It's not the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
It's more like the Ugly, then the Good, Good, Good.
No plot spoilers here, but tip o' the hat to Zach at Blogging Blue, and Fox6TV.
Thursday, June 30, 2011
It's not the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Ten thousand out-of-work Wisconsin residents have been without federally-financed unemployment benefits since April 16th because the State Legislature has not passed a measure to accept the money.
So a special session is the only way to approve that funding - - though out-of-session legislators can keep collecting their daily $88 in expense money, tax free, just for going to the Capitol for any work-related purpose, no matter how briefly.
I'm betting the long-term unemployed would take that darling expense benefit/perk/entitlement deal any day, too.
So will Senate Republican Alberta Darling from River Hills, co-chair of the Legislature's pivotal Joint Finance Committee, step forward on behalf of unemployed Wisconsinites whose benefits have run out?
Darling is facing a recall ballot later this summer, so the better question is, which Darling might address the issue, should she find the time away from her get-out-the-vote meetings?
Polling and politics will guide the decision: if Darling feels she is in a genuine struggle against recall election challenger Sandy Pasch, a Democratic member of the Assembly, the more moderate and compassionate Darling could swing into action.
Darling has promised to support a special session on the jobless- - the same version who played good cop to Scott Walker's bad when, during budget writing as co-chair of the Joint Committee on Finance, she backed the continuation of the state's seniors' drug prescription plan that Walker wanted to scrap.
Then there's the 'screw-the-workers, run-to-the Right' Darling who carried water for Walker all year and did a lot of the legislative dirty work against workers interests on Joint Finance.
The same bad-cop Darling who used Joint Finance to cut $6.8 million from Milwaukee County's child welfare program.
She and other Republican legislators could continue to sit on their hands and allow available federal unemployment support dollars to sit idle, too.
That would tell us Darling thinks she can remain in office by running in place and playing the Scrooge.
[Update: Looks like the Dems are going to beat Darling to it:
@JulieMLassa Julie Lassa
There's also the third Darling - - the one who plays good cop and bad cop at the same time.
That was the Darling who supported a 30% cut to the state's signature public lands and access program - - while also denying the cut meant backing away the program.
Both-ways Darling, after feeling the heat, flipped on her own special interest budget provision that would have forced Milwaukee taxpayers to keep paying fired-for-cause police officers.
Walker then got to play good cop for Milwaukee taxpayers to Darling's bad-cop on behalf of some really bad cops, and vetoed her porky budget amendment.
Unemployment and the plight of low-income citizens - - whether they're out of work or paying property taxes in Milwaukee's generally modest neighborhoods - - are not the biggest issues in Darling's upscale River Hills home town.
Her home town Milwaukee County suburb, where building codes require two-acre lots and five acres is preferred, has household income than triple the US average and more than quadruple that found in Milwaukee County as a whole, data show.
Darling is probably more comfortable playing good cop to her River Hills base, and bad cop to the rest of the District.
Posted by James Rowen at 2:02 PM
Talking Points Memo follows Dan Bice's exposure of Wisconsin US Sen. Ron Johnson's (Tea Party/R) financial dealings with himself.
The author, Susan Crabtree, had formerly worked at The Hill. Sorry for the initial misidentification.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:56 AM
La Crosse, Wisconsin Republican State Senator Dan Kapanke, heading for a recall defeat, recycles in a campaign fund-raising appeal a previously discredited-whopper - - that the State Capitol suffered $7,5 million in protest-related damage this winter - - and gets caught.
For Kapanke, this is his second PolitiFact "Pants-On-Fire" smack down related to the Capitol protests.
Kapanke and his GOP colleagues are moving from "they-all do-it" to "they-can't-stop."
Posted by James Rowen at 9:07 AM
This is what you get, reports the Journal Sentinel, when you turn over the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to a right-wing Visiting Fellow from the Heritage Foundation named Dennis Smith:
The state is blocking plans by the Milwaukee Health Department and University Health Services in Madison to apply for federal grants that would provide about $27.5 million for health programs designed to promote healthier lifestyles and reduce chronic diseases such as diabetes.You don't get life-saving, science-driven smoking cessation, diabetes prevention and anti-obesity efforts.
You get ideology.
Gov. Walker and Smith don't want to have anything to do with federal health policy and reforms emanating from Washington (read: credit to Obama), even though Wisconsin rates poorly on some lifestyle and survivability indices and preventative health-care extends life while saving money in the longer-run..
To Smith, who's been in Wisconsin for six months, it's all bothersome stuff.
"Why are we asking for taxpayers' money for stuff that we are already doing?" he asked. "How long have people been doing tobacco cessation, for heaven's sake? This is stuff that goes on all the time."Smith's departmental website suggests that the smoking cessation stuff in Wisconsin still has a ways to go:
Nearly 7,000 people die annually from illnesses directly related to smoking and approximately 751 die from illnesses and fires indirectly related to smoking, for a total of 7,717 annual deaths in Wisconsin. Tobacco use also costs Wisconsin approximately $4.5 billion annually in health care expenses and lost productivity. This website provides information and links to tobacco use prevention and tobacco addiction treatment resources in Wisconsin.So I guess we're doing a heckuva job addressing the other stuff, right Brownie...er, Dennis?
Again, Smith is contradicted by his own department's posting
More information, touting prevention, based on programs run by taken Smith's department:
Diabetes is a costly, complex, and devastating chronic illness that poses a major public health problem. It is the seventh leading cause of death in Wisconsin. Annually, diabetes costs Wisconsin adults an estimated $5.26 billion in health care costs and lost productivity.
Each year, more than 1,200 Wisconsin residents die from diabetes and many more suffer disabling complications, such as heart disease, kidney disease, blindness, and amputations. This burden is higher among minority populations. Much of the health and economic burden of diabetes can be averted through known prevention measures.
