Saturday, October 25, 2014
We first began hearing about this a year and a half ago when the project centered on building WisDOT a new Tower of Power.
Well, the Tower is still the key, replacing a perfectly decent building at Hill Farms - - but I guess WisDOT needs more space in which to plan more underused highway expansions while transit and social services statewide are starved.
The highway lobbyists would prefer nicer offices in which to keep their ball rolling. Power and privilege shall be served. With our money.
And, yes - - the planning to replace the WisDOT building began under the evil Jim Doyle, but Walker's people better not say that too loudly, since a) in their world, Doyle did nothing right, and b) Doyle's plan cost 25% of Walker's inflated public sector McMansion.
These hypocrites talk a good game about cutting spending, but put them in charge, and camouflage the bidding process and off to the races they go.
Everything gets nailed down Nov. 7th.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:27 AM
Posted by James Rowen at 7:30 AM
Posted by James Rowen at 12:00 AM
Friday, October 24, 2014
Schimel also dished up a side of contempt for state campaign finance law that bars the kind of candidate campaign/third-party strategy and fund-raising coordination that got Scott Walker's 2012 campaign a cool $700,000 from the iron mining company which is planning to blow up the pristine, water-rich Penokee Hills for the continent's biggest open-pit iron ore mine.
Sounds more like a partisan Scott Walker foot soldier than a fair-and-open-minded top state lawyer.
Posted by James Rowen at 9:51 PM
In a word: Yikes.
* The editorial board cites data showing the Department of Natural Resources under Walker is referring far fewer polluters for prosecution than did predecessors Tommy Thompson and Jim Doyle - - OK, so far- - but then says that's "not inherently a bad thing."
So what's the upside?
The editorial board posits - - but does not document - - that the collaborative relationship the DNR is pursuing with businesses could save money and hasten compliance - - but cites no data to back up that supposition. Note all the qualifiers - - "can mean...perhaps..."
Stepp's (and Walker's) approach is to have DNR employees work with businesses to get them to cooperatively solve whatever problem crops up. That can mean fewer costs for both the business and state taxpayers and, perhaps, quicker compliance.I hope readers across the state who live downwind of a frac sand mine's dust, or within sniffing distance of an expanded mega-dairy's cattle herd runoff, or within well water pumping range of a fuel pipeline break and spill - - details here - - give the paper an earful about its paean to Wisconsin's regulatory softness.
^ This editorial has all the hallmarks of something produced in stages, and that ignored even its environmental reporters solid work from 19 months ago:
I'd written recently on this blog and in the Journal Sentinel's Sunday Crossroads section that Wisconsin waters - - though held in trust for all the people by the State Constitution - - were in crisis from political mismanagement, neglect and downright attack by state government...
The evidence was a string of new laws, proposals and administrative actions serving special interests since Scott Walker took office that removed or weakened protections for ground water, surface water, shorelines, construction sites, wetlands and woodlands that help hold and filter precipitation.
Now comes a stunning story by Lee Bergquist of the Journal Sentinel - - that more than 150 additional state bodies of water are so polluted they will be added to a list of impaired waterways needing fixing - - and that Walker tried unsuccessfully to 'address' the problem by holding up the implementation of state rules aimed at reducing levels of phosphorus run-off - - one of the main pollutants in impaired waterways making the list.* The editorial board is all over the map on iron mining, the environment, and the legislation used "to entice" the mining company to come to Wisconsin:
We feel that legislation opens the door to unnecessary environmental damage. That was not only a mistake, it holds the potential for disaster for northern Wisconsin.Square that with what the editorial board wrote just a few lines earlier in support of the mine:
...we believe such a mine could be built while preserving much of the area's natural beauty and restoring the area after the mine runs dry.
The editorial also omits any mention of the once-secret $700,000 mining company donation routed through a third-party group to the Walker campaign, so who exactly was enticing whom?
* The editorial leaves out any mention of the Walker administration's disregard for Ojibwe treaty rights in the proposed mining region - - which means Walker is teeing up the state for costly and divisive litigation.
