Saturday, March 23, 2019

Foxconn road 'improvements' echo similar regional battles

Get ready for a long, costly battle against your own taxpayer-funded government.

Because when the road builder-legislator complex aligns its planners and road-graders for 'improvements,' good data, citizen complaints and common sense get bulldozed, too.

That would be my message to people objecting to state-planned-but-county-supported 'improvements' on a local road to serve the Foxconn project:
The preferred project presented by the DOT requires the purchase of 68.9 acres of new right of way, affects 14 farms and requires the purchase of five homes. A total of 2.7-acres of floodplain and 7.44 acres of wetlands will also be affected.
And FYI, a complete archive is here about the Foxconn project whose purposes and timetables have changed faster than the weather. A sample:
* Doesn't matter if Foxconn fails or bolts or simply shrinks: [Assembly Speaker Robin] Vos got all that highway money for his district.
Vos is King of Sprawlville
We don't yet know whether the scandalously-'planned' and politically-greased  Foxconn project will collapse quickly or shrink into broken-promised irrelevancy - - or whether politicians will be bold enough to say "mea culpa" and cut the public's losses - - but one thing we know for sure:
WI GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos managed in a state without two spare potholes-filling nickels to rub together to steer to and through his district a quarter of a billion federal and state road-and-interchange widening dollars that will trigger sprawl beyond bulldozed Mount Pleasant farms even if Foxconn never diverts a gallon of Lake Michigan water to produce a single big screen LCD TV.
Robin Vos speaks at Racine Tea Party event (8378614585).jpg 
Note that Wisconsin DOT says it wants to widen the road, County Highway KR, into a four-lane divided highway with a median, and that "51 public comments have were received at two public hearings... who generally do not support the project in its current configuration."

Here is a WisDOT link about the project:
WisDOT, Racine County and Kenosha County entered into a state trunk highway jurisdictional transfer agreement in April 2018 for County KR improvements between I-94 and Old Green Bay Road. The agreement allows WisDOT to complete design and construction activities for this section of County KR. The counties are responsible for right of way acquisition and relocations. After construction, WisDOT will return jurisdiction of the roadway to the counties for ongoing control, access rights and maintenance. 
The design and construction of the section of County KR between I-94 and County H (County KR-Phase 1) is being completed as part of the Wisconn Valley Development Road projects within the Foxconn Electronics and Information Technology Manufacturing (EITM) zone. The section between County H and Old Green Bay Road lies outside the EITM zone and is being evaluated in the Environmental Assessment (EA). It is also referred to as the County KR-Phase 2 project.
Residents along Highway KR are also raising questions about the traffic counts used to support the expansion and its proposed, 45 miles-per-hour speed limit.

That reminded me of the slippery procedures used to get Highway 23 west of Sheboygan into the budget and the citizen effort and expense to knock it out.

And the concerns along the KR corridor reminded me of WisDOT's bulldozing bullying to begin widening Highway 164/J north of I-94 - - an expansion which the authorities began despite petitions in opposition signed by more than 15,000 people - - and which finally ground to a halt in Federal court - - but which continued to flare up - - after years of grassroots struggle and litigation.
Note also that the Highway 164/J coalition had also fought for safer, lowered speed limits, though as people who are familiar with the 'expanded-and-improved' Lake South Parkway through Milwaukee's south side know full well, it didn't take too long for the speed limit there to jump to 50 mph.

Because WisDOt-promoted expansion can have consequences years after the paving is finished; I'm on that road often, and doing 50 mph there will earn you loud horns dirty looks from motorists who think Interstate-freeway speeds are their right.

Speaking of which, it was Robin Vos who pushed hard to raise freeway speed limits in Wisconsin to 70 mph despite the obvious - - that faster-moving traffic makes crashes more serious.
I mean, why listen to stupid experts with facts in hand when a Robin Vos knows better?
More reason that the good folks along Highway KR should expect a costly and uphill battle against a widened, faster-moving and 'improved' finished project.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Walker's 'columns' could combine half-baked food, ideas

Food for thought and questions about Walker's new columnist gig at the Moonie paper in DC:

From Twitter today:

Read my new column in :
OK: Like, who's the ghost-writer?

