Wednesday, October 31, 2018

'Walker taxes,' big biz taxation bias trigger Tuesday referenda

Shining some light on those Tuesday ballots which are also about tax fairness.

Look through this list of referendum issues on SE Wisconsin suburban ballots.

Note the large number of communities asking local taxpayers to pay more for schools and cops.

These are local needs being met by 'Walker taxes,'

wherein Walker-led state government - - posing as the friend-of-the-taxpayer - - has cut shared revenue and imposed local fiscal limitations - - all of which forces grassroots officials to take the heat and local residents to come up with  cash through referenda and higher local taxes.

Also note the number of advisory referenda that register opposition to so-called dark-store assessment and taxation, a public policy which has needed more publicity (I have barely blogged about it, so shame on me, too) and which legislators failed to outlaw.

Dark-store policies let retailers and manufacturers apply for property tax reductions using computations that reflect dark-store failures, even if the businesses seeking assessment reductions are solid, even flush, not dark.

Dark-store advisory votes are on ballots statewide, because...
Menards, Walgreen's, Wal-Mart and other big-box retailers have used these laws to sue municipalities across the state for lower assessments, reducing their taxes as a result. Critics say this has shifted the tax burden onto homeowners and small businesses. 
Imagine asking your local officials to cut your property tax assessment because someday you might take a salary reduction or lose your job.

And when dark-store reductions are awarded, guess who picks up that slack, and whose community will have less money for schools and cops, etc.?



  

Planned SE WI region transportation upgrades still tilted from transit

You can weigh in on this proposed four-year plan.

DRAFT 2019-2022 TRANSPORTATION IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM

The Commission has prepared a draft regional transportation improvement program (TIP) listing all arterial highway, public transit, and other transportation improvement projects proposed to be carried out by State and local governments over the next four years (2019-2022) in the seven-county Southeastern Wisconsin Region. 

The TIP indicates the transportation system improvement priorities of State and local governments in Southeastern Wisconsin by their programming of projects to be undertaken in each of the next four years. The draft 2019-2022 TIP contains 323 projects representing a total potential investment in transportation improvements and services of $1.9 billion over the next four years.
Total Funding in 2019-2022 TIP
HOW TO REVIEW AND COMMENT
The draft 2019-2022 TIP is available for review and comment through November 29, 2018. Staff has also scheduled a public informational meeting on the draft 2019-2022 TIP. During the meeting, staff will be available in an "open house" format to individually answer questions and provide information. Oral comment may be given to a court reporter during the meeting or written comments may be submitted.
People needing disability-related accommodations are asked to contact the Commission offices a minimum of 3 business days in advance so that appropriate arrangements can be made.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
To review the draft 2019-2022 TIP and provide comments, please visit sewrpc.org/tip or click on the link below:
Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission
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Running on fumes, Walker and the brain trust hit the wall

Ya see: it's situational, this abide by your upholding the constitution and oath of office thing. 

Do us a favor and keep him off all ballots to come.

And thanks to Dan Bice for the tweet.

Verified account

@Daniel Bice 4:12 p.m. 

At press conference today, says he would be willing to take a position on birthright citizenship the next time he runs for federal office. Maybe then he can also renew his push for a wall along the Canadian border.



Marquette U. poll shows Dems' trend up, report says

I don't see the poll numbers on the law school's website, but WTMJ is reporting that Evers has picked up a point to pull into a tie, Kaul is closing the gap with Schimel and Baldwin has a commanding lead.

Baldwin has a calming, commanding presence; Vukmir is getting crushed by her anti-health care voting record and devastating ads with personal testimonials from real people about what losing their health care and prescription medicine coverages really means.

Bottom line: Turnout, as always, will carry the day and Democrats must over-perform to overcome GOP ad spending superiority, voter suppression, gerrymandering advantages, registration record-scrubbing, etc.

More, later.

Costumes and props can't hide their environmental enmity

They've done deep damage to the Wisconsin DNR and the environment through the 'chamber of commerce mentality' Walker installed at the agency - - my series about all that, here - -  but Walker and the long-time corporate tool Cathy Stepp whom he let run the DNR have given us plenty to snicker at, too.

Beyond that fake nose and sunglasses get-up she deployed playing Private Eye - - true story - -  did Stepp also bring along her Halloween magic to the EPA office she now runs in Chicago for climate change denier Donald Trump and their mutual business allies? 
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
Google says: 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
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Walker's also down with the hunting garb, shown off recently on Fox News in downtown Milwaukee - - also a true story.

