photos can then also be emailed to the District Attorney’s Office. One camera will be used in the jail and two cameras will be used by the Detective Division.

A motion to approve acceptance of the $1,000 grant from Wal-Mart was made by Donald Griesbach, seconded by Tom Ellis. Motion carried 3-1. Bill Wingren opposed due to some of Wal-Mart’s practices.

Bill Wingren did the right thing. Wal-Mart owes Winnebago County, the State of WI and taxpayers nationwide much more than this $1000 can even begin to repay. I will have a subsequent post detailing the case for rejecting this grant.

After Wal-Mart stops using Badger care to insure its emplyees, tax loopholes to not pay income tax in WI and all the other shady ways they get out of thier responsibilities to society, then maybe we can accept the $1000.

I'd rather take it out of the budget than accept their money. The Sheriff can have his camera if it is needed in the budget.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Meeting on Tax Loopholes Monday...

Press release from the Institute for Wisconsin's Future:

June 15, 2007
CONTACT: Joe Fahey 414-731-4789

County Forum On Closing Tax Loophole
To Prevent tax increases for homeowners and businesses

Leaders from city and county government, community organizations and labor unions leaders from Winnebago County are encouraging voters to meet their state legislators and urge them to close a new corporate tax loophole that causes higher property taxes for homeowners and small businesses. The meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 18 at 7:00pm at the Coughlin Center in Oshkosh.

This loophole was opened by a recent court ruling. A New Jersey-based paper company argued that a 1953 law that exempted sewage treatment facilities from property tax should exempt them also (because they use re-cycled cardboard in their manufacturing process). A state court allowed this company, Newark Paper, to stop paying taxes on its paper mill property in Milwaukee County. This court decision turned a small and specific tax exemption into a giant tax loophole. Currently, hundreds of manufacturers throughout Wisconsin use recycled materials and dozens of companies have applied for this new tax loophole.

Any property tax decrease received by a corporation results in a property tax increase for everyone else owning property in the same city or county. This property tax break is a windfall for corporations who will continue operating as before, benefiting from the same fire and police protection, the same road repairs, snow removal and other services vital to their businesses. But these normal costs of doing business will no longer be borne by that business. Instead, the costs for the public services used by the corporation will be paid through increased property taxes by other businesses and all homeowners.

A group of Democratic and Republican legislators have sponsored a bill to close this new loophole and protect families and businesses from property tax increases. This bill – Senate Bill 122 – was introduced in April. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce opposes the bill and Assembly leaders in the state legislature have delayed it.

The June 18 meeting is open to the public and is an opportunity for the public to discuss the issue with their elected state legislators and ask them to close this loophole immediately.
Institute for Wisconsin’s Future Press Release

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Waukesha County Cuts Board, Increases Budget...

From this story in the MJS:

Citing the uncertainty of Waukesha County Board downsizing, supervisors endorsed a plan Tuesday to freeze board salaries for two years while raising the chairman's pay about $3,000 a year.

As the only county supervisor who works full time, the chairman is elected every two years by the board to oversee a staff of eight people.

Under the committee's plan, the position's salary would increase 3% next year and another 3% the following year, climbing from $55,223 to $58,586 a year. Other supervisor salaries would remain frozen at $9,536.

So, let's look at the savings of cutting the board:

Board Chair: $58,586
24 Supervisors: $228,864
8 Staffers: $320,000 (estimate @ $40,000/year)

Total for a smaller board: $607,450

Winnebago's entire County Board budget: $110,000 (approx - I will update when I look at a budget book)

The Chair makes an extra $5,000 over the rest of the supervisors. I might make $2,000 this year total.

There are no savings for a smaller board.


Friday, May 04, 2007

Chairman Albrecht Gets It Right...

In today's OshNW:

County Board Chairman David Albrecht said some supervisors complained to him about the plan because it could limit the board's ability to use reserves to fill budget shortfalls.

"A lot of supervisors are saying we're putting money away so they can't keep doing business as usual," Albrecht said.

That is the problem with this issue. People are fighting to keep it 'business as usual'.

That is not right, it is a formula for future budget problems.

A cannot say it more plain than this:

If a supervisor votes against designating the sick leave fund, they are voting to lie to the voters, the financiers and themselves.

