Yeah, that climate change is a hoax, all right.
Friday, December 31, 2010
Took the oath Thursday, says WISN-TV 12: The inauguration is Monday, January 3rd. I checked jsonline and see stories and blogs from Thursday still referring to Walker as Governor-elect, so I am not sure if this is a terminology issue or what?
Do we have two Governors? Has anyone told Doyle yet?
Regardless, the emperor wears no cloths, except his crown:
Posted by James Rowen at 4:30 PM
There's been a steady drumbeat in the comments on this blog - - see sample here - - and elsewhere as Scott Walker and his crew take over state government about how agency rule-making and other actions by state employees - - "bureaucrats" - - are gonna change for the better, even go away.
What will happen is that Walker's people know and embrace fully is that rule-making will allow them to do what the boss and his backers want done.
We'll just have new rules written and enforced by new people (read: fresh senior bureaucrats, or some who choose to stick around and follow orders) with different goals and probably a fresh set of both happy and unhappy citizens as a result.
This will be akin to the flip-floppy dance underway in DC as the newly-elected Members of Congress who ran against business as usual held big-dollar fundraisers, demanded their health-care perks pronto and hired lobbyists as staffers as soon as they got the plane.
Case in point: Ron Johnson.
Or those elected officials back in Newt Gingrich's era who ran in favor of term limits but wouldn't leave as promised.
The criticisms over exercising power are always situational. It just depends on which side of the equation you're on: in or out?
Similarly, the Right accuses the Left of political correctness, but the Right speaks and acts out of its own politically-correct playbook.
The Right wants government out of people's lives, except when it decides Rightist political correctness demands government meddle actively - - like banning others' same-sex marriages or using public dollars to finance religious (choice) schools.
We'll have plenty of rule-making by the new administration in Madison - - producing rules written, lobbied for and implemented by bureaucrats.
Just more bureaucrats conservative than those they replaced.
Posted by James Rowen at 2:05 PM
Walker, Stepp and Co. are not your Warren Knowles kind of Republicans, so they will do all they can do roll back state funding for what has been a long-standing bi-partisan land preservation and public access program named after Governors Knowles and Gaylord Nelson.
Republicans tried to starve the program and now have the votes.
The new Walker DNR motto: "Cut it, pave it, gut it, fill 'er in."
Happy New Year, everyone.
Posted by James Rowen at 3:34 AM
Below are the formal comments submitted in 2006 to a special legislative study committee by Matt Moroney, then Executive Director of the Metropolitan Builders Association and now Scott Walker's nominee as Deputy Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources.
Moroney's efforts to water down the Compact and to remake what is basically a water management and conservation agreement into more of an economic development document were not successful - - State Sen. Mary Lazich, (R-New Berlin), led a failed state's rights campaign against the Compact/
" The homebuilding industry does not believe the case has been made that it is necessary to manage the quantity of water being utilized from the Great Lakes to the extent that the compact does at this time. The compact is far too limiting in its standards and approval process for water use by straddling counties. Mr. Dahl, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, indicated in his presentation that the Army Corps does not even factor into its forecasting of lake levels the municipal use and other “minor” diversions. Such impacts are so trivial to other factors like evaporation and temperature. As a result, it is our belief that a little more flexibility for water diversions in states that border the Great Lakes is desirable for continued economic growth."Now Moroney, an attorney, is in a key position to influence all state environmental policy, including how the Compact is implemented in Wisconsin, and especially as Waukesha's stalled and incomplete application for the Compact's first out-of-basin diversion moves through the DNR and perhaps to the other seven Great Lakes states for a mandatory regional review.
Looks like those who lost the fight against the Compact are in the driver's seat now.
I'm posting the comments in their complex entirety.
To: Special Committee on the Great Lakes Water Resources Compact
From: Matt Moroney, Executive Director
Date: December 6, 2006
Re: Comments and Concerns Regarding the Compact ----------------------------------------------------------
In response to Senator Kedzie’s request to submit all issues concerning the Great Lakes Water Resources Compact, I am submitting this memorandum which includes a lengthy attachment that attempts to identify areas of concern for the homebuilding industry, specifically the homebuilding industry in Southeastern Wisconsin. The list is intended to be exhaustive, but quite frankly every time one reads the compact new questions emerge. I do believe however that the attached list covers the major issues.
It is important to stress that the homebuilding industry does share the sentiment of all of the Special Committee members that water, especially Great Lakes Water, is an important resource that should not be wasted and should be carefully monitored and managed, if necessary, to insure adequate supplies of water for consumption, recreation, transportation, and a healthy ecosystem. In our opinion, the Compact fails to address major environmental threats to the lake that may occur from invasive species like the Asian Carp entering the lakes through the Chicago diversion. These environmental threats pose a much more immediate and pending harm to the Great Lakes than water diversions to straddling counties.
The homebuilding industry does not believe the case has been made that it is necessary to manage the quantity of water being utilized from the Great Lakes to the extent that the compact does at this time. The compact is far too limiting in its standards and approval process for water use by straddling counties. Mr. Dahl, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, indicated in his presentation that the Army Corps does not even factor into its forecasting of lake levels the municipal use and other “minor” diversions. Such impacts are so trivial to other factors like evaporation and temperature. As a result, it is our belief that a little more flexibility for water diversions in states that border the Great Lakes is desirable for continued economic growth.
The overall goal of preventing water being diverted to dry states is a commendable goal and a goal that the homebuilding industry wholeheartedly supports. However, the compact is far too limiting on Wisconsin residents, usurps state autonomy to accomplish Wisconsin objectives, and reaches into water quality issues when quantity was the original reason for the Compact. I have heard several arguments that being located next to the Great Lakes will become an economic advantage for Wisconsin in the years to come. However, if the water cannot be utilized for economic growth, being located next to the Great Lakes will put Wisconsin at an economic disadvantage.
