Massive New Development Proposed for Downtown Milwaukee

From the Business Journal.

A new proposal for development at the long-dormant city-owned parking lot at North Fourth Street and West Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Milwaukee includes three hotels, a hub for the Milwaukee streetcar, and more than 100,000 square feet of convention space, the Milwaukee Business Journal has learned.

The plan would include three hotels with 506 guestrooms and suites along with 22,000 square feet of street level restaurants, bars and cafés. The development proposal, being called “Nexus,” is from Milwaukee-based Jackson Street Holdings as lead developer. The “public private investment” for the project totals $279 million.

[…]

The City of Milwaukee will fund improvements related to the streetcar route and station. This investment provides a base of funding that other components build upon. The Wisconsin Center District will fund and own the convention and meeting facilities that are integrated into and built over the streetcar route. The skywalks are funded by the city and the Wisconsin Center District. The hotels will be privately owned and operated.”

There are a lot of details to look through, but my first reaction is that there seems to be a tremendous of “public” money involved in this “public-private” partnership. Be wary of developers who get a lot of taxpayer money to fund a project based on rosy projections. Remember that the developers are paid up front and walk away. The taxpayers have to live with the development long term.

Trump’s Bum Mic

Huh. I thought Trump was just throwing out BS when he claimed that his microphone was bad. I guess he was right.

It seems Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was right when he complained about audio in the debate hall.

The Commission on Presidential Debates released a vague statement on Friday simply saying: “Regarding the first debate, there were issues regarding Donald Trump’s audio that affected the sound level in the debate hall.”

The commission didn’t elaborate any further, but the statement did not indicate that there were any issues with the television feed.

Vos Accuses Walker of Being “Disingenuous”

As I mentioned a few days ago, Walker has successfully isolated Vos and the Assembly leadership on the issue of transportation funding, and Speaker Vos is reacting in a predictable fashion.

“We have had multiple caucus discussions on this topic,” Vos told reporters after a WisPolitics luncheon with Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha. “The governor has the luxury of looking in the mirror and having a discussion with himself on any topic, because he doesn’t have to get consensus. He’s the governor. My job as the speaker is to generate consensus among 62 other people, and I think we’ve done that.”

[…]

Vos called that suggestion “disingenuous” on Thursday, arguing that the governor has the ability to direct the Department of Transportation to assemble a proposal that meets specific criteria, while a legislative leader like Vos lacks matching resources.

That’s a bit of a silly claim. If the legislature has the resources to create a budget with tax increases, it sure has the resources to create one without tax increases. At some point, the legislature is going to have to propose, debate, and pass a budget that includes transportation. Is Vos claiming that he lacks the resources for that?

Methinks Vos should take a bit of his own advise in this last quote:

“I think there’s enough blame to go around,” Vos countered. “It’s pretty hard to reach your hand out and say let’s work together while at the same time you’re saying how much you suck.”

Fewer Options For Obamacare Customers in Wisconsin

Only one option in many counties.

Arise Health Plan, a subsidiary of WPS Health Solutions, said Thursday that it will not sell health plans on the marketplaces set up through the Affordable Care Act next year, becoming the latest company to abandon the market.

Arise and WPS Health Insurance also will sell only high-deductible health plans for individuals and their families off the marketplace, and those plans will be available only in a limited number of counties.

The two health insurers will renew so-called transitional plans – health plans sold before 2014 that don’t comply with the regulations imposed by the Affordable Care Act – through next year.

For now, the marketplace for Milwaukee County next year will have four companies offering health plans: Molina Healthcare; Network Health Plan, owned by Ascension Wisconsin and Froedtert Health; Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative; and Children’s Community Health Plan.

Waukesha County tentatively will have those companies as well as Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Wisconsin and Dean Health Plan.

The two counties – and others in Wisconsin – are in a better position than many throughout the country. Roughly a third of the counties are expected to have only one company offering health plans on their marketplaces as insurers have pulled out after incurring large losses.

U.S. Outmaneuvered By Russia in Middle East

Russia is playing chess while Obama and Kerry play tiddlywinks.

“Unlike Syria and Iran, Russia has no interest in fighting for territory,” he says.

“Moscow had sought to steadily destroy the moderate Syrian opposition on the battlefield, leaving only jihadist forces in play, and lock the US into a political framework of negotiations that would serve beyond the shelf-life of this administration.

“In both respects, it has been successful.

“Ultimately, the Russian goal is to lock in gains for Syria via ceasefires, while slow-rolling the negotiations to the point that true opposition to the Syrian regime expires on the battlefield, leaving no viable alternatives for the West in this conflict come 2017.

