For our top spot, it was the one Franklin story in 2018 that kept giving good news after good news: the continuing progress at Ballpark Commons.

Enthusiasm began to build in February.

The long-awaited groundbreaking took place in June with good media coverage.

Journal Sentinel


South Now

Even before shovels hit the ground UW-Milwaukee officially signed a lease agreement to play at the new facility.

And how about a four-season beer garden?

And shortly after the groundbreaking came word that Ballpark Commons would be getting much-needed memory care housing  (the mayor strongly criticized this component of the development).

Then in September, a nickname for the baseball team that will call Ballpark Commons home.

One last Ballpark Commons news nugget came earlier this month when the Journal Sentinel reported the development “is seeking another $5.2 million in city financing help — beyond $22.5 million already approved. Roc Ventures LLC, led by developer Mike Zimmerman, is seeking the additional cash because of ‘increases in unforeseen development expenses,’ according to a city report.”

That kind of reporting can certainly raise eyebrows. At first blush such a headline could boil blood. But the request by the developer is certainly reasonable and well understood when all facts are considered.

Keep in mind that this project has grown significantly from its infant stages by over $50M of additional projected increment.  That means the project needed  additional infrastructure that can support the addition(s).

This point is critical. Construction and other prices have increased during the 18 months or so since the tax incremental financing district was established for the development. The rise in construction costs is not a Ballpark Commons phenomenon. It’s a nationwide issue. Google to find out.various units of government have been involved and have paid such close attention. Not a bad thing. Just a reality.

Look, Ballpark Commons is  no Miller Park. Doesn’t have to be. I know first hand that deals of this magnitude are extremely complex. They take time. And in the process costs can easily go up. Zimmerman has thrown substantial skin in the game. My guess is he wouldn’t go to the city and ask for assistance if he didn’t think such help was feasible.

This issue will carry over into 2019, but for now, it appears Ballpark Commons is on a clear path to a Grand Opening, after all the various city conditions, additional approvals needed, the County sales cycle to acquire the land, additional studies, public hearings, etc.  It’s an amazing Franklin success story.

We close with the following. In August Ballpark Commons developer/owner Mike Zimmerman was Steve Scaffidi’s guest on WTMJ Conversations. WTMJ promoted the program with an audio clip of Zimmerman saying the public hearings on the mixed-use project were so ugly he told his wife not to attend.

Please take the time to listen to the entire program here. It’s a great insight into this entire story. Just click the play button at the top of the page.


1) Ballpark Commons well on its way
2) Police referendum rejected
3) Reassessments outrage
4) Logsdon upsets incumbent Taylor
5) Police? No. A remodeled City Hall? YES
6) Like it or not Franklin, you’re getting another roundabout
7) Franklin OKs K4
8) Franklin fights but loses on Dark Store loophole
9) Finally Franklin admits they’ve got a developer problem
10) Fun, Fun, Fun in Franklin


City officials tried to add more police officers via a November referendum. The effort failed miserably.  There are plenty of details to share. We’ll do it in chronological order.

JULY: Franklin mails survey to residents

The questionnaire sought input on whether they support a) an increase in taxes for additional emergency services, b) the status quo, or c) cutting spending elsewhere to finance additional emergency services.

The Journal Sentinel reported the following:

Mayor Steve Olson said in a release from Mueller Communications and the city of Franklin that the survey is designed to help Franklin “finalize a public safety plan that reflects the opinions of our residents and their willingness to financially support these services.”

I asked the city if they could tell me what the cost of having Mueller work on the release was as well as the cost of the survey.

Pretty simple stuff. But this is Franklin we’re talking about where nothing is easy.

I did receive information from the City Clerk.

Attached is the documentation from the Common Council meeting of February 19, 2018, relating to the Public Safety Services review by Mueller Communications.  The following action was taken at that meeting:

“Alderman Taylor moved to authorize staff to proceed with a project for a Public Safety Services review, including an Options Assessment and Citizen Survey, relative to Fire Department services and some Police services for an amount not-to-exceed $42,000 and to authorize the Director of Administration to prepare and execute service contracts as contemplated for the project, including but not limited to a contract with Mueller Communications, subject to input from the City Attorney as needed.  Seconded by Alderman Barber.  All voted Aye; motion carried.”

Contained in the six-page attachment:

Mueller’s proposal comes in two phases.

Phase I: Further evaluation of the issue and related options.

Phase II: Development and execution of a community survey that would garner public input on those options.

Mueller’s direct costs are hourly but are estimated to be between $12,000 and $14,000 with an additional 5 percent service and technology fee ($600-$700).

A third party vendor, Community Perceptions, would also be engaged that has expertise in developing and analyzing survey documents. That cost is estimated to be between $10,000 and $15,000.

ADDITIONALLY, Phase II requires printing and postage for the survey with an estimated cost of $8,500.

Phases I and II would have an estimated cost of between $31,100 and $38,200.

Seems to me that could go a long way toward hiring another police officer or firefighter.

I daresay someone like me who has lots of experience in writing and public policy could have met with the mayor and city staff to discuss the issue at hand and determine what input the city is seeking from residents. That would have conservatively taken about an hour.

Another hour could have then been spent compiling the questions for the survey the city could review and edit/tweak to their heart’s desire.

Again, even at a conservative rate of $150/hour you’re talking $300, maybe $450. You still would have to send out a mailer and have someone “analyze” the survey findings, but sizeable savings could have been made.

I wrote that the entire survey and process was an utter waste.

In a nutshell, the survey was biased, designed to persuade people there is a need for increased property taxes.

The mayor pounces

Recall that in February the city, unnoticed by just about everyone, laid the foundation for the survey ultimately seeking a tax increase the city could later submit that voters acted on their own to enact.

Now the city wondered, when do we really go public?

Waiting for the right time to take advantage of taxpayers. This was it.

