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.