1. There was a pipeline spill in the Town of Jackson on July 17 that has resulted in nearly 55,000 gallons of gasoline going into the ground in Washington County, and resulting in resulting in numerous wells being contaminated and homes not being able to use tap water, or in worse cases, no water at all. The worst part of this story is that it took over 2 weeks for the Wisconsin DNR and West Shore Pipeline Company to give the advisories and take more aggressive action, leaving hundreds of homes at risk.
But why should the people in the Town of Jackson be surprised by the DNR's slow reaction to this situation. Keep in mind what was said when Scott Walker appointed former State Sen. (and developer) Cathy Stepp as DNR Secretary less than 2 years ago.
In an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal...Walker said he chose Stepp to lead the natural resource agency because her experience as both a business owner and a former member of the Natural Resources Board will allow her to balance environmental protection with economic development.I dunno, but I'd say that not being able to use your well water in your own home is pretty "real world", and not exactly something that'll be advertised in the greater Jackson/ Washington County Chamber of Commerce, now is it? But when you have clueless hacks hired to head up agencies and give the benefit of the doubt to businesses to handle problems, it's not surprising that things like this happen.
"I wanted someone with a chamber-of-commerce mentality," Walker said.
A longtime critic of the agency she will now oversee, Stepp served on a legislative committee that toured the state seeking comment and criticism about the DNR. And in a post on a conservative blog last year, Stepp said the people who work at the DNR tend to be "anti-development, anti-transportation, and pro-garter snakes, karner blue butterflies, etc." In the same post, she called agency employees "unelected bureaucrats" who tend to "come up with some pretty outrageous stuff that those of us in the real world have to contend with."
Oh, and the Town of Jackson's voting results on June 5? Walker 82.8%, Barrett 16.9% Guess they were just fine with this type of lax enforcement of rules then. Wonder if they feel that way now.
2. And another hugely pro-Walker area already knew about the "open for business" DNR, with the continuing fiasco from Herr Environmental and the DNR's cover-up of their destructive waste-management practices. Remember that one from May, where former 262-area GOP Representative (and recipient of Herr donations) Scott Gunderson let Herr off with a minor fine for dumping 3 times the permitted amount of human waste near Oconomowoc-area homes. This incident is also infamous for the interference of State Rep. Joel Kleefisch, who urged the DNR to let his buddies at Herr off the hook.
At a second meeting, on Dec. 20, Kleefisch — who also received $100 in campaign donations from Herr and whose wife Rebecca received $2,250 from the Herr family during her campaign for lieutenant governor — challenged Gunderson to reconsider the citations the DNR was weighing against Herr.Other shoes have dropped in this case since that story broke 3 months ago, as the DNR told homeowners in the area they had to pay for their own well tests, instead of making Herr pay for their own negligence. And in the last 2 weeks, State Rep. candidate Scott Michalak reported that residents in the Town of Concord received letters telling them that drinking water in the Town of Concord area was contaminated with E. Coli., which comes from...human waste.
“In the age of the DNR/Wisconsin Governor being pro-business, why is the DNR giving Herr 5 citations and why can’t 2 or 3 be taken away as a show of good faith?” Joel Kleefisch asked, according to Bolha’s notes of the meeting. He also reportedly asked that the fine be reduced. Kleefisch didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Bolha also noted Kleefisch asked Gunderson to write the district attorneys involved suggesting the DNR would be in favor of even lower fines.
Gunderson, Bolha reported, “did not seem enthusiastic about writing a letter” but emphasized the agency “had done everything the DNR could to keep the referral from going to the DOJ where the civil forfeitures could have reached $20,000 to $40,000.”
So with that hanging over them, what was the Town of Concord's voting record on June 5? Walker 71.3%, Barrett 28.4%. The adjoining Town of Oconomowoc voted much the same way, 75.8%-23.8% and 75.2%-23.9% for Scott Fitzgerald over Lori Compas. This area was in favor as much as anywhere in the state in agreeing to continue to put business-first hacks like Cathy Stepp and Scott Gunderson in charge of these organizations, so E.coli in their drinking water is the result.
3. The Shawano School District announced last week that their school property tax levy was slated to go up more than 12%, and the district's business manager says property taxes now top state aid as the Number 1 revenue source for Shawano Schools. This is despite more than $250,000 in SPENDING CUTS in its overall budget, and is a direct result of Walker's cuts in school aid passing the buck to the local districts and local property taxes. As mentioned before, numerous Wisconsin districts learned of major school aid cuts from the state in late June, and now have to make up the differences in budget cuts and higher property taxes.
Rural and small-town Wisconsin districts like Shawano's in particular heavily rely on school aid from the state, and don't have a lot of property value to tax to recover from those state reductions. Shawano is only one of many that will be feeling the crunch from Walker's decision to funds roads and give tax breaks to corporations over investing in schools and relieving pressure from local communities.
So how did Shawano County vote on June 5 after Walker's budget had taken effect? Walker 66.1%-Barrett 33.3%
Apparently, this is what residents in that community favored, so I don't expect them to cry over the extra property taxes they're now going to be paying to keep their schools running. But you know they will. And yes, there is a bit of schadenfreude from me, because usually it's us in the thinking world that have to pay for the voting errors of these self-centered types in the sticks.
The real question that I have from these awful situations in Washington County, Oconomowoc and Shawano is "WILL YOU LEARN SOMETHING FROM THIS?" I feel bad that these communities have to be hurt in order for them to have a chance to see that the people they vote for don't care and don't have their best interests in mind. But apparently that's the wake-up call many people in these communities are going to need (though I have no doubt many of them won't have the guts to hear the call, and will vote R out of racism or stupidity or lazy habit).