All content, of both the original and this blog, is written from my point of view and is my opinion. I believe it to be accurate at the time it is written. ~ Kyle Prast, Brookfield resident since 1986

Saturday, March 31, 2007

More May Pictures: Bro. Andrew, Alterra, Mayapple

Want to contact me anonymously?

The Corridor Report: How wide will they be? We Don't Know

Waiting is just a part of life. We stand in line at the grocery store to check out. We wait our turn to enter or leave our church sanctuary, exit a sporting event, or even to ride Pirates of the Caribbean at Disney World!

Why do you think this is?

If you think about construction costs, it may help you to understand why entrances, stairways, and hallways are sized the way they are. Most corporations and organizations size their corridors / stairways according to reasonable daily needs, not peak time.

Is it reasonable to expect people to wait their turn to get from point A to point B? I think so, as long as the wait time does not significantly interfere with the purpose of the facility. If you paid your price of admission, but could not get seated prior to the play starting because of a long line to enter the theater, you might think they needed wider corridors. But if you had to wait a bit to get to your seat, got settled, and then the curtain went up, that would be reasonable.

Because construction costs are so high now, no company wants to overspend on non-productive spaces such as corridors and stairways. An exception would be commercial facilities that are after the ooh and ah factor—a posh hotel, corporate headquarters, etc.

Construction cost per square foot for Elmbrook’s referendum run $155.00/sq. ft. for new construction, and $95.00/sq.ft. for heavy remodeling.

Elmbrook’s FacilitiesFacts sheet #10 cites constricted corridors in their list of complaints. Other “Fact” sheets warn that our open stairwells are a fire hazard.

How did the school manage all these years?

Do we suddenly have more students at the high school than in years past?

Bob Borch relayed this information: “The highest enrollment at the two high schools occurred in 1977-78 when there were 3,110 students. We do not have the breakdown between the two schools. In 1982-83 there were 1,646 at Central and 1,479 at East for a total of 3,126. This is when the schools were 10 - 12 high schools. The lowest enrollment was 1,037 at Central and 880 at East which occurred in 1991. Currently we are at 1413 Central and 1391 East for a total 2,804.”

Did you catch that?
Highest ever: 1977-78, 3,110 students as a 10th – 12th grade school. (No breakdown for Central.)
Highest 9-12 grades: 3,126, 1,646 at Central, 1,479 at East.
Lowest ever, 1991-92: 1,917 total, 1,037 at Central, 888 at East.
Currently, for 2006-07: 2,804 total, 1,413 at Central and 1,391 at East.
Projected for 2011-12? 2,510 total, Central and East specifics unknown.

Central is now 233 students below our historic high. In 5 years it is projected to be even lower.

Why are the students having such a hard time “fitting” the facility? More than one person has quipped, the kids must be fatter these days!

I suspect there is more fooling around in the halls instead of promptly making their way to the next class?

So how wide is this corridor at Central in the Journal photo? Well, it depends how you measure it.

From narrowest point to narrowest point, it measures 12’ 5”. The block columns take up about 1 foot total. That 3-D ceramic sculpture probably does not help either. The stairway has about 2 1/2 feet of vacant space between the stringers (sides). Central’s stairs measure 4’ 6” at the narrowest point.

Notice that Journal photo shows traffic is not bumper to bumper on the stairs, there are spaces. Notice too that many of the students involved in the "congestion" are at their lockers on the main floor. This impedes traffic flow.

East High School measures 13’ 7” across the main hall and 6’ 9” across stair tread.

How does this compare to some neighboring schools?

Wauwatosa West, built in 1970s: Corridor measures 13’ wide, stairs 6’2” wide.
Longfellow, built in 1958: Main corridor measures 16’, north south corridor measures 12’, stairs measure 5’2”.

Now for the $108.8 million dollar question: How wide will the NEW hallways and stairs be? THEY DON’T KNOW.

This is what Andy Smith sent in reply to my question: What is the width of the new proposed corridors and stairways at Central?

Andy: “In speaking with the district's architectural firm, as of this spring, buildings of this type need to comply with the 2006 International Building Code which specifies a multitude of things. The staircases will need to be wider; they are closed at the bottom and top so that smoke and fire are not able to so easily race from floor-to-floor; an area of rescue in the stairwell for people with disabilities is mandatory.

Minimum typical hallway 'free space' widths are 8-feet at the elementary level and 10-12 at the secondary level, but depending on building population, uses of rooms leading to the corridor in question and code requirements could be from 12 to 20-feet wide; for instance lobby-type corridors might call for a greater width.

If the referendum passes, the conceptual plans will be reviewed extensively with attention given to detail in meetings with teachers, administrators and others to determine specific layouts, dimensions and amenities of classrooms, corridors and other facility features, so it is not possible yet to determine specific widths of corridors and staircases at this time until those discussions and development of draft construction drawings would occur during the roughly six months between the potential passage of a referendum and groundbreaking.”

That was a long answer for we don't know yet.

Is there anything we can do about this without a referendum? Sure.

We could relocate those lockers on the library end of the hallway near the stairway. This would alleviate some of the congestion. There is that 2 1/2 feet of open space next to the actual stair treads at Central. Maybe the stairway could be replaced with wider treads? They could be increased to 5' 6"? There seem to be other stairways in the building too, could they go back to the UP and DOWN only stairways? That may help organize traffic flow too.

Many other school districts solve their open staircase problem by adding a wall below with fire doors at the bottom of the stairway. This prevents fire/smoke from traveling up to the next floor.

If they would adopt a 20 foot wide main corridor, changing to that width would cost about $1,900 to $3,100 / lineal foot! (Depending if they call that new construction or remodeling.) I don’t know how long that corridor is, I am guessing 120 feet? But is that how we want to spend $230,000 to $370,000? Remember, we are headed toward an era of budget cuts.

That seems to be a lot of money to spend just so students don’t have to wait in line and take their turn. Besides, I thought they learned that in kindergarten.

LINKS: Betterbrookfield, Brookfieldnow, Practically Speaking, Brookfield7,

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Inquiring minds want to know! Q & A with Bob Borch as the source

This is a series of questions and answers between one Elmbrook resident (parent) and Bob Borch, Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations.

The parent will be in bold, Bob Borch will be in red.

Q: What is the current number of students in the Elmbrook high schools? What is the projected number of students over the next 20 years (or however many years these projected figures may be forecast for planning purposes)?

A: Borch, Current enrollment is 1,413 students at Central and 1,391 at East (2804 current total.) The district does not do 20 year enrollment projections. We do five year projections which shows high school enrollment at 2,510 students total for both schools in 2011-12.

