Thursday, February 28, 2019

WI GOP wants to saddle us with another Walker budget

This morning I predicted Evers' budget would meet with Republican resistance.
Evers WI budget 3 R's: Repair, and Republican Rejection
I'm thinking that Wisconsin teacher-turned-Governor Evers' first budget handed to legislators tonight will be ignored by a roomful of students where more than half are OK with their D's and F's.
Democrat's and discerning viewers, however, will use the presentation as it's intended: a road map to what needs repair or a fresh start - - after eight years of Scott Walker ideological, intentional and neglect - - from the roads to health care to education to clean water to basic tax and redistricting fairness.
And you will see the Republican legislative leadership's instant 'no, never' already displayed by GOP shadow governor and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and no doubt practiced in front of the mirror so often today that he's risking lockjaw.
Tonight, the GOP did just that, so while Evers wants to take the state forward, Republicans want to regress to the Walker miasma.
Republican leaders Thursday evening denounced Evers' plan as an 'unacceptable' and 'outrageous' spending increase fulfilling a liberal wish list. Republicans said they intend to ignore the governor's proposal and craft their own budget document, as they've alluded to over the past two months. 
Eight years of FitzWalkerVos environmental, fiscal and intellectual sterility was enough.
So gear up now for 2020. 

Evers WI budget 3 R's: Repair, and Republican Rejection

I'm thinking that Wisconsin teacher-turned-Governor Evers' first budget handed to legislators tonight will be ignored by a roomful of students where more than half are OK with their D's and F's.

Democrat's and discerning viewers, however, will use the presentation as it's intended: a road map to what needs repair or a fresh start - - after eight years of Scott Walker ideological, intentional and neglect - - from the roads to health care to education to clean water to basic tax and redistricting fairness.

And you will see the Republican legislative leadership's instant 'no, never' already displayed by GOP shadow governor and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and no doubt practiced in front of the mirror so often today that he's risking lockjaw.

For Vos & Co., their likely one-note reply has a repetitive one-size-fits-all origin story: the less money they collect in taxes from their corporate donors, the more business-sector donations flow into GOP campaign coffers while a deliberately underfunded public sector 'proves' the Republican narrative that government doesn't work.

Which means until fair elections are restored in Wisconsin - - and watch GOP legislators line-up to be the first to trash Evers' call for a new, fair redistricting process - - we will not have the basics which are affordable - - good roads, accessible health care, high-quality classrooms, safe drinking water and a public sector that is revived, respected and relevant will be difficult-to-impossible to attain.

While a self-absorbed Republican Party continues to sell gimmicks and counterfeit committees which have no real weight or integrity and spend public money on itself instead on everyday citizen needs' statewide.

As the Evers budget moves to the legislature's finance committee where Vos-Fitzgerald special-interest-protection Republicans can rewrite it with their 12-4 majority, taxpayers who don't have their own PACs or in-house campaign donation bundlers will be looking at different numbers and their consequences which are in plain, disturbing sight:

* Will it take more that one infant death linked to unsafe drinking water to move GOP legislators from CAFO obeisance to clean water action?

*  Why are we each spending thousands of dollars a year on legacy Scotthole repair bills and related roadway neglect?

*  How many more counties will be added to the DNR's chronic deer wasting disease effected counties list. The number under do-nothing Walker and GOP legislators-in-thrall-to-deer farms grew to 55 out of 72.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Grothman limits his national TV time to forgettable Trump smooch

Wisconsin political observers were relieved that Glenn Grothman used his five minutes of national TV airtime during the Michael Cohen hearing today to express his offense at the eleventy-million suggestions that Trump wasn't serious about winning the 2016 campaign.
Glenn Grothman official congressional photo.jpg

"He was running very hard," said Grothman - - unfamiliar himself with running hard in his safely GOP-gerrymandered district - - obviously hoping that for just those few minutes Kim Jong Un had been shushed so Trump could hear the Grothman shoutout.

