THE TOP TEN FRANKLIN STORIES OF 2016: #2

On Election Day in November Franklin voters approved a school referendum. Earlier in the year the exact details of what voters would be deciding were unknown. Once that became clear the only question remaining was what the final margin of victory would be.

Lots of chapters in this story. Let’s go.

My thoughts on the inevitable Franklin referendum

Franklin residents/taxpayers were sent surveys about plans for another Franklin school referendum. The questionnaires were due by June 13.

Being a civic-minded individual, I had some views back in June on the latest campaign to persuade taxpayers to vote to increase their own taxes.

1) There will definitely be a referendum. No doubt about it. All arrows point that way. The only question is, how much will the handout ask for.

2) The Franklin School Board punts to residents. Rather than make any tough decisions they were elected to do, members will pose for holy pictures and use survey responses as rationale to put tax-increase question(s) on the ballot. Their spin will be that they listened and responded to the public.

3) There’s a reason three options are on the survey. That improves the odds of approval. Depending on survey results there could be more than one question put to voters. In 2012 three questions were on the ballot. Two were approved. The middle school question failed. The object is not to do what’s best, what’s feasible, what’s prudent, what’s necessary. The object is to win.

4) Sob stories. You’re going to hear them. And some of the hand-wringing may be legitimate with truly needed improvements. Franklin never stops at the “needs.”

5) We did it for the high school. The guilt trip factor. Four years ago Franklin voted to approve two referendum questions to make major changes to the high school. Many voters will be of a mindset that we can’t possibly turn our backs on the middle schoolers.

6) Convenient? Intentional? Couldn’t help but notice the price tag for building a brand new middle school is actually cheaper than one of the options calling for renovation. How many residents will fall for that?

7) Only this much. The same old argument will be trotted out that improvements will only hike your taxes by just a little bit. But that’s on top of the already exorbitant taxes we pay in Franklin.

A quote often attributed to the late US Senator Everett Dirksen is, “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it adds up to real money.” Dirksen said in an interview, “Oh, I never said that. A newspaper fella misquoted me once, and I thought it sounded so good that I never bothered to deny it.” He was right. It sounds good because it’s true.

8) You’d better vote yes. Otherwise you will be tarred and feathered as hating kids and education.

9) I’d better not hear or read this one. Businesses choose to open or locate in communities with great schools. Right. If so,where are they?

10) WI has gone referendum-crazy. Back on April 5, a total of 56 communities held 71 referendums. School districts asked voters to approve nearly $700 million in borrowing for new construction and building updates, and more than $150 million in increases in school district budgets. Those requested amounts were the largest put before voters at the annual spring election going back at least a decade.

What happened? Voters approved 55 of the 71 referendums on the ballot, including $492 million in borrowing for building upgrades and construction projects, $128 million to expand school district budgets for a set amount of time, and $10 million to expand school budgets on a recurring basis.

The MacIver Institute noted in April:

If each of the school districts had voters approve their referendum requests, Wisconsinites would approve a huge $853,216,000 in new spending. That’s nearly one-fifth what Gov. Walker’s Act 10 saved Wisconsin taxpayers over 5 years.

If Wisconsinites wonder why Gov. Walker’s statewide tax reforms haven’t had more impact, taxpayers might want to check in with their local governments to see if officials are utilizing Gov. Walker’s money-saving tools. They might also ask why their local government needs to borrow money for important projects when some of them could be paid for by putting aside the savings from Act 10 and other reforms.

In June…

The survey results were announced

As I blogged:

The survey via paper and e-mail was conducted in May/June. The total number of responses was 2,357. That’s a measly 21%, further demonstrating the gigantic apathy that permeates Franklin.

On the question: Would you support the school district exploring a referendum to update Forest Park Middle School at this time.

This one’s not that simple to easily  interpret. 86% of district staff, 73% of parents with school district children, 61% of all residents, and 445 of non-parent residents said yes. Careful now. These folks said yes to exploring a possible referendum. However, they may not necessarily  support an affirmative vote on a referendum, probably because the question isn’t specific enough. They might support just letting voters have the opportunity to decide. It’s a hard call.

There were 3 options on the survey regarding the middle school.

OPTION 1

Option 1 would add 86,000 square feet, renovate 29% of the school, and be a $26 million referendum representing an estimated annual tax impact of $21 for each $100,000 of a home’s value for each of the next 20 years. Option 1 by far is the cheapest of the referendum options given to residents.

51% of all residents said yes, 35% said no. That’s a very slight majority in favor.

71% of school district staff residents said yes. No surprise. This the group most likely to approve of taxing and spending. Only 15% of this group had the common sense to say no.

