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Curmudgeon's Corner

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

April Fools?


From whom do you get your advice on home decorating?  Where the pillows should be placed?  How to arrange the furniture?  What colors to paint your room?  Are they properly licensed?

No...this is not an April Fools joke.  Licensing of interior designers would be the law if the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) had its way in the various state legislatures.  Today's Wall Street Journal carries a Op Ed piece written by Clark Neily, an attorney at the Institute for Justice, that discusses this attempt.

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Voters Have Spoken...

County Board, Germantown, Political, School Board, Taxes, Village Board, Wisconsin

Random thoughts:

  • The turn-out by voters in Germantown was reported to be some 34%, as contrasted with the statewide prediction of only about 20%.  That may well be a 'victory' for the group that was pushing its agenda using postcards and telephone calls.  I suspect that this group stimulated a greater turnout than would've otherwise been the case.  That is a good thing.
  • It seems though that the voters were not swayed sufficiently so as to follow the suggestions made by this group.  Those who were criticized by this group seem to have fared well enough to win.  Those who were 'favored' by not being attacked by this group didn't fare as well.  Are we likely done with this kind of electioneering in Germantown?  I am admittedly naive, but I'm not that naive.  I expect these tactics will continue to be seen in future Germantown elections.
  • The need for some kind of solution to the school crowding in the Germantown district will have to be addressed at some point in the future.  It may be that a scaled down version of the defeated proposition will find its way to a ballot later this year.  If so, I suspect we'll see higher interest rates and increases in all the associated costs so that, even if the total bond issue were to be reduced, the ultimate costs could very well exceed what would've been the case with this issue.  The reported 55% to 45% margin was a bit surprising; I had suspected the issue might have been outvoted by a larger number.  The smaller turn-out obviously included a higher number of voters who favored the referendum.  That might be expected in a non-Presidential election.
  • The face of the School Board changes a bit.
  • The state Supreme Court race was critical, in my view, and the conservative won albeit by a relatively slim margin.  That bodes well for the state.
  • There is a large segment of new members elected to the Washington County Board.  What that will mean can only be determined as we see the outcome of the various issues that will face this new board.  I hope that we will see special attention paid to holding down spending and thus taxes.  Maybe my naivite' is showing again.
  • And, the 'Frankenstein Veto' has died at the hands of the voters.  That, also, is a very good thing without regard to which party might control the Governor's Mansion.

All in all, the voters have spoken and our representative form of government is working as was intended.

Appoint Our Judges?

Economy, Political, Quality of Life, Wisconsin

The dust has barely had a chance to settle and the losing side in the race for Supreme Court has come unglued.  We read editorials about the travesty of electors deciding to hand retirement to the first sitting Supreme Court Justice in some 40 years.  We hear the Governor expound on the loser being 'trashed'.  We hear the cries of 'racism'.

A Milwaukee-based Democrat called for the appointment of our justices.  The third party advertising that was so apparent in this race originated with those who favored Butler, but that is supposedly all the fault of the winner, Justice Gableman.

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Troubling Issues...

Economy, Education, Healthcare, Political, Quality of Life, Wisconsin

There were two items in the newspapers today that are particularly troubling and those are:

Wisconsin's black 8th graders rank worst in the nation in writing...

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Mortgage Loan Bail-Out Lessons Necessary...

Economy, Germantown, Political, Quality of Life, Taxes, U.S., Wisconsin

Our politicians are dancing along merrily plotting to see just how they can use your money and mine to reward less-than-desirable behavior.  They have forgotten, if ever they knew, that when we reward bad behavior, we get more bad behavior.  On the other hand, if we permit some kind of 'pain' to follow poor decisions, we tend to see modified behavior.

What has this to do with the sub-prime mortgage debacle?  Plenty!

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Clarification - Snow Days Made Up 5 Minutes At A Time...

Education, Germantown, Wisconsin

The actual make-up day involved is the 'lost power' day at the High School.  Snow days are to be dealt with separately.  See comment below. 

The first thing that leaped out of the Journal Sentinel story this morning was the statement that Germantown had received, so far, 115 inches of snow this season.  The 'so far' is there just in case...but I really hope that isn't necessary.

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Virtual Schools Reality For Awhile...

Education, Political, School Board, Taxes, Wisconsin

Governor Doyle signed the bill that permits continued funding of virtual schools, with a relaxed cap on enrollments while a study is being conducted to determine their effectiveness on several different fronts.  This is a temporary 'fix'.

This represents a real victory for those parents who have enrolled their children in these educational institutions and who love the result.  Yes, these are educational 'institutions' even though it is difficult to see the walls.  Yes, the students do seem to thrive in this setting.  Yes, union teachers are involved in the instructional process.  Yes, they do seem more efficient in some ways than the typical brick and mortar schools with which we are all familiar.

