Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Paul Tittl's Little Shop of Horrors II - Its a Gas!

Back in 2013 I took note of how State Rep. Paul Tittl manages his aging row of shacks rental
Tittl's "business"
and vacuum cleaner retail store as a metaphor for how he approaches legislation in his Assembly job.   Never did I think how this might come up again in such a stunningly blatant way until Halloween played the ultimate joke on his tenants that began with a 911 call about people feeling sick at his properties.

From WFRV TV Green Bay news piece.  Paul sizes up his liabilities.
It turned out that the building had become flooded with carbon monoxide so badly that it has seeped into virtually every unit including the small Cafe on the first floor sickening seven people there as well.

A total of 17 people were transported to local hospitals out of which 4 had to be taken to St. Luke's in Milwaukee to be put into oxygen hyperbaric chambers in order to purge the CO from their blood.  One was so critical that he/she had to be flown by Flight For Life after being extracted from one of the apartments when fire fighters forced open the apartment door and found the victim unresponsive.

Its fairly evident that multiple State Statutes were broken here including 101.149 that requires working CO detectors to be placed in all common areas in apartment buildings where combustion devices are in use.  The fact that it spread through the entire complex tends to indicate that a single furnace heats all of the units which is yet another State code violation for forced air systems.  Each unit is required to have its own separate ventilation system to avoid just such a catastrophe though the building and system are probably so old there may be a grandfather clause at work here.  Replacing the system may end that escape clause however.

According to my conversations with Paul over the years he inherited this property.
$300 fine for your lawn but this is just fine.
His personal investment in it is basically ZILCH.  Improvements he put into it are in the same class too - ZILCH with the exception of things the city has forced him to do such as the vinyl siding we see in the photo above.  The city has been on a beautification tare downtown.  I received a similar notice about some window framing they weren't happy with.  Recently Mayor Justin Nickels announced on his facebook page that the new city policy is to fine people who do not cut their lawns $300.  All this in the shadow of the crumbling Mirro building which has stood as a monument to impotence of local government to stand up to corporate interests.  You just can't make this crap up!

Here's what pisses me off...  I own a building just one block from this mess.  I put a lot into it
including a total face lift for 3 of the 4 units, a new heating system, wiring, plumbing, new efficient windows and storms.  It wasn't cheap!  And I get inspected all the time by multiple city agencies including the Fire Department which always checks at least the common area smoke and CO detectors.  Beyond that I have a TEA Party business man neighbor who dislikes my politics and uses these city agencies as a way of taking out his frustrations on me by calling in bogus ordinance complaints - a sore point with me and the city over their willingness to let him get away with it.

So, it is a puzzlement to me as to how his set of aging fire traps could possibly have fallen off the radar with a city government that has plenty of time and resources to inspect my building, send me letters and other notices that have been more about cosmetics than any alleged violations of consequence.  It would seem that office holding has its privileges.

But on the bright side notice that in the top photo Paul is dressed in his Legislator costume.  He was obviously not in his store when disaster struck.  (It isnt clear that the store is still open)  No doubt he was down in Madison hard at work passing more deregulation legislation.  It might be said that he is keeping his campaign pledge to be our "Full time representative"!  Too bad that means being an absentee landlord.

God help us!

11/9/2016 Note: It is not entirely clear how Paul came to own this entire complex of old buildings.  In reading the inspection records of the units at least some of the main section appears to have belonged to Kadow Realty which he probably purchased as opposed to have inherited.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Monsters Among Us


NOTE: This letter was not printed at (Manitowoc Herald Times) so Im printing it here.
It should be noted that the usual cast of right wing letter writers have had free reign there lately.
This is now the second letter of mine that the HTR has rejected this year.

I've been watching the horror show that has become the Republican 2016 campaign with a combination of both amusement and revulsion. Most interesting has been the flight of frightened candidates trying to saw their own legs off in order to extract themselves from the Trump tower of terror in which they are now locked.

