Friday, November 30, 2018

Appreciating again Lake Michigan, George Vukelich & "Gales of November"

I found not one but two books yesterday I'd been searching for on and off for weeks- - and then, suddenly, there they were, right where I'd never put them. 

Anyway, what I'd finally laid my hands on were Volumes I and II of North Country Notebook, the essay collections published decades ago by the late Madison-based naturalist, scribe, legendary angler, eclectic radio host, and progressive union activist George "Papa Hambone" Vukelich.

OK: stop reading right now and go order them, here.

And read more at the online archive and website his adult children have posted, hereabout their unusual dad and son of Milwaukee's south side who was lost to us impossibly early in 1995.

I was looking hard for my copies of George's books because, if you recall, there were gale force winds predicted for last weekend, and I was positive I'd remembered that George had written one of his wonderful pieces about what happens when those Lake Michigan winds start blowing.

Over the years I'd been clumsily quoting and telling people about that essay without even being sure of the title, aggravated that I could not put my mitts on his written pages, and I really, really wanted to re-read that essay before the winds would drive Lake Michigan and what might have been in it onto the shore about a mile from where I live.

Sure enough, strong winds really blew in the darkness Monday morning, rattling our windows. The TV weather people after the sun came up said there had been a peak gust of 54 miles an hour. That's a big wind and it had roared for hours.

By the time I got down there Monday afternoon, the wind was still gusting 
and the overnight surf had obviously been rough
and was still crashing on the rocks
And while the detritus the gale probably threw onto the land was interesting, I doubt George would have out it into print.

In fact, the most noticeable evidence of roiling water was the volume of tiny, nasty invasive muscles on the sand
which Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Dan Egan - - another great, Great Lakes observer and author of the highly-readable recent book The Death and Life of the Great Lakes - - has tracked flushed from ocean-going freighters' ballast tanks to the now-thoroughly-contaminated lake basin beds which hold the largest supply of fresh surface water on the planet.

Such is the state of the Great Lakes which had so mesmerized George before people got careless with them.

So while I was disappointed that I didn't have George's essay in hand before the storm had hit, and saw a scene that would have disheartened George, too, I am happy to have George's lens to help me see what there is to see on the walk I try and take along Lake Michigan every day.

And am happiest about being able to dip back into George's words and world, so I commend to you, among stories too numerous to list, "Gales of November," North Country Notebooks, Volume II, pages 116-119, 1992. Here's just a taste:
I walked the beach after our most recent storm. Tangles of seaweed were piled high upon the sands, marking the true boundaries of the lake...
We waded out below a limestone cliff and there in the motionless water lay an endless length of anchor chain, curled, black, monstrous. Each link was wider than a man...
The chain is there yet. Every time I see it I get a funny feeling. What kind of sea was running that day? 

Walker goes out like he came in, cutting off food

The Washington Post shines a bright light on the Wisconsinites whom Scott Walker and his party are OK to starve.
Wisconsin — with its work requirement set to expand next year and a focus on employment and training — is a role model for the Trump administration’s vision of food aid for poor Americans who could go hungry, ratcheting up what many of them are expected to do to get government help.
Walker began cutting off food aid from poor people nearly eight years ago:
The Walker budget narrative explains without a whiff of paternalism how [he] wants to make Wisconsin's poor in the W-2 program grasp the complicated but important relationship between motivation, personal responsibility, job success - - and fasting....
It's right there in the budget, on page 65, in the "Health and Human Services" section: 
"To further encourage W-2 recipients to recognize that the goal of W-2 is for participants to secure unsubsidized employment, reduce the monthly benefit check by $20." 
Hey, you little brat! You think you get that every month?
Right: Walker knows that by taking away that $20 bucks worth of luxuries every month, like that cow's milk by the gallon, and canned tuna fish imported from the ocean and macaroni with cheese, he'll light a fire under those welfare queens... [and send] that same message of frugality and accountability to the kids these parents so irresponsibly addicted to food in childhood: 
Just because there's peanut butter in the house, little mister, doesn't mean you get sliced bread so you can make one of your fancy sandwiches.
Walker has done all this while enjoying a state-provided mansion with two kitchens.

And with the help of his party's legislative leaders who from time to time add more money to their members' taxpayer-provided meal allowance/per diem payments, sometimes collectible tax-free, as reported earlier this year.

Legislators often collect daily travel allowances, also known as per diems, as money for job-related meals and lodging. They are allowed to pocket leftover cash, but some who live near Madison must pay income taxes on the money.
The money is in addition to a legislator's $50,950 annual salary....Most Assembly legislators could claim up to $157 per overnight visit to Madison last year and up to $78.50 per single-day visit. Senators could claim up to $115 per day regardless of lodging needs.

WI GOP readying a perpetually self-kleptofying kleptocracy

[Updated - - 2:25 p.m.] They're not out to steal a mere State Supreme Court seat in 2020 by switching an election day and dinking at some rules, all of which they've done before.

This time they mean to steal the Wisconsin government, and put the single set of keys to the State Capitol in a Republican party safety deposit box.

To settle every vindictive score - - real, wrongly-imagined and some-day-theoretical - - by stashing state power in a Republican-controlled favor-dispensing machine, a self-kleptofying kleptocracy that will make special-interests even more influential and perpetually routes their money to GOP pols, their partisan PACs and privilege-protecting third-party pals.

