Friday, May 29, 2015

The Green Sheet, Jon Stewart and unlicensed WI teaching

I'm going to miss The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, but nothing lasts forever. Tell me about it, you say, as the Wisconsin Governor and Legislature right now aim to raise state park fees, fire state scientists, end some school teacher licensing and devalue UW degrees through staff, program and arbitrary funding cuts.

Back to Jon Stewart. His closing program is Aug. 8th; replacement comic Trevor Noah takes over on Sept. 28th.

I know these dates because I read them in the reborn Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Green Sheet, so right there you've got a bit of a challenge to the maxim that everything has an expiration date.

Now I like that they've brought The Green Sheet back. I wasn't raised with it, as I didn't get to Milwaukee until my early 30's, but it was appealingly Milwaukee-and-Journal quirky, and it's fun when old standards and standbys are upheld, like baseball players' socks that are pulled calf-high.

Who doesn't get a kick out of seeing an A & W roadside restaurant come into view?

Still, resurrecting The Green Sheet feels like an acknowledgement that the newpaper's better days are behind it.

Which brings me to this:

I ran into a smart, younger guy on the East side the other day and we got to talking about the future of Downer Avenue's commercial strip, and in particular the long-empty storefronts there. It's a complicated situation. Big plans were abandoned, developers went bust, and properties up and down the street are up for auction June 1.

Naturally, people in the area have concerns and hope for the best.

I opined in the conversation with the younger guy that I was glad to see Downer Ave. still able to support Boswell Books and the Downer Theater - - two of my favorites - - along with the restaurants and Sendik's Market - - but to my surprise the other guy said the theater and the bookstore were of less concern to him than other commercial operations or opportunities there because books and sit-down movies represented old models which younger people were ditching for digital, downloaded entertainment.

He wasn't being mean or judgmental, and had nothing against theaters and  bookstores, but his perspective caught me up short and added to my 'nothing-lasts-forever' frame of mind.

So, for the record, I'm hoping people enjoy The Green Sheet, that Downer Ave. thrives with a movie theater and bookstore long into the future - - in fact, mark on your wall calendar (or computer and/or smartphone calendar) Andrew Maraniss' June 22nd reading at Boswell from his award-winning sports and civil rights book Strong Inside - - and that traditional models survive and prosper along side the new.

Jon Stewart walking away from The Daily Show is one thing, and God Speed to him.

But if ideologically-motivated Wisconsin Republican are out to fire DNR scientists and allow unlicensed people - - some without even a high school diploma to teach your children - - then we're going to have to make it our business to maintain some important things in the face of those who want to prematurely kill them off.

Walker and the dismembering of Wisconsin

Conservative power broker Grover Norquist famously said he wanted government shrunk to the point that he could drown it in a bathtub.

That's been Walker's plan for us the citizen lab rats in his right-wing, roll-back experiment as he hacks at Wisconsin these past few years and budgets - - from the intentional undermining of public K-12 education in favor of subsidized private schools, to Act 10 and its wholesale discounting of public service, to the demolition of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource's historic scientific-and-conservation-for-the-peop;e mission, the rejection of federal funding for health insurance and Amtrak expansion, to the future construction of bike trails, and bike lanes/sidewalks along major state-and-federally-funded major road projects.

Also the abandonment of state stewardship land acquisition, to the harsh upending of home care for the disabled and senior prescription drug programs, to his arbitrary, politicized attack on the UW system's role, programs and faculty, and more examples too numerous to list here.

Walker's definition of small government comes with a giant, hypocritical asterisk: his retention and use of state power from on high when it suits his personal advancement and ideological goals, such as gaining the rights to insert more political appointees in state agencies, approve all state administration rules or sell any state asset.

Also barring any increase in the $7.25 minimum hourly-wage, mandating medically-unneeded and invasive ultrasound procedures for women, stripping of funding for women's health clinics, humiliating public assistance recipients with mandated drug tests and a presumption of criminality while slashing their eligibility and food on the table, wiping out local input and controls on everything from public worker salaries and union negotiations statewide, to development-related water planning in Dane County, to employee residency in Milwaukee. to local zoning oversight in Madison where a politically-tainted $200 million publicly-financed palace for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, its bloated, debt-laden budget and road-building clients is to be built without a pressing need.

And turning state attorneys and bureaucrats loose to fight everything from cleaner utility smokestacks, to pollution-free streams and rivers, to marriage equality for same-sex couples to unfettered ballot-box access.

We've lost track of his various divide-and-conquer tactics, but it's clear that to Walker, small government comes with a heavy dose of Big Government power-tripping - - a toxic contradiction borne of cold-blooded hypocrisy to serve big donors' narrow corporate interests - a warning sign as Walker single-mindedly and self-servingly tramples on whomever and whatever he selects to further his campaign nationally to win and wield ultimate Big Government power.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Will we hear about an activist WI Leg. Fiscal Bureau?

The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau is being criticized by a leading school choice advocate over the agency's estimate of the extent of the likely, expanded income transfer to private, religious choice schools from public education funding - - in other words, criticized for doing its job.
Sending thousands more students to private, religious schools under an expansion of Wisconsin's statewide voucher program could shift $600 million to $800 million out of public schools over the next decade, according to an analysis from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
"I'm a little bit surprised the fiscal bureau put this memo out," said Jim Bender, president of School Choice Wisconsin. "Normally, they don't say, 'We're going to take a purely speculative run and just guess at the numbers.'"
.Here's how the agency's website explains itself:

And the GOP's Pataki makes it 31

I was hoping for a pun-filled posting working off GOP presidential hopefuls and "19 and Counting,"  but with George Pataki's potential or declared hat now also edging towards the ring today, the clown car has expanded to a circus train with 31 riders.