How is it that the Walker administration gets kudos from the editorial board for cost-saving collaborating with businesses on environmental matters, but there's no criticism in the editorial for the administration's failure to work closely with the tribes on the mining issue which is already producing acrimony and costly litigating?
Finally, the editorial discusses energy, generally praising Burke on alternatives and criticizing Walker for his PSC appointments, and for obstructing of rail, wind and conservation incentives.
No clear winner here. I know the paper is not making endorsements this go-round, but muddle is not substitute.
I will copy out below the entire section about the DNR and the mining issue and you can decide for yourself if it makes sense to you. And I encourage people to read the piece in its entirety.
Department of Natural Resources: The major criticism of the DNR under Walker from environmentalists is essentially that it's too friendly to business and is reluctant to strongly enforce laws designed to protect the environment.
We think that's an unfair assessment. The approach under Walker and DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp is different but not necessarily weaker.
Yes, the DNR has referred fewer environmental cases to the Department of Justice under Walker: 24 in 2011; 34 in 2012 and 35 last year, according to DNR records. By comparison, in 2000, when Republican Gov. Tommy G. Thompson was governor, there were 61 cases sent to the attorney general. And during Democrat Jim Doyle's administration, the agency referred an average of 68 cases a year.
But that's not inherently a bad thing. Stepp's (and Walker's) approach is to have DNR employees work with businesses to get them to cooperatively solve whatever problem crops up. That can mean fewer costs for both the business and state taxpayers and, perhaps, quicker compliance. And making it easier for businesses to communicate with government officials, as is now the case, is actually a good thing.
But the DNR has to walk a fine line between cooperation and caving in. There have been a couple of disturbing cases in which the Walker administration appeared to bend over backward to accommodate a business. The DNR still must enforce the laws and make sure the environment is protected. We think for the most part the DNR is meeting that challenge.
Mining: Here we disagree with both candidates. Republicans pushed through legislation making it easier for Gogebic Taconite to build a $1.5 billion iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties. Burke says she opposes the proposed mine. But we think the mine could provide needed jobs in a particularly hard-pressed area of the state. And we believe such a mine could be built while preserving much of the area's natural beauty and restoring the area after the mine runs dry.
Where we take issue with Walker is the legislation used to entice the company, much of which was written with the help of the company's lobbyists and lawyers, to build in Wisconsin. We feel that legislation opens the door to unnecessary environmental damage. That was not only a mistake, it holds the potential for disaster for northern Wisconsin.
Posted by James Rowen at 6:11 PM
Posted by James Rowen at 9:08 AM
Thursday, October 23, 2014
I was hoping that Stingl would somehow weave in a reference to what has to be the most memorable story on these matters ever to appear in the old Milwaukee Journal.
That would be veteran medical reporter (and 2014 Milwaukee Press Club Hall of Fame Inductee this weekend) Neil Rosenberg's early 1990's expose of a surgical hair transplant doctor who'd enlisted the help of an assistant who lacked a medical license - - but did have a background in animal skinning and farm work.
I couldn't find the story on line. Maybe someone else can. I know this story ran because I remember someone in the newsroom singing a bit of "Mule Skinner Blues" as the story was being read.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:53 PM
So needing a target to run up his base's fear factor, he just swapped Milwaukee for Madison on the eve of this election.
Welcome to the Walker spin-and-grind machine, Madison.
Posted by James Rowen at 9:03 PM
“Would you rather have Rick Scott in Florida overseeing the voting mechanism, or Charlie Crist?” he asked. “Would you rather have Scott Walker in Wisconsin overseeing the voting mechanism, or would you rather have Mary Burke? Who would you rather have in Ohio, John Kasich or Ed FitzGerald?” he asked.
“The fact is it doesn’t matter if you don’t really care what happens in these states, you’re going to care about who is running the state in November of 2016, what kind of political apparatus they’ve set up and what kind of governmental apparatus they’ve set up to ensure a full and fair election in 2016,” he said. “All of those things are incredibly important.”Great that it is Walker pal Christie spilling the beans.
