Archive for October, 2009

Disagreements over budget numbers at City Hall

October 27, 2009

Last week Mayor Dave discussed his budget proposal in a blog post. He explained the need for modest tax increases to make up for the decreased tax receipts this year.

My operating budget proposal came in with an increase in taxes on the average $245,000 house of 3.85%. I understand that’s a tough increase this year even though it’s well below the 15 year average of 4.3%. I’ve asked the City Council to keep the increase below 4%.

However, he emphasized optimism by highlighting some of the advantages to Madison’s fiscal governance:

I’ve asked the Council not to do what I was tempted to do but resisted: dip into our long-term cash reserve or “fund balance.” We’re unique among Wisconsin governments in that we’ve budgeted for a reserve. The City of Madison’s unrestricted cash reserve stands at about $30 million. It’s one of the key reasons that Madison retained its Aaa bond rating this year while Dane County lost its Aaa rating.

However, according to Dean Brasser, the city comptroller, Madison’s situation is not that much better than other cities. I omitted some of the details. Anybody interested in a full copy of the email can contact me.

I enjoyed reading your October 21st blog post entitled “4 & 0” and agree with virtually everything you said.  I do want to follow up, though, on your statement that, “We’re unique among Wisconsin governments in that we’ve budgeted for a reserve.”

Simply stated, Madison is not unique among Wisconsin governments when it comes to maintaining an adequate “reserve,” or fund balance.  Most other municipal governments try to do so, as well.  It’s a matter of fundamental fiscal responsibility.  Fortunately, the Wisconsin governments that do not keep a reasonable reserve are the ones that are unique.

Our auditors reported that, in their experience, it is common for Wisconsin governments to maintain fund balances from 15% to 25% or higher, depending on local factors and policies.

The City of Madison’s stated available General Fund balance goal is 15% of the subsequent year’s budgeted expenditures.  We went into 2008 with a $31,000,000 available fund balance, about 14.5% of the 2009 budget.  We ended 2008 with a $29,500,000 or 13% fund balance level.  I’m predicting that, with the tough revenue year we’ve had, we will end 2009 with an available fund balance of $26,300,000, or about 11.5% of the 2010 budget.

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“Violent drunk drivers”

October 27, 2009

From Mothers Against Drunk Driving:

MADISON, WISC—Today Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) notified its members of

the possible early release of violent drunk driving offenders from Wisconsin Correctional

facilities. MADD also urged victims to make sure they are registered with the Victims Services

Office at the Wisconsin Department of Corrections in order to be notified of any early release of

offenders.

Just in case the drunk drivers come to your home on a vendetta?


Brunch Links

October 27, 2009

Should be a pleasant day today. Sunny with a high of 57 and a low of 38. Just a cappuccino today.

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Make sure to check out Kristin Czubkowski’s run-down of important city meetings this week.

Herald emphasizes its boycott position. Encourages everybody to show up for City Council vote on the proposal next week.

Freakfest plans to host 30 to 40 thousand.

Kyle Szarzynski removed from SSFC for attendance issues. Couldn’t there be a sexier reason?

Republican Party of Wisconsin reacts in poor taste to Lawton’s withdrawal, saying that “Doyle and the White House derailed her candidacy.” If personal issues do surface as the reason for her withdrawal it could look bad for the GOP. Barett, where are you?

Andrew Carpenter opines on the Pledge of Allegiance. A little generic but reminds me of my senior year English teacher, who always said the pledge but always omitted “under God.” Carpenter also should have researched the origin of the inclusion of “under God” in the pledge. It wasn’t always there. It was added during the 1950’s in the midst of anti-Communist hysteria.

Amendments adding up on city budget.

City is poor. State just might be poorer.

Jeff Tyberg says we need term limits in Wisconsin. If we get that, then we can give the pols longer terms.

I tend to believe much of the Progressive-era citizen-decide-everything legacy is misguided, however, Chris Liebenthal raises some interesting points about the Journal-Sentinel’s recent opposition to referenda.

A Wisconsin man desperately “wants stimulus.” He details his attempts to get it. I promise, it’s PG.

Noble Wray is the man! Who destroyed Halloween!

An important piece of info I missed yesterday: the Regional Transit Authority was approved by two key committees and the Dane County Board is expected to deal with the issue soon.

Wow, UWM Democrats are much rowdier than the ones we got here. Who are you guys sending mops to Paul Axel?

Halloween might not lose us money?

October 26, 2009

State Journal:

At least one city official says Freakfest, State Street’s once-vilified Halloween bacchanalia, could eventually break even.

Mayoral aide Joel Plant, who supervises organization of what will be the fourth Freakfest, scheduled for Saturday, said the event is costing the city less each year.