When you ask the parents, moms and dads with kids in the school district, again, the results are not surprising. They want the entire school district to help pay for improvements in Joey and Mary’s school.

62% said yes, only 25% said no. Not a surprise.

AND NOW WE GET TO THE CRITICAL GROUP: THE NON-PARENT RESIDENTS.

This is the important demographic  group the pro-tax and spend referendum lovers (district staff and parents) must win over, must persuade in order to ensure victory at the polls.

Not good.

Not good at all.

35% said yes. 50% said no.

A resounding defeat on Option 1.

OPTION 2

Option 2 would add 155,500 square feet, renovate 83% of the school,  and be a $49.3 million referendum representing an estimated annual tax impact of $92 for each $100,000 of a home’s value for each of the next 20 years. This is by far the most expensive option.

Only 28% of all residents said yes while a whopping 55% said no.

Staff support dropped dramatically here. 41% of school district staff residents said yes. 35% of this group said no. So you see a split among the group most likely to vote yes on a tax and spend question at the ballot.

When you ask the parents, moms and dads with kids in the school district, suddenly, they get leery.  Only 39% said yes while 42% said no.

AND NOW WE GET TO THE CRITICAL GROUP: THE NON-PARENT RESIDENTS.

The doors get blown off. A piddly 12% said yes, 74% said no.

OPTION 3

Option 3 would, get this, build a new two -story middle school with a $43.3 million referendum representing an estimated annual tax impact of $73 for each $100,000 of a home’s value for each of the next 20 years. This is the second-most expensive option, a middle of the road alternative that might appear more appealing.

49% of all residents said yes, 36% said no. A plurality in favor, not a majority.

Staff support is what you’d expect. 75% of school district staff residents said tax and spend away, yes. Only 14% said no. Again, no big surprise.

When you ask the parents, moms and dads with kids in the school district, 60% said yes while 24% said no.  Nothing shocking there.

AND NOW WE GET TO THE CRITICAL GROUP: THE NON-PARENT RESIDENTS.

Only 33% said yes, 54% said no.

To repeat:

The group of non-parent residents, the group that school referendum supporters within school districts admit  is the pivotal faction that needs to be won over is speaking clearly: no referendum on the middle school.

To repeat:

On option 1

35% said yes. 50% said no.

On option 2

12% said yes, 74% said no.

On option 3

33% said yes, 54% said no.

CONCLUSION:

The results are clear. There is no consensus, mandate, clamoring, outpouring of support for a referendum or referendum questions on the middle school. If anything the electorate is opposed, skeptical, or at the very least undecided.

The Franklin School Board needs to understand and respond accordingly.  Will they? Who knows? This weak bunch erroneously believes they work for the superintendent instead of the other way around.
—June 2016

Something for voters to keep in mind, I blogged in mid-July

The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, the organization that religiously follows and keeps track of tax and spending in our state just reported that Wisconsin continues to spend more per pupil on K-12 education than the national average, 1.6% in 2014. Wisconsin’s per pupil spending remained well above the national average from 2002 to 2007, just prior to the Great Recession. Overall, during the 2008-12 period, spending both here and nationally increased by the same rate—3.4%.

Here’s an incredible stat.

In 2011, before the changes of Act 10 took place, employee benefits as a share of per pupil spending in Wisconsin were 51.9% higher than the national average. By 2014, that difference had dropped to 11.6%.

So, we continue to spend more in WI on schools than the nation as a whole. But Franklin will increase spending in their upcoming budget. They will then ask voters to increase taxes through a referendum that will pass because the school district has hypnotized folks into thinking it must be done or the world will end. And to top it off the state will send additional school aid to many, if not most school districts.

And yet that won’t be good enough for greedy, ungrateful school administrators and school boards.

Like fish in a barrel

As expected the School Board voted unanimously (not one member voted no) to go with building a brand new middle school and putting that option to the voters.

The propaganda by the school administration was working.

Comments left on FranklinNOW:

Why would you choose any other option than option 3?? There will be a brand new building for $6m less than adding on and renovating…

looking at costs, building a new school makes the most sense LONG TERM. Why update a school and incur more costs 10 years down the road??

Suckers!

One resident went on the Franklin School District’s website to express the lamest excuse why a referendum was needed:

The cafeteria is too small to meet the needs of the current student population, resulting in students waiting extended times in serving lines during their lunch period.

