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.
In 1953 Eartha Kitt recorded, “Santa Baby.”
From Kitt’s official website:
Eartha Mae Kitt was ostracized at an early age because of her mixed-race heritage. At eight years old, she was given away by her mother and sent from the South Carolina cotton fields to live with an aunt in Harlem. In New York her distinct individuality and flair for show business manifested itself, and on a friend’s dare, the shy teen auditioned for the famed KATHERINE DUNHAM DANCE TROUPE. She won a spot as a featured dancer and vocalist and before the age of twenty, toured worldwide with the company. During a performance in Paris, Miss Kitt was spotted by a nightclub owner and booked as a featured singer at his club. Her unique persona earned her fans and fame quickly, including Orson Welles, who called her “the most exciting woman in the world”. Welles was so taken with her talent that he cast her as Helen of Troy in his fabled production of DR. FAUST.
Eartha Kitt possesses one of the most seductive and feline voices ever known. She is the textbook diva — a woman who acts with divine providence as high as her cheekbones. She has danced for the Katherine Dunham dance troupe, acted on Broadway with Orson Welles and on film with Sidney Poitier, recorded pop hits and taken a place in the kitsch history books for her portrayal of Catwoman on the Batman TV series. Her American career came to a halt in January '68 when she made an anti-Vietnam remark at a White House luncheon hosted by Lady Bird Johnson. Kitt soon found herself blacklisted from performance venues and recording.
Following Kitt’s huge hit with “Santa Baby,” she recorded a follow-up in 1954 called, "This Year's Santa Baby." It bombed. That’s why you never heard of it!
In 1987, Madonna did a cover for the 1987 charity album A Very Special Christmas.
I guess you either love this “baby” or you don’t. One Internet reviewer wrote:
Madonna had been around the block far too many times to get away with playing the infuriating Betty Boop-ish ingenue. When Eartha Kitt made a case for being a good, deserving girl -- "think of all the fellas that I haven't kissed" -- it was mildly amusing. When Madonna trotted out the line, it was just another reason for Sean Penn to start throwing ornaments.
Start throwing your tomatoes. I not only like the song, I prefer Madonna’s uptempo version to Kitt’s more laid back original.
Here we go. C’mon, Santa.
Slip that sable under the tree.
Been an awful good girl...
I intend to seek an opinion from the Franklin City Attorney to determine if the taxpayers have any recourse for the manner in which the Franklin School District Business Manager and the Franklin School Board completely bungled the school tax levy increase for next year.
Here is the response I asked for from Dave Szychlinski two days ago that I greatly appreciate. Please read it very carefully and then my response:
Thanks for your patience. Before responding to your earlier email, I wanted to collect as much information as I could about the WI Taxpayers Alliance report and the confusion over the numbers which you reported in your blog.
As it turns out, Business Manager Jim Milzer received updated amounts from the state and communicated that to the Board this afternoon. I'm attaching a copy (below) for your information.
Based upon those new figures, the tax rate for operating the schools will go up 4.2% from last year. You will recall that at the annual meeting, Mr. Milzer estimated a 5.6% increase. If a person's home has an assessed value of $100,000, that portion of their tax bill will go up $43.
The 11.7% figure in the Taxpayer Alliance report includes the cost of operating the Community and Recreation Department and the debt service which the District is paying for previous projects. Those are separate funds which are all approved at the annual meeting. When Mr. Milzer and Sue Huhn presented the budget at the annual meeting, the combined figure included an increase of 9.9%. When the State shifted some of the money it would have given the District into a School Tax Credit fund (which taxpayers will see as a separate credit line on their tax bill) , that bumped the figure upwards. Also included in that adjustment is consideration of the community's "wealth" as Mr. Milzer's memo outlines. When our numbers are reported to the State, the District must include debt service, recreation and operations in its figures.
I've already suggested to Mr. Milzer, and a few of my Board colleagues, that we need to change the way we prepare our budget so that there is more input from the community early in the process....not in mid-December. There are many mandates which the District must pay for. It would be interesting to have a discussion with the community about what it is willing to pay for beyond those mandates.
