China continues to set the pace when it comes to development and deployment of high speed rail. Is what they're doing a perfect fit for us here in America? Of course not. But putting fingers in our ears while yelling "choo-choo trains! choo-choo trains!" isn't a strategy either.
BEIJING — China on Wednesday opened the world’s longest high-speed rail line that more than halves the time required to travel from the country’s capital in the north to Guangzhou, an economic hub in southern China. The opening of the 2,298 kilometer (1,428 mile)-line was commemorated by the 9 a.m. departure of a train from Beijing for Guangzhou.
Trains on the latest high-speed line will initially run at 300 kph (186 mph) with a total travel time of about eight hours. Before, the fastest time between the two cities by train was more than 20 hours.
The line also makes stops in major cities along the way, including provincial capitals Shijiazhuang, Wuhan and Changsha.
For what it's worth, our most recent family trip from Milwaukee to Seattle (1,600 miles) took about seven hours by plane. It would certainly be nice if there were some other options for long distance travel in this Country besides airplanes.
But we don't because a major portion of our population has some unexplainable phobia to any form of mass ground transportation that doesn't involve six lane highways. For some reason, their irrational – in my opinion – fear and loathing of high speed or commuter rail always seems to win out in policy discussions.
Meanwhile, the rest of the industrialized world chugs on past us at 300 kilometers per hour.
I'm glad we're finally having a serious discussion about the mental health of people with access to guns.
Let's start with Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.
The guy who runs as a Democrat at election time but kow-tows to Republicans. Who wears cowboy hats and spurs on his boots, yet reprimands his deputies when they are "out of uniform". The guy who sees himself as a "leader" but uses the language and debate tactics of a nine year old. He declared himself as accountable to no one and files lawsuits because he thinks the rules don't apply to him. He is the "shepherd" to the "sheep" in Milwaukee County. Clarke brags about protecting the public, but arrests fewer people than the local college police department.
I've said it numerous times before, but Sheriff Clarke is not only an embarrassment to the residents of Milwaukee County and the office of Sheriff, he is a bully who's viewpoints on society are so far out on the fringe that his fitness to serve should seriously be questioned. The latest example is this screed on a local Tea Party website:
Shame on liberals for exploiting tragedy once again in our country and try to use tragedy as a reason to take our rights away. Liberals are shameful.
We have to resist with the ferociousness of a junk yard dog, any, any attempt by liberals to make us less free by chipping away at our constitutional freedoms.
All the left is interested in is having the government control every aspect of our lives. Calling for gun control is just another aspect of furthering their socialist agenda.
All of these suggestions about the need for gun control are the mindset of sheep. Once the wolf is at the door, you’re helpless. Sure, run and hide from a sociopathic killer. See how far that gets you. You know where that ‘ll get you? 26 dead at Sandy Hook School.
You can read the entirety of his rant here. But the short version is: liberals, liberals, socialist, sheep and uzi's on every corner.
Clarke loves the limelight and part of me has always hoped that his ridiculous statements and positions over the years have been nothing more than a cry for attention.
But when you have a law enforcement officer acting out like this, it causes the same concerns about the mental health of the individual as it would if the writings were from a confused teenager looking to lash out against society for the perceived wrongs against him and exact some sort of sick payback.
While he'll get cheers from the predictable outlets for his rants, it's a serious cause for concern for the average resident of Milwaukee County.
The feature story in the January edition of Milwaukee Magazine is a very in-depth piece on former Milwaukee County Parks Director Sue Black. It's worth a read if you have 10 minutes.
I was interviewed for this story last month and have a few quotes in it as well.
Unexpectedly fired with no public explanation, former Milwaukee County Parks Director Sue Black is charting a new course for the future. But will her plan include Milwaukee?
I own several guns that I use for hunting. That said:
If I were in elected office the first thing I'd do on Monday morning would be to propose bans on 20+ round clips, military grade assault rifle sales to civilians and make a mental health screening part of the existing background check. Start there.
Enough of this, "We need a national dialogue" crap. We've had "dialog" for a generation and an increasing number of predictable tragedies has been the result. We don't need a "national dialogue", we need "national action". You can't have a "dialogue" with a group of people who will never compromise and who's fantasy about being the main character in some twisted "Red Dawn" replay is more important that the lives of 20 small children, their 40 parents and the multitudes of people around them.
