Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ryan's GOP US House bill gains death panel status

This hurriedly approved gift to the rich at the expense of lower-income Americans - - how does an 850% premium increase strike you? - - this craven and inhuman partisan garbage - - belongs to US House of Representatives Speaker
Paul Ryan's official Speaker photo. In the background is the American Flag.
and Badger State embarrassment Paul Ryan:
WASHINGTON — A bill to dismantle the Affordable Care Act that narrowly passed the House this month would increase the projected number of people without health insurance by 14 million next year and by 23 million in 2026, the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday. That 10-year figure is slightly less than originally estimated... 
And in states that seek waivers from rules mandating essential health coverage, the new law could make insurance economically out of reach for some sick consumers.

Pope Francis signal sent, received

Besides his grim visage, note the Pope's distance from his guest and sad sack entourage. Body language keeper.

Great Lakes GOP leaders own Trump's Great Lakes trashing

What with Trump's budget ending Great Lakes Restoration and crucial, related Sea Grant funding, and cutting more clean water grants to states by 45%, it seems like a good day to acknowledge two literally sickening realities:

*  Donald Trump and his team - - the true invasive species threatening the region's waters - - do not know one thing or give a damn about the very Great Lakes states like Wisconsin and Michigan where his misled and manipulated voters gave him the Electoral College votes that put him in the White House.

Just as doesn't give a damn about their health care, public schools, clean air, and any other human need which government is supposed to improve, and to which government should at least do no harm.

*  And a solid wall of Wisconsin Republican elected officials - - Walker, Ryan, Sensenbrenner, Johnson, et al, 
Ron Johnson, official portrait, 112th Congress.jpg
in our state which borders and relies upon two of the five Great Lakes and has already under our Brown Water Governor flouted exiting clean water obligations, reduced water pollution inspection and enforcement and tolerated more phosphorous discharges impairing lakes and rivers that pollute the very Great Lakes Trump would officially ignore - - told presidential election voters here repeatedly that Trump was the best person to put into office and to write the next federal budget.

Under Paul Ryan and fellow Wisconsinite Reince Priebus' purportedly expert insider tutelage, who, like Walker and the rest of his in-state Ignoramus Caucus would rather cut taxes for their wealthy donors than make sure everyone else had cleansed, swimmable, fishable rivers and lakes, Great and otherwise.

Somehow all these incompetents and ideologues got on board their preferred Ship of Fools to the obvious detriment of our state and region's most important and already greatly endangered water resource and economic driver - - the Great Lakes.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tommy Thompson made King of WI Naming Rights. Again.


Finally, some good news about the Wisconsin fiscal picture.
 

The state's GOP leadership has found a few extra million bucks and knows how to spend it, so let's just say there's gonna be another Tommy Thompson trading card for your collection!

You've already got your Governor Thompson State Park card, and one of those Governor Tommy G.Thompson State Fish Hatchery cards

Governor Tommy Thompson hatchery

and the Tommy G. Thompson WHEDA Commerce Center card, and a Tommy G. Thompson Youth Center at the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds card in that album of yours - - not to mention the rare Governor Tommy Thompson Amtrak locomotive card - - for those still searching eBay for an affordable example, some photos of AMTK 182 are here.

But soon...drum roll, please...make a space for a Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership on the UW Madison campus card.


On a campus where there's already a public policy school.


No matter. 


Funded through a budget that will not provide enough money to fill the potholes in your streets, or finance buses for people without cars to get to jobs or make a dent in processing Attorney General Brad Schimel's backlog of untested rape kits.


No matter - - Wisconsin Republicans have their priorities. 

And imagine what Republicans have in store for us when Scott Walker finally gets a retirement job.


GOP infighting ties up WI legislature, US Congress

So right-wing Wisconsin Republicans run the whole show here, but State Senators, Assembly reps and the Governor can't agree on budgetary basics, meaning that Walker is threatening to veto in toto what his alleged allies 
Picture of Representative Robin Vos
send him if the details doesn't meet his precise and phonied-up re-election campaign specifications.