1. Definition of Environmentally and Economically Feasible Water Conservation Measures Page 6, Lines 4 to 13 - It appears that the environmentally sound component also is used to determine the economic feasible component of this definition because of the inclusion of environmental costs in calculating feasibility. The feasible definition also includes energy impacts and other appropriate factors, which leaves a lot open to interpretation and potential disagreement. Economically feasible is also a very high standard that ignores traditional economic analysis which focuses on objective criteria of “cost effectiveness and the least costly alternative”. This focus on a proposal being economically feasible could raise costs of water use substantially.
2. Lack of a Definition of Tributary Groundwater Page 9, Line 12 - The term tributary groundwater is used without any definition. This has a Wisconsin impact because of the geology of SE Wisconsin. This term needs to be defined.
3. Jurisdiction of the Council Page 14, Lines 1 to 5 – Grants the council ability to act outside of the basin if action is necessary “or convenient” to implement its responsibilities in the basin. This action is subject to the consent of the jurisdiction wherein it proposes to act. If passed into law by the State of Wisconsin, the legislation should clearly indicate that such action by the Council is not desired in Wisconsin.
4. Ability to Revise the Standard of Review Page 15, Lines 11 to 14 - This provision gives the Council the authority to revise the standard of review with unanimous vote of all Council members in accordance with each party’s respective statutory authorities and applicable procedures. If passed, legislation should clearly indicate that the procedure to revise the standards includes action by the Wisconsin Legislature and not a rulemaking process or unilateral action by the Governor.
5. Ability to Promulgate Rules and Regulations Page 16, lines 6 to 12 – Grants the Council (it appears by majority vote) the ability to promulgate and enforce rules to implement and enforce the compact after notice and a hearing. This usurps state autonomy. If passed, legislation should clearly indicate that the Wisconsin Legislature would need to approve any rule or regulation that is not administrative in nature. Substantive acts or material changes would require legislative action.
6. Water Conservation and Efficiency Programs Page 19 to Page 20 – The Council will identify water conservation objectives that are to be utilized within the basin. Several goals are listed including “restoring the hydrologic ecosystem integrity of the basin; retaining the quantity of surface water and groundwater of the basin; sustainable use of the water; and reduction of water loses”. Some of these goals may contradict one another if the groundwater divide is not the same as the surface water divide. It also indicates that these goals could be mandatory state wide. This would again usurp state autonomy and should be resisted from being made statewide goals. The Council’s ability to establish policy for a State should be very limited.
7. Cumulative Effects and Climate Page 20, Line 22 -- This section indicates that conservation programs need to adjust to new demands and the potential impacts of cumulative effects and climate. “Cumulative effects” is a dangerous standard to analyze. At what point is the tipping point where a cumulative effect is viewed as detrimental to the ecosystem? It would appear from the presentation by the Army Corps that this tipping point is far off for municipal uses of water. Why then have something in this document that is subjective and very controversial? There is also a concern about this document being utilized to implement air regulations and other similar regulations as a result of this reference to climate, which is an undefined term. If rules are promulgated as a result of climate concerns, this would place Wisconsin’s industries at a national and global economic disadvantage. Regulations to protect the climate that are adopted only by the Great Lakes States would have virtually no impact on the global climate.
8. Time Limit on Opportunity to Comment Needed Page 21, Line 16 – What is a sufficient opportunity to provide comment? A specific day limitation is needed. Time is possible lost economic opportunity. On the next page it indicates a goal of 90 days, which is only a goal. A hard and fast timeline is needed. There are requirements for notices, hearings, etc. (page 23) later in the document. It is our belief this goal would never be met if it is just a goal. A hard and fast time line needs to be established.
9. Majority of Members Can Request a Regional Review Page 22, Lines 20 to 24 – Grants a majority of members the ability to request a regional review of a “regionally significant or potentially precedent setting proposal”. These terms are very broad and leave a lot to interpretation. It appears this regional review can occur for proposals within the basin where the state has sole regulatory authority for approval. This provision really opens the door for the Council to even further usurp local control.
10. Requests for Regional Review Page 23, Lines 10 to 12 – Does Wisconsin want to ever request a regional review of an application when it is not required? Please note the recent experience of comments from Michigan on New Berlin’s request for Lake Michigan Water. Legislation may want to limit this ability.
11. Diversions Used for Only Public Water Supply Purposes Page 27, Line 1 and 2 and Page 29, Lines 5 and 6 – Is this the policy that Wisconsin wants to implement? What about diversions for electric generation? What about for a large industry user which would mean jobs for the region? Illinois is allowed a very large diversion where the primary purpose is not a public water supply. Do we want to foreclose options that might be necessary in the future?
12. Governor’s Veto Authority Page 28, Lines 24 and 25; Page 29 Lines 19 and 20 – One Governor has the ability to veto. Giving one Governor, who is not elected by the citizens of Wisconsin, the ability to veto a diversion is not reasonable. Supporters of the one-governor-veto provision will indicate that there at least standards and an alternative dispute resolution mechanism that is preferable to current practices under WRDA. However, upon closer review of the standards it appears that plausible arguments can be made to support and to oppose diversions in every situation. As we have seen in the committee, an answer can vary depending on how the question is asked or from what perspective it is answered. The science is simply not precise. In addition, it has yet to be determined how the alternative dispute resolution will work. See my comments regarding this section.
