Thursday March 23, 2017

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New Transportation Ideas Needed to Handle More Intense Storms

Posted by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is an educator, business woman, and farmer who is now
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 06 December 2016
in Wisconsin

flood-wi-farmLocal residents are facing increased damage to roads and bridges from recent floods. Rainfall intensity in Wisconsin is increasing, and the state should consider building structures, like bridges, to accommodate more intense weather.

ALMA, WI - Winter came to Buffalo County. The weather turned to snow and then to ice.

In our hilly part of the world, rural people are used to finding new ways out of the valleys during bad weather. However, for residents living in Schoepps Valley (pronounced “Sheps”) the usual way out is not an option.

The story began early August 11, 2016 when torrential rains dumped up to 11 ½ inches in our area. Small creeks became raging rivers. Wild water took out several bridges including the Schoepps Valley Bridge that connects a major road –State Highway 88 – to about 20 homes and farms.

Recovery from the floods is slow and wearisome. Some residents just recently were able to apply for assistance. Town officials borrowed money to fix roads and bridges, and the county may need to borrow for cleanup of a debris-filled creek that still threatens homes.

But for resident in Schoepps Valley, the bridge is still out.

Town officials cannot yet get funding from the state Department of Transportation to pay for a temporary bridge. Getting a new larger sized permanent bridge will take some time. Meanwhile, people are worried about getting to work. Some fear being stranded and sometimes stay with relatives in Winona, Minnesota.

Without a new bridge, the only way out of the valley is a steep, windy road that becomes impassable during bad weather.

“The milk truck went off the dugway,” Cheryl told me. She lives on a dairy farm at the bottom of what we call a dugway – a road dug out of a hill. “The road was blocked for five hours. People missed work. No one could come or go.”

One neighbor had so much trouble getting to work over so many days that she changed her job. “I worry what might happen in an emergency,” Cheryl said.

I also heard from Jason, who milks dairy goats.

“Yesterday the dugway wasn’t plowed till 2 pm,” he told me. “We really need a temporary bridge.

Jason lives in town but keeps his goats at a family farm in the valley. He travels twice a day to care for the goats. Without the bridge, his trip is much longer. In bad weather, he has a hard time getting to his animals.

No one I spoke with can remember a storm like the one last August. Damage to the bridge in Schoepps Valley was so great that it not only must be replaced, it will require a wider structure to withstand potential flooding.

Recently I spoke with Professor Randy Lehr who heads up the Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation at Northland College in Ashland. He told me “rainfall intensity” is increasing in Wisconsin. “It’s raining harder,” Dr. Lehr said. “Culverts are too small.” Too small to handle the intense rain.

Dr. Lehr shared with me a map of Wisconsin with the areas of greatest rainfall intensity marked in darker green. Ashland was the center of the darkest green – an area that recently experienced intense storms. All along the Mississippi River, from St. Paul to the Illinois-Iowa border, western Wisconsin was identified on the map as an area prone to increasing storm intensity.

“Whenever we rebuild, we should rebuild to accommodate future storms,” Dr. Lehr told me. “Our state policy going forward should be to allow for more effective use of public money to prepare for coming storms.”

Yet getting resources to build even a temporary structure, to allow work to be done on a larger bridge, seems to be very slow.

How do we plan for changes in weather patterns? How do we change our state policies to protect our rural residents?

No one likes to travel dangerous, icy roads. Town officials want the resources to build safe temporary structures even as they work to get the money to build the larger bridge needed to withstand the ravages of more intense storms.

It seems to me conditions on the ground are changing faster than the state’s ability to change its rules.

In the next few weeks, I will be meeting with state officials to ask these questions and more. If you have concerns about our roads, bridges and coming floods, please share your concerns. You can reach my office by phone 877-763-6636 or at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Your voice really matters.

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Blue Jean Nation 'Should write ’em off but can’t'

Posted by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe is the founder and president of Blue Jean Nation and author of Blue
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 30 November 2016
in Wisconsin

wisdems-flagThis country needs a Democratic Party that is both healthy and relevant, and a Republican Party with unchecked power will run our government into the ground and our country over a cliff.

ALTOONA, WI - I am one of those people who has every reason to write off the Democratic Party. But I can’t.

I am the son of non-college educated working class people. Dairy farmers. I grew up in what is now red America. That place and that upbringing made me what I am. My values were shaped by the work my family did seven days a week from before dawn to after dusk. And by barn raisings where people came from miles away to help a “neighbor” struck by the misfortune of a tornado or fire. And by Les Sturz, who came to our aid in muddy fields to help us harvest our crops only weeks after burying his father who hung himself in a shed after learning the bank was foreclosing and their farm was going to be taken from them.

