Jefferson Davis is a longtime resident of Menomonee Falls. He is the proud parent of two wonderful boys. He enjoys singing, volunteering, reading, gardening, politics, antiques, history, guitar, violin, piano, officiating, helping neighbors and yard work. He served as Village President of Menomonee Falls from 2003-05. He is a member of Northbrook Church and serves on the Advisory Council for the Salvation Army Rehabilitation Center. He is an independent registered representative practicing in the areas of insurance, investments and retirement.
As promised last week, our posting this week will be on destination signs and why Menomonee Falls doesn't have any.
Invariably, no matter what community you travel through today they all seem to have beautiful destination signs to assist visitors and guests in locating attractions within that community.
How frustrating is it when you are in a hurry to get somewhere and then you have to stop and ask for directions when a destination sign would have been so helpful and much quicker.
Before we delve into that, first some updates from our previous postings because of responses that we have gotten from readers.
We promised to provide you with ongoing updates on local issues and follow ups to our postings to keep readers informed about what their local government is up to.
So often, taxpayers are unfortunately and unnecessarily put in a position of being reactive instead of proactive with their local government by design of that government due to the lack of coverage by the media and press or by that government not utilizing the resources (website, newspapers, mailings, newsletters, cable access, community group meetings, focus groups, fliers, water/sewer bills, etc.) available to them to keep citizens informed of Village Board policy and how their taxes are being spent.
The Vanguard wants to be proactive instead of reactive for the taxpayers of Menomonee Falls.
Thank you for your phone calls, tips, information and comments. We appreciate your input and will continue to follow up on those leads.
Garbage Financials Update...The Vanguard has been asking the Village Manager's Office for the 2006-07 taxpayer fees paid to Waste Management for garbage collection and Waste Management's payments to the Village for tipping fees for over a year now.
The Village Manager's Office refuses to disclose that information because of renegotiations with Waste Management to expand the size and life of the dump in Menomonee Falls which we were told was scheduled to close in 2014 because of DNR permit purposes.
In documents released from the Village, the taxpayers paid an initial $1.2 million in new taxes to have their garbage picked up which used to be part of property tax bills until 2006 when the Village Manager created a new tax for garbage pick up and the Village Board went against the citizen's wishes to impose this new tax starting in 2007.
The new tax, which is in addition to existing property taxes, started at $85 per household in 2007 or a cumulative of $1.2 million for the entire village and is indexed at 3% a year without any vote by the Village Board.
This is the beginning of a slippery slope like the City of Milwaukee who has implemented these extra taxes as "fees" over the last 10 years that now include the following fees on sewer and water bills above and beyond normal property taxes:
Ice and snow removal
Solid Waste Charge
Storm Water Charge
Local Sewage Charge
Property tax increases in the region have averaged 6.1% annually in the last two years. Click here (http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=778810) to see how Menomonee Falls has fared during that time. It may surprise you how much taxes have gone up under the Governor's and Village Board's Tax Levy Freezes the last two years reversing the lowering of taxes in 2003-04. Only in Wisconsin can an increase in taxes be considered a freeze.
We don't need any new taxes especially those that are indexed automatically without a vote by the Village Board. We need to have a Village Board that will find ways to reduce spending first just like homeowners and businesses do every day that will automatically lower taxes instead of increasing taxes without voting on it.
The tax per household will grow, without any vote by the Village Board, to $98.55 or $1,391,128 cumulatively by 2013 and $114.26 or $1,612,695 by 2018.
This is just like the State Indexed Motor Fuel Tax that was eliminated (the indexing) recently because the Governor and the Legislature didn't have to vote on the increases as part of the budget process but reaped the rewards of taking more of the taxpayer's money without them ever really knowing about it (http://220.127.116.11/search?q=cache:LKgyKDYqOQwJ:www.legis.state.wi.us/LRB/pubs/Lb/06Lb2.pdf+state+indexed+gasoline+tax+wisconsin&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=5&gl=us).
Just like all innocent government programs that start out with hidden taxes to pay for spending programs that at the time seem to be appropriate and justified, the State Indexed Motor Fuel Tax started out at $.02 a gallon in 1925 and is now $.30 a gallon. If no one is watching the store, more and more of this type of taxation without representation will continue.
If a democrat governor and a democrat controlled senate can eliminate the indexing of the State Motor Fuel Tax to support their sometimes out of control spending habits, can't Menomonee Falls do the same with our Village Board to bring us tax relief from having our garbage picked up by a company (Waste Management) that stands to make millions off of us every year at our expense?
Of course we can.
