Important news and bulletins for Wausau.
CITY MAY HAVE MADE PAYMENTS ON BEHALF OF THE DEVELOPER (4/03/18)
- Review the list of payments made by the city to the riverfront project developer.
- Review the Board of Public Works discussion of the payments made for the riverfront project.
THE COUNCIL IS INCONSISTENT ABOUT ITS TREATMENT OF MEMBER SPEECH (9/10/17)
- See Wausau Daily Herald article on questionable behavior by Councilperson Sherry Abitz
- See Op-Ed by Keene Winters on the inconsistencies.
THE EAST RIVERFRONT PROJECT SHOULD GO TO REFERENDUM (5/18/2017)
Do we need a referendum for the sizable East Riverfront Redevelopment Project? I think so. I penned an op-ed on the subject for Wausau Pilot & Review. If you have an opinion on the topic, join the discussion.
COUNTY ROLE IN SOLVING BROKAW’S PROBLEMS IS STILL UNPRODUCTIVE (5/08/2017)
I penned an op-ed regarding Marathon County’s recent threat to join the lausuit between the City of Wausau and the proposed Village of Maine on Maine’s side. It was published this morning in Wausau Pilot & Review. That may score some political points with rural governments, but it ignores the fiscal challenges and the need for development in that area to replace the mill jobs.
In 2013-14, the county paid for a study of Brokaw’s financial situation and concluded it was insolvent. Then the county board walked away from the problem until last week.
Had the county stayed involved and focused the neighboring municipalities on the need for development around the CTH U/K and CTH WW interchanges with I-39, we might be in a differ place today. In May of 2013, Adam Dykman and I wrote an op-ed alerting people to Brokaw’s fiscal problems. Then, in May of 2015, I joined Bill Nagle in an op-ed encouraging the county to be part of the soluion. Four years later, the problem is not close to being solved.
CITY DEBT SURGES (5/02/17)
Yesterday, an opinion editorial I wrote was published in the Wausau Pilot & Review, a new community digital newspaper. (See op-ed). People have been wondering where I got my information, and the answer is that city meeting minutes and agenda packets are posted on-line. The most pertinent document is the Summary of Debt Changes schedule.
I questioned the increasing debt over a year ago. I am including a link to the March 2016 Summary of Debt Changes from my council packet with my original notations and questions penned in the margins. I am also used the Summary of Debt Changes from the 2017 city budget book (October 2016) for information.
Understanding Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) budgets is always a challenge–mostly because each district is presented as a stand alone budget. In my last full year on council, I took the 2015 budget and year-end data from all the separate presentations and keyed them into one spreadsheet so that I could see what was happening. (See spreadsheet).
Sometimes the information is just lying around, like in the case of the Summary of Debt Changes. Other times, a person has to dig for it because the city does not make it easy to see. That is how I get my information.
CITY LOOKS FOR EXPANDED POWERS TO CRUSH CRITICS (12/21/16)
For months now, the city officials have been peddling a myth that there is a need to develop a code of conduct for council members. The truth is that Robert’s Rules of Order, which is incorporated in the council rules by reference, contain all the procedures for the council to discipline a member while affording the accused person due process. It is the “due process thing” that city officials seem to have a hard time with. Mayor’s cannot act unilaterally against a council member. Council presidents have no power to discipline members. To be fair, any investigation is supposed to be conducted by a committee of council members with no biases regarding the matter at hand.
What you have instead is individuals creating political spins to justify appropriating power for themselve to quell city critics. The true motives could not have been laid more bare than they were in the council meeting discussion on December 7th.
- See Wausau Daily Herald article on December 7th meeting.
- Hear comments by Radio Talk Show Host Jerry Bader on the meeting
- Read City Pages opinion editorial written by Keene Winters
Political speech, legislative speech and the right to criticize one’s government are strongly protected by the First Amendment. This code is not needed; rules already exist. This new construct will most certainly be abused by those in power to threaten and silence opponents. The end result will be a First Amendment lawsuit that the city will lose.
WINTERS OFFERS DATA ON THE “WHEEL TAX” (9/01/16)
A essay written by Keene Winters about the proposed wheel taxes in Wausau and Marathon County ran in the City Pages today. If you are interested in some of the background facts that were missing from the debate, you can access the op-ed (PDF).
It is hard to understand why the county adopted the wheel tax increase this summer outside of its normal budget process. The county wheel tax will increase county revenues by $2.9 million or 1.75% in a $164.7 million budget. However, the county was already slated to get a 3.1% increase in revenues just from rising property values. Withhout reviewing the whole budget picture, it seems improbable that anyone could logical reach a conclusion that more revenue was needed.
- Read about property value trends in Wisconsin (PDF).
- See how Marathon County property values are growing (PDF).
LEGAL COSTS OF THE WINTERS INVESTIGATION
This press release is in response to the partial release of legal cost data by the City of
Wausau in Winters v. Mielke et al. and related matters on July 14, 2016.
“For the eight months from December 2015 through July 2016, I personally paid legal fees totaling $51,711.95 for the services of Kevin St. John of Bell Giftos St. John, LLC, in Madison,” said former Alderman Keene Winters.
“I have just received my final bills. This press release is my way of doing my part to complete the public record of these costs.”
To date the disclosed inventory of legal costs by the City of Wausau include the following:
- $24,000 to Anthony Wachewicz, III, of Davis Keulthau, SC, in Green Bay.
- $ 1,000 to Stephen Weld of Weld Riley, SC, in Eau Claire.
- $ 2,000 in estimated city staff time in compiling open records requests.
Yet to be disclosed are the legal fees of the city’s two primary attorneys in this matter, Dean Dietrich of Ruder Ware, SC, and Daniel Varline of Davczyk & Varline, LLC, both of Wausau. A reasonable estimate of these costs would be between $20,000 and $30,000, bringing the city’s legal costs also in the vicinity of $50,000.
Attorney Dietrich concluded his services to the city back in January, and the Wausau Daily Herald confirmed that he had only billed the city $295 for one hour of work as of July 14, 2016. Whether the city should—or ever will—pay Ruder Ware for Dietrich’s services is an open question.
Both City Attorney Anne Jacobson and Attorney Anthony Wachewicz, hired by the council as a special investigator, have concluded that the procurement of legal services by former Mayor James Tipple, then Council President Robert Mielke, and former Human Resources Director Myla Hite was improper and undocumented. Without documentation, it seems unlikely that any city executive staff could claim the authority to pay an invoice from Ruder Ware, should one ever come, without first seeking permission from the city council. Until this issue is resolved, there may never be a final tally of resources used up in this conflict.
In sum, a persons could fairly estimate that about $100,000 was were spent by both sides on legal fees, and both sides costs were paid by the city through a settlement. Instead of pursuing a $90,000 grant for a pilot project to expand the bus system that Winters was advocating when this began, (see page) the city used $92,000 in grant funds to pay legal costs and then advanced the claim that this incident cost the taxpayers virtually nothing.
“In the end, it does cost something. There are always opportunity costs or alternative uses for the money that must be forgone,” noted Winters. “In this case, bus users got the short end of the stick.”
