Sanity Returning to Wisconsin Government?

Lessons in tax and spend?: MATC’s levy plan could bolster case for elected board:

Two area state senators suspect their summer homework will be easier thanks to the Milwaukee Area Technical College and its proposal to raise its property tax levy 5%.

Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) and Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) had planned to spend a little free time building support for their proposal to require elections for all boards that have the authority to tax.

The proposal went virtually nowhere in the last legislative session, but they figure tax increases proposed by MATC and the other technical colleges in the state will bring some momentum. And it will help that those increases will appear on tax bills mailed in December, just a month before the next session.

“I believe it’s best to have representation that’s accountable, and that means being elected and having people know who’s making the decision; and to give people the opportunity to make changes,” Darling said. “People have to be accountable for spending and taxing.”

I’ll believe it when I see it.

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Stop: Bubble Time

The latest sign that a bubblegeddon might be upon our markets: The Segway IPO:

And Segway Inc. President and Chief Executive James Norrod, hoping to parlay the growth into a payday for the original investors in the scooter, has made grooming the company for an initial public offering in the next few years a top priority.

Gauging Segway’s prospects in an IPO is difficult, as the company will not reveal its yearly revenue or whether it is profitable. Norrod will only say that “tens of thousands” of Segways have been sold around the world, and that the company’s revenue has been growing by at least 50 percent over each of the last few years.

Time to adjust the portfolio away from equities and back into guns and liquor.

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Preach It, Sister

Oracle security sister preaches:

Oracle’s security chief says the software industry is so riddled with buggy product makers that “you wouldn’t get on a plane built by software developers.”


“What if civil engineers built bridges the way developers write code?” she asked. “What would happen is that you would get the blue bridge of death appearing on your highway in the morning.”

Remember, gentle reader, MfBJN thought about that in 2004.

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Tax Shell Game in Milwaukee

The Milwaukee County Transit System has budget problems, as described in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel story Transit system at ‘critical point’: Transit funding options skidding into pressures on tax dollars. Setting the dire scene:

It is a route that never seems to change.

Every weekday, more than 150,000 times a day, someone boards a Milwaukee County Transit System bus to reach a job, a class, a store, a doctor or a home.

And every year, for six years straight, the Milwaukee County Board has cut bus service, raised fares or both.

With one of every 12 county residents riding a bus to work or school, transit supporters believe the county must find a new route to keep the buses and the local economy driving forward.

As a matter of fact, while I was in college, I rode the white and green limousine several times a day as I shuttled between home, work, school, work again or home, school, work, school again. So I got plenty of benefit from the robust transit system, and any cuts would have inconvenienced me.

So I’m not arguing that cuts wouldn’t hurt or adversely affect a number of people. But the leaders and their cheerleaders in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel face finitude with great pluck, as they perhaps would prefer to merely posit infinity and act accordingly. When referring to tax money, of course:

But that new route could lead into the politically dangerous neighborhood of new taxes. The transit system is one of the few its size that compete with other agencies for limited property tax dollars.

Limited property tax dollars are a bad thing in this scenario, and special interests–and understand, every government body and agency is its own special interest when it comes to feeding at the public trough. But since property tax dollars are limited, those official special interests have other solutions in mind:

And long before the recent push to create a sales tax for parks, recreation and cultural programs, transit backers were seeking a new revenue source to wean the bus system off the property tax levy.

So instead of the trough marked property tax dollars, they want to feed a little from the trough marked sales tax. Especially given this horror:

Further down the road, officials also are concerned about exhausting federal funding that now helps balance the transit budget. From 1993 to 1998, the federal government gave the transit system more money than it needed to buy buses, building up a reserve of more than $30 million. Starting in 1998, federal rules allowed the transit system to use that money for major maintenance, and officials started to gradually use up the reserve.

The buffet pan marked federal dollars is running dry.

Instead of making hard decisions, the mass transit special interest has thoughts on levying automobile fees, sales taxes, and all sorts of other creative mechanisms for increasing the overall tax burden on the people upon whom it serves itself.

