Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Neumann To Enter Gubernatorial Race

Governor wannabe Scott Walker is sure having a hard time of it.

Just this week alone, he got slapped down by an arbitrator that pointed out that he is not the King of Milwaukee County. He then had a nationally known neocon figurehead come and disrespect him at his own fundraiser. He then got busted flip-flopping yet again on stimulus funds. Now he finds himself trying desperately, and failing to cover up the fact that he lied about the supposed it deficit with this lame attempt:

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker's budget deficit announcement and push for a 35-hour workweek for county employees prodded the County Board and judges to take needed budget trimming action, one of Walker's top aides said Tuesday.

Announcing a $14.9 million year-end deficit -- since lowered to $4.4 million -- and unpaid furloughs provided incentives for action, said county Administrative Services Director Cynthia Archer.

Of course, almost no one is buying into that garbage, much less the County Board:

Some county supervisors, however, have been sharply critical, saying Walker and Archer cried wolf on a deficit that's not all that serious.

County Board Chairman Lee Holloway blasted Archer, saying she was dishonest with supervisors about the severity of the projected deficit.

She should steer clear of political games and be more straightforward with the County Board, he said.

And this was all by the end of the day Tuesday.

Wednesday is already shaping up to be a day of woe for Team Walker as well.

Wednesday is the day that the first viable Republican candidate will be announcing his run for governor:

Former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann is to make official Wednesday his Republican bid for governor in 2010, touting his private-sector experience as the necessary antidote to high state taxes and spending.

Neumann's candidacy ensures a hard-fought - and likely well-funded - GOP primary contest against Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, who announced his candidacy for governor in late April. Appleton businessman Mark Todd also has announced plans to run as a Republican.

Neumann is already staking out one of his strategies as painting himself to be the only candidate with experience in the private sector.

We have already discussed the idea of which candidate, Neumann or Walker, is more beatable. In said discussion, I stated that I thought Walker was more beatable, and I still feel that way.

Walker has the baggage of leading Milwaukee County from the frying pan into the fire as well as all of his campaign miscues already. Even though Walker has been actively campaigning, he still does not have a lot of name recognition, and many of those that do recognize his name usually spit when they hear it.

Neumann, on the other hand, as only the baggage of some outrageous, bigoted positions.

But Walker even manages to blow that advantage. It was just announced that he has taken Michael Grebe to be the chair of his campaign. Grebe is the CEO and President of the Bradley Foundation. The Bradley Foundation is the same group that came up with the racist The Bell Curve and The Feeding Trough, which were solely created in the aim of turning public opinion against minorities, namely African Americans, and poor people.

It should be noted that Grebe came into his office well after these things were published, so he may or may not have any part of their release, but it is still the same group, and will surely be brought up if and when someone goes after Neumann for his stances of hate.

All in all, it should be entertaining for the next year, except for the prospect of Walker trying to continue to run his campaign on the backs of Milwaukee County citizens and workers.

Walker: Stimulus Flip Flop #37,582

From this morning's story on how Doyle vetoed the sales tax that was designed to help preserve Milwaukee County's transit system:
Walker said the county can get through 2011 without a major crisis in transit funding, thanks to an infusion of federal stimulus funds to be used to purchase new buses. He'll continue to advocate for privatizing the operation of Mitchell International Airport as a way to generate revenue to pay for transit, he said.
With the way Scott Walker flip flops regarding his position, or lack thereof, on the stimulus dollars, I wouldn't be surprised if the old joke about the ever-changing Milwaukee weather will soon become:
If you don't like Scott Walker's stance on stimulus dollars, wait ten minutes. It'll change.
And as for privatizing the airport, I am surprised he is still harping on that, given all the problems they are having at Midway. Then again, on second thought, I guess I'm not surprised.

Another Talking Point For Walker Takes A Walk

Scott Walker loves to say how he would be the best candidate for governor because he knows how to attract businesses and keep economies humming by refusing to raise taxes (except for toddlers).

It seems that businesses might have more than just taxes on their minds. Stuff like services, etc. You know, the things that Walker has proven himself incapable of handling.

From JSOnline:

Compared with the largest metro area in each of the surrounding states, only Detroit is losing jobs at a faster rate than Milwaukee.

A report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Tuesday shows the four-county Milwaukee area shedding 5.2% of its jobs since May 2008, compared with 8% in the Detroit area.

Ruling Shows Walker's Lack Of Vision, Leadership, Understanding

The big news around Milwaukee County Monday morning was that the arbitrator ruled in favor of the union in its grievance against Scott Walker's illegal plan for a furlough.

The ruling in itself may or may not have deep significance, depending on what the arbitrator based his ruling on. If the decision was based only on the fact that Walker left the furlough open-ended, then all Walker would have to do is issue another edict with a specific ending date. If the issue was the length of the furlough, Walker could just issue another edict for the specified length (the common number being mentioned is four weeks).

However, if the ruling is based on the fact that a .03% projected deficit does not constitute a financial crisis worthy of such drastic measures, then it would show that Walker was trying to manipulate the situation by creating an artificial crisis to either promote his campaign, put pressure on the union during contract negotiations, or both. I would tend to guess both.

We will not know the significance of the ruling until the final written version is provided.

But Walker's reaction to the news is very telling. He called it "shocking and disappointing." He then said that he would wait to see the written ruling before deciding whether to pursue legal action regarding it or to just take what steps he could to ensure the furlough. He also threw out the possibility of layoffs.

All of these actions would end up costing the county more than any potential savings, either through litigation costs or through lost revenues.

He is basing his claims on the fact that Judge Flynn ruled in his favor last Friday. What he doesn't understand is that these were two entirely different cases based on two entirely different premises.

The union suing for an injunction was to prevent the furlough until such time as the arbitrator made his ruling. The union even admits that they did not expect to win the injunction. The key contest was the grievance, and whether Walker even had the right to do what he was trying to do. So far, it looks like he didn't.

The one thing that Walker doesn't mention as an option to the supposed deficit crisis is the one that would offer him the greatest chance of making substantial savings for the tax payers. That one thing is to sit down with the unions and finally do some serious, honest contract negotiations.

But Walker doesn't want to do that. He is afraid that he might have to give up something that would make him look soft on the unions. It would also prevent him from being able to do what he loves to do best, grandstanding. Walker wants to claim an even more severe deficit for next year and make even more draconian demands, like laying off hundreds of workers, severe pay cuts to those remaining, and removing their benefits, like their pensions.

In his press conference, Walker made some grand statements regarding his "moral obligation to the taxpayers" and his "legal obligation to have a balanced budget."

I say that if Walker was serious about those obligations, he would and should sit down and do some honest bargaining with the union. I've pointed out before how this would save taxpayers millions of dollars, and the longer he puts off negotiations, the more it costs tax payers in lost savings. (It would also give me one less thing to harp about.)

If he doesn't want to do that, then he needs to step aside and let someone who is willing to put Milwaukee County's best interests first do the job he is incapable of doing.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Doyle Doesn't Fail To Disappoint

Governor Jim Doyle signed off on the budget this morning, but not before taking his veto pen to it. Unfortunately in doing so, he took a page out of Walker's playbook and starting using Milwaukee County's poor, and its taxpayers, as pawns in his political game against Walker.