Winters & City of Wausau Settle (7/13/16).
Last night, the Wausau Common Council took a final voted to approve a settlement with former Alderman Keene Winters. “The actions taken by the city against me were not lawful, and this settlement resolves my claims,” said Winters.
Settlement Still Not Done (7/01/16).
On June 15th, WAOW Channel 9 reported on a possible settlement between former Alderman Keene Winters and the City of Wausau. To date, no agreement has been concluded. See news report.
Winters ask DA to Review “Investigations” of Other Council Members (6/08/16).
In a June 7th letter to District Attorney Ken Heimermann, Keene Winters apprised him of past abuses of executive authority to mount punitive “investigation” of other Wausau City Council members who found themselves at odds with the Mayor’s Office on policy issues. This includes a 2006 investigation against former Alderwoman Christine Van De Yacht and a 2010 investigation against Alderman Ed Gale. Taken together, the Winters investigation along with the prior two, suggests a pattern and practice of unlawful use of internal investigations to attack political rivals.
- Read letter to the DA.
- Read City Pages article for background on the Van De Yacht case.
- Read 2010 letter by Ed Gale for background on his case.
Missing Ethics Board Member Found (6/02/16)
Up until May 31st, the City of Wausau Website listed five members of the Ethics Board, including Steve Immel, whose name did not appear on the Ethics Board agendas for their meetings on May 5th and May 9th. It turns out the Mr. Immel resigned citing concerns about the time commitment on April 8, 2016, three days after Robert Mielke was elected mayor. No announcement was made by the city despite the high profile case pending before the ethics board.
So far in 2016, three members of the city’s Ethics Board have resigned. Former Board Chairman Joseph Hoppa resigned on January 11th citing inappropriate handling of the investigation of former Alderman Keene Winters. Read about it in the Wausau Daily Herald.
For a summary of Ethics Board member changes and actions, click on this timeline. As expected, the Ethics Board declined to reconsider the case.
Transparency Takes a Hit with City’s New Open Records Policy (5/23/16).
In response to a series of open records request filed by former Alderman Keene Winters, city staff announced a new policy for handling open records request on March 22, 2016. The new policy adds a number of steps to the process and encourages all staff and officials involved in the process to bill for their time. The net result is to make records harder to get by making the process for obtaining them more cumbersome and more expensive.
- See City IT Director Gerald Kline explain the new policy to the city council at the start of the council meeting on March 22, 2016.
- See City IT Director Gerald Kline and Assistant City Attorney Tara Alfonso further explain the new policy to the council mid meeting on April 12, 2016.
Winters first open records request was simple. On February 24, 2016, he asked form emails between the council and staff for the period February 8th through February 17th regarding the scheduling of a council meeting for February 17th. After seven, weeks the city delivered to Winters an estimated search cost of $290.45–a clear shot across the bow that subsequent request would be both difficult and expensive to obtain. Note also that the city did not respond with an estimate until May 3, 2016, one day short of ten weeks later.
- See estimate of $3,042.06 for records on the 2015 investigation of former Alderman Keene Winters, produced on May 9th in response to a February 24th request.
- See estimate of $599.04 for the records on the 2010 investigation of former Alderman Ed Gale, produced on May 20th in response to a March 8th request.
Winters’ Attorney Will Ask the Ethics Board to Reconsider (5/10/16).
Yesterday, the Wausau City Ethics Board issued an summary order stating that the complaint filed by former Alderman Keene Winters against Mayor Robert Mielke did not provide probable cause for an investigation. Winters and his attorney will be filing a letter with the Ethics Board to ask them to reconsider or at least augment their reasoning.
- See Ethics Board Order
- See press release
- See attorney’s letter to the Ethics Board
- See the original ethics complaint (scroll down on this page to March 18th)
Winters Files Information with the D.A. (4/25/16).
Former Alderman Keene Winters had filed augmented information with the Marathon County District Attorney to add to filings referred to the DA by the city council. After hearing the results of the special investigator, who reviewed the investigation of Winters directed by former Council President Robert Mielke (now Mayor of Wausau, former Mayor James Tipple and Human Resources Director Myla Hite, the council voted 8-3 to send the report to DA Ken Heimerman. In a letter to the DA, dated April 25th, Winters noted (1) that the DA’s office was not the only entity looking into the botched investigation and (2) that Special Investigator Anthony Wachewicz’s report was not the only document on the subject. Winters then provided the DA with additional information.
- See transmittal letter to the District Attorney.
- See Winters’ ethics complaint (Scroll down to 3/18/16).
- See special investigator’s report (Scroll down to 4/19/16).
- See letter from former Council President Ed Gale about prior investigations.
City Officials’ Investigation of Winters Was Inappropriate (4/19/16).
Special Investigator Tony Wachewicz presented his findings on the so-called investigation of Alderman Keene Winters by Mayor Jim Tipple, Council President Robert Mielke and Human Resources Director Myla Hite yesterday evening. Wachewicz agreed with City Attorney Anne Jacobson who issued an opinion in February saying the investigation was unlawful. He went on to say that the 217-page report was a inappropriate and disproportionate response to the incident report. Wachewicz also noted that Winters was afforded no due process rights in the proceedings.
- See Special Investigator’s Report
- See Special Investigator’s Exhibits
- Read Wausau Daily Herald article.
City Legal Services Budget Spent Already (4/15/16)
The City of Wausau’s legal department started the year with a budget of $500,155, including $86,430 to hire outside legal council in cases where the city’s two staff attorneys could not handle the case. As of the end of March, the entire budget for outside legal services was spent and the council had to amend the budget to add $35,000. But, with a long list of cases pending that will require outside legal services, there is likely to be hundreds of thousands of dollars of cost overruns.
Special Investigator to Give Last Minute Report (4/14/16)
In February, the Wausau City Council hired a special investigator to investigate the unlawful investigation that Mayor-Elect Robert Mielke directed against Alderman Keene Winters. A promise was made that a report would be given before the April 5th election. However, that never happened. Now, in a last-minute gesture, a presentation by the special investigator has been scheduled for the last evening of the 2014-16 legislative term. See agenda.
Winters Files Open Records Complaint 4/12/16
Alderman Keene Winters filed a complaint in Marathon County Circuit Court against the City of Wausau for failing to comply with open records request. The request, for a group of emails sent between February 8th and February 17th was file on February 24th.
“It is generally accepted that two weeks is a reasonable amount of time to comply with an open records request,” noted Winters. “Seven weeks is unreasonable; that is why I filed the complaint.”
“Let’s be clear about the ‘unreasonableness’ of the non-reply. Starting on November 24th and running througout January 6th, the City of Wausau could rifle through three years of emails of the council, gather documents, conduct interview and produce a 215-page dossier about me. Now, when I ask for a single week’s worth of emails starting on Febraury 24th, we can get to April 12th without a reply.”
Congratulations to Becky McEhlaney! 4/7/16
Rebecca McEhaney was elected District 6 Alderperson on April 5th to serve for the 2016-18 term. Alderman Keene Winters did not run for re-election and will attend his last council meeting on April 18th. The new mayor and council will be sworn in on April 19th. Best wishes to Becky for the new term!
