Friday, August 03, 2012

Bringing Down the Curtain

I've decided to make it official. The Monona Doug blog is putting up the Closed sign. Seeing as how my last post was in February, this news isn't actually new news, if you get my meaning.

It's been mostly fun, interesting, at times challenging and occasionally frustrating, but I'm glad I did it. It was time-consuming and required a lot of work, but most of the time it didn't really feel like work.

I started the blog on October 7, 2006 with First Things First and this final post is number 1,571. The blog netted 103,740 pageviews in those six plus years.  However, that number includes my own pageviews as well as Mayor Bob's, who has been steadfast in urging me to publish more posts by reminding that he keeps checking to see if I've posted anything new - alas, to no avail.

The most viewed posts were Land Grant Railroads in Wisconsin (3424 pageviews), Monona Images, (1319), Monona Loses A Leader - Bill Bathke (1257), Division Promoted in MG School Board Race (717 - one of the few times I ventured into the volatile topic of MG schools), and Yes, Virginia, Da Bears Still Suck (709).

Some of my personal favorites were The Next Step Forward (on a proposal to allow backyard water buffaloes) and Monona Doug: Sunny Violates First Rule of Holes (regarding Sunny Schubert's gaffe when she thought Lindsay Wood Davis was my daughter! - sorry, Sunny, but that was just too damn funny to pass up). The hardest, but most cathartic post was Monona Doug: Remembering Jessica Colleen Wood about my late daughter who died in a car accident at the age of 3 in 1987.

By the way, anyone interested in the Land Grants topic may want to look at my updated presentation because the 7th Circuit reversed the District Court and answered almost all the unanswered questions.

I began the blog about the same time that I became an active Amazon book reviewer. I started posting in April 2006. At one time I was in the top 500 Amazon reviewers. But writing book reviews came to feel like a job - an unpaid one at that - and so I posted my final and 390th review in January 2011.

So, why quit?

Well, I've gone through major changes in the 15 months or so (divorcing, sale of house, moving, and starting a new relationship). I also began biking lots and lots of miles, which absorbed loads of time and energy. But if you must know, I don't have a dread disease. I'm not depressed or drunk. I'm doing very well. I'm happy with my life - happier than in a long time.

Much like the book reviews, the blog had begun to feel more like a job than an avocation even before all the changes started, so it was an easy thing to put aside. It was a drain on my time and time had become more precious. I found myself only posting Monona news and almost never the fun stuff about history or books or whatever seemed interesting .

Nonetheless, I've debated doing a 'sign off', but I hesitated because I would think, 'maybe I'll change my mind'. I procrastinated. I also wanted to do a post that would be up to the standards I tried to impose on myself. I didn't want to just do a post that said "I quit". I hope this last one does that. Whatever. It was a lot of fun for a long time.

To me a more interesting question is why did I start doing it in the first place.

At the front of the line would be the fact that I quit drinking in June 2005. With the exception of a couple of very brief relapses, I didn't have a drink for 5 years. I will now very occasionally have a drink and never by myself, but I just don't have the desire to get drunk.

So, I found myself with a clear mind and lots of time on my hands. When I went through intensive out-patient treatment (four hours a night, four nights a week for four weeks or something like that), I learned that I needed to find things to fill my time.

A clear mind and lots of time to reflect are also directly related to my realization that I was deeply unhappy and unfulfilled in important parts of my life. (No, I'm not going into any salacious details.). As I made changes in my life, I just didn't have the time, but more importantly lacked the desire to blog.

In the words of the late, great Edward R. Murrow, "Good night, and good luck."

Monday, February 27, 2012

Monona Transit Public Forum - Tuesday at 6:30 pm

Public Forum on Monona Transit Expansion, 6:30 pm

Date: Tue - 02/28/2012
Time: 6:30 PM
Location: Monona City Hall, 5211 Schluter Rd.
The Monona city council approved the a new 5-year contract with First Student (formerly First Transit and former formerly Laidlaw) that will provide new transit buses and an additional 14 hours of transit service per week without increasing the cost to Monona’s taxpayers.

Resolution 12-02-1838: Approval of 5-Year Contract with First Student for City Transit Services

The Monona Transit Commission is seeking public input on how to best incorporate those additional service hours into the current transit service. The goal of the Transit Commission is to attract new riders without negatively impacting the residents that currently use Monona Transit services.

More runs of the existing route? Extend the existing routes?