These Supervisors want to be able to say at budget time, we have $XX million in reserve, we can afford to take from that rather than take responsibility for the budget. The problem is that the number they quote will be wrong.

As Exec Harris said in yesterdays meeting, you can't spend the same dollar twice. The sick leave benefit dollars are already committed. If we leave them in the general fund, Supervisors will want to spend them.

Spending more than you have leads to bankruptcy. Bankruptcy on the County Government level leads to losses of services to people who need them most.

I will continue to fight for Winnebago County to report it's finances correctly. I will not allow Supervisors to lie to the public.

Or to themselves.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

I'm Disappointed...

... in the vote to send this resolution back to committee.

The OshNW covered the story here. I commented here.

As I stated in the meeting. A supervisor that does not support truthful reporting of budget liabilities is doing it so they can raid the fund 'guilt free' in the future.

(And by guilt free, I mean they know what they are doing, but they are trying to pull one on citizens)

This is simple truth in reporting to Winnebago County Citizens. I hope the committee sends it back for us to pass.


Monday, April 16, 2007

Take Back Medication Program in Winnebago County

The Northwestern covers this program today:

Household pharmaceuticals accepted during the drop-off include human and animal prescriptions and over the counter medications such as pills, capsules, ointments, liquids, sprays, drops, creams, inhalers, and vials.

Traditional ways of managing unwanted household medications is to flush them down the toilet or throw them in the trash, neither of which is advisable, said Jennifer Semrau, recycling specialist for Winnebago County.

“People have a misconception that the wastewater treatment plant will take care of it when they flush medications down the toilet. Flushing is not safe,” Semrau said.

Water quality is adversely affected by flushing medications and treatment plants don’t process them. It is better to take old meds to events such as Operation Take Back Medications, she said.
More information is available by contacting Mary Kohrell in Calumet County at (920) 849-1450; Sue Gau in Outagamie County at (920) 968-5721; Debbie Krogwold in Waupaca County at (715) 258-6240; and Semrau in Winnebago County at (920) 232-1850.
May 29 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Oshkosh Senior Center Annex, 234 N. Campbell Road, Oshkosh


Friday, April 06, 2007

I Agree With Exec Harris - We need to be responsible in budgeting.

Read the full story in the OshNW here.

Funding sick time payouts, county moves to designate reserve funds
By Bethany K. Warner of The Northwestern

A change in government accounting practices is prompting a move by Winnebago County to bank funds to cover the cost of sick time payouts for retirees.

County Executive Mark Harris is asking the county board to designate $3.5 million of the county's $10 million reserve fund as an earmarked fund to cover the sick-time payouts.
Harris said creating a specific fund to cover workers' retirement payouts would make it harder for the board to raid reserves to cover holes in the budget, a practice they have followed in the past several years.

"It would serve as a reminder to them that if they wanted to dip into them, they are designated for an already incurred expense. It's making it clear to the board that there is a liability. It protects part of our reserves," Harris said.

If a Supervisor votes against this, it will be because they want to again use the accounting gimmics and tricks we have seen in the last few budgets.

This is money that is has been spent, even though it sits in our accounts. We need to be more responsible and make sure we are collecting the money we plan to spend.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Meeting Feb 27

Looks like a full agenda for next Tuesday's meeting.

Here are some points to highlight:

*County Executive's Appointments:
EastWisconsin Counties Railroad Consortium - Supervisor Jef Hall

I'm excited about this appointment.

**Report On Countywide Phone System Upgrade - Patty Francour, Information Systems Department Director**
This project comes through the IS Committee that I am on

*Reducing the Size of theWinnebago County Board of Supervisors - Presentation by Chairman David Albrecht
I do not know what this presentation will be about, as last I heard the committee voted for 28 but did not make and organization reccomendations. Has Chair Albrecht come up with them himself?

RESOLUTION NO. 158-22007: Amend Section 24.12 of the Rules of theWinnebago County Board of Supervisors (Information Systems Committee)
Submitted by:

Now, I don't get this. The IS Committee is supposed to be voting on this tonight, yet it is already submitted to the full county board by Chair Albrecht? Why take any action at the committee level? I stand behind my previous statements that now is not the time to lessen citizen involvement.

