Thursday, October 8, 2015

WisDOT, allies holding motorists, communities as tax-and-spend hostages

You have to see through the game, people. First the road-builders' trade association comes in with its doomsday list of project delays, and now WisDOT expands the list to 225?

Where were all these people and works-ending numbers during the budget?

You give WisDOT more money, and they will keep over-building an already over-built system when fewer millenials and seniors will be driving.

And making more demands in the future, for more lanes, more repairs, more patrolling, more plowing.

Don't play the game.

And make the tax-and-spend big-borrowers own all the tax-increase politics if the decision at the Capitol is to give the government-roadbuilder complex more money.

Imagine! The US government built Greendale, WI, other green communities

This far-sighted planning and building took place before the Reaganites defined government as the problem, before conservatives went to Washington as they do now just to shut it down.

And one of those so-called greenbelt communities was Greendale, Wisconsin, which people still appreciate, The Journal Sentinel discovers.

Noted here with a certain irony.

Know your history, Bucky:
Greendale Village Hall
Village hall in green, walkable Greendale, WI

Anti-government party can't find leader anti-government enough

Another GOP dropout.

Fat in the Zoo Interchange project? Shocking!

Who'd have thunk it?

Walker says the state can squeeze money out of the $1.7 billion project, and since transit was never included, what's in it for which the state and road-builders had contracted that's now expendable?

Greenhouse gas emissions continually excessive, data show

Just so you know, the upper atmosphere safety limit for carbon dioxide is 350 parts per million and that level has been passed consistently since 1988, data show

A website that publishes the data has the most recent reading, below. 

The US does not have a comprehensive plan to reduce these emissions, and Wisconsin and other states run by conservatives are fighting achievable, modest efforts by the federal government to make the air cleaner and healthier by reducing the release of climate-changing carbon dioxide.

This Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources webpage which links to the data below, and which says "Climate change is mainly the result of rising CO2 levels in Earth´s atmosphere," hasn't been updated for 17 months.

Another DNR webpage on climate change has not been updated for 40 months, and had much of its links and information scrubbed more than three years ago.

Wisconsin is also obstructing transit, rail services, and cleaner power generation, including wind and solar sources.
Atmospheric CO2 data and trend

DC converting sewerage sludge into electricity

Waste not, want not.

The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District already converts some treated waste into fertilizer, and pipes in landfill methane gas from Menomonee Falls to help run its Jones Island facility, but its Washington, DC counterpart has taken the resource conversion on step further - - creating fuel for electric power generation.

Fascinating story in The Washington Post.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Journal Sentinel to become a Gannett operation

Independent media farther and farther in the rear view mirror. Too much one-corporation control, Bucky:
Journal Sentinel near deal to be sold to Gannett Company: Wall Street Journal

Corporate WI sends Legislature well water control demands

A pretty stunning memo was sent last week by multiple trade groups and corporate special interests to the State Legislature in advance of today's hearing about the fast-tracked Wisconsin water giveaway bill I wrote about yesterday that puts groundwater and downstream users' access in private hands.

(Hap tip to the Malcontends blog for pulling back the curtain on how bills become law and pointing readers to the memo.)

The bold, hand-delivered memo, its bold-faced language and the weighty array of powerful logos at the top tell the story:

An urgent communication to all Wisconsin legislators 
We are at a crossroads. It is imperative that the legislature assert its authority and bring certainty and sanity to the regulation of new and existing high capacity wells in Wisconsin. 
However, we cannot accept any legislation that would create new, stifling regulations or establish regulatory uncertainty as to how DNR and the state will approach new well applications moving forward. 
Among the coalition's "solutions" - - 
Clarification of the public trust doctrine consistent with the Supreme Court's Rock- Koshkonong decision 
More about that here, but it's clear that what industry wants is primacy over state waters and decisions about who gets it.

The big red flag:

The organizations are targeting and want the Legislature to do the same and remake The Public Trust Doctrine, an historic principle of water law enshrined as Article IX of the Wisconsin State Constitution that guarantees the public's rights to water access and enjoyment, and has been interpreted to mean that the DNR's first obligation in conflicts over water is to protect the public's rights.

You can read about it, here: Wisconsin's Waters Belong to Everyone.

Front-and-center among the topics and posts about water in Wisconsin has been the relentless attack by the right on behalf of business

I wrote this two years ago, and based on the more recent history and the memo above, I'd say it's happening. Right now:
Ultimate GOP Environmental Target in Wisconsin is The Public Trust Doctrine
There is a principle in state law and history known as the Public Trust Doctrine. Though awkwardly titled, it's crucial to Wisconsin's appeal by guaranteeing everyone here the right to access and enjoy all waters in the state.

The Public Trust Doctrine dates to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 - - long before Wisconsin statehood - - and is etched as Article IX in the Wisconsin State Constitution.

