Sunday, August 20, 2017

Put Foxconn on hold until Walker explains data suppression

Every Wisconsin legislator and local official sworn to protecting honest and open government, environmental law and taxpayer money absolutely should slow down the Foxconn deal
Image result for yellow traffic light
until they know know they are getting a straight story, forthcoming advice, accurate data and unfiltered facts.

Public officials in Wisconsin who continue to move the Foxconn deal forward without these fundamental assurances would do so in flagrant disregard of significant disclosures in Thursday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that throw into doubt the validity of Walker's varying claims the deal will create 13,000, or up to 13,000 jobs.

It is the key round number repeated through the process which underpins the entire, precedent-setting $3 billion subsidy-and-environmental waiver-laden package for Foxconn and which helped move it through the Assembly.

Will Wisconsin officials will risk their credibility, the people's treasury, and up to 26 years of public services and stable budgets by ignoring these stunning disclosures by Journal Sentinel:
On Thursday, an older version of a previously released state report surfaced...The report by consulting firm Baker Tilly Virchow Krause was paid for by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., which had previously denied an open records request by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for the document by saying it was a draft.
The document reports the plant would create a maximum of 8,260 jobs rather than 13,000.
Now stop right there. So is it 13,000 jobs or 8,260 jobs? How, when and why the difference?

And why didn't the WEDC respond in a timely fashion under state law for a document paid for by taxpayers?

Was it because the report contained the much smaller jobs projection and therefore projected a much smaller per-job public taxpayer subsidy - - a basic question central to the wisdom of the entire deal? 

And the Journal Sentinel story also contained two more troubling disclosures: 

The study also projects that a larger share of the jobs building and running the plant would go to out-of-state workers. Baker Tilly changed those assumptions and findings in a newer version of the report that was released to the Journal Sentinel on Monday
And the official explanations about data and times lines and outcomes raised more questions which beg for better answers: 
WEDC spokesman Mark Maley said the nearly 5,000 additional workers in the new report were due to Foxconn increasing its hiring plans. Maley would not say whether that was due to changes in the company's plans for the factory or because the state had offered more incentives. 
You cannot overstate the important of these disclosures, nor overstate the need for complete clarity and unvarnished information from Walker and his administration before another affirmative for Foxconn is taken. 

The Joint Finance Committee meets for a Foxconn hearing on Tuesday in Sturtevant at 11 a.m. at the SC Johnson iMET Center at 2320 Renaissance Blvd. 

Regrettably the committee does not take sworn testimony, but every state official who had a hand in the report should be compelled to answer questions as the lead-off witnesses, and every private sector individual who participated in this process should be strongly encouraged to speak.

And it will be dereliction of duty if representatives of the Dane County District Attorney's Office and the Wisconsin Justice Department are not there to make recordings and take copious notes, though Wisconsin GOP Attorney General Brad Schimel had quickly Tweeted, as I'd noted in a post included in a growing Foxconn archive, his support for the Foxconn deal and Walker's claim without qualification that 13,000 jobs were coming to Wisconsin:

 Jul 27 Workers succeed and the economy thrives when we value individual freedom and opportunity above over-regulation and big government.
Schimel's Tweet came just one day after Walker framed the discussion by saying  Foxconn was creating 13,000 jobs Wisconsin, without any 'up to' qualification:
  Jul 26More Foxconn is bringing 13,000 high-tech jobs to Wisconsin -- the biggest jobs announcement in our state’s history!

A Foxconn Fever primer

[Updated throughout July, August ] Foxconn wants to build in Wisconsin, so here is a growing archive of coverage and commentary on this blog, beginning with what's most recent:

13,000 jobs? No accident that the Assembly and public didn't have all the facts
Put Foxconn on hold until Walker explains data suppression
*  Robin Vos, reckless and feckless.
RobinVos trivialized $3 billion, ignored shocking jobs info
*  Dispensing with clean blue water, green legacy. 
Green? WI GOP likes brown, orange, perhaps blackish and 'sudsy'
*  And the next shoe drops. 
Seeing Foxconn 'win, WI GOP env. wrecking crew eyes mining favors 
*  Walker, GOP laid Foxconn groundwork years ago.
Foxconn favors are basic to Walker, GOP's sloppy playbook
*  Walker evades leadership from #Foxconn to #Charlottesville.
On jobs, moral leadership, persistent Walker con
*  Reality, troubling numbers, no state budget mean nothing to GOP legislature.
GOP Foxconn votes proceed robotically as jobs, revenue estimates fall
* New Foxconn bill version, same environmental rollbacks, records show.
Amended Foxconn bill retains env. waivers, special privileges
*  Changing the rules to fit the players.

