Jefferson Banner - Opinion
Wal-Mart in Jefferson

These are Ald. Olsen's postcards in his race against Chris Havill. Olsen did two mass-mailings within a week before the election. Click on any small image for a more detailed view. My personal commentary can be found below.

- John Foust, Webmaster

Olsen says:   Foust says:
"Earlier this year on the Jefferson City Council I yielded my time at a city meeting to allow the public to speak on an important issue."   Yes, that meeting should've had a public participation item. There are procedural ways to go about that. Olsen didn't follow them, so he set out to disrupt the meeting. Olsen claims there's a provision of Robert's Rules that allows him to "yield his time" to the public; I defy him to show us the chapter and verse that allows that.
"Some people, including some pretty powerful ones who aren't from around here, got angry about that."  

Who are these "pretty powerful people"? How did they express their anger? I don't get it. I don't know who they are or what they did. The recall group? Purely local.

Wal-Mart had their moment to speak. They've never spoken out against letting the public speak. Neither has the recall group. We all support public participation, don't we? What some people don't like are out-of-control Council members who feel free to derail meetings when they're not getting their way.

At worst, this absence of public participation is just another fine example of Council members trying to ham-hand a situation. Yes, the pro-Wal-Mart contingent of the Council didn't protest the lack of public participation. Who had the right to protest Olsen's call-out to the audience? The Mayor and the Council. They didn't object.

If Olsen believes in public participation, perhaps he can put forth a resolution to require it as an agenda item on every meeting. For example, I'd like to address a Finance Committee meeting someday. So far, I can't. Why is that, Man of the People?

Olsen is playing the xenophobia card: provoking a fear of outsiders, playing up his image as the hometown boy. However, if you look at Olsen's pre-election campaign finance report, you can see that he's only gathered $35 from a single Jefferson resident, and about $800 from some pretty powerful people who don't live around here - the owners of the grocery store across the street from the proposed Wal-Mart site, Madison attorneys, Madison AFL-CIO president. So far, Olsen says he expects to spend more than $4,000 - out-spending the opposition, two to one.

Why is Olsen going so far afield to promote his cause? Why the state-wide attention-seeking?  It’s not about Wal-Mart, it’s all about his next campaign - say, for Assembly, where he can run against an incumbent Republican like David Ward.

"Even though the Jefferson and Walworth County District Attorneys and Attorney General said I did nothing wrong they're campaigning against me on a lie."  

Wow, for $3500, you would think his Madison political consultant wouldn't miss a comma.

Jefferson's DA didn't opine on this; he turned it over to the Walworth DA who did. It's a bit misleading to say the AG gave an opinion if the opinion actually came from someone else in the office.

I'm not sure who gave advice to the person who filed this complaint, but if they'd asked me, I would have told them that this incident was probably not a violation and wouldn't be worth pursuing. How does this become "a lie"? They filed a complaint. They asked for an opinion. They got one.

The recall petition was not specific about his Open Meeting violation. At his media conference this summer, Olsen freely admitted to violating the Open Meetings law last fall when he attended and participated in a secret all-day strategic planning session. This man of the people had no qualms about making decisions for the City without any reporter or member of the public around.



"It's too bad this election will waste taxpayers' money but I'm proud of my record of building a stronger community and I'll never apologize for making sure you're heard at City Hall."  

Maybe Olsen will apologize to us and to Ald. Peg Beyer for his filing a police complaint in July 29, 2005 because she called him "a fucking liar" in an argument at a bar after a meeting. There's the cost of hours of detectives taking witness statements from five citizens, transcription, etc. all for what?

I sympathize with Ald. Beyer. After all, Olsen filed a police complaint against me in January 2000 because I dropped the f-bomb on him, too.
I called him "a fucking idiot" when he refused to leave my office.

It makes you wonder. Was Olsen in a special branch of the service that wasn't allowed to use profanity? What sensitized his ears?

As for the strategic planning session, we spent $5,000 on a consultant to help with it. Don't take my word for it that Jefferson's Council is screwed up. Read the consultant's opinion. Read Olsen's plan for turning City Hall into a Waffle House.


"I promise to keep fighting for open government that lets you speak and listens to what you say."


And these sorts of statements are hard to swallow, given my history of fighting Olsen tooth-and-nail for five years, as I tried to open up the economic development processes he was hired to oversee. Olsen utterly refused to allow the public to even attend the meetings of the Commerce and Industry Association, Jefferson Development Corporation, and Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation as of five years ago.

Never mind the way he wouldn't let Chamber members see financial records or let them run for the Board without his approval, or the way he faked financial reports for his Board and the Council, and eventually lost his job over it.

What sort of religious conversion has he undergone?

