Monday, May 22, 2017

Pressure mounting on Milwaukee County to save its public 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...

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”

Governments have enabled Milwaukee region's biases

[Updated from 5/20/17] A couple of things from recent and nearly-ancient history to add to Marc Eisen's op-ed about the Milwaukee region's segregated housing:

*  Milwaukee County has been included in a suburban-and-exurban weighted regional planning commission which had to be forced by advocates and public pressure in 2009 to update by 2013 its 1975 regional housing plan.

Nearly 40 years between studies and recommendations.

*  Note also that the Legislature in 1955 froze the City of Milwaukee's borders, land-locking the city and making it easier for suburbs to expand independently and enforce discriminatory zoning, housing patterns and job development patterns.

More here and here:

I have long felt that descriptions of Milwaukee as 'the most segregated city in America' missed the fundamental reality that the Journal Sentinel story makes clear: it is the region that is segregated; wealth creation in that region is regularly sparked by politicians and power brokers more interested in diverting public resources to suburban  highway expansion and job growth than in providing equitable development, public transportation and equal opportunity to Milwaukee and its heavily-minority, lower-income central city. 
My point has long been this:
The "hypersegregation" label applied to Milwaukee is regional, tolerated for decades.
*  The State Legislature led by GOP Racine County State Rep. and now-Assembly Speaker Robin Vos legally barred the creation of service-sharing state regional transit authorities.
Picture of Representative Robin Vos

Waukesha County opinion makers also balked, Waukesha County government refused to join a transit authority with Milwaukee County and for good measure even eliminated a bus line connecting Milwaukee workers to Waukesha job opportunities.

Details, here.

One local expert, having studied these issues for years, wrote in an extensive, 2012 report:

..the political climate of Milwaukee’s suburbs has also played a role in maintaining this entrenched pattern of racial segregation. The historical legacy of housing discrimination and resistance to desegregation in Milwaukee and its environs has been well established in the literature.
* Referenced again, and again, on this blog, including this 2013 post, for example:
*  The Public Policy Forum noted many of these realities in a 2002 study: 
*  The Brookings Institution's John Austin took note of the penalties of legacy discrimination in a major 2007 study which I noted on my blog at the time: 
Themes repeated with data and links often on this blog, for example, here or here.
"The lack of housing diversity here suppresses the housing market, promises to accelerate the concentration of poverty, undercuts the local economy, segregates educational opportunities and undermines the wealth-building potential for thousands of families," said Jeffrey Browne, forum vice president and research director.
He also has data about racial separation in southeastern Wisconsin and across the Great Lakes region that is deeply disturbing, but, again, offers an opportunity for change that would be good for the entire region's economy - - if leaders here have the political will to break from the past.
*  And why did it require litigation by the ACLU of Wisconsin after years of struggle against entrenched government opposition to force the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to add temporary bus routes to the billion-dollar-plus Zoo Interchange construction project - - a brief respite from the concrete-heavy, pro-suburban, publicly-financed transportation planning and spending in the Milwaukee region that for years has been fought by the ACLU and other organizations:
Kudos to the civil libertarians who have doggedly pursued social and economic justice from the State of Wisconsin, the Department of Transportation and others in southeastern Wisconsin on behalf of minority, low-income and urban residents:
The state Department of Transportation did not follow federal civil rights rules for at least seven years, a yearlong investigation has found. 
An American Civil Liberties Union attorney applauded the decision by the Federal Highway Administration's Office of Civil Rights as a step toward holding state transportation officials accountable for how their actions affect minorities.
These matters and the struggle for rights and fairness by advocates have been tracked on this blog repeatedly.
From 2011:
Coalition Cites Discrimination In Zoo Interchange, Transportation Spending 
Several Milwaukee area groups have made available their detailed comments to state officials during the recent testimony phase of the Zoo Interchange project planning.
*  From 2010: 
SEWRPC Warned Against Possible Open Meeting Violation
*  And do not forget the hysteria in the region over the possibility that a light rail system principally serving Milwaukee would have one stop in New Berlin, the Waukesha community on Milwaukee County's southwestern border, where a major industrial park offered some job opportunities regionally.

