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Friday, September 27, 2013

Reich's Movie "Inequality For All" Not Showing In Wisconsin. Start Petition

According to Democracy For America, Robert Reich's new movie, "Inequality For All" will not be opening in theaters in Wisconsin and none scheduled over the next several weeks. Yet. The closest place to see it will be in Chicago starting today or in Minneapolis beginning Oct. 4th. View the preliminary schedule here.

DFA has set up a nifty petition site designed to help bring the film to your area by creating a campaign specifically for your town. Create the petition here.

Inequality For All Trailer:

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Janesville's Landfill/Waste Collection Fee Jumps 70 Percent

Janesville residents will see their trash collection fee go from $56 to $95.35 next year.

During Monday's city council meeting, Operations Director John Whitcomb gave a quick rundown on how the costs have reached this point.

He mentioned that since 2005, sanitary landfill revenue has been used to partially or wholly offset other programs within the city's sanitation fund. He also mentioned how taking in significant waste from other communities generated revenue sufficient enough to cover the costs of the program and also provide a subsidy for the general fund. The economic downturn of 2009 resulted in a significant reduction in waste flow which reduced revenues. Revenue flows are now in reverse.

In 2010, the city established new policies to extend the life of the landfill by reducing trash intake from other communities, establish a new fee for residents and use sanitation fund balance to offset shortages not covered by the residential fee. By the end of 2012, the sanitation reserve fund was projected to be depleted. City council members began a study session to find ways to generate new revenue without raising fees. In the end they were left with little choice but to raise residential fees to cover costs. That's where we are today. Fair enough.

But is that the entire story? There was no mention whatsoever of impacts from recent changes in state budget policy or changes in state mandated tipping fees, whether it be increases or reductions, in state aid for landfills or other municipal utilities.

I do recall proposals in Walker's state budget that would force communities who raised landfill fees to offset those increases with reductions elsewhere in the budget. I believe Walker eventually vetoed that provision, but there were other assumed reductions in state revenue that would force further local tax and fee increases.

UPDATE #1: The budget signed by Gov. Scott Walker on June 30 prohibits the city from raising fees without cutting its annual tax levy by the same amount. source

Surprisingly I could find little information on the Web about state budget impacts as signed into law on local landfills/waste management programs.

Was Whitcomb right not to mention state budget impacts on landfill/waste collection fees from Acts 10 or 20 because there are none? Again, I've done some research on this and found only impacts from "proposed" legislation, but nothing on impacts as signed into law. Does someone have the answer and resource links to show otherwise?

You can watch the council discussion here. The waste/landfill portion begins at the 00:45:00 mark.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Janesville's City Council Likes Things Just The Way They Are

Sorry to say, I rarely watch Janesville city council meetings anymore being the hopeless special interest charade that it is. But since there is an obvious correlation between public financing and Citizens United, I watched Monday's meeting primarily to record council member positions on a proposal to establish a modest system of public financing for city council candidates.

Although this is not the same city council crew as the one that refused to bring a resolution on Citizens United to the table for a vote back in early 2012, this council is by all definitions - even worse.

Just for the record, I support any and all serious take-the-money-out of politics initiatives on any scale, but this proposal did seem to put the cart before the horse.

Mainly, I think its timing was bad because before we can entertain the idea of publicly funded local campaigns, there are several major obstacles unique to Janesville that must be resolved in order to remove the heavily cloaked hyper-partisan special interests that have ruled the city since the 1920's. The biggest hurdle to jump is the full restoration of a ward/district style electorate for true democratic representation and "republic" leadership to city government. Without that - we have a special-interest captured council and appointed city leadership with very little chance of real reform.

It also doesn't help that we currently have a toxic ideological environment and a compliant media demonizing both politics and government. But that's a story for another time.

Despite the short and laughable comments the idea of public campaign financing provoked from several council members, it did help expose the grand canyon that exists not only in defining what public campaign financing is, but also in the rhetoric and logic they drew upon to oppose it.

For instance, Council Member Brian Fitzgerald stated that we have too much money in politics as it is - and that's why he opposes public financing. Say what? Hello? Hello? That's the whole point! Take private money out!! It will remove expectations of a payback and also the ability for someone to buy a public seat. If you think having too much money in politics is a problem - then full public campaign financing is the solution! My God ...THAT needs to be explained?