District 6 continued its traditions as one of the city’s strongest electoral districts. In the past four spring election cycles, it has had contested elections for alderperson and the highest voter turnout in the city. Total aldermanic votes cast by district this spring were as follows:
- District 1 (far southeast section) 1,316 votes – contested race
- District 2 (southeast section) 844 votes – uncontested race
- District 3 (central city) 402 votes – uncontested race
- District 4 (central east side) 1,089 votes – contested race
- District 5 (northeast side) 805 votes – contested race
- District 6 (far northeast section) 1,412 votes – contested race
- District 7 (far northwest section) 915 votes – uncontested race
- District 8 (northwest side) 789 votes – uncontested race
- District 9 (far west side) 977 votes – contested race
- District 10 (far southwest side) 693 votes – uncontested race
- District 11 (central west side) 1,100 votes – contested race
District 6 also has two of the city’s nine neighborhood associations.
Looking for TruthWausau.org? 3/31/16
This attack-website was taken down on March 29th after an exchange of phone calls among Alderman David Oberbeck, Mayor James Tipple and City Human Resources Director Myla Hite. However, screen prints from March 26th were saved so that you can view the original website content.
Mr. Oberbeck called the mayor at 9:33 a.m. on the morning of March 29th to complain about the content of the website and to expressed an opinion that there were several links between website and Myla Hite. The mayor reportedly called Ms. Hite. Ms. Hite, in turn, called Mr. Oberbeck just before 1:00 p.m. and denied involvement with the site. Between 10:00 a.m. and noon, the site was taken down, raising suspicions that the author of the site had been tipped that it might be traced by someone in this phone circle.
The website reappeared briefly in a garbled form on March 29th and finally went black.
Also downloaded from the March 26th version of TruthWausau.org was a typed, double-spaced copy of Tom Neal’s opinion editorial. The editorial popped-up when you clicked on Mr. Neal’s picture. Here is a link to that original document (see document). If you download the document and check its author, you will find that it was written by Jennie Sisk on March 16th.
For a signed sample of Ms. Sisk’s writing and opinions, view the attached email message.
Now, here is a little more background. The link below shows the domain was registered on March 15th, one day after the Human Resources Committee postponed discussion of a greivance filed by Ms. Hite against Mr. Winters. The recreation of Mr. Neal’s op-ed by Ms. Sisk, took place one day later. The op-ed had to be posted to the website by someone who had rights to edit the site (i.o., it was not visitor comment or blog). See: http://www.whois.com/whois/truthwausau.org
Ms. Sisk and Myla Hite are roomates and live at the same address in Wausau. Also, see Myla Hite’s assurances to Tom Neal that she was not involved with the website.
For some documents that have seemingly similar content as the original TruthWausau.org website, we are posting two grievances written by Myla Hite against Keene Winters (see grievances). Readers are invited to view the documents and draw their own conclusions about whether they are similar or not.
See Mielke’s Nixon-Like Behavior
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 3/24/2016
COMPLAINT HIGHLIGHTS TROUBLING BEHAVIOR BY COUNCIL LEADER
Documents included in the ethics complaint by Alderman Keene Winters against Council President Robert Mielke reveal a troubling pattern of behavior. Mielke exhibits an almost Nixon-like obsession with personal power and leaks to the press. Starting within the first 100 days of his presidency, Mielke did the following:
- Purported to answer for the council without delegated authority to do so. [See p. C-3].
- Declared documents to be confidential that were in fact subject to public disclosure under the Wisconsin Public Records Law. [See pp. C-2, C-11, C-12, C-16, A-39 and A-40].
- Conducted substantive discussions about city policy over emails with a quorum of the city council without providing notice or otherwise complying with the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law. [See pp. C-2, C-3 and C-11 through C-16].
- Proclaimed the unilateral power to punish fellow elected officials. [See pp. A-31, C-11, C-12 and C-15].
- Published vague and misleading meeting agendas and notices that did not comply with the disclosure requirements of the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law. [See pp. A-43 and A-44].
- Proclaimed the power to seize and search the emails of fellow elected officials. [See pp. C-11, C-12 and C-15].
“Clearly, Mr. Mielke only pays ‘lip-service’ to the idea of open government,” said Winters. “If Mr. Mielke gets this ‘big of a head’ from being council president then it isn’t hard to imagine what he would be like as mayor.”
Winters Endorses Oberbeck for Mayor (3/21/16).
Alderman Keene Winters is endorsing write-in candidate David Oberbeck for mayor. Read press release.
Winters Files Ethics Complaint Against Mielke (3/18/16).
On Friday, March 18th, Alderman Keene Winters filed an ethics complaint with the City Clerk and City Attorney for the Wausau Ethics Board to review.
- See Winters’ press release on the complaint
- See the Complaint and all its counts
- Quick Sampling of Emails Mentioned in the Complaint
- See Appendix A – Cover & Table of Contents
- See Appendix A – Pages A-1 thru A-10
- See Appendix A – Pages A-11 thru A-17
- See Appendix A – Pages A-18 thru A-30
- See Appendix A – Pages A-31 thru A-40
- See Appendix A – Pages A-41 thru A-50
- See Appendix A – Pages A-51 thru A-59
- See Appendix A – Pages A-60 thru A-69
- See Appendix B – All Parts
- See Appendix C – Cover & Table of Contents
- See Appendix C – Pages C-1 thru C-8
- See Appendix C – Pages C-9 thru C-16
Winters Responds to Myla Hite’s Grievance (3/11/16).
The WSAU report below mentions a grievance filed by City Human Resource Director Myla Hite against City Attorney Anne Jacobson. Ms. Hite’s grievance also names Alderman Winters. The City Human Resources Committee will be making a descision on Monday, March 14th, whether the grievance establishes probable cause to move forward to a hearing. Read Alderman Winters’ response to the grievance.
WSAU Reports on DA Interest in Winters’ Case (3/10/16).
See written report filed for the radio station.
Winters Files Additional Open Records Requests (3/9/16).
“The public needs to hear the full story,” said Alderman Keene Winters. That is why he has filed three additional open records request, bringing the total of requests he is waiting on to five.
One is for the records surrounding an attempted “core values prosecution” of former Alderman Ed Gale. See PDF. Gale, a sometime critic of Mayor Tipple who lost a 2012 mayoral race against Tipple, was also confronted with a booklet of allegations compiled by staff.
The other two request pertain to records from the Metro-Ride Transit Authority. One is for the minutes of the transit commission meeting on November 19, 2015. See PDF. The other is for communications between Transit Director Greg Seubert and Mayor Tipple regarding the transit grants. See PDF. “It is hard to believe that a report on the ‘transit commission incident’ could have been compiled and concluded without an examination of these records,” said Winters.
Winters Calls for a John Doe Probe (3/2/16).