From on June 22:

Just weeks after a giving a warm welcome for the Ballpark Commons at a groundbreaking ceremony, Mayor Steve Olson’s joy for the massive development turned somewhat sour when developers added a senior housing project into the mix, a change the plan commission signed off on June 21.

Olson did not mince words with his displeasure for New Perspective Senior Living, saying this was the “wrong facility in the wrong part of town for the wrong reason in the wrong development.”

The mayor’s comments came after he had defended placing a roundabout near the Claire Meadows Senior Apartments by saying, “Seniors complain they don’t like roundabouts. Well, how much longer are they going to drive? I’m sorry. It’s a plain fact.”

Again, the mayor assuredly did the way it sounded, but he was divisive.

If you believe social media is any sort of barometer, the mayor inadvertently set off negative commentary targeted at, in no particular order:



Emergency responders and what they charge

Senior facilities

Seniors in general

Ballpark Commons

The survey language

On the survey sent to residents the city wrote:

The Common Council works very hard to be good stewards of taxpayers’ funds…

That statement is debatable. In my view it’s also laughable.

I have lived in Franklin since 1992, have built two new homes here, and in 26 years have paid obscene city taxes each and every year. Spare me the patting themselves on the back routine.

Let’s continue.

The Common Council works very hard to be good stewards of taxpayers’ funds, as evidenced by the fact that from 2013-2017 total municipal property taxes stayed the same.

Commendable? You bet.

But let’s remember property taxes for that period of time stayed at the ridiculous amount they already were at.

What Mayor Olson conveniently omits telling folks is that during one of those years when he submitted a budget with a very tiny tax increase it took a series of budget cut amendments proposed by Alderman Steve Taylor to get the budget down to a tax freeze.

Why does the city literature mention the years 2013-2017 but not 2018?

Because Mayor Olson’s proposed 2018 budget called for a 3% tax increase, way above the rate of inflation. The Common Council knocked it down to a 2.5% increase.

The other day my wife asked a nearby neighbor if he had filled out the survey. His response came immediately, and I’m paraphrasing.

“If they need more money then why don’t they do what every family in America does and CUT something?!”

The survey does ask if the city should consider cuts as opposed to a tax increase to handle what we’re told will be an increase in demand for emergency services.

But c’mon. Does anyone who has lived here for some time and has been paying attention actually believe the city will cut anything?

It’s not that much

When you add the tax increase onto the schools, the county, the MMSD, etc, yes, it matters.


Apparently the mayor and City Hall are in possession of some crystal ball informing and alarming them that the need for services will increase dramatically and that the city just won’t be able to handle it.

This assertion sets up the elderly to be the scapegoats and too many are now of that mindset.

It’s ok to be flat out opposed.

I know I am and I can live with that.

I’ve never ripped the police or fire departments in Franklin and I was about to start. They deserve our undying gratitude and respect.  But this effort geared towards a referendum and ultimate tax increase is NOT the way to resolve this matter. Years of poor planning should not result in punishing the already beleaguered Franklin taxpayers.

And now the Franklin Police Department has been dragged into this, lobbying on their Facebook page. I can’t speak for the police but I can only think they’re not thrilled at having to go political.

Bottom line

You’re being scammed, Franklin.

From the expenditure for the survey to whom the city hired to the survey’s wording to the long-term intent of the city (which is a referendum) to the city’s talking point that if residents say yes, then the city is not complicit. Taxpayers did it to themselves.

We pay for emergency services. It’s called the property tax. The people who were elected who have the authority need to fix this. It’s their responsibility. If they can’t, or if their only answer is to increase taxes, they need to step aside and let others take control.

AUGUST: The survey results. I blogged.

AUGUST: Franklin scheduled a referendum. I blogged.

OCTOBER: Franklin aldermen approved without telling anyone a police referendum was for 18 years, and still haven’t told anybody (until we asked).

NOVEMBER: The vote

I predicted the scaled-down referendum would pass. I was wrong.

No 57%  9,815
Yes 43% 7,512

This entire episode was botched and flawed from the beginning.

Adding police officers should have been addressed with the appropriate, usual method  done by local municipalities each and every year across the entire state…during annual budget deliberations.

Instead, here in Franklin, elected officials abandoned their responsibility they were elected to take on. They ignored making the tough decisions, took the Pontius Pilate approach, and punted their duty to the voters. We couldn’t do it. You make the call. Bail us out.

Franklin officials did what they do best. They foolishly spent money on a useless public survey that asked citizens for permission to hire the moon, including police, fire, and paramedics. They reacted with jaws on the sidewalk when informed by respondents that no, the city was asking for too much.

Interesting side notes. I work with two Franklin residents. They’ve lived in Franklin and paid exorbitant property taxes for many years. They never received the public safety surveys.

In addition, they both were unaware of this referendum.  When I spoke to them prior to the vote here’s what they told me.

1) He was not surprised as his eyes rolled. Not happy about lack of transparency or being informed. Not happy about 18-year automatic tax increase.

2) She immediately said she was voting NO, and would do so to be consistent with past votes on referendum questions. Her view (God love her) is that a referendum usually calls for a tax/spending increase.

December: The referendum fallout

The Journal Sentinel reported that the Franklin Police Department would drop the D.A.R.E. program and remove a patrol officer to switch that person to detective.

The newspaper said Franklin Police Chief Rick Oliva isn’t angry, just disappointed.

“Apparently, they (residents) didn’t want a full-service police department,” he said.


1) ?
2) Police referendum rejected
3) Reassessments outrage
4) Logsdon upsets incumbent Taylor
5) Police? No. A remodeled City Hall? YES
6) Like it or not Franklin, you’re getting another roundabout
7) Franklin OKs K4
8) Franklin fights but loses on Dark Store loophole
9) Finally Franklin admits they’ve got a developer problem
10) Fun, Fun, Fun in Franklin


This past summer had Franklin residents concerned that big-time reassessments would soon be heading their way. They were right to worry.

