Friday, November 30, 2007

Waukesha Consultant Documents Will Be Posted

The documents referenced in the posting "Waukesha Consultant Suggested Tax Sharing With Milwaukee To Win Diversion" will be put up on the blog electronically as soon as I can get them converted, with a link.

Sorry for the delay.

On A Day Of Ironies, Barrett Sums It Up For Milwaukee

As Milwaukee welcomes Ed Flynn as the city's new police chief, selected from the outside (Springfield, MA), three former Milwaukee police officers on the day same get hit with long sentences (from 15-17 years) in US District Court for violating the civil rights of men they beat as part of a senseless, drunken mob.

Sentences that probably would have been shorter if, in their earlier state court cases, honest testimony had been presented by several current and ex-officers who didn't tell the truth, leading to unjust acquittals.

Mayor Tom Barrett summed up the sentencings for a community that needs to move past the beatings and everything the brutality and coverup represented:

“The sentences handed down today by Federal Judge Charles Clevert are fair and just punishment for the crimes committed against Mr. Frank Jude Jr. and Mr. Lovell Harris,." said Barrett. "These sentences bring Milwaukee closer to ending this sad chapter in our City’s history, and hopefully closer to healing and recovery.”

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Simple Steps Can Cut Greenhouse Emissions Significantly

The New York Times reports that simple steps by consumers can save energy and cut greenhouse emissions substantially.

Coincidentally, the Backstory roundtable on WMCS-1290 AM Thursday afternoon touched on some of these efficient opportunities, such as installing compact flourescent bulbs.

If changes are made in mass numbers, benefits occur - - and The Washington Post reports separately on the same findings, focusing on the growing number of major corporations urging action to combat climate change.

The best news about that focus is the further dimunition of the fading argument that there is doubt about the reality of climate change.

Consider Donating to Grist

The online environmental news site Grist supplies wonderful, readable information, and as a non-profit, can always use a donation.

I sent them a few bucks: here's where to go for more details.

David Clarke's Non-Mayoral Candidacy Predicted Here

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke's decision not to challenge Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, announced yesterday, was predicted on this blog on November 9th.

Consider what you read here reliably sourced and analyzed.

Support Growing For Rail Corridor From Milwaukee to Illinois

When the state dropped the bombshell that the cost to repair and expand I-94 From Milwaukee to the Illinois state line had doubled to $1.9 billion just as construction is to begin in 2008, more voices are calling for that price tag to drop about 10% so that commuter rail can be launched along the corridor, too.

It is finally dawning on people that transportation spending in Wisconsin is severely distorted, with highways getting nearly all the new-service money.

The highway expansion in our region is based on a now-outmoded study with traffic projections based on gasoline selling at $2.30/gallon.

Seen any of that lately as you, like most of us, try to save money by driving less?

Waukesha Consultant Suggested Tax Sharing With Milwaukee To Win Water Diversion

Though some suburban officials have said 'over-our dead-bodies,' one prominent consultant paid by the Waukesha Water Utility proposed a while ago that the key to water sales to the suburbs west of the Great Lakes Basin was sharing new property tax revenues with Milwaukee.

The story is reprinted below intact from a guest posting I wrote last year for Bill Christofferson's Xoff Files blog - - in a simpler time when I had no blog of my own.

Insiders familiar with the nuances of the issue will see that things have moved forward a bit since then, but the matter is particularly germane now as Milwaukee officials want New Berlin to consider issues beyond mere payments per gallon for water, should a deal be struck.

It all involves a memo, dated June 10, 2004, "Arguments For and Against the City of Milwaukee Selling Water to the City of New Berlin," found, oddly enough, in the files of the Waukesha Water Utility. As to why, and how it got paid for after the Utility essentially disowned it, read on...

(I will have the original documents converted into an electronic format, and will post them, so bear with me below for such a length posting.)

Citing City of Milwaukee records and analyses, the memo indicated that 42 businesses from Milwaukee had migrated to New Berlin's Industrial Park when it opened, suggesting both that more industrial flight could follow water diversions and sharing tax resources as part of a diversion package could minimize Milwaukee's revenue losses.

"The losses had a negative impact on Milwaukee's industrial assessment and resulting property tax revenues," said the memo. "The sale of water to New Berlin could have a similar negative impact on Milwaukee industry during the decade."

More recently, State Senator Mary Lazich, (R-New Berlin), has called City of Milwaukee officials' suggestions that water be sold in conjunction with a broader social and fiscal agenda "extortion." See her Nov. 1, 2007 blog posting.

The heart of the posting from the Xoff Files is in these few paragraphs, which I will italicize to separate them from the rest of this item.

The consultant referenced was Milwaukee attorney Barbara Boxer, who sent a strategy memo to the Waukesha Water Utility about how sharing property tax revenue with Milwaukee could help seal a diversion deal.

"The sale of water to New Berlin will create competition for industrial development between Milwaukee and New Berlin that may result in a loss of industry and related property tax revenues to Milwaukee" during the current decade, the memo said, citing Milwaukee records.

On the plus side, and again relying on Milwaukee records, the memo said selling water to New Berlin could help stabilize Milwaukee's water rates, provide an essential service to the suburbs, bring Milwaukee needed revenue, foster regional cooperation and establish a wider, cooperative governmental model.

Boxer's conclusion was that the argument for regional cooperation, because it had helped secure an earlier water sale agreement with Milwaukee to supply Lake Michigan water to New Berlin's in-basin territory, "gives considerable insight into strategies that may help advance the proposal for Waukesha."

The memo further suggested "an approach based on a regional tax concept" could help Waukesha "overcome many of the arguments against Milwaukee's sale of water."

And now the full posting:

Wednesday, October 18, 2006:

Hot Potato Found in Waukesha Water Utility Files

Here's the story of one water policy drama that played out behind-the-scenes at the Waukesha Water Utility, where a team of consultants and government officials is working hard to win a diversion of Lake Michigan water:

As the debate over whether Lake Michigan water should be piped to suburbs beyond the Great Lakes basin heated up in 2004, the utility received a memo from a Milwaukee law firm that included a summary of the potential results - - good and bad - - if New Berlin got a Lake Michigan diversion.

The utility's response at the time?

It told the author that the memo's preparation hadn't been authorized or coordinated with the utility's consulting team.

The utility eventually paid the law firm about $4,000 of an initial bill of just over $10,000 and filed the memo away.

Courtesy of the Wisconsin Open Records Statute, read the intriguing history of the unwanted and hitherto undisclosed water memo, including its suggestion that Waukesha woo Milwaukee with an offer of tax sharing, below...

The City of New Berlin wants a diversion of Lake Michigan water to the city's western portion that is outside the Great Lakes basin.

Proposed diversions from The Great Lakes - - the world's largest system of fresh surface water - - are becoming more contentious because some fast-growing Waukesha County suburbs are aggressively pressing for diversion permissions now.

Yet it turns out the case against diversions was included in a legal memorandum that sat unnoticed for two-and-a-half years in the strangest of places - - the files of the Waukesha Water Utility - - which itself wants a diversion of Lake Michigan water about six times larger than New Berlin's, records show.

Proposals to divert Great Lakes water are splitting the region along urban/suburban lines.

Citing radium contamination and potential water supply issues linked to the over-pumping of deep wells, some suburban and allied Waukesha County business interests argue that Waukesha communities are entitled to Lake Michigan water - - even if their communities lie outside the boundaries of the Great Lakes basin.

Meanwhile, many environmentalists fear that a New Berlin diversion could cause precedent-setting water losses to an already fragile and indispensable fresh water ecosystem.

And some Milwaukee activists and officials worry that selling water to the fast-growing suburbs would contribute to the very suburban sprawl that is draining value from the state's largest city.

The issue is front-and-center because all eight Great Lakes states are reviewing rule changes to a Compact their Governors signed with two Canadian Great Lakes provincial premiers in 1985.

The changes lay out potentially higher legal barriers that could slow or block the diversion of Lake Michigan water to Waukesha, western New Berlin and other municipalities outside the Great Lakes basin.

An open records request to Waukesha's Water Utility this summer unearthed numerous documents about water policy planning in Waukesha and some other Waukesha County communities.

Among the more documents were Waukesha's confidential - - and unsuccessful - - behind-the-scenes proposals in March and May that sought Gov. Jim Doyle's permission to divert water relatively quickly from Lake Michigan without applying to the other Great Lakes states for approval.


The open records request also produced the June 10, 2004 legal memorandum - - "Arguments For and Against the City of Milwaukee Selling Water to the City of New Berlin."

The memo was prepared by Attorney Barbara Boxer at the Milwaukee firm of Reinhart Boerner Van Buren, S.C., and relied heavily on City of Milwaukee records to support the pro-and-con arguments that the memo summarized.

