Saturday, January 31, 2009

My Argument In Crossroads Sunday For Green Simulus Investments

Let's think short-term and long-term, but with sustainability as goal #1.

Al Gore On Message: Will The Congress Listen

Sure it's cold out this winter, but don't you think video of a scientist lighting methane leaking out of arctic ice would get Congress' attention?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Waukesha Saves Water - - Thus Raising A Question About The Diversion, Too

Waukesha reports a solid decrease in water consumption.

And that's good.

So if water consumption if falling, why is it signalling its intention to seek a Lake Michigan diversion of 20-24 million gallons of water daily - - an increase of about 150% from its current daily average of 9.8 million gallons?

SEWRPC provided Waukesha with a requisite map for a diversion application that indicated limited development opportunities in annexable territory.

So, again, why the need for so much additional water?

Waukesha may be showing water consumption declines because of industrial closings, so it's not clear how much of the reported decline is due to commercial/industrial business decisions and how much is due to residential customers installing water-saving devices, and so forth.

Another problem is that Waukesha has only recently instituted its conservation ordinances and rate changes.

Remember all the rain we had last year? Maybe that's why there was, for example, less lawn watering, or car washing.

Last summer there was too much water!

What's the outcome in Waukesha if we have an extended period of drought.

We're a long way from grasping all the science, data and technical planning associated with Waukesha's water use and future needs.

So while the drop in consumption is laudable, the reasons and the implications are not clear.

And may not be - - for years - - which is not a crisis because officials have repeatedly said Waukesha is not in a crisis situation.

It has a problem with radium, and it is dealing with it, and as SEWRPC has indicated, Waukesha has several supply options, including radium-removal, shallow aquiifer, Lake Michigan water, or a combination.

Still also unresolved: will Waukesha cap its current wells if it gets the diversion, will it safely return water to Underwood Creek in Wauwatosa without raising that stream's level, and does the new Great Lakes Compact permit diverted water to be treated and discharged outside of the Great Lakes basin, as Waukesha has said it may due, depending on rainfall.

Waukesha will have to delve deeply into these matters in its diversion application, so let's all stay tuned.

Why We Need Newspapers

Great Don Behm piece in today's Journal Sentinel about a proposed new state park incorporating unique glacial features.

Sensing A Loss, The WMC Takes A Pass

The Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce has announced it is sitting out the April State Supreme Court race.

So is the state's leading Deep Pockets, Deeply Reactionary Big Business organization reforming itself after spending millions on negative TV ads to get ethically-challenged local judges promoted to the high court?


The WMC can read a poll and assess an incumbent's huge treasury and grasp that a nobody from Jefferson County is an easy shove under the bus driven by sitting Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson - - whose re-election is a lock, and deservedly so.

The WMC will come back into the fray when there are easier pickings.

Rally Monday, 2/2, For MORE And Better City-Financed Work

Two well-known organizations - - the Good Jobs and Livable Neighborhoods Coalition and MICAH - - are rallying Monday, 2/2 at 8:30 a.m. at City Hall in support of the "MORE" ordinance designed to assist local businesses and workers obtain contracts and fair levels employment and wages on local projects that receive at least $1 million in direct city financial assistance.

The city's Community Economic Development Committee will then discuss MORE (Milwaukee Opportunities for Restoring Employment, file # 080218) at 9:00 a.m.

Transportation and additional details are available through the Good Jobs and Livable Neighborhoods Coalition: 414-443-0682

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Another Disgusting Supreme Court Race Lurches To The Right

If these one-note conservative ideologues keep it up we'll end up with appointed, not elected, Justices. The public, nauseated, will demand it.

Push For Transit Funding Moves To Senate Stimulus Bill

Transit advocates helped increase probable stimulus funding in the House bill, so the same pressure needs to be exerted as the Senate bill comes up for amendments and votes.

Here is a link supplied by a national coalition to facilitate that communication.

GOP Puts Partisanship Above National Recovery

All House of Representatives GOP members voted against the stimulus bill despite President Barack Obama's efforts to put a bi-partisan stamp on the measure.

He met with House Republicans, adopted some of their proposals, but in the end, the GOP preferred to stand on the sidelines, hoping to be able to say "I told you so" if the program stumbles or fails.

So the GOP prefers failure - - taking their cues from new party leader and loudmouth Rush Limbaugh - - rather than positively participating in national economic success or stabilization that might bring with it fewer off-year election gains in 2010.

These Republicans stood with President Bush as he promoted tax cuts at the upper end of the spectrum, rewarded special interests, deleted protective regulations and enabled the Wall Street collapse.

No wonder the GOP wants failure now. It's what they understand best, so their status as a dwindling, fringe regional party will continue to feel familiar.

Life Is Cheap On Wisconsin Highways

We've seen it time and time again on Wisconsin highways: bad behavior, like drunken driving, treated with kid gloves by the justice system.

Now here's another example: a motorist runs down two bicyclists. One dies, one is injured.

The driver flees. Then flees the state. Stashes the hit-and-run vehicle. Has a record of driving drunk (though her arrest weeks later made it impossible for her blood alcohol content to have been tested).

The sentence: four years, plus probation of ten years.

Also from the Journal Sentinel. A New Berlin man gets four years in prison for stealing natural gas.

I'm not sure what the reasons are, but it's clear to me that Wisconsin jurisprudence seems to have declared the highways a kind of free fire zone.

Walk into a school or a business and shoot down two people, flee, hide the weapon and get caught a month later, with one fatality left at the crime scene, and I'll wager you get a longer sentence than four years.

But commit the same crime on the road, and somehow the punishment is weaker.

I just don't get it.

State Adding Emissions To Milwaukee's Asthmatic Air

So here we are again near the top of a list you'd rather be absent from all together:

Asthma rates.

We're Number Two nationally, a study says.

Bad enough that people are literally choking on the air we breathe here, but put that into a policy context: The Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission cooked up a $6.5 billion rebuilding and expansion of freeway lanes, including miles and miles of new lanes right through the City of Milwaukee.

That's right: inducing more traffic into and through the city.

Over the objections of both the Milwaukee Common Council and the Milwaukee County Board.

Tailpipe emissions are a leading contributor to air pollution - - in fact, the state Department of Natural Resources issued a statewide air quality alert for today and tomorrow.

And we have had slew of them this winter and all last year.

From the current alert (and take note of the references to asthma):

"The Air Quality Index is forecast to reach the orange level, which is considered unhealthy for people in sensitive groups. People in those sensitive groups include those with heart or lung disease, asthma, older adults and children. When an air quality watch is issued, people in those groups are advised to reschedule or cut back on strenuous activities during the watch period.

"People with lung diseases such as asthma and bronchitis and heart disease should pay attention to cardiac symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath or respiratory symptoms like coughing, wheezing and discomfort when taking a breath, and consult with their physician if they have concerns or are experiencing symptoms. Fine particle pollution deposits itself deep into the lungs and cannot easily be exhaled. People who are at risk are particularly vulnerable after several days of high particle pollution exposure."

Worse, the state and the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce petitioned the US Environmental Protection Agency last year seeking looser air quality standards for much of SE Wisconsin.

The EPA, even under Pres. Bush, went the other way and the standards are being toughened.

Our public and privates sector leaders have to understand that dirty air harms everyone - - rich and poor (though central city residents live closer in larger numbers to the freeways; when you drive on I-43 from the Marquette Interchange to Glendale you are driving through what used to be intact, predominantly African-American neighborhoods) - - and that people will opt to leave the area or refuse to relocate here if they know the air will make them sick.

Where is Milwaukee's legislative delegation on this public health menance, this policy catastrophe. Where is the outrage?

People here and in the region, including those like talker Mark Belling who mock and block transit improvements need to understand that every mass transit vehicle can replace numerous auto trips hourly, and contribute to cleaner air.

And why can't Wisconsin leaders muscle up and pass a statewide public spaces' smoking ban to get another health issue out of the air in Wisconsin?

The national study ranking Milwaukee number two for asthma cites cigarette smoke as a factor.

There needs to be better transit here and a political commitment to clean up Milwaukee's polluted air, or the city and region will fall further behind more desirable locales.

And more people here will get sick

Supervisor Chris Larson Shows Leadership On Office Spending Reform

First-term Milwaukee County Board Supervisor Chris Larson (Bayview) won't win many friends on the board with his ideas for reforming how supervisors spend their office accounts - - this in the wake of two supervisors public spending on inauguration travel - - but give him credit for doing the right thing by the taxpayers.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

GOP In A State Over Doyle's State Of The State

Predictably, Republicans had nothing good to say about Gov. Jim Doyle's State of the State speech Wednesday night.

They wanted specifics, knowing full well that those details are what the budget is all about, and that offering specifics now simply makes those details and the Governor more of a partisan target than he already is.

So let the GOP huff and puff. It's all an act.

Mail Only Five Days A Week? I'm Getting Catalog Deficiency Anxiety Already

Cut back mail delivery another day. Two even.

Do you miss it on Sunday?

So I thought.

Website Devoted To Stimulus Funding And Water Projects

Bookmark it.

Transit Making Some Progress In Stimulus Bill Amending

It's still behind the highway component, but grassroots efforts are paying off.

