Thursday, April 02, 2009

Vote Yes Information

The following is an email I received regarding the upcoming school referendum. Please remember to vote yes, yes, yes on April 7th.

Friends & Neighbors, My name is Tom Czajkowski and I am a co-chair of the Vote YES! committee for the upcoming school referendum on Tuesday, April 7. The purpose of this note is to ask you to read then forward this email in its entirety to your friends, neighbors, and colleagues in the Oshkosh area. The detailed information below on all three of the referendum questions should be helpful to people as they prepare to cast their votes on April 7.

This is a crucially important moment for the Oshkosh Area School District. The school buildings in our community have been neglected for years (in some cases, decades). The three questions on the April 7 referendum directly and very specifically (measurably) begin to attack this problem. And the tax impact is very small and lasts only two years (read below for details).

If you’ve read the news in the past week, you know the district will likely be forced to lay off some teachers next year to balance its operating budget. This is not a new problem; with the state funding formula being what it is, every year the district has to make difficult cuts: lay off teachers and staff, defer maintenance, cut language programs, etc. A successful referendum on April 7 will raise the extra funds that will take some pressure off the normal operating budget in future years by devoting new dollars to a very modest amount of essential construction and maintenance. In other words, a YES vote on April 7 gives us a chance, as citizens and parents, to get the district’s annual budget in better shape for the next several years. The Board of Education cannot do it without us. The scale of the problem is too large for us to expect incremental improvements in the annual budgeting process (while necessary) to resolve this problem.

Thank you in advance for forwarding this message along. I hope you and your neighbors find it helpful and informative. We would very much appreciate it if you would send this email to at least 10 people and ask those ten to do the same. And please mark your calendars to vote on Tuesday, April 7. _________________________________________________________________________

VOTE on Tuesday, April 7
Question #1 YES Replace School
Question #2 YES Repair Schools
Question #3 YES for Safe Schools

Thanks for taking the time to read this message. Its purpose is to strongly encourage you to vote YES on Tuesday, April 7 in support of all three referendum questions benefiting our Oshkosh Area School District. This message will provide you with essential information for each of the questions; along with links for additional information should you want it.

Also included near the end is a link to a simple but useful chart which summarizes the very modest and temporary increase in property taxes for each of the three referendum questions. A special note: the success of all three questions on April 7 will amount to only $1.00 a week for the owner of a $100,000 house. And that will only last for two short years, after which we’ll drop back to current school tax levels (more on this later in this note…). My fellow citizens, this is something we can do. This is something we must do for the good of our district and for the school buildings into which we send our kids every day.

Please remember to vote YES on April 7! Please forward this email in its entirety to at least ten of your friends and neighbors. We need to get the message out and we need to get YES voters to the polls on Tuesday, April 7.

And, as always, the latest detailed information regarding the referendum is posted on the district’s website (click
here). We have also set up a Facebook site with even more useful information. You can get to it by clicking here (you do not need to be a Facebook member).

Question #1: A New North-Side Replacement School

Building a new school is a big decision. For years the district has prudently done its best to maintain the buildings it already operates, but it’s clear that some of the buildings are simply too old and in too bad a state of disrepair to justify any new maintenance dollars. Oaklawn Elementary is one of those buildings.

It needs to be replaced to eliminate several chronic safety concerns with the existing Oaklawn site, which is grossly undersized and has no dedicated bus lanes, almost nonexistent parent parking, and tiny outdoor play areas. The new replacement site is approximately 38 acres in size and is located just one mile west of the old Sunset location, which is no further west than the existing Traeger and Oakwood buildings. And it's only 4.1 miles from the existing Oaklawn site (a five-minute drive). The parcel’s generous size and location will fully address the current Oaklawn site issues and will allow for future expansion should additional needs arise in the district over time.

Transportation costs for the new school will be essentially the same as they are today. The same number of routes will be used (8) as are used today to get the kids to Oaklawn. Costs are very similar, too, and the district can eliminate the extra costs of shuttling (small buses) the approximately 90 kids who cannot attend their home school today (Oaklawn) due to a lack of services and/or space. Consequently, the new north-side school will consolidate the Oaklawn, Sunset, and displaced populations and does so without adversely affecting transportation costs.

