Tuesday, September 30, 2008

On Bailing Out

John McCain seeks an advantage, suspends his campaign - - or shall we say, bails out from- - his responsibilities as a candidate.

So he falls in the polls and earns the mocking of pundits and late-night TV hosts.

And as the financial rescue plan vote faces the Congress, enough Republicans pull a McCain and walk off the job.

Imitating their leader, and our President, who checked out as Chief Executive years ago, setting records for vacation days, weeks, months, years taken while our soldiers are fighting two wars, and as the economy imploded.

Is this a strategy - - bailing out when things get tough?

SEWRPC Study Diversion Recommendations, Corrected

In an earlier post, I Incorrectly stated that eight communities west of the sub-continental divide were recommended to receive
diverted Lake Michigan water, including the City of Waukesha.

There are additional communities recommended to receive Lake Michigan water, but nearly all are east of the divide, making return flow simple and replacement of well water logical.

These communities east of the divide are:

Germantown, in Washington County; Cedarburg, Grafton, Fredonia and Saukville in Ozaukee County.

The small diversions to two communities west of the divide recommended to receive diverted water - - not including the City of Waukesha - - are already returning wastewater to lake Michigan via MMSD.

Sorry for posting information that was inaccurate.

The City of Waukesha has not completed its diversion application, but that could take place within several months.

Waukesha's application would have to be approved by all eight Great Lakes states.

The Road To Sprawlville, Chapter XXII: Pumping Fresh Water Out Of Lake Michigan Leaves Tax Spigot Wide Open

Just get the water to Sprawlville, and the consequences for taxpayers, land use and the big picture be damned.

That is the Road to Sprawlville - - through an endorsement by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission water study addvisory committee for the diversion of Lake Michigan water to the City of Waukesha.

[Note: an earlier version of this posting incorrectly said that seven other communities west of the subcontinetal divide were also recommended for diversions.]

Yes - - the recommended plan has some conservation measures, but the core recommendation does not confront the housing, transportation and other related costs and consequences that will be triggered by the infusion of a major diversion to the heart of an area that will continue to grow through annexation, pushing service needs and costs farther from existing infrastructure.

SEWRPC's position on this? Not our problem.

What SEWRPC is doing is proposing adding more water to the mix; Waukesha County already had projected a population growth made prior to the Lake Michigan option that adds 140,000 people to the county.

Where are all those people going to live?

Open space, farm land, buffers, even environmental corridors, the remnants of the Kettle Moraine - - kiss 'em good-bye.

SEWRPC's existing land-use plan has enabled sprawl development in Waukesha County - - an area already underserved by transit in an era of spiking gas prices, and devoid of affordable housing.

And now the water committee wants to highten all these contradictions with a study that omitted from the very beginning consideration of costs other than for water pipes, water and wastewater treatment, conservation measures and other supply-and-demand matters.

More than ever, the region needs a different, broader, more comprehensive, timely, up-to-date and envelope-pushing master plan.

And again, since SEWRPC will not undo its previous work and its expand-the-exurbs/disregard-the-cities-business-as-usual mindset, others will have to demand it from SEWRPC or move independently to write a plan that melds transportation, land-use, housing (off SEWRPC's agenda since 1975, still), development and related issues.

This is why I had proposed that Milwaukee leave SEWRPC and create a new agency that would do real planning for the city, and other municipalities that chose to sign on, with a 21st-century focus.

The embrace of sprawl that SEWRPC that has enabled for the last 50 years across Waukesha County cannot be allowed this water-fueled quantum leap.

Taxpayers and the environment are facing costs they cannot afford - - costs hidden in the SEWRPC water recommendations.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bush To Frighten Markets Tuesday Morning

Is he short-selling?

Courts Enforcing Absolute Sobriety, Saving Lives

Lengthy prison sentences are finally being handed down for multiple OWI offenders, ensuring that the offender will get healthier and other motorists at risk will survive.

The state has to do a better job bringing alcohol counseling, treatment and 12-step self-help to its correctional facilities, but if this is what it takes to prevent OWI crashes, then so be it.

Second Hoover Administration Performing Like Hoover The First

As has been said often here: can the Bush administration end any faster?

The House Republicans - - remember, these are the very goof-ball ideologues, gold bugs and other assorted Neanderthal folk that Maverick McCain went to Washington to reason with or cajole - - blew up the bailout package today and pretty much doomed Maverick's quest for the White House.

They think this saving the electoral hides in November; all these selfish, short-sighted and selfish you-know-whats should be thrown out of office.

These cowardly Republicans have scoured untold trillions scoured from people's personal savings, let alone from the markets which are exercising the "freedom" that the GOP loves to tout, thereby pushing the country closer to a depression.

So Barack wins - - I can't imagine voters turning to Maverick and his minor-league sidekick to resolve problems of this magnitude - - and has another 1930's level mess to clean up, just as Democrats did with Hoover I.

Predictably, Sensenbrenner Cops Out

Cong. Sensenbrenner "no" vote on the bailout is no surprise.

Remember his Katrina votes.

SEWRPC Study Creates More Problems For Waukesha Than It Solves

The preliminary water supply study recommendations by a Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission committee for a Lake Michigan diversion for the City of Waukesha may, on paper, suggest a smoother path for the city's diversion plans, but the fine print might be the opposite.

Though the recommendations are not yet on line, the authors of the preliminary document - - SEWRPC staff and the lead consulting firm of Ruckert-Mielke - - are suggesting that returning 85% of the diverted water back to Lake Michigan would conform with the recently-approved Great Lakes Compact's return flow requirements.

The Compact does not say that. It say return flow of 100%, minus a reasonable factor for consumption.

And it also does not allow co-mingling the diverted water with water from other sources - - meaning that Waukesha is looking at a big political problem with the other states, and probably from the Wisconsin DNR, if it suggests anything like the 85% return-flow suggestion, with or without non-Lake Michigan water.

This is indicative of some basic problems with some Wisconsin perspectives on the Compact from the beginning of the effort to update the Compact and make it stronger.

While the goal was water preservation and conservation, too many interests in Wisconsin saw the Compact as a water-acquisition opportunity.

Waukesha may come in with an application that does not reflect SEWRPC's 85% position. And that position may be abandoned by the full SEWRPC committee on its own, or after public hearings, or by the Commission itself.

My advice: do it now or deal with headaches for years.

SEWRPC is not doing Waukesha any favors by presenting what can be interpreted as an end-run around the basic goals, let alone the language, of a Compact that took seven years to negotiate and pass.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

McCain Looked Petulant, Sounded Too Angry To Be President

A few final thoughts on Debate #1.

Maybe McCain should have stayed away, after all.

His demeanor screamed "I can't believe I'm on the same stage with this whipper-snapper.'

His contempt for Obama, and therefore the entire process, was palpable.

This is an era for deep, serious thought and analysis, before taking action, whether domestically or overseas. The next President can't travel the world or conduct business as Mr. Peeved.

Obama won on substance, style and in the very area that McCain sarcastically over-played: "Getting it."

Bring on Palin and the rest of the debates. The Democrats can be confident and roll on.

Easy Alcohol In Waukesha More Than A Minors' Issue

The Journal Sentinel soft-pedaled concerns over the City of Wauakesha's permission for beer sales at gas stations.

Curiously, the editorial said that yes there were problems with minors' use of alcohol and driving - - but the issue isn't confined to minors. Plenty of adults are abusing alcohol and getting behind the wheel in Wisconsin and in Waukesha County, too.

This is going to come back and bite Waukesha. For the convenience of some convenience store owners, and some drivers who will now be able to crack open a beer behind the wheel with one fewer-stop.

Short-sighted is an understatement here.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Is This How Scott Walker Could Cost Milwaukee $91.5 Million

Virginia gets a $32 million transportation funding bonus from the feds whoshift money from states that inefficiently spend their allocations to moreefficient states, according to The Washington Post.

Thelonger that Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker blocks a compromise offeredby Mayor Tom Barrett for a split of 91.5 million federal transportation dollars- - frozen through inaction and indecision since the early 1990's - - themore it would seem that the money would get sent to a state with a plan tospend it.

Barrett has proposed dividing the money between bus routes and a new downtown trolley.

Walker wants all of it for buses, thus adhering to the right-wing talk radio line that anything that runs on a rail is toxic.

Asthe rail plans have changed over the years, Walker tailors a new excuse tocounter them. His latest claim is that the downtown trolley would take ridersand revenue from existing bus lines.

Talkradio and suburban opposition in Waukesha County helped kill a light railproposal for Milwaukee County in 1997; Walker, allied closely with the rightytalkers, has long opposed local rail alternatives.

