Wednesday, April 1, 2015

WI GOP, serving Walker and donors, sinks to new depth

After the Act 10 bomb, after Walker's two-faced embrace of 'right-to-work,' and a host of other legislative and policy sops to corporations and developers, comes this sneaky new hit to working-and-middle-class laborers' wages in Wisconsin by legislators gerrymandered into near-perpetual power:
Prevailing wage repeal may be tucked into state budget

Walker, DNR have no plan to stem Green Bay pollution

Before you read further about the predictable, willful and expanding pollution of Green Bay, remember that all Wisconsin waters belong by right to all the people for their use and enjoyment - - held in trust for the public by Article IX of the Wisconsin State Constitution - - incorporating legal principles predating statehood back to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, and even earlier.

Rights affirmed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Rights managing as a constitutional obligation for the public by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, it says.

But Green Bay's water have an expanding dead zone from a known, preventable source, enabled in part because state government has a dead moral and policy zone also from a known source in the DNR - - agency that ought to be fighting hard in the public interest to do its job and help save Green Bay.

The dead zone in Green Bay's waters is caused by phosphorus from dairy herd runoff and other sources, and yes, its origins began before Scott Walker put his  "chamber-of-commerce mentality" atop the DNR to serve corporate interests and donors.

But they've worked hard to create a dead zone in the agency by doing with the phosphorous threat what they have done with other forces menacing the state's waters, wetlands and environment:

As little as possible, as the Journal Sentinel notes:
New regulations will not be coming from state regulators, said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp.
Of course not. When it comes to Green Bay's expanding stagnation, our do-as-little-as-it-can DNR is falling back on the shallowest of ineffective bureaucratic approaches - - some meetings here, some encouragement to other agencies to pick up the ball there - - while at the same time green-lighting more and bigger industrial-scale dairy operations and farm fertilizing through airborne manure spraying.

All of which adds contaminates that get into rivers, streams and lakes which the DNR is supposed to manage in the public interest on a trust basis for the people.

Add to this mess the culpability of the GOP-led Legislature, also doing Walker's bidding, which took an existing  phosphorous control and reduction plan hammered out with business sector participation, and implemented in 2009 and intentionally weakened it last year by granting to some big phosphorous dischargers another twenty years to comply.

If you look at the implications of the GOP's gerrymandered legislating, it's possible that the dead zone in Green Bay will be improved by the intervention of federal clean water rules and regional cooperation before the dead zone in the State Legislature and the DNR is fixed.

Remember that Walker's budget proposes removing citizen oversight of the DNR and strengthening the hand of the Governor and his political appointees to ignore the public interest.

Walker's jobs agency models failure, and one product

The product is a revolving door.

The failure.

The bigger picture.

In Bizarro America, Wal-Mart is the face of gender equality

How far to the right has the GOP lurched in thrall to its fundamentalist, Tea Party activists who, if they could, would secede from the rest of the country and 21st century American culture?

So far to the right that Wal-Mart has stepped up to lead a turn-around in state politics there on behalf of gender-equality.

Arkansas doesn't want to be dragged down into Indiana's mud.

Scott Walker still needs to be pinned down on whether he would sign an Indiana-style, discriminatory measure that would conflict with the spirit of Wisconsin's first-in-the-nation law granting legal protections in the workplace to gays and lesbians.

Walker was allowed to walk away on the 'right-to-work' issue, only to embrace a measure he said he'd oppose, and has turned into a border Minuteman on immigration, so media need to demand concrete answers on major matters, now.

Relevant Tweet of the week:
Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration act is gay discrimination, pure and simple. You can frost a dog turd, but it's still a dog turd.

Known UW opponent pranks Internet with fake 4/1 support

America needs big, bold leadership & that's why I'm supporting Coach Ryan & the Saturday.- SKW
74 retweets74 favorites

Wisconsin wolf advocate interviews documentary filmmaker

Props to Douglas County blogger and Wisconsin wolf advocate Rachel Tilseth for scoring an interview with filmmaker Julia Huffman as her documentary "Medicine of the Wolf" is scheduled for its April 11th world premier.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Whaaaaat? Scott Walker accused of breaking fund-raising law?

The New York Times reports that Walker and three other 2016 presidential hopefuls' unofficial campaigns are already running afoul of fundraising laws:
 ...two leading campaign finance groups charged on Tuesday that the spread of these unofficial campaigns in recent months was not only deceptive, but also illegal.
The groups, the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, filed formal complaints with the Federal Election Commission against four undeclared candidates for president: Jeb BushScott Walker and Rick Santorum, all Republicans; and Martin O’Malley, a Democrat...
...those four have been particularly aggressive in appearing at fund-raisers, visiting crucial states like Iowa and New Hampshire, hiring staff members and setting up offices, and positioning themselves for a possible bid, Paul S. Ryan, a lawyer for the center, said in an interview. 
Not Walker. I'm sure he learned his lesson.

Who do you think he is - - Kelly Rindfleisch?



Walker's discrimination flip-flop

It seems that presidential wanderlust brings out the worst in some Wisconsin GOP governors, current and past. (Lee Sherman Dreyfus, excepted).

