Walker's Confidences: John Doe vs the Hill Billy

Governor Walker, still enjoying his prolonged state of pre-indictment,  has been making many sweeping claims these days, but none so forcefully as his two proudest points of alleged confidence:
  1. He is "confident" that he is not the subject of the John Doe investigation, and that it ends with the plea deal recently reached with his long-time aide Tim Russell. ("Pure conjecture," said the judge. "The case is still open."  This is his "I'm not a crook" moment, say the rest of us.). 
  2. He is "confident" that Gogebic Taconite (GTAC), the Cline Group-owned Florida firm seeking to extract iron from the Penokee Hills of Wisconsin, will return to the "open for business" table now that the Republican Senate majority has been restored. Who will be the "judge" on this claim?  Will it be the people of Wisconsin, who continue to speak out against this plan? Or will it be Walker and his political cronies?  Looks like it's time to speak up again, and people are taking out their pens.
The Wisconsin Citizen's Media Cooperative has posted a wonderfully open letter from one of our friends in the north, calling the governor out on his ploy of creating a false and unwarranted sense of alarm about the "urgency" of mining the Penokees "before it's too late" and the out-of-state extracteers and potential campaign contributers at GTAC lose interest.  The ore's not going anywhere, says "Hill Billy:"
"...turns out that there is no defined ore body in the Penokees, according to the lack of property taxes being paid. Maybe that’s why it appears that we need to rush Mr. Cline’s laws into legislation; the ore body can’t be missed when it was never there to begin with. If that’s the case, Governor, then may we please have your permission to go back down to code orange on the eco-terrorist threat scale now?"
Read the full letter ("No Signs of Iron Ore Body Leaving Wisconsin") here.  Seriously, read it. It's so good.

There's a hearing  on mining regulations scheduled for this morning (Thurs. Nov. 29 at 10:30).  Public comment, however, is always mandatory to the success of democracy and can be delivered any time.  Send yours to:
Governor Scott Kevin Walker  govgeneral@wisconsin.gov 
Members of the Senate Committee on Mining:
Senator Tim Cullen, Chair, Sen.Cullen@legis.wisconsin.gov 
Senator Robert JauchSen.Jauch@legis.wisconsin.gov
Senator Jon Erpenbach, Sen.Erpenbach@legis.wisconsin.gov
Senator Jim Holperin, Sen.Holperin@legis.wisconsin.gov
Senator John Lehman, sen.lehman@legis.wisconsin.gov
Senator Dale Schultz, Sen.Schultz@legis.wisconsin.gov
Senator Mary LazichSen.lazich@legis.wisconsin.gov
Senator Robert Cowles, Sen.Cowles@legis.wisconsin.gov
Senator Chris Larson (Democratic Minority Leader) Sen.Larson@legis.wisconsin.gov

One very good question - raised by the ever-vigilant Rebecca Kemble - you might ask them is why Governor Walker's cronies and those with conflict of interest ties to the project are being trusted to assess the impact and feasibility of this mining when exhaustive analysis of these impacts have been published just this year (see the 2012 report: Sulfide Mining Regulation in the Great Lakes Region).  As Kemble notes, "Why mining industry flack Tim Sullivan and their expensive PR campaign is given a privileged position in this discussion when there has already been an extensive analysis of mining laws in the Great Lakes region is very telling."  The well-documented negative environmental impacts of the project, coupled with a relentless push to lower standards and cut corners on regulations, have been the bane of the efforts since day one.

While the mining project is promoted by Walker et al as a chance to bring much-needed "jobs" to the region, GTAC has been unable to demonstrate that a significant number of local jobs would actually be created, or that local economies would be positively impacted by the intrusion of mining initiatives.  The evidence, in fact, seems to point to minimal job creation and even less economic stimulation, due in part to increasingly automated mining practices.  Read more here on how mining creates fewer jobs than they want us to think.

Click here for source of this lovely image and more on the struggle of local residents, including, most vocally, members of the Bad River Band (whose chair, Mike Wiggins, Jr., calls the Penokees "unmineable"), to stop efforts to mine the Penokee region. 
Click here to learn why the first attempt at a mining bill was defeated.

