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Finding North Without a Compass

A retired Army officer and retired Fortune 500 executive, Warren may be best known for making waves while serving on the Mequon Common Council and Ozaukee County Board. He's no longer an elected official, but he has plenty to say about local, state and national issues.

 

A TALE OF TWO UNITED WAYS

                                "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”  

The 2014 United Way campaigns are underway throughout our nation under the leadership of United Way Worldwide.  United Way Worldwide is the leadership and support organization for the network of nearly 1,800 community-based United Ways in 45 countries and territories. Their goal envisioned is a world where all individuals and families achieve their human potential through education, income, stability and healthy lives. Local United Ways are organized and operated by your friends and neighbors, insuring that all contributions remain in the community, allocated to local needs.

Here in Ozaukee County, the United Way campaign is confusing. The communities of Mequon, Thiensville, Cedarburg and Grafton have been assigned to the United Way of Greater Milwaukee with the communities of Port Washington, Saukville, Fredonia and Belgium assigned to the United Way of Northern Ozaukee. Official contribution solicitation is limited only to the United Way assigned to each area. Allocation of campaign contributions back to the communities is up to the governing body of each separate United Way. 

All the 2014 funds contributed to the United Way of Northern Ozaukee will be allocated to Ozaukee County causes without regard for the artificial boundary established for solicitation purposes. The United Way of Greater Milwaukee will also allocate a portion of their campaign contributions to Ozaukee County causes.  For  2013, The United Way of Greater Milwaukee raised some $53 million and allocated some $276,000 to Ozaukee County (0.52%). Whether that allocation represents a fair percentage of funds donated to the United Way of Greater Milwaukee from Ozaukee County is not determinable. 

When I first learned of this differentiation between the two United Ways in 1998, I contributed an amount to both, by issuing two checks. I would hope, after this brief explanation, that residents of Cedarburg, Grafton, Thiensville and Mequon will consider contributing to both United Ways. Checks can be directly sent to the United Way of Northern Ozaukee, P. O. Box 43, Port Washington, WI 53094 and to the United Way of Greater Milwaukee , 225 W. Vine Street, Milwaukee, WI 53212. 

If an Ozaukee resident contributes to the United Way of Greater Milwaukee through their employer via a pledge, they can designate a portion (or all) of their pledge by specifying the percentage split to the United Way of Northern Milwaukee and specifying it to ORGANIZATION #53340 on the pledge card. Contributions so designated will be re-distributed to the United Way of Northern Ozaukee for allocation to local causes.

Finally, as the Honorary Co-Chair of the 2014 United Way of Northern Ozaukee campaign, I have been roused into action to address and resolve the two United Way campaigns here in Ozaukee County.  There are forty-four (44) separate United Way districts in Wisconsin.  There are separate campaigns conducted by the United Way of Racine County, United Way of Waukesha County and the United Way of Washington County – all abutting Milwaukee County.  How did Mequon, Thiensville, Cedarburg and Grafton of Ozaukee County get annexed into Milwaukee’s United Way?   What was the rationale for dividing Ozaukee County?
 
It’s time for Ozaukee County government supported by all our local community government bodies to join together by passing resolutions that Ozaukee County be consolidated to a single United Way of Ozaukee County.  By conducting a consolidated United Way campaign in Ozaukee County with our local citizens in charge, we can be assured that all our contributions will be invested back in Ozaukee County causes.
 
I hereby challenge our Ozaukee County government to lead the charge in contacting the United Way Worldwide to create a United Way of Ozaukee County, consolidating all County communities as a whole, for the 2015 United Way campaign.  With Resolutions to this effect from all Ozaukee County governing bodies, how can this effort not succeed?  

 

BENGHAZI RE-VISITED

The Benghazi attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission on September 11, 2012 that resulted in the murder of 4 Americans including Chris Stevens, U.S. Ambassador to Libya, is back in the news again.  The Republican controlled House of Representatives has created a Select Committee to further pursue the investigation of what happened, why, how and when.  Democrat Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi pooh-poohed this approach, called it a stunt -- with her Democrat colleagues stating that past investigations had answered all the relevant questions.  

