Madison Alder Keith Furman And Gimmicky Coconut Shells

I read a letter penned for the Wisconsin State Journal and found it merited still more notice, as it hits to the truth in a pithy way that Madison voters should ponder as they head to the April Spring election.

I laughed out loud at Alder Keith Furman’s letter criticizing Gloria Reyes for questioning city budgeting and the BusRT system.  He who was appointed to the council saying he wouldn’t run because that would give him an unfair advantage, and then ran.  So you can take his word to the bank. 

He whines about a $9 million structural deficit the Mayor inherited.  Gee, I thought when she and he slammed through the wheel tax it was $11 million.  And there was no real effort made at cutting or prioritizing spending.  In fact, they taunted taxpayers and said they were responsible to come up with cuts. 

Furman, as Council President and the Mayor employed the same shell-game tactic with the recycling tax.  Yes, take a popular program, but one we have no choice in participating in, add a tax to the utility bill and then take the millions you were spending on recycling to spend elsewhere. 

The facts are the city budget was awash in federal money the last several years which have or will end.  The chickens will come home to roost.  Furman himself was quoted as saying further “gimmicks” will be needed to balance future budgets. 

So, vote for the mayor and bet on which coconut shell will be next, or vote for Reyes and someone who will give a realistic review of our budget. 

Rick Soletski,


Kewaunee County Has Right To Be Angry Over Paltry DOJ Settlement Of Corporate Farm Improperly Spreading Manure

Jars of water from Kewaunee County home tap where researchers tied manure from nearby farm fields to the polluted water. Courtesy of Kewaunee County Land and Water Conservation Department

The news on the surface seems to suggest the State of Wisconsin prevailed with justice by taking a firm stand on behalf of the residents who were negatively impacted in Kewaunee County, where cattle outnumber people nearly 5 to 1. In 2017 up to 60 percent of sampled wells in a Kewaunee County study contained fecal microbes, many of which are capable of making people and calves sick. So it might seem needless to say for those who have endured polluted and colored drinking water for many years, the meager $215,000 settlement of ‘pollution allegations’ by Kinnard Farms rings harsh and hollow. While one can rightly approve of the determination shown by the Department of Justice to challenge the wrongdoing of this corporate farm the final financial outcome is a sad joke.

The Legislature’s finance committee is scheduled to approve the deal this week, and the press is reporting this small fine will settle allegations that Kinnard Farms improperly spread manure in Kewaunee and Door counties between 2018 and 2022.  The settlement also calls for Kinnard Farms to upgrade two waste storage facilities and a feed storage area.

If you have not heard of Kinnard Farms it is not due to their name being absent on the lips of Kewaunee residents. For years one of Wisconsin’s largest dairy operations in the northeastern region of the state, with 16 industrial farms, has created agricultural pollution where testing has proven outrageous levels of contaminants in residents’ private drinking water wells. Contaminants that match fecal matter in farm fields with tap water pollution. How many ways can one say yuck?

In 2021, the state allowed a permit to Kinnard Farms that required the business to monitor at least two sites where it applies manure to the land as fertilizer, with at least three wells per site. The sites selected must have a shallow depth to the bedrock, where the groundwater resides. The business, of course, and as one might imagine contends the testing regime is too expensive.  As such, they are suing the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. There is enough money to hire a law firm in Madison but not enough to test and keep local residents safe from contaminants in the drinking water.

We all take for granted the clarity of our tap water and the safety of drinking it, brushing our teeth, and using it for cooking and showering.  But our fellow citizens in Kewaunee County when turning on the tap are aware that pollution issues are front and center due to manure having been applied during spring, summer, and fall on area land.  As their local students are taught in science classes, their topsoil is a relatively short distance from the groundwater in the area, due to its unique hydrogeology. This is the basic understanding as to why many taxpayers can show bottles of dirty water taken from the kitchen tap.  Who can blame that county for raising holy heck about what has been done all in the name of a corporate farm making huge sums of money?

I noted a WPR news story during the Covid pandemic when most people were taking steps to stay clear of the virus, where it was reported hundreds of people in Kewaunee County were falling ill at home just from their drinking water.

The study predicts cow manure causes 230 cases of acute gastrointestinal illnesses in the county per year, out of 301 total cases of sickness — with an additional 12 cases caused by human waste from septic systems. The contaminant is unknown for the other instances, the authors wrote.

The reason I am animated over this issue is that research is showing that even what was considered a solution to the harm done by Kinnard Farms may not be enough for the safety needs of the citizenry.

Private homeowners in that situation may be eligible for a well compensation program that provides money for filling and sealing old wells, drilling and constructing a new well or installing a treatment system. If they have E. coli in their well, Peninsula Pride Farms Water Well program also offers help.

But Borchardt’s research shows a new or deeper well does not necessarily provide protection.