13. Difficult Standards to Meet for Diversions in Straddling Counties Page 29 – a. Water shall be used solely for the public water supply purposes of the community that is
“without adequate supplies of potable water”. This later potable water requirement could
be a hurdle and subject to much debate during review. b. No reasonable water supply alternatives exists “within the basin in which the community is
located”, including conservation. What happens if there are feasible alternatives in neighboring communities, but neighboring communities don’t cooperate? This provision is very, very limiting and very difficult to meet. Costs in this standard is not a factor. If an alternative exists, no matter the cost, it appears that you would not be able to divert water from the Great Lakes.
c. There is also a strong caution on lines 15 to 16 that seems to indicate that there is a strong preference against this type of diversion. Once again, the Governor veto is problematic, especially when combined with the standard of review and this very strong caution within the document. The caution further states that the diversion should not be authorized “unless it can be shown that it will not endanger the integrity of the basin ecosystem”. Whose definition of the integrity of the basin ecosystem? This is a very tough threshold to meet depending on how you interpret it and very broad in general. This threshold also seems to place a burden of proof on the party seeking the diversion.
d. There is also a requirement that sufficient scientifically based evidence be produced that the existing water supply is derived from groundwater that is hydrologically interconnected to basin waters. This is also seems to place the burden of proof on the party seeking the diversion. As the committee has seen, the answer can depend on how you ask the question. Science doesn’t seem to agree on questions of connectiveness.
14. Exception Standard Places Even Further Restrictions on Diversions Page 30. a. It must be shown that the need for all or part of the diversion can not be avoided by
conservation. Who determines this? What is an acceptable standard of conservation? Is
it a per person standard of water use? b. The exception standard also requires that “quantities be limited to reasonable amounts for
the purposes for which it is proposed”. Will this be read to stop annexations and future growth of a community? If the diversion is used to solve current water issues will a restriction be placed on a community to limit its growth.
c. Water withdrawn must be returned except for that which is consumed. Ideally, groundwater outside the basin would not be used in return flow. We would generally agree with this principle.
d. No cumulative adverse impacts to quantity or quality of waters . . . “with consideration given to the potential cumulative impacts of any precedent-setting consequences with the proposal.” If all of the scientific standards can be met, there is still the opportunity to veto the diversion based on precedent setting consequences.
e. Must incorporate economically feasible water conservation measures. Again, the focus is on feasibility and not economically practical.
15. Standard of Review for Withdrawn or Consumptive Use Water Page 32; lines 11 to 14 -- Two standards are troublesome.
a. The withdrawal or consumptive use will be implemented to “result in no significant individual or cumulative adverse impacts to the quantity or quality of the waters and water dependent natural resources and the applicable water shed”. The problem with this standard is that it creates ambiguity as to the scale of the impacts that would preclude withdrawal approvals. Is the significance of the impacts to be judged based on the impacts upon the overall Source Watershed (which is defined as the drainage area of each Great Lake) or can measurable impacts on flow within just a few hundred feet of stream be enough to preclude a withdrawal. Clarifying this provision to note the “applicable water shed as a whole” and the basin “as a whole” is essential.
b. Economically feasible water conservation measures are required. Once again economically feasible is not the same as cost effective, which could place Wisconsin industries at a competitive disadvantage.
16. Surface Water Divide to Be Used to Determine the Area of the Basin Page 34 Lines 19 through 21 - This provision explicitly indicates that the surface water divide will be used to determine the basin waters. This provision prohibits any arguments about the location of the groundwater divide being utilized to determine straddling communities or straddling counties.
17. Ability to Change the Standard of Review Page 37 and Page 38 - This provision requires continued review of the standards if incremental losses reach 50,000,000 gallons per day average during any 90 day period from the last assessment, every 5 years, or the request of one of the parties, whichever occurs first. If enacted as written, this language will represent wholesale delegation of regulatory authority by the Legislature to what amounts to unelected staff members representing the governors of the 8 states. A requirement that the legislature must approve any new standards needs to be made clear.
18. Role of Climate Page 38 lines 4 through 7 – This provision seems to give much more weight for climate considerations to become an even larger factor in the review of the standards. The scientific community can’t even agree on climate issues, so why should this become a larger factor.
19. Alternative Dispute Resolution Services Page 40 and 41 --The alternative dispute resolution section is extremely vague. The decision on how this would proceed is yet to be determined by the Council. The main questions would be who will conduct the alternative dispute resolution? Who would have the burden of proof, if anyone? In a veto situation, it would ideally fall to the party issuing the veto. However, it appears by the language of the standards of approval that the burden would be on the submitting party. Is there a standard of proof being required? What will be the standard of proof? Beyond a reasonable doubt, preponderance of the scientific evidence, more likely than not? How quickly will this process occur? Time is likely lost economic opportunity.
20. Aggrieved Persons Ability to File Suit Page 41 – An aggrieved person is not defined and this section seems to allow the ability of almost anyone to file lawsuits to challenge a decision.
21. Common Law Water Rights Page 43 -- There is a reference to common law water rights. What are common law water rights in Wisconsin? Are these rights the same in all of the states and provinces?
1. What communities in the Great Lakes Region have diversions already in place; what is the amount of water being diverted for each of these communities; and how much of the water is being returned to the basin?
2. What communities in Wisconsin can be identified to be located in Straddling Counties that might be eligible for Great Lakes water and what is their current water usage?
3. Are there other large water users in the Straddling Counties and what is the water usage?
4. It appears that the any such diversions would have a fractional impact on the Great Lakes if return flow is required. Why should the compact be so limiting on Straddling Counties if this is the case?
What percentage of possible water being diverted are we really talking about? What is the
percentage after a return flow is required?
5. Can we have a map showing the surface divide, straddling counties, and, if possible, the
groundwater divide for each state and Canadian province.
6. Are there any protections in place to ensure that the diverted water into the basin continue into
the future? Or is this being left to other authorities? Specifically, are the large diversions from
Canada into Lake Superior guaranteed into the future?
7. It appears that an imminent and potential substantial threat to the basin’s ecosystem is on the
horizon from an invasive species called the Asian carp. Why in this document is the issue about protecting the lakes from this invasive species, as well as other invasive species that can decimate
the ecosystem, not a part of the compact. It appears that there is no requirement for the State of
Illinois to address this issue as a condition of their continued, very large diversion.
8. How are annexations and efforts for regional consolidation of services effected by the compact? In approving a diversion, the council can establish conditions. Will a standard condition be adopted to
limit further growth by a community?