Details here.

Scott Walker - - are you aware?

National Urban Planning/Transit Expert Speaking Friday: Sign Up Ends Today

Today is the final day to sign up for the Friday, January 30th conference being presented by the South Suburban Chamber of Commerce, in Oak Creek, and Transit NOW.

The subject is transit's investment benefit.

Registration information at the Building Wealth event button here.

The main speaker is Scott Bernstein, president and founder of the Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology, known nationally for its cutting edge planning and research.

You do not want to miss Bernstein's talk.

From the conference announcement:

"How do transit investments build wealth and thriving neighborhoods, and create jobs and economic prosperity? Historic transit decisions will be made in SE Wisconsin in the coming months that will shape our ability to create wealth in our communities. Mr. Bernstein will share his expertise to shed light on our opportunities and potential pit falls."

Also on the program: Ken Yunker, newly-promoted executive director of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission. He will discuss the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter plan.

Obama Befuddles Conservatives

Some complain that Barack Obama gave his first television interview as President to a moderate Middle Eastern television audience.

Ooooh - - he's speaking directly to foreigners. Muslims, perhaps!

Others want more GOP input into the stimulus bill, even as Obama makes a two-hour visit to Republicans on Capitol Hill to discuss that very matter.

In eight years, George W. Bush made two such trips.

Sesms Obama is keeping his campaign promise to change the tone of the Presidency and the political discourse.


And You Thought Franken Was The Comedian In Minnesota Race

Turns out it's Coleman & Co.

Norm should call it a day and begin his campaign to unseat Franken now, since the longer Coleman drags this out, the angrier will be the taxpayer voters.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Some Of George Bush's Environmental Lowlights

Lest we forget.

State Of Denial: OWI 'Reforms' Still Treat First Offense As A Ticket

Wisconsin legislators continue to contort their OWI 'reform' bill-drafting to let state drivers have a privilege extended nowhere else in the country - - the issuance of a ticket for a first-time-caught offense.

Under these possible changes, some, but not all second-time offenders would be required to install an ignition breath device, and some, but not all third-time offenders would be charged charged with a felony.

Some, but not all in both cases because the proposed reform law has loopholes wide enough for a tipsy motorist to plow right through.

When it comes to this proposal, a timid legislature still gives the advantage to the state's drunk drivers.

Another Statewide Dirty Air Alert Wednesday-Thursday

Another chapter in our own LA Story:

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is issuing an Air Quality Watch for Particle Pollution for all counties in Wisconsin effective 12 midnight on Wednesday, January 28, 2009 through 12 midnight on Thursday, January 29, 2009 .

The watch is being issued because of the forecast for elevated levels of fine particles in the air. Fine particle pollution is composed of microscopic dust, soot, liquid droplets and smoke particles that are 2.5 microns or smaller. These fine particles come primarily from combustion sources, such as power plants, factories and other industrial sources, vehicle exhaust, and outdoor fires.

The Air Quality Index is forecast to reach the orange level, which is considered unhealthy for people in sensitive groups. People in those sensitive groups include those with heart or lung disease, asthma, older adults and children. When an air quality watch is issued, people in those groups are advised to reschedule or cut back on strenuous activities during the watch period.

People with lung diseases such as asthma and bronchitis and heart disease should pay attention to cardiac symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath or respiratory symptoms like coughing, wheezing and discomfort when taking a breath, and consult with their physician if they have concerns or are experiencing symptoms. Fine particle pollution deposits itself deep into the lungs and cannot easily be exhaled. People who are at risk are particularly vulnerable after several days of high particle pollution exposure.

To receive air quality advisories by e-mail, visit

There are several actions the public can take to reduce their contributions to this regional air quality problem.

Reduce driving when possible and don't leave vehicle engines idling.
Postpone activities that use small gasoline and diesel engines.
Minimize outdoor wood fires.
Conserve electricity.
For more ideas on how you can reduce your emissions today and every day visit: Do a little, save a lot!
For more information:

Air Quality Watches and Advisories Status Web Site
Daily Air Quality Hotline - 1-866-324-5924 (1-866-DAILY AIR)
Federal interagency air quality web site, for information on the Air Quality Index and nationwide air quality forecasts and air quality conditions,
DNR's statewide air quality monitoring web page,
For local DNR air management program contacts,

Why Are County Pols So Dense?

It wasn't that long ago that Milwaukee County Executive Tom Ament and a raft of supervisors were shown the door for turning their pension system into an unsustainable and wide-open benefits spigot.

Now in the same few days we have the former County Clerk Mark Ryan asking retroactively for some of those benefits he voluntarily gave up, and County sups Toni Clark and Elizabeth Coggs agreeing to return about $4,000 in travel expenses they billed to County taxpayers so they could get to Washington and see the inauguration.

The supervisors made their announcement after Journsl Sentinel investigative columnist Dan Bice discovered the billings.

Why is there this institutional tone-deafness at the Courthouse?

Civic and business leader Sheldon Lubar once said in a moment of frustration that Milwaukee County ought to be dissolved.

The lingering fiscal burdens of the pension scandal might actually accomplish that, but County government really needs top-to-bottom reform.

I know there are some excellent supervisors and county staffers on the job, but there are not enough of them.

I Made My Call About Adding Transit/Stimulus Funding: Have You?

Wisconsin Congressman Dave Obey is chair of the House Appropriations Committee, so his is the office to call to support more stimulus funding for transit.

Possible amendments to the bill are working their way through committees right now.

Here is his office phone number:

(202) 225-3365

If you don't want to see stimulus funding frittered away, or dumped into new highway lanes, or ignored by your thoughtless County Executive, make the call.

One Stimulus Variation Gives SEWRPC Transportation Allocation Control

One version of federal stimulus highway funding would give entities like the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission control over which municipalities get the money.

Thanks to the Daily Reporter for the story.

Talk about taxation without representation - - in this case, spending taxpayer money without representation, as happens year in and year out.

Milwaukee city residents dutifully send SEWRPC - - an unelected body heavily made up of suburban and exurban residents - - more than $400,000 a year with as much say-so in the Pewaukee-based agency's daily spending, and the commission's various plans and activities, as have the residents of Muskogee. ((Oklahoma).

And some of you out there are still satisfied with this arrangement, or think the City of Milwaukee, without a single seat on that 21-member commission board, will have much to say about where the region's transportation (highways) stimulus money will go?

You can bet SEWRPC's #1 recommendation would be pouring concrete for the new freeway lanes the agency recommended to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation on I-94 from Milwaukee to Illinois, and in the Zoo Interchange - - setting the stage for added lanes across the face of Story Hill near the Stadium.

Little matter that both the Milwaukee Common Council and Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors voted against adding more lanes in the city, given the loss of taxable property and other pernicious outcomes attendant to widening expressways already ripping a city apart.

I'd call this another key exhibit in the case for Milwaukee to create its own municipal planning organization - - - - an argument I've been making since June.

Huge Rosendale Dairy Project Threatens Groundwater

What would be the state's largest dairy farm - - 8,300 animals - - is undergoing a public permitting comment period, and from the looks of the crowd, the people don't want it.

Groundwater pollution is a big problem for people who get their drinking water close close to a major farming operation, with resulting basic health and safety issues raised frequently.

8,300 cows would produce close to 100 million gallons of liquid waste a year - - a quantity that would test the limits of storage, treatment, other preventative measures and happenstance.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Best Way To Deal With Limbaugh?

Ignore him.

Make Congressional Calls Now To Urge Boosting Stimulus Transit Funding

Sources report that amendments will be considered Tuesday and Wednesday by key members of the House of Representatives to consider adding between $2 and $3 billion in additional aid for transit to the stimulus bill. Overall, highway expansion will get the most of the transportation funding, and transit will get little - - and even less without the amendments and grassroots action on their behalf.

Here are the details AND, WISCONSIN, NOTE THE DAVE OBEY REFERENCE BELOW: (I called Tuesday morning: let's keep it going.)

These amendments have a real chance of passing if they can make it to the floor for a vote. But, there is pressure to keep them from reaching the floor. The amendments are attached for your reference.

The House Rules committee will vote tomorrow at 3:00 pm EST to determine whether to allow these amendments to be offered on the floor. Please call the members of the Rules committee and urge them to allow these amendments to be brought to the floor. Without these amendments, chances for bumping up transit are lost.

Decisions will be made very soon, so please make calls today. It is also important to reach out to the House leadership to let them know why accommodating transit demand is so important and why these amendments should be supported.

The appropriations committee will conference with the Senate on the final bill next week, so now is the time to reach out to them as well about the importance of transit.

House Rules Committee
***Louise M. Slaughter (202) 225-3615
Jim McGovern (202) 225-6101
Alcee L. Hastings (202) 225-1313
Doris Matsui 202.225.7163
Dennis Cardoza (202) 225-6131
Michael Arcuri (202) 225-366
Ed Perlmutter 202.225.2645

David Dreier (202) 225-2305
Lincoln-Diaz Balart (202) 225-4211
Pete Sessions (202) 225-2231
Virgnia Foxx (202) 225-2071

House Leadership:
Pelosi (202) 225-4965
Hoyer (202) 225-4131
Clyburn (202)225-3315
Van Hollen (202) 225-5341

Appropriations Committee
Olver, MA 202-225-5335
Moran, VA (202) 225-4376
Roybal-Allard, CA (202) 225-1766
Lee, CA (202) 225-2661

* Transit is the future of our nation's metropolitan regions which represent 80% of the US population. Public transit ridership has been surging over the last year, but instead of capitalizing on the public demand for more and better transit, cities are being forced to curtail service and cut jobs.