When reassessments came in the mail in 2017 people were ticked, commenting on social media like crazy about having done zippo on their land and properties, only to see values skyrocket. The increases were outrageous increases, one as high as $116,000.

The ugly scenario repeated itself in July of this year.

On a Franklin Facebook page Mayor Olson waged in on a rather intense discussion about the reassessments Franklin property owners received in the mail. From the page:

Re-assessment does not necissarily mean an increase in taxes.

Excuse me?

He actually wrote that?

Yes he did.

Technically the mayor was right.

But it’s still a LOL moment.

A colleague of mine who is a Franklin resident and has worked in banking and finances his entire career nearly spit out his teeth when I told him about our mayor’s comment.

Indeed. Who does he think he’s snowing?

Look, the odds are pretty tremendous that when a reassessment goes up, and the average increase in Franklin reportedly was just under 6%,  your taxes are going up.

Advantage Credit Counseling Service, Inc. (ACCS) is an agency that provides private, confidential budget, credit counseling as well as a special debt management program.

They dedicated a very informative page on their website to reassessments. Some of the key highlights:

  • As many as 60 percent of properties across the country are over assessed, according to the National Taxpayers Union.
  • Homeowners can lower the assessed value of their home by filing an official appeal with the assessment office.
  • However, only 2 to 3 percent of homeowners actually attempt an appeal, and usually only 20 to 40 percent of those appeals are successful.

The powers that be will tell you the process is fair and accurate. I submit it’s a scam with the true motivation being to over-tax you, and I’m not alone.


1) ?
2) ?
3) Reassessments outrage
4) Logsdon upsets incumbent Taylor
5) Police? No. A remodeled City Hall? YES
6) Like it or not Franklin, you’re getting another roundabout
7) Franklin OKs K4
8) Franklin fights but loses on Dark Store loophole
9) Finally Franklin admits they’ve got a developer problem
10) Fun, Fun, Fun in Franklin


At the start of 2018 Franklin alderman Steve Taylor knew he’d have a contested race for his Milwaukee County supervisor seat. His opponent would be retired accountant Patti Logsdon of Franklin who has been active in GOP circles for many years.

Logsdon ran against Taylor in 2016 and lost big time. So Taylor knew his opponent, but he and the rest of us had no idea of the political storm brewing.

On February 6, 2018, Milwaukee Journal columnist Dan Bice wrote:

(Milwaukee County Executive Chris) Abele is funding a new political committee with the apparent aim of remaking the County Board more to his liking. 

The fledging committee has some supervisors on their heels.

No one has a bigger target on his back than (Theodore) Lipscomb.

Abele also put up digital ads targeting the districts of eight supervisors. 

Leadership MKE is an independent expenditure committee, so it must also disclose its activities under state law. 

So far, the group has reported it had spent nearly $20,000 on mailers and other items critical of three incumbents, (Peggy) West and Supervisors David Sartori and Steve F. Taylor.

I asked Taylor to provide me a statement in response. In an exclusive, here it is, unedited, in its entirety:

It appears County Executive Chris Abele and his Dad’s money are the real opponents in my re-election.  I have never seen another elected official besides Abele invest money or political capital like this before.  It doesn’t surprise me because I won’t support issues like his $60 wheel tax or his paid parking in the parks.  I won’t go along with closing pools, scaring our seniors or threatening to close homeless shelters because the County Executive didn’t get his way. 

Abele obviously doesn’t care that I have been a strong voice of the taxpayers and of my district.  It doesn’t matter that I listened when the voters in Franklin, Hales Corners and Oak Creek rejected his wheel tax by almost 90%.  It doesn’t matter that I have a good working relationship with my colleagues which has resulted in many public road and park improvements in my district. 

No, Abele wants all or nothing.  Abele wants to get his way 100% of the time or he targets those who stand up to him.  This is very scary for those whom I represent because he wouldn’t be spending money to attack me or produce puff pieces for my opponent unless she is willing to take orders.  My opponent will be a rubber stamp of the County Executive’s policies.  That much is clear.  

Voters shouldn’t be fooled by the shiny mailers they will receive or the robo calls they will most likely get in the next two months.  Voters should ask themselves why?  Lately we have seen Chris Abele act more and more like a petulant child who has used his family’s wealth to get whatever he wants and he doesn’t like that I have told him NO.  That’s Why!!

I don’t live in the 9th supervisory district. However I was a very interested observer in this race that got ugly fast. In 2016 I supported Logsdon. Not so this time.

In an effort to unseat Taylor, Logsdon went extremely negative. An online Logsdon campaign ad I saw had the narrator bringing up some of Taylor’s past indiscretions that I won’t get into that occurred  many, many years ago.

If the intent was to be personally savage and brutal the ad succeeded.

Throughout my professional career that has been loaded with politics, either reporting, blogging, or talking about it, I have steadfastly held that negative campaigning is appropriate.

That is, if it’s true. And I would add an additional caveat. If it’s relevant.

There were constant, almost daily attack pieces mailed to voters, bankrolled by Abele’s committee.

Logsdon said little during the campaign, leaving Supervisor Deanna Alexander to act as her spokeswoman. Alexander defended Logsdon, claiming Logsdon’s campaign wasn’t putting out the negative literature, that it was the work of others. I submit that Logsdon was complicit. Neither she nor Alexander condemned the trashy lit pieces.

Shortly before the election Alexander went public with a lengthy attack piece posted on her own website where she alleged Taylor screamed at her when the two were heading into a private meeting downtown, castigated her in the elevator up to the meeting, and continued to embarrass her at the meeting.

An elected official blasting another colleague, in public and/or at a private meeting, isn’t exactly anything new.

Alexander hoped to get some mileage when she pitched it to WISN’s Mark Belling but she had to be disappointed when the topic came up on March 26, 2018. Here’s an excerpt of Belling’s on-air commentary.

