Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The County Executive's New Clothes

The news coming out the Milwaukee County Courthouse today reminded me a lot of the famous tale by Hans Christian Anderson.

As I wrote about last night, the County Board had a special session this morning to take immediate action on some pressing issues. Things went pretty much as I expected.

No action was necessary on the mental health complex as that Walker returned the resolution unsigned, effectively killing the move to St. Michael's.

The Board also laid over the HOC business and passed Supervisor Weishan's resolution to endorse the Farm and Fish Hatchery at the HOC as "programs of overriding value for the residents of Milwaukee County. this will save the County a lot of money. The fish from the hatchery goes to stock the local ponds and lagoons for the county's fisherman. Some of the fish goes to the zoo to feed the seals and other fish-eaters, eliminating the need to go to a third party, and spending more money. The farm goes a long way to feeding the hungry in the county, which in allow helps keep the cost of supplemental income down.

What surprised me the most was that the board sustained Walker's move to throw his friend, Gerard Randall, under the campaign bus. I really thought that they would have overridden the veto in order to put the contract up for bid, especially in these tough economic times when people could use all the help they could get in finding gainful employment.

What was no surprise to anyone is that he County Board overwhelmingly overrode Walker's veto of the resolution allowing the County to aggressively pursue stimulus money. What was interesting is the level of emotions that more and more members of the Board is starting to show as they tire of Walker's showboating and his willingness to sacrifice the county for his campaign.

Even more moderate Supervisors like Lynne DeBruin and Pat Jursik are showing signs of disgust with Walker's shenanigans:

Walker's criteria for taking federal stimulus aid that the board shot down was politically motivated and "totally bogus," said Supervisor Lynne De Bruin. Supervisor Gerry Broderick said Walker's stance on stimulus aid was "great theater or dress rehearsal aimed at the governor's race in 2010."

De Bruin said Walker began backing away from his refusal to even consider stimulus aid after Milwaukee business leaders publicly disagreed with him. She called the standoff between the board and Walker the most upsetting issue of her 17-year career as a supervisor.


Supervisor Patricia Jursik criticized Walker for insisting on rejecting federal aid that required a local match. Walker said his ban on funding that required a local match wasn't absolute.
I'll spare both the gentle reader and myself to point out all of the ongoing hypocrisies from Walker as he tried to spin himself out of the corner he has put himself in. That is something I think I have covered in overly abundant amounts, even though it is still true.

However, there are a couple, three things that were not covered in the JSOnline articles, and I have no idea if they will report on these things when the final copy is complete.

One is that the County Board drew a very clear line in the sand for Walker.

While he was given the floor, Supervisor John Weishan told Corporation Counsel to "be prepared to go to court to enforce the stimulus policy of Milwaukee County." Supervisor Weishan told me that, while he hopes he is incorrect, he would not be surprised to see Walker show the same kind of passive aggressive sabotaging of the pursuit of the stimulus dollars that Walker has shown since the stimulus law was signed by President Obama.

Weishan explained that if Walker decides to not follow County policy, either by ignoring it, or by having another set of circumstances that sabotages the County's chances of receiving stimulus, dollars, they will ask the courts to order Walker to follow the county ordinances. If Walker then continued to fail in his duties, he could also be found in contempt of the court.

Weishan pointed out that Walker has a history of violating the county's laws, such as when he refused to fill the authorized and funded positions in the call center, even though he signed off on that himself. Walker's refusal to do his job in that circumstance, as the reader knows, was the state coming in and taking over the center, but leaving the County on the hook for paying the salaries of the workers.

Weishan also expressed frustration because Walker has not only ordered his staff not to cooperate with the Board, but has yet to fill the slot of the Public Works Director and had eliminated the Economic Development Director. Weishan said that these two things have put the county at a distinct disadvantage in getting things done, much less getting them done efficiently or in a timely fashion.

Supervisor Theo Lipscomb also expressed his frustration with Walker's constant stonewalling and obfuscation. He said that for the better part of a month, he has been trying to get Walker and his directors to give them a list of what he has applied for as opposed to what is available. He said that Walker has repeatedly refused to work with the County Board and with the Board's Stimulus Task Force. He said that Walker has consistently refused to give the Task Force any information, or when he did, he would quickly contradict himself, as he has done with his "three requirements."

When I told Lipscomb that Walker had come out with a press release today, that was supposed to be a release of his stimulus list, Lipscomb was surprised. He said that no such list was ever given to him, and that he is disappointed that Walker is again refusing to cooperate with the board.

Lipscomb told me that Walker obviously came out with this list after this morning's session, as that it echoes what Lipscomb had said on the floor. He also pointed out that most of the things Walker is listing as having requested are things that were coming to Milwaukee County and/or to the urban Milwaukee area due to a formula that was part of the Restoration and Reinvestment Act anyway.

Lipscomb stated that "this list, provided after the fact of the meeting, only shows that they're (Walker's administration) behind the curve."

He also expressed frustration with the fact that Walker's people kept telling the Task force that Walker didn't mean no ongoing maintenance costs, but that he was opposed to any new maintenance costs. Lipscomb said that this was also proven to be more hypocrisy as that his list for transit includes new voice annunciator systems on the buses. None of the buses currently have annunciator systems, meaning that this would require new maintenance costs.

Walker is indeed a county executive with new clothes, but at least the County Board is willing to point out the truth of the situation. Much more importantly, they are willing to do the work that is needed while Walker continues to march about pretending that he is something that he is not.

My First (Sort Of) Public Endorsement

I thank Kevin Binversie for his support:
- Given how almost 80% of Chris Liebenthal’s posts at his blog are about how pissed off his is at Scott Walker’s policies while being a Milwaukee Co. employee, I just don’t get why he just doesn’t run for County Board himself.
Just a few problems with Kevin's suggestion:
  1. I like most of the County Board
  2. I don't feel like moving just to run against one of the bad Supervisors
  3. Walker is the problem, not the board
  4. There's no elections for supervisors coming up for a while, and
  5. I'd have to probably abdicate my throne as King of the Left.
But if it's any consolation Kevin, I have had people ask me to seriously considering running.

Animal Abusers Now Want To Abuse The Law

At least two of the three thugs that chased down and tortured and killed some deer in Waupaca County are now trying for a weak defensive ploy:

Rory Kuenzi, 24, and Robby Kuenzi, 23, both of Weyauwega, are both charged with multiple counts of mistreatment of animals as a result of a Jan. 9 incident in the Town of Lind in which they and a third man are accused of killing a group of deer with their snowmobiles.

Their attorneys filed dismissal motions Monday claiming the state statute, which reads "no person may treat any animal, whether belonging to the person or another, in a cruel manner," requires ownership of the animals.

"In this case, the animals in question were non-domesticated deer; in short, they were wild animals," the motion states.

Now, I am not a lawyer, and I don't play one on TV or in the blogs, so I hope that my friend Illy-T will forgive me for trying my hand at it now.

The defense's basic premise is that because no single person could lay claim to them and/or provide registration of ownership, they did not belong to anyone. That is false.

Based on Wisconsin State Statute 29.03, the deer, like any other animal, bird or fish in the State of Wisconsin is considered to be a natural resource of the state. Thus the deer, even though undomesticated, were the property of the state, or more accurately the people of the State of Wisconsin.

These poor animals that suffered needlessly belonged to you, to me and to anyone else that lives or visits the state. So not only should these cretins deserve to be charged with animal cruelty, they should also be charged with hunting violations and theft of State property.