By creating various and sundry unelected Authorities and Boards and Committees with their own focuses and their own ability to request or raise taxes, our elected officials get to abstract and insulate themselves from these actions and can avoid making the hard choices that balance the needs of some of the population. Instead, they can churn new programs, boards, and authorities to do the hard work for them, without direct accountability to the voters, and every time some special governmental interest, they’ll have a new, creative revenue source and the taxpayer to tap out.

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Your Column Says No, But Your Column Inches Say Yes

A “feud” exists between former St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith and Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa stemming from the latter’s platooning of the hall-of-famer and St. Louis icon with Royce Clayton in 1996. Starting last week, the “feud” has flared again as Smith let the world know he was happy with the decision, and LaRussa said he was.

Here’s baseball writer Dan O’Neill in a column entitled 10 years later, it’s time for Ozzie to get over it:

To be fair, Smith was responding to questions, not preaching from a pulpit. The interview had a lot of positive information about his work with the Hall of Fame. He said all the right things as he indicated the past was behind and he had moved on.

But then he didn’t move on. He had to pick at the scab one more time with comments about management. A guy who has been paid $2 million by the Cardinals for “personal services” over the past 10 years can’t find it in himself to embrace that same organization as long as La Russa is around. That is almost as petty as it is absurd.

A nice sentiment, to be sure, but the current “feud” is nothing more than a soap operaesque crashing chord provided by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Let’s look over what the Post-Dispatch has provided:

The Post-Dispatch certainly can flex its floodus zonei muscles effectively for the most inconsequential topics. Although, honestly, I’d prefer the paper do it on a silly topic that will sell papers to the impassioned Cardinals fans than for something designed to make our lives better by enabling more governmental rule.

(Full disclosure: The author booed when Royce Clayton appeared onscreen in the film The Rookie.)

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Just Superstitious Enough

I don’t think owning a car branded Kia is good luck. I also wouldn’t own a car called Doa. I just think that’s asking for an amped up tanker truck driver to try to take the Poplar Street exit at 45 miles per hour some morning, tumbling gently down to a car named deathtrap.

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The Dreaded Tentacles of Convenient Health Care

Judge tosses out zoning that blocked Aurora hospital:

A Waukesha County judge ruled Thursday that the City of Oconomowoc illegally rezoned land to block construction of a hospital by Aurora Health Care.

In response to the ruling, Aurora – the largest and, critics contend, most expensive health care system in southeastern Wisconsin – immediately moved to extend its reach into affluent western Waukesha County.

I’ve written about this before. It’s good to see, though, that eventually, occasionally, right-minded citizens cannot EJM (Ends Justify the Means, now a verb of its own coming soon to a blog near you) to thwart the encroaching tentacles of the health care menace. Even if it’s from one of those eldritch, foetid for-profit companies.

Cptlism fthagn.

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Convenient Technicalities

Ballot proposals rejected by Carnahan:

The November ballot in Missouri won’t be quite as crowded after Secretary of State Robin Carnahan announced Thursday that two proposals can’t go before voters because of faulty petitions.

Carnahan tossed out proposed state constitutional amendments to limit the use of eminent domain and to restrict state spending. She cited technical problems with the petitions, each signed by about 200,000 registered voters, and an inaccurate financial summary attached to the eminent domain petitions.

Never fear, gentle reader, the spokespeople are out to assuage your fears:

Carnahan spokeswoman Stacie Temple said the decision to toss out the petitions was based solely on law, not Carnahan’s personal or political views.

How convenient that Carnahan tossed out government-limiting ballot initiatives that would cap state spending and limit eminent domain, but that the following ballot measures–sometimes whose petitions were circulated by the same people as the aforementioned rejected petitions–are still on the ballot:

I’m sure that the two conservative ballot items were removed for valid legal reasons. I also think we have too many technicalities and byzantine legalities from which a determined public servant can pick and choose to advance his or her own agendum within the nebulous framework afforded by an inattentive constituency.

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No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Red Cross warns blood donors of possible ID thefts in Midwest:

About 1 million blood donors in the Missouri-Illinois Blood Services Region of the American Red Cross were warned last week that personal information about them could have been stolen earlier this year by a former employee and might have been used in identity thefts.

