Archive for the ‘Madison Politics’ Category

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

Wednesday, 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.

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

Tuesday, 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

Thursday, 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

Appellate Judge Brian Blanchard’s Community Wrecking Ways

Monday, 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

Monday, 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”

Saturday, 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.

How I Biked. And Walked.

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

Under Penalty of Death, Bicycling is now a crime in District Attorney Ismael Ozanne’s Dane County. Now He Wants to Take It Statewide.

By Michael D. Barrett

JRA. Just Riding Along. That’s bike shop lingo for what you were doing just before getting creamed by a road rager wielding a car.

And I was all about JRA on a bright sunny summer day in June of 2010, just before being assaulted by a Beloit crack dealer wielding a van: I was just riding along. Down King Street to be exact. Moments before the assault, the routine occurred: I got caught by the light at East Wilson. No worries & no hurry, I was on my bike and it was a beautiful day in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, Planet Earth. But not for long.

The light changed to green. Then it began. Your standard-issue, road-rage-induced tailgating.* Mere inches from my rear wheel. Maybe closer. It was my close encounter with a notorious Beloit crackhead, it turned out, determined to drive me down.

By the time I realized what was happening, I was up to speed (the speed limit), heading down East Wilson Street, a designated bike route. Though there was plenty of passing room, with an entirely open left lane on this four-lane road specially designed for speeders, the crackhead bore down on me and left me with nowhere to go but a) into the rear bumpers of parked cars or b) under the wheels of 5,000 pounds of poorly controlled, maliciously guided, speeding steel. That I continued to survive apparently sent the driver into new heights of rage, gunning the engine, pulling alongside me (in the rightmost lane I traveled in), then simultaneously slowing and slamming into me. I barely escaped going under the van’s wheels. (Having that dorky bike mirror on my helmet allowed me to assess the situation quickly and gave me the milliseconds to brace for the impact and maneuver to the least bad position in this life threatening encounter.)

But the crackhead wasn’t done. This deranged individual then drove off to the giant intersection of Nolen/Wilson/Willy/Blair to wait for me to collect myself off of the ground (with traffic backing up behind the van…). The crack dealer-driver proceeded to hurl epithets, vulgarities and threats—and almost got out of the van to assault me but was held back by passengers. That gave me a chance to get the license plate number. It was a state van. I immediately reported the assault to the authorities. According to the subsequent police report, the actions I described here were by & large accurate and in accord with the crack dealer’s story. In other words, the Beloit crackhead’s very actions were intentional, pre-meditated and fully articulated by the driver in a written statement.

It was an assault.

The driver admitted to the whole thing.

The motorized assault, diagrammed.

The motorized assault, diagrammed.

“He wouldn’t get out of our way”

Open records requests subsequently revealed that the vanpool coordinator in the passenger seat was egging the crackhead on.

The motivation for running me off the road? In the words of the drug dealer behind the wheel, “He ran a red light,” and in the words of both the crack dealer-driver and the van coordinator, “He wouldn’t get out of our way.” If you ride a bike, or walk, or drive cautiously, think hard about that: He. Wouldn’t. Get. Out. Of. Our. Way.

For existing, as a cyclist, on a public roadway, you are marked for death.

King & Wilson streets are a designated bike route. I was traveling in a perfectly legal manner, in the far right hand lane of a road with plenty of passing space. An entire, wide open lane, in fact. That I rode in a manner entirely in accordance with state statutes was attested to by the state’s ped/bike coordinator as well as the city’s ped/bike coordinator.

Nonetheless, for not ‘getting out of the Beloit crackhead’s way,’ I was charged with a crime. A crime that I reported. An assault that the perpetrator attempted to cover up. The alleged crime? Disorderly Conduct. According to the crack dealer-driver I was disorderly as I was driven off the road. Indeed.

District Attorney Ismael Ozanne deputized the crack dealer to sanitize our streets of a bicyclist’s life. My life.

The not-so-bike-friendly bike route. The assault started here.

The not-so-bike-friendly bike route. The assault started here.

2010-08-16 12.12.03

Mr. Ozanne: Which parked car was I supposed to crash into for the Beloit drug dealer’s great big hurry?

 

The crackdealer slammed into me right in front of this sign. What part of "yield" does Ozanne not understand?

The crackdealer tried to finish me off right in front of this sign. What part of “yield” don’t you understand, Mr. Ozanne?

Ozanne Goes to Bat for the Crack Dealer

The crack dealer—Ozanne’s appointed judge, jury, and executioner—had spent a lifetime racking up multiple drug distribution felonies, OWI, license revocation, driving on a revoked license, T-boning another vehicle while driving a state van in a crash which resulted in two totaled vehicles and a passenger with critical injuries sent to the emergency room (just months before having a go at me)….. It was a horrifically violent record that goes on & on.** And this person is now in charge of our roadways.

And the red light? Apparently now an offense punishable by instantaneous death. In Ozanne’s legal mind, that is. And the red light running? It only occurred in the fried brain of the Beloit crack dealer. I didn’t run the light. Had I run it, I would have been long gone and there would have been no opportunity for the drug dealer’s assault. (And now you know why so many cyclists do run reds: Conflict avoidance.) Indeed, in an emailed statement, the van coordinator in the passenger seat confirmed that I waited for the green. Furthermore, the entirety of the scene was captured on government-owned security video. The alleged red light running was just one of the many lies we caught the Beloit crack dealer in.

Indeed, the entirety of my alleged “crime”*** was captured on government owned security cameras. My lawyers demanded it as evidence as soon as I was charged. The Capitol Police (the agency which charged me) and Ismael Ozanne maliciously suppressed it. Why? Because the only crime was that committed by their crack dealer. Certainly not by me. And the suppressed video wouldn’t have looked good before a jury.

