Archive for November, 2009

The Wausau city budget issue…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on November 19, 2009 by Jim Rosenberg

More than six weeks ago, I described the situation with regard to the 2010 budget in the City of Wausau.  Two things have changed since then:

1.  The health insurance premium increase is down to 10 percent from more than 20 percent.

2.  The date. 

Because we have not been able to gain any agreement with unions representing city workers, we have been forced to deal with the situation through a reduction in payroll, which is presently taking the form of a couple of furlough days and some indefinite layoffs for 10 people that we all hope will be temporary. 

Just for a review, here’s what I said on October 2 here:

https://jimrosenberg.wordpress.com/2009/10/02/city-budget-simple-answers-arent-always-easy/ 

The fact is that if the unions insist on receiving pay increases as called for in their contracts, then there will be less people standing at the pay window to receive them.  It is their right to do that, but here’s the outcome: some people will have to be thrown overboard to accommodate others getting 3 percent raises over the course of the next year.  That’s a costly way to pay for a modest increase. 

These are exceptional times and they call for exceptional measures — not a futile attempt at “business as usual”  for anyone involved.  Here’s hoping we can get this sorted out before it becomes very destructive for more people than it would ever have to be.

JR

Politics Friday…

Posted in Uncategorized on November 13, 2009 by Jim Rosenberg

Of course, the big local news is that Wausau City Council 10th District Alderman Steve Foley has resigned his seat to effect a reset of his career after a tough business experience with the Wisconsin Pizza Factory, now closed.  The council must now decide whether an appointment should be made to fill the seat until the April elections and I’m not sure where I land on that one.  The decision to appoint would have to be made before the end of November or it would simply be decided by default.  There are advantages and disadvantages to either course of action.  Politics being what it is, it could hamper the chances of an appointee if the council doesn’t act unanimously on something like that.  We’ll see.

* * *

Governor Doyle was at Nicolet Technical College in Rhinelander Wednesday, along with a number of cabinet members, for what has become an annual northwoods economic summit.  It was a great place to work the lobby with staff.  An announcement by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett concerning the 2010 governor’s race is expect as early as today.  Whoever is planning on running can probably look forward to having to raise more than a million dollars a month over the next year in pursuit of the privilege of taking the helm of the state that will be in dire straits for the next few years.  As a former member of Congress, Barrett could raise the money.  As an experienced politician, he may see that being governor may not be a lot of fun for a term that will start as federal stimulus funding ends and the chickens of Wisconsin’s fiscal problems are coming home to roost.  Stay tuned. 

* * *

The library lost a bid to add a half-time book shelver to the county budget.  Some sticking points: state law requires “maintenance of effort” with libraries, so if you add money to their base, you can’t reduce it later.  But what really jumped off the page at me as that the “fringe” benefits for the position were more costly than the wages.  Using round terms, it pushes the cost of a $9 per hour job to $20 per hour.  Does that sound like fringe to you?  I’m all for paying people fairly, but some things have gotten a little out of control over the years and we need to deal with that reality.  I offered an amendment to the budget to increase the employee contribution to health care premiums for non-represented employees from 5 percent to 10 percent beginning in 2011.  It grudgingly passed, with the support of some board members who felt it wasn’t enough to do and some who probably thought it was too much.  Of course, if everyone dislikes it, it is probably a good compromise. 

* * *

The city budget will be taken up by the council November 24.  It  will be interesting to see if we are able to make it all work by then, but part of keeping it from becoming too Draconian in the layoff area will rest with our ability to get cooperation from the five unions.  If we can, then we should be okay until what are likely to be equally or even more challenging circumstances arrive by next year at this time.

JR

Great show at the Grand December 9!

Posted in Uncategorized on November 12, 2009 by Jim Rosenberg

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I’m stealing this directly from the Artsblock.org site except for my photo above, but I guarantee you will love this show on Wednesday, December 9.  (I’ve already got my tickets, but there are still some available):

A Cape Breton Christmas
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
7:30 PM, Tickets: $32, $42, $49
Grand Theater

Tell a Friend!

Natalie MacMaster & friends 

Tickets: $32, $42, $49

The free-wheeling Celtic traditions of her Canadian homeland have made Natalie MacMaster one of North America’s most exciting and appealing fiddlers. Now she brings the ferocious energy of a holiday kitchen party to the Grand stage for all of us to share. There’s roots music tinged with bluegrass, pop and jazz, topped off with Christmas storytelling and, of course, high-stepping dance.

JR

There is no joy in Mudville…

Posted in Uncategorized on November 8, 2009 by Jim Rosenberg

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The Vikings are off this weekend, but it didn’t stop them from improving their position in the NFC North, since the Packer and Bears both lost.  At 7-1 with their closest competition sitting at 4-4, the people in purple are in a great spot at the halfway mark through the season.  And that Favre signing is still looking like it was a pretty good idea.  Meanwhile, back at Lambeau, look for some dramatic upcoming moves if things don’t start turning around.  Handing Tampa Bay their only win of the season did not go over well in the land of the cheese — but that’s what happens when you let people hang around within striking distance throughout an entire game.  By the time the game ended, Tampa Bay was on a roll.

* * *

I get a kick out of the negative commentary from the right on the health care bill.  Do these folks think that they somehow speak for the majority?  That got blown away several elections ago.  Did anyone really think that the Democrats lacked a mandate to pursue health care reform?  Once that is settled, there are more elements to the mandate that need to be aggressively pursued in the area of the economy and Iraq.  And no, most people are not all that interested in escalating the war in Afghanistan. 

JR

Politics Tuesday…

Posted in Uncategorized on November 4, 2009 by Jim Rosenberg

Everybody knows that the Marathon library referendum was REALLY a referendum on President Obama’s first nine months in office, right?  I just love the overanalysis of political stuff and I like to do it all the time myself.  But really, folks — it was NOT “Super Tuesday” or even the mid-term elections.  The political landscape is pretty much unchanged for one simple reason: there wasn’t much in play.  NEXT November, with a third of the U.S. Senate and all of the House of Representatives up for grabs, we’ll know something.  Today, we really don’t.  We’re all talking about Virginia, New Jersey, New York’s 23rd Congressional District and the New York mayor’s race today because there just isn’t anything else to talk about. 

* * *

Speaking of politics, somebody was ragging today about how the cash for clunkers program ended up costing something like $24,000 per car.  That sounds like a lot of money and it is, but I have to tell you that I’ll bet I can walk around my district and probably find somebody who bought a car under that program.  I can probably find somebody who sold one, too.  It was a $3 billion program.  Do you think I can find any of that TARP money in my district?  I doubt it.  That was a $700 billion program.  You decide. 

* * *

Louisiana Justice of the Peace Keith Bardwell, who drew criticism for refusing to marry an interracial couple some weeks back, has resigned.  Good.  The U.S. Supreme Court threw out race-based limitations on marriage in 1967  in a unanimous decision.  “The freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State,” said the court, (more than four decades ago.)  

* * *

The recession is real when the Minnesota Vikings can sweep the Packers, go 7-1, have the biggest name in the game at quarterback — and you can still get single-game tickets for face price or less because they’re not sold out.  It’s extra real when the auction prices for the Michigan-Wisconsin game at Camp Randall result in little or no premium.  But I have to tell you that I saw some of the best Halloween costumes ever out there this year, so maybe there’s hope.

JR