Monday, April 23, 2018

Mineral exploration in the UP possible beneath homes, waterways

I'd noted recently the various moves by corporations for water and mining rights in Michigan, but this one takes the cake:
MARQUETTE, MICHIGAN – Local property owners are expressing alarm over mineral lease requests made by UPX Minerals, a wholly owned subsidiary of Highland Copper. UPX is seeking to lease nearly 4,000 acres of State-owned minerals in Iron and Marquette Counties. 
Most of these mineral properties are in Marquette County, and many are underneath private property, homes, camps, rivers and streams, lakes, wetlands – even nature reserves.
Hat tip, Dave Dempsey.

David Dempsey   @greatlakescribe
 4 hours ago
UPX seeking to lease nearly 4,000 acres of MI State-owned minerals in Iron and Marquette Counties. Most in Marquette County, many underneath private property, homes, camps, rivers and streams, lakes, wetlands – even nature reserves

Copper mining in New Mexico, fyi:

Gov. Super Max finds another use for prisoners

Tommy Thompson sees rehabilitated prisoners mitigating Wisconsin's labor shortages and has penned an op-ed on the subject that is part self-congratulatory, part self-critical, but missing a few historical details.
Help solve Wisconsin's coming labor shortage by rehabilitating prisoners
Today, I take great pride in sharing the credit for what we accomplished on key issues including welfare reform and school choice, successful policy innovations in which Wisconsin created a blueprint adopted across the nation.  
But...I presided over the largest expansion of our state’s prison system, believing our families are safer as a result. But I've also come to believe that our corrections system and incarceration practices are both financially unsustainable and provide questionable outcomes worthy of strenuous review...
Today, 22% of Wisconsin adults have criminal records. Setting aside those within the walls of our prisons who have so seriously violated the public trust that freedom is no longer an option, there remains an even larger population for which institutional constraint may one day come to an end. 
Looking back, I regret not spending more time considering, “What does tomorrow look like for that parolee, and can we work together to help provide the necessary tools to reap a new opportunity?”
Let's insert his new-found more thoughtful attention to the same sort of people that he'd earlier used to solidify his 'tough-on-crime' ballot box persona into the analysis this blog has provided when people were re-writing Tommy history on transportation.

Or when Thompson, despite years of promoting Amtrak, gave Scott Walker cover when he killed Amtrak connections between Milwaukee and Madison.

Or when Thompson, in a vacuum, talked up the Wisconsin Idea knowing that Walker had tried to delete it from the UW mission statement.

And that he, Thompson had dealt the Wisconsin Idea his own serious blow by terminating the Office of Public Intervenor and thus further tilting the legal playing field in environmental cases to industry's side and laying the groundwork for Walker's full-scale assault on clean air and water.
Tommy Thompson 1.jpg
Thompson, circa 2001
But back to Tommy's mea culpa about people caught up in his "largest expansion of our state's prison system," and about whom now, decades later, he's wondering "what does tomorrow look like for the parolee...can we work reap a new opportunity?," since:

