Saturday, May 23, 2015

Federal $$ for dubious WI Highway 23 expansion blocked

[Updated 9:59 p.m.] This blog has been following for years the outrageous attempt to build a costly expansion of State Highway 23 connecting Fond du Lac and Plymouth - - posts, for example here, and here.

Now we are learning about a huge win in Federal court against the use of federal funds to pay for the Highway 23 project, so hat tip to 1000 Friends of Wisconsin - - and here is the group's news release about it - - for sticking with the issue.

And we really need to learn a lot more about how this $146 million boondoggle found its way into the budget and the so-called "enumeration" process about 15 years ago by which road projects in Wisconsin are selected, as this news story disclosed:

The U.S. Eastern District Court on Friday halted a road project that would have expanded Highway 23 into a four-lane highway between Fond du Lac and Plymouth... 
According to the 26-page court decision by District Judge Lynn Adelman, an environmental impact statement released by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation failed to justify higher traffic volumes or explain how recently updated demographic data (slower growth projections) might affect traffic projections...
An internal DOT email quoted in the ruling states: "This project was placed in the budget by a certain legislator. That legislator either got the project into the budget in a trade for support or something else ... given that it happened behind closed doors and outside the (Transportation Projects Commission) there are no rules."
Note also the similarities in the ruling to Judge Adelman's earlier rulings in cases involvingWisDOT and its deficient planning and spending on State Highway 164 west of Milwaukee and on I-94 expansion in the Zoo Interchange at the Milwaukee County/Waukesha County border where WisDOT left out transit improvements for low-income residents with access to cars.

Strong Green Bay op-ed on Walker's 'hollowing out WI'

This one by UW-GB business professor Meir Russ is a keeper:
The hollowing-out of Wisconsin

...as predicted, the [Walker] policies accelerated the slide to a low-cost, low-wage economy while hurting the higher income portion of the population (the top 25 percentile) the most (relatively).
This would suggest that high-paying jobs are leaving Wisconsin either through attrition (retirement or downsizing) or migration, and are replaced by low-paying jobs. Add to that the fact that Wisconsin ranks highest in the nation on losing the middle class and 38th in new jobs creation; the picture is not pretty.
Now let's turn to education. Wisconsin ranks second in high school graduation but only 20th in higher education, 31st with advanced degrees, and 33rd with doctoral degrees. Further, Wisconsin is ranked 37th in state appropriations for higher education, and 47th in percentage growth in higher education spending. All of these rankings are prior to the new cuts suggested by the governor... 
Maybe the results of the first four years will change some minds in regards to the governor's budget proposals for public and higher education. If not, we will see in the next four years how much lower Wisconsin will go.


For your Scott Walker/People Are Catching On weekend update

[Updated 1:27 p.m.] We've done our due diligence on this blog by following Scott Walker's career, record and activities - - one summary posting with ongoing updates, among many, is here - - and it's good that traditional and digital media are looking to see what's really behind the curtain. Here are a few recent examples, and props to The Madison Capital Times for a dedicated Walker-watch page, and to Dee Hall at The Wisconsin State Journal - - and soon relocating - - for raising the bar:

New York Magazine.

The Atlantic.com.

The New Republic.

Los Angeles Times.

The New York Times.

Yahoo.

The Chicago Tribune.

The Daily Beast.

National Review.

Salon.com.

The Washington Post.

Slate.com

Mother Jones.

Raw Story.

Huffington Post.

Walker's WEDC tied to several troubled loans, practices

[Updated, 1:55 p.m.] Yes, there is a politically-tainted $500,000 bad loan in the news made by the state jobs agency Walker created and chairs, and yes, we are learning that the the agency - - Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, is now throwing six figure sums of the public's money at private lawyers to try and collect the debt - - but it's hardly the only loan or internal practice about which questions have been raised and documented.

