Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Zoo Interchange; More Questions Than Answers

WisDOT Secretary Frank Busalacchi's news conference in Milwaukee today brought the welcome news that a troubled Zoo Interchange bridge could be more quickly replaced - - like about seven weeks early ! - - but that leaves two big questions:

Why did the Secretary say last week that it would take until Memorial Day to get the bottleneck fixed?

And will WisDOT and the State Patrol enforce a weight limit on the new span - - not merely posting it but enforcing it? - - so that overweight trucks don't have the green light to run through and tear up new surfaces and spans, and the older pavement and supports, too?

And the other structures in the interchange: can we get some enforcement there, also, now that we have had this debacle?

OK - - that's three questions, but you get my drift.

To me, it seems as if WisDOT is lurching around, with orders being fired and contracts being let, and none of this inspires confidence in the daily leadership and strategic direction of the Department from the Madison home office.

I'm glad to see that the inconveniences are going to be be lessened, but it all sure does leave you wondering when the next shoes will drop.

Can we get some answers?

Inquiry Validates Climate Change Data, Cites PR Missteps

Will this be the end of so-called "Climategate?''

Despite the facts being validated, probably not, as the Right needs perpetual sky-is-falling stories to keep their base fearful and foaming.

Advertisers Have Dumped Glenn Beck: Here's How It Happened

The advertising boycott aimed at Fox News and specifically at Glenn Beck's daily weirdness continues.

Ever wonder how that happened?

Major Earth Day Conference At UW-Madison; Register Now

Gaylord Nelson's legacy renewed. Great speaker lineup. Register now.

Courting Young Donors, GOP Gets Clubbed

More proof that the party of family values is self-devaluing.

WisDOT On The Hot Seat

The Journal Sentinel is reporting that in a recent three-month period, only two trucks were stopped by the State Patrol for weight violations on Zoo Interchange bridges known to have structural problems, and no citations were issued.

Estimates using recording data taken from sensors on the bridges shows about one of every six trucks rolling through the interchange were above their assigned limit, the newspaper has reported.

It seems, then, that the weight limits were imposed in the interchange as the state moved to hurriedly replace three failing bridges - - a plan that last week imploded - - were not rigorously enforced.

I am told by a trucking expert that a legally-loaded truck leaves wear and tear to a roadway structure equal to 800 cars.

The State Patrol is an arm of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, the agency also in charge of bridge and highway inspections, safety, repair and construction.

The current WisDOT Secretary, Frank Busalacchi, is a former Teamsters Union official, so there should have been in the agency a high level of expertise and knowledge of the relationship between trucking and road wear.

How could the state's enforcement of load limits in that interchange -- the state's busiest - - be so lax?

Marie Rohde Continues Her Reporting On Church Abuse Scandal

Earlier in the Chicago Tribune, and now in Milwaukee Magazine.

She formerly covered these matters for The Milwaukee Journal and the Journal Sentinel.

When At The County Courthouse, Take The Walker Walkaround

Lest you get hit by falling concrete due to failed maintenance...

People who govern from crumbling homes shouldn't throw stones.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

More Road Repairs, Less New Construction

This State Journal piece could have made a stronger case.

Electric Cars Hitting The Showroom

I'll bet in a few years these cars will be more affordable and very popular.

Note to Nissan: Brush up on the customer communications: I was hot to buy a Cube last year, but didn't, thanks to the dealer not calling me back to tell me he had a manual shift on the lot.

Green, Preservation Zone Emerging Along Milwaukee River

Years of city and grassroots planning on the so-called "overlay district" on the Milwaukee River is taking shape.

Good synopsis from Ald. Nic Kovac, here.

SmartBrief On Sustainability A Good Source

You might want to check this out. I find it full of good information.

Water, Jobs And Justice: One Day Left To Speak Your Mind

Tomorrow, March 31st, is the last day on which you can send comments, observations or materials to consultants who are writing the last, pivotal section of a regional water supply study.

Here is the web link through which you can send your information, and I will repeat it towards the end of this posting, too.

The consultants' work will help determine the winners and loser, the haves and have-nots, in the growth and economic development game in the greater Milwaukee, seven-county area.

The work is being performed at the UWM Center for Economic Development, hired by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) after pressure from a citizen arm of SEWRPC known as the Environmental Justice Task Force.

In other words, pressure from the public and social justice advocates forced SEWRPC, at the 11th hour, to broaden the scope of its water supply study - - after more than five years of water study and planning that ignored the relationship between regional planning and social justice, and particularly the relationship among water, growth and the region's lower-income and minority residents.

What the consultants are doing, in an admittedly short time frame, is to look at SEWRPC's water supply study recommendations that are in draft form - - and which include support for a Lake Michigan diversion to the City of Waukesha - - to determine whether there are socio-economic consequences to the region's status quo and future.

And, if so, what to do about it.

The SEWRPC region is characterized by growth away from Milwaukee, which has been prevented by state law from annexing land since the mid-50's, and which now has the majority of the region's low-income and minority residents.

Should water, with its development potential, be moved from Milwaukee to Waukesha - - which is looking to add 80% to its water service delivery territory - - without regard for the bigger-picture consequences?

Just yesterday, the general manager of the Waukesha Water Utility said that its draft application for a Lake Michigan diversion includes an unspecified sum of money earmarked to compensate the City of Milwaukee - - the presumed water supplier - - should the diversion lead to a loss of jobs and industry following the water from Milwaukee.

