Wednesday, December 30, 2015

MI Gov. apologizes for poisoning the City of Flint

Well, I guess that takes care of it - - though before the apology the Governor had to fend off charges that his administration had withheld the facts.

Except that lead poisoning depresses child mental development, and lead levels measured in Flint children are already off the charts.

Background about Michigan's 2011'Father-know-best' takeover of Flint, here.

WI star chamber will meet in new Orwellian session

The meeting is of significance that is not transitory - - but these partisans who already have too much power they have already exercised too brazenly still get to make up their own rules and language.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

WEDC gets Robin Vos thumbs-up

Wisconsin GOP Assembly majority leader Robin Vos says Wisconsin's scandal-ridden, audit-flunking, asset-misplacing, executive-abandoning jobs [sic] agency could be awarded even more public money and does not need a rebranding do-over.


And the Green Bay Packers don't have any changes to make after their 38-8 drubbing in Arizona.

Great Lakes Echo Blog features WI water expert

Nice to see Lynn Broaddus get her props:
Lynn Broaddus 2015Lynn Broaddus
Lynn Broaddus isn’t afraid to defy the communications experts who say stay on message at all costs. No need for critical thinking. Develop your message and repeat. Forever.
Broaddus is president of the Broadview Collaborative, a Wisconsin sustainability think tank. She is also one of the region’s brighter lights when it comes to water policy. She has the ability to think critically and move past approved talking points to find a better way. Her recent op/ed on Waukesha’s request to divert Lake Michigan water is an example.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Key land purchase proves value of WI stewardship fund

Thanks to the Journal Sentinel's Don Behm for reporting on the state's permanent, development-free acquisition for the public of a scenic waterfall and surrounding land on the Wisconsin-Michigan border:
The Northwoods Land Trust ensured permanent public access to Interstate Falls, an 18-foot waterfall on the Wisconsin-Michigan border, with its acquisition this month of 38 acres along the Montreal River.
Private donations and a willing seller helped put the deal together, with about half the $188,000 purchase price coming from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund, an important public investment resource.

Earlier this year, Gov. Walker had proposed freezing Fund purchases until 2028.

Cathy Stepp, the "chamber-of-commerce mentality" DNR Secretary he's installed at the agency, had labeled the popular Fund fiscally unsustainable, and, since her early days as DNR Secretary had likened it to credit card spending.

After much public and bi-partisan support surfaced for the long-standing and non-partisan Fund, the Legislature passed a 2015-'17 budget that discarded Walker's Fund freeze-to-2028, but included other cuts to DNR staffing, science, and programs, and also ended small conservation planning and advisory grants to grassroots environmental organizations.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Add stalled population growth to stalled WI job growth

In contemporary Wreakhavocstan, these fresh, crummy population numbers at the heart of an unappealing and uninspired low-wage Wisconsin economy - - like the state's sluggish job growth data - - are probably the handiwork of a) former Gov. Jim Doyle, b) Libyan rebels, c) 2012 recall election protesters, d) Obamacare, or e) all the above.

It's e) - - says the administration's finger-pointing record.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Prime WI outdoors destinations were in ruination path

The Journal Sentinel picks six premier Wisconsin destinations for 2016 - - and it's worth noting that one of them is in the Bad River watershed where Gov. Walker and his legislative water-carriers wanted to locate 35 years of mountain top-removal/wetland-filling/deep open-pit iron ore mining, and the other is in a bird-and-wildlife haven downriver from the site of a recent train derailment which dumped thousands of gallons of alcohol into the Mississippi River.

Close calls, Bucky.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Walker's truth and budget GAAP

The Walker people under his name threw out a blatant propaganda op-ed a few days claiming that the state was moving in the right direction. A comeback, he called it.

These kinds of op-eds, news releases and various other self-serving, cotton-candy pronouncements are his standard precursor to the some other shoe having dropped, or about to fall, and yup, here it is: 

Under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, or GAAP, the Walker budget is running a growing deficit, as explained by Wisconson Public Radio:

Using Standardized Accounting Principles, State Budget Picture Worsened Last Year
GAAP Deficit Grew From $1.4B To $1.8B In Fiscal Year 2015
Meanwhile our leaderless state remains mired in bottom tier of job development. 