Kind of like the budgetary hangups among factionalized, similarly-paralyzed, can't govern-GOP Members of Congress and their Maximum Leader.


Is it a coincidence that GOP politicos Reince Preibus and House Speaker Paul Ryan are also from one-party, Republican-dominated and dysfunctional Wisconsin?


Where the state motto is the now-inaccurate "Forward."








Correcting Walker's bad math, phony claims & partisan propaganda

Right-wing GOP WI Gov. and habitual self-promoting propagandist Scott Walker
has spun and tweeted some cherry-picked numbers into alternative facts and half-baked re-election campaign claims that need some sunlight and correction.

*  For example, Walker says the state's workforce is the largest in Wisconsin history.

Well, so is the state's population, and yet Wisconsin under Walker:

* Regularly ranks in the bottom third for job growth.

*  Never came close after his more than six years in office to creating the 250,000 new private-sector jobs he repeatedly promised to create after a mere four - - more about that, here.

*  Has kept the minimum hourly wage frozen at a rock bottom $7.25, added jobs that are principally in low-wage categories, so no surprise that Wisconsin under Walker led the country in loss of middle-class incomes.

Additionally:

*  Walker says the state is in the top ten for fully-funded pension systems.

The Wisconsin pension system is a known, carefully-constructed national success he inherited, belongs to the workers and retirees who contribute to it and has nothing to do with his ideology or handiwork. 

*  He again touts a business opinion survey of CEO magazine readers who ranked Wisconsin as a top ten state for doing business, but does not mention a broader, data-driven survey for business start-up activity which ranked Wisconsin dead last among the states for the third years in a row, as I noted.

*  He also says Wisconsin's borrowing for highways is the lowest in years, but does not mention that because he has long championed overspending on new lanes and major projects, the condition of Wisconsin's roads is rated second-worst nationally, as I have also reported.

Also nowhere on Walker's list:

*  Our state's 12th-from-the-bottom ranking on a measure of well-water contamination.

*  Our 7th from the bottom ranking nationally for attracting new residents with college degrees, a measure of the so-called "brain-gain' index.

Maybe they've heard about the bad water. Or the middling-to-crummy job market. Or the measurable disinterest in entrepreneurship.

Or Walker's hard-right obsession with blocking ballot box access, using the poor as campaign cudgels, cutting science and climate change information from state agencies and handing over groundwater, wetlands, woodlands and clean air to private interests to whom quality of life is just another commodity to sell to the highest bidder.

These inequities, omissions, disparities, and partisan sleights-of-hand are better explained by additional numbers Walker never discuses - - his PolitiFact truth-telling ratings.

Currently, his vetted statements are rated at 13% True, a combined 29% False or Pants on Fire, with the rest somewhere in between.









Monday, May 22, 2017

Climate change threatens WI walleye, yet WI DNR denies climate change

Probably no fish is more dear to the state's recreational economy and thousands  of anglers - -  "highly prized," says the Wisconsin DNR - - than walleye.
Walleye painting.jpg
So maybe that same Wisconsin DNR will rethink its decision to scrub climate change from its websites now that climate scientists are saying measures should be taken because climate change will lessen the ability of some state lakes to support walleye:
Nearly 100 lakes in Wisconsin are predicted to support naturally reproducing walleye populations even under extreme warming conditions
These lakes are resilient to climate change, and should be protected from other stressors such as habitat loss, invasive species, or overfishing to maximize the potential for continued walleye production.
Some lakes that are unlikely to support natural walleye reproduction will continue to be suitable for adult walleye, and fishable walleye populations could potentially be maintained in these lakes via stocking.
Quality fishing opportunities for largemouth bass and other warm water species will improve in many lakes that become unsuitable for walleye.

Brown water WI Governor, in black-and-white

Long-time Waupaca writer and Wisconsin conservation activist Patrick Durkin reports that right-wing Gov. and special-interest water carrier Scott Walker walked away through a side door after evading the question and answer session at the recent annual meeting of the state-chartered Wisconsin Conservation Congress, an official DNR advisory body:
Maybe Gov. Walker was worried a WCC delegate might ask how he would respond if the water for his home or the governor’s mansion were so contaminated by livestock manure that his family couldn’t drink it or bathe in it. Would he settle for DNR-supplied bottled water, even if it were delivered daily by DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp?

