Monday, February 28, 2011

Consequences of Politically Motivated Layoffs

Scott Walker has been jet setting all over the state and appearing on national media outlets. Lately he has used that time and profile to issue threats, saying that he will start laying off thousands of people. It seems that the number keeps growing along with his political desperation. But everyone should know that this is a sick strategy that he had used in Milwaukee County

Earlier today One Wisconsin Now reminded us about Walker's "Koch" call and how he described that it was part of his political strategy to threaten more and more layoffs. They also went on to remind us of Walker's misuse of layoff threats while he was still destroying Milwaukee County.

In November 2009 Walker was being interviewed on WTDY's Sly in the Morning radio show. During that interview Sly asked about the various budget issues in Milwaukee County and Walker described how he issued layoff threats just to "get their attention". So to get what he wanted politically from the Milwaukee County Board, Scott Walker used the threats of layoffs.

Listen for yourself and pay specific attention to how Walker appears to take joy in using the threat of layoffs as a political weapon.

Using the threat of layoffs gave Walker some of what he wanted in the budget but that was not enough for him (it never is). Only a few months later he unilaterally declared a budget crisis (sound familiar?) so that he could bypass the County Board and layoff the county workers . Those layoffs included 27 courthouse security personnel that were replaced by a questionable private security company.

Nearly a year after Walker sent these workers to the unemployment line a ruling came down that Walker in-fact did fake the fiscal crisis. As such his layoffs were ruled illegitimate and the county was not only ordered to offer the jobs back but also to provide back pay. Walker had already been sworn in as governor at the time of this ruling and probably didn't care that his arrogance and political game playing cost Milwaukee County dearly.

State workers, their unions and the public at-large should take note of how Scott Walker abused Milwaukee County, its people and its public employees. He is repeating that pattern right now in Madison.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Koch Brothers' Scottie

Senators Persecuted for Giving Public a Closer Look

The State of Wisconsin, the nation and the entire world continues to learn all of the sordid details that exist in Scott Walker's so-called "budget repair bill". They are learning that it contains a ton of non budgetary policy that is both sweeping and extreme. The bill has garnered most of this attention because of its attempt to repeal 50 plus years of labor rights in only a matter of days. But as time has passed we have learned more unfortunate details about this political document. From Walker wanting to replace career civil service employees with his own political appointees to his power grab over medicaid to his no-bid selling of Wisconsin assets and much more. We have indeed learned many of the ugly details of this bill and it is largely because of the 14 courageous Senate Democrats who derailed Scott Walker's legislative fast track (or should I say runaway train?).

It was clear that Scott Walker and the Republican leaders in the Legislature wanted to ram this sweeping and radical legislation down our throats before anyone got a close look at it. Democrats are in the minority and Republican legislators have proven themselves as nothing but rubber stamps for an extreme and overreaching administration. Although some media outlets attack the Senate Democrats for slowing down this runaway train, they apparently don't realize that they wouldn't even know half of the things that they currently do about the bill had not been for the Senators actions.

Scott Walker, his rubber stamps in the legislature and the extreme right wing were certainly not happy that Senate Democrats slowed down their runaway train. It is pretty clear that they really did not want the public to get a close look at the content of this bill until after it was too late. So Walker and Co. have deployed every attack and considered every dirty trick that they can to persecute the courageous senate Democrats that dared to stand in the way of his extreme agenda. Consider just some of the nasty attacks and tactics:

