Friday, May 31, 2013

Wisconsin's Water Crisis

I wrote this piece for the Journal Sentinel (it got trimmed for length - - it was too long) - - so I will post the full original later: That iteration will include URL links the hard-copy paper can't use, too:

GOP policies putting Wisconsin's waters at risk

Is there a trend in Wisconsin away from smart water policy?

Michael Sears

Is there a trend in Wisconsin away from smart water policy?

Wisconsin waters are at a crisis point.
Impossible, you say. We're bordered by two Great Lakes and the Mississippi River — watershed abundance, border to border.
The benefits of public access to water were so basic to Wisconsin's very existence and definition that Congress guaranteed it in 1787 — before statehood — and public water rights are now inscribed in the Wisconsin Constitution as Article IX, "The Public Trust Doctrine."
The DNR Public Trust Doctrine web page announces that "Wisconsin's Waters Belong To Everyone" and explains that the state is obligated to assertively manage water with the public interest put first; federal treaties with Native tribes in Wisconsin contain broad rights to water, hunting and fishing — even off-reservation.
But Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP-run Legislature are systematically draining the Public Trust Doctrine from law and programs through power politics and party-line votes, making water access and management into private-sector tools.
Through complacent, shortsighted and partisan behavior, these politicians are disconnecting wetlands from their ecosystems and also disconnecting Wisconsin from imperative local-to-international water conservation planning.
Turning these disconnects around begins with absorbing the common sense conclusion of the 1966 Wisconsin Supreme Court Hixon case ruling that informed water-related decision-making for decades:
A little fill here and there may seem to be nothing to become excited about. But one fill, though comparatively inconsequential, may lead to another, and another, and before long a great body of water may be eaten away until it may no longer exist.
An even earlier Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling in the 1914 Husting case also emphasized the importance of unfettered public access to water:
The wisdom of the policy which, in the organic laws of our state, steadfastly and carefully preserved to the people the full and free use of public waters, cannot be questioned. Nor should it be limited or curtailed by narrow constructions.
The current official and lamentably partisan disdain for principled water policy, science and law emerged in the early hours of Walker's administration.
That's when, in the name of job creation, Walker pushed the Legislature to adopt a bill short-circuiting the formal, routine review of a wetland filling permit application from a Green Bay-area developer (and Walker campaign contributor) to facilitate construction near Lambeau Field of Bass Pro Shops, a national fishing equipment destination operation.
Aware of the ensuing controversy, and the contradiction between fishing supplies and wetland filling, Bass Pro Shops withdrew from the situation. But the administration was not chastened.
Not even a subsequent 2011 letter from federal officials citing a jaw-dropping 75 "omissions and deviations" in Wisconsin's management of the U.S. Clean Water Act has slowed the flow of proposals or actions by the governor, state agencies and the Legislature that would:
■End some environmental reviews for some major development projects.
■Change laws to ease building in wetlands, including waterways protected for their scientifically significant status. The bill was drafted with active input from Wisconsin building interests; Walker signed it to a standing ovation at a convention of Realtors.
■Allow mega-dairies to expand without serious regard for the water table; and exempt some new high-capacity well water (100,000-plus gallons daily) applicants statewide from assessing the wells' cumulative water draw effects; and reduce state water program management overall by ending the collection of the $125 annual high-capacity well water withdrawal fee.
Imagine if authorities were to allow developers to build multiple 10-story parking ramps without studying the cumulative impacts on traffic.
■End the ability of municipalities to establish construction site runoff regulations stronger than state standards, while simultaneously transferring overall enforcement to the DNR — an agency now run with a chamber-of-commerce mentality intentionally installed there by Walker.
■Deeply cut funding for a long-standing and bipartisan open space acquisition program — the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund — and require the DNR to sell 10,000 acres of land, land that retains moisture, prevents flooding, filters water and sustains fish and wildlife.
■Open shore land to greater development, despite the benefit and need for erosion and flood controls.
■Enable unprecedented mountain-top removal in the pristine, northern Penokee Hills for an historically long, deep and wide open-pit iron ore mine in a watershed that includes the headwaters of the Bad River near Lake Superior.
The mine would be upriver from public drinking water supplies and close to wild rice producing estuaries central to the survival of the Bad River Band of Ojibwe (Chippewa), and could allow, despite scientific testimony and other warnings, the dumping of millions of tons of acid-yielding waste rock across more than 3,000 acres and into streams and wetlands — expanding the impact of the wetlands-filling legislation written earlier that had pleased real estate and building interests.
Worse, the trend in Wisconsin away from smart water policy is taking place against a backdrop of additional problems and risks.
Where in this roiled natural and political environment is the required adherence to the Public Trust Doctrine and the state Supreme Court's water guidance nearly a half-century ago?
James Rowen is a political writer and environmental consultant. He blogs at "The Political Environment" at Purple Wisconsin.

WI Falls To 44th and 49th In National Job/Growth Ratings

Why don't State Dems put these numbers on electronic bulletin boards outside Madison, Milwaukee, Wausau, Green Bay and La Crosse?

Think past news releases.

Sykes Crushes Vos - - On The Air

GOP Assembly Speaker and talk radio amateur Robin Vos, (R-Burlington), committed a cardinal PR error this morning by calling unprepared into righty Charlie Sykes' WTMJ-AM morning show.

Sykes had criticized conservative GOP legislators for talking boldly about cutting taxes - - proposed unilaterally by sophomore legislator State Rep. Dale Kooyenga, (R-Brookfield)  - - or expanding school choice, but now find themselves facing moderate push back from GOP Senate President Mike Ellis (R-Neenah), and others, so compromises are being discussed.

Sykes argued, on behalf of the conservative base, that Kooyenga was without the full support of the Assembly leadership that appeared to crumble before Ellis and other Senate moderates on big tax cuts, or Walker's massive increase in school choice statewide.

Then Vos called in to defend himself, and by the end of the segment at 10 a.m., Sykes had backed Vos down and into a couple of embarrassing dead air moments, unable even to quickly answer a Sykes challenge about which of them had not spoken factually.

