Monday, November 19, 2007

Data On Demand A Bit Too Demanding

MJSOnline, through it's Data On Demand section, has seen fit to publish the salaries of several thousand public school teachers, as well as city and county of Milwaukee workers' salaries, BY NAME, on their Website. Now before you tell me that this is public record and the people have a right to know, let me say I agree with you. The people have a right to know how their money is being spent. But put yourself in the shoes of someone like my mother, who works for the county in Health and Human Services in a position where she has a lot of contact with those who receive welfare, W-2, foodstamps, etc., whose salary is among those you can find, along with her name, through Data on Demand. Would you want just anyone to know exactly how much money you made last year? Even if you work in the private sector, would you want just anyone to have that knowledge? Does the public really need to know exactly how much someone made last year?

A friend of mine, a former DHHS employee, wrote a letter to the JS that I don't expect will be published anytime soon. As such, I have decided to publish it here, with the author's permission. I am maintaining the author's anonymity, as promised. I've highlighted a few portions I want to emphasize.

This morning, a friend of mine whose mother works for the county forwarded the link to your "data on demand" section where you've chosen to publish the salaries of Milwaukee County and City employees... by name. I thought it incisive and quite liberal that you chose to include their overtime hours and comp pay. Having, at one time, worked for the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services, I was absolutely disgusted with exactly which axe it is you have decided to grind this time without providing an ounce of justification, explanation or indemnity.

I have been employed by the government in one way or another for many years now and, therefore, understand that the salaries of government employees are paid by tax payers and are, as such, public domain. Odd though that many executive salaries are conveniently missing or difficult to locate through this function. I could be wrong, but I am quite sure the Executive Director of the Department of Health and Human Services makes quite a bit more than $0 (as his is the only BMW parked in the Marcia Coggs parking lot.)

Imagine, if you will, working in a place where you already receive daily gun threats and bomb threats, the building is in terrible shape, your car has been broken into twice this year already, there's no metal detectors or bullet-proof glass, you are yelled at and berated on a daily basis for many things outside your control, where you are subject to government funding cuts that mean you are constantly having to justify your existence, speak with your ineffectual union and fight for a job where you are, likely, desperately underpaid.

I can assure you, as a voice of experience, if money is being wasted at Milwaukee County DHHS, it is hardly being squandered at the hands of people like my friend's mother and the other tireless welfare caseworkers of Milwaukee County. It is being wasted on things like tasteful office furniture for the executive lounge of the administrative offices (furniture, need I mention, that most visitors to DHHS rarely, if ever, sit on). Or, perhaps, employees who have gotten high-level administrative jobs through one means or another that enable them to sit in their offices and surf the web or play solitaire day in and day out on the public dime; never actually assisting anyone. How about all kinds of services that Milwaukee County "provides" that no one actually ever sees, uses or sees financial records for? Need I go on?

But really, this notwithstanding, I don't think anyone's salary should be that easily accessible... but especially if you work predominately with welfare recipients, homeless people, juvenile delinquents, ex-cons and the public at large. I suppose one could wage the argument that such people are not likely to have web access, but who would they be kidding when job search programs in Milwaukee County are little more than computer and internet access for those forced to the outside of the technical world by their financial circumstances?

Here at the University of Texas at Austin, I continue to be a government employee and my salary is published as public record. Were you to wonder what I make (substantially more than a welfare caseworker in Milwaukee County) you could go to the UT Human Resources webpage, key in my job classification and it would tell you the minimum, maximum and qualifications necessary for my annual salary. From this, it is assumed that you could probably extrapolate where I fall within the salary range... but... if you really wanted to know specifically what *I* make, you could contact the government, complete some paperwork, probably do some standing in line, JUSTIFY THE REASON YOU REQUIRE THIS KNOWLEDGE and the great state of Texas would be happy to tell you.

The University of Texas at Austin
Division of __________________

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

San Diego Fires Caused by Global Warming... Wait, maybe not...

Harry Reid thinks the fires are the result of global warming. Wait, no, he's not sure about that. Scroll down to the end of the article to see Harry's comments.

Never mind the fires that have happened since before recorded history...

HT: Still Spinnin'

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Why I Don't Vote Democrat

James at The National Conversation has said it better than I ever could.

Real Debate Wisconsin: Journal coverage weak at best.

After an extremely large and well-attended rally regarding the state's overdue budge, the Journal's response?