And judging from my wife's reaction when she heard the story on the news tonight, and the way she feels about deer, they better be glad that all they are facing is jail time. (And trust me, she is not the type of woman that normally uses that kind of language.)

The Death Of Real News?

From Griper Blade, one of my new favorite sites, on the existential crisis faced by most newspapers (emphasis mine):
"It is true that the number and variety of publishing platforms is exploding in the Internet age," reads a statement on their site. "But very few of these entities are engaged in original reporting. In short, we face a situation in which sources of opinion are proliferating, but sources of facts on which those opinions are based are shrinking. The former phenomenon is almost certainly, on balance, a societal good; the latter is surely a problem."

That's the problem in a nutshell -- too much opinion, not enough fact. While many are getting their news from online sources, few see the connection between newspapers and real news. A recent poll by the Pew Center for the People and the Press found that only 33% would miss the local daily newspaper "a lot" if it stopped printing. Among those 18-39, that number is only 23%. You assume a lot of those 18-39 year-olds are getting news online, but don't realize how many hard news stories are generated by newspaper reporting. All of these blog posts -- mine included -- rely on original reporting from other sources. The same is true for the vast, vast majority of cable news hours -- information there comes mostly from interviews, not investigation.

What the actual future of real news is depends on a lot of factors and is pretty much impossible to predict. Until we know, buy a damned paper. It's the simplest solution.

Another Right Winger, Another Compliment For Me

Not too long ago, Kevin Binversie paid me a high complement by comparing my scribblings to the thought-provoking musings of grumps of the Happy Circumstance.

Now another right winger gives me the same complement. Chris, poor speller and antisocial blogger at BBA, has decided to give me the same sort of honor that he gives grumps.

It's either a complement, or it is just that us lefties all look the same to them.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Walker Puts Campaign Before Constituents. Again.

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, in another clueless and self-contradictory act, vetoed a resolution by the County Board to actively and aggressively pursue federal stimulus dollars.

It was a clueless act in the fact that the board originally passed the resolution on a vote of 17-2, and an override is as close to a lock as you can get in Milwaukee County nowadays.

But it was also, as is par for Walker, self-contradictory. In the article, Walker is quoted as saying he thought the policy to be "reckless and not in the best interest of the taxpayers." Apparently, he feels that it is much better for the taxpayers to have to pay back the feds for the stimulus bill even though they never used a dime of it, and still to have all the infrastructure repairs to pay for out of the tax levy.

Not only that, but Walker goes on with this:
Walker said that although his stance on stimulus aid generated criticism from supervisors and others, there may be only a few additional projects for which the county seeks funding under the revised stance favored by the board. County staff had to consider all potential projects for funding under his narrower criteria and can forward any that haven't made the cut yet, he said.
Did you catch that? Walker, who just said that the Board's stance of aggressively pursuing all stimulus dollars the county is eligible for is "reckless and not in the best interest of the taxpayer," goes on to say that there were only "a few" additional projects that the Board would approve of that he hadn't already.

Does this mean that Walker lied when he called the Board's policy reckless, or does he mean he is not in the best interest of the taxpayers? It would be interesting to see a reporter ask him that question, but I would be shocked if one of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's reporters would go against their policy of not ever saying anything close to critical of Walker.

Fortunately for us, the County Board is well aware of his game-playing style of management, and were prepared for him. They had already called a special meeting for tomorrow morning. This did two things. It forced his hand to either veto, returned the resolution unsigned, or to acknowledge reality and sign the bill. Guess which option he did not choose.

The Board have five things slated for tomorrow morning's session.

These include overriding Walker's veto of the resolutions regarding the stimulus money as well as a veto of a resolution that would allow the county to seek competitive bids for a consulting gig that would help African-American men and other minority men find jobs (as opposed to the no bid contract for Gerard Randall).

Other items that the Board will take up include some tidying up of the Sheriff's Office's takeover of the House of Correction and putting the final nail in the coffin of the insane idea of moving the mental health complex to the old St. Michael's Hospital.

SIDE NOTE: The St. Michael's bit was in the first edition of the MJS article that I saw. But by the time I had a chance to write this post, they took it out. I wonder why. Was it because it wasn't deemed as important as the other two topics? Or was it that it said that Walker wasn't available for comment, which makes on speculate on his whereabouts, i.e. was he on the campaign trail again?

The last item is a bit of genius from Supervisor John Weishan:
...a resolution adopting a policy statement endorsing the continued operation of the Farm and Fish Hatchery programs located at the House of Correction as programs of overriding value for the residents of Milwaukee County.
This resolution basically would curtail Walker's recurrent attempts to cut it out of each year's budget.

The farm and fish hatchery serves many purposes. It gives inmates skills and a work ethic to help them land a job and become productive members of society when they are released. It provides fish for the lakes and lagoons throughout the county parks systems that people enjoy going fishing for. It also helps provide tons of fresh food for the Hunger Task Force (who by the way, pays for a lot of the cost of the farm, making it a win-win situation).

Since it does good for many people in the community at low cost to the taxpayers, Walker is sure to veto it. But it is still early enough in the year that the Board will have time to override it before the budget process starts up in the fall.

I hope that the County Board comes up with more proactive ideas like that to limit the amount of damage Walker can do.

After all, since Walker is gearing up for full campaign mode, it is up to the Board to prevent as much of Walker's "scorched earth" attitude towards Milwaukee County from occurring as they can.

St. Aemilian's-Lakeside Taking Over For La Causa

Reggie Bicha announced today that St. Aemilian's-Lakeside is taking over for La Causa. La Causa is the private agency that was overseeing the foster care cases on the south side of Milwaukee, until it was found out that they were responsible for the cases of Christopher L. Thomas and his sister, who were tortured until Christopher was murder.

I will admit that I am pleasantly surprised that they did not chose CFCP, the spawn of Children's Hospital and Children's Service Society, which would have given them a monopoly on all the ongoing case management and safety services.

I worked with St. Aemilian's once during my time working for child welfare, when they provided temporary residential treatment for one of my kids that was suffering from Reactive Attachment Disorder. I found them to be caring and competent and invested in the children.

Of course, how they did in residential treatment doesn't necessarily translate in how they will do working under the BMCW's faulty design.

I do sincerely wish them the best of luck, if not for them, for the children who are forced to rely on them.

Some Thoughts On Daniel Acker

By now, most people have heard of the alleged child molester Daniel Acker, who is suspected of molesting dozens of boys over four decades. He is facing more charges now, and there are many more that he would have faced if not for the statute of limitations making them too old to prosecute.

I won't go into how disgusting and vile his alleged crimes (he hasn't been convicted yet, and everyone is innocent until convicted), since that should be self-evident to everyone.

But my first thought outside of that is, "There but for the grace of God, go I."

I grew up just over a mile from where Acker lived for 15 years in West Allis. Even more so, my friends and I, when we were preteens and young teenagers, would often go to Garman's Hobby (now called Happy Hobby) which was only a few blocks from where he lived.

I don't recall ever seeing him, or any of my friends having any contact with him, but then again, that is one of the evils imposed by sexual predators - making their victims feel too ashamed and/or too scared to tell anyone.

It also puts to the test the bogus theory that many communities have about sexual predator limitation laws, in which they try to prevent sexual predators from living in their communities. Acker was grooming the kids during swimming sessions miles from his home. Furthermore, he was even given a foster home license in the late '90s (another moment of greatness from the BMCW). A community would be safer knowing where a sexual predator was so that they could continue to monitor their whereabouts than they would be not knowing where the predator was or where they were going.

It also shows that children are more likely to be sexually abused by someone they know than a complete stranger.

