Friday, February 28, 2014

Bill Kramer, GOP Leader, May Soon Quit Over Harassment Allegations

So reports Dan Bice:
Assembly Majority Leader Bill Kramer may resign from his leadership post as soon as Saturday after being accused of sexually harassing at least two women while in Washington, D.C., for a GOP fundraiser.
When this blog last heard of Kramer two years ago:
Democratic legislators, debate spectators and State Capitol visitors: lower you voices and avoid eye contact with Assembly presiding officer and President Pro Tem Rep. Bill Kramer, (R-Waukesha). 
He tells the Journal Sentinel he's carrying a concealed, semi-automatic Glock handgun. 
The Assembly wrote rules allowing for concealed carry on the floor and in the galleries. Go figure. 
Video said to be of Bill Kramer.

N. WI Mine Chief Charged In Spain With Environmental Crimes

It has taken a while for mainstream media to pick up what the blogosphere has been broadcasting, but the Journal Sentinel today notes that GTac mining chief up North has been charged with breaking environmental laws in Spain when he ran a huge, controversial and polluting mine there.

A black eye for GTac and the Walkerites who have pushed the mine as a safe project.

So Walker's 2002 County Reform Was Fresh Secrecy?

Beyond ironic to absurd and appalling that Scott Walker would present himself as a reformer only to lay the groundwork for fresh scandal in an already scandalized Milwaukee County Executive's office.

Removed now to a stonewalled Governor's office?

Some reform.

Scott Walker is turning into this guy
Noted earlier:

Who got cheated, disadvantaged and hoodwinked. Everyone. Including editorial writers: 
We have watched Walker and his opponent, Tom Barrett, for years. Both are decent, honest, principled public servants. If a ledger existed, it would no doubt show that we've agreed with Barrett more often than with Walker.  
But in a time of economic peril and at a time when government must be reformed, it's time to throw away the playbook.

State Journal Breaks New Walker Secret Email Story

His office's secret system dates back eight years earlier than previously known, to 2002, for which Walker thanked the installer, but about which investigators were not told.


Gov. Scott Walker's Milwaukee County executive office was using a secret Internet system as early as the year he took office, according to a former county administrator who said he helped set up the network.

That's several years earlier than prosecutors disclosed in a complaint against one of Walker's former aides who was convicted of using a secret system to campaign on the taxpayers' dime.

Right-Wing Damage To Milwaukee Media Scene Assessed

I've been saying since 2011 - - an example from more than a dozen instances, here - - that you need to be reading veteran Milwaukee journalist Dom Noth's political writing.

Dom had a long career as editor and critic at The Milwaukee Journal, then as editor at Milwaukee Labor Press and now as a serious blogger at "Dom's Domain" producing commentaries like this examination of the rightward lurch by Journal Communications:

Journal Communications is now more the media conglomerate parallel of the right-wing Bradley Foundation, revealing its real political leaning in where it puts its resources and attention. For instance JS still makes nods to the community at large in some of its beats and feature columns as it must, but look at the weight. 
It’s much like how the Bradley Foundation, with millions to play with annually, gives $18,000 to the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre or $10,000 to the Urban Ecology Center but lards $3 million on the Charter School Growth Fund or $190,000 to the right-wing attack center known as the McIver Institute. The lack of balance exposes the motivations.
Noth extends props to the Journal Sentinel's investigative columnist Dan Bice and asks a provocative question:
Dare I suggest he and a few similarly devoted colleagues have become the only remaining justification for regarding the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as legitimate? 
It's a variation on broader themes that Noth has raised before, and which gain in relevancy the longer Walker ducks and dodges a comprehensive accounting to media and voters of the existence of a secret email system allowed to run a few feet from his Milwaukee County Executive office door, and full acceptance of responsibility for the actions - - some felonious, other merely reprehensible - - of his publicly-paid appointees:
Why is it considered bias in Wisconsin to rigidly examine a politician who has a blatant ideological agenda? That is slowly happening on the East Coast where the media ideology was not friendly to Christie at the start but now recognizes the need to investigate hard. Locally, media ideology is friendly to Walker but stuck in neutral. Why? Shouldn’t a Fourth Estate be rewarded by advertisers and readers for doing its job?
Noth's commentary may irk people at the newspaper and the parent corporation's Broadcast operations and executive offices. 

