UW slips in national ranking of public universities

This is the end result of Gov. Scott Walker’s vision for Wisconsin, a vision that resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to our state’s higher education system.

University of Wisconsin’s ranking dipped in a new ranking of national public universities.

According to the most recent Buffalo Business First ranking, UW lost its position as one of the top 10 public universities in the nation, falling to No. 12 behind University of Florida and University of Maryland.

An open letter to Governor Walker

Dear Governor Walker,

I’ve read that you’re touring the state to hear from constituents as a way to get caught up after spending so much time out of state during your presidential campaign last year, and since I live over 250 miles north of Madison, I thought I’d address you on Blogging Blue rather than expect you to travel all the way up here.

I know that two of your biggest problems since you took office in 2011 seem to be job creation and overall business climate. Wisconsin has kind of been circling the drain on both counts for many years now, but I have some good news for you.
Minnesota, right next door, is leading the nation on both counts! Last June CNBC rated Minnesota #1 in the nation for business, and over the weekend a new report shows that the Gopher state is #1 in job creation as well.

This is great news, because not only is Minnesota very similar to Wisconsin in a number of ways, but Mark Dayton took over as Governor there the same year you did here, and with an even bigger budget deficit than you inherited!. In spite of all that, they’re now leading the nation in a pair of top economic indicators, and have a budget surplus of 2 billion dollars. That’s a lot of scratch, man!

I’m no scholar, and I can’t make an in-depth argument about how all this happened, but I can lay out some general points that I think can help you turn Wisconsin around pronto.

1. The CNBC report cites Minnesota as a ” union friendly ” state, so you might want to consider repealing Act 10 and that god-awful Right to Work bill since neither could, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered union friendly.

2. I know you went out of your way to repeal Wisconsin’s living wage law, but you should restore it immediately. Minnesota raised their minimum wage to $9.50 an hour, which isn’t nearly enough, but it’s better than the meager $7.25 workers are making over here.

3. Governor Dayton campaigned in 2010 on raising taxes on the wealthy, (something that seems to have escaped the attention of Wisconsin Democrats), and that’s just what he did, though none of the scare mongering about how everyone would leave actually came to pass. And Minnesota is #1 in business climate, job creation, AND they have a 2 billion dollar surplus! Woo Hoo!

4. Minnesota took the federal bucks to expand their Medicaid program, (Minnesota Care), since it was tax money Minnesotans had already sent to Washington DC, and they also created their own state exchange to maximize the benefits of the Affordable Care Act for their residents. I think they probably embraced the wildly experimental notion that a healthier population is happier and, as such, better able to get up and go to work in the morning. I don’t know for sure, I’m just taking a stab in the dark.

I’m sure there’s a lot more to all this than I’ve listed, and I know you have a ton of staff who could dig into it and sort it all out, but I just wanted to fill you in on some of the basics. I know how much you love Wisconsin and all of its people, but I also know what a busy guy you’ve been , what with all that presidential nonsense and the Koch brothers retreats and so forth.

So I just wanted to give you a hand. You’re welcome.

Wisconsin Is Open For Business: Unintended Consequences!

When Governor Walker announced that Wisconsin Was Open For Business, his stated goal was to steal businesses from Illinois by making Wisconsin a tax haven and Eden for the 1%…but what is actually happening is out of state businesses are picking off Wisconsin name brands instead. Latest example:

Wisconsin will lose another locally owned food-based company by the end of 2015, according to information released by U.S. Foods this morning.

In a press release, Rosemont, Ill.-based U.S. Foods announced that it will be purchasing Dierks Foods, the family owned broadline foodservice distributor located in Waukesha.

Well there you go…

SC Johnson sending 175 Wisconsin jobs to Chicago

On the heels of news Oscar Mayer is closing its plan in Madison and laying off 1,000 workers here in Wisconsin comes news SC Johnson will be relocating 175 workers from its headquarters in Racine to Chicago.

Officials with SC Johnson announced on Thursday, November 5th it would be relocating 175 positions from Racine to Chicago within the next 12 months to two years.

To be clear, the move by SC Johnson to move 175 jobs to Chicago will still leave a couple of thousand employees working in Racine for SC Johnson, and as the article I referenced noted, the company will be embarking on a $50 million to $80 million renovation to modernize its global headquarters campus in Racine.

Regardless, 175 jobs are still leaving Racine for Chicago, which sucks.

Oscar Mayer to close Madison plant, laying off 1,000

Apparently Oscar Mayer didn’t get Gov. Scott Walker’s memo that Wisconsin is “Open for Business,” as the company has announced the closing of its Madison plant, which will result in 1,000 employees losing their jobs.

