Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Kooks And The Lunatic Fringe In The Great Lakes Compact Debate

Republican legislators in the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly plotting the demise of the Great Lakes Compact have some pretty wacky allies in Ohio, according to reports in leading Ohio newspapers.

They also have a persistent, influential business ally in Waukesha County that continues to post a crucial erroneous message about the Compact on its website.

More about that in a minute - - though I began pointing to that error a year ago.

Read on.

Take Ohio's State Senator Tim Grendell, that body's leading Compact obstructionist, and his champion in Wisconsin, State Sen. Mary Lazich, (R-New Berlin).

Last year, Lazich paraded Grendell's positions and proposals on the Compact around the Capitol in Madison, even sending them to a state study committee where they fell on deaf ears.

Lazich publicly said she was disappointed that she couldn't attend a July, 2007 meeting in Michigan where Compact opponents like Grendell were to pitch a regional legislators' summit about the evils of the Compact: accounts of that meeting are filtering out, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer recently carried one, here.

Seems there was dead silence in the room after Grendell spoke.

Later talk was that other states are viewing the Ohio opposition as "kooky."

Maybe Lazich is glad she missed the meeting, though her illogical, ideologically-based partisan opposition to the Compact is making sure that the Lake Michigan diversion application filed last year by her very own hometown of New Berlin is going nowhere fast.

Maybe all this turmoil surrounding some of the Ohio Compact opponents shouldn't be a surprise.

The Cincinnati Post had earlier reported that Grendell had to apologize for racially-tinged remarks aimed at an African-American legislative colleague.

Regardless, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch, (R-West Salem) has taken his party's blockade of the Compact a step further by publicly writing to another Ohio legislative Compact opponent, suggesting they work "cooperatively" to consign the Compact to years of new negotiations.

The Plain Dealer was all over this stalling tactic.

In a recent editorial, the paper warned against efforts in the Ohio legislature's "lunatic fringe" to "hijack" the process of protecting the Great Lakes.

Pretty strong stuff.

Never the less, Wisconsin's Republican Party, and its allies at the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the Metropolitan Builders Association, the Waukesha County Chamber of Commerce and others have joined forces with that marginalized band of Ohio opponents.

In doing so, they are trashing Wisconsin's long environmental legacy by trying to turn seven years of genuinely cooperative, bi-partisan work among eight US Great Lakes states and two Canadian Great Lakes provinces into a tawdry, partisan and self-interested game.

You need look no farther than the inaccurate Waukesha County Chamber's resolution opposing the Compact.

The resolution is here - - and is echoed by Huebsch, Lazich and their Ohio allies.

The inaccuracy in the resolution is the claim that the Canadians - - foreigners! - - can veto a US state's water diversion. It's even in italics: The Chamber doesn't want its members or online readers to miss it.

The Canadian role is advisory only, and the resolution remains in the position of the Waukesha County Chamber and in the regional debate despite repeated public notices on this blog, and am explanation last year in the Journal Sentinel, that the Canadians do not have a diversion veto power.

The resolution also elevates the need for guaranteed growth in Waukesha County through Great Lakes water access on a par with protecting the entire Great Lakes.

That Waukesha exceptionalism, allied with similar thinking in Ohio, threatens years of work in at least eight other states and provinces to conserve the Great Lakes.

We need a little more Cleveland Plain Dealer journalism in this state to help illuminate dangers being posed by Ohio's water-carriers in our State Capitol.

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