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Friday, October 31, 2014

Three-Headed Kochtopus Plan "Divide and Conquer" Rally In Janesville

According to the Janesville Gazette, Paul Ryan, Scott Walker and the national GOP chairman, Reince Priebus, will be together in Janesville Sunday morning (9AM) for a rally in the Shopko parking lot. The article states they were invited through a Facebook posting by the republican candidate for the 15th Senate seat, Brian Fitzgerald.

That's quite a bit of Koch artillery firing away for a local state senate seat. The 15th district seat was occupied by Tim Cullen. he will be retiring. The story states that Ryan is the only confirmation (as of this posting) to attend.

Worth noting are two letters to the editor supporting Fitzgerald posted in today's newspaper along with the event story. They describe him as a "refreshing presence," "his own man," "beholden to no one," and the choice for voters tired of contentious politics and division.

How's THAT for cognitive dissonance?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

MU Poll Tells Us What We Always Knew. Turn Out, Turn Out, Turn Out.

The final Mu Poll before the election shows a huge uptick (11%) in voter enthusiasm for republicans over a period of just two weeks. That uptick translated to Walker pulling ahead of Burke 50% to 43% among likely voters. The poll reported that 93% of republican respondents stated they are certain to vote, matching their numbers in the same poll category before they won the 2012 recall.

MU Poll Excerpt:
In the current poll, 93 percent of Republicans say that they are certain to vote, while 82 percent of Democrats and 75 percent of independents say the same. Two weeks ago 82 percent of Republicans, and 80 percent of both Democrats and independents, said that they were certain to vote.

This is a last call wake up for Democrats.

MU Poll
In this poll, Republicans make up 26 percent of the registered voter sample and 30 percent of the likely voter sample, with Democrats at 32 percent of both registered and likely voters. Independents are 39 percent of registered voters and 36 percent of likely voters.
Full story>>>

There is nothing magical about it. Assuming everything else is equal, it's plain to see that 93% of a 30% sample (27.90) is greater than 82% of a 32% sample (26.24). Point is, IF that lack of enthusiasm for voter turn-out continues to hold on election day for Democrats - Burke will certainly lose.

The thing is, the MU poll numbers favoring Walker are a result of republicans responding at near full saturation. It won't get much better for Walker. Democrats on the other hand have plenty of room to power up their turn out. Going full throttle during a mid-term however is easier said than done. But it can be done.

From the poll results, we can safely assume that if an equal percentage of democrats said they were certain to show up and vote (93% of 32% sample = 29.76 - Burke will win. We know that and our opponents know that. That's why they enacted Act 10 to defund supporters of democratic candidates, eliminated party line ballots, gerrymandered districts, cut early voting, and almost had Voter ID in place just a few weeks before this election. Because republicans know when the percentage of democratic voters "likely to vote" match or exceed republicans percentage, they will lose - Democrats win.

We've been here before with the recall and republicans turned out. It's not magic. They've planned this day for four years using every legislative and campaign trick in the book. They are geared up to turn out and are hoping we don't.

It's about turn out and it is what we must do to win.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Easy Call: Vote "No" On Janesville's Tax Increase Referendum

Janeville's city council continued their derailment on the so-called "street repair" referendum during their last council meeting before the election when they proposed and passed a policy statement that essentially changes ...absolutely ...nothing.

All they are doing now is grasping at straws to change the reality of their failure to "lock in" binding language the first time they voted to approve the referendum. Their policy statement does nothing more than repeat commonly held perceptions of accounting practices the public expects regarding the supervision and dispensation of our tax dollars.

Also, the "lock in" narrative might be a good sound bite for a Gazette headline, but to informed Janesville voters it becomes little more than a sleight-of-hand exercise to divert attention away from the council's clumsy but intentional misdirection.

Another point overlooked in this entire episode is the city council is asking voters to make the decision for a tax increase the council refused to tackle or solve on their own with the wheel tax. Politics in play? You bet!

There are two major reasons why Janesville voters should vote "No" on this referendum. The first is obvious. The referendum question asks voters to increase the tax levy for the next fiscal year (2015) city budget by roughly 4%. Working backwards, this results in a levy of $30,912,286 which happens to be a $1.2M increase over the previous year. That's all there is to it.

As presented in my original posting exposing the city's referendum gaffe, it contains NO "binding" language about streets or maintenance, nor does it imply the money will be in addition to the previous amount allocated for street repairs. It's simply a tax hike referendum to increase the city's levied budget by $1.2M each year for the next five years.

The second reason to oppose this referendum comes only IF assuming its purpose is indeed for street repairs. Because if it is, it intentionally spreads the tax burden among a smaller Janesville tax base, property parcels, as opposed to registered vehicles.

What that does is it puts a bigger hit on property owners ($37 average annually) than it does on Janesville vehicle owners ($10 = $535K, approx. $22 annually) to raise the requested $1.2M. Secondly, by placing it on property tax bills, it arbitrarily charges home owners for the wear and damage done to streets by vehicles. As it stands, property taxpayers are already paying a portion of road repairs but so do vehicle owners. However, a reasonable balance test should levy more onto the primary cost "causer" for existing road repairs. In this case, vehicles.