I find likeability to be about at the bottom of what I care about in a politician.

I would much rather vote for a jerk I agree with than the nicest person in the world I disagree with.

So if Steve can be a jerk or if he rubs some people the wrong way, that in my mind is not a reason to vote against him.

First of all there’s two sides to every story.  So he yelled at her and he was acting like a jackass.

Deanna’s putting all this stuff that Steve’s a dink and maybe he is.

My reaction to all that is so what. So he’s a dink.

Is he a good county board member which is a better question and the thing that voters down there need to react to.

Belling went on to say that Logsdon might be the better choice, but he didn’t come close to dismissing Taylor.

The negativity never stopped. Taylor was outspent by a ton and lost as Logsdon captured close to 53% of the vote. Chris Abele’s biggest target, Theo Lipscomb the major difference between the two Taylor/Logsdon races was the $129,069 that Abele’s Leadership MKE spent in support of Logsdon this past spring.

As 2018 comes to a close Taylor hasn’t kept it much of a secret that he will run again.

Meanwhile Alexander has sued Taylor according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel claiming he played  a role in getting her fired from a state position. The case is still under under review.


1) ?
2) ?
3) ?
4) Logsdon upsets incumbent Taylor
5) Police? No. A remodeled City Hall? YES
6) Like it or not Franklin, you’re getting another roundabout
7) Franklin OKs K4
8) Franklin fights but loses on Dark Store loophole
9) Finally Franklin admits they’ve got a developer problem
10) Fun, Fun, Fun in Franklin



In the wacky world of Franklin politics, crazy stuff happens.

You could explain it to friends and their response would be, “No way. You’re pulling my leg. You’re making that up.”

For example, the same city that taxes its residents annually to death, that spends too much, that scams homeowners with exorbitant property reassessments, and that couldn’t find a way to fund important police and fire protection so it went to a botched public survey that resulted in a failed referendum,  still breathlessly and shamelessly went public in 2018 claiming City Hall needed a new costly roof.

Here’s a brief synopsis of the roof issue:

  • The Franklin Common Council met in early October to consider doing what they do best: spend money.
  • On the agenda:  spending money to remodel Franklin’s City Hall
  • The timing: The vote came after,
  1. The mayor announced a property tax increase in his proposed budget and,
  2. The Common Council ruled in favor of a November referendum to add police officers because it couldn’t find a way to budget for those officers.
  • The Common Council tied on a vote to choose the most expensive remodel option.
  • Mayor Olson broke the tie with a “yes” vote.

Of course the mayor broke the tie. He also broke a tie to spend money on designing a new roundabout near the high school ( see our previous TOP TEN story).

Erik Hanley of was at the Common Council meeting and committed as Charlie Sykes used to say,  “a flagrant act of journalism” by reporting on what actually happened. This of course rankled some folks at City Hall who don’t like transparency, that is the public knowing what they do. In this particular case that would be the mayor.

Hanley posted his article on the Franklin Area Community Facebook page. That also upset the mayor who ironically loves social media, but apparently not so much when his ox is being gored.

We’ll get to the mayor’s reaction, but here’s a sampling of the comments left on that Franklin Facebook page. Before you read further make sure you read Hanley’s article.

Now to the Facebook comments.

Adding insult to injury.

Oak Creek official takes shot at Franklin

It’s bad enough that when it comes to economic growth Franklin is eating Oak Creek’s dust.  Then a Franklin controversy erupts and an Oak Creek official piles on.

In case you missed this it appeared in late October in the South Now insert in the Journal Sentinel paper:

Dear Editor

I was a little surprised to see Franklin officials willing to spend a million dollars to “beautify” their city hall, when they have just spent several years and a bundle of money to prevent the Oak Creek Water facility from upgrading the water plant.

That upgrade would have allowed the plant to meet state Department of Natural Resources requirements and improve reliability by replacing equipment  that is beyond its life expectancy and for which repair parts are no longer available.

They were assured there would be no increase in rates due to this project, but that made no difference. I guess it’s different when the shoe is on the other foot.

Gerald Wille
Oak Creeek Water Commissioner


Some background on the issue.

Franklin powers that be couldn’t find the means to hire police and fire. Wanna bet they get their roof?

A final note: One of the biggest laughs of 2018 reported by

Mayor Steve Olson countered, saying the city has a reputation for being frugal


1) ?
2) ?
3) ?
4) ?
5) Police? No. A remodeled City Hall? YES
6) Like it or not Franklin, you’re getting another roundabout
7) Franklin OKs K4
8) Franklin fights but loses on Dark Store loophole
9) Finally Franklin admits they’ve got a developer problem
10) Fun, Fun, Fun in Franklin



The Franklin Common Council voted 3-3 at its April 17, 2018 meeting to approve financing the design of a roundabout at 51st and Drexel just north of Franklin High School.

Aldermen Steve Taylor, Kristen Wilhelm and Mark Dandrea voted YES. Aldermen Dan Mayer, Mike Barber, and John Nelson voted NO.

Mayor Steve Olson then broke the tie by voting in favor.

The approval meant the city would spend $89,933.78 to have the firm R.A. Smith design a one-lane roundabout at the intersection.

The resolution presented to the council at the meeting noted that 51st and Drexel is a heavily congested intersection in Franklin. The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) in its analysis of the intersection determined that a single lane roundabout design is the most appropriate solution for that location.

Prior to the vote some residents spoke in opposition.

One woman said during the citizen comment period the proposed roundabout was  “too close to the high school and fire station.” She asked other residents to attend the meeting to speak out but they told her it wouldn’t do any good.

“They don’t listen to us, they already have their minds made up,” she was told.

Another woman voiced concern that accidents would increase at the intersection because of a roundabout.

Mayor Olson said the issue boiled down to leadership.

“You make your decision based on what’s best for the community in the long term.”

