Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Animal Planet Program July 8th All About Crypto

Milwaukee's bout with cryptosporidium will be featured on Animal Planet on July 8th.

The "Monsters Inside Me" series takes a look at parasites and other critters within, and will include interviews with Milwaukeeans.

Coleman Concedes: 'Bout Time

Welcome, Sen. Al Franken, (D-MN).

Some Highlights From Tuesday's SEWRPC Water Study Meeting

Here are a few notes from today's meeting of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission's advisory water study committee.

[Regrettably, SEWRPC does not transcribe, videotape, audiotape or stream these meetings; hand-taken notes by a staffer are eventually posted online - - sometimes delayed by months - - so if you are not there, you miss the details, nuances, and asides. I'm putting down a few highlights, and some observations in italics.]

1. SEWRPC officials told the committee their work will not be completed until November or December. That is because SEWRPC is adding a socio-economic analysis to the draft report as urged by the Environmental Justice Task Force. The analysis will be written by a consultant not yet selected, SEWRPC officials said.

It is unclear whether the amended draft report will be circulated at public meetings, as was the current draft. If I had to guess, I'd predict it will be discussed at a meeting of the justice task force, and a water committee meeting - - but not at another round of public sessions with a comment period. Continuing to treat this issue like the study's ignored step-child could come back and bite SEWRPC's wobbly credibility.

2. The committee addressed and then skirted efforts by committee member Lisa Conley, representing the rural group Town and Country Resource Conservation and Development, Inc., to have her strong concerns about drug and other exotic water pollutants added to the section of the draft report that included SEWRPC's formal responses about comments made by the public.

Conley said the exotic chemicals were "a looming threat" that needed more attention now, citing earlier chemical dangers, like DDT and others that were disregarded for far too long.

SEWRPC staff and other committee members agreed with Conley that water quality is a big-picture concern that was not addressed directly by the Great Lakes Compact, which governs diversions and focuses mainly on water quantity issues, but said water quality was primarily the responsibility of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources or the US Environmental Protection Administration, or could be addressed in other studies.

SEWRPC agreed to add some language in the final report to address Conley's concerns, but not in the comment section or in the specific context of Waukesha adding its treated wastewater to Lake Michigan.

Over the years of the study, Conley, with few allies on a committee dominated by water industry, utility and local government officials, has persistently tried to get the committee and staff's attention to big-picture water conservation and quality issues that others at the table do not whole-heartedly embrace.

Among her passions have been rainwater catchment systems as a working water conservation alternative, and now - - at the Tuesday meeting - - a heightened sense of concern about water pollution and water quality.

3. Milwaukee's committee member, water works manager Carrie Lewis, told the committee that the City of Milwaukee's official position is that no diversions that are subject to approval under the new Great Lakes Compact be approved until the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources writes its administrative rules governing Wisconsin's review and approval procedures.

She pointed out that when the committee began meeting in 2005, there was no Compact.

Waukesha's representative, water utility manager Daniel Duchniak, said the DNR had indicated "they do not need to wait...this [action prior to rule-making] happens all the time."

Lewis and Duchniak engaged in some friendly 'let's-take-this-outside' banter: in the end, SEWRPC staff, looking for some middle ground, said it would work on language stating for its its final recommendations that recognized the need for full compliance with the Compact, but did not add today Milwaukee's official position as part of the committee recommendations.

I suspect this issue is not resolved; the committee's inclination to side with Waukesha on this issue will help move Waukesha's application-drafting process forward, but could put Waukesha's application at risk in the eight-state approval process.

That is because other states may see the DNR and the state as renegade, uncollegial regulators, with the SEWRPC committee in Waukesha's pocket.

4. SEWRPC staff at several points strongly defended the integrity of its land use plan - - the SEWRPC over-arching master plan document in place for decades and that is regularly updated - - that some environmental groups and activists are continuing to challenge as flawed, weak or ineffective.

Even inducing sprawl.

Some recent history here.

At one point, SEWRPC Executive Director Ken Yunker acknowledged that some development in the region had occurred away from urban centers "regardless of what the land use plan recommended...but it was not recommended."

Also weighing in: SEWRPC's emeritus director Kurt Bauer - - the agency's first executive director, and now the water committee's chair and also for years a SEWRPC consultant.

Bauer directed the writing of the original land use plan and is very much identified with what is SEWRPC's corporate identity and seminal document.

Bauer has long argued that the land use plan is sound, and that if inappropriate development in the region had taken place it was because local governments disregarded the plan.

For example, Bauer has cited development at Pabst Farms on agricultural lands as a project that took place against the recommendations of the land use plan.

At one point in today's discussion - - during a presentation about regional water supplies that led to some discussion of the land use plan - - Bauer made this observation:

"All this nit-picking by the environmental groups on the land use plan is dead wrong. It's a good plan."

Final observation:

SEWRPC writes plans, but they are not followed. And SEWRPC does not believe that plan advocacy is part of the agency mission. Finger-pointing aside, why defend a plan or the processes that create them if they are ignored?

Regionalism To Save Milwaukee Transit? Not With Waukesha A Player

Gov. Doyle vetoed Milwaukee County's sales tax aimed to save Milwaukee's failing bus system.

He says he wants a regional approach.

Well, what region?

Waukesha County opposed even the Milwaukee Transit Authority - - see The Freeman's blunt anti-Milwaukee position here - - and killed Milwaukee's light rail plans ten years ago, so if Waukesha continues to have a regional veto, nothing will happen and Milwaukee's transit keeps withering away - - which seems to be OK with current county exec and Doyle campaign opponent Scott Walker, a leader more in line with Waukesha thinking than Milaukee's.

Politics is driving Milwaukee's transit into the ground and stunting its growth and options.

In our region, regionalism means Stick It To Milwaukee.

A new planning commission, with authority over transit planning would help, but that means packaging Waukesha into a different region or restricting is veto powers.

Come Hear SEWRPC Respond To Water Study Critics

The advisory committee that has been working on a draft regional water supply plan for the seven-county Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission meets again Tuesday morning, at SEWRPC's Pewaukee headquarters, at 9:30 a.m.

Here is SEWRPC's website, with driving directions, as this is the committee's first meeting since September, 2008 - - and the meeting will be well worth your time.

That's because the committee will read through, discuss and react to all the public comments that have come SEWRPC's way since the draft was rolled out at a round of public meetings.

I'd suggest you come and watch SEWRPC conduct what planners have come call "review and dismiss," wherein SEWRPC's staff will deflect, deny, or outright trash comments on the proposed plan.

There's already been a whiff of that, when environmental groups that took issue with the draft - - and the overall Land Use Plan that informs it - - and got letters from SEWRPC upbraiding them for having had the unmitigated gall to call the water study and especially SEWRPC's land use plan into question.

There are still at least four major lines of inquiry not yet answered about regional water use as SEWRPC is recommending - - the centerpiece being a diversion of Lake Michigan water to Waukesha:

1. Is it clear that the assumptions about growth and population driving the land use plan, and water demand as outlined in the study, are accurate?

2. Does the land use plan adequately coordinate water needs and sustainability with other planning basics in the region, such as housing, transportation and economic development?

3. Does sending Lake Michigan water to Waukesha produce a return flow plan that meets the legal and procedural requirements of the Great Lakes Compact, as well as the region's environmental integrity and the health of tributary into which Waukesha's treated wastewater will be dumped?

4. Will the socio-economic analysis that SEWRPC has agreed to add belatedly to the draft study, after nearly four year of work, be a genuine effort to redo the draft on a bigger canvas, or will it be perfunctory?

Tuesday's meeting is as much about the water study as it is about the internal workings of SEWRPC - - its administrative mindset, study procedures and processes, and planning culture.

You'll hear a lot of self-referencing justifications, along the lines of 'that issue is dealt with in the land use plan, so no need to worry about that.'

Monday, June 29, 2009

Arbitrator's Anti-Walker Furlough Ruling Not Surprise

The contract was upheld.

A contract is a contract, and Walker had to know this would be the ruling.

Walker will still use his 'executive leadership' as campaign fodder, with labor as the foil.

Paul Krugman Calls Out Congressional Climate Change Deniers

New York Times columnist and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman finds it incredible that 212 members of the House of Representatives found a way to vote against the climate change bill last week.

We hear the same, anti-science conspiracy theorists on conservative talk radio.

Solutions: turn off the radio and votes these knuckleheads out of office.

Growing Power's Will Allen Gets Props On CNN

Kudos to Milwaukee's Will Allen, who launched Growing Power and made the city the center of American urban farming.

CNN takes note.

Rush Limbaugh Continues To Denigrate Women

El Rushbo was on his high horse - - where else - - today, blasting what he calls "the drive-bys" and "state-run media" (that his code for mainstream media and pro-Obama outlets) for "the chickification of the news."

Too many "chicks" reporting on the Mark Sanford scandal for Rush's tastes.

And, of course, Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotormayor is "a racist" for her appellate opinion that was overturned today, 5-4.

All in all, just another few minutes from the King of Rightie Talk Radio.

Highway Expansion Will Not Save Us From Idiots Behind The Wheel

I found myself stuck in a major traffic jam Saturday on I-894 approaching the Zoo Interchange from the south.

Turns out that to the north, a couple arguing lost control of their car and caused an horrific crash that led to the fiery death of a motorcyclist.