“And our goal is to continue to decrease the public cost,” he said at a news conference today at the Overture Center. “It may be possible that the event ‘breaks even’ at some point in the future but I wouldn’t expect that to happen anytime soon.”

Translation: Halloween is less fun each year. The goal is to decrease the fun as much as possible. Third Eye Blind is playing.

Political scientists on Barrett’s chances

October 26, 2009

There are good reasons I chose not to study political science. However, it was nice to see Wispolitics columnist Steve Walters ask several poli sci professors to give their opinions on Tom Barrett’s chance of getting elected governor. The main issue at hand is Barrett’s Milwaukee origins. Here’s a fact that lends credence to Democrats’ fears:

*Last time a Milwaukee resident was elected governor: Republican Julius P. Heil, in 1938 — or 71 years ago, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau. (Footnote: Milwaukee resident Marty Schreiber served as governor, but he wasn’t elected to the office. Schreiber was elected lieutenant governor, and became governor when Democrat Pat Lucey resigned to become ambassador to Mexico in July 1977.)

Here are what a couple of the political scientists said about the myth of Milwaukee:

— Former state Sen. Mordecai Lee, D-Milwaukee, now a UW-Milwaukee professor:

In the ‘old’ days, the out-state hostility to Milwaukee was largely Jeffersonian in origins: rural life is better than urban, provincialism is better than cosmopolitanism, etc. Now, I’m afraid it’s mutated to be also about race and poverty, tax-eaters-versus-taxpayers.

Without calling anybody a racist. I think it’s easier for a Republican from the Milwaukee suburbs to get independent and swing voters out-state than for a Democrat from the city of Milwaukee. So, Tom would have a more uphill struggle than (Milwaukee County Executive Scott) Walker (or Mark Neumann — also now living in a western Milwaukee suburb).

— UW-Madison political science professor Kathy Cramer Walsh:

Barrett could be elected governor of Wisconsin if he can walk into the morning coffee klatches at gas stations in Mellen, LaCrosse, Muscoda, and Green Bay and make people feel like he is sincerely listening to and understanding their concerns.
The Milwaukee/Madison-versus-outstate divide is perpetuated by folks in outstate areas feeling like no one in the big downstate cities gives a hoot about them. That’s the big barrier, and it is going to take some serious seeking out of people on their own turf in order to overcome it.

I find the first explanation much more convincing. Sure, there is no absence of rural resentment for urban areas, however, not even the most aloof northern Wisconsinite entertains the theory that people in Milwaukee have it good. There will be plenty of negative associations made with Milwaukee politicians, but they will more likely center on corruption, inefficiency and embarrassment to the state. Lee is likely correct in saying that it’s easier from a guy from the Milwaukee suburbs – the epicenter of the Wisconsin bourgeoisie if you will – to wash his hands of the city slicker association than a Democrat, even though if anything, the Milwaukee suburbs should be the target of rural resentment, not that deteriorating mess known as the city.

LAWTON OUT

October 26, 2009

Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton is dropping out of next year’s governor’s election. In an email message to her supporters, Lawton cited “very personal reasons” for leaving the field open to other Democrats.

My deep commitment to our state is second only to my commitment to my family.  For very personal reasons, I will not pursue the Democratic nomination for governor in 2010.

Now people are expecting Barrett to declare, but might there be others as well?

Brunch Links

October 26, 2009

Phillies-Yankees. New York and its gritty, jealous younger brother, the City of Brotherly Love, in the World Series. Philly transit workers have celebrated the occasion with a strike. Atrios is unhappy. Or proud? If you want an omelette and some toast, the Parkway Family Restaurant just might be for you.

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Terrence Wall has finally declared himself for Senate next year. Meanwhile, his opponent is organizing opposition to a troop increase in Afghanistan. Strategizing with other members of Congress to prevent it. He is also “optimistic” on the public option. Whatever you say buddy.

UW to grant illegal immigrants in-state tuition. Very good decision. Could Steve Nass Mike Mikelsen not be reached for a token comment of opposition? Nevertheless, there are very few immigrants at UW anyway.

Guess how much money Brett Bielema makes?

County reaches deal with AFSCME. Wages will be cut 3 percent. Speaking of ASCME, the union just endorsed former Sen. Mark Dayton’s plans to run against Pawlenty in next year’s MN governor’s race.

Verveer proposes greater oversight of downtown safety initiative. Says city spending too much time enforcing drinking age.

Push to give state superintendent broad new powers over chronically failing schools. Will be able to personally order curriculum and personnel changes. WEAC might support it?!

Former DNR secretary claims Doyle forced him out because he pushed for a clean-up of the Charter St Heating Plant.

Abstinence-only education is dying but it might finally be killed in Wisconsin.

