Saturday, October 31, 2009

Guess Who's Living High On The Hog Because Of The Swine Flu

Yep, that's good old Rummy:

The Rumsfeld connection to Tamiflu and its parent company Gilead Sciences is an eyebrow raiser which has caused bloggers to raise suspicious alarm bells. But the push to use Tamiflu over Relenza begs the question, why is the Obama administration pushing that one drug over an alternative? It can't possibly have an interest in padding the pockets of George W. Bush loyalists.

The reasons for the Tamiflu push may have been established long before Obama was calling the shots. As part of George W. Bush's 381-page Pandemic Influenza Strategic Plan the US amassed a stockpile of anti-viral medications to combat a future H1N1 pandemic. Starting in 2006 the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) collected Tamiflu and Relenza at a ratio of 80% Tamiflu, 20% Relenza. Total bill to the US taxpayer, $731 million (in 2006 dollars).

Ten months gone, and we're still paying to clean up Bush's messes.

It also explains why the right wingers are mocking the H1N1 vaccine. If more people actually get sick, the better off it is for Rummy.

Demonstration Against Dog Fighting This Monday

On Monday, November 2, from 7:30 to 9:30 in the morning, the Friends of MADACC (Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission) will be hosting a demonstration to protest dogfighting in Milwaukee and to thank the officers that busted one of the idiots that has been charged with this.

From their Facebook page:
Courthouse Demo for Milwaukee Dogfighter

When: Monday, November 2, 2009, 7:30 A.M. – 9:30 A.M.

Where: Milwaukee County Courthouse - southside of the building(901 N 9th St, Milwaukee, WI)

Steve Blackmon was charged in September 2008 with two felonies for animal fighting/training. Dogfighting does happen in Milwaukee, and... we will do what it takes to end this horrific blood “sport.” Join us for a peaceful demonstration to show jurors and the public that the citizens of Milwaukee are concerned about the cruelty of dogfighting, and thank the police involved in this arrest. A group of us will also be attending the court proceedings. A few breed ambassador dogs from will be in attendance as well. To find out more about the Battle Against Dogfighting in Milwaukee program, visit:

Local Celebrity Sighting

Elliot Stearns, author of the blog From Where I Sit, and hero of the smash-hit novel The Abortionist, has been spotted preparing for an evening of Halloween mischief:

In related news, we have been given this note. There is no confirmation that this was a love letter written by a much younger Stearns. When asked, Stearns only tried to run our reporter over with his wheelchair:

Paratransit Services Might Not Get Cut For A Year

The details are at Milwaukee County First.

I Have Talented Readers

From the comment thread from this post, one of my talented readers showed off his or her creativity:

ode to skippy
skippy skippy
he's our man
layoffs and furloughs
that's the plan

skippy skippy
stay the course
talk radio loves you
youre a force

skippy skippy
on the campaign trails
keep doin your thing
while the county fails

skippy skippy
your budget stinks
just blame the workers
while the county sinks

leave the board
holding the bag
soon everyone will know
you're a jag

i wanna be gov.!
that's what he cries
i hope it don't take
more than three tries

i hope i win
in two thousand ten
before anyone realizes
what a failure i've been


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Walker's Political Stunt Costs 180 Jobs, Services

I am so angry that I could just spit.

As I reported last night, Scott Walker's announcement of his plan to lay off up to 200 workers was questionable at best. It turns out it was much more malevolent than even I had imagined.

I was partially in error when I asserted that it was an old problem that Walker should have been able to have foreseen and dealt with responsibly. It turns out that it was an old problem, but one that was not revealed until Tuesday:

John Chianelli, administrator of the county's Behavioral Health Division, said he realized early this year that the state had changed the way it paid for Medicaid claims for children and patients 65 and older. At first, he thought the changes would balance out and result in no net financial cut.

But by August, he found that the state was paying far less for older patients' stays at the Mental Health Complex than anticipated. That led to the $3.6 million deficit projected for his division.

Chianelli said he didn't have a good handle on the deficit problem in his division until reviewing reimbursement claims from the state last month.

This means one of two things.

One is that Chianelli, who Walker appointed to this position is as inept at Walker, and failed to do even the basics in handling the situation. This is a plausible scenario, based on Chianelli's inability to handle the under staffing situation at the mental health complex. It is also plausible since Walker has a habit of hiring inept directors, like Ron Malone, the former Superintendent of the House of Correction.

The other is that Chianelli knew about it and reported it to Walker, but was told to keep quiet about it, and to lie to the County Board. This is also feasible, and has happened before, such as when Walker had Chianelli lie to the County Board about the cost of moving the mental health clinic to the old St. Michael's Hospital, which turned out to be actually more expensive than to build a whole new facility.

Either way, Chianelli needs to be fired. If Walker does not fire him immediately, it shows that either Walker is so inept and/or corrupt that he does not recognize ineptitude or he just doesn't care.

SIDENOTE: To add to the fun, Nardelli denies having told anyone not to speak to he Board. All I can say to that is, "Oh, really?"

But instead of taking responsibility for his management staff, Walker tries to disperse the blame on everyone but him and his staff.

First, he tried to blame AFSCME for not just giving up and capitulating to his feeble-minded furlough scheme. He said that if AFSCME had just agreed to give up their legal rights, the lay offs could have been avoided.

There are several problems with that:
  • He and his staff had a chance to prove the need for the furloughs, but failed. In fact, it was found that there was a surplus at the time.
  • If he had followed the rules, and had worked with the County Board, instead of against them, he could have had his furloughs and the union would not have been able to stop him.
  • If he had sat down with the union at the beginning of 2009 and did good faith bargaining, he could have had a contract like the one that expired at the end of last year, and would have been able to save enough that he would have a surplus right now, even with Chianelli's incompetence.
But Walker wouldn't have wanted any of those things, since that would have only shown quiet competence and wouldn't feed his overinflated ego and wouldn't have allowed him to do the showboating that he so loves to do.

And speaking of showboating, let's talk about these lay offs.

Walker is reporting that there is now a $3 million deficit that he wants to resolve before the end of the year. Now, keep in mind that there is no law that states that the county can't end up with a deficit. It would just have to make up for it in the next budget. But for the sake of this discussion we will go with his goal of eliminating the deficit.

Walker claims that laying off 180 workers will do the trick. The workers that his Department of Administration Services have identified include 100 people from the parks and public works departments. Apparently he no longer cares about have "gold medal winning" parks and doesn't expect it to snow before January 1, 2010. His lay offs also include workers from Disability Services and the Department of Aging, which are revenue generating programs.

Even though the notices went out earlier today, the lay offs won't officially happen until mid-November. That means that the lay offs, if they go through the end of the year, will only be for six weeks. That's not a lot of time to make up for that much money.

Now add to this the cost of the unemployment services. Private businesses and government bodies do not do lay offs the same way. Private businesses pay into the unemployment compensation fund a little at a time, so that if there is a big pay out, it won't be as devastating. Governmental bodies have to pay it all in one fell swoop. Some of the estimates I was given today state that the amount would be between $1 million and $1.5 million, cutting any savings by a third to a half.

