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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Disclosure Has Pay-To-Play Politician Scampering Away From Leadership



One thing is clear, the man who wants to be president of this here United States cannot even provide token leadership to the 15-member board of a state agency he takes credit for "reforming." But that's no surprise.

Gov. Scott Walker, with a deep history of pay-to-play patronage politics and an uncanny knack for punishing opponents through mere political will, desperately tried for the past year to keep the names of WEDC beneficiaries and the amount of subsidies they received out of the public eye. During the summer of 2014, his office justified blocking information by citing a balance test that weighs the public’s right to government information against the fear of disclosure.

Well now we know why.

It all came crashing down when it was finally reported last week that one of Walker's campaign donors received an unsecured $500,000 loan from the failing agency. Soon afterward, Scott Walker purportedly "asked to be removed," from his position as director of the agency's board.

According to a MKE Sentinel Journal story, "GOP legislators voted along with Walker" to remove him as chairman. LOL. If you ever needed a short sample for weasel words, THAT is it. He wasn't fired because he asked to be removed and nobody fires themselves, AND he didn't quit because they voted him out. That's the buzz they want if it's talked about. It's a campaign for a weasel.

But, I can't blame Walker one bit for the sudden self-introspection.

I mean, what public official would want to take a leadership role in a broken government agency where the opportunities to leverage the agency for political advantage must be shut down and where the restoration of honesty and transparency are the only obvious remedies?

Come to think of it, any person with an inkling of integrity and minimal leadership skills would demand to stay on and right the listing ship. So at least they all got it right this time - that person is not Scott Walker.

ADDITIONAL:

CapTimes - Scott Walker doesn't have time to reform WEDC, Sen. Julie Lassa says

Blogging Blue - Scott Walker Is A Quitter

CogDis - Scott Walker Fired From His Own Job Creation Agency

Blue Nation Review - Incompetent Boob Scott Walker Finally Fired

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Wisconsin Republicans Pedaling "Traffic Cones" Tax Against Political Opponent?


Much like Gov. Chris Christie's Fort Lee "traffic cones" lane closure scandal in New Jersey, Wisconsin Republicans appear willing to punish Gov. Scott Walker's re-election opponent and her family's bicycle business by enacting a sleight-of-hand $25 "registration" tax on new bike purchases in the state of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Bike Fed Excerpt:
Second, they’ve introduced a new wrinkle into the debate: a tax on bikes. What’s being proposed is a one time $25 registration fee, which would be paid upon the “initial” purchase of a bike, implying that it would be charged only on new bikes. The proceeds, which are estimated to be about $7 million over the two-year state budget, would be deposited into the Transportation Fund, but not earmarked for bicycle infrastructure.

Well, I submit that the $7 million will pay for political traffic cones. If you know what I mean.

Mary Burke, virtually unknown in the political world at the time she dared challenge the GOP's embattled star for his second term as governor, lost the election by 5 1/2 points. Burke is a former executive of Trek Bicycles and also happens to be the daughter of Trek Bicycle Corporation founder Richard Burke.

Granted, the tax pushed by state republicans is industry wide and does not specifically target an individual bicycle manufacturer. But the traffic cones set up on New Jersey highways to punish Fort Lee did not specifically target an individual either. They want as many opponent's supporters as possible to feel the pain.

Yet in the bicycle world, Trek is synonymous with Wisconsin much like Harley-Davidson motorcycles are. It would be akin to charging an extra $200 "registration tax" on top of state sales taxes paid on any new motorcycles purchased in Wisconsin. For that matter, Harley-Davidson is very fortunate that an executive of the company did not attempt to challenge Walker or other top state republicans for office.

So at this point, whether the bike tax passes or not really doesn't matter. It is in the fact that it was proposed in such a way that resentment and retribution might be legislated to punish any opponent, business or group that dares challenge the political status quo in Wisconsin. Consider yourself forewarned.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Three Stories Janesville Should Avoid


Did you know Michigan voters recently rejected a 1% state sales tax hike to pay for roads and bridges?

Bloomberg Excerpt:
Michigan Voters Reject Tax Increase to Pay for Roads and Bridges
Michigan voters rejected increasing sales taxes to pay for schools and gas taxes to generate $1.3 billion annually for road and bridge construction, according to Governor Rick Snyder.