We need more such truthiness from our political leaders and the journalists who cover them.
Posted by James Rowen at 3:25 PM
Walker says Madison voters driven by angerMore self-parody from the politician who bragged about his divide-and-conquering strategy still very much alive that tapped into and ginned up anger at public employees.
Posted by James Rowen at 2:44 PM
October 23, 2014
Wisconsin Game Farm Owner Sentenced for Commercializing Migratory Birds
A Wisconsin game farm owner is now a felon due to his illegal commercialization of snow geese. United States Attorney James L. Santelle, announced that on October 20, 2014, Todd David Doughty, age 50, owner of the “Thunderbird Game Farm” in Chilton, Wisconsin, was sentenced to five years probation, ordered to pay a $5,000 fine, and had his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges revoked for five years by Chief United States District Court Judge William C. Griesbach.
According to the plea agreement and other documents filed with the court, Doughty illegally engaged in the sale of sausage containing snow goose, a migratory bird. While sentencing the defendant, Chief Judge Griesbach noted a litany of past wildlife offenses which, “spoke to the defendant’s character” and his “disregard for wildlife laws” which necessitated the lengthy revocation of hunting privileges. As a convicted felon, Doughty will never again legally possess a firearm for any purpose.
As with many wildlife offenders like Doughty, there is a backstory and there are years of illegal behavior factored into a given court proceeding. In this case, Doughty implicated himself by inadvertently tipping off investigators through side activities related to his game farm operation and lodge in Wisconsin. The larger U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigation started because of some concerned members of the public and the follow up of game wardens in Wisconsin, Nebraska and Kansas.
“This case is an example of a best case scenario, where engaged citizens and conservation agencies from multiple states work together with our partners in federal wildlife conservation law enforcement,” noted Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Chief Warden Todd Schaller.
In 2007, local game wardens from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources followed up on a couple strange reports of dead owls found along the road in a garbage bag. Wardens reached out to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agent and turned over 13 dead long-eared owls that appeared to have been shot.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory, based in Ashland, Oregon, analyzed the owls and determined the cause of death to be birdshot, the type of ammunition commonly used in pheasant hunting. The agent on the case noticed that Thunderbird Game Farm was just down the road from the places where the dead owls were first found. After combining that evidence with information received from other states, the Service began an undercover operation to learn more about Doughty and his game farm operation. The agent, with the assistance of the Wisconsin Conservation Wardens, uncovered an illegal operation built around commercializing snow geese, white-tailed deer and other waterfowl as processed sausage at Doughty's lodge.
“Congress directed us to stop systematic decimation of bird populations back in the early ¬1900s, because they saw the consequences of this kind of greed on a nationwide scale. While we are disheartened that people like Doughty are continuing this behavior, we are pleased to have stopped him,” said Pat Lund, Resident Agent in Charge for Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Missouri.
As for the original illegal activity that first alerted the public and state game wardens, the undercover elements of this investigation went on to document Doughty’s statements that showed that he routinely shot owls, hawks and other predators that he found at his captive pheasant hunting lodge. His predator control measures were extensive and illegal.
This case was investigated by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Daniel R. Humble.
For more information on the Midwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service visit http://midwest.fws.gov.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.
Connect with our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usfwmidwest, follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwsmidwest, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page athttp://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwsmidwest.-----------
Posted by James Rowen at 12:44 PM
And props to the Madison Capital Times for leading its state debate roundup today with the Racine paper's editorial and crediting the Journal Sentinel for first reporting the machinations that got the group before Randa.
Call it a mainstream media Tinkers to Evers to Chance.
I'd add that Wisconsin also faces a justice fairness problem larger than judge shopping: the long-term leasing through millions of big business dollars in donations of a majority's biases on the State Supreme Court.