Update: Some fresh details here, including proposed limitations on early voting days to tamp down turnout in Democratic-leaning large cities. Another hit to local controls.

Walker said he liked 'divide-and-conquer.' Now it's just the conquereing part, as Republicans get ready to scorch the earth so badly and so intentionally divisively here - - on top of their eight-year war on the environment, the poor, the cities, the unions, the public sector and local controls - - that bipartisanship will go from an endangered principle to a dead one.

And the change bills the Walkerits have been drafting in secret for weeks, just as they did with their Act 10 bomb and gerrymandering maps, will not be the "reasonable" nip and tick here and there as State Senate Majority Leader and proven authoritarian Scott Fitzgerald laughably claimed right after Walker and all GOP candidates for statewide office went down in the November 6th election.

(As predicted).

The word is out that the power Fitzgerald and his co-plotters plan to arrogate, and the 'reforms' they intend to ram through the Legislature they command through gerrmnandering are so detailed and lengthy that they may have to rush them through sham hearings in pieces because the swearing-in clock is ticking.

And because some of the changes will be so consequential that in a real democracy, the people would have the final say through the referendum process written into the State Constitution.
He lost on Nov. 6th, but he and the little GOP dictators who run the legislative chambers they grotesquely gerrymandered in 2012 and hope maintain in perpetuity are bent on assuming for themselves some of his office's powers until they can transfer them back to the next Republican the system they're rigging can install. Because to this group, Regular Order Means Republican Order. Kind of like the way the Old Soviet Central Committees worked until Vladimir Putin and Dimitry Medvedev played musical chairs during Putin's 'absence.'

But that would be too drawn out and pesky-messy for this band of sore, self-entitled losers, and would too-ironically validate the same voting processes GOP leaders are shamelessly nullifying by grabbing power away from Democrats who won them fair and square from the voters. 

Ballot boxes Republicans had already tried to block best as they could with obstructive voting ID laws, restricted absentee voting hours and scary billboards put up in minority or Democratic-leaning neighborhoods threatening jail time for cheaters whom the real cheaters presumed lived there.

The GOP goal is turn Democratic Gov. Tony Evers come January into a figurehead Chief Executive until the the next Republican can reclaim an office and lakefront mansion in Madison the GOP believes one of their bots should  always occupy, and where Walker was supposed to enjoy his frozen custard, follow the Packers on TV, book the state plane and watch pretty sunsets - - all of which he kept us breathless apprised about on Twitter - - until he found on his own terms the private-sector job in which his wife just knew he could make the big bucks.

Walker tried once to trash the big vision and historic public service state definition known as The Wisconsin Idea, got caught, lied about it and had to drop what was a clumsy bid for more his own brand of one-person, public-be-damned state governance.

Now he and the little dictators caucus have an even darker goal.

Kill the whole idea of Wisconsin, and make Fitzwalkerstan, with Walker's already-proven-destructive 'chamber of commerce mentality' the permanent replacement.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

WI Dems need to tell the GOP gerrymandering story louder, better

I keep seeing major news stories like this one in The New York Times featuring Republicans' dastardly gerrymandering in North Carolina and Pennsylvania - - but what Wisconsin Republicans did in Wisconsin continues to give them unfair advantage even as they lost all five statewide constitutional office elections three weeks ago.

They're even ready to fix the 2020 State Supreme Court race calendar to help a far-right candidate run in a lower-turnout election with presumably few Democrats voting.

Isthmus of Madison reduced the gerrymander, thumb-on-the-scale reality to a single, killer graphic.
C'mon, state Dems, do a better communications' job. Tell our story, because without the publicity, Walker's hench-people are going to grab more power as Walker goes out the door and Republicans nationally are going to be emboldened by these 11th-hour, one-party-rule tricks.

Amicable breakup? So who plugged up the toilet and keyed your car?

In Wisconsin, election-losers fairly facing a power loss
Wisc Sen. Scott Fitzgerald.jpg
hope to squirrel away spoils which they can access only through insiders' brute-force.

This vindictive abandonment of democratic tradition that Wisconsin GOP pols are openly engineering after Gov. Walker's Nov. 6th rejection at the polls by Tony Evers would be like the Milwaukee Brewers, having lost last month's decisive playoff game at home to the Los Angeles Dodgers, then used the Miller Park master keys to slip into the Dodgers locker room before they left town, spread lice in their uniforms and drilled cracks in their bats.

Or it would like you had lived for some years with a partner named Scott, and had a break-up you thought would be amicable.

Then you hear he's sending his pals to the house you had shared to vandalize the furnishings, plug up the toilets and poison the dog. 

And work on rigging the selection of one of the top judges who might someday hear any case you might bring. 

You find Scott's maneuvering doubly troubling because you remember that Scott was an Eagle Scout, and had once looked up what that meant:

From the Eagle Scout ceremony:
The foremost responsibility of an Eagle Scout is to live with honor. To an Eagle Scout, honor is the foundation of all character. He knows that 'a Scout is trustworthy' is the very first point of the Scout Law for a good reason. An Eagle Scout lives honorably, not only because honor is important to him, but because of the vital significance of the example he sets for other scouts. Living honorably reflects credit on his home, his church, his troop, and his community. 
And triply-troubling as you try to explain his scheming to your friends and family because you remember that one of the things you had noticed about Scott when he was approaching his biggest public service win yet that he had a publicly-declared code of ethics based on this principle:

""The culture of government has destroyed the integrity and the idea of public service," said Walker. "My plan seeks to restore the public trust, and instill the confidence that our elected leaders are working for the people," Walker added."

