Friday, December 31, 2010

Wisconsin, January 3, 2011

Welcome to your future, Wisconsin:

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Some Words Are Meaningless To Scott Walker

Many times when you talk to someone about government, especially an anti-government zealot, one of the phrases most likely to pop up is this one from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address: "...of the people, by the people, for the people..."

This famous phrase is apparently meaningless to Scott Walker.

Caffeinated Politics, based in Madison, is up in arms about some of the draconian measures being taken for Monday's inauguration.

For example, the disabled, the elderly and anyone else that might need to use the elevators at the state capital might as well not show up, since their access to their government is going to be severely restricted.

But Walker isn't being biased against these folks. No sirree. He's against any and all of the common riff-raff, disabled or otherwise, from having access to the government that their taxes pay for.

So why is Walker doing this? Simple, he's not as popular as his mouthpieces in talk radio, the newspapers and on conservative blogs would have you believe.

On his big day, there is already a movement afoot to give him the special salute he deserves. This group will consist of organized labor, high speed rail advocates, the unemployed and anyone else that actually gives a damn about the state and understands how he is preparing to take that all away and give it the the oligarchy that supported him over the years.

It just makes me wonder what he'll do when the real protests start.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Time To Buy Stock In Charmin*

First, it was the courthouse bathrooms being filthy and poorly stocked.


Fortunately, County Executive Lee Holloway is taking action to correct the airport situation. And it won't even cost tax payers a dime.

But given Scott Walker's apparent aversion to clean or stocked bathrooms, and given that he will become Goobernator on Monday, this is the time to buy stock in Charmin and the other toilet paper manufacturers.

Just think of how many rolls people will be buying if they work or have business in a state building. Heck, just the number of travelers that will need toilet paper for the rest areas will double your money in the first year.

*I get a ten percent commission from all proceeds for that hot stock tip.

The Red State Queen Attends A Mad Tea Party


DemTEAM


The Milwaukee County Democrats are holding their second DemTEAM (Democratic Training for Elections and Actions in Milwaukee) opportunity on January 15, 2011.

The purpose of DemTEAM, as the name implies, is to help build a larger, stronger Democratic community. To be successful winning elections and moving progressive issues forward, there is a need for a well-trained, well-connected network of activists, staff and candidates.

There’s a lot at stake, and in order to create progress in Milwaukee County we need to elect strong progressive leaders. We need to engage local activists and make sure that our elected officials are working for the betterment of our community.

To achieve these goals, we need a strong Democratic turnout for Milwaukee. The DemTEAM training helps to build a stronger, more strategic community of Democrats in Milwaukee County to run campaigns, plan events, recruit new members, stand for office, and advance progressive values and causes.

You can access the application by clicking here. As noted on the application, the cost is $30, but there are scholarship opportunities based on need. Breakfast and lunch are included with the training.

The deadline for applications is 5 p.m. on January 4th, so get yours in right away.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Walker Unable To Find Wisconsinites For His Cabinet

When Goobernator-elect Scott Walker was Milwaukee County Executive, he often had to go outside of the county and outside of the state to find people who would be willing to work for him. Even then, he had problems filling slots, as evidenced by the multiple Directors of Human Services and the many positions that he could only fill using interim directors.

Apparently his reputation as a poor leader precedes him, as he was having problems filling his cabinet positions in Madison.

Today, only days before he is sworn into office, he finally announces a few of the suckers appointees to various positions in his cabinet. Staying with his pattern of failure, they are less than impressive.

There is Cathy "I need a job" Strepp, who he wants for dismantling the DNR in favor of a deer czar.

And then there is Dennis G. Smith, whom he appointed to be head of Human Services. Smith doesn't even live in Wisconsin, so there is little hope that he will understand Wisconsin's particular needs. Of course, when he is probably going to cut hundreds of thousands of people off of Badger Care, it doesn't take any particular knowledge of the state, just a good hatchet man.

No wonder there's a groundswell of anger that could make 2012 really quite interesting.

Hang On To Your Hats, Kids

Things are about to get real interesting in Milwaukee County.

Conservative Grouse As Milwaukee Starts To Heal

Now that Scott Walker has formalized what he did eight years ago, which is abdicate his responsibilities as Milwaukee County Executive, Lee Holloway becomes the first African American county executive.

He started out with some bold moves in righting the ship, including getting rid of some of Walker's operatives who have aided in ruining the county. Included among those who were separated from their employment were Steven Kreklow, who created two illegal, deficit-laden budgets and Tim Russell, who lied on his resume and is the subject of a John Doe probe, and by all accounts is in pretty deep trouble.

In other words, Holloway got rid of people who wasted tax dollars or who might have broken the law. Even though Holloway was fully in his right to do these things, conservatives aren't happy about it. Owen Robinson called it an abuse of power. Fred Dooley labeled it "thug rule."

And here I thought conservatives were supposed to be against squandering tax payer money and for law and order.

Go figure.

Monday, December 27, 2010

I'm Sure It's Purely Coincidental

Last week, Dan Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that there are a couple of John Doe investigations going on into Scott Walker's campaign, namely at least two of his top county aides de camp doing politicking on county time with county equipment and illegal campaign donations.

Just as I had done, Zach Wisniewski at Blogging Blue questioned where the right wing outrage was, especially from CRG.

One of his commenters made the keen observation that the unofficial Walker-campaign site, ScottForGov.com, which had already closed up its comments and Twitter account, had gone completely poof.

Not that there's any relationship between these two events. Like I said, purely coincidence, I'm sure (cough, cough).

Oh, and if anyone needs any of their stuff now that it has gone bye-bye, I still have it all on my reader. You never know when that could come in handy.

Wow! Walker Is Just Like Chris Christie After All!

Goobernator-elect Scott Walker just loves it when people compare him to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. For some reason worthy of a psychology major's master's thesis, Walker thinks that being like Christie is a good thing.

Well, Walker and Christie may be more alike than either one was aware of.

During the past couple of days, the entire East Coast has gotten nailed with a horrific blizzard and many are still digging themselves out. During this harsh storm, New Jersey's fearless leader, Christie, was enjoying the relative warmth and sunshine of Disney World in Florida.

Now be honest. Doesn't that remind you a lot of when Walker went running away from his duties while Milwaukee County drowned in the big flood last summer?

It's Not Too Late To Donate To The Walker Defense Fund!

For the second time in a week, I've gotten an email from the Walker campaign begging for me to buy tickets to his inauguration events. He's also sent out press releases and tweets asking people to buy into this.

Apparently sales aren't going too well.

Maybe it's the high price. After all, $500 for a bag lunch does seem excessive, doesn't it?

Maybe people are turned off by his blatant greed, skimming 25% off the top of the proceeds for his campaign before donating the rest to the GOP.

But people should be more reasonable about that. After all, Walker needs that money for his legal defense fund.

Quotable

Brewtown Gumshoe:

Scott Walker loves to repeat his "I've held property taxes low" talking-point as some sort of validation and/or credibility for his (allegedly) superior vision and management skills. The County portion of property taxes were down 0.6 percent last year. The City's portion was down 2.5 percent, while the State was down 7.4 percent.