Nationally, citieswith light rail systems are seeing double-digit increases in ridership asgasoline prices spike; Milwaukee is one of the larger US cities without urbanrail to serve workers, commuters or downtown residents and visitors.

Some history and data, here.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What's With The Righties' Endless Mocking Of Obama's Name?

The righty bloggers and talk show hosts show constant disrespect for Barack Obama.

They tease him with "The Messiah," "The One," and all sorts of varietions. I've heard "Chocolate Jesus."

Obama's middle name "Hussein" is ubiquitous all over the blogs.

Today I heard Rush Limbaugh calling him "Barry," the westernized name Obama went by as a youngster instead of "Barack."

Dissing a person with nicknames that are not of the person's choosing is a form of control - - and in this case, it's part of a constant campaign by the right to denigrate Obama and reduce his stature.

Nice Will Allen Piece In The New York Times

Glad to post this piece about Milwaukee's Will Allen (by my former Milwaukee Journal colleague Barbara Miner) in The New York Times.

Strikes me also that Allen, founder of Growing Power, is one of those community organizer types mocked at the GOP convention by Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin.

I note that Allen is now a MacArthur Foundation "Genius" award recipient, too, so his know-nothing detractors will have to start bashing Allen as an egg-head intellectual, too.

You know, like that Obama guy...the one who was the top student at Harvard Law School and worked with unemployed steelworkers, too.

Damned organizer.


Big News: Palin Takes A Question Or Two

And we learn again that Russia, where Putin "rears his head," is right next door to Alaska.

Most interesting tidbit in this story?

That Palin's parents were rat control contract workers at a New York landfill during post 9-11 debris sifting.

Bad Staff Work Undermines McCain's Campaign 'Suspension'

Someone in the McCain operation forgot that Katie Couric and David Letterman both appear on CBS, so if McCain's people canceled a taping with Letterman at the last minute - - claiming McCain's campaign was suspended in favor of full time nation-saving - - it was downright stupid to supply McCain for taping with Couric a few blocks away.

Didn't the McCain people think and know that folks at CBS talk to each other, and can tap into live taping feeds?

Letterman was even unhappier when he found out and blasted McCain's manipulations.

Details here.

Video here. McCain get caught at the Couric taping - - not on the way to the airport, as he had told Letterman personally - - at about the 6:50 mark of the posted video.

CBS' Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson, and a new US citizen to boot, weighs in, too.

Will McCain Propose Postponing The Election, Too?

Now the McCain people want the VP debate postponed, too.

What's next? Christmas?

The ostensible reason: getting the bailout package approved.

The real reason: They're losing and the debates will further expose their weaknesses.

Falk's Dane County Alcohol Intervention Program, Statewide Attitude Adjustment Needed

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk has put 2009 county budget money behind her one-person campaign to change the alcohol glorification culture surrounding us.

Good for her: It would be great if Scott Walker, the Milwaukee County Exec, would do the same, but he's more interested in posing for Harley ride holy pictures, or raising his staff's salaries and carrying water for talk radio than he is in truly governing.

It's been a tragic year on state roads, as OWI fatalities are up while national trends are down.

Milwaukee recently recorded yet another gruesome OWI homicide - - this time, on 1st and National Avenue just south of downtown (and, by the way, will the investigation see if the driver, a now-third-time OWI offender, was served to intoxication at the establishment from which she was reportedly ejected before she drove to the crash scene?)

So far the political will do so has been lacking.

In an earlier case, the Milwaukee District Attorney's office, citing the bar personnel's cooperation, chose not to charge a City of Franklin establishment after a repeat OWI offender drank heavily there before killing two pedestrians in a high-profile and tragic Christmas day crash.

Closer to home for Falk, the driver in the horrific triple-fatality on Midvale Blvd. in Madison this August was revealed by the Capital Times today to have tested nearly twice the legal limit for OWI.

As Falk has repeatedly said, the Wisconsin culture helps to enable drunken behavior on the roads, at sporting events and other situations that need not be alcohol-fueled.

The proof is all around us - - media are constantly presenting readers and viewers with gory accounts of motorcycle crashes, car wrecks, and dead bicyclists, all at the hands of various drunks and motorists who are under the influence of medications.

When pulled over after leaving the scene of the 1st and National Ave. crash, the alleged perpetrator's car had the victim's purse still entangled in its crushed front end.

Some people manage to see humor in Wisconsin's widespread problem with alcohol.

When the City of Waukesha legalized the sale of beer at gas stations, despite a drunk driving problem so severe that Waukesha County has a special alcohol offenders' court, one area blogger posted this response on his blog:


Give credit to Falk for trying to confront and change such entrenched ignorance.

She could use more help from the rest of us.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bush Cements Historical Role As Worst President Ever

George W. Bush has presided over the greatest plunge in the country's standing in the world, and his deer-in-the-headlights' address to the country tonight was more proof that he gets the domestic crown, too - - telling the nation and the world that on his de-regulation-worshipping, laissez-faire watch, the country's economy is at the precipice.

There are those of you out there who voted for him once, perhaps twice. He's your guy.

Collectively, we don't another one in November who voted with this one more than 90% of the time, by his (McCain's) own recollection.

One of these nation-wreckers is enough.

Baffled Legislator Seeks Roundabout Education For "The Masses"

Apparently seminars and other mass education is need so that stumped motorists and their leader can master this modest, 20th-century road intersection model.

Ya see, a roundabout is a circle, and circles are plain rare in some parts, and then the confusion sets in and next thing you know, that baffled legislature wants a moratorium declared on building any more circles.

You've got to be kidding.

John Gard, Big Oil One-Trick Pony: Guest Post

John Gard has aligned himself with Big Oil, as reader Don Freix from Fish Creek writes below:

John Gard, One Trick Pony

Has anyone else noticed, in John Gard’s campaign advertising, any mention of generally accepted, critical election issues other than his off shore oil drilling rant? Though solutions differ between political parties about proper approaches needed to address health care, the war, job creation, sustainable environment, energy and education, where is Mr Gard’s major focus in attempting to get your vote this year? In a nutshell, his entire public theme and solution to all of our nation’s problems seems to be, “drill, baby, drill.”

In Gard’s electioneering, what I've seen thus far is an unapologetic attempt to foment and focus thoughtless voter outrage over gas prices and to create further party divisiveness for his own ends, instead of advocating even one common sense approach to solving our current energy crisis that could potentially help all of us. Even at his seeming best with his single, "walk the plank," election, "platform," Gard grossly fails to address several pertinent facts regarding his claims about his opponent Congressman Steve Kagen’s supposed inadequacies in addressing, and inferred blame for causing, our vast energy problems through one aspect of the oil issue.

John Gard fails to mention that only 20% of 40 million acres of federal land currently under lease for purposes of exploratory drilling and oil production are currently being used for that purpose. He fails to mention that offshore drilling creates an extremely high risk for serious environmental degradation. And, Gard fails to mention that even with offshore drilling, none of that potential oil, if it actually comes to market seven to ten years out, would be required to be sold to US consumers. Oil will go to the highest world market bidder. Where is Alaskan oil heading today? Try looking toward the Far East.

Energy solutions for our nation’s present and future needs require much more than tired party rhetoric about off shore drilling whose real purpose is to get more publicly owned resources under the control of private enterprise while providing no tangible benefit to the general public. Unfortunately, from Gard, we get only lies through omission of adequate information, false insinuations about the ability of offshore drilling to solve our energy needs, and the seeming entire lack of an election platform in an honest, transparent stance that addresses any of the other major issues we face.

John Gard, in my opinion, has no conscience in regard to election ethics and tactics, no apparent comprehension of the full range of campaign issues, and no apparent respect for the intelligence of his electorate. Thoughtful, comprehensive assessments and tangible proposals to address all our nation’s major issues is what we need and have a right to expect from our candidates and our next US Representative. Don’t bet yours and your children’s future on this tired, one trick pony, John Gard.

Donald Freix
Fish Creek, WI


Sierra Club Documents McCain's Ties To Oil, Energy Status Quo

As the Sierra Club reminds us, oil and traditional energy interests are still McCain's good pals.

McCain's Latest Stunt

After dissing Washington all summer and skipping votes, McCain wants to suspend the campaign and head back to DC to solve the economic crisis.

Can't McCain multi-task? Do the debate and then fly to DC if he chooses.

It's all smoke-and-mirrors; A stunt. What's next?

A suggestion.

Maybe he should just drop out now, as the polls are turning against him in what's becoming a Campaign to Nowhere.

Still No SEWRPC-Written Affordable Housing Plan Since Gerald Ford Was President

There was a flurry of interest in regional housing issues this spring, when the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission was under fire for a weak urban agenda, in part because it hadn't produced a regional housing plan since 1975.

Well, spring has ended, summer has come and gone, and there is still no definitive announcement from SEWRPC that a regional housing study indeed will be launched.

