Monday, March 30, 2015
Then he can go flat-out on the campaign trail, be anywhere and everywhere his jets can take him, freed from any responsibility or distraction or potential fund-raising conflict in or about the governorship of the State of Wisconsin.
Posted by James Rowen at 10:00 AM
Never been there, but I see that while Scott Walker hawks an Everyman, blue-collarish persona, he's been in Palm Beach courting power-brokers and big donors several times, including:
March 22, 2015.
February 28, 2015.
February 28, 2014.
February 14, 2014.
March 14, 2012.
April 8, 2011. (Accompanied, reported the Capital Times, to an appearance before a Rush Limbaugh-hosted event by his ex-Milwaukee County Deputy Chief of Staff, and since-convicted John Doe I felon, Kelly Rindfleish)
Posted by James Rowen at 9:00 AM
Sunday, March 29, 2015
it's noteworthy that local opponents, making progress playing David to the region's Goliath, are also standing their advertising ground (page nine, zoom in) ahead of important, April 7th local town board elections.
The fight over the golf course is certainly a local issue led by local citizens, and has generated some statewide environmental concern because the site is in a forested, wetlands-rich 247-acre nature preserve right at Lake Michigan (see above) and an adjoining state park.
The current plan has the golf course, clubhouse and parking lot sharing a narrow access road to the state park.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, which operates the park, has a team working with the developer to move the project along, though no construction permits have been filed with the DNR or the US Army Corps of Engineers.
But environmental issues aside, the proposal has a broader political context because another developer wants a financial boost - - Tax Incremental Financing dollars - - from the state for a big golfing project in Adams County.
Given the existing high-end golf courses already here, Is growth in that market a sure bet, given golf's overall decline nationally, not to mention the state's stagnant job-creation and low-wage economy?
Are more high-end golf courses sited with the blessing of the state to principally serve upscale users a smart approach to improving Wisconsin's mediocre economy?
Note also that the key figure in the Adams County golf development is a Walker/GOP donor - - as is Herb Kohler, Jr. - - so the issues are definitely wrapped up in special-interest politics.
Posted by James Rowen at 2:30 PM
We've seen all sorts of alleged clarifications aimed to clean up various political missteps - - 'walking back' is the favored non-denial denial. of late - - and Wisconsin got a dose of "drafting error" to explain away Walker's still-not-repaired budget attack on the long-established University of Wisconsin public service mission.
But I'm not sure how Indiana gets itself out of the damaging ideological trap it dug for itself at the expense of the First Amendment on behalf of its right-wing, Tea Party constituencies.
Indiana, home to the Final Four, or Indiana, the Discrimination Light state?
When Indiana fully stops digging this nasty hole, taxpayers there are going to wish their losses - - all told - - could have stopped at the $1.1 million it just cost Wisconsin taxpayers to finally settle the consequences of having inserted and then defended. at state expense, language in the Wisconsin Constitution that enabled discrimination against same-sex couples.
Posted by James Rowen at 11:18 AM
The photo accompanying the story shows the award-winning Sixth Street Bridge - - so beautiful that I once had to redirect some tourists on Wisconsin Ave. away from it because they thought they thought they were heading for the Calatrava Art Museum pedestrian bridge.
The old Sixth Street Viaduct which the bridge replaced was a flat, single-purpose interstate-highway style concrete span built to move commuters above the Menomonee River Valley; the new bridge, designed at the insistence of then-Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist (I was in the meetings) over the objections of the Thompson administration and its DOT at the time.
Norquist wanted a more functional, urban-friendly bridge that came down gracefully to the Valley floor, thus opening the land and water there to greater access and development - - results visible now at the popular, commerce-generating destinations, including the Harley-Davidson Museum at Canal Street, then west past the Potawatomi complex, the Menomonee Valley Partners' multiple business and park initiatives - - a national model - - all the way paralleling the Henry Aaron State Trail to a final connection at Miller Park.
The long-delayed Milwaukee streetcar project should similar public and private-sector payoff.
I have been telling the story of the bridge since 2008, but it's a story still ignored by state planners fixed on highway expansion at the expense of city land, and the needs of pedestrians, bike riders and train passengers:
...Norquist prevailed, and the new bridge has won awards for its striking appearance.
It also set off development in the newly, more-accessible Valley, and gave Harley-Davidson the option to locate its museum there.
The struggle with the state and the eventual happy outcome proved that cities are more than land to be spanned.
Get yourself onto the streets where there is commerce and culture. State road-planning shouldn't obstruct that essential definition of what a city is all about.
And public structures can be functional and beautiful. There needn't be a contradiction there.
