Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely baby daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
State Senator Mary Lazich appears on FranklinNOW.com with this opening paragraph:
“Welcome to Conservatively Speaking, my new blog in the “Community Voices” section of this website. I am very excited about sharing news and insights about your state government, and I thank Community Newspapers and NOW Online Editor Mark Maley for this wonderful opportunity.”
And with that, blogs on FranklinNOW.com were born.
Yours truly soon followed as did others, and their blogs helped make FranklinNOW.com one of the most popular of the MyCommunityNOW sites.
The variety of topics covered is impressive.
Senator Lazich covers state government and other public service issues, and an occasional piece on motorcycles.
Bryan Maersch and Janet Evans keep a watchful eye on local politics.
Greg Kowalski writes about development and the environment.
Marjorie Pagel has a keen interest in local history.
Former blogger Fred Keller had a passion in his writing for the military, and also refused to accept the status quo of local politics. I hope he returns to the blogosphere soon.
The Franklin bloggers work very hard. They read. They research. They attend meetings. They question those in authority. They file open records requests. They seek out answers to questions that need to be asked. These volunteers share powerful information that brings residents closer to their community. That’s why I was stunned to read recently that a School Board member doesn’t read the blogs. I would think a locally elected official would want to use the blogs as a means of staying in touch with the community she represents. Ignoring the blogs, I feel, is a major mistake for any local pol.
Have the blogs made an impact?
You bet, in a way that wouldn’t be possible with the small reporting staff at each community paper. Just think about the substance the bloggers have provided all year long.
I’m proud that my blog was the only source to offer a perspective on why a NO vote was necessary on the April 3 referenda. Voters rejected both ballot questions by big margins.
There was more in 2007, a lot more.
The laser was focused on a troubled school system. Bloggers pointed out the unethical, if not illegal “Assembly” Franklin High School staged just before the referenda. There was a great attention paid to the ouster of a superintendent, a new School Board president, a highly controversial school budget process, and a former School Board President’s insider account of how some School Board members behaved and what they said that was very revealing.
City politics were not ignored. Officials at City Hall took some heat over another bloated budget.
Development projects were subjects of blogs from different perspectives. Blogger Greg Kowalski was critical of architecture at the proposed Target and circulated a petition for change. Others, like me, questioned Franklin’s process of approving projects. The blogs helped give exciting news about the grand opening of Sendik’s. And even though was little to write about anything going on at the main Fountains of Franklin site at 56th and Rawson, I wrote about it anyway, with my disappointment the focus.
The community came together when bloggers informed them of sex offender Steve Hanke’s refusal to obey a Franklin ordinance by staying in his Franklin home near a school. Readers were kept aware of all the latest developments in the case that has gone to the court system. I talked about it on WISN.
There is one incident that stands out in my memory of the past year that clearly demonstrates how influential the blogs can be.
Shortly after Mayor Taylor proposed in his city budget the elimination of the un-elected Environmental Commission and Economic Development, I wrote what I imagined would be a rather innocent account of my chance meeting at a restaurant with EC Commissioner Kristin Wilhelm.
She told the EC “doesn’t do anything” when I simply asked how things were with the Commission.
That one little blog touched off a firestorm in the community. Two commissions that few people were aware of suddenly got a couple weeks of attention and exposure (You’re welcome, guys).
I’m not sure, but that might have led Mayor Taylor to flip-flop and keep the commissions in the city budget after all. That blog came at about the time FranklinNOW started allowing readers to write their own responses to our blogs. An anonymous writer called me a “liar” on two occasions on Greg Kowalski’s blog. The same writer also had some vicious comments elsewhere that needed to be removed. When Greg Kowalski refused for many weeks to remove the offensive comments that were also proven to be untrue, I banned him from my blog.
The comments section has become, as I’ve pointed out, a separate blog. Readers check in to see what topics we’re writing about, and then return to see the verbal slugfest /soap opera that occasionally ensues.
It is my contention that anonymous bloggers and contributors, not all, can damage the Internet. Ideally, I wish all people who write in would give their real names and not some phony made up nickname. It’s not as easy to be offensive when you can’t hide behind an alias.
I know and have met all the bloggers. They’re good people who care deeply about what they write about.
Do we always agree?
No we don’t.
Does the discussion get heated at times?
Yes it does.
But that’s ok.
This isn’t Wisconsin Public Radio.
