Sunday, February 18, 2018

In Walker's dirtied-up WI, an end to coincidence

You can say this with certainty about the banal privatizing of Wisconsin public resources and nationally-noted environmental degradation during Walker's rule.

It isn't complicated: there aren't coincidences anymore.


*  If this is the question: Why did Walker recently appoint 
an actual former Executive Director of the Eagle River chamber of commerce as the new DNR Secretary? 


The answer is what sort of appointee could one-up Walker's first appointed DNR Secretary - - developer-builder and former McDonald's manager Cathy Stepp - - now a regional administrator in Trump's business-obeisant US EPA - - whose "chamber of commerce mentality" caught Walker's eye in 2010 and led to her seven years of ruinous, one-sided corporatized DNR management.


And why are so many business favors dispensed by Walker and his DNR for groundwater controlsand mininggrabs for primo state land, and permit-free wetland filling statewide by and for firms like Foxconn across Walker's entire tenure long before anyone around here heard of Foxconn?


Well - - before we had the scandal-plagued publicly-funded business piggy-bank known as the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation from whose initial chairmanship Walker punted was booted by own party, there was the long-standing Wisconsin Department of Commerce Walker threw out, ergo:
The WI DNR is the new Department of Commerce
Don't believe me? Go to the DNR home page and click on the business tab - - the first one at the top of the page - - and it takes you to bountiful data, personnel, links, tips and other resources.

Environmental and public policy groups: do you get this kind of attention at Walker's DNR: 
The DNR provides many avenues for business owners to work with the agency in growing and sustaining Wisconsin's economy. We will help you succeed with your business endeavors through partnerships between our public and private sectors, time sensitive coordination with state government and innovative programs that can adapt to your business sector's very diverse needs.  
The Office of Business Support is the agency's one-stop shop for business assistance. The office's mission is to work across programs to create the business climate that yields better environmental and economic performance. We're building capacity through sectors and engaging businesses and communities. 
*  Another question: Why there is such widespread and persistent manure contamination of residential wells in Kewaunee County?

This all-purpose story pretty much explains it, though the headline would have been stronger if '94+% of the time' could have been squeezed in: 

State audit finds DNR ignoring own rules on water pollution
And throw in this one for good measure, too:
Walker Donors Got DNR Well Permits
*  Or this one:

Waterway pollution in Wisconsin is spiking in Wisconsin on Walker's watch, according to data that the DNR forwards to the federal government and which I gathered and posted, here - - and the major culprit is known to be phosphorous, according to the DNR

 More lopsided data on the DNR list for 2016 in favor of pollution: 
In the proposed 2016 list update, DNR proposes to add 225 new waters. A majority of the listing additions were waters that exceed total phosphorus criteria. A significant number of new listings were also based on poor biological condition. Ten waterbodies are proposed to be delisted.
So how did that happen, since you may recall that in 2010, after years of collaborative work among stakeholders statewide, a new rule was implemented to finally address phosphorous dumping and runoff.

Enter GOP legislators and their somewhat Orwellian-titled "Healthy Waters, Strong Economy Act" - - which the Journal Sentinel noted last year:

The GOP-controlled Legislature in 2014 passed legislation that would give the option to factories and sewage treatment plants to put off fully meeting stricter phosphorus limits for up to 20 years. 
The DNR muddies the issues on this March 17, 2017 web page with a blend of bureaucratic and chamber-of-commercy-jargon that further affirms why there no coincidences anymore in our intentionally, ideologically-dirtied-up state environment:
The multi-discharger variance (MDV) for phosphorus extends the timeline for complying with low-level phosphorus limits. In exchange, point sources commit to step-wise reductions of phosphorus within their effluent as well as helping to address nonpoint sources of phosphorus from farm fields, cities or natural areas to implement projects designed to improve water quality.
And so how has all that "step-wise reductions of phosphorous" or "Healthy Waters..." legislating worked out for people and the water in Walker's "chamber of commerce"-run environment?

Back to the DNR web page about the state of Wisconsin's waterways:

*  Same story in the 2018 list
In the proposed 2018 list update, DNR proposes to add 240 new water segments. A majority of the listing additions were waters that exceed total phosphorus criteria. Thirty-five waterbodies are proposed to be delisted. 
Oh, one more piece of the puzzle, from last month: 
Scott Walker amasses $4 million campaign war chest, dwarfing Dem rivals in Wisconsin governor's race
Presaged in 2016, here
Scott Walker John Doe: Corporate Checks Fueled Coordinated Campaign


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Dollars-and-cents/common-sense Q's on Kohler golf course plan

Walker's 'chamber of commerce mentality' management of state government has tainted public service, destroyed its mission and turned watchdog agencies into unabashed corporate subsidiaries.

