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Daily Bread for 4.17.24: Big State Surplus Doesn’t Obscure Ongoing Needs

Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will be windy with a high of 64. Sunrise is 6:07 and sunset 7:40 for 13h 33m 14s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 67.2 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

Whitewater’s Parks & Recreation Board meets at 5:30 PM.

On this day in 1970, the damaged Apollo 13 spacecraft returns to Earth safely.


Wisconsin has a large general fund balance, but that multi-billion dollar figure isn’t so big that one can’t see unfilled needs behind it. Jessie Opoien reports Wisconsin’s general fund hit $6.7 billion and other takeaways from policy forum report:

The state’s general fund balance — its largest source of reserves — hit a record high of $6.7 billion by June 2023. That was a 42% increase over the previous year. 

The [Wisconsin] Policy Forum previously found that in 2020, the general fund had closed the fiscal year with a small positive balance for the first time on record — but the news came as the state grappled with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and faced a recession. The report attributes the strength of the general fund to federal aid, a resilient economy and the development of vaccines to mitigate the severity of the pandemic.

As of June 2023, the report found, Wisconsin had nearly 2.5 times more cash and liquid assets than short-term financial obligations — the highest ratio on record since 2002.

….

The percentage of state transportation fund revenues directed to paying off debt rose from 7% in 2002 to 18.9% in 2019. That share is projected to fall to 16.2% by 2025, thanks in part to fee increases and borrowing decreases, but transportation debt remains an issue.

“Going forward, transportation debt will likely remain an ongoing concern for Wisconsin unless lawmakers and Gov. Tony Evers identify additional revenues for the transportation fund, make the general fund transfers permanent, or sharply scale back road projects. None of these options are politically appealing, making this an issue to watch in the next state budget,” the report noted.

A large surplus, ongoing needs for road projects, but beyond that: the surplus as a surplus has only a limited value to residents who have needs and lives beyond the influence of either state budgets or state transportation projects. A surplus for the sake of a surplus isn’t productive.

It’s closer to kleptomania.

See also Wisconsin Policy Forum, A High Water Mark for State Budget?


Memorable:

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Daily Bread for 4.16.24: An Open Wisconsin Supreme Court Seat in ’25

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be windy with evening showers and a high of 66. Sunrise is 6:09 and sunset 7:39 for 13h 30m 30s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 57.6 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

Whitewater’s Common Council meets at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 1945, the United States Army liberates Nazi Sonderlager (high security) prisoner-of-war camp Oflag IV-C (better known as Colditz).


Catching up on news from last week, as Henry Redman reports Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley won’t run for re-election in 2025:

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley announced Thursday morning she won’t be running for a fourth 10-year term on the bench. The announcement sets up a race for an open seat on the Court, giving conservatives a better shot at regaining their majority after liberals gained control for the first time in 15 years in 2023. 

The Supreme Court race last year, which was won handily by Justice Janet Protasiewicz over former Justice Dan Kelly, broke national records for campaign spending. In recent years, the Court has been dominated by narrow 4-3 decisions — including cases to affirm President Joe Biden’s election victory in 2020, declare absentee ballot drop boxes illegal and strike down the Republican gerrymander of the state’s political maps. The Court is also expected to soon determine the legality of abortion in the state. 

Bradley won her last re-election campaign by 16 points, yet with the Court’s increasing importance in deciding statewide issues in a state with divided government, the 2025 race is likely to be contentious. Waukesha County Judge Brad Schimel, a former Republican state attorney general, has already announced a run for the seat. 

“From the beginning of my campaign, I made it clear that I’m not just running against one person, I’m running against the Court’s leftist majority,” Schimel said in a statement. “I wish Justice Ann Walsh Bradley well in retirement after decades of public service. I look forward to continuing the fight to bring integrity and respect for the Constitution back to the Supreme Court of Wisconsin.” 

