All Wisconsin environmental, land use and social justice groups have agendas, practices and beliefs that are offended by the massive open-pit iron ore mine proposed upstream from the Bad River Ojibwe Band's land, watershed and rice-growing estuaries in NW Wisconsin right at Lake Superior.
Every group and person of good will in Wisconsin can incorporate their opposition to this mine in their April 22nd Earth Day 2014 programs, statements and actions.
Preliminary sample drilling and regulatory work is already underway following special interest legislation that was written with and for the mining company at the expense of the environment and existing Wisconsin law.
Let's hope communities of concern in this state can speak with one voice on this all-encompassing issue.
Thursday, April 17, 2014
All Wisconsin environmental, land use and social justice groups have agendas, practices and beliefs that are offended by the massive open-pit iron ore mine proposed upstream from the Bad River Ojibwe Band's land, watershed and rice-growing estuaries in NW Wisconsin right at Lake Superior.
I'd written here about WisDOT's PR campaigning for more public money and wringing of hands over a so-called revenue 'crisis.'
While higher gas taxes and other road-building financing schemes are back on the table - - Walker will likely put off a decision until after the November election - - there is one sure-fired solution not under consideration:
Reining in over-spending on costly, glitzy new projects, like the revenue-sucking, perpetual-roadway spree known as the Southeastern Wisconsin Free[Sic]way System expansion.
And I offer for some depressing perspective a piece I'd written for the Capital Times ten years ago to the day.
While the state covered some increased highway costs in the interim through borrowings and other non-gas-tax maneuvers, the truth is that little has changed in ten years when it comes to Wisconsin's road-building binge at the expense of transit and local road aid.
True today; true back then, as I noted in 2004:
"Channeling a disproportionate share of state and federal transportation funding to freeway expansion could offset some increases in the gas tax. But that would threaten other highway projects, trim state aid to mass transit, and cut local road repair budgets throughout the state. That would be really unpopular in Madison or Ashland, Green Bay or Wausau."Also not changing: the road-building lobby's political immunity to elections, partisan shifts, economic downturns, reduced driving and awareness of climate change.
The lobby's pervasive power in the State Capitol is permanent.
DATE: Saturday, April 17, 2004
DON'T BE SURPRISED AT RISING GAS TAXES
April 1 brought us the promise of spring, some April Fool's pranks, and Wisconsin's automatic annual hike in the state gas tax.
Already saddled with the second-highest tax-per-gallon state gas tax in the United States, consumers at the pumps here began paying another six-tenths of a cent on April 1.
That raised the tax to 29.1 cents, plus a separate three cents per gallon for environmental cleanup. With gas prices heading toward $2 a gallon, motorists were complaining to reporters that their SUV fill-ups were headed toward $60 or more.
Little comfort that the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, which gets to spend a lot of that money, reminds us at its Web site that "while indexing usually increases the gas tax rate slightly, the difference is minor when compared to frequent price jumps at the gas pump."
Memo to WisDOT: That doesn't make us feel better. And here are two additional things to keep in mind about why Wisconsin's gas tax is headed higher and higher, WisDOT spin notwithstanding.
First: The gas tax was 16.5 cents a gallon, close to half what it is today, when so-called indexing began in 1985. Legislators wanted to build more roads and keep contribution-happy road contractors satisfied, but didn't want to go on record raising taxes.
So the good men and women in the Assembly and Senate put the increase on autopilot. Now tied to inflation, it kicks in every April 1, with no messy votes showing up in the opponents' campaign attack ads.
Second, and more importantly: Motorists annoyed at the weasely way a simple six-tenths of a cent increase per gallon got rolled into the current tax may go into full-blown cardiac arrest. That's because a multibillion-dollar freeway expansion plan is under study for southeast Wisconsin by WisDOT, and gas taxes will have to skyrocket to pay for it.
Hotly debated in Milwaukee and its surrounding counties, the plan has not received much publicity out-state even though motorists across Wisconsin will dig deeply to pay for it.
The plan calls for an estimated $6.25 billion to be poured into new lanes in the next 20 to 30 years. That's a very big figure -- big enough to build 16 Miller Park stadiums at $400 million each, for instance.