SEWRPC has been collecting names from groups for possible housing study appointments, but there is no study funding yet in place and the agency has refused to release a study draft because it says the document is in-house material only.

In other words, it is not looking for input into the study work plan - - a typical, inward-looking SEWRPC practice that costs the agency credibility with the public.

I would be glad to learn that the document and the funding and the appointments are late (though, really, 33 years between studies is embarrassing beyond any and all words and excuses and rationalizations) because SEWRPC is trying to incorporate all the cascading events in the housing markets into the study: bad loans, mortgage meltdowns, bank failures, foreclosures, rising unemployment, and so forth.

My guess, however, is that the delays are more tied to bureaucratic inertia, pre-occupation with other issues, and the low priority that affordable housing has across the region.

Though with the economy heading into a recession, or worse, affordable housing could just be the next big mainstream issue across the SEWRPC seven-county region.

SEWRPC could enlighten us all by releasing drafts of the housing study and other documents to show us that a truly detailed, progressive and wide-ranging study is planned, and is about to begin tomorrow.

But I'm not betting on it.

On Climate Change, Palin Is To The Right Of George Bush

Good grief! Where exactly is that?

Dawdle? How About "Terminate?"

The Journal Sentinel editorially suggests slowing down the consideration of that goofy Interchange to Nowhere out in Western Waukesha County to serve a shopping mall that a) is no longer "high-end," as first promised, and b) doesn't have a solid plan, let alone a shovel of turned Pabst Farms earth in sight.

The $25 million project - - $23.25 million in public funding - - should be scrapped as unneeded and unjustified.

Imagine how many potholes, or crossing guards, or OWI traffic stops - - real needs, indeed - - you could finance in Waukesha County with all that money?

A year ago, when I began writing about this boondoggle, I pointed out that even Kurt Bauer, the emeritus director at the regional planning commission (SEWRPC), thought the entire Pabst Farms project was the wrong place to put a so-called planned community.

Because it was prime agricultural land, Bauer told me it "never should have been built."

Why compound the errors with a full-bore diamond interchange to serve a mall that may never get built, or that may in fact be just a new nest of big-box retailers, surrounded by half-finished subdivisions being crushed by the weight of the home-building/mortgage meltdown mess?

Too much of Waukesha County and the surrounding Kettle Moraine has been lost to 'development;' adding a huge interchange in the heart of the former Pabst Farms farmland will accelerate those losses.

Put the money back into the state transportation fund, or find a better use for it.

Save The Hoan, Then Don't Moan At The Cost

Southsiders and suburbanites are saying "Save The Hoan," even though they haven't seen the rebuilding cost yet.

The Sixth Street Bridge replacement cost something like $50 million. Should Wisconsin taxpayers foot the bill if rebuilding the Hoan were, say, double that? Or more?

The federal highway trust fund will run out of money by the end of the year, and given the way federal dollars are flowing to Iraq and Wall Street, and gas tax revenues are falling along with driving, we shouldn't expect big new dollars to pour into Wisconsin to rebuild an over-engineered bridge if there are less-expensive, more development-friendly alternatives.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Scott Walker, Begging To Be Recalled

A few weeks ago, I said Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker's willful damage to the local transit system, and his stalemating the use of $91.5 million in federal funding, should make voters seriously think about sending him packing through the same recall mechanism that he first used to ride into office.

Now we have exhibit #2 in the current case against Walker:

The Journal Sentinel discloses that Walker has sneaked through some big pay raises for favored administrators, and wants a 26% increase for Tom Nardelli, his chief of staff and a former Milwaukee alderman.

Nardelli would have had a tantrum had a mayor tried these shenanigans, especially while working on a 2009 budget that is going to call for service cuts and layoffs.

I think the backdoor raises, in this particular economy, crosses a political and ethical line that demonstrates Walker's growing abuse of the office.

No Wonder McCain's People Attacked The New York Times

The campaign knew it was vulnerable to media reporting its ties to lobbyists and bailed-out financial institutions, but now this attack on The Times makes the campaign look stupid, even devious.

She Probably Saw Lots Of Tall Buildings, Too

Resume building in New York City, one photo op at a time.

But seriously...the McCain-Palin ticket is running against the mainstream media - - remember McCain's attacks on The New York Times - - so barring media from events and then fencing with them provides red meat to the media-hating base.

Not sure if that is a winning strategy or not, but conservatives have been running against media and others they slam as elitist, or egg-headish, for years, so this is more of the same.

When Being A Mayor Is No Fun

Madison's Public Market is put on hold.

Great Lakes Compact Passes The Congress; Good News...But Lots More Work Ahead

The Great Lakes Compact won overwhelming approval in the US House of Representatives today, and moves to the White House for the president's promised signature.

On balance, this is an important advancement for Great Lakes preservation, and hats off to the many activists and public officials who spent years getting this document created and approved.

Several issues remain.

The first is the need for a companion, Great Lakes cleanup program - - long-discussed, long-delayed. Details here.

The second is remedial action by the states to close the bottled water loophole, a section of the Compact inserted as a favor to Michigan, the most water-rich of the eight Great Lakes states.

Allowing unlimited diversion of Great Lakes water in plastic containers smaller than 5.7 gallon jugs is hardly a sustainability best-practice.

Additionally - - communities near Lake Michigan in southeastern Wisconsin are poised for a run at diversions now legalized by the Compact.

Each application needs to be carefully examined: one step in the wrong direction is the preliminary, diversion-heavy recommendation by the authors of a three-year study commissioned by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.

I posted information about this on my blog several days ago: the formal rollout of the documents, not yet online, took place at SEWRPC this morning.

The study's consultants and SEWRPC staff, adhering to good-ol' supply-and-demand parameters, are suggesting multiple diversions across the region - - and that shows too little regard for the Compact's return-flow requirements and Great Lakes' quantity and quality.

The preliminary recommendation suggests that a diversion to Waukesha would meet the Compact's return flow mandate if 85% of the diverted water volume were returned.

Oh, really?

And that some Lake Michigan water can be legally discharged as effluent into the Fox River - - away from Lake Michigan and towards the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico.

Really, really?

The preliminary recommendation - - subject to change but difficult to accomplish in SEWRPC's tightly-controlled and walled-off world - - suggests that pouring most of Waukesha's return flow into Underwood Creek might be an acceptable return-flow solution - - certainly cheaper than a piped connection to the MMSD system - - but what about the water level and quality in the Creek, and on its banks, and in overflows, should flooding occur?

These are real questions.

And pressure also needs to be applied during public consideration of the SEWRPC recommendations to the impact of water planning and potential diversions on regional housing, transportation, development and economic justice considerations.

Early on, the committee chose not to broaden its study, focusing instead on supply and demand, and on alternatives' costs - - real factors, to be sure, but only part of a truly comprehensive approach.

That is the basis of one of the recent complaints filed against SEWRPC by the ACLU of Wisconsin.

It's time to put the quality of the overall Great Lakes watershed, and the many sprawl and social considerations associated with water transfers, on a par with diversion cost-benefit analyses and water supply formulas - - and there is no better place to start than in southeastern Wisconsin.

George Will Raises The Temperament Question About John McCain

In a brutally-frank Washington Post column carried also in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, conservative pundit George Will, hardly an intemperate guy, raises the temperament issue that has smoldered beneath the surface about John McCain during the campaign, and in Washington, for years.

Will also repeats some of the stunning condemnation published a few days ago against McCain by the editors of The Wall Street Journal, so McCain's rocky relationship with some leading conservatives and his short-fuse superficiality is beginning to pour into the political mainstream.

Here are the first two paragraphs of Will's column, which ran in the Post under the headline, "McCain Loses His Head:"

"Under the pressure of the financial crisis, one presidential candidate is behaving like a flustered rookie playing in a league too high. It is not Barack Obama.

"Channeling his inner Queen of Hearts, John McCain furiously, and apparently without even looking around at facts, said Chris Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, should be decapitated. This childish reflex provoked the Wall Street Journal to editorialize that "McCain untethered" -- disconnected from knowledge and principle -- had made a "false and deeply unfair" attack on Cox that was "unpresidential" and demonstrated that McCain "doesn't understand what's happening on Wall Street any better than Barack Obama does.'"

Democrats know that McCain is unsuitable to lead the country in an economic crisis; if conservative Republicans feel the same way, McCain has definitely got more than a temperament problem.

He's got an electability problem.

Schuldt Uses Video To Expose SEWRPC

Video is such a powerful too - - as illustrated by blogger Gretchen Schuldt's video clips from SEWRPC meetings that expose the agency dismissive relationship to its public mission.