9. It appears that even if the compact is enacted, it doesn’t necessarily prevent Congress from overriding the compact. Is this understanding correct?
Posted by James Rowen at 12:12 AM
Thursday, December 30, 2010
In this. the 45th chapter of our continuing blog series, "The Road to Sprawlville," I offer a tip about an upcoming change in service and function at the Scott Walker era Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources beginning January 3rd:
Maps directing sprawl developers and their road-building allies to once-off-limits wetlands, woodlands and other open spaces, along with handbooks containing streamlined 'rule-making' procedures with fewer pesky 'regulations' will soon be available at the Department of Natural Resources, formerly a natural resource protection agency with an historic public mission.
Coincidentally, the DNR's website is undergoing some reconstruction - - seriously - - so look for the new publications and guidelines online, too.
I'm told that a new division of sprawl inducement may be created, though it is not clear if it will be an arm of the new Commerce Department, or inserted at WisDOT.
So many choices!
What's this all about?
Lee Bergquist of the Journal Sentinel reported today:
"[DNR Secretary designee Cathy] Stepp also said Matt Moroney, an attorney and former executive director of the Metropolitan Builders of Greater Milwaukee, will be the deputy secretary. The No. 3 post of executive assistant is going to state Rep. Scott Gunderson (R-Waterford)."Moroney is an engaging free market bulldog; you may remember that as a member of a state working group on the Great Lakes Compact, he joined forces with outspoken Compact opponent State Sen. Mary Lazich, (R-New Berlin), in an unsuccessful effort to weaken the Compact. Scroll to the end of this posting, then click on his name and read the pdf that comes up.
More detail, here.
Gunderson is there to mollify the state's hunters: a former sporting goods and gun store owner, he once said he'd eat a deer infected with chronic wasting disease if he dressed and processed it himself.
And Stepp is about as partisan and anti-DNR as they come; she'll have a savvy pro-growth attorney and outdoorsman to help tag team Walker's de-regulation agenda.
This is like putting senior managers at Goldmann Sachs in charge of Wall Street reform.
Or coal company execs in charge of Clean Air Act enforcement.
Posted by James Rowen at 2:43 PM
I'll bet pro- Great Lakes diversion Common Council President Paul Ybarra - - already peeved at the DNR - - is having the necessary PR news release and resolution drafted to honor of the incoming anti-DNR/new DNR Secretary as we speak.
And Lake Michigan water to that 80% enlarged City of Waukesha service territory - - into the rural Town of Waukesha, plus Genesee and undeveloped areas - - a DNR that is really an arm of the home building lobbying is just what Dr. Ybarra and his crew has ordered.
Posted by James Rowen at 2:01 PM
For the environment in Wisconsin, this is the day the music died.
With anti-DNR zealot Cathy Stepp's preposterous (read: management by the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and the home builders organizations)) nomination as Secretary of the Department of of Natural Resources, Walker's legacy as the environmental destroyer of the land of Gaylord Nelson, John Muir and Aldo Leopold has begun.
Posted by James Rowen at 11:28 AM
Until it suits their political ends.
Mississippi Republican Governor Haley Barbour, a possible far-right presidential candidate in 2012, stepped knee-deep into ugly racial politics recently, so sees an opportunity through a pardon to dig himself out and orders a pardoned prisoner to donate a kidney to her sister.
Good pardon - - years late - - but does anyone see a contradiction in his opposition to the new health care bill's government-mandated purchase of individual coverage and his use of government power to mandate two major surgeries, especially since the sisters had volunteered to do the transplant?
Posted by James Rowen at 10:29 AM
With a key jobs indicator showing its strongest gain since George Bush's presidency two-and-a-half years ago??
When Scott Walker claims his tax breaks for businesses and the wealthy are saving the economy, let's not forget when data showed it had begun.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:18 AM
Another story about the state's collective drunkenness drips on to the rest of us.
And you think Wisconsin's image problems - - Land of the Two-Fisted Slopper, Home Of The No-Jail OWI Ticket - - - - have to do with the esoteria of combined corporate taxation or spending ratings or the length of time for business expansion permitting?
"Be Bold" as the route to Wisconsin's recovery?
How about, "Be Sober?"
Posted by James Rowen at 10:06 AM
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
There's more than a little buzz about that possibility, posed as this post's headline, and made more real by the probable appointment by Scott Walker of an anti-DNR zealot to run (slow down, divert, hamstring) the agency.
From an ideological, anti-regulatory, small-government point of view, and also among the City of Waukesha's troubled Great Lakes diversion application's authors in and around its Water Utility and Common Council, such a short-sighted move might be tempting and welcomed.
But given that the agency had established in writing the application's short comings with multiple citations to federal and state statutes, along with the Great Lakes Compact also approved in the Wisconsin legislature (read the DNR's 12/2 letter on the matter at its website, here), and also approved by seven other Great Lakes states and the US Congress, such shameless procedural and policy-making tampering would absolutely boomerang and doom the application to rejection in one or more of the other states.
And without the unanimous approval of all eight Great Lakes states, the application is vetoed, leaving Waukesha behind in its clean water supply planning and mandated 2018 compliance, and also at least $1 million in the hole paid out to consultants, lawyers and PR reps.
They say that elections have consequences, and that is oh, so true.
But using an election as the justification for meddling and mucking around in such weighty matters as managing the world's largest supply of fresh surface water - - very inadvisable.
Will Walker rewrite the DNR's mission statement, too?
our wildlife, fish and forests
and the ecosystems that sustain all life.
in their work and leisure.
and to carry out the public will.
and generations to follow.
Posted by James Rowen at 6:52 PM
So says the Journal Sentinel (bottom of the alphabetical list).
Holloway was a SEWRPC Commission, but still, it's an odd step for Yunker, as Holloway is now an announced candidate for County Exec.