I point you to this 2012 story:

MADISON (WKOW) -- The chief financial officer of the state's flagship jobs agency resigned, as state leaders vowed better accounting practices, after the agency lost track of more than $7 million in unpaid loans.
This second of two 2014 WEDC postings on the same day:
Working my way through the full text of the jaw-dropping state audit of the operations at the Scott Walker-conceived-and-created Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. 
Virtually every page documents an agency not meeting rules, standards or law or failing to provide documentation, accurate data or procedural follow-through - - as state funds were disbursed willy-nilly.
Or this 2014 story: 
One of the high profile companies to receive backing from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. is again delinquent on its loans with the state. 
Superior-based Kestrel Aircraft Company — a firm touted by Gov. Scott Walker as an example of his business recruitment efforts — hasn’t made any payment on its $4 million in loans since October. It is supposed to pay $6,600 monthly and is now over $26,000 in arrears.
And this 2014 story: 
MADISON (WKOW) -- A liberal advocacy group reports that nearly 60 percent of the financial assistance money awarded by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) has gone to businesses whose owners or employees have donated money to the campaign of Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) or the Republican Governors Association (RGA)...
One Wisconsin Now found that 192 donors associated with businesses receiving WEDC grants donated a total of just over $1 million directly to Gov. Walker's campaign and another $1.1 million to the RGA.  The RGA is a special interest group that spent $13 million to help get Gov. Walker elected in 2010 and then defeat the recall effort in 2012.
One Wisconsin Now reports that $570 million of the $975 million in funds awarded by the state's leading economic development agency went to the companies of those donors.
(Disclosure: I sit on the One Wisconsin Now C-3 board but was not involved in the group's work on the WEDC portfolio.)

WEDC puff piece now looks even more propagandistic

[Updated] Eight days ago I wrote a posting suggesting that an op-ed about the scandal-plagued WEDC and signed by its CEO and Board Secretary Reed Hall in the Journal Sentinel and Milwaukee BizTimes was more propagandistic than informative.

It appeared a couple of days after The Wisconsin State Journal began its important series about multiple lending and accountability problems at the agency that had first been highlighted in 2013 by state auditors. 


The series began with this blockbuster headline:
WEDC under fire again for not tracking loans, losing top executives
The key words there - - "again."

The job-creating and development agency was established in 2011 by the Legislature at the behest of Scott Walker. He has served as its only board chair - - thus to get more credit when the WEDC because the success he assumed it would be - - but the agency has been plagued with legal, fiscal and political problems from its beginning, saddling Walker with more blame and bad media for his
 broken signature election promise in 2010, and repeated in 2012's recall campaign, too, to create 250,000 jobs for Wisconsin.

In the week following the op-ed's publication, Walker continued to praise and defend the agency, but then abruptly ended the WEDC's lending role and distanced himself further from the agency as the State Journal expanded its series to include the details of an egregiously bad and politicized $500,000 loan down the drain.


All of which undermined one of WEDC CEO Hall's op-ed claims:

There have been lessons learned along the way. WEDC's first state audit – released in May 2013 – documented our need for better systems to track loans, oversee expenditures and monitor the performance of award recipients. After that audit, we have implemented significant changes to rebuild accountability, transparency and public trust in its operations.
By the end of the week, and just days after Hall's op-ed, Walker said he wanted to step down altogether from the board and abandon its chairmanship; GOP legislators also were saying he should step down, so they voted to do just that and removed him on a 12-4 party-line vote at the Joint Committee on Finance, the Legislature's budget-writing arm.

Nobody wanted to be close to the WEDC right now, making Hall's boasts and assurances about the agency ring all the more hollow.

Despite the devastating (and second) audit detailing accounting and oversight laws and procedures not followed, and more revelations about one particularly bad loan, WEDC's Hall had spun things this way in the op-ed:

While the new audit highlights some of WEDC’s improvements, it also raises some issues about WEDC that require clarification. For example, one of WEDC’s core purposes is to work with businesses to help create and retain jobs. We want to ensure the public that our efforts are having a measurable, positive effect and are actually growing jobs in the state. That’s why we have implemented stringent measures that include requiring companies to provide detailed payroll records and a signed attestation to verify their job creation and retention figures. 
WEDC invariably follows state statutes and its own policies. Some of the main issues raised in this area are a result of differences of opinion between WEDC and the audit bureau about how the organization administers its contracts. For example, the audit bureau noted that WEDC contracts use the word “may” instead of “shall,” even though the same audit noted that the word “shall” does not in any way affect WEDC’s legal ability to enforce the contract.
Summing up:

In a few days, Walker went from being WEDC's creator, only board chair and reliable cheerleader to board chair, retired. 

So are you telling me that Walker decided to end WEDC lending, then agreed to either be booted from or to quit its board only after the WEDC produced that glowing op-ed?