Parent's note: This shows a 10 % projected decline in the high school population, which is consistent with the trend for decline in population for individuals under 14 years. This is not consistent with Dr. Gibson's statements that high school population will be "stable." Perhaps it will be "stable" as long as we increase out of district and Chapter 220 enrollments.
Sources: Sewrpc and ChooseMilwaukee

Q: What is the total dollar cost of the loan for this project, over the next 20 years, for an average $335,000 home (not including defeasance)? What is the projected interest for this project?

A: Borch, Should both questions be approved the total cost (for the average house) over twenty years is projected to be $6,840. Interest costs are projected to total $80,299,908.

Q: As an approximation of this total cost to the average homeowner, I took the total debt (108,800,000 + 80,299,908 = 189, 099,908) and divided this by the number of taxed entities. Using the 21,000 mailing labels (a number Borch supplied that the district mails out to)as this number, the cost per taxed entity was $9004.75. Using the 14,098 I received from the City Assessor's office as the number, the cost per taxed entity was $13,413.23 These figures do not support $6,840.

A: Borch, The city has indicated that the average home value is $335,000. We are working from that number.

Q: To check my work, I multiplied your estimated cost per average homeowner by the number of taxed entities. Using the 21,000 mailing labels as this number, the total debt which could be covered was $6,840 X 21,000 = $143,640,000. This does not cover a debt of $189,099,908. If I have misunderstood this, would you please illustrate with a numerical example for my edification?

A: Borch, I believe the average home in Elm Grove has a higher value then $335,000. However, since the majority of home(s) are in the City and to keep things simple, we are only using the City average. In part, that is the reason for the web site calculator, since it is expressed in fair market value, it allows homeowners in any part of the district to calculate their cost. In addition, keep in mind that taxes are paid by commercial and industrial properties and included in the 20 year cost process is the assumption of a 2% in real growth being added to the value of all properties, whether residential, commercial, or industrial.

Q: What future referenda may be planned for updating other Elmbrook school buildings during the next 20 years?

A: Borch, None are currently planned. The Long Range Facility Study done about eight years ago called for the high schools as the third phase of four phases. The fourth phase is projected to be minimal in cost, with the only projects clearly identified is to address the needs at Hillside and Tonawanda both which only have a cafeteria/gym unlike the rest of our schools which have separate facilities.

The Fairview South building is considered by the district to be excess property from a district perspective. In declaring this property excess, the district sent a message to all districts using this school as part of the cooperative that any cost for repairs to this building would have to be borne by all districts, not just Elmbrook. Thus, the building is not a part of the Elmbrook Facility Study.

Q: Is there any reserve in the Elmbrook School District's budget, accumulated over the years, whether by design, or by perhaps spending less than projected, or having higher revenue than projected?

A: Borch, The district had a fund balance of $16,598,440 at the end of the 2005-06 school year. Board policy requires the maintenance of a minimum of 15% of combined expenditures. The above amount is slightly higher than currently required. Please know that even with that amount of reserves on the books at the end of last year, we still needed to borrow $12.2 million of short term borrowing to have enough funds to get us from July 1, 2006 to January 15, 2007 when we received our first property tax payments.

Resident's note: I suppose nobody buys the idea that $108.8million is all for the high schools--their renovation price tag rose $63.5 million to $108.8 million.... while during the same time period, the cost of creating separate cafeteria / gym space in two elementary schools remained constant at the below-referendum price ( <$1million)? Or could be financed from reserves? Have the cafeteria prices been "hidden" in the high school referendums? Sources: 2003 Prices for renovation of 2 Elmbrook high schools = $63.5 million , and 2004 Prices for 2 cafeterias at $500,000 = $1million

Q: Combining the effects of these plans at projected rates (as alluded to previous questions) what is the projected school tax bill for today's average $335,000 home over the next 20 years? (or however many years these projected figures may be forecast for planning purposes)

A: Borch, See above answers - basically we do not know.

(Emphasis added)

Opinions and views expressed in guest postings do not necessarily reflect all of the opinions of Practically Speaking and Brookfield7. They are written by and are the opinion of the person listed at the bottom. Anonymous postings are submitted by persons who do not wish to have their name on the piece.


LINKS: Betterbrookfield, Brookfieldnow, Practically Speaking,

Dr. Matt Gibson, please answer the question

A reader sent me this...

This one was my favorite Gibson dodge - what an insult to a senior citizen of our community that pays his wage...

Q: Barb of Brookfield, WI - How do you address the concerns of retirees and seniors, who make up the large majority of the voting population in the district, about their ability to stay in their homes in the face of the massive tax increases we've experienced for school building.

If the referendum passes, I project the school portion of my tax bill will increase by $650, based on the confirmed and projected spending. This will require at least $ 1,000 of pre-tax income to pay for the increases. My retirement pension, after deducting the health insurance premium increase, has gone down to under $ 20,000 a year.

An additional $ 1,000 to pay school tax increases may mean I cannot afford to age in place in my home. I know others in similar situations. It seems that the school board is oblivious and insensitive to what the district voters can really afford.

Not everyone is a public employee with paid health care and automatic pay raises.

Answer: Matt Gibson - The District understands that there will be a tax increase for debt service. This increase is $164 for the first referendum question on an average home and $27 for the second referendum question on an average home. Costs to homes above or below the average may be calculated on the Referendum Calculator Worksheet found on the District website:


LINKS:Brookfield7 postings Betterbrookfield,

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Vote Yes postcard, I would give it an "F" for accuracy!

Someone gave me their Vote Yes postcard yesterday, so I could take a look at it. (I did not receive one because I do not have children in the district.)

The first thing I noticed was that it was an appeal to the emotions. It asks: ...if you would FEEL compelled to help. It then portrays a list of below average and failing grades for various components in the high schools.

I don’t know what they based these grades on. To me a failing grade would mean it does not meet minimal standards—that it does not function at a reasonable expectation. Example: Mechanical Systems: “F” to me would mean we consistently have interrupted or inadequate service for heat, lights, water, electricity, etc. Anyway, that is their opinion; these grades are not based on facts.

But this is one FACT they got WRONG:
No opinion, it is simply incorrect.
They state that the COST is roughly 50 cents a day. THAT IS NOT TRUE! THE REAL COST IS ROUGHLY 94 CENTS A DAY.

I added up all of the columns on the district’s cost calculator for referendum question #1 and #2, and it totaled $6,837.65 for an average Brookfield home of $335,000. (That is the number the district has been using, if you would add Elm Grove’s average home value into the mix, that number would be higher).

The postcard also listed various other problems below the report card that I don’t believe are accurate. Hopefully I will address them in a future piece.

