Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Is that a pile of wolf poop in my paper?

Is that a picture of wolf poop gracing this morning's front page of the JS? It sure looks like it. Is the gray wolf commenting on the paper's redesign, or is the apparent photo plop just the result of the paper's apparent rule that the front page photo must take up at least 30% of the front page, no matter what that photo contains?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Barrett makes a start; Walker hides

Mayor Tom Barrett will support a 0.3% sales tax increase to fund local transit and the KRM commuter rail line, according to city Director of Administration Sharon Robinson. That's a start, but it's not enough. The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission projects massive cuts in MCTS service levels over the next few years if additional funding isn't found. The .25% transit sales tax (the other .05% would be for the KRM) Barrett is suggesting would take the funding burden off the backs of property tax payers, but would provide only a very modest increase in transit funding. The Milwaukee County Transit System still would be in a death spriral, just one with a few more spins around.

The proposal ain't perfect, but Barrett at least is looking for new funding sources for transit. The guy who should be heading up that effort -- County Executive Scott Walker -- is hiding in a corner somewhere, doing his damndest to make sure no one can accuse him of leadership.

Mission accomplished, Scottie.

Ald. Michael Murphy wondered aloud last week why Walker won't support a sales tax for transit, as it would be direct property tax relief and would ease the overall transit tax burden for the folks who live here.

It's simple, Michael: Walker just sucks at his job.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A better newspaper?

Let's get this straight: the JS is going to be physically smaller -- meaning fewer and shorter stories -- and Marty Kaiser wants us to believe this is an improvement? Perhaps he is just dumbing down the paper to match his perceptions about its readers.

And here's the kicker:

Changing the size of the newspaper requires us to reconfigure our presses. During the next six to seven weeks, we will have earlier deadlines because we know how important it is to get your paper delivered on time. We appreciate your patience if the paper is delivered a little late or if it doesn't have all the late-night news and scores you have come to expect.

Golly gee, Marty, can we please pay more for it, too?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Build the KRM

Proposal 1: How about building the KRM instead of expanding North-South I-94?

Proposal 2: How about either Mayor Tom Barrett or County Executive Scott Walker stepping up to take a leadership role on Milwaukee transit issues? Doesn't necessarily have to be both -- even one would do.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Van Hollen disowns promise

9 days! That's all it took for Atty. Gen. JB Van Hollen to decide "never mind that major campaign issue I ran on and all the promises I made, the state crime lab problem is just too big for me to fix."

Van Hollen was sworn in on Jan. 3. He publicly reneged on his promise Jan. 12. Man, that must be some sort of record.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The War on Terror

I'm not the first one to raise the question, but since there hasn't been a satisfactory answer, it's a question worth repeating: how can a country win a war against a tactic, like terrorism?

Scotty, We Hardly Believe Ye

The JS reported today that County Executive Scott Walker is knocking sharp-eyed watchdog Hannah Dugan out of her Ethics Board seat to replace her with sure-to-be-lapdog David Bradley Carr, a 2006 law school graduate. Carr is a lawyer with Gonzalez Saggio & Harlan. Dugan raised questions about the propriety of Walker's solicitation of private firms to pay for appreciation parties for veterans and county employees. Here's betting that Carr won't raise those kinds of uncomfortable questions.

Walker said Dugan's questions about the solicitations didn't have anything to do with his decision to replace her with Carr. That's not just hard to believe -- it is flat unbelievable.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

George Bush is good for something

Unfortunately, what he's good at is not being president. What George Bush is good at is providing his own comic relief from all the messes he has created.

The top Bushisms of the last year, courtesy of Taegen Goddard's Political Wire:
  1. I'm the Decider.
  2. I use The Google.
  3. It was not always certain that the U.S. and America would have a close relationship.
  4. I've got an ek-a-lec-tic reading list
  5. The only way we can win is to leave before the job is done.
  6. Stay the course.
  7. When the final history is written on Iraq, it will look just like a comma.
  8. The Congress was right to renew the Terrorist Act.
  9. I want to be a war president; no president wants to be a war president.
  10. The fiscal year that ended on February the 30th.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Hegerty's retirement

The least surprising surprise of the week last week was "news" of Police Chief Nan Hegerty's retirement. It was pretty common knowledge that she was a one-termer by her own choice. The real question is: what rank must one hold to have one's retirement treated as a major event? And for how long must one hold it? If Fire Chief William Wentlandt quit, would it be top of A1 news?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Walker: running again

Scott Walker is running for something, and it's not county executive.