This is the same Tommy Thompson, who, as Governor:
...consistently advocated stronger punishment for crime, abolishing mandatory parole, and allowing children as young as 10 to be tried as adults. During his tenure he doubled the state’s prison capacity and initiated construction of “Super Max” prisons for the most violent offenders.
And where, in his "Super Max prison: 
Prisoners were on permanent lockdown in tiny cells, with a light that shone at full brightness 24 hours a day. They were prohibited from using their blankets to cover their eyes at night. Their three hours of weekly out-of-cell time were spent alone in a cement room without so much as a tennis ball. The only human interaction came when guards dropped off meal trays. 
Cell temperatures have climbed into the triple digits during summer. Inmates were required to sleep with their heads toward their toilets, which flushed intermittently and often backed up. Clocks were prohibited, so inmates lost all sense of time. Even guards weren't allowed to wear watches. These conditions, said one expert, were 'an incubator for psychosis....'
The biggest spur [to change] was a federal class-action lawsuit filed against the prison in 2000. Inmates alleged that conditions inside the $47 million prison violated constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment. 
A settlement agreement reached in 2002 ended the extreme isolation and sensory deprivation that once underpinned Supermax's correctional philosophy. Among other things, the agreement prohibited mentally ill inmates from being housed there.
Let's remember that while Thompson was building a career on the backs of prisoners, another budding careerist politician in 1997 was singing from the same hymnal:
The state Assembly Wednesday approved a "truth-in-sentencing" bill that would make criminals serve the full sentences handed down by judges -- and possibly raise prison system costs by more than a third...
"The bottom line is about victims," said Rep. Scott Walker, R-Wauwatosa, the sponsor of the bill. "This gives prosecutors, judges and especially, victims, some certainty to these sentences....''  
Bill authors said the cost is impossible to project because judges will alter the way they sentence criminals beginning in 1999 when the bill would go into effect.
"If a judge wants to be sure someone will spend a year in jail right now they typically give them four years in jail," Walker, the sponsor, said. 
Further, inmate numbers won't go up dramatically because nearly two-thirds of the people now sent to prison are actually being returned to prison for parole violations. "Under this bill, they wouldn't leave in the first place," he said. 
Oh - - by the way, after Tommy was out of office in 2004, and Walker was training for Governor as the disinterested Milwaukee County Executive, the truth of their 'impossible to estimate' cost for 'truth-in-sentencing' was finally determined at $1.8 billion, in part because the Thompson-Walker legacy was built on this unique set of circumstances: 
Wisconsin appears to be the only state in the nation with this combination of factors for truth in sentencing:
* Requiring both violent offenders and non-violent property and drug offenders to serve 100% of their prison time.
* Eliminating any role for its parole board.
* Having no mechanism to force judges to sentence within specific ranges.
So - - cue the new and improved Tommy T., who, having begat Walker and served both him as mentor and as co-enabler of the state's cycle of over-spending on over-incarceration, is having a change of heart lo these decades later as Walker can't find the workers he needs to make all those Foxconn TVs.

Muted applause.

Milwaukee report exposes state's pathetic Foxconn 'due diligence'

The City of Milwaukee, schooling the state, has produced a solid, 54-page examination of the Foxconn project.

Reminds me of the contrast I cited last week between the city's push to open and restore a wetland to the state's rush to fill and destroy wetlands statewide. 

And the city report is not the first that the public servants in a typically quiet and efficient agency - - the Legislative Reference Bureau - - have issued on a set of major water and development public policy issues.

Read on.

So props to Milwaukee for producing such a rigorous examination of the financially-indefensible, environmentally-harmful deal that Walker and his legislative allies hurriedly made with Foxconn and forced on taxpayers and local officials left holding the debt-and-pollution soaked bag.

A further salute to Ald. Bob Bauman for requesting the city's Legislative Reference Bureau produce it. He's been a leader on trying to connect Milwaukee to Foxconn jobs and tax base opportunities, as well as correcting a power line payment burden the Walker administration wants to transfer unfairly to  Milwaukee residents from Foxconn.

And thanks also to Bruce Murphy at Urban Milwaukee for giving the report the distribution and frame it deserves:

You might have imagined the State of Wisconsin would have done such research before undertaking a deal with Foxconn, following the fundamental principle of commerce: Caveat emptor, or “let the buyer beware.” 
Instead the administration of Gov. Scott Walker has signed a contract awarding the largest subsidy ever paid by American government to a foreign company, without ever doing its due diligence to protect the interest of taxpayers who will pay this $4.1 billion subsidy.
The city report is heavily footnoted and filled with fascinating details, but it is Foxconn’s treatment of workers that really jumps out. “I thought, ‘my God, this is awful,’” Bauman says. “I’m re-reading (Upton Sinclair’s famous expose) The Jungle of a hundred years ago. The same company towns, the low pay, the worker injuries, the suicides.”
I will a links about the Legislative Reference Bureau report to an archive I have maintained on this blog about Foxconn since July and which now contains 150+ posts and scores of additional links.

