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Abandoned ship? The Wisconsin College of Osteopathic Medicine is a ship on open water with nobody at the helm. Or so it seems in light of a shakeup in the captain’s quarters. We reported last week that Dr. Gregg Silberg might no longer be president and CEO of the college, which has plans to develop the former St. Coletta of Wisconsin campus on Sanctuary Ridge on Jefferson’s far east side. From Day One, Silberg had been the point man on this project, courting the support of government officials and civic leaders. Nobody from the college could be reached for comment on the leadership change, although Jefferson City Administrator Tim Freitag said he had heard rumors about it. He didn’t expect to talk to anyone from the Wisconsin College of Osteopathic Medicine until this Tuesday, when representatives are scheduled to present the results of their feasibility study to the city. That study is expected to show whether development of the campus is viable for the college, based on a number of factors. However, if one of those factors is a solid continuity of leadership, the forecast does not look bright. Consider that when we first met Dr. Silberg, he was simply the college dean and front man, shaking hands and priming the pump for acceptance of the project. Then earlier this spring, Silberg told us that Ibrahim Ahmed, president and CEO of the Wisconsin College of Osteopathic Medicine, no longer had any involvement with the college. So Silberg assumed those duties, as well. That announcement followed the discovery by Daily Union reporter Lydia Statz that the college no longer retained its taxexempt status as a legal nonprofit organization, which originally was registered under Ahmed’s name. Ahmed is involved with Respa Pharmaceuticals, a pharmaceutical distribution company based in Illinois that lost its Wisconsin distribution license in 2005 after Ahmed furnished false information to the licensing board. In this instance, Ahmed apparently had not renewed the col-
lege’s 501(c)3 paperwork. While Silberg is out of the college’s brass, he remains involved with the intimately linked Wisconsin Association of Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons (WAOPS), which, by the way, suspended its president, Dr. Jerry Yee, effective May 31. In 2009, Yee’s license was suspended for providing a blank prescription pad to a suspended physician for the use of controlled substances. He also was suspended in 1990. Both times, his license was restored fully. Dr. Yee still is listed on the college’s website as the chairman of the board of directors. This spring, the WAOPS moved its office to the Sanctuary Ridge site in Jefferson. Dr. Dodson Thompson, North Woods Community Health Center in Minong, is leading the organization in Ahmed’s place. His record is clean as far as we know. Silberg now tells us that WAOPS still would like to see an osteopathic college develop in some part of the state, but it will wait to release a statement supporting the Jefferson site until after it knows more details about the project. More details? Silberg is the guy who has been telling everyone else what has been going on, so if he doesn’t know the details, then nobody does. Like all of the Jefferson area, we have been supportive of the project from the start. We can envision the former St. Coletta campus repurposed into an osteopathic college and we salivate at the countless potential jobs and $65 million it could generate for the regional economy each year. Yet, we can’t help but wonder whether we might be getting a glimpse of why earlier plans to locate the state’s first osteopathic college in Wausau fell through. This game of musical chairs is worrisome, and we still have not been told the identity of any initial investors in this project. It will be interesting to see who shows up for this Tuesday’s city meeting on the feasibility study. It will be even more interesting to hear what he or she will have to say.
Grassroots pressure lacking In his new book “The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies,” journalist Jonathan Alter quotes a generous contributor to the president’s campaigns as saying Barack Obama has “been humbled by the opposition’s intransigence.” The supporter, according to Alter’s telling, added that Obama “had never failed to bring anyone around before, and it changed him.” This episode comes from an early review of Alter’s book, which hits stores today. The book sets out to explain how Obama went from a 2010 midterm whipping at the hands of Republicans to a successful 2012 re-election bid. From the start, Obama could not break through the wall of inaction. Was he incapable of granting the Republicans a brand of Washington duality — allowing them to (a.) talk tough and (b.) quietly negotiate at the same time? Washington observers have cited any
number of former chief executives — Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Lyndon Johnson — as positive examples of how a president can cajole, bargain, harass or charm the loyal opposition to the bargaining table. Invite them to the White House, the pundits advise, wine ‘em, dine ‘em, make ‘em feel special. Don’t take all the rhetoric personal. Whether Obama has thick or thin skin or lacks the personality to persuade the opposition to drop its guard, it’s obvious he hasn’t been able to bridge the divide. The silver lining in this cloud, if there is one, is that the nation is no less challenged than it was when Obama became the 44th U.S. president. Republicans and Democrats don’t lack for incentives to work together to tackle employment, the economy, the future of energy production or climate change, to cite a few examples. They do lack grassroots pressure to get them moving. — The Anniston, Ala., Star.
