Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Justice Task Force Should Weigh In On EPA Input Request; Will SEWRPC Permit It?

The US Environmental Protection Agency is looking for comment on a proposal that would require environmental justice considerations be included during agency rule-making.

Sounds like a good idea - - if you believe that environmental justice is an important standard for government to meet.

Wonder if the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, which has an Environmental Justice Task Force, and that coincidentally is meeting on September 2nd, will take a crack at weighing in?

SEWRPC's relationship with its task force has been rocky, as I have mentioned: Thursday's meeting - - 4 p.m. at IndependenceFirst, 540 S. First St., Milwaukee - - should have a lively discussion about how it was that the task force had not voted on accepting a consultant report about water sourcing and policy in the region - - but SEWRPC managers moved the report anyway for adoption at a water policy advisory committee last week.

Environmental justice, or environmental injustice?

Leading Climate Change Critic Now Raising The Alarm

Better late than never, but it is getting late.

Wauwatosa Is Not Warrens, WI - - But TIF's Do Come With Risk

A bad economy can sink a TIF and a municipality's fiscal stability, as The Daily Reporter tells us.

Wauwatosa is betting on the come with regard to the UWM/County Grounds TIF - - projected to need 27 years to pay off.

The Tea Pity Rally

Via Slate.

Glenn Beck's 'News' Site Launch Coincides With Weekend Religious Rebranding

The character that is Glenn Beck looks even more commercial as his 'news' website is launched just hours after his followers got home from the DC rally Saturday where Beck became an evangelist.

Before I became aware of his newest subsidiary I had written that he was using the rally to feed his ego and fatten his wallet, so I feel a bit vindicated.

Beck could not get more transparently self-serving and self-indulgent. It's all about exposure - - he's become Paris Hilton, or the guy who jumps out of the stands and runs across the baseball diamond - - and, of course, money.

The comparisons to Martin Luther King, Jr.. are looking pretty weak today.

Major Lenders Leery Of Deals That Harm The Environment

Fascinating story in today's NY Times about major lenders rethinking their role in tar sand extraction, mountain top coal removal and other environmentally-damaging businesses.

This tells me that the push for alternative energy, controls on greenhouse gases and other initiatives are effective.

On The Right (R), Anything Goes

An old friend of mine the other day summed up the zany contemporary political world we're burdened with by saying, "you can say anything you want these days."

It was a sign-of-the-times observation about the right's unrestrained rhetoric, whether on Fox News, talk radio or crazy Tea Party signs, like "Obama = Hitler."

Think about it.

You've got Glenn Beck suddenly morphed into a religious leader, trashing President Barack Obama's Christianity as a "perversion of the gospel."

Then there's that 19% of the general population thinking Obama is Muslim - - now where do you suppose they heard that?

Having Rush Limbaugh refer to Obama as "Imam Obama" certainly would point the ditto-heads in that direction.

Or how about the righty talker and enthusiastic Obama-basher Laura Ingraham, whose new anti-Obama book is based on an admittedly fake 'Obama diary' she wrote.

Free speech? Sure.

Literary license? I suppose.

Funny? Depends on your politics.

Just another way to feed a 24/7 media, and its viewers and listeners, with more grist for scary urban legends and political whoppers about Obama - - whom they keep portraying as The Other, an outsider, different, etc.?

Now you're talking.

Also stirring the pot is late-night AM radio 620 WTMJ talker Michael Savage, who routinely makes all sorts of wild allegations about Obama, such as a recent rant about Obama being President for 40 years after 32 million illegal immigrants ("aliens" or "la Raza" are Savage's terms) are somehow granted the right to vote.

You think only the national righty talkers say outrageous things?

Mark Belling, the 1130-AM WISN afternoon squawker and fill-in Limbaugh host, has said Obama was comfortable with the Iranian President because, like Chinese and Russian rulers, "he's got that same degree of tyrant in him."

And speaking of closer to home, this certainly is the year you can do or say anything in a political campaign if you're a Republican.

You've got a business rewriting its corporate history to better mesh with the candidate/owner's version (US Senate candidate Ron Johnson, (R), and another statewide office-seeker (Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker, (R) ) trying to trick viewers into thinking a TV ad is set in a Wisconsin tavern - - you know, a familiar local business, portraying local people and jobs, blah blah blah - - when it's somewhere on the East Coast.