Call to Wisconsin Legislators: Reinvest in Public Education

In recent weeks, Scott Walker has been bragging left and right that education will be his "laser focus" for the next biennial budget (having stripped his promise of creating 250,000 jobs from his website and moved on to new things, I suppose), and we all know what he means by "education reform:"  CUTS to public funds for public ed and INCREASES in public funding to education privatization ventures.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin Superintendent of Education, Tony Evers, has launched a campaign for both reelection and support of his own proposal for reform in education funding, a program he calls "Fair Funding for Our Future."  This plan, in conjunction with "A Penny for Kids," which proposes a one-cent sales tax increase to directly support public education, could restore school funding to a level that ensures success for all students. The Institute for Wisconsin's Future, with the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools, has put out a call to action:
Now it’s time to do your part. Supt. Evers’ plan won’t find easy sailing in the Capitol, despite the devastation of recent cuts and the desperation of many school districts. You can help the cause by contacting your legislators and telling them to get on board.
If you don’t know who represents you─or how to contact them─click here. Tell them you expect them to sign onto and support “Fair Funding for Our Future.” Don’t forget to let them know you expect them to do the right thing and will hold them accountable in the next election.
In addition to asking legislators to support “Fair Funding for Future,” don’t forget to tell them they need to work equally as hard for “A Penny for Kids,”  a one-cent increase in the state sales tax for our public school kids and their classrooms.
I'm taking this call very seriously. Below is the letter I sent today to my own representatives; I sent a revised version of the same letter to Governor Walker and every State Senator. and I encourage everyone who cares about fair funding for public education to do the same. Feel free to borrow from or copy/paste my letter when writing to your own legislators, or use the suggestions here for more ideas.  Click here to find contact info for your representatives. Be sure to include your full name and contact information when you send your letter.

The time to stand up for public education in Wisconsin is NOW!  Speak up in support of a budget that refunds our schools, promotes quality public education for ALL of our children, and moves Wisconsin forward!


15 November 2012
Dear Senator Miller and Representative Hebl,

Congratulations to both of you on your reelection! I was thrilled to see how resoundingly our neighbors agree that you have both served our community extremely well and I thank you for your continued service and commitment to diligent representation of all the citizens in our district - not just those with whom we are politically aligned.  I have so much respect for your willingness to put community and principle before party and to stand up for working families and members of our communities who are struggling.

With the elections behind us now, I wanted to take time to write to you about the issue that is of the most importance to me personally moving forward: education policy and "reform." 

In recent weeks, Governor Walker has loudly promised (perhaps threatened is a better word) to prioritize education "reform" in his second biennial budget, but we know from his first budget that "reform" is just code for massive cuts and the steady transfer of public funds to privatizing ventures like voucher programs, virtual schools, and for-profit charters.  We have already seen the impacts of the first round of his "reforms:" $792 million in cuts to public education and (illegal) stripping of the rights of public employees, including educators, that have left many of our schools floundering,  So I am first and foremost concerned about the Governor's budget, and am counting on you to stand strong not just for our district but for all those districts who fared less well on the new "school report cards" and who, with less support school boards, have seen draconian cuts to essential programming and heart-breaking lows in teacher and staff morale.  This is not a healthy learning environment for our kids, and it is not - as history and education experts have proven - the road to creating successful graduates ready to enter the workforce and move our economy forward.  It is hurting our schools and forcing districts to make unconscionable choices about which essential programs they have to cut.

With that in mind, I encourage you to fully support Superintendent of Education's "Fair Funding for our Future" plan.  This plan is a good start in restoring the funding that has been gutted from our schools, but more importantly for ensuring that ALL Wisconsin students are funded at a level that ensures a quality education - regardless of where they live, how much money their parents make, or how well their school did on the yet-to-be-proven-useful "report cards."  Dr. Evers' plan accounts for low family income, the dire situations facing many of our rural communities, and those large districts that have few students.  The plan puts a human face on education funding, and rejects the inhumanity off Walker's so-called "reforms" that pit low-income neighborhoods against wealthier districts and penalizes our most vulnerable students.

I hope therefore that you will sign on as supporters of Dr. Evers' "Fair Funding" reform, but I don't believe that is enough.  Simply restoring funding cannot repair the damage that has been done to our education system through decades of cut-based "reforms."  We need to make a significant reinvestment in public education to ensure our kids graduate ready for work or college and ready to serve our communities as responsible citizens. 

For this reason, I also encourage you to support "A Penny for Kids," an initiative of the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools.  It proposes a one-cent sales tax increase that would go ensure that all of our schools are funded fairly and that every student has an equal opportunity for academic success.  The 2011-2013 budget paralyzed districts by revoking their autonomy in choosing to use local property taxes to make up for losses in state aid: the budget actually makes it illegal for districts to choose to increase school funding through their taxes once the limit has been reached. Despite the Governor's empty talk of promoting local control of local economies and providing "tools" for districts to use, the state has created a crisis of funding for our schools that can only be solved by either restoring local rights to raise their property tax levies, or by restoring these funds through other means.  "A Penny for Kids" is a fair way to do just that, and would not unfairly tax districts who have already been disproportionately disadvantaged by the previous budgets.

I ask that you take time to learn more about this program, and sign on in support of "A Penny for Kids."

Thanks again to both of you for your service and commitment to our kids!