Keep in mind as well that many of the positions are in revenue generating jobs, such as mine. When Walker wanted to do the furloughs earlier this year, it was shown that the lost revenue would cut any potential savings by almost half. Since the number of lost hours aren't as much as the proposal this summer, the amount lost is obviously not as big, but it will still be considerable. This will cut into the savings that much more.

Add to this the fact that I know that in at least two divisions, they are so short-staffed that they are hiring workers through a temp agency. Some of these temps are retired county workers. These people are collecting their pensions (which may have included the big drop backs and the sick time pay outs), lifetime free health insurance and are now collecting a large paycheck, without contributing to the health care coverage that they are enjoying. In other words, they are double dipping while active workers are being shown the door. Hiring these workers to fill the vacant slots really cut into the savings.

Given all of these extra and hidden costs, it would be surprising if there is actually any savings at all from this political grandstanding.

The only ray of sunshine in this whole stinking mess is that the County Board will be holding a special meeting Friday morning to discuss Walker's sacrifice of jobs and services to selfishly promote his gubernatorial campaign. I sincerely hope that they are able to find the solutions to resolve this.

And while the county is struggling with this sudden fiscal crisis, and people are getting laid off, just where is Scott Walker? One would think a responsible leader would be at hand, pouring over ways to find savings and stop at least some of the lay offs.

But no one with any credibility has ever accused Walker of being responsible or a leader. Instead, he is emulating his hero, George W. Bush. He spent the morning at a fundraiser breakfast in the Dells and then had a reported $200 per plate fundraiser dinner in the evening.

In summary, if Walker is to have any credibility in all of this, he needs to get his butt back to Milwaukee, fire John Chianelli, apologize to the workers and the taxpayers of Milwaukee County and start working with the Board to build a realistic budget and a responsible way to meet the deficit he helped create.

Excuse me if I don't hold my breath for any of that to happen.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Another MJS FAIL And An Even Bigger Walker FAIL

Steve Schultze, who has been less than stellar in his reporting on the county budget process, again blows it today.

On JSOnline, he reports on Walker's sharpening on the axe:

Milwaukee County must lay off about 150 to 200 employees to avoid a 2009 year-end shortfall now projected at nearly $3 million, County Executive Scott Walker said Wednesday.

It will take some time to develop a plan to determine which employees will be laid off, Walker said.

The layoffs became necessary following a new tally that showed sales tax receipts lower than anticipated over the summer and a lower-than-expected state Medicaid reimbursement, Walker said.

Most county employees must take four furlough days before the end of the year, saving an estimated $1.6 million. Nonetheless, the county budget still has a $3 million hole, he said.

Walker said other, smaller steps were also being taken to tighten county spending further, including purchasing restrictions.

The county also faces a potential $80 million shortfall for 2010 that Walker has proposed filling through employee concessions and outsourcing.

There are more than a few problems with this short story, and hopefully, as I write this, he is working on fleshing it out and telling the truth of the matter.

First and foremost, Walker does know where the lay offs are going to be. His staffers admitted as much. One of them said that the lists were drawn up yesterday. Furthermore, on Facebook, Supervisor Peggy West stated that the pink slips go out tomorrow.

But even that aside, there are several questions a good reporter would and should have asked:
  • How is laying off 200 workers in the final six weeks of the year going to save $3 million dollars in six weeks? Especially when one considers the other costs that come with it, like unemployment and the possible lawsuit (remember the bad faith bargaining)
  • Why didn't Walker and his staff plan for this when they knew over a year ago that the economy was in a shambles (due to the same type of economic policy he espouses, nonetheless!)?
  • Where are the lay offs going to happen? Walker can do it one of two ways. He can either do it across the board, endangering many programs, or he can just do it in one area, like closing the parks. (I personally think that he will do the former, since it would make the damage less obvious. That said, if he does do this, I could see the state coming in and taking over other programs, like Adult services or the Department of Aging. There just aren't enough workers left that he can cut without severely crippling services.)
  • Why is he only targeting workers and not management, or any of his staff? Isn't that a bit hypocritical? Besides, if he lays off, say Tim Russell, that would be worth two or three workers. Isn't that a much better trade off, economically speaking?
But then again, why should we expect the truth about Walker from a paper whose head honcho is squarely in Walker's camp?

ADDENDUM: Schultze did indeed flesh out the story. However, more problems arise:
  • Walker now admits that the pink slips will go out by Friday. Schultze never asks why he lied about the timeline.
  • As I said, he said that he will spread them to try to hide the damage.
  • Still no question as to Walker's inept management
  • Walker tries to state that the lay offs could have been avoided if the unions accepted the reduced work hours. Schultze didn't ask about the illegality of what Walker wanted, or the loss of revenue related to the reduced hours and/or furloughs.
  • Does anyone really believe the lay offs will be "temporary"?
And how is Walker's myopia and megalomania going to help Milwaukee County which already has one of the fastest growing rates of unemployment?

County Board Keeps Tax Hike To Bare Minimum

The County Board's Audit and Finance Committee met well into the evening tonight, trying to figure out a way to fix Walker's broken budget. They must have done a good job, because I can guarantee no one will be happy.

From Supervisor Elizabeth Coggs, Chairwoman of the Audit and Finance Committee:
Late Wednesday, the Milwaukee County Board’s Finance & Audit Committee approved an amended 2010 County Budget which calls for a property tax levy increase of 0.43%, the lowest increase in six years. For a City of Milwaukee home assessed at $150,000 last year, the County portion of the 2010 property tax bill will be approximately $12.83 less than 2009. Without the vehicle registration fee, the property tax levy increase would have been approximately 3.85%.

Supervisors have heard loud and clear that Milwaukee County residents face a high property tax burden. In a November advisory referendum, County residents voted in favor of providing property tax relief through a small increase in the sales tax. Unfortunately, despite the wishes of voters, the Governor and State Legislature have failed to give Milwaukee County this authority. The most responsible alternative, approved by the Committee this evening, was a vehicle registration fee along with a tax levy increase that is among the lowest in our region.

“Anyone who has actually read the budget proposal knows that County Supervisors faced the daunting task of fixing a $32 million budget hole left behind by the County Executive,” said Supervisor Elizabeth M. Coggs, Chair of the Finance & Audit Committee.

With the amendments approved today, the Committee laid the groundwork for meaningful, long-range structural changes in a number of areas, including wages, pensions and health care. “Responsibly, we are turning to County employees in a more reasonable manner to meet the fiscal challenges imposed by the current recession,” Supervisor Coggs added. “At the same time, we are restoring funding for key services including parks, public safety and human needs services for individuals who need the help most. They have nowhere else to turn.”

“We cannot continue to rely on the property tax. Unfortunately, we have not gotten any leadership from the County Executive, yet we balanced his broken budget with the lowest property tax increase possible,” said Supervisor Peggy West, Chair of the Health & Human Needs Committee. “Some may call this vehicle registration fee a tax. Fair enough, but understand that the County Executive’s budget proposal contained new taxes on the poor, the mentally ill, the disabled, and seniors. They are people, too, and we have done our best to minimize the impact on safety net services.”
To be honest, I would need to see the details before I get excited one way or the other about this budget. Walker has painted the County into a corner, and then, as his norm, abdicated his responsibilities so he can go campaigning.

