Sunday, January 15, 2017
Here's a newspaper article about an important event that took place recently between Janesville city council members and a few area state legislators. I recommend my humble readers go to the Gazette and read the article first to better understand the gist of my perspective. Unfortunately, they are a pay site.
The story is centered around Janesville officials lobbying for more state "funding" or aid that is annually distributed to communities (using a formula based on year 2000 conditions) around the state.
Although the article fails miserably in background information and overall context, it does pass the minimum test for what I would call acceptable Gazette journalism. The most notable feature (to me) in the published exchange between city officials and legislators are the names of people absent and not quoted in a story of such significance and topic. That is, not mentioned are members of Scott Walker's booster club Forward Janesville.
But in truth, why should they answer to anyone? Over the past ten years, Forward Janesville lobbied state legislators heavily with annual junkets asking for income tax cuts, tax credits, picking winners and losers among communities with enterprise zones, portable tax credits and TIF District "reforms," just to name a few. Forward Janesville shares much responsibility for pushing ALEC-like proposals having roots in a much broader nationalized trickle-down economic program that shifts wealth not by free market demand inspired by education, labor or innovation, but by opening back doors into local tax treasuries.
In short, they already "got theirs."
The problem for the Janesville taxpayer is much of it came at our expense because local leaders supported and endorsed Forward Janesville's legislative agenda and few if anyone (me) objected.
By far the most important context missing from the article is the fact that Janesville officials sold out decades of future tax revenue growth at a time when the state linked hikes in local budget spending to property evaluation. The last thing locals should be doing, given those restrictions on local budgets, is accelerating the TIF District tool that quarantines the very tax revenue growth they require to keep up with public obligations. Janesville of course went the wrong way.
Some Janesville residents place blame on the city for pouring money into a new bus garage, fire station or even bike trails for the budget shortfalls. Yes, those cost money to keep and run. But if the failure to grow revenue annually in the near-term is the complaint, look toward those council maneuvers that shifted millions in future public dollars away from public obligations and into the hands of wealthy private entities. It's the "new" form of creeping privatization. The privatization of public revenue.
So, the reality is city officials have boxed Janesville into a corner by selling out most of the city's future growth in tax revenue and now they want more. They need to be rescued. But they have no one to blame but themselves. That the architects of this charade were rewarded with raises is doubly outrageous.
But the most notable aspect delivered by the newspaper about the event was the discussion involving a municipal sales tax. This is where the politics of resentment reared its ugly head when a spokesperson for republican Sen. Steve Nass suggested that because a sales tax would benefit only the city collecting the tax, it would do little for most towns.
So therefore resentment logic applies; if it doesn't benefit red county rurals, blue city urbans can't have it either. It's the same with keeping poll offices open after working hours or on weekends. If rurals can't afford to staff it, urbans shouldn't have it either. See? Equality!
Ignore it at your own peril, but I believe the concept of resentment politics driving the rural red - urban blue divide is powerful enough to be the top reason (outside of the Comey scandal) why Donald Trump is the next president.
Most democrats, liberals and progressives trying to comfort rurals with more aid find themselves scorned as pandering for votes or promoting liberalism. And, denigrating red county rurals as backwards or uneducated doesn't help the situation. Plus, it's just the wrong way to win hearts and minds. On the other hand, republicans offer rurals very little except for some emotional relief by clawing down urban centers. That's how rurals achieve more equality - so it seems.
Occasionally, republicans will throw rurals a bone like basic broadband or a few more dollars for local operations. But by and large, rurals seem to get their greatest satisfaction through prevention and subtraction of forces outside of their environment.
It's a sad situation all around that Gov. Scott Walker and state republicans continue to play this marked joker card to divide and conquer state constituencies.
Democrats (but only a few) are only now beginning to understand the dynamics behind it after years of mishandling. The solution won't be easy, but I think it begins by NOT offering rurals more things they don't want and never asked for. Understand that principle first and then open dialogue to reach out and discover what rurals want ...without taking away from others.
Posted by Lou Kaye at 4:10 PM
Friday, January 13, 2017
"Janesville Gazette Preys On The City."
Pretty harsh words, uh? I agree, but preys on the city was how the Janesville Gazette described lawyers demanding lower property tax assessments for Janesville area big box retailers and other businesses. Never mind the business owners and boards who made the decision to hire the lawyers, they're practically victims if you believe the Gazette. It's those damn lawyers, they started this. * eyeroll *
But who knew that soon after those dark store articles and editorials by the Gazette, that Bliss Communications, the Gazette's parent company, had done a little bit of lawyering up for themselves and challenged the property tax assessments on their two main buildings in Janesville?
