Village Board Meeting 05.09.2022 – Commentary

Village Board Meeting 05.09.2022 – Commentary

Below are my personal notes for the Village Board meeting of 05.09.2022.

(First five minutes) It is interesting to see people’s interactions with each other when they first step in the room. Mr. Mattoon is particularly interesting, as he made a point of attempting to greet and shake the hands of almost everyone in the room.

08:30 – It appears that the Village Board could use some new chairs. Those creaky things make a lot of noise, look very uncomfortable, and also look like they could fall apart at any moment!

09:45 – It is good to see a good man like Richard Ziemann show up to meetings to try to provide further input. His breadth of experience and knowledge of local events and history is invaluable.

10:30 – Mr. Ziemann’s point is a good one. We should definitely be charging a reasonable rate to rent the Parks and Rec pavilions and such.

11:44 – Mr. Ziemann’s words “made us honest people”, are powerful words, in my opinion. External groups to the village proper should not be getting a “free pass” when it comes to using the services that we all pay for. At the very least, the Board should consider Mr. Ziemann’s words so far to at the very LEAST do a survey, or some form of record keeping to keep track of how much extra money the village WOULD have if it had charged every time the village provided a “freebie” to one of these external groups. Perhaps he’s wrong, and this wouldn’t amount to much that would make a difference. However, I know the budget is tight, so every little bit would help. And, as Mr. Aylesworth has said before, we should “follow the data” to see what the truth of things are. And we can’t do that, if we haven’t collected the data to follow.

12:20 – At this point, I would have expected any of the Board members to make any sort of comment relating to Mr. Ziemann’s words, and that they will look into it at least. However, there was silence regarding any actions or considerations the Board may have. This is disappointing to me. This important subject that a respected village citizen brought up – appears to just drop right off the radar immediately, and not be considered. Unless, that is, it was brought up in the second half of the meeting that I was unable to attend.

12:26 – “Charles Keane” (attempting to transcribe from what I heard) brought up an interesting point that’s been brought up previously. There are ordinances that vehicles must be parked on a “hard surface”. But… why? Is it not your own private property? What right does the Village have to decide what you do on your own property, when it’s causing no harm to any other person? I would like to go into more details on ordinances, but I’ll save that for another article when I have more time to go in depth on this.

15:30 – I’ve requested a copy of the entire “packet” that the Board receives at the start of the meeting on their tablets. I think it’s important for transparency for the public at large to be able to see everything that the Board itself is looking at during the public meetings – otherwise, how are we able to properly follow along with what they are talking about? I think this is a reasonable request. Ideally, these packets would be provided on the website alongside the Agendas and Minutes.

22:45 – The financial advisor that the Village brought in to talk about finances really seems to know what he’s talking about, and that’s good to see. I like that the Village is trying to maintain a (sort of) zero balance budget. That we are trying to spend only as much money as we raise, and not much more. That’s great!

23:00 – The unassigned fund balance (funds available to be used in the future) compared to the expenditures ratio is good. We’re at where I think we’d like to be. A fund balance of 51% means that our existing unassigned funds are enough to cover a half of a year of expenditures, assuming that we don’t receive any more revenue for the year. However, revenue and expenditures keep coming in. It’s good for us to have a “buffer”, and I like to see that our buffer is higher than the average that the advisor states of about 30% for most municipalities.

28:00 – The inner 12-year-old in me had to snirk at the phrase “had to keep the TID open”. Being previously unfamiliar with the terms, from my searching, it appears that “TID” stands for “Tax Incremental District”, which is the land area associated with development and redevelopment projects. Reference –

33:56 – Mr. Goodman asked a very good question here, whether any of the utilities were being subsidized by the general fund, or if they were operating independently. As per the financial rep, and Jared McKee, these utilities are entirely funded as “enterprises”, essentially meaning that the users of the services pay for the entirety of the services – the services pay for themselves. I agree to this method of operation.

44:00 – There is a mention of attorney fees here, and Mr. McKee stated that the fee was for legal advice regarding the meaning of ordinances on a property owned by Ms. Hurd. When talking about this subject, I noticed the tension in the room starting to increase, and I can understand why, due to there being a seeming conflict between the village administrator and a board member. I don’t know the circumstances of this “event” as I’ll call it, but I would like to know. It would be a good thing, I think, for the Village to provide the public with a summary of exactly what is going on here, as I can hardly tell what they are even talking about with the veiled language that’s being used. Something relating to “rezoning/conditional use permits”.