It would be surprising if the race didn’t see a couple of candidates from each of the state’s main ideological camps. The most reasonable forecast (and it’s an obvious point) is that an open seat in ’25 will attract as much interest and campaign spending as the race in ’23.


Lawmakers brawl in nation of Georgia’s parliament:

Georgian lawmakers came to blows in parliament as ruling party legislators looked set to advance a controversial bill on “foreign agents” that has been criticized by Western countries and sparked protests at home.

Daily Bread for 4.15.24: Another Vanity Candidate

Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will be mostly sunny with a high of 71. Sunrise is 6:10 and sunset 7:38 for 13h 27m 44s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 47.6 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

Whitewater’s Library Board meets at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 1861, Wisconsin Governor Alexander W. Randall received a telegram from Washington requesting one regiment of 780 men to serve the Union for three months in the Civil War. Within a week, ten companies from Kenosha, Beloit, Horican, Fond du Lac, Madison, and Milwaukee were ready.


The fall election in Wisconsin is expected to be competitive for presidential and U.S. Senate candidates. Perhaps it will be. A competitive United States Senate race, however, requires two capable candidates, not one capable candidate and a vanity candidate who sounds like he fell from a turnip truck yesterday. Nikki McCann Ramirez reports Trump-Endorsed Senate Candidate Questions if Nursing Home Residents Are Alive Enough to Vote (“If you’re in a nursing home, you only have five, six-month life expectancy,” Eric Hovde said in an interview earlier this month):

During an April 5 interview on The Guy Benson Show, Hovde, a Republican running to unseat Democratic Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, claimed that it was suspicious that some nursing homes in Wisconsin had “100-percent voting” percentages.  “Well, if you’re in a nursing home, you only have five, six-month life expectancy. Almost nobody in a nursing home is in a point to vote and you had children, adult children showing up saying, ‘Who voted for my 85 or 90-year-old father or mother?'” Hovde told Benson. 

Hovde, whose comments were first reported by Heartland Signal, is not entirely correct in his assessment of nursing home life expectancy. While it’s true that some residents die within months of entering assisted living, many live comfortably for years in long-term residential care, while others voluntarily leave nursing homes for a multitude of reasons, including a preference for in-home care. 

Regardless of how long a person stays in a nursing home, the right to vote has no age-based expiration date. Wisconsin became a focal point for election conspiracies in the aftermath of the 2020 election, including through largely baseless claims that nursing home employees had fabricated or manipulated the votes of elderly patients. 

Hovde, a banker and investor by trade, made an unsuccessful bid for the Senate in 2012, and announced his second attempt to win a seat in the higher chamber in February.

Hovde is trying to explain (presumably) that some nursing home ballots are coerced, but he’s green and awkward in mixing that narrow message with a message about life expectancy. An experienced incumbent in a competitive race would not have made a mistake like Hovde’s.

Like Tim Michels before him, Hovde’s a vanity candidate, the choice of established men who assume that other established men must, as though a law of nature, be right for whatever they attempt.

It’s quite the assumption.

See also Tim Michels 2.0 Eric Hovde Announces U.S. Senate Run and Eric Hovde Should Fire His Political Consultants and Hire a Therapist.


The Hop streetcar arrives at Milwaukee’s lakefront with a new route and stop:

Daily Bread for 4.14.24: Devil’s Lake State Park | West Bluff and Tumbled Rocks Trail

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of 77. Sunrise is 6:12 and sunset 7:37 for 13h 24m 58s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 37 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 2003, the Human Genome Project is completed with 99% of the human genome sequenced to an accuracy of 99.99%.