Unfortunately, one of the things that he vetoed was the .65% sales tax for Milwaukee County that would have gone to restoring and preserving mass transit and to bolster safety networks:
Gov. Jim Doyle rewrote portions of the state budget Monday, killing a potential 0.65% sales tax increase in Milwaukee County.

Doyle's fellow Democrats who control the Legislature included a provision in the state budget that would have allowed the Milwaukee County Board to raise the sales tax by 0.65% - 0.5% for buses and 0.15% for public safety. Those increases would have raised the sales tax to 6.25%, but Doyle vetoed them.

This is a big blow to Milwaukee County's transit system. The transit system was in dire straits going into this year and is barely keeping itself upright. However, many feel that it is in a death spiral and will completely fall apart unless a separate. reliable source of funding it found.

A press release from State Senator Tamara Grigsby highlights the importance of this part of the budget, and what it will mean for the economy of Milwaukee County:
"As people honored us with their votes last November, they asked us to revive transit, parks, and culture throughout Milwaukee County," Grigsby said. "By moving forward with this referendum and establishing a Southeast Regional Transit Authority that includes the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee Commuter Line, we will fortify our regional economy. In this instance, numbers speak louder than words when it comes to illustrating how important a real transit and parks solution is for Milwaukee County."

Some significant numbers include:

* $67 million-the amount of property tax relief that could be provided by approving the Milwaukee County referendum

* 60,000-the number of jobs that would become inaccessible to those in Milwaukee County who rely on mass transportation

* $18.3 million-the projected 2010 deficit the Milwaukee County Transit System will face unless changes are made to its funding

* 1.7 million-the number of passenger trips the KRM Commuter Line would service each year

* 49%-the percentage of transit that is used for job-related purposes

"Job access and the future of our economy depend on mass transit," Grigsby said. "In addition, our decaying parks are in desperate need of revitalization. We need to act together and we must act now to find a compromise that will meet Southeast Wisconsin's long-term needs. By approving the Milwaukee County referendum and creating a Southeast Regional Transit Authority that includes KRM, we will advance a truly regional economy."
Many on the right see Doyle's veto of this section of the budget was because he is afraid of some sort of backlash from the conservatives. To be honest, I almost bought into that train of thought (pun intended).

But upon further reflection, I think that maybe Doyle's goal was more sinister than that. I am starting to wonder if Doyle vetoed the sales tax in order to force Walker's hand in the upcoming county budget.

Walker is either going to have to find a way to come up with over $18 million, like by raising property taxes or he is going to have to cut the transit system by some 35%, which would seriously cripple the local economy.

If I am correct in this cynical presumption, and he is playing politics with people's lives and livelihoods, that would make Doyle as bad as Walker.

I just don't understand why both of these people are trying to ruin the other's candidacy by ruining Milwaukee County. Maybe it is idealistic of me, but I would rather see a candidate (or presumptive candidate) try to run on a record of actually helping people.

I just hope that the state legislature finds a way to make this sales tax still happen. I don't know of anyone that wouldn't like some relief on their property tax. Nor do I suspect that anyone would want to see the largest metropolitan area in the state fail economically.

Congratulations To Dan Cody

Well, belated congratulations anyway.

Dan was elected as the President of the Park People of Milwaukee County.

Dan is a good man for the job, especially with the challenges that the parks face and the harder challenges coming in the next year.

Good luck, Dan. We are behind you all the way.

What A Ringing Endorsement!

After weeks of Team Walker hyping the thrice-married adulterer and corrupt Newt Gingrich was coming to Milwaukee to speak at a fund raiser for Walker, we find out that Gingrich isn't even supporting the guy. From JSOnline:

In response to a reporter's question, Gingrich said he wasn't endorsing Walker, and Gingrich's presence did not mean he preferred the county executive over former Republican Rep. Mark Neumann, who also has said he will likely seek the party endorsement for governor in 2010.

Doyle is expected to seek a third term.

"When I was asked to come, Scott Walker was the only candidate in the race," Gingrich said. "My goal, frankly, is to fill up the slate" with solid candidates all over the U.S., he said.

Apparently, even Gingrich understands that Walker isn't a solid candidate.

That's almost as funny as Walker actually getting endorsed by Jessica McBride.

Walker Obstructs Justice

From the office of Chairman Holloway:
“County Executive Walker’s irresponsible decision to close the County Courthouse during the early morning and late afternoon demonstrates his failure to understand the importance of providing public access to the County seat. This unilateral, single-handed decision is creating a major inconvenience for thousands of residents trying to conduct government business in the Courthouse.

“In recent years, I have worked together with the Courts to increase participation in our jury system, to make it more representative of people from all walks of life in Milwaukee County. But, when our jurors are greeted with locked doors, long lines and reduced security checkpoints, it becomes extremely difficult for citizens to perform their civic duty as jurors. The great progress we have made in jury participation is at risk, and I am extremely disappointed that the County Executive is choosing to take this action on his own, with no support from the County Board.

“As Chairman of the County Board of Supervisors, I hereby call on the County Executive to come up with a creative plan quickly that will fully open the doors to the Courthouse so our residents can get the services they demand from Milwaukee County government. Whether it’s serving on juries, attending court sessions, getting marriage licenses, performing real estate transfers, or utilizing our other services, these residents must be able to access the Courthouse during regular business hours. Instead, we’re keeping the doors locked for longer periods of time and, in effect, telling visitors to the Courthouse that this is how we do business in Milwaukee County. I reject conducting Milwaukee County government in that manner.”
Here are some pictures from the 10th Street entrance and the 9th Street entrance at the Milwaukee County Courthouse, taken at 8:30 a.m.

Too bad the Chief Justice didn't find Walker in contempt of court for obstructing due process.




Answering Dumb Questions

Kevin Binversie again takes umbrage with my doing what the local media won't do by pointing out the lies and follies from Scott Walker.

Since he has so much information in his post, I thought it would be better to answer them here. And since I now have the extra time, I might as well use it.

After complaining about my focus, he comes out with this:
Chris, why the long face for your potential furlough? I mean, Doyle's about to sign a budget which puts entire state employees on a furlough. Where's the criticism of that?
What Kevin doesn't mention is that the furlough Doyle is imposing is 16 days, or 128 hours, over two years. Walker wants 130 hours just this year alone, and he won't put a definitive end to it. But since Walker claims to need four times the furlough, wouldn't this also mean that Walker's budget skills are four times as bad?

Kevin continues:
My finally point on the first 'question;' who the hell are you kidding? It's nearly July, it would take an act of God to turn this economy around to even get a surplus at any level of government.
Milwaukee County, or any government for that matter, always starts out with a projected deficit. And it always improves with time, as the revenues flow in. It is part of the game politicians play trying to make themselves look better. Not to mention that the supposed deficit already dropped, per Walker's own number crunchers by $10.4 million in just two months. Anyone not drinking the Kool Aid would find this suspicious. Also, keep in mind that Walker is still trying to prevent the County and the union from settling their contract talks. And I've already mentioned Pennsylvania which solved their budget woes by working with the union on their contract.

And finally:
Secondly, you know your proposed option in question two is like a federal felony right? The type of legal maelstrom that would drop down on anyone who does what you even suggest is going to be nasty.
Um, Kevin, I was continuing the point that what Walker is doing is unnecessary and just plain foolish. Secondly, he is only doing it as a campaign stunt. But Walker is smart enough to avoid some of the things that is also illegal and unethical, like using tax dollars and corporate donations for campaign bike rides.

