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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

City Council Operates Outside Of The Law, Power Slams Citizen Initiative. What's next?


I hope the Wisconsin attorney general's office is paying attention to what's going on in little ol' Janesville. Afterall, isn't it the AG's job to enforce state laws?

In brief, a Janesville resident didn't like the way things were going with the city's planning and spending for a new central fire station, so he took the initiative and started a petition drive to place two questions on referendum to local voters. He met the guidelines as written in state law. The petitions were deemed valid by the county clerk's office and went to the city council as per Wisconsin Statute 9.20.

That is when things got very messy.

Instead of following state statutes regarding the handling of his petitions, the city council, following some bad advice from the city attorney and the local newspaper, the Janesville Gazette, proceeded to turn the tables on the resident and his supporters. They basically said we're going to ignore you and your petitions and you'll have to sue us to make us follow the law. Apparently, the city council is banking on the notion that if they shirk the law or operate outside its parameters, they can end the process established by law. Got it? That's it in a nutshell.

Regarding petitions of direct legislation, there are state statutes that local governing bodies are expected to follow ...assuming they follow the law in the first place.

But what makes this moment in time somewhat special is it comes after a 30 day period the common council was given to deliberate over the petitions. The law is fairly specific. It outlines...

Wisconsin State Statutes Excerpt:
9.20 (4)
The common council or village board shall, without alteration, either pass the ordinance or resolution within 30 days following the date of the clerk's final certificate, or submit it to the electors at the next spring or general election…
(my emphasis)

That’s the law.

But the Janesville city council followed a law the city attorney pulled out from Oz called the "take no action" law. Taking no action is not an option listed under 9.20, but that is exactly what the Janesville city council did with these petitions. They did NOT adopt the resolutions OR submit them to the county clerk, nor did they give the petitions an up or down vote within the specified 30 day time frame.

That is against the intent of the law according to the state's handbook on Direct Legislation...

Initiative and Referendum in Wisconsin Excerpt:

Limitations On Use Of Municipal Initiatives: A series of decisions by the Wisconsin Supreme Court have dealt with “Direct Legislation,” Wisconsin’s statutory term for the indirect initiative. In particular, Landt v. Wisconsin Dells, 30 Wis. 2d 470 (1966); Heider v Wauwatosa, 37 Wis. 2d 466 (1967); ans State ex rel. Althouse v Madison, 79 Wis. 2d 97 (1977) have set limits on the use of this procedure. The court ruled that:

5) If it does not enact a direct legislation proposal, the municipal board must put the question to a vote, even if it declares the measure to be invalid or likely declared unconstitutional.

That's worth repeating. The municipal board "must" put the question to a vote ...even if they declare the measure invalid or likely declared unconstitutional.

But they did not put the question to a vote and now the time is up.

The 30 day period is over and there is one week left to get the petitions on the ballot for the November General Election. This is where it all stands and time is of the essence.

Fact is, the Janesville city council put the cart before the horse AND is playing dirty pool against the electorate. And, so is the Janesville Gazette.

The question at hand isn’t about the question on the petition. The question is about the question going to the ballot box for voters to decide on. It’s also about a citizen and citizenry operating in good faith according to the law. It’s not about whether everyone agrees with a single citizen, who did his due diligence and played by the rules, or the 3500 signers who agreed with him. He met all the requirements of Wisconsin State Statute 9.20. It was up to the council to vote on the petition’s resolutions, adopt them or submit them to Janesville voters.

As a spectator, I think this episode is a very big deal for the city of Janesville. Not just because I think the council has done irreparable harm to the office and themselves, but with the message they send to others that shirking the law is a viable strategy to settle your differences.

That, much like Gov. Scott Walker, if you can find ways to circumvent laws, you can operate outside its limits and redirect the burden and pursuit back onto those who want justice. It's just bad public policy all around.

The council is also telling Janesville residents that their civic engagement and participation is meaningless and their petitions are useless as long as the council operates outside of the law.