Vos ended without defending himself, saying he didn't remember saying Sykes had spoken inaccurately.

I thought Vos had hung up - - he hadn't, he was just thinking and thinking and thinking about his predicament when he had failed promptly to respond to Sykes' challenge, leaving Sykes to say "You're the Speaker of the called into my show."


That's the moment when a caller knows the quicksand is fatal.

After the break, Sykes said a podcast of the Vos interview will be posted shortly.

Sykes also said in closing out the topic that pols should not call his show to "dance and spin" and wondered aloud why Scott Walker hasn't stepped in to lead the Legislature on these issues.

Later, Sykes said criticism of the Governor from the right is tough love.

Not so for Ellis, a long-serving GOP legislator, whom Sykes derided as "King of the Senate."

You don't think the tail wags the dog?

This topic has been discussed often on this blog. One example, here.

Public Access Still Blocked At Premier Waukesha County Lake

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Public access to North Lake?

I've been writing about this since March, 2007 - - more than 11,000 posts ago. Another example, from 2010, here.

But still, in 2013, it's keep the people out, even though the State Constitution guarantees access to it.

State To Waste Bazillions On New WisDOT Shrine; Hill Farms Site Tops Fire Sale List

Any investigative reporter worth his or her salt will watch carefully who 'wins' the choice Hill Farms site on Madison's prosperous West Side once WisDOT is moved out to its unneeded, but oh, so illustrative new digs.

Small government for everyone except you and your big projects, Road-building/Government Complex.

Remember, Walker is about to get the right to sell any state asset to the bidder of his choice - - without competitive, public bids - - needing only a deferential thumbs-up from obeisant Joint Finance Committee majority.

As WI Legislators Weaken Water Law, And Waive Oversight...

...and hand control of the public's wetlands and waters to frac sand mine operators, industrial-scale high-volume well operators, open-pit iron-ore blasters in Northern Wisconsin, and through weakened regulations, at erosion-prone projects near streams and shore lines statewide, get ready to see more Wisconsin waterways look like the once-thriving trout stream known as the Little Plover River, below:

River Alliance of Wisconsin photos

Dead Brookie

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Today's Gun Rights Question: Can You Wield Army Truck In Domestic Dispute?

Being asked in the wake of this incident:

Clark Aposhian, a chief lobbyist for gun rights in Utah, was arrested on Monday after allegedly showing up at his ex-wife's house in a 2.5-ton army truck and threatening her husband.

DNR Approves Mine Test Borings

Today is the beginning of a long, bad slog.

From the DNR, via email:

DNR Approves Gogebic Taconite, LLC, Exploratory Drilling Application

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources today approved the exploratory drilling application submitted by Gogebic Taconite, LLC. The DNR issued an exploration license to Gogebic Taconite authorizing the company to drill eight exploratory drill holes. This is the first exploration license issued under the new iron mining law enacted earlier this year. 

The company has proposed exploration in a four-mile area located east of Mellen in eastern Ashland and west-central Iron counties. The area of interest is part of the Penokee/Gogebic deposit, a 21-mile long portion of the larger Gogebic Iron Range that stretches east to west from Lake Gogebic, Michigan, to near Lake Namekagon, Wisconsin.

The company had initially submitted an application May 9, but withdrew the initial application and submitted a replacement application May 16 after company representatives decided to reduce the number of bore holes they proposed to drill from 13 to eight.

According to Ann Coakley, DNR Waste and Materials Management director, company officials removed five of the original 13 boreholes from the application to gather additional information needed to address stormwater and potential wetland issues in accordance with applicable regulations. The need for additional information on the five drilling sites was identified during a May 14 site visit by DNR staff to inspect the proposed drilling locations and access roads.
The department had 10 business days to review the application and make a decision. DNR’s decision was based on information contained in the application and supplemental information provided by the company in response to DNR’s request for additional details regarding the exploration proposal. Coakley said Gogebic Taconite may apply for a license to conduct additional exploration borings in the future.

The application, DNR response letter and additional materials are available on the Gogebic Taconite, LLC, potential mining project Web page.

Wisconsin's Walker-Led Recession

I'm using the term as a general descriptor of decline - -  and fresh government data with a map from Federal banking officials show our sorry State:

Release Date:
May 28, 2013
The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia has released the leading indexes for the 50 states for April 2013.
The indexes are a six-month forecast of the state coincident indexes (also released by the Bank). 
Forty-five state coincident indexes are projected to grow over the next six months, while five (Alaska, Louisiana, North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming) are projected to decrease.

Story About School $$ Battle Answers 'Where-Are-They-Now' Question

This tidbit in the story about GOP infighting about vouchers and school finances:

The well-connected lobbyists for the vouchers proposals, including former Assembly speakers John Gard and Scott Jensen, are continuing to push on the issue and insist that there is no final deal yet.

Organize Against Privatization, Degradation Of Wisconsin Waters

Now is the time to access the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters website and tell legislators it's bad public policy to allow, through low-profile budget amendments, the expansion and reach of high-capacity wells across Wisconsin.

From the group:

Current Alerts
With large farming operation expanding and frac sand mining exploding, now is not the time to slash support for clean water. Act now to tell legislators to budget for clean water!
This disregard for publicly-owned water - some background here - -  is connected to the disclosure that a separate fiscal 'reform' bill will end the annual high-capacity well fee that funds DNR water program monitoring.

The bill is getting a lot of attention because it showers tax breaks on upper-income earners and hands out favors to certain businesses and industries, but a single paragraph on p. 23 of the bill will have a profound impact on well operations, ground water supplies and public water programs statewide.

Put this together with recent bills that allow wetlands filling, building into waterways or nearer shore lines, and dumping mining waste into lakes and waterways in the Bad River watersheds and you begin to see that there is a full-scale assault against the 226-year-old Public Trust Doctrine that defines and protects water- -  in the public interest - - that is incorporated into the State Constitution.