Some comeback.

Only WI is without smokestack emission compliance plan

Tia Nelson sums up Wisconsin's dangerous, intentional and unique resistance to clean air:
Wisconsin continues to gamble on a dangerous, negative strategy that every major country and every major corporation in the world came to grips with in Paris: the inevitability of carbon regulation in one form or another...
Wisconsin, the only state not to even start a plan, according to the Natural Resource Defense Council, is putting all its chips on delay through litigation. It’s a dangerous bet for a lot of reasons, but two stand out.
First, we are walking away from early-action incentives and credits that would lower our ultimate cost of compliance. Second, if we do not develop our own plan, the federal government has to impose one on us. Our utilities can’t want that. None of us should, when we could be designing our own energy future. 
More about the key players making Wisconsin a pollution haven, here, and obstructive denial on climate matters extends far beyond the US Midwest.

Smoke stacks from a factory.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Warming lakes a worldwide problem

Washington, Dic 22 (Prensa Latina) Lakes around the world are warming surprisingly quickly due to climate change, threatening the global water supply. 
The warming waters can lead to problems like toxic algae blooms that make water undrinkable, declines in fish populations that people rely on for food and other serious problems, warns the international team of researchers that released the study this week.
Lake Erie, hello. 

Global warming is bad for the forests, too. 

This is why the Paris accords were approved.

Moving in the 'right' direction...slowly, to the auto body shop

Despite the 'right direction' propaganda, we're close to the top of the lousy road index.

It's been something of a trend, as noted three months ago:
...while the state keeps building politically-enabled and pricey new lanes and wider ramps - - have you recently driven through the perpetual $1.9 billion 'improvement' to I-94 from Milwaukee to the Illinois border, or the $1.9 billion Zoo Interchange battle zone? - -  the condition of Wisconsin's roads are now rated third-worst in the nation, data show.
So how telling was it [yesterday] that busy State Highway 45 north of its connection to the Zoo morass was closed for hours because huge potholes had opened up on the pavement...
And that's the second time in recent weeks a major Southeastern Wisconsin 'freeway' was closed for emergency repairs because of dangerously large potholes. 

US House science chair needs walk in the woods

The Washington Post noted yesterday the continuing research which indicates massive tree die-off in the US Southwest due to a warming climate:
In a troubling new study just out in Nature Climate Change, a group of researchers says that a warming climate could trigger a “massive” dieoff of coniferous trees, such as junipers and piƱon pines, in the U.S. southwest sometime this century.
Texas Hill Country 187N-2.JPGAnd the Post today catalogues the war on climate science led by Lamar Smith, long-time Texas Congressman and current chairman of the House science committee. I wonder if Smith or his constituents in the 25-county Texas Hill Country district see the downside of his beliefs and actions?

Climate change has also been linked to increased drought and harsher wildfires - - which Texas is also suffering:

Larger, more threatening wildfires are occurring at greater rates as Texas faces lingering drought, consistent development — driven by millions of new residents and the spread of outlying suburbs — and changes in how the state’s land is used... 
The forest service responded to just one wildfire of at least 5,000 acres from 1985 to 2000, but in the last 15 years there have been fires of that size nearly every year. There were 27 fires at least that size in 2008 and 76 in 2011.

Monday, December 21, 2015

WI water crises pollute the water table, public policies

Wisconsin is in the midst of a water crisis with its roots in politics, policy and profits.


Look no further than Kewaunee County, WI, in the year 2015:
One-third of wells in Kewaunee County unsafe for drinking water

WI GOP legislator/panderer: Ready, aim, fire

Wisconsin is fast becoming a ready, aim, yee-haw! fire state:
A Wisconsin state lawmaker's call for residents to arm themselves and be prepared "to shoot center mass" after a shooting inside a Madison mall... 
"Wisconsin does not have a death penalty law, but with significant practice and careful aim, law abiding citizens can help clean our society of these scum bags," [Rep. Bob Gannon (R-Slinger)] said in the news release.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Who can't use a palm-sized 9mm semi-auto?

Thank you, Glock, for your smallest semi-auto yet:
Its length, width, and height measure at 6.26 inches, 1.02 inches, and 4.25 inches, respectively. 

Groucho might say today's secret word is "inveterate"

If the past is prologue, then the 1/27/12 headline Secret email system revealed in "John Doe" probe of Walker staff set the stage for the 12/09/15 headline Wis. Gov. Scott Walker signs bill ending secret 'John Doe' probes into political misconduct - - and also puts 1the 2/18/15  headline Former cabinet members: Top Walker aide ordered them to avoid state emails, phones in the spotlight

Or perhaps "inveterate" is a better word.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

In slow-growth WI, Walker points finger at the jobless

We've tracked Walker's penchant for finger-pointing - - last year or in 2013, too, for example.

And while he's blamed everything and everyone from the fiscal cliff to recall protesters to Libyan rebels for slow job growth in Wisconsin, laying it at the feet of would-be workers themselves takes the cake:
Gov. Scott Walker says Wisconsin continues to rank relatively low in job creation because not enough people are ready to join the workforce.
New data from the U.S Labor Department shows Wisconsin ranked 37th among states in adding private jobs during the 12 months ending last June...Wisconsin is 32nd over the last five years...
Walker told a business group in Milwaukee Friday that the state wants to help get more unemployed people off drugs and into jobs.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Fences make bad neighbors; maybe roadwork, too

It was reported this week that officials in the City of Wauwatosa were blasting the no-transit, all-concrete and very expensive reconstruction and expansion of I-94 being planned by Gov. Scott Walker's Department of Transportation in the east-west corridor between the Marquette Interchange in Milwaukee and the Zoo Interchange to the west that borders Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties.

The Zoo Interchange project includes years of roadwork in Wauwatosa, some of which is ongoing.

The east-west corridor is part of a $6.4 million, seven-county, decades-long Southeastern Wisconsin highway reconstruction and expansion plan which sprang from a regional planning commission advisory committeeThe plan, being carried out in segments, is years and billions of dollars from completion.

As Wauwatosa resists more work in the east-west corridor, remember that Scott Walker:

*  Played a key role 
as Milwaukee County Executive on that regional planning advisory committee which recommended the plan.

* Represented Wauwatosa in the state legislature for many years and is still a homeowner there.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Unravel these two Wash Post headlines tonight

Some updates about Waukesha's water diversion plan

[Updated, 8:14 p.m.] Here is a summary of some recent issues regarding the City of Waukesha's application for a diversion of Lake Michigan water. Please check for updates, marked Update.

Lake Michigan - Empire Beach

The Wisconsin DNR has sent the City of Waukesha's precedent-setting diversion application to the other seven Great Lakes states for their reviews.

Opponents have long raised environmental and legal objections, summarized here, and cost issues, too.

The agency's move was not a surprise, and has provided a website about the application and the review process, here.

The diversion review process was established in a US/Canadian Great Lakes water protection agreement that bars diversions of water beyond the boundaries of the Great Lakes basin, but provides a diversion application exception for a community like Waukesha which is within a county that touches the basin boundary.

In other words - - the City of Waukesha is close enough to the basin to apply for a diversion, but would be able to draw the water only after the unanimous approval of all eight Great Lakes states' Governors. 

One "no" vote blocks the diversion. 

The agreement - - essentially a blueprint for water conservation - - sets a very high bar for diversions, and the other states will have to decide if Waukesha is making what is essentially a qualifying 'last-resort' case with an application that also will send some of the diverted water both to undeveloped land and to neighboring communities which did not make their own requests for diverted water.

The review process includes an advisory role - but no veto power - - for the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec because they border the Great Lakes, a two-nation shared resource which constitutes about 20% of the planet's fresh surface water.

The other states' reviews will include technical analyses and public hearings over several months; the Wisconsin DNR ran its own analysis over the last few years, held hearings and concluded that Waukesha's application met the diversion application criteria.

* Note the broader implications of the diversion proposal that were included in a recent report by Michigan Public Radio:

“The Alliance for the Great Lakes, an environmental organization in Chicago, did a report in 2013 projecting how many potential future water applicants there could be,” [the National Wildlife Federation's Marc Smith] says. “And they came up with eight stretching roughly from Milwaukee, Wisconsin down to Fort Wayne, Indiana that could be potential water applicants in the future - - Fort Wayne being the largest community.”
* Note, also, that Waukesha's diversion intentions have raised concern and opposition in media and by policy-makers across the Great Lakes region. 

