Thursday, April 24, 2014

Walker Admin. Approves Roads/Rail Subsidy Double-Standard

Updated, Thursday, 1:07 a.m. State/utility cost-share to move utility lines for the Zoo Interchange OK'ed by WisDOT, because Waukesha commuters must be served, pronto.

But no public/utility cost share is to be allowed by the PSC to move utility lines for the Milwaukee streetcar - - sticking Milwaukee taxpayers with the entire tab - - because big-city, urban Milwaukee must be hosed, always.

Both state agencies controlled by Walker.

See the pattern?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Dog Attack On Penned Deer Wrongly Attributed To Wolves

Initial reports said wolves had killed deer in a Wisconsin game farm - - but subsequent investigation showed the attack was carried out by Huskies and is not a reimbursable event to the deer owner by the DNR.

More about problem dogs, here.

Reliable Source Says Walker Signed Pollution Permission Bill

I'd rate the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce a reliable source on this issue, so

Happy Day-After-Earth Day, Wisconsin - - Where Earth Day Was Founded.
Says The Daily Reporter, via AP:
Wisconsin’s largest business group says Gov. Scott Walker has signed a bill that would give wastewater plants, paper mills and food processors up to 20 years to comply with the state’s phosphorus limits... 
Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce released a statement Wednesday saying Walker has signed the bill.
History from 2010, when Wisconsin government still had environmental values based on a long legacy, and an all-parties-at-the-table collaborative ethic. 

And then the Walkerites took control and turned over Wisconsin environmental policy-making to the WMC.

WI Public Votes 'No' On Uninvited Dog Retrieval By Hounders

Citizens attending last week's annual statewide Wisconsin Conservation Congress meetings to advise the DNR on hunting, fishing and outdoors' rule and policy changes sent a strong "No" message on whether hounders should be allowed on private propertywithout landowners' permission to retrieve dogs.

The vote was No, 3038, Yes, 2589.

Hounders running dogs during hunting seasons and training periods is a matter of controversy in Wisconsin.

It is a measure of the political power of the bear hunting lobby that Wisconsin is the only state that pays hunters - - even scofflaws - - whose dogs are killed by wolves during training, or the bear hunting season.

Here is a list of the votes on all proposals. The swan proposal is item 36, the hounder proposal is number 48.

I'd reported earlier on the rejection at these meetings of another controversial item, a proposed Tundra swan hunt in Wisconsin.

And I'd written about both items in February as the meetings were getting their initial publicity.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

GOP, Oligarchs' Wisconsin Hypocrisy

With ads and nicknames, Republicans are campaigning against Mary Burke's wealth.

Are we to believe the GOP is salt-of-the-earth here?


Scott Walker is the favorite of the biggest state 1% club, a/k/a/ The Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, plus distant billionaires, from the oil-producing, Kansas-based Koch brothers' through Americans for Prosperity, to Las Vegas/Macau casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

Walker raked in record-setting millions for his 2010 and 2012 campaigns, plus big-donor funding for his John Doe legal defense fund, and is out-of-state often to raise fresh cash for his 2014 run, and beyond.

Here's a report on Walker's big 2012 donors: Adelson is down for $250,000.

And Burke is targeted for her money?

So do not expect Walker, his handlers or the GOP to be the least bit slowed down or ashamed by this hypocritical revelation:

Milwaukee couple give $1 million to GOP group

Glenn Grothman Elevates Race-Baiting Into Legislation

The Tea Party state legislator, voting suppressor and overall Legislative trouble-maker announces new WI legislation against affirmative action just after declaring for a Congressional campaign. 


He doesn't even live in the district he feels needs his representation.

And I am sure he has not seen or would not care to know the facts - - that data show Wisconsin already the worst state in the nation for African-American youth.

His answer: let's close off more educational opportunities.

File #opportunismunequaled.

Citizens Tell DNR No WI Swan Hunt, So...

Will the DNR shelve the idea, now that delegates to advisory, statewide Wisconsin Conservation Congress meetings last week opposed a Wisconsin swan hunt?

Or will this be like those highway projects that go forward after the public meetings and comments oppose them?

Here are the vote totals.

Glad that this blog was out early and often opposing the hunt.

