Odeen Criticizes Hudson Officials Over Dog Track Issue; Knudson Responds

The Democratic State Assembly candidate said Hudson Common Council "refused to consider a compromise" and dismissed student needs and voter wishes. Rep. Dean Knudson responded in a statement to Patch.

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.

Bingo September 22, 2012 at 08:16 PM
I guess that is all Diane has to run on is the criticism of others. Not much of a record of her own to stand on, other than being an attorney. Yes, I was just thinking the other day that we need some more liberal attorneys in Madison. It is always interesting when people seek state or federal office with absolutely no experience at the local level. Diane should try it. I hear it has long hours, lots of headaches and basically little or no pay. Probably not a good fit for an attorney.
Lil Guy September 22, 2012 at 08:24 PM
Dean is spot on with this statement. Good job Dean and thank you for your service to our GREAT STATE.
Celeste Koeberl September 22, 2012 at 09:00 PM
As a taxpayer and voter, I expect those elected to represent my community to be fully truthful about the public policy choices they make and the actual impacts of the votes they cast. Representative Knudson's claims about the financial impacts of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program on our local school districts, however, are inconsistent with the explanation by the nonpartisan Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau of that program's funding mechanism: "The choice program is funded from a separate, GPR [state general purpose revenues] sum sufficient appropriation established for that purpose. . . . Other than MPS [Milwaukee Public Schools] all school districts' aid payments and property tax levies are not affected by the choice program funding structure." (See, State Aid to School Districts, Informational Paper 26, page 15, January 2011 at http://legis.wisconsin.gov/lfb/publications/Informational-Papers/Documents/2011/26_State%20Aid%20to%20School%20Districts.pdf)
Bingo September 22, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Since when is 'choice' such an offensive thing? Seems that the only monopoly that liberals like is government controlled public education. One size fits all, if it doesn't work, just throw more money at it and claim that you are funding public education at a higher level.
Bingo September 22, 2012 at 09:24 PM
But back to the article at hand.....isn't it easy for Diane to sit back and be an armchair quarterback? Just like the Hudson Joint Area Library, did she follow this issue for the last year, or did she just come ambulance chasing when the time came for a tough decision for the Hudson city council? She looks very opportunistic to say the least. Perhaps Diane would like to lend free consulting services to the school district to address their space concerns while leaving the SCM 130 commercial acres intact in accord with the cities comprehensive plan. Just like with the library when Diane rode in on her high horse to criticize local elected officials, the topic is far more complicated than meets the eye. It was not a matter of people not listening or working together, it was a plan the school district ran off with without bothering to get buy in from the zoning authorities in the city. She might want to study up on local zoning authority before she tries to run for a state position.
mainstreet September 22, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Since Ms Odeen is neither a taxpayer to the city of Hudson nor the Hudson school district her opinions on such items as the SCM and the library are moot at best.
Celeste Koeberl September 22, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Representative Knudson's statement is less than fully forthcoming about the impacts on local taxpayers and our public school following his votes for the budget repair bill and 2011-13 state budget. In fact, as reported in the Hudson Star Observer on 7/13/11, 7/21/11, and 9/21/11, and as shown on local 2011 property tax bills, the Hudson School District (HSD) now is able to provide less to students, but at a higher cost to property tax payers. Representative Knudson conveniently omitted the additional facts, that: • HSD was unable to recoup the $2.4 million in state funding cuts it suffered—despite making budget adjustments by increasing staff contributions for retirement accounts and health insurance premiums, getting competitive bids for staff health insurance, allowing no increases in staff salaries and benefits for union or nonunion employees, cutting forty staff positions, recognizing savings from staff retirements and attrition, cutting operating costs, cutting transportation costs, and increasing student fees; and • Property owners throughout the HSD saw increased property tax levies--in the Town of Hudson, for example, the 2011 property tax bill on a home with an unchanged assessed value rose 6.9% over the 2010 property tax bill because state aids were cut for St. Croix Co., Town of Hudson, HSD, and WITC.