  • Sending the State Patrol to Senators' homes and accomplishing little more than causing an early morning scene, intimidating the Senator's spouses, and frightening their children and grandchildren.
  • Holding the pay of Senators by revoking their direct deposits and instead locking their checks in desks on the Senate floor.
  • Conspiring with fellow Republican AG J.B. Van Hollen to try and dream up some imagined felony to threaten Democratic Senators. They seem perfectly willing to potentially abuse the law to conduct a political witch hunt (see "Koch" call).
  • After at least one of the Senators received a threat that someone might burn down their home, right wing radicals show up at their Illinois hotel and trespass on private property necessitating police protection.
  • On the 18th the usual Walker-boosting suspects at CRG sent extensive open records requests to several Senators (They must have rushed to send them because requests to some Senators asked for the records of a different Senator).
  • Also on the 18th Milwaukee's WITI Fox 6 also sent an extensive open records request to the Democratic Senators (I have asked Fox 6 if they sent records requests to the Republican leadership in the legislature or to Scott Walker's office but so far they have not responded to that inquiry). Then they sent a revised request on the 23rd.
  • We also know, thanks to Scott Walker's conversation with "David Koch", that he planned underhanded and dishonest tricks to get the Democratic Senators back to the Capitol. In the same conversation joking about bringing his baseball bat to the fake meeting.
  • Walker has also tried to pressure Senate Democrats by using the same old shtick that he used repeatedly in Milwaukee County. Threatening layoffs if he didn't get his own way. We know that this is just one of his over-the-top political ploys as he admitted in a radio interview last year.
  • Some Utah-recall group threatening to recall Wisconsin Senators.

It is clear that Scott Walker, his rubber stamps in the legislature and the extreme right wing that support them are willing to try every dirty trick in the book to ram this radical bill through. Going into this conspiracy they were overconfident and that is why the brave actions of the Senate Democrats have upset them so much. Walker and Co. were not counting on the public getting a nice long look at his radical bill. Each day new repugnant details of this bill emerge and that is exactly what Walker wanted to avoid by ramming it through fast. That is also why he is trying to use ever dirty trick in the book to persecute the State Senators that forced a full examination of this radical bill.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Outside Agitators You Say?

The right wing has desperately tried to explain away the massive and unrelenting numbers of protesters coming to Madison from every corner of the state. One talking point is that the large numbers can be explained away because there are allegedly "outside agitators" involved in the protests. Even Scott Walker alluded to this during his bumper sticker reading session last night. I'll be waiting for Walker to start chastising some of these outsiders that are injecting themselves into the debate:

  • The Utah recall group that reportedly started the initial process of recalling the Wisconsin 14 (Democratic Senators that stopped this legislation from being rammed down our throats in only 5 days).
  • The Koch Brothers and their bankrolling the attack on Wisconsin workers and on their rights. Not only are they paying the bills but they also recently opened shop near the Capitol, hiring a small army of lobbyists.
  • The Republican Governor's Association now running their own brand of dishonest and over-the-top attack ads against Wisconsin workers. We also know that they are bankrolled by even more "outside agitators" like Fox News (among many others).
  • Right wing charlatan and well documented liar Andrew Breitbart and his churning out vile propaganda against Wisconsin workers and those that stand in solidarity with them.

So if Scott Walker is really so concerned about "outside agitators" perhaps he should start with some of his own. Scott Walker can continue his delusional comments about the increasing and unrelenting thousands of protesters but it wont change reality. These are hard working tax paying Wisconsinites that are outraged at his aggression towards them. They are firefighters, teachers, snow plow drivers, concerned citizens and many others. Oh, and when the inevitable recall papers are filed against Walker and his enablers in the legislature, I can assure you, it will not be done by someone in Utah (or any other state).

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Real Outsider Complains about the Imagined Kind

Right wing charlatan Andrew Breitbart has a well documented history of being a shameless liar and now he is busy telling lies about Wisconsin. His latest shtick is claiming that the growing thousands protesting in Madison are somehow "outsiders". In a surprise to absolutely no one Breitbart's absurd claims are based on nothing but the empty recesses of his dark mind.

It is not that hard to find the truth by just looking at all of the local unions, local members, and local allies that have been involved and organizing from the very beginning. Buses have been dispatched from every single corner of Wisconsin on repeated routes every single day. Does Breitbart really think that buses full of "outsiders" are coming from Wausau, De Pere and Eau Claire? What? are scores of activists from Michigan repeatedly swimming across the lake just to catch a bus in Manitowoc?