As I also wrote: What did he know and when did he know it?


I think Walker and his political handlers knew they needed to get rid of that WEDC albatross, but wanted to buy him some time for a smoother, cleaner getaway, and the op-ed was to distract the public from the agency's troubles by creating for it, and thus Walker, by association, an undeserved, positive image.


Maybe events moved faster last week than Walker had hoped, but that doesn't mean they weren't trying - - unsuccessfully - - to get reporters to cool their jets.


Reread that op-ed for yourself. It's still on the agency's website.


Friday, May 22, 2015

Note new Walker appointee to Dane County Bench

This will be short-lived service, as I doubt Dane County voters will go for Walker's naming naming Jim Troupis, a go-to GOP attorney mentioned in this story, to the local circuit court bench.
Lawyers in GOP redistricting case withheld 34 emails from groups
Also mentioned in this separate, earlier story: 
Federal court issues harsh order that GOP must release redistricting records
More commentary, here.
Seriously? Judge Troupis?
Always interesting, though, when the party of cut spending/shrink government finds partisans willing to take a state salary and benefits. 

Will GOP claim Feingold is Californian, having breathed air there?

Consult this flaming PolitiFact ruling for even nuttier context.
Pants on Fire!

How Ron Johnson would react to major climate/sea level news

About news like this. Johnson's attitude, with his status and his millions, is pretty much tough sh**, as I just said.

Little wonder he is the Senate's most-vulnerable member. He doesn't recognize the vulnerability of millions of human beings.

Honoring my former colleague Don Walker on his passing

[Updated] People who worked with Don Walker at the newspaper, or who came into contact with him in his old neighborhood in Story Hill, or at City Hall where he did some of his late-career work before heading off to Marquette on a fellowship are all mourning the sudden death today of our pal Don Walker at age 62.

You don't get to work with many people who are always so fair-minded and friendly and fun to be around.  He was at the old Journal when I got there in 1983 and showed me the ropes. When they later made me an assistant Metropolitan Editor for a couple of years, Don was the assignment editor and bailed me out of too many jams to remember.

Everybody loved him and always wanted to be involved in his projects.

This is a tough one.

Here is the first story I've seen about it.

Also a very nice take in the paper by his friend Don Behm, then expanded by Crocker Stephenson.

Flashback Friday editorial quote of the day

As Walker is expeditiously booted from or quitting the chairmanship of the failing jobs agency he created, we reprise for context the opening of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 2010 Scott Walker endorsement:
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.

Walker cares not that GOP legislators killed his elderly tax

Forcing the elderly by state law to pay more for prescription drugs was even too much for Scott Walker's increasingly disloyal GOP-led legislature, but Walker could care less, just as he doesn't care if the same legislators rolled back his plan to neuter the Natural Resources Board, or whether the feds block his plan to drug-test public aid recipients..

He kicked Wisconsin to the curb months ago, having openly made his national ambition priority #1. As I wrote six months ago:
Let's be clear about why Scott Walker says and does anything from now on: 
His audience is national, not local. How does the curb feel, Bucky, now that Walker's not that into you? 
More to the point - - Walker's audience now - - and actually since the 2007 conservative summit meeting along the shores of Lake Michigan about which the media, other than Salon.com, refuses to report - - is the hardest, rightist core of activists and voters in the Republican and Tea Parties, and their loyalties for 2016.
Think of Walker as that self-absorbed, pampered baseball player who is getting a tryout with the big club, and is finally flying first class and getting the big meal money and air time on Sports Center. Do you think he remembers the fans in those minor league parks who got his autograph for free on $1 hot dog night?

So whether people in the state are mad at him for raising overnight camping fees in state parks, for example, or have finally figured out that some of the funding they need to fix the roof on their rural elementary school will end up paying for other kids' private schools in Milwaukee?

Walker is so far beyond such political minutiae.

He's hobnobbing with world leaders, now, and is accepting the cheers of right wing audiences from Iowa to South Carolina to Arizona and even feels free enough to threaten to attack someone though he doesn't yet and should never have have his finger on the red button.


