Archive for July, 2009

Don’t buy grenades from State St stands

July 28, 2009

Wisconsin, for all its great hunting, does not sufficiently “keep it real” enough for our friends at the NRA. That Wisconsin is the only state in the union to forbid carrying a concealed weapon is heresy, not only because our founding fathers clearly foresaw and provided for the day when every adult (man over age 12) would carry a sawed off shotty in his pant leg, but because Wisconsin has a significant rural population, for which the NRA considers itself a defacto mouthpiece. Now that sentencing reforms are sending “dangerous criminals to a neighborhood near you,” you’d think our state lawmakers would be rushing to legalize bazookas to keep Wisconsin families safe.

Well think again. We’ve been duped once more. A group of legislators, including Republicans, introduced a proposal today to increase penalties for those who weapons illegally. Well what are you supposed to do if you need a gun immediately? You can’t wait 48 hours. Who hasn’t asked to see the “secret collection” from one of those pipe dealers on State St? No, it is not a bong that looks like a gun.

The bill will now make it a Class H felony to buy or receive a stolen firearm, which can be punishable by up to $10,000 fine, six years in prison, or both.

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Greedy county supervisors?

July 28, 2009

So says Brenda Konkel. When Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk asked the board of supervisors to take a pay cut last week, all eagerly replied in the affirmative, except two. Unsurprisingly, both were from outside of Madison. In one of those places where “conservative” doesn’t mean “endorsed John Edwards.”

Wiganowsky said he declined to take the pay cut — $205 out of each supervisor’s $8,200 annual salary — blaming the county’s difficult financial situation on Falk’s fiscal policies, specifically borrowing for open space.

Schlicht said he didn’t want to give the county “additional money to be mismanaged.” Instead, he said is making a $410 donation to a fund for emergency pumping of the flooded Crystal Lake in northern Dane County.

“I would much rather give my money to Bernie Madoff than Kathleen Falk,” Schlicht said.

I can’t decide what’s more amusing – Madison leftists or Madison Republicans. It’s ironic to hear Republicans fire off at government punishing government employees during times of economic malaise. What is the essence of big government, after all? If Ronald Reagan taught us anything, it certainly is not money or employees. Schlict clearly agrees. Yes, perhaps the money from your salary will get “Falked up” in some program you believe to be unnecessary, however, if government employees are paid less, it makes it more likely that the money saved will be returned to the taxpayer in the future.

Also, practically every government employee around the state is taking some form of pay cut, supervisors are certainly not the only victims. Every state employee in the state will be taking 8 days of furlough this year. While teachers have been made eligible for higher pay raises, most of them will not be getting them and the education budget in Dane County is getting slashed as much as 15%.

The City Bar, and the lady on the Capitol

July 28, 2009

Last night I had the pleasure of attending trivia night at The City. It’s supposed to start at 8 but it doesn’t usually start until after 8:30. I was a newbie on the three time champion nearly all-Herald team, dubbed “The Waldo Team.”

Out of a dozen or so teams (maybe more?) we came in third place, qualifying for the “Final Jeopardy” round. With 29 points, we went all in, figuring we had to. The final jeopardy question: what is the name of the statue atop the state capitol?

Do you know? I would love to do a poll to see how many of my readers are worthy Wisconsin citizens. Of course you could cheat…OK, the name is simply “Wisconsin.” We guessed “Voyager.” It hurts. Of course, what hurt even more was seeing that not one of the three teams got it right.

Either way, I like the set up at the City. The combination of couches, tables and the long bar is interesting…kind of trendy looking. It would be a little depressing to spend too much time there – it’s underground and always dark. The drink special on Monday was pretty weak. Although I admire the $4 giant Svedka mixers, every good bar should have a good beer special, and $2.50 bud light bottles is terrible. If you’re drink special is going to feature a bad beer, it should feature the cheapest bad beer possible, like PBR or better still, Blatz. Anybody know of any Schlitz specials around town?

The only other time I had ever been to the City it was late at night, I’d had my fill, and I looked up at the specials and ordered a water.

Brunch Links

July 28, 2009

Brunch is coming a little late today folks. Sorry about that…it’s not fair to you early risers out there. For the first time in about a week we have forecasts of clear skies all day, with a high of 79 and a low of 51.

First things first: debts. “Wisconsin owes us money,” Gov. Tim Pawlenty flatly told reporters before his joint news conference with Gov. Jim Doyle.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor is confirmed by the judiciary committee. Both Sens. Kohl and Feingold voted for her confirmation. In discussing their votes, Kohl cited her personal story while Feingold cited her commitment to judicial ethics.

MPD plans to crack down on “right of way” violators. Seriously, that would be appreciated from all of us pedestrians.

State plans public hearings on public transportation throughout the state.

Brenda Konkel re-caps board of estimates.

Stimulus dollars in action for train stations…that are no longer in use.

Solar powered parking meters coming to town.

“A” for effort Mayor Dave

July 27, 2009

Just in case I didn’t give enough compliments to our dear mayor today, I will finish up the evening by commending the man for creating new standards of analysis and prose in city dialogue. In discussing the city of Monona’s decision to not allow residents to keep chicken coops, as is allowed in Madison:

So, I wish they hadn’t chickened out over this. Sure it may seem like they’re scrambling to catch up with Madison, but they should look at the sunny side and realize that just like here in Madison it will go over easy.

It’s not just a shell game. Four chickens (the maximum allowed under the Madison ordinance) can produce two or three eggs a day. Over time that can save some real scratch. So it’s good eggonomics in hard boiled times, which is something to crow about (though not in Madison where roosters are not allowed).

But look Monona, you don’t have to wing it. You can stay abreast of the situation by looking at Madison’s eggsperience. We allowed chickens about four years ago with very few complaints and lots of happy chicken owners. I know not everybody likes the idea. But you can’t make an omelet without cracking some eggs.

Now those, Mr. Mayor, were some wise cracks.

Feingold proposes voting rights for felons

July 27, 2009

If there’s any succinct way to described Russ Feingold, it perhaps is embodied in that corny T-Shirt that Dennis Denure sells on State St: “Spinegold”

Feingold seems to be the commander of all the political battles that other members of Congress won’t touch – civil liberties, prosecution of Bush administration officials, earmarks, and most recently, the rights of former prisoners.

In America today, more than five million citizens are unable to vote due a felony conviction, nearly three-quarters of whom are no longer in prison.  Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Rep. John Conyers’ (D-MI) bill would allow these Americans to exercise their right to vote if they are no longer incarcerated.

Wisconsin, to my knowledge, restricts the rights of felons from voting. The Journal-Sentinel advocated the repeal of that restriction two years ago. Of course, that kind of sympathy for offenders doesn’t go far in a state with a 19th century corrections system. For that type of enlightened thought you’d probably have to go to the Gopher State, where residents are imprisoned at 1/3 of the rate as they are here.

It’s hard to gauge what kind of political support Feingold and Conyers have in Congress for this kind of reform. I can safely say that plenty of Democrats will vote against it – especially in the House where there is still a large contingent of Democrats from conservative districts in the South. One thing we can be sure of is Feingold’s commitment to this goal. It is very unlikely that he will obediently put the bill on the shelf if leaders in the party pressure him to, telling him that it’s politically dangerous. He will at least get to bring it to a floor vote, and the country will be able to see which of our leaders are truly interested in treating crime and which are simply content punishing it.

Mayor Dave’s green neighborhood

July 27, 2009

Rick Berg writes a very good article about a trip to Freiburg, Germany in this week’s Isthmus. A self-described conservative, Berg attempts to describe “the Vauban,” a district of Freiburg that has come to symbolize everything that American environmentalists yearn for. This of course is made in light of Mayor Dave’s open admiration for Freiburg’s system, including his proposal to put in place “car-light neighborhoods” in Madison.

Berg, despite many-an-underhanded snipe at lefties, gets the analysis right when he describes the Vauban as unlikely in Madison’s near future. The problem is not simply the cultural attachment to cars in this country and state, it is the utter lack of viable alternatives for so many residents. Like most mid-sized cities, Madison has a system of public transportation, however, it is not even close to extensive enough to be a convenient option for thousands of working people. The buses don’t run frequently enough, and the routes don’t cover enough ground for commuters in the area.

Because public transportation is so limited in the area, a green neighborhood in Madison would have to target one of two major constituencies – students at UW or professionals who work in the city. Northeast Madison, which the mayor cited as the prime location for the development, is far away from campus, so we can assume that the latter group is the more likely target.

If the plan mimicked the Vauban, it would attempt to reduce car use by making it exorbitantly expensive to park cars in the neighborhood. All the development in the area would be green, from solar panels to “passive solar heating.” Residents can save money, however, by selling excess electricity back to the utility company, which I suppose makes up a little bit of the cost of paying $23,000 for a parking spot.

A Vauban on a small-scale might be possible in Madison. A neighborhood for mainly young professionals who don’t have cars is easy enough to envision. Several streets of apartment buildings or houses that don’t allow cars. I can see it. However, something a long the lines of the Vauban, which attracts middle-class families, is absolutely out of reach at this point in time. It will only come after serious investment in public transportation is made at the state and local level. Commuting, taking your kids to karate, shopping – these are things that unfortunately require cars for the vast majority of American families. 88% of Americans rate cars as a necessity.

