Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Media reporting and Mt. Pleasant employee benefits

Someone in the media finally got it right: "...unions lost POWER to bargain over benefits, etc." Congratulations to Kimber Solana, whoever you are.  All other media references are to loss of "rights."   The unions have lost none of their RIGHTS.   They have lost power...power over their employers and taxpayers to extract excessive money from them.

Not that they have given up all that excess though.   I am counting 8 weeks a year total of vacation, sick days and holidays for Mt Pleasant employees. I have never heard of anyone in the private sector getting anything close to that.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The 2012 proposed City of Racine Budget

These things I have presented are only a start, but they could save millions.   I am not going to be repetitive by bringing up all the savings ideas I have mentioned in the past, such as a highly paid and un-needed City Administrator, a Triumvirate at the top of DPW where we only need one person.    The good old boy system is alive and well in the City of Racine and it resides at the highest level of the bureaucracy.    How many millions are wasted up in that stratosphere?

All in all there is a lot of money to be saved for the taxpayers.    The only question is who will do it and when will it get done.   Since the 1970 census, we have lost 16,000 residents as a result of current practices.

It’s time to re-tool, re-organize and get those 16,000 people back.

Closing Humble Park

Closing the Humble Park Community Center may be a good idea, but I doubt it.   I attended a John Bryan Community center several years ago and there were a lot of good people attending that meeting, from that neighborhood, that were willing to run that center on a voluntary basis.   And except for a mayor and city employees that had a vested interest in keeping paid staff at that center, we may very well have been able to run that center for about 1/10th of what it costs us now.

We pay score keepers at Community Center events? Little League, RASA, Pop Warner Football.   You won’t find paid scorekeepers.   A lot of the entry level sports leagues are run by volunteers.   Some of the higher up activities, like the LightHouse Run use volunteers.

We actually make money on the senior Center up on Gould street.   And that is the Center that has the longest history of attacks for this council to get them to move out so that we can start spending taxpayer money on that Center again to keep it operational

Sewer Lateral Fees — Up Again

Sewer lateral fees: the infamous “bait and switch” scheme sold to us by former DPW head Rick Jones as a sort of insurance plan to protect homeowners from the big hit of a five figure sewer lateral repair bill.

This scheme was never about the homeowner. That was only the bait. It has always been about increasing fees and taxes on property owners to get more money into the DPW coffers.

At least our new “customer oriented” DPW chief, Mark Yalen, dropped the homeowner protection gig. And I thank him for relieving us of that deceptive claim.

I realize that many of you genuflectingly trust the DPW staff assessment of the condition of our sewer system. I attribute that to your lack of concern for taxpayers and your lack of knowledge of sewer systems.

When Mark Yalen proclaimed the EPA threat, that did it for me. I don’t trust the evaluation of someone who would use such a scare tactic. I want a second opinion. You get second opinions when you get advised of a serious medical, legal or financial condition, don’t you? Just because you, yourself, don’t understand the condition does not mean you should consider the advice of Mr. Yalen as infallible. It isn’t. It needs to be checked. And I advise you use a group like the Racine Taxpayers Association in finding that second opinion. Otherwise that second opinion will most certainly be one with a vested interest in proclaiming another “worst case scenario.”

Hey, TAXI!!!

The Belle Urban System brought in $1.5 million in fares this year. That is a very good. But that's not what kept this show on the road. In addition to those fares, the BUS absorbed

$1.1 million tax levy from Racine property owners
$2.4 million federal operating assistance
$1.8 million state operating assistance,

Including the $700K the WI Coach Line chips in that totals up to

$6.0 million in additional subsidies to keep those near empty buses running around our streets.

The actual total costs to run the buses is closer to $9 million (page 194 of the 2012 City budget document.)

Buses are made for long distance travel or travel with high volume of passengers. Neither of which qualifies for the City of Racine transportation.

According to BUS CEO, Al Stanek, there are only 2 or 3 passengers, on the average, riding the bus at any one time.

It is about time to hail a taxi.

Note: If we mandate a fully retrofitted $20 to 30K taxicab with meter and light on the top and a license to operate that cab (cost: $150K Milwaukee to $600K New York), then forget it.

But if anyone with a cell phone and car that passes a reasonable safety test can give people rides, then we can do it with little or no taxpayer subsidy. But we may need some help from the private sector. See this article for some ideas.

Clearing the snow in less than two hours

A lot of money can be saved on snow plowing.   But those savings will never materialize until two things are done:

1. Learn to plow the left side of the street.
2. Get someone competent to organize the plowing on a street by street basis.

I believe that within two hours of the cessation of the fall of snow, you can have all the streets cleared if you

1. Organize it properly and
2. Do not plow the side of the streets on which the cars are properly parked.


1. It will save you a lot of money,
2. Make it easier to negotiate the streets during and after the fall, and
3. Make it easier to dig cars out of the parking side of the street.