In case you'd forgotten Stepp's on-the-job Halloween goofiness, I'm reprinting this spooky post from 2011; the color and text in the all-staff email were all hers. Boo!
MONDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2011The DNR's Tricks And Treats

Scott Walker said he put Cathy Stepp in charge of the DNR to bring "a chamber of commerce mentality" to the agency," and his Special Senate Bill 24 to put polluters over people advances that plan - - but don't feel sorry for overworked DNR managers there who have to oversee this rollback of 224 years of environmental protection because email traffic at the agency shows they can manage big big fun, too.

I'd discussed this last week, thanks to a plugged-in commenter, but here's the email, and I'm sorry I can't reproduce the cute poster:
Sent:   Wednesday, October 19, 2011 11:30 AM
Subject:    Please join us

This message is sent to all DNR Central Office staff, Darwin Road staff, and Regional Directors:

Come and join us for our 1st annual Halloween Progressive Potluck   

How does it work?

Staff on each floor will be designated a food type to bring.  For example, employees on 8th floor are asked to bring meat or a hot dish which will be set up in a conference room on 8th floor.  The same will happen with each floor.  (See attached poster for food assignments).  Everyone will need to go floor to floor to get a balanced meal (unless you are in the mood for only dessert and you can just stay on 7th floor…)  Don't have time to get something together for the potluck??  Bring a canned good to donate to the food pantry instead. 

And Costume Challenge!

Central Office has challenged the Regions to a costumer competition.  We are asking each bureau and office to take a picture of their staff in costume and forward it to Laurel Steffes.  Pictures will be included in the next e-digest.  Who wins?  You decide.  And the prize?  The pride in believing that your region/office was the best!! 

Our Goals?

To have fun
To mingle with staff on different floors
To enjoy some great food

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Exposed: Walker dissembling, coverup of Lincoln Hills youth abuse

A Wausau television station has obtained email records which show Walker giving information which is somewhere between misleading and dishonest about his slothful response to and level of involvement in quashing a probe into allegations of violence against youth inmates at the state-run Lincoln Hills young offenders' prison.

More about the Lincoln Hills humanitarian crisis which festered and spread on his watch, here.

I note Walker's "to my knowledge, no" denial of having earlier awareness of conditions at Lincoln Hills or a direct role in cancelling an outside facility review is very similar to his "not to my knowledge" denial of knowing about a $700,000 donation an iron mining official sent to the Walker 2012 recall campaign through a mechanism Walker had suggested.

The mining company's donations eventually reached a reported $1.2 million; the mine was never built.

All you can say about about Governor Pants on Fire is that a good talking point is hard to give up, and a history of evasive speech  - - updated - - and updated, again! - - is impossible to evade.

But can be voted out.






Walker's new costume not feared by the deer

Trading his typical Packer gear and UW togs to blend in with his surroundings.
Thank you Governor for joining us tonight on

Walker's eight-year war on Wisconsin's environment. In 21 parts, one post, full story.

If a flag flying  upside down is a sign of distress, then a Governor who claims to be an angler in a state of 15,000 lakes but holds his fishing reel upside down demonstrates that the political environment and natural environment absolutely are in trouble.

Hence this 21-part series, "Walker's 8-year war on the Wisconsin environment" -  covering clean water, fresh air, critical wetlands, public trust wildlife, science, information, expertise, budgets and basic transparent fairness - - will close out today, a week before voters decide whether Walker's war on the environment ends after eight years, or runs to an even dozen.


And the news from Monday shows how corrupted and contaminated is the arc that spans Walker's one-party, 'chamber of commerce mentality' tenure:

Begin with what I wrote in December 30, 2010, in this blog's third year but only hours before Walker's first-term swearing-in:

Stepping on open space, wetlands, forests
For the environment in Wisconsin, this is the day the music died.
With anti-DNR zealot Cathy Stepp's preposterous (read: management by the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and the home builders organizations) nomination as Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, Walker's legacy as the environmental destroyer of the land of Gaylord Nelson, John Muir and Aldo Leopold has begun.
Then take note of this unbelievable, no, very believable story published just yesterday about Walker's DNR, aided by GOP AG Brad Schimel and GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos:
Wisconsin permits wells in areas judge ruled pumping would harm trout streams
I'd written about this lever-pulling-industry-to Vos-to-Schimel-to the DNR-and back-to-industry-judiciary-and-the-public-be-damned network before, and it's back. Because it never left.
Wisconsin officials tilt land, water, conservation to corporate goals
...Including [Schimel's] issuance of a favorable opinion that granted large-scale groundwater withdrawals to big operators which they had openly demanded GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos deliver. 
While Wisconsin is abusing, over pumping and contaminating our groundwater, the Legislature's GOP Assembly Leader Robin Vos - - a leading Wisconsin corporate water-carrier - - is seeking an opinion from GOP Attorney General and fellow corporate water-carrier Brad Schimel that could turn over more groundwater to corporate control and away from public oversight...
And big business hasn't been shy about its demands, noted in October:
A pretty stunning memo was sent last week by multiple trade groups and corporate special interests to the State Legislature in advance of today's hearing about the fast-tracked Wisconsin water giveaway bill I wrote about yesterday that puts groundwater and downstream users' access in private hands.
Here is the full text of the Vos request...
Remember - - the State Constitution says the waters of Wisconsin belong to everyone and the DNR is obligated to put the public's rights first.
So, as I said, hence this series. This post below carries an index with links to all of the series' installments. Feel free to share, email, repost or put up this item or any of its parts on social media. 

Then vote on Nov. 6th as if every single thing were on the line. 

Because it is.


Part 1. Wetlands for donors.


Part 2. Walker and Stepp.


Part 3. Mining, big business and $.


Part 4. More wetlands, big business and $.


Part 5. Wolves, blood and dogs.


Part 6. Waters damaged, 2011-'13.


Part 7. UW, DNR science slashed.

Parts 1-7 compilation.


Part 8. Dirty air.

Part 9. CAFOs.


Part 10. Kohler's golf course.


Part 11. DNR crippled.


Part 12. Taxpayers pay kleptocracy thrice.


Part 13. Policy based on round, random numbers


Part 14. Public saves DNR magazine


Parts 8-14, compilation.

Part 15. Chronic wasting disease.

Part 16. Polluted waterways skyrocket.

Part 17. Public losses, private gains.


Part 18. 33 times science was dissed, dismissed.


Part 19. Foxconn.


Part 20. 16 ways Walker blocks information, or 'Blessed be Stupidity.'


Part. The full story, a summary, and a 21-part index.
Image result for scott walker photo fishing

Monday, October 29, 2018

Walker's 8-year war on the environment, Part 20. 16 ways he downgrades, denies, or blocks information.

Updated, 4:45 p.m: 

Walker's 8-year war on the Wisconsin environment. Part 20. 'Blessed be stupidity.'

This is part 20 of a 21-part series that will end before the Nov. 6th election about Walker's damage to the state's environment. 

Today's installment has more than a dozen examples (feel free to add more in the common section) of Walker's belief and practice that the less information the people get from the government they pay for the better off they are, when in fact the only bliss that issues from this nurtured ignorance benefits his donor-benefactors and other allies who fund and fuel his career.


Installment 18 - - "The 33 times that science was dissed, dismissed" - - is something of a companion piece.

Because information is power, and a less-informed electorate is more easily manipulated:  

*  Walker's chief information-scraper and anti-science cudgel Cathy Stepp of climate change science information from the DNR's website in 2016.

* As they had done earlier in 2012.


* The DNR took a whole 8 days to 'assess' all the information submitted at a public hearing on four complex air emission permits sought by Foxconn before approving the applications. Does anyone seriously think Walker's DNR seriously considered what the public submitted?


*  The agency took seven weeks to approve a controversial plan to allow the Foxconn project to be served by a Lake Michigan diversion. Does anyone seriously think Walker's DNR seriously considered all the legal and environmental ramifications submitted by the public at the one and only public hearing it held on the diversion bid?


*  And speaking of hearings, the DNR clearly lets the public know its hearings are sham theater when it schedules five on a single day to consider various operations on the large cattle-feeding-manure-producing-ground-water-sucking-and-browning CAFOs more for the convenience of staff and experts than concerned neighbors who are then allowed five minutes at a hearing to speak.


*  Then there's another way to handle public comment and the exchange of information at a hearing: just don't hold one.


While a key Walker business ally at the WMC misrepresented as "a book report" the environmental impact statement, (EIS), that Walker made sure Foxconn didn't have to defend, what it really meant was that the public would not be heard on a multitude of potential environmental matters which Walker, Foxconn & Co. did not wait aired. 