“Russia’s intervention, seeks to minimise losses, relying largely on the ground power of other actors to do most of the fighting, with its officers embedded in order to glue the military effort together and coordinate air strikes.”

Milwaukee County Executive Proposes $27.1 Million Tax Increase

Ouch. That’ll teach the poor folks in Milwaukee County that cars are only for rich people like Abele.

A $60 vehicle registration fee, or wheel tax, is needed beginning in 2017 to help pay for Milwaukee County’s bus transit system and costs of repairing county highways and parkways, County Executive Chris Abele said Thursday.

The new fee would be a dedicated source of funding for transportation and generate around $27.1 million a year, Abele told reporters at the courthouse.

The county fee would be paid on top of the state’s $75 registration fee for vehicle owners, for a total of $135. City of Milwaukee vehicle owners already pay a separate wheel tax of $20 so the total for city owners would become $155.

After several good years of Abele governing mostly like a fiscal conservative despite being a liberal, he appears to be pivoting rather strongly to the left. Remember that he was challenged from the Left in his last election and the Democratic Party insiders really dislike him. I suspect that he is trying to shore up support from the liberal base of the Democratic Party before running for governor in 2018.

Trump Accused of Violating Cuba Embargo 18 Years Ago

Really? We’re going to argue about this? Does anyone remember what Hillary Clinton was doing in 1998? Oh yeah, she was, once again, helping her husband fight off a “bimbo eruption” with Monica Lewinsky. He was impeached for lying under oath late in the year.

Newsweek reports that Mr Trump’s company secretly conducted business in Cuba, violating the US trade embargo against the country.

The company allegedly spent at least $68,000 (£52,300) in Cuba in 1998.

It Is Hard to Start a Business in Wisconsin

This is something for the legislature to work on next year. Hint: raising taxes will not help.

According to GoBankingRates.com of Los Angeles, Wisconsin was graded one of the 10 worst states to start a business. Only Hawaii, Maine, Vermont and Arkansas scored lower on the ranking, which took into account a state’s startup activity, business survival rate, productivity, availability of employees, education level of potential employees, business tax climate and cost of living.

GoBankingRates.com rated Wyoming as the best state to start a business, followed by Alaska, Nevada, Texas and Delaware.

Reid Blocks Right to Try Bill

Make no mistake. Harry Reid doesn’t give two shites about terminally sick people if it means denying a Republican a political win before an election. So if you have a family member who can’t try an experimental treatment and dies in the next couple of months, you can thank Harry Reid and the beneficiary of his political hack job, Russ Feingold.

Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson’s push for a right-to-try bill ran up against the reality of hardball politics Wednesday.

Johnson’s measure to allow terminally ill patients to receive experimental drugs not approved by the Food and Drug Administration was blocked by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Johnson sought to move the bill through unanimous consent, meaning one senator could halt its progress.  And that’s what Reid did, blunting a Johnson initiative for the second time in recent months. In July, Reid blocked Johnson’s bill to protect federal whistleblowers from retaliation.

Johnson faces a tough re-election fight against Democrat Russ Feingold, so any move to get legislation through by a parliamentary maneuver was always going to be difficult.

Senator Johnson Pushes “Right to Try”

Frankly, it’s rather remarkable that we would need permission from our government for something like this. It just shows how much individual liberty we have ceded.

The Trickett Wendler Right to Try Act, authored by Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, would allow terminally ill patients to receive experimental drugs — which have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration — and where no alternative exists. There is a companion bill in the House.

With 40 Republicans and two Democrats co-sponsoring the legislation, Johnson plans to try to get the measure passed by unanimous consent, perhaps as early as Wednesday. The parliamentary maneuver is unlikely to succeed, since a single senator can block the request. But the issue probably won’t fade away.

“I want to create a sense of urgency around this,” said Wendler, who lives in Pewaukee with the couple’s three children. “The bill was introduced in May and here we are in September and we’re talking about procedural things. I’m a big boy. I understand how the process is drawn out. I would like the conversation to take place much, much sooner.”

Thirty-one states have passed right-to-try laws based on model legislation created by the Goldwater Institute, a libertarian think tank. Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly have a goal to pass such a bill in the upcoming session.

Supporters say such legislation enables those with terminal illnesses to access experimental drugs and new treatments early in the development pipeline. Eligible medications have to pass phase one of clinical trials.

City Delays Project to Take Advantage of Change in Prevailing Wage Law

It’s good to see the city being smart and using the change in the law for the taxpayers’ benefit.

West Bend officials will delay advertising a work contract, taking advantage of a change in the law, to determine if they are able to reduce the cost or solicit additional bids for a Public Works project.

Members of the Common Council unanimously voted Monday to permit city administrators to advertise a sanitary sewer extension for vendors to submit bids, with the caveat they publish it at the beginning of 2017 when changes to the prevailing wage law take effect.

UW Cuts Hours for Student Workers to Comply with Obamacare

Odds are that 75% or more of these students support Obamacare. The odds are also that fewer than 10% of those will make the connection between their politics and their livelihood.

UW-Madison is cutting the work week of its student employees to no more than 29 hours to conform to requirements of the Affordable Care Act, a move some student workers say will make it harder for them to stay in school.

“With less hours, many students will have to juggle two jobs, and that will definitely hurt academic success,” undergraduate student worker Reid Kurkerewicz said in comments provided by the Student Labor Action Coalition (SLAC).

“UW-Madison student workers would love to work less hours so they can put their academics first, but Chancellor Blank refuses to pay a living wage, making that impossible for many working class students,” said Jia Gonitzke, an undergraduate student worker.

Student leaders at SLAC, whose mission is to engage students in labor issues, say they are concerned that not only student workers, but other limited term employees of the UW-Madison will see cuts to their hours so that the university doesn’t have to offer them health insurance.

U.N.: U.S. Taxpayers Should Pay Reparations

Heh

Geneva (AFP) – The United States should give African Americans reparations for slavery, UN experts said Tuesday, warning that the country had not yet confronted its legacy of “racial terrorism.”

Amid a presidential election campaign in which racial rhetoric has played a central role, the UN working group on people of African descent warned that blacks in the US were facing a “human rights crisis.”

This has largely been fuelled by impunity for police officers who have killed a series of black men — many of them unarmed — across the country in recent months, the working group’s report said.

Those killings “and the trauma they create are reminiscent of the past racial terror of lynchings,” said the report, which was presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday.

Addressing the deeper causes of America’s racial tensions, the experts voiced concern over the unresolved “legacy of colonial history, enslavement, racial subordination and segregation, racial terrorism and racial inequality.”

“There has been no real commitment to reparations and to truth and reconciliation for people of African descent,” the report said.

For the life of me, as a white American, I’m not sure what else I’m supposed to do about America’s history regarding slavery. I acknowledge it existed and that it was a deplorable thing. I support and advocate for laws and a culture that encourages and supports individual liberty – irrespective of race, gender, ethnicity, etc. I condemn the slavery that continues to exist around the world today. How would making me, a person who never owned a slave and opposes slavery, pay a black person who shares my views somehow mend an injustice that neither one of us perpetrated or experienced?

Frankly though, it would be nice if the U.N. were more active in stopping slavery in the world today rather than trying to punish people in a country where slavery ended 150 years ago.

Secure Your Valuables

This kind of thing is becoming more common in Washington County. Secure your stuff, folks.

Several vehicle burglaries occur at Germantown sports events

Don’t leave valuables where they can be seen in your vehicle.

That’s the message area law enforcement would like heeded after a rash of thefts hit Germantown on Sunday in which windows were smashed on four vehicles and valuables taken — in three cases the valuables were purses — while daytime sporting events were going on.

Germantown Police Chief Peter Hoell said the thefts happened Sunday at two different sporting event locations, the soccer fields on Fond du Lac Avenue south of Donges Bay Road and the athletic fields near Kennedy Middle School.

“It’s a bit unusual that someone was able to smash windows and not be heard, but we think these thefts may be related to some that have been happening around Washington County,” Hoell said. “People tend to be too trusting. They leave their valuables in plain sight in their vehicles. Even if they do lock their vehicle, it really doesn’t take much effort for someone to smash a window.”

Walker’s welfare reform works

My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here you go:

Albert Einstein famously defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If that is the case, then the people who are constantly surprised when welfare reform that incents work and requires responsibility actually works must be lapsing into bouts of insanity.

Twenty years ago, Gov. Tommy Thompson signed one of his signature achievements into law. Wisconsin Works (W-2) fundamentally reformed welfare and became a model for other states and the federal government.

W-2 was based on a very simple premise. If you are able to work, you must work in order to receive assistance from the taxpayers. Thompson understood that taxpayers are fundamentally decent. They are willing to lend a hand up to people and families who are down on their luck or unable to work, but every person should be expected to work as much as they are able before handing them a dollar that was taken from another working person.

W-2 was a revolutionary success. Former welfare recipients went back to work and the number of people on welfare plummeted. That is not to say that it was less expensive for taxpayers. Actually, spending on various assistance programs increased dramatically under Thompson as Wisconsin rewarded working people who still did not earn enough to get by with generous subsidies as they continued to improve their lot.