So when the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board at its February 28th meeting in Madison - - agenda item B-3 - -  takes up the plan approved by Walker's corporatized DNR to allow a major Walker donor obtain the state park land he wants for a privately-owned golf course development, will any Board member underscore the body's oversight obligations and add these questions and issues to the discussion?:

*  The Journal Sentinel reported these acreage values for land the golf course wants: 
DNR documents show the deal gives Kohler 4.59 acres on the northern edge of park. The land is valued at $59,700, according to independent appraisals.
Kohler would also get an easement to the main entrance road to the park and other land on which it would build a road leading to a maintenance building. The easement of 1.88 acres is valued $9,400.
Question 1. Is that the best way to appraise the value of those publicly-owned acres and what is its profit-generating value over the project life cycle? 

Question 2. What has been the Wisconsin-taxpayer-subsidized cost in staff time - - principally supplied by a DNR stripped during the Walker years of funds and employees - - to help one privately-owned business plan and open a privately-owned golf course which will be marketed to upscale golfers?

*  The project has been the subject of public employee reviews by the DNR since the spring of 2015, according to a web page put up by the agency that details numerous review stages, including hearings, which the DNR has supervised.

*  And the Natural Resources Board is working towards redoing the master plan for Kohler Andrae State Park to accommodate the proposed golf course, including land transfers, road-building, traffic access, etc. 

But that wasn't really the beginning of what I've called on this blog the DNR's smoothing of the proposal for its eventual permitting and construction.

*  Working your way through the DNR web page, you will find this link to a pdf file containing substantial email traffic among numerous DNR officials and staffers about the project dating to March, 2014 - - including agency review of an earlier Kohler development since abandoned involving the same company and dating to 2011.

On page two, you will see Kurt Thiede, then a DNR manager who is moving to the US EPA regional office in Chicago as Deputy Administrator to his former DNR boss, Cathy Stepp, asking DNR staff for maps and design suggestions for locating a golf course building within the adjoining state park. 

On page 50 of the pdf file, a Kohler representative asks Walker for his assistance obtaining for the project some so-called "innocuous" acreage in the adjoining state park.

No wonder the former Kohler Andrae State Park supervisor said he like a few acres for a hot dog stand there if the DNR wanted to so easily hand over state park land

In 2015, I posted about another known Walker-Kohler contact:
Consider the power imbalances in that battle with the well-connected industrialist and golf course magnate Herbert Kohler:
Kohler is asking the DNR for an easement of 3.8 acres for its golf course operations. The company had sought as much as 20 acres from adjoining Kohler-Andrae State Park. An early version of the course showed that Kohler wanted to build several holes on state park land...
Kohler, a financial supporter of Republican Gov. Scott Walker, spoke with staff from the governor's office, the DNR and the Department of Administration in late April about the easement, Walker's spokeswoman, Jocelyn Webster, said in an email.
"Mr. Kohler raised the issue," Webster said in a separate email.
Between 2009 and 2013, Kohler Co. employees contributed $42,254 to Walker's campaign fund, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which tracks political donations. Nearly all of that amount was directly from Herbert Kohler.
DNR Deputy Secretary Matt Moroney also has "participated in a conceptual meeting with the Kohler Co. on the golf course" that included Herbert Kohler, said DNR spokesman Bill Cosh.
*  Note also that the Wisconsin Department of Administration helped the company quickly win the annexation of the project site to the City of Sheboygan, so add the DOA to the DNR and the National Resources Board to the roll call of state agencies facilitating the project. 

Think about all the hours of public employee time committed by the DNR, the Natural Resources Board, the DOA and the Governor's Office to getting one private business's plan for a privately-owned golf course aimed at upscale users through permitting and construction.

I'll bet the cost in public dollars could have funded some real progress towards perhaps cleaning up some of the many, multiplying waterways added to the impaired list on Walker's watch.

WI DNR strengthens division of Walker donor services

Now that the Wisconsin DNR (Department that's Nice to Republicans) has made a deal to get the Kohler golf course the land inside a popular lakeshore state park it wants for another high-end golf course, no doubt someone's been assigned to work with each county's most important Walker donor

to make sure there's the just right parcel to be dealt so no one feels discriminated against.

The good news: Vilas County has already been taken care of.

I've noted that to help get the Kohler course on the map, state government  under Walker provided taxpayer-funded help from the Governor's office, the DNR, the Natural Resources Board and the Department of Administration.

Wasn't that what his 'chamber of commerce mentality' DNR and his new Wisconsin Idea were all about?

Friday, February 16, 2018

Who you gonna believe? Trump...Putin...Mueller?