RESOLUTION NO. 166-22007: Name County Building at Sunnyview Complex the Paul W. Stevenson Building
Submitted by:

I think that it is great to name buildings after people who worked in goverment and championed causes. It give a sense of history and connection.

RESOLUTION NO. 168-22007: Create a position of Confidential Secretary (Paralegal) on the District Attorney’s Office Table of Organization
Submitted by:

This will be an employee to help out with domestic violence related issues.

ORDINANCE NO. 170-22007: Amend Section 2.01 of the General Code of Winnebago County
Submitted by:

This is the new map for 36 board members.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Busses at the Jail

Here is the text of an email I sent to Sheriff Brooks & County Executive Harris:

Sheriff Brooks,

This is an email to follow-up the phone message I left earlier. I would like to know why there is not a protected bench or any other markings out in front of the County Jail where buses pick riders.

I travel past there daily on my way to work. I often see people running through traffic to be picked by northbound buses. Today there was a woman holding a child right next to the road, with cars driving past a few feet away.

Has there been an incident at this location yet? Has there been an attempt to install a covered, protected bench? Is there a reason that this cannot happen?

Can there be warning signage installed indicating that pedestrians cross?

Can the buses be routed through the parking lot instead?

Thank you,


Jef Hall
Winnebago County Supervisor, District 17
224A Scott Ave
Oshkosh, WI 54901

Friday, February 16, 2007

Removal of Citizen Member will be voted on at next IS Committee Meeting

As I discussed in a previous post, the IS Committee will be voting on removing the citizen member.

I am against this, I feel we should be doing what we can to have people more involved with County Governance, not less.

Just because our current citizen member does not come to meetings is not a reason to remove them. It is a reason the replace them

Here is the meeting notice.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Citizen Membership on County Committees

In our Informations Systems Committee meeting this month, we discussed the status of the committee's citizen member.

The comittee was set up to be 5 board members and one citizen member. However, in the time that I have been on the committee the citizen member has not been there for a single meeting.

In both of the last two meetings we had, we discussed what should happen to this position, re-appoint a new mamber, or eliminate the position.

There are good arguments on both side of the issue. With the (potentially) upcoming county board restructure, a newly appointed member may only sit for a few months and need to be replaced. Therefore by eliminating the position on the committee we would eliminate any confusion.

While I understand this point, I disagree. I believe we should be working to get the community more involved in government, not less.

At the reccomendation of the Committee Chair, the County Board Chair and the Corp Council, there will be a resulution upcoming to eliminate the position. I will vote against it.

If you are interested in an appointment to the Information Systems Committee as a citizen member, I would reccomend contacting the County Board Chair.

Lets keep up citizen involvement in government.


Update on Board Size

I received a question on where things sit now. Here is where it is as I currently understand it...

(For the record, I am still of the mind that 38 supervisors is a perfectly workable number. In fact, looking at it, there are many boards with fewer members that cost their counties a lot more.)

1 - CUT Lawsuit:
The first hearing is Thursday. This is the email I got from County Clerk Sue Ertmer:

Just a reminder that the hearing on the CUT petitions will be held this Thursday (February 8) at 2:00 p.m. in Judge Schmidt's courtroom in the Safety Building.
They are (still) pushing to get the referendum for 19 supervisors. Unless it all gets wrapped up in this hearing, it is unlikely that any action on this will be in time to make the ballot in April. Otherwise, there is not another election until the Feb 08 primaries.

2 - Maps:
The 36 member map was passed by the board and vetoed by County Exec Harris. Mr. Harris indicated that he did not believe we should approve a map while there was a court case pending.

I voted for the map, because I believe that if the board passed 36 members (which I voted against, see statement above) we need to make a map, so both elected members, prospective candidates and other interested parties can make plans.

Also, if, as we had been indicated, the map provided the lowest disparity in population - we should have that as the first and only criteria for approval above any political considerations.

Because the map was vetoed and that veto was not over-ridden, the map question went back to the judiciary committee. This is why they will be reviewing maps again next week. I hope we resolve this part of the issue at this month's board meeting.