So these are hardly moot or irrelevant issues.

Some context, here.

If you have an opinion on these issues, or have studies or materials you want to put into the consultants' hands, you've got until tomorrow to do it.

Here is the website through which you can send your information.

Gretchen Schuldt: Road Maintenance Woefully Underfunded

She's got the data.

Politicians love building new roads but hate keeping them repaired.

Can Waukesha Legally Flush Some Lake Michigan Water Away From The Lake?

Sean Ryan of The Daily Reporter writes that Waukesha believes it can guarantee to Wauwatosa - - the planned discharge point for Waukesha wastewater if Waukesha receives Lake Michigan water - - that the discharge will not foul Underwood Creek or lead to flooding. - - issues that Wauwatosa and downstream neighborhoods in Milwaukee have faced.

If not, Wauwatosa could deny Waukesha discharge permission and Waukesha would have to come up with a far more expensive discharge plan, or drop the Lake Michigan water supply option in favor of costly work with new and existing wells..

But the general manager of the Waukesha Water Utility tells Wauwatosa in the story that one way it will prevent flooding will be discharging the wastewater on certain flood-prone days to the Fox River instead of into Underwood Creek.

But that may put Waukesha at odds with a basic tenet of the Great Lakes Compact, the document that governs diversions and return flow arrangements: that all water taken from the basin, minus a fair allowance for water consumed, must be returned to the source water.

The Fox River, into which Waukesha now discharges treated wastewater from its wells, flows away from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River system and eventually to the Gulf of Mexico.

Waukesha has stated it will comply with the Compact return flow requirement because any water lost will be made up by groundwater that leaks into underground piping and thus will find its way into the discharge outflow, hence to the lake.

Will the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and regulators in the other seven Great Lakes states buy that scheme?

All must approve the plan.

The discharge plan and its attendant costs have always been a potential stumbling block for Waukesha because of its distance from Lake Michigan, and the Compact, takes note of the potential problem by mandating the return.

And also mandating water conservation, and use of diversions only as last resorts.

Time will tell.

I have my doubts.

Why Howard Kurtz Is A Must-Read

Deep into a fascinating column about internal divisions at Fox over Glenn Beck, Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz offers this succinct summation of what's happening with media - - old and new:

"Eighty percent of the [Internet] traffic for news and information is vacuumed up by the top 7 percent of such sites, says an annual survey by the Project for Excellence in Journalism. These, according to Nielsen figures, are led by aggregator sites: Yahoo (No. 1, with 40.8 million unique monthly visitors), AOL (No. 3) and Google News (No. 6). The television news sites are also strong: MSNBC (2), CNN (4), Fox News (7) and ABC News (8). And three newspapers make the list: the New York Times (5), Washington Post (9) and USA Today (10, with 9.3 million unique visitors).

But all Web destinations are not created equal. Consumers spend more than twice as much time on cable TV sites (23 1/2 minutes a month) as on newspaper sites (10 minutes a month). Online-only sites fared only slightly better (12 1/2 minutes a month). Two political sites stand out: the right-leaning Drudge Report (nearly an hour each month) and the liberal Daily Kos (48 minutes).

Drawing eyeballs online is only part of the battle. The report says that 79 percent of Web consumers have rarely if ever clicked on an online ad -- one reason that Internet revenue badly trails that of print publications. Even among the most loyal news consumers, only 19 percent said they are willing to pay for news online.

Still, the old and new remain connected. In examining more than 1 million blogs and social networking sites, the project found that 80 percent of the links are to the "legacy media" -- the traditional organizations that are largely shrinking."

Illegal Trucks Damaged Zoo Bridge

So reports the Journal Sentinel.

I don't believe Tom Barrett was driving any of them.

An expert tells me that a truck weighing the legal limit does the damage to the roadway equal to 800 cars, so imagine the excess wear and tear from 48,000 illegal trucks.

Monday, March 29, 2010

In Diversion Estimate, Waukesha Includes Unspecified Side Payment To Milwaukee

Don Behm of the Journal Sentinel has Waukesha Water Utility manager Daniel Duchniak disclosing that provision for a payment of an unspecified sum to Milwaukee towards economic losses that could result from a Lake Michigan diversion is included in Waukesha's cost estimate of $164 million to divert the water, via the Milwaukee Water Works, and then return it to the lake.

Here is the key quote:

"The $164 million price does include funds for compensating Milwaukee for possible losses of employers and jobs to Waukesha, according to Duchniak. He declined to comment on the amount of such a payment because that would be settled in negotiations."

That kind of separate contract arrangement - - which begins to address requirements of a buyer like Waukesha laid down by the Milwaukee Common Council - - is among the diversion plan's more controversial aspects and has become an issue in next week's Mayoral campaign.

I don't think I had seen it published earlier that a payment of some sort is included in the overall cost estimate for a diversion with Milwaukee as the supplier of water.

What is important is that it gets on the record that Waukesha knows enough about the inevitability of losses to Milwaukee that they are setting aside funding as compensation.

Whether that is the best way to structure a side deal, I cannot say at this point.

A few years ago, Waukesha paid a lawyer for her recommendation that sharing development gains - - tax-base sharing - - was the best idea to facilitate water sales. Waukesha disowned the suggestion, however. History here.

I have argued that a diversion could sap resources from Milwaukee and contribute to the disproportionate poverty in the region's largest city.