Passion, emotion, and yes, controversy should be embraced on the blogs. Writers shouldn’t shy away from issues because they fear they may step on some toes.
Thank you for checking in the past year. I know I have readers from all parts of the country.
For the life of me, I’ll never understand why you like some of the blogs that you do.
But I’m grateful.
THE TOP 10 FRANKLIN STORIES OF 2007
7) THE EMERGENCE OF THE FRANKLIN BLOGGERS
8) FRANKLIN CITY TAX LEVY GOES UP 5.7%
9) SUPERINTENDENT SZAKACS FORCED OUT
10) THE LACK OF PROGRESS AT FOUNTAINS OF FRANKLIN
Bobby Vinton once sang that, “Santa must be Polish.”
He forgot to mention that the jolly old fat man is also a conservative.
From columnist John Andrews:
The worst Christmas song I've heard this year has to be Bruce Springsteen's tuneless rendition of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." Yet by forcing me to think about the lyrics, the Boss delivered a flash of insight: conservatives do the jolly old elf a grave wrong in calling him the patron saint of something-for-nothing Democrats. We should claim Santa as our own.
Listing who's been bad and good, naughty and nice? Warning us not to cry (play the victim) or pout (cast blame and act entitled)? There's little difference, when you think about it, between St. Nick and St. Newt. George Will himself could hardly be more stern and judgmental. Santa Claus rightly understood is a far cry from the socialist redistribution of John Edwards or the syrupy hope of Obama.
Even if recast from the unnerving red-clad (red, Republican, get it?) bearded geezer of yore to the more kid-friendly persona of Mr. Rogers, as David Grimes recommended in Sunday's Denver Post, Father Christmas remains a no-nonsense apostle of good conduct, rigorous standards, and time-honored traditions. The "Santa's Coming" song, even when butchered by Springsteen, is just the opposite of that favorite left-liberal anthem, "Anything Goes."
Jeffrey Bell, writing in the Weekly Standard, offers a great Christmas gift for all of us on the right with this masterful summary of what the left really wants -- a total repudiation of St. Nicolas and his strictness, a hot revolution that would melt the North Pole faster than you can say Al Gore:
"The goal of the left is the liberation of mankind from traditional institutions and codes of behavior, especially moral codes. It seeks a restoration (or achievement) of a state of nature, one of absolute individual liberty--universal happiness without the need for laws. The proposed political way stations chosen by the left in its drive toward this vision have [included]: abolition of private property (socialism); prohibition of Christianity and/or propagation by the political elite of a new civil religion to replace it; confiscatory taxation, especially at death; regulation of political speech to limit the ability of certain individuals or classes to affect politics; the takeover of education to instill new values and moral habits in the population; confiscation of privately held firearms; gradual phasing out of the nation-state; displacement of the traditional family in favor of child-rearing by an enlightened governmental elite; and the inversion of sexual morality to elevate recreational sex and reduce the prestige of procreative sex."
Some list, huh? It adds up to the exact opposite of "be good for goodness' sake." And notice, by the way, that this injunction from Santa Claus, courtesy of songwriter Haven Gillespie, doesn't merely appeal to utilitarian self-interest. Rather it invokes a moral absolute which, when obeyed, is its own reward. A pitch-perfect echo of Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations" and "Theory of Moral Sentiments," in what you thought was just an empty Yuletide ditty. Mirabile dictu!
Lest we forget, however, the true reason for this season is neither St. Nick on the right nor Holiday Hillary on the left, but the baby born in Bethlehem. The Prince of Peace transcends liberal and conservative. He is a miracle even more mysterious than a large man ascending a small chimney. None of us is good enough to deserve His unspeakable gift, salvation and life eternal, yet none of us is so bad as to be disqualified from it. There indeed is a present worth unwrapping. A merry and, yes, a holy Christmas to all.
John Andrews is a Claremont Institute fellow and former President of the Colorado Senate
Watch for updates at this site all day to see where Santa is on his travels all around the world.
Get your property reassessed.
It’s a trend happening all across the country.
The New York Times has the story:
Taxes Are Reassessed in Housing Slump
By JENNIFER STEINHAUER
LOS ANGELES — Home owners across the nation are looking to county governments to reassess the values of their homes in the face of flattening and falling prices that have befallen scores of markets. Downward assessments, done at the request of homeowners or pre-emptively by government, appear to be most pronounced in areas where the housing market was exploding just a few years ago, or where economic conditions are poorest.