On the negative side of the diversion argument, according to the memo: encouragement of urban sprawl, possible job losses, potentially-insufficient payments to Milwaukee, possible harm to the Great Lakes basin, and New Berlin's non-compliance with a Milwaukee requirement that municipalities seeking its water have a comprehensive housing strategy - - an omission the memo said New Berlin had subsequently addressed.

On the relationship of diverted water to the issue of job losses, the memo cited the earlier relocation of 42 Milwaukee firms to New Berlin's Industrial Park that had occurred in the 1970's.

"The sale of water to New Berlin will create competition for industrial development between Milwaukee and New Berlin that may result in a loss of industry and related property tax revenues to Milwaukee" during the current decade, the memo said, citing Milwaukee records.

On the plus side, and again relying on Milwaukee records, the memo said selling water to New Berlin could help stabilize Milwaukee's water rates, provide an essential service to the suburbs, bring Milwaukee needed revenue, foster regional cooperation and establish a wider, cooperative governmental model.

Boxer's conclusion was that the argument for regional cooperation,because it had helped secure an earlier water sale agreement with Milwaukee to supply Lake Michigan water to New Berlin's in-basin territory "gives considerable insight into strategies that may help advance the proposal for Waukesha.

"The memo further suggested "an approach based on a regional tax concept" could help Waukesha "overcome many of the arguments against Milwaukee's sale of water."

Boxer suggested she provide the utility with additional research into regional tax plans elsewhere.

Efforts to reach Boxer and the law firm for comment since September 24, 2006 have not produced a reply.

Dan Duchniak, the Waukesha utility's General Manager, distanced the utility from the memo.

Duchniak told Boxer by letter on August 30, 2004 that the memo had not been authorized contractually and had not been coordinated with his team of consultants.

"Without this effort and coordination, our position for a successful application to the Great Lakes Governors could be compromised," Duchniak wrote.

Records show that the Rinehard firm had a $60,000 contract with the Waukesha Water Utility in 2003 for work on drinking water quality and compliance issues, but not on the subjects outlined in the memo, Duchniak said.

Duchniak said his objections to the memo were entirely procedural and were unrelated to the memo's substance.
He said initially rejected a bill for the memo's preparation for $10,107.90, and later agreed to pay $3,945.

Duchniak's letter to Boxer included an offer to review a proposal from Boxer's firm for additional work, including lobbying, but a request to the utility for all contracts related to Waukesha's diversion planning shows no contracts with the firm.

The utility has retained Godfrey & Kahn, S.C., to work on some diversion legal planning, Martin Schreiber & Associates for public relations and lobbying, and GeoSyntec Consultants, Chicago, Illinois, for engineering advice.

A Call For Women Political Candidates From "Emerge Wisconsin"

Melissa Malott, chair of Emerge Wisconsin, offers this Guest Post:

To Progressives:

As I read about opportunities on this website about positive change in our government system, I think about the important change that the right people in the right situation can make. Think about the positive influence that one person can make.

For example, Senator Russ Feingold sets an amazing example for politicians. Every lobbyist in Washington knows that they aren't going to buy favors with Sen. Feingold's staff because of the strong ethic in the office. The right people make a huge difference.

The good news is that there are so many people who could make the changes that our political and government systems need, but they aren't running for office. Part of it is simply that they aren't inspired and trained to do so.

Fortunately, there is an organization dedicated to changing this.

Emerge Wisconsin identifies, inspires, and educates Democratic women about campaigning, and is offering its next intensive training program for Democratic women in Wisconsin in January, 2008.

We are looking for women who would be great leaders in local or state offices, and extend this invitation to readers of this blog and their friends to be part of our class.

Think about that woman in your life, whether a teacher, your mother, or sister, who made all the difference to you. Think about what they could have done in office.

Emerge Wisconsin's training sessions are held monthly from January through June 2008, with two sessions in March. The majority of sessions will be held in Milwaukee or Madison.

Program participants will learn how to become an effective candidate, from building a staff to giving a great interview. There will also be a Legislative Day when program participants will shadow Democratic women who hold public office.

Thanks to the contributions of those concerned about the need for more Democratic women in public office, the total cost of the six-month program, which includes materials, meals, and some lodging, is only $250.

Emerge Wisconsin believes that individual financial circumstances should NOT be a barrier to participation; partial and full financial aid may be awarded after admission to the program.

Please visit for more information or e-mail to have an application sent to you via electronic or U.S. mail.

The application deadline is approaching on December 5th, 2007.

We hope that you will take this opportunity to develop and strengthen your leadership skills along with other amazing women from across Wisconsin.

If you have any questions, or would like further details, please contact Kate Moen, Emerge Wisconsin Program Director, at

Sincerely, Melissa Malott, Emerge Wisconsin Chair

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sam McGovern-Rowen Is Running For Alderman in Milwaukee's 3rd District

My wife Susan and I have signed on as enthusiastic volunteers to help our son, Sam McGovern-Rowen, in the campaign he announced yesterday for Alderman in Milwaukee's 3rd District.

The election is in the spring: we couldn't be prouder.

Sam is an unusually bright, energetic, and committed young man who is currently the legislative aide to incumbent 3rd District Alderman Michael D'Amato. Mike disclosed this weekend that he would not seek another term.

Sam and his wife Maureen are the parents of young twin sons. They both are true public servants, as Maureen teaches at Hartford Avenue School. They epitomize the young families that the 3rd District and City of Milwaukee want to attract and need to retain.

60's people (the era, and our ages) like us wonder and worry about what's in store for the generations coming up, and often feel like potential, younger leaders with energy and ideas don't see politics as a desirable activity.

And why not? Politics and campaigns can be nasty, draining, and as a complete zero-sum game, awfully risky.

So having our own son step forward to run for Alderman is reassuring, exciting, downright uplifting - - not just because he is our son - - but because he has all the core principles and personal attributes that can help guarantee that our neighborhood, city and state can continue to prosper.

He is a progressive person who believes in cities - - I mean, really believes in cities - - and in the City of Milwaukee.

He understands that a welcoming and prosperous 3rd District helps Milwaukee succeed, and that a successful city with strong schools, safe streets, cool neighborhoods and a deep 'green' developmental/ environmental ethic is tailor-made for an historic, lakefront urban District like ours.

I think this is a great opportunity for our District - - to have an experienced and broad-minded candidate like Sam wanting to serve.

So we're rolling up our sleeves and getting to work - - not just as proud parents, but as veteran political activists, too.

"McGovern-Rowen For 3rd District Alderman Committee" doesn't have a website yet, but it has an address - - 1914 N. Prospect Ave., Apt. #3, Milwaukee, WI, 53202, and a treasurer who will gladly process donations.

And I'd be happy to forward email or street addresses to the campaign, or questions and suggestions: send them to

And thanks.

(Authorized and paid for by McGovern-Rowen For 3rd District Alderman Committee, John Finerty, Treasurer.)

Online Petition To Urge Ziegler To Get Off Conflicted Case

One Wisconsin Now has launched an online petition to try and persuade Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler to remove herself from hearing an appeal partially funded by the business organization that spent heavily in her campaign.

The petition link is here.

I'm not sure what is left of the Court's reputation, as Ziegler's tone-deaf relationship with the institution and her colleagues seems limitless.

She's already put them into the bizarre position of having to consider her discipline for an earlier round of ethics violations.

Those stemmed from conflicts of interest arising from routinely judging cases in Washington County involving a business in which she and her husband had a financial interest.

Has there ever been a learning curve for a Wisconsin jurist apparently this steep to master? I don't get it.

Yes, in this case, she did disclose the conflict with the appellant's financial backer - - Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce - - but look at the appearance!

There are more elements to this than just the legal and technical issues, important as they are:

This looks bad. The timing is breath-taking. As I said in an earlier post, when I first saw this on jsonline, I felt like I was reading The Onion.

(Full disclosure: I am on the board of a One Wisconsin Now arm, but had no role in OWN's earlier efforts regarding the Ziegler campaign, or the creation of this online effort, having learned about it in an email this morning.)

Canadians Act Like Great Lakes Neighbors: Can The Waukesha County Chamber Of Commerce Do The Same?

Canada is about to set aside a record number of acres to preserve forests.
This will help reduce greenhouse emissions and clean the air, with benefits working their way south to the US, and planet-wide.

There's a lesson here for folks right here in SE Wisconsin, where bashing the Canadians is something of a habit, as some politicians, and groups like the Waukesha Chamber of Commerce, erroneously have accused the Canadians of lying in wait to block Waukesha's access to Lake Michigan.

The Great Lakes are a shared resource.

More to the point, Canadians do not have a vote on, or a veto over, any diversion application forwarded by New Berlin, Waukesha or any Wisconsin or US community.

What Canada is doing, through forest preservation, is helping us all to enjoy a life-giving resource: clean air.

The same is true of water: if it's managed on a truly regional (The Great Lakes region, not the Waukesha-Milwaukee SMSA) and international scale, we all benefit.