Newt's Coming To Town

Oh, boy, Newt Gingrich is coming to town to stump for Walker. Yippee.

I've made by feelings known already over here:
We all know that Charlie Sykes has been carrying water for Scott Walker for a long, long time.

Now, Newt Gingrich is coming to town next week to show support for Walker.

How much longer before Team Walker can announce endorsements from Governor Mark Sanford, Senator John Ensign, Senator David Vitter, Senator Larry Craig, and of course, Jessica McBride?
Oh, and BTW, the question has been answered. I hope she does an in depth interview with Walker. That would eliminate two problems at one time.

Questions Of The Day

If Walker gets his way, and there is a furlough, and then there is a surplus at the end of the year, do the workers get a refund of their lost wages which were wrongfully taken? Or does Walker get to keep the money and claim it as an in-kind contribution on his campaign financial statement?

Lying From Both Sides Of His Mouth

As I was catching up on my reading, I saw the final edition of the article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Unsurprisingly, it was chock full of errata and lies. The most telling was this passage:

Walker has said that he may be forced to resort to layoffs if the arbitrator in the current case limits the furloughs.

"If he rules we can only do it for four weeks, we'll do it for four weeks," Walker said. He expected the arbitrator to at least allow four-week furloughs because of a similar ruling in 2005.

The furloughs would save the county up to $6.8 million over a full year, according to county budget staff.

Walker said the shorter workweek is preferable to layoffs because he can reinstate hours as early as next month if the budget numbers improve.

Deputies, jailers and hospital workers would be exempt from the furloughs. County supervisors, with the exception of Joe Sanfelippo, have not agreed to take a pay cut that would be comparable to the income lost by other county workers.

I had to read that part over several times. In the first cited paragraph, Walker is claiming that four weeks of furlough isn't enough, and that he screwed up the budget so bad that he needs to do layoffs. Then, three paragraphs later, he said that furloughs are better because he could reinstate the hours in one month if the budget numbers improve.

Which one is it? Did he foul things up so bad that people need to lose their jobs? Or did he screw it up just enough that four weeks of furloughs will correct it? Of course, we already know the truth, and that is their is no real deficit to speak of, and definitely not one big enough to be called a crisis.

Likewise, the furloughs would not save the $6.8 million he is claiming. It would save a lot less than that due to the lost revenue that would come with the furloughs.

The article also fails to mention that along with deputies, correction officers and front line staff at the mental health clinic, Walker has also given exemption to the zoo workers, parks and freeway workers, due to the potential lost revenue. I also learned on Friday that he gave the nurses union an exemption from the furlough in exchange for them giving up two minor holidays in November. (Minor holidays are floating holidays which can be used on that day or saved for up to six months. In this case, the days are Veteran's Day and the day after Thanksgiving.) To top it off, the nurses get all or part of those days back, depending on what happens from the arbitration ruling.

How bad is this supposed deficit if he will accept 16 hours of holiday pay instead of 130 hours which he wants to impose on the rest of the workers?

On a side note, it is rather sad that this story was written by two different reporters, and neither one of them caught the errors or conflicting statements. Either the reporters are worse than anyone thought, or it is just more proof against the myth of there being a "liberal media."

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009

Perspectives

Man, what a long stressful month this has been. I've been trying to balance too many things, all the while with the Sword of Damacles hovering above my head.

Well, today the sword got a little closer:

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker has the right to shorten the workweek for county workers to 35 hours to help the county cope with its financial problems, Reserve Judge Dennis J. Flynn said in a decision issued Friday.

That means that Walker's order to shorten the workweek for employees will take effect Monday, unless an arbitrator rules that his actions violated the county's labor contract. The arbitrator said he would issue a decision before Monday but had not done so by mid-afternoon Friday.

It was disappointing news, of course. Then again, it wasn't completely unexpected.

While Judge Flynn made his ruling to deny the injunction, it is not the end of the world. After all, the union was only seeking a temporary order from the Court.

The arbitrator still has to come out with his decision. This is the decision that will have a more serious impact, and one that we feel more hopeful about. The arbitrator will be making two decisions, if I understand it correctly. One will be if Walker was in the right to do this. Not in the sense of does he necessarily have the authority, but if a projected .03% deficit constitutes a financial crisis. And, if for some unfathomable reason, he agrees that it does, the arbitrator then has to define "temporary."

So you see, there is still hope. On the other hand, if the arbitrator rules against the union, I can't complain. I just have to look at the poor souls in Janesville and in Kenosha that have no jobs to keep things in proper perspective. Being put on an unjust furlough would be better than being unfairly laid off.

And if we are furloughed, and/or laid off, we will still not be the ones hurt the worst. I cannot think of the ripples that will be echoing through the community with the predictable consequences of Walker's grandstanding. Elderly citizens and disabled people will have to go a while longer without services.

Mentally ill people will have to struggle with their illnesses on their own for a while longer. Of course, that can have really, really bad effects. Things like police officers getting shot by a guy that wasn't receiving the proper care and support, due to Walker's previous cut backs.

And the citizens will have to pay the price for Walker's "fiscal responsibility," either with their safety and with higher taxes to cover the shortfalls that Walker creates, like he cause with the call center.

Some people will blow me and my arguments off, just because I work for the county, or because I am active in my union, or just because I am liberal. But I would ask people to think about why Walker is doing this. Is it because the County is facing such a fiscal crisis? No. A .03% projected deficit is not a crisis.

Then why? Two reasons, really. One is that the County and the unions are in contract negotiations. Every time negotiations come up, Walker pulls this same kind of crap, although this year is more egregious than others. The County has faced years where the mid-season budget was in a real deficit, but it was always balanced, without harming the vulnerable, the tax payers or the workers.

But that kind of thinking must be above Walker's pay grade. Or maybe it requires some time in college doing something besides losing elections and dropping out.

The first reason for Walker's behavior, trying to scare the unions, feeds into the second reason. He's running for governor. He thinks that he will impress more people by neglecting his citizens, putting them in harm's way, and still raising their taxes will win him votes, as long as he keeps them distracted with his "no tax" song and dance.

He must think all people are as mean-spirited and short-sighted as he is.

On the other hand, being furloughed isn't too bad either. It gives me another hour each day to cause mischief. And it also means when I take a day off, I only use seven hours instead of eight. Some quick calculating shows that if Walker does get his way, and furloughs us for the rest of the year, he has given me a little more than three extra vacation days. Who would complain about that?! And that will help me get one of my pet projects really rolling.

On the other hand, why I am rambling on like this? It is getting into the later part of the evening, and I still have a long ways to go. I can't do anything about the job situation anyway, so I might as well go home and try to ease my soul, and remember who I am and what I am fighting for.


Have a good weekend, everybody.

Shorter Tom McMahon


"Hypocrite! Misogynist!" cried the hypocritical misogynist.

Who Is Paying For Walker's Campaign Bike Ride?


Walker wrapped up his five day campaign tour of the state, along with hitting up potential campaign contributors in neighboring states. Unlike previous campaign tours, which were funded by tax payer dollars, Walker went ahead and got illegal corporate sponsorship for this year's tour. He claimed that it was so that he wouldn't be using tax payer dollars.

