Sunday, December 31, 2017

Potholes, punted planning, postponed projects expose Walker politically

Gov. Pothole has allowed Wisconsin's roads to decay to 2nd-worst in the country, costing motorists repair penalties reaching an estimated $700 annually in the Milwaukee area, data show. 

Which is why you will find Walker on Twitter self-servingly touting initiatives and achievements and cherry-picked data points, and routinely coopting every shared cultural or sports totem and icon in the state, and even displaying what burger or beverage he's half-consumed, like this June 1, 2014 close-up of what appears to be a grilled burrito? - - 
Photo on 2014-06-01 at 21:31.jpg

- -  but you will not see him bragging about how well he's managing the roads.

Worse, Walker's failure as party leader to resolve GOP-infighting over how basic transportation needs will be funded (and to that crew, 'transportation' means roads, so forget already-dismissed and degraded transit, bike and pedestrian services) will be intensified by his election-year Foxconn monomania that is further eroding the state's entire transportation network.

So think of a stretch of road full of potholes with an expanding sinkhole underneath, and that's what Walker and one-party GOP rule have given people across the state for a 'transportation system.'

We deserve better.

Case in point: the major Dane County's highway corridor known as the South Beltline.

The basic facility is outdated, even hazardous, and while more growth and congestion are predicted in the corridor, Walker has been told by the feds who pony up the biggest funding share of such projects that it would be wasteful right now to even finish spending on a study to address the long-term issues: 
...the Highway Administration warned the [Wisconsin] DOT last year against advancing the Beltline study to the environmental phase, saying it “does not believe the timing is right to initiate another project in the (environmental phase) when there are so many other projects that are further advanced and should be completed.” 
It's the consequence of Walker's abandoning policy stewardship and government leadership in favor of maintaining at all costs his key campaign talking point: always saying he never approved a tax increase, even if the outcome is rutted roads and project delays and a mockery of transportation coherence.
The state budget enacted in September didn’t provide a revenue infusion for transportation, leaving such funds in short supply through 2019 — and causing Gov. Scott Walker’s administration to curtail its road-building ambitions.
Also curtailed: riding Wisconsin roads without hitting potholes that will loosen your fillings, burst your tires and break your shocks.

Unless your road project has the word "Foxconn" on it, Walker has no interest in funding it. 

The Foxconn financial diversion folly Walker has opened in state highway funding includes a special, fast-tracked $30 million, and another $134 million drained from other projects statewide, and another borrowed $252 million billed to future taxpayers to finish slowed I-94 North/South improvements near and into the projected Foxconn complex.

Plus - - Walker hopes to cover that $252 borrowing with a Federal infrastructure grant from the Federal government even though Trump and the GOP-led Congress just deeply and permanently cut the flow of money into the Treasury so top GOP donors could get to keep more of their money.

Which is needed to fund big highway projects. 

Remember, the The South Beltline project, if ever launched, could cost $1 billion. 

Meanwhile, the Zoo Interchange remains incomplete.

I-94 East-West widened lanes past Story Hill have already been withdrawn, because that's another $1 billion that doesn't exist and which opponents would have tied up forever in righteous litigation..

Much of the vaunted, $6.4 billion Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Freeway System expansion and reconstruction never got into the ground.

And transit systems are run on shoestrings.

Bottom line: Walker is extremely vulnerable statewide on having punted basic revenue-raising obligations, keeping the roads repaired, and managing projects without chaos.

Walker and the GOP should be called out on this every day.

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Ignoramus-in-Chief wisecracks about global warning at the worst time

Because he's an ignoramus who thinks climate change is the same thing as a cold weather forecast in winter, and also because he's incapable of empathy which gives most humans their direction and purpose, our idiot President has wisecracked this on Twitter:  
In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!
Official Portrait of President Donald Trump.jpg
You know who won't think there's anything funny about global warning?

Millions of Americans, and others, too.

Like the hundreds of thousands of people flooded out of homes and neighborhoods and small towns by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma from Texas to Florida and other Southeastern states.

Or any of the thousands of Californians burned out their homes and communities up and down the state by wildfires fueled by years of a warming climate's drought.

Anyone in the US Virgin Islands, or in Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria hit who lost a house, business, or a friend or relative in the death toll now believed to exceed 1,000, or who may be without electrical power until late next year.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Team Trump serves lead paint makers. Walker got there first.

