Walker’s UW budget cut proposal breaks faith with local partners

Posted in Uncategorized on February 3, 2015 by Jim Rosenberg

?????I have a different perspective of the governor’s current budget proposal as it relates to UW Colleges. Not only do I work in Student Affairs at UW-Marathon County, but I am also a multi-term member of the Marathon County Board of Supervisors, where I chair the Education and Economic Development Committee. It places me in the unusual position of simultaneously being a landlord and a tenant.

UW Colleges benefit greatly from being part of the UW System, but it is important to remember that the 13 campuses of the UW Colleges have a unique partnership arrangement with their host communities.  That makes them different than the 11 comprehensive campuses and the research institutions of UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee.  Local funding is used to construct and maintain the facilities of the two-year campuses, amounting to millions of dollars annually across the UW Colleges.  The 14 counties and three cities are literally UW Colleges partners. They have undertaken these significant investments and ongoing costs because they support the mission of UW Colleges to provide “high quality educational programs, preparing students for success at the baccalaureate level of education, and to be an institution of access.”

In return for their investment, the counties and municipalities rely on the UW System to provide the staff and program expenses that make a high-quality UW education available in their communities.  While it may have never been a perfectly fair system, it is one that has worked and it respects the fact that the state does not have unlimited resources.  State funding was a far larger piece of the funding for these local colleges in the past than it is today. But it is still a comparative bargain, when measured against the alternative of not having this asset available and judging by the support that the campuses continue to receive.  Unlike Wisconsin’s multi-county technical college districts, the burden of supporting each campus of the UW Colleges is far more narrowly focused in the individual counties that host them.

While the system of two-year campuses has been remarkably stable over the years and host communities still regularly make investments in renovation, maintenance and new facilities to house their local campuses, huge and continuing financial challenges threaten the ability of these campuses to carry on their mission in the future. A 2013 assessment report by Huron Education conceded that the ability for UW Colleges to continue to meet budget reductions without “a diminution of service to students, faculty, and staff” is limited. That is no surprise to those of us who are looking at it from the inside, but what is it that allows some to think that further cuts are in order or even possible? What does this mean for county and municipal partners, who have shouldered their share of the agreement over the years, while the state continues to diminish their commitment to the educational programs being housed?

Decisions along the way have exacerbated the inability of UW Colleges to reach tuition targets, which are a significant part of the current problem. Enrollment numbers represent one variable toward hitting a dollar target; the other variable is the per-credit tuition charge.  By employing UW System-wide tuition increases and freezes, the disparity between tuition revenue per credit and a dollars-per-student basis at UW Colleges in comparison the comprehensive and research universities in the system has continued to widen. Making matters worse, UW Colleges had its own tuition freezes imposed from 2007-2011 while Madison, Milwaukee and the Comprehensives were increasing tuition annually by figures of from 5.5 percent to as high as 9.3 percent.  That makes UW Colleges an even better comparative value to students, but this is a hollow victory if it means that the two-year campuses can’t adequately support their already-lean programs.

Even before the most recent budget proposal, it was past time for counties, communities and the legislators who represent them to insist that the State of Wisconsin again begin acting in good faith on the historic understandings that gave us the UW Colleges in the first place. “A diminution of service to students, faculty, and staff” in an environment where Wisconsin needs to be even more competitive will do nothing but leave more people and our state further behind in the years ahead.



Globetrotting to Haarlem: Going Dutch in North Holland’s capital

Posted in Uncategorized on January 24, 2015 by Jim Rosenberg

Each year, I do a feature for a special travel-themed January issue of City Pages in Wausau. Since they do not publish their content online, I also post here for those at a distance who do not have access to a hard copy. City Pages cover   

After more than a dozen years of destination features in the annual City Pages “Get Outta Town” edition, people often ask about where our last adventure took us or what’s next. When the answer this year was “Haarlem,” it led to a reactions like “Why in the world would you want to go THERE?” The reason is pretty simple, since people hear “Harlem” and they think about a New York City borough famous for being a center of Afro-American culture or the hometown of a comedic basketball team that has been bringing their antics to sports arenas around the country for decades.

Most Americans may know that Manhattan was purchased from the local Indian tribe for trinkets back in 1624. What isn’t remembered as well is that it was the Dutch who did the deal. New York City used to be New Amsterdam and back in the day, Harlem was even spelled with an extra “a” in deference to its original namesake in the Netherlands. The city of 156,000 is a 20-minute train ride from Centraal Station in old Amsterdam.

