Exploraciones en vidas urbanas, y más

November 20th, 2017

Taking a break from Madison’s November grayness to recharge with new ideas for living a little better with a little less….

So here are some photographic thoughts of interesting people places we’ve been enjoying down in Mexico lindo….

Monterrey’ Barrio Antiguo  was our first stop.

Dig this restaurant’s name ….I so enjoy the Mexicans’ wordplay and fun with absurdities….(a fun little restaurant, too!)

Oh, and to triple the wordplay, there was an antique fire engine with siren inside the restaurant.

We were staying in Monterrey’s Barrio Antiguo, where art was just about  everywhere….

Coffee culture has finally found Mexico…so different from my last Monterrey trip in 2009 when the best coffee you could find was a Nescafe. Yick. I guess they’ve finally discovered that they themselves  produce the best coffee in the world, right at home. This shop, down in the Barrio served up coffee that rivals any hipster brew up north…

Oh, and somebody’s happy to be starting her month-long vacay!

Una puerta antigua en El Barrio Antiguo….

 

El pollo en piedra….

El pollo en pisos….

And the cult of Frida y su arte, everywhere….

Más arte….

Siempre más arte….

And my obsession with entropy; such fine examples in action in the architecture & landscapes of MX…..

….The crumbling facade revealing interesting masonry techniques, the variety of materials at different angles  likely providing strength through flexibility…..

Are those schists between my limestones?

Why, yes, I think they are!

When all else fails….

Did I mention that I like old stuff?

But remember, when visiting the parks in Monterrey, 

Onward to Guanajuato!

LOS-A for People: Willy/Blair/E. Wilson/John NoLane*

September 20th, 2017

The Giant Hairball Intersection is up for review & reconstruction. Here is my take:

A Diagram for People: Willy/E Wilson/Blair/John Nolane

Key to the Diagram for People

First principles first:

-Streets are ‘readable.’ Urban neighborhood streets should look & feel and ‘read’ like urban neighborhood streets, not on-ramps to expressways. Both Willy and E. Wilson look like on-ramps as they go off from the hairball intersection. Thus, they are inviting for through-traffic rather than neighborhood business destination traffic. This problem remains with the Design Professionals plan.

-Road capacity is defined at intersections. Left turns at intersections bollix everything up in such a constrained area, and for the benefit of very, very few people.

-Parks should be for people, not machinery. Eliminate the boat ramp and all parking entirely. A Boat ramp at this location is a legacy from when Madison was much smaller, and John NoLane was much smaller (i.e., park was bigger), and boat motors were much smaller, boats a lot slower. Now people towing boats can much more easily access much larger and more appropriate boat landings anywhere on the Yahara Chain of Lakes and arrive anywhere on those lakes within minutes by boat. Faster than a car towing a boat even (no stop lights on the lake!). Today, we have significant population growth in the immediate area. Huge apartment towers are going up constantly. These people access the lakes by foot & bike. Park space should prioritize them above the motor people. The city has changed, park use has changed. Time to acknowledge this and adapt appropriately.

-Scale is of paramount importance, for this intersection and its environs, for pedestrian & bicyclist safety in particular. The tighter the lanes, the narrower the total road width and the smaller the intersections are, the better for people on foot & on bike.

-LOS = Level of Service in Traffic Engineering jargon. It is usually used to justify gigantic roads through neighborhoods. Traffic engineers never apply this schema to pedestrian and cycling traffic. This is a first. Nobody wants an ‘F’, right?

Specifics (#s as coded on Diagram for People):

1 – Willy St. returned to it’s typical width and configuration as found at Paterson or Baldwin. On-street parking (no rush hour restrictions) the entire length, up to the intersection itself.  All dedicated right turns–especially flying rights–are eliminated. It is inviting only insofar as one might have actual *business* to conduct on the street. Definitely not attractive as a commuter route.

2 – Similar to above, E. Wilson returned to a neighborhood-scaled business district street. On-street parking. All dedicated flying rights eliminated.

3 – Blair St remains similar to current configuration with these improvements for efficiency without widening:    

-No left turns for its entire length from any direction.     

-Northeast/outbound onto E. Wash has one single *dedicated* right turn lane becoming a dedicated lane onto E Wash that is protected from other E-bound traffic. This can be done without any widening. This allows a constant green arrow, except when triggered by a pedestrian. This will keep Blair flowing its entire length, taking pressure off of the hairball intersection (it routinely backs up from E. Wash all the way to the Hairball during rush hour).     

-Do “no left turn” signs work? Well, from my experience, they do. The no-rights in the Atwood hood (Division & Atwood; Dunning & Atwood) are working wonderfully to protect cyclists & peds. I have yet to see anyone violate them in the years they’ve been there. And I use those intersections daily, often multiple times a day. They were the site of many a crash, before the no-rights.     

-These measures will make Blair->E. Wash so efficient that there will no longer be a need for all the traffic onto Willy St.

