Wednesday, April 11, 2007

How One State Senator Shoots Her District In Its Foot

OK, you ask: is that a proper metaphor? Can a legislator shoot her entire district in the foot, or just her own?

Well, you decide.

State Sen. Mary Lazich represents New Berlin. She also sits on a legislative study committee that has been dead in the water since its last meeting in December, unable to write a draft bill to endorse conservation standards and procedures in amendments to a US-Canadian Compact governing diversions from the Great Lakes.

Those amendments included a last-minute addition, pushed by Wisconsin's negotiators, I am told, that made it possible for communities like Waukesha, and New Berlin, to apply for and receive diverted Lake Michigan even though they lie partially or completely outside the Great Lakes basin.

Yet in large measure, the committee can't reach a consensus because Waukesha County interests think the Compact is too restrictive.

The Waukesha County Chamber of Commerce has, in fact, called one key Compact provision - - unanimous approval of diversion requests by all eight Great Lakes Governors - - a deal breaker.

Lazich had circulated throughout southeastern Wisconsin a statement of her broad objections to the Compact; it was posted in various places, including in a community newspaper's blog on Monday April 9th, here.

When a copy of Lazich's objections was emailed to me (Lazich said it came as a courtesy, though it had no additional note with it) - - and you will note in her statement that she blasted me over a blog posting I had written about these issues - - I emailed her on March 17th, and asked her for an explanation.

And pointed out that the blog link she copied into her draft letter was erroneous, linking to nothing, so whatever point she was intending to make about the blog item would be lost on the readers of her statement.

No reply.

Curiously, she emailed me a copy of the same draft statement four days later, on March 21st.

Ah, ha, I thought: dialogue! So I again emailed her, asking the same questions.

No response.

I tried again on March 22nd, and again on March 23rd - - even including my home phone number.

No replies to either (Lazich says she did answer me, but I have no such emails in my inbox).

But back to the original question: how does Lazich's objection to the Compact, as amended, shoot her constituents in their collective foot/feet?

Well, note in her commentary that she says, "I cannot support a flawed document that is bad for public health, bad for the environment, bad for economic development, and generally bad public policy."

Strong language.

And she touts the analysis of a Colorado professor who suggests "chucking it [the Compact] entirely and starting from scratch."

Now stop right there: Starting over would toss out four years of negotiations among ten state and Canadian provincial jurisdictions who produced a series of proposed amendments designed to ensure that the Great Lakes are conserved, not arbitrarily diverted or otherwise mismanaged.

And - - grasp the irony here - - amendments which created for the first time special exceptions to diversion prohibitions for communities exactly like New Berlin.

In other words, the process that Lazich's Colorado expert would dump entirely included a gift to New Berlin that wasn't included in the first set of draft amendments released by the negotiators a couple of years ago.

Does Lazich think that starting over at this late stage (Minnesota has approved the amendments; other states are moving forward, too) would play well in the very states that, under the Compact, and a separate federal law, have to unanimously endorse and approve Great Lakes diversion applications from communities like New Berlin?

This is not a theoretical question.

As I reported in this blog, New Berlin has again sent a Lake Michigan diversion application to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for review.

And like New Berlin's much-criticized initial application last year, this one, too, will be sent again by the DNR to the other states for their review.

Approval must be unanimous - - the very provision which business leaders in Waukesha County are calling, let me remind you, a deal-breaker .

Bottom line/flat prediction: The other states, and ultimately Wisconsin, too, regardless of Waukesha County's objections, will surely all endorse the amendments and the Compact again as the deal-maker, because without such uniform approval in each state's implementing legislation, there will be no Compact, and no stewardship for the Great Lakes.

And that would be bad...bad...bad...generally bad public policy for Wisconsin, the Great Lakes region, and the 20% of the world's fresh surface water held in trust here.

Imagine you are a water analyst or cabinet officer or Governor in Michigan, or Illinois, or one of the other Great Lakes states and provinces (the Canadians have an advisory role, but no veto), and the New Berlin application of March 7th lands on your desk.

You start asking questions as you read New Berlin's paperwork.

"New Berlin? Hmmm," say these Great Lakes diversion application reviewers.

"They're back again? What are the leading voices over there saying? Like, say, New Berlin's state senator? The one who's on that legislative study committtee? Where does she stand on the Compact, since she needs our approval?"

A simple Google search of Lazich...New Berlin...Compact will locate Lazich's April 9th condemnation of the Compact.

And her vouching for a professor from Colorado who thinks the entire Compact should be...chucked.

That's how you shoot your entire district in its collective feet.


Anonymous said...