On the public awareness side, going to the property tax instead of a local vehicle tax also buries the cost for street repair into the inherently murky clutter of the property tax bill. The fee becomes out of sight, out of mind. If voters should approve this referendum, Janesville's street repair "wheel" tax bill (or I39/90 expansion fee, depending on your view) will be equivalent to about $47 annually, with no guarantee it will be used for street repairs. (The current wheel tax is $10)

By keeping the "street repair" fee out of plain sight, there are several obvious advantages for city government, but no good reasons why citizens should go along with the lack of transparency. If the referendum fails, don't worry. The sky will not fall nor will the streets roll up like an unlocked window shade. My guess is the council will come back with another stab at a referendum in spring 2015.

Like it or not, the apolitical and practical way to pay for street repairs in this era of triple-taxation-zero-sum economics, is with a local vehicle or wheel tax apportioned to the type and weight of the vehicle the same way the state charges for annual plate registration. This way, the vehicles responsible for placing the most wear and tear on our streets pay accordingly. For instance, this fee scale could begin with an amount of $10 for passenger cars and progressively climb to $40 for the heaviest trucks and buses.

Unfortunately, the well-informed voter knows there is little chance of that fee structure becoming law with all the special interests controlling the local agenda, and with other rate hikes and taxes being shifted onto the typical wage earner, I'm not sure Janesville's residents can afford any of this.

Without even touching on the central role or adverse effects Forward Janesville's legislative agenda had in reducing state aid to local and rural roads, I recommend a "NO" vote on the City of Janesville Question 1 referendum.

Read more on the Janesville referendum:

RNR - (Oct. 2, 2014) Roads Point To Janesville Politics In Tax Hike Referendum

RNR - (Sept. 23, 2014) Newspaper Misinforms On Referendum While Telling Readers To Get Informed

RNR - (Aug. 26, 2014) Janesville City Council Ignores Citizen's Referendums

RNR - (June 28, 2014) Wisconsin Rural/City Roads Are Crumbling For The I39/90 Expansion

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Marine Vet Asks Wisconsin For a Second Chance

In the video below, Marine veteran Eric Pizer, facing the stark reality that Scott Walker will never issue him a pardon as long as he's governor, asks for help.

Watch It:

To learn more about this veteran's personal struggle, visit Pardon Eric

Sunday, October 26, 2014

What's On The Rock County Ballot

This is the general election ballot for Rock County on November 4, 2014. The following list does not include municipality, school district or other local referenda.


Governor and Lt. Governor

Mary Burke and John Lehman (Democrat)
Scott Walker and Rebecca Kleefisch (Republican)

Attorney General

Susan Happ (Democrat)
Brad Schimel (Republican)

State Treasurer

David Sartori (Democrat)
Matt Adamczyk (Republican)

Secretary of State

Douglas LaFollette (Democrat)
Julian Bradley (Republican)


US Congress-District 1

Rob Zerban (Democrat)
Paul Ryan (Republican)

US Congress-District 2

Mark Pocan (Democrat)
Peter Theron (Republican)

State Legislative

State Senate-District 11

Daniel Kilkenny (Democrat)
Steve Nass (Republican)

State Senate-District 15

Janis Ringhand (Democrat)
Brian Fitzgerald (Republican)

State Assembly-District 31

Amy Loudenbeck (Republican)

State Assembly-District 43

Andy Jorgensen (Democrat)
Herschel Brodkey (Republican)

State Assembly-District 44

Debra Kolste (Democrat)

State Assembly-District 45

Mark Spreitzer (Democrat)



Robert D. Spoden (Democrat)

Clerk of Circuit Courts

Jacki Gackstatter (Democrat)



Transportation Fund Amendment

QUESTION 1: “Creation of a Transportation Fund. Shall section 9 (2) of article IV and section 11 of article VIII of the constitution be created to require that revenues generated by use of the state transportation system be deposited into a transportation fund administered by a department of transportation for the exclusive purpose of funding Wisconsin’s transportation systems and to prohibit any transfers or lapses from this fund?

• NO


Medicaid Expansion-NON-BINDING

Shall the State of Wisconsin accept available Federal Medicaid funds to provide access to BadgerCare to Wisconsin residents up to 133% of the Federal Poverty Level?

• NO

Minimum Wage Expansion-NON-BINDING

Should the State of Wisconsin increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour?

• NO

Friday, October 24, 2014

Scott Walker Was Against Early Voting, Before He Was For It

After signing a law cutting early voting down from three weeks to two before an election, limit hours for in-person absentee voting to no later than 7 PM during the week and completely eliminating weekend voting, Scott Walker is now trolling Wisconsin voters in his Web ads to vote early, to make sure your voice is heard. It's like Happy Labor Day all over again.

There were more like this but I could not capture the ad together with the article title due to ad placement.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Scott Walker Bamboozles Voters With Bogus $535M Surplus Claim

It's been about a month now since State Sen. Jennifer Shilling laid out a series of state budget documents and press releases clearly showing Wisconsin has a potentially deeper structural deficit than the $1.8 billion hole the state's non-partisan budget bureau had reported.