Posted by James Rowen at 9:00 AM
But you out there beyond Wisconsin - - what do you really know about the guy, and the faux, 'Regular Joe' line he's touting nationally?
[Tuesday, 11:00 a.m. update] - - Adding a link to a comprehensive investigative report on Walker by Michael Isikoff, Yahoo News, here.
Here are a few fun facts you outsiders might not know about Walker that Wisconsinites have learned the hard way:
About those emails:
* Though he ripped Hillary Clinton for using a private email account, records show that Walker, his campaign staff and his official Milwaukee County staff also used a private email account in 2010 while he was Milwaukee County Executive.
The system ran through a private Internet router that was installed, used and then removed from Walker's office suite by Walker county staffers who were later convicted of felonious behavior that came to light after the secret system was discovered.
"Emails link Walker to secret email system," The Journal Sentinel headline and story noted.
* A Walker campaign spokeswoman had said in an email found among records unearthed in the prosecutorial probe that led to six convictions that the system served the campaign, or "the dark side;" a senior Walker county/taxpayer-paid administrator who said at the time she used the system to communicate with Walker and others also welcomed a since-convicted Walker aide to the system's "inner circle" and urged the aide to check the system often, records showed.
* Records discovered in that investigation showed Walker and his 2010 gubernatorial campaign staff strategized to deflect from Walker, or the County, any potential responsibility for the fatal collapse of a 26,000-pound concrete slab at a county-owned-and-maintained parking garage built prior to Walker's election as County Executive in 2002.
* Separately, but in the same internal procedural vein, Walker, his campaign and his county staff worked to block the release of news about the filing of a federal civil rights lawsuit against the County by the family of a female patient who starved to death in the county's mental health complex. Emails also show a senior Walker county aide demeaning the victim.
* Walker's County chief of staff and the deputy chief of staff exchanged racist emails.
One of those emails echoed a racist posting found separately by federal authorities in official email accounts in Ferguson, Missouri.
About The Tea Party:
* While potential Walker rivals like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and others are routinely labeled "Tea Party" candidates, Walker is not, though he told CNN in 2013, "I am the original Tea Party in Wisconsin."
* As of March 22, 2015, the Journal Sentinel's fact-checking service PolitiFact has examined 130 Walker statements. His most frequent rating is "false," totaling thirty-five, and added to ten more rated the most-dishonest, or "pants on fire," those forty-five findings are exactly triple the fifteen Walker statements rated fully "true."
* Sometimes Walker's mistakes are so ridiculous, so devoid of factual citation or foundation ridiculous that they sound like talk radio or bar talk.
* Sometimes they are laughably infused with Walker's penchant for finger-pointing, like this example of a costly program Walker blamed on his predecessor, Jim Doyle, when the prpgram had actually been created by Doyle's predecessor, Republican Tommy Thompson - - with an affirmative vote cast by then-State Rep. Scott Walker.
* During large protests in and around the State Capitol building in Madison that gathered after Walker's sudden legislative initiative to strip public employees statewide of nearly all collective bargaining opportunities, Walker was taped saying he had considered planting provocateurs in the crowd. He did proceed not with the plan - - not because it was wrong, or illegal - - but because he was afraid that resulting negative media might force him compromise with the protesters, the transcript shows.
He made the disclosure, among other unsavory examples, to a blogger who had pretended on the call to be the right-wing funder David Koch whom Walker was eager to impress.
* Walker frequently tells national audiences various accounts of protesters having blocked, rocked, beaten on his state police-driven vehicle and endangered his life during an appearance in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Yet exhaustive efforts by La Crosse and Milwaukee media to document the episode - - from interviews, records searches and even the use of Google Earth - - have all failed.
His campaign-related autobiography "Unintimidated" also tells the story, and also recounts Walker reading to his staff a Top Ten list of ways you can spot a public employee, including:
It takes longer to fire you than the average killer spends on death row...You know by having a copy of the Holy Koran on your desk your job is 100% safe...You have a Democratic congressman’s lips permanently attached to your butt.About creating jobs:
* Walker promised repeatedly during his 2010 and 2012 gubernatorial campaigns that he and his conservative fiscal plans would create 250,000 private sector jobs in Wisconsin after one term in office.
In September, 2014, following a string of disappointing official reports of slow, sluggish job growth in Wisconsin on Walker's watch, PolitiFact rated it a "promise broken."
* In mid-March, 2015, as Walker was criss-crossing the country and claiming to have turned Wisconsin around, federal data was released showing Wisconsin's job-creation ranking among the states had fallen during the last full year analyzed to 40th place from 31st, with new jobs added at one-half the national rate.