From the city's website:

"If you are interested in providing input to the Transit Commission on the proposed expansion to the Monona Express service, please attend a PUBLIC FORUM at the next Transit Commission meeting: Tuesday, February 28 at 6:30 pm at Monona City Hall. Furthermore, please consider filling out this brief survey to tell the Transit Commission how best to incorporate the additional hours of service into the current schedule. Once completed, you can give your survey to the Monona Express driver, drop it off at City Hall, or bring it to the public forum on February 28. Thank you in advance for your input."

Monona - Belle Isle Dredging Bids and Info Meeting

The City will conduct a Public Information Meeting on February 28th, 2012 at the Monona Community Center 6:30 pm following the review of bids received on Feb. 9th, 2012. Engineers from SCSBT Squared and City staff will be on hand at this meeting to answer any questions.

City's  Belle Isle dredging page.

Dredging FAQs.

The City of Monona opened the bids for the Belle Isle dredging project on February 9, 2012. The low bidder was Veit and Company with a base bid of $511,278.25. The base bid plus Cove Circle came in at $554, 075.75. The engineer's estimate for the project was $600,000 (including Cove Circle). Here is the bid tab summary.
Bid alternates were $56,400 for Alternate 1, $42,797 for Alternate 2 (Cove), and a $63,670 credit for Alternate 3 (subtracting Lagoon du Sud from the project).

Alternate Bid 1 was to remove additional material down to a 5-foot (elevation 840') uniform depth in Sumac Lagoon. Alternative Bid 2 was the Cove dredging which was bid out separately due to permitting requirements. Alternative Bid 3 is to credit the removal of dredging in Lagoon Du Sud.

The City budgeted $250,000 to pay the 30%  in accordance with city ordinances. The stormwater utility will pay the city's share.  With the current base bid results, that amount will more than cover the City’s portion.  However, the City will have to borrow the full project amount to cover expenditures until the resident assessments are paid.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Monona City Council Campaign That Wasn't

Note: I am re-posting this post and will continue to do so periodically until the election.

What promised to be an interesting and highly competitive race among five candidates for three seats became decidedly less interesting and less competitive in recent weeks with the withdrawal of alders Dennis Kugle and Jeff Wiswell from the race. Dennis announced his decision at the end of the council meeting on February 6, while alder Wiswell released a statement to the Herald Independent shortly thereafter. Their decisions left former alder Kathy Thomas, long-time Library Board President Mary O'Connor, and newcomer Brian Holmquist in the race.

However, and it is a significant 'however', both Kugle and Wiswell will still be on the ballot. When then-alder Bob Miller withdrew form the 2009 aldermanic contest, he made repeated emphatic announcements to that effect and still received almost 600 votes. It's not hard to imagine Kugle or Wiswell garnering at least that many votes despite withdrawing from the race.

The race is over before it started - probably.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Get Smart - Raise Money for Winnequah School Students

Robb Kahl recently passed along info about this event. Get Smart  - or Show Off Your Knowledge of  Obscure Useless Information as it might be called if one was a smarty pants - is a community-based trivia contest to be held at the Monona Community Center on March 10. The doors open at 6 p.m. Showing off your knowledge of obscure useless information begins at 7 p.m. The event benefits Winnequah School students.

Elaine Axtell Thomas adds:

"Hi Doug, I tried to comment on your blog, but I doubt it went through. I wanted to comment on the Trivia Night on March 10th...I'm on that committee and would encourage everyone to attend. For $20 a person or $200 for a table of 10 of one's dearest friends, it would be a great night of fun, food, and a silent auction, too. The money raised goes towards SmartBoards - expensive, but necessary learning tools for Winnequah School. Anyone interested can call Jennifer Kahl (I love how that sounds...) to sign up. Everyone is invited to attend, and it gives one and all the chance to show off trivia knowledge... Thanks!"

Cluck-cluck at the Monona Library

An announcement from the Monona public Library:
Chicken Chat or 
Everyone Has a Chicken Story...

Wed, Feb 29, 6:30 pm:  

 If you have ever thought about raising chickens....or even just hearing about exciting tales of wayward fowl, this event is for you.  Author Susan Troller and a panel of local chicken owners/fans will present  readings, art, and discussion about the urban chicken phenomenon.  Ms Troller will read stories from CLUCK: From Jungle Fowl to City Chicks and present some of the book's stunning chicken (and rooster) illustrations by S.V. Medaris.  She will be joined by a panel of local chicken owners who have some pretty entertaining stories of their own.  Q & A and book signing follows.  Don't miss this great is limited so preregister now  at or call 608 222.6127.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

2012 Budget Adjustments & Health Insurance Savings

The City of Monona saved about $286,994 in 2012 premiums by switching health insurance providers. The city council has been struggling with how to use this savings. At our February 6 meeting, I proposed and the council approved a budget amendment to reduce borrowing for Monona drive Phase II construction by $143,800.

