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President should pay for vacation

October 31, 2013

The United States recently reached a temporary resolution on its national debt crisis.
We will revisit the same overwhelming problem again, in just a few short weeks.
Which means we can look forward to a New Year without the happy.
Consider this, then: $186,000. Time magazine reported that this is the cost to keep Air Force One aloft. For just one hour.
The president took a “vacation” recently to Hawaii.
This involved two round trips. Cost to the taxpayer?
$10 million.
Just a few weeks later the president took another “vacation” to Cape Cod, Mass., again using Air Force One.
Cost? Nearly $1 million.
When Queen Elizabeth visited the U.S. in 2007, she and Prince Phillip flew round-trip commercial on BOAC.
Suggestion: Mr. Obama can take his vacation anytime he likes and travel however he pleases, so long as he can pay for it.
The stress of being president led a former chief executive to use funds appropriated by Congress to build a retreat for the express purpose of providing a respite from the affairs of state.
He named it after his grandson, David.
This camp is located in western Maryland, just a short helicopter ride from the White House.
If this was good enough for President Eisenhower, it is most certainly good enough for this president.
Or any other, for that matter.
If the Queen and Prince Phillip can fly BOAC, Mr. Obama can surely find a more economical means of transport for his personal travels.
Unless, of course, he is wiling to pay the cost of using Air Force One out of his own pocket.
Since we live in a country that apparently has no idea how it is going to pay its bills, we desperately need to begin shifting our fiscal paradigm from profligacy to parsimony.

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Oak Hill Cemetery: A Lake Geneva gem that should not be overlooked

October 31, 2013

Much more has been written about Pioneer Cemetery in Lake Geneva than about Oak Hill Cemetery.
Perhaps this is understandable, given the fact that the Pioneer Cemetery is Lake Geneva’s oldest and historic cemetery, dating back to 1837 when it was first platted by Thomas McKaig, who surveyed and laid out the streets, alleys and lots of the tiny village of Geneva at the behest of Geneva’s seven founders. ...subscribers>>

Recent Community columnists
Interested in running for office?
October 24, 2013

If you have ever considered serving on the Walworth County Board, I encourage you to attend an informational meeting on the subject next month.
It may seem early to be thinking about the spring election now, but those seeking a seat on the 2014-2016 board of supervisors can begin circulating nomination papers in December.
While incumbents have a good idea about what to expect during the next term, the goal of the meeting is to provide basic facts about board service to citizens who may not be as familiar with our organization.
The meeting will be conducted in a workshop format to provide those contemplating a run for the county board with an overview of Walworth County government and a discussion of the time commitment that will likely be required of new supervisors.
The two-hour class is not a “how to” seminar on running for public office but, rather, a preview of what a supervisor might expect to experience if elected to the board. In addition to outlining the wide range of services provided by county government and highlighting some of the legal rules under which supervisors must operate, the workshop will address the relationship between the board and other elected and appointed officials and review the committee structure.
The idea for the workshop originated in 2007 in anticipation of the board’s reduction from twenty-five to eleven members, which took place the following year.
Incumbents, at the time, were concerned that the smaller board would result in a significantly greater workload for each supervisor. They felt it was important to apprise anyone considering service on the next board of the time commitment that would likely be required.
Since no one knew exactly what to expect on the downsized board, it was necessary to estimate the time that would be required. Those estimates, themselves, were controversial at the time.
A point of contention during the debate over downsizing was whether the resulting workload would be manageable. Some felt that opponents of downsizing were overstating the amount of time that would be required.
In hindsight, information presented at the inaugural workshop probably underestimated the time commitment actually required of supervisors. With the benefit of nearly six years of experience, we now have a much clearer picture.
Time commitments of a supervisor include the following:

Board meetings
In addition to special board meetings and public hearings that arise from time to time, the county board typically meets on the second Tuesday of each month, beginning at 6 p.m. The length of these meetings varies greatly depending on the number and type of issues on a particular agenda. supervisors have other commitments on “County Board Day,” as the second Tuesday of each month has come to be called.
Every two to three months, the board convenes at 5 p.m. as a committee of the whole to discuss an issue in-depth. To deal with urgent issues that may have come up between meetings, special standing committee meetings are often held that day, as well. Finally, the board uses that day to establish the agendas for its committee meetings, which are held the following week. Given the number of meetings held, it is not unusual for “County Board Day” to begin at 3 p.m.