Somewhere in the record-keeping section of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, this grisly crash will be counted as a fatality on a stretch of highway set for reconstruction and widening, with all the data thrown out there to support new and wider lanes.

But most fatalities on the road are caused by speed, alcohol or other factors tied to driver inattentiveness or indifference, and spiffy new lanes and perfect pavement only makes these menaces more dangerous.

Twice in the last two weeks - - once on Madison's beltline heading west and once in the gaudy new Marquette Interchange - - I was nearly sideswiped by motorists on my right who changed lanes without looking.

My evasive maneuver in Madison was so abrupt that the next day, a broken axle showed up in my steering that sent me to the repair shop for more than $600 in repairs.

I am still amazed that we avoided a collision.

And I find the new Marquette more hazardous for motorists who want to exit westbound at 26th or 35 St. as they have to move quickly to the right into traffic coming from behind coming downhill from high ramps feeding in from the Highrise Bridge or I-43 south.

The new Marquette induces speeding - - smooth pavement, gravity, the perception that the whole machine's alleged efficiencies are there to make your trip faster have created a Death Valley in the interchange just past the Marquette University campus.

It's the stupidity factor that kills people on the highways, and I am convinced that WisDOT's rebuilding and redesigning schemes only make idiots more dangerous.

And if WisDOT wants to pour resources into redesign, it should start with changing the way it manages public meetings and trains the people who run them.

Squashing public discussion and the free flow of information about highway expansion as WisDOT did at last week's Zoo Interchange public 'hearing' is the management equivalent of mindless, aggressive driving.

Right Wing In The Land Of The Falling Sky: "We're Doomed!"

What do we hear from the Right?

A catastrophizing, Chicken Little, broken record.

"We're doomed!"

Barack Obama's election is the end of the world. This is when the Right's craziness began, with a surge in guy-buying.

I heard Rush Limbaugh say the other day that "Obama must be stopped" from destroying America, and the greatest economy ever devised - - something Rush called our "birthright", etc.

Then it was the stimulus package that's the end of the world. It's inflationary consequences will destroy America, and the greatest economy ever devised, etc.

Of course, the climate change bill that cleared the House of Representatives is the end of the world. It will destroy America, investment and jobs [a lie] and the greatest economy ever devised, etc.

And offering a public option in national health insurance reform - - an option, mind you, straight from the "choice" language proffered by conservatives as always the way to go - - is the end of the world.

It will destroy America, blow up [a lie] any relationship you have with doctors or private insurers, ration health care [as if that isn't already happening; See: people who can afford good health care, or have it provided as a benefit (usually best in the public sector], and will destroy the greatest economy every devised, etc.

And let's not forget that Obama's foreign policy is the end of the world. His speech in Cairo surrendered the notion of American exceptionalism, etc., and Dick Cheney keeps popping up to tell us Obama is making it easier for terrorists to hit us again.

I noticed this morning that the world had not spun off its axis, nor had a falling sky landed on our collective heads.

I saw blue sky.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Happy 50th To The St. Lawrence Seaway - - And To The Great Lakes-Wrecking Invasive Species Coming In Through The Seaway, Too

The seaway, an economic failure, has helped poison the Great Lakes with invasive mussels and other ruinous species.

The overly-clear water at the edge of Lake Michigan near the city water works' Linnwood Treatment Plant - - and the stinky weeds that grow at the lake bottom as a result of excess penetrating sunlight - - are a direct result of the presence of nonn-native, invasive mussels that rode into the lake in the purged ballast water of ocean-going freighters arriving here through the Seaway.

Just shut the seaway down.

Its negatives outweigh modest shipping activity, now about 20% of what was initially promised.

When And Why Newspaper Reporting Is Superior To Blogging

Only a major newspaper, with professional writers and the stature of a paper behind them, can produce a report like this.

Are Motorcycle Crashes On The Rise?

The answer, as we read and hear about motorcycle crashes in Wisconsin on a seemingly daily basis - - is yes.

I know the accident rate rises in the nicer weather, but Wisconsin Department of Transportation data - - see page 80 of the lengthy statistical review of all crashes in Wisconsin - - show big jumps in crashes and fatalities as a trend.

In 1993 - - 40 motorcycle deaths.

In 2000 - - 78.

In 2007 - - the latest year in the data - - 106.

And about three-quarter of the deaths involve cyclists without helmets, though often it is a vehicle driver who was at fault.

There's been a lot written over the past few years about Baby Boomers finally having the money and time to buy and ride the bike of their dreams, and the larger number of new bikers on the roads is certainly a factor - - and a tragic one.

Data from Science Daily shows it to be an epidemic.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Nissan To Build Electric Cars In US

Nissan, a Japanese carmaker, will build electric cars in Tennessee, using US government loans as part of the program's financing.

Remember when GM killed its electric cars? In 1996!

Too successful, and not macho enough, like their company-killing SUV's.

Tip Of The Hat To An Old Newsroom Pal, Mike Juley

The rumors were true: He IS a musician.

Silencing Highway Critics Hurts Everyone

Traditional media has not reported that critics of a $2.3 billion dollar road-building and expansion plan were told by state transportation officials and State Fair police that leaflets and signs opposing the plan could not be distributed and displayed at a public hearing Monday.

Details here.

And that the critics were told they could hand out leaflets blocks from the hearing, where no one would coming to the hearing was likely to stop and read the leaflet.

The state should not bully citizens seeking to exercise their First Amendment rights, especially when the spending of an unprecedented sum of public funds is up for discussion.

When anyone has his or her basic rights trampled, ours are damaged, too.

This is basic Democracy 101.

And in a state where progressive traditions are alleged - - but not implemented, apparently - - shameful and unacceptable.

This was an unnecessary exercise of state bureaucratic authority, backed up by sworn officers with arrest powers, and should be condemned.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Climate Change Bill Clears House: Huge Environmental Victory

It was a squeaker, 219-212, but the climate change control bill, ushering in a new era of green power and reduced reliance on foreign oil, has passed the House of Representatives.

Details, here.

The Senate may be tougher, where Republicans could filibuster it, but it's got a shot.

Great victory also for President Barack Obama and former Veep Al Gore.

Congratulations, one and all.

Canada Still Using Its Waterways As Toilets

Fact-filled plea for Canadian stimulus funding to correct long-standing fouling of the waters to our north.

Federal Transportation Funding Overhaul Delayed: Ripples Will Be Felt Here

Plenty of state highway and transit programs will remain funded, but expansions will be in limbo for at least 18 months if the White House opts to set aside creating the next five-year omnibus transportation funding bill.

These bills are often delayed and the highway trust fund gets patched with spot appropriations, but it will make it harder for Wisconsin to plan, with assurance, the financing of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Freeway expansion, for example.

And that's a good thing: maybe saner people and plans will scale that behemoth back, starting with the wasteful added lanes in both the I-94 north-south leg from Milwaukee to the Illinois state line, and the $2.3 abomination also known as the Zoo Interchange project.

The Zoo Interchange project will destroy homes and businesses, congest the state's most-utilized interchange for close to a decade, and trash the state's plan - - does the left hand know what the right hand is up to here? - - to build an engineering college for UW-M right in the middle of the mess/interchange project.

But the state seems hell-bent on pushing the Zoo Interchange forward without the funds in hand or on the horizon to pay for it, thus pleasing Republican voters in Waukesha County who want to shave 20 seconds off their daily commutes.

Eventually. Perhaps. And perhaps not, since widenings attract usage and induce more congestion.

I'm still waiting for a call back from WisDOT about why they chose to muzzle some of the critics at a hearing last week.

A call to the spokesman at the WisDOT regional office that sponsored the hearing was referred to the agency headquarters in, which I called, but with no call back yet.

Allegations by the muzzled critics are here.

Scott Walker's Run For Governor Guiding County Exec Behavior

The Milwaukee County Board is wresting administrative and fiscal powers from Executive Scott Walker because Walker is using those powers to burnish his candidacy.

So while Walker is tooling around the Midwest on a motorcycle purportedly telling strangers to come visit Milwaukee, the Board is trimming his ability to change fees and making it harder to furlough employees.

Labor is Walker's foil, but since his failed effort with dubious deficit projections to justify major furloughs, look for Walker to spin, flip-flop and pose his way through the rest of the pre-2010 local budget period, above all, to appear to a right wing GOP base as worthy of serving as Governor.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

David Riemer On Health Care, In The New York Times

Interesting proposal.

Norquist Receives UN Urban Planning Assignment

The United Nations is planning an international World Habitat Day event in Washington, DC later this year to recognize the value to global sustainability offered by cities and smart urban planning - - the very agenda pushed by former Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist as CEO of the Chicago-based Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU).

Little wonder that Norquist has been named to the UN committee in charge of the event.

From the event's announcement:

"This year's World Habitat Day will focus on the theme of improved urban planning so that our cities can manage and reduce the impacts of climate disruption, the economic crisis and urban poverty around the world. "It's a very timely theme," said Norquist. "Through its Sustainable Communities Initiative led by Secretaries [Shaun] Donovan and [Ray] LaHood, the Obama Administration is showing its awareness that our future neighborhoods must be more walkable, urban, diverse, and energy-efficient. As big an issue as it is domestically, it's even more important internationally."

Strong support for the United Nations was one of Norquist's priorities during his four terms as Milwaukee Mayor (disclosure: I worked for him between 1996-2004).