George Watts, the anti-light rail movement's citizen leader at the time, articulated and amplified what is so often just below the surface across the region when he said the proposed rail system:
 "would bring in strangers who are not only a threat to your property, but to your children."
(Years later, New Berlin would be roiled by proposed affordable housing requiring civil rights and federal intervention.)

The light rail system was blocked by a solid wall of suburban opposition - - fascinating that the Twin Cities did the opposite, to their expanding success - -  right-wing talk radio and Republican politicians including then Gov. Tommy Thompson and Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen.

I can remember then-Waukesha County Executive and GOP rising star Daniel Finley calling into far-right 1130 WISN-AM talker Mark Belling's radio show to announce that the Waukesha County Board of Supervisors had just rejected a regional transportation study that would have moved the light rail plan ahead in tandem with I-94 expansion.

Bashing rail expansion has been a winning team effort among GOP politicians regionally and the area's ratings-driven/high-profile/high-wattage/right-wing talk show hosts- - Belling, 620 WTMJ-AM's Charlie Sykes - - now off the air locally but reconstituted as an anti-Trump 'moderate, New York public radio and MSNBC-TV contributor - - and former Sykes' second-banana Jeff Wagner, now moved into Sykes' WTMJ morning slot.

That same anti-urban coalition was used by GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker years later to successfully block Amtrak expansion from Milwaukee through the region to Madison - - because opposing anything on a rail stirs up the suburbs, even Milwaukee's in-city-only streetcar system - - even though the Amtrak expansion included a train assembly and maintenance facility in an economically-depressed, heavily African-American, jobs'-desperate neighborhood.

Final thought:

*  Even a black man from Milwaukee fishing in exurban Waukesha County couldn't be tolerated by the local fire chief who ran the man off a public bridge over a public waterway with a friend, a gun and German Shepherd. 

The message to Milwaukee's heavily-minority working poor from the out-counties was and continues to be:

Your authentic access to housing, schools and job opportunities is not our priority. And we're fine with that.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

For sand mine, WI DNR approves biggest wetlands fill in 10 years

The Journal Sentinel reports that what had been a preliminary approval is now green-lit:

DNR approves sand mining project with large wetlands loss

The privateers are winning under Walker & Co. - - part of a pattern that is devastating Wisconsin landscapes for private gain:
coastal wetland
This blog has followed this issue for years, as corporate control of public resources like water drive the Walker 'chamber of commerce mentality'/ intentional DNR-weakening/ Wisconsin GOP playbook, - - now assisted at the request of the GOP-run Legislature by a unsurprisingly favorable give-the-water-away opinion from GOP attorney General Brad Schimel.

And has accelerated special interests' access with state government assistance to water that began in the early days of Walker's rule:

Walker was sworn in as Wisconsin Governor on January 3, 2011 - - five days after announcing his selection of [developer and DNR-basher Cathy] Stepp to run the DNR - - and nine days later he suspended the review of a wetland filling permit application so one of his campaign donors could more quickly begin building a project near Lambeau Field... 
A year later, Walker signed in front of cheering Realtors at their convention a bill which weakened environmental protections for wetlands.
As to campaign donations and environmental issues in the state? 
The pattern continues to this day - - both the fillings and the campaign donations - - as recent stories and records show:
An out-of-state investment company wants to build a sand mining and processing plant in Jackson and Monroe counties that would eliminate about 17 acres of pristine forested wetland, according to plans being reviewed by state and federal regulators.
The project is sought by Meteor Timber, a company owned by Atlanta, Ga.-based Timberland Investment Resources. A Timberland executive and attorneys with Weld Riley, an Eau Claire law firm that represents Meteor, contributed about $23,000 since January 2010 to Republican and Democratic legislative and statewide candidates. 
*  Major Walker campaign donor Herb Kohler is working with the DNR on a plan to allow Kohler to turn a 247-acre wooded/wetland/artifact-rich nature preserve into a golf course along Lake Michigan.  
The plan would even require four acres of an adjoining, popular state park to be included in the privately-owned, high end golf course project... 
Also, the DNR, with assists from Wisconsin's corporately-attuned GOP Attorney General and State Supreme Court majority whose campaign committees have received millions of dollars in donations from Walker-sympathetic business and conservative advocacy organizations, has loosened the rules governing high-volume well pumping permits which supply water to diary and farming and frackers sand operations - - but which can deplete nearby waters, as is well-known
*  Records show Walker's campaign has received more than $30,000 from two of the most recent big-volume ground water permit winners: 
One of the permits was granted to James Wysocki, of Bancroft, for a well located in Pine Grove in Portage County. Wysocki and several members of his family own the Wysocki Family of Companies, which operates large vegetable and dairy farms. 
The owners of the Wysocki Family of Companies contributed about $31,000 to Walker between January 2010 and August 2016...
The consequences of Walker's destruction of a science-based DNR are documented and known.

