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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

Village Buzz - January 1st...

Fire Department, Germantown, Quality of Life, Village Buzz

Happy New Year Germantown...

2009 is upon us and brings with it hope for a better year.  Those of us who are optimistic see the new year as containing many exciting new challenges and opportunities.  Those of us who are pessimists tend to dwell on the problems of last year and see those continuing.  We each have the personal decision to take as to how we'll view the start of this year.  I have always been of the belief that each new year will be as good as I make better and no worse.  I am also a firm believer in attitude making a big difference in our lives.  If we pursue each day with a positive attitude, we're much more likely to end each day feeling good about how we spent it.  The choice is mine, and not anyone else's.  Obviously, we'd define some days as being better than other days, but each has its special lesson for us if we search that out.

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An American...

Potpourri, Quality of Life

I received an e-mail that was circulating through a group of military and special operations types.  It purports to be about an Australian Dentist who wrote an editorial.  I checked Snopes and found that this piece was actually written by Peter Ferrara, an associate professor of law at the George Mason University School of Law.  It was originally published in the National Review on September 25, 2001.

I thought it very well written and wanted to share it in the event that you haven't been exposed to it before.

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So What...

Potpourri, Quality of Life, U.S., Wisconsin

Lee Enterprises is in trouble.  It is based in Davenport, IA.  It publishes newspapers.  Its stock sold at $14 per share a year ago and closed recently at $0.41 per share.  It may not be able to continue its operations. 

So what.

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Village Buzz - January 5th...

Education, Germantown, School Board, Village Buzz

School Board Action...

The Germantown School Board has taken steps to bring a 'personal finance' course to the system in the 2009-2010 school year.  This course would be, as discussed so far, a half-credit course running for a semester.

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Uncle Jay Explains...

Political, Potpourri, Quality of Life

This link was sent to me by a longtime reader and sometime contributor.  He thought we all might appreciate a tuneful look back at 2008, with a few slightly irreverent portions depending upon your point of view.

Please click here

Democrat Control In Wisconsin Has Begun...

Economy, Political, Quality of Life, Taxes, Wisconsin

Let's see how they do with their newfound control.

The state has a record deficit totaling some $2.5 billion using GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) as those of us in the real world must.

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Village Buzz - January 6th...

Fire Department, Germantown, Quality of Life, Taxes, Village Board, Village Buzz

Fire Department Staffing Question...

I received an e-mail from a concerned citizen (whom I know, who has no axe to grind and who isn't a 'crackpot' in any way) yesterday who raised the question as to whether we might be at the point where we needed to add to our full-time firefighter staffing numbers.  He was talking about the Christmas day fire and his e-mail read like this:

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Penny Postcards...

Here is something in a lighter vein.

Remember the old 'penny postcards'?  If you do, and I certainly do, then I think you'll really enjoy this site. If you're too young to have experienced a 'penny postcard', this site will help you experience something from our collective past.

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Village Buzz - January 7th...

Education, Germantown, Political, School Board, Village Board, Village Buzz

Village Board Races...

The trustee positions that are up for election in the spring (Tuesday, April 7th) and the people who are candidates are as follow:

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Village Buzz - January 8th...

Fire Department, Germantown, Quality of Life, Village Board, Village Buzz

Fire Department Discussion...

The Village Buzz of January 6th concerning the Christmas day fire has drawn some intense response.  There is more to the story and I learned that from others yesterday.  I have agreed with village officials to wait until later today to post that information.

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Three, or Four, or Five...

Education, Wisconsin

Those are the number of potential candidates for the State Superintendent position in Wisconsin this spring.  The number is assured of being at least three.  Two others are attempting to "rehabilitate" the signatures ruled as irregular.  Those two are Lowell Holtz who is the Superintendent of the Beloit School District, and Todd Alan Price who is a professor at the National-Louis University.  Holtz had 1,930 signatures that met the requirements and Price had 1,884.  2,000 is the magic number.  They have until tomorrow to make the necessary changes/corrections if they hope to be in the race.

In the meantime, there are three "for sure" candidates: Deputy State Superintendent Tony Evers,  parent advocate Rose Fernandez, and Concordia University professor Van Mobley.  That having been said, there will be a run-off on February 17th with the top two vote getters moving on to the spring election on April 7th.

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Village Buzz - Follow-Up - January 8th...

Fire Department, Germantown, Village Buzz

Newspaper Changes Continue...