And will there be column art of his oft-tweeted half-eaten meals to illustrate his half-baked ideas? With a side of word salad?

From Twitter March 14:

Got some great ribs and corn bread 🇺🇸

From Twitter today:
Food was outstanding at Rossini Trattoria in Fort Charlotte, FL & Maurice sang too.

Celebrating World Water Day, WI wins, everyday beauty

While there is much work to do after Walker's eight-year war on Wisconsin's precious waters, let's salute on World Water Day 2019 the great citizen organizing and legal advocacy which has reversed flawed DNR groundwater permits issued for the Kohler golf course on Lake Michigan, a sand mine that would have filled a rare wetland, and high-capacity well withdrawals for industrial-scale users.

And let's honor and protect what's right in front of us.
Lake Michigan, Milwaukee

From Bradford Beach on Lake Michigan, south to the Milwaukee skyline

The lagoon between Lincoln Memorial Dr. and Veterans Park
The Milwaukee River, west of the harbor

The Milwaukee River flowing through Estabrook Park, Shorewood, on its way to Lake Michigan.
Atwater Beach on Lake Michigan, Shorewood.

Bradford Beach, winter

Bradford Beach, summer

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Will Foxconn still build that fantasyland-cum-ecoysystem?

After weeks of uncertainty and a Trumpian intervention, Foxconn now says it will resume construction at its Mt. Pleasant site later this year

(A complete Foxconn archive is here.)

I wonder it it still intends to 'curate an ecosystem,' let alone build the fantasyland it portrayed in a promotion video, described and linked, here.
The company has released a four-minute promotional video - - YouTube link, here - - which suggests that what's planned for 3,000 acres rural acres has literally sprawled from an out-sized factory into a futuristic, state-subsidized, Super-Suburban, diverted Great Lakes water-driven factory town including hotels, houses, medical facilities and additional commercial space - - a sort of Sprawlville meets Tommy Bartlett's Robot World meets Versailles meets DisneyWorld meets One of The West's Biggest-Ever-Spec-Business Parks.
Some images of what's coming to Mt. Pleasant, per the company video...(screenshot, below):

Robin Vos gets really picky about legal stuff

Wisconsin GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has a rather situational approach to the law.

On the one hand, he's running to an appeals court to overturn a ruling against his lame-duckery.

So maybe those lame-duck power grabs were not the absolute constitutional certainties which as Vos had said.
While Vis is stone-walling an invitation to produce documents and testimony in another case. 

That's hardly a good look for a lawmaker.

Facts, reality swamp Walker's climate change stupidity

So let's pull on our journalistic hip waders for a slog through post-Walker Wisconsin:

* We begin with Walker's DNR scrubbing numerous links and other materials from its web pages, noted on this blog in 2012 - - 
DNR Fights Climate Change...By Deleting Most Of Climate Change Web Content
- - and again in a 2016 update.

* Also in 2012 I reposted again information about a warning from the US EPA in 2003 to Midwestern public officials who needed to upgrade flood control planning in a warming, changing climate: 
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 be come 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.
Team Walker's response. Nada. Worse, Walker's DNR completed in 2016 its climate change web scrubbing, which I noted immediately and became a widely-distributed Wisconsin and national story
Under Wisconsin’s Walker, a Climate Website Scrubbed of Climate Science
A recent reboot of language on a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website about climate change and the Great Lakes, as first exposed by James Rowen, holds hints of what to watch for as the Trump administration assesses a vast array of climate web pages created under eight years of the Obama presidency. 
* The flooding has persisted, leaving Walker and the First Lady 
Judith Davidoff photo 
to take to sand-bagging during his losing re-election campaign while a lone protester got into the photo op with a spot-on handmade sign.

*  Which bring us to these headlines today:
Great Lakes states are warming faster than rest of US, more flooding is in store, new report says
Over $1 million flood damage in Wisconsin
Severe Midwest flooding could last all spring 
Just another mess left behind by Walker for Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to confront.