During the course of the budget process, I've had contact with many of the Supervisors. These conversations usually have taken a positive tone, even if I did not always agree with their positions or their votes.

I appreciate the difficult position that Walker's ineptitude and negligence has put them into. And I thank them for their efforts to try to minimize the pain to everyone as much as they could.

I applaud them on the rhetoric they use, pointing out that this mess is Walker's fault. Anyone that wasn't in a coma new that there was an economic crisis going on in the country, since it was the turning point in last year's election, yet Walker and his 20 staffers chose not to do anything proactively to address the issue.

But rhetoric aside, I can't help but wonder why the County Board continues to enable Walker's bad behavior and willful negligence, when they should be actually holding him responsible for it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Joe Sanfelippo: Clueless and Classless

County Supervisor Joe Sanfelippo really needs to start begin catching up to reality.

First he issues a press release echoing Scott Walker's bigotry by stating that he too puts money before equality:
“At a time when the County is wrestling to close an $80 million dollar budget shortfall, which is projected to grow to $153 million within five years, and if these shortfalls are not offset by permanent cost saving measures, I find it incredibly irresponsible to propose new spending that could increase our operating expenses by nearly $4 million per year.

“Without the large scale wage and benefit concessions proposed in the County Executive’s 2010 Budget, the Board is faced with massive tax increases, large scale programmatic cuts, employee layoffs, or a mix of all three to balance the budget. Less than two weeks ago, the County Board passed a resolution mandating that most County employees take four unpaid furlough days between now and the end of the year. At that same meeting, we also voted to reject a labor contract with one of our largest unions because we cannot afford to continue to pay wages and benefits at the same levels we have in the past. These actions, combined with this vote from the Personnel Committee, send confusing messages to our employees. We’re telling them that we cannot afford to pay their wages and benefits, yet we are willing to spend $4 million a year providing health care to people who do not work for the County.

“At a time when both County workers and taxpayers are experiencing financial hardships, we should be concentrating our efforts on ways to reduce operating costs rather than looking for new ways to spend money that we do not have. That’s why I will vote against this resolution when it comes before the full Board on November 5th.”
Just like Walker, he wants to correct the errors of Walker's mismanagement on the backs of the citizens and workers of Milwaukee County.

Sanfelippo then continues lying to his constituents when he announces that he is going to hold three listening sessions, because:
“I always enjoy the opportunity to hear from my neighbors in the 17th District. Citizen participation is even more important this year, as the County faces an extremely difficult budget process for 2010,” Supervisor Sanfelippo said. “All residents are invited to stop by these town hall meetings for an open and honest discussion about the issues facing Milwaukee County government.”
The biggest problem with this is that all three town hall meetings are after the Board has gone through the votes on the amendments to the budget and sends it off for Walker to veto. If he was really interested in hearing what his constituents wanted, he would hold the sessions before he votes.

But then again, if he put his constituents first, he wouldn't be a Walker supporter.

Is Steve Schultze A Walker Plant Or Just A Bad Reporter?

In this morning's paper, Steve Schultze of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel again proves that he is not a good reporter.

The topic of his article was the actions of the County Board's Finance and Audit Committee from yesterday. His title was "Panel strays from Walker parks plan." Just the title alone feeds into the garbage editorial the paper also put forth, but does not reflect reality. Of course, I would have written it as "Panel corrects Walker parks plan," but that would have been just as biased, in the other direction. A much more objective title would have been "Panel disagrees with Walker parks plan," or "Panel changes park plans."

But that is by far not the most egregious part.

Schultze, as his norm, goes on to make a number of inaccurate statements in his report.

In the original article, Schultze claimed that an amendment to remove the proposal for parking meters along the lakefront won (it has since been corrected in the online version). The error was so grievous that Supervisor Gerry Broderick felt compelled to issue a press release to correct the matter:
Monday afternoon, the County Board’s Finance & Audit Committee denied an amendment proposed by Supervisor Gerry Broderick to remove parking meters for Lincoln Memorial Drive from the 2010 County Budget.

This morning, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel inaccurately reported that the proposed parking meters were defeated. In fact, the Committee voted 4-3 to deny an amendment that would have removed the parking meters from the budget.

“The installation of parking meters would severely restrict public access to this beautiful natural resource,” said Supervisor Broderick, Chairman of the Parks, Energy & Environment Committee. “I encourage all County residents to contact their County Supervisor and the County Executive. Tell them to oppose the installation of parking meters on Lincoln Memorial Drive and Veterans Park.”
Then on Facebook, Supervisor Peggy West points out another inaccuracy by Schultze. Schultze correctly points out that the panel restored funding for the community centers, but claimed that it added $1.1 million to the budget. Supervisor West remarked:
Steve Schultze strikes again, the total for both King & Kosciuszko Community Centers is $804,000. IDK where this guys drifts off to during our meetings but I mean this stuff is in writing! So the only conclusion I can come to is that he was trying to lie on purpose? I don't know what the problem is....
Of course, this is not the first time or the second time that I have called Schultze's reporting into question.

And then the paper wonders why their circulation keeps dropping and they don't hold anyone's respect. It really is their own fault too. They had their chance.

For an accurate accounting of what happened on Monday, please read the Board's Budget Blast.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I Detect A Pattern

Last year, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel chose to part ways with many of their key reporters and staffers like Stuart Carlson. A few months later, the paper continued to hemorrhage money.

A couple of months ago, they let go of many more of their better staffers, but keep Patrick McIlheran. They also allow Steve Smith to have a greater influence on their editorials and news coverage.

The result is predictable. They lose another 20% of their circulation.

At this rate, they will be out of the print business in the next year or two.

Team Walker, With No Democratic Opponent, Is In A Blind Panic

Team Walker is running around in a blind panic today.

He spent the last couple of days tweeting that he had some big announcement that was going to be earth-shattering. Today, he revealed his big announcement: He is going to have an all-day beg-a-thon.

Gee, a politician that wants our money. Who ever heard such a thing?

Unfortunately for Walker, his "beg news" (pun intended) wasn't the top story of the day. The big story, was, of course, Barb Lawton announcing that she was dropping out of the governor's race.

Of course, it was this news that sent Team Walker into the blind panic. This not only blows the door wide open for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to step into the race, but will put all the attention on him, including his hero status. That focus will remain on Barrett, and not Walker, until such time Barrett announces whether or not he is going to run.

And if Barrett would choose to run, he will be immediately launched in the forefront of the race. The most recent polls show Barrett beating Walker or Neumann by a comfortable margin. Not only that, but Barrett has almost as much in his political war chest without one campaign stop as Walker raised in all these months of non-stop campaigning.

Some pundits are trying to use Barrett's delay in announcing a decision as a sign that he doesn't want the job. That may even be true, for all I know. But I also know that it is keeping the spotlight on Barrett, and not on any of the Republicans.

Some pundits are also trying to say that Barrett can't run because of his talk about the MPS takeover, or his budget calling for moving firefighters around, or furloughing cops. Those moves are guaranteed to tick off some people, but I doubt it would be enough for them to be willing to take a chance on Walker and his poor track record as county executive.