1, 2 & 3 – Scramble cycle: Entire intersection goes green for pedestrians, bikes, rollerblades *only*, all directions, including diagonally across the intersection. All stop for all motor vehicles, no right on red. It is time to recognize that this is a site of intense pedestrian/bike density (has anyone noticed the many towering apartments that are going up like mushrooms within a block of this intersection?). It is time to bring ped/bike LOS up from its current F status to LOS A.

4 – Bike path ever-so-subtly swerves away from JN. No sharp turns. A) It makes for a more pleasant ride, B) it brings the bike path away from JN enough to allow right turning cars to/from the new driveway (Point 5 below) to have some stack room after turning right off of JN, or as they attempt to re-enter JN. Bike path should be raised in relation to the driveway to slow traffic using the driveway.

5 – New driveway accessing parking behind Machinery Row. (See 4. above). Must go over the significantly tabled bike path after yielding to bike path cross traffic. Driveway is very narrow–+/- 18′. Stack room for 2 cars between JN and bike path.

6 – Eliminate lake fill marina feature. Even using a world-famous architect’s cachet should not allow for this travesty. Put the feature over the highway itself, if need be.

7 – Eliminate the left from SW-bound (toward Monona Terr) onto Law Park boat ramp parking. It is a disaster in the making for everyone involved. Plus, the legacy boat ramp is eliminated (as explained above). Permit U-turns at the Monona Terrace stop light for “jug handle”* access back to Machinery Row. (*Oh yes, this is a term of art in the traffic engineering world; there is a “jug handle” way out on Mineral Pt Rd, near the westside Menards/Target area.) This will require traffic waiting to exit the ramp and enter JN to wait for a specific green arrow, no right on red (to avoid crashes with U-turners on JN).

8 – Significantly expanded greenspace by eliminating the anachronistic boat ramp, and returning Williamson St and E. Wilson St to neighborhood scale.

In the face of a cooking climate, I’m not interested in nibbling around the edges. It is time to stop the denialism rampant in the pro-car power structure (it’s across the spectrum; it ain’t just a certain president) and do what needs to be done to prioritize sustainable neighborhoods and sustainable transportation.

-Mike

*John Nolen was given the moniker, John Nolane by the inimitable Tim Wong during the mega-battles over the bike lane closure during the construction of what he called “The Enemy Citadel,” a.k.a., the Monona Terrace back in the early-90s. I’ll generally refer to John Nolen as NoLane as a perma-tribute to Tim.

THE Unreasonable Man: Tim Wong

July 12th, 2017

A very dear friend recently died. For 25 years we were brothers in bikes, water & energy conservation, anti-consumerism and so much else involved in community building.  Below was my contribution to his Celebration of Life last weekend (this is the disco version; my talk was a much more condensed version). I hope to add further posts about all things Wong over the next few weeks. -MB

Tim was THE DEFINITION of The Unreasonable Man. As George Bernard Shaw said, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

Progress in Madison toward a better biking future, a more energy sustainable future, a more water efficient future happened in great measure because of Tim and his unreasonable ways.

And the thing is, people hated him for it. But the way some of us saw it, the more people hated him, the more we knew he was on the right track.

Circa 1980, this unreasonable headline blared across the top of the front page of one of his many underground newspapers (a succession of which, he was routinely booted off of, btw): “$5 a Gallon and a Pound of Sugar in Every Gas Tank!”

And the fight against the deathmobile was on. But it was, of course, on before that.

Not long after high school (ca 1860?!), Tim joined in the defense of a minority neighborhood in Washington DC. It was the beginning of Tim vs. the highwaymen. That fight never abated for the entirety of his life. The DC highway fight was moral combat against environmental racism even before there was a term for it. The middle class black neighborhood that was slated for the bulldozer fought back. Tim joined that fight. They won. That neighborhood is still healthy & happy. Compare to the fates of once-successful minority neighborhoods across the country that went under the bulldozers. From Chicago’s Bronzeville to vast swathes of St. Louis, now they are just husks of their former selves.

Tim was in the thick of the fight to unshackle Madison’s minority neighborhoods from their highway entombement. An early 90s example: The Williamsburg Way/Beltline underpass that would have eased highway segregation was fought by the racists on the one side of the highway. Tim was on the other. He was in the thick of the fight to build the underpass and thereby push the all-neighborhood connectivity forward. Another example: The Beltline overpass was denounced by the aristocrats over in the Dudgeon-Monroe neighborhood on the grounds that “those people” would sneak into their backyards and rape their daughters; their property values would crater. Tim pushed for the overpass and for all-neighborhood connectivity there too. It was built. Crime is still negligible in the surrounding neighborhoods. Property values have soared. Hmmm.

At no point could Tim be construed as a ‘leader’ in any given fight. That would be anathema to him. But he was always there. Providing spine, bombast, data crunching, analysis, and snark. Basically, he was the villager that needed to be destroyed in order for the highwaymen to keep “saving” our villages from traffic. Saving us always meant more traffic, of course.