According to a city memorandum (File Resolution No. 2016-1333) from July, Bliss picked up a "settlement" with the state and had approximately $65,000 total shaved from their annual tax bills on the two properties. From this point forward, Janesville homeowners and small businesses will get stuck with the tab.
To add some political irony to this, the Janesville Gazette and the local business swamp, Forward Janesville, have endorsed every local tax hike proposal and referendum imaginable on the premise that Janesville taxpayers must take on greater tax obligations, put more skin in the game and "invest" in their community ...or else face an economic "death spiral."
How do you like them apples?
Posted by Lou Kaye at 1:12 PM
Thursday, January 12, 2017
One of my biggest disappoints over the past ten years happened on Election Tuesday 2016 in Janesville.
That was the day when Rock County and Janesville, including the voting ward of Rep. Paul Ryan, cast more votes for the Koch brothers $100M Wall Street charlatan than for his unfunded grassroots democratic challenger.
Granted, once upon a time Rock County and Janesville used to support and vote for Paul Ryan. But democratic challenger Rob Zerban, much to his credit, and what I thought was a better informed local constituency, turned away from the entrenched incumbent beginning in 2012 and again in 2014. Janesville and Ryan's ward voted for the other guy. Unfortunately, that streak has now ended.
Over the holidays, I've already had some local Ryan apologists tell me that Janesville proved itself in the last general election NOT to be as partisan as I supposedly hoped. But if that "we're not partisans" analysis were true, Janesville democrats would not have voted for a hyper-partisan opposition candidate such as Paul Ryan ...at all.
You see, during Ryan's responses to the press about his support for Donald Trump, he would quickly divert by explaining that his top priority was defending his party's majority in Congress so he can install the Koch authored legislative agenda without delay. Country and district be damned.
So what democrat, even trying to pretend a not-partisan defense for supporting Ryan, would vote for the one candidate hellbent on defeating democrats? That doesn't make sense.
But for this election cycle, there was also some surprising handwriting on the wall when popular democrat Barney Frank arrived in Janesville to "rally" local democrats one week before the election and ...stumped for Paul Ryan. And, nobody said a word after. That's right.
Had I been the director of the local democratic party when Frank made those remarks as reported in the Gazette ...I would have grabbed him by the ear and kicked him out the door with my live feed youtube camera rolling. I would have handed him the address of Wisconsin GOP headquarters and told him to go there. They're always on the look-out for the next Zell Miller.
What a disgrace. I can't even.
And two, since becoming House Speaker, the people of Janesville seem star struck by Paul Ryan and that's really too bad.
I have no idea what local democrats are thinking. Much like the DNC, they lost their way and literally abandoned Ryan's democratic challenger. There is nothing good that will come from yet another term of Paul Ryan.
Here are the numbers:
Click image to make bigly.
Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Monday, January 09, 2017
Kleptocracy (from Greek: κλεπτοκρατία, klépto- thieves + -kratos rule, literally "rule by thieves") is a government with faceless corrupt rulers (kleptocrats) that use their power to exploit the people and public treasuries in order to extend their personal wealth and political power.
It's that time of a new year again when I scour the archives of Rock Netroots in search of last year's top local stories.
Unfortunately, the top story in Janesville from 2016 is an event that cannot be outlined easily in a single blog post. But in many ways the top story helps put some closure to a long running chapter of a right-wing agenda that began with the election of Scott Walker in 2010.
With that said, it's equally difficult to put the top story for 2016 into a single perspective without rehashing 2014 and 2015.
But the "local" Janesville agenda, propagated by Forward Janesville political operatives, began a few years earlier with the warning of a "death spiral" if locals refuse to accept increased tax obligations. That followed the passage of wealth transfer legislation in Wisconsin state houses geared to shift a greater burden of the state's obligations onto those with less, and short-circuiting local tax treasury growth by opening back door access for the political donor class into TIF District account surpluses. Whew! It's all done and legal.