Seriously; covered on page 3 of the Metro section. For more, I point you to Real Debate Wisconsin: Journal coverage weak at best.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Roll Bloat: Racine

Please welcome Ravings From a Right Wing Wacko to the blogroll. Top 13 Ways You Know You're From Racine is a must read.

Fire Call Fees?

Yep, some towns are looking at charging them, according to a story from the Journal Sentinel. Call me crazy, but isn't this supposed to be covered by property taxes?

One of the quotes I wanted to hit on from this article is in regards to Michael Reed, Town Chairman of Lisbon:

When Reed unveiled his proposal last week, he contended that the town needs the revenue to help pay down debt, including that of the $1.5 million fire station that is being constructed at county Highways K and KF.

If you don't have the money to build the fire station, DON'T BUILD IT!!! Figure out how much you need, and if you have to borrow money to make it happen, put it to a referendum, but honestly, if you can't afford it, don't build it. It's just that simple. Oh, and if you need to pay down debt, STOP SPENDING SO MUCH MONEY!!! Cut your spending, like the rest of us do when we need to pay down debt.


HT: From Where I Sit

As a side note, this marks post number 25 for According to Coop. Feel free to do something of a celebratory nature, up to and including buying me a drink sometime. We can work out the details of that later.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Wisconsin Covenant-Only in Doyle's Mind

Owen of Boots and Sabers has his latest column in the West Bend Daily News online for your reading enjoyment, aptly titled "Wisconsin Covenant equal to snake oil". In it, he points out that to date, the Wisconsin Covenant exists only in the mind of Governor Jim Doyle, and yet that has not stopped him from signing up high school students all across the state. In about two years, it's going to be time to pay the piper, and if Owen is right, we're going to get stuck with the bill for this thing one way or another unless someone puts a stop to this. JB Van Hollen, are you listening?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Yet Another Reason...

why I don't want the government playing a bigger role in my life. Long story short, the Los Angeles zoning office is telling the good professor that he can't get the information he needs to get a permit to add an addition because, according to their records... the house doesn't exist!

Which, of course, led him to the next natural question; if the house doesn't exist, why do I have to pay taxes on it? That, of course, is a different department.

Yet another strike against Healthy Wisconsin, or any other government-run program...

HT: Hugh Hewitt

Thursday, September 6, 2007

(Un)Healthy Wisconsin

I've posted my opinion of this elsewhere, in the comment sections of the blogs I frequent, but I wanted to post my opinion here as well, mostly because it gives me more space to speak my mind. And, as usual, my opinion is formed largely from my previous experiences with state government.

For those who don't know, I currently work in a job that involves dealing with the DMV on a fairly regular basis. The ministry I work for accepts vehicle donations, and a good number of the cars we bring in are sold at auction, which requires that titles be signed over to us, then from us over to a dealer, who in turn sells a vehicle to a consumer, who then titles the vehicle in their name. All seems pretty neat and tidy, right? Not so fast.

Just the other day, I had a gentleman in my office who had donated a vehicle to us last year, who received a notice from the Kenosha Police Department that his vehicle had been impounded, and is going to be destroyed if he doesn't pick it up. Problem is, the car in question is the one he donated last year. LAST YEAR. TWELVE MONTHS AGO. And the DMV STILL has the car registered to him. Twelve months later.

This is not an isolated incident. Earlier this year I had to get us off the hook for a traffic accident, because the DMV is behind schedule, and an insurance company went after a donor. Last month I got a call from a donor who was getting parking tickets from the city of Chicago on a car she donated last year. I could go on.

The state is woefully inefficient, and they show no signs of changing. And there are people that want the state administering our health care? No, thank you. Mind you, I'm not saying the current system is perfect, but I am saying this is definately NOT the solution.

Laundry's Done!

A message similar to that one could be popping up on the cell phones of students of Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, according to a story from Fox News. The system allows students to pay for loads of laundry with their ID cards, and the system will notify them via text message when their laundry is done. They can also find out where any available machines are on campus, and can receive a message to let them know when and where a machine is available. I almost wish I had something like this at home.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Daddy Doyle's Games

Jim Doyle is calling on the state legislature to "stop the game playing," according to Dan over at Still Spinnin'. Interesting he should say that... precisely what "games" would you be talking about, Jim? Seems to me you've been playing some games with the taxpayers of Wisconsin as of late...