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THE *LUDDITES OF MEQUON

{* Luddite - A member of a group named after a 19th century English set of workers who opposed technology that was moving society forward.  Engaged in the physical destruction of industrial machinery. ]
 
It’s been interesting this past year, watching the Mequon Luddites emerge from their 20 year slumber, like the cicadas, and elect a mayor more in line with their philosophy.  Simply stated, their philosophy is this: “We like living in Mequon or ‘we got ours’ and we don’t want people from elsewhere to come here and ‘get theirs’.”  They are against any progress that could cause this to happen.  At one time or another, this crowd opposed the hospital, movie theater, Newcastle, Concordia University, Pavilion as well as widening Port Washington and Mequon Roads among others.  So they put up Alderman Dan Abendroth for mayor in 2013 and were elated when he won. I’m not sure the Mequon Luddites are as excited as they were last April since Mayor Abendroth had tended to stick closer to a middle ground, but he has appointed several of the Mequon  Luddite buddies to Mequon’s Boards and Commission.   

The Mequon Luddites suffered a set-back the first year of the Mayor’s term when a special election to fill his former alderman seat was won by Rob Strzelczyk against strong Luddite opposition.  Now comes the local election of April 2013 with two aldermanic seats open as  incumbents chose not to seek re-election.  District 5 Alderman Seider was a strong supporter of the Mayor so the Mequon Luddites figured whoever  won  would side with their philosophy. District 2's, Ken Zganjar, was a different story.  He had beaten the Mayor’s supporter, Alderman Mayr, for Council President in a rough contest.  Filling his seat would be key. 

So the Mequon Luddites went out and solicited an old war horse, Bob Ashmore, who had served as a Mequon alderperson in the 90's during the Mayor Moriarty era.   Ashmore’s motives were apparent – as the chairman of Mayor Abendroth’s campaign upset win in 2013, he was aware that the Mayor’s backers needed at least one more vote in the Mequon Common Council to assure it would achieve at least a 4-4 tie in the Common Council, against any forward action in Mequon. A tie vote would permit the Mayor to vote and break a tie, so he could veto any progress that the Mequon Luddites opposed.  Losing the special election in aldermanic District 1 to Rob Strzelczyk to fill the Mayor’s former seat had created a 5-3 unbalance in the Common Council for Mequon’s continued progress that was the antithesis of the Mequon Luddites’ principles.   

The Mequon Luddite crowd, who had gone all out for Mayor Abendroth’s election, were elated. It was going to be like shooting fish in a barrel, especially since no opponent signed up to oppose Ashmore on the ballot.  The Mequon Luddite team leaders, began pushing Ashmore’s election with time, money and letters to the editor.

My Mequon aldermanic District 6 did not have a competitive race on the ballot, so I was a just an interested observer to the machinations going on in District 2.  I was a surprised as anyone when  it was officially announced that former Mequon Mayor, Connie Pukaite, agreed to become a write-in candidate for alderperson in District 2 opposing Ashmore.  I had never met the former Mayor or even spoken with her but I realized what a mountain she had to climb to win as a write-in candidate.  I subsequently learned that she was slated as a “stealth candidate” to be announced the last two weeks before the election, conducting a blitzkrieg campaign to catch Ashmore and his Mequon Luddite supporters off-guard.    

By a quirk, it didn’t work out that way.  One of Pukaite’s major supporters, who was a driving force in securing her assent to become a write-in candidate, sent a private and personal Email on February 1 to a former Mequon Mayor. (Not Pukaite)  After several paragraphs of private chit-chat, he mentioned the “stealth campaign with a blitzkrieg in the final two weeks” re Pukaite’s write-in campaign, in the hopes they could catch the Ashmore campaign off-guard.   The quirk was that when he clicked on his friend’s Email address, it entered his personal Email address and his former Email address (Mayor@ci.mequon.wi.us), obviously no longer active for him. This  Email, was intercepted by someone along the line, disclosed to the Ashmore campaign and the cat was out of the bag.  