Committee meetings
Supervisors are also responsible for attending meetings of the board’s standing committees to which they are assigned. Much of the work of the board is addressed in one of eleven committees. To distribute workload and influence in the organization, committee assignments are divided, more or less equally, among supervisors. Most supervisors are assigned to three or four committees, which typically meet monthly. It isn’t unusual for a committee meeting to last two hours.
In advance of each board and committee meeting, an informational packet is delivered to each supervisor. The packet contains drafts of the legislation to be discussed at the meeting as well as staff analysis of the issues. The length of time required to read this material varies among supervisors.

Congress should get back to work, too
October 10, 2013

I don’t care if you’re a Republican. I don’t care if you’re a Democrat.
I do not care if you call yourself a conservative or a liberal.
I don’t even care if you are a card-carrying union member or a bootstrapping capitalist.
Here’s what I do care about: work.

Going paperless good, but not be-all
October 10, 2013

Most people focus on announcements of new technology.
The release of the latest iPhone captures headlines and draws crowds of shoppers to wait, in vigil, around the nearest big-box electronics store.

Music to die for: Composing a soundtrack for my exodus
October 03, 2013
Some months ago my musician daughter asked me what music I want played during my last rites. Complex factors go into questions like that, to say nothing about answering them. My children, like their mother, tend to anticipate life’s obstacles and the bends in the road.Another factor of course is my age. After all, I am in my 87th year. The tendency of my children to be realistic about life’s cycle is reasonable enough. As a result I am giving some thought to this matter, though it is not easy.
Richard Soutar: long forgotten Lake Geneva legend
October 03, 2013

All of the kids who grew up in Lake Geneva during the late 1940s and early 1950s were aware of two “crazy houses” in Lake Geneva. One was the former Oakwood Sanitarium, a once-imposing large red brick building located on the north side of east Main Street on “Catholic Hill,” more or less where the Havenwood Apartments are today. The Oakwood Sanitarium had once been a prestigious institution where wealthy Chicagoans housed (perhaps “incarcerated” is a better verb) their “mentally challenged” sons and daughters. Long abandoned, it was in the 1940s and 1950s a derelict building, with all of its windows broken, surrounded by high grass and volunteer trees. Lake Geneva kids visited it frequently, but it was a very scary place, supposedly inhabited by the ghosts of inmates who had been “imprisoned” within its walls.
The second “crazy house” was located on the north side of Geneva Street (1017 Geneva St.) roughly where an apartment building is located today. This building, abandoned since 1943, was in the process of becoming derelict. It looked like a stone Scottish castle, which it had been designed to resemble, with a very high pointed turret looming over its second floor. The yard around it was covered with high grass and volunteer saplings. The building seemed to be surrounded by woods. Much like the Oakwood Sanitarium, the “castle” on Geneva Street was thought by local kids to be haunted. Rumors had it that the reclusive woman who had owned it (she had died in 1949) lived in the “castle” as a ghost. On Halloween nights, local kids dared each other to go near the “castle,” at the risk of their lives.
The “crazy house” castle had been built as the 19th century became the 20th century by Richard Soutar, the subject of this article. His second wife, Laura Soutar, was the reclusive woman who lived in the “castle” until six years before her death in 1949. Few in Lake Geneva today will recognize the name Richard Soutar, which is understandable because he died in 1931, 82 years ago. But in 1931, the year of his death, almost everyone in Lake Geneva knew who he was. He was famous and he had, by the time of his death, already become a legend. Indeed most of the tradesmen in Lake Geneva — carpenters, plumbers, electricians, masons, bricklayers, painters, and laborers — had worked for him at one time or another. To see Soutar’s legacy today, one need only go on the U.S. mailboat, the Walworth, as it delivers mail to piers on Geneva Lake. His legacy is evidenced by many of the large mansions that ring the lake’s shores.
Soutar had been born in Perth, Scotland, on Sept. 1, 1861. As a young man he had studied European architecture and building construction, and became an apprentice architect and builder. At the age of 20, in 1881, he emigrated from Scotland to the United States. After spending a few months in Chicago, he was drawn to Lake Geneva by the challenge of designing and building mansions for wealthy Chicagoans who had purchased land on Geneva Lake’s shore to serve as their summer estates.