Remember when former Gov. Tommy Thompson said during his fifteen minutes of presidential politicking in 2007 that employers should be allowed to fire employees over sexual orientation - - then had to recant that position, because, among other things, it conflicted with Wisconsin law he had enforced as Governor?

But said the question confused him because he was distracted by a bad hearing aid battery and the need for a bathroom break?

True story.

Now it's Scott Walker's turn for a flip-flop on the issue - - what is it with Wisconsin's GOP leaders, anyway? - - though in Walker's case, he's moving backwards towards enabling sexual orientation discrimination.

Walker used to tout Wisconsin's first-in-the-nation legal protections for gay and lesbian workplace rights - - the protections which Thompson forgot - -  when endorsing Wisconsin law to oh-so-cleverly "balance" out Wisconsin's marriage equality ban, Salon.com notes:
Walker, that erstwhile champion of a “healthy balance” — a little inequality here, a little equality there — is now lending his support to Indiana’s discriminatory law. Asked for the governor’s position on the measure, Walker press secretary AshLee Strong told CNN on Sunday, “As a matter of principle, Gov. Walker believes in broad religious freedom and the right for Americans to exercise their religion and act on their conscience.”
In other words, marriage discrimination, OK - - workplace discrimination, No - - even-steven, let's move on.

But now through his calculated, pandering silence I wrote about yesterday, Walker is giving cover to Indiana's ugly step backwards to help out fellow right-wing ideologue Mike Pence, the Hoosier state Governor.

Walker should be forced to say if he'd sign an Indiana-style law and overturn nearly 35 years of inclusive, fair-minded, modern Wisconsin practice.

UW staff cuts, a/k/a Walker's WI 'Idea," expand to more campuses

The historical Wisconsin Idea was the application of knowledge for the greater good - - "sifting and winnowing" to get to the truth and its public benefits.

Walker's still-not-corrected Wisconsin Idea, or "drafting error," [Sic] attacks the original, cuts the UW schools' budgets, and dumbs-down the notion of searching science - - so now four of the campuses are responding by offering buyouts to staff who will take their knowledge, experience and productivity elsewhere.

The original Wisconsin Idea was supposed to benefit Wisconsin.

Walker's perverse rewrite will benefit other states.

On, Wisconsin?  Nope. On, Minnesota, Iowa, Stanford, Yale, etc.

Stalled Waukesha water plan review hitting fifth anniversary

Wednesday, April 8th, is the five-year anniversary of the Waukesha Common Council's adoption of the Waukesha Water Utility's application for a precedent-setting diversion of Lake Michigan water out of the Great Lakes Basin.

But rein in your optimism if you think the application's implementation after all that time is just around the corner.


Though the city is facing a June, 2018 court-approved deadline to provide customers with a cleaner water supply, delays and missed deadlines - - accompanied by inaccurate progress estimates - - have pushed that projected compliance date to the summer of 2020, and there is no "plan B," according to a City of Waukesha document which The Journal Sentinel prompted and cited:

Waukesha will be unable to comply with a court-ordered deadline of June 2018 to provide radium-safe water to its customers and will ask for an extension of at least two additional years, city officials concede in a memo prepared in response to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel inquiry.
Back to the history.

The application was forwarded in the spring of 2010 by Waukesha officials to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, (an agency dedicated website, here), for the beginning of its detailed review, but the application and documentation have needed so many revisions that even Scott Walker's laissez-faire DNR has yet to finish its review.


If, and more likely, when the DNR says the application is up to snuff, it becomes the agency and the State of Wisconsin's job to sell it across the Great Lakes region and navigate hurdles that will include:


* Public hearings and comment periods likely to prompt more revisions:


* Reviews in the other seven Great Lakes states; unanimous approval of an application for a diversion of water outside of the Great Lakes basin under a two-nation legal Compact is required before a diversion can begin.


* Convincing those other states that Waukesha's intention to send water beyond its current boundaries to undeveloped areas, and to nearby municipalities with no known water shortages or diversion applications of their own - - what I have called the application's weakest link - - can be allowed under the Compact agreement, principally a water conservation and management document.


* Consultation that agreement on an advisory basis with two Canadian provinces and First Nation tribes there because the US and Canada have combined management responsibilities over all five Great Lakes.

Remember that a legally-simpler application for a diversion of an amount of water smaller than what Waukesha is seeking ran into harsh, advisory criticism several years ago from several of the other states, and from environmental organizations with institutional credibility and expertise which raised substantive concerns.


Wisconsin on Waukesha's behalf should expect no less.


Here is some of that history.

Litigation is a possibility, either in Wisconsin, or elsewhere. Litigation could potentially add years to a final diversion decision and also add risk to the viability of the Compact agreement, which, for now, guarantees that water cannot be moved out of the Great Lakes basin to thirsty jurisdictions beyond a county whose borders, like Waukesha's, touches the basin boundary.