The best part of her presentation was that she used commonly available fiscal reports (no gimmicks) supplied by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB). Her summary was not based on any new or different assumptions to change the calculations, instead it restored off-balance sheet items such as the state's K12 fund, the transportation fund deficit and reports of revenue shortfalls that added up to real potential for a $4 billion state budget deficit.

What isn't told often enough is that the current projected $1.8 billion state deficit, was an estimate calculated, in order to be historically consistent, using the same set of assumptions and variables the LFB has used since 1995.

By the way, it's the same mathematical exercise that also produced the state's now infamous 2011-13 $2.5B projected structural deficit Scott Walker used to carpet bomb state employees and Wisconsin communities with. Nothing is different in the LFB's assumptions or formula to produce the $1.8B deficit. Except this time, it came on the heels of Scott Walker's and state republican's re-election campaigns and is the direct result of their "reforms."

With their careers on the line and the election just weeks away, there was no way Walker or state republicans would let the truth grow legs and become the reality. Their flacks and hacks responded within days of Shilling's deficit summary and began trashing her simple and honest mathematical calculations in an obvious partisan attack.

To defeat the truth, they've unabashedly resorted to cooking the books.

Believe it or not, they asked the LFB, which by the way operates much like the congressional budget office in D.C., to walk backwards into a new balance using a made up set of assumptions to create a surplus. They could have just as easily told them to count each cranberry in Wisconsin during harvest as a dollar and report it back as farmland tax revenue. Under their politically twisted assumptions, the new fiscal estimate shows a $535 million surplus. It's nothing more than garbage in, garbage out.

With this new but rigged calculation, Scott Walker and state republicans have used the LFB office as the authority to flip a legitimately sanctioned deficit balance into a phony surplus, and then wasted no time using the bogus talking point during his debate with Mary Burke and in political ads.

In private practice, when you defer costs, accelerate revenue (in this case tax revenue), delay transfers, create off-balance sheet items, and develop a false set of assumptions using excess reserves or old sales projections - to inflate assets in a presentation to snooker potential investors and buyers - they call it cooking the books. This is precisely what state republicans did with the LFB's budget projections. They cooked the books, but the "investors" are the voters.

If this happened in a private sector company with Walker as the CEO, directors and stockholders would be looking to file charges against him for fraud and embezzlement. Here in Wisconsin, he is one of two choices for governor.

Come on Wisconsin! We can do better than that.


WCM COOP - Smoke and Mirrors: Wisconsin’s actual debt and the fabricated "surplus"

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

In Ryan v Zerban, Whose Idea Was a Debate Without Rebuttals?

After watching the first Paul Ryan - Rob Zerban "debate," I wrote "nobody won the debate and nobody got schooled" and I thought, how could that be with anybody having a political debate with the ideologically-locked hyper-partisan Paul Ryan?

It didn't make sense until watching the second debate that I realized (and others did as well) that no rebuttals were allowed during the debate.

How do you have a competitive debate without any rebuttals?

It's worth noting that more than once during each debate, Ryan stated that opponents and others who don't agree with him shouldn't criticize, but should instead present solutions, does seem to imply that he is sensitive to being corrected or criticized.

So, whose idea was no rebuttals?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Divide and Conquer Club Polish Their Badges Over Glowing GDP Report

Sunday's Janesville Gazette headlined an article about how Rock County's GDP growth is among the best in the nation. Sounds great, doesn't it?

Unfortunately, there was alot that wasn't highlighted in the article. The most glaring item is the fact that Rock County's gross domestic product in general was starting at a lower baseline than most U.S. communities since GM closed in late 2008.

An example of this effect is New Orleans. It boasts some of the best economic growth indicators in the country. Why? Because it's rebounding from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina with the help of billions in federal taxpayer dollars. Yes, government plays a huge role.

The housing mortgage crash of September 2008 coupled with the GM closure was our little hurricane. Sure, the devastation was nowhere near what N.O. experienced, but we lost at least 2,000 family raising "production" salaries along with another 1,000 in coat-tail operations. Even though those jobs have not been replaced, my hat is off to those surviving small businesses that have adapted to these new pressures. But any growth starting from that new "bottom" beginning in 2009 will be a greater percentage of the principal than if starting from a higher position in 2006.

The good news is Rock County's establishment did not go further south after the dust settled in the post-GM era. The bad news is the number of Rock County residents on FoodShare has rocketed 107 percent since 2008.

So boasting a leading GDP growth rate in 2014 is not exactly a sure sign of explosive new job growth or an improving economy like it would have been 100 years ago. In 1914, that indicator would have meant Rock County's economy is sizzling hot, but back then GDP growth was a result of job expansion driven by labor. Today, it is job contraction driven by automation and capital.

That also means a higher GDP growth rate today is increasingly the result of fewer people working harder to produce more - for less. According to the Gazette story, production is up 6% since the 2009 Great Recession bottom baseline.

It's not about jobs.

In this new era, it's a report showing that legislative policies designed to increase wealth at the top are indeed working with lower wages and fewer jobs, AND a local economy starting from a comparatively lower baseline than many (but not all) communities. Unfortunately, this is what the GDP growth rate story tells me the most.

