Monday, September 29, 2008

Local water politics, with regional implications.

The Waukesha Water Utility has been the private fiefdom of Daniel Warren and Gerald Couri for decades. These two are (or, until recently, were) the private citizen members who, between them, have held the seats (and the elected officer posts of President and Secretary) for approximately thirty-five years.

Couri's three year term is up on Wednesday and Mayor Larry Nelson has replaced Couri with an unknown naif, who--as Nelson put it: "...volunteered to serve".

The new member showed up at the Thursday, Sept. 25 meeting and hesitated to sit at the table because he seemed to be unsure about whether his appointment had been ratified by the Waukesha Common Council.

Asked to respond to the welcome by the assembled Commissioners, Allen Roeker described himself simply as a mechanical engineer who "...has some experience with fluid mechanics...". That little resume tidbit is right up there with a candidate's claim to foreign policy experience a la: "On a clear day you can see all the way to Russia from Alaska".

It was pretty clear that he is a complete-blank-slate newcomer to the issues that face the Commission. He's never been seen at a commission meeting in the three years Water Blogged has followed water politics in Waukesha. He has no publicly-stated position on any issue that faces the commission. He's a prime candidate to be a new water-carrier for Daniel Warren.

I offer my sincere wish that he serve a useful term representing the interests of Waukesha rate-payers and citizens as he assumes the responsibilities of Water Utility Commissioner.

[Full disclosure: I offered my services to Mayor Larry two years ago; Mayor Larry declined. And, who could blame him? I told him that I thought the Commission needed some "loyal opposition;" Mayor Larry told me--in so many words--that he didn't need any opposition; he needed heavy duty conformity.]

Larry seemed, then, to need someone who would follow the Water Utility's custom: never dissent; always vote in the affirmative when a roll call vote is called. Ask no serious questions. Do everything Daniel Warren (Commissioner for the past 21 years, Commission President for most of those years) proposes. Meet in secret session whenever Warren says he wants a secret session.

Most of all: Maintain the Water Utility's virtually unbroken record of unanimous approval of every matter requiring a roll call vote for over three years. (I say virtually unbroken because once--just once-- a Commissioner did cast a lone dissenting vote over a non-issue, approximately a year and a half ago. Before the next meeting, that commissioner had been replaced by Mayor Nelson).

Commissioner Roeker may, perhaps, have a source of advice on how to be a good and useful citizen volunteer. His wife, is Chair of the Waukesha Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry Board and a member of the City Planning Commission.

Dynastic politics?

Roeker's first highly visible challenge will be to assess whether the coming (probably December or January) whopping rate increase is crafted in a way that serves the citizens or the outrageous development-forever-as-far-as-the-eye-can-see interests of Mayor Larry and Commission President Daniel Warren.

Stay tuned....

Useful word to add to the "rescue" vocabulary....


Improvements that make things worse.

Pete Seeger's new CD reviewed in NYT

On this the day that we lower upon the shoulders of our children and grandchildren the cost of the mistakes of feckless, free-market, unregulated bucaneros, here's something by a guy who is 89 years old, and a lot smarter than Phil Gramm.

The lyrics of “If It Can’t Be Reduced” are taken verbatim from a resolution passed last year by the city council of Berkeley, Calif.

Its verse goes: “If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted, then it should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production.”

I merely pass this on in hopes that the double whammy of Pete and Berkeley induce purple-faced apoplexy in all the Wiggys out there.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Helen Waite now working for Senator Kohl....

Statement of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold

On the Proposed $700 Billion Bailout

September 22, 2008

“I want to get answers to the serious questions about the bailout plan before I decide whether or not to support it. I want to know how the taxpayers’ interests will be protected, what the real cost of the plan could be, if the plan will be funded or just piled on top of our already mountainous debt, if it will include protections to prevent something like this in the future, and if the executives of the companies that are rescued by taxpayers will continue to receive multimillion dollar compensation packages. I recognize that Secretary Paulson and Chairman Bernanke have a tough job, but the administration is asking Congress to provide nearly one-third of the total federal budget to the Treasury Department for this rescue plan. These and other questions need to be answered before we decide whether or not to approve it.”


Statement of Senator Herb Kohl on the same issue:

....Still waiting, Herb.

....Still waiting, Senator.

Senator Kohl regrets he's unable to speak today.

We can wait 'til hell freezes. Herb, "Nobody's Senator but yours" Kohl is hiding in the weeds. That slogan of his implies that nobody with a bunch of money can control his thinking, his voting, what he supports and what he condemns.

The only problem with that bold statement of principle and independence is that Herb is totally controlled by a single individual with a whole bunch of money: Himself. And he's a scared little rabbit, hiding in the bushes, quivering, frozen by fear and waiting for hand signals from his accountant.

There used to be a sign on the wall of the place my dad took his clunkers for repair.

If you'd like to discuss delaying payment 'til a more opportune time,
you'll need to see our credit manager, Helen Waite.
Need credit? GO TO HELEN WAITE.

The garage closed, Steve the mechanic retired....And Helen Waite went to work for a Senator.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Oconomowoc Mayor letting us in on the good news he thinks he overheard...

Maury Sullivan, mayor of Oconomowoc, has made comments that are headline news at the Waukesha Freeman:

Target, Kohl’s, among potential Pabst Farms retailers?
Sullivan says ‘grapevine’ IDs them; developer claims no tenants signed

By JEFF RUMAGE - GM Today Staff

September 13, 2008

OCONOMOWOC - Mayor Maury Sullivan announced Thursday the names of four potential Pabst Farms Town Centre tenants that he said he heard “through the grapevine.”

