Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Deal With Stray Animals Charitably

December 21, 2010 the City has renewed its contract with Countryside paying them $191,810 for 2011 to handle about 2500 stray animals for the city.   That’s about $75 per animal.  It is probably a reasonable price.

Stress mounts among animal lovers when statistics reveal that only about half the animals taken in by Countryside survive their stay there.

I think the problem is that we rely on government to deal with the problem of stray animals.   Government doesn’t treat human beings humanely.   How can you expect better for animals.

The project really should be taken on charitably with volunteers.   I am sure there are enough animal lovers out their with deep enough pockets and/or with a little time on their hands to take on the job as a labor of love.

It would be best for the animals, it would be best for all of us, to deal with strays charitably, voluntarily and with affection, none of which are attributes of a government.

250,000 jobs for Wisconsin

There are several theories expressed in the December 28, 2010 Journal Times lead article regarding Walker's ability to "produce" 250,000 jobs in Wisconsin.  But the facts are that the jobs are waiting to start up. And global activity really has little impact on it.

The real question is will Walker and the legislature have the guts to shut down the bureaucratic barriers to job growth?  No governor or legislature ever has.  Not since 1775, anyway, and Wisconsin wasn't a state then.

We could create a lot of jobs right here in Racine, regardless of the state, national or global environment.  It would require getting rid of activities like RCEDC, the city planning department, limitations on Class A liquor licenses, UNIT inspectors, transportation subsidies, building and health department inspectors, half the police department. Then with the reduced regulations and inspectors that over zealously monitor private activity along with lower taxes, companies would swarm into the city.

That gives you some idea of the magnitude of what Walker and the new legislature has to do at the state levelto get all those jobs into action.

(By the way, no government is going to "produce" any jobs. I don't think Walker is under such a delusion. That was probably written by a newspaper reporter. The government can only get out of the way. The private sector makes the jobs.)

It is a courageous project, rolling back all that bureaucracy. It scares the hell out of most people, just like my suggestions above scare the hell out of people from Racine that read it.

My expectations for results from Walker are low.

But my hopes are sky high. What if the TEA Party driven Wisconsin State government really does it?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Big Brother Comes Dressed in a Blue Recycle Bin

This warning from an April 27, 2010 article in the Journal Times, “two electronic sensors mounted near the truck’s compactor door can determine each residence’s participation in the city’s recycling program…”

There should be concern of the future consequences of such technology when combined with a big government such as we have here in Racine.

But there is more.    Much more.

The organization that operates the recycling program, the Department of Public Works, and the man who heads up that organization, Richard Jones, are the exact same people that head up the UNIT inspection team that violates the individual constitutional rights to due process of law and appeal of the residents of this very city more than 5,000 times a year.

There is no love lost between this city bureaucracy and the rights of man.

It doesn‘t end there.    When Richard Jones marches his imposing body to the lectern at the side of the City Council, it is not to find out what the Alderman of this city want him to do. The aldermen are searching for his advice and consent of what he wants them to do.

As we climb to the top of this pyramid of power expecting to find somebody, a Mayor perhaps, who can hold this onslaught of our rights in check, we find instead another bureaucrat.

Rounding out this Perfect Storm of Big Government Intrusion into our Lives we have a City Administrator, Tom Friedel.    A bureaucrat, minding the bureaucracy!

Where is the Mayor?    Scouring the countryside looking for more funds and grants with which to feed this growth of bureaucratic activity that engulfs our lives with (failed) promises of a utopian existence for us all.

Every sitting alderman on the City Council of Racine—and the Mayor—have taken an oath to support the Constitution of the United States.    But during the entire growth of UNIT and the Recycling Program, which has been going on for years, I have not heard one word on that City Council floor in the defense of constitutional rights.

Except for the two new aldermen (Marcus and Wiser), all aldermen have occupied those seats long enough to have had the opportunity to speak out in this regard, but have failed utterly and should be removed.

