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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Breaking news---Shuttle may need in flight repair of new breach

Yahoo news is reporting that new "filler" material is protruding from between tiles on the shuttle and this may require fixing on the third spacewalk. This breach was not the result of liftoff debris.

Click on the post to read the entire story. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Supreme Court Nominee Roberts had key role in 2000 Vote Recount

According to the Miami Herald, the Bush nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Roberts, played an important behind the scenes role in the Bush effort to win the Presidency in 2000. He even paid his own plane fare to Florida to help the Bush legal team prepare. Was he a partisan enthusiast or just a mild mannered jurist? Expect a few questions about this during the hearings in September.

Click the post for the entire Miami Herald article.

Amish near Evansville thrive beyond farming

The Janesville Gazette has done a nice sketch of Mr. Helmuth and Custom Quality Windows which is located near Evansville, but more importantly, the article describes the gradual emergence of the Amish as successful business owners beyond the narrow farming roles they have traditionally pursued.

City denies Sandwich Signs--- businesses struggle

The yellow and black sandwich signs of Real Coffee at the corner of Main and Madison streets have become a symbol in Evansville that the downtown is still open----but the City Council recently denied approval of their use.

Danielle has written a nice article in the Janesville Gazette on this problem. Click on the post to read the article. What do you think on this issue? Is a little flexibility during times of construction distress in order? Should these type of signs be able to be used on a regular basis?

You make the call. The comment line is open.

Truancy by Judge Thomas J. Alisankus

By Judge Thomas J. Alisankus

Recent events in Evansville brought to light the subject of truancy. As such, I thought it might be helpful to discuss what truancy is, as well as what it isn’t, according to Wisconsin law. While I have decided to make this a more ‘user-friendly’ article by omitting statutory references, state laws involving truancy can generally be found by referring to sections 118.15 and 118.16 of the Wisconsin Statutes. These statutes can easily be found online, at sites such as www.wisbar.org .

It may also be useful to give a brief overview of the differences between statutes and ordinances, as well as some general rules regarding their interpretation. Note the words ‘brief’ and ‘general’.

Wisconsonites are proud of the concept of ‘home-rule’. In essence, this is the belief that local communities know best what they need, and how to govern; each community gets to establish its own way of doing things. This is somewhat oversimplified, but a good starting point. True to this concept, state law allows municipalities to create their own ordinances to govern various kinds of conduct to the extent that each community desires. Ordinances are generally grouped into two types—statutory-counterpart, and non statutory counterpart. In other words, communities have the choice of either taking an already established state law, and ‘adopting’ it as an ordinance, or, in certain cases, the community can create its own ordinance that has no statutory counterpart. For example, Evansville has an ordinance against disorderly conduct. Instead of reinventing the wheel, Evansville’s City Council long ago ‘adopted’ the state law against disorderly conduct as the City’s ordinance against disorderly conduct; it’s the exact same wording. Generally, a community can enact the entire state traffic and misdemeanor criminal code as statutory-counterpart ordinances.

This leads to one of the major differences between state laws and ordinances: Violations of state law can result in a monetary fine as well as a jail or prison sentence and a criminal record ; violations of ordinances can result in a forfeiture (basically, another word for ‘fine’, but used for ordinance violations) and certain other ‘dispositions’ (such as community service) but no criminal record, and no jail time (unless, of course, you don’t pay the forfeiture, or otherwise abide by court-ordered dispositions). If a community has a municipal court, then that court handles all ordinance violations.

One final comment about laws/ordinances: Any law or ordinance can be modified by a subsequent court decision. This is part of our system of ‘checks and balances.’ An extreme, but perhaps best known example of this is found in section 940.04 of the Wisconsin Statutes. That section makes abortions illegal in Wisconsin; it is a state law, still on the books. However, as most know, the U.S. Supreme Court made such laws unconstitutional to enforce in its 1973 decision of Roe v. Wade. (Sidebar: One may wonder why this state law, adopted in 1969, is still on the books in 2005. The answer is quite simple: If Roe v. Wade is ever overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Wisconsin Legislature would not have to engage in a debate to ‘reinstate’ the law, because it is already on the books. That, however, is for another article, by a different author.) The Wisconsin Supreme Court held in 1991 that municipal courts had the authority to determine the constitutionality of municipal ordinances.

With that background, we can now explore truancy. There are basically two types of truancy—what is commonly referred to ‘daily’ truancy, and ‘habitual’ truancy. Daily truancy is defined as “[A]ny absence of part or all of one or more days from school during which the school attendance officer, principal or teacher has not been notified of the legal cause of such absence by the parent or guardian of the absent pupil….” Habitual truancy is defined by law as missing part or all of 5 or more days in one semester without an acceptable excuse.

State law gives fairly broad authority to local school boards to “….establish a written attendance policy specifying the reasons for which pupils may be permitted to be absent….” In other words, it is generally up to the school board what constitutes an acceptable reason for being absent. The school district’s attendance policies may be found at: http://www.evansville.k12.wi.us/pupilservpolicies.htm There are some exceptions on this topic listed in state law; however, because as Judge, I may some day be called upon to interpret both the law and the exceptions, it would not be ethically appropriate for me to discuss them further.

The City of Evansville has adopted the provisions of state law regarding habitual truancy as ordinances. In order for the City to prosecute habitual truancy cases, there must be evidence that the school complied with the requirements in section 118.16(2) of the Wisconsin Statutes, as adopted by municipal ordinance. These provisions are only required to be met in habitual truancy cases. However, this same language appeared in the City’s ordinance prohibiting daily truancy as well. It is my understanding that City Counsel will be asked to withdraw those requirements as they apply to daily truancy cases, and return the local ordinance for ‘daily’ truancy to a statutory counterpart ordinance as described above. In fact, this may have already been done by the time this article is distributed. Finally, parents and guardians can also be prosecuted for ‘contributing to truancy’.

Penalties for the two types of truancies vary greatly. For example, daily truancy has a penalty of $50.00 plus costs for the 1st offense, and $100.00 plus costs for a second or subsequent offense w/in 12 months of the first offense. Additionally, the court can order participation in various counseling and other activities, including community service.

On the other hand, penalties for habitual truancy are much steeper. They include a forfeiture of not more than $500.00 plus costs (assessed against the student and/or the parents or guardian of the student); driver’s license suspension (or, if the student doesn’t have a driver’s license, a court-order to the Dept. of Transportation to delay the issuance of a license to that student; a suspension of any work/employment permits; home detention; student and/or family counseling at the parent’s expense; informal or formal supervision, and other reasonable orders of the court. Failure to abide by these orders (dispositions) can result in additional penalties, including electronic home monitoring at the student’s expense, and incarceration in the juvenile detention facility.

The whole purpose of truancy laws are to promote the legal requirement of ‘compulsory education’ as defined in the state statutes. To that end, all three branches of government are involved: The Legislative branch—by passing state laws or adopting municipal ordinances; the Executive branch—whereby police, in their discretion, take enforcement action pursuant to a school complaint of truancy; and the Judicial branch, which assures that neither the Executive or Legislative branches exceed their constitutional authority—which, once again, is a topic for another article….

Friday, July 29, 2005

On why every town may have a heart specialty hospital; On why Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minn calls for regulation

Back in the 70's, when there was intense interest in controlling health care costs, there was a process called "rate review," in which each budget of each hospital was reviewed by a state rate review panel. Adding new beds was forbidden unless extreme need of the community was shown. In order to add to a specialty area, first the hospital had to show that they were doing the number of cases that would qualify them as a high volume specialty location. This prevented small hospitals from loading up on unjustifiable technology when in fact they did not have the volume to be good at the procedures they were offering, much less the staff to deliver the highest quality service.

Just to review, in those days, an ambulance bill was $35-50. As a business manager of a big hospital, I once set up a new class of patients, called out patient surgery patients. Considered radical at the time. Ah the good old days. Anyway.

In a little nostalgia, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota has proposed going back to this type of regulation to put a stop to the wild building in health care in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Well, everywhere. Yes, the problem is still the same. Every hospital has figured out that the lifestyle of America is making the heart business where the money is, and it would be nice to be in that business.

Yes, everyone wants to care for your heart. Click on the post to read the entire article. What do you think? Is it time for more regulation in health care to prevent rising health care costs? You make the call.

Camera Cell Phones as weapon in War on Terror?

The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting today that directors of the BART are proposing that passengers on the BART with picture phones be allowed to transmit those pictures to authorities. Interesting concept. You would ride the BART with your phone poised and ready.