During Tuesday night’s council meeting, Alderman Keene Winters introduced a resolution directing the City Attorney Anne Jacobson to turn over city documents regarding the so-called investigation into the incident between him and Transit Direct Greg Seubert to District Attorney Ken Heimerman. The council did not act immediately, but will take up the resolution in the Finance Committee. Read Wausau Daily Herald coverage. See coverage by WSAW Channel 7. Winters noted that the council has received information, including a legal opinion available on this website, that indicate that crimes may have been committed. “We have a duty to refer that information to the appropriate authorities with all deliberate speed and not sit on evidence,” said Winters
Showdown on Mayor’s Vetos Tonight (3/01/16)
Read the Wausau Daily Herald’s assessment of tonight’s confrontation between the mayor and the common council (PDF).
Why the City Hires So Many Attorneys (2/29/16)
Read the Wausau Daily Herald’s report on why the city hires so many attorneys (PDF).
Tipple Vetos Directives from the Council (2/25/16)
On February 23rd, the Wausau City Council voted unanimously to strip Mayor James Tipple of his supervisory role over City Attorney Anne Jacobson and to hire and independent investigator to look into the actions of Mayor Tipple and others. In a delaying tactic that seems aimed at defying lawful directives from the council, Tipple has vetoed those resolutions. See resolutions. A vote to overtune the veto is likely to be scheduled from Tuesday, March 1st.
Mall Deal Approved – See Details (2/24/16)
Last evening, the Wausau City Council approved a budget amendment and aid package for CBL & Associates to move Younkers from its current location to the former JC Penney space. Read the Wausau Daily Herald’s coverage. Here is a summary of what was included in the deal:
- A 20-year, unsecured loan for $4.1 million at 2% interest and no principal payments due unless or until CBL makes money.
- A $405,000 grant to CBL to do marketing for the mall over the next three years, paid out at $135,000 per year.
- Forgiveness of the $76,000 annual ground lease for 10 years. Total cost to the city equal to $760,0000.
- A $50,000 per year discount on the lease of city parking structures for five years. Total cost equal to $250,000.
- All of this coming on a 43% reduction in CBL’s property taxes in the latest city revaluation.
So, besides that $4.1 million loan that people often hear about, there are also over $1.4 million in grants and lease conessions.
The following alderpersons voted in favor of the aid package: Bill Nagle, Romey Wagner, David Nutting, Tom Neal, Sherry Abitz, Karen Kellbach, Gary Gisselman and Lisa Rasmussen. Those voting no were Keene Winters, David Oberbeck and Robert Mielke.
Winters stated his case for opposing the deal in a January 25th op-ed.
Winters Files Open Records Request (2/24/16)
Alderman Keene Winters has filed two open requests request with the City of Wausau. One is for the documents related to the so-called investigation of Winters (PDF). The other seeks communications related to the scheduling of time for the council to hear from City Attorney Anne Jacobson on the propriety of the investigation (PDF). That meeting could have been scheduled as early as the evening of February 9th, but instead was delayed until February 17th, the day after the primary vote.
Mayor Demands that Information be Taken Off the Web (2/9/16)
Mayor James Tipple has sent a threating letter to Alderman Keene Winters to take documents off his website. Winters refused to help the Mayor hide his attempts to retaliate and punish City Attorney Anne Jacobson for telling the truth (PDF).
Press Release by Alderman Winters (2/8/16).
ACTIONS TAKEN AGAINST WINTERS WERE ILLEGAL
MAYOR THREATENS TO FIRE CITY ATTORNEY FOR “BLOWING THE WHISTLE”
In a response to a request for a legal opinion, long-time City Attorney Anne Jacobson has announced that the actions taken against Alderman Keene Winters to contrary to the law. In a review of the process, Attorney Jacobson concluded following:
- No enforceable rules or policies were violated by Alderman Winters’ alleged conduct.
- The investigation of Winters was improperly authorized and conducted.
- The ad hoc hearings violated Winters’ due process rights.
- An outside attorney was inappropriately hired to conduct this illegal investigation.
In a reaction to the opinion, Winters stated this was just another example of Mayor Jim Tipple’s vendetta to silence him for calling for appropriate transparency in city operations, and now he is trying to do the same to Anne Jacobson.
“The city attorney has concluded that this so-called investigation was a highly inappropriate over-reach by local officials,” noted Winters. “Without a legitimate purpose, one can only conclude that the real objective was to silence and defame me in advance of an election. The mayor and City Council President Robert Mielke should apologize to me and use their own personal funds to reimburse me for the very substantial legal costs that I have incurred defending my rights.”
“Instead of correcting the situation, the city council then allowed itself to be mislead and did not consult with the city attorney. The members of the council should also apologize for going along with this charade.
“I am proud of our city attorney for stepping forward to straighten out this mess and protect the city. There is a long series of documents indicating that city officials repeatedly ignored her advice, kept her in the dark about the process and worked around her, all of which are violations of Wis. Stat. 62.09(12)(a).
- Correspondence between Attorney Anne Jacobson & city officials regarding the Winters investigation.
- Attorney Anne Jacobson’s response to requests for legal opinions regarding the Winters investigation – Part 1.
- Attorney Anne Jacobson’s reponse to requests for legal opinions regarding the Winters investigation – Part 2
- Mayor Jim Tipple’s threats to fire Anne Jacobson and demands that the city council to keep out of this matter.
Committee Bends to CBL’s Terms on the Mall (2/3/16).
Yesterday, a committee of the whole was briefed by Foley & Lardner attorney that negotiations had reached an end with CBL & Associates. We now had to make a decision to take it or leave it. Read the terms of the agreement and what will be demanded of taxpayers (PDF). The votes to give CBL a $4.1 million unsecured loan now plus $8 million more in the future, forgiveness of the ground lease, reduction of the parking lease and $135,000 per year to market the mall on top of the 44% reduction in property taxes we already gave them were as follows:
- Yes – Lisa Rasmussen (running for council unopposed)
- Yes – Karen Kellbach (running for council unopposed)
- Yes – Romey Wagner (running for council unopposed)
- Yes – Sherry Abitz (running for council unopposed)
- Yes – David Nutting (running for council unopposed)
- Yes – Gary Gisselman (opposed by James Wadzinski)
- Yes – Tom Neal (opposed by Doug Diny)
- No – Robert Mielke (running for mayor)
- No – David Oberbeck (running for mayor)
- No – Keene Winters (running for mayor)
- Absent – Bill Nagle (retiring from council)
It is important that we invest in re-purposing the mall. However, trying to keep it a retail mall with the same old tired and financially precarious anchors is an unacceptable risky investment. Ask yourself, when is the last time you bought something at Younkers in Wausau? Is this the plan that will keep people coming to Wausau’s downtown?
Wausau Center Mall Editorials (1/25/16).
For 35 years, the Wausau Center Mall has been an anchor to the downtown and an important part of our local economy. However, the way we shop is changing, and the components of the mall will have to change too. Simply giving taxpayer dollars to the existing configuration is not going to work. Read Keene Winters’ January 26th opinion editorial on how to reposition the mall (PDF). Also see the Wausau Daily Herald’s December 28th editorial on the need to reposition the mall (PDF).