Norquist created the city's ongoing advisory committee on the United Nations, regularly hosted the October 24th UN Day flag-raising ceremony at the Zeidler Municipal Building and helped begin the annual George Kennan lecture on world affairs held at the Pabst Theater.

Al Gore Message On Repowering America

Al Gore is pushing for fundamental energy policy change in the US, and for support to get the climate protection bill through the Congress.

New video, here.

Sykes Goes Racial In Healthcare Rant

There are moments when conservative talk radio reveals its cringe-worthy pathologies: Charlie Sykes did it without warning this morning on his AM 620 WTMJ program after the 10 a.m. news break.

The subject was Pres. Barack Obama's health care thinking that was aired on an ABC special last night - - and one with apparently low ratings.
Sykes, blasting Obama - - and I think the health care issue is huge, and not simnple, and worthy of real debate - - took a call from a woman who described herself as frightened that the Obama plan might cost her specialized care she receives for an unspecified, but unusual and serious illness.

Sykes did not ask her any questions, but continued to fulminate, even talking over the woman - - and I get the format: it's his show, the callers are foils, or secondary, whatever - - so his talking without asking her questions is not my point.

But when the woman said she feared that 35-year-old women might soon get their care rationed away - - perhaps a reference to her own condition - - Sykes disagreed, saying in the near term, ationing would fall on "old white guys with unfashionable diseases."

I couldn't believe it.

Making this about race?

And by the way, there are studies and data to show that while males, in fact, get better health care than women or non-whites.

Honest-to-God: conservative talk radio can sometimes be pure poison.

First-Person Account Of Muzzled Free Speech At Monday Highway Hearing

I had posted items this week detailing complaints emanating from a Wisconsin Department of Transportation hearing at State Fair Park where citizens alleged that WisDOT officials, in conjunction with the State Fair police, blocked the distribution of literature inside the public meeting area in the Tommy G. Thompson building.

One of those citizens, Jeff Gonyo, is the founder of an anti-highway expansion organization that has been at odds with WisDOT for years, particularly over the widening of Highway J/164 in Waukesha and Washington Counties.

Gonyo has written a lengthy first-person account of the incident and his view of the history leading up to it, and has appended at the bottom of his account his email address and his organization's website.

Here, also, is a copy of the Zoo Interchange plan, complete with maps.
At $2.3 billion, it would be the largest highway project in state history - - three times the cost of the just-completed Marquette Interchange project, for example.

In a nutshell, Gonyo says he was told by WisDOT officials he could not display signs and distribute leaflets in the Thompson building, and if he persisted, State Fair Park police would be called.

Later, according to Gonyo, the State Fair Police Chief arrived, and agreed with WisDOT officials who wanted the signs and leaflet-distribution removed from the building; the Chief decided the group could distribute its leaflets at two State Fair Park street entrance gates at least two blocks from the building.

I will post Mr. Gonyo's text below (bold-facing is in the original).

And I will add several links to the posting when time permits, and will also add comment when received from WisDOT, [an effort Wednesday to obtain comment from WisDOT officials in the Waukesha regional office got bounced to WisDOT's central office in Madison, where I placed a call Thursday morning, too.].

Gonyo's text:

Here is my "first person account" along with a brief well-documented history leading up to the WisDOT's gross abuse of our free speech rights at yesterday's so-called "public hearing" on the Zoo Interchange Study's Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).

Here is some "background information" leading up to yesterday's WisDOT "free speech" squashing actions against our citizens group. For the past 10 years, the Highway J Citizens Group, U.A.'s general mission has been as follows: 1) Stopping unnecessary, fiscally-irresponsible and environmentally-damaging road expansion projects in our affected communities (focusing on those proposed projects located here in Southeastern Wisconsin -- like the Highway 164 four-lane expansion and the proposed Zoo Interchange expansion), 2) Protecting our groundwater quality, 3) Promoting proper land use decisions, and 4) Preserving our overall “quality of life” in this beautiful Kettle Moraine area of Wisconsin .

As part of that mission, our members (now numbering over 15,000 statewide by our last estimate) regularly attend, participate and share information with other interested citizens on these issues of great community concern to all of us. The WisDOT's Zoo Interchange Study is just one of those road expansion plans that greatly concerns our members because of:

1) Its $2.3 billion taxpayer-funded price-tag (which is approximately $400 in additional taxes imposed upon every man, woman and child residing in the State of Wisconsin),

2) The economic (by last count, over 40 homes and businesses would be eliminated under the WisDOT's preferred eight-lane expansion option) and environmental devastation (especially air and noise pollution) it will cause to the nearby affected residential and small-business communities,

3) The WisDOT's continued refusal to consider less costly, more-community-friendly, reasonable alternatives to solve this area's traffic safety and congestion problems (such as less-intrusive alternate routes to alleviate traffic congestion, greater emphasis on mass transit and the other non-expansion alternatives, and adopting the less-costly, smaller-sized "spot improvement" rebuilding alternatives which WisDOT acknowledges would solve the safety problems associated with the Zoo Interchange, and

4) The WisDOT's refusal to hold a true public hearing where the citizens can give testimony into an open microphone "one at a time" in front of a citizen audience that can hear and understand that testimony.

Attached to this e-mail is a copy of my June 23, 2009 written comments which were delivered as part of my "oral testimony" to one of the WisDOT court reporters yesterday. This testimony goes into great detail about our citizens group's concerns about the Zoo Interchange Study and the many related "legally-actionable" deficiencies in this project's Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). Also attached here is a PDF copy of our alternate routes leaflet that we wanted to distribute to the people yesterday attending the WisDOT's public hearing on this project.

Consistent with these concerns specified above, the HJCG had an information and display table set up at the WisDOT's public information meetings on the Zoo Interchange Study held on 1) January 17, 2008 at the Zoofari Conference Center (see attached photos), 2) January 23, 2008 at the State Fair Park's Tommy Thompson Youth Center (see attached photos), and 3) May 29, 2008 at the Wauwatosa West High School (see attached photos). At all of these events, we presented detailed information on how the WisDOT could save the taxpayers of Wisconsin over a billion dollars by simply adopting our reasonable alternatives.

At the January 23, 2008 meeting, our citizens group has a small DVD player on our information table which played the HJCG narrated movie discussing our reasonable alternatives to solving some of Southeastern Wisconsin's transportation problems. The movie volume was so low that a person would need to be right next to the table to hear it. The movie and written information we offered drew more people to our HJCG table than were going to the WisDOT tables. Citizens were actually starting to question the necessity of the WisDOT's expensive "$2.3 Billion Cadillac Plan" for expanding the Zoo Interchange after learning about our more reasonable alternatives for solving the traffic safety and congestion problems of this area. WISDOT WAS OBVIOUSLY VERY UPSET about the popularity of and citizen interest in our presented ideas.

In an effort to curtail our ability to effectively convey information to these concerned citizens, WisDOT Zoo Interchange Project Manager DONNA BROWN sent me the attached May 13, 2008 letter indicating that WisDOT would not be allowing us to have any audio or video presentations as part of our information and display table at any of their future meetings on the Zoo Interchange Study.

We fully complied with that request at the May 29, 2008 WisDOT public information meeting on this project held at the Wauwatosa West High School. However, we let the public know just why we could not show our video by putting a sign on an unplugged, shut-off DVD player stating that "WisDOT Zoo Interchange Project Director DONNA BROWN does not want you to see this video presentation offering reasonable alternatives to this wasteful project." We also had another sign on our table that stated, "WISDOT'S MODUS OPERANDI: Empty Promises, Deceitful Conduct and Outright Lies! CAN WE REALLY TRUST THE WISDOT? LEARN MORE HERE!" That sign was decorated with several American flags and a flashing green light to draw attention to our table and the information on it.

Again our table drew great attention from the attending citizens and, after receiving our information, these citizens were very upset at both the WisDOT's unnecessary and costly Zoo Interchange expansion plans and their anti-democratic tactics to squash our first amendment rights to disseminate information about reasonable alternatives to this project. A WisDOT official then came over to our table that evening on May 29, 2008 and DEMANDED that we take the above signs down because they were "disparaging the integrity of the WisDOT." We refused to do so, saying that their attempts to force us to remove these signs constituted an illegal restriction of the "CONTENT" of our communication. That interaction between this WisDOT official and our HJCG members attracted even more people to our table. Ultimately a second WisDOT official came over to our table and told the first official to "just forget about it" because his actions were "attracting to much attention" to our table.

After carefully reviewing the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Zoo Interchange Study, I immediately noticed that NONE of our previously-presented reasonable alternatives (especially the alternate routes -- discussed in the attached leaflet) were discussed (or even mentioned) in the DEIS. That failure to discuss these reasonable alternatives constitutes a blatant violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (which also is one of the key problems with the Highway 164 FEIS and ROD approved by the WisDOT that is now part of the current litigation against them). Also, the air pollution analysis (especially on greenhouse gas emissions) was grossly deficient. Finally, the announced June 23, 2009 and June 24, 2009 "open house" formatted public hearing on this project is illegal, designed to stifle citizen interaction and input and thus, the subject of our current federal litigation on the previously-approved Highway 164 four-lane expansion.

Knowing these continuing problems with the WisDOT's Zoo Interchange Study DEIS, we prepared additional sign display boards and literature to be part of our information table at this "public hearing" for distribution to the many attending concerned citizens. As representatives of the HJCG, Al Wilhelmi (our president) and I arrived at the WisDOT's public hearing at the State Fair Park's Tommy Thompson Youth Center on Tuesday, June 23, 2009 at approximately 2:00 PM (its start-time). We had our table display signs and literature loaded on a small luggage cart that we pulled through the doors.