Then you come to your senses, remembering this isn't the first time that Walker and his partisan allies, when feeling the sting of rejection, had shamelessly embedded advantage into the system, as noted in 2011:
On top of efforts to hamstring legitimate recall petition circulation, having run fake Democrats in this summer's Senate recall elections, having added voting and registration barriers in the unneeded Voter ID bill and changed the 2012 primary to a date obstructing college voters, hasn't election tampering by the GOP and Walkerites gone far enough?

Wisconsin Republicans AGAIN Want Quick Rule/Law Changes To Preserve Their Majorities

In case you missed it:

(originally posted, Saturday, 10/29, 10:30 p.m.) Wisconsin Republican legislators continue to manipulate the electoral process into an un-American, one-sided game where the playing field is permanently tilted because they have the power to make, undo and change the rules to ensure they win.

Did they swap their oath to obey the law and protect the State Constitution for a secret handshake with Scott Walker and a pledge of allegiance to Americans for Prosperity?

Imagine that the Cardinals or Yankees got to adjust the rules in the eighth inning, at will, to give themselves four strikes to make an out, or to score a double as a three-run homer.

How often can these serial cheaters reporting to Scott Walker and the Fitzgeralds be allowed to rig the system? What happened to Scott Walker, Eagle Scout?

[Update: They're at it again]

Consider their machinations just this year, framing 2012 as its Year of the Stealathon:

*  They ran phony slates of Democrats in the Senate recall elections to confuse the electorate and game the calender for scheduling and fund-raising advantages.

*  They are moving to add burdensome notarization requirements to help make Scott Walker's recall more difficult - - even though Walker benefited from a traditional, unfettered, Constitutionally-guaranteed recall system in 2002 to become Milwaukee County Executive prior to his successful run for Governor last year.

*  Now the Republicanss are rushing forward with a plan by New Berlin Senator Mary Lazich - - no surprise there - - to undo part of a just-passed GOP-crafted redistricting plan because they see a fresher way to adjust election schedules, again in their favor, to hang on to a one-vote Senate majority. 

Some months ago, I wrote that no one likes a cheater in politics, and I believe the GOP will get what's coming to it when these manipulations - - and don't forget the exclusionary goals of the Voter ID law take effect next year, too - - help the Recall Walker Movement gets its signatures:
Partisan politics is one thing, but repeated twisting of the rules, the legislative process and the essential need for fair play in a just society to cement office-holding by the group that happens to be in office - - and also with Walker being elected by just 52% of the voters who turned out - - should backfire, and is, the polling suggests.

Foxconn lays off 155 in Indiana

Subsidiaries of Foxconn - - the Taiwan-based corporate entity which 'won' from Wisconsin the largest subsidy ever awarded a foreign corporation - - announced cutbacks at a plant in Indiana
Flag of Indiana.svg
near Indianapolis, according to the Indianapolis Business Journal.
Two subsidiaries of computer electronics manufacturer Foxconn Technology Group plan to lay off 155 employees at a facility in Plainfield over the next three months. 
Q-Edge Corp. and Foxconn/Hon Hai Logistics California LLC notified state officials of the impending layoffs on Wednesday.
Foxconn recently announced company-wide deep cuts in investment, scaled-back the initial phase of the plant it is building in Mt. Pleasant, WI, and has floated the idea of importing workers there

And the company is acknowledging that assembly-line automation will be part of the Mt. Pleasant operation. 

Translation: robots are coming,  they don't need vacation and health-care benefits, and will never unionize, so heads up, Bucky and understand who and what you are subsidizing.

I will add this posting to an archive of Foxconn items I have maintained since last year, and where you sill see that Walker has literally bet the farm on this boondoggle.

Cabbage fields on the Foxconn site, 2017

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

No denying Walker's costly, ideological & stubborn ignorance

Warnings ignored. At great cost.

* This 11/28/18 article leads with the summer's flooding in Cross Plains, WI, just outside of Madison, the Capital City.
As rainfall intensifies, cities prepare for more stormwater
Between the afternoon of August 20, 2018, and the next morning, 14.7 inches of rain fell on Cross Plains. Homes, businesses, bridges and parks were washed out along streets, rivers and ponds. It took six days for the main highway out of town to reopen.
The August 20 event in Cross Plains and western Dane County was deemed a 1-in-1,000-year event, which means that a rainstorm of that magnitude historically has a 0.1 percent chance of occurring in a given year.
But we didn’t get a break anytime soon. Unrelenting storms rolled through southern Wisconsin for three weeks...
Wisconsin isn’t the only place getting wetter
Intensifying rainfall is a well-documented climate change trend. Across the country, local governments are making infrastructure investments in the hopes of preparing for more water.
But planning for stormwater is challenging when the rainfall probabilities that planners and engineers once relied on to design infrastructure are no longer accurate. Wisconsin, for example, experienced historic flooding in 20082013, and 2016, in addition to 2018. Probabilities based on long-term averages don’t necessarily capture what can be expected from future – or even current – storms.
* On June 8, 2008, in the early months of this blog, I posted this:
In 2003, EPA predicted heavier rain events 
Then-Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist and I attended a conference in Chicago in 2003, hosted by Mayor Richard Daley, where officials from the EPA told Midwestern elected leaders that climate change models predicted heavier rain events.
The EPA officials were urging the Midwestern leaders to adapt their planning and spending to more aggressively confront storm water and related services because heavier, intense rains were going to be come more frequent.
Part of the message was: forget the notion of the "100-year-storm." They'll come more often than that in the Midwest as the atmosphere warms.
Again - - this wasn't advocacy science or partisan scare tactics.
This was basic municipal planning/dollars-and-sense advice from people in the George W. Bush administration to Midwestern mayors offered as an inter-governmental service because climate change was going to hit cities' budgets and constituents in difficult new ways.
The EPA officials had it all in a very power point format - - which I requested, and was assured was coming - - but it never did, and I left the Mayor's staff in January 2004 and didn't make a federal case out of not receiving it.
Now I wish I had.
Seems pretty relevant this weekend, no?

