Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Walker's WI War on Education = drop in ACT scores

Well done, anti-education Governor, who slashed the UW system budget and cut a billion dollars from public schools, K-12:
Wisconsin ACT scores drop below national average
Think Walker will take that fresh PR mugging, plus his big jobs promise fail, and our wrong-direction plunging pothole index on his 2020 Presidential tour, with stops upcoming in MD and VA?

22nd, 23rd WI bear hound in '16 thrown to wolves, killed

State-sanctioned animal cruelty - - a frequent topic on this blog because it illustrates some only-in-Wisconsin bloody behaviors and programs - -  continues unabated in the Wisconsin woods this year, where 23 bear hounds have been killed and five more injured by wolves, most if not all during so-called bear hunting training runs.

Twenty hounds have been killed since July 5th.

Plott hound, above. Four Plott hounds are among 23 bear hounds killed by wolves during so-called bear hound training this year, DNR records show
The data with maps and depredation locations is collected by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, which pays out to bear hound owners - - even to those who are scofflaws, careless, willfully ignorant of known wolf activity areas (check out the maps) and even to repeat payment collectors - - $2,500 per sacrificed dog through an only-in-Wisconsin payout program lobbied through the Legislature by so-called sporting organizations. 

Hounds may also be legally 'trained' against bears in cages, with bears permitted in the training cages for up to 12 hours in a 24-hour period.

Hounds may also be 'trained' against captive animals smaller than bears in so-called roll cages.

These cages are permitted in so-called Dog Training Clubs, which the state licenses.

Read the rules. It's your state, too.

WI Women for Trump includes Jane Doe

Clearly the non-existent Trump political organization did not Google the women it put on Trump's Wisconsin female support group, which is extra ironic since noted Scott Walker Internet specialist and First John Doe Domino Darlene Wink is on the list.

But it's a gift to state and national reporters who seem to have forgotten about Walker's secret email system on public property and time which made it easier to cheat in the 2010 election and harder for his opposition to win.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Small "d" democratic win, GOP defeat in Wisconsin

On the Wisconsin right - - from the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce board room to closed GOP legislative caucus meeting rooms to the Scott Walker Governor's Mansion dinner table to Brad Schimel's heavily-partisan, lobbyist-led Attorney General's State Capitol suite - - today, August 23, 2016 shall always be known as The Day Their Music Died.

That's because after two federal courtroom defeats, the Wisconsin Republican establishment through the afore-mentioned Brad Schimel

threw in the towel and ended the Wisconsin taxpayer-paid, government-directed, partisan-inspired opposition to…voting!

Two liberal groups, One Wisconsin Institute and Citizen Action of Wisconsin Education Fund, sued over those limits and a host of other election laws last year. This July, U.S. District Judge James Peterson sided with them and struck down the limits on early voting, saying they infringed on the voting rights of minorities.

Schimel tried to block the ruling, but the appeals panel let it stand for now.
So get the ID that is still required, and when early voting begins in your town, vote.

And if early voting in your town is not on the agenda, get on the phone with your elected officials or show up at their offices and get it implemented.

Next WI budget could be Walker's harshest yet

[UpdatedPressure is building on GOP Governor Scott Walker to fix Wisconsin's rutted roads and solve the state's road-financing budget crisis.

He's botched both by championing - - without the needed funding in hand - - a seven-county multi-billion dollar SE WI not-so-free freeway expansion and reconstruction plan while also starving local transit systems and pothole repair financing - - all the while refusing through an embrace of Tea Party orthodoxy to boost transportation budgets with either an increase in the gasoline tax or vehicle or driver license fees.

But his road-builder campaign donors want the big projects fully built, as do Walker's GOP legislative cronies, so what's a politically-ambitious right-wing Governor to do and fix a billion-dollar mess of his own making?

Well, look to his history as Walker gets ready to launch his 2017-'19 state budget, which will also be the state budget upon which he runs for re-election as Governor or the budget preceding another ineffectual run for President in 2020 -- or both:

*  Walker will cobble together some funding through cuts in non-transportation areas and transfer that money to big highway projects. 

His initial cut to the UW system, in the last budget was $300 million, reduced $50 million by the legislature. Don't be surprised if he goes after the UW, again.

*  In his first budget, Walker ended state-financed recycling. The Legislature restored part of it. 