No doubt, the city council's decision to shut down citizen initiative has its supporters, but I predict it will have a chilling effect on future civic engagement and cooperation that will likely last until there is a complete turn over of the council's membership. That's a truly sad predicament.

Stay tuned in on this one, because regardless of where these petitions are headed, it still won't be over.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Janesville Newspaper Spins Tax Hike Referendum Into a Spending Referendum


Several items stand out after reading this article from the Janesville Gazette, but for the sake of brevity, I'll stick with only two.

One, in a story that centers on shared state revenue shortfalls for Janesville and cuts in local road funding, Forward Janesville is not mentioned at all. Why is that? After all, Forward Janesville membership clinked champagne glasses when Scott Walker won the governorship, and posted editorials criticizing and opposing Tom Barrett for suggesting local roads and shared revenues would be among his top funding priorities if elected governor.

Back then, Forward Janesville lobbied against the restoration of state aid for local roads so they can carve out a bigger share from the zero-sum revenue pie for the I39/90 expansion. Since city officials seem so heavily vested in Forward Janesville's legislative agenda, it's an eye-roller now to see officials talk about funding problems that have worsened due to their lobbyist efforts, without mentioning them. Most people can see right through it.

Two, the Janesville Gazette laughably described a tax hike referendum as a "spending" referendum.

JG Excerpt:
The city is floating a spending referendum for street repairs. The referendum asks residents for permission to exceed state revenue caps to pump as much as $1.2 million into street repairs over a five-year period.

To be fair, it's not an out-an-out lie ... but it's still bullshit. The city council is floating pushing a "TAX INCREASE" referendum earmarked for street repair. The city intends on spending $1.2 million more annually for street repairs whether the referendum is approved or not. THAT means it is NOT a referendum on city "spending." It's a average $37 tax hike that will be buried in property tax bills of Janesville homeowners if voters approve. Council members said if the referendum fails, they will likely approve a borrowing note to pay for the additional spending - referendum not required.

People of Janesville, aren't you sick of having a news service constantly work and rework the angles of a story until it fits a particular narrative to serve their political agenda?

ADDITIONAL:

RNR - Local Walker Cartel Gear Up To Provide "Cover" For Political Cronies

Friday, September 12, 2014

Did Scott Walker Sic His Media Dogs On Congressman?



According to this blog posting by Rep. Mark Pocan, MediaTrackers put in a request for his travel records. It was no big deal for the congressman or his staff as they immediately complied with the request. But something strange happened along the way...

Pocan Blog Excerpt:
Madison, WI — On Friday, the Pocan campaign for Congress put a request into the Wisconsin Department of Administration for Governor Scott Walker’s air travel from June 4 to September 5, following a previous request for the balance of his time as Governor. Campaign staff personally delivered the request at approximately 10 a.m. Friday, September 5 and confirmation email was sent at 10:36 a.m. CST from the Walker administration.

At 1:33 p.m. EST/12:33 p.m. CST that same day, an allegedly independent, disreputable right-wing organization, Media Trackers, sent Representative Mark Pocan’s official office in Washington a request for his official travel schedule, through September 1. That request came just hours after the Pocan campaign made the request of Governor Walker’s office.

There are 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week and 8,766 hours in a year, and the only time MediaTrackers bothered to ask Rep. Mark Pocan for his travel records was within two hours after Pocan made a request into the Department of Administration for Governor Scott Walker’s air travel records.

Bold-faced.
Retribution.
Intimidation.
It's business as usual.

By the way, Walker's staff has yet to fulfill the open records request after 71 days and counting - according to Pocan's posting.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

State Transportation Fund Referendum Could Create Road Lobby Budget Supremacy



Do you know on the November ballot there is a referendum question asking Wisconsin voters to change the state constitution to make it illegal to use transportation fee and tax revenues to repair state budget issues, but does nothing to protect other state programs including the state's general fund from raids by transportation?

Although there have been no "raids" on transportation funds in the state's current budget, a DOT report shows that the reverse is already in progress. The 2013-15 Biennial Budget Act 20 legislated approval for the Department of Transportation to raid the state general fund of $107.5 million to meet DOT spending obligations.