At the February 6 meeting, on a 3-3 vote the council rejected a proposal by alders Speight and Munson to use $75,000 for non-represented employee compensation after a contentious debate (alder Speight lobbed a 'corporatist' grenade and alder Busse responded with a J. Paul Getty reference!). Their amendment included $40,000 for merit raises and $35,000 to reimburse those employees for part of the new 5.9% retirement contributions. Budget amendments require a 2/3 majority, so Mayor Miller could not cast a tie-breaking vote. I don't think anybody was happy with that outcome.

Shortly thereafter, unbeknownst to one another, alder Busse and I began working on a possible compromise on employee compensation as well as the remaining health insurance savings. We learned about our separate efforts when we each contacted city administrator Pat Marsh. Jim and I sat down over coffee and worked out a compromise that we each could live with. Whether we could carry the rest of the council with use was an open question.

We had two goals in mind: 1) Reduce city borrowing in 2012 (the 2012 capital budget is significantly higher than it has been in the recent past and is projected for in the future) and 2) Increase non-represented employee compensation.

Last night, at our February 16 meeting, the council adopted 3 of our 4 proposed amendments and referred the fourth to the CDA.

  1. $56,000 for merit pay raises for non-represented, permanent employees not under contract (the city administrator and Public Works Director) in amounts as determined by the city administrator and $5,000 in spot merit bonuses for which the contracted employees would eligible. Passed 5-1 with alder Wiswell opposing.
  2. $3631 to equip the two squad cars that the council approved for purchase, but didn't fund equipping them.
  3. $21,000 for purchase of an unmarked police vehicle that the council had eliminated from the mayor's proposed capital budget. Passed 5-1 with alder Wiswell opposing.
  4. $39,000 as a loan to the CDA for the Renew Monona housing rehabilitation program. Referred to CDA and the city attorney.
Between the February 6th and 20th meetings, the end result was a $168,431 reduction iun city borrowing for the 2012 capital budget.

A couple further notes:

The bid opening for Monona Drive one February 14th and R.G. Huston was once again the low bidder at $3,341,382.92.  Foth’s engineer estimate was $3,254,767.88.  The $86,615 difference is 2.67%. Monona will only pay a portion of that $86,615 because the overall project is being funded 50% with federal funds and 50% local funds. The county, city of Madison and city of Monona are paying the local 50% share.

Bear in mind that the reduced spending for health insurance premiums (compared to 2011) will carry over to future budgets (minus premium increases). Specifically, the reduction in borrowing for 2012 capital projects is a one-time event. In other words, most of the $168,431 we used to reduce borrowing in 2012 will be available for the 2013 budget for whatever uses the mayor and council choose.

Finally, the remaining $39,000 hasn't been allocated yet. It may be that we can fund the renew Monona program from TID #6 payments. If so, then we could apply that $39,000 to further reduce borrowing or use it to amend the 2012 operating or capital budgets.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mary O'Connor City Council Campaign Statement

Here is Mary O's campaign statement, verbatim, unedited, and so forth:

O’Connor Campaign Announcement

Mary O’Connor recently announced her candidacy for Monona City Council.  “I believe that the diversity of my volunteer experience in Monona has provided me with the background and preparation to be an effective member of the Monona City Council.   I like to get things done and think I will bring a fresh perspective to the Council” says O’Connor.

An active supporter of the Monona Public Library, O’Connor is a long-time library board member and served as board President from 2000-07.  During her time on the board, she helped oversee the $3.5 million library expansion project and many improvements in services and programming, which culminated in Monona’s being named the Wisconsin Library of the Year in 2010.  Recently, as Treasurer of the Monona Library Foundation, she was heavily involved in their “Booked for Life” campaign, which raised $100,000 and earned a matching grant of $50,000 from the Madison Community Foundation.  O’Connor has also been an active member of the Friends of the Library Board since its inception.

In addition to her library service, O’Connor currently serves as Secretary of the Monona Grove Education Foundation and as a Chief Election Inspector, helping to manage the St. Stephens’ polling site.   As President of MG Sings, the Monona Grove High School choir boosters from 2007-09, she coordinated the annual Silver Stage Show Choir Competition which hosted 19 choirs and their supporters; and coordinated volunteers for the high school musicals.  In addition, she served as a leader of both of her daughters’ Girl Scout troops and co-chaired the annual cookie sale in Monona for 12 years.

O’Connor believes that some of the critical issues facing the Council and community include:

·         Maintaining city services in a time of severe fiscal constraint.

·         Continued redevelopment of Monona Drive and the Broadway corridor, both to strengthen existing businesses and bring in new ones; thereby expanding Monona’s tax base and providing for a more vibrant community.

