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Author: Steve Erbach Created: Sunday, April 01, 2007 12:44 PM

My favorite author said: "Politics is almost as important as your own breathing." You may not feel that way because of a lifetime of distaste for politics and politicians; but the fact is: politics surrounds us. If we ignore it then we have no cause to complain when others make decisions affecting us. I hope that this site will help you in your efforts to understand what happens politically in our corner of the world.

The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think. - Horace Walpole

By Steve Erbach on Friday, March 18, 2011 8:44 AM

Are the municipal elections important to you?

(published 21-Mar-2011, Appleton Post-Crescent)

No matter which town you live in, you can learn a lot by attending Council meetings.  You might think you've got it all figured out; but it isn't until you see your city/town/village Council in action that all the incongruities and inconsistencies, machinations and maneuverings, earnestness and evasiveness of local politics are revealed.  You learn who on the Council you can rely on and who you have to watch out for; which ones lead and which ones fill space; who shoots straight and who are the slippery characters.  Then when you see that it's time for an alderman to go, you hope for a replacement you can trust.  In District 1 in Ne ... Read More »

By Steve Erbach on Monday, December 27, 2010 11:01 AM

This will only be a brief entry on the Neenah wind turbine imbroglio.  I have yet to watch the video of the December 15th Neenah Common Council meeting to see how my three 3rd District aldermen explained away the reversal of their votes at the Neenah Budget Hearing on November 16th.

The Appleton Post-Crescent story on the re-insertion of a wind turbine or solar energy project into the budget caused quite a few comments.  I posted one myself (limited to 1000 characters):

By Steve Erbach on Thursday, April 22, 2010 6:09 PM

There may be a do-over for the chairmanship of the Neenah Finance and Personnel Committee.

I was present at Mark Lange's farewell party when a few Council members discussed the very real possibility of nominating a new chairman of the committee rather than re-electing Jim Hemes, the current chairman.  One of the Council members appeared to me to be willing to step up to be chairman.

At the Council meeting of April 20th, the fellow who said he'd take the chairmanship actually nominated Hemes.  The motion was seconded by Council President Stevenson.  The motion carried and Hemes was re-elected.

After the Council meeting another Council member was overheard remonstrating Stevenson for his second; challenging him to justify his second when, in the Council person's opinion, it was clear that Hemes ran roughshod over the Finance meetings, refusing to let some people speak, interrupting committe ... Read More »

By Steve Erbach on Friday, April 02, 2010 1:32 PM

To the Editor, Appleton Post-Crescent:

I've learned a lot about Neenah city government from Todd Stevenson.  Over the past 10 years, as an observer and as an alderman, I've seen how much Todd has been on top of things in the city and that he would make a fine Mayor.

Todd is extremely fair and even-handed.  He shows his ability to lead through his confidence in debate, his appreciation for the contributions of others, and his way of getting to the heart of the matter forthrightly and energetically.

I've done some volunteer work over the years, but Todd puts me to shame.  Just one example: his work with Neenah sports teams over the years led to his earning the 2003 Neenah High School Red Smith award.

In fiscal matters, Todd thinks straight.  Only Neenah Finance Director Mike Easker's copy of the city budget is better annotated!  Todd always Read More »

By Steve Erbach on Friday, March 26, 2010 5:27 AM

I attended last night's forum for the two candidates for Mayor of Neenah.  As I often do at Council and committee meetings, I recorded the proceedings.  I'm not acting as a reporter, as such; there are things said that I find worth reviewing from time to time and it's useful to hear exactly what was said.  Last night was one of those times.

I transcribed the introductory remarks of Neenah Council President, Todd Stevenson and posted them in their entirety last night in this post.

Duke Behnke, the Neenah beat reporter for the Appleton Post-Crescent, was there.  He heard Stevenson address the slur made about his thinking abilities by a sitting Council member while campaigning for Stevenson's opponent, Mayor Scherck. Behnke witnessed how quiet it got ... Read More »

By Steve Erbach on Thursday, March 25, 2010 7:36 PM

Tonight the Neenah Mayor's Forum, sponsored by the League of Women Voters, took place at City Hall.  Mayor George Scherck and Council President Todd Stevenson answered a load of interesting questions from the audience.