The plan will do two things: Rebuild the complex Marquette Interchange in downtown Milwaukee and add about 120 miles of new freeway lanes next to existing lanes on major roads, like I-94 and I-43 in Milwaukee, Kenosha, Racine, Waukesha, Walworth, Washington and Ozaukee counties. Among the expenses: acquiring more than 600 acres, tearing down 201 homes and 28 businesses, and compensating the owners.
The plan was approved by an unelected body, the seven-county Southeastern Regional Planning Commission, and is now under review by WisDOT.
About $750 million of the total cost -- or about 12 percent -- has been set aside for the reconstruction of the Marquette Interchange, from 2004 to 2008. That leaves about $5.5 billion not funded, or roughly $200 million annually for about 25 years to complete the rest of the plan. And like all big-ticket estimates, the bottom line is going to rise.
You'd think a state that just agonized over a $3.2 billion operating budget deficit wouldn't embark on a plan of any kind that is $5 billion in the hole at the outset, but work is already under way on the Marquette Interchange.
The nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance has said the freeway expansion plan is among the reasons why Wisconsin's overall highway building plan through 2020 is more than $5 billion underfunded. But so far, few at the state level have taken the WTA's finding to heart. And don't expect those automatic April 1 increases to pay for the freeway expansion plan. Those annual increases cover ongoing and inflationary costs, not a multibillion-dollar freeway expansion.
A penny added to the already-steep gas tax raises about $30 million, so if $200 million in fresh highway dollars are needed, the southeast Wisconsin freeway expansion will require a fresh six or seven cents -- at least 20 percent to the per-gallon gas tax -- if WisDOT moves the plan forward.
It is possible these gas tax increases could be minimized by substituting an increase in vehicle registration fees -- but motorists wouldn't like that, either.
Channeling a disproportionate share of state and federal transportation funding to freeway expansion could offset some increases in the gas tax. But that would threaten other highway projects, trim state aid to mass transit, and cut local road repair budgets throughout the state. That would be really unpopular in Madison or Ashland, Green Bay or Wausau.
* Environmentalists and urban revivalists in Milwaukee -- led for years by now-ex-Mayor John Norquist -- oppose freeway expansion because it's too expensive and will pave precious city real estate and accelerate the region's already severe suburban sprawl.
Republican legislative leaders -- including many who champion tax freezes and less government spending -- have long supported raising the gas tax. Along with the road builders, Republicans are leading the fight for freeway expansion. So don't be surprised when the gas tax is ramped up steadily. Six-tenths of a cent will look like chicken feed.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:00 AM
The long-time Neenah politician derailed his career with outrageous remarks about illegal fundraising surreptitiously taped and released by his even-more conservative enemies, but when Mile Ellis leaves the Legislature under a cloud at the end of this term, his party - - known for hostility to buses and trains - - will be without a high-profile advocate for some regional transit.
Posted by James Rowen at 9:00 AM
Asked Wednesday after speaking to the Wisconsin Hospital Association if he would commit to serving a full second term, Walker dodged the question.
Walker dodged question about whether his new book, Unintimidated: A Governor's Story and a Nation's Challenge, meant he would be running for president in 2016.
Last November Scott Walker avoided several direct questions about his support for with a statement about how his administration has turned the state budget around and added, “I think people want us to focus on creating more freedom and prosperity for people in the state.” At a
Posted by James Rowen at 12:21 AM
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Milwaukee County voters saw this particular patented Walker Weaseliness a few years ago.
Eyeing a run for Governor, then-County Executive Walker wouldn't commit to finishing a term that, in fact, he cut short when he won the right to move into the Mansion in Maple Bluff.
Now he's doing the same thing again - - not pledging to finish out a 2014-2018 second gubernatorial term should he win this November, since he believes he has a chance of successfully campaigning for the Presidency.
Consider that along with that preposterous, arrogant plan to become The Most Powerful Person On The Planet, an early Walker departure from the governorship would hand the office to Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.
Historians will note that the last two Wisconsin Governors who took that route to the Mansion - - Martin Schreiber and Scott McCallum - - both lost bids for a full term.
