Morrison Restricting Political Speech

It appears the Morrison Town Board has an issue with opposition and free speech.

According to the latest census, there are fewer than 2,000 people living in Morrison, Wisconsin. There are at least 10 times that many cows.

A drive along any one of the country roads criss-crossing rural Brown County reveals one after the other of the area’s many family-owned dairy farms (mega farms are still the minority). In fact, Brown County, home to Morrison, is one of America’s largest dairy-producing regions. Such pleasant landscapes are common to most of the surrounding communities dotting this rolling prairie of bucolic midwestern hamlets that are home to the salt of the earth.
Hidden from sight, however, is the petty tyranny of the Morrison Town Board and its egregious agenda of quashing the freedom of speech. This ham-fisted oligarchy is threatening to stain the idyllic tapestry woven by generations of good, law-abiding citizens and muzzle their ability to have a say in the making of the laws that govern them.
So constitutionally offensive are the recent policy positions taken by the Town Board, there is a distinct possibility that legal challenges could bring down serious repercussions upon some members of that council.
The cause of this opposition? The board’s cozy relationship with a wind energy company when developing a wind farm ordinance.
Records of the Morrison Town Board show that in April and July of 2006 the subject of creating a new wind ordinance was discussed by the members of the board. By August 2006, a Chicago-based wind developer, Invenergy, officially requested a permit for erecting a meteorological tower to test wind strength and consistency.
Over the next two and a half years, the town’s Plan Commission, following the advice of Town Chairman Todd Christensen, worked closely with representatives of Invenergy to draft a new wind ordinance that would grease the skids for the construction of the Ledge Wind Energy Project.
As reported by the Green Bay Press Gazette on March 17, 2007, “Koomen [Morrison Zoning Administrator] said a representative of a wind energy firm has been attending the wind ordinance meetings and providing input.”
After years of back-room brokering and back scratching, the Town Board of Morrison finally went public with Invenergy’s scheme to build 100 400-foot wind turbines in Morrison and three adjacent townships — Glenmore, Wrightstown, and Holland. Additional details of the surreptitiously formed proposal (arranged without adequate public notice of the magnitude of the project) revealed plans to locate 54 turbines in the 6 x 6 mile area of Morrison; of those, 27 would be hosted by Morrison town officials or their family members who had earlier in 2009 and 2008 signed contracts with Invenergy guaranteeing their participation in the project.
It should be noted that the Morrison Town Board failed to consult with town residents at any point in the establishment of this partnership with Invenergy.  Once the plan became public there was opposition that voiced its’ opinion.
In response to this official disregard, concerned residents of Morrison formed an association aimed at increasing public awareness of the potential damage to health and property associated with construction of the wind farm. At town meetings attended by members of the group, discussions between themselves and the board members who had colluded with Invenergy grew increasingly contentious, as video recordings of the proceedings reveal.
In order to ramp up its visibility in the area, the non-profit, called the Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy (BCCRWE), initiated a very effective outdoor sign campaign; signs popped up everywhere decrying the wind project.
One would think the response of the board would be to change course and listen to the opposition.  That didn’t happen.
As awareness spread, opposition to the turbines grew and town officials responded by attempting to limit free speech by severely restricting the size of BCCRWE anti-wind turbine signs. In order to force opponents to remove the signs, Town Chairman Todd Christensen decided to classify signs regarding wind development as “political signs,” same as those covering elections, which the town already restricted as to location, size, and duration, thus relieving the Town Board of the onerous task of passing a new ordinance or rewriting the previous one.
Next, in May 2010, in order to compel obedience to his decrees, Christensen hired a “code enforcer” to cruise around town issuing citations of $10 to $200 a day per sign to those citizens defying the “political sign” restrictions.
In an effort to wipe out opposition, the town board is now considering taking action in the form of ordinance changes to restrict “free” speech.
as part of the town’s vendetta the Plan Commission has drawn up various unconstitutional proposals to completely eradicate yard signs altogether.
Initially the Plan Commission wanted to set back all political signs 25 feet off the right of way, which would put some signs on front porches and barely readable at 55 mph. They also attempted to limit the size and number of political signs — one per candidate — and wondered about declaring them nuisances and worthy of disorderly conduct charges for being “annoying, disturbing, or derogatory.”
So, the self-interested Town Board of Morrison, Wisconsin, has carpet bombed the wind farm opposition leaving as collateral damage a severely abridged right of free speech.
Here’s the wording of the proposed change:
2. Political message: A message intended for a political purpose or a message which pertains to an issue of public policy of possible concern to the electorate, but does not include a message intended solely for a commercial purpose.
The problem for the Morrison Town Board is that similar restrictions have been found by the U.S. Supreme Court to be unconstitutional.
In 1994, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously overturned a restrictive yard sign ordinance passed in Ladue, Missouri. In the case of City of Ladue v. Gilleo, the court held that residential yard signs were “a venerable means of communication that is both unique and important.”
The high court’s decision in the Gilleo case has been followed repeatedly by lower courts considering the issue. In Curry v. Prince George’s County (1999), a federal district court in Maryland threw out a sign ordinance limiting the placement of political campaign signs in private residences. “There is no distinction to be made between the political campaign signs in the present case and the ‘cause’ sign in City of Ladue,” the court wrote. “When political campaign signs are posted on private residences, they merit the same special solicitude and protection established for cause signs in City of Ladue.”
Earlier, in the case of Arlington County Republican Committee v. Arlington County (1993), the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated a county law imposing a two-sign limit on temporary signs for each residence. The court noted that “the two-sign limit infringes on this speech by preventing homeowners from expressing support for more than two candidates when there are numerous contested elections.”
What’s even more amazing than this assault on free speech by the Morrison Town Board, is that it continues despite the fact Invenergy has withdrawn from the project and cancelled all contracts.
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Philadelphia Not Just Known for Brotherly Love

