Realtors and manufacturers plan to overhaul Wisconsin’s technical school system

cheeseheads against kochhead

Dear Readers,

It looks like the Wisconsin technical school system could be next in line for some of Walker’s patented “cares too much” treatment.

A special committee is looking to remove local control of technical schools in favor of state control and more funding from the state, not property taxes. The awkwardly named Study Committee on the Review of Wisconsin Technical
College System Funding and Governance committee meets July 24, 10:00 a.m. at the Capitol in Madison.

Readers will notice a heavy representation of manufacturer types on the committee list (see below). I expect “fix the skills gap!” talk at the upcoming meeting without comparable talk of paying skilled workers a competitive wage.

Readers should also note that Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), Wisconsin Realtors Association, and the conservative Wisconsin Taxpayers’ Alliance are given the opportunity to speak at the first meeting.

I seem to remember learning that all documents shared between Eric O’Keefe and WMC (and lots of other groups) got subpoenaed by a certain John Doe prosecutor due to suspected illegal campaign coordination between those groups and Walker’s campaign 2011 – 2012. – source

And I seem to remember Eric O’Keefe whining that conservative “speech” was being taken away.

The John Doe investigations have done nothing to take away WMC’s megaphone. WMC has a special relationship with The Guv. The Guv also has somethin’ goin’ on with Wisconsin Realtors Association.

Something so special that an article on John Doe emails might disappear [as seen here] to be swiftly replaced by an article about Scott’s promise to Wisconsin Realtors Assn. –  a promise to freeze property taxes.

So expect that the goal of freezing and/or cutting property taxes (and the goal of pleasing Wisconsin Realtors Assn.) will be top priority at this meeting as well.

promise to keep property taxes flat

Please note that this special committee is just one in a slew of special committees looking to “fix” things in Wisconsin. Hamilton Consulting has a list of all of them (and they seem to be especially pleased that a couple of people from Wisconsin Economic Development Association were installed on the committee looking to overhaul TIF).

Committee Mission:
“The Special Committee is directed to review the current governance model of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) in the interest of transferring governance responsibilities of local district boards to the state WTCS Board and examine the current funding model for the WTCS with a preference toward reassigning current local property tax revenue to a broader state tax source.”

Here’s the agenda:

Representative John Nygren, Chair; Senator Sheila Harsdorf, Vice-Chair
Wednesday, July 24, 10:00 a.m., Room 411 South, State Capitol
Organizational matters.

Presentations by invited speakers, including the following:
o Morna Foy, President, WTCS, and Andrew Peterson, President, WTCS Board.
o Joe Murray, Wisconsin Realtors Association.
o Todd Berry, Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.
o Mike Birkley, Wisconsin Property Taxpayer’s Inc.
o Jim Morgan and Jason Culotta, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.
o Member of a technical college district board.
o Josh Dukelow, Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce. Discussion of committee assignment.”


Members of the committee:

Representative John Nygren (Chair)

Senator Sheila Harsdorf (Vice-Chair)

Bruce Barker – President of Chippewa Valley Technical College

Allen Buechel – serving a sixth term as Fond du Lac County Executive as of April 16, 2013 / On board of FCEDC Board of Directors

Dan Conroy – Vice President of Human Resources Nexen Group, Inc., a manufacturer of precision motion control components, power transmission and web tension control products

David Dull – President and CEO of Allis Roller as of 2009.

Stephen R. Kohler – Director of Human Resources at Pierce Manufacturing Inc. based in Appleton.

Representative Debra Kolste

Representative Cory Mason

Dr. Susan May – President of Fox Valley Technical College

Joseph Sheehan – Superintendent at Sheboygan Area School District

Senator Jennifer Shilling

David Stark – President at Stark Company Realtors

Dennis Treu –
Managing Member at Treu Solutions LLC
Trustee/Board Member/Treasurer at Western Technical College
Member Governance Council at iLEAD Charter School
Advisory Board Member at Juneau County Inventors & Entrepreneurs Club
Adjunct Professor at Viterbo University
Partner/Member at Reliable Title and Abstract Company LLC
Broker/Owner at Century 21 Gold Award Homes – source

Mr. Mark Tyler – Public Member of the Wisconsin Technical College System board and founder and president of OEM Fabricators, Inc., a contract manufacturer in Western Wisconsin

Representative Thomas Weatherston

Bonus footnote on Wisconsin Realtors Assn.:

I wanted to emphasize that the Wisconsin Realtors Assn. are not only getting their voice heard when it comes to technical schools, they are also getting heard at the state Supreme Court level and they also, I assume, have a direct line to the U.W. System through top level Friend of Walker, Jim Villa.

