Sunday, November 30, 2014

Shankland Looks Forward to Working With Republicans

I had strong concerns about State Representative Katrina Shankland ("D" - Stevens Point) when she first ran for office two years ago.

Two years later, my concerns remain as strong as ever.  Shankland, who is entering her second term in office, was recently elected by the Democratic Assembly Caucus to be the assistant minority leader.  Apparently, her first order of business is to acquiesce to the Republicans:
I think the key here is managing relationships and building coalitions, so my goal is to sit down with everyone in the Assembly. There have been a lot of talks about how ‘green’ the Assembly is. Over half of us haven’t even been through Act 10 anymore. I think, personally, that’s positive. That means while we lack institutional knowledge, we also have tremendous motivation to build personal relationships and work across the aisle. I see that potential in the new members as well as the current freshman caucuses … so my goal is to help facilitate that conversation.

I also am really looking forward to sitting down with every member of leadership, especially in the Republican caucus, talking about priorities and picking their brains seeing where we can work together. There are so many nonpartisan issues in this state. I wish that education were considered nonpartisan. It is not, unfortunately, because of the voucher expansion lobby. I wish that our natural resources and preserving our natural resources were less partisan. I’ll be fighting very hard for that. But I think there are other issues. Protecting women and ensuring that domestic violence is being curbed and we’re finding good plans to help domestic abuse victims is one example where I think we can work together. And we’ve seen that. We passed mental health and heroin packages in the last session. Every kind of corner or angle I can see, I want to capitalize on and make sure that Democrats can advance an agenda that is reflective of what the people of Wisconsin want and that starts by finding ways to work together.
Oh, yay!

You know who else likes to work with the Republicans? The sellout senator, Lena Taylor.

Thanks to Taylor's "bipartisanship," we have a number of unhealthy laws in the books, including, but in no way limited to:

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

How is she going to compromise with people that want to ruin the state ten times over? By making them settle for ruining it only seven times over?

It's pretty much a foregone conclusion that the Democrats have a messaging problem.  I think their problems go much deeper than that.  They have a spinal fortitude deficiency.

A Streetcar Named Ego

From my inbox comes the following press release from Milwaukee Alderman Joe Davis, Sr.:
The mayor’s most recent aggressive push to ram the Streetcar project down the public’s throat has solidified my decision to join Alderman Donovan with the collection of signatures to force a referendum on the proposed borrowing for this project.

The rush to spend the ancient federal allocation from the USDOT that the Mayor has failed to spend, and pass the additional cost from this project to the citizens of this city -- who least can afford it -- is shameful.

The unfortunate incident in Ferguson, MO has confirmed my disappointment with the City of Milwaukee’s priorities. Remember, we have similar economic and social conditions here that exist in Ferguson, but the mayor continues to put his priority into a streetcar that he says will attract new people to Milwaukee’s downtown. He pursues this boondoggle while he consistently fails to address the existing economic and social needs of Milwaukee’s African American and Latino communities.

Clearly, the bulk of the ridership data for the current transit system is from the north and near south side of the City of Milwaukee where there is a heavy population of Latinos and African Americans. Data also shows that the majority of transit ridership uses public transportation for employment purposes, not for tourism or luxury. As a former Milwaukee County Supervisor, I had the pleasure of being mentored on this issue by former County Supervisor James White, and advised by County Supervisor Michael Mayo, the past and present chairs of Milwaukee County’s Transportation, Public Works, and Transit Committee. To continue on this path of hypothetical transit ridership is dangerous and emulates a failed pass.

The seasonal trolleys that were supposed to increase transit ridership downtown have not met their much ballyhooed projections, and are always nearly empty when I see them go by. Now we are pursuing an even more expensive system with the intent of tearing up our public infrastructure without a long term maintenance plan (oh I forgot, put it on the taxpayer!). In addition to the long term cost of maintenance, we have no operator selected, there will be vertical easements required, and the taxpayers are asked to foot the bill by creating a TIF district to cover the cost of relocating utilities that the State has required the City to pay. Coupled with unreasonable revenue projections, this can become dangerously expensive, all while other parts of the city continue to deteriorate.

So because the public will potentially have to foot the bill on this risky endeavor, I say let our citizens decide whether to pay the cost of this “Streetcar Named Ego.”
I will share and expand my reasoning for my position at a later date, but I will say now that the proposal being put forth by Mayor Tom Barrett at this time is unacceptable. While the streetcar could be a boon to the city, the mayor is going about it all wrong.

Keep O'Donnell Park Public!

As I have previously pointed out, Boss Abele, Milwaukee County Emperor, has openly declared war a privatization binge that would made Scott Walker green with envy.  Fortunately, he was stopped - for the most part - by the Milwaukee County Board.
on Milwaukee County.  In his most recent budget, he went on

Sadly, this is not the only front that Boss Abele has used in his attack.  He is also out to sell county assets in secret sweetheart deals.  Lisa Kaiser of the Shepherd Express had broken the story on Abele's plan to surrender Kulwicki Park for a whole dollar a year.  There is no word if Abele promised to give away a vacuum with every park purchase.

One of the more publicized sweetheart deals that Boss Abele is trying to push through is the sale of O'Donnell Park.  O'Donnell Park became a well known name four years ago when part of the facade fell off and killed a teenage boy and seriously injured two others.

Boss Abele is proposing to sell O'Donnell Park to Northwestern Mutual Life (NML) for $14 million.  When one subtracts the cost of needed repairs and paying off the debt service, the county would be lucky to net $5 million.

Since the announcement of this proposed deal, it has been a constant source of red flags, contention and disconcert.

It turns out that the land's real worth is closer to $40 million and is the source of $1.2 million per year in parking revenue.  Why would Abele want to short change taxpayers by such a margin that he would sell the park for less than 10% of its actual worth?

Another problem that will arise is the fact that the land sits on a former lake bed.  The Wisconsin State Constitution rules that this land is part of the Public Trust and thus it cannot be developed for commercial gain.

Granted, Abele and his bought off Teapublican legislators changed state law to rewrite geographic history, claiming that what once a lake bed is no longer a lake bed.  But no one really believes that this law would stand up to a court challenge.