To further muddy the waters, Walker, using the County website to promote his campaign tour, lists his personal secretary, Dorothy Moore, as the coordinator, but instead of using a county email address and a county phone number, she uses her personal ones. If this ride was on the up and up, why is she using her private information. That makes it look more than a little suspicious, namely that Walker is trying to hide something. I know that in his last campaign tour, he used campaign staff to do the actual coordination and then pretended that it was all county business.

Now, if Walker's ethical problems with the corporate sponsorship wasn't bad enough, I've learned that tax payer money was indeed used on the trip. How can this be? Walker bragged that no taxpayer dollars were spent, right?

Well, just follow the money.

Walker, on the site promoting his campaign bike ride (which is hosted on the county website, by the way), Walker makes note that said campaign bike ride is presented by Air Tran Airways and ChooseMilwaukee.com. Walker is even kind enough to provide a hyperlink to each company's web site.

ChooseMilwaukee.com is one of the promotional aspects of The Milwaukee 7. Interestingly, and I'm sure is just a coincidence, Milwaukee County is listed as being an "investor" and gives Milwaukee 7 and thus ChooseMilwaukee.com $25,000 each year. In another amazing coincidence, Walker is a member of the advisory panel for this group.

So, Walker arranges giving this group tax payer money, via the county budget. Then as part of the advisory panel, directs said money right back to his campaign bike ride. But I'm sure it is all a coincidence. Yeah, right. It sure seems like Walker keeps having a lot of these types of convenient coincidences.

To add insult to injury, Walker's campaign bike ride, which he wants us to believe is strictly going to be promote tourism in Milwaukee County via media interviews has resulted in only a handful of articles. And as Cory Liebmann reports:
Walker's little bike ride ends today and I am actually quite surprised at how little coverage the stunt has received outstate. I'm talking about coverage at all. So far I have found 3 stories that mention his campaign for governor and only 2 stories that mention strictly tourism in Milwaukee County. With a wink and a nod you can check one more in the fail column for Walker.
I'm sure that any competent promotional agency could have made much better use of the $25,000 than sending Walker around on a bike, who gained more mention for his campaign than he did for Milwaukee County.

Now, I don't know all the ins and outs of filing ethics complaints, but I certainly hope that Supervisors Weishan, Dimitrijevic and Larson can either submit and addendum or a supplementary complaint to the ethics complaint they already filed regarding Walker's getting illegal corporate donations for his campaign ride.

ADDENDUM: Can someone please poke Chris Kleismet, Orville Seymour and the gang at CRG. Now that there is a real abuse of office and unethical behavior by a politician, they are no where to be found. I guess they really aren't what they pretend to be. Actually, we already knew that.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dropping Like Flies

No, I'm not referring to dead celebrities in the post's title.

I'm talking about conservative blogs.

First, James Wigderson shuts down the library, for at least for the summer. That is unless he opens it again before then, like he did today.

Spring City Chronicles is planning on retiring in a few months.

And today, we learn that they are closing the doors to the Badger Blog Alliance. Now where will Cubba go to have his tantrums?

All in all, it is not good news. Anything that diminishes the conversation doesn't help anyone.

But I can not help but notice that it seems like that the only thing dropping faster than conservative blogs are the political careers of Republicans who wanted to be President.

Parsing MJS

It is abundantly clear that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has big time love for Scott Walker, so I am used to the biased reporting and editorializing. But sometimes, they really go overboard with their blatant bias to the point of inaccurate reporting.

For example, JSOnline has this story today, about the two legal actions that AFSCME has taken against Walker's power grab. It is so chock full of inaccuracies that the only way to parse it is paragraph by paragraph.

The article will be blockquoted and my response will be in between.
Milwaukee County workers expect to find out Friday if they'll be taking a pay cut and working a shorter workweek for the rest of the year.
Actually both the judge and the arbitrator said that they might not be able to provide a ruling until Sunday morning, when the furloughs are to take effect.
The shorter week is supposed to go into effect Monday.
Again, according to Walker's own memo, it goes into effect Sunday.
Both an arbitrator and a judge are expected to release decisions Friday on the legality of County Executive Scott Walker's order requiring that most workers start their work days a half hour later and end them a half hour earlier.
Again, they said it might not be until next week. Also, the hours could be split that way, but most of the people I know that are going to be effected were also offered either coming in an hour later or leaving an hour earlier.

On a side note, I have been told that Walker is already rescinding on some of the people being affected, including the zoo, the parks and the highway workers.
Amedeo Greco, the arbitrator hearing a grievance filed by the union, confirmed Thursday that he intends to issue a decision on whether Walker had violated the contract with the union when he issued the order May 14. He declined to comment on the hearing he conducted Thursday on the matter.
The hearing was actually on Wednesday. In response to this article, the union was alarmed and called Mr. Greco, since he is not supposed to be talking to anyone about the case until he made a ruling. Greco categorically denied speaking with any reporters.
Reserve Judge Dennis Flynn is also expected to issue a written decision Friday on the union's request for an injunction to prevent Walker's order from taking effect.
Again, it could be not until Sunday.
Walker said the move was necessary to help erase the projected $14.9 million county budget deficit for 2009.
Except the deficit was never that high, so the move was unnecessary. This would be called a sin of omission.
Milwaukee District Council 48 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees - the union that filed the grievance and the lawsuit on behalf of the 1,800 workers that will be affected - disputes the savings and whether the measure is necessary.
Hey, one right! Too bad it wasn't until the last paragraph.

Now, I know that most of the points are just petty. But the part about the arbitrator speaking with the press is highly alarming. They, like a judge, are not allowed to speak about an active case at all. This would mean that either the arbitrator is lying, or the paper is. Either way, it is a gross betrayal of the public trust.

They Come In Threes, Doncha Know?

First there was Ed McMahon.

Now, in one day, we have lost Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson.

May they now be able to find the peace of mind that they sought, but could not find, in this world.

They Know Not Of Which They Speak

Again, the editorial board at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel shows that they are either completely obtuse to the goings on in Milwaukee County or that they are so far in the tank for Scott Walker that they do not care.

In this morning's editorial, they admonish the County Board and Walker for not working together in a more productive way. That is the closest they come to a rational sentence in the entire piece.

They try defend Walker's poor behavior, which was based on a grossly overestimated budget deficit:

Walker has to judge matters by the numbers he is given - and the early year numbers were bad, which was to be expected. He may have jumped the gun, and the frustration of county supervisors is understandable.

But Walker acted based on the numbers he had in front of him at the time; that's prudent in this economic climate - maybe even overly cautious - but it's not dishonest or in bad faith, as some supervisors have argued. While the numbers look better now, there is still uncertainty. Walker's office does say that he will rescind the 35-hour workweek order if other savings reduce the shortfall further.

Anyone that has ever done a budget realizes that the beginning of the fiscal year is always bad. This is especially true for the County. Much of the County's revenue comes in during the warmer months, when the golf courses, the pools, the zoo, and park pavilion and picnic area rentals start flowing in.

What Walker was doing would be the equivalent of someone starting out the year adding up their mortgage, taxes, projected energy costs, projected food costs, etc. and then saying they are in a deficit because they did not get all of the year's paychecks by March 31st. Obviously that is a ludicrous way to run a home or a governmental body.