Noth's writing may not win him new friends in newsrooms.

Media don't necessarily do well absorbing open criticism; I remember former Journal editors Steve Hannah and Sig Gissler going ballistic when Milwaukee Magazine produced a profile they thought unflattering to the paper's direction.

But all those ironies aside, Noth raises important issues and the community will benefit from the debate. 

Data Show Tax Cuts, De-Regulation Do Not Lure/Create Businesses

I'd noted in a post today that Walker's agenda is not a growth producer, so thanks to the sharp-eyed policy wonk who sent me this fascinating item in support, including:

Cutting state taxes to attract entrepreneurs is likely futile at best and self-defeating at worst, a new survey of founders of some of the country’s fastest-growing companies suggests.  The study, which is consistent with other research, should be required reading for state policymakers — especially those in Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Wisconsin who are pushing for large income tax cuts. 
  • “Only 5% of entrepreneurs cited low tax rates as a factor in deciding where to launch their company” and only 2% mentioned “business-friendly regulations” and other government policies.  The report’s authors concluded, “We believe that the lack of discussion of these factors indicates that marginal differences in these areas at the state or municipal level have little influence on great entrepreneurs’ decision-making processes.”

Walker Keeps Piling Up PolitiFact "False" Ratings

There's just no stopping him, as his total "False" ratings are nearly triple the "True."

Walker "Federal government reneging" on Medicaid payments to Wisconsin caused about $240 million in extra costs in the 2013-’15 state budget

Scott Walker on Sunday, February 23rd, 2014 in a TV interview
Scott Walker says federal government reneged on Medicaid payments to Wisconsin

Where Embattled Governors Take Media, Listener Questions

That would be New Jersey, where Gov. Chris Christie sits and takes questions on 1015. FM's "Ask the Governor" program.

Even now, in a political sh**storm.

On a station also featuring a story calling Christie aides "Arrogant, Petty, Callous."

Seems that New Jersey's Governor has a different approach to and relationship with a different kind of radio experience than Scott Walker has with certain stations in Wisconsin.

WI GOP Agenda Will Not Attract jobs, Residents And Tourists

It should have dawned on editorial boards and policy-makers alike by now that basic tenets of the current Republican blueprint for Wisconsin are not going to grow the state economy or improve its image.

Austerity produced meager tax cuts for homeowners and taxpayers, but at the expense - - particularly in Walker's first budget - -  of public education and middle-class, public worker, main-street-small-business- consumer spending.

Imagine the boost for the state economy and image if the surplus had been principally invested for the long-term in secondary and trade school education.

"Move to Wisconsin for better schools."

"Bring your business here: We're investing in education."

And suppose that legislators stopped trying to make it easier for various industries to pollute or extract more publicly-owned water at the expense of lakes, rivers, trout streams, and wild rice-growing beds?

"Come to Wisconsin for clean water."

Imagine if the various Voter ID and voting hour restriction laws and bills were junked in favor of public campaigns to promote the vote?

"Come to Wisconsin: We value civic engagement here."

Imagine if the state were not hostile to expanded Amtrak?

"Take Amtrak's Empire Builder to Madison and beyond."

Imagine if the state had not passed laws banning same-sex relationship laws, or enabling discriminatory Native American school mascots?

"Wisconsin welcomes and respects all residents, tourists."

Restrictive laws, exclusionary attitudes and and self-defeating agendas do not sell the state.

Except short.