And they did keep trying to destroy him. At one point, he was the chair of the city’s ped-bike subcommittee. The highwaymen & others tried every strategem possible to shut him down. But they just couldn’t. So they did the midwest nice thing, and did away with the committee altogether.

When he was on the Transit & Parking Commission, he used the city’s own data to show how awfully they were managing Madison Metro’s resources. This really pissed off the powers. Eventually Mayor Pave summarily threw him off of the commission for the crime of analyzing data.

I think the apotheosis of all things Tim came through our neighborhood’s plan, The Schenk-Atwood-Darbo-Worthington-Starkweather Plan of 2000. They made the “mistake” of making him an official appointee. A mistake because he just wouldn’t act at all like an official power broker (as all too often happens with people in appointed positions). It soon became apparent that Tim was not about to accept the boiler plate pro-car neighborhood plan that the Planners wanted to shove down our throats. But what made this the pinnacle of Tim’s power was not Tim’s POWER. He was more about just getting the ideas out there. Bombastically, YES. But he was about putting the onus on others to follow their own consciences to just do the right thing. Vote their own true consciences. The problem is, most people, once in power, even low level power like a little neighborhood committee, believe that it is their duty to submit to powers above them, to the detriment of ethics, morality, just doing the right thing. In most activist endeavors, victories are scarce. But it was different on this committee. It was made up of others who were dedicated to doing the right thing, powers be damned. And almost all could hear past Tim’s bombast and understand that what he was ultimately pushing for was really just a more civilized community and sustainable environment. Every traffic calming measure was a blow for civilization. Every bikeway, another push for the people. In militating against zoning and parking regulations that strangled our neighborhood business district, Tim and the whole committee made this neighborhood the cool place it is today. But the point was, it was the whole committee. That was where Tim was most comfortable: when ordinary citizens banded together as co-equals to push for the good & the just. If someone had made Tim King of the World, he wouldn’t have liked it. Remember his standard salutation: SLAY A LEADER!!!! If he were designated a leader, he would have just killed himself instead of being boss! The most natural order for a dedicated anarchist like Tim: A united front of co-equal citizens working in the trenches together.

Neighborhood was Tim’s laboratory for doing the right thing, for a more sustainable future, a more just future. He never had that liberal angst about other places being “denied” because of our efforts. His idea was that our neighborhood could serve as an exemplary beacon for doing the right thing. Indeed, once our neighborhood plan started making its way through the city committees, alders started asking the planners why their neighborhoods couldn’t have the same pro-community things. The green eyed monster worked for good! And here is what started happening: the zoning regulations that strangled cool neighborhood business districts started getting suspended. Our older hoods started to flourish (and how many of Tim’s beloved micro-brewpubs sprouted because of it?!!!). Eventually, thanks to the successful example of Tim’s collective efforts with his neighborhood, the entire zoning code was scrapped in favor of zoning that allows neighborhoods to look like our old hoods built before the dominance of the deathmobile. Mayor Pave & his powerful sycophants could never understand what was happening over here, but it was Tim and co-equal cohorts that got the ball rolling and transformed this city from a boring highway to the suburbs into the cool place it is now.

His life’s way was a) read everything there is to read about a subject, b) process it through a moral lense (is it good for lowering our pollution output? Is it good for community? Does it reduce the need for engineered bossiness (or any bossiness)? c) to get the truth out there, d) let people follow their own consciences once they have this information. No bossiness allowed. Bombast, yes, bossiness, no. The problem, of course, was that most people couldn’t hear the truth for the bombast. Some of us loved the bombast as much as the underlying truth. Because the bombast was just a wayfinding sign to the truth.

Tim is perhaps best known for his bike advocacy. But his activism went well beyond. In my google perusals I even found a comment Tim left for the Securities & Exchange Commission, excoriating them for some random de-regulation of the banksters. One of his more memorable fights for me is one that probably only 3 people know about: Water conservation policy.

As Dan Melton, former president of the Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara Neighborhood Assn., said in an email around the time of Tim’s death:

Here’s a little “resume” Tim put together, in 2011 (sent at 1:50 AM–one of his favored times to send email).

Of all his many civic activities, one I’d like to call attention to — because not many got to see it — was Tim’s vital involvement in 2011 in the Madison Water Utility’s East Side Water Supply Citizen Advisory Panel (ESWS CAP). It was grueling work, important work — and, frankly, I wasn’t sure Tim was up to it. Boy, WAS he. Former City Engineer Larry Nelson was the eminence grise on the ESWS CAP. Larry knew everything–about everything. If you wanted to challenge Larry, you had to know your stuff–inside-out. Tim did. Tim was the ONLY citizen on the ESWS CAP who would directly challenge Larry. Tim didn’t just spout slogans, he KNEW his printouts. I’m not sure how he did it but Tim would go printout to printout with Larry. Tim made some important points to nudge the City Water Utility towards more conservation–and less willy-nilly well-building. Tim pushed Madison to come up with a water rate structure that would “punish property owners for over-watering their pesticide grass”–(‘their pesticide grass,’ a typical Tim flourish). Tim and Dan Moser (who know lives in NYC) worked hard with Larry to craft a Conservation Advisory statement. Tim suspected the ESWS CAP was “sort of window dressing more than anything” but he was willing to swallow his doubts, and put in the work, work that no one else was willing to do, to help nudge the Water Utility towards more conservation.