I was aware of Michigan's referendum and thought it would be too close to call. I did not expect to see a landslide rejection of the proposal. But indeed it was crushed by voters, I mean crushed by 80% to 20%. 80 to 20!! The referendum's defeat was the worst defeat for a Michigan ballot measure since 1963. The previous record holder was a 1980 constitutional amendment that 78.8 percent of voters voted against.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker's failed budgets have put the state in the same tainted pickle jar with Michigan.

Ideologically broken with pre-existing Laffer/Norquist conditions to punish the middle-class, induce decline and reward his base, Walker intends to borrow $1.3 billion for his transportation fund shortfall while the state's GOP-led senate and assembly, facing a leadership vacuum of their own on taxes and budgeting, are pushing a bill sponsored by the road lobbies to pass the buck for road repair tax hikes onto local government.

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Excerpt:
Bill Would Push More Road-Repair Taxes on Local Governments
Road builders, who have contributed more than $403,000 to current legislators over the past four years, are backing a legislative proposal that would allow counties and municipalities to create a new sales tax to pay for local street maintenance and repairs, a plan one critic calls buck-passing.

[ ... ] 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, a Madison environmental group, said the legislation would end up allowing some people to be taxed four times to pay for local road maintenance. The group says state residents already pay for road maintenance through state gas taxes, annual vehicle registration fees, and property taxes.

In Janesville, you can bet Walker's booster club, Forward Janesville, is part of the rightwing-engineered lobby drive to shift taxes from a broad income-based system to more regressive local tax and fee structures on Wisconsin communities. In fact, Forward Janesville elitists are on the record stating Janesville residents must increase their tax obligations or else the community will face an economic death spiral. Keep in mind, FJ members are huge supporters of Scott Walker and Paul Ryan.

Yet, it is amazing that when a new tax or tax hike is proposed on the "little people," we don't hear a word from the likes of random-person Grover Norquist, but just try to charge Big Business a tonnage tax on extracted minerals from Wisconsin land, and all hell breaks loose.

Both of those stories however should pick local interest because last November, Janesville voters also rejected a similarly fuzzy-worded street repair tax hike referendum 63 to 37, and Rock County enacted a half-cent county sales tax back in 2006. This leaves almost no wiggle room for local rightwing "visionaries" to confiscate greater portions of cash from the area's lobbied and legislated less-than-average paychecks.

Finally, and this story should also carry some weight in Janesville. Scott Walker has called for elimination of state economic development loans. He proposes scrapping the $55 million revolving loan fund for the failing agency and using the money for education and worker training programs. The part about using the money for education will remain to be seen however, since Walker never does anything he says he will do.

But in Janesville, "loans" for economic development are a closely-guarded welfare tool for the wealthy that aren't real loans at all. Instead, the loans are called "forgivable," and were payable by reaching job creation benchmarks that with the passing of time, became less about adding jobs and more about retention.

That in turn gave way to today's TIF agreements that have completely eliminated job creation benchmarks, and instead are formulated to accept paid property taxes for ten years as payment for the taxpayer funded cash "loan." Keep in mind the largest portion of property taxes paid within a TIF District are segregated from the general fund for the life of the TIF, which could be 15, 20 years or more.

This system of forgivable loans is sold by Janesville officials as a means to increase local revenue by expanding the tax base sometime in the future, but as I described in a recent story, it's little more than a circular transfer of taxpayer wealth carved out from general fund obligations with no immediate positive impact. As far as I'm concerned in its current form, it borders on money laundering.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Day Scott Walker Could Have Ended His Candidacy In The Recall


According to a Wisconsin State Journal article on the latest release of documents pertaining to Gov. Scott Walker's scandals under review by the state supreme court, Walker's attorney Steven Biskupic, makes an argument that the governor was not a “candidate” for recall up until the last two months before the June 5th election.

Wisconsin State Journal Excerpt:
“In the case of the 2012 gubernatorial recall, Governor’s Walker’s ‘candidacy’ did not begin until April 9, 2012,” Biskupic argued. “And prior to that time, Governor Walker and his campaign committee were entitled to raise unlimited campaign funds in connection with opposing the circulation of the recall petitions.”