Legislators Demand Hearings - - When It Suits Them

Double standards on top of no standards makes for bad public policy from education to water conservation, Wisconsin taxpayers will find:

No hearings were held when legislators essentially deregulated the siting of high-capacity wells - - 'Hearings? We don't even need an author's name on it' - -  but the same legislators brought years of work establishing so-called Common Core curricula to a halt by...mandating multiple hearings:

State Schools Superintendent Tony Evers would be barred from putting in place Common Core standards until his department holds at least three public hearings on the standards and issues a report on them.

But the practical effect of that was unclear since Common Core consists only of math and reading, and those standards have already been adopted.

The agency, along with the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, would also have to determine how much it would cost to fully implement the standards and how much it would cost to stop implementation.

A legislative study committee could also be set up under the budget proposal and hold hearings of its own.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Least Surprising Headline Of The Walker Era

(updated Wed., 11:00 p.m. from Tuesday, 9:30
Even less surprising than headlines about coordinated Walker/GOP Legislative attacks on public employees, voting rights, transit and rail systems, wetlands preservation, well-water withdrawal controls, scientifically-significant rivers and streams, Native treaties, health care for the poor, jobless benefits, air pollution warning notification, shore land and construction site erosion controls, frac sand mine monitoring, women's reproductive services, wind farms, public education budgets, ownership of publicly-paid state assets, local residency ordinances, tax credits for the working poor - - and more  - - is what is at the top of this story:

Wealthy earners would save most in $450 million tax cut
The plan also collapses income tax brackets and the entire theory of progressive taxation by putting those earning as little as $14,500 and as much as $319,000 into the same percentage payment.

In WI, More Wolves Targeted, And At 50% Discount To Only $49

Substantially greater WI wolf kills - -  at half the $100 license price of last year's hunt - - is on the schedule.

Still to be determined: if hunters can sacrifice their dogs, off-leash, in pursuit of the predatory, wild pack animals.

Facing Job Losses, Economic Stagnation, GOP Legislators Naturally Turn To...

Legislating against poorer women's health services.

Joint Finance Balked At Sand Mine Monitoring

Citizens urged to fill in the gap.

On The Walker Beat, Truth In Reporting

Scott Walker praised for 'Alabama Values.'

By the Alabama GOP.

Hat tip, Steven Elbow at the Cap Times.

Bachmann Moving On; Courting Options?

Michelle Bachman won't run for re-election in 2014.

A blow to Comedy Central. No more renouncing Swiss citizenship or sprinting away from Dana Bash.

Except these stories broke later, so maybe she'll be back as Stewart and Colbert fodder:
The FBI has jumped into a multi-pronged investigation of alleged misconduct by the failed presidential campaign of Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), the Star Tribune in Minneapolis reported on Sunday.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

This Milwaukeean, Raised In DC, Gives Props To Gwen Moore For This NFL Reform

The Nation's Capital needs its football team to change its name, and ten Members Of Congress agree:

Ten members of Congress recently sent Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder a letter, urging him to change the name of the team, according to a news release issued Tuesday by the office of Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, congressman for the American Samoa.
Joining Faleomavaega in the effort were fellow representatives and co-chairs of the Congressional Native American Caucus: Tom Cole (Oklahoma) and Betty McCollum (Minnesota) as well as Raul M. Grijalva (Arizona), Gwen Moore (Wisconsin), Michael M. Honda (California), Donna M. Christensen (Virginia Islands), Zoe Lofgren and Barbara Lee (both of California) and Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District.

Heavy Drinking Data Puts Calumet County First In Wisconsin

But there's plenty of misery and mayhem to go around, statistics show.

Related data about crashes, injuries and deaths, here.

In Milwaukee, Walker Praises Himself, Overlooks His Amtrak Neglect

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn got under our Governor's skin  - - and who knew the busy presidential fund-raising Walker was in town, let alone in Wisconsin? - - but it's too bad Walker didn't swing by the aging Amtrak arrival "shed" downtown that he consigned to disrepair by foolishly refusing federal funding two years ago.

Michael Horne gave it his signature touch a few days ago:

Milwaukee’s ambitiously named “Milwaukee Intermodal Station” lands rail passengers inside a 1960′s shed that one would never confuse with the Gare du Nord. 
The state is under federal orders to improve the station to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act provisions, and former Governor Jim Doyle got $20 million to do so. Some preliminary engineering work — like punching holes in the train shed — was undertaken. 
But Gov. Scott Walker turned down the $20 million in federal funding (part of the $800+ million high speed rail grant) that was dedicated to meeting the federal requirements,...

Early Warning: GOP Fiscal 'Reforms' To Cut Certain Water Fee Payments

GOP State Rep.Dale Kooyenga's top-to-bottom tax and revenue 'reform' legislation making the rounds around the Capitol includes an end to the $125 annual water withdrawal fee paid to the state by high-capacity well operators worth about a half-million to DNR programs annually.

Some other water usage payments would remain.

The second-term Assemblyman and CPA is from Brookfield.

The overall plan is extremely long and detailed; more later when I get a non-pdf file.

Waiting For WI Mainstream Media On GOP's Omnibus Voting Suppression Bill

Word leaked out Friday about GOP State Rep. Jeff Stone's bill as the holiday weekend began. One Wisconsin Now found it - - I saw the group's press release and posted a link to it - - but so far this morning I did not see more coverage.

It's a sweeping plan to jury-rig election registrations, calendars, and other state statutes - - including referenda and recall provisions - - to advantage incumbent Republicans and make permanent Walker's slash-and-burn, anti-urban, 'sell it off' government.

This is nothing short of an emergency.

Talk To The Feds Thursday About Great Lakes Restoration

Are you interested in the health of the Great Lakes?
Give your input on this crucial issue to federal agencies and departments of the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force at a public forum on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative 2015-2019 Action Plan on Thursday, May 30, 2013, from 6:00-8:00 p.m., at the Urban Ecology Center, Riverside Park, 1500 East Park Place, Milwaukee, WI 53211

More information:

For more information, contact Nick Vrevich, USDA Forest Service Great Lakes Restoration Program Manager, at 414.297.3350, or

While The Clean Air Debate Is All About Coal, Wind, And Greenhouse Gases...