They also try to argue that furloughs still may be the best answer to the remaining deficit projection by Walker's people. But they are forgetting two key things.

The first thing is that one cannot count on Walker for accurate numbers. From the newspaper earlier this week, we see this (emphasis mine)

Another estimate of Milwaukee County's finances released Monday shows a projected county budget shortfall of $4.4 million for 2009.

The figure is $10.5 million lower than the $14.9 million deficit figure Walker relied on to justify imposing the 35-hour workweek and other cuts. The shorter workweek, which amounts to a 12.5% pay cut for the last half of the year, has been challenged by the county's largest union.

The unpaid furloughs would save the county $4.5 million this year but are not included in the new estimate. The new budget shortfall figure was included in a report by Steven Kreklow, the county's budget administrator.

The editorial board apparently does not find it at all interesting or suspicious that in just two months, the County somehow miraculously found $10.4 million. For Walker's numbers to be that far off already shows that his staff is either incompetent and/or liars. Either way, it is hard to find fault with the County Board for not trusting Walker's numbers.

Also missing from the editorial board's thinking process is the fact that the county is still in negotiations with the unions. Based on the stunts that Walker pulled last time, it would not be a big jump to presume that settling the contract would solve this years problems and go a long way towards next years as well. As I wrote last week:

Settle the contract negotiations

This alone could cover the majority of the deficit, if not entirely, for the 2009 budget.

When it came time to negotiate the 2006-8 contract, Walker stalled then as well. After he finally dropped out of the 2006 gubernatorial primary, Doyle sent Dave Reimer (Walker's 2004 opponent for the county executive race) to act as a mediator. Not only did the contract end up being almost identical to the union's original offer, Walker ended up giving everyone a $250 signing bonus.

The county's number crunchers estimated that the county lost several millions of dollars in lost savings by the delay in the contract settlement. the savings came from a higher share of health care payments by the workers, as well as a protracted pay raise schedule.

Based on what I know of his behaviors in this go around, he did not learn from that lesson.

And for those who just may have an irrational hatred of the union, and don't think a mutually advantageous contract is possible, I would simply refer you to the story of the State of Pennsylvania and AFSCME Council 13 and other unions, in which an entire state's budget was helped and there were no furloughs.

All it takes is both sides to sit down and do some honest, good faith bargaining. I know AFSCME is ready and willing. Is Walker?
I guess that makes too much sense. Nor does it do enough to allow Walker to keep up his pretense of being a person competent to be county executive, much less governor.

But what really got me riled were these lines:

What's not needed is more bickering between the executive and the board. Nor is the answer a power grab by the County Board, as proposed this week by Supervisor Michael Mayo Sr.

What's needed instead is a board and an administration that work together to solve serious problems.
Is the editorial board really that far gone? Their own newspaper has been reporting for the past two weeks incident after incident in which Walker has stepped over the line, abused the power of his office, and showed a general disregard to the best interest of the County or its citizens. They can't even bring themselves to mention that Walker has spent the last week riding around the state campaigning (using illegal corporate contributions to do so).

Nor do they offer a solution to what the County Board should do regarding the fact that Walker and his staff have repeatedly been demonstratively and unarguably flat out lying to the Board about everything from the supposed deficit to the stimulus dollars to the annual budget proposals.

There is no reason why the County Board, or the citizens of Milwaukee, should have to tolerate continuously being fed false information

The editorial board also seems to conveniently forget the fact that Walker has already attempted an illegal power grab of his own in which he tried to set policies such as taxing toddlers and robbing the elderly. And it will be soon decided whether he illegally tried to impose a furlough and/or layoffs on the workers.

These continuously false representations of the truth and their constant pandering to Walker makes me wonder one thing: Why do I keep subscribing to them?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How Hypocritical Can They Get?

Keith Gilkes, campaign manager for Scott Walker, sent out a press release criticizing Governor Doyle for the hospital tax. He uses the standard party line of mewling about taxes, ignoring the fact that it will bring in tens of millions of dollars in more revenue that will allow hospitals to keep prices down.

Is this something that Team Walker wants to bring up? After all, it was Walker who showed that he would rather use poor people as political pawns, and just not allow them to have any health care at all.

Like I said before, this will be an entertaining year and a half.

More Disarray in Marathon GOP


At the beginning of the month, I wrote about the Marathon GOP, which had just fired their spokesman, Kevin Stevenson. Stevenson's offense was for penning a letter to the local paper on how wrong national GOP leader Rush Limbaugh was for wishing for Obama and for the county to fail.

Now, there are more ramifications and fallout.

Their president just quit:

The chairman of the Republican Party of Marathon County is stepping down.

He sent a short e-mail to members of the executive committee of the GOP Party of Marathon County with the news today.

It read...

"Effective the Time/Date stamp on this e-mail I am resigning the position of Chairman, Republican Party of Marathon County.
Joseph L. Wachtel"

Wachtel tells NewsChannel 7 it's time to get rid of some stress in his life he just didn't want to do it anymore. He says it has "a little bit" to do with the recent controversy in the local GOP.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

While Walker Campaigns, Milwaukee County Burns

Last night, I wrote (again) about Scott Walker's campaign bike ride disguised as "a trip to promote Milwaukee County." The focus of the post was on how Walker is taking illegal campaign contributions to fund his campaign tour.

However, at the end of the post, I raised a question that turned out to be rather pertinent today:
Why did Walker ask Air Tran for the money anyway? If he was going to not do the right thing and use his own campaign money, but seek out illegal corporate donations, couldn't he at least have picked a company based in Milwaukee County? That is what he is supposed to be promoting anyway, right? I bet the folks at Midwest Airlines, which is based right here in Milwaukee, are just loving having the County Executive riding around campaigning with a big, old Air Tran flag on his bike. Walker disses Wisconsin and Milwaukee many times over with this stunt.
This afternoon, while Walker was riding around with Air Tran flags and stickers and decals everywhere, it was reported that Midwest Airlines is no more:

Midwest Airlines Inc.'s name will remain, some of its jets will still have wide seats, and the carrier promises more nonstop routes from Milwaukee under the ownership of Republic Airways Holdings Inc. of Indianapolis

Announced Tuesday, Republic's purchase of Midwest from TPG Capital, a Texas investment firm, would end 25 years of local control for the largest airline to fly out of Mitchell International Airport. The scope of the changes is underscored by the decision of longtime Midwest Chief Executive Officer Timothy Hoeksema to retire once the sale becomes final in four to six weeks.

So while, Walker is out promoting himself, under the guise of promoting Milwaukee County, another stalwart Milwaukee company and good corporate sponsor of many things, like the Midwest Center, flies off never to be seen again.

But the damage isn't done there. Not only will there be some job losses and further blows to the local economy, but Milwaukee County itself could be harmed financially, due to Walker.

Three years ago, Walker manipulated to have a $14 million dollar loan given to Midwest Airlines, with no safeguards attached:
The County Executive thinks we have all forgotten his aggressive support of loan guarantees for Midwest Airlines in 2006. Milwaukee County is now on the hook for some $14 million if Midwest were to default on bonds guaranteed by Milwaukee County. Walker did not support amendments that would have tied those loan guarantees to keeping jobs in Milwaukee. The results for taxpayers have been less than beneficial as executives of Midwest have cashed out with their golden parachutes and over a thousand jobs have vanished.
I did not see in the article any mention of a promise by Republican to pay off this loan, but I did see a number of executives will be retiring more than comfortably.