Voters seem to flinch at electing a Governor holding the office through appointment.
Updated hat tip for editing, TB.
Posted by James Rowen at 7:30 PM
The Overland Park, Kansas hate-killer and his hometown mayor across the state line in Missouri have some opinions in common:
Marionville, Mo. Mayor Dan Clevenger spoke warmly this week of Frazier Glenn Miller, who allegedly went on a killing rampage on Sunday in Overland Park, Kan...
...KSPR unearthed a letter to the editor that the mayor sent nearly a decade ago to a newspaper in Aurora, Mo. in which he expressed admiration for Miller's mission.
"I am a friend of Frazier Miller helping to spread his warnings," Clevenger wrote, according to KSPR. "The Jew-run medical industry has succeeded in destroying the United State's workforce."
Clevenger also reportedly wrote that the "Jew-run government backed banking industry turned the U.S into the world's largest debtor nation...
He seemed to stand by those positions in his interview with KSPR, blaming Jews for the country's economic woes.
Posted by James Rowen at 1:27 PM
For speaking the truth about President Obama and racism in America, former Milwaukee ball player, current Atlanta Braves' veep and steroid-free home run king Henry Aaron is being pilloried.
Flood the Internet with support.
Email the Atlanta Braves in his defense, here.
Posted by James Rowen at 1:14 PM
These anti-transit Wisconsin GOP fossil fuel-and-highway-servants have banned regional transit operations, and are blocking Milwaukee's streetcar which has construction funding in hand, but now Tennessee legislators are doing the Koch brothers' bidding and are banning bus rapid planning statewide.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:54 PM
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
During his first three years as Governor, Wisconsin's economy is stagnant at 35th in job creation and has produced only 40% of the 250,000 promised new jobs at the center of his 2010 and 2012 campaigns.
Despite his spin, data do not show that Wisconsin is back. Data show that Wisconsin is at the back - - in the lower one-third - - of the pack.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:24 PM
Quite a revelation in Federal Court that undermines the rightwing talk radio-inspired Walkerite narrative that partisan DA's were behind a John Doe probe to get Walker, his 2012 recall election committee and perhaps some donors.
It turns out that the six non-partisan retired judges who oversee the State of Wisconsin Government Accountability Board had authorized the probe, based on evidence:
The six judges on the state Government Accountability Board voted unanimously to authorize the investigation of fundraising and spending by Gov. Scott Walker's campaign and his allies during the recent recall elections, according to a Tuesday court filing.
Dean Nickel, an investigator hired by the accountability board to assist with the investigation, said in the 10-page filing that he believes the substantial evidence gathered in the probe "coupled with the GAB's unanimous approval of the investigation directly refutes plaintiffs' witch-hunt theory."So the GAB board and staff were just doing their jobs.
Just today, Jay Heck of Common Cause said the GAB was:
...the nation’s only non-partisan, independent state agency charged with overseeing elections and ethics...finally established in 2007.And do you remember that GOP Senate leader Scott Fitzgerald hoped to remake the board into an overtly partisan operation after the 2012 recall elections?
Posted by James Rowen at 8:41 PM
Gov. Walker and his 19th-century GOP/Tea Party legislative throwbacks are again embracing a Southern strategy to create an exclusionary ultra-conservative 21st Wisconsin.
* First it was the push for Voter ID that restricts ballot access principally in urban areas - - read: where African-Americans residents are concentrated (principally in Milwaukee also in part by restrictive suburban zoning and building codes, intentional regional transit disconnects that block Milwaukee workers from jobs, obstruction of affordable rental housing and a 1950's state law freezing Milwaukee's borders).
* Then there were the recently-approved restrictions - - without any supporting data or evidence offered - - signed by Walker into law that limit in-person absentee voting - - again hitting big city voters the hardest. Especially onerous - - an end to weekend hours, especially useful to single-parent households.
* Now the state GOP convention will take up a resolution approving state secession - - a Tea Party-inspired seditious outburst of Obama Derangement Syndrome wholly insensitive to US history, and Wisconsin's many relatives of both freed slaves and Union soldiers killed in the Civil War.