You can read about it on a DNR website, here.

But this basic Wisconsin birthright remains under continuous assault by Gov. Walker, Republican legislators, business groups and even short-sighted judges.

And you don't have to be a water expert of political scientist to see that removing the Public Trust Doctrine from the state constitution, or watering it down to insignificance is atop the GOP's conservative and anti-conservation agenda.

The evidence:

*  Wetlands preservation statewide has already been weakened through sweetheart legislation at the behest of developers and real estate interests. Walker signed the February, 2012 that allowing more encroachment into wetlands at a convention of cheering Realtors.

*  Even earlier, Walker had sent three signals that Wisconsin's waters and wetlands were open to pollution, weakened regulation or outright draining and filling:

He blocked rules designed to keep toxic phosphorus out of state waters, supported a special bill to let a developer fill a 12-acre wetland near Lambeau Field and signed a measure ending the requirement that all municipalities install water system disinfecting and testing equipment.

*  Walker is helping to extend years of delays that have allowed a large, coal-burning Lake Michigan ferry to dump overboard 3.8 tons of coal ash every day of its Manitowoc-to-Ludington, MI sailing season. 

*  Thousands of northern Wisconsin acres rich in water resources are about to be cordoned off, and then - - if Walker and his legislative allies get their way - - blasted apart and cleared for an open-pit mine that will leak acidic drainage across the Bad River watershed at the edge of Lake Superior from layers of dynamited sulfide-bearing rock.

DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp set aside the traditional honest-broker role of agency chief and backed the passage of the mining bill, then took to right-wing AM talk radio when the bill faced an initial defeat for a partisan rant.

*  The DNR is so anxious to shrug off its neutrality, let alone the resource protection advocacy assigned to it my Public Trust Doctrine responsibilities and legal precedents that it is not contesting a Waukesha County lower court ruling that blocks the agency from opening a large lake to public access as the Public Trust Doctrine mandates.

The agency has its own legal staff and the Attorney General's team at its disposal, but the attitude is, 'gee, our hands are tied.'

The DNR even gave kid gloves treatment to a politically-connected septic waste hauler who dumped too much human waste on farm fields near residential wells. 

*  Likewise, the DNR is not fighting for Public Trust guaranteed groundwater protections. Instead our deliberately-passive DNR with the "chamber-of-commerce mentality" that Walker installed at the top is intentionally enabling large water users, including industrial-scale dairies and scores of new frac sand mines.

*  The same DNR that says it really doesn't have any power to protect water rights in the public interest is busy working to give shoreline builders more construction "flexibility" - - or as others call it - - a greater water rights "give-away." 

Both Stepp and her deputy, Matt Moroney, came from the building industry.

*  And the Walkerites - - both at the top of the DNR, in corporations and at lobbying groups across the state - - will be emboldened by a recent 4-3 State Supreme Court ruling written by big business captive David Prosser that will help the DNR further retreat from strong Public Trust Doctrine implementation.

On behalf of big business, donors and the private sector, Walker and his allies are draining the Public Trust Doctrine's effectiveness from the state constitution, or about to launch a full frontal assault as they discussing with constitutionally-defined voting rights.

Either way, those are our water rights being sold down the river. 

In Wisconsin, little conserved by radical conservatives

Conservatives have been in control of Wisconsin government for given away or sold off early five years, but little is being conserved - and I don't just mean the renewable energy programs being obstructed or the state lands and public water being sold off or given away to the highest or best-connected bidder:

*  Just weeks after signing his budget, Gov. Walker wants to add to that spending by borrowing another $350 million to pay for road projects that were begun without a financing plan or real dollars in hand to pay for them.

That's like intentionally over-spending your earnings, binging on your credit card, then running up a fresh balance on new cards and expecting your friends and family to make the payments.

And it's nothing new in Wisconsin, with the seeds of this current over-spending having been planted in 2003.

* Millions of dollars in job-creating loans and grants have been thrown away by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation without basic vetting of companies, and Accounting 101 tracking  of companies that didn't create their promised jobs.

*  The same kind of loosey-goosey staffing and management practices that put politics over professionalism at WEDC will be installed across state government if conservatives have their way with the sudden killing of civil service they are now rushing through the Legislature.

You'd think after the fiasco that is WEDC, the last thing conservatives would get behind is the further reduction of accountability in state hiring and the public spending the hires oversee.

*  And speaking of accountability, the conservatives want to upend the Government Accountability Board by exchanging non-partisan oversight of lobbying, campaign financing and ethics for partisan direction.

Accountability, transparency, fiscal restraint and by-the-books government spending are principles worth conserving.

Everybody gets that except the phony conservatives running the show.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Given the potholes, more big-project WI road-building is crazy

How about supporting transit, and fixing what we have before sucking up again to the road-builders and adding more highway lanes?

