Wisconsin? More Like WIN consin

"This is a disaster," said Mark Miller, the Wisconsin Senate Democratic leader, in February after Republican Gov. Scott Walker proposed a budget bill that would curtail the collective bargaining powers of some public employees. Miller predicted catastrophe if the bill were to become law -- a charge repeated thousands of times by his fellow Democrats, union officials, and protesters in the streets.

Now the bill is law, and we have some very early evidence of how it is working. And for one beleaguered Wisconsin school district, it's a godsend, not a disaster.

The Kaukauna School District, in the Fox River Valley of Wisconsin near Appleton, has about 4,200 students and about 400 employees. It has struggled in recent times and this year faced a deficit of $400,000. But after the law went into effect, at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, school officials put in place new policies they estimate will turn that $400,000 deficit into a $1.5 million surplus. And it's all because of the very provisions that union leaders predicted would be disastrous.

In the past, teachers and other staff at Kaukauna were required to pay 10 percent of the cost of their health insurance coverage and none of their pension costs. Now, they'll pay 12.6 percent of the cost of their coverage (still well below rates in much of the private sector) and also contribute 5.8 percent of salary to their pensions. The changes will save the school board an estimated $1.2 million this year, according to board President Todd Arnoldussen.

Of course, Wisconsin unions had offered to make benefit concessions during the budget fight. Wouldn't Kaukauna's money problems have been solved if Walker had just accepted those concessions and not demanded cutbacks in collective bargaining powers?

"The monetary part of it is not the entire issue," says Arnoldussen, a political independent who won a spot on the board in a nonpartisan election. Indeed, some of the most important improvements in Kaukauna's outlook are because of the new limits on collective bargaining.

In the past, Kaukauna's agreement with the teachers union required the school district to purchase health insurance coverage from something called WEA Trust -- a company created by the Wisconsin teachers union. "It was in the collective bargaining agreement that we could only negotiate with them," says Arnoldussen. "Well, you know what happens when you can only negotiate with one vendor." This year, WEA Trust told Kaukauna that it would face a significant increase in premiums.

Now, the collective bargaining agreement is gone, and the school district is free to shop around for coverage. And all of a sudden, WEA Trust has changed its position. "With these changes, the schools could go out for bids, and lo and behold, WEA Trust said, 'We can match the lowest bid,'" says Republican state Rep. Jim Steineke, who represents the area and supports the Walker changes. At least for the moment, Kaukauna is staying with WEA Trust, but saving substantial amounts of money.

Then there are work rules. "In the collective bargaining agreement, high school teachers only had to teach five periods a day, out of seven," says Arnoldussen. "Now, they're going to teach six." In addition, the collective bargaining agreement specified that teachers had to be in the school 37 1/2 hours a week. Now, it will be 40 hours.

The changes mean Kaukauna can reduce the size of its classes -- from 31 students to 26 students in high school and from 26 students to 23 students in elementary school. In addition, there will be more teacher time for one-on-one sessions with troubled students. Those changes would not have been possible without the much-maligned changes in collective bargaining.

Teachers' salaries will stay "relatively the same," Arnoldussen says, except for higher pension and health care payments. (The top salary is around $80,000 per year, with about $35,000 in additional benefits, for 184 days of work per year -- summers off.) Finally, the money saved will be used to hire a few more teachers and institute merit pay.

It is impossible to overstate how bitter and ugly the Wisconsin fight has been, and that bitterness and ugliness continues to this day with efforts to recall senators and an unseemly battle inside the state Supreme Court. But the new law is now a reality, and Gov. Walker recently told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the measure will gain acceptance "with every day, week and month that goes by that the world doesn't fall apart."

In the Kaukauna schools, the world is not only not falling apart -- it's getting better.

Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://washingtonexaminer.com/politics/2011/06/union-curbs-rescue-wiscon...

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"Now, they'll pay 12.6 percent of the cost of their coverage (still well below rates in much of the private sector) and also contribute 5.8 percent of salary to their pensions."

Oh, the huge manatee!

MikeyA

State election authorities are questioning whether a liberal group broke the law by offering both free food and free rides to vote in a hotly contested Senate recall election.

Although no formal complaint had reached the state Government Accountability Board by Monday afternoon, a spokesman for the agency said it would not be legal to combine free food and transportation to the polls in the same event - even if, as the organization contends, people could take the food without boarding the buses.

Local law enforcement authorities are reportedly looking into the get-out-the-vote "block parties."

Five such parties were sponsored by Wisconsin Jobs Now, a coalition of community and labor groups led by the Service Employees International Union. The coalition describes itself as a nonpartisan organization, although its blog posts have been highly critical of state Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), who is defending her seat against Rep. Sandy Pasch (D-Whitefish Bay) in the Aug. 9 recall vote.