Cross-posted at Purple Wisconsin.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dale Buss, Brief, Ex-Journal Editor, Muses About Shipping Out Great Lakes Waters

Here is a really naive, unscientific, uninformed and all-around losing idea from Dale Buss, a Michigan writer who served briefly as Milwaukee Journal Metro Editor about 25 years ago: 

A five-year-old agreement between the United States and Canada called the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Water Resources Compact ensures that the lakes’ waters won’t be shipped wholesale from the region even if the temptation to do so presents itself to one state or province or another... 
But the expectation may grow that in an increasingly thirsty world, those who benefit most from the Great Lakes should figure on sharing their fresh-water fortune with the rest of America and maybe beyond. Nothing says the Compact couldn’t be modified or overturned by future political pressures.
Notes to Dale:

*  Great Lakes water levels are falling.

*  Rain and snowfall replenish them at about 1% a year.

*  Great Lakes water moved to "the rest of America and maybe beyond" doesn't come back to industries and drinking water systems.

What then?

The Road To Sprawlville, Chapter 56. Now Runs Near Lake Waubesa

We note in the 56th chapter of our Wisconsin bad planning series "The Road To Sprawlville" that Fitchburg - - once a quiet Madison suburb, but now a full-fledged City - - has overridden residents' objections to extending sewer lines - - and thus more spending and paving - - to hundreds of acres of near Lake Waubesa.

Homeowners now leap-frogged will eventually see their property taxes go up to cover all the new municipal expenses.

Along with more traffic.

The road to Sprawlville is pitted with policy potholes and broken promises.

A basic image here, regardless of location:
Suburban sprawl

Dale Schultz Will Oppose WI Voting Restrictions

Hat tip to the MAL Contends blog for confirming the impending death of legislation to impose right-wing-inspired restrictions on early, in-person absentee voting in Wisconsin:

In a victory for voting rights, Wisconsin State Senator Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) announced he will vote against a bill attacking early voting in Wisconsin.
Schultz announced his opposition to AB 54 and Senate Bill 324 through an aide in a phone conversation with Mal Contends this morning, effectively killing the anti-early voting legislation...
Schultz said he will join Sen. Frank Lasee (R-De Pere) in voting 'No' if SB 324 comes to a floor vote.... 
As all 15 Wisconsin Democratic Senators are against the bill, Schultz' opposition makes a floor vote on the bill unlikely as it would lose 17-16.

Walker Goes From Email Embarrassment To Twitter Pathos

Now here's some desperation. Note the "!"

Governor Walker @GovWalker  5mToured MetalStorm in De Pere. They went from about 30 employees to 42 in the past year!

Cock-Fighting Arrest In WI Shows Animal Cruelty Inconsistencies

Wisconsin officials crack down on cock-fighting.

Well and good, you say.

But what say you to the state sanctioning packs of bear hounds tearing across the Wisconsin landscape despite the presence of numerous species living there peaceably - - along with people who might be out hiking, birding or taking pictures - - and even through known wolf rendezvous and denning areas?

And allowing those hounds legally - - here are the state rules and law - - to pursue and confront wolves after the deer hunters have cleared out?

And allowing trappers legally to snare wolves, then finish them off while restrained with a gunshot to the head?

Also remember that all Wisconsin living things in the woods and forest and waterways belong to the public and the DNR is looking right now for new privileges for some hunters.

Key Mining Legislator Keeps Carrying Their Water

The Legislature's leading mining industry insider is rushing another version of his bad sand mining bill to approval as legislators head for adjournment.

The original bill would have drastically limited local governmental ability to regulate the health, safety, environmental and fiscal implications of sand mine excavating, trucking and other operations.

State Sen. Tom Tiffany, (R- Hazelhurst), says his new bill will leave in place the current regulatory framework used by local governments to regulate existing sand mines - - now numbering more than 100 - - but bar the creation of altered rules that local governments might want to implement to keep new mines running safely.