Roughly one in four Wisconsin residents are obese, according to a report last year from the Trust for America's Health - a nonprofit organization that focuses on disease prevention - and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The state also has the nation's highest rate of obesity - 44% - for adult African-Americans, according to the study. Mississippi had the second-highest rate.In January, I wrote that Walker's choice of Smith was "troubling."
Sorry for having understated it.
A paper of his that Heritage posted last year calls "Obamacare" a "power grab."
From the abstract:
The enormous expansion of federal power that will result from “Obamacare” will have far-reaching effects on the traditional roles and authority of states—and on the freedoms of American citizens. When governors and state legislators realize that they have been reduced to mere tax collectors for the federal government, bipartisan opposition from the states will be inevitable.As I said, turn over policy-making to these folks and you get ideology.
While we're chewing on that, feel free to have a cigarette.
Go ahead and supersize that soft drink and cheeseburger, 'cuz no one from the UW or the Milwaukee Health Department is gonna get all Nanny State in your stuff.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:08 AM
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Posted by James Rowen at 5:02 PM
Here's an analysis by Wisconsin Lakes, the state's leading association of lakefront property owners, of the newly-proposed Department of Natural Resources procedures in the Walker era which would award a host of permits to applicants if the understaffed agency cannot meet shorter permit review deadlines.
It's called "presumptive permitting,' or as I prefer, permitting by default. Is this the way an agency regulating natural resources should do its work?
And I wonder if property owners who voted for Walker knew that he and his legislative allies might be working to enable development, construction and other impacts close to their properties?
|PRESUMPTIVE PERMITTING? |
Bill would automatically award a permit if DNR failed to meet tight deadlines
|A bill introduced in both the Assembly and Senate would shorten the amount of time DNR is allowed to complete the permitting process for structures, deposits and other activities in or near navigable waters. Assembly Bill 177 provides for shorter deadlines for DNR to rule on an application’s completeness, requests for public hearings and for final disposition of the permit. |
Under the bill, a failure of the department to issue a ruling on the permit within the new timeframes would automatically grant the applicant the permit. In addition, the bill would alleviate the applicant from facing the burden of proof in a contested case hearing, as it shifts the burden to DNR if the applicant requests the hearing, and to the entity requesting the hearing if anyone other than the applicant makes such a request.
Wisconsin Lakes is opposed to this bill, most significantly because of the risk of a rash of “presumptive permitting,” especially given the staffing and resource challenges facing DNR. With the number of DNR personnel working on permitting significantly below previous levels, an unintended consequence of the bill could easily be that the deadlines would not be able to be met for many permits. This would mean all of those permits would be presumptively approved by the law, with no review of the proposed activities and their potential impacts on our lakes, rivers and streams.
The law could be changed to partially mitigate this problem by delaying its implementation, allowing DNR time to hire adequate staff. And the Republican sponsors of the bill did express that their intent is not create a rash of presumptive permitting, but to force DNR to execute permitting in a timely fashion. Despite the best intentions, however, unintended consequences do arise, and history shows that adequate staffing and funding at DNR is not always consistently maintained.
The Assembly’s Committee on Housing heard testimony regarding this bill last Tuesday, and is scheduled to vote on it Wednesday, June 29. We anticipate the full Assembly will not take it up until the next session in September. The Senate has yet to take any action on the measure.
For a copy of the bill, click here.
Posted by James Rowen at 3:36 PM
These are actual headlines from mainstream news stories in Wisconsin:
Wisn.com, June 22, 2011: Wis. Bill Would Allow Guns At Festivals, Zoo
Fox6Now.com, June 6, 2011: Republicans fielding fake candidates for primary race
Madison.com, June 24, 2011: Biz Beat: Budget serves up tax break for wealthiest Wisconsinites
Thenorthwestern.com, April 16, 2011: Analysis-shows-Walker-would-raise-taxes-on-poor
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 7, 2011: Prosser's huge gain comes after Waukesha County flub is caught
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 19, 2011: Supreme Court tensions boil over Prosser says he was goaded into insulting chief justice
Channel 3000.com, June 27, 2011: Supreme Court Justice Says Prosser Had Her In A 'Chokehold'
Posted by James Rowen at 2:46 PM
I'd written earlier this month about the confidence that Republicans had shown publicly about receiving a decision from the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Gov. Walker's union-busting bill to meet a timetable dictated by the State Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald, the GOP's budget-writing Assembly leader.
Without a ruling in hand that validated the legality of the Walker bill - - the collective-bargaining cancellation measure whose quickie approval in the State Senate set off a political firestorm statewide - - Fitzgerald said he'd insert it into the pending omnibus budget bill, forcing another debate and vote on the contentious item.
Republicans had the votes to pass it, but did they really want to go go back into that hot territory again?
Now we are learning in the reporting on the apparent scuffle inside Justice Bradley's office that Justice David Prosser and Chief Justice Shirley Abramahson had a sharp disagreement about the schedule for writing and releasing that decision just prior to the Prosser-Bradley confrontation.
Four justices - Prosser, Michael Gableman, Patience Roggensack and Annette Ziegler - were frustrated on June 13 that a decision putting in place Gov. Scott Walker's plan to limit collective bargaining was not yet ready for release.
The four made up the majority in the split decision, and they believed an agreement had been reached the Friday before to have the opinion ready to release on that day.
Walker's fellow Republicans who run the Legislature had insisted they needed a decision from the court by June 14, when they were to take up the state budget.
About 6 p.m. on June 13, Prosser and the others walked together to Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson's office.
She wasn't there, so they went to Bradley's office, where Abrahamson and Bradley were.
The encounter quickly grew heated and did not last long - perhaps 10 minutes in all.
Bradley's chambers consist of three connected offices. Bradley and Abrahamson were in the office where Bradley herself works. The others were in a connecting room, with at least some of them positioned in the entryway into Bradley's office.Of course, the decision that released just as Republicans predicted and needed. It vindicated the way the bill had been approved in the State Senate - - where Jeff Fitzgerald's brother Scott is Majority leader.