Unlike Breitbart I actually was a part of this local process. Early last week I called a Wisconsin union that had buses going to Madison. I spoke to someone local that I literally know and signed up for a Wednesday bus. I went to the designated place at the designated time and met with more local union people and other supporters. That process has been repeated all over this state countless times from the very beginning. The result has been literally hundreds of thousands of people protesting nonstop in Madison and inspiring people all over the world in the process.

So while a real outside agitator like Andrew Breitbart continues to lie, real Wisconsinites will continue coming to Madison in massive and unrelenting numbers to protest and stand in the gap for Wisconsin workers and their rights.

Friday, February 18, 2011

To Quote Scott Walker...

"You want a tough job; you've got to take some hits." [April 9, 2002]

Yes and that is especially true when you bring it on yourself by trying to end 50 years of law and tradition in only 5 days.

ht on video: Blue Cheddar

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Attention Media: Don't Miss the Real Story!

I've read, watched and listened to many reports in the media about Scott Walker's "budget repair bill" (which is anything but) and I'm noticing an incomplete theme. Too much of the focus in the reporting is being put on the prospect of wage and benefit reductions. Don't be misled into thinking that this is the major point of the backlash against this bill. After all the public employee unions were already prepared to give $100 million in various concessions but Walker refused to negotiate at all. So the unions have made it clear that they are not adverse to carrying their fair share of the burden in terms of wage/benefit concessions.

The real outrage is Walker's unprecedented attempt to take away basically all collective bargaining rights. That wipes out basic rights that workers have had for over 50 years in Wisconsin. That includes the loss of the right to address things like workplace safety, seniority, grievance procedures and just about anything else for that matter. These drastic and unprecedented actions are bad enough but trying to do so in the space of one week is downright diabolical. This is not to even mention the fact that the bill very deliberately tries to weaken and undermine public employee unions organizationally.

It is right to highlight this bill's proposed cuts to workers pay and benefits because those things are very real and they are significant. But don't get stuck in the right wing talking points so deep that you leave the discussion only in that one rut. Continue to report the full amount of damage that this bill will do not only to workers' pay and benefits but also to their most fundamental rights. If you've missed that major detail then you have missed the real story.

You're Against "Policy" in a "Budget Bill" You Say?

If only I had a dime for every time a Wisconsin Republican lamented "putting policy in a budget bill". While Governor Doyle was in office they constantly repeated the mantra like a cadre of broken records. If we didn't before, we now know that this right wing frothing was nothing but phony political posturing. If the concern was ever genuine, then why are some of the same people feigning outrage before standing behind Scott Walker's "budget repair bill" now? Because it is stuffed with radical right wing policy.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau put together a memo listing various policy items in Walker's "budget" bill. It includes a variety of new policies in the areas of Children & Family services, Health Services, the State Civil Service System and repealing collective bargaining rights for public employees (even on issues that have nothing to do with pay/benefits and don't impact the state budget in any way).

One of the extreme items that Walker has included in this bill involves yet another power grab that I've only heard a few people talk about. In his bill Walker is seeking to create and personally fill new political appointee positions. Primarily these Walker appointees would replace any legal council at the various state agencies. Apparently he doesn't want anyone but a loyal political appointee rendering "legal" decisions. No doubt that will help make their conclusions fit his predetermined political agenda.

The bottom line is that there are a ton of extreme and overreaching policy items stuffed into this bill and the same Republican hypocrites that were complaining about the tactic months ago are employing it now. For just one example, take former Republican Speaker Mike Huebsch's (now in the Walker cabinet) comments in 2007:

"If it is good policy, it should go through the regular process. It should come in as legislation, it should go through committee hearings, and have a stand-alone vote in the Legislature."