55:00 – This is an important discussion about the speed limits, speeding, etc. We need to have good data. And we need to TRUST that data, and this is why. Because one person has experienced issues with speeding, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there is speeding. Human memory is EXTREMELY faulty, and filled with problems like “confirmation bias” (where you ignore the data points that don’t agree with you, and you remember/accept the data points that do agree with you). We need scientific, OBJECTIVE measurements of things like this, to take away those human biases. We need to make decisions on that objective data, rather than individuals’ subjective experiences. Because one person’s faulty memory is a single data point, amongst a possibility of hundreds or thousands of data points. This is important, and relates to many other issues as well. It looks like the county has done the work, and has decided that there isn’t a chronic issue with speeding. We should accept that decision for now, yet at the same time, investigate that study, and understand their data collection methods and make sure that those methods are valid. As Reagan said “trust, but verify”.

01:04:12 – It is very good that Ms. Hurd has been looking into getting grant money to help us replace/update/upgrade the playground equipment at Keller Park. This is an important and necessary goal for our village, to keep our children active and healthy. But when she said “we don’t want to do that” to having an inspector come and actually inspect and possibility shut down our playground if they find unsafe conditions? This bothers me greatly. As the father to two children that have used that playground in the past, it is important to me that our playground equipment isn’t only accessible, but safe first. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again and again… “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” is NOT an accidental order of words. It was intentional. For without Liberty, there can BE no Pursuit of Happiness. And without Life, there can be no Liberty. I don’t know about you, but I would rather be able to KNOW if a playground is unsafe before letting my kids play on it. Because having a grumpy kid that’s grumpy because they can’t play is FAR superior to having a DEAD kid. It bothers me greatly that when Ms. Hurd heard from this inspector that if he came down, based on what he’d seen from pictures he’d have to shut down the park, that she decided that she would rather NOT have the inspector come, thus endangering our kids, and would rather allow them to play on potentially dangerous playground equipment. This… concerns me. Greatly.

01:08:00 – Interesting in this roll call vote on the paying of the monthly bills, that Ms. Hurd and Mr. Aylesworth chose to abstain from the vote. I would be curious to know each of their reasons for abstaining. In fact, I think it would be a good thing for the Board members to have a place where, after the meeting, they’d be able to explain the reasoning for voting a certain way for any specific roll call vote. Because we can’t see inside of their heads, so it’d be nice to know what their thought processes are in regards to these votes. I am happy to see abstention being used however. I’ve seen way too many 5-0 and 3-0 votes in the past, and would like to see more people exercising their right to either disagree civilly, or abstain from voting entirely. We need more different ways of thinking, and less “hive mind” mentality. We SHOULDN’T all agree on many things. Our greatest strength as a species is our varied thought processes and viewpoints. Everyone having the same viewpoint on all things, would lead us to stagnation, in the same way that animals and plants that all share too much of the same DNA (due to inbreeding), can lead to increased risk of disease and death. Look no further than the example of the end of the Gros Michel banana, and the mistake in the rise of the Cavendish banana mono-crop. We’ve yet to learn our lesson there.

01:24:00 – At this point in the video, they start talking about the administrative surcharge for garbage. This surcharge covers the actual time and labor cost of Renee and/or Joan administrating garbage collection. Ms. Hurd suggested using funds from the general fund to subsidize this administrative fee to save those using the garbage collection services some money. As Jared McKee stated, the garbage collection should be an “enterprise” service, meaning that it pays for itself, through service charges to the end users. This way, for one example, the farmers out of town that pay taxes, but don’t/can’t use the garbage services aren’t paying to subsidize the price of the garbage services that we use in-town. This makes complete sense to me, and is a very conservative way to handle these kinds of services. The use of public monies to “subsidize” anything is kind of the OPPOSITE of conservative thinking, and involves government getting their hands further into these pies to “shift money around”. And whenever you do such a thing, and make a system more complicated, you also make more room for “monkey business” to happen. This is actually the primary issue with our federal income tax system. Some have gamed the system and greased the right palms in order to get exceptions and exemptions made so that they have to pay less than what they should be paying for taxes, less than what the rest of us are paying. Subsidies are literally bigger government, rather than smaller government.