Ron Johnson to people at sea level: Your drowning is insignificant

They say he's the Senate's most-vulnerable member. Certainly his dismissal of climate science makes the dumbest, and most heartless.
“We’ll learn to adapt,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) told reporters. “I’ve never understood why we think this is the sweet spot in human history and in geologic time that we’ve got to spend hundreds of billions, if not trillions, trying to maintain this temperature. A lot of people write a slight warming of the Earth would be pretty beneficial.

Candidates meet the darndest people

You may have read about the child molestation admissions yesterday by Josh Duggar, a conservative activist, family values lobbyist and 'star' of the reality show "19 Children and Counting."  Here's what he was also up up to last week.
Great meeting today w/ ! He has a very passionate vision for America. #2016

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Cubs owner Ricketts raising money for Walker

Walker threatens someone; duck and cover, Minnesota

When I began seeing Internet posts from Oklahoma tonight about Walker threatening "pre-emptive strikes," I figured somebody beat him to a $1 sweater at the Tulsa Kohl's Department store, or that Minnesota is gonna pay for making Walker's economic planning look like the dud it is.
Such as the falling rocket-propelled arrows stuck in Hatay
He certainly wouldn't already be off the rails at this early stage in the non-campaign campaign, would he, channeling Dr. Strangelove to outflank fellow lightweights Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal, and with only a recent helicopter tour of Israel and the defeat of public school teachers on his wartime resume?

But it seems that Eagle Scout #1 is indeed doing some pre-emptive saber-rattling against foes unstated, in the face of threats unspecified.

If I lived in better-performing Minnesota that's already within range of the Wisconsin National Guard howitzers, I'd be be nervous.


If WI GOP retreats from new tax on bicycles...

And there are signs that peculiar bit of retrograde stupidity may be even too much for Walker and His Band of Legislative Toadies, but don't forget that Scott Walker's DOT earlier talked about further rebranding Wisconsin as Backwardsville by adding a hefty new $50 annual license fee on the owners of energy-saving and pollution-abating hybrid and electric vehicles.

Who says that idea is really dead? After all, taxing bike is a surefire way to stick it to Madison, but taxing hybrid has a special appeal to conservatives who organize their lives and politics around stereotyping and misunderstanding other people.

And don't put it past them to assign new wheel taxes to skateboards, roller blades and wheelchairs. 

Scott Walker could lose one of his jobs in jobs-challenged WI

Talk about a bad news-for-Walker day on the jobs front.

Just as the final numbers confirm that he only managed to create about half the promised 250,000 new jobs he made the central promise and premise of his 2010 campaign for Governor, it is reported that legislators from his own party are moving to boot him off the scandal-ridden, poorly-managed jobs'-agency he chairs, too.

So we won't have Walker as Board Chairman of the Floundering Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to kick around anymore, but it will fun to remind people why someone else is in his chair. Call it a matter of "leadership."

More on the bad jobs numbers and the implications for Wisconsin's struggling economy.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Walker, the WI GOP and the strategy of displacement

We've all heard the stories, or had the thoughts ourselves.

*  Parents push their high schoolers to apply to out-of-state colleges, like Minnesota.

*  Young adults decide to move out of Wisconsin, taking their careers, earning power and young families to more inclusive, open-minded states.

*  Vacationers opt to spend their time and money in a state where the government does not repeatedly attack working people and unions, or interfere with the right to vote or to live in a same-sex marriage. Or where state parks will continue to get reasonable, logical state financial support, bicycle riders are not the new Scapegoats of the Month, (replacing teachers), and phosphorous-generated algae and weeds are not allowed to choke state waters because big business is allowed to drag its feet in the cleanup.

(The DNR shows what that looks like, at the "basics" tab, here.):
weed and algae growth in Wisconsin waters (c) Will Stites
Excess phosphorus flowing into lakes provides nutrients that can spur weed and algae growth in Wisconsin waters.
© Will Stites
I would bet it all that somewhere within the Walker administration, or in the GOP legislative caucus meetings or their Madison and Waukesha watering holes, ''let em' move somewhere else" is a familiar refrain, like "Go Pack, Go."

The same goes for the poor.

It's been clear for a while that the Walkerites are determined to make life as difficult as possible for low-income residents by using the power of the state to prod them to move out.

That's the end game for politicians who intentionally decline available Medicaid financing, starve transit systems, cut food stamp and other basic assistance, move to mandate drug tests for aid recipients - - thus implicitly labeling the poor as criminally lazy, and deliberately keep the minimum wage at the lowest level legally possible - -  $7.25/hr. - - while several big cities and 29 other states, plus the District of Columbia have moved the minimum wage to $9, $10.10 and $15 per hour.