Jim “V.I.P.” Villa

Jim Villa was a lobbyist for Wisconsin Realtors Association and he was Governor Walker’s chief of staff during the time he was in the state Assembly and during part of Walker’s time as Milwaukee County Executive. source

In the midst of a highly scrutinized 2005 real estate bidding process with Milwaukee County’s Department on Aging, Villa returned to work with Scott Walker in his executive office.

Wrote Dan Bice, “Authorities have been looking for signs of bid-rigging or other misconduct as representatives of the privately owned Reuss Federal Plaza vied unsuccessfully in 2010 to keep the county Department of Aging in its office space. The offices had moved in 2005 to the blue tower in a $3 million deal [a deal that has been described as “a rushed five hour bid“].”

“[Andrew P.] Jensen’s firm helped spearhead the Reuss effort to win the lease for the county offices.” – source

In 2008, Villa took the job as President of the Commercial Association of Realtors-Wisconsin (CARW), where he worked with Board Chair Andrew Jensen.

In 2010, Jensen won the “Wisconsin’s Realtor of the Year” award.

There was much in the press and the blogosphere about Jensen not “cooperating with the investigation” when Jensen got detained by authorities for one night in December of 2011. No criminal charges were brought up on Jensen. By April of 2012 Jensen had received a “highly unusual” letter of exoneration from D.A. John Chisholm’s office.

Nonetheless, in 2012, the Wisconsin Democratic Party reminded reporters that Villa’s company Markesan Group lobbied on real estate deals that were connected with suspected bid rigging in Milwaukee County as is documented in this lengthy Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article.

In May of 2014 Jim Villa began a $178K job as University of Wisconsin System vice president for university relations despite “concerns” raised by two members of the Board of Regents.

Wisconsin State Supreme Court
March 8, 2013:
“The realtors group filed documents with the state in February saying it may spend $206,648 to support incumbent Justice Pat Roggensack, who is considered one of the court’s four conservatives, in her April 2 reelection bid against Ed Fallone, a Marquette Law School professor.

The realtors have not directly spent money on outside electioneering activities in a Supreme Court race until now.”

Scott Walker’s odds just got downgraded by Stu Rothenberg

Political prognosticator and syndicated columnist Stu Rothenberg just downgraded Walker’s chancing of winning in November to “Lean Republican”. Before he had him “favored” to win it.

It’s because “over the past couple of weeks, the campaign fight has been over whether Walker is the subject of a federal investigation into allegations of illegal campaign coordination. The public discussion has given Democrats headlines and local news clips to use in ads against the governor and has put more uncertainty into the race”. –source

As Lincoln might have said if he were alive and blogging today, you can work your mojo on some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not work your mojo on all of the people all of the time (especially if all of the people are figuring out you are a crook).

Who’s Unintimidated? A Tale of Two Books

I participate as often as I can in the Solidarity Sing Along, which has been singing songs of protest at the Wisconsin State Capitol every weekday from noon to 1 since March 11, 2011 (toward the end of that little uprising we had going on at the time). And many of you are no doubt aware that our ignominious governor, Scott Walker, has presidential aspirations, and like many such hopefuls he has written a book (with the help of a ghostwriter) titled “Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge.”

According to the Wisconsin Gazette:

Gov. Scott Walker’s new book isn’t exactly a tell-all. In fact, it glosses over or leaves out many of the most important pieces in the story related to his successful drive to destroy public unions and his subsequent recall battle. …

“I’ve never met anyone who wants to be president more,” said U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, a Democrat from Madison who served in the state Assembly during the union fight. “We knew the book was coming. We know he’s traveling all over the country. It would be nice if he put even a portion of that energy into creating jobs in Wisconsin.”

In fact, Walker is seldom even in Wisconsin, and when he is, he keeps his appearances brief and well guarded, lest he should suffer the indignity of being confronted by his singing detractors. Walker and the state Department of Administration have gone to great lengths to silence the singing and stifle dissent, all to no avail. As we like to sing, “Until that day when justice holds sway, we’re not going away!”