It reflects what US Sen. Elizabeth Warren recently called the anti-democratic rigged political game, which I'd analyzed a few days ago citing the state supreme court majority's ties to big business.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:15 PM
Take a look at all of PolitiFact's Walker findings and note how many involve numbers he gets wrong or uses inaccurately.
A flub here or there, OK.
But this is a pattern. Statistical incompetence, ignorance, or voter manipulation?
We ask these questions because, well, there goes again:
PolitiFact on Wednesday did a superb job explaining Walker's false use of data in the last debate with challenger Mary Burke:
SCOTT WALKER "The next state budget will begin with a surplus of over half a billion dollars -- $535 million to be exact." As of now, a "structural deficit" is projected.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:41 AM
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Republican Dan Sebring, who is running for the fourth time against Gwen Moore (D-WI) for her seat in the House of Representatives, said that the [voter ID suspension] ruling “stinks,” while the Republican candidate for Attorney General, Brad Schimel, called it “bad news”—prompting the whole crowd to boo the high court.
Posted by James Rowen at 9:38 PM
A national procurement expert said Wednesday that inside information on a county real-estate deal provided by top Milwaukee County officials to the treasurer of Gov. Scott Walker's gubernatorial campaign was "highly unethical" and made a "fraud of the entire process."
Posted by James Rowen at 8:13 PM
Posted by James Rowen at 6:56 PM
This January I hope to form Wisconsin's first ever Sportsmen's Caucus. It is my hope that my fellow legislators on both sides of the aisle will heed the call and join the movement so that Wisconsin can benefit from the leadership of the National Assembly of Sportsmen's Caucuses.
Wisconsin has a long-established tradition of hunting and fishing. It is time we honor that tradition by joining the national conversation.My reactions:
* Somebody's itching to go to some meetings in picture-postcard locales and get on the national stage, too.
* "Sportsmens" and "Sportsman" mask a lot of violence, and are archaically sexist - - especially since the DNR and some groups are pushing female participation to combat a decline in hunting.
* If Kleefisch really wants to Wisconsin to be part of some national conversation, he's going to get an earful from people who are tired of Wisconsin's noisy, bloody, politically-connected wolf and bear hunting, and are tired also of Kleefisch's mono-manical fascination with killing animals.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:13 PM
To refute Walker's claim, I listed specifics with links - - from toxic oil and gasoline pipeline breaks to frac sand mining spills to illegal human fecal matter spreading violations to airborne and ground water pollution from big dairies, and more.
So props to aggrieved and concerned citizens and environmental groups which are now asking the feds to intervene - - following dismissive health and safety enforcement and intentional regulatory withdrawal by Walker's "chamber-of-commerce" DNR - - and force Wisconsin to clean up where the mess is pressing and dangerous - - big-dairy manure pollution of drinking water.
But it is outrageous that when state government puts special interest and corporate benefits above the taxpayers' health and the common environment's well-being, taxpayers have to spend their own money to force the state to do the job it is supposed to be doing everyday on taxpayers' behalf.
Posted by James Rowen at 11:41 AM
Like when became the guy who ran for Governor in 2010 on a stupid, unforced failed-and-broken 250,000 new-jobs-promise, and still isn't halfway to that total while neighboring states are leaving Wisconsin behind.
The same guy who got caught benefiting from a secret $700,000 donation routed from a well-connected mining company to his 2012 recall campaign by a third party group with which his campaign was not supposed to be coordinating such things.
You'd think Walker and his allies would be the last politicos who'd throw the coordinating term around.
The Republican Party of Wisconsin said it filed an open-records request with Abele's office Tuesday, calling the release a "slimy political stunt" involving "directly coordinating messaging" between Abele's office and the campaign of Democrat Mary Burke.
Posted by James Rowen at 9:01 AM
The Wisconsin Republican spoke to a gathering of about 10 Viterbo students Thursday afternoon.File under #goner2016.
Posted by James Rowen at 1:17 AM
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
The ride lasted for Dad almost 30 years as reporter, columnist, business editor and eventually Ass't. Managing Editor, Finance.