We’ve visited Amsterdam a number of times and while we enjoy it, we were looking for a different experience. Haarlem fits the bill nicely. It’s beautifully historic and built around canals like Amsterdam, but it has far less in the way of drugs, prostitution, buskers, street people and tourists. It’s spiffier. Good food is easier to find. You get more for your money on the lodging side. Even more importantly for us on this particular trip, Haarlem is more relaxed for bicycling than weaving along the often hectic, crowded streets of Amsterdam, which is five times as large in population and hosts more than 15 million visitors annually.


Regardless, there is no need to exclude one for the other because it’s easy to visit both. Amsterdam is an easy non-stop on Delta from Minneapolis or Detroit and depending on how you schedule, the layover time from Central Wisconsin Airport is minimal, resulting in around 11 hours from wheels up in Mosinee to wheels down at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Better yet, the fare difference out of CWA runs somewhere between negligible to non-existent.

We spent our first day and night in Amsterdam within walking distance of the train station and then headed to Haarlem the following morning. Train travel in Europe is efficient, comfortable and cheap. Our train in from the airport was around $5 per person and travel to Haarlem was about the same. (There are ticket vending machines, but you’ll need to have a chip in your credit card to use them, so be sure that you have one of those if you want to avoid standing in line at a ticket window.) There are half dozen trains an hour between Amsterdam and Haarlem. From the Haarlem station, we could see the spire of the Grote Kerk (great church) of St. Bavo near our hotel and we had our heading set for a nice walk through the historic central city to our digs. We passed bakeries, cheese shops, art galleries and the occasional girl in a red light-lit window with fishnet stockings.


Established as a city in 1245, Haarlem is the capital of the province of North Holland. Its long history includes everything from a Spanish siege and Black Death in the Middle Ages to Nazi occupation in the 20th Century.  Today, it is a picturesque city that offers not only its carefully preserved, historic ambiance, but great night life, wonderful dining, artisan cheeses, Old World beers, some interesting museums and a diverse retail scene that includes everything from designer labels to an iconic, bustling Saturday public market in the town square.

Our hotel is operated out of an office tucked away on a side street between the Grote Kerk and the Spaarne River and it isn’t really a hotel at all. Instead, Haarlem Hotel Suites and Brass Hotel Suites together comprise 18 separate, serviced apartments in the old central city at rates ranging between around $120 to $175 per night. For around the middle of that range, we had a living room, bedroom, a full bath and outdoor deck overlooking the old church in an apartment that was up two flights of steep steps above a Middle Eastern restaurant. (Like many of the centuries old structures in the Netherlands, there are no elevators and the stairways are about as handicapped accessible as an extension ladder.) There was nothing to indicate it was a hotel property behind our anonymous-looking door on Lange Veerstraat. The street is narrow and lined with shops, bars and restaurants; pretty noisy at night with music and voices trapped in the canyon of wall-to-wall brick buildings. Nearly across from us, patrons of the High Times Café contribute a constant aroma of reefer into the atmosphere. Most of the traffic is pedestrian, with the occasional scooter and a constant parade of bikes.


Bicycles were part of our mission here and we were not disappointed. For around $12 a day, we rented single-speed bikes, together with two separate locking systems that were each far more industrial-strength than what is typical around central Wisconsin. (If you want to look like a tourist, you can get a helmet, too. None of the locals wear them.)

The Dutch handle a large share of their day-to-day travel using bicycles and it is not just because the terrain is unusually flat. Rather, there has been a long-term public policy commitment to bicycling as part of a balanced approach to transportation infrastructure that includes pedestrian, private vehicle, public transit and bikes. The result is a separate network for bicycles that includes dedicated paths which are really miniature roadways, complete with bicycle traffic signals. It might sound like it would be confusing – particularly in a city with the added aspect of dozens of drawbridges to accommodate the constant flow of boat traffic on the waterways – but it’s not. In fact, it is a lot easier to get around on a bike than it would be in a car, at least in the central city, where parking a motor vehicle any larger than a scooter is challenging, at best.


We hit the bicycle paths armed with a map and we only managed to get lost once along the way. It was no big deal to procure some navigation help from one of the locals in a park, since essentially everyone seems to speak excellent English. A 52 degree latitude could place a person in North America somewhere along the shore of James Bay and well north of where the great majority of Canadians live. In Haarlem, the leaves were not yet changing in early October and thanks to the temperate maritime climate, we enjoyed weather in the high 60s to low 70s.  We peddled many miles and it’s a great way to see the city up close and personal, but what makes it even better is to stop from time to time.

