Tuesday, June 30, 2020


New news! The La Crosse Independent is a new source for local news, especially news that's not covered (well) elsewhere. Their description:
The La Crosse Independent is a progressive, people-powered, online magazine dedicated to providing news and analysis on issues that matter to the people of La Crosse and the wider Coulee Region. We’re looking for volunteer writers to join us, especially those with an interest in covering labor and environmental issues. Please consider subscribing to our newsletter, which comes out every two weeks, below, or follow our Twitter or Facebook * pages. For more information, contact us at lacrosseindependent@gmail.com.
Check it out and, if you can, donate to help this important new resource grow and thrive.

And then, do some self-study and get some news you may not have heard before. Check out Racial (In)justice - A Tour of Black Experiences in Downtown La Crosse. Learn about what's really going on in our city through this collaborative effort of the La Crosse Public Library and the Hear Here! project.

And then, help others spread the news and bring the news
Get tickets for (or donate to) B.L.A.C.K.'s Black & Gold Fundraising Party (September 13)
Come in your best black and gold outfit, and help us raise money to send our middle and high school students on a week long college tour throughout the south! There will be entertainment, great music, food, silent bids and more! You do not want to miss this event!
Support those who are helping others learn about their rights and power. Cia Siab, Inc. is a nonprofit agency that relies on contributions to provide essential services to members of the Hmoob community. COVID-19 and economic upheaval do not end the need for their services.
Our programs were created with the aim to (re)build a vibrant, healthy Hmoob community through the investment of time and resources into young people through the teaching reteaching and reclaiming healthy traditional family/kinship and relationships with Elders as a framework to enact change.  The projects had many layers that focuses on traditional healthy Hmoob relationships/community, always by using the lens of power, privilege, race, patriarchy, and colonization.

Monday, June 29, 2020

UPDATE: TID public hearing is at 4 p.m.

The TID public hearing before the city council begins at 4 p.m. The 2 p.m. meeting is for the Joint Review Board to prepare for the 4 p.m. meeting. The earlier meeting is available for the public to listen, but the public hearing portion begins at 4 p.m.

Meeting link.

Apologies for confusion about meeting times.

Friday, June 26, 2020

UPDATES: TID public hearing Monday AND Taking Notice, Acting Together

First, the public hearing about Tax Incremental Districts will be on Monday at 2:00 p.m. (not 4 as stated in the newspaper legal notice) and it's big. You can find information about each district, the proposals (26 years!) and other aspects at the City's Legistar pages. Here's the agenda with links to individual TID proposals and proposed amendments. 

Some things to consider are brought up in this article from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Some questions include how do they determine if a property is "blighted?" How is it determined that without government subsidies a property would never be developed? Do developers receive payments? Are the increments (difference between base property tax and improved property tax) not included for purposes of school district, technical college, county taxing? Are the increments, "being diverted from city services and used instead to pay off bonds" and payments to developers? Are there retail developments in the TIDs? Do those retail beneficiaries of subsidies pay livable wages? In light of the city's passage of a carbon zero resolution in July 2019, have all the projects and developments been assessed with respect to their carbon footprints? Are there any requirements for those receiving subsidies to hire or otherwise benefit people of color or minority/women owned businesses?

Another good source is this discussion from the Wisconsin Policy Forum about how Governor Evers' proposed changes to TIDs might affect school funding, payments to developers, and costs to communuty homeowners.

Please consider checking out the TID info and plan to attend the Tuesday meeting which will be held ONLINE at 2 p.m. From the agenda:
In an effort to keep members of the public, City staff and Committee members as safe as possible from the spread of COVID-19, City Staff highly encourages the public to submit any comments or questions in writing ahead of the meeting to Andrea Schnick at schnicka@cityoflacrose.org.

The meeting will also be conducted through video conferencing and may be viewed and accessed with the following link:
Members of the public will also be permitted to ask questions or provide statements via video conferencing.