Election Day came with my prediction of long odds that Pukaite could pull off a write-in victory.  Boy was I wrong!  When I checked the results on the Mequon NOW Internet site the following morning, I was astounded to find that Connie Pukaite not only won a write-in victory but crushed Ashmore by a 362 to 253 margin. (59% to 41%).   Wow, Ashmore and the Mequon Luddites not only lost, but they were thumped.  

How did losing candidate, Ashmore, respond?  Not very well if his comments in the local newspapers are any indication.  He lashed out on the Committee for Election Choices, which supported Pukaite, accusing them of having an “aggressive development push,” an anathema for the Mequon Luddites’ true goal of “we got ours – you can’t get yours.”  Then he blamed some local radio talk shows for bringing to light his public pro-Arab/ anti-Israel sentiments including his several long-time memberships in Arab-American organizations.  That turned out the Jewish community in District 2 in large numbers, who wrote-in Connie Pukaite on their ballots.  Somehow, Ashmore seemed to believe that if he never injected Israel, Palestine or American foreign policy into local politics, he was somehow immune.  Funny, didn’t we just see the CEO of Mozilla  Firefox Company have to resign because he contributed to an anti-gay rights referendum cause two years in his past.  Voters look at the whole person when they vote and Ashmore obviously came up short.  But he couldn’t leave quietly, oh no, he had to spit out some more of his anti-Israel venom.  He stated that he’ll get even by ramping up his advocacy for Palestine through his organizational memberships in Amnesty International and B'Tselem. ( B'Tselem has been harshly criticized by Israeli nationalists. In 2011, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman charged the group with abetting terrorism and weakening Israel's defense forces.)

With the rout of Ashmore and his Mequon Luddite supporters, let’s hope that all Mequon residents can look forward to a moderate Mayor leading a civil and cooperative Common Council whose primary goal is the long-term well-being of all Mequon citizens.

THE WASHINGTON FOLLIES -- ACT I

Act I of the Washington Follies has just concluded and our federal government has re-opened. Act II is scheduled to begin in January 2014 with the same roadblocks to be overcome. Before that curtain rises it might be worthwhile to review Act I. It began when a group of right-wing Republicans led by Texas Senator Ted Cruz were determined to defund ObamaCare in the 2014 federal budget. His 21 hour oration in the US Senate brought extensive publicity to the effort, not to mention substantial contributions to that cause. Of course, there was no way that any ObamaCare defund bill would be approved in the Democrat controlled Senate and even less that President Obama would sign it. Any logical American citizen who believes in our democratic system must have wondered by what rationale how the ObamaCare legislation, approved by both houses of Congress, signed by the President and defined as constitutional by the US Supreme Court, couldn't be legally implemented.

From my perspective this was just another example of the Republicans going over the cliff like the lemmings, with a principle strategy continuing to ride roughshod over a winning strategy. I became aware of that maxim back in 1964, as a neophyte to the political scene, when I asked a Republican official why the party had nominated Barry Goldwater to face President Lyndon Johnson knowing he couldn't win. He informed me that winning was not the goal of the Republican party but rather standing for principle was the intent. I thought this was nutty and a passing fad, but as time passed other examples continue to occur. Take the 2012 case where Tea Party Republicans defeated Senator Luger, a sure winner, in an Indiana primary, for a candidate who met their rigid principles, but lost the senate seat to a Democrat? Or, the Delaware Republican senate candidate Christine O'Donnell ("I am not a witch"), vehemently supported by the Tea Party, defeating nine term US representative and former Delaware governor, Mike Castle in the primary for an election to fill Joe Biden's senate seat. Castle was another sure winner, but again his principles did not qualify for Tea Party support, and predictably, O'Donnell lost. I could go on with the senatorial Tea Party candidate facing an on-the-ropes Harry Reid, losing in Nevada. Or,Todd Akin winning the Missouri Republican primary by averring he was the most conservative and blowing up in the campaign by his comments about a women's body preventing pregnancy if it was "legitimate rape." Result, the vulnerable Democrat, Senator Claire McCaskill was re-elected. On and on it goes, with conservative Republicans always determining that purity of principles was the enemy of winning elections. If that philosophy persists, Republicans will continue to be the minority party at the federal level. 
 
