Minor Thoughts from me to you

Archives for Madison (page 1 / 2)

My 2016 Primary Results

I voted Tuesday, with most of the rest of the state of Wisconsin. I live in the People's Democratic Republic of Dane County, so I take great pride in having a losing record in each local election that I vote in. This year was no different, as I went 1 for 5 in local elections. I did have an odd feeling of satisfaction, as I went 2 for 2 in statewide voting. I finished with a 3–7 record overall. (My vote is in italics; the winning vote is bolded.)

President of the United States --- Republican

  • Donald Trump, 35%
  • John Kasich, 14%
  • Ted Cruz, 48%

Justice of the Supreme Court

  • JoAnne Kloppenburg, 48%
  • Rebecca Bradley, 52%

Oregon Village Trustee (choose 3)

  • Doug Brethauer, 22.7%
  • Jeff Boudreau, 24.5%
  • Philip Harms, 21.2%
  • Jerry Bollig, 31.3%
  • Write-in ("No TIFs"), 0.3%

Oregon School District Board Member --- Area 1 (choose 2)

  • Dan Krause, 30%
  • Krista Flanagan, 46%
  • Uriah Carpenter, 24%
  • Write-in ("No drug dogs"), 0.5%
Drop-In Chefs Help Seniors Stay In Their Own Homes

Drop-In Chefs Help Seniors Stay In Their Own Homes →

This is a very interesting service, from a local Madison company.

“A healthy diet is good for everyone. But as people get older, cooking nutritious food can become difficult and sometimes physically impossible. A pot of soup can be too heavy to lift. And there’s all that time standing on your feet. It’s one of the reasons that people move into assisted living facilities.

But a company called Chefs for Seniors has an alternative: They send professional cooks into seniors’ homes. In a couple of hours they can whip up meals for the week.”

“According to some estimates, there are hundreds of thousands, maybe even a million seniors living in their own homes who are malnourished. In long-term care facilities, up to 50 percent may suffer from malnutrition. This leads to increased risk for illness, frailty and falls.”

“Part of the business plan is keeping the service affordable. In addition to the cost of the food, the client pays $30 an hour for the chef’s time. That’s usually a couple of hours a week of cooking and cleaning up the kitchen. There’s also a $15 charge for grocery shopping. So clients pay on average $45 to $75 a week.

And while there are lots of personal chefs out there and services that deliver meals for seniors there are few services specifically for older adults that prepare food in their homes.”

This isn't what most people would think of as healthcare, but I'd call it healthcare innovation. Living a healthy life—and eating right— is a big part of staying out of clinics and hospitals. If people spend money on this service, they could very well be saving thousands of dollars in other healthcare expenses.

This strikes me as the kind of service that insurance companies won't want to provide but that patients would be willing to pay for, if they have control over their own healthcare dollars.

My 2014 Election Results

Since I live in the People's Democratic Republic of Dane County, I take great pride in having a losing record in each election that I vote in. This year was no exception. I finished with a 1-14 record. (My vote is in italics; the winning vote is bolded.)

Governor & Lieutenant Governor

  • Mary Burke / John Lehman (Democratic), 47%
  • Scott Walker / Rebecca Kleefisch (Republican), 52%
  • Dennis Fehr / No Candidate (People's Party), 0%
  • Robert Burke / Joseph M. Brost (Libertarian), 1%

Attorney General

  • Susan V. Happ (Democratic), 45%
  • Brad Schimel (Republican), 52%
  • Thomas A. Nelson, Sr. (Libertarian), 3%

Secretary of State

  • Doug La Follette (Democratic), 50%
  • Julian Bradley (Republican), 46%
  • Jerry Broitzman (Constitution), 1%
  • Andy Craig (Libertarian), 3%

State Treasurer

  • David L. Sartori - (Democratic), 45%
  • Matt Adamczyk - (Republican), 49%
  • Andrew Zuelke - (Constitution), 1%
  • Ron Hardy - (Wisconsin Green Party), 3%
  • Jerry Shidell - (Libertarian), 2%

U.S. Congress, District 2

  • Mark Pocan (Democratic), 68%
  • Peter Theron (Republican), 32%

State Senator, District 27

  • Jon Erpenbach (Democratic)
  • Write-in: [I forgot what name I wrote in]

Assembly Representative, District 80

  • Sondy Pope (Democratic)
  • Write-in: Tony Stark

County Sheriff

  • David J. Mahoney (Democratic)
  • Write-in: Capt. America

Clerk of Circuit Court

  • Carlo Esqueda

State Referendum

Question 1: "Creation of a Transportation Fund. Shall section 9 (2) of article IV and section 11 of article VIII of the constitution be created to require that revenues generated by use of the state transportation system be deposited into a transportation fund administered by a department of transportation for the exclusive purpose of funding Wisconsin's transportation systems and to prohibit any transfers or lapses from this fund?"

  • Yes, (80%)
  • No, (20%)

County Referenda

Question 1: "Should the State of Wisconsin increase the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour?"

  • Yes, (74%)
  • No, (26%)

Question 2: "Shall the next Governor and State Legislature accept available federal funds for BadgerCare to ensure that thousands of Wisconsin citizens have access to quality and affordable health coverage?"