The least the Waukesha County Chamber of Commerce could do is correct its erroneous web posting that contains the false, wierdly-jingoistic claim that a Waukesha diversion would require the approval of a foreign power's two provinces that border the Great Lakes.

From the Chamber's website is this part of a resolution it has adopted, and which should be corrected or just plain withdrawn:

"WHEREAS, the proposed compact includes many positive features, allowing decisions regarding local water usage to be vetoed by any one of the CGLG members is cause for serious concern. Currently, the compact allows for regional review of many of the compact’s provisions directly impacting Waukesha County. For example, as Waukesha looks to divert water for its community needs, such a diversion would require the unanimous approval of all eight states and the two Canadian Provinces.

"THEREFORE, on behalf of the current businesses and residents of our county, and with respect to future growth, The Waukesha County Chamber of Commerce asks that the legislature not approve any Great Lakes Compact that places the authority for granting or denying water diversions for Waukesha County in the hands of another state or country. While a well thought-out plan balancing the conservation of an invaluable regional resource with the needs of growing counties like Waukesha is essential, an approved compact must include a fair and equitable process for reviewing Great Lakes water diversion requests, not allowing a sole governmental authority veto power."

The Canadian role in such diversion applications' review is advisory only, a known and much-repeated fact, and will help preserve the Great Lakes for Waukesha residents and tens of millions in the US and Canada who share in that responsibility.

I Thought I Was Reading The Onion...

when I read this headline and blurb Tuesday night on

"Ziegler to hear tax case funded by supporter

"State Supreme Court Justice Annette K. Ziegler is poised to sit on a tax case partially financed by a group that spent more than $2 million to get her elected."

This is the same Annette Ziegler waiting for the Court to issue her punishment for violations of the state's judicial code that included following improper procedures in cases in which she had a conflict-of-interest.

In the tax case, she has disclosed the potential conflict, but wouldn't it have been smart to recuse herself?

I-94 Tollway Proposal: That's Not What I Meant

I posted an endorsement of Miwaukee Ald. Bob Bauman's proposal to peel a few bucks for the KRM Commuter rail from WisDOT's $1.9 billion budget to rebuild and add a lane to I-94 from Milwaukee to the Illinois line - - and look what happens:

An Illinois transportation blogger takes that posting and uses it to support a proposal to toll I-94 from Chcago to Milwaukee as a way to fund alternatives like Wisconsin commuter rail.

The blogger is clearly a transportation expert, but I don't think that's going to fly.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Treated With High-Tech Equipment, Sewage Becomes The Drinking Water Of The Future

This might appear distasteful, but given water shortages, turning sewage into potable water through modern science is growing in acceptance.

It's not much different than cities now extracting water for eventual purification and use as drinking water downstream from a sewage discharge facility that has legally put treated effluent into the river upstream.

That's so commonplace that people don't really think much about it.

For instance, that's what happens routinely in Illinois communities' water utilities along the Fox River that are downstream from the City of Waukesha's wastewater treatment and discharge plant upstream.

In fact, a city like Waukesha could choose to reuse and recycle much of that wastewater as a way to reduce its need to drill more wells, or divert water from Lake Michigan to meet future water demand.

National Wildlife Federation Says Great Lakes Compact Can Ease Global Warming

The National Wildlife Federation has issued a report that links adoption of the pending Great Lakes Compact with efforts to mitigate climate change.

The report is here, and among leaders in the midwest, quotes George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.

As this blog has reported repeatedly, Wisconsin is the only one of the eight US Great Lakes states without legislation adopted, or under consideration, to implement the Compact.

It cannot go into effect until all the eight states, and the US Congress, have approved similar versions.

The Compact is designed to establish rules and standards governing diversions of water out of the Great Lakes basin and to establish standards for new, large users of water within the basin.

Efforts to adopt the Compact, strengthen its conservation requirements and diversion prohibitions have been endorsed by a coalition of more than a dozen Wisconsin conservation, environmental and civic organizations - - but have been blocked in the Wisconsin legislature by pro-diversion Waukesha-area politicians and business interests.

Bottled Water Has "Friends"

Well, one very yesterday's Friend - - Jennifer Aniston, the new pitchwoman for "Glaceau," the vitamin-enhanced line of bottled "smart" waters which was recently purchased for $4.1 billion by Coca-Cola.

Water and vitamins and flavors for about $3 a bottle.

Since Aniston's celebrity is on the way down, maybe this suggests that bottled water is on the way out, too?

Probably not, but let's be optimistic and call it a small sign of desperation.

Chicago Continues To Be The City of Big, Green Ideas

Green roofs. More transit. Comprehensive planning, for real.

Chicago continues to be city with a big imagination when it comes to announcing that cities can be greener stewards of the the goal of repaving its 2,000 miles of alleys with materials that allow rain and snow to seep naturally back into the water table is really exciting.

Why not find out what your city, village or town has on tap to save energy and conserve water.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Merge Rail, Highway Spending on I-94 From Milwaukee-To-Chicago

Milwaukee Alderman Robert Bauman has introduced a resolution calling on the state to modestly pare back its spending (a projected $1.9 billion) on added lanes to I-94 between Milwaukee and the Illinois line and merge the spending with the commuter rail plan now stalled.

Great idea. Logical. Fiscally responsible. Only takes about 12% of the $1.9 billion for rail. Mindful of rising gas prices and the effect of tailpipe emissions on the environment.

The resolution should pass, forcing the state to more seriously re-think its transportation planning.

If Gov. Jim Doyle is serious about cutting greenhouse emissions in combination with other Great Lakes and Midwestern Governors and Canadian premiers, what better place to start than committing to commuter rail linking Milwaukee-Racine-Kenosha, with connections to Chicago to the south, and perhaps Madison to the west.

The time for this shift is now.

Probation For Milwaukee Police Officer Given Relative's ID As An Immigrant Child

At least there will be no jail time for Oscar Ayala-Cornejo, 25, who was kicked off the Milwaukee Police Department for having assumed a relative's identity as a child at the behest of his parents, then lying on his official paperwork about his name.

He faces deportation to his native Mexico, while his family and connections are here.

Sad ending to a sad case, though it could have been worse.

I wonder how many good upstanding citizens in our city and state have a relative who came into this country illegally, or who assumed another person's ID?

How many people have relatives who, years ago, jumped ship and swam ashore in New York City because their paperwork or background in their native Europe was suspect, or flawed?

And how many who came saying they were someone else, with relatives' paperwork, such as it was?

How many people know of someone in these situations, regardless of when they occurred?

More than you'd think, I think, because America's borders have been inviting and porous for many, many years.

It's good to bring rational solutions to illegal immigration. I'm for that - - without the rancor and hysteria useless anger that some have brought to the debate for partisan or ideological purposes.

And to remember that there can be unintended consequences, for all parties - - the community included - - when violators are discovered.

Alaya-Cornejo apparently came here illegally as a child, and was given the identity by his parents. As a child, he was in no position to say "no." And things continued from there.

From our easy chairs, and with our good fortune for having been born here, some might want to point fingers, but that judgement is useless.

What counts is what happened in court.

By all reports, Milwaukee lost the services of a good police officer, and also those of his brother, another MPD officer, who lost his job, too, because he knew of the subterfuge.

But thanks to the sentencing judge, Rudolph Randa, who from the federal bench ruled wisely.

He understood that was no need to add to the losses.

Good lesson to absorb.

State Sen. Mary Lazich Fears Government-Run Health Care - - But Isn't She Eligible For a Great State-Paid Plan As a Senator?

Mary Lazich trots out that old guvmint-run health care bogeyman - - but as a state employee, isn't she eligible for one variation, where the state makes nearly the entire payment, sets many of the coverage parameters, and so forth?

Maybe she should disclose whether she in fact is enrolled in that kind of plan, what % of the cost she pays each month, what the deductibles and limits and coverages are, etc.

More On The Franklin Wetlands' Fiasco: The Resource Loses Twice, Attorney Says

A few days ago I posted an item about a settlement that allowed a Franklin shopping center owner to proceed with a wetlands filling that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) could and should have halted.

How do these things happen, you ask?

Peter McKeever, a statewide conservancy specialist who was involved in the case through one of the parties - - the Milwaukee County Conservation Coalition (MC3) - - sent me a "rest of the story" explanation that provides the shocking answer:

The Resource Loses Twice, by Peter McKeever:

It was bad enough that developer Mark Cartstenson got approval from the DNR, the Department of Commerce, and the City of Franklin to tear out 200 year-old oak trees and fill two small wetlands with his unimaginative and insensitive commercial development.

Had he done a good practicable alternative analysis, the agencies would have understood that there were less harmful ways to do his site plan.

And it was bad enough that when the DNR interpreted its decision on the wetlands to be applicable only to the direct impacts to the wetlands and not to the secondary impacts.

