The race for the 30th Wisconsin State Assembly District seat is heating up. Earlier this week, Republican State Rep. Dean Knudson and Democratic challenger Diane Odeen met in a candidate forum broadcast by Wisconsin Public Radio's The West Side program.
Last week, Odeen issued a statement about the City of Hudson Common Council's approach to handling its library funding problems.
On Friday afternoon, the Odeen campaign issued the following press release criticizing the council's vote to deny a rezoning request for the St. Croix Meadows dog track property:
This week the Hudson City Council rejected a request to rezone the former St. Croix Meadows dog track site, which the Hudson School District had wanted to purchase in order to build a new school. The city council’s move comes despite the fact that voters approved the purchase in April.
Diane Odeen, Democratic candidate for the 30th Assembly District, supported the purchase as a way to relieve overcrowding at the high school and middle school in Hudson. Strong public schools are one of Odeen's top legislative priorities.
"This is another example of what happens when elected officials don't work together or listen to their constituents," Odeen said. "There are numerous sites in Hudson that should be used for future commercial development and strengthening our tax base. In addition, the School Board put forward a number of creative solutions to the concerns about tax revenue. But the city council refused to consider a compromise and chose instead to dismiss the current needs of our students – and the voters’ wishes."
This past legislative session, Odeen’s opponent voted to take $1.6 billion in funding away from public schools – including a 10 percent state aid cut for Hudson schools – while increasing funding for unaccountable private voucher schools to more than $300 million. Odeen believes strong public schools are critical for economic growth because employers consider school quality when relocating or expanding their businesses.
“In shifting funds away from our public schools Dean Knudson put special interests ahead of our children and our communities,” Odeen said. “This week, the Hudson City Council showed the similar disregard for our children's education needs. I’m running to make sure our community’s desire for quality schools – and strong, lasting economic growth – is represented in Madison.”
Knudson, who served as Hudson's mayor before being elected to the State Assembly in November 2010, sent the following statement to Patch:
Attorney Odeen has issued her second press release in as many weeks attacking Hudson area elected officials. Without any elective experience, it is understandable that she would not understand the challenges local officials face as they struggle to balance competing priorities. It is sad to see a woman of high character, but new to politics, follow her liberal Madison handlers' advice that negative attacks are the way to be elected. I think people in our area are tired of those tactics.
In 2011 our state faced a huge $3.6 billion budget deficit. The last thing taxpayers need during difficult economic times is a tax increase. By making tough choices we balanced the budget without raising taxes. We had less money to share with local school districts because we made a commitment to maintain our social safety programs, putting $1.5 billion dollars of new funding into healthcare for the poorest among us. At the same time we gave local school boards the freedom and flexibility to reduce their costs through simple things like bidding out their health insurance. This change has allowed local governments statewide to save over $1 billion, and savings of $1.1 million for the Hudson school district.
The school choice program in Milwaukee has saved our local school districts millions of dollars. The Milwaukee school district has among the highest costs and poorest outcomes of any in the state. And Milwaukee schools are funded by an enormous amount of state aid. By allowing parents to choose the educational option that best suits their child, the program provides a voucher at a lower cost than the state aid would have been. That savings is then shared with districts around the state. I have no doubt that Odeen would vote to end the Milwaukee choice program, but if it ended our local school districts would lose at least $1 million in state aid each year as a result.
There is no greater responsibility than to be entrusted with the taxpayers' money. Until she walks a mile in the shoes of hardworking local officials, making tough choices while protecting the taxpayer, a first-time candidate may want to refrain from criticizing those officials. Sure that's how they do it in Madison, but around here we work together to find positive, constructive alternatives.