01:33:27 – Sheena Kaatz had two questions here, the second of which was quite an apt question, which is how much it costs other citizens in the Chippewa Valley for trash collection, to see if we have information on what the bills of others are to compare against our bills, and whether or not it makes a difference when we award a contract to a single hauler, rather than allowing the free market to prevail and allowing citizens to choose from multiple garbage collectors. At this point, everyone started focusing on the question of how to handle the administrative fee (which was in fairness the main question put to the board), however, nobody appeared to circle back to this important question at this time that Ms. Kaatz raised – do we KNOW how much citizens on other municipalities are paying compared to what we’re paying? And did we make a mistake in allowing one company to have a monopoly for Fall Creek? I think it would be a VERY valuable project to collect the data from around the area and find out exactly where we stand in comparison to the other residents of the Chippewa Valley.

01:37:22 – Here, it seemed the conversation went off the rails a bit, and people started to “talk past each other”, and thinking about their responses, rather than thinking about what the other person was saying. Mr. Aylesworth said he couldn’t make a decision without the data, which is a perfectly acceptable and understandable proposition. However, as Jared McKee had stated earlier, they DO have the data, they collected it a year or two ago, and that’s where they came at the figure that needs to be increased to pay for the administrative costs of running the trash collection. I think all Board members would do well to take some time, sit back, listen to the current person speaking, and let them finish before considering your own response, so that you can give the person the time to actually articulate everything that they need to say. Otherwise, as we can see here, people end up talking past each other, one not connecting to what another is saying. A shared set of non-sequiturs and circle-talk, if you will.

01:40:20 – Mr. Mattoon at this point raises the possibility of a “compromise” amount somewhere in the middle, which I believe is what was done the last time that this was brought up, which, as Mr. Goodman stated, essentially “kicked the can down the road”.

01:49:32 – Once again, Ms. Kaatz makes another good point, and suggests that the village creates some sort of graphic that could explain to the consumer the REASONING for why these rates have to go up. This is important and critical. It’s important for us to know WHY decisions are made the way they are, and WHY those prices have to go up. I also like Mr. McKee’s point right afterwards to create something to show the citizens where we stand compared to others in terms of actual costs, while “sanitizing” the results to not increase tribalism. This may be what I was talking about earlier that I didn’t see at the time. It looks like Mr. McKee finally circled back around to Ms. Kaatz’s previous suggestion. I like to see this kind of brainstorming!

01:52:48 – I like what Ms. Hurd and Ms. Kaatz both say here, that we need to be ABSOLUTELY honest with our citizenry. It’s been my experience that most issues come from either miscommunication, lack of communication, or INSUFFICIENT communication. Most people are reasonable, if you provide good reasoning to them. It’s that part that is often missing, as decisions come down from “on high” without reasoning being provided. Rather, commandments often times tend to come down, and the citizenry is unaware of the WHYs and can only speculate. Don’t let them speculate, let them KNOW WHY. Excellent. Let the community know that there will be a price jump today, because we failed to perform a price jump previously when we should have.

Final thoughts at the end of the meeting that I was able to attend – I’m disappointed that the Village didn’t vote to outright increase the cost to the full actual known cost of running the garbage administration. I will have to wait for the minutes to come out to know how this vote finally ended up. I wish I had the time to attend the rest of the meeting.

Fall Creek Village Ordinances Snapshot – 05.20.2022

Fall Creek Village Ordinances Snapshot – 05.20.2022

The Village of Fall Creek provides all of their ordinances to the public here on their website. This is excellent, and is necessary transparency. However, for the regular citizen that is trying to find a specific ordinance pertaining to a certain subject, trying to browse and navigate these ordinances one by one to find the specific appropriate ordinance can be… challenging. That’s why I also think it’s important that these ordinances be combined as well into a single, searchable document.

I have provided such a document below. Now, keep in mind that this document is a “snapshot in time” of the Village Ordinances at the moment that I downloaded and merged the individual PDFs. Ideally, the Village would also perform these steps and provide a merged document on their website alongside the “navigatable” individual PDFs whenever any single change is made to any of the ordinances. I will shortly contact Tim Raap and Jared McKee to request and see if this service can be provided.

For reference, the merging of PDFs is a service that’s provided online for free by Adobe, the original creators of the PDF file format. You can find that merge functionality here. I literally just downloaded the individual files and then pushed them onto their website to get the final product below. It took me longer to download the individual files one by one, than it took to merge them, by far.