While Milwaukee County continues to suffer under Walker's malfeasance and neglect, Walker is doing quite well fro himself. Cory Liebmann notes that Walker already has gotten not just one, but two different articles in local newspapers mentioning his run for governor. I'm sure Walker is just surprised and taken aback that the local median would do something like this (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).

In fact, Walker's illegal campaigning has gotten so egregious that Jason Stephany, Executive Director of DPW felt compelled to send a letter to the CEO and President of Air Tran Holdings to advise him of the the ethical problem Air Tran is in by sponsoring Walker's campaign in this fashion.

With promoters like Walker, Milwaukee County doesn't need any enemies.

But I do have a grand idea.

How about Walker steps down from his County Executive position so that he can focus on campaigning and getting ready to fight for his political life when Mark Neumann finally enters the race. And here, we can elect a County Executive that is willing to put Milwaukee County first.

Monarch Trail Again Being Threatened

After the valiant efforts of people like the Friends of the Monarch Trail, especially Barb Agnew, several County Supervisors, notably John Weishan, and the gentle readers of this humble blogsite, the Monarch Trail was given a fighting, if slim, chance to survive.

Now the Trail is being threatened by a new enemy, WISDOT. Gretchen Schuldt gives us the story:
So WisDOT wants to destroy part of the butterfly trail. What is the impact of that? Will the butterflies settle for only part of a berm and wind break? Will the added noise and pollution from the closer, bigger freeway scare them off or kill them? Will the cumulative impact of the potential freeway project and the proposed construction of the UWM engineering school harm the habitat?

WisDOT doesn't even consider those things. After all, as the agency notes, the butterflies "have no special regulatory protection."

They are just in the way.

It is time again to pick up our phones, our pens, and our keyboards and again take to the defense of the Monarch Trail.
From an email I received this morning from Barb, including an email from Gretchen:

The public hearing for the EIS is today and tomorrow at State Fair Park. Details are here: http://citizensalliedforsanehighways.blogspot.com/2009/06/zoo-interchange-public-hearings-this.html

Comments on the EIS are due by July 13.

They should be sent to

Jim Liptack, project manager

Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Southeast Region

141 Barstow St.

Waukesha, WI 53187

dotdtsdsezoo@dost.state.wi.us

The EIS is at http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/projects/sefreeways/docs/deis-home.pdf
Just be careful if you go to the State Fair Grounds. James Rowen is reporting that he is hearing rumors that WISDOT is being rather Stalinistic.

About Those Walker Supporters...

Heh:
About two weeks ago, I went up to Wisconsin on a vacation. There I conversed with old friends, swam, etc. However, there was one thing that stood out room other vacations: Meeting multiple political figures at a dinner.

Scott Walker is running for the governor of Wisconsin. His opponent, Jim Doyle, has done a wonderful joib of being Liberal. Mr. Walker has a huge success in Milwaukee, the largest city, as mayor. He brought major reforms and reduced debt by at least 40%.

Emphasis mine.

Yup, it's going to be an entertaining race.

Walker's Fantasy Land

As I told you Sunday night, County Board Supervisor Mayo introduce a resolution for the Board to seek a change in state law that would allow the Board to fire appointed department heads.

The local daily paper reports on it this morning, and gets this silly comment from Scott Walker, who's real busy campaigning up north:
Walker said giving the County Board power to fire top county administrators "is probably one of the scariest things taxpayers could hear." He said it was the board's revisions of his budgets that have caused problems.
Oh, really? Let's check on that, shall we?

Oops, looks like he lied again:

Darn right, said three county supervisors, Richard Nyklewicz Jr., Roger Quindel and John Weishan Jr. All pointed out that Walker vetoed the entire 2007 county budget, which was overridden by the County Board. That should deny him any bragging rights for the surplus, the supervisors said separately.

Furthermore, it was a board-led move to recraft the county's health insurance that provided such a windfall in savings that it offset other departmental deficits for '07, said Nyklewicz, the County Board's finance commitee chairman.

In fact, that was also the only year that the County didn't have the usual midyear fiscal crisis that Walker's budgets are known for.

Why is Walker still talking?

RIP, Ed McMahon


Ed McMahon has passed away at the age of 86 years:

Ed McMahon died at a hospital in Los Angeles this morning, his agent said today.

The 86-year-old TV personality and former "Tonight Show" host died this morning at Ronald Regan UCLA Medical Center, his agent said today.

McMahon, who is best known as Johnny Carson's sidekick on the late-night show, was hospitalized in February with pneumonia and other illnesses.

Heat Awareness Alert

They have issues a heat advisory for today to run from noon until 7 pm. If you have any family, friends and/or neighbors that are elderly, or take medications for a mental illness or cardiovascular disease, please make sure you keep an eye on them.

They do not recognize the heat as most people do and so are in extra jeopardy from it.

And for God's sake, don't leave any children or pets locked in the car in this weather! (You shouldn't be doing that at all, as a matter of fact.)

Monday, June 22, 2009

WalkerCard

Just when I thought I've thoroughly covered one of Walker's shenanigans enough, like his tax payer/corporate sponsored campaign bike ride enough, and all of its ethical problems, something else pops up.

Mike Tate, recently elected to be the head of the DPW, hasn't wasted any time coming out with his volley against Walker. Tate explains to us in a press release, just how little Walker appreciates or supports Wisconsin businesses:
A call to the Hampton Inn confirmed that all 25 rooms in Walker’s block have already been reserved, meaning that Walker’s entourage will fork over a total of $3,925 to the state of Minnesota. Walker is illegally uses a combination of taxpayer dollars and corporate contributions to fund the campaign tour.

In the event that Walker chooses to reconsider his hotel choice, the DPW has taken the liberty of mapping out a route to a nearby Wisconsin hotel. Rooms at the Best Western in Superior, located just five minutes from where Walker will stay, run for just $89 per-night. See the directions to the Best Western: http://www.mapquest.com/mq/5-kgHq

“At a time when Wisconsin businesses are in need of support, Scott Walker is splurging on out-of-state hotel rooms and showering Minnesota businesses with thousands of Wisconsin dollars,” said Tate.
They even come out with a pretty darn funny video as well, which they call "WalkerCard":



Zach at Blogging Blue reminds us that this isn't the first time Walker has outsourced business out of state, as when it turned out that his campaign's website was developed by a company in Ohio.

James Rowen tells us the whole thing is a misunderstanding. (BTW, James, you owe me a new monitor. The old one has soda all over it.)

Walker tells JSOnline that somehow by sleeping in Duluth will promote tourism more than if he slept five minutes away in Superior. Yeah, I know, I don't get it either.