So keep that all in mind, with this reminder, and some highlights:


June 9, 2010: 
State officials on Tuesday returned Waukesha’s application to buy Lake Michigan water, saying the city has not exhausted its studies of alternative water sources.
April 8, 2010: 
The Waukesha Common Council placed the city's search for a radium-free water supply into the hands of Wisconsin and the other seven Great Lakes states on Thursday when it agreed to ask those states for permission to buy Lake Michigan water.
January 29, 2010:
Waukesha Water Utility General Manager Dan Duchniak said the DNR has agreed to work with the city's proposed timetable to move the application through the approval process by the end of the year....

If the city completes the impact study by June, Duchniak and Nelson said they are optimistic of gaining Wisconsin's permission for a diversion by July.
May 21, 2009: 
...Waukesha Mayor Larry Nelson confirmed that Waukesha will forward a diversion application by the end of this year...
April 26, 2008: 
...in its two confidential applications for Lake Michigan made to Gov. Jim Doyle in 2006, Waukesha sought 24 million gallons daily, suggesting that it expects its population to increase along with its total water needs.


Six ex-DNR Secretaries oppose Walker power grab

Six former Secretaries of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources have signed a public statement opposing Scott Walker's surprise budget initiative to fundamentally remake the department's citizen policy oversight board into an advisory body.

That would vest more power over DNR policies and programs in the Governor's "chamber of commerce mentality," political appointees who run the agency.

The letter was released by the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, (WWF). I will post the text below.

Here is the WWF release:
-----------------------------------------------------------------

                              Wisconsin Wildlife Federation

April 2, 2015

Contact: George Meyer, Executive Director, 608-616-5545


All Former DNR Secretaries Endorse Current Authority for the Natural Resource Board 

Columbus: In an unprecedented letter of unity, all six former living DNR Secretaries endorsed that the Natural Resources Board should retain its current authority over the Department of Natural Resources. The former Secretaries careers span 36 years of leadership from 1975 through 2011 and represent Secretaries that served under both Republican and Democratic Governors and served as both Board appointed and Governor appointed Secretaries. The Secretaries are Anthony Earl (also a former Governor), Bruce Braun (Deputy Secretary under the late Secretary Buzz Besadny), George Meyer, Darrell Bazzell, Scott Hassett and Matt Frank. The letter was sent to the Chairs of the Joint Finance Committee:

Dear Senator Darling and Representative Nygren:

The state budget that is presently before the Joint Finance Committee proposes to change state law by removing the decision-making authority of the Natural Resources Board and making it solely advisory to the Department of Natural Resources Secretary.

The below signed individuals served as Secretaries of the Department of Natural Resources from 1975 until 2011 (36 years). The group includes Secretaries that served in Republican and Democratic Administrations and as Board-appointed and Governor-appointed Secretaries. We have worked very closely for and with the Natural Resources Board over those years and have direct first-hand knowledge of its operations and value.

We all agree that the Natural Resources Board should be retained as the decision-making body for the Department of Natural Resources. As presently constituted the Board provides immeasurable value for Wisconsin citizens and the natural resources of the state.

The Board provides an extremely valuable function as a major gateway for average citizens to directly impact all forms of natural resource management. This is done through citizen appearances at the monthly Natural Resources Board meetings and through the thousands of individual citizen communications that Board members receive each year and bring to bear in their decision-making process. 
Secondly, we all have benefited from having the direct input from the highly respected conservationists that have served on the Board during our tenures. Natural resource decision-making is often complex and controversial and we found it very valuable to have the ideas and direction of these individuals in making decisions. The Board as decision-makers brings the perspective of average citizens to the table and is valuable in molding agency decisions to be less bureaucratic and workable for the average citizen.
It has been set forth by some that removing the Natural Resources Board as the decision-making body will increase accountability for agency decisions for Wisconsin citizens. In fact, having the open process of monthly meetings of the Natural Resources Board as a decision-making body where average citizens can comment and bring forth any issue regarding the agency problems is a far higher level of accountability for Wisconsin citizens.
Lastly, we believe that if the Natural Resources Board is changed to an advisory body, the state will lose the high level of individuals that have historically served on the Board and that their “advice” will be easily dismissed at the discretion of the Secretary.

Sincerely yours,

Anthony S. Earl                                   Bruce Braun                                George Meyer
 DNR Secretary                   Deputy Secretary to C.D. Besadny             DNR Secretary
   1975-1982                                          1982-1993                                     1993-2001

 Darrell Bazzell                                     Scott Hassett                                 Matt Frank 
 DNR Secretary                                    DNR Secretary                            DNR Secretary
   2001-2003                                            2003-2007                                   2007-2011

Monday, March 30, 2015

Barrett strong vs. Indiana bias law; Walker ducks

Proud of our Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett for his solid public statement against the Indiana 'free-to-discriminate' law roiling the nation. Barrett knows true March Madness when he sees it, as he said in a Journal Sentinel op-ed:
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed legislation that invites discrimination based on the discriminator's religious beliefs. State law there explicitly sides with religious extremists over the civil rights of gays, lesbians or others who do not embrace the religious views of those empowered to discriminate... 
Other states are considering Indiana-style discrimination justified on religious grounds. Arkansas appears close to enacting a similar law. Wisconsin would be wrong to follow. 
Our state should be more welcoming to people whose race, sexuality or religion differs from the majority. That is good for business, and, far more important, it is the just thing to do.
Further embarrassed by our part-time Governor and full-time presidentially-politicking-and-pandering Scott Walker, who ducked the obvious question and all its moral and leadership implications:  
On Indiana's new conscience law, which critics say would allow businesses to discriminate against gay and lesbian people, among others, on religious grounds, Walker said he was not aware of any move to follow suit in Wisconsin but declined to say whether he would sign such a measure if it did.
Maybe Walker's got Florida on his mind?