In Maricopa County, the largest in Arizona, a “large percentage” of the one million single-family home owners will see their houses reassessed at lower rates in February, said Keith Russell, the county assessor. In Phoenix, the largest city in the county, housing prices fell 8.8 percent over the last year, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index, which monitors the residential housing market.
Among the roughly 200,000 parcels in Lucas County, Ohio, 7,083 owners requested reassessments in 2007, about 10 times the yearly average, said Anita Lopez, the assessor, who ran for office on a campaign to adjust assessments.
“Citizens know the market is slow if not declining,” Ms. Lopez said, “and they are informed and feel comfortable in challenging their county values. People here can’t sell their homes, they have less money, and they don’t understand why the government is asking for more money in a declining housing market.”
Local governments, which rely heavily on property taxes, will have to find ways to replace lost revenue or face having to cut services, lay off staff members or delay projects. The possibility of those losses has alarmed officials in areas already facing large numbers of foreclosures and slumping sales, products, in part, of the mortgage credit crisis that has rippled through the country. [Sunday Business.]
“Government has been the beneficiary of increasing home prices,” said Relmond Van Daniker, the executive director of the Association of Government Accountants. “And now they are on the other side of that, and they will have to reduce expenses.”
While every state and local government has its own methods for assessing home values for tax purposes — some do it annually, some every five years, and everything in between — many counties are hearing from residents that they would like their homes reassessed, or have taken steps to bring the taxes down of their own volition.
While in some areas, a county or city is required to make whole any loss in revenues to schools, public education is a frequent beneficiary of property tax revenues. “They are obviously concerned,” Ms. Lopez said about her county’s school systems.
No one has aggregated the total number of counties reassessing home values, and many counties take at least a year to catch up to the marketplace. In some places where reassessments are rising, the numbers have yet to approach historical heights.
For example, in 2007 roughly 1,800 homeowners asked for reassessments in Los Angeles County, far above the average of about 500, yet far below the tens of thousands of homeowners in Los Angeles who looked for tax adjustments during some years of the downturn in the 1990s. But elected officials and property tax experts said that the numbers were notable and that they expected them to grow in 2008.
In San Bernardino County near Los Angeles, tens of thousands of owners of the 860,000 homes will have their assessments lowered in the coming year, said Bill Postmus, the assessor, rivaling the numbers during the California real estate crash of the 1990s.
“You should see more of this activity,” said Chris Hoene, director of policy and research at the National League of Cities. “It is mostly in areas most likely to be seeing some decline, like Southern California, Florida, and big cities in the Midwest,” rapid growth areas that are now seeing the other side of the curve.
The United States Conference of Mayors recently released a report showing that the value of taxable residential land had declined by $2.9 billion in California from 2005 to 2008 based on current tax rates, and by hundreds of millions of dollars in other major cities. “We are hearing a lot about this housing market change and its effect on city revenues every day,” Mr. Hoene said.
Cities where home values have fallen the most are the obvious first place to look for residents clamoring for reassessments, but that is not always the case. Some states, like California, Michigan and Nevada, have statutory caps in property tax increases, which mean the market value of single family homes almost always exceeds the assessed tax values, except in a major downturn.
However, even in California, if a home buyer made his purchase during a market top in the last several years, he might be in the position of qualifying for lower assessed values. For instance, in Santa Clara County, where pricey Palo Alto and San Jose are located, 17,758 properties were reassessed downward for the 2007-2008 tax period, compared with the same period from 2000 to 2001, when the number was closer to 300.
“Obviously 2001 was the dot-com boom,” said Larry Stone, the Santa Clara assessor. “And the whole assessment role in my county was carried by a very hot residential market,” which has substantially cooled.
In his area, prices, and therefore values, remain strong in high end residential areas with great schools, Mr. Stone said. The coming reassessments are driven in large part in the lower and middle markets, especially the condo market, where the greatest part of the subprime lending problems have occurred.
Indeed, areas with high levels of foreclosures, vacant housing and a reduction in prices expect to see adjustments to the property taxes continue, which is bad news for local governments.
“Rising tax values are not usually a popular thing,” Mr. Hoene said , but homeowners tend to accept it, even begrudgingly, when they know the market value of their home is on the rise. “But the minute you think that your local government assessment practices are out of whack with what is happening in the market,” he said, “you will not accept it.”