Immediately upon entering the front doors of the Tommy Thompson Youth Center, both Mr. Wilhelmi and I were "aggressively accosted" by both WisDOT Zoo Interchange Project Director DONNA BROWN and Forward 45 Consulting Project Manager BRAD HEIMLICH and were told that we would not be allowed to have an HJCG table at this event because our informational signs and materials were "offensive to the WisDOT" and it would be "highly-disruptive" at this "open house" style public hearing to allow this type of communication and interaction with the arriving people. Mr. Heimlich even went so far as to say that "WisDOT rented and paid for this room to present their plan for the Zoo Interchange, and there were only two permissible ways for citizens to communicate their ideas at this public hearing -- either orally testifying privately to a court reporter or submitted written comments in their "collection box." Neither one of these options would allow for "citizen to citizen interaction" and discussion about the merits of this project.

I then told both Ms. Brown and Mr. Heimlich that what they were doing was not only inconsistent with past practice on this project (as well as others I participated in), but also was an illegal suppression of our freedom to communicate our ideas to the attending public being held on state property and being paid for 100% by taxpayer dollars. I reminded both Ms. Brown and Mr. Heimlich that, at such taxpayer-funded public hearings, ALL POINTS OF VIEW ON THE SUBJECT IN QUESTION MUST BE FULLY AND FAIRLY REPRESENTED and failure to do so would result in prompt legal action from our citizens group. Mr. Heimlich (with the support of Ms. Brown) then said, "You have only two options here -- you can orally give your testimony to a court reporter in private or submit it to the WisDOT in writing -- and, after you have done so, THEN YOU CAN LEAVE!"

I then repeated that this was a TAXPAYER-FUNDED PUBLIC HEARING to solicit citizen input on a TAXPAYER-FUNDED PROJECT and as ONE OF THOSE TAXPAYERS, I had the right to communicate my ideas to the other people who attended this hearing. I then told Ms. Brown and Mr. Heimlich that I would be "moving about the room" during this public hearing talking with other residents, and if they wanted information about our reasonable alternatives, I would give them a copy of our leaflet after that individual "one-on-one" discussion. Both Ms. Brown and Mr. Heimlich said that I could not do that, and if I did not leave, they would call the police and have me removed from the premises. I then demanded a copy of each of their business cards so that I could tell the public, our elected officials and our attorneys who the these two WisDOT officials were (Ms. Brown and Mr. Heimlich) that had violated our rights at this public hearing. Both Al Wilhelmi and I personally witnessed this discussion.

Almost immediately after this blatant assault on our free speech rights, State Fair Police Sergeant Brian Reynolds arrived and the two WisDOT officials named above (joined by a third WisDOT official now) repeated their position to Sergeant Reynolds while both Al Wilhelmi and I listened to their excuses as to why we would not be allowed to communicate with the other people attending this public hearing. Sergeant Reynolds seemed "puzzled" by the WisDOT's adamant demands that we not be allowed to share our information with the other people at this public hearing. Sergeant Reynolds then stated, "In my more than 20 years of law enforcement experience, I never had to respond to a call where citizens were being prevented from disseminating and communicating information to the public at a public hearing."

Sergeant Reynolds then said that, since "this was a new experience for him," he would need to call State Fair Police Chief Thomas Struebling to the scene to ask his advice on how to proceed. Sergeant Reynolds then asked both Al Wilhelmi and me to step outside and wait with him on the front steps of the Tommy Thompson Youth Center until Chief Struebling arrived. We moved our luggage cart of signs and literature to the steps outside the front door. (A few minutes later, Al Wilhelmi later went back inside the doors to sit down because of the intense heat and humidity outside -- he's 80 years old and the WisDOT tried to keep him outside of a public hearing that his tax dollars had paid for!)

While waiting outside for Chief Struebling to arrive, I showed Sergeant Reynolds our seven signs that we had intended to display on our information table which the WisDOT found to be offensive (they are attached here) --- I asked him, do these look offensive to you? Since they were factual in nature backed up by credible documented sources, Sergeant Reynolds admitted "they were not offensive to him." I then gave Sergeant Reynolds a copy of our HJCG general brochure and Zoo Interchange alternatives leaflet and asked him if those items seemed "offensive" to him. He admitted they were not.

By this time, I had noticed that Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Reporter Tom Held was outside with us taking down notes on his notepad. I then asked Mr. Held to come closer to us so he could get the information on these unfolding events. Mr. Held told me that he just had seen how Ms. Brown and Mr. Heimlich were trying to keep us out of their public hearing and he wanted to know why. Mr. Held then said that "he could not understand why WisDOT had suddenly decided to prevent us from disseminating our materials because he had seen our table at the May 29, 2008 WisDOT public information meeting at the Wauwatosa West High School (and we were allowed to be there). I then showed Mr. Held the same signs and gave him the same literature that Sergeant Reynolds had just viewed and received. In fact, some of the signs included past Milwaukee Journal Sentinel articles on them "WRITTEN BY MR. HELD HIMSELF" about the Zoo Interchange Project -- these were part of the items that WisDOT found "so offensive" here.

By now, Chief Struebling had arrived. Chief Struebling then told me that, in his opinion, "the WisDOT had the right to decide just how people would be allowed to communicate with other people at THEIR PUBLIC HEARING because it was THEIR EVENT!" I then indicated that, if I was going to be forcibly kept out of the public hearing room, then I would hand out our HJCG literature outside the front doors of the building as people "came and went by." Chief Struebling then said that State Fair Park rules prohibit me from doing so, and the only allowable place to hand out these materials would be at a location over two blocks away from the Tommy Thompson Youth Center's entrance WHERE NOBODY WHO WAS ATTENDING THIS PUBLIC HEARING WOULD SEE ME (and thus, would not be aware of or given an opportunity to obtain our information on the reasonable alternatives to the WisDOT's Zoo Interchange expansion plans). I told Chief Struebling that, requiring us to stand more than two blocks away from the building, would be like "telling me to stand on the moon when all of the people who would be interested in my materials are located on the earth." HOW RIDICULOUS IS THAT?
I then told Sergeant Reynolds and Chief Struebling that, because the WisDOT (with police assistance) was illegally excluding us from the taxpayer-funded public hearing, we would be contacting our attorneys, Governor Jim Doyle, our state senators and state representatives, and our attorneys to pursue legal action against everyone involved in this suppression of our free speech rights here. Near the end my communications with both of these State Fair Park police officers, Al Wilhelmi then came back outside and assisted me in putting our materials back into the car.

Then, I entered the building and decided to orally testify to one of the court reporters. I planned not only to "read into the record" the attached comments about the DEIS that I had previously prepared for this purpose, but also to enter into the record all of the facts surrounding DONNA BROWN'S and BRAD HEIMLICH'S actions excluding our citizens group from distributing information to and communicating with other citizens at this public hearing. I then was escorted by a WisDOT employee to a secluded room in the back of the Tommy Thompson Youth Center where three court reporters were sitting (one at each of the three tables) in that same room. The room was totally isolated from the people who were out in the main area viewing the WisDOT project exhibits. When I entered the room, I noticed that it was about 15 feet by 15 feet in size and the three court reporters were at tables located about 4 feet from each other.

I sat down to testify and started to speak to the court reporter while two other people were speaking to the other two court reporters at the same time in the same room. A few minutes into my testimony, the neighboring court reporter told me to "tone it down" because she couldn't hear the testimony of the person who was speaking to her. I then told my court reporter "HERE IS ONE OF THE KEY PROBLEMS WITH THESE "OPEN HOUSE" PUBLIC HEARINGS -- The public outside cannot hear my testimony because they aren't in this room. Yet, I am so close to the other two court reporters that if I speak in a normal voice, my testimony irritates them and interferes with the two neighboring citizens testimony which is being given at the same time!"

About half way through my oral testimony, the neighboring court reporter again interrupted me and said "if you can't talk quieter, then shut up -- I can't hear the person testifying to me here." I then told my court reporter that "It's obvious that the WisDOT has intentionally set up these sham public hearings in this format to deter citizens from participating and interacting with each other on these project proposals." Upon conclusion of my testimony, I told my court reporter that, in a law office or court setting, it would "absolutely insane" to have three court reporters take oral testimony from three different people at the same time in the same small room like the WisDOT has allowed to occur here. She appeared to "nod in agreement" with me on that closing point made.

After finishing my oral testimony, I again ran into Tom Held outside of the room where oral testimony was being taken and told him that, if we win our federal lawsuit, the WisDOT will have "repeat" every public hearing in the state where the "open house" format had been used (including this one on the Zoo Interchange Study's DEIS). I then encouraged him to thoroughly investigate this matter and cover it in his news story. Unfortunately, Mr. Held's story in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel didn't even mention this controversy or our presence at this WisDOT public hearing.

Al Wilhelmi and I then left the building returning to our car in the parking lot. While leaving, we were followed out of the Tommy Thompson Youth Center by BRAD HEIMLICH, and he did not return into the building until we were in our car and leaving the parking lot. MR. HEIMLICH APPARENTLY WANTED TO MAKE ABSOLUTELY SURE WE DIDN'T COME BACK!