The real purpose of this chip is being revealed across this country and in Europe.    It is not to return lost carts to their intended destination as promoted here in Racine.    The purpose of the chip is to monitor participation, as is finally being confessed by several governments.

The next step, as is being done in some jurisdictions, is to combine the chip with a measuring device that weighs each container as it is loaded onto the truck and people who don’t participate—or even under-participate—are fined accordingly.

We the people of Racine need to get rid of this chip and the people propagating it or suffer the consequences of our acquiescence.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Chickens and Freedom (Part I)

There is an old principle of data analysis that goes something like this: A datum can only be evaluated by a datum of comparable magnitude.

One cannot compare an idea or piece of information in a vacuum. It means nothing.

Keeping chickens in Racine is one such example. It has been evaluated all by itself with the usual unreliable result.

There is no perfect animal. Oh, you will hear such terms as “the perfect pet.” But I can assure you, despite all claims to the contrary, there exists no such entity.

And unfortunately for my friend the chicken, it has been compared to that imagined apparition of perfection — resulting in that great, time honored activity, which all men at some time feel the need to participate: the Witch Hunt.

But instead of pinning the chicken to a wall to take shots at it, if we compare it some another animal — which I intend to do here —we get a different perspective of this fine productive Creature of God.

For my subject of comparison I shall choose the prince of pets, that paragon of virtue and bravery, touted by many as “man’s best friend:” the dog.

The dog, a fine animal, does bring with it a tiny tote of baggage, a miniscule set of imperfections that I shall peruse now.

Dogs have been known to carry the disease called rabies. This disease can cause a dog to become aggressive and vicious, lose its sensibilities, revert to the source of its lineage (the wolf), and actually attack men. Being endowed with a fine set of teeth, a dog’s bite can then quickly pierce a man’s skin, leaving him a recipient of that disease and in threat of his life.

But worse, dogs have been known to maul children, even killing them in a seeming loss of domestic sensibilities.

Dogs have been known to depart the domain of its master and run loose in packs through residential neighborhoods committing such atrocities as attacking benign, caged chickens.

Dogs can contact lice and fleas, bringing them home to infest the domiciles of their human masters, rendering the habitat uncomfortable if not unlivable to its keeper.

Dogs defecate in huge piles that would leave a chicken marveling at the productive capacity of such a bowel system.

When in pursuit of its necessary exercise, a male dog will leave virtually no vertical structure un-anointed of its holy urine.

Most owners find their pet dog too unpredictable to take it for a walk in any area moderately occupied by humans without it being attached to a leash.

High pitched noises, barely audible by humans, can send a dog howling in a manner often painfully miserable to people in its surroundings.

Dogs have been known to bark in such duration and volume as to leave nearby humans virtually insensible.

But these imperfections in the dog are minor concerns of the general population. Why? Because we are familiar with dogs. Dogs and their liabilities have been part of the culture of Racine since before its inception.

We all know that with a little effort these “dangerous beasts” can be reasonably controlled and tolerated.

When compared to the dog in such traits as domestication, adaptation, defecation, urination, infestation, regression, and terrorization, the chicken actually fares pretty well.

I feel confident in asserting that during that last century had we in Racine kept chickens in the numbers and diversity with which we have dogs, we would find the chicken as acceptable, even more acceptable, than the dog.

The chicken, after all, at least pays its own way.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

City Planning Department Plays Shell Game with Stimulus Money

As August 15th nears, the City must have its bids in order to get about $3.5 million in federal “stimulus funds” for its real estate investment program.

It was a lot of work to get this project completed. City Development wanted to divide up the $3.5 million into as many projects as it could. Each project required finding a developer to work the project with a budget as to how the money will be spent on that project. If the City chooses to not use a developer, the City may become the “general contractor,” but in this case the City must have all subcontractor contracts in place by the August 15th deadline.

In one of the contracts, the razing of the former Spanish Center and building two new houses on the lot, the deadline approached without either of the requirements of the Federal Neighborhood Stabilization Project being fulfilled. So the Racine Loan Board of Review, the overseer of this program, acting on the recommendation of the Director of City Development, Brian O’Connel, pulled a rabbit out of a hat: Racine Housing & Neighborhood Partnership.