And the UWM consultants who are still probing for relationships between the region's water planning and its socio-economic needs could ask Duchniak for more information about the calculation, his reasoning, etc.

Waukesha's Mayoral Candidates, On Water

I am reposting the answers from the two Waukesha Mayoral candidates published by

Also a piece about same from the Journal Sentinel.

GOP Gone Wild

Yeah, they're the party of fiscal responsibility.

Top two graphs from The Washington Post disclosure story, above:

The Republican National Committee spent tens of thousands of dollars last month on luxury jets, posh hotels and other high-flying expenses, according to new Federal Election Commission filings, including nearly $2,000 for "meals" at Voyeur West Hollywood, a lesbian-themed nightclub that features topless dancers in bondage outfits.

The RNC spent more than $17,000 on private jet travel in Febuary as well as nearly $13,000 for limousines, according to the documents. The GOP's main political committee also ran up tabs at numerous posh hotels, including the Beverly Hills Hotel ($9,000); the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons ($6,600) and the W Hotel in Washington ($15,000), and spent more than $43,000 on its controversial midwinter meeting in Hawaii, not including airfare.

Tidbits From Today's M-7 Water Council Confab

The seven-county regional public-private coalition known as M-7 and its Water Council put on a program this morning at UW-Parkside on how best to use water and Lake Michigan to maximize the region's growth, job retention and overall competitiveness.

The program was at the request of the Sustainable Water Supply Coalition, a business group dedicated to regional economic development that also supports the Lake Michigan diversion plan being put forward by the City of Waukesha.

From my perspective, this was the meeting highlight:

"We believe that growth should pay for growth."

The speaker: William Mielke, the region's leading land use and water management specialist.

Mielke was referring to $3,000+ per-new-house impact fees; his firm also wrote a regional cost-sharing plan for several Racine County communities' water treatment needs - - a plan that has been mentioned as a model for the way Milwaukee and Waukesha could compute and share development growth if Milwaukee were to sell diverted Lake Michigan water to Waukesha.

Remember that Waukesha plans, if it receives permission for the diversion, to expand its water delivery service territory by 80% to its south and west. Here is a map.

Mielke's firm, Ruekert & Mielke, served as lead consultant to the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission's five-year-long and not-yet-completed water supply study - - which has preliminarily recommended sending Lake Michigan water to Waukesha and several other communities.

His firm also co-authored Waukesha's 2002 long-range comprehensive water supply plan - - with a recommendation for a Lake Michigan diversion - - and also wrote New Berlin's diversion application, too.

Milwaukee officials should dust-off the Racine water treatment cost-sharing plan to familiarize themselves with the model.

Bad News Bores

Caught a few snippets this morning on Milwaukee's AM righty talk radio shows, and as they went to town ripping Tom Barrett over the Zoo Interchange bridge repair - - as if he controlled this out-of-Milwaukee project - - it came to me:

The Right loves bad news.

High unemployment? Great! It'll weaken Pres. Obama, and lead to the failure wished upon him, and the nation, by Rush Limbaugh.

Blizzards that tied up entire cities this winter? Great! In their anti-science, ahistorical world, a surplus of winter snow must mean there is no such thing as global warming - - when the issue is climate change, and that includes more intense storms in all seasons.

Now it's traffic congestion in Southeastern Wisconsin.

Do the talkers really care about it? No - - they love it, because it allows them to demagogue for Scott Walker, and no one is loving motorists' unhappiness right now more than Walker.

Compassionate conservatives?

Hah. If misery loves company, these guys will be your pals for life.

Great Lakes Expert Focusing On Waukesha Diversion "Entitlement"

Dave Dempsey, author, activist, and former environmental adviser to the Governor of Michigan, takes aim at Waukesha's plan to divert Lake Michigan water, and notes the activity of a new southeastern Wisconsin business group - - the Sustainable Water Supply Coalition - - that is eyeing the diversion as a regional economic boon.

That's not the purpose of the Compact, says Dempsey.

Here is the SWSC's website - - I had taken note of its formation earlier.

Note that the incumbent Waukesha Mayor, in the answer to a campaign question about water and development, endorses the SWSC's aims

More on this later.

Movement On Compromise Energy Bill

Trading cap-and-trade for a workable bill.

So far, so good.

For Wauwatosa, A Checklist Should Waukesha Wastewater Come Its Way

As has been noted on this blog more than once (samples here, or here), the City of Waukesha is planning on sending, on average, about 11 million gallons of treated wastewater into Underwood Creek in Wauwatosa, in order to get its wastewater to Lake Michigan.

For Waukesha, it is said to be the cheapest path to complying with the Great Lakes Compact, an eight-state, US-Canadian agreement that requires any water diverted out of the Great Lakes basin be returned to the source.

Waukesha says piping its wastewater into the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage Commission system is too costly: another possible route back to Lake Michigan down the Root River through Racine hasn't been as high on Waukesha's list either since State Rep. Cory Mason, (D-Racine), said that city was going to become Waukesha's toilet.

Here is a link to the original quote; it now graces this blog's home page near its signature Great Lakes photo on the upper left margin - - a simple synthesis of some environmental and political issues afloat in regional water issues.

Waukesha currently sends its treated well wastewater down the Fox River.

Waukesha is preparing the first out-of-basin diversion application under the rules of the Compact, with its Common Council poised to affix its approval to the document on April 8th after years of study and perhaps a million dollars in consultant and related fees to prepare it.