Tenacity and resolve are traits from the Justice Department that I always find welcoming, but there is no glee to be found with this weak and anemic $215,000 settlement for a corporate farm that has done so much environmental harm. No real justice can be summed up with a $215,000 settlement. Severe lax state regulations regarding agricultural practices allowed people to bring dirty bottled water to the statehouse and place it on my desk and ask for a resolution in the 1990s. They had a right to be angry then. They have even more reason for anger now.

Crumbley Parents Face Prosection Due To Son’s Shooting Spree, Nation Has Right To Expect Parental Responsibility

Gun control advocates continually press for reasoned and logical laws and consequences so as to better stem the rampant gun violence that impacts far too many communities and families. Today, one of those themes pushed on this blog came to fruition in a Michigan court case. James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of a teenager who killed four students and injured seven at a Michigan high school, will face trial for involuntary manslaughter. The ruling came from a state appeals court in what we need to recognize as a profoundly important and correct decision.  This is a groundbreaking case of criminal responsibility for the acts of a gun-toting child.

In December 2021, I posted the following.

The layers of possible responses to the carnage left by Ethan Crumbley and the 9-millimeter Sig Sauer handgun used in the shooting are many. From working on issues in school concerning being bullied to the drowning of the nation in too many guns available for purchase, and the ease that children can get their hands on a deadly weapon. There is no single avenue to address the gravity of the situation.

But when it comes to guns in homes this blog has been consistent and adamant that parents must be held legally responsible when their weapons are not stored and safeguarded correctly. When they are accessible to underage people, and crimes take place with the weapons, then the law must follow the parents right to the jailhouse door and usher them inside.

Let me be clear and place the weight upon the parents as these murders would not have happened if the parents hadn’t purchased a gun for Ethan Crumbley or if they had taken him home from Oxford High School on the day of the shooting.  That is not just my summation, but how the appeal court viewed the distressing matter of God-awful parenting.  The court held firm to the obvious necessity that the parents should have taken their unhinged child out of the classroom after school staff became aware of and rightly alarmed over his extreme drawings.

I have stressed bad parenting must be addressed in relation to guns repeatedly on Caffeinated Politics.  After reading the words of Lorrie Wagner about her son, Jakob, the Antigo prom school shooter, I called attention to her decision to allow a clearly troubled child to obtain a semi-automatic weapon. I stated it was an example that underscores why there needs to be some legal remedy for such absurdity. We came to know about her son’s childhood struggle with mental illness and diagnosis of depression his emotional breakup with a girlfriend a month before prom, combined with his mother’s decision two weeks before the dance to allow him to buy a semi-automatic assault-style rifle at a gun show. 

In 2009, the Waushara County Sheriff’s Department received a 911 call alerting them someone had been shot dead in Redgranite.  The initial investigation showed several young people between the ages of 5 and 17 were at the residence and the victim had received a gunshot wound to the upper torso.  A long-barrel rifle used in the shooting was recovered from the scene. At the time I asked where were the parents?  Why was a rifle unlocked with ammunition in the home?  There are many questions to be answered, and as painful as it might be, the parents need to be held responsible for the weapons that they had. 

We know that in 2006 in Sauk County a 15-year-old boy brought a rifle and handgun to school and shot a principal three times, killing him.  I wrote at the time “How guns are so carelessly left around in the homes of Americans is a mystery to me.  How a child walks out of the house on the way to school with a loaded shotgun and a loaded handgun baffles me.  How parents are so tone deaf to the problems that their child is having BEFORE a violent act of this kind, confuses me.”

This blog has repeatedly stated parents of young people who use guns to shoot, kill, and create violence also need to be held accountable.  Many times, an adult was responsible for the fact the shooter was able to place his hands on a weapon. There is no way that any sane person can say parental/adult actions, such as with this shooting in Michigan which led off this post, should not be addressed by the law that makes sure there is a responsibility shared by those who help to foster the violent outcomes.

The NRA has plenty of responsibility for the number of guns in our society and the ease with which anyone can get a deadly weapon. But when it comes to children with guns there also must be a question asked–where the heck was the parent? It might also be a good time to ask if parents are not able to control their offspring then perhaps, they should forfeit their children’s tax credits. The rest of society should not have to continually pay the price for bad parenting.

I applaud the court process playing out in Michigan. James and Jennifer Crumbley deserve to be wards of the state.

Gay Youth Harmed By State Republicans Favoring Conversion Therapy

Modern society and medical professionals have solidly rebuked conversion therapy, but Wisconsin Republicans embraced it Wednesday in the State Senate. What we thought was behind us has again been thrust in our faces. Before going any further with this post, let us put the young people who will be harmed by this ludicrous action forefront of our thoughts.  Often this blog tries to shine a light on what young gay kids, especially in rural parts of the state, face as a result of the actions some take for pure partisan delight.  (I was one of those kids decades ago.)

