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Monday, July 16, 2018

Red Wisconsin Counties Elect Dark Store Enablers, Then Beg Them To Stop



More and more it's becoming obvious that voters today do not match the issues that matter to them to the candidates running for election, but instead stick rigidly to ideological concepts or settle for identity politics.

Red State Walworth County is a case in point. Recently, the Walworth County Board unanimously passed an advisory referendum on the tax shifting “Dark Store” theory. Almost acknowledging they are stuck with their gerrymandered office holders, the Lake Geneva story falls just short of begging them to do something.

Lake Geneva News Excerpt:
Lake Geneva residents have carefully selected their own representatives to go to Madison and take care of this community’s needs in state government.

But now that those representatives are ignoring an important issue, voters are headed back to the polls in November. Not to elect new representatives, but rather to send a message with a public referendum on that very same important issue.

Unfortunately for Walworth County and others, Republicans aren't just ignoring Dark Store lawsuits filed by their business-class donors, they are enabling them.

In fact, if they retain majorities after November, they will see their re-election as a mandate to pass legislation making the lawsuits totally unnecessary by making Dark Store assessments of retail property the law of the land. And, what are you going to do if they ignore your advice? Throw them out of office? Oh please.

Wisconsin is open for business! Remember?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

"Road To Change" Inspiring For Local Youth Participation In Citizenry



I have to take this moment to issue a word of thanks to the survivors of the Parkland Florida shooting for coming into Janesville and making an attempt to connect with the area's youth.

I can't blame them for indirectly excluding older folks from their communications and schedule, afterall, today's older folks (not all of course) are responsible for the condition of our sold-out government to corporations. Any hope for change and progress in the future will come from today's young people. There is no doubt about that.

But I thought the attendance at Ryan's office should have been better given their national exposure, until I realized this is Janesville.

In Janesville, young people are taught to sit down and cooperate with the adults and the very few that do stand up and voice their concerns are scorned by peers as attention getters or labeled as argumentative troublemakers. For the few young voices showing potential for local leadership over the years, all of them have sadly turned silent or allowed themselves to become assimilated into the status quo establishment woodwork. So it was good to see some fresh faces in attendance showing interest in civic participation.

The sad truth is; The city of Janesville, once thought to hold the potential for a reconstituted democratic progressivism after the collapse of its middle-class, has become a willing laboratory for non-democratic right-wing authoritarian corporate engineering. Put it this way, the flag of surrender - not resistance, is waved in Janesville.

But just as important, I also want to thank them for keeping this latest event an issues and organizing event and not allowing themselves to be used by any particular candidate for a campaign rally. David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez remain true to their cause.

Very refreshing and ...thank you!

ADDITIONAL:

My State Line - Parkland Students Take Gun Control Message to Janesville

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Janesville City Manager Wants To Spread Good News, But Not To Everyone


You gotta' be kidding.

The term "patently offensive" is honestly a bit too harsh but comes to my mind after reading this article from the Janesville Gazette about Mark Freitag, the city manager. His latest idea is creating a talking points bulletin, a special city "optimists" newsletter for those he automatically deemed as privileged "stakeholders" in the city of Janesville.

Apparently, Freitag feels it's necessary to have two city newsletters. One specially prepackaged for Janesville elites (about 200 of them) and one for the taxpayers.

Flying inside the radar of this story is a secondary eye opener: The fact that those considered as Janesville's caring stakeholders by the city manager haven't a clue what's going on in the city beyond their directives of lobbying government for tax credits, tax cuts and TIF District kickbacks for themselves.

The title of the Gazette story, "Janesville launches new email newsletter for city stakeholders" pretty much says it all. Except, if you visit the city Website, you can't submit your email address to request the newsletter. Instead, you'll have to call city hall and speak to one of his assistants to get clearance.

Because spreading good news as he sees it - isn't for everyone.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Pattern Of Corruption: Janesville Homebuilder Uses Elective Office To Block Competitor




Not too long ago (Oct. 2017), a multi-unit residential developer from outside of Janesville wanted to buy a strip of land (with his own money - not government cash. Strike One!) on the backside of Walmart, but the purchase was contingent on changing the zoning so he (the land buyer developer) could proceed with his new 15-unit apartment complex. It's important to note the developer's purchase transaction and his apartment proposal was not hinged on receiving an "incentive" deal from the city. He was simply making a request for a change in zoning in order to proceed with the purchase and construction.

Doug Marklein, a Janesville area home builder and a member of the planning commission and also the president of the city council ranted during the committee meeting against the developer's proposal, claiming there was an unwritten promise (there was no deed restriction) between the land seller and the community that the property would remain zoned R1 (single-family homes) for an eternity.

The developer's zoning request was eventually shut down by the Janesville Planning Commission. On the surface it appeared like Marklein's petty attitude toward a market competitor was the reason he was denied, but little did I know that there was a new narrative being shaped to confiscate TIF District cash by city hall operatives in Janesville for additional housing.