And by the way, the DNR is still going with its sanitized, ignorance-fueled climate change mush that has been sitting there on its website like an ad for buggy whips or eight-track tape decks for exactly 26 months

Can we please get a science-based replacement and some information about climate-based infrastructure and flood-prevention planning before the next wave hit?

Lame-duck champ moves like scared rabbit

In case you missed news of the Robin Vos 'do I have something to hide?' leadership move:
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is refusing to testify in Wisconsin's gerrymandering case, opening a new front in a long-running legal battle over how election maps are drawn. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Eureka! WI GOP discovers water quality issues

This just in: Republicans discover that this is not a lawn decoration:

Manure flowing from a Kewaunee CAFO.

After eight years of citizen suffering enforced by Scott Walker to serve his personal agendas and special-interest allies - - eight years of toxic groundwater and manure-enriched tap water and algae-stuffed rivers and persistent dead zones in lakes - - what do you know?

Republicans say they have a 'new awareness.' 
By this fall, a new legislative task force formed by the leader of the Wisconsin state Assembly will offer a series of proposed law changes aimed at solving water pollution problems, the panel's chairman said Wednesday during the panel's first meeting....
"It's a priority of the Democrats and a priority now of the Republicans." 
"Now?" You mean after Walker's defeat and more grassroots rebellion that threatens your legislative majorities goosed along by atrociously-tainted gerrymandering which your CYA behavior is designed to backstop?

Do you seriously think Vos and Fitzgerald won't still jump to the tune of donor who send hand-delivered instructions and expect political and environmental 'certainty' on their terms laid out as recently as 2015?
Industry has its talking point  - - "certainty" - - focus-group vetted and scripted. And has its eager chief water-carrier - - GOP Senate Majority leader Scott Fitzgerald - - locked down to guarantee delivery of this special interest, 'chamber of commerce mentality' privilege:
Growers say water certainty is needed
No doubt the $220,000 Wisconsin Democracy Campaign has traced from these special interests to members of the committeeholding the hearing should help along that 'certainty.'
Not to mention lobbying, known and documented.
It's the same talking point Big Ag and Big Dairy marched over to the Legislators in 2015 in a brazen, hand-delivered written demand for permanent groundwater control - -" certainty" for them but not for people living nearby or fishing downstream:
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. 
So I'll hold my applause for The Pollution Party until it actually does something.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

10 ways to understand Walker's new havoc-wreaking game

So, there he goes again, and we start another preventative effort, hoping there’s no clean-up shift.

Not content with promising during his failed 2015 presidential campaign to "wreak havoc" in Washington, DC, Scott Walker is on another campaign to wreak even greater damage - - rewriting the United States Constitution passed down to us by the Republic's founders.

Brave, serious leaders who left us legacies unlike Walker's leftover tweets.

Thus, three things, and then ten more:

1. Don't let yourself be divided-and-conquered, Walker-style. His post-defeat rehabilitation revival is just another career politician's to fool voters and reporters into think that there's some there there.

2.. He's already working the media, which means that as Walker builds another self-serving apparatus with the potential to wreak even greater havoc we'll be seeing more items like this Washington Post piece that can't get to the heart of the matter.

We definitely haven’t heard the last of him, and he’s being strategic about how he spends these years in the wilderness. “What I was looking at was stuff I could do that’s mission oriented,” he said in an interview last night. “There’s a lot of business opportunities out there. Nothing wrong with that. But I was looking for things that were really consistent with what I worked on as governor.”
And this isn't a knock on the story. It's just that we here in Wisconsin know Walker better than do outsiders.

3. So mostly for my media and activist friends beyond Wisconsin here's a rough, incomplete and to-be-updated first cut at list of items, resources and authors whose work will delve deeper into what Walker actually "worked on as governor."

* If Walker begins with that 'Midwestern nice' mantra, please consult this post for a fuller, documented definition.

* A blog series covering Walker's war on the Wisconsin environment.

* Red ink alerts! Walker's new gig purportedly will use conservative principles to target government deficits. Here are the details of Walker's signature $4.5 billion government handout to Taiwan-based Foxconn - - which also forced property owners off their land and left local governments in hundreds of millions of dollars of debt. 