We just need the right leaders in the right place at the right time to do so before it's too late and a deal is cut with Waste Management without the taxpayers knowing about it and once again the community will be put in a reactive position instead of a proactive one when it may too late after the contract is signed and approved by the Village Board with little or no public input.
The dump was scheduled to close in 2014 as part of the 2004 agreement between the Village Board and Waste Management until it was discovered by several new Village Board Members at the time that our community was not told the truth by previous and some current members of the Village Board about the $42 million obligation to the taxpayers for the new library, village hall and police station as part of the Municipal Facilities Fund.
The community was told of course by previous and current Village Board Members that the $42 million obligation was not going to cost the taxpayers "one penny" because Waste Management was going to pick up the tab with tipping fees paid to the Village.
As we have learned, this was not true and no one was held accountable for this gross negligence and what appears to be deliberate oversight.
Instead, the remainder of this $42 million obligation, which was known to be $17 million but was purposely kept from the public's knowledge, was going to secretly show up on property tax bills starting in 2015-16 through 2022 to the tune of $800-$900 for the average homeowner to pay off the $17 million debt service when most everyone would have forgotten about it.
Because of this discovery, the new Village Manager told members of The Vanguard in a meeting from over a year ago that he was immediately given an edict from the Village Board to "fix" this and that is why negotiations were reopened with Waste Management in 2007-08 to expand the size of the dump and to extend its life.
The Vanguard will continue to ask the Village Manager for the garbage financials in hopes of letting the public know the true impact of the renegotiated agreement with Waste Management and the Village Board before it's too late like it was in 1994 and 2004.
If you want your garbage tax to continue to be indexed without a vote by the Village Board, then do nothing and your taxes will continue to go up without a vote by the Village Board without justifying the expenditures.
If you want your garbage to be picked up for free with immediate tax relief of $85 per household and also have Waste Management pay for the $42 million Municipal Facilities Fund like we were told they were going to do in 2003 at the dedication ceremony for the new complex by the former Village President and some current Village Board Members, then contact your Village Board and tell them so by clicking here (http://www.menomonee-falls.org/index.asp?nid=292).
Other communities in very similar situations across America have had their local officials ask Corporate America to pay their fair share for domiciling a business such as Waste Management in their backyard.
The taxpayers are faced with long term issues of environmental, legal, aesthetic and lost tax revenue from the dump when it closes. This is too important an issue to just have the taxpayers "trusting" their elected officials when the truth was not fully disclosed to the community before with some of the same people who are on the Village Board yet today.
We can, should and must do the same for the taxpayers of Menomonee Falls with the following examples that have been brought to the attention of The Vanguard by readers to help us get there:
Oil wells in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills (http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=a5fyvudrWEoo)
Oil drilling in Alaska (http://www.earthrights.net/docs/oilrent.html)
Natural gas drilling in Fort Worth, Texas (http://money.cnn.com/2008/04/30/news/economy/elkind_ftworth.fortune/index.htm)
Commanche Peak Power Plant in Glen Rose, Texas (http://www.txucorp.com/power/plants/comanche_peak.aspx)
Portage Power Plant in Columbia County Wisconsin (Pacific Township) (www.co.columbia.wi.us)
Natural gas in Wyoming (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2004/10/25/MNGED9FNH01.DTL)
Natural gas in Pennsylvania (http://www.timesleader.com/news/hottopics/shale/Study__Gas_royalties_will_help_all_of_Pa__06-25-2008.html)
John McCain's pick as his vice-presidential nominee gets it too (http://www.breitbart.tv/html/163813.html)
Remember the following information about Waste Management (www.wm.com) as of 12-31-07:
Total Revenue: $13.31 Billion
Net Income: $1.16 Billion
More than 47,000 employees
Some 277 landfills
5 year projected growth rate 10.89% (www.ameritrade.com stock symbol WM)
$17.9 billion market cap
We will let you know before it's too late this time.
Police Department computer concerns...The Vanguard has also been asked to look into two extremely expensive computer programs (The Phoenix and The Enforcer) in the Police Department that were purchased by the taxpayers, recommended by the former Police Chief in 2004 and apparently, from what we have learned, are working extremely poorly. So much so that police personnel have to use the former system to get their work done. Other communities around the state purchased these programs and are experiencing the same problems.
The police chief has responded to our questions, but requires more time before we can report to you the details of this apparent failure of a very expensive program(s) purchased by the taxpayers that has not been working very well for the last four (4) years. We will let you know what we find out once the police chief gets us the information we are looking for.
The Vanguard has also learned there are some rumblings at Village Hall due to excessive smoking breaks between the library and village hall in the courtyard.