At his annual “state of the city” address before Oconomowoc Area Chamber of Commerce members, Sullivan said he has heard Target, Kohl’s, PetSmart and OfficeMax are rumored as potential mall tenants, although Pabst Farms Developments and the town center developer, Developers Diversified Realtors, are keeping the tenants’ identities secret until negotiations are finalized.

Pabst Farms spokesman Thad Nation insists no tenants have signed on to the project.

  • "...through the grapevine...."

  • "Rumored as potential mall tenants...."

  • "Pabst Farms Development and the town center developer, Developers Diversified Realtors, are keeping the tenants' identities secret...."
  • "...Pabst Farms and DDR have said the mall will draw a regional base of customers. With Target, Kohl's and Office Max store locations already nearby in Delafield, Sullivan's announcement was not warmly received by Chamber of commerce members".

Meanwhile, in the real world other retailers and mall denizens are making big news, and they're not keeping identities secret:
(as of May, 2008; highly probable that many more have been added to this list in past quarter)
  • Ann Taylor is closing 117 stores nationwide.
  • Eddie Bauer to close more stores.
  • Cache is closing 20 to 23 stores this year.
  • Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug, and Catherines are closing 150 stores nationwide.
  • Talbots, and J. Jill are closing all 78 of its kids and men’s stores. Now the company says it will close another 22 underperforming stores. The 22 stores will be a mix of Talbots women’s and J.Jill.
  • Gap Inc. will be closing 85 stores.
  • Foot Locker to close 140 stores.
  • Wickes Furniture is going out of business and closing all of its stores.
  • Levitz, the furniture retailer, is going out of business and closing all 76 of its stores in December.
  • Zales, Piercing Pagoda plans to close 82 stores by July 31. It has also announced that it is closing another 23 underperforming stores.
  • The Walt Disney Company subsidiary Children’s Place filed for bankruptcy protection in late March. Walt Disney, in a news release, said it has also obtained the right to close about 98 Disney Stores in the U.S.
  • Home Depot has 15 store closings.
  • CompUSA clarifies details on its store closings. Any extended warranties purchased for products through CompUSA will be honored by a third-party provider, Assurant Solutions.
  • Macy’s is closing 9 stores.
  • Movie Gallery is closing 160 stores as part of reorganization plan to exit. They plan to close 400 of 3,500 Movie Gallery and Hollywood Video stores in addition to the 520 locations the video rental chain closed last fall.
  • Pacific Sunwear is closing 153 Demostores.
  • Pep Boys is closing 33 stores.
  • Sprint Nextel is closing 125 retail locations.
  • J. C. Penney, Lowe’s, and OfficeDepot are scaling back.
  • Ethan Allen Interiors announced plans to close 12 of 300+ stores in an effort to cutcosts.
  • Wilsons the Leather Experts is closing 158 stores.
  • Sharper Image: The company recently filed for bankruptcy protection and announced that 90 of its 184 stores are closing.
  • Bombay Company: The company unveiled plans to close all 384 U.S.-based Bombay Company stores.
  • KB Toys posted a list of 356 stores that it is closing around the United States as part of its bankruptcy reorganization.
  • Dillard’s plans to close more stores.
  • Steve and Barry’s Clothing, which has 240 stores filed for bankruptcy.
  • Starbucks is in the process of closing 600 stores.
Barbaro, Michael. "Big Retailers Scaling Back Expansion Plans and Shutting Stores."
The New York Times. 2 May 2008.
Kingsbury, Kevin. "Restructuring Charges, Economic Environment Hurt AnnTaylor's Net."
The Wall Street Journal. 22 May 2008.
O'Donnell, Jayne. "Disney to Shutter 98 Stores; Home Depot Closing 15."
USA Today. 1 May 2008.
Associated Press. "Wilsons Leather Closing Stores."
Green Bay Press-Gazette. 16 February 2008.
Dow Jones Newswires. "Foot Locker 1Q Net Falls 82%; Backs Year Forecast." 22 May 2008.
WHAS-TV [ Louisville]. "Many Stores Closing Due to Retail Slump."

Sunday, September 07, 2008

GWB, humanitarian

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Arrived home after a day of cycling on the Sugar River Trail in Green County: New Glarus...Albany...Brodhead. Then, put on a pot of water to boil bi-color sweet corn (four minutes, not a second more) from a farmstand on the edge of Whitewater.

Life is sweet. And, I am grateful. Everyone on this earth should be so blessed.

Little to be happy about if you live in Cuba...

When Hurricane Gustav blasted across Cuba last week, causing untold destruction, the US offered humanitarian assistance in the amount of $100,000, but with this condition: it had to be distributed by right-wing Cubans on the island, friends of GWB, but opposed to the Cuban government. There would be no aid distributed through the Cuban government.

The Cubans told George W. Bush Thanks-but-no-thanks (roughly translated as "Go furgle yourself and your political conditions", though not in so many words.
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Of the biblical allotment of three score and ten I have lived only three of them more than a bicycle ride from one of the Great Lakes. I grew up ten blocks from Lake Erie in the (once Irish/Italian ghetto, now newly-hip) "Near West Side" of Cleveland. I can still cycle to the Milwaukee lakefront in an hour and a half; but, a round-trip has always been more than I would (noror ever did) attempt. -0- I'm a "...somewhat combative pacifist and fairly cooperative anarchist," after the example of Grace Paley (1922-2007). -0- I'm always cheerful when I pay my taxes (having refused--when necessary--to pay that portion of them dedicated to war). -0- And I always, always vote.