Friday, May 26, 2017

Beware privatized roads' siren songs

There has been talk about creating toll roads in Wisconsin,
EZPass logo.svg
or Donald Trump making it easier for states like Wisconsin to convert highways into private-sector cash cows while chickening out on making tough fundamental tax and spending decision-making.

You may hear tall tales from proponents about these can't fail schemes - - but remember that Indiana turned its toll road over to the private sector, only to see the deal go bankrupt, and rates skyrocketed when the City of Chicago privatized its parking meter system"

Some details I posted in 2014: 


Privatization alert II. Or shall we call it - -  Ex-Gov. Mitch Daniels, (R), fail:
In filing for bankruptcy, the company that operates the Indiana Toll Road has reignited an old debate about the controversial privatization of the Toll Road in 2006.
Those who opposed leasing the highway in 2006 are now outspoken, citing concerns about the future of the road and quality of its upkeep.
As we noted here, earlier, warning against these schemes:
FRIDAY, MARCH 22, 2013

Privatization Alert: Why Chicago On-Street Parking Is $6.50/Hr.

File this away as Walkerites at the Capitol look to transfer public assets to private interests for ideological satisfaction, short-term budget gains and long-term added costs to taxpayers, consumers, shoppers and commuters.

One case in point: outrageously expensive parking - - now $6.50/hr.- -  at Chicago ramps and on-street now leased seemingly forever to private operators:

[Consultant Richard Layman] wrote almost one year ago ("A lesson to cities that they need to be very careful when leasing assets to public private "partnerships") about the continuing debacle of Chicago's long term lease of its parking garages and parking meters to a for profit consortium.
Hat tip, 

Same sort of big toll increases continue since its leasing at the Chicago Skyway:

On January 1st, drivers who use the Chicago Skyway toll road will be paying more to use the 7.8 mile length of tollway...from the current $3.50 to $4.00.

According to a report from Fox News citing the Federal Highway Administration, the Skyway was already the costliest interstate toll road in the U.S....

The City of Chicago leased the Skyway, which links the Dan Ryan to the Indiana Toll Road, to a private investment group in 2005 for 99 years and $1.83 billion dollars.

The fatter toll policy after long-term privatization continues right into the
the Indiana tollway, too:

Study calls Indiana Toll Road lease a bad deal

The Indiana Toll Road lease may have paid off in the short term, but a new study concludes it'll be a bad deal for taxpayers in the long run.

Bannon's War Room Strategy: There's Jared!

Watch Bannon
Steve Bannon by Gage Skidmore.jpg
refocus the Trump White House signature circular firing squad at his main rival.
Steve Bannon to head Trump's Russia war room of legal 'A-Team,' street fighters and surrogates
Jared, Trump's bestie surrogate son.

More disconnects between WI beauty, tourism & toxic mining

I had noted the other day that right-wing GOP Gov. and chief state environmental trasher Scott Walker was again touting to tourists the same wetland-and-waterfalls-rich area he'd worked to change with dynamite, drilling and deforestation into North America's biggest open-pit iron ore mine.

Now here's yet another example.

The Journal Sentinel is running another in its 'see Wisconsin' parks and hikes series, this time directing people to scenic sites along the Menominee River on the state's border with Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

But where yet another open-pit mine is planned which could discharge toxic sulfide residue into important waters including into the river, Green Bay and Lake Michigan.

Note these comments in a Michigan publication:

The River Alliance of Wisconsin, the Front 40 citizens group and the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council oppose the mine over fears that pollution could contaminate the adjacent Menominee River, a major Lake Michigan tributary flowing into Green Bay which is the focus of state and federal downstream fishery projects aimed at restoring lake sturgeon populations...
Joan Delabreau, Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin chairwoman, said she was "sickened" by the DEQ draft decision to permit a mine on historic burial grounds. 
I'd written about this, and more than once:
I'd posted about this travesty a few months ago - - 
Regulators in Michigan thought few people would notice on the first day of the three-day Labor Day holiday weekend that the state began formally moving to approve an environmentally and culturally destructive open-pit mine at the water-rich Michigan-Wisconsin border on land sacred to the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin - - 
- - and now it looks like the mine thanks to right-wing GOP Rick Snyder's water and environmental 'regulators' is a big step closer to opening.
And by the way, anyone think Walker's 'chamber of commerce DNR' will do anything but help out Walkers bestie Rick Snyder? 