In his last budget, Walker proposed freezing for thirteen years all state land conversation purchases through a DNR-managed borrowing program, ended all state spending for state parks, and axed a swath of DNR science staffers to further his pro-commerce, pollution-enabling deregulation of the state's land, air and water.

While the Legislature restored some of the land purchase borrowing, I'd expect more cuts to the DNR, and perhaps more movement towards selling park naming rights, or even park land itself to fulfill Walker's purported love for small government.

Except when it comes to the Lake Mendota mansion he lives in, the drivers and pilots he enjoys, nice benefits, unlimited time off to campaign nationally with state-paid security and a $12,000-per-month salary.

*  Walker has slashed K-12 education, declined $550 million in federal funding to expand Medicaid, raised taxes on the poor to fund a tax cut for higher earners, booted tens of thousands of Wisconsinites off food aid, - - here and here - -  cancelled Planned Parenthood contracts and followed an ideologically anti-urban path - - take it from the city's leading history, John Gurda - - that has harmed Milwaukee, the state's biggest city where most of the state's poor people live.

So I would expect him to target social service programming and what is left of the safety net in the state as a piggy bank to raid for highway spending that principally serves the wealthier, whiter Milwaukee-area suburbs which provide Walker with his electoral base.

And just as he has transferred the responsibility for budgeting fairness and decision-making responsibilities to the Legislature, where some of his more Draconian proposals have been moderated - - the UW cut, the recycling and land acquisition abolitions - - Walker could make large trims to state shared revenue - - where funds are returned to municipalities and local governments in exchange for a prohibition on local income taxes - - and let mayors and city councils and county supervisors and school boards figure out how to provide the services Walker and his Legislature could punted their way.

Update, 12:39 p.m. Veteran state government watcher Steve Walters predicts Walker will fund some road-building and repairs with a tax shift that trades vehicle fees or more pennies at the gas pump for a massive new tax cut for business.

Problem is: another loss in revenue to local governments because of the way the tax Walker wants to end is distributed.

More of that you-know-what rolling downhill, an old state budgeting screw-em trick.

The bottom line is that Walker needs to serve his road-builder and business donors who are demanding bigger and better roads, while at the same time Walker needs to firm up his conservative credentials with one, possible two elections on his Ronald Reagan impersonation itinerary.

For Wisconsin residents, that means a budget balanced on the backs of low-income citizens who have the least clout to resist it.

And if some Democratic cities and Mayors and University towns feel the heat, a Walker-GOP-and-suburban win-win-win.


Monday, August 22, 2016

Walker gets win on Joe McCarthy's home turf

Walker's 2015 presidential pandering push to close Planned Parenthood clinics statewide through legislation he knew would be declared unconstitutional nevertheless gets the result he wanted just a few miles from Joe McCarthy's Fox Valley birthplace:
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin to close its Appleton abortion clinic
Not only a 'win' for the far right, but also for the domestic terrorist who shot up a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, forcing expensive security upgrades - - and not for the first time - - that the Appleton clinic could not afford. 

Citizen action for clean WI water gaining strength

This blog has been reporting on multiple Wisconsin water issues for years, and I am pleased to note growing action countering Big AG and large animal feeding operations that are contaminating Wisconsin rivers, streams and wells:
*  Citizen activist David Gorski is on the ballot in Central Wisconsin to fight for cleaner water  An update, here.

*  A lawsuit has been filed to obtain records from the incumbent legislator there who has been on all sides of the water issue.

*  Likewise, farmer Lynn Utesch is a leading voice and legislative candidate for stronger water protection in Kewaunee County. 

Because Scott Walker's DNR has intentionally degraded multiple environmental standards and enforcement statewide, and enabled groundwater pollution in Kewaunee County, federal action to improve water quality in Kewaunee County is expected soon, The Journal Sentinel reports.

Props to attorneys and organizers at Midwest Environmental Advocates for focusing attention on these issues and forcing the US EPA to do "imminently" for Wisconsin citizens and public water what Walker, the Attorney General and the DNR will not.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Transit foe Rep. Vos helped isolate Milwaukee, workers

I've been trying these last few days to deepen and broaden the discussion about Milwaukee, poverty, unemployment and race by posting several items about multiple state and regional policy decisions - - a summary post, with links and documentation, here - - which have land-locked minority-majority Milwaukee while keeping jobs and opportunities in neighboring wealthier and whiter counties difficult to access through bus line disconnections and barriers to rail transit, too.