Those poor babies

The school administration wasn’t fooling everybody. Franklin Planning Commissioner

Scott Thinnes wrote this comment on one of my blogs:

Again, a bad decision made years ago by whoever thought the hub-spoke-pod school design was a good idea in the first place. These buildings are more expensive to build, maintain, and operate because they have 3-4 times the perimeter exterior wall area and foundation footprint, they take up more land space, and are very difficult to expand economically, usually requiring many small expansion areas located between the various pods. Again, expensive for what you get, and the added layout and function makes less and less sense relative to the initial design.

One thing Franklin is good at… making decisions and not realizing how bad those decisions are until they are 3/4 of the way down the road. Do you think if a new middle school is built that site placement and building design will be done with thoughts of future expansion needs? I’m not going to hold my breath.

A few months later…

October: School districts like Franklin are breaking state law

Wisconsin law prohibits school districts from lobbying for positive votes for a school referendum.

School districts like Franklin get around the law by  neglecting to use the words, “Vote Yes” in all their referendum communications.  In all their communications they come as close as possible to urging a YES vote without using their actual terminology VOTE YES.

They think they’re slick, but they’re violating state law.

Recently I received a flyer in the mail with the Franklin Saber colors telling everything why the school district thought a YES vote was necessary without actually using the words VOTE YES.

Do they think we’re stupid? Yes they do.

They have actually spent taxpayer money to try to persuade a YES vote.

In June I asked Franklin School Board President Janet Evans how much it cost to send out surveys on the referendum that clearly were designed to find the most favorable results. Here’s what she wrote:

Dear Mr. Fischer,

Below are the costs for the survey to gather community input regarding the possibility of moving forward with the next phase of the District’s Facilities Master Plan, which addresses Forest Park Middle School.

The cost of printing the surveys was $3,510 and the cost of creating the survey, administering the survey online as well as paper copies, and providing the results was $9,800.

Regards,

Janet

Janet M. Evans
Franklin Board of Education, President

Just a few weeks before the election SouthNOW.com questioned Franklin school superintendent Steve Patz with an apparent inquiry about the school district’s motives.

“In no way have we gone out there to try to sway voters,” said Patz. “Our intent, which I believe we followed, is to communicate why we’re going to referendum, and that’s it.”

I blogged:

That’s downright laughable. And insulting.

Anyone who reads the school district propaganda about the referendum  can plainly see that it is obviously promoting and seeking a YES vote. Such a practice is in violation of state law, though nothing will come of it.

But please. Let’s not try to publicly mislead the voters. The referendum may, indeed, pass. But everyone knows school district folks are the referendum’s biggest cheerleaders.
—October 27, 2016

Why would I and many others vote NO? One of the biggest, if not the biggest reasons:

“Research has found  little relationship between school funding levels and student performance.
Will Flanders, education research director at the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty

As predicted the Franklin referendum to build a brand new middle school passed. Despite skepticism expressed in surveys by Franklin residents the Franklin Public School  District intelligentsia got its forces out and persuaded (fooled) enough people for a slim margin of victory.

YES: 7,804 (52.03%)
NO:  7,196 (47.97%)

Interesting note: one-fourth of the people who cast ballots did NOT vote one way or the other on the referendum question.

Didn’t know enough about it?

Didn’t care?

From one of my very, very sharp readers, sent about a week before the election:

“Kevin,  I didn’t realize that Franklin is in the middle of a referendum – it shows how low profile they are keeping it to focus the vote on yes.”

Great point.

Mysouthnow.com reports:

“The $43.3 million referendum represents a tax increase of 65 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.”

True.

But that’s on top of the already too-high school taxes, already too-high city taxes, Milwaukee County taxes,  MATC taxes, sewerage district taxes, and state tax for forestry purposes.

Franklin and other school districts in our region of the state have engaged in law-breaking tactics to push referendums. WISN’s Mark Belling has talked and written about the issue:

Check any of the following school referendum websites: Arrowhead, Cudahy, Elkhorn, Franklin, Middleton, Germantown, Oconomowoc, Sheboygan or Sheboygan Falls. Some have the same format and are laid out in the same way. That’s right — they all hired the same company to sleaze their way around the state law that bars direct advocacy. The website design appears to be the work of an Ohio-based company called “SchoolPointe” but it’s unclear if that firm designed the actual format for all of the pro-referendum sites. What is clear is that every single school district in our region that I checked has a pro-referendum website designed the same.

This is not a coincidence.

Likewise, every single school district in this area with a referendum hired the same firm to conduct a biased survey earlier in the year aimed at persuading people there is a need for a referendum.

A final note from the MacIver Institute:

10. Referendum Voters Around the State Increase Their Own Taxes

Our #10 most under-reported story of 2016 is the increase in the number of referendums where voters are increasingly approving local spending increases and essentially raising their own property taxes.

For example, of the 71 referendums on the April 5 ballot, voters approved 55 of them, giving school districts a total of $630.6 million in new spending power. Voters rejected only 16 referendums, a 77 percent passage rate – keeping with recent trends.

A MacIver Institute analysis also found that referendums held during Gov. Walker’s administration have increased in number, decreased in price tag, and have been far more likely to pass.

Legislators were concerned some school districts were up to no good by holding referendums on low turnout elections or placing them on the ballot during consecutive elections until they finally pass. The author of one piece of legislation intended to limit such tactics, Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville), considers these to be dirty tricks intended to bypass the will of a majority of voters, particularly if a referendum initially fails.

* The MacIver Institute also reported of the 67 referendums held by school districts in Wisconsin in November, only 12 failed. Overall, Wisconsin voters approved $803.83 million in new borrowing for capital improvements at an average of more than $23,642,000.

That despite the conservative gains in the state.The referendum approvals only serve to waste the savings afforded by the passage of Act 10.|

UPDATE: We should also add…

Arrowhead, Franklin And Others Pay Ultra-High Teacher Salaries While Pursuing Tax Hike Referendums

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COMING NEXT:
Our #1 that will be reported in two parts.

THE TOP 10 FRANKLIN STORIES OF 2016

1) ?
2) FRANKLIN APPROVES SCHOOL REFERENDUM
3) ONE IKEA = TWO FRANKLINS
4) TABLEGATE
5) FRANKLIN’S BARN
6) FRANKLIN’S MAGICAL FOOTBALL SEASON FINISHES A BIT SHORT
7) CHAIRGATE
8) IS FRANKLIN STILL A TAX HELL?
9) APARTMENTS IN FRANKLIN
10) BOMB THREAT AT FHS

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Week-ends (12/31/16)

A look back at the people and events that made news the past week. Week-ends is a regular weekly feature of This Just In…

The following is a special year-end edition of Week-ends.

HEROES OF THE YEAR

Police officers

The Truth About Cops

VILLAINS OF THE YEAR

Terrorists

QUOTES OF THE YEAR

I give great credit to Chris Wallace.

And then on Election Night:


OUTRAGE OF THE YEAR

The War on Cops

America’s real hate-crime epidemic is killing cops

MOST UNDER-REPORTED STORY OF THE YEAR

On November 9 House Speaker Paul Ryan said:

“This is the most incredible political feat I have seen in my lifetime. Donald Trump heard a voice out in this country that no one else heard. He connected with—he connected in ways with people no one else did. He turned politics on its head.”

What did Trump see?

What did Trump hear?

What did Trump see and hear and with great insight catch onto that no one in the major media did?

What did they all misread that Ryan alluded in his remarks?

I wrote about this on my previous blog back in March and also talked about it on the old Milwaukee Public Television program “InterCHANGE.”

The answer to the above questions that Trump utilized and the media had blinders on to?

Right here.

MOST OVER-HYPED STORY OF THE YEAR

Gun control

“If this is not a political stunt, then why are they trying to raise money off of this? Off of a tragedy? They’re sending out fundraising solicitations like this one: ‘House Democrats on the House floor.’ ‘Your contribution will go to the DCCC.’ ‘$15.’ This one says, ‘$25,’ but ‘if you want you can send us $50, $100, $250, $500, $1,000. Because look at what we’re doing on the House floor. Send us money.

“I do worry about the precedent here. I have an obligation as speaker of the House to protect this institution. We are the oldest democracy in the world… And so when we see our democracy descend in this way, it is not a good sign.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan lambasted Democrats’ “sit-in” over gun control, calling it a political stunt aimed at fundraising and suggesting it sets a dangerous precedent for House decorum. The Wisconsin Republican said Democrats took over the House floor  to boost their campaign coffers — as opposed to out of genuine concern for victims of gun violence, as they claimed.

“I think we need to look right in the face of what these people are that we’re facing: they don’t care about the law. Laws didn’t stop them in Boston, laws didn’t stop them in San Bernardino, where you had every type of gun control law you can have, and they didn’t stop them in Paris, where people can’t even own guns.