Furthermore, through a series of open record requests and a witness interview, we were even able to determine that one of the van passenger’s purported statements was fabricated. We haven’t yet been able to determine whether it was the Capitol Cops or Ozanne who concocted the emailed statement. But it was not written by the person it was purported to have been written by. But both Ozanne and the DOA continue to stonewall, refusing to provide source/header data, or the name of who concocted it, despite legal open records requests to do so. (Remember, these are the same people—Capitol Cops and Ismael Ozanne—who, just a few months later would, respectively, brutalize peaceable protesters—grad students to grannies—at the Capitol and then proudly prosecute & convict them for the “crime” of exercising their First Amendment rights.)

My case was so egregious that even the Capitol cop who originally charged me was too embarrassed to show up for trial. He begged off! Ozanne continued the prosecution anyway. The prosecution was starting to look more like a persecution.

At the opening of the trial, Ozanne’s administration had to admit, before a judge and in writing, that this case was about one & only one thing: words. Words that apparently defamed the tender sensibilities of his Beloit crack dealer. He simply had no crime to prove. So there was no crime to prosecute. (Well, no crime by me anyway. The Beloit crackhead got off scot-free, despite admitting to attacking me with the state-owned vehicle.)

Yes, that’s right. In order to resolve the case, Ozanne had to completely change the charge. I was convicted of Defamation, a civil offense (i.e., not criminal). No fine & no time. Who knew such a law even existed in the Land of the Free, Home of the First Amendment? “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech….”? Apparently “no” does not mean “no” in Ozanne’s Wisconsin, USA. So there it was. Defamation. With no fine & no time, it’s something I’d plead to any and every day. It’s what I do. I routinely denounce people in power who abuse power. Between my blog, editorial & letter writing campaigns and activism on various neighborhood and alt-transportation listservs, I’ve kept the spotlight on abusers of power for many years. From presidents & governors to state-approved drug dealers homicidally wielding 5000 lbs of speeding steel….They all get denounced by my words.

And my words were the last shreds of evidence remaining for Ozanne to cling to as his criminal case crumbled.

According to Ozanne, the letter I wrote to the authorities detailing the assault offended the Beloit crackhead (no matter that I never sent that or any other communication to his dope dealer; no matter that the First Amendment of both the US and Wisconsin constitutions protect “…petition[ing] the Government for a redress of grievances.”). He also said I made a screwy face that upset the drug dealer’s refined social graces. It was an open & shut case.

Whistleblowing is now a prosecutable offense.

It was a vindictive prosecution in the extreme. The prosecution began as an effort to defend the state’s vanpool management from the embarrassment and the liability of their crack dealer-driver. (Conveniently, the DOA is over the vanpool fleet, the state risk managers and the Capitol Cops, all of whom dutifully did their worst; most notably, story coordination, evidence fabrication and suppression.) Eventually, management did come to recognize the continuing danger to the vanpool fleet itself; they removed the Beloit crack dealer as a driver in the lead up to trial. (This was my first major victory in the battle against Ozanne and his Capitol henchmen.) They also admitted that I inflicted no damage to the van, contrary to the Beloit crackhead’s claims.****

The face that defamed the tender sensibilities of the Beloit crack dealer.

The face that defamed the tender sensibilities of Ozanne’s Beloit crack dealer.

A Dumb on Dumber Prosecution: Institutionalized Vindictiveness

The case also played into the Office of the Dane County District Attorney’s long-standing ignorance-based vindictiveness toward Madison cyclists (details below). This antipathy stretches back to the early-90s, under the reign of DA William Foust (now chief judge of the Dane County Circuit Court). Brian Blanchard was Foust’s right-hand-man; now an appellate court judge. Ozanne was Blanchard’s protégé. Thus, the antipathy has been institutionalized through successive administrations, over the course of decades. Worse, with successive DAs routinely being elevated to judge at all levels of the court system, the nastiness toward cyclists is now hard-baked into the entirety of the Dane County justice system. Don’t expect any unjust decisions against cyclists to get reversed on appeal.

In open records requests to both Dane DA and Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation, I came to find out that not one Dane Co. DA or Assistant DA or judge has ever been trained in the state’s Enforcement for Bicycle Safety (or equivalent). EBS is a continuing education course that’s even been specially tailored for prosecutors and judges as well as cops. And yet, in this, one of the top biking cities in the country, ignorance about the rules of the road reigns supreme among our city’s, county’s and state’s law enforcers and judges. During the prosecution, Ozanne and his representatives’ ignorance of state statutes pertaining basic rules of the road was appalling. Not one Capitol Cop has ever been trained either.

It was a dumb on dumber prosecution.

Traffic law was against them; my lawyers obliterated them on that. So Ozanne’s people had to just make it up as they went along. The best law for legislating on the fly is Disorderly Conduct—a catch-all law, no legislature required. It’s an all-purpose work-around of the First Amendment. If you lose on one critical point, you make up another.

And Ozanne’s people worked around our basic legal guarantees quite creatively, if clumsily. Bicycling is clearly legal and well protected under state statutes in Chapter 346 (Rules of the Road). But when JRA offends a cop, a prosecutor, or their favorite drug dealer, bicycling can be made illegal on a whim just by hysterically shrieking ‘disorderly.’ And shriek they did.

