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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Tunesday: Deep Forest - Sweet Lullaby

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Comparing Foxconn Favorably To GM Janesville Is Idiotic

Yes. They went there.

According to the Janesville Gazette, Gov. Scott Walker made a campaign stop at a Janesville business and like Paul Ryan's visits to the area, Walker held a captive audience on private property and would not take questions from the press. So there's that.

But most notable from the story was a comment from one of his supporters favorably comparing Foxconn to Janesville's General Motors plant. The comparison isn't just apples to oranges, it's more like comparing apples to hammers.

Here's why.

First, the most obvious. Not only is the value of the dollar much less today, but the wages expected to be paid to the majority of workers at Foxconn in 2020 is less than half of what GM workers earned 20 years earlier. When you throw in retirement benefits, health insurance and job security, the comparison becomes absolutely laughable and sad at the same time. Clearly, we've moved backwards with Foxconn.

But more importantly are the things we don't readily see like the fact that labor unions, not government, provided a culture of worker training and community. Or that GM or its suppliers didn't require government to act as a middle-man to GM officials for communications, government assistance or subsidies. Clearly, we're moving backwards with Foxconn.

An unlike Foxconn, the hated corporate GM plant did not reside on government purchased land in a tax-free sales-tax exempt embassy-like environment. GM paid their hefty annual property tax bill to the county without demanding massive kickbacks, so much to the point where the city of Janesville was less dependent on state aid.

Today, Janesville officials claim they are being robbed by the state because the state aid formula remains as if the city still had GM paying into the general fund. Clearly, Janesville without GM is more dependent on government. Clearly, we're moving backwards without GM.

Unlike the Foxconn deal, GM paid their public utility bills to the city just like everybody else. GM used massive amounts of city water and public waste facilities and paid for what they used to the point that their payments substantially lowered residents bills. Back then, city officials and the Gazette tried to claim that their "conservative" policies and efficient governance deserved the credit for keeping costs lower than peer cities. But some of us knew better.

Unlike Foxconn, Janesville GM did not require the state government to extract $50M or $100M or $200M a year from taxpayers just to employ workers for the first 15 years. Yet, the UAW labor union was scorned for expecting far less in the form of dues from GM workers to help keep employees free from government dependence. They persevered for 90 years in Janesville and they're still hated today.

Yep, unlike General Motors Janesville, Foxconn brings with it a government-run Chinese mentality where "workforce housing" won't be privately owned homes lining the streets of Mount Pleasant in Racine county like the modest family homes on Janesville's southside, but factory on-site dormitories with channels to cheap global labor.

I'm barely scratching the surface here but I think you get the idea. Foxconn in Wisconsin is a product of inverted free markets and backward thinking. It's "transformational" for the state in the same way an apple pie can be reformed with a hammer.

"Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost!" -- President Ronald Reagan

Monday, November 06, 2017

"Balanced Budget Amendment" Is a Fraud, But It Fires Up The Constitutional Arsonists

For the most part, most state governments including the U.S. Government have balanced budgets.

The Federal Government doesn't do anything much different to balance its budget than Wisconsin does.

When there's not enough to pay expenses - government borrows money. Under Scott Walker, the state of Wisconsin borrowed money every year to meet balance. That's a fact. The federal government does the same thing. The national debt is an accounting of money owed that was used to balance the budget. Wisconsin has a similar running and growing state debt account. Pretty simple logic and math not much different than a household budget.

Sure, the Federal Government has the advantage of printing money. But it's important to note that the people supporting a balanced budget amendment are not calling for a moratorium on printing money or a prohibition on borrowing.

The terminology, "balanced budget amendment" is simply a cattle call much like Wisconsin's ballyhooed "Transportation Fund Amendment" state voters approved in 2014. That amendment was supposed to be the end-all solution to the state's chronically empty transportation fund by creating a dedicated transportation account funded with dedicated transportation sources. But since then, Walker and state republicans have borrowed heavily from creditors and the state's general fund to pay transportation bills.

Ironically, the same people in Wisconsin calling for a balanced budget amendment are the same people who called for the state transportation fund amendment and can't make balance without borrowing, are the same people who recently put state taxpayers on the hook for $200 million a year for the next 15 years without showing any means or guarantee to raise the revenue to pay for the new expense without putting other state obligations in jeopardy.

And on top of that, the Legislature's nonpartisan budget office filed a report showing Wisconsin won't break even with the $3B Foxconn deal until 2043. Yet these are the folks who think others should be forced to constitutionally "balance" annually. Whatever that means. Apparently.

So in my view, the "balanced budget amendment" is empty shell boilerplate coming from hyper-partisan operatives to fire up the base to open a convention at this critical time in history when single-party ruled fascism has gerrymandered itself into the country. That only means it is more dangerous.

Once the convention is opened, they can repeal the Bill of Rights and if the legislation in Wisconsin that cleared the state's justice system out of the way for a foreign international corporation is a barometer - they probably will.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Monday, October 30, 2017

Did Home Builder Councilman Shut Down Apartments Developer?

It was the right call, but for all the wrong reasons.

It seems any decision coming down from city hall defending the honor and wishes of neighborhood resident stakeholders in Janesville is met with people dancing in the streets. That's how rare it was when the Janesville Plan Commission unanimously agreed to kill a developer's apartment complex in the city's uppity Briar Crest sub-division. The people thought they were listened to.

From the beginning the decision never did smell right.

One council member sitting on the plan commission, Jens Jorgensen, stated that he supported the apartment development at first, but changed his mind after hearing dozens of residents oppose it. That's a good fair reason and how things should be when representatives listen.

The other councilman sitting on the plan commission, Doug Marklein, gave a long-winded story about how the buffer zone area behind Walmart is a perfect fit for apartments, that it's best for the city, but he won't support the multi-family development because doing so would break somebody's promise to keep it zoned R1 residential. Unbelievable ...and this is where things begin to unravel.

Marklein, in his capacity as a plan commission member, took it upon himself to make sure a third party kept their promise ...totally bizarre, despite the fact that the third party entered an agreement with a developer entitling the developer to pursue changing the zoning as necessary. This is simple common sense.

For whatever reason, Marklein felt personally wronged by the land owner for not appearing at the public hearing, as if to say owners and developers regularly appear in front of city officials to make their case. Except, they almost never do. Why should they when they have taxpayer-funded city administration officials lobbying for them?

The only answer I could come up with for Marklein feeling so personally wronged by the land owner - he stated they (not the city) promised three times to keep it R1 - is because he is a local residential home builder who would lose prime R1 zoned land to a competing builder stepping into his territory.

To many viewers, Marklein acted as if the zoning promise was made to him, as a home builder, and even if that is somehow denied, its specter became more visible when the apartment developer left the hearing stating he should not have been treated like an outsider. It was duly noted.

At some point, concerned citizens in Janesville will have to ask themselves why they allow a local home builder a seat on the city's planning/zoning commission.

The Gazette said the city needs business-minded people, such as Marklein, in leadership positions. Unfortunately, that's how insiders see the obvious conflict of interest - not as a bug, but as the feature.

And, that's just plain wrong and bad for business.


RNR - Janesville Council Members Gruber and Marklein Should Resign

RNR - Special Interests Should Recuse From Janesville City Council Or Resign

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Local GOP Official: “No Contest” In Child Sexual Assault

Innocuously titled into protective custody by the Janesville Gazette, Man defending himself at trial opts for plea agreement, the story it turns out is about a local man who pleads no contest to charges he assaulted his teenage victim many times between July 2016 to January 2017.

The perpetrator was a state campaign coordinator for Rick Santorum and as recent as 2016, was election board chairman for the Rock County Republican Party.

JG Excerpt:
JANESVILLE -- A man who was defending himself at trial against charges of child sexual assault changed his mind Tuesday and took a plea agreement.

Wade A. Hallett, 52, was accused of sexually assaulting a teen girl he knows on multiple occasions as well as possession of child pornography and violating a domestic abuse injunction.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Janesville's Dark Store Community Grows

Essentially, a lawyer preys on the city by arguing that a building is unique to a company’s needs and should be compared to a similar building that’s vacant or “dark.” -- Janesville Gazette Editorial, March 18, 2016

The following is a list of known dark store refunds issued in Janesville during the past two years including four new settlements this week.

The refund total for 2017 alone stands at $849,637. Hang on folks, because there are still two months left in the year.

Oct. 23, 2017
JBRC Investments - Authorization for the Administration to settle claims of excessive assessment from JBRC Investments, 1310 Plainfield Ave., in the amounts of $3,165.65, $3,025.20, and $3,556.94.
TOTAL: $9,749.79 refund

Oct. 23, 2017
Bank Mutual - Authorization for the Administration to settle claims of excessive assessment from Bank Mutual, 2111 Holiday Drive, in the amounts of $2,533.93 and $3,435.64.
TOTAL: $5,959.57 refund

Oct. 23, 2017
Dickens Partners - Authorization for the Administration to settle claims of excessive assessment from Dickens Partners LLP, 4323 Milton Ave., in the amounts of $17,182.15, $19,065.20, and $25,038.20.
TOTAL: $61,285.54 refund

Oct. 23, 2017
Grafft Trust - Authorization for the Administration to settle claims of excessive assessment from James and Heidi Grafft Irrevocable Trust, 15 W. Milwaukee St., in the amounts of $12,999.88, $12,758.83, and $16,445.68.
TOTAL: $42,204.39 refund

June 12, 2017
Menards - Authorizing the Administration to settle claims of excessive assessment from Menard, Inc. in the amounts of $164,744.01, $68,667.22, $71,198.62, and $98,398.06.
TOTAL: $403,007.90 refund

Feb. 13, 2017
Blain's Farm and Fleet - Authorizing the Administration to settle claims of excessive assessment from Blain’s Farm and Fleet Supply Inc. in the amounts of $67,932.23, $66,612.03, $85,117.80, and $107,767.31.
TOTAL: $327,429 refund

July 11, 2016
Janesville Gazette - Authorization for the Administration to approve a settlement between the Wisconsin Department of Revenue Bliss Communications, Inc., for real property assessments located at 333 S. Wuthering Hills Drive and 1 S. Parker Drive (Gazette).
TOTAL: $31,602.98 refund

Feb. 22, 2016
U.S. Bank - Authorizing the Administration to settle claims of excessive assessment from US Bank NA, 2732 Milton Avenue, in the amounts of $9,499.65, $9,315.05, and $9,325.03.
TOTAL: $28,139.70 refund

The fix is so economical and easy that it's time Janesville residents and other cities in Wisconsin under dark store siege begin considering the possibility that attorneys and/or other professionals ill advising city officials that it's cheaper to settle might be actual participants in the awards. It's just that bad and obvious.