Tuesday, May 22, 2007

About That Wisconsin Water "Czar"

For those of you who missed it in last Sunday's New York Times, there's a surplus of policy czars these days, a bad sign in itself, and the Times' reporter wonders whether the term can shake its rather negative historical roots?

And also wonders why American officials have gone back to Imperial Russia for role models.

These are good questions, and timely right here in the Badger State in light of the appointment of Wisconsin's apparent first water czar.

At least that's what the media seem to be calling him.

The word "coordinator" is in the czar's official title - - Water Conservation Coordinator, a position at the Public Service Commission - - but copy editors and other news types hate the word "coordinator."

It's long and bureaucratic-sounding.

Czar is sexier, but, if you think about it, it's pretty much outside of the mainstream of democratic and American traditions and office-holders.

Maybe the message gurus up at the Capitol and reporters could simply agree begin to call Mr. Jeff Ripp something simple and descriptive, like Wisconsin water policy director, or maybe even chief.

Because Wisconsin does need a water policy coordinator, director or chief. We have serious conservation programs to write and major water policy questions to address, such as:

A regional Great Lakes water agreement to approve and implement.

Wetlands to better preserve on a consistent basis, statewide.

Major groundwater protections to work out.

Dwindling streams to revive.

And a fish virus to isolate and combat because it's spreading quickly throughout the state's waters, jeopardizing commercial and recreational fishing.

So Wisconsin needs water policy creation and some real coordination of conservation and planning.

We don't need a czar.

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