Question of the day, and also going forward.  Do you believe:

Trump/Putin
Trump says he believes Putin's election meddling denials
Or citizen grand Jury/Mueller
Mueller indicts 13 Russian nationals over 2016 election interference
Vladimir Putin (2017-07-08).jpg 

Diagram Walker's/FL-shooting react/policy sentence

TMJ4 reports these words:
Meanwhile, Gov. Scott Walker is reacting to the school shooting and what needs to be done in Wisconsin to prevent school shootings like the one in Parkland. 
“Part of this is reexamining and making sure no matter what the issue is that we’re making sure, whether it’s what we saw the other day or it’s explosive, we want everyone to feel safe, but particularly our schools,” he said. 
What? 
 

WI GOP Assembly passes its 'More, Bigger Floods' bill

[Update] Perhaps listening to "Fools Rush In" on their headphones, the GOP-led State Assembly followed the developers' money trail and approved Thursday its 'More, Bigger Floods' bill.

Robin Vos & Co., with GOP Senate leader Fitzgerald and always-campaigning-and-donation-colleciting Scott Walker will together open tens of thousands of protected wetland acres to 'development' at the very time increasingly more-frequent so-called 100-year storms loom increasingly more destructive.

Because the state is getting wetter, so thanks to the state, expect more of this - - 
  
- - after tens of thousands of acres of nature's natural sponges statewide are exchanged for parking lots or deceptively-named 'conservation' subdivisions.

As I wrote yesterday, if we had a real Department of Natural Resources, and not the business community subsidiary which Gov. Walker replaced it with, agency officials and non-partisan experts would have testified against the measure before the Assembly - - and cited the known science about a changing, wetter climate - - facts I'd discovered in late 2016 that Walker's DNR had scrubbed from its key web page on climate change science.

Basically, it's easier for the legislature to approve widespread, hodge-podge destruction of WI wetlands if the DNR under Walker already scrubbed the science - - the reality - - off its webpages that explained why we need smart government and working wetlands now more than ever.


I posted what the DNR's web page had contained, what had been deleted and what remained: new, sanitized text appears in yellow and deletions of original wording have black strike mark through them.


You can see in an example below the missing passages which call attention to changes in precipitation, and to the crucial value of wetlands:

scientists agree that the following changes are likely if climate change patterns continue. 
Increased summer and winter temperatures will cause increased evaporation droughtlower lake water levels and warmer water tornadoesresulting in reduced habitat for cold water species and a loss of critical wetland areas ice/snow or severe heat 
Decreased winter ice cover will also contribute The DNR staff stands ready to increased evaporation and lower lake water levels which could have severe economic consequences for adapt our valuable shipping industrymanagement strategies in an effort to protect our lakeslakeshore recreationwaterwaysplants, wildlife and coastal businessespeople who depend on them 
Changes in rain and snowfall patterns (including more frequent and severe storms) could change water flow in streams and rivers and increase stream bank erosion and runoff pollution.
Not that many years ago, a bill like the one the Assembly just approved would never have seen the light of day.

The state's conservation legacy - - think Gaylord Nelson and Earth Day, the popular, bi-partisan Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund, the work of giants like Aldo Leopold and John Muir - - and respect for informed-policy making was too strong to be overrun by a band of business bell-hopping clerks.

But whether the issue is wetlands, or groundwater, or exemptions and permit approvals for sand mines and golf courses, or Foxconn - - and, by the way, in that flood-prone county - - where will all the storm water from its hard, flat, baseball stadium-sized giant parking lots, and massive roofs over much of a complex the size of 11 football fields run to? - - those fact-driven, common-sense-informed days are gone. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Some WI guns laws easier than in FL

Walker is a big beneficiary of NRA money, says the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. More fun facts about Walker's easy gun regime:  
Florida, for instance, has a three-day waiting period for purchasing handguns. Wisconsin's Republican governor and Republican-controlled Legislature ended the state's two-day waiting period in 2015. 
Florida sets restrictions on the open-carry of handguns; Wisconsin does not, and a 2011 Republican law prohibited municipalities from using other laws to discourage the practice.
Walker signed the bill waiving the handgun purchase waiting period just prior to a mass shooting in a South Carolina church by a handgun-wielding white supremacist.

He also tweeted our condolences after the Florida school shooting, then returned to posting, with photo, about his beloved hand-and-cheese sandwich. 

 

WI spring primary in-person early voting ends Friday

Check with your local voting officials. Here's the Milwaukee information.
In-person absentee voting for the 2018 Spring Primary begins Monday, February 5th and ends on Friday, February 16th in the offices of the City of Milwaukee Election Commission, 200 E Wells Street, Room 501, 8:00 AM - 4:30 PM, Monday through Friday (no weekends). 
You will be required to show your acceptable photo ID when voting by in-person absentee ballot.
File:I Voted Sticker.JPG

Walker tweets FL shooting, now back to ham sandwiches

Yesterday.
  1.   Retweeted
    Our prayers go out to the families and friends of victims in Florida.
Today.

