We hope your week is off to a sunny start, and that you had some time to relax and prepare for the upcoming holiday over the weekend. This week's WPT Weekly Insider will focus on driverless vehicles, Wisconsin license plates, the latest jobs numbers, employment news from a large Wisconsin employer, and some holiday travel tips.
We wish you and your families a wonderful, warm, and memorable Thanksgiving Holiday. Here at WPT, we are very thankful for all that you and your families do to keep our Wisconsin community a great place to live and work. Happy Thanksgiving from all of us!
As always, we hope you find this weekly report to be interesting and informative. If there are ever any issues that you would like to see included, or if you ever have any questions or comments, please reach out to us at email@example.com.
Have a great week,
PROPERTY TAXPAYER OF THE WEEK
This week, we're headed to the wonderful Fox Valley, where the Property Taxpayer of the Week, Andrew McMyler and his company, AJ's Auto Body.
Andy was born and raised in Menasha, graduated from Menasha High, and said he didn't continue his education because he wanted to get to work.
"[I] skipped college for the awesome opportunity to inhale dust and pain fumes at a body shop in Appleton," he told us. "In 1986, I talked my way into Pierce Mfg, painting fire trucks."
He said he abused his body before he had enough of the corporate life, and wanted to get out of "big business."
"So, back to the body shops for several years, until in 2002, a tiny shop came up for sale less than a mile away from my house, and AJ's Auto Body was born."
They are located on Valley Road in Fox Crossing, and have expanded their operations over the past 15 or so years to include customs, restorations, hot rods, bikes, boats, equipment, rust proofing, and of course, collision repair.
"The custom/resto market has kind of exploded lately and is becoming a larger part of the business, which is fine by me," Andy told us. "I love working on the old stuff. I tigives you a really great feeling when customers come in to pick up their beautifully restored '57 Chevy and they've got tears in their eyes."
But Andy told us, the weepy satisfaction that his business gives his customers isn't even the best part of being in business.
"The coolest part is that those 'customers' have become close friends over the course of the project. I've made many friends in 15 years of AJ's Auto Body Inc."
Andy has been a friend of WPT's for years, and first brought the situation of the Menasha Lock closure to our attention two years ago.
"On the political front, my biggest gripe is with the WI DNR and the Fox River Navigational Authority. These two entities have conspired to close the Menasha Lock in 2015, stopping traffic between Lake Winnebago and Lake Butte Des Morts," he explained. "The excuse for this travesty is a little fish found in [Little Lake Butte Des Morts] called a Round Gobbie, which the DNR considers an 'invasive species,' and claim that the only way to prevent the spread of the fish into the 'pristine waters' of Lake Winnebago was to close the lock."
There is also some irony in the story.
"By the way, the word Winnebago translates to 'stinky water' in local Native American language."
The worst part is that this situation now seems to local residents to be more of a bureaucratic power trip, and less about the environment. Although countless people have personally verified that the species does indeed exist in Winnebago, the authorities turn a blind eye to the devastation they are causing economically. By keeping those locks closed, boaters, families, and sportsmen are unable to navigate through the lock system and into the open water.
"Gobbies have been caught in Winnebago by local fisherman, who have turned them into the DNR only to be told that there is no verifiable proof of where the fish was caught. Beyond Frustrating!"
WPT made several calls and contacts at the DNR and the local authority, but was given the bureaucratic runaround. It turns out still no progress has been made, but our organization continues to monitor the situation regarding the Round Gobbie.
"I also want to add how appreciative I am with WPT's help in this matter," he added.
When Andy isn't restoring and customizing beautiful automobiles, he spends time with his wife.
"In our limited spare time, my beautiful wife of 19 years, Janelle and I like to spend summer days boating on local lakes and rivers, and winter days skiing in da U.P der eh," he joked. "We also love to slip in a Caribbean vacation every few years."
It's a heck of a business, with an owner who is active in local affairs, and we are proud to have Andy, Janelle, and AJ's Auto Body as a committed member to our cause.