Truth is - - any Grothman appearance during which he's not discussing the finer points of caulk, demeaning women in the workforce, objecting to the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday or more recently voting against paying federal workers for time lost during the government shutdown is a win for the state's reputation.

Imagine what might have happened if one of Grothman's colleagues had gotten all wound up and called Cohen a snake.

If he's just one of today's generic, repetitive Republican Trump suck-ups today, Wisconsin comes out ahead.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Yes, make the swing bridge RiverWalk expansion happen

I was on the relatively-small and new Trestle Park which extends into the Milwaukee River off E. Erie St. yesterday. And it's obvious what the iconic and now unused railroad swing bridge across the river 

could add to the area if it can connect Third Ward and Walker's Point bikers and pedestrians to the RiverWalk on the far shore.

Several public and private-sector parties would have a say in making it all happen; Urban Milwaukee's Jeramey Jennene explains the bridge's history and modern opportunities:
The bridge was built in 1915 by the Chicago & North Western Railway and long served as a critical piece of infrastructure on the company’s mainline between Chicago and St. Paul... 
The bridge has been owned by Union Pacific since the railroad giant acquired CNW in 1995. According to a 2006 city historic designation report, the bridge weighs 800 tons and is 32-feet wide and 243-feet long.
A couple of more views from the Trestle Park up and down the river. 

More unbearable Walker-Trump-Twitter Suck-Up

Walker let Trump hammer state farmers and Milwaukee manufacturers with tariffs

and claims to be Trump's #1 Wisconsin surropgate.

But hailing Ivanka Trump on upward mobility at the expense of US. Congresswoman and former food service worker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is obscene. 

The 'notice-me/'hire me' subtext of today's Walker Trump suck-up is plain embarrassing:

 3 hours ago

How Robin Vos spent his credibility, your money

As Gov. Evers is about to roll out his first WI state budget, and GOP Assembly Speaker and fake fiscal conservative Robin Vos attacks it as too expensive, let's remind remind him of the public spending he's showered on his district, party, staff, and air miles:

*  There was that $4,300 plane ride he took on a state airplane so he could meet with a legislative ally in Ohio. A conference call could have handled the session; maybe he wanted to show everyone that Walker wasn't the only state official who could play big shot and order up an airplane

* Then there are the hundreds of thousands of dollars Vos just appropriated for more GOP staffers, a pay raise for his chief of staff, and private lawyers serving Republican partisan interests.

*  And there's all the local and state taxpayer spending in and around the Foxconn site - - which is in and around Vos' Assembly district - - spending Vos helped direct that is separate from the billions in state and local dollars Vos and Team Walker have promised to the company through borrowings and tax credits.

Note especially how the road and major highway largesse grew from $30 million to $90 million to $630 million - - inflating a more than $1.6 billion dollar pot of public funds not directly spent on Foxconn hiring or factory production - - which is why I'd written that even if Foxconn bails out tomorrow, Vos's district will benefit from decades of commercial and residential expansion served by the taxpayer-financed infrastructure.

So when Evers submits his budget, let's not hear from Vos about what taxpayers can't afford to spend while he, his party and his district are soaking up far more than a fair share.
Robin Vos speaks at Racine Tea Party event (8378614585).jpg
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Evers would return 'public' interest to WEDC public spending

You may remember that Wisconsin Republican legislators lame duck-walked themselves into more control of the always-troubled WEDC, so it will be interesting to see if they have enough common sense and sense of common purpose to approve these budget-based best practices Gov. Evers wants to add to WEDC's mission:
Tony Evers' WEDC budget proposal aims to reduce outsourcing, encourage renewable energy projects
A recent arrival to Wisconsin from Minnesota or Mars would likely say, 'What? You're not already requiring these things?

