cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner
Zero Increase Budget...
The Village Trustees met to begin discussions about the coming budget process this past Wednesday evening. The Village President has expressed his desire to see a 'no hiring' policy to cover the next five years. Others have begun to talk about layoffs of existing village employees; shortened work weeks; service reductions, and so on.
A week ago, I Blogged about Chrysler ending its leasing operations, and suggested that GM and Ford were close to the same decision. All this due in major part to the declining residual value of the trucks on lease.
GM announced a major hit in the last quarter with the loss of over $15 billion. It is very near the precipice, in my opinion, where it will need to actively consider bankruptcy. It has a market value today that is a mere shadow of what it was just a year or two ago.
Back on July 21st, I Blogged about the so-called "Fairness Doctrine" that would compel radio stations to mount the same number of hours daily for 'liberal' talkers as they do for 'conservative' talkers. This would, in the minds of the liberals in Congress, equalize the message of the two differing points of view.
On the heels of that, we saw the 'celebration' of Rush Limbaugh's twentieth anniversary as a conservative 'talker' this past Friday. There is not, to my knowledge, a liberal radio personality anywhere with anything near the run that Limbaugh has had and will continue to have according to the new $38 million contract signed that takes his nationally-syndicated program into 2016.
Barack Obama has now decided that he needs to promise another round of stimulus checks that are discussed as being in the range of $1,000 for every family and $500 for individuals. Now, of course, even in the federal government, money does not grow on trees. This 'reward' for electing Obama and the Democrats has to be paid for. After all, they apparently hold to the approach that all things done within the government must be "revenue neutral". So, if money is going to be given to one person, it must be taken from somewhere else.
The 'somewhere else' in this instance is destined today to be a take-away from "big oil" through what is artfully called a "windfall profit tax". A Wall Street Journal editorial today takes an intriguing look at the concept of such taxes including some individuals that seem to have benefited from windfall profits..
A few days ago, I Blogged about the "zero budget increase" discussions that have commenced within the Village Board and the concern I had that we could potentially see some valuable things axed that we might later regret not having properly funded.
A new approach to how auto insurance would be priced is beginning to catch hold and could spread quickly if it proves to be something people like.
The concept is called "pay as you drive" and it factors miles driven and driving behavior into premium rate development. So far, Progressive, an auto insurer whose ads you've probably seen on television, has begun to sell this product in Alabama (in July) and will launch the product in New Jersey next week.
This came across our home email a couple of weeks ago and I thought it might be fun for you. You need to know, however, that I scored a 'perfect' 25! Count all the items you remember and not those you were told about.
1. Blackjack chewing gum
More thoughts on Brett Favre and the saga that seems to be near an end. Just what you needed, I'm sure.
First, there seem to be no winners in this entire debacle. The Packers played the entire thing terribly poorly. The Favre's played the entire thing terribly poorly. And the fans (fanatics) soaked up every last syllable of every story.
Wal-Mart Security System...
Wal-Mart is installing a fairly elaborate ADT security system in its parking lots today. There appear to be multiple cameras on multiple poles that will effectively 'see' everything in the parking areas.
If you were prescient and stocked up on the Forever Stamp while it was still available at $0.41, you may be able to say "Gotcha!"
A small news item caught my eye this morning. The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) posted a loss of $1,100,000,000 for the quarter ended June 30th. Yes, that is $1.1 Billion that was lost by the USPS, now a private organization.
Public Safety Committee meeting...
This committee meeting was called to order last evening by Chair Dean Wolter with Trustee Werdering absent due to vacation. Trustees Ewert and Vanderheiden were present.
Is 'perversion' too strong a term? I don't think so.
The EPA has turned down attempts by the State of Wisconsin to relax the ill-conceived S.E. Wisconsin requirement for 'reformulated' gasoline even as we are virtually in full attainment. That was probably dwarfed by comparison to the decision it announced that it was denying the State of Texas' request for a cutback on the amount of ethanol required to be blended with gasoline.
Another email 'thing' that might bring a smile:
The Advantages of Being Over 60...
Bus Instead of Drive...
The Riteway/WCCE bus to and from the State Fair is a great deal in my estimation. I have become a convert after this my third year of using this service. A pleasant ride down and back. Buses every half-hour. Clean. Relatively inexpensive. And, discounted State Fair tickets courtesy of All American on Mequon Road in G'town.
Karthauser Greenhouse Construction...
I received an email asking what was being built in front of the Karthauser Greenhouse complex along Hwy 145. I hadn't noticed this and asked Trustee Al Vanderheiden if he could shed light on this for the reader and me.