As we have seen on several environmental matters, Walker is Trump with less bluster, more guile, similar outcomes.

So people in Wisconsin who remember that Walker and the GOP legislature were discovered to have taken big money from a major lead paint maker as they cut back lead paint regulation - - 

GOP eases lead paint laws after $750,000 in donations

- - will not be surprised that Trump's intentionally-demolished EPA has been slammed today for a willfully go-slow approach again to federal lead paint regulation.
A federal appeals court is ordering the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take action within 90 days to revise standards meant to protect children from lead-based paint.
The San Francisco-based Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruledWednesday that the EPA has taken too long to act on a 2009 petition from health and environmental groups who want the agency to further restrict lead paint limitations.
The judges issued a “writ of mandamus,” a rare edict from a federal court that requires a litigant to take action.
The EPA told the court that it would take another six years to develop a lead paint rule, which the judges did not accept.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Walker concedes failure of 250,000 jobs pledge

[Updated from 12/26/17] You may remember Walker's repetitive and broken pledge to create 250,000 new private sector jobs in one, four year term.

The Journal Sentinel reported earlier this year that only 185,000 jobs net were added to the state workforce in his first six years as Governor - - so about 30,000 a year and at a rate less than half what was needed to keep his signature pledge made throughout his 2010 and 2012 campaigns.

So now with another re-election campaign underway that will be a referendum on his performance, Walker is throwing out on Twitter new spin and misdirection that changes the numbers, reframes what's promised and defines failure as success; Walker now cites creating or retaining - - new category - - nearly - - new qualifier - - 30,000 jobs in 2017.

Does Walker think we won't see through this trick he Tweeted Tuesday:
 6 minutes ago6 minutes agoMoreWisconsin is open for business! This year’s economic development projects are expected to create or retain nearly 30,000 jobs and result in more than $11.6 billion in capital investment across the state.  
 2 hours ago2 hours agoMore2017 has been a historic year for Wisconsin, with economic development projects expected to create or retain nearly 30,000 jobs and result in more than $11.6 billion in capital investment across the state. 
Does Walker think we don't remember him saying that 250,000 new jobs was a floor, not a ceiling?
Promise of 250,000 jobs hasn't changed, Scott Walker says
This fundamental dishonesty will continue in Wisconsin until mainstream media aggressively confront Walker with the facts, and his record, and hold him accountable, or his Tweet will disappear into the ether without effective, widespread contact and correction.

And if retaining jobs is now a win, what say you, WaukeshaSheboygan, Oscar Mayer, Caterpillar, Wausau PaperManitowoc Crane, etc., etc.?

Here's the truth:

Walker would have needed the Wisconsin economy to add (not retain) jobs at a rate of 62,500 annually to have met his 250,000-new-jobs-in four-years-promise.

In fact, there is fresh reporting that shows Wisconsin's job growth is more a crawl than a broad-jump:
The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, also provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are considered a more accurate measure of job growth... 
The latest quarterly estimates, from June 2016 to June 2017, recently found that Wisconsin’s private-sector growth ranks 28th in the nation, with a manufacturing growth rate of 0.8 percent. The quarterly census also found a drop in manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin in 2016. 
So back to Walker's shaky 'created and-retained 30,000 jobs,' which is apparently the new 62,500 when conjuring alternative numbers and searching for votes.

And don't get me started on how many of those new jobs were due to the national economy and President Obama's stimulus investments.

And how many jobs Walker sacrificed by turning down at least $810 million in Obama-era Amtrak rail bed upgrades, train repair and assembly funding, hundreds of millions of dollars in Medicaid expansion funds and more millions for rural broadband upgrades.

Walker is a jobs-killer.


Monday, December 25, 2017

At EPA, Stepp should recuse from Stepp's WI DNR record review

Imagine that you take your doctor to court for a long pattern of negligence, and suddenly, there's a new judge on the case: your doctor!

That's pretty much what may be facing Wisconsin citizens who filed a detailed legal petition with the EPA for corrective action (PCA) to fix multiple deficiencies in Wisconsin's application of federal water law under the direction of WI DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp - - yet the very same Stepp has just been appointed director of the EPA's regional office that includes Wisconsin and makes decisions about EPA policies and federal water law enforcement in the state.