So, using Scott Walker's own logic, Governor Doyle and Mayor Barrett have an even better vision and even better management skills.

There Are Legacy Costs...

...and then there's Scott Walker's legacy costs.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Don't Hold Your Breath For Those 250,000 Jobs

Scott Walker's whole job plan is to cut taxes on the ultra-rich, so that they can create jobs. Don't hold your breath for that to work:
What's noteworthy about the narrative is the degree to which it defies simple common sense. It shouldn't be a matter of debate that only one thing creates jobs, and that's demand for companies' goods and services. The idea that a business that was booming would refuse to hire people and forego expansion because top tax rates might nudge upward is as silly as the idea that a business that has no customers would add new employees because its owners expect taxes to be low.

Gee, That's Sounds Familiar

Stop The Lies!




Earlier: Stop the Lies, The Original

Friday, December 24, 2010

Froehliche Weihnachten

Merry Christmas to all of my friends and readers. Enjoy the day!


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lawyers, Weasels And (Campaign) Money

Scott Walker can be just so darn impatient, can't he?

He couldn't wait until he was actually in office before he started screwing over the tax payers by interfering with union contract negotiations.

The elections weren't more than a few days old when he started making demands on state staff that he didn't have the authority to make.

Today, we learn he couldn't wait long enough to be sworn into office before he started to buck for being the most corrupt governor in state history.

Dan Bice has a report about something I heard about more than a week ago, which is namely that there are John Doe investigations into Darlene Wink and Tim Russell.

Wink is the woman who was simultaneously one of Walker's staffers as well as the Co-Vice Chair of the the Milwaukee County Republican Party. She apparently got her roles confused, or just didn't give a damn, and got caught by the paper making comments at JSOnli
ne and other nefarious activities during county time. She immediately resigned when caught and everyone thought it no big deal.

Well, almost everyone. Supervisor John Weishan did an open record request on Wink and other Walker staff members. (The request came up empty, which apparently is a lie, given the fact that she is in a fair amount of trouble. In fact, if I was Weishan, I would start pushing that, since it's pretty obvious that Walker and his staff have violated ORR rules.)

Russell is a long-time friend of Walker's, going back decades, who has worked on Walker's campaigns and has a Walker staffer. Based on a complaint by the Democrats, an investigation was launched into him and whether he was campaigning and politicking from his county office, on county time and using county equipment.

The word I've heard from multiple places is that Russell is in some really seriously deep trouble.

Judging from the fact that Walker's campaign has now hired Steve Biskupic, former U.S. Attorney, it would not be a great leap of logic to guess that the probe might be reaching higher up, even to Walker himself.

But that's not all, folks.

Bice also reports that the investigation is still going on into William E. Gardner, who did some illegal campaign donations himself. It appears that there might be more to the story there as well, given how surly Gardner's attorney was.

I am sure all of this will take some time to play out, but it does raise some interesting questions while we await for the final results:
  • Where are all the people that were making false allegations of voter fraud? Are they OK with corrupt campaigns?
  • How far does the corruption rise and spread?
  • If Walker was involved or even simply aware of this, how would this affect his ability to be governor, if at all?
  • In other words, who knew what and when did they know it?
  • Will there be a pursuit of Walker's office violating ORR rules with its misleading report to Supervisor Weishan's request?
  • Where the heck was the so-called government watchdog group, Citizens for Responsible Government, during all of this? Why are they silent now?
  • If something of substance comes out of this, how fast will the other Republicans turn on Walker?
It will be an interesting new year, that much we do know for sure.

Dear Santa

We at Milwaukee County First came up with a wish list for Santa for Milwaukee County.

Let's all be good boys and girls and hopefully he will bring what we asked for.

Even If It Were True, It Wouldn't Be A Bad Thing

We all know how the right wing, spurred on by their puppet masters at WMC, have been attacking public sector workers. One of the more recent charges that was supposedly one of the signs of the apacolypse or something was that there were more public sector workers than private sector.

What they don't tell you is that the bulk of those workers include teachers, firefighters and police officers.

But there are other things that they don't tell you either, but Milwaukee News Buzz does:

The study from the Council on Children and Families (using seasonally adjusted jobs data) found that between November 2009 and October 2010, manufacturing jobs outnumbered government ones in seven out of 12 months. This is the sort of data that alarmed the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce in late 2009 when government positions first exceeded those in manufacturing.

“This is a very disturbing development,” WMC vice-president of government relations James Buchen said in December 2009. “An economy that has more government jobs than manufacturing jobs cannot be sustained for the long-term … Wisconsin needs to turn this trend around quickly.”

The Council argues that this concern – echoed by Republican candidate Leah Vukmir this fall in her successful race to win the state senate seat representing Wauwatosa – is overblown since the vast majority of states have, for decades, had more government than manufacturing jobs. And in the first 10 months of this year, only two states, Wisconsin and Indiana, averaged about a 1 to 1 balance between these two employment sectors.

If this balance “is a useful gauge of a state’s economic vitality, then we should all celebrate the fact that Wisconsin is #1 and is far above most other states,” the Council’s paper remarks. The national average, it says, was slightly less than two government jobs for every manufacturing job.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Walker's Abdication Is Complete

While the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was trying to get a statement from Scott Walker regarding the fact that he just cost Milwaukee County tax payers a lot of money to pay for one of his political stunts, they received this for a reply:
"I am out of the office until 01/01/2011.

"With my election as Governor of Wisconsin effective January 3, 2011, I will not be returning to my office for the purposes of receiving emails. County activity should be directed to lee.holloway@milwcnty.com
The fact is Walker has hardly been to the courthouse since the election. To be perfectly honest, he's been abdicating his duties for the full eight years he's been county executive, most especially the last two years when he turned his campaign into high mode.

It's just a shame that we can't find a way to get him pay the County back for the money he stole from us.

Bad Move By Walker, Bad Reporting By Newspaper

There was a major ruling today in Wisconsin Appellate Court that will have a major impact on Milwaukee County workers and tax payers alike.

But to understand the ruling, there must first be some history.

In 2009, Scott Walker declared a fiscal emergency, stating that Milwaukee County faced a $15 million deficit. In order to address this, he ordered all county workers to start on a reduced work week schedule. This meant that all workers would only be putting in 35 hours per week instead of the standard 40 hours.

The arbitrator also found that Walker failed to prove that there was even a fiscal emergency, when an analysis by the county's auditor, Jerome Heer, found that there was only a minimal deficit, if even that. This was later reinforced when Walker claimed a $24 million turnaround resulting in a supposed $9 million surplus.

The unions grieved this, claiming that it was a violation of the contract between the union and the county. It went to arbitration and on the first day of the imposition of said reduction, it was found that it was indeed in violation of the contract, and that Walker had overstepped his authority in the unilateral imposition of the reduced hours. The arbitrator issued a cease and desist order and that all affected workers be made whole again. This meant that county workers were given a free hours worth of pay.