GOP pols misunderstand "Bully Pulpit," project "Ugly American"

Trump got elected President despite ginning up supporters to "knock the crap" out of certain people at his rallies and creating a hostile atmosphere for reporters covering his campaign, so it's not surprising that his GOP ally Greg Gianforte
Greg Gianforte crop.jpg
could win a Congressional seat in Montana last night after knocking the crap out of a reporter the day before.

The penalty for misdemeanor assault in Montana is a $500 fine, or a six month jail sentence, or both, but apparently there's no penalty for knocking the crap out of a reporter and then lying to the public about who knocked the crap out of whom.

Neutral witnesses noted and publicized the incident's actual true facts, and the congressional candidate who won the election in heavily-Republican Montana where most voters cast early ballots did apologize on election night for knocking the crap out of the reporter but did not apologize for the coverup lies his campaign told on his behalf after the assault.

The country is in deeper trouble if a Congressional candidate can knock the crap out of a reporter, offer a half-apology and be seated in the US Congress.

"Bully pulpit" is a phrase coined by former US President Teddy Roosevelt to describe the virtues and opportunities of Presidential leadership.

The Trumpian breed of GOP politician is light years away from TR because they are taking "bully" as a blueprint.

Trump even shoved aside a world leader for a better spot in a photo op, so that became photographic proof of Trump's bullying penchant.

These Republican power trippers better look to "Ugly American," and instead of knocking the crap out of people, trying just knocking it off.

Walker to make WI #1 in cold-hearted citizen humiliation

[Updated] Wisconsin under right-wing GOP Governor and career public benefit recipient Scott Walker
ranks poorly among the 50 states on everything from job creation to clean well water to road repairs to new business start-up activity - - more facts about his record, here - -  but, by God, he's figured out a way to make us first in something:

Drug-testing some low-income health care applicants before they get the aid, regardless of the cost to taxpayers or the health-care recipients state of mind.

And as to the cost to taxpayers, note the waste in this stupid power play:

As of March, about 1,900 W-2 participants had been screened for drugs, with only nine of those — less than one-half of 1% — referred for treatment and none successfully completing it, according to the Legislature's nonpartisan budget office.
If you want to drug-test Wisconsinites when public dollars might at risk and whose judgment might be clouded by substance abuse, how about testing the people who repeatedly gave away or pocketed millions of public dollars without routine accountability?

Update: The GOP-led, Walker-obesiant Legislature's budget-writing committee has also approved a host of measures further restricting food stamp and other assistance to the poor

The real message is: move out!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Trump's Great Lakes pro-pollution budgeting would sacrifice these waters

Donald Trump's so-called budget which also reflects Paul Ryan's end to public services would cancel funding for Great Lakes restoration. 

Twenty percent of the world's fresh surface waters are in Lake Michigan, below, and its four sister lakes - - Superior, Huron, Erie and Ontario - - 
which are under major stress from invasive species, manure and chemical runoff and other legacy problems which Trump's budget as proposed would absolutely worsen.

Trump's jargon-addicted budget drafters say state and local governments could pick up the loss of hundreds of millions of federal dollars annually which the Great Lakes and the economies they support need to survive - - 
States may be able to adjust to reduced funding levels by reducing or eliminating additional activities not required under federal law, prioritizing programs and seeking other funding sources, including fees," the budget office's written narrative says.
- - thus displaying Team Trump's abject ignorance about the paper-thin budgeting margins these governments already live with and further ignorance of taxpayer efforts like this at Milwaukee's Bradford Beach and elsewhere along the Lakefront
to keep the Great Lakes clean.