Fitzgerald also said folks don't run for city council not because of a lack of money, but because "people don't want this job, quite frankly, and that's why they don't run." Precisely! It really is a job, a job nobody wants. So how do we get passionate and knowledgeable people to run for council? Let me put this way - not with no pay, no stipend, no campaign help - no nothing. Yet that's not what public financing is about. It's not about paying people. What public financing does do in part is help create a level playing field and make "running" more palatable to a wider population.

Council member Doug Marklein somehow turned public financing into a partisan concept and said shame on anyone who brings politics into city council. Non-sequitur much? In the presence of non-partisan offices, public campaign financing does not magically create partisanship. Again, it is exactly the opposite. Public financing takes the (private) money out. To put it another way, if you have deep chamber of commerce pockets, realtors association money or your own personal wealth funding your campaign, why would you support public financing? Public financing goes a long way to removing partisanship, cronyism and in particular, special interest influence.

Then we have the delirious comments from Council Member Duane Severson. In short he said, the folks who founded our country were all wealthy people and because money and politics is as old as the country, it is what it is. We're stuck in 1785. In the end, Severson said he appreciates that Liebert brought it forward but he could never support that. Ummm. LOL? Thank you very much.

Lastly, Council Member Matt Kealy made the motion to table the resolution which means it can't come forward again until after the next election cycle.

So there we have it my fellow Janesvilleans. When we combine Voskuil's stance from 2012 on Citizen's United with those who complained Monday evening about partisanship and money in politics but refuse to do anything about it, we're left with five of the seven Janesville council members (Fitzgerald, Marklein, Severson, Kealy and Voskuil) defending the status quo.

To be fair to Severson's position, * facepalm * he is the only one that seems to think that wealth and money in public office is a positive influence and entitlement handed down from our country's Founding Fathers. Although the five don't want to rock the money influence boat, Severson was the only one who appears to relish in it. In short, they like things just the way they are.

That leaves us with Sam Liebert who wants to take the money out and Jim Farrell, who appears smart enough to engage the problem and moderate enough to do what's right.

Again, I don't want to make it sound like public financing is the end all for Janesville's particular problems. It's not. But at least their positions on campaign financing are now publicly known and should help Janesville voters make an informed decision next time around.

Video - Janesville City Council Meeting Public financing discussion begins at the 2:15:00 mark.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Video: Rep. Mark Pocan Speaks At The Progressive Forum In Janesville

During the first half of the forum (hosted by Rock County Progressives) held Sunday evening at the Union Labor Temple in Janesville, Rep. Mark Pocan talked about money in politics, a constitutional right-to-vote amendment and the dynamics behind his vote on the Syria situation.

He also offered Progressives some straight forward advice: talk more with others about the reasons to vote for progressives and less about our opponents errant ways. Simply responding with "we're not them" is not enough. We have to get better at articulating our positions and not be afraid of taking stands.

Watch it:

H/T to vckstr89

WisPolitics - Pocan: Tea Party Republicans Holding Congress Hostage On Budget Debate 9/23/13

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Janesville Forum: Promoting a Progressive Agenda

The Rock County Progressives present...

Forum: “Promoting a Progressive Agenda”

Speaker: Rep. Mark Pocan

SUNDAY, September 22, 6 PM-8:00 PM

6 PM-6:30 PM cheese & cracker reception (nonalcoholic potluck)
6:30 PM- 7:45 PM, speaker & discussion

Union Labor Temple Association
1605 Center Ave
Janesville, WI 53546

More info at Rock County Progressives

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Paradox? Local Conservatives Demand Large Government Role For Economic Growth

You’ll never see the above headline in a local establishment or corporate-owned newspaper at anytime. Ever.

For instance, the Janesville Gazette (Aug.18) contained a front-page headlining story titled, “All filled up?” explaining away that Janesville’s large inventory of vacant industrial properties no longer exists. The newspaper, as an example, gave much credit for the so-called progress to a single private developer and praised the Rock County Development Alliance for tracking vacancy rates and collecting the data.

Not mentioned in this article in any way, shape or form, or any previous similar stories about local economic growth is the role government played in nearly each and every case. Now, I’m not tooting the government’s horn on this as much as I'm looking for proper credit given to where it is due.

One of the "success" stories from that article is an industrial location on Venture Drive in Janesville which received a $328,000 TIF funded forgivable loan whose forgiveness is based on job creation. It can be safely assumed that the “new” business occupant also received state enterprise tax credits for basically moving their operation from Walworth to Janesville.

