Stevens Pointless: A message from your so-called leaders

Participating in the July 20 Stevens Point Common Council meeting as a citizen was like trying to swim from the downstream side of Hoover Dam to the upstream side. Even if you’re strong enough to go against the current down at the base, you’re not going to get past the dam shaft.

I’ve watched many Point council meetings on video, but I’d never attended one until Monday.  What I saw convinced me that, at least for now, many of our so-called local leaders are great at pinching pennies but don’t recognize good sense.

They still couldn’t figure out how to help the residents of Edgewater Manor.  They also rubber-stamped an opportunistic shafting of more than 200 homeowners in the former FEMA flood plain, who are being required to pay for seawall improvement near downtown Stevens Point.

The council’s peformance could be described in many ways. I may have a lot more to say about this, and perhaps other council issues, in the future. For now, I’ll just say that the council and the city of Stevens Point only seem to hear what they want to hear.

This was particularly true on the flood-control assessment issue. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a decision-making body get such a clear and unanimous mandate from its constituents, yet seem to care less about what any citizen said.  The homeowners stuck with the bill made their hardship clear; other citizens strongly affirmed their willingness to share the cost as a city and thought the rest of the city would be willing, too. The consensus was as solid as a concrete seawall. Continue reading

Insult to injury: Long-suffering Stevens Point property owners being forced to bail the city’s boat

Wait a minute.  So those are my trucks behind that seawall?  (Photo courtesy of Mike Richards)

Wait a minute. So those are my trucks behind that seawall? (Photo courtesy of Mike Richards)

Want to anger your neighbors? Invite them all to a party, then send the entire bill to just a few of them after the party is over, telling them they took two appetizers over the limit.

Now let’s take a step back and talk about flood insurance.

Unless it’s the IRS, there’s probably no federal agency more vilified than the Federal Emergency Management Agency — none I’d less like to work for, none that gets a worse rap, none that’s as underappreciated.  That’s unfair to FEMA, but it’s also fair to say that none deserves our money less, as federal flood insurance is a boondoggle of the highest order.

About 200 Stevens Point property owners are finally going to be out from under the yoke of a program that encourages those with money to build stuff where they shouldn’t, where floods destroy it and then let all of us pay for rebuilding it.   Except that I get to pay a whole lot more than most people do.

It’s a despicable political outcome to a well-intentioned but poorly executed effort, and as one of those unfortunate Point property owners, I say good riddance to the 100-year flood zone and its attendant insurance costs.

The city’s attempt to portray a few property owners as the sole beneficiaries of the seawall is a disingenous breach of trust and a violation of the most basic precepts of community.

For my family, the cost was scheduled to be more than $1,900 in 2015-16.  The City of Stevens Point apparently feels that, because I and my fellow residents east of downtown had to flush that money down the toilet for all these years, we should happily accept an assessment to pay for buildup of a seawall that has removed us from this burden.

Essentially, because we had to live with a problem of someone else’s creation for many years, we shouldn’t be angry about having to pay for work in someone else’s backyard that finally gets rid of the problem and brings a number of other community benefits along with it. Continue reading

Another sure-fire way to save Wisconsin’s budget

Just pay the taxman, you deadbeat. Who do you think you are -- Popeye? (YouTube link)

Just pay the taxman, you deadbeat. Who do you think you are — Popeye? (YouTube link)

Dear Wisconsin Legislators:

I have been reading about your proposed $25 tax on the purchase of new bicycles in the state, but I have an even better idea: tax people for disagreeing with you.

Sure, a bike tax is a brilliant way to help kill everything from people to nature to clean air by encouraging the dirty, unhealthy and economically critical habit of driving uninsured deathtraps along our deteriorating highways and bridges.  It’s also a cleverly subtle attack on the profitability of the family business of our last Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

But there’s so much more you can do to reach your social and economic goals.

Seriously.  Until you can finish discouraging the populace from thinking, why not make everyone pay for disagreeing with you?  Something along the lines of $2 per reasonable idea ought to be plenty as a start.  Let’s call it the Rational Thought Tax.

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Satan, Senators, and State Parks

Summer is the time to get out and enjoy the state parks — particularly if you’re in Wisconsin, because there’s no telling how much longer some of them are going to be around.

The family at Copper Falls State Park in Northern Wisconsin. The state couldn't kill the park through mining permits, so it looks like it's trying through defunding.

Our family at Copper Falls State Park in Northern Wisconsin. The state couldn’t kill the park through mining permits, so it looks like it’s trying through defunding.

Sound exaggerated?  Consider that Alabama has reckoned on closing 15 of its state parks, leaving only seven for the public to enjoy. Given that Wisconsin will remove all tax support for the parks, it’s reasonable to assume that some, if not many, of our 50 or so* state parks won’t be open when the next legislatively manufactured budget “crisis” rolls around in two years.

It’s crucial to note that the seven parks that would survive Alabama’s short-sighted proposal are those that have “consistently made a profit” over a three-year period, according to the state parks director.

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Obey to grads: Ask yourself if these are consistent with your values

(Part 2 of a report on former Congressman Dave Obey’s commencement address at UW-Stevens Point)

Former U.S. Congressman Dave Obey fired up most of the morning commencement crowd at UW-Stevens Point’s May 16 ceremonies, although there was a more muted response during the afternoon ceremony and at least a few folks who apparently did not look kindly on Obey’s criticism of our approach to education, social responsibility and politics (see yesterday’s post for more).

Click to visit Dave Obey's Facebook page and let him know you appreciate his support of education.

Click on “Dave Obey” in the first paragraph to visit his Facebook page and let him know you appreciate his support of education.

Word is that a very small number of individuals walked out on the speech by Obey, a Democrat from Wausau who served 42 years in the House of Representatives.  It’s easy for many of us to find this ironic, but few of us are any longer surprised by folks who avoid confronting unpleasant truths about social responsibility even while they’re at a celebration of the good that comes from that very thing.

But Obey was reminding us all of a particularly hurtful truth: how easily we have turned our backs on supporting education.

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