"I love Wisconsin. I have very little use for bureaucracies," he closed. "PS, the last pic of the 1964 Studebaker Avanti (a body-off restoration completed spring of 2016) was taken at our bi-annual car show."
Last week, the Homeowners Bill of Rights passed both chambers of the State Legislature, and we would like to give a huge thanks to Representatives Jarchow, Brooks, and Senators Tiffany, and Craig. Among the changes that strengthen property rights and homeowners rights in Wisconsin, we were particularly happy to see that the law that prohibits an assessor from raising the assessment on a home simply because a homeowner refused entry. We understand that the assessor needs to get inside of a home to do a thorough inspection of a property. But I suppose my question is this; assuming the assessor checked for building or renovation permits on that property, what true reason would they have for entry into the interior of a home? If no permits exist, nothing has changed since the last assessment, and the rationale simply doesn't exist. Secondly, if a homeowner refuses entry into the home and the assessor raises the property, the homeowner will now be allowed to appear before the Board of Review. The benefit to this will be two-fold. First, it gives a homeowner some due process and some benefit of the doubt. Secondly, it will require an assessor to actually have a basis for raising the valuation of a property. Property owners should be treated with a great deal of respect, and these pieces of legislation go very far in ensuring that becomes reality in Wisconsin. The legislature also did a great deal of bill-passing last week, and you will read more below. As always, I hope you've found this article to be informative and helpful. If you have anything you want to add or discuss, just reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org directly and I'd be glad to assist, or call (608) 255-7473.
NEWS FROM THE CAPITOL
AND AROUND WISCONSIN
DRIVERLESS CAR LANE BEING STUDIED FOR FOXCONN
Foxconn's plans for a giant factory in Racine County have also spurred some other interesting developments, including the studying of driverless car lanes on I-94. The study was confirmed by a WisDOT spokesman, who confirmed that the department is looking at several upgrades to I-94, and that driverless car lanes are, in fact, something that is being explored. The plan would have the lanes go between the Foxconn plant and General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, as a way to move goods and services. As some have pointed out, this would put Wisconsin on the map for what many believe to be the future of both commercial and personal transportation.
AMERICA'S DAIRYLAND WILL NOT GET THE AXE
Governor Walker last week said that "America's Dairyland" will not be taken off of the Wisconsin license plate, despite at least one Republican lawmaker's attempt to do so. That Republican is Rep. Scott Allen from Waukesha, who circulated a piece of legislation that would completely redesign the state's license plate, and remove "America's Dairyland" to replace it with another slogan that would "reflect who we are, not who we were," according to his statement. Governor Walker reassured the public the agriculture and manufacturing are the lifeblood of the state's economy. Well, he said "bread and butter."
RENT-TO-OWN BACK IN LIMELIGHT
A couple of Wisconsin Republican lawmakers are circulating a bill that would write some new state laws for the rent-to-town industry in Wisconsin. In the new laws, a rental-purchase agreement would need to state in 8 or 10 point type size the actual cash price of the item and total dollar amount of payments that the customer would need to pay to pwn the product. While some democrat opponents are quick to say that rent-to-own industries are preying on the poor, authors Sen. Moulton and Rep. Petryk point out that Wisconsin is only one of three states that does not have statutes that are written to address the rent-to-own industry, and that the current consumer protection act was passed before this industry's popularity grew.
AMAZON LOOKING TO HIRE 1,000 EMPLOYEES
While they might only be seasonal jobs, Amazon is ramping up its package sorting operation by looking to hire 1,000 positions for the day after Thanksgiving this week.
A spokesperson for the company said that they are actually looking to hire "thousands" of employees over the next month, and said that the employee is free to work as much or as little as they would like. The process is quite simple; you get a short interview, watch a quick video, get a cheek swab, and need to pass a drug test and background check. Applicants must be 18 years old or older and be a high school graduate.