A grassroots group, Public Parks Alliance, has set up a website to fight Boss Abele's folly.  On their website, they explain the issues clearly:
Suppose a private developer offered to buy Washington Park on Milwaukee’s west side. Or Estabrook Park on the east side, or Jackson, Humboldt or Mitchell parks on the south side, or Greenfield Park in the suburbs, or Juneau Park on the lakefront.

The reaction from government and the people would be swift, sure and final:

Our parks are not for sale.

So why is O’Donnell Park different?

Northwestern Mutual Life (NML) has proposed to buy O’Donnell Park, and County Executive Chris Abele was so eager to accommodate the request he put the sale in his budget last fall. Enough county board supervisors balked to get it removed for separate consideration, but some of them were all for it. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has been cheerleading, too. So, the sale of O’Donnell is back on the table for consideration by the County Board.

Why not? O’Donnell Park is prime lakefront property, worth a pretty penny both in the sale and in future tax revenues, right? And besides, O’Donnell is a liability anyway, a boondoggle and a money hole for the county, right?


O’Donnell Park is among the largest revenue producers for the Milwaukee County Parks System. It brings in an average of $1.2 million a year to help fund the parks. With annual cuts to the tax levy portion of parks funding dating back decades, the Parks Department is expected to fund more than half its operating costs through revenues it generates.

County Executive Abele is aware of the harm to the parks budget that would result from the sale. He even suggested a solution in his budget request to make up the difference. It is this: He would simply raise our taxes.

In what sense is O’Donnell Park not the equivalent of other public parks – the ones we would never sell? Because a large part of it is a parking garage? As such, it provides public parking for lakefront and downtown destinations, a benefit to users and to the businesses and cultural institutions they frequent. But O’Donnell is more than a parking structure. Like many other parks, it also includes a public plaza and pavilion for casual or organized public events.

O'Donnell Park is a park in every sense that defines any other park. It is public property, intended for the use and enjoyment of the public. Moreover, unlike many of our parks, O'Donnell Park is subject both to our constitution's Public Trust Doctrine and to deed restrictions requiring that it be used as a public park.

Much of the southern part of the park rests on filled lakebed land, which, under the Trust Doctrine, must be held by a public body for the benefit of the public. It cannot be transferred to a private party. The northern part of O'Donnell Park is part of Juneau Park, which, pursuant to a referendum, was transferred by the city to the county with deed restrictions requiring that it be held by the county and used by it solely as a public park. It was these deed restrictions which were the basis of the lawsuit blocking the Lakefront Expressway.

Preserve Our Parks has said that it would sue to block any private ownership or development of that portion of the Transit Center that rests on filled lakebed . Does anyone think for a minute that they will not likewise pursue lengthy and costly legal action to challenge any sale of O’Donnell? They will. They’ve already said as much.

NML wants O’Donnell Park now for its parking stalls, because it is building a high-rise tower just to the west. What it wants to do with O’Donnell 10 or 20 years from now is another matter. NML has rejected any suggestion that it enter into an agreement with the county to simply lease employee parking at O’Donnell. No, it wants to own it outright.

NML is a very good corporate citizen, almost as old as Milwaukee itself, and as a company has rededicated itself to the downtown area. That we all applaud, and it is natural that local governments strive to accommodate the needs of their best local employers, the drivers of their economies.

But it is of such love affairs that bad precedents are too often set. If Milwaukee County proceeds with what many believe to be the illegal sale of O’Donnell Park, on just what foot will it stand when the next good citizen steps forward with a plan to develop, say, King Park. Why not? Such a plan could bring needed economic opportunities to the suffering near north side.

Let us return to point one:

Our parks are not for sale.
On the group also presents a legal analysis, which is even more telling of what a bad deal Abele is proposing:
At its November 6th meeting, the County Board delayed consideration of the proposed
sale by a vote of 14-3.  The Board expressed uncertainty about the County’s role regarding future use of the property by requesting a legal opinion from County Corporation Counsel on that matter.  They did so with good reason.  There is much confusion about the legal consequences of the proposed sale. The big question is whether the public will have any legally enforceable right to public use and enjoyment of O’Donnell Park or any of its facilities. In short, the agreement provides for almost none.  If the County Board approves this sale, O’Donnell Park will no longer be a public park. It will be fully the buyer’s private property,

The County Executive is proposing sale of the entire park complex--all of its land, structures and facilities. This is a proposed sale, not what some have characterized as a “public-private partnership.” When you sell your house you do not become a partner with the buyer.  After closing, you have no say whatsoever about how the new owner uses the property. Unless the County and NM agree to legally binding provisions for a continuing role for the County, the County will have no role in determining O’Donnell Park’s future. The public, through its County elected officials, will no longer determine whether the property could become part of Milwaukee’s own “Millennium Park,” Chicago’s destination park built atop a parking garage, nor whether the public can have access to any or all of the property. The corporation that owns the property will have the sole right to determine its future use.
As if all this wasn't enough to give the gentle reader cause to pause, Bruce Murphy of Urban Milwaukee, who is as much an Abele acolyte as any, raises concerns about the deal:
Sixth, why did the Abele administration give the impression the entire property was restricted as to future development? “We were misled at the outset that the entire property was, quote, deed restricted,” Jursik complains.

Sixth [sic], why won’t Abele change course and insist on a deed restriction for the southern half of the property? “I’m really concerned Abele is not protecting the public interest on this,” Jursik says. Abele says Northwestern Mutual has other land it could build parking on and “if we push for too much they are able to do other things.” He also notes the county’s past problems developing real estate on land it owns (largely because of board vs. executive squabbles he refrains from noting) and says he wants to send a message to developers that the county is a reliable partner: “We want to build on a reputation as easy to work with.” 
But this may be a case of being too easy to work with. From a market rate perspective, NM seems to be getting a pretty good deal even without the southern portion of the property. But if it has the ability to develop that portion of the property, the deal looks like a steal. With that land included, Jursik says, “there’s no way that’s a market-rate proposal.”
In summary, Boss Abele wants to sell off O'Donnell Park, a valuable county asset which actually generates revenue for the county, for a tenth of what the value of the park is really worth.  On top of that, Abele wants to sell the land with no protections for the taxpayers that would ensure that the public land remains accessible to the public.  Not only did Boss Abele willfully fail to put in said protections, he refuses to even consider them.