If you're in elected office and don't take action on this, and soon, you're part of the problem and your heartfelt "Our thoughts and prayers…" press release the next time this happens is as worthless as your ability to be an effective leader.
You were elected to do something. So DO SOMETHING!
Sup. Theo Lipscomb has an editorial in the paper today calling for movement on the stalled cap for pension backdrop payments:
Milwaukee County now faces the opportunity to further limit losses from the pension error by capping the costly backdrop benefit; the present value of this change is estimated at about $15 million.
The County Board sought legal and actuarial advice on ways to cap the backdrop in 2011. I introduced a specific resolution and ordinance change to cap the backdrop in May, and that proposal was approved on a 7-1 vote by the County Board Committee on Finance, Personnel, and Audit in September.
The cap does not reduce the benefits earned by any employee currently eligible to retire and receive a benefit; it simply caps the benefit at the amount that an employee has accrued on the effective date of the change. The change and the savings are prospective.
Because both Milwaukee County and our active employees make contributions to the pension fund, both would save by reducing the unfunded liabilities of the pension fund. The biggest winners are taxpayers, followed by more than 1,400 current employees who will never get a backdrop but are paying for it now.
Unfortunately, one of the safeguards put in place after the scandal – a mandatory review of all pension changes by the Pension Study Commission – has delayed progress on this matter. The PSC first heard this item nearly six months ago and has failed to meet to discuss it again. Now, the PSC is scheduled to take up this item at its meeting on Thursday.
It's well past time that the County cap these outrageous payouts, often in the hundreds of thousands of dollars in addition to huge monthly pension payouts. I agree with Sup. Lipscomb and would point out that the PSC should stop holding up the process.
It should be noted that Milwaukee County Supervisor Michael Mayo chairs the pension panel and has the ability to get the cap proposal moving after nearly half a year of inaction. People should be calling on him directly to get off his butt and get something done.
This is exactly the kind of bureaucracy and red tape that everyone hates about local government. Too many people have too much power to hold up a process that has a pretty obvious to residents and the taxpayers of Milwaukee County.
Also known as the "list of kids who have moronic parents". From babycenter.com's 2012 list of most unusual baby names in 2012 (each name was given to at least two poor kids):
Unusual girls' names
Unusual boys' names
A proposal that's been in the works for about a year now to create a "neighborhood improvement district" (NID) to manage Cathedral Square and Juneau Parks has been delayed by a Milwaukee Common Council committee:
A plan to renovate Cathedral Square and Juneau Park, and pay for that work with a new fee on properties on downtown Milwaukee's east side, was delayed Monday by a Common Council committee.
The Community and Economic Development Committee voted 4-1 to delay acting on a proposal to create a neighborhood improvement district, a public agency, which needs approval from the full council and Mayor Tom Barrett.
The district would then seek approval from the County Board and County Executive Chris Abele for a management contract overseeing around $4 million in improvements, along with maintenance, at Cathedral Square, Juneau Park and Burns Commons.
Milwaukee County would still own the parks, but the district would manage them in consultation with its private, nonprofit partners: East Town Association and Juneau Park Friends.
I certainly applaud the residents of the area for trying to get something done in order to secure funding for their neighborhood parks after years of neglect from the County.
For the most part over the past ten years I've agreed with the Shepard Express editorials. This weeks piece though regarding "saving mass transit" is something that needs to be pointed out.
A fairly normal editorial piece that starts out under the premise of supporting mass transit – great, I say – turns into a ham fisted attempt to blame the current Milwaukee County Executive for the problems our transit system has with funding and then goes on the praise the County Board. I've noticed this several times over the past few months from the Shepard, but this one really caught my eye because they're basically blaming Abele for not raising a County sales tax to support transit when he has no authority to do so.
Now we have a new county executive who again opposes the will of county residents. It is very clear that Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele does not want to raise any tax, no matter what the need, because he wants to be able to claim when he runs for higher office, as his friends say he will, that as county executive he never raised taxes. He is focused on appeasing the tea party crowd.
So my question is why is Abele being called out for "not wanting raise any tax" in the context of a 1% County sales tax, when it's the State legislature and not County Government that is able to do so? I mean, if you're going to blame the current County Exec for not raising the sales tax, why not blame the County Board too since they haven't raised the sales tax either? How about the Milwaukee County medical examiner or the Sheriff?