I realize the question of the high school referendums is something that can be looked at from both sides: the proverbial water glass half full or empty. BUT one must portray the fact of the glass’ contents accurately or the merit of the argument does not hold water!


LINKS: Betterbrookfield, Brookfieldnow, Practically Speaking,

Monday, March 26, 2007

Signs of the times: What's wrong with this picture?

OK, What's wrong with these pictures?

There are too many signs per address!

The top photo is of Eddie Z's on Capitol and the second and third pics are of a residence on Fieldstone and Pilgrim, across from Wirth Park. That home had 8 or 9 Vote yes signs at that one address. (They are only allowed 2.)

During last April's mayoral election, Brookfield's sign ordinance was pretty strictly enforced as to size. It will be interesting to see if the City and police enforce the rules for excess sign number and posting on public land for this referendum.

Driving down North Ave. yesterday, I also saw homes across from Wirth Park that had multiple vote yes signs posted on public land between the sidewalk and roadway. That is not allowed either.

So far I have not seen any VoteNoApril3 group signs improperly placed. The ordinance is: 1 per address for each issue or candidate. If the home or business is on a corner, then they may have 2 signs--1 per street face. The sign must be on private property--not public right of way.

If you have any questions or comments about the signs, you may call the police dept. non-emergency number at 787-3700 or City Hall at 782-9650. One reader told me that in past years the police would remove signs from right of ways.

This corner house had 8 or 9 vote yes signs. They should only have 2.


LINKS: Betterbrookfield, Brookfieldnow, Practically Speaking,

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Guest Posting: Matt Thomas tells Elmbrook ,Why a tax increase? You can maintain buildings!

Excerpts from Matt Thomas of Newberlinnow

"I sent the first e-mail to the Elmbrook School Board and I got the second e-mail back from their media spin guy. None of the board members called or contacted me.

Why a tax increase?

Dear Elmbrook Board Members:

Hi, my name is Matt Thomas. I serve as the Vice President on the New Berlin School Board. ...Did you know that you can take care of your buildings without large tax increase referendums? That is what we've done here in New Berlin. We have a brand new state-of-the-art elementary school called Ronald Reagan Elementary that opened last month. We're almost done with improvements at New Berlin West High School...

All of this has been done without a referendum and within the regular budget. Have you considered this as an option? I would be happy to talk with you about how we were able to do this...

...We as a board decided to increase the amount set aside by $100,000 per year. By 2000, we were able to build that up to almost $2 million per year that was set aside each year. In the years since 2000, the board has been able to leverage that annual amount by borrowing against it to provide tens of millions of dollars for the building projects in our district....

Matt Thomas"

(Emphasis added)

Read Matt's entire letter to the school board.


5th referendum possible for Elmbrook: Gibson's history of leading successful referendums

I found this older article from 1995, 5th referendum possible for Elmbrook schools (Scroll down page) It contains some very intersting information--it is worth reading in its entirety.

It mentions that "Four (prior) building proposals have been rejected in the Elmbrook School District since 1991, but that has not discouraged school officials from considering yet another shot." That means the school board came at the citizens every year

It also notes that, "Gibson...had a histroy of leading successful referednums in other districts before joining Elmbrook in August."

LINKS: Betterbrookfield, Brookfieldnow, Practically Speaking,

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Contact Matt Gibson, all the Aldermen, and Mayor

Please contact Dr. Matt Gibson, all of the Brookfield aldermen and the mayor. Ask them to keep the fire stations where they are.

Superintendent Matt Gibson

Bill Carnell

Dan Sutton

Rick Owen

Bob Reddin

James Garvens

Ron Balzer

Steve Ponto

Mark Nelson

Scott Berg

Gary Mahkorn

Jerry Mellone

Chris Blackburn

Lisa Mellone

Mike Franz

Mayor Jeff Speaker,

LINKS: Betterbrookfield, Brookfieldnow, Practically Speaking,

Guest Post: Brookfield Elm Grove League of Concerned Citizens News

B.L.O.C.C. has not been involved in City of Brookfield issues for a few years; but, once again, Supt. Gibson and his School Board have made a decision which will impact our taxes for at least 2o years.

The Facility Facts Sheets prepared by the Administration do not support the "wish list" presented to the electorate. The "guess-to-mate" of $110 million for two re-modeled high schools and two new field houses is just that -- a guess! No firm bids were taken to determine the cost of construction and remodeling of these two schools; but we are supposed to write them a blank check and trust they will do the right thing. I DON'T THINK SO! We had an example of trust and a blank check with the Supt. Gibson / Swanson School (swap) fiasco a few years ago.

Fact sheet #8 shows a total of $9,329,321.00 in expenditures. However, these expenses are for 10 years for 13 buildings (their own words--first line of the page). If regular yearly preventative maintenance costs were included in the district's yearly budget and closely monitored, we wouldn't be remodeling sound buildings.
There are two referendum questions on the ballot--one for the actual re-modeling of the high schools and one for two new field houses. We are already taxed--and can expect increases--for State taxes, City property taxes, K-12 property taxes, Technical college property taxes, County sales taxes, municipal fee charges, and any other fees or charges our elected officials can think up.

If you can afford an additional tax for these two school referendums--then vote "yes" on April 3rd. If you can't afford anymore tax burden--then vote "no" on April 3rd--but--please exercise your right to vote. You cannot leave it to the "other guy".

Brookfield/Elm Grove League of Concerned citizens
Leonard H Schaefer
(Emphasis added)

Leonard was very involved in the planning and promotion of the successful 1996 Swanson and Wisconsin Hills $8,900,000 referendum.

Opinions and views expressed in guest postings do not necessarily reflect all of the opinions of Practically Speaking and Brookfield7. They are written by and are the opinion of the person listed at the bottom. Anonymous postings are submitted by persons who do not wish to have their name on the piece.


LINKS: Betterbrookfield, Brookfieldnow, Practically Speaking,

What can you expect your tour guide to say?

I see the district is offering a behind the scenes tour of the Mechanical Systems at the high schools on the 2 Saturdays before the referendum. At first, I wondered who would be the tour guides. I know on my tour of Central, the principal could not answer many of the questions that I had about maintenance and the “mechanicals”.

But the district is having either Maintenance Director Dave Ross or the facility managers of the high schools as tour guides. They may be more helpful.

However, if a visitor has a tough question about the reason the district does things the way they do or the need to replace an entire system, it does put these people in rather a difficult position. They are employed by the district—the administration and school board are their bosses. In government as in corporate life, employees are expected to support management’s agenda.

