Ald. Tony Zielinski’s bizarre anti-streetcar rant

Via Facebook comes this screenshot in which City of Milwaukee Alderman Tony Zielinski outlines his opposition to the development of a streetcar line in Milwaukee.

Image courtesy

Image courtesy

Ald. Zielinski’s opposition to Milwaukee’s streetcar is curious, given the fact that it’s likely to spur economic development along its route (as similar projects have done in other cities), a route which is likely to be expanded into Zielinski’s district in Bay View.

For more information on the City of Milwaukee’s streetcar project, check out this excellent writeup by Michael Horne of Urban Milwaukee.

William Greider: How the Democratic Party Lost Its Soul

This is a must-readfrom William Greider of The Nation.

The blowout election of 2014 demonstrates that the Democratic Party is utterly out of touch with ordinary people and their adverse circumstances. Working people have known this for some time now, but this year, the president made the disconnection more obvious. Barack Obama kept telling folks to brighten up: the economy is coming back, he said, and prosperity is just around the corner.

A party truly connected to the people would never have dared to make such a claim. In the real world of voters, human experience trumps macroeconomics and the slowly declining official unemployment rate. An official at the AFL-CIO culled the following insights from what voters said about themselves on Election Day: 54 percent suffered a decline in household income during the past year. Sixty-three percent feel the economy is fundamentally unfair. Fifty-five percent agree strongly (and another 25 percent agree somewhat) that both political parties are too focused on helping Wall Street and not enough on helping ordinary people.

Instead of addressing this reality and proposing remedies, the Democrats ran on a cowardly, uninspiring platform: the Republicans are worse than we are. Undoubtedly, that’s true—but so what? The president and his party have no credible solutions to offer. To get serious about inequality and the deteriorating middle class, Democrats would have to undo a lot of the damage their own party has done to the economy over the past thirty years.

Postelection diagnosis on the left found lots of reasons to rationalize the dismal results and to cheer small victories. Critical analysis focused mainly on the mechanics of this failed election cycle, but the trouble with Democrats goes much deeper than one botched election. It’s systemic, and it started in the Reagan era.

Long ago, the party abandoned its working-class base (of all colors) and steadily distanced itself from the unglamorous conditions that matter most in people’s lives. Traditional party bulwarks like organized labor and racial minorities became second-string players in the hierarchy that influences party policy. But the Dems didn’t just lose touch with the people they claimed to speak for; they betrayed core constituencies and adopted pro-business, pro-finance policies that actively injure working people.

The shift away from the people was embraced most dramatically when Bill Clinton’s New Democrats came to power in the 1990s. Clinton double-crossed labor with NAFTA and subsequent trade agreements, which encouraged the great migration of manufacturing jobs to low-wage economies. Clinton’s bank deregulation shifted the economic rewards to finance and set the stage for the calamity that struck in 2008. Wall Street won; working people lost. Clinton presided over the financialization of the Democratic Party. Obama merely inherited his playbook and has governed accordingly, often with the same policy-makers.

“The people,” of course, are still present in the party, but they’re treated mainly as data for election strategies. The voters themselves resemble the supernumeraries in a grand opera: they appear on stage at election time, always lavishly praised by the pols. But they are given no lines to speak or songs to sing.

Discuss: the Ferguson decision

A grand jury in St. Louis County has cleared Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown on August 9, apparently determining officer Wilson acted lawfully when he shot Brown.

I wanted to get your thoughts on this situation, so please discuss.

Edit: To start the discussion, I’ll post this piece outlining why St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch was the wrong man to present the case for charging Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson before a grand jury, citing McCulloch’s past support for police officers in another police misconduct case, as well a family history that includes many family members on the police force including his father, who was killed by a black man with a gun.

Robert Reich on Job Creators and the Minimum Wage

More to come on minimum wage…but let’s start here on a rainy Sunday:

Scott Walker’s WEDC CEO resigning

As reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Reed Hall, the chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) is leaving his post.

The head of the state’s flagship jobs agency is expected to leave his post as the governor moves into a second term, a move that would generate additional turnover at an agency that has struggled with the problem.

Several Republican sources told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Reed Hall, chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., will be leaving the agency. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because the governor has not yet announced any cabinet changes. They did not provide specific reasons for Hall’s departure or any names of potential replacements.

It’s worth noting the Walker administration has already announced that the WEDC chief operating officer Ryan Murray is leaving WEDC to take a job in the private sector, which will leave the WEDC without its top two “leaders” (and I use that term loosely given how poorly the WEDC has performed) at a time when job creation needs to be a top priority for Gov. Scott “I failed to live up to my job creation promise” Walker.

Scott Walker Is Not Ready For Prime Time As Proven By John Kasich

At the Republicans Governors Association Conference, a little preliminary bout for the 2016 GOP Presidential Primary Campaign found Ohio Governor John Kasich showing just how shallow and how ignorant our Governor Scott Walker is. And hopefully the national media won’t be quite as complacent as the Wisconsin media has been during Gov. Walker’s three gubernatorial campaigns.

It was almost as if John Kasich wanted to reach out and pat Scott Walker on the head.

The Republican governor of Ohio and the Republican governor of Wisconsin were seated onstage at the opening plenary session of the Republican Governors Association annual conference. Before an audience of roughly 2,000 donors, political operatives and lobbyists watching from the darkened floor of the cavernous ballroom, the first fireworks of the 2016 Republican presidential primary went off.