They argued about when the decision would be released and their frustrations over what the majority considered delays.
Bradley asked Prosser to leave, but he did not and the justices continued to argue. Abrahamson said she did not know when her opinion would be ready, saying it might take a month.
Prosser then told Abrahamson - with whom he has often clashed publicly and privately - he'd lost faith in her leadership. Bradley got close to Prosser and again demanded that he leave, with some sources saying she charged at him with her fists raised.
The 4-3 ruling by the conservative majority came with a long concurrence from Prosser - - he had been the GOP's leader in the Assembly before reaching the Court - - and a tough dissent from Abrahamson that said the ruling lacked fairness, accuracy and process.
And she specifically ripped Prosser's opinion.
¶81 Justice Prosser's concurrence is longer than the order. The concurrence consists mostly of a statement of happenings. It is long on rhetoric and long on story-telling that appears to have a partisan slant. Like the order, the concurrence reaches unsupported conclusions.
¶82 In hastily reaching judgment, Justice Patience D. Roggensack, Justice Annette K. Ziegler, and Justice Michael J. Gableman author an order, joined by Justice David T. Prosser, lacking a reasoned, transparent analysis and incorporating numerous errors of law and fact. This kind of order seems to open the court unnecessarily to the charge that the majority has reached a pre-determined conclusion not based on the facts and the law, which undermines the majority's ultimate decision.This posting contains a link to the Supreme Court's website where all the various opinions in the case can be found, as well as the full text of Abrahamson's dissent.
So we are left with basic questions about the Court that go beyond whether two Justices had a physical confrontation:
* Is the Court now so partisan that it bases rulings on one party's needs?
* Are there coordinated lines of communication from the Court to outside, partisan officials?
* Is there no real separation of powers anymore in Madison, with the Court's conservative majority dancing to a tune set by Go. Walker and his legislative allies?
I remind everyone that when David Prosser's election committee hired its campaign manger on the heels of the GOP's big fall 2010 wins in the Governor's race, and in the Legislature, too, the campaign committee made made this statement:
"Our campaign efforts will include building an organization that will return Justice Prosser to the bench, protecting the conservative judicial majority and acting as a common sense complement to both the new administration and Legislature."
Posted by James Rowen at 10:55 AM
The Tea Party, small government, anti-welfare rabble-rouser is also an investor in a farm collecting federal farm subsidies.
MSNBC unmasks Bachmann's hypocrisy and also finds her truthiness difficulties answering questions about it all, here.
Posted by James Rowen at 7:03 AM
That late-night helping of pork recalled State Senator Alberta Darling served to the Milwaukee Police Association in support of officers fired for cause continues to bring her indigestion.
These bits from PolitiFact track Darling's political and budgeting zig-zag:
She was a co-sponsor, along with [Joint Finance Co-Chair Rep. Robin Vos] Vos, of the amendment that was added to the budget June 2, 2011. At the time, Vos claimed the Milwaukee police chief could fire officers for "basically no cause." We rated that claim False.
Vos has said his information on the fired police matter came from officials with the Milwaukee Police Association, which has about 1,800 members.
Once the amendment was adopted by the committee, and then by the Legislature (with Darling arguing for it on the Senate floor), Milwaukee officials pushed for a veto...
On June 26, 2011, Walker vetoed the provision when he signed the two-year budget.Not many candidates for office could or should survive that kind of erratic pandering, followed by a double-barrelled drubbing in the daily paper.
Darling acknowledged she sought a veto of an amendment she co-sponsored.
That’s a Full Flop.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:06 AM
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
It isn't just getting fresh water to Waukesha from Lake Michigan that could cause regional conflicts.
What also happens to Waukesha's treated wastewater - - the return flow, or back end of the water supply cycle - - is also a matter of concern.
Plenty has been written already about return flow from Waukesha possibly making its way to Lake Michigan via Underwood Creek - - with perhaps some flow sent the other way to the Fox River only during major rain storms to prevent the Creek from flooding - - but now a body not heard from on the issues heretofore, and charged with managing the Fox River to the west is worried that cutting off that flow on a regular basis, as Waukesha would have to do, endangers the level and quality of the River.
It's a little wonky, and it would be helpful if the DNR on its Waukesha diversion web pages posted the entire exchange of letters (coding errors in the Fox River/SEWRFC document I received makes posting it here, in full, all but impossible), but the issue is important because it illustrates the complexities of rules and laws and regional cross-cuts governing or influencing Waukesha's precedent-setting diversion application.
So here's the gist of it:
A body called the Southeastern Wisconsin Fox River Commission, or SEWFRC - - differentiated in mission and makeup from the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission - - adopted its resolution No. 01-2001 expressing concerns about the impact on the Fox River should Waukesha switch to a Lake Michigan supply and cease discharging treated wastewater that currently helps maintain the river.
The resolution points out that the SEWFPC is responsible for:
...maintaining the navigability of the River and preserving a high quality fishery, inclusive of a number of endangered threatened and special concem species."SEWRFC sent the resolution to Waukesha, with copies to SEWRPC on June 24, along with a letter indicating:
"...we are opposed to any change from the present discharge schedule of treated effluent into the Fox River especially during low-flow periods.The Fox River empties into the Mississippi River watershed and thus the Gulf of Mexico, not into the Great Lakes Basin.
So SEWRPC stepped in with a June 27th letter, below, and told the Fox River agency that Waukesha, under state law and the Great Lakes Compact, must the return diverted water to Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes, or there is no diversion.
I added italics to three key paragraphs to highlight what SEWRPC told the Fox River body - - SEWRFC:
We are writing to reiterate the position of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) regarding management of treated wastewater discharges to the Fox River from the City of under possible future conditions if the City were to receive all necessary approvals to divert water from for public water supply purposes and if it were to construct the facilities necessary to effect such a diversion.