What those Tea Party Republicans, advocating defunding ObamaCare, should have done, is accepted that ObamaCare was going to be implemented. If they wanted to take a position it should have been to vote "present" on ObamaCare funding. Then, the entire program, voted into existence without a single Republican, would remain clearly a Democrat program. Instead, they hung up the budget bill and held up an increase in the debt limit, leading to the shutdown. With a compromise reached, the government has re-opened and the budget and debt ceiling punted into 2014. (Please Note: I refuse to use that overworked idiom "kicked the can down the road")
 
ObamaCare has now taken effect with the sign-up phase for the individual mandate. The software glitches have been well publicized, with just a handful of sign-ups being consummated. President Obama and other officials have pooh-poohed the problems comparing them to Apple's start-up problems with their smart phones that were overcome with time -- hardly comparable. Republicans have taken up the call to delay the individual implementation for one year to get the glitches corrected, equating to the one year exemption given to 1,231 companies and other organizations regarding the law’s restrictions of annual benefit caps. 
 
On the other hand, some opponents of ObamaCare support its implementation for individuals on the theory that it will self-collapse of its own weight. They allege it is too complicated; will not attract younger insurers needed to balance the costs of older participants; will increase insurance costs far above current rates; will create a shortage of doctors and force medical rationing; will decrease medical research precipitately affecting quality of life and on and on. If these allegations prove accurate the American public will abandon ObamaCare in droves and demand the repeal of the ObamaCare carcass, with concomitant support increasing for Republicans.  
 
That result would be a gigantic blow to the entitlement state concept advocated by American liberalism these past 50 years. It will be challenged in all its aspect and subject to fundamental change. The American quality of self-reliance and individualism that guided the country for its first 175 years would be restored. Republicans are bound to benefit but only if they can get their act together to agree that winning elections is their primary goal, not purity of principles emanating from losing candidates. 
 
Like most scenarios, the abandonment of Obamacare comes with a serious warning. The liberal establishment will not leave the battlefield as losers graciously. They will easily convince their entitlement constituents that the answer is not ObamaCare abandonment but a revision to a single payer system, run exclusively by the federal government -- ala Medicare. In all honesty, that's what President Obama and the liberal establishment actually wanted but they had to accept a lesser solution, ObamaCare, because a single payer system could not have been passed by Congress. Now, however, if may be possible, if a majority of the great middle class can be convinced to give them another shot with Hillary Clinton as President and Democrat majorities in both houses. Republicans and conservatives will have to present the American public with attractive alternatives that can carry the day. It's a substantial challenge that requires unity in Republican ranks -- and if they are serious they need to get underway today. Not tomorrow, but today!
  

ATTENTION MEQUON - ONE OF YOUR ALDERMEN IS MISSING!

Hang on to your hats, Mequonites, the political follies have started. It’s been fifteen years since Mayor Moriarty left office with his objective of turning Mequon into an ante-bellum community of no modern conveniences with a "No Progress in Mequon" agenda. He didn’t quite succeed but he and his merry minions created quite a rumpus over his term. I’m told by some long-term residents that watching those common council meetings, which often lasted until two in the morning, was more fun that any television show on the networks. Well, Moriarty is long gone, but his gang has been reconstituted with old members and new recruits to the cause with the same mission, "No Progress in Mequon" 

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