The job will go between now and New Years Eve and offers a great opportunity for somebody to make a little extra money, get Christmas presents, or help pay the bills, one employee said.
WISDOT ASKING PEOPLE TO PLAN AHEAD FOR TRAVEL
Although most major highway construction work has concluded for the year, motorists traveling over the Thanksgiving holiday period may still encounter ongoing road work along with the potential for heavy traffic in key travel corridors. Officials with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) expect peak travel periods to occur between noon and 8 p.m. on Friday, November 17 and on Sunday, November 26.
"Traffic crashes tend to peak over the next couple months due to several factors including an abundance of holiday travelers and hunters, the potential for rapidly changing weather, decreasing daylight, and increasing deer activity," said David Pabst, director of WisDOT's Bureau of Transportation Safety. "It's the responsibility of every driver to watch their speed and following distance, always drive sober and alert, and ensure everyone is buckled up."
Before taking to the highways, motorists can get updated information on work zones and incidents by dialing 511 or visiting 511wi.gov. Statewide travel information also is now available through Twitter at @511WI.
WISCONSIN ADDS 9,500 JOBS IN OCTOBER
The Badger State last month added 9,500 private sector jobs, according to the state's Department of Workforce Development.
In addition, Wisconsin gained 10,500 non-farm, 9,500 private sector, and 3,400 manufacturing jobs from September to October of this year. From last year to this year, the state added 42,400 non-farm jobs and 39,400 private sector jobs, and gained 13,000 manufacturing jobs from October 2016 to October 2017.
Because of these gains, the state reached all time highs, with a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate down to 3.4 percent, well below the national 4.1 percent unemployment. That's the lowest since 1999. Wisconsin also continues to far surpass the national average in the Labor Force Participation Rate, with 68.8 percent of Wisconsinites in the workforce, compared to the 62.7 percent average nationally.
THANKSGIVING WILL COST LESS IN 2017
According to the Farm Bureau Federation, Thanksgiving will cost about 65 cents less this year than last year, for a total average of $47.26. That's if you are eating the traditional meal.
The group did a survey of 12 food items in 33 communities across Wisconsin, and found that the home-cooked meal will not only be affordable, but evens out to about $5 per person. A 16-pound turkey ($21.92) is about a dollar less than last year, with prices dropping in cranberries, stuffing and other ingredients.
Milk will cost more, and so will cream, rolls, relish, pie mix, sweet potatoes and peas.
The Wisconsin communities that participated in the survey that led to these conclusions were Appleton, Ashland, Belleville, Beloit, Chilton, De Pere, Dodgeville, Eau Claire, Ellsworth, Elroy, Janesville, Lodi, Manawa, Manitowoc, Marshfield, Medford, Mequon, New Richmond, Paddock Lake, Pewaukee, Platteville, Plover, Prairie du Chien, Richland Center, Saukville, Shawano, Sheboygan Falls, Sparta, Union Grove, Verona, Waterford, Watertown and West Bend.
WEEKLY MEMBER POLL RESULTS
Governor Walker officially signed the $3 billion contract with Taiwanese corporation Foxconn last week. To assess if any opinions have changed one way or another, we want to know; are you supportive of this deal?
In time we will see if this was a good thing.
Joe Smoe can't fine employees to work for $13/hour. Now Foxconn comes in and pays $15/hour. Good bye Joe!
Devil is in the details.
The only thing I dislike is where it is located. It should be put somewhere that is screaming for more jobs...not more SE wisconsin pandering.
I cautiously support the deal. It's a huge gamble with huge risk. I hope the reward is worth it.
Hoping it works out that they provide enough jobs to make it worth it. not a fan of paying so much for jobs that haven't been guaranteed yet.
I'm just not convinced that Foxconn will hold up their end of the deal.
I am some what supportive But where is it actually going to be built?? Rumor has it that they are going to build over some wet land. Well all the work we do to preserve the wet land will now go down the drain. SO does the DNR get involved now??? I need more facts yet.