As you are aware, the SEWRPC staff, as a non-voting member of the Southeastern Wisconsin Fox River Commission (SEWFRC), assisted the SEWFRC in developing Resolution No. 01-2011 (see attachment) to ensure that the resolution was consistent with the recommendations of SEWRPC Planning Report No. 52 (PR No. 52), A Regional Water Supply Plan for Southeastern Wisconsin, December 2010.
Specifically, the seventh “WHEREAS” clause and the “THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED” clause of the resolution which address active management of possible future discharges from the Waukesha wastewater treatment plant under high flow conditions on the receiving stream and low flow conditions on the Fox River are consistent with the recommendations of SEWRPC PR No. 52, and therefore, accurately reflect the Regional Planning Commission’s position on these issues.However, the third paragraph of the June 24 SEWFRC letter to Waukesha Mayor Jeff Scrima and Waukesha Water Utility Commission President Dan transmitting Fox River Commission Resolution No. 01-2011 (see attachment) -- specifically, the statement of opposition “to any change from the present discharge schedule of treated effluent into the Fox River especially during low-flow periods” -- does not accurately reflect the position of the Regional Planning Commission and is also inconsistent with Resolution No. 01-2011.
Resolution No. 01-2011 and the recommendations set forth in Regional Planning Commission PR No. 52 both implicitly recognize that, if the City of Waukesha were to divert water from Lake Michigan, return flow to the Lake would be required under the both the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact and Statutes. There can be no diversion without return flow.
Thus, Fox River Commission Resolution No. 01-2011, the recommendations of SEWRPC PR No. 52, and the adopted position of the Regional Planning Commission are all at odds with the statement in the Fox River Commission’s letter regarding opposition to “any change from the present discharge schedule of treated effluent.”It is requested that the Fox River Commission clarify its position on Waukesha wastewater discharges under a possible future scenario under which the City would receive approval to divert Lake Michigan water and construct the facilities to accomplish such a diversion, consistent with our comments above and with Fox River Commission Resolution No. 01-2011.Thank you for your consideration of our comments.Michael G. Hahn, P.E., P.H.Chief Environmental EngineerSoutheastern Wisconsin Regional Planning CommissionP.O. Box 1607W239 N1812 Rockwood DriveWaukesha, WI 53187-1607
Posted by James Rowen at 7:59 PM
Michelle Bachmann, grow up.
Too Palinesque - - You can't have your own facts, history, science, geography, words...
Posted by James Rowen at 3:03 PM
The grayer these communities become, the more amenities needed for oldsters - - like better transit and real connections to transit service in the bigger cities nearby.
As The Washington Post reports:
According to the AARP, nine in 10 older Americans want to stay in their homes as they age, a figure the association predicts that the boomers will match. Not all communities are prepared.
“AARP research shows that most communities are behind in planning for their aging populations, but those that are adapting have come up with common-sense solutions to improve home design and make transportation easier,” said Nancy LeaMond, the AARP vice president, in a written statement.
New Berlin, Waukesha, Pabst Farms, and to the north into Ozaukee and Washington Counties, get ready to welcome buses and light rail, unless you want to drive your retired Moms and Dads to every appointment.
Posted by James Rowen at 2:52 PM
Set aside the episode under investigation between State Supreme Court Justices David Prosser and Ann Walsh Bradley, and go back to his admission that he directed "destroy" and "total bitch" at the Chief Justice:
What is this really all about?
We've all been in work environments with factions and pressures and deadlines and expectations.
And co-workers who drive us crazy - - (and no doubt, vice-versa) - - but we don't threaten to destroy a rival or call a more senior person "a total bitch."
Given that temperament is considered a prerequisite of the position of Supreme Court Justice, you have to wonder if this is just a matter of clashing personalities or political views.
Maybe the investigations underway will yield information, if there's any more fire from the smoke.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:23 PM
Posted by James Rowen at 5:33 AM
Monday, June 27, 2011
He tells the Journal Sentinel editorial board Monday that he did a poor job of framing and promoting his collective bargaining changes but he is not responsible for the state's political polarization.
"Where has the polarization come from? Where have the attacks come from? They haven't come from what we said. People may not agree with it. But when you look at the tone of the debate, it's largely been driven by the groups from the outside. I said to the teachers, 'I never attacked,'" Walker said.This tells us a great deal about Walker that is troubling for a powerful, chief executive and the once-proud state he runs.
What actually happened - - what was the first domino and by far heaviest event - - was Walker announcing as a surprise his "budget-repair [sic] bill" that stripped away most public employee collective bargaining rights in the state.
No one saw that coming; Walker himself said to the fake David Koch that he "dropped the bomb" on the public.
The Journal Sentinel had editorially supported his candidacy, but had this to say about how he went about ending state employees' bargaining rights:
"Walker never campaigned on disenfranchising public-employee unions. If he had, he would not have been elected."The reality is that his method, and the message created the outrage that roils Wisconsin today.
Does Walker really not grasp that?
If not, that's a flaw - - if he's doing anything more now than making himself look blameless and evade his responsibilities - - a serious flaw.
He "dropped the bomb" - - his words - - then refused to negotiate with public employee unions that quickly agreed to the economic changes he proposed, meaning Walker got the economic changes he wanted on top of the collective bargaining restrictions that permanently weaken, perhaps even wipe out, the state's public employee union.
Walker's methods were secretive, the follow-through authoritarian, and it all led to a one-sided, non-negotiated outcome.
Walker was Polarizer-in-Chief: the protests in Madison, Democratic Senators removal to Illinois, the Senate recalls, the contentious State Supreme Court race and now the sharply divided Court's devolution into a physical confrontation over its rushed ruling to uphold Walker's original bill all stem from Walker's plans, actions and words.