No EIS, therefore, no hearing on an EIS, or its draft - - and, importantly, no record for a fair-minded judge or new administration down the line to access and act upon. 


* Another way to cut down on the amount of information coming out of the DNR: cut in half the number of issues of its century-old, self-supporting magazine because it was offering too much information that Walker didn't like.


*  Or cut back the scope of the major information display at the annual state fair to perhaps a couple of pamphlet tables, assuming everyone prefers to use the computers they may or may not have, and certainly can't question all the experts who'd been there in years past.


*  The same experts who now cannot testify before legislators, lest the civil servants spill the beans about environmental impacts and facts Team Walker would prefer go unmentioned.


* And when a DNR committee like its wolf advisory body does meet, it won't even get any information contrary to the administration's pre-ordained point of view because the DNR removed from its membership those with contrary opinions or data.


* Another way to limit the information flow inside and from the DNR? Fire scientists, merge their bureau into another that serves business interests, and even make sure that those who survived the cuts and the reorganization don't even have the basic tools to use what's been published, as current and former staffers reported.


Said a current staffer:
We no longer have a statistician to help interpret data, a library to provide journals or books, or researchers that monitor fish counts, wildlife health, air quality, water quality and etc…employee scientific knowledge and data specific to WI is stagnant...we cannot do the best job possible for our state.  
Said a former staffer: 
The most alarming issue to me is the great waste of decades of sound science, compiled overtime in on-going studies and data collection. WI had more information about our natural landscape than most states. Abolishing science services put an end to decades long studies vital to maintaining and recovering rare and endangered plants and animals as well as understanding natural communities as information on resilience for climate change.
Other ways to stem the flow of information.

*  Just stop issuing early warnings about the build-up of unhealthy levels of air pollutants.

* And if you don't like the air pollution data being recorded, either move the nettlesome sensor and/or disregard the information, or get the US EPA to lower the standards overall for miles around so what's measured doesn't look so bad and polluters can pump out more dirty air without consequence.

* Skip reporting deadlines on really important matters, like getting a plan together to fight deer herd chronic wasting disease, or do fewer tests so there's less bad news to analyze, as has been reported.

*  Or stalling providing the answers to, say, 75 basic water quality issues the federal government had been expecting to receive - - for years.

* Or cutting back on water pollution inspections, which means issuing fewer findings and penalties for the public to digest. 

* In fact, if you have a rapidly expanding but polluting industry, like sand mining, just don't hire any inspectors and there won't be all that pesky documentation for other people to look at.

State Sen. Kathleen Vineholt said in 2017 that the DNR collects fees from sand mining operations, but:
“There’s nobody actually assigned to monitor the sand mines,” she said. “Funds are available but the DNR never hired inspectors.”
Finally: Go big, as Scientific American noted, in the negative.
How Scott Walker Dismantled Wisconsin's Environmental Legacy
And remember that Walker tried to quietly change the mission of educators and programs in UW system by removing their historic directive to "extend knowledge...educate people...search for truth' - - and then lied about having done it.   

An informed or concerned state chief executive - - not the one captured with his own personal information-spreading protestor on Twitter by Isthmus editor Judith Davidoff - - 

- - would be ashamed at how far he'd moved the environment from his own DNR's high-minded but deeply-irrelevant mission statement.

But, then again, Walker is directed by an essay, "The Advantages of Ignorance,"   that appeared, ironically, in a science publication - -  Popular Science - - more than a century ago: 
Blessed be stupidity, for it shall not be conscious of its own deficiencies.
Part 19 ran on October 28, 2018. 

Walker's 8-year war on the Wisconsin environment. Part 20. 'Blessed be stupidity.'

This is part 20 of a series that will end before the Nov. 6th election about Walker's damage to the state's environment. 

Today's installment has a quickly-compiled dozen or so examples (feel free to add more in the common section) of Walker's belief and practice that the less information the people get from the government they pay for the better off they are, when in fact the only bliss that issues from this nurtured ignorance benefits his donor-benefactors and other allies who fund and fuel his career.


So:

(Installment 18 - - "The 33 times that science was dissed, dismissed" - - is something of a companion piece.)

*  Walker's chief information-scraper and anti-science cudgel Cathy Stepp deleted climate change science  information from the DNR's website in 2016.


* As they had done earlier in 2012.


* The DNR took a whole 8 days to 'assess' all the information submitted at a public hearing on four complex air emission permits sought by Foxconn before approving the applications. Does anyone seriously think Walker's DNR seriously considered what the public submitted?