Click on the Post for the rest of the story.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

US Senate poised to give gun dealers immunity from suits----

As soon as Friday, the US Senate may vote to grant gun dealers immunity from lawsuits in cases where a legal gun is used illegally. The gun dealers are claiming that they are facing a lawsuit crisis, but opponents cite their statements in SEC filings that state lawsuits do not have a material impact on their profit. The President has said he feels this is about fairness, and that if a gun is legal, the dealer should not be held liable for illegal conduct. The Republicans appear to have the votes for passage.

Click on the post to read the entire article in the USA Today. What are your thoughts on gun regulation or the lack therof? The comment line is open.

Great Wolf earnings diappoint; Why it may be time to break away to Sheboygan?

The Capital Times web edition is reporting that the stock of Great Wolf resorts recently plunged 25% after earnings disappointed due to increased competition, as well as disappointing results from their new water park operation in tourist heaven, Sheboygan. yes.

So, click the post for all the details, but if the Wisconsin Dells location is full, you may be able to cut some neat deals at the location in Sheboygan.

The Shuttle Program is History

The other morning I was at an auto parts store and had a young cashier checking me out with the big boss next to him. There was a color tv behind the checkout area. Just as my transaction was being punched in, the cashier paused and said," Ooh, its launching now," All eyes went to the tv. The boss turned and said, " Well, business is more important, son." The cashier turned and gently and quietly said, " Chief, this is really important."

As we watched, together now, the cashier exclaimed, " Wow, did you see that?" "It was huge."

There is a tipping point in all things. A time when change happens. I believe that that young cashier got it right. That moment was huge. It was a high stakes launch. The techies were wrong---- big time.

The probability of a catastrophic launch event was once thought to be 1-100. Then it was revised to 1-50. To have the "right stuff" meant having the courage to face this risk. However, it is clear that we could have had two out of two.

In a heatbeat, it is over. We need to look to another launch vehicle to get the job done. The faith of the public and the pros has been shattered.

My hopes are with the crew of this mission and their safety. I salute their bravery. I salute the past proud shuttle program. Now we must move on.

What do you think? You make the call.

WATERCOOLER: Did Wis. Gov. Doyle overstep his authority in his 139 vetoes? Was raiding Medicaid and endangering 500,000 citizens correct?

The Janesville Gazette is currently running an editorial asserting that the recent budget vetoes of Gov. Doyle, while making educators happy, was overstepping his authority, and furthermore has endangered 500,000 Wisconsin citizens who are in need of medical care.

Did Gov. Doyle go to far? Was he just following the example of Tommy Thompson? Did they both go too far? Would an override be appropriate?

What do you think of the Janesville Gazette editorial on this issue? You make the call.

WATERCOOLER: Should Libraries restrict R rated movie rentals to kids?

Wisconsin State legislator Tom Reynolds (R-West Allis) has proposed a bill that would require parental approval for library patrons under 17 to check out R rated movies or DVDs. Currently many libraries, including our own here in Evansville, have no such restriction. The proposed law would override the authority of the local library boards to set such policies.

What do you think of this proposed law? You make the call.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Caribou Coffee hit with Wage and Hour lawsuit in midst of public offering of 90Mil securites

Caribou Coffee, a very popular coffee chain similar to Starbucks, has been hit with a wage and hour violation lawsuit right in the midst of its public offering for 90 million dollars of stock.

This lawsuit which will be a class action suit, is being led by Jon Tostrud of Mpls, and who indicates that the mangers of Caribou are typically hired as exempt employees for 40 hours per week and then end up working 55 plus hours a week doing mostly waitress work. He indicates that these type of lawsuits are growing in number and that Starbucks was also sued over this issue.

Click on the post to read the entire story in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Doyle Samurai Sword Stuns crowd, Saves schools

Legislators and the public are still trying to recover from the stunning use of 139 vetoes by Gov. Doyle that fully utilized his broad veto power to powerfuly change the Wisconsin state budget impact.

The Wisconsin State Journal (www.madison.com) has an interesting article this morn called "Madison escapes trap to save schools." Click on the post to read the entire story.

UROCK to begin Electrical Engineering program this fall--Bravo

In the recent state budget the big news was something that was not vetoed, namely the new undergraduate electrical engineering program planned for UW Rock. The Governor had originally proposed the program to begin in the fall of 2006, but the legislature moved the date up to this fall. Teachers from UW Plattville will be utilized to make this happen. Wonderful news for our area students who as I understand it had to go to Milwaukee School of Engineering or Plattville for this degree and face waiting lists to get in.

For the complete story, click on the post to see the Janesville Gazette story this morn.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Regal Beloit (RBC) Doubles Sales, Profit

Regal Beloit headquartered in Beloit has doubled its quarterly sales and profits, mostly due to the acquisition of a related business from GE. It is sure nice to see an acquisition that results in very positive integration. Click on the post to see the story.

Christopher Nelson named new Principal at Orfordville Parkview

Parkview is welcoming a new High School principal. In the past, the junior high and high school had shared a principal. Click on the post to read the nice story by Danielle in the Janesville Gazette.

New Funeral Home opens in Janesville--touts "fair pricing"--Observer references Federal Funeral Rule

The Janesville Gazette (www.gazetteextra.com) is running an article announcing the opening of "All Faiths Funeral and Cremation Services at 1618 Racine in Janesville, and the owner explains that the new funeral home will feature "fair pricing," that will reduce the cost of a normal funeral of about $8000 by about $3000.

What is "fair" in the pricing certainly can be the readers duty as a consumer. However, as a public service announcement, what is "legal" and "fair practices" has been established by the FTC under 16CFR Part 454 in 4/30/84 and is called the Federal Funeral Rule. As I understand it, the enforcement of this rule is by complaint only so the buyer must be aware of it and then complain. However, if you click on the post, you will see that there is a long list of practices that are clearly illegal and some of these may surprise you. If you get a search menu, just type in "federal funeral rule."

Buying funeral services is possibly the most vulnerable purchase of a lifetime. It is important to know what is "fair" and "legal" practices as well as fair pricing.

Investment Corner: Hershey(HSY) buys Scharffen Berger Chocolate

In times of investment difficulty, there are few areas of retreat. Yes, electric utilities, personal care products and chocolate bars are a few areas. Of these, chocolate is my favorite. There was a period of intense debate in our family after watching Marilyn Monroe sing "Diamonds are a girl's best friend," whether diamonds might be better. My youngest made a very strong case for diamonds. The older girls prevailed however, and concluded that on an affordability basis, chocolate was the real dependable investment.

HSY (Hershey Foods) announced that they are buying Scharffen Berger Chocolate, maker of premium chocolate bars, located in Berkeley, CA. I recently toured their plant, and took coumplete tour ( it was free, required reservations, and there was a waiting list). The tour features a free tasting course of various chocolates that is well worth the wait in line. When we visited, the factory was working around the clock and could not keep up with demand. The bars do cost about $4 each, but are well worth it.

I cannot say anything about HSY, but simply would recommend purchasing one of the Scharffen Berger bars when they are available. They are available on line by order. I have posted some pictures of the Chocolate factory in Berkeley. Click the picture for the larger view. Click the post for the complete PR news release on Yahoo news.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Gov. Doyle uses Veto Pen to Refashion Budget

Gov. Doyle today used his veto pen to find $400 million more to funnel to Wisconsin schools than had been proposed by the Republican budget proposal. 159 million came from DOT, 94 million came from cuts for medical assistance, and other monies came from cutting reimbursements rates for nursing homes, pharmacies and Out Patient surgery.

Proposed tax breaks for private schooling, home schooling and adoption were eliminated.

By redirecting the 159 million from DOT and then freezing property taxes, in effect it seems that Wisconsin is getting a new income stream that will be used for education, namely the fuel tax. Thus, it seems odd that the bill actually cut that tax by .01 .

I would have liked to see health impact fees for alcohol and tobacco passed similar to Minnesota and then some of the tax breaks left as proposed.

The Property Tax freeze passed. With all the bond resolutions passed by cities prior to this bill, it is unclear whether proprty bills will be freezed. We will see.

But what do you think? Our Evansville school superintendent has already posted that the impact of the vetoes will mean that many of the earlier budget fears are unfounded.

Click on the post to read the entire article in the Janesville Gazette this afternoon.

