Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mining Hearing A Public Policy Low Water Mark

I have attended public meetings for roughly 40 years - - often as a journalist or public official - -  and I have never seen a hearing as flagrantly disrespectful to citizens and policy-making, and to the entire notion of The Wisconsin Idea - - broadly defined as Wisconsin government existing to serve the people  - -  as the State Assembly committee session held at State Fair Park Wednesday on the fast-tracked mining bill.

That one lowered the bar to ground level.

For these reasons:

*  The mining bill most directly impacts Northern Wisconsin near the City of Ashland, but the hearing was held 348 miles away. And held during the working day. The first consideration should have been given to people who live near the proposed mine.

How would Milwaukeeans have felt if the one and only hearing on the city streetcar plan was held in Ashland? How would residents of Green Bay have felt if the pivotal hearing on Lambeau Field expansion were held in La Crosse or Racine or Boscobel?

* The Assembly committee hearing was held at State Fair Park at virtually the same time a State Senate committee hearing began on a companion measure. In Madison.

Again - - the Senate hearing in the State Capitol was scheduled nowhere near the citizens most effected, but also forced taxpayers to choose which Legislative hearing, if either, to attend. That defeated the inherent, predictable strength of numbers by halving the crowd and tamping down its influence with legislators, reporters or fellow attendees.

* The hearing was held just six days after the Assembly's 183-page mining bill was released. Does anyone think that mining interests got only six days notice of the bill's technical, legal and scientifically-complex contents? (That's a rhetorical question.)

The way I saw it Wednesday, on a dreary, rainy morning at State Fair Park: the priority in the hearing schedule was legislators' convenience, even though taxpayers provide them with a salary and also a tax-free per-diem payment of $88.

Money intended, when not merely pocketed, for meals and lodging - - for their convenience - -  had the hearing been held in Northern Wisconsin.

But the Assembly hearing, with a mid-morning start in Milwaukee, meant the busload of perk-free everyday Wisconsin residents who arrived from Northern Wisconsin at noon had to be on the road by 7:00 A.M because they, and not the legislators on the committee, were faced with a five-hour trip.

That also meant an equally-long return trip and arrival home after most of the legislators had either made it back to their Capitol offices, or to their houses in time for dinner and the evening news.

A government that puts its needs and those of special interests ahead of the general public and the operation of a genuinely open government is run by officious officials who should be run out of office.


JB said...

Not to mention that the mining bill was assigned to the Jobs Committee rather than Natural Resources (which would be a more reasonable fit). I wasn't impressed with the chair's demeanor, either.

xoff said...

People can still submit written testimony by email: Rep.WilliamsM@legis.wiscon​

Not that any Republicans are listening.

James Rowen said...

Thanks. I will repost that info.

Riverkeeper said...

The other amazing thing (which I had not experienced before) was complete disregard for letting people testify in the order in which they arrived/registered. Pro mine lobbyists who arrived at 3 were able to speak. I signed up at ten and was never called to speak.

I also find it horrifying and fascinating that no one yesterday seemed to cop to who actually authored the bill. And a full 6 days after introduction, there are no co-sponsors or names attached to this? That is crazy.