It is no secret that I believe we have not been spending enough on maintaining what we have. While this may cost a little more year to year, I believe in the long run, it will save the district taxpayers money.

It is ridiculous to think that a school can be relatively maintenance free or that no mechanicals would need replacing for 20 years. We all know this from taking care of our homes. Yes, a new home will need less initially, but even in newer construction, there are kinks to work out and things that break or need replacing. The new home, in 25 years will need its roof, furnace, and certainly its hot water heater replaced. Yet we don’t tear our homes down; we fix them.

I think it is important not to shoot the messenger (guide) on the tours. These men can only do so much with the budgets they have been allocated by the board and administration.

It is also important to remember that they work for the school district. They are not free to speak off the record.

So take the tour, but know that there may be a different perspective on the problems the school district cites.
Many of the needs we have today are a result of deferred maintenance, and much of this $108.8M is catch-up.

More about this later, but here are a few examples of commercial replacement intervals: boilers-continually renewable (in contrast with new, higher efficiency modular boilers -10 years), roof -20 years, water heater - 20 years, fire alarm system -10 years, lighting-10 years (either new technology comes out and is more efficient, or newer electronic ballasts don’t last.)


LINKS: Betterbrookfield, Brookfieldnow, Practically Speaking,

Guest Posting: The Real Cost of Renovation


The Real Cost of Renovation

I'm sure you've heard the old saw which proclaims: "It isn't the fall that hurts, it's the sudden stop!".

I'd also bet that, over the past few weeks, you have become far too familiar with the number: $108.8 million - the amount to be raised by the Elmbrook School District for high school renovation should the April third referenda succeed. Does anyone really want to hear that figure any more? No?

Good. Then let's look at the real cost of renovation!

To raise money issuing bonds, you've got to pay bond holders interest on their money. You also need to pay the bond sellers. The school district estimates this to be about 5.5% or $80.3 million. Now that gives us a shiny new number of $189.1 million.

$108.8M - Project Cost
$80.3M - Cost of Borrowing
$189.1M - Total Cost to Taxpayers

There are significant additional costs which we'll just ignore for now.

To determine what this new number ($189.1 million) means to each of us, the only other number we need is the present value of all taxable property in the district. As provided by them, this is : $7,446,715,036 or almost $7.5 billion dollars.

And following a little simple math, we discover that the total per family payout for this renovation is:

Projected 20 Year Cost at Home Value
(25.39 per $1000)

Assessed Your
Value of 20 Year
Home Cost
$250,000 $6,347
$300,000 $7,617
$335,000 $8,506
$350,000 $8,887
$400,000 $10,156
$500,000 $12,695

The bottom line on all of this is simple: Get out and vote NO on April 3rd, or wish you had!

Gerry Goodrich

Opinions and views expressed in guest postings do not necessarily reflect all of the opinions of Practically Speaking and Brookfield7. They are written by and are the opinion of the person listed at the bottom. Anonymous postings are submitted by persons who do not wish to have their name on the piece.


LINKS: Betterbrookfield, Brookfieldnow, Practically Speaking,

Guest posting: Safety, Security, and Renovation - 1

Instant Renovation

Imagine being ten years old. You've just left a neighborhood theater with your best friend following a scary flick, and you're walking several blocks home at night - just the two of you. Imagine too that your route takes you past your pal's house first. So then you must proceed on alone a block or so, step into a darkened funeral home, and quietly but quickly walk past the occupied 'parlors' and on up the stairs to your second floor home.

I made that gut wrenching trip several times in the year of 1950.

During World War II my Dad worked in a factory building bomb casings while my Mom ran a corner grocery in Milwaukee. We lived in the rear of the store. Following the war, they sold the store and leased a small house just down the street, in back of a bakery. As did many other families, they soon decided to build a new house in what was then the northwest corner of Milwaukee. Once they had signed the contract and had received their 'schedule' from the builder, my folks gave our landlord notice that we'd be moving out when construction was complete.

Unfortunately, when moving day arrived, our new house was still nine months from completion. So, we accepted the kind offer of the local funeral director's widow, and shared her upstairs living quarters with her and her small daughter just across the street from our former store.

We finally moved into our new home in December of 1950, I left both the Violet and Liberty Theaters behind, bringing along only the memory of many trips home that were more frightening than the movies which preceded them.

As our family - along with many others - learned so long ago, construction realities don't always follow contract schedules. What is billed as a two year project may be completed ahead of schedule, or be nine months late.

But how ever long it takes, new construction is never instantaneous - renovation even less so. And the lives of people who live and work - and try to learn - during a renovation, do so in the midst of construction in progress as well as construction delayed.

During a school renovation, both students and teachers struggle to communicate with one another; often separated from the chaos of construction by a bit of plywood here or a sheet of plastic there, together with ominous strips of yellow tape proclaiming: "Danger - Construction Work - Do Not Enter".

And just as I made that quick but quiet walk past the occupied parlors of my youth, they too will have to endure their own trepidations as they traverse the unknown parlors of construction throughout the school.
Gerry Goodrich
Opinions and views expressed in guest postings do not necessarily reflect all of the opinions of Practically Speaking and Brookfield7. They are written by and are the opinion of the person listed at the bottom. Anonymous postings are submitted by persons who do not wish to have their name on the piece


LINKS: Betterbrookfield, Brookfieldnow, Practically Speaking,

Saturday, March 17, 2007

A Taxing Experience

Oh, joy. I am doing my income taxes today. (One of the many things I do myself to save money.)

I would encourage you, as you prepare your own taxes or get the paperwork ready for your tax man , to look at your past property tax bills and income tax papers.

Look at the ratio between property tax increases and income increases.
Hopefully, I will get this done quickly and then I will report what I find.

P.S. Though it is a bit chilly today, there are signs of spring being right around the corner. I saw a robin and an election sign for Glen Allgaier on a business propert--all on the same day!

Happy Saint Patrick's Day


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Write-in Jon Wolff for school board? Sounds like it is worth a try. Tune in at 7am on WISN radio.

Jon Wolff, the leader of the newly formed Vote No April 3 group, will be interviewed Wednesday morning at 7 a.m., on the Morning Spin radio show. Tune in WISN, radio 1130 and hear what he has to say about the coming $108.8 million dollar referendum.

For all of you who would like to see a change on our school board, Jon announced recently that he has agreed to be a WRITE-IN candidate for the AT LARGE seat.

This means that you can write JON WOLFF in the write-in space on the ballot, as an opponent for Bob Ziegler's At Large school board seat. Ziegler is running unopposed.

LINKS: Betterbrookfield, Brookfieldnow, Practically Speaking,

UPDATE: The Town of Brookfield says, Send a formal contract. So, why move station #3, Mr. Speaker?