Thanks for your interest.
Email from Jim Milzer to Franklin BOE:
The District has received an update regarding the assessed valuation information from the City of Franklin. This is the last piece of information that we need to calculate the tax rate. The assessed value of the portion of Franklin that lies within the District increased by more than 7%, which was higher than we anticipated. Based on this new growth in the tax base, we have estimated that the tax rate for 2007 should be 4.2% higher than 2006. This would equate to a property tax increase of about $43 for every $100,000 of assessed value. This is less than we projected at the annual meeting. As you may recall, at that time we were projecting a 5.6% increase, or about $56 per $100,000 of assessed value.
As always, it is important to note that we estimate the increase in the tax rate so that we can let the community know the estimated increase in the property tax bills. As we discussed during the budget deliberations, there are two major reasons for the increase in the amount of revenue from property taxes this year. As we know, local tax revenue and revenue from the State make up almost all of the revenue that the District receives. For 2007-08, the percentage of revenue from the State decreased by 4%, or about $1.75 million. Essentially, the State is shifting $1.75 million of the cost of education to the community because they believe that the community can afford it better than other communities in the state. If the State had maintained its level of support, the tax rate would have decreased. Because of the funding mechanism set up by the State, as Franklin grows compared to other communities in the State, we will continue to receive less revenue from the State. The other major factor is that the state did not complete itâ€™s budget on time and although funding was provided for K-12 education, the state put the additional educational funding into the school tax levy credit rather than giving it directly to the school he effect of making the Districtâ€™s tax levy look almost $500,000 larger than it will be after the City adjusts the amount with the tax levy credit. Both of these factors; the state taking funding away, and the state putting funding into the tax levy credit, have resulted in an increase in the total tax levy from operations, debt service, and recreation of 11.7% overall. This is greater than the 9.9% increase projected in draft #1 of the budget due to the State moving our funding to the tax levy credit. Again, individual property tax bills will be much less than we originally anticipated.
David E. Szychlinski
Franklin School Board
With all due respect to my friend, Dave Szychlinski, this doesn’t cut it.
1) Dave writes: “As it turns out, Business Manager Jim Milzer received updated amounts from the state and communicated that to the Board this afternoon.”
Milzer first gave the Board new figures this afternoon??? The city was aware of the accurate numbers and reported them in a memo on November 29, 2007. The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance knew about the numbers and reported them last Friday when I found out about them.
When did Milzer learn of the numbers and why was he first informing the Board of them this afternoon? Could it be because of stories on the blogs?
2) Dave writes: “The 11.7% figure in the Taxpayer Alliance report includes the cost of operating the Community and Recreation Department and the debt service which the District is paying for previous projects. Those are separate funds which are all approved at the annual meeting.”
That’s true, so why didn’t Milzer make the Board and the public aware of that information at the annual meeting months ago?
Dave Szychlinski told me the Board was told they were voting on a 5.9% increase.
Just what amount of increase did the Board approve? If it was 5.9%, why didn’t Milzer make the Board aware of the separate funds that raised the increase to 11.7%?
3) What is the actual increase that was approved and legally appropriate? The announced 5.9% or 11.7%? If it’s 11.7% and that appears to be the case, why was 5.9% announced to the Board and the public?
4) When did Milzer learn that the increase was 11.7%?
5) Without pressure from my blog, when was Milzer going to inform the Board and /or the public of the increase in the levy?
6) Why wasn’t the public informed?
7) Why didn’t the Board call and announce to the taxpaying public a special emergency meeting to discuss the updated amounts and hold a public hearing(s) on what to do about this development?
8) What other problems are being swept under the rug by this district and School Board?
9) Where is the outrage from School Board members who were not given all the updated or correct information before they made their most important vote of the year?
10) Jim Milzer is either inept, incompetent, or a scam artist. His late explanation is laughable, filled with the usual excuses of trying to pass the buck to the state. He needs to be held accountable and either asked to resign or fired. How can a local blogger, the city, and the Wisconsin taxpayers Alliance come up with correct budget figures before he does?
