Friday, November 21, 2014

GOP panel probing Bengazi misconduct finds no Bengazi misconduct

Well, all Republicans except the hapless Ron Johnson can move onward to immigration conspiracy theories...
WASHINGTON — A two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has found that the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees.  
Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.

Obama not grateful enough for government internship

Boehner setting him straight about Reagan, Bush precedents.

Walker's attacks did not deter this well-known WI company

Despite his campaign repeated, high-profile attacks, nice to see this:
Waterloo-based Trek Bicycle announced today that it will occupy a 250,000-square-foot industrial building in Johnson Creek that is being built by Brookfield-based Briohn Building Corp.

Trek will move its global distribution center from Oconomowoc to the Johnson Creek building, which will be fully operational by the end of 2015. The new building, located at 425 Resort Dr., will be 50 percent larger than the Oconomowoc facility.

Facing deficit, Walker will slash and trash services

So that Mary Burke's campaign statements about the looming state deficit do not upend Scott Walker's plan to steer the nation on Wisconsin's right direction, look to Walker and the GOP legislature which serves him to cut deeply into every program statewide with the exception of lobbyist-controlled highway building, lost causes at the WEDC and politicized, private school vouchers.

If not, headlines like these will let conservatives in Iowa and New Hampshire see Walker's fraud:
Wisconsin faces projected $2.2 billion budget shortfall

Is WEDC still giving away nice stuff along with bad loans?

As we say goodbye to yet another departing WEDC senior official - - my scorecard is getting really messy tracking the turnover - - I wonder if the agency is still serving as secret Santa to employees and conference attendees, noted earlier:
...gifts and perks were rung up willy-nilly on bank cards or handed out on whims. 
From iTunes cards to Badger football season tickets to Wisconsin Memorial Union chairs worth nearly $300 each.

On the Milwaukee streetcar, amen to Journal Sentinel's support

[Updated, 1:40 p.m.] The editorial gets it right. Let's get moving, as all the phony objections over utility costs raised by ideological Walkerites have been resolved.

And boo to political opportunist and perpetually-grouchy Ald. Bob Donovan for begging Republican State Rep. Dale Kooyenga, (R-Brookfield) to butt in and monkey-wrench part of the streetcar system's financing plan with a hurry-up, stick-it-to-Milwaukee-again rewrite of state Tax Incremental Financing law to disallow streetcars system to be built using some TIF dollars.

What's the difference between financing development  - - a big box complex or shopping mall or housing development in the suburbs with TIF funds (google Pabst Farms) - - and development in a city through construction of a development-supporting transportation system?

Didn't a big project in Kooyenga's suburban district just get the benefit of a whopping, expanded TIF district - - all to lure and subsidize the location of an upscale out-of-state department store?

Noted here also a while ago - - to make the point that right-wing politicians like Kooyenga regularly talk about smaller government and a free-market economy but are all to willing to back and benefit from big government's big development tools.

There's even yet another huge, TIF-financed project getting ready for launch in Kooyenga's backyard that will take the last green space off the Blue Mound Rd. corridor?

The right had blocked the streetcar project earlier by interfering in an internal Milwaukee development and transportation plan by applying a double-standard - - while routinely spreading the cost to all taxpayers when utility lines were rerouted in road projects, Walker's majority on the Wisconsin Public Service Commission intervened on behalf of a Bradley Foundation-supported petition and barred the spreading of utility rerouting lines for the Milwaukee streetcar to all utility ratepayers.

A variation on the right's 'Highways, yes, rail transit no' agenda that has mucked up Milwaukee transit options for almost 20 years to protect and enhance suburban growth, and is being continued by the Walker/Robin Vos attack on transit/more billions of borrowed and tax dollars for highways statewide.

So now the anti-city caucus wants a new double-standard: expanded TIF rules for suburban development, but irrational restrictions on TIF in Milwaukee.

This hypocrisy is blatant and infuriating, as it stunts development in a city already hemmed in geographically by a special state law that forbids Milwaukee from annexing a square-inch beyond borders landlocked since the mid-1950's.

Enough!


Walker's failing WEDC akin to Chicago Bear's offense

Another key turnover.

The agency which Walker created and chairs, but couldn't produce even half the jobs Walker promised in his first term has had eight people serve in its top three positions.

And Walker thinks he has the administrative skills to run the country?