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Surprise! Rich Get Richer Faster Than Poor...

Economy, Education, Healthcare, Political, Quality of Life, SCHIP, Taxes, U.S., Wisconsin

The Center on Wisconsin Strategy and the Wisconsin Council on Children & Families, both found in Madison, have released a report that reaches the startling conclusion you see in the headline above.

Wow!  What a surprise!  Further into the article in today's Journal Sentinel that discussed this amazing statistic, we find out that Wisconsin actually ranks quite well so far as this measurement is concerned...but apparently not well enough to make these groups comfortable.  The report shows that the gap in Wisconsin is actually smaller than on average across the country.  The report found that Wisconsin actually ranks 11th out of the 50 states in this regard, and that means the gap between top and bottom fifths of the population are lesser.

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Lake Michigan Water Issues Remain...

Economy, Political, Quality of Life, Wisconsin

The Governor has negotiated a deal with the Republicans to get the Great Lakes compact passed so that he can sign it.  The Republicans shouldn't have rolled over on this issue.

Does this mean anything to us Germantown citizens?  Not directly since we are located in the Great Lakes Basin and can have access to the water in Lake Michigan should we ever need that.  If we were in Colgate, though, we wouldn't be permitted to access Lake Michigan water.  Why?  Because Germantown is on the eastern side of the subcontinental divide and Colgate is on the west.  Water from Germantown flows ultimately back to the Great Lakes Basin.  Water in Colgate flows eventually to the Mississippi River and down to the Gulf of Mexico.

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Darling Vs. Wasserman Race Off To Bad Start...

Political, Wisconsin

I received a copy of the statement released by Sen. Alberta Darling assailing rumors that were being circulated about her health.  She was angry over reports suggesting she had health problems that would keep her from serving another term.  An earlier article had appeared in 'Milwaukee Magazine' in which it was reported that she was "struggling with health problems".  Apparently the editor of that publication later admitted not having done the necessary fact-checking and published a statement pointing out the mistake.

Rep. Sheldon Wasserman has denied any involvement in this activity and vowed that he would never add such a thing to the race.  He is a physician and should certainly be sensitive to the sanctity of individual health information.  Among other things is a law called HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) that carries heavy financial penalties for any leaks of personal health information.

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Incidents of Insight...

Economy, Healthcare, Political, Quality of Life, Taxes, U.S.

The campaign for President of the United States seems, to me at least, interminable at this point.  It has been going on for years now in one or another forms.  We might think that we would, by now, even if trying to avoid the process, know the candidates almost as well as they know themselves.  The answer is that we do...and we don't.

Each candidate is artfully packaged by his or her 'handlers' to be just what the handlers' believe we all want in our next President.  Each candidate has been drilled on the policies and pitfalls.  Each has had multiple lines written for them that have, by now, become their own.  Different questions in different parts of the country elicit responses with slight variations on the central theme.

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New Age Of Majority?

Education, Healthcare, Political, Quality of Life

Governor Doyle recently signed a bill that establishes age 15 & 1/2 as the age at which a person residing in Wisconsin can make his or her decision to donate organs if they were to die.  The age until now had been established at 18.  This was included in Assembly Bill 570 that was co-sponsored by Rep. Jeskewitz and Rep. Wasserman, names familiar to our community.

I have close friends who have experienced the life-giving results of organ donors' decisions.  They are passionately in favor of the program.  I am not discussing the pro and con of organ donation.  I am not raising questions about youthful donors; organs have been harvested and donated from infants and children for a long time.

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Developer Reimbursement In JournalSentinel Article...

Germantown, Village Board

The reimbursement of 'pre-engineering costs' by the Village to Asset Development Group was the subject of Tom Kertscher's article in the morning paper.  This involves the bonding issue that Germantown floated on behalf of Asset Development for sanitary sewer costs associated with two manufactured housing parks.

This issue has remained contentious and seems destined to continue on that path for at least the near-term.  This reimbursement was for some $67,000 in expenses that Asset Development had incurred for this project.  The payment was approved on a 5-3 vote with Trustee Zabel abstaining.  The three 'No' votes came from Dean Wolter, Mel Ewert and Michael Bech.  Wolter stated that he didn't think the agreement called for this reimbursement, and Ewert said he didn't think the payment should be made because the expenses were incurred before the contract was signed.

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Northwest & Delta...Good or Not-So-Good?

Economy, Quality of Life, Wisconsin

Northwest and Delta have announced that they are merging.  Northwest will essentially disappear into what will be known as Delta, and the headquarters will be located in Atlanta.  What does this hold in store for us passengers here in Milwaukee-land?