The non-profit law firm Midwest Environmental Advocates has prepared formal comments on the application that includes the Wauwatosa discharge plan. It is well worth a read in its entirety, here, and I will reproduce some key elements at the end of this posting

MEA is highlighting Wauwatosa's significant political, financial and environmental stake in the application's review - - a process that will be led by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Eventually, all eight Great Lakes states have to approve the plan - - a process that could easily take more than a year or more.

I attended an informational meeting last week in Wauwatosa about the application; residents there are beginning to understand the import of the Waukesha plan, and I am sure that the comments by the MEA attorneys will help frame the discussion both in Wauwatosa, and by the DNR.

Here is the heart of MEA's comments on the application, with attention to Wauwatosa's situation:

...we believe it is in Wauwatosa’s interest, as an initial matter, to point out gaps and deficiencies in Waukesha’s draft application, and to require Waukesha to address them before entering into substantive negotiations over the terms of a proposed return flow to Underwood Creek.

With that in mind, we will itemize a number of issues and questions which Waukesha’s draft application raises, which have been repeatedly brought to Waukesha’s attention:

- Unavoidable Need: The Compact is clear that the need for any proposed diversion cannot be reasonably avoided through efficient use and conservation of existing water supplies. Waukesha’s draft is puzzling because of the complete abandonment of the city’s current water supplies.

- Alternative Sources of Supply: It is not at all clear that Waukesha’s application has considered all reasonable alternative water supply sources, and has evaluated how much of the requested diversion could be supplied by a combination of other sources.

- Reasonable Use: The Compact is clear that diversions are limited to quantities reasonable for the purposes for which the diversion is proposed. The use of water for growth certainly raises the stakes. According to Waukesha, its population is projected to increase by about 25-30% while average annual demand increases by 58% and peak daily demand for water increases by 87%. The real question is about using Great Lakes water for future growth and development more than to sustain the life and vitality and economy of the community which exists in Waukesha today. Those who will decide on behalf of the other States and Provinces whether Waukesha’s request meets the Compact’s requirements will want to know how much of the desired water is needed to sustain the people and businesses which are already in Waukesha, and how much is wanted for expansion. A thorough and complete application would answer those questions and explain or justify the volumes requested.

- Return Flow: The Compact calls for all used water to be returned back to the Great Lakes Basin, less an allowance for consumptive use, at a place as close to the place at which the water is withdrawn. Waukesha has proposed to return its treated wastewater to Lake Michigan via Underwood Creek and the Menomonee River. The cumulative impacts of this discharge are unknown and raise many concerns and potential problems:

Flooding: The City of Wauwatosa and MMSD have together spent approximately $150 million on flood management efforts in Wauwatosa and the downstream areas of the City of Milwaukee. What will be the impact of adding Waukesha’s wastewater flows during high flow periods?

Water Quality: Throughout most of the year, Waukesha’s treated wastewater contains concentrations of bacteria which are more than 9 times higher than the maximum discharge limits set by MMSD for its contractors (900 cfu/100 ml vs. 100 cfu/100 ml), and 20 to 30 times higher than the actual monthly effluent concentrations achieved by MMSD and its contractors, historically. What would be the impacts of sending such poorly treated wastewater through Wauwatosa?

What will be the impact of discharging Waukesha’s phosphorus and orthophosphate, which exceed new expected phosphorus limits for state rivers and streams.? There is already excessive algal growth in Underwood Creek and the Menomonee River.

Monitoring: What monitoring will be conducted of the impacts of water quality and quantity if Waukesha’s wastewater is discharged through the City of Wauwatosa? Who will conduct the monitoring? Who will pay for it?

Location: The source of the water is Lake Michigan, not Underwood Creek -- and apart from the extra cost of piping the wastewater all the way back to the Lake, there is no apparent explanation or justification for returning it in this manner. The Compact does not say that any community is entitled to obtain water from the Great Lakes just because other sources of supply are more costly. Similarly, it doesn’t say that it is acceptable to return the water by whatever means is cheapest.

- No significant adverse impact: Under the Compact, diversions will result in no significant adverse individual or cumulative impacts. Again, the current draft portrays an unclear picture on the impacts to the exhausted or over-stressed Southeast Wisconsin aquifers and throughout the Great Lakes basin.

- Environmentally sound and economically feasible water conservation: Looking at the draft application, it is not clear that the benefits of Waukesha’s ongoing water conservation programs have been factored into its projected future demands, and thus into its request for Lake Michigan water. This is important for this precedent-setting application as the diversion request must reflect the successful and sustained implementation of reasonable conservation measures. The increased size of the requested diversion, the historical loss of industrial water users which constituted the largest component of the City’s usage, and the lack of specifics regarding further plans, commitments and methods of enforcing additional sound and economically feasible conservation activities all raise serious questions about the application, which need to be answered.

- Compliance with all applicable laws: In addition to requiring compliance with its own specific requirements, the Compact requires that any diversion also comply with all applicable federal, state and local laws. Among the many other applicable laws that need be addressed, and which have not been so far, is the Federal Clean Water Act. It appears that the proposed return flow will be a new discharge to Underwood Creek, which is already impaired for bacteria. As a result, it seems that returning the water in this manner would be problematic, at best, under recent Clean Water Act decisions. This isn’t addressed at all in the draft application.

