Monday, April 30, 2012

Wisconsin Open For Business, But...

With Walker's $25 million, and counting, it's for sale, too.

Christie Strategist Extends Streak Of GOP Word Flubs

The other day I noted the many levels of irony in the announcement by Scott Walker's campaign of the Tuesday fundraisers in the state with NJ Gov. Chris Christie - - as Governors in employment-challenged states - - New Jersey, here: Wisconsin, at #1, here - -  had killed Amtrak projects, purportedly fiscal grounds, but each also busted for fudging the numbers.

With all that baggage, I found it amusing that the Walker campaign could claim that the two Governors "have done more to put America back on track than anyone in a generation."

And I included that media malapropism in a list of miscues and Freudian fumbles that seem to be afflicting GOP leaders in Wisconsin these days.

Getting in the spirit was Mike DuHaime, Christie's political strategist, who was quoted by New Jersey media about Christie's upcoming visit to Wisconsin by saying his boss backed Walker because of the two governors' similarities - - but given Wisconsin's unfortunate political black eye at the errant hands of angry State Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, I'd say DuHaime should have looked for a better metaphor:

"There was never a doubt that Walker was going to be no-nonsense when he got into the governor’s office," DuHaime said. "He was not going to just be a wallflower. He was going to make chances for what he thought was right. Just like Gov. Christie, he was going to grab problems by the throat and not let go."
D'oh! Remind me to add that to my growing list of Walker-related muffs.

For you out-of-staters, here's the reference point:

Justice says court fight led to Prosser chokehold

A member of the Wisconsin Supreme Court's liberal faction has accused a conservative justice of choking her during an argument in her office earlier this month — a charge he denied.

Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Justice David Prosser put her in a chokehold during the dispute. She contacted the newspaper late Saturday after Prosser denied rumors about the altercation.

"The facts are that I was demanding that he get out of my office and he put his hands around my neck in anger in a chokehold," Bradley told the newspaper.

After Eight Years As Milwaukee County Executive, Walker Discovers Milwaukee

The biggest political pander yet.

A fake economic development plan for Milwaukee, on paper, aimed at Tom Barrett, with little behind it except a cheap photo op and some recall ad copy. From Walker, the man who used his County Executive office for nothing but gubernatorial positioning himself, without creating a single job in Milwaukee - - because he had no interest in urban issues.

For eight years.

No one is fooled. The timing tells you everything you need to know about Walker's sincerity.

The blank stare in the Lt. Gov.'s eyes is instructive. This is 100% political, though the focus on Big Governmenti s sure ironic.

About Walker, John Dean Was Right: 'More Nixonian Than Nixon'

At least  Nixon's hilarious CREEP (Committee to Re-Elect The President) had an office with an address.

Walker's bunker doesn't, Dan Bice discloses.

No wonder John Dean, Nixon's former lawyer, is warning us.

River Cleanup Cautionary Tale For Mining Plan

[originally posted 8:10 p.m., Sunday, April 29] I recommend Lee Bergquist's reporting about the political and financial barriers that have been obstructing removal of dangerous PCB contamination from the Fox River.

Paper mills had profoundly polluted the river, then one firm balked at its share of the cleanup cost; perhaps a recent Federal court order will finally get the project back on schedule.

What is sobering about this story is that Wisconsin was within one vote of approving horrendous, special-interest legislation in the State Senate earlier this year and green-lighting a huge open pit iron ore mine in the Bad River watershed near Ashland - - close to municipal drinking water systems, Native American rice-growing waters and the shore of Lake Superior - - while knowing that chemical-laden mine residue and dust from mountaintop removal, trucking and ore processing was going to create pollutants ending up in the Northern Wisconsin water, land and air.

Industry will tell you that their processes and controls are modern, safe and effective, so there's little to worry about, etc., etc., but you need  to look no farther than the Fox River, or the Gulf of Mexico after the BP oil well blow-out, or recent pipeline breaks in Wisconsin, Michigan and Montana to see that even a pinhole in an underground pipe can lead to unforgiving and catastrophic consequences.

This is why Scott Walker's having put Cathy Stepp and her "chamber of commerce mentality" at the helm of the DNR was so offensive. For ideological reasons, Walker degraded the public interest and risked Wisconsin waters held in trust - - the principle and policy in the State Constitution that is rightly called the Public Trust Doctrine for a reason.

Dating back to 1787.

This is why projects like the iron ore mine should be approached with caution on behalf of the common good and not their conformity to election-year agendas.

And should not be left in the hands of regulators who will not regulate.


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bulletin: WI DNR Abandoning Air And Water Enforcement

There has been a stunning drop-off in clean air and water enforcement actions taken by the DNR since Scott Walker installed his pro-business management team at the agency, according to documents cited Sunday by veteran environmental writer Ron Seely at the Wisconsin State Journal.

Recent enforcement numbers show a downward trend in attention to everything from inspections to notifying permit holders of violations. The number of violation notices issued by the DNR in 2011 was far below the annual average for the past 12 years in several crucial areas. In total, the number of violation notices has averaged 516 a year since 2000 compared to 233 last year.

The agency issued 46 air violation notices in 2011 compared to the 12-year average of 128, and eight stormwater permit violations in 2011 compared to the average of 42.
George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, is a former DNR secretary and also was in charge of enforcement at the agency for many years. He described the decreases as "more than a dip."

"The numbers are so dramatic, it is clear there is a different philosophy toward enforcement," Meyer said. "And the message, the culture change, starts at the top. Staff reflects leadership."
Though dismissed by current agency Secretary Cathy Stepp, the Federal government is concerned:
"The decline in enforcement activity in Wisconsin raises concerns about whether the state is adequately carrying out its responsibility to enforce the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and other federal laws that WDNR is authorized to implement," Susan Hedman, EPA regional administrator, said in a statement.
I had taken note last week of one such federal action

Kimberly Wright of the public interest law firm  Midwest Environmental Advocates issued this statement Sunday:
April 29, 2012
For Immediate Release
Contact: Kim Wright, Midwest Environmental Advocates, (608) 215-1233 or (608) 251-5047 ext 3

Madison , WI -   A dramatic drop in environmental enforcement threatens public health and the rights of future generations to a clean and healthful environment.  Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources secretary Cathy Stepp explains the drop in oversight of air and water quality as a “shift in philosophy,” in the Wisconsin State Journal. http://bit.ly/KnvpBM

By law, the Department of Natural Resources has a duty to manage and oversee Wisconsin’s water, air and land resources. The public should take note of the concerns expressed by both former and current DNR staff over the dramatic decline in environmental enforcement, concerns echoed by the regional administrator of the federal Environmental Protection Agency. DNR deputy secretary Matt Maroney is correct in stating the problem didn’t begin with this administration, but the shocking drop in enforcement on their watch requires them to solve it.    