The Trump budget also wipes out a similar clean-up plan for the Chesapeake Bay watershed and cuts the US EPA budget by about one-third.

I guess if you're cutting the Medicaid/health insurance and other social safety net programs, it makes 'logical' sense to cut the environment's safety net programs, too.

Wisconsin dominates drunkest-cities' rankings. At what cost?

Nothing to boast about
Seven Wisconsin cities are within the top ten of a list of the drunkest cities in America. Ten Wisconsin cities are on the top 20 list.
24/7 Wall St.’s Drunkest Cities in America list puts Green Bay at the top, followed by Eau Claire at No. 2, Appleton at No. 3, Madison at No. 4, Oshkosh at No. 6, Wausau at No. 9, La Crosse at No. 10, Fond du Lac at No. 12, Sheboygan at No. 15 and Milwaukee at No. 20.
It does help explain why Wisconsin is the only state to treat a first OWI arrest as a ticket, but you have to wonder if the lost productivity and related health, social and community consequences from heavy drinking acknowledged by the State of Wisconsin in a November, 2016 report - - 

Alcohol Use Remains High
The per capita alcohol consumption rate in Wisconsin is 1.3 times higher than the national rate. The alcohol consumption rate for adults is 10 percentage points above the national rate (63% vs. 53%). Heavy drinking among adults is more common in Wisconsin than the nation as a whole. Wisconsin’s rate of adult binge drinking (22%) is third highest across all states and U.S. territories. Wisconsin women of childbearing age consume alcohol at levels higher than their national peers.
Consequences of Alcohol Consumption Outpace National Rates
Given Wisconsin’s alcohol consumption patterns, it is not surprising that the rates at which Wisconsin experiences the consequences associated with alcohol use have also tended to be higher than national rates. Since 2008, rates of alcohol abuse and dependence have been higher in Wisconsin than the nation as a whole. Wisconsin's rate of death from alcohol-related liver cirrhosis has risen since 2008 as has the rate of alcohol-related deaths from causes other than liver cirrhosis. The latest available data show that Wisconsin has 1.2 times the national rate of arrests for operating while intoxicated (OWI) and almost three times the national rate of arrests for liquor law violations.
- - are in any way connected to the state's persistent economic stagnation and well-documented entrepreneurial failure.

Note also that the State Department of Health Services produced an undated draft report on these matters labeled "not for distribution" but which is posted on the Internet, minced no words and cited 2015 data said state's abusive drinking had been connected in 2010 to more than 5,200 deaths and injuries and more than 67,000 arrests.

According to America’s 2015 Health Rankings, Wisconsin ranks 49th for Binge Drinking and 45th for Chronic Drinking. Wisconsin ranks 23rd for drug deaths... 
Wisconsin continues to rank among the worst in the nation for both heavy drinking and binge drinking among adults. Approximately one in four (24.3%) Wisconsin adults engaged in binge drinking in the previous month, compared to the national median of 18.3%; and 9.8% of Wisconsin adults engaged in heavy drinking, compared to the national median of 6.6% (data not shown).
In 2013, the total bill for the state's binge drinking was reported at $6.8 billion every year. That's a substantial penalty, and its implications demand more policy attention.

I've posted items on this theme over the years - - a sample, here - - and former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk did her best some years ago to focus the public's awareness, but few others followed her lead.

Pressure mounting on Milwaukee County to save its public grounds

[Updated] A reminder that today's the day. so call your Milwaukee County Board supervisor now or attend the Board meeting today at 1 p.m. in support of ceasing road-building and other 'development' on what's left of the County Grounds.
The latest from the citizens who are forcing Milwaukee County leaders to keep the bulldozers and chains saws and road-builders out of what's left of the precious County Grounds:

The public outcry is working!
Thanks to you and your attendance, letters, emails and calls, the door is open for a new Resolution to the County Board to be on the agenda for Thursday May 25th (approximate agenda time, 11am)  at the Milwaukee County Courthouse, 901 N 9th St.,  Milwaukee, WI, 53233, Room 200
Here’s another opportunity to make a call, write another email, and if you can, attend the meeting to support the new resolution requesting that the City of Wauwatosa rezone the remainder of the County Grounds as County Parkland!  
Please contact your Supervisor and cc ALL the Supervisors AND the County Supervisor, urging them to support the resolution to request Wauwatosa to rezone the remaining parcels on the County Grounds as Parkland. 
All County Supervisors and the County Executive contact info can be found at:
Phone calls would be great, as well. (#’s in the link)
Key points to consider: 
  • Wauwatosa has asked the County for their interests for this land, and this is the means and the moment to tell them that the land should be rezoned as parkland. 
  • This resolution will set in motion actions needed for Wauwatosa to rezone and protect this precious area. 
  • Wauwatosa is asking to develop on precious land and asking to loosen restrictions of the UWM land, including the Monarch Conservancy. There will be no stopping Wauwatosa from over-developing the County Grounds UNLESS we continue to make our voices heard. Ask the County Board of Supervisors and the County Executive to SAVE ALL the remaining natural areas on the County Grounds. 
This resolution will request a “suspension of the rules” (which requires a 12+ member vote) and states:
Be it Resolved, that the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors hereby opposes land sale, land swap, rezoning/re-designation, or compromise of the acreage of County Grounds Park; and
Be it Further Resolved, that Milwaukee County supports and encourages the City of Wauwatosa to rezone the remaining parcels of the approximate 43 acres of wooded area under Taxkey # 372999917 and Taxkey #373999907, known as Sanctuary Woods, to the appropriate designation equivalent as parkland to expand the boundaries of County Grounds Park, and be subject to the protections granted under Wisconsin Statutes Section 59.17(2)(b)(3) that prohibit the sale of parkland.
Thank you so much for helping protect this precious bit of land – our heritage and our legacy...

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ryan's GOP US House bill gains death panel status

This hurriedly approved gift to the rich at the expense of lower-income Americans - - how does an 850% premium increase strike you? - - this craven and inhuman partisan garbage - - belongs to US House of Representatives Speaker
Paul Ryan's official Speaker photo. In the background is the American Flag.
and Badger State embarrassment Paul Ryan:
WASHINGTON — A bill to dismantle the Affordable Care Act that narrowly passed the House this month would increase the projected number of people without health insurance by 14 million next year and by 23 million in 2026, the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday. That 10-year figure is slightly less than originally estimated... 
And in states that seek waivers from rules mandating essential health coverage, the new law could make insurance economically out of reach for some sick consumers.

Pope Francis signal sent, received

Besides his grim visage, note the Pope's distance from his guest and sad sack entourage. Body language keeper.

Great Lakes GOP leaders own Trump's Great Lakes trashing

What with Trump's budget ending Great Lakes Restoration and crucial, related Sea Grant funding, and cutting more clean water grants to states by 45%, it seems like a good day to acknowledge two literally sickening realities:

*  Donald Trump and his team - - the true invasive species threatening the region's waters - - do not know one thing or give a damn about the very Great Lakes states like Wisconsin and Michigan where his misled and manipulated voters gave him the Electoral College votes that put him in the White House.

Just as doesn't give a damn about their health care, public schools, clean air, and any other human need which government is supposed to improve, and to which government should at least do no harm.

*  And a solid wall of Wisconsin Republican elected officials - - Walker, Ryan, Sensenbrenner, Johnson, et al, 
Ron Johnson, official portrait, 112th Congress.jpg
in our state which borders and relies upon two of the five Great Lakes and has already under our Brown Water Governor flouted exiting clean water obligations, reduced water pollution inspection and enforcement and tolerated more phosphorous discharges impairing lakes and rivers that pollute the very Great Lakes Trump would officially ignore - - told presidential election voters here repeatedly that Trump was the best person to put into office and to write the next federal budget.

