No holiday from local politics…

Yes, I’ve taken the Amsterdam-Detroit flight on a number of occasions.  They do a secondary security screening at the gate in Amsterdam, but not with a metal detector.  Some international flights elsewhere do that and the last one I recall was Bangkok to Tokyo last year.  

As I recall, much of the security at Amsterdam Schiphol is handled by I-SEC, an international contractor specializing in aviation security:

With all of the focus on the TSA, the Dept. of Homeland Security and U.S. airports, it’s important to remember that this was an inbound international flight.  That’s not to say there isn’t a concern with domestic flights, as the September 11 attacks made clear.  It’s just that I think some of the discussion and coverage of this latest incident seems misdirected and leaves out important elements.

Some of the “new” practices I’ve heard about following the latest incident such as keeping people in their seats and not allowing anything on laps for the last hour of the flight strike me as ineffective, inconvenient gestures and not worthwhile improvements to flight safety.  And no, I don’t think that doing the wrong things for the right reasons is necessarily a justifiable response. I also don’t think the hysterical negative responses to following up on known risk factors by screaming “racial profiling” is a very realistic response to the nature of the threats that we know exist. Get serious, people.

* * *

After the 2000 census, I sat on the redistricting committee for the city.  It wasn’t that big of a deal, since much of the heavy lifting is actually done at arm’s length with the help of software that is made to order for such things.  But as things turned out, it was a pretty good outcome.  The 1st District in the City of Wausau became a much more cohesive community of interests by consolidating into a relatively compact neighborhood on the west side of Grand Avenue from the south city limits to Thomas Street.  This also placed what had previously been my two biggest and most consistent pains in the butt into the 2nd District: a nightclub previously known as Vibes (which is now I.C. Willy’s) and the Humane Society, which is now in a new facility near Sunny Vale Park on Wausau’s far west side.  The city will need to set up another redistricting committee following the 2010 census and while the animals are no longer an issue in this neck of the woods, that nightclub is still a big pain.  Their license is suspended for 15 days from January 4-18 after this week’s meeting of the Public Health & Safety Committee.

* * *

A letter from Rev. Gary Froseth at St. Stephen Lutheran Church offers some good discussion points for keeping Public Access cable on the air.  I hope that it gets good consideration.  Failing an outright reversal of the mayor’s decision to close down Public Access at the end of January, Froseth calls for a task force of stakeholders to work out the issues, with the city continuing to fund the present operation until the end of June.  Assuming some kind of solution, he further asks for the city to provide $10,000 in annual funding for 10 years.  While we can argue whether Public Access is worth $90K each year, it is certainly worth SOMETHING and the pastor’s ideas seem well worth the time to explore.

* * *

Deb Hadley, Bill Forrest and Tom Miller have announced that they will not seek new terms to the Wausau City Council in April.  Coupled with the vacancy in District 10 from the seat formerly held by Steve Foley, it means that at least one-third of the council will be new folks by the end of April. 

* * *

Support for the City Square project has continued strong, following the announcement that a half million dollars has already been raised.  As of Sunday, the fundraising now exceeds $585,000.  With the Third Street project and traffic direction question now resolved, it should be an interesting year in the downtown next year.  Meanwhile, Main Street manager Leah Alters is off to Columbus for a new position so that will be another change in 2010. 



4 Responses to “No holiday from local politics…”

  1. Barbara Morgan Says:

    Jim, has anybody bothered to tell Reverend Gary Froseth that the City does not fund public access but the Charter cable subscribers do. The City takes in over $330,000 in franchise fees from Cable subscribers, which is more than adequate to fund Public Access. As you know, no other utility or service pays a franchise fee such as this to the City. Why should cable subscribers? Public Access is only received by Charter customers and they pay dearly. I don’t think the City wants to see this cash cow dry up, but if people do not get Public Access, there certainly are better deals out there to receive TV transmissions. The only reason we have cable is to receive Public Access. If it goes away, we will switch to satellite where you get more bang for your buck.

  2. You make some great points. It’s true that other utilities don’t pay a franchise fee to the CITY, but the effect of the franchise is very similar to the gross receipts tax paid by energy utilities and telephone companies to the STATE. Personally, I think that state-level legislation concerning cable “competition” will eventually translate into local franchise fees morphing into a state fee at some point down the road, too. But for right now, it’s still a signficant local resource.

    I also think you make a great argument about Public Access programming being something of value to at least some cable subscribers that will be lost if the channel(s) go dark. (My private joke about Public Access for years has been that nobody admits to actually watching it, but if you put something on those channels and wait a month, everybody seems to have seen it.)

    Personally, I’ve asked the mayor to give consideration to Rev. Froseth’s letter and I hope that will happen. There are many taxes that we pay for which we don’t expect any directly associated claim for services (say, general sales taxes.) Still, I think setting aside something from the franchise fee for continuing Public Access programming seems reasonable. That’s not to say that we can’t have a more efficient way of providing the service that may be less costly, but let’s give ourselves a little time to make those changes instead of just ending it (and hoping it can ever be rebuilt, which is far more difficult.) I appreciated your comments elsewhere and I’ve been following them closely, so thanks for your important contributions to this discussion.

  3. Paul Henning Says:

    Hey Jim,

    Looks like a serious game of chicken going on between the City and the D.O.T., regarding the Hwy 51/U/K Intersection. Is it, which one blinks first, or does the City push the D.O.T. into a corner where the D.O.T. has no choice but to choose the Alt.-A which eliminates the ramps at CTH-U along with millions of square feet of new development, property values, and potential jobs and tax base for the City? It is always harder to unring the bell, once it’s rung. Is this sound negotiation?

    Why does this negotiation have to be so adversarial? Can the D.O.T. be that hell bent on trashing economic development on Wausau’s n/w side?

    Just wondering out loud! Thanks, for allowing me the opportunity.

    Best regards, P.H. & Happy New Year!

  4. Both the city and the county have hung in there for keeping access to Hwy U and that continues. While it may seem like little progress has been made, one of the more interesting aspects has been the steadily declining difference in estimated costs between retaining access and removing it. This bodes well, I think.

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