In my 10 years of fighting the WisDOT to stop unnecessary, fiscally-irresponsible and environmentally-damaging road expansion projects in our state, I have never seen such a public display of undemocratic, oppressive, anti-citizen behavior on the part of a government agency using people's tax dollars to deter citizen participation from the very same people paying those taxes. One of the sign boards, we wanted to display yesterday contained the following heading, "Federal Highway Administration Admits "Open House" Public Hearing Format Precludes Debate on a Project's Merits!" On that sign board was a copy of a document which I found on the Federal Highway Administration's website entitled, "Public Involvement Techniques for Transportation Decision-Making: Open Forum Hearings/Open Houses" which listed one of "drawbacks" of these types of public hearings as EXACTLY THAT (see pages 6 thru 7 of this attached FHWA document which I printed off their website just a few hours before yesterday's WisDOT public hearing).

Also, I should note that, on page 1 of this same document, the FHWA states the following about "open house" format public hearings: "These events can include non-agency displays. Sister agencies and community proponents or opponents may be given space to present a point of view, displays, documents, or handouts in separate, visible areas. Some agencies have found that allowing public groups to set up tables outside the meeting or hearing room helps the public distinguish official agency information from other sources."

I showed this document (from my sign board) to both WisDOT's DONNA BROWN and Forward 45's BRAD HEIMLICH and indicated that the FHWA position here was in direct contradiction with their actions to prevent me from having such a display table with our HJCG information on it. However, THEY DIDN'T SEEM TO CARE! Since this is a federally-funded project, I think that we ALL should petition the FHWA to remove all federal funding for this project given that WisDOT's actions are in direct contradiction to the FHWA's statements in this document. What do you think?

In closing, I want to mention that Judge Adelman has just informed our attorneys that the HJCG federal lawsuit's oral argument is now scheduled for Wednesday, July 8, 2009 at 10:30 AM in his courtroom (Room 390) in the federal courthouse in downtown Milwaukee (517 East Wisconsin Avenue). Please join us at this very important federal court hearing on our Highway 164 federal lawsuit.

At this oral argument our attorneys and the government attorneys will be arguing the case before Judge Adelman with a ruling to be issued about 30 days thereafter. If we win, such a favorable ruling, will "change the way the WisDOT does business in Wisconsin" -- especially on how they conduct future public hearings and analyze reasonable alternatives on road projects under consideration. THE PEOPLE'S VOICE WILL FINALLY BE HEARD! (For your convenience, I am attaching copies of our federal lawsuit's amended complaint and the two most recent legal briefs filed by our attorneys with Judge Adelman earlier this year.)

I hope that this information is helpful to you in "keeping the pressure" on the WisDOT in your excellent blog postings on "The Political Environment." Keep up the great work! Thank you again!

Sincerely,

Jeff Gonyo,
HIGHWAY J CITIZENS GROUP, U.A.
P.O. Box 152, Hubertus, WI 53033
Phone: (262)-644-8334
E-Mail: http://us.mc541.mail.yahoo.com/mc/compose?to=jmgonyo164@core.com
Website: http://www.hwyjcitizensgroup.org/

Four Quick OWI Arrests In Wisconsin Does Not A Felony Make

We're still easy on repeat drunk drivers in Wisconsin.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

As I Always Say: Don't Call Me In The Morning

It's a matter of science.

Thank you, Suzanne Rust.

State Fair Police Told Group It Could Not Pass Out Materials At WisDOT Public Session Tuesday

Yesterday I posted information called in to me about citizens being told they could not pass out information at a public meeting at State Fair Park sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to explain the proposed Zoo Interchange project.

The meeting was in the Tommy G. Thompson building, a site frequently used by state agencies to host meetings on public policies and programs.

In a phone interview this morning, State Fair Police Det. Richard Motola read from a memo written Tuesday afternoon by Sergeant Brian Reynolds to Chief Thomas Struebling after the incident:

State transportation officials became aware that Jeff Gonyo and another individual wanted to distribute literature and set up a table. [Gonyo is founder of the Highway 164 Coalition, which has opposed state highway expansions and is litigating in Federal court over the Highway 164 expansion in Waukesha and Washington Counties.]

That literature distribution had not been given prior approval by State Fair officials, as required by State Fair property management rules, Motola inferred, based on subsequent State Fair police actions described in the memo.

State Fair Sergeant Brian Reynolds was called to the scene - - the memo does not say by whom - - and Reynolds then called the State Fair Police Chief Thomas Struebling to the scene.

Chief Struebling designated for Gonyo information distribution space at two State Fair gates - - one about 100 yards from the Thompson building, and a second across the fairgrounds at Greenfield Ave. and 79th St.

Gonyo was told he and his companion could go into the meeting room and make statements.

The memo does not indicate if Gonyo and his companion went to either of the gates to distribute literature.

Det. Motola said the prior permission rule designating approved literature distribution points is in place to prevent people or groups or political candidates distributing material anywhere on the grounds.

Some observations:

Enforcing the rule inside a public meeting/hearing defeats the goal of public input.

How many times have you been in a hearing or meeting room in a public building and have had a person or group hand you a copy of their statement, or policy position?

I can remember arriving at a DNR session on the Great Lakes Compact in the Thompson building and walking past a row of tables set up by environmental groups who handed out leaflets, flyers or reprints.

Did all those groups have their State Fair Board permissions-in-advance?

Does the state transportation department routinely enforce this rule when it meets at State Fair, or was the Highway 164 Coalition singled out because it has been a thorn in the transportation department's side?

And who called the cops?

I've got a call into the transportation department's regional office to get some answers.

[Update: I spoke to regional WisDOT spokesman Dennis Shook late in the afternoon on Wednesday, and he told me I needed to call WisDOT's general counsel in Madison. I said I'd do that Thursday morning, as it was after 5:00 p.m. when Dennis and I spoke.]

Gov. Mark Sanford's Career: R.I.P.

Turns out the South Carloina GOP Governor, touted as a possible 2012 presidential contender, wasn't hiking the Appalachian Trail - - as we know it - - when he disappeared last week.

He was in Argentina.

Who knew the Appalachian Trail went that far?

When the next shoe drops, no one will be surprised if Sanford begins speaking Klingon.

Suppose SEWRPC's Independent Water Consultant Gets Too Independent?

The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission has an over-arching land use plan that it wrote decades ago, and that it updates from time to time.

SEWRPC treats it as something of a regional master plan, and snaps at anyone suggesting it is flawed.

And as you may know, SEWRPC has been writing for the last three-and-a-half-years a million-dollar regional water supply study that recommends major changes in how and where several communities in the region would get their water - - most notably, the City of Waukesha, which SEWRPC recommends obtain a diversion from Lake Michigan.

Which is great news for Waukesha, as it is preparing an application for that diversion for review by all eight Great Lakes states.

SEWRPC, however, has agreed to put the plan's formal approval on hold because SEWRPC's relatively-new Environmental Justice Task Force more or less demanded that SEWRPC add something the task force said was missing - - an analysis by an independent consultant of the socio-economic impacts of moving water around the region, as the draft water study is recommending.

Put aside questions like: why wasn't an independent socio-economic analysis an integral part of the water study from its inception in 2005; or why didn't SEWRPC's fifty years of internal policies, in or outside of the land use plan, call for independent socio-economic analyses as a routine part of any and all SEWRPC studies - - as SEWRPC has recently agreed to do, again at the strong suggestion of its justice task force?

Anyway...keep in mind that SEWRPC says (see slide of 17 of this SEWRPC presentation on the water supply study) that the land use plan is "the basis" for the water supply study, since in SEWRPC's world, everything emanates from, and is guided by, the land use plan.

And in its appeal for a consultant in the Request for Qualifications, SEWRPC enunciates clearly on pages 1 and 2 the primacy of the land use plan with regard to SEWRPC work.

With all that in mind, I again read through the "Request for Qualifications" appeal (RFQ) that SEWRPC has issued to find that independent consultant to write.

The deadline for consultants to let SEWRPC know that they are interested, and have the know-how to proceed if they are selected, is June 30, according to the RFQ.

SEWRPC wants the consultant to produce an analysis in 90 days - - something of a quickie, don't you think (and the RFQ doesn't contain a dollar amount the consultant would be paid), given the millions of dollars at stake throughout the region in water-assisted development, new infrastructure, and, who knows - - unforeseen costs/benefits/opportunities, etc. in re: socio-economic consequences, too?

Real analysis? Challenging the status quo, or the basic assumptions of the water study, to date?

Or will SEWRPC get something that can pass muster, so the water supply study can get back on track for its presumed approval - - unless that independent analysis documents a case that the whole thing needs a do-over.

So what would happen to the water study, or even to the bigger land use plan, for that matter, and to public policy across a seven-county region if the socio-economic consultant found serious fault with the crafting or the unfolding/updating of the land use plan?

Or with the wisdom and feasibility of inserting the water study, as drafted, into the land use plan?

Or with the adequacy of a land use plan, merged with a draft water supply plan - - without SEWRPC having written a regional housing plan - - certainly a key regional socio-economic element - - since 1975?

I can't imagine any consultant getting into these issues without examining what SEWRPC says is at the basis of it all - - the land use plan.

It will be very interesting to see how SEWRPC makes its consultant selection, what it offers as a fee, and more importantly, how independently this independent analysis is allowed to evolve.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Did WisDOT Really Call The Cops Tonight To Shut Out Zoo Interchange Opponents?