*  The agency took seven weeks to approve a controversial plan to allow the Foxconn project to be served by a Lake Michigan diversion. Does anyone seriously think Walker's DNR seriously considered all the legal and environmental ramifications submitted by the public at the one and only public hearing it held on the diversion bid?


*  And speaking of hearings, the DNR clearly lets the public know its hearings are sham theater when it schedules five on a single day to consider various operations on the large cattle-feeding-manure-producing-ground-water-sucking-and-browning CAFOs more for the convenience of staff and experts than concerned neighbors who are then allowed five minutes at a hearing to speak.


*  Then there's another way to handle public comment and the exchange of information at a hearing: just don't hold one.


While a key Walker business ally at the WMC misrepresented as "a book report" the environmental impact statement, (EIS), that Walker made sure Foxconn didn't have to defend, what it really meant was that the public would not be heard on a multitude of potential environmental matters which Walker, Foxconn & Co. did not wait aired. 

No EIS, therefore, no hearing on an EIS, or its draft - - and, importantly, no record for a fair-minded judge or new administration down the line to access and act upon. 


* Another way to cut down on the amount of information coming out of the DNR: cut in half the number of issues of its century-old, self-supporting magazine because it was offering too much information that Walker didn't like.


*  Or cut back the scope of the major information display at the annual state fair to perhaps a couple of pamphlet tables, assuming everyone prefers to use the computers they may or may not have, and certainly can't question all the experts who'd been there in years past.


*  The same experts who now cannot testify before legislators, lest the civil servants spill the beans about environmental impacts and facts Team Walker would prefer go unmentioned.


* And when a DNR committee like its wolf advisory body does meet, it won't even get any information contrary to the administration's pre-ordained point of view because the DNR removed from its membership those with contrary opinions or data.


* Another way to limit the information flow inside and from the DNR? Fire scientists, merge their bureau into another that serves business interests, and even make sure that those who survived the cuts and the reorganization don't even have the basic tools to use what's been published, as current and former staffers reported.


Said a current staffer:
We no longer have a statistician to help interpret data, a library to provide journals or books, or researchers that monitor fish counts, wildlife health, air quality, water quality and etc…employee scientific knowledge and data specific to WI is stagnant...we cannot do the best job possible for our state.  
Said a former staffer: 
The most alarming issue to me is the great waste of decades of sound science, compiled overtime in on-going studies and data collection. WI had more information about our natural landscape than most states. Abolishing science services put an end to decades long studies vital to maintaining and recovering rare and endangered plants and animals as well as understanding natural communities as information on resilience for climate change.
Other ways to stem the flow of information.

*  Just stop issuing early warnings about the build-up of unhealthy levels of air pollutants.

* And if you don't like the air pollution data being recorded, either move the nettlesome sensor and/or disregard the information, or get the US EPA to lower the standards overall for miles around so what's measured doesn't look so bad and polluters can pump out more dirty air without consequence.

* Skip reporting deadlines on really important matters, like getting a plan together to fight deer herd chronic wasting disease, or do fewer tests so there's less bad news to analyze, as has been reported.

*  Or stalling providing the answers to, say, 75 basic water quality issues the federal government had been expecting to receive - - for years.

* Or cutting back on water pollution inspections, which means issuing fewer findings and penalties for the public to digest. 

* In fact, if you have a rapidly expanding but polluting industry, like sand mining, just don't hire any inspectors and there won't be all that pesky documentation for other people to look at.

State Sen. Kathleen Vineholt said in 2017 that the DNR collects fees from sand mining operations, but:
“There’s nobody actually assigned to monitor the sand mines,” she said. “Funds are available but the DNR never hired inspectors.”
Finally: Go big. Remember that Walker tried to quietly change the mission of educators and programs in UW system by removing their historic directive to "extend knowledge...educate people...search for truth' - - and then lied about having done it.   

An informed or concerned state chief executive - - not the one captured with his own personal information-spreading protestor on Twitter by Isthmus editor Judith Davidoff - - 

- - would be ashamed at how far he'd moved the environment from his own DNR's high-minded but deeply-irrelevant mission statement.

But, then again, Walker is directed by an essay, "The Advantages of Ignorance,"   that appeared, ironically, in a science publication - -  Popular Science - - more than a century ago: 
Blessed be stupidity, for it shall not be conscious of its own deficiencies.
Part 19 ran on October 28, 2018.