More evidence that Walker is not ready for prime time

Attention, all media, Republicans trying to conjure compassion for Latino, Asian and other immigrant families, and voters with strong ties to current or recent immigrants: Scott Walker in his typically awkward syntax told national media Thursday that immigration is some sort of sideshow:
“You have fallen into the trap that the president of the United States has done,” Walker said, “to talk about an issue that’s probably not in the top 10 of most voters in America.”

No seats left on the Wisconsin Ship of Fools

Remember when Walker said in a recent debate that his "plan" was to serve a full four year term?

Predicted and labeled, right here, on the spot, as bogus - -  because a plan is not a promise. (also see, Walker, 250,000 jobs, promise broken).

A broken promise further undermined today by yet another resignation atop his failing jobs agency, which he chairs.

Now Walker's "plan" is proven bogus, here, in Walker's own words and by his actions.

So...fool me, once, shame on me. Fool us all twice, start checking for cabin space on the good Wisconsin Ship of Fools.

The bigger picture, here.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Why what Obama just did is so outrageous

It says right in the US Constitution and on Tea Party websites that no Kenyan-born, African-American Democrat is allowed to issue deportation exemptions and immigration reform orders that are similar, notes the AP, to those issued by American-born caucasian Republican Presidents like Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. 

Walker hopes early trial balloon avoids these snags

[Updated, 8:02 p.m.] Here's why Walker is laying down his preposterous presidential marker even as the dust continues to settles after his Nov. 4th gubernatorial win.

*  He knows some Wisconsin voters and editorial board supporters will be irked by his limitless opportunism and obvious disinterest in the job they just handed him - - on the heels of suggesting, (wink-wink), he had plans only to serve as Governor.

By early next year those hurt feelings will be forgotten, so better for Team Walker to get that messy breakup out of the way now.

*  He needs to road-test and edit his numbing, canned robotic talking points and absorb some drama training to overcome his off-putting nasality and juvenile winking. Imagine that meeting Vladimir Putin, or leading national mourning after a major calamity.

 * And, most importantly, he needs to practice rebutting the hardballs likely to come his way from national reporters interested in these dozen subjects, rose starters:

"Walker secret router," "Amtrak, wasted millions," Kelly Rindfleisch, "Walker ultrasound, "Tim Russell, "state airplane misuse," and "GTac mining $700,000."

Not to mention "Walker original Tea Party Wisconsin."

This one, "Walker false PolitiFact" may break the Internet.

And this one is there for the picking: "Walker salon.com meeting."

Also "Walker Marquette dropout 2.59."

And, of course, "Walker John Doe."

Which on this blog alone locates 152 links. Such as this one.



Though world to end tonight, no run yet on survivalist supplies

[Updated] The world is still on its axis. The President gave a great speech. Both scripture and George W. Bush have been quoted. Simply put, for many immigrants, no more deportations! Now it's up to the right in the US House of Representatives to pass a decent bill, as the Senate has already done].

Righty radio is winding up a few days of doom-and-gloom before President Obama's speech tonight about The Surrender to Illegal Aliens, yet local stores report shelves still stocked with water, milk, eggs, cheese curds, t.p., batteries, food drying kits, ammo, Pepto-Bismol, wine boxes, 12-packs and comic books, so what gives?

Another hint that there may bet be tomorrow: none of the major networks is carrying the speech live.

Legal analysis of O'Donnell Park sale posted on two sites

You can read Atty. William Lynch's analysis sent to Milwaukee County both at today's index on WisOpinion.com and, updated, on this blog, too.

Here is the intro:
 At  its November 6th meeting, the County Board delayed consideration of the proposed sale until its December 18th meeting by a vote of 14-3.  The Board expressed uncertainty about the County’s role regarding future use of the property by requesting a legal opinion from County Corporation Counsel on that matter.  

They did so with good reason. There is much confusion about the legal consequences of the proposed sale. The big question is whether the public will have any legally enforceable right to public use and enjoyment of O’Donnell Park or any of its facilities. In short, the agreement provides for almost none.  If the County Board approves this sale, O’Donnell Park will no longer be a public park. It will be fully the buyer’s private property.


            The County Executive is proposing sale of the entire park complex--all of its land, structures and facilities. This is a proposed sale, not what some have characterized as a “public-private partnership.” When you sell your house you do not become a partner with the buyer.  After closing, you have no say whatsoever about how the new owner uses the property.