SEWRPC does not audio or video tape its advisory committee meetings or Commissioners' proceedings - - and its hand-written, then summarized official minutes, which sometimes take weeks or months to post online, do not reflect the meetings' full content or emotion.

A few years ago, I urged SEWRPC to begin to electronically record its meetings in some form - - and I even used Schuldt's occasional tapings as evidence that if a solitary blogger could do it, certainly so could the agency - - but then-deputy director, and now executive director-designee Ken Yunker, did not implement the suggestion.

Little wonder.

Will Allen, Milwaukee's Most Famous Working Urban Farmer, Wins Huge Award

Growing Power's Will Allen wins a MacArthur "Genius" award.

This is a major coup for Allen and the Milwaukee healthy food/sustainability/urban ag-and-education movement that he has energized for years.

I think he is the first Milwaukeean to win one of these prestigious grants. Here is his organization's website.

Congratulations are in order. Hooray!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bush Administration Says 'Go Ahead And Drink Rocket Fuel Chemical'

Perchlorate is toxic and tens of millions of Americans are exposed to it in their drinking water, but the Pentagon doesn't want to be forced to clean it up.

And that's good enough for the Bush Administration and the US Environmental Protection Agency, where, once again, politics trumps science.

More Bad Air In Many Wisconsin Counties

We're doing our best LA imitation, again.

Milwaukee Fares Well In Sustainability Rating...

But would have done better if it weren't rated so low in transit and several other categories.

Credit is give to our New Urbanist practices and Mayor Barrett's Office of Sustainability, and we rank number-one in water availability.

The city still needs a better plan to use its proximity to Lake Michigan as a way to bring industry to it, rather than just eyeing water sales under the Great Lakes Compact.

Bottom line: More innovation and risk-taking is needed.

It's no accident that Portland, with its signature light rail system and growth boundaries that bring people and capital into the downtown helped that city to the number-one US sustainability rating.

Sierra Club Makes Case For Closing The Seaway

Emily Green of The Sierra Club makes the case in a Sunday Journal Sentinel op-ed that ocean-going freighters be barred from entering the Great Lakes until the issue of their polluted ballast water is solved - - and that solution means no more discharging that water into the Great Lakes because it carries invasive species foreign to the Great Lakes that are ruining these treasured and vital bodies of fresh water.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Land Conservation Is Alive And Well In New York State

Thanks to the Nature Conservancy, donors and a host of smart and varied users.

The Far Right's Willful Lying About Obama Is Shameful

Nicholas Kristof spells it out, calling it 'otherizing.'

Here's some more of the history of the anti-Obama internet rumors and smears, much of it using Islam as a club against him.

The local righty bloggers who revel in taunting Obama with his given middle name Hussein - - one example of many, here - - bear some of the reponsibility for the effort that Kristol explains.

DNR Efforts To Protect Lakes Could Bring Out Its Haters

How long will it those who hate the DNR when it performs its public protection mission to generate their bile?

A Journal Communications suburban blogger - - who is also a state employee and a fill-in radio talk show host in his spare time for Mark Belling - - is a foot soldier in the anti-DNR crusade.

Some Traffic Fatalities Defy Understanding

Drugs, alcohol, and motorcyclists leaving a tavern without wearing helments.

Dismissiveness Fueled Civil Rights Complaints Against SEWRPC

More than six years ago, when the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission was touting its $6.25 billion reconstruction and widening plan, a nationally-known engineer critic of conventional highway-building named Walter Kulash told a meeting of community leaders at a Milwaukee luncheon that SEWRPC's plan was a bad investment, particularly for the downtown.

Kulash spoke at the invitation of then-Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist, who opposed the SEWRPC plan.

Ken Yunker, SEWRPC's then-assistant executive director, and now executive director-designee, was asked by the Journal Sentinel what he thought of Kulash's presentation.

"Very entertaining," Yunker responded, as he went on to discount Kulash's analysis.


It brought to mind "review-and-dismiss," a bureaucratic phrase that describes SEWRPC's attitude towards criticisms of its work or practices from outside the organization - - an attitude not unheard of when it comes to some agencies' reflexive insularity, but dismaying when it comes to those actually planning public infrastructure and people's well-being with tax dollars.

I attended the Kulash luncheon as Norquist's policy director, was stunned to see the remark in the paper the next day, and have long remembered it.

Yunker's one-liner came to mind again when I read these past weeks about two civil rights complaints filed with federal agencies against SEWRPC on behalf of low-income or minority Milwaukee organizations.

I'd argue that affirmative action inaction at SEWRPC, and a belief that the agency has regularly overlooked or discounted the interests of minority, low-income taxpayers, and the relatively few City of Milwaukee residents on its payroll - - an institutional, legacy "review-and-dismiss," if you will - - has provided some of the complainants' frustrations and motivation.

Details of the complaints can be found in a summary blog posting, here.

Remedies sought include federal investigations, withdrawal of federal funds, SEWRPC's establishment of a Milwaukee office, transportation assistance for employees because the Pewaukee office chosen by SEWRPC is not on a bus line, and more.

SEWRPC is a relatively-low profile, seven-county regional organization that works in an exurban office park, with dozens of employees, and a $7-8 million annual budget that comes completely from public agencies and tax dollars.

The agency is literally off the beaten path - - and is also similarly disconnected by race, income and culture from downtown Milwaukee and the region's other diverse populations centers, such as Racine and Kenosha.

Some examples of "review-and-dismiss?"

Where do we begin?

SEWRPC's proposed many miles of new freeway lanes through Milwaukee County will come at the loss of homes, businesses and millions in tax base - - a process that began with the reconstruction and widening of the Marquette Interchange.

The overall scheme was opposed by the Milwaukee Common Council and Milwaukee County Board - - but approved regardless by SEWRPC and forwarded to the state, which is busy committing billions of dollars to the plan - - regardless of $4 per-gallon gasoline, transit deficits throughout SEWRPC's seven-county region and the disproportionate weight those circumstances have on low-income and minority residents.

SEWRPC has also gone ahead and recommended a $25 million, fast-tracked I-94 full diamond interchange be constructed to serve the proposed Pabst Farms shopping mall in Western Waukesha County, over the objections of all 50 people who filed comments against it during one of those fruitless public comment period.

Little wonder that the hurried interchange plan is the basis of one of the federal complaints, since the interchange area and populations are not served by transit - - a circumstance that the complainants say shows low-income, minority and transit-dependent groups have little meaningful input or impact at SEWRPC.

And these are issues that SEWRPC knows have been raised before.

In 2004, a host of complaints were aired at a federal hearing in Milwaukee about SEWRPC's relationship with minorities and low-income.

Those testifying were individuals and groups, including representatives of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and the entire Milwaukee Common Council.

Out of that process came the creation of SEWRPC's Environmental Justice Task Force (EJTF), which SEWRPC said it would use to better guide its outreach and work with, and on behalf of, disadvantaged communities.

But just this spring, when the still-relatively-new EJFT learned that the agency was about to name an Executive Director-designee without its input, EJTF members asked SEWRPC to delay the hiring until it could participate.

SEWRPC had not advertised the opening or conducted a job search because it planned to promote its deputy director into the agency top job - - as it had done when it hired Phil Evenson more than a decade ago, making him only SEWRPC's second executive director since the agency's founding in 1960.

Yunker will be Executive Director number three - - in 48 years.

Remember - - this is a public agency. All of its funding comes from various tax sources, including property taxes, and its employees are public employees.

SEWRPC is not a private consulting firm that is more free to set its own hiring and promotion rules and procedures.

The original Executive Director, Kurt Bauer, is still working three-quarters time on contract as executive director-emeritus - - another position filled for years, but not advertised: senior SEWRPC appointments are rare, and long-lasting.

SEWRPC refused the EJTF's request - - more dismissal than review, I'd say - - and Ken Yunker's appointment was made as planned (see page 2 of these task force minutes); even the SEWRPC-appointed chair of the task force called the process a missed opportunity.

So should SEWRPC be surprised that its executive director hiring 'process' ends up cited prominently in the second discrimination complaint?


More than a year ago, attorneys and groups representing low-income and minority residents in the region sent a three-page letter to SEWRPC that crystallized many long-standing sentiments about the agency's discounting of minorities and low-income residents in SEWRPC operations.

The central issue in that September 7, 2007 letter was the makeup of a key SEWRPC group - - the 33-member Water Supply Advisory Committee - - and the direction its $1 million study.

The opening sentence: "We are writing to express concern that the SEWRPC Water Supply Study appears to be operating in violation of federal civil rights regulations and environmental justice requirements."

A year ago.

The letter expressed objections that the committee had but one minority member (an Hispanic surnamed male), no members speaking for low-income and minority communities, and no focus in the study work plan on the implications of water transfers on economic justice issues.