If that's not an absurdity and a conflict-of-interest, tell me what is.
Wisconsin DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp proudly shows off her first deer, taken opening weekend last year. In the upcoming TV Special "Deer Hunt Wisconsin 2012, Stepp urges male hunters to take more girls and women hunting. "The secret's out," she says. "Hunting is a lot of fun, so don't keep it to yourselves."  photo courtesy of Wisconsin DNR
Likewise, Stepp as EPA regional director for Wisconsin should play no role in any EPA decision-making related to Foxconn, whose environmental exemptions she championed, or the controversial Kohler golf course because the DNR had under her direction been tilting approvals, reviews and hearings in the project's direction.

These projects need an honest broker, a role Stepp long ago forfeited.

There's no way Stepp as the newly-appointed EPA regional director for Wisconsin should assess through funding, findings, and policy decisions whether Stepp as DNR Secretary for nearly seven years properly handled her obligations to the people of Wisconsin under federal water law enforcement authority which flows to the states through the EPA.

And especially whether Stepp's foot-dragging is why the deficiencies which the EPA said should have been repaired by 2014 are not yet fully fixed.

The public interest law firm Midwest Environmental Advocates filed a Petition for Corrective action, PCA), in 2015 with the EPA to force the DNR into compliance with the Clean Water Act on 75 matters which the Walker administration knew about but failed to repair under Cathy Stepp's tenure as Walker's DNR Secretary for almost seven years.

I have written several times about the 75 federal water law problems Wisconsin was not addressing in a timely fashion, including this 2012 posting:

...the DNR is dragging the agency's feet complying with 75 clean water-policy "deficiencies" the US Environmental Protection Administration told the DNR in an unusually tough letter last year to fix.
As the public-interest law firm Midwest Environmental Advocates framed it on July 29, 2011:
...the EPA has issued a letter to the DNR that points out the agency’s “numerous apparent omissions and deviations between Wisconsin’s current statute and [Clean Water Act] requirements.” The EPA is requiring that the “omissions and corrected quickly”, and that the state prove it has “adequate authority” to rectify the program’s problems or provide a plan to establish the required authority.
The EPA said the DNR should make those water program repairs in two years , but Stepp told the EPA in writing that her agency's rule-making takes 31 months from start to finish - - unless, of course, Stepp wants to use available, fast-tracking processes.
I wrote about the petition for corrective action, (PCA) in October, 2015:
Citizens petitioners with the assistance of attorneys at Midwest Environmental Advocates have asked the US Environmental Protection Agency to push the DNR to comply with earlier findings that Wisconsin had a stunning seventy-five deficiencies in enforcing the US Clean Water Act statewide:
The group said that the DNR is backsliding in its regulatory role, noting problems are not improving and in some cases are worsening in areas such runoff pollution, well contamination and algae-clogged lakes.
In July 2011, the EPA cited 75 deficiencies by the DNR in its handling of water regulation matters and ordered the DNR to address them. DNR enforces water regulation under the federal Clean Water Act, with oversight by the EPA.
If a state isn't complying with the federal act, the EPA can take away its authority and assume the regulation. 
The parties aren't asking the EPA to remove that authority now, but to take a greater oversight role and hold a public hearing in Wisconsin. Without improvement, the group says it will ask the EPA to take away the DNR's water regulation authority.
The latest update from MEA on the petition is here, and MEA reports:
EPA continues to investigate certain claims set forth in the Petition and provide regular, publicly-available updates regarding which claims are resolved and, for unresolved issues, what corrective action(s) the state must take.  
The most recent update on EPA’s investigation occurred in November 2017, when Agency staff deemed as fully resolved just over half of the “75 issues” or water pollution program deficiencies identified by EPA in 2011.  
The remainder of the issues are in various stages of resolution, with less than a handful labeled as completely unresolved. EPA has not made preliminary findings with respect to issues set forth in the PCA that were not identified by the EPA back in 2011. 
This means that over two years have passed since filing of the PCA, and Petitioners still have no answer with respect to certain important deficiencies in the DNR’s water pollution permitting program.   
EPA and DNR program staff have the will to improve the program, but top-down pressure is hampering comprehensive progress.
At a minimum, Stepp should recuse herself from any role in assessing the Kohler golf course project, the pending water program petition or implementing solutions to fix the remaining deficiencies. 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Stepp is the perfect pick to depredate the Boundary Waters

Installing - - whew, no Senate confirmation needed - -  former Wisconsin developer, anti-science and inside-the-government pollution enabler Cathy Stepp as director of the US EPA Great Lakes region - - is like giving the oil tanker captain who drove his ship onto the rocks in Alaska the helm of an even bigger ship.