I want to add one more politician to the mix - - n
ow GOP Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, (R-Rochester, Racine County) - - who tried in the last state budget now that he is Assembly Speaker to further starve transit by removing it altogether from the state transportation fund - - a dream of the road-builders, for sure - - because he considers transit "a social service."

Vos began to make his mark as Wisconsin Public Transit Enemy #1 or #2 ( remember, Walker is in charge) as a mere Assemblyman four years ago when he pushed the State Legislature to war counties from creating Regional Transit Authorities.

So more regional connections were barred and lost to counties, including Milwaukee - - just like what was sacrificed on a grander scale when Walker blocked new rail connections between Milwaukee, Madison and the Twin Cities when he successfully rejected $810 million in federal stimulus funds to add Amtrak services, rail bed upgrades, plus train assembly and maintenance jobs in Milwaukee, too.

Picture of Representative Robin Vos
As I wrote in 2012, when Vos made his move.
Transit has been outright attacked in the region, led by State Rep. Robin Vos. a legislator from Racine County, a SEWRPC County.
Wisconsin legislators, with the full support of the Waukesha County delegations, used the 2011-2013 state budget to wipe out cooperative, cross-jurisdictional Regional Transit Authorities, which affirmed the anti-transit, anti-Milwaukee position taken by Waukesha's County Board when it refused to join such a body that could have more closely aligned services with Milwaukee.
Vos' anti-urban small-mindedness found - - surprise, surprise - - allies in Waukesha County, where politicians had already killed a potential light rail connection with Milwaukee, and, for good measure, prevented Milwaukee County from moving forward with light rail plans for a system that would not have crossed the county border. 

As The Freeman, Waukesha's largest newspaper had already argued
First of all, while we are fine with regional partnerships and cooperation, we remain firmly against Waukesha County being part of a regional transit authority.

It doesn’t make sense and is not in the interest of Waukesha County residents to establish a regional transit authority that has the power to raise your taxes and will have aims that mostly benefit Milwaukee.
Pretty blatant, but par for the course in our segregated region.

The suburban counties' elected leadership and opinion-makers to the west (Waukesha) and south (Racine) want little to do with transit and nothing to do with Milwaukee when it comes to transit cooperation, thereby embedding the region's economic disparities.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Milwaukee regional segregation worsened with another bus line cut

[Updated] Just days after I wrote a two-part blog series Monday and Tuesday last week - - one link will get you to both posts  - - that detailed segregationist and exclusionary state and regional policy histories that land-locked Milwaukee's minority residents and isolated them from job opportunities beyond the city's borders - - including documented light rail barriers and targeted bus line cancellations that barred or severed links between Milwaukee working people and jobs - - another such bus line cancellation was announced Friday that will force city workers to walk - - with winter approaching - - for up to an hour - -  from the last bus stop to work and back so they can continue to bring home a paycheck.

What kind of Wisconsin and America is this, in 2016? 

It's hard to believe - - and especially infuriating - - because the bus line getting axed connecting central city Milwaukee bus riders with jobs in Menomonee Falls was established by a well-intentioned but last-minute court order that addressed state transportation spending discrimination by thoughtless, urban-disregarding bureaucrats in Madison - - discriminatory spending and 'planning' which began before the bus line was cobbled together as a last-ditch road-building project add-on.

Yes, the actual cancellation decision was made by two Milwaukee grassroots organizations who were given some bus-line planning power in the court-ordered settlement, but these organizations are not transportation planning agencies and should not have had to bear the weight of making remedial decisions to try and deal with decades of discrimination originating elsewhere.

The organizations stepped in to address systemic failure when the State of Wisconsin Department of Transportation approved the spending of $1.7 billion on Zoo Interchange reconstruction without adding any transit component, thus allocating that entire gigantic sum to serve motorists in the region - - often upper-income and predominantly white suburbanites in Waukesha County - - without earmarking a penny for the thousands of lower-income residents and workers principally in minority-majority Milwaukee who are without access to cars.

WisDOT has had this planning insensitivity pointed out to it over the years, cares not and only moved a bit towards including some transit in the project when faced with successful civil rights litigation.