* On January 1, 2017, I posted this:
Documenting Gov. Walker's attacks on science, climate change
On December 22nd [2016], this blog carried the first disclosure that WI GOP Gov. Scott Walker's "chamber of commerce mentality" Department of Natural Resources, (see part five of a recent series about his redefining the agency, here), had again deleted from taxpayer-paid, public web pages wording and information about climate, climate change and its human causation.
This time, the scrubbing destroyed the integrity and value of the intentionally and ideologically beaten-down agency's key remaining climate change web page:
More Walkerite/Orwellian censorship of climate change from DNR climate change web pages
During the following few days, I updated the page and have posted twelve fourteen additional posts with related information. 
* On August 28, 2018 - - eight days after the rains fell on Cross Plains and across much of the state, I wrote this:
Who needed those axed climate scientists, and their expertise? We did.
[Walker] signed a public pledge to ignore climate change science, deleted climate change science and also deleted links to valuable climate change-storm materials from state webpages which said our changing climate was likely to bring heavier flooding.
And fired the experts who understood the predictions...
Because [Walker] already had:
Ignored the wake-up calls sounding the alarms your ideology masked.
Thereby setting the table for more flooding, property damage, and loss of life

in the state where you purport to be chief executive, but tell us often how much you are enjoying the executive mansion, sports' game days, and your favorite foods.
* And on September 8, 2018, this:
Wisconsin flood damage estimated at $209 million
Damage estimates are soaring in southern Wisconsin after weeks of severe flooding and storms destroyed pavement, left basements underwater, ruined crops and killed livestock. 
And in a post I put up on November 27th, a reminder that in the death trip also known as Walker's eight years in office, people have died in the state's intensified flooding:
...deaths in state flooding in 2016, and in Sawyer County and Dane County in 2018 - - violent storms which are projected to worsen in the changing climate Walker has steadfastly refused to acknowledge or address. 
The bottom line?
Warnings and science were ignored. Wisconsin homes and incomes were lost (Also in Texas, the Carolinas, the Jersey Shore, Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, your town, my town, small town, downtown, out-of-town). 
Remedial spending will soar, and if taxes don't, other programs will starve. Republicans from Big Daddy Trump to the littlest lieutenants like Fitzgerald and Vos will tow the polluters' lines, whether laid down by the Koch brothers or King Coal. 
The planet will warm. Unconcerned about his legacy of damage and despair, Walker will hit the lecture circuit. And it will rain hard again, as thousand-year storms become every-few-months' events. 
It's enough to make ya crazy. 

Hey, sore losing GOP 'leaders' - - consult this vocal opponent of election calendar changes

[Updated, 3:00 p.m.] All that expertise right in the right's backyard.

Which means the grasping after election advantage by Wisconsin Sore Losers' Club, FitzWalkerVos Chapter could be easily side-tracked if club members would consult the in-state elections and budget expert who had earlier very publicly-framed the issues in a way all Republicans could easily understand.

Remember earlier this year, when Walker decided that his creating two legislative vacancies by moving Republicans incumbents into cushy, pension-boosting Big Government jobs didn't mean he had to call routine special elections to prevent thousands of Wisconsin citizens from being stripped of State Capitol representation for up to a year.

Set aside for a moment that the wonderfully-ironic slap down Walker got for that stunt was delivered by a judge Walker had appointed.

Instead, keep in mind that it was The Sore Losers' Club Fitz himself 
Wisc Sen. Scott Fitzgerald.jpg
who argued at the time that any reasonable person would understand all the problems an extra, out-of-sequence would create:
“The logistics of this is very messy,” Fitzgerald said... The average taxpayer is going to be like, ‘You’re kidding me.’”
[Update] In fact, an even more senior expert said it would throw taxpayers' money away:
Walker himself cited cost as a factor, speaking to reporters in Pewaukee: "It’s just a waste of taxpayers’ money..." 
But, you know, this time's different, because a) it's what the party used to one-party rule prefers, and because only 30 county clerks have complained about the $6.8 million tab.

$6.8 million? Chicken-feed to these fiscal conservatives.