DPI Data Errors

I’m currently writing a program that will let me take in all of the DPI’s spreadsheet data, aggregate it, and calculate the state average and ranking for the five main metrics – Overall Score, Student Achievement Score, Student Growth Score, Closing Gaps, and School On-Track and Postsecondary Readiness Score.

However, during debugging the program and getting it ready for release, I’ve found some… issues with the data. Not only are the column headers inconsistent (sometimes it’s called “On-Track”, sometimes it’s called “On Track”), but I’ve also found something completely unexpected:

Apparently, in the 2017-18 school year, the school “Blessed Savior Catholic School” managed to obtain TWO separate rows of scoring data, including two completely different “Exceeds Expectations” Overall Accountability Scores.

What a lucky school, to Exceed Expectations so well, that they get a double score!!!

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Accountability Scores

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Westley Bennett. I am a citizen of Fall Creek, Wisconsin, and parent to twin eight year olds that are second graders at Fall Creek Elementary School. Recently, I have run for a position in the school board and failed in my attempt to acquire the position. However, during the course of this attempt, I wanted to learn as much as I can about how our school systems work/function, and how they are judged, objectively. This brought me to the DPI’s website, specifically the Accountability Scorecards. On this page – , I came across the “meaning” of the scorecards as well as their “Rating Category”, which I’ll provide below for reference:

This appears to be the way upon which schools and districts are graded. It appears to be (from what I can see), a hundred point scale, just as most of our students, teachers, and parents are familiar with. However, these “Rating Categories” do NOT appear to line up with what I, as a parent, would consider to be acceptable standards for a hundred point scale rating system. For reference, below I’ve provided a graphic of the Standard Grade and Grade Point Average that I obtained from the National Assessment of Educational Progress’ website, colloquially known as “The Nation’s Report Card”:

Now, were I to superimpose this grading scale upon the DPI’s scorecard, this is the results of what the DPI considers to be a proper accountability rating, when compared against the national standard:

A hundred point grading scale is a hundred point grading scale, so I believe that superimposing the NAEP’s national standards on this report card is quite appropriate. I want my children to have the best possible education, and to do that, there must be a consistent objective metric by which we can measure the success of their schools and district. In my opinion, the DPI’s “Accountability Rating Category”, as it stands now, is preposterous and unacceptable. To consider a “grade” that would be considered nationally an F to “Meet Expectations”, and to accept a C as “Exceeds Expectations” to me are outrageous propositions. I would have expected that the State of Wisconsin would have higher standards than this. A rating of a C has been, as long as I’ve been alive, considered to be the standard metric for what’s “average” and expected, therefore I would think that we would set the bar to label a score as “Meeting Expectations” to be at LEAST a score of 70, and so on, and so forth.

Having low numerical values, low expectations, and giving them labels such as “Meets Expectations” and “Meets Few Expectations”, in my opinion is harmful to our children. Our expectations of our school districts and schools should match with what we would expect from our children. If we expect LESS than that, then we are setting our children up for failure when they leave the world of primary education and are expected to take care of themselves as adult citizens in the “real world”. I would like an explanation of how these “Accountability Rating Categories” were determined, and how their thresholds were decided upon.

Upon further research, I have found that, at least according to the MacIver Institute, these scores and standards have actually been LOWERED from previous years ( ), is this true? If so, how are these lower standards justified?

This is an open letter, upon which I have copied my wife, my State Senator Kathleen Bernier, and my State Representative Jesse James on this e-mail, in the hopes that their attention could assist in getting these concerns addressed. I will also be posting this letter publicly on my personal website, .

Thank you for your time, and I eagerly await your response.


-Westley Bennett

Election Results

Good evening, everyone. Below are the unofficial results of today’s election, as per the Eau Claire County Clerk’s website:

I would like to congratulate Ms. Kaatz, Messrs. Aylesworth, Goodman, and Wright for their victories.

The Mistakes I’ve Made

I started this journey only about six months ago, and while the results were surprising to me, considering the effort I tried to put into it, they were not surprising to my wonderful wife Rebecca. She, having grown up in a small village in rural Wisconsin that’s roughly a quarter of the size of Fall Creek, told me that I’d gone about the process the wrong way.

I had assumed that in the 21st Century, all that was necessary for a successful venture of this nature was for me to push out as much information about myself to the public. Once people knew about me, read my words, saw how I thought, I thought that would be enough. I was apparently wrong. What I did was not enough.

My dear Rebecca explained to me that in a small town, it’s the PERSONAL touch and the personal relationships that you build that make the most difference. Considering the fact that the number of votes I received for the Village Board roughly matches the number of people I met and talked to in person? I suspect strongly that she’s right.

