Sunday, April 26, 2015

Bonds & Bondage: Indentured To The Sports Entertainment Cabal

The parade of boosters continues. The chairmen of Johnson Controls and Briggs and Stratton, and the former chief executive of Bucyrus International feel Investing Public Money In A New Arena Is A Smart Bet. Seeing as all three are millionaires, I'm curious how much of their own money they'll be betting? [Just an aside: the belief that their is a smart "bet" is actually what is known as the gambler's fallacy - "When an individual erroneously believes that the onset of a certain random event is less likely to happen following an event or a series of events. This line of thinking is incorrect because past events do not change the probability that certain events will occur in the future." With regards to stadium and arena building, history shows us these are not economic catalysts, to believe the latest construction is going to be "the one" is delusional.]

Robin Vos has called on the city and the county to "Step Up Their Game." The $50 million they've proposed thus far, just isn't enough according to Vos. The city and the county need to offer more corporate welfare to the Bucks billionaire owners.

Even the Commercial Association of Realtors is actively lobbying legislators in favor of more public funding for a new arena. But they're just hoping for a commission on the imagined new units in the area that they'll be able to sell. Too bad, according to the state's proposal, much of the development could be exempt from taxation. Add that to the fact that these are mostly low-wage jobs and most can see this is not a "good bet."

State Representative John Nygren also feels Milwaukee Needs To Commit More Money To New Arena. His main reasoning is that other cities have been blackmailed out of a higher percentage of the total project costs, hence, Milwaukee should put up the same amount of welfare as other cities. He cites flawed and inflated research from other boosters. But the ruse comes crashing down when Nygren writes, "The arena alone provides thousands of jobs and the gross dollar impact of the BMO Harris Bradley Center, both direct and indirect, on the Milwaukee metro area totals $204.5 million annually. However, should we do nothing, taxpayers are still left on the hook for $120 million in maintenance costs and debt related to the Bradley Center." How can anyone claim the Bradley Center is the huge economic driver and money-maker if after all its "greatness" since being built in 1988 it still owes $120 million (debt plus repairs)? Maybe it's time to get out of the stadium subsidization business. If it's so profitable, why are we in debt $120 million because of it?

It's a wonder the Moderne was constructed and all the redevelopment of Pabst City has occurred despite the fact that we haven't had a new arena. How necessary is all this money for an arena? The area is growing despite the "old" Bradley Center and the perpetual cellar-dweller Bucks.

I should note, I'm not saying public financing should never be used on projects. But it is one thing to build housing, provide good jobs, and redevelop blighted areas, it's quite another to subsidize billionaire sport team owners.

According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the actual cost to the taxpayers, including debt service, could be as much as $488 million. Other monies include: $150 million will be from the new owners; Herb Kohl would kick in $100 million; and $220 million in bonding would come from the State.

Tax-exempt bonds are a loophole that has allowed sports stadiums to get a giant federal tax break for nearly 30 years. Bond buyers don't have to pay taxes on their earnings. President Obama's latest budget would bar the use of tax-exempt bonds to finance professional sports facilities. Just like the good little party and plutocratic shill he is, Paul Ryan Opposes Obama's Plan To Bar Tax-Exempt Arena Bonds. Sometimes you really have to wonder if our elected representatives have Wisconsin's best interest at heart or just their paymasters'.

Bruce Murphy, in numerous articles analyzing the subject, wrote about a Secret Tax Subsidy Society. Basically discussing how most of the details of the costs are hidden from taxpayers until it's too late. Murphy has even opined Bucks Owners Must Build Without A Subsidy. Here Murphy highlights the fact that other cities (only a few) have actually built stadiums with complete private financing, while also pointing out that the Bucks owners are billionaires and can afford to build the stadium. He also notes, "A study by University of Michigan professor Judith Grant Long found that, in recent years, the average public-private partnership has saddled cities with 78 percent of the cost and the teams with 22 percent. In 2010, she found, 121 professional sports facilities in the five major sports leagues required $43 billion in investments in new construction or major renovations."

In looking deeper into the State's plan for funding a new arena, Murphy discovered some disturbing facts:
Though the deal as revised by legislators calls for the state to provide $150 million in funding and the city and county to cough up as much as $100 million, in addition to providing a huge tax exemption to the Bucks, the “sports and entertainment district” spelled out by Gov. Scott Walker’s administration gives all control of the district to the state. It calls for 11 board members, with nine appointed by the governor, one by Milwaukee’s mayor and one by the Milwaukee County Executive. The language calls the sports district a “local government unit,” but the overwhelming majority of state appointed board members leaves no real power to local governments in Milwaukee. When asked, Walker’s spokesperson Laurel Patrick offered no answer as to why the board membership was structured this way.