The answers to those questions were over-shadowed by the introductory remarks made by Stevenson.  I present them here in full:

I had planned to give a general background of myself, documenting my lifelong committment to this area and to confirm the passion I continue to feel towards the people of my home town.  However, events of the past couple days compel me to spend this time defending my qualifications and responding to comments made about my abilities to think straight.

Read More »

By Steve Erbach on Thursday, August 20, 2009 3:27 PM

The first declared candidate for Mayor of Neenah in 2010, permitted me to share this with you as it currently resides on his Facebook page and only Facebook users can read it.  It's his first statement of his reasons for running for Mayor:

Let me start by explaining what aren’t reasons I’m running for mayor of Neenah. My campaign is not for my personal ambitions; the ego stroke; the cushy, overpaid job; the prestige; the name recognition; nor is it for the short-sighted goal of actually getting elected.

First, I am running to provide the people of Neenah a choice. No offense to any other candidates, but people are forced to vote for the “lesser of two evils” in almost every election. My candidacy will provide an alternative to the false dilemma of the two-ideology system.

Read More »

By Steve Erbach on Thursday, August 20, 2009 12:07 PM

Ever since March I've wanted to get a definitive answer to a question.  The question is: How can city property owners get the master sidewalk and trail plan changed?

In my last aldermanic campaign, I had quite a lot of support from the residents on Baytree Lane and Westbreeze Drive for one main reason: I supported their opposition to having sidewalks built on their streets.

I went to the Neenah Common Council meeting last night to follow through on my promise to those folks who voted for me to help them petition the Council to do something about sidewalks.  I transcribed the recording I made of the Public Forum segment of the meeting, including the comments made by Council members on this topic. 

Over that span of 17 minutes I was satisfied that the master plan could be amended in a relatively straightforward manner, one that didn't involve a city-wide referendum.  It all depends ... Read More »

By Steve Erbach on Wednesday, August 19, 2009 2:15 PM

It's time for a real race in Neenah! The 2010 Neenah Mayoral contest has suddenly become far more interesting. From today's Appleton Post-Crescent:

College student files candidacy papers for Neenah mayor

By Duke Behnke
Post-Crescent staff writer

NEENAH — S. R. has a year left of college, but he already has his sights set on a prominent job upon graduation.

He wants to be the mayor of Neenah.

The 21-year-old R. last week filed his declaration of candidacy for the 2010 mayoral election. He is the first person to do so, but he is not the only one interested in the position.

Read More »

By Steve Erbach on Sunday, June 28, 2009 6:02 PM

The Best-Laid Plans by Randal O'TooleI've been reading The Best-Laid Plans: How Government Planning Harms Your Quality of Life, Your Pocketbook, and Your Future by Randal O'Toole.  The book gets my highest recommendation.

The chapter I'm reading now is titled "The Planning Profession". This chapter falls in Part Four: "Why Planners Fail".  If you're a city planner, you're not going to like this section.

O'Toole begins Part Four with a rip-snorting quote on liberty by former U. S. Supreme Court Justice (1916 - 1939), Louis Brandei ... Read More »

By Steve Erbach on Sunday, May 10, 2009 10:43 AM

Writing in March about my meeting with the Realtor's Association of Northeast Wisconsin, I couldn't quite figure out their angle.  I think I finally did.

During my meeting with them, the theme was Affordable/Workforce Housing: what did I think about Affordable/Workforce Housing, what would I do as Alderman to ensure Affordable/Workforce Housing?

I had the feeling during that meeting that lots of cards were being held close to their vests.  They talked a bit about the cost of city infrastructure and fees for city services.  What they did not talk about was zoning.

Read More »

By Steve Erbach on Thursday, April 23, 2009 6:13 AM

The Appleton Post-Crescent reported this morning that Alderman Nick Piergrossi was elected by members of the Neenah Public Services & Safety Committee as its new chairman, replacing outgoing Alderman Bruce Rhoades. Congratulations, Nick!

