Tag Archives: Fond du Lac

Court: Fond du Lac parents can host underage drinkers

Parents in Fond du Lac County can host underage drinkers in their homes without running afoul of a local prohibition, a state appeals court ruled.

The 2nd District Court of Appeals ruled the county’s ordinance is invalid because it’s stricter than a state law that blocks adults from hosting underage drinkers only in taverns and liquor stores. The ruling could invalidate similarly worded local anti-hosting ordinances across the state.

“Rulings like this send a mixed message on the importance of the 21-year-old drinking age and what municipalities can do to combat underage drinking,” said Frank Harris, national director of state government affairs for Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. “Hosting laws are supposed to make parents think twice before throwing an underage drinking party for their kids.”

The ruling stems from a case involving a Van Dyne man named Stuart Muche. He was cited in June 2015 with violating Fond du Lac County’s ordinance against adults hosting underage drinkers in their residences after underage people began drinking at a graduation party he threw for his son. Muche was assessed a $1,000 forfeiture.

He argued on appeal that the local ordinance was invalid because it doesn’t conform with a state law that bars adults from hosting underage drinkers on a premises that the adult owns or controls. He contended that statutes define premises in this context as an area described in a license or permit — namely, a tavern or a liquor store.

The appellate court agreed with him, ruling 3–0 that Fond du Lac’s definition improperly goes beyond the state law.

The court also found that the ordinance’s penalties don’t conform with state law, noting that the ordinance prescribes forfeitures ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 while under state law a first offense carries a maximum forfeiture of $500. The court said local penalties can’t exceed state penalties.

Judge Paul Reilly wrote in a concurring opinion that he believes the ordinance doesn’t conform with the state law because of the discrepancy between forfeiture amounts but the case should have been resolved on that basis alone and delving into an analysis of the premises definition was “unwise.”

“To conclude that (state law) is only violated if the adult owns a liquor store or tavern and allows an underage party to occur at the store or tavern is the wrong reading … and is clearly not what the Legislature wrote or intended,” Reilly wrote.

Fond du Lac County Assistant District Attorney Curtis Borsheim, who handled the appeal for the county, didn’t immediately respond to a voicemail left at his office.

The Wisconsin Counties Association filed briefs in the case supporting the local ordinance. The association’s attorney, Patrick Henneger, declined comment. A message left at WCA’s offices wasn’t immediately returned.


Feds won’t pay for pork-barrel highway project that’s based on inflated WisDOT data

A federal court has halted a major highway expansion due to inflated traffic projections by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, prompting a land-use group to call for an immediate halt to all such projects in the state until they can be proven justified by traffic audits.

The U.S. Eastern District Court upheld the claim of 1000 Friends of Wisconsin that the proposed expansion of Highway 23 between Fond du Lac and Plymouth was based on overblown traffic forecasts. The ruling makes the project ineligible for federal funding.

According to the group’s executive director Steve Hiniker, actual traffic along the corridor is only one-third of WisDot’s projection. Last year, 1000 Friends studied traffic projections used to justify 11 state highway projects and found that WisDOT’s average traffic over-count was 75 percent.

“Faulty planning at (WisDOT) has likely cost taxpayers billions of dollars in unjustified projects,” Hiniker said in a statement. “This is a huge win for taxpayers.”

Critics of DOT building plans have questioned the need for a number of projects, including the proposed almost billion dollar expansion of the I-94 corridor near Miller Park in Milwaukee. Gov. Scott Walker wants to issue $1.3 billion in bonds to pay for those projects. 

Political leaders nearly always support massive road construction projects, because highway contractors provide them with generous donations. For the public, however, the projects drain funds that would otherwise help municipalities maintain their local roadways, which have become obstacle courses of potholes in recent years.

Republican lawmakers have suggested allowing municipalities to vote for new property taxes in order to maintain their infrastructures, because there’s so little money left over from the gas taxes and registration fees that Wisconsin citizens pay. That money is diverted to unneeded highway expansions, Hiniker says.

According to Hiniker, unneeded highway spending also drains the general fund, reducing the amount of state money available for everything from school funding to fire and police protection.

Hiniker believes the Highway 23 ruling could have a dramatic effect on other highway building plans in the state.

Fond du Lac allowing beekeeping in city limits

Fond du Lac is now allowing residents to practice beekeeping within city limits.

Action Reporter Media reports the Fond du Lac City Council unanimously passed an ordinance on May 13 allowing beekeeping in residential neighborhoods. It was already legal in parts of the city that are zoned for agriculture.

Residents would have to apply for a yearly beekeeping permit. There is a cap of two hives per property and a 5-foot height limit. Hives must also sit at least 25 feet from property edges, and residents won’t be allowed to sell honey from those hives.