And it was bad enough that Franklin and the DNR allowed construction…er, read destruction…to continue after the decision was appealed.

But it was after the local citizens appealed that the agency really blew it.

The DNR issued its water quality certification on June 12. The local citizens met the 30 day deadline for appealing by filing their petition for a hearing on the 29th day, July 11.

Under the rules, the DNR has twenty days to decide whether or not to grant a hearing. If the hearing is not granted within those twenty days, it is deemed denied as a matter of law.

So what did DNR do? Staff prepared a letter approving the petition and granting the hearing request on July 27, well within the 20 days. So far, so good.

But the letter did not get signed by the Secretary and mailed until August 2….two days late.

Result: no right to a hearing, simply because the agency missed the mailing deadline. No opportunity for local citizens to have a hearing, present evidence, make their case, and argue that the permit should never have been granted. Ugly.

Its true the developer settled by agreeing to pay $46,000, to be used to purchase other wetlands in the area and that the DNR agreed not to allow developers to continue construction that adversely affects wetlands while the water quality permits are being challenged. Those are both good outcomes.

But the oak trees and the wetlands lost. They are gone, never to be seen again. They lost when the permits were granted, when construction was not stopped, and when local citizens could not challenge the decisions because of a missed deadline.

That’s bad.

A Clue To The Ziegler Case Outcome

Speculation will continue until the Wisconsin Supreme Court makes a ruling to end the ethics case pending against now sitting Justice Annette Ziegler.

I think one tip-off that what some Ziegler supporters had hoped would be a slap on the wrist instead could be a hard jab is found in the tone and timing of a recent Wisconsin State Journal editorial, which I'll cite in a moment.

But first, the background.

The case arouse out of Ziegler's multiple failures as a Washington County Circuit Court judge to disclose she had a financial interest in a bank that was a party repeatedly in cases before her. Nor did she remove herself from the cases after they were assigned to her.

The case has worked its way through a proceeding involving a judicial commission, and a hearing before a panel of appellate judges.

As if Wisconsin's judiciary need another case-related embarrassment, the appellate panel chairman, Ralph Adam Fine opined that Ziegler's admitted violations of the judicial ethics code, compared to some unspecified previous case, were "a blip."


Ouch - - if you're Ziegler, or in her corner. With friends like that...

My hunch is that Fine more or less sealed Ziegler's fate, serving to push the Court to issue her nothing short of a harshly-worded reprimand, and perhaps a suspension that is more than symbolic, to drive home now two points:

1. Ziegler violated the judicial ethics code, and also...
2. Ralph Adam Fine does not speak for the Wisconsin judicial system, and does not define what we should expect from people seeking or attaining a spot on a circuit court, let alone the state supreme court.

The Wisconsin State Journal is the morning paper most likely on the Justices' State Capitol desks when they get to work, and there's little doubt they missed this editorial calling for Court-ordered discipline that repudiates the Fine statement, too.

Some of the editorial's key points:

"Ziegler 's actions are not, as Court of Appeals Presiding Judge Ralph Adam Fine suggested last week, just a "blip on the screen " compared to wrongdoing by other Wisconsin judges. Ziegler disregarded clear rules -- what the other two Court of Appeals judges called a "bright line " -- governing ethical conduct.

"Ziegler did not recuse herself from cases involving West Bend Savings Bank even though her husband was serving on the bank 's board of directors.

"Ziegler handled not one, not two, but 51 West Bend Savings Bank cases where she had a conflict of interest. So far, she has admitted violating the state 's ethics code in 11 of those cases. She has paid a fine and other costs to try to put the ongoing disciplinary action behind her.

"But before that can happen, a tougher penalty is required. "

Newspaper editorial writers don't direct government decision-making, but they can have an influence.

Don't forget that the Justices - - as well as circuit judges - - live and work in the political world.

They are elected-officials, too, appreciating editorial support as much as people running for Sheriff and the County Board.

I would suspect that an editorial that takes a swipe at Ralph Adam Fine in its otherwise strongly-worded "Don't go easy on Ziegler" argument will inevitably find its way into the Court's thinking.

And it's important to note that the State Journal, which led the statewide mainstream media covering the Ziegler issue, is generally a GOP-leaning publication - - more reason for Ziegler to be concerned.

Ziegler will no doubt feel that she should not be punished for the remarks of another jurist, and that editorial writers should have nothing to do with it, but there never would have been a case against her if she had followed the state's judicial and conflict-of-ethics admonitions.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Alterra Helps The Riverwest Neighborhood In Milwaukee Get Greener

Milwaukee's homegrown Alterra Coffee Roasters, known for high-end beverages, job creation and building recycling (the once-closed city water pumping station on the lakefront, and old commercial space at 1st and Pittsburgh in the Third Ward to name a couple), has outdone itself with with a complex on a former brownfield in Milwaukee's east side Riverwest neighborhood.

The Riverwest Currents neighborhood newspaper online has the story.

UW-Madison Student's Blog Notes Wisconsin Inaction On Great Lakes Compact

Maybe it's a sign that Wisconsin's failure to even produce a bill for discussion - - making it the laggard in Great Lakes states' legisltive and policy inaction - - is breaking into mainstream awareness.

Note this posting by a 20-year-old UW-Madison engineering student.

Large Livestock Farming Polluters Under Scrutiny In Indiana

These mega-farms produce huge waste streams - - it's a major issue in Wisconsin, where lax regulation allows routine water contamination - - and an Indiana blogger brings us up-to-date on the issue there.

Worth a read and bookmarking.

Some additional history and background for Wisconsinites:

In Manitowoc County, Centerville CARES, a citizens' activist group, has actually begun doing some of the regulatory-related monitoring and testing that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said it was unable to get to.

You can read about that here.

And legal analyses from Midwest Environmental Advocates, is here.

The "Coexist" Bumper Sticker's Meaning, Symbolism Gets Deeper

The blogger Capper helps show us the origins of the now-infamous "coexist" bumper sticker, which helps put the uproar associated with the 'parody' version into a brighter light.

My thanks.

Turns out a unique Israeli museum dedicated to peace and reconciliation helped to create it.

The Museum of the Seam says this is its goal:

"Museum on the Seam is a unique museum in Israel, displaying contemporary art that deals with different aspects of the socio-political reality.

"Through the works of artists from Israel and abroad, who respond to the stress and tension between and within groups, the museum invites the visitors to examine the degree of influence of the social environment on the individual and vice versa.

"Between the local and the universal, between pluralism and extreme ideologies, the message of The Museum calls for listening and discussion, for accepting the other and those different from us and respect for our fellow man and his liberty.'
So the right-wing bloggers who have twisted "coexist"into something ugly by adding a Swastika to the design are tampering even more deeply than their other intention - - to redirect the design against Muslims.

You can enter the issue as it has unfolded in Milwaukee and on the Internet with this posting.

And grasp why the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee would get involved to open Journal Communications' eyes to the damage its resources are causing to the community's spirit and potential for growth.

From its website, here is the Interfaith mission statement:
"The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee is the interfaith agency established by the religious community to address the social issues affecting the quality of life in the Greater Milwaukee area.

"The mission of the Conference is based on the religious values of the dignity of every person and the solidarity of the human community.

"The Conference enables individuals, congregations, and the religious leadership to participate as an interfaith presence in the dialogue and action that impact on this dignity and solidarity."
So...we have bloggers and talk show hosts in Milwaukee throwing stones at the work or mission of groups like Interfaith, or the Israeli museum.

One ill-informed blogging professor at the Catholic, Jesuit-run Marquette University even called Interfaith a "leftist" group, "a bunch of liberal bureaucrat/activists."

That's some some impressive name-calling.

Here, from the Interfaith website, are the denominations that provide members to Interfaith board, and represent 500 congregations in the region.

What a leftist, liberal bureaucratic cabal!
American Baptist Churches of Wisconsin
Church of God in Christ, Wisconsin First Jurisdiction
Episcopal Church, Diocese of Milwaukee
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Greater Milwaukee Synod
Islamic Society of Milwaukee
Milwaukee Jewish Council for Community Relations
Milwaukee Jewish Federation
Presbyterian Church (USA), Presbytery of Milwaukee
Religious Society of Friends, The Milwaukee Meeting
Roman Catholic Church, Milwaukee Archdiocese
United Church of Christ, Southeast Wisconsin Association
United Methodist Church, Metro North and South Districts
Unitarian Universalist Churches, Southeast Wisconsin Association
Wisconsin Council of Rabbis
Wisconsin General Baptist State Convention

The Marquette University blogger professor John McAdams had to back down (check his comment responses) when he found out that Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan, spiritual leader of 675,000 Catholics in southeastern Wisconsin, sat on the Interfaith board!