* The amendments by Reps. Fazio and Nadler should be allowed to reach the House floor for a vote. It is a chance to truly strengthen the Recovery bill, which has overlooked the economic and energy benefits of transit infrastructure which currently will only see 1% of the stimulus investment funds.

* Please allow both these amendments to be brought to the floor for a vote. These modest adjustments will result in far-reaching impact on mobility, pollution reduction, and economic stimulation in metropolitan regions.

* Discuss the transit need in your city and the fact that federal resources for transit can absolutely be spent within the timeframes set out by the bill. House leadership in particular need to hear the case for transit. The white house is pushing them to make no changes. The leadership needs to hear from the cities about why these amendments are critical.

Snowmobilers Are The State's Repeat Embarrassments

Seems Wisconsin's snowmobilers can't stop creating the worst of headlines - - slaughtering birds, again, after earlier stories this winter about running down deer, killing each other in collisions, drowning, careening through the woods under the influence, and so forth.

I know that the DNR and various user clubs try their best to promote safe snowmobiling, but the message obviously isn't getting through.

Stiff fines and confiscation of offenders' vehicles will help.

Obama's Fuel Efficiency Standards Mesh With Detroit Overhaul

If Detroit is taking public money by the billions to retool and build more fuel-efficient vehicles - - that entire wave it missed while Toyota and Honda grabbed the hybrid market - - then President Barack Obama's moves to build efficiency into the law makes perfect sense.

This is something that the Bush administration deliberately chose to avoid, preferring business tax breaks for Hummer and SUV purchases - - even if the business didn't need a 6,000-pound vehicle.

It will take years, decades, to undo the damage that Bush did to the economy and the environment as special-interest favors that harmed public health and taxpayer resources.

Will UW-Tosa Be Built Just As The Zoo Interchange Is Reconstructed?

As you're contemplating that real, congestion-laden question, downtown UW-Milwaukee expansion advocate Dave Reid has some other pithy observations about the boondoggly UW-Tosa campus.

Stimulus Spending Sought For Great Lakes; Wisconsin Would Benefit

It's clear that recession-battered Michigan - - and recession may be too tame a description for that hard hit auto industry state - - is hoping for a major infusion of federal funding for Great Lakes restoration.

Michigan is nearly completely in the Great Lakes basin, and its economy and culture are more deeply intertwined with the region's watershed than any other state.

So it makes sense both economically and environmentally that Michigan would be looking to federal funding for Great Lakes restoration - - a program approved earlier but without the requisite dollars.

If not now, when?

Wisconsin would do well to support such an approach, as it borders two of the five Great Lakes and has considerable recreation, commercial and municipal interests that make use of, and need consistent supplies of clean Great Lakes water.

An earlier Michigan media report on the issue is here.

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs For 99 Cents

Maybe this can close out the loop on the compact bulb discussion that lit up this blog recently (OK, I know, bad pun, so watts the matter with that?):

The venerable Crown Hardware & Plumbing Supply is selling GE compact fluorescent bulbs to replace 60 watt, 75 watt or 100 watt incandescent light bulbs for 99 cents, after an in-store, instant rebate.

The packaging on the 100 replacement watt bulbs I bought claims a $59 savings over the life of the bulb - - 8,000 hours compared to the lifetime cost of continuing to purchase 100 watt incandescent bulbs projected to last 750 hours.

The compact is also using about 25% the electricity that a 100 watt incandescent uses.

So even if the projected cost savings is overstated - - even by a whopping 50%, for cynical argument's sake - - you're still saving about $30 for each bulb bought, so I figure this $3 purchase will save me at least $90, and probably more.

As I have said previously, we still have in use at least two compact fluorescents we bought in the early 1990's.

Even if you dislike to the bulbs' design, are you telling me you don't have walk-in closets, doorways, hall lights and plenty of fixtures that are logical, money-saving spots for compact fluorescents?

Plus - - if you do your bulb buying at Crown, you get to hang in a movie-set classic hardware store with people who know a heckuva a lot about a heckuva lot of things.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Like Politican Correctness, "Judicial Activism" Is A Meaningless Term

Conservatives adhere to their own brand of politically correct narrow thinking when they define court decisions and jurists they dislike as "activism" and "activists."

As if ideologically conservative decisions and jurists on the Right don't issue decisions that aren't seen as "activist" by those who disagree.

It's all subjective, and heavily semantic.

An example is here.

The Elites Win Again!

Another outrageous celebrity book deal is in the works. I wish someone would campaign against these inside-the-beltline excesses.

Wind Farms - - Seven Turbines Large - - Run Into Even Bigger NIMBYism

Local control in Manitowoc County is used to sandbag a relatively small wind farm, and that is renewing a plan for state approvals rather than local control.

These are complicated issues, but like other zoning issues, there has to be something approaching reasonableness.

South of border, Mexico is embarking on something that would make the vetoed Manitowoc project look like a hand-held pinwheel.

Thanks to the Daily Reporter for its energetic coverage of these issues.

Scot Ross on OWN, Issues

Scot Ross talks up One Wisconsin Now. Story and full interview here.

As I've disclosed numerous times, let me again say I sit on one of two OWN boards.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Warming Climate Challenges The Way We Protect Species

It will cost billions, with greater harm if the money is not spent.

Norquist To Obama: Repairs, More Transit, Fewer Highways

Former Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist, now the President and CEO at the Chicago-based Congress for the New Urbanism, argues convincingly that Pres. Barack Obama should commit stimulus funding to transit and infrastructure repairs, and away from more highway expansion.

National Coalition Promoting Sustainable Transportation Spending

You want a vision, a plan, some priorities and common sense about re-orienting and spending federal transportation dollars?

Read on.

GOP Wants Economic Failure

Rush Limbaugh said last week he wants President Barack Obama to fail. I don't think Obama had been in office for 100 hours, yet 100 days, but the GOP's #1 water-carrier needs Obama's failure for political reasons - - regardless of how many people remain unemployed in the George Bush recession.

Said Limbaugh: "I hope he fails," and bragged he's the only one brave enough to speak those words.

You can read it here, paragraph three.

Which brings us to the Wisconsin Republican Party's opposition to state job-creating initiatives.

This is the Limbaugh approach with a Badger twist, and it will further deepen the economic damage in Wisconsin it it prevails.

The State Supreme Court Campaign's First Fake Issue

Steve Nass, take a bow.

Cities' Stimulus Programs Can Add Value At Low Cost

Let's not forget that stimulus spending on infrastructure projects does not have to be limited to the biggest-ticket items because comprehensive transportation networks should also include lower-cost components, like bike trails, river walks and other pedestrian-friendly amenities.

A genuine transportation system knits together all the modalities and uses, especially in cities where much movement already takes place on foot, or on two-wheels - - whether a bicycle or a wheelchair.

A great analysis is here, courtesy of the Congress for the New Urbanism.

Milwaukee triggered hundreds of millions of dollars in construction and employment in the downtown, Third Ward, and Beer Line area with its Riverwalk.

The Henry Aaron State Trail connects downtown and the Menomonee River Valley with the County park system west of the city, helping to being back the Valley and all the development there.

People should be contacting their Congressional representatives to argue for more funding in the stimulus package for transit, but let's not forget that walkable cities and their built neighborhoods are far more sustainable - - financially and environmentally - - than are sprawled-out exurbs and costly new highway lanes through farm fields.

And these same priorities need to be the framework for the reauthorization later this year of the next five-year national transportation bill.

One coalition's plan is here.

Great Lakes Key To Superior's Economy

Certainly an argument for keeping Lake Superior clean and attractive.

And illustrative of the research and business opportunities to be better advanced by the UW-Milwaukee's new School of Freshwater Science, a ramped-up WATER Institute, and other programs related to Lake Michigan and the watershed.

Harley History Offers Political Insight

Wisconsin is rightly rattled by the layoffs announced at Harley-Davidson.

The iconic business is deeply ingrained in Milwaukee's culture and its workers are among the highest paid.

It's worth remembering that in the 1980's, when Harley was also in financial trouble, the federal government - - specifically the 'free-trading' GOP administration of Ronald Reagen - - helped turn the company around by slapping stiff tariffs on large-engine imported Japanese motorcycles, making Harley's bikes more attractively priced.

The company spent heavily on product development, too, so there was a partnership, but the salient point is that there was government intervention.

I'm not suggesting that the government do the same thing now. Or that there is necessarily any direct aid that Harley should get.

But tax cuts, lending assistance and federal stimulus spending together are designed to stabilize markets and personal finances, too - - as a matter of national policy.

And that is good for all businesses producing consumer goods.