Millennials are declining car ownership and boomers are moving away from car-dependent 'burbs for walkable, transit-served neighborhoods.

The last thing Wisconsin needs is more debt to pay for unnecessary highway lanes that will soon require their own maintenance, plowing, patrolling - - and eventual expansion.

Hearings on WI water giveaway bills begin Wednesday

Readers of this blog know its principal environmental focus is the endangered state of Wisconsin's waters.

The culprit isn't climate change or bad luck.

We're facing a wholly-unnecessary crisis created by conservative politicians and their industry-obeisant bureaucrats who are working hard and effectively in lockstep with donors and other friends to grant special interest favorsundo pollution regulations, end guarantees of vital and fair downstream water sharing and eliminate citizen ownership and management of live-affirming and public waters.

And special interests have helped elect a favorable judiciary in Wisconsin and writes its conflict-of-interest rules.

In a nutshell, the state is about to change the laws to give big water users permanent permission to pump out groundwater without regard to downstream rivers, lakes, streams or wells, and we, the people, will not be able to do much about it.

I am posting this link to information presented by River Alliance of Wisconsin about a crucial hearing tomorrow in Madison where one of these outrageous bills will have a hearing, and also about another bad bill soon be aired:
This Wednesday, October 7th at 2:30pm, SB239 introduced by Senator Rick Gudex will have a hearing before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Small Business and Tourism. This bill does nothing to fix the the growing groundwater crisis in the state, including problems many property owners in the Central Sands are facing due to groundwater over-pumping.
This afternoon, a third groundwater bill was introduced by Senator Rob Cowles that will make major changes to groundwater law in Wisconsin. The bill may get a hearing in the Senate Natural Resources and Energy as soon as next week. We are currently analyzing this bill and will be sharing our analysis with you this week.
River Alliance opposes SB239. Providing the necessary tools to ensure adequate access to groundwater for Wisconsin's industry and citizenry should be a priority for this Legislature.SB239 does not achieve this goal. Instead, the bill will end the only existing opportunity that DNR has to review and adjust water use permits in order to address problems. 
Currently, DNR's authority to review and adjust a high capacity well approval is limited to instances of a transfer, replacement, or reconstruction of a well. This is the only real opportunity to address over-pumping when there is a groundwater shortage since high capacity well permits never expire. SB239 removes this critical review opportunity altogether.
By taking away the only chance for any real review of water use, SB239 essentially creates a permanent permit for water use. Instead of providing solutions for the water challenges facing our state, SB239 cements the problems in place with no chance for a resolution. How is this responsible stewardship of water?
Here's what one Wisconsin River - - The Little Plover - - which belongs to all the people of the state has looked like recently when groundwater is over-pumped; this is just the beginning if these bills become law. (River Alliance of Wisconsin photos)


Luther Olsen rocks road-building, earns quote of the day

[Updated Tuesday 9:16] The GOP state senator from Ripon, WI has had it with WisDOT excess and channels Led Zeppelin to make his point:

"I don't care if they're building a highway to heaven. I don't support using (general obligation) bonds to do it," said Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon), who sits on the budget committee.
On the other hand, a reader suggests AC/DC, given the potholed and crumbled state of our roads, makes for a better comparison. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

WI DOA official moves to WI DNR senior staff

Industry wins again, and the shuffle at the DNR continues, according to an email which staff received today (below) from Secretary Cathy Stepp (and note the impact of the administration's record on phosphorus, an issue she brought up.

Act 378 which Stepp touts unwound years of negotiated progress on phosphorus controls, and added potential decades through variances to effectively confronting and stemming phosphorus pollution  - - a weakened regulatory change which industry wanted - - though others have said phosphorus is the biggest runoff polluter of Wisconsin waters.

Like I said, industry wins again at the 'chamber of commerce mentality' DNR.

By the way, here's the bigger picture.

Now Stepp's email:
Good afternoon everybody!  I’m extremely pleased to announce our new Deputy Assistant Secretary, Ed Eberle. I have personally worked with Ed in his current role as Administrator of Division of Intergovernmental Relations over at DOA, and have long admired him.
He will bring with him 20 years of knowledge and experience with state service in both the legislature and executive branch.
He has been active with local and state agencies with the Wisconsin Land Information Program and GIS updates, as well as, working on behalf of Governor Walker and cabinet officials with Wisconsin’s 11 tribal governments.
On behalf of DOA, he has been working with the DNR on WI Act 378 (Phosphorus Study). 
Ed brings a wealth of experience, knowledge and interpersonal relationships in working with state agencies, the legislature, and communities throughout Wisconsin.  
He is looking forward to his new leadership role and meeting all of you—his new colleagues!
Ed will begin his time with us next week.  Please feel free to stop by or send him a warm DNR welcome email after next week Monday the 12th.