Your Wisconsin DNR sends out this Clean Air Tip Of The week:

"Each time the refrigerator door opens, cool air is lost and more energy is needed to keep the food inside cold. Opening the refrigerator door as few times as possible is another way to save energy."

Monday, May 27, 2013

Why Milwaukee's Record-Setting Train Riders Still Have Lousy Station

Another business community win for Scott Walker.  Hat tip, Michael Horne.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Name That State!

North Carolina. Or Wisconsin.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Today's Gun Freedom-Denied Factoid

54 loaded guns seized last week by airport screeners.

About GOP Governance In Wisconsin, Depredation Is Correct Word

I had used the term "depredation" at the top of a posting about the environment to describe what the GOP and Walker are inflicting on the people and the land in Wisconsin, but their latest outrage - - to jury-rig state law and conquer the electoral process for perpetual one-party rule - - is undemocratic and flat-out frightening.

In WI Raw Milk Case, Jurors Acquit On Three Of Four Charges

A Sauk County jury sends a message to state officials: raw milk case over-charged, heavy-handed.

How much did the state spend in this three-year effort?

And is there a wider lesson here to grasp about citizen disdain for over-reaching state power.
Earlier commentary, here.

Friday, May 24, 2013

GOP Launching Broad Legislative Bid To Grab Control Of WI Elections

Word is seeping out of the State Capitol that Jeff Stone, (R-Greendale) - - the leading Assembly backer of Voter ID legislation tied up in litigation - - will launch an unprecedented, much broader bill to restrict or manipulate registration procedures, absentee voting, recall standards, election schedules and other procedural elements to advantage GOP constituencies and candidates.

These people will stop at nothing until they rig the process and twist Wisconsin into the red column.

More later.

Early warning from One Wisconsin Now.

Scott "Hawkeye" Walker Remembers - - In Iowa - - That He Used To Live There, And...

Mentioned it six times in his pre-presidential speaking tour address there yesterday, but this important personal factoid and piece of restored memory is not mentioned in his bio on his official state website:

About Governor Walker

Scott Walker grew up in a small Wisconsin town called Delavan. The son of a pastor, Scott had the spirit of service instilled in him at an early age. He was involved in sports, band, church, and achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.
Best line in that bio (and copy it before the scrubbing begins)?
Governor Walker remains committed to helping Wisconsin's private sector create 250,000 jobs by 2015.  
And speaking of Eagle Scouting, can any enterprising journalist get Walker on the record about the end of the ban on gays in the Boy Scouting agreeing? 

What Passes For Regional Cooperation In Waukesha Water Disputes

The City of Waukesha may soon agree to 'allow' the neighboring Town of Waukesha to join the City's application for a possible Lake Michigan diversion - - after having included the Town in the application without consultation.

(See Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer, fence whitewashing).

Serving the Town also will allow the City to continue to request in its diversion application which eight Great Lakes states will have to approve unanimously prior to its implementation an average of 10.9 million gallons a day. Its current usage is 6.9 million gallons a day.

The City says it is not seeking water to fuel growth.

The City appears to be getting ready also to agree to close off wells it had located within the Town through a financially and politically-costly outburst of eminent domain.

In Waukesha County, these exercises of leverage are known as regional cooperation.

Cathy Stepp's Rabble-Rousing Over Walleye Much Pandering About Nothing

It was just a few weeks ago that DNR Secretary and News Release Agitator-in-Chief Cathy Stepp ginned up anger at Wisconsin's Ojibwe (Chippewa) tribes by warning that treaty-protected spearfishing this year was going to take too many walleye and ruin the non-native fishing season.

There were echoes of the ugly 'spearfishing war' several decades ago. Legislators talked about taking away some state funding as official punishment.

Her not-so-helpful words:

The Chippewa tribes are acting lawfully within their treaty rights. However, over the past 15 years, we have seen a maximum of 10 lakes declared at one time for one-walleye bag limits. This drastic increase in lakes named at a one-walleye bag limit is significant, unprecedented, and a challenge to long-standing partnerships.
When Stepp was busy stirring the pot, and treaty experts tried to shed light on the issue, I tried to see past her press release pandering:
Kudos to State Sen. Tim Cullen, (D-Janesville), for condemning  a Republican colleague's threat to withhold a state grant from one of Wisconsin's small Native American bands over its legitimate exercise of fishing rights guaranteed by treaty... 
And there will be walleye enough for everyone this year, due in large part to the tribes' long-time operation of fish hatcheries that meet their need for food as guaranteed by the treaties, and which help maintain the Northern Wisconsin recreation and tourism economy, too. looks like Stepp's 'fears' were something of a fish story, as we learned online Thursday night that the tribes took far fewer fish than first projected and right about at the average, state records showed: 
Wildlife officials have increased daily walleye bag limits for anglers on many northern Wisconsin lakes starting Saturday as the spearing season winds down for the six bands of Chippewa in the northern part of the state... 
The bands had harvested 28,382 walleye through Wednesday, well short of their declared goal of almost 60,000 this year. 
The long-term average spearing harvest of walleye since 2000 is 29,065, the DNR reported. 
Joe Hennessy, who coordinates the treaty fisheries management program for the DNR, said the 2013 total is the lowest walleye harvest total since 2008, probably in part because of the late spring... 
Last year the tribes declared 54,057 walleyes but actually speared 32,321, according to DNR records.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Raw Milk - - Raw Deal

It's illegal to sell raw milk in the Dairy State, Wisconsin.