Town of Brookfield supervisors on Monday made another step toward cooperation with the City of Brookfield, as far as their fire station goes.

If you remember, the Town made an offer to the city: We offer our services to you.
The city made an offer to the Town: You pay us $875,000 next year, and we will man your station.
Now the Town said, send us a formal contract.

The situation is looking much more hopeful than it was a few months ago.

Aldermen Franz and Balzer were very reluctant to give their approval to the EMS/Fire Station Task Force’s recommendation at the HRPS meeting. Neither one of them wanted to move station #3 if cooperation with the Town could be achieved. The mood at that meeting was that cooperation would not take place, but now we see a glimmer of hope that it will.

But, here is the puzzler: Mayor Speaker still thinks the Moorland station should be moved 1 mile closer to the Town of Brookfield’s fire station!

What? His reasoning was that there were no guarantees that the Town would continue to allow the city to use its fire station, the JS Online article reported.

Well, that is true. We don’t know if the Town will continue to allow us to man and use their station.

BUT, it is equally true, that moving station #3 1 mile further west toward the Town’s fire station MAKES NO SENSE.

Station #3 is already in an equitable position to both the southeast side and southwest side. Moving that station 1 mile to the west will forever cause the southeast side to have much longer response times than the west side. Factor in the additional aid and proximity from the Town station, and to me, that move cannot be justified.

I would hope in light of this potential cooperation, the aldermen would decide to postpone the vote on the EMS/Fire Station Task Force recommendation.

If we ever do add that additional EMS station in the northwest corner, then our entire city would have fairly even emergency response times. Moving the stations all in a row, will never allow us that equitable distribution.

UPDATE: I missed this important detail, but a reader did not. The City only gave the Town the formal contract offer, but they only gave the Town DAYS TO ACCEPT IT.

The reader had this to say: I think the fact that Speaker sends a contract to the Town and gives them
only TEN days to sign it, and there will be no further discussion unless they sign it, just shows the absolute arrogance of Speaker... They don't really expect the Town to be able to sign in TEN days, so they can pretend that they were in fact willing to discuss the matter when the Town doesn't sign.

Time will tell what comes of the formal contract and 10 day deadline.

Robert Flessas', City Taxpayers won't be laughing now posting gives further insight into this Check: Check-mate negotiating between Town and City.

Is that your final offer?
Fire station #3 already IS in the right place!
The HRPS report: All 5 vote Yes, not all enthusiastic about the recommendation

LINKS: Betterbrookfield, Brookfieldnow, Practically Speaking,

Opposed to the referendum? Check out

Yesterday, a citizen group registered to oppose the $108.8 million dollar high school referendum.
The group is called, Vote No April 3. That seems easy enough to remember. It is also the name of their website: (You do not need to type in upper and lower case letters to access the website.)

Jon Wolff of Elm Grove, the Vote No April 3 leader, has voiced his opposition to the referendum in various newspaper articles and Talkback postings as well.

If you would like more information about the Vote No April 3 group, just go to their website or contact me.

LINKS: Betterbrookfield, Brookfieldnow, Practically Speaking ,

Guest Posting: Opposed to the referendum – here’s why

My spouse and I are opposed to the referendum, and here’s why.

The Elmbrook School District Accountability Study of October 2005 showed overwhelming opposition to any of the proposed alternatives, including remodeling. The major reason for opposition was that the cost was too high. The plan that EBSD is proposing shows fiscal irresponsibility, poor planning and facilities maintenance, and complete disregard for what local taxpayers, the majority of whom are over age 50 and retired, can afford.

The theory is that we need to spend an obscene amount of money to “maintain property values.” District taxpayers are still paying off debt from prior referendums that have been coming regularly over the past 6 -8 years. If this referendum passes, we will see City of Brookfield/Elmbrook School District go from 5th highest tax rate in Waukesha County to FIRST. One can buy a brand new home elsewhere within Waukesha County, and have a significantly lower tax bill. The higher a property’s tax, the fewer buyers that can afford the home. Since when do high property taxes attract buyers? Look to the City of Milwaukee for your answer.

District enrollment is declining, yet the school board wants to add a lot of new classroom space. The vast majority of district voters have no children in the schools, and many of them never had children in the schools. So the proposed expenditures are of no value to that population, unless you buy into the argument that the building is needed or your property value will drop like a rock. And unless you are planning to sell, that doesn’t impact you at all.

The other major argument is that the spending is needed to improve education, although the district already achieves top results statewide. No one is making the argument that student achievement will be increased by x% if the high schools are remodeled. Even the high school kids say it’s not needed, but of course, they’d like newer, bigger, better—who wouldn’t? The school district is already meeting educational expectations, so the building program is just an ego stroking exercise.

Barbara and Mike Shore

Board of Education High School Facilities Survey

Opinions and views expressed in guest postings do not necessarily reflect all of the opinions of Practically Speaking and Brookfield7. They are written by and are the opinion of the person listed at the bottom. Anonymous postings are submitted by persons who do not wish to have their name on the piece

LINKS: Betterbrookfield, Brookfieldnow, Practically Speaking

Monday, March 12, 2007

Guest Posting: Residents DO support education IF the plan is reasonable!

Over the past few weeks, I have read and heard many comments from residents lambasting their neighbors who might not be supporting the referenda.

A recurring theme seems to be the notion that a vote of "no" is a "sad commentary on Brookfield and education,” that we are shirking our "responsibility to support good schools," or that it will convey the message that we don't "value the education of our children.”

Apparently, the people making these disparaging comments have forgotten that this community just recently supported the building/remodeling of two elementary schools, and that many of our residents have helped to privately support the work of groups like East 2000 & Beyond or BC2.

Our residents do value the education of our children, and they have a proven history of supporting our schools – as long as what is being asked is reasonable and fiscally responsible. To suggest anything less is not only insulting…it is just plain wrong.

Libby Wistrom
Proud Resident of Brookfield
Mother of 2 Elmbrook students (ages 6 & 9) and 1 future Elmbrook student (age 2)

(Emphasis added)

Opinions and views expressed in guest postings do not necessarily reflect all of the opinions of Brookfield7 and Practically Speaking. They are written by and are the opinion of the person listed at the bottom. Anonymous postings are submitted by persons who do not wish to have their name on the piece.

LINKS: Betterbrookfield, Brookfieldnow, Practically Speaking

Guest Posting: Those in power possess a different vision

Sadly, we are finding out that residents are accepting bad-deals as a price of living in Brookfield. A couple of friends worked hard to prevent passage of the 4-K program, are now resigned to the fact that those in power have a different vision for Brookfield (and the Elmbrook School District) and believe that their system will prevail no matter what.