Toughened rules can more effectively bar Great Lakes invasive species

Good that a US Appeals Court has intervened to force the US EPA to toughen rules that fail to more fully protect the Great Lakes from ruinous invasive species which hitch a ride through the St. Lawrence Seaway in freighters' ballast tanks filled on inbound journeys with ocean water.

That water helps balance the ships: at issue is how and where the tanks get flushed and decontaminated. 

This is not a new matter, regrettably, as this 2010 posting indicates:

The Great Lakes have been assaulted by invasive species that arrive in the ballast tanks of ocean-going freighters and have decimated native fish populations and introduced voracious mussels that contribute to fetid algae growth along the lakeshore.
Wisconsin is moving towards rolling back its 2010 rule-making requiring a very rigorous program with tough standards, says the DNR.
Seems to me that's a misstep - - one leading statewide group had criticized the original state action as insufficient - -  but also highlights how the various Great Lakes states have different practices, though it's a shared water resource under regional management.
And props to the Journal Sentinel for supporting the closing altogether of the Seaway - - the ultimate fix.

Tiny zebra mussels have spread throughout the Great Lakes.

 Quagga mussels - - one such invasive among hundreds in the Great Lakes, and many more species worldwide - - filter water along the Lake Michigan shoreline. 
File:Quagga mussels GLERL 1.jpg
That makes the water clearer - - not a good thing - - as extra sunlight spurs weed and algae growth and leaves behind a smell mistaken for sewerage along the lakefront when the enhanced vegetation eventually rots.

Drought, heat, climate change and fire in the US West

Other stories have knocked this year's wildfires off the front pages, but The New York Times takes another long look:
Climate change has lengthened fire seasons, which are, on average, 78 days longer than they were in 1970, and the six worst fire seasons since 1960 have come since 2000...the long-term trends are anything but good. And what is happening in the West is a harbinger for much of the rest of the planet.  
The trees in too-dense forests are already competing for water that the historically more sparse stands of trees might have found adequate; as drought increases, the stress will kill many trees outright and weaken others to the point that they become more vulnerable to predators like aggressive bark beetles 
Because of hotter drought, he said, “the future broad-scale vulnerability of forests globally is being widely underestimated, including the vulnerability of forests in wetter regions,” [expert Craig Allen] said.
More coverage, here
A daytime fire engulfing large trees

UW Nobel win boosts life-saving science, school's reputation

[Updated] This is why you don't cut the UW's budget, or set out to diminish the system's science focus:
UW alum among 3 scientists to win Nobel Prize in medicine

Sunday, October 4, 2015

N. WI trail 'improvement' like Lake Park '01 'fix'

The story about landowners clearing public land on a trail along a Northern Wisconsin lake near their condo reminded me of a 2001 'improvement' on public land made by a Milwaukee homeowner who wanted a better Lake Michigan view:
Man fined, restitution ordered for cutting down tree

Emblematic WI environmental outrage worsens

[Updated from 5:29 p.m. Saturday] When it comes to Scott Walker and the Wisconsin environment, what is past is prologue - - is outrageous.

So props to the strong and continuing reporting by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Lee Bergquist about the continuing abuse of the public's rights to enjoy access to their constitutionally-guaranteed resources in Wisconsin.

And a tip of the hat in particular to Bergquist's recent disclosures about wealthy Walker donors pressuring the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for favors on and near state - - public - -  land and waters in Northern Wisconsin:

A footpath on Department of Natural Resources property in Vilas County that a wealthy political supporter of Gov. Scott Walker is trying to buy has been upgraded in recent months without state approval. 
A spokesman for business executive Elizabeth Uihlein acknowledged that workers at her adjoining property may have ventured on to state land and cleaned up the trail slightly, although those who have seen the trail say the improvements were detailed and significant. 
Uihlein, a co-founder of Uline Corp. in Pleasant Prairie, is seeking to buy 1.75 acres along Rest Lake, where the footpath is located. But a tentative deal with the DNR was put on hold last month after critics raised questions about the transaction.
More about the Uihleins, in a Forbes piece, here - - and note also that their family packaging and distribution company recently received approvals from the DNR and other agencies for major floodplain alterations to accommodate expansion on the company's Pleasant Prairie, WI property - - so the world of the DNR should not have been an unknown.

And here is more information about proposed and actual sale of various parcels of public lands during Walker's tenure as Milwaukee County Executive and Governor. 

But back to the current land sales and water issues up North, and the two big takeaways: 

*  That the land deal on Rest Lake was tabled by the DNR's long-standing oversight board after public outcry underscores why that board needs to remain independent, though Walker tried to water it down to a toothless, advisory board through an unsuccessful budget maneuver earlier this year.