            Unless the County and NM agree to legally binding provisions for a continuing role for the County, the County will have no role in determining O’Donnell Park’s future. The corporation that owns the property and subsequent owners will have the sole right to determine its future use. 

            The proponents of the sale have submitted over 300 pages of materials, but only the “Purchase Agreement” and the three-page “Operation Contract” have legal significance for future use of the property. It is the specific language in them--not the statements, representations or promises made to encourage supervisors to vote for the sale--that will be legally binding. The Purchase Agreement and Operation Contract provide that no representation or agreement “not expressed in this Agreement shall be binding upon the parties…” 

The promises and representations made by NM’s CEO and the County Executive (or their surrogates) will not be enforceable.  For example, there is no wording in the proposed agreement that NM will maintain and enhance O’Donnell Park as a public park, as NM’s CEO asserted in a recent Journal-Sentinel op-ed. 

Movie rental sites report record "Meet John Doe" demand

Also, based on developments surrounding Scott Walker's preposterous Presidential fantasy, expect these topics to trend:

"Walker secret router," "Amtrak, wasted millions," Kelly Rindfleisch, "Walker ultrasound, "Tim Russell, "state airplane misuse," and "GTac mining $700,000."

This one, "Walker false PolitiFact" may break the Internet.

Also "Walker Marquette dropout 2.59."

And, of course, "Walker John Doe."

Which on this blog alone locates 152 links. Such as this one.

Meet your part-time Governor, Bucky

Media report today...
Sources told Politco, for an article with the headline "Scott Walker plots 2016 rollout," that Walker intends to use the upcoming legislative session in Madison to shore up his national credentials, with an eye toward Republican voters.
As I said on Tuesday both here and at my Purple Wisconsin site:

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.
Constituencies, money and people power also being sought by Walker presidential rivals, like Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul and others.
So when Walker talks about what is an illegal and wasteful plan to drug-test public assistance recipients whom he says are loafing around playing Xbox -- - and he was clever enough to steer that dog whistle clear of the more overtly-racist tone which forced Ryan to apologize to the Congressional Black Caucus for a similar attack on the allegedly-lazy inner city jobless - - he's talking to 2016 primary caucus voters in Waterloo, Iowa, not Waterloo, Wisconsin.
The same for Walker's attack on unions, Planned Parenthood, minority ballot access through reduced early voting days and unneeded voter ID.
It's all about Iowa, the state, not about Wisconsin's Iowa County anymore.

Trains carrying explosive ND crude oil roll through Wisconsin

WISN-TV Channel 12 reports what activists have been calling attention to for months:

Potentially-deadly oil tanker trains with few modernized tanker cars regularly roll past homes from Pewaukee through Wauwatosa at 68th and State Streets to Mount Pleasant, but unless the trains are carrying more than a million gallons of the relatively news, and relatively-more volatile fuel, state and fire agency officials don't get advance notice these rolling bombs are coming through.

Other cities in the US and Canada have suffered devastating, explosive ND oil train derailments.

Ten months ago, I addressed the issue this way:
How confident are state and local public safety officials that Wisconsin communities will not be torched in oil train derailments or contaminated by pipeline spills?
Lamentably, the point person in Wisconsin on rail safety is not a safety expert. 
He is former Milwaukee-area State Sen. Jeff Plale, who, after a primary defeat, was rewarded by Gov. Scott Walker for opposing climate change legislation and public employee contracts with a gubernatorial appointment as Wisconsin Railroad Commissioner.
His take on shipping Bakken crude through Wisconsin:
 ...Plale says it's no fiction that oil train traffic from the Dakotas, to and through Wisconsin, has increased by quite a bit. “The Canadian Pacific refers to that as their rolling pipeline – also, Burlington Northern through the western part of the state,” says Plale. “And it’s going through refineries down south and out east.” 
Plale says he’s been talking with the train companies about safety, especially in light of an uptick in freight rail incidents in Wisconsin last year and other oil train accidents in the United States and Canada. He urges Wisconsin citizens to contact him about any poor track conditions.
Here's a suggestion: Instead of a pothole hotline approach, and given the recent oil train derailments, and the awareness that Bakken Shale crude is easily explosive, let's have Plale, other officials and actual experts bring the public into a transparent, take-charge process that writes and implements an updated, more assertive oil shipping safety plan for Wisconsin.
Can Wisconsin prevent this?
Scott Walker, Train Wreck. Click The Photo

The veteran pol John Kasich ambushes, schools Walker

[Updated from 10:13 p.m. Wednesday.] Remember the other day when there was discussion on the conservative-leaning "Morning Joe" MSNBC program that Scott Walker was too immature to be President?