Economy, Quality of Life

I have written about the changing landscape that is 'the newspaper' rather often as this saga continues to unfold.  I am, obviously, writing a blog on a website owned and operated by a newspaper, something that wasn't possible only a few years ago.

The last change announced by the Journal Sentinel organization was that of an increase in newsstand prices.  Since I have become a Sunday-only subscriber just recently, that had some small impact on me because I had taken to buying only the Thursday edition.

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Drugs: What You Need To Know

Education, Germantown, Police, Quality of Life

The Germantown Youth Futures organization is sponsoring a program that I previewed during my Citizen Police Academy experience last year.

This program is presented by the Germantown Police Department and features Corporal Dan Delmore who is certified as a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE).  Cpl. Delmore has tremendous knowledge about the subject of drugs and about drugs in our community.

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Cell Phone Debate...

Germantown, Police, Quality of Life, Wisconsin

There seems a perpetual debate over the use of cell phones while driving.  Likewise, there seems the general thought that a new law ought be devised to ban the use of cell phones while driving.

I seldom use my cell phone while driving because I recognize that I am not as attentive as I otherwise would be while doing so.  If I had a hands-free option, I might be more tempted to use the phone but I suspect I'd still feel less attentive than I'd prefer while driving.

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Village Buzz - January 12th - G'town Fire Department Follow-Up...

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

The following is from Dean WoIter, Chair of the Public Safety committee of Germantown.  The meeting to which this refers was originally scheduled to occur last Thursday, but was re-scheduled and was held last Friday.  The discussion centers on the Christmas day fire, shortcomings, and action items that will be pursued with the intent of correcting the problems.  Dean has indicated that he is not opposed to discussion about adding to the full-time fire fighter force if that is indicated to resolve the response issues.
"I had promised that I would get back to you concerning the meeting held with members of the Public Safety committee, Village [H]all Staff and the Germantown Fire Department on Friday, January 9th at 2:00pm
Three members of the Public Safety committee, Dean Wolter, Al Vanderheiden, and Mel Ewert, Village Administrator David Schornack, Village President, Tom Kempinski, Deputy Chief Mike Maury, and Deputy Chief John Delain were present.
The meeting began with discussions about the December 25th fire call, the response times, the staffing of the equipment, and the amount of POC's that responded to the dispatch call on that day. Deputy Chief John Delain went through the account again as was stated on your blog on Thursday, January 8th.
Questions were asked about the number of vehicles and the staffing of each, and the time it took to get the first and last truck on the road and toward the vicinity of the fire. No one present disagreed that the response time should have been better, but further discussions went to the area of how that could be improved for future structure fire calls that may happen at night or on a Holiday.
The Germantown Fire Department currently has 29 paid on call fire fighters and 5 part time and full time fire fighters. Although there is a schedule for when POC's are on call, personal responsibilities like employment, family life and the like can cause a POC not to be able to respond to all dispatches when called. It is the POC's responsibility to find a replacement when they know they will not able to fulfill their On Duty responsibilities, but there are times when that cannot always be foreseen or planned for.
There is an accounting made of when a POC shows up for a call and when they do not. Since all POCs are volunteers, it is at times difficult to reprimand or discipline a POC when they miss a call or a string of calls due to other personal responsibilities. We do not want to diminish our ranks through the process of over discipline or punishment. A debate commenced about the responsibilities and expectations of the POC when they join the volunteer fire department. Rather than dwell on enforcing or strengthening the procedures for discipline of a missed call, discussions were had on how to build incentives for POC's to make a majority of the dispatch calls they are scheduled to cover. With a good incentive program in place, POC's may make it a priority to attend more training sessions and drill sessions, things that are needed to sharpen and hone their skills as a fire fighter in Germantown.
The meeting lasted about an hour and a half.  Action items that came out of the meeting are as follows:
1) Deputy Chief Mike Maury and Deputy Chief John Delain are in charge, and acting Chief(s) of the Germantown Fire Department. They shall share the responsibilities of Chief until the time of Chief Pollpeter's return. These responsibilities include the day to day running of the GFD, the power to write changes in procedures, and the continued scheduling of all training, drills and officers meetings. They are responsible and accountable for all actions and activities of the Germantown Fire Department. All changes in procedure are to come before the Public Safety committee for review and comment.
(With Chief Pollpeter out for an indefinite period, leadership roles need to be established and maintained at the fire department)
2) Review of Discipline procedures and record keeping of attendance on drills, training and dispatch calls for all POC's and full time and part time fire fighters.
(POCs attendance on responding to calls needs to be recorded and tracked. POCs that are only making a small percentage of calls need to be addressed and a procedure put in place to increase percentage of responded calls or address issues causing POC to not respond to calls when scheduled. Attendance in training sessions and drills should be tracked and recorded. This includes all employees of the GFD, full time, part time and POC fire fighters.)
3) Create and implement a incentive program for POC's. Program will revolve around responding to dispatch calls and the covering of scheduled shifts.
(An incentive program could be developed to increase percentage of responded calls for POC's. With better attendance on calls, drills and training attendance should increase as well. Attendance to calls will be tracked and possibly posted in all fire stations. Monthly reports of POC call attendance will be made available to the Public Safety committee for their review and recommendation. Attendance at Fire drills and training sessions of all GFD staff will also be made available.)
4) Review and draft a possible procedure for night time and holiday dispatch calls to be taken from Station #1.
( With the current issue of having enough staff for a piece of equipment to safely roll out on a call,, a way to solve this issue maybe to take all calls received at night and on Holidays from only one Fire Station. Equipment would need to be moved to accommodate this procedure. Deputy Chief Delain and Deputy Chief Maury will investigate this possibility and make a report of it's advantages, dis-advantages and possible feasibility.)
Al, I am not moving completely away from my prior position of investigating adding more full time/ part time staff to the Germantown Fire Department. Many other issues within the GFD need to be looked into and solved, before we add staff or increased costs to the GFD. Safety of our residents is priority one, and the current safety committee takes that responsibility very seriously.
I was very happy with the progress and the outcome of the meeting. Through communication and discussion a good solid plan has been devised, one that I believe will benefit all within the GFD and ultimately benefit the residents of Germantown."
I had further correspondence with Dean and was assured that all these matters would be part and parcel of regularly scheduled meetings of the Public Safety committee and, therefore, available to all citizens either in person or over the cable system.  
My original post concerning this subject was written using the information from a Germantown citizen who was doing his best to report what he had learned from a firefighter friend.  There was, in retrospect, some erroneous content in the original post but I believe that was an honest 'heat of the moment' mistake by the firefighter.  The thrust of the original post proved to be accurate in that there was an issue in the response to this call that needed to be aired in public and resolved in public.

