Petri runs into trouble in Manitowoc

Petri gets earful from Lakeshore residents
Veteran congressman addresses varied topics at his first Town Hall meeting of 2006
Charlie Mathews Herald Times Reporter

MANITOWOC — Ron Kossik was ready with facts, figures and sources when it was his turn to vent Wednesday afternoon.

"The people I represent care about debt and the taxes they pay," said Kossik, a member of the Manitowoc Board of Education.

"We're expected to be fiscally responsible at the local level but federal spending and borrowing has just gone nuts," he told U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R- Fond du Lac, at the congressman's first Town Hall meeting of the year.

Kossik was one of about 30 people at Manitowoc's City Hall as Petri, Sixth District representative since 1979, invited comments.

It turned into a free-for-all, with topics including the Patriot Act, immigration, Iraq, Medicare prescription drug coverage, the cost of shipping coal by train and postal service reform.

Kossik presented Petri with a sheet entitled, "Comparison of Household Debt — U.S. Government vs. Manitowoc Public School District."

He referred to various U.S. government Web sites as showing federal debt of some $8.1 trillion at the end of 2005, an increase of nearly $3.6 billion in four years and about $77,000 per American household.

"As of this morning, our district's debt is $1,300 per household ... with the hot lunch referendum (borrowing) to be paid off in five years," Kossik said.

Petri acknowledged Congress is seeking to reduce the size of future deficits, but there is no will in Washington to have a balanced budget.

"Why should we try to be fiscally responsible at the local level when we are hemorrhaging at the federal level?" wondered Kossik.

Here's a good idea:

From, of all people, Newt Gingrich...

Gingrich intriguingly suggests abolishing all fund-raising in the Washington metro area. Make the lobbyists go to the districts if they want to attend $1,000 cocktail parties.

Petri makes a lot of money out of DC:

Top Metro Areas:
DALLAS $25,500

Quote of the day (Marriage Amendment Edition):

In it she says the amendment will provide the very best legal protection currently available for traditional one-man/one-woman marriage. Protection from what? The lesbian couple that had the first same-sex marriage last year? They've been together for about 50 years. That's longer than all three of Senator Zien's marriages combined.

Well said!

More Political Thought from the Simpsons:

The New Bush Administration Motto:

Once something's been approved by the government, it's no longer immoral.
-- The Rev Lovejoy

Thoughts on County Board Size

Yesterday, Gov. Doyle signed a bill allowing County Boards to downsize twice every 10 years. This issue will be one that comes up often in the election.

I am torn about the answer. We have had a district empty for most of the year, as well as the relatively few contested races - this suggests that our current size is too large.

Conclusion: We need a smaller board to ensure that there are contested races to keep the board competitive.

However... According to the Wisconsin Taxpayer's Association, the larger the County Board, the lower the spending in the county:

New findings from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX) challenge the conventional wisdom that smaller legislative bodies promote efficient government. In its latest report, "Options for County Organization," WISTAX found a surprising relationship between the size of a countyƂ’s board of supervisors and its spending per capita.

Using sophisticated statistical techniques, WISTAX researchers found that, after accounting for other factors, an increase in county board size of one supervisor was associated with lower spending of $8 to $10 per resident. The new report also summarizes important features of county government organization, including board size, administration type and compensation.

Conclusion: A larger County Board is better for fiscal responsibility.

So what is one to do?

I believe that the current board population of 38 might be a little many, as shown by the non-competitiveness. However, I would not advocate for a board half the size that we are currently, as many have recently. A board that is too small would make it to easy for interest group takeover.

I think Mark Harris makes a good point here:

The county board districts each have a population of about 4300 people at this time. It makes sense for the board to agree now on the approximate population each district should hold and allow the 2010 census to determine how many seats will result.

Perhaps instead of talking about how many board members that the county should have, we should come up with a number that we feel is just for representation.

Let's talk about the people. What is fair for representation? If we are too hung up on board size instead of population, it will play to easily into the hands of special interests.

The goal should be to have a board that is both responsive to the population, competitive in elections but still with an ability to defend the county from special interest take-over.

Whatever that number is will be the upcoming debate.