Clearly another Walker re-election mode move.

And speaking of campaigns and brown water, Walker had no problem meeting recently with other members of a club he chairs:
The Brown Water Republicans
GOP convention at Dells water park highlights environmental failings.

Why Team Trump will return more authoritarian

I'm sure Trump's big junket will go to his already swollen head.

And while there's no doubt Trump would prefer one of these special persecutors, take a look at what this fellow billionaire and Trump Cabinet member famous for coal operation that killed 12 miners has to say about the overseas trip so far:
Wilbur Ross heartened by lack of protesters in Saudi Arabia 
Not one guy with a bad placard,’ Trump’s commerce secretary says 

Chip in to help save the Lake Michigan shoreline

This is the logo

May 21 Update Hi Friends. We have received a pledge to match $1250 in donations in 7 days. Your $...

Pressure mounting on Milwaukee County to save its public grounds

The latest from the citizens who are forcing Milwaukee County leaders to keep the bulldozers and chains saws and road-builders out of what's left of the precious County Grounds:

The public outcry is working!
Thanks to you and your attendance, letters, emails and calls, the door is open for a new Resolution to the County Board to be on the agenda for Thursday May 25th (approximate agenda time, 11am)  at the Milwaukee County Courthouse, 901 N 9th St.,  Milwaukee, WI, 53233, Room 200
Here’s another opportunity to make a call, write another email, and if you can, attend the meeting to support the new resolution requesting that the City of Wauwatosa rezone the remainder of the County Grounds as County Parkland!  
Please contact your Supervisor and cc ALL the Supervisors AND the County Supervisor, urging them to support the resolution to request Wauwatosa to rezone the remaining parcels on the County Grounds as Parkland. 
All County Supervisors and the County Executive contact info can be found at:
Phone calls would be great, as well. (#’s in the link)
Key points to consider: 
  • Wauwatosa has asked the County for their interests for this land, and this is the means and the moment to tell them that the land should be rezoned as parkland. 
  • This resolution will set in motion actions needed for Wauwatosa to rezone and protect this precious area. 
  • Wauwatosa is asking to develop on precious land and asking to loosen restrictions of the UWM land, including the Monarch Conservancy. There will be no stopping Wauwatosa from over-developing the County Grounds UNLESS we continue to make our voices heard. Ask the County Board of Supervisors and the County Executive to SAVE ALL the remaining natural areas on the County Grounds. 
This resolution will request a “suspension of the rules” (which requires a 12+ member vote) and states:
Be it Resolved, that the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors hereby opposes land sale, land swap, rezoning/re-designation, or compromise of the acreage of County Grounds Park; and
Be it Further Resolved, that Milwaukee County supports and encourages the City of Wauwatosa to rezone the remaining parcels of the approximate 43 acres of wooded area under Taxkey # 372999917 and Taxkey #373999907, known as Sanctuary Woods, to the appropriate designation equivalent as parkland to expand the boundaries of County Grounds Park, and be subject to the protections granted under Wisconsin Statutes Section 59.17(2)(b)(3) that prohibit the sale of parkland.
Thank you so much for helping protect this precious bit of land – our heritage and our legacy...

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Walker touts state parks where he raised fees, killed operating $$

How would you feel if you got a special invitation to dinner by the manager of your favorite restaurant only to learn that he was planning to again raise the menu prices because he had stopped investing in the operation.

Right-wing GOP Gov. and public resource privatization champion Scott Walker may have launched his most hypocritical re-election ploy to date by Tweeting (below) an invitation to Wisconsin State Parks - - including Copper Falls State Park 
A view of Copper Falls in the fall.
which would have been trashed had the miles of open-pit iron mining Walker tried to dynamite into that watershed not been blocked - - after killing in his 2015-'17 budget all state operating funding for those parks while raising park admission and camping fees.

