I don’t have to tell you that during an election season, there are too many negative ads out there. But I do have to tell you about a couple of local ads that are extremely unfair and blatantly inaccurate.
Dan Robinson (D) is running for the 88th Assembly seat here in Wisconsin. I’ve known Dan for years. We are coworkers at St. Norbert College. We worked together on the De Pere City Council; while I’m still on the council, Dan is now serving on the Brown County Board of Supervisors.
Dan and I have always gotten along well. As colleagues on the City Council, we frequently agreed on local issues for the benefit of the people of De Pere. He has since moved on to a larger county office, and is now running to represent an even larger district at the state level. I don’t think Dan will mind if I tell you that he and I had a conversation over the summer, where I told him that I couldn’t endorse him in his current state race. Simply put, as he’s taking on larger issues, our philosophical and political differences are much clearer than when we addressed things like trash collection fees for the city of De Pere a few years ago.
That said, there are a couple of ads out there about Dan that I just can’t keep silent about. They are the epitome of negative ads that are written to distort the truth, and in this case, they contain flat out lies.
The first ad is a mailer that was sent to households in his district. It attacks Dan on his vote regarding our Sex Offender Residency ordinance here in De Pere. You can read the full mailer yourself. I’d like to point out a couple of statements:
“While parents strive to protect their kids, Dan Robinson said our public safety measures keeping sex predators away from our schools and parks only ‘looks good’ and he was ‘glad’ to repeal them.”
First of all, if you know Dan like I do, you also know that he wants nothing but the best for our children and our community. Dan’s position is not something he made up on his own because he doesn’t care about our kids. Dan’s position is based on the opinion of experts in the industry. I sat with Dan in numerous meetings as we talked about the effectiveness of Sex Offender Residency ordinances in an effort to decide what will be best for the citizens of De Pere. We solicited feedback from people much smarter than us on the topic, people like our police chief Derek Beiderweiden, people like Tom Smith and Jed Neuman, both from the sex offender registry unit of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. These people came to our meetings and explained to us why residency ordinances not only do not work, but they make the community less safe. A bit of research also reveals similar opinions from the Brown County District Attorney’s office, Green Bay’s Assistant City Attorney, officials from the City of Appleton, the list goes on.
By voting the way he did on this, Dan showed that he is not willing to take an issue at its face value; that when it comes to a serious issue like the safety of our community and particularly our children, he will dig deep, he will do the research, he will ask the tough questions, and he will ultimately vote based on what is best for our community. So when the mailer says “we cannot trust Dan Robinson”, it’s quite the contrary. He’s one of the most trustworthy men I know.
The second ad is one that is popping up on web sites like Facebook. When you click on it, it takes you to a larger ad that says that Dan “was giving himself and other politicians a raise”, and it quotes the De Pere City Council minutes from January 2, 2013. So let’s clear this up. First of all, state law says that the elected body of a municipality must set the salaries for all elected officials. This is just the way it is. Someone has to set the salary, so who better to do it than elected officials who are accountable to the voters? As an alderman myself, I can tell you that ours is a very committed and sometimes difficult part-time job, and it deserves a modest part-time salary. This is even more important as we try to encourage more people to run for public office. (Our current salary is $6,392 per year, and it’s been that way since 2009.)
Additionally, the ad is true, that Dan voted in favor of a salary increase for the De Pere City Council. But again, because of state law and the timing of the vote, that increase does not take effect until May 1, 2015. So at the time, Dan was NOT voting for his own current salary. He would have had to go through another election cycle to benefit. That’s how Wisconsin state law works; it’s very fair and appropriate. Third, Dan is no longer on the city council. He never actually received the increase himself. So did he “give himself a raise” as the ad states? Absolutely not. It’s just a flat out lie; there’s no other way to put it.
Another point made in the ad is that he voted to increase property taxes. Well yes, that is indeed true. But as you can probably understand, the costs of running a city are always rising. We in De Pere want to pay our city employees a fair wage. We’ve got a good thing going here in De Pere, and we want to keep up and even enhance our city services. Recent community surveys have shown that De Pere taxpayers prefer to pay more taxes to maintain our services, rather than cut services to save money. So Dan was following the wishes of the community. I would expect nothing less.
So, who’s responsible for these trash ads and outright lies? It’s an organization called Jobs First Coalition out of Brookfield, WI. I know nothing about this group except for what I read on their web site. They claim that the creation of jobs is their focus. Granted, they might view one candidate as being better for job creation in Wisconsin than the other, but putting out lies like these to discredit a candidate and get someone elected is wrong. And even though it seems they would support candidates of my political party, I strongly urge you to not support them in their efforts.