  • Yes, (82%)
  • No, (18%)

Municipal Referendum

Shall the Village of Oregon adopt the following Resolution?

RESOLVED, the people of the Village of Oregon, Wisconsin, call for reclaiming democracy from the corrupting effects of undue corporate influence by amending the U.S. Constitution to establish that:

  1. Only human beings - not corporations, unions, non-profits, or similar associations - are endowed with constitutional rights; and

  2. Money is not speech, and, therefore, regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we hereby instruct our state and federal representatives to enact Resolutions and legislation to advance this effort.

  • Yes, (80%)
  • No, (20%)

Oregon School District

Question 1: "Shall the Oregon School District, Dane, Rock and Green Counties, Wisconsin be authorized to issue pursuant to Chapter 67 of the Wisconsin Statutes, general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $54,600,000 for the public purpose of paying the cost of a school building and improvement program consisting of the construction of additions to and renovation and improvement of Oregon High School, Oregon Middle School and Brooklyn Elementary School; renovation and improvement of Prairie View Elementary School and Netherwood Elementary School; acquisition and installation of technology improvements; roof replacement at District buildings; HVAC upgrades at the swimming pool; and construction of storm water improvements and other site improvements on the JC Park East property?"

  • Yes, (63%)
  • No, (37%)

Question 2: "Shall the Oregon School District, Dane, Rock and Green Counties, Wisconsin, for the 2015-2016 school year and thereafter be authorized to exceed the revenue limit specified in Section 121.91, Wisconsin Statutes, by $355,864 a year, for recurring purposes of paying operation and maintenance expenses associated with new or upgraded District facilities?"

  • Yes, (61%)
  • No, (39%)

Did the Madison Union Strike Illegally?

This morning, on Facebook, I said that I was glad that the teachers would be ending their illegal strike tomorrow. But have Madison's teachers been illegally striking? After further research and reflection, I don't think they have been but I do think their actions came very close to a strike. A strict reading of the law kept their actions from being a de jure strike. I do believe that their actions constituted a de facto strike, however and violated the spirit of the law that allows public sector employees to unionize.

Wisconsin law governs public sector unions. Specifically, Chapter 111 governs Employment Relations. Subchapter I deals with keeping the peace, Subchapter IV deals with municipal employment relations, and Subchapter V deals with State employment relations.

Chapter 111.01 deals with the general goals of the law. One of the primary goals is to keep the peace between workers and employers, to the benefit of everyone else.

111.01(2)

Industrial peace, regular and adequate income for the employee, and uninterrupted production of goods and services are promotive of all of these interests. They are largely dependent upon the maintenance of fair, friendly, and mutually satisfactory employment relations and the availability of suitable machinery for the peaceful adjustment of whatever controversies may arise. ... It is also recognized that whatever may be the rights of disputants with respect to each other in any controversy regarding employment relations, they should not be permitted, in the conduct of their controversy, to intrude directly into the primary rights of 3rd parties to earn a livelihood, transact business, and engage in the ordinary affairs of life by any lawful means and free from molestation, interference, restraint, or coercion.

It's pretty clear that one of the goals of allowing public employees to unionize was to ensure that disputes could be handled in an orderly way, without inconveniencing everyone who depends on the work that the state and municipal employees do.

As the law continues, Chapter 111.06 starts to lay out what "unfair labor practices" are, both for the employer (1) and for the employee (2). I'll quote some of the unfair labor practices, for employees.

(c) To violate the terms of a collective bargaining agreement, including an agreement to accept an arbitration award.

I'd argue that, per the terms of the CBA for Madison's teachers, calling in sick to attend a protest meet this definition of an unfair labor practice.

(e) To cooperate in engaging in, promoting or inducing picketing that does not constitute an exercise of constitutionally guaranteed free speech, boycotting or any other overt concomitant of a strike unless a majority in a collective bargaining unit of the employees of an employer against whom such acts are are primarily directed have voted by secret ballot to call a strike.

Given that no strike has been called, I think the teachers who -- by their absence -- forced schools to close have engaged in unfair labor practices towards their fellow teachers. The teachers are arguing that their actions are merely an exercise of constitutionally guaranteed free spech. I don't know that I agree. Not when a large minority of teachers are acting collectively, with the approval and encouragement of the union, to shut down the schools.

Now, let's move specifically to Subchapter IV, Municipal Employees. Section (1)(i) and (1)(j) make it clear that teachers are muncipal employees since they are employed by school districts. Section (1)(nm) defines a strike, for municipal employees.

"Strike" includes any strike or other concerted stoppage of work by municipal employees, and any concerted slowdown or other concerted interruption of operations or services by municipal employees, or any concerted refusal to work or perform their usual duties as municipal employees, for the purpose of enforcing demands upon a municipal employer. Such conduct by municipal employees which is not authorized or condoned by a labor organization constitutes a "strike", but does not subject such labor organization to the penalties under this subchapter.

What we had in Madison last week was a concerted stoppage of work by municipal employees for the purpose of enforcing their demands that the Governor alter the Budget Repair Bill. Because the unions didn't call a strike, the union itself isn't subject to penalties but individual teachers could be. Because the teachers were demonstrating against the State, not the municipal employer, their actions do not directly meet the definition of a strike.