*  Already an expensive proposition, the diversion study and application process continues to generate costs as the project's ultimate cost estimate increases, too:

Waukesha will have to pay an diversion application fee, now projected at about $261,000, to a Great Lakes regional body which plays an official coordinating role in such matters. A fee was anticipated.

Separately, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission notified Waukesha on December 11th that it had exceeded diversion study costs approved by the agency for a new water supply by about $1.7 million - - or roughly by 50% beyond the PSC-approved $3.3 million - - and thus risked being unable to recover the excess expenditures dollars
 the current approved water rate structure for Waukesha.

*  Update - - The Waukesha Water Utility estimated In a December 1, 2014 planning grant application to the US Army Corps of Engineers that the diversion project's $206 million estimated "level of investment" would "require a typical annual residential water bill of approximately $1,000/yr. along with significant increases to all water users."

The average residential bill in 2011 was $261, the Journal Sentinel had reported.
recent Journal Sentinel op-ed laid out some of the long-range expenses that a diversion would present to Waukesha.

* Though it's the center of a deeply conservative county which routinely sends fiscally-'conservative/small government advocates to the Legislature, the City of Waukesha has long pursued federal funding to cover some of the diversion plan's infrastructure costs.

That estimate has more than doubled over the last few years of planning to $206 million, and will require a series of rate increases, as the Milwaukee Business Journal reported a year ago.

*  Waukesha has recently  submitted to the WI DNR some last-minute information from a consultant that projects decline in the underground water supply which the city hopes to replace with the diversion. That information is now in the hands of the DNR but was not submitted to the public during the hearings nor was it available when the public was submitting it's comments.

*  Data about the depth of the underground supply that had been included in the diversion application when the DNR held its hearings on the application this year had show an encouraging increase in the underground supply after a steady decline.

The positive data about the integrity of the underground supply was a scenario which allowed diversion critics to claim that, with conservation and a variety of existing sources and technologies, the diversion alternative was less attractive.

More on all this later, too.

Milwaukee Press Club expands Don Walker scholarship funding

The Milwaukee Press Club is announcing substantial matching donations to the scholarship fund established earlier this year to honor the late Don Walker, a veteran Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newsroom journalist:
The Milwaukee Press Club has announced it has established a $10,000 matching grant to help boost donations to any of the named scholarships that the Milwaukee Press Club Endowment administers. 
The grant means that those wishing to contribute money to the Don Walker Memorial Scholarship will be able to double their donation with the Press Club's matching grant. For instance, if someone donates $25 to the Walker fund, the Press Club will add $25 to that donation. 
The endowment currently administers only one named scholarship -- the Don Walker Memorial Scholarship -- but the grant also could be used for any new named scholarships.  
The Press Club will keep its matching fund active until all of the fund's money has been donated. 
Nearly $40,000 has been donated to the Don Walker Memorial Scholarship fund, which will award a $1,000 scholarship each school year to a student studying journalism at either Marquette University or the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. For details on the fund, go to
The Don Walker Memorial Scholarship is sponsored by the Milwaukee Newspaper Guild and administered through the MPC Endowment, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation affiliated with the Milwaukee Press Club. 
Walker, a longtime reporter and editor at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, died in May. He was 62.

Monday, December 14, 2015

WI GOP would OK native burial mound excavation

A new day brings another example of WI Republicans slamming a minority population in favor of special corporate interests:
A new bill being circulated in the state Legislature could settle a years-long legal fight over the protected status of Native American effigy mounds located in a limestone quarry in the town of Blooming Grove.
The same issue has been raised by the proposed construction of a high-end golf course on a 247-acre forest and wetland on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan near the City of Sheboygan:
The property includes at least one Indian burial mound. 
The Black River area was home to a "continuous string" of American Indian populations, according to DNR planning documents. [The adjacent state park] Kohler-Andrae has 21 known archaeological sites. 
Remember that Wisconsin, by law, recently made it easier for public schools to retain Native American logos and nicknames, has a long history of fighting with Ojibwa tribes over treaty-protected hunting and fishing rights, and rewrote mining law to allow destructive and polluting open-pit iron mining upstream from the Bad River reservation's land and rice-growing estuaries close to Ashland and Lake Superior.