Certainly Harley is at the top end of discretionary consumer spending, but without a stimulus infusion into the local and state economies, Harley's recovery will be slower.

The company's bigger problem is demographic.

US baby boomers are going to soon age away from the requisite agility and vision to safely ride a motorcycle, and the generation coming up behind the boomers is smaller, and less well-to-do.

But Harley has been adaptable, meaning the company will survive, albeit smaller, and perhaps with newer products.

Maybe there's an all-electric three-wheeler in the company's plans for 65-year-old tree huggers?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Check Out The New SEWRPC-Related Count-Up Clock, Left Margin

Hat tip to the java script software developer.

Rail Funding A Stimulus Priority, But Less So

Gov. Jim Doyle is pushing rail spending as part of Wisconsin's stimulus agenda, but Congressional committees are apparently looking to trim the transit portion of the stimulus.

The explanation: money to fund tax cuts had to come from somewhere, and you know it ain't the highway budgets.

Hat tip to one alert reader.

More Global Warming Evidence, Despite Cold Weather Here

The Antarctic and the other six continents are getting progressively warmer.

Business Group Supports WI Global Warming Task Force

Here is its website, goals and members.

When Conservatives Lose Their Minds...

They write crazy stuff like this.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thanks And Props To Bob Reitman

I've been meaning to do this for a while, and it was hearing on WUWM-FM 89.7 some obscure Paul McCartney tonight that reminded me to get my forgetful self to the computer and finally post my appreciation to Bob Reitman for his wonderful Thursday night program, "It's Alright, Ma, It's Only Music."

Here's the website.

I didn't live in Milwaukee when Reitman began his alternative music gig in the 1960's.

When I got here in the 80's, Reitman was already paired weekday mornings with Gene Mueller on WTKI-FM 94.5. The show was regularly hilarious, and deep when needed, but wasn't ideological, boring or self-important.

Things changed, Bob retired, Gene took himself over to mercifully apolitical (!) morning drive time on AM620 WTMJ - - and voila (!!), Bob re-appeared on WUWM-FM to serve up his archive, genial prose, and broad musicology.

Basically, if you live around here, or don't avail yourself of Reitman's talents on the Internet, you're missing one of the signature benefits that gives the city some definition and makes Wisconsin radio fun.

Newer Wind Turbines Offer Design Revolution

Cylindrical turbines catch the winds easier. So stay tuned.

Water Issues Are Worldwide: Context For Local, Great Lakes Conservation

Think globally, act locally (and regionally).

Wind Turbines Meet Resistance

Done reasonably, and with full regard for the public interest, aren't wind turbines better than more coal plants?

I am not familiar with this plan: the opposition may be completely in the right.

But as we saw earlier when the Kennedy family so vociferously opposed turbines off Martha's Vineyard, even people with good environmental records can become NIMBY's, too.

Oconomowoc, Watertown Want Midwest High-Speed Rail

The 110 mph Interurban rail line to Chicago used to stop in Western Waukesha County, so the support from these communities has historical roots, too.

Not Every Drug Dealer Goes To Jail

Remember this story the next time you hear someone ranting about how all drug dealser should be locked away forever.

WE Energies Prefers Its Coal Plants After All

About wind power: forget some of it.

28-Hour Dirty Air Alert For Entire State

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has issued a dirty air alert for the entire state - - from about 8 a.m. today through noon tomorrow - - as unhealthy levels of microscopic particles in the air from power plants, smokestacks and tailpipes could find their way into your lungs.

And your kids' lungs. And your aged parents', and so forth.

I'll post the text of the DNR notice below.

Update: The DNR is focusing the advisory on several counties and refining the timimg a bit:

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is issuing an Air Quality Advisory for Particle Pollution (Orange) for Kenosha, LaCrosse, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, St. Croix and Waukesha effective 11:37 am on Thursday, January 22, 2009 through 9:00 am on Friday, January 23, 2009 .

And now further refined, and expanded from the first revision, above:

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is issuing an Air Quality Advisory for Particle Pollution (Orange) for Adams, Brown, Buffalo, Calumet, Chippewa, Clark, Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Dodge, Dunn, Eau Claire, Fond du Lac, Grant, Green, Green Lake, Iowa, Jackson, Jefferson, Juneau, Kenosha, Kewaunee, La Crosse, Lafayette, Manitowoc, Marathon, Marquette, Milwaukee, Monroe, Outagamie, Ozaukee, Pepin, Pierce, Portage, Racine, Richland, Rock, Sauk, Shawano, Sheboygan, St. Croix, Taylor,Trempealeau, Vernon, Walworth, Washington, Waukesha, Waupaca, Waushara, Winnebago and Wood effective 5:00 pm on Thursday, January 22, 2009 through 9:00 am on Friday, January 23, 2009

Remember that public officials, from The Governor, State Transportation Department and Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission are pushing more road expansion into and near our major population centers - areas already failing to meet minimal US clean air standards - - so the plan is for more traffic and emissions, not less.

And the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce wants existing clean air standards relaxed - - in the name of job development - - as if we have to trade clean air for work.

What goes into the air comes down onto the land and the waters. Mercury from coal-fired power plants falls into Wisconsin rivers, streams and lakes, contaminating fish and people who eat them.

Clean water and fresh air are not the intellectual province of environmentalists.

They are directly related to the health and welfare of every man, woman and child in Wisconsin, and it is intolerable that we constantly live in Los Angeles-style smog.

Here is the text of the DNR notice:

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is issuing an Air Quality Watch for Particle Pollution for all counties effective 7:51 am on Thursday, January 22, 2009 through 11:59 am on Friday, January 23, 2009 .

The watch is being issued because of the forecast for elevated levels of fine particles in the air. Fine particle pollution is composed of microscopic dust, soot, liquid droplets and smoke particles that are 2.5 microns or smaller. These fine particles come primarily from combustion sources, such as power plants, factories and other industrial sources, vehicle exhaust, and outdoor fires.

The Air Quality Index is forecast to reach the orange level, which is considered unhealthy for people in sensitive groups. People in those sensitive groups include those with heart or lung disease, asthma, older adults and children. When an air quality watch is issued, people in those groups are advised to reschedule or cut back on strenuous activities during the watch period.

People with lung diseases such as asthma and bronchitis and heart disease should pay attention to cardiac symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath or respiratory symptoms like coughing, wheezing and discomfort when taking a breath, and consult with their physician if they have concerns or are experiencing symptoms. Fine particle pollution deposits itself deep into the lungs and cannot easily be exhaled. People who are at risk are particularly vulnerable after several days of high particle pollution exposure.

To receive air quality advisories by e-mail, visit

There are several actions the public can take to reduce their contributions to this regional air quality problem.

Reduce driving when possible and don't leave vehicle engines idling.
Postpone activities that use small gasoline and diesel engines.
Minimize outdoor wood fires.
Conserve electricity.
For more ideas on how you can reduce your emissions today and every day visit: Do a little, save a lot!
For more information:

Air Quality Watches and Advisories Status Web Site
Daily Air Quality Hotline - 1-866-324-5924 (1-866-DAILY AIR)
Federal interagency air quality web site, for information on the Air Quality Index and nationwide air quality forecasts and air quality conditions,
DNR's statewide air quality monitoring web page,
For local DNR air management program contacts,

How About The Drinking Fountain?

Or bubblers, as we say here in Milwaukee-ese?

This in response to an argument against banning plastic water bottles - - that if you ban bottled water, people will just switch to unhealthy soft drinks.

As if that's the only choice. Come on.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Where To Drop Off Used Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs In Milwaukee Area

I found this site that will take you after a few steps to a list of compact flourescent bulb recycling sites in Milwaukee county, including many of the retail stores that sell them.

I simply entered a downtown Milwaukee zip code in the appropriate box: other counties are available, too.

Hey: You know what? I'll make this even easier: The Journal Sentinel a while ago published this handy-dandy guide, complete with street addresses, hours of operation, web addresses and phone numbers - - in the entire Metro area.

Here it is:

• City of Milwaukee household hazardous waste drop-off site is at 3879 W. Lincoln Ave. Days/hours: Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, call (414) 286-3500 or go to

Note this updated information from the City:

The Lincoln Ave site only accepts fluorescent bulbs (and other hazardous waste) on Fridays and Saturdays from 7 am to 3 pm. These are the hours that the Household Hazardous Waste (HHW)collection is operated by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) on the City's site. In any event, the City encourages you to take the bulbs back to the many participating retailers listed on the Focus on Energy website.

• Milwaukee County residents can go to the Lincoln Ave. site in Milwaukee, or two others: in Menomonee Falls or Franklin. For more, go to the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District Web site at

• Waukesha County has three household hazardous waste sites, in Menomonee Falls, Muskego and Waukesha. For more information, call (262) 896-8300 or go to and click on "hazardous waste."

• Ozaukee County and Washington County residents can go to the Veolia Environmental Services waste facility located in the Port Washington Industrial Park, 1275 Mineral Springs Drive. Call (262) 243-8998 or go to

The good news is that there are plenty of easily-accessible sites, so carefully handled, investing a few dollars more in the purchase of a compact fluorescent bulb saves about $30-$40 in unneeded purchases of traditional incandescent bulbs, and requires the burning of less coal to supply the electricity needed to keep the bulb lit.

Savings for the homeowner, reduction of air pollution, production of cleaner air, and so forth.

The average home has something like 40 light bulbs - - sopme more, some less - - so multiply these energy savings per bulb times the tens of millions of households in the US, and you get an idea of how easy it is to save huge amounts of coal production, shipping and burning.

I saw one estimate that suggested a national savings of 7% of the coal burned annually if all residences make the complete switch - - an amount equal to several entire power plants.

This post is a follow-up to an earlier post and discussion on Eric Von's radio program Tuesday about this issue.

Ford Pushing Hybrid Technology: Can US Automakers Make It All The Way Back?

Ford seems to be the US automaker looking to compete with Honda and Toyota in hybrid vehicle production.

GM claims it will have its electric Volt Chevies in the showrooms by 2010, leaving Chrysler farther behind - - though the deal it announced Tuesday with Fiat will at least give Chrysler access to some smaller, efficient vehicles.

There are a lot of consumers, like me, who were burned by American cars, and have found it hard to go back. I lost thousands of dollars and endless days to repairs on clunkers like a Dodge Dart and Pontiac Phoenix, to name but a couple.

But I'd look to these new American cars when it comes time to replace our 2006 Honda Civic hybrid.

Concealed Gun Carry Is Illegal Here, But Open Carry? Not So Clear

Long piece, but definitely worth a read.

OWI Suspect In Quintuple Fatal Crash Has No Priors

The details are not all in, but it has been confirmed that a driver involved in an alcohol-related crash in Marinette County that killed five people has no previous arrests.

My point is that first-time offenders are every bit as deadly as repeat offenders, yet state law - - the only one of its kind in the nation - - treats first-time OWI as a ticket.

Compact Fluorescent Basics: Followup To Eric Von Show Tuesday

I spent a fun hour with Eric Von in the WMCS-AM 1290 studio Tuesday.

Chatted about President Obama, federal stimulus funding and green technologies, and though I didn't have enough information with me about compact fluorescent bulbs, I thought I'd repair that omission by posting a primer, here.

Because they last far longer than cheaper incandescent bulbs, a compact fluorescent will save the owner $30-$40 in replacement purchases and use far less energy and fuel to power them.

Compact fluorescent bulbs come in a wide variety of sizes and intensities, as opposed to clunky earlier models - - though we are still using two my wife bought in 1993 in addition to many newer ones.

Handled correctly, there's no reason why people can't be switching out their bulbs en masse, saving money and helping clean the air we all breathe.

Obama Sixth New President Since Last SEWRPC Housing Study

Still no meetings of the SEWRPC Housing Committee scheduled, according to the agency's website - - so remember, the last SEWRPC regional housing plan was published when Gerald Ford was President.

Then came Jimmy Carter, (one term), Ronald Reagan (two terms), George H. W. Bush (one term), Bill Clinton (two terms), George W. Bush (two terms).

With Omaba's swearing in, the SEWRPC foot-dragging enters a new level of delay, suggesting the agency motto is "No We Can't."

Melissa Scanlan Launches A Blog

One of the state's leading environmental lawyers expands her reach and offers a solid new blog.

Breadth and depth: I'll be a constant reader.

Obama's Speech Set The Right Tone - - But Not For The Right

The inaugural address by President Barack Obama - - and I do like the sound of that: President Obama - - was relatively low-key, almost somber - - because that is what the country needs right now.

Rightie talkers who need to bash Obama to make a living - - Sean Hannity, Mark Belling, et al - - criticized the speech because it lacked rhetorical flourishes.

And while that is a subjective judgement, think about what a no-win situation Obama is in.

The right has criticized his penchant for grand speechifying, and then comes down on him when he isn't wordy enough.

Go figure.

Obama understands that what the country needs is honesty, analysis, pragmatism, studied reflection and then action.

His speech told us where we are, how we got there, and what we have to do to work our way out of the mess that George Bush has left us.

Obama's line about getting ourselves up, dusting ourselves off and getting on with the tasks at hand were all the rhetoric I need.

For those who want more, console yourself with the words of the Rev. Joseph Lowery's benediction: text here.

I feel sorry for the rightie talkers. This was a great day to be an American, and spending time today taking reflexive potshots speaks volumes about the talkers' intellectual deficits.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama Inaguration Takes Precendence Today - - A Blogger's Day Off

I'm just gonna watch TV and soak it all in. What a great day for the country.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Canadians Eyeing Wisconsin Communities Eyeing Great Lakes Water

Another news story reports that Canadians are nervous about the consequences of the Great Lakes Compact - - usually touted as a water preservation agreement, but feared in some Canadian circles as a American plan to further tap into the shared water resources.

The story notes that New Berlin and Waukesha, WI are already seeking or signalling their intent to obtain diversions of Lake Michigan water.

Conservative Blogger Goes After New SEWRPC Leader

The conservative blogger and Marquette University prof. John McAdams goes after Ken Yunker, executive director of SEWRPC for just a few days, over SEWRPC's support of the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter rail line.

The post is here.

I wasn't at the discussion that McAdams attended, so I make just this observation - -SEWRPC seems to have a tough time finding allies, and I trace this phenomenon to one basic fact:

The agency's historic unwillingness and inability to build grassroots support.

SEWRPC has mishandled so much of its outreach - - whether by holding or participating in public meetings that tamp down aired comments, to dismissing written comments, to avoiding meaningfully diverse hirings and committee appointments, to dissing its Justice Task Force, to rolling over Milwaukee City and County objections to freeway lane expansion at the cost of tens of millions of dollars in taxable property.

And so forth.

Even its ongoing recruiting for the newly-created position of outreach and public relations coordinator has been botched, as the post was not discussed with the Justice Task force, suggesting yet another tightly-controlled, or like Yunker's ascension to executive director, a stage-managed in-house promotion.

SEWRPC is, as we speak, holding a series of meetings on its proposed water supply recommendations, and as one expert observed after one of the meetings last week, in so many words - - 'if there's no crisis, and Waukesha has more than one option to obtain a worthy supply, why did SEWRPC pick one alternative and recommend it rather than saying that there's a variety of options and they all have merit?'

Good question - - and along with SEWRPC's inability to launch its 34-year-delayed housing study, it's fair to ask what Yunker's plan is for getting the agency back on credible legs before an increasingly skeptical public.

We Can Get Used To Wind Farms Offshore

The world is changing, and with it comes alterations to the landscape that are tolerable and, from an emergy conservation perspective, highly desirable.

A generation later, no one will take offense at what will have always been there.

This will hold true off Lake Michigan, too.

Water-Rich Michigan Wants Great Lakes' Stimulus Investments

As the only Great Lakes to be nearly 100% within the Great Lakes basin, it makes sense that Michigan is looking for a large federal stimulus investment in Great Lakes restoration.

All the Great Lakes states should do the same.

Madison, Dane County Development Leaves Troubled Lakes' Legacies

The Cap Times has produced a detailed account of the difficulties with lake levels in Madison, with decades of development and wetlands' losses as major contributord.

Not too different from what plagues Waukesha County, and why many in nearby Ozaukee and Jefferson Counties have been heard to say that they do not want to be the next Waukesha County.

Madison Better Get Chicago Rail Connections For Its 2016 Olympic Games Role

If Chicago gets the 2016 Olympics, Wisconsin better get that Amtrak connection to Milwaukee and Chicago done beforehand if it plans on hosting some cycling events.

The track is there, but there are upgrades needed, along with a Madison station.

Passenger rail used to run from Madison through Milwaukee to Chicago, but was killed off, like so much train service in the US.

Telling media, Olympic visitors and competitors to come to the games in Chicago, then take the train to Milwaukee before switching to a bus or rental car to get to Madison will make Wisconsin look bush league.

Flood Control, Other Projects On MMSD Stimulus List

The Milwaukee Metropolitcan Sewerage District has a list of energy-saving, water-conserving and job-creating projects that it believes are a solid use of federal stimulus funding.

MMSD continues to make great strides defining itself as an environmental agency, with leadership that understands sustainability.

In other words, MMSD is working to keep itself relevant, ahead of the curve.

Scott Walker could learn a thing or two about how to do the public's business by looking at the philosophy and the details in MMSD's stimulus proposals.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Norfolk, VA Building Light Rail

With but 40% of the population of the City of Milwaukee, Norfolk has started its light rail system construction.

Are Prisons Racine County's Growth Industry?

One study says $100 million in new facilities could land there, but I'm betting the state doesn't have much appetite or funding for such a build-out.

First Few Pages From Maraniss Bio Of Obama

David Maraniss offers Washington Post readers some first pages from his bio-in-progress of Barack Obama.

Two things to note here.

First is the wonderful, flowing prose and finely-reported stories we have come to enjoy from Maraniss.

Second is the wisdom of The Post: as newspapers struggle for readers and identities and a role in the Internet era, The Post encourages its reporters to go out and write books.

The paper wins along with the reporter and the public.

Van Hollen Becomes Attorney General/Enabler

Only Wisconsin lets first-time drunk drivers off with a ticket and our Attorney General, J. B. Van Hollen, likes that weak approach.

And you wonder why we lead the nation in drunk driving? Or binge drinking? It's because we have an attitude so permissive towards alcohol that we encourage its abuse, and that includes giving a wrist slap to what every other state treats as a criminal offense.

Or why Mothers Against Drunk Driving says that most OWI drivers in fatal crashes have no prior offenses?

The state DOT has an online OWI calculator: check it out.

For example, a 170-pound man is over the limit having had five drinks in a two-hour period.

Would you care to meet that 'legal' driver out on the road at bar closing time, even if he'd had only four?

Women get drunk faster - - three drinks (yes, that means three beers) consumed in a two-hour period puts a woman weighing 130 pounds over the legal limit of 0.08, according to the calculator.

And if that driver got stopped, would you assume it's the first time he or she had drunk that much alcohol in a two-hour period? You've got to build up some tolerance to alcohol in order to be able to begin the drive home, and not have fallen asleep or flat on face down in the parking lot first.

It's behaviour we wouldn't tolerate if it involved a gun, or explosives, or any other item, or issue, or reckless behavior - - and in Wisconsin, it leads to loss of life.

Nearly half the fatal car and motorcycle crashes in Wisconsin annually are alcohol-related, DOT statistics show.

It's a "Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free-Card" available to every person on our highways.

Put there by our lawmakers, and now endorsed by our Top Cop.

Even GOP conservative talker and one-time AG candidate Jeff Wagner finds Van Hollen's enabling too much to bear.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Kathleen Falk Offers Package On Alcohol Abuse

The Dane County Executive sends a detailed package to the Governor; we'll know soon what will survive the new legislative session.

Despite a rash of high-profile offenses, and media coverage galore, I predict some minor revisions only to state statutes because the drinking culture and special interests are so entrenched here.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Recession Arrives On Milwaukee's East Side

A slowdown in construction at the $417 million Columbia St. Mary's hospital isn't good news for construction workers, and I'd assume also for the Whole Foods store that is already open in part of the complex.

On-Line Congressional Letter Favoring A Green Stimulus

Fill it in, pass it along.

Poll Finds People Want Road Repairs And Transit, Not New Highways

Will the Obama administration and Congress follow public opinion, or road-building special interests, when stimulus funding is distributed?

Predictably, Road-Builders Reject Green Program

No surprise that the people benefitting the most from transportation spending don't want fundmental change.

Will Federal Funds Fix Bridges, Or Build New Highways?

More evidence that road-builders want more construction, less repair.

Interesting Voice On Police Reform Re-Emerges

In another life, when I worked in the office of Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, I got to know the city's new police chief, David Couper.

From afar, I have followed Couper's career, from law enforcement to the ministry.

Now in retirement from both professions, Couper is working on a book about democratic policing.

He explains that in an op-ed in the Capital Times, and I'm passing that along, here.

How Do The Numbers 1 And 42 Describe Tommy Thompson?

Cary Spivak has the answer.

Scott Walker, Stimulus Sideline Critic

It's as if a quarterback takes himself out of the game, then takes potshots from the bench while the replacement QB calls the plays.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Scott Walker Staff Meltdown

Read all about it.

Highway Expansion Beating Transit In Stimulus Preliminaries

Anyone surprised that the road-builders are winning this internal debate?

KRM Meetings In Milwaukee Friday: Supporters Should Attend

Two opportunities to get into the debate in favor of Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter rail are available Friday.

Tom Rubin, a consultant with a history of opposition to some rail projects (including a flip-flop on the KRM), and author of the Reason Foundation’s report on the KRM will be presenting, so arm yourself with the facts and attend:

Independent Business Association of Wisconsin
Friday, Jan 16, 2009 at 7:00 AM
Register here.


Milwaukee County Board, 10:00 AM
Milwaukee County Courthouse, Room 203P
901 N. Ninth Street, Milwaukee, WI 53233

Walker Defaults Role To Board Chair Holloway

Welcome Lee Holloway, Milwaukee County Board chair, to his new role as the people's steward.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Pabst Farms Mall On Life Support

The state shouldn't spend one dime on an interchange to a project this iffy.

Light Rail #1 Issue Backed On Obama Citizen Suggestion Site

People want light rail and are telling the Obama administration that in large numbers.

Another Waukesha Conservative Weighs In Against Pabst Farms

I see a consensus emerging: when will the governments remove their ill-advised public financing?

State Highway Projects Get Less Federal Funds Than You'd Think

Remember when we learned a while back that the federal-state split on the $810 million Marquette Interchange project - - lauded as completed early time and under budget - - was about 50-50, not the 80% Federal-20% State that had been the earlier standard?

Michael Horne explains why, and the implications for bigger projects looming - - such as the $1.9 billion I-94 North/South plan, with a possible state pricetag of about $970 million.

Morning Commute Snarled: No Rail To Ride Instead

Cold, snow and accidents snarled Milwaukee's rush hour Wednesday morning, with travel times into the city hitting an hour instead of the typical 15-20 minutes in some spots.

Commuter and light rail connections could have been a Godsend, as this pattern will only worsen as I-94 between Milwaukee and the Illinois line undergoes its eight-year rebuilding and widening.

And then throw in the Zoo Interchange project where I-94, I-894 and State Highway 45 converge...

Waukesha Water Meeting Tuesday - - The Highs And Lows

The Waukesha Common Council met as a committee of the whole to kick off the eventual filing of an application for a Great Lakes diversion.

There was an excellent presentation by author Peter Annin on the history and politics of Great Lakes diversions, and that included his useful warning to Waukesha, presumably the first community to apply for an out-of-basin diversion under the Great Lakes Compact, to expect a "brutal" process.

Annin knows his stuff and explained to Waukesha with a power point the value of the Great Lakes and the precedent-setting position the city was in.

Check out his website.

And there was an informative presentation by a DNR staffer, Shaili Peiffer, who explained the multi-step application process, which optimistically is measured in months.

I was disappointed that Mayor Larry Nelson did not allow his water utility staff to address questions that dealt with specific issues already raised by Waukesha and other public officials, such as the potential size of the diversion sought, or return flow.

Nelson said those questions would wait for a later meeting, but with the city's council and water utility commissioners present, along with the public and at least one reporter, Tuesday night would have made a fine beginning of the broader discussion, too.

And one more thing: with water as the sole item on the agenda, here's an appropriate question: does anyone in Waukesha City Hall water the plants?

Those two big dead potted plants (at least one Hibiscus) by the windows outside of the council chambers offer a pretty grim welcome.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

ACLU Wants Environmental Justice In Stimulus Projects

That means more transit, which by now should be seen as a mainstream need in southeastern Wisconsin.

Walker Runs To Darkness

While the public lambastes him for intensifying the local recession, Milwaukee County Executive/gubernatorial wannabee Scott Walker chats up the most unpopular President in American history.

Reminds me of failed Congressional candidate John Gard's tone-deaf campaign appearance in Green Bay with Dick Cheney after the veep shot his friend in the face.

Neither Walker or Gard ran to daylight, as was the Green Bay standard.

Data Throws Waukesha's Lake Michigan Diversion Plan, Need, Into Doubt

Very recent information sent by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) to the Waukesha Water Utility - - which is looking for a huge diversion of Lake Michigan water - - suggests that the City of Waukesha is in line for modest growth only.

That raises serious and fundamental questions about Waukesha's plan for a 24-million-gallon-per-day diversion of Lake Michigan water because its current daily usage is 9.8 million gallons daily.

And Waukesha's much-touted water conservation plan throws a 24-million-gallons-a-day Lake Michigan water plan into greater doubt.

Here is the data and documentation that has not been published in other media:

Then-SEWRPC Executive Director Philip Evenson sent to Waukesha Water Utility general manager Daniel Duchniak on December 23, 2008 a memorandum and map to meet Duchniak's August 13th, 2008 request for coordinated information about SEWRPC's proposed water study, Waukesha's water utility service area boundaries and the Great Lakes Compact, SEWRPC records show.

Duchniak needed that information to help it complete an eventual application for a Great Lakes diversion as permitted under the newly-adopted Compact, records show.

The map of the utility's water service area that Evenson included in his response to Duchniak also shows land bordering Waukesha and that city's water service territory that included environmentally-sensitive land, wetlands and surface waters as well as land in the vicinity that might be connected to the service area.

Key data in the memorandum:

* 84% of SEWRPC's existing 21.7 square miles of water service area is currently developed, and by 2028, the population there could increase by 8,800 persons, or 13%.

* There are 17.4 square miles near the existing service area - - 9.9 square miles of which are developed.

There is also a smaller portion, of 7.5 square miles, "considered as potentially developable land. This area has been included in the planned water supply service supply area primarily to support the resolution of potential water supply problems associated with existing development, rather than to support new development. Under the regional land use plan, a very limited portion of this area is proposed to be developed...," (emphasis added) with SEWRPC projecting a population increase in that area by 2028 of only 1,500 persons.

In other words, the City of Waukesha, and the area its utility could hook up, is in line for modest, limited growth projected over a 20-year-period, according to SEWRPC - - which under the Great Lakes Compact is the agency that must provide to a diversion applicant the projected water service area to which that diverted water would go.