Now this phony is busy pimping himself to help fast track Walker's "budget bill" which is not only fully infused with policy but the kind of extreme policy that fundamentally changes at least 50 years of Wisconsin law. Not to mention that the bill is totally unprecedented in how Walker is trying to seize power that currently doesn't exist in the office of the governor. Mike Huebsch, can you tell me again why you are were so against the idea of policy being included in a budget bill? What has changed besides the party affiliation of the governor's office?

Huebsch certainly isn't alone, there is a whole parade of right wing hypocrites on this issue. People like Republican Robin Vos have repeatedly "offered nasally diatribes against the use of 'non-fiscal policy' items in state budgeting." Thank goodness someone took a moment in today's rushed hearing to point out his total hypocrisy and to get it formally on the record.

This is the queen of all policy-infused budget bills and that suddenly doesn't seem to bother anyone on the far right.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Despotic Bill Not About A Budget

Scott Walker's despotic attack on public employees (and ultimately on all workers) is being misleadingly couched as a budgetary issue. The only part of this extreme agenda that has anything to do with a budget is the fact that he chose to introduce this radical policy in something called a "budget repair bill". Public employee unions were ready to go to the negotiating table making concessions representing hundreds of millions of dollars. But like any dictator, Walker had no interest in negotiation because he had a radical agenda to impose. An agenda that overturns 50 plus years of labor law in one week with little to no public discussion. Perhaps the biggest piece of evidence that this is not about real budgetary consideration is Walker's excluding of police and fire unions, some of which politically supported his campaign.

If Walker's plans really had anything to do with budgetary concerns he would not have excluded his political supporters in the police and fire unions. While he suggests that his naked attempt at killing (most) public employee unions will save local municipalities money, he doesn't address the fact that often they spend large portions of their budgets on public safety. So how do you actually save local governments cash when you have exempted what is often their largest expenditure?

For example, the Public Policy Forum provided some of the following data in a 2009 report on the City of Milwaukee's budget:

  • Police, Fire and Public Works departments have represented 75% of overall tax levy-supported departmental expenditures.
  • From 2004-2008 those three departments also accounted for 81% of departmental expenditure growth. Among those three departments, the police department had by far the largest expenditure growth, with the fire department coming in a distant second.
  • In fact police and fire expenditures comprised a full 58% of the city’s operating and maintenance expenditures.
  • The Milwaukee Police Department alone had the greatest portion of city expenditures, accounting for 40% of it and for a full 38% of all city positions.

These facts serve only as examples and are certainly not exclusive to the City of Milwaukee. Take a look at most municipal budgets and you will often find that the police and fire departments are among their largest (if not their largest) expenditure items.

The point here is certainly not to promote taking away the collective bargaining rights of police officers or fire fighters, but rather to expose the Walker lie that his radical agenda has anything to do with budgetary concerns, especially for local governments.

Afterthought: If you are a local official and you think that Scott Walker has any concern whatsoever about your local budget, you better brace yourself for when you become the next bullet point on his extreme agenda. Given his record and past proposals, it will likely come in the form of drastic cuts or maybe even the elimination of the shared revenue program. So now just might be a good time to take a stand.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Actions Speak Louder than One 12-Year-Old Vote

In a radio ad Representative Jeff Stone says that he voted against a piece of legislation related to pension benefits for state employees (including legislators). Today he says that he voted against the legislation in 1999 because it added too much to state employee's pension benefits. Stone did cast that vote but I don't think that one vote in all of his years in the legislature is enough to hang his hat on today. I think that his actions/inaction through all of these years speak much louder than that single vote in 1999.

For example, if Stone was so upset at the time about the pension benefits contained in the 1999 legislation then why didn't he waive those same benefits for himself? In their unusually literal take on Stone's claim, PolitiFact verifies that he did no such thing. They report that "he has not attempted to waive the benefits for himself". He didn't attempt to waive them after the legislation passed and he hasn't waived them in all the years since that time. I'm sorry but that fact puts his 1999 vote in some much needed context.