RE:: Newsflash: Supt. Heidi Garvin Updates Current School District Situation--Clarifies last month board meeting discussion

--- "Carvin, Heidi" <carvinh@evansville.k12.wi.us>

> Richard,
> The article in the Gazette was about possible cuts
> to be made if the
> Governor was not able to preserve education funding
> in the budget. As of
> today, that list of possible cuts is a moot point
> because the Governor
> was able to preserve a per student increase of $248
> in 05-06 and $252 in
> 06-07. Under the legislative plan, the allowable
> increase in school
> district revenue per pupil under revenue limits
> would have been $120 in
> 05-06; $100 in 06-07 and every year thereafter would
> have required about
> $190,000 in cuts to our budget for 2005-06. These
> are no longer needed.
> A partial veto authorizes the DOA Secretary to
> transfer $330 million
> from the General Fund to the general equalization
> aids appropriation in
> DPI. The veto, combined with a veto to provide
> additional funds to the
> school levy tax credit will "largely restore" the
> property tax relief
> initiative included in the original budget proposal.
> However, that being said, I would still like to
> correct the
> misconceptions created by the Gazette Article.
> When I read the Gazette Article, it appeared to me
> that the editor drew
> his blue line and thus several misunderstandings
> were created:
> 1) I had a 10 item list of possible cuts should the
> budget pass the
> governor's veto pen unchanged. These were only
> possibly cuts, not actual
> changes to the 2005-06 budget. It appears the
> governor has managed to
> salvage school funding so that none of these cuts
> will be necessary.
> 2) I had hoped that the governor would at least be
> able to reduce the
> cuts required if the lower per student increase
> passed by the
> legislature prevailed. 8 of the ten cuts took care
> of what I still
> thought would be an extreme dollar amount to be cut.
> Administration was
> at the top of the cut list, resulting in 2/3 of the
> cut I thought we
> might have to make. At-risk was not even mentioned
> in the first level of
> cuts. Also included in the first level of cuts were
> amounts from
> athletics, building operations and maintenance,
> district travel and
> outside workshops, stipends for work that would be
> assumed by principals
> for curriculum coordination, and summer curriculum
> projects. Again, it
> is looking like none of these cuts will be
> necessary.
> 3) In the extreme case, at risk was listed as
> something that would need
> to be considered for cutting a position, but even at
> that level we
> preserved the funding no matter what for at least
> one position. If it
> had come to actually needing not to fill the vacant
> position, we would
> have looked at how the needs of those students could
> have been covered
> with existing staff.
> We would never have left these student's needs
> uncovered. The middle
> school position was cut due to a vacancy not being
> filled in the last
> round of state budgeting and the impact is being
> felt at the high school
> level as these students move up. We have been trying
> for two years to
> find a way to meet these needs and do not feel we
> have been successful.
> We are actually looking for budget dollars to
> increase at-risk services.
> 4) Ms. Jones and I shared preliminary information
> from an assessment of
> the at-risk program begun last year. The assessment
> indicated that we
> need to make some changes in our at-risk program. We
> will continue that
> process and are considering some changes that may
> take place this fall
> and should actually result in increased staffing in
> this area.
> 5) At that meeting, the board accepted the
> resignation of our Curriculum
> Director, Mary Koehl. This is a critical position to
> the academic
> success of our students. Given the uncertainty of
> the state budget
> situation, and my concerns about finding and hiring
> a candidate of the
> quality we need in that position on such short
> notice, I needed to find
> a way to preserve some of the funds from her
> position while planning for
> how these responsibilities would still be completed.
> To do this, I
> supplied some offsets to eliminating the Curriculum
> Director position
> while this planning took place. The $25,000 that was
> listed as $5,000
> stipends (which I think stirred some of the reaction
> to the Gazette
> article) was a way of preserving some funds until we
> knew where we were
> with the state budget and had a chance as an
> administrative team to plan
> on how the Curriculum Coordinator duties would be
> carried out. In
> reality, the administrators are working well over 50
> hours a week during
> the school year and probably would not have been
> able to pick up
> additional assignments such as coordinating the
> state testing program,
> professional development, state and federal grant
> reports, distance
> learning consortium responsibilities as examples.
> They will have
> increased responsibility at the building level for
> staff training around
> their building goals and curriculum implementation
> in their buildings as
> part of their regular responsibilities. But this is
> a natural
> progression resulting from a number of district
> goals that have been
> unfolding over the last several years in such areas
> as Implementing 6+1
> Writing, Content area reading, Differentiation of
> Instruction, new
> middle school math and elementary reading programs
> to name a few. They
> have been eager to take on these additional
> responsibilities.
> Again, none of these cuts now seem necessary.
> Heidi Carvin
> District Administrator

=== message truncated ===

Re: USH 14 Closure North of Evansville

--- Bill Connors <bill.connors@ci.evansville.wi.gov>

> USH 14 will be closed from STH 92 near Brooklyn to
> STH 138 near Oregon for 30 calendar days starting
> Monday, August 1. The official detour is STH 59
> east from Union Corners to Cooksville, then STH 138
> north to Stoughton, and then west back to USH 14
> near Oregon. Many drivers will instead take STH 92
> to Brooklyn, and then CTH MM north to Oregon, or
> avoid getting on USH 14 and take CTH C out of
> Evansville to CTH T north to Brooklyn, then north on
> CTH MM north to Oregon.
> Bill Connors
> Evansville City Administrator
> 31 S. Madison St.
> P.O. Box 76
> Evansville, WI 53536
> (608) 882-2263
> fax: (608) 882-2282

Running: Cow Chip Classic- 5K,10K--Sept 3, 2005--Prairie du Sac

Everyone should run the Cow Chip Classic at least once. There is nothing like finishing running 5k and then sipping a beverage and watching the cow chip throwing contest. Only in Wisconsin could this happen.

The 5k is an out and back with slight hill on the first mile. The 10K does feature "hearbrake hill." The trophies for the race are unique and distinctive. The T-Shirt is worth the entrance fee alone.

Cycling: Rock Metric Century--Sept 17--Palmer Park

The Rock Metric Century will feature three distances--19, 34 and 64 miles. The 19 mile distance will be quite flat and perfect for families. Click on the post to register on line. Now is the time to fine tune that training. It should be cooler by Sept.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Haight Ashbury, San Francisco, 2005

The Evansville Observer
Never Underestimate the Power of Observation

View from theTower--John Muir Home---Martinez, CA, 2005

Friday, July 22, 2005

Attention Wal-Mart shoppers--prices are going up--China sets yuan currency to float

For years Americans have become addicted to cheap prices for Chinese made goods. In fact, even if you wanted to buy an American tennis shoe, you would be out of luck. Ditto for many areas of goods that were once considered the backbone of American greatness. Last year, sensing that the party was almost over, the Chinese dumped 4 times their previous exports into America as a final parting gift.

Now, the yuan has been set to float. This will raise costs for American consumers but the good news is that maybe people will buy other goods from America that are better made anyway, or maybe manufactures can begin making these products locally now that it might make sense and profit to do so.

In the short term, it may mean inflation, but this will mean jobs for US workers and a lowering of the trade deficit with China. Click the post for an article from the Winston-Salem Journal (www.journalnow.com)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Inverted Yield Curve Saga Continued--

Thomas Oliphant, who you may remember as the guy who ocassionally substitutes for Mark Shields on PBS on Friday nights, has written an article called "Greenspan's dilemma," in the Boston Globe.

In it, he talks about the "inverted yield curve" that I wrote of earlier, and describes why the curve and the high levels of consumer debt for all Americans spell trouble on the horizon. Click on the post for the article.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Obituaries: Michael M. Berg

Our heartfelt condolences to the Berg family, parents Roger and Brenda, sister Stephanie, and wife Sara on the sudden death of Michael on Sunday, July 17,2005.

Visitation will be held at the Ward Funeral Home on Thursday, July 21 from 3pm to 8PM. The funeral service will be held on Friday, July 22 at 11:00AM at the Evansville United Methodist Church.

Pres. Bush nominates Judge John Roberts--tame response so far

After all the hype, the nomination of Judge John Roberts by President Bush was met with pretty tame response. Judge Roberts worked most of his years as a lawyer appearing before the Supreme Court and only two years as a judge. Hence, he only has about 40 written opinions, and only three that had dissents. So, being young, and of little relative controversy has big advantages, similiar to Judge Souter.

Possible areas of contention are Judge Roberts' position on Roe v. Wade, his support for the President in keeping the energy task force records of VP Cheney secret, and his ruling that the detainees in Guantaneam were not elegible for protection under the Geneva Convention.

Click on the post for the entire article.