RHNP has no paid staff, has not paid taxes in more than four years, and has largely been inactive for more than two years. The point being RHNP is but a shell organization, a conduit for the City to by-pass NSP requirements to receive funding for this project.

According to Deputy City Attorney Scott Letteney, RHNP is not a qualified contactor to do such a project. It has no staff. So the City (my guess: Brian O’Connel in City Development) will find the subcontractors. But in that case the City must have those contractors by August 15th.

And we have come full circle in the scam.

According to Alderman Eric Marcus, HUD has reviewed this matter and given him the opinion that this maneuver is not in compliance with HUD regulations.

The federal government is huge and has a penchant for bungling. The City may never get caught. But is this the way we want our City Government to do business?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Time to Retire the City Development Department

Brian O’Connell of the City’s Redevelopment Department was instrumental in closing down developer Tom Tousis’ $2 - $3 million project in the West Racine. The reason? It wasn’t expensive enough. O’Connell wanted a $5 million project.

I don’t think O’Connell is a stupid man. I don’t think he is destructive. Even though his action is both stupid and destructive.

It is the system that is the problem. It is time to eliminate the City Development department and along with it the City Planning Commissions. We can suffer the consequences The Planners have perpetrated on Cities across this nation of obstructing economic growth and happiness, or do what needs to be done: eliminate The Planners.

Is the City practicing its own form of discrimination?

Recently, Ken Lumpkin, Insider News owner and editor blogged, In the early 90’s there were about 28 African American bars, taverns, and Lounges. In less than two decades, the city has managed to close most of them leaving nine for a city whose African American population is well over 26,000.

Denis Navratil added fuel to the City discrimination charge fire with these comments on the George Meyers Car 25 talk show.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Let the People Decide

Something new at the Council Meeting tonight: Aldermen actually taking into consideration constituent desires and voting that way!

It came on a street paving issue. The street was below standards, so bad that Rick Jones, DPW Director and Chief Shove It Down Our Throats perpetrator, says “DPW won’t waste taxpayers money by repairing the street.” Three aldermen, Ron Hart, Bob Mozol and Sandy Weidner, all supported Dennis Wiser’s amendment to remove Rosalind Avenue from the order because “If the people on the street don’t want their street repaired, why do it?”

I have rarely seen such actions as this. I have heard aldermen voice concerns of their constituency before, many time. But they were only paying lip service to their constituents, generally voting against that constituency preference anyway unless they agreed with what that constituent wanted.

I cannot remember a time, however, when that many aldermen spoke up for someone else’s constituency just because the constituency wanted it that way—and then vote that way. And then to actually have the council support that opinion with a majority vote? That’s news!

The main opposition to the “constituent preference” vote (other than the Rick Jones contemplation) is the lawsuit argument. If someone has an accident because of the condition of the street, will the city be liable?

It’s an interesting question. That could be a liability. I am not sure. The only threats of street related lawsuits that I have heard of come from the pot hole issue. And I think that those taxpayers on that street pay enough taxes to have Rick Jones’ DPW at least patch the pot holes.

Another option to consider is to make the owner of that section of street liable for any lawsuit commenced as a result of the street condition. Your property line goes to the middle of the street anyway. If owners want to make the choice on whether or not to repair, then they should also be responsible for whatever goes on at their portion of the street.

I would take that responsibility for my area of the street. And then I would make sure that the potholes were filled and my section of the street was safe.

It really doesn’t cost that much to fill a pot hole with some asphalt anyway. And I might just go to the trouble of mixing up a bag of concrete and use that, making it an even better repair that what the City would do.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Saving money with solar panels — Oh, Sure!!

On December 9, 2009 the Journal Times reported that the solar panels installed at the City Hall Annex were generating more savings than the city had anticipated.