The former worker had access to 8,000 blood donors in a database she used in her job, all of whom were notified by mail of possible identity theft problems on March 17, according to the agency. But after the original warning letters went out, the Red Cross decided to expand the identity theft warnings to all 1 million donors in the Missouri-Illinois region because of concerns that she may have accidentally accessed other records in the larger group.

They don’t need your Social Security Number to take your blood. But by asking for it and putting it in their computers, they made it available to someone with less than honest intentions who would work for them for minimum wage.

Remember, just say no to SSN, boys and girls.

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Rove’s Gift To His Beloved Condi

Is there nothing this cabal cannot do?

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice took time out from matters of war and peace to catch this week’s finale of American Idol. Unlike many adults who claim they watch the show only because their kids commandeer the TV, Condi is an unabashed fan.

Rice was rooting for fellow Birmingham native Taylor Hicks and will soon send him a congratulatory letter, says a State Department official.

Nothing is too trifling for a conspiracy for these people. Rigging American Idol? Hey, they’ve got to stay in practice between elections.

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Book Report: Biblioholism: The Literary Addiction by Tom Raabe (1991)

I paid $4.50 for a used copy of this book from Hooked on Books when I went on my books-on-books binge (more details here). Of the other books, this is the one I liked least.

In the introduction, the author mentions that the book stems from a humorous essay. Perhaps the author should have left well enough alone. I bet this was a humorous essay. As a full-length book, though, it’s wanting.

The book defines biblioholism too broadly for my test and paints the accumulation of books as trying to just have books or to build a library to look smart. Maybe it’s a gag. Maybe it’s too close for comfort to me, so I cannot enjoy mirth that ensues as the author lists various and sundry obsessive and compulsive behaviors associated with liking books.

I’m not sorry I read the book, but I am sorry I paid $4.50 for it. Since you don’t trust a word I say anyway, feel free to buy the revised edition noted below for almost $6.00.

Books mentioned in this review:

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Victory for British Police: One Fewer Armed Klingon

Star Trek blade seized:

THIS five-foot martial arts sword capable of beheading a man was recovered by shocked cops in a house raid.

The terrifying Batleth weapon is identical to one wielded by Klingon aliens in the Star Trek sci-fi films.

Officers seized the three-handled sword — which has huge pointed blades at either end — at a home in Gloucester.

It would be funny if, deep down, I wasn’t afraid that these brilliant ideas–seizing all knives and knife turn-in amnesty programs and the eventual outlawing of the fetal position as a defense because it offends those who’ve had abortions–were impossible here.

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Eminent Domain, One Room at a Time

You know that extra room in your house? The city of Chesterfield, Missouri, has taken control of it, or at least who can room in it: Council approves ban on renters in houses:

Although they added an exception for foreign exchange students, Chesterfield lawmakers approved legislation that prevents homeowners from renting rooms in their houses.

City officials – and some residents – have insisted the practice can lead to excessive crowding, parking difficulties, more transients, and other neighborhood nuisances.

Other residents, who spoke to the City Council on May 15, protested that renting rooms can be a valuable aid to young students and elderly homeowners.

Besides, the single occupant isn’t high enough density. If you’ve got a spare room in your house, the city of Chesterfield will put a retail outlet of some sort in it, since that’s the best use of your downstairs bedroom from their perspective. And they’ll stick you with the bill to make your walk-out basement ADA-compatible.

In a shocking turn of events, the prosecutors are eager to begin:

Those who violate the law will be subject to a fine of up to $1,000 or jail time of up to three months.

Tim Engelmeyer, the city’s prosecuting attorney, favored the bill and recently told city officials in an E-mail that the law would “protect the integrity of our neighborhoods.”

As a bonus to eroding property rights, it will also generate revenue! What’s not to like about it?

Other than the erosion and generation parts to the benefit of a government, I wholeheartedly support bending the dangerous individual to the will of the community.

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Dan O’Neill: Disciple of Fark?, Tuesday, May 23, 2006, 5:04 pm:

Dan O’Neill, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Thursday, May 25, 2006:

Barbaro is doing surprisingly well after surgery. Apparently doctors reached this conclusion after asking the injured thoroughbred if he was in any pain. Reportedly, Barbaro said, “N-a-a-a-a-a-a-a.”

Plagiarism, or simply two people hitting the obvious joke? I guess only O’Neill knows for sure.

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