As a denouement to the election, I wanted to post a couple of surveys that I took that were sent to me by Sean Scallon, editor of the Tri-County Area Times (formerly called the “Augusta Area Times” before being eaten up by a larger company). Below are my answers to their survey questions. I wanted to be sure that I had them available on my site, as other sites and pages have a tendency to “disappear” given enough time.
Why do you want to serve on the village board?
As a member of the Fall Creek community for a little over a decade now, this place has become my home. I grew up as a Navy brat, moving from place to place, never staying in one place for more than maybe 4 years at a time. I’d been looking for a true home my entire adult life. When I got here, to this community, and found my wonderful wife Rebecca, and looked around… I knew that this was home. And I want to try to help make it the best possible place to be. For myself, my wife, my kids, and for all of my fellow Crickets. It’s as simple as that.
With gas prices high and looking to stay that way for the foreseeable future, is the moment for Fall Creek to try and bring businesses to town like a grocery store or restaurant or others that would save drivers from trips to Eau Claire or Altoona and how should the village go about to attract such businesses?
Well, first of all, we have to reduce barriers to entry in the community. We need to take a good, hard look at our bylaws and ordinances, and ask ourselves if they are really necessary. A business will be less reluctant to move into the community, if they have to go through pages and pages of what are sometimes very archaic and silly rules. For one example, the entirety of section 6.1.6., “Animals, fowl and insects not permitted in the village.” would seemingly preclude most any kind of pet store that would attempt to sell anything beyond a typical dog or cat. No local exotic pet stores allowed in Fall Creek. We have to remove these kinds of barriers to entry. It’ll make it substantially easier for businesses that want to come into the Village to have a chance.
Another issue that’s come to my mind is that some local business owners feel that they have a lack of say or a vote when it comes to village matters, even though they are working to help build the community in their own ways. For one specific example, Kristi LaRosa of Kristi’s Sweets and Treats, a store which has become not only successful locally, but has also become something of a renowned institution. She has stated that even though she owns her business and her building, she cannot vote in elections in Fall Creek and she has no voice at all in the running of the Village, because her home of residence isn’t here. Yet, she provides so much to this community. She provides a gathering place for family and friends to meet, as well as a great place for lunch and sweets! We should be able to rectify such a situation as this, and give business owners the CHOICE over which district they vote in. Not allowing them to vote in more than one, mind you, but letting them choose where they want to voice their opinions, in all of the communities where they have a stake. As it stands right now, she has no chance to speak with her vote when it comes to decisions that the Village Board makes that might affect her business and livelihood. That’s just one example, I’m sure there are many more.
What are some upcoming challenges the village faces and what’s your plan for meeting them?
In the last few years, I’ve been blessed to be able to travel across Wisconsin with my family through areas such as Rice Lake, Spooner, Ashland, Bayfield, Eagle River, and more. And through those travels, I’ve seen the results of rural decline, and it’s not pretty. Communities eviscerated by the consolidation of family farms into corporate farms. Small Towns that dwindle when the factories closed and production moved elsewhere. The slow decay of abandoned buildings, barns, and sheds all over our great state. It’s truly disheartening. Fall Creek, as a small village, may also potentially fall victim to this. I believe, given enough time, it is inevitable if nothing is done about it. We need to do what we can to promote the prosperity of the Village and make it attractive, especially to young people, so that they want to stay after they graduate, and to draw young people from other places as well.
That includes, but is not limited to – increasing our standards at the schools, seeking out and communicating with regional entrepreneurs that wish to create new small start-up businesses, and developing further our recreational resources. We have a lot of beautiful outside space (such as the trail at Keller Park) that have seemingly not been updated or maintained in years from the looks of them. On top of that, we live in part of the world where it’s seemingly winter for nearly half the year and people don’t want to go out – yet we have no multipurpose functional indoor recreation center (not a gym) open to the public, where the public can get together and have fun with each other away from the bitter cold. These things are all within our capability and within our grasp, we just have to be willing to put forth the effort. I hope to be able to help push for these kinds of reforms.
Why do you want to serve on the school board?
I have two children in the Fall Creek School district, my twins Abby and Will, who are in the second grade. I’m running, simply, because I want the best for them. But not only for them. For all of the children of the Fall Creek School District. Our children deserve the best. Our children are our future. What we do now, today, will affect their lives and the future of our community for generations to come. Every little decision will have a big impact on hundreds of lives going forward. I originally put my hat into the ring because I wanted to have a bigger voice, and be a better advocate for my children’s education. But then I found more reasons to get onto the board.
