Welcome back to another Weekly Insider.
This week will bring you news from the Capitol and around Wisconsin, circulating legislation, your weekly poll responses, and an all new Weekly Member Poll.
We would also like to take a moment to offer our condolences to the family, friends, colleagues, and constituents of former Wisconsin Senate President Mike Ellis, who passed away at the age of 77 last week. Ellis was a legend in Wisconsin politics, and fought tirelessly and passionately for his constituents and the State of Wisconsin.
We hope you find this weekly report to be interesting and informative. If there are ever any issues that you would like to see included, or if you ever have any questions or comments, please reach out to us at email@example.com.
Have a great week,
PROPERTY TAXPAYER OF THE WEEK
This week, we introduce you to Perry Edblom, owner of Better Buy in Medford, WI, longtime member of WPT, Inc., and our newest Property Taxpayer of the Week.
In a roundabout way, Perry ended up opening Better Buy in Medford. He dedicated his life and career to other endeavors before taking risks and finding out what worked.
"I grew up on a 45 cow dairy farm near Colby, WI, and graduated in 1975 from Colby High School," Perry told WPT. "I got married to my wife Michele in February 1978 and we proceeded to try to make a living dairy farming."
"Unfortunately, those were the days when interest rates went through the roof," he added. "By 1985, we realized we needed more income, so Michele got a job off the farm to make ends meet."
By that time, Perry told us that he and Michele had three children, Christie, Brandon, and Erica, who were 6, 5, and less than 1-year-old, respectively.
"It was not an easy task to watch three young children and do farm chores at the same time, but somehow, we all survived."
After twenty years on the farm, he was ready to try something new, but wanted to be self-employed and not invest too much. Prior to his marriage, Perry dabbled in factory work for a few months, but told us that he was not interested in returning to that profession.
"So, in the fall of 1997, I signed a one year rental agreement to a good-sized old building on Main Street in Medford and started Better Buy," he continued. "I knew very little about running a retail store, but I figured I would give it a try."
But the business started out a little differently than it is today.
"Originally, I used half of the store for selling used furniture, and the other half was a bookstore. After about a year I decided the bookstore half of the store wasn't doing very good, so I converted that half of the store into selling used CDs, videos, and video games."
Perry then noticed something unexpected.
"Suddenly, that half of the store was doing better than the furniture half," he told us. "After about ten years of selling the used CDs, videos, and video games along with the used furniture, I decided to again switch things up."
At that time, Perry explained that his business was also selling new mattresses.
"With mattresses, it is something that everyone needs, and I would sell them at a price that everyone could afford."
With his newly-focused emphasis on selling mattresses, Perry hit his stride.
"Since then, I have sold thousands of mattress sets, and am thankful that the community has supported me for 21 years now," he said.
Perry now has seven grandchildren, and enjoys what leisure time he can find.
"I enjoy horseback riding on most weekends."
Perry has been a WPT member since he was farming, and says he does not interact much with state government or elected officials.
"That is why I support WPT," he said. "That way I know someone is looking out for my interest in the state government."
We recognize Perry's commitment to his community, his business, and his family, and are proud to name him our Property Taxpayer of the Week.
Better Buy is located at 131 South Main Street in Medford, and can be contacted at 715-748-5100. You can also visit the company Facebook page by clicking
NEWS FROM THE CAPITOL
AND AROUND WISCONSIN
WISCONSIN LABOR FORCE & TOTAL EMPLOYMENT REACH RECORD HIGHS
The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) last week released the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revisions for May of this year along with the preliminary estimates for last month.
The number of people employed in Wisconsin, as well as the number of active participants in the state's labor force, reached record highs in June, and the data showed that Wisconsin gained both total non-farm (7,400) and private-sector (5,500) jobs from May 2018 to June, and a significant 17,600 manufacturing jobs over the year.
DWD also said that since December of 2010, Wisconsin has added over 48,000 manufacturing positions statewide. Wisconsin's labor force increased by 3,300 in the past month, bringing the active participants in the entire labor force to 3,092,100.
More specifically, from June 2017 to June 2018, Wisconsin added 25,900 private-sector jobs, and 30,000 total non-farm jobs, and 17,600 manufacturing jobs.
EAU CLAIRE COUNTY BOARD APPROVES WHEEL TAX
Another week, another wheel tax. Eau Claire County Board members last week voted 20-9 to approve a new wheel tax.
Registered vehicles with less than 8,000 pounds of gross weight will be required to pay $30, though motorcycles, mopeds, and motor homes are exempted from the new tax which is expected to raise nearly two and a half million dollars. Local officials said the $2.3 million is needed to pay for bridge repairs and over 100 miles of highway.
Nearby, Chippewa County implemented a $10 wheel tax around four years ago, and with Eau Claire joining the ranks of local governments imposing such fees on vehicle owners, the total number of counties is nine.
