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Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010

Issue of the Week: WPRI’s Flawed Report on Clean Energy

Plus Hero and Jerk of the Week

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WPRI’s Flawed Report on Clean Energy

Over the next three months, the Wisconsin Legislature and governor will try to enact the Clean Energy Jobs Act aimed at creating new jobs and improving the air we breathe through a clean energy economic strategy. It is important for policy-makers to get multiple points of view on the table and all of the facts honestly presented to develop the optimal public policy for Wisconsin’s future. So it is unfortunate that the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI), the child of the right-wing Bradley Foundation, put out a terribly flawed report two months ago—in fact, it was so bad that many thought it would be discarded immediately. Instead, this report, which, of course, came up with the results the business community desired, has been cited over and over by well-funded special interests that oppose clean energy technology.

Among the many obvious errors made in the study, the report failed to factor in economic and related benefits that would result from the legislation. This includes reduced energy costs for businesses and individuals, avoiding the costs of building new power plants, fewer transmission lines, various health benefits resulting in less absenteeism from work and school, more certainty for businesses by avoiding the fluctuations in fossil fuel prices, and greater revenues for farmers resulting from the increased use of biofuels. We just hope that legislators are intellectually honest enough to see through such biased analysis.

Hero of the Week

Joe Stanley of Pathfinders

Being homeless is an extremely dangerous, high-stress state for any individual, but even more so for children. Whether by economic misfortune or fleeing to avoid unsafe living conditions, many area youths have no access to food, shelter or health care, and are at advanced risk of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

Joe Stanley, a self-described “former street-kid,” knows all too well the obstacles facing such disadvantaged kids. While working as a machinist in 1985, Stanley volunteered at Pathfinders Youth Shelter to help make a positive difference. He never left, going on to earn his master’s in educational psychology from UW-Milwaukee while continuing to develop and expand the services offered by Pathfinders. In addition to providing a much-needed safe house for hundreds of children, Pathfinders Youth Shelter successfully counsels thousands of area youth, preventing potential runaway situations and transitioning homeless kids back into their homes or alternative safe environments.

Stanley, now a full-time therapist and program coordinator, also touted the recent grand opening of the new “Drop-In Center” (4200 N. Holton St.), where at-risk youth will be able to meet such basic needs as grabbing a shower, getting a sandwich or talking to someone who is willing to listen and help. For his long-term and continuing dedication to making Milwaukee’s streets safer for kids, the Shepherd Express makes Stanley our Hero of the Week, and urges others who wish to volunteer at the youth shelter to call Stanley at 414-271-1560.

Jerk of the Week

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker

If you listened to Scott Walker’s annual “State of the County Address” on Tuesday, it sounded interesting. Unfortunately, the facts on the ground do not support his words.

Among his convenient deviations from the truth:

Walker states that his annual budgets are developed without requiring an increase in the property tax levy from the previous year. He fails to mention that his budgets are built on some draconian cuts to needed county services. The Milwaukee County Board, after listening to constituents at public hearings, restores some of these cuts and raises the tax levy. Walker then vetoes the budget and the board overrides the veto. The following year, when Walker proposes his next budget, he doesn’t build it off of his previously proposed tax levy, but instead uses the higher tax levy the board established. He then disingenuously argues that he didn’t raise the tax levy despite the fact that his next proposed budget is built on the higher property tax levy. Amazing.

Walker also claims that the Milwaukee County Transit System delivers more rides for less and has the lowest per-passenger cost and highest ridership per capita. He doesn’t mention that we have one of the highest bus fares in the country at $2.25 per fare, on par with very high-cost cities like New York and Chicago.

In a truly hypocritical move, he takes credit for a program called Milwaukee County Works, which he claims will create 1,000 jobs and save taxpayers up to $3 million in interest payments. First of all, this program is part of the federal stimulus package provided to the county that was renamed Milwaukee County Works. The federal stimulus money essentially buys down the interest rate. Keep in mind that not only did Walker oppose the stimulus package, but at one point he also said that he wouldn’t accept stimulus money. Now he takes credit for it.

Walker and his pals are claiming that the stimulus package is not really creating any jobs, but now that he renamed the program and has taken credit for it, he claims it will create 1,000 jobs.

Sadly, his “State of the County Address” includes many more distortions and partial truths.