“We all mourn for what happened. But we face a terrorist challenge where there on the verge of overwhelming us. What happened this past week is, the president, the whole gun ban movement said, hey, don’t look at terrorists. Look over here. Divert your attention. Take your eyes off the problem, because they don’t want to face the embarrassment of their failure in this terrorist area, and they want to cover their butts and not talk about it.  You can’t save the country with politics. The politically correct policies of the White House are intruding right now in military, terrorism, law enforcement. It’s all being politicized with the politically correct White House nose and fingers in areas they don’t belong.”
National Rifle Association Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre said Democrats are attempting to introduce new gun control legislation to “divert your attention,” away from “embarrassment of their failure in this terrorist area”

“I just want to read you some statistics. Every year, more than 100,000 people are victims of gunshot wounds. And we should point out that that number does include suicides as well. According to the CDC, in 2013, more than 33,000 people die from firearms, every single year. Um, isn’t that too many?”
CNN’s Carol Costello
interviewing Erich Pratt, executive director for Gun Owners of America

“Well, what you failed to point out, Carol, is that the CDC also pursuant to President Obama issuing a decree to have them study this issue, they found that anywhere from 500,000 to 3 million times a year, guns are being used in self-defense.

“The fact that 16 to 100 times more often, guns are being used to save lives than to take lives…when the research was done, it actually found guns are saving more lives than are being taken by them. As you look all around the country, Carol, actually you see time and time again that people have stopped mass shootings in their tracks. People, good people with their firearms, like a year ago this month, in a bar like the Orlando bar, in a Youngstown bar, a bar employee, who was a concealed carrier, used his gun to stop a mass shooter, no innocent lives were taken as a result. If that guy was in Orlando, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Pratt responding to Costello

Gun control isn’t the answer

STRANGEST, MOST UNUSUAL STORY OF THE YEAR

ISIS wives

The Barking Lot – America’s Finest Dog Blog (12/31/16)

*THIS IS A SPECIAL YEAR-END EDITION OF THE BARKING LOT*

The Barking Lot is a regular weekly feature of This Just In…Written by my lovely wife, Jennifer and me.  It opens with the weekend dog walking forecast followed by the main blog from dog lover, Jennifer. Then it’s DOGS IN THE NEWS and our close. Enjoy!

THE WEEKEND DOG-WALKING FORECAST: We grade the weather outlook for taking your pet outdoors.

TODAY: Cloudy. High of  33.  “D”

SUNDAY:  Mostly sunny. High of 38. “C”

Here’s my lovely wife, Jennifer with this week’s main blog.

In keeping with our year-end theme here is what I consider my stand out dog blog the past year, July 9:

When I write my portion of our weekly feature, I do my very best to be accurate and up-to-date.  Once I’ve selected a topic, I scour sites and check links to make sure my sources are the best they can be.  Kevin keeps an eye on things too… often, a news story has updates and he’s quick to point those out as well.

Somehow, we both managed to overlook something that is extremely important to me.  Every summer, I write about leaving dogs in hot cars. In that blog I gave what I thought was accurate information.  While it is unfortunate I gave outdated facts, it is EXTREMELY FORTUNATE that they are now obsolete.

As recently reported by WQOW in Eau Claire, you can now break into a car to save a distressed child or animal without fear of civil liability.  Effective November 13, 2015 the 2015 Wisconsin Act 103  clearly states your responsibilities before you just toss a brick through a car window because you see a dog inside the vehicle.

Speaking of tossing a brick through a window…  Most people won’t actually have a brick with them for canine emergencies.  And believe it or not, a brick isn’t even the most effective tool for smashing a window.  A glass repair expert explains.

Additionally, if you’re a former Girl Scout or Boy Scout and your motto is still “Be Prepared” you might already own a car window hammer like this. It could certainly save your OWN life if you’re ever trapped inside your vehicle after a collision.  But it could also be a worthwhile investment if you’re determined to keep defenseless creatures safe when temperatures rise.

PLEASE share this blog with as many people as you can.  It just might save a life!
—Jennifer Fischer

Thanks, Jennifer!

Usually at this point we post DOGS IN THE NEWS, canines that made headlines the past week. That portion will return next week.

On this special year-end edition of The Barking Lot here are our picks for top dog stories of 2016.

First, do you remember Bretagne?

And I admit a certain bias in this next selection. I helped hire John Jagler at WTMJ many years ago. What a nice story.

HERE’S OUR DOG PHOTO(s) OF THE YEAR.

And there are plenty.

We close as we always do with our closing video. Here are the dog videos of the year.

First…we say it often on The Barking Lot. Dogs are simply amazing.

And finally, do you remember Bruno from a small town in Minnesota?  The award-winning Boyd Huppert, who used to work at Channel 6 in Milwaukee, brought us this wonderful story.

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That’s it for this week.

Thanks for stopping by.

See ya, BARK, next week!

And Happy New Year!