Thursday, June 25, 2020

Grow Solar La Crosse

From Coulee Region Sierra Club

Reminder, the next Solar Power Hour (information session for Grow Solar La Crosse) will be held on Tuesday, June 30 and it's hosted by the Coulee Region Sierra Club. Sign up for the 6/30 3 p.m. session through this link: tinyurl.com/CRSC-SolarLaX

If you can't attend that one, find the full schedule of information sessions and lots more information at GrowSolar.org/LaCrosse.

And, if you aren't able to participate by installing your own solar system, you'll be able to contribute to help local nonprofits (Habitat for Humanity ReStore and Boys and Girls Club) and schools in La Crosse install solar.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Public hearing - Tax Incremental Districts

Several new or amended Tax Incremental Districts (TIDs) will be the subject of a public hearing before the City Plan Commission in the 3rd Floor Conference Room at City Hall at 4:00 p.m. on June 29.

A proposed amendment to the boundaries of existing TID 13 will be discussed along with amendments to TID 11, 14, 15, 16, and 17. "Proposed additional and updated projects costs of approximately $10 million may include but are not limited to: various public improvements and cash grants to owners, lessees or developers of land located within the District (development incentives), and professional and organizational services, administrative costs, and finance costs."  In addition, three new proposed TIDs will be on the agenda.

Tax Incremental Districts allow a municipality to identify "blighted land" that, they certify, would have little chance of attracting investment without government intervention. The municipality then funds, often by selling bonds, improvements such as infrastructure updates which encourage new businesses to develop in the district and raise the property values and taxes collected. The difference between the taxes assessed before the upgrades and the new taxable amount is the increment. 

For the life of the TID, that increment is not included in the pool of taxes divvied up among libraries, schools, parks, etc but is used only for TID improvements. That means the taxpayers are subsidizing private development and the taxpayers are paying more of the burden for city, county, school district, and technical college because the increments are held out through the life of the TID. The promise is that once the TID ends, the new higher property taxes generated will all go to benefit the municipality and all taxing authorities.

But that reward is often a long way off - decades. And while the costs of things we want and need,  like libraries, parks, social services, schools, salaries, maintenance costs, and general infrastructure, go up, the share of these increased costs that the TID pays is frozen at pre-improvement levels for a long time.

This article touches on a few of the ways TIDs can be twisted to, for example, pay off private companies' development costs with tax dollars. This explainer from Curious City, goes into more detail about the problems with TIDs (in Chicago). The Institute for Local Self-Reliance calls for a reform in the way TID (also known as TIF = Tax Incremental Financing) is used. "However, all too often, cities are using TIF to underwrite projects in affluent areas, to subsidize construction on undeveloped land, and to finance big-box retail."

In this book FREE LUNCH: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and stick you with the bill), Pulitzer Prize winner, David Day Johnston goes into more details on the many ways TIDs can be used to enrich the wealthy using tax dollars. Even conservative/libertarians have problems with the way TID/TIF  Districts are currently arranged. "Rick Esenberg, president of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a conservative law-and-policy think tank based in Milwaukee, asserts that too often TIF becomes a form of corporate welfare for wealthy developers, with municipalities picking winners and losers."

The notice from the June 22 La Crosse Tribune is shown below. The notice published on June 15 about proposed amendments to existing TIDs is at this link.

Particularly interesting is proposed new TID #19 = the old K-Mart property at State Road and Losey Boulevard. But is it blighted? It seems it might only be considered blighted because K-Mart closed and the new owners have done nothing with the building in the many months they've just let it sit there.The area is not blighted - JavaVino is across the street, there are small shops and services just across State Road, there's a new "pocket community" development across from Central. And is the only way any development would go there is if the city provides millions of dollars in subsidies?  At one time it was reported that the Village Shopping Center owners had bought the K-Mart property. So, why do they need a TID?

If we are concerned about how our tax resources are divided up and how our vital services are paid for, we should be interested in how our city is using Tax Incremental Districts and ensure they are being used to benefit the entire community.

Are there any experts out there who could shine more light on this? It just smells a little like "the giant sucking sound," to me.