HERMAN® by Jim Unger
MODERATELY CONFUSED™ by Jeff Stahler
WASHINGTON (AP) — Approval of a massive farm bill — and the cost of a gallon of milk — could hinge on a proposed new dairy program the House is expected to vote on this week. An overhaul of dairy policy and a new insurance program for dairy farmers included in the farm bill have passionately divided farm-state lawmakers. Most importantly, it has caused a rift between House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota. The farm bill, which the House is scheduled to consider this week, sets policy for farm and nutrition programs, including food stamps. House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., will need Boehner and Peterson to bring in votes from the moderate wing of each party if the bill is to pass. Many conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats, especially those from districts with little agriculture, are expected to vote against it due to concerns over cuts to food stamps. The proposed dairy program would do away with current price supports and allow farmers to purchase a new kind of insurance that pays out when the gap between the price they receive for milk and their feed costs narrows. The program is voluntary, but farmers who participate also would have to sign up for a stabilization program that could dictate production cuts when oversupply drives down prices. The idea is to break the cycle in which milk prices drop and farmers produce more to pay their bills, flooding the market and forcing prices down further. Peterson wrote the proposed dairy policy, which Boehner last year compared to communism. Boehner is backing an amendment by the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Virginia Republican Robert Goodlatte, which would scale it back. “I’m caught between two raging bulls in a pasture,” Lucas joked as he lobbied colleagues to vote for his farm bill last week. Peterson said the stabilization program would prevent a recurrence of what happened in 2009, when many dairy producers went
out of business after they were hit hard by a combination of low milk prices and high feed costs. He says the market partially stabilized because the shuttered dairies meant less supply, but they don’t want to see that again. The National Milk Producers Federation, the largest U.S. dairy producer organization, worked with Peterson on the amendment and has lobbied members to back it. But throwing equal weight against the measure is the International Dairy Foods Association, which represents the milk, cheese and ice cream industries and other food processors and manufacturers that use dairy products. Those dairy processors say the stabilization program would drive up the prices they pay for dairy products and those costs would be passed on to consumers. Supporters of the new program argue that their own studies show it would not significantly raise the price of milk since there are multiple factors that determine price levels. The processors are backing the Goodlatte amendment, which would keep the insurance program but eliminate the stabilization program. Those pushing the amendment are hoping the weight of Boehner’s support will help it win. Boehner, a former senior member of the agriculture panel who has fought to roll back dairy supports for more than a decade, said last year that the market stabilization idea is “Soviet-style.” Lobbying has been intense on both sides. Peterson and Goodlatte, both former chairmen of the agriculture panel, have been aggressively making their case to colleagues individually and speaking at caucus meetings. Rep. Peter Welch, a Democrat from the dairy state of Vermont, is part of a team Peterson has assembled to lobby colleagues. He said Boehner’s opposition is a significant hurdle but he believes they have a shot at winning. He said a loss could upset the delicate balance of the farm bill in which lawmakers support each other’s regional interests to get the bill passed. “If you take this out because of the might of the speaker, it’s going to create some resentment