My Attempted Remedy

So, my fellow citizens, I wish to let you know that this is not the end, but just the beginning. I’ve built a life here in our Village, and intend my children to do the same. If it takes me going door to door over the next few years talking one on one with the 1200+ residents of our Village to make a difference… well then, that’s just what I’m going to do.

But, not just that. I’ll still be maintaining this site. I’ll still be updating it with my thoughts, and any information of relevance that I can find. I believe in full and complete transparency. The more we know, the better. This is my true belief.

As such, while both the Village Board meetings and the School Board meetings are open to the public by law, it is fairly inconvenient in this modern era for most citizens to find the time to bring themselves physically to these meetings on a regular basis. It is also inconvenient to do so on the schedule of those boards. And although the Village Board attempts to alleviate this a bit by providing a Zoom meeting to the public, it is by way of a non-clickable URL in a PDF document, which is a hindrance to those that are less “tech savvy”. The School Board, as far as I’m aware, doesn’t currently provide any such Zoom meetings or videos that I’m aware of, at all. All that we are left with are fairly vague minutes, that are pretty barebones, in my opinion.

So, I’ll also be visiting every Village Board and School Board meeting that I can make it to, and, as per Statute 19.90 of Wisconsin’s open meetings law, I will be bringing a video recording device, recording the open portions of the meetings, and publishing them here publicly, on this website, as well as providing my own thoughts and opinions on the proceedings.

Thus, I will be bringing those meetings to YOU, on your own time, to view at your leisure. At least until the boards decide to start doing so themselves.

It is my hopes that by bringing this information to you, we’ll all be more well informed.

Anyone that wishes to is of course free to contact me about any of this. My phone, e-mail address, and even home address are provided on this site. I wish to hear from all of you.

I’m not going anywhere. I’ve only just begun to involve myself in the affairs of our village. I hope to see each and every one of you, soon. I’m in this for the long haul, that’s a promise.

Pretty Words

This is going to be a short one, because I’m working hard at several other things at once right now. While looking into the workings of the Wisconsin DPI’s report cards, I stumbled across the following article from Will Flanders, Ph.D. who works for the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a nonprofit conservative law firm:

With the caveat that anyone with a doctorate in ANY subject can put “Ph.D” next to their name, and this man has a doctorate in political science and NOT an education degree, the points he raises here about the actions of the DPI and how they are “moving the goalposts” is concerning to me. Specifically the following table, which if accurate, is highly disturbing to me:

If “Meets Expectations” can just be changed on a whim by the Department, then it’s arbitrary and meaningless. This is why in my opinion, the use of a standard “school grading scale” for these numbers is more valuable than these words of “Meets Expectations”, “Exceeds Expectations”, etc.

If we keep moving the goalposts, then it hides any performance issues of the local communities, the counties, and the state itself. I don’t WANT to have pretty words thrown at me. I want accuracy, and a standard that INCREASES rather than DECREASES over time.

Our children deserve better than this.

Meet and Greet

Good day to my fellow Crickets!

Your input and feedback are highly valued to me. As John Donne said, “no man is an island”. I am a part of this community, and if I’m going to be able to help it, I need to know what the community wants. If I am able to make it into public office, I will be acting as a public servant, and will need your advice to help guide my decisions.

As such, I will be holding a meet-and-greet at the Village Hall this upcoming Saturday, April 2nd. I have the hall for the entire day, but if I sat there all day long, my wife would probably kill me! So, I will be there for sure from 11AM-12PM, but please contact me if you wish to meet me outside of those times, and we can schedule a one-on-one session. Or, if you happen to be passing by the Village Hall on that day, you can try to drop by and see if I happen to be in at that moment! I hope to be able to meet and talk with as many of my fellow citizens as possible.

If you’re on the fence about voting for me? I’d like to talk to you. I’d like to prove my worth to you. I’d like to earn your vote.

If you’re absolutely NOT going to vote for me? I’d ABSOLUTELY like to talk to you. I’d like to know exactly why, to learn what I may be lacking, or missing in my campaign or messaging. What rubbed you the wrong way. I’m an open minded guy, and I want to hear all ideas and points of view, even those that may be contrary to my current view. It’s only through learning from others that we can expand our own horizons.

So, please, meet with me this Saturday at the Village Hall, I’m eager to see your face!