There shall be a new $200 million WisDOT palace, despite 'crap' budget

Scott Walker and his GOP legislative/budget-writing water carriers are cutting programs, raising state park entrance and camping fees, erasing bike trails and sidewalks from road projects, firing DNR scientists and refusing federal funds to help poor people obtain health insurance - - all in the name of fiscal restraint also termed "crap" by a GOP legislator - - but, by God, there shall be a new, $200 million palace built on Madison's West side for state transportation officials and their client road-builders who write politicians nice checks.

And to make sure this new WisDOT facility is built, GOP legislators are adding to the budget a provision that exempts the project from City of Madison zoning codes.

So to Madison, it's the same sort of raised, no-local-control middle finger that the budget-writers gave Dane County when they slipped language into the proposed budget taking away county participation in water policy-making development decisions.

It's not a coincidence that the Madison and Dane County-only budget provisions will aid privileged developers who have somehow managed to get an inside track to these big-dollar troughs.

Let's see who ends up with the contracts and development rights made easier by Walkerites who are writing for the winners a special set of easy rules.

As I wrote almost two years ago, to the day:
Any investigative reporter worth his or her salt will watch carefully who 'wins' the choice Hill Farms site on Madison's prosperous West Side once WisDOT is moved out to its unneeded, but oh, so illustrative new digs. 
Small government for everyone except you and your big projects, Road-building/Government Complex.  
Remember, Walker is about to get the right to sell any state asset to the bidder of his choice - - without competitive, public bids - - needing only a deferential thumbs-up from obeisant Joint Finance Committee majority.

As to Walker and the DNR, why not just fire everybody?

He said he wanted a DNR with a "chamber of commerce mentality," so now that the big layoffs he's budgeted there against agency pointy-heads (scientists) could have an even more expansive domino effect, why doesn't he just let every go except Cathy Stepp's smiley-faced PR people and transfer  them to the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce fortress just down W. Washington Ave. where they can write news releases like "Phosphorus and weeds make our trout streams greener" and "Abandoned open-pit mines someday make cool swimming holes."

And when the feds come in to enforce the US Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act, Walker can yammer about big government.

A win-win for him, which these days is all that matters to him.

Fresh WI GOP budget assault on WI bike transportation brewing

There is apparently a move underway by GOP legislators to insert language in the budget that would end the use of state funding, or federal funding passed through the state to localities, for various pedestrian and bike projects and trails.

The popular Henry Aaron State Trail that has been integral to the revival of the Milwaukee River Valley received such support.

Bikes and pedestrians mitigate traffic congestion and road use, and also attract tourists, as has the successful Interurban project in Ozaukee County, and WisDOT touts may similar projects over the last twenty-some years.

The projects also add a bit of balance to the far bigger highway budgets.

Legislators who do not represent big cities often do not appreciate the extent of non-vehicle commuting and recreation. These legislators 'thinking' is: if localities want these facilities, they have to pay 100% of the coset - - though state-imposed spending caps make that outcome difficult-to-impossible, and no such one-dimensional approach is required when a street or highway expansion is planned.

Walker's budget already repeals the Complete Streets Act, which called for the addition of bike lanes or sidewalks on street projects above a certain expenditure level; the potential prohibition of spending on separate bike or pedestrian trails extends this one-sided 'transportation' model in Wisconsin.

One more thing? Will Walker and the GOP's anger at former Trek executive Mary Burke ever subside for her audacious 2014 campaign challenge to Walker?

Remember the good old days, when everyone in Wisconsin - - Walker included - - lauded Trek and the biking it fostered?

Righty candidate sugarcoats harsh government mandate

Scott Walker - - he of the preposterous grasp for that which he is intellectually and emotionally unprepared to manage - - somehow does not understand the difference between the altogether voluntary ultrasound images he and his wife obtained during her pregnancies that produced their two sons to medically-unnecessary and politically-inspired and physically invasive ultrasound images he and his far-right cohorts are legislating through the power government on women whose constitutional right to an abortion Walker & Co. are continuing arbitrarily to abridge.

Walker says intrusive ultrasounds are "cool."

Not when partisan politicians demand that women undergo them.

Will new EPA rule protect more Wisconsin streams?

Some Wisconsin waters and their sources are already under assault, like the Little Plover river as documented by the River Alliance of Wisconsin - -
- - and the state under Walker is enabling the release of weed-producing phosphorus pollution into Wisconsin waterways - -
weed and algae growth in Wisconsin waters (c) Will Stites

I'm hoping there is relief on the way through a new rule announced by the US Environmental Protection Agency under the Federal Clean Water Act after years of studies and meetings.

Resistance by Walker's "chamber of commerce mentality" Department of Natural Resources, which along with his Public Service Commission, is already fighting new EPA clean air standards.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Stem ballooning WI business tax credits

Another important posting from the always-informative Wisconsin Budget Project. One chart tells the story.

Walker would take WI even faster to low-wage basement

So basically, we're looking at a low-wage, sparse growth, class-defined Wisconsin - - via state power, again.