Darling is one of six Republican state senators facing recall elections that day. Two Democratic senators face elections Aug. 16.

Wisconsin Jobs Now held three parties last week and two Monday, all on Milwaukee's northwest side. Each party offered free food, prizes such as T-shirts and stuffed toys, face-painting for children, drawings for school backpacks, and free shuttles to Milwaukee City Hall, where voters could cast absentee ballots in the 8th Senate District contest.

Janet Veum, a spokeswoman for Wisconsin Jobs Now, described the events as "a celebration of voting" aimed at making it easier to vote for low-income and minority groups who might face more challenges under the state's new photo identification law.

Since last week, about 75 to 100 voters each day have been casting absentee ballots at City Hall, often arriving in groups, said Sue Edman, executive director of the city Election Commission.

State law prohibits anyone from offering a voter any inducement to vote or not vote. Veum said her group believed it was complying with the law because no one was required to take the rides or vote to get the food and prizes.

But "that's a distinction without a difference," said Reid Magney, spokesman for the accountability board. He said it was legal to offer rides to the polls or free food at picnics to talk about issues, but not in the same event.

Magney said his agency had not received any complaints about the parties and enforcing the law would be up to the Milwaukee County district attorney's office.

Edman said she had been told the district attorney's office had received a complaint and dispatched police to investigate. Veum confirmed that officers appeared at both of Monday's block parties and "asked a couple questions and left."

Pasch complaint filed
In another development Monday, the Republican Party of Wisconsin filed a complaint with the state's Government Accountability Board asking for an investigation into what it called "possible coordination" between Pasch and Citizen Action of Wisconsin, a grass-roots group.

Pasch serves as a board member of the group. Coordination between third-party groups and candidates is illegal.

At a Newsmaker Luncheon on Monday at the Milwaukee Press Club, Pasch said she has had no contact with anyone at Citizen Action regarding any political activities.

A Democratic Party spokeswoman and Citizen Action's executive director agreed, but Darling's campaign manager accused Pasch of "having little regard for right or wrong."

The Press Club luncheon was to be a debate between Pasch and Darling, but Steve Jagler, luncheon moderator and executive editor of BizTimes Milwaukee, said Darling had declined the debate and will appear at a separate luncheon Tuesday.

Interviewed by a panel of journalists, Pasch said she wants to reverse the law passed by a Republican-controlled Legislature this year that sharply curtailed collective bargaining for public employees, but she admitted Democratic victories in state Senate recall elections won't make that happen.

The most Democrats can hope for in the near future would be "to force a dialogue" with Republicans who now control both houses of the Legislature and the governor's office.

"When we take back the Senate next week and hold onto it the week after, it will force a dialogue," Pasch said.

Also Monday, criticism arose over comments Darling made on Friday on Mark Belling's talk show on WISN-AM about who is wealthy and who is not.

Belling was absent; the show was hosted by former state senator Ted Kanavas of Brookfield.

In her comments, she described an encounter with a constituent.

"I just went to a woman today and she said, 'Do you believe, you know, why are you giving tax breaks to the wealthy?' I said, 'What do you consider wealthy?' She said '$250,000 and above,' and I said 'That is small business.' Those are small-business people. Those aren't wealthy people. We are not interested in raising taxes on the quote 'rich.' We are interested in growing the economy."

On Monday, Darling said she was trying to make a distinction between wealthy people and small businesses. Yes, she said, any family with an income of $250,000 or more is wealthy.

But that may not be necessarily true for a small business. A small business may be worth $250,000 or more, but it might have a small number of employees. That kind of business is not wealthy, she said. And a small business that gets taxed, she said, can kill jobs.

We Are Wisconsin PAC, which is supported by organized labor, said Darling's comments showed she was out of touch with Wisconsin families.

Any statement I make is the opinion of me exercising my first amendment right to freedom of speech. Freedom of speech in the United States is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and is generally permitted.

WEST ALLIS - Witnesses tell Newsradio 620 WTMJ and TODAY'S TMJ4 of a mob of young people attacking innocent fair-goers at the end of the opening night of State Fair, with some callers claiming a racially-charged scene.

Milwaukee Police confirmed there were assaults outside the fair.

Witnesses' accounts claim everything from dozens to hundreds of young black people beating white people as they left State Fair Thursday night.

Authorities have not given official estimates of the number of people involved in the attacks.

"It looked like they were just going after white guys, white people," said Norb Roffers of Wind Lake in an interview with Newsradio 620 WTMJ. He left the State Fair Entrance near the corner of South 84th Street and West Schlinger Avenue in West Allis.

"They were attacking everybody for no reason whatsoever."