From bikes, to water, to people, He was the true Renaissance Man of Activism.

But as with those Renaissance greats of yore, Gallileo, Dante – jailed, run out of town– Tim pissed off just about everyone he came into contact with, most especially the powerful, the sycophants & suckups, the propriety obsessives, the moral peacocks. The snowflakes on every listserv he was on wanted him to drink hemlock. Listmarms were left clutching pearls at Tim’s every e-utterance. For those with a less pinched view of the world, we could listen past his bombast and actually hear the truth of what he was saying. Deathmobile? Well, yeah, it’s the #1 killer of all people ages 4-44. What else you gonna call it? Pesticide grass? Well, why else would suburban lawns look like astroturf?

Tim was very much the community’s moral compass. I will so very much miss him.

To close with another George Bernard Shaw, so channeling Tim:

“I hear you say “Why?” Always “Why?” You see things; and you say “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say “Why not?”

 

Vote TODAY! Marilyn Townsend’s Most Excellent Response for Circuit Court Judge

April 4th, 2017

Judge Townsend sent a very prompt reply to my questionnaire. Despite my generally obsessive email monitoring, I somehow missed it (I think it got hung up in the intertubes for a while, then appeared after a couple of days–it’s been known to happen!). My most sincere apologies to Judge Townsend and her campaign. Her response is below. I don’t know either candidate at all. (Still nothing that I can find from Ms. Karofsky.) But for whatever it is worth, in my years of doing candidate questionnaires (20+), I have never gotten such a forthright set of answers. Ever. Notable especially in a judicial race.

I’ll be voting for her.

-Mike

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Judge Marilyn Townsend <campaign@judgetownsendforcircuitcourt.com>
Date: Thursday, March 30, 2017
Subject: Questions: The First Amendment, Equal Protection, The Criminalization of Bicycling
To: “Michael D. Barrett” 

Mike and Pam:

I had left a voicemail message this afternoon, but this is a follow up email. Before leaving my law office for a couple of events, I want to take a moment to respond in general to your questions.

    I want to be a Circuit Court Judge to continue the work I have done as a Union and Civil Rights Lawyer for 30 years, and as a sitting Municipal Court Judge for five years, and that is help ensure that individuals, including people of color, the underrepresented and the poor get a fair shake in the Court system. The disparity in incarceration rates for African Americans in particular is a disgrace and I am an advocate for alternatives to charging and alternative to incarceration when the situation allows for it.

    We are at a critical juncture in Dane County Circuit Court when rights and liberties are being rolled back by this administration and we have an Attorney General who is criminalizing conduct that used to be treated with civil penalties. Brad Schimel is increasing the conduct for which persons are criminally charged. For example, recently, an African American from Milwaukee was brought to Dane County Criminal Court where Schimel’s office charged him with a crime for allegedly receiving unemployment benefits fraudulently – even though he had already paid the benefits back, with penalties, and had expressed remorse.  Now that man has a criminal record – for the first time. In my opinion, this does not help the community but rather perpetuates the issue of racial disparity, and the challenges faced in being hired by those with criminal records.

    I applaud the efforts of Dane County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Corrigan and Paul Rusk, Chair of the Public Protection and Judiciary Committee under whose leadership resulted in studies of the criminal justtice system and detailed recommendations which emphasize alternatives to charging, alternatives to incarceration, and the importance of addressing mental illness and alcoholism which often times is the reason for an individual’s involvement in the Court.

    I am endorsed by both Sharon Corrigan and Paul Rusk who recognize my understanding and commitment to addressing the problems of racial injustice based on my thirty years of work in this area. I would say further that I am the only candidate in this race that has a record of standing up to the government and big agencies. My case pending in front of the Wisconsin Supreme Court deals with a Scott Walker law that  was intentionally written to deny workers unemployment benefits and was never meant to apply to my hard-working, conscientous client after she was discharged from Walgreens for making just 8 cash handling errors out of over 80,000 transactions. (See oral argument on Wisconsin Eye — Nov. 10, 2016, Operton v. LIRC and Walgreens).

    Attached is one of my Decisions as a Municipal Court Judge, in which I ruled that the Defendant’s 4th Amendment Rights were violated. The individual was stopped for a rolling stop at 3:30 in the morning and was held by the officer for 20 minutes while they called in the k-9 unit to sniff for drugs. I ruled that it was an unreasonable search and seizure and 4 months later the U.S. Supreme Court came to a similar conclusion with a much short time of hold.

    I am endorsed by many attorneys who have like me have fought for the rights of individuals under the constitution including Patricia Hammel and Jeff Scott Olson. (see endorsements on my website, judgetownsendforcircuitcourt.com.