The proposal also fully protects the state’s investment, noting that “if the team breaks or otherwise fails to fulfill its obligations under the lease, the professional basketball team would have to pay the state an amount sufficient to retire the state appropriation obligation issued for the sports and entertainment facility.” But there is no such protection for any investment provided by the city or county. Patrick offered no explanation for why the proposal offers protection only to the state...

Then there is the matter of the proposal’s lavish tax exemptions for the Bucks. The language of the proposal is quite sweeping, calling it not an NBA arena, but a “Sports and Entertainment District,” and specifying that a property tax exemption will be extended to “parking lots, garages, restaurants, parks, concession facilities, entertainment facilities, transportation facilities and other functionally related or auxiliary facilities or structures.” It would appear that nearly anything the Bucks owners develop in the area is going to be exempt from property taxes.

It was hardly coincidental that when the Bucks owners made their recent announcement of a $500 million, downtown development plan they called it a new “sports and entertainment district” and a “dynamic entertainment district (that) will serve as a destination that draws the people of the region together.” It suggests that the owners and Walker made sure each was using the same language. Indeed, the Bucks’ proposal for an entertainment district calls for building a separate “state of the art” practice facility, a 60,000 square foot public plaza and a new parking facility. By a neat coincidence, the state proposal for the district specifically awards an exemption for a practice facility and “parks” like the public plaza the Buck plan to build. Additionally, any “restaurants” or other “auxiliary facilities or structures” would be tax exempt...

In short, Walker will assure the estimated $10 million in state income taxes on ballplayers isn’t lost, but has created legal language that allows the Bucks a massive property tax exemption. Not only will the $500 million arena be tax exempt, but so will the beer garden, practice facility, public plaza, probably any Bucks apparel and merchandise shops and who knows what else? Assuming everything within the entertainment district will cost at least $700 million (a very conservative estimate) and figuring that value times the current property tax rate of $29.97 per $1,000 of value, that would equal a property tax payment of nearly $21 million per year, meaning local taxpayers would lose far more in tax revenue than state taxpayers would gain. Over the likely 30-year life of the arena that’s a total property tax exemption of $629 million. (That might be a high estimate as property tax assessments for new buildings are often set below construction costs. On the other hand, I’m applying the current tax level for all 30 years of use, while the buildings’ value and taxes are likely to rise over time.)...

The proposal’s language also specifies that the “income of a sport and entertainment district would be exempt from the state corporate income and franchise tax.” This language is very broad and would seem to include anything the Bucks develop under the banner of an entertainment district. Given the state corporate income tax of 7.9 percent, this exemption could be huge and wipe out most of the $10 million in annual income taxes Walker says he wants to protect.

It’s almost comic to hear state legislators repeat the mantra that the city and county must contribute to the Bucks because they will benefit from this huge development coming downtown. In fact, they are getting nothing but a massive non-profit eating up acres of developable land that will now be stricken from the tax base, and at a time when Downtown has become a magnet to new businesses. For the city, county, Milwaukee Public Schools, Milwaukee Area Technical College and Milwaukee sewerage district, this will represent a huge loss of property taxes that could have been paid by business, residential and retail development. This tax exemption is so far-reaching it leaves no way for the city to create a Tax Incremental District to finance a contribution to the proposed arena because no taxes will be collected in the district.
On top of all this, an American City Business Journals report found, "Milwaukee and Green Bay are among 20 markets where total personal incomes (TPI) were deemed to be insufficient for their existing teams, let alone any new franchises. TPI is the sum of all money earned by all residents in a given year." The report, "Analyzed the income bases of 83 major markets across the United States and Canada. It investigated whether those areas have the financial ability to adequately support their existing teams in baseball, football, basketball, hockey and soccer -- and determined whether they have the wherewithal to support new teams."

The promises are false, the costs are high and the jobs are bad. Sounds more like a stupid bet to me.

For Further Reading:
A Public Plan
Drowning in Delusions
Loot, Loot, Loot For The Home Team
Nudging Away Nonsense
Professional Sports Subsidies
Should Cities Pay For Sports Facilities
Stadium Subsidies
Subsidy Resources
Welcome to Walmart
Basket Case 
Buck The System 
Buck You 
Economic Engine Or Albatross? 
Is There Anything A Stadium Can't Solve? 
Overblown Bradley Center Impacts
Stadium Swindle
More Bradley Center Bull
Bradley Center Booster Keep Pounding That Drum
Will Herb Kohl Blackmail Milwaukee?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Ruinous Walker's Downfall (Too Bad He's Been Bringing Wisconsin With Him)

The more Scott Walker garners national media attention, the more he displays his ineptitude. On Glenn Beck, Walker flip-flopped and came out against legal immigration. Walker sputtered and yammered on ultimately saying nothing as Martha Radditz attempted to validate Mr. Walker's foreign policy bonafides with questions regarding Syria.

Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action Wisconsin, details the many failures of Scott Walker:
Scott Walker's historic proposed $300 million cut to the UW System follows his first state budget, which contained slashing cuts to our equally precious and highly ranked elementary schools, high schools and world renowned technical college system. These cuts are a sustained assault on the core concept of the Wisconsin Idea that investments in education are among the most vital we can make to improve the human condition and expand opportunity to everyone... 
This attack on the Wisconsin Idea goes beyond funding. Walker's scheme to spin off our universities, stripping public accountability from a system the people of Wisconsin built together... 
Walker's brand of conservatism is not interested in such knowledge, and in fact runs counter to the facts at its core. In Walker's doublespeak, forcing people off health coverage is innovation, wind farms are a greater threat to human health than fossil fuels, slashing money for education is reform, the failed voucher school experiment is a success, dismal job creation numbers are a comeback, $7.25 an hour is a "living wage," gutting unions raises wages, and a budget deficit is a surplus.
Scott Bauer, of the AP, continues the list of Walker's negligence:
Walker calls for eliminating oversight of for-profit colleges, letting private insurance companies into the state's managed care system and cutting money for public schools that lose students to private voucher schools... 
He's going even farther by proposing a $300 million, or 13 percent, cut in state money for the University of Wisconsin and freezing tuition there for two years while granting it more independence from state laws... 
He's also proposing to eliminate 66 science and education positions at the Department of Natural Resources, in the name of efficiency, but leading to charges that the move will increasingly politicize the agency... 
The Republican-controlled Legislature is also pushing back against Walker's plans for the university and his plan to borrow $1.3 billion for roads and $220 million for a new Milwaukee Bucks stadium.

Read more here:

Read more here:
As you can see, one of the items on Walker's wish list is decimating the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' Science Bureau. Wisconsin is known for its beautiful lakes, rivers and landscapes. Part of the reason for this is the State's stewardship through the Department of Natural Resources. Yet again we have another example of Walker's policies flying in the face of Wisconsin tradition. In a tourist-friendly State, known for its natural beauty, ending the Bureau responsible for such ultimately hampers Wisconsin's future.

The possibility of ending the Science Bureau corresponds with Walker's ban of the staff of the Public Lands Board from talking about climate change. For Walker, Wisconsin doesn't need oversight of our natural resources, nor should we concern ourselves with a discussion about the climate. It appears the chosen platform for Republicans is to bury their heads in the sand and to dig in their heals with more deregulation and tax cuts.

Even the former mayor of Minneapolis, writing in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, felt the need to highlight the differences between Minnesota and Wisconsin policy-choices since Scott Walker took office:
In Minnesota, Dayton turned a $5 billion budget deficit into a more than $1 billion budget surplus in just one term. By raising taxes on the wealthiest earners, Minnesota is now in a position to invest more resources into the state’s schools and infrastructure. 
In Wisconsin, Walker was unable to take his state out of the red and is still facing a $2 billion budget deficit. Walker made the decision to cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires, while slashing programs and refusing investments at the expense of middle-class families and Wisconsin’s financial well-being. 
In Minnesota, Dayton has moved forward Democratic policies like increasing the minimum wage, expanding Medicaid and investing in the middle class, and now we are seeing one of the most business-friendly states in the country. Just this year, Forbes ranked Minnesota as the ninth best state for business, seventh in economic climate and second in quality of life. 
In Wisconsin, Walker opposed a minimum-wage increase and equal-pay legislation, rejected federal funds to expand Medicaid, and attacked Wisconsin workers with right-to-work and anti-collective-​bargaining policies. As a result, the cost of doing business in Wisconsin is higher than the national average, and median household income is thousands less than in Minnesota. 
The facts are clear: Walker and the Republican trickle-down economic policies have made it practically impossible for Wisconsin to recover from the recession, and the state consistently sits at the bottom of the region in private-sector job growth.
Walker has always used Wisconsin's big cities as whipping boys, especially Milwaukee. The cities are examples of crime, excess and un-American activity. Again, Walker's policies fly in the face of reality. The trend over the past decade has been a move back to the city. Companies are trading their suburban locations for the city. Others have noted how suburban sprawl stifles the economy. Right here in Wisconsin, Milwaukee has seen numerous companies move back to the city:
In January 2015 Plunkett Raysich Architects announced it was moving back to the greater Downtown area. 
A long list of companies that have decided to move from the suburbs to Downtown or Walker’s Point in just the last few years, including Stormwater Solutions Engineering (from Pewaukee in 2012), Corvisa Services (Wauwatosa, 2012), Natural Resources Technology (Pewaukee, 2013), Readers Digest (Greendale, 2014), Irgens (Wauwatosa, 2014), HSA Bank (Glendale, 2014) and Stark Investments (St. Francis, 2015). 
In the period from 2006 to 2012, the city was adding a long list of businesses to the redeveloped Menomonee Valley. Many of those companies relocated from the suburbs, including Proven Direct (from Menomonee Falls, 2007), Derse Inc. (Wauwatosa, 2008), Taylor Dynamometer Inc. (New Berlin, 2008), Zimmerman Architectural Studios Inc. (Wauwatosa, 2009), J.F. Ahern Co. (Menomonee Falls, 2012), and a more recent addition, Solaris (West Allis, 2015).
As examples of Republican-policy results: The Fiscal Times wrote, 15 Fortune Companies Paid No Federal Income Taxes In 2014. Bloomberg discovered 10% Of S&P 500 Companies Avoid Paying Taxes. Which coincides with Elizabeth Warren's recent hammering on the failure of Wall Street regulators.