Setting aside the questions of whether local governments really have the tools they need to deal with this rapidly expanding industry, and if a landowner can slap a mine label on raw land and call it a new, less-regulated-sand mine-in-waiting, here are a couple of observations about why extreme caution is needed about Tiffany's new bill and why every comma and previous word deleted needs to be carefully vetted.

*  Tiffany is the last person in the Legislature to be taken as a good source of information on mining impacts and environmental law.

He had already agreed with the Governor's office and mining interests to be their Legislative Go-Fer - - records here - - and pushed a first version of the bad iron mining bill that was rewritten with token 'improvements.'

*  And Tiffany had to do the same thing with the follow-up bill - - see the time-and-money-wasting pattern? - - that went from closing off thousands of acres of forest land to public access and thus independent monitoring of mining and environmental impacts to achieving much the same result by closing off less-but-substantial acreage along possible mining roads through the same forests.

His first drafts of bills to serve mining interests are 'Let's-see-what-we-can-get-away with.'

Replaced by ''OK - - Here's-your one-sixteenth-loaf, locals.'

Tiffany's priority is serving the mining industry, not threats to local communities and residents' land, water, health, safety, budgets and peace of mind.

Update from the Sierra Club:

Madison: The Sierra Club today announced opposition to SB 632, Senator Tom Tiffany’s latest attack on local control to benefit the frac sand industry and a handful of owners of sand deposits over the authority of local governments to regulate and protect the public health, air, water and safety of their residents. SB 632 directly attacks the 2012 Wisconsin Supreme Court decision upholding the right of local governments to regulate and even prohibit a frac sand mine proposal.
SB 632 replaces SB 349, pulled from consideration last year over widespread protests. SB 632 retains the rotten core provisions of SB 349. It still ties the hands of local governments by prohibiting the use of village powers for setting rules on frac sand operations. It prohibits local governments from changing or even enforcing rules for operating frac sand mines even if they're found to be "non-conforming" meaning found in violation of the rules. It establishes that local governments are prohibited from doing anything to stop a frac sand operation on lands registered as having a sand deposit – a boon to owners of sand deposits.
Tiffany introduced the bill on February 26 and has scheduled a hasty public hearing with only two days notice for 12 pm, Monday, March 3 in Room 412 East, State Capitol.
“Senator Tiffany’s newest bill proves again that he will sell out local governments and their residents to benefit the mining industry,” said, Dave Blouin, JMC Mining Committee Chair, “SB 632 is just as rotten as the bill it replaced and we urge legislators to reject it and instead work to strengthen controls on frac sand mining. There is no evidence regulation has harmed sand mine development and in fact, there is growing evidence that the lack of regulation is causing harm to local air and water resources.”
As of June 2013, an estimated 115 frac sand mines were operating. At least 20 notices of permit violations have been issued by the DNR and 6 cases of violations have been referred to the state Department of Justice for prosecution. Three cases have resulted in $360,000 in settlements so far.

Scott Walker Still Won't Say If He Used Secret Email System

Because if there's one thing Walker's all about, it's certainty.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

DNR Wants Advice On Swan Hunt, Trapping And Hounder/Landowner Measures

Citizens regularly meet at the county level to elect delegates to the Wisconsin Conservation Congress - - and the delegates cast advisory votes that supply state officials and the Department of Natural Resources with grassroots opinion about conservation measures, DNR policies and proposals, including fees, sporting seasons and various regulations.

Many delegaters are hunters, anglers and outdoors recreational enthusiasts, and the Congress has long been a source of input to the agency. Citizen opponents of DNR policies are also free to run for Congress seats.