So what will be the outcome as we all get enlightened about Interfaith, and "coexist," and how they are supposed to work together in an environment of intellectual and spiritual honesty?

This nasty little Internet and media outburst in Milwaukee could lead to something genuinely useful, even uplifting: a productive moment in the community's history - - if powerful media owners and personalities that have decided, for now, to side with intolerance can make the break and shift towards dialogue, and then genuine community-building in Milwaukee

That will require some reflection, maybe even some humility- - both of which are supposed to be in large supply at this generous time of year.

I'd say we're at a crossroads moment.

Which way do we go, as a community, is the question?

To tolerance or divisiveness?

Inclusion or exclusion?

Coexistence or isolation, and the corrosive ignorance that will be perpetuated, if we make the wrong choice?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Bit More About The Interfaith Conference Of Greater Milwaukee

No one there or anywhere else has asked me to post this, but here is the Interfaith mission statement taken off the group's website.

It helps to explain why it chose to criticize Charlie Sykes for posting and defending with "a line in the sand" a controversial bumper sticker the organization found offensive.

(You can work you back into the skirmish, here, or scroll back a few posts on this blog.)

"Mission Statement

"The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee is the interfaith agency established by the religious community to address the social issues affecting the quality of life in the Greater Milwaukee area.

"The mission of the Conference is based on the religious values of the dignity of every person and the solidarity of the human community.

"The Conference enables individuals, congregations, and the religious leadership to participate as an interfaith presence in the dialogue and action that impact on this dignity and solidarity."

Secondly, let me disclose that this group gave my wife its annual Frank Zeidler award for community service last year.

And also let me disclose that I have been to many Interfaith functions where people of all religions and creeds spoke, studied, debated, prayed and broke bread together.

These are experiences I heartily recommend, along with the organization's authoritative and positive presence in a region frequently wracked by misunderstanding and intolerance.

Water Tower Controversy In Waukesha Rises To Shakespearean Heights

The Bard's Juliet wondered "what's in a name," and some centuries later, one Waukesha resident answers: An eyesore.

The Daily Reporter's Sean Ryan has
the story of a Waukesha man who doesn't want to look out of his Tallgrass subdivision home's windows and see the name "Waukesha" emblazoned 93-feet up on the side of the city's new water tower.

What the homeowner prefers is a water tower without lettering, painted with a blue and grey pattern that will somehow, Presto! make the planned big edifice disappear into background skies - - bad news for migrating birds and those low-flying helicopters that other Waukesha County folks use for their daily commutes.
But Waukesha wants more water - - surely you've heard all about that - - and needs some place to store it: the new tower is going in, with or without lettering, by 2009.

And since we're discussing what's in a name - - is there really tallgrass under the snow in the photo accompanying Ryan's online piece.

Let's hope this isn't just another part of Waukesha like the recently renamed Country Springs resort, or the streets (Springhouse Dr., Mineral Springs Blvd., etc) in Pabst Farms that recall an environment long gone, when Waukesha was known as Spring City, or The Saratoga Of The West.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Wetlands Destruction OK'd In Franklin

It's important to remember when you read this tale of wetlands destruction in Franklin that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - - the protectors of the environment in our state, the regulators, if you will - - allowed this destruction to begin before appeals to prevent it had been fully heard.

Some permitting 'process.'

The wtlands loss - - including some 200 year-old trees in the Franklin Fiasco is 2.6 acres.

A more vigilent DNR methodology and some wetlands improvements to be carried out elsewhere are included in the Franklin settlement.

Doncha think natural wetlands work a wee bit better than the artificial variety, as Milwaukee Area Land Conservancy Vice President Kristen Wilhelm suggests?

The blogger Sprawled Out, based in Franklin, weighs in here.

It's disheartening that the DNR is already reviewing the probable destruction of up to 500 acres of wetlands for the huge expansion of the Murphy Oil refinery in Superior, close to Lake Superior.

Let's hope they remember their regulatory obligatory on the public's behalf before the wetlands destruction begins.

Charlie Sykes Mischaracterizes My Analysis Of His Fight With Interfaith

I am fine with Charlie Sykes calling my blog posting about his skirmish with the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee "genuinely silly."

In an Internet environment often rendered useless with name-calling, that's refreshingly mild.

And I do think, and I repeat, that he's in a hypocritical position because of his earlier battle with Miller Brewing over its participation in a tasteless and offensive advertisement.

If you're going to get offended about someone misusing religious symbolism (a Last Supper image), then don't praise and defend others who are doing the same thing (tampering with the Islamic Crescent and playing with the Star of David).

So be consistent, or risk being labeled a hyprocrite.

(Some updated information about the origin of the bumper sticker design, associated with an Israeli museum that promotes religious dialogue, tolerance, and social understanding, is here. The so-called 'parodied' design that Charlie and his fellow right-wing bloggers are defending is certainly the wrong place insert a Swastika, aim it at Islam - - and then say their handiwork has virtue.)

But I take issue with his statement that my posting indicates "[I] really do hate conservatives and all their ilk."

I defy any reasonable person to find that thread in my posting. (Again, it is here.)

And let me point out that I get along fine with any number of conservatives, including my "Backstory" (WMCS-AM 1130) roundtable colleague Rick Esenberg, the conservative blogger and Marquette Law School teacher.

Have we disagreed about many things? Of course. That's part of the reason Eric Von had us as regulars (I have fallen away: Rick is more reliable). But do I hate Rick?

Of course not. And I'd be shocked if he said he thought I do.

Charlie may also have forgotten that when he asked for a liberal to call into his radio show and attack the Colorado 9/11 hate-monger Ward Churchill, I was the one who called in and was put on the air.

One reason I pulled out of traffic and called in immediately on my cell phone was because I particularly hated the way Churchill connected innocent 9/11 World Trade Tower victims to the holocaust - - as perpetrators - - calling them "little Eichmanns."

That made his attack on the victims doubly-disgusting, since Eichmann was evil incarnate, and I object - - and Charlie can call me perpetually offended about this, because I am - - to anyone throwing around the Nazi label where it absolutely has no relevance.

Which brings me to another point:

Charlie lumps me in with people who call conservatives Nazis. That I have never done

I dislike seeing or hearing that kind of ignorant, casual and inaccuratly-out-of-context use of the term whenever I see it.

I remember emailing Jeff Wagner and WTMJ station managers complaining that Wagner referred to supporters of an anti-smoking ban as the "smoking Nazis"- - I got no replies, by the way - - and it grates on me when Rush Limbaugh mocks supporters of women's rights as "feminazis."

Maybe we on the left don't speak out loudly enough when people on our side of the argument throw the term around. I'll be vigilant about it - - and I will do the same when I see rightists doing it, too.

I know Charlie's Nazi reference came in a catch-all list of complaints he has against people who disagree with him, and I have already pleaded guilty to have called Charlie a hypocrite (another in his list of complaints), but I don't want to be associated with people who throw that "Nazi" term around.

I can appreciate that Charlie is under some pressure in this battle - - one that I continue to think is not in the interest of WTMJ to have on its air, blog, and with Interfaith and its mainstream membership.

That's a judgement-call for the station, of course. But he still needs to be more accurate in how he describes the situation - - a situation much of his own making, and elevating.

Bottom line:

Charlie's was the genuinely silly stance to take in support of a genuinely silly bumper sticker (he called it "Pure Genius") that adds nothing of substance to the public debate.

I do give Charlie credit for having opened his comment privilege to me and others who disagree with him.

UW-M To Boost Its WATER Institute...Great Minds Think Alike

I was very happy to read on Thursday's big Thanksgiving day Milwaukee Journal Sentinel front page that UW-M and local leaders are coordinating a research and business strategy to put the city out front on water issues.

We've got Lake Michigan and a host of water-rich businesses already here, nicely positioned for growth and advancement as water becomes a hotter topic in a warming climate.

So why not build on UW-M's outstanding, but somewhat overlooked Great Lakes WATER (Wisconsin Aquatic Technology and Environmental Research) Institute, and its fortuitous proximity to the Great Lakes - - all to make the school and city the unquestioned leader in water science, policy and industry?

Then I remembered reading something similar..somewhere...twice, actually, making the same argument - - that UW-M needed to rediscover, upgrade and promote its WATER Institute to put itself in a leadership position in water science and policy development.

Where was it? Where was it?

Then I remembered: Right here on this blog - - months ago.

I'm humbly reprinting those posting below, and I'll continue to support UW-M's efforts to elevate the WATER Institute and related efforts to help Milwaukee become the world capital of water science and business:

Monday, March 26, 2007

Scientists Clean Up Everything From Bad Plumbing To Bad Policy

For years, UW-Milwaukee has been scratching its collective bureaucratic head and wondering: "How can we position ourselves as a science and research center?"

It has looked westward to UW-Madison with envy, as that university campus assumed leadership and won decades of grants in biotech and other sciences.