Sunday, June 21, 2020


City budget cuts that drastically affected the public library, park & rec, and other important city offices, services, and programs have not been forgotten. A group is organizing to ensure more transparency, more community involvement, and more diversity of experience and opinion going forward. Here's how you can get involved (from Heather Talbot, June 16).


Taking Notice, Acting Together is the name that has emerged for this community organizing effort. What does Taking Notice, Acting Together have to do with library funding, emergency budget cuts, or any of the myriad of issues folks from this group raised??? 🤔

Watch the June 16 Facebook session where that question is addressed and learn how YOU can get plugged in to specific work teams and tasks that fit your values, schedule, and commitment level.

Discussion included:
  • Priorities Survey outcomes
  • Short-term and long-term group goals
  • Share Work Teams that are forming and invite folks to join a team
  • Sign-ups for one-off/independent tasks
As always, share links and info far + wide. Anyone who wishes to help establish and maintain an ample and accessible infrastructure for citizen input at City Hall and beyond is welcome. 

Thank you,
Heather Ann Talbot

Sign up to work on an ACTION TEAM so we are not left out of the processes in the future. I know some have said our process is pretty open. I urge you to watch this short video, The Antidote to Apathy, and see if you can think of some ways the city could improve.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Governor's Task Force on Climate Change public input opportunities

Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes is heading up the Governor's Task Force on Climate Change. On the group's welcome page, he summarizes their goals and scope:

We are charting a path to meet our goal of 100% carbon-free energy by 2050, while improving the state's economy and environment, diversifying the resources used to meet the state's energy needs, and generating family-supporting jobs. 

And throughout this work, we are maintaining a lens of environmental justice, so that communities of color and low-income communities—who too often experience the first and worst consequences of climate change—are part of the conversation and the solution. 

There are ways for the public to be involved including some online public listening sessions beginning June 23 and opportunities to listen in on sub-committee meetings.

Visit the site for details and links'

Get Informed
Stay Up-to-Date
  • View an upcoming Subcommittee or Task Force member meeting.
  • Review previous meeting presentations and content on the Meetings page​.
Tell Us What You Think
  • Submit a written comment on the Comments​ page.
  • Provide live public comment during scheduled times of Subcommittee and Task Force member meetings.
  • Attend and provide live public commen​t during Virtual Public Listening Sessions, see Meetings​ page.

Join any session via Zoom: 
Meeting ID: 365 565 6200
Password: 219745

Dial by your location
        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
        +1 646 558 8656 US (New York)
        +1 301 715 8592 US (Germantown)
        +1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
        +1 669 900 9128 US (San Jose)
        +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
Meeting ID: 365 565 6200
Password: 219745

​June 23, 2020
​June 27, 2020
​July 7, 2020
July 9, 2020
​​July 15, 2020

Monday, June 15, 2020

Juneteenth 2020

Friday, June 19, 2020

Just Mercy - FREE SHOWING at 6:30 p.m.
Rivoli Theatre 117 N. 4th St., La Crosse, WI
COVID-19 precautions
• Wear a mask (we will be providing some as well)
• We will wipe down seats and have hand sanitizer at the door
• We will be social distancing in the movie theater

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Event 1 - Talk Back Movie Discussion - Join us as we facilitate a discussion about the movie Just Mercy from NOON TO 1:00 P.M.  Virtural discussion on ZOOM. Register at this link:

https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJcof- 2hrjMiEtBd8Fa2lCWDWBOvznhnif64

Event 2 - Enduring Families Project Self-Guided Tour - This will be a self-guided tour of historically significant sites and people in La Crosse, with actors along the route who will portray African-Americans from La Crosse’s past.

2:00 to 4:00 p.m. - Come to the Black River Beach House (1433 Rose Street) and get a map and instructions. Drive to the locations and listen to the stories.

Event 3 - Join the Juneteenth Motorcade Celebration at 5:00 p.m. Meet at Poage Park and join the planned route to celebrate the Liberation of Black people in America

Sunday June 21, 2020

Zoom Juneteenth Celebration!

