Tag: open records

Milwaukee’s ticking oil train time bomb (Cochant train de pétrole la bombe à retardement de Milwaukee)

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The following article includes a French translation, courtesy of Google Translate. I have no actual working knowledge of the French language. Below the first page break is the English-language article, and below the second page break is the French-language translation.

NOTE DE L’AUTEUR: L’article suivant contient une traduction en français, gracieuseté de Google Translate. Je ne connais pas de travail effectif de la langue française. Ci-dessous le premier saut de page est l’article de langue anglaise, et en dessous de la deuxième saut de page est la traduction en langue française.


Two years and three days ago, a train carrying crude oil from the Bakken rock formation along the border between the United States and Canada in the northern Great Plains derailed in the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada, causing explosions of oil tank cars that destroyed dozens of buildings in the central part of Lac-Mégantic and killed 47 people.

The train that derailed in Lac-Mégantic passed through Milwaukee, the largest city in the American state of Wisconsin, where a railroad bridge responsible for carrying trains loaded with oil tank cars has deteriorated so badly, some of the beams supported the place have been rusted hollow. Earlier this week, a protest was held at the bridge, which runs right next to lofts in the Fifth Ward area of Milwaukee that would likely be destroyed in the event that an oil train derails and explodes, whether it occurs because of the bridge collapsing or for some other reason. Protesters were critical of both the deteriorating condition of the bridge and the oil trains that use it frequently, and they called for the release of bridge inspection reports and for the development of an evacuation plan in the event that either an oil train or other type of train carrying hazardous materials were to derail.

The deteriorating railroad bridge in Milwaukee is owned by Canadian Pacific Railway, a company, which is based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, that runs freight trains through the United States and Canada. Under United States federal law, Canadian Pacific is legally responsible for inspecting the bridge and maintaining inspection reports. However, because the bridge has rusted and deteriorated so badly, a proper inspection of the bridge is impossible, according to a steel engineer that WITI-TV, a local television station in Milwaukee, brought to the bridge with them. Despite requests from WITI, Canadian Pacific has repeatedly refused to make the bridge inspection reports available to them. Additionally, the United States Federal Railroad Administration, the only government entity in the United States that can demand the release of bridge audits from Canadian Pacific, has claimed to have never asked for the Milwaukee bridge inspection reports from Canadian Pacific.

Because of deteriorating railroad infrastructure and more trains carrying tank cars full of highly-explosive oil across America, places like Milwaukee could become the next Lac-Mégantic if action isn’t taken to fix our crumbling infrastructure and increase the amount of energy being generated from renewable sources like solar and wind.


Il ya deux ans et trois jours, un train transportant du pétrole brut de la formation rocheuse Bakken long de la frontière entre les États-Unis et au Canada dans les Grandes Plaines du Nord a déraillé dans la ville de Lac-Mégantic, Québec, Canada, provoquant des explosions de wagons-citernes de pétrole qui a détruit des dizaines de bâtiments dans la partie centrale de Lac-Mégantic et tué 47 (quarante-sept) personnes.

Le train qui a déraillé à Lac-Mégantic passé par Milwaukee, la plus grande ville dans l’état américain du Wisconsin, où un pont responsable de l’exécution des trains chargés de wagons-citernes d’huile de chemin de fer a tellement détériorée, quelques-unes des poutres supportées l’endroit ont été rouillé creux. Plus tôt cette semaine, une manifestation a eu lieu sur le pont, qui passe juste à côté de lofts dans la cinquième zone de pupille de Milwaukee qui serait susceptible d’être détruite dans le cas où un train d’huile déraille et explose, si elle se produit en raison du pont effondrement ou pour une autre raison. Les manifestants ont critiqué à la fois l’état de détérioration du pont et les trains de pétrole qui l’utilisent fréquemment, et ils ont appelé à la publication des rapports d’inspection des ponts et pour l’élaboration d’un plan d’évacuation dans le cas où soit un train de pétrole ou autre type de train transportant des matières dangereuses étaient à dérailler.

Le pont de chemin de fer détérioration de Milwaukee est possédée par Chemin de fer Canadien Pacifique, une société, qui est basée à Calgary, Alberta, Canada, qui gère les trains de marchandises à travers les États-Unis et au Canada. États-Unis en vertu de la loi fédérale, le Canadien Pacifique est légalement responsable pour inspecter le pont et le maintien de rapports d’inspection. Cependant, parce que le pont a rouillé et tellement détériorée, une bonne inspection du pont est impossible, selon un ingénieur en acier qui WITI-TV, une station de télévision locale à Milwaukee, a apporté sur le pont avec eux. Malgré les demandes des WITI, le Canadien Pacifique a refusé à plusieurs reprises que les rapports d’inspection des ponts à leur disposition. En outre, les Etats-Unis la l’administration des chemins de fer fédéraux, la seule entité du gouvernement des États-Unis qui peuvent exiger la libération des audits de pont du Canadien Pacifique, a affirmé avoir jamais demandé les rapports d’inspection des ponts Milwaukee de Canadien Pacifique.

En raison de la détérioration des infrastructures de chemin de fer et plus de trains transportant des wagons-citernes plein d’huile hautement explosive à travers l’Amérique, des endroits comme Milwaukee pourraient devenir la prochaine Lac-Mégantic si des mesures ne sont pas prises pour corriger notre infrastructure en ruine et d’augmenter la quantité d’énergie produite à partir de de sources renouvelables comme l’énergie solaire et éolienne.

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Even the far-right doesn’t like the Wisconsin GOP’s attack on open records laws

Ladies and gentlemen, hell has frozen over.

For once, I’ve found myself on the same side of an issue as the MacIver Institute, a far-right political think tank with ties to the billionaire Koch Brothers, and Christian Schneider, a far-right political columnist for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the largest newspaper in Wisconsin. That’s because the Republican members of the Wisconsin State Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee (JFC) passed “Motion #999”, an omnibus committee motion to attach, among other things, a provision exempting “deliberative materials” like legislative drafts and legislative briefings from Wisconsin’s open records laws, to the Wisconsin state budget on a party-line vote. A total of 16 Wisconsin state legislators, 12 Republicans and 4 Democrats, sit on the JFC.

Here’s the full Motion #999; the provision in question is provision #28, located on pages 9 and 10 of the PDF file linked to in this sentence.

This is an actual MacIver Institute video criticizing the gutting of Wisconsin’s open records laws by the JFC:

When the MacIver Institute finds itself siding with State Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) on an issue, you know that Republican legislators in Wisconsin have done something truly heinous. Remember that the MacIver Institute once filed an open records lawsuit against Erpenbach as part of a right-wing political witchhunt against him and won their case in court.

These are actual tweets by Christian Schneider sharply criticizing the Republicans’ move to gut Wisconsin’s open records laws, citing his experience as a state legislative staffer:

Schneider is certainly no liberal. He’s one of the most conservative figures in the usually very right-wing corporate media in Wisconsin, including writing a piece for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel website that repeated the lies of Kyle Wood, a Republican campaign volunteer who falsely claimed to have been physically assaulted because he’s openly gay and refused to support Mark Pocan during his successful 2012 congressional campaign. The piece in question has long since been removed from the Journal-Sentinel website.

The move by Republican state legislators to gut open records laws in Wisconsin is so asinine, even some of the most conservative people and groups in Wisconsin are opposed to it.

Martha Laning makes a huge impact in her first week as Wisconsin Democratic chairwoman

It’s only been a week since Martha Laning was elected Chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW), but she has already made a huge impact in Wisconsin politics by being, to my pleasant surprise, a critic of some forms of corporate welfare and a supporter of good government.