But there are three things that Mr. Tate, Mr. Rowen and Mr. Wisniewski have all missed:
  1. Walker booked this tour six months ago. This means that either he was willing to spend tax payer dollars on the more expensive, out-of-state hotel, or he already had secured the funding from Air Tran, while their request for extra room at Mitchell Field was in front of the Board, which would cement the fact that Walker committed a violation of election ethics.
  2. Putting the fact that Walker chose the out-of-state hotel for a minute, one cannot ignore the fact that he chose the hotel that costs $157 per night over the hotel that was only five minutes away and would've cost $89, or $68 dollars less per room per night. Can we really afford someone that has that high taste with our tax dollars?
  3. Why did Walker ask Air Tran for the money anyway? If he was going to not do the right thing and use his own campaign money, but seek out illegal corporate donations, couldn't he at least have picked a company based in Milwaukee County? That is what he is supposed to be promoting anyway, right? I bet the folks at Midwest Airlines, which is based right here in Milwaukee, are just loving having the County Executive riding around campaigning with a big, old Air Tran flag on his bike. Walker disses Wisconsin and Milwaukee many times over with this stunt.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Putting The Brakes To Walker's Power Trip

Scott Walker has been on one heckuva power trip for the last several months, as he has been ramping up his campaign for governor. He has been repeatedly been overstepping his authority, abusing the power of his office, and just flat out lying to both the County Board and to the citizens of Milwaukee County.

He has tried to superimpose restrictions on any stimulus dollars that the County could be eligible for, even while he ignores those same restrictions himself. Fortunately, the County Board was able to take corrective actions and stopped him before he caused any further damage in that regard.

His abuses also include grossly and irresponsibly exaggerating any projected deficit that the County may or may not be facing and using that as an excuse to issue one edict after another, most, if not all, of which he doesn't have the authority to do.

The list of his infractions, great and small, goes on and on and on.

Fortunately for the citizens of Milwaukee County, there are some who still want to put Milwaukee County first, and are taking steps to try to put the brakes to Walker's power trip.

Just as a number of County Board Supervisors, including Marina Dimitrijevic, John Weishan and Chris Larson, as well as a large number of senior citizens were about to stage a press conference/rally to save Noyes and Pulaski pools from being closed, Walker backed down:

Conceding he'd overstepped his authority, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker on Thursday reversed course and ordered Noyes and Pulaski indoor swimming pools reopened.

The planned imposition of a $1 admission fee for county wading pools - another move Walker announced as a way to offset a $15 million budget deficit this year - was also quietly rescinded Thursday. Those pools will remain free.

And from the same article, as I had foretold, Weishan stated that he will be asking the Board to approve a lawsuit seeking clarifications of Walker's powers:

"I don't know anywhere in America where you can just institute a new fee without getting the legislative body involved," county Supervisor John Weishan Jr. said.

Weishan said he would ask the County Board to approve a lawsuit aimed at clarifying the limits of the county executive's power. Raising fees or imposing new ones should be beyond the scope of what the county's top official can do without County Board concurrence, Weishan said.

That is just the beginning, folks.

I have pointed out on numerous occasions that Walker's current "Executive's Ride" was nothing more than a tax payer-funded campaign trip. Finally realizing he might have a problem with this, Walker sent his people out to Air Tran with their hands extended, begging for money. Air Tran obliged them and agreed to sponsor Walker's campaign trip, even though it was only weeks since Walker approved of their gaining more gates space at Mitchell Field. Obviously, this is a big ethics no-no.

I'm not the only one to have noticed this either. From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The new twist on the bike trip sparked a complaint from Walker critics to the county Election Commission on Friday. They called for an investigation on whether a $2,800 payment from AirTran Airways for the trip amounts to an illegal campaign contribution.

As an announced Republican candidate for governor, Walker gets a major campaign boost through his weeklong trip, said County Supervisor John Weishan Jr.

"We all know he's a candidate for governor; we all know (the trip) is a campaign event," Weishan said. Walker should drop the trip or else pay for it from campaign funds, Weishan said.

[...]

The trip violates state campaign and ethics laws, says the complaint, filed by Weishan and Supervisors Christopher Larson and Marina Dimitrijevic. They called for a prompt investigation and urged the Election Commission to seek a criminal probe from District Attorney John Chisholm.Election Commission Chairwoman Judith Mount said she needed to review the complaint before deciding what steps to take.
But that isn't all for this particular story either. The article also mentions that Walker supposedly ran this corporate-sponsored campaign trip past Ethics Board Chairman David Carr, who stated that he did not see a problem with it. What the article did NOT report is that Mr. Carr was appointed by Walker. Can you say "conflict of interest?"

I have also heard various Supervisors express their outrage at having Walker's department heads either telling them bald-faced lies and/or completely disregarding resolutions passed by the Board. Examples of these would be reports on departmental budgets or when former head of the Department of Health and Human Services Cory Hoze failed to completely fill the funded positions in the call center, which led to the state takeover of the entire Income Maintenance program.

Well, the Board is about to try to remedy that problem as well. In an emergency hearing of the Finance and Audit Committee Monday morning, one of the items on the agenda is this:
Resolution by Supervisor Mayo authorizing and directing the Milwaukee County Intergovernmental Relations staff to pursue changes in Wisconsin State Law to permit the County Board of Supervisors to removed appointed department heads upon a three-fifths vote of the County Board of Supervisors and to establish biennial confirmations of appointed department heads.
If it is passed by the committee on Monday, it will probably be able to be added to the agenda for Thursday's meeting of the entire Board.

It is good to see the Board taking these steps to try to restore the system of checks and balances to the county government.

Now if only they could pass a resolution to remind Walker that he was elected to be the County Executive and that he was not anointed King of Milwaukee County.

Justice Thwarted By Bogus Technicality: Still Bogus

I have been following the case(s) of the thugs in Waupaca County that had chased down, tormented and killed five deer in a senseless episode of mayhem. Most recently, we learned that one of the thugs was able to have all of the felony charges dropped.

The website for the Waupaca County Post, WaupacaNOW, has more details of why the charges were dismissed (emphasis mine):

Robby Kuenzi’s defense attorney, Tom Johnson, argued in court Thursday, June 11, that the state law that defines crimes against animals cannot be interpreted to interfere with the right to hunt.

“Hunting is broadly defined according to the statute. It includes shooting, shooting at, pursuing, taking, capturing or killing or attempting to kill any wild animal,” Johnson said. “That also includes this activity.”

Johnson noted that the district attorney’s office had also filed misdemeanor charges of hunting deer out of season and hunting by illegal means.

“So the state considers what they were doing to be hunting,” Johnson said. “If they’re hunting violations, then the cruelty statutes cannot apply.”

Johnson said state law does protect the deer, but the violations would be misdemeanors, not felonies.

As my friend, lawyer/blogger Illy-T had predicted, the ADA is trying to get the case into Appellate Court and have the charges restored.

I sincerely hope he is successful.

Why Jailers Aren't Paid Enough

Next time you want to complain about how much public employees, like jailers and correction officers get paid, remember this:

Authorities say 47-year old Michael Stockman of Marshfield wrote a threat against a Wood County judge on his jail cell wall using feces.

He's also accused of attacking corrections officers who entered his cell.

Stockman is charged with throwing or expelling substances, threatening a judge, assaulting a corrections officer and other counts.

He had been jailed on a drug charge.

How many people would be willing to go to work everyday knowing that some psychopath, covered in feces, could want to fight you? And then you have to clean up the cell on top of that!

On a side note, while not a lawyer, I betcha the guy's defense attorney will be going with the not guilty due to mental defect plea.