"It was 100% racial," claimed Eric, an Iraq war veteran from St. Francis who says young people beat on his car.

"I had a black couple on my right side, and these black kids were running in between all the cars, and they were pounding on my doors and trying to open up doors on my car, and they didn't do one thing to this black couple that was in this car next to us. They just kept walking right past their car. They were looking in everybody's windshield as they were running by, seeing who was white and who was black. Guarantee it."

Eric, a war veteran, said that the scene he saw Thursday outside State Fair compares to what he saw in combat.

"That rated right up there with it. When I saw the amount of kids coming down the road, all I kept thinking was, 'There's not enough cops to handle this.' There's no way. It would have taken the National Guard to control the number of kids that were coming off the road. They were knocking people off their motorcycles."

Roffers claimed that as he left the state fair with his wife, crowds near that entrance were large, and someone in that crowd .

"As we got closer to the street, we looked up the road, and we saw a quite a bit of commotion going on and there was a guy laying in the road, and nobody was even laying there. He wasn't even moving. Finally a car pulled up. They stopped right next to the guy, and it looked like someone was going to help him. We were kind of stuck, because we couldn't cross. Traffic was going through. Young black men running around, beating on people, and we were like 'Let's get the heck out of here.' The light turned, and I got attacked from behind. I just got hit in the back of the head real hard. I'm like, 'What the heck is going on here?' I heard my bell ring."

Roffers further described what witnesses said happened to the man who was lying in the street.

"People were saying he was on a bike. They tore him off his bike and beat on him. We were walking to the west on Schlinger. I was watching behind me a lot more diligently, making sure there wasn't anybody coming to get us anymore."

One person claimed that someone was knocked off a motorcycle.

TODAY'S TMJ4 video shows West Allis police handcuffing at least one person, but they won't say how many people they took into custody.

Some witnesses described attacks on the State Fair Grounds as well.

Milwaukee Police said that their officers were sent to State Fair Park for "complaints of battery, fighting and property damage due to a large, unruly crowd."

A police sergeant told TODAY'S TMJ4's Melissa McCrady that the number of calls describing injuries are still coming in, so they could not give an accurate number of people who were injured.

That sergeant explained that some injuries were serious, and local hospitals were attending to the injured.

As of early Friday morning, Milwaukee Police said they had no one in custody.

One woman told police that she was sitting in her car with a window down when some teenagers reached through her window and started attacking her.

"I think once we get all the info in it'll be just like that, like what happened in Riverwest," said the police sergeant.

Eric: "I feared for my life"

Eric, who asked Newsradio 620 WTMJ not to use his last name, talked about the incidents that happened as he, his wife and a neighbor left the fair Thursday.

"We exited at the Schlinger and 84th exit, and we walked south about a block, and then went up and got our car, came back up and around down Schlinger. When we made a left hand turn, we were stopped in traffic. I looked toward the bridge, right before you get on the freeway, and all I saw was a road full of black kids, jumping over people's cars, jumping on people's hoods, running over the top of them."

Eric then claimed that he saw hundreds of young black people coming down a sidewalk.

"I saw them grab this white kid who was probably 14 or 15 years old. They just flung him into the road. They just jumped on him and started beating him. They were kicking him. He was on the ground. A girl picked up a construction sign and pushed it over on top of him. They were just running by and kicking him in the face."

Then, Eric talked about trying to get out of the car to help the victim.

"My wife pulled me back in because she didn't want me to get hit. Thankfully, there was surprising a lady that was in the car in front of me that jumped out of the car real quick and went over there to try to put her body around the kid so they couldn't see he was laying there and, obviously, defenseless. Her husband, or whoever was in the car, was screaming at her to get back into the car. She ended up going back into the car. These black kids grabbed this kid off the ground again, and pulled him up over the curb, onto the sidewalk and threw him into the bushes like he was a piece of garbage."

Eric claimed that the victim in that beating was by himself, and that there was a split of white people on one sidewalk and black people on the other.

"There was nobody else around to help him. There were no other white people, period, on that side of the street. They were going in the opposite direction because, those people who were coming out of the fair that saw these people coming, they either went back into the fair or took off running south on 84th Street."

Eric expressed anger at the State Fair Police for what he considered a lack of response.

"The thing that irritated me, the State Fair Police, the State Police, were down by the Pettit entrance to get in there," said Eric. "There was probably 5 or 6 officers down there. That's where all these kids came from. They came out of the Midway, across the front of the Pettit. They were still filing out of there. The State Fair Police, they knew this was going on. They knew these kids were beating these guys in between that exit and Schlinger at the next gate."

"They were stopping traffic, and I said 'What in the hell,' excuse my language, 'what are you guys doing directing traffic when there are 300, 400 black kids up the road beating the hell out of everybody, pushing people off of motorcycles?' I was livid. I could not believe they were directing traffic."