Also to blame: the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, the suburban-and-exurban-dominated publicly-funded agency SEWRPC which wrote the regional freeway system reconstruction plan under a $1 million WisDOT contract included equivalent.

The bigger failure is the state government's unwillingness to fully fund transit in Wisconsin, and certainly across the Milwaukee region where transit-dependent populations are the largest stateside, as a right, as a basic public service that is as fundamental as are motorists' rights to travel on roads and bridges.

People who do not drive by choice, or because of illness or disability and who pay state and local taxes make a contribution to roads and bridges, as should motorists and all others - - just as we all pay for schools we don't attend or social services we don't access or specialized business assistance programs which are outside of our professions or roads and bridges beyond our neighborhoods which we may never use, but which we support because they are part of a system which needs to be complete to buttress and extend the society.

A transportation plan that is intentionally light on transit and which intentionally disconnects bus riders regionally from jobs or unfettered movement is a plan that is discriminatory, backward, disgraceful and in need of a full-fledged teardown and replacement with economic justice as its foundation.

And remember that the last-minute dollars grudgingly-added by WisDOT to the Zoo Interchange amounted to $13.1 million, after $1.7 billion was approved for the roads and bridges project.

Of course that level of last-minute bus funding would be insufficient!

This latest bus line cancellation is a policy and public relations disgrace and needs to be corrected by the state picking up the entire cost now, and then integrating it and other Milwaukee-and-worker-friendly transit services into fully-paid state programs with the regularity and thoroughness with which new roads are constructed.

Looking back - - Much of this all began when the State Legislature froze Milwaukee's borders in 1955, boosting suburbanization just as white flight took hold after Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.

Followed by the construction of I-43 from downtown to the north suburbs and straight through the African-American neighbors - - including Bronzeville, a vibrant entertainment and cultural district - - which literally split traditional neighborhoods, relocated homes and businesses and turned residential strongholds into a high-speed commuting corridor now scheduled for yet another WisDOT planned, SEWRPC-recommended, taxpayer-paid widening.

Stop the inequities now.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Walker slogan camouflages WI vote meddling

Everyone in Wisconsin sees right through Scott Walker's misleadingly and dishonest "easier to vote but harder to cheat" talking point.

The entire purpose of the voter photo ID law, state-mandated reduction of Motor Vehicles ID-issuing office hours, and additional measures to cut convenient early voting hours is to turn Wisconsin GOP red on election day by tamping down turnout in traditionally-Democratic cities and on college neighborhoods.

Voting fraud exists only in GOP partisan strategy, fueled by conspiratorial imagination and obvious projection.

I'm glad Walker keeps mouthing his dishonest talking point, given that a secret email system, publicly-paid staffers campaigning from his Milwaukee County Executive office suite, and the John Doe II investigative probe into his campaign financing and coordination which is still alive in the US Supreme Court are all on his permanent record.

He and that tag line were made for each other.

Especially after being publicly accused by a long-time Donald Trump confidante of having fixed "at least" five Wisconsin elections.

"At least" five?

Are Wisconsin Republicans using state power to nail down number six?
Image may contain: 2 people

Add Wisconsin, Milwaukee history to Ron Johnson's spotty education

Soon-to-be-one-term Wisconsin GOP US Senator and sunspots-addled Ron Johnson could only cough up right-wing orthodoxy about the federal guvmint being to blame for Milwaukee's problems.
Ron Johnson, official portrait, 112th Congress.jpg

He missed a lot of Wisconsin and Milwaukee history growing up and going to school in Minnesota before running an Oshkosh plastics maker.

Here's a short reading list, sir:
State and regional governments keep Milwaukee, minorities isolated, part II
Some lesser known justice facts about Milwaukee & Wisconsin, part I 
Milwaukee segregation is regional 
Transit disconnections cost Milwaukeeans jobs 
Milwaukee's invisible racial cage  

WI DNR selling more of your land

I note that the DNR has thrown more or your acreage on the market - -  history, here and here - - so the agency, to further paper over this loss of public assets summons up the bureaucratic obfuscatory descriptor "Phase 3."

To read all about it you have to work your way through a long, not-user-friendly collection of sites and summaries of various municipalities' garage sale items, unwanted vehicles and seized property.