After watching the national news last evening which contained more Russian aggression and another school shooting, I admit to being taken aback at the local reports of Republicans voting to allow therapists to pursue the discredited idea of conversion therapy in our state.  I had some hope that the State Senate would be less inclined to act with the same harshness and complete lack of empathy for gay people in their communities as had the Assembly earlier this month.  I was very wrong.  Senate Republicans used the procedural move to freeze any future attempts through 2024 to ban conversion therapy.

Consider how out of bounds the Republicans were with their vote, knowing that conversion therapy has been condemned by dozens of medical and psychological professional organizations in several countries, banned in at least seven countries, and at least 20 states and the District of Columbia have outlawed conversion therapy for minors. Additionally, that therapy has been banned in more than a dozen Wisconsin cities. Being gay is not a disease or a disorder. It requires no remedy.

The quackery of this procedure is one that aligns equally with the theory that witches float if tossed into a lake.  What is not funny is the harm that will befall young people who will in some cases be forced into the most bizarre conversion therapy practices. “LGB people who experienced conversion therapy were almost twice as likely to think about suicide and to attempt suicide compared to their peers who hadn’t experienced conversion therapy.”

I strongly suspect the United Nations is anathema to the GOP caucus but for my readers, I mention the UN’s Independent Expert on violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Victor Madrigal-Borloz. He has described conversion therapy as an “egregious violation of rights” and called for a worldwide ban. There is just no way to adequately describe how far outside of the rational and reasoned world the Republicans are when talking about this issue.

While there are multiple headlines in newspapers and on television about the partisan actions conservative politicians took Wednesday, the tragedies, and suicides that result from conversion therapy will only find a small write-up on the obituary page.  That may sound blunt, but sadly, it is the truth.  If that line offends, consider how offensive it is to a teenager to be told that their basic sexual identity is under attack. Now consider if that teenager is in a rural locale where it seems no one understands and there is nowhere to turn for guidance and emotional grounding.  

One must wonder what the rationale is for this GOP obsession with gay people and transgenders in our state and nation.  After some pondering only one explanation makes sense.  Cruelty is the purpose behind these actions.  Conservatives targeted gay people when demands were made for marriage rights, and we know how even civil unions were blasted by the Republicans 20 years ago.  But society at large had much to say about gay marriage as every family and every neighborhood had gay people and couples within the mix.  Somehow gay people are again targeted by the Republicans, but transgender people seemingly are the ones most prone to face partisan rhetoric and then as a consequence, violence from those in the public most susceptible to acting out when hearing such discourse. I know that modernity will prevail and in years to come this too will be another example of how conservatives lost a  self-created culture war. But how many young people will pay too high a price for the partisan games now being played?

One More Time With Jayne Byrne

With a fascinating and pivotal election for mayor underway in Chicago, I walked back in time last night and pulled up this documentary on Jayne Byrne. Excellent fast-paced narrative with the faces and names many love from Chicago politics. I grew up in central Wisconsin and WBBM and WGN radio were stations that I found to my liking, so as a teenager I started to be intrigued with the Windy City pols and elections. This film was a great series of nostalgic memories.

I recall the blizzard that played out for radio listeners in 1979 far from Chicago which ended the role of mayor for Michael Bilandic and that allowed for the dazzling election victory of Bryne. As I noted on CP in 2010 one of her harsh and strident opponents, a man I summed up as having “less morals and ethics than almost any other Chicago politician I have followed over the years’, ‘Fast Eddy’ Vrdolyak, was sentenced to prison for real estate schemes. “Prison and stripes are not exactly the future for ‘Fast Eddy’ but there will at least be the public humiliation that comes with work release and home detention”.

It is those types of bookends to the faces in this documentary that make it so rewarding for lovers of Chicago politics.

Madison Crime Data Vs. Political Perceptions As We Roll To Spring Balloting

As we approach the Spring Election in April many issues are bandied about in an attempt to link a candidate with voters.  In the Madison race for mayor and a wide array of aldermanic contests crime and policing are often topics being presented for answers from those on the ballot. While those who commit illegal actions make headlines the fact is the fear of crime outpaces the actual data of what is happening in our communities.

When it comes to the top-of-the-fold crimes that get attention the statistics from Madison are heading in the right direction.  The city saw six homicides in 2022, 40% fewer than the previous year; shots fired calls were also down 39%.  It goes without saying there has been a raft of car thefts and wayward teenagers who seem hellbent on making for a mugshot rather than an honor roll lineup. Even then the data proves stolen vehicle cases were down 12% and home and vehicle break-ins fell 33%.  But when it comes to the city as a whole it is not improper to say that for the general population, the crime rate should not be the first or second concern that roils voters at the polls.

We recall the stem-winding rhetoric that led up to the midterm election in 2022 with Fox News decrying violence up and down their broadcast day.  But then a funny thing happened once the balloting ended.