This is not the first time that Team Walker has pitched a visit to Copper Falls State Park as if the mining push never happened.

And, for good measure, Walker is including another round of park fee increases in his proposed 2017-'19 budget, setting up the need for corporate naming rights and other private-sector perks on public land.

I mean, this takes the cake:
Check out this article from : “10 top Wisconsin state parks to visit this summer”

Governments have enabled Milwaukee region's biases

[Updated from 5/20/17] A couple of things from recent and nearly-ancient history to add to Marc Eisen's op-ed about the Milwaukee region's segregated housing:

*  Milwaukee County has been included in a suburban-and-exurban weighted regional planning commission which had to be forced by advocates and public pressure in 2009 to update by 2013 its 1975 regional housing plan.


Nearly 40 years between studies and recommendations.


*  Note also that the Legislature in 1955 froze the City of Milwaukee's borders, land-locking the city and making it easier for suburbs to expand independently and enforce discriminatory zoning, housing patterns and job development patterns.


More here and here:

I have long felt that descriptions of Milwaukee as 'the most segregated city in America' missed the fundamental reality that the Journal Sentinel story makes clear: it is the region that is segregated; wealth creation in that region is regularly sparked by politicians and power brokers more interested in diverting public resources to suburban  highway expansion and job growth than in providing equitable development, public transportation and equal opportunity to Milwaukee and its heavily-minority, lower-income central city. 
My point has long been this:
The "hypersegregation" label applied to Milwaukee is regional, tolerated for decades.
*  The State Legislature led by GOP Racine County State Rep. and now-Assembly Speaker Robin Vos legally barred the creation of service-sharing state regional transit authorities.
Picture of Representative Robin Vos

Waukesha County opinion makers also balked, Waukesha County government refused to join a transit authority with Milwaukee County and for good measure even eliminated a bus line connecting Milwaukee workers to Waukesha job opportunities.


Details, here.


One local expert, having studied these issues for years, wrote in an extensive, 2012 report:

..the political climate of Milwaukee’s suburbs has also played a role in maintaining this entrenched pattern of racial segregation. The historical legacy of housing discrimination and resistance to desegregation in Milwaukee and its environs has been well established in the literature.
* Referenced again, and again, on this blog, including this 2013 post, for example:
*  The Public Policy Forum noted many of these realities in a 2002 study: 
*  The Brookings Institution's John Austin took note of the penalties of legacy discrimination in a major 2007 study which I noted on my blog at the time: 
Themes repeated with data and links often on this blog, for example, here or here.
"The lack of housing diversity here suppresses the housing market, promises to accelerate the concentration of poverty, undercuts the local economy, segregates educational opportunities and undermines the wealth-building potential for thousands of families," said Jeffrey Browne, forum vice president and research director.
He also has data about racial separation in southeastern Wisconsin and across the Great Lakes region that is deeply disturbing, but, again, offers an opportunity for change that would be good for the entire region's economy - - if leaders here have the political will to break from the past.
*  And why did it require litigation by the ACLU of Wisconsin after years of struggle against entrenched government opposition to force the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to add temporary bus routes to the billion-dollar-plus Zoo Interchange construction project - - a brief respite from the concrete-heavy, pro-suburban, publicly-financed transportation planning and spending in the Milwaukee region that for years has been fought by the ACLU and other organizations:
Kudos to the civil libertarians who have doggedly pursued social and economic justice from the State of Wisconsin, the Department of Transportation and others in southeastern Wisconsin on behalf of minority, low-income and urban residents:
The state Department of Transportation did not follow federal civil rights rules for at least seven years, a yearlong investigation has found. 
An American Civil Liberties Union attorney applauded the decision by the Federal Highway Administration's Office of Civil Rights as a step toward holding state transportation officials accountable for how their actions affect minorities.
These matters and the struggle for rights and fairness by advocates have been tracked on this blog repeatedly.
From 2011:
Coalition Cites Discrimination In Zoo Interchange, Transportation Spending 
Several Milwaukee area groups have made available their detailed comments to state officials during the recent testimony phase of the Zoo Interchange project planning.
*  From 2010: 
SEWRPC Warned Against Possible Open Meeting Violation
*  And do not forget the hysteria in the region over the possibility that a light rail system principally serving Milwaukee would have one stop in New Berlin, the Waukesha community on Milwaukee County's southwestern border, where a major industrial park offered some job opportunities regionally.