* Numerous articles have been written about neighboring Minnesota's far better economy and job creation record during Walker's four years in office. There was recent testimony in the Wisconsin Legislature during its rush to pass so-called 'right-to-work' legislation that the bill - - now law through Walker's sudden change of heart about it - - would add to Wisconsin's relatively high bankruptcy filing total.
* After his 2011 inauguration, Walker, touting the private sector model, abolished the Wisconsin Department of Commerce and replaced it with a public-private corporation, which he chairs, called the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, or WEDC. The job of the WEDC was to centralize state resources - - loans, grants, tax credits, federal pass-throughs, etc. - - for Wisconsin job-creation.
Since its beginnings, WEDC has been plagued by negative audits, multiple resignations by executive directors and chief financial officers, loans made inappropriately or beyond the ability of regulators to track them. A summary post is here.
A Madison television station reported that 60% of WEDC loans went to Walker or GOP donors, and also reported that some WEDC financial aid went to businesses for job creation overseas.
Now, in late March, that focus has intensified.
* To make an ideological point in 2011, while also dissing President Obama and out-going Democratic WI Gov. Jim Doyle, Walker forfeited $800 million in Amtrak expansion funding to build a fast Midwest regional train line connecting Milwaukee and Madison, the state's two largest cities.
* Walker stance cost Wisconsinites thousands of rail line construction jobs over three years, has isolated the University of Wisconsin-Madison from rail connections to the University of Minnesota and all of Chicago, forced the closing of a train assembly plant and maintenance facility in a low-income, predominantly African-American Milwaukee neighborhood and transferred hundreds of millions of federal dollars in rail line and train assembly funding to other states, principally Illinois. A detailed posting about it all, here.
About being "Midwestern nice:"
* While claiming to be "Midwestern nice," a label gifted him by a conservative talk radio host, Walker, as Governor, has:
Blocked any increase in the Wisconsin wage above the federal floor of $7.25 per hour; has said he sees no value in having a minimum wage altogether; is proposing in his current budget now under legislative review to reduce a person's lifetime receipt of public assistance in Wisconsin from five years, total, to four; is also proposing that all adult assistance recipients be required to take and pass a urine screening for drugs to receive food stamps or medicaid; has turned down available federal funding to expand medicaid coverage in Wisconsin even though the state has had to spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to fill just part of the gap; and is proposing to upend and privatize existing home-care assistance and treatment coverage for the long-term disabled. Many links, here.
* While Walker says potential rival Jeb Bush will have access to the most GOP money, business media refer to Walker now as "king of Kochworld," and Michael Grebe, the top official at the heavyweight, Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation has served as chairman of Walker's 2010 gubernatorial campaign, co-chair of Walker's transition team, and chairman of Walker's successful 2012 recall campaign committee.
About some relationships with donors, and the environment:
* Walker was among at least fifteen conservative activists and power brokers, including an official with the Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity, which met in 2007 somewhere "on the shores of Lake Michigan" to plan a GOP/Tea Party capture of Wisconsin, as has been reported, but not widely.
* Walker signed the Koch brothers 'no climate change action' pledge in 2013.
* Documents released by a Federal Court of Appeals in Chicago showed that Walker helped coordinate the donation of $700,000 from an iron mining company to a third-party, so-called independent group which he wanted to coordinate sympathetic messaging for his successful 2012 recall campaign and re-election.
The iron mining company helped write a new iron mining law for Wisconsin that eased its ability to dig a massive open-pit iron mine in a water-rich range of hills in NW Wisconsin close to Lake Superior and very close to a Native American reservation where wild rice is grown on estuaries.
Walker had campaigned for the new mining bill and signed it into law. The mining plan has been suspended because the site contains even more water and wetlands than the company says it initially knew about, though a drop in iron ore prices, opposition from the nearby Ojibwa reservation, environmental and conservation-minded organizations were obstacles the mining plan could not overcome.
* One of Walker's very first actions as Governor spoke volumes about his approach to environmental protection. He got the Legislature to approve a special bill to suspend before completion an ongoing environmental review by the Department of Natural Resources so that one of his 2010 campaign donors - - a car dealer and developer - - could build a retail project for Bass Pro Shops, a destination fishing and outdoors retailer on a site that included a wetland close to Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
Bass Pro Shops pulled out of the project when it became controversial, but once the wetland filling permission was granted by the Legislature and signed into law by Walker, Cabela's, another large outdoors merchandiser, built on the site.
* In the years that followed his inauguration, Walker installed what he called "a chamber-of-commerce mentality" atop the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, traditionally a science-based regulatory agency driven by citizen participation. Basically, Walker remade the DNR into something of a reconfigured Department of Commerce, of sorts, with a new business service division and pro-corporate attitude.