But beyond the tangible benefit to the state of former welfare recipients working and contributing to the betterment of their communities as they bettered themselves, the intangible benefits were enormous. There is a fundamental human dignity that comes through work. People take more pride in themselves and in the material things they purchase with money earned from their labor. There are innumerable stories of families who look back on the implementation of W-2 as a transformative event in their lives that opened doors to a brighter future.

Thompson’s W-2 was so impactful, the Republicans in Congress and President Bill Clinton used it as the model for the federal welfare reform they passed into law later the same year. The results mirrored those in Wisconsin. The latter half of the 1990s saw welfare, poverty and unemployment rates drop all over the nation.

The natural course of democratic government, however, is to drift toward liberalism. As the 21st century progressed, both the state of Wisconsin and the federal government gradually eased the work requirements for welfare while continuing to increase spending. The welfare rolls gradually climbed higher as it became easier for people to receive taxpayer-funded benefits with fewer restrictions or requirements. Unemployment and poverty pushed stubbornly higher in the poorest neighborhoods.

Then along came Gov. Scott Walker with the same tried and true idea. Last year, the Republican-led state Legislature and Walker reformed Wisconsin’s FoodShare program to require people who are able to work, to work. Just like Thompson, Walker’s reform coupled the work requirements with generous free training and other resources to help people get back to work.

Walker’s reform of FoodShare has been a sensational success. Anybody who remembered W-2 and its policy children could have predicted as much. In only 15 months, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services reports 38 percent of people who were eligible for FoodShare benefits have found employment averaging more than 32 hours per week at an average of $11.99 per hour.

Meanwhile, another roughly 50,000 people stopped receiving FoodShare benefits because they failed to meet the work requirements despite being able to work. Those are people who obviously did not need the benefits enough to get off their rear ends and demonstrate even a modicum of effort.

The results of Walker’s most recent welfare reform was entirely predictable. Conservative welfare reform works. Every time. To think that it would not is, by definition, insanity.

Trump v. Clinton: Round 1

I’ll be over on Twitter for the debate. Back later.

Snowflake Complains About Harry Potter Mural

What kind of completely infantile morons are we raising who would actually submit a complaint like this?

A University of Wisconsin-La Crosse student had a serious complaint for his campus’ official “Hate Response Team”: he was “very upset” by a Harry Potter mural in a college dorm.

The mural, in the Laux Residence Hall, depicts Neville Longbottom, a character from the Harry Potter films. The nerdy Neville was played by actor Matthew Lewis, who blossomed into a notable hunk post-puberty. The mural shows him as both a geeky boy and an attractive young man — transformed, according to the mural’s caption, by a stay at the Laux Residence Hall itself.

The depiction of this metamorphosis “represents our ideal society and everything I am trying to fight against,” wrote the offended student, whose name is redacted. “It represents white power. Man power. Cis power. Able power. Class power. ECT [sic] ect. I am angry that I know the people who put this mural up, and I am anger [sic] because I know the people who let this mural be put up. Like I said earlier, maybe I am being a little sensitive, but it is how I feel. This represents, to me, our society, and I do not want it up on this wall. Why do we need a BEFORE and AFTER?”

Thankfully, the moral remains up despite the complaint, according to the story. I know it is popular to say that everyone’s feelings are valid and worthy, but that simply isn’t true. The correct response to a complaint like this is, “your complaint is idiotic. You are an effin’ adult now. Grow up and act like one.”

Lands’ End Cans CEO

Good. Hopefully this great company can rebound with better leadership.

Federica Marchionni faced a daunting task when she was appointed the top executive at Lands’ End by the company’s board almost two years ago. Recruited from the New York fashion house Dolce & Gabbana, Marchionni was tasked with remaking the image of the Dodgeville-based clothing retailer and refocus the company to appeal to younger buyers.

On Monday, it seems, her time ran out when Lands’ End announced that Marchionni was stepping down as CEO effective immediately and that the company was seeking a new leader.

“content with nothing short of permanent power”

Alexander Hamilton wrote the following missive as part of a letter explaining why he was supporting Thomas Jefferson in the election of 1800 instead of Aaron Burr. He did not like Thomas Jefferson either, but supported him as the lesser of two evils. Unfortunately, Hamilton’s description would apply to either of the major candidates this year.

Mr. Burr loves nothing but himself – thinks of nothing but his own aggrandizement – and will be content with nothing short of permanent power in his own hands – No compact, that he should make with any passion in his breast except Ambition, could be relied upon by himself – How then should we be able to rely upon any agreement with him?  …Mr. Burr will dare every thing in the sanguine hope of effecting every thing.

Pot. Kettle.

This about sums up this election.

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