Archives for posts with tag: Madison

We when lost the summer

The Nerfs

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Fun fact: Madison is moving up in the world.  As of late May, we became one of a couple other cities to be part of a B-Cycle bike share program.  We are like Paris! That is all you need to know now about Madison:  we have bikes now and we are Paris.

Okay, so how it works is there are six active bike sharing stations in Madison (like the one pictured above).  The plan is to have upwards of thirty stations in the near future. People who want to use the bikes must first pay for one of three types of memberships: 24-hour ($10), 7-day ($30), annual ($65) or student annual ($45–email must end with .edu to receive this rate).  Once you select a membership you can use your credit card to access one of the bikes.  The first half-hour of usage is free, the second half- hour is $2 and each half-hour after that is $4.

The purpose of the fee, according to the B-Cycle people, is to discourage extended rides.  Once there are more stations it will also be easier to avoid fees because one can simply dock the bike at a nearby station, run whatever errands need to get done, and undock the bike–starting a new free half-hour to get home.

The bikes themselves are beautiful Trek  road bikes equipped with baskets and locks.  They also have a GPS so you can later log on to the B-Cycle website to see how far you traveled and how many calories you burned. I think this program has the potential to offer even more Madisonians an opportunity to try biking around town, which is a great thing, especially if it takes some cars off the road.

So I’m very enthusiastic about B-Cycle, but as the program develops I hope the B-Cycle people will consider the following suggestions for improvement:

  1. An Insurance Policy:  If you read through the terms and conditions to use B-Cycle, the bike rider must pay for any damages or theft that occurs while the rider’s checked out the bike.  The replacement fees on the  bikes is $1,000.  It would be nice if annual members could somehow pay more if they wanted to insure themselves against some of this damage.  After all, I’ve had seats stolen and frames bent on my bikes through no fault of my own.  Accidents happen; tires blow out.  Madison is a safe town, but it’s not that safe.
  2. Where’s the near-west-side love?  The map of future stations is promising, but where’s the station at Hilldale? For those of us who live downtown Hilldale is our nearest movie theater and mall.  It would be nice to bike out there for dinner and a movie some summer evening without being charged $18 in B-Cycle fees per person.   While we’re at it, how about stations in Shorewood and on University Avenue or anywhere near West Regent Street?
  3. Make the first hour free.  Right now, it’s hard to avoid charges on B-Cycle.  With so few stations opened one cannot currently dock a bike and run an errand.  And even with all the docking stations open, it may not be possible to get very far within a half-hour on a three-speed bike.  I fear the current pricing model might scare some people away from using B-Cycle.  Here’s an alternative model: First hour free, the second hour $4 and then each half-hour after that would be an additional $4.  This would give everyone time to  run errands at their own pace and would still discourage people from using the bikes for more than a couple of hours.

A couple of days ago I posted this video of Scott Walker telling the stirring tale of the recall effort that led to his successful campaign for Milwaukee County Executive. I said that with a few edits, this would be a wonderful campaign ad for Walker’s own recall in a few months.  Well, thanks to the giver of all things, the internet, a clever person has in fact edited the video for just that purpose.  It still includes the majority of Walker’s recall = people taking back the government speech, but instead of featuring Walker’s insufferable mug, his voice is recorded over scenes from the ongoing protests at the capitol. The result is truly inspiring.  (Hat tip, AV Club.)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

Sewing the seeds for a big season of recalls

In perhaps the most awe-inspiring show of solidarity since Wisconsinites began protesting Governor Scott Walker’s extreme budget measures nearly a month ago, farmers from across the state joined protesters in a tractorcade around the Capitol Square.  It was the start of what would prove to be the largest day yet of protests, despite the Governor signing on Friday his controversial proposal to strip public employees of most union rights.

For the farmers who made it to the capitol, it was not only a chance to show solidarity with the other Wisconsin working families but also an opportunity draw attention to the potential impacts Walker’s  proposals will have on Wisconsin farm families. From the Capital Times:

“This isn’t us versus them, with farmers siding with union employees,” says Scott Schultz, executive director of the Wisconsin Farmers Union. “In rural farm communities, Walker’s budget is hitting home in a number of ways.”