Contesting a disorderly conduct charge is nigh on to impossible given its wording. Under the rubric of “otherwise disorderly conduct” contained in the statute [947.01 (1)], the crime of disorderly conduct can include anything—including riding a bike, a scream in the milliseconds before death (if you survive an attempted homicidal assault), even breathing (it’s in the case law!). Anything! Anything that offends anyone, including Beloit crack dealers.*****

Dane County’s DA’s office is notorious for taking up these cases on behalf of violent motorists. Long before the assault on me, several of us had written extensively about Dane County’s vindictiveness toward cyclists. Back in the 1990s the Bikies Listserv and the Spoke’n Word (Bike Transportation Alliance’s newsletter at the time) were hot with several cases on the topic. We even made traffic justice for bicyclists and pedestrians a campaign issue. In 1997 when Brian Blanchard first ran for DA we excoriated him for his office’s vindictiveness toward cyclists (he had been a long time, senior Assistant DA). We even got him to acknowledge the problem. But once in office, despite promising to get his prosecutors trained up in Enforcement for Bicycle Safety, he did nothing. Not one person in the DA’s office has ever been trained in bicycle safety law. In one of his last acts in office as DA (before going on to become an appellate judge) he got his revenge by bringing the case against me. And his legacy continues as one of his protégés, Ismael Ozanne, carried out the spectacularly failed criminal prosecution against me.

Clearly, there won’t be justice for cyclists at any level of court in Dane County.

Manufacturing Criminals Out of Law-Abiding Bicyclists

My case followed the standard progression for these State v. Bicyclist cases which goes something like this: The suburban motorist/perp gets a sympathetic hearing from a cop who lives in the suburbs and who empathizes with the motorist’s plight; the plight of having to share the road with others. (This is the problem with having cops from outside of our community policing our streets: they often do not share our ideals, values or ethics.)

The type behind the wheel is always the same: long record of impaired driving, long lists of moving violations, reckless driving, drug dealing, assaults, etc. Violence—motorized and otherwise—is their norm. And the cops are happy to use them to maximum effect against us evil cityfolk on two wheels.

The cyclist, on the other hand, invariably has a clean record, a professional career (or attending university-level schooling toward that end) and otherwise just a good citizen. The DA then sees an easy mark; a middle class citizen with a good job and a clean record. That is to say, someone who cannot afford a criminal conviction on their record. It’s a formula for an easy disorderly conduct conviction. Scalps as it were. Manufacturing new convictions from the raw material of upstanding citizenry. In the end, the law abiding cyclist ends up thankful for the chance to plead guilty to civil disorderly conduct, knowing that a criminal conviction would be career ending.

The DA and his minions know this weakness; they use it to maximum advantage. Many of our county supervisors have long been critical of the DA’s habitual over-charging (charging as a crime what should be no more than a ticket, or that shouldn’t be charged at all). It is unsurprising that Ozanne couldn’t even get half of the Dane County supervisors–the people who sign his paycheck–on his campaign endorsement list.

Among the cases I have tracked:

  • Circa 1996 a beloved Stoughton teacher (no record whatsoever) went down for the crime of getting run off the road and then blocking punches with his face (yes, as is the usual MO, the motorist is never happy with just having run the cyclist off the road; if the cyclist is still alive, the motorist has got to finish the cyclist off with bare hands.) The peaceable teacher eventually pleaded to civil disorderly. Following the formula, the violent motorist got off scot-free. DA Foust gloated.
  • An MD (no adverse legal record whatsoever) was threatened by an Assistant DA (again, back in the Foust days) with a felony for, yup, having been run off the road, then assaulted (following formula) by the motorist, bodily (formula). The good doctor’s alleged crime? While lying in a ditch after getting run off the road, he took off his bike shoe to ward off the attacking motorist who had gotten out of the car to attack him further (formula). The bike shoe was adjudged to have been a deadly weapon—a felony. The case was ultimately never brought; just threatened. But the message was clear: another green light to motorists that cyclists are fair game and it’s always open season. The motorist, of course, was never charged.
  • Then there was the case of the young professional, a racing cyclist who was run off the road while on a peaceable training ride, and charged with…you guessed it…criminal disorderly conduct. He pleaded to civil disorderly. Motorist got off scot-free. All following formula.
  • Another formulaic attack involved a legislative aide riding down the same roadway I was attacked on (East Wilson). First came the same homicidal tailgating. When the cyclist escaped the rage by taking the bike path, the raging driver sped down parallel neighborhood streets to cut off the cyclist. It happened quickly enough that the cyclist, thinking he had escaped by traveling in the safety of the bike path, became trapped at a cross street. The driver got out of the car and attacked the cyclist. The motorist punched the cyclist several times, causing facial contusions. The cyclist got the license plate number, reported the attack. The cops tracked down the driver who, as per formula, admitted everything. The cops–of the Madison Police Department–then begged the cyclist to not press charges (the motorist was able to elicit sympathy out of the cop by claiming to be sorry for having thrown punches). Needless to say, the homicidal rager got away with it.
  • And on & on.

(I’ll leave aside for the moment the many cyclists three successive DAs have left to rot on the side of the road after getting slaughtered while riding lawfully.)

My case departed from the formula in that I was willing to fight Ozanne and his minions’ ongoing quest to crush cyclists. No other cyclist (that I know of) charged with criminal disorderly conduct has ever taken the case to trial. It was supposed to be a quick & easy case for them. They didn’t expect that I would be willing to commit the resources (apologies to my favorite local non-profits; Ismael Ozanne’s vindictive prosecution sapped the Barrett family’s charitable funds for the next several years), and I have the will to fight vindictive types like Ozanne and his ilk in a court of law. I’ve also got my own business so I don’t have to worry about the threat of The CCAP Reputation Destruction Machine hanging over my head & my career. I was willing to risk going to jail for the three months and whatever else they threw at me. In any case, I wasn’t about to plead to any admission of violence after the drug dealer’s attack on me. Indeed, Ozanne eventually had to admit, in writing and before a judge, that there was no violence (on my part).

Cyclist-Corpse-As-Campaign Prop

Now on to the cyclists Ozanne has left rotting by the side of the road.