    As a practicing lawyer and a municipal court judge I continue to attend seminars which inform me concerning new laws, and other matters of concern to me as a practicing lawyer and a Municipal Court Judge. For example, given your concern regarding bicyclists I would note that upon being elected Municipal Court Judge, I immediately attended a course put on by the City of Madison, and which is taught by Arthur Ross, Pedestrian-Bicycle Coordinator, on the rights and responsibilities of bicyclists. It was a three hour course and I found it to be one of the most informative seminars I have been a part of and I have relied on it many times while on the bench.

Thank you for your questions.  My law office number is [608-XXX-XXXX] if you wish to discuss further.  Marilyn

Dane County Circuit Court Judge Race: Karofsky v Townsend

March 30th, 2017

VOTE APRIL 4! 

Below is a questionnaire I recently sent to the judicial candidates on the ballot. 

***

Dear Candidates for Dane County Circuit Court Judge,
We are in the process of making decisions about the upcoming elections for Dane County Circuit Court Judge. In the past we have been quite generous with our work and resources on campaigns for erstwhile good candidates. We vote in every spring election, as do our numerous friends and acquaintances. Unfortunately, most of those we have supported have gone on to betray the very ideals they campaigned for in very fundamental ways, so we hope you might understand that we wish to have your positions stated clearly before you take office.

1. If you become a Dane County judge, do you intend to uphold, defend and interpret the Constitution of the United States of America *as it is written* or will you merely follow the interpretation handed down over recent decades by increasingly reactionary superior court judges?

2.a. In light of the above, what will the following sentence mean to you when peaceable protesters, and ‘petitioners of government for redress of grievance,’ are hauled into your court (as they routinely are in Dane County) for alleged “crimes” of, well, protesting and petitioning for redress of grievance?

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

2. b. Specifically, does “no” mean “no”?

3. Bicycling Outlawed: Through a number of legal perversions, Dane County prosecutors and judges have effectively outlawed bicycling in Dane County. Through routine abuse of the vaguely worded Disorderly Conduct statute, for over 25 years a succession of Dane County prosecutors–rising then to circuit court judgeships and now into the appellate level–have pursued cyclists in a most vindictive manner. Bicycling victims of murderous motorized road rage have been repeatedly prosecuted by current and past Dane County district attorneys for the crime of, well, bicycling. This is happening despite the fact that:

-the offending drivers involved in *all* of these cases have a long history of criminality, violence and reckless driving while the cyclist invariably is a professional (or in training) with no criminal–or even civil– record whatsoever (and are thus easily intimidated into bogus pleas).
-despite the fact that State, Dane County and City of Madison policy is to promote bicycling. See the City of Madison Platinum Bicycle Plan here (PDF): https://www.cityofmadison.com/trafficEngineering/documents/PlatinumAdopted040808sm.pdf).
and,
-despite the fact that the bicycle is defined as a legal vehicle by state statutes.
-For more on the Dane County prosecutor’s routine re-victimization of victims of automotive road violence, Google “Ozanne’s Crackdealer” or “Blanchard’s Beloit Crackdealer” Or just go to:
http://www.urbanthoreau.com/blog/?p=2095

*Will you end the vindictive prosecutions of bicyclists?*

4. Will you educate yourself about the rights and responsibilities of bicyclists in this state by attending a Wisconsin Department of Transportation “Enforcement for Bicycle Safety” seminar within the first six months of your swearing in?Information can be found here:
http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/safety/vehicle/bicycle/education.htm#law-enforcement
(There is also a version of this course specifically for judges and prosecutors.) Will you properly instruct juries as to the legal standing of bicyclists and, furthermore, instruct that the societal bias–fully infecting local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies–in favor of the driver/against the cyclist has no role in a court of law? And will you have the courage to throw out cases arising from the current atmosphere of prosecutorial vindictiveness toward cyclists?

5. Equal Protection:

The Dane County “Justice” system routinely charges, prosecutes, and imprisons black men at SIX times the rate of white men with similar prior records, for similar crimes. By allowing these disproportionate numbers of prosecutions to even appear in court, the Dane County judiciary has made Dane County an international embarrassment of injustice. What will you do to ensure that justice is administered in a fair and equitable manner consistent with the 14th Amendment (and by extension the 15th Amendment given the disproportionate disenfranchisement through disproportionate felony convictions) of the United States Constitution?

I have copied this query to several other Dane County residents who are interested in justice in Dane County. This will include a large group of cyclists. And they vote.

If you use the old cop-out of “I don’t address specific cases,” We will call you out on it. Because we are not asking about your opinion on specific cases. We are asking about your intentions to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, the Constitution of the State of Wisconsin and adherence to state statutes–*as they are written*–as cases come before you.

Thank you for your time and your work in your candidacy.

