Opinion Archives for 2017-03

Letter To The Editor: Supporting Laurel Hauser For City Council District 7

By Laurel Brooks

Laurel Hauser and I were acquaintances before 2006, but that year, we learned about each other first-hand in a very public context: the Sturgeon Bay City Plan Commission. At that time, Walmart was seeking to expand and there were many divergent views regarding the direction and form that expansion should take. Sitting with Laurel on the Commission, it was clear to me that she understood the economic necessity of expansion, as well as the importance of guiding that expansion in such a way that it remained beneficial to the developer and to the City far into the future. To accomplish this goal, it was important that all views be heard and weighed in the balance. Laurel was always prepared to take the time to examine the details.

The City responded to a State mandate to devise a Comprehensive Plan that was intended to guide development in Sturgeon Bay, providing a well-considered framework on which to base decisions so that future development would truly be a result of planning. The Plan was the result of months of public meetings, primarily held in the evenings to ensure that the majority of residents would be able to attend and collaborate on this important document. Throughout our time on the Plan Commission, Laurel referred routinely to that plan for guidance. When an override to the Plan was proposed, she urged the Commission to examine the relevant sections together so that we all understood the reasons and consequences, positive and negative, for deviating from this living document.

The Peninsula Pulse recently provided this list of Laurel's work credentials, which I will copy here for convenience:

Hauser, editor of the Washington Island Observer, and, as a matter of full disclosure, a sometimes contributor to the Peninsula Pulse and Door County Living, had the most thoughtful and meaningful answers to questions. Her experience also includes serving as general manager of The White Gull Inn, 15 years with the Door County Land Trust, co-chair of the group that raised half a million dollars for the Sturgeon Bay skate park, and former member of the Sturgeon Bay Plan Commission. 

This list is evidence of the trust Laurel enjoys from so many sectors of our community: private enterprise, public service, and charitable advocacy. She has done all this while being unwavering in her commitments as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, and community treasure. Does this sound over the top? I hope so, because I believe that's what she is. I am proud to share my name with her.

Laurel Hauser will serve as District 7 Councilwoman with distinction, which is the only way she ever serves. Her door will be open to every resident of the community, regardless of which district you live in. Please vote for Laurel Hauser for City Council on April 4...and sleep well.

Laurel Brooks

Sturgeon Bay

Letter To The Editor: Support For Hauser's Candidacy

By Andy Coulson

Dear Editor, I am writing in support of Laurel Hauser's candidacy for the Sturgeon Bay City Council.  Although I am not a resident of Sturgeon Bay, I can speak to her qualifications from my experience as her employer at the White Gull Inn. In her approximately 10 years at the White Gull, Laurel worked in a variety of positions, eventually becoming General Manger.  She had excellent leadership and problem-solving skills.  In difficult decisions, she listened to all viewpoints and thoroughly researched the issues before making a decision.  She was an excellent communicator once a decision had been made.  I saw these same qualities combined with her passion for doing what was right on display at the Door County Land Trust, where Laurel was the Development Director when I served on the Board of Directors.  I believe that she will if elected, bring these skills to the Sturgeon Bay City Council.


Andy Coulson

White Gull Inn

Fish Creek

Letter To The Editor: Rules For Public Comment At Meetings

By Kelly Catarozoli, District 1 Alderperson, Sturgeon Bay

"You must identify yourself as a taxpayer."  - Mayor Thad Birmingham
Throughout my time as Alderperson for District 1, I have witnessed multiple attempts to shut down public discussion and thwart dialogue at City Hall - but nothing like I have seen at the past two common council meetings.  What has happened as of late, is just plain use of power to intimidate, in my opinion.  This past Tuesday, Mayor Thad Birmingham began the common council meeting with a list of "rules" for public input.   While I appreciate guidelines for civility, one thing in particular struck me as simply appalling.  In the Mayor's list of rules, he insists that the speaker identify themselves as a taxpayer - or not, of the City, as if to give legitimacy to the speaker.


Throughout my time as Alderperson for District 1, I have witnessed multiple attempts to shut down public discussion and thwart dialogue at City Hall - but nothing like I have seen at the past two common council meetings.  What has happened as of late, is just plain use of power to intimidate, in my opinion.  This past Tuesday, Mayor Thad Birmingham began the common council meeting with a list of "rules" for public input.   While I appreciate guidelines for civility, one thing in particular struck me as simply appalling.  In the Mayor's list of rules, he insists that the speaker identify themselves as a taxpayer - or not, of the City, as if to give legitimacy to the speaker.


Many times, issues affect people from outside our community.  Other times, we have been blessed with a speaker not only sharing their expertise, but freely offering their professional service to our community because they care about what happens here.  As a City, we provide services to other surrounding towns.  We need to accept that we are all connected and better off for it.  Fresh perspectives often come from "outsiders" and an "outsider" that cares enough to attend a noon meeting to speak, deserves Council's full attention.  Furthermore, a person that is engaged and feels welcomed is likely to invest more time and energy and perhaps become a taxpayer someday.