And don't forget Mark Neumann, the other leading (R) in the gubernatorial primary, promising to move $810 million in federal railroad construction funds to tax cuts, when that cannot be done. Period.

Which he later amended to a new, goofy promise to return the money which is already almost 40% committed or spent.

Hey, it's 2010:

Be outrageous. Flip-flop. Make it up on the fly...you can do or say anything this year to get elected - - if you've got an (R) after your name - - and also if you're a paid righty talker who needs to boost ratings, sell products, and inflate an ego.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Candidate's Company Rewrites Its History To Fit Candidate's Rhetoric

I can't recall a precedent for this, a Dan Bice exclusive.

2010 Motorcycle Deaths In Wisconsin Ahead Of Last Year By 25%+

Again - - just passing on the facts from WisDOT:

As of Aug. 29 - - 76 motorcycle driver deaths this year; 60 through the same period in 2009.

As I noted earlier, this is not a good trend.

Harley-Davidson's Ad Agency Gives Up The Account

Business Journal scoop.

Team Barrett Finds Fakery In Walker Ad

Walker's PR team tries to phony up an East Coast bar into a Wisconsin scene.

And gets caught.

Amateurish, but indicative of the larger issue: Walker's ineptitude, whether at the top of the County government organizational chart or a gubernatorial campaign.

Religious Intolerance Has No Place In National Debate

So now rightist luminaries like Glenn Beck have moved away from their dishonest marginalization of Barack Obama as a foreign-born Muslim to re-marginalizing Obama as the wrong kind of Christian.

This is dangerous, genuine demagoguery.

Is this what the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was aiming for in his August 28th rally and speech?

Beck's American dream: a name-calling, divisive, theological battlefield.

We need mainstream religious leaders across the spectrum to condemn it.

I didn't like it when Mitt Romney's Mormonism was made an issue in the 2008 election primaries, and it also makes me uneasy when some candidates campaign on their faith, because somewhere in that is a message that one faith - - the candidate's - - is better than another.

Tell me about your tax plan, or foreign policy, or environmental program, but leave God out if your ads and brochures. Have some dignity.

I'm for the tolerance embedded in the 1st amendment as well as the healthy separation it establishes between worship and government action.

Dirty Air Alert, Again - - Monday Into Tuesday

Watch for Ozone, DNR says (And I add, again)

An Air Quality Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for air pollutants to reach the Orange level based on the Air Quality Index.

Start Time:4:00 PM CST Monday, August 30, 2010
End Time:11:00 PM CST Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Counties:Door, Kenosha, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, and Sheboygan

Northwest Side CDC Key Player In Business Launch

The Business Journal explains how several agencies, lenders and entrepreneurs partnered to move Nature Tech, an insulation manufacturer, from concept to launch in a lower-income Milwaukee neighborhood.

It means a closed printing business will reopen with a new purpose on a reclaimed brownfield site, employ local people, and do something unusual in America these days - - make products - - in this case, cellulose insulation.

Even better, the product is an energy saver that uses locally-generated components and proprietary processes, so the wins keep coming.

Job development in this economy, and in a disadvantaged neighborhood, demands patience and skill and creative partnerships.

Hat tips all around.

(My son Sam McGovern-Rowen is Business Development Director at the Northwest Side CDC.).

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Beck's Ratings Ploy Disgraces King's Work, Memory

Glenn Beck has described himself as a rodeo clown; as a full-bore conservative, conspiracy-addled radio and Fox News TV talker, he's graduated to a different arena - - the 24/7 electronic sprint for rating points and advertising revenue that led to his biggest, baddest, boldest and most grotesque bit of shameless self-promotion yet: Saturday's rally in Washington, DC and hijacking of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's memory and legacy.

It's between laughable and downright scary that angry, predominantly-white Tea Party supporters believe they have been victimized in the post-Obama America and are in in need of a civil rights movement with Beck - - part Oz and part Elmer Gantry - - at center stage.

King was appealing across party and racial lines to bring about justice at home and peace abroad.

Beck is mining discontent and stirring up anger, feeding his ego and fattening his wallet.

Once a clown, always a clown, and behind a costume, fake.

Air Pollution And Political Fallout

From picturesque Door County all the way south through Milwaukee to the Illinois line, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says harmful levels of ozone and fine particulate matter could be forming in the air all day Sunday.