Sincerely,
Michael D. Barrett and Pamela S. Barrett
XXXX XXXX XX
Madison, WI XXXXX
(XXX)XXX-XXXX

Trump is Just Symptom of Clinton’s Disease

November 8th, 2016

Dunno how this one is going to turn out, but just wanted to get some thoughts down about how badly our “Betters,” the Very Serious People, the élites of the country, have so screwed us, and thus brought us to this pass. And they know it, too. They belatedly realize that “those people” Beyond The Hudson and Outside of the Beltway actually–gasp!–vote. Now our betters are in a panic. And at least paying lip service to the 99%. There have even been some mea culpas trotted out by the old bulls of foreign policy: Please, please, pretty please, ye unwashed, give us just one more chance!

Then there’s this Atlantic article, another in a long series of what I’m calling The Great Panic of Aught 16 (ie, the establishment in a tailspin over The Bern and The Donald):

It’s actually quite good. Basically explains the genesis of the Democratic Leadership Council Democrat (the sellout wing of the party funded by the Koch Bros.) whom I so vehemently abhor. HRC is the latest in a long line of these turncoats. Also helps explain the link between these bankster-friendly neo-liberals and the pro-war neo-cons, a link which I had always found bizarre but understand better now.

But, sorry neo-liberal élites, Hillary et al, you’ve had your chance, and you blew it. Win or lose, you have blown it. You should have read your What’s the Matter with Kansas back in Aught Four and paid attention to its prescience. You should have paid attention to the data which so clearly showed the crushing of the poor and the middle class. Instead of ensuring a more just and equitable America, you just doubled down on:

  • Economics of Cruelty–Your unfair “free” trade pacts and tax policies that crush the 99% while gilding the preciousness of the 0.1%
  • Torture–You let them off the hook, shaming this nation, enfeebling our moral standing.
  • Warmongering–You voted for those wars.
  • Stasiland–You turned the people’s government into a surveillance state, shredding our Constitution. It was a coup and you were part of it.
  • Banksterism–You rescinded Glass-Steagall and other reasonable regulations, allowing the banksters to drive our economy into a ditch, then let them steal people’s houses. And when that wasn’t enough, you let them loot the treasury. And now you cozy up to them. Yes, Hillary, brilliant idea you proposed at that Goldman Sachs dinner: let the banksters regulate the banksters.
  • Global Warmism–You send us into multiple wars for oil to keep cars well-fueled, then the economy goes into a tailspin from sky high fuel prices thanks to your pro-highway policies (remember your ‘drive til you qualify’ housing policies?), your solution is…to build more highways! Thanks to your pro-gluttony transportation policies we are cooking the climate.

You and your party had it all from 2009 to 2011–the presidency, congress, everything– and you did nothing to rectify the worst excesses of the Bush years. Indeed, you people just gave it your Democratic imprimatur.

And then you wonder why the people revolted.  From 2009 to 2011 you had it all. And you just doubled down on the cruelty.

We’ve had quite enough of you people. Even if you eke out a win we’ve had it with you.

Basically, we the people have but one very blunt instrument available, and that is the vote. We couldn’t get the likes of Hillary to hear us, so masses of us voted against her in the primaries. It shook her up and made her adopt a more, shall we say, 99%-friendly posture. But the emails prove that she is busy staying cozy with the banksters and the 0.1%. And I will never be able to forgive her for her Iraq War vote. So, I’m done with her. (Don’t worry, I won’t be voting Trump though.)

 

Appellate Judge Brian Blanchard’s Community Wrecking Ways

April 4th, 2016

Hello All,
Below you will find a letter I sent to every non-profit that asked us for $$$ last fall. I cc’d Judge Blanchard (Brian.Blanchard@wicourts.gov) on every one of them (and there were a lot).

To sum up: Please a) vote Tuesday, and b) consider leaving Appellate Judge Brian Blanchard’s ballot line blank. Yes, even though he is the lone candidate. Don’t vote for him. He took the side of the crack dealer who ran me off the road and nearly killed me. Feel free to forward/facecake/whatever. Maybe this will make it on Whaddya Know, too!

Just don’t vote Blanchard.

-Mike
***

Dear Ms/Mr. XXXX,

First, a big thank you to you all at [Hardworking Non-profit X] for all the great work over the years in advocating for [The Good X]. We are in receipt of your fundraising letter from last fall. Again, thank you. We are proud to have been able to contribute generously in the past (back to the 90s!), because we so very appreciate your work. But we feel that we owe you an explanation as to why the Barrett household’s giving has gone down precipitously.

Unfortunately, in 2010 I (Mike) was run off the road by–now get this!–a crack dealer from Beloit, while riding my bike. Though I survived (barely), it ended up having a terrible impact on our ability to financially contribute to the good causes you so perfectly represent. I was on a bike route, riding in a completely legal manner. I reported the assault to the van’s owner (the state), thinking it was the right thing to do. Instead, the state brought criminal disorderly conduct charges against *me*.

Brian Blanchard, then-DA, brought the charges. During the prosecution, he won an election to Appellate Judge. Now he is running for a second term and is on the ballot Tuesday.