Bloomberg has produced an article discussing the difference between investing in a profitable mall or poor performing mall. Investments can be made through a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT). Note that the C Grade mall in the example has a profile very similar to the Wausau Center Mall. In the third to last paragraph, CBL & Associates is mentioned as a REIT that investors should avoid.
Alderman May Face Censure Tonight (1/13/16).
In a last minute maneuver, the city administration gave council members 23 hours notice that it plans to try to censure Alderman Keene Winters tonight without providing him an opportunity to defend himself. Read the notice and the press release issued by Winters. With the short notice, Winters had to scramble to contact his attorney, get him to clear his schedule and appear at the meeting. It is just one more due process violation in a make-believe grievence process that is legally baseless, and another attempt to prevent this from being settled by a simple apology. Read today’s Wausau Daily Herald coverage.
Winters Offers Path to an Apology (1/12/16).
Interpersonal conflict flares up in every organization. The best way to handle it is bring the parties together to talk out their differences, agree on future rules of behavior and make apologies where needed. This process started with a letter from Council President Robert Mielke promising that any contact between Keene Winters and any employee could be considered retaliation. In an open letter to the city council Keene Winters offers a way around the legal impediments to a place where he can write an apology to Greg Seubert for having used harsh language.
City Ethics Chair Resigns Over Lack of Independent Investigation (1/11/16)
The saga of the so-called investigation of Keene Winters continues with the resignation of the city’s Ethics Committee Chairman. Read about it in the Wausau Daily Herald.
Winters Challenges Investigation (1/08/16)
Read about it in the Wausau Daily Herald.
Wausau’s “Crucible” Begins (1/07/16)
Wausau’s witch trials have begun. The tribunal will attempt to prove that questioning or criticizing a city department head’s performance creates an “unsafe work environment,” and is the kind of speech that should therefore be banned. See the video of the first session of the kangaroo court. (Be patient while it loads). Read the 165 pages of tortured logic and one-sided, leading questions that has been labeled a “finding of facts.” Understand the vast amount of staff time and attorney’s fees that the City of Wausau is pouring into silencing one alderman, who is forced to pay for his legal defense out of his own pocket.
The freedom to criticize our government and our public officials without fear of reprisal by that government is the cornerstone of our democracy. Nothing less than our freedom of speech as council members and as citizens is at stake here.
These proceedings are being called and directed by Council President Robert Mielke. Feel free to email him if you think this is a waste of staff time and taxpayer resouces.
Winters is on the Ballot for Mayor (1/05/16)
Happy new year! Today, Friends of Keene Winters turned in over 330 nomination signatures (200 are required) to place my name on the ballot for Mayor of Wausau.
A big THANK YOU to the 16 people across the city who helped us gather the signatures over a three week period. Great work!
Winters Faces Kangaroo Court at City Hall (12/31/15)
DATE: December 31, 2015
TO: Wausau Common Council
FROM: Alderman Keene Winters
SUBJECT: January 6th Committee of the Whole Meeting
Yesterday, a cryptic notice was posted that on January 6, 2016, the council will meet as a committee of the whole to “Review Factual Background Related to City Employee(s) Working Environment.” While it is hard to say exactly what this meeting will cover based on the content of the agenda, my first guess is that it would be this long-awaited “finding of fact” report concerning me that Council President Robert Mielke has referenced in both statements and correspondence.
It is my belief that existence and creation of such document raises enough concerns about possible inappropriate conduct in office by Robert Mielke that the full council should be asked to consider the matter.
Because Council President Mielke’s investigation does not involve the Ethics Committee and does not relate to any violation of the ethics code or city ordinances, there is only one process left for seeking the sanction or censure of a city council member. That is Section 61 of Robert’s Rules of Order (11th Edition) which has been incorporated by Chapter 2.16 of the Wausau Municipal Code. Those procedures, however, do not allow for a single council member, even a council president, to initiate an investigation without full council approval. Nor do they allow any “findings” to be made without due process, which includes a notice of the charges and an opportunity to be heard after receiving notification of the charges. By commissioning this investigation himself, Council President Mielke has usurped the authority of the city council. In the process, he has improperly used the city’s Human Resource Department and a special counsel who has not been appointed by the city council to do his bidding.
Since this “findings of fact” report has apparently been placed on the agenda, a discussion of its origins and legitimacy will be appropriate at the meeting as well.
This memorandum is to provide council members with the background material for the discussion that will take place.
To begin, Wisconsin Statutes include the following definitions for misconduct in office:
946.12(2) In the officer’s or employee’s capacity as such officer or employee, does an act which the officer or employee knows is in excess of the officer’s or employee’s lawful authority or which the officer or employee knows the officer or employee is forbidden by law to do in the officer’s or employee’s official capacity; or
946.12(3) Whether by act of commission or omission, in the officer’s or employee’s capacity as such officer or employee exercises a discretionary power in a manner inconsistent with the duties of the officer’s or employee’s office or employment or the rights of others and with intent to obtain a dishonest advantage for the officer or employee or another; or . . .
There is documentary evidence that Mr. Mielke has done the following:
- Asserted authority that he does not have in a November 23, 2015, directive to a fellow alderman. The assertions include: (1) unilaterally launching an investigation of a fellow alderman; (2) asserting the authority to prohibit discussion of the matter; (3) asserted the authority to prohibit the subject of the investigation from entering certain public buildings; and (4) apparently employing an outside attorney at taxpayers’ expense.
- Admitted not having the authorities asserted on November 23rd in two November 24, 2015, email memorandra, in which he asks the council to convene in January for the purpose of giving him such authorities.
- Put out a press release that he is running for mayor that includes casting aspersions on the alderman he is investigating, a fellow candidate for mayor.
Mr. Mielke’s actions were done at great cost to the taxpayers. Besides staff time used in producing this report, an outside attorney was hired through a process that neither conformed to state law or city procurement policy.
Wisconsin Statutes 69.02 (12)
(a) The [city]attorney shall conduct all the law business in which the city is interested.
(g) The council may employ and compensate special counsel to assist in or take charge of any matter in which the city is interested.
To the bests of my knowledge no contract exists between the city and Ruder Ware law firm for the conduct of these services. This is based on responses from Ruder Ware to inquires made by my attorney. These responses state that Ruder Ware has performed legal services for the city for 40 years and provided counsel on an “as needed” basis. City procurement policy does make possible sole source purchases, but they require documentation. I have asked for this documentation and have not received it. Moreover, city procurement procedures do not allow for contracts longer than three years–much less 40 years–without council approval. In addition, it is unclear how a department head who is a member of the executive branch can deploy resources and investigate a member of the legislative branch without first getting authorization from the council.
In sum, all the checks and balances that exist in state law and in Robert’s Rules of Order to provide due process rights were ignored in the creation of this report.
- The council did not authorize the investigation as required.
- A committee of council members was not appointed to oversee the investigation as required.
- The council was not consulted on the hiring of an outside attorney as required.
This investigation is not just about me; it is about how we, as council members, pursue our oversight of city functions. Attorney Dean Dietrich of the Ruder Ware law firm makes that clear in his December 18th memo when he wrote to my attorney that investigators wanted information about how I viewed a council member’s role as it relates to the operations of city government and demanded to know whether I had “ever received direction from the mayor’s office on how to appropriately access staff services” and whether I had “overstep[ped]” my authority by failing to comply with the mayor’s directive.