Call it a dry run for the primary debates. Five governors all thinking of running for president were on the stage when Kasich, a wily 62-year-old former congressman, demonstratively disputed Walker’s retelling of political history.

Walker, the 47-year-old conservative star, was arguing that President Barack Obama is more hostile toward congressional Republicans than President Bill Clinton was during the ’90s, teeing up a critique of Obama’s plans to issue an executive order on immigration this week.

During the 1995-96 budget dispute between Clinton and the Republican-controlled Congress, Walker said, “Clinton did not say the Republicans in Congress aren’t going to work with me so I’m going to do an executive order.”

“He sat down with them,” Walker said.

Kasich, who like Walker just won re-election to a second term in a Rust Belt, labor-dominated state, snapped almost matter-of-factly.

“No, he shut the government — the government got shut down first,” Kasich said.

The audience laughed. And then the two men, both of them likely to run for president in 2016, began to talk over each other as NBC’s “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd stroked his red goatee in delight.

“There was tremendous animosity,” Kasich said, almost yelling, to remind the younger Walker that he, Kasich, had been there himself as a member of Congress.

“It wasn’t —” Walker tried to get out before Kasich cut him off.

“Scott, it was!” Kasich said. “I’ll tell you, when you’re sitting around and we’ve got Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole at each other over a shutdown, it wasn’t easy either.”

Check out the link…read the rest of the story. But I will be amazed if Governor Walker gets as free a hand at telling his own version of history on the national stage as he’s had here in Wisconsin.

Thursday Music: Foo Fighters: Something From Nothing

Scott Walker’s adminstration facing $2.2 billion deficit heading into 2015-17 budget cycle

But remember, Gov. Scott Walker and Republicans in the legislature have our state budget on the right track…

Gov. Scott Walker’s administration is projecting a $2.2 billion deficit heading into the 2015-17 budget cycle.

That’s a sizable hole for Walker, who is contemplating a 2016 presidential run, to climb out of as he crafts his own budget proposal due out early next year. Achieving a balanced budget will require scaling back program requests, especially if he wants to further cut taxes.

“We will continue to protect Wisconsin taxpayers, provide a good value to those taxpayers, and live within our means,” Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said. “Gov. Walker will introduce a balanced budget early next year focused on growing the economy and moving people from government dependence to true independence.”

Scott Walker thinks he’s a Wisconsin progressive

What a load of horse crap…

Newly re-elected Gov. Scott Walker tells the Wall Street Journal’s hotshot editorial writer Joseph Rago that he’s confident he fits into the progressive tradition of Wisconsin’s Robert M. “Fighting Bob” La Follette.

I kid you not.

It was right there on the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper’s opinion page in a piece authored by Rago headlined “How Scott Walker keeps winning.”

The very idea that ultra-conservative Tea Party favorite thinks he fits into the progressive tradition of “Fighting Bob” La Follette shows a stunning lack of understanding about what kind of progressive “Fighting Bob” was. After all, Bob La Follette fought to implement a workers’ compensation system, for railroad rate reform, municipal home rule, the minimum wage, against big corporations, and for a system of progressive taxation. Perhaps most importantly La Follette fought for clean, honest government that was accountable to the citizens of Wisconsin. The things that Bob La Follette fought for – which are the very things that made him a progressive – are many of the same things Scott Walker has made a point of fighting against during his long career at the public trough.

Scott Walker’s higher speed rail boondoggle

This is worth a read.

Walker won and trains lost. He quickly moved to kill the Milwaukee to Madison part of the project, but he claimed to support upgrades to the Hiawatha line. Meanwhile, Talgo was already well along in the construction of two sets of trains to serve that line. In fact, the state has already paid Talgo $40 million for those trains, and it paid another $12 million to other vendors, for a total cost so far of $52 million.

But Walker, apparently backed into a corner by extremist legislators who were even more anti-train than he was, decided to renege on even the Hiawatha trains.

So Talgo filed a claim against the state for an additional $66 million in unpaid invoices and other losses due to the deal gone bad. That claim was recently denied by the state as expected, and a formal lawsuit is likely.

To add insult to injury, in May the completed trains were unceremoniously moved from the now abandoned Milwaukee Talgo plant for Indiana, where it is possible they will become part of the Wolverine line connecting Chicago to Detroit. And, in fact, Illinois is paying for an extension of Amtrak service to Rockford, and plans are in place to also go from Rockford to Dubuque. From there it’s not hard to imagine completing the line to the Twin Cities and bypassing Wisconsin altogether.

Walker claimed that he opposed the 100% federally funded train because of the annual operating costs to the state, which amounted to around $7 million. But now the state is on the line for as much as $118 million, for which it will have received nothing at all. In other words, for the dollars the governor has put at risk, the state could have funded the new train operation for about a decade and a half.

Had Walker not been elected governor, the Chicago to Milwaukee to Madison service would have started a year ago. Sleek new trains would have been connecting us and providing economic development opportunities not just in Milwaukee but in other places along the line. A train station near Monona Terrace would be bustling and contributing to a revival of that portion of Madison’s downtown. Even more importantly, Wisconsin would have been literally on the map as the first place in the country outside of the northeast corridor to be served by new higher-speed passenger rail.

Instead, Wisconsin now ranks a consistent 37th in job creation under Walker, the Talgo plant and its Milwaukee jobs are gone, the Madison station never happened and the ancillary development around it is on the ropes, our own tax dollars are on their way to build the same kind of system in other states, and we’re still on the hook for as much as $118 million. Even if we don’t end up paying out that much, every dollar that is lost will be lost completely.

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