Interestingly enough, the Gazette enlists the opinions of the divide and conquer booster club, Forward Janesville, and their county government liaison, whose legislative agenda and economic development principles bolster the logic of my viewpoint.

But instead of keeping their optimism in check, they confidently polish their badges, "we're leading the pack" and give credit to several businesses "expansions." Business expansions whose taxpayer sponsored "incentive" packages were guaranteed not by creating more jobs, but predicated on fewer jobs than they currently provide - not mentioned in the story.

I also sense that timing and political logistics play a role for the claims and credit they seem to be taking just two weeks before an election. To put it another way, had Romney and Ryan won the White House in 2012, the Ryan/Hendricks/Walker Kochtopus would have held up the area’s increased GDP report as a result of their policies and political victory. So on another hand, these folks are gaming the narrative.

Locally, what their displayed optimism (and timing) does is further perpetuate the false notion that incentive packages loaded with tax credits, tax cuts, forgivable loans and free stuff for the top - works - and somehow make businesses hire employees they don't need. They want to keep that gravy train rolling, yet at the same time they lack the same confidence and optimism to guarantee positive job growth in exchange for those incentives. With that said, I'm not trying to justify the "incentive" charade at all. Just trying to align their confidence game with their optimism.

Lastly, these fine folks gloated and giggled over people whose backs were against the wall after GM closed because they were left with no choice but to take considerably lower wages for their work. That's not what I would call an inspiring community spirit. Or, when your economic development team views higher wages, civil rights, pensions and employee medical leaves as burdens on economic development, you're not exactly creating a welcoming environment for workers to provide economic security for themselves or their families.

It's further telling they referred to themselves in the past as the ambassadors of optimism. They had to - because it's not about jobs.


RNR - How the Janesville Gazette Can Help Rock County (Jan. 2011)

RNR - Janesville Is Not Paul Ryan's Kind Of Town

Mother Jones - Americans Working Harder Charts

Friday, October 17, 2014

Walker: "Property Taxes Went Down." Renters, What Say You?

Here's an interesting link sent in from Facebook friend E.B.

JS Online Politifact Excerpt:
When Walker claimed that his various income and property tax cuts amount to $322 in the 2014 tax year for the average family, our rating was Mostly True. That comes to about $27 per month.

We found that the income and property tax cuts would save the median-income family at least that much in 2014, although not every average family would save that much, particularly if they are not property owners.

Just to state the obvious here, if they're not property owners, they are renters.

In an unrelated story that seems to show the property tax "pass down" theory is indeed a one way street, Janesville Council Member Douglas Marklein recently said that if Janesville voters approve of a property tax increase referendum this November, he intends on passing down the increase to his renters by raising their rent. He said any smart landlord would do the same.

We know those "tax savings" figures are a bunch of political hooey, but for the sake of staying on a positive note here, we should ask renters (many are low income, but not all) if they enjoyed a rent reduction of about $30 (or $20) a month this year. If not - why not?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Local "Divide and Conquer" Booster Mentioned In Koch Funding Story

Local divide-and-conquer booster Diane Hendricks of ABC Supply (Beloit) was mentioned in a recent story at Politico. In their article, Koch Donors Uncloaked, Hendricks is listed among a handful of ultra-rich conservatives paying at least $1M to fund Koch's new super PAC "Freedom Partners Action Fund."

Politico Excerpt:
The deep-pocketed political network created by the billionaire conservatives Charles and David Koch this summer quietly launched a super PAC that can buy explicitly political ads supporting Republican candidates rather than the issue-oriented ads they‘d been airing for years.

The catch: For the first time, the network’s donors would be publicly identified if they gave to the super PAC.

Their "candidate advocacy" ads don't have to necessarily be in support of a candidate. The Super PAC can attack opposition candidates as well so long as the PAC's donors identities are disclosed.

This is a different set-up from the "dark money" laundering schemes Gov. Scott Walker was accused of coordinating with the issue advocacy group Wisconsin Club for Growth.

In Walker's scandal, prosecutors turned up evidence that showed the governor redirected supporters for recall candidates to funnel millions of dollars into Wisconsin Club for Growth, later to be used to coordinate and develop campaign themes and political ads. Issue advocacy groups can accept corporate and individual donations without limitations and no donors disclosure.

Nevertheless, if you spot the fine print "Freedom Partners Action Fund" buried somewhere in a political attack ad, you'll at least know these are paid for by the one-tenth of one percenters who are making a concerted effort to buy our elections.


Blue Nation Review - These Are The People Buying Your Elections For Republicans

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Federal Judge Blocks State Campaign Coordination Laws From Being Enforced

We knew this was coming after it was reported less than two weeks ago Citizens For Responsible Government Advocates filed suit to have the Wisconsin state law Scott Walker and conservative groups are accused of violating struck down and/or suspended.

As expected, Federal Judge Rudolf Randa came to their rescue.

JS Online Excerpt:
Madison — U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa on Tuesday barred state election officials and Milwaukee's top prosecutor from enforcing their interpretation of campaign finance laws limiting the ability of candidates and purportedly independent groups from collaborating.