As WI, GOP change the rules for Foxconn, a reminder
*WI will subsidize Foxconn jobs paying nowhere near family-supporting wages.
WI now talking about <$15-per-hour Foxconn jobs
*  Now they're just wishing and hoping.
Witless Walker's farcical Foxconn fix
*  The Chicago Sun-Times 'thanks' Walker for pro-Illinois Foxconn plan
Another bad review for Walker's Foxconn deal
*  Now we look for solace to Scott Fitzgerald (!) as Foxconn gets horrible reviews.
Foxconn doubters turn their lonely eyes to...Scott Fitzgerald!
*  Foxconn is to get a pass from normal DNR reviews, which is fine with the DNR.
Stepp puts the DNR in on Foxconn env. evasion
*  Walker told his Foxconn critics to 'go suck lemons.' Then...
Sucking lemons - - or absorbing buyer's remorse - - for 26 sucking years
*  Walker's fake-news Foxconn projects are collapsing.
Foxconn taxpayer projections zoom, payroll benefits plunge
* No surprise that major WI polluting industry. wants env. exemptions.
If Foxconn is exempted from env. oversight, why not CAFOs?
Who's to say that Foxconn privileges won't be applied statewide?
And if environmental rules and laws are waived for Foxconn...  
* Does Michigan have better deal-makers than Wisconsin? 
Foxconn eyes Michigan for high tech development site
*  Water law expert says Foxconn environmental rollback endangers the deal.

Noted water law expert predicts WI officials' Foxconn 'bungle'
*  The Walker/WMC tag team.
Foxconn to locate at intersection of Walker and WMC avenues
*  Big business laughs off Foxconn project environmental concerns.
Wisconsin Biz lobby sneers at routine Wisconsin conservation guarantee
*  Walker never saw a wetland he didn't want filled.
Walker's giveaway Foxconn bill extends his war on wetlands
*  Zoo Interchange completion $$ rerouted to another project for Foxconn.
Because the I-94 Vos/Foxconn exit isn't in the Zoo Interchange
*  Foxconn process 'open,' says Walker after closed door briefing for GOP caucuses.
Walker opens 'open' Foxconn FavorFest behind closed doors
*  Walker, Ryan producing Foxconn political ads.
Walker giveth to Foxconn, taketh for his re-election
*  Walker would allow Foxconn 19th century 'environmental' practices.
'Wisconsin Valley' or Wisconsin, Inc. dead zone?
*  The Legislature pushed to re-create Wisconsin as Wisconsin, Inc.
Rushed Foxconn special session set for 11 a.m. August 1
*  SE WI communities should worry about what Walker wants to do with their budgets, tax collections:
For Foxconn, Walker bets your farm, breaks the bank(s)
*  Walker, AG and legislature could give away what's not theirs:
Foxconn favors face WI Constitutional barrier
*  GOP Wi Attorney General Brad Schimel weighs in, pre-emptively and rhetorically.
Greenlight for Foxconn in WI AG's Tweet, rhetoric
*  Walker to convert Wisconsin to Wisconn without a constitutional convention, and if you don't like it, 'go suck lemons."
Walker to sacrifice DNR, PSC and WisDot integrity for 'Wisconn'
*  The cynical pot has his say.
Walker - - Gov. Cynicism - - decries Foxconn 'cynics'
*  Walker already has '18 campaign in Foxconn frame:
About Walker's '18 election Foxconn over-under
*  In Walker's Wisconsin, some blue-collar jobs are more important than others:
Walker touts Foxconn construction jobs, threw away Amtrak's
* Walker, Trump should become the new champions of Great Lakes preservation and climate change science: 
Great Lakes water lifts Foxconn deal
*  About jobs:
3,000 Foxconn jobs would not = 3,776 WI mfg. jobs lost in '16
*  Are HB-5 $$-for-visas in the deal:
Are green cards for investment in a Foxconn-WI deal?
*  Public dollars needed:
How many WI dollars will Walker give super-wealthy Foxconn?
*  When Foxconn stiffed another state:
If you've got Foxconn fever, remember Pennsylvania's hangover
*  Vos blocked transit Foxconn workers could have used:
Vos' long transit blockade does not help Racine's Foxconn future
* Walker killed Amtrak service Foxconn might have loved: 
Amtrak line killed by Walker could have fed Foxconn