Evansville Proposes New Truancy Ordinance--Drops old charges

Danielle has written a nice article in the Janesville Gazette explaining that because the Evansville city ordinance on truancy required that school officials meet with parents prior to issuing citations, all of the charges had to be dismissed by City Attorney Mark Kopp.

A new ordinance that would be less restrictive and agree with state law, is scheduled for a public hearing on Wednesday, Aug 3. Click on the post for the entire article.

Harley Corner

The Harley Corner is a spot to talk of recent road trips and various matters of biker interest.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Minnesota Budget funds Meth enforcement, not treatment; Counties overwhelmed

The Minnesota approved budget passed recently provided funds for targeting meth for enforcement and cleanup, but left nothing for the social services costs, which have skyrocketed. The cost in broken families has been enormous. See the post for the entire article.

Smithsonian Finds Scopes Trial Photos--Just in Time

Yahoo News is reporting today that the Smithsonian has uncovered 60 unpublished photos of the famous Scopes Trial which featured the battle between Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan.

Thank goodness we have made a lot of progress since then!

Oh, by the way, do you think evolution is scientific, or just one of several theories that should be taught in schools?

Bush to Pick Supreme Court Nominee 8PM today---Bloggers Ready

USA reports today that bloggers may be a factor in coverage of the Supreme Court nominee. The last nominee was Stephen Breyer back in 1994, and the pace and intensity of press coverage has really picked up due to blogging. Blogs on both sides of the isle are ready to rumble. Click on the post to read the entire article.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Re: Closing of Intersection of Water St. and E. Main St.

--- Bill Connors <bill.connors@ci.evansville.wi.gov>
> You may have already received the email about this
> from Tara Seaman, but in case you did not, please be
> advised that the intersection of Water St. and E.
> Main St. will be closed from Monday, Aug. 1 through
> Wednesday, Aug. 3 for excavation work. Everyone who
> has been using that intersection on a daily basis
> will need to take the official detour--STH 213 and
> CTH M (although I anticipate there will be increased
> traffic on Territorial and Bullard Roads).
> Bill Connors
> Evansville City Administrator
> 31 S. Madison St.
> P.O. Box 76
> Evansville, WI 53536
> (608) 882-2263
> fax: (608) 882-2282

WATERCOOLER : Identity Integrity is the Key to Homeland Security

Yahoo News is reporting this morn that the nation's governors are protesting the costs of implementing the new regulations on drivers licenses across America, regulations that require states to verify license applicants are American citizens or legal residents.

The governors are going to bring their complaints to Homeland Security director, Michael Chertoff this morning.

Unless we have identity integrity, or know who is here, how is it that you would ever have a clue as to who does not belong here or could be a terrorist? It seems to me that this drivers license improvement is a beginning and necessary step of the necessary progress that American needs now. Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico on the other hand thinks this regulation is unconstitutional. What do you think? Click on the post to read the article.

Podcasting Mania Hits---What's It All About?

Regular media channels were blindsided by blogging. They are moving quickly to become a part of podcasting. Yahoo has a nice article by Greg Sandoval that explains what it is all about. Click the link and enjoy.

Observer Celebrates Career of Mary Koehl; On Why Recognizing a Loss as such is Important.

Most Evansville residents do not understand the contribution of Mary Koehl to the Evansville School District. The title of Curriculum Coordinator sounds pretty bland. Her contribution was enormous.

In 1990 when I first moved here, the curriculum in the schools was very rigid and getting adjustments for students to meet their needs was very difficult. With the leadership of Mary Koehl, the IEP, or Individual Educational Plan, became a widely used vehicle, not just for "GT" students, but for a wide selection of students whose talents were not challenged in an area of talent that they had. Over the decade from 1990 to 2000 participation in programs such as College for Kids to WCATY has skyrocketed. Parents that were reluctant to have their kids participate began to fully participate. I remember one session of College for Kids at URock where there must have been 25 students from Evansville who were making their mark.

The bottom line here is that flexibility of curriculum gives kids dignity by recognizing that putting a square peg in a round hole does not work, and that when a school curriculum adjusts to challenge or meet the students need, everyone wins. In spirit and deed, Mary Koehl was committed to making this flexibility work for students, families and the district.

At the moment of loss, some might say that the saving of the salary "helps" the district. Excuse me. The job was large. The shoes will need to be filled. Mary brought an enormous amount of experience and knowledge to the table. Replacing it will require beef, not baloney.

So, I celebrate the career of Mary Koehl with the Evansville School District. I wish her the best at the Hartford School District. She will be missed.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Evansville Schools Struggles with Truancy---Cuts at Risk Programs...HUH?

This is the first of several posts that will examine the problem of truancy. What it is, why it is important to address as a community, as a school, as a legal matter and as a family matter.

In the graduation address by Heidi Garvin, she refers to the key to learning as the emotional link that turns knowledge into a real passion that lasts a lifetime. Real learning is like lighting a fire that turns into a huge forest fire that burns for a lifetime. Many of us parents and teachers just see the flame lit. We don't live long enough to see the forest fire. OK, maybe some of you younger parents will. So, we are in the fire starting business, not the knowledge business.

In the post above is a link to a "Manual to Combat Truancy". (http://www.ed.gov/pubs/Truancy/index.html) Truancy is really a sign that the links that motivate kids to learn have been broken. It is a family matter, a school matter, a community matter.

Thus, the Observer is perplexed by the action of the Evansville School Board, which has struggled over the past six months going over "truancy" issues, to recently "downsize" the at risk resources of the Evansville School System. How can you de-emphasize the early intervention resources just at the time that they have been most needed?

You make the call. The comment line is open.

Wisconsin Supreme Court rules that Juvenile interviews must be recorded

Assistant Public Defender Paul Merkle calls it the most significant thing that has happened in the juvenile justice system in the past 20 years. The Supreme Court has ruled that interviews with juveniles younger than 17 must be either videotaped or audio taped. The Janesville Gazette has a nice article about this by Sid Schwartz titled "Court Ruling changes way juveniles are interviewed". Click on the post for the entire article.

Is Madison part of the Real Estate Bubble?

Relax. In a recent article it was revealed that the US housing bubble was being monitored by Alan Greenspan and George Bush. Yes. With California prices up 25% for the year and condo prices in Madison up 20% for the year, what are the prospects for the future? Click on the post for a nice article in the Wisconsin State Journal today titled "Is Madison Real Estate on roller-coaster ride? by Mary Balousek.

Gov Declares Drought Emergency

The Wisconsin Drought Emergency will help farmers by allowing the temporary diversion of streams for irrigation. The question is how many farmers could use this irrigation. The bottom line impact of the drought will be increase feed costs for farmers, and decreased yield from crops. Not a good combination. Click on the post to read a nice article in the Janesville Gazette by Sid Schwartz.

Friday, July 15, 2005

It's Adirondack Time

It's Adirondack Time----Chair custom crafted by James Cunningham, Woodworker, 304 Cherry St, Evansville, Wi. 53536 1-608-882-0679 casia@eishome.com is available by order--delivered in 7 days. $395. Features curved lumbar support, pine sides, oak main slats and ceramic coated screws to last a lifetime---mention the Observer when you place your order.

Mailbag:WATERCOOLER: Should Wisconsin have a Health Impact Fee for alcohol sales?

--- Anonymous <anonymous-comment@blogger.com> wrote:

I also think there should be the same type of '
health impact fee' on any type of alcohol and the
money should go to the family's who have lost someone
one to a idiot, drunk driver.

Posted by Anonymous to Evansville Observer at
7/15/2005 07:21:20 AM

Tour de France Update---Click this post for Latest

Wisconsin Supreme Court strikes Down Malpractice Limit for Pain, Suffering. Impact unclear

The Janesville Gazette is reporting this morn that the Wisconsin Supreme Court has struck down limits for medical malpractice pain and suffering awards. Click on the post to read the entire story.

In some press coverage of this event, there is speculation that this is part of a trend that will undermine the affordability and access to health care for rural Wisconsin residents since physicians may not be able to afford to deliver care in the rural areas. In the past decade, the limits have caused an influx of physicians from other states where malpractice insurance has skyrocketed. This trend may be reversed if Wisconsin joins the list of states where these costs have rocketed upward.

However, there are others who feel that the 1995 law that set the limit of $350,000 just needs to be revised to a more "rational basis." This is a story that is developing.

WATERCOOLER: Should Wisconsin Change to 75 mph Freeway Speed Limit?

A bill proposed by Sen. Tom Reynolds, R-West Allis, would raise the speed limit on freeways to 75mph. Wisconsin DOT has not yet taken a position on the change. Eric Skrum, communications director for the National Motorists Association, has floated the idea that the speed increase will actually make the roads safer. The Janesville Gazette quotes him as saying that " Speed doesn't kill. Its the speed differentail that causes accidents."