The first mansion on Geneva Lake that the young Soutar built was George Sturges’s home. During the ensuing three decades, Soutar would build the summer mansions of J.H. Moore (Loramoor), Tracy Drake, H.M. Byllesby, H.H. Porter, Hubbard Carpenter, Edward Swift, A.C. Bartlett, L.E. Meyer and Homer Stillwell, among many others. He remodeled the mansion of William Wrigley Jr. (the father of Philip Knight Wrigley) and built the conservatory on the Wrigley estate.
Perhaps the three most well-known buildings that Soutar constructed were the Lake Geneva Country Club, the Otto Young mansion (Stone Manor) and the Ceylon Court mansion of Frank Chandler, which Soutar had reassembled after it had been brought by train to Lake Geneva from Chicago, where it had served as the Ceylon exhibit at the 1893 Columbian Exposition (World’s Fair) on Chicago’s Midway Plaisance adjacent to the University of Chicago.
By the beginning of the 20th century, Soutar had become one of the most well-known architects, designers and builders in the United States. When he built his “Scottish castle” on Geneva Street at the turn of the 20th century, Soutar emulated many of the mansions that he had built on Geneva Lake, especially Otto Young’s Stone Manor. He used superb building materials, including beautifully crafted stone masonry, the finest plumbing fixtures and exquisite woodwork, using wood of the highest quality. His “castle” on Geneva Street featured large, ornate fireplaces. Largely self-taught, Soutar drew upon the expertise that he had developed building mansions for wealthy Chicagoans on the shores of Geneva Lake when he designed and built his own personal “castle” on Geneva Street. The “castle” resembled the Sturges home still extant in Sturwood.
Soutar married his first wife, Katherine, in Lawrencekirk, Scotland, on Aug. 14, 1885. She came to the United States and to Lake Geneva in September 1886. Unfortunately, she contracted tuberculosis and died in October 1894 at the young age of 33. She left three small sons, aged 4 ½, 6 ½, and 8, Douglas, Richard and Forest Soutar. Soutar eventually married a second time. His second wife, Laura Cullen, had been born in Linn Township in 1867. She outlived Soutar by 18 years, dying at the age of 82 at Lakeland Hospital in December 1949. An illness had confined her to Lakeland Hospital for the previous six years, during which her “castle” on Geneva Street had become derelict. It was demolished in the 1960s, as was the Oakwood Sanitarium.
Soutar was truly one of Lake Geneva’s most distinguished residents. During the late 1920s, he became increasingly ill with heart problems. On Christmas eve in 1931, at 8:30 p.m., while listening to children serenade him with Christmas carols in front of his Geneva Street castle, he passed away. The last carol that he had requested the children to sing was “O Holy Night,” which appears on his tombstone in Oak Hill Cemetery. His funeral procession to Oak Hill on Sunday, Dec. 27, 1931, was reported to have been the largest funeral procession to Oak Hill that Lake Geneva residents had ever seen. With the passage of time, however, even legends fade into oblivion. But Soutar clearly deserves being rescued from misty obscurity.
(Much appreciation to Muriel Malsch, whose mother Mary Rahn Malsch had cared for Laura Soutar, for sharing her information on Richard Soutar with me.)