Not content with obstructing any increase in the Wisconsin $7.25/hr. absolute minimum of minimum wage, and cutting public employees take-home pay and capping raises at 1% through Act 10, and signing the blue-collar wage-depressing 'right-to-work' law he said would never reach his desk (wink, wink), he's now on board (wink, wink 2.0) with signing a proposed repeal of so-called prevailing wage legislation that guarantees big project workers a living wage - - another measure he'd recently said wasn't a priority for him.

All that's left is a declaration of love for working people.

Oh, wait, he basically did that already.

Breaking news: You may not need no stupid teaching license in WI

Forget mail-order diplomas or counterfeit credentials: just about anyone might soon be your Wisconsin kid's teacher, even that guy you knew who quit school in 10th grade to sell weed or go find himself, if a major policy shift one GOP legislator has slipped in the proposed state budget wins partisan approvals soon.

Frther subtext - - professional teachers and their unions can go F themselves, and I don't mean give themselves a failing grade.

For the love of these WI Republicans!

When I hear people like Alberta Darling invoking Scott Walker's "love" for Wisconsin, or Walker proclaiming his "love" for the poor, I remember that some displays of love are best aired privately.

Enjoy and preserve Milwaukee's miles of public lakefront

Thank the 19th-20th century Socialists for keeping this in the public domain. Be its advocate.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Give Alberta Darling a coveted OrwellianSpeak Award

The long-time GOP State Senator from tony River Hills, and current co-chair of the legislature's budget-writing committee- - 
Darling alberta.jpg
- - produced this awe-inspiring rhetorical gem when explaining why Republicans either bounced their Leader Scott Walker for cause from the Board Chairmanship of his scandal-ridden WEDC jobs agency, or granted his wish to expeditiously skedaddle  - - either way freeing him from WEDC's toxicity as his preposterous run for The White House leaves Wisconsin behind:
"I think he loves Wisconsin so much that he felt that if some of the members on the board feel like the group would be better off if he would not be the chair ... I'd say that's leadership on his part," said Joint Finance Committee co-chair Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Falls. "He feels that he is a factor that's not contributing to constructive dialogue, and he knows that chemistry has has to be changed. I give him credit for doing it, so let's see what happens."

Noted 'non-candidate' not sure if he'll not run in FL

Walker, always strategerizing about things other than done-with-Wisconsin on his mind.

You want another example of his full on feinting? Try this explanation by Walker that he didn't flip-flop when he changed his positions on the immigration issue, because only legislators who take votes and change their positions can be said to have done the flip.

Really? I'd rate that a full self-serving full gainer.

I wonder if PolitiFact agrees, since it has often rated Walker's half-flips or full flops. Here are his 2015 flip.flop ratings, of which there are six.

About Texas, weather extremes and political extremists

As Texas goes from killer drought to killer rain and floods, how will the state's two right-wing climate change - denying GOP presidential hopefuls - - Ted Cruz and Rick Perry - - deal with the facts and reality on the soaked, sad and shattered ground?

Pity those helpless WI GOP Legislative 'leaders'

Like Walker who wasn't pushing union-bashing, wage-depressing 'right-to-work legislation,' but, big sigh, signed it anyway, GOP legislative leaders want you to believe that there's nothing they can do to control those darn kids in the caucus back benches who want to repeal a related law that sets a living wage for workers on major projects.

Jeepers: What's a powerless GOP legislative 'leader' to do?

Virginia Small champions Milwaukee's O'Donnell Park

Nice op-ed in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by one of the tenacious defenders of O'Donnell Park between the downtown and the lakefront. A good reminder that public assets are under attack in Wisconsin these days, so here's a salute to the people who respect the land and intend to make sure it's there for the next generations to enjoy and pass along, too.

As Small writes:
I happened to be in O'Donnell Park on a recent Saturday afternoon and was struck by the many clusters of people taking photographs of each other from various vantage points. I've witnessed that before, but the park was especially full of shutterbugs and strollers, despite fog almost completely obscuring the view of the Calatrava's outstretched white wings...
I'm glad that the Milwaukee Art Museum wants to preserve O'Donnell Park and to protect the assets that especially serve museum visitors: its grand view, convenient parking and access from E. Wisconsin Ave. across the park plaza and bridge...Our local economy, especially tourism, depends on having such a compelling public place. It deserves better care and respect for its value...
Next time you're downtown, consider stopping by O'Donnell Park. Check out the picture-perfect views, which are ever-changing with the weather and time of day, and see who is enjoying Milwaukee's extraordinary town plaza.

Monday, May 25, 2015

About GOP hopefuls, righty columnist Kathleen Parker talks studliness

Is May is the cruelest month? Wisconsinites will immediately note the omission to the column headline question about how the GOP should choose which candidates get to take the debate stage - - "Who's the studdliest of them all?"
...why not just select our senior superlatives the way we did in high school? Who is something-est — the tallest, handsomest, smartest, wittiest, friendliest, cutest, nicest, toughest, most likely to succeed and, not least, most likely to attract about 40% of the Hispanic vote? 
Oh, and who can beat Hillary Clinton? Lest I be a spoiler, I'll let you fill in the blanks. I'd be willing to bet that the superlatives selected will be the 10 contestants — I mean, candidates — appearing on the big stage come August. Hints: Jeb Bush is 6-feet-3; Marco Rubio and Bush speak Spanish fluently; Ted Cruz speaks Spanglish; and Mike Huckabee is pretty funny.