Another citizen noted the April 3rd timing of the Fire Station vote by the Brookfield Common Council -- how city officials manipulate the calendar to get what they want, rather than encouraging taxpayer input.

The new fire-station-proposal will only hurt the families that have lived here the longest, and only benefit the new development. This only proves once again ethical government comes second to greed and manipulation.

While there are still some who will rise to the challenge of stop-us-if-you-can, there seem to be too many others who are succumbing to the taxpayer-financed-media-blitzes that (claim) throwing lots of money at problems will create better student performance or fire protection or whatever.

Being accountable to an ethics code seems secondary to getting-things-done; too bad someone doesn't publish the wording of the contracts that our city officials are supposed to be following -- or the wording of the ethics code to highlight conflicts-of-interest to constituents.

Existing city leadership is obviously emphasizing efforts to make Brookfield more ‘urban’, rather than preserving the high residential-quality-of-life-rating our city used to have. Isn't it sad that those long-time-residents who worked to make that #1 ranking possible are now being taxed out of their homes? Or, that their apathy is making them move before they wanted to sell their family homes -- just like the developers had hoped they would?

When one invests their personal & financial resources to live here and pays assessed tax bills, they hopefully merit a voice with their elected & appointed officials. Recent events now have families feeling they only have limited options: to either 'pay-more' or 'move-on'.

Godspeed to us all ... Marcy & David Schmidt
(Empahsis added)

Marcy and David Schmidt have both served our country in the military and cherish the freedom to vote. They continue to hold service to the community as a high priority. Before moving to Brookfield, David served on the Franklin Finance Committee and was the president of FACT, the Franklin Association of Concerned Taxpayers.

Opinions and views expressed in guest postings do not necessarily reflect all of the opinions of Brookfield7 and Practically Speaking. They are written by and are the opinion of the person listed at the bottom. Anonymous postings are submitted by persons who do not wish to have their name on the piece.

Contact Matt Gibson, Aldermen, and Mayor

Please contact Dr. Matt Gibson, all of the Brookfield aldermen and the mayor. Ask them to keep the fire stations where they are.

Superintendent Matt Gibson

Bill Carnell

Dan Sutton

Rick Owen

Bob Reddin

James Garvens

Ron Balzer

Steve Ponto

Mark Nelson

Scott Berg

Gary Mahkorn

Jerry Mellone

Chris Blackburn

Lisa Mellone

Mike Franz

Mayor Jeff Speaker,

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Brookfield / Elm Grove Now newspaper letters to the editor due soon

Just a reminder that all letters to the editor relating to the $108.8 million high school referendum for the Brookfield / Elm Grove Now weekly paper are due by Tuesday, March 13. Letters to the paper (the former Brookfield News and Elm Grove Leaves) should be no longer than 400 words and must include your name. Your address, and phone number must also be included in the email submission for verification purposes only. Since the paper has changed editors, I believe you now send them to Sue Nord. . The referendum is on the April 3 ballot.

For Brookfield residents, please note that also on April 3, the Common Council will be voting on the Fire/EMS Task Force recommendation to move 2 east side fire stations to Calhoun Road. Letters concerning this subject must be submitted to the paper by Monday, March 26. Do contact the aldermen to let them know your thoughts on this idea.

LINKS: Betterbrookfield, Brookfieldnow, Practically Speaking

Just how much is $108.8 million dollars? Part 2

Just 23 more days until Millions of Dollars Tuesday

Read Part 1 first.

So how do we visualize what $108,800,000.00 would look like in cash?

In a fun read on economics, Whatever Happened to Penny Candy?, the author Richard Maybury explained how much a million was. I will use his figures to give you an idea of the staggering amount the Elmbrook School District is asking of its taxpayers.

Take $108,800,000.00 in $1.00 bills and lay them end to end. Walk on the trail of dollars. You would need 3,626.67 hours to do that.

How long would that trail of dollars stretch? 10,880 miles! How long is that? Imagine you go on a walking trip. The trip would look something like this:

Starting from your home in Brookfield:
  • Walk to Disneyland, CA
  • Do an about face, back across the country and head south to the Everglades, FL
  • Next, head up north to Arcadia National Park, ME (I always wanted to visit there.)
  • Aim back to the southwest to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico (another destination on my wish list).
  • Then trek back home to Brookfield!

You would still have about 300 miles to spare.

It would take you 151 days make that trip (walking day and night). That means if you started walking on Election Day, April 3, you would finish your trip just in time to get ready for the first day of the 2007-2008 school year!

If you are more of a world traveler, you could walk from Brookfield to Hong Kong. Of course crossing the ocean would be a bit of a trick.

The question is: Are you willing to walk that far?

LINKS: Betterbrookfield, Brookfieldnow, Practically Speaking

Stay tuned for part 3: Going the extra mile

Friday, March 09, 2007

Guess it’s just coffee and water

I see the Elmbrook School District got the message. They will not be serving a free breakfast or lunch on the two weekends prior to the referendum.

According to the Community Watch post from March 8, they will only be offering coffee and water for those special tour/information sessions at the high schools. “The free meals raised objections from some referendum opponents who called the move a ploy for votes”, Lisa Sink reported.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Just how much is $108.8 million? Part 1

Just 26 more days until Countdown to Millions Tuesday

By now, most of us know the total dollar amount of the high school referendum is $108.8 million. Our school district tosses the quantity of a million dollars around like it was small change. But how many of us really know how much $108.8 million is?

I am going to write it out: $108,800,000.00

When I was in high school, my friends and I were awestruck when we found out one girl in our circle had a millionaire dad! Even in Shorewood, that was uncommon. These days, more people are millionaires than ever before. Today it is not unusual for the fair market value of homes in the Elmbrook School District to be over a half a million dollars. Does that mean they have lots of money to spare?

Recently, I believe I heard a radio a commercial that said if you had more than $500,000 in investments, you were among the top 5% of investors in the country. That seemed hard to believe. I tried to find out more about that statistic, but I found this instead:

In 2006, personal savings rates were at negative 1 percent, their lowest in 70 years, according to a Commerce Department report. “The last time the rate was negative was during the Great Depression. This means people are not only spending everything they make but also are dipping into savings or borrowing money (or refinancing their homes). In 2006, personal income increased by 0.5 percent, while spending increased by 0.7 percent.”

Then I found: More than 40% of all women had less than $500 in the bank. For those 25 to 34 years old, the percentage without a rainy day fund jumped to 55%.