Again, "good riddance" is in the air, and in state policy, too, like a new official motto or state slogan.  It used to be "We like it here." Now it's more along the lines of, "We'd like some of you, a lot of you, to leave."

It would not surprise me if Wisconsin's population gains slows or plateaus as a result of these punitive, small-minded and overtly hostile GOP programs, guaranteeing Wisconsin's long-term status as a low-wage, slow-to-no-new job growth entrepreneurial and lifestyle backwater.

Walker won't even add a few bucks to the transportation budget to fix the potholes, dropping the state to third-worst roads nationally, a study has found.

Don't blame the snow or the cold or the trucks or yourselves. On this one, Ronald Reagan, Walker's hero and Fantasy Father, was right: "Government is the problem."

One last indignity to those getting message, packing up and moving out: a final a flat tire or broken shock.



WI GOP continues its dopey war on bikes

Crazy enough that Walker and his legislative majority have begun repealing a state law that provides for roadside bike trails and sidewalks along new major road projects; now these pettiest of uninformed politicians want to further discourage biking transportation, commuting and related, biking-friendly tourism  in the home state of the Trek Bicycle Company with a new tax on bikes.

And yes, that's the same Trek, from which Walker's last gubernatorial opponent arose. A coincidence, you say? Not for this vindictive crowd.



Waukesha-area border war could send Lake Michigan water to new Village

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources may release next month its long-awaited analysis  about its review of the City of Waukesha's application for a precedent-setting diversion of water from Lake Michigan.

Some basic information about the application and the review process, here.

Among the potential stumbling blocks is the City's intention to send water beyond its own boundaries to neighboring communities, including the Town of Waukesha; initially the Town did not ask to be included in the application, but has since changed its mind.

Whether all eight Great Lakes states will give the application the unanimous approval it needs for implementation and thus the approval to send some of the water to municipalities which had not directly applied for it is an open question and which would be addressed if the DNR sent the application after hearings and final changes out for the eight-states' regional review.

Note there is a 1 p.m. public hearing this afternoon in the Brookfield Town Hall about a long-simmering border dispute involving several municipalities that could affect the question of which municipalities should be able to access diverted water under the terms of a 2008 US/Canadian/multi-state Great Lakes water management Compact.

The City of Waukesha sits outside of the boundaries of the Great Lakes basin, and is the first municipality to apply for a diversion of water under tough rules limiting such transfers.

The discussion this afternoon in Brookfield is not directly about the water diversion, Instead, it will center on whether the Town can remake itself into a new municipality - - the Village of Brookfield - - but bear with me here.

In Wisconsin, villages have more power than towns over land use and development along and across their borders; if the town eventually becomes a village, some of the diverted water could be made available to that new village and to development in the area though neither the current Town of Brookfield or the proposed Village of Brookfield are in the diversion application.

This story explains the somewhat complex border matter to be explored at today's hearing which involves multiple inter-governmental development, growth and municipal identity issues:
Jay Walt, a town of Brookfield resident, in 2011 filed a petition to incorporate the town of Brookfield into a village using land outside its existing boundaries. Walt said becoming a village would preserve the town's identity and protect its territory from the threat of future annexations.
By including 288 acres of town of Waukesha land as part of the incorporation effort, the proposed village would be about 4.2 square miles, slightly larger than the four-mile minimum required for incorporation under state law. 
The town of Waukesha has 130 parcels included within the 288 acres. The total property in the town of Waukesha is worth about $60 million in assessed value.
The area the town of Brookfield is attempting to incorporate into a village includes homes and businesses in the town of Waukesha, including the Walmart Neighborhood Market and JD Byrider, along highways 59 and 164. 
The proposed incorporation area also includes town of Brookfield land where Marcus Corp. is developing The Corners, a mixed-use retail development anchored by a Von Maur department store between Bluemound Road and I-94, east of Barker Road.
Government resistance
The proposal has been opposed by the cities of Waukesha and Brookfield as well as the town of Waukesha.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Walker and moral authority

Walker has invoked morality - - yes, I know, it defies all reason (WEDC thievery, Medicaid refusal, pollution enabling, John Does, degrading the poor with drug tests, fact-checking that keeps registering "False" - - but here's a reminder that we've covered the subject thematically, and specifically, within weeks of Walker's swearing-in.
Among Scott Walker's Deficits: Moral Authority

Walker polishes humble, Everyman image

Look at these awesome benefits - - and without drug-testing:

About cutbacks to environmental reviews, WI DNR omits the details

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is seeking public comment about innocent-sounding "clarifications" to rules and procedures now governing how the agency studies pipeline location, dairy expansion, dam construction and various anti-pollution activities.