Apparently Philadelphia is also the place to collect a huge pension as an elected official while still working for the city.

City Councilwoman Marian Tasco will retire on Friday, collect a six-figure pension payment and then return to work after she is sworn-in on Monday to serve her seventh term.

Francis Bielli, executive director for the city’s Board of Pensions and Retirement, said he was recently notified that Tasco, who is enrolled in the controversial Deferred Retirement Option Plan, will retire on Friday and collect $478,057.

Tasco was reelected despite her participation in DROP, which drew public ire after elected officials entered the program, ran for re-election and retired for a day to get hefty pension payments, only to return to office.

Retiring Councilman Frank DiCicco, who is also in the program, considered running for re-election, but after controversy erupted over DROP, he decided not to. Retiring Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller, who is also enrolled in DROP made a similar decision. Councilman Frank Rizzo lost reelection due in-part to his participation in DROP. Retiring members Jack Kelly and Council president Anna Verna are also DROP participants.

However Councilwoman Tasco isn’t the only elected official in Philadelphia “retiring” and returning to work the next day.

Another elected official set to return after collecting his DROP payment is Register of Wills Ronald Donatucci, who retired Dec. 23 and will also return on Monday, Bielli said. He collected $366,797.

Perhaps the coverage of this, coupled with new council members in January, will help Philadelphia mayor Nutter achieve his goal of abolishing the program.

Mayor Nutter has tried in vain to eliminate the DROP program. In September, Council voted to override Nutter’s veto of a bill, sponsored by Tasco that would preserve the DROP program, while reducing its cost.

Nutter has vowed to work “tirelessly” to abolish the program.

A prime example of elected officials looking out only for themselves, not the well-being of the citizens they represent.

H/T – The Daley Gator

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Another Wisconsin School District benefits

Add Marinette to the list.  From Rep. John Nygren’s latest e-update:

In the past few weeks, I have reported in Nygren’s Notes that school districts across the state are reporting that they will have balanced budgets this school year.  Additionally, many schools are making changes in areas such as insurance, which have created much needed savings, money that can go back into the classroom where it belongs.

The tools given to the local communities have affected school districts all over Wisconsin, even right here at home.  This week, members of the Marinette Board of Education were able to see how the changes made were going to affect the Marinette School District this year.

Although the district is waiting for certification on additional aid, the preliminary figures show that Marinette School District will have a balanced budget this year.  The Marinette Eagle Herald reported that the school’s Business and Finance Director, Pauline Borgen, said this was the first time she ever had the opportunity to submit a balanced budget.

I applaud the Marinette School District for using the different tools that the members of the legislature created to develop a balanced budget.

More proof that the changes made via Act 10 and the recent state budget work.

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Walker Budget working

(H/T – Freedom Eden)

One month after taking effect Governor Walker’s budget is working.

According to media reports, local units of government and school districts have already saved more than $220 million, with millions more in potential savings not yet reported.

The state is also adding jobs. Between December 2007 and December 2010, Wisconsin lost over 153,600 private sector jobs. The state has netted over 39,000 new private sector jobs since the Governor called a special session to open Wisconsin for business. The state has seen 14,100 manufacturing jobs created since January. In June Wisconsin had a net job creation of 9,500 new jobs, including nearly 13,000 private sector jobs. Only four states created more private sector jobs than Wisconsin did in the last month.

And many local units of government have improved services while balancing their budgets.