Shrimp special edited

Haarlem has an outsized selection of cafes and restaurants, many of which offer outdoor seating. If you think Friday night fish fries in Wisconsin are great, you would be in paradise with the fresh seafood that is available when you are within minutes of the North Sea. Fish, scallops, prawns and oysters are staples on many menus and that’s enough to keep me happy, but there is always more. The Dutch are also skilled brewers and while they export half of the beer that they produce, we can vouch for some of what they keep behind for themselves. When we stopped at a non-descript bar with an attractive-looking array of tables along the street under a wide awning, we were happy to find a great menu that included fresh cod and a wonderful selection of beers on tap. Pricing is reasonable and standards are fairly high. (In cities with high tourist traffic, we’ve sometimes encountered restaurants that we felt were being kept alive by one-time visitors, of which there can be a good supply. In Haarlem, repeat local business is a far more necessary ingredient for sustained success and it shows.)

Sidewalk cafe waitress

Speaking of great food, the Saturday market on the town square in the shadow of the Grote Kerk is more than just a place to pick up fresh produce. It offers everything from funky clothes to artisan cheeses and quite a bit in the way of ready-to-eat foods prepared on site. Flounder? Raw oysters on the half shell? Vegetarian fare? It’s all there and there is no need to make any other plans when the market is in session. We picked up a half kilo of freshly prepared shrimp to munch on while we toured the densely-packed expanse of tents and booths and months later back home, we’re still eating the cheese.


Beyond the Grote Market, there is the Grote Kerk itself. It is named for St. Bavo, the patron saint of Haarlem, who spent the first part of his life in the Seventh Century as a self-indulgent noble before experiencing a conversion, giving his wealth to the poor and becoming a monk. A statue of St. Bavo presides outside over the great market square. The present church opened in 1520. It is cavernous and it defines the skyline of the old city, but the focal point inside is the organ built by Amsterdam organ builder Christian Muller and decorated by the Amsterdam artist Jan van Logteren between 1735 and 1738. Herman Melville cited it in his immortal novel, Moby Dick, as he compared it to the mouth of the great whale: “Seeing all these colonnades of bone so methodically ranged about, would you not think you were inside of the great Haarlem organ, and gazing upon its thousand pipes?” Famous musicians who have played the organ have included Mozart, Handel and Mendelssohn. It is massive, with 60 voices, 32-foot pedal-towers and an ornate facade. But bringing things up to nearly the present day, the carillon in the bell tower plays Elvis Presley’s “Love me Tender” on the half hour.

We didn’t feel ready to leave Haarlem on the day before heading back to the U.S., but with an early morning flight out, we thought the safest bet was to spend the last night close to the airport. We took the train to Schiphol and caught the hotel shuttle. But what made it an even better call was that the hotel had a fleet of bicycles available for free use. Located along a rural bike route that began in a suburban commercial area, it quickly transitioned into a scenic ride through herds of grazing sheep, past neatly-tended farms, ponds full of waterfowl, orchards heavy with fall fruit and well-kept Dutch country homes. Paved with a centerline, it was like being on a country bicycle highway and although we were using it on a quiet Sunday afternoon, it was built to handle plenty of commuters on weekdays.


Returning home to Wausau, those painted “sharrows” on Grand Avenue created a stark contrast between where we had been and what we had returned to. But for those who would like to have a better idea about what is possible with a multi-dimensional approach to transportation instead of a nearly total focus of resources on private motor vehicles, a little globetrotting to Haarlem will provide an unforgettable perspective – and a very nice time, too. You won’t need a car.


What’s going to happen with Brokaw?

Posted in Uncategorized on January 15, 2015 by Jim Rosenberg


This week, the long-awaited report on the situation with the Village of Brokaw was released. Marathon County hired consultants from Schenck SC, a state-wide CPA firm and Phillips Borowski SC, a law firm that serves many Wisconsin local governments. With less than 300 residents, Brokaw ran into problems when Wausau Papers closed a large mill in the village, adversely impacting on the tax base while reducing the volumes for its water utility by 95 percent. The Village now has a total property tax rate of $44 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation; (the City of Wausau’s is just under $25, including all components), uncompetitive water rates and few prospects for growth under the present conditions. Worse yet, the money coming from sky-high property tax and water rates still falls far short of what is required to service the village’s debt and supply even modest municipal services to residents. Brokaw, as things stand, is unsustainable.