Photo: Tundra swan swimming in water
Photo by Bates Littlehales

Major Labor Lecture Thursday At UW-Madison; Free Admission

This looks like a valuable opportunity Tuesday in Madison. Note RSVP's encouraged

2014 Roberta Gassman Distinguished Lecture

“Lifting Up Low-Wage Work”
Presented by Stephanie Luce, Ph.D.,
Associate Professor of Labor Studies,
CUNY School of Professional Studies

Thursday, April 24, 2014
5:00 – 6:00 pm
Waisman Center Auditorium, UW-Madison

In 2011, 28 percent of all U.S. workers – almost 37 million people - earned poverty-wages. Despite a supposed economic recovery, the U.S. is facing a crisis of low-wage jobs and working poverty, and even workers with college degrees cannot be assured of attaining high wages and stable jobs. This talk will discuss some of the possible solutions to our low-wage jobs crisis.

·         Download flier
·         Submit RSVP
·         Read press release
Best known for her research on living wage campaigns and movements, noted labor scholar Stephanie Luce (pictured above) has worked at the U.S. Department for Labor, a Congressional Commission on Agricultural Workers, the Center for Wisconsin Strategy (COWS) and the Political Economy Research Institute. She received her Ph.D. in sociology and master’s in industrial relations from UW-Madison.

This lecture is made possible with generous support from donors to the
Roberta Gassman School of Social Work Opportunities Fund.

Free and open to the public • Reception to follow
RSVP strongly encouraged

.1 CEU / 1 CEH free for social workers
1350 UNIVERSITY AVE., MADISON WI 53706 - (608) 263-3660

Monday, April 21, 2014

Wisconsin's #1 Earth Day Issue Is The Open-Pit Iron Mine Plan

The Earth Day legacy begun by Wisconsin's own Gaylord Nelson in 1970 has been hijacked, contaminated and discarded by Gov. Walker, his legislative allies and their right-wing, petroleum-fueled enablers.

From frac sand mining to industrial-sized dairy operations to needless highway expansion, the Walkerites would fill, sell, pave and otherwise degrade the land and water on behalf of their special interest donors.

But one issue stands out - - the proposed GTac open pit mine in Ashland and Iron Counties now under review by a DNR whose hands were tied by special-interest legislation meant to enable the mine while leaving the land and waters exposed to ruin through mountain-top removal and acid mine drainage across the pristine Bad River watershed.

All Wisconsin environmental, land use and social justice groups have agendas, practices and beliefs that are offended by the massive open-pit iron ore mine proposed just upstream from the Bad River Ojibwe Band's land, drinking water sources and rice-growing estuaries in NW Wisconsin.

Right at Lake Superior - - the deepest and cleanest of the five Great Lakes that together make up 20% of the world's fresh surface water supply.

Every group and person of good will in Wisconsin should incorporate their opposition to this mine in their April 22nd Earth Day 2014 programs, statements and actions - - not to minimize other issues, as there are many, but to highlight and connect them all.

I've been making this argument these last few weeks, here, here and elsewhere.

Preliminary sample drilling and regulatory work is already underway following special interest legislation that was written with and for the mining company at the expense of the environment and existing Wisconsin law.

Let's hope people, groups and communities of concern in this state can speak with one voice on this all-encompassing issue that was recently reported on, in depth, by The New York Times.

Which means the whole world is watching.

Definitely Withdraw Michelle Obama As KS Graduation Speaker

Just because she's the First Lady of the United States of America is hardly a reason to let her give the commencement speech at a group graduation of five Topeka, Kansas-area high schools.

In fact, she's the most-inappropriate person to be invited, what with talk of secession in the air in Kansas after her Kenyan-born husband's illegal re-election in 2012.

Just because Kansas' unconstitutionally-segregated schools led to the historic 1954 Brown v. Board of Education school integration Supreme Court decision, and Mrs. Obama's selection is tied to the 60th anniversary of that unanimous decision doesn't mean Topeka should celebrate it with an obvious display of reverse discrimination.

Besides, you know she'll make the graduates and their families eat broccoli and buy an Obamacare insurance plan as the price of admission to the hall.

Some parents say the issue has nothing to do with race, or the Obamas' politics, but rather that her popularity could overshadow the graduates on their special day.

Or lead to a run on tickets.

So couldn't Topeka and Kansas get back to the good old days and find a boring old white guy with a generic message to make the event quickly forgettable?

Clarke For Mayor? With Those Budget Problems?

I'd love to see Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke run city-wide as a fiscal conservative and budget manager and explain why he has so many deputies earning six-figure salaries.