Later Sunday, the DNR made the advisory official:

Advisory for Ozone (Orange)

Start Time:3:00 PM CST Sunday, August 29, 2010
End Time:11:00 PM CST Sunday, August 29, 2010
Counties:Door, Kenosha, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Sheboygan

We've had a spate of these warnings and alerts this year.

Passing the Governor's modest alternative energy and green jobs bill would have been a multi-faceted and direct approach to real energy-related problems in the state - - and which are disproportionately felt in industrialized, car-congested Southeastern Wisconsin - - but the State Senate, swayed by big business special interests, got cold feet and wouldn't even bring the bill to a vote earlier this year.

State Sen. Jeff Plane, (D-Milwaukee), was one of the bill's initial prime movers - - a bi-partisan, broadly-based task force had worked a long time on its consensus effort- - but Plale joined the crowd who walked away from the bill and thereby infuriated many constituents.

Unlike most incumbent Democrats, Plale has to contend with a primary opponent, County Supervisor Chris Larson, who got into the race in part because Plale abandoned the bill.

I wonder if Plale had second thoughts about his role in the bill's demise as he had to do doors and events in the hot unhealthy air this weekend.

Don't get me wrong: the air quality isn't his fault, but the primary campaigning he has to do this long hot summer that could cost him his seat is basically self-inflicted.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mental Health Issue Solved! Walker Campaigns, Tweets The L8tst

After Qwik CO Bz Stop, Scott Tweets To U 2 Keep U Updated Outstate 2 Day :

  1. Met a bunch of Lew Latto fans. @foDaveRoss, @Duffy4Congress & @daneforsenate were w/ us in Superior.#believeinwi
  2. Great stop in Superior! I've been up many times and I'll b back in town on the 11th
  3. Started am in Eau Claire. Now off 2 Superior. God has given us another beautiful day!

New Scott Walker Campaign Slogan In The Making

"What Have I Done For You Belatedly?"

Applies to mental health oversight, building inspections, parks maintenance, pension reforms...

Dirty Air Sunday Along Wisconsin Lakefront, DNR Warns

An Air Quality Watch For Ozone Has Been Issued By the Wisconsin DNR:

Start Time:11:00 AM CST Sunday, August 29, 2010
End Time:11:00 PM CST Sunday, August 29, 2010
Counties:Door, Kenosha, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Sheboygan

Beck Rally Attendees Jammed DC's Transit, Metrorail System

News reports say the anti-government protesters heading for Glenn Beck's rally in Washington, DC overwhelmed Metro rail stations.

I hope those showing up to rail against taxes and spending appreciated the taxpayer-subsidized, government-built, government-managed Metro rail lines that got them to and from the event.

Waukesha Application For Great Lakes Water Still In Limbo

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is still reviewing a July 27th submission from the City of Waukesha that added information to its application for a diversion of Great Lakes Compact, according to a website set up by the DNR to track the application and DNR actions related to it.

County Grounds Beauty Still Visible

Why UWM thinks this is the best place to pave and build on still baffles me.

The school and its private sector partners are acting like developers of a big box cluster.

Friday, August 27, 2010

How's Our County Exec Managing Things? Consulting Twitter...Oh...Never Mind

"Started out early in Antigo, Crandon, Laona and am now in Wabeno.

  1. Early meeting on ed reform. Now in courthouse 4 meeting on justice council grant.
  2. Spoke 2 health care leaders in Green Bay, visited w/ dairy farmers @Packers tailgate & campaigned w/ Mark Green.
  3. #BrownBag Lunch Tour @ Aerial Co in Marinette.

One Flood Victim's Thoughtful Analysis Of The Issues, And The Facts

An impressively objective review of the MMSD, from someone whose basement was flooded in the recent historic rainfall.

And a helluva takedown of any thought that Chicago is a model for Milwaukee or the MMSD to follow.

Gallardo Robbery Unleashes The Idiots

The comments almost immediately veer racist.

A pathetic commentary on our community.

Coal Ash Has Contaminated Wisconsin Drinking Water

The Sierra Club has documented which Wisconsin drinking water supplies have been contaminated by coal ash.

Regulators and power plants operators are at fault; citizens are at risk.

Talk Radio, GOP Candidates Have Not Completely Demonized Trains

Again we learn that not all Wisconsin communities consider high-speed rail the virus that must be killed, as Waterloo, Hartland, Wauwatosa and Sun Prairie are interested in having stations.