Mr. Blanchard’s prosecution degenerated into a vindictive persecution. Details can be found here: http://www.urbanthoreau.com/blog/?p=2095

The highlights are this:
-The entirety of my alleged crime was caught on government-owned security cameras. Brian Blanchard and his successor suppressed the video despite our immediate demands for it–and his legal obligation to provide it under Wisconsin statutes.
-Through a series of Open Records requests–and witness interviews by a costly investigator we were forced to hire–we found that at least one of the witness statements was fabricated. Either the Capitol Police or Mr. Blanchard’s office just made up a statement. (We have yet to ascertain which because the Capitol Police department continues to deny my Open Records requests.)
-The crack dealer (no dog-whistling here; this person was as white as white gets) had multiple felony drug dealing convictions and a horrific driving record. Just a few months before almost killing me (and admitting to it), this person T-boned another vehicle with another state van totaling both vehicles, and sending a passenger to the emergency room.
-We fought the DA all the way to trial. This is something most people in my situation never do, often for lack of financial resources, not wanting to commit the available resources, or fear of erroneously getting convicted, or all of the above.
-After months of legal time and many, many thousands in legal and other costs, the District Attorney had to admit before a judge, in writing and in open court, that no crime was committed. But the financial carnage was done.
-The DA’s office had to admit that my “offense” was my constitutionally-protected speech: writing a letter. I petitioned my government for a redress of grievances. (You can see the letter at the end of the blog post linked above).
-It is likely the prosecution was vindictively motivated by my very public criticism of his malicious prosecutorial record toward other cyclists back in the 90s.

In sum, the Barrett family had to dig deep into retirement savings to defend against Mr. Blanchard and his crack dealer. We are still playing catch up to ensure a stable financial life in retirement. Moreover, we now realize that we must financially gird ourselves against further vindictive prosecutions. We have had to throttle back our charitable giving commensurately. And we are sorry for this state of affairs, because we so admire your work. Indeed, it is a pity that Mr. Blanchard and his successor see their role as tearing down community.

We are aware that mine is but one tiny case among thousands. Mistakes happen, right? But it is of a pattern. Prior to my criticism when he first ran for DA (late-90s), Mr. Blanchard was #2 in a DA’s office that routinely went after law-abiding cyclists who came under attack from violent motorists (more in the link above).

More saliently, during his time as #1 at the DA’s office (late-90s through late 2000s), he racked up one of the worst race disparities in the prosecutorial history of the country–outpacing even Mississippi. Yes, worse than Mississippi. Mr. Blanchard *is* responsible for the giant run-up in charging and convicting minorities in Dane County, far beyond actual proportion of crime committed. From the Race to Equity Report (http://racetoequity.net/), we know that during his tenure as a prosecutor, a black person was six times more likely to be charged, convicted and imprisoned than a white person arrested for the same alleged crime and with the same previous record.

It is doubtful that he has changed his M.O. as a judge. Indeed, the numbers coming out of Dane County’s court system–all the way through the appellate process–attest to a continued persecution-through-vindictive-prosecution of minorities out of all proportion.

Mr. Blanchard is on tomorrow’s ballot unopposed. Of course, it is important to go to the polls. Nonetheless, for all of the reasons above, we strongly suggest that in tomorrow’s election, justice-minded people leave his ballot line blank. This could create an opening for a more fair-minded judge in the future. Why? Because potential challengers do vet incumbents based on how strong their previous showing was. Blank ballot lines do have power.

Anyway, again thank you so much for your work. I hope this helps explain why our civic financial involvement has–quite sadly–been dampened over the last several years.

And feel free to forward this on to anyone (board members, etc.) who might find this of interest.

Sincerely,

Mike & XXX Barrett
XXX XXX
Madison, WI 537XX

p.s. While we so appreciate your appeal letters, which are a gift in & of themselves, if you need to save money on postage, we won’t feel insulted if we are cut from the mailing list. It will be a good long while before we recover financially.

Madison Water Utility: Materially Incorrect

August 24th, 2015
From a close follower of all things MWU:
If you have 15 min.’s to devote, you really should read the Baker Tilly Audit 2014 Management Letter.pdf
It really is quite a remarkable and sweeping flat-out slam of the Water Utility for its financial incompetence:
“The Utility does not have internal controls in place that allow for the presentation of materially-correct year-end financial statements.”
“Management has not prepared financial statements that are in conformity with generally-accepted accounting principles.”
“Material misstatements in the general ledger were identified during the financial audit.”
….
Customer billing errors
Cyber attack risk: “Have a plan developed and practiced so that you are prepared in the event of a data breach.”
“Lack of preparedness”: Baker Tilly had “difficulties performing the audit”
I am a big proponent of public ownership of utilities. Madison Gas & Electric’s rampant, ideological pro-carbon agenda is an example of why public accountability is so important.
Unfortunately, our city-owned water utility, through sheer incompetence, combined with an arrogant dismissal of public oversight, is invalidating the goodness that public ownership should bring.