If the referendum becomes law, and it certainly looks like it will, it is very possible that the demands from DOT bureaucrats and road lobbyists will reign supreme in state legislative budget decisions.

Crony capitalists always win.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Video Forum: Wisconsin's Mining Standoff


The Rock County Progressives present a video and forum:

"Wisconsin's Mining Standoff" by 371 productions ...a short film about the proposed mine in the Penokee Hills of northern Wisconsin


When:
Wednesday, September 10
6 PM-6:30 PM cheese & cracker reception (nonalcoholic potluck)
6:30 PM- 7:45 PM, speakers & discussion

Speakers:
Senator Tim Cullen, District 15, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Mining

Devon Cupery, Producer at 371 Productions (which also made the emmy-nominated 'As Goes Janesville.')

371 productions - Video Screening Schedule

Devon also worked as lead researcher for 371’s BizVizz project, the first mobile app to make corporate tax & campaign finance data accessible.

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

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

Directions: 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.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Weird Koch Op-Ed Runs Counter To Themselves And Their Support Base


I hate giving somebody like Charles Koch even a brief uncritical mention on my blog, but you know what they say about enemies, "keep your friends close and your enemies closer." That's about where I stand when I visit Webpages or social forums dedicated to extreme right-wing views, or carry strong authoritarian tendencies to impose their solutions.

So while reading an op-ed written by Charles Koch, I was amazed by some of his obviously left-wing statements made against corporate welfare, the use of taxpayer funded incentives and subsidies for businesses and his apparent opposition to "train to the job" policies.

USA Today Excerpt:
Companies should earn profits by creating value for customers and acting with integrity, the opposite of today's rampant cronyism.

Too many businesses focus on getting subsidies and mandates from government rather than creating value for customers. According to George Mason University's Mercatus Center, such favors cost us more than $11,000 per person in lost GDP every year, a $3.6 trillion economic hit.

Charles Koch wrote that? There's plenty to chew on right there. Of course my first reaction is to see how those statements relate to economic development policies here at home in Janesville, Wisconsin.

For the most part, city leaders here and across Wisconsin not only believe that communities are in competition with one another for jobs, they vigorously support and fuel those concepts by carving out special slush accounts from modest local tax treasuries to fund bidding "incentives" to pay business ransom demands. In the meantime, they leave the business of government and its responsibility to the general public teetering on insolvency.

Considering George Mason University's Mercatus Center is a Koch funded think tank, I would think they would want to hide their report showing the accumulated annual cost of business subsidies and incentives, is $3.6 trillion AND describe it as a loss. That's more than the entire federal budget! Yet the Koch's see government, not its corruption and those that extort it, as the problem?

There's even more local friction to Koch's op-ed if we include some policy statements from one of Koch's special millionaire club members, Diane Hendricks. The billionairess from Beloit recently said that local governments (city councils, county boards) must not be afraid to stick their necks out (as opposed to getting out of the way) by offering taxpayer funded capital incentives to effect economic growth. In fact, members of the local business establishment have said "taxpayers need to put more skin in the game," when it comes to attracting or expanding private-for-profit business enterprise.

Again, Charles Koch's op-ed is not only in direct opposition to all that, Koch claims those concepts are responsible for washing away up to $11K per person in lost GDP ...every year!

But there's more.

I agree with Dr. Martin Luther King. There are no dead-end jobs. Every job deserves our best. "If a man is called to be a street sweeper," King said, "he should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.'"

I assume if every job deserves our best, it should also pay the best.

Again. Am I missing something here? My interpretation of "there are no dead-end jobs" is also to say that there is no such thing as an "entry level job." That is, if you do your job well, whether you're flipping burgers or stocking shelves, you deserve to be paid for your time, production and labor well enough to support yourself without government assistance. If the employer's business model can't support that, it's the business that's dead end - not the job. The Koch's support those values? That's pure Leftyville.

And finally...