Devil’s Lake State Park | West Bluff and Tumbled Rocks Trail:

The Marks of Curiosity channel presents a trip to Devil’s Lake:

The West Bluff Trail is one of the best at Devil’s Lake State Park located near Baraboo, Wisconsin. This beautiful landscape has been carved by ice sheets from the last ice age and an awesome blue lake remains. Part of the Wisconsin State Park system, Devil’s Lake is one of the most popular in the state and for good reason. Swimming, hiking, rock climbing, and photography are just a few of the activities one can enjoy. Devil’s Lake include two sandy beaches named the North Beach and South Beach. Swimming, kayaking, canoeing, scuba diving is popular at these locations. A 2.4 mile hiking loop can be combined from the West Bluff Trail and the Tumbled Rocks Trails.


Happy stories, including of 100 students who orchestrate a moving surprise for 99-year-old WWII veteran:

Daily Bread for 4.13.24: Puppies Bred and Trained to Be Seeing Eye Dogs

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of 68. Sunrise is 6:13 and sunset 7:36 for 13h 22m 11s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 27.4 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1960, the United States launches Transit 1-B, the world’s first satellite navigation system.


Why Puppies Bred And Trained To Be Seeing Eye Dogs Are So Expensive:

Guide dogs from The Seeing Eye are specially bred, trained, and matched with people with blindness and low vision all over the US and Canada. These dogs are essential to the people that they guide. It costs about $75,000 to prepare each Seeing Eye dog for its career, and only 60% of dogs make it all the way through the training program. So what makes a successful Seeing Eye dog, and why are they so expensive? This video is audio described.


Stunning nebula has ‘violent history’ – Very Large Telescope studies:

Daily Bread for 4.12.24: So Much for Conservative Populism Before MAGA

Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be windy with a high of 58. Sunrise is 6:15 and sunset 7:34 for 13h 19m 24s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 18.9 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1945, President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies in office; Vice President Harry S. Truman becomes President upon Roosevelt’s death.


When Rep. Mike Gallagher decided to resign from Congress, two longstanding conservative populists announced they were running for the open 8th Congressional District seat. See Wisconsin’s Mike Gallagher Heads for the Exits and Rep. Mike Gallagher Knows that MAGA Will Be Someone Else’s Headache Soon. The two tenured WISGOP populists running in that district have now learned that tenure as conservatives doesn’t matter. It’s sycophancy to Mr. Trump that matters:

With the support of former President Donald Trump, former gas station owner Tony Wied of De Pere entered the race this week for Wisconsin’s open 8th Congressional District — making him the third Republican candidate to announce. 

Wied, who owned six Dino Stop gas stations and convenience stores in Wisconsin until he sold them in 2022, is positioning himself as an outsider, who would look to deliver the “America First change this country needs” in Congress. He officially launched his campaign at an event in Green Bay on Monday evening. 

“Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District is hungry for an America First outsider,” Wied said in a statement announcing his campaign on Tuesday morning. “For too long, career politicians have failed to deliver the results we desperately need.” 

“I look forward to earning the trust of Wisconsin voters and taking the lessons I’ve learned from three decades of operating businesses in Northeast Wisconsin to Washington, DC,” Wied added.

Two Republicans — former state Sen. Roger Roth of Appleton and current state Sen. André Jacque of De Pere — had already entered the race for the seat, which is open following the surprise departure of U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, who is set to resign next month. 

Conservative populism is roughly synonymous with MAGA, but only up to the moment the MAGA leader decides otherwise. Afterward, as Jacque and Roth have now learned, past tenure as an ideological stalwart melts before the MAGA leader’s personal preferences.


Japan to give DC more cherry trees:

Daily Bread for 4.11.24: If At First You Don’t Succeed…

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of 59. Sunrise is 6:17 and sunset 7:33 for 13h 16m 36s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 10.6 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1945, American forces liberate the Buchenwald concentration camp.


Rich Kremer reports Elections staff confirms Vos recall attempt falls short:

Wisconsin Elections Commission staff have confirmed that conservative activists trying to recall Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos didn’t gather enough signatures from the right places to trigger an election. 

But as one recall wraps up, those organizers say they’re already working to recall Vos again. 

