Opinion Archives for 2017-06

Letter To The Editor: Crime Prevention Foundation or Campaign PAC?

By Donald Freix, Fish Creek

How Much is That Doggie in the Drug Bust?


It might have been K-9 envy, pure and simple,  or, "glory days," nostalgia on the part of local retired and active Sheriff's department personnel during the highly publicized three-county illicit drug ring investigation and arrests, implicating 37individuals in Door and Kewaunee Counties, that lead the Door County Sheriff's Department (DCSD) to team with the Door Community Foundation to establish a 501(c)(3) non-profit funding mechanism outside the immediate purview and control of the Door County Law Enforcement Committee (LEC), which is directly tasked with overseeing  the activities of the DCSD.  Thus was born the dubiously titled public, shell protected charity for anonymous donors, the Door County Crime Prevention Foundation (DCCPF) and also a significant dilemma for Door County government.


There was never any County policy for officially accepting anonymous charitable giving that could not be directly controlled by County government, which now exists with the DCCPF funding mechanism.  Rules in place to cover other types of gifts and donations to the county are not applicable to the DCCPF funding.  The K-9 unit was coming to the DCSD, like it or not.   The DCSD has legally procured a desired tool for its, "arsenal," through circumventing established county governance rules.


Please don't confuse the touted benefits of the K-9 unit with the issue of criticism for the now established funding mechanism created under the DCCPF, but in May the LEC came to the seeming rescue of their now partially, but permanently neutered DCSD oversight duties, with a toothless motion to give the appearance of doing their job of over-seeing the DCSD.


From the minutes of that May 15, LEC meeting, approved yesterday (June 19), through discussion between Sheriff Delarwelle and Administrator Pabich  (Item 8.  K-9 Update) a reporting mechanism of the anonymous charitable funding from DCCPF was to be established:


"Robillard makes motion to accept the reporting process of gifts/grants/donations received from the Door County Community Crime Prevention Foundation, once threshold is met, to bring to committee as an FYI and then list all expenditures in the Annual Report; Vlies-Wotachek seconds the motion. Motion carried unanimously."


Yesterday, LEC was presented with a draft resolution stating Robillard's May 15, motion, but the draft resolution entitled, "CANINE UNIT,"  also contained two stipulations never discussed nor ever moved and approved by the LEC.


Along with deceptively wording origins of the DCCPF, a disclaimer that the K-9 unit may not actually prevent crime, and an implied commitment that the County would be providing unspecified future public funds in conjunction with DCSD acceptance of DCCPF funds, was an implicit expansion of LEC, therefore tacit County approval, condoning spending DCCPF funds for, "community relations," i.e. DCSD expenditures easily construed as campaign PAC spending in the upcoming 2018 sheriff's election.  Hopefully County Board Chair Lienau has the leadership sense to disallow this LEC resolution from ever coming before the entire Board and it isn't agendized for June 27, in its current form.

Letter To The Editor: Response To Marinette County Resolution Opposing Sulfide Mining

Dear County Board Chairman Lienau and the entire County Board,

(Please note this correspondence and attachments are intended for inclusion in the upcoming information packet for the June 27, scheduled monthly meeting).

Attending yesterday's Legislative Committee meeting and listening again to a constituent request for a county resolution opposing the Aquila Resources' Back Forty Proposed Mine.  I feel it is incumbent upon the County Board to address the public to the certain environmental dangers to Door County and the waters of Green Bay should the "Back Forty, mine be allowed to begin operating ever.

Please see attached below some information on the mine, the Marinette County resolution in opposition to the mine.  We as a county body should, I feel, be doing something pro-active in opposing the mine (possibly supporting the Menominee Nation legal actions) for reasons of public safety and protecting our freshwater resource of the Bay of Green Bay, its fisheries and all its recreational opportunities, unquestionably the basis our entire economic future.

Minimally as an initial step, it is incumbent upon the County Board to facilitate a presentation to the entire Board from Professor Al Gedicks who is a professor of sociology emeritus at UW-La Crosse and executive secretary of the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council.   http://www.wrpc.net/

This issue needs to be an agenda item for June 27, 2017.

Thanks for your kind attention to this information and my request for immediate action from the County Board of Supervisors.


Donald Freix



marinetteresolution4 marinetteresolution3 marinetteresolution2


Letter To The Editor

By Bryan Troutman

I am not a resident of Sturgeon Bay. But I can tell you I love this city, I love the people, I love their work ethics and I love the potential this city has.

From what I can see over the last 6 months, since I have been away, this county has changed signifantly. Egg Harbor has a new cheese company and is building a new library and cultural center. Fish Creek will be building a new home for the Northern Lights Theatre, Sister Bay has a new downtown which is well done and some wonderful, new upscale restaurants.

But in the last 6 months what has happened in Sturgeon Bay? Restaurants have closed, Jimmy John's has opened, Cherry Hill Golf Club, which could be considered a quasi-Sturgeon Bay golf facility continues to struggle. Tractor Supply has bailed out a dilapidated K-Mart building and I have no idea what is going on at Sunset Park. At the same time our medical facilities, hospital and Y have expanded, creating a stronger infrastructure base, and the make-up of the city council has improved. But negativity and loss of production still persists.

High water marks have been ruled upon, voting to legislate after advice from council was otherwise.  Dirt piles remain and the Granary building still stands with no improvement except a new fence, losing more and more revenue for the city and the interest of developers and investors.

In my opinion Sturgeon Bay appears to be losing revenue North while in-fighting persists over a hotel, sidewalks and the recent issues over demolition of an historic landmark, while the advent of economic development, jobs and housing suffers. Those of you siding solely with the mayor, start thinking and voting your heart not the ticket and friendship.

