Friday, May 10, 2013

Winds of Change Blow in Kewaunee County

The following is my letter to the editor published this week in the Herald Times Reporter:

The location with two miles of lake frontage
and 600 acres of mostly undeveloped land
makes it an ideal location for a dual on and off
shore wind farm.

This week Dominion shut down their forty year old reactor at Kewaunee. It will mean the loss of 650 jobs which will impact not just that town and Algoma but Manitowoc as well. In the 1950s it was promised that nuclear power would become so cheap that it wouldn't pay to send a monthly bill. Built at a time when that promise was already being questioned, in the end the irony of the plant's demise was that it was simply too expensive to operate.

Proponents of nuclear power point correctly to the short term environmental advantage of producing no green house gasses. And, new gas “fracking” which helped put the plant under has some extremely worrisome local effects well beyond the release of massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. Economically Wisconsin produces no gas so the money will be sent out of state to pay for it.

Despite all this an extraordinary opportunity stands before us if we have the vision to see it. The Kewaunee site consists of 600 acres of mostly undeveloped land with two miles of Lake Michigan shore line. It is perhaps the best location for a wind farm anywhere in the state. The power lines still stand waiting to transmit electricity into the grid and its relative isolation (not to mention contamination) make it unlikely to raise much opposition or competition for other uses. While it's true that even a large wind farm would not replace all 650 jobs, it can replace some as well as some of the lost property taxes.
The Blue Sky Green Field wind farm in Fond du Lac County

Wind produces no harmful gasses or long term toxic waste. It can and will produce competitive energy, jobs and revenue for decades to come. But the opportunity is now before it slips away making the losses permanent.

See HTR page here:

On May 16th the HTR printed a rebuttal from Jerome Hlinak - long time wind NIMBY and conspiracy theorist.  He wrote ... 

Letter: Wind turbines are not welcomed

"Bernard Starzewski’s letter to the editor on May 9 is clear indication of someone who believes in “We the Government” instead of “We the People” as written in the Constitution. Nowhere in the letter does he mention residents of the town of Carlton in Kewaunee County, where the nuclear plant is located, should have a say in what should happen after the decommissioning. Instead Mr. Starzewski pushes his pro-wind propaganda without facts backing his statements.
He claims the wind turbines can and will produce competitive energy, jobs and revenue for decades. He also claims it will not likely raise much opposition or competition for other uses. In fact, wind energy is subsided around $23 per Megawatt (MW) compared to 25 cents per MW for nuclear. Any revenue and job income is nothing but a tax burden and electrical utility rate increased expense. The global warming issue supported by pro-wind was not mentioned, as no one could defend that argument this year.
If Mr. Starzewski were to drive in the town of Carlton area he would see posted signs opposing wind turbine development. The majority of the 900 acres he would destroy are, and have been, rented to local farmers for cropping purposes. Agriculture is the backbone of our state economy. Due to the fact that there are high line transmission lines crossing various directions, it would be very limited where turbines could be placed, unless you disregard the engineering standards on debris thrown from blades.
Mr. Starzewski should attend a meeting at the town of Glenmore, Shirley Wind Project, where he can educate the people as a self-proclaimed expert from Manitowoc, with no life experience on wind energy. After he educates that crowd, I welcome him to Carlton. 

Jerome Hlinak
Tisch Mills
See letter here

 In response to Mr. Jerome Hlinak's accusation of distorted facts regarding wind power in the conversion of the Kewaunee plant site I offer the following rebuttal.

His own figures are grossly distorted. There is no direct subsidy for wind tower operation. The tax credits used to encourage their construction are largely accelerated depreciation which will be recovered over time. In fact they closely mirror oil and gas exploration credits. Because these are tax credits and not outright subsidies there is in fact no “burden” on taxpayers as he claims. And, Federal tax credits do not apply to local property taxes which would go a long way in replacing the lost revenue from the nuclear plant. Neither does it apply to payroll taxes or the property taxes their employees would pay.