Doctors Lazich, Walker practice medicine, soft-pedal rape, incest

Plus, Wisconsin taxpayers are about to waste a lot more money on legal fees, but the only thing that matters to far-right GOP office holders is pandering to their base voters. I grant that it's a serious and sensitive issue, but it looks awfully partisan and timed to fit with Walker's Iowa caucus agendas.

GOP now a subsidiary to Koch brothers party

Solar site at Milwaukee County's airport? Good thing Walker is gone as Co. Exec.

Our anti-solar Governor in servitude to the Koch brothers, ALEC-defined fossil fuel policies would no doubt have squashed this green, cleaner-air opportunity and proven modern technology on Milwaukee County property.
A proposed 5-acre solar energy farm at Mitchell International Airport took one step forward this month with a consultant's report showing there are a dozen open spaces large enough for a broad array of sun-tracking panels that would not interfere with aviation or traffic control.
If the project is built, Mitchell Airport would join as many as 70 airports in the U.S. with solar farms, the consultant's report says.
More on our status as an anti-solar 'leader' is contained in a recent industry newsletter, here:
Gov. Walker has made much throughout his tenure of supporting business interests and proclaiming Wisconsin is “open for business.” He has also been closely associated with conservative, pro-business organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Americans for Prosperity
Such groups frequently work against renewable energy on the national and state levels, presumably influenced by their close ties with the fossil fuel industry. In an interview this summer, ALEC’s new CEO, Lisa Nelson, named Walker a model for promoting limited government, and applauded him for promoting “growth and competition.”

Ugly data show Wisconsin at cusp of zero-growth

A couple of days, when analyzing policies of Walkerite Republicans that make Wisconsin unattractive, I'd written:
It would not surprise me if Wisconsin's population gain slows or plateaus as a result of these punitive, small-minded and overtly hostile GOP programs, guaranteeing Wisconsin's long-term status as a low-wage, slow-to-no-new job growth entrepreneurial and lifestyle backwater.
So make sure you read to the bottom of this long, chart-illustrated story posted Sunday by the Madison Capital Times to find the population change statewide from 2013-2014: a gain of 0.25%

A quarter of one percent.

A quick Google survey finds, for example, that Indiana's growth at 0.51%, was twice Wisconsin's, as was Iowa's.

And, yes, we're doing better than Michigan, though given Michigan's complex problems related to the US auto industry, that hardly makes Wisconsin look like Nirvana.

Now I know that there a lot of factors involved, including birth and death rates, but I haven't heard anyone in the Walker administration touting a population growth rate of one-quarter of one percent as proof that people and employers are flocking to a state recently described as hollowed-out.

They could actually spin it this way: it's a better number than other years of clear-cut out-migration during the Walker administration, but that strategy is similar to Walker's spinning that redefines his failure to create the promised 250,000 new jobs as a -so-called success because about half that number were added on his watch. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

In Wisconsin, the Tiffany is not a gem

There was a time not that long ago that it would have been bad form in Wisconsin politics to be as openly subservient to special interests as is State Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, and this added, under-the-table example involving private timber cutting in state forests on top of his water carrying for Scott Walker, or conservative State Supreme Court justices, or wolf-for-sport hunters, or iron and sand mining interests - - here, or here, or here- - shows that Wisconsin under the GOP's complete control is now wide open for political business that undermines - - no pun intended - - core democratic, citizen-focused governance.

Scott Walker facts little known outside Wisconsin

Updated continuously from Saturday, 3/21:

* Walker says women the state will force to undergo mandatory. medically-unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds in pursuit of their constitutional right to an abortion should view it as a "cool" thing because he and his wife Tonette liked looking at the ultrasound images shown them when she was pregnant.

* Wink, wink - - for the second time involving wage-reducing legislation - - Walker agrees to sign an anti-labor bill he'd previously said was of no interest to him. 

* Walker has been removed from the board and chairmanship of a floundering job-creation agency he established in 2011 after a second, scathing state audit and investigative reporting found more bad loans and evidence of political influences.

One bad loan is getting a lot of attention, but there are others, and all stem from a lack of oversight, professionalism and non-partisan management.

* Media are catching on to the contradictions, gaps and falsehoods in Walker's narrative. Here is one list of links to important stories.

* Walker's Revenue Department confirms state's slow jobs growth; national rate is 50% higher, data show.

* Walker's 'no-photo-op' trip to Israel - - how words - - turning into the predictable photo op trip, with Walker himself posting campaign-style photos on his Twitter feed, with his initials that signal he's the one using it. A classic example of having to decode Walker to see the facts.

Another damning audit that found the job-creating agency Walker chairs and created to produce evidence he could successfully add employment in Wisconsin had failed to follow state law, document jobs created, track loans, and otherwise properly manage millions of public dollars - - state and federal.
He stalked the stage and wowed the crowd at an Iowa Tea Party event less than two months ago and climbed so fast on the right wing's depth chart that before you could get a fix on Scott Walker, The New York Times was reporting he'd already had a makeover.

But you out there beyond Wisconsin - - what do you really know about the guy, and the faux, 'Regular Joe' line he's touting nationally?

[4/25 - - Most recent update: Under Walker, Wisconsin has fallen to 40th among the states in job growth and 42nd in wage growth.]

 - - Adding a link to a comprehensive legal and financial investigative report on Walker by Michael Isikoff, Yahoo News, here.