Remember the too-tired & too-texting motorist who ran down and killed the woman biking peaceably and lawfully in the bike lane north of Lake Mendota in October of 2012? The driver was going to get away with it, too. And Ozanne was going to just leave the victim dead, by the side of the road. Abandoned by the laws of Wisconsin.

A year & a half passed and no charges were filed.

Then, as an entirely separate matter, and with no mention of that case, I submitted an Open Records Request regarding my old closed case. I also made it clear to Ozanne that my case would be a campaign issue. Very soon thereafter, charges were filed against the texting/tired motorist (my second major victory in the battle against Ozanne). Yay to the charges, but the motivation behind the timing of the prosecution?

Feckless. Venal. Craven. Political ass covering.

Making a dead woman a campaign prop. Disgusting.

A prosecutor truly interested in justice would have filed charges immediately. Immediacy would have sent a crystal clear message to all motorists: that cyclists’ lives will be protected by the law in this county.

And the results of the Open Records Request? In a memo from 2010, Ozanne’s administration admitted that the Beloit crackhead did indeed run me off the road. But no matter, I had to be prosecuted for being—get this!—“King of the Road.”******

Yes. King of the Road. Guilty as charged.

Ozanne, on the other hand? Vindictive. Craven. Venal. Feckless. Next Wisconsin Attorney General?

Smashing Community

On so many fronts Ozanne is militating against our ideals. The entrenched, institutionalized race-disparities carried out by the Dane County District Attorney’s office over the decades have only worsened under Ozanne’s regime. His prosecutorial decisions have made this liberal-minded community an international embarrassment.

He can’t even keep his meager campaign finances in order.

His vindictiveness toward cyclists is yet another affront to a community renowned for its dedication to peaceful, planet-saving ways of getting around.

Do we want Ozanne’s community-crushing mentality to go state-wide?

Think about it next time you are JRA, say, to the polls on August 12.

###

Further explanatory notes:

*Nationally known bike lawyer Bob Mionske has a great article in Bicycling Magazine about the routine-ness of these types of vigilante assaults he calls The BuzzKill. All too often they end up in death. He hypothesizes that many cyclists who get creamed from behind are victims of poorly executed attempts at ‘buzzing’ the cyclist. A game of intimidation gone wrong.

**Before this, my record was unblemished; not so much as a traffic ticket to my name. It is important to note that while the drug dealer pissed away an adulthood frying the brain, partying down in Beloit, I spent the entirety of my college years through my late-twenties getting piss tested routinely, while serving this country, honorably and with distinction, first as a cadet, then in the US Army as a commissioned officer. Afterward, I spent my late-twenties & early-thirties improving my brain in graduate school. Contrast my long-time community involvement with the blackhole that is the crackhead’s repeat offenses against our community. There is a significant amount of research regarding the cocaine brain and its ravaging effects on the pre-frontal cortex, the area of the brain which controls judgment, planning ahead, impulse control, morality and violence inihibition. Once it is gone, it is gone forever.

***Though I was charged with one alleged crime, the list of my alleged criminal actions went on for pages and, by some accounts lasted over 5 days; by another account, over several weeks. They just couldn’t keep their stories straight. One accuser wasn’t even present (on furlough!). Again, the scenes of all of my alleged crimes were under government owned surveillance cameras. Ozanne suppressed all of that video.

****When it became clear that my letter was wending its way through officialdom and the drug dealer’s coverup for the assault would no longer suffice, the Beloit crackhead and van coordinator first denied that there was any damage to the van. When the cops made it clear that the police report would go the drug dealer’s way, the crackhead driver and friends changed their story. Suddenly, there was damage all over the van, allegedly caused by me. Their problem was five-fold: 1) one van rider/witness would not go along with the drug dealer’s story (indeed, left the vanpool shortly thereafter) 2) the drug dealer had been in sole possession of the van for at least one night 3) the entire scene in which I allegedly damaged the van was under government-owned video surveillance, 4) they suppressed the video; and….

5) The prosecution refused to render the van for inspection upon our demand. They also refused to render repair logs. So we tracked down the van ourselves. The “damaged” van was completely undamaged. We took photos of every square inch of it. Ozanne’s people had to admit that there was, in fact, no damage to the van. The vanpool fleet manager (who had helped suppress evidence) even admitted that there was no damage in an email we obtained in a separate open records request. There were no repair logs because there were no repairs to make. The Beloit crackhead lied yet again. Nevertheless, the persecutorial prosecution continued.

*****Remember, Dane County juries are notorious for letting violent motorists off the hook for slaughtering cyclists. Imagine what they would do to a cyclist who survived and stood charged with the crime of bicycling.

******”King of the Road?” Being a man of means by no means, I’ll cop to that any day!

But seriously, after my lawyers crushed Ozanne on the facts (starting with this fact: an 8’6” wide van and a cyclist cannot fit in a 9’6” lane at the same time in the same place), then obliterated his arguments in the law (his representative had no idea bikes were legal users of the road). This prosecutor (a California native, perhaps from Hollywood?) launched into conjecture. Ozanne’s representative told my lawyer that I must be prosecuted because, “He is a likely offender because he is so highly educated.” (That’s some mighty enlightened social science they teach in law school these days! UW professors nota bene: If my measly MS strikes such fear & suspicion into Dane County prosecutors’ hearts, think of what your tenured Ph.D. will do!). Then Ozanne’s representative went deep into Law & Order-esque pop psychology: “Because he knows so much about bicycle safety he is more likely to explode.” Yeah, Ozanne’s rep said that. Why? Because I’m a League of American Bicyclists certified Bike Ed instructor. Learning now forms the nexus of a criminal modus operandi. When my lawyer pointed up how bassackward they have the social science of crime, the representative went all Minority Report on us stating: “We have to prosecute him now because, since he doesn’t have a license plate on his bike, he will get away with it in the future.” Dane County, Wisconsin, where you get prosecuted today for a crime you might commit tomorrow!