Bingo September 22, 2012 at 11:56 PM
This article isn't about the need for the school district to trim unnecessary fat from their budget, but we are all glad they did. How do you think this state dug itself into a $3.6 billion dollar hole to begin with Celeste? By overspending (padded benefits packages) and not streamlining operations like everyone in the private sector has had to do. You can try to divert attention away from Diane's ignorant statement, but we all read it for what it is. Why is the Hudson city council such a target of Diane's? Shouldn't she be worried about state issues like unemployment and balancing the budget? Does she really think that companies move to our state because of our schools? Apparently she doesn't understand basic economics and what it takes to keep corporations in the black and able to hire more workers and expand. I'll give you a hint Diane, it isn't new fancy school buildings. Good luck drawing CEO's to our state with fancy athletic complexes and schools built on 130 acre commercial parcels which drive up property taxes and scare away both new residents and companies alike. The public sector does not fund the private sector Diane(except for humongous Obama-style bailouts), it is the other way around.
Lil Guy September 23, 2012 at 12:44 AM
http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2011/jul/13/peter-barca/wisconsin-state-rep-peter-barca-says-assembly-vote/ Odeen's statement about the Milwaukee choice program has been shown to be false. Democrat leader Peter Barca made this claim and Politifact rated the claim "False". Knudson actually went easy on her in his response. He would have actually been justified in calling her out with "Liar, Liar, Pants on fire!"
Lil Guy September 23, 2012 at 01:34 AM
Here's an idea....maybe they should stop increasing their 20 million dollar slush fund that conveniently is hidden within their budget. That might help with the property tax bills
Hudsoner September 23, 2012 at 11:35 AM
The only thing Dean forgot to mention is the fact that the outcome in Milwaukee with School choice is even lower than the one they had prior to this program. It does not help the outcome if kids get moved around, Their problems don't disappear (the kids just have longer travel times and take their problems with them). If parents are not involved, and classes remain large (student teacher ration), the outcome will not be influenced (or in the Milwaukee case, will get down because the kids are tired from traveling around and have less time to work for school).
Hudsoner September 23, 2012 at 11:39 AM
And Diane's comment is also not correct. Not approving the rezoning of the dog track for a school will by not mean that the council is not interested in the education of our children, it just means that the school board has to sit down on their rear end and find another solution for new school buildings. I wish they would keep politics out of the local education issues!
Hudsoner September 23, 2012 at 11:43 AM
You have it somewhat wrong Jennifer. It would be a sad day for the education of our kids if choice program schools would not be government controlled. They have to follow the same standards like all other schools in Wisconsin. Again, there was no need for this unfriendly comment about liberals.
Lisa g September 23, 2012 at 01:22 PM
Deb September 23, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Interesting that Dean never actually talked directly about the stated issue but did the politician dance, and almost all the comments seem to have neglected to notice. And at the same time, did a counter attack. Ironic isn't it?
Lemon shot September 23, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Odeen needs a lesson in zoning laws and who controls zoning for a municipality. It isn't the voters, no matter what they want or how many votes are taken. City officials are supposed to make decisions based on what is in the long term best interest of the city, not on what misinformed voters want. I wonder how Odeen and other Vote Yes members felt about the Walker and Harsdorf recalls? Could they possibly have been in favor of recalling duly elected officials, ignoring the "will of the voters" but now are harping that the "voters have spoken" when it suits their purpose?
Hudsoner September 23, 2012 at 03:42 PM
The recalls were all duly elected, too. A required number of the voting public in Wisconsin requested the recalls. That is how the system works. The will of the voters was not ignored, because recall voters are as good voters as Walker/Harsdorf voters. I feel that Lemon shot's analysis is faulty.
mainstreet September 23, 2012 at 05:07 PM
While you are right in your analysis of the recalls there is one fault that should be corrected in the future. If you did not vote in the original election you should not be able to sign a recall petition. This would put a stop the recall nonsense pretty quickly, or entice more people to vote, which isn't a bad thing either.