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Republicans keep failing American Moral Leadership 101

First it was Trump unable to grasp or care about the difference between racists and the people protesting racists.

Now the Washington Post says Republicans leaders can't choose between denouncing Trump's moral failure and hoping yet to get something out of him, like, say another tax cut that's designed to strip revenue from the government and make government's alleged shortcomings a partisan, inequity-reinforcing and self-fulfilling prophecy.

A failure of will and principle that has made Republicans in the Wisconsin where the GOP was founded look unfit to have inherited the Party of Lincoln.

Racism and anti-semitism and neo-nazism and white supremacy are wrong, wrong, wrong, and people who can't get it right have to be condemned, by name, especially if the person getting it wrong is the President of the United States in the year 2017

This should be the easiest choice any American and certainly any and every United States politician will ever have to make.

Honestly, Scott Waller, Paul Ryan and Ron Johnson:
Ron Johnson, official portrait, 112th Congress.jpg
what is wrong with you?

Robin Vos trivialized $3 billion, ignored shocking jobs info

Did you notice this claim made by GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos after the Foxconn bill sailed through his chamber Thursday after a single, stage-managed 'public' hearing and less than a month after Foxconn announced its factory-construction plan? 
"It’s no different than how we’ve done economic development in Wisconsin for other companies,” Vos said.
Picture of Representative Robin VosHere is a list of the "other companies" which have received similar Wisconsin development packages that include Foxconn-level state cash payments and tax forgiveness of $3 billion, a 26-year break-even schedule for taxpayers, substantial additional levels of local taxpayer assistance - - all approved by the Assembly prior to the completion of routine public-sector and local government fiscal vetting - - and unique waivers of state environmental law and procedures to allow a company to discharge waste, fill wetlands, build into lakes and divert streams.

Though - - the Assembly voted to provide these 'incentives' despite a weakly-explained boost of 60% in the number of projected jobs created by the incentive package that was contained in a state-paid consultant report prepared in July which the state did not release in a timely fashion, according to the Journal Sentinel. 
The report by consulting firm Baker Tilly Virchow Krause was paid for by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., which had previously denied an open records request by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for the document by saying it was a draft.
The document reports the plant would create a maximum of 8,260 jobs rather than 13,000.
The study also projects that a larger share of the jobs building and running the plant would go to out-of-state workers. Baker Tilly changed those assumptions and findings in a newer version of the report that was released to the Journal Sentinel on Monday
Oh - - here's the list of the "other companies" Vos no doubt was referencing:

(Hint: there are none.)

Calling PolitiFact...

Friday, August 18, 2017

A wimpy Walker again won't link "Trump" to #Charlottesville

As noted here earlier, GOP WI Coward-in-Chief Scott Walker again has declined to use the word "Trump" when criticizing the murderous outbreak of racism and antisemitism last weekend in Charlottesville:
"What I have said and I'll repeat here - you've heard me say before since last Saturday is - both personally and on behalf of the people of this state, I unequivocally denounce any and all actions of hate and bigotry."
So Walker will "denounce any and all actions of hate and bigotry" - - how brave is that for a state's chief executive? - - but steadfastly refuses to condemn or link in any way the sitting President who has fuels and excuses that same "hate and bigotry."

Which took a life, damaged others and has sown the seeds of more violence down the road.

And ditto for Walker's cowardly companions Paul Ryan and Ron Johnson, giving Wisconsin a sick first-place standing when it comes to enabling Trump's worst "actions of hate and bigotry." 

Such is the new GOP Wisconsin Idea where the Party of Lincoln was born.

Silence gives consent. 