Those questions imply a relationship that does not exist. As an elected council member, I do not work for the mayor. Rather, I work for the citizens of Wausau in District 6. If it is in the interests of my constituents for me to interact with city staff, I will do so, regardless of any mayor’s attempt to limit interactions with city employees or filter what information council member can get from city employees.
In this coming report, you will be asked to buy-into the following set of false syllogisms:
Passionate debate, with occasional uncivil remarks = A violation of Core Values
Violations of Core Values = Bullying
Making employees uncomfortable by expressing a perspective that is different from the mayor’s also = Bullying
Bullying = Harrassment
Harrassment = An Unsafe Work Environment for Employees
Therefore, any passionate debate which is deemed to include perceived “uncivil remarks” creates an unsafe work environment for employees and can be band and/or punished. Also, any attempt to contact employees directly and offer a perspective different from the mayor’s must therefore create an unsafe workplace. Those are certainly untennable leaps. I have not entertained logic like this since my stage role in Oasis Theater’s production of the Crucible by Arthur Miller.
This paradigm for chilling speech and stifling criticism is not just aimed at me. You are also being asked to update the employee handbook with changes that will do the following:
- Create a paragraph under the Harassment Section called “Bullying,” which will allow the Human Resources Department to prosecute “uncivil behavior” that “does not rise to the level of unlawful conduct.” See draft page.
- Include a new “Duty of Loyalty” section that says all employees owe an allegiance to the chain of communication/chain of command and cannot make disparaging remarks about the city. See draft page.
There is a reason why freedom of speech is a constitutional imperative, particularly political speech which allows citizens to criticize their government and its employees. Any construct that would give government officials the power to limit speech or retaliate against speakers could easily be abused to crush dissent.
From time to time, we all say things we come to regret. We all hear things which we deem to be less than civil. We are human. That has never been an excuse to set up a construct that allows a handful of people to marshal the resources of government and sit in judgment of another person’s political views or speech.
Why Winters is Running for Mayor (12/30/15).
On a positive note, Alderman Winters discusses the key issues facing the city in an opinion editorial in the Wausau Daily Herald.
WSAU’s Chris Conley Comments on the “Investigation” of Alderman Winters (12/29/15).
Read Mr. Conley’s remarks.
Winters Ask Human Resources Committee to Review the Investigation Against Him (12/28/15).
Alderman Winters has sent a memorandum to Human Resources Committee Chairman Romey Wagner and asked him to place the investigation ordered by Robert Mielke on the agenda at its next meeting so that council members will have a chance to ask questions and learn what is going on. See memo.
Mielke Ordered Investigation of Winters (12/23/15).
Yesterday, the public learned that the city was conducting an investigation of Alderman Winters. Winters is now releasing to the public information about who ordered the investigation and why. See PDF. Read the Wausau Daily Herald summary. See Winters’s attorney’s discussion of the investigation.
According to city ordinances, only a committee of the council can order that an investigation be conducted. This investigation has been initiated by individuals and kept secret from the council.
City Hall Using Public Resources to Smear Winters (12/22/15).
Alderman Winters has sent out a press release regarding the misuse of public resources to mount a campaign against him. See PDF. For a more detailed discussion of why this so-called investigation has no merit and is a waste of staff time and taxpayer dollars, see the most recent letter from Winters’ attorney.
Winters Declares Candidacy for Mayor (12/17/15).
Alderman Keene Winters has announced plans to run for Mayor of the City of Wausau. See press release. Read Wausau Daily Herald coverage. Listen to Keene introduce his campaign on WXCO with Oliver Burrows. Hear the broadcast.
Winters Appears on WXCO (11/24/15).
Alderman Keene Winters appeared on WXCO with Oliver Burrows to answer question about recent issues before the city. The discussion included aid for the mall, proposed riverfront development and Winters’ efforts to start a new Riverview Neighborhood Association. Hear broadcast.
Wausau Passes Largest Real Spending Increase in a Decade (11/11/15)
Last night the Wausau City Council passed a budget with one of the largest real increases in spending in a decade. With inflation for the twelve months ending 6/30/15 running at 0.31%, this budget’s 3.57% increase is almost entirely all growth. The controversial budget passed by a 6-to-5 margin. The votes were as follows:
Lisa Rasmussen – Yes
Karen Kellbach – Yes
Gary Gisselman – Yes
Tom Neal – Yes
David Nutting – Yes
Bil Nagle – Yes
Rob Mielke – No
Sherry Abitz – No
Romey Wagner – No
Keene Winters – No
David Oberbeck – No
Facts About the City Budget (11/09/15).
The final vote on Wausau’s 2016 city budget will take place tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. Member of the public can come to the meeting and register with the City Clerk to speak prior to the start of the meeting. A press release with facts about the 2016 budget has been sent out (PDF). For more informatoin about declining incomes in the Wausau area see this website.
Winters Appears on Wisconsin Public Radio (11/06/15).
Keene Winters and his former College Professor Georgia Duerst-Lahti gave perspectives on the weeks state and national news on “the Week-in-Reivew” with Joy Carding. Hear broadcast.
City Council Approves Big Tax Increase (11/05/15).
About a half dozen citizens spoke at last night’s public hearing on the budget. After listing and some debate, the council committee of the whole approved the proposed tax increase with no further changes. Votes were as follows:
Robert Mielke – Yes
Karen Kellbach – Yes
David Nutting – Yes
Bill Nagle – Yes
Gary Gisselman – Yes
Tom Neal – Yes
Sherry Abitz – Yes
Keene Winters – No
David Oberbeck – No
Romey Wagner – No
Lisa Rasmussen – Absent/Excused
With seven and possible eight yes vote, passage of the budget at the next council meeting will be a pro forma exercise. The mill rate will increase a revised 7.35% or 64.5 cents per $1,000 in assessed valuation.
City Budget Hearing Tonight (11/04/15)
Tonight, at city hall, at 5:30 p.m., the city will be presenting its budget at a public hearing and taking comments. All residents are invited to come. Keene Winters started the day with an appearance on WXCO AM 1230 at 8:30 to preview tonight’s discussion. A summary of his comments is here.
Wausau Has Missed Opportunities to Save Money (10/30/15)
See the savings suggestion listed by Aldermen Keene Winters and Bill Nagle that was published in the October 29 – November 5, 2015, edition of the City Pages on page 5 (PDF).
City Budgets Should Mean Something (10/29/15)
A budget is your working plan for the year. It established goals that move the organization in a strategic direction. It is a measurement tool to see how good of a job the management team did at accomplishing goals. And, in a governmental organization, a approved budget is the law. Budgets should mean something.
