Posts Tagged ‘Doyle’

What’s up with the DNR?

February 22, 2010

As the Assembly and Senate gear up to vote on overriding Doyle’s veto of a bill that will return the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources to a board (rather than being appointed by the guv), you’ve got to wonder what different forces are shaping this bizarre political debate.

On one side you’ve got the conservationists and most Democratic legislators (list of co-sponsors). On the other side you’ve got business groups, most Republicans and Doyle. As this Journal Sentinel article details, Doyle considers himself an environmentalist and boasts leadership on a number of environmental issues, including the tenuous climate change bill, but he apparently considers the political appointment of the DNR secretary so important that he switched his position on it last year.

He’s the outgoing governor. It really doesn’t benefit him anymore. Or does it? From whence did this flip-flop come? A political feud? A favor to a certain interest? An honest intellectual change of opinion (they’re rare but they do exist)?

The Republican position is a little easier to explain, but it’s nevertheless a meaningless political issue to them. They’re not going to score a lot of political points by bolstering the position of the unpopular Democratic governor. They’ll probably just do what the business interests tell them is best. The irony is that WMC and co. are coming out and saying “governors should have more direct oversight of the DNR” in justifying their position. What that really means is that some governors are anti-environment, and all governors are more open to political pressure (campaign contributions), which means that the bureaucrats they appoint will be less interested in doing their jobs than in doing what’s politically popular.

Therefore, I support the board-appointed DNR secretary for the exact opposite reason. Because I see the environment as perpetually threatened, and because I see the public as underestimating that threat, I would prefer a committee of professionals play a larger role in environmental and land-use policy in the state. If politicians wish to tinker with day-to-day policy, it’s a little bit harder.

Any thoughts?

Will drunk driving reform finally pass?

November 5, 2009

The last day of legislative session.

Among the bills on the Assembly calendar is a measure to require schools providing sex education to give students age-appropriate information on how to prevent unwanted pregnancies and STDs while stressing abstinence. A final vote on the bill was blocked Tuesday by Republicans.

Also on the calendar for both houses are four education bills aimed at making the state eligible for federal Race to the Top funds, and a bill to provide public funding for Supreme Court campaigns.

The Senate will also take up a bill to strengthen penalties for drunken driving. A spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan said that body will consider taking up the bill should it pass the Senate, but first members want a chance to look at the legislation.

Meanwhile, a group of rabble-rousing students have been sending around a pledge to pols to resign if they are convicted of drunk driving. Doyle, who is a known teetotaler, refused. What was interesting about his response was his refusal to acknowledge his abstention from alcohol, citing instead that he does not “drink and drive.” You can bet the rhetoric would have been much different in states where it’s socially acceptable to order a club soda.

President Nicholas Sarkozy is seen as somewhat inhuman by many French because of his dislike of wine. Similarly in Wisconsin, a governor better drink beer, and hopefully, he drinks Blatz.

Barbara Lawton: “Get a life”

October 27, 2009

Considering reports that the White House was openly pressuring Mayor Tom Barrett to run for governor, it is somewhat fair to assume that it, as well as other state Democrats, were leaning on Barbara Lawton to not run. WisPolitics:

Lt. Gov. Barb Lawton said today no one pressured her to drop out of the guv’s race, repeating that it was a deeply personal family decision to get out.

Lawton told WisPolitics in a phone interview that she had nothing more to say on the reasons behind her decision other than she and her husband Cal are in good health. She laughed off the suggestion that Gov. Jim Doyle or the White House pressured her to get out of the campaign and said her personal family issues behind the decision weren’t anyone’s business.

“I think people will lose interest and get a life, and well they should,” Lawton said.

The news items highlighting Gov. Doyle’s reluctance to commend Lawton’s record were not contrived. When politicians support eachother, they make it clear. Doyle’s lack of comment for Lawton makes it clear that he wanted to support another candidate. Even though Doyle was unpopular, his unpopularity was not such that he would be discouraged from complimenting fellow Democrats. Even George W. Bush, whose legacy was a toxin for Republicans in 2008, endorsed and rallied support for McCain.