4:30 to 8:00 p.m

Virtual Zoom - Register at this link https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJAucOusqD4rHtLtGNnIp5ePnAh1ZzvQgOl7

Program starts at 4:45 p.m
Live DJ starting at 6:00 p.m


For More details visit: https://blacklax16.wixsite.com/blackinc

Voices of Uprising

This was recently announced by UWL:

Voices of Uprising: The Long Path toward Racial Justice

Voices of Uprising poster
A panel series of conversations centered on uprisings and social justice will take place from 2:30-3:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 17, at www.uwlax.edu/go/voices. The conversation, spurred by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers and the ensuing worldwide protests, will provide context and insight from panelists whose professional and personal lives are deeply entwined with issues of racism, police brutality and social justice.

Panelists include:
-Richard Breaux, associate professor of UWL Ethnic and Racial Studies.
-Antoiwana Williams, director of UWL Multicultural Student Services.
-Darrell King, graduate assistant at the University of Northern Iowa and 2016 UWL graduate.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Let's talk about what we want

Defund the Police. Abolish Prisons. The slogans are harsh but the problems are much worse. Some try to dismiss the discussion by dismissing the slogans.The slogans are not easy or comfortable. They say what they mean. And they challenge us to confront the reality they reveal.

We can and must start now. There are tons of resources for us to self-educate and think about how community conversations can bring us to a new understanding of the issues.

In the end, if you feel you have to call the police, some part or parts of the social system have already failed.

National Public Radio recently aired an interview with Professor Alex S. Vitale about his book, The End of Policing. Drawing on first-hand research from across the globe, Alex Vitale shows how the implementation of alternatives to policing, like drug legalization, regulation, and harm reduction instead of the policing of drugs, has led to reductions in crime, spending, and injustice.

On the Media's latest program, It's Going Down, includes an interview with Professor Amna Akbar Why Activists Are Demanding That Cities "Defund the Police"

It's really not about the police. In the bigger picture, it's about the whole system that prioritizes punishment ove education, mentoring, health services, housing fairness, livable wages, and all the things that keep people from needing the police. 

In a recent New Yorker article, How Do We Change America?, Professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor says, "We cannot insist on 'real change' in the United States by continuing to use the same methods, arguments, and failed political strategies that have brought us to this moment. We cannot allow the current momentum to be stalled by a narrow discussion about reforming the police."

This web page, Reimagining Justice: A Primer on Defunding the Police and Prison Abolition has lots of links to good articles and online conversations.

Can we talk? Yes, we can.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Local budget alert - take action now

There are two public online meetings scheduled for today (Thursday) to discuss the budget cuts and ways to effectively lobby the council to rethink them and be more transparent and inclusive when decidung them. From the organizer:


We are reaching out to those interested in seeing a more fair distribution of budget cuts. Let's be transparent and inclusive.
Agenda for 6/11 @ 4 p.m. & 8 p.m.

Review: 2020 Budget Reduction Plan (5 minutes)
  • Executive Budget Team Members
  • Timeline
Library (5 minutes)
Parks & Rec (5 minutes)
  • Budget Cuts and Outlook (as it stands)
  • Awaiting written update from Jay Odegaard, Director
Police (5 minutes)
Other Budget Cut Decision Concerns (5 minutes)
  • Categories of Safety versus Quality of Life (as defined by the EBT)
  • Implications for future budgets (2020-2021 and 2021-2022)
Individual Actions (5 minutes)

  • Call, email, write a letter to elected officials (Common Council, Mayor, EBT Members, etc) (templates)
  • Write a Letter to the Editor (templates)
  • Contact friends and neighbors
  • Join a team or org already doing the work (org list)
Collective Action Ideas: How does this group want to respond collectively? (10 minutes)

  • Brief Brainstorm
  • Follow-up: Email me with your ideas for action. I'll create a survey based on recommendations and we'll proceed based on results.
To include as many as possible, there are two meeting choices. Please email us to receive the access information. Meetings at 4 p.m. and at 8 p.m. Please share info widely across the community.

ALL LINKS: Find them at https://linktr.ee/heathertalbot
SHARED DOCUMENTS: Shared folder has been created. Find link to folder at above link.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Local budget alert - your action needed NOW!