On climate, the right is reliably ideological and wrong

[Update] GOP politicians are threatening to upend the recently-concluded climate change summit's blueprint which is designed to slow down global warming's accelerating damage to the planet, media are reporting.

One hundred and ninety-six countries signed the blueprint, thereby breathing life-saving public policy energy into years and years of scientific research by thousands of researchers worldwide, but right-wing candidates and office-holders in this country are willing to destroy the outcome of complex diplomacy that can literally give peace and the planet a chance.

It's the latest example of the right's determination to substitute echo-chamber crosstalk for facts and science and insert their toxic stew into a wide spectrum of 'policies' it champions - - whether to enable ridiculously easy access to battlefield weapons, or to prevent clinics from providing medical care to low-income women, or as the Madison-born social scientist Dr. Anna Gassman-Pines has documented in important new research, to further tighten harmful food stamp limitations that create children's foundering school performance.

These rightwing politicians are already on the wrong side of public health, child development and environmental protection - - common sense matters so fundamental to civil society that there should be only universal and enthusiastic support on their behalf.

The climate change deniers are willing monkey-wrench the agreement with little regard for landing on the wrong side of history just as the world has come together remarkably to minimize unprecedented climate-related costs and risks - - though one former GOP official feels his party is making a mistake by opposing the accord: 
The Republicans’ unyielding approach has even sympathizers shaking their heads. Paris could provide a chance for the Republican Party to get on the right side of history,” said Andy Karsner, who was an assistant secretary of energy under President George W. Bush.  


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Will an entire Milwaukee County park be leased?

This on-again/off-again move between Milwaukee County and the City of Greenfield over leasing the county's Kulwicki Park seems to be on again.

The park has maintenance issues, but could removing it in its entirety from county control lead to developer control on public land? 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Good to see UW engaged in Paris climate summit

While the Badger state's leading right-wing elected officials are doing all they can to obstruct clean air and green energy initiatives - - by fighting federal greenhouse gas emission limitations, and wind farm sitings and affordable solar installations, and climate change discussion- - it's a relief to see UW Madison scientists, staffers, faculty and state private sector leaders engaged in the Paris climate summit.
The optimism is palpable,” University of Wisconsin law professor Sumudu Atapattu said, speaking live via teleconference from the COP21 conference on climate change in Paris to about 200 environmental activists and interested citizens gathered Thursday at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery in Madison. 
Atapattu’s sense of optimism permeated “Live from Paris,” featuring a panel of five Wisconsinites representing health, law, business and science convened by the Wiscnsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters and the UW-Madison Global Health Institute. 
Which is what UW scientists and faculty are supposed to do - - lead, participate, collaborate - - Robin Vos' anti-science crusade and Scott Walker's hostility to the Madison campus and to renewable energy not withstanding.

The UW activity is an important - - even brave- - exercise of good science, academic freedom and the Wisconsin Idea - - all under attack by the ruling party which went out of its way in the last budget to slash higher ed funding, upend tenure, diminish science programs and warp the UW's historic public service role.

Tia Nelson wins. So does the climate movement

[Updated from 12:07 p.m. Friday] So happy to see an upbeat essay by the environmentalist and public citizen Tia Nelson, headed for the Paris summit, free to represent The Wisconsin Idea and talk openly and substantively about climate change:
When I step on the ground in Paris, it will be a homecoming. It's not that I am French but that I am returning to a global community I left more than 11 years ago. I will be rejoining thousands of business leaders, scholars, climate researchers, politicians, activists and citizens concerned about finding policy solutions to reduce carbon pollution and man-made global warming.
Hat tip to the reactionaries who tried to stifle Tia and her ideals, as they gave her a bigger platform.

Update - - More Wisconsin participation at Paris summit.

Friday, December 4, 2015

And remember, he was supposed to be the smart Bush

Opportunities to save WI forest, rivers this weekend

This is a good weekend to be a conservationist in Wisconsin.