Of course it's much more complicated and drawn out than that since I won't get into how local kleptocrats have lawyered up to have their own property taxes reduced. But few local officials in Wisconsin played the public better than Janesville officials. It also helps that Janesville officials have a pliable enabling local media willing to sweep pertinent information under the rug and the fact that Janesville and Rock County also happens to be the home of many of the right-wing engineers who designed the wealth transfer (TIF District reforms, income tax cuts and tax credits) scheme to begin with.
Anyways, after Janesville voters rejected a dubiously worded $1.2M "road repair" referendum in 2014, the city council doubled the municipal wheel tax in 2015.
To kick off 2016, the Janesville city manager warned of a $800K projected deficit (blamed it on union negotiated raises of 1% and 2%) that purportedly ballooned to $950K by mid-summer. That 950K deficit was eventually "balanced" with $2.3M when the city council approved doubling municipal fees, licenses, permits and public utility rates. Am I sounding like a tea party conservative?
This whole ball of wax, with roots that began in "roundtable" discussions between local tools of the oligarchs captured in the documentary As Goes Janesville explaining how good wages, benefits and civil rights are burdens on economic development that need to be eliminated, closes a chapter with a TIF District abstract designed to extract about $1M annually from downtown tax payments and placed into the private hands of Forward Janesville "ARISE" beneficiaries for the next 27 years.
And so, a new chapter begins.
That's about all I can jam into this posting about the top local story for 2016.
The "local swamp" or kleptocracy is funded and strong in Janesville. It's a big show and a big club and chances are ...you ain't in it.
Stay tuned for the #2 local story of 2016:
Janesville Stands With Paul Ryan.
RNR - Major City Hall Stories Are Swept Under The Rug
RNR - So Predictable. Soon After Downtown TIF District Approval, Janesville Fees Set To ARISE
RNR - City Hall Janesville: Raging Budget Deficit Dumpster Fire ...Poof! All Gone
Thursday, January 05, 2017
You'd have to either be from another state or asleep for the last five years to have written the editorial recently posted by the Janesville Gazette about Wisconsin's so-called road funding crisis.
Titled News flash: Fixing roads costs money, the Gazette expertly avoids the real reasons why Wisconsin communities find themselves enacting and/or doubling existing wheel taxes to repair existing roads.
That truth lies in the fact that the "fixing roads" funding crisis began when state transportation lobbies led in part by local swamp monster Forward Janesville flipped about $500 million in state transportation dollars away from existing road maintenance to instead pay for new interstate expansions.
JG Editorial Excerpt:
Opponents have portrayed the wheel tax as government overreaching, but this type of tax is what happens when there's not enough revenue to cover expenses.
Well that's new. I've always been told that asphalt-lined comprehensive growth planned sprawl would solve most of our future revenue needs. Who knew those plans would lead to too many roads in disrepair and not enough revenue to fix them?
On the other hand, who are they trying to kid? Municipal wheel taxes popping up all over Wisconsin in the last five years are a direct result of lobbyist overreach by stealing existing local and "old" road repair money to pay for their mega projects and new expansions. Without passing new state taxes and fees, where do you think lobbyists found $400M to kick start the I39/90 expansion? The swamp monsters knew exactly where the money was. All they needed to do was convince a few gullible legislators behind closed doors into flipping it over.
The Gazette however sidesteps all that and then dismisses those with no appetite for a new layer of regressive taxes with, "there's no satisfying their kind."
Although the Gazette blames Gov. Scott Walker for continuing to advance the myth of government as an endless pit of wasteful spending (code for saying, "Hey governor, republicans are in charge now, you can ease up on all the irrational faux meme tea party rhetoric), their criticism of Walker rings as hollow as was their criticism for local republicans attempting to gut the state's open record laws.
Because come re-election time, the newspaper endorsed those local republicans conspiring to gut open records as they will endorse the disasterously dogmatic Scott Walker for a third term. Gar-ran-teed.
RNR - Wisconsin Rural/City Roads Are Crumbling For The I39/90 Expansion
Tuesday, January 03, 2017
"After eight years of operation, many members believe the Office of Congressional Ethics is in need of reform to protect due process and ensure it is operating according to its stated mission. I want to make clear that this House will hold its members to the highest ethical standards and the Office will continue to operate independently to provide public accountability to Congress," Ryan said in a statement.
Democrats can't beat this? Nope.
After Wisconsin republicans dismantled the state's Government Accountability Board under the guise of "reform" and then proposed gutting the state's open record laws, state democrats lost more seats.
Empty, disconnected and clueless.
Posted by Lou Kaye at 12:51 PM