This Just In ...

Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.

Tuesday's election could shake up the Franklin School Board for the better


Ever since I moved into Franklin in 1992, the complacency about local politics has been painfully obvious. In order for Franklin residents to be outraged and actually moved to compassionate participation, the issue at hand had to be cataclysmic. That’s only occurred less than a handful of times since I’ve lived here:

1) The recall of controversial alderman Basil Ryan.

2) A proposed smoking ban that tore apart the city.

3) The planned dumping by the state of numerous sexual predators in Franklin.

4) The $78 million school referenda questions. If they were rejected, some students would be forced into trailers we were told.

Unless the sky is falling, the vast majority of folks here simply yawns, leans back, and changes the channel on the remote.

Since I started blogging, I’ll say this that as the lone voice against those referenda, in that chapter I made a difference.

But even when the business manager at the Franklin Public Schools, Jim Milzer intentionally misinformed the school board levy were voting on a 5% property tax levy increase when it was actually around 12% (I have e-mail correspondences as evidence), the scandal caused an uproar for less than a day before it quickly subsided. Franklin homeowners, I surmised, were so accustomed to being screwed that even in this egregious injustice, they were once again willing to just sit back and take their lumps.

 

Blog after blog pinpointing the tax and spend obscenities, my warnings for the most part fell on deaf ears, and Franklin taxpayers were savaged with tax bills above and beyond the rate of inflation. Meanwhile student performance stagnated, going anything but up.

After Governor Walker took office, he instituted “tools” to help municipalities keep their budgets in line and property taxes down. That was last year. Then came 2012 and the Franklin school board races.

In all my years living here, I never experienced the revolt, no matter the size that I was feeling among the voters. They not only were angry, they were engaged.

Actions matter most, and the primary results in February clearly demonstrated this wasn’t tax and spend business as usual in Tax Hell, Wisconsin.

Franklin voters dumped former school board member David Works who went into office promising he’d tow the line on tax and spending. He left as just another disappointing tax and spender who, to this day, doesn’t get it.

Even more important was the rejection of incumbent Judith Bialk, setting up incumbent Janet Evans and three newcomers for two seats. Two of the three newcomers were WEAC-sponsored, Don Petre and John Thompson.

I’m not sure Franklin conservative voters truly understood the magnitude of Tuesday’s election.

Bialk was basically harmless. Of course she voted wrong all the time on the big ones, but being void of any independent thought or idea and voting based on how she was instructed by the public school power structure, Bialk wasn’t anywhere near dangerous like Don Petre.

Petre was put up as a statewide strategy by the teachers union to infiltrate as many school boards as possible to attempt to regain control and power. Unlike the grandmotherly Bialk who simply nodded as told, the militant Petre had a strict union agenda that would have poisoned the school board and damaged the cause of taxpayers.

Simply put, the loss of Bialk plus the addition of Petre would have made the Franklin School Board even worse if you were a fiscal conservative.

Franklin taxpayers dodged a bullet and then some Tuesday.

Almost two out of every three voters opted, not for the two WEAC candidates, but for Evans and Aimee Schlueter who consistently campaigned as taxpayer-friendly. Tuesday’s results sent clear messages:

1) The voters spoke clearly that they reject the infusion of public-sector union philosophies into our local education administration.

2) The long-time status quo of school board politics is long gone and over in Franklin.

This sets up the potential for a remarkable turnaround in local school board politics in Franklin. I am not suggesting the following will occur, only that there is the strong possibility, and it’s great news for Franklin taxpayers who have waited decades for what could now transpire.

Imagine a strong alliance between board members Janet Evans, Aimee Schlueter, Linda Witkowski, and Tim Nielson. I sure can. That’s a solid majority that, if they work together and vote appropriately could be taxpayer’s dream team. They can be heroes if they remember what they ran on and what got them into office.

Their first order of business must come at their next meeting when they organize their positions of leadership. If the vote Tuesday, and it was a mandate in my view, means anything, they need to elect a new School Board President and oust Debbie Larson. They elect a new Vice president and dump Jeff Traylor who admitted publically he didn’t understand the concept of “fiscal responsibility.”

In their places put two of the Evans-Schlueter-Witkowski-Nielson alliance. Don’t stop there. Put two others as your Treasurer and Clerk. Now you run the meetings. You set the parameters the way it should be. No longer does Superintendent Steve Patz run the board. The board is in control. How refreshing.

School board candidates, not just in Franklin, but everywhere sing the same mantra that they want to provide the best education at the lowest cost. It’s phony window dressing that the candidates are never asked to explain in detail and I wish that particular campaign tactic would be banned. But now in Franklin, you have a majority of school board members that I think can actually deliver on such a promise.

This scenario has to be giving the status quo school administration fits, and rightfully so. Your fun and games, your kaffeklatsch, your tax and spend party could (I hope) be over. That’s if certain school board members follow through and at this celebratory post-election moment I’m cautiously optimistic.

Franklin taxpayers, you’ve waited a long time to feel as good as you do right now.

Enjoy. But then, the work starts again. We haven’t totally cleaned house. Next year is coming.

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