Walker chose to appeal the arbitrator's findings and took it to a friendly judge, Dennis Flynn. Judge Flynn ruled in Walker's favor and vacated the arbitrator's finding. The unions appealed this, which brings us to today.

The Honorable Appellate Court Judge Ralph Adam Fine ruled on the appeal and found that the circuit court did not have the authority to rule on this matter, since the contract between the union and the county specified that such complaints go to arbitration, and by law, the arbitration was binding. The only way the court could rule on that is if there was some indication of fraud or other illegal activity related to the arbitrator's findings.

What this means is that the county could be on the hook for millions of dollars in back pay which was illegally withheld. Since the County doesn't have that kind of money laying around, due to the need to fix Walker's other disasters, such as the O'Donnell Park issue or the problems at the mental health complex.

It is more likely that the unions will hold this over the county's head as they get back to negotiating a contract, something that Walker has delayed for the past two years.

Either way, the tax payers will take the hit for Walker's political gimmickry.

But one would not have known all of this by reading the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's coverage of the issue. As Tom Foley (aka Illusory Tenant) points out, the paper took some journalistic liberties in their reporting, stating that Judge Fine's ruling stated Walker overstepped his authority.

It does make one wonder what other stories the paper has been getting wrong and if it is even worth the paper it is printed on.

Finally, it will be interesting, and possibly even fun, to watch what Marty Biel and the state level of AFSCME will do with this finding as Walker prepares to unilaterally try to enforce his petty despotic ways on them.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sunday, December 19, 2010

And It's Only Going To Get Worse

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that poverty levels are on the rise in Wisconsin. There are now 10 counties with a poverty level above 15%, as compared to 2000, when there were only two.

But that is not surprising when you look at what's been going on lately. Companies like Mercury Marine, Harley Davidson and now Kohler are forcing their employees to take draconian cuts to their pay and/or benefits. They also make those jobs as unattractive as possible for new workers.

It's not so much that these companies are struggling in this economy. After all, both Mercury Marine and Harley Davidson have both reported great profits and have given their CEOs and Boards of Directors salaries and/or bonuses that would have kept an army working for years.

Also not surprising is that the highest levels of poverty are occurring among the minorities:
The new data also shows a higher prevalence of poverty among minorities in Wisconsin. The poverty rate was highest among blacks - with nearly 35% living in poverty, followed by American Indians (27%) and Hispanics (23%). Non-Hispanic whites reported the lowest rate among racial groups - 8.5%.
So what do we do? Well, the author of the report has a suggestion (emphasis mine):
"An increasing proportion of Wisconsin residents are facing economic hardship," said the report's author, Katherine Curtis, demographic specialist at UW Extension and an assistant professor at UW-Madison. "These numbers suggest that economic development, including living wages, health benefits, food security and housing affordability should be front and center in policy discussions."
Well, that should be a cinch for the incoming governor and state legislature...oh, wait...we are so screwed.

Big Brother and Your Child

As it is ending its tenure before the new guard takes over in the new year, the state legislature has been busy. Contrary to the rants of squawk radio and conflating conservative bloggers, they have not been doing the people's work, but instead appears to be paving way for our new overlords, the Republican Regime.

They failed the state's working class and the state's tax payers by passing the union contracts with concessions.

Now they are enabling the Big Brother mentality that the conservatives love so much.
In order to prevent further scams to occur in the child care system, they thought it to be a grand idea to start fingerprinting the children that attend state-paid day cares to ensure their attendance.

Obviously, taking steps to prevent the millions of dollars that were being fraudulently stolen by some unscrupulous people, but those steps should not include tracking kids like so much cattle or slaves. It's an infringement of the children's civil rights now and in the future as their personal data (nothing's more personal than your own body) could be used for any number of nefarious purposes.

Digby has her own sarcastic, but hard hitting, take on it. I'm just surprised, and glad, that they didn't think of contracting with TOMMY!! who would have us putting chips in all of the kids.

So, what's the answer?

Eugene Kane, who has a column pointing out how most of the children targeted by this tracking system would be black children, has a good solution:
Clearly, it's the adults in this story who should be placed under increased scrutiny, not the kids.

Perhaps a better plan for the $1 million would be to hire enough dedicated child care case workers to check up on each of the centers on a regular basis to make sure they are doing what they say they do.
Of course, the Republicans won't go for that idea. Their goal isn't to create jobs. Their goal is simply to save as much money as possible, no matter whose rights they have to violate.

H/T to a regular reader who is equally outraged by this violation of the children's civil rights.

Walker Really Saved Us A Bunch Of Money, Didn't He?

Yet another consequence from Scott Walker putting his ideology before reality:
The state and some Wisconsin counties are stuck with the $35 million tab to upgrade a freight line between Madison and Watertown now that federal high-speed train money is gone.

“The state had been waiting nearly a decade for federal money to come to Wisconsin to upgrade this freight line,” said Ken Lucht, manager of community development for Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Co., the state-contracted operator of the 33-mile track. “But because it is being redirected to other parts of the country, it’s pretty clear now the state is going to have to rebuild it themselves.
Even if you use Walker's bogus numbers in the cost to operate the rail, it would still take at least five years

Walker's Less Than Auspicious Start

Besides Scott Walker's fiasco involving high speed rail, he is having a less than auspicious in other areas as well.

Despite taking office in just two short weeks, made shorter because of the holidays and his much-anticipated resignation as county executive, he apparently still doesn't have a clue on how to create the 250,000 jobs he promised in his campaign:

I thought he had a plan already. That's what he told the voters during the campaign. But this shows that he does not.

I hope someone breaks it to him that with all the companies that have decided to either leave the state or just close up shop since he's been elected, including Talgo, he will be needing to create about 260,000 or even 270,000 jobs now.

But creating all of those jobs is starting to look like something that is well beyond his capacity, since he can't even fill the jobs in his own cabinet. While the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel makes it appear that this is just being careful with who he picks, Bill Christofferson notes that WisPolitics.com, a genuine news source, portrays a much different picture:
As Gov.-elect Scott Walker moves toward announcing his cabinet, names of possible picks for key posts are emerging -- and several of them have strong local government experience.

Multiple sources tell WisPolitics that Paul Jadin, the head of the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce and former mayor, is in the mix for DOA secretary.

It's believed Walker has considered at least two other people for the post, but like with other potential appointments, has had some difficulty persuading candidates from the private sector to give up their jobs for a significant pay cut to join state government.
That would be probably closer to the truth. As Milwaukee County Executive, Walker was notorious for not being able to get anyone willing to work for him, and when he finally did, it was rare that they would stick around for more than a couple, thee years before vacating the position for somewhere, anywhere else.

And for what it's worth, in what may or may not be a related matter, I found this tweet by good Twitter buddy @ashleestarin to be rather interesting:

Whatever the case is with Jill Bader, I'm sure Aaron Rodriguez will be on top of the story. It's nice to see that he is able to create a handful of jobs for his cronies. For the rest of us, well I guess we're just SOL, if we thought he was going to actually do something positive for the state.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Effects Of Train Wreck Walker's Decision Already Coming

So while Scott "Train Wreck" Walker and his supporters are still trying to justify his foolishness in killing high speed rail, we will soon be seeing the effects of his limiting the commuters' options already:
Travel times on the busy section of freeway will more than double during a repaving project scheduled to last about three months, from early April to the end of June.