Sounds like that meme played out again when a reporter saw Walker shoot his mouth off at a GOP Governors meeting a few hours ago, only to have a more seasoned competitor, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, put Walker down:

BOCA RATON, Fla. — It was almost as if John Kasich wanted to reach out and pat Scott Walker on the head...
Kasich had suckered Walker into a discussion of a piece of political history in which the Wisconsin governor was not an expert by issuing a somewhat subtle reproach to Walker and perhaps Jindal — the two most provocative rhetorical bomb throwers on the stage — and pointing to his own role in the 1996 budget deal. 
“You gotta be careful with the rhetoric,” he said, “because you get too far out on that and people don’t want to deal.”
Ohio media took note of Kasich's more thoughtful moderation compared to Walker's right-wing talking points:
Kasich also was on the hot seat for his acceptance of federal dollars to expand Medicaid to those earning up to 138 percent of the poverty level. Walker rejected expansion and asserted Wednesday that his state has overseen a better program
"I believe [Obama] measures success in government by how many people are dependent on the government, on how many people are on Medicaid, on how many people are on food stamps," Walker said. "I personally believe we should measure success in government by just the opposite, by how many people are no longer dependent on government."
Kasich repeated past defenses – that he took the money from Washington because he could spend it more wisely and that he is proud of helping "people who live in the shadows." But for the first time ever he crafted a political argument on the matter. He held up his 31-point re-election win this month as proof that his way works. 
"You know, I did alright. I won 86 out of 88 counties in a state that's been decided by that much," Kasich said, holding his fingers close together to illustrate Ohio's close votes in past presidential elections and in his first gubernatorial race. 
He added later, after Walker's response: "Ronald Reagan expanded Medicaid."

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

At least your consultants have done well, Waukesha

[Updated 8:20 p.m. from 5:24 p.m.] Least surprising headline about Waukesha since 'Traffic congestion snarls I-94,' or 'Republicans win local offices.'
Waukesha concedes it can't meet deadline for radium-free water
Which is why, seeing it coming, I wrote last month:
Let us be the first to note that it has been exactly  4.5 years - - or fifty-four months - - since the Waukesha Common Council approved an application for a diversion of water from Lake Michigan.
And in those fifty-four months have come and gone two Waukesha mayors, at least a million dollars in consulting and legal fees, and Lord knows how many meetings, application rewrites, deadlines, fits and no starts - - but not a drop of water has been diverted, nor a shovel of earth turned nor a single regulatory approval won to get the show on the road.
And the potential price for all those pumps, pipes and plethora of project costs has shot past the $200 million mark.
Kinda suggests that there's been a lot of official grandiosity, monument building and development dreaming pumped out of Waukesha since April 8, 2010, but little demonstration of real need.
And while Waukesha officials have been lobbying Washington for Big Government subsidies - - for years - -  as if the city was about to break ground any day, I've been posting on this blog, ad infinitum, for years, commentary and data like this:
*  The application has had fundamental flaws from the beginning, among them Waukesha's intention, even as its daily average usage is falling, to seek more water than it is using and send some of the diverted water to undeveloped areas at the city's edges and to some neighboring towns that do not have water shortages or crises and have not applied for a water diversion on their own. 
*  The application - - approved by the Waukesha Common Council in April, 2010 and transmitted shortly thereafter to the DNR - - has had documented, multiple deficiencies that have generated and continue to generate significant questions by the DNR.
It's been hurry up and wait for Waukesha and its water ratepayers - - beginning with failed efforts by Waukesha Mayors since 2003 unsuccessfully to get former Governor Jim Doyle to just turn on the Lake Michigan spigot - - beginning in earnest in April, 2010, when Waukesha approved the application its staff and consultants wrote for state DNR review, and the questions haven't stopped since. 