Just for the record I’m not bashing any of the businesses mentioned here. Again, I’m just looking for political consistency at the overall record, aligning economic growth ideologies with the reality, and accuracy in reporting about these activities.

Now, I can see small government business conservatives, those self-described “jobs creators,” go ballistic and stomp their feet at me over the idea that government created those jobs, yet I’m not implying government did that at all.

What I am implying is the contradiction inside their own meme, that without government and its power to tax collectively, legislate selective tax credits or legally create caches of tax revenue (TIF Districts, WEDC) for redistribution, many of these developers and businesses would likely not remain in Janesville.

Truth is, government is thee impetus for any measurable economic growth because many of those seeking government aid for start-ups or expansions in and around Janesville have stated they would have to look or re-locate elsewhere without it. That's a fact. In the past, I've referred to this gambit as fear market enterprise. In short, they are holding entire communities hostage in exchange for access to local tax treasuries.

One such ultimatum came from the new private-for–profit start-up SHINE medical technologies, who was asked what would happen if Janesville decided against an "incentive" package containing a taxpayer-backed $4 million loan guarantee. The founder of SHINE replied that scenario would force him to abandon Janesville and look at other communities to start his venture.

SHINE eventually got what they wanted from the city of Janesville which also included free land and other perks valued at over $9 million. They also picked up federal grants and state tax credits worth an additional $20 million. So I have to ask, why doesn't the concept of government (vs private banks, free market capitalism), and more accurately the public (taxpayers), ever get any credit for this?

Here's another one. When cash-rich Seneca Foods said they were considering the construction of an 80,000 sq. ft. addition to their existing food processing facility in Janesville, they realized their private-for-profit business model had a costly hi-tech waste water problem.

Instead of turning to a local philanthropic fund (Rock County 5.0?) that provides venture capital and private loan guarantees for innovation and ideas (LOL, no they don't), or private waste management companies for help or resolving their problem internally, they put the screws to local city government and asked, "what can you do for us?" Of course since Seneca hinted that they had competing offers from other communities, the City of Janesville obliged and proposed building a $3.3 million aerobic waste facility for Seneca.

Never mind that Janesville is broke and had to borrow every penny for the project while Seneca sits on huge cash reserves. Never mind that the deal gives Seneca a government powered advantage over its free market competitors. Adding insult to injury, not one official from Seneca Foods was present at the city council meeting when the hand-out deal was approved. Instead, the city council president described how we'll all one big happy family and how wonderful it is to "partner" with such a great community member!! Fear market enterprise.

It doesn't end there. Over the years there have been many other wealthy developers and businesses, ANGI, Prent, GOEX and WW Grainger just to name a few, who have received collectivist government revenue for their business projects. I'm barely skimming the surface and this is only Janesville.

Fear market enterprise has now reached the point in Janesville where they no longer even guarantee existing jobs or add workers in exchange for the financial aid. Some have boldly justified their demands on local government with the line, "the community (taxpayers) needs some skin in the game." Yes, they demand "government get out of the way" but also want "public-private partnerships." Some of them have implied that the promise to pay their property taxes is payment enough in return for huge taxpayer funded cash hand-outs. No kidding.

So here's the core of the paradox. These fine principled free market conservatives claim it is government and liberals (particularly progressives) and liberalism that stifle growth by applying collectivism to expand the role of government into the free markets - thereby picking winners and losers in industry and creating uncompetitive advantages. Yet that is precisely where Seneca, WW Grainger, Sara or Hendricks Developments and their business lobbies, Rock County 5.0 and Forward Janesville, go to first for help. If government is so inefficient, so terrible and so destructive to free market competition, why do these folks, many of them huge supporters of Paul Ryan and Scott Walker, politically conservative, wealthy by any standard and ideologically conditioned against (supposedly) government, consistently gravitate to government?

Every. One. Of. Them.

So the next time you hear a conservative politician or local business person say the key to free market growth is by shutting down collectivism or getting government out of the way of business, ask them "how much more will government getting out of your way cost us taxpayers?" Right now, it's costing Janesville a fortune.

More articles related to local economic development:

RNR - Government Plays a Huge Role In Janesville's Comeback.

