Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wisconsin DNR Secretary Checks Her Beliefs At The Door. Really?

That's the management style for the state's leading resource regulator, reports The Journal Sentinel's Lee Bergquist.

She said her job now is to serve as a cheerleader for the agency and its employees. She said she is striving to harmonize the often competing agendas of environmental regulation and environmental protection.

On the issue of climate change, Stepp declined to offer her thoughts on whether humans are contributing to a warming of the earth’s atmosphere.
“It doesn’t matter what I think,” she said, adding, “My job is to check my beliefs and ideologies at the door.”
Or is this more about avoiding negative media and citizen criticism, other than being judged negatively for perhaps being inept, or uninformed, or just plain obtuse?

In a separate public television interview, Stepp said she didn't have any positions, or those that counted, on subjects such as clean water rules, or phosphorus regulation.
Frederica Freyberg:
I want to move into specifics on policy. I know that the provision in the budget, the state budget to delay for two years new stricter phosphorous rules or standards was thrown out. What is your position on that two-year delay of the phosphorous rules that would help regulate the algae blooms in our lakes?

Cathy Stepp:
Well, Frederica, my position isn’t really relevant to it. My job frankly as the head of the agency now is to carry out the will of the legislature and the governor, and of course the Natural Resources Board. Whatever they determine is the way we go, then it’s my job to implement that with our staff. So we were thinking that the two-year delay would be very helpful, because we were hearing from communities across the state how devastating this would be to their budgets when it comes to different technology that they’d have to put in place to meet some of the discharge limits that they were being forced to comply to. So that was a big challenge in a difficult economic time. If that’s not the case and we need to move forward with the rule as it is, then that’s what we’re going to do.

Frederica Freyberg:

Do you think that our water protection rules are too harsh kind of across the board?

Cathy Stepp:
Again, my opinion doesn’t matter.  And I don’t mean to sound evasive here, but really that’s a policy decision for the legislature, for the governor to make and the Natural Resources Board. You know, I know how important clean water is. Again, from my private sector experience, if we don’t have clean air, clean water, people aren’t going to want to live here and create jobs here. Of course they’re very critical to Wisconsin’s future economically as well as environmentally.
And in that interview, though she "I don't mean to sound evasive here," I defy you to come with a different conclusion about her answer (and just what does "Certainly, we’re very submitted to working with those folks, with the permit applicants" mean, anyway"} about mining permit rules and a proposed, controversial iron ore strip mine in Northern Wisconsin:
Frederica Freyberg:

Moving along, talking about job creation, the Gogebic Mine could potentially create thousands of jobs for people in Ashland County and Iron County, but what assurances can you give to people about the environmental impacts of that mine and whether the DNR would sufficiently regulate the operation to mitigate those impacts?

Cathy Stepp:

Well, we’re very committed. Again, environmental protection is an important part of what we do. That’s really the fundamental role of our agency. Again, I think it’s important that we start out early with the stakeholders, and we make sure they understand what the regulations are and that we’re helpful in ways of how to help them meet those regulations and standards and then everybody wins. Certainly, we’re very submitted to working with those folks, with the permit applicants, as they move through the process, making sure they understand all that’s expected and required of them and making sure we hold them to account just like we do any other permit applicant.
She sure wasn't a spinmesiter about beliefs and ideologies when she was on the outside:
"Those of you that haven't had the pleasure of peeking behind the scenes of our state agencies like DNR, Health and Family Services, etc...need to know how some of the most far-reaching policies come down on our heads.

The most crushing/controversial rules that businesses have to follow in our state are--most times--done through the "rule making process" of our state agencies. Without bogging everyone down with some really boring procedure talk, suffice it to say that many of these great ideas (sarcasm) come from deep inside the agencies and tend to be reflections of that agency's culture.

For example, people who go to work for the DNR's land, waste, and water bureaus tend to be anti-development, anti-transportation, and pro-garter snakes, karner blue butterflies, etc...This is in their nature; their make-up and DNA. So, since they're unelected bureaucrats who have only their cubicle walls to bounce ideas off of, they tend to come up with some pretty outrageous stuff that those of us in the real world have to contend with..."
Stepp and Walker are working on recreating the DNR as a so-called "charter agency" with fewer rules to give it political independence (read: control by Walker) and align it better with the new Department of Commerce and "customers," like businesses, according to their planning memo I obtained some months ago:
Hiring Discretion - DNR exempt from CPR process for hiring permanent, project,  seasonal and LTE  positions;

Work Force Management Discretion - DNR given broader discretion to shift its workforce to meet challenges or meet new business opportunities.

Merit Tools Discretion - DNR able to utilize DCA and DCP tools to reward excellence, and retain attract talent; Fleet Management - DNR able to manage travel and fleet operations outside of DOA over-sight;

Information Technology - DNR able to pursue development and use of IT tools without meeting statewide enterprise barriers; and Facilities Management - DNR able to pursue cost-savings at facilities without DOA over-sight.

What hath Walker wrought?

Simple question, and Walker supplied the answer when he said her beliefs and ideologies were just what he wanted at the helm of the DNR.
"I wanted someone with a chamber-of-commerce mentality," Walker said.


Paul Trotter said...

“It doesn’t matter what I think,” she said, adding, “My job is to check my beliefs and ideologies at the door.”

Since when has any Walker agency head checked their idologies at the door?

Yeah she checked them alright but tipped the coat check clerk to toss them back when nobody was looking.

Anonymous said...

At our last "town hall" meeting to discuss the new Enterprise DNR Cathy told us a little about her past. Evidently she trained sales people "how to smile, meet people and present themselves." It makes me wonder who the real Cathy Stepp is. Does she even know?

That said, the MOU between DOA and DNR covers only building projects and car purchases. We will be getting our compensation package in October. I don't know if it will be the same as for other state employees.

Anonymous said...

I fail to see how changes in IT policy are part of a nefarious plot.

James Rowen said...

To Anon 12:21 - - read the entire memo.

CJ said...

“My job is to check my beliefs and ideologies at the door.”

...and my brain, my conscience...
Another Walkerbot.

""I wanted someone with a chamber-of-commerce mentality," WI, we're open for business alright. For the right price, everything's for sale.