It is after all both election and Halloween season and just as the Green Bay “Gags the Clown” horror film promotion has gone virally wrong with imitators doing real harm now Republicans (not just Trump) have been taking the “creepy clown” act into the all to real realm of public policy.

Then State Senator and now Congressman running for re-election Glenn Grothman authored a bill that would have criminalized single parenthood (SB507) claiming that raising a child without a father is the equivalent of child abuse even when spousal abuse is the cause.

At the same time we saw now Senator Ron Johnson publicly testify in favor of legislation that would have blocked law suits holding the Catholic Church responsible for covering up and reassigning pedofile priests allowing them to offend again.

Now we see that Governor Scott Walker laundered $750,000 in contributions from lead paint interests in exchange for legislation effectively blocking still other law suits by children who were permanently damaged by those companies and their products.

Trump may be that scary clown selling fear and loathing but he is just a shadow of these real monsters who rape the public interest and bring crime into our state houses. They manifest their twisted nature into real policy and that should be what we fear the most. The cure for fear is courage and we must find that courage to realize our mistakes and show up at the poles to end their reign of terror.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Brothers and sisters, we are here tonight to fight the devil...

Buy Tickets!

"Brothers and sisters, we are here tonight to fight the devil... "  Anything Goes!

"If she says your behavior is heinous Kick her right in the Coriolanus!  Kiss me Kate

Life often imitates art:

I am currently in rehearsal for a Cole Porter review which, in my mind has become a metaphor for the current  With the Clinton nomination now a forgone conclusion it is interesting to note that at the same time that California was deciding that race I was rehearsing two numbers that seem to speak directly to the campaigns of both major party candidates.

The singular call to the Sanders voters is not that Clinton is a good person or even a good Democrat, but that Donald Trump is a bad person and, well... A Republican.  Benghazi and other bullshit aside, Clinton's record sucks as Thomas Frank clearly point out in his book "Listen Liberal".  In fact, no one has done more to destroy the legacy of FDR than the Clintons and few people
are more responsible for many of the ills of modern America either.  Whether we are talking about the school to prison pipeline, free trade generated economic decay, the housing bubble and banking collapse or the war in Iraq, the Clintons have been the great enablers of Republican neo-con policies in ways that Republican Presidents of the same era could have never dreamed of.  Bill Clinton rose to power by coopting Republican policies better than they could present them themselves.

Only in the convoluted world of modern TEA Party erzatz populism could then, a TV host of a reality show host that elevated social Darwinism to a religion could then turn the tables and coopt real populist (formerly Democratic policies) as those of the Republican party leaving Clinton with what effectively is a more conservative set of positions than Trump.  With perhaps the most anti-populsts, anti-Progressive record, her entire campaign now appears to be that Trump is the devil.

In "Anything Goes" the character Reno sings,

Brothers and sisters, we are here tonight to fight the devil... Do you hear that playin'? 
[COMPANY]Yes, we hear that playin'! 

I've been a sinner, I've been a scamp, 
But now I'm willin' to trim my lamp, 
So blow, Gabriel, blow! 

Oh, I was low, Gabriel, low, 
Mighty low, Gabriel, low. 
But now since I have seen the light, 
I'm good by day and I'm good by night, 
So blow, Gabriel, blow! 
Just declaim a few lines from Othella...
And at the very same time in New York Merril Streep invoking Kiss Me Kate.

 Humorous lyrics portraying two clueless mobsters trading artless advice on how to attract female attention cuttingly mirror the tactics the two politicians are sure to employ to win over the hearts of the American people before the coming election."

Yes, life really does imitate art.
Wherever he is, Cole Porter and his wit are having the last laugh.
I only wish it were funny.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Can't Fight This Feeling Anymore

"It takes a village.."   Hillary Rodham Clinton's book title

"We had to destroy the [village] in order to save it."
 Quote attributed to a US Major by reporter Peter Arnett February 7th 1968, about the bombing of civilians in the provincial capital Bến Tre in Viet Nam.