Here are a few fun facts you outsiders might not know about Walker that Wisconsinites have learned the hard way:

About those emails:

*  Though he ripped Hillary Clinton for using a private email account, records show that Walker, his campaign staff and his official Milwaukee County staff also used a private email account in 2010 while he was Milwaukee County Executive.

The system ran through a private Internet router that was installed, used and then removed from Walker's office suite by Walker county staffers who were later convicted of felonious behavior that came to light after the secret system was discovered.

"Emails link Walker to secret email system," The Journal Sentinel headline and story noted.

* A Walker campaign spokeswoman had said in an email found among records unearthed in the prosecutorial probe that led to six convictions that the system served the campaign, or "the dark side;" a senior Walker county/taxpayer-paid administrator who said at the time she used the system to communicate with Walker and others also welcomed a since-convicted Walker aide to the system's "inner circle" and urged the aide to check the system often, records showed.

*  Records discovered in that investigation showed Walker and his 2010 gubernatorial campaign staff strategized to deflect from Walker, or the County, any potential responsibility for the fatal collapse of a 26,000-pound concrete slab at a county-owned-and-maintained parking garage built prior to Walker's election as County Executive in 2002.

* Separately, but in the same internal procedural vein, Walker, his campaign and his county staff worked to block the release of news about the filing of a federal civil rights lawsuit against the County by the family of a female patient who starved to death in the county's mental health complex. Emails also show a senior Walker county aide demeaning the victim.

* Walker's County chief of staff and the deputy chief of staff exchanged racist emails.

One of those emails echoed a racist posting found separately by federal authorities in official email accounts in Ferguson, Missouri. 

About The Tea Party:

*  While potential Walker rivals like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and others are routinely labeled "Tea Party" candidates, Walker is not, though he told CNN in 2013, "I am the original Tea Party in Wisconsin."

About truth-telling:

*  As of March 22, 2015, the Journal Sentinel's fact-checking service PolitiFact has examined 130 Walker statements. His most frequent rating is "false," totaling thirty-five, and added to ten more rated the most-dishonest, or "pants on fire," those forty-five findings are exactly triple the fifteen Walker statements rated fully "true."

* Sometimes Walker's mistakes are so ridiculous, so devoid of factual citation or foundation ridiculous that they sound like talk radio or bar talk.

*  Sometimes they are laughably infused with Walker's penchant for finger-pointing, like this example of a costly program Walker blamed on his predecessor, Jim Doyle, when the prpgram had actually been created by Doyle's predecessor, Republican Tommy Thompson - - with an affirmative vote cast by then-State Rep. Scott Walker.

* During large protests in and around the State Capitol building in Madison that gathered after Walker's sudden legislative initiative to strip public employees statewide of nearly all collective bargaining opportunities, Walker was taped saying he had considered planting provocateurs in the crowd. He did proceed not with the plan - - not because it was wrong, or illegal - - but because he was afraid that resulting negative media might force him compromise with the protesters, the transcript shows.

He made the disclosure, among other unsavory examples, to a blogger who had pretended on the call to be the right-wing funder David Koch whom Walker was eager to impress.

* Walker frequently tells national audiences various accounts of protesters having blocked, rocked, beaten on his state police-driven vehicle and endangered his life during an appearance in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Yet exhaustive efforts by La Crosse and Milwaukee media to document the episode - - from interviews, records searches and even the use of Google Earth - - have all failed.

His campaign-related autobiography "Unintimidated" also tells the story, and also recounts Walker reading to his staff a Top Ten list of ways you can spot a public employee, including:

It takes longer to fire you than the average killer spends on death row...You know by having a copy of the Holy Koran on your desk your job is 100% safe...You have a Democratic congressman’s lips permanently attached to your butt.
About creating jobs:

*  Walker promised repeatedly during his 2010 and 2012 gubernatorial campaigns that he and his conservative fiscal plans would create 250,000 private sector jobs in Wisconsin after one term in office. 

In September, 2014, following a string of disappointing official reports of slow, sluggish job growth in Wisconsin on Walker's watch, PolitiFact rated it a "promise broken."

*  In mid-March, 2015, as Walker was criss-crossing the country and claiming to have turned Wisconsin around, federal data was released showing Wisconsin's job-creation ranking among the states had fallen during the last full year analyzed to 40th place from 31st, with new jobs added at one-half the national rate.

* Numerous articles have been written about neighboring Minnesota's far better economy and job creation record during Walker's four years in office. There was recent testimony in the Wisconsin Legislature during its rush to pass so-called 'right-to-work' legislation that the bill - - now law through Walker's sudden change of heart about it - - would add to Wisconsin's relatively high bankruptcy filing total.

*  After his 2011 inauguration, Walker, touting the private sector model, abolished the Wisconsin Department of Commerce and replaced it with a public-private corporation, which he chairs, called the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, or WEDC. The job of the WEDC was to centralize state resources - - loans, grants, tax credits, federal pass-throughs, etc. - - for Wisconsin job-creation.

Since its beginnings, WEDC has been plagued by negative audits, multiple resignations by executive directors and chief financial officers, loans made inappropriately or beyond the ability of regulators to track them. A summary post is here

A Madison television station reported that 60% of WEDC loans went to Walker or GOP donors, and also reported that some WEDC financial aid went to businesses for job creation overseas.

Now, in late March, that focus has intensified.

* To make an ideological point in 2011, while also dissing President Obama and out-going Democratic WI Gov. Jim Doyle, Walker forfeited $800 million in Amtrak expansion funding to build a fast Midwest regional train line connecting Milwaukee and Madison, the state's two largest cities.