You can read the report here:


“The report includes two possible options for the Village of Brokaw to pursue to remedy its current financial issues. The first option would be to propose a sale and transfer of the water utility to the City of Wausau, along with an agreement to eventually consolidate with the City in the future, when borders become contiguous. Because consolidation with Wausau will require annexation of property now contained with townships, it is recommended that the Towns be a party to the agreement to provide for an orderly and systematic process. The second option would be to dissolve as a Village and transfer all assets and liabilities to the adjacent Towns of Texas and Maine.”

The county hired the consultants to provide the report so that there would be an objective third party to provide the facts to the parties involved. While we had a good idea of what options were likely to be laid out, it was not because the county had any particular agenda beyond recognizing that there is a problem and that at some point, it needs to be solved. That is the extent of the county’s agenda with this.

Looking ahead, the consultants suggested a cooperative planning process involving Brokaw, the Town of Maine, the Town of Texas and the City of Wausau to explore possible solutions. The county may end up being involved as a facilitator and there may be a role for the state, as well. It is unreasonable to expect Wausau or Marathon County taxpayers to bail out the village or the townships without offsetting economic benefits. That said, it is possible that benefits could be realized in light of the infrastructure and development potential that exists. There is also the matter of a Tax Increment District and whether that public financing scheme can continue under a change of jurisdiction between Brokaw and either the City of Wausau or the townships involved. It is possible that an exception to state law could be created to deal with this problem. What seems certain is that the problem will not solve itself and that any growth strategy will depend on creating a more favorable environment for development than what exists under the tax and water rates currently in place.


Wausau’s referendum on government structure is important — and people are still yawning.

Posted in Uncategorized on December 25, 2014 by Jim Rosenberg


I certainly agree with the Wausau Daily Herald’s editorial last weekend that Wausau needs to have a debate about the structure of its city government. But it is interesting to note that after running that prominent call for input, this would have been the first comment, if I had posted it there. That’s not much of a debate. Likewise, saying that the public sessions were lightly attended would be overstating the underwhelming lack of participation in the sessions. “It’s not enough to rely upon a public education campaign,” said Stephen Hintz, the consultant who is conducting a study of the pros and cons of Wausau changing its form of government.

That is especially true if nobody’s paying much attention.

Is all of this because it’s boring and technical, a possibility alluded to in the editorial? Is it because people have already made up their minds? Perhaps most people just think that it’s all a done deal and the public engagement part is more about window dressing than a sincere desire to have the citizens to shape the outcome, since a lot of that outcome seems to have already been shaped. Let me tell you what I mean by that and offer an alternative vision to what is essentially the only one being offered (unless you count “take it or leave it” as a menu of alternatives.)

The Herald’s opinion piece uses terms like “cheerleader” and “ceremonial” to describe a future mayor’s role, saying that the mayor would likely be a part-time position. It says the administrator would be able to “enact reforms” that would help to make city government more efficient and effective.

But enacting reforms is a policy role and that is not what administrators are hired to do. An administrator should be implementing reforms that are enacted by elected officials. The structural change that is being depicted by the few people who are talking about it envisions a city with less policymaking capacity, not more – and there is almost zero discussion about why that part of it is a good idea. It certainly makes it an easier political sale to say that some or most of the money now being used to pay for a mayor can be diverted into paying the new administrator’s salary, but in the big picture, the amounts of money involved are not nearly important enough in the city’s overall budget to be significant drivers in the discussion. There are things that we aren’t doing well and all of them are not just day-to-day management of the city.

What if — instead of accepting it as an article of faith that the office of mayor should be permanently diminished and that this whole discussion can only be advanced in terms of trading away one thing for another — we thought about permanently enhancing the office of mayor and the city’s management? It’s not as though we are so awash in depth on the policy side, or that we’re doing so well in the economic development area, or we are so strong in the area of advocacy, or that our communications efforts are so effective or that our image as a community is already so compelling that we can afford to give up capacity in those areas. Giving these things 10 hours a week from whoever happens to think they would like to be mayor doesn’t seem like a program that will lead to much gravitas for the city or the mayor’s office, beginning with the ability to draw excellent candidates. It sounds more like one of those infamous part-time jobs in our economy where an employer only wants 15 hours a week, but won’t say when they are until the week before, when the schedule is posted. The job may not take that much time, but it’s difficult to try to do anything else. And that’s a problem.