Big Pile Of...Pork

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

Too many of our politicians have been into the political candy jar again and are on the 'sugar high' of all time.  They seem absolutely giddy at the vision of all that money they see dancing before their eyes.

We are going to have an 'economic stimulus' program to get our economy out of the doldrums and moving once again.  That is the good news.  The bad news is that we are going to have an 'economic stimulus' program.....

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Several Thoughts...

Political, Potpourri, Quality of Life

Coming Inauguration...

The coming celebration of Barack Obama's assumption of the Presidency involving upwards of four million people descending upon Washington, D.C. seems a bit incongruous when you consider the 'carbon footprint' that this will represent for so many people who are committed to a greener world.  How many tens of thousands of trees will have to be planted and tended to maturity to even begin to offset this creation of CO2?

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Internet Sales Tax?

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

Among the ideas being floated for inclusion in the upcoming 'stimulus' bill is a sales tax on all purchases made on the Internet.

You may recall that this idea has been brought up by politicians and beat down by us citizens several times in the past few years.  Apparently the thought now is that this massive 'stimulus' bill will provide everyone cover for having included this little gift for us all.

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Family Funerals & Home Towns...

Potpourri, Quality of Life

We left Germantown early on Friday morning to attend the funeral of my last remaining uncle in La Farge, WI ( a very small community that sits on the Kickapoo River and where I lived for the first three or four years of my life).  While it was cold here, we knew we'd arrived when we learned that it was still -35 at 10:30AM.  As we drove into town, I recalled memories from my early childhood.  Spankings received and the reasons behind them were uppermost on my mind; they were mostly deserved, I realized.

My mother was the oldest of the Gabrielson children, and we attended the funeral for the last of her brothers who was 85.  She had died in 1991 and we had not seen many of these folks for about ten years since there is less and less that draws us back to our roots with both sets of parents gone.

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A Hopeful Time...