This appears to be the current logic on many things these days. It's not pit bulls that kill, just dumb owners. It's not guns that kill, but just bad owners. Now it's not speed that kills but dumb drivers. What is your opinion? Does speed kill or not. Should Wisconsin raise the freeway speed limit to 75mph? You make the call.

U of Minn: Alzheimer's may be reversible

Click the post above to see the research findings published today in Science magazine. Currently 4 million Americans suffer from Alzheimers. This study offers hope for future patients with this disease.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Markets Corner: Apple Computer (AAPL) surges $3.00 to $41.48 on huge increase in ipod sales.

Apple shares are showing heavy interest today as investors are coming to grips with the growing ipod phenomenon. Some news outlets are offering ipod broadcasts you can click and download. Yes, even The Evansville Observer is considering the ipod podcast for some exciting audio events. Let's just imagine running with your ipod and listening to a school board meeting or even a city council meeting. What would that do for your running speed? Yes, this is in the development stage. Stay tuned.

Evansville Water and Light offers Energy Star cash-back Rewards for energy efficient appliances

If you have purchased an Energy Star appliance--a clothes washer, room air conditioner, dehumidifier, dishwasher, or refrigerator and have NOT used an in-store reward, then:

1) Pick up a form from the lobby of the City Hall building
2) Complete the form
3) Attach your receipt for the purchase with the price circled
4) attach a copy of your electric bill

Mail form to Energy Star Appliances c/o Evansville Water and Light.
211 S. Paterson St., 3rd Floor
Madison, Wi 53703

Howard Dean Rallies Madison Democrats--Pledges 4 year campaign

Prince Charles sends a message to British Muslims

City--4th Ward Residents hold Pot-Luck; Share Ideas, Frustrations, Vision for Future

Mayor Ringhand and Administrator Bill OConnors, as well as ward aldermen, John Sornson and Dennis Wessels met with 4th Ward citizens at Franklin Park on Wed, July 13, 2005. Lots of food and ideas were shared.

The City brought Mrs. Coats of the Housing Authority to talk about the low cost loan programs that are available to residents to improve their homes since the area from Union and Main to Curves has been labeled residential in the Smart Growth Plan recently enacted. Information was also presented about programs from Community Action.

Residents had questions about everything from tree planting to assessments and also complaints about the lack of grading on Franklin St. that has damaged their cars.

The big news here is that the citizens and city officials showed up. As one citizen put it, " We need to regain the faith in our government, again." It is going to happen one small step at a time. Wednesday night was a good beginning. Thanks to all for bringing food and to those who went door to door to remind folks.

Watercooler: Minnesota passes 75cent per pack cigarette "Health Impact fee." Should Wisconsin follow their lead?

Relax. The rest stops in Minnesota are open again. The budget crisis that had idled 9000 state workers, including maintenance workers at the rest stops from July 1 to July 8th has been resolved. Citizens of Minnesota are a proud bunch. I am getting very little information on what the scene was like during the fourth of July at these rest areas, but you can imagine.

In the compromise budget agreement, the 75cent per pack "health impact fee" was approved and was the source of funding for the 15% increase in the health and welfare spending budget that totaled $9.3 billion.

Click on the post for the entire story. The question for the WATERCOOLER this morning is whether Wisconsin should add a 75 cent cigarette tax just as Minnesota has done.

Wisconsin Celebrates Life of Gaylord Nelson, Founder of Earth Day

In what may have been the largest memorial in Wisconsin since that of Robert LaFollette, hundreds gathered yesterday to remember and celebrate the life of Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day. Earth Day celebration is a major event in Evansville that involves hundreds of students and their parents. Click on the post to read the entire story.

Evansville School District Faces Cuts; Resignation of Mary Koehl, Coordinator

Danielle reports from the Janesville Gazette that the Evansville School District is expecting budget cuts of about $200,00 in each of the upcoming budget years. In addition, Mary Koehl, district curriculum coordinator has resigned to take a principal position at Hartford Union High School.

Cuts were proposed in elimating K-4 at-risk services and in assigning the duties for at-risk services for 5th-12th graders to another position. Raises were proposed for administrators who are taking over Koehl's duties.

This is a developing story. Stay tuned to The Evansville Observer for upcoming details.

Click on the post to read the entire article.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Judge approves Wal-Mart Supercenter in Janesville--Sam's Club--Ignores Planning Commission failure to order impact study

If a city does not want to consider the impact of traffic on the community and the impact of a big box store on the business climate, why not just change the name of the city to "Wal-mart" and let them run the town. The judge in this case seems to think that because he can read the english language, he can do as he wants and can disregard the requirement of an impact study.

If this decision stands, it is bad news for all small cities that want to preserve their local business. Click on the post line to see the article from the Janesviile Gazette this morn. What do you think on this issue?

Watercooler: Rock County has a Problem with Pit Bulls--Should they be banned as a hazard to Public Safety?

Dan Hinkel of the Janesville Gazette (click post above) reports that half of the animals at the Rock County Humane Society are pit bulls, and that the pattern of mixes they are seeing indicates that underground dog fighting is happening.

What are your thoughts on this Rock County problem? Should pit bulls be banned as a public safety hazard?

Lake Leota Draw Down Public Info Meeting Agenda---Wed July 13th 6:30 Lake Leota Park@ Horse Barn


Background of Lake Leota Draw Down Plan--Bill Hammann (5 minutes)

History of Lake Leota--Ruth Montgomery (10 minutes)

Update on Watershed Study---Troy Larson of Strand Engineering (5 minutes)

Lake Leota Draw Down Plan--- Troy Larson of Strand Engineering (20 minutes)

Positive Effects of Drawing Down a Lake--Mike Halsted of Wisconsin DNR (10 minutes)

Positive Effects of Drawing Down Lake Leota---Troy Larson of Strand Engineering (10 minutes)

Questions and Answers.

Click the Post above for a background article by Danielle from the Janesville Gazette

Public Works Corner: Sidewalk Priorities Set--Public Works Meeting on July 25 has sidewalks on agenda

Considerations: Safety; Areas Connecting Schools, Parks & Business District; Medical Centers, Collector Streets, Traffic Levels & In Fill

Critical (ASAP) Sidewalk Connections

Priority Sidewalk Connections
1. West Main St. (Prentice St.--Spencer Dr.)
2. West J. Lindemann Dr.
3. Fair St. (2nd-3rd) & 2nd St--East Side (Highland-Fair St.)
4 Madison St.-Grove St. (Leota Park entrance)
5. Infill lots on Spencer & Campion drive
6.Garfield Ave (4th-5th)
7. Liberty St. (5th--Prentice &Prentice-Crawford)

Important Sidewalk Connections

1.5th St. (Garfield Ave--Hwy C) & North Tip of 4th
2. Church St. (4th--5th)
3. East County Road M ( north of Hwy 14)
4. Countryside Drive
5. Brown School Road

Lower Priority Sidewalk Connections

Water Street( east of Exchange St.); Clifton St. (north of Grove St.); North Edge of Sherman Ct; 3rd St. (North of Garfield Ave); Park Drive; Higgins Dr.; Prentice St. & Walker St. (Almeron-Cherry)

Sidewalk Connections to be complete as development occurs
Cemetery st; 6th St. (south of Vision) & 6th St. (North of Abey); and Mill St & RR St. Intersection

Sidewalk Connections to be complete as part of Madison St. resurfacing in 2008
Old 92(1st--S. Madison St.)
Sidewalk Connections located in Union Township
5th St. (City Limits--High School

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Evansville Offers Cash-Back Rewards for Tree Planting

Because planting trees can save money and energy in heating and cooling, Evansville Water and Light is offering cash-back when you purchase up to three trees per household. Carefully positioned trees can save up to 25% of a household's energy consumption from heating and cooling.


Get a brochure on the "Tree Power Cash Back Reward Program" from the lobby of the City Hall building----It lists the size requirements of the trees. How much is the cash back?

Purchase Price: ---- Reward:
Up to $150 ------- $40
150-$300 ------ $50
$300 and up ------- $75

Complete the necessary form along with the receipt from the approved nursery.

This program is funded by the Public Benefits Charge on the Water and Light Bill. It is offered on a first-come, first serve basis.

It is time to plant a tree while the rebates last!