The question for the Natural Resources Board is can Stepp’s hand-picked team solve a problem they don’t seem to acknowledge exists,” says Kim Wright, Executive Director of Midwest Environmental Advocates, a non-profit environmental law center that uses the power of the law to support community efforts to protect our water, air and land. “Every day we hear from citizens across Wisconsin who need  the DNR to step in and take action against polluters causing them harm. Statewide, people are taking on a growing burden to secure scientific and legal resources to hold polluters accountable, a duty professional DNR staff once had the resources and autonomy to fulfill.”  

The DNR’s duty to enforce environmental standards isn’t any more optional than the duty of a police department to investigate an assault and battery.  Both need to secure the safety of the person or resource under attack and use all the tools at their disposal to bring perpetrators to justice. 

Whether due to a change in philosophy that focuses on “customer service” or to political interference with professional staff, the unprecedented decline in the enforcement of environmental standards puts the public at risk.  The DNR has a legal duty to monitor and enforce permits that control the amount of pollution that can be safely discharged into our air and water. 

“There are good people within the DNR that are not being allowed to do their jobs and the people of Wisconsin are paying for that in many ways,” Wright states.

####

Important Facts

·         Secretary Stepp insists that DNR’s actions should be used to judge its work. Recent enforcement numbers show a downward trend in enforcement, everything from inspections to notifying permit holders of violations.

o   The number of violation notices issued by the DNR in 2011 was far below the annual average for the past 12 years. In total, the number of violation notices has averaged 516 a years since 2000, compared to 233 in 2011.

o   The agency issued 46 air violation notices in 2011 compared to the 12-year average of 128.

o   The agency issued 8 stormwater permit violations in 2011 compared to the 12-year average of 42.

·         The politicization of the DNR is no longer just among the management. Act 10, passed in 2011, had a provision that made legislative liaisons, lawyers, and spokespeople political appointees of the Governor.

·         Lack of enforcing environmental laws is not good for business in Wisconsin. Business that are allowed to get around the law get an unfair advantage. It punishes the responsible, good businesses who follow environmental regulations.

·         The cost of evidenced-based advocacy, which if not born by the DNR is born by the public, is expensive.

o   One set of water quality tests can cost over $3500, including a hydro-geologist’s time and sample testing by a state-certified lab. This does not include attorney time.

·          Midwest Environmental Advocates is a non-profit environmental law center that uses the power of the law to help Wisconsin citizens protect our heritage of healthy water, air, land and government. More information can be found at www.midwestadvocates.org.

Feel Free And Add To Team Walker's Best Lines' List

[Originally posted Sunday, 4/29, at 3:00 p.m.] I can update and repost this any old time, so send your entries.

Woodson's Play-Calling Still Strong; Football Prognosis Good, Too

Packers' secondary leader Charles Woodson remains an articulate voice for union rights, as he was when citizens took to the streets last year to protest Walker's union-busting scheme.

Oh: He also likes what he sees in the draft just completed, too.


Hardly Breaking News - - Walker Earns Another "Mostly False" Rating

With this fact-deprived statement kicking trial lawyers and flat-out making stuff up - -

But Walker’s claim ignores critical facts -- or, put another way, lacks critical facts -- that would support his claim of a big financial gain for lawyers. After all, not a single lawsuit was filed in state court since the law took effect.
 - -  Walker's PolitiFact record is 30 on the "false," side, 17 in "true" territory.

Try running to the boss for a long-term contract extension with that performance.


WMC Protecting Its Walker Investment With Fresh $2 Million

Having spent heavily to get Walker elected, and protected him with compliant State Supreme Court Justices, the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce begins a $2 million ad campaign on behalf of itself, Walker and his 1% clientele this week.

Job Losses From WI Budget Cuts Accurately Predicted A Year Ago

Tip your hat to UW Economics Professor Steven Deller.

Too bad he doesn't manage the State Department of Workforce Development. Or Walker's brain:

Who could have predicted at this time last year that Wisconsin would experience the nation's largest percentage decrease in employment over this 12-month period?

Um ... actually, UW-Madison economist Steven Deller could have. And did.

Last March, Deller, a professor of applied economics, studied the ripple effects of Gov. Scott Walker's budget-repair bill and two-year budget proposal.

Deller felt Walker's plans to balance the state's budget by cutting spending and public workers' take-home pay will slow the state's economic recovery.

In a story that ran March 20, Deller estimated the state would lose more than 21,000 jobs as public agencies and workers were able to spend less in their communities. According to the most recent numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Wisconsin lost 23,900 jobs from March 2011 to March 2012.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Lest I Forget, This Was Last Week's Milwaukee Talk Radio Gutter Ball

Had to be Jeff Wagner's Friday afternoon second-hand (but anonymous), trust-me account about a woman at a Milwaukee store arguing unsuccessfully with the clerk about whether food stamps covered a certain purchase, then driving off in a relatively new, $90,000-$95,000 Mercedes-Benz.

Walker Cabinet Secretary's Cringe-Worthy Moment On NBC News Tonight

Painful to watch Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newsom tell NBC Nightly News correspondent Ron Allen tonight on a national broadcast that while only 6,000 jobs had been created in Wisconsin since Walker took office, his promised 250,000 new jobs after one term was "very attainable."

Allen was in Madison for the network covering Walker's recall election, his big job promise and Wisconsin's #1 rating in job losses over the last year.