Ozanne and his representative could never quite grasp the timeline of the events (that the drug dealer assaulted me, not vice versa), and that I had voluntarily reported the assault. That the crack dealer and van coordinator tried to cover up the entire incident. That they didn’t come forward with the accusations against me until the cops made it clear whose side they would be on. Etc. Was it willful ignorance? Or sheer ignorance?

Below is the original message sent by me…

…immediately after getting run off the road by the Beloit drug dealer; sent June 2, 2010 to Brian Luther (van pool manager) and Sherry Rowin (DOA risk manager):

To Whom It May Concern,

Incident 1. Today at around 4:30 PM I was attacked by one of your state
vanpool drivers driving one of your vans (license plate #1138).

I was bicycling down King St. (eastbound), then stopped at the
Wilson/King/Butler stop light in the far right lane. A state vanpool van
aggressively changed lanes and pulled directly behind me in the far
right hand lane (there was only one car in the left lane), then
proceeded to try to intimidate me by pulling to within inches of my rear
tire. When the light turned green, the
vanpool driver’s aggression intensified as the driver gunned the gas,
and passed within inches of me *in my lane* (the far right hand lane)
and then forced me into the curb. It was only through my quick witted
response that I am alive today. If she had had her way, I would be dead
in the gutter right now.

This behavior is not acceptable; especially since it was so obviously
pre-meditated and–given her reaction afterward–unrepentant.

Here’s what happened next: The driver, a middle aged, short, obese woman got to the stop sign at
the bottom of the hill and proceeded to berate me. So we now know that
murderous behavior is fully justified in her mind.

And she is driving a state van.

Incident #2. On Thursday, 28 May, 2010, at approximately 4:30 PM, a
state vanpool van drives westbound on the 100 block of E. Main,
approaching the King St. intersection. (The driver was a woman, of
similar description as above (but am not certain it was the same
person). State van; didn’t get license.)

The situation I witnessed: Light is red. Another car is already waiting at the light
ahead of vanpool van. The light turns green, the car driver, obviously a
confused, older tourist from Illinois
(IL plates), pulls forward and hesitates a bit. The vanpool van driver
behind her lays on the horn causing yet more confusion all around. This
goes on for 15 or 20 seconds, the horn blaring & blaring… Pedestrian
witnesses yell at the van driver to lay off. Thus, for what had been just a
simple and understandable state of confusion by the Illinois driver (it is
a confusing intersection for first-time visitors), the vanpool driver
lashes out in an act of extreme rage and aggression.

Again, I’m not absolutely sure & couldn’t swear to it, but I think it
was the same woman as in incident #1. In any case, the woman who drove
the van in incident #1 should not be driving the state van.

A human life and peaceable city surroundings are worth infinitely more
than her great big hurry and redneck attitude.

I demand to know the identification of the driver and the result of this
complaint.

Please keep in mind that this sort of anti-bicyclist/pedestrian behavior
used to be routine among bus drivers in Madison.  Things got so bad in
the late 90s that we
cyclists and pedestrians created a huge stink and generated enough
political pressure to entirely revamp Madison Metro’s hiring & training
policies.
The anti-Madison attitude exhibited by the drivers (most from out of town) at the time had led
to extremely dangerous behavior. But stricter hiring and training
procedures has since resulted in much more courteous and safety minded
drivers. Problems have ebbed considerably.

I demand that you to take responsibility for your fleet and insist that
your drivers drop the attitude and behave in a civilized, safe manner.

If you are not the person in charge of training drivers and ensuring
safe driving of state vans, please send me the email of the person who
is in charge.

And for whatever it is worth, I am a Certified League of American
Bicyclists Cycling Instructor
(http://www.bikeleague.org/cogs/programs/education/instructor_detail/18), so I know safe traffic operating procedures and always follow them.

Sincerely,

Michael D. Barrett
[…]
Madison WI […]
[…]

***

Sherry Rowin, Rollie Boeding (Wisconsin Department of Administration risk managers), Brian Luther (Wisconsin State Vanpool Manager) Capitol Police Officers Dave Calhoun, Mitch Steingraeber, Lary Corcoran, Brad Solda and Det. Ed Bardon, then set about concocting & coordinating the crack dealer’s story. Dane County District Attorney Ozanne bought it.

Like Water for Oil

Friday, September 13th, 2013

Though it is about energy, this article is highly relevant to managing our water resources as well:

Just substitute the word water for “energy”/”natural gas”/”electricity” wherever they appear in the article. The following tract gets at the conundrum the Madison Water Utility seems particularly stymied by:

“In addition, state regulators should reward utilities for helping residential, business and industrial customers use energy more efficiently, and stop the widespread practice of penalizing utilities when their sales level off or decline because customers are using less energy. When regulators set rates, they establish targets for utilities’ allowable revenues, and this unintentionally links the companies’ financial health to robust sales of electricity and natural gas. The problem can be solved if regulators allow modest annual rate adjustments that correct for any unexpected changes in utility sales.

“Half the states have instituted such “decoupling” systems for at least some of their investor-owned natural gas and electric utilities, but the process is taking too long and only one publicly owned utility, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, has adopted these reforms. The rest should step up.”

Indeed. And this a model for conservation that has been promoted by citizens in the past. Unfortunately, this is an economic model (Econ 101-level) that seems to be alien to MWU management. Instead, they perform their incantation rituals for more drought to fill the utility’s coffers:

It will be more than three years since water rates have gone up for Madison Water Utility customers. The Water Utility had planned to file for a 12% increase in 2013, but officials say it was not needed because of high water use during last summer’s drought.