I have a friend that shared with me that he was sexually molested when a boy. I am still honored that he trusted me with this information, and am proud of him in that he is strong enough to be able to deal with it. But it makes me sad that there are many, many other people, more than we will probably ever know of, that are struggling with those same issues in silence and solitude.

As easy as it is to be angry at Acker, we also need to be understanding and supportive of his victims.

And unfortunately, Acker isn't even the worst of them. From the Door County Daily News, we learn of one that is even more vile and disgusting (emphasis mine):
Last week Tuesday, the Door County District Attorney filed 40 felony charges against 37-year-old Theodore A. Mullis of Sturgeon Bay for crimes involving the sexual exploitation of children. These charges include child enticement, sexual assault of unconscious victims, causing a child to view sexual activity, and numerous counts of possession of child pornography.

Mullis would ply unsuspecting victims with drugs and alcohol. With the victim nearly unconscious, Mullis would sexually assault them and photograph the attack.

Mullis was taken into custody in October 2008 for a probation violation as a result of this investigation. He has remained incarcerated since that time. He has an initial appearance for the current charges in Branch II of Door County Circuit Court on March 30, 2009 at 2:30 p.m.

Stand By Me Around The World

Check it out. Great music.

From an email from Bill.

And So The Crisis Continues

As if the senseless rampage in North Carolina, in which seven elderly nursing home residents and their nurse were gunned down in cold blood, wasn't enough, the horror show continues in California:
An apparent murder-suicide in an upscale neighborhood of Silicon Valley that left three children and three adults dead had police searching Monday for a possible motive and sorting out the relationships between the suspected gunman and his victims.

A woman in her mid-30s managed to escape from the house where officers later found five bodies in a "very horrific" scene, police Capt. Mike Sellers. She was hospitalized in critical condition with multiple gunshot wounds, Sellers said.

Authorities said a neighbor called police around 8:30 p.m. Sunday after hearing a noise outside and finding the woman bleeding on a sidewalk in the Santa Clara community of Rivermark, about seven miles northwest of San Jose, Lt. Phil Cooke said.

Officers discovered the bodies of a 10-year-old boy, a 4-year-old girl, a man in his 30s and a woman in her early 20s scattered inside the three-story town house - all of them shot dead, Sellers said. The suspected gunman, a man in his 40s, was found on the top floor, dead from a self-inflicted wound, he said.

A toddler was still alive when paramedics arrived but died overnight at a hospital, Sellers said.

There was no need for this, and except for this nation's perverted gun love, it would have been avoided. I just hope no one argues that if someone was carrying, it would have been so bad. What? They propose to arm four year old girls?

And to show how stupid people can be when armed, there is also this story:

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Police said a customer fired one or two shots into a Salt Lake City McDonald's after the driver of the car he was in was told the restaurant was not serving lunch yet. Police said the female driver of a white Dodge Intrepid pulled up to the drive-thru and ordered from the lunch menu early Sunday but was told only breakfast was available.

Police said two men then got out of the car and one pulled a sawed-off shotgun from the trunk, shooting into the drive-thru window once or twice, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Monday. No one was injured.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ode To Spring

Yeah, I posted this last year as well, but in honor of last night's snow fall, an Ode to Spring:

Spring has sprung.
The grass has riz.
I wonder what the hell
All that white stuff is.

Are You Willing To Pay The Cost Of Privatization?

Rob from Walker's Point points to a story about Chicago's parking problems. Apparently, Mayor Daley ramrodded a plan through to privatize the parking meters in Chicago. His concern was to get a big payout to get his city out of an immediate budget crisis. His plan, however, had some unintended consequences. From the Walker's Point post (emphasis mine):

Chicagoans are rebelling against the incredibly high parking meter increases since the city leased the parking operations to Morgan Stanley. People are painting over the meter windows, ripping them out of the cement and removing the stickers that are legally required on each meter in order for Chicago Parking Meters, LLC (a/k/a Morgan Stanley) to charge 28 quarters for an hour of parking. Here, some people are bent out of shape over a $.50/hour increase; I can only imagine the “tea party” the suburban shoppers in the Third Ward would throw if we did what Chicago is doing.

What Chicago’s parking snafu shows is that not all privatization is going to lower our costs, as some privatization supporters proclaim in their quest to remove as many services from the government payroll as possible. When an entity is in place to serve the community good, it puts people ahead of profits.
Rob goes on to discuss his concerns if the water utility was ever privatized. But following the links regarding Chicago's parking problems brings one to the original column in the Chicago Sun Times which really raises some interest points:

What's up is that a month ago, when the City of Chicago privatized parking meters, rates were immediately jacked way up, and you now have to feed 28 quarters into the meter to park a car in the Loop for two hours. In exchange for a 75-year lease, the city got $1.2 billion to help plug its budget holes.

But by handing over municipal parking meters to a private company, the city has given its citizens a colossal case of sticker shock. The cost of most meters will quadruple by 2013.

The deal Mayor Daley rammed through a pliable City Council in 48 hours allows the company to keep all revenue from the meters while the city keeps all cash from parking tickets when meters expire.

But wait. Don't parking tickets reap six, seven, even eight times more than what meters bring in? If people start refusing to park at meters, how can they get ticketed? And how can the city hope to rake in that revenue?

It's kind of interesting on how the privatization plans offered by politicians, and generally favored by conservatives, aren't much more than another version of corporate welfare, which usually costs taxpayers more than what the promised savings were.

Now, those familiar with me know I am no fan of privatization, or to be more accurate, profiteering. I've regularly pointed out how the privatization of the Milwaukee child welfare system has cost more money, and sticking us with a system than the one we had.

This talk of privatization, elected leaders looking to shore up their budgets with a quick fix and the unintended consequences of privatization also brings to mind that Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker is again flying the idea of privatizing the airport. I was against the idea when Walker first brought it up, and those feelings are only stronger at seeing what the probable effects are going to be.

As County Supervisor Johnny Thomas pointed out, privatizing the airport will raise the costs to the airlines that come here, and they will in turn raise the costs of their fares for air travelers.

The private company would also raise the rent on the stores, restaurants and bars in the airport, thereby raising their costs as well. Parking rates would also go through the roof.

To me, the people that should be really alarmed by Walker's proposal are the citizens that live near the airport. I have heard discussions before about the desire to expand the airport's capacity, which would mean adding more strips. We have repeatedly seen how easy it is for governments and large companies to snatch up properties, even if the owner isn't willing to sell their homes. I could see large numbers of people being evicted from their homes so that the private agency running the airport could expand their capacity, and thereby increasing their all-important profit margins.

The sad part is that most of the budget crisis could have been avoided if Walker had been more interested in solving the county's problems instead of how he could use them to launch his perpetual gubernatorial campaign.

Stay Classsy, BBA!

Chris at the BBA has a post griping about a school principal that changed a word in the school song so that it might not be offensive. One could argue that the principal was indeed getting carried away, but Chris takes it to the extreme:
What is it about being in education that makes you become such an PC wimp?

So there you have it Jeff Finstad Zombie Bait.

Remember kids always shoot for the zombies head ;)
So Chris doesn't like the principals action. Fine. That's his right. But to joke around and telling the kids to shoot him in the head. That is the height in irresponsibility.

Happy Birthday, Sugar Maple

OnMilwaukee.com is reporting that April signifies the first birthday of the Sugar Maple in chic Bay View:

Being 100 percent smoke-free certainly has not stunted Sugar Maple's growth. Although still a member of the minority in the Milwaukee bar scene, the Bay View beertopia can breathe easy as it reaches an important milestone in April: its first birthday.

