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Archives for Madison (page 2 / 2)

Madison Housing Market Going Up

After home sales started falling last year, I saw a lot of doom and gloom commentary from "experts" afraid that we would enter a 10-year housing slump. Thanksfully, home sales in Madison (and Dane County) are on the rise again. Home prices still haven't completely rebounded, but I'm glad to see that they're starting to sell again -- at any price. As a new homeowner, don't want to see the market start stagnating!

The local residential real estate market is showing signs of recovery, a local real estate official says.

The 604 sales reported in April in Dane County were 11.4 percent below the 682 last April, according to statistics released Thursday by the Realtors Association of South Central Wisconsin.

But that is not as bad as the 20.1 percent decline for the first four months of this year compared to the same period of last year -- 1,802 to 2,006.

And RASCW Executive Director John Deininger said sales this year have improved more than they typically do as the weather warms -- by 8.0 percent from January to February, 47.0 percent from February to March, and 23.6 percent from March to April.

Special-Ed Kids Everywhere You Look

From What special-ed cut means:

Several speech and language clinicians predicted some of the projected savings won't materialize.

Testing of children diagnosed with only speech and language disabilities will intensify, they said, in search of additional diagnoses -- such as learning disabilities, or emotional behavioral disabilities -- that would cement the need for a special education teacher's involvement.

"I have no doubt that additional labels will appear if you look hard enough," said Johnson [a speech and language clinician], who acknowledged that the current system made it more expedient to simply call upon the special education teacher without going through the process of amending a student's individual education plan.

If you subject children to enough tests and examinations, I'm sure you can manage to find something wrong with every one of them. That allows you to easily justify spending millions of dollars on special education teachers, thus preserving valuable teacher jobs and leaving no teacher behind.

It's no surprise that the head of the local teachers' union said the move appears to shortchange vulnerable students and subject the pared-down special education staff to burnout. It will also result in immense hardship for the 45 teachers and assistants that may have to find other work. But never, ever mention that. Keep all of the focus on the children and you may yet preserve your jobs.

Expensive Entertainment

Madison's "Concerts on the Square" sure are expensive. I'm not referring to money -- admission is free, after all -- but to time. Patrons sit on the lawn of the State Capital. Seating is first come, first served. Anyone can reserve a spot by simply placing a blanket on the ground. There's a catch, however: no blankets are allowed on the ground until 3pm. To reserve a seat, patrons must show up before 3pm, wait, and then spread out their blankets once 3pm arrives.

All of that waiting and uncertainty is as much of a cost as an actual ticket would be. It's just a different kind of cost. Instead of spending money, patrons spend time. In my opinion, time is much harder to get than money is. Thus, these concerts are far more expensive than traditional concerts would be.

Do they cost too much? Well, that's up to each individual. There are benefits to this kind of cost: enjoying the outdoors, sitting and talking with other early-arrivals, taking advantage of a day off to enjoy some culture without sacrificing some cash. I think the entire thing sounds like fun -- provided I come equipped with enough sunscreen. (There's another non-monetary cost for you.) I just won't make the mistake of calling it a "free concert".

This entry was tagged. Madison

Smoking Ban Takes Effect

Madison's smoking ban claimed its first (business) victim yesterday. The Hammer Time bar on Madison's East Side announced that it will be closing on April 15. Bob Tague and Carla Hammerschmidt, the current owners, blame the loss of business, caused by the smoking ban.

The Wisconsin State Journal attempts to spin the story as nothing major -- just another bar, already in financial difficulty, that was forced to close:

But financial difficulties already plagued the location when the current owners ... bought it in June 2004.

When the couple bought the bar, formerly known as Vial's Lake Edge Tavern, the asking price reflected $58,800 in needed repairs, money owed to vendors and back taxes, according to court documents.

But the history of financial difficulties at the location, along with the decision to buy a tavern business after the ban was approved, led some observers Wednesday to doubt the connection between the ban and the shutdown.

It's true, Tague and Hammerschmidt took a risk by buying the bar. It needed repairs, still owed taxes, and the ban had already been approved. This is something to applaud. Had they succeeded in renovating the bar, they would have kept jobs in the neighborhood (possibly creating new jobs along the way) and kept taxes flowing to the City Council.