Nationally we've seen the best job growth since the late 1990s. Yet, since Scott Walker, Wisconsin's job growth has trailed the national average.

All of this highlights the fact that Unions Still Matter. They are still the best advocate for good wages, health care, and retirement. They are also the most important institution in the fight against inequality. But the goals of Unions are opposed to the upwardly-redistributive policies of Scott Walker and the Republicans, thus, unions must go.

Maybe Scott Walker should focus more on Wisconsin than his presidential ambitions. Which, by the way, recently cost Wisconsin taxpayers $138,200 for Walker's trip to Great Britain. With his approval rating steadily declining, we can only hope we're in the midst of the downfall of Scott Walker.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Deep Thoughts By Jack Handey

The memories of my family outings are still a source of strength to me. I remember we'd all pile into the car - I forget what kind it was - and drive and drive. I'm not sure where we'd go, but I think there were some trees there. The smell of something was strong in the air as we played whatever sport we played. I remember a bigger, older guy we called "Dad." We'd eat some stuff, or not, and then I think we went home. I guess some things never leave you.

It's sad that a family can be torn apart by something as simple as a pack of wild dogs.

Dad always thought laughter was the best medicine, which I guess is why several of us died of tuberculosis.

It takes a big man to cry, but it takes a bigger man to laugh at that man.

I bet the main reason the police keep people away from a plane crash is they don't want anybody walking in and lying down in the crash stuff, then, when somebody comes up, act like they just woke up and go, "What was THAT?!"

The face of a child can say it all, especially the mouth part of the face.

To me, clowns aren't funny. In fact, they're kind of scary. I've wondered where this started and I think it goes back to the time I went to the circus, and a clown killed my dad.

If a kid asks where rain comes from, I think a cute thing to tell him is "God is crying." And if he asks why God is crying, another cute thing to tell him is "Probably because of something you did."

As we were driving, we saw a sign that said "Watch for Rocks." Marta said it should read "Watch for Pretty Rocks." I told her she should write in her suggestion to the highway department, but she started saying it was a joke - just to get out of writing a simple letter! And I thought I was lazy!

One thing kids like is to be tricked. For instance, I was going to take my little nephew to Disney Land, but instead I drove him to an old burned-out warehouse. "Oh, no," I said, "Disney Land burned down." He cried and cried, but I think that deep down he thought it was a pretty good joke. I started to drive over to the real Disney Land, but it was getting pretty late.

If you saw two guys named Hambone and Flippy, which one would you think liked dolphins the most? I'd say Flippy, wouldn't you? You'd be wrong, though. It's Hambone.

Laurie got offended that I used the word "puke." But to me, that's what her dinner tasted like.

We used to laugh at Grandpa when he'd head off and go fishing. But we wouldn't be laughing that evening when he'd come back with some whore he picked up in town.

As the evening sky faded from a salmon color to a sort of flint gray, I thought back to the salmon I caught that morning, and how gray he was, and how I named him Flint.