They all have the same authority – none – as the County Executive to raise the Milwaukee County sales tax. Yet, the Shepard Express chooses to place the blame for this at the feet of only a single person.
Then it goes into a bizarre personal missive against him:
Unfortunately, since Abele has had no education in or experience with taxation—or government in general—and the uniqueness of Wisconsin’s more progressive sales tax, he is again making poor decisions because, as usual, he refuses to listen to anyone and does not seem to be able to learn how government actually works. Then the piece goes on to praise the County Board as it seems to do at every opportunity regardless of the issue.
I get a lot of people are looking for someone to fill the role of villain since Gov. Walker left town a few years ago, and perhaps to them, the County Exec's office feels like a comfortable place to continue to direct their anger. That seems to be the case here with the Shepard Express trying to blame Abele for something he has no control over. They might as well blame him for the gridlock in Washington DC while they're at it.
I should point out that I'm not trying to play fanboy here or curry favor with the County Exec. I'm sure some will make that elementary assumption because they disagree. My recent siding with him on a number of issues are because I have a fairly pragmatic opinion of the issues facing Milwaukee County right now, and I happen to agree with his recent positions on a number of those issues.
The Milwaukee Buisness Journal has done a good job talking about similarities Milwaukee has with Oklahoma City when it comes to building and financing major league sports stadiums through a sales tax.
A lot of people in Milwaukee are getting antsy at the fact that a 1% sales tax is being floated as an option to build a new stadium for the Bucks. That's because four years ago a referendum was passed in Milwaukee County that asked for a 1% sales tax to be levied in the County to pay for Milwaukee County Parks, transit and EMS services.
People are basically asking why we're talking about funding a new stadium with revenue from a sales tax that should go to parks, transit and EMS. The thing is that's not really the case here.
The 1% sales tax in OKC didn't just go to a new stadium for their NBA team, it was spent over a decade for improvements to it's infrastructure, downtown and attractiveness in order to become a more vibrant area that would attract more economic development. Yes, part of that was a stadium, but there's a difference in a 1% sales tax to go toward general capital improvements for a city over the course of a decade and a 1% sales tax to build a new stadium in Milwaukee.
The difference is a 1% sales tax just for a new Bucks stadium would be too much money. That might seem like it doesn't make sense, but if you consider that an additional 1% sales tax would generate approx. $80-100 million per year and the public cost of a new stadium at $200 million, it makes no sense for a two year 1% sales tax.
And that's why it's not in competition with a 1% sales tax for parks, transit & EMS.
If public financing were to be considered for a new NBA stadium in Milwaukee, the Miller Park model should be what's looked at. It provides revenues to pay off the public cost of building Miller Park through a 0.1% sales tax levied through a five County region. Spreading the public cost out through a very small sales tax over 10-20 years makes much more sense and anyone who visits the area can see the economic benefits a major league baseball team bring to the area.
I'm no fan of the NBA or the Bucks. But I do see the importance that major league sports teams play in the major cities of America. Just ask the people of Seattle how that decision to let the Sonics (Now OKC Thunder) leave looks a few years later.
Milwaukee losing it's NBA team because it's residents couldn't stomach an extra 10 cents on a $100 purchase would be ridiculous. It would also add to the nationwide perception that Milwaukee is a city on the decline while other cities like Oklahoma City are seen as on the rise because they're more than happy to invest in public projects.
So I don't really see a proposed 1% sales tax for parks, transit and EMS services in competition with a new stadium for the Milwaukee Bucks. I also don't see it as an "either one or the other" situation with a winner and loser.
The fact is that we've been sitting on the 1% referendum for over four years now and nothing has happened with it, even when Democrats had full control of State government.
That's why I'm a supporter of a regional transit authority and a parks district. Both could provide a secure and dedicated funding source for two of the most important factors in the high quality of life we have in Milwaukee.
Every other major city in the Country has figured out how to balance it's funding of infrastructure, quality of life services and things like major league stadiums. Either Milwaukee gets on board and starts matching that investment or we'll continue to fall behind those cities and been seen exactly as we are: a third tier player that's being outhustled by cities like Portland, Oklahoma City and Nashville.