Tuesday, December 29, 2009

For the Children?

Suppose children were wise enough to advocate on their own behalf regarding their education. What would they want?

Good teachers - not limited to those with education degrees? Check.

A range of educational options not limited to public schooling? Check.

An efficient means of getting rid of underperforming teachers and administrators? Check.

Conversely, what would these children consider detrimental and or irrelvant to their education?

Tenure? Check.

Protecting any school or school system from competition? Check.

Efforts to limit educational options? Check.

Is there a greater threat to children and their education than the agenda of our nation's teachers unions and their servants in government?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Student Pawns

A common argument against school vouchers is the notion that private schools will skim the best and brightest from the public schools, and that this will contribute to further deterioration of the public schools.

Implicit in this argument is the notion that bright and or well motivated students have an obligation to the school system itself and to poorly motivated or even disruptive students. The idea I suppose is that some type of transfer is supposed to occur wherein good students elevate the performance of lousy students.

I have no doubt that people influence those around them. But what tends to be ommitted from the anti-voucher argument is that influences work both ways. Yes, the A student might positively impact the class clown or the chronic truant. But if that is true, it is also be true that the clowns, truants, and gang bangers may negatively impact the A students. This negative impact I suspect is the reason many parents of means send their children to private schools.

So good students really are pawns. There job is to suffer academically at the hands of kids who disrupt the education process. It is easy to see why public schools need to hang on to these kids. What is not so easy to see is what is in it for the bright and motivated students.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Reinvest or Divest?

The Journal Times reported, here, on Racine Unified's "reinvestment" plan. In a nutshell, the idea is that by building a few new schools, Unified could then reduce class sizes to their optimal levels, and improved achievement would follow. Of course the public will have to pay for this plan - the amount has not been detirmined - but it won't be cheap.

According to the JT article, if RUSD classes were now optimally sized, 826 elementary and 961 high school students would be displaced.

Supposing RUSD is correct about optimal class sizes, there are still options not yet explored by RUSD to solve the problem. Building more school is one option. Having fewer students is another.

I have no doubt that there is excess capacity in some of our private schools. Instead of building new public schools, perhaps we should explore the possibility of allowing current RUSD students vouchers to attend underutilized and high performing private schools. This would eliminate the overcrowding at our public schools, thus improving public school achievement - according to RUSD's own argument. Taxpayers would not be burdened with the huge expense of building new schools. Rather, since tuition at private schools is typically far less that RUSD's per student cost, txpayers could actually save money while improving RUSD student achievement.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Worst Case Utopia

"Worse cases scenario if climate models are incorrect... energy efficient lifestyles, clean air, clean water... win win ."

This gem was provided to me from an anonymous poster but I have heard it all before from the left. It is bunk as I shall do my best to explain.

OK, so there is no global warming, the models are incorrect etc... what liberals want to do will result in good stuff, improved energy efficiency, clean air, clean water, less reliance on energy from rogue nations etc... and that is the liberal worst case scenario.

My worst case scenario is, warming or not aside, the likelyhood that government will control our lives to an unacceptable extent, even more so than they do already. And this government will be an international one, not one that can be unelected by us. We all use energy to survive and all energy use will be subject to government control. So the worst case scenario for me is that an unaccountable international government comprised of the worlds tyrants will greatly control our lives.

Of course the possibility of governments run amuck does not frighten the left, because, of course, never in the course of history has any government ever failed to fairly and justly meet the needs of its citizens. So we have nothing to worry about on that score. Everything will be OK once we put the United Nations in charge of our lives.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Dancing Walden Students Protected From Truth

Walden students are participating in a "global flash mob" - whatever that is - for, or against, global warming. You can read all about it here but you can't comment on the story. Perhaps the Racine Post is hoping to shield sensitive students from some, er, inconvenient news.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Health Slaves?

Senator Reid has compared opponents of the health care overhall to those who opposed ending slavery.

So which brings us closer to slavery, the freedom to buy health insurance or not, or laws that force us to buy insurance whether we want it or not?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Thought of the Day

"Surge, then pull out" doesn't sound like a war strategy.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Catastrophic Loss of Crisis

The elites of the world had many people convinced that man made global warming threatened our very existence. Now we know that these claims were (are?) based on manipulated raw data that has been destroyed, and that the earth hasn't been warming for the last decade, we should all be really happy, right? Why aren't there huge celebrations? Why is the media so disinterested, as though a WORLD NOT ENDING AFTER ALL headline wouldn't sell?

Perhaps I am just a cynic, but I get the feeling many people are going to miss the global warming crisis. Indeed, the loss of this crisis will be catastrophic for some.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

On Liquor License Rebates, Protectionism

There he goes again. Greg Helding is initiating another plan to discourage business start ups. Previous efforts have targeted convenience stores, landlords, and short term loan businesses. This one targets restaurants and taverns seeking a Class B liquor license. The JT has the story here.

According to the JT article, some time ago the state passed a law limiting the number of liquor licenses that could be issued in a given community. The law also allowed cities to exceed the limit by selling reserve licenses for $10,000. In 1998 under former Mayor Jim Smith the city started to issue rebates of $9,500 to help businesses that were restricted by state law. Greg Helding wants to end the rebates.

"To me, it doesn't make sense to (offer the rebate), because the whole point was to limit the number of licenses available and make the existing licenses a little bit more valuable" Greg Helding said. Helding added that the license quota exists to limit liquor licenses and reduce its negative impact on a community. Also it would be an additional revenue source for the city.

Heldings measure appears to meet with the approval of the liquor union, ie tavern owners, who enthusiastically support efforts to limit competition for themselves. Multiple tavern owner Joey LeGath doubtfully would support measures limiting his number of taverns, but he doesn't mind sticking would-be competitors with a $10,000 disadvantage. And if he or others in the tavern union are concerned about the "negative impact" that their businesses have on the community, there is nothing preventing them from closing their bars.

Just the other day I complemented Greg Helding for being a stand-up guy who often takes the time to articulate his positions on the various Racine blogs. So I hope he answers the following questions. Why should the government be in the business of making "existing licenses a little bit more valuable?" Is the additional value derived exclusively via a state induced reduction in competition? If so, why should government reward current license holders while punishing prospective license holders? Does the $10,000 in any way have a mitigating effect on the "negative effect" of Class B license establishments? And finally, do you really think that restaurants negatively impact our community?

And for readers, this issue is up for discussion on December 7th, 5 pm, City Hall, Room 205 if you want to add your two cents.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Politicians Welcome on Free Racine

Yesterday I had a chance encounter with a Racine alderman who took the opportunity to criticize my blog and my failure to call him prior to writing my blog entries. When pressed repeatedly to clarify his concerns, he could not, but he did repeat that I should have called him.

Needless to say, I spent the rest of the day trying to process this bizarre conversation. I still don't know what to make of it, but the encounter does provide me the opportunity to clarify the purpose of this blog.

Aside from amusing myself, the purpose of this blog is to stimulate public discussion on public issues. I try to be very clear on my positions and I realize that my positions are quite regularly in opposition to those presently in power. Furthermore, I spend little or no time writing about that which I find agreeable, as I find that boring. Ideally, my blog entries would be considered the start of a conversation. The best conversations do not shy away from differences but rather explore them seriously and respectfully. The end result would hopefully leave participants and readers alike with an elevated understanding of the issue at hand.

Needless to say, I am especially interested in the positions held by officials who are elected to represent our interests in public matters. In the past I have encouraged elected officials to get involved and clarify their thinking on matters of importance. Unfortunately, with the exception of Alderman Greg Helding, few have done so.

Hopefully the alderamn in question now understands why I haven't called him. I am not especially interested in private conversations concerning public issues, nor am I able to anticipate the needs of local politicians that I don't even know. Of course any polician is free to call me if they wish to do so on the record. But it would be far preferable in my view if our elected officials would take the time to engage the public on public issues. And it is my hope that they will do so on Free Racine.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Random Thoughts

Now that Fort Hood terrorist Nidal Hasan is both alive and permanently paralyzed, what becomes of the 64 frustrated virgins?

I spent the better part of the weekend paying tolls in Illinios and wishing I had signed up for I-PASS which would have made driving both faster and cheaper. Now I am not advocating a tax increase here in Wisconsin, but if we ever went that route, I like the name WIPASS.

Language in the 2000 page spread-the-wealth-around-bill, er, health insurance overhall, may well result in the end of health savings accounts. HSA's enable me to properly insure myself and my family via a pre-tax high deductible health care plan. But if I like my insurance, I have been reassured by President Obama, I can keep it. I don't believe him.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Triple Dip Recession Avoided

President Obama has for the first time acknowledged the possibility of a double dip recession. But at least it won't be a triple dip recession that we would have had without him.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Kay's Blue House of Unwanted Children

Sometimes I like to go to Kay's Blue Racine to stir things up. She has a rant going that I didn't bother to read but I was struck by one of her comments thereafter when she wrote "Its the idea that abortion is still in the mix that kills me." I responded with "Kills you?" just to see what kind of firestorm would ensue. There were a few standard liberal responses followed by this gem from Kay: "Denis, if you don't have a house full of unwanted children you really do need to shut up."

Hmmm. Since Kay has children and since Kay is eligible to weigh in on abortion, we can conclude that Kay has a house full of unwanted children.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Green Idea #1

Racine has a couple of meter maids/parking enforcement personnel that drive around all day in a van. Now perhaps there is some reason to have a van but it is not apparent to me. What is apparent is that they really do not need a performance vehicle of any sort so perhaps it could save money, and perhaps the world, if they switched over to a smaller car or one of those modified golf carts that are starting to crop up around the country. But only if it saves taxpayer money, of course.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Navratil Volunteers for Environmental Advisory Board

Recently appointed Racine alderman Kelli Stein has suggested the creation of a new Environmental Advisory Board. The Racine Post has the story, read it here.

From the Post: "Stein's idea, modeled on several other cities around the country, is to create a strictly advisory board that would develop ideas to protect and promote the environment in Racine. Interestingly, Stein didn't recommend the board because she's a staunch environmentalist trying to save the world one solar panel at a time. She's doing it because it's an opportunity to lure new businesses to the city."

And, "Stein already had two people express interest in serve on the board, and she hopes others will apply. She even encouraged people who are skeptical of the board to get involved and bring" NOTE, the incomplete sentence is quoted directly from the Racine Post and as such is not my fault.

So they want a skeptic, do they? I am in. I think I have established myself as a leading local enviroskeptic, isn't that right Walden students? I am also a businessman so I know a thing or two about what does and doesn't attract businesses. The only potential problem is that I don't live in Racine. However, since the board has yet to be created, it can be created to include interested parties from outside Racine. Certainly people from outside Racine have ideas about the environment/business development, so it would serve Racine's interests to broaden the potential pool of candidates willing to help. I will call the mayor's office this morning to volunteer to serve the board as the non-resident skeptic.

My concern is that they may not really want a skeptic on the board. But then, as a skeptic, of course I would think that. Perhaps I am overqualified.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Walden Students Trying to Destroy World's Forests

There is a great commentary in the Wall Street Journal today that should be of interest to Walden students but probably won't ever be brought to their attention by their teachers. It is entitled Sins of Emission and I will paraphrase the commentary.

A new peer reviewed study published in Science takes a look at the way that "carbon emmissions from biofuels are measured in climate-change programs world-wide" and has found a "critical accounting error."

"The cap-and-trade programs run by the United Nations and European Union - and maybe soon the U.S. - treat biofuels as carbon neutral" ... because, "Since plants absorb and store carbon that is already in the atmosphere, burning them would create no new emissions, whereas fossil fuels release CO2 that has been buried for millions of years."

The "critical accounting error" occurs because these programs do not account for changes in land use. So, for example, if mature forests are cleared to make way for biofuel farms, the carbon that otherwise would have accumulated in the forests ought to be counted on the balance sheet. It isn't. So if Malaysia burns down a rainforest to produce biodiesel to be used in Germany, "Malaysia doesn't count the land use emissions and Germany doesn't count the tail-pipe emissions."

The politically created accounting errors create incentives that might, according to the study, "displace 59% of the world's natural forest cover" by the year 2050. "The reason: When bioenergy from any biomass is counted as carbon neutral, economics favor large-scale land conversion for bioenergy regardless of the actual net emissions." ... "In other words, not only is cap and trade self-defeating on its own terms but it also risks creating a genuine ecological disaster."

Be careful what you wish for kids!

You can read the Wall Street Journal commentary here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

On Drug Addiction and Causes

I kind of like the response I gave to Randy, former Journal Times editor, over at the Racine Post. I thought I would share.

Denis Navratil said...
Randolph writes:

"So, why do people do drugs?

That’s easy. They’re self-medicating because their lives are crap.

When depression’s so great, you’ll reach out to anything to make it better – a gun, a needle …

The answer? Make people’s lives better. Give them hope instead of despair, relief instead of pain, opportunity instead of uselessness, a job instead of a dead-end."

And my response to Randy:

Or, perhaps people become drug addicts because they have become impatient waiting for other people to make their lives better, and that they are entitled to this help from others, and that they can and should wallow in self pity because nobody has come forward to make their lives better. The common denominator here is helplessness, entitlement, and irresponsibility for their own lives.
And when you keep feeding them that destructive world view filled with excuses, you contribute to their problems. You might as well insert the needle yourself into their collapsing veins.

Read the whole thing and any future responses here.

Indoctrination 101

On Saturday at Monument Square, some local high school kids rallied in support of United Nations climate change legislation. The Racine Post wrote an article which then generated over 100 comments, many of them critical of the kids.

Several commenters defended the kids by suggesting that we should applaud the kids for fighting for what they believe in instead of committing crimes, using drugs, having sex, playing video games etc...

The notion that kids should be applauded for political activism without considering the merits of their cause is just plain silly. And the "at least they aren't robbing liquor stores" argument shows just how far some have lowered standards for todays youth.

Of course we should consider and if necessary criticize the political objectives being pushed by children.

My biggest concern though is that children are being led to leftist political activism by the people we entrust to educate them. The children will all insist that their teachers always carefully present both sides of the issue, yet somehow all the children seem to decide "independently" to rally for far left causes. How can this be? Why are there never school sponsored clubs and protests to protect babies from abortion?

Every time you see school kids advocating for liberal causes, and never conservative causes, it is fair to suspect that thay are being manipulated and indoctrinated in school.

And to me, that is a far more dangerous problem than miniscule global temperature fluctuations.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Flu Politics

I heard on the radio today that the Obama children got a flu shot today but that the president and the first lady will wait and take the shot in accordance with prioritizing guidelines concerning risk etc... Of course this news, if true, would have originated from the White House. Correct me if I am wrong please, but is the president saying the presidents health is not a high priority?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Parental Involvement

Lately there has been lots of talk about parental involvement as the solution to our local public education problems. But does Racine Unified really want parental involvement or do they just want a ready excuse for their collective failings?

One of the most important decisions an involved parent can make is to decide which school, if any, will be entrusted to educate their child. This decision ought to say something about what a parent values. Is it high test scores and graduation rates and college acceptance success? Is it the importance of religious instruction along with the the three R's? Is safety an overwhelming consideration?

I don't think this is what Unified means by parental involvement. Unified wants your children educated at Unified regardless of the other educational options that exist outside of Unified, and regardless of what you as a parent value.

So Unified wants a parent to be completely uninvolved in the most important education decision - who should educate the child - but to then become hyperinvolved in education once the child is enrolled in a Unified school. I am not buying it.

Presently Unified employees and their national counterparts are the only obstacles to meaningful parental involvement in education decisions. If tommorrow the National Education Association issued a statement declaring that parents should be empowered with education vouchers to choose the school, whether public or private, for their child, it would be only a matter of days before such legislation would pass nearly unanimously.

This will not happen as this type of parental involvement would seriously erode the power of public school employees.

So when you hear public school apologists lament the lack of parental involvement in schools, know that they don't mean it. What they really mean is that the lack of parental involvement, that they alone perpetuate, provides a handy excuse for the ongoing demise of our public education system.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Question of the Day

Why don't those who want both "power to the people" and big government see the contradiction?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mayor Dickert and the Money Cycle

I went to the Racine Taxpayers Association meeting today to listen to Mayor Dickert. It was a nice speech that didn't really cover much new territory, except it shed some light on how Mayor Dickert thinks about economics. Mayor Dickert spent a fair amount of time discussing the money cycle. It was a term that he didn't define but did describe in some detail. Faced with rising costs and a decrease in state shared revenue, Dickert asked aloud whether he should let some city employees go to shrink the deficit. No was the answer because of the high unemployment and the money cycle. If the city employee keeps his job, he will spend the money in local businesses, eat at local restaurants etc... which in turn allows the local business the keep their employees on board who will then in turn spend money in local businesses etc... and so on and so on. If the city employee is laid off, he will not be spending in local businesses that will in turn have less revenue and will perhaps have to lay off an employee who will then not spend in local businesses etc... and so on and so on.

It is certainly true that money is spent again and again and that people who don't have jobs will probably spend less money as they have less to spend. The problem I have with Dickert's money cycle theory is the implied importance of government jobs. Without the government job, the laid off city worker starts a downward spiral that affects local businesses and individuals. But you can think of the same phenomenon in an entirely different way. It takes money to employ a city worker. That money is taken from the profits resulting from private sector economic activity. The taxes required to pay for the salary, insurance and pension of city employees results in less money circulating in the private sector. With less money, individuals and businesses will spend less, hire less, eat less at local restaurants etc... with the same downward spiral described by Mayor Dickert.

So which is better, public sector spending or private sector spending? Generally speaking, money is better spent in the sector that creates wealth rather than the one that takes wealth. That would be the private sector. Private sector activity creates additional wealth which in turn will cycle in much the same way that Mayor Dickert described. The public sector squeezes money out of the private sector, thereby posing a threat to private sector wealth creation.

Now this is not an argument for anarchy. There is a need for a very limited government. Unneccessary government spending slows the spending cycle and wealth creation. I hope Mayor Dickert reads this post.

Health Insurance Incentives

As I write this, the Senate Finance Committee is considering a health care bill that would mandate insurance companies to offer health insurance to those with pre-existing conditions. Additionally, the bill would fine/tax those without health insurance by some amount less than $1,000.

Presently I am paying in the neighborhood of $4,000 per year for a high deductible health care plan that covers my family.

If the health care bill passes, government would be creating a $3,000 incentive for me to drop my health insurance, knowing I could get insurance later if I or someone in my family were to get seriously ill.

If I like my plan I can keep it. But if I prefer to stick others with the bill for my health care, I can drop my plan.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Inexplicable City Development Policy

OK, I'll admit it. I can't make heads or tails of Racine's approach to development. Some folks (Tom Toussis, Brent Oglesby etc...) have to go through an often contentious process that requires approval by the Racine Development Authority and, I think, approval by the full city council. Others get land and tax breaks after behind the scene decisions, then pose for photo shoots with the mayor. Is there a coherent city policy that can explain this seemingly haphazard approach to development? Greg Helding, I know you are out there, can you explain? Thanks.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Nobel Joke

President Obama has won the Nobel Peace prize this morning, leaving many to wonder what he has done to merit winning the award. Perhaps putting a stop to Chicago's aggressive campaign for the Olympics?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Racial Politics Revealed

There is an interesting battle brewing over a piece of property near a proposed KRM train station. One Brent Oglesby has been seeking a "hold" on the property, arguing that it takes time to secure financing etc... for his proposed project. Meanwhile, Mayor Dickert has announced that the city has put development of this property on hold. Enter our local racial grievancemongers. You see, Oglesby is black. Therefore the denial must be racially motivated, the thinking goes, such that it is.

I have an alternate explanation. The property in question may well increase in value quite dramatically if the KRM train project moves forward. Thus, offering Oglesby a hold on the property would allow Oglesby to reap the profits if KRM moves forward. And of course he could walk if KRM doesn't move forward. The potential property value increase should go to the current owners of this property, and those current owners are the taxpayer. Giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property value increase to any one individual, whether black, white or whatever, would be wrong.

I give Mayor Dickert credit here, even though I think the best decision would be to sell all excess property to the highest bidder. In any case, I am sure it is difficult to withstand the "racist" smears that are being hurled at Mayor Dickert. But withstand them you must for the sake of our city.

I should also mention that, to the best of my knowledge and to his credit, Brent Oglesby has not made this a racial issue. I would be even more comforted if he publicly distanced himself from the racial hucksters that are seemingly trying to work on his behalf.

The Racine Post has the story here.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Lifestyle Guru or Representative?

"I think you have to lead by example," said Racine Mayor John Dickert as he urges citizens to recycle, to exercise and to use their cars less.

I quote Mayor Dickert above not to criticize but to pose a more general question about who we elect and for what purpose. Do we elect representatives to guide us towards the proper way to live our lives, as the above quote in part suggests? Or do we elect representatives to fulfill a far narrower, and less sexy, function of eficiently delivering government services? Or some combination of both?

Monday, October 05, 2009

City Hall Out of Touch

So the powers-that-be at city hall have recommended that the Toussis plan for West Racine be received and filed. In other words, killed. The Racine Post has the story.

So what does the Racine Development Authority want in West Racine? Not too long ago, the city was about to pull the trigger on a low income housing project for the same location. If it weren't for the former mayor's transgressions and the ensuing mayoral election, that project may well have gone through.

So city government has demonstrated a preference for low income subsidized housing over the private sector development of a restaurant/grocery store/gas station complex. This makes no sense whatsoever.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thought of the Day

Pacifism is a workable philosophy provided you surround yourself with a sufficient number of people who disagree with you.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Parental Involvement, Words vs Actions

The next time you hear a Unified apologist lament the lack of parental involvement among RUSD parents, know at least that the majority of teachers and the RUSD administation don't really care about parent involvement. RUSD has cancelled the tradition fall open houses in a negotiated agreement between the teachers union and RUSD.

The lack of parent involvement is among the top excuses for Unified's poor results. Additionally, it is a great way to place the blame on others.

But now we know the truth. Parent involvement is a hassle. It creates work for teachers. Involved parents will try to hold teachers accountable. This might make some teachers uncomfortable.

RUSD has shown their true colors. There is lots of talk about the need for parental involvement. But when it comes to action, RUSD is discouraging parental involvement. Actions speak louder than words.

Oh, the factual info above came from today's JT. No link as of this morning.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

RUSD and Alternative Reality

The JT has an article today detailing Racine Unified's efforts to promote inclusion, into regular ed classrooms, for special education students. You can read the article here.

From the article:

"At a district data retreat and leadership summit held in August, some educators also heard a presentation about ways to achieve inclusion and to help special education students succeed in the regular classroom. Information passed out gave teachers advice on adapting lessons, grading alternatively, supplying needed materials and equipment in the classroom and sample worksheets to reward students for remembering hearing aids or glasses."

Any guesses as to what "grading alternatively" means?

Friday, September 25, 2009

On Goverment in Art and Education

Every Wednesday evening I co-host a philosophy discussion group in the apartment above my store. If anyone wants to partake, feel free to contact me if you want more info. Anyway, the topic yesterday was whether artist have a responsibility to create morally uplifing art. The politically mixed group was largely in agreement that, while it might be nice to produce morally uplifting art, it should in no way be promoted by government. Examples of Nazi propaganda art were enough to convince us all that government should not play this role.

Anyway, being the provocateur that I am, I noted that many of us happily send our children to government schools and that we accept that one role of schools is to produce good citizens. Why do we recoil at a government role in art for the purpose of producing morally uplifting art but we accept or even embrace the role of government schools to "morally uplift" our children to become good citizens? If anything, a government role in the arts is less dangerous insofar as the audience includes grown adults less susceptible to propaganda while young children are largely defenseless against propoganda.

Environmental Car Care

Some folks came in to my store the other day with some coupons for "green" car washing. I was delighted to hear of their concern for the environment, and I got to thinking that perhaps I should perhaps be more conscious about my environmental footprint. So I decided then and there that I would continue my practice of not washing my car at all, thereby saving water and the gasoline required to drive to the car wash. Please feel free to praise and emulate my environmental leadership!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Union Power

A month or so ago, would-be developer Tom Toussis announced that he would hire union workers to build his proposed West Racine grocery store/restaurant/gas station complex.

Hmmmm. Is he buying something more than skilled craftsmanship? There is speculation that unions are behind the oh so controversial mailings sent out to West racine residents. See post below and Racine Post link.

Tom Toussis knew, I suspect, that there would be opposition to his plan. So now he has the unions on his side, willing to fight for his plan and their work. Smart move.

So it has come to this folks. If you want to start a business, create jobs etc... in Racine, you better start thinking about how you can influence politicians increasingly hostile to development ideas other than their own. The rules have been set up by the politicians for the politicians. You can play nice like the Chun family on 6th Street and see where that gets you. Or you can try to muscle your idea through with the help of unions. This should be interesting.

The only way out of this mess is to elect new alderman that welcome and assist entrepreneurial activity.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Zoning, Out

There is an ugly battle brewing over a proposed grocery store, bank, restaurant and gas station development proposal in West Racine. Racine Post broke the story. Read it here.

Battles such as these are avoidable. Remember zoning? Zoning laws should prevent these problems. Areas are zoned for particular uses. There are zones for businesses, residential, industrial etc... and so long as the proposed property use is consistent with the zoning rules, well, then we should have nothing to fight about.

But our politicians can't leave well enough alone. They want an ever increasing role in our lives. It seems as if more and more business decisions are now in the hands of politicians and fewer and fewer in the hands of entrepreneurs. This may be all well and good for power hungry politicians, but it serves no purpose for the community. Expect more and uglier fights over property uses. And expect less entrepreneurial actity and fewer jobs in Racine.

Monday, September 21, 2009

What News?

I have a friend who insists he is better informed on the events of the day because he listens to NPR. Even so, he was completely unaware of the ACORN/Nicaraguan sex trafficking story. Suppose that instead of ACORN it was the National Rifle Association or a Catholic bishop offering advice on the trafficking of Nicaraguan children for the sex trade. Do you suppose this news would have come to the attention of my friend?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Health Tax

Forcing an insurance company to provide coverage for those with pre-existing health conditions is like forcing a poker player to bet when his opponent turns over a straight flush.

At that point, insurance companies are no longer in the insurance business. They are in the income redistribution business. They will raise the rates on the healthy to pay the health expenses of the sick. How long before the healthy realize that they are being stolen from? Hence the need for the mandate. It's just another tax that will be called mandatory health insurance.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

RUSD Indoctrination

In a rambling letter to the Journal Times,Sister Brenda Walsh quoted RUSD superintendent Dr. Shaw who said "in addition to academic achievement, students need a spiritual and moral grounding" in order to be prepared for life and work. She then paraphrased Dr. Shaw as follows: "He emphasized that teachers must have a vision of social justice and a moral purpose to help students develop values for responsible living."

Wow. Students should be taught a spiritual and moral grounding with the help of teachers and their social justice visions and moral purpose. Sounds very religious to me and coming from a Catholic nun nonetheless. A but don't worry parents. Your little ones are safe from the sexist, homophobic, classist teachings of those obsolete religions like Christianity. Besides, teaching that stuff would probably be illegal.

No, RUSD students will be bombarded daily with the not so new secular religion. Your children will be taught to tolerate everything, well, everything except what is taught by traditional religions. Your children will learn to worship green space, skin color diversity, the freedom to terminate (not kill, that would be wrong) unwanted fetuses while being warned of the evils of rampant unfettered capitalism etc...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Random Thoughts

State Rep Corey Mason has proposed taxing the rich and using the money for job training. Bad idea. The rich don't leave their money in shoe boxes. They either spend it or invest it. In either case, they create jobs by doing so. The government will just waste the money and there will be fewer jobs as a result.

Dustin at the Racine Post thinks KRM will be a game changer for Racine. Not so. It is more of the same big government liberalism that has dominated Racine for the last 50 to 70 years. Same game, expect the same results.

CNN apparently has a poll wherein they ask whether civility is dead. This is an example, IMHO, of subtle liberal bias that almost nobody will notice. They ask the question only after a Republican misbehaves. Was there a "is monogamy dead" poll taken during the Clinton/Lewinsky affair?

Don Rosen of WRJN said today that conservatives don't want change. This is nonsense. Example, liberals want to maintain the union dominated status quo of the public school system while many conservatives would like to dramatically change the system with vouchers. I could give thousands of examples of things I would like to change.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Helding/Navratil Debate

Alderman Greg Helding has agreed to a debate. Here goes:

To the best of my knowledge, within the last few years, the city council approved a change involving UNIT. Previously, UNIT had sent out notices of violations regarding the upkeep of property. If violators fixed the problem, the issue went away. If not, violators were assessed a fine that they could contest in court. The recent council approved changes did away with fines and relabeled them "inspection fees." This change deprives citizens of the constitutional right to defend themselves in court and with a different branch of government and is therefore unconstitutional.

Greg responds:
Denis, When this system was instituted, our attorneys told us this was legal. I ask more questions than most, but in the end, I am not a lawyer and I have to trust that our legal counsel is giving sound advice. When the recent complaints about constitutionality arose, I asked about this and was told that Milwaukee has a similar "fee vs. fine" system in place and it withstood a court challenge in 2007. That was good enough for me. Since you posed this challenge, I took the time to find and read the case for myself.

In a published opinion (Case # 2005AP2630), the Wisconsin Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court ruling that "held that the City has the legal authority to enact the ordinance and that the unpaid re-inspection fees could be assessed against the inspected properties as special charges under WIS. STAT. § 66.0627” and "that because the primary purpose of the ordinance was regulatory, the re-inspection fees do not constitute an unlawful tax".

The appellate court also said "The ordinance creates an economic incentive to induce compliance with the law, which is a proper ordinance creates an economic incentive to induce compliance with the law, which is a proper exercise of police power. The escalating fees bear a reasonable relationship to the purpose of the ordinance, which is encouraging compliance."

You claim that it is unconstitutional because it “deprives citizens of the constitutional right to defend themselves in court”. The fact that the Milwaukee ordinance was challenged is proof enough that this is not true. No ordinance could ever relieve you of our access to the courts. Citizens have the right to take the city to court and challenge the fee – either on the basis that it should not have been charge or on the larger issue that the ordinance is illegal or unconstitutional.

Regardless, the nature of this ordinance is regulatory and not punitive. The court held that these fees are legal and that “There is ample evidence to find that there is a reasonable relationship between the re-inspection fee and the service provided”. Since these are fees, not fines, one does not have the option to either pay or go to trial. This is similar to any other fee charged by the City.

Both the trial court and the appellate court found that the City of Milwaukee inspection and re-inspection fee system is lawful and a proper exercise of a city’s police powers. Until a court tells us otherwise, I believe that, in instituting a similar system here, the City of Racine is operating within the bounds of the US and Wisconsin Constitutions as well as Wisconsin Law. I am confident that our ordinance is similar enough to the Milwaukee ordinance that it would withstand a similar court challenge.

Denis responds:
You make a strong argument Greg. But of course I have to quibble about a few things. On meeting the technichal requirements of the law, we have to assume a few things, that Racine's law is identical to Milwaukee's on the relevant question before us, that the Milwaukee case was correctly decided and that the US Supreme Court would concur. I am certain that those requirements have not all been met. In any case, I am not a lawyer so I am probably not the one to offer specific arguments about the differences between Milwaukee's ordinance and ours as they relate to Supreme Court precedent etc... instead I invite you to consider the issue not so much from a technically legalistic point of view but rather while considering the spirit of our constitution. I will make a few assumptions that I think we non-lawyers can agree on:

1) When our government accuses us of something, we have a right to defend ourselves in court.
2) We are presumed innocent and the government bears the burden of proving our guilt.

If you agree with points one and two, we can move on. So, in Racine, we had an ordinance that fined people who violated Racine's ordinance concerning the upkeep of their property. Those whom were fined, I believe, were issued the fine as well as an invitation to contest the charges in court. Then, a year or so ago, there was a new ordinance, replacing the old, wherein the same violations were addressed in a different manner. Gone were the fines and the court date, replaced by an inspection fee.

My issue Greg is that the city (you and your fellow lawmakers) is simply tampering with the English language such that it can dispense with costly court expenses. The question really rests on whether the city is fining violators or charging a fee for its services. Now, in practice, we know very well what the city is up to. The "fee" (hereafter in quotes because I don't think it is really a fee) only applies to those people who have not complied with the ordinance. I have been "feed" at least three times. In each instance I was able to prove my innocence and was not required to pay the "fee." Yet my property has been inspected now at least six times and I have not had to pay the "fee." Only those who don't comply ultimately have to pay the "fee." This raises the issue of equal protection insofar as some have to pay the "fee" while others don't. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then its a fine.

The same behavior that a few years ago resulted in a fine now generates a "fee." What has changed other than the city's relabelling a fine as a "fee?" Why not just keep calling it fine?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Just Say No

The Racine Redevelopment Authority delayed a decision on an 18 month option request by Brent Oglesby concerning city owned property at State and Silver Streets, very near to the proposed KRM stop. This decision should be very easy folks - deny this request outright. Read JT article Here

The property in question may soon increase in value if KRM becomes a reality. Brent Oglesby will then be allowed to buy the property at the pre-KRM price and essentially pocket the difference. I see no benefit to taxpayers here. What's more, Brent Oglesby is a member of the Racine City Plan Commission, ie, he is an insider and this gift to him would certainly not look good. And lastly, on what basis would the city think that Oglesby would be able to pull off a major development project? He has no financing and no experience in property development. Additionally, what the article fails to mention is that Oglesby does have business experience. He has had two business failures in Racine, a restaurant (I liked his food) and a newspaper .

I suspect that Oglesby would probably walk if KRM doeasn't materialize. And if KRM does happen, he would be in a great position to cut a deal or be bought out by an actual developer. This would be a sweet deal for Oglesby and a raw deal for Racine taxpayers.

I can't blame Oglseby for trying. Perhaps I will put in a similar request. I have a property company already and I have some development experience.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Debate Challenge for Racine Aldermen

I happen to know that several Racine aldermen read Free Racine. Alderman Helding and Alderman Maack have even commented on the site. So I know they are out there.

What perplexes me is a reluctance on the part of Racine aldermen to publicly defend policies that they voted for and presumably support. For example, I have criticized the city council for a liquor licensing policy that discriminates against black drinkers. Also, I have stated that the city's UNIT (Unified Neighborhood Inspection Team) practice of relabling a fine as a fee deprives citizens of a constitutional right to defend themselves in court.

These are serious charges. If I were on the city council, I would take any such charges seriously - as I would have taken an oath to defend the constitution. If the charges were meritless, I would provide my reasons for concluding so. If the charges had merit, I would introduce legislation to correct the problem. Ignoring the charges alltogether demonstrates a lack of seriousness and or a lack of political courage.

I hereby challenge any and all Racine Alderman to an online debate about either or both of the concerns that I have brought forward.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Election Musings

A few friends of mine were musing the other day about election opponents for John Lehman or Bob Turner. I was not there but my name came up as a potential opponent of Bob Turner. And it was quickly detirmined that in liberal Racine I had no chance of winning, at which time they began considering a moderate Democrat for the task.

Now I happen to agree with my friend's assessment of my chances of winning, being slim to none. Their assessment was that I was too far to the right - not for them - but for Racine voters.

I am a bit of a radical, I will admit. But what am I radical about? I am radically in favor of freedom and radically opposed to those things that threaten our freedoms.

Does this make me unelectable in Racine? Perhaps so. Should I moderate my views on freedom to appeal to a wider audience? Sure, if I want to live a life as a political slut. No thanks.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Support Slipping Silently

Liberals and conservatives alike know that I like to talk politics. Hardly a day went by without somebody pointing out what a boob President Bush was at the time.

I realized yesterday that no liberals are talking to me about President Obama. None. The subject never comes up. Never.

I heard all the time during the election that he was going to be a great president. I think I would be hearing from liberals if they were pleased with Obama thus far. But I hear nothing.

I wonder if support for Obama is silently slipping among liberals. I suspect that it would be a bit of an embarrassment to admit as much to a conservative. Liberals have invested heavily, psychologically and otherwise, in Obama. It is going to be a hard fall.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Elephant in the Alcohol Licensing Committee

I can't say I am terribly surprised that the Chuns were denied a beer license for their would be convenient store. The city's effort to transform Sixth St into an artist haven has failed miserably. A few art shops have moved from 6th to Main Street and those that remain on 6th appear to be on life support. Meanwhile, 6th has been slowly becoming a night life destination, especially with the opening of Park 6. And with that has come problems.

So it was not surprising that the only significant opposition to the beer license came from a handful of merchants and shopkeepers. No doubt they have been affected by misbehaving bar patrons and they have had enough.

But I believe that there is more to their opposition than this. I strongly suspect that the perception, if not the reality, is that Park 6 customers are primarily responsible for an increase in obnoxious behavior. And for those of you that are not familiar with Park 6, it is a dance club that, on weekend nights at least, is packed with black people.

Now just to be very clear, I am NOT suggesting that opponents of the Chuns are racists. What I am suggesting is that there may well exist a correlation between black people/alcohol/dance music and misbehavior that is significantly higher than, say, a correlation between octogenarians/tea/bingo and misbehavior. So the merchants are trying to prevent badly behaving people from coming in to the neighborhood. It just so happens that they worried that the future customers of the Chuns would be of the troublemaking variety, like they see in Park 6 customers.

I have been to numerous alcohol licensing meetings and it is quite amusing to watch. Would be applicants must talk in code. They say things like "Ours will be a high end establishment. We won't become a hip hop club" or "We won't sell 40 ounce cans of Malt Liquor." I wish one of them would come out and tell the committee exactly what the committee seemingly wants to hear, something like "You can be damned sure that I will actively discourage young black people from entering my establishment."

The problem I have with the alcohol licensing process is that, in an attempt to preempt problems, the city in effect quietly discriminates against a whole goup of people, in this case young black people. And while there is arguably a strong correlation between dance clubs and misbehavior, it is entirely unfair to the majority of black people who go to clubs and who behave themselves.

Rather than discriminate against young black people who like to drink beer or listen to rap music, the city should instead focus on the smaller group of people, whatever their color, that misbehave. Let people drink beer and listen to music. And let us also lower our tolerance for bad behavior.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Action Alert

Sometimes our problems are so big (wars, health care, recessions etc...) and the deciders so far removed from our lives that it seems that their is little if anything we can do.

This is one reason I am attracted to local issues. You might know the players involved, you can call your alderman and there is a good chance he will return your call, you can speak before the city council etc... In other words, you can have an impact.

On Monday August 10th, you can can do something. A wonderful family from Barrington Illinois want to relocate to Racine to open a convenient store on 6th street in downtown Racine. They will be unable to open the store without approval from the city to sell prepackaged beer. They will be before the licensing committee at city hall at 5 pm on Monday August 10th and they need support from everyday people in the Racine area.

There will be opposition. Certainly there is a correlation between excessive alcohol consumption and various social ills. In downtown Racine on any given weekend there are serious problems that require frequent police intervention. So there is a fair amount of pressure on public officials to curb the sale of alcohol in Racine.

On the other hand, any honest observer of downtown alcohol fueled problems will realize that the problems are coming from the bars, not the few establishments that sell prepackaged beer. In the last few years downtown has lost the Century Market and Brauns liquors, neither of which contributed to any problems downtown.

So the gist of the problem here is that future sellers of packaged alcohol, like the Chun family from Illinois, may now have to pay the price for the problems created by current irresponsible bar owners and patrons. This would be most unfair and I dare say unAmerican insofar as decent upstanding citizens will be barred from starting their own business here in Racine. And we do need new businesses in Racine.

I know, this is a small matter that barely affects you or me. But there is an important principle at stake, namely that law abiding citizens ought to be able to open a business and sell a legal product.

You may have no ability whatsoever to affect the health care debate or influence policy in Iraq, but you could help a decent hard working family relocate and invest in Racine. A few words of support for the Chun family on Monday August 10th, 5 pm at city hall will go a long way.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Unconstitutional Neighborhood Inspection Team

I received a bill from the City of Racine the other day. I was being charged $100 for an inspection of my property and $87 or so for labor and administration for the removal of materials from my property. I called up the UNIT (Unified Neighborhood Inspection Team) to find out what this was all about. The gentleman on the phone looked at my file, and then described the materials and their location - on a fresh slab of concrete. I told him that the fresh slab of concrete was not my property and would they please remove the charges against me. He told me that the UNIT inspector would get back to me. A day or so later there was a message for me on my answering machine at work desribing the process for contesting the charges - I needed to write a letter to the head of Public Works to plead my case.

There are a few things wrong with this. First there is the presumption of guilt. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? Then of course it is up to me to prove my innocence by appealing to the same branch of government (executive) that is charging me. Whatever happened to separation of powers? What about the right to a fair trial?

UNIT may be very effective in cleaning up neighborhoods, but they still need to be constrained by our constitution. So while I am a bit perturbed by the mistake made by UNIT, I place the blame squarely with our elected alderman and mayor. Why? Because they knowingly put in place a program that violates the constitutional rights of Racine citizens. And they have all sworn to uphold the constitution.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Facts Be Damned

The JT weighs in on the Harvard professor/Cambridge cop flap today. You can read it here.

After some common sense suggestions such as "know the facts" and "words have consequences" the JT shifted gears and wrote "Did Gates react strongly because he thought he was being targeted, was just another black man denied simple respect in a nation with a history of poor race relations, especially where police are concerned? Had the police officer already seen enough obnoxious citizens that day, and was he running low on patience, even though he appears to otherwise be an exemplar of good race relations?"

So after lecturing the president regarding the facts, the JT then enters pure speculation mode. Notice the speculation involves putting the professor in the best possible light, that he "was just another black man denied simple respect etc..." Are there any facts to support this? No, the known facts suggest otherwise.

And again, the JT speculates about the cop, a good guy that was having a bad day and lost his patience. Notice that this puts the cop in a poor light on the day in question. Is there any evidence to support this? No.

The JT concludes with "perhaps this will become the genesis for an honest re-examination of police race relations instead of a recitation of old stereotypes."

Right. The JT, in contradiction of the known facts, makes up a scenerio that includes the old stereotype of the cop having a bad day and taking it out on the oppressed minority. And then they have the nerve to call for a re-examination of old stereotypes.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Helding for Socialized Health Care

I have to take issue with Greg Helding with such regularity that I am concerned that he might think its personal. It isn't personal Greg. It is all about policy. The following quote is from the Racine Post article on a local health care forum. Read it all here

Alderman Greg Helding (above) discussed the potential impact of health care reform on the local level. Helding estimated 20 percent of the city's budget pays for employees' health care. Switching to a single-payer system that charges an 8 percent payroll tax would save the city millions of dollars it could use for additional street maintenance and city services, like police.

This year alone the city is expecting an 11 percent increase in its health care costs, Helding said. Over time health care costs could grow to 10 times the amount of the city's property tax levy, a number that is simply unsustainable, he said.

"(Health care) costs us a lot of money and it's increasing rapidly," Helding said.

Greg has it partly right. We are spending a ton on medical care for city employees. My guess is the reason for that is that virtually everything is covered ( viagra etc...), there is little co-pay or employee contribution towards premiums etc... Thus we have created incentives for employees to overuse the health care system since others are paying the bill. Of course this is a recipe for the financial disaster that is looming in Racine and no doubt elsewhere. But Greg Helding thinks that nationalizing the idea that is bankrupting Racine would be a good idea.

Not a good idea. Our local politicians over the years have offered benifits to municipal employees that are now obviously unsustainable. Faced with this looming disaster that they created, they now want to foist the bill on to federal government/taxpayers. The problem of course is that every local or state government entity that has been irresponsible will be doing the same. Not sure how any savings will miraculously appear out of such a maneuver.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Customer Always Wrong at Jimmie Johns

I normally don't write negative posts about local businesses, but I am going to make an exception here. Today I went to buy a couple of turkey sandwiches from the Jimmie Johns at Highways 31 and 20. My son wanted only turkey and lettuce while my wife wanted turkey with everything. They had a sub that was a bit cheaper that included just meat and cheese. I asked if I could substitute lettuce for the cheese. No I could not. This seemed kind of odd and slightly annoying. Fine, just turkey then and the turkey with everything. So the employee starts making the turkey with everything and he puts gobs of lettuce on it. I stopped him and asked if he could take that lettuce and put it on the other sub. No, he couldn't. Now I am getting seriously annoyed. This kid wouldn't take five seconds to scoop the lettuce off one sub and put it on the other, but I could order a side of lettuce. So I walked out and took my business to the Cousins Subs down the street. An employee on break outside the Jimmie Johns said that this was their policy. This seems extremely odd to me, but if it is indeed their policy, my policy will be to shop elsewhere.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dickert Sighting Update

Not exactly earth shattering news here but in a follow up to a previous post it now turns out that Mayor Dickert did visit my store last week. And what's more, I was in the store at the time. I was in my office but the mayor opted not to have my employee call me from my office. Perhaps he thought I was working and didn't want to interrupt. Or perhaps he had another reason for visiting besides talking to me. I have no idea. All I know is that I have been hoping to meet with him about ideas for improving the city but have had no luck.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

JT Welcomes Crude Sexual Insults

The Journal Times, following the lead of the Racine Post, is now accepting the use of the term "tea baggers" in its letters to the editor. Serial letter writer Earl Christianson used the term today in describing a person who introduced him as a socialist.

Anyway, to the best of my knowledge, teabagging involves, er, scrotum and face contact - sorry readers and there goes my pg rating.

Now again, to the best of my knowledge, the political rallies that generally involved protest against excessive government spending did not, I repeat NOT, involve any scrotum and face contact.

It has been a while since I have attended any left leaning political parties but I suppose it is now permissible to suggest, in crude detail, all manner of sexual activities that occur there. Just not on my site please. But by all means share your crude thoughts with the Journal Times.

Got Plans?

Subject: Communication from the Director of the Racine County
Planning and Development Department and the Principal Planner for
the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission
transmitting to the City of Racine for formal consideration of the Draft
Multi-Jurisdictional Comprehensive Plan For Racine County.

Got that? Planners plan to announce their plans tonight to planners who no doubt will plan some planning meetings to consider the plan. It is tonight at the city council meeting. I can't attend the meeting as I already have plans.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Call Me

I called Mayor Dickert a month or so ago, shortly after he took office. I had hoped to speak with the mayor about a range of issues, mostly relating to economic development. The mayor was out of town, I was told, attending conferences etc... and he would get back to me. Fine, I thought, we have a new mayor, everyone wants his ear, he is busy. A few weeks later I left a message asking if I might be able to set up an appointment with the mayor. A week or so passed when I received a call from a gentleman from the mayors office who apologized and chalked up the mistake to inexperience. The mayor was out of town with family and he would get back to me soon. A few more weeks have now passed and I have yet to hear from the mayor or his office. I could call again but then I would feel like a stalker.

I am not all that keen on private meetings with public officials anyway, so I will share with readers some of what I had hoped to discuss. There was a businessman interested in purchasing a prominent (and empty) downtown building. He wanted to renovate it and had talked to me several times about my own experiences in rehabbing a downtown building. Like any sensible person risking his own money, he was exploring said risks, some of which involve the city and their approach/attitude toward development. I thought it might be wise for him to meet with Mayor Dickert. Of course no meeting with Mayor Dickert took place, the building was not purchased, I haven't heard from the businessman and I now wonder what might have been. Presently I am trying to help another family start their business in downtown but the game is rigged such that his venture is now entirely dependent on approval by our politicians. I am referring to the Chun family who hope to move to Racine and open a convenient store that also sells beer.

Meanwhile, news is that the mayor is busy attending conferences and hoping to bring businesses to Racine. That is all well and good I suppose, so long as some time remains, to return calls from the businesses that already exist, and to meet with folks eager to open businesses in Racine.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Equality Extremism on the Left

I have been arguing a bit with Kay and her pals over at Kay's Blue Racine. Initially I took Kay to task for insinuating that Van Wanggaard is a white supremicist because he used the Norwegian word for "welcome" on his campaign web site. Anyway, the discussion gradually came around to campaign financing and of course they all want public campaigns. But if you are going to level the money/financial support aspect of campaigns, why stop there? Make a law ensuring that each campaign gets an equal number of public campaign workers, working equal numbers of hours on identical campaign strategies. Of course, to be fair we need equal amounts of positive and negative press stories. There goes freedom of the press. But if we really want fairness, we need to ensure that each candidate gets equal numbers of votes...

But doesn't all this equality undermine the whole point of elections, which are contests to detirmine the inequality of support between prospective candidates?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Free Racine/LiberTEA Racine Social Gathering

All are welcome on Friday July 24th to the third annual Free Racine social event. And since there is considerable overlap between Free Racine and the goals of LiberTEA Racine, what the heck, let's combine the two for an evening. I will be a guest bartender at Asiana, one of my favorite restaurants downtown, on the evening of the 24th. Asiana is located at 423 6th Street in downtown Racine. Among the attendees, I hope, will be the Chun family, who are hoping to get a beer license for their prospective pantry to be located accross from Asiana. As you may know, LiberTea Racine has agreed to help the Chuns get their license and we may need your help. Anyway, the purpose of the evening will be to fill Asiana with customers, to fill yourself with excellent food and drink, to fulfill the goals of LiberTEA Racine, and to get your fill of me for another year. Let me know if you might attend. Thanks, Denis.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

No Freebies for Government Employees

Racine Aldermen Aron Wisneski and Terry McCarthy have proposed a program wherein local government employees would be given land and lower taxes if they built a home on the property and lived their for five years. Read about it here.

Sorry aldermen but this is just plain wrong. If you are going to offer opportunities for free land and lower taxes, offer it to everyone. Otherwise it would appear to all that you are just rewarding your own.

On a positive note, at least you are implicitly acknowledging the problem of high taxes in Racine. And Wisneski is getting somewhere by showing interest in "studying the possibility of creating small TIF districts where homebuyers could receive benefits for moving into the city if they make improvements to the home."

This is something I have advocated numerous times on this blog. Instead of punishing people who improve their properties, in the form of a big tax increase, they should give them a tax break for several years on the improvements. Offer the program to everyone to ensure fairness.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Confrontation and Response

Yesterday before the Landmarks Commission meeting I asked commission member Bob Hartman if I might have a moment of his time. I had to hoped to ensure that my previous remarks at a public meeting were not misconstrued. Too late for that I discovered. I did not deserve a moment of his time he said with barely constrained anger.

Let me back up a bit. A few weeks ago I spoke at a public hearing concerning the south side historic preservation ordinance. Since it was often stated that the proposed ordinance would be modelled after the downtown Design Review Commission ordinance, I thought it would be worthwhile to share my experiences with the DR commission at the hearing. I had hoped to thread a needle, so to speak, in that I had intended to express my disagreement with the coercive aspects of the Design Review Commission, namely that I was compelled to obtain their permission, while not offering any criticism of Bob Hartman or his work. I had hired BH in part because I was offered an incentive to do so by the Downtown Racine Corporation. I thought then and I think now that BH's work was just fine and I had hoped that I would have been able to make that clear. However, my ten minute or so prepared statement had to be pared down to three minutes, so I was concerned that I was not as clear as I had hoped to be. Hence my request for a moment of BH's time.

So when Bob did consent to my request, he expressed his anger over my supposed accusation that I was compelled to hire BH. I was taken aback by this accusation, knowing full well that I did not hold that view then, now or ever. When given a chance to speak, I indicated as much and offered an apology if that was indeed what I had said.

My quasi-apology did not result in a more amiable conversation as BH apparently had other concerns on his mind. BH strongly suggested that I would have been unaffected by the proposed ordinance. He challenged my assertion that I would have been better off without having been subjected to the cost and effort associated with the Downtown Review Commission. And finally he said that I was confrontational, despite Mayor Dickert's admonition that speakers be respectful etc... I asked him to elaborate on the charge that I was confrontational but all he could muster was an exasperated response suggesting that it was quite obvious that I had been confrontational. "How so?" I implored at which point he said I should sit down (as we were approaching the meeting. At this point I admittedly had no more patience for his behavior and I told he has no right to tell me to sit down. And that was that.

So I share this with readers because I want to address BH's charges today as he offered me no opportunity to do so yesterday.

As to whether the proposed ordinance affects me personally, I must say that it is none of his business why I take an interest in the proposed ordinance. I of course have every right to attend public hearings. I find it curious that BH apparently thinks that only those with a direct stake in legislation should be concerned about said legislation. Of course citizens should be involved with issues that may not concern themselves directly. Slavery was an issue that didn't affect large numbers of Americans. Genocide in Germany had little affect on most Americans. Now my point is not to equate my political activism with fights against slavery or genocide - rather, it is to point out the obvious need for people to be concerned with the plight of others. So BH, I wanted to help people who would be inconvenienced and financially harmed by your ordinance proposal.

So am I worse off for having been forced to appear before and acquiesce to the demands of the Downtown Review Commission? Yes I believe so. Now BH's work was just fine but I am quite certain that collaboration between my wife and our contractor would have accomplished the same result, saving us time and a few thousand dollars. BH quite obviously disagreed with my assessment.

And finally, was I confrontational with BH at the public hearing? Frankly I don't even know what specifically he was referring to and he refused to tell me, making a response rather difficult.

So there it is folks. At least one member of a commission that would have had significant power over south side homeowners demonstrated that he was hypersensitive to criticism, real or perceived. Furthermore, he was completely dismissive of my points of view, namely my interest in the ordinance and my perception that I would have been better off without the Downtown Review Commission.

In a nutshell, he knew better than me on everything and he was rather belligerent. Is this somebody that should have power over your important decisions concerning your home?

And lastly, Bon Hartman is welcome to chime in here. I hope he will.

Triumph for LiberTEA

Yesterday the City of Racine's Landmarks Commission unanimously voted to "receive and file" (or kill, in other words) the proposed historic homes ordinance which would have compelled certain south side homeowners to obtain permission from the commission before beginning certain renovations and home maintainance projects. The vote is a victory for home owners and property rights advocates. LiberTEA Racine, along with numerous outspoken property owners in the affected area deserve credit for defeating this intrusive, unnecessary government power grab.

So while a pat on the back is deserved, we must remain vigilant. All or nearly all of the commission members suggested that a key problem was their poor communication, suggesting to me at least that they perceived the problem as a commuication problem rather than a substance problem. When given the opportunity to speak I suggested that the people opposed to the ordinance understood quiet well what the proposal was all about, that there was no communication problem but rather there was a clear and obvious rejection of the merits of their proposal. So I suspect that some version of this ordinance will be back. I wil keep you posted.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Catching Up

Sorry readers for the lack of postings of late. My excuse - working a fair amount and enjoying summer when not working.

Yesterday I rented a Jet Ski at North Beach. Great fun I have to say. Perhaps readers recall the recent fuss over Jet Ski rentals at the beach led mostly by neighbors concerned about noise. Much ado about nothing IMHO as you can't even hear them if you are standing on the beach. Besides, the vast majority of Jet Skiiers are not renting them at the beach anyway.

Also fun is kayaking on the mighty Root River. Kayaks can be rented at the 6th Street and the river, Thursday through Sunday for the absurdly cheap (and subsidized) price of $5 per hour.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Cory Mason's Employee Forced Submission Act

From the folks who support the Employee Free Choice Act now comes forced unionization. Our own Cory Mason is apparently the driving force for this gem. The Journal Sentinel has the story.

I guess forced participation in unions is the new freedom.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Obama on Public vs Private Health Care

I just caught a bit of President Obama's news conference wherein he stated, essentially, that if private sector health care is so good, affordable, etc... then it ought not have any problem competing with a public sector option.

So we have a president that ignores or doesn't understand the key difference between public and private sector economic activity. The difference of course is the source of revenue. Private businesses must earn their income by providing a product or a service that someone voluntarily chooses to purchase while the government just takes the money that they need, from the private sector.

I am slightly embarrased that we have a president say and apparently believe something so silly.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Having it Both Ways

The Journal Times editorial today suggests that those opposed to low-income housing on Sixth Street are unreasonably fearful. The correlation between low incomes and crime happens only in those discredited high rise apartments that "are now being turned into ruble."

Ordinarily, when the JT or other liberals want to help the poor with your money, they argue that decreased poverty will result in decreased crime. This argument suggests a correlation between low incomes and crime. However, now that they want to bring low-income government dependents into downtown, they deny any such correlation. The apartments "would be homes for people whose luck may have changed, or people trying to work their way up from a hard life." Any concerns about crime are dismissed as unreasonable, fearful, and harmful.

Just thought I would point out once again the inconsistency associated with liberal thought.

Monday, June 15, 2009

LiberTEA Racine Chooses Issues

LiberTEA Racine has selected three issues to pursue. They are, not in any particular order:

1) Opposition to the proposed Historic District Ordinance.
2) Support for the Choi's/Chun's effort to open a convenience store with a liquor license.
3) Opposition to Alderman Mozol's proposal which would extend aldermanic terms to three years, from two.

LiberTEA Racine is seeking to promote liberty in the Racine area. We will focus on local issues where we believe we have a reasonable chance for success. And We will be non-partisan.

Note that each of the above issues involves a loss of or potential loss of personal liberty at the hands of Racine government officials. The Historic District Ordinance would take home improvement and major maintainence decisions out of the hands of individual property owners and put them into the hands of government bureaucrats. The Choi's/Chun's are unable to sell a legal product, as they are the first victims of a new ordinance that outlaws the sale of packaged alcohol without a 2/3s (3/4ths?) vote by the city council, among other restrictions. And lastly, an extension of aldermanic terms would substantially chip away at the rights of voters to choose their own representatives.

LiberTEA Racine will focus on these issues initially. If you care to join us, look for our Calls to Action that will be a part of our Web site (under construction) and the blog, LiberTEA Racine.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

It's Good to be the King

If you are the mayor of Racine, you get to spend taxpayer money on art. No need for oversight of any kind apparently. No approval from commissions, no design review committee, no permits required, no building inspections, no votes by the council.

But if you live on College Avenue and want to put new windows in your house, well...

RUSD Test Results Form Letter

An insider at RUSD headquarters has forwarded to me the following test results response form letter. Take a look.

For immediate release to media.

The (insert test name) results are in and we are very excited here at RUSD headquarters. We have shown improvement in (choose one: 5th grade math scores, 8th grade reading scores, graduation rate) at several of our schools. We believe (insert latest reform effort here) is beginning to pay dividends. We remain concerned with (choose one: truancy, 8th grade math scores, 5th grade reading levels) at this time. We are (choose one: cautiously optimistic, hopeful) about our prospects for continued improvement. Yet we recognize that we have (choose one: more hard work to do, a tough road ahead of us).


(insert latest superintendent name here)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Government Causing Housing Problems

As city officials experiment with various punitive measures to address the declining condition of housing stock in Racine, they would be wise to consider their own role in creating the problem.

Consider that despite a declining population in Racine, the city has within the last several years approved two large and partially low income/rent subsidized projects, the Mitchell Wagon Lofts and Belle Harbor. Agencies abound to subsidize or pay outright the rent for these and other low income residences. No doubt about it, Racine officials love to help/enable the poor with your money.

Of course, someone has to pay for all this generosity. Said generosity is paid for in taxes. Racine's property tax rate is 50% higher than neighboring Wind Point, as an example. At some point, some people will decide that the costs, financial and otherwise, associated with a "give us your poor and huddled masses" government policy is too great to bear. So they will try to sell their home for which there are no buyers. This home is destined to become a rental property because of Racine's government, as buying a home and paying taxes is too expensive while all kinds of help is there for low income renters.

So the city adds a few hundred newly constructed, subsidized and TIFed housing units for the poor. Then what happens? They leave the neighborhoods for the good stuff. The landlord who owns a property or two in Racine is now competing, essentially, with the government that was instrumental in financing the new and better low income housing. They still have mortgages and taxes to pay, so something has to give. Perhaps they stop maintaining the property or they take in a marginal tenant. And this is the situation we find ourselves in now.

Harsh ordinances and fines will fix this problem, right?

Monday, June 08, 2009

CityBank (of Racine) Failures

The Journal Times has an article today, curiously titled "Staying afloat," about a non-profit housing agency that is sinking fast.

The Racine Mutual Housing Association is a nonprofit organization that provides rental housing at below-market rates, according to the JT. Yet 95% of their clients are behind in their rent payments. The city will now allow RMHA to skip their payments to the city for the next ten months. Presently, the group owes $193,000 plus interest (interest amount not specified in the article) on a $200,000 loan made several years ago.

City Development Director Brian O'Connell said the group needs sound fiscal judgement to balance its compassion. In showing patience with struggling tenants, "they've put the whole organization at risk" O'Connell said.

The same might be said of the city. The city needs sound fiscal judgement to balance its compassion. In showing patience with struggling borrowers (several years, barely a dent in principal) the city is putting all the taxpayers at risk.

The best judgement of all would be for the city to leave banking to bankers and fire the bureaucrats who are wasting our money.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

On Property and Policy

City officials always seem to be promoting a solution to this or that problem. Seldom do they discuss why the problem exists in the first place. How can you solve a problem if you don't know why it exists?

Consider the various proposals to keep area homes in good condition. So why are some home owners allowing their properties to deteriorate? We need to know the answer to that question before we can shape policy to address the problem.

Are the property owners in question just bad people who don't care or are they making rational investment decisions? If your answer is the former, then you might like spanking them with fines, new ordinances etc... but perhaps they are acting rationally.

What rational person would allow their property to deteriorate and decrease in value? Well, first we must understand that spending money on home maintainence is just one of millions of investment choices available to us. Are new windows a smarter investment than car repairs, school tuition, a 401K contribution? Perhaps some property owners have detirmined that property improvements in Racine are not a good investment.

Property taxes are high in Racine. Property improvements cost money AND result in even higher property taxes year after year. Property owners can't pick up and move their homes to avoid the high taxes but they can gradually divest from Racine. They can allow their properties to decline in value while choosing to invest their money elsewhere - where they think they will get a better return.

We can villify them, harrass them, or fine them and hasten their exit from Racine. But nobody is taking their place - we have a declining population.

A far better idea is to ask whether such people are behaving rationally, and if so, we should respond with rational policies to address the problem.

Catching Up, Random Thoughts

I have now been to two meetings concerning the historic district ordinance proposal. At both meetings, the powers-that-be insisted that they were there to discern what the people wanted. If this were the least bit true, there wouldn't be a third meeting. They would just scrap the idea that the people clearly don't want.

If you haven't been to a First Fridays, (every first Friday evening of the month, downtown Racine) you will be amazed at the amount, and quality, of the people congregating downtown. I remember well the genesis of this event. It was an idea starting with former first lady of Racine Joyce Smith. I admit I was very skeptical, wondering why a Friday instead of a whole weekend. I still think downtown Racine should have a weekend festival. Anyway, Joyce Smith was right and I was wrong about First Fridays.

For a place nearly devoid of development, yes I am talking about Racine, one must wonder why the city is looking at increasing the cost and the uncertainty of development projects via a new ordinance.

Even the liberal Journal Times opposes the historic district ordinance. I guess that makes us LiberTEA Racine folks a bunch of flaming liberals.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Q and A with Earl Chrisianson

Unglued local lefty Earl Christianson had some questions after attending last months tea party demonstration at city hall. He asked them in a JT letter to the editor. Here are a few and I will try to answer them:

Earl: Was violent or nonviolent action being advocated by the lady peddling campaign type pins containing a picture of president Obama within a circle and a line slashed accross the photo?

Answer: Yes.

Earl: How couild parents ignore the heart-wrenching sight of three preschool age children trying to navigate the uneven grass? One child carried a protest sign in one hand and held a toddlers hand with the other. Every couple of steps the toddler fell and a third child struggled to pull the youngster up.

Answer: I was there, but I didn't see any toddlers walking on the grass holding hands, but be assured Earl, had I seen any such disturbing behavior I would have instantly called child protective services and pressed for a full investigation into the matter.

Earl: Finally, why are unknown persons, operating through straw organizations, involved in this covert operation? What's the agenda?

Answer: Earl, these folks were under the mistaken assumption that it was permissable to assemble peacefully without a written published agenda. I could tell you the agenda Earl, but then I would have to inflict a violent or nonviolent action upon you. It is best that you just pretend you never saw that rally Earl, and please, try to get that disturbing image of children walking hand in hand out of your mind.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Low Income Housing Venture a Waste of Money

Another day, another proposal for low income housing in Racine.

This time the proposal is for downtown Racine on 6th Street. The Racine Journal Times has the story. The building in question is a former YMCA owned by Emily Hill. Linda Ring Weber, Executive Director of The Housing Authority of Racine County wants to convert the building into 10 to 12 low income apartments.

This makes no sense whatsoever. Turning a gymnasium into housing will be extremely expensive. There would be a water hookup fee of a few thousand dollars per unit and let us not forget the prohibitively expensive sprinkler system that would be required. Well, prohibitive for the private sector anyway.

These are the reasons why large downtown buildings have not been coverted to apartments. The cost is way too high, water taxes and requirements are very expensive and taxes on the improvements sap any potential for profits.

Now only government has the resources remaining to build in Racine. My guess is this will cost over $2 million if it is completed. And this will be money spent unnecessarily. The Housing Authority already has an office and Racine has a surplus of low income housing.

Instead of wasting this money on real estate development, the Housing Authority should instead spend the money on housing its clients in the empty homes that already exist.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Walden School and Sustainability

Walden Students are learning about sustainability according to a small article in todays Journal Times. Good for them.

According to the article, the class was initially developed by the Keystone Center for Education and funded by Sustainable Racine.

The first thing these students should be taught - I am not holding my breath - is the manner in which these organizations are sustained, or not. These organizations are sustained by donations. And these donations were made possible by wealth creation. And wealth creation is best achieved in countries with free economies.

Walden students are to "develop and ultimately implement a project that will enhance the sustainability of Racine's future." Great! My hope is that these projects will reflect an understanding that "sustainability" is best achieved in a capitalist and free country. We shall see.

And Sam Braun, I will be counting on you for the sensible insiders perspective.

Socialism and Poverty

David Riemer thinks we can end poverty. Riemer is the director of policy and planning at Community Advocates of the Public Policy Institute.

Riemer argues, in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel commentary on Sunday, that "potential policy packages must be well-conceived and evidence-based, shaped by the poor themselves and rigorously tested..." Among his suggestions are to "raise the minimum Supplemental Security Income and Social Security payments to the poverty line plus $1... a WPA-like transitional jobs program.... and a somewhat higher minimum wage plus an increased earned income tax credit."

Additionally, we need to attack racism, greatly improve the health insurance system, improve the health and education of children etc....

The common thread to all this of course is increased government power and massive income redistribution, or, to be less delicate, socialism.

I wonder if Mr Riemer is interested in the evidence-based and rigorously tested outcomes of the myriad of socialist experiments throughout the world in the last hundred years or so. If he was, he would realize that socialism is not a solution to poverty but one of its main causes.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Owner or Renter

Yesterday I happened upon some folks from the proposed historic district of Racine whom I have known for quite some time. For several minutes we discussed the pros and cons of the proposed ordinance. The three of them were mostly favorable towards the idea, though they acknowledged some potential pitfalls and at least one of them was uncomfortable with the coercion necessary to achieve results.

All in all it was a rational discussion until one of them suggested that we can't own history, and that we can only rent it. Naturally I pounced all over that thought, asking from whom was she renting. She didn't answer that question but it isn't too difficult to figure out. We share our history collectively, we take care of it collectively, and any issues involving our history would be resolved via the collective, ie government.

I believe she has perhaps inadvertantly touched on the central issue here. Who's homes are these? What does ownership mean? Are we caretakers, renters from society, or owners? What do these differences mean with respect to the proposed ordinance?

My own view is that ownership means something and that the history worth preserving here is the historical understanding of ownership. And we should vigorously resist the city's latest attempt to chip away at that foundation.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Fact or Fiction?

Driver: How fast was I going officer?
Officer: 15 over.
D: I suppose I am going to get a fine?
O: No Ma'am, we don't give fines or tickets anymore.
D: Excellent, then I will be on my way. Nice day officer.
O: Not so fast Ma'am. I need to issue you a vehicle speed inspection fee of $100.
D: A what?
O: We call them v-sifs for short. They're fast, less paperwork, more efficient, just easier all the way around for the city.
D: That's bull#$&*@! I will see you in court.
O: No ma'am you won't. The beauty of the v-sif is that you no longer get to contest the charges, er, the fee, in court. Like I said, we've got a real efficient operation here thanks to the aldermen and the mayor of Racine.
D: Well, what about my rights? What about the three branches of government? Can you just do away with the judicial branch? Ever hear of due process? Don't we have a constitution?
O: All good questions ma'am. But as an officer I am part of the executive branch, as you know. I enforce the laws. You might want to take up your concerns with the mayor.
D: Oh sure, the new mayor. He was just sworn in, right? And he swore to uphold the constitution, right?
O: Ma'am, I just noticed that you pulled over by parking meter. I am going to need to issue you a p-mif of $20. It's like the v-sif but for parking meters. Real efficient, easy, less paperwork...

Question: What is the difference between this scenerio and the "fees" issued by UNIT (Unified Neighborhood Inspection Team) other than that the offense is not happening to you?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Historic Designation Meets Resistance

I went to a public meeting tonight on the subject of turning the near south side of Racine into a historic district. What this would mean for property owners in the area is that alterations to their property would have to meet the approval of a commission, much like the one already in place downtown. Window replacements, roof reshingling, fences, porches, you name it, the decisions will no longer be made by the owners.

The reaction from the audience ranged from skeptical to hostile for the most part. Simply put, these folks didn't want to turn over the decisions regarding their property to the government.

Not everyone was opposed to the idea. One woman spoke in support and was generally well received until she said that not everyone is cut out for owning a historic home and that perhaps they should sell. She was shouted down, deservedly so imho.

Also speaking was Bob Hartman, a member of the Landmarks Commission that I believe is pushing this idea. Bob is a nice fellow but I believe he should have told the crowd that he stands to make money if the area becomes a historic district. How so? Well, Bob is a designer and would likely be on the commission, just as he is downtown. So he would probably get referrals to do the designs that would help his clients make it through the committee. Seems like a conflict of interest to me but at the very least Bob would likely profit from this move and I think he should have indicated as much to the audience.

Anyway, I am happy to report that a large number of property owners on the south side will not be handing over their property rights to the city without a big, loud fight. I just might like to join them.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Teachers Union Using Adult Dupes

I started a bit of a fight over at the JT blog when I suggested that children shouldn't be used as pawns in political battles.

There was a protest organized by the Racine teachers union at a recent board meeting. They were lobbying for federal stimulus funds for more librarians. Several children, as young as nine, participated.

One of my detractors on the JT blog, 4kidsandacat had this to say:

Denis Navratil is assuming that parents are using children to achieve a political objective. How is having desire to have a librarian at a school full time considered a political objective? I don't get that, sir.

Well 4kidsandacat, desiring a librarian is not political. I have desired a few in my day as well. But the little darlings in question didn't just desire a librarian. They participated in a staged political protest organized by the local teachers union with the political objective of securing federal funds for more librarians. Does it get any more political than that? And 4kids, if you "don't get that" then you are as much a dupe as the kids. At least they have the excuse of being kids.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Racine Teachers Using Children in Political Fight

The Racine teachers union (aka Racine Education Association or REA) is now using elementary students to help fight their political battles. The REA and their child allies rallied at a RUSD Board meeting yesterday "in hopes that Unified will use federal stimulus money to bring more librarians to the district's elementary schools" according to the front page article intoday's Journal Times.

From the article:

"Speakers included Racine Public Library Director Jessica MacPhail, parents, a school librarian, Racine Education Association (REA) President Peter Knotek, a Unified alum and three elementary school children.

“We love to read,” said Maddy Bragulla and Sophia Formolo, both 11-year-old students at Schulte. The two spoke together at the meeting, asking board members to think of children before money.

Children also were outside before the meeting. Sam LaGuardia, a 9-year-old student at Schulte, held a sign reading, “We can’t access our school library without a librarian!”

“It’s confusing to all the other kids because they’re like, ‘is the library open or not?’” Sam said. “I’d like to go the library more often because we can check out more books and learn more interesting things.”

The rally was organized by the REA through flyers and word of mouth, Levie said."

I suppose that we are to believe that Sam and Maddy and Sophia were not coaxed by Unified teachers. Every nine year old I know just loves to scour the agendas of public meetings, looking for those issues that will prompt him to demand mom or dad to drive him to the meeting so he can hold up his hand made sign.

Does the REA have no shame? Stop using our children as political props. Fight your own battles.

Prevailing Values

One David Backman wrote a letter to the Journal Times on Sunday concerning pending legislation about prevailing wage law.

He writes: The current discussion to strengthen the state's prevailing wage law intends to protect and sheild workers from unscrupulous business or communities that look to make a profit off of their hard labor. Prevailing wage is about providing a skilled, trained workforce and a whole lot more. It really underscores a set of values that many in the construction industry hold dear - maintaining wages, providing health benefits, producing training and apprenticeship programs, caring for your workforce.

So these are Mr Backman's values?. Businesses should not make a profit but Mr. Backman should get skilled training, good wages, health benefits and caring from businesses. In his final paragraph Backman calls for taxing the oil companies. "Better them than me." he says.

Get everything you can. Demonize business. Screw the other guy.

No thanks Mr Backman. I hope my values prevail.