Section (3)(b)(4) repeats the general prohibition against violating the current CBA. Section (4)(L) bans strikes by municipal employees.

Except as authorized under par. (cm) 5. and 6. c., nothing contained in this subchapter constitutes a grant of the right to strike by any municipal employee or labor organization, and such strikes are hereby expressly prohibited. Paragraph (cm) does not authorize any strike after an injunction has been issued against such strike under sub. (7m).

Section 7m lays out the process for ending a strike.

Section (7m)(a)

At any time after the commencement of a strike which is prohibited under sub. (4) (L), the municipal employer or any citizen directly affected by such strike may petition the circuit court for an injunction to immediately terminate the strike. If the court determines that the strike is prohibited under sub. (4) (L), it shall issue an order immediately enjoining the strike, and in addition shall impose the penalties provided in par. (c).

Section (7m)(c)(2)

‘Individuals.’ Any individual who violates sub. (4) (L) after an injunction against a strike has been issued shall be fined $10. Each day of continued violation constitutes a separate offense. After the injunction has been issued, any municipal employee who is absent from work because of purported illness is presumed to be on strike unless the illness is verified by a written report from a physician to the municipal employer. The court shall order that any fine imposed under this subdivision be paid by means of a salary deduction at a rate to be determined by the court.

The Madison School District thought that these sections of law applied. They filed suit on Friday, in Dane County Circuit Court, to have the work stoppage declared a strike and to get an injunction against the strike. MTI, the local union, did argue that the stoppage wasn't a strike.

In court, MTI lawyer Lester Pines argued it was not a strike because the union made no demands against the district, a requirement for a strike under state law.

Instead, he said, teachers were exercising their First Amendment right to express their feelings about Gov. Scott Walker's plan to limit collective bargaining.

"To do so they may be subjecting themselves to discipline, to having their pay docked, but they are making that choice individually," Pines argued.

A hearing was scheduled for Monday morning but it was canceled / postponed when the teachers indicated that they would return to work on Tuesday.

I'm forced to agree that the teachers weren't technically striking, since they were protesting the actions of the State not the actions of the Madison School District. Morally, I believe the unions did engage in a strike. It didn't, quite, meet the legal definition of a strike but it came right up to the boundary. The State doesn't directly employ teachers but it does set the overall policy and rules for how school districts employ teachers. Thus, I think of the State as a related employer (a grandparent employer?). The arguments presented during the last 6 days of protest certainly sound like the arguments that striking employees would make against an employer. These demonstrations were done for the purpose of demonstrating the unions' power and attempting to force the government -- at all levels -- to agree to their demands.

I do believe the individual teachers are guilty of violating 111.70(3)(b)4. They're only innocent of violations to 111.06(2)(e) because their demonstrations were against the State instead of the municipal government.

So, I was wrong. Legally, the unions are clear. The individual teachers are guilty only of violating their own collective bargaining agreement.

The Power to Tax is the Power to Govern

For decades now state and local governments have been content to turn taxation over to the Federal governmnet. It's a pretty sweet gig. The Feds raise taxes -- capital gains, income, tarrifs, gasoline, whatever -- and get all of the voter anger and contempt. Then the Feds turn around and give the money back to the state in the form of grants, road spending bills, earmarks, or other forms of largesse.

It's an arrangement that gives State and local lawmakers the thrill of spending without the pain of actually, themselves, being responsible for taxing that much out of their residents.

It's an arrangement that does have some downsides. The biggest is the complete lack of local control. Remember the golden rule: he who has the gold makes the rules. A local Madison neighborhood is finding that out the hard way.

The pedestrian walkway under University Avenue at Spring Harbor Drive may be old and spooky. But school and neighborhood officials say it's necessary to keep kids and residents safe when they cross that roadway, where drivers routinely exceed the posted 35 mph speed limit.

Now they're worried that plans for a $7 million reconstruction of 1.9 miles of the avenue -- from North Segoe Road in Madison to Allen Boulevard in Middleton -- next year don't include re-building the tunnel.

... Madison officials say it would cost $1 million just to build a new tunnel because federal laws would require it to be accessible for people with physical handicaps -- unlike the current walkway -- and so far the money isn't available.

City officials say they'd love to make the passage's users happy, and staff engineer Christy Bachmann said the city has applied several times for federal money to redo the tunnel, but the project always ranks low and loses out on the grants. Ald. Mark Clear, whose 19th District includes the underpass, said the city has to do something with the passage come next spring.

"Because the reconstruction project is federally funded, they require that the pedestrian underpass at University Avenue and Spring Harbor Drive be brought into ADA compliance or removed," Clear said, referring to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

Glen Yoerger, an engineer for the city of Madison, said the reconstruction of the street, 80 percent of which will be paid for with federal funds with the remainder coming from local funds, will install curb and gutters and medians where needed along University Avenue, among other improvements.

Well, better luck next time kids. Your Aldermen, County Board members, state Assemblymen, state Senators, and Governor long ago gave up the right to actually govern this state. As a result, they're powerless to help you now.