RNR - Local Business Group Pushing For Their Own Entitlement Society

RNR - Fortune 500 Company Needs $227,500 "Loan" From Janesville Taxpayers

RNR - When Big Business Drinks, Everybody Pays

RNR - Despite Paul Ryan, Janesville's Turnaround Sparked By Government

RNR - Epic Fail: Janesville City Government Enters The Abyss

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Bizarre Ruling On Act 10 Should Alarm Everyone

The only way I can wrap my mind around Judge Conley's recent ruling on Act 10 is through and by substitution.

Business Journal Excerpt:
“Under Act 10, general employees remain free to associate and represented employees and their unions remain free to speak; municipal employers are simply not allowed to listen,” Conley wrote.

So according to Conley's ruling, municipal employers government can discriminate against employees because of, by or through, an employee's association or whatever an employee is associated with.

By substitution then, Conley ruled that government can discriminate against an employee for being associated with gays, Jews, electricians or the Tea Party.

Sure, Act 10 does not forbid gays, Jews, electricians or the Tea Party from association and does not prohibit their speech, but Act 10 gives government the power to act in differing ways according to the employee's association. The act of listening or "not listening" strictly determined by distinguishing association is or was, in my book ...discrimination. Conley's ruling is definitely a trick bag.

Conley also ruled that governments can treat represented employees differently than unrepresented employees in regards to bargaining over wages and employment conditions.

Again through substitution, Conley then ruled government can treat employees associated with represented the Tea Party differently than employees not associated unrepresented with the Tea Party. You're Tea Party ... sorry, I don't have to listen to you or give you a pay raise. But, if you're a Progressive, you get a 10% raise. It is written!

No question, Conley's ruling can cut both ways. Accordingly, government can reward or punish any employee or employee group simply for their associative variable. So a group, by forming an association or union creates an external group of non-members simply by the association's exclusion. This in turn causes government to reward or punish either group just because - according to Judge Conley. I'm not referring to collective bargaining agreements or private contracts resulting or not from those associations, only the different behaviors and actions Conley ruled the government can make based by recognizing those associations.

Am I wrong for using those substitutions in this context? They are associations.

I've always thought or assumed that our Constitution protected the people from those actions and prohibited government at any level from taking specific or unequal action based on associations.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

It's Just Another Day For Our Rock Star Governor

According to this article, it was Gov. Scott Walker who personally made last minute adjustments using his partial veto powers to re-rig a grant previously rigged by GOP legislators for a political crony front group. The changes made by Walker removed federal scrutiny and helped keep the graft on track by using state money exclusively.

This latest episode involving the front group has all the makings of a first-rate scandal. It's got fraudulent conduct of those in power, political payback, the "fix," cronyism, a cover-up and even what One Wisconsin Now termed a circular firing squad.

Just another day in the life of Gov. Scott Walker.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

No New Casinos (or Business) Unless it Helps Walker Fulfill His Jobs Promise

Once again saw the story on this first at the Democurmudgeon, and the possible implications it may have with the proposed casino in local Beloit.

“Republicans in the state capitol recognize what John Torinus, a widely respected expert in economic development, said in his column this week that building a new casino in Kenosha will not create jobs.”

Torinus: “Economists on his (Walker) team should point out that another casino would not help him reach his goal of 250,000 additional jobs by the end of his first term in 2014. Any new casino jobs will be offset by job losses elsewhere in the Wisconsin economy.”

Who knew that there were such strong political undercurrents driving Wisconsin's economic development? ....eyeroll...

BUT, for the sake of this argument let's assume Torinus is right.

That for instance, Wisconsin's casino industry is running at full capacity and is now operating in a zero-sum economic environment and that opening a new casino, whether in Kenosha or Beloit will not create positive state job numbers because they will rob casinos in the central and northern parts (red counties?) of Wisconsin of the heavy capital trekked in from Chicago and northern Illinois. This in turn will cause those casinos to lose jobs. Let's assume there's a speck of truth to that.

What Torinus is then saying is government must step in politically to stop it all because it will not help Walker fulfill his 250,000 jobs campaign promise. That is what's important. Competition be damned.

Other Views:

Democurmudgeon - Walker supporter and casino opponent "Enough Already! WI" helps make Wisconsin a not-so-open place for Business.