His feigned disinterest reminds me of what he had to say about the 'right-to-work' law he didn't have any interest in before he recently and enthusiastically signed it:
"From our standpoint, it's never going to get to me," said Walker... "It's not going to get to my desk. I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure it isn't there."
And ducked questions about why he'd 'changed his mind.'   
Walker's spokeswoman said he would sign it...Walker walked past reporters, declining to answer questions, at a National Governors Association meeting Friday in Washington.


Sierra Club is right: repeal sweetheart WI iron mining bill

This is exactly correct. And the Legislature should also repeal that equally-offensive and insider-driven companion bill that closed for the mining company's benefit a lot of forest land near the now-abandoned project site.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                                                                                              March 30, 2015

Contact:     Dave Blouin, Sierra Club Mining Committee Chair (608) 220-4040  
                   Elizabeth Ward, Sierra Club Conservation Programs Coordinator (608) 256-0565

Sierra Club Calls for Repeal of GTac’s Iron Mining Law  
                                                                                                                                                                                
Madison:        The Sierra Club today renewed its call on the Wisconsin Legislature to repeal 2013 Act 1, the comprehensive gutting of environmental protections written by Gogebic Taconite to enable its now-abandoned mine proposal.  2013 Act 1, the ferrous or iron mining law, should be repealed in its entirety since the company is not pursuing permits.

The iron mining law (state statutes Chapter 295, Subchapter III) is based entirely on the scientific falsehood that iron mining cannot cause acid mine drainage caused by the presence of sulfide minerals. Numerous independent geologic studies have proven that there are significant quantities of sulfide minerals in the Penokees at the proposed Gogebic Taconite (GTac) mine site.  This fact proves that the reductions of environmental protections along with severe limits on the public’s right to participate and challenge permits were unjustified.    

“GTac has abandoned its proposal after demanding certainty in permitting that only this law could give it.  That fact gives the legislature a rare opportunity to fix the huge mistake it made when it approved such damaging legislation based on false information.  GTac lied to the public and the legislature to get its way and made a lot of promises it couldn’t keep.  Let’s fix this law now before the next fly-by-night company shows up.” said Dave Blouin, John Muir Chapter Mining Committee Chair

The ferrous mining law was overwhelming opposed at each public hearing in the legislature by thousands of state residents. More than 75 statewide, local and national conservation and environmental organizations including the Sierra Club, Wisconsin Resources Protection CouncilTrout Unlimited, the Wisconsin Association of Lakes, the Izaak Walton League of Wisconsin, the River Alliance of Wisconsin, the Penokee Hills Education Project, the Mining Impact Coalition of Wisconsin, Clean Wisconsin, the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters and the Natural Resources Defense Council opposed the legislation.   Polling showed that the law was opposed by a majority of state residents.

The ferrous mining law established broad and comprehensive reductions in environmental protections and citizen involvement to enable the proposal.  Amongst the most egregious, is the fact that the law established that the destruction of wetlands through mining, and for dumping wastes into, was presumed necessary. The law also broadly reduced protections for lakes, streams, groundwater, and air. Repealing 2013 Act 1 would have no effect on regulation of future iron mining as it would reestablish protections and regulation of iron mining that were in the current metallic mining law.  That law was crafted and intended to regulate iron mining when it was originally approved by the legislature.   
###

Founded in 1892 by John Muir, the Sierra Club is America’s oldest, largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization. The Sierra Club’s mission is to explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth.  The Sierra Club – John Muir Chapter is made up of 15,000 members and supporters working to promote clean energy and protect water resources in Wisconsin.

Walker could step aside after his budget for full-time campaign

Just a hunch, but after reading this interesting Politico.com profile which fleshes out Walker's heightened commitment to campaigning, and understanding that his major primary rival Jeb Bush can put in as many hours a day campaigning as he wants, I wouldn't be surprised to see Walker announce he'd heard the Calling and resigns after his all-in/deeply-reactionary/scorched-earth budget is signed.

Then he can go flat-out on the campaign trail, be anywhere and everywhere his jets can take him, freed from any responsibility or distraction or potential fund-raising conflict in or about the governorship of the State of Wisconsin.

Scott (a/k/a Regular Joe) Walker a Palm Beach, FL regular

The Sunday New York Times featured Palm Beach, FL, "a tropical paradise for the 1 percent."

Never been there, but I see that while Scott Walker hawks an Everyman, blue-collarish persona, he's been in Palm Beach courting power-brokers and big donors several times, including:

March 22, 2015.