But through inertia, or some other human tendency to overlook institutions or people already on the scene that consistently perform at a high level, UW-Milwaukee has failed to capitalize on its Great Lakes WATER Institute - - even though its staff and expertise are key ingredients in the push for conservation, water-based public health, and Great Lakes sustainability.

Around here, those are pretty hot topics.

Case in point: WATER Institute professor Sandra McLellan, an expert in water and beach quality, has found that dangerous E. coli bacteria is on Bradford Beach where stormwater pipes owned by Milwaukee County routinely deposit polluted water.

McLellan also has noted - - and it's a point consistently worth repeating - - that while polluted stormwater presents the most serious dangers to public health, the general public misperception, shaped by media, is that sewage overflows, not stormwater pollution, presents the major public risk.

So the WATER Institute affects the public understanding of issues and risk factors, and can have an impact on policies that fix problems, too. For a university looking for greater research credibility, that sounds like a mission statement.

Similarly, McLellan helped Miller Park discover that it was inadvertently sending human waste into the Menomonee River.

It is known among scientists and regulators that the wrong plumbing connection at Miller Park is not the only mistaken or accidental source of fecal pollution ending up in the area's rivers, streams and lakes.

Elsewhere, WATER Institute professors are bringing years of experience with the region's groundwater into the debate over water resource management, and specifically into whether possible diversions from Lake Michigan are the wisest and most sustainable activities.

These UW-M scientists have created fact sheets and power point presentations about the region's water supply, all of which helps inject top-flight data, computer models and informed opinion into the water debate.

Along with colleagues in related agencies, WATER Institute personnel are getting solid information into studies and eventual recommendations by the regional planning commission (SEWRPC) and a state legislative study committee on the Great Lake Compact.

Materials posted by The US Geological Survey, and another scientific team that works closely with the WATER Institute here are helping policy-makers interpret differently Waukesha's suggestion that it was already part of the Lake Michigan basin through what it called "tributary groundwater."

So UW-Milwaukee doesn't have to look much farther than its Great Lakes WATER Institute for a research identity and anchor.

What the school needs is a media and grant-writing strategy to better promote and utilize the experts it already has on board, and who are well-connected with a larger scientific community, but are sometimes unappreciated.

The Great Lakes WATER Institute can become the authoritative site for information and policy recommendations about Great Lakes water conservation and resource management.

Posted by James Rowen at 8:14 AM
And there was this posting, too:

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Editorial Call For A Center For The Great Lakes

From Michigan, a plea for one coordinated center for Great Lakes' water-related study.

An excellent idea, one that UW-Milwaukee should jump on because it already runs the Great Lakes WATER Institute, has world-class experts with expertise in surface and underground water, and could easily morph into a broader research institution.

UW-M's administration should leverage its existing resources and make itself a key regional player - - in this case, the region being the Great Lakes basin - - in water policy.

Posted by James Rowen at 2:18 PM

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Author Comments From Upstate New York: Is He Channeling Pabst Farms?

James Howard Kuntsler offers a typically-provocative essay about life in suburbia as credit and energy crises make that lifestyle expensive, perhaps doomed.

Reading not for the faint-hearded.

Heckuva a way to start Thanksgiving, but let's take the rest of the day off.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Milwaukee Common Council Approves Limitations On Quick Water Sales To Suburbs

By a vote of 13-1, Milwaukee's Common Council approved a policy that bars any water sale to a suburb outside the Great Lakes basin (read: New Berlin, Waukesha, et al) until the Wisconsin legislature adopts the pending Great Lakes Compact.

A note about the overwhelming vote is at the bottom of this summary, here.

This outcome was not unexpected: the Council and Mayor Tom Barrett want the legislature to put the Compact's rules, standards and conservation goals into place in our state so that water sales are conducted with guidelines and transparent processes.

Or conducted similarly in other states, using pre-Compact ratification Wisconsin sales as an excuse to move water outside the basin in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and elsewhere in the region.

At Wisconsin's expense. That's what a Compact is all about.

It's a minimal expectation, endorsed by the Wisconsin Attorney General in a formal opinion now nearly a year old, but continually ignored by major media in Wisconsin, including the Journal Sentinel, which today editorially called on the Milwaukee Common Council to reject the resolution.

Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes are a shared resource, held in trust and managed by eight states and two Canadian provinces. It is not up to any single state to unilaterally move those waters beyond the borders of the Great Lakes basin.

For the eight US states involved, a federal law in place since 1986 requires the Governors of those states to approve unanimously any such out-of-basin diversion, and the pending Compact finally establishes rules and standards so those diversions, when approved, are not capricious.

Why argue that Wisconsin should, on its own, let Milwaukee sell water to New Berlin, if federal law, and the Wisconsin AG opinion, says it's illegal?

If Waukesha County legislators are smart, they will take the Council's resolution along with the AG opinion as motivations to get the Compact passed in Wisconsin - - something obstructed by State Sen. Mary Lazich, (R-New Berlin) and other short-sighted business and political leaders.

Save Greendale: Stop The Trolley Madness

Greendale, home of highway-lovin' State Rep. Jeff Stone (R), is thinking of buying a trolley!

How could he let this happen? Like all good Republicans in the State Asembly, he knows trolleys are the death-knell to a community!!!

Please, God, let this be a rubber-tired 'trolley,' and not the real thing, or Greendale is lost.

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the bad news:

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 21, 2007, 3:36 p.m.
Downtown Greendale may get a trolley

Greendale - Village officials are considering purchasing a trolley to transport shoppers and visitors around the popular downtown area.

More than 200,000 people from all over the country visit downtown Greendale each year - to shop at the stores and visit the Reiman Publications Visitor Center and Taste of Home Outlet Store.

Those who favor buying the $30,000 trolley say it would add to the charm of downtown and would help ease traffic during the summer and special events.

WMC To Doyle, Public: Choke On Our Smokestack Pollution

The good folks over at Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce again endorse dirty air, calling on Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle to lobby for relaxed federal ozone standards for Wisconsin counties that have substantial air pollution problems.

They did this a few months ago, too, but hey: it's a long holiday weekend, so why not cough this up again into the public debate and throw a thick cloud of negativity over the Thanksgiving spirit?

These leading Wisconsin industrialists must have missed the recent Midwest Governors' summit on climate change, which endorsed a host of goals designed to clean up the air - - a shared resource.

The WMC calls the regulations "onerous."

Come on, WMC. Own up to it. You want another little bump in profit maximization, and if it dirties up our lungs we can just suck it up.


Greed is an ugly phenomenon: The WMC is completely out of touch with everyday people, especially those with asthmatic kids or aging parents - - and one of these days the WMC membership is going to rebel and throw out its cold-hearted staff and leadership.

Charlie Sykes, Recently Himself Offended Over Religious Imagery Misused, Hits Back Hypocritically At "The Perpetually Offended"

WTMJ 620-AM talker Charlie Sykes is devoting much air time today to his battle with Milwaukee's prestigious and influential Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee over his posting, along with other conservative bloggers, of religious symbols in ways that could be construed as offending Muslims, Jews, and anyone with an ecumenical or religiously-tolerant outlook.

A link to Charlie's website and the uproar is here, so you judge for yourselves.

Since the controversial posting's imagery was meant to inflame passions about Islam in the context of today's growing and dangerous religious strife, and had nothing to do with, say, religious understanding or reconciliation - - which is pretty much the entire purpose of the Interfaith mission - - there's little wonder that the organization inserted itself into what had been up to a few days ago an Internet, bloggers' and talk-show debate.

Charlie is framing the issue as one of free speech. His free speech. And I've got no complaint with that. I want him to have free speech, but to exercise caution, like we all do, so we do not commit libel, slander, or needlessly poison the public debate.

And he mischaracterizes this post in a follow-up.

What's the point, even if it's profitable, wins ratings, notoriety, celebrity? It's a drag on the community. What's wrong with a little effort to be uplifting? To be a real uniter, not a 50,000-watt divider.

Charlie says he's drawing a line in the sand, that he will not back down.

Over this?

This is the line he wants to establish and defend?

Set Charlie aside for a moment, though he mischaracterizes this post in a follow-up to his original:

Is it worth it, for WTMJ station management, and the larger community, too, to establish this as the battlefield where issues, debate, rules and outcomes are defined?

And while we mull that over, you and I and institutions ranging from Journal Communications to Interfaith, let's point out two relevant things, too:

WTMJ radio goes out of its way to stir the pot in this community from a hard, angry rightist perspective, intentionally- - from Sykes in the morning through afternoons with Jeff Wagner and now James Harris, to the much farther-right homophobic, Muslim-baiting Michael Savage at night.

The station increasingly defines itself as a right-wing megaphone, kissing off a large portion of its audience everyday, who, once the affable Gene Mueller is gone by 8:30 AM, or when the ballgame is over at night finds an alternative.