Speaking personally, I'd love to see a State legislature and a State governor stand up to the Feds and fight to keep tax dollars. Then, take responsibility for collecting the money for local needs and spending the money in a way that will best serve local needs. The Feds are never going to be as good at knowing what your State needs as you. Quit dodging responsibility and start doing your jobs.

Progressively Regressive Child Care in Dane County

The Capital Times published an article on the shortage of child day care in Dane County. It's not until the 11th paragraph that they finally reveal that the state government is to blame.

The primary reason it's so hard to find care for infants is because of a state mandated caregiver-child ratio that requires one provider for every four babies or toddlers under age 2. Ratios increase according to the age of the child. For example, the ratio is 1 caregiver for every 13 children for 4- and 5-year-olds. So, the staffing costs for infants can be more than triple what they are for older children.

Most child care centers don't offer infant care, in part because of financial reasons. "Not to sound cold, but they don't make money on infants because the ratio is so small," says Jody Bartnick, the executive director of Community Coordinated Child Care, a children's advocacy organization commonly referred to as 4-C. Stricter regulations add costs, she said. Infant rooms require their own sink, their own refrigerator and other equipment.

And when those costs are passed on to consumers, they are significant for most household budgets.

4-C numbers show that the average weekly cost of infant care in Dane County as of March 2008 was $245 in a family child care center and $275 at a group center. For preschool care, the number drops to about $220 at both types of centers. At those rates, child care can cost between $11,000 and $14,000 a year -- compared with about $7,300 for in-state tuition at UW-Madison.

In the name of making day care safer, they've actually made day care nearly impossible to get. And, when you can get it, it's astronomically expensive. For an area that prides itself on its progressivism, this sounds pretty regressive to me.

Of course, they'll redeem themselves by attempting to raise my taxes so they can turn around and subsidize child care for someone else. The obvious solution -- deregulate the market -- would never occur to them.

You're doing a heckuva job, Jimmy Doyle.

Is Farming Work?

'Homesteaders' try to produce all their own food - WSJ

Jodi and Brian Bubenzer describe themselves as "homesteaders" who try to produce all their own food, even though nothing in their suburban childhoods prepared them for this existence. They knew nothing about farming until five years ago, when they bought a farm outside New Glarus. And while adapting to their new Green Acres lifestyle, they've both maintained jobs in Madison and home-schooled their four sons.

My main exposure to farming is the "Little House" series of books. Technology has a come a long way since then and farming doesn't require quite as much manual labor as it used to. But, still, isn't it a full time job?

How does one home school, farm, and work two "regular" jobs? That sounds like working four full time jobs.

Welcoming Immigrants?

Initially, I was cheered by this story: Yard signs welcoming immigrants to Madison are starting to appear on the snow-piled landscape..

The signs say "Immigrants Welcome" printed in English, Hmong and Spanish. The word "Welcome" also is handwritten in six languages: English, Hmong, Spanish, Norwegian, German and Arabic, by members of immigrant families in Wisconsin.

"We've heard a lot of angry anti-immigrant sentiment. We're glad to be giving people an opportunity to express welcome and love to immigrants," said Janet Parker, co-chairwoman of Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice.

Well, they sound like hippies, but at least I can agree with the message. I like immigrants and I'm glad that they see the United States as a good place to live and work. We must be doing something right.

Then I read down a bit further:

Parker said her group supports the work of immigrant rights groups like the Workers' Rights Center and Immigrant Workers' Union in Madison and Voces de la Frontera in Milwaukee.

"We see the war in Iraq as intrinsically tied to the war against immigrants," Parker said. "At the core, they are both about racism."

Ah, no. No, no, no. The war in Iraq has nothing to do with racism. Anyone who sincerely holds that opinion has tapioca between their ears. Also, Voces de la Frontera is a bit of an unsavory group.

As reported earlier members of Voces de la Frontera violated the home of State Senator Cathy Stepp last night shouting and attempting to intimidate her into signing driver license legislation for illegal immigrants.

I took the following from their website:

Description of Agency/Activities: Voces de la Frontera is a low-wage and immigrant worker's center that opened in Nov. 2001. The center was created to respond to the immediate problems low-wage immigrant workers face. The center provides a legal clinic where workers can obtain free legal advice about labor and civil rights, as well as ongoing English language and citizenship classes. The agency provides classes to train workers and other immigrants about discrimination, OSHA regulations, labor laws, worker's compensation, legalization and work visas, and more day-to-day topics such as how to obtain a driver's license, how to buy a house, and how to fill out taxes and open bank accounts. Ongoing campaigns include legalization and access to higher education for immigrant students.

Notice any trend there? All kinds of training on how to get government cash and sue people, nothing on job training or English language courses or fitting into society.

Don't expect to find one of those yard signs in my lawn. Not if buying the sign means supporting groups like Voces de la Frontera.

Does the Math Add Up on Allied Drive?

I must be missing something, because I don't understand how this makes any kind of sense:

Eventually, Olson said he put up $2 million and got financing from Anchor Bank and First Business Bank, spending an average $250,000 per property and about $130,000 in each to convert them. The project, he said, was a good use of his compensation money while making a profit.

The condo units got new carpets, doors, Italian tile floors, stainless steel appliances, bathroom fixtures, new or refurbished cabinets and more. The building mechanicals and plumbing got updated. Those on Carling Drive also received new windows, siding, gutters and decks.