February 28, 2015.

February 28, 2014.

February 14, 2014.

March 14, 2012.

April 8, 2011. (Accompanied, reported the Capital Times, to an appearance before a Rush Limbaugh-hosted event by his ex-Milwaukee County Deputy Chief of Staff, and since-convicted John Doe I felon, Kelly Rindfleish)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Will high-end golf courses help Wisconsin's poor economy?

In the battle by the Kohler Co. to build another of its fancy golf courses - - this one along the shores of Lake Michigan in the Town of Wilson south of Sheboygan,

it's noteworthy that local opponents, making progress playing David to the region's Goliath, are also standing their advertising ground (page nine, zoom in) ahead of important, April 7th local town board elections.

The fight over the golf course is certainly a local issue led by local citizens, and has generated some statewide environmental concern because the site is in a forested, wetlands-rich 247-acre nature preserve right at Lake Michigan (see above) and an adjoining state park.

The current plan has the golf course, clubhouse and parking lot sharing a narrow access road to the state park.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, which operates the park, has a team working with the developer to move the project along, though no construction permits have been filed with the DNR or the US Army Corps of Engineers.

But environmental issues aside, the proposal has a broader political context because another developer wants a financial boost - - Tax Incremental Financing dollars - - from the state for a big golfing project in Adams County.

Given the existing high-end golf courses already here, Is growth in that market a sure bet, given golf's overall decline nationally, not to mention the state's stagnant job-creation and low-wage economy?

Are more high-end golf courses sited with the blessing of the state to principally serve upscale users a smart approach to improving Wisconsin's mediocre economy?

Note also that the key figure in the Adams County golf development is a Walker/GOP donor - - as is Herb Kohler, Jr. - - so the issues are definitely wrapped up in special-interest politics.


Gender discrimination and the costs of ideology

The New York Times is reporting that Indiana officials are working to "clarify" a recently-passed 'religious freedom law' that could allow businesses to deny service on religious grounds to customers perceived to be gay or lesbian.

We've seen all sorts of alleged clarifications aimed to clean up various political missteps - - 'walking back' is the favored non-denial denial. of late - - and Wisconsin got a dose of "drafting error" to explain away Walker's still-not-repaired budget attack on the long-established University of Wisconsin public service mission.

But I'm not sure how Indiana gets itself out of the damaging ideological trap it dug for itself at the expense of the First Amendment on behalf of its right-wing, Tea Party constituencies.

Indiana, home to the Final Four, or Indiana, the Discrimination Light state?

When Indiana fully stops digging this nasty hole, taxpayers there are going to wish their losses - - all told - - could have stopped at the $1.1 million it just cost Wisconsin taxpayers to finally settle the consequences of having inserted and then defended. at state expense, language in the Wisconsin Constitution that enabled discrimination against same-sex couples.

How a bridge led to development in Milwaukee

I appreciate Tom Daykin's big-picture look at the continuing burst of development, including housing, on the near South side associated with water research and technology investments.

The photo accompanying the story shows the award-winning Sixth Street Bridge - - so beautiful that I once had to redirect some tourists on Wisconsin Ave. away from it because they thought they thought they were heading for the Calatrava Art Museum pedestrian bridge.

The old Sixth Street Viaduct which the bridge replaced was a flat, single-purpose interstate-highway style concrete span built to move commuters above the Menomonee River Valley; the new bridge, designed at the insistence of then-Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist (I was in the meetings) over the objections of the Thompson administration and its DOT at the time.

Norquist wanted a more functional, urban-friendly bridge that came down gracefully to the Valley floor, thus opening the land and water there to greater access and development - - results visible now at the popular, commerce-generating destinations, including the Harley-Davidson Museum at Canal Street, then west past the Potawatomi complex, the Menomonee Valley Partners' multiple business and park initiatives - - a national model - - all the way paralleling the Henry Aaron State Trail to a final connection at Miller Park.

The long-delayed Milwaukee streetcar project should similar public and private-sector payoff.

I have been telling the story of the bridge since 2008, but it's a story still ignored by state planners fixed on highway expansion at the expense of city land, and the needs of pedestrians, bike riders and train passengers:
...Norquist prevailed, and the new bridge has won awards for its striking appearance. 
It also set off development in the newly, more-accessible Valley, and gave Harley-Davidson the option to locate its museum there. 
The struggle with the state and the eventual happy outcome proved that cities are more than land to be spanned. 
Get yourself onto the streets where there is commerce and culture. State road-planning shouldn't obstruct that essential definition of what a city is all about. 
And public structures can be functional and beautiful. There needn't be a contradiction there.

Scott Walker facts little known outside Wisconsin

[Updated Sunday, 3/29 from Saturday, 3/21. ] He stalked the stage and wowed the crowd at an Iowa Tea Party event less than two months ago and climbed so fast on the right wing's depth chart that before you could get a fix on Scott Walker, The New York Times was reporting he'd already had a makeover.

But you out there beyond Wisconsin - - what do you really know about the guy, and the faux, 'Regular Joe' line he's touting nationally?


[Tuesday, 11:00 a.m. update] - - Adding a link to a comprehensive investigative report on Walker by Michael Isikoff, Yahoo News, here.

Here are a few fun facts you outsiders might not know about Walker that Wisconsinites have learned the hard way:

About those emails:


*  Though he ripped Hillary Clinton for using a private email account, records show that Walker, his campaign staff and his official Milwaukee County staff also used a private email account in 2010 while he was Milwaukee County Executive.


The system ran through a private Internet router that was installed, used and then removed from Walker's office suite by Walker county staffers who were later convicted of felonious behavior that came to light after the secret system was discovered.


"Emails link Walker to secret email system," The Journal Sentinel headline and story noted.


* A Walker campaign spokeswoman had said in an email found among records unearthed in the prosecutorial probe that led to six convictions that the system served the campaign, or "the dark side;" a senior Walker county/taxpayer-paid administrator who said at the time she used the system to communicate with Walker and others also welcomed a since-convicted Walker aide to the system's "inner circle" and urged the aide to check the system often, records showed.

*  Records discovered in that investigation showed Walker and his 2010 gubernatorial campaign staff strategized to deflect from Walker, or the County, any potential responsibility for the fatal collapse of a 26,000-pound concrete slab at a county-owned-and-maintained parking garage built prior to Walker's election as County Executive in 2002.


* Separately, but in the same internal procedural vein, Walker, his campaign and his county staff worked to block the release of news about the filing of a federal civil rights lawsuit against the County by the family of a female patient who starved to death in the county's mental health complex. Emails also show a senior Walker county aide demeaning the victim.


* Walker's County chief of staff and the deputy chief of staff exchanged racist emails.


One of those emails echoed a racist posting found separately by federal authorities in official email accounts in Ferguson, Missouri. 


About The Tea Party:


*  While potential Walker rivals like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and others are routinely labeled "Tea Party" candidates, Walker is not, though he told CNN in 2013, "I am the original Tea Party in Wisconsin."


About truth-telling:


*  As of March 22, 2015, the Journal Sentinel's fact-checking service PolitiFact has examined 130 Walker statements. His most frequent rating is "false," totaling thirty-five, and added to ten more rated the most-dishonest, or "pants on fire," those forty-five findings are exactly triple the fifteen Walker statements rated fully "true."


* Sometimes Walker's mistakes are so ridiculous, so devoid of factual citation or foundation ridiculous that they sound like talk radio or bar talk.

*  Sometimes they are laughably infused with Walker's penchant for finger-pointing, like this example of a costly program Walker blamed on his predecessor, Jim Doyle, when the prpgram had actually been created by Doyle's predecessor, Republican Tommy Thompson - - with an affirmative vote cast by then-State Rep. Scott Walker.

* During large protests in and around the State Capitol building in Madison that gathered after Walker's sudden legislative initiative to strip public employees statewide of nearly all collective bargaining opportunities, Walker was taped saying he had considered planting provocateurs in the crowd. He did proceed not with the plan - - not because it was wrong, or illegal - - but because he was afraid that resulting negative media might force him compromise with the protesters, the transcript shows.


He made the disclosure, among other unsavory examples, to a blogger who had pretended on the call to be the right-wing funder David Koch whom Walker was eager to impress.

* Walker frequently tells national audiences various accounts of protesters having blocked, rocked, beaten on his state police-driven vehicle and endangered his life during an appearance in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Yet exhaustive efforts by La Crosse and Milwaukee media to document the episode - - from interviews, records searches and even the use of Google Earth - - have all failed.


His campaign-related autobiography "Unintimidated" also tells the story, and also recounts Walker reading to his staff a Top Ten list of ways you can spot a public employee, including:

It takes longer to fire you than the average killer spends on death row...You know by having a copy of the Holy Koran on your desk your job is 100% safe...You have a Democratic congressman’s lips permanently attached to your butt.
About creating jobs:

*  Walker promised repeatedly during his 2010 and 2012 gubernatorial campaigns that he and his conservative fiscal plans would create 250,000 private sector jobs in Wisconsin after one term in office. 


In September, 2014, following a string of disappointing official reports of slow, sluggish job growth in Wisconsin on Walker's watch, PolitiFact rated it a "promise broken."


*  In mid-March, 2015, as Walker was criss-crossing the country and claiming to have turned Wisconsin around, federal data was released showing Wisconsin's job-creation ranking among the states had fallen during the last full year analyzed to 40th place from 31st, with new jobs added at one-half the national rate.


* Numerous articles have been written about neighboring Minnesota's far better economy and job creation record during Walker's four years in office. There was recent testimony in the Wisconsin Legislature during its rush to pass so-called 'right-to-work' legislation that the bill - - now law through Walker's sudden change of heart about it - - would add to Wisconsin's relatively high bankruptcy filing total.


*  After his 2011 inauguration, Walker, touting the private sector model, abolished the Wisconsin Department of Commerce and replaced it with a public-private corporation, which he chairs, called the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, or WEDC. The job of the WEDC was to centralize state resources - - loans, grants, tax credits, federal pass-throughs, etc. - - for Wisconsin job-creation.