The answer is no - - and Minnesota, you know better - - which explains disclosures by One Wisconsin Now like this:
media report on WKOW-TV in Madison detailed how two companies that received WEDC awards of state tax credits worth up to nearly $20 million subsequently laid off 279 Wisconsin workers and expanded their operations in Mexico and other overseas locations including China, Romania, Malaysia, Thailand, Germany and the United Kingdom. In response to the report a WEDC spokesperson declared, “we will continue to work with that company” and reward the business with state tax dollars, even if they have plans to send jobs overseas.
So now let's see if Republicans who set in motion a WEDC that indeed gave away state job-creating money to businesses who were moving jobs out of Wisconsin during an administration that stalled wind and solar investments is inclined to put "public" back in public financing. 
Wisconsin wind farm, east of Waupun
Evers wants to have the WEDC put a priority on renewable energy investing. That it hasn't been a WEDC priority tells you a lot about how Walker mishandled the agency he created and chaired until 2015.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Vos water task force stars Republicans weak on pollution

You may remember that WI GOP Assembly Speaker and eager-beaver shadow governor Robin Vos threw together a water quality task force stacked 13-3 in favor of Republicans to pre-empt Gov. Evers' plans to begin addressing water pollution which Vos and Team Walker had either ignored or enabled for the last eight years.

Said Vos, in a news release, thus not risking choking in public on the platitudes:

Wisconsinites deserve to have safe, clean and healthy water,” said Speaker Vos...The task force has been asked to make recommendations on assessing and improving the quality of surface water and groundwater. 
Let's take a closer look at that and to whom Vos is assigning it.

Do you remember that WI GOP legislators rolled back consensus-driven phosphorous-discharge and pollution-prevention rules

Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency granted the state a waiver in response to requests from Republican lawmakers that will allow manufacturers and sewage treatment plants to be exempt from the standards for 10 years if they pay fees to help cut pollution that rain carries off farm fields, which is one of the main sources of phosphorus pollution.
And later, that 31 WI GOP legislators had also, in writing, asked:
...the federal government to help ease regulations of phosphorus discharge into lakes and streams, saying complying with the standards is too expensive for small municipalities.
So it was no surprise that the most recent required assessment of state rivers and streams showed a huge jump in phosphorous-linked impairment. 
Every two years, Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act requires states to publish a list of all waters that are not meeting water quality standards. In the proposed 2018 list update, DNR proposes to add 242 new waterbody segments. A majority of the listing additions were waters that exceed total phosphorus criteria. Thirty-five waterbodies are proposed to be delisted.
In fact, when reporting last year on these data, I noticed the DNR had to add two more water bodies to its already skyrocketing list:

So allowing for some portion of the total to have taken place in one year of the Doyle era, and also allowing for some late changes, the cumulative numbers in these reports which encompass most of Walker's tenure show the addition of 804 newly listed polluted waterways to the "more than 700" cited in 2012. 
The additions, 804, outpaced deletions, 96, by a ratio of more than eight-to-one, and leaves Walker with about double what he inherited.
Now, to the question of the day:

Do you expect genuine, comprehensive action from Vos' hand-picked, Republican-heavy task force if there are five appointees who signed that letter for the federal waiver from phosphorous-pollution rules - -  including the Vis-Designated chairman, among its 13 GOP members? 

Matching up the task force membership, here, with the signatories to the water waiver letter here - - and props to the Wisconsin State Journal for publishing the names ion a sidebar - -  find these overlapping Vos appointees:

GOP State Reps Robert Brooks, Mary Fetzkowski, Andre Jacque, Travis Tranel and chairman Tod Novak. 

Those five alone outnumber the task force's three Democrats.

You could call that the implications of divided government.