Fair worker: attacks not limited to outside fairgrounds

A witness told WTMJ that as he worked in a kiosk at the State Fair Midway, he saw what he described as "a Riverwest type mob. Easily between 50 - 100 kids all under 18 and all African American. They were running around knocking people over (young kids and adults), looting the Midway games (stealing the prizes), starting fights."

The witness, who asked not to be identified, couldn't say for certain if only white people were being attacked.

"It was just complete chaos. There were police on horses, lots of security guards, and EMT's on the scene. They never got control of the area."

A State Fair spokeswoman said that there were arrests made involving the incidents on the grounds.

He said that as the violence happened, he was "getting ready to grab my cash register and run."

"Not to mention this type of behavior started around 7pm and forced me to close down my stand at 9pm. It scared the paying customers out of the midway."

The man said hoping to bring family on Friday, but has decided not to.

"I was planning on bringing my two kids to the fair tonight. I won't be. We'll go to the zoo instead."

Roffers: "What in the hell's going on there?"

Roffers described his emotions and reactions to the attacks outside the park.

"I turned around and looked, there was this black kid standing there laughing, thinking it's funny. My wife's like, 'Let's get out of here.' It's one of those things, you don't expect it. Your reaction to it is, first of all, quite surprised, then you get so angry, it's like, 'What in the hell's going on there? Why are these guys acting like such hoodlums? What are they picking on anybody for?' We were just like cattle being herded out of the park, and they were picking and choosing who they wanted to beat on."

He said his injuries were limited to a headache.

Roffers said the attack wouldn't stop him from attending the State Fair.

"We will be going back," said Roffers.

"It's a family event for us. We get together with our family and we do stuff at the park to enjoy the fair. My biggest concern is that the State Fair Park Police and West Allis get their heads out of their butts and figure out how to do some security over there. This isn't the first year State Fair has been going on. They should know what the heck they've got to do and where they've got to have people in place by now."

But according to Roffers, they did not have enough people there to handle the crowds, and he claims that the main stage acts - MC Hammer, Young MC and Tone Loc, were the draw for a crowd he claimed was there.

"I think the headliner they had last night is what drew the type of crowd they had last night. I've never been at that fair where they had so many African-American people. There's never usually that many of them, at that park, for whatever reason that I can figure."

He said that the fear spread beyond those who he believed were the target.

"There were a lot of people scared," claimed Roffers.

"There were even some young black girls. They were screaming. They were running across the road. This one girl was like, 'I don't know how I'm going to get out of here. I'm all by myself.' My wife heard her saying that. She said, 'Walk with us. Stay with us and you'll be OK.' We told her we were going down the street. If she needed any assistance, we were just going down to our car. She needed to go quite a way."

"There was this terror going on when you leave the place, you just wonder. Luckily, all the violence that was happening stayed right close by the park entrance. As we got a block away from the park, that's when the cops started showing up."

He said the lack of police and security presence will bring about his complaint up the various channels of State Fair and local police.

"They should be able to provide safety and traffic control," said Roffers. "I've never worried about it before."

He said he would give a written complaint to the State Fair and put in a call to West Allis Police, but that's not all.

"I will be contacting the State Fair Park Board and I'm going to chew on their butts a little bit about what happened."

State Fair spokeswoman: "Unfortunate situation, hopefully an isolated situation."

State Fair Director of Marketing and Communication Kathleen O'Leary told Newsradio 620 WTMJ's "Wisconsin's Morning News" that the incidents should not stop people from coming to the fair.

"Certainly, don't change your plans," said O'Leary. "Please understand that this is an unfortunate situation, hopefully an isolated situation."

Though witnesses had reported incidents inside the fair, she said the problems were mainly outside the fairgrounds.

"Not so much inside," claimed O'Leary.

"We had complete control inside of what was happening inside of our gates. It's what what spread into the neighborhoods."

O'Leary also pointed out that the fair has "taken measures already with the bag checks, when you come into the fair," but will increase authorities' presence for the remaining days at the fair.

"We will be taking severe measures, significant measures. We are in task force already, circling back around, doing everything that we can to make sure the experience is enjoyable and that the safety is insured," said O'Leary.

"They see the yellow security shirts. We have mounted police. We have bike police. We have our patrolling police. We have undercover police. That's all because that's exactly what we want. We want the safety measures intact at every turn."

Any statement I make is the opinion of me exercising my first amendment right to freedom of speech. Freedom of speech in the United States is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and is generally permitted.

I work with customers in West Allis all the time... I guess this wasnt newsworthy enough to make th big time.

Holder's people...

“Political correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.”

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