The response I received today was not satisfactory and I will be asking the City Attorney to look into the matter.
The School Board President told me in an e-mail the Board was told (by Milzer, I presume) that they were approving a 5.9% increase. The taxpayers are now on the hook for an 11.7% increase that the Franklin School Board never approved and never informed the public about.
This is scandalous.
Last time I checked, this is America, and maybe, just maybe, there will be an occasion where a nurse and I won’t agree, maybe more than once.
I do know this. If I’m on the radio, and someone shouts at me, I’m going to shout back, whether it’s an almighty nurse, a doctor, or the Pope.
This isn’t public radio where the handcuffed host sits and listens to a 5-minute monologue before he timidly says, “Thank you for your call.”
Apparently, I had the audacity to disagree with a militant nurse, Inga from Sussex. Because I wouldn’t let her shout me down, Inga huffed and puffed and swore she’d get even.
(For the record, some nurses who called the show to disagree were very respectful and were allowed to tell their story without yelling and screaming. The confrontational Inga was not one of them).
Inga held her breath, stomped her feet, and threatened to go to………OH MY GOD!!!....the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel!!!!!
I’m scared now!
Please, Inga. Make my day. Complain to the liberal paper in town that I’ve been ripping ever since I was able to get behind a microphone.
And what do you expect them to do, Inga? Write that big, bad Kevin Fischer was so out of line, why, YOU KNOW WHAT THAT SCOUNDREL DID? HE GAVE HIS OPINION…..ON A TALK SHOW!!!!!!
DAMN THAT FIRST AMENDMENT!
I want the Journal/Sentinel to criticize me! That’s a badge of honor as far as I’m concerned.
Inga complained to WISN. Gee, that’s a first. WISN never gets complaints about any of their hosts.
I must admit I am a little disappointed Inga didn’t threaten to write her Congressman.
Rather than use her spare time to say, ohhhhh, I don’t know………..volunteer to help the elderly in nursing homes, Inga sat at her computer.
“I’ll show him,” she muttered as she pounded the keys, sending off a memo to the posse at a national nurses’ website.
Inga thought she’d mention one or two things I said on the air. Never mind they were taken totally out of context. She won’t mention that I said several times I respect the medical profession, but I simply disagree on this topic.
Noooooooooo. Inga was so mad ….. I think she said she was BURNING MAD…..that she just wanted to rile up anyone wearing white sneakers. Of course, nurses being the caring bunch they are, when they heard about the evil Kevin Fischer….BOOM! Over three dozen responses of name-calling, insults, and unprofessional attacks. (By the way, you nurses really need to use spell-check).
It’s hard for me, their target, to listen or take them seriously when their entire message is, “You’re a moron.” “I hope karma bites you in the ass.”
That is why I was extremely gratified to receive e-mails today from radio listeners who were thoughtful and respectful. They exhibited class that Inga and her lynch mob could learn from. I’d like to share those e-mails with you:
Hi Kevin, I just wanted to put my two cents in after hearing your discussion yesterday on WISN concerning end-of-life issues, particularly with children. I, personally, could never withhold C.P.R. from any living being, but can certainly understand circumstances when parents may opt for that exact thing.
I wonder if you have a realistic picture, Kevin, of the type of youngsters who are routinely brought to our public schools, regardless of their physical or mental condition? Even here in West Bend, I have dealt with a few children in the schools who are in obvious physical discomfort or outright pain, due to their advanced level of deterioration. The inability to breathe, sit, move, much less interact with their surroundings in any way is a daily reality to these unfortunate youngsters. Some have such thin skin, that they often bleed on all parts of their bodies as they are in such uncomfortable positions for long portions of the day while in school. They are brought to school, in my opinion, because school provides a necessary respite for the children's parents, who are almost always experiencing the most extreme exhaustion you can possibly imagine.