Nearly five years ago, I wrote:

Waukesha has to get its application right or else it will be turned back as incomplete or unacceptable by one of more of the states, and that would make Waukesha vulnerable to fines under a 2018 deadline it has accepted to permanently clean up its drinking water supply. 
Lake Michigan is not Waukesha's only compliant water supply option: it could continue to treat its well water, or change to different, cleaner wells in Waukesha County, or perhaps take and return water from the Fox River. 
But it has focused its consultants and lawyers and PR people on the Lake Michigan alternative, which means winning eight states' OK's by complying with the new Great Lakes Compact and all its rules and standards.
These consultants and lawyers and consultants have been paid handsomely, for years, with fees of $10,000 monthly and more not uncommon, and still the application sits at the DNR, tied up in drafting gaps, without hearings or reviews having begun or ended in Wisconsin - - to say nothing of the tough process in store by seven other Great Lakes states.

How tough?

Almost six years, I attended and reported on a meeting in the Waukesha Common Council chambers, where city officials, its water utility leadership and the general public heard invited guest and water expert Peter Annin warn everyone that regardless of how much work went into writing an application for a Great Lakes diversion, Waukesha should expect an initial rejection from at least one other state (unanimous consent for approval is required) in a "brutal" review process.

More than seven years ago, I wrote about what was being said by other states' reviewers when assessing a much simpler and less controversial water diversion plan proposed by the City of New Berlin:
...raising objections were the state of Illinois, and, in an advisory capacity, the Canadian province of Ontario, plus a long list of environmental and conservation organizations that raised significant questions of New Berlin and the DNR about the application's adequacy, accuracy, and completeness.
"New York officials said the application was without key studies, complete data, adequate water supply descriptions, enough system and geological maps and "descriptions of the situation and feasible options." 
"New York," I wrote, "opined that there was "no evidence that the applicant is aware of or familiar with the full range of applicable state and national regulations, laws, agreements or treaties," and cited other deficiencies or possible inaccuracies. 
"Additionally, New York observed that "the statement of no cumulative impacts is unsupported by any data in the document and does not address potential cumulative impacts to Lake Michigan water levels, shoreline, other users, water-dependent natural resources, etc.' 
Pretty tough stuff for a document the DNR labeled at the time complete and comprehensive.
And ten years ago next month, I laid out what is still at the heart of the problem that Waukesha' faces if and when it ever gets an application into shape that the Wisconsin DNR - - regardless of the corporatization which Scott Walker has laid over it - - believes it can credibly sell to the other states without getting its career water experts laughed out of the room:
Waukesha and other communities to its west keep converting farmland into subdivisions and roads and driveways and parking lots and factory sites -- an alarming trend because much of that development is covering up the very raw land through which rain and snow must seep and replenish the underground supply...
There are good models centered on the wise use of water that make these [conservation] connections. Look no farther than the public-private partnership in Milwaukee's Menomonee River Valley, where jobs AND restored land AND clean water AND recreation AND a raised quality of life are replacing blight and pollution and unemployment.  
The solution doesn't have to be water slides and subdivisions on farm fields. 

Good news, Bucky. WI is 32nd on some business survey list

Out of the bottom third, at last! So four years of Fitwalkerstan voodoo is worth something.

State tax money wasted to replace Amtrak funding Walker sacrificed

You can add this fine reporting from Isthmus about millions in state tax dollars being spent by Scott Walker replacing millions in federal Amtrak funding he threw away...to...the broader story about his ongoing partisan attack on the multiple development benefits of several rail systems - - all to please Milwaukee talk radio and fuel his national stature vis-a-vis President Obama.

Legal analysis of O'Donnell Park sale sent to Milwaukee County

[Updated] As this blog serves as a forum about environmental and political matters, I had recently posted a letter and other opinion raising concerns about the proposed sale of O'Donnell Park downtown to Northwestern Mutual.

I'm posting today an updated document - - a detailed legal analysis of the potential transaction by Milwaukee attorney and sale opponent William Lynch, who writes that the sale of a public park deserves careful and widespread consideration. (My apologies for the small type. A coding problem here at the blog. Perhaps you can enlarge it for your screen.)