Remember, the same FitzWalkerVos trio have set it up so that state and local taxpayers will shovel almost exactly that same amount Foxconn's way ($3 billion divided by 15 (years) divided by 52 (weeks), or $3,846,133 per week) every two weeks - - with Racine-area local taxpayers - - a/k/a Vos constituents - - paying extra, so about the money - - pffft!. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

WI's little dictators may tilt '20 WI high court election to embed Walkerism

So Walker-the-incumbent-Governor just lost an election and the geniuses in the loser's inner circle want to saddle a sitting State Supreme Court Justice with an even heavier Walker identity than merely having been hand-picked in 2016 by Walker to serve after Justice David Prosser had quit?

This is like watching The Three Stooges build an airplane and try to fly it from New York to LA.

Not content with having gerrymandered the State Legislature to give themselves lopsided advantages, the little dictators serving as Republican leaders in their already rigged Assembly and Senate chambers are working on something even more brazen - - and potentially suicidally-stupid - - on the eve of Walker's boot by voters from the State Capitol.

Their scheme: a gerrymander-like rigging - - not by packing partisan voters and addresses into easy-to-win districts, but by packing the State Supreme Court and guaranteeing easy-to-win special interest cases.

How? By manipulating the routine election calendar to give a perceived leg up to Daniel Kelly, a State Supreme Court Justice appointed earlier by Walker to fill a vacancy, and thus a potentially weak candidate without an election win and proven base of support among voters.

What the GOP legislative leaders are considering is separating the presidential primary contest and the State Supreme Court election from the same 2020 spring ballot those races would normally share, and where a big Blue Democratic turnout in April 2020 drawn to a large field vying to take on Trump that fall would likely also vote for a presumably more-progressive alternative to Justice Kelly.

This manipulation of the Wisconsin election calendar by Republicans through a special legislative session allegedly called to consider a subsidy for Kimberly-Clark which Republicans are fumbling away will backfire, I guarantee it.

People will see right through the hypocrisies, having heard Walker say eleventeen-billion times with robotic sanctimony that the GOP in Wisconsin was all about making it easier to vote and harder to cheat. Except when the cheaters are in power and calling the shots, whether by drafting deliberately-distorted legislative district maps in secret, or scheming out in the open to monkey with a scheduled State Supreme Court ballot.

And we put "Justice" in those very important job titles? Please.

Justice Kelly, already having been appointed by Walker, will be perceived by voters as a post-Walker-defeat-Walker-surrogate and a GOP plant helped along by a blatant abuse of state power and waste of public monies.

And Republicans want you to believe they are the law-and-order and fiscally-conservative party? Please.

Kelly might as well change his name to Scott Walker, because a surge of people drawn to the polls will fill in another anti-Walker ballot.

Just like they did three weeks ago. 

And just like all those voters did nationwide when they went to the polls, 'saw' Trump on the ballot and threw out dozens of Republicans who would have carried Trump's water had they won.

I'm telling you right now, go ahead, ye little dim-bulb dictators also known as Fitzgerald and Vos: go ahead and grasp, at your instant disgrace and enduring peril, for the reins of power which are already being pulled from your hands.

You know, I'd intended to retire the photograph below of Walker once he left the Governor's mansion for appearances, perhaps with fellow has-been David Clarke, on the big-check-and-rubber-chicken circuit, but I'll hold on to it for the 2020 State Supreme Court race should Walker's hand-picked candidate - - apparently unsatisfied with already having received one Walker favor to get appointed to the State Supreme Court - - try and remain there for a full ten-year term through a power grab enabled by Walker's trusty lieutenants and one last hand-drawn "SKW."

Wisconsin's eight-year death trip is ending, partisan taxidermy is not

I can't put my hands on my copy of Michael Lesy's classic photography-rich non-fiction classic Wisconsin Death Trip, but you could say the Walker years now drawing to a close are Wisconsin Death Trip 2.0.

Oh, too harsh, you say?

* I think the death of 50 dairy farms month-after-month isn't much of a legacy to brag about.

* Along with doubling the number of Wisconsin 'impaired' waterways.

Dead brookie in The Litter Plover River, with water-sucking big ag operations nearby. River Alliance of Wisconsin photo.

* Not to mention seeing Wisconsin for a second-straight year in 2018 placing a state waterway on a national top-ten "endangered rivers" list.

* And having The New York Times come to Wisconsin to get a closer look at "polluted water too dangerous to drink."

* While there's been a relentless spread of deer chronic wasting disease, with even Walker's DNR saying 55 of 72 Wisconsin counties meet the agency's "affected" criteria.

* Or the persistence of a large, and persistent "dead zones" in the waters of Green Bay linked, by the way, to the expansion of the larger dairy cattle feeding operations, (CAFOs) which are killing the smaller ones, and phosphorous discharges from CAFOs and other big ag operations enabled by pollution rules Team Walker had eased.

* And deaths in state flooding in 2016, and in Sawyer County and Dane County in 2018 - - violent storms which are projected to worsen in the changing climate Walker has steadfastly refused to acknowledge or address.

* And tracking opioid abuse cases which put the state in this March spotlight:

Emergency room visits for suspected opioid overdoses increased 109 percent in Wisconsin from July 2016 to September 2017, the highest spike among 16 states closely tracked, federal health officials said Tuesday.  
The ER data show trends in the opioid abuse epidemic before deaths do, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which conducted the study.
* Combined with the documented tens of thousands of Wisconsinites who lost their health insurance under Walker's 'refs-the-federal-funding' plan.