So let's not shed tears that WTMJ is under fire. It's the station's choice to go far-right, and in this case, bring flak from an organization as mainstream as Interfaith. Take a look at Interfaith's board membership.

It includes leaders from all the mainstream churches, synagogues, mosques, along with powerhouses like the Milwaukee archdiocese.

Sykes and WTMJ and Journal Communications want that fight?

Charlie says he's drawing the line in the sand. Is management really willing to stand there with him? Over a stupid bumper sticker and the loyalty of a few righty bloggers, and a fake fight over political correctness, which is as subjective as you can get?

Secondly, in case it gets forgotten, Charlie was among those leading the recent charge against Miller Brewing for its use of Last Supper imagery in ad for a Gay Rights celebration that people like Charlie found offensive.

You know what? I thought it was offensive, too. I was surprised at Miller's foolishness. It was not carefully thought out. People in those positions need to think beyond the dollar sign.

So the company, under pressure, apologized. I thought that was the right thing to do.

I think the company agreed to remove its affiliation, or its logo, from the ad, or in similar future ads.

My point is that even Charlie gets offended, and uses his power to rally the like-minded to put pressure on an organization - - in this case, Miller Brewing, successfully - - to make a change with regard to its use of imagery that means important things to a religious community.

That is exactly what Interfaith is doing, and WTMJ should do what Charlie helped Miller do. Apologize, and be more mindful and consistent in the future when using or debating religion, its symbolism or imagery.

Two updates:

Station management tells Journal Sentinel columnist Tim Cuprisin that it backs Charlie. Credit Cuprisin with asking and posting it on his blog; that advances the discussion and informs everyone on an important aspect of the story.

Secondly: I corrected a misspelling in my original posting. Dumb errors are acknowledged, and corrected.

The Road To Sprawlville, VII: Outstanding Video Produced About Ruby Farms' Demise

The Road To Sprawlville goes multimedia into Waukesha County again, this time courtesy of a videographer.

He's produced and put up on a MTV website a very sharp piece, "America's Dairyland," about Ruby Farms demise and other sad realities in Brookfield.

He left me a note about it in the comment section of my blog.

Check out his video and circulate it.

He's also showing us how to better use the Internet and new media to get a message out.

Canadians Unhappy With US, States Treatment Of The Great Lakes

Some Americans forget that the Great Lakes are not "ours."

Ownership, and management, if you will, are shared with Canada, and as this newspaper report indicates, public opinion in Canada is not enthralled with what it sees as a US (Ohio? Waukesha County?) agenda that dismisses Canadians' perspectives.

Food for thought.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

AMTRAK Using New Milwaukee Station In Ads

Of course, there are still people around here who just don't grasp the many values of rail transit - - but the advertising folks at AMTRAK get it.

Madison Would Do Well To Name A School After Gaylord Nelson

There is a move afoot to name a new elementary school in Madison after Gaylord Nelson.

That's an excellent idea. While there are many good suggestions - - you can send your comments in support of Nelson through a web link, here.

Just click on his name.

As Nelson's warnings about the need for environmentalism grow more relevant daily, what better way in Madison could there be than institutionalize the man and his message in an educational setting.

Another reminder is here.

Blog Has A New Look

Change is good.

Appeals Court Wisecrack About Judicial Ethics Is Disturbing

State Appeals Court judge Ralph Adam Fine has made headlines - - sample here - - suggesting that now-Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler's ethical lapses are "a blip" compared to other judges' transgressions.

A good analysis is here. And here, by Scot Ross.

If it's now an acceptable appellate court position that one party in a court case does not need to know that the presiding judge has a personal and financial interest in the outcome, then we're all in a lot of trouble.

Regardless of the hearing finding and eventual Supreme Court ruling on the ethics complaint against Ziegler, the state high court now needs to expand its definition of the case before it.

It should strongly reinforce basic rules and expectations of fairness before the bench by specifically rejecting Fine's remark.

Plans For Massive Water Park - - In Arizona!

Remember this story the next time you see politicians in the parched Southwest eyeing Great Lakes water.

No Great Lakes water for such a frivolous purpose, right?

But also remember that the water park planned for New Berlin will utilize diverted Lake Michigan water, if that diversion plan is approved.

Is one really better than the other?

Books And Prayers For Water

The Toronto Star sums up the growing international consciousness - - from new books to heavenly appeals - - about better managing our fresh water.

Someone needs to get the word to Arizona, where a water park is slated for the desert.

Monday, November 19, 2007

How Wisconsin Sells Itself Short

A French economic development organization finds that metro Cleveland has more wealth (per capita income) than Portland, and is right behind Paris.

Say what?

It's more proof that Midwesterners need to better tell their story. Need to promote economic and PR strategies that define and sell the region.

And focus on cities.


In other words, to build and invest, and line up resources and oomph, for lack of a better concept, where the people already are - - not pushing water parks and shopping malls and more chain store big boxes on to farm fields, then holding a news conference in the parking lot to celebrate such energy-eating and ultimately self-defeating varieties of economic 'development.'

The Brookings Institution is promoting assertively a Midwestern metro strategy, and believes strongly in urban, central city development, as seen in this recent Brookings' presentation about Seattle.

To a limited degree, some Milwaukee-area interests, like the public-private M-7 partnership, are getting on board.

But many high-visibility, on-the-ground development initiatives, both public and private, are still too focused in Wisconsin away from its major urban area, Milwaukee.

These strategies, if you can call them that, fail to take full advantage of Milwaukee's built environment, its infrastructure and efficiently-arrayed assets - - its density, access to fresh water, a port, an international airport, the AMTRAK link to Chicago, an expanding Riverwalk, and solid, integrated manufacturing, university, cultural and health-care/hospital complexes.

Put another way, in our region, movers and shakers want to dissociate urban from metro, or city from metro, lavishing attention on the sub and exurban.

Want an example? Take water.

The debate over water policy and value in southeastern Wisconsin is misdirected.

Planners in our part of the state want to divert water away from cities and employment opportunities in the Lake Michigan basin and into sprawling, newer suburbs and subdivisions.

A related example?

The state is facilitating that movement of jobs, wealth and water conservation away from cities by blowing billions on new highways instead of strategically reducing that spending and offering choices.

The state should be focusing on transit upgrades to better link workers to jobs and to circulate people and their commerce through the city and region - - with urban investment as the intentional, deliberate underpinning.

The Milwaukee downtown is still not served by modern rail, leaving it in the transportation dark ages and limiting the city's economic vitality, and its future.

The business community, in the main, has never stepped forward and exerted leadership on the downtown rail issue, first because it prefers the suburban-first model, and secondly because it is cowed by right-wing talk radio.

Look at Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, as an example, since Milwaukee County operates the transit system in our county.

He is a Republican, as are most of the city and region's business leaders, yet they make no demand on him to better promote the city by advancing its transit system with a rail option.

So Milwaukee County has an anti-rail, thus effectively anti-urban leader, while the business community as a whole looks the other way.

The result: Reduced service. Higher fares. A failing system. And derailed trolley or the guided electric buses ("The Connector") that could help the city, and along with it, the suburbs, region and state.

What transportation big picture does Walker support?

The regional freeway plan.

That scheme requires billions of dollars to 'improve' and widen freeways as far away as Walworth County.

That's your Milwaukee County transportation and economic development plan: moving the economy to rural Walworth, or exurban Waukesha County to the Jefferson County line.

It will also take tens of millions of dollars of taxable land off the Milwaukee City, schools and County tax base, including eleven new miles of lanes and ramps on valuable real estate in the downtown for the $810 million Marquette Interchange reconstruction.

Without a dime for any transit upgrade in the area.

And the freeway plan will soon eat up a fresh $1.9 billion for added north-south lanes on I-94 between Milwaukee and the Illinois state line, while a parallel proposal for commuter rail in the same corridor is dead in the water from lack of money (though $91 million is available), but mainly through a failure of political will.

The plan to expand UW-Milwaukee at the Milwaukee County grounds will be good for the region - - but by taking the engineering and research campus expansion to Wauwatosa, and declining sites in the Menomonee Valley or Park East corridor downtown, the powers that be are removing all that activity from the city.

Without the light rail lines that were killed years ago that could have provided modern transit links to the nearby Zoo, the community is again facing up to development and transportation gaps that are consequences of political and transit failings.

What will UW-M offer to researchers coming in from Chicago or the airport for conferences: Shuttle buses?

Will it force students to drive into Tosa from their East side apartments, having failed to step up and support the Connector line that could have offered a pleasant, nifty connection to this proposed new suburban campus?

It's a stunning irony that Scott Walker will benefit politically from the UW-M expansion onto the County Grounds he manages, yet has resisted direct appeals to support rail or Connector lines from Michael Cudahy - - the generous entrepreneur who is financing the purchase of the county grounds' acreage for the UW-M research campus.