Another interesting fact about the current Oaklawn situation: while the school has approximately 230 students, only 20 to 30 walk currently given a variety of factors, including the unsafe walking conditions created by the crossing of the very busy Jackson and Main streets. Some Oaklawn teachers actually counted the number of kids walking to school one day last week and it was only six (6). So, for a variety of reasons, the vast majority of children aren’t walking to the school today; they’re either being bused or driven by their parents.

The new replacement school building itself will eliminate the shared, inefficient, and unproductive use of Oaklawn’s existing gymnasium, which today serves as the school’s art, physical education, and lunch room. From a facilities perspective, that’s a very difficult situation for the school’s staff to manage and is unfair to the kids. The new north-side replacement building will have dedicated space for each of these important activities as well as purpose-built space for music and science, which today exist on a rusty, roving grocery cart at Oaklawn.

The new replacement school will have space to accommodate students from the former Sunset attendance area and do so in much closer proximity to where the families live. The original Sunset building was closed several years ago – and never replaced -- due to irreparable mold conditions.

Even if you’re not a member of the Oaklawn or Sunset attendance areas, supporting the replacement of this school is the right thing to do. Someday, perhaps many years from now, your local school will need major renovation or possibly replacement. At that point, you’ll need the community’s broad support. Right now, the Oaklawn community needs our support.

Finally, and importantly, both the Oaklawn and soon thereafter the Lincoln buildings will close as a result of the new construction. So, essentially, the district is building one new building to replace three: Oaklawn, Lincoln, and Sunset, which was never replaced.

Question #2: Basic But Essential Maintenance Needs

Some of our schools are literally falling apart! Did you know many of the buildings operated by the district today weren’t built by the district? And weren’t built to any set of standards? It’s true; many of the buildings were transferred from other towns and districts over the past several decades. And many are very old and in desperate need of repairs.

Question #2 will generate an extra $1,300,000 per year only for the next five years solely to address the most pressing maintenance issues which have been deferred over the past 10 to 15 years due to other pressures on the district’s annual budget. There is nothing fancy or frivolous on the list of targeted improvements for these additional funds, just the essentials. Examples include roof replacements/upgrades, boiler replacements/upgrades, window replacements, electrical and lighting improvements, etc. For a detailed, very specific list of how these additional funds will be used each year over the next five years, click here (then go to page 8 in linked the document).

Some people believe the district can accommodate these needs with more careful and frugal budgeting. But that is unrealistic. For many years now, Oshkosh has been and remains among the lowest spending districts in the state (see chart here). The reality is, the district needs new investment and it needs the permission of the voters (you!) to raise and invest the funds to address these maintenance problems.

Question #3: Safety and Security

In recent parent surveys conducted by the district, the safety/security of our school buildings rated highest on a list of parents’ largest concerns and priorities. Question #3 will generate an extra $500,000 per year only for the next five years specifically to improve security at all buildings throughout the district. Five schools – the ones with the most severe entrance/security issues – will have their existing offices relocated to the front of the building to provide a clear, secure entrance to the school. These schools are:

Read Elementary
Oshkosh West High School
Franklin Elementary
Webster Stanley Elementary
Perry Tipler Middle School

While only the five schools above will receive brick and mortar reconstruction projects, all remaining schools in the district will benefit from new or upgraded video surveillance and remote-entrance (“buzzer”) systems, exterior door replacements, and signage.

Summary: What Will It Cost?

The district is fully aware of the challenging economic times in which we live, and the size and scope of these referendum questions have been scaled down significantly in light of those challenges. There are plenty of other, additional maintenance and re-construction needs across the district, but the three questions on the April 7 referendum narrowly support only the most desperately needed investments.

As citizens, we’re the only people who can make it happen. We should all expect sound and frugal management from our elected school board members, but the large scale of the facilities challenges faced by the district cannot be addressed by squeezing even more out of an annual budget which is already under too much pressure year after year.