*  You can meet at the Kohler High School parking lot at 11:30 a.m. Saturday and march with Sheboygan County preservationists and climate change activists who are trying to prevent the conversion of a 247-acre forest preserve, wetland and bluff overlooking Lake Michigan to a high-end golf course. The preserve, in the Town of Wilson, is owned by the Kohler Co.

The project would encroach into the adjoining Kohler-Andrae State Park and bring a lot of traffic to one of the lakeshore's most peaceful settings.

*  And you can bid on nearly 200 amazing items, including art work, food, entertainment, vacation packages to signed Milwaukee sports teams' collectibles in the River Alliance of Wisconsin annual auction which ends Monday, Dec. 7th. I see unusual items at bargain prices for a good cause.

Information, bidding procedure and item photos, here.

WI to continue lake trout fishing restrictions in Lake Superior

[Apologies for the type face and font as copied from a pdf] 

More proof that the Great Lakes are sensitive, and its resources need care and respect: 

Having taken public input earlier this year, and with a management agreement in place that needs an extension, the Natural Resources Board's Dec. 8th meeting agenda discloses the intention to extend an emergency order reducing all parties limits on lake trout taken from Lake Superior through September 30, 2016.

Sport anglers have not been happy with the restrictions - - but here's the Natural Resources Board's agenda wording:

The purpose of the emergency rule is to amend Lake Superior lake trout harvest limits for the 2015-16 open season and implement other reasonably related changes stemming from discussions regarding the Lake Superior Fishing Agreement.

The total allowable catch of lake trout in Wisconsin waters of Lake Superior is divided among Chippewa-licensed commercial fishers, state-licensed commercial fishersChippewa subsistence fishers, and recreational fishers.

The decline in lake trout population abundances requires harvest reductions by all parties in order to ensure a sustainable lake trout fishery over the long-termThe recreational lake trout open season runs from December 1, 2015, through September 302016. 

The commercial fishing season is open November 282015, through September 302016.

The emergency rule will:

  • Adjust lake trout commercial fishing harvest quotas 
  • Implement new bag and size limit regulations for recreational fishing 
  • Implement catch and release only for the remainder of the season if harvest levels are reached in one area of the lake
  • Prohibit commercial fishing within the Gull Island Refuge Area 
  • Open the Hagen's Beach Restricted Fishing area to fishing June 1 through August 31, 2016 

GOP inconsistencies on guns, Obamacare, Planned Parenthood

Republican US Senators in the last 24 hours voted a) to overturn Obamacare, b) defund Planned Parenthood, but also voted c) to maintain current gun sales' loopholes and continue to allow people on the terror watch list to buy firearms, as the NRA demands.

The least our compassionate conservatives could do is preserve Obamacare coverage for people shot by any and all loophole shooters and terrorists, whether foreign or domestic.

Not that Colorado GOP State Legislator Jo Ann Windholz would agree, since she reportedly said after three people were killed and nine were injured by a shooter at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs:
The true instigator of this violence and all violence at any Planned Parenthood facility is Planned Parenthood themselves. Violence begets violence

Thursday, December 3, 2015

29 coal mining deaths bring misdemeanor conviction

They say it's a rare prosecution.

I'd call the outcome a slap on the wrist.
In a rare prosecution of a mining executive for safety violations, former Massey Energy chief executive Don Blankenship was convicted by a federal jury on one of the three counts brought against him in relation to the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine collapse in West Virginia that killed 29 people. 
An investigation of the event found a plethora of warning signs before the accident, including sparking machinery and a buildup of toxic gases. The jury found Blankenship guilty of conspiracy to violate mine safety regulations, which is a misdemeanor, but acquitted him on the more serious counts of deceiving investors and regulators.
You hear about the war on coal. I'd say the war's against the miners and justice. 

Records show Reagan, Bush 41 favored climate change action

While both Presidents Reagan and George H. W. Bush's administrations wanted action on global warming and climate, records show, today's leading GOP ideologues want nothing to do with it: 
The assertive posture contrasts with the positions taken this week by leading Republican presidential contenders, several of whom publicly mocked Obama’s efforts to secure an international climate treaty in Paris. The GOP-controlled House voted Tuesday to block the administration’s signature regulation to cut greenhouse-gas pollution from U.S. power plants.