Helping Walker Own His Phony And Failed Jobs Promise

I agree with this line of thinking expressed by the Journal Sentinel edit board:

Wisconsin lost nearly 24,000 jobs over the past 12 months - the only state in the union with "statistically significant" job losses over that period, according to a new federal government report. For a governor who promised thousands of new jobs would be created on his watch and who now faces an unprecedented electoral challenge, that had to be troubling news. It's certainly troubling for job seekers across the state.

Certainly, Gov. Scott Walker is responsible for politicizing job creation in Wisconsin - and then taking his eye off the ball as his fellow Republicans embarked on fulfilling a conservative wish list ranging from concealed carry to the castle doctrine to voter ID.
But I disagree that Walker took his eye off the ball.

Let's not forget that Walker was all for this extreme GOP conservative social agenda  - - he said he's sign any concealed carry law that got to his desk, for example - - because he knew these were red-meat issues for the far right and pushing along those so-called social conservative issues would solidify his tea party base.

And while the newspaper says that a governmental official cannot really create jobs, Walker would have taken full credit had the numbers worked in his favor.

Top Five Posts Last Week - - Rail, Walker, Earth Day, Water, And Water-Carriers

Here's what was most-read here last week. Thanks to the readers.

When 100% Name Recognition Can Do You In

Republican Waukesha County Clerk and election snafumesister Kathy Nicklaus says she won't run for re-election.

Sen. Fitzgerald Opponent Compas Has raised $100,000

Stunning achievement in the race pitting citizen candidate Lori Compas against the powerful Republican State Sen. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald in the election to recall him.

Objects in the rear view mirror may be closer than they appear.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Racine Debate Mystery Solved

The mystery of the 'missing' Monday debate invitation that Citizen Action of Wisconsin sent to Racine debate no-show State Sen. Van Wanggaard, (R), has been solved.

No, a homework eating pooch was not involved.

Good dog.

At first, Wanggaard's staffer said forcefully and definitively to the Racine Journal Times that no such invitation had been received:

Wanggaard’s Chief of Staff Scott Kelly, contacted on Monday, denied the lawmaker ever received an invitation.

“I heard that they said Van was invited — that is a lie,” Kelly wrote in a text message. “You can quote me on that. We were not invited.”
But after the group produced a postal service receipt for the invitation's delivery, Kelly and Wanggaard remembered something different, but still had a fresh insult for the group.
Looking for the letter on Tuesday, Kelly said the senator eventually found it among some papers that were in his car. Kelly said that upon finding the letter, Wanggaard told him that he did remember getting something from Citizen Action of Wisconsin.

“He remembers having received a letter from a liberal interest group, and having dealt with it accordingly,” Kelly said.

When asked what “dealt with it accordingly” meant, Kelly repeated his quote. Asked if the senator ever opened the letter he said, “He didn’t tell me whether he opened it.”
All of which adds meaning to the headline the paper ran over a Wanggaard op-ed the previous weekend:

Next session, Wanggaard’s focus will remain the same




DNR Secretary Stepp Still Attacking Senators On Mining Bill

Cathy Stepp is stirring the pot all over again on the mining issue, and bringing a divisive image to an agency, state government and issues that hardly needs it.

...what we saw happen was just kind of the Senate Democrats and (GOP) Sen. (Dale) Schultz throw it up in the air as if it was confetti at a labor rally...
Continuing to attack elected officials only reinforces her identity as a talk radio partisan.

While ignoring the fact that her agency has a policy-making board already displeased with the way she politicized the mining issue:
Stepp's comments did not please Dave Clausen, the chairman of the state Natural Resources Board, which sets policy for the DNR. He said Stepp has never talked about the mine legislation with the board.

"By law, the Natural Resources Board sets the legislative agenda and department policy," Clausen said. "Secretary Stepp has never consulted with the board on the mining issue."
So to what end right now? Walker surrogate?













...

Best Lines By Walker & The Jesters

In their own words:

* Early in then-Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker's 2010 campaign for Governor, Walker had at-will County employee and political operative Tim Russell shut down overt campaigning that had taken place on public time. Walker emailed Russell:

"We cannot afford another story like this one," Walker wrote to Russell. "No one can give them any reason to do another story. That means no laptops, no websites, no time away during the work day, etc.
* Later during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign, then Milwaukee County Executive Walker told the Lakeland Times, on transparency:
"I don't just say that, I've lived it."
*  Isthmus reported that Walker said his union-busting bill contained "really, really modest requests."

*  Walker testified at a Congressional hearing that his union-busting plan was "truly progressive," and then told Fox's Greta Van Susteren:
 "I had fun with that."
Oh, too funny! But speaking of fun...

* The Walker campaign, on behalf of a boss who killed a federally-funded Amtrak line between Madison and Milwaukee, is bringing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to Wisconsin next week for appearances and fundraisers. Both governors also inflated the projects' estimated costs to justify short-circuiting the rail improvements.

Yet in its Christie announcement, the campaign said, with a straight face, that the Governors "have done more to put America back on track than anyone in a generation."

* DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp last week spun wildly away away from the impact of her public criticism of the agency's mishandling an infected deer carcass, yet managed to tell her entire workforce in an email "the buck stops with me."

* And who could forget Oconomowoc Republican State Rep. Joel Kleefisch's full-salivation news release in support of a new Wisconsin wolf hunting season, emphasis added?
A hunting season will allow for reasonable control of the population, while marinating viable and sustainable pack numbers for this majestic animal.
And we close with a few reminders of Walker's exaggerated sense of self-importance, in his own words.

* Walker's Awesome Arrogance:
"They want me dead. I don’t think that’s an exaggeration,” Mr. Walker said in an exclusive interview with The Washington Times after a roundtable discussion Thursday at the American Enterprise Institute.
* A week later, Walker's Awesome Arrogance 2.0:
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) gave a passionate speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference Friday, rallying against recall election efforts that he said could do lasting damage.

"Lord help us if we fail," Walker said. "I'm not planning on it, but if we were to fail, I think this sets aside any courageous act in American politics for at least a decade if not a generation."
*  And more recently:
Not because this job is that important to me, 'cuz frankly my wife in some ways would love it if I'd go back to the private sector and make some real money.




Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thumbs-Up For The Chris Christie/Scott Walker Events Next Week

!. The timing could not be better, as the Walker-Christie announcement comes on the heels of a national reminder of just how bad for the entire Northeast was the New Jersey Governor's erasure of a key Amtrak upgrade that cost the region jobs, efficient transit and cleaner air.

And wasn't it just yesterday that the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters serendipitously and synchronistically reminded us of Walker's "#railfail?"

Christie's presence in Wisconsin will give voters a chance to see two Republicans side-by-side who hurt their state's economies and misstated (ahem!) the costs they claimed as justifications for vetoing the projects.

2. And side-by-side with Christie, Walker will shrink to irrelevance. Christie has a pulse, a persona and a presence. The vacuous, monotone Walker will look like Robin in Batman's shadow.

3.  Finally, I am convinced that the Walkerites are so guilt-ridden about their reactionary policies that they keep making revealing, Freudian slips in their proofread-free official pronouncements.

* The Walker campaign provided the latest foot-in-mouth delight in its announcement of the Christie visits saying that Christie and Walker "have done more to put America back on track than anyone in a generation."

Really? "Back on track?" How many layers of irony do we want to mine?

And what about this?

This is the banner headline in Wednesday's Journal Sentinel:

State posts largest percentage job loss in U.S. over past year

* There was Wednesday's blue-ribbon malapropism by DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp, spinning away from the impact of her public criticism of the agency's mishandling of an infected deer carcass by telling her entire workforce in an email "the buck stops with me."

* And who could forget Oconomowoc Republican State Rep. Joel Kleefisch's full-salivation news release in support of a new Wisconsin wolf hunting season, emphasis added?
A hunting season will allow for reasonable control of the population, while marinating viable and sustainable pack numbers for this majestic animal.
Perhaps he meant "managing."

On the other hand, he explained his support for a new sandhill crane hunting season in Wisconsin by noting that the birds were called "the rib-eye in the sky."

So maybe he meant "marinating."

Christies's Rail Fail Is Veepstakes Baggage

The Boston Globe sends a reminder to prospective GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney that the entire Northeast took a hit when NJ Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a passenger rail upgrade on fiscal grounds - -- in a Scott Walkeresque move - -  and then was found to have inflated the cost, again a la Walker.


Frac Sand Mines Running Full Bore, Oversight Free In WI

Thanks to Steve Hanson for this outstanding report.

And remember that the Walker gang over at the DNR - - including several former WMC/road-builder/home builder personnel now in charge  - - said 'nothing to see here.'

Stepp 'Blasts' Her Agency, Then Blasts Reporter For Writing That

[first posted, 9:09 Wednesday, 4/25, then updated] For Cathy Stepp, firing away at the DNR must have seemed like the good old days  - - except that now Scott Walker had put her in charge of the agency and she needed to engage in some damage control.

After all, there was a serious situation: an infected deer carcass was left in the woods, the head forgotten for months in a shed freezer and lab work on what was found to be a positive test for chronic wasting disease was delayed.

 [Update: The Journal Sentinel posted a thorough story late Wednesday night, here.

Speaking Wednesday at the Natural Resources Board meeting, DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp called the time lapse "alarming."]
So Stepp tried Wednesday afternoon to explain, and complain about, this earlier story and headline and lede - - 
  - - Wis. DNR leader blasts agency for CWD test delay TODD RICHMOND, Associated Press: The state Department of Natural Resources' leader blasted her agency Wednesday for mishandling a northwestern Wisconsin deer infected with chronic wasting disease, saying the missteps threaten public confidence in the agency.
- - with this email to the entire agency:
Sent: Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Subject: AP article on CWD deer discussion at the Board meeting today\\
Dear Colleagues:
I want to communicate with you directly about an Associated Press article’s portrayal of a discussion about the agency’s handling of the Washburn County CWD positive deer at today’s Natural Resources Board meeting in Madison. 
In short, it wasn’t accurate. 
I did not “blast” the agency staff and certainly did not “chastise” Wildlife Management Director Tom Hauge in front of the board.
Please know that the Natural Resources Board members and staff present in the meeting were shocked at the inflammatory headline and skewed interpretation of my acknowledgement that we could have done a better job.
The current political climate creates challenges for us to effectively communicate with staff.  Inflammatory news media articles make it harder.  To insinuate that I “chastised” Tom Hauge and his wildlife team is outrageous.
I clarified my morning remarks this afternoon in Secretary’s matters and had the reporter invited back so he could hear our reaction.  I stated – again – how proud I am of the men and women who make up the Wisconsin DNR. 
In short, here’s what caused the flap:  I acknowledged our internal tracking of samples and communication broke down on the Washburn County CWD deer.  Honestly, it took too long to get the sample into the lab. 
As secretary the buck stops with me and I take full responsibility.  To not identify, acknowledge and transparently address missteps would be irresponsible.
There are members of the public that have questioned the long interval between taking the sample and testing.  My admittance that we could have done better in no way was intended to denigrate our DNR staff – and they know it.
This agency has too much integrity to ignore or try to hide this under the rug. We learned from our mistake and are developing a more robust tracking system.
DNR staff is passionate about wildlife health and doesn't want delays to happen again. I am proud of the way we are dealing with this by taking responsibility and learning from it, and I applaud the wildlife staff for every day doing the best possible job for the people of this state.   
These are challenging times for the wildlife team.  I respect and appreciate the difficulty they are experiencing during Dr. Kroll’s review of deer management and with the discovery of CWD in the northwest. They have been a model of cooperation and openness with Dr. Kroll.  That speaks volumes. 
I will continue to sing the praises of our agency – something that seems long overdue.  And I will accept responsibility when we could have done better.
It is a privilege to serve as secretary of this great agency.  You all make me proud on a daily basis.
Cathy
Cathy Stepp
Secretary

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

More Wisc. ALEC Connections To Walker Administration, And Tommy Thompson, Too

You can add to your Wisconsin Friends of ALEC scorecard US Senate candidate and ex-Governor Tommy Thompson, current Public Service Commission chair and ALEC 2005 "Legislator of the Year" Phil Montgomery, as well as Wisconsin Railroad Commissioner and former ex-Democratic State Senator-turned-Walker water carrier Jeff Plale to your scorecards, according to this 2008 report.