Among the other applicable laws, particularly if federal funding is obtained -- which it is, of course reasonable and understandable for Waukesha to seek – are EPA policies regarding environmental justice and Title VI of the Federal Civil Rights Act, which prohibit federally funded programs and activities which have discriminatory adverse impacts on racial minorities or the handicapped. To the extent that Waukesha’s diversion application is designed to serve future growth in population and in commercial and industrial development, which will be located at considerable distances from the low-income and underemployed minority populations in Milwaukee and Racine Counties, impacts on access to jobs, access to affordable housing, and access to public transportation for job commuting become very relevant issues for purposes of the Civil Rights Act.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Wisconsin Highway Bypass Mania: This Time, Hortonville, Pop. 2,700?

More evidence of Wisconsin's penchant to over-build and waste money on road projects: Believe it or not, there is still a push to build a bypass around little Hortonville, with a population of about 2,700.

[Another great job by Sean Ryan of The Daily Reporter, by the way.]

Though we can say that Hortonville, the picturesque Fox Valley community, is twice as big as Pound, WI - - population 1,367 - - which is getting its bypass, too.

That Highway 41 project is former Assembly Speaker John Gard's legacy.

But this bypass binge is really a prescription for wrecking small town main streets.

Everyone gets a taxpayer-paid bypass these days: Mineral fact, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation said in a study about a decade ago that by 2010, the number of bypassed communities in Wisconsin would more than double from 17 in 1980 t0 37.

And though the study played up the economic benefits to bypassing, it also said that the risk of the opposite - - economic harm - - was strongest in the smaller communities bypassed, with traffic counts on the original, bypassed routes down by as much as 72%.

Think about it, Hortonville.

Marie Rohde Freelances To Chicago Tribune On Priest Abuse Scandal

Marie Rohde, the former Milwaukee Journal and Journal Sentinel in-house expert on the Milwaukee archdiocese, has a piece in the Chicago Tribune, here.

Racine Hosts Noted Anti-Train Obsessive

From a Racine meeting on transit with Randal O'Toole, the notorious transit opponent, Bill Sell has posted a report.

O'Toole's irrelevance has been noted elsewhere.

Racine Business Community Campaigns For Commuter Rail

No fear of talk radio.

And despite the railophobes.

From TransitNow, here is what the line would serve:

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Death Of A Gentle, Fine Man

I am saddened by the news that Kaz Oshiki has died.

Kaz was a wonderful, decent man, a true public servant, and a survivor of both an internment camp and World War II.

A fighter for social justice.

A patriot.

He was former US Rep. Bob Kastenmeier's long-time Administrative Assistant in the Capitol Hill office. Anyone who had contact with Bob knew Kaz.

I was one of the lucky ones, because Kaz would sometimes stop into former Madison Mayor Paul Soglin's office, where I worked in the mid-to-late '70's.

Kaz's visits were a delight - - seminars in government and governing, gossip and the news.

He was generously patient with us 20-somethings trying to manage the big city in the District.

Kaz was principled, energetic, down-to-earth and wise.

I'm so sorry to read that he died, but glad he lived a long and exemplary life.

Media Catch-Up: The Health Care Mandate Is a GOP/Tommy Thompson Idea

Count Tommy Thompson as an early supporter of the individual health insurance mandate - - now the scourge of tea partiers and Congressional Republicans.

Earth Hour - - Lights Off Tonight

Earth Day for Earth Hour
Earth Day is a month away, but another opportunity to join thefight climate change is just around the corner.On Saturday, March 27 at 8:30 PM, millions of people across the globe will take a stand against climate change by turning off their lights for one hour - Earth Hour. Earth hour is a chance to drive the environmental movement forward with one simple action. More than that, your participation will have impact outside of the usual suspects - you will raise climate awareness amongst your friends, family, and neighbors.
Earth Day Network is proud to be an official supporter of Earth Hour. We know that when millions of dedicated people gather to demand change, it works. Be the difference between the status quo and the substantive change needed for a more sustainable future: join us by taking action during Earth Hour.
Easy participation, here.
The State Capitol is going dark, too.

This Saturday, let's demonstrate our resolve and take Earth Hour to the next level. Visit to find out how you can play your part.

We can't wait to see the difference you make!

Thank you for everything you do,

The Team,
Earth Day Network

P.S. Don't forget - Turn off your non-essential lights at 8:30 PM this Saturday for Earth Hour.

Law Enforcement Failed Sexual Abuse Victims

These lines jump off the page in Saturday's piece in the New York Times about church sexual assault victims in Milwaukee being disregarded at every turn:

"They also went to the office of E. Michael McCann, the district attorney of Milwaukee County, and spoke with his assistant, William Gardner.

“A criminal priest was an oxymoron to them,” Mr. [John] Conway said. “They said they’ll refer it to the archdiocese.”

Calls to Mr. McCann and Mr. Gardner this week were not returned."

Standing Up For Social Justice

And taking on Glenn Beck, too.

Social Justice is nothing to run from, or apologize for.

Kenosha Blogger On The Bottled Water Issue

Nicely done posting from a blogger I had not seen.

It Costs More To Live In The Suburbs, Data Show

Check out this tool, with the Milwaukee-Waukesha area as the example.

Interesting offering from the Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology, and partners.

Here is the entire website.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Amidst His Foaming, A Worthwhile Belling Nugget

Mark Belling was in uber-rant this afternoon over the news that a bridge in the Zoo Interchange has been closed and two months of fresh congestion will further goof up the busiest interchange in the state.