Amtrak, Streetcar Benefits Denied To WI, Affirmed Elsewhere

Conservatives would have you believe that passenger rail doesn't help the economy, but if that were true, why would leading buyers of train equipment on both coasts - - the State of California and Amtrak, headquartered in Washington, D.C. - - make the documentation of job-creation a required part of the bidding process?
In the RFP, bidders are asked to submit information identifying U.S. production sites; a description of jobs that could be created for both skilled and unskilled workers; total compensation and benefit types that would be provided; workforce training plans; outreach and recruitment plans for new hires; the manufacturers’ experience in successfully implementing employment strategies; and information on how the employment plan would cascade to subcontractors and component suppliers.
The bidding requirement underscores a simple truth that Wisconsin talk radio hosts and the right-wing politicians who kneel before them alternately deny, mock and miscommunicate in a political game they manipulate for their own needs - - votes and rating points - - at the expense of the workforce and economic development along the Amtrak, commuter rail and municipal streetcar lines they continue to block.
That simple truth:
Passenger rail creates jobs.
Former Milwaukee Journal Sentinel transportation reporter Larry Sandler in early 2012 had laid out the train-assembling, rail construction and spin-off jobs lost when GOP gubernatorial-candidate-and-later-Governor Scott Walker effectively scuttled the Milwaukee-Madison Amtrak extension that was also projected as a link in a multi-state, higher-speed passenger service upgrade:
Talgo, a Spanish train manufacturer, is seeking a Wisconsin plant to assemble trains that could run on this route. The Talgo business could create 50 to 60 jobs building two trains that the state already has ordered for the existing Milwaukee-to-Chicago Hiawatha service, plus another 20 to 30 more building two more trains for high-speed service, says Jim Schmelzer, president of Super Steel Products Corp., which is seeking the work.
Counting "indirect" jobs at suppliers would add another 152 jobs this year, 479 next year, 647 in 2012, 202 in 2013, 54 in 2014 and 11 in 2015. State and local government jobs, including planners, engineers and project managers, would total 67 this year, 212 next year, 291 in 2012, 109 in 2013, 47 in 2014 and 26 in 2015. Klein said personnel hired by the state Department of Transportation for this project would hold their jobs no more than four years.
Therefore, total employment specifically linked to the train line would be 1,100 this year, 3,483 next year, 4,732 in 2012, 1,542 in 2013, 483 in 2014 and 167 in 2015.
Here is a documented summary and timeline of the loss of the Amtrak jobs in Wisconsin.
And about the Milwaukee streetcar the Walkerites continue to block, here's another truth that the talkers and their ideological political allies deny and twist
Streetcar systems also create jobs and development, principally in the downtowns they heavily serve.
Consider these numbers about just one city cited in a posting about several municipalities' streetcar projects nationwide - - numbers that are lost on Walker, his anti-rail team, and to the detriment of Wisconsin businesses, workers, students, city-dwellers and tourists, too:
When it opens for revenue service this summer, [Tuscon's streetcar] Sun Link will connect the University of Arizona, University of Arizona Medical Center, the 4th Avenue and Main Gate business districts, downtown Tucson and the city's Westside redevelopment district. City officials estimate about 100,000 people live and work within a half mile of the streetcar route.
And since 2010, the planned system has helped attract student housing, retail shops, restaurants and entertainment-focused businesses. City officials believe Sun Link will help promote Tucson as "a hub of business, retail, the arts, technology, education and innovation," according to the Sun Link website....
The Tucson Downtown Partnership has estimated more than $800 million of public and private investment has occurred along the future Sun Link line since the project was approved.  

Walker, His Team And The Games They Play

(Updated, Sunday, 11:00 a.m., updated Sunday, 10:38 p.m.) A long time ago when I was a twenty-something, and learning the ropes as Madison Mayor Paul Soglin's Administrative Assistant, an old-timer gave me the lay of the land:

"There are two kinds of people in this building," he explained. "Game players and policy people. The policy people want to use government to help people, and the game people just want to play the game."

Sure, it was a generalization, but it helped me over the years sort allies from obstructionists, and serious people from the superficial, in and around the Madison City-County Building.

I'll bet today it describes your office situation, too.

The veteran official's tip served me well in Milwaukee City Hall more than 20 years later when I worked in several positions in Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist's administration, including Chief of Staff.

And it continues as a good analytical tool in 2014, because in the Wisconsin Governor's Office we now have a leader who has gathered a like-minded-and-motivated team of game players  - - including some who got their start in or near the Milwaukee County Executive's Office in April, 2002 after Walker won a special election to replace the recalled, ousted Tom Ament.

Walker and his team are determined to bring their love of the political game-over-policy to the national field as the 2016 Presidential election looms.