His gratuitous, 'Don't-Look-At-Me' review of the last six months and its politics only continues the Wisconsin polarization.
Posted by James Rowen at 4:09 PM
I see no minorities, and two women only - - one being Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch - - in this front-page Milwaukee Journal Sentinel photo taken at Scott Walker's budget signing set up inside a private company in Green Bay.
Team Walker and the boss knew this particular photo-op would convey more than the minimal 1,000 words.
What's the message?
Posted by James Rowen at 12:58 PM
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser is denying the allegation made by colleague Justice Ann Walsh Bradley that he put his hands around her neck during an argument in her office.
The story is dominating Wisconsin political news and is making national headlines.
And while the competing allegations are sorted out, it's fair to say that having made this admission a few months ago to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel doesn't help his side of the current story:
As the deeply divided state Supreme Court wrestled over whether to force one member off criminal cases last year, Justice David Prosser exploded at Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson behind closed doors, calling her a "bitch" and threatening to "destroy" her...
Prosser acknowledged the incident recently and said he thought it was becoming public now in an attempt to hurt him politically. Prosser faces Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg in the April 5 election.
He said the outburst came after Abrahamson took steps to undermine him politically and to embarrass him and other court conservatives.
"In the context of this, I said, 'You are a total bitch,' " Prosser said
"I probably overreacted, but I think it was entirely warranted. . . . They (Abrahamson and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley) are masters at deliberately goading people into perhaps incautious statements. This is bullying and abuse of very, very long standing."
Posted by James Rowen at 10:33 AM
Confidence-Builder? Wisconsin Senate GOP Leader Says "Supreme Court Is Crazier Than The Legislature"
I wrote Sunday on this blog that conservative political leaders in our state were showing an ugly Wisconsin face to the world.
Wisconsin's motto "Forward," represented in state tradition and Capitol statuary, is taking a beating in Madison these days.What do the real experts think?
What could better describe the collapsing state of public affairs and open, confident government in Wisconsin right now than conservative State Supreme Court Justice David Prosser - - having already admitting he'd called the Chief Justice "a total bitch" and had threatened to "destroy" her - - now denying he'd recently grabbed a liberal colleague in her office by the throat...
That's bad enough, but there's more to despair about in the other branches of state government, too.
One of the leading culprits in the "Escape From Wisconsin" re-branding is State Senate Majority leader Scott Fitzgerald, as it was his quick gavel and short notice in passing Scott Walker's so-called budget-repair bill (read: "dropped the bomb," collective-bargaining termination that set off months of demonstrations, lawsuits and continuing upheaval.)
Fitzgerald offered The Journal Sentinel's Patrick Marley a speaks-volumes' observation Sunday "to accusations that Justice David Prosser put his hands around the neck of Justice Ann Walsh Bradley during a heated exchange earlier this month:
"Wow," said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau).
"The Supreme Court is crazier than the Legislature, apparently. It's hard for me to believe that really happened.'"
Posted by James Rowen at 5:27 AM
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Walker's budget vetoes are certainly important - - and that he signed the budget at a Green Bay firm from which the public was barred speaks volumes about his isolation from voters- - but many of his line-item deletions were announced in advance, so their news value is reduced.
Look next week instead for more attention paid to the conflicting accounts of a physical confrontation in State Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley's office apparently witnessed by six Justices.
They were discussing whether to affirm Gov. Walker's controversial bill (they did, 4-3) that virtually ended collective bargaining for public employees and weakened their unions.
Either conservative Justice David Prosser put liberal Bradley in a choke hold - - as she claims and Prosser denies - - or Prosser raised his hands to ward off a charging Bradley and she ran into his hands, as unnamed witnesses claim.
Prosser supported the Walker bill, Walsh did not, and there is a history of tension between Prosser, and two liberal female Justices - - Bradley and Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.
Prosser had earlier called Abrahamson "a total bitch" and said both women bullied him.
Posted by James Rowen at 11:20 AM
When it comes to installing energy conservation technology in state homes and businesses, ideology and privatization trumps common sense and local control in the Wisconsin budget passed by the GOP-controlled legislature.
The widely-respected Wisconsin-based Focus on Energy program and its grassroots management - - all funded by utility revenues, not state tax dollars, to help through rebates install energy-saving equipment and other measures - - gets a state-ordered resource trim and its management transferred to an out-of-state, private-sector energy conglomerate.
More than a hundred Wisconsin businesses have asked Walker to veto the changes, but that would surprise me.
[Monday update. No veto.]
Remember that Walker, through siting restrictions, is crushing the wind turbine industry here.
He also reversed the transition of the Charter St. generating plant on the UW campus in Madison away from fossil fuel (coal is gone, but Walker substituted natural gas for biomass, as Gov. Doyle had wanted), and will allow private operators to buy state-owned electric-generating stations without competitive bids.
Walker is beholden to traditional coal-and-gas-and nuclear industries (from Koch Industries on down) and they don't want green-and-clean competitors.
Cleantech opens too many minds and saves consumers too much money, and that bites the utilities and resource companies who also supply the GOP with a different kind of energy.
Posted by James Rowen at 8:59 AM
Wisconsin's motto "Forward," represented in state tradition and Capitol statuary, is taking a beating in Madison these days.
What could better describe the collapsing state of public affairs and open, confident government in Wisconsin right now than conservative State Supreme Court Justice David Prosser - - having already admitting he'd called the Chief Justice "a total bitch" and had threatened to "destroy" her - - now denying he'd recently grabbed a liberal colleague in her office by the throat?
Investigators have to sort out conflicting accounts, with six Justices as witnesses. Imagine.
That's bad enough, but there's more to despair about in the other branches of state government, too.
We've got the authoritarian Republican Gov. Scott Walker - - his administration having blocked access to the State Capitol in Madison before and during debate on $66 billion of state budget spending and taxation - - planning to take that budget to another city two hours away, on private property, and signing it into law Sunday with the public again locked out.