But that's what Donald Trump is doing by positioning Stepp as the political appointee to speed along, among other things, acidic sulfide mining runoff, air pollution, trucking disruption and a host of other environmental, health and safety depredations Trump is aiming at the special Minnesota wilderness known as the Boundary Waters.

Because she's got the experience.

*  Among Stepp's achievements implementing WI GOP Gov. Scott Walker's overtly-right-wing "chamber of commerce mentality" atop the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources: defending the iron mining bill Walker had written for, and with, the sole mining company planning 35 years of deep open-pit mining with eased wetland-filling rules across up to 22 miles of the Penokee Hills and Bad River watershed near Lake Superior.

A company which infused into Walker's political campaign committee secretly-routed donations of $1.25 million.

*  And on her way out the DNR door for new polluting opportunities at the EPA which Trump has turned into a climate change-denying, anti-environmental protection agency mirroring what Walker and Stepp had done with the DNR, Stepp let it be known that she was in love with the precedent-setting Foxconn project in SE WI - - setting precedents not only for the $4 billion in state subsidies fast-tracked to the company, but also through a unique law governing its operations that eliminated environmental reviews and allowed filling wetlands, moving streams and building on lake beds prohibited by the Wisconsin Constitution's Public Trust Doctrine.
Stepp sounds in this Journal Sentinel story more like a Foxconn publicist than the senior state employee purportedly in charge of protecting the people's clean air and water:
State Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp said Wednesday her agency supports removing regulatory hurdles for Foxconn Technology Group's massive electronics plant, but she said environmental standards won't be compromised...
Stepp was enthusiastic about Foxconn during a meeting of the Natural Resources Board in Milwaukee, calling the plant pegged for southeastern Wisconsin an "amazing opportunity." The plant would build liquid crystal display panels....
"We want to hit the ground running and make sure that the regulatory processes and bureaucracy are not in the way...
*  Stepp also greenlit a major wetlands destruction for a sand mining project, including the loss of significant stands of trees, reported the Journal Sentinel:
The DNR approved plans by the company to destroy 16.25 acres of wetlands, including 13.37 acres of white pine and red maple swamp. A white pine, red maple swamp is considered imperiled by the DNR because there are few remaining sites in Wisconsin. 
Meteor's plans would be the largest wetlands loss from the sand industry in a decade, according to the DNR.  
With that mentality, you can understand why her agency didn't follow its own pollution prevention rules 94% of the time. 

*  And why the state, championing weakened environmental standards, added a hundreds of impaired waterways over the last few years to the official list .
Wisconsin DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp proudly shows off her first deer, taken opening weekend last year. In the upcoming TV Special "Deer Hunt Wisconsin 2012, Stepp urges male hunters to take more girls and women hunting. "The secret's out," she says. "Hunting is a lot of fun, so don't keep it to yourselves."  photo courtesy of Wisconsin DNR
Stepp is the perfect, pro-pollution corporate tool to get the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act out of the way so a Chilean mining company can tear up the land near the Boundary Waters.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Trump the Polluter takes aim at MN Boundary Waters

Neighboring Minnesota just suffered a sneak attack in the Trump administration's war on nature, public lands, public health and sound science, meaning the world-renowned Boundary Waters could become a mining company's toxic waste dump.

That because Trump's Interior Department and sham outdoors advocate Secretary Ryan Zinke have quietly green-lit currently-suspended sulfide metals' mining at the edge of Minnesota's precious Boundary Waters.

Seriously, the Boundary Waters are like Eden. 

What's next: fracking wells along the National Mall? Drilling rigs in the Reflecting Pool? 

Add that outrage, that insanity ready to he unleashed in the blue-state Minnesota wilderness to the relentless attack on Wisconsin wetlands and waters in bordering Wisconsin by Trump apologist Gov. Scott Trump's hiring of non-science developer and ex-McDonald's manager Cathy Stepp from Team Walker to run the EPA's Great Lakes region for its climate change denying and fossil fuel boosting Administrator Scott the Interior Department's unprecedented transfer of to private business of national monument acreage held for the people in Western states.

Not content with already having most of the country's power and wealth, and taking benefits from all three branches of government - - and, likewise, most of the states - - and about to drown in fresh billions sent through permanent tax breaks by lapdogs named Ryan and McConnell, Republicans and big business want more from the public sector and commons the 1% is intentionally draining. 