By Steve Erbach on Friday, April 17, 2009 8:47 AM

A friend of mine in Minnesota exhorted me to do a better job reporting on the Appleton Tea Party.  As parital recompense for the luke warm job I did yesterday, here is a small exchange I had with an e-mail friend of mine, Jim L.  Jim is from Candada and has a bit of a different take on events in these United States.

I started off in the e-mail discussion with:

Speaking of the Appleton Tea Party:



I wrote a bit about it here:

Read More »

By Steve Erbach on Thursday, April 16, 2009 7:27 AM

I went to the "Tea Party" last night at Fox Banquets in Appleton.  A very nice venue, perched atop the Kimball St. embankment overlooking the Fox River.  It was a nice rally, too. Lots and lots of polite folks, I'd say 1500. One thing the Post-Crescent didn't mention is that after the event the parking lot was spotless!

I saw one fellow wearing an Obama t-shirt walking through the crowd with a small video recorder, smiling and shaking his head. He, of course, was in no peril from this crowd.

I enjoyed the history teacher (professor?) the most as he was the best speaker. Jerry Bader may know how to handle a microphone but he needs to practice his public speaking.

The event was nifty in that a lot of frustration and discontent had a public outlet; but it was unfocused. Better to have this kind of rally during an election year. Political action needs to be more focused and consistent. "Throw th ... Read More »

By Steve Erbach on Friday, April 03, 2009 3:03 AM

The League of Women Voters Candidates Forum was broadcast on the cable local access channel last night, April 2nd.  Here is the link to the Neenah city web site page that contains the video:

The aldermanic forum makes up the first 45 minutes of the video while the Board of Education forum takes up the remainder.

I'd appreciate hearing what you think about it.

By Steve Erbach on Saturday, March 28, 2009 6:45 PM

In making my rounds today, talking with people in the 3rd district about the upcoming elections, I had a real-time opportunity to expand on the topic of political pressure.  The essential fact of it is this: the pressure needs to be constant.

For example: sidewalks.  If a neighborhood subcollector street is slated for sidewalk installation in the 5-year plan or in next year's proposed budget, the property owners can circulate a petition to oppose it.  Then they bring it to City Hall, contact their aldermen with their concerns, appear at the budget hearing when sidewalk budgets are discussed, and make presentations before the entire Common Council. The pressure is more effective and directly proportional to the percentage of people in a neighborhood that sign the petition.  Also, the more neighbors that show up at a public hearing or a committee meeting, the greater the impact on the aldermen. Read More »

By Steve Erbach on Friday, March 27, 2009 8:24 AM

I had a very stimulating time talking with a couple of folks on Baytree Lane while I was making my rounds last weekend.  I followed up my visit with an email detailing the portion of the March 24th Public Services & Safety Committee meeting as well as e-mail correspondence with the City Attorney and the Deputy Public Works Director.  Here's what I wrote:

The sidewalk issue is big.  It's also convoluted.  I did a bit of research before the Tuesday night Public Services & Safety Committee meeting and I came prepared to ask for more information.  Here's what I said before the committee:

When I was out knocking on doors in the Baytree Lane area the other day, I talked with a couple of people that had signed a petition asking the city not to build sidewalks on their street for the possible construction of the school out ... Read More »

By Steve Erbach on Friday, March 27, 2009 4:47 AM

I participated for the second time last night in a League of Women Voters Candidates Forum.  This time there were just two candidates "debating": myself and my opponent, Mr. Hamblin.  Gone were the multiple contested races and the full panel of candidates as in '07.  At that time, two ex-Neenah police officers were on the ballots for Districts 1 and 2, making for very lively and significant races.

Another change this time: because there were only the two of us, the League allowed each of us two minutes to respond to the questions.  That is an enormous difference from the standard one minute.  I remember in '07 that I saw the 15-second warning sign frequently.  This time, only once or twice.