When it comes to creating opportunities for all, we can do much better. It's time to let people seek opportunities that best suit their talents, for businesses to forsake cronyism and for government to get out of the way.

Again, here we go. Is that meant to be a joke? The folks at Walker's Workforce Developmental agency and their local tools have been preaching the exact opposite to that. To them, it's all about training to the jobs that are available to satisfy the local economy's needs. In fact, their concern is that schools have for TOO long tried to satisfy students’ personal pursuit of the American Dream.

If the Koch brothers really believe in some of the concepts Charles wrote about, I'd have to ask them: why are they supporting candidates whose regressive economic and political philosophies runs counter to theirs?

Look, I'm not going to pretend the Koch's war on the concept of government, the environment, unions or public education does not exist, but if we can acknowledge that the game is rigged with a crony collectivist system (some call it rent-seeking) that incurs a $3.6T LOSS in GDP every year and costs individuals up to $11,000 in personal wealth - THAT should be public enemy number one. By comparison, everything else the Koch's have been trying to do is just playing around at the edges.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

MKE Journal Sentinel: Investigation Into Gov. Scott Walker's Campaign Must Continue


I was pleasantly surprised when I opened a JS story linked by my friends on the #WIunion hash tag. I figured it's probably just another weakly critical and apologetic editorial from the MKE Sentinel Journal on Gov. Scott Walker, given the title relating to the John Doe investigations into his office activities. But not this time.

Titled, John Doe investigation of Gov. Scott Walker's campaign must continue, the editorial offers little new insight into the scandal for those who have been following it closely. But what they do present is a very good synopsis of the investigations up to this point in time while supplying known facts that contradict Walker's history and rhetoric to the reality. That they do this without making direct accusations or throwing red meat out adds credibility to their reasoning.

Editorial Excerpt:
Under state law, prosecutors had reason to suspect the activities of the Walker campaign and the Wisconsin Club for Growth. This was not, in the words of the governor and his allies, a "witch hunt." It was a legitimate state investigation aimed at learning the truth.

After reading their editorial, voters still sitting on the fence should begin wondering why folks who publicly claim they are wrongly accused or victims of a witch hunt continue to stonewall the release of evidence. That doesn't make sense.

So far, each passing release of investigative documents, emails and case files failed to show any exculpatory evidence exonerating Scott Walker or his political campaign allies. There is no reason to expect such evidence even exists. To the contrary, each new shovel full of evidence just buries them deeper into a hole of public opinion, a court filled with more accusations of wrongdoing and unanswered questions.

At the same time, prosecutors also want what may be possibly the most damning evidence of all to remain sealed in hopes of restarting the John Doe or to lay down the groundwork for a grand jury.

Either way, the investigation must be allowed to continue if justice is to be served.

A must read! --> John Doe investigation of Gov. Scott Walker's campaign must continue

ADDITIONAL:

The Political Environment - Randa Overreach Brings Walker True Transparency

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Janesville 2014 Labor Fest and Parade


Celebrate the holiday at Janesville's 24th annual Labor Fest!

Labor Fest will be held on Sunday, August 31st. Starting at 7am there will be a DJ, followed by Rev 21 from 12-3pm, Counterplan from 3:30-6:30pm and Killer Cars from 7:30-11:30 pm. Events include mud volleyball tournament and loads of live music.

On Monday, car enthusiasts can experience the Labor Fest Car Show, which starts at 10am at 510 West Centerway, also known as Dee’s Barbershop. The car display will take place until 3:00pm.

The final event in the Labor Fest experience will be the annual parade, which starts at 1:00 pm on Monday, September 1 at Academy Street and Milwaukee Street and ends along Main Street near Racine.

LABOR FEST EVENT
Sunday -Aug.31, 2014
7:00 AM to 11:00 PM

** FREE ADMISSION **

UAW Grounds
1795 Lafayette Street
Janesville, WI 53545

PARADE
Monday - Sept 1, 2014
BEGINS AT 1:00PM with the singing of the national anthem.