A bill is being circulated that would officially lower the drinking age to 19 in Wisconsin. Good idea or bad idea?
When I was eighteen we could drink beer, so I see not a problem. I know many teenagers drink now illegally.
Bad idea only because drinking age is linked to US highway funds. If 18 is old enough to fight for our country in the military than I say let them drink too.
It's a decent idea but with the Feds holding states hostage via withholding a % of federal highway funds...it won't work.
Keep it. My family and I were hit by a drunk going the wrong way on a divided highway. Still trying to work through that...
Leave it at 21 unless they find a way to replace the federal funds we will lose.
Drinking problem is bad enough already.
They are considered adults they should be able to have a drink legally
We don't need a new generation of drunk 19 year old drivers killing themselves and others. We'll leave that for the older drunks.
18 year olds can make their own decisions. Let them decide if they want to drink.
A massive wind farm in SW Wisconsin has been completed. Generally speaking, are you:
Supportive but the subsidies need to be less or eliminated
I still somewhat believe that the future this will cost us more electricity
Don't know that the cost of building a wind far is recoverable
I feel that we, as a human race, should find every way we can to harvest energy. I'm cool with wind, solar, and other forms of energy generation.
If it helps cut my electric bill down
A law has passed the Assembly that would sunset all administrative rules after nine years, unless re-authorized by a joint legislative committee. The bill now heads to the Senate. If you served in the Wisconsin State Senate, how would you vote?
Re-voting on ALL administrative rules every nine years...Even if one were to 'rotate' them so 1/9th were done in the first year, Etc. this could consume MASSIVE time by legislators.
Too many administrative rules. Regulations are burdensome.
Many administrative rules are detrimental to small business and do nto always follow the intent of the laws the agency is supposed to administer.
I feel as though there are better ways to handle this- like an expiration date of 9 years. I think a lot of our laws/regulation/rules were put into place for a reason. Sunsetting them doesn't mean that it was good to do so. And we all know that good rules will be swept aside, too...
Rule upon rule made by unelected bureaucrats! They continue forever. We have too many rules and laws already. They often become obsolete. They are often promoted by lobbyists. Bureaucrats and legislators have too much time to sit around and dream up rules and new laws.
The holiday travel season officially begins next week. Are you traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday or staying home? Do you eat the traditional meal, or something else? What's your favorite dish other than turkey? Potatoes? Stuffing? Do you have a favorite pie? Share anything about your Thanksgiving below!
We're traveling. Sometimes we eat traditional, but most of us like to change it up with favorite foods added in. Brunch has been the most popular.
Traveling? Yes, a few miles (under 20), because one sibling hosts Thanksgiving gathering.
Go to the local Towhall and eat the traditional Thanksgiving dinner with our cousins we have been getting together with for 56 years!
Thanks for all that we have. USA is the greatest country on Earth. Sure there are problems here but try living freely like we do anywhere else. Nothing compares.
Traditional all the way. Except no one likes the white meat, so I just make legs and thighs in with the dressing. Just as good! Favorite meal all year!
Our daughters home only 1 mile away, traditional meal. Favorite dish is my apple cranberry casserole, Pecan pie has become a favorite. Love spending time with extended family and the grandchildren.
Stay home and about 25 all bring a dish to pass we have turkey other meat.
It's easy to focus on the negatives. But one a year lets focus on all we have to be thankful for. Amen.
Depends on weather. If it's nice, I'll be trying to finish up combing corn. If not I will be hunting with family.
Family is coming. We look forward to it. Wife does "meals for millions." Glad to see them all together.
I just wish that we were a society that seriously focused on giving thanks instead of hoarding all we can get during the Black Friday National Embarrassment.
Staying home as family members are traveling to our house for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
Traveling 3 miles to son's home. Having the traditional meal with family. Having Watergate salad and pumpkin dessert.
Yes, we are traveling. First time in years. Warm Pumpkin Pie and Vanilla Ice Cream.
Can't wait. Love the holiday season!