Public Works Commissioner Rick Jones reported it was estimated that selling the electricity generated by the panels to We Energies would bring in $10,000 per year. Experience for 2009 shows that the actual revenue will be closer to $12,000 and that the timetable for paying off the project would be about nine years. Earlier estimated indicated a 22 year payoff.

The program is being developed in two phases—144 panels in 2009 and 144 in 2010. The first phase cost is about $340,000 and the second phase will be considerably less because the first phase had one-time, non-recurring costs.

Jim Morrison of the Racine Taxpayers Association asks a good question: How does one pay off $340,000 in debt in nine year at only $10,000 per year?

As we get further into this story we find that We Energies gave the City $150,000 to help pay for the project and is committed to buying power back from the City. The City buys power from We Energies at about 10¢ per kilowatt hour, but sells the electricity generated by the solar panels to We Energies for 22¢ per KWH.

That is apparently very generous of We Energies. But why on Earth buy a product that you sell for more than twice the price for which you produce it? Because the State Legislature says so. That’s why.

When the State of Wisconsin legislature passed its Focus on Energy legislation it required We Energies and other utilities to take steps to assure that 20% of its energy be generated by renewable sources by the year 2020.

Buying electric power produced by solar, wind, biomass and other renewable sources is one approach being use by We Energies to comply with the legislative mandate.

So Rick Jones is clever enough to tap into that legislative windfall.

But is it really “clever?” Who really produces the savings going into Mr. Jones bureaucratic empire?

It turns our Mr. Jones is about as clever as a pickpocket.

We Energies is a public utility — a legal, legislature-protected monopoly. As those costs to produce energy increase, so must We Energy’s price they charge to their customers, the consumers of gas and electric power.

And that is who really "saves" the money for Mr. Jones power scheme. He is not making saving money selling electricity. He is stealing the money from consumers of electric power — you and me — to produce the savings of which he boasts.

It is the Working People of the State of Wisconsin, each doing their bit through the consumption of gas and electric power, chipping in to make sure that the bureaucrats in the Department of Public Works, City of Racine, keep their jobs, their Cadillac health care plans and their bountiful pensions, that makes Mr. Jones' solar savings plan “sunny.”

And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is an object lesson in saving money — government style!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Milwaukee Connection

The City council should oppose the legislative creation of the S.E. Regional Transit Authority, known as SERTA, to start the KRM construction process in 2010.
SERTA is designed to—and eventually will—take total control of all transit operations in S.E. Wisconsin, which includes Racine and the Belle Urban System.

1. The SERTA tax is touted to take transit off the property tax rolls.
Technically this is correct. But to what advantage to the City of Racine property taxpayer? The City budget will not decrease by that amount. Spending in other parts of the bureaucracy will increase to fill that void. Property taxpayers in the City will continue paying what they had been paying in property taxes with an additional Transit Tax.

2. SERTA, the new taxing authority, will be controlled by Milwaukee.
Five of the nine SERTA board members are from Milwaukee, appointed by the Mayor and County Executive of Milwaukee and the Governor of Wisconsin.

3. The Milwaukee County Transit System is virtually bankrupt and they need additional funds from wherever they can get them. How the Transit Tax (the money going to SERTA) gets spent will be determined by this SERTA Board. Milwaukee most certainly would like to see SERTA in control. SERTA would give the Milwaukee system a broader reach for funds, going into Kenosha and Racine Counties.

4. The Racine BUS will lose the current $4.3 million in state and federal assistance it receives. The BUS will be controlled by Milwaukee, and will find itself competing for money for its Racine operations with a larger, destitute Milwaukee system.

What is the real support for KRM??

1. Ask RCEDC for a statement regarding the importance of commuter rail in their search for new businesses.

2. Ask RAMAC for a statement regarding how many new jobs current
employers will commit to add if KRM actually get built.

3. Ask SERTA for current KRM ridership projections with facts to back it up.

4. Via a referendum, ask the people if they want KRM

And finally, two observations.