Check out this detail-free, bureaucratic gobbledy-gook from the agency included in an emailed news letter today - - 
 "...the proposed rule includes clarifications to procedures for bigger picture strategic policy analysis and specific environmental analysis requirements for individual department actions.
Does that sound like an agency out to inform and gather input it will seriously consider, or an agency out to obfuscate and confound as environmental stewardship in the public interest gets harder to find?

The details of the scope of the DNR's plan are summarized in this recent news story:

The state Department of Natural Resources is coming under fire from conservation groups for retooling a long-standing law that requires the agency to conduct separate environmental reviews for many major projects. 
Some of the changes took effect last year. Others are coming up this month as the agency asks the Natural Resources Board for authority to spell out specific cases where it would no longer conduct the reviews... 
In its latest update, the DNR is expanding the list of "minor actions" that would not require additional environmental analysis. 
They include manure spreading, reconstruction and repair of dams, construction plans for large dairy farms and planning by communities to reduce key pollutants in local waterways. 
Can you say, 'fait accompli?,' given this administration's attack on environmental science, DNR staffing and citizen participation in project evaluation led by Walker's "chamber of commerce mentality" senior DNR management and policy direction?

Further note: When this administration says, "minor actions," think the opposite. 


Remember that Scott Walker first described Act 10 as a "modest, modest proposal."


None the less, here are the details of a hearing on the matter, and a method of sending in a comment. Somewhere down the road, an ethically-motivated state legislator, hearing examiner or judge may read your comment, say "Eureka," and rule in your favor against what Walker, Stepp & Co. have in mind on behalf of their corporate/donor/chamber-of-commerce types:
The hearing will start at 10 a.m. on June 2 in Room G09 of the State Natural Resources Building, 101 South Webster St. in Madison.  
Department staff will make a brief presentation on the proposed rule revisions and the rules process prior to opening the public comment portion of the hearing.  
The proposed rule may be reviewed and comments electronically submitted by June 10 at the state's administrative rules web site (exit DNR).

Ron Johnson's odd attack against "career politician"

Ron Johnson has been calling Russ Feingold "a career politician."

On the Charlie Sykes WTMJ-AM radio talk show a few minutes ago Tuesday morning, Johnson repeated the attack, alleging also that Feingold is running to reclaim the Senate seat he lost to Johnson in 2010 because Feingold wants a big title to serve his ego.

Has Johnson been following the career and campaigning of a certain Scott Walker?

Monday, May 18, 2015

So what did he know and when did he know it?

About that $500,000 WEDC loan of public funds that should never have been made, was never repaid and about which the WEDC-created-and-board-chairman-Scott Walker - - still out there somewhere pitching his 'leadership' - - said he was unaware?
Records indicate Scott Walker was copied on letter promising loan to donor
State records say that Gov. Scott Walker received a copy of a 2011 letter pledging a $500,000 taxpayer loan to a now-defunct Milwaukee construction company headed by a Walker donor, seemingly contradicting statements by the governor and his aides that he was not aware of the award...
While in New Orleans Monday to speak to a school voucher lobbying group, Walker said he played no direct role in the loan to foster energy efficiency projects for bank and credit union buildings and that Democrats are on a "partisan witch hunt."  
Spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said the GOP governor and likely 2016 White House candidate didn't know about the loan and that Walker did not receive a copy of Jadin's letter even though it stated that he did. 
Remember, Walker said he didn't know about that $700,000 mining company donation routed for the benefit of his 2012 campaign to his designed third-party support group.

Or as he said, "not to my knowledge."

Anybody see the pattern, and a bigger picture?


How many times has Walker said he knew nothing about something?