A lot of times when bad decisions are made, it is because people were given the wrong choices to begin with. Thomas Street is a great example. When it originally came up, the two alternatives the council given to choose from were either a four to five-lane Thomas Street or a pair of one-ways, using Thomas and Sherman. The council made a bad choice because there were only bad choices to choose from and then it was poorly executed. The truth is that those weren’t the only possible choices, but it took the federal government refusing funding assistance and years of frustrating debate to finally arrive at an entirely different conclusion. It could be further argued that in the end, it was far more a policy and political choice than simply a decision about design and implementation. Even if the bad alternative chosen in 2006 had been flawlessly executed, it still would have been a bad idea.

What people need to understand is that the power that would be removed from the mayor’s office doesn’t disappear, it just goes someplace else – and that “someplace else” isn’t just to an administrator. Instead, administrative power – which is already somewhat limited and muddy by reporting relationships – would presumably go to the administrator. But the policy and political power that leaves the mayor’s office under the scenarios being outlined thus far can’t go to the administrator, so that goes to the city council.

How do you feel about that? Do you think the council is where almost all of the policy thinking and acting should end?

Instead of having 40,000 constituents like the mayor has, the administrator would have 11 people elected in lightly-funded and frequently uncontested or thinly-voted elections that are often based largely on neighborhood issues, plus whatever regard should be reserved for the new cheerleader. Keep six of those 11 council members happy and the administrator keeps his or her job.

And while the citizenry would still be free to send a message to city hall by tossing the mayor out in a city-wide election, it likely doesn’t make a lot of difference when you’re buying vision, advocacy and leadership in scant measures of only eight or 10 hours per week from whomever might be willing to offer such things in those inconvenient increments, while attempting to make a living and a life elsewhere. In short, by electing a new mayor, citizens would primarily be getting only a new cheerleader and ribbon cutter; one that they have little right to expect much more from and certainly not someone who can substantially advance their interests.

A ceremonial mayor could very well translate into ceremonial mayoral voters — something that becomes worse yet when we consider that with the implementation of staggered council terms beginning with the 2016 elections, Wausau’s citizens will never again have the opportunity to effect sweeping change in the council in a single election because only a maximum of six members will be up in any given year. (Remember the vigorous, far-reaching community debate for that change? Me either.)

So if you don’t like any of the alternatives that will be offered to you in Wausau’s April referendum, (the question or questions for which we haven’t seen yet), here’s my two cents worth — and it’s worth every penny: Don’t select any of them. If voters provide a mandate for a change that isn’t enough of an improvement, they may never again have the opportunity to send people back with instructions to get it right.


Herald Editorial:


Fix organizational culture issues at Wausau’s city hall first:


You didn’t win? It’s your own fault.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 6, 2014 by Jim Rosenberg

No Whining

I’ve been watching and listening to all the commentary, recriminations, denial, blame, rationalizations, handwringing and everything else that comes after getting beat in elections. I’m not saying that I don’t agree with some of it, that I don’t ever engage in it or that I’m bigger than all of that. I’m not, believe me.

When our team loses, we can all point to the bad call that the ref made or some unfair advantage that our opponent had or the big chance that we missed because the coach didn’t understand something that, in hindsight, we all know could have been perfectly exploited when the opportunity was there to do that. But we can’t unlose the game – even if we’re 150 percent right. It doesn’t matter after the clock runs out. But the good players and teams know that even after a losing season, another season is not all that far off. And the winners know that too.

Back when I was learning the public communications field in the U.S. Air Force, I had an extra job working for an AM-FM radio station in Ishpeming, Michigan. It consisted of going to local government meetings with a tape recorder, following the action, conducting interviews and filing reports that were part of the next day’s news programming.

After a particularly raucous series of meetings of the Marquette City Commission, I went to a local restaurant to talk with Peter Embley and gather some insight about what was going on. Peter was a community activist who always had interesting things to offer to the public discourse, but he was also regarded as something between a troublemaker and a crackpot. I’m not sure that he minded that and he had long been accustomed to marching to his own drummer. At one point in the conversation, I expressed some frustration that what seemed like a perfectly well-thought out policy alternative was rejected without discussion by the city commission. Between the two of us, I blamed them for being so obviously short-sighted. And that is when he corrected me with a truth that I have never forgotten.

‘We want to blame others when they don’t agree with us, but it is our own fault. It is our job to fully explain the wisdom in our views and why others should agree. When we can’t do it, then it is our own failure. It’s not their fault for not agreeing. It’s ours that they didn’t. We are the people who failed to make a compelling case and we are the people who have to fix it.’