Aside from him not waiving those pension benefits for himself, what does the rest of his legislative record tell us? If he was so concerned about this issue, why does he have to reach all the way back to a 1999 vote? If he is so fervent about this subject then where are his legislative efforts to change those benefits? Has he introduced legislation to repeal any of the benefits since that 1999 vote? He has been in the state legislature for over a decade and most of that time his party has been in control of the Assembly (and sometimes the entire legislature). So where is his legislation to repeal the benefits that he voted against in 1999 but has been so happily willing to collect for himself?

Jeff Stone may try to appeal to that single vote, but I think that his action/inaction on the subject for the last 12 years speak much louder than one isolated vote that he took in 1999.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Prosser: This is about ideology "and nothing more"

As soon as Justice David Prosser launched his campaign for the state Supreme Court it seemed that he put an immediate premium on partisanship. Remember his promise that he would serve as a "complement" to the new right wing legislature and governor? In addition he has kept busy running around to Republican organizations. I've already speculated that he may be defaulting back to his partisan days as the former Republican Speaker. Now it seems that we can add another example of Prosser valuing a hard right ideology above all else.

The latest in this pattern comes in the Prosser campaign's response to one of his three opponents for Supreme Court. Specifically it was Joel Winnig's comments about the dishonest "Justice" Michael Gableman. Among other comments, Winnig described Gableman as a "cancer" and that he should be removed from office. The Prosser campaign responded to Winnig's comments saying the following (as reported by Wispolitics in an email to their subscribers, the 2/9/11 PM Update):

“This election is about a 4-3 commonsense conservative majority vs. a 3-4 liberal majority, and nothing more.”

Again the Prosser campaign boils this race down to a dedication to a rigid right wing ideology. Call me crazy but that seems so inappropriate. How about this race being about the most qualified person that will approach each case without a bias of any kind and judge them individually based on the facts and the law? Apparently we can just throw those silly notions out the window because the only thing that matters to the Prosser campaign is ideological loyalty "and nothing more."

See also: IT's "Justice Prosser thinks Joel Winnig is smoking dope"

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Stone Not Interested in the Student Vote

The Badger Herald highlighted Rep. Jeff Stone's self-serving Voter ID bill yesterday and they stressed the ways that it could hinder and otherwise suppress the youth vote in Wisconsin. They also report that Stone is against even allowing them to use official student ID's for voting. Suppressing the youth vote would be a tragedy in any case but especially in Wisconsin where we have repeatedly had some of the highest student turnout rates. Jeff Stone is not only trying to make it more difficult for college students to vote but he has also supported other measures that would have negatively impacted college students in Milwaukee County.

Consider some of the following Stone budget votes for example that were not exactly supportive of our college students or of the institutions where they learn:

  • Voted against a version of the 2007 budget that included millions in funds for UWM's planned research park, starting a UWM School of Public Health, and for increased research at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
  • Stone did support the (Republican) version of the 2007 budget. But that version cut in so many different areas that UW-Milwaukee would have not been able to properly support new faculty with teaching assistants and staff. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 7/13/07]
  • In the same 2007 Assembly version of the budget, Milwaukee Area Technical College would have been hit particularly hard losing some $3.9 million in 2007 alone. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 10/27/07]
  • Stone even voted for a 2003 budget that would have reduced reimbursement of education-related fees for veterans.
Based on Stone's attempt to make voting more difficult for students and based on some of his other votes, I have to wonder if he has simply written off the student vote completely? We already know that Jeff Stone is looking for votes in Milwaukee County but apparently he is just not particularily interested in the student vote.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Rough Waters Ahead for Local Governments

During his State of the State speech earlier this week, Scott Walker mentioned the need to "reform" public employees benefits. We all knew that was coming and we all know exactly what Walker means by it. He plans on financing his special interest bonanza (at least partially) on the backs of public employees. Given his hostile track record in Milwaukee County we could all see this coming a mile away. Walker also talked about "reforming entitlement programs". And by "reform" he naturally means to cut and otherwise reduce services for those most in need. Likewise this was certainly not a surprise given how Walker mismanaged and underfunded social services in Milwaukee County. But the one call for "reform" in Walker's speech that I wish drew more attention is his call for "reforming the state's relationship with local governments".