This news was out there about ten days ago, but broadening the coverage is essential if we are to get past the fact-free rhetoric from the right on what is a key jobs and growth opportunity for the state and especially SE Wisconsin.

Scott Walker Turning Into Ron "Do-Over" Johnson; And Neumann, Well...

It seems as if the leading Republican candidates for statewide office think their words have a shelf life measured in days, if not hours.

Republican Senate candidate Ron Johnson was for oil drilling in the Great Lakes before he was against it, for gun licensing before he opposed it, but against selling his BP stock - - before he said he would, then amended that to a maybe.

Fast forward to the Mark Neumann-Scott Walker debate earlier this week.

When it came to BadgerCare, a Tommy Thompson health care initiative, Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker condemned and mischaracterized it, though had voted for it when a legislator, then explained that yes, he had mischaracterized the program, but only because he had to give quick answers in the debate.

I'm surprised he didn't say he'd been out campaigning all day and was under the influence of sun spots.

After all, if sun spots cause climate change, as Johnson claimed, then surely they could cause campaign change, too.

And then there was Neumann, looking to score points using the high-speed train issue by saying the money should be moved from the rail project to tax cuts - - when it has been repeatedly pointed out that the train funding is in a budget just for rail projects, and though it could be move to another state's rail program (penalizing Wisconsin workers and manufacturers), it cannot by law be used to build roads, cut taxes, or buy everyone in Wisconsin a boat.

Do these candidates actually know anything, or believe in anything?

Do their campaign narratives come with an automatic rewind?

Do they believe that you can just get up and spout whatever comes to mind, with no one discovering the difference between truth and fiction?

Or do they think we're plain stupid?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Glenn Beck Rally On 8/28 Has Awesome Significance

And I don't mean the mere fact that the rally on Saturday, 8/28 is at the same spot and on the same day that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others held the most famous US Civil Rights rally 47 years ago.

No, no, no. That's a coincidence.

I'm talking significance.

I was fiddling around with my chalkboard, like I do when my Ouija Board is in the shop and my abacus lost some magic counting beans, and I saw that 8/28, added together, is 18...and you get the same total if you add 666.


8/28 = 666!!

Glenn Beck's rally is a Devil Worship event, which makes Beck...Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

The Garrison State Is Tough To Make Green

The military opposes some wind turbines...so its jet-fuel burning planes can train without purported radar interference.

Anybody see the paradox in that?

Whether Project Elf in Northern Wisconsin, or sonar harming whales, the message is clear: in a garrison state, the military shall take precedence!

Barrett Calls For Scott Walker To Take Responsibility

Good for Barrett. Time to scrub off Walker's teflon.

Some Republicans See Passenger Rail's Advantages

Glad they found a forum in Wisconsin, but will they find supporters in their party?

RePower America Offering Climate Change Facts, Sources

Click here for direct access to this information, and spread the word.

Derek Shearer Essay: Some Gloom, But Not Doom. Yet.

Derek Shearer, an old friend, has written a thoughtful, documented and moderately-scary essay about the state of politics and environment.

You compare his thinking and range of experience to the Tweeting mentality of Gubernatorial candidate (R) Scott Walker - - example: Stopped in Sheboygan @ McDonald's 4 a smoothie (I worked @ Delavan McDs as a kid.}
via TweetDeck" - - or the Facebook follies of presidential aspirant Sarah Palin, (her posting advice to N-word devotee Laura Schlesinger: "Reload"), and you see what we and out children and grand-children are up against.

We need big thinkers and fearless activists in Congress and in the streets, but we've got people in a tizzy over someone else's gay marriage or whether people can pray to Allah in a converted coat factory near Ground Zero - - and supposedly that passes for a political agenda.

Derek decides we are treading on very thin ice, so to speak - - a fair metaphor given the warming climate - - but he's hopeful.

I'm pretty much the same way.

Mainly because I've got two grown sons who are both walking the walk: Sam is doing business development at the Northwest Side CDC.

Matt is promoting clean energy and job development in South Dakota.

Neither of those environments are the easiest to negotiate, but I figure if there are enough Matt and Sams willing to go to work everyday with that much dedication, and if Derek Shearer and others pound away on the message and the methods, we can maneuver around the naysayers and the opportunists and the phonies.

Call For Tougher Procedures To Keep Great Lakes Safe From Oil Spills

Canadian media and others are calling for much tougher procedures to prevent oil spills from harming the Great Lakes.