Oscar Mayer, which has been part of Madison’s northeast side for nearly 100 years, is closing its Madison headquarters and manufacturing plant, the company said Wednesday.

Kraft Heinz Food Co. confirmed in a statement that it will close the Madison facility along with six of its other manufacturing facilities in North America in a staggered process over the next two years as it shifts production to other plants.

Kraft Heinz also plans to expand its Davenport, Iowa, facility into a “state-of-the-art location” in the Davenport area.

The Madison Oscar Mayer facility employs 1,000 people, according to Madison Mayor Paul Soglin. Kraft Heinz Company spokesman Michael Mullen said 700 of those workers are in the factory.

Hillary Clinton to Attend ‘Women for Hillary’ Grassroots Organizing Meeting in Wisconsin

From my email inbox comes news of a “Women for Hillary” grassroots organizing meeting to be held on the campus of UW-Milwaukee on Thursday.

On Thursday, September 10th, Hillary Clinton will make her first trip of the campaign to Wisconsin for a “Women for Hillary” grassroots organizing meeting in Milwaukee. During the event, Clinton will discuss her record of fighting for women and families. As president, Clinton will protect funding for Planned Parenthood, and will fight Republican efforts to take away women’s right to basic healthcare like affordable birth control.

She will fight to ensure all workers receive paid leave, allowing them to take time off for a new baby or to care for a sick relative without losing their paycheck or their job. And she will fight to ensure that women receive equal pay. This will strengthen America’s families by helping women and their families get ahead.

Members of the public interested in attending can sign up here.

Hillary Clinton will speak at a ‘Women for Hillary’ Grassroots Organizing Meeting

WHEN: Thursday, September 10th 2015 at 5:30 PM CDT
Doors open at 4:00 PM CDT

WHERE: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Spaights Plaza

Entry near south side of:

Golda Meir Library
2311 Hartford Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53211

GOP Candidates Continue To Sell Out Their Constituents!

As Zach mentioned yesterday there is a special election coming up to select a new state representative in the 99th district to replace Chris Kapenga who was recently elected to the state senate. There are four candidates in the GOP primary and nary a Democrat to be found (so much for Mike Tate’s 72 county strategy or contesting every election) so the winner of the GOP contest will be the nominal representative.

But it is interesting that three are kneeling at the altar of conservative dogma…particularly tax cuts…while important constituencies within their district are suffering…and complaining to Madison about it. Well first let’s start with the candidates”

Cindi Duchow is a Town of Delafield supervisor:

Duchow, 56, says she wants to reduce income and property taxes. “I’m ready to fight to save you every dime I can in Madison so that more money stays in your pocket here at home,” she says in a campaign statement.

Scott Owens of the Town of Genesee:

Owens pledged to eliminate corporate income taxes as part of a strategy to stimulate job creation and grow Wisconsin’s economy.

“I am running as a conservative who wants to go to Madison and continue the big bold reforms that were started by Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Chris Kapenga,” he said in a statement.

Dave Westlake of Hartland:

His central campaign theme is that “less government leads to more favorable results.”

Among his priorities if elected to the office Westlake lists increasing penalties for fraud, reducing taxes and spending and stimulating job growth.

Spencer Zimmerman of the City of Delafield:

This space intentionally left blank…because he didn’t respond to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Of course lower taxes has been Governor Walker’s mantra and he has done exactly that via all his biennial budgets. But it is seriously hurting Wisconsin constituents and particularly Wisconsin education. I am ashamed that I haven’t written about this before…but recently 35 Wisconsin principals wrote a letter to the governor and the state legislature, calling them to task for cutting state support for public schools. Which schools? Are they from the progressive hotbed in Madison? From the long suffering Milwaukee Public Schools? NO, they are from small towns and villages spread across the red counties of Wisconsin…including Arrowhead HS, one of the largest and most successful schools in the state, and right smack dab in the middle of the 99th!

So I would hope the principals come out against further cuts and shame the candidates that would be willing to cause further damage to their schools by continuing to cut state revenues…and let the parents know what’s going on!!

Here are a few choice excerpts from the coverage linked above:

“Since the onset of revenue limits in 1992, our school districts have been reducing and eliminating programs and resources,” the letter states. “We are burdened by the cumulative effects of budget cuts resulting in increased class sizes, cut programs and deferred maintenance plans.”

Jefferson High School principal Mark Rollefson, who spearheaded the letter-writing effort, said one reason for the principals to collaborate on a message was that most people in local communities know their principals and likely trust them.

“High school principals attend a lot of musicals, FFA events, community functions, athletic events, concerts, PT conferences, graduation and much more,” Rollefson said. “As such, the community can relate to us. A letter to the Wisconsin governor and copied to legislators signed by 35 area principals may catch Madison’s attention.”