My time in Milwaukee Mayor Norquist's office over-lapped less than two years of Walker's County Executive tenure, but it was time enough to see Team Walker's default to the inside, partisan and self-serving game over service to public policy. Some examples:

*  Norquist, Walker, and their Mayoral or County Executive counterparts from Racine and Kenosha met to discuss whether to support committing $91.5 million in available federal funds to the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter train proposal.

I was also at the meeting. It produced an agreement among six chief executives to back using the funding for the KRM. No one dissented. 

But after the meeting, Walker's staff told our office that under no circumstances were we to disclose if Walker was even at the meeting - - and that was a big problem because our office was always open to media contacts about rail and transportation policy, a Norquist priority.

The directive from Walker's office thus undermined the meeting's purpose, which was to create a unified regional position on the disposition of the funding to communicate to federal transportation officials. 

The goal was to simultaneously protect the funding - - earlier decision delays had reduced the original grant by about 15% - - and keep the KRM alive as an option in a region with major transportation deficits.

Walker's concern was less about starting a train system, or not, and more about pleasing right-wing, anti-urban talk radio ideologues who objected to spending public funds on any kind of passenger rail transportation.

Talk radio had helped Walker win the election and he did not want to disappoint the hosts.

In those days, there was still discussion of light rail for the City of Milwaukee, but our office was told by Walker's office on more than one occasion that if City Hall pushed hard for Milwaukee light rail - - a different kind of rail service than the KRM - -  Walker would then push hard against it.

As with the KRM, the more disagreement among local officials about rail spending, the more likely it was that federal or state officials would withhold the money.

The rail game was being run by talk radio. Walker was not the engineer, but he was an important passenger.

So everyone in local government had to walk on egg shells around Walker on rail issues because his top priority was to stay on the good side of his talk radio enablers.

And their out-of-city audiences, which supported Walker and which he would continue to cultivate.

The federal money never got moved to the KRM rail line, and Walker eventually helped sideline it

There was an eventual split of the $91.5 million lost to the KRM - - a division made by federal officials over Walker's objections - - that sent some of the funding to the County bus system and the lion's share to finance another City of Milwaukee-only rail project, the streetcar.

An excellent history of Walker and the rail projects he had opposed or blocked, here.

in 2010, Walker played the game again, running against, and blocking $810 million in pledged federal Amtrak-to-Madison expansion and train-manufacturing dollars. 

The money went to other states, principally California.

He was even willing to sacrifice the jobs it would have produced in Milwaukee and across southern Wisconsin, because the game trumps policy.

And Walker and his allies, not content with having killed both the KRM and the Amtrak activity, are keeping the anti-rail game going against the streetcar through conservative legal advocacy in front of the Walker-controlled Public Service Commission.

*  A few weeks after Walker's election to County Executive, and with budget-writing for the following year under way in both the Courthouse and City Hall, Mayor Norquist had our office propose to Walker's that to eliminate taxpayer-paid service duplication, the County could merge its tree-growing, nursery and greenhouses with an existing City operation.

Word came back from Walker's office: 'What do you really want?' 

When we said, 'Nothing: it's just to save the taxpayers some money' - - and that was the truth - - we were told, 'forget it.'


Because Walker and his crew were conditioned to look for a game - - even when policy people were not playing one. The Walker people were prisoners of their own assumptions and biases, and that is a reflection of how the boss thinks and acts.

Too bad. Team Walker's one-dimensionality cost local taxpayers some money.

Just as it cost Milwaukee workers building or maintaining Amtrak trains their jobs, and will cost even more work that would have run for several years installing a modern, higher-speed rail line between Milwaukee and Madison.

Here is a fully-documented history of Walker's hostility to the Amtrak option and the jobs it cost Wisconsin.

And taxpayers will pay again because Walker's cancellation of the Amtrak expansion including breaking a contract with Talgo, the train-manufacturer which had built an assembly plant in Milwaukee. 

Two Madison-Milwaukee train sets were built, but sit mothballed, and even if Michigan buys them as has been reported, it is still likely that a final settlement over the broken contract will require taxpayers to write Talgo a substantial check.

Which is what happens when public officials put gamesmanship over job-creation, and ideology over provision of non-partisan public service.