As tempting as it may be to want to agree with those who claim that we are surrounded by fools, the best place to look for the first person who can do something about creating a more just and promising future is in the mirror. So take a long, hard look.


Here are 18 reasons for why I won’t vote for Scott Walker

Posted in Uncategorized on October 11, 2014 by Jim Rosenberg


During tax season each year, Henry Block used to appear on television with his 17 reasons why you should have your taxes done by H&R Block. Today, I use Turbotax, it’s election season — and I’ve got 18 reasons why Scott Walker should not be re-elected governor of Wisconsin. I suppose some may try to debate all this stuff in the comments section. As entertaining as wading through all of that tortured logic might be, I think those who want to do that should just write their own blog. I also apologize in advance for not talking about why Mary Burke is the far superior candidate in her own right, but I’ll be way over my word count just talking about why Walker needs to be put out on the curb.

1. Walker ran for office promising 250,000 private sector jobs. He won’t come in with half that number and a lot of that is his own fault. The sum of his efforts has been to make Wisconsin a laggard in the Midwest in job creation and it is because his policies are creating a lower standard of living for much of Wisconsin’s middle class. When you operate in an economy that is more than two-thirds consumer-driven, giving tax breaks to wealthy people who don’t need to invest or spend it in Wisconsin is not an effective way to drive job growth. Giving Walker more time is only asking for more of the same. The state sank from 11th in job creation to as low as 37th. We lost thousands of jobs in August. Walker regularly switches gears on which numbers he wants to use. Walker either doesn’t understand economics or he refuses to respond correctly to the conditions that we have in Wisconsin.

2. Wisconsin is open for business? Think again. In addition to the substandard performance on producing jobs, Walker has also managed to position Wisconsin as third worst in the nation in terms of new business startups that actually have employees. http://www.jsonline.com/business/new-census-data-shows-states-2012-start-up-rate-third-lowest-in-us-b99360146z1-277290161.html
3. Scott Walker made the decision to deny tens of thousands of Wisconsin people of health care under the Affordable Care Act by refusing to expand Medicaid under the most advantageous federal rules. This not only kept hundreds of millions of dollars out of Wisconsin, but it’s costing Wisconsin taxpayers tens of millions more to inadequately attempt to shore up health care providers who are not receiving payment for services. I’d say it was dumb, but it’s really a lot worse than that. It illustrates Walker’s propensity to put ideology over serving the most people in this state in the best and most cost-effective way possible. Republican governors across the country are accepting the expansion because it makes fiscal sense. Walker is more interested in scapegoating the poor and acting like they’re responsible for their own failures and some of his.

4. The high-speed rail fiasco lost Wisconsin a train manufacturer and will cost Wisconsin many millions of dollars in a lawsuit from Talgo, along with maintenance and upgrades that would have been covered by federal dollars and will now be covered by state taxpayers. It also cost us jobs and even more importantly, it will cost the state the ability to be a vital link between Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis-St. Paul. It was short-sighted and it costs Wisconsin money.

5. You can’t trust Scott Walker to tell you his agenda. Walker’s signature legislation was Act 10 in 2011 and whether you like it or not, it was not something he campaigned on. Who knows what Walker will do to impress his out-of-state donors as he tries to ramp up his aspirations for higher office? Some guesses? Forget about increasing the minimum wage and think about what being a “right to work” (for less) state really means.

6. There is no particular reason to believe Rebecca Kleefisch would be a good governor, but that may be who you’re voting for, if you vote for Walker. It’s not that Walker will be elected President, because he won’t. It’s because also-rans tend to pick up cabinet jobs in the event that their party carries the Presidential election and Walker is only too eager to play on the national stage, no matter what the role may end up being.

7. Scott Walker is not honest. Of 109 statements ruled on by Politifact, 68 percent were only rated half-true or worse; 53 were rated mostly false, false or “pants on fire.” http://www.politifact.com/personalities/scott-walker/