Wisconsin is ground zero for Trump enabling, GOP cowardice

The Republican Party was born in Wisconsin, so there's a karmic symmetry to  GOP leaders here speeding its death spiral.

As neither GOP US House Speaker WI Congressman Paul Ryan, Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker or Wisconsin GOP senior US Senator Ron Johnson will criticize Donald Trump by name
Donald Trump Pentagon 2017.jpg
for having used the Presidency to equate torch-wielding, hate-spewing, assaultive and murderous neo-nazis and anti-semites with those who gathered to protest the bigotry and hate.

It's a cowardly continuation of the cover and coddling in which Ryan/Walker/Johnson swaddled Trump throughout his ugly, name-calling and brutish campaign even after Trump had encouraged his crowds to "knock the crap" out of protesters and bragged he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York City with complete impunity.

The Ryan/Walker.Johnson strategy: count on voters' short attention spans, trust that events overtake this latest but by no means final iteration of Trump's menace and madness, pretend Trump isn't their party's leader and that they didn't help normalize and elect him ('Hillary's emails!! OMG!!'), and let things blow over.

Don't let it happen.

The country can't risk it, because the next time Trump's neo-nazi supporters provoke violence they may not be satisfied with a single killer taking just one life with a car.

Green? WI GOP likes brown, orange, perhaps blackish, 'sudsy'

You've read abut brown water events in Kewaunee County that have nothing to do with spills of talking about chocolate milk.

Well, get out your color chart, and more filters, Bucky, as our green legacy and precious blue waters

Lake Michigan 
could have a new range of tints and taints.

While our right wing GOP Gov. and willing corporate captive Scott Walker has already positioned an intentionally-downgraded and redefined 'chamber of commerce mentality' Department of Natural Resources allied with well-connected industry insiders to let the taps run brown near those industrial-scale animal feeding and manure-making operations
and the GOP Attorney General, in cahoots with the GOP-run Legislature, has helped divert groundwater to big users and permanent privatization, Walker's  hand-picked legislative tool who had led the unsuccessful effort to clear-cut, dig up and fill the pristine Penokee Hills' streams and wetlands for open-pit iron mining and its toxic, sulfuric runoff is back at it again 

on the heels of the Assembly's award on Thursday of unique permissions enabling Foxconn to easily fill wetlands and discharge industrial waste.

Though Foxconn's waste dumping record includes known discharges, of, shall we say, multi-colored
water with a black-green color and a chemical odor have been dumped from both Foxconn and UniMicron plants into the Huangcangjing and Hanputang rivers -- which feed into the Yangtze and Huangpu rivers. “Sudsy” water is dumped from Foxconn twice a day.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Seeing Foxconn 'win,' WI GOP env. wrecking crew eyes mining favors

As predicted here, the Wisconsin Assembly Thursday evening passed a bill granting high-tech manufacturer Foxconn billions in precedent-setting taxpayer subsidies along with state exemptions from fundamental Wisconsin environmental protections and clean water guarantees.

So who is surprised that with a Governor who made wetland-filling a priority in his first days in office, and as the Foxconn package is being incautiously fast-tracked towards Walker's desk for a pre-election campaign boost, that the same GOP legislative wrecking crew which earlier had tried and failed to flatten, fill and pollute the Penokee Hills and Bad River watershed wetlands at the edge of lake Superior for an out-of-state coal mining magnate is returning to that template with a bill to overturn the state's mining moratorium.   

Their bill is known as The Mining for America Act. The Mining for America Act will eliminate the nearly 20-year ban that the legislature placed on Wisconsin’s mining industry.
The moratorium sets strict conditions for mining to occur in Wisconsin, including proof that mines haven't polluted Wisconsin waters.
As I asked the other day, if Foxconn can have these privileges, why not others?

Want something like this in a watershed near you?
Aerial shot of landslide in Bingham Canyon copper-gold mine near Salty Lake City, Utah. Photo courtesy Kennecott Utah Copper via Facebook.

Foxconn favors are basic to Walker/GOP's sloppy playbook

As Wisconsin Republicans are poised to begin betting a generation's worth of public funding on Foxconn - - a bet that will also roll back state constitutional water rights which predate statehood by centuries - -  don't say they didn't warn you, because they did.