It is laughable to hear Gov.Walker say he and his party are moving the state in the right direction.
Though rate it True if they mean Right - - far-Right direction.
Posted by James Rowen at 1:19 PM
I'd missed the fact that GOP State Senator and small government devotee Glenn Grothman doesn't live in the Congressional district he wants to be paid $174,000 Big Government big bucks a year to represent.
From The Journal Sentinel:
Grothman, the Senate assistant majority leader and a non-practicing attorney who lives just outside the district in West Bend, said he plans to move to Campbellsport in Fond du Lac County..
Posted by James Rowen at 12:46 AM
Monday, April 14, 2014
Posted by James Rowen at 9:35 PM
As the Root River and other Wisconsin waterways approach flood stage, you might want to ask whether Waukesha's plan to send an extra few million gallons of diverted water back to Lake Michigan every day is really a good plan.
■ The Root River at Franklin was at 6.6 feet early Monday, approaching its flood stage of 8 feet. Minor flooding is expected, with the river rising to about 8.5 feet by Monday evening.Waukesha's current plan proposes a discharge point in Franklin.
The Root River, which empties into Lake Michigan in Racine, has a history of flooding, noted here.
State Rep. Cory Mason, (D-Racine), among others, has strongly opposed Waukesha's use of the Root River as a waste water discharge conduit.
'Racine Is Not Waukesha's toilet," Mason has said.
Posted by James Rowen at 1:40 PM
Nothing encourages young entrepreneurs and other stable, reasonable, creative people to stay in your state, or move in, put down roots and bring in cash than the party in power whistling Dixie.
Good work, Walkerites and the Wisconsin Republican Party.
Maybe Bobby Jindal should make a road trip here.
Posted by James Rowen at 11:57 AM
Figures a rich, faraway state like Michigan with its public wealth, full employment and rosy future could come to the rescue of poor old rust belt Wisconsin.
Car-culture-happy Michigan might just take the remaining two unused-banned-in-Wisconsin/built-in-Milwaukee Talgo train sets off our hands after Walker and the legislature wisely opted to break Wisconsin's contract with the train-maker and put the equipment into storage when the feds were talking about kicking in only a paltry 90% of the operating costs. Pikers.
Whaddya think Wisconsin has a surplus?
Posted by James Rowen at 1:10 AM
Sunday, April 13, 2014
Thank you, Blue Cheddar blog, for the reposting about
the swan hunt plan:
I’m sorry but –
Do these people have to shoot and kill EVERYTHING?
I’m short on time and this is coming up on us quickly – so I will simply direct the reader to James Rowen’s blog to get more information on the Monday night vote which will occur in each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties.
Posted by James Rowen at 2:05 PM
The Wisconsin Conservation Congress, a statewide DNR advisory organization in which hunters often carry the day, holds its annual statewide meetings in all counties Monday night, and the proposed Tundra swan hunt I wrote about in February is on the agenda.
(Information here about the Tundra Swan, also known as the Bewick's or Whistling Swan.)
|Photo by Bates Littlehales|
These WCC meetings are open to all citizens.
Here is a link to the 4/14 common agenda and all meeting sites.
Note also that on the agenda, among a long list, is an item about allowing hounders to retrieve a hunting dog on private property without the landowner's permission.
People who use the Wisconsin outdoors to hike, bike, and otherwise enjoy the land without shooting anything should step up and take an active role helping set state recreational policy.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:00 AM
Saturday, April 12, 2014
Fine piece about tar sand pipeline expansion, here.
See mn350.org for more information; comments taken through Monday.
Tar sand pipeline expansion in and around Wisconsin is a frequent topic on this blog.
More about Enbridge's plans to triple the Wisconsin flow - - is here:
An increase in crude oil production in Canada and North Dakota is driving a major crude oil transport company to upgrade its infrastructure in Adams County and other parts of Wisconsin, according to a spokesperson from Enbridge, Inc.
Becky Haase, stakeholder relations specialist, said in a phone interview the improvements to Line 61 will increase its capacity from 400,000 barrels per day to 1.2 million barrels per day.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:48 PM
Fracking by energy corporations like ExxonMobil are using the intensive injection of chemicals, groundwater and Western Wisconsin sand mined through weak regulation to set off a profitable boom in natural gas and oil production.