The good news? The success of all three questions on the April 7 referendum will result in only a $1.00 increase per week in property taxes for the owner of a $100,000 house (or $52 a year). That’s the cost of one cup of coffee a week! And most of that increased cost (69% of it) ends after five years when the temporary boost for questions #2 and #3 end. Click here to see a chart which outlines the costs for each individual question and the totals.

The really good news? Given the very fiscally conservative way the district has managed its finances over the past few decades, the $1/week increase in school taxes mentioned above will be offset in 2011 by a full $1.00 per week (again, on a $100,000 house) and reduced again by another $0.71 in 2014. The reductions can be attributed to the retirement of debt related to Traeger (1996 construction) and Jefferson Elementary (1998 reconstruction). So, the net effect of all three of the referendum questions passing on April 7 will be felt, essentially, only from 2009 through 2011. After which, tax levels will return to 2009 levels, assuming all other factors remain constant (which is all we can plan for at this point.)

Please remember to vote YES on April 7! Please forward this email in its entirety to at least ten of your friends and neighbors. We need to get the message out and we need to get YES voters to the polls.

Authorized and paid for by Vote YES for Oshkosh Schools. Kevin Harvot, Treasurer.


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Election Endorsements

Below are my endorsements for the spring election. For your information, I have provided a link for each candidate and for the school referendum. I support these candidates and positions, and ask that you join me in voting for them on April 7th.

Frank Tower

Common Council:
Jessica King
Steve Cummings

School Board:
Dennis Kavanaugh
Wayne Traska
Matt Wiedenhoeft

School Referendum:
Question 1: Yes
Question 2: Yes
Question 3: Yes

Winnebago County Executive:
Mark Harris

State Superintendent of Schools:
Tony Evers

State Supreme Court:
Shirley Abrahamson

This is one of the most important spring elections Oshkosh has had since I have been a member of this community (if not the most important). I believe Oshkosh has come to a proverbial fork in the road and we, the citizens, must now choose the future direction of our city. So much is at stake: progress, economic development, quality education, the social safety net, leadership. I worry that much of this will be stifled - or worse yet, halted - if these candidates are not elected or if the referendums fail.

If you need information on where to vote or when the polls are open, visit the City Clerk's Web site. For election night results, you may visit the County Clerk's Web site or the Oshkosh Community Media Services Web site.



This post is not authorized or approved by any candidate, candidate committee, or political action committee.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

March 31, 2009 Fifth Tuesday Forum

My 17th and final Fifth Tuesday Forum will be held on March 31st at 6 p.m. in the Community Meeting Room at the Oshkosh Police Department, 420 Jackson St.

As always, everyone is welcome to attend. Feel free to contact me (or post a comment on here) should you have questions, or would like a specific topic to be discussed.



Tuesday, December 23, 2008

December 30, 2008 Fifth Tuesday Forum

Due to the holidays and the unfortunate lack of attendance, I have canceled the Fifth Tuesday Forum scheduled for December 30th. The 17th and final Fifth Tuesday Forum will be held at 6 p.m. on March 31st, location TBD.

Have a wonderful and safe holiday season!



Friday, December 05, 2008

Re-election Announcement

As reported here and here by the Oshkosh Northwestern, I have decided not to run for re-election, and will submit my non-candidacy paperwork Tuesday.

You, the citizens of Oshkosh, have given me the wonderful opportunity to serve for the past four years, an experience I have truly enjoyed. I cannot thank you enough for the trust and confidence you placed in me.

In both campaigns, I promised to work hard, research the issues, ask tough questions and listen to all sides of an issue so that I could make the best decision possible to move Oshkosh forward. While I know we did not always agree on every decision, I believe I fulfilled my promise to you.

There is still work to be done, and I will remain an active member of the council through the remainder of my term. I look forward to working with you, city staff and my fellow council members over the next 4+ months to tackle the issues facing our city.



Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ohio Street Opening

I received the following forwarded media release from Public Works Director David Patek regarding the opening of Ohio Street. This is great news, especially for the businesses along Ohio Street.

November 12, 2008

For more information, contact: Kim Rudat, Regional Communications Manager, (920) 492-5743

Ohio Street in Oshkosh opening Friday, November 14. Landscaping work is continuing

(Green Bay) The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) NE Region office at Green Bay is announcing Ohio Street in Oshkosh is opening Friday, November 14. It is tentatively scheduled to be open at noon.

The center lanes will be open, but there will be intermittent closures of the outside lanes for the completion of finishing work on the adjacent sidewalk and landscaping. All the work is weather dependant.


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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Wisconsin Street Bridge Finally Opening

I received the following forwarded email from Public Works Director David Patek regarding the opening of the Wisconsin Street bridge and Witzel Avenue intersection. However, Ohio Street is scheduled to remain closed "probably for another week" according to email from Tom Buchholz of the WI-DOT.

The weather has cooperated with contractors so Witzel Avenue across new Wisconsin Street Bridge will be open Thursday afternoon. Pavement marking is set to begin later today and tomorrow, traffic signals will be turned and powered, and final street lighting complete by Thursday. Thursday afternoon ride home for work should be better for many.

Ohio Street will remain closed to through traffic probably for another week to finish up asphalt in driveways, lighting, landscaping, weather dependent of course. We will plan to send press release when we are ready to open Ohio Street.

Tom Buchholz, P.E.
Phone 920-492-0142
Fax 920-492-7707


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Sunday, September 28, 2008

September 29, 2008 Fifth Tuesday Forum

I am hosting a Fifth Tuesday Forum on September 29th from 6:00-7:30 p.m. in Room B of the Oshkosh Public Library, 106 Washington Ave. Please note: this is a Monday. All are welcome to attend.

Please contact me or post a message here if you have questions or comments about the forum, or suggested topics for it.



Thursday, September 11, 2008

Facts Worth Remembering Today

A must read by Jim Vandehei, co-founder, Politico, and UW Oshkosh alum

Something big has been missing from the general election campaign since its official start a week ago: serious discussion and focus by the candidates on the two wars the United States is waging against the persistent threat of terrorism.

John McCain and Barack Obama are hitting pause on the wars over sexism, lipstick and mudslinging to remember the deadly attacks of seven years ago. As they do, here are five indisputable facts worth considering:

1. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered Congress a grim take Tuesday on the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. Suicide bombings are soaring. The Taliban is surging. The United States has 34,000 U.S. troops there — and more are getting killed in Afghanistan than Iraq. The nation lost 117 soldiers in 2007 — and is on pace to lose many more than that in 2008.

Mullen said he is not convinced we’re winning the war — and other experts argue the 4,500 additional troops on the way will be insufficient to turn the tide.

2. The United States still has 146,000 troops in Iraq (157,000 if you include Kuwait) — and that will change very little before the next president takes office. President Bush announced this week that 8,000 will be withdrawn by February — in large part to help move more forces into Afghanistan.

There is reason for hope in Iraq: The combination of the surge in U.S. troops, improved assistance from Iraqi security forces and the success of U.S. Special Forces has reduced violence and death in Iraq. There is also reason for fear: U.S. officials remain uncertain that the calm will last. As Bush said this week, “the enemy in Iraq is still dangerous.” There have been 4,155 U.S. casualties in Iraq since the war began.

3. Bush in July secretly approved orders to allow Special Operations forces to strike suspected terrorists in Pakistan without the approval of the Pakistani government, according to The New York Times.

The next president will be forced to determine how we deal with the very unforgiving terrain of Pakistan, where many terrorists plot and live — and which continues to go through a potentially destabilizing political transition.The next president will also be left with a hostile Iranian government with nuclear ambitions, a very unstable North Korea (whose supreme leader may or may not be seriously ill), an uncertain and dangerous Syria and an increasingly bellicose Russia.

4. The United States has spent at least $858 billion on the two wars, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The U.S. budget deficit is projected to be $407 billion this year and $438 billion next year.