Or you could call out special-interest water carrying when you see it, like this 2016 summary wherein Vos and his GOP allies make their appearances :
What the stubborn, anti-federal government-admit-no-error Walker won't do is enforce the Clean Water Act, as he could achieve with a simple memo to the DNR, and as the feds told him in 2011, in writing, that he should do because Wisconsin's adherence to the law on his watch was deficient in 75 wide-ranging categories:
Attorney Dennis M. Grzezinski of Midwest Environmental Advocates, which represented a Green Bay environmental group in [a] Georgia-Pacific case, found the EPA's laundry list of concerns troubling. "The fact they found 75 problems ought to be amazingly alarming," Grzezinski said. "This is certainly one of the most dramatic statements I have seen from the EPA..."
All this while the number and scale of big feedlots rapidly expands in the state - - 50 in 2000, 263 today and 90+% are dairy operations, more DNR data show - -  and the DNR, with permission from Attorney General Brad Schimel upon request of GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos who got his marching orders in a hand-delivered letter from Big Ag, is not setting limits on the amount of ground water these animal feeding and other large agricultural business can extract.
Walker, Vos, Schimel, Big Ag, all lined up against the public health, clean water, adherence to federal law, and common sense.
And is it a coincidence that some of the recent DNR's big water withdrawal permits have gone to large-scale Scott Waller campaign donors?
Water in - - manure, urine and contamination out - - to seep into nearby wells, lakes, and rivers downhill and downstream.
Helped along by 'regulators' in Wisconsin who do not follow state rules in pollution control 90% of the time, a non-partisan Legislative review recently found.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

The Foxconn contract is bad for Foxconn. That's also bad for the rest of us.

The non-profit Wisconsin Budget Project has produced a devastating analysis of the Foxconn deal, especially the contract which promises record-breaking subsidies from Wisconsin taxpayers to the company for jobs and production which look increasingly iffy.

(A full archive of posts about the Foxconn project since June, 2017 is here).

What's freshly worrisome in the analysis is that Foxconn has more to gain from a renegotiation of the deal than the state which is on the hook for billions of dollars - - which means the geniuses in the Republican-run Legislature who first embraced the project without any real vetting, and then inserted their controlling, lame-duck hand over the WEDC, Foxconn's paymaster, now own even more responsibility for 'managing' the fiasco, too.

The bill would give the state legislature control of the board of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. – an agency created by Walker in 2011 to replace the Wisconsin Department of Commerce – through September. Under the proposed law, the board will be able to choose its CEO, a power held by the governor under current law. 

Fool us it's not good the same fools are in a position to  'negotiate' with Foxconn again.

As the Wisconsin Budget Project writes:

First, it now appears very unlikely that Foxconn can hit the minimum job targets that it needs to reach to be eligible for the payroll tax credits. Second, the changes in the type of LCD factory seem to make Foxconn ineligible for most of the investment tax credits it was expecting over the next several years. If anyone is initiating an effort to strike a new deal, it should be Foxconn.
If Foxconn truly intends to go ahead with revised plans for the Mt. Pleasant facility, it will probably seek a new contract that helps it qualify for a larger portion of the nearly $3 billion of cash payments authorized by Governor Scott Walker and the legislature. Whether the state should agree to any changes of that nature is an open question because a better option might be to cut the state’s losses. On the other hand, renegotiating the contract could be an opportunity to close loopholes and change other contract terms to make it a less costly and less risky deal for state taxpayers.
But before we can have those deliberations, state policymakers need to acknowledge that some of the presumed economic benefits of the Foxconn project are now in doubt and that the current contract poses potential problems for both Foxconn and the state.

Taking note of WI's water experts and their Great Lakes advocacy

Wisconsin defenders of the state's waters and the governing Public Trust Doctrine rightly cheered last week when the US Supreme Court reaffirmed the public's rights to walk and appreciate the Great Lakes shorelines.

I'm happy to point out that the history of the 2015 case in which the Supreme Court upheld these rights included the work of Attorney Melissa Scanlan:
Court Confirms Indiana’s 45-Mile Shoreline on Lake Michigan Owned and Held by State for Public Recreation Under Public Trust Doctrine
Another state court confirms that the 3,200 miles of Great Lakes shoreline are owned by states in public trust for citizens to enjoy for walking, swimming, sunbathing and similar beach and water related activities on public trust lands below the Ordinary High Water Mark (“OHWM”).[2]...