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


What the Proposed Sale of O’Donnell Park Will Mean for the Public
A Legal Analysis of the Proposed Purchase Agreement
By William H. Lynch, Attorney at Law
              
            At  its November 6th meeting, the County Board delayed consideration of the proposed sale until its December 18thmeeting by a vote of 14-3.  The Board expressed uncertainty about the County’s role regarding future use of the property by requesting a legal opinion from County Corporation Counsel on that matter.  They did so with good reason.  There is much confusion about the legal consequences of the proposed sale. The big question is whether the public will have any legally enforceable right to public use and enjoyment of O’Donnell Park or any of its facilities. In short, the agreement provides for almost none.  If the County Board approves this sale, O’Donnell Park will no longer be a public park. It will be fully the buyer’s private property,
            The County Executive is proposing sale of the entire park complex--all of its land, structures and facilities. This is a proposed sale, not what some have characterized as a “public-private partnership.” When you sell your house you do not become a partner with the buyer.  After closing, you have no say whatsoever about how the new owner uses the property.
            Unless the County and NM agree to legally binding provisions for a continuing role for the County, the County will have no role in determining O’Donnell Park’s future. The corporation that owns the property and subsequent owners will have the sole right to determine its future use.
            The proponents of the sale have submitted over 300 pages of materials, but only the “Purchase Agreement” and the three-page “Operation Contract” have legal significance for future use of the property. It is the specific language in them--not the statements, representations or promises made to encourage supervisors to vote for the sale--that will be legally binding. The Purchase Agreement and Operation Contract provide that no representation or agreement “not expressed in this Agreement shall be binding upon the parties…”  The promises and representations made by NM’s CEO and the County Executive (or their surrogates) will not be enforceable.  For example, there is no wording in the proposed agreement that NM will maintain and enhance O’Donnell Park as a public park, as NM’s CEO asserted in a recent Journal-Sentinel op-ed.

First, here is what is not in the proposed agreement and will therefore not be legally enforceable:
     The buyer does not agree to maintain or use the property, or any part of it, as a public park.
     The buyer does not agree to maintain or improve the plaza area of the park. Nor does the buyer promise not to build structures on what is currently public plaza. The appraisal of the property assumed “that a buyer of the property will keep the top terrace area a public park by simultaneously entering into a public access agreement with Milwaukee County.” The proposed purchase agreement does not include a public access agreement.
     The buyer does not agree to maintain the Miller Brewing Company Pavilion as a public facility. It can put an addition on or replace it with a different building
     The buyer does not agree to any restrictions on commercial development of the southeast part of the property, the grassy area south of the parking facility at the corner of Michigan Street and Lincoln Memorial Drive (the “SE Development Site”).  The “SE Development Site” is larger than the land on which the nearby 33-story Kilbourn Tower is built.
     The buyer does not agree to spend money to maintain or improve the parking facility, the plazas, or Miller Pavilion, except that it will receive a $1.3 million credit toward the $14 million purchase price for parking facility repairs. The buyer will have “no obligation to repair or replace any part of the Property or Improvements in kind.”
     The buyer does not agree to restrict its use to what City of Milwaukee Park District zoning now allows. The buyer is free to seek changes in, or variances from, City zoning.
     The deed the County proposes to give the buyer does not include any restrictions on future use of the property.
     No deed restrictions require public ownership and/or public park use of the Park’s “South Section”, the approximate one-half of the Park between Wisconsin Ave and Michigan Street.