Wisconsin Better Off Than Nevada?

Commenter Blogger Dan from Nevada often likes to tell us how much better things are in Nevada, since he doesn't have to pay as high as taxes as we do, since the gambling joints keep things afloat. Unfortunately for Dan and his other Nevadans, this is no longer necessarily true.

In a story about six of the worst off states (Wisconsin is not among them, belying all the belly aching from the right), Nevada makes the cut:

State deficit estimate for fiscal 2010: $1.2 billion
Percent of general fund budget: 32%
State and local tax burden: 6.6%; Rank: 49

Nevada's freewheeling, low-tax past is coming back to haunt it like a bad hangover. The state levies no personal income tax and imposes some of the lowest taxes on businesses in the nation, says Bert Waisanen, a fiscal analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Nevada used to be able to afford being so generous with its residents. Revenue from tourism and gambling supported the state just fine. But now, as consumers would rather put their coins in a bank account than a slot machine, that revenue source is drying up. In fact, the state boasts the dubious honor of having the largest deficit in the country as a percentage of its budget – 32%. It's hiked the sales tax by 0.35% to 6.85% and taxes on hotel rooms are up 3%. It's even gambling with its business-friendly climate by raising taxes on businesses.

There's always room here in Wisconsin, Dan. And we have seasons, too!

Leave The Lakefront Alone

I received the following email letter the other day. It is the author's view, in light of the recent giveaway of the county grounds to the private developers and UWM, and the possible sale of the lakefront property to the same people. It is reprinted here with the author's expressed permission:

To; Milwaukee county citizens, Mayor Tom Barrett, Co Exec.Scott Walker, Wauwatosa mayor Jill Didier and Supervisor Schmitt, Milwaukee County supervisors, UWM officials, Milwaukee Harbor commission, and other decision makers for Milwaukee County/Lakefront lands;

I have concerns about what Milwaukee county has done this May in voting to sell the County Grounds in Wauwatosa, and about the potential sale of the lakefront restaurant property.

The lakefront property is off limits in my book. I have enjoyed many afternoons on the patio of the restaurant there, with the fantastic view of the Calatrava and the Milwaukee skyline. I loved the the opennes and closeness to the water below you, the availability of a drink or a snack, and to sit on a nice patio by the fire pits. All this can be enjoyed without being on the water in a boat, which most citizens can't do. It is a prime space for the public’s enjoyment of the lake, whether it has a restaurant or a cafĂ© with patio, or a picnic site.

There have been alternative sites suggested for the planned UWM water institute, and they should be investigated further. It appears that the county has not done this homework yet.

Milwaukee County also hasn’t done much homework before their vote to sell the county grounds in Wauwatosa. Ironically, Milwaukee supervisors decided to sell off this piece of natural area at a time the city of Milwaukee declared May as "Project Evergreen month" to raise public awareness of preserving and expanding green spaces!

I have been aware of the Monarch Butterfly habitat on the Milwaukee county grounds as a sensitive and rare phenomenon, and recently walked through these fields. I am appalled at what our leaders are planning to do with it. Before agreeing to UWM’s plans, and to allow a mere 200 foot zone for the Monarchs, there should have been some type of Environmental Impact Assessment done to determine the cumulative effects of the development on these lands. I don’t believe this has been sufficiently researched.

It is understandable why the UWM leadership covets this land; the views are fantastic there. I wonder if any of the County decision makers ever visited and witnessed this site. From my observation, this is one of the most premiere views you can find in Milwaukee County! Why in the world are our officials giving this away?

The area is on high, rolling hills, and the view from there is breathtaking in almost all directions (except the sooty WE smokestacks to the SE). With the right planning and care, this site could be a beautiful natural area rivaling Whitnall Park/Wehr nature preserve. You have the rolling hills where you can stand on the highest point and have a great view of the city below you, and there’s a valley surrounded by hills where you see nothing but nature and sky with the sounds of the abundant chirping birds. It makes you think you’re in some countryside, rather than in the middle of Milwaukee County. It is a healing area to visit even with the lack of maintenance now (mowed down vegetation, rutted runoffs, unsightly detention pond, hard to find trails).

Combine this potential nature preserve with the sight of hundreds of Monarch butterflies, and you have one of the most unique lands in SE Wisconsin; so, why are you taking this away from us?

The historic Eschweiler buildings are also a gem and should be restored for a combination nature center, visitor center, nature store, historical site, with gardens, museum, and other environmental education and recreation use (similar to the Whitnall Park/Wehr nature centers). It should be enjoyed by all, and not surrounded by sprawling university buildings and private businesses.

I also suggest that the areas around the detention ponds to the NE should be improved to be more aesthetically pleasing, with trails and parking off Swan blvd. There should be improvements done along the natural runoffs amongst these hills between the ponds and the County Parks building, to retard erosion (boulders, vegetation, etc), and establish trails where area residents already enjoy walking. I have seen photos of how beautiful this area used to look before the County began mowing it down. It should be naturally restored to be used by us, the public.

Presently, the footprint of this planned UWM construction is oversized for said needs. Again, the best parts of this county land should be maintained as a natural site for birds, butterflies, wildflowers, trees, gardens, tall grass prairie, and people (see Wehr nature center for similar landscapes). Then, if there is land left over, that is what should be sold.

If not, I suggest that at the least language should be put into Wauwatosa’s zoning plans that will preserve the butterfly migration corridor and put the 56 acres that is supposed to be preserved as open space, into a Land Conservancy zoning, to preserve it in perpetuity.

In fact, I strongly suggest that the county and UWM get back to the drawing board and reconsider the most underused, wasted site in the county; the downtown seagull hangout called the Park East corridor, or consider the empty area near MSOE, bounded by Milwaukee, Knapp and Water streets.

If UWM would build its Engineering campus downtown, it will be able to collaborate with Milwaukee School of Engineering nearby (logical), and with MATC, and there would be no need to add restaurants since there are plenty of establishments within walking distance along popular Water Street and Old World Third Street. It also would be considerably closer and more accessible to the main UWM campus (also logical).

It appears to me that the leadership at UWM is more interested in high profile and status, by buying up the most premiere sites in Milwaukee and the lakefront, rather than using practicality and social responsibility; and the Milwaukee county officials, not counting the four supervisors who voted against, are more interested in the proceeds of the quick sale of the lands to compensate for budget shortfalls of past fiscal mistakes, and for an easy way out of the responsibility for the deteriorated Eschweiler buildings.

It is irresponsible to not even study the alternatives. My taxes have been paying Milwaukee officials’ salaries, and I insist they earn it now, instead of complaining about how long they’ve spent negotiating, or how much time it took to read the many letters about the issue. To me, as a taxpayer, this decision is shortsighted, hasty, and completely unacceptable.

We have this under-recognized gem within our county, and I am against selling off the best parts of it for development. Please remember that this is also OUR piece of paradise, not just the county’s or the business communities‘.

Money and land can be found elsewhere, budgets will improve, but once you lose ownership of these gems for the sake of a temporary fix, they are gone for good.

Many others have expressed similar views, but I hope more Milwaukeeans, and especially Wauwatosans become concerned and speak up to our officials, because right now we citizens are on the losing end of this.

Sincerely,

Margie
[Full name and contact information redacted at author's request]