And his history as Governor of skipping state debt payments to the tune of $1.5 billion to balance his budgets.

* 33 examples of Walker's attacks on science.

* 41 examples of Walker's duplicitous moves or claims to phony titles

* Unethical: Life in Scott Walker's Cabinet and the Dirty Side of Politics, by Ed Wall.

The Politics of Resentment. Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker, by Katherine J. Cramer.

* The Fall of Wisconsin: The Conservative Conquest of a Progressive Bastion and the Future of American Politicsby Dan Kaufman. 

* has followed Walker for years with staff-generated postings guest columns. Here is a recent sample from editor Bruce Murphy: The Eternal Campaign of Scott Walker.

* Wisconsin Democracy Campaign maintains a political contribution data base covering Wisconsin candidates, campaigns and donors. Though Walker found a way around the collection and reporting rules.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Walker turns empty vessel tour to hard, far right fringe

Let's be clear about Scott Walker's 'job announcement' - - organizing key states to initiate a 50-state constitutional convention to take the country back to 1950. Or 1850: 

Walker's 'work' the group has nothing to do with the Constitution. 

Here's an expanded lens through which to view Walker's move:
So mostly for my media and activist friends beyond Wisconsin here's a rough, incomplete and to-be-updated first cut at a list of items, resources and authors whose work will delve deeper into what Walker actually "worked on as governor."
I doubt he's even read it. If he had, he wouldn't have spent eight years promoting restrictions to voting rights that people died to attain.

Or have sworn an oath of office to uphold the state constitution, too, while systematically undermining its 9th article that guarantees people the right to clean, accessible water.

Or have, more recently, worked in secret to move traditional duties of the governor and attorney general through power-grabbing lame-duck, post-defeat bills to a legislative committee dominated by GOP legislators through toxically-gerrymandering which mocks and negates 'one-person-one-vote' due process and equal protection rights.

Walker has thrown in with the loopiest of right-wing donors and their minorities-dismissing-public-sector-killing corporate-enshrining agendas just to keep his name and face and travel schedules in the news and before post-Tea Party rightest constituencies for another doomed run at the Presidency.

He's addicted to the game.

Once an empty vessel, always an empty vessel.

Kohler golf course wetland-fill permit reversed

In a great win for Wisconsin wetlands, clean water, native culture and grassroots activism, a state administrative law judge has reversed the issuance of a wetlands-fill permit issued by the DNR, said Friends of the Black River Forest, a group opposed to the project.

The permit is pivotal to the construction of a proposed, high-end golf course on the Lake Michigan coastline on a Kohler-owned nature preserve. 
In the decision, the judge found that the project will require deforesting over half the site and significant regrading, resulting in changes to wetland and site hydrology. He concluded, “the Department’s determination that these adverse impacts will be significant mandate that the permit application must be denied.” 
The judge also found that the DNR lacked sufficient information to conclude that the project would not harm water quality associated with chemical and fertilizer applications, and that some of Kohler’s submitted information was unreliable or incomplete.
The decision could be appealed to the circuit court.

A complete news release about the decision will appear at the bottom of this post.