Secondly, this is what the proposed agreements do provide regarding limits on future use; their legal significance is very limited.
     Ownership: The property will be private. The County agrees the buyer “shall have all rights of a private owner to control loitering or other disagreeable behavior on the Property.”
     Parking Access: Until December 31, 2033, or earlier, if the buyer in good faith determines the “useful life” of the parking structure has ended, 200 of the 1,332 parking spaces will be available on weekdays for public parking at market rates, and all parking spaces will be available at market rates nights and weekends.
     Pedestrian Access: The buyer agrees to allow public access to the Milwaukee Art Museum and Michigan Street pedestrian bridges, but only for the “useful life” of the parking facility (up to the end of 2033), except, “the Bridges may be temporarily obstructed by Owner during special events.” No specific easements or access routes are specified.
     Miller Pavilion Leases: The buyer agrees to assume the County’s leases, including the leases with the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum and Zilli Hospitality Group. Those leases are for limited terms. The leases may be terminated under circumstances specified in them or by agreement of the parties.
     Pavilion Post-Sale Public Access:  After the park is sold, the County will have no role respecting leases, nor in how the space will be used if they are terminated, nor in how space not now subject to leases will be used. The buyer does not promise the County to use the Miller Pavilion for public purposes, nor to make it accessible to the public.
     Zoning: The buyer acknowledges the Property is currently zoned as a Park District. If the buyer requests the City to change the zoning designation of the property, it must notify the County. If the County chooses, it can exercise its right as an owner of abutting property to require a 75% vote of the City Council on a change of zoning designation.  This will only apply if the 75% vote requirement remains a part of the City zoning procedure. This notice requirement does not cover City zoning changes that are not the result of the buyer filing a request, or, by its terms, to requests for variances from the zoning requirements. The City is free to change the zoning at any time.  The City is not a party to the proposed sale and park district zoning will be changed before closing to permit private ownership of park structures. The County will have no recourse if the City changes the zoning to permit commercial development.
     City Deed Restrictions on North Section:  In its deeds the City of Milwaukee restricted ownership and use of the parks it transferred to the County in the 1930’s, including Juneau Park. The north part of O’Donnell Park between Wisconsin Avenue and Mason Street, the “North Section”, was part of Juneau Park and is subject to these City deed restrictions.  The south approximately one half (the “South Section”), which includes the Miller Pavilion, the South Garden Plaza and the SE Development Site, is not. The City’s deed required that the Park be forever publicly owned.  Before closing buyer will ask the City for a revision that will allow privatization of ownership of the North Section.  This will leave a restriction that the North Section will forever solely and exclusively be used as a public park. The deed restriction on the North Section of the park can only be enforced by the City, not by the County.
     North Section Deed Restriction Changes after Closing.  If, after the deal closes, the owner seeks to have the City remove or revise the deed restriction that requires use of the North Section as a public park, the owner is to notify the County. If the County objects, the owner agrees it will not proceed with seeking to have the deed restrictions changed by the City. But the City is not a party to these promises. The City can revise or release the owner from having to use the property as a public park without a request from the buyer. Also the City can release the owner from having to use the property as a public park even if the County objects and the buyer agrees not to proceed with its request.

            In short, the buyer is not agreeing that it will use O’Donnell Park solely and exclusively as a public park, either now or in the future. The City is free to revise or release its restriction to public park use that applies only to the North Section of the property. If the City does so, whoever owns the property at the time will be able to develop and change, not just the South Section, but also the entire property, as any owner of private property may. Any representations of a present intent not to change some or any of the park’s uses or facilities will “not be binding on the parties.”
            The law does not give the County the right to determine how the property will be zoned or what City deed restrictions will apply to it in the future.  The support City officials have expressed for this sale makes it likely that the City will grant variances to, or changes in, its zoning and revise or release its deed restrictions.
Legal Summary: What Does This Mean for the Public?
            The buyer has publicly stated that they intend to keep O’Donnell Park as it is and enhance it for the public, for 19 years or less, whenever the owner determines that the “useful life” of its parking structure has expired. However, the buyer is not legally bound to make any concessions for public use except, during the useful life period,  1) to provide specified numbers of parking spaces available to the public at market rates at specific times and 2) to provide access for pedestrians to the Art Museum and Michigan Street walkway bridges except during special events. No other public use is enforceable by the CountyPromises and representations respecting future use of the property not in the express language of the agreement are not enforceable.
            The sale contract requires the buyer to honor existing leases. As with any lease, the parties may renegotiate the terms at any time. There is no current lease for the Miller Room or the public lobby space of the Miller Pavilion. The buyer may use the facilities not covered by a long-term lease for corporate purposes, and not for the public.
            For a time, as a gesture of goodwill, the buyer may, but is not legally required to, continue to make the park plazas available for public enjoyment.  As a private owner, it can set any parameters that it wishes, including limited hours. The owner will not be required to allow the public to reserve either the North Garden Plaza or South Garden Plaza for weddings and other events that may now be arranged through a park permit. The buyer will not be required to provide the same levels of access the public now enjoys.
            City zoning, because it can readily be changed, provides little protection for public access to and enjoyment of the property. Likewise, the restriction to park use in the City’s deed to the North Section of the park is also subject to change, solely at the City’s discretion. They can be modified to end park use and allow commercial development.  The County will have no legal recourse.
            The future of public use and enjoyment of the property is very limited and beyond the County’s control.
Nov.18, 2014
WHL

Milwaukee to expand planned streetcar route, add local financing

Props to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett for continuing to work around the far right's efforts that have long-stalled the creation of an urban rail line and development potential.

Rail transit routinely produces those benefits in cities, though have blocked repeatedly in Wisconsin by suburban GOP politicians and allied anti-transit ideologues

Since the 1990's.

But now, a breakthrough, as Barrett announced on Tuesday an extension of the proposed downtown street car loop that would also serve the lakefront and released details of a new funding mechanism - - a city tax incremental financing district.