Although unions and collective bargaining have strong roots in the farm industry — the Wisconsin Farmers Union began in the 1930s — Peck says Saturday’s rallies are about more than preserving union rights.

Peck says many of those coming to Madison are upset by the realization that Walker’s agenda is “sacrificing Wisconsin’s quality of life for everyone, not just unions.”

“There are other things going on here. If BadgerCare is wiped out or scaled back, a lot of these people won’t have health care anymore,” Peck says.

Roughly 11,000, or one in seven, farmers and their family members receive health coverage through BadgerCare, according to the Wisconsin Farmers Union.

In additional to sharply curtailed healthcare access, under Governor Walker’s budget proposals rural communities may face a public education crisis.  Governor Walker’s budget cuts hundreds of millions from public education in the state (interestingly, it raises funding for charter and choice school).  But Walker’s budget does not give school districts any tools to increase revenues to offset cuts and instead only allows districts to cut (obviously Walker prefers the cuts to come out of the paychecks of middle-class teachers). But for very rural districts with fewer services and even fewer teachers, it will be hard to find enough to cut without dramatically impacting the quality of education rural students receive.  For a wealthier district, or districts closer to larger cities, it might be possible to consolidate services with other schools to find cuts.  But for rural schools, where students are often already bused for miles to attend a single high school that serves many farm communities, it will also be difficult to find more ways to consolidate without risking rural students’ ability to access comparable services.

Without good school systems, many rural communities may see dwindling populations as those who can afford to move to areas with better services will be far more likely to do so. For the rural students whose parents can not move, it will mean they no longer have access to the same level of education and opportunity as their suburban counterparts. For the hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites, like myself, who descend from Wisconsin farm families and who share a deep passion for preserving Wisconsin’s family farm culture, Walker’s budget proposals will lead to a devastating and potentially irreversible disintegration of the lifestyle that brought our ancestors across oceans to sew Wisconsin’s rich farmland. Walker’s proposals are a betrayal of our fundamental support of rural living and truly shows that his values and not Wisconsin values.

Below are more images from Saturday’s Tractorcade:

4th Generation Badger with this tractor

One little legislator at a time

An "S" and a "Y" spell solidarity

Hope sustains Wisconsin farmers

People across Wisconsin were shocked this evening as senate republicans used legislative maneuvering to pass Governor Walker’s sweeping anti-union proposals. After weeks of claiming collective bargaining was a “fiscal matter” and, therefore, needed to be considered as part of the governor’s budget “repair” bill, republicans today changed their tune and decided it was NOT a fiscal issue and could be passed without a the democrats needed for a senate quorum.

To get the measure to the senate, republicans stripped all fiscal items from the bill in a legislative committee meeting that lasted for about two minutes, video of which is below. The only Democrat present, Peter Barca of Kenosha, asks repeatedly to have the changes to the bill read to him, but is rebuffed. The true kicker is that under Wisconsin’s open meeting law, the public must be given 24 hours notice before a public meeting unless there is good cause. Today we were given one hour and 50 minutes to get to the capitol. Most people were stuck in line at metal detectors as the republicans forced through these measures, which essentially ended over 50 years of peaceful labor relations in Wisconsin. In the video Representative Barca repeatedly tries to determine what “good cause” republicans have to justify the meeting, but is ignored. After a couple of short moments, the republicans pass the bill changes over the loud objections of Rep. Barca.

During the entire video you will repeated hear cries of “Shame! Shame! Shame” from within the capitol. Shame indeed.

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Travesty of Justice.MP4, posted with vodpod

This week Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker continued his undeclared war on the majority of Wisconsinites by announcing a budget aimed at cutting public education, environmental protections, support of local governments and safety net services for the poor and disabled.  Apparently Governor Walker’s plan for creating 250,000 jobs is to start by ensuring the elimination of about 100,000 of them first and essentially destroying Wisconsin’s quality of life??