Celebrities in the Bay
September 26, 2013

Morgan Freeman. Albert Einstein. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Need your shingles replaced? Call Harrison Ford. Hard to believe, but all the afore mentioned celebrities have visited, lived or worked in Williams Bay.

Even harder to believe, is that you really COULD call Harrison Ford in the early 1960’s to do handyman work around your home! The REAL Harrison Ford!

Down memory lane when television was brand new
September 19, 2013
What evil lurks in the hearts of men?“The Shadow knows!”Television was a marvel, to be sure, but not everyone could afford it. And, like my father, not everyone was convinced that the technology was reliable enough to justify such a large investment.
Catching up on historical places, people, giving thanks
September 19, 2013
The once-magnificent Victorian house had been built in the late 1850s or in the 1860s. In 1869, the Rev. C. A. Williams opened a boarding school for young boys in the house. It was the male counterpart of the Geneva Seminary for Young Ladies that was then located in today’s Seminary Park. The school run by Rev. Williams operated until 1875, when ill health compelled him to close it. Rev. Williams died in August 1885. ...subscribers>>
Don't forget manufacturing
September 19, 2013

With the summer season coming to a close these annual questions come forward -—along with others. 1. How was the season for the hospitality and retail businesses? 2. Did we have more or fewer visitors and what do we do differently for next year to improve? 3. What do we do in the future for parking? 4. How can we bring more locals downtown to shop? All important things to consider! ...subscribers>>

Sidebars: The softer side of the county budget
September 12, 2013

Of all of the holidays, Labor Day has become my least favorite.
It is the weekend before I present the annual budget to the county board and, as a result, usually involves a weekend of labor as I place the finishing touches on next year’s spending plan.
With most of the budget decisions made, my task is to summarize all of the numbers into a narrative that explains changes that are being proposed for the upcoming year.
This narrative, which is called the budget transmittal letter, has grown in size over the years. It took me just six pages to describe the 2002 budget, the first one I prepared for the county. The 2013 letter was 22 pages long. I am sure I could be more concise, but the county budget is large.
Even at its current length, I am only able to highlight major themes and significant changes. At one level, my Labor Day labor is self-imposed. There is no legal requirement for the letter.
On the other hand, I don’t think it is fair to our county board members to simply drop off a stack of “green bar” computer printouts on their desk and expect them to make sense of all of the numbers.
The letter gives them a head start on the two-month process that follows, which culminates in adoption of the budget on Nov. 12. I try to make the letter as reader-friendly as possible.
There are limits, however, to just how exciting I can make portions of the budget appear; the 30-year amortization schedule of our OPEB obligation comes to mind.
One tradition that grew out of my frustration with some of this very technical writing was to introduce “sidebar” articles to the budget.
These articles describe individuals or events that may not even be related to the budget. The sidebars gave me a much-needed break from writing about all of the numbers and hopefully provided the same respite for those readers courageous enough to make it through the whole document.
According to my archives, I first started adding the sidebars in 2006. Since then, I have used them to highlight outstanding employees, community leaders and important events in the history of the county.
This year’s sidebars are a tribute to citizens who help govern the county by serving on our many committees, boards and commissions. Six of those citizen members were gracious enough to be interviewed by my administrative assistant, Tammy Werblow, who did an outstanding job writing this year’s stories.
One of the risks of taking on a project like this is that space will only permit a small group to be included. There is always the chance that someone who was not chosen will be offended.
I probably should have been more worried about this, but I really didn’t give the selection process much thought.
Given the high quality of the people we have serving in these roles, I picked the first six citizens that came to mind.
I also know that those who weren’t chosen are not the kind of folks who hold a grudge.
They work for nothing, or almost nothing, and are motivated to make the county a better place to live, not to be in the public spotlight. Citizen committee members highlighted in this year’s budget letter include:

Tom Cotter
A long-time resident of East Troy and a retired educator, Tom has served on the Civil Service Board for 18 years.
That board plays an important role in the selection and promotion of deputies.

Ella Pious
In her ninth decade of life, Ella has been a faithful member of our Health & Human Services Board for 22 years.

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