Well, maybe not completely inexplicable Yunker move - - maybe he's there to protect that $837,000 annual donation from Milwaukee County to the planning agency.
The story says not all members are Holloway supporters, but does not differentiate supporters from non-supporters.
Posted by James Rowen at 3:44 PM
If you're like me, you look at Milwaukee County today and you know we must do better.
We need to fix the County's fiscal crisis with real reform, and stop the runaway debt and bloated budgets.
PS: Won't you support my campaign for Milwaukee County Executive today with a contribution of $50, $100, $250, or whatever you can give to help me bring real reform and leadership to Milwaukee County?
|Paid for by Abele for Milwaukee County Executive, Jeff Peelen, Treasurer.|
Posted by James Rowen at 3:17 PM
Exit a possible early favorite, attorney John Behling, who may have been too insufficiently partisan a Department of Natural Resources Secretary to suit the new breed of GOP legislative leaders/ideologues - - with the result that the far more partisan Cathy Stepp as DNR Secretary now seems the inevitable nominee.
She's has been a Racine County home builder, a former State Senator and, shall we say, about as unlike Gaylord Nelson as you can get.
You can get an idea about her DNR-related thinking from something she posted on a conservative blog last year:
"Those of you that haven't had the pleasure of peeking behind the scenes of our state agencies like DNR, Health and Family Services, etc...need to know how some of the most far-reaching policies come down on our heads.
The most crushing/controversial rules that businesses have to follow in our state are--most times--done through the "rule making process" of our state agencies. Without bogging everyone down with some really boring procedure talk, suffice it to say that many of these great ideas (sarcasm) come from deep inside the agencies and tend to be reflections of that agency's culture.
For example, people who go to work for the DNR's land, waste, and water bureaus tend to be anti-development, anti-transportation, and pro-garter snakes, karner blue butterflies, etc...This is in their nature; their make-up and DNA. So, since they're unelected bureaucrats who have only their cubicle walls to bounce ideas off of, they tend to come up with some pretty outrageous stuff that those of us in the real world have to contend with...
Stepp's former Senate chief of staff was Scott Manley, now the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce's environmental policy chief.O'k, I went waaay wordier than I intended, but here's some language that was inserted into this BudgetPig that should scare everyone--regarding one of our agencies, the Department of Commerce: "it may promulgate the initial rules as emergency rules without the finding of emergency."
Why should this scare you? When (not if, I said WHEN) they give this authority to the DNR there will be more of a whooshing sound as businesses run for the borders.
It's always the fine print in these things that have the heaviest hit.
Just another example of the democrats game plan: Change the Rules to Fit the Players.
Shout it with me, now: HYPOCRISY, THY NAME IS DEMOCRAT."
That would give the WMC an even more direct and powerful conduit in disabling the DNR and substituting the WMC as the state's 'environmental' voice - - especially as Walker is proposing to somewhat privatize the Commerce Department and take some rule-making powers away from the legislature for his own office.
That would help him align the new Commerce Department with a pro-business DNR.
Stepp has been a worker for DNR 'reform' for some time - - reform, as in reducing the role of the agency so that business has a freer rein to develop resources, property owners can have their interests override the public interest, and preservation of resources for today and tomorrow can take a back seat to exploitation.
For context, putting Stepp and her anti-DNR team in charge of the DNR would like appointing a water bottler to oversee the Great Lakes Compact, or installing a coal mine owner to manage the Environmental Protection Agency.
Walker could and should do better.
Posted by James Rowen at 1:25 PM
Assuming Gov.-elect Scott Walker will make cabinet and agency head nominations to replace the incumbents, his people will barely have time to find the executive washrooms before beginning their management duties.
The week is almost out, furlough days are ahead, then there's a holiday weekend, the swearing-in festivities and then...realty.
I can't say much for this approach.
Update: I see some movement on the issue. Is Walker that serious a reader here? :)
Posted by James Rowen at 8:23 AM
This analysis is bound to set off the "Suburbia Is Better" crowd, as the outer-ring suburbs have higher risks for highway fatalities than do the central cities.
Another vote for walkable, transit-served neighborhoods.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:54 AM
In the Bizarro world where Emperor Scott Walker rules, news about jobs is all about losses.
First the Talgo, Inc. train assembly plant closing its manufacturing side, thanks to Walker's cancellation of the Madison-Milwaukee rail line (and its 4,700 construction jobs with it), and now probable layoffs at a new state agency designed to, yes, grow the economy.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:35 AM
Watch for Particle PollutionAn Air Quality Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for to reach the Orange level based on the .
|Start Time:||1:00 AM CST Wednesday, December 29, 2010|
|End Time:||7:00 AM CST Thursday, December 30, 2010|
|Counties:||Brown, Calumet, Columbia, Dane, Dodge, Fond Du Lac, Green, Green Lake, Iowa, Jefferson, Kenosha, Kewaunee, Lafayette, Manitowoc, Marquette, Milwaukee, Outagamie, Ozaukee, Racine, Rock, Sauk, Sheboygan, Walworth, Washington, Waukesha, Winnebago|
AIR QUALITY INDEX CHART
|Air Quality Index|
|Levels of Health Concern||Colors|
|When the AQI|
is in this range:
|...air quality conditions are:||...as symbolized |
by this color:
|0 to 50||Good||Green|
|51 to 100||Moderate||Yellow|
|101 to 150||Unhealthy for |
|151 to 200||Unhealthy||Red|
|201 to 300||Very Unhealthy||Purple|
|301 to 500||Hazardous||Maroon|
Posted by James Rowen at 12:01 AM
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Will the Wisconsin Open Meetings, Records and appointee economic disclosure statutes apply fully to Walker's remade Commerce Department?
Posted by James Rowen at 9:55 AM
Tommy Thompson, allegedly the pro-train Governor joined forces with Waukesha County officials, then-legislative powerhouse State Rep. Scott Jensen and ratings-hungry AM talk radio jocks in the 90's to kill light rail in Milwaukee.