Kill a Moose, Fight Global Warming

After all, it is the carbon neutral meal. I just wonder what it tastes like...

HT: Stepping Right Up via Subject to Change

Friday, August 24, 2007

The iPhone's biggest drawback...

according to Elliot at From Where I Sit. Go read. You'll laugh, I promise. And if not, well... I can't help you.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Texting Teen Thumped by Train

Remember kids, practice safe text, or this could happen to you.

At least he wasn't texting and driving...

HT: Air1 Radio

Friday, August 17, 2007

Midwest: Is It Really Over?

First, let me point you to a couple of posts about the announced sale of Midwest from two blogs on my blogroll: From Where I Sit and No Runny Eggs (both of which are worth a read). Long story short, TPG Capital of Texas (which Northwest Airlines holds a minority stake in) has agreed to purchase Midwest Airlines for $17 per share, all cash, which beats AirTran's last offer of $16.25 cash and stock, which itself was a response to TPG's offer of $16 all cash.

So here's my thing: after two years trying, multiple attempts, and voting three people onto Midwest's board, do we really think that AirTran is just going to take this lying down? Granted, the proposed buyout must first past federal scrutiny (anti-trust laws may come into play), but still... after all that time and effort, AirTran is just giving up? Why do I get the feeling that there is more to this than meets the eye? I really do think that we haven't heard the last of AirTran's buyout attempt.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

What can we blame on global warming today?

Real Debate Wisconsin asks that very question, and provides some interesting observations. Basically, if we walk or drive to wherever we're going, it makes no difference; global warming will happen anyway. And, apparently, global warming contributed to Barry Bonds breaking the record, and caused the bridge in Minneapolis to collapse.

Well, it's slightly more plausible than blaming everything on President Bush...

Friday, August 3, 2007

Dude, It's Time to Move On

Another story from Reuters for you, this one involving a 61 year old man who not only still lives with his mother, but receives an allowance from her as well. While the article does point out that it is not uncommon for men in Italy to live at home until well into their thirties, this guy is WAY past that mark, and past the age when he should be supporting himself. At the very least, he should be chipping in for household expenses.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm 25, and share an apartment with my mother, who is turning 48 on Sunday (although if you saw her, you'd probably call me a liar to my face). I don't make much money but I do chip in as much as I can, and help out with household duties. I can cook, I can clean, I do windows, all that jazz. Sorry ladies, I'm not in the market. :-D

Squirrels Like Chocolate?

At least one does. Reuters brings us the story of a squirrel in Helsinki who visits a local grocery store at least twice a day for "Kinder Surprise," chocolate shelled eggs with a toy inside. Reportedly, the squirrel shows no interest in the toy inside, and also does not clean up after itself. More's the pity.

As a side note, this is the first in what will (hopefully) become a weekly feature here at According to Coop, called Friday Funnies. This is a feature I've ported over from my "other" blog, While Rome Burns, which deals with issues within the Christian church, and the Christian blogosphere.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Dems Blame Bush for I-35W Bridge Collapse

I am absolutely appalled at the conduct of Harry Reid. Less than 24 hours after the tragic collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis that claimed at least four lives, he took a potshot at Bush, blaming him for the collapse. The families of the dead have probably not even begun planning the funerals, and Reid wants to point the finger at Bush. Need I remind him, the bridge had been inspected and found to be sound enough to last another 15 years before needing replacement.

Mind you, I'm not an all-out Bush supporter or a hardcore conservative. However, I think it is very telling that Reid has decided to pin this on Bush, and make it out to be his fault. I highly recommend heading over to The Politico Blog for a deeper look at this.

HT: Hugh Hewitt

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Midwest Sale Looms Closer

JSOnline is reporting this afternoon that Midwest Airlines has agreed to open negotiations with AirTran Airways, the Orlando, FL based airline that has been seeking to buy Midwest for some time, and took a step toward that goal by electing three new members to the nine member board at the recent board meeting. While this is not yet the end, and Midwest can still decline AirTran's offer, it looks like a sale is looming ever closer. While I don't fly often, I am still holding out hope that we don't lose Midwest. They are a first rate airline, very comfortable, and they have excellent service to boot. But, only time will tell what will happen next.

