Saturday, March 22, 2008

Clinton's folks get out the knives, eye her back, lunge

From Politico:

One important Clinton adviser estimated to Politico privately that she has no more than a 10 percent chance of winning her race against Barack Obama, an appraisal that was echoed by other operatives.


Friday, March 21, 2008

SEWRPC surpasses its previous record of arrogance

It was hard to accept that SEWRPC, repeatedly castigated for its high-handed and arrogant treatment of the public ("No! You are not allowed to talk at our public meetings!") would actually have the gall to out-arrogant itself.

It did, though, with the closed door selection of Deputy Director Ken Yunker to succeed Executive Director Phil Evenson when he retires.

No public input. A decision made by a few folks around the table. All clubby and chummy and insider stuff. Just the way this public body likes it.

Jim Rowen has an excellent analysis.

Time for the county to join the 21st (or even the 20th) centurty

Milwaukee County is inexplicably and maddeningly behind the rest of the world in making the business of the public available to the public.

It has resisted for years doing what other governments have done for years -- post information related to County Board agenda items on the Internet. This isn't about the committee and Board agendas themselves -- the County Board does post those. This is about the reports and analyses and resolutions themselves to which agendas refer.

Consider, for example, the March agenda for the County Board Parks Committee. You can go to the County Board web site and after too many clicks find the agenda. You cannot, however, read the items related to No. 9, dealing with the county's storm water permit, including its plan to handle its very-polluting lakefront outfalls; or the items related to No. 13, which is about the stabilization and re-vegetation of Wahl Bluff in Lake Park.

(Through the good graces of the office of County Supervisor Lynne DeBruin, who is chair of the County Board's Parks Committee, I can, through a fairly labor-intensive process, often get ahold of a Parks Committee packet and post it on If you want to read the items related to No. 13 mentioned above, click here and here; if you want to read about the storm water permit, click here - the part about the beaches is on pages 11 and 12. For the entire agenda, with links, click here.)

It's mind-boggling that the county is not posting items for all County Board committees and the County Board itself. Sometimes watching a County Board meeting is like watching a group of people speak in an obscure foreign language that the rest of us aren't privy to -- they know what they are saying and just what phrase in a a particular resolution they are talking about -- it's just us common folk in the audience who aren't allowed in on the secret.

The City of Milwaukee does absolutely an outstanding job of posting the content of Common Council committee items; the School Board does a decent job, although on a less sophisticated level; MMSD manages to get its items out there; and so do smaller governments all over the map. And the county can't manage because....? The public is not allowed to know the details of the debate without chasing to the courthouse because....?

Hey, it's Sunshine Week. Milwaukee County Board, let the sun shine in.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The value of mainstream media

The paper version of the JS finally, finally, finally covered the proposal to allow all billboards in the city to be converted to changing digital message boards.

The first story ran Tuesday, the day of the council vote on the issue.

And it made a difference.

The worst version of the ordinance -- caving in to the billboard industry entirely -- was well on its way to becoming law after more than a year of debate that wasn't covered by the the paper.
Then JS columnist Mary Louise Schumacher caught up with the issue on her blog last month, (crediting Milwaukee Rising -- thanks, Mary Louise!).

Then, on Tuesday, the JS finally ran a story in the newspaper and aldermen were suddenly much more receptive to additional protection for residential neighborhoods.

Ald. Michale Murphy and Ald. Robert Bauman worked hard to make the ordinance better than the original proposal, and a big round of applause to them. I do believe, though, that the JS' coverage made a difference in the debate. A lot more people were aware of what was going on and it was not so very easy for the council to throw basic homeowner interests and protections overboard once that big kid started shining its journalistic spotlight on them.

The downside to all this is that the JS waited until the day of the final vote to run the story. Digital billboards will have a huge impact, for good or ill, on the face of Milwaukee. (Some people argue that digital billboards are an aesthetic improvement over old, tired static versions of the same thing, although why anyone would believe that digital billboards won't grow old and tired is a puzzler.) The version of the ordinance that came so damned close to passage could well have had a hugely deleterious impact on residential neighborhoods.