Here is a link with information about the next round of Congress meetings statewide on April 14th, and some advisory items on a long list that could become controversial:

QUESTION 31. Allow the use of foot cable restraints for harvesting furbearers 
A cable restraint is a device used for the live capture of furbearers. The device consists of a non-spring activated cable which includes a relaxing mechanical lock, stops, and swivel. International research on humane trap systems has documented the safe use of cable restraints on dry land, with much of the field research conducted here in Wisconsin from 2000 to 2002. Beginning in 2004 our law has allowed the statewide use of passive neck cable restraints for bobcat, coyote, fox and more recently, wolf. Use of this tool is during the latter portion of the trapping seasons beginning on December 1st, as a respectful, precautionary measure to minimize incidental contact with other wildlife and domestic dogs. This device has proven to be safe, humane and selective.
Additional trap research conducted following the same protocols has shown the foot cable restraint to pass all injury score systems for these same species, especially wolves. Use of this tool could be allowed with the same start date as currently approved for passive neck cable restraints, December 1st. Use of this tool during the latter portion of harvest seasons will minimize contact with black bear, allow careful review, and provide an additional, versatile tool for trappers.
31. Do you favor allowing the use of foot cable restraints during the latter potion of the furbearer harvest seasons, beginning on December 1st?
QUESTION 36. Tundra swan season (050112, 200412, 630112, 670612, 680112) (Requires legislation)
The tundra swan is the most common swan in North American and has very few predators. Wisconsin is within the range of the eastern population of tundra Swans and could develop a state tundra swan hunting proposal for consideration at the flyway and federal level. Tundra swans tend to favor larger bodies of water in great numbers as compared to trumpeter swans, which commonly stay in smaller groups and prefer smaller ponds and marshes. The trumpeter swan is well established as a breeding swan in Wisconsin and was removed from the state endangered list in 2009. 
Studies have shown tundra swan population numbers are currently rising, even with hunting allowed in other states. Each year tens of thousands of tundra swans migrate through Wisconsin with recent peak population counts on the Mississippi River of over 30,000 swans. Wisconsin could benefit from allowing a hunt unique to very few other states. 
36. Are you in favor of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress asking the Wisconsin Legislature to give the Wisconsin Department of Natural  Resources authority to develop a hunting season for tundra swans?
[Blog editor's note - - Information here about the Tundra Swan]
Photo: Tundra swan swimming in water
Photo by Bates Littlehales

QUESTION 48. Retrieval of hunting dogs from property without landowner permission (230113, 250113, 330113, 540313) (Requires legislation)
Hunting dogs can stray onto property where their owners do not have permission to be. Currently the animal cannot be legally retrieved without the property owner’s permission. Property owners cannot always be located to obtain the necessary permission to retrieve a hunting dog. A quick retrieval is always in the best interests of the dog, dog owner, and property owner. In the states of Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa a person on foot may, without permission, enter private land without a firearm to retrieve a hunting dog. After retrieving the dog, the person must immediately leave the premises. This exception does not authorize the taking of wild game. 
48. Do you support legislation that would allow the owner of a hunting dog the ability to retrieve their hunting dog without landowner’s permission? 
QUESTION 58. Wolf Trapper Education (500113) (Requires legislation)
Wisconsin citizens now have the opportunity to manage wolves in our state. Regulated trapping is an important aspect of harvest management. In 2012, 52% of the wolves harvested were by licensed trappers and in 2013, 65% of wolves were harvested through trapping. However, this did not come about without concerns and protests by various user groups, especially upland bird hunters and citizens concerned about their dogs coming into contact with traps. 
Although basic trapper education has been mandatory since 1992, wolf trapping is new, specialized and requires larger traps. For these reasons the Wisconsin Trappers Association, in cooperation with the DNR entered into a Memorandum of Understanding that identified the duties of each organization in offering voluntary wolf trapper education workshops tailored after the highly successful Wisconsin Cooperative Trapper Education Program. Feedback from the voluntary wolf trapper education workshops suggests that this course was extremely useful for those who trapped wolves in Wisconsin. Other states such as Montana and Idaho already require wolf trapper education.
58. Do you support mandatory wolf trapper education for everyone before they can trap wolves in Wisconsin?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

As Polar Vortex Looms, This Getaway Promo Doesn't Cut It

Thanks for the email, Southwest/Air Tran, but the only $69 fare teased from Milwaukee to anywhere gets me to Kansas City, MO. No offense, but that's not far enough south.