I don't drink unpasteurized milk, though I know happy, healthy people who do.
And for some consumers, obtaining the right to buy unpasteurized milk is a passionate, political cause, and I'm not interested in taking on another political battle.
But I am interested in the criminal case being prosecuted in Sauk County right now by the Dairy State - - the Attorney General's office is leading the charge - - against a farmer charged with selling raw milk and other items without what the state says are proper licenses.
This newspaper has published a story about the case, here.
Set aside for a moment the issue of whether raw milk might be good or bad for you: the state has put the farmer firmly in the grip of a Catch-22 by charging him with failing to get a license to sell something for which no license exists: raw milk.
Making this prosecution about licensure is where the state goes off the moral high ground and into bureaucratic and legal quicksand; the underlying issue is that powerful dairy industry interests fear ever seeing a story suggesting that Wisconsin milk products are unsafe - - even potentially unsafe - -  and the Attorney General has weighed in with his heavy hand and elevated the case to a criminal matter.
Look - - I understand that dairy is deeply entwined with the state's economy, heritage and reputation.
But so is entrepreneurship and making a living without the state bringing in its biggest legal guns to make your life miserable.
And it may not be a perfect comparison, but we've figured out ways to legalize the sale of products and services in the state - -  - - tobacco, alcohol, gambling - - that do proven, widespread damage, and government is in for a cut of the proceeds, to boot.

And people enjoy raw beef, raw fish, too: To be a good sport I even ate  freshly-killed raw eel in a Japanese eel bar when I was with one of my Tokyo hosts on a reporting fellowship for this newspaper in 1987 - - though at another dinner I drew the line at a bowl full of still-living goldfish to be swallowed in their steaming broth.
You'd think a state that is truly open for business would back away from 'fence-them-out' regulations and laws, and in this case, find a way to accommodate farmers who produce unpasteurized milk and customers who choose to buy them.
First posted at Purple Wisconsin Thursday.

In Iowa, Walker Is 44th In Credibility

Tells WTMJ-4 today he has not given any thought to running for President.

Fresh Population Growth In Milwaukee; Walker's Goal Is Otherwise

Good indeed to see 4,000 residents added to the city's recent count.

The city, local groups and people of goodwill work hard every day to improve and remake Milwaukee - - a mission long made more difficult by a state law freezing Milwaukee's borders in the 50's, 100% publicly-subsidized highway expansion into sprawl zones as transit dwindles, and now by an added stick in the spokes:

The Walker administration's partisan and anti-urban intrusive overturn of local residency rules.

So Milwaukee is adding residents just as the Walker administration and its foot-soldiers on the legislature's Joint Finance Committee are encouraging people working for the city to move out.

Mean-spirited, contradictory misuse of political power.

Another WI GOP Attack On Local Control Will Encourage Erosion At Construction Sites

Special interests continue to manipulate the Legislature's budget-writing committee: this fresh example, reported by the State Journal, would prevent a locality from passing ordinances tougher than state standards that prevent runoff from construction sites.

The state would also centralize state enforcement action under the DNR.

Confidence builder?

And these actions represent the remaking of the public interest into perks and privileges for well-connected insiders that reflect the GOP's 12-4 budget committee majority, control of both legislative houses and the Governor's office, too..

Leading Wisconsin Business Success: The Right Trashes Her

The Epic job-creator. And from Madison. Destroy her!

GOP Continues To Oppose Immigration Reform; Dems Not Disappointed

Bad politicians embrace bad policy - - and second-place in a diverse nation's elections.

Well, That Only Took Four-And-A-Half-Years

Way back in December, 2008 - - before Barack Obama was sworn in for his first term as President, or Scott Walker was elected Governor, or the Green Bay Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl - -  the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission redrew a regional map and put most of the Town of Waukesha into a proposed water service territory run by the larger, neighboring City of Waukesha.

A redrawn map had been requested by the City for inclusion in an application to an eight-state body for a precedent-setting diversion of Lake Michigan water. State law says regional planning commissions - - unelected bodies in Wisconsin - - are the agencies to draw such maps.

Here is a link to the records of the City's request in August, 2008 and the SEWRPC follow-through four months later.

It was a decision with plenty of cost and policy impacts on development, water rates, water conservation planning and other municipal policies - - and plenty of political ramifications and monkey wrenches in regional water planning and inter-governmental cooperation, too.

You can see the map and other links about the issue - - a frequent topic on this blog - - in this 2010 post, for example.

Yet SEWRPC chose to make its mapping decision without a public meeting, or a hearing, and presented the map as a fait accompli to the Town in a list of CC'ed recipients.

Talk about a FUBAR.

The decision roiled relationships between the Town and the City.

Town Board members were recalled in 2010 by angry voters, and the newly-constituted Board, with that mandate, said it wanted most of the Town removed from the map - - thus affecting the amount of water the City would need to divert, and where outside its boundaries it might be sending a portion of the diversion.

Those are questions central to the application itself and whether it would be approved by the other states. A single "no" vote kills the application, and the City is under a court order to have a water supply in place by June, 2018 that complies with federal radium standards - - a deadline, given construction timetables if the application is approved that most likely will be missed.

The City has chosen a Lake Michigan supply to meet the federal standard; other options are available, but the City has ruled them out.

The application as filed with the DNR in 2010 called for the City of Milwaukee to be the probable supplier of the diverted water, but Milwaukee did not like the map because it called for sending diverted water to the Town and to other areas outside the City's limits.

Milwaukee asked SEWRPC to redraw the map - - objecting to diverting water for sprawl growth - -  but SEWPRC said the City of Milwaukee had no standing to make the request, and the DNR decided to get into the fray and sided with the City of Waukesha.

So you can add disturbed relationships between Milwaukee and Waukesha, and Milwaukee and the DNR/SEWRPC to this muddle of SEWRPC's creation.

Furthermore, the City of Waukesha decided that Oak Creek - - despite the higher cost - - was the probable water seller, as Oak Creek said it was fine with sending diverted water wherever the City of Waukesha wanted to pipe it.

Then the Waukesha Town Board chairwoman who had been swept into office in the 2010 recall election as a vocal opponent of the SEWRPC map was voted out this April.