It is obvious that Boss Abele has given up even the slightest pretense of representing the people of Milwaukee County.  That is why it is up to us - the people - to make sure our true representatives, the Milwaukee County Board, hears us that O'Donnell Park - or any other park, for that matter - is not for sale!

You can call your Milwaukee County Supervisor at 414-278-4222.  If you're not sure who your county supervisor is, you can look them up here.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Killer Cop Resigns After Raking In The Money

Darren Wilson, the white cop who needlessly killed Michael Brown, a black teenager, in Ferguson has finally resigned nearly four months later:
"I, Darren Wilson, hereby resign my commission as a police officer with the City of Ferguson effective immediately. I have been told that my continued employment may put the residents and police officers of the City of Ferguson at risk, which is a circumstance that I cannot allow. For obvious reasons, I wanted to wait until the grand jury made their decision before I officially made my decision to resign. It was my hope to continue in police work, but the safety of other police officers and the community are of paramount importance to me. It is my hope that my resignation will allow the community to heal. I would like to thank all of my supporters and fellow officers throughout this process."
Ironically, Wilson is disappointed at the way his life turned out:
Wilson said in that interview that he wanted to spend his career with the police force, and hoped to one day be promoted to sergeant.

"I wanted to stay on the road for 30 years and then retire as sergeant and have a retirement," Wilson said. "That's all that I wanted."
Y'know, I bet Michael Brown just wanted to live but Wilson took that away from him.

But don't feel too bad for Wilson.  He's raking it the cash for being a murderer:
A NBC source with knowledge of the #DarrenWilson interview talks said that ABC offered to pay “mid-to-high” six figures for the interview.

The source did not say an exact figure because NBC stopped bidding for it after ABC upped the ante.
And to think that they say that crime doesn't pay.

I wouldn't be surprised that Wilson signs on to Faux News in the near future.  He would fit in really well there.

Let's hope that the US Department of Justice does their job and prosecutes Wilson to the full letter of the law.

Flashback Black Friday

Remember this?
First I thought it was bad when Walmart thought it would be a good idea to hold a food drive for their own employees instead of just paying them a living wage.

Then McDonald's comes along and tells their employees to sell off their Christmas gifts so that they can pay their bills.  They also told their workers to cut up their food into little bits to make it last longer.  They, like Walmart, will do anything to help their employees as long as it doesn't require paying them a living wage or giving them benefits.

But these two can't hold a candle to Scott Walker.

Walker's campaign sent out a fundraising email on Friday that really takes the cake (emphasis mine):

Instead of venturing into the cold this Black Friday, stay in and give your children a gift that will keep on giving.

This year, we are celebrating the Holiday Season with a Black Friday special that is better than any deal found in stores. Donate $5, $10 or $25 to help Governor Walker get reelected and save your children from a future of double-digit tax increases and billion dollar budget deficits.

Instead of electronics or toys that will undoubtedly be outdated, broken, or lost by the next Holiday Season, help give your children the gift of a Wisconsin that we can all be proud of. Governor Walker is helping Wisconsin move forward to a future where your children and grandchildren can experience:
  • Economic Prosperity
  • Improved Schools
  • Freedom From Government Dependence
The Governor wants his sons to grow up in a Wisconsin as great as the one he grew up in. When asked why he never stopped fighting for Wisconsin during the Recall, Governor Walker says he has two reasons, his sons Matt and Alex.

With your help, Governor Walker is enacting reforms that are securing a strong state for the future of Wisconsin’s children. This Black Friday, donate $5, $10 or $25 to help Governor Walker win reelection so he can continue to help Wisconsin move forward.

A strong Wisconsin is the best gift you can give.


Taylor Palmisano
Friends of Scott Walker
Yes, you read that correctly.

Walker is telling people to not bother buying their children any Christmas presents. Instead, they should give the money that they would have spent on their children and give it to Walker's campaign. 

And what would Walker do with that money? Besides using it to jet around the country schmoozing the big money campaign contributors who would help him buy another election and pay for his legal cooperation fund, not much.

And if he were to be reelected again, you can count on him making life even worse for our children. He would finish privatizing education, he would kick more kids off of Badger Care and he would loosen child labor laws. 

Nothing shows the Christmas spirit like denying your kids their gifts so that you can give the money to someone who would only screw them over again.

I wouldn't be surprised if Walker comes out with another book soon - a spin off of A Christmas Carol.  Except in Walker's version, Bob Cratchett sells Tiny Tim's crutch and gives the money to Scrooge.

ADDENDUM: There are some people that are questioning the veracity of the email cited in this post.  To belay those concerns, here is a screen capture of the email.  Note at the bottom where it cites that it is being paid for by the Friends of Scott Walker:

Scott Walker Leaves His Political Bubble And Gets Popped

For most of Scott Walker's career, he has lived in a protective political bubble.

Even though he's been in campaign mode for almost the entire span of his political career (which as been all of his entire adult life - and I do used the term 'adult' very loosely), Walker has seldom hit any bumps. The only real time that he had problems was in 1990 when now US Congresswoman Gwen Moore routed him in a race for the state legislature.

And why should he have had many problems?

He has had a lot of support - to the point of collaboration - from the dark money special interest groups, and from his friends like Reince Priebus.

Just as important as the flood of dark money and collaborated campaigns is the fact that he's had the corporate media in his back pocket. The corporate media, especially in Milwaukee, would seldom accurately report the news, especially if it was bad for Walker. They would gloss over the bad news, minimizing its impact, if they reported it at all. They would also bend the truth to make any good news seem better than it really was.

But now that Walker has the White House in his aim, he is forced to leave this protective political bubble and he's finding that it's a cruel world out there.