Besides acting like thought police by prohibiting prevailing interpretation of laws, Judge Randa was not shy about stating how important it is to exempt these groups from the state law since the election is only three weeks away.

AP Excerpt:
Randa, in agreeing to temporarily block enforcement of the law, said that time was of the essence with the election just three weeks away. Walker is in a tight race for re-election against Democrat Mary Burke. [...] "Any further delay threatens to negate the effectiveness of CRG's requested relief," Randa wrote of the group.

That's bold.

Up until this ruling, the state law in question was active and enforceable and is the law used as the basis for the John Doe investigation into Walker's 2012 recall campaign. This also happens to be the same law Randa previously attempted to negate when he admitted it had been cleverly circumvented by Walker and his support groups.

The double irony here is many conservatives, in their convoluted effort to pretend like Walker did not break the law, have claimed that the law Randa has now suspended doesn't prohibit issue advocacy coordination, yet they sued to have the law from being enforced.

The moral of this story continues to offend.

Don't like a particular law? Just get it struck down or disabled long enough to do your dirty deeds. Raw power in all its glory.


PR Watch - Randa Redux: Federal Judge OK's Dark Money Coordination in WI <-- by Brendan Fischer

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Rob Zerban Delivers In First Debate Against Entrenched Incumbent Ryan

In his second campaign against the GOP incumbent, challenger Rob Zerban finally got his chance to debate Rep. Paul Ryan on stage at Carthage College in Kenosha.

I'll begin by stating that I was not at the debate in-person, but I did watch it live streaming from Carthage College in its entirety. Zerban did not disappoint.

Journal Times Excerpt:
“What do you do when you a see a problem? Forget about the talking points. You go up and put a solution on the table,” Ryan said.

Zerban accused Ryan of not acting when the deficit grew under President George W. Bush and, on a question about pay inequality between men and women, ripped him for voting against legislation such as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009.

“This is why people have a problem with members of Congress right now,” Zerban said. “Their actions and words don’t match up.”

It's so true and Ryan is at the top of that smoldering heap of failure. What Paul Ryan says at townhalls and debates does not match his actions in Congress, and Zerban was smart to point that out more than once during the debate without losing the gist of the question. There were a couple of moments (for me) where Zerban's calmness (as he appeared on camera, in-person may have been different) and solid grasp of the issues made me forget that the entrenched Ryan has 16 years in congress over Zerban.

Another issue they greatly differed on, climate change, quickly made the intertubes since the Pentagon released a report just hours before the debate that rising sea levels and other effects of climate change will pose major challenges for the US and our military. Zerban said climate change is man-made and Americans should accept the challenge as an opportunity to invest in renewable energy.

The Koch-sponsored Ryan of course disagreed with Zerban's position and that of scientists. He claimed the benefits do not outweigh the costs, essentially implying the problem will go away on its own.

Nobody "won" the debate and nobody got "schooled," but I believe Zerban delivered what many folks have been anxiously waiting for - a solid candidate with the ability to represent the people, articulate reality and with the courage of his convictions.

Carthage College: Watch Zerban - Ryan First Debate

Monday, October 13, 2014

WEDC Piles On "Help" For Local Business Donor To Walker

This is a story from about two weeks ago posted in the Janesville Gazette titled, "State tax credits help GOEX project in Janesville."

At first I was going to post only a brief for archival purposes on what appeared to be just another fear market enterprise ransom paid to a local company threatening to move out of Janesville, but once again I got hung up on several key points of the "incentive package."

First off, this was another deal in a long line of "job creation" deals in Janesville where the current number of workers employed by the business is either well above the minimum number expected to be retained or matches the number of new jobs to be created - before the deal is struck.

In Wisconsin WEDC Excerpt:
MADISON, WI. OCT. 1, 2014 – GOEX Corp., a manufacturer of plastic sheet products, is more than doubling the size of its operations in Janesville—a project expected to create about 30 new jobs and retain 130 existing ones.

Except, according to the Gazette article, the company had 152 employees at the time of the tax credit announcement. So how does that work? Will they "retain" 30 new jobs along with the 130 existing for a total of 160 jobs retained?

Not quite, but it sure does seem they want it to appear that way. The bottom line is GOEX must retain a minimum of 130 jobs over the next three years to (still) qualify for the credits. That means they can lose 22 employees and still be OK to claim $655,000 in WEDC tax credits. That doesn't sound very incentivizing to me.

Secondly, and this is getting redundant, the folks involved in this deal make it sound like a competitive process was involved.

JG Excerpt:
“When the time came to look for a new manufacturing site, we looked at other communities and other states,” Gray said. “We have an exceptional workforce in Janesville and Rock County and preferred to stay here if at all possible.

And again, the parties involved should state what other communities were in competition with Janesville and what packages they offered. How are we supposed to know if we're paying them (GOEX) enough if we don't know who and what the competition is? Cue: eyeroll

But here's the most troubling part. GOEX had previously received $594,000+ in TIF surplus cash from the city and $650,000 from WisDOT for a frontage road and railroad spur - SIX MONTHS AGO - predicated on the same 130 employee threshold AND the project is already underway. They can lose 22 to 30 employees and still qualify for the "incentives."