WEC staff vetted thousands of signatures submitted by Burlington resident Matt Snorek in March. To initiate a recall election, Snorek and others in the Recall Vos campaign needed a number of signatures totaling at least “25 percent of the number of electors who cast a vote for governor” in the district two years ago.

No reason to stop now. Inspiration for the work ahead: Quitters never prosper If at first you don’t succeed, try, try againI think I can, I think I can.

You’re welcome.

See also Do They Have Enough to Recall Vos? and Has Vos Escaped MAGA to Scheme & Plot Another Day?!?


Some cats are bigger than others, part 2:

Daily Bread for 4.10.24: Inflation Remains Stubborn

Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will be mostly sunny with a high of 66. Sunrise is 6:18 and sunset 7:32 for 13h 13m 48s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 4.4 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1872, the first Arbor Day (in America) is celebrated in Nebraska.


Jeanna Smialek reports Inflation was quicker than expected in March, likely unwelcome news for the Fed:

A closely watched measure of inflation remained stronger than expected in March, worrying news for Federal Reserve officials who have become increasingly concerned that their progress on lowering prices increases might be stalling.

The surprisingly stubborn inflation reading could raise doubts about when the Fed will be able to start cutting interest rates, and how much they will be able to reduce borrowing costs this year.

The Consumer Price Index climbed 3.8 percent on an annual basis after stripping out food and fuel prices, which economists do in order to get a better sense of the underlying inflation trend. That was stronger than the 3.7 percent increase economists expected, and unchanged from 3.8 percent in February. The monthly reading was also stronger than what economists had forecast.

On an overall basis, the inflation measure climbed 3.5 percent in March from a year earlier, up from 3.2 percent in February and faster than what economists have anticipated. A rise in gas prices contributed to that inflation number.

Lower than it was a year ago, higher than consumers (and the Federal Reserve) would like.


Some cats are bigger than others:

Daily Bread for 4.9.24: Competitive Legislative Races Return to Wisconsin

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of 60. Sunrise is 6:20 and sunset 7:31 for 13h 10m 59s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 1 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

Whitewater’s Public Works Committee meets at 6 PM.

On this day in 1860, on his phonautograph machine, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville makes the oldest known recording of an audible human voice.


Wisconsin has new legislative maps, and although maps do not elect candiates, there’s reason to believe that the extreme gerrymandering begun in the Walker years will give way to a more representative set of legislative districts. In the New York Times, Julie Bosman reports (open link) Fierce Races Loom With Wisconsin’s New Political Maps (‘The new legislative maps reflect a near split between Republican- and Democratic-leaning districts. For more than a decade, earlier maps had helped Republicans hold power’: 

Yee Leng Xiong, a 29-year-old nonprofit executive, has been an elected official in Wisconsin since he was a teenager. From a north central county known for ginseng farming and downhill skiing, he has served on the local school board, the Marathon County Board and the village board of trustees in Weston, population 15,000.

But he is a Democrat, and running for a seat in the State Legislature in a solidly Republican district had always seemed a little outlandish.

Until this year.

In February, new legislative maps in Wisconsin were signed into law after more than a decade of partisan wrangling and legal battles. The new maps undid the gerrymander that had helped Republicans keep control of both state legislative chambers since 2012. The 85th Assembly District in Marathon County, where Mr. Xiong lives, is no longer a Republican-leaning seat: It is a tossup.

“This idea came to reality when the maps changed,” Mr. Xiong said in an interview last month.

….

The state’s residents have long been a close mix of Democrats and Republicans, which makes Wisconsin a crucial swing state in presidential elections and means statewide races are often fiercely contested. The reshaping of the maps is expected to suddenly return many legislative races to the realm of true competition as well.

After more than a decade of languishing in the minority in the State Legislature, Democrats are now in a position to vie for political power with the Republicans, who currently hold about two-thirds of the seats in both the Senate and the Assembly.