During July and August of this year, more than three hundred arrests were made by the Capitol Police: 350 citations were issued, and 16 criminal charges were filed. Those targeted were not only participants but even just observers and those photographing the sing alongs. Journalists, senior citizens, and teenagers were among the arrested. Handcuffs were used as well as “pain compliance” techniques, although the charges amounted to little more than traffic citations.

Arrest of CJ Terrell. Photo by Erin Proctor

The Progressive describes two of the arrests which were especially violent:

[The Capitol Police] used pain compliance on CJ Terrell to make him leave the rotunda after he was told he had been identified as a participant in an unlawful event. CJ was charged with obstruction and resisting arrest and released from jail a $701 bail later in the afternoon.

At the same time CJ was being arrested, Capitol Police tackled and drove to the ground his brother Damon, who was there to photograph arrests. Damon was charged with felony battery of a police officer and taken to jail.

Rather than discouraging participation, the violent crackdown induced more Wisconsinites to come to the capitol to show their support for the sing along. The day after the Terrell brothers were arrested, more than three hundred filled the capitol rotunda.

Last month, Walker “threw in the towel” in the words of Matthew Rothschild of The Progressive.

His administration settled a lawsuit with the ACLU of Wisconsin. As part of the agreement, protesters no longer need to have a permit to protest in the state capitol. All they have to do is notify the administration. Nor do they have to assume any liability, as they were required to do before.

In response to all the intimidation tactics and in anticipation of Walker’s soon-to-be published work of fiction, some of the thoroughly uncowed singing patriots have put together a photographic account of the Solidarity Sing Along, entitled “Unintimidated: Wisconsin Sings Truth to Power,” which is due to be published at the same time as the governor’s. Whereas Walker’s book oozes gubernatorial delusions and presidential pipe dreams, from the pages of this book emanate the people’s aspirations: for truth, fairness, and transparency, for responsive government of, by, and for the people.

Photo by Michael Matheson

Several extremely talented inveterate citizen photojournalists have photographed every single one of the Solidarity Sing Alongs, so there were literally thousands of photos to choose from. Ryan Wherley, a frequent SSA participant who has from time to time contributed to this blog, has supplied the text that accompanies the photographic account of the longest-running singing protest in history. Proceeds from sales of the book will go to the First Amendment Protection Fund to help defray court costs for the many who have been arrested standing up for free speech in the Wisconsin State Capitol. Don’t miss this opportunity to get this extraordinary account of the Solidarity Sing Along and to support free speech and freedom of assembly at the same time.

So, you tell me, who’s unintimidated in Wisconsin, and who’s been doing the intimidating?

Shhhhh. This is an unbearable loss for Wisconsin State Journal.

The Progressive says “Collective Bargaining Lives Again in Wisconsin

The Wisconsin State Journal’s headline for the same news is “State Workers Found In Contempt”.


A defeat of Walker’s cold war on workers is too much for this newspaper to broadcast in plain language in a headline.
Too much for even one day.

We all know that the Koch Kourt Wisconsin Supreme Court will have its way with this issue on November 11th.

That’s TWENTY WHOLE DAYS (and a few hours) of guaranteed extra freedom for Wisconsin workers.
How will the editors of Wisconsin State Journal manage?
These shortening, dark days must be unbearable for the board members of Lee Enterprises.

I hope the doldrums don’t seep into the Associated Press. Mary Junck, the Director on Lee Enterprises’ Board also serves as Chair on the AP board.

The online version of this Wisconsin State Journal story is headlined “WERC staffers held in contempt for ignoring ruling in Act 10 challenge” – as of 6:43PM Central Time.

Interesting contrast between paper and online headlines.

Neither of them use the words “Wisconsin” “collective bargaining” “union” or “Walker”. At least the online story references “Act 10” which by now is quite familiar to politically-engaged Wisconsinites.

This image was shared by Wisconsin Jobs Now on facebook.

Third day of mass arrests in WI’s capitol – my notes from the road

I am in Michigan for a wedding now and this weekend and I’m writing this post on my phone. Apologies for the rough formatting.. 

I’ve been checking facebook and twitter the whole drive up for updates on today’s activities at the capitol building.  I’ll share with you what I’ve located on the net.