Isthmus: “Citizen: The Real Reason for Atwood Avenue’s Renaissance”

November 1st, 2014
Just published at Isthmus.com….
***
Citizen: The real reason for Atwood Avenue’s renaissance
Eliminating parking requirements for small storefronts buoyed business growth

Michael Barrett on Saturday 11/01/2014 10:23 am

“Destination: Atwood Avenue” was a nice little promo piece inIsthmus that should definitely be featured in the Greater Madison Convention and Visitor’s Bureau pamphlets. It lacked, however, a good investigative question: Why has Atwood seen such a revival?

Yes, yes, we are lucky to have so many creative entrepreneurs who have worked hard to make their businesses successful on this once run-down thoroughfare; good on them, and thanks. And yes, the the transition of the Barrymore Theatre from adult movie theater to hip venue was a signal event. But it is a tired old story, because there it sat for nearly 20 years, a lonely beacon, with neighbors of empty storefronts and no resurgence in sight.

The true linchpin of the revitalization of Atwood: city parking policy. Had it not been for the informed, critical activism of a few people in the neighborhood, not one of the hip enterprises that have grown up on Atwood in the last 14 years — the era of sustainable and rapid resurgence — could have ever happened on Atwood. Why? Because the city prohibited it through parking policy.

Until the early 2000s, suburban parking requirements were imposed on dense, parking-light urban business districts such as Atwood. It was a death warrant.

Creativity and entrepreneurship were throttled. Coffee shops were told to brew in strip malls. Boutique beers, ordered to industrial parks. Eclectic restaurants, stymied.

Here’s how it worked: The city required that there be an off-street parking space for every table for two, no exceptions. This meant no fun. No funky. No creative. No nothing.

This went on for decades. As older enterprises faded, the city parking bosses ensured that no new businesses could move in to keep the district vital. It wasn’t the mall that killed Atwood, it was public policy.

By 1999, a (very) small group of visionary citizens had had quite enough of this. These active alt-transportation agitators worked with verve and persistence, at times getting in the faces of hidebound alders and parking bureaucrats, to put a stop to the desertification of Atwood Avenue. Over the shrill warnings of planners and highwaymen, the citizens who crafted the Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Worthington Neighborhood Plan (PDF) of 2000 enshrined a provision that prioritized a walkable business district. To that end, it strongly recommended eliminating parking requirements.

Yes, eliminating parking requirements. Altogether. This was a radical notion up to the mid-aughties, believe it or not.

Once passed, these same citizens started showing up at zoning meetings, plan in hand, demanding that cool businesses be allowed to locate on Atwood sans parking.

Cafe Zoma was the first successful — but hard fought — “exemption” under the new neighborhood plan. It featured zero car parking stalls. That set the precedent for all the coolness that followed. Creative entrepreneurship blossomed, and just keeps blossoming.

Under new city leadership in 2003, Atwood Avenue’s successful elimination of parking requirements was recognized and even incorporated into the new zoning code. There are no longer minimum parking requirements for small storefronts anywhere in the city.
Michael D. Barrett is an energy efficiency and community plan analyst with UrbanThoreau LLC and publishes urbanthoreau.com/blog.

1937: Krugman’s Victory Dance

October 15th, 2014
How to NOT balance a budget

How to NOT balance a budget

As a Krugman fanboy, I’ve been getting a big kick out of his victory dances of late– rubbing it in the faces of the rightist ideologue economists, the austerians from the Austrian School of Economic Destruction. His latest end zone taunt is a blog post entitled, simply, 1937. (If it really were a football game, he’d have a yellow flag thrown in his face for excessive taunting. Yet the crowd roars for more! The dance goes on to be a huge hit known as The Macro-ena! Ok, sorry.)

As he has so patiently (and not-so-patiently) explained over lo these many years, 1937 was a particularly inauspicious year in applied macro-economics as the Roosevelt administration rapidly pulled back from its alphabet soup economic stimulus programs. It was a futile attempt to balance the budget. As everyone who took Econ 101 should have learned, it had the exact opposite effect, throwing the economy right back into a depressionary tailspin, making budget balancing just that much more difficult/impossible. FDR essentially snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Obama repeated the mistake, rapidly drawing down his somewhat successful–if under-amped–Recovery Act, thereby muting the incipient recovery.

But at least it was something.

The Europeans got straight up austerity from the get-go resulting in all the unmerited, self-inflicted suffering of sky-high unemployment that continues to this day.

Indeed, the oh-so-much-smarter-than-Americans Germans are relearning that lesson–again, and again, and again– even as we speak.

The lessons of 1937 have been a long-running theme of Krugman’s. Every time he references it, I keep thinking back to a very prosaic, but telling remnant literally written in the landscape in an older neighborhood of Norman, Oklahoma…

…I present, my 2013 photos, “1937: The End of Road for the Works Progress Administration’s Work”:

How to NOT balance a budget

How to NOT balance a budget

 

Or, maybe “The Depression that Wasn’t Ended Now”:

IMG_20130506_154428_182

Where was Obama’s Recovery Act when our pedestrian infrastructure needed some help? This is looking pretty shovel-ready to me!

 

I keep thinking Krugman could use these as a centerpiece/banner graphic for his blog….!