In my view, Special Prosecutor Francis Schmitz simply nails it by quoting state law...

Wisconsin State Journal Excerpt:
In his brief, John Doe prosecutor Francis Schmitz disputed that interpretation, saying Wisconsin law states “a person does not cease to be a candidate for purposes of compliance with” campaign finance and ethics laws “by virtue of the passing of the date of an election.” He said Biskupic’s stance “is clearly not a logical interpretation” of the state’s campaign finance laws.

Schmitz renders the date as an almost arbitrary position for Walker's "candidacy" defense, but I thought, why April 9, 2012? What is special about that date? Possibly because that was the date posted by the Government Accountability Board (GAB) official Certificate of Sufficiency and Order for the Recall Election. The GAB certificate states...

GAB Excerpt
11. Scott Walker shall be the candidate at the recall election without nomination unless he resigns from office not later than April 9, 2012.

Walker is a candidate, unless he resigns, not later than. That is in accordance with Wisconsin Statute 9.10(3)(c), it reads...

(c) The official against whom the recall petition is filed shall be a candidate at the recall election without nomination unless the official resigns within 10 days after the original filing of the petition. Candidates for the office may be nominated under the usual procedure of nomination for a special election by filing nomination papers not later than 5 p.m. on the 4th Tuesday preceding the election and have their names placed on the ballot at the recall election.

That means what Biskupic claimed as a defense is precisely the inversion of the statute. State statute is clear, BECAUSE Scott Walker was the official whom the recall was filed against, he is the candidate for recall prior to April 9th, AND, and that the latest he could END his candidacy was by resigning on or before that date. April 9th IS NOT the day his candidacy started. It is however, the last day he could have ended it. Officially.

Granted, Walker could resign at any time and no longer be candidate or governor. But for matters of sufficiency and order FOR THE RECALL, not the candidates, April 9th was the latest date Walker could have ended his candidacy.

Truth is, we are splitting hairs over dates and definitions over what is or isn't and that is the spinning wheel prosecutor Schmitz quickly brought to a halt.

But for the sake of this argument, I think WHEN a person is assumed running for elective office, under certain circumstances, can be determined by popular public knowledge as defined by the person's intent and actions, and left up to the "candidate" to deny, opt out or resign. However, all incumbents should be assumed a candidate for the office they serve AND also the candidate for recall, up until the day they resign or say otherwise.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Phantom Developer Wants More Free Money From Janesville For Expansion, Or Else


This isn't a joke.

At Monday's city council meeting, a phantom developer using the name Capital Circle I Corp just picked up nearly $850,000 in lump sum free money from Janesville taxpayers. That's OK because Janesville taxpayers are loaded with mucho excess cash and almost no one cares about who is getting the free stuff anyways - as long as someone is. Don't let that tax money go to waste is the general rule for the area's small government fiscal conservatives.

At the council meeting, some council members, strangely I should add, tried to entertain the viewing audience with a few questions. As usual unfortunately, the developer wasn't there to take them.

But that's OK again because the Janesville city council gladly took orders and answers for their questions from the developer's representative. At least he was there. Ooops, I actually mean the city's taxpayer-paid director of economic development, Gale Price, was there. But you wouldn't know the difference because the director spoke just lovingly on behalf of the phantom and went on to say how developers are nearly tripping over themselves to build in and around Janesville and that this particular development will have no trouble filling up with tenants. In his over-exuberance, he made it sound as if it's practically sold out before they even break ground and that's why the developer deserves more free money. Or something.

Now you might ask: Why does the phantom deserve the $850K? Well you see, the phantom previously agreed to a TIF contract with the city a few months back that included a "forgivable" loan in an amount roughly equal to expected property taxes paid over the next ten years. The previous lump sum amount was $469K, but since the phantom now has new plans to expand the size of the development by 50%, thus increasing the property's assessed value, they feel Janesville taxpayers owes them the new estimated ten year property tax lump sum of $847K. See how that works?