But never fear, not everyone in Wisconsin will feel the pain. The Governor’s budget gives an additional $400 million in funding to transportation!  But by transportation I mean only road building, as the Governor’s proposed budget would also decimate bus systems and pedestrian/bike programs. I’m sure this “improved” funding for road builders is all about job creation or something and has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that road builders gave over $120,000 to Governor Walker’s campaign–making them one of his largest donors.

At the bottom of the page is a run-down of some of the budget info I’ve compiled over last couple of days. But it is very, very bad.  Huge cuts to education (the poorest districts will suffer the most).  But more funding to choice and charter schools–so rich people in the Republican Milwaukee suburbs will be set! Major cuts to environmental programs, like recycling?? Cuts, to local government with the aim of forcing them to cut salary and benefits for teachers.  It’s truly reprehensible. You can find out all about the budget proposal PLUS information about the battle to save unions on my “Save the State” page.  I will update it as the debates and battles continue.  In the meantime, here’s an ad from Bold Progressives, which supports ActBlue (which is raising money for the 14 Dem Senators in Illinois and to get the word out across the state about the devastation contained within the Governor’s proposals).

2011-2013 Biennial Budget (By Subject)

General

MJS–The new normal of sacrifice

Politifact: Scott Walker says Wisconsin is broke (Ruling: False)

Governor Walker’s budget cuts would reshape the state

Cieslewicz, Falk blast Walker’s budget plans

In Madison–Governor Walker packed his budget address with ringers

Scott Walker’s Budget Address: The ego has landed

Transformative, yes, but is this budget fair?

Wispolitics Budget Blog

Transcript–Scott Walker’s Budget Address

Department of Administration Budget Page

Education (K-12, UW-System, Charter Schools, Technical Colleges)

State actions have local teachers weighing retirement

MJS–Don’t forget students when mulling what’s next for MPS

MJS–Wisconsin school districts studying impact of proposed cuts

MJS–MPS has to cut $74 million more

Facing cut to state aid: MATC officials wonder how they’ll pay for new buildings

Walker’s war on equality

Walker’s budget hits MATC hard

Budget cuts hundreds of millions from schools

University of Wisconsin System faces $250 million in cuts, restructuring

Walker plans to phase out Wisconsin Covenant

Budget would take more than $20 million from Madison schools

Walker gives charter more chance

Good news, bad news for UW tuition

Local Governments

Municipal, county governments target of large cuts in Walker budget

Health Care (Medicaid, Badger Care, Women’s Health)

CT–Guess why Walker wants to freeze State Life Fund

MJS–Experimentation yes, but done with transparency

CT–Right-to-lifers are on cloud nine

MJS–Women’s health–Culture war redux

Advocates for people on Medicaid pan Walker’s budget speech

Walker’s budget removes insurance requirement to cover birth control

Budget aims to end growth of Medicaid programs in the state

Taxes

Walker’s budget slashes that aid poor

Walker’s proposed capital gains tax breaks get lukewarm backing

Environmental Issues

CT–Energy Programs get Walker ax

Walker budget would eliminate office of energy independence (Also pulls back on mandates for agencies to use less gas)

State recycling mandate, funding eliminated under Walker’s budget

Walker’s budget removes $1.1 million for recycling in Madison

Transportation

MJS–Busting Bus Systems

Walker budget eliminates money for bike/pedestrian improvements

Full speed ahead for Zoo Interchange

Other

State pension shift faces a 401 (k) turn

Ethan Allen closing stows hope

Walker’s budget all but kills public financing for state supreme court elections

Budget would end early release program for non-violent prisoners

Even though he’s no longer a Congressman, Dave Obey continues to fight for the regular people of Wisconsin, unlike Wisconsin’s current governor.  There are many great Dave Obey moments in the following video: “[The governor] is a temporary occupant of this building.” “It’s like they are doling out a little piece of Democracy a bit at a time. It’s a joke.” (Note, the last 7 minutes of this video are just black for some reason.)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Congressman Obey Denied Access to Wisconsin Cap…, posted with vodpod

Sometimes it’s hard to be a Governor with national political ambitions.  The rich special interests that paid for your campaign demand bold action, you want to impress them to make a name for yourself, but there are all of these pesky laws and constituents that keep hindering your plans for national domination! It’s just not fair! Everyone knows you’re the next Ronald Reagan and the people of Wisconsin are your Berlin Wall!