HT: Steve at No Runny Eggs

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

One Last Spin

Dan at The Early Spin is reporting that tomorrow will be their last show on WISN-AM. While I was not a listener of the show (I do enjoy talk radio, just not early in the morning, weird I know) I enjoyed reading Dan's insights and posts at The Early Spin Blog. I do hope Dan will continue blogging, and I hope he will land on his feet in radio (Milwaukee or elsewhere) sometime soon. I spent two and a half years working in radio (on and off the air) and I know the business is cutthroat and crazy. You go in every day not knowing if it will be your last, you know it could happen any day, and yet it still takes you by surprise. I know that there are a lot of folks in Milwaukee who will be sad to see the Spin disappear, but maybe this won't be forever. Only time will tell.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Light Rail and Milwaukee

Eugene over at From Where I Sit has weighed in on this morning's editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the ongoing light rail debate in Milwaukee. This post started as a comment on his blog, but I decided to post it here due to length.

A lot of the arguements for and against transit here in Milwaukee are the same ones that were floated in Minneapolis, before then-Minnesota governor Jesse Venture made light rail in that city a reality. To this day, the light rail is exceeding it's anticipated ridership, and the question of expansion is not if, but when. I suspect the city's layout has a hand in the success of that line, but I will say that it is extremely convenient and useful to residents there. My sister and brother in law have only been using one of their two cars in the time since they moved to a house near the light rail line (she works downtown, at the university), saving them money every month on parking, gas, and maintenance, not to mention she can do a host of other things while she rides the train. So much so, in fact, they are considering selling their second car, thereby freeing up their garage, and saving some money on their car insurance every month.

I'm not claiming to have all the answers to Milwaukee's transit woes, but I will say that Scott Walker needs to give light rail a fair chance, and Tom Barrett needs to let go of his idea of a three mile loop to nowhere downtown. I've said it before and I'll say it again: if we build a light rail that actually goes somewhere, and makes it easier and less stressful for people to get to work, it will be used, and it will be used a lot.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Government At Work?

Can I just say this is one reason I don't want the government having a bigger part in my life?

Long story short, these people are facing losing their home because the tax assessor couldn't open a phone book and determine their correct address.

Put not your trust in the princes of this world, for they will surely frig thee up. ~Stephen King

[HT: Real Debate Wisconsin]

Friday, June 1, 2007

Voter ID: My Take

After the recent arrest of Milwaukee alderman Michael McGee, and the allegations that his uncle paid $5 to several undercover agents for their votes in the (then-upcoming) recall election, there has been renewed fervor over the issue of requiring a photo ID in order to vote. Here's my take:

I take Claritin-D for my allergies. It's an over-the-counter medicine, but because it contains pseudoephedrine, I have to go to the pharmacy counter to purchase it. When I do so, I am required to show my driver's license, and sign my name, either on an electronic screen or on paper in a log book.

When I go to vote in Greenfield, WI (where I live), I go to a nearby elementary school. I walk in, go to the table for the appropriate ward, tell them my name, and they give me a ballot.

What's wrong with this picture? I have to show my ID to buy my allergy medicine, but not to VOTE?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

First and (really) Long

The New York Times is reporting that a group of wealthy investors wants to start the United Football League, something of a competitor to the NFL. Do these people have nothing better to do with their money? Because if they don't, I could really use a new car.

Seriously, Vince McMahon (owner of World Wrestling Entertainment) tried this once before, and it lasted something like three seasons. I don't know what makes them think that this is going to work any better, but if they want to give it a go, they can be my guest. And maybe when it's over, if they still have some money to blow, they'll buy me a car...

UPDATE: Steve at No Runny Eggs corrected me, in that the XFL lasted only one season. I guess I thought it lasted longer but just wasn't that memorable... Also, if these wealthy investors still need to spend their money, my car was totalled last week... just sayin'.

According to Coop...

the world is going crazy, and I'm along for the ride.

Welcome to my new entry into the blogosphere. I'll be focusing a lot on issues in and around the Milwaukee (WI) area, but I'll be taking a stab at national stories as well. This will be a place for me to post my thoughts about things that are going on in the world today, and a place for you to sound off as well. Like something? Not so much? This is your place to rant, rave, and generally make your voice heard.

A few ground rules:
1. Keep it clean. You don't need to use bad language to make your point.
2. Keep it friendly. If you wouldn't say what you're about to say to someone's face, don't say it on this blog.
3. Keep it respectful. People of all backgrounds, beliefs, and opinions are welcome here. You can disagree with someone and that's fine, but don't insult them because they don't agree with you.

Enjoy, and welcome to According to Coop!