So what could be the driving force why GOEX would pick up $655K from the WEDC on top of those others based on a negative benchmark?

GOEX is owned by Joseph Pregont, and according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Database, donated $15,600 to Scott Walker since 2010.

In Janesville alone, there were three recent transactions (United Alloy $1.5M, Helgesen $2.4M, GOEX $1.9M) that involved "expansions" and the spectre of "competition" whose taxpayer funded awards total $5.8+ million remain guaranteed not by creating jobs, but allow shrinking the workforce by 50 to 80 employees.

That is not moving forward in my book.


RNR - Developer "Wins" $2.4M From Taxpayers, City Council Grovels Into The Camera

RNR - Collectivism To The Rescue Of Yet Another Janesville Business

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Mary Burke Impressive In Debate Against Career Politician

While I was a little surprised that we did not hear the words "union bosses" and "moving forward" over and over from the flapping lips of Gov. Scott Walker, it was hard not to notice how his quirky little smiles, mannerisms and cadence immediately reminded me of one other politician - Ronald Reagan. Walker of course happens to be a huge fan of Reagan.

I've seen some "grades" handed out on social media for Walker's and Burke's performance in this debate that are more wishful thinking than accurate. You got to remember that Walker is a fast-talking extremely well-rehearsed "baby-kissing" career politician. In fact, he's too well rehearsed as several answers he gave were for questions that were never asked.

One example was a question asking what new ideas the candidates have for creating jobs with the questioner stressing, stressing that it should be about something that wasn't done before.

Walker basically said he's going to "go forward with things that have worked" meaning nothing new and it was done before, and that he doesn't want to go backward, meaning nothing new again. Doublespeak much? He then proceeded to rattle off old talking points about his opponent's jobs record under Gov. Doyle. That wasn't the question. He never answered the question simply because he didn't rehearse or have the notes for that particular question. His answer flowed smoothly, but it was for whatever rehearsal question that best fit the actual debate question. Walker also made the same sausage out of the minimum wage question.

The big difference I saw was that Mary Burke excelled at ad libbing. Her answers came across straight forward and without reservation. Her mistakes were honest. She wasn't perfect. But she was pretty damn good. And most importantly, Burke showed she is not a politician.

Considering Burke's and Walker's history, this being the first time Burke is on the big stage with lights glaring and cameras rolling - she did extremely well. I give her a solid B+ based on that criteria. But the "honeymoon" is now over. That means she needs to prepare twice as hard for the next debate. People will expect more and better next time under a more watchful and critical eye. The onus is all on Burke to finish it off.

Considering Walker's whole life revolves around politics, I'd give him an overall solid C and because his next appearance will likely drone on in the same bulletin points flatlining fashion, he won't do much better or worse. On the other hand, if we're grading the ability to avoid answering questions with glazed-over dead eyes precision in full monotone gobble-dee-gook surround without a single flinch - Scott Walker gets a AAA+.

I talked to a Walker-supporting conservative neighbor soon after the debate and asked what his first thought is about Burke. He seemed irritated but said, "she sounds like she really supports the little guy." He was not being sarcastic. The "little guy" connotation caught me by surprise.

Take that for what it's worth.

CSPAN - Video: Wisconsin governor’s full debate

The Political Environment - Burke has more than held her own against incumbent Governor

Democurmudgeon - Mary Burke smoked the elusive Scott Walker comeback

PoliticusUSA - Democrat Mary Burke Dominates Scott Walker In First Wisconsin Governor Debate

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Deficits In Revenue and Reason Make Highway Expansions Boondoggles

Here's an excellent fact-based report from WISPIRG about how old data projections used by lobby groups and the state department of transportation can no longer be considered trusted evidence to support several state highway and interstate expansions. Among those listed in their report is the I39/90 corridor between the Illinois state line and Madison.

• Adding Lanes to I-90 south of Madison: The plan to widen Interstate 90 from four to six lanes is expected to cost $836 million. When the plan was hatched, official projections foresaw a 29 percent surge in traffic volumes between 2000 and 2010, but by 2012, the most recent year for which data are available, traffic volumes had inched up just 1 percent over the 12 years.

In my view, there's no question that several entry/exit approaches on I90 are non-conforming and should be restructured for safety reasons, but as you probably know I've been one of very few local voices opposed to the interstate expansion, and it's not so much that I oppose the expansion outright. Hey, if we can afford it, let's go five lanes wide both ways.

But with these expansions also come higher annual future costs to maintain, repair, clean and plow the wider roadways, and I have yet to see a report on those figures, or finding ways how the heaviest users will pay for the upkeep.

Truth is, we're losing the battle to pay for what we have now and the cost of many of these roadway expansions including sprawl growth vastly outweighs the return. I have history on my side to support that statement because here we are after 30 to 40 years of "expanding tax base" growth and we're stuck paying to do road replacement and maintenance all over again without one penny in trust to show for. In fact, we are in deficit on every level. Sooooo.