Motorists commuting between the Marquette Interchange and Wisconsin Highway 16 can expect to add an hour per day to their drive time.
With gas already hovering around $3 per gallon and sure to go higher, this is going to hurt us more ways than one.

It's still two weeks before Walker is even sworn into office, and he is already well on his way to being labelled the worst governor in state history. What an idiot.

The Right Wing Mentality

Owen Robinson has a post about the ongoing battle between the conservative politicians and the public sector unions. Robinson's feeling of hatred towards the working class can be seen in just a few lines:
Well, duh. The cost of government has been on an unsustainable track and a good chunk of that cost is because of public employee unions. Once can’t seriously address the cost of government without addressing the public employee unions.
What Robinson fails to mention is that the cost regarding public employees stem mostly from the cost of health care. Control the cost of health care coverage and you control not only what the individual is paying, but can also lower ones taxes.

In other words, controlling health care is a win-win.

So why does Robinson continue to insist on hurting the working class and continuing to amass all the wealth among the select few?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Walker Vs. Labor: The Stage Is Set

The big news of the day is how the state Democrats failed to get the union contracts approved. Their failure comes despite some extraordinary and rather questionable tactics, such as having disgraced State Representative Jeff Wood exercise his Huber privileges while serving time for his fourth drunk driving offense, just to drive to Madison and vote for the contracts.

The Wood stunt did manage to get the contracts through the State Assembly, only to have them fail in the State Senate, when soon to be ex-Senators Jeff Plale and Russel Decker turned the tables on the Democrats and the unions by voting against them.

It is not surprising that Plale would do so, since he is not a true Democrat. That is why he lost the primary against the energetic and progressive Chris Larson.

Decker's act of backstabbing came as a little more of a surprise and a greater disappointment to many. There is speculation that Decker turned his back on his fellow Democrats and union brothers and sisters because he was promised a position in Scott Walker's administration. Others say it is simply because he is a small and petty man. Both are entirely plausible rationales.

But no matter his reasoning, the results are the same.

Democrats spat out their rage at their former majority leader and even stopped the votes after the first one just to caucus and go through the symbolic gesture of stripping him of his leadership position. Union members were less genteel with him. Union leader Marty Beil called Decker a whore. That is one of the nicer comments I've heard from state workers.

On the other side, conservatives from across the state praised Decker and his voting against the contract. What they don't understand yet is that Decker stabbed them and Scott Walker in the back as well.

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's coverage of the events in Madison (emphasis mine):
Jauch and other Democrats said Decker, a longtime member of a bricklayers union, would not tell his Democratic colleagues how he was going to vote before senators took the floor. Increasing the surprise, Decker had voted for the contracts earlier Wednesday in a committee that handles state labor agreements.
Does that sound familiar? It should. It's the same thing that Milwaukee County Supervisor Johnny Thomas did in November 2009, when he voted in committee for the contract with the county's biggest union, only to reverse himself when it came time for the general vote of the entire Board.

Thomas' vote-flipping as well as Walker's trying to negotiate the contract via the public and via his budget all led to the union filing complaints against bad faith bargaining, which was recently upheld.

Union leader Marty Beil is no dummy. Even has he was calling Decker every name in the book, he was probably putting a call into the unions labor lawyers telling them to prepare to file their own complaints.

Due to Walker's publicly trying to interfere with contract negotiations, even before he is sworn in as governor, his trying to use the budget has as a means as a negotiating too, and Decker's flip-flop on the contract votes all lead up to a am easy case for the unions to file a bad faith bargaining complaint of their own.

If the precedent set in Milwaukee County continues to be a guide, state workers will continue to work under the old contract for as long as it takes to have their various complaints heard and ruled upon, which could take years. And all this time, because of Walker's hubris and false bravado, tax payers will continue to have shell out at higher levels and the state's most vulnerable will be put in harm's way.

And here the Tea Partiers , Republicans and others thought they were voting for the fiscally conservative ones. I sure hope they can take a joke, because that is what they elected into office.

Walker Vs. Labor: Setting The Stage

As I just wrote in the previous post, to understand the big news of the day, how the state Democrats failed to pass the union contracts despite pulling some really weird stunts themselves, one has to understand how we got to this point.

In the previous post, I explained Scott Walker's history vis-a-vis with the unions. In a nutshell, whatever Walker says about demanding concessions from the unions, does not come anywhere close to how he actually interacts with them.

Just as he did with Milwaukee County's unions, most notably mine, AFSCME, Walker has been attacking the state's unions. He has been calling, pleading, whining, threatening, cajoling and coercing anyone and everyone asking the unions and the state to stop their good faith bargaining. He wanted them to stop the negotiation so that he could do the same thing he has done the last two years in Milwaukee County.

He has said that he wants state workers to pay more for their health insurance, pay more towards their pension and take a pay freeze, among other things. He has even gone as far as saying he would decertify the unions, which made talk radio hosts and conservative bloggers around the state giggle with gleeful anticipation.

But the joke is on them, because Walker simply cannot do that.

But the fact that Walker is throwing out nothing more than empty rhetoric does not slow his allies in the state legislature or in the media from playing along with his falsehoods.

An example of this would be the way that Republican legislators, squawk radio hosts and conservative radio hosts were bawling for days that they didn't know what was in the contracts. They kept this up even though the state legislators did indeed know what was in there and despite the fact that it is illegal to make the terms of a contract known until it has been ratified, in order to prevent bad faith bargaining.

Another example, illustrated by Patrick McIlheran of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, is the spin regarding the terms of the contract once it became public knowledge:
Union leaders have snarled as well that the new contracts are plenty harsh, since they don't include raises. True, though that, too, is normal for the rest of us. The deals, however, include lots of changes, seemingly small, in which the state concedes all sorts of prerogatives.

One is the way pensions get calculated. Another is the power to decide how to take compensation for overtime - cash or time off? - and when. This now would be up to employees. Another is more paid time off for union business. The list goes on.

"It's huge," said Darling. "It's the biggest concession of management rights I've heard of."

And that matters why? Because such concessions are gold to union leaders, as old labor negotiators told me. Controlling when and how employees take comp time, for instance, is critical to keeping overtime in line, especially in places such as prisons that are staffed 24/7. The state will want to win back that right in the next contract, due in six months, but it will have to pay for it.
If McIlheran or State Senator Alberta Darling truly and honestly believe these are the worst things in the world, then they, like Owen Robinson in my previous post, simply have not been paying much attention to what Walker has actually been doing.

If they had been paying attention, the would know that Milwaukee County employees enjoy the option of taking overtime in either deferred time off or in pay, both at time and a half. They would have also known that Milwaukee County union officials and workers can get paid for taking time off to attend to union business.

In other words, the very same benefits that McIlheran, Darling and every other Republican in the state has been whining about are pretty equivalent to those that Milwaukee County workers enjoy now as a result of the contract that Scott Walker himself had signed off on.