What else has all this new drilling, piping and shipping brought to the surface?
* Well, some of the 'product' has found its way into now-flammable drinking water (video).
* Or, by the tens of thousands of barrels, into wheat fields.
* Here's another by-product: earthquakes:
Ohio geologists have found a probable connection between fracking and a sudden burst of mild earthquakes last month in a region that had never experienced a temblor until recently, according to a state report.
The quake report, which coincided with the state’s announcement of some of the nation’s strictest limits on fracking near faults, marked the strongest link to date between nerve-rattling shakes and hydraulic fracturing -- the process of firing water, sand and chemicals deep into the earth to eject oil and natural gas out of ancient rock.
Last month, Ohio indefinitely shut down Hilcorp Energy’s fracking operation near the Pennsylvania border after five earthquakes, including one magnitude-3 temblor that awoke many Ohioans from their sleep.* And for your fracking files, there is this account of hypocrisy unmatched, as no less than the ExxonMobil CEO himself is saying, in court, hey not in my backyard; that fracking is polluting:
...while [Rex] Tillerson believes that the inevitable noise pollution that accompanies the fracking process—not to mention the potential for water contamination and other dangerous side-effects even when it is done safely (and some would strenuously argue that it is not possible to frack safely)— is of no real significance when it affects someone else’s neighborhood, he surely thinks it to be a pretty big deal when someone dares to get involved in fracking in Rex Tillerson’s neighborhood.
So much is this the case that Tillerson—ExxonMobil CEO and proud proponent of fracking as a key to both America’s and his company’s great energy future—has joined a lawsuit seeking to shut down a fracking project near Mr. and Mrs. Tillerson’s Texas ranch...
Making this all the more entertaining is the content of the lawsuit... [which] goes to great effort to lay out the problems experienced by those who are subjected to the fracking process—problems that Tillerson has always been quick to dismiss when his company picks a location that is not in his own neighborhood.Hat tip, ET.
Posted by James Rowen at 1:22 PM
Try it for yourself at "Campaign news release."
As I said in 2012:
(In case a virus or a hacker or someone in the administration with a sudden finger-twitch hits the website and the information disappears, I'll post the full text below so you can see that the pledge and numbers were mentioned four times when Walker and his campaign were touting it.)In my posting you will see several links to Walker campaign items that at the time were active as I tracked the pledge, but now those links also go to Error 404:
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2012
You won't find his failing 250,000 new jobs' pledge (and 10,000 new businesses, too!) under "Issues," and "Putting Wisconsin Back To Work."
What's there instead looks hurriedly-written, with punctuation and sentence-structure errors, such as:
Within minutes of taking the oath of office, my first official act as governor, was to begin to implement a comprehensive Emergency Jobs Plan...
I will continue my focus , we were successful.
(In case a virus or a hacker or someone in the administration with a sudden finger-twitch hits the website and the information disappears, I'll post the full text below so you can see that the pledge and numbers were mentioned four times when Walker and his campaign were touting it.)
But you can find the pledge on the 17th of 19 pages at the "Press Releases" link:
I've posted about it several times - - one example, here - - and this is where on his site to find it, including this intro:
Home » Scott Walker Unveils Plan to Bring 250,000 Jobs and 10,000 New Businesses to Wisconsin by 2015
Scott Walker Unveils Plan to Bring 250,000 Jobs and 10,000 New Businesses to Wisconsin by 2015
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
TELLS BUSINESS LEADERS “PEOPLE CREATE JOBS, NOT GOVERNMENT”
Madison – Scott Walker, Milwaukee County executive and candidate for governor, announced today at the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) Gubernatorial Candidate Forum his ambitious plan to bring 250,000 jobs and 10,000 new businesses to Wisconsin by 2015.
“If you elect me as your next Governor, I’ll get government out of the way and lower the tax burden so Wisconsin business owners and factories can create 250,000 jobs and 10,000 businesses in our state by 2015,” said Walker to the group of over 800 business owners and community leaders.