While the city’s tax levy is slated to increase 7.37%, more and more property tax dollars are being diverted from city services to “economic development” in special districts. Attached is a summary of the 2015 line item budget for Wausau’s seven Tax Incremental Financing Districts (TIDs) and the projected year end spending results taken from the mayor’s budget documents. In 2015, Wausau budgeted to spend $13.5 million in TID projects. By year’s end, we will only have spent $5.0 million on projects that were in the budget and will have left $8.5 million in budgeted projects unspent. We then diverted $4.0 million of the $8.5 million to new project ideas that were not in the original budget and will leave $4.5 million unspent. It is hard to take the budget seriously when there is deviation on such a massive scale. Moreover, who is accountable for not starting and finishing millions of dollars of project that the city council appropriated money for? See my entry from 10/11/15 for more about the lack of accountability in city budgeting.
Follow the City Budget (10/28/15)
The next public meeting on the Wausau City Budget is scheduled for Wednesday, November 4th, at 5:30 p.m., at city hall. The public is invited and will have an opportunity to speak.
In September, Mayor Jim Tipple and his staff sent forward the executive budget request to the council. The mayor requested $1,020,476 in new spending and an 8.187% increase in the tax levy. See City of Wausau 2016 Budget Proposal, page 1, orange highlights.
On October 20th, the city council met as a committee of the whole. It trimmed about 1/6th of the mayor’s request, leaving a spending increase of $823,585 and a tax levy increase of 7.366%. See budget revision.
About half of the increase is due to a massive $100 million decrease in aggregate property values. For example, the value of the Wausau Center Mall was written down from $39 million to $22 million. Mall owners will see around a 43% decrease in their property taxes. To make up for that lost revenue, all other property taxpayers will have to pay 0.62% more.
The remaining 3.42 percent in the levy increase is due to increased spending. Considering that the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index (i.e., inflation) was only 0.31% for the 12 months ending 6/30/2015 and that the city’s population growth is only about 0.26% per year, that is a hefty increase in spending at a time when residents find themselves under increasing financial pressure from stagnant wages and declining property values.
The October 29th issue of City Pages, will contain information on the Wausau budget, including an opinion editorial by Aldermen Keene Winters and Bill Nagle on missed opportunities to lower the cost structure of city services.
Construction Alert! – Riverview Drive (10/23/15)
The railroad crossings that connect Riverview Drive to Sixth Street will be closed for construction. The south crossing will be closed the last week in October. The north crossing will be closed the first week in November. See letter to residents.
City Taxes to Rise Sharply (10/20/15)
City taxes slated to rise 7.37%. Alderman Winters voted no. See his press release on the matter. A tax hike so far above the inflation rate will further erode Wausau’s competitiveness. Compared to its peers, Wausau is already a high-tax, low-income community. See PDF. Such an over-sized tax increase is going to make it even harder for Wausau to attract new residents and new businesses. Read WSAU’s coverage of the budget debate and what other alderpersons had to say about the increase (Link).
Some people would have you believe that the city has worked hard and cut and cut its budget. Alderman Winters has done his homework and found no evidence to support such a claim. For the past 8 years, actual city general fund spending has risen at approximately the rate of inflation. See PDF. While there may have been minor changes in the mix of city services, there has been no overall belt-tighten. In this budget cycle, the administration requested a levy increase of $1 million. After some work, the council pared the increase back to $824,000. For anyone to assert that we made deep cuts, tough decision or endangered vital services is at best disingenuous. See WSAU editorial.
Unfortunately, household incomes and property values in Wausau have not enjoyed the same level of increase. The growth in Wausau city government is out-stripping the ability of the local economy to afford it. See Winters’ opinion editorial on budget accountability from 10/11/15 below.
Adjacent is a photograph of the walking bridge over Stinchfield Creek at the end of the 1300 Block of East Bridge Street (behind Thom Field). As you can see, within about 20 feet or so the creek enters a culvert and disappears under Bridge Street, a short walk away. It looks like Wausau’s very own “bridge to nowhere” and another example of lack of common sense in city spending. Alderman Winters has sent a memo to staff questioning this expenditure.
Upcoming Radio Appearances by Alderman Winters
Keene Winters will be on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Week-in-Review” with Joy Cardin on Friday, November 6th from 8:00 – 9:00 a.m. This statewide broadcast can be heard locally on WLBL 930 AM and WLBL 91.9 FM.
Winters on WXCO AM Morning Line (10/13/15)
Hear Alderman Winters discuss the city budget, his proposal for transit funding and Wausau’s “bridge to nowhere” with Oliver Burrows on WXCO radio (archive).
METRO-Ride Transit Commission Seeks Expansion Grants (10/11/15)
The Metro-Ride Transit Commission voted to seek grants for a pilot project to extend bus service to Rothschild, Schofield and the Rib Mountain Business District on October 8, 2015. Read what Alderman Winters had to say about it in the Wausau Daily Herald.
Accountability is Needed to Make Wausau’s Budget Meaningful (10/11/15)
Alderman Winters discusses the need for accountability in the city budget process in an opinion editorial in the Wausau Daily Herald. To see some of the numbers yourself, he has posted a brief history of city budgets (PDF). He has also posted a copy of Wausau Municipal Code 3.08.040 prohibiting spending more than is allowed in the city budget without seeking council approval (PDF).
Questions and Answers on the Bus System & the Mall (9/8/15)
Here Keene Winters answer questions from Oliver Burrows about the Wausau Bus System and the Wausau Center Mall on WXCO 1230 AM (audio archive).
Discussion of Fixing Wausau’s Bus System (9/4/15)
WSAU 55 is carrying a story and an editorial on the Wausau Bus System. Keene Winters is a member of the Metro-Ride Transit Commission and represented the commission in a budget request presentation to the county on September 2nd to expand bus service to communities outside of Wausau.
On Air (8/13/15 & 8/14/15)
Recently Keene was a guest of Oliver Burrows “Hometown Morning” on WXCO (audio archive). The next day he was on Joy Cardin’s show on WPR “Week in Review” to discuss topics in the state (audio archive).
Op-Ed on the Future of the City Adminsitrator Proposal
I joined fellow council member, Romey Wagner, in writing an opinion editorial on the future of the city administrator question. It is posted in the on-line addition of the Wausau Daily Herald and is likely to appear in print during the weekend of August
Saving Bus Service in the Wausau Metro Area
Like with an old fashion barn raising, many hands make light work, and the community is better off. This same concept can be applied to transit service in the Wausau Metro Area. If every community pitches in a litte, we can have an excellent and useful system. If it remains a “Wausau-only” system, it is likely to be shut-down by 2020 because there will be too many important destination where the bus does not go. Read my transit proposal now.
Mid August Radio Interviews
I was on radio recently. Listen broadcasht from Thursday (8/13/15) on WXCO’s “Hometown Morning” with Oliver Burrows at 7:15am. I also there is a link to my appearance with Joy Cardin on Friday (8/14/15) on WPR’s “Week in Review” in the 8:00am hour (segments are usually archived within a week on their site if you can’t listen live).
Wausau’s Economic Development Strategy?
The Wausau Daily Herald printed an editorial penned by Keene Winters and David Oberbeck entitled “Wausau needs an economic development strategy”. In it they address the complex decisions that have to be made when looking at spurring development in Wausau. Read the original HERE (aids in itemizing numbers) or in the article from WDH (6/9/15). Also see the economic development strategy suggestions drafted by Winters. Read now.