Also: Milwaukee's Legislative Reference Bureau, now an arm of the City Clerk's Office, is a century old gem in City Hall.

The LRB, quietly informing public policy and elevating the debate, is home to non-partisan experts, researchers, historians and other guardians of the Milwaukee's institutional memory.

I spent many productive hours there getting educated about the city when I worked for former Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist. 

Here's an example of the LRB's fine, relevant work, and, like the Foxconn report these many years later, is all about development, water and the public interest.

LRB staffers there produced an important report in 2002 how many businesses - - 42 - - had left the City of Milwaukee for New Berlin's Industrial Park where bus connections were tedious and difficult, and near which there was little-to-no so-called affordable housing.

Some of the links to the report in my early blogs about the diversion and the report now seem to balking, but you can read the report in pdf format at this site, footnote 22.

22. 2003 Legislative Reference Bureau New Berlin Water Analysis,
The LRB report became part of the discussion several years later when the City of New Berlin sought a diversion of Lake Michigan water through the City of Milwaukee, and before I got the hang of how to insert links on blog items I noted the information in my first blog posting on 2/2/2007, more than 18,000 posts ago:
New Berlin is seeking to bring Lake Michigan water over the subcontinental divide for the western portion of the city - - the physical divide splits the city - - and getting a diversion over the divide needs the approval of all eight US Great Lakes governors under current US law and a US-Canadian agreement...
Some City of Milwaukee officials, principally Ald. Michael Murphy, have long argued that diverted water helps encourage businesses to locate beyond Milwaukee's city limits; City of Milwaukee records show that about a quarter of the companies in New Berlin's Industrial Park had relocated there from Milwaukee.
And the information in the report found its way into a 2007 posting about the City of Waukesha's diversion request, too.
Though some suburban officials have said 'over-our dead-bodies,' one prominent consultant paid by the Waukesha Water Utility proposed a while ago that the key to water sales to the suburbs west of the Great Lakes Basin was sharing new property tax revenues with Milwaukee.
The story is reprinted below intact from a guest posting I wrote last year for Bill Christofferson's Xoff Files blog - - in a simpler time when I had no blog of my own...
It all involves a memo, dated June 10, 2004, "Arguments For and Against the City of Milwaukee Selling Water to the City of New Berlin," found, oddly enough, in the files of the Waukesha Water Utility...
Citing City of Milwaukee records and analyses, the memo indicated that 42 businesses from Milwaukee had migrated to New Berlin's Industrial Park when it opened, suggesting both that more industrial flight could follow water diversions and sharing tax resources as part of a diversion package could minimize Milwaukee's revenue losses.
"The losses had a negative impact on Milwaukee's industrial assessment and resulting property tax revenues," said the memo. "The sale of water to New Berlin could have a similar negative impact on Milwaukee industry during the decade."
Interesting, isn't it, that many basic public policy questions about regional cooperation, water management, job creation, land use and transit which were central to New Berlin and Waukesha's water-diversion-and-planning schemes arise again as Foxconn needs Lake Michigan water to change the face of Racine County to Milwaukee's south.

It's important that the City of Milwaukee has an LRB that will continue to raise the issues that Walker's special-interest and idologically-driven 'chamber of commerce mentality' government is all too happy to ignore.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Wash Post rediscovers Walker, phony 'Midwestern nice' pol

We in Wisconsin know all about Walker and the undeserved 'Midwestern Nice' moniker he grabbed during his 90-second run for President in 2015.