In only one case that I can remember, did the family of the handicapped child remain intact. In so many of these instances, either the mother or the father bow out of the situation after a short time. Oftentimes, it is a grandparent who becomes an integral member of the "care team" for the child. The caregivers are on 24-hour call, every single day. If such parents eventually give the school personnel the order to allow the child to quietly pass away without taking extraordinary means should an emergency situation arise, I think the school should honor the request. If that same child faced that same emergency at their home, the parent(s) would undoubtedly move heaven and earth to allow the child to SURVIVE, because they couldn't bear to have their little one die while in their care.
What to do? We should not make judgments about others without having a very clear idea what their lives involve. You mentioned so often yesterday that just because a child is in a wheelchair or can't speak or can't eat on his or her own, their parents want to allow them to die. That is SO untrue! The children who I have described above have problems so far beyond the wheelchair, speech, or nourishment issues.
A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to care for my father-in-law, who was dying of cancer - a very slow death. My family cared lovingly for him in our home for five months, as he was paralyzed and totally bedridden. In the last weeks of his life, I continued to force thin cooked cereal down his throat, just so that he would have some nourishment. I often saw his head shake "No" just slightly as I continued to will him to live. When he could manage it, he tried to hold his mouth closed, and begged me- with his eyes - to allow him to die. When I asked our doctor what else we could do for Dad, the doctor said, "Oh, there are plenty of things we COULD do, but we need to think about what we SHOULD do." "In this case," he said, "that is - nothing more."
Many of the profoundly handicapped children in our schools cannot give that slight shake of the head, cannot close their mouth or otherwise refuse nourishment, but if they could, perhaps they, too, would say, "Please, nothing more!."
Thanks for allowing me to vent, Kevin.
West Bend, WI
I heard some of your program yesterday about the DNR order from some parents regarding their handicapped children, and I heard the nurses' comments.
I tried to call in, but the line was busy. I am also a nurse. I am an LPN and work at an assisted living home near West Bend.I completely agree with your views.......
Unfortunately, I am not at all surprised by the comments of the medical workers who called in. You see, a nurse or EMT, etc. will do what is the medically accepted protocol. Did you hear the "righteous indignation" in their voices? They are parroting what they have been told and learned in their schools. They have no foundation other than that.
I was SO sad to hear the comment of the mother of an adult handicapped child who aspirated and died. Natural death is one thing (and I do believe in letting nature take its course-as in stopping chemo with a cancer patient who is dying), but when someone is not able to breathe, and no one will help them, that is terrible.
Where I work, we have some DNR residents. However, if one of them were choking in our dining room, ALL of the staff would help them clear their airway to the best of their ability.
The whole issue of a DNR going to school is ridiculous. 2 simple points: School workers may not know exactly what that means and may disregard a child when they just need some simple help, i.e. with a choking situation.
And if a child is that close to natural death, why are they at school?
It seems this whole issue is about saving those we want to save and letting others die if we don't want to see them live any longer. Would we save a heart surgeon if he aspirated? Where do we draw the line, and who makes those decisions?
As our society gets further and further away from Biblical truth, these issues will become more and more dangerous. The foundation of truth/right and wrong/ is being destroyed and therefore the culture is doing what is "right in their own eyes". I see that happening in Madison now too. I have been very concerned about SB129. How can the state mandate that a hospital, doctor or nurse give a medication against their conscience?
What is happening here reminds me somewhat of what happened in Germany under Hitler. Those who followed his orders thought they were doing right. Amazing thought as we look back on that.
How will people someday look back on us?
Thank you for your strong convictions yesterday.
Name withheld by request
I wonder how many of these teens really thought about what they were getting into the way Washington Post writer Michael Rosenwald did?
Expecting The Expenses
$25 Diapers, $12,000 for Day Care, And What to Do About College?
By Michael S. Rosenwald
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 9, 2007; F01
Like most new parents, my wife and I didn't need much time to become acquainted with hindsight. We should have slept more before Sam was born. We should have fed him before taking him to the grocery store. We should have kept that burp cloth on a few minutes longer.
Also, we should have saved a lot more money. Kids are not cheap to maintain. This became perceptible a couple of months ago, the first time we dropped $25 on a package of Pampers. "Maybe we should go to Costco," my wife said.