"We didn 't just paint the walls and clean them up and call them condos," Malin said.

"It's something anybody would be proud to live in," Olson said.

Condos sell at $59,900 for a one bedroom, $69,900 to 74,900 for two bedrooms, and $89,000 to $99,900 for three bedrooms.

Olson spent an average of $380,000 per condo, to put them on the market. The most expensive one sells for $99,900. Where's the other $281,100? Is Olson taking a loss on these or is the city of Madison?

Too Much Snow

How's the weather in Madison, WI?:

Including today's snow, it is the 37th time in the last 67 days -- since Dec. 1 -- Madison has seen measurable snowfall, according to weather service data.

Madison's normal winter snow total is about 49 inches, Kuhlman said, but the city is already well above that average with about 60 inches of snow through midnight. The storm could push Madison to within inches of the snowfall record of 76.1 inches set in 1978-79.

You know, snow stopped being fun somewhere around December 5th. I move that we move immediately to Spring. I further move that we proceed immediately to global warming. The world's climate is obviously not warm enough yet. Can I get a second?

16:30 - Leave the office for my car.

16:40 - Finish digging my car out of its parking spot and leave the office building.

17:23 - Arrive home. The roads are mostly empty. Apparently, the vast majority of Madison heeded the media warnings and stayed off of the roads. Driving down 14-South, to Oregon, a few jerks with four wheel drive pass me on the left. I am driving slowly, to avoid careening off the road into a snow drift. They are not satisfied with my 35 mph progress and pass with only 12 inches of clearance. I want to report them for reckless driving, but snow covers their license plates.

17:30 - Start moving the snow off of the driveway, so I can park my car. The snow-plow-provided drift at the end of the driveway is more than 2 feet deep. The snow thrower gives up in despair. I almost do too. But I won't. I persevere and clear a space just wide enough for my car to slip through.

18:40 -Finish clearing the driveway, sidewalk, and path to the front door.

18:55 -Get dressed, after a warm shower. My lips no longer feel numb!

There you have. Two and a half hours to drive home and get into the driveway. This is just too much snow for this Southern boy. I'm getting more and more tempted to just move to Tennessee.

Banned for Your Own Good

The city of Madison believes that if it limits your freedom it can truly make you safer. Next up on their agenda: plastic water bottles.

The city of Madison, enamored of bans on everything from smoking to phosphorus fertilizers, may be setting its regulatory sights on another target -- plastic.

In coming months, the city's Commission on the Environment is likely to begin discussing bans on the sale of bottled water at public events and the use of plastic grocery bags.

Jon Standridge, chairman of the commission, said members voted unanimously at the end of last year to place both items on upcoming agendas.

"Each year toward the end of the calendar year we sit down and talk about what people are interested in," Standridge said. "We ask if something is an environmental problem and if it is worth taking up. And if it is worth taking up, is there something we can do?"

...

Regardless of what happens, Dreckmann said, discussion of the issue is important because it will make people more aware.

"Whether or not we actually do something about it, it's just good to raise the consciousness of people, to have them think about the environmental consequences of drinking bottled water instead of just turning the tap."

If water bottles are really, truly a problem let's fix the problem. Calculate how much they add to the cost of the city's garbage costs. Count how many of them are sold in the city. Put a city tax on each water bottle sold, equal to the disposal cost. In other words, put a price on the damage that the water bottles are doing. Then, let consumers decide whether or not they want to pay that price.

Maybe a per-bottle trash tax isn't the best way to pass the cost along to the consumers. But it's a better way than simply banning the bottles and leaving consumers no choice at all. Why is the Madison city government so opposed to choice and freedom?

"Courageous" Protest

About two dozen Madison high school students courageously stood up for the right yesterday. They protested the Iraq war and President Bush in a city and county that have both overwhelmingly voted to impeach the president. What courage! What intestinal fortitude! What lack of concern for self and popularity!

Yawn. Give me a call when Madison high school students rally in support of free trade, in support of the rights of the unborn, in support of lower taxes and fewer government handouts, in opposition to "An Inconvenient Truth", or anything else that might actually hurt their popularity.

This entry was tagged. Madison Wisconsin

The Danger of Eating Local

The problem with eating only locally grown food is that locally grown food may not always be available.

Jai Kellum stands -- stunned yet smiling -- in front of a channel of dirty water, as she describes the catastrophe that destroyed Avalanche Organic farm, which she owns with her partner, Joel Kellum.

The smile, like the voice -- sing-song, almost laughing -- is deceptive, because the words she uses in this video are not happy ones. The nine-minute production, "Flooded Midwest Organic Farms," by Madison filmmakers Gretta Wing Miller and Aarick Beher, is making the rounds on the Internet.

Miller, who made a much-admired documentary film on Wisconsin organic farms two years ago, made this short followup after the floods of August turned a season of plenty into a season of survival. The video is featured extensively in a large fundraising effort, Sow the Seeds Fund, which will be used to help organic farmers.

Miller, a Madison filmmaker since 1994, became familiar with the farmers in the Viroqua, Gays Mills and Soldier 's Grove area in southwestern Wisconsin from her earlier documentary, "Back to the Land ... Again," and because her brother, Jeff, lives in Viroqua.