Sell the City Bus System?
In an effort to look for innovative ideas and solve problems, maybe the answer to our areas transit problem revolve around who pays and who is in charge. Something to look at might be county ownership of the bus system instead.
PDF of article from the City Pages (3/26 – 4/2, pg 5)
“Clean It Up Wausau” event April 17 – 18 for residents to get rid of large items
Spring pick up is not happening this year due to budgetary issues. This event will provide a means for residents to get rid of many large items.
Link to Article from WDH (3/16/15)
Wausau keeps same water meters despite cheaper option
Alderman Winters questioned why there was no followup with lower bid option to get real facts for comparison
City Endorses County Assessments
In an effort to create a fairer assessment with the surrounding communities, the city council supports a move to county assessments.
Wausau’s Merit Pay Plan a Scam
Alderman Winters looked at the idea of merit pay for city employees with regards to the mayor’s actions. (January 2015)
Traffic and Street Related Topics
Compromise Can Move the Thomas Street Project Forward
Alderman Winters addresses the ongoing project, both how we got to where we are and what should happen to move toward a conclusion. (8/3/14)
Did Cooper Stock really have to die?
An article on “Vision Zero”, a plan to reduce pedestrian traffic deaths by designing urban streets in a way that encourages drivers to drive more slowly. (Yahoo News – 5/21/14)
Legal Opinions, Harassment and City Hall Secrecy
In a series of articles that are linked to the way Wausau’s City Hall is doing business, our local media outlets are providing some in depth coverage. Links to the articles are below.
LATEST: Wausau council members want oversight of City Hall investigation (WDH – 3/21/14)
Why all the secrecy, City Hall?: Our View (WDH – 3/20/14)
Daily Herald watchdog exclusive: Wausau city attorney files harassment complaint (WDH – 3/20/14)
City paid twice for legal opinion (City Pages – Pat Peckham article – scanned)
Education as a Growth Industry for Our Area
In an effort to look at ways to move Wausau forward, I wrote a letter that I hope will arouse discussion. My belief is that this is but one example of the things we could be doing if we had a real direction for policies in Wausau. (read online) (PDF copy)
Vehicle Fuel “no bid” Contracts Examined
In another example of no bid contracts, the issues surrounding the no bid fuel contracts are examined. Keene’s views are well known on this and other no bid situations. Here are some recent articles from our local news outlets.
City could re-evaluate Riiser contract (WDH – 3/20/14)
City’s fuel contract scrutinized (City Pages – 3/13-20 – scanned)
Landlord could face $50K in fines for hazardous conditions
This article from the Wausau Daily Herald explains the issue. (WDH – 3/20/14)
A Record of Service, Transparency and Competence (posted 3/3/2014)
As we look at Alderman Winters’ service, there is a record that is in line with his initial promises. Take a look at 10 take-aways from the first two years.
Winters was an early critic of the massive “over-build” planned for Thomas Street. The recent report by Graef Consulting agreed that the city’s original plan to buy a 110 foot right of way from 17th Avenue east to the river was excessive. Graef recommended a 72-foot right of way from 17th Avenue to 3rd Avenue and a 92-foot right of way from 3rd Avenue to the bridge. The new plan preserves much more of the existing neighborhood and sets aside more land for private development. We have a page set up specifically for the Thomas Street project HERE.
Keene Winters said he would fight for transparency and accountability in city government, and his record shows that he has followed through. (PDF)
Wausau Daily Herald gives the current city council good marks for addressing citizen concerns. Alderman Winters has been among the leaders. (PDF)
Keene Winters was an early critic of the process of the Stewart Avenue Median Project. The city now has an ongoing investigation into what went wrong after a legal opinion from Axley Brentson, LLP, confirmed that city staff broke state procurement laws on the project. (PDF)
Keene Winters fought to preserve the old-growth trees on Spring Street. In January 2013, he went door-to-door on Spring Street to alert residents of the city’s plan to put in sidewalks and rally them to attend a planning meeting. In the end, the sidewalk plan was withdrawn, and the project resulted in the loss of only 18 trees that were too close to the curb to safely permit construction. (PDF)
Winters pushed for more thoughtful and practical approaches to animal control and public drunkenness. (PDF)
Keene Winters was active in getting the city involved in the orderly transition of the golf course from the American Legion to the Dudley family, preserving the asset for our neighborhood. (PDF)
Keene Winters is active in preserving our local history (PDF)
Keene Winters has been a leader on the council in pushing for much-needed budget process reforms (PDF)
Keene Winters has helped lead the way in discussion of alternatives for funding the bus system. (PDF)
Did We Break the Law? (posted 2/26)
Alderman Winters asked for an opinion on this matter from the City Attorney. In stead of providing one, the City Attorney hired another firm to do the work. Read a copy of the WDH article. (PDF)
Thomas Street Project
The issues & information relating to Thomas Street will be organized on it’s own page. This is an ongoing process, but is located HERE.
Economic Impacts and Causes
Proposed Amendments for the city’s 2014 budget
Here are a number of proposed amendments to the city’s 2014 budget. They include immediate tickets for certain types of property violations to help fight blight, spin off the Public Access station so that it can be self-sustaining, and to more accurately budget for position vacancies. These are all designed to improve our governments functioning, while being responsible for the taxpayers money and trust. (Click here to see these amendments)
Alderman Winters continues to be proactive in keeping property taxes low
The city’s Human Resources Committee recommended adding 6 positions to the 2014 budget. In the Finance Committee on September 24th, Keene put forward a plan to fund 5.5 positions without raising property taxes. The plan includes a $20 per unit per year licensing fee for landlords to fund regular inspections of rental properties. (Click here to see his proposal)
Alderman Winters addresses the issue of blight in Wausau
Recent survey data distributed to the city council at the beginning of September indicated that crime and blight were the top concerns of the public. In response, Alderman Winters put together this proposal for streamlining our city property inspections process and combating blight more effectively. Alderman Winters believes that significant improvements can be made without raising property tax rates. (Click here to see the proposal)
On September 10, 2013, Alderman Winters presented this outline to the City Finance Committee on the 2014 budget. The document contains several statistical measures that show that Wausau’s local economy has been under-performing the national, state and county economies. Winters argued that continuing to raise the already high level of local taxation will only encourage businesses to locate outside the boundaries of the city. Winters went on to present several ideas for holding the on taxes for the next 3 to 4 years without cutting services. (Click here to see the statistics)
Fiscal Responsibility – Helping protect pets without breaking the bank
A column Keene wrote (Wausau Daily Herald) addressing the need for common sense and working toward solutions with regards to the Humane Society requests.
Keene tells the Capital Improvement & Street Maintenance Committee of District 6 Concerns
After canvassing District 6, the opinion is clear. Yes to the road – No to the sidewalks. Read Alderman Winters letter to the Chair of the committee. Your voice is being heard. Stay involved and see that your wishes are not only heard, but addressed. Help Keene help District 6.
Authorized and paid for by Friends of Keene Winters
Greg Strasser, Treasurer