So what do you, Scott Walker, do when things don’t go as planned?  What do you do when tens of thousands of people from your state continue daily protests against your attempt to take away their labor unions? What do you do when poll after poll after poll after poll after poll after poll shows that the public is against your measures to limit collective bargaining? (Note, the first three of these polls were done by conservative organizations). What do you do when the majority of people surveyed in Wisconsin say they would vote for your opponent if the election was held again today? What do you do when you’ve learned that you and your allies are vulnerable to recall? What do you do when you get sued for violating labor laws? And the City of Milwaukee’s lawyer says your budget “repair” bill is unconstitutional?  And what if the media doesn’t grow tired of the protesters as you predicted they would and they keep reporting about the protesters day after day after day?

Well if you are Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his Republican allies, you don’t negotiate to end the public’s concerns about your measures, but instead go after the very expression of political dissent. Today protesters were no longer welcome in the Wisconsin State Capitol because they were protesting too much…errr…they’re dirty or broke something, or something. Don’t ask for evidence because none will be provided!

Unfortunately for Governor Walker, the Wisconsin State Constitution forbids the legislature from preventing public access to the State Capitol (Article 1, Section 4).  The state is citing an administrative rule to defend itself on this one (They cite DOA rule 2.04)–but since when does an administrative rule trump the State Constitution?

Article 1, Section 4 of Wisconsin State Constitution taped to the locked door of the Wisconsin State Capitol

One thing has become clear from the stalemate on Governor Walker’s budget adjustment bill, Governor Walker is very good at staying on message.  His message to Wisconsin has been: blame the Democrats who fled to Illinois.  He reiterated this message again this morning.  The Governor’s message is: if you don’t come back, every bad thing I do to this state will be your fault.  But such a message is incredibly disingenuous. Here’s why:

Democrats, Unions and even one Republican have come to the table with compromise legislation, Governor Walker refuses to compromise

  • As mentioned previously, Democratic members in the state assembly last offered a compromise proposal to the budget adjustment that gave Governor Walker 90% of what he wanted and would have saved the state even more money. This compromise was voted down by the Republican-controlled Assembly.
  • Further, leaders of the state’s largest public employee unions have made it clear that they will support the Governor’s concessions so long as they can continue to collectively bargain. These unions combined represent approximately 150,000 public employees–by far the majority. Again–such an agreement gives Governor Walker essentially everything he’s asked for, minus the incredibly controversial collective bargaining proposal that the majority of Wisconsin residents, even when polled by conservatives, do not support. But instead of doing the reasonable thing and agreeing to “win” by 90%, the Governor has been working to discredit the unions’ statements by pointing out recent (? not sure–no dates are given) union negotiations in which unions did not take big cuts. Walker’s logic in this regard is faulty.  He provides no evidence that the unions in question are part of the unions that have agreed to his concessions, or unions that would even be involved in negotiations on the state level (it appears they are all municipal unions). Wisconsin is full of tiny bargaining units of 100 employees or less, so yeah, not really the unions we’re talking about here. In other words, different unions, different employer at the bargaining table. Further, Walker’s release completely ignores the fact that the municipalities in question have made the choice to agree to these contract terms.  That’s likely because, unlike the state, the cities of Madison, Janesville and others know that it is in their best interest to retain their high-quality public workers.
  • Republican Senator Dale Schultz proposed, but ultimately did not allow a vote on, a compromise bill that would contain union concessions and suspend collective bargaining for two years.  Schultz claims he did not propose the measure because the Democrats were Illinois (I don’t get it either).  But the fact remains that the bill had no Republican support, and it appears that he may have been threatened by Republican leadership for even proposing a compromise.  Frankly Governor Walker and the Republican Legislative leadership are incredibly foolish in their disregard Sen. Schultz’s measure. Accepting such a term would again give them everything they want and also make them look like reasonable leaders.  Further, as Governor Walker has the ability to line item veto the sunset requirement for the collective bargaining measure, they could have passed the compromise and removed all the language that made it a compromise in the first place.