"We got to know all those farms back then, and after the rains we heard everything was washed away, " she said. "People couldn 't get out of their farm yards, driveways were gone.

"So a week ago we just grabbed our camera and went out there, just showed up at Avalanche Organics. We were horrified. Here was this beautiful farm we had spent months at shooting over and over again for two summers ... "

Jai Kellum had, coincidentally, started filming activity on the farm earlier, so the video features some sad before-and-after views of the farm, which is not in Avalanche but in rural Viola along Highway 131, about 80 miles northwest of Madison.

Avalanche is a major supplier of salad greens to the Willy Street Co-op in Madison, and Miller wasn 't sure the co-op's customers were aware of the scope of the flood damage. The disaster caused ruin in one of the nation 's biggest collections of certified organic farms.

Most also run fully subscribed Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, a popular feature in the Madison area in which customers buy shares in a farmer 's harvest and get boxes of produce every week or two.

This entry was tagged. Madison

Madison: Of Mosquitos and Mosquitos

Bad news from Madison. First of all, we're suffering from lots of hungry mosquitos. Secondly, the Madison City Council is in session. Hold on to your wallets.

City Council backs RTA

The Regional Transportation Authority endorsement that the Madison City Council passed 18-2 at 2 a.m. today opens the door to an enhanced regional bus system and using some of the potential sales tax revenue for property tax relief.

Falk and Cieslewicz have said the RTA would not be created unless approved by voters in a referendum. Also, the new panel would have to have its taxing authority approved by the Legislature. If approved, it is expected to raise the county sales tax by 0.5 percent and use the revenue for transportation improvements.

I have little faith that Madison and Dane County will actually lower my overall tax burden. No, the blood sucking mosquitos of local government are hungry for more. I think I prefer nature's own on this one.

This entry was tagged. Madison Taxes

Eat Global, Not Local

Madison family eats only items made within 100 miles of their home

A Madison family is shunning the SUV diet and thriving on the 100-mile diet.

Although wistful for citrus, soy sauce and better bread flour, Jen and Scott Lynch and their daughter, Evie, pledged to stick to this diet for the month of August, consuming only ingredients from a 100-mile radius around their home in the Bay Creek neighborhood on Madison's South Side.

The SUV diet refers to that of the average North American, whose meals are made from ingredients that travel about 1,500 miles from source to consumer.

"We know that locally grown food is better for our environment, better economics, better tasting, better for our health and better for our relationships," the Lynches write on their blog, www.vidalocal.blogspot.com, through which they share their story without pushy proselytizing.

Sure, when it's in season and available. What happens when Wisconsin harvests are dismal and there isn't enough food to go around?

The article details how the family mills their flour and makes their own peanut butter from fresh peanuts. They say this lifestyle is "better economics". Really? Is their time worth nothing? Apparently so.

They are Jen Lynch, 33, who is a house cleaner; Scott Lynch, 38, who's unemployed now but formerly worked in sales and marketing of sporting goods equipment, and their daughter, Evie, 7, who is home schooled. They have the time for an experiment that means purchasing wheat to mill, sift and use for homemade bread, crackers, tortillas and more.

Given a daughter that's home all of the time and an unemployed husband, maybe they do have enough "free time" to make all of their own food.

But what would it be like if everyone in the nation spent most of their time either farming or preparing food from ingredients produced locally? Well, it'd probably look a lot like the 1860's. People were smaller, frailer, contracted chronic ailments (heart disease, lung disease, arthritis) at an earlier age, and died sooner. Poor nutrition paid a large role in that.

So Big and Healthy Grandpa Wouldn't Even Know You - New York Times

The Keller family illustrates what may prove to be one of the most striking shifts in human existence -- a change from small, relatively weak and sickly people to humans who are so big and robust that their ancestors seem almost unrecognizable.

New research from around the world has begun to reveal a picture of humans today that is so different from what it was in the past that scientists say they are startled. Over the past 100 years, says one researcher, Robert W. Fogel of the University of Chicago, humans in the industrialized world have undergone "a form of evolution that is unique not only to humankind, but unique among the 7,000 or so generations of humans who have ever inhabited the earth."

And if good health and nutrition early in life are major factors in determining health in middle and old age, that bodes well for middle-aged people today. Investigators predict that they may live longer and with less pain and misery than any previous generation.

That is, if we avoid fads like "food miles" and embrace the "SUV diet" instead of avoiding it.

What about the claim that eat local is better for the environment? Recent studies say, that's just not true.

Food That Travels Well - New York Times

It all depends on how you wield the carbon calculator. Instead of measuring a product's carbon footprint through food miles alone, the Lincoln University scientists expanded their equations to include other energy-consuming aspects of production -- what economists call "factor inputs and externalities" -- like water use, harvesting techniques, fertilizer outlays, renewable energy applications, means of transportation (and the kind of fuel used), the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed during photosynthesis, disposal of packaging, storage procedures and dozens of other cultivation inputs.