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The Best Cartoons of the Week (12/31/16)

THE NEW YEAR

A.F. Branco

OBAMA

Steve Kelley

Lisa Benson

Chip Bok

Michael Ramirez

THE DEMS

A.F. Branco

Gary Varvel

Henry Payne

THE MEDIA

Ken Catalino

CHRISTMAS

Nate Beeler

Some of 2016’s best…

Ed Wasserman

Matt Davies

Steve Sack

David Horsey

Michael Ramirez

Mike Lester

Nate Beeler

Kal

Signe Wilkinson

Dana Summers

Michael Ramirez

Scott Bateman

Mike Smith

Signe Wilkinson

 

Goodnight everyone, and have a noise maker of a weekend!

“Take a leap of faith and begin this wondrous new year by believing. Believe in yourself. And believe that there is a loving Source – a Sower of Dreams – just waiting to be asked to help you make your dreams come true.”
Sarah Ban Breathnach

Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of really good music available. Come along and enjoy.

For the past several weeks we’ve featured Christmas music. Christmas day has come and gone, but the Christmas season continues. So, one more round of holiday music as we head into the New Year’s weekend.

No mention of Christmas in this classic, but it certainly rings true even after December 25th fades away.

This next ensemble recorded a Christmas album in 1990 that has a Nashville-style sound. Some very talented musicians perform a Christmas favorite like you’ve never heard before.

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https://i0.wp.com/wp.stu.ca/wellness/wp-content/uploads/sites/17/2014/11/Horse-Sleigh-Rides.jpgLoved that mandolin solo. Next!

Again, one of the many Christmas songs that never mentions Christmas and arguably has nothing to do with Christmas.

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I’ve seen the movie.

More than once.

She never sings about Christmas.

And that’s okay.

Tony Bennett with the Count Basie Orchestra.

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Just a few.

And now, one of the great entertainers of our time.

Seth MacFarlane is the voice of Peter Griffin in “Family Guy.” Turns out MacFarlane can sing.

New Year’s Eve will require some obligatory bubbly. This MacFarlane rendition was first heard in a 1958 film.

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MacFarlane may not be socially or politically my cup of tea, but he is talented.

Have everything in order for Saturday night?

Margaret Whiting was the first to record “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”–in 1947. But The Orioles were the first to chart with the song.

The lyrics were composed by Frank Loesser who also wrote  “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition,”  “Luck be a Lady”,  “I Don’t Want To Walk Without You”, and “Baby It’s Cold Outside”.

Loesser had this advice for younger songwriters:

“Remember, a song is like a freight train moving across a stage. Every boxcar has a word on it. Those people have to hear everything and understand it – fast, because in a minute the car will be gone and they’ll never see it again. Make them listen and then lay it in their laps.”

Seems “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” wasn’t intended to be a New Year’s song.

Loesser’s daughter Susan wrote this in her book  A Most Remarkable Fella: Frank Loesser and the Guys and Dolls in His Life. ”

“It is early spring. The singer, madly in love, is making a (possibly rash) commitment far into the future. (‘Maybe it’s much too early in the game. Ah, but I thought I’d ask you just the same – What are you doing New Year’s, New Year’s Eve?’) It always annoyed my father when the song was sung during the holidays.”

For my money no one does it better than Karen Carpenter.

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Voice of the angels.

We prepare and prepare for the holidays and they’ll soon be over. Then comes long, cold, hard, dreary January and February. Are you sad about that?

In 1996 jazz pianist Dave Brubeck (“Take Five” fame) released a Christmas album of solo piano pieces.

Image may contain: 4 people, people sitting

Dave Brubeck died in December of 2012, one day before his 92nd birthday.

That’s it for this week.

Goodnight.

Sleep well.

A Prayer at the End and Beginning of a Year

Lord, give me I pray:

A remembering heart for the things that have happened.

An attentive heart to what I have learned.

A forgiving heart for what has hurt.

A grateful heart for what has blessed.

A brave heart for what may be required.

An open heart to all that may come.

A trusting heart to go forth with You.

A loving heart for You and all your creation.

A longing heart for the reconciliation of all things.

A willing heart to say “Yes” to what You will

– Leighton Ford of Charlotte is a Presbyterian minister known internationally as preacher, writer and mentor

We close with Fourplay.

Image result for image, photo, happy new year 2017

 

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Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: Holiday on Strings? No, not strings!

Al Caiola (pronounced kay-OH-lah)  could really play guitar. His resume speaks volumes about how good he was.

Caiola’s version of the “Bonanza” TV theme made it to #19 on the Billboard singles chart. He had another top 40 hit, the theme from “the Magnificent Seven” that reached #35.

Caiola recorded with Buddy Holly, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Johnny Mathis, Simon and Garfunkel, Sarah Vaughan, Glen Campbell and Rosemary Clooney. He played in orchestras led by Percy Faith, Morton Gould and Andre Kostelanetz, and on radio and television with Steve Allen, Jackie Gleason, Arthur Godfrey and Ed Sullivan.