A forward-looking lot over at Olin Ave…..

Federal Highwaymen Paving Our Democracy Asunder

Friday, July 19th, 2013

I recently received this notice regarding, in their words:

…the metropolitan transportation planning process carried out by the Madison Area Transportation Planning Board (TPB), the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT), Metro Transit, and local units of government in the Madison metropolitan area….

The full notice was even more gobbledygookey cryptic; even a transportation geek like me had a hard time deciphering it. Specifically, they never cited what laws they were referring to.

Flying blind, I submitted comment anyway. You’ll find it below.

I went to the meeting.

There was only one other citizen there. (He had little to say other than moaning about the counter-flow bike lanes displacing parking spaces on campus.) It was a pitiful showing, but I think more indicative of the cryptic public notice than apathy on the part of citizens.

Federal policies are shaping our communities for decades to come. The question is, shaping those communities for whom? The Feds sent a phalanx of gray, middle aged, male bureaucrats. That’s whom. City/MPO did the same. (The lone woman bureaucrat present had nothing to say, so I assume she was on board with the highways.) It was all about building more, bigger highways for, by and of the dozen or so middle aged, white males present. Indeed, it was a cast worthy of the Soviet nomenklatura.

Oh sure, there was a crumb or two here & there to ameliorate a few of the many barriers to biking and walking presented by their megalomaniacal highways. And Bus Rapid Transit is but a pipe dream at the scale they are “planning.” They have no intention of funding it (thus the quotes). The crumbs and the fantastical are out there for window dressing only. Bait. Honeytraps. The stuff of Stockholm Syndrome. If we’re nice to our captors, embrace their manly highways, maybe, just maybe they’ll give us another bike path!

None of the MPO board members were there (except ex officio member, Madison Metro GM Chuck Kamp, who had to be there for job purposes related to the public notice).

Happy reading!

******

Madison Area MPO Comment

07/17/2013

by Michael D. Barrett

I have observed and participated in transportation and land use planning issues in Madison and Dane County for almost 25 years. I am trained as an urban geographer.

Here’s what I think of Federal funding priorities as planned by our MPO and prioritized by USDOT: It stinks. It’s all about highways. And your highways are nothing more than the new Jim Crow with a concrete face. It’s the epitome of Reverse Robin Hood, stealing from cities to promote rich suburbs. It’s about gated communities, but instead of gates you use concrete expanses to wall off the people you deem as undesirable – the carless, the aged, the young, the poor, people who are not white. Yes, I’m calling you racist. I’m calling you age-ist. I’m calling you classist. In other words you build landscapes for well-wheeled middle aged white men. Everyone else be damned. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Your Federal policies militate against our community’s expressed political will. Over and over again the people of Dane County, Madison and surrounding  communities have elected stellar individuals who want to do the right thing. Witness electoral revolutions with the election of unabashed enviros like Kathleen Falk and Dave Cieslewicz and the very conservation-oriented council and board. In every League of Women Voters questionnaire for elected office virtually every candidate espouses transit, biking and walking over highways. Falk and Cieslewicz had made careers of fighting your highways. Plan after plan for this region, down to the neighborhood level, emphasizes community over cars, a clean environment over sprawl; inclusivity over segregation. The people’s voice is unequivocal: we want clean air, clean water, inclusivity, social justice and a land use/transportation paradigm that supports those goals. Furthermore, our elected officials explicitly ran on platforms promoting community cohesiveness, across race and class lines. Instead, your policies forced our elected leaders into making bad decisions that ultimately got them thrown out of office or blocked from higher office.

In other words your policies are overtly political. They militate against the will of the people.

Your federal highway funds proved to be a gusher, an endless source of cash, while you people constricted funds for transit, bicycling and walking. Everything our elected representatives stood for, your policies militated against.  Your policies backed Falk into a corner on the very unpopular US Highway 12 expansion. Her political base never forgot that, and she paid dearly for it. Without her most ardent supporters, she didn’t stand a chance for higher political office.  Similarly your policies forced road expansion onto us even under the leadership of the most ardent, pro-urban environmentalist ever to lead a city. Your easy highway money and shrinking transit money proved to be an embarrassment that alienated his base. Mayor Dave became Mayor Pave. When federal funds were used to jack up highway spending by 558% over the course of his tenure – 558%!!!!! – while slashing federal support for clean, city-supporting modes, the environmentalist mayor’s political base evaporated.

See this graph of the Madison City Budget? Now look at the top line. The one going straight up is paving, increasing at 558% during Cieslewicz’s tenure. The other lines are social services and parks: Flatlined during the same period. Now look at the debt that has been racked up to service your over-sized roads. Your highways are crushing our city’s budgets.

Your policies are overtly political.

Those elected representatives represented the will of the people. By embarrassing them with these anti-community funding priorities, you negated the will of the people.

You are a politically vindictive organization.

I oppose your anti-democratic policies. I oppose your racism. Your Neo-Jim Crow. Your social-exclusion-by-highway. Get out of our community, leave us alone. Return our taxes free of all strings and get out of the way while we build a sustainable city. We want a city that requires no war for our mobility. We want a city that protects our climate as we get around. We want a city that is protective of children’s lungs. We want a city that promotes healthy, active, neighborhood-friendly ways of getting around.  We want a city that is inclusive and for all people, not just the well-wheeled. We will no longer serve as suburbanites’ doormats.

I notice the MPO board is not present. Had they been here, I would have told them:

As for you people on the MPO, get a spine. Stand up to these highwaymen. Start thinking creatively. Stop blasting ugliness through our neighborhoods. Start joining with the people in building *community* not commuter sprawlways.

Everything about this organization has militated against the expressed will of the people. You should be ashamed of yourselves. I oppose you because you have incompetently executed the will of the people.