Incorporating these measurements into their assessments, scientists reached surprising conclusions. Most notably, they found that lamb raised on New Zealand's clover-choked pastures and shipped 11,000 miles by boat to Britain produced 1,520 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per ton while British lamb produced 6,280 pounds of carbon dioxide per ton, in part because poorer British pastures force farmers to use feed. In other words, it is four times more energy-efficient for Londoners to buy lamb imported from the other side of the world than to buy it from a producer in their backyard. Similar figures were found for dairy products and fruit.

You can eat that way if you want. I'll protect the environment, live economically, and raise healthy children by eating food from around the world. Corn from the midwest, citrus from the south, sugar from Brazil, meat from the southwest. It's the progressive thing to do.

This entry was tagged. Madison Prosperity

Job Training Failure?

Allied Drive jobs program struggling

A local Madison jobs training program has been in operation since January. It was intended to help residents of the Allied Drive neighborhood find decent jobs.

The START program prepares people to take entrance tests for trade apprenticeships. It began in January and has been touted as one of the best ways to lift people out of poverty.

Participants enroll in a six-week class of instruction and individualized tutoring in math, English and spatial skills. The training also covers safety standards, blueprint reading and interviewing skills.

After seven months and $75,000, how is the program doing?

Only two Allied Drive residents completed the program in the first five months. The contract goal for the year is 32. Only one of them passed an apprenticeship test, and only one got a job. The goal is 20 jobs for Allied Drive residents in 2007. ... A city analysis found 82 percent of the people who gained employment through the program live outside the city, including Prairie du Sac, Fall River, Sun Prairie and Janesville.

Something's not quite right here. Why aren't more Allied Drive residents participating in the program? And why is Madison heavily funding a program that is mainly being used by people who live outside of Madison?

Thankfully, I don't live in Madison so I don't have to worry about how long my property tax dollars will fund such an unsuccessful program.

Road Logic -- As Seen on Slashdot

As seen on Slashdot

Garbage collection is fine as a private service, but roads? What would possibly improve by letting individual profit-seeking companies control where and when you are allowed to drive?

It's a simple answer. Individual profit-seeking companies only make a profit if you can drive when and where you want. Right now, only one "company" provides roads -- your local state government. And if they don't feel like building where you want to drive, tough luck. A private company would have a financial incentive to build a road where you want to drive.

Example: The population on the west side of Madison has been growing. More people have been moving to West Madison and to the West Madison suburbs. Traffic on the Madison beltline has been increasing, especially in certain sections of the western half. Traffic on County Road M has also been increasing. In some places, it's only a one-lane road.

The state of Wisconsin has no plans to widen the beltline or CR-M. They've publically stated that the earliest they'd even consider doing something would be around 2014. As a result, I increasingly do everything possible to avoid CR-M and the beltline during periods of high traffic.

Unlike the state, a private company would have an incentive to widen both of these roads and increase capacity. More capacity means more drivers. More drivers means more profit. It's a win-win scenario. They get more money, I get a faster commute. This is the beauty of free-market capitalism -- both parties win or there is no deal.

All of this only works, of course, as long as there is more than one private company building roads. Two competing companies would each have an incentive to get me where I want to go as quickly and efficiently as possible. A private company that has no competition -- for instance, one granted a monopoly by the state or local government -- would likely do little better than the government does. Competition is the magic ingredient that makes a free-market work.

So, why do you think roads should be government controlled instead of privately owned?

Living On the Excess

America is so rich that it's possible to make a living off of our trash. (You say wasteful, I say rich. It boils down to the same thing.) Madison's Capital Times published an article about the burgeoning art of dumpster diving.

So much is discarded, in fact, that it is possible to live almost entirely off of trash, or as New York dumpstering organizer and founding member of the Web site freegan.info Adam Weissman puts it, the excesses of capitalism. Weissman sustains himself almost exclusively by dumpstering, or as he refers to it, "urban foraging." Though he also trades items and gardens, the bulk of his sustenance is from garbage, he says in a phone interview.

He quotes Marx and talks about "opt[ing] out of the capitalist economic system." So, he's a bit of a nut. 'Cause, really, he'd be homeless and starving if it wasn't for the capitalist economic system that he' opting out of. Still, there is a lot of waste in a rich society. Some are using that waste to help others.

"The first time I saw it I was amazed and taken aback. There was more food than you've ever seen, just there. ... Sometimes it still hits you -- all this food is still good," says Spike Appel, frequent dumpster diver and chief organizer of the local chapter of Food Not Bombs, an "anarchist community project" that provides free vegetarian meals to the public.

Much of the food donated to Food Not Bombs is one step from the dumpster. This is not to say the produce, dips and baked goods are in any way spoiled. Ripe, organic produce is a hallmark of the meals provided by Food Not Bombs, as is the fact that they do not serve meat.

While the Food Not Bombs Web site advocates dumpstering as a way of obtaining food, the Madison chapter works with local businesses for donations. Food Not Bombs has an international following, and each chapter varies according to the resources in their community.

Interesting, no? Dumpstering is illegal. Many of the business that dump food, rather than donating it, do so out of fear of lawsuits and food safety regulations. The vast majority of that food is still perfectly safe. Why shouldn't we relax the regulations and remove the fear of lawsuits? Why not let that food be legally donated to the hungry rather than forcibly wasted?