The impetus was the pipeline rupture that polluted the Kalamazoo River.

What are Wisconsin officials doing about this threat?

SEWPRC Is No Stranger To Civil Rights Complaints

For the record, see this posting.

Again, And Again...Why Is Milwaukee Still Enmeshed With SEWRPC?

In June, 2008, I argued in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sunday op-ed that the City of Milwaukee - - through Milwaukee County - - was getting nothing out of a continuing relationship with SEWRPC, the unelected, unrepresentative pro-suburban regional planning commission that spends millions of public dollars annually but often gives Milwaukee and its minority citizens the back of its bureaucratic hand.

On Tuesday, SEWRPC provided another example of just how insidiously unproductive is that relationship for Milwaukee and for other disadvantaged groups and communities when it intentionally disregarded nearly a year's work by SEWRPC's Environmental Justice Task Force.

So I again ask Milwaukee County Supervisors, as they prepare the County's 2011 budget and its guaranteed $400,000+ taxpayer grant to SEWRPC - - and I also ask Milwaukee aldermen who two years ago directed its state legislative lobbyists to find a better planning structure that honored Milwaukee and an urban agenda: what are you doing to address this ongoing taxation without representation at SEWRPC and its open disregard for tens of thousands of Milwaukee city and county residents?

When will you say: Enough is enough?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mental Health Complex Exec Transferred: The Firestorm Will Continue

Scott Walker has botched a high-profite opportunity to act decisively; transferring a administrator from the house of horrors that is the County's mental health complex to another big-dollar responsible position isn't going to cut it.

Republicans And Tea-Partiers Share Conservative Primary Wins

As I see it, Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Tea.

SEWRPC Disrespects, Ignores Its Justice Task Force - - Independent Federal Investigation Is In Order

As I had been discussing for the past few days in multiple posts on this blog - - example here - - leaders at the Southeastern Wisconsin Planning Commission (SEWRPC) let its important water supply advisory committee approve Tuesday an incomplete report being prepared by the apparently less-important SEWPRC Environmental Justice Task Force.

Federal agencies recognize environmental justice as a legal operating requirement, and there needs to be an assessment of SEWRPC's dismissive and exclusionary approach to the justice task force that has harmed its ability to do its job.

And this is not the first time that SEWRPC seems tone-deaf to the civil rights implications of its actions, as documented in this posting, with links to two pending complaints.

The report that SEWRPC basically took away from the task force and turned over to the water committee was a consultant's study on the socio-economic impact of having Lake Michigan water diverted to Waukesha, and related water policies regionally.

Carrie Lewis, the manager of the Milwaukee Water Works, and the City of Milwaukee's lone representative on a 32-member water committee - - a hard-working committe, yes, but one set up by SEWRPC's executives as notoriously unrepresentative of the SEWRPC seven-county region population (one Hispanic representative - - since replaced by a Caucasian male - - no African-Americans, no Asians, only two women) - - cast the lone dissenting vote because the justice task force had not yet had its final discussion of the consultant's work and had not taken a vote on whether to endorse the consultant's work.

At one point, SEWRPC was considering allowing the justice task force to conduct its final work on the study by email, but the agency backed down after complaints from the American Civil Liberties Union, and others, about such a process being a violation of Wisconsin's Open Meeting law.

Instead, SEWRPC simply bypassed the justice task force in favor of what it knew would be quick approval action by its water supply advisory committee - - as if that would pass for a fair process or honor the reasons why the justice task force was created in the first place.

More about that in a minute.

But good for Ms. Lewis, and shame on the rest of the members for participating in a procedural charade that effectively marginalizes the justice task force, and keeps it in an agency structure where some committees and their work are more equal than others.

SEWRPC scheduled the next justice task force meeting for 9/2 - - knowing by that time that the water supply committee would have already voted to incorporate the consultant's work into the overall water study.

Because SEWRPC set up the two meetings and their agendas - - and their relative policy impacts - - that way.

SEWRPC says today that any comments the justice task force wishes to make at its post hoc, 9/2 meeting will be incorporated into the final water study - - completing what can only be politely called a you-know-what backwards process, and a shockingly disregard for basic public policy procedures even if issues of minority considerations were taken out of the equation.