I'd say "death trip" is a fair descriptor, and once Evers becomes Governor the mist will begin to lift.

Though some of the political diehards are trying to work their self-defeating taxidermological magic:

...before Democrat Tony Evers is sworn in as Governor and replaces the Republican incumbent whom the electorate unambiguously rejected, a defeated Scott Walker and his lead legislative hench-people will have codified some 11th-hour changes to Wisconsin traditional law and tradition through which they will desperately try to make their beloved FitzWalkerStan permanent.
You'd think Republicans would have learned something about clever legislating and unintended consequences after tightening up the state's recount law in 2016, only to have restrictions they pushed through make it harder and costly for Walker to obtain one following his 2018 defeat.
Literature and language are replete with this lesson. 
Google the phrases "of mice and men," or "the best laid plans." Or "be careful of what you wish for," "payback's a bitch," or "vengeance is a dish best served cold." 
You get the picture. 
Label GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos defiantly clueless, though he seems to get the metaphor
"We are not going to roll over and play dead like they assume we probably should," Vos said."

Foxconn water bid gets more backers, slowed court calendar

Site preparation for the Foxconn project has work orders and schedules, but legal proceedings over its bid for a Lake Michigan water supply have a separate ebb and flow.

I'd summarized about two weeks ago some of the objections raised by several jurisdictions and petitioners to various aspects of the Foxconn project.

A Wisconsin administrative law judge had established a schedule for the filing of briefs in one of those pending matters - - a case brought by multiple petitioners opposing the DNR's approval of a diversion from Lake Michigan 

to supply millions of gallons of water daily for Foxconn manufacturing at its Village of Mount Pleasant site. 

However, additional parties intervened in support of the diversion, so the judge on November 14th issued an amended order extending deadlines for the filing pf briefs - - written arguments, as it were.

The extension is not particularly lengthy, but it illustrates the fluidity of complex and unresolved land, air, water and legal issues facing the company and government regulators while site preparation for the state's most heavily-subsidized private-sector project continues unabated. 

A project which out-going Wisconsin Governor and lead Foxconn booster was touting on his official Twitter account as recently as Monday with a link to this photo essay and story and this Tweet:
 “Aerial view of Foxconn contractors preparing land for more buildings” 
An archive of more than 250 posts about Foxconn is here.

So here is the heart of the judge's order stretching out the schedule for the filing of briefs for and against the diversion: 

  1. The Village and County filed a Motion to Intervene via U.S. Mail on October 11, 2018.The parties did not object to the Village and County becoming parties to this action, and the Administrative Law Judge granted their admission as parties.
  2. The Petitioners advised they will provide additional facts.
  3. The parties agreed that this action can proceed through summary judgment briefing.
  4. The Petitioners requested an extension to submit their reply brief due to the addition of four more parties to this action. The Administrative Law Judge granted this extension, and the parties agreed upon an amended scheduling order.
  5. The Department agreed to publish the amended scheduling order on the DNR website so interested Amicus parties are aware of the new deadline to file their briefs. 

Based upon the representations of the parties, the following schedule has been amended as follows:
  1. In this order, whenever the term "filed" is used, it shall be understood that this means received by mail, facsimile, or email by the Division and all other parties listed above.
  2. Any party wishing to participate as an amicus shall file a motion to the Administrative Law Judge by November 15, 2018requesting leave to file an amicus brief.
    1. Petitioners shall file their Summary Judgment Motion Brief by December 17, 2018.
    2. The Department and all other parties shall file their Response Brief by January 31, 2019.
    3. Petitioners shall file their Reply Brief by March 4, 2019.
    4. Any Amici allowed to file a brief shall file their brief by March 4, 2019.
    5. The parties reserve the right to request permission from the Administrative Law Judge to file a sur-reply to any Amicus brief that raises an issue not previously addressed in a brief submitted by the Department or Petitioners. Any request will be filed, with a copy of the sur-reply, by March 22, 2019.

Monday, November 26, 2018

6 experts explain how WI can have the better DNR it needs

In 2016, I'd asked current and former Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources staffers how they thought things were going, and their responses are in this updated post downloaded thousands of times.

Then in 2017, I asked a bigger group of current and former Wisconsin DNR employees, along with experts often in touch with the agency, for their observations, and posted them over two days, here - - again to strong readership.

And I recently put up a 21-part series on what's happened to the Wisconsin environment since Walker installed his "chamber of commerce mentality" atop the DNR, so I've certainly had my say. And I appreciate the tens of thousands of  times those installments were read.

So, as a new era dawns 

Recent sunrise over Lake Michigan from Milwaukee's lakefront
on the Wisconsin political and natural environment, I thought I'd ask some of the experts again because Governor-elect Tony Evers' swearing-in as Walker's replacement is just weeks away.

I asked these sources separately. None have seen what any of the others have written. (And I may extend this post, or add another take, so stay tuned.)