Some Town residents were afraid the City water option down the road was a good one, and were flooding the City with annexation requests to guarantee themselves City service - - even though the Town's water supplies are reliable.

So Tuesday night the Town Board reversed itself and said it wanted the 2008 SEWRPC supply territory-drawn map to stand.

But the City, having set a deadline of a few weeks ago that had come and gone, is saying, 'sorry, too late.'

Well - - we'll see about that, as keeping the SEWRPC map as drawn helps justify a larger requested diversion, and water sales mean revenues to the City of Waukesha utility bottom line.

The dispute over the water service territory map is one of the reasons why the Wisconsin DNR has not yet finished its environmental and technical reviews - - let alone scheduled hearings to which it has committed - - on the City's diversion application.

Which the City filed with the DNR in the spring of 2010 - - a year-and-a-half after it got the mapping piece for SEWRPC.

Time has been a wastin'.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

WI Legislature Destroying Basic Water Preservation

It is hard to keep up with the policy depredation emerging daily from Gov. Walker, the GOP-run, WMC-compliant legislature and their coordinated disregard for public resources.

But ramming through without a hearing or even a nod of the head to basic science by detaching high-capacity well approvals from their cumulative impacts is a total wipe out of the state constitution's Public Trust Doctrine protecting state waters managed according to state law and Supreme Court precedents in the public interest.

As the DNR itself still explains on its Public Trust Doctrine website:

Wisconsin's Public Trust Doctrine requires the state to intervene to protect public rights in the commercial or recreational use of navigable waters. The DNR, as the state agent charged with this responsibility, can do so through permitting requirements for water projects, through court action to stop nuisances in navigable waters, and through statutes authorizing local zoning ordinances that limit development along navigable waterways. 
The court has ruled that DNR staff, when they review projects that could impact Wisconsin lakes and rivers, must consider the cumulative impacts of individual projects in their decisions. "A little fill here and there may seem to be nothing to become excited about. But one fill, though comparatively inconsequential, may lead to another, and another, and before long a great body may be eaten away until it may no longer exist. Our navigable waters are a precious natural heritage, once gone, they disappear forever," wrote the Wisconsin State Supreme Court justices in their opinion resolving Hixon v. PSC.(2) 
Sources: (1) Quick, John. 1994. The Public Trust Doctrine in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Environmental Law Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1. (2) "Champions of the Public Trust, A History of Water Use in Wisconsin" study guide. 1995. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Water Regulation and Zoning. Champions of the Public Trust [PDF].
Total insanity.

Details from WisPolitics, here.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

 7:09 PM 

JFC approves high-capacity well motion, adjourns

Attention WI Legislators: Privatization Has Cost Midwest Taxpayers Big Money

It would behove Wisconsin Legislators before literally selling out the public interest through privately-arranged sales of public assets to look at second thoughts in red state Ohio as well as how badly things worked down the privatization road for taxpayers when legislators in Indiana and Illinois took a quick fix from businesses, short-changed the public and signed away public assets in 50-to-99-year-leases.

From a March 22nd posting here:

File this away as Walkerites at the Capitol look to transfer public assets to private interests for ideological satisfaction, short-term budget gains and long-term added costs to taxpayers, consumers, shoppers and commuters.
One case in point: outrageously expensive parking - - now $6.50/hr.- -  at Chicago ramps and on-street now leased seemingly forever to private operators: 
Hat tip,
Same sort of big toll increases continue leasing the Chicago Skyway: 
On January 1st, drivers who use the Chicago Skyway toll road will be paying more to use the 7.8 mile length of tollway...from the current $3.50 to $4.00.  
According to a report from Fox News citing the Federal Highway Administration, the Skyway was already the costliest interstate toll road in the U.S.... 
The City of Chicago leased the Skyway, which links the Dan Ryan to the Indiana Toll Road, to a private investment group in 2005 for 99 years and $1.83 billion dollars. 
The fatter toll policy after long-term privatization continues right into the the Indiana tollway, too:
[Consultant Richard Layman] wrote almost one year ago ("A lesson to cities that they need to be very careful when leasing assets to public private "partnerships") about the continuing debacle of Chicago's long term lease of its parking garages and parking meters to a for profit consortium.
The Indiana Toll Road lease may have paid off in the short term, but a new study concludes it'll be a bad deal for taxpayers in the long run.

First The Takeover, Then The Fire Sale

Circle the date: Wisconsin went up for sale today to insiders.

I posted a short item at Purple Wisconsin Tuesday with that headline:
Joint Finance foolishly gives Walker the right to sell state assets/our commonly-held resources without competitive, open bidding. 
No doubt this will lead to insider abuses, horse-trading and sweet deals, and prison reform as a future priority for the tempted.   
Earlier commentary posted at The Political Environment.
An excerpt from that commentary:
The plan is allegedly to reduce debt somewhere in state finances - - but is actually an end-run to mindless privatization around publicly-interested and honest budgeting. 
A prison could be sold off to a for-profit operator (union-free) with some proceeds helping pay a road-building project built on the come. 
A highway could be sold to a private company that wanted to turn it into a toll road and collect money from motorists who had paid for the road and its servicing with gas, income or property taxes. 
A power plant could be sold to a utility which could then raise the rates to the prison or university complex the power plant now serves. 
Talk about back-door policy-making, using public assets to make private, special interests even richer. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Mining Protest Leads To DNR Office Procedures, Action Plans With Law Enforcement

This is the text of an email sent by Department of Natural Resources Deputy Matt Moroney to staffers about a small protest yesterday by opponents of mining in Northern Wisconsin held at the agency's Wausau office. The email also explains agency procedures and plans to handle additional protests:

From: Moroney, Matt S - DNR
Sent: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 6:54 AM
Subject: Possible Mining Protests at DNR Service Center
Good morning everyone – To keep you informed and aware, I would like to share with you the details of a small protest incident that took place at the Wausau DNR Service Center yesterday afternoon related to mining in northern Wisconsin. 