From WPR “DOA issued a statement saying it had issued 17 tickets on site for gathering without a permit. The DOA 14 people “will receive” citations “from video.” In the past, police have mailed tickets to protesters whose identity they already know.”

WPR’s story includes comments from Brian Standing and Bart Munger.

There was much speculation online and on site today regarding a wedding that was scheduled to be at the capitol today. Would it be disturbed by protest? Did it even happen?
WPR offers us this information:
“The DOA also produced a copy of a permit application for a wedding that was scheduled to be held either inside the rotunda or outside if the weather was nice. DOA says the wedding party chose to get married outside today even though it was occasionally drizzling at the noon hour. It’s unknown at this time whether the wedding party made its decision because of the protesters.”

From Arthur at SSWIDTMS: “Police started warning random groups of onlookers that if they didn’t immediately disperse they to would be arrested. Many of those warned were tourists visiting from out of town.” VIDEO

Teamster Nation caught the fact that a child was arrested.

Franciscan Friar Phil Gerbac announcing happily “arrest me” in the rotunda’s center. (very brief video).

Minister Carter Dary suffered a heart ailment while protesting (that’s a video link). I got word that he is in the hospital but is in good spirits and has further testing scheduled tomorrow.

Letter to DOA’s Mike Huebsch from Sen. Risser and Rep. Taylor.

Ryan Wherley says in his post that by cracking down on singers “Scott Walker and Mike Huebsch made a HUGE mistake.”

He notes an important shift present in 2013 that I’ve been thinking about too:

“It felt like the Uprising of February 2011 all over again, with one major difference. Two years ago, we were a disparate group of individuals marching for a similar cause, but unknown to each other. But now, we’re friends and family. Everywhere I looked were people who’ve stood alongside each other on the front lines in the fight against a tyrannical leadership for the past 29 months. If people were afraid, they didn’t show it, because they knew their brothers and sisters surrounding them had their backs.”

We said “brothers and sisters” in 2011 without fully experiencing what we were talking about. Now we are “there” more fully.

Greg Gordon spoke about this week’s mass arrests tonight at 7:30PM Central on a Detroit radio program called The Tony Show. Hopefully a podcast of his interview will emerge shortly.

That’s all the typing I want to do on a smartphone tonight (Relieved I was wise enough to get a model with a keyboard). I am not scared of what’s happening in the rotunda. I would be more frightened for us all if we were pretending everything was just fine after 2 years of watching Walker’s kleptocracy unfold. That would be madness.

On the Timothy Russell plea deal and sentence. Judge Hansher: “I have some questions here”

All image rights reserved by the blue cheddar blog

A brief dispatch I’m filing from a bench outside the Milwaukee County courthouse which will be fleshed out in a few hours
with a description of the courtroom scene and more:

Today prosecutor Bruce Landgraf recommended a sentence for former Scott Walker aide Timothy Russell and also offered up a plea deal. Landgraf recommended a sentence of 30 months of initial confinement and 30 months of supervision following that for 1 felony count of embezzlement of over $10,000 (Russell was initially charged with three counts of theft in January of 2012). Landgraf said the sentence is intended to be the “full settlement” of all charges in Russell’s criminal complaint.  Prosecution also requested that he pay restitution of $28,000.

Judge David A. Hansher recited a litany of clarifying questions to Russell to make sure he realized he will lose the right to vote while carrying out his punishment and he waives rights to a jury trial and similar.

The only thing the judge offered outside of the boilerplate questions he was required to ask: he requires a pre-sentencing investigation.
“I have some questions here.  There are some things I’m not sure about.”

Remember that the Kelly Rindfleisch pre-sentencing hearing is what divulged numerous details that implicated Scott Walker directly in the illegal comingling of county employee and campaign worker time and activity — or certainly that’s what it looked like given that Scott Walker himself was included on the damning emails revealed by Landgraf. Thus the judge’s questions and interest in further investigation assure us that there will be more revelations and implications to come.

Russell’s bail remains the same.

Latest Jobs Report Prompts Pitiful Press Release from Department of Workforce Development

According to the latest figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Wisconsin lost 13,200 jobs in June, including 11,700 private sector jobs, while the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Wisconsin went up in June, 2012 to 7.0% compared to 6.8% in May, 2012.