So of course he's back kicking the poor as I noted recently now that he's running for another term as Governor. And is in such a campaigning froth to dog whistle and snatch away food from the poor

at the same time that he was unaware or unconcerned about the self-parody about entitlements he'd put up on Twitter.
Oblivious to his 26 unbroken years on public payrolls, the state-paid mansion he lives in and state-paid car and airplane fleet he can access 24/7, Walker does everything except conjure 'welfare queens.' 
 Apr 10
Our welfare reforms also set common sense asset limits on public assistance so people with big mansions and fancy cars don’t get welfare checks while hard-working taxpayers have to pay the bills.
So congratulations to the The Washington Post for rediscovering the insidious effect Walker has on equally craven, self-serving careerist politicians and, regrettably, on the less fortunate who Walker enjoys using as talking points and pawns:
Wisconsin is the GOP model for ‘welfare reform.’ But as work requirements grow, so does one family’s desperation.
Yes, read all about it. Restrictions, evictions, struggle, anxiety, and fear, as the Post notes:
Since Walker put work requirements into place, the Health Services Department said it has cut spending on food stamps by 28 percent, from $1.2 billion in 2013 to around $867 million in 2017. Officials said 25,000 food stamp recipients — out of a statewide total of 700,000 — have found work.  
State officials also said that more than 86,000 people have lost their ability to get food stamps and did not report getting new jobs.
There’s been no government study examining what happened to them.

WI Gov's Earth Day message: 3 words, 1 exclamation point, emoji

WI's right-wing GOP Gov. and corporate bellhop captain threw himself into comprehensive Twitter and Facebook Earth Day commentary.

Here is his identical, incisive and action-packed posting from both platforms. 

Happy Earth Day! 🌎
I'd put up this blog item on Saturday about Earth Day, 4/22, and a few other things, and in retrospect, I'm glad I managed to write about you know whom without mentioning his name
We were all fortunate to have lived in Wisconsin when Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day's originating inspiration, served the people as Governor and US Senator, and left additional legacies as varied as the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program and a strengthened Wilderness Society.
The contrast with how far away from his legacies and through how much toxic and partisan mud we've been dragged - - and for whom - - is as obvious as is the need to begin repairing all that on election day, November 6th, 2018, or what we in Wisconsin should be calling Earth Day 2018 2.0.

Also don't read too much into Walker's use of an exclamation point!

That's rather routine for him - - 

. Excited for the 2018-2019 season. Looks like the thinks Green Bay will compete for the Lombardi Trophy!
- - unlike the triple !!! he threw Trump's way a few weeks ago about tariffs hurting Wisconsin dairy farmers:
Walker said he spoke with Trump Monday and Tuesday about the dairy crisis.   
“It was great to talk to you this morning,” Walker told Trump on Twitter after the conversation. “Thanks for supporting WI dairy farmers!!!”
Editor's note: Emoji spelling corrected in headline.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

About Earth Day, 4/22. And Earth Day 2.0, 11/6. And everyday.

A word or two about Earth Day 2018.

We were all fortunate to have lived in Wisconsin when Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day's originating inspiration, served the people as Governor and US Senator, and left additional legacies as varied as the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program and a strengthened Wilderness Society.

The contrast with how far away from his legacies and through how much toxic and partisan mud we've been dragged - - and for whom - - is as obvious as is the need to begin repairing all that on election day, November 6th, 2018, or what we in Wisconsin should be calling Earth Day 2018 2.0.

On a personal level, it's taken me a while to regularly practice an appreciation for the natural world which is right in front of me.

And I've had some help with getting there. 

So, respect to the iconic environmental historian and author, UW-Madison professor William Cronon, for his extensive examination of our relationship with the world around us that I come back to time after time.

This is the perfect time to get to know his work; here is but one instructive book chapter, and, hoping I do not stumble into trivializing his effort, I'll copy out a few sentences that have helped point me to some everyday truths and a useful Earth Day perspective, too:

Idealizing a distant wilderness too often means not idealizing the environment in which we actually live, the landscape that for better or worse we call home...
That is why, when I think of the times I myself have come closest to experiencing what I might call the sacred in nature, I often find myself remembering wild places much closer to home...the wildness in our own backyards, of the nature that is all around us if only we have eyes to see it. 
Part of why that "if only we have eyes to see it" stays with me is that my late friend and Milwaukee Journal newsroom colleague Tim Cuprisin had said much the same thing when he found out in 2010 that he had the cancer which took his life the next year at age 53.