Miles of City Streets: 261
Speed of snow plows: About 10 miles and hour
Trucks with plows: 40. (We should be able to find 40 trucks with plows in the City)
Passes to clear snow to one side: 2 (once down the middle and once down the “no parking” side.   The trucks should probably plow in pairs.)

Calculation: (261/10/40)x2 = 1.31 or 1 Hour and 19 minutes to clear all city streets.

During snow emergencies you start earlier and warn every one to get to the odd or even side of the street according to alternate side parking rules.

Holiday week garbage collection confusion

Eliminating the weekend, overtime charges for holiday week garbage collection is probably a good idea.   It is one of those cost savings things that the city Council makes when it wants to make sure the taxpayers feel the sting.   Why cut an upper level bureaucrat, like the City Administrator, when no one but his friends would care?

It is unreasonable for unions to be charging time and a half for working Saturdays.   I don’t know of anyone in the private sector who gets paid extra just because they are working on a Saturday.   And I think the unions are ready to talk and maybe concede that issue.   In which case this holiday week scheme would not be necessary.

Only the most avid of the government program followers is going to be able to figure out those holiday week garbage pickup schemes.   Just about each holiday week has it own unique schedule.

Health Care Costs continue to be a (hidden) Problem

In 2005 the Racine Taxpayers Association, lead by then president Jayne Siler, had observed is that over the prior years, government had not been growing so much as it had been just getting more expensive.   Then County Executive Bill McReynolds indicated to the Association that the culprit was Health Care Costs.   The Taxpayers Association then did a series of studies on health care costs of the local taxing entities: Gateway, The City of Racine, the county and Racine Unified revealing the exorbitant government plans.   But that is as far as it went.   Nothing was ever done about these costs until this year when Scott Walker at least got government employees contributing to the extravaganza.

Since those studies, Health Savings Accounts have come upon the scene.   They have proven effective.   With salaries and fringes constituting 76% of the General Fund Budget, there may be room to save millions of dollars just in Health care costs.

It is time to investigate these plans and put them into use for government employees.

Doubling up the tax payments rejected by aldermen

Taxpayers got a break from the aldermen on the property tax payment plan.   The proposal by the administration was to change from four payments to two payments.   Under the proposed change the first payment would have been a double payment and would have been due January 31st.   The second payment would have been due July 31st.

According to City records, under the current system, 9.6% of the taxpayers do not make that first payment in time and end up paying a 1% per month interest charge and a .5% monthly penalty charge, not only on that first payment, but on all the rest of the unpaid taxes for that year.

Demanding the double payment would most certainly have increased that 9.6% who could not make the January 31st payment in time.   The result would have been an increase in delinquency interest and penalty payment, which would take even more money out of the private sector and put it into the government coffers.

And that would not have been good for our local economy.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A New Proprietor for the North Beach Concession

Low bid contracts are generally a useful government tool, but it is not a tool that is always a good idea to use.

If the North Beach concession is mishandled there will be a lot of disappointed people and it will take a while to correct the errors.

“Leave Well Enough Alone” is probably the best policy there. The extra $10 or $15K the City might get from the concession is minor in comparison to the money wasted elsewhere in it’s $80 million budget. And bringing on problems at North Beach won’t be worth it.

The City wastes millions in upper level bureaucrats.

Making money off of business enterprises is not a government forte.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New Tax Payment Schedule

The room for cutting taxes at the city level is at the top of the bureaucratic food chain; for example, getting rid of the City Administrator.   But governments never consider cutting out those high level paper shufflers.   Cuts are made at the lower level where productivity takes place.

The current example of this practice is the proposal to get rid of a couple of clerks by reducing taxpayer payment dates from four to two.   An earlier similar suggestion was to reduce garbage collection to every other week to save on labor costs of garbage collectors.

The city would save $75K on the tax payment date proposal.   If the City had dumped the unneeded City Administrator and assistant Park and Rec Director as was suggested last year during the budget debates, then instead of hiring a new DPW Chief Administrator this Spring, if either one of the capable Deputy DPW Administrators had been promoted to the position (no need to replace him at his old position), it would have saved the taxpayers about a half million dollars in wages, health care benefits and pensions.

There are millions more in savings available without having to cut services or increase taxpayers hardships.   But to find them, you have to look at the top of this over-staffed city bureaucratic nightmare.

Monday, May 2, 2011

West Racine Business Group Condemned for Abandoning Socialism

There was a time in the history of this country when socialism would not have even been considered, let alone thrust upon others without their knowing it. And certainly such a move would not have been tried on unsuspecting businessmen.

In the City of Racine that has now been done four times with the institution of business improvement districts (BIDs). And one of those groups, after getting wise to the sham, went through the difficult process of terminating the arrangement.