To find out what Scott Walker likely means by "reforming the state's relationship with local governments" we only need to look at some of his proposals when he last worked in Madison as a state legislator. In 1999 Scott Walker and Jeff Stone proposed "reforming" the state's relationship with local governments by doing away with a major portion of the state's shared revenue program. Their plan would allow local governments to raise their sales taxes to help make up for the lost state revenue. Needless to say, this plan didn't make it off the ground and was even panned in a Wisconsin State Journal editorial as "fraught with practical problems". Not the least of which was the possibility of it creating sales tax “islands” that change from town to town. [Wisconsin State Journal, 3/8/99]

The Wisconsin State Journal was certainly not alone in being critical of the Walker-Stone plan. The executive director of the Alliance of Cities said that the plan would "hurt small, poor communities that don't have the property wealth, income or retail base ..." Even a top Thompson deputy said that the plan could hurt areas of the state that don't generate enough taxes to pay for services. The plan would have not only been bad for smaller local governments because even Walker himself admitted that "Milwaukee might not fare as well, under a proposal like this..." [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2/26/99]

I don't know exactly what Walker has in mind for "reforming the state's relationship with local governments" but I think that this track record might give us a few important signs. We already knew that Walker was going to target public employees and any programs that help those most in need, but it looks like local governments better batten down the hatches and prepare for some rough waters. After all, Walker listed them as an entity to be "reformed" and given what he has in mind for his other targets, it can't be a good thing.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Stone's Self Serving Use of Referendums

Jeff Stone is already proposing a self serving Voter ID bill just in time for the spring election. Now he wants to put equally self serving referendums on the ballot . He is suggesting that the referendums ask voters if the size of the Milwaukee County Board should be cut and whether supervisors should work only part-time. Stone's proposal is nothing more than a political ploy and it is certainly not the first time that someone has accused him of misusing the referendum process for his own political ambitions.

In 1996 while he was both a Greenfield alderman and (unsuccessfully) running for his current seat in the Assembly, Stone pushed for a referendum on the local ballot. It asked the people of Greenfield if they approved of light rail even though Greenfield was not on any of the proposed light rail routes. Referring to the Stone-proposed referendum, a fellow Aldermen commented saying, "I believe the voters of Greenfield were used as political pawns to further his (Stone's) political ambitions." [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 10/28/96]

Based on his current proposal and the 1996 example, you might be thinking that Stone really loves referendums. Wrong. Again in 1996 some on the Greenfield Common Council wanted to put a referendum on the ballot about whether the city should have a full-time mayor or hire a city administrator. Stone opposed that input from the voters saying "I think we have a responsibility to lead this city." [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3/7/96]

Another example of Jeff Stone not liking referendums came in 2006 when he proposed taking Milwaukee County's successfully managed airport away and putting it under the authority of an entirely new body. It was later revealed that he was secretly working with special interests to write legislation to accomplish that goal. The secretive group specifically wanted him to introduce the legislation in the Assembly because then they had a chance to take the asset from Milwaukee County without even a vote from the County Board or from voters. At the time, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported the following:

"And a key priority in those behind-the-scenes talks was ensuring that neither
the County Board nor county voters would have a say in the handover."

So now we know that Jeff Stone has been both for and actively against placing referendums on the ballot. But one remaining question is whether he actually honors voters decisions after they have voiced them? Again, we go back to his time on the Greenfield Common Council for an example. Stone was again pushing for Greenfield to establish a city administrator position. He continued to push on the issue even though Greenfield voters had twice rejected the idea via referendum. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 6/1/95]

I'm sensing a theme here with Jeff Stone and referendums. Apparently it is only important to hear from voters when it either aids his political ambitions or when they agree with his already established positions. You can call that what you will, but I call it extremely self serving and a misuse of the process.