Team Walker is so scared that they are already trying to tie Barrett to Doyle, but that is also a guise easily seen through.

But there is one thing that I can agree with Walker on. In his campaign's press release announcing his beg-a-thon, his campaign chairman Keith Gilkes, said this:
“The people of our state are ready to take back our government and ready to believe in Wisconsin again,” said campaign manager Keith Gilkes. “Our 11.02.09 Rally to Victory fundraising effort will show the support for Scott Walker’s commonsense message of limited government, personal freedom, and economic growth.”
I think that the past eight years show pretty convincingly that Walker is all for less government, less personal freedom and less economic growth.

An Update On The Battle For The County Grounds

I have it up on Milwaukee County First.

In short, UWM Chancellor Carlos Santiago, despite not having the funding and not having the public support, is still planning on trying to ruin the County Grounds to help out some private land developers. Sounds like a certain county executive I've heard of.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pro-Walker Site Resorts To Flat Out Lies, Just Like Their Candidate

The site of pro-Walker groupies,, have started to resemble their favorite candidate. They both are telling shameless lies and/or have no clue to what the truth is.

Example A:

In one of their posts from today, they try to trot out the same tired and ineffective defense against Walker's continuous and ongoing flip-flopping regarding the stimulus package that every other Walkerophile has tried, and failed, to use effectively. They cite an editorial they claim was written in January 2009, but they don't provide a link to verify it.

No matter. What they claim is Walker's consistent approach to the stimulus is easily refuted. First of all, there is the editorial piece that Walker penned and had published in the Wall Street Journal in February. It is in direct contrast to what the Walkerophiles are claiming.

Secondly, if one looks at Walker's current budget proposal, he is touting the stimulus dollars that the County Board had to pursue, due to his obstructionism and ideological myopia, you will see that he touts many stimulus-funded expenditures that don't line up with what his "three conditions" were. That is, on the days he had conditions.

Example B:

The Walkerophiles have a second post up, trying to paint my union, AFSCME District Council 48, in a bad light. They do this by citing a news article that shows AFSCME DC 40, which represents, among others, the workers in Dane County.

But if one just bothers to look at the news piece, one will see some key facts that I am sure they hope the reader glosses over (emphasis mine):

The tentative agreement with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local covers five of the county's nine bargaining units and more than 60 percent of the represented workforce.
Under the deal, workers would accept a 3 percent pay cut, a no-layoff pledge, and eight days off.

Four unions remain in contract discussions, including the union that represents sheriff's deputies.

"We are bargaining with deputies as well. Things are going well and I hope to reach an agreement with them," said Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk. "Other counties facing the same fiscal problems we are are either ending up in lawsuits in court or aren't getting the job done, and thanks to our unions here and the good faith at the table we're saving taxpayers almost $5 million."
The emphasized sections shows what someone with leadership skills can do. Now compare and contrast that with what is going on between my union and Walker (emphasis theirs):
...On this same date, the County Executive introduced his budget to the full Board, calling for wide-spread privatization of our jobs, massive layoffs, and a series of take-aways. Included in these take-aways was a 3% reduction in wages, a termination of step increases, a major increase in the cost-sharing of health insurance premiums, a mandatory 5% contribution from employees to their pensions, and a modification in overtime pay to eliminate the provision for overtime after 8 hours a day and only include overtime after 40 hours a week. What made these proposals more outrageous was the fact that they have never been proposed to the UNION across the table. This is like negotiating the purchase of a house only to find out at the closing that the seller is demanding you pay for their moving company, their first month’s mortgage payment at the seller’s new residence, and that after the closing you can only occupy the first floor until the seller decides it is okay to use the basement and second floor of the home you now own.
There are some amazing differences.
  • Falk is not trying to balance her entire budget on the backs of a few thousand people like Walker is doing.
  • Falk is only asking for a 3% pay cut, not 15 or 16% like Walker is.
  • Falk was following good faith bargaining practices. Walker refused to sit at the table for over 18 months, and then tried to illegally negotiate the contract through his budget and the media.
  • Walker would never agree to a no lay off clause, since his budget calls for the lay off of 400 workers.
  • Falk understands that contract negotiations are a matter of give and take. She takes the pay cut, but gives a no lay off guarantee. Walker doesn't understand that simple fact of life.
The one things that the Walkerophiles did get right is one of the big differences is Falk isn't running for governor, much less trying to do it with only the support of the extreme right. Instead, she is putting her community first. That is something Walker has never done.

The GOP Plan?

I saw this at Blogging Blue, and it just cracked me up:

Of course, it might have been funnier if it wasn't true.

MJS Advocates For Totalitarianism

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has one of the most irresponsible and clueless editorials I have ever seen in this morning's paper. In said editorial, they are calling on the state to limit, if not outright eliminate, the peoples' voice:
Wisconsin voters have had the power to go over the heads of their local governments for more than a century now through the use of direct-legislation referendums. Several movements over the past year suggest that it's time state legislators take a look at the law to see if it can be tightened or perhaps even revoked.
They list off some examples on why they feel that the public shouldn't be allowed to have any say in matters.

Their first example is the paid sick leave ordinance that was passed by the public, but later overturned in court when special interests, including Journal Communications CEO Steve Smith, filed a lawsuit against it. They claim it was bad for business, but given recent news, with many schools closing temporarily due to the flu, causing parents to chose between missing work (and pay) or being neglectful of their children, I wonder which is worse.

They also cite the recent stories of the citizens in Jackson and Pewaukee rising up in outrage when their elected leaders tried to sacrifice public safety over money. Apparently, the Editorial Board doesn't recognize the fact that some people are willing to sacrifice a few dollars in order to have public safety.

What I found particularly outrageous was at the end of their editorial piece:

But public officials shouldn't have to work under such threats if they're just doing their jobs. Disagreement with an official over one issue is not - most of the time - sufficient reason to recall the official or hamstring government with direct-legislation ordinances.

Citizens still have plenty of recourse to make their will known: There are advisory referendums, binding referendums, complaining to local officials, talking to officials and, of course, regular elections. If they don't like what officials are doing, they can boot them out of office. In the meantime, they should let those officials do their jobs.

While those options are indeed valid, there are also times when the public doesn't have the luxury of waiting until the next election, or taking other actions that can and all too often are ignored by elected officials who have their own agenda (like getting elected governor). The public can do and should do what they feel is necessary to prevent irreparable harm from being done to their community.

It is not up to the Editorial Board, or to special interest groups (like the Bradley Foundation or their lackeys) to determine what happens in a community. It is up to the people that live, work and vote in those communities. For the Editorial Board to state otherwise only shows their arrogance and contempt for the public.

See also xoff's piece at Uppity Wisconsin for another take on this issue.

I Thought They Were Already In Costume

The teabaggers, who is supposedly, but not really, a grassroots group will be planning another teabagging event.

Last time they had an event to complain about taxes and spending, they held it on a Milwaukee County Park. This time they will hold it at another County facility, the Milwaukee County Sports Complex.

They really don't get it, do they?

The only thing that is scary are that some people are so naive they don't see the irony.