They taught me the value of hard work. But they also taught me the importance of looking out for each other, and how we are all in this together. They taught me about the common good. They taught me none of us is self made. If my accomplishments ever stand out, it’s because I am standing on the shoulders of others. Of the four people who were unquestionably my most influential and impactful teachers, not a one of them had a college degree.

My dad and mom lived through the Depression and revered FDR, and that reverence made them lifelong Democratic voters. They both passed away many years ago, but while they were with us they told me so many things that now make me think they’d probably not care much for today’s Democrats if they were still living. Like so many non-college educated working class people, they’d have reasons to feel today’s Democrats look down on them and write them off.

Considering where I’m from and who brought me up, I should probably hate Democrats. But I can’t. It’s not that I don’t believe they deserve the scorn directed at them. They do. It’s not even that I choose not to hate because of how counterproductive hating is. It’s like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die, but it also is a powerful and virtually irresistible temptation and sometimes I succumb.

The reason I can’t write off Democrats the way they’ve written off so many in places like where I’m from is that I love my country and my country needs a Democratic Party that is both healthy and relevant. Today’s is neither. I believe in checks and balances, and a Republican Party with unchecked power will run our government into the ground and our country over a cliff.

Returning the Democratic Party to health and relevance will not happen until Democrats stop regularly breaking the first rule of politics and cease insulting and disrespecting people like those who were my best teachers. And regaining health and relevance also will not happen until Democrats move beyond identity politics and stop disregarding the first law of governing: What government does needs to be done for the whole of society. Everyone pays, everyone benefits.

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Wisconsin Democracy Campaign '5 Reasons to Recount in Wis!'

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 29 November 2016
in Wisconsin

trump-clinton-debate3The recount is important for five reasons, (1) it was close, (2) late deductions were from Trump, (3) Outagamie County had more people voting than voters, (4) Trump’s wild charge on illegal voters, and (5) it’s always good to test the machinery.

MADISON - I’m glad there’s going to be a recount here in Wisconsin.

Here’s why:

Five valid reasons for the Wisconsin presidential recount

Requiring an accurate count is a bare minimum for our democracy.

Another bare minimum is respect for the Fourth Amendment. But the Wisconsin Supreme Court, sharply and oddly divided, just took another whack at it, as I explain here:

Wisconsin Supreme Court shreds 4th amendment

One more thing: Today is Giving Tuesday, when people all across the country are encouraged to make charitable online donations. So I’m urging you to make a tax-deductible donation right now to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. It’s easy: All you have to do is click here.

Or you could mail it in the old-fashioned way, with a check made out to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign at 203 S. Paterson St., Madison WI 53703.

We really appreciate your support!

Matt Rothschild
Executive Director
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


P.S. With Donald Trump saying people who burn the American flag should be jailed or lose their citizenship, the risk of fascism is rising right here at home. For a thoughtful response to this threat, please read this column by Yale professor Tim Snyder.

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Stein’s Recounts Will Hopefully Affirm the Integrity of the Vote

Posted by Buzz Davis, Stoughton
Buzz Davis, Stoughton
Buzz Davis, now of Tucson, AZ, a member of Better With Bernie Gone Green and Tre
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 29 November 2016
in Wisconsin

jill-steinStein is acting to preserve your right to know your vote is recorded and counted accurately, and she is paying the tab to do so.

MADISON - Friday Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein filed a recount petition asking for hand tally of all WI votes cast.  On Monday petitions were filed in Pennsylvania counties and Stein filed a sister petition with the courts.  She intends to file her Michigan recount petition on Wednesday.  These are the states with the closest Nov. 8 election results.

Stein is acting to support the most basic power in a democracy:  The right to know your vote is recorded and counted accurately and that all votes cast are so counted/recorded.

veterans-seniorThe America Revolution led to the establishment of our Constitution.  Under that framework, our laws have been developed by elected state and national legislatures.  The specific purpose of this government is to create a political environment wherein the Rule of Law is top dog  --  NOT the Rule of King or Queen whose every word or whim becomes law and violation of which is punishable by death.

Though our founders put the Rule of Law on the throne of power, they were certainly not pure.  Their groups of men and women working together as parties were as corrupt as many human beings before or after the Revolution.

You may remember the 1960 Kennedy Nixon presidential election. The famous Nixon campaign quote, the gist of which is, “they stole the election fair and square.”  Then, as today, political parties were corrupt.

Americans understand the VOTE is the only real power we have in our democracy “to throw the bums out” and put in new people.  Americans are very concerned about the corruption in the voting process.  Five in ten Americans say they have ”little” or “only some” confidence that their votes will be accurately counted.*

Stein petitioned the WI Election Commission (WEC) to require a hand recount of 100% of the ballots cast.  Election experts urged her to request recounts in three states:

  • Because of the close vote totals,
  • Because of the wide ranging hacking and attempted hacking of computers in the Democratic Party offices, campaign officials offices, federal and state government offices taking place and allegations of foreign powers doing the hacking, and
  • Because of the ease with which various voting machines can be hacked.