Cudahy has been a visionary on transit and on downtown development in the public interest - - he took the Pabst Theater off the taxpayers' backs and built Pier Wisconsin on the lakefront - - but hasn't found his understanding for transit matched by his peers, or embraced by the political establishment.

A pity.

Milwaukee could rise on the international wealth and influence lists if the public and private sectors here and statewide decided that Milwaukee was the logical economic development focus for the state.

Without that commitment, without that belief, Wisconsin and the Milwaukee area will stay somewhere modestly in the middle of the pack, having turned its back on its diverse population, and on the value of cities, embracing caution and inertia over vision and initiative.

Estimated Cost of I-94 Expansion From Milwaukee To Illinois Has Doubled Since 2003

Jaws dropped and taxpayers hid their wallets last week when the Wisconsin Department of Transportation pegged the cost of adding a lane and other 'improvements' on I-94 between Mitchell airport and the Illinois border at $1.9 billion.

Our DOT is famous for touting major highway projects as "on time and under budget," but what about "in line with estimates, and reality?"

Not this baby: its projected cost was $942 million in 2003 - - courtesy of the regional planning commission, where the regional freeway expansion and reconstruction scheme was hatched.

Without a financing recommendation.

Now don't get me wrong: $942 million of the public's money isn't chickenfeed, but it is slightly less than half last week's $1.9 billion blockbuster.

Anyone think when all is said and done that $1.9 billion will be final tab? (Gretchen Schuldt tells us why there's no way, here.)

So let me suggest a new slogan for the DOT, where former secretary Chuck Thompson once famously and honestly said the agency's mission was "to let contracts."

The inspiration is WisDOT's $1.9 billion bottom-line to redo one stretch of I-94:

"In The Ground...At Twice The Price!"

Sunday, November 18, 2007

One Wisconsin Now Will Live Blog The Ziegler Disciplinary Hearing

One Wisconsin Now, in conjunction with Monday's judiciary panel hearing regarding Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler's ethics case, has added live-blogging plans to its posted collection of records and information at:

Madison Environmental Blogger Rates Reading

Brightbend, by Raj Shukla. We need more activist bloggers. Check it out.

Annual Kastenmeier Lecture 11/30 Features Timely Security/Liberties Dilemmas

Security and civil liberties is the subject of this year's annual lecture scheduled for November 30 at the UW-Madison Law School to honor the long career of former US Rep. Robert Kastenmeier.

The 4:00 p.m. program is free, and open to the public, but reservations are required by Wednesday, November 21. Details and online registration links are here.

Kastenmeier is still going strong; For years, he was a brainy, hard-working Member of Congress, a quiet leader and always a revered figure in Madison politics.

The featured speaker at this year's lecture honoring Kastenmeier and his legacy is Harold Hongju Koh.

He is Dean, and Gerard C. and Bernice Latrobe Smith Professor of International Law, at Yale Law School.

Koh, an author, also served in the U.S. State Department from 1998 to 2001 as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

Additional remarks will be made by US Sen. Russ Feingold (D) and US Rep. Tom Petri, (R).

12/8 Is An International Day of Climate Change Action

Are any Wisconsin or Great Lakes-area organizations or policy-makers making plans to participate in, or acknowledge, this scheduled day (12/8) of awareness and action on climate change?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Frito-Lay Goes Net-Zero: The World Is Changing

No...this isn't a post brought to you by some Fortune 500 Companies.

Just a way to acknowledge interesting things where you find them:

First it was Wal-Mart putting up green buildings. Then Toyota beginning to green car-making facilities.

Now it's Frito-Lay running 500,000 pounds of potatoes a day through a mere mid-size plant in Arizona that utilizes state-of-the-art energy inputs, plus water conservation and and multiple levels of recycling - - something approximating zero energy use annually.

Now if they could just get the saturated fat out of the chips...

Mary Lazich's Ohio Water Ally Has Slurred African-American Colleague

State Sen. Mary Lazich has touted the views of Ohio State Senator Tim Grendell that oppose the adoption of the Great Lakes Compact.

She even forwarded his opinions to the state legislative study committee, where staffers from Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources labeled Grendell's views irrelevant to Wisconsin law.

Lazich should check more carefully into the company she keeps: Grendell had to make a public apology for a racially-tinged barb he aimed at an African-American colleague and leader in the Ohio legislature.

The story with the details from the Cincinnati Enquirer is here, and thanks to Adam Young who left this information in the comment box on this earlier posting of mine.

Here are the key paragraphs from the Enquirer story:

"Grendell, of Geauga County, directed his comments last week toward state Sen. Mark Mallory of Cincinnati, who was a co-sponsor of a resolution asking the General Assembly to ratify the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

"Grendell, who is white, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer for a story published Thursday that Mallory is "the only reason I might support the OhioReads program," referring to the state's volunteer tutoring program for schoolchildren.

"Grendell also said he doubted that Mallory, who is black, would understand the U.S. Supreme Court's historic 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson ruling that allowed legal racial separation.

"Grendell took the House floor Tuesday and apologized to Mallory, members of both the House and Senate and the citizens of Ohio."

Sen. Lazich: heckuva pal you got there, and thanks for running around the Capitol suggesting that Grendell is something of an oracle.

I wonder if Grendell knows that the Plessy decision is considered something of a stain on the history of the US Supreme Court, and that its "separate but equal" ruling that legalized racial segregation in the schools was overturned in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954?

New UN Report Focuses On Climate Change, Again: Wisconsin To Build More Highways, Again.

Wisconsin's announcement Thursday of a fresh $1.9 billion to widen I-94 south of Milwaukee - - already badly timed to coincide with the Midwest governors' energy savings/global warming awareness summit - - is still in the news as the UN again, but with deep urgency, urges action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

And that's $1.9 billion, with more billions to come for other portions of the so-called freeway system, without a parallel plan, or dime of funding, for transit improvements.

Wisconsin needs to break free of the stranglehold that the road-builders have over the political process in this state.

Without a change in the political dynamic that finances campaigns, Wisconsin will never move towards something resembling balanced transportation and coherent, climate change solutions.

Alternative energy usage and power generation is important, as the governors indicated at their meeting.

Without a similar approach to transportation, Wisconsin will make no contribution to cleaner air, and climate change solutions.

Without a sense of urgency and commitment that mirrors, or at a minimum reflects the scientific and political approach pushed by the UN, Wisconsin is dooming itself to irrelevancy, with legacies for its current leaders to match.

Wisconsin's Energy Policy Insanity

Wisconsin hosted a Great Lakes governors' energy summit this week that produced lofty promises to coordinate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

A few hours later, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation released the schedule to spend a record-setting $1.9 billion to add another north-south traffic lane on I-94 between the Mitchell interchange near the airport for 35 miles south to the Illinois state line.

So we're inducing more driving at a time of record oil prices, knowing that driving releases greenhouse gases?

And we're spending this money on highway expansion based on gasoline costing $2.30 a gallon, when today's price is more than 25% higher and only going higher?

And the funding sources for this giant sop to road-builders aren't even nailed down, as Gretchen Schuldt points out on her blog?

These contradictions make a mockery of the Governors' energy summit and the state's commitment to sound fiscal and environmental stewardship.

Wisconsin's energy policy is still firmly in the grip of the highway lobby, and its control of historic sums of public funds that are intentionally directed away from transit and other conservation tools is flat-out crazy, embarrassing and, frankly, deflating.

There is a natural coalition statewide that needs to rein in this completely unacceptable dynamic:

Smaller communities outstate whose road needs are left behind; transit systems starved for operating and equipment resources; conservation groups promoting clean air and land preservation; businesses investing in energy-saving technologies, individuals fed up with government waste and tone-deaf indifference to today's issues - - these interests have to be harnessed to stop Wisconsin's capture and control by the highway lobby.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Wisconsin Business Leaders Are Bashing The Great Lakes Compact

More business leaders are promoting the idea that the pending Great Lakes Compact is bad for Wisconsin, reports the Daily Reporter.

The Waukesha County Chamber of Commerce and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce have held firm to this position, and is now joined by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce, says the Daily Reporter.

If they keep it up, and further delay the implementation of the Compact and its protections that help preserve Wisconsin's water resources, the Great Lakes will become more vulnerable to withdrawals to faraway states of these already-declining fresh water, economic assets.

These arguments are contained in the article with excellent commonsense commentary by several leading Wisonsin environmentalists, including Keith Reopelle of Clean Wisconsin and Jodi Habush Sinykin, of Midwest Environmental Advocates.

Reopelle and Sinykin were members of the ill-fated Kedzie Committee, the state's legislative study committee on the Compact.

That committee in 2007 was prevented from reporting out a draft Compact implementing bill by obstructionist tactics and rhetoric by Waukesha politicians and business leaders along the lines of those advanced by business representatives in the Daily Reporter article.