For the Republicans to say that these benefits are so outrageous, it would require some of the greatest ignorance, greatest hypocrisy and/or utter dishonesty.

But no matter what you attribute the Republicans foolishness to, none of it bodes well for the state or it's citizens.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Walker Vs. Labor: A Brief History

To understand the big news of the day, that being how the state Democrats failed to get the union contracts approved, one has to take a little look back at history to see what the real significance of this failure means.

Republicans around the state have been having a tingle going up and down their collective leg ever since the election, believing that Scott Walker, their Chosen One Because It Was His Turn, was going to show those evil union workers what's what and at the same time create a billion jobs, resolved the budget deficit, cure cancer and save a litter of kittens from a burning building.

What they were really doing was just buying into Walker's empty rhetoric.

A prime example would be this post from Owen Robinson (emphasis mine):
First, is Barca saying that if Walker brought this up after he was sworn in then he’d be OK with it? Of course not. Second, there was a lot of talk about the cost of state government during the campaign. What did Barca think that was about? Also, Walker’s interactions with the Milwaukee County unions were unambiguous (I think capper would agree). Did any thinking voter not understand Walker’s position regarding public employee unions?
Well, actually, most people that did vote for Walker probably didn't really know and/or care about Walker's history against the union.

In 2005, when Walker was in his first run for governor, he showed a lot of bravado against the unions, making all sorts of demands for various concessions. To further his campaign, Walker would almost daily give up some sound bite to make it sound like he wasn't going to let the unions get away with anything.

However, when Republican Party bosses forced Walker to bow out of the race, he couldn't get the contract signed fast enough, since he knew darn well that each day he continued to delay the contract was another day that money which could have been used otherwise, was being lost due to the unrealized savings from not having a new contract with the unions.

Walker was so desperate for the contracts to be done, that he accepted the help of Governor Jim Doyle and David Riemer, to get the contracts done. When it was said and done, the contract was nearly identical to the one originally proposed by the union. The biggest differences were that the raises came a little later in the year than the union had wanted and that Walker gave each union member a $250 signing bonus.

In late 2008, the contracts expired and the unions and the County sat down to try to work out a new one. Like four years earlier, Walker started his grandstanding and tough talk. He illegally built the County's budget around tens of millions of dollars in concessions from the unions.

But despite all his talking the talk, Walker couldn't or wouldn't walk the walk. Even though he built his budget around these concessions and offered up a sound bite almost every single day on how the unions needed to carry their fair share and then some, but never - not once - did he put these demands on the bargaining table.

He didn't do this because he knew that his demands wouldn't stand a snowball's chance of ever becoming reality. The unions had already reached a Tentative Agreement with the County, one that did call for concessions, including a pay freeze and higher health care payments. But when it came to vote on the contracts, things went haywire. Supervisor Johnny Thomas, who had voted for the contracts in committee, flipped when it came to the general vote and helped to reject the contracts.

Because of Walker's empty rhetoric, bad faith bargaining, and the bungling of at least one of the more liberal Supervisors, the unions are still working are without a new contract. For the past two years, the unions have been working under the old one, causing the County to miss out on millions of dollars in savings each year.

So in answer to Owen's comments, the fact is history shows that what Walker says regarding the unions and what he does are two entirely different things, and they should not be confused with each other. Another fact is that despite Walker's bravado and tough talk, this is yet another clear example of how Walker doesn't care whether he saves tax payers money, keeps the public safety intact or much of anything else unless it can directly help his political posturing and aspirations for higher office.

If Owen or anyone thinks otherwise, they are only deluding themselves.

Now That's A Rant!

Last night, I wrote a piece at Milwaukee County First about how the Milwaukee County Board was afraid of being double-crossed by Scott Walker. They have nothing to worry about. Everyone knows that Walker is a two-faced hypocrite and that he'll dump on Milwaukee County as soon as he gets in office.

A regular reader of MCF, using the moniker of "had enough,"" left quite the rant for a comment, which I felt worthy of repeating here:
Who did not see this coming?

Scott Walker will do everything he can to make himself look good at the expense of anyone else. He will shift blame and responsibility onto anyone he can.

Lets remember, he proposed the creation of a Parks District with its own taxing authority to replace the Milw. County Parks system. This would have allowed Walker to have lowered property taxes by a penny or two while the new Parks District would have to raise taxes to do what actually needed to be done to have the quality parks deparement that this community actually deserves.<>

Not for us in Wisconsin though! No, not us. We want to go back to the future. We want to be the worlds largest producer of buggy whips!

Go Scott, go!!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Talk About Your Media Bias

Yesterday, my good friend Jay Bullock pointed out how the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is getting pretty dang atrocious with their reporting skills or lack thereof. Jay showed that their article about the judge's ruling on health care was sensationalism and just plain wrong.

I noticed another glaring example of bad journalism in one of their stories that I had linked to in my previous post. The story is about Jeff Stone's unsurprising announcement that his running for county executive. The problematic part is here (emphasis mine):
He joins a crowded field of prospective candidates, but Stone's expected announcement would make him the first current officeholder to officially take the plunge.

Others mulling the race include former Democratic state Rep. Sheldon Wasserman, County Board Chairman Lee Holloway, County Supervisors Marina Dimitrijevic and Johnny Thomas, County Clerk Joe Czarnezki, County Treasurer Dan Diliberti and former County Executive Tom Ament.
Last time I checked, Holloway, Dimitrijevic, Thomas, Czarnezki and Diliberti were all currently in office. Gee, do you think that this "oversight" might have to do with any sort of vested interest in the outcome of the spring elections?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

So, What Is He Waiting For?

Even though Scott Walker hasn't formally announced the date he is going to resign from the position of Milwaukee County Executive, you can count on it being a done deal. In fact, one would be safe to surmise that Walker might announce his resignation date as soon as today.

You can tell that he is going to resign by the way other people are acting.

Milwaukee County Chairman Lee Holloway has already scheduled his swearing in (and swearing at) ceremony for December 28th. Last week, he told all of Walker's top appointees to resign or retire. If they want to keep their jobs, they will have to reapply for them. You can say a lot of things about Holloway, but he is a savvy politician that is not likely to easily open himself to look totally ridiculous.

Even more telling is that the fact that State Representative Jeff Stone, Walker's hand-picked successor, is going to announce his candidacy Wednesday morning. It is easy enough to believe Walker is going to announce his resignation date and give an endorsement to Stone.

So why is Walker waiting to announce what everyone seems to know already.

The answer is rather simple. He is once again putting politics ahead of what is best for Milwaukee County.

By stalling his announcement, the county clerk cannot call the special election, which will be held in tandem with the spring primary and general election. By preventing the calling of the election, that drastically narrows the time frame that potential candidates have to get the necessary 2,000 signatures to make it on the primary ballot.

But because Walker is trying his stalling technique, don't think for a second that the Republicans don't have their ducks in an order and that Stone's campaign isn't ready to kick off Wednesday with a small army of volunteers. (Hmm, I wonder if this is why the misnamed group, Citizens for Responsible Government, has been so quiet lately).) In fact, Michael Horne left a comment on the papers website saying as much.