Aware that motorists may not know how to maneuver the roundabout, including senior citizens (Claire Meadows Senior Apartments is right down the street on 51st), Olson noted that he recently traveled to Rome, drove through a roundabout there, and he was “just fine.”

Well then, I guess the entire matter is settled, right?

Olson then continued with an ill-conceived statement that rightfully riled many residents.

“Seniors complain they don’t like roundabouts. Well, how much longer are they going to drive? I’m sorry. It’s a plain fact,” said Olson.

Alderman Steve Taylor argued doing nothing is not an option and that motorists would be able to handle the roundabout.

“I think the residents of Franklin are pretty smart,” said Taylor.

Is that intersection unsafe?

Proponents of the roundabout at 51st and Drexel, just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Franklin High School might claim/believe it will make the intersection safer.

They’d be wrong.

Following the tie-breaking vote by Mayor Olson I asked Franklin Police Chief Rick Oliva to supply me with data about serious accidents that have occurred at the intersection dating back the past ten years. The chief responded quickly via e-mail.

“We can’t search specifically for the intersection.  We have to search the hundred blocks east-west and north-south of the intersection.”

Chief Oliva continued.

“In the last 10 years there was one personal injury accident in the 5000 block of W. Drexel.  There were 6 property damage only accidents in the hundred blocks E-W and N-S. Since you’re looking for serious accidents, it would only be the one.”

Thank you, Chief Oliva.

Seems if you’re approaching this matter from a public safety perspective it’d be best to just leave well enough alone.

Last August the Wisconsin State Journal reported the following that like Oliva’s information blows holes in the contentions of the pro-roundabout crowd:

A study of 30 roundabouts in the state completed by (Andrea) Bill, (a traffic safety engineer at the Wisconsin Traffic Operations and Safety Laboratory at UW-Madison) in 2013 that looked at crashes three years before and four years after they opened showed that 23 had more crashes after they opened.

Overall, there were 572 crashes four years after the 30 roundabouts opened versus 311 during the three years before the intersections were converted. Of those, 464 crashes resulting in property damage occurred after the roundabouts opened versus 194 before they opened. Both periods saw similar numbers of accidents with injuries.

Bill was also quoted that she thinks, she thinks there will be fewer crashes. And that could be. But it hasn’t happened. Au contraire, just the opposite has taken place with roundabouts.

The roundabout at 51st and Drexel is unnecessary ($89,000 just for the design services) and may very well cause MORE crashes given the data we have at our disposal.

This argument for roundabouts is lame

My blog about the roundabout back in April caused a virtual explosion on social media. Lots of folks who are giddy about the roundabout are sticking it to the opposition.

Learn to live with it.


Get used to it.

Learn how to drive in it.

Excuse me is right.

Learn to live with it?


Get used to it?

Learn how to drive in it?

Seems the anti-roundabout folks can say the same to the bunch that despises the four-way stop that’s been around for, well, forever.

Learn to live with it.


Get used to it.

Learn how to drive in it.

Finally, let’s not forget the larger issue at hand

The city of Franklin did very little to inform the general public about this item beyond the required meeting notices.

Whenever BallPark Commons needed to kiss rings for even the slightest approval everybody in town seemed to know about it.

Not so with the roundabout.

Franklin Mayor Steve Olson and Common Council members Steve Taylor and Kristen Wilhelm all voted for the roundabout. They are all actively involved  in social media. Yet none of them to my knowledge (and I could be wrong because I don’t monitor everything they post) published anything prior to the meetings.

You, Private Citizen, are supposed to check the city website, check the meeting agendas, come to meetings, ask questions and make public comments (good luck getting an answer or response other than “thank you”). The powers that be know that 99.99% of residents don’t do any of that, and submit it’s their fault for not being informed.

So the roundabout matter was settled quickly, a lot of money was spent unnecessarily,  and there are some hoping this will die down and go away, banking on Franklin’s citywide political apathy.

Opposed to the roundabout? Not happy with how it all came down? Once again in 2018 you were served a big heaping helping of how things are done in Franklin. On April 17 the Common Council did what it does best. It voted to spend a lot of money that I submit could very well be unnecessary and result in less, not more safety.

The design services have been approved so this issue is just a formality. Next will be the actual construction that is planned to begin after the last day of school for the 2018-19 school year (June 7, 2019) with the project set for completion prior to the start of school that fall (mid-August 2019).


1) ?
2) ?
3) ?
4) ?
5) ?
6) Like it or not Franklin, you’re getting another roundabout
7) Franklin OKs K4
8) Franklin fights but loses on Dark Store loophole
9) Finally Franklin admits they’ve got a developer problem
10) Fun, Fun, Fun in Franklin



Our #7 selection was also Franklin’s most under-reported story, getting almost zero coverage in 2018.

On October 24, 2018, the Franklin School Board voted 6-1 to approve implementing a four-year-old kindergarten program. Board member Larry Gamble was the lone “no” vote.

A source close to Franklin Public Schools told me he was very surprised this issue that had been researched for several months didn’t get more attention and public scrutiny.

“Putting a 4K program in place makes sense, not only for the district but for the Franklin community as a whole,” said Board of Education President, Janet Evans. “I think we take for granted that all Franklin students have access to 4K through the excellent private preschool choices in the community. The reality is that not all students do, due to finances, transportation, or other family reasons. The decision we made gives all 4K families access to an equal learning opportunity.”

“Research has shown that students who attend preschool compared to students who do not participate, generally have a greater degree of success in school and in life,” said the Director of Teaching & Learning at Franklin Public Schools, Chris Reuter.

Following the vote,  Board Vice President Tim Nielson delivered quite the overstatement, calling it “a historic day” for Franklin.

There are pros and cons when it comes to the concept of K4.

Preschool programs are intended to offer families of all financial backgrounds with more supportive educational options for children of a younger age. There is, however, a benefit seen for lower-income families who aren’t able to secure adequate child care, resulting in children left at home with televisions instead of teachers.