A significant portion of my district is made up of renters.   Renters contribute to our city and they pay taxes through rent.  Should their concerns not have equal value because they do not directly write the check for the property tax bill?   Should I give less attention to those constituents who rent?  Do people that live just across the townline not shop in our City or attend our schools?  Are county-wide small businesses and door county residents' daily lives not affected by what happens here in Sturgeon Bay?  Of course.


This is yet another attempt by our Mayor and self-perceived elite, to discriminate and discourage community collaboration, feedback and dialogue.  It's shameful.  Without a doubt, this perpetual notion of "stakeholdership" has created a toxic atmosphere in our town.   Sadly, there is also an undercurrent of retaliatory behavior by some people.  Taxpayers and business owners have confided in me they are afraid to speak out.  Perhaps we owe the "outsiders" some gratitude, for they have the freedom to speak out without fear.


To grow a vibrant and healthy community we need to appreciate the contributions of ALL people, residents and non-residents.   Sometimes that contribution comes in forms other than property tax dollars.   We need an inclusive, open and collaborative government more than ever.  Ask your district candidates how they feel about this issue.  I can assure those that contact me that I won't be asking if they are taxpaying residents before they are allowed to speak, but rather let them know I appreciate their efforts.

Thank you,

Kelly Catarozoli

Alderperson, District 1

Letter To The Editor: The Gut Of The Community Was Right!

By Hans Christian, Sturgeon Bay

When the first photos of the hotel plans  on the Westside waterfront in Sturgeon Bay were published sometime in the fall of 2014, our community took a collective gasp. Not only was the hotel design ugly, seemed disproportionately large, oddly placed in relation to the historic Granary- no, it didn't feel right! Somehow it didn't belong there. The gut feeling that many people expressed at the large public protest meetings expressed this exact sentiment: "Wait a minute, something is wrong here. This doesn't feel right!"


Well, didn't we know it. Something was so very wrong, on all levels, in all stages of the decision making process.


Starting with the original Vanderwalle plan, the city quietly moved ahead after abandoning that plan and substituting it with a completely different one. This was the first infraction. A new public hearing process should have been initiated after such a major change.


The city (meaning the city administrator, city planner, city attorney, and the mayor) then entered into a binding developer's agreement that included some incredibly stupid commitments to the developer: An unobstructed water view (meaning moving the tug boats); assuming the cost of the pilings by writing a misleading grant application to the WEDC (rejected because of false information); granting the parcel to the developer for a pittance ($90k, payable interest free over 10 years); and granting a parcel to the developer with the knowledge that it was on filled lake bed and subject to the Public Trust Doctrine.


That was only the starting point. At this stage nobody even knew about the Public Trust Doctrine, except a few city officials. A vindictive mayor refused to acknowledge the 1300 signatures gathered against this project. He furthermore insulted the public with an arrogant refusal to commit to changing the plans, and exploring what the community really wanted. And TIF #4 was created with completely unrealistic performance goals and anybody who challenged this TIF plan was either ridiculed or otherwise insulted.


Enter the discovery of the Public Trust Doctrine, a constitutional clause that reflects precisely what we knew all along. The gut of the community proved right! This hotel cannot be built in that particular location. Period. End of story.


Anybody who is searching for legislation to overturn this case is not just overturning a constitutional law- that state representative (Joel Kitchens) or state senator (Frank Lasee) would also condone a morally and legally corrupt process, in violation of the mandate that people have bestowed upon their elected officials. Anybody who supports this legislative effort would also vote in support of frivolous spending of public funds, of deceptive grant applications to obtain state funds, and of a ridicule of the democratic process. And finally, a violation of free market principles.


If we need a positive model in another city, look no further than Wausau's 400 block. Similar situation, great outcome. http://www.visitwausau.com/accountdetails.php?id=198450


Letter To The Editor: Facts, Laws and Ostriches

By Chesla Seely-Anschutz, Sturgeon Bay

The Friends were right on the facts and right on the law.  The ruling from Judge Huber finding in favor of the Friends is crystal clear. His unwavering conclusion and verdict is that the mayor is wrong in his attempt to sell the parcel which is wholly or largely owned by the State.

The ruling states indisputably that the parcel was a dock, filled by its owners and that filled lakebed cannot be sold. The City never obtained an Ordinary High Water Mark (OHWM) for the parcel although the Friends and citizens asked the mayor repeatedly to simply ask the WDNR.   This case was never in question and only went to trial because of the mayor's ostrich-headed management.