Neighbors living in adjacent properties who are allergic to bees would be able to give input about granting the permit.

Milwaukee and Madison have opted to let residents keep bees on their properties in recent years.

Fond du Lac nuns get Northrop Grumman to drop ALEC

Defense contractor Northrop Grumman has ended its relationship with the American Legislative Exchange Council, thanks to shareholder engagement from the Fond du Lac, Wisconsin-based Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes.

“As a major defense contractor it is significant that the company follow the lead of many major corporations that have left ALEC in recent months,” said Sister Sally Ann Brickner, who manages the Congregation’s Socially Responsible Investment Portfolio. The Catholic organization is a Northrop Grumman shareholder and filed a resolution asking the company to review its affiliation with ALEC and other lobbying organizations, which the sisters say prompted the company to leave ALEC.

Notably, at ALEC’s meeting in Washington, D.C. last month, ALEC held a workshop warning that the forms of shareholder engagement practiced by the Fond du Lac nuns “threatens corporate free speech.”

Northrop Grumman joined ALEC in July of 2013 and also funded ALEC in the past. It joined the organization around the same time that ALEC took up model legislation to regulate domestic drones, which Northrop Grumman produces. ALEC took a position that drone regulations should not hinder the emerging industry.

With Northrop Grumman’s departure, more than 100 corporations have ended their relationship with ALEC since the Center for Media and Democracy launched ALECexposed in 2011. Ebay, Google, Facebook, Yelp, Yahoo, AOL, and other tech companies abandoned ALEC in recent months over its promotion of climate denialism, although it is unclear whether that factored into Northrop Grumman’s decision.

See the full list of corporations that have cut ties with ALEC here.

Out gay man wins race for Fond du Lac City Council

In what is believed to be a first for the city of Fond du Lac, an out gay man was elected April 2 to serve on the City Council. Equality Wisconsin board co-president Dan Manning, an Army veteran and founder of the group Salute the Troops, took the third most votes in the April 2 election, defeating an incumbent who placed fourth.

Manning was endorsed by the Fond du Lac Area Association of Commerce, among other groups.

Born in Vidalia, Ga., Manning is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he was closeted and a an active member of the academy’s evangelical Christian community. He’s currently a manufacturing engineer at Giddings and Lewis, Inc.

Manning starts his new job with the city on April 16.

Dan Choi headlines March 25 joint fundraiser for Equality Wisconsin, Fair Wisconsin

Former Army Lt. Dan Choi is coming to Wisconsin to campaign for an openly gay local candidate and to help raise money for Fair Wisconsin and Equality Wisconsin, the state’s two leading LGBT advocacy groups.

On Monday, March 25, Choi will appear at a fundraiser from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at a historic home on Milwaukee’s East Side. Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and LGBT civil rights advocate Andrew Nunemaker have pledged to match every dollar raised at the event up to $10,000. The two groups will split the proceeds 50-50.

During his visit to Wisconsin, Choi will also hit the campaign trail with Equality Wisconsin board co-president Dan Manning in his quest to become Fond du Lac’s first out City Council member. The two veterans became friends while attending the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Choi’s high profile and passionate brand of activism have made him a celebrity in the LGBT civil rights movement. Discharged from the Army after coming out on “The Rachel Maddow Show,” Choi became one of the nation’s foremost activists fighting to repeal the anti-gay military ban dubbed “don’t ask, don’t tell.” In 2010, Choi was arrested for handcuffing himself to the White House fence to protest what activists considered President Obama’s slow pace in fulfilling his campaign pledge to repeal the discriminatory law (it was finally overturned in September 2011).

Twelve other activists were arrested along with Choi for disobeying a police order to disperse, but he is the only detainee who refused to make a plea deal. Instead, he’s continued to pursue his case, which has been tied up in appeals. It resumes on March 28.

Choi was also arrested during a peaceful march in Moscow in 2011 that drew international outrage.

Attendees of the March 25 fundraiser will have the opportunity to meet Choi as well as hear his inspiring story firsthand.

The event marks the first joint fundraising effort between two groups that have been increasingly working together behind the scenes to augment each other’s efforts and ensure their donors get maximum impact for their contributions.

Well-intentioned advocacy groups sometimes inadvertently overlap each other’s efforts, or even unknowingly undermine them. For instance, if elected officials don’t like the answer they get from one organization, they sometimes turn to the other looking for a better deal, which can derail strategies and cause inter-community tension.