Although the space, which used to be the Sikh Temple, was initially criticized for being a bit too sparse for a neighborhood hangout, it has really grown into its skin and made the bar a laid-back, comfortable place to gather and geek out over hops. The recently added couch section really does wonders.

Besides being one of the few bars in the area that is smoke-free and has a great selection of regionally crafted brews, it is also the home of Milwaukee's chapter of Drinking Liberally. Speaking of which, the next gathering is coming up, ironically enough, on Tax Day, April 15th.

Nightmare In North Carolina

I was originally going to do a snarky piece regarding the gun nuts who can't see a connection between the plethora of guns available, the toothless gun laws in this country and the tragedies that happen with all too much frequency. But then I realized I would be dishonoring the lives lost and their grieving families and friends. Let the gun lovers disrespect them with their false arguments on why we need so many f'ing guns.

Eight people in a nursing home, seven senior citizens and one of the nurses that cared for them were gunned down in cold blood this morning:

Authorities said Stewart began his rampage around 10 a.m. at Pinelake Health and Rehab in the North Carolina Sandhills about 60 miles southwest of Raleigh, firing shots inside and outside the home. It ended when 25-year-old Officer Justin Garner traded gunfire with Stewart in a hallway, wounding the suspect.

"He just comes in and just starts shooting everything around," said Sen. Harris Blake, of Moore County, relating the story told by sheriff's officials.

Garner was wounded in his leg, and police said Stewart wounded two others. One person remained hospitalized Sunday night at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital in nearby Pinehurst, and police would only say Stewart was in the custory of the Moore County Sheriff.

Krueger said the victims were Pinelake residents Tessie Garner, 88; Lillian Dunn, 89; Jessie Musser, 88; Bessie Hendrick, 78; John Goldston, 78; Margaret Johnson, 89; Louise Decker, 98; and nurse Jerry Avent, whose age wasn't immediately available.

Krueger declined to say where authorities had taken the surviving residents, including patients with Alzheimer's disease, saying only, "They're safe, which is the primary thing."

I heard something about this being related to domestic violence, which doesn't make much sense. Either way, whether the gunman was insane or just evil, you cannot tell me that the gun laws in this country are strong enough or enforced well enough.

I Must Be Getting A Different Paper

Elliot Stearns wonders what happened to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
They’ve been doing phenomenal work, lately.

Starting the with the bisphenol A plastics series, and continuing through this weekend’s story on criminal mortgage lenders, they’ve been doing exactly what a newspaper should do.

Hell, even their editorials have been a little less crazy lately.

It’s like the closer the paper comes to going out of business, the better they get.

Either I'm getting a different paper, or Mr. Stearns is being influenced by the alcohol the paper's staff has been plying him with.

I will readily admit that the paper has done some fabulous work like those that Mr. Stearns had mentioned, or the child welfare series by Crocker Stephenson, or the series on the mentally ill in Milwaukee by Meg Kissinger.

However, there are too many occasions that leaves the reader wondering where they are coming from.

For example, their editorial board has repeatedly endorsed the idea of moving the mental health complex to the old St. Michael's Hospital, even though it would be unsafe and more expensive than any other option.

Another would be when I called for a recall of Scott Walker, they dismissed it on their editorial blog saying that disagreement is not grounds for a recall. But when CRG made a call to recall Governor Jim Doyle, based on a disagreement, they treated it as news. They also gave it the same credence when state Senator Canavas signed a Facebook page for a Doyle recall.

They hounded Supervisors Coggs and Clark for their trip to Washington DC which cost less than $4000, but ignore Walker wasting many times that amount on his campaign ride coming this summer.

They ridicule State Senator Lena Taylor for a typo, but commit many of them in one post.

They run a series of daily stories about the deadly effects of drunk driving, and have a running blog site about it, but then show pictures of young people drinking at 6 in the morning on St. Patrick's Day.

This list, which could go on for almost forever, does not even include their columnists sharing previews of their columns to select individuals, even after they said that this practice would stop.

I don't know if I agree that the paper is getting better as it continuously scales back. I think this rather shows why it is repeatedly having to cut back.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Elitist Eight

I told you about One Wisconsin's Now March Badness.

The initial round of voting has ended and we are down to the Elitist Eight:
  • Koschnick v. Van Hollen
  • Fernandez v. Limbaugh
  • Bush v. Rove
  • Walker v. Harding
I already voted for Koschnick, Fernandez, Rove and (surprise!) Walker.

Get your votes in now.

Union Of Bloggers?

From Open Left, in a discussion of the increasing amount of deaths among local newspapers:
One counter-argument that does make sense to me on both a political and personal level is that local newspapers provide good local jobs. The blogosphere, by contrast, is giving rise to something akin to a digital sweatshop. Thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of Americans are producing enormous amount of content for pay that is just above, or below, minimum wage and includes neither benefits nor weekends. That is not a sustainable model for the people producing the content. If that is the brave new future we face, then maybe instead of talking about saving newspapers, we should be talking about creating a national union hall for paid blogging. If a news outlet, or a computer company, or a progressive organization want to hire someone to blog for them, maybe there need to be standard, minimum rates of pay that everyone is forced to observe. Any website that does not observe that policy gets de-linked, or something.
I don't think it would ever happen. There are too many people that would do it just for the pretense of prestige, and would be more than happy to undercut the competition. But the article is thought provoking.

The GOP's Alternate (Universe) Budget Proposal

The GOP made a big to do about a press conference in which they promised to release their budget proposal in reaction to Obama's.

The press conference turned out to be more of a gripe session and an announcement to have an announcement to have a promise that they will have a budget:

I almost feel sorry for the GOP if this is what they have become, and these are the ones they call their rising stars.

McDonald's vs. Burger King: Pet Scan Version

Actually, I think offering a dog either version constitutes animal cruelty.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

So Much Hypocrisy, So Many Lies, So Little Time

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker sure has been busy during the last 48 hours. It is getting harder and harder to keep up with him. This is especially true when he keeps talking out of different side of his mouth each time he opens it.

First, on the day that the Public Policy Forum issues a dire prognosis for the financial health of Milwaukee County, Walker is busy talking about taking motorcycle rides to a naval shipyard a couple of hundreds of miles away from Milwaukee County.

The next day, despite still wanting to go on that bike ride, and after having given his cronies in his administrations secret, albeit very generous raises, Walker talks about laying off 230 county workers to help with the financial crisis that he helped create. This is generally not a good idea to do, considering that the county and the unions are in contract negotiations. The place to do that is at the negotiating table, but then again, Walker can't resist a chance to showboat.

That probably explains why on the the next day, he starts to waffle on the stance, and makes it obvious that he is trying to negotiate the contract through the media. Hermes' Journeys has more on this particular subject.

Also in response to the dire news from PPF, and in preparation for his upcoming announcement to officially kick off the next phase of his perpetual gubernatorial campaign, Walker has announced that he has come up with a refurbished version of his doom and gloom tour from three years ago. This is despite that just last year, he told us that everything looked so rosy.

County Board Supervisor Johnny L. Thomas issued a press release that briefly highlights the folly of Walker's proposed course of action:
“County Executive Scott Walker contends that the fiscal strategies he proposed yesterday will meet both short- and long-term challenges facing Milwaukee County. But, rather than decreasing the tax burden on County residents, many of his proposals would actually result in increased taxes and fees, with no real positive impact on the County’s fiscal health. The County Executive’s refusal to lobby for stimulus funds, for instance, means that property tax payers might have to face the full burden of future capital projects, rather than using federal dollars to supplement our costs.