First, Walker got a history lesson from a fellow Republican, Ohio Governor John Kasich.
During the 1995-96 budget dispute between Clinton and the Republican-controlled Congress, Walker said, “Clinton did not say the Republicans in Congress aren’t going to work with me so I’m going to do an executive order.”

“He sat down with them,” Walker said.

Kasich, who like Walker just won re-election to a second term in a Rust Belt, labor-dominated state, snapped almost matter-of-factly.

“No, he shut the government — the government got shut down first,” Kasich said.

The audience laughed. And then the two men, both of them likely to run for president in 2016, began to talk over each other as NBC’s "Meet the Press" moderator Chuck Todd stroked his red goatee in delight.

“There was tremendous animosity,” Kasich said, almost yelling, to remind the younger Walker that he, Kasich, had been there himself as a member of Congress.

“It wasn’t —” Walker tried to get out before Kasich cut him off.

“Scott, it was!” Kasich said. “I’ll tell you, when you’re sitting around and we’ve got Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole at each other over a shutdown, it wasn’t easy either.”
Then on November 9, 2014, fresh from his reelection, Walker appeared on Meet the Press in which he got slapped around again by host Chuck Todd.

Todd accurately showed that Wisconsin's job numbers and wages are lagging behind that of the national averages even though Walker tried to spin it until everyone's head was spinning.

Ironically, but not surprisingly, the Wisconsin corporate media giant Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, in their version of PolitiFact, also tried to spin things in Walker's favor even as they admitted that Todd was correct:
The quarterly time frames don’t match up precisely with Walker’s time in office because, as we noted, there is a lag of several months in reporting the figures. But when compared March 2011 to March 2014, and December 2010 to December 2013, the results were essentially the same: Wisconsin has lagged the national average on job growth, but was slightly higher on wage growth.
Some people never learn.

Cross posted at Crooks and Liars

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Ghost of Scott Walker Future

Tonight, on Facebook, Scott Walker shared his vision, of what he sees Milwaukee looking like at the end of his second term.  If all goes as planned!

Can GOP Presidential Hopefuls Trust Reince Priebus?

Before Reince Priebus became head of the Republican National Committee, he was the head of the Republican Party of Wisconsin. Naturally, this meant he was close with many of the top Republican politicians of the state, especially Scott Walker.

Emails that were released from the original John Doe investigation into Walker's campaign, commonly known as Walkergate, reveal just how close they were.

In his 2010 gubernatorial campaign, Walker was being primaried by former Congressman Mark Neumann.

One email showed that one of Priebus' right hand men, Jonathan Waclawski, was vetting a open records request to send to Walker's office to explore what Neumann was trying to find out about Walker. Said ORR was also being run past Walker's campaign and shared with his county staff in advance:

Click on image to embiggen

Another email from the John Doe investigation showed that Priebus himself would get involved by tipping off Walker regarding attack points Neumann planned on using:

Click on image to embiggen

As the gentle reader can see, Priebus had no problems playing favorites in that gubernatorial primary.

Now that he is the head of the RNC (and has brought Waclawski with him), it would not be any great leap of logic to question if Priebus would also play favorites in a presidential primary.

Between Priebus possibly sabotaging other candidates campaigns and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and potential presidential candidate, manipulating things as the head of the Republican Governors Association, the behind the scenes infighting in the upcoming GOP presidential primary could be just as much fun to watch - if not more fun - than the public fighting between the numerous candidates.

One might want to stock up on popcorn, because this promises to get rather interesting.

Cross posted at Crooks and Liars

Thursday, November 27, 2014

AFSCME Sues County for Breaking Contract Promise to Correctional Employees

As previously reported, Boss Abele tried to go on a privatization binge in his 2015 budget.  When he didn't get his way, he had a tantrum and fired his head of the Department of Administration.

Unfortunately, Abele did get at least one thing through, which was defunding 91 positions that were meant to provide medical and psychiatric services to inmates at the Milwaukee County Jail and at the House of Correction.  This stems from a court order for Milwaukee County to temporarily hire a private firm to manage these services because Boss Abele and his buddy Sheriff David Clarke willfully failed to hire the necessary staff.

The court order also made it clear that the county workers would not be displaced and that their spots would be filled by the private company employees only when they became open when a county worker quit or retired.

By not funding these positions, Abele thought he would get around that order.

The union won't allow Abele to go back on his word.  Boyd McCamish, Executive Director of AFSCME District Council 48, issued the following press release on Wednesday:
Boyd McCamish, Executive Director of Milwaukee District Council 48, AFSCME, announced today that the Union is filing suit against Milwaukee County and Armor Correctional Health Services, Inc.

Armor, a Florida corporation, has provided medical and mental health services for inmates at the Jail and House of Correction using a mixture of its own employees and County employees since 2013. McCamish made the announcement after the County adopted a budget that deletes funding for approximately 91 County health care jobs at the Jail and House of Correction.

In 2013, a State judge ordered the County to sign a contract with Armor to provide health services for inmates at the Jail and House of Correction. The contract, signed by the County and Armor with the court’s approval, promised that County employees would continue to be employed at the Jail and House and Correction but would work under Armor’s supervision. As part of the contract, Armor would provide its own personnel, but no County employees would be displaced to make room for additional Armor employees. Only as County employees quit or retired would Armor be able replace them with its own employees.

“Chris Abele has left a trail of broken promises in his wake as County Executive. We are asking a Court to clarify that the County must keep its contractual promises to the health care workers employed by the County Jail and House of Correction and to let them continue to work until they retire or quit.

“That is what the County promised in 2013 and that is what should happen. The 2015 budget may have not funded these positions, but the contract between Armor and the County says that the workers can’t be fired to make room for Armor employees. If the County thinks its budget permits it to violate the rights of members of the Union who were promised under the contract that they would not be displaced, the Union is going to fight the County in the courts to protect its members,” McCamish said.

McCamish said that if any members of District Council 48 who work at the Jail or the House of Correction receive layoff or termination letters, they should immediately contact the Union or its attorney, Mark Sweet, who will represent the Union in its suit against Armor and the County.
It should be noted that Abele's and Clarke's refusal to do their job and having the private company manage these services have already dinged the taxpayers for an extra million dollars. Now, it's probably going to cost taxpayers even more money to first defend the indefensible actions taken by Abele and then to make those 91 workers whole again.