Among his off-the-wall zingers:

People who live in Story Hill and object to an additional I-94 lane past their neighborhood are "crybabies;" people who live near the interchange and would lose their homes in the projected rebuilding live in "shacks;" complaints about the disruption to cemeteries in the reconstruction zone are "a crock;" and my favorite - - officials at the M7 and the MMAC who "enable" the opponents are "lefties."

Poor Tim Sheehy and his CEO constituents.

And Belling mocked those concerned about cemeteries having to move the graves of their loved ones - - including those buried on the grounds of the Veterans Administration cemetery.

And does Belling know or care that the earth in the Jewish cemeteries in the way of expanded freeway lanes is considered sacred?

But in the midst of Belling's superficiality, and the verbal and political flailing this afternoon, was one true fact:

The Zoo Interchange reconstruction scheduling (the redesign is still not a settled matter) should not have been postponed in favor of the I-94 north/south leg between Milwaukee and the Illinois state line.

That project was jump-started with stimulus funding last year.

The $1.9 billion leg was moved ahead of the Zoo Interchange project purely due to politics: the Democrats representing Racine and Kenosha Counties were united on the construction, so that project was moved forward in the timetables.

Furthermore, the traffic counts on I-94 north/south did not justify the expenditures, including one new lane in each direction, but politics, not transportation sanity, was ruling the decision-making.

Tommy Fiddles, Todd Tweets; A Tea Bag Surprise

Tommy likes guvmint health care. Oh, my.

Nice work by Cory Liebmann.

Yeah, I Know...They're Only Plants And Animals

But check out what we have in store for them.

Drivers On The Information Super-Highway Will Not Pay Tolls

I predict failure for the upcoming effort in England for leading newspapers there to charge for Internet access.

Documenting Our Region's Sprawl

Affordable housing advocates in Waukesha County have a blog and have posted links to a housing study underway by a committee set up, after more than 35 years of planning inaction, by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.

Data show that population densities have decreased in the region over the decades, and as the fair housing folks conclude, this means that people are living further from work and other activities, thus .

Again, it means that jobs are more inaccessible for people without cars in the region because of inadequate public transit, so the economic segregation plaguing the region, with poor people concentrated in Milwaukee, is bound to continue.

And let's not overlook the role SEWRPC has played in this dynamic, as it produced, and advocated for, a $6.5 billion regional freeway plan that includes 127 miles of new freeway lanes.

And more discreet highway plans, such as the SEWRPC endorsement of an interchange in Western Waukesha County to serve the faltering exurban Pabst Farms development and a shopping mall there that is years delayed and may never happen.

Yes, the region has sprawled out, but let's not pretend that it's all due to the unseen hand of the market and purely individual choices.

Government at many levels has encouraged the trend, with actions that include:

The creation of the interstate system and massive, related arterial and street construction.

Home mortgage and property tax deductions. on income tax returns.

Use of Industrial Revenue Bonding, tax incremental financing or office parks that use public subsidies to induce, create and move hospitals, schools (UW-M's engineering school and innovation center to the County Grounds, close to the hospital complex that used to be in central Milwaukee, for example) other businesses and jobs away from the cities.

Land-locking Milwaukee by special legislation in the mid-50's, barring further annexation and helping suburban economies grow.

Continuing suburban resistance to transit (Waukesha County killing light rail and choosing not to join a regional transit authority), and severing a bus link that got workers in Milwaukee to some suburban jobs.

Local ordinances mandating large lots or home square footage, or barring multi-family housing within their jurisdictions.

Will Lake Michigan water transfers be the next government action to guarantee more regional sprawl?

In southeastern Wisconsin, government plays a major role in pushing the economy and population farther from Milwaukee.

The cycle continues.

Splitting The New Freshwater School Would Be A Mistake

There's no good reason for UWM to split its School of Freshwater Science, as outlined in this piece.

As with the proposed engineering complex perhaps slated for the County Grounds, UWM is too much catering to the public relations agendas of portions of the private sector, and too little to student needs.

A Repentant Protester Does The Right Thing; GOP Leaders Should Follow Him

One protester makes an apology and a gesture of reconciliation for his unacceptable conduct.

John Boehner and others who whipped protesters into a frenzy should take note.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Little Room At American Enterprise Institute For Enterprise

One GOP critic of the GOP loses his job.

Highway 164 Ruling Gains Clarity, Permanence

US District Court Judge Lynn Adelman's ruling last year against expansion of Highway 164 (J) in Waukesha and Washington Counties is in its final procedural stages, with citizen activists again coming out as winners, explains the Milwaukee Business Journal.

I had posted the original ruling - - here - - but was unable last fall to devote enough coverage of the historic ruling on this blog.

I'll correct that soon.

Auto Insurance Is Mandatory, Too

The last time I checked, 49 states, with Wisconsin finally getting on board this year, mandate that drivers buy automobile insurance, and driving without it is illegal.

That's to spread out the risk - - which is exactly the same principle underlying universal health care coverage and mandated policies (or the penalty fee assessed to those who dod not buy in).

What's the difference? I don't hear the far-right and Tea Partiers demanding the right to drive uninsured.


Because their policies may have coverage limits or exclusions, and they certainly don't want to be hit by an uninsured driver.

And don't want their own health care premiums and costs run up by people who run to the emergency room and obtain care without coverage.

This way, people either make a contribution into the health care system or obtain insurance.

