Politics Friday…

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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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

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