Casey Hoff on the Referenda

Case Hoff:

Referendum is a word that rolls off the tongue like a fiery expletive after you get your property tax bill in the mail every year. Why such lewd language? Probably because a referendum seems more common than a cold day in January and the Madison School Board is now asking you to approve not one, not two, but three referenda totaling over $48 million dollars. This includes a $7.4 million revenue cap raise, $26.2 million over five years for building maintenance, computer technology, and instructional materials, and $14.5 million for the Leopold Elementary School facelift.
You may be asking yourself, “Should I really vote ‘yes’ and just bite my lip as I tack on another $108 to my property tax bill?” You may be saying, “I strongly support funding for our wonderful public education system, but are they making all the cuts they can to clean up the budget?” Don’t tell Madison CARES Spokeswoman Beth Zurbuchen that you’re considering voting ‘no’ or you’ll be drug out in the mud and figuratively shot like a feral cat in the north woods of Wisconsin (oops, touchy subject, sorry).

Zurbuchen’s quote can be found here.

8 thoughts on “Casey Hoff on the Referenda”

  1. I realize all the emotions in regard to spending decisions but is this commentary about the issues or more about a personal, individual attack at Beth Zurbuchen?
    If it’s the process then let’s all agree that timelines to any major decision are worth discussing and invite our Madison citizens to get involved, attend or watch the MMSD meetings, to send emails about ideas and solutions, visit the MMSD website or volunteer at school!
    I’m concerned about attacking those who have worked hard in attending meetings and who have supplied information and organized community efforts to better our schools.
    I thought we wanted to engage in discussion?
    Are we contributing to the intimidation the public feels about staying away from the MMSD board and administration?

  2. Jim,
    I do hope you know that my comment was not directed at you. My wording may have been expressed poorly. I’m more concerned about the individual attacks from media on this one person. I know we should present what’s happening, but I still think we just need to move on to solve the issues rather than concentrate on putting words into mouth.

  3. A comment – Beth’s statements on television were not well received by many people, and there has been quite a bit of backlash traffic as a result in various on-line forums. Perception is everything and, unfortunately for the purposes of public debate, the statements seem to have antagonized a fair number of people.

  4. Yes, words that are being put into Beth’s mouth by talk show hosts are terrible.
    Her statements were taken out of context! Hello, am I the only conservative that can listen to Vicki McKenna and hear her state, “That’s like saying….” or “ Well, it’s as if she said….”. Beth is concerned that many of the individuals that oppose these referenda are not fully informed and are making decisions for those of us living it.
    One of the past board members just moved back to the district, was on the board at the same time that I was a senior in high school (20 years ago) and has no real solutions when asked what we should do about overcrowding on the west-side; on how to handle maintenance repairs that are only going to cost more next year and; though he believes that revenue caps are a problem, doesn’t have a solution for the board dealing within today’s mandates and restrictions. But he reassures us, once you are on the board, you can get caught up on information to educate yourself.
    Last night I heard another past board member wonder where the maintenance money went in 1999? Well, it’s 6 years later and we can all educate ourselves by going to; click on district information, then on departments and then on building services (link: to find the complete listing of what is proposed and what has been done.
    Another lives outside the district; in a ‘suburb’ with the same problems Madison is experiencing but once again, has no solutions. And shares false information about the declining enrollment and that our elementary schools don’t need additional space. SAGE or the increasing population of elementary students is never shared.
    Let’s at least commend Don Severson for attending board meetings and stating on “For the Record”; Sunday, May 15th…“We are not asking people to vote NO. We are asking them to get educated on the issues.”
    As a conservative myself, I know I live in a glass house and shouldn’t cast stones. I recall from my childhood, “Let thee without sin cast the first stone”. I’m also listening to the misusage of the word “but”…
    I believe in education for all our children ‘but’…
    I know the revenue caps are a problem ‘but’…
    I know our maintenance costs are an issue ‘but’…
    I know the buildings are not where the children are ‘but’…
    My college professor from Edgewood (where I put myself through school on scholarships and by working every weekend) once said, “When you use the word “but” you negate everything you said prior.” Let’s ditch this concerted effort of focusing on a misusage of words and find some real solutions for our children on May 24th and after.