Walker outlined his six-step plan to help Wisconsin businesses create 250,000 new jobs and 10,000 new businesses by 2015:
1 – Lower Taxes “I want to lower the tax on employers, lower the tax on income, freeze property taxes and phase out retirement income taxes. States that have a lower tax burden have more jobs and better budgets, and its time Wisconsin was a better state to do business.”
2 – Less Regulations “State agencies should be more responsive to the customer and standards must be science-based and predictable.”
3 – End Frivolous Lawsuits “Luckily, we stopped the Governor’s changes in joint and several liability, but we need to do more to block frivolous lawsuits, and we need true tort reform to help lower health care costs.”
4 – Better Education “We need a strong education system with more accountability and more tools to prepare our future workforce. And it means giving our UW System the tools to operate more like a business to pursue economic development.”
5 – Improve Healthcare “We need help for employers to be able to afford the costs of providing health care without government taking total control. That means eliminating the state tax on Health Savings Accounts. It means full disclosure on medical procedures. And it means helping employers tap into larger purchasing pools to share the risk. Most importantly, it means finding new ways for everyone to get some skin in the game so we work on improving our health which will ultimately lead to lower costs.”
6 – Strong Infrastructure “Reliable energy sources and dependable transportation links are the final piece to our plan.”
“Unlike my opponents, I believe that people create jobs, not government,” Walker concluded. “By enacting my plan, we will be able to get government out of the way of employers big and small who will then help Wisconsin create 250,000 jobs by 2015, and as we create those new jobs, we will be able to add 10,000 new businesses.”'
Scott Walker serves as Milwaukee County executive and approaches his county budget the same way he approaches his family budget - cutting out waste and doing more with less. Walker has cut the county debt by 10%, reducing the workforce by more than 20%, and has authored eight consecutive budgets without increasing the property tax levy from the previous year.
And when he and his wife Tonette realized the county executive made more money than the governor, they thought that wasn’t right, so dating back to his election in 2002, they have given back over $370,000 of his salary back to the county.
This week, Walker kicked off his brown bag lunch tour that outlines his Brown Bag Guide to Government that follows three basic principles:
- Don’t spend more than you have.
- Smaller government is better government.
Scott Walker packs his own brown bag lunch each day before heading to the office (two ham and cheese sandwiches on wheat), and drives a 1998 Saturn with 100,000 miles to cut back on costs. Scott and Tonette Walker live in Wauwatosa with their two high school aged sons, Matt and Alex.
- People create jobs, not government.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:00 AM
Friday, April 11, 2014
Posted by James Rowen at 9:46 PM
First, he was at the now infamous Inn on the Park bar meeting where GOP State Sen. President Mike Ellis was recorded discussing an illegal fund-raising scheme.
Second, he offers this excuse about why he should be not be Ellis' collateral damage:
In an interview, Grothman acknowledged he is the one on the recording, but said he doesn’t remember the night in question or hearing about the Super PAC idea. He said it’s possible he was only there briefly.
“I’ve been at that bar so many times, I have no specific recollection,” Grothman said, referring to the bar at the Inn on the Park in Downtown Madison, where the audio was recorded.
Posted by James Rowen at 6:28 PM
I'd have thought there was more fight in him.
The Wisconsin GOP will soon look like its Texas counterpart, which is where Walker is taking the state.
"Right-wing" doesn't come close to describing how reactionary these people are, nor does it convey the type of hardball they play.
If they are willing to set up and crucify Mike Ellis to move him out of his safe Republican State Senate seat and leadership position - - acknowledging the seaminess of what Ellis was boasting about intending to do (or not) - - to clear a path for Tea Party replacements, then they will stop at nothing.
Posted by James Rowen at 6:08 PM
The air will be cleaner around Wausau, thanks to the EPA pushing a utility to convert to clearer fuels.
Still fossil fuel, but less air pollution.
That's good news.
But coal pollution will keep the air dirty over and in Lake Michigan, as the last remaining coal-fired Great Lakes ferry, the SS Badger, won last year yet another operating extension for its spring-to-fall daily sailings between Manitowoc, WI and Ludington, MI.
