Wednesday, May 23, 2007

When Regulators Fail, Harm Is The Outcome

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tells us that there is no consistency statewide by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources when it comes to legally preserving the state's wetlands.

The New York Times in the same news cycle media tells us that the US Federal and Drug Administration gave little or need heed for seven years to warnings that Avandia, a diabetes prescription medication, significantly raised the heart attack rate among its users.

In both cases, the agencies and their staffs failed to do their jobs. Having worked in government for years, I know that enforcement shoulder-shrugging spreads through bureaucracies where the people at the top do not demand performance and accountability.

Now, I'm not equating fatal heart attacks with dumping dirt into wetlands.

But both stories should get the attention of readers, taxpayers and legislative overseers, all of whom should demand explanations and swift fixes from senior officials on down.

And this is not a partisan matter, either.

The failure to adequately regulate Avandia with public safety as the top priority began under the Bill Clinton administration, so his people, along with Pres. George Bush and former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson share equally in the need to explain themselves.

In the DNR matter, Gov. Jim Doyle and DNR Secretary Scott Hassett should explain why they cannot guarantee to the taxpayers of Wisconsin that precious Wisconsin wetlands are not being preserved by the agency charged with that very task.

As the Wisconsin Wetlands Association has noted, alot of wetlands are being filled in Wisconsin. And Mother Nature isn't making more these days.

(Note: An earlier version of this posting had a link to a news report about the Wisconsin Wetlands Association commenting on the issue. The link is no longer operating, so I have added a direct link to the WWA and its analysis of the DNR's performance. I will also repost the entire item).

This isn't a question of ideology - - of onerous, unfair or nit-picky regulations being ignored because they are too burdensome, or too tough to figure out.

These are examples of basic protections for people and the environment being ignored or given too low a priority.

People they have a right to enjoy the natural environment in the common spaces, and in good health.

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