Although council members did ask a few lightweight questions, most noticeable was no one asked why the developer requires free money to gap his private-for-profit venture costs when interest rates are at an all-time low. No one asked if there were competing proposals from other developers (hey, it's a competitive free market, right?) for the apparent government largesse. Conversely, no one asked if the city was competing with other cities for the developers attention. No one asked why the developer wasn't interested in those certified shovel-ready properties for sale in the county. No one asked why, with all of the supposedly sudden high demand for factory space does Janesville continue to give away free land and money? No one asked how many local jobs the development will create or guarantee. No one asked that since property taxes are now accepted in lieu of payments for taxpayer-funded loans, essentially making the loan money a freebie, if others including existing Janesville small businesses and home owners can get the same convenience. No one asked the right questions.

I could go on with much more ...but I think you get the idea.

Then there's the transparency problem. Some government watchdogs, including myself, think the public deserves to know exactly who local officials are dealing with when handing out subsidies and other free stuff. If you want money from the collective, you should be willing to show up at the least, take questions and accept that the public has a right to know.

Oh ...just for the record, the Janesville council unanimously approved the phantom's request. No joke.

Side Note: It's been a year since the Janesville City Manager, Mark Freitag, pledged for more transparency at city hall, saying it is the "right thing" to do. How's that working out for ya'?

City of Janeville - Economic Development Memorandum

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Walker's "Reforms" Lead To Disaster "Everything's On The Table" For Wisconsin


It's understandable when a professional basketball team says 'everything's on the table' after posting a record-tying home losing streak OR for congress to suggest that's what it will take to avoid a government shutdown.

Twin Cities Excerpt:
Walker's plan to borrow $1.3 billion for roads has also run into bipartisan opposition. Vos wants to reduce the borrowing by about $300 million and said he is considering raising the $75 vehicle registration fee. Republicans have talked about an increase of $25 to $35.

"Everything's on the table," said Republican Rep. John Nygren, co-chairman of the Legislature's budget-writing Joint Finance Committee.

But hearing "everything's on the table" from the same legislators after they giddily shoved four years of Laffer-based growth economics down our throats is an admittance that those "reforms," if I dare call them that, have utterly failed.

With failed policies in hand, Wisconsin republicans are now suggesting "new" tax revenue will have to come directly from the wallets of Wisconsin taxpayers in the form of income-blind and growth-stagnant registration fees and so on. Tax policy doesn't get more regressive than that.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Janesville Forum: Update On Congress With Rep. Pocan


The Rock County Progressives present an educational forum:

"Update on Congress with US Rep. Mark Pocan"

When:
Wednesday, May 6
6 PM-6:30 PM cheese & cracker reception (nonalcoholic potluck)
6:30 PM- 7:45 PM, speaker & discussionat 6 PM

Speaker:
Rep. Pocan has helped raise awareness on a number of important issues like net neutrality, the student loan debt crisis, the TransPacific Partnership trade deal and has introduced the Right to Vote Constitutional Amendment.

Where:
Basics Food Cooperative
1711 Lodge Dr.
Janesville, Wisconsin

This is an independent event not affiliated with Basics

Directions:
From Madison route 90 until 1st Janesville exit, south on Route 26 past route 14, look for Toys R Us on the right, right on Lodge Drive, on right across from Toys R Us.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Orioles VP Delivers Gettysburg-Like Perspective For Our Times


The executive vice president of the Baltimore Orioles, John Angelos, spoke out about the rioting happening in Baltimore (the 1st day) and after expressing frustration over the looting and violence, he gave a deeply profound summary on our elite-controlled government rigging the system against the wage-earning working class population.

It's not perfect, but it's an amazingly good read.

John Angelos Perspective:

Brett, speaking only for myself, I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLK, Gandhi, Mandela and all great opposition leaders throughout history have always preached this precept. Further, it is critical that in any democracy, investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible.

That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.

~ end

Despite Angelos being a platinum-spoon-fed one percenter, he gets it more than some of the 99ers I've heard in Janesville who support and defend the legislative agenda of the elite class Angelos describes.

With the punishing revenge style social media response trending lately on those who bring truth to power, I would not doubt it if an establishment player like Angelos will be forced to retract the whole thing.