Then, with the last step in the dissolution process, came the greatest surprise: four of the City’s aldermen—who were required by law to approve the dissolution—condemned the businessmen for their “attitude.”

The verbal lynching of the businessmen was carried on by Alderman Greg Helding (soon to be President of the Council Greg Helding), departing alderman Jim Spangenberg (who also represents the BID), and Aron Wisneski. (Terry McCarthy made a weak statement about the businessmen spending their refund money properly.)

Collectivism has become the order of the day for our city council. Using a fascist approach to the control of business within the city has led to aggressive unionism, businesses failures and the departure of nearly 16,200 people from our community.

Instead of aldermen who condemn such independence as retaliatory and backwards, we would do better with a group of council members that acknowledge private property rights, the merits of the spirit of individual accomplishments and the history of the success of free enterprise.

Click here for a video of the discussion at the common council (length 11 minutes)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Census Results for Racine are in.  Times Must Change

The Census figures have finally come out for Racine for 2010.  We are down another 3000 people.  This is not good.

Since 1970, when we reached our peak population at 95, 162, we have lost 16,300 people.

Such a loss does have its consequences.

But more importantly it makes a statement; a statement that it is difficult to live and survive in our city.  It is easier to take up roots and move than to try to stay here any longer.

There are probably many reasons for this loss that can be expounded upon.  But none that outweighs the argument that the focus of this problem is with the government of the City of Racine.   As a regulating instrument our Mayor, City Council and their bureaucracy have consistently fostered a system of increased taxes and increased regulations that make doing business here in Racine difficult, and starting a business here in Racine even more difficult.

Times must change.

The events of the last several months have indicated that the Mayor and aldermen are more comfortable living with and failing with past practices than it is to try something new that has a chance to succeed.

When Governor Scott Walker put in some promising reforms in Madison, then gave our Mayor and Council the tools to succeed with these reforms, they rejected them.  They preferred the comfort of the past rather than the challenges of the new.

Six years ago, Mitch Daniels, governor of Indiana, put in reforms like those of Governor Scott Walker.  His ratings dropped to 30.   He was desecrated.

But by the time his first term was up, four years later, his reforms produced such success that he won an easy re-election.  Indiana went from being broke to one of only 5 states in the Union with a budget surplus.

It was the only industrial state in the Midwest to actually add jobs to the state rolls last in 2010.

We here in Wisconsin are on the verge of a similar success.   If we can get a Mayor and Council that “gets with the program” we here is Racine would ride the Walker/Daniels success train to new economic heights.

Condescending to unions, intense regulation of businesses, close monitoring of the lives of private citizens…these are all the old ways of doing things.

It is time to leave those things in the annuls of historic memorabilia.

It is time for something new.

Times must change.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

DeltaHawk and Fascism

Maybe I should be opposing the City’s funding of the DeltaHawk airplane engine, but I am not.   I am just disappointed that we have sunk to such a low level of operation in this City that we must engage in such an activity to survive.

We used to be a national center for innovation.  But I would warrant that none of those great companies of that era, Twin Disc, InSinkErator and J. I. Case, to name a few, came to a government planning board for money to advance their products.

It is a signature characteristic of fascism that corporate profits are private, their losses are public.

DeltaHawk characterizes that scenario.  If DeltaHawk is successful, the profits will go to the stockholders, as they should. If DeltaHawk fails and the company disappears, the 1.2 million dollar investment will be paid by the taxpayers, as they shouldn't.

The reasons for this practice are more than academic.  In “Fascism Light,” you might call it, when regulation and taxation is limited and business and people are relatively free to function, there is no need for government subsidy of business.

But as a community gets in to “Fascism Regular” and restrictions and taxes become so heavy as to make economic expansion unreachable, the government must make up the gap with subsidies to business.

This is nothing new to the world.  Just about every socio-political society that has advanced beyond tribalism, has eventually progressed from Fascism Light to Fascism Regular.  It is only new to Racine to have reached that summit.

It is not the role of government in a free society to engage in speculative financial ventures with taxpayers money.

Such an engagement is actually why the corporate structure was invented: to provide a means to amass sufficient capital to engage in new ventures while limiting the liability of the investors should such a venture fail.

There has been a comment that this is not taxpayer money, that it comes from the Intergovernmental Revenue Sharing Account, essentially the Sewer Treatment Agreement.  It is all legal.

Yes it is legal. But is it right?

The Sewer treatment plant was paid for out of the wallets of Racine taxpayers through their water bills.  Any profits made from the leasing of that facility to other communities rightly should have gone back to those taxpayers in repayment of their investment.  Instead those water bill dollars were really just another tax and the lease money went to anything from the Zoo to parking lots.  And now the DeltaHawk.

The DeltaHawk promoters should be using the corporate mechanism for their needs.  Unfortunately they can’t.  Governments across the land have made that nearly impossible.  So a government must come to their rescue.

And it looks like that government is us.