And his Republican party openly running fake opposition candidates in this summer's recall elections to confuse voters and gain election scheduling and fund-raising advantages.
While GOP leaders work in secret on both Congressional and state legislative redistricting plans.
None of this is "Forward" in a state that is in a state of crisis.
Are the closed door, the faked ballot, the packed Legislature, the surprise attack on unions and now distorted justice and contorted Justice(s?) the new official emblems of Wisconsin?
Are these the faces we show school kids, prospective employers, tourists, new residents, enrolling undergrads from out-of-state and their parents?
Successfully turning the State Senate away from right-wing Republican control through this summer's recall elections would be a step in liberating Wisconsin from its conservative takeover and the unacceptable behaviors it is displaying to a horrified and stunned public.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:01 AM
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Dueling statements and accounts, so I guess it's everyone under oath now.
And I reiterate that as a state, we are collectively, officially and seriously in crisis.
Who sorts this all out: this is the Supreme Court we're talking about.
Posted by James Rowen at 11:52 PM
Was the contact defensive, or offensive, between Justices Bradley and Prosser and on whose part and when?
Justices unnamed are telling different stories about the incident to the Journal Sentinel.
Divided ideologically, it appears the Court has yet another new line of demarcation.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:08 PM
I have no idea where this Prosser story will go - - though a "he was provoked" defense by talk radio Monday won't shock me - - but remember that the Governor gets to fill a State Supreme Court vacancy, and Walker would pick someone from the Gableman wing of the legal profession.
Justices David Prosser and Michael Gableman have their hands on the Court's right-steering ideological and electoral rudder, and their careers as Justices make up a case study in mutual aid.
When Gableman was facing an ethics case after his contentious 2008 defeat of liberal incumbent Justice Louis Butler, Prosser helped have the case dropped by a split Court.
Gableman then campaigned on the stump for Presser this year, and received lavish thanks after Prosser's election.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:28 AM
[Saturday evening update: Prosser says the initial account, as published, is "false."]
No one is denying that Justice David Prosser grabbed Justice Ann Walsh Bradley by the neck during 'deliberations' of the union-busting decision, or that the Capitol Police Chief was called.
How many strikes does he get?
No wonder, perhaps, that the Chief Justice attacked Prosser's concurrent defense of the Walker bill so strongly.
Great work uncovering this amazing story - - full text's link, again - - by Madison-based investigative reporter Bill Lueders and a team including personnel from Wisconsin Public Radio and the Wisconsin Center For Investigative Journalism:
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser allegedly grabbed fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley around the neck in an argument in her chambers last week, according to at least three knowledgeable sources.
Details of the incident, investigated jointly by Wisconsin Public Radio and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, remain sketchy. The sources spoke on the condition that they not be named, citing a need to preserve professional relationships.
They say an argument that occurred before the court’s release of a decision upholding a bill to curtail the collective bargaining rights of public employees culminated in a physical altercation in the presence of other justices. Bradley purportedly asked Prosser to leave her office, whereupon Prosser grabbed Bradley by the neck with both hands.
Justice Prosser, contacted Friday afternoon by the Center, declined comment: “I have nothing to say about it.” He repeated this statement after the particulars of the story — including the allegation that there was physical contact between him and Bradley — were described. He did not confirm or deny any part of the reconstructed account.
Bradley also declined comment, telling WPR, “I have nothing to say.”
The sources say Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs was notified of the incident. One source says Tubbs came in to meet with the entire Supreme Court about this matter. Tubbs, contacted by Wisconsin Public Radio, declined to comment.
Posted by James Rowen at 9:57 AM
Feeding back to you what dominated readership on this blog last week. The five most-read posts were:
Posted by James Rowen at 9:31 AM
Just because Walker has moved the closed-door venue to a Green Bay company not run by a convicted felon doesn't mean the secret signing setup is less an affront to taxpayers whose money Walker has decided to spend.
Posted by James Rowen at 8:52 AM
Posted by James Rowen at 6:29 AM
Who better to stage a campaign photo/op PR stunt on fraud in government than a legislator, facing recall, whose party knowingly placed a fake candidate on her ballot?
Alberta Darling. come on down!
Posted by James Rowen at 5:27 AM
Friday, June 24, 2011
Great story, and well-reported.
We could use a few such Republicans in Wisconsin, like New York Senator Mark J. Grisanti, a Republican from Buffalo and late supporter who said:
“I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across this state, the State of New York, and those people who make this the great state that it is the same rights that I have with my wife.”
Posted by James Rowen at 11:54 PM
For You Journalism/History/Politics Buffs - - A 1948 Election-Night Photo From Newsweek's Young TV Program
Posted by James Rowen at 4:55 PM
Watch recalled State Sen. Alberta Darling continue to spin herself away from a self-inflicted political wound: she co-wrote and slipped into the draft state budget on a Friday evening a sop to Milwaukee police officers that would stick only Milwaukee taxpayers with a city's fired officers' salaries and benefits as the officers' appeals edged forward.
Once this outrage was uncovered, she joined others, including Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who asked that Walker veto it.
It's that bad an idea.
Walker says he indeed will veto it, which is both good public policy and politics.
So let's track this: rogue officers screw their co-workers, bosses and the taxpayers; Darling screws the taxpayers on the officers' behalf, then screws her Joint Finance Committee colleagues who voted with her.
Then she asks Walker to unscrew everyone.
And she wants to be re-elected.