“His plan includes leasing General Mitchell International Airport, which is a regional asset that uses no property tax dollars in its operation, to a private operator possibly based overseas. Our airport is widely regarded as one of the most effective and efficient airports in the nation. In fact, our airport is such a good place for airlines to do business that AirTran Airways recently announced plans to increase Milwaukee flights by more than 50 percent. Leasing the airport to a private, for-profit operator would result in higher fees for both airlines and passengers.

“It is unrealistic to believe the County Executive’s approaches would achieve our long-term financial goals. My constituents want fiscal strategies that will work. That’s why, in November, voters in my district—by a 14-point margin—approved the County Board’s plan to provide property tax relief and dedicated funding for transit, parks, and paramedics. That’s what real change and economic stimulus are all about.”
Adding to the folderol, Walker starts spinning on the stimulus money. Again. Walker has a post up on Biz Times Blog, in which he starts out well with finally acknowledging that his sales tax balloon had popped before he launched it.

But then he kicks the hypocrisy into high gear. He starts out with his criteria for accepting any stimulus money. There are two problems with that. First of all, the projects that he and his staff have identified violate his own criteria. Secondly, and more important than the first point, is that it doesn't matter what criteria he wants. This is a policy decision and policy is set forth by the County Board. He even admits that himself today, when he admits that he will lose any battle regarding the Board's right to set the policy in seeking stimulus dollars.

Then Walker says that it is all moot anyway:

Last week, the head of the state agency that oversees the federal "stimulus" funds said that anyone who prepared a list prior to the federal plan being signed into law by the President should "tear it up" and start over with the formal application process. We made that point in January when various politicians decried my resistance to submitting a "wish list" to the Governor.

Once the federal legislation was approved and signed and the process became clear, we jumped into action. With my approval, our head of the Department of Transportation and Public Works submitted a list of $66 million in highway projects and $12 million in bridge projects to the state for potential funding. These projects meet all of the mentioned criteria and are part of our long-term plans for the county. Other departments are considering similar requests.

This is just more hypocrisy from Walker. First of all, Walker says that he waited until last week to start working on the requests that he felt worthy. However, on March 10, Cynthia Archer, one of Walker's staffers, said that Walker already had his people working on requests (even though at the time he was publicly saying he wouldn't submit any requests) and had been working with state officials for several weeks in order to get them approved.

To make matters even worse for Walker, it was reported today that the requests were submitted on February 18th. And even then, Walker's staff sent them to the wrong place. When they realized their mistake and sent it to the correct location, it was too late. And to put the final touch to it, the request that Walker had made before he said that he made them while he was saying he wasn't making them were ineligible anyway.

All of this goes a long, long way to explain the axiom that James Rowen points out:
An old maxim in politics: when you are explaining what you really really really meant, you are losing.
I just hope that the County Board isn't going to be too delayed by Walker's malicious obstructionism to get the full benefit that Milwaukee County is eligible for. We could really use the help to recover from the neglect we have experienced for the past seven years.

Passport Day

Sent to me via email:

Milwaukee County Clerk Joe Czarnezki is participating in “Passport Day in
the USA” by providing free passport photos for Milwaukee County residents on Friday, March 27, 2009. The County Clerk’s office will take passport photos free of charge for all Milwaukee County residents who complete a passport application in the County Clerk’s office, Room 105 of the County Courthouse, this Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

“The Milwaukee County Clerk’s office is participating in the U.S. Department of State’s national passport acceptance and outreach program,” Czarnezki said.

Effective June 1, 2009, all U.S. citizens (including children) must present a passport book or passport card approved by the U.S. government to enter the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda at land borders and sea ports of entry.

“I want to assist Milwaukee County residents in complying with the new U.S. government policy requiring passport documents for travel to and from countries in the Western Hemisphere by providing free passport photos this Friday,” Czarnezki said.

The County Clerk accepts passport applications from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Free passport photos will be taken for Milwaukee County residents on Friday, March 27 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 pm.

Passport applicants must bring in a certified birth certificate and a valid government issued photo identification card, such as a driver's license. The cost of a passport for adults (persons 16 years of age and older) is $100.00. The cost of a passport for a child under the age of 16 is $85.00. Passport photos are available at a cost of $10.00, but will be offered free of charge to Milwaukee County residents on Friday, March 27 from 10:00 a.m.

Passport application forms are available in the County Clerk’s office or may be downloaded from the U.S. Department of State website at www.travel.state.gov/passport.

Passport information is available by telephone, in English and Spanish, by calling the National Passport Information Center toll-free at 1-877-487-2778.

A Shame To The Badge

Ryan Moats, running back for the Houston Texans, and his wife were rushing to the Baylor Regional Medical Center to see her mother as she was dying. En route, Moats did a rolling stop through a stop sign, and was pulled over by Dallas Police Officer Robert Powell.

Officer Powell was less than Dallas' finest when he went on a power trip on the Moats family.

From DallasNews.com:
Moats and his wife implored the officer to let them hurry on to the bedside of her ill mother.

“You really want to go through this right now?” Moats pleaded. “My mother-in-law is dying. Right now!”

His wife, Tamishia Moats, said Powell "was pointing a gun at me as soon as I got out of the car. It was the weirdest feeling because I’ve never had a gun pointed at me before under those circumstances.”

Powell then spent long minutes writing Moats a ticket and threatening him with arrest.

But then it only gets worse:

Kunkle, asked about Powell’s reaction to the investigation, said the officer told a member of the command staff that he was just doing his job.

“My understanding is that Officer Powell, even when he saw the videotape, believed he had not acted inappropriately," Kunkle said.

“I've read some of the comments in some of the publications, and the majority of the comments reflect my position — that at the point the officer was told that they were responding to a dying family member, that should have been his concern: to allow those people to get access to that family member."

The scene, captured by the officer's dashboard video camera, prompted apologies and the promise of an investigation even before Kunkle met the media.

“There were some things that were said that were disturbing, to say the least,” said Lt. Andy Harvey, a police spokesman.

The story says that Powell is currently assigned to dispatch while he is being investigated. I don't think even that is a good idea. Whatever his issues are, whether he is racist or just a jackass or both, shouldn't be even working. But if they insist on allowing him to work, there is no way he should be allowed to have any contact with the public.

I also hope that they end up charging him with misconduct in office or something similar, although I personally doubt he would learn anything.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

BMCW: Fails To Protect Children And The Truth

Crocker Stephenson of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a story in today's paper regarding the latest report on the progress of the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare. Even though his reporting is incomplete, it still tells a damning story regarding the BMCW and the extremes they will go to to protect themselves. MJS was kind enough to provide us with a copy of the actual report from the BMCW, in pdf format.

Mr. Stephenson's reporting is incomplete when he gives a version of the history that created the BMCW:

By all accounts, Milwaukee County in the early 1990s had one of the worst foster care programs in the nation. Many children languished in the system for years without a coherent plan that would enable them to either reunify with their parents or be adopted.

Children's Rights Inc., then the American Civil Liberties Union's Children's Rights Project, filed a suit in federal court in 1993 on behalf of 5,000 children receiving welfare services in Milwaukee County.

In response to the lawsuit, the state took over the county system in 1998, creating the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare, which is part of the state Department of Children and Families. The DCF, headed by Secretary Reggie Bicha, is itself not quite a year old.