This winter while Mr. Hlinak was busy promoting yet another wind moratorium to the county board in the same session the Town of Carlton also submitted a resolution to the board requesting help from Legislators in bearing the cost of services to the nuclear waste site located there, an all too real burden he chooses to ignore. Fortunately, the County Board voted overwhelmingly to support the Town of Carlton and not Mr. Hlinak.

His claims about the destruction of farming are false on their face. Anyone taking a trip through the Blue Sky Green Field at Malone where I have many friends and family will see farming and wind power living side by side with no apparent conflicts. Finally, contrary to Mr. Hlinak's bizarre conspiracy theories, no one is sick, their pockets are a little fuller and their taxes a little lower. That is all the “real life experience” I or anyone needs including Mr. Hlinak.

Editor's note:
Accelerated depreciation uses an 8 year schedule instead of the usual 30 allowing the normal investment deductions to be taken faster making it more attractive to investors.
Over the same 30 years the taxes paid by any tower will be the same.
During that time and from the first day, the units will pay the same rate of property taxes as everyone else.
The tax revenue from wind farms that are never built is ZERO.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

WEDC - Voucher School of Crony Capitalism

When I made the presentation of the first Manitowoc Dems Proxmire Golden Fleece Award I thought we had heard everything about the WEDC and that perhaps at least some steps would have been taken to staunch the bleeding.  But in the Walker administration presentation is everything and delivery is for schmucks.  The stories of confusion, incompetence and malfeasance just keep piling on.

Last week we heard that the new CEO lasted exactly one day after first accepting the job and then reneging taking the CEO position at his former employer instead leaving most to believe he was never serious and was probably using the Walker
people as a stalking horse to get the real job of his dreams.

This week we learn that the Legislative Fiscal Bureau has flunked the fledgling pseudo agency for a phalanx of gross mismanagement of public funds.  Their list of sins is long.

  • Had no policies in place to handle delinquent loans
  • Ignored State Statutes for financial verification of recipients.
  • Gave loans and tax credits to companies for ineligible projects, recipients and projects.
  • Exceeded set limits for awards.
  • Handed out awards for job creation when the jobs had already been filled prior to execution of the contract.
  • Sent awards to companies for investments without any verification of the incurred expense.
  • Used public funds for things like alcohol and Badgers season tickets.

In short is has been little more than a cash pipeline for the well connected.
See report highlights here:

But why is this any surprise?  Walker is noted for passing the loot to close cronies simply because they asked for it.  As Milwaukee County Executive he simply handed over their Purple Hearts fund to another crony Tim Russell who looted it for his own political and pleasure purposes and is now serving a stiff prison sentence.

The WEDC has become the voucher school of crony capitalism, funded by taxpayers, entirely unaccountable with no evidence of success.

Like voucher schools much was promised but we have not seen it in practice.  The Republican propaganda machine has achieved a great deal of electoral success in simply making wild claims of opportunities with little or nothing to back it up.  But in the absence of success after the election that can only last so long.  When the failures begin to pile up people learn and a well educated public even from the school of hard knocks is much harder to be sold on the same bill of goods again.  It is up to us, those who already learned those lessons to drive them home.  No outsourced agency is going to take up that curriculum for us.  The real vouchers are redeemed in the voting booth.


Current WEDC corporate logo

A more appropriate logo
The logo of the organization is a silhouette of Wisconsin inside a circle with the word "in" imprinted in the middle.
I have no bloody idea what this means!

I suggest that we expand that logo to "in like Flynn".  For the younger readers out there this is a reference to the actor Errol Flynn - star of swashbuckle movies like Robin Hood and Captain Blood back in the
40's who had a reputation to be able to bed any starlet he chose at will and was even accused of molesting a girl scout.

Errol Flynn
The Republican penchant for raiding the state's coffers has no less libido that Flynn's when it comes to money and how to get it for themselves and their friends.