But for all their skulduggery and political gaming, I don't know if it will do Stone a lick of good. As shown in the November election, Walker is none too popular in Milwaukee County, losing it by a nearly two-to-one margin to Tom Barrett. I can't imagine that his heir apparent will fare much better.

Further hindering Stone's chances is the simple fact that he is not very well known on a county-wide basis, and for those of that do know him, there is not much to like. This is especially true considering that Stone tried to do a backdoor attempt at usurping the airport and splitting it off for special interest groups.

Lastly, if they think that the more progressive candidates haven't been planning out their strategies since November 2, they are in for a really rude surprise when they let their cat out of the cellophane bag.

Both MJS Editorial Board, Scott Walker On Wrong Track

The other day, the Editorial Board of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said that Scott Walker was on "the right track" regarding his desire to privatize the state's economic development division. Leaving the whole fallacy regarding privatization alone for the nonce, let's look at this part:
The new agency would focus on making it easier for business to grow in Wisconsin. Other states, such as Indiana and Michigan, have done something similar, providing good models for Wisconsin to follow. This new agency must be transparent, especially in revealing how public money is spent. The Indiana version appears to be less open than Wisconsin's Commerce Department.
Really?

Thanks to the tip from a faithful reader, we learn that the good folks in Indiana are having a lot of issue regarding their system, including inflated numbers and secretive contracts. Basically, according to the report, it's a corrupt and inept system that has run amok and people are getting very angry about the whole mess.

And this is the MJS Editorial Board wants for Wisconsin?

This must be their biggest blunder since they endorsed Scott Walker.

Brewtown Gumshoe has more on how bad this editorial is.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Scott Walker: Man Of Fiscal Genius

From "Mayor Dave" Cieslewski's blog, on Walker and his refusal of HSR funding:
Here's how it works. There are over $100 million in costs associated with the Milwaukee Train Shed, track improvements on the corridor and maintenance facility for the popular Hiawatha Line linking that city to Chicago. Because the new high speed rail line that Walker has now killed would have connected Chicago to the Twin Cities through Milwaukee and Madison, the feds were going to pick up that $100 million in improvements as part of the $810 million set aside for the Chicago to Milwaukee to Madison part of the project.

But now that Walker has turned back the federal money so that it can be spent on the same kind of project in other states, Wisconsin will have to pick up that $100 million through the very same state Transportation Fund that Walker said he was trying to protect.

It gets worse. At most, the annual operating costs for the Milwaukee to Madison portion of the line would have been around $7 million. That's the main reason Walker said he opposed the project. But now the state will have to shoulder more than 14 times as much to make those necessary improvements in Milwaukee. In other words, for what it's going to cost us to make those improvements we could have paid for the Milwaukee to Madison operating costs for fourteen years.

And here's the real kicker. Where is that $100 million going to come from? The very same state Transportation Fund that pays for roads. So, by turning down the high speed rail money Walker is actually hurting the road projects he said he wanted to protect.
Scott Walker - Man of Fiscal Genius!

Just How Bad Is The State's Money Problem?

Apparently it is much worse than we realized.

After all, it's got to be really bad when Goobernator-elect Scott Walker makes his Lieutenant Goobernator-elect do spots on infomercial-like websites.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Winter Of Their Discontent

I may tick off some people, but I can relate to the people of Minnesota and especially with the Minnesota Vikings. Not because of Brett Favre, but because I know their pain. On Saturday, the NFL postponed the Vikings/Giants game due to concerns over the roof of the Metrodome.

Their concerns were well placed:




Like I said, I know their pain, and don't blame them if they refer to this year as the winter of their discontent.

PolitiFarce, Part III

Actually, I don't have anything that Jay Bullock hasn't already said.


So Much For The Brown Bag Lunches

Goobernator-elect Scott Walker is sure getting ready for this big old day, spreading the festivities for the whole beginning of the year. But don't worry about what to wear, friends. Working class people living hand to mouth, like you and me, are not really expected:


Yeah, you read that correctly. He wants you to cough up $500 per person to listen to him tell you how great he is and how he is going to create all these jobs and fix the economy and cure cancer...just ignore what he is really doing and listen like good little boys and girls.

Something tells me that they won't be serving ham and cheese sammiches for that kind of money.

Funny, but I don't recall seeing him with this slogan on his brown bags during the campaign:


Retweetable

From someone using the Twitter handle of @muskrat_john:

WI Gov. Doyle declares blizzard emergency for entire state. Angry Gov-Elect Walker demands this postponed until he takes office...

CRG: Citizens for Recall Gaffes

My good buddies at CRG (Citizens for Recall Gaffes) are at it again.

As the reader may recall (pardon the pun), CRG threatened to recall Milwaukee County Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic, for having the audacity of standing up and fighting for her constituents and trying to protect Milwaukee County as a whole from more of Scott Walker's ineptitude. I had speculated at the time that it had more to do with the fact that Dimitrijevic was forming a strong run for the soon to be vacant county executive position.

Bruce Murphy of Milwaukee News Buzz did a follow up story on that recall effort. To put it succinctly, CRG is once again spinning their wheels. Orville Seymour admits that little (meaning none) progress has been made.

That is not surprising, or even all that interesting.

But Murphy's story does have two interesting tidbits in it. So interesting that I am surprised the usually astute Murphy allowed them to slide without more in depth questioning.

The first thing of note is that Chris Kleismet, the ringleader for this group of political thugs, is backing off of the recall of Dimitrijevic:
CRG leader Chris Kliesmet attempted to distance his group from the effort...
Could there be trouble in paradise among the upper echelon (are there any "officers" besides Kleismet and Seymour?) of this group? Or is Kleismet finally getting tired of having egg on his face?

What is also of note, but not as surprising, is that Kleismet is again lying. Consider the very next sentence following the above one:
Kliesmet says the CRG – which was heavily involved in the recall of county supervisors who voted for the infamous pension plan – hasn’t held a recall since 2002.
Tsk, tsk, liar, liar, pants on fire, nose is as long as a telephone wire.

Kleismet, king of recalls, can't seem to recall that his band of not-so-merry men tried to recall Governor Jim Doyle, not once, but twice. The first one was in 2005 and, of course, failed. The second flop came last year, when they tried it again.

They were also threatening to recall Supervisors Pat Jursik, Lynne De Bruin and Theo Lipscomb last year in an effort to bully them into supporting Walker's illegal budget. (I often wonder how they try to justify their desire for a "responsible government" with their support for an illegal, deficit-laden budget - then again, they are not exactly pillars of the community either.)

All I can say it I anxiously anticipate the day that they live up to their name and mount a recall effort against Goobernator-elect Walker, who has squandered hundreds of millions of dollars of tax payer money weeks before he is even sworn into office. However, I will not be holding my breath for that day to come.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Walker's Pyrrhic Victory

Well, Scott Walker did keep one of his campaign promises, after a fashion. Then again, he clearly broke another one.