According to a recent article, Forward Janesville operators claim there is a housing shortage in Janesville (another recent Gazette story reports 1,000 vacant homes) AND that developers can't afford to build homes or apartments in Janesville because construction costs require middle-class rents for ROI that Janesville's dollar general wage earners, beaten down by Forward Janesville's legislative agenda, twenty years of Paul Ryan, and Scott Walker's divide and conquer politics, can't afford to pay. So the developers (not the renters) want to be subsidized with TIF District kickback cash. Got it? That's it in a nutshell.

On top of that, the city also has an emerging pattern regarding economic development. When a private investor wants to develop land or existing developed property of significance beyond the value of a residential home, but without city incentives, central planning or TIF District kickbacks - the city shuts it down. The city sees those unexpected investor events as an opportunity to confiscate tax revenue, but only if they can TIF it.

The city refused to let Menards free market redevelop (rezone) their old store into a warehouse or public storage - no taxpayer subsidies were asked - but the city TIFed it for the buyer. Studer developments bought several downtown properties along the river for free market rehabilitation without asking for city incentives. Afterwards, Gazette editors surmised in an editorial that those buying and investing their own money (without subsidies) in Janesville properties must be a "philantropic" gesture. City hall insiders were furious, but took it as their cue to turn downtown into a TIF district to capture the future bounty in assessed growth.

Then came the multi-unit residential developer behind Walmart who was shut out.

The pattern here is obvious. TIF is being tremendously abused. It's no longer necessary to attract economic development in Janesville. Instead, TIF is used to skim money from future growth in assessed value for kickback purposes to city hall insiders and Forward Janesville political operatives.

In hindsight, Marklein's earlier opposition to a competitor entering Janesville had more to it than just forcing the seller into keeping a non-binding promise.

It turns out Marklein also wanted to build multi-unit residential in Janesville. Surprise. Surprise.

So the apartment developer had to be stopped for two more major reasons. Strike Two: Allowing him to build an apartment complex without city incentives or TIF kickbacks would damage city hall insiders meme that it can't be done without subsidies, and Strike Three: Marklein already had designs on building an apartment complex, it's just not behind Walmart.

The Janesville city council should have asked Doug Marklein and Richard Gruber to resign from the council long ago, instead, they appointed them president and vice-president of the council.

In Janesville ...if it's corrupt - it's institutionalized! To be a community player, you need to join in and become part of the taking.

ADDITIONAL:

Rock Netroots - Janesville Council Members Gruber and Marklein Should Resign

Rock Netroots - Special Interests Should Recuse From Janesville City Council Or Resign

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Janesville Gazette Finally Dumps Their "Sound Off" Anonymous Column



It might be a little too little and a little too late, but after decades of publishing an "anonymous" column filled with drive-by personal attacks when it wasn't delivering a political campaign, the Janesville Gazette, otherwise known as the hometown newspaper and local messaging filter for Paul Ryan, has finally ended the column.

And, there's no doubt about it, those addicted to this twice-a-week fix of rambles and rants will be going into severe withdrawal. The Gazette, in their final Sound Off column on Sunday, posted a series of comments from readers unhappy with the move. They call it a mistake with some threatening to drop the newspaper entirely.

The newspaper's editor posted a Charlie Sykes-like defense, stating that the change is due to their drive for "journalistic integrity." As if they had nothing to do with the damage they've done over the years to divide the community. They believe they and the column are merely victims of current trends.

JG Excerpt:
In this era of the media being pummeled with accusations of "fake news," we feel it is more important than ever to make sure our journalistic integrity is unquestionable," Schwartz wrote in a Wednesday column.

Anonymous commentary has no place in a publication that takes pride in its journalism, he said.

True. As you probably know, this blog has been a sharp critic of the Gazette for publishing the anonymous column. In fact, I stated that the Gazette will likely never drop it because of the column's immense political power. But that's just it. I believe it began with political intentions and ended for the same reason.

In no way am I defending the column, but they could have kept it by separating it from the opinion page and renamed it as a novelty, say like Troll Corner or Nay Bobs.

My main point is; It is a positive step, but I don't believe they dropped it for journalistic integrity. I think they dropped it because the newspaper and the city along with their social media cohorts are in the final stages of rewriting local political history and delivering Forward Janesville's low-wage right-wing economic agenda on the city. They require trance-like unity and unquestionable support. So I believe they concluded that they must not help disseminate any elements of division or opposition to their agenda, when and wherever they can.

So the Sound Off column became expendable. For now.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Dark Store Loophole Becomes Needed Suicide Relief For Anti-Union Businesses


As Republican legislators hold firm in their defense to keep the Dark Store loophole open for some of their biggest campaign donors, the problem doesn't look like it's going away anytime soon in Wisconsin.

Because as long as Wisconsin's private and public sector unions huge declines in membership and revenue is seen as "winning," so goes the urgency to keep some form of local tax relief mechanism in play for declines in middle-class retail spending.