Ouch. Poor Reggie Newson. He is the current Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and he is tasked every month with portraying Wisconsin’s employment statistics in the best light possible. In the past, Sec. Newson’s strategy has been to cherry pick and highlight only the good news. This month there are no cherries, so Newson decided to serve up a tossed salad of mixed, unrelated, and irrelevant statistics, then drown it in a syrupy-sweet dressing to hide the inedible parts.

His press release announcing the newest monthly preliminary numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (for June, 2012) and the revised numbers from the previous month (May, 2012) talks about “place of work” data, which is confusing since that includes out-of-state residents who work in Wisconsin. It also mentions the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, which is probably the most accurate, benchmarked measure, but has nothing to do with the current situation since it only goes through December, 2011. It’s based on a survey of Wisconsin employers and also includes jobs held by people who work in Wisconsin but don’t live in Wisconsin.

Sandwiched in between is “place of residence data”, which measures employment and unemployment figures for Wisconsin residents who are currently working or looking for work. This is what matters to Wisconsinites, and the bottom line is this. Walker is continuing on a slide that is taking him further and further from reaching his stated goal of creating 250,000 new private-sector jobs in his first term.

To be fair, the unemployment rate is not always the best measure of the jobs situation since it doesn’t include people leaving the labor force by moving out of state or just giving up looking for work, but since Walker and Newson loved to highlight it when it was going down it seems appropriate to mention it when it goes up. So far today, no tweets about the June unemployment rate from either Walker or Newson. The national unemployment rate during the same period stayed the same at 8.2%, so another favorite tactic of Walker – blaming all bad news on President Obama – would be a stretch. I guess he and Sec. Newson are finding this month’s employment-data salad a little hard to swallow.

The real losers, of course, are Wiscosnin’s unemployed workers. They need work, but Walker’s jobs plan now consists of hoping, praying, and imploring twitter users to vote for Wisconsin in CNBC’s online survey of “Best States to Do Business.”

Real Wisconsin Job Numbers Show Another Loss

There is “Real Wisconsin Cheese” and there is cheese in a can. In the same way, there are real labor statistics and there are fake labor statistics.

On Wednesday, Reggie Newsen, the Secretary of the Department of Workforce Development (DWD), created a smokescreen with a set of job numbers that showed modest job growth in Wisconsin in 2011. There are a lot of reasons why those numbers are suspect, especially the fact that the new numbers contradict months of results showing modest job losses over the same period. There are other reasons why some experts raised an eyebrow. Newsen released them prior to having them verified by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the numbers are benchmarked with an obsolete method no longer used by the BLS, and there is no way to compare them to other states. And of course, the numbers were released 20 days before the man who appointed Newsen faces a recall election.

Newsen claims the new method of measuring jobs and the unprecedented early release of unverified data was his idea and had nothing to do with Governor Scott Walker’s recall election. Magically, a slick TV ad featuring Walker quoting the same unsubstantiated numbers appeared on Wisconsin TV airwaves almost immediately after Newsen’s report was released.

Reggie Newsen is Walker’s 3rd DWD Secretary in just 16 months. If I were him I might feel a little pressure to find or manufacture some good news, so it’s no surprise that Newsen released the extra numbers the day before the regularly scheduled numbers came out.

Today, Newsen released what economists and the BLS regard as “real” numbers – the ones that are derived by methods used by all 50 states so they can be easily compared. That report shows Wisconsin losing another 6,200 private-sector jobs in April, 2012, continuing a general downward trend that began immediately after Walker’s budget and his budget repair provisions were put into effect.

It must pain Secretary Newsen to have to bury sentences like these deep in today’s press release:

Preliminary seasonally adjusted data show private-sector job numbers declined by 6,200 in April and by 11,100 over the year, but grew by a net 10,100 since December 2011. The net gain since December 2010 is 400. Total nonfarm employment decreased by 5,900 from March to April and 21,400 compared to April 2011, but grew by a net 12,200 since December 2011. A total nonfarm decline of 8,800 since December 2010 is entirely due to a drop in government jobs over this time frame.

Ouch. The net gain of private sector jobs since Walker took office is 400. Walker promised 250,000 private sector jobs by the end of his term. He’s a wee bit behind, wouldn’t you say? Nice litle dig at public employees at the end, too, since everyone knows that jobs like fire fighter, teacher, corrections officer, and road maintenance aren’t “real” jobs, right? The people who perform those jobs don’t spend “real” money in their communities either, I guess.