Sadly, the lobby groups that support the expansions are so bankrupt of ideas and principle, they don't even have a ways and means to pay for their honey projects. All they have is politics to get a piece of the action and they're conniving enough to convince a few key but gullible politicians to shift existing tax revenue streams away from local roads - to what they want - leaving us with an empty sack of treasury bags and endless referendums to vote new "wheel" tax increases on ourselves. In Janesville and Rock County, lobbyists win. The people lose.

My view was always IF you want "new" or expansions of anything, come up first with proposals for "new" revenue mechanisms to pay for the new. Get that passed in the legislature and city councils first, instead of eyeballing existing revenue that pays for the "existing." Revenue that barely keeps us rolling as it is.

Folks, I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings on this but we are getting HOSED from every angle. Again and again.

Sorry to go off in that direction for this posting on WISPIRG's excellent "Boondoggle" report, but if you support these expansions in our zero-sum budget environment with deficits in both revenue and reason, you can't say you weren't warned otherwise.

The final passages in WISPIRG's press release asks for a new direction. I totally agree.

Rather than squander tax dollars on overbuilding highways, let’s prioritize the repair and maintenance of our existing infrastructure and the transit and bike improvements that we need to compete in the 21st century.”

With limited resources dedicated to repair, Wisconsin has 1,157 bridges that engineers have deemed “structurally deficient,” according to the most recent (2013) National Bridge Inventory tabulated by the Federal Highway Administration.

“Why should Wisconsin prioritize spending on this highly questionable highway expansion while over a thousand bridges remain structurally deficient and other more deserving projects are ignored?” asked Speight.

WISPIRG - Full Highway Boondoggles Report pdf.


BDN - Beloit To Propose Flat Budget and doubling their wheel tax from $10 to $20.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Janesville Calendar - LWV Forum: Voter ID and The November Elections

Voter ID and the November Elections with Andrea Kaminski of LWV

Andrea Kaminski, Executive Director of League of Women Voters of WI, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for informed and active participation in government.

Wednesday, October 8
6 PM-6:30 PM cheese & cracker reception (nonalcoholic potluck)
6:30 PM- 7:45 PM, speakers & discussion

**Basics Food Cooperative
1711 Lodge Dr.
Janesville, Wisconsin

(**This is an independent event not affiliated with Basics)

CapTimes Story - LWV's Andrea Kaminski: Need a voter ID? Get it free, get started NOW

LWV of Wisconsin

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.

The Community Room is to the left when you come in.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Paul Ryan Links Fracking Expansion To Highway Funding Deal

The last time Rep. Paul Ryan saw an opportunity for a Koch Industries project, he wanted to force a floor vote to greenlight the KXL pipeline during the debt-limit debates, so this is right out of Ryan's hostage/ransom playbook.

According to an article in the Janesville Gazette, Ryan has a plan to fund the federal highway trust.

But you may have to embrace the Koch Brothers if you don't mind...

JG Excerpt:
Nobody wants to see an insolvent highway trust fund, and there's ways to avoid that, Ryan said.

Ryan helped write bills that would create a mechanism to use royalties and leases from fracking efforts for the highway trust fund. "I think it's a great funding source. We've had incredible discoveries just in the last few years,” Ryan said.

As I predicted almost two months ago, there is no way, despite massive deficits and snowballing costs, that Ryan would let the federal highway fund run dry.

With that said, the I39/90 interstate expansion doesn't need Paul Ryan or the fracking industry to make it happen. It's going to happen with or without them.

The problem is it's Koch Industries that needs Paul Ryan to make fracking expansion happen and Ryan is confident he'll work out a deal to get it done.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Conservative Group Wants the Law Walker Broke Struck Down

This is somewhat hilarious.

At least one "conservative" group, the Citizens for Responsible Government, oh, I almost forgot they added "Advocates" to their name so they are now "many," filed a federal lawsuit asking that a Wisconsin law limiting coordination between third-party organizations and political candidates be declared unconstitutional.

But, what law is that? Scott Walker has repeatedly claimed he did nothing wrong and that judges have cleared him of any wrong doing. Although it should be noted a gavel never came down clearing Walker of anything, simply because he hasn't been charged yet. It can't possibly be these judges have erroneously "cleared" Walker based on active state laws he knowingly broke? Can it?

Star Tribune Excerpt:
The issue of what constitutes illegal coordination between issue-advocacy groups and candidates is at the center of an investigation into Walker's 2012 campaign and more than two dozen conservative groups.

Truth is, this lawsuit flies in the face of previous witch hunt accusations by Walker and his flacks and is an admittance by the groups that state prosecutors are indeed following constitutional state laws as duty bound, and not partisan politics.

Simply put, Scott Walker broke the law. They know it. We know it.

Unfortunately, the Club For Growth's hip-pocket Judge Rudolph (law breaking should be commended) Randa has been assigned to handle this new lawsuit challenging the campaign coordination law. How Randa keeps getting these cases is beyond me.


JS Online - Scott Walker, allies knew prevailing interpretation of state law

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Roads Point To Janesville Politics In Tax Hike Referendum

The Gazette put out a story attempting to explain why Janesville's tax hike referendum doesn't mention a purpose for the tax revenue it expects to raise - as exposed a week ago by yours truly. In their article, a claim is made that the city resolution initially approving the referendum binds the referendum's revenue to street repairs. I don't buy that premise at all. Plus, who would challenge the city?