Here is the sort of officer Darling went to bat for until the issue got too politically charged - - and remember, officers with honesty issues make for bad witnesses in court:
POLICE OFFICERS DISCHARGED SINCE CHIEF FLYNN TOOK OFFICE
1. Brown, Antonio, AWOL
2. Carr-Winding, Tamecka C., Off-duty employment, suspended registration, untruthfulness, AWOL
3. Cates, Ladmarald, Untruthfulness, idling and loafing (Sexual misconduct)
4. Corn, Jeffrey J., AWOL
5. Elm, Patrick R., Untruthfulness, disorderly conduct while armed-off-duty
6. Garcia, Michael G., Disorderly conduct while armed-off-duty
7. Gonzalez, Martin R., Failure to obey order
8. Jenkins, Jr. Roosevelt, Untruthfulness
9. Karr, Ryan D., AWOL
10. Moeller, Joel A., Failure to be honest and accurate in report
11. Morsovillo, James M., Untruthfulness
12. Vasquez, Mark, Residency
Posted by James Rowen at 3:12 PM
Scott Walker has cancelled plans to sign the new budget at a Green Bay company - - behind doors closed to the public - - after learning that the guy who runs the place is a convicted tax evader.
How bad is Walker's staff work?
Posted by James Rowen at 12:58 PM
I know there was disappointment at the lack of massive protests during the state budget deliberations in Madison, and the content of that budget is a real political disaster, so I understand the gloom I hear about in Madison that is reflected, for example, in this piece in the Progressive magazine.
But the drop-off in protest numbers was not really surprising, given the amount of time that passed since the winter demonstrations and the fait accompli predictability of the Legislature's reactionary voting.
But there is is lively grassroots effort underway in the out-of-Madison communities where recalls are taking place.
All of them can use money and volunteers - - campaigns to unseat Luther Olson, Randy Hopper and my recalled Senator, Alberta Darling, are not that far from Madison.
Here's one link to what's going on in the recalls and how to plug in.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:31 PM
Among the more amazing items in Dan Bice's disclosure of Ron Johnson's receipt of a lump-sum, $10 million payment to cover campaign costs after the election is his umbrage over having to answer questions from Bice about the payment's propriety.
"It's a private business. I've complied with all the disclosure laws, and I don't have to explain it any further to someone like you."That's your classic Tea Party complete-freedom attitude - - 'You can't talk to me about my business' - - bumping up against Johnson's position as an elected official working in a world of rules, regulations, codes and laws to protect a larger public interest.
He's a US Senator now, and he can't order journalists to keep their distance and expect they'll comply. It comes with the territory, and if you don't like it, don't run for office and bring your own rule book along.
Haughtiness aside, Johnson's own words poison his claim that the payment was legitimate deferred compensation and therefore raise no questions about whether it might be interpreted instead as a direct and prohibited corporate campaign donation.
Does this explanation from Johnson to Bice raise any question in your mind?
Unlike most deferred package deals, however, it appears that the company had not set aside a specified amount annually that would be paid out when he left the firm. Instead, Johnson said the $10 million payment was "an agreed-upon amount" that was determined at the end of his tenure with the company.
Agreed upon with whom?
"That would be me," he said.
Posted by James Rowen at 11:53 AM
Republican State Sen. Alberta Darling, (River Hills), has earned a web page cataloguing most of the reasons she's been forced into a recall election.
Let's not forget the late-night pork chop she threw to the Milwaukee police union and its dismissed-for-cause officers - - at the expense of Milwaukee property-taxpayers - - or her gleeful support for Medicare buster Paul Ryan.
[Friday 6/24 Update- - Darling asked Walker to veto the police pork provision, says Walker's office, and Walker will apparently to just that. Talk about being against something before you were so in favor of it that you co-authored the budget amendment to make it state law.]
Posted by James Rowen at 5:50 AM
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Paul Ryan's favorable rating sits at 23% in a poll reported in The Washington Post, and worse for his Republican Party, more numbers show his Medicare privatization proposal rated "very, very unpopular."
This is the same Paul Ryan whom recalled State Senator Alberta Darling, (R-River Hills) recently raved about. Her exact words were, "Totally, go Paul Ryan."
Sounds like a sideline coach trying to get a runner to move from the back of the pack.
[Cross-posted at the Paul Ryan Watch blog, too.]
Totally, go Sandy Pasch!
Posted by James Rowen at 11:48 PM
The City ran away from its obligation to facilitate housing that workers and the disabled could afford, so here comes the federal legal action.
As predicted here almost a year ago.
New Berlin was getting free legal advice to the contrary, and should have accepted it.
Posted by James Rowen at 6:45 PM
7-8 p.m. Monday-Friday, on Current TV, in SE Wisconsin.
Sorry, Charter subscribers, no Olbermann for you, but the website has options.
Hat tip, Tim Cuprisin at OnMilwaukee.com.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:16 PM
Walker will sign his controversial budget Sunday in Green Bay, in a business, to which the public is not invited. Who's happier with this arrangement: recalled Green Bay GOP Senator Bob Cowles, or the activists organizing against him as a warm-up to Walker's recall?
Posted by James Rowen at 3:55 PM
Remember the other day when a vice-president at the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce refused to lift a finger on a powerful labor/management state government advisory board, and federal unemployment compensation (UC) funds covering 10,000 out-of-work Wisconsinites for 13 additional weeks - - at no expense to the state - - therefore went unspent?
James Buchen, also the WMC's chief lobbyist, in part justified the board's inaction to The New York Times because he said he was hearing from businesses that unemployed workers preferred getting UC payments to finding jobs.
I suppose looking like Scrooge in major media was an embarrassment, so the advisory board agreed belatedly to seek the release of the money, and is also asking Walker to remove from the budget a provision that would arbitrarily trim one week's UC stipend from future eligible recipients.
Posted by James Rowen at 3:22 PM
The GOP has set aside, for the time being, consideration of an iron ore industry-led effort in Wisconsin to cut back the review period by the Department of Natural Resources for mining permits and to also cut back traditional grassroots participation role in mine permit decision-making.