3 - Board Re-organization Committee Recommendation:
A recommendation came from the committee to re-organize under a 28-member structure after the 2010 census. I have not seen a resolution before the full board for this as of yet.

If this is passed by the board, it would be independent of any other action. After the census, the board has the ability to give itself any size it feels necessary. If we end up at 19 or 36 after all these actions, we can re-organize our size every 10 years as we see fit.

As I have said all along, without a real plan - including an organizational structure - I will not support any number other than 38. Otherwise we are merely picking numbers out of a hat. That is no way to run a government.

If I have anything wrong in this, feel free to post a comment.


Monday, February 05, 2007

Judiciary and Parks Meetings

For Parks And Judiciary click on them for the full agenda.

Parks will be discussing the soccer fees - Judiciary will look at maps for supervisory districts.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Oshkosh Youth Soccer Club's Statement on Fees

Click here for ethe full statement.

Something to remember:

This year alone, Oshkosh Youth Soccer Club spent $8,000 for goals and nets for this complex. Also, Oshkosh United Soccer Club and Oshkosh Youth Soccer Club members donated hundreds of hours of volunteer time to repaint the shelter in the soccer complex; remove rocks from fields and fill holes in fields (for safety reasons); and plant grass seed, to name just a few projects - all for the betterment of the soccer complex at Winnebago County Park.

Do the Russian's Love Their Children, Too?

I don't know if anyone remembers this song from the 80's (I believe by Sting...), but the gist is that we will both (USA & USSR) have a future if we both love our children equally. This was the Cold War, after all.

I was reminded of this song while going over the agenda for this month's board meeting.

Specifically these 2 resolutions:

RESOLUTION NO. 144-12007: Authorize Construction of a Communication Arts Center at the UWFox Valley Campus at a Cost of $12,600,000 with Winnebago County's Share Being $5,300,000 and Fund County Portion Through Bonding
Submitted by:

ORDINANCE NO. 147-12007: Create Sec. 19.24(12), General Code of Winnebago County; Authorize Institution of Community Park Soccer Field Reservation Fees
Submitted by:

I believe these resolutions directly affect the (admittedly hyperbolic) question above.

Of course, Winnebago loves their children.

But, are we willing to invest in them? Are the board's priorities in line with the interests of our children?

The budget and how an organization spends it's resources is a higher statement of its morals and priorities than is any mission statement.

I believe in investing in Winnebago County's youth. I will vote for the theater and against the soccer fees.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Here It Comes, Again...


On the Agenda for next Tuesday's (Jan 16, 2007) meeting:

ORDINANCE NO. 147-12007:

Create Sec. 19.24(12), General Code of Winnebago County; Authorize Institution of Community Park Soccer Field Reservation Fees

I am 100% against this. In the last budget, we added in $170,000 to the budget, just because we could, yet we want to once again charge our youth to use soccer fields.

Let's get some people out to the meeting.

Monday, December 18, 2006

New Board Map

Thursday, December 14, 2006

12/19/06 Board Agenda and Thoughts

Click here for the Agenda & Resolutions

Here is the specific agenda

My thoughts:

RESOLUTION NO. 137-122006: Instruct County Executive to Prepare a Zero-based Budget for 2008
It is not our job to tell the County Executive what to do. The County Executive is an elected official. Our job as a board is to either approve, deny or override his actions. I will not vote for this. If this or any other County Executive wants to budget in any matter of ways they feel is best, I encourage them to. We will then go over it line by line and amend as needed.

ORDINANCE NO. 136-122006: Amend Section 2.01 of the General Code of Winnebago County
This will be the one everyone will be talking about in the morning - the new map. I am inclined to vote for it., simply on the basis that it seems to have been drawn fairly. I understand that some supervisors may have a second map that they have worked on. If so, I reserve the right to vote this one down if the other map is more equitable.

While I voted against the shrinking of the board, it passed. And, as such, we need a map to reflect this fact.

I still am happy with 38.

RESOLUTION NO. 135-122006: Authorize Request for Legal Expense Coverage from the Wisconsin County Mutual Insurance Corporation
I want to know what this is for. I have not had a chance to open my packet yet (it arrived in the mail yesterday). Is this to cover costs for the board size lawsuit? I don't know. I have questions to be answered before I make a call on this.