Since its beginnings, WEDC has been plagued by negative audits, multiple resignations by executive directors and chief financial officers, loans made inappropriately or beyond the ability of regulators to track them. A summary post is here


A Madison television station reported that 60% of WEDC loans went to Walker or GOP donors, and also reported that some WEDC financial aid went to businesses for job creation overseas.


Now, in late March, that focus has intensified.

* To make an ideological point in 2011, while also dissing President Obama and out-going Democratic WI Gov. Jim Doyle, Walker forfeited $800 million in Amtrak expansion funding to build a fast Midwest regional train line connecting Milwaukee and Madison, the state's two largest cities.

* Walker stance cost Wisconsinites thousands of rail line construction jobs over three years, has isolated the University of Wisconsin-Madison from rail connections to the University of Minnesota and all of Chicago, forced the closing of a train assembly plant and maintenance facility in a low-income, predominantly African-American Milwaukee neighborhood and transferred hundreds of millions of federal dollars in rail line and train assembly funding to other states, principally Illinois. A detailed posting about it all, here.

About being "Midwestern nice:"


* While claiming to be "Midwestern nice," a label gifted him by a conservative talk radio host, Walker, as Governor, has:


Blocked any increase in the Wisconsin wage above the federal floor of $7.25 per hour; has said he sees no value in having a minimum wage altogether; is proposing in his current budget now under legislative review to reduce a person's lifetime receipt of public assistance in Wisconsin from five years, total, to four; is also proposing that all adult assistance recipients be required to take and pass a urine screening for drugs to receive food stamps or medicaid; has turned down available federal funding to expand medicaid coverage in Wisconsin even though the state has had to spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to fill just part of the gap; and is proposing to upend and privatize existing home-care assistance and treatment coverage for the long-term disabled. Many links, here.


* While Walker says potential rival Jeb Bush will have access to the most GOP money, business media refer to Walker now as "king of Kochworld," and Michael Grebe, the top official at the heavyweight, Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation has served as chairman of Walker's 2010 gubernatorial campaign, co-chair of Walker's transition team, and chairman of Walker's successful 2012 recall campaign committee.


About some relationships with donors, and the environment:

*  Walker was among at least fifteen conservative activists and power brokers, including an official with the Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity, which met in 2007 somewhere "on the shores of Lake Michigan" to plan a GOP/Tea Party capture of Wisconsin, as has been reported, but not widely.


*  Walker signed the Koch brothers 'no climate change action' pledge in 2013.

*  Documents released by a Federal Court of Appeals in Chicago showed that Walker helped coordinate the donation of $700,000 from an iron mining company to a third-party, so-called independent group which he wanted to coordinate sympathetic messaging for his successful 2012 recall campaign and re-election. 


The iron mining company helped write a new iron mining law for Wisconsin that eased its ability to dig a massive open-pit iron mine in a water-rich range of hills in NW Wisconsin close to Lake Superior and very close to a Native American reservation where wild rice is grown on estuaries.


Walker had campaigned for the new mining bill and signed it into law. The mining plan has been suspended because the site contains even more water and wetlands than the company says it initially knew about, though a drop in iron ore prices, opposition from the nearby Ojibwa reservation, environmental and conservation-minded organizations were obstacles the mining plan could not overcome.


* One of Walker's very first actions as Governor spoke volumes about his approach to environmental protection. He got the Legislature to approve a special bill to suspend before completion an ongoing environmental review by the Department of Natural Resources so that one of his 2010 campaign donors - - a car dealer and developer - - could build a retail project for Bass Pro Shops, a destination fishing and outdoors retailer on a site that included a wetland close to Lambeau Field in Green Bay. 


Bass Pro Shops pulled out of the project when it became controversial, but once the wetland filling permission was granted by the Legislature and signed into law by Walker, Cabela's, another large outdoors merchandiser, built on the site.

* In the years that followed his inauguration, Walker installed what he called "a chamber-of-commerce mentality" atop the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, traditionally a science-based regulatory agency driven by citizen participation. Basically, Walker remade the DNR into something of a reconfigured Department of Commerce, of sorts, with a new business service division and pro-corporate attitude.


Through new laws, budgets and industry-friendly appointments, Walker cut the DNR staff, reduced citizen participation and policy oversight, and enabled relaxed agency pollution and reduced investigation and enforcement. The DNR is now selling 10,000 acres of public land and, with all state funds except for campaign and permit fees removed from parks operations in Walker's budget, the DNR may sell naming rights for the parks to corporate interests.


A summary posting, here.


About dropping out of college:


*  Much attention has been paid to Walker's departure from Marquette University before finishing his degree. Walker has said, variously, that he left school in his senior year, or a few credits short of graduation and did not return and finish his degree because he got married, then had children.

But PolitiFact established in a lengthy, setting-the-record-straight piece that Walker left Marquette in 1990 two credits short of attaining typical junior status. In 1988, Walker lost a hotly-contested race for student body president in which his campaign committee was sanctioned for rule violations.