Whenever I see an old lady slip and fall on a wet sidewalk, my first instinct is to laugh. But then I think, what if I was an ant, and she fell on me. Then it wouldn't seem quite so funny.

If you go parachuting, and your parachute doesn't open, and you friends are all watching you fall, I think a funny gag would be to pretend you were swimming.

Once when I was in Hawaii, on the island of Kauai, I met a mysterious old stranger. He said he was about to die and wanted to tell someone about the treasure. I said, "Okay, as long as it's not a long story. Some of us have a plane to catch, you know." He stared telling his story, about the treasure and his life and all, and I thought: "This story isn't too long." But then, he kept going, and I started thinking, "Uh-oh, this story is getting long." But then the story was over, and I said to myself: "You know, that story wasn't too long after all." I forget what the story was about, but there was a good movie on the plane. It was a little long, though.

Blow ye winds, like the trumpet blows; but without that noise.

Too bad you can't just grab a tree by the very tiptop and bend it clear over the ground and then let her fly, because I bet you'd be amazed at all the stuff that comes flying out.

I bet a fun thing would be to go way back in time to where there was going to be an eclipse and tell the cave men, "If I have come to destroy you, may the sun be blotted out from the sky." Just then the eclipse would start, and they'd probably try to kill you or something, but then you could explain about the rotation of the moon and all, and everyone would get a good laugh.

I hope in the future Americans are thought of as a warlike, vicious people, because I bet a lot of high schools would pick 'Americans' as their mascot.

Sometimes I think the world has gone completely mad. And then I think, "Aw, who cares?" And then I think, "Hey, what's for supper?"

If you ever go temporarily insane, don't shoot somebody, like a lot of people do. Instead, try to get some weeding done, because you'd really be surprised.

If you ever fall off the Sears Tower, just go real limp, because maybe you'll look like a dummy and people will try to catch you because, hey, free dummy.

It's funny that pirates were always going around searching for treasure, and they never realized that the real treasure was the fond memories they were creating.

Children need encouragement. If a kid gets an answer right, tell him it was a lucky guess. That way he develops a good, lucky feeling.

"The crows seem to be calling my name," thought Caw.

Representation, Dues & Taxes

Two Journal Sentinel readers responses to the right-to-work travesty make great points and are well worth the read.

Sunday March 1, 2015

Make taxes optional
What does it really mean when our state's Republican legislators think an individual should not be required to pay union administrative dues for representation by their union? 
The representatives of union members receive a wage to help achieve improvements to wages, benefits and working conditions for employees of contractors and companies. When members vote on their representatives' compensation within each union, it is often with the knowledge that union rep positions are demanding and often stressful jobs. 
I ask people to consider if there is a difference between a union representative and a legislative representative. Both are there to represent our individual interests in a collective manner. 
I believe if Republican legislators believe so firmly that paying for union representation should be an option, then it is time for taxpayers such as myself to have the same opportunity to decline payment for my representation as a citizen. 
I no longer want to pay taxes that support the wages, per diems, benefits, perks, travel expenses and office costs of state legislators and their staff. I no longer want to pay toward the governor's salary while he is campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire, traveling to Europe or conducting other "representation" responsibilities on my behalf. I want to be given the same option as a state citizen to withhold my financial support for the costs of my representation. 
I look forward to fast-track legislation from one of our Republican legislators that gives me the same right-not-to-pay as those granted to other individuals in our state under the right-to-work legislation. Let's call it Representation-Without-Taxation. 
Brent D. Emons

Sunday March 8, 2015

Dues and taxes
In John Breest's letter of March 3, he says he doesn't want his union dues going to liberal causes ("Unions and politics," Letters). 
As an atheist and taxpayer, I don't want my taxes going to private religious schools. Will I be afforded the same "right" to opt out of taxes that go to superstitious organizations such as churches? 
For some reason, I can't see that happening. 
Steve Burek

More Bad News In The Continuing Sad Saga Of Scott Walker

The Pay-To-Play Allegation Walker's Watchdog Isn't Defending
Secret $1.5 Million Donation Uncovered In Walker Dark-Money Probe
State Of The Union Buster
Walker Ends Freedom Of Contract In Wisconsin
Right-To-Work Laws: Designed To Hurt Unions & Lower Wages
Lawmakers' Priorities For Property Tax Cuts Favor Wealthy
Wisconsin Economy Is Nowhere Near The 'Head Of The Class'
Wisconsin's Middle Class Shrinking Faster Than Any Other State
Wisconsin's Shrinking Middle Class
Walker's Wisconsin Still Lags Nation For Job Growth