* Walker's stance cost Wisconsinites thousands of rail line construction jobs over three years, has isolated the University of Wisconsin-Madison from rail connections to the University of Minnesota and all of Chicago, forced the closing of a train assembly plant and maintenance facility in a low-income, predominantly African-American Milwaukee neighborhood and transferred hundreds of millions of federal dollars in rail line and train assembly funding to other states, principally Illinois. A detailed posting about it all, here.

5/13 update: 

* To keep its budget balanced, as the law requires, the state recently skipped debt payments, remains far behind the national job growth rate, leads the country is a shrinking middle-class and is hardly a model of success as Walker continually claims:

National media, state reporters and all opinion-makers who respect solid numbers over campaign rhetoric should acknowledge and spread widely the recent official economic forecast for the state released by the Scott Walker's cabinet-level Wisconsin Department of Revenue.

It says, among other fact-based conclusions:

Wisconsin employment will grow 1.5% in 2015, while the national employment increases 2.3%. 
So the US jobs growth rate will exceed the Wisconsin rate by 50%.

Several charts in the same report at the same site go into greater detail, but there's no way Walker can continue to sell, as he continues to spin out there nationally that the state's lagging job growth makes Wisconsin under his leadership a model to replicate.

Taken together with other recent findings, it's clear that Walker's trickle-down tax cuts have not stimulated business to create jobs here.

If his 'plan' had worked, the state would not have missed its budgetary revenue projection or found it necessary to skip more than $100 million in debt payments to keep its budget balanced, as the law requires.

Middle-class incomes are disappearing faster in Wisconsin than in any other state, non-partisan, independent data analysis is showing and Wisconsin's falling ratings measured against other states has repeatedly been documented.

About being "Midwestern nice:"

* While claiming to be "Midwestern nice," a label gifted him by a conservative talk radio host, Walker, as Governor, has:

Blocked any increase in the Wisconsin wage above the federal floor of $7.25 per hour; has said he sees no value in having a minimum wage altogether; is proposing in his current budget now under legislative review to reduce a person's lifetime receipt of public assistance in Wisconsin from five years, total, to four; is also proposing that all adult assistance recipients be required to take and pass a urine screening for drugs to receive food stamps or medicaid; has turned down available federal funding to expand medicaid coverage in Wisconsin even though the state has had to spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to fill just part of the gap; and is proposing to upend and privatize existing home-care assistance and treatment coverage for the long-term disabled. Many links, here.

* While Walker says potential rival Jeb Bush will have access to the most GOP money, business media refer to Walker now as "king of Kochworld," and Michael Grebe, the top official at the heavyweight, Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation has served as chairman of Walker's 2010 gubernatorial campaign, co-chair of Walker's transition team, and chairman of Walker's successful 2012 recall campaign committee.

About some relationships with donors, and the environment:

*   4/25 update - - Seems the Koch brothers want to give Walker their $900,000,000 campaign fund.

*  Walker was among at least fifteen conservative activists and power brokers, including an official with the Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity, which met in 2007 somewhere "on the shores of Lake Michigan" to plan a GOP/Tea Party capture of Wisconsin, as has been reported, but not widely.

*  Walker signed the Koch brothers 'no climate change action' pledge in 2013.

*  Documents released by a Federal Court of Appeals in Chicago showed that Walker helped coordinate the donation of $700,000 from an iron mining company to a third-party, so-called independent group which he wanted to coordinate sympathetic messaging for his successful 2012 recall campaign and re-election. 

The iron mining company helped write a new iron mining law for Wisconsin that eased its ability to dig a massive open-pit iron mine in a water-rich range of hills in NW Wisconsin close to Lake Superior and very close to a Native American reservation where wild rice is grown on estuaries.

Walker had campaigned for the new mining bill and signed it into law. The mining plan has been suspended because the site contains even more water and wetlands than the company says it initially knew about, though a drop in iron ore prices, opposition from the nearby Ojibwa reservation, environmental and conservation-minded organizations were obstacles the mining plan could not overcome.

* One of Walker's very first actions as Governor spoke volumes about his approach to environmental protection. He got the Legislature to approve a special bill to suspend before completion an ongoing environmental review by the Department of Natural Resources so that one of his 2010 campaign donors - - a car dealer and developer - - could build a retail project for Bass Pro Shops, a destination fishing and outdoors retailer on a site that included a wetland close to Lambeau Field in Green Bay. 

Bass Pro Shops pulled out of the project when it became controversial, but once the wetland filling permission was granted by the Legislature and signed into law by Walker, Cabela's, another large outdoors merchandiser, built on the site.

* In the years that followed his inauguration, Walker installed what he called "a chamber-of-commerce mentality" atop the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, traditionally a science-based regulatory agency driven by citizen participation. Basically, Walker remade the DNR into something of a reconfigured Department of Commerce, of sorts, with a new business service division and pro-corporate attitude.

Through new laws, budgets and industry-friendly appointments, Walker cut the DNR staff, reduced citizen participation and policy oversight, and enabled relaxed agency pollution and reduced investigation and enforcement. The DNR is now selling 10,000 acres of public land and, with all state funds except for campaign and permit fees removed from parks operations in Walker's budget, the DNR may sell naming rights for the parks to corporate interests.

A summary posting, here.