You can find on my website, http://www.bennettforoffice.org, the District’s and the Schools’ numbers for the last five school years that we have data for, along with links directly to the DPI website if someone doesn’t trust the numbers I provide and wants to pull them themselves. After looking at the numbers from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, I was surprised to see that, on paper at least, the Fall Creek School District does not in fact have the results that show that they are a fantastic school district, as public reputation and opinion seem to suggest. These numbers, this objective data, shows that Fall Creek is not in fact a top tier school district like we’ve all been lead to believe. It’s a “middling” school district in terms of actual results. This was again surprising and concerning to me.
We can have all the “good feelings” that we want about how we FEEL about our school, but will those good feelings help our children to be educated? Will those good feelings help them to prosper in the future? They will not. We need to take a serious look at these performance metrics, and at the inner working of the school district itself, find the “pain points”, and fix them.
What should be the district’s policies on COVID-19 or any other kind of pandemic for the future?
I am, politically and personally, a conservative libertarian. I truly believe that the government’s primary role should be to protect its citizenry from harm from others who attempt to violate their God-given rights. As Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, we “derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness”. That should be the single role of our government, to preserve those rights. And the ORDER of those rights is no accident. For you cannot have The Pursuit of Happiness without Liberty, and you cannot have Liberty without Life. That, as framed by the founders of our Constitution, are the order and importance of each of these rights, and the order in which they should be considered. A global pandemic is an extraordinary and rare event. The last time that we had a global pandemic of this magnitude was the 1918 Spanish Flu, which killed anywhere from 17 to 100 million people, making it the second most deadly pandemic in human history next to the bubonic plague of the Middle Ages. COVID so far has killed anywhere from 6 to 24 million people worldwide.
Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. Life should be preserved above Liberty, and Liberty above the Pursuit of Happiness. Death is the ultimate negator of every one of those rights. The District’s policies should reflect this. While I do not believe in vaccine mandates, as those are a violation of a person’s bodily autonomy, I do however believe in mask mandates, for one simple reason. “Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins”. Your right to expel potentially deadly microbes through the air ends where my breathing space begins, it’s as simple as that. A person should not be permitted to cause harm to another person, that’s the one basic role of government, to prevent that.
I believe in Truth, and I believe in Science. The science has shown us that masks provably reduce (but do not completely prevent, mind you) contagion by the simple matter of blocking or reducing the number of water particulates from exiting them. Other barriers as well, such as distance and plexiglass, also help prevent the spread of those same particulates. So yes, I believe in mask mandates. However, I do NOT believe in living in a permanent state of fear. We must use statistical analysis and modern contagion modeling to determine the course and spread of disease, and adjust our measures accordingly. Mask mandates should only be in place when there is a very good risk of spreading something as extraordinary as a deadly pandemic further. When that pandemic has finally become manageably endemic, and natural immunity and vaccination rates are high enough, then those mandates can and should be dropped as soon as it’s been determined safe to do so. And who should make that call? In my opinion, the CDC. These are intelligent people who have spent a lifetime learning about, and whose entire JOBS are to study disease and its spread. If you’re not going to believe and trust in them to do their jobs properly, are you going to believe and trust in other media personalities that have far less expertise in such matters? I feel that it would be foolish to do so.
What are some upcoming challenges the district faces and what’s your plan for meeting them?
The primary challenge facing not just our district, but many others in Wisconsin, is rural decline, which is a very real phenomenon. Children who grow up in rural areas are much more likely to leave their home town than those in urban areas. While Fall Creek may be partly sheltered from this effect with its proximity to Altoona and Eau Claire (as the statistical data from the Census Bureau shows), it is in fact a very real danger lurking around the corner. The only way that we can prevent this kind of decline, is by providing things that the big cities can’t – a personal touch, a dedication to academic excellence, and the ability to adapt quickly to individual student needs. These are the kinds of things that you can’t get in the larger cities and towns. But in the Village of Fall Creek, with the student population size that we have? This is absolutely possible.
Our teachers are working hard to do their best in educating our children. We just need to ensure that they are getting the right resources that they need in the right places. And seeing many asks from our teachers for additional funds on the DonorsChoose website? I’ve donated to a few of them myself, but the NEED for them to me is indicative of the district failing to meet their teacher’s needs. And if the teacher’s needs aren’t being met, then the student’s needs certainly aren’t. I hope to be able to change that, and to help funnel resources in the right way, in the right places. For example, on the site at the moment I type this teachers have stated that they need more library materials for their classes, curricular materials to help our children learn how to read, and one teacher needed new kitchen and market play sets to help teach young children about those functions in our community. These are important projects, which should be funded by the district. That they are not, means that there is an issue with how we are managing our budget. I’d like to get in there and try to fix that, putting academics and learning first before all other things.