I'm hearing that officials from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation actually called State Fair coppers to prevent people who object to the $2.3 billion Zoo Interchange plan from handing out literature tonight at an informational public meeting on the state fairgrounds.

If true, a huge tactical and legal error by WisDOT.

Reminds me of the time that former Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist said WisDOT acted in a "Stalinist" fashion.

I wasn't at the Tuesday night meeting, but if what I am hearing is accurate, and WisDOT is strong-arming citizens and shutting them up at a public meeting, "Stalinist" sounds about right.

Leading NASA Climate Change Scientist Takes Bold Action

Talk about taking a risk.

Scott Walker's Motorcycle Meanderings Continue, Thanks To Air Tran

This is the hokiest thing since Cabbage Patch dolls were to be air dropped over old County Stadium.

Dirty Wisconsin Air Conditions Continue Into Wednesday

Smokestack and tailpipe emissions hit the sun and heat, and the result is another day of unhealthy air for much of the state's population along the Lake Michigan coastline.

It's not "Healthier-by-the-Lake."

I'll post the text below from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, which had issued an alert for a larger portion of the state for Tuesday.

Cleaner energy, better pollution controls and conservation across the board would go a long way towards reducing the number of these alerts and the health risks the dirty air poses to people who live in these parts.

From the DNR:

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is issuing an Air Quality Advisory for Ozone (Orange) for Kenosha, Manitowoc, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine and Sheboygan counties effective 4:28 pm on Tuesday, June 23, 2009 through 10:00 pm on Wednesday, June 24, 2009 .

The advisory is being issued because of persistent elevated levels of ground level ozone. Ground level ozone is formed when pollution from power plants, factories and other industrial sources, vehicle exhaust, and volatile organic compounds chemically reacts with hot temperatures, high humidity and atmospheric stagnation.

The Air Quality Index is currently in the orange level, which is considered unhealthy for people in sensitive groups and others, including people who are not in sensitive groups but who are engaged in strenuous outside activities or exposed for prolonged periods of time.

People in those sensitive groups include those with respiratory diseases, such as asthma, older adults, and active adults and children. When an orange advisory for ozone is issued, people in those groups are advised to reschedule or cut back on strenuous outside activities.

People with lung diseases such as asthma and bronchitis should pay attention to shortness of breath or respiratory symptoms like coughing, wheezing and discomfort when taking a breath, and consult with their physician if they have concerns or are experiencing symptoms.

Ground level ozone can irritate the respiratory system, reduce lung function, aggravate asthma and chronic lung diseases, and, over time, cause permanent lung damage.

To receive air quality advisories by e-mail, visit http://dnr.wi.gov/air/newsletters/.
There are several actions the public can take to reduce their contributions to this regional air quality problem.

Reduce driving when possible and don't leave vehicle engines idling.
Postpone activities that use small gasoline and diesel engines.
Minimize wood burning.
Conserve electricity.

For more ideas on how you can reduce your emissions today and every day visit: Do a little, save a lot!

For more information:
Air Quality Watches and Advisories Status Web Site
Daily Air Quality Hotline - 1-866-324-5924 (1-866-DAILY AIR)
Federal interagency air quality web site, for information on the Air Quality Index and nationwide air quality forecasts and air quality conditions, http://airnow.gov

DNR's statewide air quality monitoring web page, http://dnrmaps.wisconsin.gov/wisards

For local DNR air management program contacts, http://dnr.wi.gov/air/about/regions.htm

Did Disappeared Gov. Mark Sanford Know He Went Hiking On Trail's Annual Naked Hiking Day?

D'oh!

TMJ 4 Interrupts Presidential News Conference For Ads, Station Announcements

Amateur hour over at TMJ4: It interrupts today's Presidential news conference twice in ten minutes for programming announcements and commercials.

TMJ4 more interested in selling cars than discussion of national health care and other issues.

Switching to CBS Channel 58.

South Carolina Governor Returns!

He took the expression "take a hike" too literally.

Water Law Program Beginning At Marquette University Law School

New program initiated at Marquette. Among the prime movers is Art Harrington, at Godfrey & Kahn, who has done work for the Waukesha Water Utility, according to a legal publication.

How Loggers And Conservationists Found Common Ground

Where both sides like the sound of chainsaws.

Now How Will The Doyle-Hating, WMC/Business Shills Explain This?

Wisconsin leads the nation now in manufacturing employment.

A Tax Break To Eliminate

Developers took advantage of a break for working farms.

Long overdue change.

Water Policy Made In Closed Meetings Or By Closed Minds

In the last few days there has been a convergence of issues surrounding the City of Waukesha's efforts to win a diversion of Lake Michigan water.

A Waukesha activist and blogger named James Bouman, fed up with a spate of closed meetings of the Waukesha Water Utility as it works towards a costly and consequential plan to tap into Lake Michigan, has filed a complaint that alleges the meetings were held in violation of the state's Open Meeting law.

You can read the complaint, here.

Bouman is no stranger to the utility, having taken issue with some of its decisions and meeting procedures; the utility commission is made up of the Mayor, aldermen and citizens familiar with Wisconsin's Open Meetings law, so it will be interesting to see what becomes of the complaint.

But what does it say about things in general, and Waukesha in particular, if a citizen has to find a lawyer to go to court to try and open up the proceedings of an important agency - - and one that is spending a lot of public funds in pursuit of a water supply policy with huge public budgetary, growth and environmental consequences?

Then we have the Southeastern Wisconsin Planning Commission blasting a coalition of environmental organizations that had the temerity to question the agency's master plan and draft water supply study.

In this case, SEWRPC solicited comments, didn't like the feedback, and got confrontational, as it has before, when its planning procedures are questioned.

Some history here.

And let's note the effective intra-agency tag team effort underway between SEWRPC and the Waukesha Water Utility when it comes to water supply planning and a Lake Michigan diversion.

SEWRPC's draft study, as the environmental groups noted, recommended the diversion for Waukesha without fully vetting or examining all the possible alternatives, or all the potential environmental effects.

To which SEWRPC replied, 'Hey, the sort of environmental issues you are raising are Waukesha's responsibility to study in phase two, the next planning step.'

Yet SEWRPC has already drawn and formally certified a map showing where Waukesha could move diverted water outside its current service territory.

The map becomes part of the formal application Waukesha says it will forward later this year for diversion permission.

And the mapping function, a key piece of the application process, gives SEWRPC a major role in diversion decision-making, putting the agency beyond a purely advisory role.

You see what is happening?

With the draft study and the map, SEWRPC is validating Waukesha's diversion plan-in-preparation.

And Waukesha is free to say, 'We concluded that a Lake Michigan diversion is the best water supply option, and it's already blessed by SEWRPC.'

The message from both Waukesha and SEWRPC to the public, and especially to anyone offering input or alternatives: 'No need to pester us with any more pesky questions or bright ideas. We insiders have everything under control.

James Bouman's legal complaint might ferret out more information about Waukesha's decision-making.

And the environmental groups may get some better answers from SEWRPC than 'why are you asking these questions, anyway?,' but it all doesn't say much that's good about the state of Open Government in Southeastern Wisconsin, does it?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Another Prospective GOP Presidential Candidate Self-Destructs

Mark Sanford, South Carolina's GOP Governor, has gone missing, with various people guessing at his whereabouts.

That's behavior too erratic to be considered Presidential.

US Sen. John Ensign (R) effectively took himself out of contention last week due to messy personal problems.

Next?

Madison Firm Wins EPA Award For "Green" Gas Production

Interesting piece in the Milwaukee Business Journal about a Madison firm being lauded for producing "green" gas.

Those who have taken aim at corn-based ethanol, take note.

Cut Scott Walker Slack On Duluth Scheduling Snafu

Yes, Scott Walker had his motorcycle tour booked into a Duluth hotel minutes from accommodations in Wisconsin's very own City of Superior, but consider this:

Team Walker may have misheard the pronunciation over a bad phone connection as "Deloot."

It's all a misunderstanding.

Dirty Air Alert For Wisconsin As Business Fights Climate Change Bill

What a coincidence: just as business interests in Wisconsin ramp up their opposition to landmark greenhouse gas emission legislation working its way through the Congress, the Department of Natural Resources issues what will just be the first of many dirty air alerts for much of the state.

The text will follow.

Anyone see a contradiction here?

From the DNR:

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is issuing an Air Quality Watch for Ozone for Brown, Calumet, Dodge, Door, Fond du Lac, Jefferson, Kenosha, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Sheboygan, Walworth, Washington and Waukesha counties effective 12:01 am on Tuesday, June 23, 2009 through 11:59 pm on Tuesday, June 23, 2009 .

The watch is being issued because of the forecast for elevated levels of ground level ozone. Ground level ozone is formed when pollution from power plants, factories and other industrial sources, vehicle exhaust, and volatile organic compounds chemically reacts with hot temperatures, high humidity and atmospheric stagnation.

The Air Quality Index is forecast to reach the orange level, which is considered unhealthy for people in sensitive groups and others, including people who are not in sensitive groups but who are engaged in strenuous outside activities or exposed for prolonged periods of time.

People in those sensitive groups include th ose with respiratory diseases, such as asthma, older adults, and active adults and children. When an air quality watch is issued, people in those groups are advised to reschedule or cut back on strenuous outside activities during the watch period.