Battle of the Month - Letterman v O'Reily

Letterman: I'm not smart enough to debate you point to point on this, but I have the feeling that about 60 percent of what you say is crap

Watch it all here - it is about 12 minutes long.


Why the County Board Races are Important

County Board Chairman Albrecht in today's Northwestern had this to say about the number of contested seats this year:

County Board Chairman David Albrecht said the larger number of contested seats means more participation in county government, but he also noted serving the public is not a small duty anymore.

"It's not that easy. It's a privilege to do the job, but it still takes a lot of time to do the job," he said. "I don't think there's big issues on the County Board right now, but everybody has their own agenda for why they run."

While I agree that it is a privilege to do the job of representing the public, I disagree that there are no big issues at the County Board level right now.

If you look at what the county budget funds, as well as the cuts and increases that were proposed last cycle, it is a vital time for the board. In the last budget we saw cuts in several key programs, as well as almost immediate calls for more funding from the DA's office to support their domestic violence programs.

We have all ready seen the impact on the DARE Program cuts, what will happen to our other public safety programs? Remember, the board came close to cutting boat patrols.

Will we continue to help fund the successful MEG Unit?

How are we going to build a new Parkview? What size will it be? How will we pay for care of seniors as we see funding cuts? How will we fund housing and other social services in the face of federal cuts and state limitations?

Will we balance the county budget, or once again raid our savings to cover costs?

There are major issues and discussions that we need to have at the county level. I look forward to being part of this dialog. I plan on discussing both taxes and spending. We need to prioritize what programs and services the county should fund, and how can we pay for these ina way that is fair to all.

Over the next months, I look forward to sharing more of my opinions on these matters and being part of this process. I hope to represent Winnebago County as we guide it into the future.

As always, feel free to contact me at anytime with questions.

For Boy Scounts and Boaters

Here is a cool website - If you were a boy scout like me, you will find it a trip through memory lane.

Animated explanations about how to tie knots.


Good Cartoon

From the Center for American Progress

I'm watching the Simpsons

Homer could go into politics:

"Facts are meaningless, you can use facts to prove anything that is even remotely true"

Oshkoh City Council Nomination Papers

Here's what was in as of 4:45 -

Mark Madison
Burke Tower
Mary Meyst
Michelle Bogden
Dennis McHugh
Mike Domke
Brian Poeschel
Kent Monte
Paul Esslinger

Local Political Update - County Board Edition

Signatures are in! Well as of 4:30 today this is what they looked like:

County Board:

Dist 12
North of Oshkosh
Ken Anderson
Dan Wegler (no signatures as of 4:30)
Tom Pech is not running

Dist 27
Paul Eisen
Harold Kramer is not running

Dist 31
Larsen/Winchester Area
Brian Gleeson (no signatures as of 4:30)
Joanne Sievert is running

Dist 14
Oshkosh (Jackson/Murdoch)
Donna Lohry
Harold Steineke is not running

Dist 17
Oshkosh (between Grand & Wisconsin)
Jef Hall
Paul Sundquist is running

Dist 5
Shiloh Ramos
Phillips L. Scoville is running

Dist 23
Oshkosh (between Witzel and 9th)
Dennis Rumlow
Ken Robl is running

Dist 29
Neenah (north)
Jay Shroeder (no papers as of 4:30)
Jerry Finch is running

Dist 22
Oshkosh (South Park)
Barb Spanbauer
Frank Tower is not running

No one is runing in Dist 7 or Dist 8 (both Neenah).

Northwestern Announces Editorial Agenda for 2006

I am excited to see 2 of the points, read them all here.

Public Accountability

The re-inventing government item last year will transform into holding elected officials accountable for their true and false statements in this election year. School board, city and county board elections will be held statewide this spring. There will be a U.S. Senate race this fall as U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl's six-year term reaches its end.

Local city and county officials who aren't elected but have responsibility to the public need to be held accountable for their actions or omissions. City, county and school board people will continue to receive watchdog-like scrutiny of their most prominent action, their annual budget for the next year.