The city of Neenah will upload the video of the forum very soon.  I'm quite interested to see it because of what my brother, Dan, said. Read More »

By Steve Erbach on Tuesday, March 17, 2009 1:12 PM

I was promised that the Realtor's Association of Northeast Wisconsin would get back to me by Monday to let me know if they supported my candidacy for alderman instead of my opponent's.  I got the letter today:

Our Association's Board of Directors has chosen not to endorse your campaign.  It is our hope however, that the prevailing candidates will consider our Association's expertise, particularly on issues related to housing, land use regulations and economic development, a valuable tool in solving problems that we'll surely be confronting now and in the future.

What does this mean?  Probably very little.  The group was very professional and the members were tolerant of what I had to say.  But in the end it boils down to whether the voters approve of me, not the Realtor's Association.  It would have been nice to add its endorsement to my political resumé, but I don't ... Read More »

By Steve Erbach on Tuesday, March 17, 2009 9:38 AM

I've been to three, maybe four Sustainable Neenah Committee meetings, now, and I've become more interested in their activities.  I started going to its meetings when I read an article highlighting the steps the Madison Zoning Board is considering for future zoning law changes to incorporate "sustainability" and "climate change" factors.

So I took the step of applying for membership on the Committee. The "Application for Appointment" asked me to write "a brief statement outlining your interest and qualifications for this appointment".  Here's what I wrote:

I am currently a member of the Mayor's Citizen Advisory Committee. In the past (2006-2007) I served on the Neenah Common Council, the Public Services & Safety Committee, and the Waterworks Commission.

Read More »

By Steve Erbach on Friday, March 13, 2009 9:52 AM

Yesterday afternoon I met with half a dozen board members of the Realtors' Association of Northeast Wisconsin.  This outfit has "jurisdiction" over an area in Wisconsin that encompasses about 240 units of local government: cities, villages, towns, counties, etc.

They wanted to interview me regarding issues that were important to them.  They asked questions like "How would you encourage development and maintenance of affordable/workforce housing?"

I told them that in all the years that I've been attending committee meetings and Council meetings, not once did the topic of "affordable/workforce" housing come up.  I got a bit better view of what they were driving at; that is, fees that cities charge for storm water sewers and for water and fire protection, garbage collection, recycling, building permits, etc., are things that affect the affordability of real estate whether it's comm ... Read More »

By Steve Erbach on Thursday, March 05, 2009 5:39 AM

Last night's Neenah Common Council meeting started off with a nicely produced video promoting the YMCA Strong Kids program.  It featured the story of a young Mexican father of two young children who lost their mother to an auto accident.  It's narrated by that young man in a very affecting way and shows scenes of him enjoying the company of his kids at the Y.  The second half is a series of still pictures of kids at the Y as well as members of the staff. Some of the staff had mugged for the camera.  One fellow mimicked dancer Michael Flatley's pose on the cover of the "Lord of the Dance" DVD, so I burst out laughing.  Maybe no one else saw that video or didn't see anything funny in his pose; because in that room with almost 30 people I was the only one who even chuckled.  Tough crowd.

I would say that the theme of the meeting was budgeting.  My opponent in the upcoming April 7th election, Tim Hamblin ... Read More »

By Steve Erbach on Wednesday, February 25, 2009 4:05 PM

I received a request from Bernie Peterson of the Appleton Post-Crescent to fill out the standard candidate's questionnaire by March 2nd.  Here are my answers to the main questions:

Political Experience: Neenah Common Council Alderman, 2006-2007; Neenah Public Services & Safety Committee, 2006-2007; Neenah Waterworks Commission, 2006-2007; Mayor's Citizen Advisory Board, 2007-present.

Do you have a campaign Web site? (If yes, please include its address): Yes!

Read More »

By Steve Erbach on Monday, February 23, 2009 6:47 PM

Cancellations first: The Feb. 25th meeting of the Neenah-Menasha Fire Rescue Joint Fire Commission has been cancelled.  Next meeting March 25th.