According to “Head Start,” children enrolled in early education programs receive a variety of benefits, such as: “school readiness by focusing on the child’s development in: language and literacy, early math, social skills, self-help, nature and science;  daily meals; close review of health history; active ‘hands on’ involvement in learning.”

Darcy Ann Olsen has a different perspective. She was director of education and child policy at the Cato Institute where she explored education reform policies and private initiatives to strengthen the K-12 educational system.  Prior to joining Cato Olsen served as a transitional house manager for the D.C. Coalition for the Homeless.

Olsen has written:

Most advocates of public preschool argue that early schooling of low-income children is an investment that pays off in the long term by reducing the number of children who will perform poorly in school, become teenage parents, commit criminal acts, or depend on welfare. Other advocates of public preschool see it as a way to subsidize child care.

Experience provides little reason to believe universal preschool would significantly benefit children, regardless of family income. For nearly 40 years, local, state, and federal governments and diverse private sources have funded early intervention programs for low-income children, and benefits to the children have been few and fleeting. There is also evidence that middle-class children gain little, if anything, from preschool. Benefits to children in public preschools are unlikely to be greater or more enduring.

Public preschool for younger children is irresponsible, given the failure of the public school system to educate the children currently enrolled. The desire to ‘do something’ for young children should be tempered by the facts, and proposals for universal preschool should be rejected.

It must be emphasized that Franklin is not a failing school system. However the question raised about K4 across America can also appropriately be asked here: Should taxpayers be paying for services they may not be using?

There is also the inescapable assertion that K4 essentially amounts to subsidized glorified daycare.

Franklin plans to run the 4K program next fall in each of the five district elementary schools and will be offered as both a.m. and p.m. half-day sessions. Registration has already begun.

During a presentation to the board at its October 24th meeting it was mentioned that K4 would result in a slight tax increase initially, but then taxes would decrease. Sorry, but I’m unaware of any government program, especially one of this size, that will reduce taxes.

In the end there was a larger issue at play here again. The School Board that rarely displays any independent thinking one more time rubber stamped an administration directive. Maybe in 2019 the taxpayer-elected board will finally understand the administration works for them, not vice versa.

At the October 24, 2018 board meeting after the 6-1 vote was taken on K4 the small crowd in attendance made up mostly of Franklin school officials clapped enthusiastically in support.

Ultimately K4 could work and be quite popular in Franklin. As policy analyst Olsen noted, though, K4 is not a golden ticket. There’s plenty of ammunition for a two-sided debate that can be heated when it comes to this topic. But in apathetic Franklin that wasn’t the case during 2018.


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7) Franklin OKs K4
8) Franklin fights but loses on Dark Store loophole
9) Finally Franklin admits they’ve got a developer problem
10) Fun, Fun, Fun in Franklin

The District plans to run the 4K program in each of the five district elementary schools and will be offered as both a.m. and p.m. half-day sessions.

“We are very excited to offer Four-year-old kindergarten in the fall,” said Dr. Judy Mueller, Superintendent of Franklin Public Schools. “As a district, much of our focus is on the important work of equity, personal growth, stewardship, and wellbeing. With 4K in place next fall, we will make great progress in these areas.”

Registration will begin in early December. Residents can follow the district Facebook page, @franklinpublicschools, or check-in regularly at for information regarding how to register.


The “Dark Stores” loophole.

The terminology just sounds so ominous. What’s it mean? It’s complicated.

Large retailers contend their property tax assessments should include the values of similar vacant or “dark” stores. However local government advocates say that reasoning doesn’t make sense.

“That would be like me assessing your house as if it were foreclosed, abandoned and boarded up. These are active, growing, thriving businesses on busy street corners in downtown Wisconsin,” said Jerry Deschane, executive director with the Wisconsin League of Municipalities. “They’re being valued at what they’re actually worth, not what theoretically they would be worth if they were vacant.”

Essentially big retailers have sued local municipalities, arguing their property assessments were too high. The courts have regularly ruled in favor of the retailers. Thus, municipalities that lost in court have to repay the businesses what they over-charged. Local leaders have resorted to the following talking points.

Big corporations.

They are bad.

They are evil.

They do not pay their fair share.

Because big, bad corporations are evil and don’t pay their fair share, who suffers? That’s right. You, the little guy.

You have to pay higher taxes because big, bad, evil corporations don’t pay enough.

We’ve tried to fix this but the big, bad state of Wisconsin won’t listen to us.

It’s such an easy case to make. But it’s not automatically correct.

Lots of local officials around the state, including Franklin mayor Steve Olson and Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett spent a great deal of time lobbying against the so-called “loophole.” So they were mighty upset that legislative leaders in Madison early in 2018 said legislation to address the so-called “dark store” tax loophole was dead for the current legislative session.

Olson presides over a city in Franklin that has a horrendous business climate. Yet he continues to fight openly, publicly against businesses located in his city.

The mayor pleads innocence, that he’s not bashing businesses like Menards. That’s laughable, especially when he publicly states places like Menards “own” the legislative leadership in Madison that refuse to schedule the bills he supports because of their financial contributions to said legislative leaders.

I’m stunned Olson would make such inflammatory and irresponsible remarks.

Olson fired back on social media.

I’ve been trying to raise public awareness of the efforts by big box stores to reduce their property assessments and property tax bills due to a loophole in state law. My post with the picture of the refund check to Lowes reached more than 40,000 readers.
Steve Olson’s Facebook page, 2/23/18

While the State Legislature is pushing through bills with little meaning for taxpayers municipalities are writing checks to big box stores who have sued us using a bad court interpretation of the STATE tax manual allowing them to reduce their property assessments by a lot. I was sick to my stomach this afternoon signing the first of two checks to Lowes after they sued Franklin. This one for $25k and the next for about $35k. YOUR money. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and John Menard own the legislature leadership. You get to pay the bill.
Mayor Steve Olson’s Facebook page, 2/16/18

I was sick to my stomach this afternoon signing the first of two checks to Lowes after they sued Franklin.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) offered some common sense when he spoke to the Racine Journal Times.