With the vote over, however, the rightwing news channel appeared to decide things weren’t that bad after all, and decreased its coverage of violent crime by 50% compared with the pre-election average.

I faulted the Republican rhetoric at the time on my CP Facebook page as far more about election ranting than most of the nation experienced.  I noted in November 2022 that what occurred starting in 1829 still resonated.  President Andrew Jackson was going to root out the corruption and rot that had been placed into the governmental offices by sacking those appointed by former President J. Q. Adams.  But historians have discovered that in the Tennessean’s first term, he removed only 1 in 11 officeholders.  Clearly, with that evidence, the use of hyper-based rhetoric for political aims far exceeded any actual abuse in departments of the federal government. Repeat and rinse.

While I had my lawn sign firmly planted for Gloria Reyes prior to the Madison Professional Police Officers Association making their endorsement and understanding that some locales in Madison have economic and social issues that are meshed with crime statistics it bears repeating that we need to stay true to the data. Our city always has room for improvement, like putting body cams on every officer and making sure there is a resource officer in every high school. We know that any criminal act is absolutely out of bounds.  But let us not drift away from another fact. We have a city we can be proud of and no candidate for any office should try to paint it otherwise.

President Biden Continues Protecting Nature’s Beauty

Amidst all the harsh headlines comes news that uplifts today, and promises to do the same for generations to come.

Texas’s Castner Range is now a national monument, as President Biden made it official today. (The photo below with yellow flowers.) Also, Nevada’s Avi Kwa Ame became a national monument. Together that is protecting a total of nearly 514,000 acres of public lands from development. Something we can all applaud, an outcome that is rare in these hyper-political times.

The words from Biden today were accurate when stating these natural places “define our identity as a nation.” Ever since President Teddy Roosevelt defined the necessity of preserving such places across the nation do we firmly pledge ourselves to the larger goal at hand.

The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value.”
– Speech by Theodore Roosevelt in Osawatomie, Kansas, August 31, 1910.

Avi Kwa Ame is part of the creation story of many tribes and is sacred to indigenous groups including the Mojave, Chemehuevi, and some Southern Paiute people. Species to be found in this treasured area include Joshua trees, desert bighorn sheep, desert tortoises, and Gila monsters.  

Castner Range, on Fort Bliss in the El Paso area, was a testing and training site for the Army during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The area, with both hills and desert plains, also contains archeological sites significant to Indigenous tribes “that inhabited the area since time immemorial.”

The long summer road trips that our family took to see such sites provided reasons to be introspective about nature’s gifts. Dad would stand alongside me as we gazed out at rock formations or gushing waterfalls and at times comment on those who first saw the wonders. With awareness about their power to enhance life and our power to prevent such places from being marred and stained by people many more generations of young people will also thrill to the grandeur of America.

Inciting Protest Over Arrest, Donald Trump Again Seeks To Undermine Rule of Law

Once again, and disturbingly so, we must use the word unprecedented when speaking about Donald Trump.  It is reported that on Tuesday the former president will be arrested for his hush money payments in relation to a sexual affair with Stormy Daniels, a porn star, which he carried on while married to his third wife. Upon learning the legal proceedings are bearing down upon him, Trump made a public statement that there should be protests to counter his arrest. 

If this were a third-rate country it would be on par that such bombast and recklessness would be coming from an autocratic personality.  But coming from a former president of the United States, and one who incited a seditious insurrection at our nation’s Capital only a couple years ago means the audacity of his words is chilling.  Trying to galvanize revolt through such language is simply abhorrent. 

Old-fashioned though I am, and admittedly so, I hold to the notion that reverence for laws matters, and that the process of law and order has meaning.  I hold to the concept that reason and justice matter.  I am appalled at the anger and the all-consuming array of resentments from a segment of the electorate who are never destined to be more than tools for Trump. That he only uses his troubled base for his own self-promotion and self-aggrandizement, and never for national good is proof for the rest of the nation as to what is at play.

Civics in my classrooms informed me, and given my interests perhaps I just paid more attention, but lawless passions are to be disdained and not nurtured or in any way furthered as they run counter to laws and reason. Civil law is the very antidote to the crazed passion and reckless desire of Trump. Mob action has deadly consequences, as seen on January 6th, 2021, and severely threatens our democratic ideals.

We know from history what happens when people fall to the whims of Caesar or Napoleon and cozy up to the rabble-rousers and dangers of freedom.  Trump is no better than those who earn historical scorn by their attempts to thwart justice and he has proven a willingness to destroy the very fabric of the nation itself to avoid the code of law. Mass violence is what we too often read about in nations not yet matured and able to arrange their political systems to address competing interests.  But in our nation of laws and a well-established system of justice, there is only one way to deal with Trump.

Donald Trump must feel the full weight of justice upon him.