Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Foxconn Con Update

Democrats Question State's Ability To Track Foxconn Job Creation
What Foxconn Means For Wisconsin
WEDC Won't Release Foxconn Contract Before It's Signed
The Secrets of Foxconn
Start Me Up: Wisconsin Needs More Than Foxconn To Fix Its Economy
Fox-con Secrecy And WEDC Arrogance Continues
How Legislature Is Bypassing The Courts
Foxconn Water Diversion Story Needed More Attention
How To Build Wisconsin's Economy
Why Foxconn's Wisconsin Promise Of 13,000 Quality Jobs Is An Empty One
Walker's "Wisconn Valley" Is A Con All Right
Paper Peddles Bogus Foxconn Report
Trump, Walker and The Foxconn Con
Foxconn Deal Suspends Judicial Rules
Newest Deals Shows Foxconn Flaws

Safety, Guns and Opportunists

As our media continues to sell fear to our increasingly consumerist culture, we are allowing a militarized mindset to rule our emotions, policies and initiatives. More guns and more police has been the rallying cry.

As Politico found, "Mass public shootings are roughly as common now as they were in the 1980s and ’90s. What has changed? The death toll."

And, as CNN discovered, this is primarily and American problem:
From 1966 to 2012, nearly a third of the world's mass shootings took place in the United States. A 2016 study looked at 292 incidents in which four or more people were killed. It found 90 of them occurred in America. Put another way: While the United States has about 5% of the world's population, it had 31% of all public mass shootings.

An odd aspect in all of this, as Five Thirty Eight detailed, is that although mass shootings have become more common in the U.S., overall gun homicides have declined.

New York Magazine looked at FBI data from 2000 to 2013:

"Yes, there’s an upward trend. But the fact is that these incidents remain exceedingly rare,declares Jesse Singal.

Singal concludes:
While there’s been a short-term increase in one very specific, narrowly defined kind of violence, the overall homicide rate in the U.S.(the purple line) is on a long-term downward trend that includes the period covered by the FBI report. Mass shootings account for a tiny, tiny percentage of the total murders in the country — in 2012, the worst recent year for mass shootings, just 0.6 percent of total murders, according to the FBI’s 2012 homicide numbers
Overall, when it comes to violence the country is safer now than it has been in decades. Obviously there’s still much vital work to be done when it comes to gun control, understanding why violent people snap, and so on. But talk of “sharp increases” in terrible, shocking, but extremely rare crimes promotes an alarmist view of the world that doesn’t quite match the facts.
City of Milwaukee Alderman Tony Zielinski has been banging the police and safety drum lately. In his view, police are the answer. Mayor Barrett has proposed eliminating some police and fire positions in his latest budget. Zielinski has taken every opportunity he can to get in front of the camera and to issue press releases pleading for more police.

Here, again, what we think we know is false. The tripe Zielinski is peddling is false.

As Alex S. Vitale proclaims, We Need Less Policing. His research into the issue concludes:
Any real agenda for police reform should not look to make the police friendlier and more professional. Instead, it must reduce their role and replace it with empowered communities working to solve their own problems. We don’t need community control of the police. We need community control of services that will create safer, more stable neighborhoods and cities.
In We Don't Just Need Nicer Cops. We Need Fewer Cops Vitale continues:
We have to take steps to dial back our reliance on the police as the primary tool of resolving neighborhood crime and disorder problems.
And, not only do the police and fire departments take up over 87% of the entire City of Milwaukee budget. The cost of police misconduct in Milwaukee is growing.
Police misconduct has cost Milwaukee taxpayers at least $17.5 million in legal settlements since 2015, forcing the city to borrow money to make the payouts amid an ever-tightening budget.

That amount jumps to at least $21.4 million when interest paid on the borrowing and fees paid to outside attorneys are factored in.
Milwaukee Adlerman Zielinski's willingness to keep increasing the police force (and departmental budget) will do nothing for the safety of Milwaukee, but will surely crush the City budget with ever-increasing police costs. And, as the police costs continue to increase, less and less money with be available for any other programs or projects. This is ill-informed, misguided and suicidal public policy from a public servant seemingly more concerned with personal attention than with City efficiency and a responsible budget.

For those pundits and politicians that keep proclaiming more police is the answer to safety concerns, it really just shows that they haven't done their research or looked very hard at the issue.

The answer isn't more police, it's less guns and more community-oriented policies and programs.