[2]See Melissa Scanlan, Blue Print for a Great Lakes Trail, Vermont Law School Research Paper No. 14-14 (2014).  (Professor Scanlan proposes walking trail within public trust lands and without interference with riparian use based on public trust doctrine in the Great Lakes); James Olson, All Aboard: Navigating the Course for Universal Adoption of the Public Trust Doctrine, 15 Vt. J. E. L. 135 (2014) (Author documents the application of the public trust doctrine in all eight Great Lakes states and two provinces of Canada).
Wisconsinites should recognize Scanlan as the founder of Midwest Environmental Advocates - - a public interest, non-profit law firm - -  and a contributor to discussions about the proposed diversion of Lake Michigan water which is needed to keep the controversial Foxconn project afloat:
Scanlan makes a commonsense observation about the exemptions to environmental law and procedures which Gov. Scott Walker and other project proponents are committed; I appreciated the whole of Scanlan's argument and especially her clarity when describing project supporters' looming self-inflicted wound:
The legislative package also includes broad exemptions from the state’s environmental protection laws, including laws designed to protect the public’s rights to clean and reliable freshwater....
These exemptions run afoul of Wisconsin’s Constitutionally-required “public trust doctrine....”
To exempt this massive set of projects from those protections is an abdication of the legislators’ and Governor’s promises when they took office to uphold the Wisconsin constitution. 
A surefire way to bungle this deal is to add environmental exemptions that will be tied up in court for years and then be thrown out as unconstitutional. 
And to close this loop, Midwest Environmental Advocates is litigating the Foxconn diversion, with briefs due March 4th.
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. 
More, here: 
Jodi Habush Sinykin, attorney for Midwest Environmental Advocates, said this is “welcome news” to their petitioners.
“It comes at a time of renewed support round the region for a strong Great Lakes Compact, whose core principles are honored in keeping with the letter and spirit of the agreement,” Habush Sinykin said.
Wisconsin is fortunate to have organizations like MEA, Clean Wisconsin and others, especially after Republicans dismantled the Office of the Public Intervenor, followed by Walker's all-out assault on environmental protection.

There is an expectation that water rights, environmentalism and public advocacy will become mainstream priorities under the Evers administration and at the Josh Kaul-run Department of Justice. 

Trump's pick for UN Ambassador; major donor, climate science naysayer

Well, the 'both sides' argument about neo-Nazis worked well for Trump, so no surprise his new nominee to humiliate us on the world stage as UN ambassador is also making the 'both sides' argument about climate science

The boss no doubt approves, and don't you think the tobacco industry wishes it had this kind of high-level support a few years ago?
Kelly Knight Craft - 2018 (25766214208) (cropped).jpg
Meet our new UN ambasador-nominee, the big-time Trump donor Kelly Knight Craft. She will explain to the more than 100 nations committed to fighting the impacts of climate change that there's another side to the science.

Friday, February 22, 2019

AM radio wars next week. You want Walker, or Bob Uecker?

A few winners-and-losers' observations to the 'news' that Walker will fill in two days on Mark Belling's righty-AM talk show early next week while the talker recovers from a stroke.

Winner: AM 1130 WISN. It gets some free p.r. Maybe a few extra listeners, though Belling devotees probably prefer Belling.

Loser: Robin Vos: He's supposed to be the big Republican cheese now that Walker's gone, and here comes Walker again. How can you play Shadow Governor when another Shadow Governor pretender pops up, and custom says you call him "Governor Walker." 

You think Vos wants to hear that? 

Winner: Right-wing talk radio. Having helped create Walker, its prodigal son is back.

Loser: Right-wing talk radio. It takes Walker back, so is looking backwards. When does David Clarke show up?

Winner: Anyone who can predict how many times Walker says "we," "bold," "reforms," "legacy," and "Trump." Tiebreaker will be "Foxconn."

Loser. Anyone who actually keeps score.

Winner: Tony Evers. He's Governor. That's why he isn't sitting in an isolated studio fielding calls set up by a screener with all the spontaneity and drama of a fixed boxing match.