 When I attended the Bernie Sanders rally in Sheboygan earlier this spring a man was working his way down the line with a microphone and (I think) another one was holding a video camera asking a simple question.  "If Bernie loses the primary who will you vote for in November" or something very near that.  My unhesitating response then was, "Oh, I'll vote for Hillary!"  I am now rethinking that.

In recent weeks, as Sanders has continued his surge winning contest after contest, steadily closing the gap I have increasingly seen both outright corruption and an increase in personal attacks not just on Sanders but myself personally simply for asking that the entire election be played out and that super delegates consider election results in their own state.  My faith in the system was shaken by the Nevada State Convention where rule changes were implemented in secret putting all questions to a voice vote only and giving the chair sole discretion in determining the outcome of those votes.  My confidence was lost forever when I saw the video of the vote which clearly showed the chair ignoring the actual outcome and ruling in Clinton's favor.  It was obvious that the fix was in.

Hitler claimed the socialists did it
Then, when I read the charges that the Sanders people reacted violently and even throwing chairs.  But that was followed by video showing the charges were patently untrue.  You knew it was more than a fix, it was more like the Burning of the Reichstag.  Obviously the socialists did it!  Right?

Since then Ive seen a rising tide of vitriolic personal attacks, not just on Sanders but people like myself who support him calling him and us "pathetic losers" and "lunatics".  At the first level, this is upsetting especially when it comes from people or their acquaintances who profess to be your "friends".  But it is also perplexing as Clinton and those same supporters are calling for unity.  Last time I  checked "unity" does not spring from derision.

Consider this...  Aren't these the exact sort of attacks used by Donald Trump to fluster and silence his opponents?  Is this what American politics has become?
Las Vegas metro police-Nevada State (Democratic Convention. (Photo: Angie Morelli)

Increasingly I can't fight the feeling that both parties are completely broken and being manipulated not by leaders with integrity but by master propagandists whose true motives remain hidden.  Perhaps its simply a thirst for power.  That's not hard to believe of either Clinton or Trump, is it?
I do not nor have I ever listened to the conspiracy theorists.  I oppose Clinton on the merits.  DOMA, Three Strikes, repeal of Glass Stegal,  bad trade agreements failure to support single payer and the big one.... IRAQ - are all good enough reasons to think that she would not represent me if elected.  This is why we have elections, right?   But back room manipulation, false propaganda and bathing herself in the very big money she decries in the Citizens United case (which involved a conspiracy film about her!) have effectively destroyed any confidence I might have had in her Presidency.

That's a feeling I just can't fight anymore.

And I can't fight this feeling anymore
I've forgotten what I started fighting for
It's time to bring this ship into the shore
And throw away the oars, forever

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Jim Brey Master Inquisitor

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed..."      

     6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

 "I will never forget the look in Steven Avery’s eyes when he was being brought into the courthouse ..., I know a person cannot be convicted based on that, but I made up my mind that day. Avery was guilty."

 Manitowoc County Board Chairman Jim Brey 

The re-emergence of the Steven Avery case has done much to damage the reputation of our community. Certainly the original rape case was bungled. Nationally we have seen any number of such travesties. But, we like our politicians and judges who profess to be “tough on crime”. The electoral pressure to convict over the need to serve has lead to a bias in our officials that has served us poorly. The Halbach case (and perhaps Halbach herself) are in many respects the victims of that.

Despite all that, having followed the this second case at the time and now going back and reviewing the published evidence and appeals court decisions I remain convinced that the verdict in that case was the correct one. Both Avery and Dassey are where they belong – this time.