What is not being reported is that the system was struggling due to severe underfunding from the State. Take it from someone who was there during that mess, when it would not be unusual for one worker to be responsible for over a hundred cases. Even now, they are receiving tens of millions of dollars more, and despite their claims, things have actually gotten worse. And that is still not enough. In Doyle's most recent budget proposal, there is a request for 15 more State workers, three more State supervisors and more money to increase the number of foster homes and Kinship homes and to pay the foster/Kinship parents better.

It is also interesting to note that some of the "improvement" that the BMCW is claiming is things that the County had done when they were in charge, but were deemed to be too expensive by the state, like nurses going out to check on medically fragile children and newborns.

Despite these lapses in the reporting, the bulk of the story matches what has been happening for the past ten years. The state is fudging the numbers around to protect their own butts with a complete disregard to the children they are supposed to be serving.

On a side note, does anyone know of any agency, public or private, that has ever honestly reported on itself? Why does the State think that the BMCW would be any different?

They claim that the number of children in alternative care is within the "acceptable range." However, they do not include the children that are placed in Kinship Care homes, that are being abused. The most noted in recent history is the murder of Christopher L. Thomas and the torture of his little sister. It is mind-boggling that the BMCW, which had just undergone a major shake up due to this one story, now chooses to ignore it in their semi-annual report. I am sure that it just the tip of the iceberg as well.

The BMCW also has a problem being forthright about the staff turnover rate. The BMCW manipulates the statistics in such a way as to make it seem like the turnover rate is much less than it really is. While the Bureau is reporting a turnover rate of ongoing case managers (that's the private agencies) is about 35%, the real number is almost double that and is close to 60%.

This is significant because it can disrupt the services that the children, the parents, and the foster parents are receiving. This can hinder, disrupt, or even completely sabotage any long range planning that is in place for the child. It also serves to make the entire Bureau more expensive to operate since there is a continuous need to train new workers.

It should be noted that the private agency workers who do the ongoing are getting paid amounts similar to the State workers. This would indicate that that the problem is with the system itself, which is something that I've repeatedly pointed out.

I've been out of the child welfare system for over seven years, but even then, the amount of redundant paperwork was incredible. This bureaucratic nightmare does nothing to help the children, and actually impedes the ability of the worker to actually do their job, like seeing the children to make sure they aren't being abused, or that progress is being made in the permanency planning for the child.

As I have repeatedly stated, the system is broken. No matter how much money they throw at it, it will not be fixed until they change the entire paradigm and approach that they are taking regarding child welfare. There is a reason why case workers are leaving at alarmingly high rates. There is a reason why a majority of foster parents have quit. There is a reason that, despite the larger amount of workers and money being pumped into the system, children are still being hurt.

Until the State gets rid of that broken and ineffective paradigm, and replaces it with a functional program, nothing will change. And more kids will be hurt and/or killed. And that is unacceptable.

Walker's Hypocrisy: On The Road Again

As I wrote the previous post about the financial crisis that Milwaukee County is in, I linked to a press release from Scott Walker. In this press release, he is congratulating a company from up north on landing a contract with the U.S. Navy. The release ends with this tidbit:
Marinette is one of the stops on the upcoming 6th Annual Executives’ Ride in June, with a stop at the shipyard planned for the riders. The motorcycle ride, to be lead by Walker from June 21 –June 25, touts Milwaukee County tourism and business.
What the ...?

I couldn't believe it. The County, under Walker's "leadership," is facing a financial crisis so severe that there is the possibility that the state could intervene and take over the entire county, and he is going to use tax dollars for a bike ride? Sure enough, a quick Google shows that he even is using county resources to promote the event.

The real hypocrisy kicks in when one remembers that just a couple of months ago, Walker said that he found it "mind-boggling" that County Board Supervisors would use a few thousand dollars to go to Washington D.C. to conduct county business during Obama's inauguration

The argument against the supervisors is that they spent the county money for the personal satisfaction of being able to attend the inauguration. However, the last time Walker was running for governor, he went on his bike ride and spent over $19,000 of our tax money in just giveaways, in what was questioned as being actually part of his gubernatorial campaign.

Given the current financial crisis that the county his facing, in no small part due to him, I fully expect Walker to cancel the bike ride this year.

And given the tenacity that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Dan Bice gave to the Supervisor's trip, I would expect much more coverage of Walker's hypocritical campaign ride at taxpayer's expense.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

In The Private Sector, Walker Would Have Been Fired By Now

The widely-respected and non-partisan group Public Policy Forum released the results of a study regarding the fiscal viability of Milwaukee County. The results are not pretty. And I do believe even then, the results understate the severity of the situation. (The actual study is in a pdf found here, but at the time of this writing, the Adobe reader is stating that the file has been damaged and is unreadable.)

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a story covering the report, and giving Walker's spin on the issue. Unfortunately, the paper does not give us a lot of in depth reporting, but basically an outline of the report and Walker's positioning.

The current fiscal crisis is based on three problems. The most obvious one is the pension scandal created by former County Executive Tom Ament. This obviously put a major crunch on the county's budget in 2004, when the enhancers of the pension scandal kicked in and their was a mass retirement.

The second issue adding to this is the current global financial recession, which greatly drained the pension fund, requiring extra money needed to be provided by the County.

The third issue that greatly contributed to the problem is the current County Executive, Scott Walker. As stated above, Walker came into his current job with a big mess served up to him in the form of Ament's pension scandal. However, he sought the job voluntarily and said that he would fix the pension mess and get the county headed back in the right direction. After seven long years, he has done neither.

The report from the PPF recommends a few things that need to be done to restore fiscal health to the county. These include:
We also conclude that year-to-year budget balancing is no longer a tenable strategy. Instead, what is needed is a comprehensive approach that considers all alternatives, from implementing new or enhanced local revenue sources; to eliminating, transferring or outsourcing programs and services that are not essential to the county's core mission and that could be performed just as well by others; to selling or leasing assets to generate capital as a means of paying down liabilities or re-investing in other assets that must be retained.
Some of this, like the outsourcing, has been already done. The food services at the House of Correction and at the mental health complex have been privatized. Most of the security at the courthouses have been privatized. Most of the janitorial services have been privatized. The GAMP program is gone with the advent of BadgerCare. Many of the mandated services, like the Sheriff's office, human services and the courts have been scaled back on a yearly basis.

However, there is much that could be done in regards to finding other revenue sources that Walker has willfully failed to pursue. There is the obvious raising of taxes, which I can't imagine a lot of people would like, but may be a necessary evil. But there are also many less painful ways of gaining extra resources.

There is the sales tax. Despite Walker's repeated efforts to prevent it from going to referendum, it was finally voted on last November. The people stated that they approved of the 1% sales tax and the benefits it would bring, including easing the strain for funding for the buses, the parks and the EMS. In the face of the proven benefits that places like Washington County has enjoyed from their sales tax increase, Walker refuses to pursue action by the state legislature to allow it to happen.

There is also the stimulus dollars. Walker knows darn well that the taxpayers of Milwaukee County will have to pay for these dollars whether we use them or not, but he doesn't care. In his perpetual run for governor, Walker has decided to showboat the issue and has repeatedly flip flopped and weaseled his way around the stimulus dollars, thereby shortchanging all of us. He continues to obstruct the efforts of the County Board to pursue and utilize the full amount of stimulus dollars the county is eligible for. Needless to say, this money would have the double benefit of putting people to work and allowing for much of the desperately needed repairs to our infrastructure.

It would also be a good idea for Walker to actually stop appointing his cronies and campaign staffers to jobs they aren't qualified to fill. Then maybe the county would be able to sell some of its properties, so that there isn't an automatic multimillion dollar deficit in the budget.