UNSAFE DRINKING WATER IN MUCH OF JUNEAU COUNTY
A specialist from the University of Wisconsin Extension in Stevens Point last week unveiled his findings, after conducting tests in more than 100 water wells in the rural parts of Juneau County.
In the rural towns of Armenia and Port Edwards, 42 percent of the wells had high levels of nitrates and nitrogen, which according to Kevin Masarik, the UW Extension expert, makes the water unsafe for drinking. The results ranged from trace levels of nitrates to 50 milligrams per liter, coming in much higher than the 10 milligram per liter standard for safe drinking water.
The use of nitrogen fertilizer in certain types of soil cause the undesirable levels of contaminants, according to Masarik, who also estimated that if one million private wells in Wisconsin underwent such testing, around 10 percent would exceed the safe water standard.
STATE AGRICULTURE SECRETARY SENDS LETTER TO FDA, URGING ENFORCEMENT OF FOOD LABELING
Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) Secretary Sheila Harsdorf last week sent a letter to Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, expressing concern over the agency's policies on food labeling.
With an increasing number of plant-based products being marketed as milk, Harsdorf says it is critical that FDA enforce labeling that provides clear and transparent information to consumers.
"Given agriculture's many contributions to our state and national economies, upholding standards of identity is critical to the industry as well as beneficial to consumers," said Harsdorf. "Without prompt action and enforcement by the FDA, we will continue to see more and more mislabeling of products, such as milk, that do not meet the FDA's own definitions."
In her letter, Sec. Harsdorf noted that regulators in other countries, for example, are enforcing their standards and definitions and not allowing plant-based products to be labeled or marketed as milk. She emphasized that it is imperative that the United States do the same in order to not be placed at a competitive disadvantage.
GOV. WALKER REQUESTS FED DISASTER AID FOR NORTHWESTERN WISCONSIN
Governor Walker late last week wrote a letter to President Trump, requesting a federal disaster declaration for six northwestern Wisconsin counties that sustained floor damage in June. The request is for federal assistance to help local governments recover from the disaster in Ashland, Bayfield, Burnett, Clark, Douglas, and Iron counties.
"Federal damage assessments showed more than $131.1 million in damage to public infrastructure in Northwestern Wisconsin. This is an area that is still recovering from major flooding that occured in 2016," Walker said in his statement. "We are hopeful that officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will understand how important it is that our state and these communities to receive federal disaster assistance to help recover from this disaster."
According to Walker's office, if approved, the funds would help communities recover some of the costs incurred through responding to the floods, protecting citizens, removing debris, and repairing roads and other infrastructure. FEMA would provide 75 percent of eligible costs, while Wisconsin and local communities would share the remaining 25 percent.
FEDS WARN OF CYBER THREATS TO ELECTIONS
Federal national security officials have warned recently of cyber threats to elections nationwide, including "those tied to the Russian government," according to the Wisconsin State Journal. The feds have also warned that attacks on elections systems in the United States may intensify.
But six Wisconsin positions that are designed to protect against such threats are still vacant, even months after being created specifically for the above-mentioned scenarios.
According to the state's Elections Commission, their agency gave approval to the creation of six staff positions in addition to the 25+ current positions, in preparation for this year's elections. Among those positions, some are for elections internet technology (IT), and for training local election workers around the state.
At least one commission member said they had hoped the positions would be filled by the August 14th primary elections in Wisconsin, though that is looking entirely unlikely at this point. The Chairman of the commission, former Republican lawmaker Dean Knudson, said that the responsibility falls on Department of Administration (DOA), and said they want the positions filled as soon as possible.
A DOA spokesperson said last week that his agency is working to fill the positions, and expects some to be filled within the next week.
AFTER BRANSON TRAGEDY, FORMER FED OFFICIAL SAYS TO BAN DUCK BOATS
Following the aftermath of the tragedy in Branson, Missouri late last week, where an amphibious "duck" boat sunk on Table Rock Lake in the middle of a storm, killing 17, the former head of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said that duck tours should be banned.
Duck boats, which are a favorite of Wisconsin Dells-goers each year, originated in World War II, were often used to haul soldiers or cargo from larger ships to shore. Since their original use, the crafts have been modified, and are often used to take tourists on sight-seeing excursions in popular tourist areas.
Jim Hall, the former NTSB chairman, said the type of craft is unregulated, and the ducks are not classified as either a boat or a bus. A recorder that was onboard at the time of the incident has been recovered from the duck, and will be analyzed by federal agents in Washington.
In Wisconsin, the owners of the "Original Wisconsin Ducks" in the Wisconsin Dells have said their crafts are safe, and any type of similar event is unlikely in Wisconsin. The owner said his company has been around for 73 years, and he is confident with their training procedures.
One observation that was also made is the boat in Missouri had windows, while Wisconsin Dells ducks are open-air, with virtually no enclosure.