Through new laws, budgets and industry-friendly appointments, Walker cut the DNR staff, reduced citizen participation and policy oversight, and enabled relaxed agency pollution and reduced investigation and enforcement. The DNR is now selling 10,000 acres of public land and, with all state funds except for campaign and permit fees removed from parks operations in Walker's budget, the DNR may sell naming rights for the parks to corporate interests.
A summary posting, here.
About dropping out of college:
* Much attention has been paid to Walker's departure from Marquette University before finishing his degree. Walker has said, variously, that he left school in his senior year, or a few credits short of graduation and did not return and finish his degree because he got married, then had children.
But PolitiFact established in a lengthy, setting-the-record-straight piece that Walker left Marquette in 1990 two credits short of attaining typical junior status. In 1988, Walker lost a hotly-contested race for student body president in which his campaign committee was sanctioned for rule violations.
Walker married in 1993, and his first child was born in 1994, by which time he had already run twice for the State Assembly (losing a run in the City of Milwaukee in 1990 to now-US Congresswoman Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee), before being elected to an assembly seat in a 1993 special election in the relatively-conservative Milwaukee suburb of the City of Wauwatosa, where he still lives.
About his faith:
* Media frequently note that Walker is the son of a Baptist preacher, which is correct. While the fact can efficiently help flesh out a Walker feature story, for the record - - Walker is a member of the non-denominational, Christian evangelical Meadowbrook Church, located in Wauwatosa.
Meadowbrook was founded in 1989 as one of thirteen "daughter," or spun-off, churches founded by Elmbrook Church, a fast-growing Christian, evangelical non-denominational mega-church in Waukesha County, according to its website.
* Walker says his faith has guided his life and decision-making. Here is one item, with an audio link to a Walker talk about it.
About the law:
* Wisconsin is the land of famous environmentalists like John Muir, Aldo Leopold (Sand County Almanac), and Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson. Former Gov. Nelson shares with ex-GOP Governor Warren Knowles the founding inspiration of the state's signature, bi-partisan Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund, a public land acquisition and access program that reserves woodland, wetlands and shorelines for hikers, hunters and anglers.
But Walker, having already cut the program's funding, wants to suspend it through his new budget for thirteen years.
* He and his GOP allies changed Wisconsin wetlands law to make filling and encroachment easier. Developers openly crowed about their role in drafting the bill, even citing the behind-scenes work, and Walker signed the bill to a standing ovation at a Realtors convention, the AP reported.
Walker served the same special interests when he backed legislation that severely restricted wind turbine citing in Wisconsin, while neighboring Iowa and Minnesota lead Wisconsin in green energy production and employment.
In fact, Walker's new budget which cuts early everything contains a fresh $250,000 to produce a 'study' proving that wind energy causes health problems. Somehow Iowa, Minnesota, Texas and other states have escaped the harm.
* Walker's DNR and Public Service Commission staffs now led by industry insiders or sympathizers are suing the US EPA over new federal clean air standards; Walker's DNR has stripped nearly all mention of climate change from its website and his current budget further reduces UW and DNR energy and environmental science. One posting, here with details.
* Walker's DNR is green-lighting the capacity expansion of a tar sands oil pipeline north-south across the entire state without a full environmental route of route, despite its proximity to Wisconsin farms and water supplies. To date, the DNR has only held a hearing on an air quality permit covering the firm's northern Wisconsin pumping station in Superior, WI, on the deepest of the Great Lakes shared with Canada, Lake Superior.
The pipeline, targeted to move more oil than the much-more-publicized Keystone XL, is owned by Enbridge, the same Canadian firm with a record of oil pipeline spills and construction damage in Wisconsin, Canada and other states.
The New York Times put it this way:
While the ire of environmental activists remains fixed on the Keystone XL pipeline, a potentially greater threat looms in the proposed expansion of Line 61, a pipeline running the length of Wisconsin carrying tar sands crude. The pipeline is owned by Enbridge, a $40 billion Canadian company, which has been responsible for several hundred spills in the past decade, including one in 2010 near Marshall, Mich., reportedly the largest and most expensive inland oil spill in American history.
Enbridge is seeking to increase Line 61’s capacity threefold, making it a third larger than the projected Keystone XL.It is also same firm responsible for a catastrophic spill into the Kalamazoo River in neighboring Michigan that led to a one-billion-dollar-plus cleanup, the biggest inland spill event in US history.
Walker made a campaign-style stop at the firm's northern Wisconsin pumping station in 2014 without mentioning the substantial environmental issues inherent in the pipeline expansion.