But that’s not happening anymore in Wisconsin, said Fair Wisconsin director Katie Belanger and Equality Wisconsin director Jason Burns. They said their goal is to present a united front and rekindle the spirit of unity that emerged during the 2006 campaign against the voter referendum that ultimately added a ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions to the Wisconsin Constitution.

“When Jason called and said, ‘We’ve got Lt. Dan Choi coming out for an event and we want to explore a joint fundraiser,’ I thought it was a way to show very publicly how close our organizations are getting to each other,” Belanger said.

“A united community and a community that speaks with one voice and stands together is much harder to divide than a community that’s fractured,” Burns said. “Our job is ensuring the advancement of the movement in Wisconsin, and we don’t do that when we’re competing.”

“Ultimately, it’s incumbent upon us to communicate what the priorities are and assess what the greatest opportunities are to make positive change,” Belanger added. “When we’re assessing the (political) landscape and determining priorities and issues, it’s important that we’re doing that together, so that we can have even greater impact. When legislators see we’re on the same page, it resonates much stronger.”

The two groups are already working together on several efforts, including the fight to get the Milwaukee Public School System to implement domestic partner benefits in a fair way. While married opposite-sex couples automatically receive the benefits, same-sex couples must jump through a number of burdensome hoops to prove that they are a couple. In addition, they must pay onerous taxes on the benefits – taxes that heterosexual married couples are exempt from paying.

In the coming years, major priorities for both EW and FW include cultivating support for equality at the local level and reaching out to Republicans.

“This year, we’re trying to identify key Republicans who are supportive of our issues and find ways to work with them,” Burns said. Given the GOP’s control of state government, “if we’re going to get any pro-LGBT legislation passed over the next 10 years, we’re going to have to start cultivating bipartisan relationships,” he explained.

Belanger described the effort as trying to get Republicans on board a train “that’s already left the station.”  

“People are moving so forward so fast on these issues, that the Republican Party can’t afford to be left behind any more,” she said.

Republican recall candidates whine about taxes but pay little to nothing

One of the most frequent complaints we hear from Republicans is that their tax burdens are too high. It’s a GOP talking point that turns up in nearly every election, regardless of the actual data or the historical record. So it is certainly no surprise to hear many of the Republicans running in recall elections this summer complaining about their tax burden.

But it might surprise voters in Wisconsin to know that some of the candidates whining about taxes actually pay little to nothing in net income tax to the state.

Perhaps the most outrageous Republican recall candidate is current state Sen. Randy Hopper, R-Fond du Lac. He’s already in hot water with voters for running as a “family values” candidate and then leaving his wife to move in with his then 25-year-old aide in 2010. (Hopper and his mistress Valerie Cass are pictured).

But Hopper’s hypocrisy doesn’t end at the marriage altar. In 2008 his hometown newspaper, the Fond du Lac Reporter, highlighted that the wealthy senator had only paid Wisconsin personal and business taxes once since 1997. The one time that he did pay, it was a capital gains tax resulting from the sale of one of his radio stations.

State Sens. Dan Kapanke, R-La Crosse, and Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, will also face recall elections this summer. Like Hopper, they rant against the high tax burden that they allegedly face. Both senators’ Statement of Economic Interest forms demonstrate a vast array of investments and personal business interests. Yet various media outlets have reported that both senators have had recent years when they owed no net income tax to the state.  For Kapanke it happened in 2008, and for Robert Cowles it was in both 2008 and in 2009. 

This phenomenon also extends to some of the Republicans’ first-time candidates this summer. Kim Simac, who is mounting a challenge to Sen. Jim Holperin, D-Conover, is the founder of a Tea Party group that makes railing against taxes its highest priority.  A Dun & Bradstreet profile estimates that Simac’s family business, the Great Northern Adventure Company, earns approximately $300,000 in annual sales.  Yet Wisconsin Department of Revenue records show that Simac paid zero net income tax to the state in 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2008. Records show that in 2000 she paid a total of $4 in net state income taxes. In 2007, her tax bill was a single dollar.

Any complaint that Simac has about being overtaxed shouldn’t garner much sympathy.

Jonathan Steitz is a corporate attorney working for a firm in Chicago.  If he wins his primary this month, he will go on to face Sen. Robert Wirch, D-Pleasant Prairie, in August. Like Simac, Steitz is a first-time candidate. But that’s not the only similarity they share. Records show that Jonathan Steitz owed no state net tax in either 2008 or in 2009.  But that doesn’t stop him from repeatedly bemoaning the allegedly high tax burden that he claims to have faced in Wisconsin.  

The point here is not to suggest that any of these Republican candidates did anything illegal. But voters deserve an explanation as to how most working people pay more in a single paycheck than some of these whining Republicans have paid over the course of several years. These candidates must be called on their hypocrisy.