The letter asked that the study be stopped, then revised to include those communities and their priorities, noting that some concerns about disadvantaged residents in the region had been raised with SEWRPC at least four years earlier.

SEWRPC defended the water supply study and committee structure in a September 27th response letter; the study and the committee have continued.

Little wonder, then, that allegations of discrimination in the composition of the water supply committee (mentioned also: the other SEWRPC committees with but three minorities of 126 members total, per SEWRPC figures) were referenced in the eighteen pages of the second civil rights complaint.

Raising concerns about the basic fairness and scope of the water committee and study is quite timely:

The study's initial recommendation by SEWRPC consultants and staff calling for widespread diversions of Lake Michigan water to more than a dozen suburbs to meet their projected water needs to 2035 - - suburbs far whiter and wealthier than the City of Milwaukee - - will be presented by SEWRPC staff and consultants on Tuesday, September 23, 2008.

But as the episode with engineer and highway critic Walker Kulash shows, complaints and concerns about SEWRPC have been raised, and dismissed, for years.


I wrote an op-ed for Isthmus about SEWRPC equity issues in September, 2002.

The issues were relevant at the time to a Madison audience because then Gov. Scott McCallum, (R), was thinking about folding Madison and Dane County into a SEWRPC-type, multi-county organization for the first time - - where suburban, exurban and rural interests would have overwhelmed the more populous Dane County and City of Madison.

That agency was not created, and a few years later, a new, more urban-friendly regional planning arrangement for Madison and Dane County was approved.

And in the new organization, the critical transportation planning component was assigned to City of Madison officials and planners - - a point I noted in an op-ed I wrote for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sunday Crossroads section this June.

In that piece, I suggested that Milwaukee City and County withdraw from SEWRPC and adopt their own, urban-focused regional planning commission, perhaps based on the new Madison/Dane County model.

Milwaukee County's contribution annually to SEWRPC is about $850,000, the largest among all seven SEWRPC member counties, which means that City of Milwaukee taxpayers kick in about half - - yet SEWRPC has no City of Milwaukee board representative.

That Crossroads piece was attacked by a number of regional officials in a reply op-ed - - "review-and-dismiss," big time - - and that's fine.

Give-and-take is what newspaper op-ed pages are all about.

Let's hope federal civil rights compliance officials at the US Departments of Labor, and Transportation, where the local complaints have landed, don't practice SEWRPC's style of "review and dismiss."

This time, federal law is involved.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Underwater Energy Experiment Generates Electricity, Shows Promise

Tides. Currents. Waves. Wind.

Clean energy, waiting to be harvested, like this New York City river experiment proves.

Tomah Journal Urges Community Assistance, Not Sprawlville Bailouts

The Tomah Journal is right on, editorially making the distinction between government assistance to housing that builds communities and bailouts for unsustainable housing that got plopped down in the desert, on farmland or on the water somewhere.

Absolutely brilliant.

And not the first time this paper has spoken the truth about public finance issues, whether for housing or transportation, as I have noted.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Drop In The Bucket For State Rail

The state is passing out $16 million for several freight rail improvements statewide - - minuscule and incremental investments compared to highway funding.

The unnecessary Interchange to Nowhere in Western Waukesha County - - connecting to an upscale mall project delayed, and now proposed as anything but upscale - - has a state share pegged at $23.1 million; ground was broken this week on $1.9 billion in I-94 reconstruction and expansion from Milwaukee to the Illinois state line.

For light rail? Nothing, and blocked for Milwaukee since 1997.

For commuter rail? A few planning bucks, but nothing in the ground.

This imbalance reflects the fundamental distortion in state transportation funding.

Rail, whether freight or passenger, is at the short end of the stick.

State aids for local road repairs - - whether to fill potholes or maintain basic infrastructure - - is never adequate, though these programs supplement property taxes and keep keep cities, towns and village economies stable.

But highways, especially brand spanking-new projects, continue to reap their millions, billions even - - because that is where there is the most mutually-beneficial intersection among elected officials at all levels, road-building companies, lobbyists and campaign contributions.

Maverick McCain Exploiting Loopholes In McCain-Feingold Campaign Reforms

Nothing more dangerous than a maverick (sic) hell-bent on undoing all his former work.

McCain might have been a maverick years ago, but now he's just another politician on the make, with the fever, so anything goes.

Can we please retire this tortured, contradictory, and empty political adjective?

Tom Barrett Dumps On Illinois Congressman, Who Had It Coming

Actually, our Mayor was just returning the favor to US Rep. Mark Steven Kirk, (R-IL), who had ignorantly ripped MMSD's storm-related overflows a few years back.

So Barrett sent Kirk a letter noting that Chicago's recent, record-breaking dumping into Lake Michigan was five times what MMSD has dumped in the last 14 years.

And for good measure, Barrett reminded Kirk that Chicago also pollutes the downstream Mississippi River watershed - - making the Windy City the Great Lakes region's leading, East-West/two-watershed polluter - - and is still the only major Great Lakes city that doesn't disinfect its sewerage.

A "Palin & McCain" Administration? Oops!

Sarah Palin Freudian slip-slides towards The White House.

Update: AP, noting the Palin first comment, documents that at least three times in recent days, Palin has referred to McCain has her running mate, which is never the way it is supposed to be phrased, AP says.

Michael Horne Completely Exposes Van Hollen's Hypocrisy, And Messy Voter Registration Records, Too

True public service journalism on the web: Michael Horne shows that Van Hollen's registration history is a spelling jumble that would crash the electronic data base cross-checks, and this interesting fact:

Van Hollen registered at the polls on an election day - - a system he is trying to stamp out.

Van Hollen is sinking into political quicksand, as his politically-motivated lawsuit designed to muck up the count on election day is claiming his reputation as its first victim.

The Tomah Journal Tied Mortgage Failures To Sprawl...In April

Talk about prescience.

Stock Markets Soar On New American Socialism

And, please, ye GOP apologists and right-wing ideologues - - let's have no more talk about your true love for small government, free (sic) markets and risk-taking.

You're getting your check.

A trillion-dollar bailout! We're talking Iraq War Money now.

Ol' Farmer Belling Cites Almanac In Cold Winter Forecast

The National Weather Service says we will have a warmer winter this year, but the Farmer's Almanac says just the opposite.

Radio talker and climate expert Mark Belling says he's going with the Farmer's Almanac - - it was part of his rant about the need to burn more carbon fuels to heat up the planet - - so I'm siding with the weather service.

Inflexible And Arrogant, WisDOT Pledges Anew To Build The Interchange To Nowhere

The Journal Sentinel learns that the upscale mall at Pabst Farms looks more and more like a glorified strip mall - - but WisDOT says it will build the $25 million fast-tracked I-94 interchange there anyway.

Remember that the plan was to build an interchange to serve the hordes who'd be driving to a Nordstrom's, or a Von Maur, and other fancy-pants shoppes at a "life-style center," avoiding a trip all the way to faraway Mayfair.

Now that the high-end stores appear to have been but a mirage, replaced by big-boxes and chain department stores - - a Target, perhaps, an Office Max, as they are rare in these parts, no? - - WisDOT has discovered other justifications for the interchange, like the new hospital being build across the highway from where the mall may or may not be built.

Oh, WisDOT, your spin is making me feel faint.

Some in Waukesha County are talking about withholding the county's 7%, $1.75 million share, which would be the right thing to do.

Why should anyone kick in for a full diamond interchange in order to get themselves a few minutes faster to a new PetSmart store, or even a Shopko?

And you know what would happen if Waukesha County did the right thing, and pulled that share?

WisDOT would build the interchange anyway, shaving a little fat out of the budget here and there, because WisDOT does not back down.

They are WisDOT, accountable to no one.

One more thought: it is the interchange's phony-baloney planning process that led to the ACLU's discrimination complaint against SEWRPC, whose officials agreed to move the project to a fast lane list.

Looks to me like WisDOT is begging to be added to the complaint, and if that doesn't happen, SEWRPC will left holding the bag.

A Trump Card Unwanted

Donald Trump endorses John McCain.

I'd say Obama caught a break.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Daily Reporter Grasps Import Of 2nd Civil Rights Complaint Against SEWRPC

The Daily Reporter, Wisconsin's leading business daily, takes detailed note of the second complaint filed recently against the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission that alleges discrimination in SEWRPC hiring and committee appointment practices.

At stake: SEWRPC's funding, among other possible remedies.

An earlier complaint alleged discrimination in transportation planning.

Obama Tells It Like It Is

John McCain's response to the economic mess on Wall Street is - - fire the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Silly symbolism. Weaker than his 'let's-set-up-a-commission' do-nothing proposal.