Quick, Someone Call A Priest, And A Psychiatrist

From one of my favorite sites, Emails From Crazy People:

To: Paranormal Researchers of Ohio
From: XXXxx @
Subject: possessed?
Date: Sat, 12 Sep 2009 20:45:12 -0400

“Please help! The activity has been going on since I first married my wife six years ago, but the occurrences have been increasing to the point of happening every night. Ever since I got married and started living with my wife, I have heard loud, strange noises coming from her when she sleeps. I used to think it was snoring because it would happen only when she had a cold or something. But now it’s like every night, and it’s getting LOUDER (I could best describe the sounds as a cross between a fog horn, a feline mating shriek and microphone feedback).

“I’ve had other people who have heard it tell me that it is indeed just her snoring, but I am convinced that she is possessed by some sort of spirit. Can you please send a team to my home in Willoughby, Ohio to investigate while she sleeps? Maybe do an EMF sweep or some thermal imaging of her? I’m at my wits end. I can’t get any sleep, and I have nightmares that she’s possessed by the voice of Froggy from the “Little Rascals.” It’s just really screwing with my mind.

Please help!


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Congratulations, Kids

My dear friends, Jason Haas and Stacie Rosenzweig, have tied the knot today.

It is my understanding that they were inspired by the video that was the rage a few months ago, in which the bridal party danced their way down the aisle. So much so, that they did something similar, with their own little twist to it (heavily influenced by Jason). I did manage to get some video of it for your pleasure:

Again, congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Rosenzweig

Just For Las Vegas Dan

Who thinks people with nationalized healthcare go bankrupt:

Tip of the Crown to Pundit Nation

Who's Sitting On Those Death Panels Again?

This is sickening:

Embattled health insurance companies are taking a page from Goldlilocks. Last week, a 4-month-old child was denied insurance for being too heavy (the company has since changed its mind). Now the Web is buzzing about a toddler who was denied coverage for being too small.

On Wednesday morning, "The Today Show" covered the story of 2-year-old Aislin Bates. Though she weighs just 22 pounds (in the third percentile range for kids her age), her doctor has described her as being perfectly healthy, never having been sick with anything more than a cold. Still, United HealthCare didn't buy it, saying that the child didn't meet height and weight standards. So, no insurance for Aislin.

How can people actually defend garbage like this?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Another Walker Flip-Flop, Forsaking Lincoln

Earlier this year, Scott Walker wrote a terribly done opinion piece, full of spelling and grammatical errors, in which he praised Abraham Lincoln.

In said opinion piece, Walker wrote this (spelling and grammatical errors his):
Specifically, Lincoln was talking about ending the evils of slavery, but more broadly, he was emphasizing the equality for each person in the eyes of God and government. The belief that every individual should be free to succeed, or as the Declaration of Independence reads, that all people are created equal, and that all have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This sentiment that all men are equal is evidenced in the Republican Party’s current platform of equal taxes on all, and opportunity for all regardless of race, gender, or age.
Very nice ideals that I think anyone would agree are worth striving for. Anyone but Walker, that is.

Walker betrays his own words and forsakes Lincoln's ideology today, when he came out with his "Executive Report," in which he complains about a new resolution introduced by Supervisor Chris Larson and passed by the Personnel Committee, which authorized a study into granting health care benefits to domestic partners of eligible county workers. From his report:
This morning, the County Board's Personnel Committee passed a motion (4 - 2) calling for the county to draft changes to include domestic partner benefits. The change would cost the county some $3.9 million per year.


We can't afford these changes that add millions in additional costs to the local taxpayers. If you share these concerns, please contact your County Board Supervisor at 278-4222.
If Walker was alive in the time of Abraham Lincoln, he'd probably argue against the Emancipation Proclamation, claiming that it would be too hard on the slave owners, and that the slaves' freedom wasn't worth the cost.

I don't know if there is anything left that Walker hasn't flip-flopped on. But he is half correct on one thing. Do call your County Board Supervisor, but tell them that you want Milwaukee County to stand up for equality for all.

And as a reminder to Scott Walker about who Abraham Lincoln really was:

Canadian Healthcare - The Real Story

I received this in an email from a trusted and valued friend*. The Canadian Machinists Union got sick and tired of the lies and misinformation that American talk radio hosts, Faux Noise, and teabaggers were saying about their health system, and made this video showing how ignorant some of the right's arguments really are. The video is 10 minutes long, but worth every second:

Especially telling is the Canadian doctor at the end, who states that she does not have to ask permission to give her patients treatment, or worry that it will bankrupt them, as we have to go through here.

*Surprisingly, said friend wasn't the Canadian one.

RIP Soupy Sales

From the AP:

Soupy Sales, the rubber-faced comedian whose anything-for-a-chuckle career was built on 20,000 pies to the face and 5,000 live TV appearances across a half-century of laughs, died Thursday. He was 83.

Sales died at Calvary Hospice in the Bronx, New York, said his former manager and longtime friend, Dave Usher. Sales had many health problems and entered the hospice last week, Usher said.

At the peak of his fame in the 1950s and '60s, Sales was one of the best-known faces in the nation, Usher said.

"If President Eisenhower would have walked down the street, no one would have recognized him as much as Soupy," said Usher.

At the same time, Sales retained an openness to fans that turned every restaurant meal into an endless autograph-signing session, Usher said.

"He was just good to people," said Usher, a former jazz music producer who managed Sales in the 1950s and now owns Detroit-based Marine Pollution Control.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Union Workers: Walker's New Jim Doyle

Ever since Scott Walker started gearing up for his perpetual gubernatorial campaign in 2002, he has been painting himself as the anti-Doyle. This wasn't very practical early in his campaign, but could have been effective given Doyle's dismal approval numbers during the past several months.

Unfortunately for Walker, Doyle threw a big monkey wrench into Walker's campaign strategy by choosing not to run for re-election. This news sent Team Walker into a tailspin, panicked that he would now have to run for the seat based on his track record as Milwaukee County Executive, which has been anything but spectacular. If anything, Walker's record actually makes Doyle's record look good.

His campaign started flailing around, first trying to continue against Doyle. When that failed to gain traction, he tried to smack around primary opponent Mark Neumann. He also started a series of attacks against City of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who hasn't even decided if he was going to run or not (although more and more people are thinking he won't).

All this has shown is that Walker is terrified of both of these men, either of whom could clean his clock if he was forced to run only on his record.

Now Walker thinks he has a winning game plan again by finding a substitute for Jim Doyle. That substitute is the unions, namely AFSCME.

Walker probably thinks he has nothing to lose, since AFSCME was never going to sponsor him. Also, as I have stated before, it is always easier to run against the unions rather than with them.

Walker started his campaign against AFSCME a long time ago, by continuously refusing to negotiate a new contract, sabotaging and/or delaying negotiations until this fall when he was slapped around by the union via an arbitration ruling. All of this was to set up the unions as pawns in his campaign.

Intense negotiations led to a Tentative Agreement between the County and the union, but it was too late. Too many County Supervisors fed into Walker's doom and gloom tactics, and the Tentative Agreement was first laid over, and then subsequently rejected by the County Board.