Under Paul Ryan and fellow Wisconsinite Reince Priebus' purportedly expert insider tutelage, who, like Walker and the rest of his in-state Ignoramus Caucus would rather cut taxes for their wealthy donors than make sure everyone else had cleansed, swimmable, fishable rivers and lakes, Great and otherwise.

Somehow all these incompetents and ideologues got on board their preferred Ship of Fools to the obvious detriment of our state and region's most important and already greatly endangered water resource and economic driver - - the Great Lakes.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tommy Thompson made King of WI Naming Rights. Again.

Finally, some good news about the Wisconsin fiscal picture.

The state's GOP leadership has found a few extra million bucks and knows how to spend it, so let's just say there's gonna be another Tommy Thompson trading card for your collection!

You've already got your Governor Thompson State Park card, and one of those Governor Tommy G.Thompson State Fish Hatchery cards

Governor Tommy Thompson hatchery

and the Tommy G. Thompson WHEDA Commerce Center card, and a Tommy G. Thompson Youth Center at the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds card in that album of yours - - not to mention the rare Governor Tommy Thompson Amtrak locomotive card - - for those still searching eBay for an affordable example, some photos of AMTK 182 are here.

But soon...drum roll, please...make a space for a Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership on the UW Madison campus card.

On a campus where there's already a public policy school.

No matter. 

Funded through a budget that will not provide enough money to fill the potholes in your streets, or finance buses for people without cars to get to jobs or make a dent in processing Attorney General Brad Schimel's backlog of untested rape kits.

No matter - - Wisconsin Republicans have their priorities. 

And imagine what Republicans have in store for us when Scott Walker finally gets a retirement job.

GOP infighting ties up WI legislature, US Congress

So right-wing Wisconsin Republicans run the whole show here, but State Senators, Assembly reps and the Governor can't agree on budgetary basics, meaning that Walker is threatening to veto in toto what his alleged allies 
Picture of Representative Robin Vos
send him if the details doesn't meet his precise and phonied-up re-election campaign specifications.

Kind of like the budgetary hangups among factionalized, similarly-paralyzed, can't govern-GOP Members of Congress and their Maximum Leader.

Is it a coincidence that GOP politicos Reince Preibus and House Speaker Paul Ryan are also from one-party, Republican-dominated and dysfunctional Wisconsin?

Where the state motto is the now-inaccurate "Forward."

Correcting Walker's bad math, phony claims & partisan propaganda

Right-wing GOP WI Gov. and habitual self-promoting propagandist Scott Walker
has spun and tweeted some cherry-picked numbers into alternative facts and half-baked re-election campaign claims that need some sunlight and correction.

*  For example, Walker says the state's workforce is the largest in Wisconsin history.

Well, so is the state's population, and yet Wisconsin under Walker:

* Regularly ranks in the bottom third for job growth.

*  Never came close after his more than six years in office to creating the 250,000 new private-sector jobs he repeatedly promised to create after a mere four - - more about that, here.

*  Has kept the minimum hourly wage frozen at a rock bottom $7.25, added jobs that are principally in low-wage categories, so no surprise that Wisconsin under Walker led the country in loss of middle-class incomes.


*  Walker says the state is in the top ten for fully-funded pension systems.

The Wisconsin pension system is a known, carefully-constructed national success he inherited, belongs to the workers and retirees who contribute to it and has nothing to do with his ideology or handiwork. 

*  He again touts a business opinion survey of CEO magazine readers who ranked Wisconsin as a top ten state for doing business, but does not mention a broader, data-driven survey for business start-up activity which ranked Wisconsin dead last among the states for the third years in a row, as I noted.

*  He also says Wisconsin's borrowing for highways is the lowest in years, but does not mention that because he has long championed overspending on new lanes and major projects, the condition of Wisconsin's roads is rated second-worst nationally, as I have also reported.

Also nowhere on Walker's list:

*  Our state's 12th-from-the-bottom ranking on a measure of well-water contamination.