For all non-farm employment, Wisconsin has lost 8,800 jobs since Walker was sworn in. That’s the real number, before Newsen and Walker buried it under fake cheese. Tomorrow, the BLS releases data for all the states for the month of April so we can see how Wisconsin compares to the rest of the nation.

Wisconsin Recall: Hope Remains While the Company Is True

A few weeks ago I went with a friend to Miller Park a couple of hours before the start of a Brewers game to gather signatures to help Kathleen Vinehout get her name on the ballot for the May 8 recall primary. Being a dyed-in-the-wool introvert, I had never done anything like this before. It was like a brief, intense peek into a microcosm of Wisconsin. Unsurprisingly, most were drinking beer, eating brats and cheese, and generally in quite the festive, boisterous mood.

It was heartening to hear many ask specifically about Vinehout’s support for teachers. They perceived Walker’s attack on teachers as a serious affront and were only interested in helping candidates who would strongly support public education and teachers. Of course, there were a couple who had to yell “Support Walker” at the top of their lungs, but mostly people were quite pleasant.

I approached one young woman who said, “I’m a Walker supporter.”
Me: “No problem. Thanks anyway.”
She (seeming surprised): “Thanks for being so polite about it.”
Me (smiling): “Thanks for thanking me.”
Then we both giggled, almost conspiratorially, like we were doing something slightly subversive by being so painfully, explicitly polite. I can’t help but think that had we more time we could have had a good conversation about what was happening to our state. As it was, it was like catching a brief glimpse of an actual human being, beating heart and all, on the other side of a vast chasm.

This past week we were given a different kind of glimpse, this one into the chasm of Walker’s dark heart, not unlike his revealing and excruciatingly embarrassing tape-recorded phone call with blogger Ian Murphy posing as billionaire radical-right-winger David Koch, in which he talked about dropping the bomb on Wisconsin. On Thursday, another telling recorded conversation surfaced, this one from January 2011 with an actual billionaire donor, Diane Hendricks, who, it transpires, is Walker’s most generous backer to date (having donated $510,000 to Walker’s campaign so far) and owns the ABC Supply Company in Beloit, which paid not a dime in state corporate income tax from 2005 to 2008. This time Walker spoke of using a “divide and conquer” tactic. Alas, that “divide and conquer” thingy has been tried before, to disastrous effect.

A 1947 “Don’t Be a Sucker” film put out by the U.S. War Department warns against falling for the divide-and-conquer tactic: “In this country we have no ‘other people.’ We are American people. … Remember that when you hear this kind of talk. Somebody’s going to get something out of it, and it isn’t going to be you.

Very prescient. Clearly Walker’s billionaire backers get something out of all this bombing and dividing and conquering. And what are the people of Wisconsin getting? The worst job performance of any state in the nation. Slashed education funding. Drastically cut healthcare. And a severely divided state.

Not long after his conversation with Hendricks, Walker dropped his bomb on the state, blithely claiming that it was all to balance the budget. Check out the clear disconnect between what he told Hendricks and what he told us:

Walker has divided Wisconsin all right. To say he’s a “polarizing personality” is understatement. According to Jessica Van Egeren of the Cap Times,

His popularity among voters has hovered around 50 percent for months, suggesting his supporters will view the admission caught on the video without consternation while his detractors will see it as confirmation of everything they already oppose about him. Thus, it seems the video, while described as ‘shocking’ by Barrett’s campaign, will do little to sway most voters.

The Marquette poll [released last week] found only a small percentage of state voters, around 4 percent, remain undecided in the June election.

Phil Walzak, a Barrett spokesman, believes it’s those voters who the Walker video could potentially impact. And for them, he says, it won’t be because the video touches on Walker’s views on collective bargaining but rather because it provides a glimpse into Walker’s style.

“Even if this small percentage of voters isn’t moved by collective bargaining issues, they are moved by issues of trust,” Walzak says. “Walker tells us one thing, and billionaire donors another. I think that is a turnoff to voters who are undecided and in the middle right now. Something like this could be really big for them.” (emphasis added)

We are indeed severely divided. And by all accounts it’s going to be a perilously close race. Who knows who those 4 percent are and where they are? They could be anyone, anywhere. Now is not the time to politely avoid talk of politics. Now is the time to ask friends and neighbors and coworkers where they stand in the great divide. When the answer you hear sounds like it comes from one of the 4 percent, listen carefully. Have a real conversation. Those are the moments that could make or break this election.