Vos said he’s skeptical of the legislation.

“I don’t believe we should be raising taxes on anybody,” Vos said. “Whether they own a business, a dark store, a shopping mall, a home … unfortunately, I think what they’re hoping to do is try to have business pay higher taxes and I’m just concerned about that.”

Vos, however, said that there are some abuses that need to be fixed.

“I certainly believe we need to have assessors do a better job … but I’m not sure that this bill is the right answer for that problem,” Vos said.

As far as the loophole shifting the tax burden to property owners, Vos said that is not true.

“Businesses today pay a higher percentage of the overall property tax burden than they did 10 years ago,” Vos said. “If that’s true, we would have seen the opposite and we’re not. I think that’s an example of rhetoric getting ahead of the reality.”

Vos said he would like to see the issue evaluated in greater depth to find a more appropriate solution.

“I would prefer to take the summer to do a study to try to determine the best way to solve this problem,” Vos said. “It’s going to take time and study to find the proper answer, and I think this is people looking for a political solution to say they did something rather than looking for the right answer.”

The bills were dead as of February.  Franklin didn’t toss in the towel. They spent more money.

Mayor Steve Olson had proposed a referendum:

“A Resolution  Scheduling  an  Election  for  an  Advisory  Referendum  that  Recommends the  State  Legislature  Protect  Local  Businesses,  Apartment  Owners,  and  Homeowners from  Property  Tax  Burden  Shifts  by  Passing  Legislation  to  Close  Property  Tax Loopholes Related to the “Dark Store” and Walgreens v. City of Madison Commercial Property Valuation and Taxation Interpretations.”

You will  note the incredibly biased spin of that wording.

To their credit the Franklin Common Council voted 4-1 in August against placing the referendum on the ballot. Alderman Dan Mayer was the lone affirmative vote.


No one in Wisconsin has been following this issue more than Scott Manley of the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. I worked with him for many years when we both were employed by the Wisconsin State Senate. Manley is extremely sharp, and quite frankly, I trust him more than anyone else on this matter.

On  a whim I called my old colleague Manley back in March and asked him if he was pursuing any update on this story.

At that time Manley told me he just finished writing an op-ed piece he was going to pitch to local newspapers. Manley forwarded me his op-ed piece:

Dark Store Issue is Really About Higher Taxes

Everybody loves an underdog, and that’s especially true when a storyline pits the “little guy” versus a large corporation.

This is the narrative local governments have spun in the so-called “dark stores” debate.  They’ve positioned the issue as greedy corporations attempting to shift their tax burden to homeowners.  This makes for an interesting story, but it’s simply not true.

In reality, there are two indisputable facts that have been left out of the debate on this issue.  First, the property tax burden has actually shifted from homeowners to businesses over the last decade – the exact opposite of what your local politicians have likely told you.

Second, the dark store legislation is an effort to legalize tax hikes on businesses that assessors have been attempting to impose, illegally, for more than a decade.

This debate isn’t about “closing a loophole” or forcing someone to “pay their fair share.”  It’s about local governments wanting to tax to the max and villainize the businesses that provide jobs in their communities.

Let’s look at the data from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue. From 2008 to 2017, the share of residential property taxes statewide has actually decreased 2.4 percent. On the contrary, the share of property taxes paid by businesses has increased by more than 10 percent over the same time period.

In other words, if property tax collections were a pie, the slice from homeowners has gotten smaller, while the slice from businesses has increased.  Any politician who tells you businesses are shifting their burden to homeowners is simply wrong.

Why are businesses paying more?  It’s due in part because some assessors have unlawfully raised the property assessment of businesses by inappropriately adding the value of certain lease payments to the value of the land and building.  The Supreme Court declared this practice illegal in 2008, but that hasn’t stopped assessors from continuing their efforts to impose this illegal tax hike on businesses.

Some politicians have criticized businesses for challenging these unlawful assessments — as if it’s their patriotic duty to be overtaxed.

Keep in mind that cities, towns and villages have a self-interest in assessing property higher because it means they can collect more taxes.  That’s why it’s so important that our laws allow property owners to challenge their assessment with an unbiased third-party review to ensure fairness and adherence to the law.

When these disputes go to court, businesses consistently win because the higher assessment was not lawfully imposed.  The courts then force the local government to give back the amount of the tax that never should have been collected in the first place.

It’s frustrating that local officials complain about having to give back money they illegally took from property owners.  After being forced to return the money they had no authority to take in the first place, local governments then have the gall to complain that businesses aren’t paying their fair share.

Here’s some advice to local officials: if you don’t like paying back money that you took illegally, and if you don’t like paying legal fees when taxpayers take you to court to get their money back, just follow the law.

Instead of following the law, local officials are looking to change it.

They’re vigorously lobbying for a new law that will allow them to raise taxes in a manner the courts have consistently told them they cannot do.  They’re asking the legislature to give them taxing authority that no other state in the country has allowed.

This municipal “tax to the max” scheme is so bad, even big-taxing Governor Jim Doyle had the good sense to veto the idea in 2009.

There are many other concerns with these bills, including unconstitutionality, which I cannot mention in the limited space afforded by this column.  I will, however, give an example.

Through no fault of their own, and with no changes to their land or building, Badger Meter’s facility in Mount Pleasant would see a $68,000 per year increase in their property taxes if the dark store bills became law.

Raising taxes on homegrown companies like Badger Meter, who are actively bringing workers back to our state, is not the way to make Wisconsin prosperous.  It also happens to be incredibly unfair.

WMC negotiated a compromise prohibiting a vacant property that is dilapidated or distressed from being used as a comparable for assessment purposes.  Lobbyists for local governments could have taken that compromise and declared a legislative victory.  They rejected that compromise because that’s not what this issue is really about.