RESOLUTION NO. 134-122006: Transfer $3,300 from Salary Contingency Fund to Corporation Counsel's2006 Wage and Benefit Budgets to Cover Projected Cost Overrun as a Result of Temporary Help Needs
We discussed that this was coming in the budget workshop. I will support it.

RESOLUTION NO. 131-122006: Accept $10,000 Donation for Renovation of a Steinway Piano at Park View Health Center
I will be abstaining from this vote, as I work for J. J. Keller. I am proud of my company, however.

RESOLUTION NO. 128-122006: Authorize Beverage Pouring Rights Agreement Between Winnebago County and Pepsi Americas Inc.
My knee-jerk is to support this. I am OK with recreational areas being sponsored (I would vote against it if it were a school). I want some more info. If there is a soccer or rugby tournament, are they required to sell only loose cans of Pepsi? When we have our Democratic Party Corn Roast, we give away soda free as part of admission - is this to be Pepsi only (will I have to deny myself my grape Jolly Good)?

RESOLUTION NO. 126-122006: Support Revision or Repeal of Section 70.11(21), Stats.
Due to a recent court ruling, all paper companies in Winnebago County could declare themselves free of property taxes. This is a resolution recomending the state fill in that loophole. I will be voting for it, and I am a co-sponsor.

As I get answers, I will post them.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A view from a former County Board Member and Current County Employee:

A letter to the Oshkosh Northwestern:

County employees good value for taxpayers
As a newly minted homeowner (and landlord), I was stunned when I opened my first property-tax bill. Wow, that's a lot of money!

Then I considered what I'm paying for. From my nearly two decades with the county government in two branches, I'm convinced I'm getting my money's worth.
Winnebago County is frugal. Tax dollars are spent carefully and wisely. Your county government does what it should do — and must do — and no more. You are served by more than 1,000 dedicated employees. By the way, we're also your neighbors. And I gladly will pay for this vital work. I have extensive contacts in other local governments, and I'm convinced they also are careful with our money.

Cynics will say this is a self-serving letter from a guy who makes his living at taxpayers' expense, rather than seeking his fortune in a "real" job. But consider this: Without going into detail, I know precisely what I'm worth in the private sector. Yet I've chosen to remain a public servant and government employee. I am not "stuck" in a government job. I truly enjoy public service, and serve proudly.

My political record speaks for itself. I wouldn't sit quietly and watch tax dollars
get squandered. I know I'm getting my money's worth.

During the last two budget sessions, there was a lot of foolish talk of letting the government practically shut down just to see what would happen. That was the position of many of my fellow conservatives. But it's not conservative to let crime increase, poverty and other social ills balloon, schools crumble (ala California and Colorado) and streets turn to dust, only to realize the horrible mistake years later. The cost to fix neglect in the future would only multiply manifold. That's neither wise nor conservative.

Ron J. Montgomery Oshkosh

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

It didn't have to be this way....

From the Oshkosh Northwestern:

Tax bills sent out from the city ultimately will bring in more than $70 million in tax levy dollars for the city, county, Fox Valley Technical College and Oshkosh school district. The city levy – just under $25.6 million – is the largest dollar amount of the taxing entities. The Winnebago County portion of the tax bill has the biggest percentage increase from last year, up 5 percent from last year.

The County levy is for Oshkosh property owners is $5.47/$1,000 in 2006, it was $5.21/$1,000 in 2005.

The original budget proposed with the sales tax had about a $4.80/$1,000 rate (I will update this later when I find the exact number.

Just a reminder to those who said the sales tax would not reduce the property tax.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The map is coming...

Here is the agenda for next weeks Judiciary meeting where it is being presented.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

My biggest disapointment from the budget session...

...was the loss of the Domestic Violence Investigator.

This is a very nessasary position. Domestic violence is a growing problem in Winnebago County and our area overall.

I presented at the budget deliberations figures from for Christine Ann Center showing services have gone up anywhere from 130-190% over the same time period in 2005.

The day of one of the votes on this position, the Northwestern had an opinion piece about the two domestic violence murders Oshkosh saw last year.