Jim is right that the Colorado professor's suggestion is the true deal-breaker. (The professor is Mark Squillace, Director of the Natural Resources Law Center at the University of Colorado and briefly worked for Babbitt at Interior. Find him at
He doesn't sound like a bomb-thrower, but who knows.)
My suspicion is that Squillace's perpsective is that of an academic - if something isn't pure enough, it's unacceptable. No thought of the real-world political process that led to the Compact. A process that would not be duplicated any time in the next decade. Further, no state, after enduring the negotiation process, would agree to reopen the subject. So Squillace, and his Number One Fan Lazich, just have to suck it up and live with it. Jim starts a good argument that the Compact is good for New Berlin. Maybe that line of thinking should be pursued. Certainly without it they're unlikely to ever get what they want. However, Lazich seems disinclined to constructive and pragmatic dialogue, remaining content to be an inflammatory, uniformed, knee-jerk critic. Those aren't the kind of people who get things done, so she may be of no help to her side anyway. Let's hope her constituents realize this.

Anonymous said...

Correction: I meant to describe Lazich as "uninformed." I don't know if she wears a uniform or not; what her sartorial tastes run to isn't relevant to this discussion. Unless she frequently dons scuba gear, in which case she's shooting herself in her oxygen tank.

James Rowen said...

Now that I've stopped laughing...Steve makes a good point about Squillace. He may be a bomb-thrower. He may be the second coming of Al Gore. The point is that the leg. council staff has resources galore - - in house, from UW-M, the US Geological Survey, UW-Madison - - and the expertise of the non-politicians placed on the committee.

Lazich wants the process stopped until her guy can come in and speak. Well, fine: do the other 18 members get this privilege? How many more months of delay will there be?

Lazich's entire strategy, if there is on, is counter-productive, since it adds delay, uncertainity and conflict.

I'm guessing that the committee will fold up and another committee, with more input from Doyle, will take charge of the issue. He's the co-chair of the Council of Great Lakes Governors, and it looks bad for him and the process if his home state can't get its act together.

The committee, which is heavily weighted with Waukesha Republicans, does not reflect the post 11/06 Democratic win in the Senate, so that's another reason why a committee chaired by Kedzie, though he is respected by the Dems, is likely to have its curtain rung down.

Senator Mary Lazich said...


James Rowen’s latest attack on me will not change my view that the Great Lakes Water Compact is flawed, bad for public health, bad for the environment, bad for economic development, and bad public policy. I stand by the concerns raised about the Compact in my blog posted April 9, 2007 at:

Rowen writes that “Lazich circulated throughout southeastern Wisconsin a statement of her broad objections to the Compact, and it finally saw the light of day as commentary in a community newspaper's blog on Monday April 9th.”

That’s not true. The posting on my blog of April 9 is a reprint of a column I distributed on March 16, 2007. The column was sent to the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel, the Waukesha Freeman, and the political web sites The Wheeler Report and

Rowen then writes, “When a draft copy of Lazich's objections was emailed to me - - and you will note in it she blasted me over a blog posting I had written about these issues - - I emailed her on March 17th, and asked her for an explanation. .. I tried again on March 22nd and again on March 23rd...No replies... ”

Again, Rowen is incorrect. I do not forward to him drafts of my news releases or columns. The version I sent to Rowen on March 16, 2007 as a common courtesy was the final product that was posted on The Wheeler Report the same day. Records show that I did not receive his emails of March 17 and March 22 and that I did reply to his email of March 23 on March 26. I have yet to receive a response from Rowen to my March 26 email.

Rowen writes that he “pointed out that the blog link she copied into her draft letter was erroneous, linking to nothing, so whatever point she was intending to make about the blog item would be lost on the readers of her statement.”

The fact is my column has been posted on The Wheeler Report web site since the day it was released, March 16, 2007. I visited the site today, and the link in the column to Rowen’s blog that I referenced is the correct link, so I’m not sure what Rowen means.

I referenced Rowen’s blog again on my blog posting of April 9, 2007, including the name of his blog and the date of the blog entry I wrote about.

Rowen says my contention that the Compact negotiations should start from scratch wouldn’t play well in other states. I would remind Rowen that I’m not the only one who has major reservations with the Compact. The state of Ohio has raised serious property-rights concerns.

It is almost as if Rowen would prefer that I simply roll over and play dead about the Compact. I refuse to be a rubber stamp. If I see red flags that concern me, then I am going to object as any responsible public servant should.

The Colorado study I reference is a revealing indictment of the Compact. I challenge Rowen and others to read it thoroughly before they blithely dismiss my reservations. I hope the Great Lakes Study Committee has the opportunity to hear and quiz Colorado Professor Mark Squillace about his Legal Studies Great Lakes Compact Research Paper published in the Michigan State Law Review. I don't agree with everything Mark Squillace suggests. However, he provides thought provoking information. We can and we must do better than the current Compact.

James Rowen said...

I do stand corrected in that I did not see her column on other outlets where she sent it. I will correct my account of the chronology.

As to the email misconnections, I have searched my email box and do not see what she sent.

I have read Squillace's paper. I don't think it's a solution, either substantively or procedurally.

Maybe she can convince the legislative study committee otherwise, but I doubt it will starting over with a process that began in 2001.