But you have to understand the disrespect SEWRPC chose to display towards the volunteers who have sat through many meetings as justice task force members. They accepted an invitation from SEWRPC to do real and needed work and also to help the agency get past its reputation for insensitivity to low-income and minority communities, and to regional racial, environmental justice and equity considerations long-ignored by SEWRPC.

The justice task force was not established in 2007, after 47 years of the agency's existence because SEWRPC realized in a "Eureka" moment of of awareness and self-criticism that its hiring and committee appointment practices repeatedly left out minority representation and work plan focus.

No, it was set up to satisfy criticisms over the agency's insufficient relationships with minority residents and communities that were aired at SEWRPC's mandatory 2004 public federal certification review.

No re-certification, no power to manage certain federal transit and highway funds in the region.

So it set up the justice task force - - and took another two+ years to find members, and get an initial meeting established - - while the water committee, set up in 2005, was working full-steam ahead on a regional water study with barely a shred of minority participation - - but has given the task force a lesser status internally than its higher-profile advisory committees, and has never allowed the task force to even select its own chair.

The dismissive approach by SEWRPC towards a task force it has only grudgingly incorporated into its structure and processes - - the task force had to publicly fight former SEWRPC Executive Director Phil Evenson over getting independent socio-economic analyses included in all SEWRPC regional studies because SEWRPC had not don so on its own - - should most definitely be communicated to federal officials.

Lest SEWRPC be allowed to ignore environmental justice, and to forfeit without consequence any vestige of fairness and genuine interaction towards a large portion of the regional population, already getting minimal attention when it comes to SEWRPC hiring and advisory roles in policy-making.

In a publicly-chartered, 100% taxpayer-funded planning agency, an Environmental Justice Task Force with second-class status reinforced by the agency leadership is a task force that is being prevented from doing its job.

In an agency that is getting away with minimizing - - and that's a generous word - - the value of social and environmental justice in the conduct of its business.

Federal certification reviewers told SEWRPC last year to do a better job engaging the public: does anyone seriously think that kicking the justice task force to the sidelines meets that goal?

The agency gets much of its power from federal transportation and transit agencies, and because the agency has disregarded the outreach and justice components and expectations laid out in its last two quadrennial re-certification reviews by those agencies, an outside and independent federal justice investigation is.

That's the only way we can find out why SEWRPC will not and cannot genuinely engage its minority constituencies.

And probably the only way to drag SEWRPC into the 21st century.

Honda Civic Hybrid Battery Problems Reach Consumer Reports Website

Just passing this along.

You may remember that reporting on this issue by major media began on jsonline.com and posted on this blog almost three weeks ago.

Stem Cell Ruling Deserves Quick Reversal

We have to hope that the unexpected court ruling stalling vital stem cell work at UW-Madison and elsewhere is swiftly appealed, overturned and finally buried.

Stem cell research holds the keys to the relief of suffering; overseas researchers will gain an advantage and an industry nurtured here could easily be permanently damaged if the ruling is not defeated in court, or legislatively.

Little surprise that the Republicans in the race for Governor hailed the decision - - remember that these are the candidates making big job-creating promises and boast that they lead the party of business but are cheering what could cost creative and high-paying jobs just West of the State Capitol.

Michigan State Attorney Coins A Memorable Courtroom Phrase

"Carp highway."

Motorcycle Driver Deaths This Year Outpacing '09 Rate By 20%+

Up to date statistics show motorcycle driver deaths this year outpacing the '09 rate by more than 20%, according to a WisDOT web site I am following.

This is a trend I first reported a few days ago - - because I keep seeing stories like this - - but will continue to post updates because the WisDOT site posts fresher data, too.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Dane County Annual Traffic Fatality Rate Far Exceeds Milwaukee County's

So what set of factors creates this statistical head-scratcher?

Dane County's population is almost exactly 50% of Milwaukee County's - - 482,705 to 953,328, according to 2008 data - - but Dane County's traffic fatality rate is not half Milwaukee County's, but is closer to 80%, state records show.

In Dane County, the number of traffic fatalities annually on average is 43; in Milwaukee County, the annual average is 53, according to the 2005-2009 time frame computed by WisDOT.

I Suppose The Right Will Withhold Criticism Of This Federal Judge

The Right has condemned activist (sic) Federal judges who overturned California's gay marriage ban and Arizona's immigration enforcement state law - - and attacked the Constitutional separation of powers that gives courts the duty and power to review government action - - but I am sure they will applaud this Federal judge's decision to block the Obama administration's stem cell policies.