Monday, Feb. 23rd:

The Community Development Authority meets at 4:00pm. They're going to continue to talk about the little wedge of land that the city will acquire from K-C that sits on the shore at the mouth of the Fox River just to the north of the location of the new Plexus headquarters. The diamond-shaped sliver of land to be acquired amounts to 2822 square feet, bringing the total to 41,250 square feet (just under an acre). It has to do with cleanup costs of the groundwater contamination.  Looks like the city will be more responsible for that than originally proposed...but ... Read More »

By Steve Erbach on Monday, February 23, 2009 9:18 AM

If any of you read the Appleton Post-Crescent you may have seen my regular pieces appearing in the Reader Reaction Forum in the op-ed pages of the paper.  Last Monday the topic was "How has the economic downturn hurt you?"  I submitted the following on Thursday, Feb. 12th for publication Monday, Feb. 16th:

Our oldest son works at a popular restaurant.  He works fewer hours and gets fewer tips. One Sunday three customers left no tips; one had a $70 tab.  My wife actually works more hours than before, so she's doing fine. I don't have "layoff survivor syndrome" yet, mainly because there haven't been any layoffs where I work.  But hourly workers there now work seven hour shifts, not eight.  Gas prices are good, as low as they were four years ago. I really don't think that we're heading into a depression.
Read More »

By Steve Erbach on Thursday, February 19, 2009 5:57 PM

Before the Council meeting started last night, I saw Kevin Chaignot in the audience and went over and introduced myself.  I told him that I was going to speak in favor of granting his license and that I had written about it -- some would say, "extensively" -- on  He was understandably a bit apprehensive and in a high state of excitement, but he appears to be a fellow that can handle it.

He was the first to speak during the Public Forum segment of the meeting, and he repeated his main point that he didn't knowingly withhold information on his application (full details here).

I spoke my piece next:

I read the Mayor's Council Update of last Friday, including the paragraph in which he expressed a bit of frustration with the Public Services Committee -- and with the ... Read More »

By Steve Erbach on Wednesday, February 18, 2009 4:22 PM

Today I received an invitation to the League of Women Voters of Neenah-Menasha Voters' Forum on Thursday, March 26th from 6:30-7:15 pm at the Neenah Public Library, 204 E. Wisconsin Ave.  Since the 3rd District is the only Aldermanic district in Neenah with a contested race, the aldermanic section will be pretty small.  There'll be a forum for the Neenah Joint School District School Board candidates immediately following the Aldermanic forum.  That will constitute a somewhat larger group.  But the aldermanic candidates get the first shot.

I'm going to urge you starting now to give up a bit of your Thursday evening five weeks from now to sit in on the voters' forum.  In my experience, the forums are sparsely attended; so I'm asking you as a personal favor to come to the aldermanic portion at least.  It's just 45 minutes in a very nice setting!

The LoWV forum has an interesting format: each candidate ... Read More »

By Steve Erbach on Monday, February 16, 2009 3:16 PM

Two races appear on the Neenah ballot tomorrow: Winnebago County Executive and Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Here are the candidates and a bio for each one:

Winnebago County Executive

  • John Daggett
  • Jay Schroeder
  • Mark L. Harris (incumbent)

Here are the Appleton Post-Crescent profiles of the three County Executive candidates:

Mark Harris (incumbent)

Address: 2425 Sandstone Court, Oshkosh
Age: 53
Occupation: Winnebago County executive

Political experience: Winnebago County executive, April 2005 to present; member of Winnebago County ... Read More »

By Steve Erbach on Saturday, February 14, 2009 7:39 PM

I have a three-question [survey for you here].  Would you mind taking the survey?  It deals with the issues raised in my post from yesterday.  Thank you!

By Steve Erbach on Saturday, February 14, 2009 5:19 PM

Some routine items and some not-so-routine items in this week's packet of materials for the Council members delivered yesterday, Feb. 13th.

On Monday, Feb. 16th, the Water Commission meets at its regularly scheduled time of 4:30 at City Hall.  The agenda can be found here at the City's web site.  I was a bit disappointed that the three attachments noted in the agenda weren't in evidence in the packet.  Specifically:

  • the status of Fox Valley Energy, which just recently paid up a major portion of its delinquent water bill
  • the status of the "Lead Issue". Someone in my part of town had mentioned it when I was out campaigning last weekend and I followed up on it.  The Post-Crescent has a Read More »

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