Letter-signer Gregg Wieczorek, principal at Arrowhead High School, hopes so. He said principals are the ones who have their finger on the pulse of local education.

“They have cross integration of parents, teachers, students — they kind of get the whole thing,” Wieczorek said. “Yet they’re not consulted. They’re not involved in the decision making or even the advising stage.”

Rollefson said the same goes for local school boards whose hands are “hogtied” because of so many mandates preventing local officials from making decisions.

“The federal and state governments control curriculum, testing, funding, calendar, certification and more,” Rollefson said. “Is it not time to trust the people to make decisions rather than Big Government? Is this not why we have a school board?”

From a similar article from Madison.com:

“We do not support recent budgets and the underfunding of public education,” read the letter signed by Machell Schwarz, principal of DeForest Area High School; Brian Sniff, principal of Marshall High School; James Hickey, retiring principal of McFarland High School, and Jim Pliner, principal of Oregon High School, along with 31 others.

Budget cuts have meant smaller school staffs and less autonomy for local school boards, the principals said.

“Citizens trust these locally elected officials to set policy and support education in our communities. These respected school board members have far less control over local decisions than they did in the past,” they wrote.

The “business model” schools are forced to adopt results in “haves and have-nots” among school districts, the principals said.

If the principals were really smart they would now take their complaints to the voters and parents in their respective school districts and explain the lack of support coming from Madison…they probably can’t directly challenge the candidates or involve themselves in the campaign in their official roles…but they certainly can make the facts known. And maybe the voters can shame the candidates in supporting education instead of knee jerk reactions to ‘tax cuts’.

Concealed carry permit holder shoots self & dies

But remember folks, Wisconsin’s concealed carry law makes us all safer…

A 22-year-old Milwaukee man died early Friday after it appeared he accidentally shot himself in the leg as he was putting his gun back in its holster, according the Milwaukee County medical examiner’s office.

Timothy B. Phonisay died at Froedtert Hospital during surgery.

The Rascally GOP Fiscal Conservative…Spendthrifts In Madison

Despite all of their claims to the contrary, the GOP under the dome in Madison can’t wait to waste taxpayer money.

Legal work by an outside firm from the state of MICHIGAN cost the state taxpayers $2.2 million dollars on a $500,000 contract (yeah that’s right) to provide advice on the proposed Ho Chunk casino at the derelict greyhound track in Kenosha.

As for the trains built to bolster the Hiawatha line between Milwaukee and Chicago, not only does the manufacturer get to keep the two train sets, the taxpayers have to pay Talgo an additional $9.7 million. And that doesn’t even count the jobs and repair facilities that we lost.

On top of the $550 million in Medicaid aid that the governor turned down. Or the other train route to Madison and the attendant $800 million.

Fiscal conservatives my foot.

What We Can Look Forward To As Wisconsin Is Open For Mining Business.

Yes I know that the Gogebic Taconite mine never materialized. But the end goal of neutering environmental regulations remains intact and at some point when taconite prices are again on the rise, someone will propose opening a mine at that site.

But beyond the deflowering (pun intended) of the beautiful watershed and potential to pollute Lake Superior…we may have decades to continue to enjoy their largesse when they are gone…something along these lines:

It will take many years and many millions of dollars simply to manage and not even remove the toxic wastewater from an abandoned mine that unleashed a 100-mile-long torrent of heavy metals into Western rivers and has likely reached Lake Powell, experts said Thursday.

Plugging Colorado’s Gold King Mine could simply lead to an eventual explosion of poisonous water elsewhere, so the safest solution, they say, would be to install a treatment plant that would indefinitely clean the water from Gold King and three other nearby mines. It would cost millions of dollars, and do nothing to contain the thousands of other toxic streams that are a permanent legacy of mining across the nation.

The Gold King delay illustrates a problem dwarfing the 3 million-gallon waste plume accidentally released by contractors working for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: There are about 500,000 abandoned mines nationwide, and only a fraction have been dealt with, despite decades of effort.

EPA has estimated the cost of cleaning up abandoned mines nationwide, not including coal mines, at between $20 billion and $54 billion.

They’ve since become legacies of the industry’s boom-bust cycles, in which companies fold up operations when metals prices fall, leaving behind sources of toxic wastewater that chronically leave rivers barren and taint drinking water supplies.

Of the abandoned mines in the U.S., more than 48,000 had been inventoried through the BLM’s Abandoned Mine Lands program, which began after new federal laws focused on environmental protection in the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s.

But only about one in five of the inventoried mines is being cleaned up or requires no more action. More than 38,000 await further analysis or work, according to the bureau.

Sounds like we have an opportunity for a jobs initiative here…$54 billion worth! Even if we get Americans to spend the money do you think we can get Americans to do the work?