The ship's overboard coal ash dumping and Wisconsin clean air special-interest legislative exemption have been a subjects on this blog for years.
Political pressures have kept the EPA from following through on a long-standing order.
Bad news for the lake.
Posted by James Rowen at 1:10 PM
I have posted often on this blog - - here's one from May, 2008 - - about a citizens group in Waukesha and Washington Counties that has been trying to stop the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, WisDOT, from pursuing the expensive, land-grabbing and environmentally-damaging expansion of State Highway J/164.
David has been winning of late, but Goliath - in our name and with our money - - isn't taking it lightly.
The Highway J Citizens Coalition, (HJCG), had won a significant victory in federal court, but despite the ruling and direction it gave to WisDOT legal project construction and planning, WisDOT is picking a further fight with the coalition by charging it more than $10,000 in advance for public records as the case continues.
The coalition says in a major filing Monday with Madison prosecutors that WisDOT is withholding the records in part because it doesn't like how highway critics have portrayed WisDOT:
WisDOT has denied our fee waiver request and thrown up multiple roadblocks to prevent us from obtaining these public records because it claims that both the HJCG and WEAL [Wisconsin Environmental Action League] “are known to distribute misleading information regarding this project to the media outlets, on their websites and at WisDOT’s public meetings.”This from a Walker cabinet agency - - though Walker has claimed he is guided by transparency - - but to be fair about it, WisDOT was trying to manage the coalition's ability to distribute information as far back as 2009, too.
The coalition, by the way, says that Federal highway officials have been far more forthcoming with documents, thus making WisDOT look more like an outlier than an agency with transparency as part of its mission.
The records and fees ploy smells like payback by the often tone-deaf, arrogant agency - - and an offense against Wisconsin's Open Records statute, to boot.
The coalition on Monday filed a 150+ page Writ of Mandamus document with the Dane County District Attorney designed to pry the records loose.
Here is an excerpt (if I can access the file in one link, I will supply that):
10. On February 27,2014, WisDOT Assistant General Counsel Smith sent a letter to Attorney Greene stating that: a) Our public interest fee waiver request was denied, b) Our original February 7, 2014 public records request was denied, c) Processing of our February 11, 2014 public records request will take several months to complete, d) Before any paper copies of records would be provided to us with respect to our February 11, 2014 request, WisDOT demanded an upfront cash payment of $7,820, and e) This cost estimate did not cover any electronic records (such cost estimate would be provided at a later date). See Exhibit 5 attached to this letter.
11. In a March 18, 2014 letter, WisDOT Assistant General Counsel Smith demanded an additional $2,500 upfront cash payment for any requested records that are in electronic format and that it would take several months for WisDOT to provide these records after prepayment is received for them. Together with the February 27, 2014 prepayment demand, WisDOT now wants a total of $10,320 for these requested records which, according to them, will take several months to provide, and this amount may not even cover the alleged total cost of these records. See Exhibit 6 attached to this letter.
12. On March 18, 2014, FOIA Liaison William Stark from the FHWA’s Wisconsin Division Office sent Attorney Greene a letter fully granting both our February 7, 2014 public records request and fee waiver for these records.1With that letter, the FHWA gave us the first package of requested records and then stated that we would be receiving several additional packages of records as they are processed. See Exhibit 8 attached to this letter.
13. On March 19, 2014, FOIA Liaison Stark sent us another letter which included a second package of documents from the FHWA related to our February 7, 2014 public records request under FOIA. See Exhibit 9 attached to this letter.
14. As of this date,we still have not received any of the requested public records from WisDOT, and we further believe that: a) WisDOT’s prepayment demand of $10,320 is unreasonable, excessive and apparently intended to prevent us from obtaining these records, b) WisDOT’s claim that processing our public records request (even with full prepayment) will take several months is tantamount to a denial of this request, and
c) WisDOT has denied our fee waiver request and thrown up multiple roadblocks to prevent us from obtaining these public records because it claims that both the HJCG and WEAL [Wisconsin Environmental Action League] “are known to distribute misleading information regarding this project to the media outlets, on their websites and at WisDOT’s public meetings.” (2)
Posted by James Rowen at 1:05 AM