5. The country lost 2,974 people in the attacks that took place on this day seven years ago. No domestic terrorist attacks have transpired in the United States since.

In 2002 and 2004, roughly 25 percent of all Americans considered terrorism and national security the country’s top problem. Today, 4 percent do.

Alexander Burns contributed to this story.

A link to the story is here.


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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Labor Day Celebration and Car Show

Below is information I received about the annual Labor Day Celebration and Car Show held at South Park tomorrow from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Come see antique cars, eat good food and celebrate the backbone of America's work force. I hope to see you there.


Several of the antique cars dating from before 1934 that were used in the filming of the Johnny Deep movie, “Public Enemies” will be shown at South Park for the Labor Day celebration of the Winnebago Labor Council.

Invitations have been sent to the owners of many of the cars used in the film, asking them to come to Oshkosh for the show. Many antique cars from the thirties were used in the filming on location in Oshkosh, Columbus, Milwaukee and Chicago. The film is set in the 1930’s and stars Johnny Depp as bank robber John Dillinger. The movie was completed in July, but will not be ready for release until July of 2009.

Admission is free for the Labor Day Celebration and car show starting at 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. on Labor Day, September 1st. Refreshments, door prizes, including a raffle for 2009 Country USA tickets; and live music by Joe Maehl and the Supervisors, will be offered in the large pavilion at South Park.

For those interested in the history of Labor Day, check out here and here.



Monday, August 25, 2008

A September Concert at The Leach

Finally, a concert at The Leach when UW Oshkosh students are here!

I have been consistently disappointed with the lack of programming, especially as it relates to drawing university students to the venue, and into downtown. Hopefully, the new and yet-to-be-decided management of The Leach, will realize the untapped market that exists September-May, i.e. college students.

Thank you Reeve Union Board for making this happen.


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Sunday, August 24, 2008

July 29, 2008 Fifth Tuesday Forum Notes

The notes from the July 29th Fifth Tuesday Forum are available online.

The next Fifth Tuesday Forum is scheduled for September 30th at 6 p.m., location TBD. Due to a work conflict, the date is scheduled to change, most likely to September 29th. Check back soon for details.

If you have a suggested location, please post it here or contact me.



Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Dragons Are Coming

The 3rd Annual Oshkosh Community Dragonboat Race and Festival will be Friday, September 19th and Saturday, September 20th, at Riverside Park and the Leach Amphitheater. The event cannot take place without the help of numerous volunteers. Therefore, your help is needed!

Some of the volunteer opportunities available include boat marshal, dock helper, registration, concessions, children's activities, etc. Please check online for the complete list of positions and their descriptions.

If you are interested in volunteering, please complete the online volunteer form and someone from the committee will contact you. For additional questions, please email the Dragon Lady.


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Monday, July 21, 2008

Liquor License

The council, except Councilor Esslinger - he is one of the applicants, will decide tomorrow whether to grant a "Class B" license to one of six applicants or, as suggested as a possibility by Councilor Burk Tower, hold onto it as incentive for a future development project.

This will not be an easy decision. All six applicants propose projects that could, in their own way, provide something of value to the community. Three of the proposals offer downtown/central city options - one tavern and two restaurants, of which one would be on the riverfront - and two others are for projects located along Highway 41 - a full-service bar in a new hotel and new chain restaurant by the The Outlet Shoppes. Of course, we would not be in this position if the state, influenced heavily by the Tavern League, would yield control to local governments to determine how many "Class B" licenses to grant.

So, I would like to hear from you. Do you think the council should grant the "Class B" license, and if so, to whom, or should the council retain it for a future development project of greater economic impact? I welcome your input.


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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

July 29, 2008 Fifth Tuesday Forum

I am hosting a Fifth Tuesday Forum on July 29th from 6:00-7:30 p.m. in Room A of the Oshkosh Public Library, 106 Washington Ave. All are welcome to attend.

Please contact me or post a message here if you have questions or comments about the forum, or suggested topics for it.