*  Our 7th from the bottom ranking nationally for attracting new residents with college degrees, a measure of the so-called "brain-gain' index.

Maybe they've heard about the bad water. Or the middling-to-crummy job market. Or the measurable disinterest in entrepreneurship.

Or Walker's hard-right obsession with blocking ballot box access, using the poor as campaign cudgels, cutting science and climate change information from state agencies and handing over groundwater, wetlands, woodlands and clean air to private interests to whom quality of life is just another commodity to sell to the highest bidder.

These inequities, omissions, disparities, and partisan sleights-of-hand are better explained by additional numbers Walker never discuses - - his PolitiFact truth-telling ratings.

Currently, his vetted statements are rated at 13% True, a combined 29% False or Pants on Fire, with the rest somewhere in between.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Climate change threatens WI walleye, yet WI DNR denies climate change

Probably no fish is more dear to the state's recreational economy and thousands  of anglers - -  "highly prized," says the Wisconsin DNR - - than walleye.
Walleye painting.jpg
So maybe that same Wisconsin DNR will rethink its decision to scrub climate change from its websites now that climate scientists are saying measures should be taken because climate change will lessen the ability of some state lakes to support walleye:
Nearly 100 lakes in Wisconsin are predicted to support naturally reproducing walleye populations even under extreme warming conditions
These lakes are resilient to climate change, and should be protected from other stressors such as habitat loss, invasive species, or overfishing to maximize the potential for continued walleye production.
Some lakes that are unlikely to support natural walleye reproduction will continue to be suitable for adult walleye, and fishable walleye populations could potentially be maintained in these lakes via stocking.
Quality fishing opportunities for largemouth bass and other warm water species will improve in many lakes that become unsuitable for walleye.

Brown water WI Governor, in black-and-white

Long-time Waupaca writer and Wisconsin conservation activist Patrick Durkin reports that right-wing Gov. and special-interest water carrier Scott Walker walked away through a side door after evading the question and answer session at the recent annual meeting of the state-chartered Wisconsin Conservation Congress, an official DNR advisory body:
Maybe Gov. Walker was worried a WCC delegate might ask how he would respond if the water for his home or the governor’s mansion were so contaminated by livestock manure that his family couldn’t drink it or bathe in it. Would he settle for DNR-supplied bottled water, even if it were delivered daily by DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp?

Clearly another Walker re-election mode move.

And speaking of campaigns and brown water, Walker had no problem meeting recently with other members of a club he chairs:
The Brown Water Republicans
GOP convention at Dells water park highlights environmental failings.

Why Team Trump will return more authoritarian

I'm sure Trump's big junket will go to his already swollen head.

And while there's no doubt Trump would prefer one of these special persecutors, take a look at what this fellow billionaire and Trump Cabinet member famous for coal operation that killed 12 miners has to say about the overseas trip so far:
Wilbur Ross heartened by lack of protesters in Saudi Arabia 
Not one guy with a bad placard,’ Trump’s commerce secretary says 

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Walker touts state parks where he raised fees, killed operating $$

How would you feel if you got a special invitation to dinner by the manager of your favorite restaurant only to learn that he was planning to again raise the menu prices because he had stopped investing in the operation.

Right-wing GOP Gov. and public resource privatization champion Scott Walker may have launched his most hypocritical re-election ploy to date by Tweeting (below) an invitation to Wisconsin State Parks - - including Copper Falls State Park 
A view of Copper Falls in the fall.
which would have been trashed had the miles of open-pit iron mining Walker tried to dynamite into that watershed not been blocked - - after killing in his 2015-'17 budget all state operating funding for those parks while raising park admission and camping fees.

This is not the first time that Team Walker has pitched a visit to Copper Falls State Park as if the mining push never happened.

And, for good measure, Walker is including another round of park fee increases in his proposed 2017-'19 budget, setting up the need for corporate naming rights and other private-sector perks on public land.

I mean, this takes the cake:
Check out this article from : “10 top Wisconsin state parks to visit this summer”