So the SEWRPC memorandum is nothing to sneeze at, under the law.

The memorandum does underscore SEWRPC's interest in keeping growth out of the environmental corridors and other common spaces with this language:

"The adopted regional water quality management plan places great emphasis on protection of the environmentally sensitive land," so there wouldn't be any need to plan to send Lake Michigan water to new homes to those acres that border the proposed water service area and that are also abundant within it, the map shows.

So I ask again, why is the City of Waukesha, which is constantly touting its water conservation planning, and which could meet its water needs with existing deep and shallow well supply combinations, embarking on a 24-million-gallons a day Lake Michigan supply plan that a) increases its daily water budget by 150%, b) might cost its ratepayers $60 million, and c) could add unsustainable volumes of wastewater discharge to Underwood Creek on the return trek back to Lake Michigan?

Does Waukesha plan to go into the wholesale water selling business to other communities, or to lead the charge for a regional water authority - - a subject studied by SEWRPC, but not recommended for the region, so far, in the draft regional water supply study proposal about which public review began Monday night at a public session in Milwaukee?

Waukesha rolls out more about its plan at a city hall meeting tonight at 7 p.m. A good place to ask some questions of its Mayor, water utility personnel and consultants.

Great Lakes book author Peter Annin is also in Waukesha tonight, courtesy of the Waukesha Environmental Action league, signing books from 5-6:30 at Martha's, the bookstore, at 231 W. Main St.

Maybe he has some anwers?

A One-Question Waukesha Water Q & A

The City of Waukesha uses, on average, 9.8 million gallons of water daily, according to SEWRPC (see bold-faced updates).
(And feel free to peruse the longer contextual discussion there.)

It has talked about seeking a Lake Michigan diversion of 24 million gallons daily.

That's a 147% increase over its daily usage, though also according to SEWRPC - - same bold-faced updates), its service territory is essentially built out.

Even the low end (20 million gallons daily) mentioned by Waukesha as its diversion total more than doubles its average daily usage.

So why the huge overage?

SEWRPC infers the same question, here.

Goodbye, President Clueless

Without insight, Pres. Bush's long farewell to a fractured foreign policy and wrecked domestic economy can't wrap up soon enough.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Conservative Waukesha Opinion-Maker Wants Pabst Farms Projects Stopped

Blogger and Freeman columnist James Wigderson says its time for the stalled and discredited Pabst Farms mall concept to be shelved, along with the I-94 Interchange to serve it - - a highway expansion I have often called the Interchange to Nowhere.

This widens the scope of opposition to the mall and its wasteful interchange, which added Mark Belling the other day.

The ACLU of Wisconsin has filed a federal civil rights complaint over the interchange, noting it would spend public funds discriminatorily on a highway project while there is no transit in the area.

The interchange would be funded almost entirely by the public sector except for a 7% share paid in by the mall developer.

Ice, Cold, Snow - - And Air Pollution

Wisconsin's weather curse now includes a Monday dirty air alert, with the details below.

Remember that many of these counties are in line for more highways, courtesy of the State of Wisconsin, which will add more road capacity for polluting cars and trucks.

And how does that fit into the Governor's Task Force on Global Warming?

Air alert below:

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is issuing an Air Quality Advisory for Particle Pollution (Orange) for Brown, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Outagamie, Racine and Waukesha counties effective 3:36 pm on Monday, January 12, 2009 through 11:59 pm on Monday, January 12, 2009 .

The advisory is being issued because of persistent elevated levels of fine particles in the air. These fine particles come primarily from combustion sources, such as power plants, factories and other industrial sources, vehicle exhaust, and wood fires.

The Air Quality Index is currently in the orange level, which is considered unhealthy for people in sensitive groups. People in those sensitive groups include those with heart or lung disease, asthma, older adults and children. When an orange advisory for particle pollution is issued, people in those groups are advised to reschedule or cut back on strenuous activities.

People with lung diseases such as asthma and bronchitis, and heart disease should pay attention to cardiac symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath or respiratory symptoms like coughing, wheezing and discomfort when taking a breath, and consult with their physician if they have co ncerns or are experiencing symptoms. Fine particle pollution deposits itself deep into the lungs and cannot easily be exhaled. People who are at risk are particularly vulnerable after several days of high particle pollution exposure.

To receive air quality advisories by e-mail, visit

There are several actions the public can take to reduce their contributions to this regional air quality problem.

Reduce driving when possible and don't leave vehicle engines idling.
Postpone activities that use small gasoline and diesel engines.
Minimize outdoor wood fires.
Conserve electricity.
For more ideas on how you can reduce your emissions today and every day visit: Do a little, save a lot!
For more information:

Air Quality Watches and Advisories Status Web Site
Daily Air Quality Hotline - 1-866-324-5924 (1-866-DAILY AIR)
Federal interagency air quality web site, for information on the Air Quality Index and nationwide air quality forecasts and air quality conditions,
DNR's statewide air quality monitoring web page,
For local DNR air management program contacts,

If We Could Only Live In A Theocracy...

But no - - because of that pesky First Amendment.

And damn that 1776 revolution.


First Chance To Ask Questions About SEWRPC Water Plan Tonight In Milwaukee

The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Committee rolls out its first water supply study meeting- - with speakers, story boards and a comment period - - tonight from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., at HeartLove Place, 3229 N. Martin Luther King Jr Dr.

The full regional water supply proposed plan meeting schedule during the next several weeks is here.

The City of Waukesha, which SEWRPC recommends receive Lake Michigan water for its city purposes, rolls out its proposed city water diversion plan tomorrow night at 7 p.m. in its Common Council chambers.

Waukesha uses nine million gallons of well water daily, which the lake water would replace, because it is cleaner, and the switch will allow the overused underground supply to rebound.

The Waukesha plan envisions an eventual Lake Michigan diversion of 24 million gallons a day.

Perhaps officials at each meeting can explain the purpose of the additional 15 million daily gallons of diverted water, and how much of the total will spur new development rather than serve existing needs, and how much is likely to end up in basements along Underwoood Creek when Waukesha's treated water is to be returned.

OWI 'Compromise' Still Coddles Offenders

There's something pathetic about legislators twisting themselves into knots trying to sorta criminalize a first-time OWI offense, but not really, which still gives too much leeway to a person arrested for driving drunk.

These legislators are trying to look innovative and bold.


No other state gives a civil ticket/wrist slap to a first-time offender, and that's because the other states know that first-time offenders are not first-time drunk drivers: they are first-time caught drunk drivers.

I have known many people with alcohol problems, and one thing they have in common is that they drove under the influence often - - A lot.

Too many Wisconsin legislators, in the grip of political denial and special interests, too, want us to believe that they are legislating with the interest of that mythical poor first-time/only-time/one-time offender who was merely unlucky and "made a mistake."

And for whom a ticket is all the deterrent they will ever need.

If this person exists at all, he or she is a rarity.

To make matters worse, the proposed compromise says that if a first-time offender re-offends, the ticket converts to a misdemeanor and the second offense is another misdemeanor.

Some reform: For the repeat offender, that ticket didn't do the trick, and that second offense - - a misdemeanor - - is the way a second offense is treated now.

Wisconsin needs to get into the real world of drunk driving enforcement.

Here is one legislator who seems to understand.

His sister was killed by a drunk driver. For his colleagues, shouldn't that be enough?

Waukesha's Premature Push For Lake Michigan Water

I have had time to study in depth the written questions posed by six environmental groups to the City of Waukesha as Waukesha moves towards filing a formal application for a Lake Michigan diversion.

The questions, lengthy and somewhat technical, are here.

Raised in the questions are legal, regulatory, environmental and regional development issues that, for the first time, coherently provide the very blueprint for discussion absent from the regional water supply study that the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission has just finished and is about to launch for public comment.

It is amazing that SEWRPC spent nearly a million dollars of public money and took three years to write a water supply study that ignores big picture issues - - such as the relationship of water to growth - - yet comes to the conclusion that diverting water to Waukesha is the best idea available.

From the beginning, SEWRPC limited the scope of its study and hired the same lead consultant - - Ruekert & Mielke - - to write its recommendations that the City of New Berlin had hired to write its Lake Michigan diversion application.

And you wonder why I have been arguing that SEWRPC needs to be reconstituted with new management and direction so that it can take all aspects of planning into account?

Or why SEWRPC's justice task force has asked that outside experts he retained every time SEWRPC writes a plan so that independent socio-economic analyses can he obtained?

Waukesha has yet to make more than a public relations case that its water supply needs have to be met with a diversion.

And its water supply consultants suggest that the DNR hasn't had time to write rules and provide diversion guidance now that the Great Lakes Compact and state enabling legislation have been approved.

The diversion seres its ambitions growth plans, through annexations and building so it can be the hub of a sprawled-out Waukesha county that is in line to absorb by 149,000 new residents, according to Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas.

That is an increase to 509,000 residents above its 2000 US Census Bureau number of 360,000 county residents - - about equal to adding two Ozaukee County census bureau population totals to Waukesha County.