*  And you can draw a straight line from this unfolding outrage over special treatment for special people back to one of Walker's earliest actions as Special-Interest-Governor-in-Chief after he was sworn in:

His administrative intervention before an appeal process had been completed to permit the filling of a wetland for a donor/developer to build a building near Lambeau Field - - a move made law by the Legislature.

a wetland in May
I'd noted the current Walker/donor case more than once on this blog - - here is an example - - as part of the blog's focus for years on threats to the state's waters and the damage that Scott Walker's "chamber-of-commerce" remake of the DNR is doing to the environment:

A blog posting summary from last year included these items:

There were early signs of Walker's intention to unwind long-standing legal protections that had given Wisconsin a strong and deserved environmental reputation as he handed over resources, like groundwater and wetlands, to people out to make a buck - - even though the State Constitution's Public Trust Doctrine says the waters and their surroundings are commonly-held assets to be guarded by the state as trustee for all the people, not sold, given away or disrespected.
Among the early signs:
*  Walker's very telling claim during the campaign that it was opponent Tom Barrett with the radical environmental agenda. This is what we now know is Walker's pattern - - twisted, even dishonest rhetoric, a flight from transparency despite his boast about it (scrubbed from his website), and all blended with finger-pointing and misdirection verified time and time again by PolitiFact, its few "True" ratings and far greater total of "False" and "Pants on Fire" conclusions when reviewing Walker's remarks.
And for a perfect point of closure: the link to Walker's campaign ad wherein he made the claim about Barrett is now blocked. See this posting. File at #transparencyfail.
*  Walker's very early push for a special bill passed by the Legislature to allow a donor to develop a wetlands near Lambeau Field for an outdoors supply retailer before the DNR had finished its environmental review.
And that was just the beginning.
*  As people living near big dairies are learning: state agencies these days will side with industry against the people even if the result is tainted drinking water:
I'd noted the impact of a recent DNR/Department of Justice tag team decision that intentionally disregards a judge's order limiting the size of a big Kewaunee County dairy operation because of manure-related drinking water pollution.
The ruling's arrogance was yet another regrettable example of how corporate interests in the state have been given control over water rights through Scott Walker's 'chamber-of-commerce mentality,' forcing citizens to spend their time and money fighting the government they support through taxes and fees for land and water quality that should be top public public priorities.
*  As are people at the grassroots on a shoestring trying to save wetlands, the Black River Forest and Kohler-Andrae State Park from private golf course intrusion on a bluff just yards from Lake Michigan.

*  Or in Marathon County, where a million-gallon manure spill into a river produced a DNR fine of $464.

*  Consider the power imbalances in that battle with the well-connected ndustrialist and golf course magnate Herbert Kohler:

Kohler is asking the DNR for an easement of 3.8 acres for its golf course operations. The company had sought as much as 20 acres from adjoining Kohler-Andrae State Park. An early version of the course showed that Kohler wanted to build several holes on state park land...
Kohler, a financial supporter of Republican Gov. Scott Walker, spoke with staff from the governor's office, the DNR and the Department of Administration in late April about the easement, Walker's spokeswoman, Jocelyn Webster, said in an email.
"Mr. Kohler raised the issue," Webster said in a separate email.
Between 2009 and 2013, Kohler Co. employees contributed $42,254 to Walker's campaign fund, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which tracks political donations. Nearly all of that amount was directly from Herbert Kohler.
DNR Deputy Secretary Matt Moroney also has "participated in a conceptual meeting with the Kohler Co. on the golf course" that included Herbert Kohler, said DNR spokesman Bill Cosh.
Never forget that when you read about a body of water in Wisconsin harmed by pollution, especially enabled by weak DNR enforcement - - here's one recent example from Western Wisconsin - -  the water involved is a public resource. There are no private rivers, lakes and streams in Wisconsin, and the water is all connected as it flows to either the Lake Superior, Lake Michigan or Mississippi River watershed.

The state constitution says all the waters of the state are held in trust for all the people of the state, not as a special interest cookie jar the DNR and the Governor and his hand-picked corporate errand boys and girls can open when whim and money are in the air.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Remember those Wisconsin "Open for Business" billboards?

Who would dare make that claim after layoffs in just the first six months of 2015
in Wisconsin had exceeded all of 2014's, and especially

given the grim Wisconsin layoff and plant closing news over the last few days?

Not Caterpillar, in South Milwaukee.

Or Joy Global, in Milwaukee.

Nor the Borden Dairy in Plymouth.

And not GE, in Waukesha.

Or Highsmith, in Ft. Atkinson.

Not to mention Hamlin, in Lake Mills.

