Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

Time to close books on state treasurer

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Waukesha Freeman May 22, 2014 Page A5 Opinion
Time to close books on state treasurer

GOP ought to lead push for streamlining government

The Republican primary for state treasurer just took an interesting twist. The incumbent, Kurt Schuller, is not running for re-election. He was elected on a promise to get rid of the state treasurer’s office, but it will take a constitutional amendment to make the change.

Schuller did publicly support a bill that would have changed the state Constitution but some in Madison have privately suggested to me that Schuller did not try very hard.

One of his employees, Scott Feldt, was running to replace Schuller with the promise of asking the Legislature to expand the official duties of the state treasurer’s office to make it worth keeping.

Feldt was running against Matt Adamczyk, a former legislative aide, who criticized the state treasurer’s office for some of its frivolous expenditures. Adamczyk also campaigned on a promise of abolishing the elected position.

This week Feldt dropped out of the race and endorsed conservative activist Randy Melchert, who wants Wisconsin to keep an elected state treasurer.

In 1952 when my grandfather ran for secretary of state, the Waukesha Freeman endorsed his opponent. OK, Wigdersons are a forgiving people. The Freeman also questioned why the secretary of state and the state treasurer were elected positions.

The Waukesha Freeman observed, “The fact is, although it is rarely discussed with any candor, that this office and the state treasurer’s office are losing public interest and awareness. …The paucity of candidates for this and other offices reveals their diminishing importance and suggests, perhaps, that someday the legislature will recognize reality and abolish them altogether.”

Sixty years later the state treasurer’s office is even more diminished as governors and legislators of both parties have stripped the job of many of its responsibilities.

After the consecutive terms in office of Democrat Dawn Marie Sass and Republican Kurt Schuller, neither of whom had any special qualifications to be state treasurer, the need for the office is even less apparent. Feldt’s endorsement of Melchert is only more evidence the state treasurer’s office is superfluous. Not that Melchert isn’t a capable individual, but there is nothing in his résumé that says state financial director.

A majority of Republican delegates at their state convention voted to endorse Adamczyk over Feldt in the Republican primary. While not overwhelming, the sentiment is there to get rid of the office.

Republicans are likely to control both houses of the Legislature after the November election. Regardless of who wins the Republican primary for state treasurer, and regardless of who wins the general election, Republican lawmakers should act in the next legislative session to amend the state Constitution to get rid of the position.

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A couple of quick takes.

The Waukesha Freeman reported Tuesday that Spring Creek Church on Capitol Drive is being threatened with foreclosure by the City of Pewaukee because they are not paying a stormwater runoff fee. The church points out they don’t have any stormwater runoff into Pewaukee’s sewers because they have a retention pond.

The city’s response is that every property owner should contribute to the costs of stormwater runoff. When the amount being charged is independent of the amount the service is used, then it is no longer a fee. It’s a disguised tax. The city should stop pretending otherwise.

The probable sale of The Clarke Hotel to Harp & Eagle Limited is good news for Waukesha’s downtown. While the hotel has continued to meet its obligations to the city, the empty restaurant windows have been a terrible disappointment. The hotel’s financial woes have made some question whether the investment was worthwhile.

I believe 25, maybe 30 years from now, we’ll wonder why there was ever a debate. I’ve been to other cities where the taxpayers put at far more risk and gained much less for the effort.

What was at the site of the hotel before the renovation was a cancer on the downtown. While what’s there now has not lived up to expectations, it’s certainly better than a magnet for vagrants and drug dealers.

The Clarke (or whatever it’s called after it is sold) may still go through more financial troubles. There may be still more handwringing in the future. But the impact on the surrounding community has been priceless.

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