Celeste Koeberl September 23, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Before state aid to the Hudson School District (HSD) was cut by $2.4 million for 2011-12, HSD already had the second lowest cost per student in the entire state, ranking 423rd out of 425 total Wisconsin public school districts in the 2009-10 school year. (See: Dept. of Public Instruction at http://www2.dpi.state.wi.us/sfsdw/std_rpts.asp) Nonpartisan analyses following the late 2007 onset of the Great Recession conclude that Wisconsin's biennial budget gaps have been due primarily to our state's lagging economic recovery rate and weak tax collections, along with greatly increased numbers of Wisconsinites whose family incomes and resources are no longer adequate to meet essential basic needs. (See: Revenue Estimate, 2/9/12, Legislative Fiscal Bureau at http://legis.wisconsin.gov/lfb/publications/Revenue-Estimates/Pages/Revenue%20Estimates.aspx; Wisconsin Economic Outlook, June 2012, Dept. of Revenue at http://www.revenue.wi.gov/ra/econ/index.html; and The State of Working Wisconsin 2012, Center on Wisconsin Strategy at http://www.cows.org/the-state-of-working-wisconsin-2012) According to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), factors key to local economic recovery through business location, retention, and expansion, do indeed include having high-quality educational facilities in the community. (See: Strategic Plan, July 2012, WEDC at http://wedc.org/about-us)
Bingo September 23, 2012 at 06:40 PM
When you say Hudson schools are providing less, please tell me how that is equating to the level of education they are receiving and something measurable, like test schools. I don't think that teaching ability suffers when one does not get a pay raise or ones benefits are put more in line with the private sector. Cutting operating costs might mean lowering energy costs or finding new suppliers to purchase from. These things go on in the private sector all the time, why would we not expect the same from our schools? Please do elaborate how this leads to a less educated student population.
Hudsoner September 23, 2012 at 08:16 PM
mainstreet, this seems to be a good argument. But it is a dangerous one! It would mean that you are required to vote in each election if you want to make sure that your future voting rights are maintained. It would be great, if everybody, who has the right to vote would vote. Butt, if we make it a requirement, we might create similar conditions that we had in the former east block countries. A voter participation of more than 99%, but a vote that did mean nothing, because it did not represent the will of the people. If we all would work hard to increase voter participation, and if each of us could convince a few others to vote, we all would win!
Lemon shot September 23, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Hudsoner. Under your theory if enough people wanted one, a second referendum could be held that could potentially change the will of the voters who voted in the first referendum. Let's have that vote now that more information has been revealed. It would be interesting to see how many voters, other than the die hard Vote Yes group, still support SCM.
Lemon shot September 23, 2012 at 09:21 PM
If a second vote for state offices is okay in your view, then you would support a second referendum vote, right? Not that there is a mechanism for re-voting on a referendum.
Hudsoner September 23, 2012 at 11:14 PM
Lemon, I don't know if the constitution would allow this. The first recall was allowed by it. It is not my view, but the view of the writers of the constitution. They must have had a reason to put this in. What was this reason? Who knows.
Celeste Koeberl September 24, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Wisconsin is disinvesting in public schools at an unprecedented rate. In constant dollars, our state's per student funding for K-12 declined 13.7% from FY 2008 to FY 2013. (See: New School Year Brings More Cuts in State Funding for Schools, 9/4/12, Center on Budget and Policy Matters at http://www.cbpp.org/files/9-4-12sfp.pdf) Cuts in state funding to our Hudson School District (HSD) have resulted in higher levies for local property taxpayers, as well as fewer teachers and reduced opportunities for our students. The 2011-12 HSD budget was $1.2 million less than in 2010-11. It was comprised of 46.51% state funding, 50% local tax levies after a 1.98% increase in the local tax levy rate, with the balance from federal and other sources. It made cuts to band, Chinese, and business programs, along with layoffs of teachers, counselors, and teaching assistants. The 2012-13 HSD budget is less than in 2011-12, and anticipates a 2.87% increase in total local levies above the 2011-13 amount. (See: Hudson Patch at http://hudson-wi.patch.com/articles/hudson-school-board-cuts-12-million-from-budget-raises-levy-198-percent; http://hudson-wi.patch.com/articles/hudson-school-board-approves-2163-million-in-overall-budget-cuts; and http://hudson-wi.patch.com/articles/school-district-holds-annual-meeting-voters-set-levy-amount; HSD Annual Meeting at http://www.hudson.k12.wi.us/www/district_hudson/site/hosting/district/businessoffice/2012-13%20Annual%20Meeting.pdf)
Bingo September 25, 2012 at 03:24 AM
Celeste, certainly you can find a link somewhere to show where test scores and spending are directly proportional. Only in government do we praise the notion of spending more for the same outcome.


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