As everyone who isn't a hermit already knows, Walker's idiocy has caused the federal government to pull most of the $810 million that was supposed to go to high speed rail and will be giving it to other states you don't have turnip-headed weasels for Goobernator-elects. Walker, being as dishonest and hypocritical as ever, called it a victory for the tax payers.

In a word: Bullshit!

The feds have stated that they might let the state keep up to $2 million of the dollars, which is a pittance compared to what is needed:
Wisconsin also was allowed to retain up to $2 million to fund unspecified upgrades on Amtrak's existing Milwaukee-to-Chicago Hiawatha line. But that won't cover all of the $19.4 million cost of renovating the train shed at Milwaukee's downtown Amtrak-Greyhound station or the $52 million cost of building a new maintenance base for two newly purchased trains, two projects that would have been paid for out of the $810 million in federal funds.

Outgoing Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle had suggested Walker's stand also would jeopardize a separate $12 million grant for upgrades to a Hiawatha crossing and the Mitchell International Airport station platform, but the federal announcement made no mention of withdrawing that money.

Walker isn't even saving us any money, so I don't know how he can call it a victory. He didn't stop the train, he only managed to get the feds to reroute it. That means that Wisconsin tax payers still shelled out $140 million dollars for a train but have nothing to show for it.

Walker claims that that part that he was concerned about was the operating costs of the train. Again, that is complete nonsense:
Taxpayers' yearly support for the rail line was estimated at $4.7 million. According to the Census Bureau, in 2008, there were 2,236,518 households in Wisconsin. This equals roughly $2.10 per year, per household. As Bill Sell posted, 2 cents of every $10 of our transportation budget would go toward the rail line. Presently $9.20 of every $10 goes toward roads. Transportation expenditures breakdown thusly: 92% on roads; 4.4% on mass transit; 3.4% for railroads, harbors, and airports; and the proposed line would have gotten .2%.

$810 million in infrastructure, jobs, and development for $2.10 per year, per household, or for .2% of the transportation budget - sounds like quite a deal. Too expensive? Nonsense! This is a sad day for Wisconsin.
Wow, that $2.10 won't even buy a full gallon of gas. Thanks, Scooter!

The millions of dollars that Walker just squandered isn't the only cost to Wisconsin. It's also going to cost us jobs (and the tax revenue from said jobs) in the thousands, if not more. One such area of jobs is Talgo, which already announced that they would be pulling out of Wisconsin in 2012 and headed for a more business-friendly climate. But they aren't leaving without making it known what a true loss this is for our once great state:
"In our view, this is even more tragic for the state of Wisconsin than it is for Talgo," Friend said in a written statement. "This is the rejection of creation of direct and indirect jobs, of added tourism, of the increase in state income taxes with permanent employment and . . .  lost opportunities (from) the establishment and growth of the vendor supply chain, among many other benefits."
Cory Liebmann has compiled a list of some of the companies that just had their futures put on hold and their employees continued employment jeopardized by Walker's "job-creating" agenda. It should be noted that these are only the companies directly impacted by Walker's rejection of the train. It does not include the other companies and businesses, like the grocers, gas stations and other stores where the employees would have spent the money they now are no longer going to get.

And to round it off, the City of Milwaukee is looking at its options of suing the state in order to recoup the money spent on fixing up the Talgo plant. Walker should pay for it, but out of his campaign purse, since it was his political aspirations that caused this debacle in the first place.

But it's not all bad news. California is ecstatic, if somewhat bemused, with our Goobernator-elect's incompetence and idiocy:
Why would they do such a thing? Because it would cost taxpayer money to operate the rail lines after they're built.Scott Walker, Republican governor-elect of Wisconsin, fretted that his state's train would cost $7.5 million a year to operate. As train supporters pointed out to the New York Times, this is sort of like turning down a free car because you don't want to have to pay for gasoline and insurance. Not only did Walker and Ohio Gov.-elect John Kasich, also a Republican, ignore the construction jobs the projects would have created, but they ignored the positive impact on their states' economies, freeways and environment that the trains would have brought to future generations.
In summary, Walker not only didn't save us any money, but cost us a lot more than what would be needed in operating costs for generations to come. Not only did he squander this money, he killed existing and potential jobs and made damn sure that Wisconsin is left behind during the nation's economic resurgence. What Walker did manage to do is make the state into a laughing stock for the rest of the county.

It's not a good sign that we already can't afford Walker's foolishness and it's still three weeks before he even takes office. Now that is some high level incompetence.

If Walker has any more of these "victories," they will be resurrecting the billboards asking the last one out of the state to please turn off the lights.

I have a feeling that January 3, 2012 will be a momentous date in Wisconsin history.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Oh, That Liberal Media!

We've all heard it a million times. Whenever some news outlet reports something that conservatives don't like to deal with, they blame it on "the liberal media."

In the greater Milwaukee area, you can't go a day without hearing Charlie Sucks Sykes, Mark Belling, or any of the other hate-mongerers continuously belittling the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (even though Sykes, Jeff Wagner and James Harris all work for the same parent company) or one of the local TV stations, especially when they show Scott Walker, Rebecca Kleefisch, Ron Johnson or any of the other misanthropes that we will have to deal with for the next four years as being the putzes they truly are.

Well, next time you hear someone carping about the liberal paper, tell them to shove it. No liberal paper would have done this:


That's right. Steve Smith, CEO of Journal Broadcasting (remember I told you about his ties to Walker), had his company donate $15,000 to Walker's campaign. And that doesn't count all the free air time that Walker was allowed on WTMJ-AM 620 or other favors that they did for old Scooter.

Steve Smith is sort of like the skinflint version of Rupert Murdoch, isn't he?

Cross posted at Whallah!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Unintended Consequences; or Poetic Injustice

This is a case of "be careful what you wish for, you just may get it."

Everyone has heard of the TEA Parties, the astroturf groups funded by the likes of the Koch brothers, who protest everything under the sun from taxes to spending to President Obama's skin color.

A good number of these people are older, 40% of them are over 55 years old. It spawned some derision and helped point out some of the hypocrisy of the Tea Partiers with the line about "Keep your hands off my Medicare."

As it turns out, the TEA-sponsored move of the nation's politics closer to fascism is already coming back to bite them in the wallet:
House and Senate Republicans on Wednesday thwarted Democratic efforts to award $250 checks to Social Security recipients facing a second consecutive year without a cost-of-living increase.

President Barack Obama and Democrats have urged approval of the one-time payment, saying seniors barely getting by on their Social Security checks face undue hardships without the COLA increase.

But most Republicans contended that the nation couldn't afford the estimated $14 billion cost of the payment, and that the COLA freezes in 2010 and 2011 come after seniors received a significant boost in 2009.
As the very people that they supported in the elections throw them under the bus, expect their hypocritical cries of outrage on this in 3...2...1...

Joel Winnig At Next Drinking Liberally


I know, you're thinking "Who the heck is Joel Winnig?"

Well, Joel is a Madison-based attorney who has thrown his hat into the campaign to take the Supreme Court seat currently held by David Prosser.