"Responsible city budgeting to deliver the services we need and hold the line on local taxes."   At that secret strategic planning meeting, Olsen and several other Council members launched their plan to fulfill their vendettas against the Park and Recreation Director and the City Engineer. Yes, I kid you not, they wanted to eliminate their positions - not just fire them.
"Developed downtown revitalization plan as Executive Director of Jefferson Development Corporation."   No, actually it was led by a citizen's group that called for a plan, fed up with Olsen's inaction on the decaying and largely vacant downtown. And as far as I know, Olsen never came up with one. There were strategic planning sessions hosted by the County's community development director, but like most strategic plans, they were eventually ignored.
"Founding member Jefferson County Tourism Council."   Yes, this is the same local Tourism Council who vehemently opposed his appointment to the state Tourism Council, in writing, because he's been such a thorn in their side.
"Volunteer, Jefferson Historical Society and Rainbow Hospice"   Below you'll see Olsen complain about businesses that operate for profit. I know that if I was in the funeral business, I'd do a lot of volunteering for organizations filled with the oldest people in the community, just out of my selflessness and compassion, and not because I want the chance to remind them that they haven't made plans for their burial.
Second postcard    

Issue: Listening to Us

"As Alderman, David gave his speaking time at a city meeting to make sure Jefferson residents, not just the developers, were heard from on the Wal-Mart issue."

Opposition: "Filed a false complaint and forced an expensive recall because Alderman Olsen allowed citizens to speak at a public meeting."


"Filed a false complaint". No, it was a weak complaint, filed on poor advice. Because no violation was found, it doesn't make it "a lie." Even when Open Meeting violations are found, they can result only in a fine of up to $300. Usually, they only get a slap on the wrist.

Olsen knows this. After all, I filed complaints with the local DA and the State AG regarding complaints against his refusal to open up his agencies to public scrutiny. My complaints were found valid, and the organizations reformed. However, no fines were levied.

Expensive? Olsen served on the executive committee of one organization, the JCEDC, that left $10,000 in unpaid rent to the County.


Issue: Working for Us

"Funeral Director at the Olsen Funeral Home. Brought jobs to Jefferson as Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce and Jefferson Development Corporation. As a volunteer he is involved at church and many community groups."

Opposition: "Opposition candidate works as a manager at his father's business."


I love it when candidates reveal their own personal fears by spitting criticisms at the opposition that could be leveled equally as well at themselves.

Couldn't we equally say "Olsen works as a manager at his father's business." As if that's a bad thing? Or maybe the answer is, "Olsen's father retired and gave the family business to his two sons."

On this point, Havill commits the same fault: He's said that the anti-Wal-Mart forces have their own private interests at heart... but in one newspaper article, just a few sentences later he explained how Wal-Mart's presence would benefit his business.


Issue: One of Us

"Dave was raised here by his parents, Bernie and Mona. After college and serving in the Army he returned with his wife Linda to run the family business and raise their two children."

Opposition: "Opposition includes out of town businesses and landowners that stand to profit."



Let's see: Dad, Dear Departed Mom, the fifes and flag...
he forgot Apple Pie.

And the opposition wasn't raised here? Heavens! We can't have businesses that get handed down, father to son, unless they were raised here!

Hmm, Havill-Spoerl has been in Jefferson for almost two decades. I was always warned that you had to live here forty years before they stopped considering you "not from around here." They'd still know you weren't raised here, but at least you'd put in your time.

And profit? Businesses aren't supposed to profit? That if they're not from around here, they should be happy to pay taxes, but not expect to have a chance to be elected to office?

As for the picture in the grocery store on the first postcard - yes, that was taken in the store of his primary campaign donor.

We should note that Olsen Funeral Homes might also qualify as an out-of-town business, too, having branches in both Jefferson and Whitewater.

"Authorized and paid for by David Olsen for Alderman, David Olsen, Treasurer"  

The disclaimer on Olsen's web site,, says "Paid for by Olsen for Alderman, Wes Tennyson, Treasurer". The postcards say "Authorized and paid for by David Olsen for Alderman, David Olsen, Treasurer".

I'll remember Wes's departed dad, Jerry, as one of the Council members back in 2000 who supported Olsen's mismanagement of the City's economic development organizations. Wes, like Olsen and Havill, is another guy who took over Dad's business.

In 2001, Jerry Tennyson filed an Election Board complaint against my then-wife when she was running for DA because one banner in her office window didn't have a proper disclaimer on the bottom. When I went to the Tennyson home to ask why he'd filed the complaint, his wife said "They made him sign that" and then she slammed the door. I never found out who "they" were.

Wes is well-known for writing letters-to-the-editor in support of Olsen's campaigns that contain so much detail that they almost seem like they were written by Olsen himself.