  5. Marisue, you can project all of the issues that you want – that doesn’t take away the fact that people can disagree with your opinions and be coming from ethical, legitimate places. And just because you believe that the normally well-spoken Beth made a mis-step doesn’t negate the fact that Beth’s comments on Channel 3 – not quotes, video and sound recording of words coming out of Beth’s mouth – have not been well received. If you don’t believe me, check out the on-line forums where people are debating the referendum.
    Madison Schools Referenda Emotionally Charged
    Zurbuchen: ‘How Dare They Come Out 2 Weeks Before And Say Vote No?’
    POSTED: 11:41 am CDT May 12, 2005
    UPDATED: 5:10 pm CDT May 12, 2005
    MADISON, Wis. — Less than two weeks before Madison voters go to the polls on three school referenda, the battle lines are drawn. This campaign is marked with more emotion than any school referendum in recent memory, reported News 3’s Toni Morrissey.
    What’s On The Ballot?
    A lot of people are out working, including volunteers representing a group called Vote No for Change. Yard signs in favor of the school referenda and signs urging no votes for all three questions are beginning to dot Madison yards, representing six different groups.
    Dorothy Borchardt
    “The more people that are out working and getting the vote out, the better it’s going to be for the city taxpayers,” said Dorothy Borchardt, a Vote No spokeswoman.
    News 3 Editorial Director said all the groups are confusing to voters.
    ACE and CARE bill themselves as informational groups. Get Real is opposed to the referenda, and senior citizen group GRUMPS is urging yes votes. Madison Cares is also urging yes votes. And, of course, Vote No for change is opposed. ( Ref. Info/Links )
    “The emotion seems heightened on both sides,” Heinen said. “And I think both groups are sensing that.”
    Madison Cares spokeswoman, Beth Zurbuchen, said Wednesday, “I’m disturbed by people who are actively campaigning against public education in Madison who don’t have children in the schools.”
    She was referring to Rick Berg, a conservative former school board member and now a Madison taxpayer and member of Vote No.
    Berg and former alderwoman Dorothy Borchardt think voters are ready to say no to the school board and that’s created the interest in the campaign.
    “I think the stakes are higher, and I think everyone knows it,” Berg said.
    Beth Zurbuchen
    “I don’t think they’re part of a solution,” Zurbuchen said. “How dare they come out two weeks before the election and just say vote no?”
    A Vote No spokesman told News 3 that Madison spends nearly $13,000 per student — 25 percent above the statewide average.
    Zurbuchen defends the per-pupil spending saying the district has a large population of special needs students.
    Whether Madison voters are leaning for or against won’t be known until May 24, but there’s no doubt the emotionally charged debate will continue until the last ballot is cast. What do you think? What will voters decide?

  6. Lucy,
    You are absolutely right: Everyone has different opinions. We have a right. Thank goodness! That’s when we get real solutions; many people actually discussing concerns.
    I simply want to come up with some possible constructive discussions for our children and not showcase one person’s statements because of the position they have taken. I see a school board that has to abide by many state laws, legislative actions and for many, many districts beyond Madison, it’s just not working.
    I learned so much in the past last few months, and by no means am I fully educated on the topics. I can say, attending the meetings for myself provided a better understanding of all the various intricacies in which our school board has to work.
    Do you have to attend a meeting?
    Do you have to have a child in the public schools?
    My specific answer would be NO!
    Citizens can watch them on TV (Channel 10 for cable viewers); They can read the minutes; They can call to ask questions of their neighborhood school principal; They can read informative details; They can search a topic at and they can even email the board from the website. There are many ways to get informed.
    I’d rather that we each take the time to research to our own satisfaction and vote. Whether it is yes or no, I simply want people to focus on facts and not rhetoric.
    Do I think that will be done?

  7. I was appalled when I watched Dorothy Borchardt on TV last night after the referenda votes were all in. Her demeanor was absolutely gleeful, talking about how they had “won.” I’d like to know – who “wins” when school children lose important programs and services? Who “wins” when 120 dedicated teachers and other professionals lose their jobs, many of whom will be forced to consider leaving the teaching profession? And what kind of a person is GLEEFUL about it, just because they save a few dollars per year? It’s disgusting. I don’t like to personally attack here, but as a teacher who will probably lose her job over this I felt personally attacked by those comments.

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