Meanwhile, Walker was able to present his 2010 proposed budget, which was not much more than a political campaign statement, and was aimed directly at the unions, asking for unrealistic concessions. (Does he really think that any union, whose main reason for being is to protect jobs and provide a decent and safe work environment, would be willing to give up 16% of their wages and hundreds of jobs?) This is only going to lead to arbitration and an even worse situation for the budget. It also led to Walker and certain Supervisors to be named in a lawsuit calling them out on their bad-faith bargaining and illegal bargaining tactics.

The biggest issue is that Walker refused to bring his proposals to the bargaining table, but instead to chose to try to negotiate through the media and campaign stops. This is a big no-no according to state and federal laws.

Another thing that has not been covered by the main stream media is the fact that Walker has given almost all of his mid-level and upper-level management friends healthy raises over the course of the last year. I would imagine that most people would be willing to give up $8,000 in wages if they first got a $10,000 or more raise.

When the County Board's Finance and Audit Committee finally saw the fiscal irresponsibility in all of Walker's attacks on the unions, they started to reject his political posturing and instead chose to stay with the most cost effective method of staying with the public sector.

This set Walker on the attack again, using irrelevant numbers to conflate Milwaukee County workers' pay. He also tried to argue that his plan would save money, when in fact, as Cory Liebmann points out, the opposite is true. The privatized services almost always cost more than advertised, which has only helped lead us into the dire financial straits Walker has led the County into.

Walker, believing that he has hit on the winning game plan, is even bold enough to openly challenge the entire state's unions by threatening them one year before the election.

The problem with Walker's plan is that there will be a settlement long before next year's election, the smoke from his blustering will have long since dissipated and he will be again shown to be a hoax that doesn't have a clue as to what he is doing.

To further show that it is Walker that is the problem, and not the unions, not only has Mayor Tom Barrett resolved the city's budget crises in a more responsible manner, but it has been reported that other municipalities, like Wauwatosa and Greenfield, have been able to solve their budget crises without the cuts that Walker is proposing.

The biggest differences between those community leaders and Walker are simple to see. One, they chose to work with the unions and bargain in good faith. Secondly, they are not trying to run for governor. Thirdly, they put their communities first, and not their political aspirations, in contrast to what Walker does.

Equality Is Coming To Milwaukee County

Soon Milwaukee County should be offering health care benefits to domestic partners of eligible employees.

It's good to see that some of our elected officials are still forward thinking.

Our Parks Are In Peril, Can They Be Saved?

The short answer is yes.

The long answer, including how, is at Milwaukee County First.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Daddy's Little Girl

'Nuff said

Drinking Liberally - The Matrimonial Edition

Received the obligatory reminder email from Drinking Liberally host, Jason Haas, of tomorrow evening's Drinking Liberally:

How many liberals does it take to Drink Liberally?

Come find out for yourself at the next Drinking Liberally! Our rag-tag band of lefties and social democratic libertarians will be meeting this coming Wednesday, October 21.

As always, we gather round the plentiful beer taps starting around 7:00 PM at Sugar Maple, 441 E. Lincoln Avenue in Milwaukee's Bay View neighborhood.

Though we are between election cycles at the moment, we still have plenty to talk about. Aside even from the health care debate, there are contenders stepping up in the suburban fifth congressional district, for the mayor of Cudahy, and this guy named Tony is running for Lieutenant Governor. My "other" group Milwaukee County First is having its first fundraiser out in Franklin this coming Thursday, and there's also the intrigue of the governor's race, which our dear friends at CRG seem to be trying to sink a poisoned arrow into. No rest for the wicked! Or the self-declared righteous.

Come join us! Drinking Liberally happens in Milwaukee on the third Wednesday of every month (save for August) at 7 PM. We're at Sugar Maple, a smoke-free bar at 441 E. Lincoln Avenue in Milwaukee.

See you there!

Jason & the Milwaukee DL crew

Now, I can't guarantee that I will make it there this month. In fact, it's looking rather doubtful. But don't let that stop you from going and wishing the young groom good luck in his new life.

Not What It Seems

County Executive Scott Walker is using an award that the County Parks System won to try to fend off criticism of the further, and probably the most devastating thus far, damage he wants to commit to the park system.

But remember, these awards don't always mean what they seem:

Charlie Sykes: True Hypocrisy

From Illy-T:
"Journalists [sic] have been flogging bogus quotes in their effort
to blacken the conservative talk show host." — Charlie Sykes
Pretty dang hypocritical when one considers that he played the same game against yours truly.

And I am still waiting for that retraction and apology.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Getting Nothing For Something

Jo Egelhoff, of, has a piece up complaining about Wisconsin's health care.

The problem is when she compares it to a bill in Florida regarding health care. Here's what she thinks is a swell idea (emphasis mine):
But the Florida reform, which both houses of the legislature approved unanimously, renounces Mr. Obama's favored remedy: It nudges the government out of the health-care marketplace. Insurance companies will be permitted to sell stripped-down, no-frills policies exempted from the more than 50 mandates that Florida otherwise imposes, including for acupuncture and chiropractics. The new plans will be designed to cost as little as $150 a month, or less.
Um, Ms. Egelhoff, the problem is we are already paying a lot for no coverage. More of the same is not going to help the problem.

But as Ms. Egelhoff quaintly puts it:
And from a Republican. Imagine.

I'd Never Had Thunk It

Walker's rhetoric doesn't live up to Walker's reality?

I'm shocked, I tell you. Simply shocked.

Doyle, Walker Throw Disabled and Elderly Under The Bus

All the outrageous details are at Milwaukee County First.

We can make sure this tragedy is prevented. Please help us help Milwaukee County and sign the petition.

This Is Just Wrong

Even though I am happy to see Brett Favre doing well with those purple people, I find this to be rather disturbing.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday Funny

Must Have Been The Hamm's Bear

From JSOnline:
Grocery shoppers in Hayward got an unexpected surprise when a 125-pound black bear wandered inside and headed straight for the beer cooler.

The bear made his stop Friday night at Marketplace Foods in Hayward, walking through the automatic doors and heading straight into the liquor department.

The bear calmly climbed up 12 feet onto a shelf in the beer cooler where it sat for about an hour while employees helped evacuate customers and summoned wildlife officials.

Officials from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources tranquilized the bear and took it out of the store. Store workers say the bear seemed content in the cooler and didn't consume any alcohol.

They also have a gallery of pictures of the critter, but yours truly actually got some footage of it:

Friday, October 16, 2009

Not A Good Sign

It should say something when your whole budget proposal is being mocked in a national cartoon:

Hey, Scott, are you paying attention, or are you too busy campaigning?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Walker's Campaign Chair Disses Walker

In the Wednesday PM update which came in the old inbox, they have a story about an interview with Michael Grebe, head honcho of the Bradley Foundation and campaign chairman for Scott Walker. In the story, Grebe trips up his candidate and his on-and-off again relationship with stimulus funding:
Mike Grebe, president and CEO of the Bradley Foundation, told Mike Gousha that it was right for the federal government to intervene during last year's economic meltdown, but its intervention in the nation's economy has now gone too far.