Low Fares on Flights

In A Round-About-Way, A WI GOP Legislator Is Lost

It is truly beyond political parody that after their party has killed, seized - - or plans to remove - - local controls in Wisconsin over budgets and spending, public worker contracts, residency rules, regional transportation, transit and trolley operations, mine siting and impacts, Native American treaty rights, ground water protections and other policies - -  State Rep. David Craig, (R-Big Bend), wants locals to have the final say over roundabouts. Which are data-proven to cut serious accidents.

Yes, roundabouts. Apparently too foreign and requiring too many left turns.

In The Year of Our Lord 2014.

We have previously noted this pathetic pattern of political constipation:

The Right around here is about as fixated on roundabouts as they are on ObamaCare, Solidarity Singers and Food Stamps because they prove that bureaucrats and other Big Guvmint bosses are tampering with their rights - - in this case, their God-given Natural American Freedom Right to make old-fashioned right turns or drive straight-through intersections after idling away gasoline behind slowpokes at lights and or stop signs. 
Righty radio talker Mark Belling and State Senator Mary Lazich, the pride of heavily-Republican New Berlin, have screamed the loudest... 
She's written that the Wisconsin Department of Transportation was on a "roundabout rampage" - -  and, separately, a "roundabout binge" - - but apparently no one even at the Walker-run WisDOT can hear her.  
Something about stupid safety data and other efficiencies - - real European stuff, like man purses and mimes. 
Or local control, a rock-ribbed Republican principle - - except when it comes to residency rules, public employee contracts, ground water protection, frac sand air quality, treaty-protected lands, and other trivialities.

Sleazy Emails Claim Another Walkerite

A grubby, X-rated email that showed up in last week's document dump has cost the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's top lawyer his job, media are reporting.

And there have been others whose offending tweets or Facebook posts cost them their jobs serving Walker. Details here.

We Are Slow To Confront Extreme Climate Impacts, Report Says

The right likes to say that liberals are profligate with other people's money, but look how profligate are the ideological climate change deniers with the world economy and everyone's physical and economic well-being.

The fossil fuel industries and their right-wing political enablers are helping leave us unprepared for costly and destructive extreme climate impacts, experts say:

The next big report from the world’s leading climate scientists is on impacts, it’s due the end of March, and it isn’t pretty. As the AP summarized the draft report on “Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability” from The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “starvation, poverty, flooding, heat waves, droughts, war and disease [are] likely to worsen as the world warms from man-made climate change.”

On Same-Sex Discrimination, GOP Gets Good Advice

Basically, the advice is "stop it."

And some of the best advice is coming from Republicans.
Arizona's two GOP US Senators are among people across the spectrum advising Jan Brewer, that state's Republican Governor, to veto a bill - - yes, it passed both houses of the Arizona Legislature - - that would allow business owners in Arizona to cite religious objections and deny services to customers.
The bill would give legal cover to marketplace barriers against homosexuals and raise all sorts of other discriminatory outcomes that could feed  Arizona's economy and reputation into the shredder.
It's more than fair that Brewer has to bear the PR consequences of far-right, Tea Party-based legislating since Republicans nationally have been gay-baiting for years to solidfy their base.
This was certainly the case a few years ago when Republicans led the effort to embed bans on same-sex marriage into state law and the Wisconsin State Constitution.
The Wisconsin bans are now under challenge in federal court, and similar provisions have been unwound in other states prompting moves by the Obama administration to use federal pressures to weaken those laws effects.
Leading Wisconsin's Attorney General J. B. Van Hollen today to tell The New York Times that he doesn't need any advice on the matter from US Attorney General Eric Holder.
Van Hollen's gripe was principally procedural, but protocol aside, Holder put Van Hollen on the defensive about issues of economic and civil rights, and in this day and age that is not where you really want to be.
More and more voters nationally, espcially  the young not raised with earlier generations' intolerance see discrimination against gays as old-fashioned and irrelevant.
Eventually - - but sooner rather than later - - these discrimimatory laws and practices will be wiped out and American society will be better for it.
Gov. Brewer is in something of a no-win position, and Van Hollen is, too - - though both can get themselves on the right side of history by backing away from the fartherst Right position within their party.