The environment? 

A sidebar, irrelevant. 

Contamination and degradation? Mere collateral damage, far from the country club, primo vacation homes and other insulators from the wreckage they are leaving behind in filled wetlands, sulfide mining acidic runoff, polluted drinking water, dirty air.

As I said the other day, the GOP is now the Pollution Party:
Party rebranding: The GOP of Trump and Walker has remade itself into the Pollution Party.

NY Times reveals Trump's racist, homophobic piggishness

White power
Official Portrait of President Donald Trump.jpg
in the White House.

The New York Times, in a report on a White House meeting on immigration, has the story

Late to his own meeting and waving a sheet of numbers, President Trump stormed into the Oval Office one day in June, plainly enraged...
According to six officials who attended or were briefed about the meeting, Mr. Trump then began reading aloud from the document, which his domestic policy adviser, Stephen Miller, had given him just before the meeting. The document listed how many immigrants had received visas to enter the United States in 2017... 
Haiti had sent 15,000 people. They “all have AIDS,” he grumbled, according to one person who attended the meeting and another person who was briefed about it by a different person who was there.  
Forty thousand had come from Nigeria, Mr. Trump added. Once they had seen the United States, they would never “go back to their huts” in Africa, recalled the two officials, who asked for anonymity to discuss a sensitive conversation in the Oval Office.
Most disgraceful President. Imaginable. 

As are his partisan, favor-seeking sycophantic enablers, including Paul Ryan, Scott Walker, et al.

As WI wetlands are threatened, more warnings near and far

Corporately-obeisant Republicans, with a poor record protecting rivers, lakes and streams, are rushing to remove protection from 1 million acres of wetlands.

They refuse to look at the immediate picture.

NW WI flood damage in 2016 damage, prior to 2017 flooding there, and in SW WI, too.
Or at bigger realities as the climate warms, Trump dismisses the Paris Climate accords, and a known climate change denier and developer is in charge of the US EPA's Great Lakes region.

While flood-resisting wetlands are set to disappear in flood-prone Racine County for Walker's Foxconn/campaign client, and elsewhere, on a stunning scale:
The Pantanal region, the world’s largest tropical wetlands, is starting to wither. Over the last 15 years, about 8,700 square miles of the area, which straddles Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia, have been altered, with fast-growing patches of yellow, arid land introduced into the lush biome, which covers roughly 70,000 square miles, or about the size of Syria.
Remember that the Amazon region has been called the lungs of the planet, and we all breathe the same air.

So look closer to home, where Wisconsin's environment is in decline through intentional partisan action, despite long-standing warnings: 
"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 Supreme Court in its 1960 opinion resolving Hixon v. PSC and buttressing The Public Trust Doctrine, Article IX of the Wisconsin State Constitution.

MSNBC's Merry Christmas to Joan Walsh: Her firing.

  1. But Hugh Hewitt and Charlie Sykes are OK. Ugh.
  2. So it’s true: after 12 years on MSNBC, six on contract, I learned Friday night they are not renewing. I’ve given my heart and soul to the network, from the George W. Bush years through today. I’m proud of the work I did.

Oops! Walker proves tax bill grossly favors millionaires

WI GOP Gov. and boy who flunked 8th grade Math Fundamentals Scott Walker just fell into that old percentages trap.

While trying the other day to show on Twitter that modest wage earners are the bigger beneficiaries of the Trump-Ryan tax giveaway bill, Walker ended up proving that millionaires will make more than times as much money from the Trump-Ryan tax bill than filers making $50,000 or less..

Take a look at his tweet, don't quibble about the numbers he posted and just do the math for him:

“Lumping all taxes together, the Joint Committee on Taxation indicates that taxpayers making less than $50,000 will get an average tax cut of 11.2 percent, while those making over $1 million will get a tax cut of 5.9 percent.” - The Lindsey Group
lower-earners, and, in fact, larger than an entire year's lower-earner income.
And since Walker's Twitter feed is filled with rote GOP talking point about tax reductions that put more money in your pocket, which would you rather have in your pocket - - $5,600 or $59,000?

Which goes farther? Which can be used to generate more wealth?
And which category of earners do you think had better access to the lobbyists who worked on the bill with GOP legislators in Congress behind closed doors to distribute the benefits disproportionally of the tax bill to one set of Americans by a factor of ten?