Major Groundwater Measure Coming Up For Assembly Hearing 3/31

Wisconsin groundwater needs far-reaching conservation, and the legislative process to do just that takes a major step forward on March 31. Here is information from one of the key advocates - - the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters:

We'll never run out of water in Wisconsin, right? Well, think again.

Some of our rivers and lakes, like the Little Plover River, Long Lake, and others are running dry.

Where did all the water go?

It's drying up because our groundwater is being over-pumped.

From the drinking water that comes out of our taps, to the fishing and swimming holes where we like to relax, to the beer we brew and the cheese and paper we make, we depend heavily on groundwater in Wisconsin.

You can help.

Support Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters and our fight to pass the Groundwater Protection Bill before our groundwater dries up!

The problem is - we're not just running out of groundwater.

We're running out of time.

Where did all the water go?

Where did all the water go?
(Photo courtesy of River Alliance of Wisconsin)

The Assembly Hearing is on March 31st - and we need to get a vote and a win on this important bill - before the legislative wells run dry. We also need resources - to activate our membership to send letters to the editor, make calls to their legislators - and hold them accountable!

Donate to Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters TODAY.

Waukesha School District Has $2.5 Million Seized To Pay Failed Investment IOU

The Waukesha School District was the biggest loser in a banking action taken against five Wisconsin school boards whose wild west financial investment schemes went south.

Details here.

And some larger context here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Catholic Church Abuse Scandal, Edging Closer To Pope, Has Wisconsin Connections

Involved is the St. John's School for the Deaf, in St. Francis, as well as several notable Wisconsin church officials, and now a local victims' advocacy group that released the documents with the disclosure.

The New York Times explains.

Spin On UWM County Grounds Plan Is Dizzying

UWM oversells its unfunded and land-gobbling County Grounds construction proposal as the greatest regional development idea going (I thought that was Lake Michigan water to Waukesha!) - - thus making land conservationists and environmentalists into regional meanies, or worse.

The backers of this plan will need more than hype and PR to make it authentic and attractive and good for the County Grounds, too.

UWM is behaving like a cereal maker rolling out its new Sugar Cube Nuggets as a healthy breakfast and intimating that critics who dampen the enthusiasm might end up hurting production workers and ad staffers.

Finish The Work On Energy Bill

Pressure building to get the energy jobs & climate bill through the Senate. The House did its part.

Details from Repower America, here.

Talgo Train Plant Set For Milwaukee: Facts And Myths

Tom Daykin has the facts and even dives into the comment section to undo some of the myths.

This is a great day for Milwaukee and its workforce.

When the wind turbine plant is up and running in the Valley, Milwaukee can begin to make a claim as a green-jobs, alternative-energy hub.

Many recent Milwaukee initiatives were catalogued here.

Waukesha County Opts Out Of Regional Transit; Milwaukee Should Do The Same With Water

Well, it's official; The Waukesha County Board of Supervisors has decided - - unanimously - - to decline joining a regional transit authority.

This is not the first time that Waukesha County has blocked transit links with Milwaukee: it was the Waukesha County Board that voted down a regional transportation recommendation that included major highway improvements and light rail connections with Milwaukee.

And in late 2007, Waukesha County chose not to continue fundiung a direct bus line connecting the two counties - - Route #9.

Waukesha County prefers to keep job opportunities more accessible to residents there than share them with out-of-county people - - and particularly with Milwaukee, where more than 30% of the residents do not have access to cars.

This is especially true in Milwaukee's central city, which is heavily African-American.

Whether intentional or not, Waukesha County's transit disconnects fall heavily on the largest concentration of minorities in Southeastern Wisconsin, and are fundamentally discriminatory.

This may legally fall into home rule powers. I'm not a lawyer and don't know whether, on its face, the County Board has violated US Civil Rights statutes.

But my attitude is: if Waukesha County will not share transit resources, and will not establish those crucial connections, then Milwaukee should not sell water to the City of Waukesha - - Waukesha County's largest city, with a water service territory set to sprawl to the south and west into the Town of Waukesha, Genesee and elsewhere.

Waukesha County wants to go it alone on transit, and withhold the workforce opportunities that transit brings to the region.

Milwaukee can and should do the same with Lake Michigan water and its city Water Works, and let the City of Waukesha and other water-hungry sprawl centers in Waukesha County continue to tap and clean their deep and shallow aquifers, and rivers, for the water they need.

Waukesha County has taken off the gloves.

Supervisors representing the City of Waukesha were in the exclusionist and isolationist bloc, so the power politics have begun, and Milwaukee can't allow itself to be the patsy.

End of story.

The Palin Ego Express

And I don't mean her reality TV show.

In The Senate, More "No" For The GOP, Country

The Republican Party will continue its negative strategy, if you can call it one, in a futile attempt to derail health care legislation in Senate, reports the Washington Post.

This one-note, isolationist approach won't resonate much farther than the GOP's already-stoked base - - about 40% of the electorate, maybe.

They say they intend to carry this plan right through the election, hoping for Tea Partiers' votes, which means they will have lug along all those goofballs' excesses - - the racial and homophobic taunts, the crazed talk radio foaming and I'm guessing that will drive the middle back towards the Democrats.

Because they Democrats can say they are solving problems and governing while the Republicans and their shock troops are busy acting out.

MATC Green Summit Begins Wednesday Morning

The occasion is at hand! the great 2010 Green Energy Summit starts Wednesday and runs through Friday at the Midwest Airlines Center. 8 A.M. to 5:30 P.M. every day.