You almost scared me Wispolitics

October 21, 2009

The title of the most recent post at Wispolitics is “Doyle has second thoughts about not running, but says he will be helpful to his successor.”

The second clause in the sentence returned me to reality.

Senility does affect more of our public leaders than we’d like to think. Hence, it would be surprising but not groundbreaking if Doyle, an unpopular governor by any estimation, decided to renege on his promise to not seek a third term.

Doyle-style irony

October 2, 2009

As I noted this morning, a top official in the Department of Transportation has declared that the state will go through a competitive bidding process the next time it buys trains. This promise, of course, is in contrast to the recent way of doing train business by the Doyle administration and Assembly Democrats.

What’s most amusing about this new pledge is that it is not really a pledge, it is simply a necessary adherence to the law. The next two trains the state procures will not be paid for by state money, but by federal transportation funds. Hence, the process will have to comply with federal competitive bidding regulations, and the state will not be able to exploit the loophole Gov. Tommy Thompson created back in the 80’s which exempted railroad companies from normal competitive bidding requirements.

Allow me to translate this into a Republican talking point: If only Jim Doyle were as prudent with Wisconsin dollars as he is with Washington ones!

Nothing Kind about this race

September 24, 2009

Ron Kind has officially announced he has no intentions to run for governor next year:

In a conference call Thursday, the La Crosse Democrat cited his work in the U.S. House on health care reform as his reason for deciding to stay in Washington.

“My job is to stay focused on the health care reform that’s pending so that we deliver affordable, quality, accessible health care for all Wisconsin families,” he said. “I’ve got a primary responsibility to do this job well.”

Predictably, there’s nothing particularly interesting in what Kind has to say about the decision. I found the Journal-Sentinel’s article on the matter slightly too deferential to Kind’s talking points “Kind to stay in Congress to work on health care.” However, he did cite his commitment to health care as the overarching reason for him to stay in the House, which made his statement slightly less formulaic than the usual reasons.

However, no analysis in the media has emerged that looks into the pragmatic reasons Kind may have stepped out. For instance, only a small fraction of the money in his war chest could be used to fund a campaign for state office. Considering this, Herb Kohl’s senate seat may be a much more realistic target for Kind, financially as well as politically. The governor’s race would not only feature a daunting primary against at least Barbara Lawton, but a general election in which voters are hostile to the Democratic incumbent and may opt to hand power over to the GOP. Kohl on the other hand is a relatively popular guy who voters may be more interested in replacing with a Democrat.

The person the most unhappy about this decision is without a doubt State Sen. Dan Kapanke, Kind’s apparent Republican challenger in next year’s Congressional election. The western district could have been competitive had Kind left for the governor’s race, however, with ten terms behind him, no Republican has a glimmer of hope unseating the incumbent.

A good step for good government

September 23, 2009

Gov. Doyle’s recent reversal on this issue has disturbed and amused many political spectators. It’s good to see the Democrats buck the governor. Wispolitics:

The Assembly approved a bill to restore the appointment authority over the DNR secretary to the Natural Resources Board by a 61-32 vote Tuesday.

The chamber turned back eight GOP-sponsored amendments during floor debate on the bill before Rep. Robin Vos, R-Caledonia, objected to the third reading of the bill. Vos removed his objection later in the session, clearing the way for the floor vote.

Rep. Spencer Black’s comments on the bill were also encouraging.

“Decisions about our outdoors should be based on science,” Black, D-Madison, said. “Not based on what’s best for politicians or based on who made the biggest campaign contributions.”

Next stop: The Board of Regents?

Mark Neumann?

September 11, 2009

You know it’s funny – I didn’t even know that Mark Neumann wasn’t an “officially declared candidate” until I read the news that he had declared yesterday. Does the official declaration matter, and why did he wait so much longer than Scott Walker?