What about this issue wasn't worth covering until it was too late for Milwaukee residents to have any real input? Is coverage of every possible angle of Brett Favre's retirement the most we can expect? Does a newspaper's function still include providing the information citizens need to make informed decisions about their community's civic life?

I'm kind of afraid of the answer.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Now this is news you can use

Ready? You need to know this as the economy craters and the country hurtles toward God knows what kind of financial disaster.

Here it is -- the critical information of the day:

Women spend only about $25 on a new bra.

My reaction to this stunner must be similar to that of millions of women. WHAT!!? Where can you get a decent bra for just $25?

Bras are one of the great rip-offs of the "foundations" section of department stores., an unglamorous, unfun and yet consistently overpriced purchase. Finding a $25 bra that won't fall apart the first time through the rinse cycle is like finding a five dollar bill on the street.

The bare bra facts were revealed in a poll conducted by Consumer Reports National Research Center, which also tells us that 37% of women do not try on bras before buying them. (That's because a smart woman finds a bra that works for her and buys the same bra brand and style in the same size again and again and again.)

And here comes the real shocker: Matching bras and underpants is not a priority for most women. Some 58% of women say they never or rarely match their undies.

Oh, the horror!

Latest billboard ordinance: Not the greatest, but...

The misbegotten effort to allow every billboard in the city to be converted to a changeable electronic message board is a bit less misbegotten than it used to be. The latest version limits message changes to every eight seconds instead of six and adds protections for residential neighborhoods.

It still ain't great -- the Common Council's Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee rejected Ald. Michael Murphy's sound proposals to require at least some message boards to win approval of the Board of Zoning Appeals -- but the existing proposal is still better than a bright light in the eye.

More on the latest here.

Friday, March 14, 2008

County executive debate Saturday

Is your question about parks? Transit? House of Correction? Unfunded state mandates? Selling county land? Privatizing the airport?

Hear the candidates’ answers: Scott Walker, incumbent, & Lena Taylor, state senator

WHEN: Saturday, March 15, 2-3:30 p.m.

WHERE: Our Savior’s Lutheran Church
3022 W. Wisconsin Avenue

MODERATOR: Larry Sandler, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Parking behind the church off Wells Street




Debate sponsor: League of Women Voters of Milwaukee County,
Questions: Contact or (414) 273-8683

Thursday, March 13, 2008

STDs and teens

One in four teenage girls has a sexually transmitted disease, according to a new study. I'm skeptical about that number, but let's assume it is true.

What does it say about teenage boys?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

More and more road taxes

Gov. Doyle wants to erase the state deficit in part by moving $190 million from the transportation fund and covering the gap by borrowing more.

Hmmm, more borrowing equals more interest payments equals higher taxes. Boy, the Republicans ought to hate that.

$190 million is just a touch less than the $200 million (at least) it will cost to add additional lanes to North-South I-94 as part of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's unfunded, $1.9 billion reconstruction and expansion plan for that stretch of freeway.

Doyle should just drop the expansion proposal, which WisDOT says will provide just minimal congestion relief and is targeted for one of the least congested metropolitan areas in the country. Saving money without raising taxes. What a good idea!

More reasons to reject Mike Gableman

One Wisconsin Now has done an excellent job of looking at Mike Gableman's entirely less-than-lackluster career, his suspicious appointment, and now his attendance problems.

From OWN:

Documents obtained by One Wisconsin Now show as an appointed member of the Judicial Council, Gableman missed five of the seven meetings held and his service on the Council was terminated when he resigned as Ashland County District Attorney, even though McCallum’s press release months later announcing Gableman’s appointment asserted that he was still a member of the Judicial Council.

Newly-released documents of the minutes of the Law Enforcement Standards Board show there is no evidence Gableman ever attended even a single meeting of the board. There is also no evidence he stayed on the board after his sudden resignation as District Attorney since he was filling a slot representing DAs on the board. Yet, once again, in an effort to justify his appointment of Gableman, McCallum’s release claimed that Gableman was still serving on board.

Last week One Wisconsin Now also reported that Gableman has highlighted his membership on two additional statewide commissions during his election campaign for judge, even though he was removed from those commissions without ever attending a single meeting.