George Watts, the anti-light rail movement's citizen leader at the time, articulated and amplified what is so often just below the surface across the region when he said the proposed rail system:
 "would bring in strangers who are not only a threat to your property, but to your children."
(Years later, New Berlin would be roiled by proposed affordable housing requiring civil rights and federal intervention.)

The light rail system was blocked by a solid wall of suburban opposition - - fascinating that the Twin Cities did the opposite, to their expanding success - -  right-wing talk radio and Republican politicians including then Gov. Tommy Thompson and Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen.


I can remember then-Waukesha County Executive and GOP rising star Daniel Finley calling into far-right 1130 WISN-AM talker Mark Belling's radio show to announce that the Waukesha County Board of Supervisors had just rejected a regional transportation study that would have moved the light rail plan ahead in tandem with I-94 expansion.

Bashing rail expansion has been a winning team effort among GOP politicians regionally and the area's ratings-driven/high-profile/high-wattage/right-wing talk show hosts- - Belling, 620 WTMJ-AM's Charlie Sykes - - now off the air locally but reconstituted as an anti-Trump 'moderate, New York public radio and MSNBC-TV contributor - - and former Sykes' second-banana Jeff Wagner, now moved into Sykes' WTMJ morning slot.

That same anti-urban coalition was used by GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker years later to successfully block Amtrak expansion from Milwaukee through the region to Madison - - because opposing anything on a rail stirs up the suburbs, even Milwaukee's in-city-only streetcar system - - even though the Amtrak expansion included a train assembly and maintenance facility in an economically-depressed, heavily African-American, jobs'-desperate neighborhood.


Final thought:

*  Even a black man from Milwaukee fishing in exurban Waukesha County couldn't be tolerated by the local fire chief who ran the man off a public bridge over a public waterway with a friend, a gun and German Shepherd. 


The message to Milwaukee's heavily-minority working poor from the out-counties was and continues to be:

Your authentic access to housing, schools and job opportunities is not our priority. And we're fine with that.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

For sand mine, WI DNR approves biggest wetlands fill in 10 years

The Journal Sentinel reports that what had been a preliminary approval is now green-lit:

DNR approves sand mining project with large wetlands loss


The privateers are winning under Walker & Co. - - part of a pattern that is devastating Wisconsin landscapes for private gain:
coastal wetland
------------------------------------------------------------
This blog has followed this issue for years, as corporate control of public resources like water drive the Walker 'chamber of commerce mentality'/ intentional DNR-weakening/ Wisconsin GOP playbook, - - now assisted at the request of the GOP-run Legislature by a unsurprisingly favorable give-the-water-away opinion from GOP attorney General Brad Schimel.

And has accelerated special interests' access with state government assistance to water that began in the early days of Walker's rule:

Walker was sworn in as Wisconsin Governor on January 3, 2011 - - five days after announcing his selection of [developer and DNR-basher Cathy] Stepp to run the DNR - - and nine days later he suspended the review of a wetland filling permit application so one of his campaign donors could more quickly begin building a project near Lambeau Field... 
A year later, Walker signed in front of cheering Realtors at their convention a bill which weakened environmental protections for wetlands.
As to campaign donations and environmental issues in the state? 
The pattern continues to this day - - both the fillings and the campaign donations - - as recent stories and records show:
An out-of-state investment company wants to build a sand mining and processing plant in Jackson and Monroe counties that would eliminate about 17 acres of pristine forested wetland, according to plans being reviewed by state and federal regulators.
The project is sought by Meteor Timber, a company owned by Atlanta, Ga.-based Timberland Investment Resources. A Timberland executive and attorneys with Weld Riley, an Eau Claire law firm that represents Meteor, contributed about $23,000 since January 2010 to Republican and Democratic legislative and statewide candidates. 
*  Major Walker campaign donor Herb Kohler is working with the DNR on a plan to allow Kohler to turn a 247-acre wooded/wetland/artifact-rich nature preserve into a golf course along Lake Michigan.  
The plan would even require four acres of an adjoining, popular state park to be included in the privately-owned, high end golf course project... 
Also, the DNR, with assists from Wisconsin's corporately-attuned GOP Attorney General and State Supreme Court majority whose campaign committees have received millions of dollars in donations from Walker-sympathetic business and conservative advocacy organizations, has loosened the rules governing high-volume well pumping permits which supply water to diary and farming and frackers sand operations - - but which can deplete nearby waters, as is well-known
*  Records show Walker's campaign has received more than $30,000 from two of the most recent big-volume ground water permit winners: 
One of the permits was granted to James Wysocki, of Bancroft, for a well located in Pine Grove in Portage County. Wysocki and several members of his family own the Wysocki Family of Companies, which operates large vegetable and dairy farms. 
The owners of the Wysocki Family of Companies contributed about $31,000 to Walker between January 2010 and August 2016...
The consequences of Walker's destruction of a science-based DNR are documented and known.

The consequences of over pumping groundwater are known and documented.

The consequences of using massive amounts of water to irrigate more acreage and support dairy cattle and contaminate drinking water are known and documented, and props to Kewaunee Cares and Midwest Environmental Advocates for taking a stand.

The campaign contribution connections are known and documented.

So now the end-game in our one-party state is in sight as state power may allow big volume groundwater permits to be handed out like party favors and, if the legislation is approved, be transferred and held forever in the owners' - - not the public's - -  control.

Downstream neighbors, drinking water quality, effects on the environment, impacts on the water table and, through enabled, inevitable runoff into Lake Michigan - - all be damned.

Walker will not tout 'brain-gain' ranking fail

You may remember I recently noted in this blog that Scott Walker posts very selective tweets about where Wisconsin ranks against other states - - but didn't tweet about our dead-last ranking three years running in business startup activity:
But while Governor Clueless touted for election-year credit on his Twitter feed a CEO magazine's feel-good-opinions-about-Wisconsin - - noted yesterday, here - -you won't find him tweeting about this data-driven, 50-state comparative business ranking showing Wisconsin frozen in the 50th spot - - again - - in the always-significant business category: entrepreneurial, start-up activity.
WISCONSIN ONCE AGAIN RANKS LAST IN KAUFFMAN STARTUP ACTIVITY INDEX
And you'll never see him acknowledge that Wisconsin has the second-worst roads in America or comes in 12th on a well-water contamination index.

Here's another data point that dovetails with the 50th-place ranking for entrepreneurial activity which also will never appear on Walker's election-year twitter feed:

On a 'brain-gain ' index, Wisconsin ranks 44th, with only PA, NY, NJ, OH, CA and MI attracting fewer new residents with college degrees than Wisconsin: 

Wisconsin has one of the lowest shares of non-native college graduates that relocated from other states. Consequently, Wisconsin must instead ask itself is what can be done to attract college educated people from outside Wisconsin? 
The data and study were culled from this UW-Madison site.

Wisconsin would likely rank higher on the Kaufmann start-up business activity index if the state were attracting more out-of-state college grads who wanted to start businesses here, yet years of Walker's heavily-ideologcal approach to attracting business - - deregulation, tax breaks, "Open for Business" billboards, a Wal-er-created (but still-dysfunctional) business development state agency and a compliant legislature embracing the same failed tools - - are not moving the needle.

And Walker has cut or diminished state science staffing as well as 
climate science information and other public environmental priorities statewide, as I note throughout this summary post - - so why would people with science degrees think about Wisconsin as their career-friendly new home?

I know several experts who came to Wisconsin years ago specifically for science careers after graduating from colleges and universities in other states who have told me they would not move here now because Walker has so decimated a respect for facts, science, and the teaching professions.