Yes, the same snappy, snazzy and popular light rail systems, which NPR tells is are aiding city economies all over the country and offering transportation choices to consumers.
"It's hard to find a city in America that isn't planning, proposing, studying or actually building a light rail system. Cities as diverse as Dallas, Seattle and Washington, D.C., all see light rail as part of their future — a way to reshape their development.Killed in 1997, light rail would, by now, provided pleasant transit to Summerfest and through the Third Ward, the Menomonee Valley and Miller Park, and west to the Medical Complex, Zoo and County Grounds, where UW-M may construct a research park and engineering campus. Talk about lost opportunities.
There are 35 light rail systems operating in the U.S. today. At least 13 metro areas are currently building others. Many more are being planned."
If the City can get is downtown streetcar line into the ground, maybe Milwaukee can change course.
Scott Walker is simply continuing the trend of the last decade-and-a-half by excising Wisconsin from Amtrak expansion, further stunting the state and its Democratic cities economically and dooming us to a one-dimensional transportation 'system' that guarantees congestion and dirty air while serving road-builders and their suburban sprawl partners.
Conservatives love choice: School choice. Retirement/Social Security investment choices. Medical saving account choice. Control over their decision-making - - except when it comes to transportation, which is when they revert to big-government, statist planning, with choices off the table.
Which accelerates the tax-and-spend/build-expand-repair-etc.-highways-only cycle.
Posted by James Rowen at 7:06 AM
Stop the federal spending spree, says the Right.
Why, it's "mutual looting, a perpetual motion scam of public finance," intones one conservative pundit, and the grabbiness has put us on the road to ruin.
Besides, not everyone would have used the train, so why should someone from Ashland or Boscobel or Kansas City kick in?
So cancel that federally-funded rail line between Madison and Milwaukee because, federal funds or not, it's still taxpayers' dough collected hither and yon, and it''s not free money.
And the deepest pool of Wisconsin's anti-rail, federal-funding refusniks who put Scott Walker over the top with his 52% non-mandate majority statewide is in...deeply red Waukesha County.
So, of course, before Wisconsin's rail federal grant was re-allocated to other states earlier this month, three Wisconsin Republican members of Congress, including Jim Sensenbrenner, a purported fiscal hawk and the state's most senior Congressional member, said they would introduce a bill in Congress next year to return the rail money to the US Treasury.
Sensenbrenner represents...where else...?...Waukesha County.
But when it comes to supporting projects that demand megatax dollars to pay for the construction of other infrastructure projects that most people living elsewhere will not use - - like widening I-94 across all of Waukesha County, argues the County Executive, Dan Vrakas, or building a new water supply system for the City of Waukesha for the 80% larger water service territory the City's Lake Michigan diversion application envisions - - well, turn on the federal spigot.
In fact, winning federal grants is an integral part of the Waukesha water diversion financing plan, minimally estimated at $164 million.
As Daniel Duchniak, the Waukesha Water Utility manager said in a report quoted by Waukeshanow.com:
"We will be actively seeking federal grants and other financing options that would help defray the cost," Duchniak said in a separate memo distributed Tuesday to the Common Council.
Without any federal grant assistance, a Milwaukee water supply would cost residential ratepayers an estimated $142.28 each quarter of the year, up from the current quarterly water charge of $66.85, Duchniak says in the memo.To the Daily Reporter, Duchniak said he hoped Waukesha might get between $25-50 million of a $100 million US Army Corps of Engineers' pot, and that along with the office of US Sen. Herb Kohl, US Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner was helping write the grant application, too.
Quarterly charges for an Oak Creek water supply, with no federal grants to offset construction costs, would be an estimated $191.83. A Racine connection would cost residents $211.39 per quarter."
That would be the same Sensenbrenner who was all for sending the rail money to the US Treasury.
Taxpayer dollars to stimulate growth and subsidize ratepayers in the higher-income city and county of Waukesha - - that's a good thing and thus worthy of federal help.
But using taxpayer-dollars to stimulate jobs around Madison and Milwaukee train stations, and at a train assembler in Milwaukee's lower-income central city- - nope, can't afford that. Get government out of that arena, pronto.
Question: When do federal grants make for evil spending and government excess, and when are they virtuous subsidies, if not outright (outRight?) earmarks?
Answer: If you're Jim Sensenbrenner and his constituents, or Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas, or the Waukesha Common Council, or the incoming Walker administration which will goose along Waukesha's diversion planning - - just watch, I guarantee it - - it's quite situational, partisan and heavily class-based.
Just don't tell me it's principled.
Posted by James Rowen at 6:55 AM
Monday, December 27, 2010
Posted by James Rowen at 5:29 PM
(Though Walker could pardon Jensen and wipe out his misdemeanor conviction.)
Cue the Right's indignation...
Posted by James Rowen at 11:41 AM
We read that Congressional Republicans want to roll back reforms to food inspection laws, new safeguards in legislation to rein in reckless banking practices that nearly brought down the economy, as well as gutting the new health care law and EPA health air regs, and more - - all to serve corporate elites that want the freedom to manipulate the marketplace for their own advantages.
Even with something as basic as preventing disease outbreaks from tainted food, rather than just reacting after people get sick and die.
You would think that carrying water for the top one percent of the population would translate into an easy campaign on behalf of the other 99%, but I wonder if Democrats can easily translate this blatant class subservience by the GOP into a winning, populist message.
I am not so sure.
Posted by James Rowen at 4:57 AM
Imagine, coming into compliance with such horrifying notions as clean water disinfectant standards, or the Great Lakes Compact.
Posted by James Rowen at 4:40 AM
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Posted by James Rowen at 9:40 PM
It all has to do with three little words:
Three Mile Island.
And the fallout (no pun intended):
Posted by James Rowen at 5:32 AM
Friday, December 24, 2010
Wisconsin is moving towards rolling back its 2010 rule-making requiring a very rigorous program with tough standards, says the DNR.