At the 2001 ALEC national convention, Tommy Thompson, former Wisconsin governor and then U.S. Secretary of Health And Human Services, stated:

"It's wonderful to see so many of my friends from the great state of Wisconsin. There are 29 members of the  Wisconsin State Legislature who were so eager to come to New York for this conference that they rushed to get the state budget passed last week....My good friend Scott Jensen is among them. Scott holds the only job I ever wanted and never reached - Speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly."
In addition to the 29 state legislators that Thompson claimed as ALEC members, I and others working with me found at least three currently sitting Wisconsin politicians who have sponsored bills with ties to ALEC – Wisconsin Senator Ted Kanavas, Senator Jeff Plale and Representative Phil Montgomery, who was given ALEC’s 2005 “Legislator of the Year” award.
Montgomery's appointment is significant, as the PSC has control of the state energy generation mix, as well as policy implementation.

ALEC just announced it would go on a national campaign to get states to roll back commitments to renewable energy: all hail, fossil fuels!

And just a few days ago, the PSC announced it would direct funds under its control more for biomass and bio-energy rather than for wind and solar.

Walker blocked implementation of PSC wind turbine siting rules, stalling the development of the industry, its jobs and clean energy generation.

Montgomery also favors nuclear energy, and also hired as his Executive Assistant the former top lobbyist for the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. Details, here.

In Wisconsin, ALEC and the 1% are among friends.

Santorum, Gingrich Still Competing

Who will be the first to get his Fox 'News' TV show back?

Walker's Wind Fail Documented By Wisconsin Conservationists

The Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters is out with its third installment of the "Walker Fail" series: an analysis of his attack on wind power and the jobs this clean energy industry can deliver.

File III: Wind Fail

Governor Walker was apparently full of hot air when he promised to create jobs in Wisconsin. One of his first legislative goals was to throw wind farm development out the window by imposing extreme restrictions that would have suffocated Wisconsin’s clean energy future. Luckily the legislature voted against Walker’s attack on wind energy with bipartisan support.
Here is a link to the first two installments and the WLCV website.

Full Court Chokehold

Looks like that's where the Wisconsin Supreme Court is headed.

Walker's Alternative Universe

This was Walker's message on April 10th when he kicked off his recall campaign for re-election:

"We're headed in the right direction," Walker said. "We're turning things around. We're moving Wisconsin forward."
This is the banner headline in Wednesday's Journal Sentinel:

State posts largest percentage job loss in U.S. over past year




Romney Won Five Primaries Tuesday, But...

A solid 30-40% of GOP primary voters still cast ballots for candidates who are not going anywhere - - Paul, Santorum, Gingrich. Could be a lot of sitting on the Republican sidelines this November.

Waukesha County Transit Fails Milwaukee Water Sale Criteria

[First published Tuesday, 3:35 p.m., then updated] You will remember that the City of Waukesha suggested the City of Milwaukee look to Waukesha County's Regional Development Plan and website for the kind of transit and housing commitment, cooperation and performance that might come on behalf of four smaller Waukesha-area towns to accompany a water sale by Milwaukee.

Milwaukee has said a water deal must include commitments to housing and transportation programs from the water buyers.

[Update: For the towns - - Pewaukee, Delafield, Genesee and Waukesha - - inclusion in the City of Waukesha's application for a diversion of Lake Michigan water under the terms of the multi-state Great Lakes Compact raises separate questions about the Compact's water conservation and public participation requirements imposed on communities receiving diverted Great Lakes water.

Since all eight Great Lakes states must approve the City of Waukesha's application, the Towns may find that one or more of the states - - or the eventual water selling community, such as the City of Milwaukee - - will consider one or more of towns essentially as co-applicants by virtue of their receipt of diverted Great Lakes water via the City of Waukesha, thus being required to supply information, plans, processes and implemented policies - - from water conservation programs implemented to hearings to public participation guarantees of their own - - all of which may be problematic and costly.

So far, the Town of Waukesha has not decided whether to participate, throwing into doubt the City of Waukesha's projected need for the amount of water it wants to divert water.]

So I took the suggestion in the City of Waukesha letter, checked out the County plan, and  discovered in "Chapter 8, Transportation," that Milwaukee won't find much of a priority on transit from Waukesha County.

Let's just say the transit "concerns and weaknesses" out-stripped the "strengths," and do not meet the "adopted and implemented" criteria that the City of Milwaukee spelled out for water buyers in a 2008 resolution.

In addition, for purposes of Common Council review, the community which has applied for water service from the City of Milwaukee shall submit a written report to the aforementioned communication file indicating that the community has adopted and implemented: 
D-1. A comprehensive plan pursuant to s. 66.1001, Wis. Stats., and, if the plan has not been completed, indicate the status of the community’s compliance with each of the 9 requirements which comprise s. 66.1001 (2), Wis. Stats.
D-2. A comprehensive housing plan and can demonstrate that such plan has resulted in the creation of affordable housing opportunities that have resulted in racial, age and income diversification, with data on the percentage of population in assisted and affordable housing that is age 30 or less, above age 30 and below 65, and age 65 and above. 
D-3. A comprehensive public transportation plan and can demonstrate that such plan has resulted in the expansion and improvement of public transportation links between persons living in the City of Milwaukee and job opportunities in the community which has applied for water service. Such plan may include, but is not limited to, participation and inclusion in the Southeast Wisconsin Regional Transportation Authority or an equivalent entity.
This is how the transportation chapter opens in the plan the City of Waukesha suggested the City of Milwaukee water sale negotiators :
STRENGTHS, CONCERNS, AND WEAKNESSES

The Waukesha County Comprehensive Development Plan Land Use, Housing and Transportation Subcommittee expressed the following transportation strengths, concerns, and weaknesses.

Transportation Strengths

•    Easy access to the Interstate Highway System •  Advanced planning and implementation of highway facility improvements •  An established County Trunk Highway System that is effective • Provides appropriate access to roadways •    Availability of other modes of transportation (ie. airports, trails) • An increase in official mapping being completed by municipalities for improved inter-connectivity to roadway systems • A continued commitment to funding County road improvements through a capital improvements program.