A true constitutionalist accepts and understands judicial review; the Right's situational and selective attacks on the judiciary are simply another strain of political correctness.

Rail Opponents Breaking Up With WisDOT

Citing irreconcilable differences and mental cruelty, high-speed rail opponents have filed for divorce from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

The two have been in bed with each other for their entire lives - - it was one of Wisconsin's longest political marriages - - but as with so many partnerships, the parties are going their separate ways, over infidelity and money.

"We got together just fine when WisDOT gave us every new sparkly road we wanted," said Righty Blowhard, chairman of the coalition Highways Unlimited. "But now WisDOT is spending our money on a train, so we're breaking up."

Blowhard said the last straw was WisDOT Secretary Frank Busalacchi's brusque manner in taking control of the rail project's spending.

"We loved it when WisDOT kicked sand in the faces of those big city mayors or rural town boards to push through a new highway or bypass, but now he won't even look at us. And gee - - WisDOT didn't have to be so mean about it."

Highways Unlimited didn't deny the rumors that they were already in a relationship with GOP gubernatorial front-runner Scott Walker.

"He could be the next Tommy Thompson," said Blowhard. "I'd say more, but I don't want to jinx it."

That Michigan Oil Spill Was Canadian Tar Sand Oil After All

Another reminder that Canadian tar sand crude, when stripped or steamed free from the earth north of the border, can also raise havoc in US when piped here.

Wisconsin has already had its share of documented environmental problems with the Canadian pipelines, and the seven-fold expansion projected in recent years for the Murphy Oil refinery in Superior is part of a large US-Canadian effort to accept more and more tar sand crude.

Murphy has put that refinery on the market; its future ownership and operations are unclear.

Asian Carp Lawsuit In Court; The City Of Chicago, Industries And Businesses Object

Litigants trying to force changes to the Chicago shipping canal aimed at blocking the march towards the Great Lakes of the Asian carp are now opposed by a coalition of business, commercial and municipal interests.

Here is the coalition's latest release.

SEWRPC Water Panel To Meet at 9:30 Tuesday Morning...

In part to hear a presentation on whether there are socio-economic consequences...to Lake Michigan water diversion recommendations they have been preparing...for five years...that they left out of their study parameters and recommendations because socio-economic matters and that whole notion of environmental justice in SEWRPC studies just wasn't on the radar in the old timey days of 2005...but which now the water policy committee is going to consider post hoc as prepared by another SEWRPC body...that hasn't finished its work yet..but, hey, can we get this thing wrapped up?

Do I hear a motion? Can I get a second? Items Three, Four and Five on the agenda, including that darned socio-economic study, and, yes, the report's summary, Chapter 12?

All in favor...

Yeah, that's some high-faluttin' planning process we've got out there at SEWRPC's Pewaukee headquarters for a few million public bucks a year.

Some recent history, here.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Journal Sentinel Calls On County Executive Walker To Act Like An Executive

The paper editorially throws down the gauntlet by urging Walker to do what he should have already done - - firing some officials who have mismanaged the County's mental health services.

I'll bet Walker's people are meeting overtime to figure out what to do.

Also his office staff.

The Obtuse SEWRPC Cheats The Public, Part II

I'm reposting an item from earlier Monday about SEWRPC and its relationship with one group - - its water advisory committee - - over another group, its Environmental Justice Task Force, because there are some updates.

This blog had extensive coverage of the efforts by the justice task force arm of the regional planning agency (SEWRPC) to initiate, and finish, an independent assessment of whether there are socio-economic consequences of the agency's draft water supply plan to support the diversion of Lake Michigan water by the City of Waukesha - - and if so, what should be done about it.

This struggle for the work, and, initially, against SEWRPC's leadership, began nearly two years ago.

The Lake Michigan diversion application drafted by Waukesha relies, in part, on SEWRPC draft diversion recommendations whose adoption in the near future are a foregone conclusion:

SEWRPC and Waukesha have had a neat little tag team going these last few years, as each backs the other's parallel work (Waukesha's water utility manager, Daniel Duchniak, remains a forceful member of the SEWRPC's advisory committee that is drafting the agency's regional water supply plan.)