To which Barack Obama replied today in New Mexico - - and I hope the campaign makes an ad out if it:

"I think that's all fine and good but here's what I think," Obama said. "In the next 47 days you can fire the whole trickle-down, on-your-own, look-the-other way crowd in Washington who has led us down this disastrous path. Don't just get rid of one guy. Get rid of this administration. Get rid of this philosophy. Get rid of the do-nothing approach to our economic problem and put somebody in there who's going to fight for you."

Michael Savage, AM 620 WTMJ Daily Hate Staple

Courtesy of Media Matters, here, in full, is its most recent posting about Michael Savage, the hate-spewing rightwinger whose show is carried late-nights on AM 620 WTMJ, the Journal Communications station and Wisconsin's leading 50,000 watt outfit.

What it likes to call "The Biggest Stick In The State." Why it keeps Savage on the air in Wisconsin is a mystery.

Sure it's a bottom-line decision, but at what cost to the company's image?
September 18, 2008

Michael Savage is at it again.

Dear Friend,

On the September 16 broadcast of his syndicated radio show, discussing a caller's comment that "Muslim fundamentalists" are "walk[ing] around Northern Virginia as if they own the place," Savage asked, "Why would a nation that is as evolved as America, and as liberal as America is socially, want to bring in throwbacks who are living in the 15th century? Now you have to ask yourself, what's the benefit? What is the societal benefit of bringing in throwbacks, some of whom are no doubt terrorists, and some of whom are gonna produce children who will become terrorists?"
It's time to pick up the phone again and let those who carry his show in your area know what you think about his hate speech and racist comments.

We all know this isn't the first time Savage has used his #3 nationwide syndicated radio show to denigrate people and incite hate. Here are just a few of the other outrageous statements Savage has made that Media Matters has documented:

On autism: "A fraud, a racket. ... I'll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is. What do you mean they scream and they're silent? They don't have a father around to tell them, 'Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don't sit there crying and screaming, idiot.' "

On asthma: "[W]hy was there an asthma epidemic amongst minority children? Because I'll tell you why: The children got extra welfare if they were disabled, and they got extra help in school. It was a money racket. Everyone went in and was told [fake cough], 'When the nurse looks at you, you go [fake cough], "I don't know, the dust got me."' See, everyone had asthma from the minority community."

On immigrants from Africa: "There's the new America for you. Bring them in by the millions. Bring in 10 million more from Africa. Bring them in with AIDS. Show how multicultural you are. They can't reason, but bring them in with a machete in their head. Go ahead. Bring them in with machetes in their mind."

On the Democratic Party: "The Democrat [sic] Party is the minority party. ... [Sen. Barack] Obama is a minority, a half minority at least. The membership is made up largely of minority blocs, the Hispanic caucus and the gay caucus -- caucuses that are all against the white person."

On Guantánamo Bay: "I'd hang every lawyer who went down to Guantánamo to defend those murderers."

Please look up your local Savage affiliate and take action here: http://mediamatters.org/action_center/savage_action/?src=savage0918-9
Thanks for your action on this important call --

Erin Hofteig
New Media DirectorMedia Matters for America

© 2008 Media Matters for America1625 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Suite 300, Washington, D.C. 20036

Waukesha Council, County Government At Cross-Purposes

Waukesha County has such a problem with drunk driving that it established a special court to handle its boozed-up drivers.

I recall that former Waukesha County District Attorney Paul Bucher was an outspoken advocate for safe, sober roads there; the special court, while winning praise for its effectiveness, is running out of money.

So here's one approach: The Waukesha City Council has decided to allow gas stations to sell beer.

Remember, we're one of the state's with a growing DUI problem - - I read about that in Waukesha's daily paper, The Freeman - - so remind me again why Waukesha's City Council took this step?

To help some service stations make a little more money.

What are the lives of Waukesha-area motorists worth?

Apparently not much more than the price of a twelve-pack.

I'd say that Waukesha County's two largest units of government are working at cross-purposes, though one West Bend blogger's posted response to the news was "Whohoo."


Transit Supporters Looking For Waukesha Partners

Talk about an uphill effort - - but good for the transit advocates who are making the case that regional service requires participation by Waukesha communities.

The Freeman, in which that story appears, has recently editorialized against Waukesha County's participation in the transportation authority that Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties have established.

There are even fewer transit links now between Milwaukee and New Berlin, for example, that there were in existence just a few years ago.

So it's time to stop going in the wrong direction.

Will there be support in Waukesha? We'll see, though $4-per-gallon gasoline should make this a no-brainer.

SEWRPC Study Will Recommend Lake Michigan Water Meet Waukesha's Needs

As I predicted on this blog Monday, the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission's staff and consultants will recommend to its water supply advisory committee, after nearly three years of work, that much of the region's water needs to the year 2035 be met with a major shift from well water to Lake Michigan water, including a diversion out of the Great Lakes basin to the City of Waukesha.

While never really in doubt, the initial recommendation is a big political victory for Waukesha, which has said it wants 24 million gallons of Lake Michigan water daily - - more than double its current peak daily usage - - as it is the nerve center of a county whose Executive has predicted nearly 150,000 new residents by mid-century.

Waukesha County's population in the 2000 census was 360,800: Dan Vrakas has said it could hit 509,000 by 2050.

The staff and consultant's preliminary recommendation for major new Lake Michigan water usage is found on page 46 of a lengthy document, Chapter IX of the study-in-progress, "A Regional Water Supply Plan For Southeastern Wisconsin."

The consultant is Ruekert-Mielke, the ubiquitous Waukesha consulting and engineering firm that also has produced the pending Lake Michigan diversion application for the City of New Berlin.

The document and recommendation is to be presented to the water advisory committee at its meeting on Tuesday, September 23, at 9:00 a.m. at the SEWRPC Pewaukee headquarters about a mile north of the intersection of state highway 164 and I-94, at W239 N1812 Rockwood Drive, Pewaukee.

Because materials for the committee meeting were mailed to the 32 members- - committee papers are mailed in hard copy, not emailed or sent on-line - - I simply picked up a packet at SEWRPC's office and read through them Wednesday afternoon.

This posting is based on a first, quick read.

The recommendation technically supports what is called "subalternative 2 to the Composite Plan" - - that is, an amalgam of water conservation plans and techniques, proposed rainfall capture areas on open land to recharge underground supplies, and use of the City of Milwaukee's water works pumping and treatment capacity by up to 13 communities for obtaining Lake Michigan water, including the City of Waukesha - - the biggest of the southeastern Wisconsin communities seeking, and recommended for, Lake Michigan water.

The plan's total estimated capital costs are $326.5 million.

The recommended alternative achieves significant recovery to overused groundwater supplies by substituting Lake Michigan water for a number of communities' wells.

Milwaukee, as the presumed seller, would obtain a new revenue stream, though it would presumably have to bear significant capital costs, too.

The report notes that Waukesha, which has yet to formally apply for a Lake Michigan diversion - - and that application would require approval by all eight Great Lakes states under the new Great Lakes Compact - - has yet to say how it would return diverted water to Lake Michigan, as is required by the Compact.

This is a key point.

Possible solutions include wastewater discharges into the Root River and the Menomonee River's Underwood Creek tributary, or in pipe connections to the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage Commission, or in even more potentially-controversial scenarios that include allowing Waukesha to continue its current practice of discharging wastewater to the Fox River.

That is a flow away from the Great Lakes, and thus perhaps also from easy approval by the other states, given that the Compact has tight return flow procedures. requirements and expectations.

The document suggests Waukesha might be able to get away with 85% return flow, annually. I'm not sure if that will fly.

Sending any Great Lakes water to the Mississippi River watershed via the Fox River might not pass muster in Michigan, and elsewhere.

The staff and consultants say the overall supply alternative they are initially recommending to the committee is cost-effective and "more fully meets the plan objectives" than other options.

Therefore it is the one they suggest the committee move along to a series of public meetings, additional review and final approval SEWRPC approval.

The alternative is also said to match up with SEWRPC's guiding land-use plan, though from the beginning, the three-year water supply study came with parameters limited primarily to engineering and capacity cost-benefits analyses and comparative conservation methodologies.

Specific implications such as the impact of water transfers on regional housing patterns, business development, employment opportunities, transportation options and economic justice were not considered.

After the public meetings and additional reviews, the full SEWRPC 21-member board, made up of representatives from each of its seven counties, would adopt a final recommendation and the region's municipalities would then be free to cite and use it.

SEWRPC's final recommendations carry weight in the region: Waukesha would certainly incorporate it into a Lake Michigan diversion application to the other Great Lakes states, as would other communities.

Given the scope of the recommendations, and because SEWRPC has also studied the possibility, a regional water authority might be created to facilitate multi-community diversion applications and even funding for new infrastructure.