Loser: Scott Walker. Evers is Governor. Walker isn't. Every minute he's on the radio begs the question, 'how did you lose?' 

And radio is a horrible medium for Walker, with that grating nasal+ intonation where "Wisconsin" is "Wiscannsan," and "time" is "toiym."

Winner: AM 620 WTMJ. It's carrying live Brewer spring training game broadcasts Monday and Tuesday to baseball-hungry SE Wisconsin listeners. 

Loser: Scott Walker. "Mr Baseball" himself Bob Uecker will be broadcasting spring training games. You want Uecker, or you want Walker?

Play ball.

We're excited to announce former Gov Scott Walker will be guest hosting The Mark Belling Show this coming Monday and Tuesday 3-6 pm. 

Vos again urges cooperation with more pledges of no, never

Wisconsin's 'No, never' GOP Legislative leader Robin Vos continues his strangely repetitive and negative way of making friends and influencing people.

Addressing his political tic with a pun like "Popcorn maker pops off" would be too easy and shallow to write.

So I apologize for my weakness.

But what else can you do when GOP Assembly Speaker and RoJo's Popcorn manufacturer Robin Vos accuses Gov. Tony Evers of inserting "poison pills" into the newly-elected Governor's first budget just weeks after Vos had injected huge doses of partisan poison into Evers' and Attorney General Josh Kaul's powers, management prerogatives, and other executive and legal functions historically considered routine in Wisconsin.
Yet Vos continues to talk about cooperation and open doors.
The items which Vos is pronouncing as poison are, in fact, popular, mainstream Democratic policies on which Evers ran either directly or by implication and was elected.

I guess this is part of adjustment period in which Vos is still coping with Walker's loss.

As is Walker, whose Twitter feed keeps on suggesting that he's still an incumbent office-holder. You can click on the date if you want to see the photo:

 Feb 17More
This photo in the Oval Office was from a week after the inauguration of and . Major gains in the economy since then. Tax cuts for middle class families. Push back on terrorism around the world. Thank you!!!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Of Foxconn and ecosystems, real and synthetic

Buzzword repetition alert:

A friend sends along a link to a Foxconn exec touting the "ecosystem" the company is going to create on the site of an actual ecosystem it is flattening, thanks to state subsidies and exemption from environmental reviews and standard protections for wetlands, stream routes and lake beds.
"We’re not building a supply chain, we’re curating an ecosystem," [Bill] Mitchell said. "Basically, we’re working together with different people to help us get to where we need to go by borrowing their expertise."
"Ecosystem." Really?

That rang a bell, as I remember seeing none other than Scott Walker smush "Foxconn" and "ecosystem" together last year.
About Foxconn, Walker goes oxymoronic
Which brings me to this Wisconsin State Journal account of GOP Governor and King of Corporate Welfare Scott Walker's remarks about Foxconn Wednesday at an annual start-up business conference in Madison.
(A complete archive of blog posts about Foxconn is here.)...
What caught my eye was the way Walker morphs the Foxconn development into an "ecosystem," and though it was not the first time Walker has pounded that square peg into his round rhetorical hole, these graphs from the State Journal article linked above bear some comment: 
Both Gov. Scott Walker and Foxconn’s Alan Yeung spoke before hundreds of investors, CEOs and entrepreneurs at Union South on Wednesday for the conference’s keynote luncheon. They asserted that Foxconn’s plans to build a $10 billion manufacturing campus in Racine County would create a hub of tech and entrepreneurship activity in the region. 
“There's a whole ecosystem that will draw people in not only to work for Foxconn, not only to work for the suppliers there, but (there will be) larger groups of people here and in Wausau and in Green Bay who will say, ‘We want to be close to something like this,’” said Walker.
Now I don't know about you, but to me, with its green, organic and life-giving implications, "ecosystem" and three-thousand ripped up rural acres where landowners are in line to be kicked out of their homes and off their farms
Cabbage fields in an ag ecosystem on the Foxconn site, 2017
is about the clumsiest, most misleading mismatch of words since "jumbo shrimp."