On Thursday, Laning sent this letter officially asking far-right Republican Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel to do his job by helping to facilitate the release of official Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) records. As uncovered by audits, the WEDC, a state corporate welfare agency in Wisconsin created by Scott Walker and Republicans in the Wisconsin State Legislature in 2011, has repeatedly refused to comply with federal and state laws, as well as mismanaged Wisconsinites’ taxpayer money. While I’d never support the campaign of someone like Schimel for any public office, it would be the right thing for Schimel to help release records pertaining to the morbidly corrupt and incompetent WEDC, because Wisconsinites should have the right to know how their taxpayer dollars are being spent.

That’s not the first time Laning has railed against some forms of corporate welfare and publicly supported good government policies.

In this interview on Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) stations across Wisconsin, Laning outlined the Democratic strategy in Wisconsin for the November 2016 elections and beyond, as well as gave some of her own opinions on various political issues in Wisconsin and nationally. Laning emphasized messaging heavily in the WPR interview; in fact, Laning pointed out a major flaw in the Democratic messaging that has been used in recent Wisconsin election cycles: many Wisconsinites don’t know what the Democratic Party stands for! Additionally, Laning publicly supported Move to Amend, an organized political movement that is pushing for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution designed to remove the undue influence of money from our nation’s political system, and, to my pleasant surprise, sharply criticized a state tax break for Wisconsin manufacturers that all but eliminated taxes on Wisconsin manufacturers, even emphasizing how tax revenue funds things that are commonplace in society, such as roads, the judicial system, police departments, and fire departments. Regarding the 2018 gubernatorial election in Wisconsin, Laning strongly suggested that “several” potential candidates would at least consider running for Governor of Wisconsin as a Democrat, although she declined to name any potential candidates. Laning also strongly implied that she would prefer whoever Wisconsin Democrats nominate for governor in 2018 to emphasize “building strong communities”, “opportunity for all”, and “fairness”.

Needless to say, this is not what I expected from Martha Laning when she was elected to lead the Democratic Party in a critical swing state. I was expecting Laning to be a backbencher of sorts as DPW Chair, mostly working behind the scenes and rarely issuing public statements of her own about political issues. Instead, Laning has, to my pleasant surprise, publicly railed against preferential tax breaks for large businesses and has strongly supported restoring Wisconsin’s once-proud tradition of good government. Will I agree with every single thing Martha Laning does as DPW Chair? Likely not, as I’ve never agreed with anyone 100% of the time. Do I think that Martha Laning will be a wonderful DPW Chair? She’s certainly off to a great start!

Rahm Emanuel hiding emails from the public

Remember when Rahm Emanuel promised to make Chicago’s city government more transparent? Well, he’s certainly not living up to his promises:

Heading into the final days of campaigning for re-election, incumbent Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has faced intensifying criticism for being too close to the city’s financial elite. Precisely how close, though, remains a matter of conjecture — and most likely will remain so until after the Tuesday runoff vote. That’s because Emanuel’s administration has for weeks blocked the release of correspondence between his administration and one of the Democratic mayor’s top donors, Michael Sacks. The administration has also refused to release details about tens of millions of dollars in shadowy no-bid city payments to some of Emanuel’s largest campaign contributors.

Yes, you read that correctly: Rahm Emanuel, who is facing a difficult re-election battle in this year’s Chicago mayoral runoff, is hiding emails between his administration and Michael Sacks, the CEO of the private equity firm Grosvenor and big-money Rahm donor. The fact that Rahm is hiding emails between his administration and one of his big-money campaign donors tells me that, more than likely, Rahm is hiding something that he doesn’t want Chicagoans to know about.

Let me make my position clear on public officials and email transparency: If it’s an email through a government email account, an email about government business, or both, it should be made available as public record. I am so sick and tired of politicians trying to hide their emails from the public eye. Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, and many other politicians in both major parties have hid government-related email accounts and other online communications from the public. Now, you can add Rahm Emanuel to that growing list of secretive politicians.

If you live in Chicago and want someone who will restore integrity to the city, please vote for Chuy Garcia. The runoff election will be held Tuesday.