Financing a baby is typically the last topic on the minds of new parents. Hours and hours go by discussing less pressing matters: Do you think the neighbor's daughter is old enough to babysit? What about a theme for the nursery? Sports, animals or clouds? Where should we register? Which stroller? Should we take one last vacation -- a babymoon? Where should we go? How should we prepare the dog for his new sibling?
"Most people don't plan their own spending on their own wants and needs," said Barry Glassman, a financial planner with Cassaday and Co. in McLean. "With kids, it's even a step further in the wrong direction. It's so easy to get caught up in spending in a variety of ways, and there's no planning or accounting for how the dollars will add up."
Oh, how the dollars will add up. We didn't realize just how correct Glassman was until I played around with a "Cost of Raising Your Child" calculator on BabyCenter.com, which charts spending estimates using federal statistics on family expenditures for children. I entered the region where we live. I entered our income. I said we would send Sam to a state college. (He has not yet expressed an interest in an out-of-state school.) Then I pointed my mouse to the "calculate" link, clicked, and prayed.
My computer told me this: "Here's what you're likely to spend to raise a child: $340,552." (Note to self: Praying does not in any way lower the cost of children.) I told my wife the figure. She said, with a chuckle, "I sure hope he's worth it." I told Glassman. He said, with a serious tone, "It will probably be more." I briefly contemplated a garage sale.
Then I set out to do what we should have done nine months ago (or longer): talk to some financial planners. I hammered away with questions to Glassman, himself an experienced parent, and to Clare Stenstrom, a financial planner in New York who describes herself as a "professional aunt" to six nieces and nephews. To make myself feel better, I asked other new parents around the office to describe the financial planning they had done. To my delight, when I asked a new mom whether she had a will -- this was Stenstrom's first question to me -- she said no. We are not alone.
According to Stenstrom and Glassman, here's what we did correctly. For starters, we took advantage of a short-term-disability policy from Aflac, a secondary insurance provider, to help cover my wife's unpaid leave after Sam arrived. This was an important step because my wife is taking three months off to care for him. We paid $100 a month for 10 months before the birth -- the minimum period we needed to be enrolled to receive benefits -- and after my wife had Sam, we were able to recoup about a month's worth of her salary. Note to potential parents: Check to see if your company offers Aflac; my wife's employer does.
A few months before Sam was born, we also increased the number of withholding exemptions for our paychecks. Although this means we will get less back in our tax return, changing our withholdings let us put aside a little extra cash to help defray the loss of my wife's salary for three months. Why wait for the extra money when we could have it now?
The problem is that Aflac and the withholdings strategy are the only financial planning steps we have taken. We did not, as Stenstrom and Glassman suggested, come up with any kind of budget in the year before Sam was born that would allow us to save more money for clothes, diapers, furniture and accessories. We did not, as the financial planners suggested, use a program like Quicken or Microsoft Money to closely track our expenses to analyze where we could cut back to save even more money.
"A young couple should plan for expenses for children much like an engagement ring or their first home," Glassman said. "A couple cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that child expenses are coming. It's easy to look the other way, especially because it's such a fun time in a couple's life."
There is so much more to do.First and foremost, we need a will, Stenstrom said. It needs to clearly state who will get custody of Sam if his mom and dad die. "Both parents dying at the same time happens rarely," Stenstrom said, "but it happens." When she said this, I felt much of my body go limp. But even though the subject is hard to stomach, we must.
And we must also set up a trust that clearly states that we are leaving Sam all of our financial holdings, including my baseball cards. Children typically inherit their parents' money and property in many states, but the advisers suggest drawing up a trust anyway because laws change. Stenstrom suggests naming one of the parents a trustee and someone who understands finances the other trustee. Getting a lawyer to draw up these documents can set us back as much as $3,500.
We also need to enroll with either of our employers in a dependent-care savings account. Like a health-savings account, a dependent-care account allows us to set aside up to $5,000 of our earnings annually, tax-free, for day care. Our day-care bill will be about $12,000 a year, so having almost half of that set aside tax-free is a big help.