If public employees do get laid off in Wisconsin it will not be for any unwillingness to negotiate on the part of union supporters–it will be because Scott Walker and his legislative puppets (they are supposed to check and balance, right?) wants to win completely and at any cost.

One thing the Governor consistently ignores with his never-ending slew of same-sounding press releases and tweets: he is the leader of this state.  When there is unrest in the state, when there is a legislative impasse in the state, when Wisconsin voters are barred from their Capitol, when Legislative leaders propose violating labor laws to force the other party into compliance, when neighbors begin to feel anger against their neighbors–it is the state’s Governor who should step up to be the leader who resolves the conflict and find the road to compromise.

Shortly after 1:00 a.m. this morning the Wisconsin State Assembly passed Governor Walker’s middle-class punishing budget repair bill–essentially making Wisconsin 14 Democratic State Senators away from having virtually no collective bargaining rights for tens of thousands of public employees. The vote was done after nearly 60 hours of debate and with no warning to Democrats. In fact, Democrats still had 15 speakers left to talk about the bill. Only a handful of Democrats even voted on the measure before Republicans shut down voting. Here’ is the chaos that resulted:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

UNCUT: Assembly Calls Vote & Passes Budget Repa…, posted with vodpod

This was followed by calls of “Shame! Shame!” from Democrats as Republicans fled the Assembly floor avoiding any interaction with the media.  Peter Barca, a Democrat from Kenosha believes the vote may have been illegal and was quickly done as more and more Republicans began to waver on the bill.  Interestingly, four Republicans made up the 17 “no” votes their leaders allowed to occur.

Democrats tried without success to approach Governor Walker with compromise legislation that allowed union concessions while preserving collective bargaining–an alternative that actually left Wisconsin with more money than Governor Walker’s proposal.  But this measure was voted down by Republicans.  That’s right, a measure that would have ended all of the protests at the Capitol, provided the Governor with the concessions he asked for, protected the employees Scott Walker keeps threatening to lay off and left the state with MORE money was voted down by Republicans.

Why? It’s hard not to be cynical about this, but I can think of no other reason other than that the Republicans are so consumed by “winning,” or helping Governor Walker “win” by passing his measure without changes, that they are willing to allow the lay off of hundreds of  hard-working people.

Even more troubling, the Republican-controlled State Senate today pushed the budget repair bill past the amendable stage.  This means that the bill Governor Walker proposed will pass without changes or it won’t pass at all. Wisconsin Republicans have consistently criticized the 14 Democratic Senators who are hiding in Illinois as “not doing their jobs” by not voting on the bill. But the Republicans have made it clear they will not consider any of the Democrats ideas and they simply want them to rubber stamp a 144-page bill that Governor Walker has admitted will change the course of Wisconsin history.

Republicans aren’t listening to the hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites who have voiced concerns about the “repair bill” either in person at the Capitol or through letters and phone calls. Republicans aren’t listening to the minority party, which still represents millions of Wisconsinites.  Republicans aren’t listening to recent editorials from across the state that have asked the Governor and legislators to fully debate and pass a version of the bill less restrictive towards collective bargaining and with fewer executive branch power-grabs. (Examples can be found here, here, here, here, here, here.) Republicans aren’t listening to their own members who have offered compromise solutions.  Republicans aren’t listening to the growing concerns about Governor Walker’s ethics and leadership ability. (Some examples from across Wisconsin are found here, here, here, here, herehere, here, here, here, here,  here, here, here, here, here, here.) Republicans aren’t listening because they are too busy “winning” at any cost–even if that cost is irreparable damage to the people and the state they’ve vowed to serve.