I recommend that this body be decertified from receiving federal funds.

The siting of this meeting at this isolated location speaks volumes as to whom the MPO wants to hear from. Bus service is scant at best. Parking is ample. We are located adjacent to a giant highway. It’s a long way to walk anywhere from here. So the assumption must be that only car drivers’ views are wanted.

Regarding your introductory remarks: You speak of congestion as if it were the root of all evil. I disagree: Congestion is good for cities. It is the sign of a healthy city. It is a sign that people want to be there. Slow car traffic is the best friend of pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users.

[I also entered into the record a copy of the latest (2012) League of Women Voters questionnaire of Dane County Supervisor Candidates (showing their support for transit, walking, biking); a copy of the budget graphs in the article linked above; a copy of a 2011~ 1000 Friends of WI newsletter article showing how much money Wisconsinites spend on roads out of their property and income taxes (i.e. only about 50% of the total road budget is paid for by gas taxes and other car user fees; in other words, socialism for cars; rapacious capitalism for the rest of us).]

###

US 51/WIS 19 camera image.

Sen. Mark Miller’s (D-Monona) $40,000,000.00 gift to the Seven. Thousand. Very. Republican. Villagers. of DeForest.

Keep in mind that the USDOT policies I cite here should not be taken as letting the likes of Falk or Cieslewicz or other locals off the hook. Ultimately, though the concrete dope was free, they injected the needle into the arm of the body politic of their own free will. Furthermore, USDOT’s pro-highway/anti-community policies are the products of pavement-friendly votes by other good liberals/progressives such as US Rep. Mark Pocan, US Senator Russ Feingold (ret) and US Senator Tammy Baldwin. Liberals on the state level have similarly taken the needle and the candy. From 2008-2010 Dane County Democrats – State Rep Mark Pocan, State Senator Mark Miller and Governor Jim Doyle –  held total power over the finances of state government as co-chairs of the all-powerful Joint Finance Committee and as the state’s chief executive (respectively). Truly, they were the patrons to the highwaymen clients in the nomenklatura of the Soviet Socialist Party of Pavers. Much like their Republican counterparts, they prioritized paving over people. Indeed, the pavers are of one party regardless of whether an R or D follows their name. I hold Mark Miller in particular contempt given his $40,000,000 (and counting) pork project more than doubling the size of US Highway 51 to serve the seven thousand Very. Special. Villagers. of. DeForest. while slashing state and federal investment in transit for 225,000 not-so-special Madison citizens.

Consider asking your alder why they continue to fund paving at the expense of people. Then ask your county board supervisor. Then ask your state rep. Then your US rep. Then ask your US Senator why she thinks more concrete is healthy. Always, always question. Then denounce. Because they just don’t get it. Because they are loyal party apparatchiks.

No Clarity in the Water

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Dear Alders,

I urge a reconsideration of Item 9 (30156) for the contract renewal for Thomas O. Heikkinen, General Manager of the Madison Water Utility. I strongly recommend, that any renewal of contract be provisional, lasting no longer than one year, with specific goals to be met for any further renewal. Please do not rubber stamp this appointment.

I believe that there are some serious deficiencies in the management of our drinking water that need to be addressed. The MWU’s current water management paradigm:

1.     Ignores science behind hydrogeology, chemistry and biology – most notably, human bio-chemistry. The engineering – pumping & piping – is the be all, end all of MWU’s thinking. The quality of what comes out the tap is dismissed in a barrage of PR parsing, obfuscating and disingenuousness. Water volume is everything; quality is nothing in MWU’s world. At most they will express “disappointment.” But disappointment doesn’t deliver clean water.

2.     Ignores the interests of ratepayers by investing in well sites known to be unproductive and highly polluted. The recently approved Southeast side well is a case-in-point.

3.     Ignores citizen input from the Citizen Advisory Panels with regard to well-siting and capital investment priorities. The Eastside CAP prioritized Well 8 for filtering; Well 7 was way down the list of priorities. Well 8 languishes while Well 7 is being super-sized far beyond anything approved by any CAP, and is being built to a scale that denies the recent, highly rigorous scientific analysis of the site.

4.     Fails to provide adequate staff comment on development proposals’ effects on our drinking water supply. See for yourself: the University Crossing development proposal’s staff comment section for the Water Utility relies entirely on self-reporting by the developer. Yet it sits atop the sensitive wellhead protection zone.

5.     Dismisses water conservation; the utility won’t even address it, especially with regard to business water use. This is a real problem since some 82% of our water is consumed by business/institutions.

6.     Treats citizen ratepayers as cash cows in allowing polluters to get off scot-free after wrecking our drinking water with carcinogenic filth, thus requiring either expensive filters or new, multi-million dollar wells.

7.     Stifles scientific input from citizens. At best citizen input is taken as a personal affront. Straightforward questioning, pointing out scientific facts, has resulted in a citizen getting thrown off the MWU Board. At worst, honest, straightforward citizen input has resulted in a criminal complaint to the city attorney. Dissent is a punishable offense under this MWU administration.

8.     Puts PR above clean water. Are two PR people really necessary for one agency? Wouldn’t it be more effective to hire two lawyers to aggressively pursue polluters? 

9.     Lies about Madison Water meeting “all standards” and about the existence of PCE in certain wells. Indeed, the federal drinking water standard for the toxin PCE is zero. That’s 0.00. Down to the parts per billion, zero. There is no safe level of PCE in drinking water according to the EPA. Many Madison wells have significant, and growing levels of PCE and other industrial chemicals. Yes, there is a sub-standard EPA limit that MWU seems to fixate on (and that our water just barely falls under), but that is a secondary, outer limit that accepts a certain number of PCE-related deaths and neurological illnesses (such as Parkinsons) as, somehow, ok. I don’t believe that the preventable death or incapacitation of even one person is acceptable. Neither should our citizen-owned water utility. Furthermore, the MWU is playing fast & loose with the truth with it’s statement, “It’s important to note that no PCE has ever been found in the water at Well 8.” While that is technically true, we do know that the breakdown products of PCE have been found in Well 8 water. Breakdown products have been found to be at least as dangerous and possibly more dangerous than PCE itself. It’s time for the disingenuousness to end at the water utility.