Hence, it makes sense that the mayor would champion a trolley system. It’s the first step to sustainable living. I’m certainly not convinced the plan would have been the most cost-effective or the most sane approach to public transportation – I would be perfectly content expanding the bus system. However, it represented a meaningful vision for a day when mid-size cities can welcome people without cars in the same manner than New York City does.

Brunch Links

July 27, 2009

Let’s hope for another beautiful day despite forecasts of storms. High of 82 and low of 64 in Madison. Other parts of the state are not so lucky. Lafayette County may be classified as a disaster zone.

The Journal-Sentinel has an excellent article about the costs small businesses will be asked to pay for health care reform. Remember when reading that the amount they will pay likely could have been lower if Congressional Democrats hadn’t surrendered the idea of taxing the wealthiest individuals in this country.

Also, U.S. Secretary of Education calls Wisconsin’s school system “ridiculous.”

Gov. Jim Doyle flip-flopped a few months ago on how the Secretary of the Dept. of Natural Resources should be selected. Spencer Black is pushing through the reform anyway, which will make the secretary a board-appointed officer. Why did Doyle flip?

The state fined four big retailers, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Barnes and Nobles, MC Sports and Pamida, for overcharging customers. Almost 20% of sales at one Dick’s location were overpriced, meaning the actual cost did not reflect the price tag.

Eye on Wisconsin: Wisconsin GOP in turmoil as right wingers slime any evidence of moderation or common sense.

$15,000 of federal money going to Eau Claire to plant lake trees. So fish can hide?

Sunday Brunch

July 26, 2009

It’s a beautiful day in Mad-town. Please get out and throw the ball with your kid. But again we have a forecast of storms later today – let’s hope it’s as inaccurate as it was yesterday. High of 77 and a low of 58. 

A great editorial by the New York Times on the proposed health care reform in Congress. The pros, the cons, who’s winning, who’s losing. Very comprehensive. It’s good to read an article about health care by somebody who actually knows what he’s talking about. Certainly rare these days.

It’s good to see Tommy Thompson at least making some worthwhile speeches as a former governor. It goes to show that unless one has political ambitions in the Republican Party, it is not rational to deny the necessity of universal health care in this country. Unless you really, really want a spot on Sean Hannity’s “Great American Panel.”

State Journal: Wisconsin tech schools are adjusting tuition to attract kids from Illinois and Iowa. And no where else!

Letters in Bottles: “The raccoons had no problem climbing out of the foot-deep holes I dug, to my disappointment; I wonder how Obama will feel when the trap he’s laying finally springs.”

The Great Lakes appear to be in trouble. A new report shows that Lakes Michigan and Huron have lost nine inches of water due to erosion. The Political Environment (very good blog for environmentalists) says “the data throws into bold relief why Great Lakes restoration is so important and why any effort to divert water from the Great Lakes basin must be carefully vetted and justified.”

Doyle is not a corrections reformer

July 25, 2009

If you thought that Gov. Jim Doyle’s support of modest sentencing reforms was evidence of a practical, humanitarian approach to corrections – then you’ve successfully been misled. Looking at Doyle’s political career holistically, he is at best a prison partisan who saw sentence reforms as a painful way to cut spending in the face of a disastrous deficit.

Let’s not forget, in supporting early release for good behavior, Doyle was mostly cleaning up for the disaster he caused as attorney general a decade ago when he approved the “truth in sentencing” policy championed by Gov. Tommy Thompson. Doyle was an enthusiastic yes-man on the issue, riding the anti-crime hysteria that defined the pre-war on terror 1990’s.

Even when Doyle came around this year, proposing cost-cutting measures that included allowing prisoners to earn early release through good behavior, he nevertheless did not hesitate to water down the reforms proposed by legislature Democrats, which went further in demanding results from the Dept. of Corrections. To paraphrase Doyle’s veto message, “it would be unfair” to expect such drastic change in policy. Remember, Wisconsin only imprisons three times as many residents as Minnesota, a state of practically the same population and crime rate. We’re in no hurry.

If anything demonstrates Doyle’s subservience to the prison lobby, it’s his most recent nominee to the Dane County Circuit Court, Amy Smith, the deputy secretary of the Department of Corrections.

Smith, according to numerous sources, is an awful addition to the judiciary. As a prosecutor she has been cited for making dishonest statements to courts on two separate occasions. Unsurprisingly, both lies were made during drug prosecutions, when Smith denied striking deals with witnesses for the prosecution.