Epic rain event forecast for S. Carolina; warming climate cited

I appreciate that this weather and science site does not mince words:
According to NOAA's Precipitation Frequency Data Server, these could be 1-in-1000 year rains for some locations. (Hydrologists would refer to a 1-in-1000-year rain as having a typical "recurrence interval" of 1000 years. The idea is that such events are not always separated by 1000 years; the same amount of rain could conceivably occur the very next year, or might not occur until thousands of years later.) The three-day 1-in-1000 year rainfall amounts for Charleston, Greenville and Columbia are 17.1", 17.8", and 14.2", respectively. The 24-hour 1-in-1000 year rainfall amounts for Charleston, Greenville and Columbia are 14.8", 15.9", and 12.5", respectively... 
If the NWS precipitation forecasts are in the right ballpark, then the first few days of October 2015 might approach or even exceed these all-time monthly records for the entire state--without any help from a landfalling hurricane or tropical storm!

And note the matter-of-fact reference to a "warming climate is making intense short-term rains even heavier..."
Our warming climate is making intense short-term rains (such as the highest 1-day totals) even heavier in many parts of the United States and the world, although less research has been done on trends in monthly rainfall.
And, for record, check out this 2008 blog posting

In 2003, EPA Predicted Heavier Rain Events

Then-Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist and I attended a conference in Chicago in 2003, hosted by Mayor Richard Daley, where officials from the EPA told Midwestern elected leaders that climate change models predicted heavier rain events.

The EPA officials were urging the Midwestern leaders to adapt their planning and spending to more aggressively confront storm water and related services because heavier, intense rains were going to become more frequent.

Part of the message was: forget the notion of the "100-year-storm." They'll come more often than that in the Midwest as the atmosphere warms.

Again - - this wasn't advocacy science or partisan scare tactics.

This was basic municipal planning/dollars-and-sense advice from people in the George W. Bush administration to Midwestern mayors offered as an inter-governmental service because climate change was going to hit cities' budgets and constituents in difficult new ways.

Friday, October 2, 2015

WI legislator, Rush Limbaugh misfire on Oregon shooting

It might have been a coincidence, but the inaccurate "gun-free zone" statement that the Journal Sentinel posted today at 4:41 p.m. from Wisconsin State Rep. Bob Gannon, (R-Slinger) about yesterday's mass shooting on an Oregon community college campus sure sounded a lot like Rush Limbaugh's ranting at noon today about guns and schools and President Obama.


Real Gun Control:

In the wake of the recent shootings at a junior college in Oregon, President Obama quickly stood at the podium and proclaimed that this is the fault of the N.R.A., and that we need stricter gun control legislation.  
What Obama ignored was the testimony of the students and educators at the school that they were defenseless in this incident as the school was a “gun free” zone. This means that only criminals will possess personal protection at these locations, and the law abiding citizen is an easy target... 

Another Tiresome, Sickening Liberal Response to a Gun-Free Zone Shooting
What I mean is tiresome is the predictable reaction of things like this.  The absolute lack of common sense reaction to stuff like this from President Obama, to everybody in the media.  For crying out loud, folks, they had gun control on this school.  There weren't any guns there except in the hands of the bad guy.  You want to know what gun control is gonna do?  You just saw it.  
Every one of these school shootings is a gun-free zone.  The left has everything they want on these school campuses.  No guns!.. 
This bears repeating.  Everything the liberals want, they already have at practically every school in this country.  They have a gun-free zone...

Nebraska loses major corporate HQ, fires ex-WEDC VP as development director

WEDC has had a dizzingly spinning revolving door - - including four senior departures this summer and a fifth Chief Financial Officer recently arriving  - - and its effects are being felt farther west on the Plains.

Nebraska's Governor just fired the state's economic development director  - - a former VP of development at WEDC on the job in Nebraska for just eight months - - after the agricultural giant and Fortune 500 firm ConAgra announced it was moving its headquarters and about 1,000 jobs from Omaha to Chicago.

If the WEDC were a politician, you'd say it has awfully short coattails.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Sandhill crane event upcoming; details below

Though State Rep. and noted videotaped omnivore Joel Kleefisch, (R-Oconomwoc) had looked unsuccessfully for a justification to shoot and grill Sandhill cranes, the majestic migrating birds...
Sandhill Cranes Migration - In Sky over Platte River at Sunset
 ...are still free to fly through Wisconsin for your appreciation, the DNR reports:
Upcoming events at Sandhill Wildlife Area 
By Central Office September 21, 2015 
Contact(s): Britt Searles, DNR wildlife program associate, 715-884-6335 
BABCOCK, Wis. -- Join the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on this fall for a number of events at Sandhill Wildlife Area
The schedule for fall events is as follows - registration and fees can be sent to Sandhill OSC, PO Box 156, Babcock, Wis. 54413: 
Crane Watch, Saturday, Oct. 17, 3 p.m. - Watch and listen as thousands of cranes descend on Sandhill's Gallagher Marsh, a key staging area during the fall migration. Participants should dress for cold weather in neutral colors (camouflage preferred). This event will be held rain or shine, and scopes, binoculars and cameras are welcome. Registration for each participant is $15 and is due Oct. 9 (limit 20 people).