The Council chose to make that renovation harder than it had to be. Instead of supporting local business, supporting private property rights, and supporting people's moral right to choose whether or not to expose themselves to cigarette smoke, the council chose to hamstring local businesses and limit their competitiveness. As a result, Tague and Hammerschmidt will lose their investment. The bar employees will lose their jobs. And the city of Madison will lose another tax-paying business.

The bar may have failed even without the smoking ban. But the smoking ban made success far harder than it otherwise would have been. It would be nice to have the City Council stand up and take responsibility for the results of their ban. But they won't. It's far easier to make moral stands than to face the results of those stands. And Madison voters have shown that they're perfectly willing to accept that behavior from their Aldermen. Indeed, many Madison voters seem to positively relish doing the same thing.

To those voters: Enjoy your moral certainty. While you're celebrating the success of the ban, I'll be thinking of the employees and employers that you're hurting. One of us has the right to the moral high ground. I'm not certain it's you.

[tags]smoking ban, regulation[/tags]

This entry was tagged. Madison Regulation

Union Opposition

Owen reported on two form letters that were sent to the state legislature, criticizing the Taxpayer Protection Amendment. One form letter was signed by leaders of city governments, the other was signed by leaders of county governments. Fortunately, my neither my alderman nor my County Board Supervisor signed it.

The more interesting part of this entire deal is that form letters were drafted by AFT-Wisconsin.

AFT-Wisconsin is a labor organization representing 17,000 public and private employees in the state of Wisconsin. Formerly called the Wisconsin Federation of Teachers (WFT), AFT-Wisconsin is the Wisconsin chapter of the American Federation of Teachers. Started primarily as a teachers' union with 1,400 members in 1933, AFT-Wisconsin has grown exponentially and today represents many diverse professionals with over 500 job classifications

In other words, people who work for the government are writing letters for other people who work for the government to sign. These letters say that the government should be able to raise taxes whenever it wants by however much it wants. That sounds to me like they're probably more interested in protection their jobs and their easy access to my pocketbook than they are in actually governing responsibly.

Furthermore, I think their worries about the TPA rolling back our basic services are a load of hooey. The TPA, sad to say, won't roll back any spending. It will just limit the rate at which spending can increase in the future. And, yes, it will allow spending increases. Just not huge ones. Unless you ask the taxpayers first. If they approve it, then it's all right. So why the long faces? Are they afraid to actually ask the taxpayers before increasing taxes? No, the TPA will not impose spending cuts. No, the TPA will not stop spending increases. All the TPA will do is slow down spending increases. Is that such a bad thing?

For the convenience of anyone else reading from Madison or Dane County, I've included the full list of Madison / Dane County signatories. If your alderman or county supervisor is on the list, I'd highly recommend giving them a call and expressing your displeasure. As Owen says, these are people are worthless local officials who are so terrified of having to ask the taxpayers when they want to blow the taxpayers' money. On the other hand, you might want to thank them all for providing such a handy list of people to vote against in the next election.

Representing Madison:

Dave Cieslewicz, Lauren Cnare, Austin King, Mike Verveer, Tim Gruber, Brenda Konkel, Ken Golden, Paul Van Rooy, Noel Radomski.

Representing Dane County:

Jane Licht (Register of Deeds), David Gawenda (Treasurer), Brett Hulsey, Robert Fyrst, Barbara Vedder, Kyle Richmond, John Hendrick, Don Eggert, Dave de Felice, Duane Gau, David Worzala, County Supervisor, Mark Opitz.

Support the war, fight the norm

Madison, along with many other cities in Wisconsin, will be sporting a shiny-new anti-war referendum in the April election. The referendum is simple: Should the United States bring all military personnel home from Iraq now?. Simply vote "yes" or "no".

Recently members of the cheddarsphere have been opposing similiar referendums. Owen Robinson opposed it in Whitefish Bay and Lance Burri opposed it in Baraboo.

I fully support the views expressed in their remarks. They're both far more eloquent than I am, on this subject, so, please, go read their remarks. Then vote "No" on April 4.

This entry was tagged. Madison Wisconsin

Squeezing Out the Lower Classes

Madison's liberals spend a lot of time talking about helping the poor and improving the lives of the poor. This is, bluntly, a load of hogwash.