WI AG Van Hollen Takes On The Obama Administration

Scott Walker is usually lead attack dog when Wisconsin Republicans need to take a bite out of the Obama administration, like trashing Amtrak or Obamacare,

But state Attorney General J. B. Van Hollen got his chance to take a swipe at US Attorney General Eric Holder after Holder advised state attorneys general to step away from defending laws like Wisconsin's that discriminate against same-sex marriages.

The New York Times takes note:

“It really isn’t his job to give us advice on defending our constitutions any more than it’s our role to give him advice on how to do his job,” said Attorney General J. B. Van Hollen of Wisconsin, a Republican. “We are the ultimate defenders of our state constitutions.”
While the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, it has not weighed in on whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. The legal battleground, for now, has shifted to the states, and the collective voice of several attorneys general refusing to defend their laws could help sway those cases.

Monday, February 24, 2014

In Walker's World, Transparency Now Is A "Slippery Slope"

In light of Scott Walker's 2010 statement to a Wisconsin newspaper that he'd "lived" transparency - - he'd posted it on his campaign website, but the story and interview have been deleted - -  Milwaukee County Executive, his statement to another newspaper today that taking questions about that office operated is "a slippery slope" could not be more weirdly damning.

As I wrote in January, 2012:


Walker Claims Transparency, But His Office Kept Secrets

Then-Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker told the Lakeland Times newspaper in a lengthy interview during the gubernatorial campaign published on September 8th, 2010, that his work and behavior as Milwaukee County Executive established and reinforced his belief in open government:

When he says he believes in government transparency, it's not just a campaign slogan, Walker said.

"I don't just say that, I've lived it," he said.

But by the time that interview was published, a then-undisclosed email system in the County Courthouse that was regularly used by Walker's inner circle and other Republican operatives had been there for eleven months, records now show.

The system operated outside of the regular communications networks in the Courthouse, and outside of the reach of legal, Open Records search and requests.

And was set up by long-time Walker associate and County Executive staffer Tim Russell, according to the criminal complaint filed against Kelly Rindfleisch.

She had been hired in early 2010 for a taxpayer-paid position in Walker's public service office, but in reality was carrying out fund-raising and political work for then-State Rep. Brett Davis' unsuccessful campaign for Lt. Gov., the complaint says. Davis was a Walker favorite.

Rindfleisch was later promoted to Walker's Deputy Chief of staff - - an even higher-paid public position previously held by Russell - -  from which she allegedly and repetitively used the secret communications system, on public time for illegal political purposes, that was located in her office less than 25 feet from Walker's office, the complaint states.

It all makes laughable Walker's earlier call for ethics reforms to restore trust in government.

Rindfleisch faces four felony counts of misconduct in public office filed by county prosecutors in the continuing John Doe probe into the operation of Walker's office and campaigns, records show.

On page 15 of the complaint (use link above), it is alleged that in addition to work for the Davis campaign, there were more than 1,000 emails sent or received among Rindfleisch and three top Friends of Scott Walker gubernatorial campaign officials - - the campaign manager, deputy and communications director - - between Feb. 2 and July 9, 2010 - -  before then-County Executive Walker told the Lakeland Times he had "lived" transparency in County government.