Don't miss this rare and extraordinary opportunity!

  • Faculty and staff of educational institutions and employees of not-for-profit organizations are entitled to significant discounts!
  • MATC employees contact Shelly Conroy for a registration scholarship (297-7712 or
Nine plenary sessions spotlighting an amazing array of keynote speakers on everything to do with energy, the economy, the environment, education, and jobs! In short, the future! (Check out the attached program and flyers!)

Scores of wonderful exhibits by big and little corporations, big and little colleges and universities, non-profit organizations and governmental agencies. There will be a special cluster of Jobs Information booths! Free refreshments in the grand EXHIBITS HALL!

Topical sessions each afternoon on a diverse array of energy, business, education and sustainability subjects! If you plan to live and work on planet Earth in the future, there's a lot of importance and interest for you at the great 2010 GREEN ENERGY SUMMIT!

This is the green event of the year in southeast Wisconsin! Come, enjoy, network and learn!

It's win, win, win!


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Send Rush To Costa Rica

Funny website raising dollars to help Rush Limbaugh keep his word and move to Costa Rica if health care reform passed the Congress.

Health Care Reform Has Not Slowed The Dow Jones

One of the many, post-health care reform approval predictions on Fox that will be proven baseless.

Details here.

Right Wing Talk Radio Stirring The Pot, Again And Again

Yesterday's low-lights from the world of rightist hysteria on the radio:

Rush Limbaugh ranting that President Obama is divisive - - look who's talking - - and that voters need to "wipe out" the Democrats who supported the health care bill.

Another big-microphone talker in New York threw out this ignorant and contradictory - - but demagogic line about the health care bill - - "[It's] Communism, socialism, fascism, whatever you call it, that's not what this country was designed to be."

Details here.

Followed later by Michael Savage claiming that Obama is being allowed to seize power in ways never attempted by a Caucasian President - - along with a prediction that Obama will be President for 40 years once 32 million illegal aliens - - mostly "la Raza" - - get the vote, because a bill will be passed to eliminate what Savage called "term limits."

Aside from being ridiculous, Savage knows that passage of a mere bill will do nothing because the two-term Presidential term limit is in the US Constitution and would need a vote of three -quarters of the states for ratification.

The fear-mongering and race-baiting continues, though there are voices of reason elsewhere.

The Party Of "No" Says "Yes" To Financial Chaos

Apparently the COP, not satisfied with letting Wall Street cripple the economy in 2008, wants to let the financial barons run amok again.

Saying "no" to financial reform is bad for the country and even worse politics. So be it.

Water Wars In Waukesha

Internal, within the Town of Waukesha, with fingers pointed at the City, too.

And a new flank may be opened to the East, in 'Tosa.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Would Waukesha Want Wauwatosa To Dump Its Wastewater Into the Fox River?

Pretty good crowd Monday night at the Wauwatosa Public Library to see poster boards and hear details about Waukesha's plan to discharge its wastewater into Underwood Creek.

The discharge plan is a key component of Waukesha's Lake Michigan diversion scheme.

The Great Lakes Compact says the water has to be returned, and Waukesha has decided that piping it to Underwood Creek - - on average, 10.9 million gallons daily - - is less expensive that piping it all the way back to the Lake, or returning it in a pipe to the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage Commission.

Reviews and approvals for the many local and state and Great Lakes regional phases of the Waukesha diversion application process are years down the road, and it is too soon to say whether the return flow plan turning Underwood Creek into a wastewater tributary will pass muster at the DNR and in Wauwatosa.

I talked to a few Wauwatosa residents at the meeting, which was informational only and not a public hearing.

That will come later.

But it's fair to say they had major concerns about Underwood Creek being used as the discharge point for Waukesha's wastewater.

Turn the argument around:

Would Waukesha citizens have similar concerns if an out-of-county community, say, Wauwatosa, decided it was in its financial interest to dump all its wastewater into the Fox River as it ran through the heart of Waukesha?

I would think so. Correctly.

World Bank Ignores Water-Starved Countries

Not much progress closing the gap between the haves and have-nots.

Tommy Thompson Confused About His Work

How would he keep his Senatorial calendars straight?

Laugh Along With Cong. Randy ("Baby Killer") Neugebauer's Plea For Civil Communication

Why am I a Republican?

"Recently, a well known conservative pollster challenged a group of women to come up with a 7 second answer to the question, “Why I am a Republican?”.

Her challenge was to encourage conservatives to quit being attractive to an elite group of ourselves. We should be the party that has our arms open to those that are now disenfranchised with the Democratic party and with our President. In order to win back the majority we need to be on the offense.

As conservatives, we know that we have the right ideas, the right message, the right values. But, we have to have a way to communicate that effectively.

We can dominate the conversation with statistics and facts - but winning their vote isn’t attainable unless we are open to being personable.

Let’s return to our roots of being the party of the great communicator. Republicans had that idea long before Obama. So, why should we allow him to be the only one making friends?

The conservative movement is the place to be. We have great ideas and a passion to get America back on the right track and back in the majority.

So, why are you a Republican?

The next time you hear a liberal talking politics—join the conversation! Let them know why you are a conservative Republican and invite them to join you.

You may be surprised at the number of people who have traditionally voted Democrat, but are willing to hear what you have to say."

That was the end of his statement.

[Here is his admission, fyi: ]