Opinion Archives for 2017-08

Civil Discourse--An Occasional Attempt to Restore Civility To Our Civic Discourse

By Roger Utnehmer

 Two branches of Wisconsin government are suffering the moral equivalent of emerald ash borer disease.

Like far too many once-beautiful trees throughout Wisconsin, the state legislature and Supreme Court are in danger of losing their luster.

Government derives its power from the consent of the governed.  An informed electorate will never consent to the reapportionment and recusal corruption that's plaguing the Wisconsin legislature and Supreme Court.

Every ten years the legislature, taking into account the most recent census data, re-draws district boundaries for the state senate and assembly.  That practice has resulted in Wisconsin legislators picking their voters instead of Wisconsin voters picking their legislators.

It's called "gerrymandering" and Wisconsin is among the most gerrymandered states in the country.  When several hundred thousand more state-wide citizens vote for Democrats in state assembly races than Republicans and Republicans keep two-thirds of the seats, the electoral process is as diseased as a dying emerald ash tree.

Legislators have drawn district boundaries so that less than 10% of the 132 districts in Wisconsin are competitive.  That gives incumbents the advantage of protection and perpetuates the party in power.  And years earlier, Democrats were just as corrupt when they had the power to draw district boundaries.

The solution is essential to democracy.  It's time to get the drawing of legislative district boundaries out of the hands of legislators and into a non-partisan entity like our Legislative Reference Bureau, as is done in Iowa today.

The second decaying branch of state government is the Supreme Court.  Just a few years ago the Wisconsin Supreme Court was a model admired throughout America.

Today, the carcinogenic influence of special interest money and the refusal of court members to adopt a strict recusal standard put in jeopardy that long-standing tradition of fair, impartial justice.

Special interest groups on both sides of the political spectrum have dumped millions of dollars into Supreme Court races.  Spending is spiraling to several million dollars a race.  Yet a majority of current justices have refused to adopt rules that would regulate when they recuse themselves from voting on matters brought before the court by major campaign donors.

Who in Wisconsin would believe they can receive a fair, impartial hearing before a justice who accepted, or benefited from, millions of dollars in campaign contributions or dark money expenditures on their behalf?  

Justices who take money from special interest groups or benefit from their spending should not vote on cases in which those donors are involved.  If Wisconsin citizens are to have faith in their court, recusal rules need to be adopted.  Only two of seven sitting judges are of that opinion.  Justices Shirley Abrahamson and Ann Walsh Bradley stand head and shoulders above their colleagues when it comes to this common-sense contribution to confidence in the court.

Solutions are simple.  Move drawing of district boundaries to the non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau.  Stop voting for legislators who oppose reapportionment reform.  Join Common Cause, the good-government group that allows me to be among the members of their board of directors.  Refuse to vote for a Supreme Court candidate who does not endorse common-sense, confidence-restoring recusal rules.

The opportunity cost of continued business-as-usual is the death of public confidence in our institutions of government.  That's a cost that will not be paid if more speak out today in support of reapportionment reform and recusal rules for the Supreme Court.

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

Roger Utnehmer


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NEWS AND OPINION: Thomas Cap Wulf charges women on Sturgeon Bay City Council with "significant conflicts of interest"

By Roger Utnehmer


Former Sturgeon Bay City Council and Waterfront Redevelopment Authority member Thomas "Cap" Wulf charged in a post to DoorCountyDailyNews.com that the three women who serve on the Sturgeon Bay city council "have very serious conflicts of interest."


Wulf should know about ethics in government and conflicts of interest.

Wulf commented on an August 18th news report about the formation of the controversial WRA.

In his comments, Wulf refers to the Friends of the Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront as a "fringe group."

"There's been an all-out effort," said Wulf, "even by sitting council members to  demean, delegitimize and call for disbanding of the WRA because they don't agree  with its positions."

Wulf claims that two city council members "have sisters who are named plaintiffs that have brought the lawsuit to kill the city's redevelopment plan and one, who sits on the WRA, has worked directly with another named plaintiff in an effort to save the granary."

Those council members are Barbara Allman and Kelly Catarozoli whose sisters filed a lawsuit against the city and WRA over the west-side waterfront development and Laurel Hauser who, Wulf claims, worked with another "named plaintiff."

Wulf ends his post by stating "This media double standard is almost worse than the three council representative's blatantly obvious conflicts of interest."

Wulf should understand conflict of interest restrictions on public officials exercising the duties of their office.  As a condition of pleading to a charge of using his position as an elected official for personal gain, Wulf was required to take a court-ordered course offered by the Wisconsin Bar Association on ethics.

A review of the Wisconsin Circuit Court website shows Wulf was found guilty of using his position of public trust, as a member of the Sturgeon Bay City Council, for personal gain.  Wulf is an owner of Wulf Brothers, Inc., a Sturgeon Bay heating and cooling firm.  He was an original member of the WRA but resigned his position from the city council upon his plea bargaining over ethics charges.

Wulf has since claimed his innocence.  He says he got bad legal advice and faced a corrupt court system.  He did, however, agree to a plea agreement regarding the charges against him, something he says today he regrets.

He was a member of the WRA during the time a city tax incremental district was written to include property he owned at the time on Madison Avenue, site of the Loft apartments but has since resigned.

He also had a restraining order in effect for several years after verbally assaulting former mayor Dennis McIntosh with vulgar language at a Sturgeon Bay business.

So why is Cap Wulf so often in the news?  Because he keeps charging others with what it certainly appears to be guilty of himself.

None of the three city council members Wulf has criticized have had a restraining order preventing them from contact with a former elected official.  None have been ordered by a court to take a course in ethics.  None of the three were charged with using their positions of public trust for personal gain.  None have misrepresented the facts to a legislative committee as the Madison Capital Times reports Cap Wulf has done.

None of the women Wulf attacks have brought the negative publicity to any governmental body on which they serve as Cap Wulf has done to the Sturgeon Bay Waterfront Redevelopment Authority.  Fortunately, Wulf has resigned.  And if he keeps picking on people like Barbara Allman, Kelly Catarzoli and Laurel Hauser you can count on DoorCountyDailyNews.com to continue exposing Thomas "Cap" Wulf for the vulgar, ethically-challenged and angry bully he is.

You can read Wulf's entire post by going to DoorCountyDailyNews.com and finding a story on the WRA litigation posted August 18, 2017.

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