The consequences of over pumping groundwater are known and documented.

The consequences of using massive amounts of water to irrigate more acreage and support dairy cattle and contaminate drinking water are known and documented, and props to Kewaunee Cares and Midwest Environmental Advocates for taking a stand.

The campaign contribution connections are known and documented.

So now the end-game in our one-party state is in sight as state power may allow big volume groundwater permits to be handed out like party favors and, if the legislation is approved, be transferred and held forever in the owners' - - not the public's - -  control.

Downstream neighbors, drinking water quality, effects on the environment, impacts on the water table and, through enabled, inevitable runoff into Lake Michigan - - all be damned.

Walker will not tout 'brain-gain' ranking fail

You may remember I recently noted in this blog that Scott Walker posts very selective tweets about where Wisconsin ranks against other states - - but didn't tweet about our dead-last ranking three years running in business startup activity:
But while Governor Clueless touted for election-year credit on his Twitter feed a CEO magazine's feel-good-opinions-about-Wisconsin - - noted yesterday, here - -you won't find him tweeting about this data-driven, 50-state comparative business ranking showing Wisconsin frozen in the 50th spot - - again - - in the always-significant business category: entrepreneurial, start-up activity.
And you'll never see him acknowledge that Wisconsin has the second-worst roads in America or comes in 12th on a well-water contamination index.

Here's another data point that dovetails with the 50th-place ranking for entrepreneurial activity which also will never appear on Walker's election-year twitter feed:

On a 'brain-gain ' index, Wisconsin ranks 44th, with only PA, NY, NJ, OH, CA and MI attracting fewer new residents with college degrees than Wisconsin: 

Wisconsin has one of the lowest shares of non-native college graduates that relocated from other states. Consequently, Wisconsin must instead ask itself is what can be done to attract college educated people from outside Wisconsin? 
The data and study were culled from this UW-Madison site.

Wisconsin would likely rank higher on the Kaufmann start-up business activity index if the state were attracting more out-of-state college grads who wanted to start businesses here, yet years of Walker's heavily-ideologcal approach to attracting business - - deregulation, tax breaks, "Open for Business" billboards, a Wal-er-created (but still-dysfunctional) business development state agency and a compliant legislature embracing the same failed tools - - are not moving the needle.

And Walker has cut or diminished state science staffing as well as 
climate science information and other public environmental priorities statewide, as I note throughout this summary post - - so why would people with science degrees think about Wisconsin as their career-friendly new home?

I know several experts who came to Wisconsin years ago specifically for science careers after graduating from colleges and universities in other states who have told me they would not move here now because Walker has so decimated a respect for facts, science, and the teaching professions.

Trump pal Stone doesn't sound like a friendly witness

With friends like these, Mueller's probe could be a slam-dunk:

  1. 1 hour ago
    Candidly this makes me want to puke

Scott Walker's years of self-interested corporate servitude

[Updated from 5/19/17] From time to time I consolidate some summary blog posts into a single archive.

Today's offering, though incomplete, is supported by hundreds of references and links that point readers to right-wing GOP's WI Gov. Scott Walker's long-standing self-promotion and corporate servitude at the expense of the public interest.