I perceive three possible advantages in Neumann’s tardiness. First, it allowed him to circulate his name and gain support before people (especially pollsters) started matching his name against Walker’s. Even the polls that were run could easily be dismissed because he was not a declared candidate yet. Second, it isolated the younger Walker in the field for a period of time, allowing liberals to concentrate their attacks on him (although they certainly gave Neumann his share). Let me quote the self-described anarchist at the Badger Herald, Eric Schmidt: “Scott Walker is going to be the Republican nominee. Period.”

Lastly, it allowed speculation to build up about Neumann’s candidacy. As a veteran, he is now entering the race late because “he has to.” Meaning Scott Walker just won’t cut it. The Republican Party needs an alternative. Listen to what I’ve got to say.

This should be an exciting primary. Walker is absolutely unbearable to listen to. Neumann couldn’t possibly be any worse. It’s good for politics because now Walker has to do something besides attack Doyle, whose withdrawal from the race has left Walker’s campaign flailing for talking points material.

Wisconsin GOP – no sense of irony

August 26, 2009

At first glance so many of the partisan squabbles brought up at the state capitol seem so utterly meaningless politically. The lawsuit against Dan Kapanke because his staffer used a personal email for work; the Democrats’ objection to Justice Department officials lobbying against agency cuts; now the Republicans charge against Gov. Jim Doyle’s train contract, which was apparently not subject to a competitive bidding process. Every time you read the stories you’re waiting for the real story, the corruption, the juicy revelation of sexual misconduct…and you’re always disappointed.

Last month Gov. Jim Doyle announced the state would buy two trains from a Spanish manufacturer for $47.5 million without a competitive bidding process. The move was legal because state law exempts passenger rail contracts from normal bidding rules.

Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay, said he wants to close that “loophole.”

“There is no way the governor should be able to negotiate and sign such a large contract without using a competitive bidding process,” Cowles said in a statement.

That’s the name of the game in state politics. Throw everything you can at your opponent and hope to God something sticks. Hope that the charge leaks down to those people who fashion themselves civically-minded enough to vote in a state election but don’t have the slightest idea what state legislators do. “I usually vote Democratic, but I heard something about Doyle giving out contracts to a Spanish company or something…it was sketchy.”

I remember the 2006 election, when, despite being doomed to lose from the beginning, the Dave Magnum campaign accused Tammy Baldwin of being “ineffective” because of some system of ranking that came out, which, among other things, included the amount of press coverage the member of Congress got. At the Herald it was practically accepted, despite the endorsements, that Baldwin was lazy or incompetent, largely because of very effective innuendos used by Republicans in 2006.

The thing about Doyle’s train loophole, which the State Journal could have used to make the story interesting but didn’t, is that it was invented by Tommy Thompson! It was Tommy who loved the railroads so much that he couldn’t bear to have them bogged down in a competitive bidding process (I’ll need verification for that bit of analysis). It was the REPUBLICANS that put this in and now they’re outraged that somebody would take advantage of it. Moreover, it seems Doyle might not have even exploited the loophole as viciously as Thompson would have wanted him to. There was no competitive bidding because the other train companies didn’t seem too interested in providing competition.

But Doyle and aides have defended the deal because only Talgo gave the state a formal response to a request for information and because the Spanish firm, Patentes Talgo, has committed to creating 80 jobs in Wisconsin.

I don’t necessarily buy Doyle’s story, but the irony is that if he wanted to, the governor could have flaunted the no-bid with pride – “I looked into the soul of that CEO…I knew he was one of the good guys. There was no point for competition.”

It’s official

August 17, 2009

Wheeler Report:

Gov. Doyle has confirmed he will not seek a third term as governor. He said he still has one and one-half years to go and “I intend to work every day.” He said he believed governor should limit themselves to two terms. 

Wait…there are announcements of political retirement that don’t involved immediate resignations? Don’t the Democrats get it?