PPF's report has caused a lot of reaction from local officials and local bloggers. Milwaukee County Treasurer Dan Diliberti calls for a reform, including giving more power to the controller. County Board Chairman Lee Holloway calls for the formation of a long range steering committee, and shows his understandable nervousness at the thought of the state taking over the whole county. James Rowen and Zach Wisniewski have shared their own thoughts on the subject.

While local officials are trying to find viable solutions to the county's economic woes, Walker, on the other hand, is too busy campaigning and sending out kudos to a company that is hundreds of miles from the place he is supposed to be paying attention to, namely Milwaukee County.

In the private sector, if you had a CEO that had deliberately put his company in financial straits while he was applying for another job and giving congratulatory memos on company letter head to one of the competitors, he wouldn't be long for the job. The Board of Directors would have shown him the door long before it got to be of such a critical nature, threatening the very solvency of the company.

So when are we, the taxpayers, or if you will, the Board of Directors for Milwaukee County, going to show Walker the door?

If Only We Had A Good County Executive

From the Stevens Point Journal's editorial page from last Saturday:
Cheers to the number of projects that will be undertaken with money from President Barack Obama's economic recovery package, of which $10 million went to improve economic opportunities in central Wisconsin.

Among the projects are money to expand US Highway 10 between Stevens Point and Marshfield, help the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point establish its Institute for Sustainable Technologies, complete a design for a road-rail grade separation on Hoover Road, help St. Michael's Hospital buy a new van for its mobile health services and money for Mid-State Technical College and the Restorative Justice Program by Justiceworks Ltd.

While we understand that there is plenty of healthy disagreement about the stimulus plan and its ultimate effect on the struggling national economy, there's no doubt that this money will have a positive effect on central Wisconsin.

Cheers to the city of Stevens Point and Portage County for using federal programs to save some local money.

By switching from tax-exempt to taxable bonds, the government will reimburse the city 35 percent of the interest payments on the $3.65 million it has borrowed, or about $2 a homeowner annually for eight years.

The county, meanwhile, will use federal dollars to replace the 72-year-old bridge in the town of Linwood that crosses Rocky Creek Run on West River Drive West. Portage County would have originally been responsible for $154,000 of the estimated $773,000 project.

With a budget constraints all around, its good to see both the city and county seeking out and taking advantage of these types of programs. No matter the amount any money saved will certainly help in other areas.
Also in the same paper is a news story about how the City of Stevens Point will be using stimulus money to relieve a traffic problem involving a railroad crossing, making commutes easier and safer.

Meanwhile, here in Milwaukee County, we have the wannabe-but-never-will-be governor Scott Walker, who is busy trying to obfuscate his position on the stimulus dollars, but states that he wins when Milwaukee County taxpayers lose.

See also how Washington County has better leadership from their exec than we do from ours.

Praying For A Defense

Madeline Kara Neumann was a 11 year old girl who lived in the Wausau area. She died a year ago from untreated diabetes because her parents, Dale and Leilani chose to try to cure it with prayer instead of seeking medical attention.

There was a great deal of debate at the time on whether the parents should even be charged for their negligence in her death. Ultimately, they were charged and are both scheduled for separate trials later this month.

At the time of the charging, the parents were found to be not eligible for public defenders as they owned two homes and a business. Now they have gone through $12,000 in donations, have at least one home closing in on foreclosure and are both unemployed.

The public has already spent $13,000 in defending the father, and now the mother is going to ask for public assistance for a public defender.

While I believe in the judicial system and agree that these two people should be allowed to have fair trials with proper defense, I still can't help but feel angry that these people should be asking for public monies to go to their defense.

They should just be praying to be found not guilty. After all, they felt that their daughters life was not worthy of anything more than prayer, their is no reason why their lives should be treated any differently.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Alberta Darling Too Busy Trying To Get Stimulus Money To Help Foster Kids

I pointed out just last week that despite all of her grandstanding and showboating regarding the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare, she has yet to do anything meaningful about it.

James Rowen points out that she was simply too busy to help the kids. She was trying very hard to take away stimulus money from the unemployed poor people in the city so that she could do help out her better off constituents, of course.

Palin's Grandstanding Not So Popular Among Alaskans

Alaska governor and failed vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin has stated that she will turn down nearly 30% of the stimulus money being offered by the feds. Of course, only three days ago, she said she was going to reject 45% of the money. She is almost as bad as Scott Walker with her flip-flops and hypocrisies.

Some of her constituents aren't too happy about her grandstanding either. From that wonderful Alaskan site, The Mudflats:
The fact that Alaskans actually had to go to these lengths to reaffirm their desire for money coming into the state probably came as a bit of a shock to the likes of Congressman Don Young and former Senator Ted Stevens, whose long reigns in the congressional delegation were based largely on their ability to bring home the federal bacon. This whole “we don’t need the money” meme is brand new. Apparently there are Alaskans who are so madly in love with Palin that they don’t mind the fact that she as the advocate for the state of Alaska, suddenly feels more of a sense of duty to save the country money than to represent the interests of her constituents. As Shannyn Moore noted on the Ron Reagan radio program on Air America, if Palin were really interested in saving the country money, she’d take all the stimulus funds and then write a check back to the Federal Government. Because, as it stands now, any money we don’t take will happily be gobbled up by a more intelligent governor who will be amazed at his or her good fortune at the expense of Alaskans, who will be left out in the cold.
Tip of the crown to Open Left

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Via Pundit Kitchen:

County Board Prevents Walker From Wasting Tax Dollars

There is some good news coming out of the Milwaukee County Courthouse today.

No, Walker did not see the light and resign. We're not that lucky.

However, the County Board did see the light and did vote to reject Walker's proposal to move the mental health complex to the old St. Michael's Hospital. This proposal the most expensive out of three options, the other two being renovating the current structure or building a new one across the street from the current one.

Tim Russell, Walker aide and on-again-off-again campaign staffer, lamented the Board's insight and offered the usual garbage that spouts from Walker's camp. Hopefully the Board will now look at what a realistic plan would look like and act on it with all due promptness.

But that good news isn't all that we learned today. To put icing on that piece of cake, the Board also overrode, by a 16-3 margin, a veto of a resolution to pursue the sales tax proposal that was passed last November.

I guess Walker, in his perpetual bid for governor, thinks it is better to cater to people in the surrounding counties (who, unsurprisingly, make up a good part of his campaign donors, according to his most recently released campaign finance report) rather than allow the property tax payers of his own county enjoy some tax relief, and bolster the local economy by an improved transit system. And in these economic hard times we're in, who wouldn't want to enjoy something that is free, like a day in the improved park system, which would be another benefit from the sales tax proposal.

On the bright side for Walker, being outmaneuvered by the County Board is something that happens with regular frequency, and probably won't draw as much attention as when he was run over by Mayor Barrett's streetcar.

Child Welfare To Change To Stay The Same

Earlier in the day, the Business Journal reported that LaCausa was planning on laying off 87 workers. These are the people that were involved in the child welfare program when Christopher Thomas was murdered by his own aunt.

It was reported this afternoon by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that most of the workers would probably be rehired by whichever agency the Bureau contracts with to take over for La Causa. MJS also reports that the two agencies under consideration is the Children's Hospital offspring or St. Aemelian's-Lakeside. My money is still with the Children's Hospital group.

Despite State Senator Alberta Darling and the bureaucrats at the head of the BMCW claiming that they will do so much to change and fix the BMCW, nothing will. The workers will be the same. The training program will be the same. The business model will be the same. The only thing that will change is the new round of alligator tears that and the will shed when the next foster kid dies.