As we watch the Summer Olympics, we see the pageantry and the heroics of the athletes from around the world.
We don't see the oppression that has persisted for centuries in China and that continues to persist under the very noses of those who are walking the streets of Beijing.
A story in the morning newspaper caught my eye. It discussed the 'shortage' of rattlesnakes in western Wisconsin. I grew up in Vernon County that parallels the Mississippi River in some of the most beautiful 'glacier-free' land in our state. We have eagles and we have rattlesnakes and lots of things in between...including feral pigs that top 300 or 400 pounds.
But, I just have a hard time imagining that we're going to try to raise the rattlesnake population.
MATC Director Response...
I sent an email to the MATC PR person on July 30th seeking information about former superintendent Victor Rossetti's continued membership on the MATC Board of Directors.
Had there been any doubt as to the political stripes of Rep. Sheldon Wasserman (D) who is running against Sen. Alberta Darling (R), it appears this news might put that to rest.
The Obama Campaign for Change will open a campaign office in Glendale, WI at the Glendale Square Mall at 6:00PM tonight.
Oregon has had government involved in health care for quite a few years. The state electorate also approved the concept of state sanctioned suicide several years ago.
Recently, the board that reviews the medications that are approved for state residents made a determination that was controversial...in my mind if no where else. The board, in essence, said that, given the cost of a certain medication, it would approve suicide for this patient but would not approve use of the medicine given its relative newness and the lack of convincing data as to the outcome. It had essentially set a price on the human life involved.
Citizen Observer Program: Initial Observations...
I have always thought that 'someday' I'd love to be able to spend a little time with a police officer during duty hours. That seemed like a good way to gather information about how they function, what they encounter, and about our community.
We've discussed the plight of newspapers before and we're witnessing some of those repercussions in our local marketplace. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is involved in the second 'force reduction' in a short span of time. It made known its intent to reduce its staff and gave people an opportunity to opt out before they began the process of determining how many more had to be released.
I noted that the Los Angeles Times will now be run by a man who has no newspaper experience at all. The new publisher is a fellow named Eddy Hartenstein and he gained his reputation as the CEO of Direct TV. He will be the fourth publisher in that position since 2000. That is yet another indication of the real battle going on within the newspaper industry to find the formula required to be profitable in the era of The Internet.
I sought out some information from Kim Rath, Germantown's Director of Finance and Treasurer based on the article I read in the August 14th column in the Community Now newspaper. That mentioned that the village had some $25 million in invested funds and I was curious. That seemed like a lot of money for a community fighting through tax issues, and so on.
Fire Department Gear...
The subject of replacement firefighter equipment that was approved and forwarded to the Board for consideration was on the agenda for last night. The equipment request was nearly scuttled when the Fire Chief, asked if this could be postponed until next year, said yes. As was indicated in the Village Buzz on August 7th, this equipment was agreed to in return for an ambulance that was able to be postponed. The department determined that the need for the equipment was more important than the need for another new ambulance at this time.
I have fallen behind with the pieces concerning the candidates for the Assembly seat being vacated by Sue Jeskewitz. Lo and behold, a fellow Blogger in the Menomonee Falls NOW group whose name is William Weaver has posted these responses on his site called 'Hunting Season'.
Never one to duplicate another's good work, please click here for his compilation.
The 'virtual fence' that was approved by Congress to extend across hundreds of miles of the border between the United States and Mexico has been been put on hold indefinitely.
Why? Well, it seems that the Interior Department has not signed off on the use of its lands. These officials have refused to accept an environmental assessment that the towers, cameras, etc. would have no appreciable effect on the lands.
Have you noticed the newest signage on the side of the McDonald's on Mequon Road? What is meant by the word "McCafe" I wondered?
This subject has been visited before, and, unfortunately, will probably be visited again before we've achieved the proper result.
The Journal Sentinel editorialized on August 8th about the new Wisconsin voter registration system...delivered more than two years after the deadline and with cost overruns (but who is surprised with that outcome). The editorial opinion was that photo IDs for voters were simply to be taken off the table now that this system was up and running.
Proposed School District Budget...
I received an email from School Board Director Bruce Warnimont today with a link to the "work in progress" budget for 2008/2009. He was careful to point out that the Board has not yet vetted it. The Finance Committee meets this coming Monday night and it is likely that the budget will be discussed at that meeting.