Cultural Connections

A growing influence of women in society necessitates more emphasis on issues that affect them. Diversity issues continue to have importance as the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh increases its minority enrollment and Hispanics find the area a desirable place to live. Culture issues illustrated by Amish-English tensions in Green Lake County and assimilation in years ahead of new Hmong immigrants into our neighborhoods require a continued focus on these issues.

I look forward to taking part in this discussion.


Executive Pay vs. Minimum Wage:

The same report, by the Institute for Policy Studies, a left-leaning research center, and United for a Fair Economy, a group seeking to narrow the gap between rich and poor, found that in 2004 the ratio of C.E.O. pay to worker pay at large companies had ballooned to 431 to 1. If the minimum wage had advanced at the same rate as chief executive compensation since 1990, America's bottom-of-the-barrel working poor would be enjoying salad days, with legal wages at $23.03 an hour instead of $5.15.

Hebert on the recet House Budget Actions:

One of worst aspects of the Medicaid provisions is that large numbers of poor people, faced with the higher premiums and co-payments, will inevitably decide to take a pass on the health care they need. Some will die.

"The Congressional Budget Office," wrote Kevin Freking of The Associated Press, "has concluded that such increases would lead many poor people to forgo health care or not to enroll in Medicaid at all - contributing to some of the $4.8 billion in Medicaid savings envisioned over the next five years."

Two sentances getting right to the meat of the issue

I am not one of those people who can distill thoughts down to simple statements. Newsweek's CW column has that talent. Here is a perfect example:

Bush - Trying to make opponents of warrantless snooping look soft on terror. But is he soft on Constitution?

Walgreens Offers Service to Seniors, Profits to Rep. Petri

Last night while watching Monk (starring Green Bay's own Tony Shaloub, I came across a Walgreen's add touting a new service to help Medicare recipients find out which of the many programs out there carry the drugs that the customer is taking.

From the Walgreen's press release:

Pharmacists at the nation's largest drugstore chain are now using a new tool to help seniors navigate through their Medicare prescription drug benefit (Part D) options. Walgreens has developed an application that generates a printed personalized report listing a senior's medications covered under available plans, along with each plan's premium, co-pay and deductible. The service is available exclusively at any of more than 5,000 Walgreens pharmacies nationwide.

Now, I don't fault Walgreens for this, presumably helpful, service. It is good business to offer something like this. However, I do fault Congress for making a program so complex that it needs this much information to select a program. As Walgreens continues:

With the enrollment period well under way and the start of benefits right around the corner, more seniors and caregivers are facing the complexities of the new Medicare drug benefit and discovering a need for help.

"Seniors are being inundated with information from different Medicare prescription plans," said Huonker. "Research confirms they are confused and prefer speaking to someone in person for help. The report available in our pharmacies allows seniors to compare the plans in a simple, straightforward format to help them select the best match for their prescription needs."

What Walgreen's doesn't mention is that this report is only for the program as it exists at that moment? What do I mean by that. The dirty little secret of this program that noone is talking about - providers of this service can change the drugs covered with only a week's notice, however recipients can only change plans once a year.

This is not Walgreen's fault, it is a bad plan put together in congress that Walgreen's will make a lot of money from.

Bless them and their profits.

So, why do I bring this up? As a reminder of something I have mentioned before. Our Rep. Tom Petri is a large holder of Walgreen's stock (click and go to page 5 - you will see he still holds $5-25 million).

Tom Petri, in Dec 2003:

Without question, the most significant domestic legislative accomplishment in 2003 was congressional passage of Medicare drug reform.

This was a vote that passed by one. Therefore, Petri was the deciding vote on this legislation. Legislation from which he stands to gain.

The Northwestern took this opinion in 2004 year (in different prose than I would have used):

Petri, who owns at least $5 million in Walgreen's stock, should have abstained from voting on the Medicare reform bill last fall... independent research quoted in the Walgreen's annual report showed it had great interest in the 75 to 100 million new prescriptions that this law would create... this conflict of interest should have been cause for him to abstain.

Mr. Petri, I urge you to do the right thing and either introduce legislation that will either allow Medicare to directly negotiate for prices, a program that would save people money on medication, or remove this glaring conflict of interest and sell off your stock in Walgreens.

Go here to contact Rep. Petri and urge him to do the right thing.