For starters, Northwest owns 47% of Midwest.  This 'merger' needs the approval of the Feds and part of that review has to do with monopolies being formed.  What if Northwest is told it must divest itself of its Midwest holdings before the 'merger' deal will be approved?  It will then need to find a buyer for Midwest.  Re-enter Air Tran.  Air Tran has already shown its intent to move into the Milwaukee market and make this a hub, and this would give it the opportunity to do the deal it wanted to do originally.  It could buy the 47% owned by Northwest and then wait until TPG decided it was time to cash out on the 53% it holds.  We were fearful that Midwest would ultimately become owned by Northwest and fretted over the meanings of such a deal.  There is a distinct potential for the return of Air Tran in my estimation.

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Germantown Slogan?

Germantown, Village Board

The Village Board is apparently considering the creation of a 'mission statement' that would succinctly describe our community in a phrase.  A mission statement is often more than a phrase or a few words that are descriptive.  The examples that follow seem to indicate that a 'slogan' is more what is being considered.

Administrator Dave Schornack provided three examples, and those were:

  • Excellence in Public Service
  • Striving for Excellence in Public Service
  • Committed to Excellence in Public Service

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Congratulations Menomonee Falls...

Economy, Potpourri, Quality of Life

Our neighbors to the south have just scored a significant new deal that will see a 110 room Radisson Hotel rise up like a Phoenix where the old, run-down motel stands today at the intersection of Main Street and Hwys. 41-45 in the Falls.  The eyesore will begin to be redone quickly according to reports and will include a 'name' restaurant when completed.

The development group doing the Radisson will also construct a total of 82 condominium units across the street from the hotel site apparently in three increments.

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Subliminal Self-Fulfillment...

Economy, Political, Quality of Life, Taxes, U.S., Wisconsin

Nearly all of us are bombarded with information tidbits from the time we awake until we retire at the end of our day.  We live in the world of 24 hour news cycles unlike our forefathers.  We have electronic access virtually no matter where we find ourselves.  We are truly the 'plugged in' generations...and I submit we may well be too 'plugged in'.

If you're old enough, you may remember Mad magazine and the caricature character who graced its cover...Alfred E. Neumann.  The caption that accompanied the picture was..."What?  Me Worry?"  This was published before we became so well connected, back when print was more the primary conveyance for information.  I sometimes think back to Alfred E. Neumann and wonder if he would've been the happiest person on earth today, or if he would've also succumbed to what I've chosen to call "Subliminal Self-Fulfillment".

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Free Speech...Repugnant But Free...

Potpourri, Quality of Life, U.S.

The HBO network has retained the services of Bill Maher for some time now.  I don't watch HBO only because it isn't part of my DirectTV package.  I likely will not watch HBO in the future, but for another reason.

Mr. Maher has chosen the time of the visit of this Pope to our country to launch into a vitriolic attack on Catholics and the Catholic church.  I am not Catholic, but I do consider myself to be a Christian.  I am not favorably disposed toward pedophilia nor toward members of the priesthood who have engaged in and/or tacitly condoned that despicable conduct.  I do know that pedophilia amongst clergy has not been limited to the Catholic church.

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Village Committee Assignments Made...

Fire Department, Germantown, Police, Political, Quality of Life, Village Board

President Kempinski has made his committee assignments for the coming year and the Board has approved those assignments.

Notable, and laudable, is the fact that Trustee Langer is no longer Chair of the Public Safety Committee and does not sit on that committee any longer.  Given Trustee Langer's former role as a POC firefighter for the Germantown department, this removes any appearance that might have suggested a personal agenda present in decisions made on that committee.

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NYC Equity Investment Firm & Germantown?

Economy, Germantown, Political, Potpourri, Quality of Life, U.S.

It is expected that Corsair Capital, a New York based private equity group will sign a deal with National City today that will affect Germantown.  You've guessed by now, if you're a regular reader, that the effect is to keep our newest bank name, National City Bank, in Germantown, at least for the foreseeable future.  Corsair and some other individual investors will put around $6 billion into National City at a share price of some $5.00.

We earlier traced the evolution from St. Francis Bank to Mid America Bank to National City Bank in the first Blog that discussed the plight of National City.  It's shares closed at $8.33 on Friday and that marked a 52 week decline in value of 78%.

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Yes...It Is Legal...

Germantown, Political, Village Board

Some members of the Village Board are reported to be using the 'tactic' of claiming miles from work to the Village Hall even though that is a trip that they'd have made on the way home.  It is probably fine so far as the IRS is concerned.  It has been done in many different settings over the course of time.  If there is a specific reason/need for the stop at the Village Hall, then that is fine.  If this is simply a convenient way to gain a deduction while satisfying the recently enacted requirements of expense accounts, it troubles me.

The trouble with these kinds of things is that, even though not illegal, some might take away the wrong impression from this knowledge.  These kinds of things can too often cloud the minds of people.  These things can cause people to 'see' things that may not be there.  These are the things that help to create or feed the 'us versus them' issues.  These are the things that not all would be comfortable in doing.

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Good Old, Reliable MATC...