10.  Coddles polluters such as Madison Kipp Corporation. Instead of doing the right thing and suing to defend citizen-owned capital investments in clean drinking water (well infrastructure and pipe systems), MWU provides PR cover & damage control for polluters and their polluting activities in the media and at public meetings.

11.  Wastes federal money dedicated to providing clean water. Federal stimulus money was dedicated to filtering nasties out of an east side well; instead of making the enduring capital investment, the money went to consultants to gather citizen input. That input was then ignored. The money was wasted. (See Item 3.)

12.  Works to dismiss or suppress dissenting citizens from the MWU board.

I am willing to give benefit of the doubt; Mr. Heikkinen had inherited a difficult situation with problems that had been institutionalized before his arrival (especially the ingrained attitudes of engineering über alles, which, unfortunately still reigns). Some things have improved. But let’s be clear: the improvements have only come as a result of bruising fights featuring brave citizens brandishing the scientific truth vs. MWU leadership denying it while personally attacking these very knowledgeable citizens (or, as Mr. Heikkinen refers to them, “wing nuts” and “Ph.Ds lacking common sense”). When the denials become too embarrassingly untenable, the MWU’s PR machine goes into overdrive to assure the public that the utility has always believed the science it once denied (but those pesky citizens are still really wing-nut crazy, and those Ph.Ds in environmental toxicology still lack common sense).

The last Water Utility Board meeting was illuminating. Board members discussed their discomfort with these jabs at citizens. Heikkinen refused to apologize. Later, another board member did come to his defense to explain away management-attitude issues that keep coming to light. This board member explained that since Mr. Heikkinen is an engineer, he can’t be expected to know what it takes to deliver clean water; that would be the responsibility of other departments. (He didn’t specify which department; would that be the Health Department? We don’t know. But these statements – by a board member – contravene the Water Utility’s own “Outcomes Policies.”) It would be worth reviewing the streaming video to begin to understand the level of discomfort about the way things are going at the MWU. Except….I would have sent a link to the video, but there is none. And….I would have sent you a link to the minutes, but the minutes omit virtually all of the discussion that happens at board meetings. Interesting that. Apparently MWU is a public records-free zone.

We demand an assurance from you, the fiduciary agents of our citizen-owned water utility, that any renewal of the manager’s contract will not be for more than a year, with renewal possible if these demands are met:

1.     The public personal attacks on citizens and threats of arrest will stop;

2.     The MWU General Manager will ramp up his knowledge of the science of clean water delivery in its full panoply. From chemistry, to hydrogeology, to biology, to bio-chemistry, to geophysics, to environmental toxicology, etc., the GM will studiously research, rigorously adhere to and apply the most up-to-date, proven technology, including conservation and re-establishment of a healthy hydrologic cycle (i.e., infiltration) for clean water delivery over a time horizon of generations. (Start with seven.) This is already covered for the most part in the Water Utility Board’s Outcomes handbook, specifically O-2E. The MWU board has given him a pass on expanding his knowledge, but you, the representative body of the people, the ultimate fiduciary authority, should not. Furthermore, in future personnel searches, the city should consider Epic’s successful strategy for software development. They hire liberal arts graduates to manage projects because of their ability to integrate a wide variety of knowledge bases. The engineers work under the liberal arts graduates precisely because engineers are not trained to think expansively, integratively. Curiosity is not an engineer’s strong suit. They know what they know. Period. Full-stop.

3.     Monster wells are not acceptable. Super-sized wells are not a sustainable strategy – environmentally or economically – for clean drinking water. Overbuilding, overpumping and over-dynamiting a well, then building super-sized water storage over the top of it all ends up warping and cracking protective bedrock. The result is fissures which allow surface toxins and pathogens to infiltrate the deep aquifers we rely on for drinking water. This must end. The science must be followed, not denied.

4.     Polluters of clean water will be pursued to the fullest extent of the law;

5.     Further pollution of our drinking water ends now;

6.     MWU will provide clear, strongly worded staff comment for all future development that may have an impact on our water quality. Pro-forma hear/see/speak no evil pencil-whipped comment on development will not suffice. MWU’s comment in the future should, among other things, cite the impacts of paving, and any other capping off/interference with the healthy functioning of our hydrolologic cycle.

7.     Long-term financial viability of all MWU capital assets (to include the water supply itself, well infrastructure, well zones, filters, etc.) will be defended at all costs. This includes avoidance of well-sites known to be polluted or lacking in sufficient flow. The current five-year planning horizon is not acceptable. Well infrastructure is a 60-year+ investment; the water flowing to it is perpetual. We must protect our city’s long-term financial interests for perpetuity. Water is a financial interest.

8.     MWU will communicate clearly, honestly and provide full records to the public: a) the existence of pollutants; b) the health threats posed by those pollutants; c) the likely sources of those pollutants; d) the city’s efforts to recover damages from the polluters; e) the city’s efforts to stop further pollution; f) video and full minutes of Water Utility Board proceedings will be made available quickly and in perpetuity. The denial and obfuscation on behalf of the polluters must no longer be part of the MWU’s duty.

9.     Dissenting citizens will be appointed to the MWU board to counterbalance the overly comfortable consensus there.

More dynamite down a hole does not a quality water system make.

Sincerely,

Michael D. Barrett

 

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