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

Our nation is in a time of hope.  We are celebrating the day named for Martin Luther King, Jr. and remembering his life and achievements.  And we are about to inaugurate the first African American President in our history.  This is an historic time for our nation.

We are a hopeful nation in spite of the economic conditions we're experiencing at this time.  We're hopeful that the many things discussed during the recent campaign will bear fruit as the majority of people thought would be the case.  We're hopeful that our Congress will be able to bring forth realistic solutions that will do far more good than damage.

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Village Buzz - January 19th...

Economy, Fire Department, Germantown, Police, Quality of Life, Village Buzz

Another Potential Economic Victim...

The Smurfit-Stone Container Corporation is reportedly considering bankruptcy given weakening sales and a cash shortage.  That company has a presence here in Germantown and will add to the woes of our community if it should have to lay off people as the result.

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Who Is Barack Obama?

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

The easy answer first:  he is, as of today, the 44th President of the United States.

The less pleasant answer: we don't know.

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The Former President...

Potpourri, Quality of Life, U.S.

I watched as much of the inauguration yesterday as was possible, given that it was a work day.  It was grandiose and befitting the induction of Barack Obama into the most exclusive 'club' in the world, that of the people who have been the President of the United States of America.

I also, almost by accident, found myself watching the 'homecoming' of former President Bush and Laura to Midland, Texas.

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Village Buzz - January 21st...

Germantown, Political, Village Board, Village Buzz

Representative Knodl Case Moving Toward Deal...

The Journal Sentinel reported that Rep. Dan Knodl's attorney has been working with the Ozaukee County D.A. Sandy Williams to resolve the case that has been causing him embarrassment since before the election when people listed as supporters proved not to be supporters.

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New President Wasting No Time...

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

President Obama has hit the ground running, and that is good for there are many things that require his and our attention as quickly as possible.

Some are already disturbed over the various things he is changing that were done in the form of Executive Orders by the outgoing president in the final days and weeks of his time in office.

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BadgerCHOICE...Ever Hear Of It?

Economy, Healthcare, Political, Quality of Life, Wisconsin

I am violating one of my recent resolutions.  I am writing about a state-run health care program in spite of the fact that my readership drops significantly when I do so.  But this is very important.


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Village Buzz - January 23rd...

Germantown, Quality of Life, Village Buzz

Sendik's Musings...

We needed carrot muffins for friends who would be in our home for afternoon coffee.  We looked in the baked goods kiosks and found none; our inquiries of the lady behind the counter brought a cheery, "Oh we have some.  They're in a four-pack behind you."  She came around and helped us look to no avail.  Someone had already purchased those and there were no more.  She mentioned that they can be sure to have some if we have a special occasion and call ahead.  We continued shopping for the replacement but I overheard our Sendik's helper asking another about carrot muffins.  A few moments later she came from behind the counter again carrying another four-pack of carrot muffins.  They had had one more package in their freezer after all.  That would not have happened in either of the other grocery stores in our community, unfortunately.

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Village Buzz - January 24th...

Germantown, Political, Village Buzz

Marshall Paust Passes Away...

I learned late yesterday that Marshall Paust, a former Germantown Village President, has passed away.

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Marshall Paust Obituary


As a follow-up to the first mention, here is the obituary as published in the Journal Sentinel  today:

Paust, Marshall D. Of Germantown. Went home to his loving Lord Friday, January 23, 2009, at the age of 66 years. Beloved husband of Edie (nee Cop) for over 45 years. Loving and devoted dad of Kristin (Dennis) Braunreiter and Cheryl (John) Swenson. Cherished grandpa of Maggie and John Paust Swenson, and Kylie Braunreiter. Dear son of Eleanor Paust. Uncle of Douglas (Theresa) Paust. Fond brother-in-law and good friend of John (Sheila) Cop. He will be further remembered and dearly missed by many other relatives, friends and associates. He was preceded in death by his father Douglas, brother Donald Paust, and Edie's parents Gustav and Edith Fleming Cop. Visitation Tuesday, January 27, 2009, at the Funeral Home, from 5PM until the time of the Funeral Service, at 7PM, immediately followed by a reception for family and friends. Private inurnment Highland Memorial Park. Marshall's career included Assessor for the Village of Germantown before starting Paust & Associates Real Estate Appraisers. He also served the Village of Germantown as Village Trustee and President for many years. He was past President of the Wisconsin Association of Assessing Officers in addition to being a member of many boards and commissions. The family would like to thank Sr. Mary and the dedicated staff at Franciscan Woods for their loving care and compassion. Memorials in Marshall's name to Franciscan Woods deeply appreciated. SCHMIDT & BARTELT Funeral and Cremation Service 10121 W. North Ave. Wauwatosa 414-774-5010

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It's Back...MATC That Is...