Now we see the revelation of the emails of County Board Chair Jim Brey who wrote that he could tell
that Avery was guilty by looking into his eyes.  Prejudicial bigotry like that is central to the problem. In the the famous Miranda case that lead to the requirement of police advising suspects of their 5th Amendment rights before making statements involved an officer who said that he knew that people were lying when their bellies shook. But Brey never misses an opportunity to pander so civil rights be damned. Not one lesson was learned.

Brey, a fake Democrat who is continually re-elected without opposition while receiving fewer votes than any other candidate by half yet holds not one, but two offices in addition to being County board chair is perhaps the worst politician in modern Manitowoc history. A man with any sense of decency would resign after such a revelation but his ego and appetite for power would never permit that. Meanwhile the damage continues to mount.

Bernard J. Starzewski
Valders Wi.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Don't Do As I Do!

The following piece was printed in the Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter the week of Feb 22nd 2016 but never posted online.
Van Halen
 "Don't do as I do.  Do as I say do!" - (unknown)
“The hell with the rules. If it sounds right, then it is.”Eddie Van Halen

Rep. Tittl
When Paul Tittl first ran for his assembly seat in 2008* he criticized then Rep. Bob Ziegelbauer for holding both that seat and his County Executive jobs and vowing to close his vacuum and sewing shop if elected. His banners read “Your full time Representative!” Voters seemed to disagree as he lost that race rather badly.

By 2012 he had taken a full 180 with him openly admitting he “was wrong about that.” Certainly he has not closed his business since finally winning that seat. That slogan disappeared from his campaign. Now in 2016 his opinion seems to have shifted yet again with his vote in favor
of legislation designed to prevent Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris from running in (and probably winning) a race for the State Senate.

When Tittl first leveled that charge, Ziegelbauer was still officially a Democrat but by 2012 had left the party and Tittl was trolling for an endorsement. Harris still identifies as a Democrat and may in fact actually be one.

I will be waiting impatiently to see the going-out-of-business sign on his shop, but won't be holding my breath either. Tittl's opportunistic and partisan flip-flopery is nothing short of shameful.

* Edited - the original piece incorrectly pointed to the 2010 race. 
Well, maybe I was wrong about that? No, as long as it doesn't apply to me!  WHEW!  I was worried there for a second!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Dr. Deer's Devalued Experience

Hunting in the Days of the Czar

"[Cheap] deer tags will only devalue the experience."  Dr. Kroll (deer Czar)

"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored."  Aldous Huxley 
 Last month I was appointed by Wisconsin DNR Secretary, Cathy Stepp to the Manitowoc County Deer Advisory Committee as the DMAP (Deer Management Assistance Program - land owner cooperator) seat.  I suspect that this occurred because for the last year I was the only DMAP participant in the county though this may have recently changed.  For certain, I was the only one to have applied.  On February 6th I attended the necessary training for that post in Stevens Point.  

CDAC is the offspring and brain child of the Kroll Deer Trustee Report that came about after newly elected Governor Walker came to office claiming that former Governor Doyle had allowed the DNR to decimate the deer herd despite the fact that under Doyle the deer harvest had in fact hit all time highs.  The political assumption was that Kroll would restore the harvest to those glorious levels.  The last two harvests have been stuck at 30 year lows

What I learned was that there was remarkably little to know about being a voting CDAC member except the directive to follow your gut feelings.  The over all impression I got from the DMAP break out session is that the program coordinator Robert Nack was in effect, presenting few actual facts but asking what we would like to see in the way of "metrics" of the deer herd.

I probably shouldn't be surprised because a long look at the DNR CDAC website had a good deal of the available information about the previous decisions made by Manitowoc and other counties and the sole decision that the committees are allowed to make which is, whether to attempt to increase, lower or maintain the herd numbers in their counties.  There are a number of such "metrics" available such as a very rough estimate of the herd size in any given county.  When I say rough, I mean REALLY rough since as their website admits, no actual county by count count has ever been done.  Instead, population estimates have been cobbled together by count data developed in the old Deer Management Unit (DMU) system now abolished by Kroll and the Legislature.  While there are a few other peripheral bits of data like deer pregnancy rates (derived from road kill autopsies) and some really subjective things like crop damage claims by farmers that is about it.