Here is how a rail industry publication explained it:

Wisconsin’s arch-conservative, Tea-Party-favorite governor, Scott Walker, may have gotten more than he bargained for (or didn’t bargain for) when he killed his state’s department of transportation plan to acquire new passenger trainsets and build a higher-speed line connecting Milwaukee to Madison shortly after taking office in 2011.
Talgo USA Inc. has filed a $65.9 million claim against the State of Wisconsin on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, setting up a probable lawsuit and reviving contentious debate over Gov. Scott Walker’s rejection in 2011 of $810 million in federal stimulus money for a higher-speed rail passenger line. The claim is top of an existing lawsuit that Talgo filed in November 2012 to take possession of two trainsets it built for the state but have been idled due to Walker’s canceling of the planned Milwaukee to Madison line.
Walker's actions following talk radio's lead do shed light on why job creation in the state lags the nation's, ranks us 35th among the states - - and behind most Great Lakes states - - and certainly fast-growing Minnesota, and dooms Walker's pledge of 250,000 new jobs on his first-term watch.

You can also see the Team Walker preference for game-players over policy people - - and the consequences - - if you look look at how Walker hired publicly-paid county employees onto his Executive's staff where they used county time to politick and raise money for Walker's 2010 gubernatorial effort, and for the Lt. Governor campaign of Brett Davis, a GOP state legislator, which Walker was supporting.

This represented unprecedented chutzpah - - a game of personal and political advancement for Walker run through secret emails from laptops on a clandestine Internet router set up by and used by apparatchiks in Walker's office suite.

And when outside tragedies intervened in the life of the County and its government that jeopardized Walker's electability, and trashed his leadership, the game players grabbed the network's joysticks and took the controls.

*  When a teenage boy was crushed to death and his mother was maimed by falling concrete in the County-owned O'Donnell Park garage, Walker's campaign manager, Keith Gilkes swung into action

He issuing jaw-dropping orders to taxpayer-paid county employees, including then-Walker Deputy Staff Chief Kelly Rindfleisch, that surfaced in a subsequent probe of Walker's office:
Gilkes wrote to Walker aide Kelly Rindfleisch, advising her on the day of the O'Donnell death, June 24, 2010: "Keep on top of (parks director) Sue Black, (budget director Steve) Kreklow, (administration director Cindy) Archer and all staff to make sure there is not a paper anywhere that details a problem at all."
*  After a patient was raped at the County Mental Health Complex, Gilkes told Rindfleisch by email to get a County-paid lawyer more focused on protecting Walker from the political fallout, as the Journal Sentinel noted in this excellent summary story:
"Just do me a favor and tell him that we are getting the crap kicked out of us by the County Board," Gilkes wrote. "At some point I would like him to stop being a lawyer and think political for a change and let us fight back." 
* And after a patient had starved to death at the mental health complex, Gilkes and Rindfleisch - - remember, she was working on public time - - discussed in emails the need to keep the patient death settlement details out of the media until after the November, 2012 election.

"Buried" was the operative word.

Now flash forward to April, 2014. 

Walker is running for re-election as Governor, but will not say - - wink, wink - - if he will serve out his term if re-elected in November.

Like his book 'co-authorship,' and national fund-raising and speaking forays, the dodge is a signal that he's reaching for a new player level in The Higher Office Game.

It's reminiscent of his cat-and-mouse behavior when he ran for re-election as County Executive in 2008 and wouldn't commit to finishing that four-year term because everyone knew he was eyeing a run for the Governor's office.

And had been prepping for it all along.

In fact, he'd abandoned an earlier run for Governor while County Executive in which incumbent Democrat Jim Doyle went on to beat then-GOP US Rep. Mark Green in 2006.

Walker has been been playing the County Executive-to-higher-office-game since 2002, using an office in which he had no real nut-sand-bolts policy interests as a stepping stone from the get-go - - courting donors, kissing up to talk radio and assembling a county staff which would implement campaign operatives' orders to put Walker's image and advancement first.

Walker's game, following an undistinguished legislative career and an incomplete college education, is now more than a decade old.

And it's gotten more consequential - - Kelly Rindfleisch was convicted of felonious misuse of public time - - and several others brought in to serve Walker were swept up and into jail in the first of two John Doe prosecutorial probes after being convicted of crimes in office, too.

The game has winners and losers, doesn't it?

Now Team Walker is perhaps headed for the ultimate American political Zero-Sum Game of all - - the 2016 Presidential race.

Whom do you want there? A game-player or a policy person?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Calendars, Facts Are Walker's Enemies

Updated: Though frequently distracted by fund-raising tours and DC day-dreaming, Scott Walker grasps that his central 2010 campaign promise "to create 250,000 private-sector jobs before the end of his four-year term," as PolitiFact puts it, was an amateurism, stupid boast that will dog him every day until the November election.