For Further Reading:
What Does It Mean To Be Anti-Police?
Why Police Are Rarely Indicted For Misconduct
No, Protests Against Police Brutality Are Not Increasing Crime
Barrett Versus The Backdrop Boys

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Statement From Chief of Staff Patrick Curley

“Attempting to toss aside 100 years of good government and progressive policies is absurd. As Alderman Borkowski said, the file to gut the citizen member Fire and Police Commission powers was for show. I understand why Alds. Zielinski and Borkowski want to put on a show at a time the City needs to address an $83 million pension payment and escalating salaries and budgets for public safety. As members of the County Board they both voted for the infamous county pension backdrops that have cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. The last thing these two backdrop boys want to do is take on another pension issue, do their jobs and protect the taxpayers. Putting on a show is so much easier.” [source]

Wisconsin Reading

During "Recovery" Much Of Wisconsin Stayed Subpar
The Two Wisconsins
The Man Who Beat The Highway Lobby
Little-Known Wisconsin Finance Authority Draws Scrutiny For Debt Deals Worth Billions
Wisconsin, Midwest Rejecting Coal
What Happened To Wisconsin?
Abele Battles Board On Budget
An Arena Fairy Tale With Blurred Morals
WEDC Failing To Track Job Creation, Retention
Rigged: How Voter Suppression Threw Wisconsin To Trump
Taxes Down, But No Impact On Jobs
The Bizarre Politics of Ald. Tony Zielinski
Zielinski Bashes Barrett, Flynn
Missing Out: Recent Tax Cuts Slanted In Favor Of Those With Highest Incomes
Middle of The Pack: Wisconsin Government Revenue Is Similar To That Of Other States

Weekend Reading

The Transfer Problem and Tax Incidence
You Better Learn Our Lesson
Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies
Subsidies, Spite, and Supply Chains
There's Very Little Welfare Left For Trump To Reform
Economic Might By U.S. Metro Area
The More Guns, Less Crime Scam
Intellectual Property For The Twenty-First Century Economy
Those Luxury Condos Look A Little Drab
Insects Are In Serious Trouble
How Amazon Undermines Jobs, Wages, and Working Conditions
Amazon HQ2 And The Rise of Big-Ticket Megadeals
Big Question For U.S. Cities: Is Amazon HQ2 Worth The Price?

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Streetcars, Safety and Hucksters

Constituents of City of Milwaukee Alderman Tony Zielinski may want to read his recent bloviating regarding the Mayor’s 2018 City of Milwaukee Budget.

He’s wholeheartedly opposed to the City’s streetcar project. Yet, and this shows his desperation to develop a coherent rebuttal, Zielinski is presenting this as a choice between either funding the streetcar project or eliminating some police and fire fighter positions.

Because that’s the only two choices we have as a City – streetcars or safety? More appropriately, it’s a safe political road to getting Zielinski some attention – playing off the misplaced fears of citizens to continually funnel more and more money to police and militaristic options. 

For some context, Wisconsin has spent over a billion dollars on new stadiums for the Brewers, Bucks and Packers in the last decade. Private sport structures whose benefits go to their private owners. The State and the City has also doled out millions in subsidies to businesses for years and years.

But here comes Zielinski with numerous press releases condemning the Mayor and the streetcar.

Where were all of Zielinksi’s press releases condemning the millions of dollars in giveaways to stadiums, developers and other corporate interests?

Milwaukee is spending $128 million on a streetcar to be used by residents, tourists and businesses.

How is this a waste?

Every other major city has some sort of streetcar, light rail or similar. So, it seems more like Milwaukee is behind the curve as far as what businesses and workers want in amenities and infrastructure. Local infrastructure is what creates jobs and draws businesses, residents and tourists.

As an alderman supposedly so concerned with constituents’ tax dollars being spent efficiently, how much of the entire Milwaukee budget does Mr. Zielinksi want going to police and fire?

As Bruce Murphy highlighted in a recent article, “In 2004, when Barrett started as mayor, the police and fire budget represented 62.7 percent of the city’s combined shared revenue and property tax levy; by 2017 the police and fire budget accounted for 87.7 percent. Increasingly, it’s become difficult for the city to pay for anything but police and fire services…Today, police and fire workers account for 77 percent of all taxpayer contributions to city employee pensions.”

So, Mr. Zielinski, how much more of the City of Milwaukee budget should go to just police officers and fire fighters?

How much more do we need to spend on public safety Mr. Zielinksi? How many police officers does Milwaukee need? Let’s see the numbers. Let’s see your analysis. How are you arriving at your conclusions?

Milwaukee has 42 police employees for every 10,000 people in the City of Milwaukee. Ranking Milwaukee 14th in the U.S. The average in the U.S. for cities with a population over 500,000 is 24 police employees for every 10,000 people. The population of the City of Milwaukee ranks 30th among the 100 largest cities in America.

Milwaukee already has almost twice as many police employees as other similar-sized cities.

To pretend to be concerned about the budget or to present this as acting fiscally responsible is deceitful. Just like when federal politicians complain about the federal budget while simultaneously pumping more money into the Pentagon. For Zielinski to talk of City budget woes, yet he wants to throw more money at the two most heavily-funded departments, he cannot be taken seriously.