Stein says citizens in a democracy deserve to know their votes are recorded properly.  These recounts will reassure Americans three election systems are reliable.  Or these three states will prove the need for radical changes to American election laws, equipment and procedures.

In the unlikely event that Clinton is declared the winner in these three states, she then would become president.  (Clinton’s lawyers have now said they will help Stein’s lawyers.  Clinton has filed no recount petitions.)

Over 130,000 people contributed an average of $45 to help Stein raise $6.4 million thus far to pay for the recount and the lawyers’ efforts.

Wednesday Stein is due to pay the estimate $1.1 million WI recount cost to WEC.  The recount will start Dec. 1st.  The federal deadline to get all local and state work done in WI, PA and MI is Dec. 13th.  Electoral College votes Dec. 19th.  Jan. 6th the Joint Session of Congress meets to review results, raise objections if any, and certify the winner.  The new president is sworn in Jan. 20th.

In our democracy, our vote is the only way we can remove or elect our federal leaders.  We cannot recall them, as we can in WI.  Only the federal Congress can impeach and remove federal officials.

Thus, we have only our “VOTE” to protect us from tyranny.  When we are denied the right to vote, or when our votes are not counted accurately, that is when we have lost the power of democracy!

Of all the presidential candidates, only Stein had the courage to start and implement the largest presidential recount effort in our history!  May she succeed.

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The Best Idea for a Bill Comes from You!

Posted by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is an educator, business woman, and farmer who is now
User is currently offline
on Monday, 28 November 2016
in Wisconsin

union-members-at-capitolSen. Vinehout writes about how she drafts commonsense legislation from listening to her constituents, how ideas are born in the capitol, and the importance of speaking out if Wisconsin’s laws need to be changed.

MADISON - “Where do you get ideas for bills?” a woman at a café recently asked me.

“The best ideas for bills come from people like you,” I told her.

December begins a brief time of calm in the Capitol. But behind the scenes, lawmakers are working on new legislation. In the next few weeks I will be drafting bills to introduce in January. I am looking for your ideas!

Lawmakers will open the 103rd session of the Wisconsin Legislature on January 3rd. On that day, and for perhaps the next fifteen months, legislators will introduce roughly 1,800 bills or proposals.

Many of my best ideas for new legislation come from people like you. Ideas show up in my inbox or as a phone call. Often these proposals happen because a question seems to have no commonsense answer.

For example, two local school superintendents contacted me with the same question. “Why does the state give us extra money to help run rural schools and – in the same funding formula – take away some of our state aid?”

I introduced a bill to change the school aid formula and bring needed aid to rural schools. Broadband is another unmet rural need.

Many people called to complain about a lack of high-speed Internet service. Through research I discovered unused funds and introduced a bill to use these funds to expand rural broadband. Much work remains to bring Internet access to all.

Sometimes a new and serious problem occurs and many constituents with similar complaints contact me. Such is the case with sand mining.

Over the years many constituents have contacted me with specific problems that resulted in me drafting new proposals. In one example, a man bought land and built his “dream house” in rural Jackson County. He called in tears one day when he learned quite by accident neighbors on three sides of the property had contracts with sand mines and plan to open a mine. This arrangement was made before he bought the land.

His sad story resulted in a bill that requires disclosure of sand mine contracts as part of the normal real estate buying process.

A mother called when she realized an unfair situation happened unintentionally – in this case because of a number in the law. Her son was graduating as valedictorian. State law awards these smart teens an Academic Scholarship. But the law limited the award to school districts with eighty students. Local enrollment had dropped to just below eighty, leaving her son and other smart rural teens unable to get the same earned reward as their urban peers.

Many people tell me of their concern about the political system. I acted to make Wisconsin politics fairer and more transparent by introducing a series of bills: a referendum on nonpartisan redistricting; banning lawmakers from passing a law that financially benefits their campaign; disqualifying a judge’s action based on campaign contributions; and shining a light on corporate campaign contributions.

Similarly, people are concerned about legislative speed and secrecy – especially related to the budget. I’ve introduced proposals to slow things down and keep nonfiscal policy out of the budget. It is interesting to note that none of these proposals passed – or even had a hearing.

Often people call me when they are upset over threats to their way of life. Such was the case when railroad “police” warned locals who crossed rail tracks on their way to ice fishing. I introduced a bill to eliminate the powers of the railroad police and another to allow for a complaint system for those threatened.

As a result of anglers’ concerns, rail officials are working with locals to build needed rail crossings. This is one example of how introducing a bill can create change even if the bill does not become law.

So don’t be shy in letting me know what new bills should be introduced!

In the next few weeks I will be working through ideas for new legislation. The best ideas come from you. You can reach me toll free at 1-877-763-6636 or by email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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