There was an expose done some time ago on City of Milwaukee workers who abused smoking breaks by a local television station. Let's hope Menomonee Falls doesn't have to go through that to get this corrected.
$5 million unused sick leave lump sum cash payouts to retirees update...A very high ranking Village official contacted The Vanguard last week for minor clarifications for the cash payouts and was extremely polite and professional.
The official asked for confidentiality because in their words, "...still "have to work" for the Village." The person was very appreciative for their job and benefits. What a welcomed change. As Americans, we do have it pretty good and it's nice to know that most people realize that instead of those who tear down our country every chance they get.
As they say in the movies, "And now it's on to the show."
Why doesn't Menomonee Falls have Destination Signs?
The Vanguard has noticed through its travels throughout the state that almost every community has destination signs pointing out attractions, schools, churches, parks, swimming pools, museums, libraries, police departments, shopping, etc.
While not an absolute necessity, the destination signs do provide a visitor or guest to a community a quick reference of how to get somewhere that they may not be familiar with.
The Vanguard has been asking the Village Manager for over a year now if he plans to have destination signs installed in the Falls.
On the advice of the Village Attorney, he states that he doesn't have to respond to that question. So, we will continue to try and figure out how to get that information from the Village Manager's Office.
This idea was initially brought up five (5) years ago to the Village Board and of course a majority of them deep sixed it because it would "cost" too much and they wanted to know who would install them and maintain them.
The signs are a minimal cost (maybe $2,500) and can easily be installed and kept up with the Village's outstanding Public Works Department. That's how other communities do it, why can't we?
How silly, when every community in the area has figured out how to "get it done", why is Menomonee Falls once again lagging behind with a concept that is so simple and easily doable while providing a very needed benefit and improved image of our community?
Signs Provide a Sense of Pride and Community
When the names of communities like Cedarburg, Elm Grove, Whitefish Bay, Delafield, Hartland, Dousman, Wales, Lac la Belle and Oconomowoc are mentioned, what is the first thought that comes to mind?
Charm? Elegance? Warmth? Inviting? Relaxing? Quaint? I want to go there?
The competition for the almighty dollar on a daily basis for small businesses is extremely tough. We should be doing everything as a community to support these small businesses with promotional ideas that would encourage families to get in their cars and drive to the Falls or for those families that live in the Falls to stay here and spend their money instead of taking it to other communities.
How often does someone visit a town and aren't sure where various attractions are? Think of those who are going somewhere for a school sporting event, a family reunion, a wedding, an anniversary party, a funeral, a picnic, a graduation, shopping or dining and are in a hurry to get there and don't want to stop to ask for directions.
Wouldn't it be nice to have destination signs to help them on their way?
Communities work very hard to provide a well balanced variety of opportunities for its citizens and their guests with various attractions.
The least we could do as a community is to make those guests feel welcomed and appreciated by showing them how to get around our village.
Examples of Other Communities
The Vanguard, in its travels throughout the area and around the state, was able to take some pictures of how other communities showed their pride and assisted visitors by implementing a destination sign program.
Enjoy the examples of other communities:
Greenfield New Berlin Greendale Bayside Elm Grove
Glendale Shorewood Menomonee Falls
Menomonee Falls has a lot to be proud of that should be promoted to our local citizens as well as those who visit our community or are guests to the Falls.
Our destination signs need to include some of the following to help promote our attractions:
- Old Falls Village with the Davidson Estate Residence from the Harley Davidson Company that should have been aggressively promoted during the recent 105th Harley Davidson Anniversary but unfortunately wasn't.
- The Harley Davidson Plant
- Wells Fargo Funds
- Kohl's Corporate Center
- All public and private schools
- Major parks (Rotary, Menomonee, Little League Complex, Oakwood, Willow wood, Village, Wanaki and North Hills Golf Courses, etc.)
- Shopping Districts
- Police Station
- Village Hall
- Fire Stations
- Downtown Historic District that desperately needs to be promoted
- Athletic Field locations (football, soccer, baseball)
- Restaurant District
Having destination signs would give our community pride and a sense of welcome to those who choose to visit the Falls and will hopefully come back.
What do think?
Let us know what you think about this idea by using the comment section below to answer our questions.
Should Menomonee Falls have destination signs like almost all of our neighboring communities do?
With a minimal cost that could be taken out of the "taxpayer's $9 million surplus account", should the Village Board use that money to pay for the signs and have the Village Public Works Department install them?
Contact the Village Board to let them know if you would like destination signs in the Falls by clicking here (http://menomonee-falls.org/index.asp?nid=292).
Next week...How we can make sure voter fraud is not occurring in Menomonee Falls for the September and November 2008 Elections with the Village Clerk's Office?