"In the capital markets a year ago, we would have had a disaster on our hands, economically," Grebe, a former Republican National Committeeman for Wisconsin, told Mike Gousha's weekly On The Issues series held at Marquette University Law School.
Remember that it was Walker himself that took the national stage saying how the stimulus money was all wrong for the country and that he did not want anything to do with it.

Also, in what seems to be a foreboding of things to come, Grebe, while talking about Mayor Barrett's proposal to take over MPS, had this to say:
"Just changing who's in charge isn't going to solve this problem," Grebe said. "There needs to be a reform agenda that comes with that change."
Given Walker's track record here in Milwaukee County, it seems like he is almost warning us of what would happen if Walker made it back to Madison.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

And The Oscar Goes To....

I mentioned six months ago that the Milwaukee County Parks was up for the Oscar in best video presentation, along with three other parks videos from around the country.

It was announced today that Milwaukee County did indeed win the Academy Award.

Then the hilarity started. Every Walker backer in the state took the opportunity to say, "See Walker doesn't suck so bad after all!" Apparently, they can not tell the difference between the actual park and a movie about parks.

Walker, maintaining his consistency in being inconsistent, declared that he joined the Parks workers to congratulate them:
I joined the Parks staff today to congratulate them on the wonderful news that the Milwaukee County Parks Department has won the 2009 National Gold Medal for Excellence. The National Gold Medal Award is the most prestigious and highly esteemed award a park and recreation agency can receive. Milwaukee County Parks Director Sue Black accepted the award at the National Recreation and Parks Congress & Exposition in Salt Lake City, Utah.

This is outstanding news and reflects the hard work of the dedicated staff in the parks department and the importance of the community and corporate partnerships we have. Our parks are a source of enjoyment for the entire community, and this Gold Medal recognition showcases our pride in our parks to the nation.

And my 2010 recommended budget provides $38.8 million in new projects and improvements to keep our parks in Gold Medal condition. See why we’re getting national attention - click on the following link to watch the 12-minute video about our parks:

Scott Walker
Milwaukee County Executive
Even Walker's number one mouthpiece, MJS, couldn't resist pointing out the extreme irony in their online piece on the award (emphasis mine):

Walker's 2010 budget proposal calls for elimination of 39 park worker jobs as a cost saving measure. He also has proposed spending $11.5 million to build a new aquatics center in the southeast part of the county.

The parks also have a maintenance backlog estimated at up to $300 million.

And if this unintentional humor wasn't enough, members of the County Board, who just voted today to effectively destroy the illusion of having parks, try to chirp in and take the credit for the work of the workers:

“We are all pleased and excited that Milwaukee County has received this national recognition. We are proud of our partnerships, and we would not have won this award without our Parks sponsors and volunteers,” said Supervisor Elizabeth Coggs. “Every year, the County Board fills budget holes left by the County Executive in reference to Parks funding, and we are ecstatic that we have been able to leverage enough power, both from the public and private sectors, to win this award.”

“Many of my colleagues and I take heat for raising the tax levy a small amount to keep our Parks going, at least in the short-term. The County Executive and others beat us up for that,” Chairman Holloway said. “It is important to recognize that the County Board has stepped up to take a leadership role in providing policy direction and funding for our parks system for many years now.”

“This Gold Medal award is outstanding,” Supervisor Gerry Broderick said. “My heartfelt congratulations go out to Director Black and all of the dedicated County workers who maintain our parks every day on a year-round basis.”
Do any of these people really think we don't know what's going on, and more importantly, what's going to happen?

RIP Captain Lou

Captain Lou Albano, wrestling star and pop culture figure, passed away today at the age of 76:

Captain Lou Albano, who became one of the most recognized professional wrestlers of the 1980s after appearing in Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" music video, died Wednesday. He was 76.

Albano, whose real name was Louis Vincent Albano, died in Westchester County in suburban New York, said Dawn Marie, founder of Wrestlers Rescue, an organization that helps raise money for the health care of retired wrestlers. He died of natural causes, Marie said.

World Wrestling Entertainment called him one of the company's "most popular and charismatic legends."

With his trademark Hawaiian shirts, wily goatee and rubber bands hung like piercings from his cheek, Albano was an outsize personality who, in a career spanning nearly five decades, was known as much for his showmanship as for his talent in the ring.

I also found this little ditty on teh Intertubes:

"Flip Flop Scott" At It Again

From the DPW:
Walker criticizes federal stimulus again after supporting it… after opposing it… after supporting it… after opposing it

MADISON – Scott Walker is all aboard the flip-flop train again, re-re-reversing his position on supporting the federalstimulus package. Walker today criticized the number of jobs created by Wisconsin’s share of the federal stimulus package, four months after admitting a Milwaukee County transit system crisis was averted thanks to stimulus dollars. (Source: Milwaukee
Journal Sentinel, “Doyle signs budget, vetoes proposed Milwaukee county sales tax increase,” June 29, 2009)

The flip-flop follows a string of never-ending policy reversals beginning early this year, when Walker claimed he wouldn’t seek stimulus dollars before promptly changing course and applying for $130 million worth. Walker shortly thereafter claimed he never asked for stimulus funds in a fundraising letter to supporters.

“Scott Walker may have set the all-time record for flip-flops on a single issue,” said Mike Tate, Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. “Anyone paying attention to Walker over the last 10 months is probably now suffering from a severe case of whiplash, and it looks like there’s no relief in sight.”

A full timeline of the myriad of Walker flip-flops on the federal stimulus package can be found at

“Given his track record of flips and flops, it’s amazing Walker is even able to pick out his clothes in the morning before he leaves his house,” Tate said. “At this point, his continued reversals on stimulus funds have left the state dizzy trying to figure out what he actually stands for.”

Looking Into The Crystal Ball

As my regular readers can attest to, I am heavily focused on Milwaukee County issues. This is for various reason, including, yes, personal reasons, since I am a Milwaukee County employee.

Given that, I have been following the 2010 budget process closely, and am growing ever more dismayed by the way I see things playing out.

First, some quick background:

County Executive Scott Walker, in his perpetual campaign to be the next governor, has made his budget proposal into a political statement. His single campaign platform of no tax increases (except for the ones that he accepts from the County Board every year) is evident throughout the budget. So is his shameless political pandering to his base and to his campaign contributors, like the land developers.

Walker has some grandiose and highly irresponsible plans in his budget, including things like a giant water park in the suburbs, while shutting down the public pools and community centers.
Besides cutting these valuable commodities and slashing transit services and diminishing the overall quality of the parks even further, Walker plans on paying for his extravagances on the backs of the workers and the poor.

Unfortunately for Walker, there is a little thing called the law that prevents him from arbitrarily dictating contract negotiations through the budget process or through the public. AFSCME has already filed lawsuits against Walker and some of the Board Supervisors for their bad faith bargaining, which will end up only costing the tax payers even more.

Trying to head off Walker's disastrous plan, the union and the county labor negotiators did a lot of eleventh hour bargaining to come up with a tentative agreement, which was quickly ratified by the unions and approved by both the Finance and Audit Committee and the Personnel Committee, even as a Walker veto was looming.

