Saturday, April 29, 2006

Cops want to be paid to dress themselves

We already pay them while they are suspended. Now they want to be paid for dressing themselves. Yes, it's the Milwaukee police union and its continuing "screw the taxpayer" strategy of employer-employee relations. This can only further erode the already almost totally frayed relationship between cops and the community.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Reupublicans vote for property tax increases

Congratulations to Assembly Republicans on their early-early-early morning vote to raise property taxes. The Totally Pitiful Amendment finally passed would limit state spending, but not spending by local governments. Translation: State costs would go down, services would decline, and local government costs -- and property taxes -- would rise.

Didn't this whole thing start because these very same Republicans said they were worried about property tax levels? Way to go! Take a bad situation and make it worse! At least now we know that state Republicans are following President Bush's lead vis-a-vis self-destruction.

The Republicans also voted to exempt the transportation fund from spending limits. This Republican majority: bought and paid for by your friendly road-building lobby.

An awful jail move by the county

The County Board has accepted a new jail and House of Correction telephone contract that jacks rates up 68% for collect calls by inmates. The new rates are $5.55 per 15 minute collect call, up from $3.30. The rate will stay at $3.30 for inmates who use debit cards to make their calls. The cards are available in the institutional commissaries for those with money and commissary access (which the newly busted and booked won't have).

The jacked-up rates were contained in the lowest bid the county received for running the service, County Supervisor Lynne DeBruin said.

The additional revenue will help support the fish hatchery at the House, she said.

She also said the higher rates were proposed because the people who receive the collect calls have a high non-payment rate for jail phone bills.

The new contract is just tough luck for anyone without a lot of money, but with an incarcerated friend or loved one. Accept the calls and go broke doing it, or don't accept them and turn your back on that person who needs you now more than ever.

There's a third option: don't pay the county's rip-off phone bill. And here's my bet: Even more people will choose Door 3.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Air Force would rather be above the law, thank you

The United States Air Force, that defender of democracy, doesn't think it should have to play be democracy's rules. A U.S. District Judge slapped it around a bit this week for playing hide the records in violation of the Freedom of Information Act. The National Archive, which collects declassified documents, has been waiting around while the Air Force didn't act on 82 Freedom of Information requests. The judge found that the Air Force's 11th Communications Squadron "does not seem to understand the nature of its legal obligations under FOIA."

Maybe it's all just a misunderstanding and the Air Force thought the "don't ask, don't tell" policy really meant, "Even if you ask, we don't tell."

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Down with sunset commissions

Passage of the federal budget is a tough act this year. President Bush sent a piece of garbage budget to Congress, which treated it appropriately. The ruling legislators in Our Nation's Capitol can't agree among themselves on just how much they want to hurt poor people -- a lot or a real, real lot -- so they are trying to find ways to appease each other while hurting poor people. One of the compromises being talked about are "sunset commissions." Under those proposals, government programs would be reviewed every 10 years and then killed if the commission doesn't like them. Our elected representatives, conveniently enough for them, would be able to absolutely avoid the tough choices they were elected to make.

OMB Watch says the programs most likely to be axed first by sunset commissions are the ones Bush wants to kill, anyway, but hasn't been able to -- community development, health care, education and rural development programs. This would hurt poor people, and a lot of others, a real, real lot.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Oh, Mayor Barrett, about those roads...

Gasoline is at $3 a gallon, and more people are bound to be getting out their bikes or buying scooters or motorcycles. Those alternative forms of transportation don't do very well when they hit a West Milwaukee-sized pothole, though, and there are more and more of them on city streets. Please, Mayor Barrett, plug the potholes! You can pay for it by letting some of the bigger ones fill up with rain, then selling that water to Waukesha. It should raise millions.

Just let it stay in committee, please...

There is an Assembly Joint Resolution out there proposing a constitutional amendment that would allow principal residences to be treated differently than other property when it comes to determining property tax bills. No doubt the Democratic sponsors meant for homes to be assessed at a lower rate than other property, but the history of the last 20 years shows the opposite outcome is more likely. Homeowners have been stuck with an increasing share of the property tax burden; it's been shrinking for businesses. A constitutional amendment could have the unfortunate consequence of creating another way to make sure home owners pay more than their fair share.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Good bill going nowhere really, really fast

There are some bills that should have a chance to become law, but really don't. Take, for example, the Executive Branch Reform Act of 2006. The House Committee on Government Reform endorsed it, 32-0, but the only result will be a few press releases. Too bad. Among other things, the bill would end secret meetings between lobbyists and members of the Executive Branch (think Energy Bill) and prohibit the use of fake classifications, like "sensitive but unclassified," that are used to block the public from knowing the public's business.

Gosh darn -- feds have difficulty snooping on Internet traffic

Do you really trust the feds not to abuse their police powers? It's a bit of a relief that the super snoopers at the NSA haven't quite figured out how to easily eavesdrop on or intercept Internet phone calls and e-mails. (Not that anyone wants terrorists to have a free hand to plot attacks by e-mail, but there still is appeal in that quaint old notion of privacy.) Watch out, though -- there is a new move to allow the NSA more access to more Internet communications that have nothing to do with anything the government should be legitimately interested in.

Human nature being what it is, this power -- if granted -- will be abused. Fair warning.