Happy Birthday and Happy Sunshine Week

I'm here at UW Eau Claire at the Open Government Traveling Show, just about to watch the presentation from the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council and others. As I was sitting here I looked at my calendar and realized that it is the 10th anniversary of this blog today. Though that makes me feel a little ancient (almost as much as looking at the mirror) - it also is somewhat of an accomplishment to have managed to do this for so long. Join me in celebrating 10 years of progressive talk.

Locals Raise Questions about Railroad Police

Kathleen Vinehout
Locals Raise Questions about Railroad Police
by
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
It was no wonder the Legislative committee chairperson did not want to hold a public hearing on Senate Bill 734, a bill that would return railroad trespassing law to pre-2006, which allowed crossing.
 
Madison lobbyists lined up against the bill to allow people to cross railroad tracks. The lobbyists represented seven different law enforcement groups, three labor groups, six different railroad groups, the oil industry and the state’s largest business lobby – Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.

In Good Standing...

A term that I've become a little confused about in the last few weeks is "In good standing". On February 21, just a couple of weeks ago, Myron Buchholz announced his candidacy for the 3rd Congressional Seat in Wisconsin as a Democrat. Shortly after announcing his candidacy, Myron met with Martha Lanning, chair of the DPW and Myron was told that he would not be given access to the Voter Access Network (VAN) because he was opposing a Democrat "In Good Standing" in the primary, Ron Kind. Mind you Myron was willing to pay for access but no access will be allowed. 

Same as it Ever Was

It's been a while since I have taken to the interwebs to add to the discourse. As a matter of fact, it was about this time in the last presidential race when I put up my last post: "Why I voted for Santorum". I qualified my logic for voting for Santorum. My logic deduced that Santorum was the best choice back in 2012 if you were a progressive and you wanted to use your vote in the presidential primary. 

But this time around we are offered a choice and that is one of the primary (pun intended) reasons why I've decided that early March of 2016 is the time for me to come back out of my blogging hibernation. The choice of Bernie Sanders in this upcoming Wisconsin Primary on April 5 is one of the first times since 2010 that I had a candidate that I could dedicate a substantial amount of my personal time and treasure to help get elected.

Speed and Secrecy versus Deliberative Democracy

Kathleen Vinehout
Speed and Secrecy versus Deliberative Democracy
By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“All your work has made a real difference,” Linda, my staffer, told Mrs. Gifford. She and her husband traveled to Madison to personally deliver letters to every Senator.
 
“Well, aren’t you nice,” Mrs. Gifford responded. “You just made my day!”
 
Twenty-eight minutes before the vote on a bill that would make significant changes in high capacity well rules, the Senate Agriculture, Small Business and Tourism committee clerk came to my office and said that bill was removed from the list to be voted out of committee.
 
As he left our office, he passed Barbara Gifford and her husband Jim who came to ask me to vote against the bill. For the moment, it looked like the Giffords were successful.
 
Senate Bill 239 is one of three bills that would alter the way Wisconsin grants permits to drill a high capacity well – a well that pumps 70 or more gallons per minute of groundwater.  The bill prevents the DNR from reviewing existing high-cap well permits making them approved forever.

Yet another reason to replace Justice Bradley

Justice Rebecca Bradley

Apologize as she may, the articles Rebecca Bradley wrote while she was a student reflect the way she looked at life when she was young, and it is not clear her viewpoint has changed since, other than becoming more sophisticated about what she says in public. The Journal-Sentinel reports today that incumbent Bradley wrote "How sad that the lives of degenerate drug addicts and queers are valued more than the innocent victims of more prevalent ailments," in reference to people who were dying of AIDS. Although Justice Bradley states

"To those offended by comments I made as a young college student, I apologize, and assure you that those comments are not reflective of my worldview," her statement said. "These comments have nothing to do with who I am as a person or a jurist, and they have nothing to do with the issues facing the voters of this state."

I have to wonder about the character and viewpoint of someone who develops such a jaundiced view of Americans so early in life. Add this in to her lack of judicial background and her apparent lack of interest in doing judicial work when she can work with conservative business groups instead, and you have a compelling argument against voting for Bradley in the upcoming election. JoAnne Kloppenburg has proved to have a much better judicial temperament and fairer view of the people of this state.

Open Government Traveling Show

Date: 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016 (All day) to Thursday, March 17, 2016 (All day)

Residents across Wisconsin are invited to free events exploring the importance of open records laws, and how to use them to obtain critical information about the actions of government.

The eight-city “Open Government Traveling Show” by open government advocates comes in the wake of unprecedented attacks on open records laws from state lawmakers and others. The events will take place from Tuesday, March 15, through Thursday, March 17, as part of national Sunshine Week, an annual celebration of access to public information.

Budget Cuts to Education Cost All of Us

Kathleen Vinehout
 
Budget Cuts to Education Cost All of Us
by
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“We hired a great inorganic chemistry professor last year,” Mike, a UW-River Falls chemistry professor, told me. “Unfortunately she’s leaving in May for St. Olaf.” I visited St. Olaf in Northfield, Minnesota. They have a great chemistry department.
 
Mike told me his department used to have 15 professors. They now have 11 – soon to be 10. They plan to replace the person leaving but it’s getting harder to recruit and retain faculty.
 
The consequences of deep budget cuts to education are disparate but all around us.
 
Deep budget cuts to the UW system results in fewer course offerings and programs, larger classes and less staff. UW Extension is proposing to remove extension agents from many rural counties. The UW Madison Ag program announced the loss of the only dairy sheep program in the country. Faculty are moving on to greener pastures.
 
There is a similar story in K-12 education.

Be nice to the DNR or they'll stop talking to you

So it's bad enough to be in a state where representatives walk out of meetings if they don't like the questions, and where the Governor skulks around the state in secret and will only speak to those folks who are of a like mind. It's also deplorable to have the state government change our laws to become less responsive to citizens, and to change the civil service laws to allow more cronyism. But I'm genuinely shocked to find out that we have a state agency with a blacklist of citizens who are not to be responded to, apparently because they either were not nice enough or they asked too many questions.

National decline in infrastructure spending especially pronounced in Wisconsin

Only Six States Had a Larger Decline from 2002 to 2013

State and local governments have been neglecting to make investments in infrastructure according to a new analysis issued this week. The new study found that state and local spending on infrastructure, such as transportation, public buildings, and water systems, fell to a 30-year low in 2014, when measured relative to gross domestic product (see Figure 1). The drop-off since 2000 has been especially pronounced in Wisconsin.

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