Unfortunately, not everyone on the County Board had the fortitude to stand up for their constituents, and the contract was tabled.

This brings up to today:

Later today, the County Board will have a special meeting as a whole. One of the subject to be discussed and voted on is the tentative agreement which they had tabled. I am predicting that they will vote the agreement down. The reason is another resolution that they will discuss and vote on, which is whether to furlough county workers, with an ever growing number of exclusions, for four days in November and December.

Seeing how the furlough passed the Finance and Audit Committee in a 7-0 vote, I do not see how this will not pass. Walker is practically drooling on himself to sign that into law the minute it hits his desk, although I would not be at all surprised to see him turn this into a photo op either.

By shooting down the contract, the Board will be painting themselves into a corner. The unions will immediately call for arbitration. Then, if they are smart, the unions will offer a proposal with a small raise, say 1.5%, retroactive back to the beginning of 2009. Walker, on the other hand, has painted himself into a corner as well, and cannot afford to back down and make a reasonable offer. The arbitrator will then rule for the union's proposal. It won't save any jobs, but at least those of us that will be victimized by Walker's political aspirations will get a small severance check from the back pay due to them.

This then will force the Walker and the Board to come up with the savings somewhere else. Walker has already broadcasted that he would lay off another 300+ workers on top of the 400 he wants to lay off in his budget proposal, mostly through privatization, even though that ends up costing more. If these cuts are done across the board, that would put massive cuts into vital and mandated services, opening the door for more state takeovers, such as they are currently doing with the economic support programs. If the cuts come more targeted to avoid vital services, that means that things like the parks or transit could be forever lost.

Another aspect of this is that it will cause a second exodus of county workers as they rush to retire before all the layoffs and furloughs can have any impact on their pensions. This will put further strain on budgets, as that given his past practice from 2004, it is clear that Walker doesn't like to think that far ahead, and won't have planned on this.

One of the other choices would involve cutting funding to long-time amenities like the zoo, the public museum and the such. I cannot imagine that this would be popular with area families.

Another choice would be to slash non-mandated services like transit and the parks.

None of these options would be good for the quality of life of Milwaukee County citizens or its visitors, and all of them would have various negative impacts on the economic health of the county and the region.

The only realistic way that these disasters would be avoided is if the state legislature and Governor Doyle take quick action to pass the sales tax bills for both transit and for the parks. But they don't seem to be too worried about Milwaukee at this time.

Odds are that the Board will be forced to go with a compromise solution in which they sacrifice a few hundred workers jobs , and privatize things like housekeeping, security and the such. However, I don't think they will privatize the Targeted Case Management and Community Support Programs as that has been shown to be less than cost effective.

I also do not see Walker getting his giant water park in the burbs, but that the County Board will go with the idea of fixing up the two indoor pools and keeping them all open, allowing more people the chance to take advantage of them.

I also don't think that Walker will get his economic development office. To be clearer, I think he will get something, but just not in the form he wants it to be, since that would be a clear recipe for further disaster. However, the need for someone effective, as opposed to one of his former campaign managers, is clearly necessary, since the County has experienced yearly short falls due to lack of land development and other revenue due to the failing business climate in Milwaukee County.

Given the fact that the rest of the state is still suffering the effects of Walker's type of economic policy, I can not imagine how Walker thinks people upstate would be keen on the idea of someone cutting the services they rely on, or someone unable to effectively do his job as county executive. But that is his problem, not mine.

Furthermore, knowing darn well that they are the ones that are going to be left holding the bag, I don't understand why the County Board is allowing themselves to be so easily duped and manipulated. It's as if they have as a hard time learning from the past as Walker does.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fun With Numbers

Daddio29 (fave of PaddyMac) has some stats about the average income of public workers in southeast Wisconsin. This post has already hit the echo chamber with Owen Robinson's and the Sheeples for Walker sites.

What makes it interesting is that Milwaukee County AFSCME workers average in at $16.50 per hour, based on the recent contract talks.

So does this mean that the other County's are able to pay their people more, or that Walker and his cronies didn't need those five-figured raises to offset his proposed cuts, or both?

How Sad Is That?

Talk about misplaced priorities.

Scott Walker's budget proposal is so sad, that they are being forced to hold a bake sale to try to keep the community centers and public pools open, but Walker is willing to spend $12 million dollars for a water park in the suburbs or give his cronies five figure raises to offset his proposed cuts.

This is the perfect example of someone putting his personal and political self-interests before the good of the community.

Correlation or Coincidence?

On Sunday, Scott Walker tweeted this:

This morning, WSAW-TV reported this:

Correlation or coincidence? You decide.

Quote of the Day

Comes from Brewtown Gumshoe:
Maybe government isn't bad after all. Maybe the way Republicans govern is the real problem.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Finally, The Truth Comes Out About Mercury Marine

It wasn't really those eeeeeeeeeeeevvvvvvvvviiiilllll union workers.

It was the greedy and inept CEO and Board, which raked in tens of millions of dollars.

The Great G.A.S.B.

Bruce from Badger Blogger is still trying to play "gotcha" with me. The most recent episode involves Bruce discovering that the County budgets for fringe benefits, like health care and pension obligations. This simplistic attack is also echoed by the usual suspects, and Wiggy as well.

On the surface it does look bad. I really should go hide and be quiet, I suppose. Except for the simple fact that there is more to it than they would have you believe.

First of all, the budgeting of pension and other similar post-retirement benefits into the current budget started during the Bush administration, when they changed some of the rules regarding the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB). Bush had this new clause put in to make it easier for people like Walker to justify trying to privatize everything.

Even though I am far from being retired, and wouldn't be eligible to collect anything for at least another 18 years, the federal government requires the County to budget it as if they are paying me now. Since I obviously cannot collect it, one would think that this money would, oh, I don't know, maybe be directed toward the pension fund. But it isn't. In fact, the pension fund hasn't been fully funded once during Walker's tenure.

This in turn, raises the amount due to the fund by greater and greater amounts each year. This self-inflicted shortage has only been made exponentially worse by the crummy economy. By the ever-increasing shortage to the pension fund, and the ever-increasing requirement for money to be put in each consecutive year because of these short payments, it makes it look like the employees are costing much more than they are.

But once one gets past the distraction and actually starts to look at the problem, a very disturbing realization manifests itself.

In 2008, Walker left 717 fully funded positions unfilled. In 2009, the number is 89. That means in the past two years, there has been over 800 positions which were fully funded by the County Board, but were never filled. On top of that, as I just mentioned above, not all of the money that has been budgeted for the pension fund as gone to the pension fund.

This easily adds up to tens of millions of dollars.

Has anyone ever bothered to ask Walker what he did with all that money?

Post Script I: The popular opinion on the right is that the unions should just roll over and give Walker all the concessions he is looking for. It sure would help the budgeting process.

While I can not speak for the unions or the bargaining committee, I would find it extremely feasible to get that agreement if Walker would do just one thing: Show the same consideration he showed to almost all of his upper management people by giving them raises that would counter the loss of wages and benefits first.

Post Script II: James Rowen had a really good point a few weeks ago. Since this was obviously contrived by Walker a long time ago, shouldn't he be claiming any concessions as campaign contributions?