I’m reminded of Galadriel’s words to the fellowship in The Lord of the Rings: “The Quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little and it will fail, to the ruin of all. Yet hope remains, while the company is true.”

Photos courtesy of the Overpass Light Brigade, Raj Shukla, and John Pope. Video courtesy of Arthur Kohl-Riggs. Many thanks to all of you!

$$ Voting Made Easy: Empowering the 99%

I’m about to buy a lawn mower, but I don’t want my money used to attack Wisconsin workers and families.

There are several lists of companies to avoid when making purchasing decisions, such as companies led by people who gave big donations directly to the Walker campaign. Buying local is usually a wise decision, but even that is problematic when most Wisconsin businesses support the Chamber of Commerce (national or local), or other organizations hostile to Wisconsin’s workers and families.

For example, Wisconsin-based Ariens is out because they belong to WMC. Illinois-based John Deere is even worse, because they not only belong to WMC, they also belong to ALEC.

It can be difficult to find a non-evil company to reward with my consumer spending, but it’s worth the effort. At the moment, I’m considering buying a Husqvarna mower. Husqvarna is apparently a Swiss company, although I’m not sure the where the mowers are actually manufactured.

Boycott lists are a good start, but aren’t enough. We need better ways to help each other identify and support companies that believe strong and prosperous families are good for the economy.

For starters, I need your suggestions on what mower to buy, and where to buy it.

DWD Secretary Newson’s Steaming Mess and How He Hides It

The following table from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics just might be the most telling example of what a disaster Scott Walker’s economic policies have been for Wisconsin. It also helps illustrate the methods used by Walker’s administration to confuse the public.


The data are quite clear. There were 23,900 fewer employees on Wisconsin non-farm payrolls in March, 2012 than there were in March, 2011. The Wisconsin economy is shrinking.

So how can Reggie Newson, the Secretary of the Department of Workforce Development under Scott Walker, claim in a press release issued yesterday that “Approximately 18,500 more Wisconsin residents are employed compared to March 2011” ??

If you want a really thorough explanation of how both can be true, you can see the technical notes on the BLS website.

The short explanation is that statistics are gathered from different surveys. For the table above, “Persons are counted at their place of work rather than at their place of residence.” The numbers cited by Secretary Newson, however, are based on a survey that “measures employment and unemployment on a place-of-residence basis.”

So, it can be true that a larger number of Wisconsin residents are working now even though the total number of jobs in Wisconsin has dropped significantly. Many Wisconsin residents work in Chicago, or the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, or in Dubuque. As those states have added jobs, the number of Wisconsin residents finding work across one of the borders has increased. They reside in Wisconsin, but they work in Illinois, or Minnesota, or Iowa.

It’s good that people are finding work, but it is not ethical or honest for Scott Walker or Reggie Newson to imply that Walker’s economic policies are working. Wisconsin is not creating jobs. Walker is taking credit for jobs created in other states while Wisconsin’s economy is shrinking, not growing. Walker and Newson can play with the numbers all they want, the fact is Wisconsin was the only state in the nation to see a statistically significant decrease in the number of jobs over the last 12 months.

Revised Labor Figures Show Wisconsin Actually Lost 9,700 Private Sector Jobs in 2011

Governor Scott Walker has frequently boasted about 13,500 private sector jobs created in Wisconsin in 2011. Newly revised and more reliable figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics(BLS) indicate that the state actually lost 9,700 private sector jobs last year.

In the middle of a job losing streak that stretched to six consecutive months at the end of 2011, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development(DWD) Secretary Reggie Newson ripped into the methods used by the BLS to determine preliminary unemployment figures (As time goes on, the BLS continues to update the estimates, but the first estimates for any particular month are often significantly under-estimated or over-estimated):

“October was the fifth straight month and the eighth month this year in which the federal government overestimated the preliminary job loss numbers or underestimated job gains for Wisconsin,” Secretary Newson said. “I am particularly concerned by the disparity in the October preliminary numbers, which were off by 7,300 for total jobs and 7,900 for private-sector jobs. These unreliable employment statistics out of Washington misinform the public and create unnecessary anxiety for job seekers and job creators about the shape of our state’s economy.”