Maybe if we focused more on infrastructure to attract businesses we could create more jobs, alleviating some of the poverty and inequality in Milwaukee and, thus, reducing the need to spend a majority of the City of Milwaukee budget on police officers.

As City of Milwaukee resident who voted for Zielinski as my representative, I am extremely disappointed by his position. It is incredibly short-sighted.

Maybe Tony should do some reading about urban infrastructure, transit, connectivity and smart growth. Does Mr. Zielinksi not realize that his Bay View neighborhood benefits from the growth in downtown Milwaukee? Does he not understand that the construction, new restaurants and positive developments occurring in Bay View are related to the boom that is taking place in downtown Milwaukee? It’s partially because of the FIRE industries located in the downtown, where many Bay View residents work, that Bay View residents have the disposable income to spend on bars, restaurants and other attractions. (Not to mention all the workers involved in the construction and/or renovation of these projects.) To hamper the streetcar, and thus the potential and attractiveness of the downtown, is to hamper Bay View. The investment in the streetcar is an investment in all of Milwaukee, including Bay View.

To start, the streetcar will connect the downtown – its employment centers, the lakefront and the major attractions (Summerfest, Art Museum, the Bucks arena, etc.). Hopefully, if Milwaukee can be as forward thinking as every other city its size, we will expand the system…connecting to Miller Park, UWM, Marquette and Mitchell airport, to name a few.

Zielinski’s latest press release - October 2, 2017 - proposed eliminating $208,000 for two streetcar management positions and instead moving that money to police officer positions. Since police officers average around $65,000 per year, this would equate to roughly three police officer positions. Which, of course, makes no sense. Are these just political ploys to introduce Zielinski to a wider audience within the City for a possible mayoral run? Plus, eliminating management from the streetcar only burdens its potential. Citizens, businesses and tourists will benefit from a well-run streetcar.

The City of Milwaukee has made repeated cuts to other departments and vital community services while, up to this point, leaving untouched the fire and police department. This cannot continue. Should the Mayor continue to allow the police and fire departments to strong-arm the City of Milwaukee budget? Why should every other department, worker, and/or project continue to accept less, while the police officers and fire fighters continue to get more and more?

The Mayor is functioning with less and less. And, in the face of such adversity, his budget seems practical and reasonable.

Where were Zielinski's press releases when other vital departments’ budgets were being cut and their employees were getting furloughs, laid-off, not getting raises, paying more for health care and contributing more to retirement? Was he bashing the Mayor then for not funding those departments? Other departments’ budgets haven't seen increases in years, many have seen cuts, yet the police and fire fighters keep getting theirs. They always do. And that’s why they take up 88% of the entire budget!

Zielinski's comments and position on the streetcar should definitely be in the forefront of his constituents' minds during his next re-election campaign. His short-sighted outlook will have negative long-term consequences for Bay View, Milwaukee and the citizens.

For Further Reading:
Infrastructure Financing Options for Transit-Oriented Development
Measuring Benefits of Transit-Oriented Development
Impact of Transit Cuts On Access To Jobs In Metropolitan Milwaukee
Light Rail In Milwaukee: An Analysis Of The Potential Impact On Economic Development
Strategic Value Creation In Infrastructure Projects
Why America's Public Transportation Is Crumbling

Alderman Zielinski has just released yet another press release.

A driver ran a red light the other day and killed a woman and her daughter. The accident is terribly saddening (any avoidable accident such as this always is).

Zielinski is now demanding city-wide installation of red-light cameras.

Here, again, we have a situation that will cost the taxpayers money. The red-light cameras will need to be purchased, installed, monitored, repaired and occasionally upgraded.

I'm not against such technology. I'm just saying, this, too, costs money.

For Zielinski, the money spent on cameras would be fine. But spending on a streetcar, which would also benefit local citizens, is too much. Even though a streetcar would mean less people having to drive and, thus, less people possibly blowing through red lights.

It should also be noted that red-light cameras will not prevent accidents. They don't stop cars that have gone through red lights. If you're not noticing the red light and blowing through it, you're also not going to notice the camera.

Guns Matter

For Further Reading:
The American Impulse to Equate Guns With Freedom and Masculinity With Violence Is Killing Us

Midweek Reading

Solidarity's End. Neil Gorsuch is giving conservatives the chance to virtually destroy American unions.
More people were arrested last year over pot than for murder, rape, aggravated assault and robbery - combined.
Republicans propose tax cut plan to give more money to wealthy contributors.
Yellen's masterful bond-market puppet show.
Washington Post news article argues it is better to tax work than vacant property in London.
Three important points about the Republican tax plan.
I helped create the GOP tax myth. Trump is wrong: tax cuts don't equal growth.
How to make 500-year storms happen every year.
Supply-siders still push what doesn't work.
Why American workers pay twice as much in taxes as wealthy investors.

The Kremlin Konnection