And now, on the day of the next meeting we hear of another domestic violence-related murder in Ripon.

Yet, our County Board found the courage to add $170,000 to the tax rolls to add to reserves, but did not have the spine to budget $84,000 for the protection of women in our county.


Friday, November 03, 2006

A Bad Budget...

I will have a budget wrap-up post next week, after Tuesday's elections.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The numbers I was talking about tonight...

Here is a breakdown of what I was talking about in my sales tax statement.

No matter what, any increase will be off of a smaller base, so therefore no matter the percentage increase, property taxes would always be less:

Property Tax Rates:

Year w/o sales tax w/ sales tax savings
2007 $ 5.00 $ 4.35 $ 0.65
2008 $ 5.10 $ 4.44 $ 0.66
2009 $ 5.20 $ 4.53 $ 0.68
2010 $ 5.31 $ 4.62 $ 0.69
2011 $ 5.41 $ 4.71 $ 0.70
2012 $ 5.52 $ 4.80 $ 0.72
2013 $ 5.63 $ 4.90 $ 0.73
2014 $ 5.74 $ 5.00 $ 0.75

In the example above, we impliment the sales tax in 2007, or we don't. The difference is $0.65 per 1000 0f the tax rate. We then increase both by 2% per year.

In this example, it will will be 2014 before the rate with the sales tax catches up to where it was in 2007 without the sales tax.

In the meantime, the owner of a $100,000 house pays over $550 in extra property taxes.

There would have been real savings.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Northwestern Editorial: County Board Should Question Diebold

The Northwestern is right on in this analysis. Maybe we should have had a real forum and not a sales presentation:

Editorial: Final tally: County fails to deliver on high-tech election equipment

You buy a new DVD player. It's the one with high-quality images that will flow right into your older TV set. So, you get home, anxiously rip open the box, hook it up and press play.

The DVD movie inside is spinning and playing. But there's no picture to the TV screen. Something is wrong. It isn't working like the literature said it would, and it's not your fault.

Wouldn't you be a little miffed if that happened to you?

The problem Winnebago County and Wisconsin had with touch-screen voting machines is about just as frustrating… if you're willing to acknowledge something went wrong, that is.

On Sept. 12, Winnebago County voters and even county board members learned the hard way that the so-called "compatibility" of Diebold Elections Systems' touch-screen voting machines wasn't all that. County and municipal clerks statewide knew scanned paper ballots vs. touch screen ballots would not be compatible in the primary election and would require the manual entering of data collected by the touch-screens.

The touch screen election technology Winnebago County and other counties spent federally-mandated millions on wouldn't flow vote totals into county databases pooling all votes into results. So, clerks typed in the touch-screen totals recorded on paper records.

That's not how Diebold sold it to the full county board.

This morning, a county board committee will take up one skeptical supervisor's call to deny Diebold payment for 50 touch-screen machines. Supervisor Jef Hall argues voters didn't get what they paid for.

It's a debate worth having.

Winnebago County Clerk Sue Ertmer vouches for the system and Diebold. The Nov. 7 general election, she said, will work. Diebold's touch-screen machines will be tested ahead of time. They will "modem" vote totals over phone lines and flow those results into those tallied by conventional optical scan machines – the ones that swallow and tally most voters' ballots.

No hand tabulating. No potential human errors.

But there are still some questions worth asking this morning, including:

E Why didn't our clerks, Diebold or even the State Elections Board's executive director make clear that the compatibility issue would bog down the Sept. 12 election process? One is left to assume that they dared not broach a compatibility shortcoming when "compatibility" was Diebold's chief selling point to Winnebago County.

E Why did clerks in populous municipalities of St. Croix, Chippewa, Dunn and Waushara counties choose non-Diebold touch-screens to complement their Diebold optical scan machines? They have the same ballot-scan stuff Winnebago has, but, they chose a different company for touch screens. Apparently, they didn't buy or worry about Diebold's compatibility line.

There's been much ado about the electronic security of Diebold equipment. An election integrity watchdog has filed a petition with the State Elections Board asking all touch-screens be shelved due to their hack-ability, if you will.

But if Winnebago County's Diebold dilemma is taken seriously, it's not nefarious election hackers we need to worry about.