Prior to Newson’s screed about “unreliable employment statistics out of Washington” that “misinform the public and create unnecessary anxiety for job seekers”, he and Governor Scott Walker would consistently place the blame for Wisconsin’s job losses on “national and international economic trends.”

The DWD today released the BLS’s employment figures for January, 2012. These “unreliable employment statistics out of Washington” show an increase of 15,700 private sector jobs for the month. The estimated increase is 12,500 jobs when factoring in losses from the public sector.

Naturally, the Secretary cautioned everyone not to get too excited, right? This is from his press release:

“Wisconsin’s preliminary January unemployment rate of 6.9 percent is now the lowest it has been since December of 2008, and it remains well below the national rate,” Secretary Newson said. “In addition, the preliminary monthly job estimates show growth across most industry sectors.”

Hmmm. Where is the outrage about the misleading statistics? Isn’t he concerned that the positive statistics might create unnecessary euphoria for job seekers? Where is the blistering attack on those Washington bureaucrats? And where is the statement attributing Wisconsin’s gains to improvements in national and international market conditions?

Maybe next month.

As part of their process of continually updating their estimates as more data become available, the BLS also issued “benchmarked” numbers for the last six months of 2010 and the first six months of 2011, and further revised numbers for the last six months of 2011. The revised numbers indicate that 2011 was even worse than originally estimated. While the previously revised numbers showed a net gain of 13,500 private sector jobs in 2011 (with all the gains coming before Walker’s first budget was implemented), the new figures show that Wisconsin lost 9,700 private sector jobs in 2011 and 20,600 jobs overall.

That information is buried at the bottom of Secretary Newson’s press release. Will Walker stop claiming he created jobs in 2011 now that the figures have been revised? Will he update his campaign literature and web sites to indicate the net loss of jobs in 2011? I’m guessing no. Walker’s best month for private sector job growth last year under the old figures was +14,800 in June. The new estimate for June is zero.

One good thing (for Walker) in the revised 2011 figures is that they show Wisconsin did not, as was previously estimated, lose private sector jobs for six straight months at the end of 2011. One Democratic talking point removed. It was, in fact, five months out of six that Wisconsin lost private sector jobs, though those figures are subject to further revision next year. Wisconsin actually gained 300 private sector jobs in September.

If the newest January estimates hold up, it’s good news for Wisconsin and Governor Walker. If they don’t hold up, expect a press release from Secretary Newson blaming Washington bureaucrats.

Pro-Falk Group Buying Ads in Wisconsin

Daniel Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that a newly-formed political group has purchased air time in 5 Wisconsin markets to run TV ads promoting Kathleen Falk. Falk is campaigning to become the Democratic nominee against Governor Scott Walker in an almost certain upcoming recall election.

The group calling itself “Wisconsin for Falk” registered as a Special Interest Committee with the Government Accountability Board (GAB) within the last week, but it’s not clear who serves on the committee or who is funding the TV ads. Here is an image of the their registration form at the GAB:

Michael Vaughn is the Treasurer. He lists a Minneapolis telephone number. The group itself lists a Madison telephone number. Bice reports that messages left have not been returned. The group’s first ad can be viewed here.

Their ad includes a disclaimer at the end saying the ad was not authorized by any candidate, candidate’s agent or committee.


The Scott Walker campaign was quick to speculate that the funding came from labor unions that have endorsed Falk. You probably know the tune…big union bosses, blah, blah, blah. Walker has been the beneficiary of advertising from similar political action groups, and he has spent the past few months traveling to out-of-state fundraisers at every opportunity picking up donations that total over 12 million dollars.

Mike McCabe of the non-partisan watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign gave a persuasive argument at last year’s Fighting Bob Fest that the legalized bribery now funding most campaigns has to be fixed before we attempt to fix anything else. I thought about McCabe’s speech when I was perusing the Wisconsin for Falk registration form, and when I read Scott Walker’s hypocritical response. The legendary Ed Garvy, the organizer of Fighting Bob Fest, has pointed out that the Democratic candidate in the recall election will not be able to compete with Walker on spending. Not even close. Garvey suggests that the eventual candidate should forget the outside funding and make Walker’s secret, out-of-state money the major issue.

I wish one of the candidates would pledge to do that. I really do.