Russell was charged separately with stealing money from a politically-advantageous veterans' fund that Walker assigned him to run out of the County Executive's Office, despite advice from the County's Ethics Board that the fund's operation be moved away from County Government.

Transparent County operations? More like a Nixonian throwback.

Davis, who did not win a primary for Lt. Gov., was appointed state Medicaid director by now Gov. Walker.

Davis' then-campaign manager, Cullen Werwie, remains as Gov. Walker's press secretary despite even though he shows up in some of the email traffic cited in the Rindfleisch complaint, and has been given immunity in the John Doe probe.

MADD Explains So-Called OWI First-Time Offender Dangers

Criticizing Wisconsin's weak, unique, ticket-only first-offense OWI has been a frequent topic on this blog, and I have often pointed out that a first-time offender is more accurately 'first-time-caught'.

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2009Latest Wisconsin OWI Tragedy - - Suspect A First-Time OffenderGiven his BAC and admitted marijuana use, I'd bet it's not the defendant's first-time episode of impaired driving.
Now Mothers Against Drunk Driving is highlighting how dangerous so-called first-time offenders really are, noting they are responsible for most of the OWI fatalities and have driven an estimated 80 times under the influence before being caught:
"‘First-time’ offenders are rarely first-time drunk drivers," said a MADD news release on Feb. 11, 2014. "Conservative estimates show that a first-time convicted OWI offender has driven drunk at least 80 times prior to being arrested."

Barrett Outshines Walker

In a telling contrast of headlines, Tom Barrett pursues economic development while an embattled Scott Walker parses criminal investigations. Yes, Walker won the elections, but is losing his credibility. If victory is Pyrrhic, which outcome would you prefer?

Walker Reform Claimed! No Private Email System Now, He Says

Knowing that the private email system set up in his Milwaukee County Executive office suite enabled law-breaking and evasion of the Open Records statute, now-Gov. Scott Walker says there is no similar system in the Governor's office.

But note the continual dance of denial, as Walker indirectly acknowledges the earlier system, but tries to distance himself from it:

Walker once again refused to say whether as county executive he knew of or used a secret email system set up in his office to avoid public scrutiny.
Doesn't he know how ridiculous this makes him look, so timid and without leadership?

Walker Throws Dart - -Or Boomerang? - - At Christie

Walker reminds DC media that Christie "is not out of the woods yet."

Also: Look who's talking.

Barrett's 'State Of The City' Address Has Development Focus

Glad to see in the Journal Sentinel this morning that Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is announcing a public/private partnership to further develop the Century City site at the former Tower Automotive A.O Smith site at about 35th St. and W. Capitol Dr.

The site has huge potential; reclaiming it through reinvention and re-commitment is a sign that Milwaukee's governmental and business leaders are working together.
It takes hard work to begin and sustain develop in the heart of older Great Lakes cities like Milwaukee.
Land is often contaminated from years of industrial use. Some capital and planning have left for the suburbs and the smaller towns west and north of the city.
And Milwaukee is land-locked by an only-in-Milwaukee-1950's state law that froze the city boundaries, helped fuel the region's suburbanization and confined Milwaukee's growth along with its poorer residents. 
So the city has to reinvent and reclaim and recycle land and buildings, to grow vertically where possible - - Third Ward lofts - -  to create something out of virtually nothing - - The Downtown Riverwalk - - and to keep innovating - - from the Menomonee Valley to Walker's Point to the Reed Street Yards to UW-M dorms in Riverwest made more attractive by expanded urban parkland.
The Downtown Trolley would begin to tie some of these resources together and add greater value to the state's largest city.
Every improvement should be on the table, and if the state were really a city partner instead of an ideological impediment it would facilitate the trolley as both an amenity and development tool.
But nothing is more basic to Milwaukee's success than converting under-utilized facilities or dormant acreage into productive assets.
Let's hope there's smooth sailing for the new Century City plan, and for the next, and the next and the next.
Cross-posted at Purple Wisconsin.