On top of all that, Armor doesn't have a very good record in providing proper care and has been sued multiple times.

Despite his claims to the contrary, it is increasingly obvious that Boss Abele is neither a fiscal conservative nor a good representative of the people.  Of the plutocracy, yes, of the people, no.

Boss Abele Replaces DOA Head After Failed Privatization Efforts

As I noted last week, the 2015 Milwaukee County Budget had been finalized.

Abele wanted to privatize a lot of services and cut out other services altogether. He sent his right hand man and director of the Department of Administration, Don Tyler, to make sure that these maleficent actions took place.

However, county workers and AFSCME members went to the budget hearings and pointed out that folly and maleficence of the Abele's budget and privatization schemes.  The county board agreed.  Some of the budgetary actions taken by the board included:
  • Restored $300,000 to homeless shelters. (Keep in mind that this is only November and we have already had two nights with wind chills below zero. Abele's veto was so egregious that even his own personal supervisor, Deanna Alexander, voted against him on this.)
  • Restored $300,000 for indigent burials.
  • Restored $10 million to do repairs and maintenance to county parks.
  • Restored free bus rides for the elderly and disabled.
  • Restored several positions in the Sheriff's Office to increase public safety.
  • Restored six clerical positions at the House of Correction instead of paying overtime to corrections officers to do that work instead of guarding inmates.
  • Stopped the privatization of food services at the zoo.
  • Stopped privatization of security guards and transferred them to the Sheriff's Department.  (Remember how well that idea worked out for Scott Walker when he tried it.)
  • Stopped the $2,000 pay cuts to county workers and restored a flexible spending account program, which will hopefully slow down the high rate of turnover the county is experiencing.
When Abele's privatization and profiteering schemes had been beaten back, I predicted that he would have another one of his temper tantrums, acting like the spoiled, rich brat that he is.

This week, the predicted temper tantrum did indeed occur and Tyler felt Boss Abele's wrath for failing to get his dirty work done.  Abele threw Tyler under the bus for not being able to execute Abele's poorly thought out schemes.

Boss Abele also didn't waste any time replacing Tyler.  He has already named Teig Whaley-Smith, Economic Development Director as Tyler's successor.

The decision to promote Whaley-Smith does make some sense.  Who better than the Economic Development Director to help ram through secret sweetheart deals for county assets such as our parks and buildings?

Given Boss Abele's propensity for tantrums and rash decisions, I would strongly suggest that Whaley-Smith keep his resume updated.  One never can tell how long one will last when the Emperor has one of his snit fits.

"As God As My Witness, I Thought Turkeys Could Fly"

Happy Thanksgiving!

Voters Support Public Schools

From State Senator Kathleen Vinehout

Recent School Referenda Pass
Voters Show Strong Support for Local Schools

"I voted for the referendum,” the Mondovi woman told me. “I don’t have kids. I know it’s going to raise my property taxes. I don’t want to pay more, but I think we need to keep good schools.”All across Wisconsin voters chose to raise property taxes in support of their schools by passing school referenda.

Ten years ago only 24% of school referenda passed. This year 68% passed. No year in the past 20 comes close to that percentage except 2012.

Following the 2011 historic cuts in state school aid, Wisconsin voters passed 53 of 77 school referenda in 2012. This year, voters faced 120 referenda and passed 82.

Why did voters across the state vote to raise their own property taxes?

Voters believe in the importance of strong local schools. People saw how schools consolidated; how school districts share services, staff, even football teams. Voters know fewer dollars mean fewer opportunities for children.
Voters see schools as the heart of their community and their schools require funding. Eight out of ten of the referenda passed this year provide for continued operations of the schools, including safety and maintenance. Some of these schools faced closure – for example elementary schools in Eleva and Strum. Others faced leaky roofs, potholes in parking lots, staff cuts, aging technology and increased class sizes.

Rural schools are especially hard hit, as the state’s funding formula doesn’t recognize the cost structure of many schools. When schools lose students, they lose state aid - which drops faster than the school’s ability to cut expenses.

School board members tell me it takes so much money just to open the doors and heat the building. State aid doesn’t account for these high fixed costs. The state pays on a per student basis, but more than 60% of schools have fewer students every year. Fewer students and less state aid means more costs pushed on property taxpayers.
At what point do we reach the limit of a community’s ability to pay increased property taxes? Soon, local people tell me. I’m reminded of a Pepin resident who rode a school bus to Madison to tell me that he loves his school but he can’t pay any more in property tax.

That is why Republican Governor Tommy Thompson invested in state support for schools by providing 2/3rds state funding for schools. As a result, property taxes dropped over 3% each year for two years in a row.
But state support as a percent of total school costs has eroded ever since.

Recently huge sums of state dollars were subtracted from the public school budget. Over the past four years, a cumulative one billion in state dollars were removed from the budget of local schools across the state. At the same time hundreds of millions in new dollars went to state subsidized private schools in one of the largest new state sponsored entitlements we’ve seen in years.
Private school parents tell me they don’t even like the idea of private schools getting large sums of taxpayer dollars – in some Milwaukee private schools 100% of their school budget is taxpayer money.
Behind the push for state subsidized private schools is a national movement made up of some very wealthy groups who see dollar signs when it comes to state subsidized private schools.
And caught holding the bag are folks in districts where referenda passed who all will be writing checks in the next few weeks to pay property taxes.
Great schools make for great communities. You can’t have one without the other. Folks know schools are the heart of the community. We see all those who attend a school function and realize in no other place do so many gather. Everyone benefits from an investment in education.

I heard of a school district with a failed referendum now considering cuts to science classes. Imagine the future doctor who doesn’t get the science she needs and the lost potential to cure your loved one’s ailment 15 years from now.

This is why we must invest in public schools now.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Wild Bill Kramer Gets Slap On Wrist For Sexual Assaults

In March 2014, Republican Wisconsin State Representative Bill Kramer, who also was the Assembly Majority Leader, was charged with two counts of Second Degree Sexual Assault for violently sexually assaulting a GOP congressional staffer:
In the parking lot of the High Tide, Kramer shoved the woman against a car, kissed her forcibly and put his hands up her shirt, according to the complaint.