Note that I call crop damage claims as "subjective" because even as the harvest has dropped by 50% deer related claims have quadrupled leaving me to suspect that other factors are at work here.  The number of claims is in fact so low (3) that it is hardly a valid consideration even though the dollar amount of around $20,000 is up considerably.  Still it is hardly a factor with only 3 recent claims.

Neither is there any county by county car/deer accident data.  It simply does not exist.  State wide it has been relatively unchanged in the last 30 years.  A similar situation exists for fawn/doe ratios.   Another anomaly is that it appears that all of the decisions made for the 2015 season were done with data from 2013 or older.  None of the tables for deer harvest go beyond 2013.

Getting back to the one identifiable duty of the committee, to decide to increase or decrease the herd, one particular statistic on the report sticks out...  Hunter IMPRESSIONS of the state of the herd.  At no point in the twenty years covered by the survey does the number of respondents expressing the belief that the herd numbers are UP exceed 16%.  This despite the fact that through 2000 the harvest had exponentially risen exponentially for almost a century!  Of course, now that the numbers are down, so are the number that believe that too.  Politics it seems, have hidden the realities.
Beliefs sometimes argue harder than facts
Herd mgt choices by county

Let me repeat that for emphasis:
Over time, an average of only 10% of hunters believed the deer herd was growing despite record harvests.
Then I looked at what CDACs decided county by county and only a small handful of counties opted
to reduce their herds.  Manitowoc happens to be one of them.  And in fact this year the harvest was up which might tend to support that choice.  However, the solution (the only hammer available) is to issue more antlerless (doe) permits on the theory that dropping the female population will slow the birth rate and thus stem herd growth.  It should be noted that the issuance of additional tags of any sort will by nature, increase the kill.

Private Land Data (note buck/doe ratios)
Previously, this was encouraged by a program called Earn A Buck (EAB), a much reviled policy of only allowing the taking of a buck after a hunter had killed a doe.  In those days CDAC presented data shows that antlerless harvest was as high as 2.8 X the number of bucks taken on private land and a staggering 3.5 X the buck harvest taken on public land (Manitowoc 2008 data).  By comparison, in the two years prior to the new program when EAB had already been cancelled the ratio on private land was 1 to 1 but remained at 1.4 and 1.3 times the buck totals on public land even without the inducement.

The reasons for this are obvious.  Public land hunters have fewer options so if they want to take a
deer they will and do take what comes along. Failure to do so will mean a competitor will most likely take.  You will not get a second chance.  With the success rate at less than 50%, any deer is better than none.   Private land hunters can take their time and if they want a buck they are much more likely to get an opportunity to get one because they face no competition and the only time limit is the end of the season. 

Pubic Land Data buck/doe ratios nearly double
Since all licenses come with both a buck and doe tag the incentive to take a doe is low and the incentive to purchase an extra one is even lower.  And although private land hunters occupy about 25 times the land area as public land hunters, extra antlerless tags on the latter typically add up to 1/3 of all extra females taken.   Yet, last years CDAC committee allocated only 150 total public land tags.   2015 data has not been officially published on CDAC material as yet so it isnt known how many of those 150 tags were used.  However, in most years prior, that limit was easily exceeded even without the more coercive EAB program.

The lesson from this should be that public land hunters are eager to get a deer and will take what they can get and in a county that has declared itself in a hurry to reduce the herd, limiting public land tags would seem counter productive.  Of course, this is before you ask the obvious question of why the Czar would segregate public and private lands tags in the first place...  The price of the second tag is already enough to discourage some but the abject lack of public tags is an absolute barrier.  At least in counties like Manitowoc where the stated 3 year goal is to reduce the herd, the current program is rather obviously less effective than the older ones which is most obvious on public lands.

There is a similar disconnect in counties that have opted to increase their herds.  Again, the theory and singular tool given to counties is the antlerless permit.  The most notable counties in question are those in the southern woodland zone which include parts of Eau Claire, Wood, Jackson, Adams, Clark and Monroe. (notice most are split creating two zones in each)  So, the option is solely to cut the availability of doe tags, usually meaning - no does at all.

Yet, if you look at road kill data, the rump fat for yearling does in both central and northern forest areas are much lower than farmland counties.  Similar tables for pregnancy and litter size fat tell the same story.  What this is telling us is that the carrying capacity of those areas has already been hit since the available forage is either scarce or low quality resulting in poorer nutrition hence the poorer health metrics with lower birth rates, thinner animals and (presumably) higher death rates.

 Failure to take does in that zone and increasing the herds there will only make it worse.  And of course there is the obvious irony of denying hunters the ability to take an available deer in the name of making more deer available.  It would seem that if you really wanted to make more deer (and healthier ones) you would engage in habitat improvement but that takes money and management and spending is not in the plan, just higher fees.  However, we are told that spending more for tags will enhance your experience.

In the end,  we appear to have fewer options for a higher price and poorer results.  The Czar's pronouncement of the value of higher fees tells us much.  "Cheap doe tags only devalue the experience!"   Apparently paying more in fees is a thing to be valued, even when a huge portion of the value has been taken away. 

Why am I not happy about that?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Government For Sale! The Looting of the Commons

Printed at 1/21/2016

HTR Gannett photo
We've seen this before both here in Manitowoc County and City and then across the State.  The story is always the same.  Government is broke and needs cash so we must - must - sell off publicly owned property to expand the tax base and reduce debt.  They say there is no choice.  I disagree.

We saw it in the sale of the Manitowoc County Health Care Center which in the end reduced no debt at all while squandering a fifteen million dollar investment.  In Sheboygan Herb Kohler wants to grab part of Kohler-Andrae State Park for yet another golf course.  State wide Walker passed an agenda to sell off 10,000 acres of public land including prime hunting land and parks.  At City, dual office holder Jim Brey attempted to sell off our 100 year investment in our public utilities system to cover losses that occurred on his watch.

Now we see a proposal to sell off a major chunk of the Manitowoc County Fair grounds to Meijer Foods which again is supported not only by Brey but Mayor Nickels who apparently see only dollar signs.  As always, this and nothing else should be considered.

What ever short term gains there might be, the money will quickly disappear into the general budget while the land, its institutions and traditions will be lost forever. When its all gone what will be left?  We are witnessing the systematic looting of the public commons.  Its time to make your choice while there is still something left to choose.

Tax revenue apparently trumps everything...

HTR story: Nickels approves

"The location is not in a TIF district, meaning all taxing entities will directly benefit, (including) Manitowoc County, Manitowoc Public School District, City of Manitowoc, Lakeshore Technical College and the State of Wisconsin," the pair wrote. "This land is not currently assessed, meaning no tax dollars are generated by it....

 If we applied this same logic to all public properties, what would be left?

This late addition:

Yet another example of the State Wide looting of public property.

Cog Dis Image
From the Cog Dis blog: "Abele sent his Director of Administration, Teig Whaley-Smith, to the board meeting and told them outright that Abele was looking to give - not sell, but give - the ownership of the War Memorial Center and O'Donnell Park to the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM).  In exchange, the art museum would pick of the cost of maintenance and repairs for the two buildings as well as their own.

Needless to say, this is not sitting well with the veterans.  They were comfortable with the county - a public entity - being their landlord.  They are not comfortable at all with a private agency assuming that role.

If MAM were to become the owners of the War Memorial Center, they would have the last say on what could and couldn't be done.  If they didn't like a statue on the grounds, they could have it removed.  If they decided to double or triple the rent, they could without needing anyone's permission."
And now we see that absolutely NOTHING is sacred!