When it appeared in July that the task force {full name: Environmental Justice Task Force, and a short primer on EJ, is here) might complete its work by email, and not in an open meeting, the ACLU of Wisconsin urged the agency - - SEWRPC - - not to go that route, and I had an exchange of emails with SEWRPC officials about my concerns, too.

After some delay, the agency said it would hold another meeting of the task force on 9/2 where the socio-economic work would be discussed.

[Well, here we are at 11:15 p.m. on Sunday night, August 22nd, and the SEWRPC web page set up for the task force still says, as it has all week, that there are no meetings scheduled.]

But I see that SEWRPC, while not scheduling the 9/2 meeting, had gone ahead and scheduled a separate meeting this coming Tuesday, 8/24 for its water supply advisory committee to take up the task force work.

The water policy advisory group is the one that SEWRPC treats like a real advisory committee - - while the justice task force is on the receiving end of SEWRPC's long history of indifference to criticism and transparency.

So I again asked SEWRPC what was happening, and was it not putting the cart before the horse having the advisory committee meet prior to the task force and consider the task force work?

At first I got no reply, so I re-sent my query also to Ken Yunker, SEWRPC's Executive Director - - after which i got a response from Gary Korb, the SEWRPC outreach manager who had not answered my first email.

Since I said I would post any and all responses, I'll do so below with the entire exchange - - but note that while a question about the task meeting was addressed, there was no answer to the larger question of how it is that the task force work could be on another committee's agenda when the task force work was not completed, and not completed in an open meeting?

[Update Monday: SEWRPC provides an answer about the water committee scheduling, but, again, no explanation about whether the justice task force work is considered done. This is like pulling teeth. I will put that Monday email exchange with the earlier one, below.]

An agency that is 100% financed by taxpayers, and which was basically forced by federal monitors and civil rights activists to create the justice task force, is not doing itself or the public any favors by becoming obtuse and opaque when public policies and procedures are at stake.

Better outreach and connections to the region's under-represented, minority and disadvantaged communities are supposed to be SEWRPC priorities, according to both the agency's 2004 and 2008 evaluations by the feds.

This entire episode tells me SEWRPC's compliance and commitment to environmental justice are charades.

[For the record, here we are at 8:25 p.m. on Monday night, August 23rd, and the task force meeting is not yet scheduled. So clearly the water committee meeting, which is Tuesday at 9:30 A.M. is SEWRPC's priority. As for the justice task force, that pesky thorn in SEWRPC's side - - it can wait.]

The email exchanges:


Ken asked that I respond to you. I have not had time to look at your blog posting, but plans are moving ahead for the September 2nd meeting. The Task Force has been reminded of this next regular meeting date, as also noted during the July 8th meeting, but an agenda has not yet been distributed. An agenda will probably be distributed within the next several days.


Gary Korb

Regional Planning Educator

UW-Extension working with SEWRPC



From: James Rowen [mailto:jer45y@yahoo.com]
Sent: Friday, August 20, 2010 11:14 AM
To: Yunker, Kenneth R.
Cc: Korb, Gary K.
Subject: Fw: I put this up today, Gary

Hi, Ken;

Can you answer the question I posed in this blog posting and that is based on an earlier email from Gary about the EJTF meeting of 9/2- - basically why the EJTF meeting of 9/2 has yet to be scheduled, but an 8/24 meeting of the water supply advisory committee has been scheduled, with an agenda item to approve the SEI that the EJTF still has under discussion?

I have not heard back from Gary on this matter.

Thank you.

James Rowen

--- On Thu, 8/19/10, James Rowen wrote:

From: James Rowen
Subject: I put this up today, Gary
To: "Gary K. Korb"
Date: Thursday, August 19, 2010, 12:06 PM


I'll post any response from the agency.

James Rowen

Monday email exchange:

The water committee meeting was set and materials mailed before members of the EJTF requested an additional EJTF meeting to discuss the UWM-CED report. The water committee will be informed of the additional EJTF meeting to be held.


Gary Korb

Regional Planning Educator

UW-Extension working with SEWRPC



From: James Rowen [mailto:jer45y@yahoo.com]
Sent: Friday, August 20, 2010 12:46 PM
To: Korb, Gary K.
Subject: RE: I put this up today, Gary

Thank you, Gary. Can you also address the question of why or how the water advisory committee can be taking up the SEI from the EJTF on August 24th prior to the EJTF finishing its work on 9/2? For want of a better phrase, isn't that putting the cart before the horse?

James Rowen