40% progress towards a foundational goal is pretty poor performance for a chief executive looking for another term and higher office.

So in yet another of the dodges fast-becoming his signature move, Walker now says in a Journal Sentinel Thursday story that he should get another year - - to the end of 2015 - - to hit the goal.

So now he's claiming it was a Five-Year Plan all along - - a Walker hat tip to the discredited Soviet model for things that are bound to fail - - though note the Madison Capital Times also says the Walker promise was keyed to one, four-year term:

Gov. Scott Walker famously promised during his 2010 campaign that he would bring 250,000 new private-sector jobs to Wisconsin by the end of his term in 2014. How's he doing? We're keeping track with this database.
And I am unaware of any request by Walker to either paper to correct their reporting.

Walker's time-shifting in the Journal Sentinel story is revelatory for two reasons.

*  First, for dizzying spin:    

In his 2010 run, Walker built his campaign around a promise that the state would add 250,000 jobs if he were elected. Since he was sworn in, the state has added about 101,500 jobs.
Walker said Wednesday in Madison he would not concede that the state could not achieve his jobs promise — and raised the possibility he may have until Dec. 31, 2015, to do it. 
"Our goal was to get there by 2015. I've said all along, whether it's the first day or not — obviously that's maybe debatable," Walker said. 
In a follow-up question, asked if he was saying he might have until the end of 2015, rather than the beginning of that year, to achieve that promise, he said: "I said by 2015 — not by the end of. What I said was, whether it's Jan. 1 or some point in the future, our goal was to get there in 2015."
Teenage son to parent: 
I'll be home by 12. 
Arriving home mid-day the next day, teenage son to angry parent: 
I meant 12 noon.
Also intriguing is the classic, clumsy Walker word-salad that brushes aside the added year. 
"Our goal was to get there by 2015. I've said all along, whether it's the first day or not — obviously that's maybe debatable," Walker said.
This reminds me of another Walker historical re-write that earned him one of 34 PolitiFact "False" or "Pants on Fire" rulings:

"Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says he campaigned on his budget repair plan, including curtailing collective bargaining."
Walker contends he clearly "campaigned on" his union bargaining plan. 
But Walker, who offered many specific proposals during the campaign, did not go public with even the bare-bones of his multi-faceted plans to sharply curb collective bargaining rights. He could not point to any statements where he did. We could find none either... 
We rate his statement False. 
*  Second, for Walker's tone-deaf, underlying arrogance:

Walker says that he might not complete a second term if re-elected in November, as if voters would elect a Palinesque quitter who'd given notice in advance.

In other words, peons, Walker prefers the Presidential big stage than your parades in, say, Peshtigo, Pewaukee or Palmyra.


You're lucky to go to prom with me, but I'm free to leave with someone who better suits me.

As 4th Anniversary of BP Gulf Rig Catastrophe Approaches...

Try and wrap your head around this story:
A former BP employee, who oversaw the cleanup of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, will pay $224,118 to settle an insider trading charge. 
Keith Seilhan was accused of selling $1m of shares in BP after receiving information about the severity of the spill which was not publicly available at the time.

Friday, April 18, 2014

MMSD's Critics Bereft Of Purpose, Records Suggest

Right-wing Internet addicts with MMSD on Google alert will find themselves without a reason to live this weekend:
Melting snow and heavy rain in the last week caused sewage treatment plant and sewer overflows at 15 Wisconsin communities, from Ashland and Superior south to Mequon and Hazel Green, state environmental officials said. 
No sewer overflows were reported by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District or municipalities south of Mequon in southeastern Wisconsin.

Keystone XL Pipeline Review Continuing, Politico Reports

I've got no problem with this:

POLITICO Breaking News
Today at 12:13 PM
The Obama administration is extending its comment period on the Keystone XL pipeline, citing continuing litigation over a Nebraska court decision that threw part of the project's route in doubt, two sources said today after a call between the State Department and congressional staff.

If this postpones the decision until after the November election, it would spare President Barack Obama a politically wrenching decision on whether to approve the pipeline, angering his green base and environmentally minded campaign donors - or reject it, endangering pro-pipeline Democrats such as Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu.

But it will also inspire renewed complaints from Republicans that Obama is politicizing and dragging out an energy project that has already waited more than five years for approval.

For more information... 

What WISDOT Funding Shortfall? I-43 N. Expansion Next Up

WisDOT is claiming a funding crisis - - and haven't we heard this all before? - -  but instead of tightening its belt will soon contract for costly new lanes on this stretch of the Free[Sic]way system, among others.