"(The victim) states she continued to tell him 'no and don't' as she turned her head away from him and pushed at his hands," the complaint says.

The woman was "shocked, numb and not thinking clearly" and drove Kramer to another part of the parking lot. When they arrived, he locked the car doors, kissed her again, grabbed her groin and tried to look down her shirt, according to the charges.

The incident "severely impacted" the woman emotionally and led her to seek professional help, the complaint says.
Fortunately for Kramer, the Waukesha County District Attorney was fellow Republican Brad Schimel, who was running for Wisconsin Attorney General. Schimel let Kramer off the hook by giving him a generous plea deal:
Just days ahead of a scheduled jury trial, state Rep. Bill Kramer (R-Town of Waukesha) Thursday pleaded no contest to reduced charges of two misdemeanor counts of fourth-degree sexual assault.

Kramer entered the plea during what was to have been a status conference on the case, stemming from felony sexual assault charges filed in March against the former No. 2 lawmaker in the Assembly.

Assistant District Attorney Debra Blasius said her office will recommend three years of probation, with a variety of conditions, including nine months in jail with work-release privileges.

Kramer, 49, will not have to register as a sex offender, but must undergo a sex offender assessment and any recommended treatment. Sentencing is set for Nov. 25 before Reserve Judge Neal Nettesheim.
The plea deal ended up being better than what Kramer and Schimel had hoped it would be:
State Rep. Bill Kramer (R-Town of Waukesha) was sentenced Tuesday to five months in jail, after pleading no contest last month to reduced charges of two misdemeanor counts of fourth-degree sexual assault.

The jail term is a condition of a three-year probation sentence.

He will begin serving his jail time, with work-release privileges, on Dec. 4.

Reserve Judge Neal Nettesheim also imposed several other conditions on Kramer: He must get a sex offender and alcohol assessment and complete any required treatment.

He may have no contact with his victim. He must maintain absolute sobriety and avoid entering any bars or other establishments whose primary business is serving alcohol. He must pay $216 restitution.

He will not have to register as a sex offender.

Because he was ultimately convicted of a misdemeanor, not a felony, Kramer can serve the remainder of his term in the Assembly.
Not only does Kramer escape any meaningful punishment and keep his job, he will also get to keep his lucrative pension.

Not a bad return for a $500 campaign donation that was given back to him in the end anyway.

It should be noted that his fellow Republican lawmakers did strip him of his leadership role in the State Assembly, but took no further actions against him. They're real law and order types alright.

Cross posted at Crooks and Liars

Boss Abele's Secretly Selling Off Milwaukee County Parks

Lisa Kaiser of the Shepherd Express has a must read article in this week's issue regarding some of the ramifications of Boss Abele's unprecedented power grab - namely, his pawning off of county assets in sweetheart deals.

She points out the questionable way Boss Abele decided to try to practically give away the Transit Center and O'Donnell Park and his backdoor attempt at privatizing the zoo's food service to a Denver-based company.

But the real eye catcher is what he is trying to do with Kulwicki Park:
[Milwaukee County Supervisor Gerry] Broderick said he was troubled by the administration’s attempt to lease parkland without public discussion or even notifying him, the chair of the parks committee.

“This is Abele’s approach,” Broderick said. “It lends credence to the argument that Abele’s intent here is to turn the parks back to municipalities where the municipalities would choose to accept them back and in doing so undo the emerald necklace that is something that Milwaukee County is so proud of.”

Broderick said the county would have had more resources to keep up its parks if the Legislature—and the conservative Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC)—hadn’t blocked the implementation of a half-cent sales tax for parks and cultural assets as approved by voters in a 2008 referendum.  Ironically, an MMAC-led effort to push a similar referendum, including funding for a new sports arena, is now underway.


Broderick said he wanted to bring the matter up for debate in a parks committee meeting as soon as he could. And he warned that while the lease of Kulwicki Park may seem benign on the surface, it could lead to leasing highly sought-after parkland to interested developers with little to no public involvement.

“What’s there to prevent the administration from leasing Lake Park or Grant Park, or encircling the golf courses with high-end condos?” Broderick said. “To say it’s troubling I think understates the facts. This will lead to a two-tier parks system, with have-parks and have-not parks.”
Once again, Boss Abele has proven why people refer to him as Walker Lite. He has all the sliminess and underhandedness of Scott Walker, but with none of the political savvy.

I also have to point out once again that as long as the Democrats keep embracing and honoring people like Abele instead of holding them accountable, they will keep losing elections.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Wisconsin Supreme Court Election 2015 - Bradley vs Bradley?

Even as the State of Wisconsin is licking its wound from the bloodbath it suffered during the elections earlier this month, the spring elections are just around the corner.

Perhaps the most notable and most important race will be for the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley is up for reelection.  Walsh Bradley is one of the few justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court with integrity, dignity and impartial and measured judiciousness.

Her class was shown by the way she handled herself when she was physically assaulted by David "Choke Hold" Prosser.

One of the names being bantered about by the extreme right is Rebecca Bradley.  This Bradley was appointed to Milwaukee County Circuit Court by Scott Walker two years ago so that she could run for the seat as an incumbent in the spring election.

When the right wing Bradley was running for her first election two years ago, I did a fairly comprehensive write up on her at that time and at the risk of being accused of plagiarizing myself, I shall reproduce it here:
For the record, I endorsed Protasiewicz for the primary and I am proud to endorse her for the general election on April 2.  I endorsed her because I know first hand of her strong work ethic, her balanced view and her dedication to the law.
At that time, I also pointed out that Protasiewicz' opponent was not being honest with the voters:

I need to point out that the "incumbent," Rebecca Bradley was appointed to her seat by Scott Walker four months ago, for no other purpose than to give the incumbent boost at the polls.

I know many people that have appeared before her. Let me just say they were not very impressed. She took an exceptionally long time to learn her job and still has a hard time trying to do it.