Seems to me that's a misstep - - one leading statewide group had criticized the original state action as insufficient - - but also highlights how the various Great Lakes states have different practices, though it's a shared water resource under regional management.
Time for a national policy?
I'm interested to hear what others more involved have to say.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:21 PM
The one about the business community being weighed down by taxes.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:08 AM
Traffic fatalities on state roads are down this years for four-wheel vehicle drivers, but in other categories, the roads are far less safe than in 2009, state figures show.
Posted by James Rowen at 5:03 AM
Thursday, December 23, 2010
No clean slate approaching for GOP legislators in Congress, whose 2011 mantra will be "pass the soot."
Look for Scott Walker and his legislative allies to do the same, adopting the WMC's dirtier air position.
In fact, look for the WMC's smoggy thinking to be a requirement for people Walker appoints to run the DNR.
All under the rubric of jobs - - even though workers and CEO's breathe the same air, and the repetitive dirty air alerts that plague the lakefront counties are hardly a boon to tourism.
Maybe, under Walker/WMC, dirty air alerts will be canceled, or called something else, like "Lung Exercise Days," or "Coal Dust Celebration Hours."
Posted by James Rowen at 4:01 PM
I don't see how this is legal under the Wisconsin Open Records statute.
Posted by James Rowen at 2:27 PM
New Mexico, having faced a statewide OWI problem for years, has gained a reputation under outgoing Gov. Bill Richardson for cracking down on drunk driving.
This includes widespread use of sobriety checkpoints and ticketing for "under the influence" based on behaviors, not necessarily hitting a .08 BAC.
This story suggests the state may expand its enforcement parameters further by charging a surviving passenger in a fatal crash whom evidence suggests was drinking with the now-deceased driver, though the investigation is ongoing and no charging decision has been made.
Another driver in a vehicle hit head on at perhaps between 100-120 mph also survived the wreck.
By contrast, Wisconsin is a weak OWI-enforcement state. Sobriety checkpoints are not used and a first offense is still a mere, non-criminal ticket - - an only-in-Wisconsin freebie.
I'm guessing New Mexico's aggressive approach would be anathema in loose-enforcement Wisconsin, where over-indulging is part of the birthright, and thus we lead the nation in drunk driving, fatal OWI crashes (let's not call them "accidents,") and binge drinking.
This subject is often highlighted this blog - - a sample from a year ago here.
Posted by James Rowen at 12:58 PM
How does he know this?
The fortune teller who brings his weekly delivery of magic beans heard it from a unicorn - - and that's how legislation will be written in the new Legislature.
The newspaper finds his claim false.
Will this dissuade Fitzgerald from codifying voter photo ID, banning same-day registration and other voting suppression schemes designed to tamp down turnout in Democratic student and low-income wards?
Not a chance. Like the Amtrak like from Milwaukee to Madison that Scott Walker killed purportedly over the annual operating costs, voter photo ID and the related legislation is not about facts.
It's all about partisan advantage and power politics.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:48 AM
This is today's must-read disclosure by the Journal Sentinel's "No Quarter" investigative reporter about a two-pronged investigation into Scott Walker county staffers and financial matters. A John Doe probe is involved and top-shelf attorneys have been retained.
Three initial observations:
1. If Scott Walker distanced himself from a campaign blogger who posted material on the campaign's website that made the candidate look silly, and has a pattern of evading responsibility for other events on his official watch, look for the Walker operation to encase the Gov.-elect in Teflon as things move forward.
2. Given the presence of attorneys, I guess we now know where the excess revenue from the inaugural parties is going.
3. If this were happening to a Democrat, AM talk radio would be investing in new towers and satellites to carry their 24/7 amped-up coverage. Oh, the humanity...
Posted by James Rowen at 9:13 AM
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Now there's more evidence that Walker doesn't have a clue about what's in the report because it calls for throughout for the creation of public-private strategies, cooperation and partnerships - - not a revolutionary proposal, by any means - - but certainly a core element of up-to-date governance in an era of scare resources.
"Be Bold" is replete with suggestions about how to better coordinate business with government, and goal #3 gets specific:
Posted by James Rowen at 11:27 PM
And business community leaders there, unlike the timid, partisan (R) weakings who call themselves movers-and-shakers here, do, too.
With a partnership - - !! - - as described by BizTimes.com, below.
I figure Talgo's rail car manufacturing plant still hiring in Milwaukee, but abandoned by the business community here to curry favor with Scott Walker, is as good as gone to Illinois, too, when Talgo shuts it down in 2012..
Illinois forms partnership to develop high-speed rail to St. Louis
Illinois Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the signing of the historic cooperative agreement by the federal government, state government, Union Pacific Railroad, and Amtrak as a crucial advance in the development of a planned high-speed passenger rail network that will serve Illinois and the Midwest region.
“ Clearly, the leadership, perseverance and commitment of Governor Quinn, Senator Durbin, and our private sector partners, has vaulted Illinois into the lead on the development of high-speed rail,” Hannig said. “This announcement is about more than just an historic achievement for Illinois and the Midwest. It is a celebration of the kind of partnership and vision that is creating jobs now and providing needed access to a crucial regional transportation alternative.”
In September 2010, Quinn announced that Illinois had become the first state in the nation to begin high-speed rail construction through an initial agreement to upgrade 90 miles of track between Alton and Lincoln. With the full Cooperative Agreement now in place, construction will continue in early spring from just south of Lincoln to Dwight. That phase of work is expected to conclude next fall.
“It’s a wonderful day for Illinoisans as we celebrate a milestone achievement towards becoming the first state in the nation to bring high-speed rail to fruition,” Quinn said. “We applaud the cooperation and hard work of all participating agencies to bring high-speed rail service, thousands of jobs, and economic growth to communities across the state.”