Hurricane Joacquin: Sandy 2.0?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Senior political appointee quits WI DNR

There's even less there, there, at the once proud WI DNR than we'd thought:

Mike Bruhn is one of Walker's top at-will appointees, so it's not just career scientists (two examples) or discouraged public servants pulling the plug.

Or being moved, as the former and ultra-powerful Deputy Secretary Matt Moroney was transferred to Walker's personal staff, Bruhn's predecessor and former legislative boss Scott "Gundy" Gunderson had been moved to the Department of Revenue, and DNR spokesman Bill Cosh was moved to Ag, Trade and Consumer Protection.

That's approaching WEDC turnover levels.

Bruhn's bio is still on the agency's website:

Michael is a 1997 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Michael spent more than thirteen years working in the Wisconsin State Assembly clerking the Assembly Natural Resources Committee. 
He has many years of experience handling legislative issues related to hunting and fishing, environmental quality, firearms and the state budget. 
Michael joined the DNR in July 2011 as the department’s legislative liaison. In September 2014, Michael was named as the department’s director of policy and external relations where he was responsible for coordinating and managing the department’s policy development and relations with external partners and stakeholders. 
His duties include supervising the DNR’s Office of Communications, tribal liaison, and legislative liaison. On February 9, Governor Walker appointed Michael as the department’s assistant deputy secretary. 
In his free time, Michael is a huge Badger, Packer and Brewer fan. He enjoys riding ATVs and hiking. With the excitement surrounding the implementation of the Deer Trustee Report, Michael has recently taken up deer hunting.Last revised: Wednesday March 25 2015

And if the NW WI open-pit iron mine had been dug...

With its millions of tons of dynamited rock and clear-cut forest dumped in wetlands as the industry-backed law now allows, the DNR would have had to come up with a new classification for these seven trout streams in Iron and Ashland County - - like a Zero, or Buried or Gone Forever:
ASHLAND,Wis. - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is proposing the classification of seven trout streams in Ashland County and five streams in Iron County as a result of survey work that has provided new information about the streams' quality physical habitat, cold water sources and ability to support naturally reproducing brook trout populations.  
All streams listed for classification are small, unnamed headwater tributaries to more well-known trout fisheries.
More from the DNR and trout fishing in Wisconsin, here.
catchable trout - brook trout
Catchable-size trout provide angling opportunities.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

State workers argue against ending civil service

Glad to post this news release from a reader opposed to an imminent legislative proposal to upend civil service in Wisconsin:


Wisconsin State Employee Council Says Changes to Civil Service Rules are not needed

Madison, Wisconsin.  

September 28, 2015:

The recent Republican proposal to reform Wisconsin’s Civil Service rules is another case of attempting to fix something that isn’t broken. 

The Civil Service System was created to counteract the influence of politicians on state jobs.  Allowing politicians to appoint public employees promotes cronyism. 

The likelihood of getting the best employees in state service jobs is also reduced.These proposed changes will make state jobs less attractive as a viable career choice for the best qualified candidates.  

The inability to find the best and brightest candidates is a direct result of vilifying public employees and erosion of compensation and employee security.

As a result of these proposed changes, employee turnover will increase and service quality and accountability will suffer.

This proposal to change civil service rules is disheartening at best and disastrous at worst.We ask that Wisconsin citizens that value good government contact their legislators to let them know that these changes are NOT in the public interest.  

You can find contact information for your legislators at: .

WisDOT FUBAR: Add delayed highway expansion to unfilled potholes

Policy and budgeting fail alert:

Wisconsin state officials made promises it couldn't keep to the road-builders while also breaking faith - - and wheel rims, tires and axles - - with everyday motorists.

And bus riders? You're just moochers, leaders say:
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has pushed for public transit to be funded through the state’s general budget instead of the DOT, saying he considers transit a social program. Gov. Scott Walker proposed such a move in his last budget and Vos said it had the support of Assembly Republicans, but it failed to make it through the state Senate.
Yet the state is plowing ahead with a new, $200 million office building where WisDOT can hold its contractor meetings and continue 'planning' more highway-lane construction as motorists drive fewer miles, boomers age away from the steering wheel and millennials prefer transit.

Follow Great Lakes habitat restoration projects online

a wetland in May
Hat tip to the Great Lakes Echo blog for publishing a link to a tool which shows how and where federal Great Lakes habitat restoration funding is being spent:
"A new online widget shows with just a couple of clicks how $290 million in federal funds for improving the Great Lakes ecosystem has been spent.
"The Great Lakes Restoration Database let’s people know “what’s going on in their backyards” with land and water protection, said Heather Braun, a project manager with the Great Lakes Commission, which developed the site. The online system tracks the progress of more than 600 restoration projects."