Competitive races do not assure outcomes — they are, after all, competitive not prohibitive races. And yet, and yet, competitive races can work their will on candidates, forcing them (if they wish to win) to take positions acceptable to the more balanced electorates in their districts.

It’s been a long time since most WISGOP legislative candidates had to compete earnestly in their districts. They’re going to have to learn compromise and persuasion all over again.

Not so easy for those legislators who’ve lived a troll’s life for a decade.


Daily Bread for 4.8.24: The Practical Limits of Closed-Session Meetings in Whitewater

Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of 64. Sunrise is 6:22 and sunset 7:30 for 13h 08m 9s of daytime. The moon is new with .1 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

The Whitewater Unified School District holds an electoral canvass at 4:30 PM. Whitewater’s Planning Commission meets at 6 PM.

On this day in 1959, a team of computer manufacturers, users, and university people led by Grace Hopper meets to discuss the creation of a new programming language that would be called COBOL.


For today, a practical consideration of closed-session meetings in Whitewater. (This leaves aside for now the role of closed sessions as a matter of law. That’s a topic for another time.)

There are two practical reasons to have a closed session: for elected or appointed officeholders (1) to conceal permanently information from public or (2) to conceal information temporarily while discussing action that may become public later.

Both cases have obvious practical limits, for the same reason: as the community is factionalized, and goverment in Whitewater often lacks a strong public consensus, the officials’ closed sessions will lack broad support (or even respect).

In a community where residents are skeptical of officials’ motives, let’s-go-to-closed session looks like officials’ self-protective action. (‘We’re doing it for the community’ isn’t often compelling; ‘we have the right to do it’ falls flat without community support.)

In a community where residents are skeptical (or unaware) of officials’ motives, major announcements upon returning to open session turn skepticism into cyncism. For both the city since last summer, and the district in December, major discussions in closed session have had almost no prior public foundation by those public boards. (Residents, yes, but not boardmembers themselves.) Boardmembers and councilmembers cannot expect that their concerns will resonate with residents unless those officials, themselves,  build a compelling public case, open session after open session.

Coming out of closed session with an announcment without building a predicate foundation with the commmunity makes only a faint sound. It doesn’t matter how much some officials think of themselves (and oh, brother, do some of them think highly of themselves) most residents aren’t impressed. A generation ago more residents might have been deferential to officials’ claims. That was then, this is now.

For better or worse, benefit of the doubt doesn’t appertain in Whitewater’s politics. Elected or appointed officials looking for that benefit will not find it here.

If, for example, someone is sitting in her district office wondering why others aren’t persuaded (let alone obedient!), the answer will be found by looking first to herself. One won’t be persuaded by detailed arguments someone else won’t make, or thoughtful words someone else won’t speak.

If, for example, a long effort council is mostly a closed-session effort, then the lack of a sequential public explanation leaves the closed effort as little more than an exercise in private catharsis.

No one is required to come to table and make a public case. Those who are not at table, however, cannot expect to be among those who enjoy the meal.


Daily Bread for 4.7.24: Cycling For Everyone

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will be cloudy with scattered showers and a high of 49. Sunrise is 6:23 and sunset 7:29 for 13h 05m 18s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 2.2 percent of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1945, the Imperial Japanese Navy battleship Yamato, one of the two largest ever constructed, is sunk by United States Navy aircraft during Operation Ten-Go.


From the Dutch Cycling Embassy‘:

Cycling For Everyone from Dutch Cycling Embassy on Vimeo.

The Dutch Cycling Embassy is a public-private network for sustainable mobility. We facilitate cycling worldwide as the most modern, efficient, bicycle-inclusive and sustainable method of transport by sharing our expertise and technology as the world’s number one cycling country.

Who are we? The Dutch Cycling Embassy is a comprehensive network of private companies, NGO’s, universities, research institutions, national and local governments.


How Hertz’s Bet on Tesla Went Horribly Sideways: