Wednesday, February 28, 2007

April Ballot Placement

Here is the order in which the candidate names for Mayor and Common Council will appear on the April Oshkosh ballot:

Oshkosh Mayor: (Vote for not more than One)

Frank Tower

Paul J. Esslinger


Oshkosh Common Council (Vote for not more than Three)

Jessica J. King

Bob Cornell

Bryan L. Bain

Mark C. Nielsen

Tony Palmeri

Meredith Scheuermann

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Election Day Registration INCREASES Voter Turnout

From the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign:


For anyone interested in increasing voter turnout, two recent studies agree there is a proven strategy – election day registration.

Both reports – one done by electionline.org and the other by the national group Demos – document 10% to 12% higher turnout in states that have EDR (Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Wyoming) compared to states that don't allow eligible voters to register on the day of the election.

On the other hand, academic research done by scholars at Rutgers and Ohio State universities shows that making voters jump through additional hoops such as requiring them to show photo ID in order to cast a ballot is a sure way to suppress turnout, as reported by the New York Times.

States that imposed such identification requirements on voters reduced turnout at the polls in the 2004 presidential election by about 3%, and by two to three times as much for racial or ethnic minorities, the study concluded.
___

Are you an Oshkosh resident not yet registered to vote? Information on how to register can be found here (scroll down). More information can be found on the State Elections Board site.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Fishing Pier and the Accountability Deficit

On the Eye on Oshkosh blog, Cheryl Hentz provides a summary and update on the Miller's Bay fishing pier. Most readers of this blog are aware of why that matter is controversial: the Common Council approved the pier on a Tuesday after the Parks Advisory Board, which has a member of the Otter Street Fishing Club on it, approved it only 24-hours before. Neighbors in the area were never given a meaningful opportunity to comment on the pier location.

The entire matter is just one more symptom of the accountability deficit we've been experiencing in local government. As with the garbage tax, the angel in the park, the Five Rivers resort closed meeting, and many other matters, the pattern is this: Vote First, Talk to Citizens and Ask Questions Later.

I don't think wanting a Council that talks to citizens and asks questions before voting is asking for too much. And talking to citizens means more than waiting for their phone calls; sometimes the elected official needs to get out there to alert people to what is going on in their own community.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Tourism Dollars: Oshkosh v. Sheboygan

In Oshkosh, the Oshkosh Convention and Visitors Bureau is proposing that the city establish the highest room tax in the state in order to create a capital development fund for tourism related projects.

In Sheboygan, where the city last year took over tourism promotion from the Sheboygan Chamber of Commerce, room tax collections saw a 9.3% increase from 2005 to 2006.

Oshkosh Convention and Visitors Bureau reps will be making the case for the tax increase at a workshop after the next Council meeting. I want to hear their case before making a judgement on the proposal.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Happy Birthday FightingBob.Com

Ed Garvey's FightingBob.Com site is today 4 years old. Congratulations are due to Ed Garvey, who has been a passionate voice for the progressive cause for a long time. I voted for Ed for Governor in 1998, and not because he was a lesser evil than Tommy Thompson; he was just a good guy who would have served the state well.

The FightingBob.com site has enabled progressive leaning thinkers across the state to connect in a meaningful way. I know that every time I have had something published on the site, traffic on my site increases. Anyone interested in what I have written for FightingBob should check out this piece, along with this, and this.

Ed Garvey's a solid Democrat, but I did catch him at a Nader for President rally in 2000.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Road Ahead

First of all, many thanks to Kent Monte for running for City Council. I don't always agree with Kent on the issues, but admire the way he is able to balance the responsibilities of work and family with civic involvement. See Stephanie Barnard's profile of Kent and Michelle here.

As all readers of this blog already know, I finished second last night in the Common Council primary. A big THANK YOU to the voters and to my campaign volunteers. Here's Babblemur's coverage.

I'm under no illusions about the difficult road ahead to April 3rd. The field of candidates is strong, and I'm sure there will be lots of interest groups on all sides of the political spectrum trying to influence the outcome.

And as reported in yesterday's Northwestern, some candidates apparently intend to spend relatively huge sums of money for a local government seat.

I believe that word of mouth is still the best advertising, and it doesn't cost a dime. So over the next few weeks I will getting the word out about the campaign in as many face-to-face encounters as possible. If you support my campaign, please tell your friends and neighbors about it. Tell them that I stand for open and accountable government, quality public services delivered efficiently, and strong neighborhoods. Tell them to call me at 235-1116 for more information, or email me at tony@tonypalmeri.com.

Thank you!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Please Vote On Feb. 20


I've been a resident of Oshkosh since 1989, and throughout most of that time I've had some serious disagreements with the Common Council on some core issues. Yet I've never run for a seat on the Council until now. Why?

The answer is simple: Even when in disagreement, in the past I always trusted that the Common Council and City Manager were sincerely working to uphold what they saw as the best interests of the citizens. With very few exceptions, candidates in campaigns spent little money to get elected and instead relied on hard work, reputation, and word of mouth to get their message out.

Today the trust is gone. A garbage tax, dubious closed meetings, two years wasted on a riverfront proposal that never had public support, faith based development, an obvious disconnect between the Manager and the Council; these and many other depressing events demonstrate beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Council no longer supports the everyday people who pay the bills.

I'm running because I want to see higher standards of performance and accountability from all city officials. What specific policies do I want to see put in place?:
  • I want to ensure that the peoples' business is done in open view, upholding both the letter and spirit of the open meetings law and state statutes. To do this I will sponsor regular forums and workshops which will instruct citizens on how to use the open records and open meetings laws.
  • I want to see the creation of a Budget Committee that would, year round, look for ways to guarantee the delivery of high quality public services at a reasonable cost.
  • I want to see the creation on an Economic Development Commission that would work on strategies to bring family supporting jobs to Oshkosh.
  • I want to see planning in Oshkosh take on the values of the "New Urbanist" movement that is based on developing neighborhoods that are pedestrian friendly and sustainable.
The election this year is about restoring trust to Oshkosh government. Even if we disagree with our elected officials, we ought to be able to trust that they are operating in the public interest as they see it and that they will stand by their votes. I want to restore that kind of trust to local government.

Please get out and vote tomorrow!

Friday, February 16, 2007

100 Block: Here We Go Again

Gee, here's a surprise (Not!) from today's Oshkosh Northwestern:

The 100 Block is on the block.

Ben Ganther, one of the owners of the company that built and operates the building at 100 N. Main St, announced Thursday that the building is for sale. In a statement, Ganther said the building "did not operate according to projections" and options to refinance or sell the building are being considered. According to the statement, a sale offer is being reviewed.

For the second year in a row, the 62-unit downtown apartment building ranked among the top properties in Oshkosh with delinquent property taxes, a Northwestern review showed.

Almost $147,000 in 2006 city property tax is owed on the 100 N. Main building

The building when it was built in 2002 was anticipated to be a cornerstone of downtown revitalization. Although more than $2 million was invested in it and 95 percent of its apartment units are now rented, the owners have had difficulty attracting commercial tenants for the ground floor.

The 100 Block development process was a forerunner of the Five Rivers Resort fiasco. In each case, we had the public systematically shut out of the development review process, we had the Common Council going into dubious closed sessions to make the project happen, and we had a city administration and council (not to mention local press) that refused to listen to logic and common sense about the prospects for such a development.

Last time the tax deadbeat issue came up, I posted this tax deadbeat timeline.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Love REALLY IS The Drug

From yesterday's Washington Post (registration required):

"Love is a drug," says Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University and author of "Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love." "The ventral tegmental area is a clump of cells that make dopamine, a natural stimulant, and sends it out to many brain regions" when one is in love. "It's the same region affected when you feel the rush of cocaine."

In her most recent research, Fisher and colleagues gave 32 love-struck subjects an MRI scan while they viewed a picture of their beloved.

Boy, did their brains light up!
There are two shrimp-size things on either side of your brain called the caudate nuclei. This is the gear that operates bodily movements and the body's reward system: "the mind's network for general arousal, sensations of pleasure, and the motivation to acquire rewards," Fisher writes. And when the test subjects looked at their sweeties, these things started singing "Loosen Up My Buttons" with the Pussycat Dolls!

A separate study by Italian researchers several years ago showed something else.
Serotonin, another neurotransmitter in the brain associated with obsession, depression and racing thoughts, was greatly affected -- right down to the molecular level -- by romance and surging dopamine. People newly in love and people with obsessive-compulsive disorder showed the same lowered levels of the "platelet 5-HT transporter." In other words, dopamine appears to suppress serotonin, which in turn triggers obsessive-compulsive thought patterns.


Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Yard Sign Tale

Politics brings out the worst in some people, most notably Internet trolls and scumbags who like to steal candidate yard signs or literature from doors.

Last night some of the aforementioned decided to rip up the Palmeri For Council yard signs in my front lawn and my next door neighbors'. I made nothing of it, except when I got back home from UW Oshkosh just now I noticed that my neighbors' sign was back up. Turns out that they picked up the pieces, taped them together, and replanted the sign. They are a super couple in their 80s, fully aware that mine is a low budget campaign, and didn't want me to just give them a new sign so that I would have more to spread elsewhere. I think that's really cool.

Maybe if the trolls and scumbags had friends like my neighbors, they might start to act like human beings.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Waiting on the World to Change

I was glad to see John Mayer win a grammy last night (for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance) for "Waiting on the World to Change." The song is a kind of anthem for the Wal-Mart generation, a plea to "think outside the big box" if you will. It features Mayer's most passionate vocals ever, and is one of the few modern pop songs that can inspire anything more than dancing feet or a yawn.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Doyle Budget Promises Increased Aid For Cities

In answer to a question posed by the Oshkosh Northwestern on levy limits, I said this: "The Democrats now control the governor’s office and the state Senate. Every Democrat elected in November including the governor said that they are either against local levy limits or for allowing levies to grow by more than 2%. City Councils across the state, including ours in Oshkosh, need to hold them to their word."

If a report in the Sunday Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is accurate, it looks like the governor is ready to keep his word and will call for allowing levies to grow by 4%. He'll also be proposing rewards for frugal local governments:

• Providing $88 million in potential bonus payments, starting in 2009, to be shared by local governments that increase their levies at 85% or less of the maximum allowed.
• Rewarding local governments that didn't levy all they could have in property taxes last year by letting them add those unused amounts to what they can levy this fall.

Neither of those rewards will be of much help to the city of Oshkosh in 2007. However, the governor is also proposing an increase in shared revenue, which WILL help; but the increase is only a paltry 1.5%. The state government's systematic underfunding of the shared revenue program has been devestating to Oshkosh, and is the single biggest reason for our budget woes. Pressue must be put on the governor's office and the majority Democrats in the state senate to restore that program to a level that would make it clear that the state is committed to funding a basic set of services for all municipalities regardless of their income levels.

Doyle's proposals will help cities, but let's be clear that they are at best baby steps.

Friday, February 09, 2007

"Ethics Reform" Bill Intentionally Misses The Mark

Anyone following the "Ethics Reform Bill" shenanigans in the last few weeks could smell a rat. Former state legislator Louis Fortis has an excellent piece in the latest Milwaukee Shepherd-Express. Fortis, who as a former state rep understands the self-preservation tendencies of politicians better than most, says this:

While the legislators and Gov. Jim Doyle are congratulating each other on the quick passage of the “ethics bill,” virtually everyone around the Capitol who understands the process will tell you in private that the new legislation is a joke, since it avoids the real reform issues. The bill merely gives the legislators and the governor political cover to boast that they voted for ethics reform . . .

The real reason for the quick bipartisan passage of this bill is that the governor and legislators from both parties knew that the public wanted reform and this bill could be packaged as sweeping reform while not really changing the cancerous parts of the system. Since most voters in the state do not know what either the Ethics Board or Elections Board currently does, passing the bill provided a painless way to look like a reformer while avoiding genuine reforms.

Fortis argues that the real problem in Madison is the influence of special interest money. The "Ethics Reform" Bill does nothing to address that issue.

Probably the best that could be said about the new "Government Accountability Board" is that it won't be as easily subject to Republicrat influence as the State Elections Board and State Ethics Board that it will replace. On the other hand, the key prosecutors of the caucus scandal crooks claim that the GAB is actually a step backward.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Nice Work If You Can Get It

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Letters, Letters

Babblemur today reposts an email I sent the Common Council back in June, asking them to revise their meeting agenda so that citizens could speak out on a "Five Rivers Update." At the time, if I recall correctly, councilors Bryan Bain and Paul Esslinger worked hardest to get the agenda changed, and it was.

A letter from Justin Mitchell appears in today's Northwestern. Scroll down to "Palmeri brings unique qualities to office."

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Molly Never Made It To The Northwestern

I was searching through some old Microsoft word files this morning, looking for a letter of recommendation I wrote for a student who has now asked for another. While searching, I came across a letter I sent to Jim Fitzhenry, then Oshkosh Northwestern editorial page editor, in August of 1999. At the time, he and Executive Editor Stew Rieckman had appeared on "Commentary," a show I produced an cohosted with former Oshkosh Mayor James Mather. I was pleasantly surprised to see that in my letter to Fitzhenry thanking him for being on the show, I made a request that Molly Ivins' column run on the editorial page. At the time the paper was running Cynthia Tucker and Ellen Goodman as its "liberal" syndicated columnists--good writers but not nearly as hard hitting and fun as Molly. Wingnut Mona Charen is mentioned in the letter too because her column also ran on the page.

Molly never made it to the Northwestern, and now that she's gone to the great gadfly farm in the sky she never will. However, my letter also mentioned Norman Solomon, who is still alive and raising hell. The request to get him on the page still stands.