Furthermore, she is less than honest with the voters. Almost nowhere in her literature (which she sends two of each one to my home), her webpage or ads does she mention that she used to lead the Milwaukee Branch of the Federalist Society.

For the unfamiliar, the Federalist Society is to law what Media Trackers is to journalism. Their mission is to find legal ways to advance their uber-conservative agenda.
It turns out I was not completely accurate with that assessment. As it turns out, Bradley is a lot more partisan and a lot more dishonest than I had previously thought.

As noted above, she was appointed by Scott Walker just five months ago.  The first red flag came in his announcement of her appointment to the bench (emphasis mine):
“Appointing Ms. Bradley ensures the residents of Milwaukee County receive timely and fair service from the court system,” said Governor Walker. “Ms. Bradley is a great lawyer, a person of integrity, and she understands the proper role of a judge. She will be a great addition to the Milwaukee County bench.”
Given his relationship to certain members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, like David "Rubber Stamp" Prosser, we know what this means.

My suspicions grew in the time leading up to the primary and we received numerous flyers from her campaign.  That was a lot of money for a county race primary and for someone who just started her campaign just three months before.

What I also found interesting was some of the language on her mailers:

Click on image to embiggen

Pay note to the first highlighted line: "...applying the law impartially, free of any political agenda."  One would think that when someone says something like this, they would mean there would no political agenda, but the facts show that Bradley's whole campaign is about furthering the extreme right wing agenda.

First off, a quick look at the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's database shows that not only has Bradley made political donations, but all $1,350 of it went to Scott Walker, with the most recent being just months before he appointed her to the bench:

Click on image to embiggen
Another red flag should be when Bradley announced her campaign and named Michael Grebe as one of her campaign co-chairs.  Grebe is, as the gentle reader already knows, the head of the corrupt, racist Bradley Foundation and was Scott Walker's  campaign chairman for both of his last two campaigns.

Well, at least now we can surmise how she afforded all those mailings.

Her "nonpartisanship" is also demonstrated by the fact that she is a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA).  One of the main issues for the RNLA is voter suppression, which has been shown to be targeting young minorities the most.  As written by the Republicans, the voter suppression laws would be the most restrictive in the nation.  Bradley's RNLA responded with inflammatory, irresponsible and baseless rhetoric, saying opposition to the voter suppression law came from "the far left, anti-democracy and divisive campaign funded by George Soros."

Well, that certainly makes it clearer on why Grebe is involved with the campaign.

As I had mentioned before, Bradley also did a stint as President of the Milwaukee Federalist Society - a fact that she is trying to scrub from her profiles.  The Federalist Society is funded in part by the Bradley Foundation (cue Grebe again) and the issue this presents is best described by Tom Foley, aka Illusory Tenant:

The incumbent, Republican Scott Walker appointee Rebecca Bradley, describes herself as a "nonideological" member of the Federalist Society, which is an organization of malcontents and paranoid hysterics with law degrees that was founded on political ideology. 
Kinda like being a Milwaukee Admiral but you don't play hockey.

As further proof of her "freedom of any political agenda, it should be noted that she has a rather peculiar habit of attending Republican fundraisers and other events such as the Milwaukee County Reagan Day Dinner and the Milwaukee County Lincoln Day Dinner:

Needless to say, a preponderance of the evidence shows beyond a reasonable doubt that Rebecca Bradley is an extremist and as partisan as they come.
As I noted above, the extreme right wingers are really pushing for the ultra conservative Bradley to run.

One of these extremists is radio squawker Charlie Sykes, who is pushing for her on his "White Wisconsin" page, which is funded by the Wisconsin Club for Growth.

In what I'm sure is a pure coincidence (cough, cough), the Wisconsin Club for Growth dropped $167,000 on ads to support Bradley, which is a helluva lotta money for a county circuit court race.

I am sure it is also pure coincidence (cough, cough,) that the Wisconsin Supreme Court has not even heard, much less rendered a decision regarding the slew of John Doe related cases - all involving the Wisconsin Club for Growth - that have been sent to it.

I would not be surprised to see the dark money special interest group stall any proceedings by the Supreme Court until the latter half of next year when they feel that they hope to have enough of a strangle hold on Lady Justice.

I don't think it would be possible to overemphasize the importance of this election.  We must stop the damage before we can start repairing it.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Ron Johnson Won't Self-Finance 2016 Campaign Just Like He Didn't In 2010

US Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) was recently on C-SPAN where he said that he would not self-finance his 2016 campaign for reelection:
When Sen. Ron Johnson seeks re-election in 2016, don't look for the Wisconsin Republican to open his own checkbook this time around.

Johnson said on C-SPAN that he's not going to self-finance another campaign.

"I made my $9 million investment in this country," Johnson said Wednesday. "I gave it once, I don't think I should do it again."
RoJo has obviously forgotten that he didn't self-finance his 2010 campaign either

His company, Pacur, financed it:
After dropping nearly $9 million from his own pocket to win a seat in the U.S. Senate, Ron Johnson didn't have to feel the pain for very long.

Johnson's plastics company paid him $10 million in deferred compensation shortly before he was sworn in as Wisconsin's junior senator, according to his latest financial disclosure report.

The first-term Republican declined to say how his Oshkosh firm, Pacur, came up with a figure that so closely mirrored the amount he personally put into his campaign fund.

"You take a look in terms of what would be a reasonable compensation package, OK?" Johnson said this week. "It's a private business. I've complied with all the disclosure laws, and I don't have to explain it any further to someone like you."


Unlike most deferred package deals, however, it appears that the company had not set aside a specified amount annually that would be paid out when he left the firm. Instead, Johnson said the $10 million payment was "an agreed-upon amount" that was determined at the end of his tenure with the company.

Agreed upon with whom?

"That would be me," he said.

Still, Johnson said he couldn't see why anyone would raise any questions about the going-away present he gave himself. His LLC now owns only 5% of Pacur.
Even that is not completely accurate.

Pacur was actually created by RoJo's father-in-law as a supplier to his other company, Curwood. RoJo married into his job.

Furthermore, RoJo was pretty dependent on government loans and HUD grants to keep his company going.