Right-wing GOP WI Gov. Scott Walker and his party's equally-compliant Legislature have since they took power in 2011 repeatedly embraced and telegraphed the fiscally and environmentally-irresponsible elements in the Foxconn subsidy and special-privilege package which Assembly Republicans will pass at Walker's urging today - - despite negative data and incomplete vetting staring them in the face.

*  That the bill is going to pass even before state financial analysts have done the same basic Foxconn research and credit checks that any dealership would perform before financing a used car sale should come as no surprise.

Because the agency Walker and his legislature have handed the task - - the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation - - has earned a partisan and scandalized reputation for gross incompetence over non-existent internal standards and lost or never-created paperwork - - which is still a problem.

*  Also - - the state under Walker, and GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, have shown no hesitation about throwing away public funds by the tens of millions through bad business decisions, so, again, no surprise that they would be eager to commit large sums of taxpayer dollars to Foxconn without a care in the world, or professional vetting that would inform the establishment of reasonable protections for Wisconsin taxpayers.

* Walker and Vos were fine with throwing away $50 million taxpayer dollars  when they broke a contract with Talgo, an Amtrak train assembler located in Milwaukee, which also sacrificed Wisconsin's first-in-line position for train assembly work nationally. 

After having blocked an Amtrak extension from Milwaukee to Madison and walked away from years of high-paying rail-line-installation and train bridge-improvement construction jobs, too.

* Walker and his WEDC also have had their/our pockets picked before by a business willing to play one state against another - - and don't forget that Foxconn is also negotiating with Ohio and Michigan - - so beware of this re-run:

Many of you may not remember an WEDC-led fiasco 
at a business that was supposed to build small airplanes in Superior. 

The scandal took place during Walker's WEDC chairmanship which he abandoned because it was weighing down the smarty-pants business-savvy reputation (based on nothing, really) which he unsuccessfully hawked on the 2015 Presidential campaign trail.

Small-plane manufacturing is a boom-and-bust business because it is highly competitive, dominated by long-standing brands like Cessna, and makes expensive products sensitive to insurance issues and economic downturns.

It's hard to imagine a venture more likely to fail.

Yet there was Walker, pledging big subsidies to the company, including the establishment of a special development zone - - sound familiar, in re: Foxconn? - - with his WEDC promoting the boss by name, and using all the requisite buzzwords - - "aggressive...strong...major...huge boost..."and promising hundreds of jobs: 

Governor Scott Walker today announced that Kestrel Aircraft Corporation will establish its manufacturing and headquarters in Superior, creating up to 600 new jobs.
“I am pleased with the aggressive package we have put forth in conjunction with strong local support to make this major job creation contribution to Superior,” said Governor Walker. “This relocation will be a huge boost to the Superior-area economy."
And what happened?

Kestrel never built a plane in Superior.

It missed WEDC loan repayment deadlines (but, hey, no surprise there), yet took more than $6 million in state and local funds and moved its operation back to Maine from whence it had flown.

Props to the Madison Capital Times' Mike Ivey for having kept such a close eye on that story.

WEDC has provided $4 million in loans to the firm, with the city of Superior contributing another $2.4 million in loans. In addition, Kestrel is certified to receive up to $18 million in enterprise zone tax credits from WEDC, and $30 million in federal New Market Tax Credits from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA)...
Kestrel has not moved forward on its plans to build two construction plants in Superior, and has fallen behind on loan payments to WEDC, the quasi-private entity formed by Walker to help jump-start the state economy via tax breaks and other business subsidies.
For the record, the company is back in Maine and has another partner now from New Mexico.

And on the environmental waivers Walker and the Assembly are about to grant Foxconn by putting the DNR on the sidelines so wetlands can be filled:

*  Remember Walker, in his first days in office, administratively suspended the DNR's review of a wetland-filling permit for a project near Lambeau Field, then had the Legislature affirm that suspension with a special bill.

That was the precedent-setting water-giveaway template that Walker has expanded over the years for his private sector allies and donors, and which will pave - - literally - - some of Foxconn's construction and operations - - as rules protecting wetlands and shoreline from development and intrusion have been relaxed so the DNR's traditional oversight of public lands and clean water in the public interest could be twisted to fit the ''chamber of commerce mentality' Walker installed atop the agency.