* Walker supported an appeal to the US Supreme Court and won on March 23rd which approved Voter ID in state elections, but lost a separate bid to maintain state constitutional prohibitions against same-sex marriage. Both issues are staples of right-wing Republican and Tea Party ideology and agendas that use state power to disenfranchise and marginalize minority communities.
* A bill he supported and signed into law that established onerous restrictions on Planned Parenthood clinics was blocked and slapped as unconstitutional by a federal judge in Wisconsin on Friday.
* Long before he began his pre-presidential campaigning, Walker had said that Diane Sykes, a very conservative federal appeals court judge in Chicago, would make a fine appointee of his to the US Supreme Court. were he ever President.
Sykes, a former Wisconsin Supreme Court jurist, led a three-judge federal appeals court panel which ruled in favor of Wisconsin's controversial and restrictive Voter ID law, a Walker priority, only to see that ruling stayed by the US Supreme Court.
* As pressure mounted against the use of school and sports team logos, nicknames and mascots that Native Americans find degrading and offensive, Walker signed a bill into law that made it easier for Wisconsin schools to maintain and use such logos, nicknames and mascots. Walker said it was a First Amendment issue, a position castigated by experts.
* About all Wisconsin groups and individuals disrespected and manipulated for political reasons during Walker's term:
This one posting updated over the last half-year contains numerous links which catalog some of the aggrieved, fyi.
Posted by James Rowen at 1:21 AM
Saturday, March 28, 2015
I try and tie Walker's reflexive defaults to secrecy and his aversion transparency when I see them (enter the word transparency in the search box, upper left, for more) to the time Walker preposterously claimed ownership of the term by saying he'd "lived it."
Well, he ain't living it now, observes Dylan Byers at Politico.com:
...in the wake of a few controversial, headline-grabbing quotes about evolution and President Obama's religion, the Wisconsin governor and likely Republican presidential candidate has put brakes on his media availability, reporters who follow him say.
On Friday, Walker toured the Texas-Mexican border with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. The tour was closed to the press, and Walker did not take part in a media avail afterward. Similarly, Walker visited Greenville, S.C., last weekend but refused to take questions from the media. Of the six likely Republican candidates to visit the state in the last two months, Walker was the only one to pass on the press.
Posted by James Rowen at 3:59 PM
The Cap Times piece is a great read.
What fascinates me about the entire matter is how badly WEDC has turned for Walker who had so much invested in it, sort of like the baseball team manager who walks (sorry, but interesting pun) a couple of batters in a remade lineup only to see a batter hit a grand-slam home run.
He proved his executive powers by creating the agency after defunding the Department of Commerce.
Then he created a politically-friendly board of WEDC directors touting the private sector's model and lingo - - "Corporation" - - to run it, and made himself the Chairman so he could get every molecule and second of airtime credit which he and his handlers could wring from it.
Then he had the Legislature advance WEDC millions of dollars in loan, grant and tax credit funds, then cue the jobs that would flow like falling water and fill in his boastful 250,000 new private-sector jobs promise - - then on to the White House as Reagan 2.0 and job-creator-in-chief.
D'oh! Wisconsin is now 40th among the stats in job-creation, falling from an already-mediocre 31st, and those jobs that are being created fall into low-wage service categories in a state where Walker will not budge off the legally-minimal $7.25/hr. wage. More, here.
And WEDC is providing national media like Yahoo's lead investigative reporter Michael Isikoff the window through which to see things about Walker we here have long known.
Road to the White House? He's put the state on the road to ruin.
As the Cap Times note, WEDC is an institutional and functional train wreck. The jobs promise is a well-known failure and Walker has retreated in the post-Yahoo WEDC/ethics fallout by claiming he's pretty much uninvolved in the agency's financial practices.
A commander-in-chief practicing duck and cover.
Posted by James Rowen at 1:19 PM
Friday, March 27, 2015
In his first budget, he proposed ending the state mandate that local governments operate recycling programs and further proposed eliminating all state recycling assistance to local governments.
The Legislature balked, though there were cuts that increased the burden on local taxpayers - - which is what local officials are saying is in store for their programs, again.
What a silly, stupid and insulting game.
Posted by James Rowen at 6:40 PM
He's done it repeatedly, and there he goes again.
Posted by James Rowen at 6:14 PM
The first annual Great Lakes Environmental Film Festival (GLEFF) will take place from May 1st – 3rd in Milwaukee, WI. The festival will feature environmental documentaries, adventure films, and fiction films with environmental themes. GLEFF is hosted by the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University.Also check out this notice from 1000 Friends of Wisconsin:
Posted by James Rowen at 5:26 PM