But thanks to the Citizens United decision, it is without doubt that RoJo is counting on the dark money special interest groups to support his campaign for being such a good water carrier for them during his term, so he won't need to tap into his business' coffers to support another race.

Cross posted at Crooks and Liars.

Remembering Alexander Orlowski

Seven years ago on this date, Alexander Orlowski lost his life while incarcerated at the Milwaukee County House of Correction.

His death was the result of a drug overdose which was allowed to happen due to a severe staffing shortage, leaving corrections officers burnt out and not as effective as they could be.

A year after his passing, I had the privilege and honor of meeting his parents, Gary and Patti Orlowski, who shared the story of his troubled life and his troubling death.

Last year, the Orlowskis filed a lawsuit against the county, not for the money per se, since no amount of money will bring their son back, but to make sure that another family's son won't die because of the austerity measures that Scott Walker and Chris Abele promote every day.

I continue to wish the Orlowski family peace and strength as they carry on without their son and fighting for everyone else's sons and daughters.

Labor Unrest At MPS

On Tuesday, the Finance Committee of the Milwaukee Public School Board was to meet.

The Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association were present to speak for the need for raises for the Education Assistance, who barely make a living wage and haven't had a raise in years.

However, Committee Chair Jeff Spence led the committee out of the room before the MTEA members were allowed to speak for a "closed door session" that was scheduled for the end of the meeting.  They did not come out of the closed door session until after the MTEA members left, unheard by the committee.

On Thursday, the school board met but would not allow public comment, so MTEA and supporters from the community took a direct action by doing a mic check.

What is telling is that School Board President Michael Bonds was more concerned about having these citizens removed from the room than hearing what they had to say.

Afterwards, Bonds called the citizens "rude and disruptive."

I'm sorry, but what is rude and disruptive is school officials refusing to listen to their employees and even worse, to the general public.  They were elected to represent the public who voted for them.  They were not elected to dictate to the people who voted for them.

This is the result of Act 10, which is nothing more than an effort to silence an entire section of the population and allowing petty tyrants to just go ahead and do what they want without rhyme or reason other than just because they can.

However, history shows again and again that the people won't remain silenced and will have their voices heard one way or another.  The sooner that elected officials like the Milwaukee Public School Board learns this, the better things will be for everyone.

And if they choose to still not listen, they can be replaced by people who will.

Popcorn Turkey

It's that time of year again.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and people are starting the hustle and bustle of planning and preparing for their Turkey Day feast.

In case the gentle reader is bored of the same old routine, here is a recipe for turkey that I've been sharing ever since I was a newbie blogger:
An oldie, but a goodie...

Here is a Thanksgiving Turkey recipe that also includes the use of popcorn as a stuffing - imagine that.

When I found this recipe, I thought it was perfect for people like me, who just are not sure how to tell when poultry is thoroughly cooked, but not dried out. Give this a try.


10-12 lb. Turkey
1 cup melted butter
1 cup stuffing (Pepperidge Farm is good.)
5 cups uncooked popcorn (ORVILLE REDENBACHER 'S LOW FAT)
Salt/pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush Turkey well with melted butter, salt, and pepper. Fill cavity with stuffing and popcorn. Place in baking pan with the neck end toward the back of the oven.Listen for the popping sounds. When the turkey's ass blows the oven door open and flies across the room, it's done.

Imagine the look on your loved ones' faces as you show off your culinary skills.
As another bit of advice, you might want to make sure you have reservations at your favorite restaurant - just in case.

Scott Walker to Join AFSCME?!

What the what?

Oh, don't worry. This particular John Doe can't be Scott Walker. The membership is for Local 645, my local, which represents Milwaukee County professionals, meaning he would need to have a college degree and that isn't about to happen any time soon.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Boss Abele Temper Tantrum Alert System Has Been Activated

Two years ago, when the Milwaukee County Board overrode some of Boss Abele's budget vetoes - especially those that attacked county workers - Abele through an epic temper tantrum.  He decided to show them by buying off a couple of Teapublican state legislators and did a massive and unprecedented power grab.

When the unions stood up to Abele's plantation economics, he tried to bust the unions - twice.

When State Representative-elect and current Supervisor David Bowen led the move to bring a living wage to Milwaukee County, Abele threw another tantrum and tried to remove all local living wage laws throughout the state.

When Abele started moves to abandon the mentally ill, the County Board demanded that it be done in a safe and responsible manner.  Abele pouted, stamped his feet and went back to his paid off state legislators to have the County Board be stripped off any and all control over the mental health program except to rubber stamp his budget for the profiteers.

Given his past behaviors, Abele must be gearing up for an F-5 temper tantrum after the county board overrode all but two of his nearly 30 vetoes on Wednesday.

Before anyone goes ballistic that the County Board didn't support Abele cutting taxes by two whole dollars, look at the actions taken by the board and see that they were completely appropriate and the right thing to do.  In Wednesday's actions, the County Board:

  • Restored $300,000 to homeless shelters. (Keep in mind that this is only November and we have already had two nights with wind chills below zero. Abele's veto was so egregious that even his own personal supervisor, Deanna Alexander, voted against him on this.)
  • Restored $300,000 for indigent burials.
  • Restored $10 million to do repairs and maintenance to county parks.
  • Restored free bus rides for the elderly and disabled.
  • Restored several positions in the Sheriff's Office to increase public safety.
  • Restored six clerical positions at the House of Correction instead of paying overtime to corrections officers to do that work instead of guarding inmates.
  • Stopped the privatization of food services at the zoo.
  • Stopped privatization of security guards and transferred them to the Sheriff's Department.  (Remember how well that idea worked out for Scott Walker when he tried it.)
  • Stopped the $2,000 pay cuts to county workers and restored a flexible spending account program, which will hopefully slow down the high rate of turnover the county is experiencing.
No "entitlements."  No lavish luxuries.  Just good, old common sense - and necessary - moves to start repairing some of the damage done by Walker and his protege, Abele.

I commend and thank Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic and the other county supervisors for standing up for Milwaukee County and its people and turning back Boss Abele's plantation economics.