8. There are far too many indicators of corruption to just shrug them off. The John Doe investigation has brought up a troubling pattern of flaunting Wisconsin’s election laws and a number of Walker’s past staffers have been convicted of wrongdoing. There are quid pro quos with actions and campaign contributions. There are unqualified people who have been put into high-ranking positions for which there is no particular reason to believe that they can do the job. Some of them have had to be pulled back when it became too embarrassing for even Walker, who has proven very difficult to shame. Others continue on in an environment where political loyalty to Walker is far more important than qualifications or competence. Then there are those who have already been convicted while investigations still continue. Kelly Rindfleisch, deputy chief of staff while Walker was Milwaukee County executive, was convicted of illegal campaign activity. Tim Russell, a Walker appointee who headed a veterans group while Walker was county executive was convicted of stealing more than $20,000 and sentenced to two years in prison. Darlene Wink, constituent services director while Walker was county executive was convicted for working on the Walker campaign on county time. Kevin Kavanaugh, Walker-appointed member of the Milwaukee County Veteran Service Commission, was convicted of stealing $51,000 from donations for military veterans and families and sentenced to two years in prison. Bill Gardner, Walker campaign worker and president of Wisconsin & Southern Railroad convicted of violating campaign finance laws during Walker’s first gubernatorial run and received two years’ probation. Brian Pierick, Walker website administrator, who sent lewd text messages to 17-year-old. This is more than just a run of bad luck.

9. Walker is inaccessible to the people of Wisconsin. He makes very few public appearances and instead opts for controlled environments; often on private property in which he carefully controls who is there and then allows “credentialed media” for photo ops. His security costs are astronomical in comparison to his predecessors. He spends an inordinate time out of state courting donors to fund his campaigns and trying to burnish his far-right bonafides. His private and public air travel expenses alone are more than most Wisconsinites earn in a lifetime. A man of the people is something Walker definitely is not.

10. Walker and the GOP legislature are following the right-wing script in diminishing women’s rights. Scott Walker signed a Republican bill to require women seeking abortions to undergo an ultrasound and ban doctors who lack admitting privileges at nearby hospitals from performing the procedures. He repealed the 2009 Equal Pay Enforcement Act, removing state legal recourse for women who are victims of pay discrimination. Five Planned Parenthood clinics have closed in Wisconsin thanks to state budget cuts directed at them. None of them provided abortions. Walker told the Journal-Sentinel editorial board in 2010 that he opposed the right to choose abortion even in cases of rape or incest. Despite a sincere-sounding ad he made trying to sound reasonable, he’s an anti-choice extremist and he always has been, which why he is so strongly supported by that crowd.

11. Walker wasted Wisconsin taxpayer money defending the state’s unconstitutional ban on same-sex marriage while presenting an image of backwards, reactionary leadership that is not attractive to progressive companies who might want to locate in the state.

12. Wisconsin is one of only three states to end residents’ access to increased food assistance paid for by the federal government through “heat-and-eat” programs. We will now see cuts in federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) benefits as a result of the states’ decisions not to increase the amount of heating assistance given to people in poverty. States could contribute $20 per household in order to receive federal food stamp funding averaging $1,080 in additional food stamps. What governor turns down leverage of $54 to $1 to help poor families? Answer: Scott Walker. It’s more evidence of his contempt for the poor and it matches up well with his move to slash the Earned Income Credit to help fund tax breaks for the wealthy. While Minnesota was beefing up funding for heating assistance during the most brutal winter many Wisconsinites have seen in their lifetimes, Walker was offering to loan money to the fuel suppliers. It takes a real ideologue to refuse spending 20 cents to help a poor family get $10. That’s what Walker is.

13. Even though Wisconsin did more than enough to get rid of its deficit and be in the black through cuts, Wisconsin now faces a looming $1.8 billion structural deficit because Walker and the GOP thought it was time to play Santa Claus with tax cuts and now revenues aren’t matching up to expenses. Enjoy the 22 cents a day that Walker is touting in his campaign ads (because that’s what the average tax savings adds up to, although it isn’t being expressed that way in the ads. Go ahead, do the math.)

14. Allowing Walker to continue as governor will mean more years of a Wisconsin government that has no checks and balances. The reason the state is miserably gerrymandered, growing its debt and building an ever-larger structural deficit is because it suits Walker and the Republican legislature just fine. Things won’t get fixed by the people who are breaking them and their thinking doesn’t reflect Wisconsin values. Between a compliant GOP legislature and the fact that Club for Growth/WMC bought seats on the Supreme Court, Walker can operate with impunity and that is exactly what he does. It’s also why Walker truly owns his failures; he’s had every advantage.

15. Walker and the GOP are weakening public schools and higher education by choking them off from resources needed to maintain a quality program. The longer they have unfettered power, the more damage they will do – and they’ve done plenty already.

16. Forget about anything related to improving the environment. In Walker’s Wisconsin, degradation for private profit is the order of the day.