Those statistics sounded pretty grim. Surely the Elmbrook School District would fare better in the savings department? I checked the ESRI report Zip 53005 and ESRI report Zip 53045.

Splitting the difference between east and west sides of our city, the median Brookfield household income in 2006 was about $90,500. We are above the median Wisconsin income by about $48,500. (The average household income in Brookfield is about $115,000--because of some wealthier residents above the $2 million/year range.) Our community must be chock full of good savers!

Maybe not? I did not find Brookfield or Elm Grove on the A.G. Edwards 2006 Nest Egg Index—a list of the 500 top-saving communities across the country.
Appleton ranked the highest in our state at 16, Milwaukee/Waukesha/West Allis ranked 98th and tiny college town, Menomonie ranked 298th. There could be many reasons for this, possibly we make other kinds of investments, but to think West Allis or Menomonie out-saved us?

Clearly, 1 million dollars is still a respectable amount of money! When our school district asks us to give them an additional $108.8 million of them, I take that request seriously.

If the average homeowner has to pay Elmbrook an additional $342* a year, that is $342 that won’t be going into a college fund or retirement savings or rainy day funds. Since the average credit card debt is $8,000 per household, it seems most households could find something better to do with $342 than give it to the school district. We already give them more than 50% of our property tax bill.

Stay tuned for part 2

*More about the actual dollar amount in a future blog.

LINKS: Betterbrookfield, Brookfieldnow, Practically Speaking

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Guest Posting: Funny Math, an answer to What kind of smoke and mirrors is this?

This is a guest posting from Barb Shore of Brookfield. She gives a very good explanation of What kind of smoke and mirrors is this?

There's some funny math going on in Molly Steffen's recent blog. She purports that for the hypothetical $ 335,000 home, the referendum will cost the homeowner only $191.Here is the address to the Elmbrook School District website referendum cost calculator: (UPDATE: This link is no longer working, maybe the district got the message?)

I plugged in the $335,000 figure and see that the first year increase is $191. That's because the school board decided to prepay some debt in this year's budget, to reduce the initial cost. THE ACTUAL COST INCREASE FOR THE PROPOSED REFERENDUM ALONE is $ 308.20! That will be an increase PAYABLE FOR 20 YEARS. Also remember that the board already approved the expensive 4 year old daycare, which will also bump up your school tax on top of the usual spending increases and referendum costs.

What the board did was essentially prepay our mortgage. Funny, I don't recall voting to allow debt to be repaid early when approving the last referendum. What would stop the board from deciding to prepay the entire $ 100 million early? They put out calculators to "help" you decide the whether you can afford their spending, but all bets are off as to whether they abide by the scenarios. If saving interest costs were their primary concern, THEY WOULD HAVE SAVED UP FOR RENOVATIONS, AND MAINTAINED THE BUILDINGS THEY HAVE!

Since assessments rise with time, your personal cost will also be impacted by future increases in your assessment. The lower priced homes in Brookfield are increasing in market value at a greater pace than higher priced homes. There is a greater pool of buyers for $ 300,000 homes than for million dollar homes. So the residents of those homes, including many retirees, seniors, people on average or fixed incomes, will pay more than just the static amount represented in the district's table, conceivably much more. What will you be paying in 10 years if your $ 335,000 home is assessed at $ 500,000?

The real truth is that the school district assumes that retired, senior and other less affluent residents will meekly sell their homes and get out of Dodge. What if we want to stay? Too bad.

Funny math allows manipulation of statistics to support specific points of view. Be sure you know the FACTS as they apply to your situation. Don't take my word for it and don't take Molly Steffan's word.

Barb Shore

(Emphasis added)
Opinions and views expressed in guest postings do not necessarily reflect all of the opinions of Brookfield7. They are written by and are the opinion of the person listed at the bottom. Anonymous postings are submitted by persons who do not wish to have their name on the piece

LINKS: Betterbrookfield, Brookfieldnow, Practically Speaking

Guess who spoke at the council meeting last night? Matt Gibson!

Yes, that is right. Matt Gibson, Superintendent of Elmbrook Schools, spoke before the Brookfield Common Council last night! He was allowed about 10 minutes of public comment time. (The school district allows residents only 2 minutes to address the board before cutting them off.) Matt used his 10 minutes to promote the $108.8 million dollar referendum. (I thought the district was neutral on the referendum?) He also handed out a tri-fold flier to all the aldermen and staff.

Keep in mind; speaking before the council, at the public comment time, is done not only to address the council and gallery audience, but it is also an opportunity to speak to the wider cable broadcast audience.

The mayor already gave his support of the referendum in a Nov. 3, 2006 article, Officials back school plans, that he did not think the extra $287 dollars a year was too much to ask. (It has gone up since then).

That article stated, “Asked whether the projected cost and tax impact were in an acceptable range, Speaker said the costs were necessary to maintain local property values and educational achievement. Speaker said, ‘$287 to me is not a bad investment. To me, we have to look at keeping the School District competitive.’ ”

To our mayor, that extra $287 may not seem like a hardship. He does make $123,263 a year in salary and benefits--it is only about .23% of his income. But what about retired residents whose incomes are only in the $20,000 range? They would probably tell you an extra 1% is too much to ask.

Dr. Gibson’s speaking before the council last night and Mayor Speaker’s support of the referendum seems just too cozy to me. We know in the past, during the Swanson Swap, there has been cooperation between school district and city.
What do you think about this cooperation?

LINKS: Betterbrookfield, Brookfieldnow, Practically Speaking

2 Chances to Chat with Matt

Just 27 more days until Millions of Dollars Tuesday!

Dr. Matt Gibson will be holding an online chat this Friday, March 9, 2pm. Just go to the JS Online interactive chats page and you can submit your question. There is also a link for you to see other resident’s questions and answers.

Maybe you would prefer something “live”? Well, they have that too! Dr. Gibson will be at Brookfield Central’s theater for a face to face chat on Wednesday, March 14, 8 pm. If you have not been on a tour, it would be a chance to see a bit of the school.

LINKS: Betterbrookfield, Brookfieldnow, Practically Speaking

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Guest posting: Vote NO on school board’s agenda

We have about 47,000 residents using Elmbrook schools and about 2800 high school students, so if people will just bother to vote on the referendum it should easily be defeated. We should demand that the school board publish the amount of money they have spent on this since the last referendum went down to defeat. I have a feeling they are wasting lots of taxpayers' money trying to get their way. The whole business smacks of cronyism and mismanagement by this board.

The real problem is that we keep electing the same people to the board who will persist in doing what they want rather than what the taxpayers want. There is a saying "If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got". With voters reelecting the same people over and over, how can things ever change? It's impossible to get decent people to even bother to run, due to the fact that they will be attacked and demonized. It has become the way politics is conducted...attack your opponent with unfounded claims and then deny, deny, deny that you had any part in it. We,the people, have become very complacent about what we allow elected officials to do.