Education, Germantown, Political, Quality of Life, Taxes, Wisconsin

Tom Kertscher reported yesterday on the business incubators that are owned and operated by MATC (Milwaukee Area Technical College for those of you new to the area) on the south and north sides of Milwaukee.  We wrote about these money-consuming abuses last year.  At the time, of course, we were hopeful that we'd be out from under this 'stuff' by now given the effort then underway to be permitted to move from this taxing district to another.

As we probably all remember, that petition was summarily dismissed by the state board that oversees technical colleges after a couple of "show" hearings.

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Village Buzz-January 26th...

Economy, Germantown, Police, Quality of Life, Village Buzz

Smurfit-Stone Files Chapter 11 Bankruptcy...

The Village Buzz of January 19th mentioned the possibility being discussed of this happening.  Smurfit-Stone Container Corporation has filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of bankruptcy law.  Both U.S. and Canadian subsidiaries will undergo the voluntary reorganization.  The Canadian subsidiaries are covered under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act in Canada.

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Village Buzz - January 27th...

Germantown, Political, Village Board, Village Buzz

Open Meetings Law...

I wrote about a meeting held in the Village Hall in the Village Buzz of January 21st.  That meeting involved the Village Administrator, Dave Schornack, the Village President, Tom Kempinski and Trustees Wolter, Vanderheiden and Ewert.  In addition the deputy chiefs of the fire department were present.  The discussion was with concern to the fire that occurred on Christmas day.

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Is The Press On Vacation?

Political, U.S., Wisconsin

Is the press on vacation?  I haven't heard or read much of anything critical since around January 21st.  I can only assume the press is taking some time off after the hectic season of supporting the Obama candidacy.

Seriously, there is a very different tone apparent in articles in newspapers around the country.  James Taranto discussed this on his blog for the Wall Street Journal.  He referred to it as the change by the Associated Press (AP) from "accountability journalism" to "pliability journalism".

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It Is All Around Us...

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

What is all around us?  The constant drumbeat of how bad things are and how long this will last is all around us.  We find it difficult to turn on a radio or television newscast without hearing anew just how bad everything is getting to be.  Newspapers are full of the bad news.  Electronic media of all ilks are full of bad news.

In reality, there are problems; no one can deny that.  Jobs have been lost and will probably continue to be lost for a few more months to come.  Wisconsin's unemployment rate is hovering around 7% now and that is some 2% higher than normal.

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Economy, Political, Quality of Life, Taxes, Wisconsin

The "state of the state"...

It seems apparent that we are in "deep do-do" so far as the finances of our state.  That should come as no surprise to anyone remotely following the subject.  We increase spending but we never seem to decrease any spending.  Once a program is in place, it stays in place.  It gets more funding with each budget cycle because, of course, inflation has eroded its buying power or limited the number of people it can help or any of another dozen excuses.

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Budget Problems In Wisconsin

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

When most of us think of Medicaid we think of the federally-funded program that helps people who are in need. It started that way, but it has morphed over time, as do many government programs.  In the world today, Medicaid permits states to 'experiment' using a combination of federal dollars and state dollars.  In the world today, Medicaid doesn't necessarily mean that the people using the programs are "in need", as we would've defined the term years ago.

There are programs in Wisconsin that permit people earning up to three times (300%) the federal definition of "poverty" level incomes.  Some states have received permission to move that to 400%.  Poverty is defined by the government for 2008 as an annual income of $14,000 for a family of two, $21,200 for a family of four, $28,400 for a family of 6 and so on.  So, a family of four in Wisconsin could qualify for the BadgerCare Plus health program if they earned less than $63,600 per year.

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Village Buzz - January 31st...

Germantown, Potpourri, Village Buzz

Pat T Cakes...

I received a question from a former Menomonee Falls blogger about what had happened to her favorite 'cake place'.  It seems she had stopped where Pat T Cakes used to be only to find it closed.  She was very sad, and being a reader of this blog, thought she'd ask if I had any idea as to whether or not the owner was still in the business.

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