*  This most recent post about Walker's service to private interests is being continually updated:

Walker keeps delivering special interest privatization, favors
* This recent post tied together many of Walker's failed business-related moves:
That's some failing business you're running, Governor
* This 2017 post about Trump's special interest focus following the Walker pattern:
Get used to more corporate control of Wisconsin, US environment 
* This 2016 post focused on Walker's destruction of the Wisconsin DNR
Inside the WI DNR: poor morale, fear, despair over lost mission
*  This 2016 post gathered together John Doe probe news and an earlier disclosure of Koch interests' Walker grooming that dates to 2007 and has been studiously ignored by Wisconsin media:
Blockbuster Doe filing reminder of Walker disclosures past

* This 2015 post was a broad summary of Walker's history principally intended for out-of-state readers: 
Walker facts little-known outside of Wisconsin
* A related 2015 post examined whether Walker deserved his claim to being 'midwestern nice':
National media often fail Scott Walker reporting
* This 2015 post focused on Walker's service to donors:
Walker, Wisconsin's GOP serving donors, escalate war on science
* This 2013 post summarized Walker's ruination of Amtrak expansion and the rail transit  industry:
In job poor state, Walker derailed Wisconsin's emerging rail industry
* This 2013 post followed the Wisconsin GOP's plans to evade the state constitution's water protections known as the Public Trust Doctrine:
Ultimate GOP Environmental Target in Wisconsin is the Public Trust Doctrine

Friday, May 19, 2017

Rider is ready to board the Milwaukee streetcar

What I like about this photo
is the ready-to-board gentleman, upper left, standing on a trackside concrete platform near the downtown Post Office and Intermodal (finally!) station.

Walker keeps delivering special interest privatization, favors

[Updated from 5/17] More evidence is piling up about the favors showered on well-connected private interests in GOP-run Wisconsin as right-wing Governor and corporate bellhop Scott Walker readies a run for a third term which deep-pocketed donors will again fund.

*  He's ready to sign a bill brazenly and successfully demanded by major ag, dairy and related farming industries that gives the owners of at least 13,000 high-volume wells permanent rights to public groundwater regardless of draw down impacts on nearby rivers, streams, lakes and neighbors' drinking water supplies.

Walker donors are being well-served by the DNR he recast as a "chamber of commerce mentality" agency.

Not coincidentally, many of the state's large and often-polluting animal feedlot operations are running while state regulators look the other way on expired permits, giving their owners an inspection-free/open-ended permission to operate without regard to public impacts.

Details, here.

* And private contractors will soon be allowed to draft permits for those same big feedlot operations and other businesses 'regulated' by the DNR.

* Now we're learning through the exclusive reporting of Dan Bice at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the ultra-powerful Bradley Foundation quietly funded and a Walker administration family policy commission aligned with the Foundation's right-wing goals.

* Don't forget Walker's re-election budget includes new transfers of hundreds of millions of public dollars to private and choice schools whose advocacy organizations have long been Walker supporters.

* And that Walker's systematic draining of all state operating dollars for Wisconsin state parks will force more user fee increases, perhaps even private sector naming rights' purchases.

Looking forward to a night at Acme Insecticide State Park or JumboBurger Nature Preserve? 

* And here's more hard news:

While Walker's colossally-failed Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has thrown money at Walker donors and failed to keep accurate books - - and is a winner in Walker's pending, re-election budget for fresh millions and restored lending authority despite earlier accounting flaws - - a state audit released today into the agency's continuing miasma showed it failed to meet legal requirements for tax credit financing and still could not prove with data that it actually creates and/or retains jobs.

Imagine if an audit of Green Bay Packers finances found that the franchise continually could not track its finances or that that its highly-touted draft picks had contributed positively to the team's performance as the General Manager had promised and claimed.

Would you urge that the team's General Manager be given a new four-year contract?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Making America spooky again

Trump tweets that he's the victim of a witch hunt.

If the hat fits...

Dane County, WI filling state's climate science void

WI Gov. Walker, DNR Secretary Stepp, Donald Trump and his cabinet appointees have denied and shelved climate change science and information, so it's good to see local officials leading. 
Smoke stacks from a factory.
Dane County, Dozens of Public, Private Partners Create New Community Organization to Confront Climate Change

Parisi:  County, University of Wisconsin, Local Government Officials, Utilities, Businesses, Environmental Groups Team for New Collaborative to Lead Where State and Feds Won't
Dane County is spearheading a new coalition of public and private sector leaders from across the community to confront problems posed by climate change, County Executive Joe Parisi announced today.  