“I'm proud that Illinois continues to lead the country in its pursuit of high-speed rail service. This agreement marks one more milestone in our quest to make safe, reliable, high-speed rail service a reality in just a handful of years,” Durbin said. “I want to commend Governor Pat Quinn and IDOT Sec. Gary Hannig for their efforts to keep the Chicago-St. Louis corridor on track, while other states have fallen behind. The benefits of staying on deadline are great: as the project advances, more jobs will be created and, with each step, we’re closer to making Illinois more competitive in the 21st century global economy.”
“Congratulations to the State of Illinois, Union Pacific Railroad, and Amtrak,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “This agreement will ensure a strong performance for the operation of high-speed passenger trains, while simultaneously protecting, preserving and improving our world-class rail freight system.”
"Our priority in working out this agreement was to protect Union Pacific's ability to provide the exceptional freight service our customers need and expect, while helping public agencies invest in improved passenger service," said Jim Young, Union Pacific chairman and chief executive officer. "This agreement allows us to deliver on those customer commitments."
Posted by James Rowen at 9:45 PM
Another refugee from Journal Communications (the old Sentinel) and City Hall under John Norquist turns to the Internets. Welcome.
Posted by James Rowen at 9:13 PM
Hard not to miss that statistic in a short story about the need to fill a vacancy.
For a county with fewer than 88,000 people - - about the population of two Milwaukee aldermanic districts.
I know the population is more spread out - - though the County's website tells us that Ozaukee is Wisconsin's smallest County geographically - - and large County boards are common in Wisconsin, but 31?
I know somewhere not far away Mike Nichols is saying, "As I have been writing!"
And, probably, adding:
"He didn't listen to me when he was my editor at the paper. Maybe he will now."
Posted by James Rowen at 7:51 PM
Now they should go down to one more legislative defeat on behalf of the 9/11 first responders' health care bill, then be allowed to slink home.
Posted by James Rowen at 3:23 PM
Posted by James Rowen at 3:06 PM
When Scott Walker was running for Governor, the campaign message was: elect me and I'll create 250,000 new jobs in four years.
Big talk, but effective.
The Journal Sentinel cited his job-creating goals in the lead sentences of its endorsement editorial:
"Scott Walker has said repeatedly during his campaign for governor that he will develop strategies to create 250,000 new jobs during his first term.
It's a big promise - one that has been derided by his critics. But for the sake of Wisconsin, Walker had better be right."
Walker claimed the state couldn't afford the operating costs - - less than $1 million annually, and a fraction of what the state spends on highway operating costs annually.
Instant result from what Walker said was a "victory?"
The jobs' creating Governor-elect was already responsible for the loss of jobs - - estimated maxing out t annually at 4,700.Wrote Larry Sandler of the Journal Sentinel:
"Therefore, total employment specifically linked to the train line would be 1,100 this year, 3,483 next year, 4,732 in 2012, 1,542 in 2013, 483 in 2014 and 167 in 2015.The remaining jobs that the state claims would be created - 181 this year, 577 next year, 803 in 2012, 305 in 2013, 138 in 2014 and 83 in 2015 - would be "induced" employment, or jobs at stores, restaurants and other businesses where the railroad workers would spend their wages."And don't forget about train car parts' supplier jobs lost to a long list of businesses statewide?
\La Crosse, hello!What a political mess. For a jobs'-creating candidate.
What do to do...what to do...
At first Walker tried to claim that train funding could be switched to road projects, but it didn't take long for that to be debunked.
The Spanish firm, Talgo, Inc., appealed to the Milwaukee business community for help with Walker. Naively, Talgo must have supposed it to be an ally in this jobs' creating business.
On the hot seat - - this is not where a jobs-creating leader wants to be - - Walker needed supporters, so the Milwaukee business community decided to back Walker even though they had supported the train line expansion and Talgo's recruitment here.
"Why beat a dead train," said Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce President Tim Sheehy, even though half his members polled liked the train.
The Journal Sentinel's news side looked into the business community's flimsy excuses surrounding the abandonment of Talgo - - and said the train maker had its story straight.
Some consolation, though the damage to workers and the local economy and rail connections among Midwestern cities has been done.
[Update: Illinois is taking some of its Wisconsin windfall transferred there through Walker's rail line refusal to create - - what? - - a public/private rail partnership.
That's how you create jobs, Mr. Walker.]
So jobs were and are concern #1 one; how's it all looking as the year ends and the new administration looms?
(Sorry about the paragraphing here. Template problems...)
Posted by James Rowen at 10:50 AM
That's what Scott Walker said, but I guess the last time he motorcycled through western Wisconsin he missed the regional rail coalition's meetings there, as described in the La Crosse Tribune by this plugged-in La Crosse leader, Jennifer Shilling, a state legislator:
"The Empire Builder High-Speed Rail Coalition has been meeting since 2009 to advocate for a high-speed rail line through Tomah and La Crosse, and the group has been the driving force behind much of the local support. I’ve been proud to work with these regional leaders to look at ways to modernize our transportation infrastructure, provide economic growth and bring jobs to the Coulee Region.
Because of our work, the cities of La Crosse and Onalaska, the La Crosse County Board, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Western Technical College, Viterbo University, Trane Co., CenturyLink, Logistics Health Inc., Gundersen Lutheran, Franciscan Skemp, the La Crosse Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, and dozens of other businesses, organizations and community leaders have all expressed their support for high-speed rail.
I have personally received hundreds of comments from La Crosse residents, and more than 86 percent of the people who contacted me about high-speed rail were supporters of the project.
When you consider all of the citizens, businesses, and organizations that have expressed their support, Scott Walker’s comments show a disconnect between him and the people of western Wisconsin on this issue.
His views are clearly out of touch with our community, and as we begin a new legislative session in January, I hope Walker will do a better job of listening to the people of La Crosse and western Wisconsin rather than assuming he knows what’s best for our region."
Posted by James Rowen at 9:29 AM