Transportation Concerns and Weaknesses

•    A lack of a dedicated regional institutional structure for a high level inter-county transit system. The County and Region has a mass transit plan in place, but there is a lack of a comprehensive regional mass transit institutional structure and a dedicated source to fund it.
•    Municipalities and the County over-rely on State and Federal funding for local transportation initiatives. A lack of a dedicated funding source exists for transit at the municipal or county level of government. • A tendency for municipalities and the County to upgrade highways after volume or impact is realized instead of doing a more effective analysis of projecting these changes. • A lack of county-wide or regional understanding of the impact of road construction (ie. bypass or road widening).
•    A lack of continued re-education and endorsement of long-range comprehensive planning and the impact of not planning long-range or failure to implement these plans.
•    A lack of grade separation between competing transportation uses such as road and railroad crossings. • Road improvements are not being made because of current jurisdictional control and conflicting plans. • Excessive local street road pavement widths.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Milwaukee Named Teacher Of The Year

For real. No Onion joke.

Mitt Romney Should Campaign Against Scott Walker

Mitt Romney has been saying President Obama isn't creating jobs fast enough.

But even as employment grows nationally,  the US Department of Labor says Wisconsin lost more jobs over the last 12 months than any other state.

So by Romney logic, Wisconsin must really need new leadership.

Feds Say Walker's Wisconsin #1 In 2011 Job Losses

Walker, Wisconsin get official seal of disapproval:

US Department Of Labor
Bureau of Labor Statistics

Regional and State Employment and Unemployment Summary

For release 10:00 a.m. (EDT) Friday, April 20, 2012                      

Media contact:  (202) 691-5902  *  PressOffice@bls.gov


      REGIONAL AND STATE EMPLOYMENT AND UNEMPLOYMENT -- MARCH 2012

...In March 2012, nonfarm payroll employment increased in 29 states and the
District of Columbia, decreased in 20 states, and was unchanged in
Alabama. The largest over-the-month increase in employment occurred in
New York (+19,100), followed by California (+18,200) and Arizona
(+13,500). The largest over-the-month decrease in employment occurred
in Ohio (-9,500), followed by New Jersey (-8,600) and Wisconsin (-4,500). 
 
...The largest over-the-year percentage decrease in employment occurred in Wisconsin (-0.9 percent).

11:09 a.m. update: The Journal Sentinel posts the data, too.

Prosser Still On His Recuse Yourself Campaign

A top judge is still saying, 'you can't judge me!'

On Message, By Rote, Walker Tells Growing Tall Tale

[First published, Monday, April 23, 7:31 p.m.] Today's political lesson: With a funding advantage in the multi-millions of dollars raised out-of-state, see Walker stay on message, undermine the grassroots citizen-led nature of the recall movement underway against him and inflate his self-importance. Machiavellian Manipulation 101.

*  From a terrific Bill Lueders' Isthmus piece more than 14 months ago (and the italics are mine) way before the recall movement took shape:

Last week he was asked by the Wisconsin State Journal whether the measures he's seeking "in more ways than one, if not killing the unions now, would lead to their ultimate irrelevance and probable [demise]" — because without collective bargaining their role would be so limited that employees would stop paying dues, as Walker's bill allows. The governor conceded the point, saying, "Presumably, that's why there's so many national union leaders here because, politically, they want the money."
 *  Then from Politico via Fox nearly a year later, with the recall a growing certainty (again, the italics are mine):
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is likely to face a recall election later this year after organizers looking to oust the governor turned in a whopping million signatures supporting their cause, said Wednesday that the effort to oust him is “all about the union money.”
“The real bottom line is, the national unions want their hands on the money,” Walker said in an interview with Fox News. “It’s all about the union money, it’s not about the workers’ money — they want those automatic dues, and they’ll spend just about anything to get that back.”
* And with the recall campaign underway, Walker's tall tale gets taller, as you can see in an interview just this past Sunday, but note that he's still on message, though his nose is getting longer (italics added, again):
The left, the radical left, and the big labor union bosses are somehow counting on the idea that they can bring enough money and enough bodies into Wisconsin to dissuade voters,” Walker told Newsmax. “... I think that they’re hoping somehow they can defeat us, so that would discourage anybody from making tough decisions again.
Then the unproven, unprovable whopper:
The embattled Wisconsin governor has estimated that unions and special-interest groups may pour as much as $60 million into their controversial attempt to send his administration packing.







Monday, April 23, 2012

Walker Has Run Up Huge Moral Authority Deficit

Walker and his campaign release spun numbers.

Beware - - He's the master of PR and propaganda. Remember he told us his original "budget repair" bill, in which he inserted the union-busting plan he hid during the campaign, was but a "modest proposal?"

Here's another way to look at data and balance sheets and politicized numbers. The state still has a budget shortfall. Wisconsin lost more jobs than any other state last year, and Walker has done incalculable damage to the state's environment, legal process, and reputation for fair play.

I'd like to see Walker put a price tag on that.

Waukesha-Milwaukee Water Discussion Still Missing Major Element

The language in Waukesha's letter to Milwaukee last week about getting Lake Michigan water negotiations underway raises lingering, basic questions about the diversion application.

The City of Waukesha tells Milwaukee in the letter - - read it here - -  (I cannot copy it) - - that the four neighboring Towns of Genesee, Waukesha, Delafield and Pewaukee which the City of Waukesha roped into its diversion application without their input via a regional planning committee water service territory map the City requested - -  (discussion and map, here) - - do not have transportation or housing plans and defer these matters to Waukesha County.


The letter directs Milwaukee officials to a Waukesha County comprehensive planning website for further details.

That is not a bureaucratic or inter-governmental diversion - - the equivalent of a voice mail system telling you to "press 1 for more options."

That is a problem for the advance of the application and has been for a long time (June, 2009): almost two years ago I said this was the biggest problem with the application - - and I stand by that today.

For one thing, the Town of Waukesha, with a large land mass included by regional planners and the City without the Town's permission or input in the application and map, has yet to give its assent to the inclusion.

