Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Left Loves Monopolies

If you asked most liberals what they thought of monopolies, they would say that they are opposed to them. Many would be quick to assume that oil companies are gouging their customers, and this could not be accomplished without collusion (or monopolistic behavior) among the leading oil companies. Liberals are very much against monopolies, right? I am not so sure.

The recent decision by our left leaning Racine city council suggests otherwise. They sold three cars AND a four year taxi service monopoly just the other day for only $1,500. I support the privatization of the taxi service, but the monopoly guarantee is a bad idea. In a city with high unemployment, they should realize that a government enforced monopoly will prevent job growth, insofar as anyone wishing to start a taxi service will be prevented from doing so. Is there some unknown danger to allowing the market to decide whether Racine can support one, two, or ten taxi companies? Why does the winning bidder deserve protection from competition? He already has a huge advantage over any potential competitor as he has three cars at $500 each plus the experience gained from running a taxi service in Milwaukee.

My conclusion is that liberals are only opposed to the monopolies that they do not control. That is why they are all for government monopolies in health care, education, and now taxi services, so long as they control them.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

All is not lost

I just read a JT letter to the editor submitted by 15 year old Sam Braun of Walden III High School. Braun lectured Racine voters on their "yes" vote on the recent referendum. He pointed out the futility of pouring more money into RUSD. Along the way he cited John Stossel, pioneering economist Adam Smith, and the Harvard professor Caroline Hoxby who has studied the Milwaukee voucher program. This young lad is well on his way. He can see through the BS that is fed to his peers. I do wonder who has influenced the thinking of this young man. My hope is that his conclusions are his own. I do not suspect, even for one second, that a RUSD teacher has suggested any of the reading material that he has cited. I will gladly apologize to the RUSD teacher if my assumption is mistaken. Congratulations Sam Braun.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Help Is On The Way

Tonight was a great night! I attended a meeting at Gateway concerning the issue of school vouchers. State Representative Robin Vos was the guest speaker. The meeting was attended by about twenty people, many having a connection with St. Catherine High School. The purpose of the meeting, it seemed, was to discuss the means by which a voucher program, like the one in Milwaukee, could be brought to Racine. There was no outcome from this meeting, other than a commitment to move forward. It is not at all clear what the next move will be, but at some point an effort to educate the public will be a big part of the plan. Bringing vouchers to Racine will not be easy. Expect a long and needlessly divisive struggle. But it is a struggle worth undertaking. This effort really is "for the children."

Monday, June 12, 2006

Interesting Exchange

There was a telling exchange between school board member Randy Bangs and school board president Sue Kutz. Bangs was seeking clarification regarding the implementation of the Paulin facilities study. Bangs, it seemed, had the audacity to assume that the school board would direct the implementation of long term changes to RUSD facilities. Kutz apparently was of the view that the changes would be suggested by the administration, and voted on by the board. When pressed on the issue, Kutz said "we will discuss this later" and Bangs said "we should discuss this publicly". Right you are Mr. Bangs.

Facility Study Flaws

RUSD has been justifiably criticized for the excessive use and cost of consultants. The most recent example is the Paulin facilities study, the results of which were presented to the school board tonight. The study has cost over $1.2 million. Despite the high cost of the study, there were some rather evident flaws. For example, the study did not provide any options. With a price tag of $375 million for the full implementation of the recommendations, it would seem likely that the school board will at least need to consider alternatives to the recommendations offered by Dr. Paulin. No alternative suggestions were provided.

This news did not appear to sit well with school board member Randy Bangs, who pressed the issue with Dr. Paulin. He asked whether it might be more cost effective in the long run to build a new building rather than to renovate an old building. Dr. Paulin's response: "it could be". One would think that a $1.2 million facilities study might just address that critical question.

Another flaw in the study was discussed by board member Armin Clobes. Mr Clobes criticized the lack of important and easily accessible demographic data. Despite obvious population shifts from the city to suburban areas, which would presumably be a factor in long range facilities planning, the study did not factor in these changes, citing an inability to access the information.

Feeling Valued for $375 million

I just returned from a very interesting RUSD school board meeting. The long awaited Paulin facilities study was presented by Dr. Paulin. The bottom line is that it will cost about $375 million to provide a "high quality learning environment" that will have our students "feeling valued" according to Dr. Paulin. The $375 million price tag will NOT include any new middle or high schools.

Now suppose that we, as a community, decide to implement Dr. Paulin's suggestions, which are recommended to take place over a fifteen year period. This amounts to $25 million per year. Add to that the interest payments on the borrowing, coupled with increased operations costs, and the total could easily double. How are we to add $50 million more per year for the next 15 years, when we already need $6 million per year just to cover our present expenses?

I suspect that this facilities study is purposely inflated for political purposes. If RUSD says they need $375 million, they can claim to be fiscally responsible when they only ask for $200 million. Heck, they might even claim that a $200 million facilities upgrade is actually a cut of $175 million.

Monday, June 05, 2006

YES FOR (25 year old) KIDS

Certainly you have seen the small red YES FOR KIDS signs sprinkled around town. These signs have me wondering. Which kids? Surely not the public school kids, mired as they are in one of the states worst school districts. They must mean the kids of school teachers, who receive a terrific health insurance plan, well into adulthood, courtesy of Racine taxpayers.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Bloggers Block

I blame the weather. With several consecutive beautiful days, I have not been inspired to blog.

But I did overhear a high school freshman articulate several spoon fed arguments favoring the referendum. He knew about the declining tax rate and threats to sports and teacher positions. He was providing this info to his parents and a friend of theirs, and it was apparent that he learned it in school. The indoctrination continues.

On an entirely unrelated subject, I was sparring with a blogger named Poor Richard recently regarding the upcoming constitutional ammendment question concerning gay marriage. Poor Richard was a bit hostile as I questioned the claim that ammendment itself would be unconstitutional because of ammendment #1 "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..." I think that a law banning gay marriage is substantially different from establishing a religion, but that is not my point here. After a bit of jostling with Poor Richard, I indicated that I was unlikely to vote in favor of the ammendment. I was then applauded by Poor Richard, who indicated that he was glad that I was "open minded". My conclusion is that anyone can be described as "open minded". All you have to do is agree with a liberal.