Caiola died last month at the age of 96.

Since we’re still in the Christmas season we feature a Christmas selection from Caiola you’ll never hear again, unless it’s on a vintage CD you buy or right here.

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THE TOP TEN FRANKLIN STORIES OF 2016: #3

Quiz time: What does Franklin do best?

Think about that.

What immediately comes to mind?

Got your answer?

I have mine.

Franklin eats Oak Creek’s dust.

This story is based in Oak Creek, but its repercussions were felt here in Franklin.

Ikea, a popular retail store known for assemble-it-yourself furniture announced in May a 295,000-square-foot  store will be constructed on about 29 acres near the northwestern corner of the freeway and W. Drexel Ave. The store is expected to open in summer of 2018 and  will employ about 250 people.

Reaction came instantly.

“The screams of joy that you heard from southeastern Wisconsin shoppers early Thursday were due to the early morning confirmation that Ikea would open its first Milwaukee-area store along Interstate 94 in Oak Creek.”

That’s what the Milwaukee Business Journal wrote. The screams of agony came from just west of Oak Creek by frustrated Franklin residents who want so desperately for their city to crawl out from its 1955 cave.

“It’s a big thrill to have a company as large as IKEA come to Oak Creek,” Mayor Steve Scaffidi said in an interview with the Journal Sentinel. In some Franklin households that kind of talk would send folks into the fetal position.

“IKEA does not open stores just anywhere,” said IKEA spokesman Joseph Roth. The 53132 zip code is painfully aware.

Scaffidi said having an IKEA — a “destination” store that would attract visitors from outside the local area — is expected to lead to further development, such as hotels and complementary businesses, in Oak Creek. City of Franklin so-called leaders, see any dots connected? Does the light bulb go on?

The Journal Sentinel reported, “The stage was set for Oak Creek to move onto IKEA’s radar when city officials began planning several years ago to build a traffic system that could accommodate such a high-profile business.” In Franklin one year, it took two separate Common Council meetings to decide when to have Trick or Treat.

Tom Zale, vice president of real estate for Northwestern Mutual said “We are excited by this development and look forward to discussions with interested parties that see the location’s potential.” Can’t remember the last time someone said that about a Franklin development

The Journal Sentinel reported, “Oak Creek officials want their community to stand out among Milwaukee suburbs.” If that’s the case I don’t know what the hell Franklin’s intentions are.

“You’ll continue to see development and big stories, because I just think that’s how we’re wired,” Scaffidi said. “We’re looking for things that are unique, things that are interesting and groundbreaking. Things that 10 years ago we couldn’t do, we now go after.” Now that’s incredibly visionary and refreshing. In Franklin we fund raise for a barn and yearn for the days of the horse and buggy.

The above were the reactions of so-called “officials.”

Joe and Sue Public also weighed in.

The conclusion was clear. When it came to Ikea specifically and economic growth in general,  Franklin was a big house divided.

More reaction. An astute reader of mine e-mailed me the following:

Had the business park (which had businesses chomping at the bit ready to go in) been approved by the half of the council that was playing political games – we might have had this in our area.

Why would they consider us? Why would anyone consider us when it is apparent the council doesn’t want anything to succeed while Olson is mayor?

And finally some rare common sense from social media normally dominated by anonymous misinformed trolls.

THE TOP 10 FRANKLIN STORIES OF 2016

1) ?
2) ?
3) ONE IKEA = TWO FRANKLINS
4) TABLEGATE
5) FRANKLIN’S BARN
6) FRANKLIN’S MAGICAL FOOTBALL SEASON FINISHES A BIT SHORT
7) CHAIRGATE
8) IS FRANKLIN STILL A TAX HELL?
9) APARTMENTS IN FRANKLIN
10) BOMB THREAT AT FHS

THE TOP TEN FRANKLIN STORIES OF 2016: #4

In 2015 some Franklin Common Council members unceremoniously tried to throw thumb tacks in the road of progress for what turned out to be Franklin’s greatest community achievement:

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Kayla’s Playground.

The same scenario couldn’t rear its ugly head again in 2016, could it? Remember folks, this is Franklin we’re talking about, the city that could screw up a one-car funeral.

Follow along with me as we unlock the “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” vault.

Additional site equipment/furnishings were necessary to complete Kayla’s Playground. In April of 2016 the embarrassing Tablegate began at a Common Council meeting.

Word spread fast about the council’s action, or lack thereof. An astute reader of mine pointed out the irony of the obstructionists.

The aldermen had been called out and were now wearing a three-egg omelette facial. To no surprise yours truly was being blamed for merely being the whistle-blowing messenger.