It's the sales pitches of companies selling us the goods.

Final Thought: There are fair questions to ask of the folks who sold us on the new voting technology we've got.

One correction to this, however. The meeting is this afternoon at 5:00PM, not this morning.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Northwestern does story on my Diebold resolution:

Supervisor urges county to withhold Diebold payment

Company: Problems fixable for November

By Bethany K. Warner of The Northwestern

Winnebago County Board Supervisor Jef Hall is proposing that the county withhold paying Diebold Election Systems for the county's new touch-screen voting machines because they did not perform as promised during the September
primary election.

Hall, the supervisor for the district that includes much of the central city of Oshkosh, wants the county to sit on the payment for the touch-screen voting machines because those machines did not communicate as promised with the county's existing optical scan voting machines following the September primary election. The county board agreed in June to spend $288,000 for the 50 machines.

After polls closed for the primary election in September, the county clerk had to add by hand votes cast on the touch-screen machines to the totals generated from the county's older optical scan machines.

Hall said that shows that the county was sold on the Diebold system with promises that were not true.

"If we were sold something on a fraudulent basis," Hall said, "I don't think we should pay for them until the time they do as we were told."

The problem on election night, state elections board officials said in September, was that a key piece of technology that allows the two systems to tally results together had not yet received federal or state approval for use in elections.

But the company and local election officials on Monday insisted that the problems were a one-time glitch that stemmed not from the technology, but rather from the design of the primary election ballots. That problem can be corrected for the Nov. 7 election, they said.

David Bear, a spokesman for Diebold Elections Systems, said the optical-scan and touch-screen machines should communicate with each other if the ballots are designed properly. Bear said he was unaware of any additional piece of voting or counting equipment waiting on approval.

"I don't think so. It was a matter of having to layout a ballot to have a special need for write-ins," Bear said.

The problem that delayed final vote totals after the primary should be corrected by November, said Winnebago County Clerk Sue Ertmer.

Ertmer said Diebold has told her that the machines will communicate without a problem with the November ballot. That ballot is currently waiting for state approval.

Ertmer said she knew that results in September would have to be hand-tabulated but acknowledges she did not alert the county board to that fact.

The money for the voting machines will ultimately be reimbursed to the county by the federal government. The county selected Diebold's touch-screen machines to meet a requirement of the Help America Vote Act to provide voting machines that improve access for disabled voters.

Hall's request goes before the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee on Friday.

"They don't live up to their commitment and I think we should hold them to that in Winnebago county," Hall said.


Monday, October 02, 2006

Is this a proper agenda?

From the next Aviation Committee agenda?

5. Discuss & Approve City of Oshkosh Easement Request

Should it really say that they are going to 'approve' on the agenda? 'Discuss and vote' maybe, but I believe 'approve' is not correct.

Deibold Payment on Friday Judiciary Agenda

Here is the agenda.

The meeting is scheduled Friday @ 5:00.

County Exec Mark Harris' Statement on Not Vetoing the Board Resizing

Because of the high interest and controversial nature of resolution 89-92006 (Reduce size of Winnebago County to 36 members) I am taking the unusual step of issuing this press release to explain why I am not vetoing the resolution.

There are four primary issues, which I considered in order to make my decision.
1) Was the Board action consistent with the provisions and intent of the 2005 Wisconsin Act 100?
2) Would the districts created by the reduction of two board seats create an indefensible disparity in population?
3) Was the Board’s vote so inconsistent with the sentiments of the underlying districts or so injurious to the County to warrant reversal of a majority vote?
4) Is there any redress for the citizens whose efforts to reduce the Board have been blocked without a vote of the electorate?

Under the rules of construction one must assign a reasonable interpretation to the language of a statute and all language must be assigned some meaning. Act 100 seems to deliberately provide for a race to the courthouse scenario. It provides “If the number of supervisors in a county is decreased by the Board or by petition under this paragraph, no further action may be taken by the board or by petition … until after enactment of the next decennial supervisory district plan.” Clearly the Boards action was within the rule in the statute. Had the petition to reduce the Board to 19 been completed and filed with the Clerk first, Board action would have been blocked.