At approximately 1:45 PM yesterday, a small contingent of protestors who oppose the mine (approximately 7-12 people) gathered at the Wausau DNR Service Center to voice their disapproval of mining in northern Wisconsin.
They made their way into the lobby area and began yelling and using profanities. The group was not violent; however, they did attempt to make their way into the non-public areas of the office and were stopped by staff.
Some members of the group climbed onto the rooftop and nailed a protest banner to the roof. The Marathon County Sheriff’s Office was called and the  protestors were ordered out of the building without incident. 
No arrests were made as of this time. The Wausau DNR staff did an excellent job of managing the situation and dealing with the loud and profane group. 
I applaud their professionalism and decision-making during this protest. It is not known if any other DNR Service Centers will experience similar protest behavior. Customer Service and Licensing supervisors and wardens have been informed of the incident. 
There are no indications that violent or aggressive behavior is to be expected, but we want you to be aware of this incident in the event similar incidents take place at other DNR Offices. Should you experience a similar protest at your DNR Office:

  • If you have a similar protest and you have on onsite warden, please notify the warden or call 911 for assistance if protestors become disorderly or disruptive to DNR business operations.   
  • Do not remain in a situation that you perceive as threatening, simply call law enforcement take actions necessary to secure your safety which includes leaving the building if necessary. Law Enforcement officers will manage the situation.
  • Remember…the public does have a Constitutional right to freedom of speech.  However, while exercising this right, protesters do not have a right to disrupt the operations of government or engage in disorderly conduct. Please contact a warden supervisor or the Bureau of Legal Services for guidance if a protestor is mainly passive and non-disruptive to DNR business operations (i.e. does not warrant a 911 call).  
  • The Bureau of Law Enforcement is coordinating closely with the Capitol Police and other law enforcement authorities in drafting an action plan for managing mining protest incidents. 
More information about action plans will likely be coming from the Bureau of Law Enforcement. Thanks for all you do and the professional manner in which you do it!

P Matt Moroney
Deputy Secretary
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Today Is The Day The State Went Up For Sale

Joint Finance foolishly gives Walker the right to sell state assets/our commonly-held resources without competitive, open bidding.

No doubt this will lead to insider abuses, horse-trading and sweet deals, and prison reform as a future priority for the tempted.

Earlier commentary, here.

About That Glitzy WisDOT Zoo Interchange PR Mailer...

Three things about the arrival in the mail today of this piece of highway-expansion propaganda/Spring 2013 Newsletter - - "This project is a significant investment in the infrastructure of Milwaukee, creating construction jobs and long-term economic benefits..."

* Isn't it a little presumptuous to be sending around project schedules and justifications when a federal judge is about to schedule a hearing to discuss the project's lack of transit components that violate the rights of low-income plaintiff residents?

Residents whom the judge said were likely to prevail on the merits of their discrimination allegations, so some sort of remedy is going to be ordered.

* Why is WisDOT spending money on multi-color, five-page mass mailings, what with the Internets available?

* "What's next?," the newsletter asks. "Construction in later 2013." Maybe with a little more lead time, the Fall newsletter touted will have news about transit and transit lines inked in.

CNN Still Doesn't Get It #Newsfail

At the top of the 11 a.m. hour, CNN tells us that it will be running a 'two-tier' scheme with live reporting and anchors in Moore, OK - - and in Phoenix, AZ where convicted murderer and cable television distraction Jodi Arias will address the jury.

Oklahoma Senators Opposed Storm Relief Funding, Programs

The policy-makers whose records on disaster relief should be ignored when speeding disaster relief to Oklahoma belong to its two US Senators:

Both of the state’s senators, Sen. James Inhofe (R) and Coburn, however, have long worked to undermine the Federal Emergency Management Agency, even though their state heavily relies on disaster aid: 
– In September 2011, Coburn offered an amendment to offset $6.9 billion in FEMA funding
– Coburn voted in 2011 against funding FEMA after it ran out of money, because, in his words, funding FEMA would have been “unconscionable.” Inhofe did not vote. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid fired back at Republicans blocking a bill for necessary funding to FEMA. 
– Inhofe proposed removing grants for storm shelter programs coordinating with FEMA, and instead provide individuals with tax breaks
– Coburn criticized items in Sandy disaster relief such as $12.9 billion for disaster mitigiation and $366 million for Amtrak as “wasteful spending.” 
– After Hurricane Sandy, Inhofe and Coburn voted against a bill for $50.5 billion in Hurrican Sandy disaster relief. 
– Coburn demanded that $5.25 billion in FEMA grant funds bereallocated because of sequestration in April 2013. 
Help their constituents, but disregard the failed leadership of their empathy-free Senators.

The Walker Ego Trip Tour Is In High Gear

Inflation is not just a term in economics:

Scott Walker tells Connecticut GOP most Americans on his side

Monday, May 20, 2013

Post Oklahoma Tornado - - Here Is Red Cross Donation Information

Only thing worth doing tonight:

A gift of any size supports the lifesaving mission of the American Red Cross whether it's responding to a disaster, collecting lifesaving blood, teaching skills that can save a life, or assisting our military members and their families.

GOP Legislators Scapegoat, Squeeze The Poor, Treat Themselves To Similar Benefits

GOP legislators poised to do Scott Walker's bidding and service their reactionary base voters at the same time through budget measures that jam the poor and unemployed do not give the proverbial flying fig over their hypocritical, self-serving, punitive behavior.

Bashing the poor is so easy: no high-powered lobbyist is going to call and say, 'hey - - back off - - my people don't like this bill or that amendment.'

No association spokesperson is going meet you for drinks or coffee or golf and pass the word that 'you know who is thinking about going the other way come fundraiser-time' unless that special interest gets served.

So the administration and GOP legislators running the Committee on Joint Finance on behalf of their solid majorities are likely to cut unemployment compensation access and food stamp participation, limit the number of low-income people on health care insurance that could be federally-funded, and further slash transit options used principally by minority and lower income city-dwellers trying to get to jobs in suburbs.