Here's what came back from several individuals:
* From a current, long-term DNR staffer:

Top Ten Pieces of Advice for Gov. Elect Tony Evers on the DNR - - by an Anonymous Staffer
10. Clean house. To restore trust both inside and outside the department, don’t bring back appointees from the Doyle or Walker administrations. Having a board-appointed Secretary should be a goal. 
9. Put climate change back into the decision-making process for DNR regulations. Denying climate change will not make it go away.
8. Address Chronic Wasting Disease. Hunters need to know deer meat is safe to eat and worth the cost of a license and hunting trip. 
7. Put state money into the park system. We have beautiful parks. They should be fun, safe, and affordable for everyone. Wisconsin’s state parks were never intended to be self-funding, so stop pretending they can be.
6. Recognize there are conflicts between the different programs and deal with them. Protecting wildlife means protecting their habitat. Clean water means discharge rules have to be enforced. 
5. Bring back testimony by DNR staff on proposed legislation. The people who do the work know more about the programs they work in, the people affected by regulation, and the resources they manage than some bought and paid for legislator, lobbyist, or a nonprofit. 
4. Hire people. Since Walker took office, DNR is down over 400 people but the amount of work is the same. Some of it isn’t getting done. Hire professionals and non-professionals with energy and ideas.  Recruiting minorities should be a priority. Pay people well. 
3. Give staff the equipment they need to do their jobs. Pay for professional licenses, training, and continuing education. Invest in staff and encourage them to keep learning. 
2. Put money back into research and data collection for better resource management and rule writing. Don't write rules that look good but cost industries money while doing nothing for the environment.
1. Bring back Education and Information professionals and Outreach programs. DNR needs to go back to talking face-to-face with people about protecting and enhancing our environment. Likewise, the people of Wisconsin need opportunities to talk to us about the issues that are important to them. 

* From George Meyer, Executive Director, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and former DNR Secretary:

1.      Evers will appoint individuals to the agency that have professional scientific and natural resource management background. That automatically changes the perspective in decision-making. Their first analysis will be impact on the resource. The positions are Sec., Dep. Sec., and Assist. Dep Sec.,  five Division Administrator positions, Chief Legal Counsel, Chief Public Information Officer and Chief Legislative Liaison. 

2.      There will be a focus on climate change including populating the DNR’s website--as background there was significant climate change information on the DNR website when I was Secretary 20 years ago.

3.      There will be an increase in enforcement of environmental and conservation laws--both of which diminished greatly under Walker and Schimel.

4.      There will be added scientists and scientific decision-making including the possible restoration of the Science Bureau.

5.      There will be legal and sound decisions made on wetland and navigable water decisions rather than the decisions made on Meteor Timber and the Kohler golf course.

6.       Greater emphasis placed on containing chronic wasting disease in the state.

7.      Added emphasis on groundwater quality protection. DNR was forced into enacting tougher manure and septage land application standard for the sensitive Karst formations in Kewaunee, Brown and Door County but were blocked by the Governor for tougher standards in other sensitive areas such as the sandy soils of Central and Southwestern Wisconsin which have high degrees of nitrate pollution.

8.      There can be a rebuilding of the DNR resource protection culture that there used to be. DNR has very good front-line employees. 

9.      DNR will once again show up and present objective analysis of legislative bills…this is really important.

10.   Having a Governor Evers will stop bad conservation and environmental bills from being passed and in many cases from being introduced. 
* From a former long-term DNR staffer:
Review DNR staff training plans to ensure that all staff have had and will have basic level of training in land and water law as well as the mechanics of their specific assignments.

Resume preparing bill analysis and fiscal notes (regardless of whether DNR takes a position, the factual information should be provided).

Assign Deputies or Exec Assistants from DNR and Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection specific mutual objectives to coordinate the agencies' work to reduce agricultural sources of phosphorus, nitrogen and bacteria to surface and groundwater.

All top administrators meet regularly with conservation and environmental groups. 

Resume doing environmental reviews of high cap well applications (in conjunction with a legal review by the new AG's office).

Move as quickly as possible to develop groundwater standards (NR140 and ss. 160) for new list of chemicals (DNR and DATCP staff developed a proposed list of detected compounds back in 2014 or so).

Restore river group technical assistance and development grants

Revisit decision to sell acres of state lands...if some of the lands truly don't fit DNR projects or cant be effectively manage, then run a process similar to feds disposal of lands that retains the original conservation purpose (other agencies, local governments).

* From Gordon Stevenson, former Chief of Runoff Management, DNR

Fewer and fewer people remember that in 1995, Governor Thompson proposed and successfully passed legislation that took governance of DNR away from Wisconsin citizens. Even fewer people remember that the same legislation also took away citizen governance from the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). 

It is vital to recognize that agriculture is responsible for as much as 90% of both groundwater pollution and surface water pollution in Wisconsin.  We need only look at the Dead Zone in Green Bay, the undrinkable groundwater of the Central Sands, or the pathogens in the drinking water supplies of Kewaunee County to know that for DNR to move forward, DATCP must as well.

Specifically, I suggest restoration of pre-1995 citizen governance to both agencies.  That includes: 1) Secretaries are appointed by citizen boards not the Governor, 2) Secretaries are selected in accordance with professional qualifications, not political connections, and 3) The voices of Wisconsin citizens are meaningfully considered in regulatory and policy decisions. 

Notably, Governor Doyle vetoed legislation that could have done that.

I also suggest that both agencies recommit to compliance with open meetings laws and open records laws. 

And perhaps most vital, I hope the incoming administration will restore morale of staffs of both agencies.