The potential loss of wetlands has been cited by opponents as a looming threat:
Strong testimony vs. Kohler golf project, park & wetland losses
The golf course proposal would take acreage for a building, road and parking lot within the adjoining Kohler Andrae State Park, strip away much of the project area's forest, cut down important wildlife habitat and even claim rare dunes, as noted by the DNR's site review which I have quoted at length:
Approximately 3.7 acres of wetland would be lost due to filling including impacts to approximately 1.36 acres of Great Lakes ridge and swale wetlands, a wetland type that is considered “imperiled” in Wisconsin. Additional wetland impacts resulting from alterations to wetland hydrology and the influence of increased nutrients could change the wetland type and allow encroachment of invasive species.
Note also that is the third such reversal of an environmentally-damaging Walker-era DNR ruling - - two earlier victories are noted here, here and here - - and this development presaged the grassroots win:
Former DNR employee: Staff pressured to OK Kohler golf course on rare Wisconsin wetlands, park
I'd put up last fall a 21-part series on Walker's horrible environmental record, with this installment devoted just to the golf course project, given its significance both for the area and environmental activism:
Few projects with the exception of Foxconn which have the blessing of Walker's 'chamber of commerce mentality DNR and other taxpayer-funded public agencies - - the AG's office, the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board, which is supposed to give independent oversight guidance to the DNR, local officials and annexation officials at the state DOA - - have outweighed the state's disregard for the the environment and fair play than the Kohler golf course proposed adjacent to and grabbing acreage inside a popular state park.
I've visited the site, publicized the opposition organized by Friends of the Black River Forest, and written about it often since 2014.
And put it into a larger context often, including, here
...the state has 700 impaired waterways by the agency's own count and in 2014 added dozens more to the list; paradoxically, the DNR is currently reviewing whether a major Walker donor can build an 18-hole golf course on 247 acres of forested, wetland-laden land at the edge of Lake Michigan near Sheboygan through which runs The Black River, one of those impaired waterways. 
Opponents of the project's groundwater demands, deforestation, and planned incursion into an adjoining state park recently told the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board - - to which the DNR reports - - that test wells were drilled on the site without permits, among other concerns.
See and hear the opponents' ten-minute presentation beginning at the meeting's 2:21 mark, followed by about five minutes of Q & A.
Here is one early post about the developer's donations to Walker's campaign, and something of a more recent summary, below.
And I try to remind people that the Black River which runs through site's current 247-acre nature preserve, and Lake Michigan literally yards to the east, are public trust waters which the DNR is obligated to manage for the people so they are not lost as public resources, as the State Supreme Court has warned.
New release test:
March 18, 2019, For Immediate Release Contact Christa Westerberg, 608/251-0101


An administrative law judge on Friday reversed a permit granted by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to Kohler Co. last year. The permit would have allowed the company to fill nearly four acres of high-quality wetland for a new golf course development in Sheboygan County, on land north of and within Kohler-Andrae State Park.

In reversing the permit, the judge found the standards for issuing the permit had not been met and that DNR lacked sufficient information to grant the permit.

“We are grateful for this decision, which thoroughly addressed the adverse, irreversible impacts of the proposed golf course,” said Mary Faydash, President of Friends of the Black River Forest, Inc. The group filed the petition challenging the permit, which was heard during a five-day evidentiary hearing last year.

“We are definitely delighted,” added Friends member and co-petitioner Claudia Bricks.

In the decision, the judge found that the project will require deforesting over half the site and significant regrading, resulting in changes to wetland and site hydrology. He concluded, “the Department’s determination that these adverse impacts will be significant mandate that the permit application must be denied.”

The judge also found that the DNR lacked sufficient information to conclude that the project would not harm water quality associated with chemical and fertilizer applications, and that some of Kohler’s submitted information was unreliable or incomplete.

Said the judge, “[t]he Department should be making its determinations based on completed plans, not trusting that management plans that will be prepared will adequately protect the groundwater and wetlands. Once the golf course is constructed the adverse impacts will be permanent and irreversible.”

“The golf course would be a major development on an extraordinarily sensitive site,” said Friends attorney Christa Westerberg. “The evidence simply did not support granting a permit in this case.”

P.O. Box 804 Sheboygan, WI 53082

The proposed golf course is located on forested property between the Black River and Lake Michigan. It hosts rare ridge and swale and interdunal wetlands and is an important stopover site for migratory birds. The property is susceptible to groundwater contamination due to sand soils and a high groundwater table.

Kohler’s proposal also called for using land in Kohler-Andrae State Park for a golf course entrance road and large maintenance facility. That land is characterized by dunes, wetlands, and forest, and is used by park visitors for hiking and wildlife observation, among other activities.

Said Faydash, “this decision is a victory for all of Wisconsin, particularly the grassroots groups who have worked tirelessly to hold the DNR and developers to Wisconsin conservation law.
It confirms the DNR must issue sound, scientifically-based environmental permits which protect and preserve our air, land and water.” 

247-acre nature preserve golf course site Steve Back photo.