The state raised cigarette taxes to $1.77 per pack and promptly budgeted/spent all the new money that would bring in. The only problem is that this 230% increase in the tax rate only generated a 48% increase in the tax money received! Now, we're stuck with a lot of people circumventing the tax entirely by buying cigarettes out-of-state or over the Internet. And, we have added to an already staggering budget shortfall.
Why is it that at the bottom of too many discussions about rate increases or tax increases we find a series of initials? It apparently isn't enough that we are forced to deal with the MATC. We also are saddled with the MMSD.
The Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewerage District (MMSD) hit our village and other taxing entities with a significant increase in capital expense contributions that it requires from its 'customers'. Its 'customers', of course have no other options. So like other communities, Germantown has had to 'pony up'. We've been depleting the sewer fund reserves to the tune of nearly $1 million each year over the past three years, and our reserves are going down as the result. The idea of a reserve is that there will be adequate funds available in reserve if needed due to some unforeseen situation.
You and me are really great people. Why is that? Well, we seem to help bail out just about everything that bangs on Washington's door.
A short time ago, the sub-prime mortgage companies received their bail out; likely the first of their bail outs since Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are still in the throes of that mess.
Traffic Signal Update...
I was reminded, on my trip to the Post Office this morning, that Sendik's is slated to open for business at 10:00AM on Thursday, September 4th.
Our neighbors in Mequon have scheduled a discussion for this evening concerning the use of 'small electric vehicles' on streets with speed limits as high as 35 miles per hour (MPH). The Mequon Police Chief appears to be in favor having sought ordinance language that would permit this.
These vehicles apparently have a top speed in the 20 to 25 MPH range, are four-wheeled and likely have the necessary lights and equipment to be qualified to operate on a city street.
It appears that we're finally moving ahead in the effort to have ourselves removed from the MATC district and moved into the Moraine Park Technical College (MPTC) district. In spite of some village officials' assertions, the timing of this filing and its date of effect wouldn't have changed by filing three months earlier. That complaint is a 'straw man' from my perspective.
I used the term 'small electric vehicle' yesterday in a Blog on this subject. I've seen the term 'NEV' used since and received an email from Police Chief Pete Hoell on the subject. NEV is defined as Neighborhood Electric Vehicle and you can see what one looks like by clicking here. The 2 passenger unit pictured has a bare bones price of $6,795. I find three dealerships noted in Wisconsin but that may be outdated by now.
Chief Hoell said, "I would be cautious to provide a positive recommendation if this were to be proposed in Germantown. I think one of the best tools for making decisions is to examine history and evaluate others who have "been there, done that". "I would like to evaluate Mequon's experiences with this new ordinance for awhile."
That was the title of an editorial appearing this morning in the Journal Sentinel. It went on with a header that read: "Germantown officials should drop the effort to secede from the Milwaukee Area Technical College. The savings aren't worth the cost."
I was quite interested to see what logic had led the editorial group to reach this conclusion. Even though the petition cannot be about money, they admit that this would probably save the Germantown taxpayer with a home valued at $300,000 about $129 per year, or a little more if the change requested led to a slight decrease in the tax rate for the new district, MPTC.
I had the opportunity to enjoy a cup of coffee (tea in his case) with our Village President Tom Kempinski this morning. He extended the invitation and this was actually the second time he had done so. I appreciated his time and our visit feeling that I had come to better understand the man than before.
We have had some brief conversations as the result of things I've written, but this was the first chance I've had to visit over an hour or so with Mr. Kempinski on a broad range of subjects. He strikes me as a decent person who wants the best for Germantown. I never really doubted that but it bears saying anyway. He is willing to listen to various sides of the discussion but my sense is that he'll stick with his position more often than not. I sense that he has thought through most things before he engages in discussion and, consequently, has formed fairly strong opinions. He has a solid negotiating background and that shows in the way he positions things for discussion, etc.
Former president Jimmy Carter has progressively become a looser and looser cannon. He has obviously 'represented' the United States in many foreign countries, since losing his race for re-election...all on his on dime since he was "without portfolio" as the phrase goes. He went on his own, conducted his foreign policy meetings on his own and did his best to muddy the waters of the sitting president.
As if mixed signals were not enough, he was taped discussing John McCain in the past day or two. His partisanship took an amazingly nasty jump during this press conference. He remarked that John McCain had "milked" his tour in the North Vietnamese POW camp, known as the 'Hanoi Hilton', "every chance he got". His remarks centered on the Saddleback debate. Carter remarked that he (McCain) seemed to get that into every answer he gave no matter the question.