Developing Story: Drive ups for Booze Yes: Drive ups for Pharmacy No

The Observer is on the prowl to determine whether in fact Evansville is the only city in America that has a drive up for booze but has disallowed a drive up for pharmacy pick up. Last night, I was so frustrated trying to get a parking place at our beloved pharmacy, that I, well, was almost driven to the drive up for a quick six pack. Stay tuned to see whether Evansville can claim national attention for our unique priorities.

Janesville Gazette warns of the dangers of too much blogging---

Just when I needed some kind words of caution, the Janesville Gazette has written a wonderful article on the dangers of some bloggers telling too much on their blog sites. Read and enjoy. The article is by Martha Irvine and is called "Bloggers Learn Price of Telling Too Much."

Latest on the Carl Rove Scandal

Click the post for the latest in this epic saga.

The GM Limbo Rock---How low can they go?

In the Janesville Gazette Extra for Monday, Rachel Beck has begun to ask the question whether the GM discount plan that has increased the GM market share for the last month and unloaded inventory, is good for the long term profit propects of GM.

----On the one hand, they are arguing to labor that they need concessions to meet the large expense of health beneifits to GM employees on a per car basis, and on the other hand, they are cutting the profit margin on the cars they are selling so that they have no prospect of having the money to pay the health benefits they have promised. But in public relations they are claiming a successful month. Huh?

Evansville Common Council Meeting Tonight--6:30PM City Hall

The regular meeting of the Evansville Common Council will be held tonight at 6:30PM at City Hall.

Components of Lake Leota Draw Down Action Plan presented by Bill Hammann

Here is the sequence of the Draw Down Action Plan:

1. Work with Public Works

2) Get DNR Approval

3) Conduct a Public Information Meeting

4) Test Water Clarity]

5) Repair the Sluice Gate

6) Drain the Lake

7) Evaluate Sediment
a) Visual survey
b) Topographical survey
c) Analytical analysis of dryness of sediment
d) Test dredges

8) Active Rest--Lake Leota will rest druing the entire 2005-2006 winter season

9) Fill Date Determination

10) Fill Lake

District Four--Neighborhood Pot Luck--July 13th, 6 PM, Franklin Park

The Neighborhood Pot Luck for District 4 to share their vision and comments on their plan for the future of East Main will be held on July 13th, 2005 at Franklin Park; Bring a chair and a dish to share if you can.

Mayor Ringhand, City Administrator Bill Connors and Alderpersons John Sornson (882-4647) and Dennis Wessels (882-6308) will be in attendance.

This is the first of these meetings and residents input is important. Plan on attending.

Future info on this event will be in The Evansville Observer. Questions? call Sceone Gard -882-1046

Monday, July 11, 2005

Evansville Observer
News Comment Discussion

Latest News From London--Blogs---

Click this link for the latest in news from The Guardian---blog site in London.

Concerts on Lake Leota Begin--Wed, July 20th, 6pm--Feature "Rising Gael"

Bring your chairs or blankets to sit on, and settle in for another successful summer of Concerts at the Lake. "Rising Gael" will be the first performers on Wed, July 20th at 6pm. Mark your calendars so you don't forget. Thanks again to UB&T the sponsor of this popular event.

Mailbag: One of our Readers Wants to Be Blue---Proposes Two Separate Nations, One Red, One Blue and Describes the Benefits of This Proposal

-----Original Message-----From:
PMTo: Undisclosed-Recipient:; (Observer cannot verify factual accuracy)

Subject: I
want to be Blue again! Dear Red States

We're ticked off
at the way you've treated California, and we've
decided we're leaving. We intend to form our own
country, and we're taking the other Blue States with
us.In case you aren't aware, that includes Hawaii,
Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan,
Illinois and all the Northeast. We believe this split
will be beneficial to the nation, and especially to
the people of the new country of New California.

To sum
up briefly: You get Texas, Oklahoma and all the slave
states. We get stem cell research and the best
beaches. We get Elliot Spitzer. You get Ken Lay. We get
the Statue of Liberty. You get OpryLand. We get Intel
and Microsoft. You get WorldCom. We get Harvard. You
get Ole' Miss. We get 85 percent of America's venture
capital and entrepreneurs. You get Alabama.We get
two-thirds of the tax revenue, you get to make the red
states pay their fair share. Since our aggregate divorce
rate is 22 percent lower than the
Christian Coalition's, we get a bunch of happy
families. You get a bunch of single moms.Please be
aware that Nuevo California will be pro-choice and
antiwar, and we're going to want all our citizens back
from Iraq at once. If you need people to fight, ask
your evangelicals. They have kids they're apparently
willing to send to their deaths for no purpose, and
they don't care if you don't show pictures of their
children's caskets coming home We do wish you success
in Iraq, and hope that the WMDs turn up, but we're not
willing to spend our resources in Bush's Quagmire.

the Blue States in hand, we will have firm control of
80 percent of the country's fresh water, more than 90
percent of the pineapple and lettuce, 92 percent of the
nation's fresh fruit, 95 percent of America's quality
wines(you can serve French wines at state dinners) 90
percent of all cheese, 90 percent of the high tech
industry, most of the U.S. low-sulfur coal, all living
redwoods, sequoias and condors, all the Ivy and Seven
Sister schools, plus Princeton, Harvard, Yale,
Stanford, CalTech and MIT.

With the Red States, on the
other hand, you will have to cope with 88 percent of
all obese Americans (and their projected health care
costs), 92 percent of all U.S. mosquitoes, nearly 100
percent of the tornadoes, 90 percent of the hurricanes,
99 percent of all Southern Baptists, virtually 100
percent of all televangelists, Rush Limbaugh, Bob
Jones University, Clemson and the University of
Georgia. We get Hollywood and Yosemite, thank
you. Additionally, 38 percent of those in the Red
states believe Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale,
62 percent believe life is sacred unless we're
discussing the death penalty or gun laws, 44 percent
say that evolution is only a theory, 53 percent that
Saddam was involved in 9/11 and 61 percent of you crazy
folks believe you are people with higher morals than
we lefties. By the way, we're taking the good pot, too.
You can have that dirt weed they grow in

Sincerely,the happy citizens of New California.

Minnesota University Students Claim Solar Car Favorite in 2500 mile race

According to an article by Julio Ojeda-Zapata in The Pioneer Press, the solar powered car, Borealis III is expected to travel at 65 mph from Austin, Texas to Calgary, Canada. The race started on July 10th and will end on July 27th. Where are the Badgers in this competition? The Observer is on the story to find out. To access this article click on the post. On search line, search for "solar car"(www.twincities.com/mld/pioneerpress/local/12102593.html)

Wisconsin PSC Approves Large Wind Turbine Farm

Kevin Murphy of The Capital Times has a nice article about the recent approval of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission of the 200 megawatt wind energy project consisting of 130 wind turbine generators in Dodge and Fond du Lac counties. Click on the Post title to access thi story.

Your Vacation Corner

The Frey's have returned from a beach vacation. This means that EHS girl's cross country runners need to get ready to run.

The Observer has been pleased to learn that many of you have been checking in with this blog as you travel, from internet cafes across the country. This post is not about my vacation but about yours. Why not click on the comment line and stay anonymous if you wish, but tell us of the highs and lows of your vacation experience. If you wish to send a picture to post on The Observer, send it to woulfe98@yahoo.com

Booksellers Wild About Harry Potter

In what may be the biggest bookselling event of history, the latest of the Harry Potter books is set to begin sale on Friday, July 15, at midnight. If you are near Barns and Noble in Westtown, you may see long lines of people, some costumed. It's going to be a media event, and booksellers are excited about it. They are offering steep discounts on the new book, hoping to lure readers to try other titles as well. Party on.

Janesville YMCA Triathlon set for Sat, July 16, 2005, 8am.

The 14th Annual Janesville YMCA triathlon, 1/4 mile swim, 16 mile bike and 4 mile run, is set for Saturday. Registration is still available although on line registration is closed. Race details are at www.active.com Click on the post title for details.

Evansville Community Church Plans Youth Center

Danielle has written a nice article about the plan of the Evansville Community Church to create a youth center out of the roller rink on East Main. Click on the post title to access the story.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Evansville Pool Delights---July 2005

Pension Crisis Looms--or Why United Airlines Flight Attendant's Pensions matter

Since September 11, there has been a wide range of articles about the crisis that has confronted the airline industry. Anyone who has travelled by air knows that the world has changed big time for travellers. Airlines seem to be losing money on each ticket but trying to make it up in volume....something that any business owner could tell them is bad business...but they persist.