Papke's Pull Out Creates More Questions Than Answers

Civil Discourse

An Occasional Attempt 

To Restore Civility to Civic Discourse





June 12, 2017

The decision by Sturgeon Bay hotel developer Robert Papke to pull the plug on his waterfront hotel project creates more questions than it answers.  As does his notice of claim demanding $550,000 plus attorney fees from the City of Sturgeon Bay.

The list of questions that need to be answered is long.

First among many;

Should Sturgeon Bay taxpayers be on the hook for the more than half-million dollars Papke is claiming?  

Is that money Papke is claiming just the risk an investor incurs when he gets a sweet-heart deal on the purchase price of property, payment terms and added amenities like pilings, aesthetic improvements, parking and snow removal paid for by taxpayers?

What is the responsibility of the Waterfront Redevelopment Authority?

What is the role of former Door County Economic Development Director Bill Chaudoir and former City Administrator Steve McNeill in "throwing rose petals at my feet," as Papke claims officials did to "lure" him into the investment?

What specific promises were made to Papke that now results in him claiming damages of more than $500,000?  By whom were they made?

What did Mayor Thad Birmingham know about the inability to obtain clear title to the property for the hotel development and when did he know it?  What did he, or did he not, disclose to Papke as he attempted to get him to develop the waterfront property?

Who misled Papke and "duped" him into parting with his money on this project?

Why, after questions about valid title, public opposition, hundreds of signatures on petitions and hours of outcry at public meetings did city officials, mayor and a council majority continue without researching information raised by Friends of the Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront and others?

What impact will Papke's lawsuit have on the ability of the city to attract other developers in the future? 

Are there individuals who should not have served and are serving today on the Waterfront Redevelopment Authority because of the appearances of conflicts of interest?

Is it appropriate for the same law firm, Pinkert, to represent Bob Papke and the City of Sturgeon Bay?  What impact has that had on the development of this case?

Does this create the proper timing for the city to adopt an ethics policy to protect the public from conflicts of interest, the appearance of conflicts of interests or corruption?

Who will remove the dirt piles on the waterfront and when will it be completed?

These are important questions.  Answering them sooner rather than later will restore trust lost in the process that has divided our community.  Clearing up questions is an opportunity to unite and move forward, smarter for the experience and wiser for the challenge.

The City of Sturgeon Bay is at a critical point where it can project a much more positive, open, respectfully image in how it treats its citizens.  Or it can continue the legacy that has been long-established of acceptance of conflicts of interest, "good old boy" networking at its worst, disrespect for taxpayers and often tone-deaf leadership.

The first step to improving the situation now created in Sturgeon Bay is for the parties involved to answer important questions. 

I invite and encourage Mayor Thad Birmingham, Bob Papke, city council members, Waterfront Redevelopment Authority authority members, Friends of the Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront, former city administrator Steve McNeill, former Door County Economic Development Executive Director Bill Chaudoir, members of the Pinkert Law Firm and anyone who can share clarifying, constructive comment to make this situation better for the taxpayers of Sturgeon Bay....and a lesson learned so it never happens again.

Many are waiting.  


That's my opinion.  I'd like to hear yours.

The Kitchens File: Invertebrate Politicians

By Don Freix


The Sturgeon Bay Common Council passed a resolution Tuesday, asking for special legislation to be written to determine the location of the ordinary high water mark for the TID #4 west waterfront development plans, which if honored and acted upon by any of our state legislators will necessarily produce a change in legal precedent resulting in a direct diminution of the state constitutional public trust doctrine protections currently governing land held in the public trust, our historical waterfronts statewide.  The majority Common Council and Mayor Birmingham requested nothing less than an attack on the state constitution, an undebatable, clear violation of their oath of office to protect and defend the state constitution.


Representative Kitchens related in the local news this week that he would not write any such requested legislation and stated that he would prefer a resolution to the TID #4 OHWM determination be accomplished through negotiations.  But we have not heard from Mr Kitchens any condemnation of the city resolution or even a hint of criticism of those city aldermen or the mayor's actions, nor any defense of the public trust doctrine governing ownership of access to the waters of our state since before statehood that would be undermined with this city resolution.  Neither has Joel revealed whether or not he would approve special legislation if and when it might be produced and considered for legislative passage.


Mr Kitchens' failure to promptly declare his full political opposition to this city resolution is very clear here and this contentious local instance of an issue clearly favoring private real estate developers statewide if eventually enacted (as legislators are not allowed to write legislation for a special circumstance) is an untenable and dishonest cop-out, an unabashed pretense to neutrality and a wholly disingenuous and disgracefully inadequate response to his constituents.  Protecting and defending the state constitution is not reflected anywhere in Joel's response to this city resolution at the time of this writing.


An email, a phone call and a brief direct personal conversation with Senator Lasee's staff has garnered nothing yet in the way of Frank's intentions or his potential prior actions in preparing for this city request, which the Senator revealed he was fully aware of on local radio back in April.  Senator Lasee's silence to date after this city resolution is equally as unacceptable from him as it is with Kitchens.  Yet with neither Senator Lasee nor Representative Kitchens lifting a finger, or to my knowledge vocalizing even one syllable in defense of public trust doctrine ownership of the state ground-water in the SB-76 transfer of the same to industrial agriculture interests, constituents unfortunately can expect that neither man will honor their respective oath of office on this issue either.  If only either of them would prove my expectations wrong, that would be a welcome surprise.  Neither fence sitting nor silence is an acceptable response at this point.


Donald Freix

Fish Creek, WI

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