The Capital Times published another article about Wisconsin Health Care for All and their plan to offer health care to everyone in the city of Madison. In this article, I learned that most of the group's members are former Kerry campaign members. They were, understandably, depressed after Senator Kerry's loss in the 2004 election:

"We decided that we wanted to keep working," said Barbara Spar, who teaches human resources management at Madison Area Technical College. "We wanted to be for something. We wanted to use our energy instead of being depressed."

They decided to use their energy to implement universal health care on a local level -- Madison, specifically. As I wrote previously, the group wants to implement their plan by requiring all businesses in Madison to pay a portion of their payroll into an insurance fund. Businesses that already provide healthcare will be exempt from this new "fee".

The group boasts that they have an economist as one of their leaders: John Kalfayan. Therefore, group members are certain that their plan will not hurt businesses in Madison or lead to layoffs. Quite possibly they're right. If they are able to implement their plan, I have every confidence that no existing businesses will close. Furthermore, I'm fairly confident that no one will be laid off as a result of this plan.

That's not to say that this plan will good for everyone. This is one small group of people that would be hurt by this plan: those who have few marketable job skills. As an economist, I would expect that Mr. Kalfayan is familiar with the idea of "marginal utility". Simply put, marginal utility is the value that someone gets from the last unit of something. Think of it this way: for a hungry man, a single burger has great value. A second burger would be appreciated, but a little bit less than the first burger was. A third burger would be okay, but he might not miss it if it wasn't there. A fourth burger might even be ignored. The fourth burger then has a much lower marginal utility than the first burger did.

The same principle holds true in business. As businesses hire more employees, each employee will have a lower marginal utility to the business. If it is too expensive to hire an additional employee (for instance, if the employer must provide healthcare in addition to minimum wage), the business may choose to make do with the employees they already have. Thus, while this healthcare plan may not cause any layoffs it will, quite possibly, prevent new jobs from being created.

There is another factor that will come into play. As employees become more expensive, businesses will choose to hire only the best employees. If this new "healthcare fee" causes the minimum wage to rise from $5.50 an hour to $5.94 an hour, the employer will only hire employees who can contribute more than $5.94 an hour to the bottom line. This means employers will only hire someone who is fully trained and competent.

What about less qualified applicants? What about people who might have had trouble holding down a job in the past or who have limited work experience or who simply require a lot of on the job training? The answer is simple: it will be much harder for them to find work. They will be passed over in favor of applicants who can justify the higher pay scale.

Implementing this healthcare plan would remove the lowest rung from the economic ladder. Implementing this healthcare plan would lead to businesses squeezing out applicants who are inexperienced or under-qualified. For these people, Wisconsin Health Care for All is not offering a choice of a job without healthcare benefits or a job with healthcare benefits. No, for these people, Wisconsin Health Care for All only offers the choice of a job with healthcare or no job at all. Which do you think a desperate man would prefer: a job without healthcare or no job whatsoever?

I know which option I would prefer. The simple fact of the matter is, this plan would neither help the poor nor make them better off. It is a purely cosmetic fix that will have large, hidden repercussions. While Madison's liberals will pat themselves on the back for the workers they've helped, they'll be completely oblivious to the people they've hurt.

I'd rather focus on why Madison's businesses can't voluntarily offer health insurance. I have a sneaking suspicion that it might have something to do with the fact that only four states in the nation have higher taxes than Wisconsin. Unfortunately, that problem will only be made worse by taking a new payroll "fee" from local businesses.

First Madison Vote

My wife and I voted in Madison for the first time, this evening. I was already registered, she registered at the poll (taking advantage of Wisconsin's notoriously lax voter ID requirements). Madison's 56th Ward was voting in two elections: a primary for Seat 1 on the Madison School Board and County Supervisor for District 24.

We voted after I got home from work, around 7pm. We cast the 93rd and 94th votes of the day, for our ward. I wouldn't have known about the election if it had not been for Jenna, at Right Off the Shore. She blogged about her vote, which alerted me to the fact that an election was actually happening.

Unfortunately, while I knew about the primary for the Madison School Board, I hadn't noticed that we were also supposed to be voting for a County Supervisor. So, we just cast our votes for Maya Cole and abstained in the County Supervisor's election.

I'm still in the process of getting plugged into the political scene here in Madison. I was surprised today, I don't intend to let it happen again. Fortunately, there will be another election in April. I'll be ready for that one.

This entry was tagged. Madison