A week ago, the PBGC (Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation), a federal agency that insures the pension benefits of companies, took over the pension liabilities of United Airlines 123000 employees and retirees in the U.S. The problem is that this agency is 23 billion in the red at the current time and in poor shape to handle all the potential claims of the 20% of Americans that have defined benefit pension plans, plans that corporations have an incentive to avoid through the bankruptcy process since they are usually the ones that are underfunded.

You may have thought this was just a problem at United Airlines. Wrong. It is a problem for every American who has a pension. The article titled "Pension Fury" or "Pension Roulette" by Tim Grey in the AARP Bulletin this month is a good article that explains what this crisis could mean for you. Click on the post title to access the article.(www.aarp.org/bulletin)

The question I have is "Has deregulation really worked?" The regulated system for airlines had capital requirements for maintainance, pensions etc., but with the free for all market place, the public is not guaranteed that the essentials are covered. How about energy? or telephone? Are you any better off haveing 10,000 providers for long distance calling you for quotes on your long distance? How about the stock market? Now we have a totally transaction system where the system is designed to exploit not serve.

So, is this a a pension crisis at United or is it more---- a deep crisis of deregulation of industries that are in the public interest and should have SOME minimium level of regulation, and more than at present. What is your call?

Nation uniting to overturn Supreme Court eminent domain decision

Property rights are a sacred thing. In fact, in English common law, the unborn have a right to sue for theft of property and have that right from the moment of conception. Legal types can correct me if I am wrong on that. But---the nation has united, Republican and Democrat, urban and rural, to overturn the recent Supreme Court decision of Kelo v. New London.

The San Francisco Chronicle on Friday, July 1, 2005 has a nice article on this amazing unity of different political groups. Click on the title of this post to read the article. The title of the article is "Foes in Congress unite in defense of property." It is written by Carolyn Lockhead of the Chronicle Washington Bureau. When you get the Chronicle, on the search line, search under "eminent domain."

Friday, July 08, 2005

California still loves its Prop 13 Property Tax Freeze--Should Wisconsin Follow Their Lead?

In June of 1978, California passed Prop 13, a fierce proprty tax-cutting initiative. In a survey in 1998, Neil Peirce (www.metroforum.org/articles/peirce_071998.html) found that only 20% of California residents strongly opposed Prop 13 and the vast majority would vote it in again in a heartbeat. In my recent visit to California, I can verify that Prop 13 is very popular.

In summary, Prop 13 caps property tax at 1% of a home's assessed value. It holds any increases to 2% a year. It says that property cannot be reassessed till its sold.

Thus the home we stayed in, the rambler that has a current market value of $750,000 was assessed at 200,000 and the property taxes on it were $3200 or roughtly the equilavent of what a homeowner in Evansville with a $120,000 home would pay. Once a home is sold, everything changes. Then the home is assessed at full market value. Thus two homes can and do exist side by side with vastly different valuations. The prop 13 proponents say, however, that the 1% limitation means that yes the valuations are different, but still both homeowners have certainty and both taxes are reasonable.

The result of Prop 13 has been to shift the responsibility of school funding to the State. The State has been responsible for the funding mandates for education as well as immigration and it is just that the state should not force seniors and the middle class out of their homes to pay for their lack of fiscal and immigration control management.

The opposing view states that California has created two classes of citizens, the older, Anglo and middle class enjoy a near-tax free holiday while the recent buyers, younger people and minorities, pay taxes several times as high. The opossing view is that the taxes are different but still low and it is in the benefit of all homeowners to have tax certainty and to put the uncertainty on the the State.

One of the consequences of the process of the past 20 years has been a decline in the academic performance of California schools, and a move by the affluent to place their children in private schools. In some elementary schools, there are as many as 30 per classroom. Not a size effective to teach.

Homeowners charge that this decline is not due to Prop 13, but to the administration of the schools in California. They state that California has managed its schools like they managed their electric utilities and that it is wrong to blame Prop 13 for the situation in the schools.

What do you think of a Prop 13 for Wisconsin? The comment line is open.

Re: Advise & Consent: The Role of the U.S. Senate in Selecting a Supreme Court Justice submitted by Judge Tom Alisankus

--- toma19@charter.net Judge Tom Alisankus)wrote:

> President Bush now has his first opportunity to
> replace a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, with the
> recent announcement that Justice Sandra Day O'Conner
> will retire from the Court. With all of the
> political posturing by both Republicans and
> Democrats, I thought it would be useful to offer a
> brief overview of the constitutional provisions that
> dictate how the selection process is supposed to
> work.
> The basis of our governmental structure is the
> concept of checks and balances, with three co-equal
> branches of government: The Legislative branch,
> which is Congress-- made up of the U.S. Senate and
> U.S. House of representatives--represents the will
> of the people in writing and passing laws. The
> Executive branch, headed by the President, carrys
> out or administers/enforces the laws passed by
> Congress. The Judicial branch is comprised of the
> U.S. Supreme Court; the role of the Court is to
> interpret the laws, to assure that no law passed by
> Congress violates the U.S. Constitution--which, of
> course, is the 'supreme law of the land'. In other
> words, nothing trumps the U.S. Constitution.
> (continued..)

Re: Supreme Court Continued

--- toma19@charter.net wrote:

> The idea behind checks and balances is simple: No
> single branch, or in the case of the office of
> President, no single person, could endanger the
> republic by imposing their well-intentioned, but
> misguided will on the country. The other two
> branches would always have a 'check' on the third.
> The Executive and Legislative branches have a number
> of checks for each other provided in the
> Constitution. If Congress gets out of hand, and
> writes politically expediant, but otherwise 'bad
> laws', the President can veto those laws. Of
> course, if Congress REALLY wants a law passed, it
> can do so by overriding the presidential veto.
> Additionally, the varying terms of office in the
> Senate (six year terms, with 1/3 of the Senate
> replaced every two years) and House (every two
> years, the ENTIRE body is replaced) is a 'check'
> that provides both stability, but an opportunity to
> 'clean house' if necessary.
> Ironically, the 'checks' that apply to the Judicial
> branch are limited. There are several reasons for
> this that I won't get into hear, but one of those
> reasons is that our forefathers didn't quite know
> what to do with the judicial branch. In many
> respects, that branch could almost be characterized
> as an afterthought!
> Neither Congress nor the President can veto or
> override a Supreme Court decison. In fact, there
> are only two ways to 'check' a decision of the
> Supreme Court: 1) Modify the law to fit the terms
> of the decision, or 2) ammend the Constitution. For
> example, in the case of Texas v. Johnson, the Court
> ruled 5-4 that the government could pass no law
> prohibiting the burning of the U.S. flag if such
> action is part of free speech. For nearly 20 years
> since that decison was handed down, attempts at
> ammending the Constitution to allow for such laws
> have failed.
> (continued)

Re: Supreme Court continued

--- toma19@charter.net wrote:

> There is however, a general 'check' that the
> Executive and Legislative branches have on the
> Judicial branch, which is the crux of this article:
> The Constitution provides that BOTH the Executive
> and Legislative branches must be involved in the
> selection of a Supreme Court Justice.
> If we could strip away all the rhetoric that
> currently surrounds the filling of federal judicial
> vacancies, it is easy to see how our forefathers
> once again hit the nail on its head with the
> process. In fact, the following quote from Article
> II, sec. 2 of the U.S. Constitution is pretty
> clear--especially when applied in conjunction with
> the background and purpose of the principles of
> checks and balances discussed above: "[The
> President]... shall nominate, and by and with the
> advice and consent of the senate, shall
> appoint...judges of the supreme court...." Isn't
> that a lot more simple than what we are hearing from
> the politicians and their respective support groups?
> So, the first myth that should disappear is the idea
> that the President should be able to pick whomever
> he wants to fill Justice O'Connor's vacant seat.
> The constitution clearly does not provide for that;
> and it certainly would violate the doctrine of
> checks and balances. Myth #2 is the argument
> proferred by many Republicans is that the President
> is not obligated to consult with the Senate prior to
> nominating his choice (and note the wording: The
> President shall 'nominate'--not select--but nominate
> a candidate). Any other interpretation of that
> section is most likely from some adult who was 'left
> behind' when he or she was being educated.

Re: last installment --Supreme Court ....