Adding insult to injury for the instigators of Tablegate was a review by City of Franklin staff with findings and a recommendation they probably didn’t want to hear.

In the end the council voted in favor of the tables, but can you believe one stubborn member still voted no?

Unfortunately that’s the way we do things in Franklin. Instead of learning from such an exercise we lash out at those who point out what happens at open meetings and anyone who dares criticize.

UPDATE: Here’s an aerial shot of Kayla’s Playground  before all twelve tables were installed.

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Eight (8) isn’t enough and six (6) would have been a joke. This dramatically shows how ridiculous Tablegate was.

Could there be room for more? Tablegate II?

THE TOP 10 FRANKLIN STORIES OF 2016

1) ?
2) ?
3) ?
4) TABLEGATE
5) FRANKLIN’S BARN
6) FRANKLIN’S MAGICAL FOOTBALL SEASON FINISHES A BIT SHORT
7) CHAIRGATE
8) IS FRANKLIN STILL A TAX HELL?
9) APARTMENTS IN FRANKLIN
10) BOMB THREAT AT FHS

Toll roads = billions

Toll roads?

In Wisconsin?

The Wisconsin State Journal reports:

Tolling Wisconsin’s U.S. interstates could raise billions for the state’s most-traveled thoroughfares…a new state Department of Transportation study finds.

Assembly Republican leaders say toll roads, which currently don’t exist in Wisconsin, should be considered. The DOT study does not recommend for or against tolling, but gives a broad overview of its pros, cons, and of how it would be implemented.

Any plan for toll roads would take at least four years to implement, the study found.

The study assumes highway tolls would be collected electronically — via transponders in vehicles or by photographing vehicle license plates and mailing toll bills to vehicle owners. Such a system eliminates the need for motorists to stop to pay a toll, and for toll plazas that restrict highway access.

Count me as a resounding NO!

I blogged about this touchy item nearly 10 years ago:

When you think of the most unpopular policy ideas in Wisconsin, what comes to mind?

A tax on beer would have to be near the top.

Within recent memory, the automatic yearly increase in the state gasoline tax became so unpopular it was eliminated.

How about the notion of toll roads?

The mere mention of such a proposal instantly brings visceral reactions.

Not so elsewhere around the country.

“American City and County” Magazine reports:

According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), 21 states allow the use of PPPs to fund transportation projects. Also, since the passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) in 1991, 27 states and one territory have implemented major toll road operations, according to the August 2006 FHA study “Current Toll Road Activity in the U.S.: A Survey and Analysis.”

States are using PPPs and tolls to raise revenue and handle the increasing cost of building and maintaining new infrastructure, says Jack Basso, chief operating officer for the Washington-based American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. “Especially if it’s ‘green field’ projects, meaning new construction, it’s a way of generating the necessary revenue to get those facilities built a lot faster than you can do them in the traditional way, where you have to build up a lot of capital over a lot of years and you’re being chased [by inflation] the whole time you’re building that capital,” he says. The “Current Toll Road Activity in the U.S.” study shows that 168 toll projects planned or implemented since ISTEA could provide up to 14,565 lane miles of capacity to the nation’s highway system. Also, the study projects that toll road development will increase from 50 to 75 miles per year between 1991 and 2001 to 150 miles per year for the next 10 years. Finally, the study’s authors reach the conclusion that “we may be on the verge of transitioning to a robust mix of highway funding options in which tolls play a significant role.”

The rap on toll roads is the heavy volume of trucking traffic they would send to other roads not equipped to handle the load.

Tony Giancola, executive director of the Washington-based National Association of County Engineers (NACE) says, “One of the unintended consequences is the fact that there may be parallel local roads or other state roads which are not interstate or big freeway-type roads, which could, in fact, witness … an influx of truck traffic to avoid the tolls. These roads could be overwhelmed, not only with congestion but also because they are designed to a different level [and] may not be able to handle the repeated truck traffic that’s going over them.” That already happens in some states with toll roads, Giancola says, and drivers of smaller vehicles may do the same, adding to congestion.

I hate the idea of toll roads and I think most people do. Most, but not everyone.

In summary there are three very, very simple reasons why tolls are an incredibly bad idea:

1)       HELLO!!!! If we institute tolls, Wisconsin motorists will also have to pay them.

2)       We already pay our fair share in taxes, not to mention one of the highest gas taxes in the nation to support our roads. We don’t need extra fees to pay, and what is probably the most important reason tolls are an incredibly bad, even stupid idea…

3)       JUST ABOUT EVERYBODY IN WISCONSIN HATES IT!!

—October 2007