And then there is the largest expense of them all: college. Where to begin? T. Rowe Price has a useful -- and frightening -- calculator on its Web site that allows you to figure out how much a college education will cost for any school in the country. If we send Sam to the University of Maryland, his mom's alma mater, by 2025 it will cost $248,798. If we send Sam to my alma mater -- Southern Illinois University -- it will be more expensive, at $313,806. If we send him to Princeton University: $624,771. I read those numbers to my wife and she said, "I hope we are making more money by then."
One savings strategy is a so-called 529 plan available through the state of Maryland, where we live. A 529 college-savings plan is tax-free as long as the money is used for higher-education expenses. Money deposited into the account can be invested in mutual funds and other investment vehicles that are managed, in Maryland, by T. Rowe Price. (The District's 529 plan is managed by the Calvert Group, a Bethesda firm. Virginia's is managed by American Funds, a subsidiary of Capital Group Cos.)
We have opened a standard savings account in Sam's name at Bank of America for all the checks, cash and bonds he has received from family and friends. The advisers say we should quickly move those funds into a 529 plan, along with any other money he gets in the near future as gifts.
The bigger question is: Do we put aside our own money in a 529 plan? An even more difficult question: Do we put aside any money for his college education at all? As the old saying goes, "You can get a loan for a college. You can't get a loan for retirement."
My wife and I, like many other young couples in this very expensive region, are over-mortgaged. We have an interest-only loan on our house. We have yet to put a significant amount of money in our 401(k) plans. The more money we put aside for his college education, the less money we will have when we are too old to work.
That seems like a harsh way of looking at it, and my wife has told me as much. Her family paid for her college education; mine could not.
I took out loans and am still paying back about $200 a month. Looking back on the arrangement, I think I'm better off having done it that way. I was a crummy student in high school. Most of my memories from those days involve cutting class and hanging out at home while my parents worked. (When my mom would occasionally find me in the living room at noon, I'd say, "Bomb scare." It is amazing how many times that worked.)
But when I got to college and knew that I would eventually foot the bill, I blossomed into a great student. As they say in the business world, I had some skin in the game. I earned better grades my freshman year than any of my friends who had actually sat through high school all day. I was a consumer, and I was going to get my money's worth.
Glassman and Stenstrom both advised me not to put aside money for education at the expense of our retirement savings. Stenstrom said, "When the child graduates, you can always help them pay down their loans." Glassman's suggestion: If we are able to put aside money for both purposes, a tax-efficient portfolio might be a better way to go because we could use the money for ourselves or for Sam's education. Our hands would be tied with a 529 plan. It has to be used for education; otherwise, there are penalties.
The good part about everything that we have to do is that it is all relatively easy to set up. The hard part will be the financial implications on our daily lives. We won't have the kind of money we did as a young couple in love -- the trendy restaurants, the weekend jaunts to Cape Cod, the frivolous purchases at Nordstrom. Some of that will go away, and the rest will need to be moderated.
The best part of all of this: Sam's smile is a wonderful return on our investment.
In the Fischer household, one of them was the Andy Williams Christmas show.
Williams taught America that it was cool to wear V-neck or turtleneck sweaters.
That was over 40 years ago, but the name Andy Williams is still synonymous with Christmas. When he appeared at the Riverside Theater in December of 2000, Dave Tianen of the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel wrote this in his review:
If Bing Crosby defined the sound of Christmas in the '40s and '50s, it was Andy Williams and his long-running series of holiday TV specials that gave voice to Christmas in the '60s.
Today, Williams is 73, and it takes the magnetism of Christmas to lure him from his home in Branson, Mo. It was his annual Christmas tour that brought Williams back to the Riverside.
Probably not even Williams would argue that it's a contemporary show. Doubtless, the older audience that nearly sold out the Riverside wasn't interested in a contemporary show. They wanted to bask in the warm glow of Christmases past, and Williams obliged them. Williams opened with his own holiday hit from 1963, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year."
Williams set the agenda when he told the crowd he wanted to sing some old chestnuts.