I do hate multiple choice tests. They actually make my geology course a lot harder.

An NRA member discusses the push-polling the organization uses.

Teabaggers are bringing a message of hope! Maybe it will be as inspiring as swastikas in a field. By the way, you should definitely check out James Harris, one of the head tea partiers in the area.

The Nitty Gritty boycott

October 23, 2009

I’ll start off by stating an obvious point, which my cherished commenter Paul Axel has advanced on this site on several occasions. The Nitty Gritty was well-deserving of a student boycott long before its owner “disrespected” students. It’s a terrible bar and it’s frankly an embarrassment that so many of-age students crowd into the establishment during “Power Hour” to guzzle down watered-down cocktails and be pushed up against walls vibrating to the sound of Miley Cyrus because the bouncers apparently do not respect the fire code (by the way, Shapiro earlier had the ALRC capacity of the place upped).

Like I said earlier, whether or not I support the Herald and Cardinal’s positions, I am happy to see the campus papers discover their student attitude. And as a history student, I appreciated the Declaration of Independenesque bullshit the Herald put in its version. The Herald – especially the Herald – tends to waffle and triangulate on student issues, and many of the ed board members fear nothing more than being considered liberal.

Because I think having a student vote on the ALRC is a good idea, I see no reason to oppose the boycott of the Nitty. Although the idea of a boycott feels mean-spirited to many-a-gut, it is an effective way of demonstrating a position. The target does not have to be evil or doing evil things. Shapiro did something we don’t like and we’re simply trying to get him to change his position.

Nevertheless, having a student vote on the committee is by no means intuitive. The idea of having constituencies have votes can be questioned. It makes sense to have expert witnesses and have community input on all legislation, but there is not necessarily a reason that any special interest or constituency should have a permanent place at the table – let a lone a vote. However, that’s the system we have. So we might as well get one of our own that same privileges that other groups have.

Brunch Links

October 23, 2009

What a depressing day. You know what you do on days like today? Go to the Paradise Lounge, which was finally featured on Eating in Madison A to Z.

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BOYCOTT. BOYCOTT THE NITTY GRITTY. This is the kind of stuff that a college paper should be doing. After Charley Brace, editor in chief of the Daily Cardinal, sent an email to several people (including yours truly), urging a collective response to ALRC’s refusal to seat a student vote, both Herald and Cardinal run editorials urging a boycott of the Nitty Gritty, whose owner, Marsh Shapiro, was an outspoken opponent of the student vote.

Faculty Senate unlikely to support grad school reforms.

Council members gradually add spending amendments to budget. Mayor concerned.

Peace Park plan approved. Maniaci the sole opponent of plan to restrict (to a certain extent) newspaper vending machines on State St. Cites strain on already struggling industry.

Islamic school in Madison. Need I say more?

New casino in Beloit? Obama is all about gambling.

What? People voted in the ASM election? When was that again? Apparently I’m not a campus elite, because I don’t “vote in all ASM elections.” I’m a man of the people. I don’t vote.

Health care benefits for a congressman are pretty sweet. Rep. Steve Kagen, a physician himself, has turned them down.

Future of nuclear energy in Wisconsin and Minnesota?

Great picture of Mark Neumann. I almost wanted it to be the Brunch picture.

And here’s a political cartoon about Paul Ryan.

Brunch Links

October 22, 2009

The internet is so slow and I think I may have come down with that pig flu thing. So Brunch Links is limited today. Weather is shitty. That being said, the PHILLIES ARE NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONS.

The tragic comedy of Rep. Jeff Wood continues. 5th offense OWI. My theory is he’s doing it to promote the OWI reforms in process. Taking one for the team.

ALRC rejects adding student voting member to committee. Why is that not the main focus on the Herald article on the meeting? Pub gets entertainment license? Although I must say, the story that lead into was very intriguing. Pub owner says he never had any intention to sell the bar, and that information Ald. Mike Verveer provided the Sconz and the Herald is incorrect.

While attending the annual Association of American Universities in Montreal…” What’s wrong with that sentence? Does “America” in that sense mean “the Americas”?

Doyle credits Lawton with promoting the arts and being quite visible. Ouch. He also calls for ending medical marijuana prohibition.

UW professor recognized for work on tobacco addiction.

That would be very interesting…how many State Supreme Court Justices would vote to bar themselves from presiding in cases where campaign contributors are involved?

John Nichols has apparently spent too much time writing editorials. He calls it unfair to disparage Fox News as “not news” just because it presents opinions. Very true, but real news organizations have a separation between editorial and reporting. Fox, like other cable news outlets, does not.

Liberals keep hammering away at Terrence Wall for tax loopholes.

Article in New York Times about the man who has seen more executions than any other American.