It's been his pattern for 25 years beginning with his ethically-messy losing campaign for Marquette University student body president, so this new probe will be treated the same way: 'I know nothing...I have no information...I wasn't even born yet...' etc. 
Through later campaigns, his County Executive years and as Governor, too. 
The pattern's documentation [from this 2012 posting] is here.
In a Tempest, Scott Walker knows nothing 
For a broader context, re-read Madison Capital Times editor Paul Fanlund's interview with former Richard Nixon White House Counsel John Dean.

And take a look at a longer review of Walker's record.


Plus, don't miss today's Daily Beast piece reprising Walker's long and checkered ethical history.

Walker defunding WI State Parks, his DNR still touting them

I've lost count of the mixed messages in these DNR Clean Air Tips of the Week. Here's another about the state parks where Walker is cutting state operating support and drastically raising the fees.
For the week of May 17, 2015:
Clean Air Tip of the Week
As summer approaches and children finish school, many families are planning their summer getaways.  Wisconsin State Parks offer a variety of experiences and activities nestled throughout the state in some of the most unique and sought out locations Wisconsin has to offer! While out enjoying our natural resources, check the air quality forecast by visiting the DNR homepage and clicking on the "today's air quality" button.
 

2nd severe WEDC audit erases Walker's "leadership" claim

Walker blundered three times  in his interview on the Sunday morning CBS program "Face the Nation" with Bob Schieffer.

The first was telling Schieffer that visiting six foreign countries in four+ years as Wisconsin Governor made Walker the "most qualified" to run US trade policy were he President. By his measurement, Hillary Clinton is probably fifteen-to-twenty times more qualified.

Second, Walker said his "leadership" record qualified him to be President.

I suggest you take perhaps 20 minutes to absorb the Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau's very readable recent audit that absolutely excoriates the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation - - which Walker created and chairs - - for its widespread and repeated absences of legal and routine lending, monitoring, managerial, staffing and other practices basic to a financial agency that disburses millions of public dollars.
Scott Walker speaks to CBS (screen grab)
Note, also, that this is the second such audit: why didn't Walker use his leadership skills to fix WEDC after the first negative audit in May, 2013?

And third, Walker reiterated his earlier and much-mocked statement that Reagan's firing of US air controllers to break that union was the biggest presidential foreign policy move in Walker's lifetime.

Go figure.

Dee Hall at The Wisconsin State Journal has produced two blockbuster stories about one highly-questionable and politicized WEDC loan for $500,000, and millions of dollars have been spent with little or no oversight, monitoring, tracking or justification.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Walker says visits to 6 countries makes him most-qualified on foreign policy

[Updated] Reposted with corrected headline:
Follow Walker's weaving away from CBS' Bob Schieffer's questions, tossing out chaff, Reagan worship and word salad because Walker has no actual foreign policy credentials to offer in answer to Schieffer's inquiries. There is no end to this man's incoherent arrogance: 
Likely Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker argued on Sunday that he would be the most qualified person to lead the country’s foreign policy because he had visited six countries while serving as governor of Wisconsin...
Scott Walker speaks to CBS (screen grab) 
“As a governor, I’ve been, just recently in Germany, in Spain and France,” Walker explained. “Earlier in the year, it was the United Kingdom on trade related missions. A few years back in China and Japan. So, that’s probably the most of any governor of either party has is that experience in terms of trade relations.”

Walker says visits to six countries makes him most-qualified on foreign policy

There is no end to this man's incoherent arrogance: 
Likely Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker argued on Sunday that he would be the most qualified person to lead the country’s foreign policy because he had visited six countries while serving as governor of Wisconsin.
Scott Walker speaks to CBS (screen grab) 
“As a governor, I’ve been, just recently in Germany, in Spain and France,” Walker explained. “Earlier in the year, it was the United Kingdom on trade related missions. A few years back in China and Japan. So, that’s probably the most of any governor of either party has is that experience in terms of trade relations.”
Strange that he missed a chance to explain his two-state solution.

(Editing note: Headline corrected from "six counties." Oops.)

In Wisconsin, murky water politics

This is one of those days when a blog called "The Political Environment" writes itself.

*  Begin with the outrageous State Capitol maneuver which no one saw coming the other day when the Wisconsin Legislature's powerful budget-writing committee, on a party-line, GOP-led 12-4 vote, banned only Dane County among all 72 Wisconsin counties from participating in water policy decision-making.