And the matter has been hanging fire for a long time.

Yet, Milwaukee has reiterated for years, and is on record through a Common Council resolution signed by the Mayor - - full text here - -  that a water sale to Waukesha is conditional on a number of things, including commitments on housing, transportation and other regional socio-economic issues needed in a water sale deal that go beyond a per-gallon price for water.

How is the City of Waukesha going to meet these Milwaukee conditions if Waukesha's Town partners and their residents don't have the service infrastructure to be full partners in a regional process?

A mere letter from the City of Waukesha that says, yes, the smaller municipalities ticketed for getting Milwaukee water are institutionally incapable of meeting the water-selling city's basic cooperative conditions, but here's a website to consult at yet another level of government to consult and we're done with that part of the conversation - -  hardly addresses the language of Milwaukee resolution/city policy, to wit:

In addition, for purposes of Common Council review, the community which has applied for water service from the City of Milwaukee shall submit a written report to the aforementioned communication file indicating that the community has adopted and implemented:
D-1. A comprehensive plan pursuant to s. 66.1001, Wis. Stats., and, if the plan has not been completed, indicate the status of the community’s compliance with each of the 9 requirements which comprise s. 66.1001 (2), Wis. Stats.
D-2. A comprehensive housing plan and can demonstrate that such plan has resulted in the creation of affordable housing opportunities that have resulted in racial, age and income diversification, with data on the percentage of population in assisted and affordable housing that is age 30 or less, above age 30 and below 65, and age 65 and above.
D-3. A comprehensive public transportation plan and can demonstrate that such plan has resulted in the expansion and improvement of public transportation links between persons living in the City of Milwaukee and job opportunities in the community which has applied for water service. Such plan may include, but is not limited to, participation and inclusion in the Southeast Wisconsin Regional Transportation Authority or an equivalent entity.
By the way, that afore-mentioned regional transportation authority included as an example of what the City of Milwaukee expects in a water deal is dead - -  killed recently by the pro-road-builder, transit-hating Legislature and Governor, and furthermore - - Waukesha County wanted no part of it when it was still around because it abhorred any linkage with Milwaukee.

You still cannot take a direct bus from downtown Milwaukee to downtown Waukesha, or to the closer New Berlin Industrial Park, and Waukesha interests killed Milwaukee light rail 15 years ago, cementing, if you will, the isolation of Milwaukee workers from Waukesha housing and employment.

So much for regional cooperation, or finding it at that Waukesha county planning website.

Yet the City of Waukesha letter tells the City of Milwaukee it considers its submission on the Town-and-service territory-map issue matter complete enough to get water sales' negotiations underway.

I can't see how Milwaukee would find that non-responsive response in any way adequate; how does Milwaukee sit down and talk about water sales and distribution to an area including the Town of Waukesha if the Town is not on board with the application, let alone being in the room to talk about it?

Remember, the Town asked the City of Waukesha for a seat at the table, and was rebuffed.

Fox River Cleanup Offers Cautionary Tale For Iron Mine

I recommend Lee Bergquist's reporting about the political and financial barriers that have obstructed removal of dangerous PCB contamination from the Fox River.

Paper mills had profoundly polluted the river, then one balked at its share of the cleanup cost; perhaps a Federal court order will finally get the project back on schedule.

What is sobering about this story is that Wisconsin was within one vote of approving horrendous, special-interest legislation in the State Senate earlier this year of green-lighting a huge open pit iron ore mine in the Bad River watershed near Ashland - - close to municipal drinking water systems, Native American rice-growing waters and the shore of Lake Superior - - knowing that chemical-laden mine residue and dust from mountaintop removal, trucking and ore processing was going to create pollutants ending up in Northern Wisconsin water, land and clean air.

Industry will tell you that their processes and controls are modern, safe effective so there's little to worry about, etc., etc., but you need  to look no farther than the Fox River, or the Gulf of Mexico oil well blow-out, or recent pipeline breaks in Wisconsin, Michigan and Montana to see that even a pinhole in an underground pipe can lead to unforgiving and catastrophic consequences.

This is why Scott Walker's having put Cathy Stepp and her "chamber of commerce mentality" at the helm of the DNR was so offensive. For ideological reasons, Walker degraded the  public interest and risked Wisconsin waters held in trust - - the principle and policy is in the State Constitution and is called the Public Trust Doctrine for a reason.

This is why projects like the iron ore mine should be approached with caution, not election-year agendas.


Walker's DNR Looks The Other Way As Stream Pollution Continues

The AP and Wausau Daily Herald bring us another Happy Earth Day story from Wisconsin:

...Wisconsin is not fully enforcing strict phosphorus limits adopted two years ago to reduce algae blooms that make people sick.

The Wausau Daily Herald says that's despite the Department of Natural Resources secretary's alarm at foul conditions in at least one lake last summer.

The Wisconsin Legislature approved the limits in 2010 They're aimed at wastewater treatment plants, paper mills and factories - which are required to reapply for permits at five-year intervals.

But as of last week, only 19 permits with stricter limits had been issued since September 2010. The DNR still is evaluating applications from over 350 facilities, while hundreds more must apply in the coming years.
The DNR says it's working as hard as it can, but remember that Walker has been obstructing the implementation of the rule for more than a year.

And it looks like the DNR is simply acting as if the two-year enforcement delay it wanted last year is the de facto policy.

Anyone seeing the pattern in Walker's environmental 'program'?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Walker's Earth Day 'Proclamation' Release Proclaims No Information About Earth Day

I noted over the weekend that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's office had said he had issued a "proclamation" about Earth Day, but in the news release I had seen about it there was no discussion of Earth Day, or any of the familiar "Whereas" and "Now Therefore Be It Resolved" language we've come to expect in an official executive proclamation.

Nor could I find the proclamation on the Governor's official website.

I now see the text on the Governor's website dated Friday - - well, OK, so be it... but all I can say is you might as well have proclaimed it Baloney Sandwich Day.

Is there a separate proclamation floating around the Governor's office that actually discusses Earth Day, and not just the announcement of more details about a project that was, in fact, approved in December, 2011?

Nice project, no doubt, but are we to assume that when its plan comes to fruition, it is the de facto Earth Day proclamation, come to life?