GOP obstructs federal financing, Waukesha firm takes jobs to Canada

[Updated] Turns out there's a new way to kill Bucky's jobs:

Paul Ryan and other right-wing bigs in the Wisconsin and national GOP House caucuses have ideological objections to government financing for businesses long provided by the US Export-Import Bank, so a major GE unit which makes engines in Waukesha has decided to shut down, hit the road and enjoy a better deal in Canada:
General Electric Co (GE.N) said on Monday it will move production of large, gas-powered engines to Canada from Wisconsin, along with 350 jobs, to access export financing no longer available in the United States. 
In its latest salvo aimed at persuading Congress to renew the U.S. Export-Import Bank's charter which expired in June, GE will invest $265 million in a new state-of-the-art manufacturing plant at a Canadian location yet to be determined. 
The facility, to open in about 20 months, can be expanded to provide flexible manufacturing capacity to support other GE businesses, including engines for railroad locomotives, GE said.
In exchange for moving the production from Waukesha, Wisconsin, Export Development Canada will provide financing support for a range of future products, including some still made in the United States... 
Republican Representative James Sensenbrenner, who represents Waukesha and opposes EXIM "in its current form," said in a statement that the move was a "sober reminder of the urgent need to stay competitive in the global marketplace" and called for lower corporate tax rates.
Michigan's former GOP Governor, now a national business spokesman, has called these GOP congressional ideologues "economically illiterate."

Monday, September 28, 2015

Tossing civil service would push WI across ethical divide

[Updated from Sunday, 9/27, 1:40 p.m.] Rarely has a state government set out to wreak havoc on itself to feed needy political egos, reward insiders and advance crackpot ideology (see Kansas, Brownback, et al), but that's where Wisconsin is headed.

So before it's too late, Wisconsin lawmakers should be forced in the name of fairness and logic to bury permanently a GOP-inspired plan that appeared out of nowhere last week to discard the protections for taxpayers which support and define the state government civil service personnel system.

Like similar and recent right-wing GOP efforts to kill the state Open Records law and the non-partisan Government Accountability Board, the civil service eradication proposal is a partisan power-grab, pure and simple and overwhelmingly self-interested and cynical.

Citing and hyping the slimmest of evidence - - a handful of headline-grabbing outrages by a few bad apples among tens of thousands of dedicated public servants and their multiple millions of hours of honest work - - game-playing GOP legislative leaders and an ever-opportunistic Gov. Walker again went to their deep well of anti-labor sentiment when announcing they intended to scrap civil service exams and turn state employee recruiting, hiring, promotion and termination over to agency heads whom Walker has already appointed.

Which will lead to personnel decisions - - from the mail room to the board room - - inevitably and intentionally influenced by friendships, party affiliations, political preferences and campaign donations.

How much control is enough for this Governor and his party?

Grossly-secretive and tilted redistricting has already allowed GOP legislators to reward Walker with  far greater powers than his predecessors wielded over state assets, including jobs.

*  He and department heads he's appointed can now appoint department-level, in-house attorneys whose positions, along with information specialists and other senior positions, were moved from civil service to at-will employment in the early days of his administration.

*  He can sell any state asset with minimal review by the legislature's budget-writing committee which he and his party control 12-4, and without competitive bids.

*  He can approve or turn aside administrative rules which have the force of law in Wisconsin, and which had previously been the subject of public hearings.

*  He, his 'chamber-of-commerce mentality' appointees and legislative allies have repeatedly corporatized and politicized the Department of Natural Resources and reorganized it to elevate business influence; little wonder that major exceptions and favors are being sought there, especially involving waters which belong to everyone.

* The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation he created and chaired for nearly its entire existence has been repeatedly caught making questionable loans and dubious grants while evading routine accounting and legal procedures set up  to protect the public interest and purse.

The Walkerites said all those practices were cumbersome - - the same justification being cited in the proposed civil service rollback.

Goodbye objectivity. Hello, spoils (and we've seen it before).

Welcome to Havocwreakistan.

Can you imagine a state hiring system where Big Pharma and insurers are better able to get their favored resumes more easily into the hiring process at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Do the road-builders and trucking firms need more influence at the WisDOT - - which purportedly regulates them?

Whose interest is being served if pipeline and fossil fuel businesses and builders gain even more access to staffing at the DNR and the Public Service Commission?

Should partisan organizations, lobbyists, and advocacy groups be better positioned to pitch their people to every state agency, with gubernatorial appointees able to make the hiring, promotion and firing decisions in coordination with the Governor or his office staff?

Wisconsin is at an ethical crossroads.

Inefficiency, waste, personal preferences for public personnel, partisan advantage and corruption - - the basics of political danger and heartbreak - - are dead ahead.