Parisi announced the new "Dane County Climate Change Council," consisting of local government officials from across the county, business leaders, representatives of the University of Wisconsin's Nelson Institute, local utilities, and environmental advocates. 

Together they'll team to develop strategies to not only prepare locally for the effects of the changing climate, but also to better identify ways to reduce carbon emissions and promote further development of solar and clean, green energy production.

"Leaders across our community recognize the enormous challenge that climate change poses to our economy, tourism, and our incredible quality of life here in Dane County," Parisi said. 

"Growing seasons are longer, ice is on the lakes many weeks shorter, we now have more ice instead of snowstorms in winter and we're seeing heavier rains more frequently in spring and summer."
The new "Dane County Climate Change Council" will begin meeting in the coming weeks.  Its work will be coordinated by the brand new Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change, a new division within the County Executive's Office created to oversee this important work.

Parisi announced today he has selected Keith Reopelle, a well-respected expert in the field of clean energy, environmental sustainability, and climate change, as the first director of the new Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change.
"Keith has been a champion of our state's natural resources for more than three decades, working to promote a greater reliance on green energy in his work with Clean Wisconsin," Parisi said.  "He is the right individual to bring this community together and make a real difference in the very real challenge we face from climate change."
"I'm very excited to have this opportunity to help make Dane County a national leader in the effort to protect our children's future by reducing carbon pollution that is causing global warming," Reopelle said.  "County Executive Parisi's longstanding leadership on clean energy has never been more important."  

In conjunction with this new community collaboration, Dane County today launched: a new website to serve as a clearinghouse of information for those interested in participating in the Council's work.

The website also pays tribute to former online resources once offered by the state and federal governments on climate change that have since been taken off line.

"Throughout our nation's history, change has always started at the local level, and while our Governor and President don't feel this issue is of concern, we in Dane County are going to listen to what scientists and researchers are telling us," Parisi said. "It's imperative we lead in an area so important to our economy and health and well-being, even if others won't."

Parisi noted the new council will be well-served by the extensive intellectual resources available through the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

“Some of the world’s best research on climate change is done right here at UW-Madison,” says Nelson Institute Director Paul Robbins. “Our scientists are working hard to provide decision-ready information to help local communities, businesses, farms, municipal infrastructure and other Dane County assets adapt to change.”

The new Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change and Climate Change Council is the latest in the County Executive's work to better ensure the county is adequately prepared for the effects of climate change while working to mitigate its effects. Since becoming County Executive in 2011 Parisi has:
*Incorporated solar power generating panels into new building projects while retro-fitting existing county facilities.  To date, the county is generating 370 kilowatts of solar power from its buildings with plans to do an additional 770 kilowatts with dollars included in Parisi's 2017 budget
*Reduced the county's reliance on fossil-fuels by converting dozens of vehicles in the county's fleet, including 17 heavy-duty snow plow trucks, to run on much cleaner burning, renewable compressed natural gas (CNG).  At the end of this year 75 county vehicles will run on CNG, saving tax dollars and reducing carbon emissions by 90% compared to gasoline and diesel fuel.
*Developed a pilot project to capture carbon emissions from the Dane County landfill that when fully implemented will reduce CO2 emissions by 59,000 tons a year, the equivalent of taking 10,000 cars off the road
*Coordinated partnerships to develop two "Cow Power" facilities, reducing methane emissions and phosphorus run-off from hundreds of cows in the Mendota watershed.  The homegrown renewable electricity powers the equivalent of 4,000 homes.

*Proposed development of a pipeline bio-gas project, producing millions of gallons of clean burning vehicle fuel each year, while earning taxpayers millions of dollar of clean energy credits
"We want to take the work we've done in county government and help other public and private sector employers develop similar sustainability measures," Parisi said.  "We can show it's good for their bottom line, the air we breathe, and the planet we're going to leave for our kids, grand-kids and future generations."

Joshua Wescott
Chief of Staff, Dane County Executive’s Office