I'll post the entire wording of the release and the non-proclamation's proclamation from Walker's website here:



Governor Walker Issues Earth Day Proclamation (Friday, April 20, 2012)



From Governor Walker's Press Office


April 20, 2012
For Immediate Release
 
Governor Walker Issues Earth Day ProclamationExecutive Residence Will Also Undergo Shoreline Restoration Project  


MADISON – Governor Walker today issued a proclamation for Earth Day and announced that the Executive Residence will also undergo a shoreline restoration thanks to the help of a citizens’ group.  The citizen’s group restoration project will help boost wildlife habitat and water quality.   

The group is now seeking materials and donations for the project from businesses and individuals as well as recruiting people to serve on a variety of committees to raise money for the project, get it done, and maintain it.
 "A shoreland restoration at the Executive Residence will be a beautiful addition to the shores of Lake Mendota and a tremendous opportunity to increase awareness about the importance of protecting Wisconsin waters," says Patricia Cicero, a Lake Mills resident who chairs the group.

"We are so pleased to be able to move ahead with this, and invite other citizens to get involved through donating their time and materials."            
Shoreland restorations use native flowers, grasses, shrubs, and trees to provide erosion control, filter runoff before it enters lakes and rivers, provide wildlife habitat, and scenic beauty.             
The State Capitol and Executive Residence Board voted unanimously in December 2011 to approve the shoreland restoration project at the Executive Residence, where Governors of Wisconsin have lived while in office since 1949.   
A group of citizens who participated in the Wisconsin Lake Leaders Institute launched the effort several years ago to gain support and approval for this project. The Lake Leaders Institute offers people interested in lakes intensive training to help them develop their technical knowledge about lake ecology and management, state laws and processes regarding lakes, and how to be an effective voice on behalf of lakes.            
The institute is sponsored by the Wisconsin Lakes Partnership, which includes Wisconsin Lakes, a statewide organization of lake associations, the University of Wisconsin- Extension Lakes Program, and the Department of Natural Resources. 

The restoration project will be implemented in close consultation with the Department of Administration, the State Capitol and Executive Residence Board, and the Executive Residence staff, according to Cicero, who is on the Board of the Rock River Coalition and a Water Resource Management Specialist at the Jefferson County Land and Water Conservation Department.            
The plant design was prepared by Hope Oostdik of Dutch Designs; Lisa Reas of LJ Reas Environmental Consulting Corp.; Bradley Vowels, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in landscape architecture and water resources management; and Barb Gajewski a 2008 Lake Leader graduate and independent environmental consultant.  The planting will occur in September 2012.

The shoreland restoration installation and long-term maintenance will be implemented under the leadership of the Lake Leaders and the Wisconsin Lakes Partnership.  They are currently in the planning phase and are forming committees to work on the various aspects of the project including fundraising, publicity, and education. 
"There are so many great ways to be part of this exciting project," Cicero says. "Please join us and help make the Executive Residence a great example of how we can help protect the lakes that mean so much for our quality of life, our outdoor recreation and our local economies." 
Citizens interested in donating to the project can do so by contacting the Rock River Coalition.
 
# # #
 

These Bloggers Love Transit

Two Women Four Wheels.

We hope these stories entertain and inspire you to explore your community in a car-free way. Our small bus investment pays big dividends. ENJOY!!!
Clever title, interesting content.

And a good Earth day message. Transit backers, give it a ride.

ALEC Can Of Worms Available For WI Opening

It's taken the tragedy of Travon Martin's "Stand Your Ground" killing to finally push the right-wing policy shop ALEC into the news - - this Sunday New York Times front=page story about the "stealth," non-profit/taxpayer-subsidized group will force more media into action - - so how long will it take Wisconsin's GOP/ALEC water-carriers to break up with their best friend?

Here's an example from  now-State Sen. Leah Vukmir, (R-Wauwatosa) in 2009:


Vukmir honored as "Legislator of the Year" by peers at national gathering
(Atlanta, Ga.) — Wisconsin State Rep. Leah Vukmir was honored as “Legislator of the Year” by her peers at the 36th Annual Meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in Atlanta on Friday, July 17. This award goes to state legislators who are ALEC members in good standing and have distinguished themselves by advancing, introducing and/or enacting policies based on the fundamental Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism and individual liberty...

Rep. Vukmir worked tirelessly to stop a government-run health care proposal in Wisconsin in 2007. She is a stellar legislator who introduces many ALEC HHS model bills each session.

“Thanks to ALEC, I have enjoyed the privilege of working with some of the finest legislators and policy experts in the country. To have been chosen for this distinction is an honor for which I will always be grateful and proud,” said Vukmir.
And the way Wisconsin conservative policy-makers have received money from ALEC is ripe for investigative reporting:

* One Wisconsin Now published the list of Wisconsin legislative members with taxpayer-paid memberships.

* ALEC's role in conservative networking with Wisconsin manifestations extends to the mining issue.

*  Here's another about ALEC "model" school choice legislation, starring former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, barred from running for office after a misdemeanor conviction in the caucus scandal:
“[Task Force members] know school choice works, and so we are comfortable requiring even greater accountability for school choice programs,” said Scott Jensen, national consultant for state projects at the Alliance for School Choice in Washington, DC.

“We chose to proactively offer responsible and effective school choice accountability legislation because so many of our opponents use ‘accountability’ as their excuse for trying to strangle these programs with excessive and unworkable regulations,” added Jensen, who introduced the two bills within ALEC.
* ALEC was said to have had a hand in the rotten redistricting process:
MADISON – Today, the Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch exposed the American Legislative Exchange Council’s secret connection to Wisconsin’s redistricting plan. According to the organization, an open records request uncovered a January 20, 2011 email from ALEC inviting Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader and last session’s ALEC State Chairman Scott Fitzgerald to an ALEC conference call about potential legal issues with redistricting.
*  Lisa Kaiser at The Shepherd has given Milwaukee readers an excellent introduction.

* And we all owe a debt to UW Professor Bill Cronon, whose expose of ALEC, among others put him right in the Right's legal and media cross hairs.

Stay tuned.