Walker married in 1993, and his first child was born in 1994, by which time he had already run twice for the State Assembly (losing a run in the City of Milwaukee in 1990 to now-US Congresswoman Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee), before being elected to an assembly seat in a 1993 special election in the relatively-conservative Milwaukee suburb of the City of Wauwatosa, where he still lives.

About his faith:


* Media frequently note that Walker is the son of a Baptist preacher, which is correct. While the fact can efficiently help flesh out a Walker feature story, for the record - - Walker is a member of the non-denominational, Christian evangelical Meadowbrook Church, located in Wauwatosa.

Meadowbrook was founded in 1989 as one of thirteen "daughter," or spun-off, churches founded by Elmbrook Church, a fast-growing Christian, evangelical non-denominational mega-church in Waukesha County, according to its website.

* Walker says his faith has guided his life and decision-making. Here is one item, with an audio link to a Walker talk about it.

About the law:

*  Wisconsin is the land of famous environmentalists like John Muir, Aldo Leopold (Sand County Almanac), and Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson. Former Gov. Nelson shares with ex-GOP Governor Warren Knowles the founding inspiration of the state's signature, bi-partisan Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund, a public land acquisition and access program that reserves woodland, wetlands and shorelines for hikers, hunters and anglers.


But Walker, having already cut the program's funding, wants to suspend it through his new budget for thirteen years.


* He and his GOP allies changed Wisconsin wetlands law to make filling and encroachment easier. Developers openly crowed about their role in drafting the bill, even citing the behind-scenes work, and Walker signed the bill to a standing ovation at a  Realtors convention, the AP reported.


Walker served the same special interests when he backed legislation that severely restricted wind turbine citing in Wisconsin, while neighboring Iowa and Minnesota lead Wisconsin in green energy production and employment.


In fact, Walker's new budget which cuts early everything contains a fresh $250,000 to produce a 'study' proving that wind energy causes health problems. Somehow Iowa, Minnesota, Texas and other states have escaped the harm.

* Walker's DNR and Public Service Commission staffs now led by industry insiders or sympathizers are suing the US EPA over new federal clean air standards; Walker's DNR has stripped nearly all mention of climate change from its website and his current budget further reduces UW and DNR energy and environmental science. One posting, here with details.


* Walker's DNR is green-lighting the capacity expansion of a tar sands oil pipeline north-south across the entire state without a full environmental route of route, despite its proximity to Wisconsin farms and water supplies. To date, the DNR has only held a hearing on an air quality permit covering the firm's northern Wisconsin pumping station in Superior, WI, on the deepest of the Great Lakes shared with Canada, Lake Superior.

The pipeline, targeted to move more oil than the much-more-publicized Keystone XL, is owned by Enbridge, the same Canadian firm with a record of oil pipeline spills and construction damage in Wisconsin, Canada and other states


The New York Times put it this way: 

While the ire of environmental activists remains fixed on the Keystone XL pipeline, a potentially greater threat looms in the proposed expansion of Line 61, a pipeline running the length of Wisconsin carrying tar sands crude. The pipeline is owned by Enbridge, a $40 billion Canadian company, which has been responsible for several hundred spills in the past decade, including one in 2010 near Marshall, Mich., reportedly the largest and most expensive inland oil spill in American history. 
Enbridge is seeking to increase Line 61’s capacity threefold, making it a third larger than the projected Keystone XL. 
It is also same firm responsible for a catastrophic spill into the Kalamazoo River in neighboring Michigan that led to a one-billion-dollar-plus cleanup, the biggest inland spill event in US history. 

Walker made a campaign-style stop at the firm's northern Wisconsin pumping station in 2014 without mentioning the substantial environmental issues inherent in the pipeline expansion. 

* Walker supported an appeal to the US Supreme Court and won on March 23rd which approved Voter ID in state elections, but lost a separate bid to maintain state constitutional prohibitions against same-sex marriage. Both issues are staples of right-wing Republican and Tea Party ideology and agendas that use state power to disenfranchise and marginalize minority communities. 


* A bill he supported and signed into law that established onerous restrictions on Planned Parenthood clinics was blocked and slapped as unconstitutional by a federal judge in Wisconsin on Friday.


* Long before he began his pre-presidential campaigning, Walker had said that Diane Sykes, a very conservative federal appeals court judge in Chicago, would make a fine appointee of his to the US Supreme Court. were he ever President. 


Sykes, a former Wisconsin Supreme Court jurist, led a three-judge federal appeals court panel which ruled in favor of Wisconsin's controversial and restrictive Voter ID law, a Walker priority, only to see that ruling stayed by the US Supreme Court.


* As pressure mounted against the use of school and sports team logos, nicknames and mascots that Native Americans find degrading and offensive, Walker signed a bill into law that made it easier for Wisconsin schools to maintain and use such logos, nicknames and mascots. Walker said it was a First Amendment issue, a position castigated by experts.


* About all Wisconsin groups and individuals disrespected and manipulated for political reasons during Walker's term:

This one posting updated over the last half-year contains numerous links which catalog some of the aggrieved, fyi.

More later.