About dropping out of college:

*  Much attention has been paid to Walker's departure from Marquette University before finishing his degree. Walker has said, variously, that he left school in his senior year, or a few credits short of graduation and did not return and finish his degree because he got married, then had children.

But PolitiFact established in a lengthy, setting-the-record-straight piece that Walker left Marquette in 1990 two credits short of attaining typical junior status. In 1988, Walker lost a hotly-contested race for student body president in which his campaign committee was sanctioned for rule violations.

Walker married in 1993, and his first child was born in 1994, by which time he had already run twice for the State Assembly (losing a run in the City of Milwaukee in 1990 to now-US Congresswoman Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee), before being elected to an assembly seat in a 1993 special election in the relatively-conservative Milwaukee suburb of the City of Wauwatosa, where he still lives.

About his faith:

* Media frequently note that Walker is the son of a Baptist preacher, which is correct. While the fact can efficiently help flesh out a Walker feature story, for the record - - Walker is a member of the non-denominational, Christian evangelical Meadowbrook Church, located in Wauwatosa.

Meadowbrook was founded in 1989 as one of thirteen "daughter," or spun-off, churches founded by Elmbrook Church, a fast-growing Christian, evangelical non-denominational mega-church in Waukesha County, according to its website.

* Walker says his faith has guided his life and decision-making. Here is one item, with an audio link to a Walker talk about it.

About the law:

*  Wisconsin is the land of famous environmentalists like John Muir, Aldo Leopold (Sand County Almanac), and Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson. Former Gov. Nelson shares with ex-GOP Governor Warren Knowles the founding inspiration of the state's signature, bi-partisan Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund, a public land acquisition and access program that reserves woodland, wetlands and shorelines for hikers, hunters and anglers.

But Walker, having already cut the program's funding, wants to suspend it through his new budget for thirteen years.

* He and his GOP allies changed Wisconsin wetlands law to make filling and encroachment easier. Developers openly crowed about their role in drafting the bill, even citing the behind-scenes work, and Walker signed the bill to a standing ovation at a  Realtors convention, the AP reported.

Walker served the same special interests when he backed legislation that severely restricted wind turbine citing in Wisconsin, while neighboring Iowa and Minnesota lead Wisconsin in green energy production and employment.

In fact, Walker's new budget which cuts early everything contains a fresh $250,000 to produce a 'study' proving that wind energy causes health problems. Somehow Iowa, Minnesota, Texas and other states have escaped the harm.

* Walker's DNR and Public Service Commission staffs now led by industry insiders or sympathizers are suing the US EPA over new federal clean air standards; Walker's DNR has stripped nearly all mention of climate change from its website and his current budget further reduces UW and DNR energy and environmental science. One posting, here with details.

* Walker's DNR is green-lighting the capacity expansion of a tar sands oil pipeline north-south across the entire state without a full environmental route of route, despite its proximity to Wisconsin farms and water supplies. To date, the DNR has only held a hearing on an air quality permit covering the firm's northern Wisconsin pumping station in Superior, WI, on the deepest of the Great Lakes shared with Canada, Lake Superior.

The pipeline, targeted to move more oil than the much-more-publicized Keystone XL, is owned by Enbridge, the same Canadian firm with a record of oil pipeline spills and construction damage in Wisconsin, Canada and other states

The New York Times put it this way: 

While the ire of environmental activists remains fixed on the Keystone XL pipeline, a potentially greater threat looms in the proposed expansion of Line 61, a pipeline running the length of Wisconsin carrying tar sands crude. The pipeline is owned by Enbridge, a $40 billion Canadian company, which has been responsible for several hundred spills in the past decade, including one in 2010 near Marshall, Mich., reportedly the largest and most expensive inland oil spill in American history. 
Enbridge is seeking to increase Line 61’s capacity threefold, making it a third larger than the projected Keystone XL. 
It is also same firm responsible for a catastrophic spill into the Kalamazoo River in neighboring Michigan that led to a one-billion-dollar-plus cleanup, the biggest inland spill event in US history. 

Walker made a campaign-style stop at the firm's northern Wisconsin pumping station in 2014 without mentioning the substantial environmental issues inherent in the pipeline expansion. 

* Walker supported an appeal to the US Supreme Court and won on March 23rd which approved Voter ID in state elections, but lost a separate bid to maintain state constitutional prohibitions against same-sex marriage. Both issues are staples of right-wing Republican and Tea Party ideology and agendas that use state power to disenfranchise and marginalize minority communities. 

* A bill he supported and signed into law that established onerous restrictions on Planned Parenthood clinics was blocked and slapped as unconstitutional by a federal judge in Wisconsin on Friday.

* Long before he began his pre-presidential campaigning, Walker had said that Diane Sykes, a very conservative federal appeals court judge in Chicago, would make a fine appointee of his to the US Supreme Court. were he ever President. 

Sykes, a former Wisconsin Supreme Court jurist, led a three-judge federal appeals court panel which ruled in favor of Wisconsin's controversial and restrictive Voter ID law, a Walker priority, only to see that ruling stayed by the US Supreme Court.

* As pressure mounted against the use of school and sports team logos, nicknames and mascots that Native Americans find degrading and offensive, Walker signed a bill into law that made it easier for Wisconsin schools to maintain and use such logos, nicknames and mascots. Walker said it was a First Amendment issue, a position castigated by experts.

* About all Wisconsin groups and individuals disrespected and manipulated for political reasons during Walker's term:

This one posting updated over the last half-year contains numerous links which catalog some of the aggrieved, fyi.