Details, here:
The new proposal adds money for the lakefront spur, and to potentially cover the cost of relocating underground utilities for the streetcar. Including spending for utilities and lakefront spur, the budget increases to $113.9 million for 4.6 miles of track, Barrett said. 
If approved by the Common Council, construction could begin in late 2015 with the downtown loop and lakefront spur in full service by mid-2018, Barrett said.
Milwaukee could finally be getting what other cities, like Minneapolis, take for granted:
Banned in Milwaukee

Madison resists WI GOP's anti-city agenda

Madison gets another top ranking - - #1 in America for seniors - - which is not bad for a college town also ranked #1 sometimes (with Milwaukee) on Republican Scott Walker's hating list.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Walker's Waterloos

[Updated from 12:10 p.m.] 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.

Constituencies, money and people power also being sought by Walker presidential rivals, like Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul and others.

So when Walker talks about what is an illegal and wasteful plan to drug-test public assistance recipients whom he says are loafing around playing Xbox -- - and, yes, he was clever enough to steer that dog whistle clear of the more overtly-racist tone which forced Ryan to apologize to the Congressional Black Caucus for a similar attack on allegedly-lazy inner city jobless - - Walker is talking to 2016 primary caucus voters in Waterloo, Iowa, not people living in, say, Waterloo, Wisconsin.

The same can be said for Walker's attack on unions, Planned Parenthood, minority ballot access through reduced early voting days and unneeded voter ID.

It's all about Iowa, the state, not about Wisconsin or its Iowa County anymore.

Two more observations:

*  Walker is going to see a lot of these when he's in Iowa, and while tilting at them there he might have to explain why he's made it so hard in neighboring Wisconsin to install them, their good-paying jobs, and cleaner power.
Wind turbines, I-80, Iowa
*  So it would so appropriately karmic if Walker's political manipulation set the stage for his presidential Waterloo.


Remove Paul Ryan from '16 POTUS field

Getting his dream job - - Chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means  - - means he can go to town on budget, tax and fiscal policy - - while campaign cash traditionally coming the way of the chair rains down. A clearer path for Walker, then.

Walker's said only a Ryan run would keep our Gov. out of the field, so now make you run Walker's statements and actions through that filter.

For now, no Keystone XL "Aye" Senate vote

A reprieve for clean air, climate stability, the Oglalla aquifer, and common sense.

In Wisconsin, the fiscal and environmental road to hell...

...is paved.

Aerial view of the project taken in the fall of 2013.
State Highway 35

Streetsblog Network distributes WI transit, road-building news

Fox Point's path to preservation

The Journal Sentinel produced an interesting story about the obstacles to saving a small island in a Waukesha county lake.

Here's hoping preservationists find a way, though it's a hard slog since they need the cooperation of a state legislature and DNR which have shown as much interest in environmental protection during the Walker era as the Chicago Bears offensive line has shown keeping Jay Cutler off his back.

It's more than a little depressing to see how hard it is hold on to clean and accessible land and water for future Wisconsin generations in the land of conservation heroes like John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Gaylord Nelson and George Vukelich.

Look at the battle underway right now near Sheboygan, where people are trying to save a nature preserve and even a piece of a state park from being clear-cut and other wise trampled for a high-end golf course.

Or the struggle by Milwaukee conservationists to save O'Donnell Park and its Lake Michigan view downtown for the public's enjoyment.

That's an uphill battle, for sure, since Milwaukee County has been short of funds since the days of Tom Ament and His Pension Raiders, which is why the County sold a big, wooded green piece of the County Grounds oasis in Wauwatosa for UW-M engineering and research buildings.

And absorb the wretched environmental record of the incumbent Governor, who, despite manure overflows and fuel pipeline spills and wetlands fillings and sand mine pollution is determined to enable 35 years of mountain top dynamiting in the pristine Bad River watershed near Lake Superior to excavate and mill low-grade iron ore from miles of deep open pit mining.

But there was one recent grace note across this otherwise gloomy political environment, and that is in Fox Point, where a group of determined conservationists found a way to save a footbridge above a ravine to retain a local landmark and offer a special view of Lake Michigan.

Maybe there's a connection to be made between the good people there and their counterparts in Waukesha County near Pewaukee Lake who want to save the little island for the birds.

And posterity,

What was it the poet said about about that?