among dairy-state legislators as to why that was targeted,” Welch said. “You lose some votes if you lose dairy.” Peterson has in the past conditioned his support of the farm bill on the dairy program, but appeared to be still deciding whether he would vote against it if his dairy program is removed. He said in an interview that he’d have to see how the rest of the bill looks on a final vote. Boehner said last week he will vote for the farm bill even though he has concerns about farm supports and has opposed it in the past. But he may be less enthusiastic if the dairy program he feels so strongly about survives. Lucas says he has extracted promises from both men that they won’t turn on the bill if they lose the vote. One thing in Peterson’s favor is the Senate version of the farm bill, which includes a similar dairy provision. That chamber passed its farm legislation last week after no debate on the dairy issue. If Peterson loses on the House floor, he could still fight for it in House-Senate conference. All involved in lobbying on the amendment say it has been a tough issue to explain to members, primarily because most don’t know much about dairy policy. The House has around 200 new members since the last farm bill was passed in 2008, and many urban and suburban lawmakers don’t have much interest in dairy beyond the price of a gallon of milk. Both sides have used that lack of knowledge to make their case in simple terms. Opponents say that because the stabilization program is designed to help dairy farmers sell their product to companies at higher prices, consumers would be paying more for dairy products in the grocery store. The bill’s supporters say the new program would have little effect on grocery store prices but would keep taxpayers from having to shell out more in dairy insurance. Peterson says the issue has been “almost impossible to explain.” “Everyone’s kind of playing on everyone’s lack of understanding on this,” he said.
Letters to the editor
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AN EVERYDAY HERO Editor, Daily Union: How often do we honor those who have done a brave act that receives massive publicity and awards, yet forget to honor and thank those everyday heroes among us? Today I would like to honor the memory of David Ellis, who for many years stood in the cold and rain, two to three times per day to safely guide our children to and from school. I never knew his name until this week when I noticed the flowers at the intersection of Whitewater Avenue and McComb Street with a “RIP Dave” posted on them. So I scanned the Daily Jefferson County Union for an obituary for a Dave that listed the job of crossing guard. There it was, an obituary for David E. Ellis, 83, of Fort Atkinson. I can’t believe that at 83, he was still working every day at that corner, in all sorts of nasty weather making sure elementary through middle school children arrived safely at school or home. Whitewater Avenue is a very dangerous road to cross, a few short blocks from that intersection, it becomes a highway; and more often than not, cars and semi trucks are moving way too
fast. I saw him on many occasions step into the street and with no more than a handheld stop sign and lots of grit, stop a semi truck so that our children could get to school on time. That is fearlessness! Not only was Dave brave, but he was a friend to so many young people and animals. I walk my dog past that intersection each day, most times earlier than Dave was at his post, but when I had a day off and started later, I would run into Dave. He was always ready with a treat for my dog and spent a few minutes petting her and sharing small talk with me. It got so that if my dog saw Dave at the intersection half a block away, I would have to run to keep up; dogs never forget a kind heart or someone who gives them treats! He did the same with many other folks and their dogs. Many young people found his kind nature and easy-going manner just what they needed too. I remember one young girl would stand and chat with him for quite some time before heading off to school. They were pals, you could tell. I wish I had asked him his name one of those times I had the chance to shoot the breeze
with him. I did, however, thank him for being there for the kids and for his kindness to my dog. Next time you see a crossing guard at the corner, ask their name, thank them for your children’s safe passage, and let them know they are a hero in your life! Thank you, Dave Ellis, for keeping our kids safe. Your everyday heroism has not gone unnoticed. — Leslie LaMuro, Jefferson. LOSING JOBS, WORKERS Editor, Daily Union: Wisconsin is number one: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only three states lost jobs. Wisconsin lost the most at 6,800 jobs. The other two, which lost 1,500 jobs, are neighboring states and have added jobs from 11,900 to 40,300 jobs in the last 12 months. I see on the news, housing is going up because of the low interest rates, but they are having problems getting trained help. Wisconsin is also losing a lot of their good trained workforce to other states. Many of them are sick of the direction Wisconsin is going. How can you people justify Walker’s divide-and-conquer agenda? — Mark Sproul, Fort Atkinson.