Instead, they’re holding out for the oppressive tax-hiking authority that no other state is willing to authorize.  Governor Doyle rejected this idea before, and the legislature should reject it again.
—-Scott Manley, WMC

A new legislative session begins in Madison in January. “Dark Store” legislation will be proposed again, and our mayor will be in search of TV cameras. The same Republican leaders who killed the legislation this year are back in their same leadership roles.


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8) Franklin fights but loses on Dark Store loophole
9) Finally Franklin admits they’ve got a developer problem
10) Fun, Fun, Fun in Franklin


Local government meetings conducted during the dog days of summer generally aren’t very interesting. That was not the case at a Franklin Common Council meeting in August of 2014 as the mayor and aldermen got an earful. It came during the usually quiet and often predictable opening citizen’s comment period.

A member of Franklin’s Economic Development Commission, Craig Haskins said he was able to secure a report from Milwaukee County’s Economic Development Director Teig Whaley-Smith about retail leakage in Franklin. I considered the findings stunning and the quintessential wake-up call.

“Fifty percent of every dollar spent on food and beverage in Franklin is spent outside of Franklin,” said Haskins. “Ninety-two percent of every clothing purchase is spent outside of Franklin. This is by Franklin residents.

“Any home furnishings, between 43% and 53% (are spent outside of Franklin). These are some dollars Franklin is missing,” said Haskins.

Information Haskins said he received from both the Buxton Company that deals with business analytics and Milwaukee County indicates “Franklin residents spend about $500-million a tear on retail, food, and trade. Only about half of that is spent within the city of Franklin.”

Former Franklin Mayor Fred Klimetz advised the aldermen to be open-minded.

“I’m going to encourage everyone on the Council not to have tunnel vision and not to say we’re going to focus solely on retail and we’re not going to consider other options,” said Klimetz, who added that included an approach that only looked at a business park.

Another former mayor, Tom Taylor concurred with Klimetz.

“Don’t close the door,” said Taylor. “Look at everything. Yes, a business park is needed, perhaps three of them. But you also have to bring in retail. You have to do everything to try to hold down the price of taxes.”

Steve Olson, Franklin’s current mayor is an advocate for a business park. Then Milwaukee County Supervisor Steve Taylor who lost to Olson in 2014’s mayoral election had a cautionary note for his past colleagues on the Council.

“What I’m not hearing is we want another business park. Don’t let him (Olson) push you down a path you do not want to go.”

During his commentary, Tom Taylor reiterated his support for a minor league stadium pushed by The Rock earlier that year. The Franklin Common Council had quickly rejected The Rock proposal after emerging from a closed session in April 2014. Mike Zimmerman of The Rock said ever since then he had been waiting for an alternative from city leaders.

“One-hundred twenty days have gone by and I hear no strategy. No movement,” said Zimmerman. “At what point is this group going to say ‘this is our strategy, this is what we’re going to be doing in terms of retail’.”

That was more than four years ago and nothing’s changed in our city. Some developers have been very frank publicly about how difficult it is and has been to work and do business with Franklin officials.

And then last week a real stunner was reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. My automatic reaction was laughter.

Franklin trying to shed image and become more attractive to developers

But as I read on I realized the importance. At the same time I’m not sold at all. These are words. Action followed by results…if and when that happens I’ll be convinced.

Consider from the article:

Changes were implemented in the city’s inspection department — one as simple as a name change from “Building Inspection” to “Inspection Services” to highlight how the city wants to be helpful and to serve, not be an obstacle.

That’s just marketing wishful thinking. A shift in nomenclature is meaningless.

Still, it’s nice to see Franklin officials led by Mayor Steve Olson finally emerge from their cave of denial.

Unfortunately they’re 10-15 years too late.


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9) Finally Franklin admits they’ve got a developer problem
10) Fun, Fun, Fun in Franklin



Franklin has little to make it a destination spot.

Yes, we are proud to have Kayla’s Playground. The Rock.

And Ballpark Commons is just around the corner.

But when it comes to restaurants, retail, etc., Franklin is a veritable ghost town.

Why come visit Franklin?

At least for one night in 2018, Franklin was a very cool place to be.

     Seniors:  type in SENIOR to receive your special ticket and parking prices from August 5th through August 11th;     All others:  type in BEACHBOYS to receive 10% OFF tickets and parking through August 20th!   Use promo code BEACHBOYS for 10% off your order!  CLICK HERE     : The Southwestern Suburban Symphony Pops in concert with  #TheBeachBoys !   The SWSS looks forward to jamming with the Beach Boys LIVE in Franklin at the Milwaukee County Sports Complex on Saturday, August 25th, 2018! Show starts 7:30pm!   For five decades, The Beach Boys — America’s first pop band to reach the 50-year milestone — has recorded and performed the music that has become the world’s favorite soundtrack to summer.   Conductor Christine Flash and The Southwestern Suburban Symphony Pops invites you to join us locally for the best "Good Vibrations" concert of the summer!  Tickets available at   * Sponsorship & Volunteer Opportunities Available   

The Southwestern Suburban Symphony Pops in concert with the Beach Boys!

The SWSS jammed with the Beach Boys LIVE in Franklin at the Milwaukee County Sports Complex on Saturday, August 25th, 2018.

For five decades, The Beach Boys — America’s first pop band to reach the 50-year milestone — has recorded and performed the music that has become the world’s favorite soundtrack to summer.

Conductor Christine Flash and The Southwestern Suburban Symphony Pops invited folks to join them for the best “Good Vibrations” concert of the summer!

The concert was held at an appropriate time as the famous group issued a new release.

The Beach Boys With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was the band’s new orchestral album and their first venture into classical music. They let the Royal Philharmonic perform over some of their original vocal work.

From that new album…

Booking the Beach Boys in Franklin in 2018 was a very big deal.


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10) Fun, Fun, Fun in Franklin