Economy, Education, MATC, Political, School Board, Taxes, Village Board, Wisconsin

We've gone a long time between Blogs centering on MATC, but it is again time to take a critical look.  A 'headline' from some time ago suggested that MATC just can't help itself.  That seems to be the case.  They certainly don't seek out the kind of news coverage they tend to generate.  No organization would want to be in this type of 'limelight' and yet they do it to themselves over and over and over again.

Yesterday we learned that poor old MATC was being chastised by the 'state' for having proposed a budget that would require a property tax increase of some 6.4%.  It seems that even Governor Doyle thought that was too high, and that is going some when you think about all the tax increases and fee increases he has dumped in our laps.

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Disturbing News Article...

Germantown, Political, Village Board

Ty Finke wrote an article titled "Village president's campaign finance manager resigns" that appears both on the GermantownNOW site as well as in today's print edition.

The article is disturbing to me on several counts.  It seems to point up a schism between President Kempinski and Trustee Langer.  Mr. Langer was the 'campaign finance manager' referred to in the headline.  He reportedly resigned as the result of changes made to the campaign finance reports that he had helped Mr. Kempinski prepare a year ago.  I presume that one would not retain the services of anyone other than a trusted friend/acquaintance for such a sensitive role.  And such a seemingly abrupt end to the relationship raises questions for me.

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Mequon Rd./Wausaukee Intersection...

Germantown, Political, Quality of Life, Taxes, Village Board, Wisconsin

The intersection of Wausaukee and Mequon Roads has been accident prone for some time with the increased traffic loads that have developed.  The state Department of Transportation had originally indicated that it intended to place a 'round-about' at this intersection to slow traffic and control the flow through the intersection.  Seemingly the fact that this involved a state highway with relatively high speeds hadn't crossed the state's institutional mind.  Long story short, a couple of Germantown people who are no longer in office worked diligently to get this intended action changed and succeeded.

The state recently announced that a traffic light intersection would be created at that location and that the state would fully fund the work with the proviso that Germantown maintain the intersection.  Part of this intersection is in Ozaukee County and Mequon.

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Costs Of Food & Fuel...

Economy, Political, Quality of Life, Taxes, U.S.

We are experiencing a significant increase in costs for two 'staples' in our lives, food and fuel.  Rice purchases are being limited in some stores because people have begun to hoard this basic food item.  Gasoline and diesel fuel are both at all time highs and are moving higher.  Grocery costs are escalating rapidly.

How is it that this can be happening?  What is driving this rapid cost escalation?  Is it the Republicans having been in office for the past seven plus years?  Will a Democrat president change all this?

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Mequon Road Intersection Update...

Germantown, Police, Political, Quality of Life, Taxes, Village Board, Wisconsin

I received several emails that provided some additional information and thoughts on the subject of the intersection at Mequon and Wausaukee Roads at the very east edge of the village.

Trustee Wolter was kind enough to send an email covering a meeting held at the Germantown Library on Thursday afternoon, April 24th.  The City of Mequon and Village of Germantown were represented, Senator Darling and Representatives Ott and Jeskewitz attended and several Department of Transportation representatives were present.

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Wellness Program To Be Re-Visited...

Germantown, Healthcare, Political, Quality of Life, Taxes, Village Board

Back on March 25th, we discussed the first story that centered on the Wellness Committee within the Germantown employee ranks.  The committee was about to make a request for up to $20,000 to be used in a wellness program for village employees.  This proposal was sent back by the General Government and Finance Committee at that time for more work by the group.  I had mentioned at the time that there seemed little enthusiasm for a $20,000 expenditure but that the committee had been encouraged to formulate more detailed plans and return.

That return visit is scheduled for tonight according to a Journal Sentinel article this morning.  That article stated that the committee will be returning with a proposal for the expenditure of $14,495 this year on wellness activities.  The key here will be the plan of action that they present.

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Disturbing News Follow-Up...

Germantown, Political, Village Board

The 'Disturbing News' Blog posted on April 24th discussed the newspaper article that highlighted Trustee Langer's resignation as Campaign Finance Director for President Kempinski.  Since that time, I have reviewed the campaign finance reports for both individuals.

Copies of the 'resignation' letter written by Trustee Langer dated April 10th and the 'acknowledgement' letter written by President Kempinski dated April 12th were found in the respective folders.  Mr. Langer refers to "many changes on the forms that were turned in and have numerous changes to them that I have no knowledge of" as his reason for the resignation.  Mr. Kempinski responded in his acknowledgment letter by indicating his surprise that this happened a year after the election (for Village President), referred to the "minor amendment" that "had to be made because you did not fill the form out properly" and his statement that "What is most surprising is your failed memory in regards to your making those many changes you have referred to".  Kempinski went on, in his letter, to say that "the forms were filled out by you and signed by you".

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