Call to action against radical grab of WI public water rights

This blog frequently focuses on the relentless attack by corporatist politicians against long-standing water law, public rights and the traditional Wisconsin land conservation and ethic  - - some examples here, here (or enter key words in the search box at the upper left corner of the blog face page for more items) - but I strongly suggest reading this excellent analysis and call to action by the River Alliance of Wisconsin about a particularly egregious plan to let developers encroach on shorelines:

ACTION ALERT -  Ask Your Legislator NOT to Sign On 


Bills Will Weaken Rules to Protect Water and Public Rights

This week, two bills co-sponsored by Sen. Frank Lasee and Rep. Adam Jarchow were introduced. Named the "Property Rights Package: Lands Near Waters" (LRB3588/1) and the "Property Rights Package: Statewide Uniformity" (LRB3986/1), these fancy-titled bills are a huge, far-reaching rollback in how we define public water and what activities in those waters can be regulated.

We are working hard to analyze all the implications in 36 pages of proposed changes to Wisconsin water statutes. But it is already crystal clear that these bills live up to their name as a "package" - that is, a giant Christmas package of favors to special interests that want to use our waters with less oversight, less accountability and less local control or citizen challenge.

The bill includes language to:
  • Remove more waters from protection under the Public Trust Doctrine
  • Allow increased development in wetlands
  • Allow a lake property owner to remove up to 10 dump trucks full of sediment from a lake bed every year without an individual permit.
  • Require the State to sell filled lake bed - public property - to private interests
  • Narrow the ability for citizens to challenge DNR permit decisions that affect water and even allow defendants to cherry-pick new hearing examiners when things aren't going their way.
  • Weakens local control over development, zoning and even how local governments vote on zoning changes 

What can you do?  

These bills are circulating in the Capitol for co-sponsorship. NOW is the perfect time for legislators to hear that their constituents are unhappy with these outrageous rollbacks to water protection. 

The deadline for legislators to sign on to these bills is coming fast: MONDAY, December 7th.

1. Phone or write your Senator and Representative and let them know you are tired of hearing all the news of how we are not protecting clean water in Wisconsin. Ask them NOT TO SIGN ON to these two bills. Find the contact info for your legislator here:

2. Sign up for our e-newsletter and action alerts. 

Thank you for helping to protect the waters of Wisconsin!   

More proof of Wisconsin's cratered economy

We've seen continuing reports that describe the erosion of the state's economy - - from lost jobs to falling wages - - and now there are new numbers that further underscore the depth of Wisconsin's troubles and our leaders' lack of solutions:
Median household income fell by a significant margin in two-thirds of Wisconsin counties from 2009 to 2014, according to figures released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau. 
In Milwaukee County, the median income fell by 10.3% to $43,385. Waukesha County, which had the highest median income in the state at $76,319, saw a 7.1% drop. Washington (-5.2%), Ozaukee (-7.7%) and Racine (-7.9%) counties all experienced declining incomes, as well. 
Falling incomes translate into increased poverty down the line. In Milwaukee County, the percentage of people living in poverty increased by 3.9 points to 21.9%. More than half of the counties in the state saw increases in the portions of people living in poverty.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Does WI environmental law blight the land, waterfronts?

State Sen. Frank Lasee made a number of claims in a news release two days ago to justify a bill he is co-sponsoring to ease and alter state environmental protections along shorelines and elevate property owners' development rights. 

It's a sweeping proposal that undermines public water rights and precedent contained in Article IX of the state constitution, and is not some sort of re-balancing of rights, as argued by both Lasee and Gov. Walker.

About the impact of current Wisconsin law and environmental regulation, Lasee said:

In Wisconsin, properties on or near shorelines have stagnated for decades by crippling state regulations and unclear ownership. The City of Superior’s shoreline remains blighted and littered with decrepit structures, while just across the bridge Minnesota’s Duluth is flush with restaurants, hotels, and commercial areas. 
He also said, in bold-face:
...every time a job creator applies for a permit they wind up in court because Wisconsin laws aren’t clear enough... 
Is there data to back up these claims about WI environmental law and its negative consequences?