·         Making Monona more attractive to young families which encourages investment in local housing and increases the school population.

·         Continuing to support the needs of Monona senior citizens.

·         Maintaining the city’s focus on sustainability which impacts city energy usage and lake preservation among other benefits.

·         Improving Monona’s public transportation system.

·         Working with other communities in the area to improve the quality of Lake Monona. 

O’Connor is married to Bob Bocher.  They have two daughters, both graduates of Monona Grove High School.  Claire, her husband Andrew Pautz and their son Liam live in Minneapolis.  Lauren is a student at UW-Madison. O’Connor received both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from UW-Madison and is currently employed as a librarian for UW-Extension.

Contact Mary at -

Brian Holmquist City Council Campaign Statement

Brain Holmquist's campaign statement (unedited):

For Immediate Release

January 8th, 2012

Brian Holmquist has announced his candidacy for Monona City Council. Brian and his wife, Rebecca Holmquist, have two small children, Acacia and Porter.  Acacia is a 3rd grader at Winnequah Elementary School, and Porter is in the pre-school program at Immaculate Heart of Mary School. 

Brian and Rebecca relocated to the Madison area in 2001.  It was Monona’s Fourth of July Festival that initially drew their attention to this community. Monona’s parks, pool, library, schools, and established neighborhoods strengthened this attraction. The Holmquists were moved by what they saw as the legacy of Monona. They bought and moved into their home in 2006.

Brian works as an Occupational Therapist with the Madison Metropolitan School District serving students at Sennett Middle School and LaFollette High School.  He also is a small business owner working with children, adolescents, and their families who experience significant emotional and behavioral challenges, including autism.  Prior to his work with Madison Schools, he spent 10 years working in the inpatient child and adolescent psychiatric hospital at Meriter.  He serves as the Chair of the Occupational Therapy Credentialing Board for the state of Wisconsin.  He also serves on Monona’s Family Attraction, Retention, and City Promotion Committee.  Brian is actively involved in the Parks and Recreational programs including coaching baseball and soccer teams.  He is leading the effort to form a not-for-profit group, Friends of Monona Parks and Recreation, to support the Park and Rec’s efforts in facility projects and programming.

Brian believes in strong communities that are actively raising its youth, nurturing neighborhood relationships, and embracing and honoring its elders. He believes city council decisions should support the diversity of our residents.  Brian understands the wisdom in  creating and supporting opportunities and experiences to help people be healthy, caring and responsible throughout life.  Not only does a community need to support our seniors to “age in place,” but we must make our housing attractive to families just starting out.  Just like we have provided incentives for energy efficiencies, we should consider incentives for modifications to support our seniors to continue to live in their homes and transition into supported/assisted housing if needed. Additionally, we should be providing incentives for first-time home buyers to consider investing in a starter home that may need some renovations, rather than purchasing a newer home elsewhere.

Our transit system is vital for many of our seniors and disabled residents, and an asset for residents who work downtown.  We need to maintain these services and look for opportunities to meet the needs of additional residents.  Brian supports the recent expansion of routes and increased hours of operation.

Although Monona is a land-locked community, there continue to be options as we look at development and redevelopment.  We need to finish our commitment to the Monona Drive revitalization and Broadway developments.  These commercial projects will provide a financial base for our community in the future and in turn, keep our property taxes low.  In addition to the Monona Drive and Broadway developments, we need to consider developing a true “city center” at the heart of our city. This “city center” would add light commercial space, provide a down-town feel and support a communal space[3] . 

We have a wonderful asset in our lake access; however the current status of the lake is poor making it less accessible for recreation. We need to continue to look at ways we can improve the quality of our lakes through individual and community decisions.  Realistically, this is a larger issue beyond just Monona. Therefore, we need to engage in active problem-solving with other communities throughout our watershed to make substantial changes that will increase the quality of all the lakes and rivers in our area.

Brian Holmquist

508 Panther Trail

Saturday, December 10, 2011

2012 Capital Budget Amendments

The city council approved the 2012 capital budget with a number of amendments at the December 5, 2011 meeting. Here's what my notes show happened on the amendments.

The total 2012 capital budget will be $4,750,401 (of which about $2.3 million is for Monona Drive). Some items that remained in the capital budget may be funded from the city's reserve funds (i.e. not borrowed), based on the large savings the city will realize on group health insurance rates.

Amendment to reduce police car purchases from three to two (cut $26,000). Passed 3-2. I opposed.

Amendment to eliminate a new ambulance (cut $175,000). Failed 1-4. I opposed the amendment.