[Update: At Monday night's SEWRPC water study presentation at HeartLove Place, in Milwaukee, SEWRPC water expert Bob Biebel challenged the population figure put out by Waukesha County Executive Vrakas. Biebel said SEWRPC believes Waukesha County's population will rise by 70,000 by 2035, and said SEWRPC also believes Milwaukee County's population will grow by 70,000, too, despite a state official's estimate of losses.

So what is driving the City of Waukesha's water diversion application which will seek up to 24 million gallons of water, when its current daily use is nine million gallons+.

Why apply for more than twice your current usage? What's really going on?

And while that question needs an open discussion, neither SEWRPC, Vrakas, or the City of Waukesha is leading the charge for planning to integrate transit, affordable housing, clean air and sustainable use of new and existing supplies of water - - speaking volumes about their willingness to off-load those issues onto the rest of the region and taxpayers.

[Update: At the Monday water presentation, Biebel said nearly all the SEWRPC water utility service area has been built out, leaving little need for water above 9.8 million gallons daily - - the current Waukesha city average daily usage - - and that because Waukeaha's growth will be same whether the city gets Lake Michigan water or uses other sources, the net job growth due to the Lake Michigan diversion is "zero."]

The new Great Lakes Compact says that a diversion has to meet a last resort, and clearly Waukesha is not at that position.

And the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has not written the rules governing many aspects of diversion application submission, review and implementation.

So in an interim review period of what may be several years, it behooves Waukesha to answer the groups' questions, since this will not be the first test of the city's plans.

The environmental groups have done the region a genuine public service.

It should have done pro-actively by SEWRPC - - a failure of regional planning mirrored by SEWRPC's now 34-year-delay in housing plan preparation, and advocacy of a $6.5 billion regional freeway expansion and reconstruction scheme without a penny recommended for transit.

SEWRPC's small-picture management keeps validating its outdated regional land use plan - - always the agency's touchstone for study scopes and work - - and reinforces sprawl, and economic and racial segregation.

In other words, helps keep the region mired in its old ways.

In a word: uncompetitive.

A region where exurban and new suburban growth has been encouraged at the expense of existing infrastructure and available labor pools in the City of Milwaukee and the City of Racine.

And where highway expansion is draining the life from small town Main Streets and older suburbs: case in point - - SEWRPC's support for a quick, $25 million interstate interchange to an empty mall site at Pabst Farms.

Near subdivisions put on hold, as the recession kills housing construction and retail expansion, along with driving and highway need and use.

The City of Waukesha is holding a public hearing on Tuesday the 13th of January where it will roll out more details of its application-in-preparation.

The meeting is in its council chambers, at 7:00 p.m.

It will be interesting to see how the city separates substance from PR, and begins to answer not only questions from groups but from taxpayers who will face tens of millions in expenditures that are difficult to justify, and will further tax the entire region.

History Shows Census Estimates Are Historically Inaccurate

A state official predicts a big drop in Milwaukee city and county populations.

It's important to help build the city, but as to the estimate - - yawn.

There is a long history of inaccurate predictions, in part because they are made from a distance by people without a feel for the City.

Milwaukee comes out better after estimates and a census because it enlists some of those community-organizing, foreign-language speaking, culturally-sensitive city-savvy residents to supplement federal census takers' door-to-door work.

I helped coordinate this effort for the city during the 2000 census, so I know of which I speak.

City leaders had the same experience during the 1990 census, and the same will be true in the 2010 census and beyond.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sen. Mary Lazich, Alcohol Jokester


When It Comes To Water Policy - - Silence, Please

A Journal Sentinel columnist and editorial board member has had it with all those questions being raised about Waukesha's quest for Lake Michigan water.

Dang questions!

Imagine asking for scientific details and other information about piping Great Lakes water out of its basin, then returning it as wastewater to a tributary that can flood - - then into a watershed where millions and millions of dollars have been spent on water quality and other environmental improvements.

The temerity of people wanting some details - - especially since the City of Waukesha hasn't even disclosed its application yet.

Look for the City of Wauwatosa (the projected tributary dumping site), the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Waukesha taxpayers, and the seven other Great Lakes states to be asking the same kinds of questions...and more...and demanding some preliminary questions that were easily dismissed by the columnist.

Madison Minister Argues For Humane Environmentalism

To which I'd add, the more green, long-term social and personal investments we can make individually, and through policy advocacy, the closer we come to the ideal he seeks.

Wilderness Areas Expanded Nationally

Republicans had supported much of the preservation action, so it sailed through a Senate vote.

Regional Water Study Public Comment Schedule

Want to comment on the water supply study recommendations created by a committee appointed by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission?

Here's the meeting schedule.

The study recommends diverting Lake Michigan water to the City of Waukesha: the city wants about three times as much water as recommended by the committee.

The difference is because the committee was primarily looking to create a regional water supply and conservation program, but Waukesha wants a lot more water for its growth.

Which promotes sprawl and contradicts local, state and national efforts to promote land and water conservation, clean air, and smart growth.

And will spur more development far from where the housing and job needs in the region are the strongest - - in Milwaukee and Racine.

So stop in at one of the meetings, ask some questions and state your opinions.

SEWRPC will probably not change its recommendations because of input received in these pro forma meetings, but establishing a strong public record can come in handy during subsequent planning or legal processes.

DNR Not Ready To Review Diversion, Say Waukesha's Consultants

Waukesha is proceeding with its application for a Great Lakes diversion, but with the ink barely dry on the Great Lakes Compact and state enabling legislation, is the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources fully-staffed and geared-up to handle its complex role in the application's drafting and review?

Consultants hired by the Waukesha Water Utility to help write that city's precedent-setting Lake Michigan diversion application said in October that the new Great Lakes Compact "has added new requirements that Waukesha must meet before proceeding with the completion of the application," but the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources "has not had time to promulgate rules or draft guidance concerning the application" are related matters."

Susan Hill and Jeff Edstrom, working for GeoSyntec, an Illinois consulting company, made the observations in an October 9, 2008 letter to Waukesha Water Utility general manager Daniel Duchniak.

The utility provided the letter, and other documents about its Lake Michigan diversion planning, last week.

The letter explained why GeoSyntec was seeking additional 2008 funding from the utility.

The next day, October 10, Duchniak told utility commissioners in a separate letter that he was recommending that GeoSyntec's 2008 contract be boosted by another $54,00o, bringing the 2008 total to $183,400.

[The utility's 2008 meeting minutes do not appear online this weekend (2007's are all there), and when I find the link to those 2008 minutes about the contract change, I will post that.]

GeoSyntec laid out in its five-page letter the work it would provide under the amended contract, including more meetings with the DNR, the regional planning commission (SEWRPC) and environmental groups on the diversion application and on water quality, supply and wastewater treatment plan matters.

The key paragraphs of the GeoSyntec letter (I will post it as a link when it's converted to a pdf):

"The passage of the Compact legislation in Wisconsin has added new requirements that Waukesha must meet before proceeding with completion of the application. Our discussions with DNR staff over the past summer confirm that three additional products/activities will need to be completed to support the application: 1) revisions to the Waukesha Wastewater Facility Plan, 2) development of a Water Supply Service Area Plan, and 3) discussion/negotiations with DNR and the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission regarding effluent limits and regional water quality issues.

"Because Waukesha will be the first community to move with an application from with a straddling county under Act 227, DNR is very cognizant that they will be setting precedent. The Wisconsin legislature passed statutes requiring the additional products; however, DNR has not had time to promulgate rules or draft guidance concerning the application and the Water Suppl;y Service Are Plan. As a result, DNR has been understandably careful to provide Waukesha with clear guidance on how the application and supporting documents should be assembled."

Later, GeosSyntec's personnel note "In order to better develop a final application, it is necessary to have close communication with DNR staff. With staff changes at the DNR as well as a new statute that does not have precedent applications, it will be necessary to meet more frequently with DNR staff."

GeoSyntec has been a Waukesha contractor for several years, and has been paid in the $75,000 to $100,000 range annually. It works closely with the public relations firm Martin J, Schreiber & Associates and the Reinhart law firm, too.

The total billings for these consultants, and two more that lobby in Washington, DC for federal funds, exceeds a half-million dollars since 2000.

When I get a better total, I'll pass that along.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Another Milwaukee-Centered Blog Arrives

Issues drawn together, so to speak.

When You Cut Down And Pave Habitat, Animals Don't Leave

Like the deer who eat landscaping and increasingly are involved in highway crashes, coyotes still need a place to live, eh?

Senator To Give Pay Raise to Non-Profits

Also sounds like a taxpayer-subsidized tax deduction to me.

Scott Walker And The Coming Flip-Flop

Predictable turnaround coming on stimulus aid.

And I say "coming flip-flop" because in classic Walker style, he is now saying he might be open to some aid, so he's still wiggling to have it all ways.

Proving he stands for nothing.

I suspect this editorial and a storm of political and bloggers' uproar has gotten Walker's attention.

And I further expect this 'for-it-quickly-after-I-was-foolishly-against-it' cave-in becomes part of Gov. Jim Doyle's campaign against Walker, should Walker blunder into another run for Governor.

Or it'll all be moot if the GOP finds a more credible candidate, which, given Walker's erratic approach to the stimulus and the county's dreadful finances, shouldn't be too tough.