Unfortunately, I can't say that I'm surprised.

Walker Bush Economics 101

From the email from this site (which I've only just recovered), from the DPW:

Walker-Bush Economics 101

Scott Walker Takes His No Stimulus, No Jobs Message the Wall Street Journal Editorial

– Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal this weekend to rally against new jobs for and to promote his status quo economic policy that can only be described as “Walker-Bush Economics 101.”

”When it comes the economy, Scott Walker is running in lock-step with George Walker Bush,” said Joe Wineke, Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

“While Governor Doyle is working with employers across the state to direct stimulus funds to create new projects, and thousands of jobs, Walker is fervently protecting the status quo and promoting more of the same right-wing Bush that got us into this mess.”

According to the Federal government, funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will create or save 70,000 jobs in Wisconsin, while increasing access to quality education and health care. The funding will be used to support long-term job growth to benefit hardworking Wisconsin families well into the future.

In his opinion column, Walker dismisses this, saying While the might create a few construction jobs, the federal money will run out and those workers will lose their jobs.” (Source: Wall Street Journal, 2/28/09 http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123578396175298389.html#articleTabs=article.

“Is Walker really dismissing 70,000 new jobs for Wisconsin because he doesn’t think they will last forever?” asked Wineke. “Maybe Walker should call up each of the 70,000 workers that stand to benefit from this, and tell them why they don’t deserve a new job and steady paycheck to support their families.”

Scott Walker has only one idea when it comes to fixing our economy – and that is to continue the failed Bush economic policies. Walker’s rigid loyalty to right-wing economics puts ideology ahead of Wisconsin families, ahead of jobs, and ahead of reality.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Canadian Coppertone Girl

Just for my wonderful Canadian friends, all two of them:

Via loldogs

Best Line Of The Month

From FB:

The stimulus and Wisconsin ’s budget deficit have forced Republicans to choose between hypocrisy and idiocy. Some choose both.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Look Ma! No Guns!

Two interesting stories in the news today:

A 71 year old man fended off a knife-wielding would-be robber with nothing but an ice scraper.

A legally blind man was able to prevent a neighbor from being raped with no weapon at all.

Unfortunately for society, there are some that still cannot see how this is possible.

Drinking Liberally Tomorrow

Just a reminder that tomorrow night is the March edition of Drinking Liberally. As usual, it will be at the Sugar Maple, 411 E. Lincoln.

Or as one of our hosts would put it:

O dear libruls and other such folk,

Time once again fast approaches the nearly unreadable certainty of untenable nearness, Drinking Liberally!! As if pig Latin sieved through a course of diffracted syllabication, being of course a discourse containing needless prolixity. (No, sir, I am NOT an English major, thank you very much...)

Assured you will rest that such things happen naught upon Drinking Liberally's fair shores, though the D.L. happens upon Wednesdays the third at Sugar Maple, 441 E. Lincoln Avenue in the lovely village formerly known as Bay View. And if this doesn't keep you away, I don't know what will!

Little known fact: having beer actually makes your amicable host speak more, not less, legibly. Come see this for yourself at this Wednesday's Drinking Liberally!

(Batteries not included.)

Unfortunately for me, time and finances forbid my attendance this time around. I need to prepare for an adventure for a few days.

But don't let this keep you from going. I would only put two requests to you, if you do go. Hoist one in my name, and don't drink and drive. You never know who's life you could be risking.

Well, That's Working Out Well

A few weeks ago, Wisconsin's minimum mark up law was overturned. Some people would have us believe that this will save us lots and lots of money.

That's an odd assertion to make, considering that the corner Speedway/Superamerica just jumped 20 cents a gallon.

But you won't hear any conservatives complaining about it. In reality, they don' t care if you can't keep your money, as long as it goes to the right kind of people.

Sour Grapes And Red Herrings

I always thought that the traditional Irish fare for St. Patrick's Day was supposed to be corned beef and cabbage. However, Milwaukee County Scott Walker has decided to give us a plate full of sour grapes and red herrings instead.

Still stinging from the schooling that Mayor Tom Barrett gave him on how a leader gets things done effectively, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker does what he does best. He goes running to Charlie Sykes with yet another email (which appears to have been sent on county time again) full of lies, hypocrisies and attempts to divert the reader from the reality.

Walker breaks his attack into three prongs. The first line of attack is that this will cost city taxpayers more money:
The City of Milwaukee asked for $100 million from the initial “stimulus” package, so we know that the true cost of the downtown streetcar system is at least that much money. So who will pay for it? The next great battle will be fought at the Milwaukee Common Council level as alderman from outside of downtown Milwaukee have to ask themselves if they (and their constituents) are willing to pay to subsidize the operations of a system that serves a three-mile loop in downtown Milwaukee.
What Walker doesn't mention is that unlike him, Mayor Barrett did ask for stimulus dollars. The divvying up the remainder of the transport fund already pays for half of the projected cost. I have no doubt that out of the hundreds of millions of dollars of stimulus funding the city will receive, that the balance will be covered.

Meanwhile, county taxpayers aren't so lucky. Walker not only said that he wouldn't ask for any stimulus dollars, even though there are hundreds of millions of dollars of infrastructure repairs needed, but is working devilishly hard in trying to sabotage any efforts by the County Board to get this funding. Not only will county taxpayers be held on the hook to pay their taxes on the stimulus dollars, but they will still have to pay for these repairs themselves. Who will pay for all of that, Mr. Walker?

Walker's next attack comes on the grounds of the cost to the county transit system:
Based on a review of the Mayor’s plan, transit system staff believes that a new streetcar system will cost the bus system up to $3 million per year. This is because the operations of the streetcar system are funded – in part – by transit aids from the state government. Assuming that there is not a massive increase in transit aids to cover the new system, aid will be taken from the Milwaukee County Transit System to pay for a street car system. Which routes will the transit system have to cut because of the $3 million less in state aid?
Coming from Walker, this is laughable. Walker is the one that has been the overseer of the transit system's death spiral. It was Walker that refused any efforts to help the transit system, including increasing ridership by adding bus racks to increase ridership and actively opposing any efforts by the citizenry to gain a secure source of additional funding for the transit system (which would have also helped control property taxes, as it did for Washington County).

The responsibility for the transit system's current distressed situation lies squarely at Walker's feet.

Walker's third attack comes in the form of stating that Barrett was being irresponsible and is all alone in his desire for a streetcar system for Milwaukee:
The County Board agreed with me as they passed a resolution in the past calling for the $91.5 million to be used on improvements to the bus transit system. They voted to support Bus Rapid Transit. Even the Mayor’s plan includes a portion for Bus Rapid Transit. The Common Council did not pass a resolution supporting a downtown street car system so the Mayor is operating in a vacuum. Will the Common Council even support the Mayor’s plan?
Now this is something that Walker knows something about. Walker is continually issuing and reissuing ideas that are rejected by the County Board and other sentient beings. Some of these issues include the irresponsible effort to move the mental health complex to the old St. Michael's Hospital, trying to privatize everything, including the airport and the call center (which he eventually lost control of due to his incompetence) and his very questionable pension obligation bond plan, which had already been rejected by the voters a number of years ago.

He has shown a distinct pattern of trying to force decisions that aren't necessarily best for Milwaukee County, but what he decides is best for his perpetual gubernatorial campaign. But seeing how well he is doing at that, it just may be a good thing that he is neglecting Milwaukee County. If he did for us what he is doing for himself, we would all be even in more serious trouble than we already find ourselves.

Finally, to help heal Walker's hurt feelings, James Rowen offers some hard facts about transit and its funding.