If you like what's happening at the Zoo Interchange, you will love this:
   I-43 North-South Corridor
   Glendale-Grafton, Milwaukee and Ozaukee counties

Public Hearing scheduled to present and discuss the I-43 Corridor Study from Silver Spring Drive in Milwaukee County to WIS 60 in Ozaukee County.
Public Hearing 1
 April 30, 2014

Time: 5-8 p.m.
Where: Nicolet High School Cafeteria
6701 N. Jean Nicolet Road in Glendale
Public Hearing 2
Date: May 1, 2014
Time: 4-7 p.m.
Where: Christ Church
13460 N. Port Washington Road in Mequon

Project location:

I-43, Silver Spring Dr. to WIS 60, Glendale to Grafton, in Milwaukee and Ozaukee counties.
The I-43 North-South Freeway is among the busiest routes in Wisconsin and is a critical Interstate link between southeast Wisconsin and the entire state. I-43 provides access to manufacturers, merchants, commuters and tourists within southeast Wisconsin, the Milwaukee metropolitan area, and other areas including Green Bay, Sheboygan, Manitowoc and Chicago.
WisDOT has maintained and rehabilitated the ramps, bridges, pavements and other structures on I-43 for 50 years. The North-South Freeway has exceeded its design life and it is no longer economical to maintain. The corridor needs full evaluation, so it can serve the communities into the future.
The project team will study the corridor, including the service interchanges and adjacent arterial roads in Milwaukee and Ozaukee counties. This review will:
  • Identify safety concerns
  • Assess physical condition and configuration of the roadways
  • Identify potential environmental concerns and socioeconomic factors that may be affected by the corridor
Study - Long term planning with no construction activity at this time.

Questions about the content of this page:

I-43 North-South Corridor Project Team, 

In A Few Words, Ezra Klein Nails Obamacare Issues

Pundit and data-savvy journalist Ezra Klein has been precise about health care politics and policy in the US right now.

From Twitter on Thursday:

 7hObamacare succeeded for one simple reason: it's horrible to be uninsured:
On MSNBC Thursday, Klein said the ideological refusal of GOP governors to accept expanded Medicaid federal financing - - this would include Wisconsin, where Scott Walker's funding rejection left 77,000 low-income residents without coverage - -was a great moral failing.

You can't get more accurate than that. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

On Earth Day 2014, WI Activists Must Unite Against Iron Mine

All Wisconsin environmental, land use and social justice groups have agendas, practices and beliefs that are offended by the massive open-pit iron ore mine proposed upstream from the Bad River Ojibwe Band's land, watershed and rice-growing estuaries in NW Wisconsin right at Lake Superior.

Every group and person of good will in Wisconsin can incorporate their opposition to this mine in their April 22nd Earth Day 2014 programs, statements and actions.

Preliminary sample drilling and regulatory work is already underway following special interest legislation that was written with and for the mining company at the expense of the environment and existing Wisconsin law.

Let's hope communities of concern in this state can speak with one voice on this all-encompassing issue.

WisDOT's Fiscal 'Crises' - - 10 Years, Little Change

I'd written here about WisDOT's PR campaigning for more public money and wringing of hands over a so-called revenue 'crisis.'

While higher gas taxes and other road-building financing schemes are back on the table - - Walker will likely put off a decision until after the November election - -  there is one sure-fired solution not under consideration:

Reining in over-spending on costly, glitzy new projects, like the revenue-sucking, perpetual-roadway spree known as the Southeastern Wisconsin Free[Sic]way System expansion.

And I offer for some depressing perspective a piece I'd written for the Capital Times ten years ago to the day.

While the state covered some increased highway costs in the interim through borrowings and other non-gas-tax maneuvers, the truth is that little has changed in ten years when it comes to Wisconsin's road-building binge at the expense of transit and local road aid.

True today; true back then, as I noted in 2004:

"Channeling a disproportionate share of state and federal transportation funding to freeway expansion could offset some increases in the gas tax. But that would threaten other highway projects, trim state aid to mass transit, and cut local road repair budgets throughout the state. That would be really unpopular in Madison or Ashland, Green Bay or Wausau."
Also not changing: the road-building lobby's political immunity to elections, partisan shifts, economic downturns, reduced driving and awareness of climate change.

The lobby's pervasive power in the State Capitol is permanent.