Water planning is integral to any County's planning and spending on development, transportation, housing, recreation, public safety - - you name it - - but the Joint Committee on Finance decided to insert the Dane County-only planning barrier into the state budget, a state law, without a real debate, a hearing in and for Dane County, etc.

The legislator who asked the Committee to take the step was State Sen. Howard Marklein, a Spring Green Republican. And he does not represent Dane County - - which just happens to be a wellspring of Democratic voting and environmentalism, - - where grassroots activists have had some recent success recently in slowing development close to Lake Waubesa in the City of Fitchburg, just outside Madison in Dane County.

So good question, Neil Heinen, longtime editorial director at WISC-TV 3 in Madison the other day:
Who is State Sen Marklein looking out for with Dane County water management proposal?
*  Note, also that Marklein got promoted to the State Senate after his party basically forced out the former incumbent, Dale Schultz, a Richland Center farmer and former GOP Senate Majority Leader.

Among Schultz's perceived party sins: blockng his party's steamrolled, an industry-supported-and-written bill to substantially ease existing law and enable the digging of a massive open-pit iron ore mine in the water-rich and pristine Penokee Hills close to Lake Superior.

And over the objections of many in the mining zone, including the Bad River Ojibwe reservation and its traditional wild rice-bearing watery sloughs downstream from what would have been thirty-five years of blasting, digging, ground-water draining, ore-milling and trucking in and out of a pit a half-mile wide and a thousand feet deep that was to run for miles.

The GOP Senate leadership was so pro-mining that it cancelled a hearing and abolished a special committee it had set up to consider the matter, and refused to consider a bi-partisan compromise co-sponsored by Schultz that would have given iron mining proposals more adequate reviews and citizen input procedures.

Among the key legislators promoting the bill was State Rep. and now-Senator Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst - - who, like the outsider Marklein to Dane County's water issues - - did not represent Iron or Ashland Counties where the proposed mine would have been located, though records showed he was carrying political water for Walker and the mining company itself.
Wisconsin's environment imperiled by Scott Walker. Click the photo for more information.
And we all learned later that the mining company security routed $700,000 to benefit Walker's 2012 recall campaign - - which Schultz said later was sad, but not surprising 

The mining company eventually abandoned its plan - -  though the sweetheart law it wanted remains on the books - - because it discovered what everyone had always known - - the area's water resources are fundamentally incompatible with open pit mining in a rainy, snowy watershed.

But it's interesting that the mining plan and its politics played a role in Schultz's departure from the Senate and paved the way for Marklein to move up in the Legislature and position himself against the water and planning rights and prerogatives of local residents.

Talk about a bad bill that keeps on taking.

When you see this nabashed power-politcking over water and development and disregard for the environment and conservation right now in Wisconsin - - and I'd include Walker's surprise budget proposals to freeze open space and habitat purchases by the Stewardship Fund for thirteen years, end all general operating funding for state parks, layoff DNR scientists and, separately, the possible termination of local county ag agents - it's fair to look the upbeat story Don Behm wrote recently in the Journal Sentinel about treaty status protections conferred on sensitive Wisconsin Door County wetlands and say, 'Well, I guess you need an international treaty these days to protect the Wisconsin environment.'

Then you realize that the Ojibwe rice-growing sloughs are also covered by the same treaty, yet Wisconsin was willing to put them at risk with the mining bill, so if Walker became President...

In blockbuster Walker/WEDC news story, substitute "Christie...New Jersey"

For "Walker…Wisconsin," and Dee Hall's stunning investigative piece in today's Wisconsin State Journal about a scandalously, ultra-politicized WEDC loan would absolutely break nationally, because New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, or former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, or former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have bigger personalities in larger media markets.

Hall's story deserves that broad coverage: it advanced the entire WEDC matter, shed light on how the Walker administration figures and insiders manipulated the WEDC and added context - -  Hall had the goods in hand and was asking for comment - - to Walker's sudden decision last week to end WEDC's lending.

Great journalism by Hall.

And as I keep saying with regard to WEDC, if we had a real Attorney General...

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Walker embraces two state solution - - Iowa and New Hampshire

Though still can't master business lending, returns after a whole five days in Middle East a geopolitical expert:
After Israel trip, Scott Walker says region not ready for Palestinian state