Ashland School District
A health insurance provider switch saved Ashland School District nearly $378,000.

Kimberly School District
The district saved $821,000 by dropping WEA Trust.

Edgerton School District
The district will drop the union’s current health insurance carrier, the WEA Trust. The district is gathering bids to change to a different health insurance provider, which Pauli said could save at least $500,000 over the next year.

Baraboo School District
The Baraboo School Board expects to save about $660,000 next year after deciding to change insurance providers Monday evening.

Dodgeland School District
The Dodgeland School Board made the decision to change insurance companies.
Administrator Annette Thompson said the change will help the board deal with the expected $640,000 budget deficit from reduced state aid and expiration of some federal and AARA funds. The change in providers is expected to save the district $260,000 next year.

Elmbrook School District
The district originally had planned for $780,000 in savings through the health-care changes, but Brightman said the actual savings are estimated at $878,000. He said some of that money likely will be needed to pay for staffing – probably a half-time equivalent clerical position – to administer the new plan.

Mequon-Thiensville School District
Delta Dental‘s quotes also came in lower than those provided by WEA Trust. Beaudry said the district will save $49,000 in the 2011-12 budget cycle by switching to Delta Dental.

Marshfield School District
Marshfield will balance its budget despite the cuts. “Given the cost savings with health insurance and the turnover with staff and new hires, we will be able to preserve our programs and come up with a balanced budget,” said Peg Geegan, the district’s director of instruction who will assume the superintendent’s position Aug. 1. The district will save $850,000 by switching health insurance carriers…

Fond du Lac School District
District leaders believe when school starts in the fall they’ll be operating with a balanced budget. They say the savings under the bill will offset their 4.4 million dollar budget shortfall. Class sizes and programs will also remain in tact.
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City of Sheboygan and Sheboygan County
City of Sheboygan Mayor Bob Ryan and Sheboygan County Administrator Adam Payne said the collective bargaining reforms will provide enough savings to make up for the reductions in state aid. “We were able to lock in savings and certainty due to the discussions going on in Madison,” Payne said.

Wauwatosa School District
The tax levy is projected to decrease, no programs will be cut, and class sizes won’t increase by any significant measure. School board member Phil Kroner: “When students come to school in the fall, they’re going to see the same things, have the same teachers, and they’re going to see new things as well.

Laid-off city workers may get their jobs back after the city moves forward with the wage and benefit reforms contained in the budget. And Overtime rules have changed saving the county $100,000.
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They will see up to a 9% decrease in the school portion of their property tax levy. “It will be wonderful for our taxpayers, who have been extremely committed to our schools,” School Board President Julie Strenn said, noting three years ago, voters approved a three-year revenue cap override that cost taxpayers an additional $175,000 each year… “This is the first year we have not needed to short-term borrow.”

Paul Hauffe, director of business services said, “administrators are poised to introduce a balanced budget in mid-July… We’re very close right now, there’s nothing monumental that we have to overcome.”

Appleton Area School District
They will save $3.1 million just in health insurance costs alone due to competition among health insurance providers. Financial advisors for the school district said:
· Discussions at the state level over collective bargaining and budgeting issues have been beneficial to school districts from the rate perspective.
· It forced a lot of competition. I do think the landscape in the school marketplace has changed significantly over the last year that’s put significant pressure on WEA Trust. Previously to this year, they didn’t have a lot of competition. Historically, it’s very difficult for other carriers to match them.
· The $3.1 million in savings for next school year is just in health insurance premium costs.

Racine County
Inmates can do routine maintenance tasks so that county employees can spend more time working on projects that improve the community. County Executive Jim Ladwig said inmates will be able to perform more tasks such as landscaping, painting, and shoveling sidewalks in the winter. “We have a win-win when we use the inmates,” Ladwig said. “It gives them a sense of value they are helping the community.” At the same time, he said it will help the county maintain property that has been neglected.
References: and

Kaukauna School District
They will hire additional teachers, reduce projected class sizes from 26 to 23 students at the elementary level, 28 students to 26 students at the intermediate/middle level, and 31 students to 25 students at the high school level and set aside money for merit bonuses for good teachers. “Due to the law change the District’s projected operating budget has moved from a negative $400,000 to approximately a positive $1,500,000. Earmarked in the operating budget are $300,000 related to merit pay, a program being explored for all staff by the district for the 2011-2012 school year.”
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Hartland-Lakeside School Board
They switched insurance providers and saved taxpayers $690,000.

Numerous examples  of Governor Walker & the Republican-controlled State Legislature accomplishing what voters elected them to do in November to move Wisconsin “FORWARD”.


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