The resolution was required by the state to get the referendum on the ballot. Beyond that, the city is bound only by the language in the question. The resolution is a commitment by the Common Council proving they merely support the question to raise the revenue. The rest of the resolution serves as little more than an internal city memo that can be amended or defeated by another resolution at the will of the council at any time. As you can see, the referendum question is written strictly to raise capital with no order to use it for a specific operation or program.


"Under state law, the increase in the levy of the City of Janesville for the tax to be imposed for the next fiscal year (2015) is limited to .908%, which results in a levy of $29,712,286. Shall the City of Janesville be allowed to exceed this limit and increase the levy for the next fiscal year (2015), by a total of 4.039%, which results in a levy of $30,912,286? If this referendum is approved, the amount of approved increase in the levy will be available to the City only through the year 2019." Yes _____ N_____

It is amazing to see how much time, effort and chatter (not to mention bad advice) administration officials and council members put into the referendum only for the city attorney to say a stock state template he used to compose the referendum resulted in deleting its purpose out of the question. Keep in mind that the final resolution on the referendum's question absent "for street repairs" language was voted on and approved by the city council, regardless of the source the city attorney now claims its template came from.

I contend this was by design.

As a citizen journalist looking for answers on how and why this happened, I prefer to go back to the genesis of the referendum question. For this, I return to a special meeting on the street program held June 10th when Jay Winzenz, the assistant city manager at the time, had this to say ...

June 10th Special Meeting On Street Program
"One thing that that question doesn't include is; what the purpose is. And that's what I think is an important piece of information and as I recall we added that purpose in, when we were considering the question before when the council was considering two different questions, one for public safety and one for street maintenance. From a voters standpoint, I would want that in there so the $2 million or so wouldn't go for some other purpose I did not intend."
-- Assistant Manager Jay Winzenz

Can I say

So if "street repair" language was in the question before, who deleted it in advance of the June 10th special meeting and months in advance of the referendum? On whose orders?

In retrospect, Winzenz was being the straightest arrow in the house. As a voter himself, he apparently empathized with voters and placed their concerns at the top by insisting to legally bind the street program to the extra money. Question is, why couldn't the others?

At that same meeting, Council Member Doug Marklein said it needs to be made clear that the "sole purpose of the referendum was due to state law and levy limits." That means it must be framed as a narrow tax levy question - not a question about street repair or hint that another option exists. Heads nodded approval. No one objected.

As reported in an earlier Gazette article, Marklein also said, "If we go to referendum, we need to keep the wheel tax out of the discussion.”

Why is all that cloak and dagger necessary?

As explained in an earlier posting, if communities want to raise their tax levy beyond the growth of new construction, they must put the question in a referendum for voters. Walker and company took tax levy control away from local elected officials and made that a new law.

However, Janesville officials want residents to think they have absolutely no choice but to raise the street repair money via property tax levy OR if the referendum fails, borrow the money and pay even more over a longer term. This narrative plays off of voters sentiments and helps keep the third option at their disposal - the wheel tax - out of the public discussion.

So, I believe city officials early on planned to keep the subjects of the "wheel tax," a "road tax" or "street repair" out of the referendum (public) question for several reasons.

Most important among them is the city itself is complicit in promoting the legislative agenda of Forward Janesville. That means Janesville "non-partisan" officials supported the politics behind shifting state aid away from local roads to pay for major highway construction and expansions. It's one thing to support expanding the interstate, it's another thing that it comes at the expense of cutting local road aid, resulting in local wheel taxes or tax hiking referendums.

But they succeeded, and afterwards a few council members suggested that if residents have a problem with the shortfalls, they should point blame at state politicians for approving the legislative agenda the council themselves supported. They are being either very disingenuous or just plain ignorant. No disrespect intended, but those are the facts.

For the loss of control regarding tax levies, local officials can point blame at state republicans for tying their hands because it is true. But for the loss of local road aid and its tax hiking remediation, Janesville officials must blame themselves. The problem for area voters is that it's easy to conflict the two for self-interest and political purposes. That's how divide and conquer works.

The second reason to keep streets, wheels and roads out of the discussion is because they want to keep the third option - the wheel tax - out of the discussion. That not only helps keep Forward Janesville's role out of the discussion, but also no one on the council appears willing to raise the current annual wheel tax from $10 to $30, $40 or $50 and have it on their political resume. So I suspect several council member's opposition to the wheel tax is driven by the personal politics of not giving a future opponent for higher office a negative talking point. That's a real sad possibility.

Lastly, the council seems fixated on using scare propaganda to warn taxpayers of dire borrowing consequences IF the referendum doesn't pass. For now, this is where I leave the tax hike referendum. There will be more analysis to follow as we watch the city make some adjustments and ramp up their messaging with the Janesville Gazette, no doubt in tow.

June 10th Special Session Video
Winzenz' presentation about the referendum question begins at 00:16:50.

Marklein can be heard speaking about the sole purpose of the referendum at 00:46:00