Here's the beginning link, and one example:

12c.jpg27.2 +/- Acre Parcel near Elk Mound, WI w/Trout Stream Easement
- Address: County Rd H, Elk Mound, WI 54739 
- Property Details: Creek 17-11 flows through this parcel and is a high quality, coldwater, Class I trout stream that contains healthy populations of brook and brown trout. It is an important coldwater tributary for Elk Creek, which has an exceptional trout fishery and a high amount of angler use. An easement requirement that extends 66 feet from each streambank and spans the entire length of the stream on this property will provide adequate protection for this important resource. The property has approximately 5,296 feet of two-bank frontage on a tributary of Elk Creek called Crk 17-11, a class one trout stream. Much of the property is wetland and not wooded. There is a possible encroachment of an agricultural field on the property to the southwest.
- County Mapping: Dunn County Mapping 
- County Land Records: Dunn Land Records 
- Additional Files: 
Aerial View 
Soil Map 
Topo Map 
Easement Map 
Plat Map 
- Municipality: Town of Elk Mound
- County: Dunn 

WI DNR adds to controversial Kohler golf plan comment period

If you object to the destruction of a forested nature preserve, rare sand dunes, important wetlands and native artifacts to build a high-end golf course that will also take publicly-owned acreage from the adjoining Kohler-Andrae State Park along Lake Michigan south of Sheboygan - - 

- - then pay attention to this announcement from the agency reviewing the proposal:
Public input opportunity: The public is invited to review and provide comments on the DNR's draft EIS [PDF] through close of business on August 26, 2016 [EXTENDED]...
Comments may be sent by email or by US Mail to: Jay Schiefelbein, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, 2984 Shawano Avenue, Green Bay, WI 54313-6727.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Milwaukee-born writer describes 'invisible racial cage' around city

The Boston Globe carries a Milwaukee-born writer's recollection of the racially-segregating transit disconnections (registration required for the text) that separated city people from out-county jobs and opportunities.

A theme of two posts I wrote earlier this week, here and here.

The more you know...

Walker, Priebus are serial election fraudsters, says ex-Trump confidante

Best part of this very curious story is the modifier "at least." 
Former Trump Advisor: Scott Walker Has 'Rigged' 5 Elections

Roger Stone Accuses Gov. Walker, GOP Chair Priebus Of Election Fraud
Stone and Trump go back 30 years, and were extremely close, Stone says.

John Doe III, anyone?Image may contain: 2 people

#AlwaysWalker flips from #NeverTrump, finds #TrumpBromance

Write your own caption, or choose from among these:

"Walker voting his conscience."

"Trump moves from "The Apprentice" to "Fear Factor."

"Trump moves from "The Apprentice" to "Survivor."

"Trump moves from "The Apprentice" to "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," throws lifeline to Wisconsin politician polling 38%.

Image may contain: 2 people

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Walker suspends 'vote-your-conscience' today, stands w/Trump

Twitter highlights say it all:

John Harwood
  Walker will be at Trump event in Wisconsin today

State and regional governments keep Milwaukee, minorities isolated, part II

On Monday I posted some lesser known facts and history about race, economic justice and inequitable use of regional and state governmental power that have kept the City of Milwaukee poorer than its wealthier and whiter neighbors for more than 50 years.

A technical glitch on the blog duplicated the post, so what I want to do is put the text in one place, below, with a few updates.

*  I added a link to the most recent budget of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission - - the seven-county, state-created agency located in Western Waukesha County that makes recommendations for the region in such crucial development-related areas as land use, transportation, water distribution and others - - but on which the City of Milwaukee has no designated seat, no authority to name a commissioner and thus relatively less influence on commission spending and policy-making than its whiter, more affluent, more suburban and still-rural neighbors. 

The six other counties outside of Milwaukee all have three commission seats, fewer minority residents and residents total than both the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County - - yet while Milwaukee County with most of its residents living in the minority-majority city pays the largest annual share of the agency's budget.

Because City of Milwaukee residents are contributing roughly half of the Milwaukee County tax collections, I argue that city residents are taxed for SEWRPC purposes without representation.

*  I am also adding here a link to SEWRPC's most recent report on affirmative action, hiring and staffing, and note that, as it has in the past, the agency says in these reports that it continues to struggle attracting minorities to its most-senior positions.