Another brown bag lunch.

Of and from Republicans after FL shootings

Just a few to remember, in no particular order:

* Former FL GOP Congressman David Jolly:

The former Florida congressman said “Republicans will never do anything on gun control...The idea of gun policy in the Republican Party is to try to get a speaking slot at the NRA and prove to that constituency that you’re further right than generations past of Republicans have been on guns,” he said.


Vote Republicans out of office if you want mass shootings stopped
----------------

*  Of and from Paul Ryan:
House Speaker Ryan: Florida shooting shouldn't threaten right to own guns  
----------------
*  From Marco Rubio, 20 hours ago: 

 
Marco Rubio, more recently:


Rubio: We shouldn't "jump to conclusions" that gun control laws would've prevented Florida school shooting
---------------
* From Trump: 

So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!
* From Trump, earlier (2/28/17):
Trump Signs Bill Revoking Obama-Era Gun Checks for People With Mental Illnesses

State attack on science spurs mass WI wetlands destruction

As the State Assembly votes today on a bill opening tens of thousands of protected wetland acres to 'development,' 
Related image
focus on two important things:

*  1. Lee Berguist's excellent synthesis in today's Journal Sentinel which shows that the Legislature is set to green-light wetland filling at the very time wetlands' rainfall-absorbing, flood-preventing value becomes more critical:

Wisconsin is becoming wetter as lawmakers move to weaken rules for flood-preventing wetlands


*  2. To which I add: If we had a real Department of Natural Resources, and not the business community subsidiary which Gov. Walker replaced it with, agency officials and non-partisan experts would have testified against the measure before the Assembly - - and cited the known science about a changing, wetter climate - - facts I'd discovered in late 2016 that Walker's DNR had scrubbed from its key web page on climate change science.


Basically, It's easier for the legislature to consider the mass destruction of WI wetlands if the DNR under Walker already scrubbed the science - - the reality - - off its webpages that explained why we need smart government and working wetlands now more than ever.

I posted what the DNR's web page had contained, what had been deleted and what remained: new, sanitized text appears in yellow and deletions of original wording have black strike mark through them.


You can see in an example below the missing passages which call attention to changes in precipitation, and to the crucial value of wetlands:
scientists agree that the following changes are likely if climate change patterns continue. 
Increased summer and winter temperatures will cause increased evaporation droughtlower lake water levels and warmer water tornadoesresulting in reduced habitat for cold water species and a loss of critical wetland areas ice/snow or severe heat 
Decreased winter ice cover will also contribute The DNR staff stands ready to increased evaporation and lower lake water levels which could have severe economic consequences for adapt our valuable shipping industrymanagement strategies in an effort to protect our lakeslakeshore recreationwaterwaysplants, wildlife and coastal businessespeople who depend on them 
Changes in rain and snowfall patterns (including more frequent and severe storms) could change water flow in streams and rivers and increase stream bank erosion and runoff pollution.
Not that many years ago, a bill like the one the Assembly will probably approve today would never have seen the light of day.

Or serious legislators would have convened a study committee to examine the facts.


But whether the issue is wetlands, or groundwater, or exemptions and permit approvals for sand mines and golf courses, or Foxconn - - and, by the way, in that flood-prone county - - where will all the storm water from its hard, flat, baseball stadium-sized giant parking lots, and massive roofs over much of a complex the size of 11 football fields run to? - - those fact-driven, common-sense-informed days are gone. 



Wednesday, February 14, 2018

DNR adds 5 years, more cows to giant CAFO

Remember that big concentrated animal feeding operation, (CAFO), in Kewaunee County which a judge said was producing crisis-level groundwater contamination - - followed by former DNR Secretary Stepp's decision not to enforce the judge's ruling?
File:Confined-animal-feeding-operation.jpg 
Well, just because Walker may sign some modest rule improvements changes after years of delay that helped special interests and demanding donors, don't get the idea that huge changes are afoot, as the DNR recently fast-tracked five pending CAFO permit applications in a one-day, rapid-fire hearing and made a ruling in one that should surprise no one
The Department of Natural Resources has renewed the Wisconsin Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit for Kinnard Farms in the town of Lincoln. The new permit is effective Feb. 1, 2018, through Jan. 31, 2023...
Kinnard is one of the largest dairy operations in Kewaunee County with more than 10,000 animal units and authorization under the permit to expand to 12,860 animal units by 2023.
Also: why through its CAFO website does the DNR still feature 2014 data in a chart on a webpage that has not been updated since July 16, 2014. You can root around the website and get more current data, but how about updating this chart?
Wisconsin CAFO WPDES permits by animal type over time

CAFO Graph