Coincidentally, or not, the Walker administration has yet to follow through on a plan - - leaked memo about it, here - - to reorganize the DNR by Executive Order, including the fast-tracking of permitting in general to facilitate Walker's 'open-for-business' PR.
The corporatists whom Walker has installed atop the DNR, like the conservative advocacy groups that financed the GOP's takeover in Wisconsin, will make sure these changes at the agency and the way it does its regulatory job are rolled out and codified in the interest of Big Business before the end of the year.
The mining permit changes could be included or essentially guaranteed in the details of the agency reshaping.
Put nothing past Walker, as he's the one who bragged to the fake David Koch about the quiet planning that preceded his assault on collective bargaining:
Walker has defended the concept as has the state's largest newspaper, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Posted by James Rowen at 2:19 PM
Because I am a coffee lover, and because my former Milwaukee Journal colleague Jeff Browne is involved, I am pleased to reprint without being asked the following item:
Direct from the Vietnam Highlands...
For Gourmet Coffee Lovers Everywhere
Earlier this year we introduced the first specialty arabica coffee from Vietnam. The response has been gratifying, and now we’re making Temple Hills coffee more Available and more Affordable.
Temple Hills coffee is already on the shelves of four stores and a fine, new Vietnamese restaurant. The list will grow over the next few months.
Here’s where our customers can get coffee off the shelves right now, all in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, region:
These are the locations where we’ve served and tested the market for our coffee over the past few weeks. We understand they are convenient for only a tiny segment of our customers. That’s why we’ve made a commitment to shipping our fresh-roasted coffee to customers within three days.
Customers can order Temple Hills coffee online at a significantly reduced rate for shipping fewer than five pounds...
...and shipping is FREE for five pounds or more.
Our goal is to build bridges between the US and Vietnam by introducing Americans to high quality Vietnamese products, starting with coffees:
To order a pound of the introductory roast, click here
Enjoy our coffee, and please give us your feedback!
Vinh Ho and Jeff Browne
Posted by James Rowen at 1:49 PM
Cantor walks out of budget negotiations. Coburn did early. Enough, already. Obama and Biden should slam these Grover Norquist servants, and hard.
Posted by James Rowen at 1:31 PM
City of Waukesha Common Council members said Tuesday night they wanted to get "politics" out of upcoming water supply negotiations.
The City has embarked on a plan to access a new, near-term water supply through an eminent domain taking of water-rich property in the neighboring Town of Waukesha while pursuing a long-term, permanent supply through a diversion of Lake Michigan water that will require a) the approval of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, b) a water-sales contract with a Lake Michigan water supplier, and c) the approval of all eight Great Lakes states under a 2008 Compact.
And speaking of Lake Michigan, Waukesha's effort to rid the water-acquisition process of politics has about as much chance of success as getting the summer breeze and humidity off Bradford Beach.
Waukesha's Common Council voted Tuesday night against adding anyone - - not even its Mayor - - to its three-person, all-appointed-bureaucrat water negotiating team, though these negotiations could produce a deal with City of Milwaukee, the favored Lake Michigan water seller, which has established a seven-member team on which will sit its elected Mayor, Council president, City Attorney and Comptroller.
The Council's decision to keep its team small and free of "politics" didn't suggest the City was interested in adding to its team the bordering Town of Waukesha - - a more rural municipality with far fewer people than the City, and which the City included in its diversion application drafted a year ago without Town consultation.
The two municipalities have been at odds over land and water issues, of late.
Not surprisingly, the Town has yet to agree to the City's belated request - - and it's not clear what the Town's answer will be, or what all of the implications of either "yes," or "no" might be.
"The Town has no business at the table," former City of Waukesha Mayor Paul Vrakas said during public comments to the Council Tuesday night.
In the context of these "politics," and the struggles over water rights and other border troubles between Town and City, it's important to highlight that the Town of Waukesha Board Chairwoman Angie Van Scyoc read at the Tuesday city Council meeting a stunning letter to Waukesha's Mayor and Council signed by all five Town board members.
With a board energized with new leadership following recall elections last year in which water policy relationships with the City were pivotal, the Town is clearly trying to broaden and elevate the discussion about water to include border development and highway expansion.
Several previous posts on this blog have focused on City/Town highway and water matters - - here, for example.
Ask yourself, how often do you see language between contentious communities like "collectively reconcile and accommodate," or "sincere desire to work cooperatively with you on an equal footing and with mutual respect," or:
"We seek this opportunity to sit down with you as a group to have a direct and candid discussion about challenges which we collectively faces as adjoining communities and therefore neighbors."You can access the letter in pdf format:
Waukesha's Mayor Scrima had previously urged (the bold-facing is his) in a public letter last July that the Town be given more consideration in water planning:
3. A process that is respectful of and works with our neighbors. As appealing as it may be to some, the City’s expanded water service territory into the Town of Waukesha , as outlined in the Application, is not in the long-term financial or environmental interests of either the City or our neighborsMy take on all this:
To strengthen its application, to justify adding the Town to an expanded water service territory map for diverted Lake Michigan water, the City needs the Town to agree to be included in the plan.
And if the Town were to accept, a) wouldn't it be entitled to a seat at the table, since something like a million gallons of Lake Michigan water could possibly flow daily via the City into the Town, and, b) wouldn't the Town then become a true partner/co-applicant, and thus be obliged to meet, as does the City, the Compact's legal, conservation, planning and public participation requirements?
The DNR has yet to agree that the city's diversion application is complete; the issue of Town participation was one of many gaps in the application the DNR told the City in December to address.
Does the DNR want to begin its long, costly and consequential review of the application if the two Waukeshas have not agreed on their water supply relationship - - though the Town has offered a format and to which a City reply should follow?
The City believes the DNR will go ahead with its review despite the uncertainty about the Town's position.
Definitive guidance from the DNR on these points now would be tremendously helpful, and logical.
Posted by James Rowen at 11:57 AM