And SEWRPC candidly includes this ironic, telling, all-encompassing reality about jobs and the Milwaukee-centered region which Scott Walker's anti-urban, anti-transit policies have made worse: 
Transit services have -- at least temporarily -- been terminated by Waukesha County to the Commission’s primary work place in the Waukesha area. Today 38 percent of Commission employees commute from Milwaukee County residences. The Commission has long recommended in its plans, and advocates strongly for improved transit service to job centers throughout the Region. The Commission has identified the severe transit funding problems in the Region, and the need for dedicated funding. Implementation of the Commission’s regional transit plans should provide reasonable transit access to the Commission’s present primary office location.
Echoing its 2012 affirmative action report:

In its 2011-2012 Affirmative action report - - click on the pdf at the bottom of this SEWRPC page - - SEWRPC says:
Transit services have -- at least temporarily -- been terminated by Waukesha County to the Commission’s primary work place in the Waukesha area.
Four-to-five years is "temporarily"?

The original post from Monday:
Media and others interpreting civil unrest in Milwaukee might want to dig deeper into a few issues:

*  Cities are creatures of the state in Wisconsin, and during the Scott Walker era, Milwaukee has lost state-supplied revenue - - the program dates back decades as a substitute for local income tax collections - - and also lost the ability to expand its budget above state-mandated limits.

*  The "hypersegregation" label applied to Milwaukee is regional, tolerated for decades.

Many of these issues and impacts have been studied and reported to death, but the state and region resist meaningful change.

*  The state put a permanent limitation on Milwaukee's growth, tax base, job market and citizen opportunities when it froze the city's borders in 1955 through the so-called anti-annexation "Oak Creek Law."

As a result, suburbanization around Milwaukee boomed, and with it also a proliferation of discriminatory housing local ordinances which, though ruled illegal years later, remain camouflaged through legal substitutes mandating expensive home construction site and interior dimensions (in Chenequa, in Waukesha County, for example) or Mequon's decades-long five-acre lot minimum, now eased, that effectively kept residency upper-income and predominately white in that Ozaukee County community.

No other Wisconsin municipality has had its borders - - and its future - - politicized, influenced and fixed by a special state law: 
Through the use of restrictive covenants, exclusionary zoning, and aggressive police patrols, these suburbs have over the years tried to keep the City of Milwaukee, as a real and symbolic embodiment of the “urban,” out of their self-styled sanctuaries. These policies, in turn, have had the effect of concentrating the poor, people of color, single moms, and unemployed young men in the City of Milwaukee itself. The new suburbs form what [historian John] Gurda calls the “iron ring” around the City of Milwaukee, and there is no obvious way to break through the ring.
Interestingly enough, the new suburbs are the very communities in which support for Governor Walker is strongest. 
*  The state created a seven-county Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission in 1960 made up of Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, Walworth, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha Counties.

[Updated] SEWRPC, with staff and headquarters in Western Waukesha County that is far from Milwaukee, literally and philosophically - - and not even on a transit line - - prepares influential studies, provides technical assistance to governmental agencies in matters such as housing, water and transportation, and has the power to approve certain highway projects paid for with federal funds.

All effect job creation, access, distribution, and economic opportunity.

The commission's makeup, focus and output is heavily suburban and exurban.

Each of the counties has three commission seats. For most of its existence, the commission had no African-American members.

Most of the region has higher incomes and housing values than does Milwaukee.

Commissioner appointments are controlled by the Governor and the counties.

The City of Milwaukee, with a population larger than all the non-Milwaukee counties, and by far the largest number of transit dependent, minority and low-income residents in the region and state, has no designated commission seat or appointing authority.

Yet the commission's budget comes 100% from taxes, so the city of Milwaukee and its residents are taxed without representation for commission purposes.

More financial unfairness: Milwaukee County, which has the same number - - three - - of commissioners as do the other six counties, including far smaller and still rural Walworth, for example, picks up 33% of the counties' annual tax contributions to SEWRPC, according to the agency's most recent, and relatively stable budget.

I noted SEWRPC's disconnect from minorities in this blog's first month in February, 2007, and have covered its activities repeatedly in the intervening years.