Of all the tributes for Molly I have read, I think Robert Scheer's best captures her spirit: "As a columnist, she was the best of our time, piercingly insightful without being mean-spirited or petty. Her pen was scalpel-sharp, excising malignancy, but guided always by a generous spirit inviting even those with whom she took fierce issue to come to their senses and help us to heal."

Here's my letter to Fitzhenry:

August 12, 1999

Jim Fitzhenry
Editorial Page Editor
Oshkosh Northwestern

Dear Jim:

Just a note to thank you again for appearing on “Commentary” this past Wednesday. Jim Mather and I appreciated your candid and thoughtful responses to all of our questions. We hope you will appear on the program again at some future date.

On another note, the next time you think about adding new syndicated columnists to the editorial page, I hope you will consider publishing some of the work of Molly Ivins and/or Norman Solomon. Whereas people like Cynthia Tucker and Ellen Goodman I might call “mainstream liberal,” Ivins and Solomon are (in my opinion at least) more authentically “progressive.” We know that Mona Charen will be beating up on Al Gore; Ivins does a pretty good number on George W. Bush. Biographies of Ivins and Solomon are available on the Creators Syndicate website (www.creators.com).

Thanks again for appearing on the show, and all the best to you.

Sincerely,


Tony Palmeri

Monday, February 05, 2007

Thank You Volunteers!

Anyone who has ever run for public office knows that without the efforts of campaign volunteers, an already stressful experience would be overwhelming. The volunteers not only provide the hands to do chores, they also provide the encouragement necessary to reassure the candidate that the entire effort is worthwhile.

Yesterday a group of Palmeri For Council volunteers braved sub-zero temperatures to put out yard signs. Cordless drills to make holes in the ground, brooms to clear away snow, and multi layers of clothing were the order of the day. It was one of the most extraordinary grassroots efforts I've ever seen.

A public Thank You to the volunteers!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Removing the Stench in the Garbage Fee Debate, Part II

Cheryl Hentz has offered a clarification to her post about the garbage fee. See the Eye on Oshkosh blog as well as her comment in my first post on this topic. She points out that Bryan Bain did not say that he voted against the garbage fee.

What I have not been able to understand is why this issue has been "confusing" for some folks. Five Councilors voted for the garbage fee, and as a result citizens had to engage in a time consuming effort to get the fee set to zero for 2007. The vote for Resolution 06-177 ("Establish Fee For Collection/Solid Waste and Recyclables") took place on May 9, 2006. The five councilors voting for it were: Scheuermann, Bain, Tower, Castle, and Mattox.

Resolution 06-177 was not a budget resolution. I point out that obvious fact because part of the "confusion" being spread about this issue is that some of the Councilors were against the garbage fee, but voted for the budget that included the fee. This kind of framing of the issue makes it sound like they didn't support the fee, but would have had to vote against the entire budget in orer to oppose it. This is not accurate.

Anyone who voted for 06-177 was voting to support the fee. That doesn't mean they liked the fee and it doesn't mean they are bad people. It just means they voted for the fee. Period. The budget vote was something entirely different.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Removing The Stench In The Garbage Fee Debate

The garbage fee in Oshkosh was and is extremely unpopular. It's understandable that politicians voting for it would try to rationalize the vote, change the subject, pledge to do better next time, or grovel for forgiveness. It's fair for them to do these things.

What's not fair, and what creates an election year stench as bad as month old garbage, is for politicians to suggest or (worse) flat out state that they DIDN'T vote for a garbage fee that they DID vote for. In her Eye On Oshkosh blog, Cheryl Hentz posts that "Questions remain about garbage fee vote." She writes:

"When Oshkosh Common Council members and incumbent candidates Bryan Bain and Meredith Scheuermann were on Eye on Oshkosh two weeks ago both stated they did not vote for the garbage fee." Feeling that those claims were odd but not having the facts in front of her, Cheryl did not challenge them. Neither did her cohost Miles Maguire. After doing some research, Cheryl found that Bain and Scheuermann did in fact vote for the fee.

Cheryl concludes that no matter what the reason why Bryan and Meredith voted for the fee, "in the end a vote for something is just that, and to state otherwise, even if one has what they believe to be the best of reasons, is disingenuous and disappointing."

Because of that garbage fee vote, lots of citizen in Oshkosh ended up having to do the hard work necessary to write up a referendum question, get thousands of signatures to place the question on the November ballot, and campaign for it. Anyone who's ever been involved in that kind of effort knows how time consuming and frustrating it is, especially when it's being done to correct the actions of people you voted for to represent you. For elected officials who placed citizens in that position to then turn around and not be completely candid about their votes is just one more symptom of our broken government here in Oshkosh.

We can and must do better.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Censored in 2006, Part II


Last month the "Media Rants" column was Part I of the top ten censored stories of 2006. Here's Part II.