Another Bush Legacy: American Jurisprudence Is Brushed Off

We used to export legal credibility, but it's hard to do when you preemptively invade other countries and water-board people there.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bush Does Not Have The Energy and Credibility To Lead Right Now

Anybody seen our Guy-Who's-Still-President?

Anyone imagine him holding the equivalent of a fireside chat? A reassuring national televised talk? A 30-second spot to tell us to go shopping again?

When he's spotted fleetingly on the tube, everything about his body language says, "Are we there yet? Can I go home now?"

Besides, McCain would prevent it. Better for McCain that that the country forgets Bush is president. Don't remind the voters that the guy who was allegedly at the helm when the ship of state ran aground was supported by McCain more than 90& of the time - - by McCain's accounting.

We see the Fed chairman, and the Treasury Secretary on TV, making pronouncements, holding meetings, taking decisions - - but not the Chief Executive, and certainly not Dick Cheney.

What? You wanna knock another 1,000 off the Dow? Send Mr. Birdshot to the lectern.

Bet W is watching a ballgame about now, or has turned in for the night. He's counting the days, like the rest of us.

Civil Rights Complaint Against SEWRPC, Full Document, Posted Here

Here is a link to the full text of the most recent civil rights complaint filed against the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) by the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin.

The complaint about SEWRPC hiring and promotional practices, and other SEWRPC actions, is made on behalf of the Milwaukee branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and is referenced in an earlier blog posting today.

Laugh At Detroit If You Will, But Its Private Sector Is Putting Up Money For Light Rail

Could this happen here?

SEWRPC Hit With Second Civil Rights Complaint

First there was complaint number one - - keyed to transportation spending.

Now there's a second about hiring, and more - - and both allege discriminatory action and federal violations by SEWRPC, the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.

SEWRPC was the subject last month of a civil rights complaint alleging discriminatory support for suburban highway spending over transit that serves low-income taxpayers.

The complaint, filed in August with federal transportation officials, also cited a lack of minority representatives on SEWRPC's key advisory committees. (In 2007, SEWRPC data showed that of 126 members on its advisory committees at that time, three, or 2%, were minorities.)

Details of that complaint are here. It also seeks an investigation and remedies.

SEWRPC recently said the August complaint had no merit.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, which filed the August complaint, has now filed a second complaint - - this time with federal labor and contracting officials.

Here is a link to the news release:

The full complaint is here, and I will post it separately later Wednesday.

It alleges that SEWRPC, a governmental body that receives 100% of its funding from public sources, improperly named an Executive Director-designee without an open hiring procedure and consideration of diversity in the process.

This complaint seeks an investigation into SEWRPC hiring and promotion practices, and a variety of remedies.

The ACLU of Wisconsin has a long history of prodding officials and agencies to include minority and low-income persons in public planning and spending decisions.

This new complaint was filed on behalf of the Milwaukee branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

I have been long critical of SEWRPC's affirmative action shortcomings and its relocation from downtown Waukesha to a more remote Pewaukee business park that is not served by transit and is thus distant and disconnected from Milwaukee and the region's minority job pool.

Additionally, the commission structure statutorily leaves the City of Milwaukee without representation on the Commission's 21-member governing board.

Milwaukee is the largest city in the SEWRPC seven-county region and has most of the region's minority residents.

Yet mostly-white counties with as little as 15% of Milwaukee's population have three seats on the commission's governing board, contributing to SEWRPC's suburban orientation.

Among the remedies sought in the new complaint is the opening of a Milwaukee office by SEWRPC.

I had summarized many of these issues in a June op-ed piece in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Crossroads section in which I suggested Milwaukee withdraw from SEWRPC, stop sending it about $400,000 annually for operations and create a separate planning commission that would put the interests of the city and minority taxpayers first.

That piece is here.

Alaska Biologist Exposes Palin's Environmental Record: Guest Post


(Marilyn Sigman is a 31-year resident of Alaska who has worked as a state and federal wildlife and habitat biologist and who currently directs a non-profit organization. She has been through a series of Alaskan "wolf wars" and has worked as a permitter for large development projects, including the last gas pipeline project proposed to bring Alaska's North Slope gas to market, begun in the late 1970's and never constructed.)

* * *

Sarah Palin has done a good job in looking out for Alaska 's "state's interest" when it comes to taxing production of state-owned oil and gas.

But what is the state's interest (which would become the national interest if Palin is elected Vice-president) in terms of protection of Alaska 's environment and ecosystems, according to Palin?

Her record is one of support for wolf control by illegal means, opposition to the listing of endangered species, and unethical intervention into public initiative processes.

She favors development in rich, sensitive areas such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Cook Inlet, and Bristol Bay and downplays risks from toxic spills, pollution, and loss of habitat.

Sarah Palin and Wolf Control

The citizens of Alaska have banned aerial hunting of wolves twice by initiative but legislative actions have provided the means for the state to pursue predator control.

Palin followed in the footsteps of Governor Frank Murkowski by appointing people to the Board of Game who were strong advocates of predator control.

She herself is a member and former President of the Alaska Outdoor Council, the leading hunter advocacy organization in Alaska which has consistently championed "intensive management" and predator control primarily to benefit urban "fly in" hunters.

During her two years as Governor, state efforts to kill wolves have intensified, employing methods such as helicopters, bounties, and killing pups in the den which are either outright illegal or unacceptable to the majority of Alaskans.

Beginning in 2003, 600 wolves had been killed by private pilots and trappers by March, 2007. But then, it became clear the winter's quota was far behind.

Only 98 of the desired 382 to 664 dead wolves had been killed, admittedly because it was harder to find wolves in areas where many had already been killed.

With Governor Palin's support, the Commissioner of Fish and Game instituted new measures. Among the most controversial was the offer of cash payment to the volunteer pilot/gunner teams who had been doing the killing.

"To motivate permittees to redouble their efforts and to help offset the high cost of aviation fuel, ADF&G will offer cash payments to those who return biological specimens to the department. Permittees will be paid $150 when they bring in the left forelegs of wolves taken from any of several designated control areas."

Although the Director of Wildlife Conservation Matt Robus carefully explained in the department press release that the cash payments were additional incentives to aerial control permittees, and "are not bounties," when sued by an environmental organization, the Alaska courts found the payments to, indeed, be bounties which have been prohibited in Alaska for decades.

At the same time in March, 2007, the department proposed using state employees and helicopters to kill wolves but said that Governor Palin has asked the department to use these methods only as a "last resort."

In December, 2007, the department was evidently already down to its last resort by mid-winter.

They planned a helicopter hunt by department biologists to take place in June when caribou would be on their calving grounds which was approved by the Board of Game in March. By June of 2008, 800 wolves had been killed.

Later, it came out that the actions taken in June, 2008, included killing fourteen wolf pups at two dens.

One of the state's top wildlife officials acted surprised to find the pups during what would have been their usual denning period:

"As we got on the calving grounds, we took adults and in the course of taking adults we found there were pups," said Doug Larsen, director of the state Division of Wildlife Conservation.

He went on to say that zoos and wildlife centers had been contacted, but the two most likely institutions in Alaska denied any contacts.

"The issue then was do we leave the pups to fend for themselves and starve or do we dispatch them," Larsen said. "Our feeling was that it was most humane to dispatch them."

The pups were "dispatched" by being shot in the head.

When an independent biologist went public with the pup killings and a furor arose over a practice which has banned for decades in Alaska , Denby Lloyd, commissioner of Fish and Game, evinced more surprise.

"(Some people) have wondered if the department was trying to cover up the killing of pups, because it was not highlighted in press announcements of the program. Rather, we were so intent upon making the public aware of our use of helicopter support, we didn't even think to identify the age, or sex, or characteristics other than the total number of wolves eliminated. It wasn't until weeks afterward that members of the public thought to ask."

In 2007, 172 scientists signed a letter to Palin, expressing concern about the lack of science behind the state's wolf-killing operation. According to the scientists, state officials set population objectives for moose and caribou based on "unattainable, unsustainable historically high populations."

As a result, the "inadequately designed predator control programs" threatened the long-term health of both the ungulate and wolf populations.

The scientists concluded with a plea to Palin to consider the conservation of wolves and bears "on an equal basis with the goal of producing more ungulates for hunters."

In 2008, year Palin introduced state legislation that would further divorce the predator-control program from science.

The legislation would transfer authority over the program from the state Department of Fish and Game to Alaska 's Board of Game, whose members are appointed by, well, Palin. The bill stalled in the Senate.

An initiative was placed on the ballot by petition in August, 2008, to put some reasonable controls on the predator program – to restrict the killing to state biologists and to require that it occur only if a biological emergency had been declared.

The state spent $400,000 on an "education program" that mailed out and stuffed newspapers throughout the state with a glossy brochure of one-sided details about wolf control right before the election.