So come on out to the next Drinking Liberally, Wednesday, December 15, at the Sugar Maple, located in the historic Bay View, 441 E. Lincoln Avenue, to meet Joel and find out who he is for yourself.

(And don't forget my Christmas presents!)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

To Hire Or Not To Hire: That Is The Question

Over at Milwaukee County First, we discuss whether Milwaukee County should hire the extra nursing staff which was included in the 2011 budget. But methinks some of the county officials are looking at it all wrong:
In 2010, the overtime at the mental health complex is projected to be $4.3 million. The County could use at least some of this money to hire more staff. With the hiring, it could cut down on overtime costs, as well as FMLA costs. FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) has been accelerating due to workers being injured or just plain burned out, stemming from the high levels of overtime they’ve been putting in.

Not coincidentally, the higher use of FMLA also equates to higher overtime, as that the already depleted work force has to cover those out on leave.

Another reason the new hires are needed was shown this last year with the numerous incidents of sexual assaults at the complex, inmates leaving the complex only to assault neighboring residents and the slue of lawsuits stemming from these and other similar incidents.

Perhaps Supervisor Dimitrijevic and Mr. Heer are asking the wrong question. Instead of asking if the county can afford hiring the extra staff for the complex, they should be asking can the county afford not to hire them.

After All, He's Family

Source

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

RIP Elizabeth Edwards

Elizabeth Edwards passed away today at the young age of 61 years:
Elizabeth Edwards, who catapulted into the public eye in 2004 when her husband, Sen. John Edwards, ran for president on the Democratic ticket, is being remembered for her fortitude and grace.

Over the past few years, Edwards wrote two best-selling books, fought a well-publicized battle against cancer and saw her marriage crumble after her husband fathered a child with another woman. Edwards died Tuesday at age 61.<

"Many others would have turned inward; many others in the face of such adversity would have given up," President Obama said in a statement. "But through all that she endured, Elizabeth revealed a kind of fortitude and grace that will long remain a source of inspiration."
At least she is out of pain, both physically and emotionally. She deserved so much better than was this world, including her husband, ever gave her. But despite that, she managed to maintain her dignity, her pride and her elegance.

Diliberti: Two Out Of Three Is Not Good Enough

Dan Diliberti, Milwaukee County Treasurer, is making some noise in order to draw attention to himself as a candidate for county executive. I must say, Diliberti is one of the few people I've heard that actually wants to fix things instead of pander to the delusional:
With the county facing a huge structural budget deficit and Walker pledging to put state government on a diet – a move that could mean diminished state aid for the county -- it’s no wonder the would-be candidates are mostly staying on the sidelines, Diliberti said during a meeting with Journal Sentinel editors and reporters.

“It’s why no one has declared,” said Diliberti, 63. The potential candidates want to know whether “some one is going to burn (the county) down while I’m trying to build it,” he said.

Diliberti favors beefing up the county rather than stripping away duties. Spinning off county functions such as parks and transit to new separately run districts would be a return to a model phased out 50 years ago for good reason, he said.

Consolidating services at the county level could improve efficiency without sacrificing quality, he said, pointing to the consolidated emergency 911 system and emergency medical services as examples of services done well by the county.

He also said abolishing the post of county executive – another change favored by Walker – could mean a return to a more closed system of government in which the Board chairman who is elected from one of 19 districts effectively runs the county.
Having been treasurer for the past six years has also allowed Diliberti the advantage of being known and establishing a good rapport with many of the movers and shakers in the county, especially business types of folks. This could help him with some serious fundraising.

But even though he is saying the right things, and he could conceivably raise the cash needed for this race, he has one big anchor around his neck which is big enough that it could swamp his campaign and keep him out of a bigger office.

That load stone? It is simply his involvement with the pension scandal.

Retweetable

From Senator-elect Chris Larson:
Unions can give away everything and Walker will still attack them & the middle class. You are the scapegoat while he cuts taxes for the rich
It is so nice to know that we will be having a state senator looking out for the working class.

And if there is a doubt that the right choice was made in the primary when Jeff Plale was told his names were numbered, that doubt should be eliminated with the fact that Plale is in full-hearted agreement to give over the state's bounties to private businesses that kiss Scott Walker's ring.

That was most definitely a change that needed to happen.

Milwaukee County's 2010 Budget Not So Bad After All

...as long as you believe in pixies.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Devil Is In The Details Of A Comparison

So, the Republicans had been making a stink about the push for the state legislature to have a special session to pass the union contracts. Republican law makers have been falsely claiming not to know what was in them. They did so to follow and enhance the misleading talking point that the state workers is the cause of all of the state's economic woes. In reality, this is just a front as they build up for a war as they plan to try to bust up all of the state's unions, public and private alike.

In their task of promoting Republican ideals, the MacIver Institute did the dirty deed of posting the commonly available contract between AFSCME and the state. Right wingers around the state cheered this as some sort of blatant journalism (the right does consider propaganda to be the equivalent of journalism - but that is for another website to handle).

The latest winger to cheer this action is Jo Egelhoff at FoxPolitics.net. She cites Patti Wenzel for the evil, diabolical details of the contract:
The documents unveiled some changes which Doyle failed to share. As for overtime, the decision as to how overtime will be paid to employees, either at time-and-a-half in cash, or compensatory time or a combination thereof, is moved from the employer (the state, or the taxpayers) to the employees.

…. Another perk for employees could be a sick pay conversion. The proposed contract would allow retirees to convert any unused sick leave at retirement at the highest pay rate earned in state service — not what they were being paid at the time they stopped working. The same conversion rate could be used when determining sick leave for a work-related injury or disease.

More pay can be had if an employee is injured on the job and needs to be treated at a hospital. If they are released from the hospital after the regular shift ended, they can receive up to 2 hours of straight time pay…
Egads, those state workers and Governor Doyle are dastardly villians, aren't they?

But, wait a minute, those terms look awfully familiar...

Milwaukee County workers are currently without a contract. By the rules, that means that Milwaukee County and the unions operate under the old contract, the one that Scott Walker signed off in 2006, complete with the signing bonus.

Under that contract, workers have the right to chose between taking compensation time off sometime in the next six months of accruing that time or taking it at time and a half pay. Over the last year or so, workers have been unofficially encouraged to take the pay, since there is simply not enough staff left to do the work with furloughs and vacations figured in. This will only become more so when the wave of retirees come at the beginning of next year.

The sick pay clause is the same as it currently is for the older workers. For workers with 15 years or less, that changes. But those changes were put into effect long before Walker became county executive, so he can't even take credit for that.

Likewise, if a county worker is injured on the job, and has to go to the ER for treatment, the time they are there is considered overtime, unless it becomes a long term issue, when workman's comp takes over.

So if these things are just now being added to the contracts for state workers, it means that Governor Doyle has done a lot more at holding the workers' collective feet to the fire than Walker has.

Scott Walker is one of the best at bringing the show on, I will not deny them that. I am sure there will be some great showmanship coming from the governor's office as he stomps and shouts about the workers.

But at the end of the day, when all the smoke clears and the mirrors are taken down, I think that there are going to be many disappointed Republicans and TEA Partiers.