Wheeler Report - Glaring Lack of Legislative Support for Kenosha Casino

Monday, September 09, 2013

Civil Discourse Podcast: Conversation With Ed Fallone and Rob Zerban

In this episode, Sen. Peter Bear and Eric Brant revisit the Wisconsin State Supreme Court race with Ed Fallone. They talk about the different electoral dynamics at play between April and November elections, the pending lawsuits against the Walker Administration, and immigration reform. Then Rob Zerban checks in to discuss a possible run against Paul Ryan.

Podcast Source

Friday, September 06, 2013

Walker Withdraws Rigged Grant Money To Crony Front Group. Why??

Gov. Scott Walker, who was recently awarded worst governor in the country for a steady pattern of in-your-face divide and conquer revenge style politics along with a boldly executed payback system for rewarding cronies and major donors with state employment, tax revenue credits or capital, seems to be working on changing that persona. At least on the surface.

An emergency facelift if you will.

JS Online Excerpt:
Gov. Scott Walker late Thursday canceled a controversial $500,000 grant to a sportsmen's group with little training experience but close ties to GOP politicians.

The decision was announced only hours after the Journal Sentinel asked state officials about a 2005 case in which the president of the United Sportsmen of Wisconsin Foundation Inc. was cited for hunting with an improper license.

In a statement, Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp said she spoke with Walker on Thursday and he canceled the grant to United Sportsmen, which had been aimed at promoting the state's sporting heritage. Instead, Walker ordered the DNR to find other means to achieve that goal.
Read full story here.

It does appear that the United Sportsmen debacle was spinning out of control, but obviously not enough for Walker to call for an investigation or turn John Doe on them. Instead, Walker must have figured the only way he could use this episode to his political advantage and save face was to do something very much out of the ordinary.

This just might explain it all in short order...

It takes a presidential campaign to get some people to tidy up the house. -- The Political Environment


Democurmudgeon - Walker's Magic trick: Make Two Recent Bad Decisions Disappear

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Sen. Tim Cullen Will Not Seek Re-Election

“I am not proud of or pleased by the fundamental conclusion I have reached — that I can make a bigger difference in my community as a private citizen than I can in the ugly political environment we see now in Wisconsin government."
-- Sen. Tim Cullen

Posted here for archival purposes more than anything.

BDN Excerpt:
MADISON — Wisconsin 15th District State Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, will not seek re-election in 2014.

In an interview this morning with the Beloit Daily News, Cullen said he had committed during his campaign to one four-year term, and he intends to serve it out. [ ... ] He acknowledged being frustrated with the polarized nature of politics at the Capitol and the administration of Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

“There’s some frustration in not being able to make the kind of difference I wanted,” Cullen said. “Wisconsin has never had a governor who governs just to please his base.”

In the current environment, he said, “before the (Senate) vote you know you’re going to lose 18-15.” “(Walker) governs far to the right of anything Tommy Thompson or Lee Dreyfus would have done,” Cullen said. “In the world he lives in he can’t afford to compromise or he’ll be considered a RINO (Republican in name only) with his base.”
Read more here.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Sen. Ron Johnson Tells Of His Strategy To Destroy Faith In Government

Saw this story first at the Democurmudgeon about the most recent ramblings (randlings?) from our radical extremist senator, Ron Johnson.

During a speech at an Americans For Prosperity townhall, (Johnson has yet to hold a listening session for Wisconsin constituents) Johnson does his usual demonization of Americans and wrongly accuses a majority of being anti-business, against success and addicted to government. But what really caught my eye was this statement from Johnson ...

“Politicians. I hear them say it all the time, “we have to restore faith in government.” Absolutely not! That is the wrong strategy.” – Sen. Ron Johnson

Regardless of one's perception of how big, small, polarized or corrupted government is, that's a huge statement to make against the concept of government from a sitting senator, and particularly with such defiance.

But on that note: How can the average constituent trust Sen. Johnson for help with the federal government when his personal mission is to make sure you leave disappointed and disgruntled, with a foul taste for government forever in your mouth? In this capacity, failure is success to Ron Johnson. In other words, having Ron Johnson for your senator is a lot like having an auto technician put sugar in your gas tank.

I strongly believe with that statement, Sen. Johnson has abdicated his constitutional duties and is from that point moving forward a hostile combatant to the U.S. Government.

Another masterpiece from the Democurmudgeon's video library. The above quote begins at 2:50, but I suggest watching it in its entirety:


Democurmudgeon - The Frightening side of Dumb Ron Johnson’s Doom and Gloom Nightmare Life in America. Why can’t we all just stop hating success?