It is against the law to spend state money to influence the outcome of an election. The ballot initiative was defeated.

Sarah Palin and Clean Water for Salmon

In August, 2008, a second initiative which would have toughened Alaska 's clean water regulations to protect salmon at risk from new large-scale mines was also defeated.

At stake is one of the most productive Bristol Bay salmon systems in the world threatened by Pebble Mine, targeting a world-class heavy metal deposit.

Sarah Palin came out publicly against the "clean water initiative," saying she was "taking off her governor hat" and taking what she called her "personal privilege" to say she would vote no on the initiative because she thought Alaska 's laws were protective enough.

The opposition to the initiative, well-funded by mining interests, took out a series of full-page ads in the Anchorage Daily News featuring Governor Palin's comments, including two ads the day before the election. It is against the law in Alaska for the governor to officially advocate for or against a ballot measure.

The proposed Pebble Mine is in one of the most seismically active areas in the world and would involve a massive dam at the headwaters of the watershed to hold back the toxic waste that will be generated.

Sarah Palin and Endangered Species

Palin has opposed efforts to list Cook Inlet beluga whales, a genetically distinct population of whales located only in this Alaskan inlet. Scientists estimate that they numbered 1,300 in the '80s; now they're down to just 375.

Palin has declared the listing and designation of critical habitat unnecessary, citing threats to the oil and gas industry. Palin supports a bridge across Cook Inlet and is continuing to spend federal money on it.

This is the second "bridge to nowhere" (to an area without roads or towns) which would require engineering a structure that can withstand an earthquake and some of the most extreme tides in the world, at a cost currently estimated at $1 billion.

Palin is suing the federal government over the listing of polar bears because it will cripple oil and gas development in prime polar bear habitat off the state's northern and northwestern coasts.

The state is arguing that there is not enough evidence to support a listing and that the loss of habitat through melting of sea ice is not a valid reason for concern.

The arctic ice cap was 27% below its historic size in the summer of 2007 and reached its second historic low in 2008. An email obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that three state biologists had read and concurred with the federal scientific reports that supported the federal listing.

Ken Taylor, a state wildlife official appointed by Palin, downplayed the importance of the disagreement. (More recently, Taylor retired and became the chief environmental officer for the mining company planning the Pebble Mine project.)

The legislature voted to spend $2 million on a conference focused on polar bear science, a measure that survived Palin's many vetoes which were primarily aimed at education and recreation projects. The President of the Alaska Senate was clear about the purpose of the conference. The point, said Harris, is to provide a forum for scientists whose views back Alaska 's interests.

"You know as well as I do that scientists are like lawyers," Harris told Alaska Daily News reporters.

Gas Gouging? Mr. Attorney General, Are You Checking?

Regular gas at a Citgo station and a BP station near each other on Madison's east side Tuesday afternoon: $3.959.

Regular gas at a Citgo station and a BP station near each other on E. Capitol Dr. in Milwaukee 90 minutes later: $4.099 - - 14 cents higher per gallon than in Madison.

Regular gas at a BP station and a Citgo station near each other on E. Capitol Dr. in Shorewood - - just down the road from the Milwaukee stations: $4.199 - - 24 cents higher than the Madison price and a dime over the same brands just blocks away.

Is this the reformulated gas differential?

Or just good old-fashioned gouging?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mary Lazich Wants The Government Out Of Our Garages

It must be baffling to a Republican like State Sen. Mary Lazich, (R-New Berlin), to have the US Environmental Protection Agency under a Republican president issuing clean air regulations.

Lazich doesn't like the EPA rules that tighten emissions from small engines, like those on lawn mowers - - not knowing that some small engines expel half their fuel as unburned vapor, a severe air pollutant that contributes to the greenhouse effect.

Of course, local AM conservative talk show host Mark Belling recently said gasoline engine emissions were a good thing because they would help ward off global cooling.

Lazich's staff aide Kevin Fischer is a frequent fill-in host on Belling's show, completing that little hot air loop.

McCain Campaign Forgets "Saturday Night Live" Is A Comedy Show

This is like complaining that The Onion is satirical.

Yeah, SNL should be more like C-SPAN.

Tina Fey's opening bit was proof that Palin is news, thus comedy-worthy.

Chicago Pollutes Lake Michigan

Unsparing in its criticisms of Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District overflows, Chicago discovers its systems can be overwhelmed, too.

90 billion gallons worth. That is a honkin' big number.

Update: 99 billion gallons. Unprecedented.

Maybe this will result in less finger-pointing our way from the south.


I swear I didn't see this editorial in the Journal Sentinel tonight before I put up this post, but the paper is dead-on in its position and prose.

Transit Can Help Reduce Dependence On Foreign Oil

The Brookings Institution offers a number of papers and commentaries on transit as a tool in reducing our national dependence on foreign oil.

UW-M Engineering School Site Would Sprawl Across Rare Butterfly Zone

If UW-M is looking for bad PR for planning to site its new Engineering School on the County Grounds - - aside from fact that students and faculty would be driving repeatedly across town from the main UW-M campus on the East side to get to there - - it's surely found it:

The campus would erase a rare Monarch butterfly site.

The Monarch Trail there is a migratory stop on the butterflies' annual North American flight.

This is yet another argument against the Wauwatosa site: the downtown is more accessible, has more amenities and takes advantage of already-built infrastructure, housing and commercial outlets.

UW-M really needs to get over its love affair with the County Grounds site.

Belling Stirs The Race Pot

Mark Belling devoted nearly an hour of his Tuesday afternoon 1130 WISN-AM radio program to a stabbing incident in a Water St. tavern Saturday that he said had major racial implications for the street and the city.

Stirring the racial pot, as he has done before. His obsession with crimes committed by African-Americans at Mayfair Shopping Center comes to mind.

"You can't allow this [Water St.] to become 35th and North. You just can't," Belling proclaimed Tuesday afternoon.

35th St. and North Ave. is a major Milwaukee central city intersection: Belling described it as "Milwaukee's hell-hole."

In the stabbing incident, the alleged assailant and one of the victims whom I saw interviewed on television Monday night are African-American female college students.

The third woman, also a stabbing victim, is a college student: I am not sure of her race, but I believe all three of the women are African-American. If I am wrong about that, I stand corrected.

An hour with Belling on the issues of race, bar behavior and youth drinking is a special trip into pop sociology and down Memory Lane, that's for sure.

When the podcast of this show is up, I'll note it.

[Update: the podcasts are up, here, for just 24 hours, so if you want to hear them, do it now. You want the first two segments of hour one.]

Among his observations:

Taverns that allow hip-hop music are inviting trouble.

Young people are drinking more heavily and staying wired on the energy drink Red Bull.

Fake ID use is rampant.

Bouncers are sometimes unable or unwilling to challenge questionable ID's presented by black patrons for fear of being called racist.

Therefore, bouncers need to be really big and somewhat older, so they can exercise judgement.

If the tavern where the stabbing took place knowingly let the underage women in who were involved in the assault, the tavern should suffer the consequences.

There is an increasing number of African-Americans on Water St., and if people think his focus on their presence there is racist, well, he doesn't care because he's the only one willing to take the issue head-on.

People who live at 35th and North Ave. seem willing to tolerate violent behavior by "thugs", but it can't be tolerated in other areas of the city, especially on Water St., where there is millions in new condo and commercial investment.

What I'm trying to figure out is how Belling can play the race card regarding the assault.

Does any event involving African-Americans automatically become a racial matter?

After that segment, Belling talked about a lingering election battle in the Germantown-Menomonee Falls area. The candidate involved is white, but Belling did not identify him by race.

Why not?

As Wall Street Collapses, As The Gulf Coast Disintegrates...

I expect the McCain campaign to tell us more about lipstick, fake kindergarten sex education plans and earmarked whoppers.

Anything to distract us from $10 billion a month for the Iraq War that John McCain said could continue for another 100 years, and the reality of more multiple billions lost on Wall Street that have turned 401-K plans into 201's.

The change we need in this country is so overwhelmingly fundamental and deep-seated that it would be insane to turn America back to the GOP for more years of abject, grinding failure.

To which we all need to say, "Thanks, but no thanks."

Treating The Great Lakes Like A Garbage Can

Great Lakes' ships routinely wash their decks with high-powered hoses, sending dirt and pollutants washed overboard.

New rules restricting that practice are under review.

Those rules should also apply to coal-fired ships that regularly dump their boilers' ash overboard: coal ash carries many toxins and contaminants.

Remember, 40 million people drink Great Lakes water. The Great Lakes provide fish, recreation, employment and spiritual renewal.

Think of the Great Lakes as living organisms that should be respected. not as free garbage dumps for toxic waste.