Again, the Walker-led GOP has intentionally targeted the environment, as leading Wisconsin Republican business moderate John Torinus noted several years ago:
...[though] poll after poll for decades has found that some three-quarters of Americans support water and land conservation, the GOP is slashing spending on environmental programs at the state and federal levels...
In Wisconsin, the legislature and Gov. Walker are also greatly reducing spending on preservation programs... Republicans have been harder on environmental programs than any other form of spending.
Somehow, GOP legislators have bought the erroneous theory that the environment and economy are an either-or proposition. Nothing could be more wrong. Advances for the economy and the environment are complementary, not competing.
So the GOP-led Wisconsin Assembly is rushing the Foxconn bill forward today straight through regulatory and due-diligence gaps in smart business and environmental best practices deliberately blown in Wisconsin law and legacy.

Not to mention the legacies of Teddy Roosevelt, Warren Knowles and others.

Principally because having failed in nearly seven years to fulfill the 250,000 new private-sector jobs-pledge he insisted he'd hit after only one, four-year term, Walker needs Foxconn as his 2018-relection campaign theme.

Regardless of the unprecedented financial and environmental public costs.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Things to consider as Kohler/DNR 'open house' looms

People who follow this blog know it has been raising questions about a plan to convert a wetland-rich nature preserve 

and, of special note, publicly-owned acreage inside popular Kohler Andrae State Park along the Lake Michigan shoreline, into a privately-owned, high-end golf course.

Of note is an upcoming public, 'open house' session which DNR management has scheduled in Sheboygan next week to explain how changes may be made in the master plan governing the operation of the state park to accommodate the proposed golf course operation.

So for your consideration:

*  Here is the latest from Friends of the Black River Forest, the grassroots group opposing the proposed golf course project/ public land grab:


DNR Open House set to initiate amendment process to Kohler-Andrae State Park Master Plan
Public Rally, 4p.m. against giving our State land to a Corporation for its private profit.

click here to read DNR notice
This begins the process in which we all MUST participate to save our parks from being sold and given away to companies for their private profit. The DNR with the National Park Service and the Natural Resources Board will determine if the Kohler Andrae Park Master Plan will be amended to allow the Kohler Company to use up to 20 acres of our state park land for its private profit. The DNR states in this Open House Notice that one use of land will be for "A" maintenance building. It is in fact 3 buildings totaling almost 24,000 sq. feet along with an asphalt parking lot just north of the park entry... Please put August 24 on your calendars. We cannot allow this Governor and the DNR to establish this precedent. Kohler Andrae Park is the second most visited in the state with over 400,000 visitors yearly. If you haven't taken action yet let this be your cause. Send your comments on this DNR form FBRF letter to the Natural Resources Board on intitiating amendment, click here
No doubt people will be able to leave comments at the open house, or send them.

So a few more things about all this:

*  I said this open house session is being planned by DNR management - - people Scott Walker put there to do his bidding and that of his donors and corporate enablers - - and not the DNR line workers who are most likely to be  staffing the open house. 

I feel for these dedicated, and in many cases, career DNR employers who signed on in an earlier era when the department really was a conservation, science-based and public service agency, and not the corporatized entity into which Walker has remade and distorted it.

You will find that sentiment in a long piece I wrote about what's become of the DNR under Walker.

I imagine they share the unhappiness and frustration in the Town of Wilson where the golf course site had long been located until the Walker administration helped the golf course developer fast-track much of the town through a jerry-rigged annexation inside a newly-drawn, and more sympathetic City of Sheboygan map.

*  As I wrote a few days ago, the 'open house' format is not the same thing as a public hearing, at which people with something to say state it for everyone to hear.

Open houses come with story boards and information stations that are spread across a large room, can fragment and diffuse a project's opponents, and mute their voice.

But just because there is an open house on the agenda doesn't mean that's the end of it. 

A public hearing can be held if people in the area and across the state who see the threat to a popular state park, wetlands and the Lake Michigan lakeshore take the time to call their legislators, and DNR headquarters in Madison, and demand a hearing.