"If I'd known I was going to have cancer, I'd have paid a lot more attention to the beauty all around me," he said. "I would have just looked up at the sky more often."

Which is why I try and get to the Lake Michigan shoreline everyday, rain or snow or shine - - 

- - and if I can't, I take a walk around my neighborhood where, yesterday, we were treated to cardinals singing, crocuses breaking through the snow and crows alerting their friends that we were on their turf below.

And it's why I have so much respect for people fighting uphill battles against big money and insider influence, like, for example, the citizens trying to force public officials to get smarter, keep their word and leave alone what remains on the already-decimated County Grounds of the Monarch Butterfly Trail and Sanctuary Woods near the Medical Complex in Wauwatosa.

And for the Friends of the Black River Forest, the good people in and around Sheboygan who are working from the grassroots to keep Kohler Andrae State Park intact for the public and free of building and vehicle storage and pavement and bulldozing to enable the destruction of scores of acres of trees, wetlands, rare dunes and wildlife habitat for proposed upscale golf course construction in a nature preserve next door.

Similarly, props to the efforts to preserve rare hardwoods and wetlands in Monroe County from sand mining digging and shipping.

And for the Menominee Indian Tribe's dedication to saving their ancestral land and river from open-pit metal mining that uses sulfuric acid.

And for the awareness being raised about wetland and lake bed filling permissions granted last year by law for the state-subsidized Foxconn project, and also about the specter of industrial-scale manufacturing waste finding its way from Foxconn's chemistry into Lake Michigan.

Yes, for some these sites are all "closer to home" than perhaps for you and me.

But remember that the clean air above we all breathe and the waters below that give everyone life are all connected - - as the Wisconsin DNR continues to highlight - - and we to it..

Which is why it's good to find yourself, as, fortunately, have I, some sort of daily affirmation or activity that keeps those connections fresh and sustained.

So: Happy Earth Day, Sunday, April 22nd.

And let's have a pact to celebrate Earth Day 2.0 on Election Day, November 6, 2018.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Who paid for Walker's four-city (at least) tour signing same bill?

I assume the taxpayers. First three photos below are on his personal Twitter feed; the rest on his official state feed. Direct messIn allThese Thage
  1. Visited Onalaska to sign our $100-per-child tax rebate and sales tax holiday legislation into law. Our tax reforms are fighting for what’s best for the hard-working people of Wisconsin, not big government special interests.

  2. In Menomonie today to sign our $100-per-child tax rebate and sales tax holiday legislation. Our tax cuts are pro-family and pro-taxpayer – it’s your money, not the government’s!

  3. Stopped by Ashwaubenon today to sign our $100-per-child tax rebate and sales tax holiday legislation. We’re fighting to put more money back into the pockets of the hard-working taxpayers!

    These are from his official state Twitter account:
    1. . here in Onalaska, will be filled with parents and grandparents this August using our Child Tax Rebate & Sales Tax Holiday, to help buy crucial needs for their children before returning to school.

    2. It’s places like in Menomonie, where families can use our $100-Per-Child Tax Rebate & Sales Tax Holiday to buy a new pair of shoes for their child or a winter coat. We understand needs like these can be difficult to buy- We want to help.

    3.  17
      Stopped in Ashwaubenon to talk with people about our $100-Per-Child Tax Rebate & Sales Tax Holiday. A couple hundred dollars extra in a family budget can make a difference, especially when getting their children ready for the school year.
    4. Proud to sign our $100-Per-Child Tax Rebate & Sales Tax Holiday- here at Blain’s in Waukesha. This will help with the costs of raising children while strengthening local stores.