* From former DNR communications staffer Anne Urbanski:
Retired DNR air quality communicator Anne Urbanski sees Evers' election as a sign that the majority of Wisconsin voters want corporate interests and Republican donors to have less sway over DNR's decisions.

"I'm hopeful that Governor Evers will appoint someone with strong experience in environmental issues and natural resource management to be DNR secretary," said Urbanski, who now lives in Santa Fe, NM.  

"Wisconsin needs to return to the science-based decision-making that made WDNR a leader among state environmental agencies for so many years. I also hope the research sections of DNR can be built up again and that the state will renew the climate change activities that the Walker administration dropped.

"Wisconsin also needs the DNR to hire communicators to the replace the ones who, like me, were purged in June 2015."

* From a former, long-term DNR staffer:

I’ve either worked with or inside of DNR the better part of my career.  It is a critical leader in protecting and managing our natural heritage. Even without Act 10 it was time for the cohort that came in during the 80’s to retire. Just like the cohort before them, they brought in current science.  At the time, that was the beginning of conservation biology and an ecological lens for setting goals for the departments overall future goals.

There were some of the best, and I mean that, biologists in the world holding regular jobs in the DNR.  They interpreted the public’s great reverence for our intact natural communities as well as our leading edge science in restoring landscape-scale destruction of the follies of clear-cutting the North woods. 

In part, Wisconsin’s prowess grew out of an emerging science and a terrible environmental problem. Rivers were running with mud after forests were clear cut.  The Peshtigo fire was fueled by the unsaleable slash from the great cutover. 

The real value of the DNR has been in being the big ship that pulled academia, industry and the public’s love of special places forward together. 

Many complained about the slow pace and industry began the narrative of “red tape” interfering with commerce.  One woman’s red tape is another woman’s sober application of the power of the state and the emerging science to apply as trustees for future generations.

The most important act of Tony Evers is to appoint a nationally-respected scientist as the DNR secretary and to let him or her begin the necessary process of setting a future course with skilled staff and insulation from the raw political influence of the Doyle and Walker administrations. 

Walker’s administration was actively anti-science in handing out favors to special interests and Doyle began the long downhill slide by appointing secretaries without the skills or autonomy to take the great department forward.

Even under an “independent secretary” endangered resources staff were at best bastard children although if they kept their heads down they were free to work with the academic community to continue the near-century of field biology to identify and scientifically manage our great natural heritage. 

From Muir on, and even before in the early missionaries we’ve enjoyed complete field biology to identify pre-Colonial or European settlement conditions. In addition to the wealth of field notes, our great DNR scientists combed every source available to them to understand the unique intersection of many ecotones in Wisconsin.

I remember a trip to D.C. with some of the biologists from the Science Services division Stepp aborted.  We walked through the Smithsonian National Gallery of Art to look at landscape paintings from pre-settlement to better understand our Wisconsin landscape prior to European extraction. 

Working for the Nature Conservancy I was able to organize and implement the first statewide natural area priority land acquisition plan with great scientists from academia, government and citizen scientists. There was a hesitancy to identify the must-protect places to achieve reference sites of the vast array of natural communities in the rich and varied ecotones of Wisconsin. Secrecy and stealth acquisition had been the mode to secure these special places in times where utility of landscapes was paramount.

The information we developed was launched forward with the advent of GIS to better document and model the relative importance of specific sites.

The WI Initiative on Climate Change. (WICCI), further utilized the near-century of data to ensure there were reference sites across all ecological boundaries to document the impacts of a changing climate and inform the dedication of resources and practices of managing our natural heritage.

All of that is what we lose if we allow political payback to drive appointments to positions of managerial influence in the DNR. We aren’t so far gone that we can’t connect the threads of the past with the new generation of biologists to come in to the department.

I try hard to understand young people and their values to be sure they know their importance to public service moving forward. Just as bureaucracy at its best is the marriage of theory and practice, public agency management and protection is applied science informed by the best available science.  

When folks join the DNR they tend to stay a long time. 

There just aren’t many opportunities for career-long opportunities for applied science across landscapes. Even if a crappy DNR hires good people, they will be corrupted or dis-empowered from channeling their passion and skills in service to our natural heritage and the rights of future generations.

It’s beyond sin to squander freshwater in a world where tens of thousands of people die from lack of potable water. We have the data, the scientific foundation and the public will to protect our precious freshwater if we want to.  

Evers must appoint a highly skilled scientist to run the DNR and allow him or her to appoint the best possible people to administer the divisions, after restoring some organizational amputations carried out by Walker’s team, to give us a chance to take Wisconsin forward in a challenging and changing world.

This is a key moment. Myself, I am strongly supporting Mark Borchardt as the next secretary of the DNR. He is an internationally-acclaimed microbiologist with a career of studying pathogens in public and private water supplies. 

It would be a sign of trust to the whole of Wisconsin, hopefully allowing the artificial rural/urban divide, at least around drinking water, to be put to rest.

All families around the state want to have safe drinking water. I’ve worked statewide for 30 years and people who used to be antagonistic or “afraid” of the DNR want them to asseet their resources and authority to ensure the protection of our ample water resources for future generations.  

I am aware I haven’t given you a precise quote, but as I hope you see I am passionate about not breaking the link in the chain of conservation biology that has been stressed by special interests since the independent secretary was abolished.