The Dark Store connection to anti-unionism just recently dawned on me when I realized that some of the biggest names in Janesville supporting and endorsing anti-union political candidates also happen to be the biggest names applying for and winning Dark Store property tax relief. Menards, Walmart, the Janesville Gazette and Farm and Fleet are all well known for their support of establishment republicans. The same establishment republicans who passed Act 10, anti-worker Right-to-Work and anti-prevailing wage laws are the same republicans defending the Dark Store loophole.

It should also come as no surprise that the last two fake town halls Paul Ryan held in Janesville was at one of his biggest local boosters, Blaine's Farm and Fleet. Apparently Blaine's needed the congressman to reassure them that more relief, other than Dark Store, is on the way with his promised corporate tax cuts as the retailer's political war on unions, intrinsically tied to the state's shrinking apple pie and Chevrolet customer farm base, became a double crisis for the Janesville-based retailer.

As insanely crazy and suicidal as it appears, there is no question in my mind that by supporting efforts to wipe out unions, these businesses supported efforts to wipe out their most stable and reliable middle-class customer base. Perhaps there is some remorse, but at this stage, they're willing to do anything to justify their war because "winning" is everything.

Republicans see the Dark Store loophole as a necessary and urgent component to relieve businesses for losses their race-to-the-bottom political activities caused. So should residential property taxpayers and everyone else.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Are Dark Stores A Wormhole Into Atlas Shrugged?


Some political watchers in Wisconsin seem to be miffed by republicans reluctance to legislatively fix the property tax loophole known as Dark Store.

The loophole, as you probably know, allows large commercial property owners to challenge their property tax bills by claiming excessive assessments using an argument that the structure's assessed value should be no more than that of an abandoned building. State lawmakers are being asked to close the loophole by simply making it illegal to make that argument in Wisconsin courts. Others claim that republicans are ignoring the dilemma because the loophole enriches their political donor base. That's a perception difficult to ignore.

But so far, republicans have not paid a political price for supporting the Dark Store loophole.

There also appears to be a larger picture and goal in mind by those in power who defend the Dark Store loophole.

You see, there are people who also strongly believe that corporations and commercial properties employing a significant number of people are the "makers." They "make" income taxpayers and those incomes pay the bills so government can survive. So in their view, taxpayer creators deserve full tax exemptions because of their favored symbiotic relationship with government.

Their goal is to exempt "maker" employment properties of the burden of paying a property tax because according to "conservative" economic theories, any taxes paid by corporations are passed through and paid by their customers reflected in higher prices of goods and services. That argument however is self-defeating in that it is an admission that corporations and business properties don't pay property taxes anyways.

Unfortunately, the timing of the Dark Store litigation also happens to coincide with a sympathetic public perception that brick and mortar stores are under added strain competing with property tax burdenless internet inventories.

So the Dark Store loophole, at least for now, appears to provide an incremental step into Atlas Shrugged. Wisconsin republicans haven't budged. They know if the loophole can survive long enough, they might be able to formulate a plan to make the tax burden shift appear less painful on residential property taxpayers. If they can make it painless, opposition to fully exempting corporations and large scale brick and mortar of property tax will disappear.

From there, they will be able to go with full-throated privatization of currently held public assets and common use areas by instituting point-of-use fees, which by the way is now a simple automated payment task with our fully digitalized infrastructure.

I've jumped a little ahead of myself with that scenario, but few can argue that current trends toward exempting business and capital of government regulation and taxes act as a fulcrum for turning public assets into private property - a necessary component to reach their Atlas Shrugged utopia.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Free Market Group Unglued Over Walker's Misguided Policies, Bad Economics


A pay-to-stay incentives proposal for consumer goods giant Kimberly-Clark remains in play and, consequently, so does the possibility that lawmakers will be called back in for a special session, @GovWalker said Wednesday. #wiright…

As explained in a previous post by Rock Netroots and contrary at the time to mainstream narration, a Foxconn-like free money deal written by Gov. Walker and state republicans remains on the table for Kimberly-Clark and any other big corporate interests in Wisconsin looking for a long-term government hand-out.

That blog perspective was in response to a Janesville Gazette editorial and a recent press release by the right-wing group MacIver Institute. The group was quick to give credit to senate republicans for the death of the “pay-to-stay” proposal and called it a victory for free market principles.

But now, faced with the realization the deal was never pulled off the table, MacIver partisan tools look for a new bogey man, unions, to blame just in case republican efforts, whatever they are, fail or succeed.

Because if republicans fail, according to MacIver, it's the union's fault. If republicans succeed, unions shouldn't credit democrats.

Because MacIver has political fires that need stoking ...

MacIver Excerpt:
The Steelworkers, which has dumped millions of dollars into Democratic Party candidates and liberal causes, seemed to be more interested in stoking the fires of political discord, dismissing the fact that it has been Walker and legislative Republicans who have led the incentives effort.

MacIver wants to make sure the public knows that it is state republicans, not democrats, who are leading the incentives effort for Kimberly-Clark, an effort just three weeks ago they called misguided policy, bad economics and a troubling precedent.

I couldn't make this stuff up no matter how hard I try.