People with lung diseases such as asthma and bronchitis should pay attention to shortness of breath, or respiratory symptoms like coughing, wheezing and discomfort when taking a breath, and consult with their physician if they have concerns or are experiencing symptoms.

Ground level ozone can irritate the respiratory system, reduce lung function, aggravate asthma and chronic lung diseases, and, over time, cause permanent lung damage.

To receive air quality advisories by e-mail, visit http://dnr.wi.gov/air/newsletters/.
There are several actions the public can take to reduce their contributions to this regional air quality problem.

Reduce driving when possible and don't leave vehicle engines idling.

Post pone activities that use small gasoline and diesel engines.

Minimize wood burning.

Conserve electricity.

For more ideas on how you can reduce your emissions today and every day visit: Do a little, save a lot!

For more information:
Air Quality Watches and Advisories Status Web Site
Daily Air Quality Hotline - 1-866-324-5924 (1-866-DAILY AIR)
Federal interagency air quality web site, for information on the Air Quality Index and nationwide air quality forecasts and air quality conditions, http://airnow.gov/

DNR's statewide air quality monitoring web page, http://dnrmaps.wisconsin.gov/wisards

For local DNR air management program contacts, http://dnr.wi.gov/air/about/regions.htm

Pike Lake

Terrific news about more work around Pike Lake to protect the waters and  improve access.


Great use of DNR and state land use policy.

Waukesha Water Utility, City Officials Hit With Open Meetings Complaint

Waukesha activist James Bouman, who also writes on the Internet as Water Blogged in Waukesha, has filed a complaint against the Waukesha Water Utility, and its members including Mayor Larry Nelson, alleging violations of the Wisconsin Meetings Law.

Bouman has posted the complaint, in full, on his blog.

The case has been assigned to Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Ralph Ramirez; Bouman has also filed a similar complaint with the Waukesha County District Attorney's office.

Basically, the Open Meetings complaint alleges that the utility on June 21, 2007, November 14, 2007 and June 18, 2008 met and took actions behind closed doors that did not line up with state statutory public notice obligations and requirements permitting public meetings to be closed.

Bouman has been a critic of the utility's procedures and methods, particularly during the utility's strategizing over preparing a plan for a diversion of Lake Michigan water.

That plan includes the hiring of consultants, the expenditure to date of several hundred thousands of dollars in contract expenditure, and, according to Waukesha officials, the probable filing of an application before the end of 2009 for a diversion that could carry construction and long-term costs into the scores of millions of dollars.

Bouman's complaint, to which the named parties have 45 days to respond, seeks various remedies, including negation of actions taken at the meetings, fines assessed against the utility and each utility commission member per meeting of $300 for each of the three meetings in question, and reimbursement of Bouman's legal costs.

The complaint also seeks full disclosure of those meetings' discussions.

All in all - - a big step forward for open government and Wisconsin tradition.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

100-Year Floods Hit Michigan - - Two Years In A Row!

The other day I put up a post about Waukesha's probable plan to dump its wastewater into Wauwatosa's Underwood Creek in order to return diverted water to Lake Michigan, and I noted that huge rain events - - including the now-not-so-accurately named "hundred-year-floods" - - seem to be arriving a lot more frequently.

Here's a fresh example from across Lake Michigan.

Waukesha's mantra about all is a their version of "Don't Worry, Be Happy," assuring people - - and especially those with basements in Wauwatosa and further downstream - - that careful work is proceeding with the DNR, that all the details will be worked out before hand, etc. etc.

Makes you think about those best laid plans of mice and men, and how they sometimes work out, aina?

Despite Right-Wing Propaganda, Most Americans Support Public Option In Health Insurance Reform

It makes sense that consumers - - well-trained in the logic of the marketplace and adept at turning off the Right-Wing spin machine - - tell pollsters that they want the option of buying government-run health insurance to compete with private plans.

Choices.

That's what consumers are saying.

If it's too expensive, consumers will maintain or return to private plans.

And if it's a better deal - - as each will define for him or herself - - then the government plan gets the contract.

Righties can yammer all they want as a distraction about the Postal Service (I think fourty-four cents for airmail, then door-to-door delivery is one of the world's great remaining bargains, but I think the message is clear and I expect the Congress to set the public option in motion.

GOP Self-Inflicted Marginalization: Good Story, Tepid Headline

Craig Gilbert offers a good analysis of the GOP's suicidal fringification, but could the headline writer have knocked out something jazzier than "GOP nearing brink of generation gap."

Talk about pulling your punch.

Xoff On Scott Walker's Frequent Biking Mile Deal With Air Tran

And brings in Bart Simpson via Charlie Sykes, too.

Now that's blogging!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ford Fusion Hybrid Gets Raves In The NY Times

Ford looks like it's got a winner. Pricey, but a great product, apparently, and from a US carmaker!

But not so for GM's quickly-discontinued '09 Malibu hybrid, which the same publication says is the latest in a series of GM hybrid failures.

Urban Farming Taking Off

The New York Times looks up and sees roof gardens.

Milwaukee has Growing Power.

Since 1993.

Advantage, Milwaukee.

Great Lakes Writer Dave Dempsey On Great Lakes Czar Cam Davis

Excellent piece in Michigan media by author and activist Dave Dempsey.

Scott Walker Annual StuntFest Draws Ethics Complaint

This year's Milwaukee County Executive's Ride For Votes has drawn the ire of several supervisors who don't like the idea that a major county airport tenant - - AirTran - - is putting up funds for Scott Walker's motorcycle event.

It's probably too late for the funding to be withdrawn, as the county's ethics panels already OK'ed the trip - - this is Milwaukee County government, after all - - and the Walker campaign for Governor couldn't possibly survive yet another flip-flop.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Ald. Bob Bauman Finds a $3.75 Million Gift To Oak Creek In The Draft State Budget

Oak Creek was balking at its 25% share of an I-94 interchange project, so the State Senate version of the budget extracts the sum of $3.75 million from state taxpayers to pick up that so-called Local Oak Creek share.

Sweet deal, says Milwaukee Ald. Bob Bauman.

Heavy Rains Pose Thorny Question For Waukesha Diversion Dumping Plan

Thursday night's big rain and the continuing downpours Friday - - flash flooding warnings are being issued as we speak - - again raise a basic question about the City of Waukesha's probable return flow plan for getting diverted Lake Michigan water back to the lake: sending its wastewater down Underwood Creek, in Wauwatosa.

Except, they say, during heavy rain events, so as not induce flooding into Tosa basements and further downstream where the creek joins the Menomonee River.

But will Waukesha be able to predict when and where storms will pop up, and will the valves and gates close reliably?

Plans and promises are so often undone by natural events and human error, or behavior.

We've see so-called Hundred Year rain events come every few years, and climate change models for this part of the country call for more precipitation.

If you live downstream from Waukesha's stormwater dumping point, how are you feeling about your odds?

Lakefront Art Fair Means Fun, And Rain

You can reliably arrange your weekend activities and garden watering during the Lakefront Festival of the Arts, as rain will always be in the forecast.

And the pattern holds today.

Solution: Go anyway. The big tents are up.

Milwaukee, Waukesha Officials Spar Over Zoo Interchange

Milwaukee aldermen are beginning to publicly oppose the $2.3 billion Zoo Interchange project because it contains wasteful spending and unneeded widening.

Waukesha-area officials want the project to cut a few seconds off their constituents, commutes.

It may be that the Zoo Interchange is the best location to introduce road tolling in Wisconsin.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Arrogance At SEWRPC: It Invites Public Comment, Then Criticizes The Commenters And Suggests They Drop Their Comments

I had said yesterday that I would post some information about the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission setting a new standard for institutional arrogance.

This is the information:

In March, several environmental and conservation groups sent SEWRPC detailed comments on the agency's draft water supply study during a publicly-announced period during which comments would be accepted.

That's a standard part of many public agencies' practice in Wisconsin.

The groups' comments also incorporated observations and criticisms of the agency's master Land Use Plan.

I've previously written about the way some observers have characterized how SEWRPC often deals with critics and comments: "Review and dismiss" is how it has been characterized.

Some history here.

In the case of the groups' water study and land use plan comments, the agency went beyond review and dismiss, sending to the groups over the signature of SEWRPC Executive Director Ken Yunker a chippy, highly-defensive 13-page response.

In his response, Yunker defends the land use plan, as updated in 2006, as having "received national and international attention for the pioneering concepts advanced" in the 1966 original plan, and goes on to say that the groups' criticisms of the plan as outdated or inadequate are "totally misleading and incorrect..."

I've seen this overkill tendency at work at SEWRPC before, particularly when the land use plan is criticized.

In May of last year, local water expert Peter McAvoy, an attorney and official at the 16th Street Community Health Clinic, spoke at a meeting of the SEWRPC Environmental Justice Task Force (EJFT) about what he said were inadequacies in the land use plan, and how those inadequacies could affect the usefulness and relevancy of the water study.

Five months later, SEWRPC's then-Executive Director Philip Evenson took up nearly 45 minutes at the October meeting of the EJFT to show a 23-panel PowerPoint presentation specifically produced to rebut McAvoy's remarks.

Here is the PowerPoint: think of the staff time that went into its preparation, and the volumes it speaks for the way SEWRPC handles criticism.