Madison Wants Red Light Cameras

I've been following the stories of red light cameras for a couple of years now. I read Matt Labash's 2002 five-part series for the Weekly Standard. I've read Glenn Reynold's 2006 article for Popular Mechanics. I've followed Glenn's links about the subject on Instapundit.com. You may have heard of the concept.

Local cities install cameras at busy or dangerous intersections. The cameras automatically snap pictures of anyone running a red light and police send out citations by the thousands. The idea is to decrease accidents by giving motorists a reason to stop on yellow. The reality is a bit murkier.

Reynold's article and Labash's series give a good run down on the tactics used to make these devices more popular: claiming that it's all about safety, claiming that the public is wildly enthusiastic about the devices, and claiming that the devices cut accidents. Then the articles go on to decisively debunk those claims.

Reynolds:

Others worry about safety. Red-light cameras are supposed to make us safer by discouraging people from running red lights. The trouble is that they work too well. Numerous studies have found that when these cameras are put in place, rear-end collisions increase dramatically. Drivers who once might have stretched the light a bit now slam on their brakes for fear of getting a ticket, with predictable results. A study of red-light cameras in Washington, D.C., by The Washington Post found that despite producing more than 500,000 tickets (and generating over $32 million in revenues), red-light cameras didn't reduce injuries or collisions. In fact, the number of accidents increased at the camera-equipped intersections.

Likewise, red-light cameras in Portland, Ore., produced a 140 percent increase in rear-end collisions at monitored intersections, and a study by the Virginia Transportation Research Council found that although red-light cameras decreased collisions resulting from people running traffic lights, they significantly increased accidents overall.

But if the emphasis is on safety -- rather than on revenue -- there are better ways of dealing with the problem. A recent study done by the University of Central Florida for the Florida Department of Transportation found that improving intersection markings in a driving simulator reduced red-light running by 74 percent without increasing the number of rear-end collisions. Likewise, a Texas Transportation Institute study found that lengthening yellow-light times cut down dramatically on red-light running. It also found that most traffic-camera violations occurred within the first second after the light turned red (the average was just one-half second after the light change), while most T-bone collisions occurred 5 or more seconds after the light change. If there's a problem, cameras aren't really addressing it.

Labash:

Across the United States and Canada -- where two provincial elections have swung for politicians promising to scrap local photo radar programs -- citizens have made it clear why the supposedly beloved technology is installed inside bullet-proof casings. In Anchorage, photo radar operators were pelted with water balloons before cameras were finally banned. In Denver, police thought somebody fired on their photo radar van, though the projectile turned out just to be a rock. Elsewhere, camera units have been smeared with lubricant, pulled out of the ground with tow chains, and rammed by automobiles. In Paradise Valley, Arizona, where the city council once contemplated shooting motorists with photo radar cameras concealed in cactuses, one civic-minded citizen decided to shoot back, emptying 30 rounds of bullets into two photo radar units.

This is the information I'm used to hearing. (For lots more on the increases in accidents, the benefits of longer yellows, and the safety myth read the full Labash series.) That's why I was so intrigued by the recent article in Madison's progressive newspaper, the Capital Times. It pulled out every one of the standard lines.

It's all about deterrence.

The red light camera program works because of deterrent theory, McLay said. People weigh the likelihood of getting caught before they make the decision to violate the law. In a heavily populated urban environment there are too few squad cars policing too many vehicles, he said. It is not possible to have police cars at every intersection looking for red light runners.

It's not about money, it's about safety.

McLay said if police were to implement a program locally they would use the proceeds to operate the system. There would be a firewall between the revenues generated and the Police Department budget, he said.

"We don't want the money, we just want to do something effective to reduce the number of crashes due to people running red lights in the city."

It's supported by Madison residents.

Ald. Robbie Webber, who represents the Regent Street area, said she also gets a lot of e-mails and calls from people who think the city should be using cameras to catch red light runners.

"There is a lot of support for this because people are tired of being afraid on the road," she said.

Tell you what. Let's try increasing the yellows first, and see what that does to the accident statistics. Also, let's the local cities volunteer to send the money from fines to be put into a state pool. If the cities will agree to those two stipulations, I'll keep an open mind on the proposal. Until then, it's just another Madison scheme to shake down residents for more cash.

This entry was tagged. Madison

Madison Housing Market Going Up

After home sales started falling last year, I saw a lot of doom and gloom commentary from "experts" afraid that we would enter a 10-year housing slump. Thanksfully, home sales in Madison (and Dane County) are on the rise again. Home prices still haven't completely rebounded, but I'm glad to see that they're starting to sell again -- at any price. As a new homeowner, don't want to see the market start stagnating!

The local residential real estate market is showing signs of recovery, a local real estate official says.

The 604 sales reported in April in Dane County were 11.4 percent below the 682 last April, according to statistics released Thursday by the Realtors Association of South Central Wisconsin.

But that is not as bad as the 20.1 percent decline for the first four months of this year compared to the same period of last year -- 1,802 to 2,006.

And RASCW Executive Director John Deininger said sales this year have improved more than they typically do as the weather warms -- by 8.0 percent from January to February, 47.0 percent from February to March, and 23.6 percent from March to April.