The proponents of the wasteful spending plans of the school board are mostly people who will have children in the high schools in the future and most of them have the attitude "nothing is too good for my Johnny", but at the sametime they don't get involved in the real things that provide a quality education...curriculum, teacher competence, and discipline. Any olderperson will tell you that they went to a school that was not "state of the art", the teachers were competent, and you didn't dare misbehave. Guesswhat? We can all read, write, and do math much better than the average college graduate, let alone high school graduate.

I urge you to vote "NO" on the referendum and vote "YES" to new administrators on the school board as well as the mayor and common council. We need to take Brookfield back and make it what it once was...a nice bedroom community with good schools and low taxes instead of a giant commercial mess! I've seen nothing but a decline in real "quality of living" in my 33 years in Brookfield starting with Bloomberg and accelerating under Speaker. We are not being served!

Grant Thomas

Opinions and views expressed in guest postings do not necessarily reflect all of the opinions of Brookfield7. They are written by and are the opinion of the person listed at the bottom. Anonymous postings are submitted by persons who do not wish to have their name on the piece.

LINKS: Betterbrookfield, Brookfieldnow, Practically Speaking

Monday, March 05, 2007

Guest posting: Vote "NO" to referendum, and send a message to the school board

Proponents of the referendum have been fawning over the hard work and detailed planning the school board has done to come up with their proposal for the remodeling of the high schools. If you take a close look at some of the mismanagement of our tax dollars and the deceptions that have been used to sell this project, you can not conclude that these people are qualified to spend our money.

One of the latest decisions by the board is to put in place a 4K program, at the cost to taxpayers of $750,000. A search for an administrator to run the program is also under way.

Now, if our high schools are in such bad shape that we need to spend $100 million to save them, wouldn't you think the board would earmark the $750,000 for something that is actually "needed"? What do they think is going to happen when the referendum goes down?

I'll tell you what's going to happen. The board will realize that this community wants pragmatic and responsible management of our tax dollars. They will have to figure out how to maintain our current buildings within the operational budget and plan accordingly for future renovations or possible construction of new schools.

Until this board shows the community that they are willing to make smart decisions, they don't deserve our confidence or another $100,000,000 of our money. Do not buy in to emotional arguements or biased facts.

Vote "NO" on April 3 and say YES to responsible planning for our children's future.
Jon S. Wolff
Elm Grove
Opinions and views expressed in guest postings do not necessarily reflect all of the opinions of Brookfield7. They are written by and are the opinion of the person listed at the bottom. Anonymous postings are submitted by persons who do not wish to have their name on the piece.

Last minute dirty tricks

Anonymous comments

Click the comment button below to contact me anonymously.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

UPDATE : La ayuda hace inglés nuestra lengua oficial

UPDATE : La ayuda hace inglés nuestra lengua oficial

As noted in La hace inglés nuestra lengua oficial, (translation: Help make English our official language), I was checking if Washington state offered written drivers license tests in foreign languages.

Well, it is TRUE! I heard back from their DOL Customer Service person, “We offer the tests in every language that we offer the instruction books in.” They offer the tests in 7 languages. Wisconsin offers information in Spanish on their website and in print too.

Our country was built on the concept of the melting pot: immigrants coming here and becoming Americans. It is what made our country great. The growing trend toward multiculturalism erodes that foundation.

Did you email our Congressmen and urge them to make English our official language in the United States?

Cats and dogs are not the same as pigs and goats

That may seem obvious to you. To some animal rights activists it is not.

Two weeks ago, two ads in Brookfield Now presented both sides of the argument: for and against animal testing at the Medical College of Wisconsin. This week I saw only a pro letter.

A column by Eugene Kane caught my eye. In it, he presented some interesting quotes and interviews. On the pro side, the medical college statement reads, "As a medical school, it is essential that we remain true to our mission, which is to improve human life by educating the next generation of physicians..." On the con side, "According to Angela Speed, public relations specialist for the humane society, the shelter feels there's no compelling reason for the college to use dogs when top medical colleges like Harvard, Yale and Johns Hopkins don't. She said those universities use pigs instead."

So why not just use pigs, sheep, or goats? Because they are hoofed animals and not anatomically like the human. I can still remember back to my college days of physiology and anatomy class. We dissected cats. Why cats we asked? Because they were anatomically and physiologically similar to humans: The bones, muscles, and organs of felines and canines are arranged and function much like a human’s.

By the way, I owned and loved a cat for 16 years. We affectionately called him our firstborn. We now own an adorable Maltese mutt, who rounds out our family to a nice even number of 4.

Seems pretty simple to me: People before animals.

Contact the President

The President, George W. Bush
White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave
Washington, DC 20500
Primary Phone: 202-456-1414
Secondary Phone: 202-456-1111
Fax: 202-456-2461

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Déjà vous: It’s “Smokes for Votes” all over again!

There is no such thing as a free lunch—or breakfast for that matter. Someone always pays for it, and there is always a subliminal reason for supplying a free lunch.

So why is our Elmbrook School District mulling over the possibility of plying you with pancakes or pasta? Or serving cheese and crackers or doughnuts and coffee? Because they are hoping to influence you to vote yes for their $108,800,000.00 referendums.

The very act of breaking bread together is compelling. Why do you think salesmen wine and dine potential clients? Why do you think businesses supply the free lunch or treats on certain days for their customers? (This is common in the trades—electrical, plumbing, or tool suppliers etc.) They are hoping the customer will feel a little cheap coming into their business to eat their free fare and then leave without placing an order. Only a real cheapskate would come in and do that!

There is a certain portion of the population that may feel sheepish about coming to the school district’s Saturday Soirees too--especially if they are undecided. I am guessing the district is hoping, like the tradesman eating the supplier’s free lunch and then feeling obligated to make a purchase, the diners might be influenced to vote yes for the referendum.

According to the Journal article, “Referendum opponent Jon Wolff said, ‘They should not be spending taxpayer dollars to do it (meals)’.” Good point. The district is not to overtly promote the yes vote, just present the facts. They have a budget of $49,000 to do just that. The $49,000 is our taxpayer money! (Is it any wonder we never have enough money to properly maintain our buildings?) If influencing voters is not the motivation for the free meal or snack, then why have any food or refreshments at all? It is not like voters will be there all day.

“Smokes for Votes” was a black eye on Milwaukee. Pretending that a free meal or snack is not meant to influence voters does not speak well of our school district either.