Amendment to reduce the proposed budget to $175,000 (from $250,000) for sanitary lift station in-place back-up generators passed 5-0.

Amendment to reduce reduce the proposed budget for SCADA system upgrade to $60,000 (from $100,000) passed 5-0.  

Amendment to eliminate funding for 1/2 ton pickup failed for lack of a second.

Amendment to eliminate funding for pool concession area failed 2-3.

Amendment to transfer $25,000 from city hall rehab funding to valve maintenance machine passed 4-1. I opposed the amendment because I though the transfer should have come from some other Public Works item and not form the city hall rehab.

Amendment to reduce tree replacement funding from $45,000 to $30,000 passed 5-0. The revised funding is still more than we usually actually spend on tree replacement.

Monona City Council Report - December 5, 2011

The Monona City Council met on Monday, December 5, 2011) and again had quite a heavy agenda. (My guess of adjournment at 11:30 p.m. was only six minutes off.)

City Council agenda or the complete city council packet.

a. Consideration of Ordinance 11-11-629 Revising Title 8, Chapter 3 of the Monona Code of Ordinances Regarding Solid Waste Disposal and Recycling (Public Works Director) (Postponed 11/21/11).  Passed 5-0.

Consideration of Ordinance 11-11-630 Prohibiting Weapons in City Buildings (Police Chief) (Postponed 11/21/11). Passed 5-0.

c. Consideration of Ordinance 11-11-632 Amending the Official Traffic Map Concerning No Parking on Winnequah Road (Public Safety Committee, Public Works Committee) (Postponed 11/21/11). Passed 5-0.

d. Consideration of Ordinance 11-11-633 Amending Chapter 9 of the Code of Ordinances to Remove the Regulation of Massage Technicians (License Review Committee) (Postponed 11/21/11). Passed 5-0.

Consideration of Resolution 11-11-1818 Adopting the 2012 Capital Budget (Mayor Miller) (Postponed 11/21/11). Passed 5-0 with numerous amendments. I'll see if I can figure out a way to report those and post it separately. We cut $156,000 from the 2012 capital budget. The total 2012 capital budget will be $4,750,401 (of which about $2.3 million is for Monona Drive. Some items that remained in the capital budget may be funded from the city's reserve funds (i.e. not borrowed), based on the large savings the city will realize on group health insurance rates.

Consideration of Resolution 11-11-1813 Approving an Intergovernmental Agreement with Dane County for the "DaneCom" Emergency Radio System (Police Chief, Fire Chief) (Postponed 11/21/11). Passed 5-0.

2.New Business.

a.Convene in Closed Session under Wisconsin Statute section 19.85(1)(e) Deliberating or negotiating the purchasing of public properties, the investing of public funds, or conducting other specified public business, whenever competitive or bargaining reasons require a closed session (International Association of Firefighters Local 311Contract; Group Health Insurance Plan).

b.Reconvene in Open Session Under Wisconsin Statute Section 19.85(2).

c.Consideration of Resolution 11-12-1820 Approving Terms of Contract with International Association of FirefightersLocal311 (City Administrator). No action. Alder Busse requested more information on comparables.

Consideration of Resolution 11-12-1821 Approval to Issue a Request for Proposals for Contracted Consulting Engineer Services (Public Works Director). No action.

Consideration of Resolution 11-12-1822 Selecting a Group Health Insurance Plan(City Administrator). The city has obtained three proposals for a new group health insurance carrier. Note that this item is still under negotiation, so no data on the proposals is included. Each of the three proposals would result in substantial savings over our current carrier (WPS) and would provide the same level of benefits. No action.

Automated Trash Collection in 2012

Monona Moves to Automated Trash Collection in 2012

Date: 12/02/2011
The City’s residential contract for curbside solid waste and recyclable materials collection expires December 31, 2011, and a new contract with Veolia Environmental Services will begin for 2012. As part of the new contract, the City will change to a fully-automated curbside collection program with with 65- or 95-gallon collection carts, similar to the blue recyclables collection carts we currently use.

The change to automated service for both recycling and trash collection will save about $144,000/year over the current system. This savings assumes about $65,000 in revenue from recycling "rebates", which will be based on market prices.

A few changes:

Collection routes will be completed in two days instead of the three days with our current program. Some residents will have a new collection day, which still needs to be determined.

Large item pickup. The Contractor will operate a Bulk Waste Collection Program through a direct service request and transaction with the resident. Residents will have to contact the Contractor directly for collection of large items that do not fit into the solid waste cart, and for other large items and electronics residents would like to dispose of. The Contractor will then bill the resident directly.

Please contact Public Works Director Dan Stephany at (608) 222-2525 with any questions.