These are survival program cuts levied on people with lesser political clout by powerful, privileged and well-connected legislators who themselves enjoy - - at taxpayer expense - -  Cadillac health insurance coverage, mileage reimbursement for in-district driving, and $88-per-day in tax-free meal, mileage-to-work and, if needed, lodging expenses (Madison-area legislators get half.).

So legislators from upscale Milwaukee and Waukesha suburbs an hour or so from the State Capitol can punch in - - even car pool to get there for a single meeting and file for $88 - - without declaring the money as income.

Do the math: that $88 is worth far more if, say, you're in the 28% tax bracket.

And whom else gets reimbursed by you and me or the boss for driving to the office?

Or gets paid to eat lunch or dinner on your dime, tax-free?

Who are the welfare queens, really?

Plan To Sell Wisconsin State Properties Without Bids Invites Corruption

The Walker administration wants the right to sell public assets - - from highways to prisons to university dormitories - - through private, no-bid procedures, reports the Journal Sentinel.

Grover Norquist will be pleased, but taxpayers should balk.

The plan is allegedly to reduce debt somewhere in state finances - - but is actually an end-run to mindless privatization around publicly-interested and honest budgeting.

A prison could be sold off to a for-profit operator (union-free) with some proceeds helping pay a road-building project built on the come.

A highway could be sold to a private company that wanted to turn it into a toll road and collect money from motorists who had paid for the road and its servicing with gas, income or property taxes.

A power plant could be sold to a utility which could then raise the rates to the prison or university complex the power plant now serves.

Talk about back-door policy-making, using public assets to make private, special interests even richer.

To pick winners and losers, to defeat local control, and taxation with representation.

Legislators who are comfortable with giving away taxpayer-paid properties to reward insider influence practically begs for flat-out corruption - - contributions for buyer access, Pay For Play II - - should vote for the plan.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Republicans To Resurrect Bail Bonding?

Onionesque conflict of interest.

Scott Walker To Iowa, And Not A Moment Too Soon

Walker is traveling to Iowa and says that he will "do other surrounding states."

The verb aside...Iowans would do well to study up on Walker, and there is a lot for Walker to learn in Iowa and the surrounding states - - where better job creation than our state's 44th-in-the nation/last in the Midwest is taking place, as the State Journal recently illustrated.

Maybe Walker will see Iowa's ubiquitous wind turbines and stop blocking investors in Wisconsin from building them.

Hey! Just look out the window
One guy's company has spoken for 258 of them. I wonder if he knows anything about business?
SWT-2.3-82 Wind turbine. Photo: Siemens

Is Your Community In Line For Major WisDOT 'Improvements' Before 2030?

Here's the map:

Corridors 2030 routes:
Backbone & Connector
Source: Connections 2030 Long-Range Multimodal Transportation Plan adopted October 2009

Additional WisDOT Highway Boondoggle On The Books

I'd posted information about this last year, but Wisconsin Gazette has gone back to it and I am happy to put this up.

Written by Louis Weisberg
WEB_-_highwayThe Legislature is pushing a $128-million project to widen Highway 23, a little-used road that winds through farmland between Sheboygan and Fond du Lac. The project has been held up in court by challenges from 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, which objects to the waste of taxpayer dollars and the environmental damage the project would cause. To build the project, the state would have to pay $60,000 for each acre of land purchased, because some of the land includes buildings. Land in the area normally sells for $10,000 per acre. While lawmakers favor this project, they claim the state is so broke that it must reduce public transit funding by $10 million.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Milwaukee TV News Leaves Rail History Out Of Road-Congestion Reporting

Just once...I'd love to see a Milwaukee television news report that shows the relationship of highway-building-and-congestion and the region's politically-inspired rail-free history.

Conservative legislators, talk radio and then-Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker not only killed light rail, they sank the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter train line that could have run parallel to the torn-up I-94 North-South project, as its home page discloses, and offered a travel choice to the south suburbs and cities all the way to the Illinois line:

UPDATE: This proposed project has been put on hold indefinitely due to the dissolution of the Southeast Regional Transit Authority, the sponsor of the project. See more
Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee (KRM) Commuter Rail
Connecting Milwaukee-Chicago economic corridor
with 9 stops in WI and connecting to 25 communities
on the Chicago Metra U.P. North line.
The Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee corridor has a unique and exciting opportunity to develop high-quality commuter rail service in an existing rail right-of-way. The existing Union Pacific freight rail line would be upgraded to add a commuter rail that would connect to the very successful Chicago Metra that now ends at Kenosha. It is envisioned that the KRM Commuter Rail service would connect the lakeside communities of Milwaukee, Milwaukee-south side, Cudahy-St. Francis, South Milwaukee, Oak Creek, Caledonia, Racine, Somers, and Kenosha--and connect to the Chicago Metra service to NE Illinois and Chicago.
Quick Stats
  • 33 Miles
  • 9 Wisconsin stops
  • Use upgraded existing freight railroad
  • 14 weekday daily round-trips are planned
  • 2.1 million projected passengers/yr
  • Bi-directional service at peak travel times.
  • Provide access to nearly 1 million existing jobs between Milwaukee and Chicago.
  • Provide access to
    1.97 million people
    within 3 miles of stations between Milwaukee and Chicago.

Map and facts (pdf 225k)
Back to top
  • 360,000 jobs and 525,000 in population projected within 3 miles of WI stations
  • Used for daily and occasional commuting.
  • Stops are about 5 to 20 minutes apart.
  • Each coach will be wheel chair and walker accessible.
  • Fares similar to a bus.
  • Highly reliable in all weather conditions.
  • Connect densely populated or rapidly developing communities along the SE Wisconsin lakefront between Kenosha and Milwaukee
And better reporting could expand on the loss of light rail line as killed in the 1990's and how it could have provided relief to the Zoo Interchange project, the impending West Side/Story Hill billion-dollar+ expansion debacle and the I-94 widening on the books sometime after 2016 or from the Zoo Interchange to the Jefferson County line.