Sheriff Clarke Goes Extra Legal Again

Speaking of county government, how about that Sheriff Clarke.

Having been thwarted in his repeated efforts to privatize health care at the county jail, Sheriff Clarke decided to rely on a court decision on his rights to control prisoner transportation to extend to prisoner health care as well. The county board has continually denied his request to privatize that health care as recently as the 2013 county budget. But again the Sheriff has decided to go his own way and contracted with Armor Correctional Health Services of Florida to provide health care services at the jail.

Needless to say the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee and the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin are in court to oppose the Sheriff’s unilateral decision and now Milwaukee County has entered the fray. You can get the rest of the details from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal. Everyone but Sheriff Clarke believes he is overreaching his legal authority here. We’ll let the lawyers hash that out for now.

But this does shed some light on issues with Sheriff Clarke and privatization of government services.

The Sheriff felt hiring Armor was necessary because key positions in the health care unit at the jail remain unfilled. Why? There are two very disturbing reasons why I think they have remained unfilled. One is a crisis in management at the jail, where the Sheriff and his staff just don’t have the skills to recruit, hire and retain qualified staff. In other words, plain old bad management. A very good reason to elect someone else as Sheriff in the next major election cycle. Sheriff Clarke just can’t do the job.

The second issue would be far more troubling and I would consider it dereliction of duty in public office…the Sheriff just ‘neglected’ to fill the positions to force the board to accept privatizing the health care services at the jail. I really hope this isn’t true, and it would be a dangerous precedent to set.

OK…now one last thought on this. I haven’t seen nor heard any name for the outsourcing firm other than Armor Correctional Health Services. As I wrote above they are from Florida. We couldn’t find anyone further away from Milwaukee County than that [sarcasm]? So, did the Sheriff talk to anyone locally? Anyone in the state? Armor is it? Really? No one?

The governor hires a deer czar from Texas. We got so lucky with Logisticare Transit! Can we really expect decent service from an agency without ties to the community or local experience? I think this is a another disaster waiting to happen.

Sizing County Govt: Abele Threatens County Board

Things continue to heat up in the discussion of the role of county government and the size of the county board. Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, obviously disappointed by the boards rejections of a number of his budget proposals and their override of 22 of his 24 budget vetoes, decided to ramp up the discussion.

In a recent speech to the Wauwatosa Rotary Club, Executive Abele posited the question, “It’s fair to ask, ‘Do we have the right kind of governance?’. Perfect question and something I think we all need to ponder right now. Something I brought up a few days ago here at Blogging Blue as a matter of fact. But unfortunately rather than following up with comments suggesting a willingness to get involved with a discussion on county governance and how we can improve county government, Executive Abele fires a shot across the bow of the Milwaukee County Board. From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

In raising the downsizing topic, Abele noted it was something the 18-member board itself could do. But that’s unlikely, he said. Or it could be done through the Legislature, he said.

“You can’t be afraid” to consider a change here, Abele said. “If you think changing a system of government and decision making – at any level of government, county or otherwise – is worth doing, be willing to speak up for it,” Abele said

There is precedent for the state changing county government, Abele said, noting that the Legislature in 1959 created the office of county executive.

Executive Abele already has a record of running to Madison for help when at odds with the county board…his fine example at such an end run resides in the County Comptroller’s office. And he wonders why the board is making every effort to shut him out of influence in the lobbying arena?

And Executive Abele also voiced is displeasure over the board’s re-arranging his office for economic development in the county:

Abele mentioned legal concerns in his veto messages on several board-approved budget changes including: abolishing then re-creating the county economic development director job to cancel a residency waiver given to Cedarburg resident Brian Taffora…

Well, when comparing the comptroller changes to the economic development changes, I think we are seeing a tit for tat exchange. Everyone should agree that’s enough now and let’s work toward improving county government and county services.

There are still 18 county supervisors…and Executive Abele…their offices are just yards away from yours…maybe you could drop by to discuss your ideas or invite them to your office for a casual chat once in a while…take a hint from County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic’s Chat With the Chair series…regular informal conversations are a positive initiative even if they don’t immediately produce results…I’ll even host one if you’d like!

I will continue with posts specific to Milwaukee County Government and try to keep the Sizing County Govt: as the lead in for the titles. If you’d like to meet to discuss your views on county government, let me know at And as always I look forward to your comments here!

From Angry Whopper to Angry Worker

While I’m sure Burger King hopes that customers flock to their restaurants to try one of their new, so-called ” Angry Whoppers“, customers may find themselves being served by a bunch of angry workers.