More later.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Federal $$ for dubious WI Highway 23 expansion blocked

[Updated 9:59 p.m.] This blog has been following for years the outrageous attempt to build a costly expansion of State Highway 23 connecting Fond du Lac and Plymouth - - posts, for example here, and here.

Now we are learning about a huge win in Federal court against the use of federal funds to pay for the Highway 23 project, so hat tip to 1000 Friends of Wisconsin - - and here is the group's news release about it - - for sticking with the issue.

And we really need to learn a lot more about how this $146 million boondoggle found its way into the budget and the so-called "enumeration" process about 15 years ago by which road projects in Wisconsin are selected, as this news story disclosed:

The U.S. Eastern District Court on Friday halted a road project that would have expanded Highway 23 into a four-lane highway between Fond du Lac and Plymouth... 
According to the 26-page court decision by District Judge Lynn Adelman, an environmental impact statement released by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation failed to justify higher traffic volumes or explain how recently updated demographic data (slower growth projections) might affect traffic projections...
An internal DOT email quoted in the ruling states: "This project was placed in the budget by a certain legislator. That legislator either got the project into the budget in a trade for support or something else ... given that it happened behind closed doors and outside the (Transportation Projects Commission) there are no rules."
Note also the similarities in the ruling to Judge Adelman's earlier rulings in cases involvingWisDOT and its deficient planning and spending on State Highway 164 west of Milwaukee and on I-94 expansion in the Zoo Interchange at the Milwaukee County/Waukesha County border where WisDOT left out transit improvements for low-income residents with access to cars.

Strong Green Bay op-ed on Walker's 'hollowing out WI'

This one by UW-GB business professor Meir Russ is a keeper:
The hollowing-out of Wisconsin predicted, the [Walker] policies accelerated the slide to a low-cost, low-wage economy while hurting the higher income portion of the population (the top 25 percentile) the most (relatively).
This would suggest that high-paying jobs are leaving Wisconsin either through attrition (retirement or downsizing) or migration, and are replaced by low-paying jobs. Add to that the fact that Wisconsin ranks highest in the nation on losing the middle class and 38th in new jobs creation; the picture is not pretty.
Now let's turn to education. Wisconsin ranks second in high school graduation but only 20th in higher education, 31st with advanced degrees, and 33rd with doctoral degrees. Further, Wisconsin is ranked 37th in state appropriations for higher education, and 47th in percentage growth in higher education spending. All of these rankings are prior to the new cuts suggested by the governor... 
Maybe the results of the first four years will change some minds in regards to the governor's budget proposals for public and higher education. If not, we will see in the next four years how much lower Wisconsin will go.

For your Scott Walker/People Are Catching On weekend update

[Updated 1l:50 Sunday.] We've done our due diligence on this blog by following Scott Walker's career, record and activities - - one summary posting with ongoing updates, among many, is here - - and it's good that traditional and digital media are looking to see what's really behind the curtain. Here are a few recent examples, and props to The Madison Capital Times for a dedicated Walker-watch page, and to Dee Hall at The Wisconsin State Journal - - and soon relocating - - for raising the bar:

The Washington Post.

New York Magazine.


The New Republic.

Los Angeles Times.

The New York Times.


The Chicago Tribune.

The Daily Beast.

National Review.

The Washington Post.

Mother Jones.

Raw Story.

Huffington Post.

Walker's WEDC tied to several troubled loans, practices

[Updated, 1:55 p.m.] Yes, there is a politically-tainted $500,000 bad loan in the news made by the state jobs agency Walker created and chairs, and yes, we are learning that the the agency - - Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, is now throwing six figure sums of the public's money at private lawyers to try and collect the debt - - but it's hardly the only loan or internal practice about which questions have been raised and documented.

I point you to this 2012 story:

MADISON (WKOW) -- The chief financial officer of the state's flagship jobs agency resigned, as state leaders vowed better accounting practices, after the agency lost track of more than $7 million in unpaid loans.
This second of two 2014 WEDC postings on the same day:
Working my way through the full text of the jaw-dropping state audit of the operations at the Scott Walker-conceived-and-created Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. 
Virtually every page documents an agency not meeting rules, standards or law or failing to provide documentation, accurate data or procedural follow-through - - as state funds were disbursed willy-nilly.
Or this 2014 story: 
One of the high profile companies to receive backing from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. is again delinquent on its loans with the state. 
Superior-based Kestrel Aircraft Company — a firm touted by Gov. Scott Walker as an example of his business recruitment efforts — hasn’t made any payment on its $4 million in loans since October. It is supposed to pay $6,600 monthly and is now over $26,000 in arrears.
And this 2014 story: 
MADISON (WKOW) -- A liberal advocacy group reports that nearly 60 percent of the financial assistance money awarded by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) has gone to businesses whose owners or employees have donated money to the campaign of Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) or the Republican Governors Association (RGA)...
One Wisconsin Now found that 192 donors associated with businesses receiving WEDC grants donated a total of just over $1 million directly to Gov. Walker's campaign and another $1.1 million to the RGA.  The RGA is a special interest group that spent $13 million to help get Gov. Walker elected in 2010 and then defeat the recall effort in 2012.
One Wisconsin Now reports that $570 million of the $975 million in funds awarded by the state's leading economic development agency went to the companies of those donors.
(Disclosure: I sit on the One Wisconsin Now C-3 board but was not involved in the group's work on the WEDC portfolio.)