Back to the Yunker letter to the groups:

Yunker points to what he says are factual errors in some of the groups' claims, notes what he calls misinterpretations, and at one point, when discussing a series of questions posed about the City of Waukesha's potential Lake Michigan diversion, remarks:

"Some of the questions you ask are unnecessary, as the answers are obvious or have been addressed in the plan report...We also note that by letter dated January 6, 2009, you asked very similar questions to those above of the City of Waukesha. It is unclear to us why you would expect the regional water study plan to answer the same questions you asked the City of Waukesha to address as part of the City's more-detailed second-level planning."

Are SEWRPC and Waukesha so closely bound in water study and diversion planning that they should be addressed as a single entity?Yunker concludes: "We hope that upon careful consideration of our response to your letter of March 12, 2009 you would agree that the regional land use plan and attendant water supply plans are in the best interests of the Region and worthy of your support. The Commission staff would be pleased to meet with you to discuss the issues raised if you think that would be useful."

Oh, right: after being lectured, and, frankly condescended, by an agency so sure of itself, and so sure of its planning practices, too - - despite recently agreeing to put the entire water study on hold because it needed the addition of a separate, socio-economic analysis SEWRPC did not include from the start in 2005 - - that Yunker would tell the groups:

"...there is no basis for a change in the regional land use plan based upon water supply considerations."

In other words, lay off the land use plan.

You call that planning?

You call that seeking and dealing with public input and comment?

But SEWRPC wasn't content to merely wag a finger at the groups for having the temerity to question the land use plan, its basis, and the validity of the water study:

A separate letter was sent to some of the groups - - I have confirmed three so far - - defending, again, the land use plan, and the water study, yet more forcefully blasting the comment letter.

And going an additional step - - is there precedence for this? - - urging the groups to dissociate themselves from the original comment letter.

Divide and conquer!

This second letter was signed by Bob Biebel, SEWRPC's Special Projects Environmental Engineer and in-house manager of the water study, and was received by at least Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Waukesha Environmental Action League and Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.

In his letter, Biebel says:

"The Commission staff was surprised to have your organization listed as being in support of the letter in question, as it contains an unfounded attack on the Commission's regional land use plan and a number of misleading and incorrect statements. We have prepared a response to the letter in order to correct the misinformation it contains and to attempt to minimize the damage to the public interest which it may cause..."

Biebel asks the groups to "consider withdrawing support for the letter," and also suggests a follow-up meeting.

I have never heard of a public agency that not once, but twice, is willing to get in the face of critics - - and in this case - - long-established, mainstream groups led by professional staffs and boards of directors, but made up of large numbers of members and taxpayers.

As part of a public comment period!

I interpret the SEWRPC response, in its extreme defensiveness, reflecting the pressure it is under from two pending civil rights complaints, separate 2008 Milwaukee city and county governments' requests to the state for audits and the Commission's restructuring, and a federal certification review that began in October and is apparently not ready for release.

Those federal reviewers should take note of how SEWRPC is managing this particular outreach episode.

If comments are submitted that may contain errors, then why not simply point them out and treat the comments as an effort to improve the existing study and plans.

What SEWRPC is saying is that their plan is infallible, and they don't want or like criticism.

My opinion: Biebel's use of the term "unfounded attack" is over-the-top and a pure projection.

I asked Cheryl Nenn, Riverkeeper's interim executive director, what she thought of the Biebel letter.

"It was really arrogant," she replied.

Courthouse Chaos: Another Scott Walker Flip-Flop

This time it's pool closings, as Walker reverses his imperial decision to close two pools.

The uproar at the Courthouse was first reported on this blog.

The whirling pace of these changes in policy and direction reveals Walker to be most Ungubernatorial, let alone capable of leading the County, especially in tough economic times.

Highway Expansion A Dagger Pointed At Milwaukee's West Side

So argues Bob Trimmier, a former City of Milwaukee neighborhood planner who knows the West side well, in a timely Journal Sentinel op-ed.
Trimmier tells readers that:

The planned Zoo Interchange expansion and rebuilding costing $2.3 billion is unneeded and wasteful;

It will force expansion past a wonderful neighborhood, Story Hill, just to the east, because the Marquette Interchange and I-94 North-South segments will have been completed, thus congesting everything right at and through Story Hill.

The vicious cycle will continue, as it has since the interstate highway system began smashing through Milwaukee's center 50 years ago, carving up the city's heart and now long-gone neighborhoods instead of connecting the outer ring to other destinations.

Trimmier also notes that Wisconsin Department of Transportation officials have routinely disregard public input, reducing the comment phase of its big projects to transparent, conceded charades.

Everyone knows basic go/no go decisions have been made once the draft plan is released: the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, which created the freeway expansion and reconstruction plan for WisDOT that is giving us 127 new freeway lane miles in a seven-county area, usually behaves in much the same way.

Phase One: While the plan is being drafted, the word is: don't make any assumptions, since it's too soon to know what the outcome will be.

Phase Two: Once the draft is released, the word is: by golly, it's too late in the game - - we've spent too much time and money to make any real changes to the draft.

Former Mayor John Norquist threw that construct out in speeches and power points, and sometimes it got a laugh, but plenty of audience members cringed because they knew it was true.

Trimmier, for one, isn't laughing, and trust me: people on the West side - - and taxpayers generally - - see the WisDOT/SEWRPC highway expansion gouging its way towards them.

And are cringing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

SEWRPC Institutional Arrogance Reaches New Heights

I'll explain that headline within the next 48 hours, so consider this just an advance.

By sheer coincidence, this is my blog's 3,500th posting, so I am pleased to use a milestone post to let you know that I think the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, hunkered down in its Pewaukee bunker, has passed a milestone of its own.

More later.

Scott Walker's County Help-Line Center Answers 11% Of Its Calls

Milwaukee County's help-line call center is answering 11% of its calls, reports the Journal Sentinel, an 'improvement' from the 5% answering rate that led to the state's impending takeover of the program

This comes on top of news that Walker overstated the county's budget shortfall when he proposed unpaid worker furloughs and service cuts, and that millions of dollars in state-financed child welfare funds sent to the county have been lost to fraud.

How in the world can Scott Walker run for Governor, with a straight face, while evidence builds that his administration cannot manage public funds?

New Nukes? Companies Are Billions Short Dealing With Those They Have

Those interested in building more nuclear power plants should take a look at this story in the Daily Reporter disclosing the huge dollar shortfall plaguing nuclear power plants' current owners.

Another Study Affirming Climate Change: Another Reason To Approve House Bill

The landmark bill H.R. 2454, "The American Energy and Security Act," would merge comprehensive alternative energy investments, conservation programs and regulations, job-creation, and carbon controls to begin to reduce the greenhouse emissions that are causing climate change.

Yes, causing climate change.

Another report makes that reality clear.

The Alliance for Climate Change and Repower America offer information and methods to get involved.

First-Hand Account Of Global Warming

Running water from ice melt - - at 5,400 ft. - - in Greenland? Good grief.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Great Lakes Wind Turbines Coming

Somehow I missed Thomas Content's coverage of a wind power conference here.

Better late than never, so here it is.

Fascinating that the first group of turbines in the Great Lakes is planned by a public agency in Ohio as a development tool to help kick-start the industry there.

I wonder if any Wisconsin public sector agency would be that bold?

Benson Pleads Out In '08 Triple Impaired-Fatality; State Reforms Still On Hold

Former orthopedic surgeon Mark Benson has pleaded no-contest to multiple charges of vehicular homicide in the high-profile collision in Oconomowoc that happened when, high on drugs and driving illegally while awaiting a pending jail sentence for an earlier, 2nd OWI, Benson rammed another vehicle from behind.

The larger tragedy: more people have been killed by impaired drivers on state roads since Benson took three lives, while the legislature quibbles and cavils and ducks its responsibility to make changes in what passes for state OWI statutes.

We live in the land of pathetically-lenient OWI statutes - - yet the state legislature is incapable of overcoming powerful alcohol lobbies to toughen the state's OWI standards and enforcement practices.

Wisconsin is still the only state in the country to treat a first-time OWI (first-time caught, but surely not first-time driving drunk) as a mere ticket instead of a misdemeanor/criminal act.

And it's not until a 5th OWI arrest that a repeat offender is charged with a felony under current Wisconsin law.

Legislators are considering making a 3rd OWI offense a felony - - but only if the offenses take place within five years - - and proposals to require repeat offenders to install breathalyzer-activated ignition locks, along with some other so-called public safety improvements are filled with drunken-driver enabling loopholes.

Benson killed a pregnant teacher and her daughter; politicians, in the aftermath, pledged reforms to prevent similar tragedies.

But here we are, more than a year later, and nothing has happened.

No real surprise.

Talk is cheap in political circles around the State Capitol, where the booze flows at campaign fundraisers.

And life remains cheap on our state roads and highways, too.

Ashland Superfund Site Has A Cleanup Plan - - After 20 Years

Amazing that things move so slowly.

Pressure Building On SS Badger To Stop Coal Ash Dumping Into Lake Michigan

Muskegon, MI editorial writers urge the coal-fired ferry SS Badger to hurry up and stop washing its coal ash overboard.

Diesel retrofits have been available for years: the editorial writers are right in urging the ship's owners to avoid dawdling.

Walker To Close County Indoor Pools: Courthouse Roiled

I am hearing that supervisors are upset with the way Scott Walker is moving to close Pulaski and Noyes Indoor Pools even as it is becoming clear that the budgetary assumptions behind the closings are being questioned.

And that supervisors are hearing that constituents complaining to Walker's office are being verbally confronted.