According to organizers, hundreds of low wage workers in New York City walked off their jobs Thursday at places like Burger King, McDonalds and other fast food restaurants, protesting low wages. The goal of the campaign is to raise wages to a livable level: $15.00 an hour.

So the next time you rush to your favorite fast food joint for a Whopper, Big Mac, or whatever, tell the manager you’d enjoy your food a whole lot more if you knew that her/his employees could make a decent living at their jobs.

Bon appetit.


Kathleen Vinehout: State Exchange Best Option for Lowering Health Costs

From my email inbox comes this column from Democratic State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout regarding Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s unwillingness to set up a state health insurance exchange as is mandated by Obamacare.

“Over the years I have seen the devastation of company denials on families [and] witnessed the financial devastation on families that cannot get health insurance,” wrote a local insurance broker. “I urge you to continue your fight to get Wisconsin involved in these exchanges.”

The woman who wrote me echoed the words of many brokers who want to see a state-run rather than a federally-run health exchange in Wisconsin.
Governor Walker announced he would have the federal government create an exchange. This action set off a chorus of complaints among traditionally conservative leaning organizations.

The Governor’s justification was the state would be on the hook for the cost of an exchange. But the Affordable Care Act specifically requires the exchange be self-supporting. Therefore, state support would be contrary to the law. The bill I wrote to create a Wisconsin based exchange details how to accomplish a self-supporting exchange.

With no other argument against the exchange, I challenge my Republican colleagues to take up the mantle of conservative leaning groups and join me in creating a bi-partisan bill that will withstand the Governor’s veto.

Why a Wisconsin exchange?

We must control health costs for small businesses and people who buy health insurance on their own. We must continue Wisconsin’s tradition of providing high quality health care. This can be best achieved through a state based exchange.

Wisconsin is a leader in collecting information on the cost and quality of health care and creating collaboration among providers and insurers to maintain quality and lower cost. Wisconsin already has the resources to meet the goals of low cost and high quality.

Using information on cost and quality to influence purchasing decisions is the heart of the exchange. The Wisconsin Health Information Organization collects information on cost and quality. They maintain one of the most comprehensive sources of health insurance claims data in the country.

The Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality is an organization that brings providers and insurers together to discuss ways to lower cost and preserve high quality. This multi-stakeholder consortium has a 10 year history of carrying out initiatives to improve quality and drive down cost.

To ignore the work of these two groups is folly. Together they can create the way to accomplish our seemingly antithetical goals of lower cost and high quality. This is why I placed both organizations on the governing board of the exchange in the bill I introduced in the past two sessions.

If Wisconsin is so advanced in collecting information why don’t we see lower health insurance costs for small businesses?

It’s because buyers – the business community and the individual buying insurance on their own – haven’t been in the equation.

The information collected and wisdom gained from collaboration of insurers and providers haven’t been used to influence insurance purchase decisions of small businesses.

We can create an exchange that shares information on cost and quality in a clear, easy to understand fashion. The one-stop shop for health insurance can make outcome and cost information on specific diseases and procedures available with the click of a mouse.

The information itself won’t drive down costs. The action of buyers will force providers and insurance companies to lower costs. Having information on cost and quality easily available will also allow leaders to monitor providers’ progress.

All providers and insurers don’t want this to happen. Unleashing the free market forces will raise questions about individual actors. Some will have to justify high salaries and poor outcomes.

Smart leaders will emerge who work collaboratively with providers and insurers to lower costs and maintain quality. Smart providers will be rewarded with a larger market share.

There are dangers to a state organized exchange. Unveiling information already collected will raise questions about the validity of quality measures. But let’s have this discussion. The exchange must adapt and flexibility is best achieved when Wisconsin holds the reins.

Taking a ‘hands-off’ federalized approach is bad policy; somewhat like going back to the barn to find another horse when your best one is saddled up and ready to run. You just need to get on it.

The run may take you to uncharted territory and you may have to change course. But run we must.

So, to my colleagues – if the Governor won’t lead – it’s our turn. Let’s work together and get it done.

Grandma with a shovel shuts down internet connection for entire country

Wow….just wow.

Internet service in all of Armenia was cut off for several hours when a 75-year old Georgian woman inadvertently cut the main service line between the two countries.

The woman was scavenging for scrap metal when she discovered the primary fiber-optic cable which runs through the two countries. Service went down when she apparently hacked into it with a shovel severing the line, officials said.