DATE: Saturday, April 17, 2004



BYLINE:  James Rowen


    April 1 brought us the promise of spring, some April Fool's pranks, and Wisconsin's automatic annual hike in the state gas tax.

    Already saddled with the second-highest tax-per-gallon state gas tax in the United States, consumers at the pumps here began paying another six-tenths of a cent on April 1. 

That raised the tax to 29.1 cents, plus a separate three cents per gallon for environmental cleanup. With gas prices heading toward $2 a gallon, motorists were complaining to reporters that their SUV fill-ups were headed toward $60 or more.

    Little comfort that the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, which gets to spend a lot of that money, reminds us at its Web site that "while indexing usually increases the gas tax rate slightly, the difference is minor when compared to frequent price jumps at the gas pump."

    Memo to WisDOT: That doesn't make us feel better. And here are two additional things to keep in mind about why Wisconsin's gas tax is headed higher and higher, WisDOT spin notwithstanding.

    First: The gas tax was 16.5 cents a gallon, close to half what it is today, when so-called indexing began in 1985. Legislators wanted to build more roads and keep contribution-happy road contractors satisfied, but didn't want to go on record raising taxes. 

So the good men and women in the Assembly and Senate put the increase on autopilot. Now tied to inflation, it kicks in every April 1, with no messy votes showing up in the opponents' campaign attack ads.

    Second, and more importantly: Motorists annoyed at the weasely way a simple six-tenths of a cent increase per gallon got rolled into the current tax may go into full-blown cardiac arrest. That's because a multibillion-dollar freeway expansion plan is under study for southeast Wisconsin by WisDOT, and gas taxes will have to skyrocket to pay for it.

    Hotly debated in Milwaukee and its surrounding counties, the plan has not received much publicity out-state even though motorists across Wisconsin will dig deeply to pay for it.

    The plan calls for an estimated $6.25 billion to be poured into new lanes in the next 20 to 30 years. That's a very big figure -- big enough to build 16 Miller Park stadiums at $400 million each, for instance.

    The plan will do two things: Rebuild the complex Marquette Interchange in downtown Milwaukee and add about 120 miles of new freeway lanes next to existing lanes on major roads, like I-94 and I-43 in Milwaukee, Kenosha, Racine, Waukesha, Walworth, Washington and Ozaukee counties. Among the expenses: acquiring more than 600 acres, tearing down 201 homes and 28 businesses, and compensating the owners.

    The plan was approved by an unelected body, the seven-county Southeastern Regional Planning Commission, and is now under review by WisDOT.

    About $750 million of the total cost -- or about 12 percent -- has been set aside for the reconstruction of the Marquette Interchange, from 2004 to 2008. That leaves about $5.5 billion not funded, or roughly $200 million annually for about 25 years to complete the rest of the plan. And like all big-ticket estimates, the bottom line is going to rise.

    You'd think a state that just agonized over a $3.2 billion operating budget deficit wouldn't embark on a plan of any kind that is $5 billion in the hole at the outset, but work is already under way on the Marquette Interchange.

    The nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance has said the freeway expansion plan is among the reasons why Wisconsin's overall highway building plan through 2020 is more than $5 billion underfunded. But so far, few at the state level have taken the WTA's finding to heart. And don't expect those automatic April 1 increases to pay for the freeway expansion plan. Those annual increases cover ongoing and inflationary costs, not a multibillion-dollar freeway expansion.

    A penny added to the already-steep gas tax raises about $30 million, so if $200 million in fresh highway dollars are needed, the southeast Wisconsin freeway expansion will require a fresh six or seven cents -- at least 20 percent to the per-gallon gas tax -- if WisDOT moves the plan forward.

    It is possible these gas tax increases could be minimized by substituting an increase in vehicle registration fees -- but motorists wouldn't like that, either.

    Channeling a disproportionate share of state and federal transportation funding to freeway expansion could offset some increases in the gas tax. But that would threaten other highway projects, trim state aid to mass transit, and cut local road repair budgets throughout the state. That would be really unpopular in Madison or Ashland, Green Bay or Wausau.

    * Environmentalists and urban revivalists in Milwaukee -- led for years by now-ex-Mayor John Norquist -- oppose freeway expansion because it's too expensive and will pave precious city real estate and accelerate the region's already severe suburban sprawl.

    Republican legislative leaders -- including many who champion tax freezes and less government spending -- have long supported raising the gas tax. Along with the road builders, Republicans are leading the fight for freeway expansion. So don't be surprised when the gas tax is ramped up steadily. Six-tenths of a cent will look like chicken feed.