17. Republicans used to be about local control. Forget that with Walker and the GOP. They’re all about expedience for their campaign donors. Ditto for consumer protection, where they have also gutted and rewritten the rules on behalf of their big business supporters at WMC.

18. I played softball with Tommy Thompson. Doyle was everywhere. There were compromises and middle ground in those days. Not only is Scott Walker unable to appear in public or reach across the aisle, he can’t hear or see across the aisle because instead of building bridges, he builds walls and serves his own interests instead of the people’s.

Times were not good when Scott Walker came into office, but looking across the river to Minnesota, it is clear that a more progressive, collaborative approach to governing produced much better results with income, unemployment and more. Walker is a polarizing figure and Wisconsin won’t be able to perform to its capacity until we stop trying to alienate and marginalize half the team, but that is what Walker is constantly doing. He’s a poor leader because he fancies himself as a ruler – and no, it’s NOT working.

The sad truth is that If Walker and the Republicans had spent half as much time trying to serve the people of Wisconsin as they did figuring out how to stack the deck for themselves in upcoming elections, perhaps we actually would all be better off. It’s well past time for this experiment with the far-right wing agenda to end in Wisconsin. Scott Walker needs to go.


Walker campaign: still trying to sell the big lie on jobs

Posted in Uncategorized on September 3, 2014 by Jim Rosenberg

Walker AFP - Reduced
“Mary Burke served as Jim Doyle’s commerce secretary. She said, ‘I support Governor Doyle’s policies entirely,'” the narrator in the Walker ad says. “And when Doyle’s term ended, Wisconsin had lost 133,000 jobs.”

It kind of makes you think that Mary Burke had something to do with Wisconsin losing all those jobs, doesn’t it? But that’s not the case. Mary Burke was commerce secretary from January 2005 until November 2007. During that time, Wisconsin added more than 72,400 jobs. The unemployment rate dropped from 4.8 percent to 4.6 percent. In fact, if Walker had added jobs at the same rate as Wisconsin jobs were being added during Mary Burke’s 34 months as Commerce Secretary, he would have around 35,000 more jobs to his credit by now. Instead, he will come in at less than half of the 250,000-job promise that was the pillar of his 2010 campaign.

In August of 2013, Walker tried to walk back his promise. It didn’t work. Then he tried to reaffirm it. That didn’t work, either:


Walker job graph

Walker can’t even blame his commerce secretary, because essentially, it’s him. He chairs the scandal-plagued Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., which replaced the Wisconsin Dept. of Commerce. Last year, the non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau found the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. “did not have sufficient policies, including some that were statutorily required, to administer its programs effectively.” More recently, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. approved a $6 million tax credit to Ashley Furniture, whose officers then quickly gave $20,000 to Gov. Scott Walker’s re-election campaign. It’s something that seems to fit a pattern, according to observers.

“We’ve seen Gov. Walker use our tax dollars for companies that outsource Wisconsin jobs overseas and give over $500 million in tax dollars to companies that have given his campaign over $1 million. If we were looking for a return to the days of corruption, cronyism and incompetence, then Gov. Walker’s got a ‘Wisconsin Comeback’ for you,” One Wisconsin Now Director Scot Ross said.

As for Gov. Doyle, he had the unfortunate timing of happening to be in office during the Great Recession, which began under Republican President George W. Bush. The U.S. lost 8.7 million jobs as a result of the recession and some of those were in Wisconsin, but Republicans don’t like to talk about that happening under Bush. Instead, they are trying desperately to blame it all on Doyle and then, by extension, to tie it to Burke. The problem is that even if you wanted to blame everything on Doyle – which is ridiculous – the job losses didn’t occur while Mary Burke was serving as commerce secretary.

More importantly, people need to understand that as the handmaiden of far right-wing interests, any talk about more jobs and better pay coming from people like Scott Walker is going to be exactly that: talk. The only reason that Walker talks about jobs at all is because he has to. Even cursory polling will tell any politician that jobs and the economy represent the Number 1 issue for voters, as has been the case for many years. But what some people on the right really want when it comes to labor is very different from what most people want. Instead of a rising tide for all, they want a buyer’s market for labor; where pay, benefits and upward mobility are all very limited; where people are grateful to have any job at all and will take whatever they can get. That is what is eroding the middle class in this county and that is the unfavorable environment for workers in Wisconsin that Walker has been able to consistently deliver during his term. And plenty of his biggest campaign donors like that situation just fine.