“She found the cable while collecting scrap metal and cut it with a view to stealing it,” Georgian interior ministry spokesman Zura Gvenetadze told AFP.

The damage was apparently so severe that 90% of Armenian users lost access for nearly 12 hours while neighboring Georgia and some areas of Azerbajian were also affected.

Pridemore’s DPI Superintendent announcement rife with grammatical errors

We all make grammatical errors from time to time, myself included. But if I ever decided to make a run for, say, DPI Superintendent, you can bet money that the press release announcing my intent to run would be error-free. Nobody in their right mind would hire a candidate who lacks basic writing skills to run Wisconsin schools, right? Enter Rep. Don Pridemore (R).

Here is Don Pridemore’s press release announcing his intent to possibly run for DPI Superintendent, from The Wheeler Report:

November 28, 2012

Madison- State Representative Don pridemore (R-Erin) has filed papers to form a committee to explore to possibility of running for the position of DPI Superintendant this coming spring.

“The status quo is simply not working. After spending billions of dollars on education in Wisconsin, we have not moved the needle a bit. I believe it’s time for a fresh set of ideas”, Pridemore said.

“Our children’s education has suffered as a result and I believe it’s time to change that.” Pridemore added. Pridemore went on to say that he expects to reach a decision on the race very soon.

Okay, so I’m not a teacher, but I was raised by a family of teachers aka union thugs, and if I ever put out a press release like this one, they’d lose all respect for me.

Here’s what they’d probably have to say about this press release:

“Pridemore” is a proper noun and should be capitalized. That’s so basic!

Look at the first sentence. It should read,  “THE possibility” not “TO possibility.” That’s just laziness. Sheesh.

For the love of God, “Superintendent” is spelled incorrectly! We raised you better than this.

The comma should be inside the quotation marks after “ideas.”

There should be a comma instead of a period after “change that” before “Pridemore added.”

“…expects to reach a decision on the race.” Please re-word that so it makes more sense.

This press release is really embarrassing.

And so on and so forth. There may be other errors in Rep. Pridemore’s press release, but like I said, I’m not a teacher or a DPI Superintendent, nor do I aspire to be one. I wish Rep. Pridemore the best of luck. Looks like he’s going to need it.

Tea Party leader Judson Phillips: Constitution FAIL!

Not satisfied with the results of the 2012 presidential election, Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips has a “brilliant” idea on how to disregard the results of the presidential election and have the losing candidate, Republican Mitt Romney, installed as president.

Is there a way to stop this?

Yes, there is.

And the best part – this is totally constitutional.

The 12th Amendment of the Constitution as well as Article II of the Constitution govern the Electoral College.

According to the 12th Amendment, for the Electoral College to be able to select the president, it must have a quorum of two-thirds of the states voting. If enough states refuse to participate, the Electoral College will not have a quorum. If the Electoral College does not have a quorum or otherwise cannot vote or decide, then the responsibility for selecting the president and vice president devolves to the Congress.

The only problem with Judson Phillips’ scheme is that it’s not actually based in reality – or the Constitution for that matter – as noted by Aaron Blake of the Washington Post.

Phillips cites the 12th Amendment as proof that the Electoral College needs a two-thirds quorum (i.e. having enough states present to conduct a vote), but in fact, the 12th Amendment only governs quorums in the House. There is nothing in the law, it appears, that prevents the Electoral College from electing a president even if some states don’t participate.

I guess Judson Phillips, a leader of the Tea Party movement, has a much looser interpretation of the Constitution than the rest of us.

Wisconsin’s most folktastic music tradition

The venerable Cafe Carpe in Ft. Atkinson hosts Milwaukeean Peter Mulvey and a folking ton of his friends every December for what they call “Lamplighter Sessions.”  Mulvey and gang take over the joint and offer, in the case of 2012, twelve nights of music over three weeks at the Carpe, with artists swapping songs and generally having more fun than the audience.

Shows start tonight with Mulvey, Krista Detour (a Hoosier, but she’s okay), and two other Milwaukeeans, the legendary Paul Cebar and the not-yet-legendary-but-pretty-good-for-a-twentysomething Hayward Williams.

Other Wisconsin and Milwaukee folk joining the sessions this year include Randy Sabien, John Sieger, and new favorite of mine out of Madison, Count this Penny.

Plus, there are the shows with Whitewater native Jeffrey Foucault and honorary Wisconsinite Kris Delmhorst who, with Mulvey and guitarist David Goodrich, are the folk supergroup Redbird. If you can get there at all, you simply must. Some shows are already sold out, so don’t wait to reserve your seats.