The Wisconsin ACLU, from its Milwaukee offices, has rightly told the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission that the agency is moving far too slowly with the formation of a task force on environmental justice.

SEWRPC has had months to get this outreach effort underway but has not made task force appointments and is not aggressively getting input on appointees from communities to whom this long-overdue outreach effort is aimed, the ACLU says in its new release.

With its laissez-faire approach, SEWRPC is skating on thin ice with watchdog groups like the ACLU, and federal regulators who could use federal civil rights to light a fire under SEWRPC, as the ACLU further reminds SEWRPC by letter.

The Pewaukee-based agency already has minimal credibilty with large sections of the region because of its pro-suburban history, and giving the task force formation a low priority only reinforces SEWRPC's negative image.

At this very moment, SEWRPC and other entities are discussing major changes to transit and water management policies that will guide development in the region for generations, and will therefore profoundly impact low-income residents.

Yet those residents are regularly shut out of many of these policy discussions - - a problem the environmental justice task force could help remedy.

If SEWRPC had a comprehensive planning strategy and a more inclusive mentality, it wouldn't need an environmental justice task force in the first place: its commissioners and multiple committees would have integrated genuine environmental justice principles and goals into all their work as a matter of routine.

For example, if environmental justice were an important thread in SEWRPC operations, its last housing plan for our heavily-segregated region wouldn't have been done in 1975, and SEWRPC would have been a champion for transit expansion, not $6.6 billion in new, suburb-serving freeways lanes.

It's a disgrace that community groups representing low-income and minority populations had to demand a task force in the first place, and reprehensible that SEWRPC continues to drag its feet on its implementation.

In recent years, the commission did establish a task force on economic justice, but only after initial resistance from the top and successful pressure from citizen and civil rights organizations.

The same kind of pressure recently led to federal civil rights litigation which forced the state to add a relative pittance - - about $13 million dollars worth of temporary transit services - - to a billion-dollar regional highway expansion at Milwaukee's western border with more affluent, faster-growing Waukesha County which the state is building at the recommendation of the commission.

More billions have been spent and will be added in future years to the same freeway expansion principally serving white, affluent areas in the region without  transit extensions.

*  Waukesha County, GOP state legislators, and then-GOP Gov.Tommy Thompson blocked light rail connections between the City of Milwaukee and Waukesha County then went further and blocked light rail development within the City of Milwaukee.

A summary story about light rail, regional politics and disparities and SEWRPC, here.

Some years later, Waukesha County officials pulled the plug on a jointly-funded bus line - - Route 9.

The line had connected the two counties, but its cancellation sent an anti-urban message regionally and deprived Milwaukee residents without access to a car - - one documented tally some years ago out the figure at 87,000, or about 15% of the total city population - - of one option for reasonable access to out-county jobs who.

*  As has been par for the course, the state just helped win for the City of Waukesha a jobs-and-growth guaranteeing diversion of water from Lake Michigan.

Let's take a bit of a closer look at how all this works.

SEWRPC had already recommended Lake Michigan water transfers to communities, including Waukesha, before the Great Lakes states accepted the city's diversion application first green-lighted by and then strongly backed across the Great Lakes region by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Matt Moroney, an attorney representing regional builders, was a forceful member on the SEWRPC's water advisory committee. 

That body endorsed Lake Michigan diversions beyond the Great Lakes basin and the SEWRPC commission formally adopted those recommendations.

Moroney became the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources after Scott Walker won the governorship in November, 2010, and now serves as a special assistant on Walker's staff. 

No Milwaukee individual has had that kind of suburban-development enabling impact on local, regional and state development.

State and regional policies have for decades kept Milwaukee and its residents land-locked, economically stunted, disconnected from neighboring wealthier, whiter areas and thus segregated - - regionally - - by race and economic status.

*  Add in Walker's failed job-creation policies, his scandal-ridden and failed job-creation agency, his refusal to allow the minimum wage to rise above the poverty-enforcing level of $7.25/hr. and his deletion of tens of thousands of poor people from food stamp roles - - summary posting, here - - what do you think the ripple effects have been and will continue to be in the Wisconsin city with the largest number of low-income and unemployed people?

This blog has covered these issues for nearly ten years. There are hundreds of posts with supporting documentation. Use the index box at the upper left.

if we're going to have a discussion about segregation, let's look at the bigger picture.