The man who would be a Supreme Court justice doesn't deserve to be a muni judge on the smallest court in the smallest town in the state. That town would probably actually need him to show up on the bench once in a while.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Quality check

The workmanship on the new Hawley Rd. viaduct, just 1 1/2 years old, continues to amaze.

But not in a good way.

Scott Walker cutline contest

Our county executive, at the St. Patrick's Bluemound Rd. parade.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

One of those sights

There are always interesting things to see on the walk to work. Yesterday, for example, I saw two pickup trucks, surrounded by a group of maybe 10-20 men, parked side by side in the middle of the street.

As I drew closer, I saw the men were clad in Nazi uniforms.

Sure hope there was a WWII re-enactment going on somewhere.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Congratulations, State Senate

The Senate passed the Great Lakes compact yesterday on an amazing 26-6 vote. Compact expert Jim Rowen has oodles (that's a technical aquatic term) of comment and background info at The Political Environment.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Less work equals more risque recreation

Illusory Tenant is busy polishing furniture, hoping the payoff is more sex.

May be another one of his illusions, but who knows?

Me, being female, note that the story in the JS is cast through a merely male point of view: The average dad has gradually been getting better about picking himself up off the sofa and pitching in, according to a new report in which a psychologist suggests the payoff for doing more chores could be more sex.

Look at it from from a women's perspective: less work and more sex.

Are men really such big winners in the equation?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

County abandons responsibility for bus shelters

The tradition has been this, according to testimony at the Common Council's Public Works Committee:

The city removes the snow from bus stop "landings," or the places where transit users get on and off buses; the county, theoretically, keeps bus shelters clear of snow.

Until this year, when the county simply notified the city that the county would no longer take care of shoveling or plowing out bus shelters.

The city wrote back that yes, the county is responsible.

And there the matter sits. The county may be reviewing the matter again, but for now its attitude seems to be" To hell with Milwaukee County Transit System customers. Let 'em slip and fall.

So it's not just transit the County Executive Scott Walker's administration is trying so hard to cripple; it's transit riders, too.

The cost of the wars: a duet

Bob Herbert's column in the New York Times yesterday defined the cost of this country's military adventures as opportunities lost, as defined by Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel prize-winning economist, and Robert Hormats, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International.

"For a fraction of the cost of this war, said Mr. Stiglitz, "we could have put Social Security on a sound footing for the next half-century or more."

Hormats cited the committee's own calculations from last fall that showed that the money spent on the ware each day is enough to enroll an additional 58,000 children in Head Start for a year or make a year of college affordable for 160,000 low-income students through Pell Grants, or pay the annual salaries of nearly 11,000 additional border patrol agents or 14,000 more police officers.

If that isn't enough even to make even the most rock-ribbed Republican wonder about the fiscal sanity of these couple o' wars, never mind the moral and geo-political implications, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities issued a new report today showing just how much available money the military is gobbling up.

Funding for devense and related programs has exploded. Since 2001, it has jumped at an annual average of 8 percent, after adjusting for inflation and population -- four times faster than the average rate of growth for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (2 percent) and 27 times faster than the average rate for growth for domestic discretionary programs (0.3 percent).

It's not just the wars spurring military spending, either.

Even excluding the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the global war on terror, funding for defense and related programs has grown at an average annual rate of 4.8 percent per year since 2001, after adjusting for inflation -- substantially faster than the growth in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

This isn't any way to run an economy. Or a country.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Ridership drop: anyone really surprised?

Milwaukee County Transit System ridership plummeted 9% last year, according to the JS. That's a stunning figure, but not really surprising. In an era of high oil prices, global warming and job migration to the suburbs, state transportation planners continue to push for bigger highways that will aggravate all the negative trends.

Then there is County Executive Scott Walker, who thinks everyone should have a car and tough luck for anyone who doesn't.

Meanwhile, it is becoming apparent that major businesses -- surprise! -- prefer locating in cities with transit systems that actually allow their workers to get to work. Milwaukee hasn't had that in a while, now. It's been route cut, fare increase, more concrete, route cut, fare increase, more concrete for several years now. The pattern needs to change, but no one has found the formula or the courage or the leadership to break out of the cycle.

Suggested new slogan: Milwaukee: progress through inertia, if we get around to it.