In addition to being wrong on the facts and the law, the mayor's plan will undermine the economic future of the waterfront.  Building hotels on waterfronts goes against all current development trends and thinking. In locating the hotel set back from the water's edge, increasing the economic opportunity surrounding the waterfront, the Friends are trying to protect the long-term economic value of our city.

The Mayor is continuing to blame the people for the problem he created.  Blaming is not leadership; it is cowardice. The mayor can continue to live with his head in the sand (or dirt piles), or he can show some leadership, and join the Friends in our petition to the WDNR to determine an OHWM.  Moving forward and finding a legal location for the hotel, rather than fighting the facts or the law, is the only sensible path.  It will also create lasting value and a wonderful waterside public space.

Those that attempt legislation to reverse such a clear ruling are promoting a gross miscarriage of justice. It would be a tremendous injustice for the mayor or any elected official to try and reverse the court's clear and compelling verdict that this was filled lakebed and according to our constitution cannot be sold for private development.

Letter To The Editor: History In The Making

By Barb Lawton, Wisconsin Lt. Governor 2003-11, Algoma

The best way to address crippling and demoralizing political polarization in our state and
nation's capitols is to forge the path forward to work together locally. And here's our big chance:
four women are running for seats on Sturgeon Bay's city council. An historical moment and
opportunity not to be squandered.


Why? The November NY Times headline "Women Actually Do Govern Differently" springs from
serious research showing we can expect a more collaborative, bipartisan and truly policyoriented
style from women in office. They interrupt less (although are interrupted more), and
have a more democratic style of leadership. Women build coalitions and reach consensus more
quickly. I would add that they take a longer view when considering the impact of decisions
made on behalf of the public.


Kelly Catarozoli, Laurel Hauser, Martha Beller and Barb Allman individually and collectively
bring experience as business owners, historian, author and land preservationist, marketing
genius with social media, as quintessential networkers for the community. In the group there is
an incumbent, new and returning candidates. All four are driven to public service with the
highest ambition for a strong economic future for all of Door County, and that starts in the county


While women's representation in government is stalled or backsliding across the country,
Sturgeon Bay voters have the unique luxury of four women stepping up with polished resumes
and love for this community and a determination that its government serve all its constituents
well. Take time to relish this moment in history and do your part to shape a prosperous future
for all our families.

Letter To The Editor: Constitutional "Balloons And String," Theory

By Don Freix, Fish Creek

Indicating clearly that there is little chance that he has ever read and nor comprehended any of the 2017, SB13/AB44 which calls for non-partisan legislative redistricting for Wisconsin, based upon the present Iowa model, while appearing on Sturgeon Bay radio February 13, Senator Frank "Einstein," Lasee outlined a certifiably psychedelic flashback describing balloons, strings, and random pie-shaped wedges embodying the difficulties he apparently perceives, in simply straightening out the lines and cleaning up the geographical  jigsaw puzzle presently ruled as unconstitutional, the $2.1M gerrymandered legislative districts created by private attorneys at the secret behest of the GOP.


The Senator acknowledged that at least another $175K could be wasted by the WI DOJ's appeal efforts, with a likely tie-vote in the SCOTUS, as the current ruling of, "unconstitutional gerrymandering," is thrown back to the lower court, unchanged.  Frank assured listeners that he sees himself as a strict constitutional constructionist when it comes to state redistricting and we should continue to follow the state's founding fathers, maintaining absolute majority party control over redistricting every ten years.  That close, narrow reading of the original written document means Frank sees little ambiguity in the state constitution and absolutely no room for the wild interpretation from liberals or from, "democrat," thinking.


That is until Frank interpreted the original public trust doctrine of the state constitution protecting historic lakebed at the time of statehood, and preserving the original shoreline of the waters of our state in perpetuity for the public good.  Now those pesky, antiquated constitutional concepts from our forefathers, like public ownership, mutual enjoyment of, and open access to the waters of our state are not worth the parchment they were printed on and Frank appeared ready to give-away our public inheritance to a private developer, forever, at the drop of a hat from Sturgeon Bay politicians.


Judge Huber's ruling against a majority Sturgeon Bay leadership's attempted grab of public land for a private developer, his judicial ruling which is entirely based on a strict constructionist interpretation of the state constitution, while rendering complete unambiguity, suddenly becomes a mere bug-splat annoyance in the eyes of Senator Lasee, and according to Frank, his legislative colleague Joel Kitchens.  As Lasee stated, both are ready, willing and able to try to procure special favor for special interests, to thwart this constitutional ruling.


Hearing Senator Lasee's radio proclamations, does anyone else think that it is well past time for Mayor Birmingham and the majority Common Council to openly vote on the direction they intend to pursue in response to Judge Huber's constitutional decisions, and finally pull up their big boy pants and openly decide this question before the April 4th election?  There is no excuse for further delay.  Any bets on seeing a roll-call vote making that decision, being listed on the March 21, Common Council agenda?  I thought not.


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