--- toma19@charter.net wrote:

> Myth #3 is that the President--if he consults at
> all--need only consult with members of his own
> political party in the senate. That is simply not
> the case; read section two again, and again if
> necessary. Nowhere does it even imply that the
> party not in power can be ignored. Please note that
> if it were a Democrat in the President's position,
> and the Democrats were the party in power in the
> Senate, the same 'rules' would apply to them.
> Finally, a quick word about fillibusters with
> supreme court nominees, and the so-called 'nuclear
> option' to not permit them. It is the fillibuster
> that gives the party not in power, some LIMITED
> ability to come to the table and have some
> substantive input. Republicans who argue that the
> fillibuster was never meant to be used with
> appointments to the Supreme Court are quite frankly
> disingenuous. Repulicans fillibustered President
> Lyndon Johnson's nomination of Abe Fortas until
> Johnson finally withdrew the nomination. And they
> were entitled to do so.
> In summary, the constitution presupposes an active
> role of the majority and minority parties of the
> Senate in the ultimate selection of a Supreme Court
> Justice. It is the constitutional duty of ALL
> senators NOT to just roll over and accept anyone who
> the President wants. To do so would not only be
> shirking their responsibilities as a U.S. Senator,
> but would also trivialize the concept of checks and
> balances. Make sure your senators do their job.
> Remember, appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court is a
> lifetime position. Many appointees often vow to
> complete their terms (with apologies to the memory
> of the late Justice Thurgood Marshall....)
> I hope this article has been useful.

Prayers and Support for Londoners

Our hearts go out to all the people of London who are coping with the loss of life and injury due to the terrorist attack there. Special greetings go out to the new friends Sue and I met on our vacation, Adam and Sarah from London, who are returning this morning to London after a year of touring the world in youth hostels. They had saved all their money for two years for the journey. Their tales of their experiences around the world were wonderful. How sad to return this morn to such tragedy. As soon as they get their pictures on the blog I set up for them, I will refer my readers to it.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Light the Way to a Cure

On Friday, August 19, 2005 at 9PM at Lake Leota Park, candles will be lit in Memory and In Honor of the hundreds of loved ones and friends who have survived cancer or lost the battle to cancer.

Help support the goals of the American Cancer Society by purchasing a Luminaria. Your $5 donation per name will help in the fight against cancer while dedicating a glowing tribute in Memory or in Honor of a loved one or friend. The names of these individuals will be read aloud in a special ceremony at 10:00pm, Friday to which you are invited to attend. The luminaria will light up the track throughout the night for the participants walking. All proceeds will support the American Cancer Society's mission to fight cancer.

To purchase a Luminaria, complete the form below and return it with your donation to:
Lori Soderberg, 55 Countryside Dr., Evansville, Wi 53536 or
Jennie Nehls, 6702 Abey Ct, Evansville, Wi. 53536

Please make checks payable to : American Cancer Society

Your name______________________Your phone number________________

Circle One: In Memory Of(deceased) In Honor Of (living)


Message: _________________________________

Tour de Villes Century and Tin Man Century Challenge Set for Sat, July 30th, 2005

The 2005 Lance Armstrong Foundation Peloton Project announces the TOUR DE VILLES CENTURY and THE TIN MAN CENTURY CHALLENGE on Saturday July 30th. in Janesville Wisconsin. There is a 500 rider limit. Any questions on this, contact Lori Soderberg, 55 Countryside Dr., Evansville, Wi 53536.

Registration forms can be found at www.cyclistsagainstcancer.com/

Investors Brace for Sharp Sell-Off on London Blast

S&P Futures are signaling a sharp sell off for the stock market for the opening for Thursday, July 7, 2005, in reaction to the terrorist blast on the subways of London. U.S. Homeland Security has alerted transportation centers in the US to be on the alert. Not exactly what investors had hoped for after six months of zero returns for the S&P 500. But maybe an opportunity for some of you day traders out there to pick up something that is good quality that declines in the moment of panic. (www.yahoo.com)

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The John Muir Home--Martinez California---Muir is the Father of our National Park System

This is a photo of the home of John Muir in Martinez, California. On the side is a windmill similar to a Monitor. Muir formed a close friendship with Pres. Teddy Roosevelt and together they worked for the development of the National Park Service. This is worth a visit.

Sunset--Evansville--July 4, 2005--Natural Fireworks

Citgo Zoning settled--Citizens reassured on residential status

The Evansville Planning Commission on Tuesday, July 5, 2005 amended the zoning map for the Citgo to place 20ft that was previously zoned R1 to B-3, Community Business District. There was a process error that caused this and no one person was responsible.

The city reassured residents that the landscape and barrier details that Citgo had agreed to will be enforced. Residents expressed concern that the commercial might continue. Mayor Ringhand reassured residents that the city is committed to the Comprehensive plan of June 15,2005 that labeled the section up to Curves as residential and is actively involved in the planning to make the section an attractive entrance into the downtown.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Evansville Planning Commission approves Grand Orchard Estates plan

The Evansville Plan Commission approved the preliminary land division and zoning map amendment for the Grand Orchard Estates subdivision near the Piggly Wiggly. The latest version of this plan had increased the average lot size to be consistent with the City aim to develop more revenue to support the needed city services delivered.

The phase in of this development has been negotiated between the developer and the city and will be consistent with the timing of the Smart Growth Plan. The exact timing was not revealed at the meeting but assumed was the necessity to hold growth to the current pace.

Planning Commission Adds Process for Public Input; Adds checklists for proposal review

The Evansville Planning Commission has added additional moments in the planning process for public comment and input. In the past, the only time that a public hearing was held was for a zoning change. This was after annexation and preliminary plats were divided. The public was often frustrated by not having a say early enough in the process. So, the Commission has proposed a notice of public hearing for both annexation and preliminary plat actions.

They also displayed in their conditions to several of the proposals on the 7-5-2005 agenda, that they seek to avoid surprises by using a checklist to make sure that the Planning commission does not miss anything and are consistent in policy over time. The use of checklists was brought up in the discussion during the public input at the Smart Growth meeting of June 15, 2005 and cited as a method of improving the planning process.

New Ace Hardware Site Plan Approved--14,000 sq ft--

The Evansville Planning Commission met on Tuesday, July 5, 2005, 6pm and approved the site plan and preliminary land division application for the NEW ACE HARDWARE which will be located adjacent to the new Bank of Evansville.

There was considerable discussion on the issue of sidewalks and an additional lane for cars to get around cars that are turning into the McDonalds intersection. After much debate, the developer agreed to pay for any costs incurred in acquiring the land necessary for this lane.

On the issue of the sidewalks, the Plan Commission voted to require that Ace provide a sidewalk if one is required of the Bank of Evansville. Mr. Hammann pointed out that it made little sense after plotting all the "missing sidewalks" in the rest of Evansville that the plan commission would go ahead and create more of them. This is going to be a big destination point for shoppers and some will be walking.

I stopped in to the Ace Hardware store in Milton today since that was the "comparable" market store that the 14,000sq. ft design for Evansville was based on. The store is located on Hwy V which has no way near the traffic that HWY 14 does. The Milton store has 19,000 sq. ft. It is packed with product and has all the rental and range of product that Dave wants to see in Evansville. I called him and asked why he did not ask for more space in Evansville. He said it was simply economics. The space in Milton is much cheaper and that the space of the new Ace in Evansville must be fully utilized. He also mentioned that the Evansville store will have more brick on it and that this was requested by the city.

Watercooler: Is recession around the corner? WSJ of 6-30-2005 thinks so.

The Wall Street Journal of 6-30-2005 has a arcane headline about "The Inverted Yield Curve." Not too jazzy of a headline, but the article does contain some sobering thoughts about the recession the author sees ahead.

The Inverted Yield Curve discussion refers to the spread between what the banks get charged for the money they lend and the interest they charge the consumer. Why worry? Well, the pattern is that when the yield curve spread goes toward zero, the banks are probably are not charging enough for the risk involved and may be making bad loans to worsen the situation. Kind of like a last final gold rush of the good times before the recession comes.

Each time this has occurred in the past, a recession has followed. And each time, the Federal Reserve has denied that a recession was coming. It continues to raise interest rates. The actual market rates for the 30 yr treasury are 50 basis points lower that the fed suggestion ---which in itself says that the market sees lower growth than Greenspan and his mavens.

The future is unknown. However, speculation about it is endless. What do you think about the coming recession? You make the call.

Residents stunned by death of Hans Kleisch Jr., 29

Hans Kleisch Jr., 29, died in a one car accident near Cooksville on Sunday, July 3, 2005. The funeral service is set for 11am Saturday at Grace Independent Baptist Church in Evansville. Visitation will be from 4-8pm at Ward Funeral Home.

East Main residents called him their neighbor and will miss his easy smile, wit and vitality. May he rest in peace.