It is believed that a 36 district plan that can not change ward boundaries would have a population deviation of as much as 15.8%. This is clearly beyond the 10% that is generally regarded as a safe harbor for minor deviations and it creates a prima facie case of discrimination. However, in the recent case Frank V Forrest County 336F.3rd 570 an 18% deviation was upheld. The deviation here arises from
the provisions of a poorly drafted state statute that does not allow changes in underlying wards. It is unlikely that the districting would loose a challenge unless the statute is found to be unconstitutional. If the statute were thrown out then no change in districts would be allowed between decennial census.

On close examination it appears that the majority of Board members who voted in favor of the reduction to 36 districts represent rural or northern districts. In those districts there is little apparent interest in reducing board size. There seems to be strong sentiments against a reduction of board size in many rural districts. Further I cannot identify any significant injury to the County from their action.

The citizens that seek a large reduction in and reform of the Board can further their cause through electing reform minded candidates in the 2008 and 2010 elections. Even the sponsors of resolution 89-92006 support the continued efforts of the temporary committee and are willing to give fair consideration to board reforms to improve efficiency. They do not however support a large reduction in the Board and believe that their districts oppose such reductions.

While I would have preferred either a reduction to 25 board members or allowing the citizens to proceed with their petition drive, I do not find sufficient justification to cast a veto.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

...and then there were 36

The board voted to reduce itself to 36 on Tuesday. The Northwestern has some stong opinions about it here and here.

The OshNW is being a little unfair in my opinion by telling only half the story. What is the rate of competition for the seats of those supervisors that voted no?

They make it seem like only the ones safe in their seats voted yes. There are many supervisors who voted no that are also safe in their seats.

This goes into the reason that I voted no on this resolution (and would have voted no on all of them given the chance). There is no hard data on any number indicating that it would be a good level of representation.

I think Vice-Chair Schaidler put it the most eloquently. Even if we half the board, there would be no net increase in the number of people running for these seats, there would only be less seats to run for.

Until I am presented with a reasoned explanation along with a plan for board function, I will vote no for any change in the board size whether it is at the board itself, or on a referendum.

I also do not believe that the 1990 study is relevent anymore. It may be helpful, but the duties, function ond funding of county government hav substantially changed in the last 16 years.

I agree that we need a real study. We should vote on facts and reasoned consequences not whim, fear or emotion.

As always, contact me anytime to share your opinion or with any questions.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Voting Security

Something Advocap does:

Advocap meal delivery program nourishes seniors' bodies, spirits
Donations help keep service up and running
Kara Patterson
Post-Crescent staff writer
Ruth Slomski, 80, says she is relieved that she receives noontime meals ready to eat every weekday, and also appreciates the frozen meals that get her through each weekend.

The Winnebago County Nutrition Program's home-delivered meal program — run through Advocap Inc. and bolstered by United Way Fox Cities funds — has become a saving grace for the Neenah resident's health and independence.

"I'm living with my son and he's gone to work," Slomski said Thursday. "I'm in a wheelchair and I burnt myself several times, in blisters. My daughter said it's time for me to stay away from anything (involved with hot meal preparation)."

What's happening
The Nutrition Program, which also includes 11 group sites, offers meals that provide one-third of the recommended dietary intake for older adults.

Each meal costs $7.09 but meals are free for participants, who mostly are age 60 and up, said Nutrition Program director Terri Stern.

However, their goodwill donations, which average $2.42 per meal in United Way's service area, make up about 30 percent of the Nutrition Program's total budget, Stern said.

How it works
Paid and volunteer drivers deliver meals. One menu offers meatloaf with a side of tomatoes and zucchini, scalloped potatoes, white bread, diced peaches, a Rice Krispie bar and milk.

About 67 percent of participants in United Way's service area who responded to a January survey depend upon the noon meals for half or more of their daily food intake.

Slomski said she usually saves her fruit or dessert to eat later with her afternoon medications.

What's ahead
Stern said United Way dollars in 2007 could help protect the Nutrition Program from financial distress. The program received $36,225 in 2006.

"If we did not have United Way funding, we'd be talking about having to scale back services, plain and simple," she said.

For more information about the Nutrition Program, call Stern at 920-725-6323 or 800-631-2791. Advocap's Web site is