Walker has issued his Agenda for Wisconsin 2007, suggesting, perhaps, that he believes he has adequately screwed up Milwaukee County and now wants to destroy parks and services on a higher level.

The agenda includes Walker's impossible, faded, exhausted dream: "Enact a real property tax levy freeze on all levels of government (including costs diverted to broad based fees like storm water, garbage collection, etc.)"

Maybe that is possible if another funding source for government is developed, but Walker doesn't propose that. Instead, he presents a grab bag of goodies tax cutting goodies, but offers no real way to pay for them. Mark Green didn't have much success with that tactic, and Scott Walker probably won't either.

The county exec, fresh from negotiating a pay raise for the county's largest union, also calls for a wage and benefit freeze for county and local government employees. Walker, however, clearly still lusting after a state gig, does not want to freeze state workers' paychecks. Interesting self-interest there, Scott.

Walker also wants to "pass a constitutional amendment that prohibits raids on segregated funds," a deep slave-boy bow to the road builders. A constitutional amendment? Walker has taken toadying to a new high (or low, depending on your perspective).

The agenda, overall, is simplistic and unworkable, but what the hey -- just like another Walker budget.

That was quick

Attorney General JB Van Hollen didn't waste any time cranking up the PR machine. The very day he was inaugurated, his office issued a press release announcing that a Milwaukee man had been convicted of Medicaid fraud. Van Hollen, of course, had absolutely nothing to do with the case, but as the new boss he gets to bask in reflected credit.

The letterhead used for the release already had Van Hollen's name on it and everything.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Go, Garland!

Isn't it great that Garland Elementary School, under some really fine principals, turned itself around and is now a U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon Award winner?

And isn't it too bad that the Wisconsin Department of Transportation wants to expand I-94 immediately adjacent to the school, so students and staff in that school can experience higher rates of asthma and other illnesses?

The American Pediatric Association recommends against building freeways near schools. WisDOT thinks they can be great neighbors as long as the kids and the staff, like Bill Clinton, don't inhale.

More fun in Menomonee Falls

The only question is: How badly will Jefferson Davis lose his bid to be elected village president of Menomonee Falls?

Davis is the news-makin', calm-shakin' dude who resigned from that same post a couple years ago in connection with a campaign finance violation plea deal.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Those homicide statistics

The JS ran today ran its annual, meaningless homicide statistics story. Homicides were down 16% in 2006. There were 122 homicides in 2005, and to 105 in 2006. Yeah. OK. So...what does that mean? That Milwaukee is safer? That there are fewer guns on the streets? That more people are taking hunter safety courses? That more people missed their targets? That more people survived being shot? Or that the JS needed holiday copy so used an arbitrary time period to measure homicide numbers?

Why not report that homicides were up or down for the decade, or for the week? How about for the day? Just think...instant front page story...

Homicides down 100%

No one was murdered in Milwaukee yesterday, a 100% decline from a year ago, when one person died by gunfire.

The Journal Sentinel realizes that the statistic is indicative of nothing, but this story fills space between writings by suburban-based columnists. The 100% figure also gives the Journal Sentinel yet another opportunity to repeat that the Journal Sentinel reported in November that about 600 people a year are struck by gunfire in Milwaukee and survive, costing taxpayers, hospitals and people with insurance tens of millions of dollars a year, and slowing down police response time.

How dare those people get hit by bullets.

The Journal Sentinel cannot help referring to itself as "the Journal Sentinel" in the Journal Sentinel. The Journal Sentinel realizes that this is annoying as hell, but believes that the use of the term "the Journal Sentinel" in the Journal Sentinel is a brilliant stroke of product placement and will encourage more people to subscribe to the Journal Sentinel because of the annoying repetition of the phrase "the Journal Sentinel" rather than in spite of the annoying repetition of "the Journal Sentinel."