1. Downtown Racine to O'Hare Field is 65 mils and 80 to 90 minutes by car. KRM is 3 hours, 2 trains & 2 cabs.

2. Case/IH to CNH Global, Burr Ridge, IT.- is 80.5 miles and 90 - 100 minutes by car. KRM is 3lh hours, 3 trains and 3 cabs.

These comments are a summary of the information given in the handout I distributed at the January 19, 2010 City Council Meeting and can be found at the Racine Taxpayers Association website.

Butchering Taxpayers

Aldermen and the mayor are relying too much on the bureaucracy for their information. There is something one must realize about bureaucrats and data: they will give you carefully sifted data that support what they are doing and give them more money.

OK. So you can ask a bureaucrat, “What time do you come to work? What time do you leave? How long is your lunch break?” You could even ask Rick Jones something like, “How much solid waste is taken to the landfill each year?”

For questions like that you can rely on their answers.

But when you ask speculative questions like, “What happens if we…?” “How long would it take to…?” or “What should we do if…?“ you will get carefully culled answers that put constituents in the worst position possible and put them in the best position possible to give rationality to sucking money out of taxpayers pockets to support what they are doing.

That is how the bureaucracy functions.

To a large degree it works that way in the private sector also. That is why one gets second opinions and does additional research before purchasing. That is why businesses like Motor Trend, Consumer Reports and the Good Housekeeping seal are important.

Doctors, lawyers, insurance brokers all tend to cherry pick their data to sell you on them.

Bureaucrats are just as bad—generally worse.

So quit relying on bureaucrats for information.

Also remember, that you have limited time for your research. Under pressure a bureaucrat can spend his whole day researching. You may not believe it, but he has little else to offer you than data. His livelihood depends on it. He has no profit motive. He only has a “you need me” motive.
You will have trouble “out-researching” them.

So when dealing with a bureaucrat you must also have a strong philosophical base from which to operate. Otherwise you will be meat for their grinders.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Cumbling of Obstructionism?

The City Council voted this evening on the next step in the Tom Tousis venture in West Racine. The step allows Tousis to submit a comprehensive plan for the purchase of the corner lot of Washington Avenue and West Boulevard.

Only one alderman, Jeff Coe of the First District, voted against the measure. Coe was adamant that there would be “No gas station put on that corner!”

At first look, a 14-1 vote for Tousis seem promising, but the undercurrent of grumbling makes it pretty obvious that Tousis has some rocky roads ahead of him in this project.

Alderman Sandy Wiedner of the Sixth District made is clear that she wants more to say about the plan and wanted assurance that her voting in the affirmative on this was no indication of her acceptance of the overall plan. She voiced an objection to Tousis proposal of a forgivable mortgage on the $250,000 piece of land. Brian O’Connel from the City Planning Department made it clear that she was not accepting the plan with this vote.

Of course Jim Spangenberg spoke up from the northeast outback of the council making it clear that he was only approving this step as Tousis (or "anybody") should have that opportunity; but he was opposed to the plan.

How the council will go on this issue, I believe, is still up for grabs. But hope is in the air: Mike Shields from the Third District was most positive in the discussion saying the council should support Tousis. “We should encourage young entrepreneurs in the City.”

It is unlikely that a plan could be devised that would meet the total approval of every member of a 15 person council such as this one. There are just too many different opinions among that many people to expect everyone to agree. Not only that, but in a modern, rapidly changing market place, innovation is often a key ingredient to success. And as soon as innovation appears on the scene, so does departure from the status quo, conventional wisdom, and proven success.

And for 15 people that not only think along those lines but get elected promoting those things, finding unanimity on a project that is to succeed in a very difficult economic environment is next to impossible. Our only hope is that at least eight of the fifteen have the vision of a Mike Shields on this issue and allow Tousis to proceed forward.

Tousis, I am sure, is only persisting into this gauntlet of obstruction because he is from Racine and really want to promote his local economy. Any out of town investor would have walked away many objections ago.

But Tousis is still here and I detect subtle support beyond that of Mr. Shields‘. Maybe the Wall of Obstruction of the Old Guard is crumbling.