Best little personal memory: I visited Dad at his newsroom in the mid-80's after I'd joined the Milwaukee Journal staff. Ben waved me into his office, threw his arm around me and said "Congratulations, Jimmy. You finally found honest work."
Posted by James Rowen at 8:23 PM
OUR VIEW | JOBSWe sure didn't see the newspaper telegraph this kind of whatever shoulder-shrugging in 2010, when it led its crucial Walker endorsement editorial this way:
Gov. Scott Walker's false promise of job growth isn't that big of a deal
Scott Walker has said repeatedly during his campaign for governor that he will develop strategies to create 250,000 new jobs during his first term.
It's a big promise - one that has been derided by his critics. But for the sake of Wisconsin, Walker had better be right."Not that big of a deal."
When Walker is this wrong?
Posted by James Rowen at 2:36 PM
Despite creating two, two-year budgets laden with pro-business entitlements, stage-managing the Legislature, setting up and chairing his floundering and dysfunctional WEDC jobs agency, mocking Illinois and sending Rebecca Kleefisch there to try and convince corporations that "open for business" borders signs are a development plan, Wrong-Way Walker's new jobs numbers over the last year trail Illinois' - - ouch, #BeckyFail - - and most other Midwestern states.
From the Federal data, Table D, jobs added in the previous 12 months:
Illinois - - 69,000
Indiana - - 59,600
Minnesota - - 50,700
Wisconsin - - 41,800
Michigan - - 32,700
Iowa - - 22,100
So the challenge for Walker and his PR people is spin away from "We're 4th of 6," "We Cleaned Iowa's Clock," "At This Rate, 250,000 Is A Pipe Dream," and "Ha, Ha, Illinois Only Beat Us By 60%!"
I cannot confirm that the Walker spin team operative who thought Wisconsin could be bumped into the top half by including Mississippi, (14,300 new jobs) as a Midwestern state because it shares the Mississippi River with Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota was re-assigned to Kleefisch's staff.
And trust me, that staff needs help. On her official Lt. Gov. web site, the Wisconsin face of business development is featured in a "Blueprint for Prosperity" video that has been up since January and has garnered all of 164 views on You Tube - - where some genius thought to promote it.
And though the data show otherwise, she's touted on her campaign web site as a key figure in Wisconsin job creation:
Widely credited for coining the phrase, “Wisconsin is Open for Business”, Rebecca immediately played a key role in business growth and retention for Wisconsin – cold-calling Illinois businesses that, in turn, relocated to Wisconsin, and nimbly responding to businesses looking for support.
Rebecca serves as Wisconsin’s “Jobs Ambassador’ and spearheads the Governor’s Small Business Summits, listening and input sessions held all over the state. She chaired the Governor’s Sub Cabinet on Workforce Investment that developed the “Wisconsin Working” plan, designed to connect the unemployed to jobs, encourage the hiring of veterans and address Wisconsin’s graying manufacturing workforce.
Posted by James Rowen at 1:29 PM
In Zone 2, the kill is nearly double the published quota of 15. Maybe the 24 hours the DNR gives hunters and trappers to report their handwork is excessive, as it can delay a zone closing while the quota is broken.
Why 24 hours? How about 12? Everyone has a cellphone these days and can get within range in less than 24 hours.
Unless the DNR firmly closes the two remaining open zones early, and lowers those zones' quotas, the final tally would be 163, or nearly ten percent higher than the agreed-upon 150.
The WI wolf kill totals in the two previous seasons also exceeded the established quotas by seven.
Zone Quota Harvest Zone Status 1 32 37 Closed 2 15 29 Closed 3 40 2 Open 4 8 5 Closed 5 20 17 Closed 6 35 1 Open Total 150 91
Is this a DNR back-door method of raising the kill to satisfy some hunters who might resort to poaching for their satisfaction?
Or is the agency just catering to a constituency?
Posted by James Rowen at 1:26 AM