HOMEOWNERS WITHIN FOXCONN AREA FILE LAWSUIT
A group of individuals who own property or homes within the Foxconn development area filed a lawsuit last monday against the Village of Mount Pleasant and the Community Development Authority, after the village designated their land and properties as being "blighted."
When an area is given that designation, a local government may take legal action to acquire the land in question, including eminent domain.
The complained, which was filed in Racine County Circuit Court, said that the Development Authority's designation of "prime Wisconsin farmland" and "lovingly maintained rural residences" as blighted is "fraudulent, arbitrary and capricious..."
The group also says that the designation "represents the CDA's will and not its judgement because it is clearly contrary to Wisconsin's blight Elimination and Slum Clearance law."
According to one source, this is the same group whose suit was dismissed in May by liberal Federal Judge Lynn Adleman of the U.S. Eastern District of Wisconsin.
WEEKLY MEMBER POLL RESULTS
After reading the guest column from the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, do you agree or disagree with what was stated?
Why is it that the largest corporations think they should be exempt from taxes when they get the lions share of benefits in our economy?
each property, regardless of its use, should be valued at fair market value. Period.
Its crazy to asess buildings for half of their value to get a break on property taxes
big box stores should pay their fair share - or maybe start charging them for services like the increased need for police at their stores
Consumers pay taxes. If you raise taxes on a retailer, the cost is simply passed on to all of us. I guess I prefer just getting the bill directly. Somehow it feels like there's a little more integrity that way.
It makes me angry that GOP politicians sided with businesses over homeowners, making us pick up more of the tab.
The legally-embattled and bankrupt UW-Oshkosh foundation would like state taxpayers to pick up the tab on $18.5 million in debt and legal fees. Yes or no?
Have their top officials done something criminal? This needs more investigation.
Taxpayers won't come to my rescue. Why should we bail them out?
Tax payers didn't cause the problem.
They got themselves into their debt,, let them figure out how to get out.
Those who decided to spend the money so foolishly should be held accountable, or their estates. As a graduate of UW-Oshkosh, this really ticks me off. This is what the elite do, and never pay for their actions.
You screwed up. You figure out how to pay it. I have to pay MY bills. Why should YOU get a bailout?
Why should taxpayers of the state pay for mismangement
not a taxpayer bill - taxpayers pay enough
The state didn't hire the 2 corrupt administrators who caused this problem. Let UWO clean up their own mess.
Amazon is celebrating the milestone of 4,000 full-time employees in Wisconsin. Do you use Amazon for shopping?
Average pay of $14 per hour means many workers are making much less. This is not a liveable wage. Amazon founder is one of the riches men in the country off the backs of his workers, many which get food stamps funded by the average tax payer.
I prefer "brick and mortar" stores in my local area. I like to support my friends and neighbors. Internet purchases are a last resort.
I use Amazon regularly. Only because I dont have to drive to certain stores and the hassel of other people at checkouts. just a simple easy way to shop in my mind.
I use Amazon occasionaly and have recieved all what I ordered.
I usually have a gift card I received for a survey or something and it makes the item I purchase a better deal
I work VERY hard to purchase from stores around me, and not buy from Amazon. At times, I order from Amazon because I can't find it within an hour's drive of my house.
Absentee voting for the August 14th primary has now begun. Do you vote absentee?
I like to go to the polls.
No. Never have to worry about long lines in a rural area we live in.
I go to the polling locations or stay home.
I feel absentee ballots should be allowed only in difficult circumstances. It is sad when people can't take the time on election day to vote. I personally feel absentee voting leads to more voter fraud.
I've heard too many stories of absentee ballots being burned instead of being used. I vote ON election day.
Do your civic duty and go vote on election day. Don't create more work for everyone with absentee voting unless you are truly out of town.
Have you made up your mind on which candidates you will be supporting on August 14th?
I don't watch adds any more. They are full of half truths.
Hate TV ads, especially when they run each other down with bad remarks. Got some phone calls, hang up on them.
Silly time for primary, this should take place in the spring of the year so the candidates that represent their political parties can have some good debates and discussion on the issues. I guess if there has been a lot of tv ads, I must be trained to ignore them! I live in a district that had the special election in June, the junk mail we received every day probably wiped out half of the north woods of Wisconsin. What a joke, we will be voting for the same people again in November and the current elected person has never did a thing in their office, thanks a lot Eric Holder for wasting more of Wisconsin taxpayer's money. Just what any democrat will do!
I'm getting more and more frustrated. Too many people who are clueless running, or are in someone's pocket already...
I'm getting tired of all ads
Sick of TV. ads, should have time limit on running ads, like a couple weeks before the election.
Senate Republicans and Dems for governor are both interesting. A tip for readers: there are no political ads on Netflix.
Throw all the incumbents out, regardless of party.
It is the policy of WPT, Inc. to publish all comments that are submitted by members each week, often including broad differences of opinion within the weekly responses. Our organization values our role in fostering dialogue within our membership each week, but does not take responsibility for the individual views and opinions expressed herein.