Cuts are coming to city of La Crosse services. We knew this was in the works. COVID-19 has made a mess of municipal and individuals' budgets. But these cuts were suggested in the Before Times. Before we collectively woke up (did we?) to the need for supporting and expanding city services that promote inclusion, access to education and recreation, and that help all city residents live full lives.

The budget cut suggestions document is here. Cuts are relatively deeper to the Library (about 13%) and Parks and Recreation (about 20%) than the Police Department.

Now is the time to ask those who have promised change to budget that change. Now is the time to tell those who said, "We get it!" to prove it by opening up the process that determines what our city prioritizes.

If cuts must be made, convene a panel of citizens and make sure it includes all ages, races, abilities, and income levels. In other countries citizen panels help governments budget, set priorities, and agree policies. Here's a great opportunity for doing things differently to make sure big decisions that affect everyone actually include everyone. 

Here's a sample letter you can use or feel free to write your own. Please be civil. Address the whole council using council@cityoflacrosse.org. Address the Mayor by using kabatt@cityoflacrosse.org.

I am disappointed and disheartened by news of the proposed budget cuts in the 2020 Budget Reduction Plan.

Your plan to cut roughly 13% of the La Crosse Library and 20% of the La Crosse Parks and Rec Budget, two services vital to the well-being of this community, while imposing a meager 1% cut to the La Crosse Police Department is short-sighted and ill-reasoned. If you cut the La Crosse Police Department by only 10%, you could fully fund the library and the Parks.

If our current political climate has taught us anything, it is the dangers of pouring all of our funds into policing, while letting other, vital community systems fall into disrepair. To cut the vital community and quality of life services provided by the library and Parks and Rec offices while barely touching the already overblown resources of the La Crosse Police Department sends the exact wrong message to our community. 

Please rethink this budget strategy. We need to focus our funds on enriching our city, not patrolling it.
UPDATE: We hear there's a community meeting to address this issue coming soon. Details will be posted here as soon as available.

Sunday, June 07, 2020

Two important things on Monday

First, at 4 p.m. our time, a national coordinated action:

At 6, there's an online public hearing on the City of La Crosse budget for 2021-2025 capital projects. Normally, people would register at the meeting to speak on individual budget items. Since this meeting is online, if you'd like to speak, please if you'd like to speak in favor, please write to Tim Acklin at acklint@cityoflacrosse.org

The meeting will be conducted through video conferencing: https://stream.lifesizecloud.com/extension/3286075/0c19151b-3006-4d33-af75-c1d452407a87 

June 8, 2020 Meeting Agenda: http://cityoflacrosse.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=A&ID=791879&GUID=9C86F2C9-5D12-43A3-85C4-FF45AFD63FAF 

June 1, 2020 Meeting Minutes: http://cityoflacrosse.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=M&ID=791300&GUID=915F38B5-31AD-4A6B-BE53-32900EF57A30 

Public link to the updated Capital Budget: https://www.cityoflacrosse.org/your-government/departments/finance/budget/capital-improvement

Please consider speaking or emailing about at least this item: #257: Greenhouse gas emissions inventory and Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan (document page 22 under section Plans and Studies.)  In July 2019, nearly one year ago, the City Council passed a resolution committing our city to zero carbon emissions and 100% renewable energy. A greenhouse gas emissions inventory is the first step in that process. Creating a Climate Action Plan will follow. These are vital steps that can't be delayed. 

These plans are in the budget now, but as the City considers cutting to meet projected budget shortfalls due to COVID-19, anything is possible. While the funding for this item is a pittance (there are about 44,000 La Crosse residents 18 and older in the city, so less than $2 per adult per year), items that have no advocates may look like tempting opportunities. Also, consider that this minor amount of money is all that is allocated for the next five years.

If we had ten years to act on climate when the city's resolution was passed, now we have just nine. May 2020 was the hottest on record worldwide. April was the second hottest. A few days ago, atmospheric CO2 levels topped 418 ppm. This is unsustainable. This very small budget item will help us begin the process of making a difference. 

Monday, June 01, 2020

Next Steps